Open Mic Friday: Meet Dan, the Oz Runner
His blog, Oz Runner , is followed by running friends everywhere because he posts about running, plus a variety of interests. From Kansas, a state famous for great running legends, he shares his experiences why and how he took up running and where and how it's going for him.
A devoted husband and dad, he also has a great place in his heart for running and running friends. We're delighted to connect runners with Dan, one of our favorite runners and bloggers, and we believe you'll understand why. He's a great guy and has gained and shares a lot of great insight on his blog.
What’s your story about getting started with running?
I ran track in junior high, mostly because my friends and cute girls were all on the track team. My event was the 800m and I wasn’t very fast. In high school the only running I did was around the bases as part of the baseball team. And since I didn’t get on base too much, I didn’t have to run very often.
And then in college I think I ran once or twice, not sure exactly why. Probably bored.
But I remember living with a guy right after college, Richard, who was a runner. He ran most mornings, and I remember seeing him get really fit. He lost a lot of weight and got into great shape. Though I didn't start running at that time, the running seeds were planted.
So years go by, and I'm working on a career, married with kids and overweight. And it's been more than a decade since I ran. But I remembered Richard, and how running worked for him to lose weight. Besides, it seemed like all the runners I knew were in great shape. So I took up running. And got hooked. And I lost weight.
I still remember the first time I went for a run, for exercise. I couldn't even go down the street and around the corner, which was about two blocks, without stopping to walk and being out of breath. I was way out of shape.
My first 5K was brutal. My body was not even close to being ready to run 3.1 miles. But I had a free entry offered to me through work, so I signed up. I don't remember my time, but I think I walked pretty much half of it, and felt soreness in my legs for a week afterward.
But, much as I would have liked to, I didn't give up. I kept running. My second 5K was much like the first. I wasn't ready, and my body got pounded. But it was at that race that I was first attracted to the whole "runner community" thing. So again, I kept running. And observing. And learning.
I started to really enjoy going for runs. My one mile loop didn’t seem as far or as hard as it did before. I started running further distances. And, I started losing weight. I lost about 30 pounds in a year, largely attributed to eating right and running. I felt better about myself and I had more energy.
Somewhere in there I think I decided that I was a runner. At least I started to think of myself as a runner. I was reading running blogs and running books. I found some great running podcasts. I ran a couple more races, and started to feel like I was a part of the running community now.
I’ve now been running consistently for about a year and in April I finished my first half-marathon, the OKC Memorial Half Marathon. I also ran my first 10K race in May, our local River Run.
I think what I love about blogging the most is the community aspect of it, and the mutual encouragement that happens. There are runners all over the United States (and world) that I have connected with and can gain support and encouragement from. And, I can offer support and encouragement in return. We cheer each other on when there are races coming up, and sympathize with each other through various running injuries. I have found that most runners are very generous and freely offer advice to new runners like myself. I appreciate that. I think all runners need ongoing encouragement and advice, and some runners get that from a regular running group or club, or from a running partner. Mine comes from the blogger community and my running blogger friends.
You’re still struggling with an injury. Bring us up to date.
I have had Plantar Fasciitis for about 3 months. Let me tell you that I wouldn’t wish this injury on my worst enemy. It has been painful and frustrating. Each morning I do the “furniture shuffle” to the bathroom, holding on to furniture the entire way because the pain is so intense. For the last 3 months, I have been trying self treatment--massaging, icing my foot, rolling my foot on golf balls and tennis balls. And, I haven’t been running. I’ve been walking and doing some elliptical. I also bought a sock to wear at night that keeps my foot in a flexed position to stretch the plantar tendon. However, nothing seemed to be working.
I was missing out on some prime running weather, and had to back out of our local half marathon (ran last weekend). So, about 10 days ago, I finally went to my general practice doctor. He said he’s had PF twice in his life and the last time he was given a steroid shot in the heel of his foot that fixed him right up, so I quickly asked him to give me the shot. I can honestly say that now, 10 days later, I feel like my injury is healed. The pain has almost totally gone away. It is great. I am going to do a fun run with my 7 year old son this weekend, and hope to begin running regularly next Tuesday.
I don’t know if it’s my best, because it was slow, but it’s my longest-the OKC Half Marathon. And, it’s also the race that I learned the most from by far. So in that regard it’s the best. I learned some good lessons from this race. I learned about electrolytes and sodium and potassium and how important it is to stay properly hydrated. I only wish I had known about these things BEFORE the race.
The race was in April, after I’d been training all winter, and race day was hot and humid, and I was not prepared at all. I did okay the first half of the race, but during the second half I experienced major calf cramping and dehydration. There were two times that I got weak in the knees and light headed and had to sit down to get my strength back. I actually thought I was going to pass out. I couldn’t run at all the last two miles because the cramping was so severe. When I did finish, I drank 3 bottles of water, 2 bottles of Powerade, 1 bottle of orange juice, and 2 milks within 30 minutes. I definitely learned my lesson the hard way on this one.
What have you not done with your running that you’re still looking forward to?
I would like to run at least one marathon in my life. Just one, then go back to running shorter distances like half marathons/10Ks/5Ks, etc. But, I’d like to at least run one marathon. Someday. Just to say that I’ve done it. I read a quote from Lance Armstrong in a Runner’s World magazine that went something like this—“anyone can sit around and do nothing for months and months and go out there and run a 5K or 10K, or even a half marathon. But you can’t fake a full marathon.” I think I want to run one or two more half marathons and then hopefully I’ll be mentally and physically prepared to tackle a full marathon.
I am an avid Kansas State fan, I love K-State. I graduated from there and love following my Wildcats. In fact my oldest son was born on 01-01-01 (New Years Day), and K-State was playing Tennessee in the Cotton bowl that year while my wife was having labor pains. I coaxed her to wait until the game was over, and she was able to, so then we drove to the hospital and had a baby. K-State won their bowl game and I had my first child on the same day. It was one of the greatest days of my life.
What gets you excited about running?
There are days and mornings when it is difficult to get out of bed and go for a run, especially in the winter when it is dark and cold, and I am sore from a run the day before. My body tells me not to run and my bed is pulling me back under the warm blanket. It would be very easy to skip a run (and I have skipped some runs).
But---I have never gone for a run and regretted that I went. I always feel more energized, more alive, more focused. And I have a greater sense of accomplishment and a more positive outlook on life.
I just finished reading 50/50 by Dean Karnazes not too long ago, and he is now officially my running hero. That guy is amazing and that book is very inspirational. If you haven’t read it, and you are a runner, you owe it to yourself to check it out. You will be inspired to run. I enjoy Dean’s love for running--not just racing, but purely running. And I love his heart and desire to get kids active and moving and off their couches and away from their video games and out the door.
- To anyone considering taking up running, or racing in their first 5K, I want to offer some advice from my own experience. Since I have only been running regularly for about 12 months now, I am certainly not an expert, and this list is by no means exhaustive, but writing this list helped me to reflect and think about the things I've learned about running myself.
- Don’t worry about your pace. In the beginning you will be slow. Everyone is. Heck, I still am. You will see others running faster and be tempted to become frustrated. Don’t. Just take it easy and run at your own pace. Over time speed will come and you will become faster, but don’t make that your primary goal.
- Run where you are. By that I mean, make running convenient for you. Don’t make it such a chore that you have to drive somewhere to do it, or have to have someone with you. Just open your front door and start running. Put one foot in front of the other. Run around your neighborhood. You’ll be surprised at the things you’ll learn about your neighbors by just running around. And, you will eliminate some of the excuses for not running if all you have to do is open the door and put one foot in front of the other.
- Be flexible. If the run you had planned doesn’t work out due to scheduling or weather, don’t worry about it. Do it another day, or at another time. It’s good to try to pre-plan runs, but if they don’t work out exactly as you had anticipated, don’t sweat it. Life happens and things get busy. Just work in your runs as you are able.
- Get the right tools. For me, this meant investing in some high quality shoes, buying some clothing that “wicks” (yes, I had to learn what that term meant), and getting some shiny things to wear when I run in the dark. In the winter here, it is dark pretty much all the time before and after work, so I needed to find a way to run safely on the streets in my neighborhood.
- Track your runs. I have two ways that I track my runs. I know, it's probably overkill. I have a paper journal that I write in after my runs. I put down how far I went, how I felt, what the weather was like, and anything else I want to put down. It’s an old fashioned paper and pen journal, and it is fun to look back and read my thoughts about previous runs. I also track my running electronically. Originally I used the my Nike+ sensor through the Nike+ web site, but about 6 months ago I upgraded to a Garmin and now I can’t run without it. Garmins are the best, and it has proven to be a great way to electronically track and record my runs. There are also many other websites and tracking tools out there.
- Get connected to the running community. Don’t be a lone ranger. Find a podcast, a blog, a website, a friend, or a running group, that you can get connected to. Support and encouragement is very important and getting connected helps with your motivation and continued success with your running. Getting to know others that love running gives you a place to share your experiences, both good and bad, with running. Runners are great people, and very welcoming to talk about running with others. I have learned a lot about running by just asking questions to others.
- Get the right fuel. Think about what you are putting into your body. Running and exercise is just half of the equation. Eating right is the other half. If you eat right, you will be well fueled for a good run. And conversely, if you eat wrong, you will pay for it on that long run.
- Stretch. This is something that I learned I was not very good at, and took me getting injured to realize it. Your feet and legs take quite a pounding on the pavement, so treat them well and stretch them out. Stretch more after your runs. Do just a light stretch before your run just to loosen up, and then stretch more after your muscles are warmed up, either mid run or afterward.
Thank you, Dan!
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