Rules and Laws of Running

Running the Way I See It...Not

Each time my wife was pregnant with our three kids, without fail, she said it suddenly seemed like every woman around her was also expecting.  “Yeah right,” I thought.  All these couples had the same gleam in their eyes when we did.  But it all came down to her new awareness; she suddenly became more focused on the world of pregnancy around her. The_way_i_see_it

When it comes to running, I can be much the same, jumping to conclusions like the whole running world is about running the way I see it.  In a heartbeat, I can take a tiny slice of information about others’ running and associate my experiences, fears, lessons, methods, etc. to them.  Marcy, I apologize for displaying the evil cup here.

Notice to Tom: It’s not all about you!

  • Just because you did something stupid to get injured doesn’t mean other injured runners repeated your same blunder…
  • Not every runner is trying to lose weight—yes, some runners actually eat MODERATELY!!!
  • The training plan you follow, Tom, is not the magic formula for everyone else…
  • You wimp!  Most runners don’t fret about a workout pushing them over the edge into overtraining…
  • Face it. Most runners still have PRs ahead of them; yours are behind you…
  • Not everyone really gets a kick out of running half marathons or marathons…
  • Mastering the whole GU belt thing is not an accomplishment…
  • Taper Madness is something you inflict on yourself and it’s no reason to live like you’re wired to a ticking time bomb…
  • Not everyone inputs other runners' 5k times into a calculator to predict what they could run for a marathon…
  • Just because a runner is reaching back and holding her foot to her butt doesn’t mean she has a hip flexer issue like you did six years ago…
  • Not everyone sweats so damn much as you do, Tom, which explains why they don’t stop to hydrate at every water station like you…

The list could go on, but rather than pummel myself, it's just a good reminder that some matters about running are common to all of us and some are qwerky—I like to call unique—about us. 

Amy and I often wonder about WCPWWhat Consistently, Predictably Works about running for the majority of us.  Of course my nonsense above is not true to the majority of runners, so this reality check post is a good whack up side my head. It's still fun just getting out there experimenting and discovering more about what's working with our running experiences.

It's Not About You Cup on Flickr by Pearl Grace

Natural Law: Your 'Gotta' Wanna'

While reading Tom's post and many others weekend, I was awed by the accomplishments of so many runners.   Sometimes it was their distance, speed, the course, or the difficulty, but all were inspiring to me.   And as different they were, it reminded me of a natural law.

Natural Law:  Your body runs the distance, but your mind wins the race.  You can't forget your 'gotta' wanna'.

Physically, we cover many discplined miles.  And so many favorite treats have been sacrificed toYou_can_do_it_2  make sure our body has the fuel and rest it needed.  Our bodies are doing a good job hanging in there.  But as we move closer to our favorite fall races we can't forget to keep training our brain.  No tapers allowed for the noggin.  We must keep building the muscles of determination and the flexibility to change our plans.  And most importantly, before we get to the race, we gotta' leave the (mental) baggage at home.  It was fine to drag it along while we were training.  Consider it strength training.  Heck, I can bench about the weight of the world by now.  But because our doubts, fears, and worries are heavy - leave them at home for the big runs -its easier to get to the finish line when we are a few pounds lighter.   

As you lay out your running stuff the night before your next run or race, dig down and pull out a few extra packets of determination.  Put them right next to your favorite shoes and extra GU's.   It may be the most important thing you bring along to your run.   And when you refuel at those critical miles, toss back a shot of "I will", "I am doing it", "I can do it", "I will finish".  They provide energy for the soul.

I know I haveYou_can_do_it_3 said before, you can have the best plan, but without a little bit of "I will" or "I think I can", it might as well be written on counterfeit one hundred dollar bills because it won't buy you the race you want.

In the October issue of Runners World, Jeff Pearlman wrote an article about "How a Lousy Collegiate Runner Eventually Made It To The Top".   In his article, he said it so well...

"That's the beauty of running - with enough delusion and even a small dose of endorphins, a guy can talk himself into anything."

Run your run.  Remember, you make the rules, even if they are crazy.

You can do it on Flickr by david ian

Put your mind to it on Flickr by Tifty

Natural Law: Smart Person, Stupid Runner

Rewind to Sunday morning.   Woke up with a bike/run on my to do list and knew I shouldn't do it.   I have trouble with my hip joint going a little out of whack - had this issue for years and know what causes it, how to fix it and what to do and not do when it happens. 

Big on the "not do" list is run.  Because if I run when it hurts - I change my stride.  Idiot_sign Changing my stride causes pain in my knee.  Pain in my knee causes a bigger change in my stride and then forces the hip that isn't quite right to firmly lock into this new uncomfortable place and can only be adjusted by my friendly chiropractor.  But, all that running wisdom aside, my stubborn streak won out over my brains and I went for the bike and run. 

Mistake #1:  I looked like a puppet on a string in the bike ride.  I would try to lean over on my aero bars and pretty soon would pop back up - my back was screaming at me that I was being ridiculous.   

Mistake #2:  Should have cut it short and headed home.   Nope, did all 18 miles. 

Mistake #3:  Back at the trail head, it took me three minutes to get the courage to swing my leg over the bike so I could dismount and run.  Pretty big clue to call it a day - por nada - leaned the bike over and fell off and I went on the run.   

Mistake #4:  A half mile into the run, my brain is chanting, "turn back, turn back, you are goin' pay for this one."  Didn't listen, tuned out all rational thoughts and finished the three miles.

There were so many places that I could make a good choice.  I didn't.

Fast forward to Monday morning.   AAAGGGHH!   Pain, pain and more pain.  By the time I arrived at my chiropractors, my right leg was 2 inches shorter than my left.   Good guy I_am_stupid that he is, Doc patiently started putting me back together so I can do my TRI this weekend.

Super stupid move by me.  Stupendious outrageous illogical decision!  This one is on my long list of stupid running decisions like eating barbeque before a marathon, running with stress fractures, and pulling an all-nighter with a sick baby and still racing.  I am allowed to operate a vehicle and raise kids but yet I can't make logical decisions about when to run and when not too.   As runners we can be a stubborn, pig headed group.  We are smart people but sometimes get a little cuckcoo in the head when it comes to our running.   

Natural Law:  Our passion for running can result in stupid decisions from smart people.

It is a sickness we have.  Running makes us loco in our coconut. We become so excited, so focused, so energized by the act of running that rational decisions become a not-so-important element of the moment.   

The only comfort of my stupidity - outside of many adjustments, ice, and ibuprofen - is knowing that I come upon this affliction of irrational thought naturally - it is a runner thing.    Some of the posts showing this law have included IM Able in her list of how not to do a long run, da Big Leap's recipe for Jelly Legs, and Ian starring as Dr. Stupid.  There is comfort in sharing!

A solution to our problem?  Next time you need to make a decision about if you should be doing this run, this distance, this pace, in this weather....ask yourself what advice you would give to your best running friend.   And then LISTEN to it.  No "ya' but..", "but maybe just a little..."  And then do the right thing.

PS....Thank God for Chiropractors!

Photo of license plate by idiotboy

Photo of idiot sign by eddiemalone

Running Mantras, Advice, and Lessons Learned

After reading friends’ weekend race reports and training summaries, I also met some bloggers who are new to running.  I didn’t leave them any advice, just a note encouraging them to get to know other blogging runners.

Free_advice_2 But…if I was going to give any advice to new runners—how's that for a self-serving set-up—it wouldn’t be technical, how-to type advice.  Instead, it would be more along these lines…

  • You will get better.  The body can do amazing things!  It’s dang near impossible to keep running consistently and not get better.  Consistency is the key!
  • Don’t worry about speed.  You’ll get faster just by running regularly and by applying new levels of energy and effort.
  • Progress slowly.  Nobody became a runner overnight.  We all start with a distance and routine works for us and then move on from there.  Probably each of us have overdone it by running too much too fast too soon.
  • Recovering is part of running.  When your body is not running, it’s adapting to get you ready for what’s next.  You’re not a wus if you’re not running—you’re actively recovering!
  • Listen to your body.  Discomfort is different than pain; tired is different than exhaustion; challenging is different than foolish.  Also, be wary of Marcy’s body-related posts, but we all learn from her and enjoy her.
  • Make connections with other runners.  You’ll make overnight friends on the running blogs who will share their experience, expertise, and support.  They're a riot!
  • Running is not about extremes!  Sure, you’ll find countless runners who regularly run longer and train for half-marathons, marathons, and ultras.  But it’s not about others’ distances; it’s about your distance, whatever that might be.
  • Call yourself a runner.  Don’t wait for some major running achievement to happen, like running a particular distance or completing a race.  If you run, you’re a runner!  Just ask Amy.

Never underestimate what a welcome and a word of encouragement can mean to a new runner you meet.    Stop by and say hi to Jen at Decided To Start Running.

Finally I enjoyed this insight about running at Amy’s Running Life about a recent run:

"It was FUN. And it made me remember how much fun running used to be...back when I didn't care about splits, or pace, or aches and pains. Back when I was just happy to run."

Thanks, Amy, that says a lot!

Advice session on Flickr by Ohad

Natural Law: Change

Over the last few weeks, I have had some superspectacular surprises.  First the planets aligned and gave me a sub 10 minute/mile pace on a 4 mile run.  Wow!   Then about a week later, I went out on an unplanned 5 mile run and boogied my bootie to the line in 48 minutes. And finally earlier this week, I zipped through a 5K in less than 30 minutes after a bike ride.  (If you have just tuned in -- these are unbelievably fast times for me, the world's slowest runner.)

The first time was a freaky ananomly - even NASA agreed it had to be full moon aftershock.   The second one made me raise my eyebrow and think, could we have a start of something?  And then on the third one, I think I can finally agree I see a trend line forming.   I hold my breath as I type this, but I think my running is improving.    But how can that be?

Change_priorities_2 Since my promise in April to give up/scale back my regular events, I haven't run regularly, been training at all, eating perfectly, losing weight or inches, or doing any events.  Everything is different from a year ago.  Oohhh, hold the phone.  I get it. 

It can be!  It's not about what I haven't been doing.   It's about what I changed and am doingI was looking at the list in the wrong way.   The transition from a "runner who ran to train for something" to a "runner who runs just to run" threw me for a loop - it Change_signwas tough change.    But now it is clearer, my running progress isn't due to an addition or lack of training.   It is a result of the change in how I approach running. 

Natural Law:  You gotta' change your running to change your results.

Change_your_thoughtsOver the past few years, I have run the same events, using the same type of plans, using the same types of courses and trails.   It is a bit of insanity to think that doing the same thing would give me different results.  It makes perfect sense to me now.   After 10 years of sameness, a few months of completely "different" would give me something I hadn't anticipated - some improvement!   

It's a wonderful side effect to a great experiment.   And a great reminder of a natural law of running and life.   

Change is good!

And to our fellow runners out there going through some of their own change - good luck!  Especially....deetsshei's move to London,  Sandy as she watches her child head to college, David moving for his job, and Ian's prep for new baby.

Photo of change priorities sign by Redvers

Photo of change sign by dM.nyc

Photo of change your thoughts by StarLisa

Natural Law: Running Weight

After a weekend of 10 miles of running and 25 miles of biking over 3 days, I happily hopped on the scale hoping for a smidge of improvement.   My weight is consistently within 10-12 pounds of where I know I should be, but I consider it tolerable.   I lose and gain the same pound so regularly that the little fat fairy doesn't even put it in long term storage anymore, she just puts it on the shelf 'cause she knows it will be back at home on my body in a day or so.  So by adding in some extra miles, it could only help, right?   Wrong!Scale

When the needle stopped on the scale, a series of warning lights, loud sirens, and 'emergency' voices went off in my head.   The scale registered 7 MORE pounds than where I started on Friday.  What the ....?!?   This is way out of any level of acceptable.  The logical side of my head took over...let's see...if I use 3000 calories per pound, that would be 21,000 calories.  My mind and body tried to assess the situation:

  • Mindy to Body:  Body, did you eat an extra 21,000 calories when I wasn't looking?
  • Body:  ...well...I don't think I did.   
  • Mind:  Think!  Did you or did you not?  Using Half Fast's Baconator estimates, that would be like eating 17 large greasy hamburgers.  Did you eat 17 hamburgers this weekend?
  • Body: No, I think I remember some onion rings and a beer.
  • Mind:  Or cookies...I know you can't resist cookies...How many cookies?  21,000 calories would be about 140 cookies or maybe even 120 cookies and 20 beers.   Does that sound familiar?
  • Body:  No, really, can't remember cookies..although there was some chocolate chips I found ...  maybe I ate it in my sleep!

And then my running brain kicked in and reminded me of one of the natural law of running.  A dark natural law - one I don't like.  One I had ignored or forgotten because I haven't officially been in training.   

Natural Law:  When you start training for an event, you first gain weight before you can take it off.

I have been running so randomly that I had slipped around this little law for the last fewLittle_fat_fairy  weeks.  I was running under the little fat fairy's radar.  But the extra miles this weekend, and packaged in 3 consecutive days, must have sent up a big red flag to Body and her.  Body immediately put on the hard hat and started assessing my chubby little legs, caboose and gut and telling the little fat fairy to store some fat here, start building muscle there, pump up the blood supply over yonder....(ok, I am not sure all the scientific stuff behind the weight gain). But, 7 pounds...that is just plain overreacting.  It is just plain mean.   What happened to our agreed upon deal of 2, 3, or even 4 pounds.

Now I have a decision on my hands.  For me, I know that it usually takes three weeks of training and weight gain/steady weight before it comes back off.  So I need to really begin training and keep up the mileage so I can get over to the other side to the good natural law where running takes off weight.  If I don't, I could own these 7 pounds for a long time.  And without a single cookie or cheeseburger to show for it!

After I stopped hyperventilating, I found this useful article on weight gain during training.  Granted, I am not doing a marathon program, but I still think I can use any of the reasons listed as an excuse.  And thanks to other bloggers like lifestudent and blueollie who posted about the same law - there is comfort in numbers.   

Photo of scale by gordyt

Photo of fairy by christaitnh20

Natural Law: Good runs. Not so good runs.

I can't hold back.  I feel another natural law of running brewing beneath the surface.   Drum_roll Everyone take a step back...you never know how explosive and meaningful this little bugger could be.   Drum roll....

Natural Law #2:  Good runs provide motivation.  Not so good runs provide learning.

There is a very smart woman I work with who is juggling two big projects.  One day when I asked her how they were going, she remarked, "at any one time, one of these things I enjoy and one of these things is good for me."   Oh my, the wisdom and truth in that statement.   Like work and life, running has it's ups and downs and goods and bads.   When we talk about our runs, we generally group them into one of these categories: good or not so good.   

Love_to_run For the good runs, we pump our fists, we jump for joy, we yell out a big "YESSSS!".  We hear from our fellow runners, phrases like "I PR'd" from 21st Century mom", "Every mile was faster than the previous" from Laurie, "Best feeling" from Carrie, "I can't wait for my next run", "this is why I run" from Joe, "I had a breakthrough run" by jetfuelburner.  It is these magically perfect runs that propel us to take on bigger goals or at least step out and try again the next day.  These runs keep us running.

For the not so good runs, we usually follow with a dissertation or semi scientific explanation exploring the multitude of reasons why the run went south.  You hear reasons like, "I should have recovered more" from Rob, "I won't eat Mexican the night before" from David, "i need to plan my hydration strategy!" by Mark "I went out too fast" by USJogger, and "I hit the wall" from Jess. And these snipets teach us valuable lessons in our running career.   They uncover the core of our running DNA, the quirks of our body, the limits of our mental sticktoittivity, and how conditions that are out of our control can play with our results.   These runs keep us learning and keep us thinking about running.  These runs keep us running well.

The yin and yang of running.   You need both to reenergize your running forcefield.  Next Phd_in_a_can time you have a good run, take an extra moment to soak it all in and celebrate.  And for the next not so good run, consider it a free 3 hour credit in your running PhD.  You can't buy these PhD's off-the-shelf or have anyone sit in the class for you. Take the lesson and throw away the experience.

Pst...Still in search of the (real) running rules....

The only one rule from moi

Don't forget Runners World 25 Rules of Runing

Running Planet's 12 rules of running

Check out YMCA Running's post on her first 10 of 40 rules of running

Photo of drum roll by yazyaz

Photo of happy runner by monkey town

Photo of PhD in a can by jukebox

A Natural Law of Running: The First Mile

I took a leap a week ago and put a line in the sand of the Rules to Becoming a Runner.  And from that I listed the the only rule in running:  Run your own run, Run your own race. 

After that post, I have continued to think about the fact there are no rules but there is many unstated natural laws of Law_of_nature running.   I am not an expert on running.  Never been a coach, rarely finish in the top half of a race, heck - don't even know any famous elites.  I am in no way qualified to proclaim these "laws".  Except for one thing - with my scaled back training, I have more time to think of such trivial things.  So, I am proclaiming myself "Runner on High" for a day and putting forth a natural law of running.  And I use the term "law" liberally and incorrectly.

This unwritten law whacked me upside the head a few days ago when I jumped off my bike and got ready to do the run portion of my brick - boom - it made its presence felt.    It spoke to me as I peeled my body back to an upright position and began something my superpowerful imaginative powers told me resembled running. Chant There was a loud voice from inside my head carrying a Gregorian chant - the same chant I have heard for every run for the last 11 3/4 years: 

Law #1: The first mile is always hard.

This isn't a law that I came up with - I just try to coexist peacefully with the natural order of things.  When I first started running, I called my friend Sue for some advice.  I had been running for a few months, but it wasn't getting much easier - I was really frustrated.  My friend was a great runner.  She had run through high school and college and had oodles of marathons under her belt.  I knew she could tell me what I was doing wrong.   When I told her my dilemna, her simple response was, "The first mile is hard.  Learn to accept that and you will be fine."   And darn it, she was so wise.   

So many of my runs have started feeling like my body couldn't possibly do steps of a run ended with me grateful the the chance to be out there running at all. It's not that I am always slower or faster the first mile, it just doesn't feel as natural as the rest of my run. I know there is something scientific to this, something about inertia that makes this more than a law I dreamed up.   Whatever it is, it's powerful. 

A new running friend who is doing about 2 miles at a time sent me an email last week that simply said this,

Why is it I hate to get running, look forward to finishing the entire run, yet 10 minutes after I am done want to do it all over again? J

Can you guess my response?  You bet.  Law #1:  The first mile is always hard.

(Pst!  Run on over to Half Fast's post about running mantra's and take his quick poll on male/female running mantras. Very interested in what you tell yourself.)

Photo of board by Fallacy

Photo of Chant by awkward turtle

The Rules To Become A Runner

Got a question for you -- Are you a runner?

If you said yes, congratulations.  If you said no, was it because you put off filling out the 20 page application with 3 personal references, 4 professional references?   Or, were you waiting on your score from the RAT (you know, the Running Acceptance Test - a runners version of the SAT) to see if you scored high enough.  Or, wait, I know, you waited to call yourself an official runner because you dreaded the panel interview - whew - that is a tough one.  Or maybe, it was the last part, the ethics review, psychological exam and background check?  That one holds alot of us up.

You know none of this exists.   There are no official rules, groups, oaths, tests to All_the_no_rules becoming a runner.  But it seems even without these things, the scale we hold ourselves to before we declare we are a "runner" is 100 times more difficult.   Many runners, myself included, has created all kinds of crazy rules, constraints and tests that we need to pass before we consider ourself officially in this exclusive organization.  For me, I told myself that I wasn't a runner until I could run 4 miles without stopping, ran something close to a 10 minute mile without dying, and completed a real race.   Where did I get these rules from?  Who knows!

So why do we make it so hard?  Why all the rules?  Running is a quirky little sport with a close to 100 million or so runners.   But even with such great numbers, it is an intensely personal sport.  For as many runners that exist, there are as many rules and tests to join the club.   

So, I am going out on a limb and make this a little easier for everyone.   To all the people wondering if they are a runner - here is a simple test:

At least once in a while, do you engage in a motion that resembles running?

If your answer is yes, congratulations - you are officially a runner.   

There is no minimum speed, weight limits, required distance, set number of goals, specific form, mandatory gadgets, a set path/trail/race, or experience level. If you have ever ran and if you run, you are a member in high standing.   As a member, you have permission to skip a day, week or months of running.  You may also run fast or slow and somedays agree that walking just feels the best.  You can run in races or shun them entirely.  You can run in your grubbiest Tshirt or the best gear - it just doesn't matter. 

No_rules_sign_2 There is only rule in running. It is that you run YOUR run.  You run YOUR race.  You run  to YOUR goals.  Not goals or running based on things you make up in your head from what other people accomplish, but goals that feel good to you.

So, dump the doubt about if you are a runner or could be a runner.   If you are reading this, I have no doubt you are an official member of a the very exclusive community of runners.  Enjoy your membership!

PS...If you are still waiting on your membership certificate and password in the mail, the secret code to get in is "I am a runner."   

Photo of No sign by Vicki & Chuck Rogers

Photo of Edison quote by nonetfirst

(Yes, there are a ton of links in this post - but there are tons of people out there finding out "yes - I am a runner"!)

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