It's unexplainable. It grips our interest and sucks us into a mysterious underworld where we swing back and forth between excitement and anxiety, between calculated training and recklessness, between certainty and doubt. It's inspiring, abusive, addictive and unforgiving. It offers us mountain top experiences one moment and then drags us through hell and back a few moments later.
Still somehow, we forgive the marathon as it erases our grim memories and seduces many of us to try it again. And so many of us come back running season after running season to face the challenge and lure of the marathon.
As we look at the marathon this week, you don't need to have run the 26.2, and you don't need to be training for one now or ever. It's just that the marathon deserves every shred of attention we give it. And we hope that someday, someone will uncork a lasting explanation of what it's about, unlock the formula of how to train for and race it well, and explain why it is we're obsessed by it.
While you're here, if you're looking for some great marathon resources, we're gathering and sharing them for everyone. Here are a few in the Marathon topic of the Know How section in the Lounge:
No matter what your experience--a first timer or a relentless veteran, or a runner smart enough to never attempt the 26.2 distance--we invite everyone to share all your advice, memories, and explanation of marathon madness at the Lounge.
I must admit, my first love is the half marathon. I love training for the distance, running the race and the feeling of accomplishment at the end. But my half marathons don't "run themselves". They require some diligent effort on my part to be ready for them. And in addition to putting some miles in on the trails, I also build in 5K, 8K, and 10K races into my training schedule to help me prepare both physically and mentally.
Since it is 5K and 10K week in the Lounge, I feel like I need to share a few words of appreciation for these unsung heros of my training plan. Here are the top 10 reasons why everyone should run a 5K, 10K (or even 8K):
1. Instant motivation. I have a half marathon coming up in April - which should be motivation enough - but I need an extra "immediate" motivation like races in February and March to keep me focused. By throwing in a few shorter races as interim milestones, I find I am more motivated to keep my running "appointment" with myself on the treadmill instead of sitting on the coach and eating cookies.
2. Keeps up my pace. Left to my own devices, I would run S-L-O-W every run and maybe even drop down below "jogging" to a more of a meander or "wanderabout" type of pace. It's not that I burn up the roads when I am training for a 5K/10K, but I do pick up the pace because I know that I can run faster and hold on for the shorter distances.
3. New running partners. It is so much easier to talk friends (running and nonrunning) into running a 5K/10K versus a half marathon, duathlon, triathlon or marathon. It has been rare for me to run a 5K/10K without having a new running partner every time. It is a very doable distance, even for new runners, and is generally a great way to catch up.
4. Connect with running friends. The holidays and winter dooldrums keep me from connecting with my favorite running partners. 5K and 10K's give a great reason to get back into shared training routines or at least meet up for a great race.
5. So many choices. Even if you are from smaller communities, there are still many more choices for 5K and 10K races over the course of year versus the longer races. And more choices means a better chance of finding the race(s) that are just right for you.
6. Great causes. Almost all the 5K and 10K's that I run support great local and national charities. In addition to the warm feeling I get from my personal accomplishment, I am proud to help support charities I believe in.
7. Guaranteed inspiration. Even if my performance at a race isn't my betst, I have yet to walk away from a race without an infusion of inspiration. Sometimes it is from the leaders of the race and watching their amazing stride and pace as they pass me. Other times it is the runners at the back of the pack as they share their story of what brought them to the starting line. And always I am inspired by the 10 year old who finishes in half my time.
8. A 5K was my first race. As CoffeeBetsy wrote so eloquently last year,"It is running's gateway drug." If it wasn't for the 5K, I may have never known the joy of other distances. It is the perfect distance to get started or restarted with your running. Just long enough to know you have "done something" but not so long that you need to dedicate your entire day (or even) morning) to the event. And I have rarely met a person who has run a 5K and then vowed to never run another one. Addictive little buggars.
9. Anyone can do it. Whether you run all out or walk it, anyone can do a 5K. With a little bit of training - it is possible. In less than 6 weeks most people can go from sitter to runner. There are many great plans (see the 5K and 10K section in the Lounge) from Hal Higdon, FIRST as well as the most famous "Couch to 5K".
10. Can you think of anything better to do? It is hard to imagine a better way to spend your Saturday or Sunday morning. Imagine hanging out and running with a few hundred 9or thousand) of your running friends, having a great run on a well marked/protected course and with ready to go refreshments at the end. Sounds like a dream training run to me.
With a new year upon us, many runners are making plans for 2009 including new year resolutions, setting running goals, picking races and crafting training plans. Listed below are a few articles and resources in the Lounge to help in the fun of planning for a year of running.
This week’s theme at Runners’ Lounge is “running green.”
If running green includes doing things natural and organic, this might be a good time to point out an interesting running focus called Fitness Intuition.
The author of Fitness Intuition, George Beinhorn, examines the remarkable impact of following the wisdom of the heart in running. Science, trial-and-error, and the experiences of other runners are all ways we learn as runners. However, it’s the “Science of the Heart” that opens up the greatest opportunity for running success because it’s custom-fit to our needs and capabilities.
I appreciate the way he introduces the concept of fitness intution:
Science has given us a great deal of useful information that can help us plan our training. The experience of great athletes can also help . But when we’re out on the roads and trails, we’re on our own. Good training requires that we answer many questions as they arise, without assistance from books or coaches. We need to know how to “listen to our bodies.”
The problem is, athletes are notorious for doing it badly. Too often, they let themselves be misled by inner voices of desire and faulty reasoning that lure them into training too hard, too long, or too often.
What’s needed is a way to hear what the body is really saying. The body’s “still, small voice” is a wonderful guide to training. Trouble is, it’s easily overwhelmed by restless thoughts, personal desires and ambitions, and the attractive-sounding theories of others.
Fitness Intuition is a way to listen to what the body is actually saying - and really hear. The body talks to us continually through the feelings of the heart. Hearing that inner guidance requires that we filter out personal prejudices and pay careful attention.
The heart is a wonderful guide to training. It’s a built-in monitor that can tell us what the body needs. The heart is also the place where a higher wisdom can guide us, if we invite it to. All spiritual traditions teach that prayer is the “loudspeaker” through which we can talk to the universal intelligence of which we are a part, and that the heart is where we can hear its answers.
Readers can enjoy the first two chapters of the book online for free.
More praise for Beinhorn and “running green” as he prints his book "on demand," saving trees and energy until customers order copies. Plus it’s available as a pdf file.
As pure as running should be, we can still clutter our running lives with plans, gear, technology, races, and obsessive behavior.
So is scrapping some (not all) of the external training stuff a good idea to achieve the greatest running success and enjoyment? Probably. Is relying on the heart—both the organ and the intuition—a meaningful compass to running well? Absolutely.
We have a complimentary copy of Fitness Intuition to give away. If you’re interested in exploring how following the heart can lead you closer to maximizing your running, and would agree to write a review about it, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After all, we have a running environment inside us that needs to be appreciated and preserved too—it’s called our body and soul.
And that's no lie. It is a little known secret that since the Lounge launched a year ago, I have lost 156 pounds. That is the good news. The bad news is that I have collectively gained 163 pounds in the same period of time. I have lost and gain some number of the same seven pounds on my body over 55 times. Running and weight loss has been a constant losing battle for me with the little fat fairy. Up until last month.
A month ago this week my husband, Jim, started on a new diet. And I found myself on this diet by association. Jim suffers from and has tried to manage his Crohn's disease for almost 20 years. He has been through almost every treatment, test, surgery and medical option for it and it still persists. He hit a real low point with the disease this summer and decided to try something else - anything else - instead of going back to the doctor and more medicine or surgery. After alot of research he found and decided to try a special diet for Crohns, IBD and Ulcertive Colitis patients called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. This diet is a gluten free, lactose free, sucrose free diet. What is left you wonder? Pretty much just fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat and a special homemade yogurt. All sugars, starches, grains, pastas, breads, and chocolates are gone. This diet doesn't fool around.
And while I don't recommend the diet is perfect for runners,* I mention it as context of the lessons it has taught me in the last 30 days. It is the lessons of this diet that has helped me lose real pounds, consecutively.
Lesson #1: Read the labels of everything you eat. Because this diet is so strict, I found myself reading every label to ensure I brought home only "legal" items. And in the process I found out that I have been putting alot of things in my body that I didn't know about or need to have. Sugar and/or starch is in everything.
Lesson #2: A little bit of sugar might make me nice but it adds up into alot of extra weight. By cutting out all sucrose, dextrose, etc and relying only on natural sugars (from fruit or honey), I found myself easily losing weight and being fuller faster and longer.
Lesson #3: If it's not in the house, I won't eat it. If I don't eat it, I lose weight. I know, I know - it sounds so basic but it is so important. We dumped most of the tempting food to make it easier for Jim (who had been a junk food junkie). But in the process, I found out all my bad habits too. I found myself trolling the kitchen at night looking for a forgotten bag of candy or chips stashed in the back of cabinets. It was really quite pitiful.
Lesson #4: Fresh stuff tastes better. Cooking with fresh fruits and vegetables just tastes better. The flavors are wonderful and its fun mixing up new things. It is more satifying.
Lesson #5: Eating good stuff brings mental clarity. Both Jim and I have noticed that eating more fresh fruits and vegetables seems to have a good side effect - our minds are working better.
Lesson #6: A good diet isn't a fad or short term solution - it is a change of habit and tradition. I am not going to lie, the first 3 weeks were really, really hard. And quite honestly, it is still really hard. This diet is changing how we think about food, how we use food and the role food plays in our life. We have had to rethink how we handle and plan for meals, how we handle eating out, and family outings. Food is wonderful, but we find that it doesn't always need to be at the center of everything we do and I think that is a bit healthier.
Lesson #7: It takes a while to form a good habit. The old saying, "21 days to a habit" is true. At 21 days we food a routine or groove that we could live with. We stopped fighting against the principles and working with them. Change a habit for 21 days. And then persist with your good habits. And for support of your 21 day habit, check out Jenn's 21 Day Habit Challenge.
Lesson #8: Find a friend. Because this was such a change, I turned to a good friend for help - the blogosphere. With a quick blog search of "Crohns + Specific Carbohydrate Diet" I was connected to bloggers with alot of information to share of how they live with this diet. Without these bloggers, I don't know if I could have supported Jim with this diet.
Back in the running world, so many runners deal with weight loss issues, it isn't hard to find one. In the Lounge, you can watch the progress of Viv's Marathon Season Weight Loss Challenge or also do a search for runners with "Weight Loss" in their Running Topics.
* NOTE: Jim signed up for his diet challenge by agreeing to try it 30 days - to see if it really could control a disease that has proven, until this point, to be uncontrollable. And the great news (outside of my weight loss) is that the diet is working for him! It is controlling or has eliminated many of the symptoms he has had with Crohn's for many years. So on and on our adventure continues. I am not a doctor, so I won't recommend the diet to others with Crohns. Each person has a different issue with the disease. But I would recommend that you research it and make the decision for yourself.
Today was the Des Moines Marathon and Half Marathon! I showed up at the line today overweight, undertrained, injured and violating the #1 principle of racing - wearing new shoes, socks and my least favorite pair of tights. Doesn't that beginning sound like the perfect storm for a crappy race?
But even so, I was giddy thinking about the half today. You know it is my favorite distanceso that brought part of the excitement. But more than just the event, I was treating this race as a wonderfully, fully selfish few hours for myself. It has been crazy around my house the last few months and I could tell that I was in dire need of a few brainless hours all to myself. Last week when my friends asked me what I expected to run, I told many that I hoped it would take me hours and hours to finish. The longer the better!
They would look at me so perplexed. I know what they were thinking - "aren't you supposed to want to finish as fast as possible?" And in my 50 or so other races that has been a goal. But today, I wanted a chance to breath deep, take in my favorite songs, sweat a little, meet some inspiring people and lose myself in the middle of 7,000 other runners.
Today was about the other side of running. The side that doesn't care about splits, pacing, PR's, gear, racing or past runs. This is the side of running where you run for yourself - like you want to - and enjoy the simple of act of running. The side of running where you do only one thing at a time in a repetitive, almost meditative fashion. Just right, left, right, left, right, left. That's it - no higher expecatation of it. It's running at your internal "cruise control" speed that requires what seems like no significant energy. And it's running as an escape. An escape from the nonstop family calendar, laundry, dishes, errands, sick kids, work stuff and chores. This is the side of running that gives you a 3 hour spirtual retreat to recenter yourself and at only the cost of a Tshirt and medal.
In the novel, Once A Runner, there is a passage where the runner describes the "orb of running" you enter into when running. It is like time stands still. It feels like you live many life times in the span of a few hours. That is the side of running that I live for. The god given gift to escape for only a few hours but emerge on the other side like you have retreated to another land in your head for days or weeks.
In my vacation from reality, at about mile 3, I ran into a running acquaintance from Dam to Dam. Remember Brian- the guy who lost alot of weight but kept finding new ways to push himself? He was out there today - with a goal of finishing the half today and the marathon next year. He finished the half in a faster time than the Dam to Dam 20K in June. Fantastic! And at mile 10 I made a new friend who was my soul mate. She runs to eat more, loves tri's and du's and used colorful language alot about many things. We pushed each other the last three miles. There were countless other inspirations along the way.
I also met RazzDoodle in person - very cool! And saw our friend Bowulf, as he led the 2:10 pace group, and Dennis - who brought in a very speedy PR. A special thanks to Tom who sacrificied his rarely free Sunday morning to come out before the start and stay through my finish. You are a good friend.
All in all - a fabulous day! Time wise, it was my slowest 1/2 marathon ever (by 20 seconds), but it felt like my best. I did the race completely within myself and very easily - which tells me I still have a little speed left in me. If I can just find a little time to bring it out someday soon...
Post race, I went straight from the finish line to the beer line. You gotta' love these races - when else is it acceptable to stand in the middle of downtown, smelly and gross, in need of a shower, on a Sunday morning drinking free beer?!?!
But after my beer and chatting with Tom, it was time to head home. As I reeented my reality at home, facing an afternoon of grocery shopping, laundry, kids homework, pumpkin carving, chores and more, I gotta' tell you...my only thought was...damn, I wish I had run the marathon. I would still be out there enjoying the other side of life and running.
After last year’s Chicago Marathon, is it too much to ask for some cool temperatures?
Sunday handed me my slowest marathon time ever--3:55. I still had more fun than a runner ought to expect in the heat in Chicago.
This marathon report isn’t taking readers mile by mile. Instead, it’s my top-of-mind musing. Sorry, no pics.
The weekend began with a great time at the Expo on Friday and Saturday. There I met Petra,Paul,Andrew, and his friend Chris. It's funny how meeting up with others you've only known virtually is like meeting long-lost friends.
The heat was not as catastrophic as last year, but there were a lot of heat-related issues for the runners. Prepared to the max this year, medical teams were abundant treating runners on the spot.
Race day 2008 was by far the best organized Chicago Marathon I’d ever seen. The start was managed with announcements and ample coral space. The volunteers along the course and at the finish don’t just show up. They’re trained to be good at what they do, friendly, helpful, and encouraging.
With the warmer weather, the spectators were the greatest in the world. The crowds keep getting thicker, more enthusiastic, and spread out throughout the course. They know how to welcome an entire street of runners as well as how to pick out a struggling runner and lift his spirits.
Never again will I show up to run a marathon over weight. It’s hard to consume Gatorade, water, and GU when I feel like I’m toting extra gut. It just takes way too much effort.
I’ll never run another marathon, long run, or long race without Race Ready shorts. That gear is way too comfortable and convenient. If I saw one pair, I saw several thousand of RR shorts—of course they were all in front of me.
Due to the heat, I never even tried to hit my original goal pace—3:30. I revised my goal time to 3:45 after listening to clinic experts at the expo. But after mile 18 even that got hard. 8:20s gave way to 8:30s, then to 8:50s. My final two miles were 9:20s. I loved my marathon pace band with my splits and inspirational quote on
it. I was sort of expecting that wearing it meant I was guaranteed to hit my goal.
With 400 meters to go, my hamstring cramped up, paralyzing me. No walking, not even a gimpy jog. So I spent the next several minutes massaging and stretching out that misery. No self-respecting man should ever spend that much time groping his own legs.
The crowd just a few feet away behind the fence was so encouraging. They adopted me as their favorite marathoner for those few minutes telling me what a great job I’d done and how I’d make it just fine. I waved in gratitude as I limped away to the finish.
The payback for cutting back on my goal was enjoyment. I was able to take in more of the neighborhoods, visit with other runners, interact with the crowd, and worry less about when the wall might hit. Surprisingly, as early as yesterday I was ambling up and down the stairs as comfortably as after a long run.
Seeing my son Daniel and his college friends on the course. Most spectators are doing pretty well to spot their runner once or twice. They hustled and boosted me along the way.
The unsung heroes of the weekend were my Chicago family. For more than a decade of Chicago Marathons my in-laws have hosted me in their home, rolled out the pasta, chauffeurred me to and from Grant Park, and treated me like an Olympian. My sister-in-law and her family cheered me on at the western edge of the course. Then the extended family gathered at home around a feast to welcome me and make me feel like a celebrity. This year my niece finished her first marathon so we all thrilled at her accomplishment.
Thanks to Amy for handling matters at the Lounge while I slipped away for a few days.
I've already been asked if I'm going back, and why? The answer is of course.
If I had the chance to meet more runners, drool over running gear, talk about running, and pound the streets of Chicago again, it can't come too soon.
Let's face it, when you are out running 2, 3, 4, or more hours - even the best scenery can get a little bland. Spectator signs add support and cheer for runners. Thinking about my race coming up in a week or so, I started visualize the signs I would love to see along the course. Many included the signs from your suggestions last week. But for me, I would like to see sayings that contradict the stuff going through my head, such as:
Yes, it is all worth it!
You should see how big the cookies are at the finish line.
Whatever you do, just don't stop. Keep moving!
You're not slow, you just know how to enjoy a race course.
Finishing is winning!
Finish strong - your fans are waiting!
Millions of people never even started today. You are one in the million who did.
You are my hero.
Run like you want to.
Come on, it doesn't hurt that bad.
When you are done, it won't hurt at all.
You've done harder things than this.
You've done worse things for much longer.
Think of all the alone time you are getting.
Kids at the finish - enjoy your peace and quiet.
Reality straight ahead. Enjoy the moment.
The best sign I saw this year was at the Bix7 race, positioned as we started up the big hill in Mile 1. It read, "This is where Champions Rise To the Occasion." That one stuck with me for all the miles of the race.
While running, I am always on the look out for funny signs. Humor can take me much farther than Gu or water. One of my favorite posts was from Nitmos in May when he listed a few funny signs. He was kind enough to let us republish it the Lounge for all to enjoy as well.
His sign ideas were as funny as this sign I found on Flickr (pic on right). Now that is a friend. Look how serious she is. Something tells me the "take a dump in your pants" maybe not be all in jest. Wow, makes me realize how much our family and friends must put up with from us runners.
Another classic sign is on the left, taken by edex on Flickr is always popular at races. Looking at this one gives me the idea to create a bunch of signs and then leave them laying around the course for others to enjoy.
And some other classic running signs, from the 2006 Run London series were photographed by purplespace. One of my favorites is on the right - I will dig deep. If you go to purplespace's Flickr profile, you will find five others that are great too!
And last but not least, a good reminder of a great sign was mentioned by Michaela in her post about her marathon finish. It is a sign every race should have one of, especially towards the end "Remember the reasons you are running." After we enter our running orb and lose ourself in all the running, it is sometimes hard to remember why we started this crazy race to begin with.
Enjoy your race more! Make and share a sign! To see how runners' faces light up with signs, check out our Flickr pages from last years Des Moines Marathon photos with Loungers with our signs.
Today might very well be my last post before Chicago. After 11 times gearing up for Chicago, I’m still filled with the same excitement, nervousness, and awe as a when I ran my first marathon.
I've been blessed to have my daughter Laura join me in the past. Check out that sign! After graduating from college last spring, she's living in California volunteering for a year, so she won't be on hand. I'll miss her, but be carrying her image and words with me. This year I'll have my son, Daniel, and his friends supporting me around the course. He's a runner and big supporter, so it will be thrilling to have him on hand too.
Not sure why heading off to a marathon seems like such a fierce thing to do. I think it's because there are so many unknowns and so many logistics. So to get ready and also to help anyone else headed to Chicago, I’ve compiled what I’ve learned into a top list of must knows.
Arrive early to Grant Park. After 7:00 you're in a bind for port-a-potties, checking gear, clearing your mind, lining up, etc.
Bring your own TP to Grant Park.
Wear your name on your shirt or singlet. Using a Sharpie, write it in block letters on the blank side of an old tyvek race bib. You’ll have tens of thousands of spectators yell your name and cheer for you. Note: don’t use the shortened version if your formal name is Richard.
First mile: If you think you’re going the right pace, you’re actually going too fast! If you thing you’re running slow, you’re probably running the right pace.
Don’t let the congestion wear you down in the early miles. If you’re feeling a bit boxed in or behind pace after five miles, relax. You still have 21 miles to make it up!
Take in the ethnic neighborhoods. They are the fabric of the course. There are so many thrilling experiences at the Chicago Marathon.
The re-unite area has alphabetical signs for you where your family can gather to wait for you after the race. Use them according to your last name. They work. Don’t plan to outsmart everyone else by use the letter X or Z signs because you think it won’t be crowded. Everyone else tries that too.
There will be more than 100,000 people at the finish area for several hours. Be patient.
If you start to get weak legs on Friday or Saturday and wondering what the hell you’ve gotten into, you’re in good company.
Find a way to convey to that special person—spouse, family member, friend, etc. how grateful you are for their support. Don't buy the Chicago Marathon commemorative Christmas Ornament for sale at the expo for someone else to remember your marathon. A Polish tradition is on marathon day the men present their wives and girlfriends with flowers before the race. Hope my wife isn’t reading this post.
The DVD they sell with stock race footage plus customized footage of you running at half a dozen points on the course is a very good quality and great way to remember the event. I wouldn't miss it.
I’m biased, but I think Chicago is the most wonderful of the large marathons. It’s a great host city. Feed off the city’s October beauty, the marathon’s great organization, the tremendous crowd of spectators, and the celebration of the greatness of running.
Contact me if you need tips for your family and friends to find you along the course. I'll be at the Expo most of the weekend and not too far from The Stick exhibit space. My number is 515-229-6072
Below is some of the best advice we've collected in the Lounge by tons of marathoners. They're worth their weight in gold. If you have additional advice for marathoners, spectators, or anyone, please chime in!
The miles behind you are history and the miles ahead are still a dream.
Just enjoy each moment. **
*I am looking forward to hearing your advice on how to conquer the marathon in 26 words or less (or half marathon in 13 words or less) as part of Take It and Run Thursday. Feel free to replace "conquer" with any other term that best fits your advice.
** Hey, this is the first time I didn't break my own TIaRT rules! :}
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