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October 2007

In Praise of Ordinary Running

With many runners’ goal races, perhaps half marathons and marathons, behind them, I’m beginning to hear the term “off season” these days.  In school “off season” was the term coaches used to plead—or scare—runners so we wouldn’t abandon running and get out of shape.

Now off season is one of my favorite times of year as a runner.  Simply put, my off season is the deliberate time I take away from structured training designed toward a race goal.  The focus of my off season is simple: ordinary running.

Ordinary Ordinary running is your basic get-out-there-and-put-in- the-miles running.  It doesn’t have a technical name like Tempo, Interval, Pace, or Long.  And it doesn’t define our weekly running by increasing the number of miles or repetitions or speed of our runs. 

Like the term "off season" somehow, the term “ordinary running” carries an unflattering reputation—like undisciplined or sloughing off.  Sometimes ordinary running is seen as second class because we use it when we’re not focused on a race or when we’re recovering from an injury. 

In defense of ordinary running, even without calculated goals, ordinary running is abundant with benefits. I enjoy just letting my running body find a place it can enjoy in a low-key mode, where it can have more fun and more stress relief.  Rather than get absorbed in week after week of advanced planning, I’ll spend more time alone with my running thoughts and dwell less on my pace. 

Shifting my running to ordinary doesn’t close any doors to achievement or enjoyment with my running.  In fact through the repetition of ordinary running during my off season, usually a phenomenon takes place—improvement.   My body actively recovers from the stress of the competing season.  My stride becomes smoother, my core muscles get stronger, and my ordinary pace gets faster.  I’ll discover some new insights, achieve new capabilities, and set some new goals. 

I already have my sight set on a spring marathon, and the time to train for it will be here soon enough.  For now, I’m enjoying the transition to the off season and the treat ordinary running  brings.   

The ordinary running in my off season is vital to my running life.  It’s legitimate running and it’s earned.  The reality is ordinary running during the off season is a key component for me to achieving the full benefits of my running.   I’ll emerge better, healthier, lighter, and more refreshed when it’s time to train again next spring.  And deep down I know that ordinary running is the foundation of what running breakthroughs are made of.

Adios training.  Hello ordinary running!

Ordinary sign on Flickr by Patrick Cates

Come Along On My Favorite Fall Run

Fall running.   ahhhhh.....  There is nothing like heading out on a run during one of the six perfect weeks we have here in Iowa to catch a glipse of the leaves of fall or get a lung full of that crisp cool air.  These six weeks make the remaining 46 weeks of the year when it is too hot, too cold, too windy, too dusty, too dark, too rainy/icy/snowy or downright unpleasant just a bit more bearable.

My favorite fall run is the trail that loops around the outside of our property. It is close to home and easy to access.  I indulged a few years ago and had this trail "blazed" as a present to myself and running.  It is the crowing jewel of living out here off a dusty country road.   An extra bonus is that I always have the company of my dog Buddy for every step and I usually have a pacer or two (my kids) for the first or last lap.   

I would love to have each of you join me in a run on this trail, but I know how tight schedules are, so I took my camera along last week and grabbed some photos while I ran along.  While it takes about 10 minutes to complete the loop, I condensed my run in video to about a minute and 30 seconds.  I added my favorite trail tune to the picture show - so if you are at work, hit mute or grab the headphones.  Hope you enjoy the ride!

If you have a favorite fall run, let me know where it is.  I have a wish list of runs that I someday hope to exhaust - but in the meantime, I will keep adding them on.  Check out Database Diva's run in pics.

Happy fall running!

Running For Something Bigger Than Ourselves

Last week at the Des Moines marathon, Tom and I were excited to give away a few hundred bracelets for a small donation to the three charities that were aligned to the marathon.   It was a small way we could give back and support three tremendous causes that do great work on the behalf of the dollars that runners raise.   I have a deep respect for the runners who take the time to train for an event, but also put in the extra time to support a cause, raise money, or honor a special person.   

There are a few runners out there right now who are doing this in a big way.  If you haven't had a chance to check out Scott, Paul, and Wade's stories, here is a glimpse of the good they are doing:

For the last week, I have been following Scott Giddings quest to complete his journeyScott_giddings_pose that he started this spring.  Scott started a run across Nebraska in mid April with a goal of completing the 480 miles across the state.  About 11 days into the run, with 232 miles behind him, he had an injury to his leg which caused him to change plans, stop and recover.   

On October 20th, he picked up his journey where he had left off and began running the last 240 miles, ending at the Missouri River in Omaha.   Scott didn't take on this journey simply as a test to his own endurance, he took it on as a way to raise awareness and honor the Girls and Boys Town where he works and specifically the Aftercare program .  In his posts, he talks about how important it is to be a role model and fulfill the promises he made to the kids and himself, how he needs to adjust to life's curveballs, and of course, that like this run, life is a marathon, not a sprint.    As he finishes his last leg today - drop him a note of congratulations and encouragement.   

Paul_staso And Paul Staso.  In 2006, Paul ran across the United States, unsupported, pushing a jogging stroller.  He did this heroic feat as a way to promote P.A.C.E - Promoting Active Children Everywhere.  In 182 days, Paul is going to take on a challenge again and run across his homestate of Montana, all 610 miles of it, and ask kids to race with him virtually.   Students from Kindergarten to High School can run along by acquiring mileage at school and track his journey through Montana.  Pass on the link to your teachers - it would be a fun and educational program at school!

Paul is an amazing person.  Not only because he is a phenominial runner and he is coordinated enough to push a jogging stroller for that long a distance.  But he does all of this while also being a father of four, running alot, running a small business and of course, starting the PACE Fitness Foundation.   He is hanging out in the Runners' Lounge too - so drop him a note on his site or in the Lounge and cheer him on!

Fitness of our kids is personally a strong belief of mine that someday in the future I hope to find a way to support in impactful way that Paul is doing today. 

Don't forget to check out Wade's story too!  Wade Mitzel is running across NorthWadenkids  Dakota for Operation Christmas Child.   The program allows us to contribute shoeboxes filled with small gifts and deliver them to children living in desparate conditions in the world.  Wade is from North Dakota but personally experienced the poor conditions of children in his mission trips to China and Africa.   He knows firsthand the joy from children of receiving a small gift or kind note.   He started on his journey a few days ago - so stop by his blog and leave him a comment and cheer him on - he just passed the 100 mile mark on Sunday.  I can't imagine running a marathon everyday - and much less in the very cool weather of North Dakota.

Way to go guys!  You make being a runner a pretty special thing!

The Shirt Off Your Back…

Mebcover Don’t worry.  It’s just an expression.  I’m not going to take off mine.  But to compensate for that bait-and-switch tactic, to the right is some reward to the ladies.

But this expression is what I continue to understand about Blogging Running Friends—BRFs—they'd give you the shirt of their backs.

Ever try to describe to the greatness of BRFs to non-blogging running friends? 

I get blank stares and silence when I go there.  Others wonder just who are these runners I’m meeting and talking with in the blogosphere?  And why?   How do I explain an interest,  a fondness,  and even a concern for a growing network of people from all over the map who also happen to blog and run? 

Meeting new BRFs means a whole new community to come home to and get caught up with about running and life.  I admit to hurrying through, okay, even procrastinating a few chores around the house some nights, in order to settle in and get re-connected with BRFs.  When I’m away for a few days or longer, it feels like there’s some serious back reading to do to fully get up to speed with my BRFs.  It’s also funny how complete strangers will apologize to their readers when they’ve been away from posting for a bitsort of like admitting missing curfew.

So why?  What reason could people possibly have to acquire a sense of friendship and community with others—many whose names we don’t know and most whom we wouldn’t even recognize if we ran past them in our neighborhood?

It’s easy—we’re all runners.  We’re a melting pot of different speeds, endurance, ages, genders, ambitions, and fun!   New and slow and uncertain runners are talking with veteran, sub-elite, and accomplished runners.  In what other sport and medium does that happen?

We’re an expressive community of BRFs who take the time to read, comment, understand, challenge, and support each other.  We’re a big-hearted network that is mega plugged in to each others’ goals, training, injuries, and everyday challenges. Talk about a close-knit group!

  • A post from this summer described a BRF who drove 30 min across town at 4:30 a.m. each morning for a week to fill in as running partner for her BRF's friend (BRF was on vacation) who was a stranger and who needed the support of another runner.
  • Another example, and I’ll be intentionally be vague here.  A BRF was discovered on his/her bog by a person from his/her past and fed up with the annoying contact from that person.   So this BRF e-mails us explaining the matter and then directs us to the new site created so we can stay connected. What a powerful example.

I believe universally in the good nature of runners, particularly in their willingness to casually help others—a tip here, sort out an injury puzzle, occasionally train together to bring out better performance. 

However, there is an even deeper stream of support running through BRFs.  Our blog sites have no boundaries and our posts are packed with words of encouragement, understanding, empathy, friendliness, and of course smart-ass fun.  We open our human lives to others and reveal a glimpse of what's going on.  I believe if ever there was a crisis for a BRF, our connectedness would rally many of us to unite and come to the aid of other BRFs in a time of serious need. 

Amy and I discuss our BRFs daily, updating each other on what others are saying and doing in their running and non-running lives.  I also hope runners new to blogging are finding the BRF  community as friendly and welcoming as Amy and I have found.  You'll find many BRFs will give you the shirt of their backs.

BRFs are a force!

Photo of Meb from cover of Runner's World

Look out Boston! Here I come!

Last weekend we met all ages, shapes and experience levels at the marathon.   One of theFast_runner  best things about our sport is it really doesn't discriminate.  Anyone can join if they are willing.  You run your own race - you race against yourself.   Lost in my thoughts, I tried to think of other sports that we as generous and open as running.   There were quite a few, but I got stuck on the sport of golf.   Why?  Because I realized that there is one thing that golf offers that the sport of running could really use - a handicap!

Only a slow runner like me would come up with such an absurd idea like a running handicap.  But it is Friday and there is no reason to be too serious.  So, go ahead, try out my little running handicap calculator and find out what your new running pace would be:

Start with your average pace per mile for your most favorite race/run distance.  (You can see this won't be too scientific...)   Better grab your trusty calculator!


  • :10 seconds per mile for each child and pet that lives in your home and borrows some of that extra energy that you normally could apply to running 
  • :05 seconds extra per child if you are a female and delivered any of those children - that's just a gift from me to you
  • :10 seconds for each of the 10 pounds that you are waiting to spontaneously combust and disappear from your body forever
  • :20 seconds for all your good intentions to run more consistently, stretch, stretch train more, actually run all the miles in your training plan - but rarely all this happens because family, work or personal obligations seem to always be at the top of the list
  • :10 seconds if you live in an everchanging climate and 9 months of the year find it too cold, too hot, too snowy/icy, rainy
  • :05 seconds if you regularly read this or other running blogs and sacrifice some of your free time to supporting/encouraging other runners (awwww - that is so nice!)
  • :05 seconds for every year after the age of 16 that it took you to realize that running was really "your sport" and you had the painful task of learning it as a grown adult set in their ways
  • (and for my husband and all other law enforcement...) 1:15 if running with 26 pound gun belt and a 5 pound vest

What's it add up to?   I just shaved 2:20 minutes off my mile!  For me, starting with my trusty 10 minute mile pace - I would now be 7:40 minute/mile runner!  Can you believe it?  I love it!  I am a running machine!  Well, if only for a moment.   

Bill It probably won't qualify me for Boston - but in the meantime I can enjoy some thoughtful and wonderful souviners from Boston!  (MarathonDude)Bill sent us some of his favorite souvenirs from his Boston Marathon as a way to say thanks for our support of runners. (That's him and his family on the left - I borrowed it from his blog!) You know the saying, if you can't be an athlete - be an athletic supporter.  :}  It's a role I am happy to play.   Bill - thanks for thinking of me and Tom and sharing some of your prized possessions. It means alot coming from you as I know you are a fabulous athlete and supporter!

Happy Friday!

Photo of fast runner by WallMic

You Don’t Learn This Stuff in a Book

A pretty common piece of advice to runners is "start slow" or "don't go too fast in the first few miles."  I couldn't agree more.  That is a good prescription for "what" to do.  The real challenge is in "how" to start wisely.

Blurry_legs If anyone can figure out how to help runners master pace of early miles in a race, they could retire early and wealthy.   I can’t tell you the countless number of wise, veteran runners who fall victim to starting out too-fast-too-early for their pace. 

For me the challenge of proper pacing at the start of a race is multiplied by the excitement and pent-up energy of the runners.  When the gun fires, I abandon my good judgment in exchange for joining in the collective burst of energy.  Unspoken are thoughts like, “I feel great!”  “This pace feels right.” And even “Gee, maybe this is my day for a great race, a PR!”

Unfortunately, at that point, I’m ignoring the number one matter I can control—my legs.  So, as obvious as it sounds, my "how" technique for proper pacing is to keep an eye on my best partner, the ol’ legs.

The Key: Look Down at the Legs

Yup, I ignore the externals—the footsteps of the field of runners, the gazelles who effortlessly float, and the not-so-fit nor athletic looking runners who bolt ahead of me—even ignore the pace group leaders if their rate of leg turnover is no match for mine.  It’s all about my legs.

Running_legs_2 When I’m running the first mile or two, I regularly look down at my legs and take note of my leg turnover.  That’s right, I look at my legs.  Just a glance down at my leg turnover lets me compare  VISUALLY how fast I'm moving with the pace I've observed and felt on many LRs, pace runs, and easy runs.  In an instant, I can assess if my pace is slow, about right, or too fast.  And too fast is pretty common among us in the early miles of a race.

Similarly, I watch the leg turnover of others in front of me and ask myself if I really should match their leg turnover—and  do I believe I can sustain their pace for the rest of the race? If the answer is no, then I'm probably running too fast so I back off.  Slowing my pace by watching my leg turnover gives me an advantage I can't put a price on in the later miles of a race. 

After painful bonking in races, I now understand that proper early  pacing has nothing to do with others.  Instead, monitoring my leg turnover keeps me from continuing those textbook mistakes of starting too fast.   

So during final weeks and days before a race, look down at your legs and memorize the look, feel, and rate of your leg turnover you want to maintain.  Then use it to guide your pace in the early miles on race day. 

Crazy  as it sounds, it works for me.

Running legs on Flickr by 308drag

What It Takes To Be A Runner

On my way home from marathon weekend, I ran into one of my neighbors.  We settled right into the normal pleasantries, starting with "Whatca' up to this weekend?"  I launched into a excited recap of all the fun I had this weekend cheering on our friends in all their races.  He followed up with a simple question, "What's it take to run one of those marathon races?"

Hum...great question.  Not one to leave a question hanging and unanswered, I quickly ran down the list of what it takes to be a runner and especially a runner who tackles the long distance.  Here is the recipe I discovered while watching, meeting, and listening to all the runners this weekend:

First you need a large scoop of gotta wanna.  You can't toe the line without it, because Dscn1794 your legs will only take you so far without a little energy from your brain.   Our friend is Angela is a great example of this.  She has all the ability to run the distance and only needed to apply a thin frosting of "I can do it!"  "I will do it!" in order to cross the line.  Read the race stories from any runner and you will hear over and over that their mental fitness drove them to the line.  One of my favorite race stories from this weekend that shows about 4 heaping scoops of this is from zanne  (or as told by her husband) - simply amazing!

Dscn1898 Add a pinch of willingness to push.  Very few of us are natural born runners.  We aren't asked or expected to go out and run long distances at any age.   To be a runner, you have to push yourself to the next mile in your training runs.  You need to get a little uncomfortable, you may feel some pain, you need to stretch past what you know you can do.   One of the highlights for me this weekend was to have a moment to talk to the winner of the men's half marathon.  Blake Bolden was resting on a bench just a few feet from Tom and I and we struck up a conversation.  When I found out that he had not only won but also broke the record (1:08:07) - I was in awe.  I asked him, "So what does it feel like to win your race and set a record."   His quiet reply, "It really hurts for about an hour."  Later, we were lucky to meet the women's 2nd and 3rd place half marathon finishers.  You know I had to ask her the same question, and she replied, "It hurts like hell.  At about 9 miles, I just wanted to sit down and have a soda - and I don't drink soda."   I may never be fast or win any part of a race, but I know that without a willingness to push, my goals won't become my results.Dscn1842

And then add a dash of trying something new.  At the expo on Saturday, a wonderful  lady approached me quickly, gave an awkward glance, and leaned in close and asked, "What do you think it means if I am over 50 and still a virgin?"   My quiet response was, "we are talking about running, right?"   To which she lit up, laughed, and grabbed one the "virgin" signs.  She was one of many, many half marathon and marathon virgins that we had the privilege to meet this weekend.  Many were nervous and excited at the same time - they were wary of attempting the distance but so willing to give it their all.

Dscn1994_2 And don't forget a happy handful of crazy.  We met alot of crazy runners too!  "Marathon Maniac" (his words/shirt) - not mine - had just finished the Kansas City marathon on Saturday and jumped into the DSM marathon.  We have friends who completed Des Moines and are headed to New York next week.  We met people who hadn't trained at all and just wanted to give it a shot and people who had ran a "short" 18 miles the day before.  My favorite quote was from an older runner who finished his first marathon in a little over 5 hours and was cramping and in pain, but beaming like someone just gave him his first bicycle.  His family gathered around, holding him up - helping him walk, very concerned, asking him how he was doing.  His response, "I am just one big cramp below my waist and I love it!".  Their response?  "You are crazy".  Of course! It is a required ingredient.

And don't forget to serve it with a big side of having fun.  In one word.  Sonya!   A firstDscn1953  time half marathoner, Sonya had alot of fun with our signs and the energy of the event.  This is her after picture (click here for before pic). You gotta' love her spirit - especially after finishing 13.1 miles running.  To keep coming back and running each day to train or race at these distances, you need to enjoy the time on your feet.  I wish each of you the amount of joy that she gives off in this photo after running 13.1 miles. Dscn1955_2 (And yes, she has clothes on - she is just creative about hiding them for the photo.)

And last but not least, you must amazing support from your friends and family.   They need to understand about your new obsessions with just the right pair of socks, the reverance in which you talk about "hydrating", and those long runs that take us away for hours at a time.  They are a critical to becoming a runner!

And somewhere in all of this, a few miles of running is the last thing you stir into the pot to make it really sing.   Makes it all seem so easy....ha!

The Greatest Gift A Runner Can Give to Another Runner...

Amy and I are convinced that as runners--all of us have the collective wisdom, experience, and expertise that exceeds what can be found in even the greatest of running literature.  And we’re determined to tap into the running gold mine called “you.”  Yes, we mean every one of us—ordinary runners who keep getting closer to WCPWWhat Consistently, Predictably Works.

Combine I recently posted about how suddenly the peak of the marathon and half marathon season was here.  With another major weekend of racing behind us, there is a growing storehouse of running wisdom, advice from experienced runners just bursting at the seams.

Since it's harvest time, we're inviting everyone to gather up your best running advice and reach out to everyone else—those recovering and those still preparing for their race destination and goal achievements.  Sort of like trotting out your prize winning, you'll-want-to-try-this recipes for your church cookbook.

Share Two Ideas

We all have a lot to learn and share, so let's see what sort of advice we can gather—for better training, racing, tapering, fueling, hydrating, pacing, and enjoying.  Your comments below might just make the difference in some runners more fully succeeding in their running or upcoming race.  Feel free to also post them on your blog and copy/link your list or email me at tom@runnerslounge.com.   I will post your collective wisdom here and also in the Build-Share-Use Running Know How section of the Lounge.

This is no time to be modest or humble.  Shout out what you've learned—the right way or the hard way.  Pass it along in any way that works and is fun for you—your "Commandments of Running," in the format of a fool-proof recipe, a story, a scolding, an essay of "What I Learned Racing Last Weekend, or in a Dear Abby Advice Column format. 

As for me, I'll be sharing my two recent lessons learned—advice for better race pacing, and my new-found method of injury prevention.

Let's make it an abundant, generous harvest of WCPWWhat Consistently, Predictably Works for running.

Harvest on Flickr by rsgreen

H-E-R-O...What does that spell.....HERO!

A quick shout out to our friends and heros for completing their races, cheering on runners, and volunteering this weekend at the Des Moines Marathon Event.   

Especially, David, Dick, Kent, Elizabeth, Nancy, Mike, Terri, CoffeeBetsy, Dennis, Angela, Laurie. There were many great stories which you will be able to read about on their pages, here is the million word version through a few pictures of our heros.

If you would like to meet the (literally) hundreds of new running friends we met this weekend, check out some great prerace and post race photos at our Flickr page

We had a blast!   More soon...

Perfect Pictures

I am a "mom photographer" and have a camera in my hand most days.  Like most kids, mine Top_10_picture_1 really don't like having their picture taken, especially when they are too busy doing things they feel are much more important like trying to dress up our large golden retriever, spell out secret code words on our patio deck with hydrocortisone cream, or use the mud from the mud puddles to "paint" my car.   It these perfect moments you will find me screaming/scolding at the same time of saying - "wait, you are in trouble, but I really need to get a picture of that".   

So when I ran across this top 10 list of perfectly timed sport pictures from top 10 kid, I had to share them with you.  They have been on my favorite list for the last week or so and I get such a kick out of them.  They are the perfect post to slide us into a race weekend.

Take a peek - it's worth the 30 second visit if you haven't spied them before out on the web.

Have a great weekend!

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