The Running Puzzle

Posted: February 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

Most runners focus almost exclusively on the act of running rather than all the other facets of running. It’s the difference between running being a lifestyle versus having the marathon as just an item on someone’s bucket list. I have never been one to simply check an experience off a long list of things I want to experience during my lifetime. I need to thoroughly research anything I’m interested in so that I understand it completely. It’s important that it becomes an integral part of my life for a sustained period. Motorcycles were one of my earliest interests and continue to be today. In June of 2010 I departed home on a Friday morning and rode 5,000 miles in 10 days through Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. I only carried a bike messenger bag, no GPS, no rain gear. I experienced rain every day! But when I completed the Natchez Trace and Blue Ridge Parkways and all the other motorcyclists sought shelter, I felt an extreme sense of accomplishment when I rode out of the mountains at the end of each day. This was a defining experience in my life. 

 I became interested in running when I was a senior in high school and preparing for boot camp. I grew up in Buckhannon, West Virginia and vividly remember running on the railroad tracks in leather Puma basketball shoes each day after school. I discovered that I could run long distances and not experience fatigue. I had a Marine drill sergeant that put pressure on me at every opportunity, running was no different, so he actually fostered a determination in me that exists today. I excelled while running in the heat of Texas in June, July and August. I remember placing bets with my friends in basic training that I could run unfathomable distances on days where the heat was so intense, exercise was practically forbidden. It was also a great way to supplement my military salary. When we finally earned weekend liberty they immediately went into town to enjoy things they had been deprived of for several months…I headed to the track to explore my physical and mental limits. That passion has remained with me today.

 At 53 I’m still interested in exploring what I’m capable of accomplishing in my running. There’s no doubt that it’s far more challenging for me to run under 3:15 in the marathon today than when I ran 2:33 many years ago…it’s all relative. While the times have changed, the one constant is my love of running and my desire to extend myself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Running has to be a lifestyle for someone to thoroughly experience all that running offers. I remember one of my favorite runners, Toshihilo Seko from Japan, was once asked if he had a girlfriend, to which he replied, “The marathon is my only girlfriend. I give her everything I have.” Now that personifies a running lifestyle. He represented Japan in two Olympic Games and won Boston in 1981 (2:09:26) and 1987 (2:11:50). Are you giving your running everything you have? Now, you don’t have to adopt Seko’s extreme philosophy but I know there are things that you can do to make running a more integral part of your lifestyle. For instance, are you preparing for your workouts days before with respect to your nutrition, hydration, rest, cross training and managing your schedule?

 I find that many runners work their running around all the circumstances in their lives with negative results. Training for the Boston Marathon, which is less than 10 weeks away, doesn’t allow one to waste a lot of time. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to have setbacks, but you need to strike a balance in your life in an effort to gain more control over your running. If the scale is imbalanced during your marathon training it should be in favor of your running. Runners that have the Boston Marathon as an item on their bucket list focus too much on checking off the requisite mileage on the training schedule and deprive themselves of the abundance that running can provide. I simply cannot comprehend adopting that philosophy. I want to plan everything so the return on my investment is considerable.

Running has never been just a physical act to me. It’s also been emotional and spiritual. There’s been a definite correlation between the time and effort I’ve put into my running and the benefits I’ve received. The physical benefits speak for themselves but I am undoubtedly a better person because of running. Running has helped me to deal with failure, loss and disappointment and it’s shown me what I’m truly capable of achieving. It’s allowed me to look at the world differently and, more importantly, to look at myself differently. I have benefited so much from running because it’s been an integral part of my life, an entire lifestyle, and I’ve managed to piece the puzzle of running together so well. The pieces consist of goals, a strategic training plan, proper clothing and the best shoes for my biomechanical needs, staying well hydrated, eating well, receiving sufficient rest, minimizing stress and having fun.

 Running is MY time to enjoy the elements, the company of friends, to sort through my thoughts and focus on the things requiring the most attention in my life. I hope that you receive a fraction of the benefits and enjoyment that I have from running. Just piece your running puzzle together and enjoy the sense of accomplishment!

  1. Sheree Dunwell says:

    Thank you for this post, coach! I have to remember it is so important to think about why I run…and not the act of running. 🙂

  2. Hello Sheree,

    I think we could all benefit from being reminded what’s truly important about our running. I look forward to seeing you Saturday.

    Coach Rick

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