Thursday, November 14, 2013

Reasons to Run

Two days ago there was an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, mocking runners for their narcissism, their stupid 13.1 and 26.2 stickers and race T-shirts, and their general smug self-satisfaction.  This piece pissed me off, of course, but then I thought of the reasons I keep running.  I looked back at my exercise/running log from 2009, and saw the first day I ran outside--October 16, a 22-minute outdoor session.  What keeps me running four years later?

1)  It works (for me):
Back in 2009, I was working out a lot indoors at our campus recreation center. I'd use the rowers, the bikes, and I got over my fear of the elliptical (something about being suspended mid-air initially bugged me, but now I enjoy the lack of pounding) and the treadmill.  I noticed the piece of equipment that really fired up my weight loss was the treadmill.  I'm not the hugest treadmill fan, but this intrigued me.

2) It's a "lazy" workout:
On October 16, 2009, I started running outside. It felt so much freer than the treadmill, and I felt a rush. Something told me that is was something I could do, do well, and continue to do when I felt too lazy to drag ass to the REC center. It's "lazy" in that I don't have to think much about it--I get my clothes on (more on clothes later), get my shoes on, select music if I'm using music, and head out the door. I figured out a quick one-mile automatic-pilot loop in my neighborhood that I still use to this day.

3) It helps me keep my blood pressure in check:
I think America's doctors have given up on us.  They've told us again and again to eat a healthy diet and to exercise, but so many of us ignore that advice.  When I was going to the doctor a lot for high blood pressure care, no doctor ever told me to exercise.  They seemed stunned that I'd started a regimen without their advice, and that I was trying to wean myself off the huge pills they kept wanting to prescribe.  I hated going to the pharmacy every month for more and more pills. Eventually, I lost sufficient weight (though weight loss was never my primary goal) that the docs took me off all meds. I was so glad of that because less money on pills means more money on....

4) Clothes!!!
I'll admit to buying more running/workout clothes these days than regular clothes.  But I'm also cheap, so I'll hit up the sales racks at Target, Gordman's, Bealls Outlet, Ross Dress for Less (there's always a sign at Ross Stores that labels part of their sportswear section as "Active Bottoms," which still cracks me up), TJ Maxx and Marshalls.  In running clothes, I can wear obnoxious colors that I don't wear in my day-to-day wardrobe. I can be silly--and dress for a race as a tiger or a bunny (both of which I've done).

5) Music!
I love music, just about any kind of music.  But running has made me re-consider songs I thought were rubbish--lyrically, they may be, but some crass pop songs are great for running. I don't always use music when I run, and if I'm told not to use music in a race, I don't. But I've enjoyed re-connecting with my own past musical memories when I run to eighties tunes; I love hearing hyped-up house mixes; I've run to reggae, soca and salsa music; and I've discovered a whole lot of bands and musicians I never would have heard otherwise.  For a sample of my favorite running music, check out the links I've posted on the side of this blog.

So, Wall Street Journal dude, keep your sour attitude about running and runners. I've got my reasons to run and no one's going to take them from me. Running makes me feel like a bad-ass, and that can only be good.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Beauty of a Ten-Mile Race

Later this month (November 30th), I'll run the Great River Road Run, a ten-mile race held year in the Mississippi River town of Alton, IL (more info on the race at

Ten miles is one of my favorite lengths for a race.  It's longer than the 6.2 miles of a 10K, but less stressful to think about than a half-marathon.  It still takes preparation, endurance, and proper training, but if you run it well, you're not anywhere near as tired as when you run a half.

Are there many ten-mile races out there?  I thought ten-milers were a rarity when I last ran the Great River Run, but a quick internet search proved me wrong.  Here's a list of ten mile races that I hope to try one day:

Annapolis Ten-Mile Race, Annapolis, MD

Virginia Ten-Miler, Lynchburg, VA

Surf-n-Santa Ten Miler, Virginia Beach, VA

Charlottesville Ten-Miler, Charlottesville, VA

Medtronic TC 10-Miler, Minneapolis, MN

Soldier Field 10-Miler, Chicago, IL

Austin 10/20 (Ten Miles, Twenty Bands), Austin, TX

Here are some training plans for ten-mile races:

I look forward to running some ten-mile races during spring some day. Ten miles feels awfully cold in late November. As much as I've liked doing the Great River Road Run, I look forward to some sunny races at the ten-mile distance.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thirteenth Half Marathon: 2013 Saint Louis Track Club Half Marathon

This past Sunday, November 3, I ran my thirteenth half-marathon, the 2013 Saint Louis Track Club Half-Marathon.  I finished the race in 2:07.31.  Here are my race day observations.

1) This continues to be a well-run and nicely-organized race:
This was my third time at this particular half-marathon, which is sponsored by the main running club in the city of Saint Louis, the STL Track Club:
There's also a 5K at this race, and a youth run.

I keep coming back because it's a nicely done race, and I like the opportunity to run in Forest Park--the course route goes from Clayton, MO, past the campus of Washington University, into Forest Park and back to Clayton. If I lived in Saint Louis, I would regularly run in the beautiful wide expanse of Forest Park. It looks especially nice at this time of year, with the fall leaves in lovely color. The weather was a little chilly to start, but as the crowd got moving, it warmed up nicely.

2) I was not as well-organized as the race:
Last year, I gained a half-marathon PR at this race at 2.01.06.  This year, I wasn't as fortunate. I was much slower, and made some basic mistakes that made the race harder than it should have been.  My basic problem was fueling--I didn't have enough in my system (only had one gel in me prior to race time, and I should have eaten one on the course).  I should have eaten one about mile seven, but I waited too long.  By the time I got to right before mile 11, I stopped to walk--not because I was bonking in the jelly-legs fall-down way--but because I was tired. TIRED. I kept moving through miles 11 and 12, alternating walking and running--doing whatever my body would allow.  When I got to the clock at right before mile 13, I saw I was at 2:02, which surprised me. I thought with all the walking that I had ruined my race and would get in at about 2:15.  So I began to run again, and crossed the finish at 2:08 unofficially (chip time was 2:07.31).

3) Spotting fast people:
At last year's race, there was a particularly fast field, given that there were some displaced elite runners from the cancelled NYC Marathon.  This year's men's winner, Geofrey Terer, was in at 1:07.36--a 5:09 pace! Amazing.  The women's overall winner was Liza Hunter-Galvan, who came in at 1:18.31. Since this race is an out-and-back, us slow-pokes can see these amazing runners in action--they are headed out of Forest Park as we slower runners are making our way in!

4) Meeting a goal:
With this race, I've met a goal--I wanted to do 13 half-marathons before the close of 2013.  I did it, and even though I was not at my best or fastest, that goal is accomplished. The new goal is not to count them anymore, and just do them.

5) Final stats:
time: 2:07.31 (chip time)
average pace: 9:44/mile
gender rank: 184
age-group place: 22 of 52

My last race of the year will also be a race I've done before, a ten-mile race in Alton, IL--the Great River Road Race. I promise I'll fuel better for that one.