Full Attention

Today was day 20 of my 4 mile-a-day run streak. Feeling a little spent after a speedy point to point 5.5 run on Sunday, but got it done regardless.

So much of all this, of anything during a global pandemic, is about being in the moment. If I think too much about all the miles before today, or how many more I have to go, it won’t do me any good. I believe there’s tremendous value in focusing on each step – literally – and counting breaths. I don’t do this 100% of the time, but when I find myself getting too lost in my head, I’ll bring it back.

Same goes for work; too many notification from email, Slack, texts… shut ’em all off, and focus on the one task at hand. Not only will it get done quicker, but it will be done better, because it had my full attention.

Taste for Racing

Running in the rain is the best, so long as you’re prepared for it. Thankfully I’ve got my sweet Patagonia rain jacket, which is bomb proof, and pretty much my winter running jacket. Keeps the wind and rain out, and keeps the body heat wrapped up nice inside.

Today I continued my four-miles per day run streak, making it 17 days into April, and almost 70 miles for the month. Just 13 more days to go.

Had a nice talk with my coach today, wrapping up the marathon training cycle that we started way back in December of 2019. Like Morpheus said, what was said was for me, and for me alone, but dammit if I’m not stoked to pick back up later this year and work on some speed. I turn 44 next month, and I’m stoked to keep building towards rad shit.

To be honest I’ve gotten a taste for races, for competition. The fun part about running is you don’t have to be a professional to kick butt. Races vary in size, distance, and the line ups are always varied. That I came in 2nd at a 5K last summer really jolted me. A top 10 finish and 1st in my age group a month later at another 5K.

Like, I can do this.

Again, I’m not thinking of turning pro, but the thought of getting good enough at something like running is thrilling. To show up at a local race – whenever we might able to do that again – and out run other people? Pass other runners? Fend off attacks?

Like, at 44 how else am I gonna experience that?

Moments are Moments

My cat broke my french press in the middle of the night, chasing a mouse – on the counter. We live in farm country, so having mice is sort of typical. A 13lb cat slamming into drying dishes, well, that’s something different.

Didn’t realize how much my day is tied to routine. Not having that morning coffee threw me for a loop. Visited my local Starbucks, thinking I could snag from through the drive-thru, but they’re closed now due to the corona-virus.

Work call, work stuff, all without my coffee. All the washed silverware fell back into the sink in a crash. Computer was acting up.

My 3pm, I said “fuck this” and went for a run (well, hit Target first for a new french press).

All those bad moments in the early part of the day – it’s easy to let them keep rolling, and before you know it it’s now a bad day.

I knew I could have stayed home, buckled down on my laptop, skipped my run, probably scroll through Twitter a bit too much, read the news.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s possible. Do I always win? Nah. But today, the moments stayed moments, and today was a good day.

How I Became a Runner

For starters, I wanted to become a runner. My friend Jesse is the coolest, and we running super far. We used to have bike adventures back in the day, but now he was a runner – I wanted running adventures with my buddy!

I was living with my parents in 2016. Eating like shit. I remember I lost the definition in my ankles, from all the years prior when I biking 100 miles a week.

Times were tough. I could not find work. Automated rejection emails were a regular thing in my inbox. I needed something I could control.

My best friend texted me from a 4th of July picnic. Said someone bet him he couldn’t run an eight minute mile. He tried and said he couldn’t do it. I tried a day or two later, and ran a mile in 13 minutes and my thighs hurt so bad I had difficulty walking down stairs for a week.

But I wanted this. I wanted to be a runner. I didn’t just want to lose weight, I wanted to be fit an in shape and look like a runner, so I had to become a runner.

The image at the top of this post is one of my first long runs, from way back in 2016, about three months from when I started with a Couch to 5K app. I can now run a 10K (6.1 miles) in 54 minutes, an 8:36/mile pace.

The biggest thing was I started back in 2016. If you’re reading this now and thinking you want to be a runner, the best time to have started was back in 2016. The next best time is today.

Around this time another friend (a seasoned runner) told me to not worry about speed or pace, just focus on “time on feet.” Run 30 minutes, run 40 minutes, run 60 minutes. Don’t worry about pace, just be out there moving on your feet. Your entire body has to adjust; bones, muscles, lungs, YOUR MIND. The run mentioned above that took over an hour was crucial to my being able to run 18 miles a few months ago.

It’s all foundational.

That slow shitty run is okay. That fast run where you felt is okay, too. Appreciate the moments when you’re feeling good, and know that somedays it won’t feel like that. So when your run sucks, remember that it won’t last forever. You’ll feel better tomorrow. Or in your next mile!

Probably the biggest thing – slow down. You shouldn’t be short of breath, huffing and puffing, ready to die. Slow. Down. Remember, your foot bones need to adjust to the pounding. Your heart has to get better at pumping blood to your muscles. Your tendons are working overtime now, too.

You’re asking your body to do a lot, so be kind to yourself. Slow down. Forget that “I can’t walk” shit. If you need to walk, WALK. Save the bravado for a big race or group adventure when you’re surrounded by people to cheer you on and support you. I’m not saying you can’t push it sometimes, but don’t run yourself into the ground. Save some energy for tomorrow. There’s always tomorrow.

Bring water, or don’t. Wear short shorts, or tights, or whatever. Do what feels good for you. Don’t obsess, over planning everything, researching. Go fail, go fall on your face, go get blisters.

Get out of your comfort zone from time to time, stop playing it safe, and just try shit.

I remember the first time I ran on consecutive days. WHAT??! I just did it, and didn’t break, and then took it easy of course. But you need to try stuff to figure out what works for you.

But to keep trying those things, you have to stay healthy. You have to enjoy it, it needs to be fun. So slooow down. Take some photos. Smell some roses along the way.

Now you’re a runner.

P.S.: it took me three years, and lots of running, but I finally ran that eight minute mile (7:49/mile) in a small 5K trail race.

Just Run a Bunch

In starting my recent run streak (four miles every day since March 30), I was mostly inspired by a friend who’s been running 10+ miles for like 50 days. He’s a monster.

Now, I’ve been running almost four years now, consistently adding mileage year over year, and building overall fitness. Someday I’d love to run 10 miles a day, too. So where do I start?

I want to fail, but smartly. Then I can pick myself up and move forward armed with new ideas on how to improve. I accept that I may get injured occasionally as I try to push limits and push myself.

Grayson Murphy

I started working with Grayson in 2019, working on my nutrition and diet. Then she was virtual coach, helping me train for the Queens Marathon that sadly got cancelled because of the Corona Virus outbreak. With her help I was able to run 18 miles in one shot!

So why not try to run four miles a day? I’m not sprinting them, or charging up 1000s of feet of elevation on these runs. I’m playing it smart, getting plenty of rest, stretching, all that good stuff.

But it’s fun to learn, and see what the body is capable of. I know I can get in 25-ish mile a week by just running a few times a week. But right now I need the peaceful experience of daily running. It helps break up my day, from work to not work, and seriously clears my head for a peaceful, restful night, which is something I definitely need during this time.

Streaks

This month I’ve run every day, 11 days, four miles each day.

I’ve been following my pal Ed on Instagram, and he’s been running for 50 days straight, usually 10+ miles a day.

He’s doing it fast, sure, but it’s the heart that impresses me. He’ll repost some Instagram Stories from friends who’ve started to run, inspired by his journey.

He’s had to put his own oxygen mask on first (his wife passed away last June), before he could ever think of helping anyone else. The byproduct of “just” taking care of himself has put so much good out in the world, and dammit, at the end of that day that’s what so much of this is about.

Setting the Tone

Since I started running in 2016, I learned that the first mile sucks. It just takes awhile for the muscles to loosen, the heart to get pumping, and mentally you have to power through it all.

This week started pretty bad, though looking back there wasn’t one external force that made it that way. A combination of many things add up and whammo, you’re having a bad day.

But it’s not a bad day, it’s a bad moment. I’m not saying we don’t get bad days, to just “toughen up” and carry on. But I mean some crappy moments don’t have to always write the full story of the rest of your day.

I wasn’t feeling in the mood for a run this morning, or in the afternoon, and figured, eh, I’ll get it tomorrow. But then… I felt like it. Or rather, things were in order mentally and emotionally and physically to just, what the hell? Let’s go for a run.

And that first mile sucked. Headwind, felt stiff, shoulda wore gloves. But by mile four, and a few hundred feet of climbing, I was feeling great.

In summary, bad mornings don’t have to become bad days, and a bad Monday doesn’t need to dictate an entire week.

A Little Sore

Back in 2016 I ran too fast in my first 5K race, and tweaked something, which I felt for a week or so afterwards.

Sometime later, my lower back was hurting. Saw a doctor. He laid me down, raised my leg, and asked, “do you stretch?” Uhhh… so I started stretching more, and wow, my lower back felt better.

A week before the 2019 Broad Street 10 mile race I tweaked my ankle on the stair climber machine, of all things.

Each time, I took it easy, stayed mobile, stretched, got plenty of rest, and things worked out.

Earlier this week I knew I was too sore to run. Today is my third day in a row of not running, my longest time off since December.

My marathon is 25 days away. Stinks to not be ON TARGET with my training, but it’d stink more if I powered through and hurt myself even more.

Worst case? I don’t finish my marathon. But I learned so much from this training block; working with a coach, discovering new abilities, building mental toughness for long distance… none of this will be a waste.

Dedicated Devices

My Garmin 235 has a solid, physical button for starting and stopping runs. For selecting items, there are buttons for up and down. No screen gestures, no inadvertent swipes, no random locked screens. It syncs with the Garmin app on my phone, which then syncs to my Strava account.

I wanted to take more photos on my runs. While I have an iPhone Xr with a fantastic camera, it also comes with a big screen loaded with notifications for emails, messages, calendar events, and a jillion other things. And not to mention that if I ever drop or damage this device, then my GPS, phone and everything else is damaged, too. The GoPro is rock solid, fits easily into my hands on runs (it came with me on my recent 18 mile run), and takes great footage.

Running is an absolute passion of mine now, since 2016, and I just want to track it efficiently, and document the journey. These two devices help me do that.

Team then Family

The distance, the scenery, the speed, the desert, racing in the streets… yeah, I love all that. But the people, right? All those people. A team, a family of people from literally all around the globe coming together to work on this one goal, one mission, one project.

To be beat down, exhausted, tired, sore, in pain, along with your teammates, and to get out there and keep moving. That’s what makes a video like this so inspiring to me. Running is such a solo activity, run your own race, sort of deal. But this sort of event, this format, it really gets me going.