Why head out the door when it’s pissing rain? Why not sleep in, or maybe cozy up in a coffee shop and watch the rain come down?
I guess because I started running back in 2016 when I didn’t have much going on. It was a low point in life, career-wise. Money wise. Running was a thing I could control. It was something I could complete, and accomplish. No hiring manager, no rejection, no automated email telling me thanks, but no thanks.
I could put in the work, then sign up for a 5K, and finish it. Maybe not fast, maybe not pretty, but I showed up just like all those runners and did it.
Now I’ve run three 10 mile races. A half marathon. Then today, in NYC, I put in 10 miles over three bridges in under two hours.
Not fast, not pretty, but I was out there when the rain was coming down sideways, and the wind was pushing my ass.
I showed up for me. I made this, I planned this, I accomplished this. That’s why I keep running, even in horrible conditions, because it’s another thing I’ve accomplished.
Because I want to run a marathon someday. I want to run in Yellowstone Park. I want to run around the Grand Canyon. I want to accomplish those things someday, and I need to do this now to get there.
Actions today lead to accomplishments in the future.
This was my second time running the 10 mile jaunt through the heart of Philadelphia, PA. The biggest 10 mile run in the United States, me and some 40,000-ish other runners who wouldn’t let a little rain spoil the fun.
Last year this was my first major distance race, after completing a few 5Ks since I began running in 2016. I ate horribly the week leading up to the race in 2018, bonked, and had to walk a few times. I was exhasuted afterwards, had to take a nap. Took a week off from doing my beloved Skull Toaster metal trivia. It was hard.
This year? Ran the entire time, no walking. My last two miles were my fastest, and didn’t even need a nap. Hell, didn’t sleep in the next day either. Knocked off five minutes from last year’s time, too.
Not gonna lie, though. It was rainy and breezy. I was cold, and standing in the corral for 40 minutes I had to pee, too. It was shoulder to shoulder, and there was no way I could leave to use a porta potty.
So the race started, and I tossed my poncho, and stopped at a porta potty about a mile down the road.
This was also my second race without a water bottle. I’ve been carrying one with me for every race, even the 5Ks, as I’m just super scared of dehydrating or whatever. But this year I relied on the water stations, and it worked out just fine.
By mile five I was feeling good. I was comfortable. I ran a very hilly 10 miler about two months prior, but hit the wall at about the 1:15 mark, mostly because all my training was just one hour runs.
So this year I made sure to sneak in some 1:30 runs. They weren’t fast, they weren’t “half marathon pace,” or anything. But they were just runs that lasted an hour and a half.
I also did some “speed runs” using the Nike Run Club app. They have a handful of guided training runs, where you run fast for a minute and a half, then slow down for a minute, and you keep going back and forth.
At about the eight mile mark I remembered that training. I remembered that running fast didn’t kill me, and I’d get to recover eventually. The pain would end. So I picked it up a bit.
And I kept it up. I had control of my breathing, and it was… comfortable. I wasn’t out of control. I felt good. I remembered that training, that it was okay for it to not feel easy because I had just run eight miles. It’s supposed to not feel awesome, but I just needed to settle in with the hurt, with the effort, and keep it moving.
I look back, and mile eight was one my slowest. I thought about just taking it easy the rest of the way. Hey, at least I didn’t walk, right? Just be happy to finish.
But mile nine for me was 9:50 pace. Then the last mile was 9:40.
Mind you, when I’m doing my training runs, just out doing my thing, pushing a 10:00 minute mile is tough for whatever reason. It’s just… ugg.
But those Nike training runs? I was pushing 9:00 miles. 8:30 pace! Just for a minute and a half, a couple of times per work out, but it was training. And it got me to 9:50 for a mile. Then 9:40 for another mile.
A whole mile. Then another one!
So yeah… it’s not fast compared to everyone else, sure. But for me, having just started in 2016? I’ll take it. For turning 43 this month? I’ll take it.
I’m cautious. I don’t want to pull something. I don’t want to get hurt. But this race showed me things. It showed me the mental side of things, that I can dig deep, think back to my training, and finish strong. Those are words and phrases that I didn’t think I’d ever be writing or talking about back in 2016, but here we are today, in 2019, and that’s where I’m at.
And I’m excited for where I’ll be at this time next year.
Race number one of 2019 done! Finished at 1:43:55 or so. First seven miles felt great, but the last three is the real story.
Early in the race I was following behind a gentleman in all black. I didn’t know anything else, but he was just trotting along, so I figured I’ll just follow behind him.
I’m running comfortably, and fighting the urge to look at my watch. When I look at my watch a million calculations go through my head. Pace, and speed, and time, and if I run a certain pace for the next two miles, then… yeah, having that information usually throws me for a loop.
So I looked at my watch.
And I was running a nice pace, rather comfortably! We ran up so many hills (800′ in total climbing, about the height of the MET Life building in NYC), and I stayed close behind.
After about mile five, though, I passed him. I stopped hearing his footsteps, and I felt like I was flying! Well, for like a mile or so.
But then at about mile 7 my body was like, nah. I just hadn’t trained enough for this distance, so I understood, and smiled and tried to shuffle along.
Well, that fella caught up to me, with a woman he was pulling along for a few miles. He passed me, but we made it up the final hill together (very hilly course), and all three of us did our best sprint finish together.
Three random people, different ages and backgrounds and all that, united for one cause for that one hour and 43 minutes. We high fived, ate some chips, and now have an awesome story for life.
I’ve been able to string together four weeks in a row of running 20 miles. Tonight on the treadmill I had one of my fastest hour runs in awhile, having pushed out of my comfort zone a bit, fueled by the early afternoon burrito lunch.
Maybe it was the after effects of the run, or the post-workout beer, but tonight I signed up for a 10 mile race about 40 minutes away, this weekend.
This will be just the third time I’ve entered a 10+ mile race, with the previous two coming last year, in just 2nd year of running.
May 6, 2018 – Broad Street 10 miler in Philadelphia: 1:48:34 (10:51 pace) Oct 21, 2018 – Runner’s World Half in Bethlehem, PA: 2:17:02 (10:25 pace)
During that Half I ran by fastest 10 miler, too, at 1:43:16. I’m not sure I’m on target for that this weekend, and I won’t really be trying, but it’d be nice to at least be in the low 1:40s, that’s for sure.
When I started running on July 7, 2016, I never thought that this would be what I do now, but here we are!
Last December I took a break from running. Not because I was tired of it, or injured, but after hitting 800 miles I knew I needed a break.
Then in January, I moved, and that was sort of hectic. I also didn’t have reliable internet for about a week and a half, so that whole time I was driving to a few different coffee shops to work, which ate up a lot of time.
It’s so weird – I remember what it felt like in early January. I was sluggish, my legs just didn’t want to go, my heart was heavy. I even felt like, what if I never get back into running?
Now here I am, in mid February. Three weeks of 20 miles a week. I got an email that I got a lottery entry for the Broad Street run in Philadelphia. I got some new running shirts coming in the mail. I ran four miles with a friend a few weekends ago, then ran three miles home on the road. I ran and saw buffalo last weekend.
Getting back into more consistent running here at the start of 2019. I joined a gym to get some steady miles, both for the effort and the safety. It’s a grind on the treadmill, but I know every 10 or 15 minute chunk out of my comfort zone is just going to make the miles easier this summer and fall.
I wish I had nice photos to accompany a post like this, but there’s nothing worth noting from the treadmill. This work, though, will lead me to empty roads and vistas, mountains and creeks. From there I’ll capture photos worth sharing. For now, this time, this work, is cut off from everyone.
In the summer of 2016 I didn’t think I’d ever be able to run for 15 minutes straight. Last fall I ran a half-marathon in two hours and 16 minutes. I’m not fast, but I’ve got stubborn legs.
After three weeks off in December (after an 800 mile year), I’m getting back into the swing of things with running. I’m taking it slow, as I don’t want to rush and hurt myself, but being able to hit one hour of running without stopping has been a major milestone for me. And I’ve done it twice in a week.
Running for that long is almost meditation. It means no social media, fretting over my to-do list, or checking emails. It’s an hour of not trying to figure things out, or get into several conversations.
It was cold, wet, and dreary – perfect conditions for my second run of the year. Still being cautious, with plenty of stretching, and just taking it easy, but I made it to the top of this hill and another without stopping.
Not fast, but I didn’t stop.
I think that’s a wonderful thing about running, that you can always slow down. Like, you’re allowed to just jog, shuffle, trot along. It’s still moving, and really what counts is just being out there.
Of course I want to compare this run to another time I did this route. Am I faster, have I lost my fitness after just three weeks of rest? Will I ever hit my goal of 1000 miles in 2019?!
There were a thousand photos I wanted to take on this run. Surrounded by empty corn field, crows on power lines overhead, houses sitting silent on top of a hill, fog rolling through the valley.
If I can’t show it, if you can’t see me What’s the point of doing anything?
from St. Vincent’s ‘Digital Witness’
So I just remember that if I only took one photo from each run in 2018, that’d be 167 photos. At the end of this year, this month, this week, I should have enough photos from my adventures.
Sometimes the best ideas come about when you’re not looking for the best ideas.
Sonic Cathedral, meanwhile, came about by accident after a couple of pints. Nat Cramp had been running a club night of the same name – jokingly billed as “the night that celebrates itself” – for about 18 months when he got chatting to Mark Gardener, frontman of veteran British shoegaze band Ride. “One night, after a show at the Bodega in Nottingham, I spontaneously asked if he’d let me release a 7-inch single for him and he said yes,” Cramp remembers. “I had no idea how to make that happen and I don’t remember having any particular ambitions to run a record label either. I’d just had a couple pints and thought I’d chance my arm!” Almost 15 years later, the label is still going strong.
“Nat Cramp had been running a club night of the same name – jokingly billed as “the night that celebrates itself” – for about 18 months.”
That “by accident” is the sort of thing we don’t hear enough. Instead it’s “I FIGURED THIS OUT” or “I FOUND A WAY.” And the fact that Cramp was doing a club night “for about 18 months.” Yeah, that’s a year and a half. Of “just” doing something.
For a long time I struggled with what I should do, or what was next? I kept strangling the universe for the answer, when actually letting go provided the answer.
And then, by chance, this video hit me square in the face tonight. Before, when asked the “so what do you do” question, I would spew a bunch of internet jargon and editorial speak, and zzzzzzz….
If I would have paid attention to work I was already doing “on the side,” and seeing that it scaled, was sustainable, and profitable, I could have started Close Mondays years ago.
For me, it just took the exhaustion of running the 10 mile Broad Street Run in May 2018 . I was fried physically, and mentally I wasn’t far behind. I had to put Skull Toaster (my baby at the time) on hold, and that’s when it hit me.
When I was a bit broken.
It didn’t come from meetings, cursing the heavens, playing around with some numbers on a note pad… it took being completely exhausted for the message to get through.
Like Cramp above, “just” doing a club night for a year and a half led to the next thing. Developing a running “practice” got me here. Because when running, I can’t scroll through social media for the answers. There’s no time for pity parties when running. There’s focus, and distraction, both at the same time.
I could focus on the running when running, and thinking about running, and planning for races. And running was also a distraction, something that pulled me away from the idea that if I just looked hard enough the answer would come.
It was about 50F on New Years Day, so I set off for the Paulinskill Valley Trail in Blairstown, NJ, a 25+ mile trail that was perfect for my first run since resting most of December (after hitting 801 miles for all of 2018).
I was up until 4am the night before, ringing in the new year with some lovely friends in NJ, and I fueled for this run with a few adult beverages, donuts, and nacho cheese deep. Perfect.
The trail was flat as a pancake, and just as spongy since it had been raining. My shoes got muddy, and my bones creaked a little, but overall this was a comfortable, easy run, just getting the body used to running again.
It was just about 30 or 40 minutes, nice and easy, out and back. Once I hit the waterfall at Paulina Lake (above), I ran back on Rt 94. I bore easily covering the same ground, and I really wanted to get a feel for running on the road again, and it felt great.
The best part was just being outside, able to trot along, and feel the legs moving again. This was certainly a nice setting to get back to that.