Becoming

image

Becoming

“You are a runner” was a simple statement made to me the second day I ran with Kevin. Kevin was my friend that started me running and helped me increase my miles and my obsession with running. He said those four words and I believed him even though I was just starting.

I believe those words even though I could barely run three minutes without huffing and puffing. I believed even those my legs ached and my clothes were not made to run in. I believed even though my shoes, although athletic shoes, we’re not running shoes and were a size too small for me to run in. I believed him even though it was winter and we were dodging ice spots and were running in the dark without headlamps or reflected gear. I believed even though after our three miles of running I was thirsty beyond anything I had felt in years. I believed him even though I was in the worst shape of my life. I was undisciplined, slothful, without physical fitness goals and without any idea of why I loved to run after only two runs.

Being a runner means running. The distance, speed, intensity, or difficulty of the run doesn’t actually determine whether or not a person is a runner or not. I was instantly a runner, but I wanted to not just complete runs, check off races, or meet running goals. My purpose was to live and be the statement that was shared with me on my second run. I wanted to become a runner over and over and over again. I never wanted to lose that drive. I never wanted to lose that passion. I never wanted to run to achieve, but rather I wanted to run to become. I wanted to run to experience. In my mind there is a constantly changing image of what a runner is and what it takes to become that person…. This is why I am constantly looking for the epic run.

Running to complete a marathon can create a very large sense of accomplishment and a sense of pride in setting and completing a goal, but it can also create within an individual a large let down after the run – even if the goal is met. The post-marathon blues are real. Then is a let down and a return to thinking “now what?”. I know quite a few people who have run a marathon to check off a bucket list item and then either run very little afterward or not at all. Running to lose weight can cause the same results. Once the weight is gone so is the running. To run for nothing else but the love of the run can produce these “what now?” results. Continuing to become is something that drives me to continue to be a runner.

Continuing to become also drives me to continue to be a cyclist….

And a salesman…

And a father… A husband… A friend….

Goals are great, but tactics are better. The journey is often more rewarding than the destinations, so in running and in life I try to make the journey never end. There are no end goals, but rather continuing goals that give me life and drive. There is always more to do. We can always run further or faster or in better locations or with loved ones or alone… We can make every run amazing if we realize we are runners and can continue to become runners over and over again by making every run epic.

Barely able to talk after my first run I was asked, “when do you want to run again?” I replied without thinking for a moment “Friday” which was two days away. Every journey begins with a seed of desire…. But grows as your add fuel to the fire.
Feed the fire.

Advertisements

Stop it parents.

image

Parents throw out the Gatorade. Your kids don’t need it and the majority of you don’t need it. Let’s first look at how much a person runs during an average game in each of the most popular sports played in the United States (from Runner’s World June 10, 2014):

Baseball: .046 miles

Football: 1.25 miles
Basketball: 2.9 miles
Tennis: 3 miles
Field Hockey: 5.6 miles
Soccer: 7 miles

The above number are for adults…. Not kids.

Yes, you can see that that baseball, the American Pastime, has people running the least. Watch baseball and you see people standing around waiting, watching, and sitting. Not a good sport, in my opinion, to take up if you want an active child. This doesn’t mean the sport isn’t fun. It just means that it is not a very active sport in regards to cardio activity. Football, my favorite sport to watch, also has very little movement on average for a player during a full game. Soccer tops the popular sports in regards to how much a player runs during the game.

So what does that have to do with Gatorade and why do I care if people drink Gatorade and in particular kids? Here it goes…. There are quite a few article and studies that show that unless you are running for more than 60 minutes water is a better option (see livestrong.com June 14, 2011 article “which is better for runners: water or Gatorade”). This means that unless you are running for more than an hour you do not have to replace the electrolytes. You have to wonder if your kid is running for over an hour in the sport that he or she is playing. The average run time of each sport presented about were for all athletes not children playing in youth sports. Bottom line it is not needed and will not improve performance.

But it tastes good, maybe. Here is why you should really throw out the Gatorade unless you are running far and should keep it away from your kids. In a twelve ounce bottle of Gatorade (yes I know most of you buy the 20oz bottle for your kids) there are 80 calories and 160mg of sodium.

I didn’t even mention sugar within Gatorade, which is 34 grams of sugar in a 20oz bottle compared to 65 grams in Coke and 69 grams in Pepsi 20oz bottles. So would you or your child drink a can of Coke after a workout? Probably not, hopefully not. Well a 20oz Gatorade has around the same amount of sugar has a can of Coke or Pepsi.

Work out and then drink water.

Run over an hour…. Maybe grab a Gatorade.

Now if you like the taste of Gatorade and want it as a treat like a can of soda that is a whole different story.

H2O.

Call off The DOGS!

Pitbull

There were thirteen miles before the real reason I am writing. They were thirteen good solid, fast, exciting miles from The YMCA to the Salisbury Airport and back. And although it was my second fastest thirteen miles to date, all those miles meant so little after what I experience at mile thirteen.

Instead of running through the downtown park in Salisbury at eight at night, the route was changed to avoid potential dangerous shady people who could be roaming around the park. We ran instead around the park on a street just above the park. There are a number of houses that overlook the park and the streets are close to the curb with no sidewalk or shoulder to the road. When cars passed we moved to the leaves that covered the curbs and continues down the road. It was dark, but safe with large street lights and enough room and time to run on the dirt as the cars passed. The cars and shady folks were not our problem this night.

As we were halfway down the road a light came on on the porch of this white house on the righthand side of the road. Then the entire night changed. I heard loud barking and then turned to see a huge brown pit bull charging right at me. The dog’s mouth open and drooling, its legs racing, its muscular body flying…. My pace picked up, but after thirteen miles of running at a decent pace I wasn’t able to sprint. I increased to probably a eight minute mile as the dog dashed across the front yard at easily twice that speed and leaped into the street. He was mere seconds from attacking me and driving his teeth into my legs. I knew I could do nothing. I knew all I could do was run. At that moment I looked to my right and saw a large gold SUV and then heard a loud THUMP and then the sound of the brakes locking and then two more sounds of the SUV rolling over the dog. The dog made no sounds, but not because it was dead. It was, it seems, fine. Or better than I would have guessed after getting slammed by a large vehicle. I looked back, as the dog wobbled back to the house without whimpering, and kept running completing sixteen miles.

There are probably animal right people out there or animal lovers out there that feel bad for the dog. I don’t, bit I don’t blame the dog. I blame the owners. The lousy owners that believe they need a dog with a killer instinct living in their home. The lousy owners that open a door knowing their dog may spring out the door. The lousy owners that live near a public park where kids, families, runners, bikers, and people enjoying the outdoors pass by.

This is not the first time a dog has chased me and it won’t be the last. Unfortunately in the area I live people find it acceptable to have large dangerous dogs and allow them to roam around without a leash. This is unacceptable behavior. The incident above was not on a random, obscure country road. This was near one of the most popular public places in Wicomico county.

I love dogs. I own a dog.

I do not own a dog for the sole purpose of having it protect my family, however I know that my dog will bark and may bite a stranger if they enter my home. Owning an animal means understanding that they may act like an animal. I do not let my dog out without a leash nor do I open the door without knowing who is there and where my dog is. I am not against pit bulls, but I am against owning a dog just to inflict harm. Especially if that dog is trying to kill me. I love my life more than any animal.

Biking I have had two pit bull incidents on country roads… I outraced them. Pit bulls run between 25-30mph. So when I bike I have to push it hard to get past them.

You can’t outrace a pit bull running.

Restrain your dogs.

I am buying bear spray. Beware dogs.

Addict

IMG_0465

I’d love to tell you this was a first for me or that it was a one time crazy thing we decided to do, but that wouldn’t be completely true. The idea just didn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense two years ago when I ran my first pre-work half with Devan and Alec or the three or four times since that day I have run the distance before work. Running a half marathon before breakfast, before work, and before most people wake up is a little crazy.

Chris is crazy.

He has always been crazy enough to join in on a Swanson adventure. I was itchin’ for more miles before the weekend and sent him a simple text… “Half?” – it was Tuesday night.

Wednesday morning arrived.

And from there it was on. We stopped setting up water stops and banana drop offs over a year ago. I threw on my fuel belt and Chris grabbed a regular plastic water bottle and we were running a few minutes after five in the morning.

If we thought too much about the run it probably would not have happened. Morning runs keep us from thinking too much and most of the time there are not conflicts. The conflicts seem to increase if the kids wake up early. If I am able to run and return before my three kids under the age of six are up it makes for a better day. My mind starts working at about seven in the morning, so the more miles I get in before seven the less I remember and the further I can run. Half of my runs are a blur.

There has to be a sane number. 20? 30? 40? I am not sure what the sane number of miles are that a person should run in a week and be fit. Whatever that magical number is there is probably a number that is a relative sane range. Let’s say the magical number is 30 and the range is 5 meaning you could run between 25 and 35 miles and be both fit and sane. There are factors that would change that number for each individual depending on their job, family, health, age, location etc.

Whatever that sane number is for me I surpass it quite often. Crossing that magical number can be exciting, challenging, and at times irresponsible. This morning had a little bit of all three.

Fog covered Riverside Drive. It was warmer than expected and our long sleeve tech shirts were not the best choice for the day, but they did help spark our conversation as we discussed the Bay Bridge run that Chris just completed. Running over The Chesapeake Bay with 20 thousand other people can create quite a few stories to share on our morning runs.

Good conversations make the miles fly by. They say if you can sing you are running too slow and if you can’t talk you are running too fast.

The first six miles we were talking and enjoying the random topics that bouncing off our minds. Cars raced by us and we often were running in the grass on the side of the road. Our bright power headlamps kept us visible and relatively safe, but we usually jumped into the grass just to be even more safe.

Our halfway point was the Upper Ferry. Had we arrived an hour later we could have crossed the ferry and completed a nice 14 mile loop around The Pemberton area of Salisbury. It is a loop that is a common run in our running club, but that wasn’t happening today. We turned around and begun our return.

The sun and our speed began to rise. With each mile we talked less and ran stronger. Normally on these long morning runs we focus more on the distance and enjoy the conversation, but this morning we felt really good and just naturally began running a little quicker each mile. I held my phone in my hand and it was splattered in sweat by mile nine.

Ten. A few sentences.

Eleven. Silence. Just breathing.

Twelve. Barely breathing.

After twelve miles we were near completion of our run. We ran streets near Salisbury University to complete the half marathon and when I ran past my car and up to the curb near Chris’ place I was exhausted. I stopped my Nike running app on my phone and downed the remainder of the two bottles of water on my fuel belt. I had completed 13.1 miles in 1:57, my third fastest half marathon time.

I smiled, drove home and made the kids breakfast. It was then time to go to work.

Running beautiful routes with good friends brings out the best in my running. I run because I love running. I run well because I love running in beautiful places with good friends.

I will never be fast, but I will always run.

and I hope to always run in places and with people that inspire.

….because I am addicted.

Speed, distance…. Or epic.

IMG_0329.JPG

There are three reasons in my opinion to run: to go fast, to go far, or to go epic. I try to accomplish all three during the week when I run. Speed I usually fail at. Distance I can accomplish if I can carve out the time. Epic is what I hunger for and the reason I truly run.

With the changing of the leaves and the cool fall temperatures, Chris and I knew we had to get out and run the country roads of Mt Olive Church road and Sturgess road. The low forties and clear sky outlook seemed ideal for an early morning run and the full moon added a welcomed bonus.

It was dark and the streets were empty as I rolled up to pick up Chris at 5:20am. I scarfed down a banana and Chris sipped on some hot brew of some sort as we made our way to Mt Olive Church.

We powered up our running apps, and jumped out.

Only the moon. Bright, bold and inviting.

Headlights on and we were off.

A little over a mile into our run we saw a dirt road leading into a thick forest. We should have paid more attention to the Ford F-150 pickup truck and the accompanying four wheeler and realized why they were there.

We ignored the truck.

The run was what mattered.

Down the dirt road for another half a mile or so we ran and soaked in the beautiful array of colors from the changing trees and the soft rays of light that passes between the branches of the trees as the sun began to rise.

Another truck. These people are not here to run or enjoy the autumn beauty. They are hunting… Or better put poaching on government land.

We had no plans to get shot. We turned around and return to Mt Olive Church road where we continued our run crossing a small bridge that spanned over a swampy wooded area. The trees were bright yellow and orange and we had to stop and take a few pictures. A quick stop and a few pictures and we were off.

Sturgess road, one of the best dirt roads on Delmarva, appeared a few miles further down Mt Olive Church road and we quickly turned left and ran down it until our distance showed 3.1. The dirt felt soft and bouncy under our feet or maybe it was too early to feel anything and we just imagined the feeling of floating after each push off our feet.

Wanting a solid 10k before breakfast we turned around and began running back to my car.

Forty-three degrees, an empty country road, a good friend, and a breath-taking scenic landscape all added up to an epic run… But we still had three miles to go.

And we went.

The speed increasing with each mile.

We opened up and lengthened our strides. Each mile getting faster.

Arms pumping and legs churning. No wasted energy spent in talking during those last few miles. A focus and a desire to make the run memorable in every way.

The last mile was the fastest. One of my fastest miles ever.

We drove back smiling and wasted.

Epic was achieved. Again.

Breakfast is always better with miles as an appetizer.

5:02am

5:00am

5:02am

Always have a backup. The first alarm goes off at five in the morning from my phone. It is a very subtle soft “beep” that progressively gets louder. It hardly goes beyond one or two beeps, but if it goes on too long alarm number two kicks in. I NEVER want number two to kick in. It is loud obnoxious and would wake up my wife and possibly the kids. Number two has gone off twice. Those were bad mornings. I prefer good mornings. One or two soft beeps and I roll, literally roll, out of bed. Silently I grab my running clothes. I tiptoe down the stairs, guided my the glowing screen of my phone, grab my GPS watch and fill up my water bottle. It is dark and early. I need no motivation. I am itchin’ to run. Craving the asphalt. Ready to consume miles for breakfast. Knowing there will be a few of my running club friends meeting me at our normal pharmacy parking lot meet-up location, I jump in my car and crank up the music.

I didn’t always wake up at 5:00am. Three years ago I would have thought the idea of getting up that early was insane and made no sense unless you were catching a plane. Until the end of 2011 my normal waking time was 6:30am or 7:00am. I was never tired, but then again I was never tired.

Until the end of 2011 I knew little about running. I didn’t run at all.

That was before I became, for lack of a better word, crazy.

There were no work out clothes.
There were no running shoes.
There was no fitness.
I was 45lbs heavier.
I was sedentary.
I was lazy.