Undistracted or Hyperlinked?

For almost four years now people have asked me why I run and for the first six months to a year I was saying, “to lose weight and to get in shape”… But you get a point where you have lost the weight (or most of it) and you are in fairly good shape. However people keep asking, “why do you run?” and “why do you run so much?”. For the record, and I hope my wife reads this,…. I am running less was than before, but the question still comes up and until this past week the answer for the last few years has been “it is just something I do.” That is what I believed. 

Yet that all changed last week. I was running the zoo trails in Salisbury with Chris and I asked him a relatively easy question. I say “easy” because we could have found the answer in seconds with our smart phones, but mine was in the car and his was on an armband that made it less accessable. We didn’t have the answer, which was fine because it didn’t matter. What mattered at that time was enjoying the single track trails and kicking up dirt as we logged mile after mile.

Glowing screens, pop ups, beeps and notifications distract us hour after hour throughout the day. We are continually distracted. We are continually available to be distracted. How often have you tried to read an article online and found yourself clicking on a sidebar or a hyperlink in the article. How often have you been sidetracked by an email or text message…. Off track, less productive, everywhere but nowhere. 

This is not just a modern problem. We can get hyperlinked out of our focus by other things as well like the refrigerator for the late night snack, the door bell ringing with solar power peddlers, or the sound of crazy neighborhood dogs keeping us up at night. Distractions are everywhere and some, like the sound of a baby at night, are good distractions and some, like The Golden Arches that suddenly have the entire family chanting “French fries”, are not so good. We have all had that moment sitting down on a bus or plane ready to enjoy some reading time only to be swept into a one way conversation about how great The Chicago Red Wings are… Distracted. 

The moment. The undistracted moment counts. 

It was that moment running down the mountain biking trails that I realized that the reason I run is to have undistracted moments in the early morning. Moments to reflect when I run alone and moments to connect when I run with others. Some of the best conversations I have in any given week are during a nice long runs. I think my running friends and I have solved most of the world’s problems. We discuss family, work, religion, politics, running, more running, biking, even more running, food and Melissa has even started talking to us about culture. The topics are lively and sometimes controversial, but always fun and entertaining. Want to get to know someone? Go on a few long runs. 

I am not rejecting technology. I still run most long runs with my phone in case there is an emergency on the run or at home, but mostly it is tucked away unseen and unused. I am embracing the need to be undistracted, which is different than running to escape something or running for therapy. I run to be in the moment, to clear my head and to enjoy the beginning of a new day…. But most of all I run to enjoy the company of good friends in person undistracted. 

And now…

Be distracted



 “The Seagull Century has been cancelled due to the threat of hurricane Joaquin” was the message I received last week while preparing mentally and physically to tackle 100 miles on my bike. I was disappointed and frustrated that I put in so much time and effort preparing for this awesome event.

I was fine with the cancellation understanding that the event was about more than just riders. It also included lots of volunteers, police officers and emergency personnel as well as vendors and business owners. Weather can be unpredictable and as bikers, runners and individuals in general we need to understand that sometimes things just don’t work out. Sometimes we have to make other plans. We need to be flexible.

Not everyone was okay with the century being cancelled. Most were, but a few decided to take it upon themselves to conquer the century. I am all about running and biking in extreme conditions and in extreme locations and this post isn’t about people who put themselves at risk to accomplish a goal. Several groups of riders took to the streets and battled the 40mph winds to ride 100 miles and lay claim to another century ride…. And I am fine with that. However I did read a comment from a guy who said “I have to go out and ride. This will be my 18th year in a row and I don’t want to break my streak.” What I don’t understand and what has never impressed me are those who streak. Those who set a goal in running, biking, work, school, or any other endeavor that involves keeping a streak alive have always made me scratch my head and wonder. I know. I know. Many of the things I do make no sense and cause others to scratch their heads… But hear me out… 

Streaks are selfish. I read about runners who have run 100 or 200 or 1000+ days in a row. These are people who run on every holidays, on every day of vacation, when they are sick, when their family members are sick, the day of weddings, the day of funerals, and on other days they should probably push the sneakers to the side. They run when they are asked not to run. They run when they are begged not to run. They run when their doctors tell them not to run. 

This isn’t just about runners or bikers. It is the employee who will never take a day off. Who strives for perfect attendance for years. Where is the glory is that? When a sick person goes to work or school they get other people sick. Most jobs offer vacation days and/or personal days to enjoy life and spend time with family and friends. We need to use those days. I understand that some people don’t get sick. I have had a few years at work where I didn’t have to take a sick day, but there have been other years where I have had to take quite a few. Now that I have kids I know even more how important personal days are to see a play at school or spend time with family on a day kids have off of school. 

I speak from experience. I was a streaker in high school. I thought probably how many streakers think now. Really. There was a class I took I took in school that I never missed for three years straight. Was I ever sick those days? I don’t remember, but I am sure there were a few days I should have missed. 

You won’t be as missed as much as you think you will be at school, work, your running club, your biking crew, or your social activity. There is no glory in streaks. Your body, mind and spirit need a break at times. 

Injured runners who run with their injuries after being told repeatedly by doctors and friends not to run risk further injuring themselves. Bikers who bike when the conditions are unsuitable for their skill level just to keep a streak alive risk accidents and injuries. People who try to keep any streak alive just for the streak itself can lose the passion and the desire they have for doing the activity in the first place.

People assume I run everyday. I don’t. There are weeks I run five or six days of the week, but I always take a day off. I always have a day of rest. When it comes to anything in life… Work, school, church, sport etc we should remember what David O. McKay said, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”, which is better than the guidance I saw on a bumper sticker that read: “If you are in a relationship you aren’t training hard enough”…. Family plans? Skip the run. Behind at work? Push back the bike ride. Your kid is singing in The Christmas Concert? Take a day off work. Be flexible. Wake up earlier and run. Run double days. Want a streak? Try a family streak of eating dinner together every night for a month. 

Train smart, train hard, and train often, but remember to have balance and priorities that don’t suck the life out of the rest of your life. If you miss a run you will care more than anyone running. 

Now wait..if you want streaks to be proud of here are a few: sober streaks, days a person has not smoked, days where one has practiced random kindness, and days reading inspirational books…. 

Now go run.

Forever strong.