Archive for the 'inspiration' Category

The first long run back is always the hardest

Harlem Piers along the Hudson River Parkway

Harlem Piers along the Hudson River Parkway

This past weekend I went on my first long run in several months.  Saturday night I begrudgingly set the alarm and woke up early Sunday morning to gray clouds telling me to go back to bed and sleep in.  Had it been a month ago, had it been the weekend before, I would have heeded those clouds and snuggled back into my bed in my air conditioned bedroom.  But last month, the prior weekend even I was not in training and this weekend, I’m afraid I am.

For the last 8 months (wow! has it been that long?!) I have been running without a race on my horizon.  I usually run a half-marathon in the spring but frankly, after the NYC Marathon this past 2008, I was exhausted and wanted to try running without training.  This was the first time I’ve ever really run semi-regularly with out the promise of a race.

I must admit, I found it completely liberating!  I took off the watch and GPS and just ran! I stopped logging my runs and paid no attention to how long it took, how fast I was going, and I walked when I needed to walk.  Running became for the first time, a true stress relief.  I even brought my iPod along a few times! When I missed a run, I didn’t feel guilty for slacking on my training schedule, I just felt lousy.  My body started to crave the runs in a way it never had before! Running became my salvation, the time to truly decompress and work out anxiety.  Not that I didn’t have these benefits before while training, but when the sole purpose of the run was for stress relief and not because my training schedule said I had too, the benefits were all the more rewarding.  I was like a kid who decided to research something not for school but out of genuine interest.

The downfall of this type of free running was consistency.  Sure I wanted to run every day or every other day, but when days became full and projects piled up, running (along with sleep!) was the first to get cut.  As a freelance musician, my daily schedule varies.  I aim for structure but when a job comes in that requires everything to be dropped in order to meet the deadline, I drop everything, sit at the computer for unheard of hours in a row ignoring nutrition, sleep, and to some degree, hygiene (ew, gross!).  While the best thing for me very well would be to get out and run, I just can’t tear myself away from the work, unless of course, I am in training.  Then the running takes a higher priority (though I wholeheartedly feel it should always be given that high priority, I just have a hard time enforcing it.)

So now, in the midst of new projects, I am in training again, and my running is becoming consistent again.  The race? The Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon at VA Beach.  I, along with Races in Places co-founder and recent Spain runner JuliaHart have run this race every year since it’s inaugural race in 2001.  Admittingly, I am a little late to start training for a half, but this race has historically been more of a “fun run” than a competitive one.  The higher purpose being for me and JuliaHart to see each other and catch up (we live quite a distance apart) rather than beat a PR.  This race also serves as a great jump start to fall marathon training.  It basically announces the beginning of the fall and the return to training.  This is a fantastic race which we will definitely be posting about in the near future.  Which leads me to one final point…

Now that I’ve returned to focused running, I hope to return to maintaining this blog.  I feel very passionate about creating a place for ordinary runners to share their running stories, taking its readers on a virtual road trip around the world.  I truly believe that running, even more so than music, is a universal language that we can use to understand and appreciate each other’s various lifestyles and cultures, be it the difference between living and running in the southern vs. northern states of America, or far more reaching areas of our world.

And so encourage you readers to share your stories here, spread the word, and happy return to training!

Run hard but not too fast to enjoy the scenery!!

To iPod or iNot?

by D0nnaTr0y
ipodiPod… Dangerous or A Running Necessity?

I’ve always been in the camp of Dangerous.  At least when it comes to outdoor running.  But last night I broke my “no iPods outside” rule, and rather enjoyed an music inspired run.

Untill yesterday, I had always been an “only on the treadmill” iPod user.  And I always love those runs! The best stress relief for me was doing speed work on the treadmill listening to some great upbeat dance pop a la Justin Timberlake or the likes.   But I recently “froze” my gym membership to save money figuring now was the best time to run outside anyway, and that I should save up for this summer, when I’ll really need the air conditioned gym!  I’ve been loving my out door runs down to the river and back, but have been missing the exhilaration of the speed work.  I had planned for a fartlek run yesterday, but was not motivated enough to brave the cold rain.   When the sun finally broke around 5:30, I immediately stopped what I was doing, grabbed my running shoes, and as I was about to run out the door, impulsively grabbed my iPod.

The park I run is always well populated but to be on the safe side, I don’t usually run there past sundown.  Even though the days are getting longer, I knew I would be cutting it close with a now 6:00 run, and that this probably wasn’t the best time to try out the iPod.  But I did it anyway, and was pleasantly surprised!

Perhaps it was the sun shining for the first time all day paired with my upbeat and inspirational (albeit it cheesy pop) Grey’s Anatomy Soundtrack playlist, or maybe it was the fact that I was mixing it up by doing something different, but yesterday’s run was one of those soul lifting runs! The music definitely made my “now run to that lampost soooo far in the distance as fast as you can” sprints so much easier!  I felt like I was in a movie montage of the underdog getting in shape before the final winning moment! What fun!  I tried to keep my volume down so that I could still hear my surroundings, and while I could hear the nearby traffic, I’m not sure I would have heard a person addressing me.  Then again, this is NYC and one rarely, if ever, gets spoken to on a run.  So I don’t know if my sense of security was false or not, but I did try to keep more of an eye out then usual, just in case.

Despite how exhilarating last night’s run was, I don’t think I’ll be transferring all the way into the iPod camp.  As a professional musician who spends the majority of her day either composing, copying, or teaching music, my midday runs are a chance to not hear music, to take a break from it, and to enjoy John Cage-style the music of my environment.  And I did miss a little of that “white noise” that clears my mind so quickly.  However, on the days that I really need that extra push or motiviation, or simply feel the need to star in my own personal training to be bad-ass montage, I will not hesitate to bring the iPod along!

Speaking of training montages… here are a few of my faves:

Classic!

My personal favorite, from “The Cutting Edge” (1992).

This last one is from my favorite running movie of all time, “Saint Ralph” (2004) about a boy who believes that by winning the Boston Marathon he will perform a miracle, consequently curing his mother of cancer.  This clip shows the result of the marathon (SPOILER!!!), so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, DON’T WATCH!!!!

But if you have, you’ll remember how truly inspiring his race is, and will hopefully be inspired too, whether it be in your next race, or your next iPod accompanying fartlek!

Running Heroes: Back on My Feet

Congratulations to Anne Mahlum of Back on My Feet for becoming one CNN’s 2008 Heroes.

Back on My Feet (BOMF) is a non-profit organization committed to helping the homeless through running. Based in Philadelphia, marathoner Anne Mahlum organizes group runs with volunteers and those who are homeless.

From the BOMF website:

Philosophy: Back on My Feet does not provide food nor does it provide shelter, but instead provides a community that embraces equality, respect, discipline, teamwork and leadership. There are no labels, no stigmas and no stereotypes. At Back on My Feet, all members – regardless of race, education or socioeconomic status – join together to move their own lives forward as well as the lives of their teammates. Back on My Feet is much more than just running – it is a comprehensive program that offers connections to job training, educational scholarships and housing assistance. The benefits of Back on My Feet are earned through the currency of attitude, commitment, teamwork, respect, dedication and leadership.

Our Vision – Back on My Feet envisions a community where all members have the support and motivation required to move towards self –sufficiency. Every major city has a homeless problem and while providing food and shelter are very important basic needs, something is missing. We work to rebuild, revive and re-energize individuals. It is only when we have the self-respect, self-confidence that we are truly able to move forward. Back on My Feet focuses on helping our members find a road of happiness, hope and opportunity, which includes a stable job and a place to live. This is our goal and we will get there one step at a time

I had the privilege of meeting volunteers from BOMF last year at the Philadelphia Marathon (I must admit I don’t remember if I spoke with Anne, or other volunteers at the BOMF booth). My friend J bought a headband from the group. We were both really impressed by the program and enjoyed speaking with the volunteers who spoke very passionately about the program.

It made me so happy to hear that Anne won a CNN Hero award this year. It’s heart-warming to know that small efforts like Anne’s don’t go unnoticed. And with this publicity, hopefully support will increase for the program and more people can be helped.

From a CNN report back in October:

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (CNN) — At 5 a.m. on any given day, Anne Mahlum could be found running the dark streets of Philadelphia — with homeless men cheering her on as she passed their shelter. But one morning last spring, she stopped in her tracks.

“Why am I running past these guys?” recalls Mahlum, 27. “I’m moving my life forward every day — and these guys are standing in the same spot.”

Instead of continuing to pass them by, the veteran marathoner sprang into action so they could join her.

She contacted the shelter, got donations of running gear, and in July 2007 the “Back On My Feet” running club hit the streets.

The first day, Mahlum led nine shelter residents in a mile-long run. Today, Back on My Feet has teams in three Philadelphia shelters, including 54 homeless members and more than 250 volunteers. The group has logged more than 5,000 miles.

Requirements for shelter residents to join are simple — they must live in an affiliated facility and be clean and sober for 30 days. Members receive new shoes and running clothes, and teams run together three times a week between 5:30 and 6 a.m.

The runners are diverse — doctors, janitors, students and shelter residents — but such distinctions aren’t apparent.

“All you can tell is who’s the fastest,” says Mahlum. “You can’t tell who’s homeless and who’s not.”

For Mahlum and others, Back On My Feet is more than a running club.

“We’re a community of support, love, respect,” she says.

Read the whole thing.

Interested in giving to BOMF?

Currently there are only programs in Philadelphia, with a pilot program beginning in Baltimore this coming March. If you are in either of these cities and would like to volunteer, go to the BOMF website and click on “How Can I Help.”

Alternatively, you can give a donation, become a “fundraiser” with your next race, or simply purchase BOMF merchandise. Again, just go to the website and click “How Can I Help.”

Facebooking it

Races in Places would like to give a shout out to a new running community that is picking up a lot of activity on Facebook. Simply called “Running,” this page as of posting today has almost 300 members and an active discussion board with threads relating to gear, places to run, shoe recommendations, and many other relevant topics.

If you are a member of Facebook, I suggest you check out the page and become a “fan,” and post the link to your profile (click here). Running is often so much easier with the support and inspiration of others, be it strangers or friends!

Of course while you’re logged on, check out the Races in Places fan page (click here). Become a “fan,” post it to your profile, and start a discussion!

Together, we can explore the world (and the internet) one mile at a time!

Movie Recovery

Training for the ING New York City Marathon has entered the hardest stage for us back-of-the-packers here at Races in Places; last weekend’s 16 miler kicked our good-up-to-13-miles-only butts!

For inspiration, we turn to our favorite running movies:

St. Ralph

We love Ralph’s enthusiasm for running hills!
Run For Your Life

We loved this film at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival and eagerly await it’s DVD release. Sign up at their website for notification- you don’t want to miss this inspiring film about Fred Lebow and the inception of the NYC Marathon!

Running the Sahara

We haven’t actually seen this one yet, but according to IMDB, it will release to DVD next month. Chronicling 3 runners as they cross the Sahara desert to bring awareness to the water crisis in Africa, this film is sure to be an inspiration strong enough to get us through our dreaded 20 miler!

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