Wednesday, December 23, 2015

To My Old Friend: Running Times

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.-- John F. Kennedy

I have always been a huge fan of books and any sort of reading. As a child, my family would go to the mall and I wouldn't let anyone leave until we went to whatever bookstore was in the building. At the time it was Waldenbooks a lot and of course Barnes and Noble. As I got older I gravitated toward comic books. My grandmother would take me to the other side of town because the titles in our neighborhood were limited. Grandma is the best.

Once I started to play football I started to read magazines. I wanted to know everything about the world of football and the best way to get that info was Athlon's Pro Football. There was also a period in there where my mother worked for Times Mirror Magazine and she would get like 10 different titles for free. I was instantly hooked on reading snippets about myriad topics with very little time commitment.

When I started running casually I didn't really seek out too much information. Like most novice runners, I felt that all I needed to know about running was to get out there and do it and your performance was largely based on factors other than the things I know about running now. At some point, in one of my many trips to Barnes and Noble (Waldenbooks was scarce in the early 2000's) I stood in the magazine section. Likely it was around August or so because I probably had an arm full of football mags to prepare for the season.

I stumbled across Runners World magazine. Whatever was on the cover caught my attention. Odds are it said something like "train for your first marathon". I thought, hey, they're talking to me. What witchcraft could this be? In any event, I became a subscriber or frequent user/reader of the magazine. After about 5 years or so of only Runners World as well as its special editions, my eyes fell upon another, thinner magazine. It was never in front and there were never more than like 5 copies but the sort of stenciled "Running Times" called me like a donut calls Homer Simpson.

The articles were succinct and specific. You kind of needed to know a little something, otherwise you can get a tad misdirected while reading. The writing was heavy on competition and cross country. It spoke about High School Track and Field. Although both magazines are about running, the comparisons are akin to People Magazine vs. The Economist... maybe. People isn't as mind-numbing as Us Weekly and the economist isn't as dense "The American Economic Review" but the differences in type of reader and expectations of said reader are similar.

Alas, Running Times will go out of circulation soon. Apparently it is sort of merging with Runners World. I fear that the terrific articles from RT will be buried in the 30,000 foot view of running in RW. I now read Trail Runner as well as Ultra Running magazines in addition to Womens Running. Even if the two mags literally merged their content, it is likely that in my thumbing through process, after being inundated with stories about things and stories that have been read over the past years, I will miss the great stories that willed me to purchase 5 magazines every visit to the bookstore.

Urban Runner vs. Trail Runner, Sharks vs. Jets

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.--Marcus Aurelius

Everyone who loves running trails move to the right side of the room. All of my urban runners move to the left side of the room. Now look across the great divide. Do you all realize that you were standing in the same place, only moments ago, void of segregation? Now that we know some folks here run trails and others run the streets, we feel compelled to form an opinion and take a side.

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I started running in the parks of Manhattan and later in the streets of every borough. I never had any desire to run trails because frankly, I didn't really know that trails existed. And if they did, why would I run on them. Young Black boys in Brooklyn aren't known for running through the woods. For nearly 15 years, I ran almost exclusively in the streets and on sidewalks or in local parks. I ran a cross country race about 10 years ago and it was awesome but I didn't live near Van Cortlandt park, nor did I see the point of taking a train to the last stop in the Bronx in order to run through the woods.

Just this year, I moved to Atlanta and with that move came the desire to delve deeper into my running. My goal was not only to run more but to run better and learn more about the hobby, in which, I find such joy. I began to seek out trails. I loved them so much. Running trails will teach you about yourself in a way that running in the street cannot. It's almost like you become part of nature so you care more about it. You care more about your place in nature. I guess I should say one becomes a part of nature because it is assumptive to say that all runners have the same experiences.

Now, my point. I love taking pictures when I run. I've taken beautiful pictures of Times Square and street signs. I've taken great pictures of majestic trees and endless water views. I've tripped over roots on the trail and I've tripped over massive protruding screws where a street light used to be. Running is a beautiful sport that is beautiful in many different ways. Differences in viewpoint doesn't qualify necessarily as opposition. Just like people, running's beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Scrapping the Playbook

There is nothing insignificant in the world. It all depends on the point of view.-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Over the past month or so I've had to do a bit of traveling. I've returned to a former career. When I initially designed my marathon training program I didn't account for travel, fatigue or the demands of a career. That was probably a bad coaching move on my part. I guess in hindsight I should have accounted for the unaccountables. All of the great coaches throughout history like Bill Bowerman and Joe Vigil, John Wooden and Geno Auriema, Nick Saban and Bill Belicek are known for their attention to detail and planning for the inevitable unpredictable which, in and of itself, cannot be planned for.

I guess in theory one cannot train for something that they haven't really experienced or learned enough about. In USMC Boot Camp one of the first things I learned was to adapt, adjust, and overcome. Likely it is a best practice to make oneself or ones team as adaptable to adversity as possible. The old phrase coined by Dale Carnegie, "if you have lemons, make lemonade", is essentially the philosophy that has applications in each and every effective training program or coaching philosophy.

All of this psychobabble that I just spewed onto the intraweb is the long winded way of saying that I will have to move off script and still make the show entertaining. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Do You Wanna Build a "Program?"

Choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life.--Confucius

I've been waking up at 4:00am for years to get my runs in. I designed a 20 week program to prepare for the 12 marathons I'm  running in 2016. I've logged hundreds of miles over the past few months and the whole point of me telling this story is because I've done it with such enthusiasm.

I find joy in reading about running. I love to get out there and run. I enjoy long runs and although speed work may be my least favorite part of running, I know in the back of my head I'm getting better at my favorite hobby. I constantly check the weather to plan whether or not I need gloves and a hat or just a headband. I try not to do very long runs in the rain so Sunday I will likely take off or do something relatively short.

I find joy in spending time with my family. Just recently we went to Legoland and planning the trip alone was a blast. The place itself didn't disappoint either. Planning to do something with those you love most in this world can be filled with such excitement but the logistics of it all can be painstaking. Between finding rooms that can house parents as well as a 2 and 5 year old is difficult. Driving 15 hours to New Jersey from Atlanta is a task. You may ask yourself why am I telling this story. The reason is that it doesn't matter how much goes into the trip or how long the drive is, the time with the family cannot be duplicated or substituted.

I think back on all of the time I spent building my training program to prep for 2016. I don't ever recall getting pissed off at the Excel spreadsheet with 20 weeks of data. I love building the plan and researching different types of speed work like tempo run, interval, Fartlek and others. I've downloaded Journal articles my excitement in the design of he program and the increase of enthusiasm when I started the program is absolutely worth the effort.