Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Running Ransom Road: Confronting The Past, One Marathon At A Time"



As a drinker, I mistook the presence of fear for cowardice. I was terrified of conflict; something both amplified and brought on by the bottle. Even after I quit drinking, I stayed scared, the fear ingrained in my fibers. I began to believe this was who I was, born afraid. It took years to realize that courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s being scared and acting anyway. No, that’s why I ran these marathons. For what they represented: the physical manifestation of going through something, not around it. I was looking at myself with a raging, surging heart, and not turned away. Fear makes me human. Running allows me to act.  ~Running Ransom Road, Caleb Daniloff

More than just a physical triumph, running a marathon is a way to gain mental clarity, to seek a spiritual awakening, to experience emotions in a raw state, and to simply chase the dragon down and feel the endorphin high of moving forward for 26.2 miles.  When training is at its peak, there is little deviation between the physical act of running and the interpersonal battles against doubts and fears and very often, lingering demons from your past running behind you and nipping at your heels.

So, if you could run a marathon in every city that formed who you are and push your body into a spiritual state and ready vessel for all the memories, trauma, and painful breadcrumb past you left trailing behind, and could breath it all in during a 4 hour  run, what kind of insights might this bring?

This is what happens in Running Ransom Road, Confronting The Past, One Marathon At A Time, by Caleb Daniloff. The author visits marathons located in key locations related to his history of addiction; Boston, New York, Moscow, and his place of birth, Washington DC, among other races. The book shoots back and forth from past to present, linking the author's current thoughts and goals of running to his past life of self-destruction. The author recounts and reflects on his alcoholism, fighting through an understanding as his legs fight to keep moving towards the finish line.  Yes, he is the very unlikely marathoner, considering the extent to which he dedicated his life to drinking.  The goal is partially to break the 4 hour barrier, but also to break through to a better understanding of himself, and come to something close to peace with the wreckage of his past. 

Each chapter is a race, and we experience the intriguing mindset of the author journeying through 4 marathons, and three races in an 18 month period

What is wonderful about the book is that Daniloff is a gifted writer first, or at least that’s what shines through, and his personality is one which has all of the interesting jagged yet fragile edges of an addict, and with all the determination and stubbornness of a distance runner.

The metaphors he uses are tremendous, and I am thinking that a handful of writers could make a living off the scraps of metaphors Daniloff has come up with but never used.

And there isn’t a marathoner out there of all speeds who won’t connect with his writing descriptions.  I’ve always felt if running could be fully described, then it wouldn’t be running but something much less, as it’s effects escape meaning that words can give. Daniloff describes the joys of running in a spectrum of phrases that came close, and more importantly, it was clear that he “gets it”- as running elitist as that sounds.  The near stream of conscious running descriptions rival those of any running book, and are fresh, subliminal and poetic.

In an early passage, Daniloff describes the primordial experience running can bring:

“Some runs, I got to breathing so deep and full, I was sure I was pulling oxygen and light into some dusty, primordial corner, where perhaps gills once floated open and closed.  That sensation, coupled with the rush of my feet, filled me with a sweet, swooning lightness and the feeling that I could run anywhere.”

On Morning Running:
"I never pictured myself an evening runner. The thought of changing into shorts after eight hours at my desk, several meals coating my belly, the day’s baggage clinging to me like a rucksack, seemed onerous. But worst of all, sleeping on that shaken snow globe of endorphins seemed like such a waste."

Evening Runs:
"Running in the evenings feels different. Things are winding down but there’s a thicker, crowded, louder energy, as if the world isn’t’ yours alone: everyone’s claimed a piece and you’re just looking for a free outlet to plug into."

All of this, but you’ll also find the mundane yet near universal experience of navigating a pee in the bushes at the beginning of a marathon, the importance of body-gliding one’s nipples, and the constant runner’s math all of us do trying to push our body past the finish line in some arbitrary time trying to prove we’re worthy.

Yet, this is certainly not a technical piece on running.  Not until the end, in fact, does the author realize the importance of keeping an even pace through a marathon to get his best result (when he speaks of ‘banking’ time, you can’t help but scream “no, don’t do it!)  But I think this is what keeps the novel honest and raw.  Once you start getting into lactate acid threshold levels and tempo runs and marathon pace runs and Yasso 800-ing and McMillan-ing, something is partially ruined that can’t be gained back. The author would turn from garage-band runner into an overly produced piece of work. How different all of our runs might be if we never bit the technical running apple.

Rather than a lesson on how to run, it’s an inward, honest self-reflection of a private world that is fragile, longing for something different, yet, as he describes in one interview “in love with this alienation” that addiction brings.  The sense of loneliness continues even in his recovery, where he does not share deep experiences with sponsors and other recovery folks, and, in fact, laments changing relationships with past alcohol-imbibing friends. It is a solo descent into his addiction as well as a solo ascent to recovery. At the same time, there’s the silent connection to both runners and the spirit of the run itself.

This book spoke personally to me, as a marathoner and recovering addict. (Click here for my post on Why Addicts Run) Scene after scene, I felt fortunate the author could describe my own experiences to me in a poetic way. It helped that I got all of his musical and literary references.

I particularly enjoyed the Boston and New York marathon stories, one I have ran and the other I am preparing for, but the Moscow experience of doing a marathon is one not to be missed.  Cultural differences do impact marathon aid stations.

Since this book speaks to me so uniquely, the question is then how universally will it be enjoyed by at least the running crowd first, by those looking for a recovery from addiction memoir perhaps second, and finally, the population of readers at large.   The honesty, the writing, the paragraphs which are enjoyable by themselves and not just because you wanted to breeze through them hoping the next moment must be the payoff, all make it a book of universal appeal. It is artfully crafted yet not dribbled with sentiment the way many addiction memoirs seem to be.

 If you’ve read a ton of running books, you may not have read one like this, and if you’ve read a ton of self-discovery books, where there’s a final AA speech in front of a crowd, and you get your token, and then your spouse appears at the back of the room, and everybody cries, and true love lasts forever, and a REM song plays.  No, this is not the one either.  Illuminations and epiphanies sprinkle down during runs, and they are received with a questioning uncertainty of one who is always running to figure out who they are.  This is what life is, this is especially what recovery is, and as the author states,  “No longer do I run from my demons, but with them.” but the run must go on, since, “ you never outrun your demons, but if you maintain forward motion you might just get them to tire a little.”

Author Photo

In gaining his sobriety, The author makes it clear that he didn’t connect with the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, but does not disparage those who follow this path one bit.  Two thoughts on this (and excuse the fairly esoteric tangent):

One is, those in AA, I believe, are often way too quick to disregard those who don’t’ connect with aa and lump them together with the vast majority of alcoholics who simply want to keep drinking and will point to any annoyance to justify their continued self-destruction. This does not always have to be the case.

Secondly, the author has worked the 12 Steps.   Yep, it’s all there.  The unmanageability, and powerlessness of step one, the turning his life over to a new order and higher power of 2 and 3, the self-examination and personal inventory  Admitting to God and to himself the nature of his character (often during a marathon run) of steps 4 through 9, and the spiritual awakening that concludes in step 12.  The author speaks to this when he states “every time I run, I’m having a conversation with my purest self, my moral inventory on full display.” And he calls running his “daily prayer service, the marathon my vision quest.”

With this book, the author is carrying on the message to others.  As for going to AA meetings, if you can tell me which step describes how one must attend such a formal meeting, I’ll buy both you and I a drink and throw my own 20 year coin into the wishing well.

So, Mr. Daniloff, here’s your 15 year chip for working the steps, and here’s your medal for writing perhaps my favorite book on marathoning.  It is certainly the one with the most dog-ears on my paperback copy, and definitely the one which spoke most personally to my experience as a marathoner constantly running to stay just a few steps faster than the addiction demons nipping at my heels.

My Dog-Eared Copy



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Running To Fuel The Covenant House Outreach Van

 One of the worst days in Martin Jones' life was when at 19, he became homeless and found himself wandering along 8 Mile and Woodward in Detroit, lugging his belongings in bags.

"I had no idea where I was going to be," Jones said.
He was rescued when a van pulled up and someone told him about Covenant House Michigan, the Detroit branch of an international faith-based nonprofit headquartered in New York. The social service agency's mission is to help teens and young adults who are homeless, runaways or high school dropouts. -An excerpt from Sundays Detroit Free Press

Twenty training days left until I start my taper for the New York City Marathon. I’ll be running for a myriad of personal reasons, but also for a significant cause.

Homelessness, under-education, lack of job training, and the squashed and squandered opportunities for young adults at their crossroadsI’ll be trying to stamp these out with each footstrike as I run 26.2 miles to benefit Covenant House.

Homelessness and marathoning have crossed paths for me in an odd way. The morning of my first marathon, I was so terried of what I had gotten myself into and was shaking with anxiety.  I was dropped off at the start in the predawn darkness. Through the cold, moist autumn air, I approached the massive crowd at the start. Nerves and my morning's hydration hit, and I needed a port-a-potty, but the line in front was huge. But I was resilient. I ducked into some trees next to a building with my Saucony's rustling leaves all around me. I made sure I was alone, got ready to do my business when below me something moved.  What? yep, something moved on the ground, and I realized it was a leg, connected to a body and I quickly realized someone had made their bed overnight to hide from the cold. 

This was real resilience.

In my novel The Jade Rabbit, it's a shelter for runaway youth that provides much of the setting, and it is at a homeless shelter along the stretch of the last miles of the Detroit Marathon that provides one of the novels final story line arcs.

And in New York, I am running for Covenant House who not only does outreach and houses youth, but does job training and provides education. For Covenant House of Michigan, this includes a school right on campus which serves much of the surrounding community, all eager for the safe, loving, and nutrient-rich soil to try to sprout a fruitful life.  They are a great way-station and an oasis among the difficulties of Detroit.

Unlike the fellow I awoke in the leaves, most homeless folks aren't those you see holding up signs and, at times, aggressively approaching folks for change.  They are the silent type living in substandard housing, have been hammered by unexpected medical bills, or layoffs, or in the case of many of Covenant house clients, have aged out of the foster care system and have little resources to help them.
  
After 17 years as a substance abuse therapist, I have recently changed roles to a medical social worker and have seen those with severe medical problems who were covered under the benefits that ended at age 18, and thus they were out on the streets, getting their best meals at frequent emergency room visits and discharged to a world with lack of resources.

20 days left of training, the final sprint.  I’m hoping to hit up a 16 miler, a 20+ miler, two speed sessions, two hill sessions, three full days off, and sprinkle in some basic miles in between.

In the meantime, a big thanks goes to those who have contributed to my fund-raising for Covenant House, since I’m simply doing something I love. I’m hoping that together the  nearly five thousand dollars pays the yearly gas bill for the outreach van to keep looking for lost ones on the streets of Detroit and bringing them to the safety of Covenant House. 


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

9 Reasons Recovering Addicts Run


$2.99 for Kindle, $6.99 for paperback

Nine Reasons Recovering Addicts Run

1. You Only Get What You Give
Distance running by its nature lends itself to the addictive personality, if there is such a thing, of rewarding those who blast past barriers.  It not only rewards but demands the obsessive brain, the kind who go to a 5 dollar 'all you can drink' keg party and ask for 10 dollars worth.  It’s the metaphorical potato chip that, once it’s on your taste buds, lights up something deeper within you that craves for more.  

Yes, addicts can be cowards, immature, fragile, obnoxious, and so on (it’s an ‘in’ group thing, so I can get away with saying that) but lazy is one thing they are not.  Maybe lazy when it comes to responsibilities, sure, but not lazy when it comes to getting what they want.  There is nothing more industrious, more creative, or more persistent than an addict trying to get high. Waking up with unexplained bumps and bruises, not a penny to your name, barely able to see through blood shot eyes, vomit ready to project out of you at any moment, and afraid to make eye contact with another human being. Yet still, an addict is pulled by powerful forces to will themselves out of bed, get out the door, scrounge up some money in some creative (albeit often times illegal) ways, and travel as long as it takes to get what they want.

You think a bit of muscle pain or discomfort is going to stop us from hitting the road and taking a run?  No way.

2. Spirituality.
Running can provide the needed spiritual awakening to help an addict stay sober. Running just seems to make all of your atoms spin a bit faster, unearths previously hidden parts of yourself, and allows a connection with something deeper. Yes, this is partly due to the physical explosions of endorphins and cannabonoids, but the result is an overall sense of well-being and feeling of peace with your place in the universe.  Compare this spiritual awaking with the spiritual despair of the last stages of addiction. As the consequences of addiction escalate, a loss of meaning to live is often the result.  That is why spirituality is crucial to recovery. 

They say religion is for those who don’t’ want to go to hell, but spirituality is for those who have been to hell and don’t want to go back.  Running and facing the challenge of pushing yourself to physical extremes provides a sense of harrowing hell and then ascending. It’s the biblical notion of a descent, and then ascending to yes, feeling like you are sitting on the right hand of God at the finish.  During some euphoric moments of a run, I feel fully connected to the universe, doubts of a higher power are erased, and I understand my place in the universe at these moments. And it's pretty darn beautiful.

By the way, if you subscribe to or read the 12 steps of AA, spirituality is the whole reason you work the first 11.  The steps say not a word about staying sober; they only speak to having a spiritual awakening. Once you experience the thrill of such an awakening, the despair of using would taste too bitter.

3. A Solitary pursuit in a communal environment
Solitary and communal. Running is both of these. It offers alone time and an inner exploration unlike none other.   “I run as I dream – alone” I like to quip, paraphrasing Joseph Conrad from the Heart of Darkness. Yet the communal nature of a group run, and even more so, starting a marathon with 40,000 other runners, and then seeing them near the end, at mile 23, is a feeling of primitive yet transcendent connection. We are all psychically connected in those moments, and the primal nature of the event has stripped down the artificial barriers between us. The feeling of being one with others around me during these moments is not unlike using psychedelics.

4. Keeping an edge
When you are using, sober life seems so boring and like a curse. Of course, once you get sober, you realize there is not enough time in the day to do all the things you want to do.  But, you still need an edge, and despite the stereotypical geeky cross country runner in high school, runners have an edge since their brain and heart go to some unique places, and discomfort becomes a whole new comfort zone. Drunken wasted exploits are replaced by stories of amazing workouts.  A strung out addict is a sad, silly cliché, where as the ultra-marathoning tattooed-up runner doing 80 miles a week with self-made body armor of muscle is truly one who lives on the edge.

5. Emotions and expressing them. 
 Most addicts are emotionally stunted. We can’t express fear or joy or insecurity or talk about things.  But running, even though it isn’t verbal, has always been an expression of feelings for me.  There is nothing that vents rage and anger like a good set of intervals. Nothing. And nothing that provides a sense of joy as a nice ten mile trail run. Running brings me to an emotional catharsis such that I cry at the end of every marathon.  It both expresses emotions and polishes them up.   Witness the end of any marathon, and you’ll see the spectrum of emotions squeezed at of every human who makes it across the finish.

6. Health: 
Our bodies are pretty ravaged and have been punished by too much and not enough, so running is one way to start being good to them.

7. Ego-maniacs with an inferiority complex ---   
Yes, we've done some rotten things, sacrificed our ethics and made choices that are shameful, so in order to live with ourselves, we tend to have inflated our ego and lied to ourselves about who we really are in order get by. The worse we became, the more lies we had to feed ourselves about who we really were, and this usually means artificially building ourselves up. But deep in our heart we feel less than, inferior, scared of others since we've always felt they had some secret gene that made them know how to live in ways we never learned. Inside the haughty ego is a core of shame and worthlessness.

Running balances this out. It checks your ego since there is always, always somebody faster – and you will always be humbled by a run. Yet you feel incredibly triumphant inside, and never inferior because you have conquered, you are a warrior now, you run like a beast and have found new strength and new hope. This leads to the affirmation of....

8. You’re good enough, You're strong enough, and God dang it, God Loves You.
 Yes, you are worthy--- this seems so Stuart Smalley, but running makes us face ourselves, prove ourselves, and every time we win one of those little battles – either to get out the door and put in a few miles, to hit a certain mileage split, or to qualify for the Boston Marathon, it affirms our existence. We’ve stared into our selves, listen to the voices of doubts and self-fears, but heeded naught yet instead responded to something higher.

9. The persistent need to get high
The bottom line is, a Recovering Addict still needs to get high.  Difference is, one form of getting high is cheap, is killing you, will hurt your loved ones, and is not going to work anymore, while the other will bring you to a higher place of your higher self.  Yes, I still want to chase the dragon down, sometimes catch it, ride aboard and soar above my existence for a while, but I would also like to return from the ride in a better spot. Drugs and alcohol never did this, but the highs through running often provide what the addict was truly looking for in the first place; Physical strength, emotional expression, spiritual well-being, and a deeper connection with oneself and others.  Recovering addicts are just on a different side of the ‘getting high’ Yin-Yang.





STRAY on Amazon

The Jade Rabbit on Amazon


Monday, September 17, 2012

Hansons Shoes Training Run/Brooks-Hansons Distance Project


On Sunday, I completed a 20 mile training run sponsored by the Hansons Shoe Store.  Well, really they sponsored a 16 mile raining run, I did the first four sponsored by our creator, who supplied the sunshine, oxygen, and miracle of Mitochrondia who supplied the energy.

The 16 miles was then offered up by the Royal Oak Hansons shoe shop.

You know the group. The Brooks-Hansons Distance Project sponsors many elite athletes who train together, including recent Olympian Desiree Davila.  If you’ve watched any marathons, you’ve seen the unmistakeable checkered yellow, black, and red jerseys.  And the Hanson brothers seem to show up everywhere. Run a race in Michigan, and you’ve seen them, but I’ve also seen them in Chicago and the Boston Airport.


The Hansons are incredibly active in the community, and have a very popular, unique, and maybe even controversial marathon training plan.  The plan focuses on fairly high mileage, speed, marathon pace runs, and most notably, the absence of the sacred 20 miler run.


 "you're not running the first 16 miles of a marathon, you're running the last 16. We're duplicating that final-miles feeling." Traditional programs overemphasize the long run, he says. Twenty-plus mile efforts sap most runners and compromise the quality of subsequent workouts.

In other words, the plan is designed for solid weekly mileage, hard workouts, and to stop people from making mistakes I make. Yes, that is me. I’m one of those who runs those 20 mile runs and sometimes more, yet the result is I am often then left with  dead legs and unable to nail a good work out for many more days. (especially this training cycle where I’ve done five 20 milers already)
 In my defense

1.      Rather than the 45 minute slower than MP that the Hansons suggest, I do lots of marathon pace miles in my long runs, and have done progressively faster longer runs where the last half are at or below marathon pace (of course, I don’t' even know what my MP is right now? But vaguely I have it down to something like 7:59:48, give or take a tenth of a second.)

2.       After many years of trying, my Boston Qualifier run finally came after, among many other things, I ran my longest training run ever of 23 miles.

3.      I don’t want to always be training, sometimes I want to just ‘run’ and I get the most joy and deep-rooted running highs when I’m chasing the dragon down between miles 15 and 20.

4.      My long runs have been separated by 14 to 21 days, so I have been able to hit some (but not enough) hard workouts of mile repeats, hills, and mid-range marathon pace runs in between.

So, since the Hansons training run was only 16 miles, I got there early and did 4 by myself.  Well, I say mostly by myself, but there was a handful of other runners who were doing exactly the same. Yep, I saw them. I’m not so odd. There’s sanity in numbers. Plus, unlike the folks who, if they were following the Hansons plan, did 6-8 miles the day before, I was coming off a much needed 4 day mini taper.

After just a mile in I could tell that the major debilitating soreness and tightness from earlier in the week was gone, but I was faced with something new:

My throat was sore. Really sore.  Well, maybe a 6 out of ten on the soreness scale, where the days before it had only been a 3 or 4 out of ten.
Display model only

Damn it. I woke up wondering if this was the universe telling me not to run today, or was this just a barrier to test my resolve?  Is this an obvious reason to stay home, or just a regular annoyance of training, trying to test if I am man or mouse?  Will I shrivel in fear and stay in comfort, or blast past barriers and rip this sh*t till my bones collapse?  As you can tell, of course, I wanted to run, so I was going to rationalize the latter.

Not to mention, the day before I was having a deep discussion on the adage "you will regret the things you do not do, more than the things that you do do."  And damn it I needed this run due to some unique and significant emotional stressors in my life.

 The phlegm flew fast and furious to the sidewalk the first few miles, but my legs felt fine. After four miles done, a quick pee break, a change of shoes from my Nike Pegasus to my speedy Kirvana 3's, pre-run instructions in front of the Hansons shoe store,  we were off.

 There were about 100 of us, I’m guessing, and it was a perfect 55 degree day.  The course hasn’t changed in the ten years or so I’ve been running it.

 The only way I can run a progressive speed 20 miler is first to go into it rested, second, I need to try and bore myself and force myself to hold back the first half when the urge is to push. I get myself geeked to explode as the miles build, and then when the faster miles do come, the goal is to push myself forward when the urge is to slow.

In this way, the progressively faster long run mimics marathon day.   

After the first loop where I was warmed up but hardly anaerobic, I let my legs run free, never fully sure if they’d respond, but happy with the results.

I ran the first 4 at 8:45, then 8 at 8:30, then splits of 8:00, 7:50, 7:40, 7:40, 8:00, 7:55, 7:35, 7:58

I felt great. Maybe not great enough to run 6.2 more at this pace, but I wasn’t supposed to be there yet.

 Of course they had refreshments at the end, and offered a discount on store items for runners. I came close to buying a Brooks-Hansons distance project t-shirt, and asked the salesperson if I wore the shirt around would I be mistaken for one of their ‘elites’.  “It hasn’t worked for me” the salesperson said, and so I put it down and remembered my allegiance to cross-town competing shoe store, Running fit.
Do you have this in an XX-faster?
Grabbed a post-run Chocolate Milk from Mcdonalds

Things I learned or relearned

As important as it is to mimic race day during these training runs with timing, diet, regiment, there are things you can't recreate. For example, on race day I can't park at the Mcdonalds  across the street from the start, change my shoes after 4 miles, pee behind the Used violin store, and I won’t have to dash through intersections trying to hit the green lights.

Trying to hit green lights makes for some great fartleks.

The most dangerous drivers are those coming out of fast food drive thru's since their noses are usually buried in their bag of goodies.

Sunday early morning walkers have a great aura too them. Sunday is the most spiritual day of the week. The collective spiritual unconsciousness of the human race is just in its best place on Sundays.

On the flip side, I love running by cheap motels with strung out folks outside smoking their morning cigarets. Not sure why. It just reminds me of ghosts of my former self and how I've changed.  There were a handful of these hotels up and down Woodward, and I felt the stare from the strung out eyes of cheap motel inhabitants as I cruised on by.

Even in a training run, it's more fun to pass people and do negative splits than to be passed. I've been on both sides.  And when somebody is passed, they can't help but try to speed up just a bit. Again, I’ve been on both sides.

Bikes along the route supporting runners: I kinda hate them. There was a biker who was there cruising alongside with aid for a runner, (but there was already aid on the course) and here I was running many strides alongside with lots of effort with a bike right in front of me taking one easy pedal every ten yards or so. It just wasn’t’ right, but thankfully I passed them.  This happened during a mile of my recent Ann Arbor marathon course and it struck me the same. Grrrr. Pet peeve.  (and I have this feeling they are going to read this post and flame me right back.)

Shhhhh, dont tell anybody, but I always bring Gu to these events, yet still grab one of the Gu’s offered and put them in my pocket to use for the next 20 miler.  It's part of the circle of life.

 I need to fix my ipod play-list.  The playlist is front loaded with the faster songs.  I had to maintain a slow pace listening to The White Stripes and Eminem and Led Zeppelin, and the faster miles were run to songs like Empire State of Mind (on there since I’m running New York) and even a Neil Diamond song (don’t ask).

My Kirvana 3's make it hard to tell how fast I'm running.  My last 8 miles all felt the same perceived effort, yet they were 20 seconds apart.  The Kirvana's are like an out of control Quidditch broom.

I’m on the fence about running with my Kirvana 3’s altogether for my next marathon.  They are so ‘dope’. That's all I can say. Putting them on is like spiderman and his evil black spider suit.

Football Sundays are made much more magnificent following a Sunday morning 20 mile run.  Monday mornings, however, always feel a bit blah and a tad bit useless even.


The Day After

I woke up today, the day after, with a sore throat that is much worse, probably a 8 out of 10 on the soreness scale. No surprise. As long as I don’t’ need more than 3 or 4 days of rest to deal with this cold, no regrets. Otherwise, it will be lessons learned. But sometimes you just want to run for today and the hell with tomorrow, and Sunday was one of those days.
2008 Olympian Runner Brian Sell - Go ahead. Tell this dude not to run. Dare you.

Besides, my primary care physician is a marathoner, so If I go there and explain I got 26 more training days for the NYCM, I’m thinking she’ll stick an IV in me and pump me full of some turbo powered, possibly illegal antibiotics or radioactive material that will get me back on my feet.

The darkness of early morning, in the Chute, waiting for the New York City Marathon to begin.


The Jade Rabbit, on Amazon.
 $3.99, the story of a miraculous marathon run.




Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Marxist Running Revolution


This post goes out to my University of Michigan socialist sociology instructor. He was a fairly radical activist, and I am pretty sure was responsible for the nightly spray-painting graffiti  "Can the land be owned? Can the air be owned?"  

He would come to class each day eating a hot dog, and explain how the street vendor hot dog cart had its origins in Capitalism and then explain the Marxist implications. 

I wanted to tell him he had mustard on his always unshaven face, but that would have been so bourgeois of me.

A Marxist Revolution!!

My legs have revolted and gone on strike. 

Yes, my legs are the proletariat of my running world.  They are the tireless working class heroes who support everything. And when I honor and appreciate them, they are masters of their environment and kings of the world.


My ever-pumping heart is the capitalist, providing the funds to keep my body moving.  And my lungs are the government, letting the right amount of oxygen trickle into my running economy to make sure I keep flowing forward efficiently.


And my brain is the investor, always deciding how much risk to invest, when to run that 20 miler, do some speedwork, run some hills, or sign up for a tune-up race, constantly trying to get the best return on my investment.



Well, my brain has finally abused my legs to their breaking point.  Tuesday, I went for what I hoped would be a 8 mile run, and every half mile my calves tightened and restricted so much I couldn't undo them.  They had my running in a stranglehold, and while in times past I could make them work for me with sweet talk and warm ups until they would release instead of squeeze so tightly like a ball of rubber bands wound tight, this was just not to be. They got worse. I only finished six miles and did so in half mile runs and then 100 yard walks, followed by quarter mile runs and then 100 yard walks. 

Sure, they have tried to revolt before but have always been appeased. I ice them to sleep and they feel happy. I warm them in snugly calf sleeves. I promise them some nice muscle building supplements which make them grow and adapt. I give them long weekends and days off.  I try to remind them that in thirty days we will start our NYCM taper.

They even have their own personal masseuse who makes them purrrr.  Yes, everyday I give them a nice, long, orange foam rolling treatment.

No matter. This has not worked, and they are done.  They are now tapped. Tapped out.  Four 20 plus mile runs, a bit more hills and speed thrown in, and weekly mileage that has finally topped out at 40 a couple of times. Not to mention switching to a new minimalist shoe, the Kirvana 3's, which my brain, the investor, has committed to, yet the legs are still in union negotiations to see if they approve.

"We're not as young as we used to be," they remind me, "and there's age groups for a reason. Stop expecting the same thing from us."

I have felt blood pulsating to my calfs as I sleep, clear evidence of a ready to be injured state.  They hurt to the touch in certain places, and just one day off hasn't taken this away.

Sure, I place all the blame on my calfs, but my thighs have been revolting as well, and my knees certainly arent' happy. If only I could have them blame each other. If only the calves would blame the thighs, and if the thighs then pointed fingers at  the knees as the source of the problem.  Then they would fight each other, instead of revolting against the leadership, the head and heart who want them to just keep working, just keep working, and let us reap the benefits. 

But, I need some rest. I will count my blessings that my brain has invested wisely so far into the right kind of workouts to have me ready to rock NYCM, but not so much that I have had to take time off for injury.

The thing is, as much as my legs benefit from running, it is my head and heart I am really running for, and as long as my legs will keep being the workers, I will chase the dragon down and gather up all the highs that lift my heart and make my head so full of fancy.

I"m taking four days off in a row from running. This is day two, and on Sunday I am hoping to do a 20 mile run with the Brooks-Hanson group.  If I feel in the right kind of zone, it will be a progressively faster 20 miler.

Please don't tell my calves all of this. Let them rest and enjoy their break. Sunday morning at 7 am it's back to work.   And as much as my brain can plan when and where and how to spend its time, it is my legs who are in complete control.

If they only knew their power.

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