Sixties Stride

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you don’t stop.” – ConfuciusPacific Crest Trail to Kendall Katwalk

In forty-some years of running, I still haven’t figured out the formula for a good run. I’ve had lousy runs after a restful night and a ten-hour sleep, and kick-ass runs after I’d been out until the wee hours misbehaving with my buddies. There are days I have to force myself out the door after working my butt off, only to have a strong, vibrant run; other times I can’t wait to hit the trail only to slug along like I had cinder blocks in my pockets. I’ve concluded there is no full-proof formula for a good run.

My best running years were at a time of my life when my buddies thought a round of golf riding in a cart with a case of beer in the back was a workout. My fiftieth year I qualified for Boston and won my first two running awards, ever. As I proceeded into my fifties I increased my cycling mileage and did my first triathlon. But when I hit fifty-nine I sustained the worst running injury of my life in a knuckle-headed move running on the ice that led to a four-month rehab for an inflamed hip.

These days I run for the sheer joy of running. Lofty goals like qualifying for Boston have been replaced by thankfulness to finish an 18-mile trail run through the mountains–I mean, how freakin’ fortunate am I?! So this year I am taking on a new challenge–finding my stride at sixty.

C&O - Canal PathRecently, I had a revelation, and now am reconsidering that formula I said didn’t exist. Last October my buddy Ed and I cycled 300+ miles from Pittsburgh to Washington DC on the Greater Alleghany Passage and the C&O Canal towing nearly 100 pounds in camping gear, food, water, etc., and then in November I shaved 40 minutes off my previous-year marathon. This past weekend Ed and I took a two-day hike on the Appalachian Trail lugging 35-pound backpacks over arguably the trail’s rockiest stretch, and the day after we returned I ran the strongest 10K I’d run all year.

AT - Top of the RockSo I’m thinking maybe, just maybe, the most effective way for me to find my stride at sixty is to exert myself in leisure activities like hiking and tour cycling rather than a traditional marathon training program. I’ll test the theory at the Steamtown Marathon on October 12th in Scranton, Pennsylvania. After the hip injury and rehab, I didn’t expect to run a marathon this year, but now I’m excited. My goal is to finish, but who knows what will unfold during those 26.2 miles?

And with that, I’ll end with another Confucius saying, “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”

 

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Crusader Classic 5K – Run Baby Run

“It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the devil. If they would only expend the same amount of energy loving their fellow men, the devil would die in his own tracks of ennui.” – Helen KellerCrusaders - FJHS

When my buddy Monk asked that I help spread the word about the Crusader Classic 5K I didn’t hesitate to volunteer. I mean, how could I decline to lend a hand to support the place that provided me with fond memories of cutting classes, getting jug (detention,) and miraculously, graduating, an achievement my parents attributed to divine intervention. Yes, Father Judge High School is my alma mater, and the Crusader Classic 5K is an annual race to raise funds for the Lt. Robert Neary Scholarship Fund.

CrusadersOne discovery I made at Father Judge that has stayed with me all of these years was that I could run really far, and I wasn’t even on the track team. I was a knucklehead football player, but to get a spot on the roster the players had to run a six-minute mile. During two-a-day summer practice sessions the coaches would send us on long runs through Pennypack Park. Everyone hated it, except me. I wasn’t the fastest guy on the team, but I could run, like forever, without getting tired.

Crusaders - FJSo if you’d like to run the same course I made my discovery on more than four decades ago, and you are within driving distance of Philly, or if you have frequent flyer miles you want to redeem, join me on Sunday, October 5, 2014 for the 12th Annual Crusader Classic 5K Run/Fun Walk. You can register for the race online at http://crusaderclassic.ezregister.com/   If you prefer to fill out a form and mail it in, click here. Crusader Classic – Registration

Following are more details:

ALL PROCEEDS BENEFIT Lt. ROBERT NEARY SCHOLARSHIP FUND

ENTRY FEE AND REGISTRATION:  $25.00 pre-registration if postmarked by September 25, 2014; $30.00 thereafter, $15 for all children 18 and under.  $5 of each adult registration will be sent to the Semper Fi Fund. Make checks payable to Friends of Father Judge Inc. And if you can’t make it, feel free to make a donation.

All race day registrations will take place in the Father Judge school yard beginning at 7:30amEvent tee shirts will be provided to all who pre-register (and to race-day registrants while supplies last.)  Race numbers, shirts and information packet pick up will be on race day only in the Father Judge school yard.

STARTING TIME AND LOCATION: The band shell is in Pennypack Park near Welsh Road and Rowland Avenue at 9:00 AM.  Parking is available in the Father Judge schoolyard.

COURSE INFORMATION:  Race will begin at the band shell, continue along the banks of the Pennypack Creek and finish with a lap around the Father Judge track (behind the school)

AWARDS:  Medals will be presented to first through third place, male and female finishers in the following age groups:  14 and under, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60 and over; special awards to the first Judge student, first Alumni and first female.

For additional information call 215-333-7648 and leave a message or contact Crusaderclassic@outlook.com or mklose@fatherjudge.com

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Anatomy of an Endurance Race

“Dream your pursuits; pursue your dreams” – jb

Ten long dreadful months after the 2013 Bucks County Marathon it’s finally over. I’ve endured injury, rehab, and chaos to return to the trail for a 30K in the mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania. Joined by hundreds of disturbed fellow-runners, those who consider rollicking through the woods, navigating rocks, boulders, fallen trees and rushing streams a pleasant Sunday morning, I had the peace and tranquility to dissect the anatomy of an endurance run.

On the trail at the Double Trouble, French Creek State Park, PA

On the trail at the Double Trouble, French Creek State Park, PA

My analysis is based on the 30K, but applies to distances of a half-marathon and more.

Pre-race: Preparation for an endurance race is mysterious, ranging from those who meditate to others who behave like a linebacker smashing his head against a locker before the Super Bowl. I’ve observed runners who stretch, do Ti-chi, pray, converse with themselves or other runners, do Yoga, cross their legs and perform deep breathing exercises, yell, sprint, and many who generally space out. Myself? I’m typically a loner before a long race, burrowing into my psyche and imagining mile sixteen, sweating profusely, a few lacerations, laughing at how silly I am.

Illustration - SufferEarly Miles (EM): The phase where I struggle most. Thirty years ago I would have described the early miles as mile one and two; today they are the first 10K or so. The EM are characterized by making excuses to turn around and beg for a refund because I’d mistaken the trail run for a bird watching expedition and forgot my plaid shorts, vintage BanLon socks, and binoculars (apologies to birdwatchers who read this; I am actually a bird lover.) As I get deeper into the early miles, the excuses for a refund become more imaginative, creative, and usually by mile six I realize I’m in a rhythm and a smile emerges.

Early Mid-miles (EMM): I break into the EMM (roughly mile 6-9) enthused, like I’d found a $10 bill in a Taco Bell parking lot. I imagine my mane breezing in the wind as I stride and leap obstacles with the grace of a thoroughbred, feet barely touching the trail, passing runners by the dozen. In my mind, I am a stallion; in fact, I am lucky to be in the middle of the pack.

Bloody KneeAdvanced Mid-miles (AMM): A more accurate title for this stage (somewhere around mile 10-13) is Reality. It is a time in the race when illusion is replaced by unanticipated events such as a foot slamming into a rock, watching a fellow-runner smash his face into boulder, twisting an ankle, or assisting someone over a tree trunk four feet in diameter. The mind no long has the luxury of grandiose visions, rather it is focused on the reality of the situation—I’ve run roughly a half-marathon up and down mountain trails, feet soaked from slipping off a rock into a stream, and proud I haven’t yet fallen, though that means the odds are against me—and I still have roughly a 10K to go.

Illustration - RunEarly Late Miles (ELM): After decades of endurance running, I’ve come to rely on hitting the ELM (miles 14-16) for no other reason than the peace and solitude they provide. Years of experience have taught me that when I exhaust myself completely, a refuge emerges from deep within and I am at peace with life and myself. It is a state of mind where I am Buddha, Thoreau, Martin, Gandhi, and the homeless man in a heap of tattered blankets laying on a grate in downtown Philly, in other words I am in tune with the universe. My ideas are colorful 3-D, full of humungous luscious fruit and vegetables, majestic animals, smiling faces, a spotted horse. I am in a place where if I had a pen and paper, I could sit on the ground and write a poem so profound it would bring humanity to tears. I am no longer human, I simply Am. (If you are wondering, there wasn’t a marijuana patch at mile 15.)

Winding Down (WD): The last few miles of an endurance race are a challenge to place one foot in front of the other until crossing the finish line. At this point every muscle in my body is drained, I have no nourishment left in my system, my mind is mush. If it hadn’t been for the decades I had been successful at doing this, I wouldn’t believe it was possible.

Two Steps Past the Finish Line (TSPFL): I am planning my next endurance run.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve run the Double Trouble where I conjured up the Anatomy of an Endurance Race. The Double Trouble is a double-loop trail run on a 15K course where you can choose to run either a 15K or 30K. After the first lap, runners who choose the 15K are directed to the finish line and 30K fools like me continue for another punishing loop. When I was running the final steps of the 30K, a number of volunteers screamed at me and pointed in the direction of the finish line. I yelled back, “I’m doing the 45K, which way to do I go?”

Running shoes off, cold beer in hand, planning next endurance race.

Running shoes off, cold beer in hand, planning next endurance race.

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My Laid-Back Color Run

“After all, I don’t see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like white dogwood.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Trail FlowersA couple of years ago I volunteered to work at the Color Run in Philadelphia. One of the race organizers grabbed a young woman and me to hold the ribbon at the starting line. I had an incredible view of 30,000 hysterical runners jammed on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in front of the Museum of Art. I held my phone high over my head and took a photo of the incredibly cool sight.

Somehow I lost the picture, so I did my own color run this afternoon–alone, peaceful, colors supplied by Mother Nature. The trail is in Lorimer Park in Montgomery County, PA. Check it out:Red & PurplePurple TubePurple on WhitePurple PlusBlack EyedPurpleGreen TunnelWooded HouseTrail End

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Magical Places

Jim Brennan:

Best running quote I’ve come across in many many years. Thanks, FullMoonRunner!
Read more FullMoonRunner at http://fullmoonrunner.wordpress.com/

Originally posted on Girl Runs Wild:

Running has taken me in and continues to comfort, heal, and challenge me in all kinds of magical ways. I am not a good runner because I am me, I am a good me because I am a runner.

- Kristin Armstrong

 

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These last few weeks have seen me temporarily knocked out of action by a nasty chest infection and a mighty cough… however, the call of the wild is never far from my mind, I’m back on my feed again and am continuing my forward progress – more soon!

Run happy!

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Amazing forgiveness

Jim Brennan:

Frankie, who blogs and runs the beach in Buncrana, Ireland, shared his post Amazing Forgiveness after reading Spirituality of Running on the Beach. You can read Frankie’s blog at http://truckerturningwrite.com/

Originally posted on Trucker Turning Write:

PICT0033

“What mercy can there be for me, a wretch?”

Those words were uttered by an athiest onboard a sailing ship in 1748. The ship was being ripped to shreds by a north Atlantic storm. There was a hole in the hull and she was taking on water. After hours of bailing out water he cried “Lord have mercy on us.” The words surprised even him.

On the 8th of April 1748 the wind blew the ship to Ireland, to my town, to safety.

The man was a slave trader. He later went on to change his ways and write the song Amazing Grace. You can research the rest of his story if you are intersted.

The part I find amazing is that song sounds best when it is sung, not by white people, but by those whose ancestors were once the enslaved. Such forgiveness! Such inspiration!

I live in a…

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The Sanctity of Sweat

“My fitness program was never a fitness program. It was a campaign, a revolution, a conversion. I was determined to find myself, and in the process found my body and the soul that went with it.” – George Sheehan

I first read Running & Being by George Sheehan when I was a young man–say, like my mid-forties. In his book, the running guru talked about the hour run as if it was a religious ritual, or what I call the Sanctity of Sweat–immersed in perspiration, endorphins flowing, the mind free of troubles, stress dissipating like pollen through the air.

Big Sky above rows of corn on a Bucks County farm.

Big Sky above rows of corn while running by a Bucks County farm.

Among the most common reasons runners give to explain why they run is to shed weight or to improve physical condition. Sheehan put it in more simple terms when he wrote, “A runner runs because he has to.” Never once have I heard a runner say he runs to find his soul, yet more than a few runners have told me they feel more connected with their inner-self, their spirit, during a long run than at any other time. I believe running goes beyond a fitness program for those runners who connect with their spirit and becomes the lifelong campaign that Sheehan describes.

Long uphill on Bucks County country road.

Long uphill on Bucks County country road.

Last week I found spirituality running the beach, and this week I connected with my inner-spirit on country roads in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, running alongside farms, majestic livestock, elegant equine. In my lifetime I’ve been in touch with my spirit running through the Rocky Mountains, the beach in Big Sur, the plains of Iowa, at the top of Heartbreak Hill, Town Lake in Austin, Texas, on inner-city streets and parks. And that is the beauty of running, all you need is to do is lace up a pair of running shoes and leave the rest to the universe.

Sheehan also said, “Running is a runner’s work of art.” I take it one step further. To me, running is a medium to express yourself physically and to show appreciation for your health, nature, and the blessing of being alive.

Wildflowers perk up a wild run.

Wildflowers perk up a wild run.

When I sit down to write and find myself paralyzed between the ears, when the words just don’t come, the long run never fails to break the creativity logjam. Joyce Carol Oates, prolific author of more than forty novels, says, “When running, the mind flies with the body; the mysterious efflorescence of language seems to pulse in the brain.” Oates also says, “If there’s any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can’t think of what it might be. In running the mind flees with the body, the mysterious efflorescence of language seems to pulse in the brain, in rhythm with our feet and the swinging of our arms.”

I’m not so naive to think runners are the only human beings able to tap their inner-self–their spirit. People who meditate, practice yoga, perform the arts, work with their hands–woodworkers, iron workers, cement finishers–those who use their intellectual talents, and those who serve humanity, can all tap their spirit by exercising their abilities.

Our goal in life is to find the medium that is uniquely yours to express yourself, and perfect it. It will change you, and everyone you touch.

Oasis at the top of a hill.

Oasis at the top of a hill.

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