The Introverted Runner Takes On the Group Run

I did it. It took me four years to get up the nerve to do it again, but I went. Anyone who knows me will understand that this was big step for me: Meeting up with complete strangers at a running store for a group run.  I’m generally a solitary runner, as well as a solitary person; however, I’ve made a conscious effort to run more with others, perhaps to get out of my comfort zone.

Why did it take me four years to try a group run again?  I have no idea. Perhaps because I ran into a fire hydrant during my last group run?  I should note that I don’t always run alone. Once in a while, I’ll run with my wife Jill or my friend Paul; however, that is not the same.  That is more of a one-on-one interaction with someone I already know.

A group run is different, especially when you’re the new guy.  I can only describe it as moving to a new neighborhood, and being the new kid at school.  Everyone in the class is sizing you up, and they’re not sure what to make of you.  It takes a little while to fit into the mix of personalities.  It takes a while not to feel like the odd person out.

As for the experience?  The run was great.  There were a handful of us, so it wasn’t too overwhelming.  We had two different pace groups, and I ended up running with a couple of really welcoming guys. They put up with my uncertainty about the route, and soon enough we were in a group groove.  We talked about how we got into running: the general consensus was that we didn’t fit into any other sport (throwaway misfits of little league?). We also discussed our next races, hills, Philly sports, etc.

Not so bad:  “I can get used to this I thought.”  Then it hit me: “Gerard, you’re running: this IS your comfort zone.”  It felt similar to the group runs with my high school or college cross country teammates.  It was a good feeling.

Post-run?  Beers and pizza.  This is when I got nervous again. You see, at this point, I’m not running anymore.  I’m out of that comfort zone.  Now, I’m in a store with five strangers who already know each other. However, it turns out these guys are nice, and not very different from me.  I guess we’re all a bit quirky and odd. The running community is full of incredibly nice misfits.

So, I’m glad I went, and I’ll be at the next group run.  I’m sure I’ll be nervous again, but I’m ok with that.

Do you participate in group runs?

Movie / Musical Pump-Up Mix

Recently, my wife and I saw Wicked on Broadway, and one of the songs from the play stuck with me.  It was called “Defying Gravity.”  It is one of those inspiring songs that hit me hard on many levels.  It got me thinking: “I wonder what kind of running song this would be?”  My next thought was of songs from movies / plays that might be worth grouping into a fun running playlist.

I even asked people on The Music of Running Facebook page what some of their favorite inspirational movie / musical songs were.  I have combined their favorites with some of mine.  Here is the list:

1. Chariots of Fire by Vangelis  (Movie: Chariots of Fire)

2. Edge of a Dream by Joe Cocker (Movie: Teachers)

3. Defying Gravity by Idina Menzel & Kristin Chenoweth (Musical: Wicked)

4. Lose Yourself by Eminem (Movie: 8 Mile)

5. Rocky Theme (Gonna Fly Now) by Bill Conti (Movie: Rocky)

6. Only the Young by Journey (Movie: Vision Quest)

7. Ass Kickin Fat Kid by Titannica (Movie: Run Ronnie Run)

8. I Melt With You by Modern English (Movie: Valley Girl)

9. Running 2 by Tykwer /Klimek/Heil (Movie: Run Lola Run!)

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10. Get off My Back by Bryan Adams (Movie: Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron)

11. Hearts on Fire by John Cafferty (Movie: Rocky IV)

12. Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen (Movie: Shaun Of The Dead)

13. Eyes Wide Open by Taylor Swift (Movie: The Hunger Games)

14. Thunderstruck by AC/DC (Movie: The Longest Yard)

15. State of Love and Trust by Pearl Jam (Movie: Singles)

16. Lunatic Fringe by Red Rider (Movie: Vision Quest)

17. Good Times by INXS featuring Jimmy Barnes (Movie: The Lost Boys)

18. Going the Distance by Bill Conti (Rocky)

19. Let’s Go Crazy by Prince & the Revolution (Movie: Purple Rain)

20. Desire (Come and Get It) by Gene Loves Jezebel (Movie: She’s Having a Baby)

21. I’ll Make a Man Out of You by Donnie Osmond (Movie: Mulan)

22. Crash by The Primitives (Movie: Dumb and Dumber)

23. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me by U2 (Movie: Batman Forever)

24. (You Made Me) The Thief of Your Heart by Sinead O’Connor (Movie: In the Name of the Father)

25. In the Air Tonight by Nonpoint (Movie:  Miami Vice)

I’m sure I’ve missed some (Confession: these are mostly from movies because I am not a Broadway expert by any means), so feel free to send me your suggestions.

Enjoy the running, and enjoy the music!

The Dude in the Red Split Shorts

For a solid ten years, we have traveled to Wilmington, Delaware for many races.  The distances have ranged from 10K to a Marathon, and he has been at EVERY race.  We don’t know his name. We simply refer to him as “the dude in the red split shorts.”

I guess there’s nothing unique about him, except for the fact that he’s in his 80s. He runs shirtless, and, yes, in red split shorts.  Normally, these are two items I would classify as violations:

1) Running shirtless and

2) Wearing split shorts

However, I think this guy has earned the right to wear whatever he wants to wear (or not wear).  In fact, I hope to be “that guy” someday.  He’s not fast, but he’s moving. He might look slightly out of place, but he’s out there!

The ultimate running goal, at least for me, is to run over a lifetime, and my goodness is this guy the definition of it or what? Really though, I know nothing about him. In fact, I kick myself for never making a real effort to shake his hand or say hello to him.  Yes, I’m generally not an outgoing person, but maybe I am guilty of taking him for granted. I think we sometimes do this with the elderly.

For example, if not for Runner’s World’s amazing July article on Bill Iffrig, he might simply be known only as the “old guy that fell and got up” during the bombings at the Boston Marathon finish line.  However, his story is amazing. Mr. Iffrig built his family house soup to nuts with his bare hands at night while working full time at a mill during the day.  He didn’t START running until he was in his 40s, but he turned out to be pretty fast. Bill still runs with a training group: the Port Gardner Bay Runners. Anyway, you get the point.

So, the next time I line up next to the dude in the red split shorts, I plan on learning something about him too.  I’ll start with his name, but I bet he has a good story to tell as well.

“Have a Great Run.” -Two Runners in Boston (04/16/13) – 6:30am

Clearly, I looked confused. So, a fellow runner (FR) helped me out. Earlier, I decided to clear my head with a run. Emotionally wiped out from the tragic events of the day before, it was the only way I knew how to cope with the situation.

FR: “Where do you need to go?”

Me: “Looking for an entrance to the Esplanade?”

FR: “Straight ahead, over the Fiedler Foot Bridge.”

We ran a couple of blocks together, but we didn’t talk. We ran.

Once we got to the Esplanade, I decided to go Southwest, and he went Northeast. Before we parted, we simultaneously said: “Have a great run.”

This comforted me.

As far as the run? It was a quiet five miler on a somber yet beautiful morning (weather-wise).  I saw several other runners, and we gave each other The Runner’s Nod. This nod felt like it had more meaning on this morning.

It made me think that good will always beat evil.

Thank you fellow runner(s).

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Dear Running Playlist…

We need to talk.

Seven-plus months.  That’s how long it’s been since our last running date together. It all changes this Sunday when we are reunited again.  So much has changed since I last ran with you…I’m feeling a bit awkward about it.  We haven’t spoken in forever.

If I’m going on my first running date with you in a long time, I can’t just approach it the same as the other dates we’ve had in the past; I’m going to need a new playlist.

Hmm. How do I update my current playlist without offending your tracks?

Let’s face it, the honeymoon phase is over for a lot of our songs.  Our relationship has gotten a bit stale. While your songs have all been wonderful to me, I need to freshen things up.  Don’t worry Foo, you’re still special to me, it’s just, I might need a newer song from you. Bridges Burning? Maybe.

And, I love you Metallica, but I don’t always need my runs to be so intense. You’re always getting me to speed up, which I like, but not always.

Oh Muse, you’re nice but your new stuff is a bit needy. I like the old you better.  Maybe some of those tracks can stick around?

Running Playlist, I’m not asking you to completely change. I mean, Peace Frog by The Doors can stay, and Radar Love by Golden Earring will always be there for me; however, sorry Van Halen, it’s over for you…for now.  Let’s take a break, ok?  There’s a newer song in town from Younglood Hawke called “We Come Running” and I’m curious about it.

Liz Phair, we’ll always have “Baby Got Going,” but I’ve been checking out Grace Potter lately.  She is the Lion, the Beast AND the Beat. I can’t ignore her any longer.

Matt Pond?  You get to stay, even though you have dropped the “PA” from your band name.  Your music is consistently wonderful.

The truth is, I have changed a lot since we last ran together. I hope you will change too. Don’t be scared, we can still reminisce once in a while with an 80s hit like “Run Run Away” from Slade.  Those were good times for us weren’t they?  They produced good running times too.

However, if we are going to make this thing work, I need something new, something fun and I don’t mean Some Nights by Fun.  I just can’t do it.

I hope you understand.  See you on Sunday.

Love,

Me

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Run Long and Prosper: Mister Spock Denconstructed

Smashing through the boundaries, lunacy has found me, cannot stop the battery.” – Battery by Metallica

This song makes me think of Mister Spock from Star Trek.   “Why?” you ask me as if I have two heads.   Because Spock did not appear to worry one way or the other about too much.  It was almost as if he was a machine, powered by a battery.   Cue Metallica.

I explained the above-quote in an old post, but I felt that Mister Spock or “Spock Mode” needed to be further explained.

During a long run with my wife, I tried to describe to her what it is like to train for and run a marathon in an attempt to qualify for Boston.   I did this because, at the time, she was attempting to qualify for Boston herself.  I told her that you can’t get too high or too low emotionally during the training or the race.

You can’t worry about the weather or your belly.   You can’t retreat during the tough moments of nearly four months of training.  You especially can’t retreat during the tough moments of the 26.2 mile stretch, and yes, expect there will be a few of those moments.   I told her, you almost shouldn’t care one way or the other about a potential obstacle.  Obstacles will be always be there. The key is moving past them without expending much mental energy.

I am not suggesting to run without passion. After all, Spock’s mixed human-Vulcan  heritage allowed him to show yet control his emotions.  I am simply encouraging runners to attempt to be “emotionally detached” from roadblocks or obstacles.  This prevents or limits panic. It’s about energy conservation.

So, during that long run, I actually told my wife she needed to be like Mister Spock.  Highly Illogical?  I think not.  She qualified. She is now a disciple of Mister Spock.  Furthermore, if you read the quote on her Road ID, it will remind you that she is in “Mister Spock Mode.”

“Spock Mode” doesn’t have to be limited to a BQ goal.  Actually, the goal can be anything: Your first 5k, a Half PR, an Ultra, returning from an injury, etc.

John Gorka, a singer-songwriter from New Jersey, wrote a song about his home state and accurately described New Jerseyans; however, the following line from the song is more consistent with my point:

“…If the world ended today, I would adjust.”

This is related to the Spock mentality.  We have goals, and inevitably, something will challenge or get in the way of our goals.

The key is to adjust...to “move on” from the moment…

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Run long and prosper

I’m Finished With Music

OK, not quite true, but I got your attention, didn’t I?  I did, however, try something different during this marathon training cycle: no music while running, including my long runs.

Yes, I’m music-free…for now. In the past, I usually ran to music during my long runs. It helped me pass the time. It motivated me. It talked to me (or rather, it got me to talk to myself). For example, if Everlong by Foo Fighters ever shows up on my iPod Shuffle, my first thought is: “I can’t let this song down.”  Boom, I’m gone. My pace usually picks up during such a song.

I’m sure scientists can explain why music motivates us, and the physiological responses our bodies can have to a good beat or meaningful lyrics; however, what happens when we take away the music?  I mean, the potential downside to training with music is that we tend to get used to it (sometimes even dependent on it). If we get used to it, and are not allowed to race with it, we can be affected a bit on race day.  This is especially true of smaller races with not a ton of crowd support. There are long periods of quiet during such races. This can be a surprising adjustment to make.

So, instead of Muse and Metallica during my 20+ mile runs, it’s been just me and my inner-voice, which is usually singing anyway.  Will this experiment work?  I guess we’ll find out on October 7th when I will run the Steamtown Marathon.

Don’t worry, I’ll put on the headphones again soon enough, but for now, the airwaves are clear.

Meaningless Personal #RWRunStreak Stats

Streak length: 38 days (39 and counting for me)

Miles covered:164

Number of one mile days: Eleven

Number of US States covered: Two

Most days in a row I wore the same, unwashed gear: Three

Number of times I washed my bandanna: Not enough

Number of times I ran to music: Three (Yup, surprised aren’t you?)

Longest run: 12 miles

Hottest Run: 81 degrees in the AM (high 99 on 6/29)

Lowest humidity: 4% – Henderson, NV

Number of collisions with bugs: Seven (two of which were ingested)

Number of times I ran with my dog: Four

Number of times I ran twice in one day: Two

Number of times it rained during my runs: Zero

Number of races (one – 5K on 6/19)

Hazards of Running

A week before I graduated from college, the seniors voted on class superlatives.  My award? No, not “Best Looking” or “Most Likely to Succeed.” Instead, I was voted “Class Klutz.”  Having this dubious honor, combined with bad eyesight and being left-handed (notorious klutzes), has made for a tricky, sometimes painfully dangerous running existence.

This got me thinking of some of the predicaments I have gotten into while running over the years:

There was the fire hydrant I ran into, which did more damage to my ego than it did to my knee. You see, I did this the first time I ever ran with a running club. What an interesting way to get to know new people.  Oh, it was physically painful, but embarrassing too.

Next, there was the street sign I clipped toward the end of a long run as I trained for my first Broad Street Run. No stitches were required, but it left a nice gash on my shoulder.

Third, one icy morning, I decided to use the treadmill.  A logical and smart idea, right? Well, where we were living at the time, the treadmill was in another building in our apartment complex, so I had to walk outside to get there. [This is the part where I slip on the ice and land horizontally on my back, cracking a rib and giving myself a foggy head]. I never even got to start that run.

Recently, I almost stepped on a snake (literally).  At first, I thought it was a stick; however, the stick started moving.  I jumped high, VERY high. I screamed loud, VERY loud. I am sure the snake was harmless, but I wasn’t sticking around to find out: Instant Fartlek.

I have been stung by a bee, which was nice enough to fly into my mouth at the furthest point “out” on an out and back run.

Let’s not forget the many dog chases and the many near misses with cars (I’m sure most of us have had those). My biggest near miss while running was a tree falling within 15 meters of me. Close call.

There are all kinds of predicaments we can get ourselves into after we lace up our sneakers and head out the door.

What kind of hazardous situations have you gotten into while running?

The Race Photo

(This is for everyone except “Ridiculously Photogenic Guy.”)…

Don’t get your hopes up. It’s not going to be pretty.

After certain races that have professional photography, we eagerly await the photo(s), most of which are finish line shots.  Let’s face it, we’re not feeling our best at the finish line.  When we’re not feeling our best, we’re usually not looking our best.

Tongues are out, mouths are wide open. Our expressions are often a cross between Napoleon Dynamite and The Exorcist.  Sometimes our arms are flailing, or it looks like we’re walking (or worse: the Hunchback of Notre Dame). Let’s not forget, we’re usually a sweaty mess too.

Yet we get excited to see the shots. Why? Because we just accomplished something important to us.  Those photographs are a memento of our accomplishment.  The photo captures our struggle, our tears of joy and our relief that “Yes, we did it!”

Sometimes, it can capture our disgust after a disappointing race, but hey, a finish is still a finish.  Other times, we share the camera with a random, shirtless guy.  You know: the guy that should NOT be shirtless.

Does the race photo capture our best-looking moments?  Probably not; however, the race photo often captures our proudest moments.

So, the next time you cross the finish line, whether you raise your hands/do a fist pump in triumph, or if you collapse to your knees from exhaustion, remember the camera is clicking.

Don’t plan on adding that race photo to your modeling portfolio.  It will make your driver’s license picture look amazing (well, we usually do get a 2nd chance or a “do-over” at the Department of Motor Vehicles).

Ugh

However, plan on ordering that race photo with pride.  After all, you just did something amazing!

(topic inspired by