Thursday, March 25, 2010

We Could Be Heroes..

Jon 'The Penguin' Bingham is one of few 'celebrities' within the running community. Jon has connected with many via his books, personal appearances, and talks at countless races across the country. He is known far and wide within the running community. Jon is also known for a simple and powerful message about 'the courage of taking the first step'. Jon has inspired millions with this message.

There is indeed courage in taking that first step. I would never argue this. But, what about every step thereafter? What do these steps mean? What do they represent?

Several years ago I watched 'Rocky Balboa'(this would be the SIXTH Rocky film). I am somewhat embarrassed to admit it, but I enjoyed the film for the most part and found parts of the film vaguely inspiring. There's one line from the film that always sticks with me uttered by Rock while he's talking with his estranged son.

Rocky verbalizes the most profound thought a seriously brain damaged/addled boxer can muster, 'But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!'

Now back to that idea of taking the first step (and any subsequent steps). With each step you take you are absorbing an appalling shock that rivals any haymaker Rocky could have thrown. So, believe it or not, you are taking a 'hit' with every step you take and a BIG hit at that!

Yet, you keep moving forward. It is indeed courageous to take that 'first' step. But, every step thereafter could best be described as 'heroic'. That's right, you're a hero every time you take that extra step, log that extra mile, and take that extra 'hit'.

Every subsequent step is heroic and with each subsequent step comes the belief that another is possible. The next time you find yourself punch drunk from fatigue, the next time your quads feel like they've been subjected to a sparring session with Mike Tyson, and the fear and doubt insidiously starts to creep in, remind yourself that you're not 'just' courageous, you're heroic.

Saturday (06/21/14) Route Description

On Saturday, you will be logging between 7-10 miles depending upon your training level. The link below should give you a relatively clear sense of where we're going. I've also included a verbal description beneath it:



We will head SOUTH along the Marina towards Fort Mason Hill. Crest this hill and head down into Aquatic Park. Run along the waterfront into Fisherman's Wharf. You will be on Jefferson.

Please keep a watchful eye for tourists, cyclists, and other traffic in Fisherman's Wharf. Continue running to the intersection of Jefferson/Powell. This is 1.5 miles.

Continue running along Jefferson which will eventually turn into the Embarcadero. At the intersection of Embarcadero & Bay there is a Houston's restaurant on the right. This is 2 MILES. KEEP RUNNING!

Everyone will running along the Embarcadero all the way to the MAIN entrance of the Ferry Building. This is 3 MILES. If you need to grab some water, use the restroom, or otherwise make a pit stop, this is a good place to do it.

Continue running along the Embarcadero until you reach the intersection of Embarcadero/Harrison! There is a Gordon Biersch on the other side of Embarcadero/Harrison for your visual cue. This is 3.5 MILES! Beginner runners turn around here and head back to the monkey bars for 7 MILES!

Everyone else will continue running along the Embarcadero. Right around the time Embarcadero is turning into ‘King Street’ you will come to the intersection of Embarcadero/Townsend. LOOK FOR PIER 38 ON YOUR LEFT! This is 4 MILES! Intermediate level runners will turn around and head back to the monkey bars for 8 MILES!

Advanced/Race level runners will continue running along King Street past AT&T Park (or whatever they call it today). You will run to the intersection of King Street and 4th Street. This is 4.5 MILES! Turn around and head back to the monkey bars. Advanced level runners will call it a day upon returning to the monkey bars with a total of 9 MILES!

Race level runners will need to pick up one extra mile. To pick up your extra mile, head along the paved path to the intersection of Marina/Broderick. This is half a mile from the monkey bars. Turn around and head back to the Marina Green Monkey Bars and you’ve got 10 miles for the day!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Profoundly Disturbing

We've all done it. But, most of us prefer not to cop to it. Doing something profoundly disturbing is something we'd like to forget or maybe pretend it never happened. Take some solace in the fact that you are not alone. At the end of the day, we are all guilty of it.

I've encountered a number of runners over the years who are for all intents and purposes reasonable, rational, intelligent people who hold down jobs, have healthy relationships, and outwardly appear to be perfectly 'normal'. Yet, in the context of running they exhibit behavior sometimes that simply cannot be described in any way other than profoundly disturbing.

For example, 'I can't walk without excruciating pain, but I ran 10 miles anyway.'

Said person then hobbles away like someone who needs a walker. There's being courageous, there's being persistent, and then there's behaving in a manner that is profoundly disturbing. If you can't manage a walk without wincing (or crying), running a few miles (let alone 10) is going to send you quickly to the house of pain.

'I haven't run in two months, but I crammed all my runs into the past two weeks to prepare for my half marathon. Now my 'enter aggravation/injury/malady here' REALLY HURTS!' Many of us made the mistake (perhaps multiple times) of cutting class in college, not doing the assigned reading, and cramming a semester's worth of studying into a night or two.

The brain is an astonishing and amazing machine and can do things that even the most powerful computer can't (yet). While our bodies are remarkable and powerful, they don't operate like your brain. To think you can cram a season's worth of training into your body in a couple weeks is to be profoundly disturbed.

'I used 'enter gel/gu/nutrition product name here' all season long for my runs and it worked GREAT. But, on race day I decided to try 'Brand X' because it has more caffeine, ginseng, nitrous oxide, etc. I had to stop halfway through the race with GI issues!'

Races catalyze some of the most bizarre (and profoundly disturbing) behavior I have ever seen in seemingly rational people. Even the most grounded runner can become profoundly disturbed in the days leading up to a race or on race day.

There are a million different permutations of this, but what I have seen countless times is the complete and utter abandonment of behavior that has served someone well during days, weeks, and months of training prior. If something has served you well historically, why would you suddenly change it? But, deviating from normal, rational behavior is what being profoundly disturbed is all about.

Then again, some might say voluntarily submitting yourself to an act that results in an impact force of 3-10 times your body weight per foot strike is profoundly disturbing.

This could be true. But, the good news is you are not the only one who is profoundly disturbed. There are millions of us out there carrying the torch for the profoundly disturbed. Rest assured you are part of a veritable army of the profoundly disturbed who throw on their shoes and hit the road every day, rain or shine.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Saturday's (6/12/10) Running Route Description


You will be logging 3-6 on Saturday depending upon your training level. The link below should give you a relatively clear sense of where we're going. I've also included a verbal description beneath it:


In short, we will head NORTH from the Marina Green Monkey Bars on along Marina Boulevard until we reach the intersection of Mason/Halleck. This is 1 MILE!

Continue running on the paved path along Mason past SportsBasement. Shortly after we pass SportsBasement, there is a lengthy straight stretch and a funny looking metal power box (or weather measuring device as Micah calls it) on your RIGHT. This is 1.5 MILES! Beginner runners will turn around and head back to the monkey bars for 3 MILES!

Everyone else will continue past the 1.5 mile mark along the paved path. Eventually the path curves over to the right and merges with a dirt/fire road that heads towards the Warming Hut (for the uninitiated, the Warming Hut is A BIG WHITE BUILDING WITH TABLES AND BENCHES IN FRONT OF IT. Hopefully, it will be hard to miss). The Warming Hut is 2 MILES! Intermediate level runners will turn around and head back to the monkey bars for 4 MILES!

Advanced/Race level runners will continue past the Warming Hut onto a paved road that goes past a series of buildings (including some restrooms). You will pass these buildings and continue running along this path next to the water towards the base of the bridge. The path curves around and dead ends at 'Hoppers Hands'. This is 2.5 MILES. Turn around here and head back to the monkey bars for 5 MILES! Advanced level runners wrap up their run here.

Race level runners will continue running SOUTH along the paved path past the Marina Safeway and UP the hill en route to Aquatic Park. Crest this hill and go a bit further. You will turn around right at the point at which the hill starts to head DOWN into Aquatic Park. Return to the monkey bars for 6 MILES!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Exercising Demons

The majority of the people we encounter in life are comprised of varying degrees of 'light' and 'dark'. All of us to one degree or another carry around demons that haunt us and derail us at times. Fear, anger, doubt, anxiety, and/or depression are but a few of these 'demons'.

Anger was the predominant demon that resided in my home growing up. But, the other demons lurked in dark corners as well. My adolescence (like just about everyone else's) was pretty torturous. Home didn't feel terribly safe and I rarely felt comfortable in my own skin around my peers. Aside from reading and escaping into films, there weren't too many other places where I could find solace and escape my demons.

Enter running. The few miles and minutes I spent on the road became an opportunity to 'exercise' my demons. It was the only time I felt comfortable in my own skin. It was the only time I felt like I was free from the turmoil and chaos that seemed to swirl at home constantly. It was the only time I felt true lucidity and some vague semblance of peace. It was the only time in which I felt I was truly me.

I know many who 'exercise' their demons via the act of running. There's something about creating metaphorical and literal 'distance' that always seems to make all of the aforementioned demons less threatening and dangerous. Running has helped me from becoming possessed on a myriad of occasions.

This is not say my demons have been (or ever will be) fully exorcised, but my ability to reign them in, keep them in check, and not let them possess me has been significantly enhanced by the act of running.

To one degree or another, we all have moments where we don't feel strong enough, don't feel capable enough, or doubt our ability to persevere. For me nothing has silenced these demons quite like going out and doing what requires strength, what requires courage, what requires faith, and manifesting what I can do. Running can be a potent 'exercism'.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Go With The Flow...

One of the best books I've ever read is Flow-The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. This book has pretty much ZERO to do with running, but nevertheless there is a connection that can be drawn between Flow and running.

What Flow posits (in a nutshell) is that what ultimately turns people on more than anything else is a state of consciousness referred to as 'flow'. 'Flow' can be described as a state of concentration so focused that it amounts to absolute absorption in an activity.

I read Flow years ago, but I immediately made a connection between the idea of 'flow' and 'the runner's high'. I've had MANY times during my running in which I truly become absorbed in the act of running and all of my energies/attention are consumed with the act of putting one foot in front of the other.

Since the age of 15, I have always hit the road (whether for a training run or a race) in search of 'flow'. The good news is that I often can find 'flow'. Sometimes I feel it as soon as my foot hits the ground. Other times, I don't really find my flow until I am halfway through my run.

Unfortunately, there are some days in which there simply is no flow to be had. Maybe I didn't sleep well the night before, maybe I'm stressed, maybe I need more time to recover, etc. But, I always have faith that the 'flow' will come another day and sooner rather than later it usually does.

For those who have never experienced 'the runner's high' (or 'flow' as Csikszenthmihalyi calls it), there are a few things I'd encourage you to do to help 'facilitate flow'-

1)UNPLUG/SIMPLIFY. Seriously, if you're strapping on your Ipod/MP3 for EVERY single run you do, you're missing A LOT while you're out on the road. I'm not claiming I don't do it, but part of becoming a good (or great) runner is really dialing into the messages your body is sending you. CONSTANTLY listening to music to effectively 'distract' yourself from the act may very well keep you distracted from messages you should be listening to and keep you from achieving 'flow'. I would also say being overly reliant on heart rate monitors, watches, and GPS devices can potentially make it more difficult to achieve flow. I'm not saying don't use them, but don't OBSESS over them.

2)LISTEN. Let's assume for the sake of argument you elect to unplug your MP3/Ipod and hit the road. The act of running is DEMANDING and taxes your body in a way few other activities do. Fortunately, our bodies do an amazing job of providing feedback, but you have to pay attention and listen closely. Is something feeling tight or fatigued? Are you breathing heavier than you normally would? Are you feeling sharper/fresher than you have for the past few runs? All of this is INVALUABLE data that you should be paying attention to.

3)RESPOND ACCORDINGLY. So, let's assume you're pretty dialed in to what's going on internally. Let's further assume you're feeling sharp/spry. This may very well be a sign that your body is ready to take on more. Perhaps this means more mileage or a faster pace. It's possible it means both. Conversely, you may just not be feeling sharp for a run that might ordinarily be easy. This likely means you need to run shorter and/or dial back your pacing. Whatever message(s) you're receiving, 'go with the flow'.

The ability to go with the flow when it comes to your running is invaluable. We are very fortunate to live in a day/age where we can rely on external tools like heart rate monitors, GPS devices, etc. to help structure our training and guide us towards achieving our running related goals.

BUT, these external tools are not the end all/be all. Don't ignore your gut and don't ignore the messages your body sends you at the expense of whatever 'target training zone/pace' or 'mileage goals' you might have.

Look at some of the best runners on the planet coming from the Rift Valley in Kenya. Most (if not all) of them run in minimal shoes (if they're even wearing shoes). They typically don't have heart rate monitors, GPS devices, MP3 players, or even watches.

So, how is it that they have become such remarkably talented runners? There are a myriad of answers to this question, but a BIG one is their ability to 'intuit' what their body can handle on a given day and 'go with the flow'. This may mean dialing it back or dialing it UP, but these runners ALWAYS listen to their body and ultimately, this is the best tool one can use in determining what you can handle.

Next time you go for a run, try NOT wearing a watch. Or if the idea of not wearing a watch doesn't work for you, try not looking at your watch. Try not to think too much about your pacing and simply listen and respond accordingly to the messages your body is sending.

I can promise you that this approach will get you closer to 'the runner's high' and/or 'flow' pretty much anytime you hit the road. Independent of any specific running goals you may have, don't lose sight of enjoying the act itself which is really what flow is all about.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Saturday (12/04) Route Description

OK, folks. I think we’re ready for a change of scenery and this Saturday's run will hopefully please a number of you. We'll be running through Golden Gate Park. a few things to keep in mind before I dive into the details:

1)You will be running gradually uphill for the first half of your run! This course isn't terribly steep, but there is a GRADUAL uphill for much of the first half of the run. Keep this in mind as you may need to dial back your pacing a bit when you head out.

2)Watch your footing! There's a reasonable amount of this run that will take place on a dirt path/fire road. This means small rocks, tree roots (sometimes), and uneven ground at times. I don't want to see anyone take a tumble. Stay tuned in! This is particularly important for those of you who wear MP3 PLAYERS! Stay particularly alert on the RETURN when you will likely be a bit fatigued and traveling gradually DOWNHILL!

3)Water Stops. Roughly a mile into the run (not too far after you pass the Bison Paddocks on the left) there is water fountain on the LEFT adjacent to Lake Spreckles. Also there is a water fountain at the intersection of JFK/Transverse on the LEFT side of JFK. These descriptions will make more sense once you read my course description below.

Ok, enough of the preamble. Let's get down to it!

B-5 MILES. Beginners will head NORTH from the Beach Chalet and promptly take a right turn to get onto JFK. You will run along the dirt path for about a quarter of a mile until you come to a stop sign. Turn LEFT at this stop sign at the pedestrian crosswalk onto the dirt path running along JFK.

You will continue running along this path for some time. As you close in on the first mile you will see the 'Bison Paddock' on your left. Shortly after you pass the paddock, you will see Lake Spreckles on the left. If you need water, cross the pedestrian crosswalk over to Lake Spreckles and you will see the water fountain on your left.

Continue running on the dirt path for close to a mile and you will eventually come to a 4 way stop at the intersection of JFK/Transverse. This is roughly 2 miles. If you cross over to the LEFT side of JFK, you will find another water fountain.


Continue running on the RIGHT side of the dirt path past JFK/Transverse for roughly half a mile. You will see a large funky looking building approaching on the right. This is DeYoung Museum. Additionally, you should see a crosswalk cutting across JFK. Keep your eyes peeled for a ‘FF 5’ in the middle of the paved path you’re on. This is the 2.5 miles! Turn around here and head back to the Beach Chalet for 5 MILES!!

I-6 MILES. Same course as beginners, but continue running on the RIGHT side of the dirt path past the ‘FF 5’ for roughly half a mile. You will see a stop sign and traffic joining JFK from 'Conservatory Way'. (this is just prior to the Flower Conservatory) here is a pedestrian crosswalk here. THIS IS 3 MILES! LOOK FOR A 'FF 6' IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PATH (The path is paved at this juncture). Turn around here and head back to the Beach Chalet for 6 MILES!!

A-7 MILES. Same course as the Intermediate runners, BUT CROSS OVER TO THE LEFT SIDE OF JFK AT THE 'FF 6' MARK. Run past the Flower Observatory and follow JFK all the way to STANYAN. This is a controlled intersection with traffic lights. Once you get to JFK/Stanyan, this is 3.5 miles. Turn around here and head back to the Beach Chalet for 7 MILES!

R-8 MILES. Race level runners will run through the intersection of JFK/Stanyan and onto the panhandle (the strip of land that runs between Oak/Fell). Run on the RIGHT side of the Panhandle! You will run along the panhandle for roughly half a mile along OAK. One block PAST Oak & Masonic (again, this is a controlled intersection with stoplights), keep your eyes peeled for OAK and CENTRAL. This is 4 miles. Turn around here and head back to the Beach Chalet for 8 MILES!

Saturday’s Golden Gate Park Run!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Tuesday (2/28) Running Route Description

On Tuesday, you will be logging between 2-5 miles depending upon your training level. The link below should give you a relatively clear sense of where we're going. I've also included a verbal description beneath it:



We will head north along the Marina to the intersection of Mason/Halleck. This is right next to Crissy Field Center and is 1 mile into our run. BEGINNERS will turn around here and head back to the monkey bars for 2 MILES!

Everyone else will follow the pedestrian crosswalk and turn LEFT onto Halleck.You will be running uphill for about a block until you reach a controlled intersection with a stop sign. This is the intersection of Halleck/Lincoln.

Take a quick LEFT across the pedestrian crosswalk and then an IMMEDIATE RIGHT across the pedestrian crosswalk onto FUNSTON AVENUE

Continue running up Funston. You should see the Presidio YMCA on your left as you head up Funston. Continue up Funston for a few more blocks until you reach the intersection of Funston/Moraga.

Take a right on Moraga and take another RIGHT on Mesa Street. Follow Mesa back towards Halleck. (Mesa Street runs PARALLEL to Funston Ave.). You will follow Mesa until it runs into Lincoln. Head back down Halleck and head back to the monkey bars.

Once you reach the monkey bars you will have logged 3 MILES! INTERMEDIATE runners are done for the evening!

ADVANCED/RACE level runners will head towards the Marina Safeway on the paved path. Head up our favorite hill. Crest the hill and continue a bit further to the point where the hill starts to head DOWN. ADVANCED level runners turn around here and head back to the monkey bars for 4 MILES!

Race level runners head down the hill and into Aquatic Park. RACE level runners will run to the end of Aquatic Park (there is a big cul-de-sac at the end of Aquatic Park). Turn around here and head back to the monkey bars for 5 MILES!