Sunday, August 31, 2014

I run because everyone loves a comeback...

Every so often, a run levels you. It mocks you and brings you to your knees. You beg for mercy and it laughs in your face.

You're left scarred, wondering if you're as strong as you think you are. It's a brutal slap in the face that let's you know you're flawed, fragile, and all too human.

The aftermath is not always pretty. You try to forgive yourself for not making it happen the way you usually do. You cut yourself some slack. You remind yourself that everyone has rough days.

This works for the most part. It's the fair thing to do. It's the reasonable thing to do. It's the rational thing to do. But, questions persist, nevertheless. Do I really have it? Was that an aberration?

The palate needs to be cleansed. The demons need to be exorcised. A comeback is required.

I had been punched in the mouth, staggered, and rendered barely coherent during my first encounter. I had been dominated. My nemesis smiled broadly at my suffering when it was over.

But, running is a long game. One round rarely decides things. I knew I had at least a few more rounds in me. I needed to know that I couldn't be felled that easily.

Rocked from the get go last time, I was aching to throw some haymakers of my own the second time around. Suffering was ahead of me, but I had a feeling I would draw some blood and send a message.

This was about pride. Win or lose, I was going to put up a hell of a fight every step of the way. I hoped to win, but I could live with losing provided I put it all out there.

The butterflies dispersed within a few strides. The familiar initial flurry of offense from my opponent was non-trivial, but my defense held. Round one was a draw.

Round two began and it was a slugfest. Neither one of us gave an inch. I ducked, bobbed, and weaved. I threw a few punches that stunned, but didn't stagger. Yet another draw for this round.

The final round approached and it was in this round that I had succumbed last time. A sneer washed across my opponent's face as we both stood up. He was aching for me to fold again.

The sneer quickly faded as he realized I was not the person he dealt with last time. Nothing he threw at me caused any real damage and I just kept coming.

This persistence paid as his defense started to wilt. Redemption was nearly mine. One final hill to climb and this fight would end in the victory that had eluded me previously.

Sweating, gasping, and heaving the round finally ended. I was lightheaded. I was dizzy. I was seeing stars. But, I was standing at the end. I run because everyone loves a comeback....

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I run because I seek the spot..

I don't struggle most days to move forward. The motivation and drive is almost always there. But, sometimes life can take the wind out of your sails.

Sometimes, the fates frown on you. Your ability to move forward grinds to a halt. You find yourself confronted with doubt.

Anyone who claims they don't go through periods like this is lying or an exceptional actor. Life inspires, but sometimes life conspires. The universe can be random and fickle.

It's during these valleys life presents that I look elsewhere. There is a spot I seek that not many know about. It's a special place.

The spot is not easily found. It requires navigating a narrow trail for miles. Littered with loose rocks, dirt, and debris, it can be treacherous.

Independent of navigating a trail that requires the navigational skills of a goat, there are the hills. But, these are no ordinary hills. These hills make ordinary hills tremble.

There are three of these beasts. All of them last a mile or more. All of them require slowing to a glacial pace and encourage you to quit.

After conquering these three climbs, the spot is near. But, it is not near enough. There are still two more miles to cover with legs that are heavy, lungs that are tired, and a dearth of fuel in the tank.

While the major ascents are now a memory, what lies ahead is not easy. Fatigue leads to stumbling. Stumbling leads to falling. Reaching the spot unscathed rarely happens.

After what feels like an eternity, the spot finally looms on the horizon. I've been seeking it so long, I assume it's a mirage at first.

Naturally, reaching the spot requires one last staggering climb. While not lengthy, I am lightheaded and drenched in sweat by the time I finally arrive.

What little breath I have left is quickly taken away by what I see. In short, I see everything. The city where my business lives and thrives is thousands of feet below me.

The fog rolls powerfully over the spot blasting me with cold air that has traveled far and wide. Looking in the direction of its origin, I glimpse a fuzzy outline of the Farallon Islands.

Rarely do I linger at the spot for more than a few minutes, but that's all I need. The spot never fails to reward. The spot never fails to inspire.

The spot reminds me that the journey is the reward. The spot tells me that you have to create your own inspiration sometimes. The ever sage spot smiles on me and tells me to come back the next time I feel weak, small, or uninspired. It will be waiting for me.

I run because I seek the spot...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I run because I am a writer....

I have no problem throwing on my shoes, shirt, and shorts to log a few miles. Running is like breathing. It's rarely an act that requires much thought.

In stark contrast, there is the act of 'writing'. Confronted with the blank page, I have to stifle anxiety attacks. I have to ignore the voices that tell me whatever I put down is going to be terrible.

Once I get started, I can usually swing something decent, something palatable, and occasionally something stellar. But, rarely is writing as easy as running. There are fits and starts, editing, and uncomfortable silences as I struggle to find eloquent ways to convey my message.

I know I'm not alone in this regard. Acclaimed and prolific writer Haruki Murakami penned a book called 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running' a few years ago that has always struck a chord for me.

Murakami does a brilliant job of talking about how the act of running intersects with his writing and vice versa. The mental discipline and courage it takes to be a long distance runner is not dissimilar from what is required to be a writer.

Not every run is going to be stellar. Just as every word or sentence you choose as a writer won't be revelatory. But, continuing to show up and do the work is the only way to move forward. 

Murakami doesn't characterize himself as a natural runner or novelist, but he has become proficient at both to a large extent because he has worked hard, pushed through the pain, and stayed consistent.

On those days when I find myself particularly challenged to get anything out on the page, it is my experiences as a runner that enable me to get anything done. The times I've shown up and got the job done despite a multitude of challenges is innumerable.

I've been drenched by deluges of rain and hail. I've been stricken lightheaded by oppressive heat and humidity. I've battled through miles on little more than fumes. I've soldiered on despite deafening voices of doubt.

So, when the blank page stares me down unsympathetically, I remind myself that I am not just a writer, I am a runner too. Talented or not, my accomplishments have been largely a result of showing up time and time again.

Such will be the case for my writing as well. I'll keep showing up and sullying the blank page every day until something good comes of it. If you keep fighting, eventually good things will happen. I run because I am a writer.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I run because detours can be glorious...

For reasons I couldn't quite understand, I was feeling flat. I tried to talk myself into a positive headspace. I had tackled this run before. Eleven plus miles with 3,000 feet of climbing was tough, but I had done this before not to mention the fact that I'd dealt with tougher stuff numerous times.

Almost as soon as I started running, it felt as if the wind had been taken out of my sails. I was leaden. I was breathing hard. My legs were barely turning over. The trail continued to creep upward continuously adding insult to injury. Within a mile I contemplated pulling the plug.

I managed to silence the voices of doubt briefly and make my way through the first mile and a half glacially. Fortunately, the next couple of miles were largely devoid of climbing and I was able to run with some degree of comfort (or absence of marked discomfort).

The next hill loomed in front of me. It was more than a mile long and unrelenting. I tried to rally as the trail started to creep upward, but in short order found myself reduced to walking.

Barely four miles into my journey I was confronted with the reality that today was simply not my day. I would need to cut this one short somehow or I'd find myself walking for hours.

I could have been disheartened, but it's usually folly to not listen to your body when it complains vociferously. To boot, days like this don't come along very often. It didn't matter why things weren't clicking, they just weren't.

I sought an alternate route that would get me back to the finish a few miles earlier. While the alternate route would get me home sooner, this route was not devoid of climbing.

I put my head down and power hiked for a few hundred meters not aware of where I was. I focused on the hill in front of me until I found myself gassed yet again. I stopped, bent over, took a few deep breaths, and tried to gather myself once more.

I finally managed to stand upright and was taken aback. My detour had forced me to wander to a place that was unlike any I had ever been. I had no choice but to stand and stare.

Directly across from me between two massive hills in the distance I could see the Sutro Tower. Just to the right of the tower I could see Ocean Beach covered with tiny dots.

To the left, one of the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge rose triumphantly above another massive hill. Still further to my left was the entirety of the East Bay.

I looked behind me and in the fuzzy distance I could see the devil's teeth, the Farallon Islands. I swore I could see the fin of a great white shark circling the islands.

A hawk glided gracefully above me lazily. Thankfully, I was too large to qualify as prey. I breathed deeply taking in what this detour had provided me.

I had been provided something special. I was witness to something few others would ever see. This unplanned detour had provided a second wind like nothing I had ever experienced.

I didn't want to leave this moment, but the day was wearing on and I had to finish the job. I slowly started walking again, took a deep breath, and found a way to run.

While I would not run the entirety of the remaining miles I had to cover, walk breaks were few and far between. The knowledge that the universe had inadvertently provided me with something that felt designed just for me put enough wind in my sails to complete things.

Thus, one of my most lackluster days of running became one of my most glorious. I run because detours can be glorious.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I run because the wall doesn't last forever..

Sometimes you run into a wall. Big or small, it's always rough. But, we all have to hit them every once in awhile. So, you're not alone.

I found myself staring down such a wall a year or so ago. This was not a wall I could run through. I had to crash into it, fall down, get back up, and find another way.

Life changed in some pretty significant and heartrending ways. I found myself in a dark place (which is where you go when you hit the wall sometimes). I did my best to push forward, but I was going through the motions. I was me, but a pale, paper-thin facsimile of me.

I don't know how many people noticed, but I noticed. I was slogging my way through everything. I was doing the absolute bare minimum required in all facets of life. I simply could not muster more than this.

It felt as if everything was falling apart. Nothing seemed to be working. Nothing seemed to be clicking.

I felt as if I was in the last few miles of a marathon all the time. I was just fighting like hell to stay vaguely upright.

Imagine running into the wall again, and again, and again. If Sisyphus were a runner, this would be his modus operandi.

When you find yourself running into a wall, it feels like time slows to a crawl. Your sense of time and space gets distorted. The wall is so omnipresent, it seems like it has been there forever.

I found myself wondering when it would end. How could I keep moving forward? Then, I remembered. The wall never lasts forever.

Big or small, the wall never goes on forever. There is always a finish line and an opportunity to start again.

On the other side of the wall is hope. On the other side, there is optimism.  The other side of the wall is where the best version of you lies.

I run because the wall doesn't last forever.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I run because I am an addict..

Many people suffer from some kind of addiction. Some claim to be addicted to dark chocolate. Foodies have an ardent passion for gourmet food. Sommeliers dig wine.

As a kid, my chemical dependency was candy. My mom would buy me a bag of gummy bears and I would proceed to inhale the entire contents of the bag in short order. This bag usually contained a solid pound of gummy bears. I simply could not control myself once the bag was open.

It was fortunate that I was a pretty active kid. My active lifestyle and youthful metabolism helped stave off any major weight gain. But, images of me from this period of my life paint a decidedly 'portly' picture.

Eventually, running would enter the picture. While it was a struggle to adjust to the demands of an activity that generates 3-5 times your body weight in impact force per footstrike, my body started to adapt after a few weeks. This adaptation led to discovery of the elusive and enigmatic 'runner's high'.

Once I felt this high, there was no turning back. This isn't to say candy was no longer in the picture (fuel is required to run), but the runner's high became my new addiction. Pandora's box was opened.

Years later when I was in college (and taking a sabbatical from running), I was exposed to marijuana. It was fortunate I discovered running before I discovered pot. There were elements of it that reminded me of the runner's high. I felt relaxed. I felt calm. The high I experienced was eerily familiar.

As it turns out, my instincts were correct. High levels of Anandamide (a cannabinoid naturally produced in the body) often appear in those who run at moderate intensity for about an hour. Anandamide is known to produce sensations that are similar to those of THC, the psychoactive property in marijuana.

While ultrarunning is not my bag, I understand why people are into it. Once you get high, you want more and more and more of it. 10 miles becomes 20 miles. 20 miles becomes 30. The next thing you know, you're running for 24 hours to get your fix.

Fortunately, I only require a few miles to get my fix. But, it's undoubtedly a chemical dependency. I need to get high.

If I go without running for a few days, there is withdrawal. I get edgy. I get anxious. I get impatient. My name is Matt Forsman and I run because I am an addict...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I run because I am a creature of the night..

Several years ago I read that you tend to see faster race times in the evening than you do in the morning. The article purported that it had something to do with your heart rate being elevated, being awake longer, and/or being warmed up for a longer period of time before running.

This idea immediately resonated for me as I always feel more comfortable running in the evening. I am decidedly not a morning person. Getting out of bed is a laborious process seemingly no matter what hour I rise.

I always feel sluggish, stiff, and old. I walk around like a tin man who needs his joints oiled for a few minutes and try to make some coffee. Given the length of time I've been addicted to caffeine, a cup or two does little more than make me feel vaguely human.

I am usually still asleep through the first few miles of any run that takes place in the morning. But, as the day wears on, I can feel my pulse quicken. The fog of morning burns off. Afternoon fades into early evening and the urge to run becomes pronounced. The night beckons to me.

While most are winding down and readying to turn in, I find my second wind and head out into the darkness. My vision may be compromised, but all other senses are heightened.

The dark may be an inherently scary place for most, but for me it feels like returning to the womb. It's where I am meant to be. My legs turn over more quickly. I breathe easier. I find myself running faster without thought or effort. Running feels more like gliding.

Fear accompanies me, but it keeps me sharp. It keeps me on my toes. The adrenaline that tags along with the fear of the unseen and the unknown isn't a bad thing either.

There's an urgency to running at night that is simply absent during the day. With the sun shining and the day young, running is casual and easy. At night, you don't have the luxury of time and if you're too casual in the dark, you may find yourself in trouble.

I'm not necessarily looking for trouble when I run at night, but trouble tends to happen in the dark. In most scary movies, things get troublesome after dark. Fortunately, I usually run fast enough to circumnavigate most trouble.

Maybe it is my affinity for scary movies or maybe I am in actuality nocturnal. Whatever the reason, the night is my time to run. I run because I am a creature of the night.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I run because I am wild...

It wasn't that long ago that we lived in caves. We were hunters and gatherers. It was a tough, harsh, unpredictable existence that was devoid of many of the things we take for granted today.

The modern cave usually comes equipped with climate control, a washer, a dryer, a dishwasher, and countless other amenities. Entertainment comes not from storytelling, but from an electronic screen of some kind.

Hunting and gathering is largely outsourced. Few of us hunt or gather our food anymore. Hunting done today is largely for sport rather than necessity. Modern gathering usually entails a trip to the grocery store.

Most of us spend at least eight hours a day 'working' at one occupation or another indoors. We sit at desks or cubes largely interacting with a keyboard and a monitor.

Once we lived wild. Now we are civilized, domesticated, and evolved. But, for some of us, this life may not be the answer.

I suspected something was awry the very first day I spent sitting at a cube in an office. I felt anxious. I felt uncomfortable. There was something about this existence that just felt off to me.

The absence of fresh air was disconcerting. There was little natural light to speak of. I itched to escape the confines of my cube almost as soon as I entered it. I looked for any and every opportunity to liberate myself from this setting that felt odd and unnatural to me.

I yearned for the day to end so I could free myself of this stifling environment if only for a few hours. Fresh air, natural light, and the wild beckoned to me. At the end of the day,  I was freed from the civilized world temporarily. I'd run wild and uncaged.

I wondered how people managed to work at a desk or cube for months, years, or decades. Perhaps I was the missing link. Maybe I was just simply not domesticated in the same way everyone else seemed to be.

I could barely tolerate a full day. I vowed one day to run away from the cube. I wasn't sure how I would do it, but I would find a way.

Many miles and years later, I would run away from the cube for good. I became a small business owner and in effect, a hunter. I was always looking for my next meal.

I sometimes stalked my prey for days, weeks, and months. I didn't always succeed, but each kill was glorious. Each meal was a feast.
Nearly ten years later, this cube free existence is tough, harsh, and unpredictable. But, it is an existence that is true to who I really am.

Maybe I am the missing link. I don't know that I will ever be domesticated. I run because I am wild..

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I run because it is my calling....

Some people are fortunate to know beyond a shadow of a doubt what they are meant to do. We all have some friends like this. Maybe they always knew they would be a lawyer, or a doctor, or a wall street tycoon.

I have never had this kind of clarity. I entered college and became a film major because I had taken some screenwriting and production courses. I was passionate about film and still am, but had a hard time seeing film becoming the nucleus of my professional existence.

I changed my major to 'Law and Society' and found myself intrigued with the idea of becoming a lawyer. This idea was likely spawned by films I had seen where lawyers were heroic crusaders for justice and truth. I began to realize this was not the reality for most who went down this path.

I changed majors again to Sociology. It was intellectually stimulating and rewarding, but the two paths that followed this course of study didn't thrill me. I could become a social worker and make as much money as I was making as a barista in college.

Alternatively, I could go to graduate school, accumulate staggering debt, and become a professor. Becoming a professor sounded intriguing, but I wasn't so sure about the time, energy, and staggering debt.

Following college, I segued into IT. I barely knew how to send an email nor did I know what an operating system was, but I would learn. I would also learn structured query language, a little Visual Basic, and HTML. All of this was stimulating, fascinating, and challenging, but it didn't feel like my calling.

My professional disenchantment would lead me down myriad paths. I explored voice acting, psychology, screenwriting, and penning film reviews. All of it intrigued me, but did any of these professions really capture what I was born to do? In lieu of no real answers, I continued to explore.

My past would ultimately provide the clarity I was seeking. Running had been a huge part of my high school experience. It had been a stabilizing force, a source of inspiration, a source of solace, and a passion. A statement my coach made about me being a great marathoner some day haunted me after college and would ultimately get me back into the sport.

I experienced a running renaissance. While the fire had not burned for quite some time, there were still a few flickering embers to fan. A day at the office left me mentally fatigued and disenchanted. A few miles later, I was seemingly rejuvenated. I merely went through the motions at work. But, when I ran, I felt alive.

No matter how fast or far I ran, I came back for more. I began to realize that perhaps I had found my calling. Perhaps I had found what I was born to do.

I had no illusions I had the kind of talent to be a professional runner. But, I was confident my passion for the sport was as intense as anyone's and surely this would lead me in the right direction. So, I followed this passion.

Nearly a decade later, I am still following this passion in ways I never could have imagined. The path I've traveled has been far from smooth. There have been bumps, bruises, bloodshed, and heartbreak.

But, there have been no shortage of ecstatic moments, inspiring moments, and moments when I realize I am impacting people's lives in profound ways.

Running is my passion, my dharma, and calling. I run because it is my calling.

Monday, August 18, 2014

I run because I seek the flow...

A couple years ago, I fell in with a group of pretty serious runners who would gather every Thursday morning @ 5:30AM to run a 11.5 mile trail with roughly 3,000 feet of climbing.

I was in pretty solid road shape the first time I showed up for this ordeal, but the trails had not been part of my running routine for nearly 20 years.

Nearly two hours later, I completed the run. My quads were destroyed along with just about everything else. It would take me two weeks to fully recover mentally and physically.

The second time I tackled it, this run was at least marginally more manageable. At the very least, I knew what I was signing up for. The second time didn't kill me, thus I grew stronger.

My body rediscovered muscles that been idle for months (if not years) as it became more adept at handling the uneven terrain, the lengthy (and often stout) climbs, and the sharp declines that inevitably followed most of the lengthy ascents. Trail running is like a roller coaster sans the coaster and the track.

I came to love my time on the trail as much (if not more) than my time on the road. Managing the aforementioned terrain, ascents, descents, and everything in between requires a level of engagement not typically required on the road. On the road, you can zone out and cruise. This kind of zoning out can be disastrous on the trail.

I understand why some may dislike trail running for this very reason. You can't easily throw on your headphones and go out and log some miles on the trail. There are simply too many variables you are managing whilst on the trail to do this. You must be engaged when you're on the trail.

As I rediscovered trail running, I also rediscovered an experience that had been largely absent from my experiences on the road. There are moments (sometimes many of them) when I simply lose myself while I am on the trail.

I become the personification of running. There's no ruminating about daily trials and travails. There's no internal dialogue. Any worries, fears, or anxieties I brought with me on the run simply fade out. The mind goes quiet.

My entire existence is the next step and the next breath. I am completely present in the moment not looking forward nor back. Time becomes a nebulous concept. I don't know if minutes or hours have passed.

I love running fast. I love running hard. I love exploring the limits of how fast and how far I can go. I love the euphoria one experiences from the runner's high.

There are innumerable things about the act of running that I love. But, transcending everything are the moments of flow I experience when I am running on the trail. I run because  I seek the flow...

Friday, August 15, 2014

I run because I will be a great marathoner some day...

'I think you'll be a great marathoner some day.' Tom uttered non-chalantly. I had never run more than 12 miles. The idea of running 26.2 let alone being great at this distance was beyond my comprehension.

But, Tom knew what he was talking about. He was an Olympic development coach. However, he was much more than a coach to me, he was a veritable running deity.

My time with Tom was all too brief. I barely spent a year working with him. Without his coaching, I lost my way. Running became less of a passion and more of a casual hobby.

Nearly a decade removed from Tom's declaration I found myself wondering what he meant. What did 'great' look like? What did he mean when he said this?

I still had yet to run a single marathon, but I found myself wondering if I could do one. Maybe I was too old to be a 'great' marathoner, but I didn't really know what Tom meant when he said this anyway.

So, my definition of great simply involved completing a marathon. This would be no small feat and seemed like a step in the direction of greatness.

While my first marathon was not exactly great, I crossed the finish line confident that the next marathon might not be great, but it would be better.

Six months of training unlike anything I had done in my life got me to the starting line confident I could take another step closer to greatness.

GI issues and a sprained ankle incurred at mile 20 slowed me, but didn't stop me from qualifying for Boston. Tom might have considered this to be a great marathon, but I didn't really know, so the quest for greatness continued.

This quest drove me to break 3 hours and eventually 2:45. I pushed onward not knowing exactly what Tom meant, but convinced greatness was just a step or two away.

In the absence of knowing what Tom's definition of greatness really was, my own definition began to take shape and crystallize.

Toeing the line despite doubt and fear is greatness. Laying it all on the line and spending everything is greatness. Fighting through discomfort, fatigue, and pain is greatness. Doing the absolute best with what you have is greatness. I don't know if greatness is a quest that ever really ends. I suspect Tom would generally agree with this definition.

I know I am closer to being great than not. Some day, I might get there.  So, the quest continues. I run because I will be a great marathoner some day..

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I run because I don't own a sports car.

I don't own a sports car. Maybe some day I will. But, been I've fortunate enough to own and drive more than my fair share of sweet rides over the years.

It all started with the Nike Air Pegasus. I logged countless miles on them during my first season of cross country. They traveled through snow, sleet, dirt, and every surface in between. While not necessarily designed as an all terrain vehicle, they performed admirably in all conditions.

Not too long after driving the Air Pegasus into the ground, I segued into the Nike Air 180. The 180 holds a special place in my heart as it got me through my first season of track which started in a bumpy fashion, but would end on a high note with me winning my first race and qualifying for the state championship for two miles.

I notched a monster personal best in Chicago while cruising in the Asics DS Trainer 10. This ride was yellow, black, and deadly. It simply oozed speed. I felt invincible every time I laced up. Running what was at that time my fastest marathon ever only seemed appropriate with these kicks.

It would be three long years before I ran another marathon, but my vehicle of choice for this one was very special. I strapped on the Nike Air Zoom Hayward 3+. Allegedly inspired by a sketch penned by Steve Prefontaine on a napkin, this ride had swagger, moxy, and attitude.

Running in them was like returning to the womb. It always felt like I had an extra gear when I ran in the Haywards. I managed a personal best and Prefontaine gets no shortage of credit for helping me pull this one off.

My foray into the world of ultrarunning required a new vehicle capable of handling hills, dirt, rocks, uneven terrain, and countless miles. Enter the Salomon Speed Cross. This bright yellow beast endured hours of the aforementioned before enabling me to knock off my first (and likely last) 50 miler.

I resumed my quest for a personal best for the marathon in a truly groundbreaking ride, the Nike Flyknit Racer. These woven beauties felt like socks and also felt virtually non-existent. It was always difficult to stay in first or second gear when rolling in the Flyknits. They simply wanted to go as fast as humanly possible.

While I don't have a sports car, I do have a showroom. It is about the size of a closet and contains an awesome assemblage of vehicles built for speed, heading off road, and everything in between.

Whatever mood I am in and wherever I want to go, there is a ride that is suitable for the occasion.

I run because I don't own a sports car.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I run because it keeps the darkness at bay..

I was never a particularly happy kid. That's not to say I was miserable all the time or I 'didn't have a childhood'. I had a childhood, but it was complicated. Many of the most vivid memories from my childhood are not entirely pleasant.

By the time I reached middle school, I felt uncomfortable most of the time. Some of this can be attributed to adolescence and the awkwardness that all of us experience during this phase. But, it was more than just garden variety adolescence induced awkwardness.

I was markedly anxious most of the time. I didn't feel comfortable around people. I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin. I isolated myself.

Accompanying the aforementioned was a heaviness, a darkness that seemed to follow me everywhere. Everything was difficult. Everything was challenging. Everything was out of focus. I couldn't concentrate.

These feelings waxed and waned throughout my first year of high school. But, my sophomore year would prove to be revelatory.

I stumbled onto a way to find comfort in my own skin, escape the nagging anxiety, and quiet the wheels in my head from turning constantly. I discovered running.

All it took was a few miles for the wheels to grind to a halt. The anxiety would dissipate, if not disappear entirely. My own skin suddenly felt comfortable.

Running became a stabilizing force in my life. I became a good runner. But, I wasn't necessarily running to become a faster, better runner. I was doing it to stave off the darkness.

Years later when I was in college, the darkness returned with a vengeance. Anxiety, discomfort, dark thoughts about the end of the world, and more than a few fleeting thoughts about me not being around marked its return.

In trying to find my way back to the light, it occurred to me that I hadn't been running much. The natural anti-depressant that had been helping me for so long to keep the darkness at bay was largely absent.

The darkness has returned several times since the battle I had with it in college. Most visitations have occurred during periods in which I wasn't running much, if at all.

It's become clear that running is one of the most powerful weapons in my arsenal for fighting it. Without it, it's an uphill battle.

This is not say that I have not found myself battling the darkness mightily even when I have been running regularly. But, there's little question I am a stronger, tougher warrior when I run.

The darkness is less daunting and less threatening when I run. It's bark and bite are less intimidating. So, I run because it keeps the darkness at bay.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I run because I love to travel...

I've never seen the Great Barrier Reef. Thailand sounds like my kind of place, but I have never been there. I took a combined three years of Japanese in high school and college, but have never set foot in Japan.

I have been to Turkey. I have been to Hawaii. I have been to Mexico. I have been to Canada.

Most people don't even count Hawaii, Canada, or Mexico. Viewed through this lens, I've only really been to Turkey.

My travel list likely won't impress most. But, I actually consider myself very well traveled.

I've seen natural beauty so incredible that it's impossible to avert your gaze. I've looked down onto huge banks of fog rolling indomitably beneath me from thousands of feet above. I've been hypnotized by sunsets that defy description.

I have seen the ferocity and power of mother nature. My face has been pelted relentlessly by hail. I've seen the wind howl loudly enough to bend trees. I've been brought to the brink by oppressive heat and humidity.

I've encountered countless creatures in their homes far removed from any zoo. I've seen them look at me as though I was perhaps the oddest thing they had ever seen. Snakes, salamanders, deer, skunks, racoons, coyotes, and turkey are but a few I've been fortunate enough to see.

During most of my travels, I've also been very fortunate to explore parts of myself that might otherwise simply go unexamined. I've come to know that my body can endure just about anything....if given time to adapt. I've learned just how far mental toughness can take you when the body starts to complain.

There are parts of myself I never would have learned about had I not gone traveling. New perspectives, new ideas, new dreams, and new hope is part of what I've always found when I travel.

No, I haven't been to Morocco. Sadly, I have not been to London either. Japan is on my list as well.

But, I really can't complain. There's little question in my mind about how many miles I've logged and how many places I have seen that many will NEVER have the opportunity to see.

As far as traveling goes, I've been blessed as I have the opportunity to it every day if I want to....and I usually do. I run because I love to travel.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

I run because I want more life....

Running is one of a few passions. The other big love of my life is film. In the not so distant past, I penned film reviews.

I could remember every movie I had ever seen. I could remember how old I was when I saw the movie. I could remember what theater I saw it in.

I don't know how many movies I have seen, but I remember the ones that I would take with me to a desert island. Once such flick is 'Blade Runner'.

There are a few characters in this one who are referred to as 'replicants'. These replicants are incredibly realistic renderings of humans.

Calling them an android would be an insult. You can have normal conversation with them. They look real. They smell real. You can have sex with them.

So....they are pretty real. Sadly, they are built with a lifespan that is pre-determined. They know exactly how much time they have. It haunts them.

The leader of the replicants states frankly at a particularly dramatic moment, 'I want more life, fucker.'

It's a line that always resonated for me because I think it speaks to what so many people want. We want more time, we want more life.

I don't know what my expiration date is and I am not sure I want to know. I don't know if there is anything I can do one way or the other to influence it, really.

But, I know what makes me feel alive and what makes me feel like I have more life left in me.

For nearly a quarter of a century, running has been one of those experiences that makes me feel alive and makes me feel like I am extending my life...whatever my expiration date might be.

A study came out several years ago that indicated that running actually 'slows' the aging process. This was no surprise to me. I always knew on some level this was the case.

I always feel younger. I always feel stronger. I always feel more alive. I always feel more human. I always feel like I have more life after I run.

Exactly how much more life running buys me I don't know, but I will take whatever I can get. I run because I want more life...

Friday, August 08, 2014

I run because nothing is broken....

Every runner has those days when they just don't feel like running. Maybe the weather is crappy. Maybe you're tired. Maybe you're hungover.

When I was young, I not infrequently indulged these feelings and skipped more than my fair share of runs because I simply didn't feel like it. It never occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to run one day.

My first real wake up call came when I suffered a complete compression fracture of the left femoral head. I broke my left femur from running. The gift I had always taken for granted was taken away.

My first run post surgery was a tearful one mile exercise. The gift had been taken away, but only temporarily. I could still run and I still had yet to notch my first marathon.

Being broken is not an experience I would wish on anyone, but it was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I learned that youth is ephemeral as is life. None of us is guaranteed anything.

Becoming unbroken lit a fire in me that has yet to burn out. My first marathon gave way to qualifying for Boston, running a sub 3 hour marathon, and coming perilously close to notching a marathon in the 2:30's. I played with this fire and occasionally got burned.

Burned and sometimes broken again, I have never given up on the idea that I could become whole again. Most things that break can be fixed. Most wounds heal.

The list of aggravations and injuries I have suffered over the years is galling. It includes the aforementioned fractured femur, a stress fracture of the right femur, a stress fracture of the heel, two nasty cases of plantar fasciitis, a stress fracture of the right sacrum, and a litany of other setbacks.

Some might pack it in after suffering one of the aforementioned, let alone the entire list. But, the fire still burns.

The gift of being whole for now is enough reason to get out and run despite any crappy weather, fatigue, or hangover I might be suffering from. Until the fire is extinguished entirely, I'll keep lacing up to run because nothing is broken.....

Thursday, August 07, 2014

I run because I will never be a super hero..

I read comic books voraciously when I was in middle school. It was a chemical dependency. I was addicted to the incredible acts performed by the heroes occupying the pages and images therein.

Superman was a veritable god with seemingly no chinks in his armor. He could do everything and nothing (shy of Kryptonite) could stop him.

Spider-Man swung majestically through New York City vanquishing muggers, robbers, and purse snatchers. His uncanny spider sense would detect danger enabling him to avert a crisis at the last moment.

All of them were amazing. But, the one I connected with most was the dark knight. The man who donned the cowl and cape was who I aspired most to be. Batman simply was 'the man'.

Unlike Superman who seemingly had every power imaginable and Spider-Man whose gifts came courtesy of a radioactive spider, Batman was a mere mortal.

Underneath the cape and cowl, he was Bruce Wayne. A billionaire, but a damaged and obsessed man who had no shortage of flaws. His pursuit of justice was as relentless as the pursuit of the nefarious often seen by those he battled.

There was a darkness and complexity to batman that always intrigued me. His flawed mortality is what attracted me to him. While he never died, those close to him did.

He bled, he bruised, he failed, but no matter what....he always got back up and kept fighting in his own dark and enigmatic way.

While he was a mere mortal when the cape and cowl were off, he became much more than a mere mortal when he donned them. He became a symbol, an icon, and a predator.

At times, I feel weak, flawed, and afraid. I am as painfully mortal as anyone. I don't have any illusions that I am a super hero.

But, when I don my shorts, when I lace up my shoes, when I stare down the daunting hill in front of me, I become more than just a man.

I can't run faster than a speeding bullet, but I can always run a bit faster than I think. I won't ever swing majestically though New York City like Spider-Man, but sometimes when I run it feels like I am flying.

I won't ever be Batman, but I will push forward despite fatigue, despite pain, despite being bruised or bloodied. I will get up and keep fighting.

I can't be a super hero, but running provides more than enough super heroic moments and I can live with that. I run because I will never be a super hero...

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

I run because they're out to get me..

My mother tends towards the circumspect. Actually, that's an understatement. Paranoid is a more apt way to describe her. I don't blame her. Her mom exhibited behavior that transcended paranoid. Fundamentally, you really couldn't trust anyone or anything according to Nana.

This predisposition towards paranoia is something that was passed on to me as well. I never cross the road without looking both ways. I always locked the door..twice. Aside from my family, there weren't many I trusted and even the family wasn't always so trustworthy.

Rather than expect the best and plan for the worst, you should simply expect the worst. The universe wasn't indifferent. The universe was out to get you.

My affinity for horror films fed whatever inherent paranoia permeated my view of the world. The naive belief that you were actually safe and there was nothing under the bed always led to your demise in the movies.

It was the circumspect (or paranoid) who tended to walk away unscathed on screen. To clarify, it was usually those who RAN rather than walked who survived. So, I ran as hard and as fast as I could whenever in doubt.

This would serve me well in a game called 'tag'. Fundamentally, tag is a game where they actually are out to get you. You're chasing someone or more often being chased. I excelled at tag. Whether it was my innate ability as a runner or fear borne of paranoia, I was not easy to catch and consequently rarely 'it'.

But, running as hard and as fast as you can all the time isn't sustainable. Living with the idea that people (or the universe) are out to get you is not healthy nor realistic.

However, the opposite isn't much better. Blind idealism or the idea that 'it's all good' might be healthier, but comes with its own problems. The reality is that you can't always ignore the bumps in the night.

I don't think there are many truly evil people out there, but that doesn't mean there aren't people who are confused, misguided, and capable of making mistakes.

I don't think the world is out to get me, but I'd be a fool to think 'it's all good'. I don't run as hard and as fast as I can at the first sign of doubt, but my eyes are always open and my shoes are at the ready. I run because (sometimes) they're out to get me..

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

I run because I am still a kid at heart..

Sometimes I look in the mirror and don't recognize who I see. It's not that the face that looks back is completely foreign to me. It looks vaguely familiar, but there are signs that I am not as young as I once was.

There's less hair sprouting from my head. Conversely, hair sprouts from formerly naked places.  The gaze that looks back at me sometimes looks tired. While I don't think of myself as old, I don't have any illusions that I am as young and spry as I once was. 

Life seems to become smaller as we get older. Opportunities are not as frequent. Possibilities diminish. Doors close.

I try not to dwell on these thoughts as they're not entirely productive nor are they pleasant. But, sometimes they arrive uninvited and unwelcome. Sometimes I find myself dwelling on opportunities lost, mistakes made, and wounds from the past.

I try not to live in the past, but the past lives on in our minds. I was once younger, less jaded, and less wounded.

That younger, less jaded, less wounded version of me is still around. It just needs to be excavated sometimes. It needs to be resuscitated sometimes.

Resuscitating the kid usually only takes a few miles. A few deep breaths and he's feeling spry. He's feeling sharp. The heart rate elevates and he's rejuvenated.

Sweat floods from my pores and along with it goes the grim, codgerly thoughts of my inexorable aging. I am still a kid.

The road in front of me goes on forever. It goes as long as I want it to go. It goes in an infinite number of directions. It may turn into a trail that heads into the woods and toward unknown ascents and adventures.

I remember the countless times I have done this before and returned sweaty, tired, bruised, bloody, battered, but always ready to take up arms again. I always get up again. I am not done.

Running slows the aging process, but perhaps more importantly reconnects me with the kid that still lives within me.

This kid is full of hope, dreams, and seemingly invincible. I run because I am a kid at heart and this kid still has a long way to go.

Monday, August 04, 2014

I run because I seek a deafening silence...

I grew up in a household with two parents, two siblings, and at least one dog most of the time. Noise of some kind was seemingly omnipresent. Barks, laughter, conversation, dishes breaking, and yelling were but a few of the noises that comprised the sound goulash that we lived in.

Sometimes I'd be lucky enough to retreat to my room, close the door, and escape into a book. But, even with the door closed and my mind engaged in whatever I was reading, I could never fully block out the noise.

Only late at night when I was sleeping would a dense fog of quiet roll through our home. Occasionally, I would wake up in the middle of the night to a deafening silence. I always found it soothing. In these dark and quiet moments, everything seemed peaceful.

The familial noise I grew up with may be gone for the most part, but there is plenty of new noise that has taken its place. It seems like there is more noise than ever.

Rings and buzzes erupt from my phone. The laptop beeps, buzzes, and whirs. The television explodes with an onslaught of noise. I do my best to turn the aforementioned off or at least turn them down, but it's hard to eliminate all the noise.

I've encountered many runners over the years who have stated they simply CAN'T run without music. This always strikes me as odd. But, I recently read an article that may explain this addiction to noise we seem to have.

The thrust of the article is that we can't stand being unoccupied with our thoughts for more than a few minutes. This quiet time I covet so dearly is something most people can't stand.

Admittedly, I sometimes can't stand the noise in my own head. Negative, self defeating, and sometimes vicious voices creep in. This is the kind of noise that is truly insidious as it's noise only you can hear.

When the beeping, buzzing, whirring, and the negative voices in my head become too much to bear, I escape from them in a very literal way. I put miles between myself and the noise that haunts my existence.

Sometimes people ask me what I think about when I run. The truth is I usually think about nothing. For miles and hours, there is usually little that I think about. There is very little noise. That's the whole point.

In order to gain any kind of perspective, clarity, insight, or answer to whatever the conundrum du jour might be, noise isn't going to help.

It is in the silence of the run where I will find this. It's the quieting of the mind a few miles provides that I can perhaps find the answers. So, I run because I seek a deafening silence.

Friday, August 01, 2014

I run because no one yields to a pedestrian.

If you can't run, walking is an adequate substitute. It's better than rolling around town on a Segway. It's infinitely better than sitting on the couch (or the desk).

That being said, walking has never really been my thing. I've got nothing against walking per se, but since I became a runner (EONS ago), walking feels like a step backwards.

Once you've run, it's just hard to go back to walking.  If you've covered a mile in a handful of minutes, covering one in fifteen just doesn't compute. It doesn't make sense.

If you're capable of covering ground in a more expedient fashion, why opt for a less efficient way of doing so? Those who choose to walk when they can run seem like masochists to me.

On the occasions on which life requires me to walk, it's an ordeal. It's painful. It's torturous.

My version of walking is far from casual. Some might call it powerwalking. Some might even think it's running. It's sheer impatience in motion.

Patience is a virtue and it's one I respect and admire, but it's one I am still trying to develop. I walk grudgingly with the knowledge that I could be getting to my final destination much faster. Some say time is money, but time is also life.

The minutes I waste walking could be used to write my memoirs, take a nap, eat a sandwich, or countless other endeavors.

I have a recurring nightmare of being trapped in a gridlocked sidewalk that is packed to the gills with the slowest walkers on the planet. I desperately try to find a seam in the ceaseless mass of glacial plodders, but there is none to be found.

I try to weave, but there's nowhere to go. I politely say 'excuse me' and no one responds. I have no choice but to slow my walk to a veritable crawl.

It's terrifying how slow they walk. They are actively trying to slow me down, get in my way, and prevent me from moving forward.

Eventually, it occurs to me to do the one thing that will get them to disperse. I run. My polite 'excuse me's' become aggressive, loud demands to 'move to your right'. They can hear me coming and suddenly the tables have turned.

No one yields to a pedestrian, but most (if they're smart) will yield to a runner....particularly if they are headed your way at 10MPH. I run because no one yields to a pedestrian.

I run because moderation isn't always my strong suit..

I would be lying to you if I said I was the kind of runner who always leads by example.

I don't warmup as often as I should. I don't foam roll as often as I should. I don't get massages as often as I should.

Cross training? It rarely happens. I also like cheeseburgers. Perhaps worst of all, I like to knock back some cocktails every now and then.

Well, I like them more than every now and then. If I am exercising no self control, I can easily imbibe 2-3 a night. Fortunately, I do exercise self control....most of the time.

A stiff maker's and coke following a tough run serves to augment an already pleasant runner's high. Once the first one is emptied, the second one is hard to resist.

It is a bit of a slippery slope...particularly if I am in good company. As far as transgressions go, there are worse things I could do and there are worse things I have done.

The thing is...there are experiences I have had while drinking a cocktail that I will never forget. Just as there are experiences I have had while running that I will never forget. Perhaps combining the two might make for a particularly memorable experience.

I could abstain entirely and maybe I should. But, I am generally a believer in moderation despite my sometimes immoderate ways.

Pretty much anything you do to an excess is going to come back to haunt you. Running is fantastic, but if you too much of it, you will pay the price.

But, how can you really know your limits if you always toe the line? Periodically, you have to exercise immoderation. Amazing things can happen sometimes.

Sometimes you just wake up with a raging hangover. That's where running comes in handy.

Forget all the ridiculous, home spun hangover cures you've heard over the years. Running is the real deal. It is the only thing I know of that will make you feel vaguely human after a night of immoderate behavior.

I run because moderation isn't always my strong suit..