Friday, October 31, 2014

I run because I dream....

I was a soccer player. I wasn't a runner. I didn't know anyone who did this. Then, I ran ten miles. Doors opened.

I couldn't find my distance. I struggled with the 400. The 800 wasn't clicking. The mile wasn't for me either. Then, I won a race. The doors opened wider.

It had been years since I had done any real running. I was older. I doubted my body would comply.

My coach always thought I'd be a great marathoner. Forget great. Just run one. 26.2 miles later, Dreams took root.

Qualifying for Boston is the dream of countless runners. I was on the threshold of it. I had done the work, but nothing is promised.

This was a dream I wanted desperately. The stomach complained. The ankle buckled. I gritted my teeth and finished. More dreams emerged.

Breaking three hours for the marathon seemed almost mythic. But, I had come close in my Boston qualifying effort despite a litany of challenges. If the stars aligned, maybe one more dream could come true. I crossed the line and dreamed on.

I wasn't happy. I was going through the motions. I couldn't continue this way. I couldn't see myself a year from now let alone five, ten, or twenty.

I dreamed of doing something I loved and getting paid to do it. It was a pipe dream, but I had lived a few dreams already, why not one more?

It started with an ad in Craigslist. I didn't know if I could pull it off. It was a long shot.

I conquered a marathon. I qualified for Boston. I broke three hours for the marathon. I pushed forward. All dreams start somewhere.

A year later, I was swimming in credit card debt. I couldn't run. There was little hope to be had.

I had been to dark places many times before while running 26.2. I had battled back from the brink before. I got back on my feet. My dream wasn't done yet.

I had come so far. I had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. But, I didn't know where else this dream could take me.

I didn't know where else I could take it. I didn't know how I could go farther. I did know I wasn't ready to wake up yet.

Creating an event takes money I don't have. It takes resources I don't have. It takes knowledge and experience I don't have.

It's daunting. It's intimidating. So is the marathon and I made that dream a reality.

There are thousands of books out there. There are thousands of writers who are better than me. There are countless who have tried this and failed.

I do the only thing I know how to do. I write a page. I write another. I remember a marathon starts small. It starts with a mile. I dream on.

It was all a dream ten years ago. It's no different today. I run because I dream.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I run because I need to uncage the rage..

It roils up inside of me uninvited. All I can see is red. I try to keep it in check. I take a few breaths.

It's not working. I want to jump out of my skin. I want to howl at the top of my lungs.

But, this is not how an adult behaves. I am civilized. I remind myself of this.

Still the rage burns inside of me. It eats my insides. It's still hungry. It is insatiable.

Angry, destructive thoughts explode like a mushroom cloud. My brow furrows. A darkness overcomes me.

The dark side beckons. This is the side that helped land me in the principal's office as a kid countless times. The dark side has destroyed friendships.

It grins darkly begging me to let it take care of things for me. We must make it right. There must be retribution. Someone will pay.

My vision blurs as I start to lose myself. Everything is hazy. This will not end well.

I will say things I regret. I will do things I cannot take back. This road doesn't lead to anything but oblivion.

I take a deep breath and hold it for as long as I can. Maybe I can simply hold my breath and the darkness will die of oxygen deprivation. It grins evilly back at me knowing that this won't work.

Just let go. Let me take the reins. You know you want to. The beast is an insidious, persistent fuck.

The adrenaline courses through my veins. The fight or flight instinct consumes me. The urge to fight is nearly insurmountable.

Somehow I manage to take flight. I may have run faster before, but I don't know when. I may have run harder, but it's been awhile.

The beast's smile fades a bit and I smile back darkly. I am in control. I am the one who handles the reins.

I push even harder. The beast winces. The adrenaline starts to fade away. I gasp with every stride.

Heads turn as I run roughshod across road and trail. Nothing is chasing me. There is just a demon that needs to be exorcised.

He's pained and grimacing. Used to getting his way, this is a battle he's losing. This is a battle I can't afford to lose.

I reach the finish line a sweating, gasping mess. I stagger around trying to collect myself. The demon whimpers pathetically in a dark corner.

The adrenaline is spent. The flight consumed all of it. I am still standing, barely.

The demon skulks away defeated. He vows to return. I smile back at him daring him to push my buttons again.

I run because I need to uncage the rage...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I run because I need a vacation...

In my former cube circumscribed existence, work mostly started and ended at the door. I worked on the weekends occasionally. But, the start and end of my work was usually clearly defined.

I left it behind and I threw myself into my business on a wing and a prayer. I had no business plan. Everything was trial by fire.

I came to learn that if I didn't hustle, I didn't get paid. No paycheck was coming every two weeks. Hustle or die.

Vacation time and paid time off are a distant memory. Insurance is on me. Retirement is on me.

It is all on me. The business is a living, breathing entity. It needs constant care. It requires constant attention.

I understand why most don't have the stomach for it. It is all consuming. It is a 24/7 deal.

Nearly a decade later, much has changed. What I created via a craigslist ad in my cube now sustains me. It has taken me places I never could have imagined.

But, the constant hustle remains. Vacations are few and far between. So, I get creative.

The urge to take time off can be pronounced. The desire to put it all aside and escape can be ardent. I find a way.

The destination is just a few miles from here in any direction I choose. Whether it's sunny or rainy, I am always at peace there. It's always therapeutic.

It's never a lengthy vacation. I don't have that luxury. Most would never describe my short jaunts as vacations.

But, they always give me what I need. They provide an escape. They provide a holiday. They recharge.

I am also reconnected with the heart of my business. I am reminded of why I do what I do. I get to be the personification of my business.

The beauty is I get to take a vacation every day. Sometimes, I get lucky and take a vacation multiple times a day.  No one has it better than me.

I run because I need a vacation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I run because I believe....

My first season of cross country was rife with epiphanies. I discovered I was a runner. I learned I had a potent weapon in a finishing kick. I also fell in love with running.

Thanksgiving was rapidly approaching. With its arrival came the annual 'Gobble Wobble' race. I had run it the previous year when I was a pretender.

I had managed to place 20th. It was a respectable result given my relative inexperience and lack of training. But, I was a runner now. I was a contender.

I was hungry for more. I wasn't out for a respectable finish. I was out to win it all.

There was nothing at stake at this race. There was no prize for whoever finished first. There were no real bragging rights associated with winning the Gobble Wobble.

I had accomplished many things my first season of cross country. But, winning a race had not been one of these things.

As a former soccer player, scoring a goal was an incredible rush of adrenaline and ecstasy. I loved running, but I had yet to find something analogous with running. I thought winning might provide what I was looking for.

I had no real reason to believe I could win. I had no idea who was toeing the line that day. I'd only really had a few months of training under my belt.

But, I wanted to win. I wanted to find out if I could. I believed I could.

The gun fired and countless surged out in front of me. I relaxed and let them go. If I wanted to win, I had to run my race.

Within half a mile, many of them started fading. I moved up from 20th to 15th position. There were still many in front of me, but there were many miles to go.

I breathed deeply. I did my best to stay relaxed. I was counting on my finishing kick to win this.

As long as I continued to gradually make my way towards the front, I had a shot. If I simply hung around, I could wear the field down. I didn't know who was in front of me, but I believed I could take anyone.

I moved up a few more spots and found myself within striking distance of the lead pack. I could see them off in the distance. There were three of them.

I honed in on their turnover and tried to pull them in. Slowly, inexorably they started to get closer. I could see no one in front of them.

We approached the most daunting hill of the race and I was nearly on their heels. To pass them going uphill would be a devastating blow. I made my move.

They gasped as I glided past them. I betrayed none of the fatigue I was feeling. I did my best to maintain a poker face. Behind the facade, I was running on fumes.

I crested the hill and flew down the other side. My legs churned furiously trying to put distance between myself and those behind me. I could hear them.

A half a mile was all that stood between me and the finish line. Victory was nearly mine. Fear induced adrenaline kept the wheels turning. They weren't letting up, but neither was I.

The finish line approached. I threw my head back and took a deep breath. It was time to finish this.

I let it all hang out. I unleashed my kick. As close as they were, I knew they had little chance of passing me if I could just keep it together for a few more seconds.

I careened across the finish line. I held them off. I had pulled it off. I bent over and gasped.

I caught my breath and lifted my head. A woman handed me a ribbon. It said '2nd place'. I had fallen one place shy of victory.

The rush of adrenaline and ecstasy I sought would have to wait a bit longer. But, I had come closer to victory than I ever had before. I had reason to believe.

It wasn't a question of if I would win a race, but win. I had nearly pulled it off by just believing I could. I wasn't going to stop believing now.

I run because I believe....

Monday, October 27, 2014

I run because stopping isn't an option..

I am perilously close to stopping. My legs cry out in pain. The lungs labor painfully.

The mind weakens. Insidious thoughts of surrender creep in. Stopping is the only thing that will soothe the pain.

It would be easy to stop. I would feel better if I stopped. The pain would ebb.

The cessation of the pain would be blissful. I've earned it. I've suffered enough.

I grimace. I wince. Searing jolts of pain assault me.

The fatigue rolls in like an angry storm. It unloads its fury on me. The voice urging me to stop, to surrender, to quit becomes louder.

I am deep in the valley. Darkness descends. My peripheral vision fades. I cannot see beyond what is directly in front of me.

I am inches from packing it in. I can't do this. I can't go on. I must stop.

Then, it happens. Deep within me another voice emerges. It's words are faint and hard to make out. I can barely discern a few mumbles.

Then it gets clearer. Stopping is a slippery slope. Stopping leads to not starting again. Stopping leads to quitting.

An object at rest tends to stay at rest. To rest now is to perhaps not start again. Stopping is not an option.

My steps can be slow and plodding. They may only cover inches at a time. It can be ugly and awkward. 

But, stopping is not an option. Move forward glacially, painfully, but keep moving forward inexorably.

I run because stopping is not an option.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

I run because the fire needs to be lit...

I run daily. It's a tonic. It's a salve. It helps me preserve some vague semblance of sanity.

It's akin to sleeping or breathing. If I don't do it, I feel off. Things feel awry.

But, something's been missing recently. Running's become bland. It's unnerving.

I'm doing it, but I'm going through the motions. There's no passion. There's no pop. There's no spark.

I haven't felt this in a long time. I struggle to remember how I dealt with this inexplicable ennui the last time it encroached.

The answer coalesces. I haven't laid it on the line in awhile. I haven't toed the line for awhile. I haven't been tested recently.

Tests challenge. They intimidate. They frighten.

But, it is during these tests that you discover yourself or re-discover yourself. You discover just how tough you are. Epiphanies abound in these moments.

What also happens during these tests are moments of transcendence and inspiration. To endure despite doubt, fear, discomfort, and fatigue is to conquer.
I toe the line. I take the test. Ablaze, I fly across the finish line with nothing left.

I find my pop. I find my spark. I find my fire. The ennui burns leaving only a pile of ashes. This is why I do it.

This is the reason. The fire burns brightly. It won't be waning anytime soon.

If it does, I know what to do. The distance doesn't matter. The outcome doesn't matter. All that matters is I spend it all when I toe the line.

Inspiration can be found on a daily basis from simple runs down the street or up the hill or along the trail. It can be found in just a few easy minutes of running. A loop or two around the track can do it.

But, the tests one encounters on race day is where the fire is lit. It's all the wonderful moments of running amplified, augmented, and enhanced. If a test doesn't light your fire, nothing will.

I run because the fire needs to be lit...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I run because life is survived one mile at a time...

Life is not for the faint of heart. It's rife with hills, valleys, and bumps in the road. It's a journey of epic proportions any way you slice it.

Sometimes, I wonder how I've made it this far. I still have a long way to go. This journey is so long.

There are heartbreaks looming on the horizon. Fortunately, there are moments of bliss and ecstasy out there as well. Thinking about how much is left to be done can be overwhelming.

I don't know how I'm going to pull it all off. My heart races thinking of all that lies ahead. I wonder if I'm tough enough to finish.

Some call life a marathon. But, life is much more than 26.2 miles. There is no set number of miles one covers in life.

The finish line is rarely visible. It lurks in the shadows waiting to end things for us. We have no real say in when or how things end in this race.

The only way I know how to approach life is the same way I approach conquering 26.2 miles. I don't think of the entirety of the distance. It's too much.

I simply focus on the mile that is immediately in front of me. I knock it off and move on to the next one. The miles add up.

Each mile conquered is a victory. Each mile left behind is a reminder that I can endure another one. The miles accumulate.

Fatigue sets in. Muscles ache. The mind starts to ruminate on the enormity of the task. I quickly exorcise these thoughts and get back to the rule of one.

Run the mile in front of you. Just complete one. Then, complete another.

Stay present. Stay in the moment. What is directly in front of you is where your focus needs to be. What lies beyond will be dealt with when it arrives.

I can't see what lies ahead, so there's little point in sweating it. I take a deep breath, exhale, and tackle what is in front of me. Nothing I have encountered thus far has stopped me. I can handle the next mile.

Slowly, but surely, the journey becomes less daunting. It's a journey that can only be completed one mile at a time. It's the only way to survive it.

I run because life is survived one mile at a time...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I run because there is little I can control...

We live on a rock flying through space. Innumerable celestial objects hurtle through the solar system threatening to collide with us. I lie awake at night with these ideas rattling around in my head.

Volcanoes erupt. Earthquakes level. Tsunamis destroy. Sweet dreams are not made of this.

People make mistakes. Poor decisions are made. Bad things happen. It's a wonder anyone sleeps at night.

We do our best to establish order and control amidst chaos. We adhere to a regular schedule. We go to work. We do our job. We come home.

This routine soothes. It also deceives. It lends credence to the idea that we have control. But, we're neck deep in chaos.

This chaos manifests itself in innumerable ways. Still we ardently plug the dam with our fingers. We futilely attempt to prevent the floodgates from opening.

The chaos can overwhelm. My head spins with the infinite number of things that are beyond me. Life can feel like a runaway freight train from hell.

It's easy to get derailed. I find myself on the verge sometimes. The fears, doubts, questions, and anxieties swirl.

Not all hope is lost. There is one thing I can control. I need to remind myself of this. Running provides the reminder.

I'm in the driver's seat. I am the master and commander when I run. I am in complete control. Speed, distance, and destination are all within my hands.

The world spins. The wind howls. Torrential rain falls. But, none of these things can stop me. None of them can control me. 

A few controlled strides calms. The churning maelstrom of chaos that passes for life becomes less threatening. It becomes less foreboding.

I put distance between myself and the chaos. These miles are all mine. The thoughts that lead to sleepless nights fade away.

A few rhythmic breaths stabilizes. I will be the eye of the storm. Chaos can rage all around me. But, I will keep it together.

I will control the only thing the one thing I can. It's not much, but it's enough. I will control me.

I run because there is little I can control.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I run because I am a lone wolf..

I spend a lot of time alone. I don't have co-workers. I operate independently the vast majority of the time.

It's not the best way to operate. I've undoubtedly endured more discomfort than necessary as a result of this. I've put myself in tough spots because I'm reluctant to rely on others.

I've always been this way. I've become even less inclined to lean on others in the past decade since I've been rolling solo. Being fiercely independent is standard operating procedure.

Some might say I've got trust issues. Maybe I do. Whether I do or not, this is not the whole story.

While my job requires me to be Mr. Congeniality, this persona is only a part of who I am. I love my alone time. I love doing my own thing.

It's always been this way. I loved losing myself for hours in a book when I was a kid. I'd kill countless afternoons in the backyard imagining myself living off the land and fending for myself.

I played team sports, but I rarely enjoyed them. I attended parties, but never really felt comfortable at them. Spending time around people not infrequently stressed me out.

It was during my alone time that I would recharge. I'd recover. I'd lose myself in my own world.

Age has softened me a bit. I'm more comfortable around others than I used to be. I enjoy the company of others more than I once did.

But, the lone wolf is still there. He growls when his style is cramped. His hackles stand up when he needs room.

When the lone wolf is baying, I know it's time to create some space. There is only one thing to do. I take him for a run.

His snarl fades. The fangs retract. His tongue lolls and the hint of a grin emerges on his face.

We roll on in search of solitude. It doesn't take long before it's just the two of us. No one can keep up with us. No one can catch us.

The trail meanders further. We run deep into the woods. We leave it all behind.

It is deep in the woods miles away that we find what we're looking for. No one's here. This trail is ours, at least for now.

I pat his head and smooth his coat. We have to head back soon, but we'll linger a bit longer. He sighs loudly at peace in the solitude of the woods.

I run because I am a lone wolf...

Monday, October 20, 2014

I run because I have to move forward...

Patience is not one of my strong suits. It's a chink in my armor. It's a developmental opportunity.

My patience is supremely tried when I find myself hemmed in. It wears thin when I am in the middle of a mass of humanity going nowhere fast. It runs out when I am stuck in traffic.

I breathe deeply. I try to not let expletives fly. I try to keep it in check.

Unable to move forward, I stew. I feel trapped. The hackles rise on the back of my neck. I have to get out of here.

There must be an escape. Staying here is a slow death. The only way to stay alive is to keep moving.

Life can gridlock you. The way to move forward isn't clear. You find yourself stuck in a morass of motionless frustration.

These moments infuriate. These times try. An alternate route is required, but finding it is not easy.

When I'm neck deep in these gridlocked moments, there's only one way I know to break free. I set it all aside and step outside. There are a million paths in front of me.

Infinite options unfold. Strides evolve into miles. There's little doubt, I'm going somewhere.

Slow or fast, I'm moving forward. The path rolls on over hills and towards destinations I can't see. But, I am free.

There's nothing hemming me in. There's no gridlock. The frustration wanes. A calm washes over me.

There's a way to move forward. The alternate route is out there, I just have to find it. I just have to keep looking for it.

I keep running. Miles pass. Vague possibilities start to percolate.

My journey enters the final phase. I can see the end. I let it fly and the world becomes a blur.

Breathless, I bend over. Lightheaded, I breathe deeply. Fatigued, I haven't found the answer yet. But, a few things have become clear.

I'm not stymied. I'm not hemmed in. Nothing can stop me from moving forward but me.
I run because I have to move forward...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I run because I must finish....

Many sports end when time expires. Football, basketball, and soccer work this way. Get ahead and stay ahead before the clock runs out is standard operating procedure.

Running doesn't work that way. Everyone must cover a predetermined distance. No one can do it for you. Win or lose, everyone must finish.

You can't complete a race without covering the distance. Anyone who doesn't finish gets assigned the inordinately unsatisfying 'DNF'. This simply means 'did not finish'.

I've never been a fan of unfinished business. I am not a fan of loose ends. I like having closure. Mercifully, I've never experienced a 'DNF'.

I was not gifted with exceptional speed. I will never give any Kenyans a run for their money at any race. But, speed is not the only gift one can have.

I will suffer. I will bleed. I will do anything to finish. 

Finishing no matter what was the first lesson I learned as a runner. Slow, fast, plodding, or flying, finish the job. Sooner or later, you start to believe you can finish anything and endure anything.

Starting isn't easy, but it's a heck of a lot easier than finishing. When you start, you're usually well rested, well hydrated, and ready to go. No one feels terribly spry finishing.

Finishing demands fatigue. It demands discomfort, if not pain. Finishing demands that you endure.

There have been numerous races in which the fleeting thought of not finishing has crystallized. It's OK. You've worked so hard. You don't have to finish. There's nothing at stake here.

But, everything is at stake. These insidious voices with their messages of capitulation can lead you to your doom like a siren. Embrace this soothing voice and you inevitably will quit. You won't finish.

Like anything else, not finishing can become a habit. Suddenly, small bumps in the road become reasons to rationalize bailing out. Quitting becomes the norm.

So, I grimace and tell these voices to fuck off. I tell them that quitting isn't my bag. Quitting eventually leads to not starting.

I don't have to finish, but the emptiness of not finishing haunts. Finishing elicits a blinding, ecstatic rush of affirmation. I can fight. I can endure. I can finish. I can do anything.

I run because I must finish....

Saturday, October 18, 2014

I run because I have one last great race left in me...

It has been nearly two years since I laid it on the line. It has been nearly two years since I fell short. It was not the finish I envisioned.

Two years have passed.The bones groan more. Joints creak more.

My muscles complain more vociferously. Recovery requires more. Fatigue comes more quickly.

I can't stand toe to toe quite the same way. I don't have as many haymakers in me as I once did. I rarely feel spry.

I could let it go. Maybe I should. Maybe all of my bests are behind me.

I could live with that. But, I would also have to live with the knowledge that I didn't end things on my terms. I don't know if I can live with that.

Maybe something is left. The wheels can still turn. Sometimes I can coax them to fly.

Creaks and groans are abundant, but I can ignore them. I can filter them. They are just an annoyance.

I can still endure. I can still suffer. I can still fight. I can still fly.

Maybe there is something left. It may take everything I have. It may require things I have never done before.

Doing things you've never done before is part of what defines a runner. I am well acquainted with this territory. It's familiar.

There is at least a vague possibility that I have one last great race in me. This vague, faint, remote, half baked possibility keeps me on board. It keeps me coming back.

I run because I have one last great race in me.....

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I run because it all starts with a mile...

Running is too tough. It is painful. There is no way I can possibly do it. But, somehow, I run a mile.

There's no way I can run ten miles. It's an absurd distance. I will die. Screw it, I ran a mile once, I'll give this a shot. I pull off ten.

It's absurd to think I can leave my job. I can't do this on my own. I did knock off ten once long ago. I suppose I can at least consider brainstorming an exit plan. 

I'm too old to get back into running. Whatever gift I had left me long ago. I can't get back into that kind of shape again. The muscles will remember. I lace up. I find the me who still has the gift.

Make this decision and you will regret it. You will fail. Maybe, but I've conquered ten miles. I've won races. Most importantly, if I do not try, I will regret it for the rest of my life. I take a shot.

I can never catch him. He's too fast. I'm too old and too slow. I've come this far. I am not done yet. I catch him.

I get knocked down. I am bruised. I am battered. I can't take this any farther than I have.

Then I remember the time I ran a mile. I also remember the time I ran ten miles. I vaguely recall conquering 26.2.

I have a faint memory of qualifying for Boston. If memory serves, I also broke 3 hours for the marathon multiple times. It's a bit fuzzy, but I think I might have also run 50 miles at one point in time.

All of these journeys started with just a mile. I run because it all starts with a mile....

Saturday Recovery Run @ PSOAS (01/02/16)

Saturday's recovery run launches from outside 333 3rd Street between Folsom/Harrison.

If you need to use the restroom, change, and/or store some personal items, head up to PSOAS in Suite 205.

Here's a link to the course map-

Saturday's Recovery Run Course Map.

Here is a brief description of the course:

We will cross Folsom from 3rd Street onto the sidewalk and take a right. We will run along Folsom all the way to the Embarcadero. We will cross the street and take a left onto the Embarcadero.

Run along the Embarcadero past the Ferry Building. Look for the street sign for ‘GREEN’. This is a hair over 1.5 miles. Beginner runners turn around here and head back for 3 miles!

Continue running along the Embarcadero. Look for the Hillstone Restaurant on the LEFT side of the Embarcadero at Embarcadero/Bay. This is 2 miles. Intermediate runners turn around here and head back for 4 miles!

Continue running along the Embarcadero until it turns into ‘Jefferson’. Run along Jefferson to the intersection of Jefferson/Powell. Look for the CVS drugstore on the left. This is 2.5 miles. Advanced runners turn around here and head back for 5 miles!

Run through Fisherman’s Wharf right to the edge of Aquatic Park. Once you reach the cul-de-sac at the edge of Fisherman’s Wharf/Aquatic Park, you’ve logged 3 miles. Race level runners turn around and head back to PSOAS for 6 MILES!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I run because life changes....

Change is good. It's important to remind yourself of this because change is a constant companion in life. It's not going anywhere.

This knowledge doesn't necessarily make change any easier.  Change often arrives without an invitation. Change is usually an unwelcome guest.

Its arrival usually means discomfort. Sometimes it entails pain. Change can even bring heartbreak.

Survive the discomfort and pain associated with said change and you'll be stronger. You'll be more resilient. You'll be tougher.

But, discomfort and pain generally isn't fun, even if there is presumably something positive on the other side. Change can sting. Change can suck.

When change does suck, I seek a salve. Sometimes, it's a drink. Other times, it might be a massage.

However, the salve I find most effective for dealing with change is running. Running shares some common ground with change. There are more than a few parallels.

Running is often uncomfortable and painful at first. Only by enduring and adapting does this discomfort and pain wane. You have to change to get get better at running.

Running never gets easy, but it does get easier to manage. Each mile is a catalyst for change. The next run is almost inevitably easier to manage than the previous one.

Your heart gets stronger. Bones get tougher. Muscles become more resilient.

You are not the same runner you were yesterday. While the change from yesterday to today might be imperceptible, you are changed nevertheless.

It is only through embracing these changes and the work involved with them that you can move forward. Change enables you to run faster. Change enables you to run farther.

As the miles roll by, the scenery changes. My breathing changes. My heart rate changes. My sweat rate changes.

Running is an exercise in the constancy of change. I will never master it, but I can always get better at it.

I run because life changes....

Monday, October 13, 2014

I run because I feel like death warmed over...

Most experienced runners are pretty dialed into the messages their body sends them. This helps you manage your level of effort, pacing, and gives you an idea of when you can make a move on race day. But, sometimes your body sends you messages you really don't want to hear.

I received a few such messages from my body. An inexplicable fatigue washed over me. A tickle in the back of my throat appeared. I have been compromised.

An unwelcome visitor has taken up residence. I could blame my compromised immune system, but it's likely that I am the one who compromised it. I am the one to blame.

Running bolsters your immune system. But, that doesn't make you invincible. You can't burn the candle at both ends (and the middle) in perpetuity.

It's something I know, but sometimes I forget. Fortunately, the body is all too willing to remind me that it's time to dial it down. It's time to give it a rest.

Getting off the bed feels like a chore. Lucid thoughts are a bit more challenging than usual. I just want some coffee, but the steps required to make it suddenly seem complex and daunting.

The unwelcome visitor is making himself far too comfortable. I recognize there's little I can do to get rid of him aside from just riding this out. But, there are things I can do to encourage an abbreviated visit.

I seek out whatever I can to bolster my now feeble immune system. Chicken soup, ginger ale, vitamin C, and Nyquil are but a few items on the list. But, it's not enough.

I still feel like crap. I still feel like death warmed over. It's time to do the one thing that will make me feel vaguely human.

It's an act that is completely counter intuitive. It's an act that most would balk at given the circumstances. I go for a run.

I recognize this will temporarily compromise my already enfeebled immune system, but I don't care. The first few miles feel hellacious.

But, then something miraculous happens. The rhinovirus induced fog lifts a bit. The blanket of fatigue I was covered in grows threadbare.

I visualize my unwelcome visitor writhing in pain and agony. He's not staying in the Four Seasons. He's checked into Motel Hell.

His host is hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable. No one in their right mind would want to linger long. So, I keep running.

It's a short jaunt, but the fresh air, sweat, and elevated heart rate has served as a tonic of sorts. I don't have illusions I am now healthy, but I feel at least vaguely human again.

The unwelcome visitor hasn't left, but a message has been fired across his bow. You can slow me down. You can contain me. But, you can't stop me.

I run because I feel like death warmed over....


Sunday, October 12, 2014

I run because I am a caveman...

I pay my taxes. I hardly ever get a ticket. I generally abide by the law.

I do my best to not offend. I bathe most of the time. I'm generally pretty civilized. 

I appreciate the comforts and conveniences that modern, civilized life affords. Getting a chilled beverage anytime I want never gets old. I love streaming videos on my laptop.

But, after a day filled with conveniences, climate controlled spaces, and innumerable comforts, I sometimes get uneasy. I get a bit antsy. It wasn't that long ago that I did without all of these things.

I was once a wild man. I was once a knuckle dragger who roamed far and wide for all I needed. Everything was a struggle.

Every meal was hard fought. Every drop of water I drank was possibly my last. There were no chilled beverages to be found.

The caveman life was devoid of the comforts and conveniences I have today. It was a tough, hard life. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

The caveman was mangy, smelly, and not very eloquent, but he had other things going for him. The caveman was tough. He was the personification of grit.

He had to be tough. He had to have grit in order to survive. Without the aforementioned, the caveman likely never would have knuckledragged his way into a climate controlled condominium.

When I run, I honor the caveman. I pay homage to the tough troglodyte I once was who endured, who weathered the countless inconveniences and discomforts life presented every day. He never quit because death was likely the result if he did.

As wonderful as my civilized life may be, chilled beverages and streaming videos can never take the place of fresh air, the smell of eucalyptus, and the thrill of adventure the outdoors provides.

The caveman knows this. He craves this. Me running a few miles each day is the least I can do to honor the mangy, smelly, grunting barely human beast that kept hope for humans alive.

I head out without headphones, watches, or any real knowledge of how far I'm going or exactly where I am going. It's how the caveman runs. I run because I am a caveman.

Friday, October 10, 2014

I run because it is where I find the warrior...

There are many versions of me. There's the me that my family and a few close friends know. Then there's the me that the general public might know.

There's also the me behind closed doors that most never see. The armor comes off. The guard comes down.

The me most people don't see is not always a bastion of confidence. This me can be vulnerable, scared, or anxious. Sometimes, this me has no idea know what to do.

There's a reason why this me only comes out behind closed doors. The soft underbelly is exposed. I don't want anyone to see it.

I'm not a fan of this version of me. This me rarely does any favors. It often just derails.

This me gives voice to the innumerable half baked, irrational fears one can imagine. Left to its own devices, it runs amok. It sees little but shortcomings and failures.

Not surprisingly, I don't like spending a lot of time with this version of me. It's critically important to keep this me regulated and controlled. This me needs to be on a short leash at all times.

When this me is running roughshod, I do the only thing I know how to. I head outside. I leave it behind.

The insidious voices of doubt and fear become faint. The behind closed doors me has a hard time telling me I am weak when I am running more than ten miles per hour. So, I push the pace.

The anxiety drains away. The chinks in the armor are filled. Another version of me emerges.

This me is strong. It is confident. It does not back down.

This me balks at doubt, fear, and anxiety. It knows that all of these things can be overcome. This me is a warrior.

The warrior knows that setbacks and failure may happen again, but as long as you keep moving forward, you can never truly be defeated.

Armor is polished. Spears are sharpened. The battle is rejoined.

The warrior knows actions speak louder than words. It is easy to cower behind closed doors, give voice to irrational fears, and do nothing.

The warrior knows it is through action that things get done. It is through the act of moving forward, that one conquers.

The behind closed doors me cowers before the warrior who stares fear in the face. 

I run because it is where I find the best version of me....

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Saturday Long Run @ Lake Merced (4/4/15)

We're rendezvousing at Lake Merced this Saturday!

Saturday’s Lake Merced Run Course Map!

Specifically, we are meeting at the HUGE parking lot on the NORTH SIDE of Lake Merced. Here's a link to the rendezvous point for your reference-

North Parking Lot of Lake Merced

This run is pretty straightforward. EVERYONE will do a full loop around the circumference of Lake Merced in a clockwise direction. There is a path that runs all the way around Lake Merced, so this should be manageable for everybody.

Roughly halfway through the loop around Lake Merced (2-2.5 miles), there is a port-a-potty and a couple water fountains if you need to make a pit stop.

After 2-2.5 miles, there is a decent stretch where you will be running slightly uphill, so pace yourself accordingly.

After completing a full loop of Lake Merced, you will have logged 4.5 MILES. Once you've finished a full loop around Lake Merced, head NORTH on Sunset Boulevard There is a path that runs parallel to Sunset Boulevard on the LEFT. This is where you want to run.

The cross streets are 'roughly' alphabetical so pay close attention to the cross streets as you are running. Continue running up Sunset.

Eventually, you will reach the intersection of Sunset & Irving. Beginner runners will turn around here and head back to the Lake Merced parking lot for 9 MILES!
Eventually Sunset runs underneath an overpass (this is Lincoln you are running underneath) and right into Martin Luther King. Take a LEFT on Martin Luther King and run to the intersection of Martin Luther King & Chain of Lakes Drive East. Intermediate runners will turn around here and head back to Lake Merced for 10 MILES!

Advanced and Race level runners will turn RIGHT on Chain of Lakes Drive East. Continue on Chain of Lakes Drive East for roughly 1/4 of a mile until you reach the intersection of Chain of Lakes Drive East/JFK. Turn RIGHT on to JFK and continue for roughly 1/2 a mile until you see Lake Spreckles on your LEFT. Advanced runners will turn around here and head back to Lake Merced for 11 MILES!

Race level runners will continue along JFK past Lake Spreckles until you reach the intersection of JFK/Transverse. This is a controlled intersection with a four way stop. There is a water fountain on the left. Turn around here and head back  to Lake Merced for 13 MILES!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

I run because I am Marathon Matt....

Having adopted the moniker 'Marathon Matt', you might think I run all the time. You might think my thirst for the sport is unquenchable. You might be wrong.

Even on a good day, it's unusual for me to run more than a couple hours. This is a far cry from the 24 hours some people think I spend running on a daily basis. 

There are days when I feel like I can barely walk, let alone run. Sometimes it's a mental thing. Other times, the body just doesn't feel happy.

I have to dig deep to find the motivation to get out and log a few miles. I know I'm not in exclusive company, but 'Marathon Matt' should never lack for motivation to run. Yet, I do.

I am just Matt sometimes. Matt is mortal. He's imperfect.

I aspire to live up to the moniker I've adopted, but I fall short sometimes. I don't always feel like it's who I am. At these times when I feel like a fraud, I do the only thing I know how to do.

I bluff. I throw on my poker face, my hat, shirt, arm warmers, shorts, and sunglasses. I might as well dress the part.

I take a deep breath and imagine I am Marathon Matt. What would Marathon Matt do? The answer comes slowly.

He would show up and run. He'd shake off the funk. He would find a way.

Marathon Matt would grit his teeth and get the job down. Doubts and fears would be cast aside. The legs would turn over and miles would pass.

As I reluctantly open the door, I visualize him gliding over road and trail. He's undaunted. I see him pushing forward despite the absence of running mojo. 

Sweat pours down his face as he grinds his way up a stout hill. He reminds himself that it's just a developmental opportunity. 

The rain pours down, but he doesn't stop. The wind howls, but he doesn't fold. He smiles when presented with these new developmental opportunities.

Fatigue creeps in. He continues. The wheels slow a bit. He continues.

Through it all, Marathon Matt doesn't stop. He doesn't capitulate. He keeps moving forward.

I head outside. I take a few steps. Then, I run a few. A mile passes.

It's not my best day. But, I'm running. It's what Marathon Matt would do.

I run because I am Marathon Matt...

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

I run because showing up eventually pays off...

More than a decade ago, I used to get my ass kicked religiously at the track. It was a weekly ritual performed by one man. John executed this ritual with no remorse.

Each week, I showed up with confidence that I was getting stronger. I was getting faster. Surely, I would close the gap on him.

Without fail, John would turn me back in a seemingly effortless fashion. The evening would end with me scarred and humbled, but not entirely defeated. I still clung to the vain hope that things might change.

I just had to keep showing up. It was one of the first and possibly most important lessons I learned as a runner. Keep showing up. Good things will eventually happen.

But, my faith was wavering. John was an animal, a machine, a cyborg. Doubts crept into my mind after months of getting my ass handed to me.

I kept showing up in lieu of any other idea. I could keep him within striking distance for awhile. Then he would decide to really run and the delusional idea that I had a shot at keeping up with him disintegrated.

Months passed. Little changed. Perhaps the lesson I had learned years ago was simply a lie.

Track night came around again. I toed the line and we were off. I fought earnestly to keep John in my sights.

I kept him close, but there were still many intervals to go. I knew he was just getting warmed up and I was giving about as much as I could. This evening felt no different than any other.

The remaining intervals unfolded in a blur. Gassed and gasping, the coup de grace remained. I knew what would happen next.

The final interval started and John decided to really run. Within seconds he had an enormous gap on me. I rolled my eyes.

Here we go again. I trained my gaze on his legs. They turned over at a feverish, frenetic pace. I was doing what I could, but he seemed light years away.

I headed through the straightaway into the final lap of the evening. My coach uttered a few words, 'Go get him, Matt.'

Something happened. Buttons were pushed. I wasn't done yet.

I threw my head back and took a deep breath. John might beat me again tonight, but I wasn't going down without a fight. He would have to bleed to win.

I had 300 meters to go and he was easily 50 meters in front of me. But, it wasn't over yet. I shifted into the highest gear I could find.

I was running on fumes. I was laboring. I was gasping. But, John was getting closer.

I approached the final turn and John could hear me. He glanced over his shoulder and a look of disgust washed over his face. He knew I wasn't backing down.

We hit the final straightaway and I pulled even with him. He picked it up. So, did I.

With barely 50 meters to go, we both laid it on the line. Neither of us was willing to give an inch. The finish was just a few strides, a few seconds away.

We careened across the line in a dead heat. I hadn't beaten him. But, he hadn't beaten me.

The seed of doubt had been planted in his mind. What little hope I had to gain on him began to grow.

I would show up the following week. I would show up the week after that. I would show up every week thereafter.

I run because showing up eventually pays off...

Monday, October 06, 2014

I run because it's how you survive a horror movie.

I had a real penchant for horror as a kid. I saw Psycho 2 when I was 7 or 8 years old. I was a fan of Alfred Hitchock and Edgar Allan Poe.

I easily could have been a member of the Addams family. I just gravitated towards the morbid, dark, and scary. To be clear, gore was not my thing. The supernatural was more my thing.

There were many valuable lessons I learned from horror flicks over the years. It's generally a bad idea to move into a house near a cemetery, indian burial ground, etc. Bad things will happen.

Bad things happen no matter what, but REALLY bad things happen when you mess around with the deceased. It's just bad karma.

Drinking and/or smoking weed is pretty much the kiss of death. It's the kind of transgression that all but guarantees death. It's not a question of 'if', but 'when'. The horror tropes demand it.

Engaging in sexual intercourse simply dooms you. Even heavy petting, groping, or fondling can get you killed in a horror movie. Survival here is slim to none.

So, if you kept your pants on, didn't get too high and/or too drunk, you had a pretty good shot at pulling through. But, avoiding the aforementioned was still not a guarantee of survival.

The only one sure fire way to survive a horror film was to simply run like hell. Run as fucking fast and as hard as you possibly can. Run as if your life depends on it because it does.

It was these initial, formative experiences I had as a child that framed the runner I would become. I always ran like Michael Myers was right behind me. What other possible way would one run if this were the case?

Every dog barking in the distance is a hound of hell. Naturally, I would run like hell to avoid the hounds that reside there. What kind of moron wouldn't?

Decades later, I run. I run because Jason is still out there. I don't trifle with comfortable, conversational pace much because Freddy isn't dead. I run like hell because the hounds are nearly upon me and I am hopelessly outgunned.

I run because it's how you survive a horror movie.....

Sunday, October 05, 2014

I run because I love being a filthy mess...

I yearn to be clean and tidy. But, clean and tidy is a gift I don't have. Maybe I will develop it one day, but I doubt it.

If you spend most of your hours running, recovering from running, or preparing to run, things can get messy. Things can get dirty. Chaos can rule.

Filthy socks are strewn on the floor of my car. Empty bottles of coconut water roll around in the backseat. Dirt is a constant bedfellow.

Random bags of flour for marking trails roll around haphazardly in the trunk. Nubs of chalk bang around in my cup holders. Used sanitizing wipes float around among the detritus.

Sweat stained shirts lie on the floor. Mud caked shoes hang out near the front door. Used GU packets are in every pocket.

My car is a pungent melange of eclectic odors. It's a potent mix of sweat, dirt, and spilled beverages. There may even be a faint hint of brownie brittle or somersault snacks.

This is on a good day. On a bad day, it is a maelstrom of messiness. It is a symphony of stank.

I could be embarrassed by this mess. I should be ashamed. Sometimes I am.

But, I have long since come to the realization that all of the aforementioned accoutrement is just part of being a runner.

Running gets dirty. It gets messy. It can get ugly. It can even get bloody sometimes.

If you're a fan of clean and tidy, you probably aren't a runner. Running will disappoint you. It will introduce chaos.

But, it will also introduce fitness. It will introduce confidence. It will introduce transcendence.

Being neat and tidy is great, but if running provides the aforementioned on the regular, I can live with being a slob.

I run because I am a filthy mess....

Saturday, October 04, 2014

I run because the dark side lurks...

I was a problem child. I got into fights a lot. I was far too familiar with the principal's office.

My dark side made appearances not infrequently. It was hard to predict what would happen when it showed up. But, bad things always happened.

I got hurt. People got hurt. I didn't like my dark side. It always got me into trouble.

My dark side scared me. I didn't understand it. When it showed up, the light side ceased to exist.

Eventually, my anger would result in the serious injury of a classmate. I was terrified. I wasn't a monster, but I had done something monstrous.

I hid my dark side away. I would endure any insult. I would let people beat me up.  I wouldn't let my dark side out again.

But, you can't get rid of you dark side. You can try. You can pretend.

The anger turned inward. The dark side gnawed at me. It snarled at me.
It told me I was a monster.

For years, the anger was bottled up. It was contained. It simmered impatiently just beneath the surface.

I didn't know what to do with it. I didn't know what I could do with it. This beast still owned me.

Running would find me. I would find it to be the yin to the dark side's yang. It soothed the beast. It calmed it.

I would also discover that running provided an outlet. In the latter stages of the race, I would take the leash off. Unleashed, the beast ran wild.

A furious cry from the depths of my soul erupted. The beast was loose and it was hungry. I would explode and claim countless runners en route to the finish.

The beast's snarling subsided. It had been fed. It was soothed, if only temporarily.

For the first time in my life, the beast helped me. My dark side took over, but it had empowered me. It gave me what I needed to finish the job.

I still keep my dark side on a short leash. I only let it run loose on special occasions. It smiles when I do and thanks me by letting me run faster and further than I ever thought I could.

I run because the dark side lurks....

Friday, October 03, 2014

I run because I am an artist...

Steve Prefontaine once said, 'Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, 'I've never seen anyone run like that before.' It's more than just a race, it's a style. It's doing something better than anyone else. It's being creative.'

I've dabbled in the arts, but I'd never consider myself an artist. I've done my fair share of writing, but don't consider myself a writer. As far as music goes, a few piano lessons when I was five years old is the extent of my musical career.

The nature of being a small business owner requires no shortage of creativity. The wheels are always turning and I am never at a loss for ideas. That doesn't make me an artist.

But, running can be artistry. Just as an actor rehearses his or her lines in preparation for a performance, I notch miles in preparation to toe the line. Each mile is a recitation of lines. Each run is a dress rehearsal.

The best stories are filled with great characters and no shortage of drama. Such is the case with a great race. Every race provides and opportunity to craft an incredible story.

Every race contains an infinite number of gripping tales. There are those coming back from heartbreaking injuries. Some are cleansing their palate from a disappointing finish from the not so distant past. Others are fighting desperately for a personal best.

There is artistry in executing an excellent race. You train, rehearse, and hope the stars align on the day you need them to. It's similar to being a Broadway performer. You've got one shot at it.

Nailing your pacing is akin to nailing your lines. Making moves and throwing in surges at various stages is not unlike blocking in theater. It can make or break a race. It can enhance the drama or detract from it.

The best races are great works of art. The audience fortunate enough to view a great race is witnessing the culmination of countless miles. Innumerable brushstrokes and dress rehearsals behind the scenes led to this one singular moment. 

I'm fortunate to have numerous masterpieces in my gallery. My first time qualifying for Boston was a drama drenched affair rife with pain, setbacks, and ecstasy at the finish line. More than ten years later I would run Boston and it was an emotional symphony of catharsis.

I likely won't ever ever paint anything that will hang on a gallery wall. Nor will I perform on Broadway. But, that doesn't mean I'm not an artist.

I run because I am an artist...

Thursday, October 02, 2014

I run because I love taper..

Most people loathe taper. Questions bubble to the surface. Second guessing, self-doubt, and anxiety tend to run rampant.

There's a tendency to dwell on missed runs, missed workouts, and missed chances. Minutiae is examined and scrutinized. The significance of any misstep is over ascribed.

The recognition that perfection was not achieved haunts. The desire to make amends at the eleventh hour creeps in. Irrational acts are sometimes committed.

I've seen normally sane, rational people do unspeakably inexplicable things while in taper. Taper can loosen one's grip on sanity. Taper is an albatross for most.

For me, taper has always been a gift. It's a reward. It's a vacation at the end of a long and arduous journey.

When I wake up flat with no interest in running, it's the taper on the horizon that keeps me going. When fatigue permeates every fiber of my being, it's the knowledge that taper is close that keeps me on my feet. Taper is a blessing.

The arrival of taper is blissful. Sedentary and perhaps even slothful behavior is tolerated in taper. Taper includes additional sleep and no shortage of naps.

While my diet is never as great as it should be, I'm a bit more self-indulgent during taper. I've earned it. Cheeseburgers may appear a bit more frequently during taper.

Kinks that have been neglected get the attention they need. Adhesions get broken down. General maintenance is performed.

Rather than dwell on shortcomings in my training, I revel in the successes. I've worked hard. I've done the work.

In the waning days of taper, I sharpen my mental spear. I read about Ernest Shackleton. I seek stories of those who have battled incredible odds and overcome.

I will soon be confronted with a battle of my own. It's one I am ready to win. I run because I love taper...

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

I run because the finish line approaches....

I'm neck deep in this one. The fatigue weighs on me like a ton of bricks. Each stride feels like a jarring body blow.

The insidious voices of doubt make their presence known. They are not welcome. I take a deep breath and do my best to ignore them.

I glance to my left. I am not alone in my suffering. A glance to my right provides further confirmation. Misery loves company.

My peripheral vision begins to fade. Unfortunate, but I don't need it now. My focus needs to be exclusively on what lies ahead.

Single minded focus is what is required at this juncture. Simply keep moving forward. The wheels labor, but keep turning.

The investment just to get here has been non-trivial. Minutes, miles, hours, days, weeks, and months have been banked in preparation for this. This will pay dividends.

The ton of bricks weighing me down becomes two. The voices of doubt become a bit more vociferous. How do I get through this?

I've been here before. I've conquered pain before. I've slogged through quagmires of fatigue before. I've done this before.

The wheels keep turning. I gaze off in the distance for any indication the end is nigh. There is none to be found.

I glance at the ground. It flies beneath me in a blur. Sooner or later, this will come to an end. It must.

I throw my head back and glance skyward. I mouth a silent prayer to the running gods. I've given so much to them. I beg them to smile on me one last time.

My focus comes back to the horizon and the sign I've been looking for is there. The final mile is upon me. But, it's too much.

A mile is an eternity. A mile might as well be ten given the load I'm carrying. I can feel the wheels coming off.

I'm perilously close to the edge. My body is throwing red flags all over the place. My world is a seething cauldron of fatigue.

Just maintain. Just regulate. Just don't stop.

It's mere minutes away. I can't see it, but it's there. It's anxiously awaiting my arrival.

I run because the finish line approaches....