Tuesday, May 13, 2014

100 Races & 50 Lessons Along The Way

As I celebrate my 100th race (#rundred) this Saturday at the Brooklyn Half, I am going to gradually add some thoughts here about the many little lessons I have learned along the way since I quit smoking on 12/1/06 and started running. Here are 50 in case any of them help. Feel free to add yours.

1. The more you run, the faster you get.

2. You can accomplish anything in life if you do this.

3. Don't worry about post-race letdowns and temporary loss of purpose. It is natural. You may run for a loved one and PR and pour everything in your being into that race, and then feel a little empty in the days and weeks after. But just stay light of heart. Help others, take the opportunity to do yardwork or new things. Sign up for another scary marathoner or half. Schedule a destination race. Things out of your control will happen along the way so just take a deep breath and don't worry.

4. Relax your arms and lean slightly forward over your heels. Think about it often every mile.

5. Wash your running gear in cold water on delicate, and then hang up everything and lay socks flat to dry. Never use a dryer on your running gear. I only hand-washed in a kitchen sink my first couple of years, but gradually I realized that delicate cycle on wash is fine. I learned a hard lesson when I developed a huge blister on the ball of my foot for the last 10 miles of the 2010 Miami Marathon, due to a raised seam caused by drying a pair of socks in a dryer. Don't waste your money on that crappy and smelly sport-wash, either. Just regular Tide.

6. Drink water constantly. On race week, a water bottle should be an extension of your arm.

7. Wear the right shoes, and for me those are neutral ASICS. Don't experiment too much unless you like injuries, and always get running shoes a half-size longer than your usual shoes. No exception. Get the video gait analysis, but don't forget to have someone check your arches -- overlooked by too many.

8. Seize the moment. How do you think I got the @marathoner account on Twitter? Go after it early.

9. Be proud and loud. Support others and let others support you. I joined the Big Cat Runners Group on myspace before everything went to FB & TW & IG, and it made all the difference in the world backing each other. It still does. Use #runchat. Put a 26.2 sticker on your car.

10. You are inspiring someone. If that is just one person, then that is important enough. I have fed off of hearing from people I never knew that they were inspired to run, and one such example was a runner who I met in the 2008 Knickerbocker 60K ultra at Central Park. He had been a commenter on  my blog, and he was so moved to run that he started running ultras as well. It was such a pleasure to meet him and run with him.

11. Running is 80% mental, 10% mileage and 10% nutrition.

12. Carry those little salt packets you get at restaurants, and bring along salty pretzels and crunch them up. Salt = No Cramps.

13. I run better in the rain than in anything. I am focused and determined, less distracted. And it doesn't matter because I am sweating through my tech gear anyway, so who cares?

14. Find a good mantra for every race. Right now I'm going with "Everything Forward" thanks to Coach Andrew Kastor.

15. Eat oatmeal.

16. You are adding years to your life. I know that I have added a good five to 10 since I changed from smoker to runner in 2006. I have perfectly clean lungs and I am strong.

17. Everything about you looks better, from your hair to your toes. Well, OK, not your toes.

18. Ask a Kenyan some questions. After a New York Road Runners race several years ago, I approached the winner who had just come off the awards stand in the postrace festival. "Is there any advice you can give someone like me who is trying to get better as a runner?" I asked him. He said: "Practice hard and race easy." It reinforced the commitment that I needed at that time to my solitary mileage, and his point was that you're prepared so it should be natural running during the big day.

19. Finish times are overrated. Finishing is what matters.

20. Unless you are headed for the Olympics, don't be over-concerned with your times. If you spend your life in BQ stress mode, re-evaluate. I see it all the time. Be balanced in life. My marathon finishes are typically over 5 hours, and ASICS approached me to run for them. Running companies are looking to expand their reach through social media, and your ability to blog is not completely ancillary to your ability to run.

21. Finishing is not only important in running, but in all things in life. As you finish incredible hard endurance races, you realize that you can finish other things as well.

22. You have energy for your whole day. You excel in the workplace. You are creative. You are a machine.

23. You can eat cupcakes because you are a fat-burning factory smokestack that is unstoppable.

24. Be positive and not a pet-peever. There have been times when I wanted to rant about busted running etiquette that I have encountered, but I almost always just move on. Running is a positive condition of life. Not a negative one. I don't need your negativity in my world and you don't need mine, so let's be positive.

25. Running gives you courage and confidence. It makes you adventurous, like Teddy Roosevelt in the Amazon or Captain Cook. I am talking that adventurous. It led me to definitely "date up" and I met Lisa in NYC and proposed to her at the finish line of the New Jersey Marathon and we bought a house and are living happily ever after.

26. Never look at the crest of a hill. Pull the bill of your cap down just enough so you only see a little in front of you, enough to run safely. Count backwards from 100.

27. Don't let yourself think you are hot if it is a hot race. I learned that from Ryan Hall the morning before the ASICS LA Marathon. He said he never lets himself think he is hot while running, because once he gives in he will keep repeating that he is hot. Apply that to other conditions as well.

28. Live in the mile you're in. When running a marathon, don't think of the big picture and how many miles to go. Focus on that mile you are in and make the most of it, savor it, because there is no going back. During the ASICS LA Marathon in March, I spent several blocks around mile 11 actually running on top of the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and it is all I thought about for that stretch.

29. Easier on your legs to pound packed-dirt paths than pavement. Give your legs that break when you can. When training at Central Park, I usually run the bridle path instead of the standard 6.2 pavement loop.

30. Blog. The best thing about it is the archived chronicles of your own running that you can refer back to later in your running days. It comes in really handy, as it is for me now with No. 100.

31. Consider a hill as a chance to use other muscles for the first time in a race. I learned this from Deena Kastor in training for the 2014 ASICS LA Marathon. I am still trying to master this one, but anything she says is gold so I would listen, too!

32. Train with music and race with nature. I remember the widespread fear so many race organizers had of the new iPod craze in 2007. Where was this going? We have proven the ability to mix running and music. Just make sure you don't miss the beauty of a marathon or a half, which is your support and your surroundings. I wear my music for marathons only to fill in solitude stretches with jams.

33. During a taper, be aware of your caloric intake, because with the reduced mileage you don't want to gain too much weight before a race. Adding a pound or two is natural and good. See my 5 Questions With Michelle Lovitt, the ASICS Fitness Expert.

34. Body Glide. I had a bloody nipple during the hot 2007 Oklahoma City Half before I knew what Body Glide was, and I've experienced some awful chafing in other runs. The only time I have a problem is when I forget Body Glide.

35. Stretch. I don't stretch as much as I used to, but I still like to stretch after my first mile of a training run, when I'm heated up. Then I try to do some cooldown stretching afterwards. Thoughts have changed a lot on stretching since I started running. For me, it's still important.

36. Join your local running club. I was very fortunate to have New York Road Runners in my immediate world, and I joined the day I bought my first box of ASICS. I have renewed my membership each year and we have expanded it to a family membership and this year added Rachel as a third member. I run at least nine scored races with one volunteer assignment each year, to qualify for guaranteed entry into the next year's TCS New York City Marathon, because you don't want to rely on the lottery.

37. Gu. For me it is always Plain, Chocolate Outrage, Vanilla or Espresso.

38. It's OK to walk if you have to. It's about finishing. My goal at NYRR races has always been "station to station" - run to the fluid station, walk the length of it as I sip, and then resume running. There are times when I don't want to stop my flow because I don't want my heart rate to drop, and I rarely stop at a final fluid station because there is no chance for your body to absorb the water before you finish anyway.

39. From spring through fall, there is no need to bring liquids with you to Central Park. I know where every water fountain is along the way, just as I know where every bathroom is. And if I want a Gatorade, I'll stop at one of the many vendor trucks next to the running path and get one. Run free there, don't carry!

40. Do hill repeats. They really make you strong and fast. My best races have been after hill repeats.

41. There is no such thing as weather. We just went through the most brutal winter I ever could imagine in New York, but a trip to Paragon Sports in the city to buy an ASICS Storm Shelter jacket immediately took care of a big issue so that I could run Central Park in a freezing drizzle and overcome anything.

42. Write your name in magic marker on your arms or somewhere during a marathon so spectators can shout your name as you move by them. It can be a huge pick-me-up.

43. Travel is more fun. Three words: MARATHON DE PARIS.

44. You get to help others. Someone you know is fundraising right now. Our NYRR events often are helping an important cause, so you know your race entry fee is going somewhere meaningful.

45. Because pale yellow pee.

46. Use common sense when running near automobiles. They will always win any collision, and you have no way to control whether they are texting or otherwise distracted. We have seen tragedy when there was nothing else a runner (Meg) could do. Accidents are happening too often now. Wear reflective gear, and bottom line is don't take chances and put your life in the hands of a random bad driver.

47. Let yourself be coached. I was amazed by what I learned from Coach Kastor this past winter. You might want to try out the new Pear Sports app, too, as Coach Kastor and other experts help you train on that.

48. Choose "No Bag Check" if you are running the TCS New York City Marathon. I have done it both ways, and the new feature of no bag check is far more enjoyable. You get a comfy parka at the finish line and you don't have to herd like cattle for a bottleneck mile in the cold to get to a baggage truck.

49. Watch "Spirit of the Marathon."

50. Visualize your whole race at least once and ideally more. I love to watch the youtube videos where someone has done a fast-motion virtual tour of the entire race course, whether it's New York's five boroughs or the myriad neighborhood turns through Miami. Then it is muscle memory when you run. And you just power your way through the course and grab the bling and hold your head up proudly and be happy your are running.


Chad ontheNorthCoast said...

Congratulations! That's a great milestone!

Mark Newman said...

Really appreciate that, Chad! Happy Running sir.