|These go to (size) 11.|
I’ve done most of my distance running with the Running Fit 501 team over the past year. I’ve met incredible people, run roads in Ann Arbor I never knew existed (like Sunset…ouch…or Harvard…super ouch), and learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of doing if I put my mind to it. The structure and atmosphere of the program was valuable to me this year, especially on those cold mornings when the last thing I really felt like doing was going outside.
|A little bridge on my first 10-miler|
The second most powerful run for me was my first 20 mile run. I was a solo runner for that one as well, but this time I had my dad alongside me on the bike, handing me gels and bananas and Gatorade, on a similar schedule to what I was planning for the Chicago Marathon, to simulate the race itself. The 20 mile run was incredible because it was the first time I KNEW I was capable of running a marathon, and because I shared it with my dad. Growing up, I was never very good at sports, although I was happy to participate. I know my parents and family are proud of me for many things in my life, but it was a neat experience to bang out a strong 20 miler there with my dad, it made me really happy and optimistic about the road ahead. Now he is running himself, and I couldn’t be happier to help him on his running odyssey.
It also didn’t hurt that the 20 miles I ran were almost entirely on the beautiful, dirt back roads of Ann Arbor Township. A2 Township is a community I work for in my day job as an urban planner. This fantastic community has always put a premium on natural features, agricultural and open space preservation. I’ve helped them many times in this regard. During my run I was able to experience the Township in a way I hadn’t before, and I saw…really witnessed…many charming attributes of the rural and natural environment of our area. You’d be amazed what you see when you ditch the headphones and go where the cars aren’t. You can easily find peace when you are at one with each gravelly footstep, each raindrop, and every deep breath you take as you crest another hill.
|At the NOLA finish for Strides for Hope|
If you’ve read “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, he details how the epic races run by the Tarahumara Indians are all about the connection to their friends, their heritage, and nature…it’s about honoring the fastest one amongst them and being truly happy for him, even if you’re the guy who came in second after 100 miles of running. To me, that’s incredible. It would be like the Yankees hoisting the Red Sox on their shoulders after an incredible game…not going to happen.
Not every run can be a special one, but in my mind, more of them should be. By shedding the trappings of strict pace requirements, by having only a loose idea of where I will end up running, and by simply enjoying the challenge and triumph of running, I’ve experienced running on a deeper level. I’ve even grown to love running with less and less gear, and lighter, more minimal shoes so that I can run more the way nature intended and I can feel the ground beneath my feet.
Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying I’m growing my hair out and heading solo into the mountains or anything. I’m just saying that, for me, the less pressure, drama, and competitiveness the better. I still need a training program, of course. I still need guidance, advice, and structure (and I am getting that support with Marie and P.R. Fitness). I’m opening my mind to other running experiences, though. In 2011, you might see me run everything from a trail half marathon to a tiny 5k to the Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon, to a major marathon like NYC or Chicago. In between, I’ll be looking for new ways to experience running. Running with my many friends in Ann Arbor will always be a part of that, but maybe those runs will be within something new. This year, though…I promise to branch out a bit, and cherish every opportunity to have new sensations, see new places, meet new people, and love running more than ever.