by Harold Shaw
Let’s think for a minute - for the year 2020 we all probably had goal races, big plans and were going to accomplish many of them.
Basically, my goals in 2020 were to race more than I have in a long time, well as long as the old body held up to the demands of training for an October 18th super-secret race. Unfortunately, like most of you, back in March I put all those great plans, goals, or whatever you want to call them...well to be blunt I and most other runners I know threw most everything out the window when....
The Coronavirus pandemic happened.
Which largely ended many of our plans for spring racing and restarting of Strider group runs (thank you Sapan, Jordan, & Julie), where members were beginning to enjoy the camaraderie of being around our friends or meeting new friends through running again.
Unfortunately, the way things look now this pandemic has also put both the summer and possibly/probably the fall racing and schedule for any major races in jeopardy, along with Strider plans for group runs as well. This most likely means that our running will not be about preparing for racing (other than virtual races) or spending time running together anytime soon.
All those plans, goals and motivation to run - gone...so what are we supposed to do now?
Keep running of course.
Okay, enough whining about COVID 19, it is here, we are dealing with it and we have choices:
Okay, if you are reading this newsletter and are a Strider, #1 is not the answer you are looking for. I don’t know about you, but if I stopped doing the things I still can do, I would gain 20-30 pounds over the next few months and become unhealthy again. Like most of us I have worked too hard to go back to that lifestyle.
#2 is appealing to many of us, constantly training for races either believing that they will probably be canceled or turned into virtual races just doesn’t work for most of us. It will probably only result in injury or burn-out.
Unfortunately, without being too negative, I just don’t see major races happening until there is a vaccine or some miracle cure comes along from the good people over at Colby - which means no major races in 2020. However, I am hopeful that there might be some smaller local races allowed in the fall.
For me, the choice was easy #3.
Base Building - Building a good mileage base is crucial for running better - just the way it is. Putting in the miles necessary to be in shape before the training that we will be doing for races in the future is a great investment in our running - call it prep work. Especially since there is no pressure to perform or get ready for a race anytime soon, we can increase our mileage to higher levels at a healthy progression, versus the usual do too much too fast and finally get off the injured merry-go-round that many of us ride.
Weaknesses - We all have them and yes, we hate to admit it. Whether they are strength training, yoga, pre and post-run routines, improving running form, our diet, learning more about different training methods, attempting something new versus the same old same old that we always have done, looking at changes to running shoes and of course learning more about the mental side of running.
So much to do and so little time...well we have a little more time now to take a look at those weaknesses and make changes or turn them into strengths.
Staying Healthy - Running, in my opinion, does help to improve our health both physically, mentally and, from what I have read lately, probably helps improve the immune system as well. However, in these uncertain times, too much of a good thing can also be detrimental to our health. This is probably not the time to be doing Yasso 800s, 20+ mile training runs, 12x400 at mile race pace, or any of those myriads of workouts we runners do that leave us totally drained and may weaken our immune system at a time when we need it to be at its best.
Personally, I have taken the conservative approach and am attempting to limit my mileage to 25-35 miles a week, with most of the runs at the comfortable effort level, not a certain pace. Once or maybe twice a week, I might go ahead and do a comfortably hard run, but very little running at harder paces and then that is usually by accident. Also, I have limited my longer runs to 6-8 miles. Could I do more - sure, but at this point, I want to be healthy more than I want to increase my speed or mileage.
I know this does seem to conflict with my comments on base building, but if/when I decide to increase my base mileage I can do it intelligently and still be healthy.
Having Fun - How many of us take our running so seriously that we forget that for most of us running is not our day job and we need to look closer at why we run and if we need to make changes to make it a more positive part of our lives. Many of us plan, tinker, read about, study our training logs for trends, pour over graphs, charts and summaries of our recent efforts and we forget that our running is supposed to be something we enjoy...yeah fun, not yet another stressor in our lives.
Think about it, when was the last time you were out on a run where you stopped, looked around and thought to yourself “How lucky I am to be out doing this thing that I love!” Smiled a big smile, laughed out loud, then sheepishly looked around quickly to see who saw you laughing and still felt like the weight of the world has been thrown off your shoulders. If it has been a while you might want to think about what running really means to you. Running should not be another chore that we dread simply to get ready for another race - a means to an end.
Running can be so much more than that.
If you primarily run on the roads, maybe attempting some easier trails (there are several in the area), barefoot strides on grass, running at different times of the day, doing a scavenger hunt while running, stopping to take photos of odd, unusual or stunningly gorgeous scenes that you will see. There are many things that we can do while we are running to make it seem less like drudgery and more fun.
No, it does not always mean to be plugged into your music playlist either, it might be time to listen to nature’s music.
The reality is that
Runners run for many reasons and having the motivation of an upcoming race is great, although not being able to race is not the end of our running journey. Especially, when we are members of the Central Maine Striders because we are also a part of a larger running community that supports and helps each other with our running and often beyond running.
The next time you can - watch how children run. They do not run hunched over, their faces grim and focused on the ground in front of them as they gasp for air - you know like the guy in the photo below.
They run with joy, giggles and abandonment that we have forgotten in our efforts to be grown-up. Their heads are up, big grins and lots of laughter and yes, they do suddenly stop to look at the butterfly flitting around their heads or the thing crawling around on the grass. Maybe we need to lighten up and find some of that joy in our running and make running fun again.
At some point the pandemic will be under control enough so that racing and our training for those goals we have will return, but until it does we can keep running, smile more, remember to stop in the middle of a run and looking around thinking about the idea that “I get to run, versus I have to run” and yes, running can be fun.
Who knows maybe I will get to train for that super double-secret race on October 18th, but I don’t think that I will be holding my breath too long in hopes of it actually happening.
However, I do hope that we get to start up the Strider group runs as soon as we are allowed to. Although I have a feeling that those of us who are in the more at risk group for the Coronavirus will wait until things are even more calmed down.
Stay safe and be well
Jordan Castillo moved to central Maine a couple years ago. The first time he attended a Central Maine Striders meeting was last December. By the end of that meeting, he had been voted in as the new club Vice President. In his short tenure as the VP, he's organized several group runs (and brunches), started the club's Instagram account, and generally been one of the more energetic and enthusiastic club members. One weekend at brunch this winter, he shared the story of how he started running. It was such a great story that I asked him if he could write it up for the club webpage and newsletter. So, just in case you weren't at that brunch, here's Jordan's running story:
With confidence and excitement, he responded, “Yeah! Your younger brother is going to join, too! C’mon! It’ll be fun!”
Slowly, but surely, my brother and I began to see the results of our training. Three miles started to feel like a warm-up distance. I began to feel like I could slow my breath enough to even carry a conversation while running. The first time I finished a 13.1-mile run, I felt like a straight-up champion. Many times, my brother and I would join my dad’s running club for long runs on the weekends. The runners carried such an encouraging, infectious energy. They loved seeing young people like my brother and I training for a such a big race, and it was always motivating to hear their stories about running accomplishments and the goals they were setting for themselves.
As the weeks passed, I came to believe that finishing a marathon was actually possible—I just had to stick with the training plan and know that my body was capable of carrying me further than I could ever imagine.
Fast-forward to race day. I had barely slept because I was so nervous and excited. With my green singlet and black running shorts, I joined the other runners in the starting area. It was a clear, sunny day and 6,000 of us were about to embark on this 26.2-mile journey along the beautiful north shore of Lake Superior.
One of my strongest memories of the race is the feeling of camaraderie between my dad, my brother, and me. They always kept me focused on the goal, especially near the end when I felt more fatigued than ever and I began to seriously doubt whether I could finish. I also remember all the fans on the side of the road who encouraged us and handed out free water, Gatorade, salty snacks. Some of the fans even had water hoses to cool us off, and some were literally grilling on the side of the road and giving out hot dogs and hamburgers. There were so many moments during the race when I just felt rushes of gratitude and excitement from seeing all the fans. Crowd support makes such a huge difference!
Around mile 23, I started to hit “the wall.” Each step felt like it required ten times the normal amount of effort, and I felt all my muscles ache with each strike of the ground. I actually remember feeling angry and wondering why I was running the race in the first place. My brother was so good at reminding me that this race was possible and that we were going to make it to the end. I was in so much pain, so my brother’s encouragement made a huge difference.
Without a doubt, the final .2 miles of the race was the most agonizing, challenging part. I remember passing the 26th mile marker and thinking, “Wow! I’m done! We are at the finish line!” But the reality is that .2 miles is still .2 miles. It also didn’t help that there were still a few turns after mile 26, so I couldn’t even see the finish line until a minute or so after passing the final mile marker. When I eventually did see that finish line, though, I ran with everything I had.
“From Lakeville, Minnesota, we have Jordan and Spencer Castillo, about to finish their first Grandma’s Marathon!” The announcer was cheering us on, along with the hundreds of fans lining each side of the road. Those last few seconds of the race seemed to last an eternity, and I couldn’t believe that I was actually about to be done running those 26.2 miles. With a time of just under five hours, my brother and I crossed the finish line. My dad and brother were right there, and we grabbed each other with a sweaty, beautiful embrace. I felt a sudden rush of accomplishment, relief, pride, and overwhelming joy like I’d never felt before. At the age of 16, I had just finished my first marathon.
During the drive home, my Dad turned to my brother and me and blurted, “So, who’s ready for the next marathon?”
“Haha, are you kidding me? Too soon, Dad,” I answered. “Maybe in a month, you can ask me then.” And a few months later, my dad did, in fact, ask me about running Grandma’s Marathon again.
“Sure, why not,” I responded with a soft smile.
So, the next year, I ran my second Grandma’s Marathon. The year after that, I ran another marathon with my dad, and the year after that, too. Because of that initial nudge from my dad, I have been running long-distance consistently for 11 years now. I am proud to say that last month I completed my tenth marathon in Napa, California (with a PR of 3:29!), and in less than three months I will go back to where it all began to run Grandma’s Marathon again, this time with the intention of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
Thanks for sharing your running story with us, Jordan! We love the energy and enthusiasm that you've brought to the club.
If any of you would like to be featured in a "Meet Our Members" article, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd be more than happy to publish your running story and/or interview you.
by Harold Shaw
Over the past few years, I have bought far too many pairs of running shoes (about 20-25 pairs a year since 2012) - hoping or is that dreaming about the "right" shoes that will magically allow me to become the runner that I have always wanted to be.
A typical runner’s dream, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, as I have learned the expensive and hard way, there is no such thing as a pair of magical running shoes that are going to make you or I, a better runner. If you buy into that line of thinking you will spend a LOT of money searching for that magical shoe.
Besides, just like everyone else my body changes a little each year and what would have worked for me as a younger person, doesn’t work for me now. Those Asics Excalibur GT’s that I loved in the ‘80s would kill my feet now and so many other shoes that I have loved over the years would not work at all for me in the body that I have now.
This is something I think that we tend to overlook when we look at running shoes, how much our bodies do change as we get older. The reality is that it really doesn’t matter what our age is, our bodies are always changing whether we 25, 43, 62 or 75 and the type/style of running shoes we need constantly change as well.
What have I learned
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So think twice and then think again about what you are reading, watching or being told.
Over the years, I have learned that there are no magical running shoes (although some claim otherwise as the current controversy over the Nike Vapor Fly line shows) and that the best ways to improve as a runner are to focus more on:
Although I gotta admit that the wrong running shoes really do screw things up royally from time-to-time! The litany of injuries I have had over the years are a testament to bad shoe choices, training mistakes and just being stoopid.
Then you have the fun issue of when the brands update that style/model that you love and the new version is a different shoe than the one you loved. It sucks big time and happens all too often. Then we have to go out and start looking for a new running shoe all over again - it has happened to almost all of us who have been running for a while and yeah, it does suck.
The reality is that...
All runners are different, we have different likes, needs and wants from our running shoes and in today's world, most brands have a shoe that will satisfy that need.
The primary purpose of running shoes, in my opinion, is to protect our feet from the ground, tar, concrete, trail or whatever you are running on, which in turn allows us to run more safely or comfortably than without them (no I do not believe in running barefoot other than for drills - it doesn't work for most of us, especially in Maine in the Wintah).
While I believe that proper running shoes can make a difference (good or bad) for a runner, at the same time I strongly believe that I (and other runners) put too much emphasis on the importance of their running shoes and how much of a difference they actually make.
The biggest lesson I have learned over the past few years is that my running shoes are a lot less important to my running than what I am doing as a runner, but even so, I am ever hopeful that someday, I will find that running shoe that works for me and hope against hope that its updates continue to work for me.
Hmmm let me see what Running Warehouse has on sale this week. :-)
Yeah, I know I am an incorrigible running shoe geek. Hehehee