Sunday, October 26, 2014

RUN, It's OK.

By Meg McCarrick

Around the time that I realized not everyone ran, I also realized not everyone wanted to talk about running.  I know, head-scratcher.  I just can't help it, I feel compelled to discuss my runs for the week or a new PR or about what so-and-so did when we ran at such-and-such place. I very literally throw a hand over my mouth when I pass the two-minute mark of "run speak" with a non-runner.  Non-runners don’t care.  Very simply because they don’t understand.  Try explaining to someone who doesn’t run about a “good sore”, “natural buzz”, or shoes, pace, terrain, elevation.  Prepare for glazed eyes and an occasional nod or “uh-huh”.  Sometimes that response is out of kindness, sometimes jealousy, but I think mostly it’s just disinterest.  Recently, I have been taking special care to recognize the indifference of non-runners as just that.  Shut up about the race, ask about their kids.

Imagine running as this grand and hefty book, as old and worn as time itself.  This tome is made of sections ranging from weekend sidewalk trots to week long mountain sky runs.  A lot of people never open the book.  Once you choose to, it can be so overwhelming that you slam it shut and never look back.  But, for some of us, we start slowly at page one and witness a world that gives back just as much effort as we put in.  You can’t explain that feeling of enlightenment.  You have to experience it for yourself.  Once you do, your life does actually change.  No wonder it is challenging not to desperately share (or force upon? semantics) the stories of running.

Often, I am faced with the dilemma of telling the truth about my running.  I can’t make it out for drinks because I plan to run early the next day.  I can’t take the kids to the park right after school because I really need a shower.  That weekend might be bad for us, I'm still trying to get my run in and make it to a race to watch friends cross the finish line.  I didn’t grocery shop, I snuck a run in, and now I have to take both kids shopping or I might just trick them into eating an oversized portion of kale salad with the promise of popcorn later. 

Non-runners, NRs, all have the same basic war cry, “You are running too much!!!!!”  For those of you who have heard it before, we all know what we would like to say, and it is not usually nice.  Sometimes, criticism comes from parties that we can't just blow off.  I am talking about a spouse, parent, child.  

Let’s first look at the significant other.  Sure, needing to depend on a spouse to watch our shared children (they do belong to both of us, after all) might come as an inconvenience from time to time, but the benefits of great attitude, higher energy and physical fitness are best not overlooked.  Personally, it has taken me a little while to figure it out, but encouraging passion in your significant other ultimately strengthens a relationship.   Giving your partner the go-ahead to chase a dream is an invaluable step toward a relationship based on respect.  It's a two-way street, and there's a learning curve.  But, starting by explaining the passion is sometimes all it takes.

Parents, I LOVE my mother, but if there is anyone on this earth that knows how to push my buttons more effectively than her, I hope our paths never cross.  She doesn’t “get” running.  Sharing my running accomplishments with her makes me happy and she can take a pretty good dose of it, but with one sharp, “Meg, I think you might be overdoing it” I decide I will NEVER discuss mileage or running schedules with her ever, ever again.  I try to make light of it, change the subject and then, for the rest of the day, doubt whether I should even go on my next run.  Sure, my free time might not include a daily hour-long conversation with her, and a lot of times that is because that hour includes a run...well I’m sorry, I will call you tomorrow, mom.  

Children. I am pretty lucky here, I scoot my hellraisers all over this town to get to their education and extracurriculars.  I feed, clothe, protect, and teach them.  I love them without any boundaries.  But, dude, Mommy’s gotta run to keep that up.  Fortunately, they are a big fan of the running as long as I let them GPS their jaunts around the house from time to time.  And if I can keep my 7 year old from asking if I ran a hundred miles while he was at school, I might just keep him around.  “18. 18, still pretty good, give me a break, kid!”  Hand the 4 year-old a cow bell and we're golden.

I run a lot.  It’s no secret.  It’s not something that I am ashamed of, but I do feel that I have to hide it in conversation with many NRs.  If I was to say, “Yeah, I need one more short run, five miles, to get in my 50 mile week”, the fogged stare ensues and then the inevitable, “Why do you run so much?” or “How does your family feel about all the running?” (passive aggressive, much?)  Or, by far the most crushing, “You don’t make time for me anymore, just for the running.”  Ugh, cry me a river.  We're all adults here.  The daily battle between "need to" and "want to" usually balances out alright, but small sacrifices for sanity happen along the way, and you find that "want to" usually takes a back seat.   There's just not as much time for "want to".  That running that I chose over arranging a lunch date might have saved me from throwing in the towel on complaining kids, errands, a burnt dinner or a flooded basement.

Of course, there are those kind folks that just don’t want to watch you struggle or to be in pain.  Well, running is hard.  I get sore.  I have to recognize where they are coming from without making an excuse for my running.  I have to appreciate their concern without internalizing it too much.  It's tough, but I have to realize that they don’t HAVE to understand why I run.  

Disapproval from acquaintances or "non-essential personnel" can be let go with relative ease (though keeping this honest, some times not until after I "run on it").  The harshest judgements are those that come from close friends.  In my opinion, having a friend upset with me over running is the worst.  One of my NR friends recently said she thinks it’s "just best that we go our separate ways".  I really did try prioritizing her functions, even when it cost me a run day, but too often for her, I scheduled around runs and she felt like her value was less than my need for mileage.  It's a loss I've struggled with.  Last week I was asked to blow off a Third Thursday because a visiting NR friend doesn’t want my attention divided while she's in town.  I begged for her sensitivity regarding my "current obsession" (her words) and dedication.  Some pouting, whining and belittling later, I came out on the other side having not sacrificed my monthly commitment and still hanging on to a friendship.  Phew!/WTH?   I want my NR friends to see that I choose them.  But, I also have to choose running.  

So, maybe I screwed up, I cracked open that big running book.  I read it.  I'm still reading it.  I can’t unknow the feeling of a great run.  The rewards of training for mental synchrony and optimal muscle performance are ingrained in me now.  I am not giving that up.  What's really most important is that I choose to be OK with that.  

Meghan McCarrick lives in Washington, Mo., eats copious amounts of kale and runs 30 to 50 miles a week, usually with her dog, Magpie.

Runner's High

 By Meghan McCarrick

Originally Posted in Terrain Magazine

The Runner’s High: That’s why we all run, right? Lace up, hit the ground, push ourselves all for that sweet bit of…hmm, what exactly is a runner’s high? 

Google “runner’s high” and the most legit definition is very scientific while still lacking explanation as to whether you are going to feel euphoric, delirious, or even just really good. In other words, it seems that this feeling is indescribable, but maybe graspable.

Sometime in college, I realized that not everybody ran. So when I first started sharing my running with others, often over a drink, pre-social media (well ok, we had IM and Myspace was becoming a thing), I always got the same questions: “Oh, you go for the runner’s high?”; “Do you get a runner’s high?”; “Heeey, what’s a runner’s high like?” I always felt weird saying, “Uh, I don’t know.” But that was the case, having run fairly regularly since the 7th grade, I never looked at aspects of running as ones that would be considered anything other than a stage of suckiness or a stage of “Oh, running, how I love thee!”. As I have gotten older, I guess I have paid more attention to those swings of emotional high and low that come with running.

Running provides a great coping mechanism for me. I often make peace with a disappointment or loss through running. Sometimes though, I unintentionally close a difficult chapter while out logging miles. One 20 mile run that I did this year was really just the pits. I had 4 miles left and, had quitting not meant I was stranded out in a cornfield, I would have just stopped, but I started thinking of a close departed friend (and previously accomplished distance runner) and I felt almost as if he were there with me. I was overcome with emotion, started really pushing the pace and felt a huge weight crush into my chest around the same time I realized that I had tears running down my face. 

Runner’s High? 

I have had speed days where I feel like I am flying, really toeing the line of that sub-6:00 mile, focusing solely on speed not even footfalls. Every skin surface tingles, all my muscles work in unison, the feeling of unhinged strength and ability. This is where I am supposed to be, this is what I am supposed to be doing. I am the shit. 

Runner’s High? 

From time to time, after a nice steady hill climb, when things start to feel as if you are just stuck in the same upward motion, I ask myself, “Sheesh, do I really want to be on this hill ALL day??” So, I push it, I stress my heart and turn off the pain receptors in my brain, and I go faster, uphill. It is hard to breathe, it is touch and go as to whether I will survive standing up, but as the hill levels I feel good...REAL good. 

Runner’s High? 

After a long run, I can label myself as fairly useless for the remainder of the day. Sure, I can handle obligations with farm and family. I can take on a few non-essential tasks, but I am sure that more than one bystander is like, “Really, that woman forgot how to use her pen”. I might start talking and all of the sudden that quick little tangent ends up being “a thing” that I want to discuss at length and research and potentially invest in. Crazy stuff. I am often thankful that I am able to drive without injuring myself or anyone else after particularly exhilarating mileage.  Delusi-run-al.

Runner’s High? 

Well, it has taken me years of running to quantify what exactly MY runner’s high is, and that might not come close to what is expected from another person’s experience. My runner’s high is a kind of gratitude. I am just so darn thankful for EVERYTHING. It’s an intense feeling, all while my body is running at a pleasantly sound mode. It sometimes only last a few seconds but I am happy to acknowledge it and I realize it is a little gift (just for me) arrived at due to a little push (from me). I can recall moments over my life where I felt very much in peak form and this “buzz” feeling certainly accompanies that. But, as for a high, I don’t know. Maybe I still haven’t gotten that. I don’t get asked about it much anymore as I tend to share my experiences and accomplishments via Daily Run Club, or with other runners. This way, I keep my poor extended family from asking questions like, “8 miles, oh my gosh, you are going to kill yourself?!?” or “Oh, I see, you go for the runner’s high?”

Get out there, get your run on.

Meghan McCarrick lives in Washington, Mo., eats copious amounts of kale and runs 30 to 50 miles a week, usually with her dog, Magpie.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Rare Breed

By Rae Hedlund

On October 5th, 2014, I became “A Marathoner.” In the days leading up to said event, I had numerous family members ask me the age-old non-runner question, “How far is your marathon?” I answered graciously, and laughed when one great-aunt asked, “At the same time?!” They were appalled. Some worried about my health. All were excited to cheer me on.
I was nervous. I was terrified. I was excited. I was cold; Minnesota does that to a person.

This being my first marathon, I didn’t really know what to expect, which is okay. Teetering into the unknown was fun, thrilling, and felt daring; it was like cliff jumping, except it was going to take a lot longer. I made a buddy, Lindy, on the bus ride to the start area, she lovingly shared a Hot Hands and her blanket with me while we waited. We talked about our kids and husbands, discovered we had a lot in common, and I felt my nervousness dissipate a bit. It was her fourth time running the Twin Cities Marathon, so it felt good to be with a seasoned marathoner. Lindy and I had similar paces, and stuck together for most of the race.

Rae, Lindy, and Cady, another friend made at the start line! Oh yeah, and friendly photo-bomber.

Lindy also had the great idea to count dogs. No, I’m not kidding. There are tons of spectators at the Twin Cities Marathon, and Lindy said it helps pass the time. With not much else to do but keep our feet moving, she and I counted (roughly) 450 dogs before we parted ways. Hilarious, distracting, and just plain fun! We celebrated every hundred we hit, and had quite a few “Wait, what number are we at?” moments!

The point when I broke stride with Mindy is the point that has kept me from any outright bragging about my accomplishment. I couldn’t tell you when it happened, but somewhere around mile 19.5 or 20, I hit The Wall. Running was hard. My knees and feet hurt, I noticed I was hungry, and didn’t even want to think about how many miles I had left. I tried hard not to glance at my watch, knowing my time was going up and I wasn’t getting far. With tremendous effort, I ran and walked as I saw fit, but found that I was unable to meet the eyes of the spectators. I felt that my exhaustion was shameful; they came to cheer on runners and here I was: walking. Talk about The Wall.

I won’t lie and say The Wall was a mile or two. I’m pretty sure it was a solid four, or somewhere near that. Somewhere in the 24th mile, I started to feel my spirits lift again. The crowds were blaring music, passing out bananas, oranges, and candy to runners with such encouragement that it lifted my spirits out of the pit and bolstered me up again. One party had T-Swift’s “Shake It Off” blaring from their house, and all these people were dancing and cheering, and I realized that I was dancing, too! I was back in the zone, shocked, and ready to eat some miles for lunch.

My watch- the Thing I’d been avoiding looking at- read somewhere in the 25th mile, and I began to worry that it was wrong. I mean, enough onlookers from the 22nd mile and beyond had said “No more hills!” They lied. So I simply didn’t believe. The cool thing about my watch: it wasn’t lying! There it was, barely in the distance, the 26th mile! WHAT?! I felt good. I was trying really hard not to cry (Note: crying makes it really hard to breathe, and therefore to keep running). My husband was close to the finish area, and snapped a quick picture and took my water bottle so I’d be “hands-free” at the finish line. It was so hard to hold back the tears.

As I ATE the final downhill (yep, another hill), I cruised over the finish line and promptly started crying. Then I told a guy handing out medals, “Give me that thing!” It sounded nicer (more desperate) than threatening, I promise. Next, I saw my aunt and uncle who had volunteered to help with drop-bags. They hugged me tight, asked how I felt, and I cried while replying, “Not to complain or anything, but that was really fucking hard!” They laughed, steered me in the right direction, and sent me on my limpy, merry (yes, MERRY!) way. I discovered I’d finished in 5:31, at least a half-hour slower than I had wanted. Everything after that is a bit of a blur, so we’ll stop that “race report” stuff.

What I’m here to say is, it took me until Wednesday morning to realize I’d succeeded in completing something not many had even attempted. As we set out on our grueling eight-hour drive home, I stopped for coffee, because coffee. I happened to be wearing my finishers shirt (for the third day in a row- I was proud, okay?). The barista asked if I had run that weekend, to which I responded “Yes”, and she seemed to be in awe. She told me she had run her first half-marathon in August, and that it was really tough, told me “Way to go!” and sent me on my way with caffeine in hand
 It was then that I realized others thought I’d done something amazing. Sure, maybe they also thought it was crazy, but in a “More power to ya!” sort of way, “You did it! I don’t think I could!”
Oh yeah. Yeah! I did do it! I was a Finisher. A Marathoner.


My struggle with accepting my time seems so silly now, especially since the nerd in me decided to look up race statistics for 2013. In the US in 2013, an estimated 541,000 people finished road marathons, with 43% of those being women. ONLY 232,630 women, way less that 1% of the population! This year, my number will be among those few women, because I have conquered my first marathon. I can’t wait to see what else I can accomplish!
 I’m a Marathoner, and I’m a rare breed. 

Rae Hedlund spends her days drinking multiple pots of coffee, reading, and chasing her two year-old mancub.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Put Your Right Foot In

By Melissa Noll

Running can be a solitary activity. And that works for me. Gives me time to think and decompress. I will admit that at times I did wish I had a group or person I could run with, someone to keep me accountable and keep me motivated because while I enjoyed that alone time, I found it was easy to lose the motivation when always running alone.

I found the Daily Run Club (DRC) on Facebook, or rather Facebook found it for me as a suggested group I might like. When I realized the group was local, I was excited but also nervous. I didn’t know anyone in the group and wanted to meet some people who shared the same interest in running that I did and “got it”, but my shyness wanted to take over and keep me “lurking”.

Scrolling through the DRC page I came across the “Just Sayin’” event held on September 18th. I quickly RSVP’d without overthinking it. I know myself well enough to know it was going to take me leaping without looking to get me to actually attend any group activity. The day of the event, I talked myself out of going just as many times as I talked myself into going. On the drive to Washington I found myself thinking all I needed to do was turn the car around and go home and I wouldn’t have to be so uncomfortable. Even as I crossed the tracks at the riverfront, I remember thinking that I could drive past anyone who was already there and they would never know because no one had ever met me.

I am not sure what made me actually park my car and get out, but I am glad I did. I joined the group and didn’t say a whole lot, basically soaking it all in and getting a feel for everyone and, of course, checking out the other ladies’ shoes! As more people arrived I somehow ended up in the center of the circle – AWKWARD! That gave me a little chuckle and I felt myself loosening up a bit.

Before I knew it, we were posing for a group photo and then started the run – ON A HILL! I have a love-hate relationship with hills, but starting out on one has never been my ideal way to start a run. The thought of “I might die before I get a half mile in” crossed my mind, but miracle upon miracles I survived not only the hill but 2 miles worth of running before we stopped for everyone to group back up! During those two miles my mind was attempting to play awful tricks on me. I truly am my own worst enemy. I think the only thing that kept me going was my stubborn streak. I was not going to give in to the voice in my head that said I would never be able to keep up with the group and would lose everyone. Not only was I surprised I had made it that far, but also that I was not the last one.

Standing in the group waiting for everyone I was amazed at how encouraging everyone was. At that moment in time, I realized that it truly does not matter what speed each of us was running, all that mattered was the fact we were out there doing it and we were all runners. I finished the last two miles with a renewed strength and those voices telling me I couldn’t do it quieted a little. Running along the riverfront passing the various businesses and saying hi to people standing outside enjoying the weather gave me a little more pep to finish out the last leg of the loop. When we reached the stopping point it was all I could do to not jump up and down and make a complete fool of myself because I had just accomplished something I had never done before: ran 4 miles straight and ran with a group of people I didn’t know! Small steps for some, big steps for me. We did another group photo and the group disbursed in different directions, some to run a little more, some to leave and others to go to the Landing.

I was planning on being one who left. Figured I had stepped outside of my comfort zone enough for one day and my reward was going back to hiding. The group was discussing as a whole who was going where and no one specifically asked me what I was going to do; however, my wanting to leave was apparently noticeable. I started walking to my car, chatting with a couple of ladies and I got asked point blank if I was staying. She sensed my hesitation and said I should stay for at least one drink. The easy thing to do would have been to make up an excuse and leave, but I quickly decided that I was going to stay and mingle.

We sat as a group and enjoyed our drinks of choice and easy conversation. The subjects discussed were varied but as runners do, the conversation always comes back to anything running related. We posed for a group foot pic and shortly after I left, but I left there with a renewed confidence in my running. Later that evening when the group photos popped up on Facebook, I studied myself in those pictures. The apprehension is written all over my face in the before run picture, the after shot I look more surprised and the foot pic, well, that’s my favorite. First, because I am a girl who can appreciate a shoe. Secondly, to me that picture really signified something….my running shoe is in a circle with people who would smoke me in a race but that didn’t matter, my shoe was part of that group.
Melissa Noll is an active DRC member living in Union and a passionate proponent of Autism Speaks

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Matter of Trust

By Frank Evans

I’m only 20 years old… I am indestructible.
I’m just 30 years old… I am still indestructible, and even wiser.
I’m now 40 years old… I have learned to run through petty discomfort.
I’m 50 years young… Through the years, I’ve never been hurt. I can’t be stopped.

I’m 52. Fifty. Two.  Surgery on my back, lingering issues with one leg… I shouldn’t have pushed myself so hard.  I shouldn’t have tried to run through it.  How did this happen?

If you listen to a group of runners training together long enough, you’ll hear it. The piece of advice almost every runner has uttered, with complete sincerity, even though they rarely follow it themselves:  Listen to your body.  It sounds easy enough. Why do so few runners manage to do it with any regularity? Why can’t we trust what our body tells us?

Simple.  Your body lies.  It lies to you all the time, doesn’t it?  Wasn’t it your body that told you it was too difficult to run three miles without stopping for the first time?  Didn’t your body try that same line at five miles?  Ten?  A marathon?  Remember that time last January when your body told you it was too cold to run?  You did it anyway, didn’t you? And you LOVED it.

Our bodies lie to us all the time.  We catch them lying, bold and brazen, and they continue to lie some more.  But we learn to tune out the lies.  We just smile and nod, because we’ve heard them before.  Especially those lies that start with “You can’t” or “You shouldn’t.”  We hear them, but we don’t pay them any mind.

And then the day comes when you find out your body was telling the truth.  Like the boy who cried wolf, your body had very little credibility with you.  After all, if you listened to it every time, you’d be on the couch plowing through a bag of Ruffles and a pint of french onion dip right now.  Not thinking about your last run.  Or your next one.

I’ve been running since I was a kid. I’ve run on every type of pavement, loose sand, mountain trails, cinder tracks… and I’ve never been hurt. Sure, I’ve been sore.  I’ve run while I hurt.  But that’s different.  So what did I do wrong this time? 

Unfortunately, several things. 

Lesson One - Lingering, persistent discomfort is serious.
I failed to see this as something much bigger than I had ever experienced before.  Yes, I ran through it for months.  For most of that time, it actually felt better while I was running.  But, for the first time, I was trying to run through something that didn’t go away.  This wasn’t a side stitch, or a blister, or a sore quad that went away after a few hours, or a few days.  It never left.  Lingering, persistent discomfort is serious.  Treat it that way.

Lesson Two - When the same area of your body had multiple issues, think about how they might be related.
I also failed to connect the dots.  I didn’t have just one problem.  Additional pains kept popping up, all from the left hip down.  They felt like separate issues, in that some days I might have this pain and other days I might have that pain.  But the dots were there, and I didn’t connect them.  When the same area of your body had multiple issues, think about how they might be related… Because they probably are.

Lesson Three - Find a medical professional whose opinion on sports injuries you trust.
Just as importantly, I didn’t have a medical professional whose opinion I valued when it came to sports medicine.  Don’t get me wrong - I like my primary physician.  He’s been good to me for 15 years, and I think he’s a great guy and a great doctor.  But I don’t know if he’s ever run a step.  I’m pretty sure he’s never done a marathon, or a 50k. Same with my chiropractor.  If I had a medical doctor or a chiropractor who shared my experiences, I would have been much quicker to seek their opinions.  That doesn’t mean they have to have had the same injuries I’ve had, or any injuries at all, for that matter.  But I needed someone who understands what drives me… who understands why I would still be doing this stuff at my age and why I will never stop as long as I am even remotely able to keep moving forward.  Find a medical professional whose opinion on sports injuries you trust. And then find another. Even a third, if that’s what it takes.  An occasional co-pay is a wise investment in your health and your running future.

Instead of learning these painful lessons, I probably should have been proactive about injury prevention and recognition.  If you’re thinking of piling up the mileage but want to avoid a fate similar to mine, Byron Powell’s best-selling book on ultra running, Relentless Forward Progress, dives deep into the need to know when to listen to your body and when to overrule it… how to balance tenacity and caution.  Be relentless, friends.  But be smart.

 Frank Evans can be found running in and around Lake Sherwood, as well as other areas, with no outstanding warrants on file.