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There are some activities at the Keyes homestead that require us to keep our pets safely inside – weed whacking or archery practice, for instance. Junie, our faithful cocker spaniel, takes great offense to this.  With her chicken-nugget-sized brain, she cannot comprehend the danger and will thrust herself against the glass door, wailing like a banshee, certain that we are HAVING FUN WITHOUT HER.

That pretty much describes me these days, minus the snot streaks across the window.  I’m watching happy athletes jog past my window and I can’t join them.  I know how much they’re enjoying themselves. I’d give my life’s savings to be out there with them.  But it is neither wise nor safe for me right now, thanks to an injury, or more accurately, a re-injury.

Back in July, I fell after a training session and strained my hamstring. For months, I dutifully followed all the advice of trainers, doctors, massage therapists, Runner’s World editors, WebMD ghostwriters and yoga instructors.  It wasn’t getting better.  In desperation, I went to the charming Dr. Grimm who, in addition to having the most awesome Hogwarts-worthy name, is an expert in orthopedics.  X-rays revealed that a quarter-sized piece of bone had detached from my pelvis.  Apparently this happened when I was a child. It lay dormant until the July fall, when, like Smaug, it awoke and began gnawing on my tendon.

The past few months have been filled with consultations, MRIs, cortisone shots and plenty of tears.  I want to run. I live to run. It shapes my social life. It keeps my weight and blood pressure down. It relieves stress and clears the mental fog.  It feeds my ego and helps me set goals. Not running these past months has been hellacious, not only for me, but for my family, especially during this terminal winter. They’ve been living with a feminine version of Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining.  All work and no play makes Teresa a dull girl, indeed.

Bottom line: Hamstring injuries are bad. They can end a running career. At my age (oh, how I HATE that expression), I don’t heal quickly. Surgery comes with risks and no guarantees.  Running right now would be the equivalent of Junie playing fetch with the Lawn Jarts.  The enjoyment would be fleeting and followed by lingering regret.

I’m not sure what comes next for me, but today, it’s not a run. To everything, there is a season. For many lucky people, this spring is the season for running.  I truly am so happy for you! Be safe, set goals and have fun.  Enjoy the journey. I’m with you all in spirit. And who knows? I just might catch up with you someday.

 

Greece native Teresa Benoit Keyes began running in 2006 and completed her first marathon at age 50. She lives in West Bloomfield with her family.

 

 

 

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by Chris Compson

For the past twenty years, I have marked spring’s arrival with one event. It is not the calendar date of the spring equinox. It is not the first day the thermometer reads above 40 degrees. It is not even the day that the last pile of dirty, brown, snow-ice-slush finally melts from the corner of my driveway. Since I was in seventh-grade in 1994, I have marked every spring’s arrival with the first track practice of the year.

Track season, like its spring placement, is a season of rebirth and growth. It is a season where we shake off the long miles of winter’s doldrums and adjust our eyes to again soak in natural light. Track is a season of camaraderie, challenge, and t-shirts!

Track t-shirts have become something of legend over the last two decades. What once were simple short-sleeved symbols representing your high school allegiance, have become a battle of wit and whimsy. Shirts emblazoned with the current team’s motto are chances to inspire, intimidate, or simply illustrate a great sense of humor. Two of my personal favorites are “Looks can be deceiving; our workouts are a lot longer than our shorts,” and from the ranks of cross-country t-shirts, “Cross-country…finally a good use for golf courses.” While these whimsical sentiments make us chuckle, there are some shirts slogans that manage to remind us of some key aspects of running. A former team of mine coined one of these, “Don’t think. Just run.”

Those four simple words have offered more training, racing, and life advice over the past several years than any article, seminar, or running book I can recall. “Don’t think. Just run.” As runners living in the age of Twitter, Facebook, Wi-Fi, and 4G, we have immediate access to any information we can imagine, and just like the dystopian novels we read in high school warned us, too much information may just be a bad thing.

A recent trend I’ve noticed in running articles has been the “How to handle” phenomenon. Over the past five months, I’ve seen articles covering “How to handle racing in the heat,” “How to handle racing in the cold,” “How to handle racing in the rain,” “How to handle racing in the wind,” “How to handle racing on trails“ and “How to handle racing on a Friday after a long week of work when the kids have been an absolute terror and you have a deadline looming that you probably wont meet.” Ok, so I made the last one up. But you get the point.

Invariably, all these articles begin with the same sage advice, “adjust your expectations.” As we comb through the corn maze of information available to us as runners, we are confronted with thousands of data points that offer us thousands of reasons to “adjust our expectations.” If race day dawns hot and humid, we have a verifiable fact upon which to “adjust our expectations.” In other words, thanks to this treasure trove of data, we have a built-in excuse system just waiting to be tapped, before we even step foot on the starting line.

I’m not often one for nostalgia, but I certainly cannot remember ever calculating the agreed upon impact percentage one can attribute to temperatures below 40 degrees when racing a distance longer the 10k. At least not until the invention of the smart phone.

So the next time you lace up your shoes for a race consider returning to a simple, four-word slogan on a high school t-shirt, “Don’t think. Just run.” Indeed, it appears that there may just be bliss in ignorance, and perhaps a personal best time as well

Chris Compson has run at the state, national and international level and spent several years coaching high school runners. You can follow his posts about running and other pursuits at soulitarypursuits.blogspot.com and twitter @clcruns, or contact him via email at clcruns@gmail.com

“Me” Time vs. “We” Time

By Nicole LeClair Jones
 
Over the years I’ve ran with a few different friends, and for the most part we’ve ran at a similar pace. Some days a little faster, some days a little slower, our pace never really varied because we’d usually always try and stay together. Which was fine, because we’d chat. Some days we’d laugh and some days we’d cry. We weren’t out to break any records, just to enjoy the company.
 
But over the years, job transfers, busy schedules and most of all kids, have claimed a lot of my running partners.
 
Which is why about two years ago I started running by myself. It took a while to adjust to the silence. Listening to music instead of the drama unfolding in my friends lives. 
 
To be honest, it’s been pretty peaceful. 
 
My times have improved and I’ve became a little more competitive. And by competitive, I mean, competitive with myself. (Don’t worry, I’m not winning any races). I run, and run and run. I zone out, and running has really become “me” time. No one to talk to, no one to be concerned with. The only thing I’ve been concerned with was one foot in front of the other – entirely focused on me.
 
Until the other day. 
 
You see, I’ve convinced a close friend to run in the Seneca 7, which is a 77.7 mile relay race around Seneca Lake at the end of this month. And the Fly by Night Duathlon in May, and a few other races, which I should probably mention (Just Clowning Around 5K to benefit Camp Good Days and Special Times on Saturday, July 12, 2014 at the Mendon Fire Hall contact me for details).
 
So what’s the issue? What’s the big deal about running with someone again? 
 
Well, right out of the gate he’s running as fast as me, and with little or no effort. My years of commitment and dedication have seemingly been squashed by his God-given ability to run with zero training. Plus, he wants to talk and talk, and talk. Which is great, I’m NOT complaining.  I’m thrilled to have someone interested in running, and interested in running with me. It’s a wonderful thing! 
 
But a couple things need to happen, and happen rather quickly, because these races are rapidly approaching.
 
I need to get over it. Some people can just run, and he’s one of them. It’s like the kid in French class that didnt’ struggle conjugating verbs. C’est des conneries! I won’t feel bad about all the time I’ve trained to get this far, it’s been fabulous. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I need to enjoy this “we” time while it’s here. But I also need to keep the “me” time.
 
“But there never seems to be enough time, to do the things you want to do, once you find them.” Jim Croce must have known how I felt. 
 
In the meantime, I’ll work on finding a balance that works for both of us, or at least close, probably 60/40.  I’ll keep you posted and let you know how the races go. 
 
Nicole LeClair Jones is the Special Events Coordinator for Camp Good Days and Special Times, which serves children and families affected by cancer.  She’s the mother of two young children and an avid runner. She serves as the race director for the Just Clowning Around 5K to benefit Camp Good Days. Contact her at reporternick@gmail.com if you’ve got a story idea.
 

 

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by Chris Compson

Lately I have been thinking a great deal about purpose. Perhaps this is a byproduct of winter marathon training and battling what seems to be a never-ending deluge of polar vortexes. When your eyelids are frozen open by wind and sleet, and you’ve lost all sensation in your appendages, the “what am I doing” question plays like a song on repeat with every consecutive mile. To train for a marathon at any time, you have to be, what polite friends call, quirky. To train for a marathon through an upstate New York winter, you have to be downright crazy.

I fully admit that for this, and many other reasons, my grip on sanity is tenuous at best. My friends and family could certainly contribute quite a list of my “eccentric” habits that most annoy them. One that my wife not-so-nonchalantly mentions on a regular basis is how I walk in public places. In the brief interlude between the car and the mall entrance, it is not uncommon for my wife to remind me at least a dozen times that this “is not a race.” Whether it is a result of competing as a runner, or a general disdain for mall commerce, I have always been an aggressive and direct walker, moving at a pace just shy of knocking over small children and the elderly.

I tell my students my maniacal march is called “walking with purpose.” To this, my hoards of 14 to 18 year-olds roll their eyes and shake their heads. What can I expect from the generation that coined the term “whatever” as a plausible response to any and all interrogations? What they and my wife see as an aberration of behavior is actually a critical characteristic of success in running, and life.

Defining and being purposeful in our running, and life, is essential to reaping all the rewards of our efforts. In a 1908 article, “The Powers of a Strenuous President”, it was noted that Theodore Roosevelt frequently pulled his watch from his pocket and cut off interviews, or signed a paper, and then turned instantly, according to his time-table, to his next engagement. As the article states, “Thus we have the spectacle of a man of ordinary abilities who has succeeded through the simple device of self-control and self-discipline, of using every power he possesses to its utmost limit.” Theodore Roosevelt was a model of the purposeful life, and would likely have made a great distance running coach.

The first question I often ask young or new runners is, “what is the purpose of your run today?” While there certainly is merit to simply “logging the miles,” and this is far more desirable than extending your existence on the couch, your running cannot improve nor ever reach its “utmost limits” without clearly defining the purpose of each run. Some days it is necessary to challenge ourselves with a faster pace or a further distance. Some days it is necessary to back off the throttle and give our bodies a chance to recover. Some days it is necessary to forget all of this and enjoy a sunny break in the weather with a casual and meandering jaunt, which for us will likely be sometime in May.

Regardless of the answer, it is asking the question that matters. Defining the purpose of your run every day will make your training more effective and more enjoyable. Unfortunately, it may also turn you into a mall speed-walker. But I imagine that Theodore Roosevelt would not have dilly-dallied outside JCPenny or ever been “just browsing,” so you and I are in good company.

Chris Compson has run at the state, national and international level and spent several years coaching beginning runners. You can follow his post about running and other pursuits at soulitarypursuits.blogspot.com, or contact him via email at clcruns@gmail.com

#nimblefingers #nimblefeet

By Nicole LeClair Jones

With three computers cued up earlier this week, I was determined to make the cut and run in the Marine Corps 17.75K. Registering for this race, that winds through Prince William Forest, just outside of the Marine Corps Quantico Base down in Virginia, wasn’t something I was planning to do this spring.

But the geniuses in the social media department at the US Marine Corps had me figured out. They offered only 1775 slots in this race, available on a first come, first serve basis. They sent me emails, and posted links on their facebook page, and throughout the morning they were tweeting about it.

By noon, when online registration opened I had convinced three friends to help me. Together we were determined to get me signed up.

Here’s what made the 17.75K so enticing, because it certainly wasn’t running 17.75K in a few weeks. It was the guaranteed registration in the 39th Marine Corps Marathon this October, that made this so desirable. And it wasn’t only me who saw it this way. Thousands of runners stormed the registration site, and within nine minutes, the race sold out.

That’s right, N-I-N-E minutes.

Race directors are attributing early sell outs like this to a few things. Certainly, the broader reach of social media is a large part. Races like the Boston Marathon, Disneyland Half Marathon, St. Jude Half Marathon in Memphis, the Air Force 10K, the Marine Corps Marathon, and the Ottawa Marathon are all immediate sell outs.

“There’s a direct link between spikes in registrations and announcements made on Facebook and Twitter,” according to Susan Marsh-Marconi, the marketing manager with Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Other race directors attribute the sell outs to the solid reputations and organization of the races, and fun filled weekends surrounding them to their success.

Destination races like the Big Sur International Marathon, which sold out within a month in 2011, sold out in less than 24 hours in 2012, and sold out in less than 59 minutes in 2013.  There is without a doubt a pent-up demand for marathon participation, according to race directors everywhere.  Sell outs like these are a prime example of how running has never been more popular.

A record 15.5 million runners crossed the finish line last year, and whether people are running competitively, for a charitable cause, or just to increase their health and fitness levels, people are running in droves.

So, if you’re looking to gain entry into a very special race, whether it’s a local 5K or a destination marathon, my advice to you is register early and often.  Wait, that’s just for the Chicago Marathon.  But in all seriousness, pay attention to when online registration opens up, put it on your calendar, try and get a few friends on a few different computers to help if you can, and don’t give up. The refresh button, is your friend on registration day.  Good luck and remember, the early bird gets the worm.

Nicole LeClair Jones is the Special Events Coordinator for Camp Good Days and Special Times, which serves children and families affected by cancer. She’s the mother of two young children, an avid runner and serves as the race director for the Just Clowning Around 5K to benefit Camp Good Days. Contact her at reporternick@gmail.com if you’re ever looking for a running partner or if you’ve got a story idea.

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by Chris Compson

In his classic book, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, Alan Sillitoe wrote, “the long-distance run of an early morning makes me think that every run like this is a life- a little life, I know- but a life as full of misery and happiness and things happening as you can ever get really around yourself.” When I first read Sillitoe’s book, the solitary, individual journey his protagonist, Smith, takes as a young man – using running as a vehicle of rebellion – spoke to my typically angst-filled youth. Through the fictional Smith, and later living running heroes like Steve Prefontaine and Roger Bannister, I learned to believe that the purist form of distance running occurred alone and simply. A man and the miles became my definition of running, which lasted long into adulthood.

In part, the “loneliness” of the long-distance runner, is self-imposed. Indeed, as science has proven, we are pack animals. But while wolves may cover long distances in silent panting, a pack of runners must as some point break the heavy breathing with conversation, and this is where our world becomes hairier than our canine brethren. It takes a very rare person to make the perfect training partner, and an even rarer person to make the perfect training partner for someone as particular as me. My wife may choose an even stronger adjective in this situation.

They can’t run too fast, or too slow. They can’t like to run too early in the morning, or too late at night. They can’t have a stride pattern that throws off the rhythm of your own footsteps. So you see, this is why I believed it was often far easier to train in isolation than to spend the hours grinding your teeth wondering why this perfectly fit individual next to you sounded like a seal lion gasping for breath. However, as you note the past tense construction of the previous sentence, this changed when my wife and I moved to Rochester and by happy accident I met Jason DeJoy. Over the next year and a half, Jason and I would cover somewhere around 2,750 miles together and innumerable hours until his sudden death one month ago.

Jason was the perfect training partner, and became the perfect friend. As anyone who has spent time running with someone knows, the hours spent in synchronized stride create a unique bond. Conversations and questions arise in the trial of miles that would never emerge around a restaurant table or over the phone. We discussed politics and religion, relationships and marriage, landscaping and foggy memories of college tomfoolery. We shared our hopes for the future and regrets from the past. And when my wife and I were expecting the birth of our daughter, it was Jason (who has three beautiful daughters of his own) who talked me through my fears and anxiety, and received the first text message with her name.

Jason never ran too fast or too slow. He never ran too early or too late. It was only after his death, in the lonely weeks that followed, that I realized this wasn’t because we simply ran the same pace, and liked to run at the same time. Jason knew, and taught me, that the perfect training partner, and perfect friend, will match strides with you no matter the pace, and agree to meet you no matter the time.

When I think about Jason, often while running, I am reminded of the Sillitoe quote and my youthful misunderstanding of its meaning. For just as a run “is a life”, a run’s value, as a life’s, can only be fully realized when shared with others. In his far too brief time, Jason shared his life with countless others, and I was blessed to have been one.

Chris Compson has run at the state, national and international level and spent several years coaching beginning runners. You can follow his post about running and other pursuits at soulitarypursuits.blogspot.com, or contact him via email at clcruns@gmail.com

Miss Manners probably wasn’t a Runner

By Nicole LeClair Jones

 

Gearing up for a spring marathon or half marathon isn’t easy. Just talk to anyone who has trained for Boston. Dark runs, slushy sidewalks, blistering cold and cutting winds – this winter hasn’t made training easy, that’s for sure.

 

You should have seen me this past Saturday – snot crusted to my nose, my cheek, my sleeve, my shoulder, my gloves. Well, maybe don’t look after all, it wasn’t pretty.

 

There are rules for snot you know. Little unspoken rules. Because bodily functions are a fact of life during a run. You’ll need to spit, blow your nose, you might even need to make a pit stop. If you do, just remember to be courteous. Try and find a porta-pot, move off to the side and don’t ever spit into the wind!

 

There are rules for just about everything when it comes to running, so for someone just starting out, here’s the abridged version.

 

Run against traffic. Run against traffic. Run against traffic. You have feet not wheels, that’s how I remember. Why? So you can see and be seen by drivers. The only exception to running on the left, is when you’re running on trails or paths, and then it’s run on the right. But that’s only because a trail is closed to vehicles.

 

And if you’re running on a trail, or on a road, or in a race, remember only run two wide. It’s nice to chat away with your friends, I get it. But it’s not polite to take up the entire path, and not safe to go any wider that two if you’re running on a road.

 

When you’re on a trail or canal path, be courteous to your fellow runners. If you’re coming up behind them, let them know! Shout “on your left” as you approach them. Or give it a fake cough, letting them know you’re there. I had a friend email me recently. He said that he feels uncomfortable coming up behind runners and doesn’t like to startle them, so he always shouts out “coming up on your left” which would work out great, if the runner doesn’t have both earphones in.

 

Earphones. Let’s talk about earphones. I run with music. I like to run with music, it boosts my energy level. But it’s rude and frankly unsafe to have both earphones in. You can’t hear approaching runners, approaching vehicles or even animals. So try running with just one earphone in, you’d be surprised at what you hear.

 

And last but not least, let’s talk about a little courtesy to your fellow runner. A nod, a wave, a simple thumbs up. Doesn’t seem like a lot right? 

 

Knowing that I was going to include the waver’s dilemma in my column, I’ve been taking a little survey over the last three weeks. Waving to every runner I’ve encountered. Let’s just say, I’ve operated at the 100% wave rate. Noticeable waves, to the point of almost goofy.

 

The results: Well received.  In only one instance did I not receive a return wave, and I will note that it was on a road, with heavy traffic. So legitimately my wave may not have been seen, and I may not have seen theirs had they given it. Regardless.

 

What I’m suggesting to you is this: We’re all runners, or aspiring to be. We live in Rochester, NY. We’re all doing the best we can. We’re out pounding the pavement, when the rest of the world is snuggled up watching TV. So be courteous. Be polite. Be nice.

 

And if I wave at you, gosh darn it, you better wave back!

 

Nicole LeClair Jones is the Special Events Coordinator for Camp Good Days and Special Times, which serves children and families affected by cancer. She’s the mother of two young children, and an avid runner. Contact her at reporternick@gmail.com if you’re ever looking for a running partner or if you’ve got a story idea.

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