Runners: The Best People


​Do you ever get tired of going to a track or cross country meet and watching a fight break out before the meet? The teams come out to the 50 yard line, stomp on the other team’s logo and the fists start flying? Or right before your next 5k or half marathon, does the trash talk between competing runners drive you nuts? Of course not because it just doesn’t happen. Runners are the nicest people. A runner would be more likely to go out of their way to give a competitor some of their extra safety pins or point out the way to where the porta-pot lines are shorter than to ever try to hinder another runner’s performance. Maybe it’s because playing defense isn’t really a thing in a running race. We can try to go as fast as we can but we can’t try to slow down someone else. Or maybe, just maybe it’s because we are just nice people.

​Why is that? What is it about runners that makes them lovers not fighters? At least for distance runners we are mostly skinny little twerps; as pictured above who are much better equipped for running than fighting. But I believe it is much more than that. I think some of it is because we all share a bond brought about by mutual sacrifice. You know what it took you to get where you are and you respect others who have made the same or more sacrifice to get their own level of fitness. Sweating together, seeing what each other look like at the end of a hard race eliminates any airs of uppity behavior. We all look like crap at the end of a race, at least until you pound down that post-race sports drink and get your wind back. Shared misery is a great equalizer. Not many things make you look less cool than being watched as you puke after a race.

​But mostly I think that running just attracts a friendly group of people. Running in a small town as I do is great. If another runner is passing you going the other way, there is always eye contact, a smile or wave, usually a “hi, how you doing?” and once in a while a high five if you are near each other. A runner passing you going the same direction will often end up with a short conversation or at least some encouraging words. Although I find it interesting that when I run in a large city it’s not the same. Maybe it’s the anonymity of the big city but other runners tend to not make eye contact or acknowledge your presence. That always puzzles me and makes me appreciate the small town.

​I really like the atmosphere at road races. Runners who don’t take part in the occasional race just don’t understand what they are missing. I hear it all the time. “Oh, I’m just not into competition” or “I’m not fast enough to run a race”. Well guess what, the vast majority of people in that race know they are never going to win. They know ahead of time that they are about to finish way behind the jackrabbits at the front of the pack. But they don’t care. They are out to have a good time, see what they can do compared to what they have done before and just enjoy the camaraderie. Runners invariably are happy to share their training tips or offer advice to a fellow runner at a race who has stumbled onto a problem the other runner has dealt with before. It’s all smiles at the end of the race (once the puking is over) as runners and their supporters mingle with refreshments, applaud the award winners and generally have a good time with each other.


​So, what can you do to try to perpetuate the happiness of the running community? First, give your fellow runners a wave when you pass each other on the streets. When running on a street and an oncoming car swings out to give you a wide berth, wave at them. They went out of their way, literally, to make your run safer. Be free to answer questions from beginning runners and encourage them every chance you get. That will never slow you down. In fact, getting with other runners who are faster than you will make you a better runner yourself. Last of all, for a great day at the next 5k, unless you are one of the few who might win, there isn’t any reason to run hard enough to puke. That’s not fun. Just enjoy the day, the people around you and your ability to run. Life is good when you are a runner.

 

Keep running my friends!

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Run the Mile You’re In

I’ve heard this quote attributed to different people over the years, and frankly, I don’t know who said it first, but they were on to something.

Sure, there’s a time and a place for reflecting on past performances, just as there’s a time and a place for planning ahead.  Without these practices, we would never learn from the person and runner we had been.  We may not have noticed that race times were slowing when we eliminated speedwork or that one knee always flares up after running on the slanted part of the road.  And we certainly would struggle to meet goals if we never created training plans for the coming days, weeks, and months.

Nonetheless, when it’s time to perform, there’s no place you should be but present in the moment.  In the same way that we can practice mindfulness in our day to day living, we can practice mindfulness on the run.  We all know there have been plenty of long runs and races that didn’t feel great.  It’s tempting to keep dwelling on mile 2 when we pushed a little too hard up that hill and we’re still paying for it.  And it’s equally tempting to keep repeating over and over, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe have 11 more miles to go…”   When you’re struggling in the middle of a run, there is perhaps nothing less motivating than reminding yourself that you’re not even close to being done.

However, by refocusing and being present, we can choose to concentrate on the mile we’re running at that very moment.  It turns a big goal into a smaller, more achievable goal.  When you’re five miles into a half marathon, focusing on “8 more miles” may not help you perform your best.  But focusing on getting from mile 5 to mile 6 makes more sense.  Sometimes you can only ask yourself to try to keep this up for another mile, and then… we’ll see what happens.  Sometimes you need to choose to forgive yourself in advance for whatever is to come.  Acknowledge that you’re going to do your best on this mile. In all subsequent miles, whether your best is still this good or you have to pull over and stop altogether is out of your control for the time being.  All you can control is this mile.

I love this little piece of advice because it’s so useful in running.  In my last half marathon, I recall holding a pace that I thought was ambitious, and I frequently started to doubt that I could maintain it for the duration of the race, but I maintained my sanity by never asking myself for more than this mile.  Just try to make it to the end of this mile, I would tell myself, and then I’ll re-evaluate.  Dwelling on what’s yet to come is a distraction, and it’s unfair to the mile you’re in.

But perhaps I like this advice best of all because it applies to life in general as well.  There have been many days when I’ve felt overwhelmed – either by disappointment over what I’ve failed to accomplish in the past or by a daunting to-do list in my future.  Sometimes that to-do list is so distracting that it keeps me from truly focusing on doing a great job of the task I’m presently working on.  My desire to do all things at once so often prevents me from doing a great job at any one thing.

So whether it’s one workout, or one mile, one book you’re reading, or one closet you’re cleaning out, give it your full attention.  If you’ve chosen to be there, then be there.  And when you’re done, move on to the next thing.  Certainly set aside time to reflect and time to plan, and when you’re doing those things, give them your full attention.  But at all other times, give yourself the freedom to dive into the task/mile/project at hand.

My Tracker Died

So, what do I do now? My fitbit won’t charge any more. How can I possibly get in shape without it? How can I satisfy that primal urge to know that I got 10,000 steps a day in? Does exercise count if you don’t record it?

These are all questions that unfortunately went through my mind as I contemplated what to do now that my fitness tracker no longer works. The warranty is no longer in existence so I don’t want the advice to just call the company. Instead, I am going to take the other route. I will be a radical and live without a fitbit on my wrist. How can that be? I came to this decision for a few reasons.

First, I don’t like addictions. Wearing a fitness tracker is kind of an mental addiction. I can function just fine without it but somehow I think I have to have it every day. Now that I have been without it for a few days I find that life goes on.

Second, whoever came up with the idea that 10,000 steps a day was what it takes to get in shape or stay in shape. Is it really 10,000 or would 9,382 do it? Or does it really take 18,500? Call me skeptical but I find it odd that the magic number is exactly 10,000. Now looking at the average American in your local Wal-Mart, maybe 10,000 steps a day would improve our country’s overall obesity level. But for the runners reading this blog, I don’t believe 10,000 is going to do much.

Third, did I really take more steps because I had a tracker on? That’s a big fat NO! Some people do but I am not one of them. I will admit that if I was about to go to bed with 9,879, I would probably walk another 121 to hit 10,000. But if I had 7,679, I wouldn’t walk an extra step to get more when 10,000 is out of reach for that day.

Fourth, I don’t feel like spending another $100 or more to get a gadget that I end up being a slave to. I am old enough now that I treasure my independence and refuse to give it up in worship of a device that pushes me towards and artificial goal of what is supposed to be fitness.

Learning to live without the fitbit brings a lot of relief. Just ask this woman who apparently has walked away from her fitness tracker addiction to a life of self-fulfillment without being controlled by a gadget on her wrist.

Now if only I can convince myself that exercise does still count if I don’t record it.

Keep running my friends.

Patience

It has been several weeks since I last wrote about my week off of running.  In an attempt to heal what I’ve since become convinced is a mild case of Achilles tendinitis, I took a week off running and then tried to gradually add it back in.  I seemed to hold steady, running no more than maybe 7ish miles per week and seeing no worsening, but at the same time no improvement of my symptoms.

So, I did what any stupid runner would do.  I said, ok, well, it’s not getting worse, maybe resting isn’t helping.  I’ll just go ahead and start adding back some more miles, and we’ll see how things go.  It’s not like I went crazy, but last weekend I did back to back 3 mile runs on two consecutive days.  And on Monday I was painfully aware of the results of my experiment.

It seems that the one symptom most resistant to healing is extreme tightness in my Achilles when I wake up in the morning.  I’ve now Googled the answers and asked the pros (like my coach) what they would do.  We’ve settled on this plan – I’m using the elliptical and doing short treadmill runs (only after a good warm-up) and daily eccentric calf raises.

After a week or two of using this plan, I’ve found that I now wake up with less stiffness in my calf/Achilles, and I’m feeling optimistic!  However, now I’ve reached the hardest part.  Now I’m starting to believe that I’m on the path to recovery, and the natural next step is to start behaving as such, returning to regular running and trying to prepare for the half marathon I’m signed up for in less than two months!

Ah… but this is where patience comes in.  Yeah, it feels like I’m getting better, but I know I’m not all the way there, and I know that whatever I was doing before (moderate running) wasn’t working.  So I must be patient.  I must continue to wait.  And I’ll try to wait beyond the day when I’m pretty sure I’m back to 100%.  I’ll wait a little bit longer even after that first day when I wake up and walk to the bathroom without any limping at all.  Because that’s what it’s come to.  Patience.

It’s hard to be patient when my Saturday workout feels so meager compared to the Saturday morning workouts I was doing in May.  And it’s hard to be patient on the elliptical when I feel like I’m “not really exercising.”  And it’s hard to be patient when I wonder if I’m losing all the fitness I’d been building, and when I wonder how long it will be before I’ll be running like normal, and when I imagine that doing long runs is going to feel way more difficult when I try to build my mileage back up.

So this week (and next week, and probably the week after), with the big picture in mind, I’ll just be striving to achieve the virtue of patience.

So you want to put on a 5K…..

It usually goes like this. “We need to raise some money for (insert worthy cause here)” said person number one. “I know, let’s have a 5k race” said person number two. Now they’re in the danger zone. It looks so easy. Pick a day, pick a route and put out some flyers. How hard can it be? As a race director for almost 30 years, my first thought is to scream out NO!!! DON’T DO IT!  But as a runner who loves to do races, I say bring it on. Just know what you are getting into. So for any first timers out there, I will throw out a little advice. This is all based on my mistakes made over the years in the hopes that you can avoid them. I was the race director for the Carnation Triathlon and am now the director for the Alliance Rotary Castle Run. Lots of fun but a huge amount of work.

  1. Know why you want to put on a race. Are you trying to raise money? Are you part of a community festival that doesn’t have to make money but just wants to have a race as part of the celebration? Are you in charge of a group trying to promote fitness and a race at the end is the ultimate goal? Knowing why you want to do it, makes all future decisions much easier.
  2. Get permission. Didn’t know you had to do that? Well you do if you are using property that’s not your own. Running on a street falls under the jurisdiction of the local governing body whether it is city, township or county. In my case, the Castle Run has to have permission from the safety service director in Alliance. They have been great to us but make sure you contact your officials first. Tell them what you want to do, when you want to do it and have a route in mind.
  3. What kind of a race? There are more 5k’s out there than you can count but mainly because that is a popular distance and at just over 3 miles it’s not too much to watch over. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you might consider a different distance such as a 10k or 15k or 4.37 miles. Yes it doesn’t have to be an even number. Sometimes it can be cool to make it a race between two landmarks or a loop around some area or out and back to something. Want an easy distance that almost nobody does? Try a 1 mile race. There are a lot of people out there who want to see what they can do and it doesn’t hurt for very long. So distance is one factor. Surface is another factor. Run on streets or trail or cross country or a combination? It’s up to you. For longer races, do you want to allow relays? Or maybe it should be all relays and no individuals. You are the director and it’s your rules. What time of day? Most races are bright and early. Some are at night. In hot weather you want to avoid mid-day temperatures. Is it all running or do you want to have a walking category? Or do you want to make it multi-sport and do swimming, cycling, canoeing or kayaking, or skipping or hopping? I haven’t seen the last two and I don’t think they will catch on but who knows?

  1. Now, you have decided on what kind of a race you want, let’s pick out a route. This is important. First rule: don’t cross a drawbridge. If a boat is coming, that bridge is going up and anyone who hasn’t crossed it yet is going to get to rest for a while. Yes this has happened. Luckily not to me as we don’t have any drawbridges in our area but it’s not conducive to making for happy runners. Rule number two: avoid crossing train tracks for reasons very similar to the ban on crossing drawbridges. Rule number three: try not to cross major highways. It can be done but unless you have a really big race that does great things for the community, your local law enforcement agencies and the non-runners in the area greatly appreciate not having their routine interrupted by a bunch of stupid people out running down the street while the unhappy drivers are being held up by the cop (who would rather be home). Now if your race becomes an iconic event, then sometimes it can be cool to shut down the main drag in town, like for the 5th Avenue Mile in New York City. How cool is that to be running straight down 5th Avenue without dodging cars?

  1. When to have your race? Typical weather patterns are a factor. I will not be signing up for a half marathon in South Alabama in July. On the other hand, Fargo ND is not ideal for a race in January. Just think it through as to when you would like to be running in your area. What day of the year is the next as to when. If you can pick a date that is all your own, that’s awesome. Look at race calendars for your area and see what other races are out there and try not to pick matching dates. The Castle Run is every Labor Day. It’s easy to remember, most people aren’t working that day. So, there are a lot of runners and volunteers available. More on volunteers later.
  2. Last in the concept phase is to decide if you are having a top notch race with all the bells and whistles and the accompanying price tag, or a bare bones no frills race with the low entry fee? Neither is right or wrong. Both have their disciples. Each has its challenges. If you want to attract sponsors, the glitzy high profile race is more likely to draw sponsor fees. Another way to attract sponsors is to benefit the right charity if you are raising money for a cause.
  3. The last topic for this edition is raising money via a race. GET SPONSORS! The only way to raise vast amounts of money is to get it from sponsors. Participant’s entry fees will hopefully cover the cost of putting on the race but that is it. And there are lots of costs depending on just how glitzy or bare bones you decide to go. Awards: decide how many, what age groups, finisher medals or just performance based awards and ALWAYS HAVE SEPARATE AWARDS FOR MALES AND FEMALES. 57% of road racers are now female. Don’t make them fight with the guys for awards. Yes I have had my ass kicked many times by girls but for the most part it’s an unfair fight. So give the girls their own category. Apparel giveaways: most races do t-shirts. These can be cheap cotton or a tech shirt, short or long sleeved. We used to do long sleeved but it wasn’t until we switched to short sleeves that I saw a lot of people wearing Castle Run shirts in town or at the gym. Now we also use hats as an option. Some bigger races will even do sweatshirts or jackets. If you are going the bare bones route, you don’t even have to do t-shirts. Most runners have more t-shirts than they can ever use so many would prefer not to pay for one and race at a discount.
  4. Post race food: Always have water. If you have nothing else, make sure you still have water. This is more than comfort. This is safety. As far as other things go, let your imagination be your guide. At the 4th of July race in North Canton, we were given a mini-Italian dinner by Carrabba’s who was a race sponsor. Most races will have some fruit and other miscellaneous items but post race food is a chance to make your race memorable.
  5. Results: Make sure results are available relatively quickly. Almost everyone wants to know how they did. Not just their own time but deep down they all want to know how they stack up against their peers. Don’t let little Miss “Oh I’m not racing, I’m just here to enjoy it” fool you. She wants to kick some ass even if she doesn’t admit it to herself. So have a timer and a way of posting results. Online is the best. If you announce awards after the race, which you should, do it quickly and don’t drag it out. People want to get home.

  1. Safety: Last but most important is safety. It doesn’t matter how much money you raised or how many participants you attracted. If someone goes down in your race and you can’t fix it. Your race is an unqualified disaster. We did have a participant experience a mild heart attack in the Carnation Triathlon many years ago. Luckily we had an ambulance crew on standby and our gentleman who was in his late 50’s recovered quickly after a short hospital stay. This is why the race director should never ever ever run in their own race. You have to be available for whatever unexpected event pops up. You can have the best crew ever of volunteers and you need a lot of volunteers, but you still need to be available instead of out at mile 7.

So if all of this hasn’t scared you off, get online and download a race director’s checklist. Runner’s World has a nice one but there are lots out there. Let me know when your race is. I just might like to try it.

Keep running my friends!

 

Race Review: Bayshore Half Marathon

When I originally sat down to document these thoughts, it was Monday afternoon, Memorial Day, and although I’d just then begun to move on to those tedious and slightly depressing “end of the weekend” chores… (you know – laundry, groceries, making a decision about whether to vacuum or try to keep “not seeing” the tumbleweeds of dog fur for another few days), I was nevertheless still basking in the happy glow of what was a really phenomenal race weekend.

I almost didn’t get a spot in the Traverse City Track Club’s Bayshore Half Marathon.  By the time I got wind of the race, it had already filled to capacity.  I had recently completed the Charleston Half Marathon, and I was eager to sign up for another race.  I was listening to the Runner’s World podcast and editor, David Willey, was chronicling his “moonshot” attempt to finally run a BQ (Boston Qualifying) marathon.  (He did.)  After considering races all over the country, he settled on this race.  It sounded perfect – not too hilly, beautiful scenery, long weekend, so obviously I wanted to sign up.  I was a little bummed that it was full, but they had a wait list (What race has a waitlist???) so I figured I might as well add my name, and then I completely erased it from my memory.

So… when a surprise email arrived in April letting me know I could go ahead and sign myself up, I was SUPER excited.  The timing was still great, but I didn’t want to go race if my husband didn’t get in too.  Turns out, they have a very sophisticated waitlist system.  I commend them for this.  When you enter the waitlist, you let them know how many spots you’re waiting for, and they alert you when and if they have a spot for everyone in your group.  (Presumably.  At least that’s how it seemed like it worked.)

Half marathon weekend was here before we knew it, and despite some janky logistics for race weekend, we just willed it to happen.  Traverse City, Michigan is a solid 7 hour drive on a good day.  With holiday weekend traffic to the lake, you can count on 8 hours.  And with a husband who’s less than a year into his new job, you can bet we didn’t get to call off early on Friday.  We knew he would have to work until his last customer was through needing him, and there was a chance we might just arrive at midnight then have to rise bright and early for race day… We rolled the dice.  And we got lucky.  We were on the road in time to get to bed at a reasonable hour.  Phew.

You know how it’s so rare that everything goes well on any given race day?  You can count on so few things.  Will you get a cold?  Will the weather be crappy?  Will you have an injury that keeps you from getting in your training?  Will you eat the wrong thing the night before and have tummy issues while you’re running?  This was not that race.  This was the race where everything just worked the way it was supposed to.

We woke up on Saturday morning to clear skies, crisp air, and a still morning.  After getting dropped off at the half marathon starting line on Devil’s Dive Road, we began the race with the only significant hill of the entire day.  After running Kentucky’s Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon, this was a WELCOME change of pace.  VERY WELCOME.  By the time we descended the hill on the other side of Old Mission Peninsula, we were running along the coast, and we never left the edge of the water until the very final mile of the race.  The crystal clear, brilliantly blue water sparkled in the early morning sun.  (Did I mention how early the sun comes up there?)  The smooth road wound from the center of the peninsula all along its eastern coast into the now very trendy center of town.  It seemed that everyone on the entire peninsula was there for our benefit.  Vacationers, weekenders, and locals lined up outside beautiful waterside homes with signs, independent bonus water (and sometimes beer) stations, kids giving high-fives, and Olympians cheering on mere mortals.   (Yes, Desi Linden was literally standing on the race course with a sign.  I’ve reached new heights of happiness.)

I start almost every race by telling myself, “Maybe I can just run for fun today and not worry about how fast I go.”  And then, inevitably, I wind up a mile in, checking my pace, looking for the pace groups, concentrating on how many people I’m passing and whether or not I’m getting passed.   This race was no different.

As per usual, I counted each mile I completed with a jelly bean.  I felt good so I went ahead and pushed the pace a little bit in the early miles, trying to run by feel and avoiding making too-frequent glances down at my Garmin to check my pace.  As long as I still felt good, I figured, I would keep it up.  With each mile that passed, I figured I would look down to see that my pace had slowed, but as they crept by, I somehow kept managing to maintain.  I’m so familiar with the feeling of losing that edge in the late miles of a race.  So familiar with noticing that movement is beginning to feel too effortful.  So familiar with the desire to see the same mile split on your watch but facing reality when it’s 30 seconds off.  (Or more. Let’s be real.)  So this time, each time I checked in, I just thought to myself, “Well, I managed one more mile at that pace.  Who knows what happens next, but at least we got that one in the books.”  I tried not to be hard on myself.  I told myself that it would be understandable, forgiveable if I slowed down.  I should expect to slow down, afterall.

And suddenly, with only two miles to go, I realized… I could finish the race at this pace.  There was no reason that I should have to slow down over the course of two more miles.  I avoided calculating a finish time to tease myself with a PR. Instead I focused all my energy on moving my legs and mentally pumping myself up by reciting over and over in my head a reminder that this race was a gift to myself and that I was lucky to be out there and lucky to be able to push myself and lucky to be feeling so good.  When I finally approached the finish line and saw the clock glowing with plenty of time to clear a substantial PR, I found yet another burst of energy to glide across the line in hot pursuit of the promised Moomers ice cream.

This was an AWESOME race for several reasons: 1) cool t-shirt and tart cherry juice in my race packet, 2) BEAUTIFUL course, 3) well-executed wait list, 4) celebrity fans, 5) cool finish line on the high school track, 6) delicious ice cream afterwards, 7) fun town to enjoy later that day.

In addition to being a fun place to hang out, my husband found that the location served us in another very convenient way – you can go ahead and dunk your legs right into chilly Lake Michigan afterwards and enjoy a little “ice bath” action.

Would I do this race again?  You better believe it.  Here are some ideas for soaking up the local color while you’re recovering:

  1. Try some water sports – you don’t have to get in and freeze your ass off.  Maybe some kayaking or fishing?  Or you can always just sit kind of near the water and admire it like I did…

2. Consuming deliciousness.  Try some North Peak brews at The Jolly Pumpkin.  Or taste wine and enjoy great views from one of the many peninsula wineries, like Bonobo.  Looking for something with less alcohol and more sustenance?  How about a smoothie bowl at Brew downtown?

North Peak Siren at The Jolly Pumpkin

 

Local wine!

 

Smoothie bowl and coffee at Brew

3. Selfies.  (Just like everywhere else.)  I love this retro t-shirt.

Happy running y’all!

Running Safety

Running is just downright awesome! You aren’t reading this unless you already agree with that. However, it can also be dangerous like most activities. Just remember you will be fine unless you cross one of the safety red lines. That’s a term I just made up for something you do to put yourself in danger or get seriously hurt or worse. For the most part, common sense rules the day. But where do the dangers lie?

Weather extremes, bad footing, health issues, cars, bad dogs or bad people can all turn a run turn into a nightmare. Let’s take these one at a time and how to deal with them.

Beginning with weather is easy. NEVER EVER IN A MILLION YEARS run during an electrical storm. If you hear thunder, there is lightning. Don’t mess with this one. It isn’t worth it. Lightning doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t kill often but it does kill people who think it won’t hit them. So, if there is thunder, don’t go for an outdoor run. It’s as simple as that. If you’re into treadmills, go for it but not outside. Rain itself is no problem. If you don’t like to get wet, then don’t go outside but it won’t hurt you. If it’s heavy and you get wet shoes, watch out for blisters but getting rained on won’t kill you like lightning.

What if it’s too hot or too cold? Too hot is more likely to be dangerous than too cold. You can only take off so many layers if it’s too hot outside. How hot is too hot? That depends on the person and how far you are going. If you live in the south and are acclimated to heat, then you can probably run in hotter weather than I can. While in Savannah on a vacation I was on a trolley tour of the city and saw 3 different runners out at noon in 103 degree heat. That didn’t appeal to me. I hope they weren’t going far but they were out there. I don’t recommend running in that much heat. If it’s too hot, plan your runs for early in the morning or late in the day or once again, think treadmill. I wish I didn’t hate treadmills but they just aren’t an option for me. Stay well hydrated and cut back on mileage. Proving how manly you are in the heat is a recipe for disaster.

Too cold? It has to be really cold before it’s too cold to run. Your lungs will NOT freeze. That just doesn’t happen. But you can get frostbite. Be careful of ice (more on that later). So, how do we handle the cold? Dress for it. Layers are always the answer. A rough rule of thumb is to wear enough that you would be comfortable just standing around in temperatures 20 degrees warmer than you are running in. For example if it is 40 degrees out, wear enough that you would be okay wearing what you have on if you were sitting outside in 60 degree weather. Just like when it’s too hot, you might need to cut back on your mileage if it’s too cold. I have run below 10 degrees but I know others who have gone way below that.

Bad footing is another danger. Ice is the number one danger to running surfaces. Snow is okay but ice is not. During the winter, if the roads are icy, try to stay off to the side so under that snow you have grass or dirt which provides a much better surface. If it’s icy, once again don’t chance it. Hit the treadmill or take the opportunity to cross train. The ice won’t last forever unless you are living in the tundra. Even there, global warming might eventually give you an ice free surface but moving south would be a much better and predictable solution to permafrost.

Potholes in the road or ground are something to keep your eyes open for. Pay attention! Run when it’s light out or on a well lit street if it’s dark out. Stepping in a hole can bring on a career ending injury or if not that bad, a sprain or break which will set you back a long way.

Underlying health issues are a big deal. Anyone from elite athletes to raw beginners can be struck down at any time. Our most famous example is Jim Fixx who wrote The Complete Book of Running. It was the ultimate book for the first running boom in the 1970’s. Fixx died of a heart attack while out for a run at age 52. People used this as a reason to disparage running but the truth was that Fixx had underlying genetic problems. So, it pays to get a good physical before taking up running and make sure your doctor knows you are planning on working into a running routine. When you hear of younger people such as high school athletes who keel over at their sports practice or during a game, it is usually from an undiagnosed genetic cardiac issue. Although it can also be from heat stroke or dehydration. The lesson here is to ease into the running lifestyle, eat healthy and do everything you can to be healthy overall. If we are running to get healthy, it just doesn’t make sense to let the running make you unhealthy by doing too much too soon and dropping over.

Cars can be runners’ public enemy number one but only if runners do stupid things. Count on cars doing stupid things. Assume that every driver is an idiot and they are all texting and playing with their radios. So, what do we do? If you run on the roads as most of us do, try running on the berm instead. ALWAYS run facing traffic. You learned that in kindergarten. It still applies. When a car is coming, get out of the way. I spend a lot of time running in people’s yards. I’m not a big fan of sidewalks as the concrete surface of a sidewalk is harder on your knees and ankles than the relatively softer asphalt, but for short periods, I will not hesitate to run on the sidewalk if there is one. The best way to avoid cars is to run on trails if you have access to them. Nice soft surface and no cars. Yay! While cars can be a major danger, it will only be if you let them. Unless a car veers off the road to go after you, I believe it is your own fault if you get hit by a car while running. It might not be your fault in a legal sense but you can avoid it by paying attention.

Prevention is the key thing for bad dogs. Avoid routes where you know there are loose dogs. I love dogs but I have been bitten twice while running. What really pissed me off was that the owners were nearby and didn’t do anything. I won’t get into what you should do if you do get threatened. Google has all kinds of information. Just know that you will not outrun a dog. Pepper spray is not a bad thing to have if you are in unfamiliar territory.

Worse than a bad dog is a bad human. Girls, this is especially important for you. Like it or not, the fact is you are a target. Pepper spray is good for this purpose too, but just like with bad dogs, prevention is the key. Don’t run alone or in unfamiliar territory. Try to stay away from isolated areas. If someone or a car starts following you, run straight to the nearest house and bang on the door for help. If you just get a bad feeling, head for the nearest help. Better safe than sorry.

Does this all sound like running is a bad idea? Well it’s not. Running makes me happy and just takes a little common sense. See how happy runners are?

Keep running my friends!