Friday, April 27, 2012

A decade on the run

Ten years ago today, I completed my first-ever endurance event – the 2002 Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville, Tenn. I really didn’t know what I was getting into when I signed up for the race (after all, who makes a half marathon their first road race of any kind?!?), or realize the profound impact running would come to have on my life.

Running the 2002 Country Music Half Marathon.
I still remember the tremendous feeling of accomplishment that overcame me when I crossed the finish line for the first time. Later that day, seeing my friend Scott (who convinced me to run the race in the first place) finish the full marathon left an indelible impression on me. At that moment, I told myself that I wanted to do a marathon one day. Almost four years later when I toed the line at the Walt Disney World Marathon in January 2006, Scott was there to support me.

While training for my first 26.2-miler, someone told me that after you finish, you will either get hooked on marathons or never want to do another one. I got hooked, and set a goal to become a “50-stater,” that is, run a marathon in all 50 states. I’m up to 13 so far.

Shortly thereafter, I met my friend Brad, who encouraged me to participate in more local events. So I did, including running at least one race (sometimes more) every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day during the summer of 2007. That sparked a notion to try to run a race in every county in North Carolina. Brad liked the idea too, so together we’ve embarked on “Chad and Brad’s 100 County Countdown.”

Running all these races hasn’t been easy, and I’ve certainly had to deal with issues all runners deal with like life, injuries, fatigue, lack of motivation, etc. Along the way, I’ve also learned about things like goal-setting, discipline, sacrifice and chafing (ouch!). Running has taught me a lot about myself, taken me to some wonderful places and introduced me to some amazing people (like my wife, for one. I even managed to squeeze in a 5K on our wedding day!)

But when I think about my the experiences that running has afforded me over the past 10 years, the thing I think about the most is how blessed and thankful I am just to have the ability to run. The late American distance runner Steve Prefontaine once famously said, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

Running is a gift that I’ve come to appreciate over my decade on the run. Chance are, there will come a day when I will no longer have the ability to run, but today is not that day. So in the meantime, I’ll just keep running, and hope the next 10 years are as fun and fulfilling as the last 10 have been.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Glazed and Confused -- The Krispy Kreme Challenge Race Report

The late American distance running phenom Steve Prefontaine once said, "A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts." "Pre" probably never ran an event quite like the Krispy Kreme Challenge, but it's a race that definitely puts his adage to the test.

Part race, part eating contest, the challenge is the ultimate test of gastrointestinal fortitude. Run two miles from the NC State University Belltower on Hillsborough Street to the Krispy Kreme store on Person and Peace streets in downtown Raleigh. Eat a dozen glazed doughnuts, then run two miles back to campus – all in under an hour.

Since the event combined two things I absolutely love – running and doughnuts – I joined the 3,000 other participants this past Saturday to take part in the challenge.

When I first heard of the challenge last year, it seemed like the perfect kind of quirky running event that I look for when searching the local race calendars. The Krispy Kreme Challenge became a must-run event for me on my 2008 racing schedule. And besides, the student-organized fundraising event helped raise $20,000 for the N.C. Children's Hospital, so I was doing it for the kids.

My year's worth of anticipation and excitement gave way to a case of the nerves in the days leading up to the race. As an avid runner, I figured the four miles wouldn't be a problem. Stopping in the middle to eat a dozen doughnuts? That's where the anxiety came in. How exactly do you train for an event that combines a runner's high with a sugar rush?

In preparing for my first marathon two years ago, I researched all the available information about staying properly hydrated and fueled over the course of 26.2 miles. I practiced drinking fluids and consuming energy gels on my long training runs until I knew my preparation would get me through the marathon. But there wasn't a tried and true training method for the challenge, as eating doughnuts while running isn't a technique you'll find in a copy of Runner's World.

So I showed up on Saturday confident in my legs, but uncertain about my stomach. I was more nervous prior to start of the Krispy Kreme Challenge than I had been before any of the other 52 previous road races I'd run.

At the sound of the starting gun, the mass of runners sprinted down Hillsborough Street, led to the Krispy Kreme store by – what else? – an escort from the Raleigh police. I set a leisurely pace, arriving at Krispy Kreme in a little over 20 minutes. I confidently grabbed my box of doughnuts, tossed open the lid, and was confronted by 12 innocent-looking, glazed rings of dough. A dozen Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts contain 2,400 calories. This was carb-loading taken to a new level.

I downed my first doughnut by squeezing it into a compact mass, a technique I'd heard described as timely and efficient. This technique wasn't for me, however, so I opted for a more traditional approach – eat them one at a time, try to enjoy them and try not to think about the run back.

The first five or six went down surprisingly easy. After the first half-dozen though, I felt the mass of dough and glaze settling and growing in my midsection. With time and space running out, my bites became smaller and more laborious as my insides became larger and more expansive. It felt like a helium balloon was being blown up inside my stomach. I still don't know how I got the last three down.

After downing a bit of water, I proudly showed my empty box to a race volunteer who checked my race bib as proof that I'd completed my dozen. As I took my first feeble steps back to the Belltower, I glanced at my watch and learned that I only had about 10 minutes to make it back in order to complete the feat in under an hour. That wasn't happening. My new challenge became keeping the doughnuts down.

"Oh, I didn't need to see that!" I exclaimed just a short ways past the Krispy Kreme on the return route. I'll spare you the description, but it was the first of several such patches of pastries that were scattered (and splattered) along the road.

By design and necessity, I settled into a slower pace on my trek back to campus. Despite some rumblings, I kept the load of lard down for the two miles back, joyfully ascending the Belltower steps with an unofficial time of 1 hour and 12 minutes.

In the final analysis, I underestimated how long it would take to consume a dozen doughnuts. Mentally, I divided this race into thirds – allotting 20 minutes for the run down, 20 minutes to eat the doughnuts and 20 minutes for the run back. I was close on the running, but eating the doughnuts took me closer to half an hour.

So looking ahead to next year, I'll be eager to take 12 minutes off my finishing time to earn the coveted challenge finisher shirt. I'll just need to shave off one minute for every doughnut consumed. That's doable, right? Besides, no guts, no glory. "Pre" most certainly would agree.

See you at next year's challenge, a race that certainly puts the "nuts" in doughnuts.

For more on the Krispy Kreme Challenge visit my friend Ashely's blog, my coworker David's on-the-spot reporting, the official race Web site or search "Krispy Kreme Challenge" on YouTube for no shortage of video accounts.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Five on the Fifth

Posted my first run of the New Year this morning with a 5.61 mile effort at the American Tobacco Trail....five leisurely miles on the fifth of January. It seems like forever since I had been on a run, but in reality it's only been two weeks. Still, that's the longest period of time of taken off in a while that wasn't because of an injury. I had a harder time than usual training through the holidays this year. Perhaps it's because I didn't have a January marathon staring me in the face like I've had the past two years. I think the rest was beneficial, however, and it sure felt good to get my legs back under me.


Friday, January 04, 2008

Rethinking Resolutions

Happy New Year! Since I've been on a blogging hiatus for three months, my resolution for 2008 is to be a better blogger. Not really, but I'll try.

I will confess, however, to getting caught up in the hype of the New Year and the symbolic "fresh start" it brings. And like many, I do like to set goals for the coming year in different areas of my life -- physical, mental, spiritual, relational, financial, etc. And like most, I tend to overdo it, get too ambitious, or focus on too many things at once.

Looking back on 2007, I met some of the goals I set 12 months ago, but fell short in others. My '07 successes include running at least one road race per month (not only did I run a race per month, I ran at least one race per week from Memorial Day to Labor Day); running at least four marathons (I ran five); running a sub 4-hour marathon (I broke 4 hours in three of the five marathons I ran in '07) and the secret goal I shared with just a few people -- to not have a single soft drink in all of '07 (and I still haven't had one four days into '08).

I fell a bit short in some other areas, like my goal to run 1,500 total miles in 2007 (I did around 1,461, still the most I've ever logged in a year). And I fell woefully short in other areas. Like my quest to read an average of a book per week last year (I only read 14), and my attempt to read straight through the Bible in year (I did make it out of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, but not out of the Old Testament).

So as I normally do this time of year, I've been thinking a lot about resolutions, but have yet to make any specific ones. And it seems that the area of life where it's most important to grow -- the spiritual arena -- is the area where it's most difficult to measure true growth. You simply can't measure spiritual growth like you measure the amount of weight lost, money saved, miles logged or books read. That's because spiritual growth has more to do with an inward attitude than outward action, which should cause us to think about the reasons for setting goals or making resolutions in the first place. What is our true motivation?

In the late 1700s, the famous American preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards made himself a list of 70 resolutions to live by. Among them:
  • to do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration.
  • to never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
  • to never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
  • to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I.
  • to never speak evil of anyone.
  • to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
  • to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, -- what sin I have committed, -- and wherein I have denied myself.
  • never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
Edwards' list looks much different than the list of resolutions one might set today. Edwards didn't pen a list of selfish pursuits to chase in his own power. Rather, his purpose was to glorify God and depend upon His strength. He knew his limitations. In the preface to his resolutions, Edwards wrote, "Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ's sake."

So as I think about what I'd like to accomplish this coming year, I'm trying to evaluate my attitude, monitor my motivation, and follow the exhortation given by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31. "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Chicago Marathon Race Report

The 2007 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon will likely go down as one of the most memorable marathons in history, but for all the wrong reasons. By now, the heat-related havoc wreaked on the runners participting in the 30th running of this event has been well-documented.

In most years marathons, even the major ones like Chicago, Boston and New York, receive scant coverage in the mainstream press. But when a runner dies, hundreds others are treated for heat-related illnesses and the race is called off some three-and-a-half hours in, the race suddenly becomes front-page news and a lead story on CNN.

I was there in Chicago on Sunday, and it's with mixed emotions that I pen this report. I want to be proud of the fact that I was able to finish, yet be sensitive to those who didn't get that opportunity. I want to be thankful that I was not among those who suffered any ill-effects from the record-high temperatues, yet be considerate of those who did. I sympathize with those runners who reported not having water available to them at aid stations because I was able to consume ample fluid at each station to remain hydrated. Yet I also empathize with the race officials, who despite their best efforts and planning, had no control over the brutal weather conditions that ruled the day. And, of course, my heart goes out to the family of Chad Schieber, the 35-year-old Michigan native who died while running, as well as the hundreds of other runners who were treated for heat-related illnesses.

When I first registred for the Chicago Marathon in the spring the race's reputation for having a flat, fast course coupled with cool fall temperatures gave me visions of running a personal best time at the 26.2 mile distance. All that changed when I read the race-day forecast in the Chicago Tribune while eating breakfast Saturday morning at my hotel. The forecast read, "Sunday's 30th annual LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon will most likely be run under the warmest conditons ever with runners advised to guard against potential overheating, cramping or other heat-related maladies." Unfortunately, the weather man got this forecast right on all accounts.

When I woke up Sunday morning to ride the El train to the starting area downtown, the temperature was already 70 degrees at 5 a.m., three hours before the start of the race. Less than a half mile into the race, I was already working up a sweat. While watching for some of Chicago's distinctive landmarks such as the Board of Trade, the famous Chicago Theatre and the Chicago River in the early stages of the race, I was also on the lookout for temperature readings. Shortly into the race the first one I saw read 73 and another shortly thereafter read 77.

After getting the first few miles behind me, running a steady pace and staying hydrated became my orders of the day. Although the aid stations were crowded, I had no trouble getting both Gatorade and water. Some runners deeper in the pack said they didn't receive any fluids until around mile eight. After crossing the halfway point in front of the Sears Tower, I was already dreading the second half of the race with the heat bearing down. Near the United Center around mile 15 I noticed a shirt that read something to the effect of "the first third of the race is run with your legs. The second third of the race is run with your mind. The last third of the race is run with your heart." I liked the thought.

They say the real race in a marathon begins at mile 20. So how do you think I felt when I saw a temperature reading on a bank sign that read 91 degrees? Six miles to go with the sun bearing down. Where I could I ran the shade provided by the buildings that lined the streets. I'm also thankful for those spectators who provided runners with water and ice of their own accord.

After plodding along for the final six miles, I finally turned the last corner and with the finish line in sight I heard a firefighter or police officer yelling to the runners, urging them to walk, saying "The race has been cancelled." What did that mean, I wondered? Did I hear him right? Well, stubbornly I told myself I didn't run 26 miles to walk the final two-tenths. That's if you consider the pace I was going at that point actually running. So I decided to finish what I started and run the rest of the way in. And making that final turn is when I saw my first runner collapsed on the ground. Medics were tending to him, giving him water.

After crossing the finish line, other runners were dropping. "Runner down," I heard spotters repeating, prompting medical staffers to tend to the runners and get them medical attention. I hung around the finishing area for a while, getting some food and water before heading back to the train station to head back to my hotel. As I made my way back, that's when I saw the runners who were forced to stop being routed down Jackson Street to the finish area.

It wasn't until later in the day that I heard reports of Schieber's death, the 300 heat-related illnesses, and the shortages of water and Gatorade at the aid stations. From my position on the course, I saw nothing that would lead me to think that conditions were so dire out on the course. But apparently they were.

The heat issues and the cancellation of the race actually overshadowed exciting and dramatic finishes in both the men's and women's races. The men's race came down to a photo finish as Patrick Ivuti of Kenya edged Morocco's Jaouad Gharib at the finish line by five one hundredths of a second -- the closest finish in Chicago Marathon history. In the women's race, Berhane Adere of Ethiopia sprinted past the apparent winner Romania's Adriana Pirtea in the final two-tenths of a mile to claim victory.

I left Chicago with mixed emotions about the marathon. I'm thankful that I was able to finish the race, but I can't seem to take as much satisfaction in the accomplishment knowing what befell my running bretheren. One thing I've learned from participating in endurance events is that runners, particularly marathoners, share a kindred spirit. There's just something about the shared experience of putting in hours of training, logging hundreds of miles, overcoming obstacles and then going the distance on race day that creates a common bond among runners. And because of that connection, I share in those hardships that my fellow runners experienced in Chicago.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Chicago Hope

With the Chicago Marathon one week away, I decided to start the final week of preparations on Sunday by squeezing in one last speed workout at the Second Empire 5K Classic in downtown Raleigh. The course for the Second Empire 5K is advertised as one of the fastest in the Triangle, and it certainly lived up to its billing on Sunday. I set a new personal best in the 5K with a time of 21 minutes, 3 seconds in the Second Empire 5K.

I hope my results in the Second Empire 5K bodes well for the Chicago Marathon. Prior to my last marathon in June, I ran a personal best in a 5K race the weekend before, and then went on to PR in the Sunburst Marathon the following weekend. Hopefully the flat, fast course in Chicago will help me take a few more minutes off my marathon PR of 3 hours, 54 minutes.

Friday, September 07, 2007

T-Minus 30 and Counting

The countdown has begun. The Chicago Marathon is a mere 30 days away. Time to put in two more long training runs -- a 14 miler and a 20 miler -- and then it's taper time. It's also time to pay better attention to my diet, which has been up and down of late.

In honor of the 30th running of the Chicago Marathon, the event's official Web site is sponsoring a feature titled "30 Runners in 30 Days." From now until race day, the site will profile a different participant in this year's race. Today's spotlight is on country music artist Jo Dee Messina, who'll sing the national anthem before joining the field for the 26.2 mile run through the Windy City.

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