Archive for June, 2016


THE MANY FACETS OF RUNNING

06.27.2016
Chris Morales at the Reggae Marathon Finish

That Runnin Guy – Reggae Marathon Finish 2009

This piece was inspired by my friend Chris Morales, aka ThatRunnin’ Guy, aka Sugar “Tuff Gong” Bong (the official blogger for one of my very favourite races, the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K in Negril, JA. In case, you are wondering, that strange name is his Reggae Name. Mine is Doctor One Drop Dread.  Never mind. It doesn’t matter!

It is kind of funny how one little comment can trigger an idea. In response to an exchange we were having on the “Personal Message” feature of Facebook, Chris said something like: “Boy, you really are a planner!” DING!!!!  That was all it took to inspire what follows. Mostly, it is about me and my perspective on things, but as usual it also goes farther.

Bob's Border Busters - Hood to Coast (1987)

Bob’s Border Busters – Hood to Coast (1987)

Somewhere after that comment and a detailed discussion on my part of how much you need to plan if you want to put a team into the Hood to Coast Relay (another favourite event), I may have mentioned that at my age, the planning is starting to almost be more fun than the running. Where it comes to Hood to Coast, many of my team members keep thanking me for all the work I do as team captain. That is much appreciated, but the truth is I love the detail and intricacies of putting the team together and getting the right people on the right legs while planning all the logistics before, during and after. Oh, there was a time when I could consider myself a strong contributor to the actual running effort, but that was a while back now. This August will be my NINTH Hood to Coast. Could have been a much larger number, but it is no longer easy to get in, and just as an example, this entry was a ‘third time lucky’ success. Of the nine teams, I guess I have been the outright captain of five and co-captain of one other. It is no secret to veteran Hood to Coasters that planning is the key to success, whether success is defined by having a really good race or just having a whole lot of fun.

Anyway, that is how this whole thing started. It reminded me of all the different things that can be involved with regard to ‘running’.

Running the forest trails. Early morning. Friends. Just running.

Running the forest trails. Early morning. Friends. Just running.

Facet #1: Running is running. Running is good. So, right there is the first ‘facet’ from the title. I guess if you don’t enjoy running you just aren’t likely to get much into anything else that follows. I know people who started running, but have never raced and I know people who have gone from being active, even elite, competitors who no longer race, but just run for the shear joy and pleasure of it.

Facet #2: Running is NOT necessarily racing. As hard as that is to believe, it is nonetheless true! There is no doubt it is a short leap from just running for fun and health and whatever, to trying out that first race, which may also be ‘just for fun’. Nothing wrong with it stopping there, or not even getting that far. Just do it because it feels good and is good for you.

Facet #3: Racing is challenging and fun. The first point is certainly true, but if the second is not, then it may be best to revert to ‘Facet #2’. The challenges of racing are many and varied. You can run to win outright, or your age group or just to beat your former self, and so many other things too. Like so many other things of this nature, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. At my age, I kind of feel like I’m winning just be being out there. Sometimes I win my age group now, but sometimes that amounts to be ‘first out of one’, and that is when I invoke the idea that being out there is winning!

Double Agent two-fer on Maniacs/Fanatics group membership. (Photo: Courtesy of Revel)

Double Agent two-fer on Maniacs/Fanatics group membership.
(Photo: Courtesy of Revel)

Facet #4: Running is a social activity. This is true on so many levels from having one or two running partners/buddies to being a member of an organized local club, or a member of a more ‘virtual community’ such as Marathon Maniacs or Half Fanatics. The latter are real things with real people and those people self identify and congregate at races, but seldom do we members really know one-another, other than through social media exchanges or club news letters. Most Maniacs and Fanatics do know a few of the other members, in some cases quite well, but largely with both groups hitting just around 14,000 members, the association is more notional in nature. It is no less fun though.

I’ve also talked a good many times of the family running exploits involving me, my wife, the three kids and now our grandson. The Hood to Coast and other relay groups I’ve been part of may be about racing but are also social, top to bottom.

Facet #5: Racing can be enlightening. I started out thinking about how I (and many others) travel to run/race. But then I realized that in seeing different people and places, not to mention perspectives, you achieve one kind of enlightenment. However, the various achievements, from just learning you can do it through pushing yourself to performances you would never have imagined, running can open the mind and personal perspectives of almost everyone. The examples are almost limitless because this aspect is very personal.

Terry Fox - 'Mile Zero' at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, BC

Terry Fox – ‘Mile Zero’ at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, BC

Facet #6: Racing can benefit others. Yep, those charity runs do some amazing things. Sometimes it will be a personal pledge/challenge to raise a certain amount for a particular cause (as related to your actual entry such as for events like the Boston Marathon) or sometimes just supporting a particular event because it contributes to something worthy and special (Terry Fox Runs). Some people just dedicate their effort to supporting a friend’s struggle (no money involved).

Facet #7: Runners  support running/racing. By this, I mean that even though we may run for our own fun and challenges, we can also volunteer to serve and support others. The Running in the Zone book was divided not into chapters, but rather ‘zones’. One of those was “The Contribution Zone“. Whether you ‘just’ help at packet pick-up or at a water station or take on being race director for an event, those things enable everyone else to do what they do. Some other examples include officiating or becoming certified course measurers. There is so much that underlies our racing and there are people who must do those things. They don’t just happen. We can all take our turn at being a volunteer in some capacity. It is rewarding and sure gives perspective for when we race ourselves.

While my own Hood to Coast organizing activities are ultimately about the running, the administrative planning and organization probably fall here. I mean, that being the inspiration for this whole post, it had to come into the discussion somewhere!

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer - Yakima River Canyon Marathon

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer – Yakima River Canyon Marathon

Facet #8: Running produces heroes! Of course it does. Pre, Mo, Meb. Bet I don’t need to expand on those three names for runners who follow this blog. It goes beyond the performances of people like Paula Radcliffe and Usain Bolt who thrill us with feats almost beyond our imagining. We also have the people like Kathrine Switzer who work over decades to advance things like the place of women in running. It was really not THAT long ago that women were highly restricted in what they could run. Although Kathrine was the most notorious woman to break the Boston Marathon barrier, she really wasn’t the first, but she was the one who took it to a different level. The first women’s Olympic Marathon was run only 32 years ago (1984), and that took a lot of activism from none other than our Kathrine Switzer. While Roger Robinson was a terrific runner in his own right winning many masters marathon titles and setting records, some of which still exist, he and Russell (his bionic knee) are setting new standards of running excellence because, for Roger and many others, running is just that important!

Team Joshua in action!

Team Joshua in action!

But, there are other heroic figures in running. Some get a bit of news, but many just truck along doing what they do, but boy do they do it. A local team of heroic racers is embodied in Team Joshua. Josh has a complex affliction that severely limits him but his mother Michelle realized some years ago that he was very happy when she would run with him in a jogger. As he got older, the jogger had to get bigger and she had to get stronger, because as a teen, Josh is no lightweight, but they press on, setting targets and achieving them. What about the people like Ed Whitlock or BJ McHugh that push those upper levels of seniors running? They aren’t just amazing because they are still running, but rather because they excel.

I could go on, but the point of talking about these heroes in our sport is not their specific achievements but rather the inspiration they bring to all of us.

BJ (Betty Jean) McHugh at the First Half Half Marathon

BJ (Betty Jean) McHugh at the First Half Half Marathon

Facet #9: Running is for life. Well, for as much of life as you want it to be, barring personal standards and good health. Running is whatever you consider it to be. I enjoy running as such, but still like to compete. Compete? With who? Well, at this point, mostly myself. Long ago, my raw times started falling off, never to be seen again. That was when I embraced age grading! My competitive challenge is to try to maintain my standard of performance as given under the age-graded outcomes. I used to look at the adjusted times (and still do), but have almost moved over more to the % Performance statistic. Of course, any given race can be impacted by a wide range of factors, but I usually compare my annual PBs against previous years and maybe more significantly have started doing 5-year PB stats, simply because in any given year I may only run one race of a certain distance and that may be a fabulous result or could be marred by weather, a hard course, or who knows what else.

Facet #10: Friends. Oh sure, there are lots of ways to make friends that have nothing to do with running and not every runner you will ever meet is going to be your friend. That said there are a bunch of interesting things about ‘running friends’. On a very superficial level, the common interest or bond of running means people will start talking as if they’ve known each other for years. Running is maybe some kind of unspoken introduction made by a good and trusted friend. “Well, if Running likes you, you must be OK!”

Me with Carey Nelson (2X Olympian) Ellie Greenwood (2X World 100K Champ, Comrades winner and Western States winner X2) (photo: P Cheung)

Me with Carey Nelson (2X Olympian) Ellie Greenwood (2X World 100K Champ, Comrades winner and Western States winner X2) (photo: P Cheung)

Another facet is the wide range of people you can meet. I have to be careful here because everyone will be different, but because I have involved myself at a number of levels of running from actually doing it, to organizing it (race director stuff and all that) to writing about it and even doing announcing, I have met a lot of people that range from the famous to just regular folk (where I classify myself). Because I like to combine travel with my running, I have also had a chance to meet people from all over the world, most of them just like me. I have been privileged to know Olympians, at least partly through editing Running in the Zone, but also because of the running communities of which I am a part and some of the people I know, who know people, etc. I’m not saying every one of these people I’ve met have become friends, but some have.

There are so many people I could talk about, but I could probably write a whole blog about each one, so that isn’t going to work too well. I guess what I will do, which may illustrate several parts of this ‘running friends’ idea, is to talk about the same guy I opened this post with, Chris Morales. Now, it is only partly about Chris and me as friends because there are two others that must come into this story. Actually, there are probably several, but it kind of started with us four.

Four Amigos after RM2015 showing 22 total races (fingers up) with That Runnin' Guy second from the right.

Four Amigos after RM2015 showing 22 total races (fingers up) with That Runnin’ Guy second from the right.

We met through the Reggae Marathon. Actually, as the blogger, Chris had been reaching out to various people through the event blog and one way or another the three others of us, were drawn in by Chris. I had quite an interaction going long before I ever set foot on the white sand beaches of Negril (which, by the way, was where Chris and I actually met face to face). The other two are Larry Savitch and Navin Sadarangani. The first time we all actually met was at the 2010 running of the Reggae Marathon. Since then, we meet up each year in early December in Negril for a run in the sun not to mention a little fun. OK, a lot of fun. There have been a number of Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenges. The first happened because Chris, Larry and I were all running a half marathon on the exact same day: in New Jersey, Toronto and Vancouver. We set up a bunch of rules (OK, I set the rules) and Chris even got a friend to make us handcrafted medals, and from a major Reggae Marathon sponsor, a first prize of a pair of PUMA running shoes to the winner. Every year in Negril we continue the racing challenge but have added several more regular participants. We all run whatever distance of the three on offer, then everyone gets age graded and adjusted to the common distance of the half marathon. It is all for fun, but boy does it produce some trash-talk on social media when we can’t be there to do it face to face. Funny enough, I just realized, there is relatively little trash-talk when we ARE face to face! For several years now the Four Amigos have a goup photo taken, each of us holding up the number of fingers representing the times we have run the Reggae Marathon. When we gather in Negril on December 3, 2016 we will be collectively showing 26 fingers.

I said that you meet people from all over. This group is quite the package. Chris is Canadian and from Toronto, but he was born in and only left Jamaica in his mid-teens. Of course, I too am Canadian but from the West Coast while Navin is of Indian heritage, he also lives in Canada (at present, being a true citizen of the world). Larry is from the East Coast and American (lives in New York State). We are of a wide range of ethinic, religious and racial heritage and that one thing of running drew us together so we could become friends. Running no longer keeps us together, even if it creates some opportunities for us to see each other. Nope, in this instance running was just the catalyst for something a lot deeper and more meaningful.

So there you have it. I didn’t set out to make it 10 points, but that did seem to work out both naturally and quite well. It also feels quite appropriate to finish on the matter of friends we make. There may well come a day, and in my case it could be sooner than later, when we aren’t really able to run. However, I doubt very much that when the running ends, the friendships made, will end with it.  I doubt it very much!