Monday, April 16, 2012

#405: Begging and Running, Shrinking and Thinking


Will He Ever Stop?
Mrs P says, "You can't expect people to give money every time you run a race." She's right, of course. I expect I'll be focusing my fundraising efforts and limiting the times I come begging. I worry that the constant appeals for money to support LIVESTRONG AT THE YMCA are off-putting and that people might be mentally "changing the channel," when I post or send a letter or button-hole them personally. It concerns me that I might be working in a way that actually discourages people from helping. But then I remember those people in the gym, sweating out reps, walking out miles, straining to perform abdominal crunches, or to pick themselves up off the yoga mat. If you know a better way to raise money, I'm all ears. In the meantime, I'm using the same dogged determination that I see them use. Please don't let my lame skills as a fundraiser keep you from joining a project that will help people personally and directly. 


Running the Way Kids Run
Two of my favorite things about my hometown are the YMCA, and John's Run/Walk Shop. They';re combining their resources to create a program called "Run This Town." Three times a week, about 20 kids, tweens and teens meet at Castlewood park on the north end of town and run together. There are almost that many adults running with them. We're training together to run a 10k race in May. The Y pays for their registration, and Johns gives each of them a pair of new running shoes. It's a way to help kids fall in love with running.

They come on foot, in old mini-vans, and in luxury sedans. Some of them are wearing expensive gear, some of them are in hand-me downs. It doesn't matter. We run together. On Saturday, I ran 3.5 miles with three young athletes. Since I don't wear my glasses when I run, I can't read the card the program director gives us with the directions on it, so I picked the fastest member of the team to be our navigator. We couldn't keep up with her, but she stopped at every turn to make sure we saw which direction to go before she disappeared out of sight. When the two younger runners and I started slowing down, I decided to introduce them to Fartlek: the speed-play with the funny name. They took turns picking a landmark in the distance. "We'll run to the red car." Then we would walk while the other runner chose our next goal. This is usually a training technique for advanced runners, but it also mimics the way kids actually run. They love to go like the wind, then stop and walk for a while. I was really delighted with how well it worked, and we finished strong, sprinting together to the finish. 


Fat Man Shrinking
I wanted to do about 11 miles on Sunday, so I decided to run the roads I last saw on Christmas morning. My goal was to take it easy, and run the second half faster than the first: negative splits they call it. I had to laugh as I set out. I was going to do a nice short 11 miles. I remembered this post from back in December of 2010.
Tomorrow is going to be a pretty big test for me. Will I get off my duff and go to the gym, or will I give up completely? After all, I can't lift the weight I used to. I can't run the way I used to. It's embarassing to be passed on the track by old ladies or to take all the plates off a machine before I use it. I wonder what all the young dudes who are doing 200 lb shoulder shrugs think about a fat old man who can't lift a 25 lb dumbbell over his head. I wonder if I'll ever be able to lift more than my own weight again.
I had lost just over 100 pounds, and I was dreaming of being able to run a 3k again someday. No one could have ever convinced me that I'd be running a marathon in a year and a half. 

Danny the Newton Man
As I ran yesterday, I focused on tempo and form. At the expo for the Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon, I met a man named Danny Abshire. His company makes Newton Shoes, and he's written a book called Natural Running: The Simple Path to Stronger, Healthier Running. I haven't read his book yet, but a lot of what he said to me about form made sense. Keep your stride short. Land under your hips, not out in front of your center of gravity. Strike on your mid-foot to preserve your forward momentum, not back on your heel, which is like applying the brakes with every step. Use the natural flex of your ankles, knees, and hips to absorb the shock in your muscles, not your bones and joints. I tried to apply what he showed me, and it felt pretty good. I'm not introducing any radical changes in running form three weeks before a marathon, but these are pretty small, and they seem to help me stay strong and even a little quicker on my feet. I finished the 11 miles right on schedule, just a little faster than I'd planned, and I'd learned some more about pacing. Oh, and yes, I ran the second half about 4 minutes faster than the first.


I also have my non-running life to look after. Hugging my wife. Doing the taxes, (extension filed on the 14th.) The return of lawn care season. Slowly preparing for the Great Garage Sale. It's a busy time for Mrs P and  me. We're behind schedule on a lot of things, but we keep moving forward. All things considered, times are pretty good in Pennsyltucky. 

Here's hoping things are just as good in your neighborhood.


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