My Hot Weather Running Mantra

“At least it’s not Death Valley.” 

desert road

photo credit: Jonathan Kos-Read via photopin cc

Badwater has been on my mind lately.  I recently watched Running On the Sun, a documentary about the 1999 running of the Badwater Ultramarathon.  Coincidentally, I am also currently reading To the Edge by Kirk Johnson, a memoir about a New York Times journalist’s own attempt at running Badwater (which strangely enough takes place the same year that the documentary was filmed). And, of course, this year’s race took place just a couple of weeks ago.

For those of you that don’t know, Badwater is an ultramarathon of epic proportions.  135 miles through the hottest place on earth, in the middle of summer, from the lowest of low points in the Valley to the highest of highs at Mt Whitney, it is an endurance run of legend.

All of this focus on Badwater has seriously given me a whole new outlook on summer running.  When I’m out for a few good miles in 90 degree heat and glaring sun, with sweat dripping, skin sizzling, and hot air cycling through my lungs, I just tell myself, “At least it’s not Death Valley.”

It has a way of putting things into perspective.

Book Review: The Longest Race by Ed Ayers (Psst . . . It’s A Must Read!)

Between books, blogs, magazines, and other miscellaneous articles and essays, I do a lot of reading.  Most of what I read is enjoyable, informative, and worthwhile.  Every so often, though, I am fortunate enough to pick up exactly the right thing at precisely the right time and I read something that just truly resonates with me – something that I know has a meaningful and personal lesson to teach me.  Such was the case with The Longest Race by Ed Ayers.

The Longest Race - Own Photo 2To say that I’ve been on a bit of a personal journey over the last year or two of my life is putting it somewhat mildly (though, aren’t we all in one way or another?).  So much of what I’ve been pondering, exploring, and learning was reflected back at me in Ayers’ book and so many of the values that he holds and articulates in his writing echo my own.  Ayers writes with a profound respect for the sport of running, humankind, animalkind, and the planet as a whole and it is a beautiful thing to read.

The story he tells is of his experience at the 2001 JFK 50-mile ultra-marathon, and this story alone makes for a wonderful read.  As a runner myself (though not an ultra-runner by a long shot), I was drawn in by the tale of endurance.  I certainly learned a bit about running from Ayers and will be applying my new education to my own training.  But, to say that this is a book that is solely about running would be to ignore many of the larger themes in the book.

The Longest Race offers us a glimpse into Ayers’ mind and it is a brilliant place to explore.  His grasp of history, science, and the human condition is evident as he reflects on the past, as it is so boldly laid out before him on the JFK course, as well as on the future, as he considers deeply the connections between people, animals, the environment, and the sustainability of all three.  Ayers also touches here and there on topics such as patience, anxiety, nutrition, and relationships both within the running community and outside of it.

This is an extraordinary tale that I will be reading again.  There were several moments in the book where I was struck by a certain importance of what I was reading to my own current place in life.  I have more to learn from Ayers’ story and I would be willing to make a bet that others do too.

7 Resources for New Runners – To Learn, Connect and Be Inspired

Something very strange (and very exciting) happened recently.  I was contacted, twice on the same day, by two different people – asking me for advice/recommendations on where to find good information about starting to run.

You may wonder why this is strange.  Perhaps it isn’t strange to many of you, but to me, it felt . . . odd.  People are asking me for resources?  People want my input??

I still sometimes have a difficult time thinking of myself as someone that others would come to for such information, but I am also rational enough to know that I have learned and experienced so much over the last year+ that I can proudly share what I know with new runners.  But, of course, I am a resource only because I’ve sought out and learned so much valuable information from others who have been doing this running thing a lot longer than me.

In that vain, I wanted to share some resources that I have found to be invaluable in my journey to becoming a more experienced runner.  Anyone can start running without accessing any of these resources at all – that’s one of the wonderful things about the activity – but if you’re looking to become a more efficient or effective runner, it can help to do some reading and research.  If you want to run faster, farther, longer, or safer, for instance, it’s beneficial to draw upon the bounty of information that is out there.

I hope others who may be thinking about taking up this great activity, as well as those who have already done so, will find these resources useful and will put to good use the tips, encouragement, and motivation to continue hitting the pavement (or the track or the trails or whatever)!  Please know, that this is not an exhaustive list.  I have accessed many, many books, articles, websites and other resources over the last year or so.  These are, in my opinion, just some of the best places to start!

For Useful Information, Understanding the Basics, & Tips on Training & Recovery:

1.      The Runner’s Handbook: The Bestselling Fitness Guide for Beginning to Intermediate Runners by Bob Glover  runners handbook

This book is a gem.  Some of the information may seem very simple, but it’s fantastic for building a foundation of knowledge about running basics.  From gear to injury prevention to various training methods, this book will answer loads of questions – including some you didn’t even know you had.  It’s been around for decades for a reason.

2.      Runner’s World

Both the magazine and the website are filled with useful information.  Whether I have a very specific question I need answered or just want to browse interesting stories and helpful tips, I head here first.  I used their SmartCoach Training Tool to guide my training for my first half-marathon and I always get excited when a new issue arrives in my mailbox.  They also pay special attention to include specific features (print and online) for beginner runners.  Have a question that you feel dumb for asking, because you think you should know it (you shouldn’t feel dumb, by the way, but I can relate)?  Go to Runner’s World.  You’ll find the answer.

3.      No Meat Athlete

I’m a vegetarian.  Maybe you’re not.  I bet that even if you’re not, you can still get benefits from this website.  Matt Frazier, the creator of this site (and the podcast, which is also worth listening to) knows his stuff.  He provides training plans, tips, advice, recipes and stories for runners at all levels and he does so in a very accessible, engaging way.  I was thrilled when I found this website and I subscribe to the RSS feed so that I get all updates.  I’ve also recently purchased the Marathon Road Map as a guide in my continued training.  One of the things that I think I like most about Frazier and his site is that he conveys such a genuine love of running and respect for all runners – at all levels, all ages, all types.

4.      Strength Running

Jason Fitzgerald is another regular runner guy who really knows what he’s doing.  Or at least he seems to from his website, which I read regularly.  He’s a USATF-certified running coach and he provides his coaching expertise privately (for a fee) and more generally (for free on the site).  Check it out  for great training tips and information on how to stay injury free (and, we all want that, right?).

5.      Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking Your Athletic Potential Health, Speed, and Injury Prevention  by Jay Dicharry

On average, you may not pay much attention to anatomy or be all that intrigued by science.  I know that I’m generally not, except when it comes to my health and fitness.  Then, my ears perk up a bit.  This book is written for people like me.  It provides clear, relevant information about my anatomy and how to leverage it for my best running potential.  Best of all, it reads intelligently, presenting what may be unfamiliar biological terms and concepts clearly, without dumbing anything down. This book is fantastic for getting to know how your body really works and sorting out facts versus myth about running-related anatomy.

For Inspiration & Motivation:

6.      Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek

Since the release of this book, Jurek has become a bit of a running rock star.  He’s often talked about in regards to his success with and promotion of a vegan lifestyle (for overall health and running benefits), and as important as that is, his book is so much more than that.  It’s an incredible personal journey to read and also offers loads of helpful information about running along the way.  Not to mention that it also includes tasty recipes for a healthy runner’s diet.

7.      Second Wind: One Woman’s Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents by Cami Ostman   second wind

To say that this book inspired me is an understatement.  Ostman’s story is told with an honesty and frankness that is refreshing and enlightening.  I don’t want to discourage men from reading this, because I think they can get a lot of out of it, too, but I will say that for women runners in particular, I highly recommend this to help with seeing what’s possible and what running can do for your spirit.