Saturday, April 12, 2014

Boston Strong: A Year Later

The Boston Marathon has always been the THE marathon...everyone knows THE Yankees, everyone knows THE Notre Dame football team, everyone knows THE Kentucky Derby, and everyone knows THE Boston Marathon...just known as "Boston". Six times I was fortunate enough to qualify to run the race, and five times I was able to fulfill that dream and travel the runner's sacred 26.2 mile path from Hopkinton to the middle of Boston. I ran it enough to now be able to visualize the whole course in my head and feel the sneaky downhills of the first half of the race, hear the Scream Tunnel of the girls of Wellsley, battle the three (or is it four) bumps of Heartbreak Hill, and cherish the "Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston" to the finish line. I haven't run it since 2007. No excuses. I'm just not anywhere speedy enough to qualify anymore. But it's still ingrained in my very fiber and means more than just "my favorite race". Running Boston provides you entrance into an elite least those of us that have done it feel it's an elite club. It's still a rush to answer "yes" when somebody asks "Have you ever done Boston?". With all it's quirks and traditions that have flourished in a race well over a century old, with all it's history of great battles for the victory with sprints down the last few hundred yards of Boylston, and even with it's growing commercialism and busting-at-the-seams participants, there is a Disneyland presence of being THERE.

      Or maybe there WAS a Disneyland presence. We all know of the terror of last year's race, and the terrible aftermath. I certainly won't recount it here. We all know somebody who was there and we remember feeling helpless. The terrorists didn't hate runners, they just chose a venue of runners to do their evilness.  We hated them for what they did to innocent families. We hated them for further deteriorating the security that living in the USA gives us. And selfishly, we hated them for staining the sport we loved.

     Whenever there's a storm, the sun eventually shines, and the sun here was how the running and non-running community solidified around this tragedy. A nation gave Boston support, and the City of Boston rallied behind a collective force that became BOSTON STRONG. Immediately after the bombings, makeshift memorials sprung up around the scene. Running shoes, shirts, notes of love, letters of grief, trinkets of all kinds were placed along the Crime Scene barriers. When the investigation was over, the memorials were moved to a park, and not until June were they carefully packed up, but with the Mayor's promise that there would be a fitting display in the near future.
     This weekend, one week before this year's 118th running of the Marathon, my wife and I are visiting our family in Boston as we try to do about every other month. From the moment you get off the plane, there are signs everywhere signifying BOSTON STRONG...banners, signs in storefronts, on buses, on taxis, on lightposts, literally everywhere. And so, I had the opportunity to visit the very recently opened "Dear Boston" exhibit at the Boston Library. 

It is free and will run until the middle of May. It was a beautiful remembrance of those days one year music playing, no somber lighting, no photos of the day of the race. This was a tribute to a community by that same community, but never with the arrogance of "Don't mess with us", or "You picked the wrong city". It was a display of this happened and we care. Walking through, you felt proud for what we can be as a society. We can rally for the good of all. We can pick up the pieces. Heck, runners do it all the time, but this was for all to see, for all to feel, for all to be a part of. 

I, as all of us do, pray that we never see anything like this again. But sadly, we know we will. It may be man-made, it may be nature, it may be something else. But, when the smoke begins to clear, all we can hope for, and pray for, is to be Boston...Boston Strong.

Until next time, I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too many...One child saved can change the world"

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

In Awe of My Friends

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work" - Thomas Edison

Ok, the truth is I'm getting older and slower. I know that. You know that. Any of the world who has known me over the past three decades knows that. Big deal. I wish it wasn't that way, but it's the way of life. The alternative to keep from running slower is to stop running. Well, that, of course, is not going to happen. At least not until I look pretty doggone stupid trying to put one foot in front of the other, and then someone is going to have to convince me that I really do look stupid, because sometimes I feel like I'm flying at 17 min/mile heading down some trail. 

 A few months ago, I wrote a post here about the changing paradigm that is taking place in running. So many runners are doing runs that years ago were on the outer fringes of being possible for the masses. Now, they get more and more commonplace...half-marathons, marathons, ultramarathons, trail races, etc. However, now it seems there is another paradigm shift (I really don't know exactly what the word means, but it just sounds so cool to use it). That shift seems to be in the way and attitude runners are approaching training and running races. 

Many years ago, I read a book by Alvin Toffler called Future Shock. Basically, he wrote about too much change in too short a period of time. Of course, he was talking about the development of society as a whole, as in agriculture, industrialization, and technology. He said something like if man on earth was represented in a 12 inch ruler, 99% of all the civilized developments of man would be in the last 1/4 inch. I'm sure Ol' Alvin had no reference at all in mind relative to my running, but if I viewed all the primitive ways I developed my running from the 70's (the same decade as Toffler's book) to what's going on in the past "1/4 inch" of running. There certainly seems to be a parallel that I find "too much change in too short a period of time". In a future post, I'll chronicle some of those changes, but I've got one change that seems to be getting more and more prolific, and I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around it.

Let's back up a little and return to those thrilling days of yesteryear. I ran my first marathon in the Fall of 1979 after 6 months of very specific training. I did well and caught the fever. At the time, there were two marathons in Birmingham...the Vulcan that I had just completed and the Magic City Marathon held in February. Marathoners in B'ham were a small group and I was desperately trying to become a solid member. I wanted to run the MCM 5 months after my first Vulcan, but was warned it was TOO CLOSE. You just didn't do 2 marathons in less than 6 months apart! Well, I was thick-headed and did the race. Finished about 11' slower than my first and blamed it on "squeezing" those runs so close together. I obviously hadn't recovered adequately to put forth a good effort. The 10k's I did were done for PR's, but they were really training to get faster in the marathon distance. This was serious stuff folks. In the 70's and 80's, you ran balls-to-the-wall to do your best time every time you pinned on a bib number. 

I did more and more marathons and started to enter the Ultramarathon world, but still would TRY to be careful not to get crazy with piling on the distance. If I had races coming up close together, I would try to cut back on my training miles. Throughout my "competitive" years, my mileage was pretty steady at 60-70 miles per week. My biggest training week ever  was 108 miles and my longest streak was 80 days. Why do I remember those numbers? Because they both almost killed me!! You planned your long training runs weeks ahead of time, and races were cross-haired several months down the road (and not because the race filled an hour after registration opened!). And there in lies my problem (awe).

I definitely hang out with wrong folks. They say if you want to look skinny, hang out with heavy people. If you want to look smart, hang out with some...well, "not-so-smarts". So, if you want to look like a fast runner, hang out with slow runners, or if you want to look like a big stud ultrarunner, hang out with folks just beginning a Couch-to-5k program. What I'm saying is this paradigm train just went flying by me. Go on Facebook, and I see my friends posting "Hey, leaving from the BMX Track at 6:30 in the morning for a 20-25 miler. Who's in?". Before I get to snicker, there are 15 "I'm in" responses. No thought process that might hint that a 25 miler, comprising 5+ hours on the trail might be a little much on 12 hours notice. Geez!  A few weeks ago, my friend Suman posted that the next weekend he was going to do an "Epic" 40 mile trail training run at Oak Mountain. Tons of people wanted to join him and many did, at least for much of it! What happened to planning for these runs weeks in advance?

Ok, that's not what prompted this post, it just set it up. A few weeks ago, my Twitter/Facebook buddy, Eric from St. Louis decided on close to a whim he was going to run in the Howard Aslinger 24-Hour Run. I doubt he had more than 2 weeks to have a mind/body meeting to see if this was a good idea. As far as I know, his "only" ultras in the past 3 years were 2 finishes at the Leadville 100. This was his first stab at going 24 hours straight. He did 115 miles!!! HE WON THE DAMN THING!!! I've done several 24 Hour runs in my younger past, but I remember being in a panic for months before the race.

But the tip of the Ten Gallon Hat goes to the aforementioned Suman (of Epic Run fame). Since January, he's done a couple of marathons, a couple of 50k's, and several spontaneous runs on the forest trails. So, a week before the Lake Martin 50/100 he decides this would be a good time to run his first 50 miler - a week before! He shows up the morning of race, in a total cold downpour, and decides to BUMP UP to the 100...nobody bumps up!!! He finishes 3rd overall in around 25 hours. I give up!! I'm finally convinced my way of thinking was totally flawed. Preparation is obviously wwwaaaaayyyy over-rated. Spontaneity is the name of the game now! 

Apparently, you can break the 4-minute barrier for a mile.
Apparently, you can put a man on the moon. 
Apparently, you can mix peanut butter and chocolate (yum).
Apparently, women can run and their uterus won't fall out.
And apparently, you can do ultra long runs without the fear of lack of preparation or killing yourself.

It's just switching your mindset, being realistic with your goals, believing in your talent and gene pool, and most of all, having the courage to put it out there in front of God and all humanity. Sure, you may trip a few times along the way, but when things click, do they click! 

I'll see you on the always beckoning roads and trails - Al

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Thursday, February 27, 2014

My Morning Fight With Good & Evil

“Morning is wonderful. It's only drawback is that it comes at such an inconvenient time of day.”
Glen Cook, Sweet Silver Blues

Some of my patients often ask me about my running when they see some of the trinkets I might have innocently hanging in my office, or when I slyly slide a comment in that I'm a little tired from running 15 miles yesterday. Recently, when I told a person that I run at 4:30 in the morning they said they wished they could do that and I'm fortunate that I find that an easy thing to do. I didn't correct them (how can you explain voluntary suffering to a non-runner?) but it made me think about what I do to maintain a consistent schedule of running.

I used to run every day at noon for probably 25 years or so, but then the location of my job changed, and suddenly I found myself without a convenient shower. To me, returning to work at 1:00 sweating like a hot pig in July was fine, but my higher-ups felt this might be a roadblock  to proper patient care, so I was forced to alter my running schedule. I tried a few times to run after work, but that was a complete disaster. I mean, there were all these distractions, like the paper, the TV news, a beer, plus another shower and dinner after the run, and Boom! all of a sudden it's time for bed. 

So, around 7-8 years ago, I switched to a morning runner to get it in before work. The weekends are no problem, never have been. I do my longer runs then and seem content to get the run done and know I can relax afterwards. But, two mornings a week, I do the before-work thing. Now, don't get me wrong, I have grown to absolutely love to the solitude of a run before the sun comes up, but dang it, every morning, when I wake up, I know I'll need to talk myself into my daily activity. Oh heck, actually it starts the night before and each of the times I'll wake up during the night, I have to say "YOU HAVE TO RUN IN XXX AMOUNT OF HOURS". I lay out my clothes the night before so all I have to do is turn the alarm off, grab my pile of clothes, and get myself dressed. Yeah, that sounds easy. But, it seems EVERY morning while I'm brushing my teeth, there's this constant battle between Good and Evil. Staying in bed for another hour sounds SOOOO good. But I want to run. This epic daily battle starts with guilt. I know that if I give into the desire to rest I'll regret that decision for the rest of the day. I mean it will eat at me and drag me down in everything that I do. Not to mention the 10 pounds I will automatically gain because I didn't run for 45 minutes. It's a slippery slope and inconsistency only makes it harder. When I went out this morning for my run I knew that I'd be facing more than sleepiness once the first slap of chilly air hit my face. My stupid Nike+ doesn't particularly like to sync with those distant satellites while I'm still in the house, so I have to stand outside like an idiot standing in a freezer, hearing (I'm sure) my watch laughing until it feels it is appropriate to yell "READY". The starting point was 20 degrees and the wind probably pushed it down to 50 below! Ok, that's an exaggeration on the wind chill, but I really hate cold weather. I almost always listen to music or podcasts when I run solo, so this helps to deflect that stiffness that my legs like to exhibit a mere 20 minutes after waking up. So, down the familiar streets I go until my requisite 4+ miles is done. Some runs are slow as all get out, and some are a little faster than slow as all get out. This morning was the latter, so I was happy I ran (as I usually am). 

The crazy thing is that although every run is not something to write to grandma about, I ALWAYS feel better when it's done. And the crazier thing is that before the first step of that run is taken, I KNOW I'll feel better when it's done. That part is learned, but unfortunately, not ingrained. I don't spring out of bed every day in anticipation of my running experience. There's a figurative wall to climb to get out the door. Sometimes that wall is so high it seems impossible to breach. Most of the time (not ALL the time) I figure it out, even if I have to trick myself into doing it. But I know that the only way my collection of race numbers and medals and just pure satisfaction of still being able to get out there will grow is to do what I do each morning I've made the pre-decision to run. Good will most of the time win out over Evil because Good is in better shape than Evil! Plus, that 1st cup of coffee at work tastes so good. Oh, and then there's those crazy patients..."Did you run this morning?". What kind of an answer is "No, I slept in."?

I'll see you on the early roads - AL
"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Running Three Times Around the World

“Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.”
― Bernard Berenson

Are my running numbers that important? I guess they are because I always download my data from every training run I do. I can take the information that's somehow stored in that computer thing strapped around my wrist (Nike+ Sportswatch) and even though I have to export that info to other sites to see everything (because the Nike site really, really sucks), I enjoy looking at what I've done on the road and trail. Do I ever use this information to help me run better? Not really. Do I say, "man, I was tired in December. Let me look at the log and see if I ran more than the experts say I should."? Nope, never do that. But, I am a big fan of looking at totals and then move on. I know that most people are happy to estimate the distances they run, but I need to know exactly what I've accomplished. I mean, I have to measure every course, every run, even if I have run that same course a thousand times. How will I know if that 4.1 mile course is STILL 4.1 miles? And for some reason, I'm an elevation freak and think running vertical does more for building endurance strength than just about anything. Anyway, I look at that.

I can look at last year and see that I ran 1353 miles, which is less than half of my total in my heyday (haha, my heyday). My pace is faster than a turtle trapped in a tar pit, but it's a ton slower than the good old days. Of course, I'm doing a lot more hilly trails the past couple of years and that has slowed me down (yeah, that's it...the trails...the hills). I can look back and see I averaged close to 4 days a week, again less than the 6 I used to do. But, I've found that if I want to keep up a fair resemblance of what I consider running, I better show up a reasonable number of times per week regardless of the present circumstances. I still run longer than most folks say they get tired driving which is all well and good if I were running somewhere where I'd normally drive.

So, what does this have to do with me running for the past few decades? Here it is in a very BIG nutshell. Thank Goodness this has been a "taper week" for the Mercedes Marathon, which in itself is hilarious that my training schedule actually has a "taper" built into it. Anyway, Birmingham was socked in with a couple of Winter Storms this week that curtailed my usually monster running schedule. I posted a photo on Twitter of one of those info signs that goes across the Interstate saying "Winter Storm Warning from 6pm Monday to 6am Thursday". I don't live in Minnesota, I live in Alabama! So, back to my story - Because we didn't have to report to work until late morning on Thursday, I managed to get out on the thawing roads for a short jaunt. Not a great run by any means, but during that little, flat, wet, non-interesting, time-consuming run, I crossed the 80,000 mile mark of miles run in my lifetime...well, since running became an integral part of my life in 1978.

That's a heap of miles. More than three times around the fat waist of the Earth. Ten times through a hole down the center of the Earth that would lead to China and back. Eighty times to run up to Boston to see my Grandkids. Ok, enough of that nonsense, but it is a long way mostly done on asphalt for the first 20 years and about evenly divided between the dreaded road and the much more ankle-agreeable trails since. I've done it in chunks from one mile to 111. On the flat lands and up Pikes Peak. In the stifling heat of Mexico and the bitter cold of...well, all cold is bitter to me!

So, this weekend I'll traverse the 26.2 miles of the Mercedes Marathon for the 13th time and it will be my 139th marathon or longer. About probably 60-70% of my runs have been done in total solitude, but, I must say, my most enjoyable of those 128,000 kilometers (doesn't that sound MUCH longer?) has been the constant interaction with friends new and old. And I have a pretty sure idea that I haven't met all those friends yet, so you know what? I'm going to keep going, keep adding on those miles, and most importantly, keep literally running into these friends. As the most interesting man in the world might say, "I don't always run with somebody by my side, but when I do, they are all friends". Run strong my friends.

I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Dusting of Chaos - My Alabama Ice Adventure

“Life is nothing without a little chaos to make it interesting.”
Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, Demon in My View

I dunno. Most times I sit down and think, “hey I should write something in my blog,” or, “hey, I DO want to write something in my blog,” but many times I sit down to write and I just either don’t really feel like it or that great idea I had while running is gone outta my head. I like to have something interesting to write about instead of just saying, uh yeah, I’m running some, and uh, doing stuff, and oh yeah it’s cold. But sometimes, a topic just falls in your lap without searching too much for it...for instance.

You know, we've had a pretty eventful week here in the deep south. It sounds hilarious to my friends in the frozen north that we got SLAMMED with 2 inches of snow and it literally paralyzed the city. It wasn't the snow, but the daggum ice. First of all, we weren't supposed to get anything but maybe a light dusting of snow on Tuesday, which of course everyone was excited about. Well, the light dusting turned into the Dusting of Chaos. The prediction was that the storm would hit the southern half of the state, but the "Line of Confidence" from the Meteorologists shifted about 90 miles north and BOOM! Birmingham has about a million in the Metro area and most of them live south, over the mountain(s). When it became apparent this was for real, EVERY business, and EVERY school got out at the same time. Four Gazillion cars on icy roads is a problem...a BIG problem. You know what, you can have a 4-wheel drive, or an 8-wheel drive, and you still ain't gonna get up a hill of ice. And once you stop on a hill, it's curtains for you and the 999 cars behind you. That's it, GAME OVER! Absolutely SOLID vehicular gridlock! 

I got 3 blocks from work (on level streets),  and said "Holy Crap! This is not fun at all and I'm either gonna get creamed, stuck, blocked, or run out of gas, but I sure as heck am not gonna get home". So, 3 blocks into my odyssey, I turned around and made it back to work (sorta like DNF'ing a 50 mile run at 400 yards!). 

I spent a fitful Tuesday night in my Physical Therapy gym...I read everything on the Internet TWICE, followed Twitter, followed Facebook, did all my work paperwork, and then tried to sleep. Little did I know you can't turn off all the lights in the gym. Now, why would that be, other than to keep awake anybody who would be trying sleep! Of course, we were closed the next day and I feared that I was doomed to spend another night there as the roads were not only still frozen with ice, but still blocked by the millions upon millions of abandoned cars. I'm a big fan of hyperbole, but I'm not sure this is such a huge exaggeration.  Anyway, late Wednesday, I snaked my way back home, going 20 miles out of my way to avoid the frozen mountains. It was smooth sailing, except for the characters on the dry Interstate driving 25 MPH with their flashers on, nearly causing numerous accidents with guys like me. "Look Mable, I think I see some BLACK ICE up ahead about a mile!". Good God, there's no ice here folks. Drive normal!! Anyway, as I said, smooth sailing until I got within 2 miles of home and hit the side streets. Holy Cow! What in the world were people doing the day/night before? Driving like the good guy in those Apocalypse movies where he somehow manages to weave between dozens of cars to save the damsel in distress? Only they didn't weave so in the ditch, cars parked in the middle of the road, cars sideways on the shoulders. It looked like a scene on the Evening News from Syria.

On Thursday, surprisingly to me, work, and Schools, and most businesses, were cancelled. By mid-afternoon, I had to get out of the house for at least a short run. That was mostly a mistake. I say mostly because it did serve it's main purpose to get me out of the house. You really can't sustain a good pace when every 50 feet or so you have to prance over the ice like a ballerina from the Nutcracker. Also, apparently in Birmingham, and the surrounding normally sane towns, it is against the law to build sidewalks, so everytime a car would come barreling down the icy road towards me, I would have to jump into the adjacent icy/snowy/semi-muddy lawns. Hey, I just counted it as a trail run without the beauty. It was quite comical watching the drivers trying to navigate the roads, sliding on ice without brakes, then slamming on their brakes on perfectly dry pavement. Only got honked at once...some blue-haired woman in a Caddy honked at me from about 50 feet away. When she passed, I got a real stern stare AS SHE TALKED ON HER PHONE!! I laughed to myself thinking that at every red light she came to, she was telling her phone friend "Oh dear, nothing but gridlock. Oh, the humanity". Then the light would change and gridlock was averted and humanity went on it's merry business. I made it home with no falls, rolled ankles, or pulled hamstrings, so all-in-all, a good run.

And now, it's Friday, that feels like it's Monday, it's 60 degrees outside, and The Great Dusting of '14 is over. Quite a week. I wonder what great subject will fall in my lap for Running With Al next week. Come back and find out. It'll be a surprise to me too!

I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too many. One child saved can change the world"

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Laughter In The Clinic

“If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane.”
Robert Frost

One of the things I do lately is looking back. If we're talking about racing, then literally looking back is usually a fruitless endeavor as there's mostly nobody back there. But, when you're out on a long solo run in the woods, you have a long time (some of us longer than others) to reflect, and two of the things that involve most of my time these days are my work (Physical Therapy) and running. I've been a PT for almost 43 years and ran my first marathon over 34 years ago, so these paths parallel each other fairly closely and sometimes actually cross. As I was bounding down a switchbacking single-track this morning, I was trying to come up with the things I hear over and over again in the clinic, and seeing that I am coming up blank for a running theme for this post, I thought I would show you what I encounter daily trying to extract information from patients. Now, you have to understand that some of these patients are runners, and generally they have a stoic "No bone is showing so I can run on it" attitude, but the typical patient is generally of the "I think I overdid my home exercises" approach, when what they did was lift their leg 15 times instead of 10!

I work in an outpatient clinic, and getting folks to do their exercises is sometimes near impossible, but there is a repeatable theme they come up with. It doesn't matter if your a runner, a Physical Therapist, or a typical off-the-street patient, you will never do home exercises as much as told to. They're boring, they're repetitive, and you won't see instant gratification. Don't won't do, you won't!!

When I first see a patient, I do  a subjective and objective evaluation. The subjective is just asking them about their condition and the objective is all the measurements. Nothing funny about the objective, but the subjective is a trip sometimes:

ME: "How much pain do you have?"

PATIENT: "Hard to say. I have a high pain tolerance.”. Ha! They'll tell you how they gave childbirth in the back of a car, had teeth pulled without Novocaine, or eat Jalapeno peppers like candy. But, just try to move the involved arm or leg and they are squirming around like they're on fire. What they usually show is an extremely poor tolerance of pain...or even a poor tolerance to slight discomfort. It is classic.

RUNNER: "I don't know. I just ignore it.". They figure if they can "run" at all, it is safe, or necessary to do so. Had a runner tell me once "It's not a sharp 5k pain, it's more like a constant marathon pain". Actually, that was a pretty good description. 

ME: "Describe your pain"

PATIENT:  "I have no pain, it’s just sore.”. This is another classic. No pain, huh? Then I ask them, "try to grade your pain on a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 being the most". You'd be surprised how many people are walking around joking and laughing with 10/10 pain!! I thought you said you had no pain! I try to tell them that 10 is Emergency Room pain..."I told you I have a high tolerance of pain". Huh? If you're rating it a 10/10, then you don't have a very good idea of what your pain is.  Also, another classic along these lines is when I ask them their pain level and they say "Oh, it's not bad, about 8/10". I try to tell them they don't look like they're in that much pain. Then they say they thought "0" was the highest, so then they tell you their revised pain is 4/10!?! (Shouldn't it be 2/10?). I usually subtract 2-4 points from what they tell me. Low pain tolerance.

RUNNER: They usually can't accurately grade their pain level either because they deal with pushing themselves daily through "pain" just to run. They usually grade low on their pain level, so I usually add 2-4 points to them because they're afraid I'll tell them to stop running if the pain level is too high. High pain tolerance. 

Me: "How are you doing with your home exercises I gave you?".

PATIENT: “ No problems at all … what were they again?”. Speaks for itself doesn't it? Of course you have no problems with exercises that you don’t do. Or the classic is when I ask the patient to show me how they've been doing their exercises at home. They look at me like a deer in the headlights and they respond with "I don't have my exercise sheet with me"! Now, they are supposed to be doing the 3-5 exercises I gave them 2-3 times per day for the past 5 days. Don't you think their memory would be a LITTLE better? 

RUNNER: "Ok, I guess, but they're too, I did 100 instead of 30...and used 10# instead of 3#...and I tried testing out my knee on a hill run instead of a flat track, but it really hurt on the way down so I only did 5 repeats".

Speaking of memory, I had a patient just tell me this past week "I heard blueberries are good for you, but I can't remember why". My response was, "Well, apparently, you aren't eating them!".

ME: “How would you describe your pain?

PATIENT: “A constant and unrelenting pain”

RUNNER: "A constant and unrelenting ache"

ME: “Where is the ache now?”

BOTH: “Nowhere at the moment” 

I just shake my head. Someday I'll write a book. Meanwhile, my 9 out of 10 ankle pain is telling me to do my exercises, but I think I'll go for a trail run instead. You know, I think that constant rolling them over on rocks and roots keeps them loose. Why don't my patients take their rehab as seriously?

I'll see you all on the roads - AL 

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, January 18, 2014

You Can Always Add, But You Can't Take Away

"You don't have to do something epic. Just do something." - Tia Bodington

In the past week, I was presented with, and humbly accepted the Birmingham Track Club's Lifetime Achievement Award. This is a very coveted award that I am still trying to grasp the fact that I was even considered as a potential recipient. This was totally unexpected and greatly appreciated. Having been a member of the BTC since it was 2 years old (1978), I've seen many changes since we were just a bunch of goofballs who wanted to wear the same shirt. If you were a member of the BTC, you were considered FAST. I mean, this was THE TRACK CLUB, not the jogging club. Everybody knew everybody and everybody knew everybody's times and everybody's birthdays (so you knew what age group they were in). Few folks in the Track Club ran just for fun. Almost everybody raced. There were no 5k's back then...just 10k's (with a 2-mile Fun Run), Half Marathons, and the occasional Marathon. In 1981, I ran a 41 Mile Ultramarathon up in Tennessee with a couple of BTC guys. The next year, we had 11 BTC members descend on that race, all sporting our "Birmingham Track Club Ultra Team" tank tops. We smoked the competition and I've been hooked on these crazy long races since. But, the Track Club has changed it's focus and now we are a group of all types of runners and walkers. There are fun runs, social events, and and many more group runs all around the Birmingham area than my rattled mind can keep track of. Over the many years (sometimes you just don't like that word "many"), the BTC has always been an integral part of my running life. I began running when I was 31 years old (we won't count that one High School year that I just ran to get a HS Letter), and I'm still moving forward almost 4 decades later.

I run. I have been a runner for almost 36 years since I first ran around the UAB track for 2 miles back in '78. That seems like an absurd statement because that first run nearly killed me. I do not feel old enough to have done anything for 36 years. I've been a Physical Therapist for about 43 years, and I love it, but I take pride in the fact that part of my personal identity is deeply intertwined with running and endurance sports. I am tickled that my old favorite running shoes from those early years, the Nike Waffle Trainer, Elite, the LDV, and my all-time favorite running shoe, the Saucony Freedom Trainers are part of the "vintage collection". Me, vintage? Ouch.

I often get asked by old friends, patients, and acquaintances, "Do you still run?". Well… yes of course I still run. That question seems so silly to me. My pace can now be timed with a sundial, but running is such a natural part of my life is like asking "Do you still brush your teeth?"... "Do you still eat?". Yes, why wouldn't I still run? I am a runner. And running has helped me meet so many truly good people along the way. At he BTC End-of-the-Year Party, I was approached by several folks thanking me for training them to run their first marathon. Most of them don't run long distances anymore, but I am so thrilled that they still lace up their shoes and get out there for a run these days. At least I didn't kill their enthusiasm way back when. I am still a runner and they are still runners. Isn't that cool?

We can never live our lives perfectly, just as all our runs are certainly not perfect (Ha! That's a good one!), but perfect days or not, there's no guarantee how any of us will be remembered by family, friends or colleagues. Who we are is hard-wired in our DNA, and I guess you thank your parents for that. I guess me being a member of the Track Club was the social equivalent of my dad being a member of the Moose Lodge (honestly, kinda like Ralph Kramden was a member of the Raccoon Lodge in THE HONEYMOONERS - boy, hope I didn't lose a lot of readers there!!). But, my "club" was a little more physical than the Moose (Meese? Mooses?). I can't even begin to estimate how many runners have trotted along side me down the road or trail, in sun, rain, cold, and whatever, and I would just think we were having a good time. But it's all part of shaping a fragment of a lifetime.

It is how we live over the long term, what emotions we evoke, whom we lift up, inspire or sometimes disappoint, that determines our legacies, great or small. We all want to be remembered in good light, but it just happens. Surround yourself with good people, treat them how your parents taught you to, laugh a lot, and most of the time, the sun shines. Yes, I got a Lifetime Achievement Award and the BTC has about filled up a Lifetime, but I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I achieved to deserve it. But I sure do appreciate it. Wonder if the guys in the Moose Lodge had it so good. Now, let's go for a run (real slow!).

I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"