Saturday, January 8, 2011


"You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you." - JOHN WOODEN, former Basketball Coach

As we anxiously cower in Birmingham,awaiting a snowstorm of 3-8", I wonder, should I waste my time writing a blog about an event that may not happen at all, or do I look back on previous failed predictions of doom and gloom by our weatherman "experts", and not write about it at all. I choose the latter. But, I do reserve the right to run out to grocery store immediately after posting this blog and stock up, not on the ridiculous bread & milk, but on something more beer and pretzels. For those of you not in the Birmingham area, you don't understand how the simple mention of the word "snow" paralyzes the city, so, to some, the epic pseudo-storm of tomorrow will bring on the end of the world two years early (if you believe those alien-influenced Aztecs). So, I better hurry up with this post.

I heard that quote above recently and it got me to thinking about what a good quote it was for the beginning of the year. Although my tenure is now over, I was the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Run Coach here in Birmingham for 15 years. When I joined TNT back in the mid 90's, we began with two seasons a year, offering only one full marathon. Even had a break between seasons! Over the years, it grew to three over-lapping seasons with both full and half marathons. All of our teams would meet together to begin their training runs every Sunday morning as one big, happy group, and I had to say "I hope you all looked at the schedule and know how far you're supposed to go", because literally, somedays all I would know was how far the longest group was going. I figured those going shorter would know when to stop (not always a good assumption). Between making schedules, drawing maps, putting out coolers, being motivational, answering emails, and actually trying to coach runners to go very long distances, I would sometimes almost have to kick myself when I felt like I was losing the whole focus of the program - helping those much less fortunate than myself. We're all put here for a reason and I don't want to get into a long discussion of determining if that reason is preordained or not, but the basic reason HAS to be helping each other, don't you think? It doesn't matter whether you raise money for a charity (ANY charity), give your time doing volunteer work, or just helping up someone who stumbles along the way. If we all would just lend a hand somehow, wouldn't things be a whole lot better?

This weekend, there are some Disney TNT'ers in Orlando doing their half (today) and full (tomorrow) marathons. And in just 5 short weeks, our Mercedes runners and walkers will reach the top of the training mountain and many of them are raising monies for TNT or the Bell Center For Early Intervention Programs or some other worthy charity. All of these groups began back in mid-September and most had no idea what in the world they were doing or why they were trying to become an endurance athlete to raise money. But, they came out scared and nervous, and here they are about to take their final exam. Some could just sit down and write a check to their charity, but they may have been touched by someone they know that has this disease and they want to push themselves a bit to make aware to others that this can be beaten, but in the meantime saying "I AM GOING TO DO SOMETHING THAT'S HARD, THAT'S NOTICED, AND WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE". Every wall is built with a million bricks and every one is important to the strength of the wall. Each dollar raised by itself doesn't really seem to mean a whole hill of beans, but when you put them in a big pile and come up with over a Billion dollars raised, as the L&L Society has done with Team-in-Training, then you see research facilities built, researchers hired, drugs developed, and cure rates raise from 20% to 96% as some childhood cancers have in the past 20 years. I am a runner who can help to teach other potential runners how to run. No big deal there, but when you can teach them to use their body as a vehicle to touch literally millions of others, well then, Happy New Year. Every time you enter a race that has a charity behind it, don't complain about the entry fee...just be thankful that you have the gift to get out there and pound your shoes into the road for a reason other than to see how fast or far you can go. For the past few years, the numbers for TNT and other similar charities seem to be going down. I know we used to have good programs with the Arthritis Foundation and the Diabetes Foundation here in town, but they don't seem to be active anymore. I hope all this doesn't mean that "the novelty has worn off". For the new year, why don't you add to your resolution list to be more aware of how we can use our running and walking to help others and not just ourselves. Before most of our Sunday runs, Ken and I will ask the group #1) Who did a race the day or week before (nothing like a pat-on-the-back), #2) Who's training for a specific race other than the local races (You train better when you make a commitment in front of a group), and #3) Who has a fundraiser they're raising monies for (get it out there). We like to make a big deal about all those things.

OK, I know that didn't have a whole lot of running info in it, but sometimes I sit down at my computer and my fingers just start typing. It's even scary to me! But back to running. Tomorrow, we will run from BOUTWELL AUDITORIUM and we will run on the Mercedes course. I wish I could make it so a bell would go off when you read that so you don't wind up in the wrong place. The full marathoners will do one 13 mile loop and the halfers will do 10.1 miles (see for the 10.1 course starting from the 7 mile mark). This is the 2nd of our three "on-course" training runs for Mercedes. The next one will be January 30th. As most of you know, my #1 training advice is to train consistently, but one of my top 3 Race-day tips is "Learn the course". So, what better way to learn it than to do it? It looks like this year's Storm of the Century will not hit till the afternoon, so I'll see you on the Mercedes roads in the morning - AL

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


Mick Rice said...

A really beautiful post which I enjoyed from start to finish. Like a lot of runners I can sometimes get caught up in the process of our sport rather than seeing the wider picture of how all tis activity can impact on the world around me. Thank you for asking me to sit back and think a little. Please keep on writing, motivating and above all, caring,


AL said...

Thanks so much Mick. TNT has always had a soft spot in my heart (that's how I wound up in Dublin one year). Comments like yours mean a lot to me. I write to try to express my feelings and it's so nice to know that you read and enjoy my ramblings. Take care and good luck at Espoo. My younger self is so very jealous - AL