What can make a normal, every day run truly great? Certainly, that differs from runner to runner, but great runs tend to be ephemeral, fleeting. Here today, gone an hour later. Still, great runs don’t happen every day on every run. If it did, there would never be any exceptional, memorable runs—they’d all be the same.
Still, I happen to be one of those lucky guys who has more than his fair share of great runs. But, I do something about it by trying to create my own luck by having a certain set of factors that are important to me—I’ll get to those in a bit—that I try to bring to every single morning run. If I’m not running on a flimsy treadmill in a hotel, around a high school track or in some concrete jungle, I usually succeed.
Here’s how I try to create my daily pre-dawn run out my back door into something that exceeds the ho-hum. This is just me and I’m not so presumptuous to believe that this is applicable to everybody. But it works for me.
Morning. I’m a morning person—make that a very early morning person—who is up and running well before the sun. (I’m embarrassed to say just how early.) The morning is my favorite part of the day. The air is cleaner, it’s cooler and I love the feeling of getting something accomplished—my run—while everyone else is still in bed. Beside, I’m at my creative and athletic peak at this time of day. This is the rhythm of my life and it is when I have to run.
Solitary. What can I say? I prefer to be alone in the morning. I’m not a hermit, but I like to run when I’m ready to roll and not wait around for someone else. It’s when I like to think, rather than chat. I want to run my pace, not someone else’s.
My motor. My engine is so finely tuned after aeons of running that it demands I stoke it every morning to keep it humming. It has become so habitual that I never have to think about whether I should run or not in the same way I don’t think about brushing my teeth. Running is just something I do and sucking down lungfuls of oxygen is intoxicating.
Traffic-free. One of the keys to great running is relaxed running. Call me crazy, but I can’t relaxed when I have to worry about cars. Or, having to stop at cross walks and intersections for traffic. It’s bad enough in a car. Dealing with it on a run is counter productive. As I said earlier, I’m lucky. I live in an area on the Hays-Travis County line that doesn’t have a lot of and since I go so early, I beat most of it.
Soft surface. All of my runs start and finish on roads, but I always find at least an off-road mile or two. It can be a park, dirt road, several soccer fields I loop together, a green belt or a deer or cattle trail, but most mornings, it means running a few miles on a golf course, long before anyone is out there. The softer surface gives my legs a break and in the dark, it’s my sanctuary—an escape–where I can just run.
Water. There’s something about the mere sight of a body of water which placates me. My early runs as a kid were around a beautiful reservoir and to this day, I cross over a river, creek or go along Lady Bird Lake or Lake Austin on nearly every run. In the early morning, a run on Lady Bird with the morning mist rising does something for me. When I travel to a coastal region (California, Florida, Oregon, Connecticut, etc), a salty ocean run is always the most spectacular and invigorating.
Hills. Let’s face it: Hills are a part of every run in Central Texas. But that’s a good thing. I don’t dread the hills. Instead, I look at them as an opportunity to build some much needed strength and power. I also just like the pump I get after ascending some familiar monster such as Mt. Bonnell, Shepherd’s Mountain, Jester or even Exposition. I don’t confront major hills every morning, but there’s always a few climbs that gives me a very real sense of accomplishment. Especially if my tongue isn’t licking the ground.
Endorphins. We’ve all heard and experienced the runner’s high. It isn’t some urban myth. Not certain I would call it a “high” in the traditional sense, but an endorphin rush is very real and can be triggered…if you know how. I know how. Jogging around for 20-30 minutes won’t do it. Instead, you have to run fairly hard and steady for at least 45 minutes to reach a point when endorphins are released into your system. I make certain to get me some every morning.
Long runs. Weekends are made for long running and this is when I suspend my caveat of solo running. I long run with a training group comprised of Ph.Ds, M.Ds., P.Ts, P.Ds (cops), J.Ds and a bunch of other smart, fascinating folks. After five mornings of solo running, I gobble up the lively, contentious discussions like an orca feasts on seal. A two-hour run flies by.
So there you have it. That’s my prescription for having a great run. Again, not every run is great, but by creating the climate which works best for me, I can—more often than not—produce a run which is usually pretty darn good.
That’s what keeps my coming back for more.
O UT was well-represented at the World Indoor Games in Portland last weekend. Former Longhorn Michelle Carter, the No. 1 shot putter in the world, set an American record with a throw of 66-3.75 on her final attempt to win the gold medal. Current UT sprinter Courtney Okolo ran the third leg of the 4×400 relay and passed the baton to Ashley Spencer (Texas Ex) who anchored the gold-medal winning team. Spencer also won a silver medal in the 400.
O The Bearathon Half Marathon last weekend in Waco was won by Brad Miles in 1:13:13 with James Jackson second (1:14:24) and Steve Stoot in third in 1:15:10. Bree Schrader was the women’s winner in 1:22:53 with San Antonio’s Liza Galvan second in 1:23:41 and Sabrina Little of Waco third in 1:26:02. Of the 1213 finishers, more than half were women.
O Matt Cleaver of Rogue jump started his outdoor season with a second-place finish in the 1500 meters at the Georgia Relays. Cleaver—a graduate of Georgia—ran 3:48.49 on his home track.
O Cleaver’s fiance Allison Mendez—the former UT runner—will run her first race since the Olympic Trials Marathon when she runs the Austin 10/20 next week at The Domain. Mendez won $4500 in this race two years ago and is looking to duplicate that against Tiffanie Marley (who won the Austin Half Marathon in February) and the San Antonio trio of Anita Perez, Liza Galvan and Joy Moats.
O Will Nation, who also ran in the Olympic Trials Marathon despite a troublesome hip, is fully recovered and is also planning to run the 10/20 on April 3rd. But he’ll face stiff competition from Henri Lelei, Karim El Mabchour (winner of the Arizona Rock ‘n’ Roll Half) and defending 10/20 champ Ken Rotich.
O BTW: Austin 10/20 race director Peter Douglass is planning to shift the date next year to the first Sunday in May because of all the other April races.
O Allison Macsas was in town this week which is a rare occurrence for the Rogue runner who heads up Rogue Expeditions with her boyfriend Gabe Steger. Macsas, who ran the Olympic Trials Marathon in February in 2:42:36, will run the BMO Vancouver Marathon on May 1st. Although she’s going to shoot to better her PR of 2:39:58 set in 2014, it won’t be easy as she’ll spend all of April in Morocco guiding running tours.
O According to the Bill Munday School of Business at St. Ed’s, the ’16 Austin Marathon contributed $25.3 million to our local economy. The formula to calculate the economic benefits was generated by the runners of Austin and how much they spent on hotels, restaurants, apparel, travel and race-related souvenirs. The St. Ed’s findings concluded that the marathon and its half contributed nearly $7 million in direct economic impact and another $18.5 in indirect and induced spending to the Austin economy.
O Congrats to Baylor grad Jeff Sadler on his wedding last weekend to Holly Harkrider. Jeff works for Soleus timing devices, while Holly is an elementary school teacher.
O Heading out of town for Ohio are Chad and Betzy Childers (nee, Jimenez). Betzy, the former UT star, has completed medical school at UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, and will do her general surgical residency at the University of Cincinnati.
O If you like shopping for running gear at one of The Sports Authority’s stores in Austin or San Antonio, you’d better hurry up. TSA has filed for bankruptcy and is closing 143 stores out of a total of 450. The two Austin stores and the two in San Anton are on the soon-to-be-closed list.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “9 Dead Alive,” by the incomparable Rodrigo y Gabriela. The Mexican guitar gods have a short US spring tour, but aren’t coming anywhere near Austin (sob).
Have any news for me? If you have something, send it along to firstname.lastname@example.org.