"The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep."

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Common Interests

As I set out on my run this morning, I thought about the events of the previous evening.

After I left work, I met my wife Beth at my brother-in-law, Austin’s house to share what turned out to be several glasses of wine in celebration of his birthday. Joining us there were our friends Don and Kathleen, a substantial contingent of Beth’s family and Scott, John and Keith’s friend from Florida.

Having never met Scott before, we sat about making the usual, polite small talk until Keith casually mentioned Scott was training for his first marathon, the Disney Marathon in January. As you might guess, our conversation quickly changed from the, we just met, friendly banter to everything running related. From training to motivation; from shoes to Body Glide; from finishing one event to planning for the next, our dialogue became that of those who knowingly share a common interest.

And within this interest lies a certain contagious passion. Part of it is the endorphin induced euphoria gleaned from increasing one’s mileage to new levels, part of it is the personal sense of accomplishment realized and certainly for me, part of it is knowing I’m doing something many will never even consider trying.

As we talked further, I told Scott I’m contemplating signing on with Team In Training and tackling my first marathon, the 2007 Marine Corp Marathon in Washington DC. I haven’t made the commitment yet but I’ve been reading numerous accounts of others, like Scott who have. Talking with them and reading their stories of the trials and tribulations they experience in pursuit of this goal is both inspiring and encouraging.

Thanks for pushing me a little closer to making the commitment and best of luck in Orlando!

“Human beings are made up of flesh and blood, and a miracle fiber called courage” - George Patton

Thursday, September 28, 2006


My running partner Bill and I were supposed to meet at Wiley Drive this morning for a quick run of the 3 mile loop along the river but at 5:30 am he called to say he had overslept and wouldn’t be able to make it.

Assuring him it was not a problem, I set out for what became a 6 miler and as I ran I realized Bill’s had a touch of the ROSS or, Repeated Over Sleeper Syndrome here of late. As one might imagine, this disruptive condition causes numerous problems for those afflicted and while theories abound as to its cause, the one at the forefront centers on preoccupation.

I’m pretty sure this is the case with Bill. He recently not only changed jobs but also careers. Consequently, he is currently engrossed in absorbing all the pertinent details relative to his new field. That along with developing and cultivating new associations with a totally different customer base and establishing interpersonal relationships with a new set of co-workers is more than enough to impede anyone’s scheduling capabilities.

Oh yea … he’s also getting married in October.

Don’t worry about it my friend. There’s a lot on your plate right now. Come on back when you’re ready.

“Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like muscles of the body.” - Lynn Jennings

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


This morning it was chilly.

It wasn’t really cold but it wasn’t warm either.

It was chilly, that temperature that lies somewhere between the two. Warm enough to keep the furnace from cutting on but cool enough to ensure the AC stays off. That sensation that hints, sometimes forebodingly, of what’s to come. That crisp snap in the air which causes one to pull a long sleeve t-shirt from the drawer.

See your breath, wear your gloves chilly.


This morning I ran 21,120 feet

or 7,040 yards

or 4 miles

and it was chilly.

"There is no satisfaction without a struggle first." - Marty Liquori

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Morning Person

I am, and have always been, a morning person.

Non-morning people will likely not be interested in this entry as they consider me and those like me to be at best, anomalies of nature. We, who willingly choose to not only awaken and arise before the sun, but indeed to get outside and run for God’s sakes, must surely suffer from some sort of genetic flaw.

Genetics could very well figure into this behavior. Conceivably it was my earliest ancestors who were tasked with the responsibility of arising early to insure there might indeed be something to eat or perhaps more importantly, that they themselves did not become something to eat.

Whatever the reason, there is something I find incredibly special about the pre-dawn hour. There is a sense of solitude and quiet which I don’t find in any other part of the day and to immerse myself in it while running is something I’ve come to treasure.

The early fall mornings, like the one today, are particularly enjoyable as the darkened skies are filled with more and more recognizable constellations. Orion, Ursa Major and Cassiopeia to name but a few, act as brightly shining beacons for those of us who run the early morning roads and trails.

Ask any runner to tell you some of the things they love about the sport and invariably you will hear something akin to, “I do some of my best thinking while I’m running.”

When I first began, I had a very difficult time wrapping my head around this concept but over the years, I’ve come to realize and appreciate the raw truth of this idea. And during this time of the year when the skies offer such a beautiful and mysterious backdrop, this impression becomes clearer still.

“I do not run to add days to my life - I run to add life to my days.” - Ronald Rook

Monday, September 25, 2006

Piggy Back

I've discovered a new cause of lower back muscle strain: my 3 1/2 year old grand daughter, Lei Lei!

Fortunately, a couple of well placed Therma-Guards and a few Advil throughout the day Sunday, found me, for the most part devoid of soreness by this morning.

And so after a cup of coffee and a cursory glance at the newspaper, I headed out for mileage unknown.

The morning was overcast and comfortably cool and at 3 miles, I decided on 5.

It was a familiar route; one I've run many times. There is a point where you may choose to turn around, making it an out and back or turn right and turn it into a 6 mile loop. I turned right.

It felt really good to run after a three day hiatus. My head went to that magic place. That place where time ceases to be, where the surroundings fade and the stride is effortless. That place where all is right with the world as mind, body and soul flow seamlessly in sync. Man if you could only bottle that stuff!

It's interesting how the body becomes accustomed to and in fact, often demands the regularities of routine, even if the results are sometimes painful. Whether they be happily piggy backing one's grandchild all over the house or finding temporary nirvana in the middle of one's stride, there are some things in life that are just plain worth it.

"No Pain, no gain." - Athletic Proverb

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I Snoozed

I did something this morning I almost never do - I overslept.

And not just a little either. I have no idea why but when my alarm went off at 4:45, I hit the snooze as I always do thereby allowing me 8 minutes before getting up, getting dressed and getting out there.

However this morning when I hit the snooze - I snoozed.

When my eyes finally opened, it was light which was a clear indication to me that my morning run was not to be. Glancing at the clock I saw it was a quarter till 8, the time I'm supposed to be at work and so I got up, went downstairs and poured myself a cup of what was now mildly tepid coffee.

After a quick shower and breakfast for the dogs, I left for work. On my way, I saw a runner making his way up Jefferson Street towards Community Hospital and as I sat at the light and watched him climb the long steady grade, I thought about the many times I have run the same route. It's not an overly difficult run but it isn't all that easy either, particularly if you hit it 5 miles into a 10 or 12 mile run so as I waited for the light to change, I found myself mentally cheering this kindred spirit onward in his conquest and lamenting the fact that I was unable to get out there with him this morning.

"The pride you gain is worth the pain." - Dennis Ogilvie

Friday, September 22, 2006


Fridays and Sundays are my designated days of rest. No running (generally speaking).

I attended our monthly running club (Star City Striders) meeting last night and was very glad I did. Our guest speakers were Jamie Price, a former All American track and field athlete and Kevin Spencer, a 5th grade teacher at Raleigh Court elementary school whose enthusiasm for fitness has happily infected his students.

Jamie has started programs called Speed University and Fit Club. Through these, he's reaching out to athletes of all ages and skill levels in order to help them attain their goals whether they be just starting out, seeking moderate improvements in fitness or working towards achieving their maximum potential. He is especially interested in combating the ongoing childhood obesity problem which is reaching near epidemic proportions across the U.S.

Jamie's services are readily available and are tailored to fit the individuals needs and schedules. For more info on Jamie' s programs, please contact him at mailto:jp@jpspeeduniversity.com.

Kevin has also gotten his pupils involved in the sport. Two years ago, he started two running groups at Raleigh Court Elementary. His fifth-graders run laps in physical education class three days a week and on Thursday afternoons, students from all grades run behind the school or at a nearby track. He hands each runner a laminated card that helps the children keep track of how many laps they run and as of April 13th, Spencer's 37 fifth-grade pupils have logged 1,535 miles and the 35 after-school runners have completed 615 miles.

"In class, I tell my kids anybody can start a marathon, anybody can start running," Kevin said. "I ask them sometimes, 'What's your goal?' "If your goal is to run a 5K, you can't just wake up and run it," he said. "If your goal is to get straight A's in math, you have to do stuff to get there. You just can't get a report card and expect an A."

For more information, please visit http://run.spencersRus.com.

Both of these men are doing a great deal to help kids of all ages focus on the positive benefits of staying fit. Our community is lucky to have them.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hidden Challenges

As I ran in the darkness before dawn this morning, one thought kept reoccurring to me:

58 Days and Counting.

That’s how long before I run my next half marathon. I say ‘my next’ as if I do this often but the truth is this will only be my second one. My first was the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll ½ Marathon this past Labor Day weekend and while I found it to be an incredible experience, I also found the straightness and flatness of the course to be a huge mental challenge.

My next one is here in Roanoke. This area is such that for the most part, one can’t go much farther than ¼ mile without having to make turns, climb hills or descend inclines. While often presenting a greater degree of physical difficulty, I find this constant state of flux to be of more interest and more clearly definable.

My theory, which I will put to the test in 58 days, is that I will do better here in my familiar hilly surroundings than I did in the flatlands.

I will let you know how that works out.

The difference between a jogger and a runner is an entry blank. ~George Sheehan

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Falling Back

This morning's run illustrated that Fall is indeed back.

It was 59 degrees and dark and stayed that way for the duration of the run.

Perfect running weather for the imperfect runner.

"Marathon runners with bad shoes suffer the agony of de feet." Anonymous

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Back at it

I played golf on Sunday and slaved away on an ongoing retaining wall project in the yard on Monday so this morning, it was back to the 5am wake up call followed by the donning of the running shoes.

Today's run was short, hilly and painful.

It was one of those 'gut it out' runs where each and every step reminded me of the previous day's labor.

It was one of those runs where I was completely convinced that if there was a walker about, he or she would have passed me by in such a blur, I would only have felt the rush of air in their wake.

It was one of those runs where I really felt my age.

It was one of those runs where I was glad it was over.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

First Light of Day

As the first hints of pink and orange streaked across the dark sky of the new day, I crested a knoll on Campbell Ave and took in the city’s adolescent, yet ambitious skyline. The horizontal rays of the slowly ascending orange sun danced and played, reflecting off the Wachovia Tower’s tinted glass.

I was about 5 miles into a 12 mile run when I greeted the first light of day. It was glorious; inspiring; motivating and part of me wanted to stop and freeze the moment so I could relish it a bit longer. But time does not allow itself to be controlled and so I continued onward, burning the image I’d just seen into my mind’s eye.

It’s somewhat strange yet wonderfully interesting how the mind fixates on something and refuses to let go; particularly that which it finds beautiful, intriguing and unattainable. It acts as an internal recorder of sorts; a mental TIVO replaying over and over the various takes, often allowing for a glimpse at the deleted scenes which might have been but were not.

The remainder of the run was automatic. My mind’s presence was no longer required, so as I traversed the remaining 7 miles, I remained in front of the screen, watching, not wanting to leave and not wanting it to end.

Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today.” James Dean