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Archive for January, 2009

Running to Rebuild Your Life – Back on my Feet

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Can running save you from places you never thought you would be?  One place that most of us never imagine we will end up is homeless.  However, some people do make poor choices and end up without a place to live.  How can we help and make them functional members of society again?  I don’t think there is one specific answer, but I have recently read a an article about how running has been able to help these people.

The article, “Running from Trouble,” in Runner’s World this month tells the story of how one person started an organization to help homeless people in Philadelphia get back on their feet (the organization is actually called Back on my Feet).  It all started with a runner,  waving at homeless people and thinking, “Why do I get to be the runner, and they have to be the homeless guys?  Why can’t we all just be runners?”  This is true.  Running is the greatest equalizer.  You can’t fake a run.  You either run the distance or not.  You either do it quickly or slowly, it’s up to you.  It’s an equal playing field for every runner, the course is the same, shoes are not too different, and every runner has two legs.  So why can’t running bring otherwise separated segments of the population together?  It can.  Since every runner is given somewhat equal opportunities in running, it breaks down the barriers between the haves and the have nots.  Running brings all types of people together.  Back on my Feet is showing this by running setting up running programs with the homeless and competing in half marathons.  None are now training for the Olympics, but it gives the runners a sense of hope.  Running in a crowd of thousands of people, running the same 13.1 miles and shows these homeless runners that they are not different than anyone else.  Also, there are the metaphors of running that help motivate.  Running, just like getting back on your feet no matter how far down you are, takes one simple step and then another after another to reach you goal.  I wonder, what are some of the other groups that may be helped by running?  Does anyone know of others using running to change people’s lives?

You Don’t Have to Stay Off Your Knees

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

We all know running is plain, old healthy living; but it can also eventually take a toll on your body.  No matter how young or lightweight you are, everyone needs to be cautious of putting too much strain on their muscles, joints, and ligaments when running serious mileage.  One of the injuries that arises from running long distances is impact on the knees.  After jumping over 30 times out of a fast moving aircraft, flying less than 1000 ft from the ground, loaded with gear that matches my body weight, I have to be careful about the further impacts I put on my knees.  Here is what I have learned.

First line of defense is prevention.  As soon as you feel any pain in your knees you should begin to alter your running.  Some prevention methods are buying running shoes with more cushioning, running routes that do not have as much downhill, or changing the surface that you run on.  Get off the pavement and on the trail! To keep your knees pain free after runs, many people choose to place ice on them.  It helps the pain plus you look like an aging but still high preforming athlete!  At least that is what movies have shown.

If you have had sharp pains in your knees for a while now then these preventive techniques won’t work for you; luckily, you don’t have to stop running all together.  First, try to understand what is exactly wrong with your knees. The easiest way to identify this is to identify where the sharp pain is exactly.  If you are not sure, consult a doctor for more specific knowledge and possible testing.  After you identify where the problem is you need to search for the knee brace that is best for your injury.  Knee braces are a great way to reduce stress and impact on your muscles and ligaments while allowing you to still run close to your pre-knee injury abilities.  Knee braces are made to keep your knee and knee cap aligned and come in bulky, flexible, or sturdy models.  Everyone’s knees are different so either consult a doctor or try out different knee braces before deciding on which one is best for your knees.

So relieve some mental stress and get back on your knees!

Get High Off of the Environment

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

runners-high-enviroment1Since we have cleaned up the environment around us by picking up trash and repairing trail runs, what do we do with the environment now?  I mean, we can run in the middle of it, but what else is an environment good for?  Well, it has been hypothesized that you can get high off of nature.  No.  Not what you are thinking.  In the extensive studying of the Runner’s High, many have found that the environment plays an important role in attaining this euphoric state.  A Runner’s High can be described as an elevation of the senses while running, typically while running long distances.  It is difficult for runners to describe the exact feeling (much like drug users) they get from a Runner’s High, but many equate it to the feeling of an orgasm.  Humph.  Well there you go.  The physical explanation of  a Runner’s High is that it is the release of endorphins to the brain.

Runner’s have described attaining a feeling of invincibility and superior performance by their environmental surroundings while running, leading to a Runner’s High.  Consider this, while out on a long run, alone and the only other thing around you is Ms Nature, you connect with her more deeply.  You are more aware.  This deep connection allows your senses to be greatly enhanced, making you more in tune with your body and what it is feeling.  As you become more aware of yourself, you begin for feel the euphoric state of a Runner’s High.  It is almost as if you can feel each extra endorphin, above the normal levels, being released to your brain and then the feeling of your brain receiving them.  Well, almost is the key word here.  Although I am pretty in tune with my body, I’m not sure if I have made it to the level of feeling individual endorphins yet, hopefully, someday.  I bet David Blane feels individual endorphins.   I assume Chuck Norris can feel them too.

The role the environment plays in attaining a Runner’s High does make sense when you think about it.  For instance, when it is more sunny out you are more likely to be happy and enjoy yourself, moving your mood closer to attaining the Runner’s High.  Compare that to a day that is dark, cloudy, and cold and you are running an unknown routes.  You are not as open to the environment.  You are not open to anything other than getting to your final destination and out of the weather.  You are not appreciating what your environment has to offer.  Go trail running!

That actually brings up another great point for the runner’s life.  Enjoy where you are (and love the one you’ve got for that matter).  If it is cold and raining outside when you go for your run, appreciate it.  How often is it that you get to just be outside in the rain?  Usually you are cramped in an office or curled up on the couch dreading leaving it when it is cold and rainy outside.  You never get time to enjoy the moisture in the air.  Remember when you were a child and it rained, you loved it, you played in it.  Love it again.  Stop blaming it on the rain, no matter what you do, go ahead and put that blame back on you.  You are the only one that can decide how you feel about your environment.  Appreciate where you are.

Cold weather, I still don’t appreciate it.  I’m working on it.  The problem is that the colder it gets the more clothes I put on, so I really never get to feel the cold for it’s most important attribute, being cold.  Maybe I should start dressing down.

Lets not Run Out on Mother Nature

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

river_nature-lg51I’ve never been an environmentalist.   I am somewhere in between feeling very passionate about not littering and having never fathomed donating money to “save the whales” or some other cause.  However, I do have very strong feelings about nature and keeping her beautiful.  My brother seems to feel the same way; just last week we were walking on the sidewalk near his home and he picked up a plastic bag with dog poop in it.  From my amazement I said, “Man, that’s pretty hardcore picking that up!  You must love Mother Nature.”  He said, “Yeah, someone just left a bag of old chocolate.”  After realizing what he was actually carrying, he found out he wasn’t as big of an environmentalist as he had thought.  He didn’t even make it to a proper trash receptacle before dropping the litter back on the ground where he found it.  I guess we all have our limits.  I surely didn’t pick it up behind him.

So staying within those limits, I am not going to analyze the different impact on the environment from eating a plant-based diet vs. a meat-based diet or discuss how much of an environmental impact manufacturing the gear you buy has (although biodegradable shoes are pretty sweet).  You need your gear and you want your protein.  So what can we do to help the environment but still eat Vienna sausages and wear as many fanny packs as we want?

You can start by being environmentally friendly on every run.  “Pack it in, Pack it out,” was a mantra we used to say in Boy Scouts and I still use today.  It reminds us that while running trails, we want to have as little impact on the environment as possible.  Although it may not be as extreme as you wanna be, but while running on a designated trail you should always stay on the correct path.  Don’t run in the woods around other runners and please run over obstacles instead of around them…you shouldn’t be running around anything on the trail anyways.  Running off the trail leads to erosion and other environmental problems.  Also while sprinting through the forest make sure you respect the other animals.  You are traveling through the animal’s homes and we were not really invited.  When you encounter wildlife treat them like you are guest in their home and respect their right to privacy.  One thing you can do to improve the environment is try run with a plastic bag to pick up trash.  Be an Eco-Runner.  Whoever you want to be, remember that trail running is all about mutual respect between you and your environment.

Of course those few tips are just the bare minimum for being environmentally friendly; you don’t want to just do the bare minimum do you?  Of course not, you’re better than that.  The best thing to do is to go out and volunteer to clean your favorite trail.  There are plenty of local organizations that do weekly trail clean-ups which not only pick up trash but repair trails and conduct general maintenance on them.  There is no better feeling (except maybe a runner’s high) than volunteering to clean up the environment.  So stop getting high for a minute and give back to Ms Nature.

Finally, put the environment above your ego, grab a trash bag and forget about your next PR.  Future generations will break it anyways, so congratulate them with the gift of a healthy environment!

Trail Running vs. Road Running

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Trail Running is better.  There you have it.  I’m out!

Ok, even though my opinion is always correct, I am very open-minded and look at every question from all sides of the argument.  Therefore, I have decided that there are both pros and cons to trail running and road running.  Let’s start where most of us started running; on the road.  The pro to road running are the even surfaces and the determinable distances.  This makes the road a great place to run when following a strict training plan with little room for variation or miscalculations.  Road Running is also probably more convenient to most of us; unless your front door is off of a trail run, in which case you are probably too awesome to read this blog anyways.  I have found that the biggest negative to road running is that it consists of running on hard surfaces.  While asphalt is better than concrete, both surfaces are very hard and put a lot of strain on your joints.  Hard surfaces easily cause injuries such as shin splints and runner’s knee which develop over a long time and take a long time to heal.  The trail offers a softer surface that does not put as much stress on joints.

However, Trail Running is not exempt from eliciting injury.  If you are not an experienced Trail Runner you may be just as likely to get an injury due to falling or running into nature.  When running on a trail, runners must always pay attention to the surface they are running on to avoid these spills and falls.  You can’t zone out on the trail like you do on the road, so if you like to think while running, stay on the streets…but pay attention to the crosswalks.  Although training is difficult to standardize on the trail, the trail does offer a much different and better work out than running on the road.  On the trail, you are able to burn more calories mile for mile because of the uneven terrain and amount of steps you must take vs. the same distance on the road.  The uneven terrain is also great for working your leg muscles, giving your body a variation in movements.  Trail Running is also great for building endurance because of the mental aspect; you aren’t sure how far you have gone and how difficult the trail ahead is, you just keep running to find out.  No matter how tired you are.  What are you going to hitch a ride back to your start point?

Obviously both Trail Running and Road Running have their advantages and disadvantages but sometimes logistics make one more feasible than the other.  Trail Running gives you a better work out and is better for preventing long-term injuries so get out on the trail.  Also keep in mind that you should “train as you fight,” or in running terms, run on the surface you intend to race on.  Remember, all routes and running surfaces are not created equal.

The History of Running

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

People have been putting one foot in front of the other since the beginning of time, but when did they start to pick up a little speed?  I imagine the cavemen were the first runners as they tracked their prey far distances and over long periods of time which would make running a necessity.  As the population grew, people started settling in their own communities.  These small communities were often separated by great distances but began to start interacting with each other through trade.  The only mode of transportation was walking, so if you wanted to trade goods faster, you ran.

Not until the Greeks and Romans did people start running for exercise.  These countries’ Armys started running to get their soldiers in shape f0r war.  This technique is still used by the military today.  In fact, a great deal of the perception of a leader’s effectiveness is attributed to how well they can run; which worked out well for me while in service.  However, I think this perception is derived because running is directly related to mental toughness.  Again people began to exercise in Medieval Europe.  Suddenly an individual’s physical fitness became very important.  People starting lifting weights in order to build strength and running to build their stamina.

The first evidence of Trail Running came around 3800 BC when the Egyptians would run long distances to other towns without any roads, blazing a trail as they ran.  In the early 19th century the sports of “paper chasing” or “hare and hounds” appeared which later evolved into what we know today as cross-country running.  In 1995 the British Athletic Federation approved a formal definition for trail running events.  Thanks for the approval Britian, but we haven’t needed it since July 4th, 1776.

And here is where evolution has taken us.  From running long distances to chase a saber-toothed tiger to posting information on races, trail runs, training plans, and shoe reviews, on a global network available to anyone.  You’d think with all this connectedness we would have stopped running by now.  Not a chance.

Running in Cold Weather

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

As the temperature decreases I have noticed that my motivation for running has conversely decreased.  I’ll admit it, I do not like the cold.  You never hear anyone say, “I love this cold weather, I wish it was a little colder” or “I’m so happy its finally cold!  I hope it never warms up again!”  I’m not a veterinarian, but I did take a class about animals once and heard that humans are warm blooded animals.  Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is trying to make themselves feel better about their choice of area of habitation.  However, no matter how cold it is where I chose to live, I have to remind myself, “Even though I dislike the cold weather, I have running to do and goals to accomplish.”

I somehow have to motivate myself to get out there and run.  One way I do this is by comparing myself to other people.  I go to and see all of the other places in the United States that are colder than where I am and imagine that there have to be some people running in that cold weather.  However, comparing myself to normal runners only takes my motivation so far.  I need the stories of extreme runners who push their bodies outside of the realm of normal.

One of my recent motivations has been the 127 people who have completed one of the coldest races in the world, the North Pole Marathon.  This race is held at the geographic North Pole and is run entirely on 6 to 12 ft of ice on top of about 12,000 ft of Arctic Ocean.  Guinness Book of World Records ranks the race as the Northern most Marathon.  Runners set off with running shoes, trail boots, snowshoes, and trek poles with sharpened ends or rifles to ward against polar bears.   These people have completed a race that no human should be able to run.  They must have uncanny mental toughness.

I have decided to use this fact that running in the cold is 99% mental toughness and have told myself that I am running in Tahiti during the middle of the summer.  It has worked for me but I think people are becoming confused when they see me running down the street, in board shorts, no T-shirt, and arm floatys around my biceps; in the middle of winter.  I just tell them, “It’s all in the mind man.”  That alleviates their confusion.

Running Shoes that Run Green – Brooks Trance 8

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

After many different versions of Nike’s Air Pegasus running shoes I decided to see if there was another running shoe out there for me.  I had recently moved which changed the surfaces that I regularly ran on.  I needed to find a new shoe with the same comfort but with a little more stability to prevent injury.  I went to a running shoe store that allowed me to try multiple pairs of shoes, all at the same price, by running about a mile in each pair.  I ended up finding that the Brooks Adrenaline GTS was the best fit for me by far.  I honestly had never tried on a pair of Brooks running shoes before, sticking to my trusty New Balance and Nike brands, but I have to admit, my Brooks shoes have lasted the longest and have given me the least amount of aches and pains from running.  I love them.  Plus, I can tell I’m SO much faster in them.

Brooks Sports, Inc., based in Bothell, Washington and was founded in 1914.  Now it is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.  Berkshire Hathaway is run by Warren Buffet who’s business strategy throughout the years has been to invest in undervalued, quality companies for the long-term.  Based on his investing record, if Warren likes it, the company must be good.  Brooks’ footwear is designed to produce a running shoe that is both comfortable and helps to prevent running-related injuries. From the Brooks website, Brooks Sports mission is to “inspire everyone to run and be active by creating innovative gear that keeps them running longer, farther, and faster.”  I guess this is where Kayne West got the idea for his song, “Stronger.”  I thought Puff Daddy was the one that ran a marathon?  Who knows.

At any rate, Brook’s newest innovative gear is the Brooks Trance 8.  Brooks Trance 8 is the first shoe made with a biodegradable midsole which breaks down in landfills 50 times faster than normal running shoes.  Normal running shoes take an average of 1000 years to biodegrade in a landfill in comparison to the Brooks Trance 8 which takes approximately 20 years to biodegrade.  Brooks estimates that by manufacturing this biodegradable shoe alone will account for a decrease our landfills by 30 million pounds in the next 20 years.  If just one type of shoe can account for that much waste, wouldn’t it be great if more products to be made with this innovative material and biodegrade quicker?  Of course, and Brooks Sports, Inc. agrees.  Brooks has made this new product an “open source” innovation, vowing that they will share this new product to any company, including competing shoe manufactures.  Now that’s a commitment to the environment.

After you buy your new pair of running shoes think twice about throwing away your old pair.  Please consider to continue to use them for other purposes or better yet, give them away to someone that needs them more.  Remember, those shoes have a life expentancy of 1000 years!

Mumbai Marathon’s Dream Run

Monday, January 19th, 2009

You may call it Mumbai or maybe you’re old school like I and still call it Bombay.  Anyway you want what you call it, one fact remains the same, Mumbai is the largest city and the most densely populated in the world.  To put this in perspective, while Mumbai ranks number one in most populated cities in the world, New York City is ranks number 13.  But perhaps the most astonishing fact is that Mumbai boasts a population density of more than 22,000 people per square km compared to New York City’s 10,000 people per square mile.  That makes Mumbai more than double as crowded as New York City.  I have never attended the Mumbai Marathon but one can imagine a race at least twice as large as the New York Marathon!

Due to the large size this event it was more like a walk-a-thon than a running race because most participants preferred to walk.  Even if they did want to run, there were too many people walking to fight through the crowd.  One participant was even seen on his cell phone during the entire race.  Kids and families walked and roller skated this event while listening to bands playing both English and Hindu music.  So why did all of these non runners participate in this event?  To help the cause.

So what was the cause you may ask?  It’s anything you want.  In the largest, most densely populated city in the world, in this extremely large event, there are no people pushing others out of the way to finish the race.   Participants aren’t becoming frustrated with the amount of other people in their race, everyone is there for the same cause, to help.  Below is Mumbai Marathon’s description of this desire and reason to help from their website at

“World over marathons are revered for the emotional connect that they establish in the hearts and minds of the citizens. A marathon provides the city with a platform to come together in a celebration that cuts across social and economic barriers. It brings together the common man, the corporate czar, the politician, the socialite and the physically challenged onto one platform. It is an event that stirs the conscience of every citizen, encouraging them to reach out in aid of a cause or charity.

Why run for a cause & raise pledges?

Because it is a great way to show that you care;
Because running for a cause and raising pledges can be great fun, and can be much easier than you think – ask any of the people who did so last year;
Because you choose the cause or charity you would like to run for, a charity that you trust to use the pledges you raise in a transparent, accountable and effective way to make a difference to the lives of the underprivileged.”

So next time you are in your car, cursing the traffic, start to think about your next run and contemplate one thing:  What are you running for?

Inaugural Bandit 14K/30K Trail Run

Friday, January 16th, 2009


This year on March14th will be the inaugural race of the Bandit14K/30K Trail Run in Simi Valley, CA.  The race promoters estimate 100 to 200 runners to participate in this first time event.  The race starts in Corriganville Park, running over mountains in single-track switchback, at one point you can see the ocean from 2600 ft. above sea level!