Sunday, July 14, 2013

10 tips for running with children

A lot of people ask me about running with my son Charlie (now 7). Running with children is somewhat contentious and so, I thought I'd write a post about my experience. I have found it to be a really positive thing to do and I encourage others to think about doing it too. It's a personal choice based on you, your level of comfort and your child's interest. Like most things, it's not going to work for everyone.

Before I dive into the tips, let me tell you about Charlie's first 5K. We signed up for the Humboldt Park Dream Run this June. It was a perfect first race for him because it wasn't one of the huge Chicago races and it was in Humboldt Park, the place he learned to run. I thought the familiar territory would be a bonus. Getting the packet for a race is usually an inconvenience but Charlie was super excited about it and I had to hide the bib because he wanted to wear it immediately. The day of the race, we got up early and ate some oatmeal. The next couple of hours was hard for him because he was very excited. Here's a picture of him just before we headed out.

Charlie wearing a bandana just like dad

My wife and the girls drove us to the race and headed off to find parking and to work-out where they wanted to stand to cheer us on. We checked-in and then warmed up a little bit. He was actually quite excited to see that it was mostly adults. When it was time to line-up for the start of the race, I got behind the 10+ minute a mile line. Charlie said "Why are we back here? We'll never win from back here!" That's when I realized that he thought he was actually going to win the whole thing. I explained to him how fast some people run a 5K and changed the topic to how people would go out way too fast and we would overtake them later. I also reminded him that no matter what pace he ran or how many breaks he needed, it wouldn't change how proud I am of him and how happy I was to be there with him. The gun went off and we started. He wanted to go out fast like everyone else but I reminded him to keep his cool. Within a half a mile, we were already overtaking a lot of people and that's when Charlie got really motivated. I told him to lead the way at a pace that he was comfortable with but sometimes I prompted him to slow down because he was running at a pace that was a 1.5 to 2 minutes faster a mile than we usually run. I knew that he wasn't pushing too hard because we talked a lot during the race. About half way through, he said "Dad, if you want to stop, you can but, I'm going to run all the way." I proudly followed him as he focused and reeled in person after person. It's not fun to be beaten by a child half your size, so he got some comments like "Oh hell no. Shorty just overtook me!" Most people smiled and shouted some encouragement as he went by. I kept reminding him to slow down so that he had some gas left in the tank. On the last half mile, he wanted to reel in one last man, a big muscular 6 footer with tattoos. Once we had done that, he said "Dad, can we do a sprint finish?" I told him we could but he needed to wait until a certain point. Once I gave him the go-ahead, we let loose.

The sprint finish.
The man on the microphone said "Give it up people! This kid is only 7 years old!" When Charlie heard that and heard the crowd screaming for him, I could tell that he was floating. I let him cross the line first in an official time of 30:42.04. That's 9:54 pace. In fact, he finished the race so quickly that my wife and daughter were not prepared with cameras and missed the photo opportunity. I found the sprint photo on Facebook.

At the finish line. Charlie looks fresh.

The next week, I traveled to Austin for work and I got a call in the hotel room from the race director of the Dream Run. She said "Could you give me an email address for Charlie?" I explained to her that he did not have an email because he was 7. Her response was "What? 7? He just won 3rd in the under 19's division!" She thought we were a couple of teens that ran the race together. That made me laugh. I couldn't wait to tell him. He was already proud of himself for racing but the medal made it even better and he showed it to everyone that he could. He keeps asking me if I have it safe.

His medal and bib.

So, this was Charlie's first 5K and I can tell you that it was a memory that I will never forget. I hope we will get to do it together again and would love to do it with him as an adult. Over the last couple of years running with Charlie, I have learned a lot about children and running so, here are some basic tips. Remember that their natural ability and interest is going to vary greatly.

Tip #1 : Make sure your motives are pure

If you are teaching a child to run because you want them to become the next Prefontain, you are in real danger of becoming "that parent." Charlie was 5 when we started and I was very clear about my reasons for starting. There were many but here were my primary reasons:
  1. His interest - He asked to run. It wasn't just me pushing him into it.
  2. 1 on 1 time - We were not getting along at the time and we needed the quality time
  3. Positive experience - I wanted to make positive memories with him
  4. Health and fitness - I wanted to instill the importance of a healthy lifestyle
Tip #2: Ignore the haters

Some parents will say things like "It's bad for their growth" or "It's bad for their joints" and the only advice I can give you is to ignore them. They are speaking from fear - not from fact. The truth is that children in Western countries run a heck of a lot less than children in other parts of the world. No evidence exists that running long has a bad impact on children (even extreme ones who run marathons). Charlie and I don't run that often. I don't think we need to. He gets most of his training from being a child. When we do run, we usually go 2 to 3 miles and that's after a couple of years of easing into it. If he is still running with me when he is older, maybe we will run more often and maybe we will run longer. For now, why push it? We are having fun and it's great for him. If you have some anxieties about it, here's a starting point. It's an article on Runners World about children and running.

Tip #3: Get them kitted out

You don't want to go overboard but if you intend running with your child fairly regularly, you should give their equipment the same consideration that you would give your own. Lightweight and moisture wicking socks, shorts and t-shirt. Also remember that most children's shoes (even from well known running shoe brands) are horrible for them to run in. They look like adult shoes and have the same level of padding making them like stiff house bricks. Pick a pair that has enough padding to protect but is super flexible so that they can move naturally. Remember, children are much lighter, so the padding doesn't have to be as much. Watch them run barefoot. They should be able to run with the same form in their running shoes. Charlie runs in Merrell Flux Gloves and runs very naturally in them. New Balance also makes very lightweight childrens shoes and if you are looking for more padding, Skechers GOrun and Nike Free Run may be an option. Pete Larsen at Runblogger talks about children's shoes here.

Charlie's natural running form.

Merrell Flux Glove

Tip #4: Start with walk/run/walk

If you started running as an adult, you know how hard it was to run at first. Most young children are lighter and fitter than most adults but the same principles apply. You don't go and run 3 miles the first time out. Charlie and I started with a mile and did walk/run/walk intervals. First of all, I let his recovery dictate the length and eventually we did it by time. Then, once we had done a mile, we started to run a little further each time. Like adults, each child is going to be different, so you should stick with what is working for them rather than a set plan. This phase is also a good time to teach them a little bit about form. I didn't push this too hard because I didn't want to take away from the fun. Some of the instruction sticks - some doesn't. It's OK.

Tip #5: Don't assume they understand the concept

Most young children know nothing about pacing themselves for distance running. They run hard and then stop to rest just like the family dog. Conserving energy is a bit of a foreign concept that comes with time and experience. At first, they question why you are running so slowly but one day, it clicks. They feel the fatigue hit them later in the run and realize the value of the technique. All I can say is that the concept will come - just remind them to run slow and steady.

Tip #6: Remember that it is a shared run, not your run

If you confuse your mileage (for you personal training) with the miles you run with your child, it will lead to frustration. If they don't feel like running 3 miles and you needed to run 3, it's not a warm and fuzzy moment. I try to make my runs with Charlie fall outside of my training plan, so that I can be present with him and focus on our time together - not logging my own miles on Dailymile. BTW, if you aren't a friend with me on DM already, please connect with me.

Tip #7: Forget the pace

If you have a GPS watch, ignore it or leave it at home. The reason I take mine is because Charlie likes to know exactly how far we went. When we run, we typically run in the 11 minute miles - close to 12. When he did his first 5K, I didn't know that he could run in the 9's and after seeing him do that, I can see him doing a 5K in under 30 minutes quite easily. But, the truth is, I don't care. I don't push the pace on our runs because I don't view it as training, it's our time together. When I do races with him, I just want him to enjoy the experience - not focus on how fast he ran it. PR's are fun but not the primary focus for us. If he is interested in competitive running in future, that's great. For now, I want him to enjoy running.

Tip #8: Run with friends and family

When children see another child running, they want to do it too. As much as I enjoy the experience of 1 on 1 time with Charlie, sometimes it's nice to have company. One day, I did a 1 mile run with Charlie, his sister Maggie and the two girls from next door (ages 7, 8, 7 and 6). Charlie was so happy to be giving them advice. I laughed when he ignored one of the girls running ahead because he knew that she would not be able to sustain the effort. All he said was "I wouldn't do that if I were you." At the end, Charlie wanted to prove his mettle by sprinting to the finish. The mom's waited at the end and cheered everyone home. It was such a fun experience and really made a change from the usual runs. Now one of the girls next door keeps asking about running and it's fun to think that we inspired her a little.

Tip #9: Be super flexible

Charlie is super inconsistent. We will go months without running. When we do go, sometimes he can run far without breaks and sometimes he wants to stop many times. Sometimes he claims that he can't go far at all. I try to be patient and flexible. I am trying to instill the love of the sport - not create a rigid calendar. It's worked out for us. He knows I am not going to push him aggressively but he knows I expect him to do his best. The only time I lay down the law is if he asks to go running and then changes his mind when we are out there. I let him know that if he commits to doing something, he has to follow through and try his best. He's 7 and the inconsistency is getting better as he gets older but I am not going to allow that to be something that gets in the way of our fun together.

Tip #10: Turn it into a game

A lot of running is all in the mind. When runners are tired, they tend to focus on their body and that makes things hard. Many adults count, sing and do all sorts of things to change their focus to a healthy state of mind. It's the same thing for children but I have found they need help to switch focus. The best way to do that is to insert some fun into the experience. Here are a few ways I have stimulated Charlie to run:
  • We ran 4 miles once in New Hampshire. The reason we did was because I was chasing him through trees and over streams in the woods. It was a game and it was fun. The last thing on his mind was how we ran.
  • One game Charlie likes to play is having mini races during long runs. He defines the start and end point and tries to beat me. Inevitably, he shouts "Go" after he has already started and he thinks is very amusing. It's like a fun way to do intervals and I let him win of course.
  • In Cleveland, Charlie ran out of steam half way into our 3 mile run. We took a break and on the way back, I started a conversation about how silly it would be to beat other runners in a race by tricking them. Once he started to come-up with ideas like gluing runners to the ground when they were getting drinks at aid stations, he started belly laughing and forgot all about how hard the run was and ran home much faster.
One day Charlie said "Dad, I can see why you like to run. It's fun." Once I heard that, I knew I was on the right path with him. Good luck to any of you who decide to give it a shot with your children. I hope this post is of some help and encouragement to you.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Finding Ultra

Finding Ultra by Rich Roll.
Rejecting middle age, becoming one of the World's fittest men and discovering myself.

OK, now that the blog is back, I'm catching up on the books I have read. I got this one a while ago and didn't get to it until recently. Crown Publishing Group sent it to me for free. No money exchanged hands and I never agreed to write a favorable post but I did enjoy the book.

Rich Roll is an entertainment lawyer, father of 4 and an ultra-endurance athlete. He was a top finisher at the 2008 and 2009 Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii. It's an invitation only race. Day 1 is a 6.2 mile ocean swim followed by a 90 mile cross-country cycle race. Day 2 is a 170 mile cycling race. Day 3 ends with an easy 52 mile double marathon. If that's not enough for you, he and a friend completed something they nicknamed the Epic 5 Challenge. It was 5 ironman-distance triathlons (2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26 mile run) on 5 islands of Hawaii in under a week.

The book ends with the Rich Roll I just introduced but doesn't start that way. Rich is a kid who comes from a loving home but was completely uncomfortable in his introverted, nerdy skin. In fact, he was bullied and tormented by other kids. He found a window of peace when he discovered that he was a talented swimmer. This talent got him into a top university and he just managed to graduate and become a lawyer before his ghosts caught-up with him and he plummeted into terrible addiction. He hit bottom (eventually), got clean, started a new life with a new partner and one day began to drastically change. He became a vegan and transformed his overweight and out of conditioned 40 year old self into a triathlete.

This book is not a piece of prose. In fact, the writing sometimes stumbles over itself. But it's not the writing skill that made this an interesting read for me. It was the humility and honesty. I read Eat and Run and that was honest but private. Finding Ultra gives you a much deeper and real taste of Rich's pain, fears, shame, etc. He doesn't lay it on too thick but when he talks excitedly about his climb back and his eventual transformation (like only a recovering addict can), you know where that "born again" feeling comes from and you are more inclined to celebrate it with him than criticize him for it. He credits his wife with a lot but it's very clear from reading the book that she is a pretty amazing woman who is incredibly supportive and unselfish. His knowledge of vegan whole foods stems from her and I found that side of the book interesting too. Eating whole foods is one thing. Eating to sustain a body for insane endurance is another. Personally speaking, it was so nice to read a book about the physical transformation of a man in his 40's not 20's or 30's. But, I have to admit, there were times when I was like "Rich... dude... you swam with Olympic hopefuls. You were an athlete before you became a slob! You didn't go from 0 to 10. You went from 6 to 0 to 10." I'm not trying to take anything away from his achievements, it's just that most people who do start from 0 can't have the same aspirations. And that's OK. The book is inspiring enough – even before Rich competes in his first race. Having said that, it was fun to read the details of his events. At that point, you really want him to succeed. And like the rest of the book, when he documents the details of something like the Epic 5, it's well rounded - not just romanticized. I love that he can one minute talk about something spiritual or some inner strength that fuels endurance but then admit to being horrible to one of the support team and feeling terribly remorseful. He seems like a well rounded man.

A before and after of Rich
My conclusion. If you are interested in endurance sports at all, I'd definitely recommend reading this book. Like Eat and Run (a book I just posted about), you don't have to be a vegetarian or vegan to be inspired by it. It kept me interested and when I was done, I couldn't help but feel thankful to Rich for sharing so openly and respect him for his accomplishments. And when I say accomplishments, I tend to feel more strongly about him finding himself and family than finding ultra. Sadly, not everyone gets a result like this but man... it feels good to hear that some do. Good luck to you Rich!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Eat & Run

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman.

“Sometimes you just do things!” - Scott Jurek (and his dad)

I read the book at a wedding in Puerto Rico and had plenty of time to enjoy it without the kids being around. It kept me interested all the way through and I was sad when it ended. I guess that's the mark of a satisfying read.

If you've read Born to Run or if you are at least semi-interested in ultra-running, you know Scott Jurek. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a book release event in Chicago. Christopher McDougal was MCing the event and we all got to go on a fun run with them. Some of you may remember my post about it. Well, this was the book that I got signed at that event by both men and here are my thoughts without going into any major spoilers.

Scott Jurek is a rockstar among ultra-runners. As you can read in Wikipedia, he has won many of the sport's most prestigious races multiple times, including the Hardrock Hundred (2007), the Badwater Ultramarathon (2005, 2006), the Spartathlon (2006, 2007, 2008), and the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (1999-2005). In 2010, at the 24-Hour World Championships in Brive-la-Gaillarde, France, Jurek won a silver medal and set a new US record for distance run in 24 hours with 165.7 miles. He is now 40 and still going.

As well as his great wins, Scott Jurek has a great brand. He comes across as the boy next door. He seems kind and humble. He is known for waiting at finish lines to congratulate people. But, that is never the whole picture of a person and I like that Scott lets you have a little glimpse into his pain, his ghosts and his darker sides in the book. He doesn't expose everything but you walk away feeling that you got a taste of something more than the Scott Jurek in the media. Even with some of these warts, he is still a very likable person.

The theme that goes all through the book is diet. For me, it wasn't a huge ah ha because I eat a very similar diet. For others who know nothing about being a vegan, it's probably more educational. The term vegan isn't actually accurate. Scott's diet is more about whole foods (not the store). Let's face it, some vegan food can be unhealthy too. Over the years, Scott has gone into diet in great detail and has become knowledgeable. He approaches the subject in a way that I think even steadfast meat eaters can respect. I didn't find him to be that preachy but he is excited about what his diet has done for him. The recipes that are sprinkled in with the storytelling are good and I have tried some of them. My only complaint is that they aren't removable to keep in the kitchen after you have finished the book.

The book gives you a sense of Scott growing up in the countryside near Proctor, Minnesota (not far from Duluth). You learn about Scott's struggle to understand his father and his "sometimes you just do things" philosophy and you feel his heartbreak with the on-set of his mothers debilitating disease. You learn about the fun characters that shape his life, especially his best friend Dusty Olsen who helped him discover distance running as training for their competitive nordic skiing. Scott is honest about how he has used running to deal with issues (not necessarily hide or run away from them). One dark moment in his life is when his wife leaves him for a friend (I believe it was Barefoot Ted but I haven't seen that confirmed anywhere). He shares some interesting behind the scenes stories about his races and you even get to hear about the new love in his life. All of these topics are touched upon but the book is too short to go into them in detail. I would love to have gone deeper but maybe this is what Scott was comfortable with. The area he gets into most is his relationship with Dusty. For many years, Dusty gave up on his own hopes and dreams to help Scott win races through his pacing and his friendship. Who else could say "get up Jerker" when Scott was face down on the ground at Badwater? Scott needed him and asked too much of him. Remember, there are no huge monetary awards for ultra, so Dusty didn't get anything out of it other than the satisfaction of helping someone he loves. In this article on, you get a sense of Dusty's complaints. It's clear that their bond is beyond friendship. They are brothers, so they cross boundaries with each other. In the book, you see the relationship struggle and you find yourself wishing Scott would just make things right again. Dusty is an amazing character. You could write a book on Dusty.

If you are curious about how the gentlemen signed my book, I'm happy to share. Scott said "Simon, be somebody." This is very Jurek. It's not about status. It's more about goals and achievements - doing things that matter to you, to others or to the world. Chris signed it with "Simon - Run Wild" which is strategically vague I think.

I'd definitely recommend this book. It's an interesting read for anyone who is fascinated by ultra-running. It's worth reading even if you aren't interested in the diet aspect of it. Jurek is a pretty amazing runner and it's worth hearing about some of the feelings, events and people who shape him. I was really surprised to see the confidence, ego and drive that are inherent in a fierce competitor and winner. I feel like this side of Scott Jurek is often hidden in the media but you instinctively know it has to be there. You can buy Eat and Run here:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Running with the Mind of Meditation

"Movement is good for the body; stillness is good for the mind." – Sakyong Mipham

I actually started writing this post a while back but never finished it. For the sake of transparency, I want to let you know that I was contacted by Crown Publishing Group who asked if I would read a new book by Sakyong Mipham. It's called Running with the Mind of meditation: Lessons for training body and mind. Sakyong is an author of a national bestseller called Turning the mind into an ally. He is also the author of the prize winning Ruling your World.  Crown mailed me the book for free and asked me to read it and blog about it if I felt that I wanted to share it with my readers. I agreed to read it because if you have read posts of mine like... Rain running is rejuvenating or Running toward my problems, you'll already know that I have a connection to running that goes much deeper than exercise. I have never really meditated in the crossed legged stereotypical way but I know I use running for meditation purposes. When I run, I connect, I center, I think, I process, I heal, etc.

Just to give myself a sense of Sakyong's perspective, I found some factoids on him. He is a Tibetan Lama and the leader of of Shambhala, a "global community of meditation and retreat centers." He is from a very strong Tibetan lineage and has studied with some of the most enlightened meditation masters of Tibet. He is also uniquely connected to the West because his father wanted him to be educated in Europe and North America. He is a speaker, teacher, poet, artist and obviously a writer. He is a runner and has completed 9 marathons to raise money for Tibet. He is clearly a family man because this book is a dedicated to his wife and daughter. Did I mention that his wife is a Tibetan Princess? If that's not enough for you, he has been called "one of the 30 global visionaries of our time." He teaches and preaches about the wisdom, compassion and courage of all beings. He sees his role as "Earth protector." Phew! I need to step up my life!
Sakyong Mipham
There's a lovely little moment in this book where Sakyong talks about running with some other young monks near their temple and the danger of wild animals in the jungle. It created such vivid images for me and I wish he had gone into spaces like this a little more throughout. I feel like he has experienced running in a way that I have not and I'm always fascinated by that.

The book gets pretty deep into meditation. I think I found it a little difficult to take it in easily because although I am open to the concepts, I knew nothing about meditation before reading this book. Sakyong really is a master and it can get very deep and intelectual in places. For those who are either in the process of learning meditation or have meditated for many years, I think you'll find it very interesting. The connection with meditation and running is definitely a fascinating subject.

Maybe Sakyong should connect with Budd Coates. Recently, I have been trying out some of the breathing techniques that are recommended by Running on Air: The Revolutionary Way to Run Better by Breathing Smarter, by Budd Coates, M.S., and Claire Kowalchik (Rodale, 2013). You can read about it at Runners World here. I love the way the 3/2 technique encourages you to breath on alternate foot strikes and I'm starting to see some performance benefits. I have noticed that practicing this breathing technique is hypnotic because of the reoccurring pattern. I could quite easily see it be combined with some form of meditation.

For anyone who connects with running on another level (like most of us do) and is curious about the connection of running and meditation, I'd definitely consider giving this a read. But remember, it's not a story, it's instruction and insight from a master. Just setting your expectations. The book can be purchased here:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I'm back!

OK, it's been a while but here is The Fool in full effect. Life got super busy there for a while and it just wasn't practical to be blogging. Life is still pretty busy but I have promised myself that as long as I keep things pretty short form, I can keep doing this. You'll notice that my logo changed to an homage of the Skechers Performance logo. It's been NB and Adidas in the past. More on why Skechers in a bit...

What's new with me? Well... let's see...

I had a stress fracture in my tibia, gained a little weight and recovered. I am now leaner than I was before the injury and running 30 miles a week and feeling really good. I haven't gained my pace back but for right now, I'll take the consistency, the recovery and general love of running.

I signed up for a Half Marathon. I'll be running the Chicago Half in September. I'm really looking forward to that. Officially, I want to just get a baseline run in under 2 hours. Unofficially, I want to shoot for 1:50. I'm honestly not sure where my fitness will be by then but we'll see how it goes. I want to enjoy running it - that's the over-riding objective.

I read a couple of books that I wanted to share with folks. I read Running with the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. I read the Hanson's Marathon Method by Luke Humphrey and the Hanson's which influenced me running a half based on their training philosophies. I just finished Finding Ultra by Rich Roll. Maybe I'll do a brief post on each to share a few thoughts.

Charlie (7) just ran his first 5K with me at the Humboldt Park Dream Run and somehow managed to win 3rd in the under 19's division. I'll definitely make a post about that specifically.

I started volunteering at the Chicago Marathon and Shamrock Shuffle as a starting line coordinator. A friend of mine is the Operations Director for those races. It was a little nerve racking at first but it's a great experience and quite rewarding.

You may remember that I hadn't got that far making connections with the running industry. I got a free shoe from Mizuno and Adidas sent me some samples to check-out. Finally, I made a connection with Skechers. I am now testing shoes for them and loving the experience and the shoes. I'll definitely talk more about that but I have to be careful because I'm under an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement). I'll ask them about the process of releasing information in a controlled and sanctioned way. I know Pete Larson (Runblogger) tests and releases info before shoes hit the stores.

That's about it as a first post but I just want to say that it's good to be back and I am as passionate about running as I was when I left off - maybe more so.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Running Washington D.C.

It has been a while. Life has been insane and the blog has suffered. It's just the way it is. Something has to give. Anyhow, here I am again blogging about a short trip to Washington DC for a wedding. My brother in-law Mark married a lovely lady called Victoria who is originally from Russia. I'm a big fan of hers and I had a great time at their wedding.

I am making a steady come-back after a long injury and this was a fun running experience. I have been to D.C. once before to visit friends when my wife Maureen was at a conference. One of our friends still lives there and she partook of the McNamee family wedding shenanigans. My first day was taken-up with my son Charlie and a tuxedo adjustment. My trousers were 3" too short - I'm glad I tried them on. Maureen took the girls and met-up with their cousins at some museums.

The next day, I was determined to run. I decided to run toward the Capital building, head West down the National Mall (otherwise known as The Mall) and wing-it. I got up and thought it would be quiet at 6:30am. I was dead wrong! D.C. is running crazy at that time. I guess it makes sense A-type political people and military types need to pound off that stress somehow I guess. I ran the same route for two days. It was 4.6 miles and I loved every second of it. I forgot how clean downtown D.C. is. Running there made me feel like a small mouse running in a very huge and grand outdoor museum. There is so much to see. Here's a taste of my route...

I headed up Jersey toward Capital Hill and the Capital building. The hotel was really close. For those of you who aren't American, every U.S. State has a Capital building. They aren't all domed but they are all pretty cool looking. Washington D.C. does not have the biggest or tallest Capital building but it's pretty distinctive.

My Instagram of the Capital Building

I cut South West on Louisiana past the Robert Taft Memorial. It's a nice quiet spot and the memorial has bells on top. I didn't hear it ring but I believe it does. The beloved Senator was the son of President William Howard Taft (27th President). When President Hoover dedicated the memorial in '59, he said "When these great bells ring out, it will be a summons to integrity and courage." He sounds like quite a man. Remind me to brush-up on some U.S. political history.

Robert Taft Memorial

I then headed East on Constitution Ave and cut through the Ulysses S Grant Memorial which is at the base of Capital Hill. President Grant was the 18th President and played a huge role as General in the second half of the Civil War. Grant sits on his horse looking West toward President Lincoln's Memorial because Lincoln was his war-time President. He is pristinely calm as a violent cavalry charge happens right next to him. Apparently, he was known for being cool under fire. The Grant and Lincoln memorials are the Easter and Western boundaries of The National Mall, which is a European style walkway through the Capital.

Ulysses S Grant Memorial

I crossed 3rd Street and then East down Madison Drive. One of the first things I noticed was the National Gallery of Art and it's sculpture garden. There was a tree there and all of a sudden, I realized that it was silver. On closer inspection, I realized that this tree was made of metal. This 45 ft tree made by sculptor Roxie Paine is made of stainless steel and is pretty impressive as you go by and the light hits the polished metal.

National Gallery of Art, Sculpture Garden.

For those of you who haven't been to DC and can't get a sense of what The Mall is, here's a photo. My route is headed away from the camera on the right hand side of The Mall. It's basically a park that I believe is classed as a National Park. It has yellow crushed gravel pathways, is tree lined and is generally a great way to walk DC and see the museums and monuments.

The National Mall

I headed across 14th Street and ran around the Washington Memorial. It's an impressive structure. It's just over 555 ft high and it's made of marble, granite, and bluestone gneiss. It's the tallest stone structure in the World and the tallest obelisk. I believe that nothing in DC is allowed to be taller than this monument. President George Washington was the Nation's first president. There had been a lot of talk about a tribute to him even before his death at the end of the 1700's. They started this monument in 1848 but didn't finish until 1884. You can tell where they stopped work in '56 because the color of the stone changed when they started again in '76. Why the delay? I don't pretend to know all the details but I think it was money and maybe a little turmoil in the Union.

The Washington Memorial

For some reason, I had really turned on the speed as I rounded the Washington Memorial and slowed down a little to cross 17th Street. I then headed along the side of the National WWII Veterans Memorial, which commemorates the 16 million who served and the 400,000 who died. The fountain is even more impressive at night. Each State is represented around the fountain. It's amazing to me that when I was young, I knew so many people who had served in WWII but now, they are few and far between. God bless them all. That truly was a noble fight.

The National WWII Veterans Memorial

As I came around the WWII Memorial, I wasn't sure what I was looking at. Then... all of a sudden, I realized that I was running down a beautiful tree lined lane alongside The Reflecting Pool. I say "the" but in fact, it is the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. It's not the only one in D.C. For some reason, seeing this had more emotional impact on me than anything I had seen so far. That impact had nothing to do with how interesting it is to see a large wave-less body of water reflect National monuments. This space has hosted all sorts of important events but in my mind, I can't separate this space from Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. Inspiring stuff!

Washington Memorial reflected in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

At the end of the pool, I climbed a few steps to the Lincoln Memorial. I didn't think President Lincoln would be visible without climbing all the way up to see him but there he was, sitting on his chair and watching me as I hit my half-way point. President Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President and did a few impressive things like lead the country to a Civil War victory, abolished slavery, orated some of the most famous speeches and had the time to be a man of integrity. Not too shabby sir. This memorial is my favorite. The Daniel Chester French sculpture is amazing.

Lincoln Memorial

As I ran around and headed East on Independence Ave, I spotted something that sent shivers up my spine for a moment. It looked like some ghostly white WWII troops walking in mist through the trees. It was actually the Korean War Memorial and the mist was just the sprinklers. These stainless steel soldiers by Frank Gaylord look brave, tired and sad. They represent all branches of the armed forces. 6.8 million people served and over 54,000 lost their lives.

Korean War Memorial

Further along, noticed the DC War Memorial through the trees. I hadn't seen this before either. A little research told me that it is a memorial with a very local flavor. It is dedicated to the 26,000 Washingtonians who served in WWI. It also displays the names of 499 District of Columbia residents who lost their lives.

District of Columbia War Memorial

I crossed 17th again, went around the South side of the Washington memorial and headed East on Jackson Drive. The 1930's Department of Agriculture building is pretty impressive. It was the largest office building in the World until they finished the Pentagon.

Department of Agriculture

Then came the Smithsonian Institute castle. This is a lovely gothic revival building in red seneca sandstone. It is the work of James Renwick, Jr. who also designed St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. It was built in the late 1800's.

Smithsonian Institute

On The Mall near the Smithsonian there is a little carousel. It's such a sweet and family friendly thing to find in this very formal and sometimes austere environment. Apparently it is a rare 1940's carousel because it has four horses abreast. It was located at Gwynn Oak Park, Maryland (near Baltimore) until it closed because of a flood caused by Hurricane Agnes in '72. In 1974 it was moved to it's current location. I have no idea who decided to do that and what permission it took to make it happen but I am a fan.

Carousel on the National Mall

I then past the very distinctive Hirshorn Museum. It is an art museum built in the 1960's and is a part of the Smithsonian. It focuses on art made in the last 50 years. The architect was Gordon Bunshaft and the building is a huge cylinder on legs with a large fountain in the central courtyard. This is most definitely the most distinctive and out-of-character building on The Mall.

Hirshorn Museum

On the home stretch now, I past the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. This 1970's building holds the largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft. It's not that impressive a building from the outside but the gold polished Ad Astra (to the stars) sculpture by Richard Lippold is quite distinctive.

Smithsonian Air & Space Museum

From here, I ran back across 3rd, headed North and then cut North East across the Grant Memorial. I crossed the street to the Taft Memorial. As I walked to cool down, I was impressed by my time. I ran the 4.6 at an 8:30 pace. That was a much faster pace than I had been running. I realized that the improvement in pace was probably due to a couple of factors (other than my leg feeling better). First of all, the route I ran is pretty darned captivating. I wasn't thinking about my running at all. Secondly, D.C. runners are a little competitive. They do not like being passed and the pace I found to be generally quicker than my local park in Chicago. Whatever the reasons, I was happy with my pace and euphoric after each run. I had a really great time running in D.C. and I would recommend this very touristy route to anyone who visits the City. It's a great way to experience the place and the D.C. running culture.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Heard from Mizuno Mezamashii?

You can see my original post about Mizuno's a new consumer program that they have called Mezamashii here

I got an email from Mizuno telling me that there was a wear testing opportunity. This was a very welcome email because I expected nothing quite frankly. Yes, it's cynical but, that has been my experience with these things in the past. I signed up for it in mid June and this is the first communication I have had. Pretty quick turn-around I'd say. So many times these days, companies are quick to ask you to apply for something online but slow to give you any sort of communication in return. Some of you may remember that I applied to be a wear tester for New Balance and didn't even get a confirmation that my application made it through the Interwebs! This isn't cool. There is no excuse for a corporation of that size having poor communication practices. Mizuno seems to have their shit together for this program. It has been handled in a very professional way so far. Even if I get rejected, I'd love to see an email from them explaining why. Not everyone can be selected. People understand that and will accept it. It's far better than no communication.

As a part of the wear testing application, I had to sign a bunch of legal stuff, so I can not share some of the details but I'll give you a taste of it from the email (that I have censored). You can click the image and read portions of it.

What's interesting about this is that it's an application to wear test a specific shoe. I do like their brand but in the past, their shoes just haven't fit my foot that well. I'm curious to see what new minimal shoes they may have brewing. I'm not sure if there will be more shoes in future or if this is it for Mezamashii program. It's seems like there should be more to it by the way they set it up. Apparently on Aug 20th, Mizuno are going to let me know if they want me to wear test and send me a pair of shoes if they do. Unfortunately, there will be all sorts of restrictions on me blogging about it if I get chosen but, at some point, they may allow me to leak certain things if they are close to distribution. That would be a lot of fun to bring an exclusive like that. I have had pre-distribution shoes from Adidas but I have never been a part of a wear testing program. I know that some of my DailyMile friends got the same email. It has created quite a stir. Good luck to everyone who applied. Let's see what Mizuno has in the pipeline!

BTW. If any of you readers are crazy enough to be repeat readers, a DailyMiler and are open to the idea, please feel free to become a friend. Here's my profile. I love the support community they have there.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Film Review of Run for Your Life

I had a bit of a accident involving a charcoal grill and lighter fluid. My face was really badly burned but it is getting better finally. Last night, I was feeling sorry for myself and tried to finish-off a running book that I wanted to share on this blog. In the end, I decided I needed some passive entertainment to lift my spirits. I opted to watch a 2008 documentary called Run for Your Life. It's the story of Fred Lebow and documents how he started the New York City Marathon. I knew nothing about the topic, so I thought it would be an educational film to help evolve my foolishness. If you don't want a spoiler, don't read this post!

Fred Lebow had a sad childhood but grew into a very positive and savvy adult with visionary ideas. NYC Marathon was not the first urban marathon but it is credited with starting the Worldwide urban marathon trend. Fred is also credited with being a pioneer of running event marketing and PR. I think it's fair to say that he is the Godfather of modern day running events.

Fred was born Fischel Lebowitz in Transylvania, Romania and did look a little vampire-like if you ask me. Fred's family split-up to avoid the Nazi's and he moved with an older brother to Czechoslovakia when he was 14 years old. He didn't reunite with the rest of the family until he was in his 30's in Brooklyn. Subsequently, he was a little distant from them and the fact that he had changed his name probably didn't help. He worked in the garment district of New York City and became an avid runner. The film doesn't go into when and why he became a runner but his older brother said that running was his religion. Fred claimed that there was nothing that couldn't be fixed with a run. There was a running scene in the Bronx but because of increased traffic and the decline of that borough, Fred suggested to the runners that they move to Manhattan. He had fallen in love with running in Manhattan when he ran around the Central Park reservoir (1.8 miles) in 1969.

Fred Lebow in his signature running hat.
As soon as Fred became the unofficial leader of the running community, he worked with the NYC Parks Commission to get permission to organize races. After a few races, he formed the New York City Road Runners Club. He had a vision to have a Marathon and in 1970, they hosted the first NYC Marathon in Central Park. It was a four loop course where you had to avoid strollers and horses. Fred had quit his job and put his personal effort and money behind the events. It was very bare bones stuff. The 1970 NYC Marathon winner said that Fred asked him to return the trophy because he was short one and needed to give it to someone else. Regardless of these humble beginnings, the running community had become fired-up and the club had brought people even closer together. Fred pushed women's distance running forward too. He was asked by a sponsor to host a women's only marathon but knew he could only get 5 or 6 runners. He hosted a 6 mile run and called it a "mini marathon". By doing this, he made it accessible to many more women and created a lot of press for women's running. Women wanted to prove that they could run distance - something that the racing organizations of the time were discouraging.

Gary Muhrcke winning the 1970 marathon.
Joy Spitz gave Fred the idea of making the 1976 marathon a 5 borough race in honor of the Centennial.  The idea was to do it as a one-off event. Fred took the idea and ran with it. He created a lot of spin around the event even though he did not have the funding or runners. He somehow convinced the City to host it, convinced sponsors to give him money and his stroke of genius was convincing Bill Rogers and Frank Shorter to go head to head at the event. This made the race something that World class runners wanted to be a part of and the press went crazy. Fred was concerned about the safety on the course because some of the neighborhoods were rough. He did a lot of grass roots work to build community support. The stars were aligning because it was a turning point for the City coming out of terrible economic troubles. The public were ready for something positive to happen. The race was a resounding success. Bill Rogers won and subsequently won the next four. In '78 Grete Waiz called to try to get into the race. The club secretary didn't know who she was but Fred called her back and invited her to enter. She won 9 of the next 12 Marathons and they became close friends. As the race evolved and marathons became big business, Fred vision became apparent. There was a bidding war between the NYC and Chicago races. Bill Rogers didn't like Fred's deal, so he decided to run in Chicago. That next NYC marathon was won in a course record time by Alberto Salazar. He broke the World Record at the event the following year and won again after that. You may think this was dumb luck on Fred's part except for the fact that Fred had personally recruited Alberto and had created a huge PR drive behind him.

I guess the rest is history. Fred became a legend Marathon Director and continued to lead the NYC Road Runners Club. He was also quite the celebrity and was incredibly popular with the ladies although he could not commit to a permanent relationship. The twist to the documentary is that Fred developed brain cancer. He continued to run when he was in the hospital and after surgery, he ran even though it was slower than his walk. He told his friend Nina that he liked the soothing rhythm of jogging. Fred said that cancer had made him milder in personality and had brought him closer to his family. In 1992, he finally got to run the New York City Marathon for the first time. He had run many marathons around the World but never his own. He bravely completed it with his friend Grete Waiz.

"In running, it doesn't matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack or last. You can say, 'I have finished.' There is a lot of satisfaction in that."
- Fred Lebow (1932 - 1994)

A few other interesting facts..

  • In the 60's and early 70's, running was not a hobby. The people who ran were serious and fast. The general public thought that road running was very odd.
  • Fred was not a fast runner. His vision was to bring running to people like himself - people who were not elite but wanted a challenge. He understood the trend toward a fitness lifestyle.
  • In the beginning, there were no World class runners, so local NYC runners won. How awesome it must be to have those memories.
  • Nina Kuscsik (who later won a NYC marathon) was meant to break 3 hours for PR in the 1970 race. She didn't feel prepared and gave up after 15 miles. She said that she was a little embarrassed because it went down in history that no women completed the first NYC marathon.
  • The first race included some steps. One of the runners said that when they ran up the steps, their thought was "Bill Rogers had to run up these steps too?"
  • It's great to think that a lot of the people who watched the 1976 marathon had never seen a competitive running race in their lives. It was a process of education to get people to understand it and get behind it.
  • When Fred met with important sponsors and NYC dignitaries, he always wore his running gear. He was really in-tune with the idea that his quirky brand helped the reputation of the Road Runners Club and the NYC Marathon.
  • NYC supported the Marathon for free until Fred wrote in a book about how he had fooled the Mayor because he was paying the runners and not the City.
  • Fred pioneered things like running up sky-scrapers, the corporate challenge and themed runs that have become the norm today. 
  • Fred was known for waiting at the finish line and giving high fives to all the runners as they came in. He loved the event and was often terribly depressed when it was over.

So, how did this movie impact me? Well, I loved Fred's character and courage. He was a bit of a tyrant but people loved him anyway. His staff stayed with him and learned from him. He was a man who knew what he wanted and went after it without apologies. You have to admire that. The documentary really made me want to run the New York City marathon one day. I lived in New York for nearly 7 years. I have experience with the boroughs. I lived for a short while in Staten Island. I worked in the South Bronx as a case manager for kids with developmental disabilities. I visited Queens often to hang-out with friends. I lived in Flatbush and Brooklyn Heights in Brooklyn. I lived on the Lower East side and lived the longest stretch in the East Village of Manhattan. I would love to experience NYC in this unique way. I love that the neighborhoods come out to celebrate it. The scale of the city and the event would be pretty inspiring. Maybe one day...

You can watch the movie on Netflix here. It is an instant play as of right now.
You can buy the movie very cheaply on Amazon here.

See all the running movies I have seen to date.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Adidas Tribute Logo

Yes, I have a new tribute logo. Why? Let me explain.

As some of you may know, I have had this blog since September 2011. Initially, it was about having some fun, inspiring myself and seeing if I could get New Balance to play the game with me. I didn't expect it to be read by so many people and I certainly didn't expect to be inspiring others to run. It has been a fulfilling trip. The only real limitation has been the direct tie to New Balance. The folks at New Balance corporate didn't seem to care that I was giving them free publicity. That's OK, I know how brand teams are. They are a pretty self serving bunch. It doesn't change my relationship with the company. I am still a fan and I love their shoes. The one good thing about focusing on New Balance was that I made a friend in Jeff Mach who owns the Chicago area New Balance stores. He is a great human being and has a very passionate group of people in his stores. Please shop there in person if you have the chance and if you must shop online, they benefit from online sales here.

Here's the old New Balance tribute logo for those of you who have forgotten already:

Even though I have received free books to review and a running shirt sample from Jeff Mach, Adidas gets the honor of being the first running shoe company to send me pre-release shoes to try and blog about. I was very open about how exciting this was to me. It's a big milestone in the history of this humble little blog. I am very grateful to them and in honor of it, I am sporting an Adidas tribute logo.

I just want to reiterate. This is not about thumbing my nose at New Balance. It's more about opening-up the theme of the site. In future, I can see me creating more tribute logos and I'm open to doing it for companies I have had no connection with. It can be a fun thing to keep things interesting.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Adidas Adipure Collection - Initial Thoughts

As you may have seen, Adidas sent me a couple of pairs of their new Adipure minimal line. I'm not ashamed to admit that this was the first time a shoe manufacturer sent me shoes for me to blog about and it excited the hell out of me. It's awesome to get free stuff but to a runner, there is nothing more exciting than free running shoes.

These shoes are meant to be released late August. They are a family of shoes you can use to transition to minimal with the Motion being the most shoe and the Adapt being the most minimal. The specs that are floating around out there are as follows:

At first, I thought the notion of a family of shoes that you could use to transition was a ridiculous notion but when I tried them on, I couldn't help but believe that it was possible. More on that later.

Before I get into my first thoughts on the Motion and Gazelle, I just want everyone to be clear that I have been wear testing them walking only. I am recovering from a calf injury, so as soon as I am back, I'll add my thoughts about their running chops.

Let's start with the Adipure Motion
This is the least minimal of the line. The first thing I noticed is how light it is and how loud it is. Maybe it's because I am European but I love really bright running shoes. It makes me happy.

The main color is bright sky blue and the laces and collar are a very a very luminous salmony pink. I have seen a black version on the Interwebs and that doesn't look so good to me. This shoe is like having the padding of a Nike Free, the shape of a New Balance Minimus Road and upper of a Saucony Hattori (with more support). It works for me.

You'll notice that the outsole is pretty structured and provides durability across the whole shoe. It looks vaguely Nike Free-like from the side but if you try to fold it up, you are only going to see the toe section fold. The rest of the sole is pretty firm as you would imagine from the double midsole. There is some arch support built-into the shoe.

The upper material is a mesh sock-like material similar to the feel of the Saucony Hattori. The mesh has a shiny rubber pattern printed on it that may well add some structure along with aesthetics. 

What stops this shoe feeling like a sock is the two supporting elements either side of the midfoot (that is also home to the famous three stripes). These supportive elements laying over the sock help to secure the foot in position. 

The heel is rounded and recessed which I am sure the marketing folks will tell you is to promote a mid-foot strike. The back of the shoe has the classic logo. One thing I noticed immediately were the little velcro tabs on the tongues and the heels. It took me ages to guess what these were and I am pretty sure they are for pulling on the shoes. You open up the velcro, use the tabs to pull and then push them back down out of the way. I don't use them because I don't find the shoes difficult to get on but it's a neat little feature.

Instagram photo taken at the Damen Blue Line "L" stop.

So, what are they like? Well, when I first slipped them on, I thought they were a really snug sock-like feel. The material in the toe area pulls over your toes and this takes a little getting used to. After wearing them for a couple of weeks now, it doesn't bother me at all. The softness of the mesh makes it feel like there is ample room in the toe box. I have to say that I don't like the way the laces feel when you lace the shoes snuggly. The tongue is the same thin mesh sock material, so the laces tend to dig-in a little bit. The laces are too short. This may be because they are a pre-release pair. I tend to wear running shoes without socks and I haven't had a single hotspot with these shoes. I often find Adidas a little narrow for my feet but because of the flexibility in the sock-like mesh, it is very forgiving. This is just as well because the shoe really isn't as anatomical as say a New Balance MR00. The one thing about the fit that worried me initially was the spot where the side supports ended on the inside of my feet. I could definitely feel it and I was worried that it would start to rub. After a couple of weeks, I noticed it less and I have had no issues at all. For a larger stack height (for a minimal shoe), you get a decent amount of feedback from the ground. They don't feel as thick as you would imagine. I think the lightness of the shoe has a lot to do with that. The padding is soft but not as unstructured feeling as a Nike Free. For anyone who wants a transitional shoe, I would definitely encourage you to check it out. For someone like me who has already transitioned, it's just a little too much shoe and obviously too much of a drop. Having said that, I have been enjoying wearing these more than my Nike Free's and my New Balance MR10's. They have also been a show stopper. People just can't stop looking at your feet when you walk by. I got loads of comments from people in work about how cool they looked. One person stopped me on my dog walk and asked me where he could get a pair. Running shoes should have a personality like that. Running is fun, so why not the shoes!

And now onto the Gazelles. My pair were an orange red and is really vibrant. The thing I really like about these is that the Adidas stripes are silver and metallic looking.

They are very like the Motion in the upper but you'll notice the outersole only has protection mostly in the mid and forefoot. This makes them lighter and more flexible. You can fold these shoes up very easily from toe to heel.

You can see the big different in stack height with the more minimal midsole. The arch support also doesn't seem to be as pronounced as the Motion.

The front and back of the shoe are very like the Motion.

Here's the detail on the rubber pattern that the Motion and Gazelle have printed on the mesh.

Instagram taken at my office

My thought on the Gazelle? The upper fits exactly like the Motion. This is why I think it's an option for someone who wants to transition through a family of shoes. You don't have to get used to a new upper, you just need to adapt to a couple less mm of drop and less stack height. It's pretty clever. I had the same issues with lacing tightness because of the thin tongue. I had no issue barefoot with the Gazelle. No hotspots at all. Obviously, the ride is lower and firmer with these shoes but they feel remarkably comfortable to walk in. It's a great balance of comfort and ground feel. Just like the Motion, I got lots of positive feedback about the look of these shoes. They are brighter than the Motion but for some reason, the Motion catches people's attention quicker. This shoe is closer to the shoes I have been running in for longer runs, so I am so anxious to take them out. There is nothing like wearing a shoe that makes you want to run. It's a great feeling. I have found myself going back to this shoe time and time again of all the shoes I have in the closet. I just love wearing them. I still think these should have been a 4mm drop and the Adapts should have been zero but there has to be some reason why Adidas didn't want to go there right now.

So, that's it. Based on my wear testing them as daily shoes, I would recommend giving them your consideration. Stay tuned for when I run in them and provide updated information. Adidas, if you are listening, I really want to try the Adapt. I want to see what it is like to go from the side supports of the Gazelle to a full sock upper. By the way, thanks for sending them. Most appreciated.

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