Yesterday as I ran 22 snowy, frigid miles in preparation for my historic 20th marathon in Phoenix, I began to contemplate the sheer joy of running that has transformed me into a lifetime athlete with a resting heartbeat of 48-52.
My running journey began in 1985 with a fitness college class that required a certain number of aerobic points for an “A.” The fastest way to earn the maximum number of points was running, and my crowded schedule (I was working full-time and commuting 45 miles each way to attend college full-time as an older student with a wife and two children) demanded the fastest way.
A love affair with running began that has continued to this day.
I do not take lightly the good health required to run consistently for 25 years. But I wonder, could the good health be a result of the running?
I think so.
Running has improved my quality of life, enhanced my creativity, and taught me volumes about determination, discipline and goal-setting. It also gets me outside and my personality needs mega-doses of Vitamin D.
Here are six secrets to a lifetime of joyful running:
1. Galloway Training Method — I heard Olympic marathoner Jeff Galloway explain his running method years ago at a Disney Marathon Expo. It instantly made sense to me. I had completed three marathons using various training methods, but resolved to immediately adopt the Galloway method.
At the risk of oversimplification, you run for a certain amount of minutes, and then walk for a certain amount of minutes.
For me, that translates into running six minutes and then walking one minute—for the entire run. I discovered that even though I was walking every six minutes as opposed to running the entire race, my marathon times were instantly faster. This method is a great way to start running and enjoying it. The one minute walk provides opportunity to relax physically and emotionally and smell the roses. It also helps promote injury-free running.
I had two arthroscopic knee surgeries from basketball injuries before my running began, yet never experienced knee problems utilizing this method. My first three traditional “run-every-step’ marathons, I was in excruciating pain and was unable to walk properly for days. Utilizing the Galloway method, recovery was 95% the following day—with better finish times! Amazing but true.
My previous personal best time was 4:23 for my first run-every-step-of-the-way marathon at age 34. Utilizing the Galloway method, fifteen years older at age 49, I set a new personal best of 4:01.
The Galloway method is the number one secret for running and ENJOYING it!!
2. The Correct Shoe and Socks — After my first marathon, I lost all ten toenails, my size twelve feet were bruised and blistered, and I could barely walk. It took two additional marathons to realize it didn’t have to be that way. I e-mailed a Runners World magazine expert about my feet and he suggested trying a shoe with a wider toe box. Viola! The next marathon I retained all my toenails and my feet thanked me for days. I have worn Asics Gel Kayano’s from that day forward. I swear by them!
I also have extremely soft feet. A double layer sock made by Wright completely eliminated the blisters.
The correct shoes and socks are the number two secrets for running and ENJOYING it!
3. Garmin Forerunner Watch — My friend and running partner John (a cardiologist) first gifted me with a Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS Receiver With Heart Rate Monitor running watch eight years ago. It changed my running forever. It tells your pace, average pace, elapsed distance, calories burned, time of day, heartbeat, elevation, and even calls someone to pick you up when you are tired. Ha! Okay it doesn’t do the last one.
The number one reason people fail to complete a marathon is starting too fast. The Garmin erases that mistake forever! My friend and running partner Spence (an Ironman Triathlete) just gifted me with the new Garmin Forerunner 310XT Waterproof Running GPS With Heart Rate Monitor. I used it for the first time yesterday, and I am in love!!
The Garmin Forerunner Watch is the number three secret for running and ENJOYING it!!
4. The Right Clothes — One word. Layer. A running mentor taught me the adage that if you feel warm as you warm-up, then you have too many clothes on. Of course, I suppose if I had known that adage during my running days in South Florida, I would have been running nude most of the time.
Seriously, I use dri-fit running clothes. Here are my clothing rules:
Over 50 degrees—regular running attire: Dri-fit short sleeve shirt, running shorts, shoes and socks.
40-50 degrees: One dri-fit short sleeve shirt, One dri-fit long sleeve shirt, running shorts, gloves, shoes and socks.
33-40 degrees: Two dri-fit short sleeve shirts, One dri-fit long sleeve shirt, running pants, gloves, toboggan, shoes and socks.
25-32 degrees: Three dri-fit short sleeve shirts, One dri-fit long sleeve shirt, running tights, gloves, toboggan, ear muffs and shoes and socks.
25-under: I try not to run. Seriously. I don’t enjoy it. I move running days around if at all possible. If you live in a frigid environment, please leave a comment and tell us what you wear.
The right clothes are the number four secrets for running and ENJOYING it!!
5. Running to Eat & Drink — Some people eat in order to run, but I run in order to eat. My running helps me stay at a reasonable weight (not the best—but reasonable) while enjoying most of the food and drink I wish to consume. Two of the greatest joys of life for me are eating and drinking. Running helps me continue to enjoy the sacramental life.
I usually lose around 20 pounds during training for each marathon (during one vigorous marathon training—I lost 48 pounds!) So I suppose that means if I did not run, I would weigh an additional 400 pounds.
During my run, I am usually fantasizing about the meal I will eat to celebrate completing the run. I run to eat and drink!
Eating and drinking are the number five secrets for running and ENJOYING it!!
6. Understanding the Rhythm of Running —Most people do not understand this simple secret. Just because you feel like crap at the beginning of a run does not mean it will be a crappy finish. Get started. Take the first step. Many days when I feel horrible at the beginning of a run—I have my best runs.
Also, there are rhythms of good and bad feelings during a run. Yesterday, during my 22 miles, my legs felt exhausted at mile 11, but as I continued, the tired feeling went away and I actually finished the last eight miles feeling much stronger and refreshed than usual. Having a sense of rhythm in your mind helps eliminate the games your mind plays during a run. If you are feeling bad, hang on, you will probably get to feeling better.
Of course, this is a general rule. All of us have runs that are crap from beginning to end. Just endure them and know most runs will be better.
Understanding the Rhythm of Running is the number six secret for running and ENJOYING it!!
How about you?
Are you a runner or not?
If not, do you want to run and enjoy it?
If you are, do you have more secrets to add?