Some Things I Learned While Running
No one asked me, but:
1. Nesting mockingbirds are extremely territorial and are talented at dive bombing the top of your head.
2. On very cold mornings a third sock can save your “skin”, guys.
3. Running with my children, even as adults, is about the greatest pleasure that I have ever known. Interestingly, my father never ran a step with me except to chase me for something I probably did and for which I deserved some sort of punishment. The old man wasn’t that fast, but he had a quick first few steps. Instead, run with your children for the pleasure of it.
4. On that note, pushing grandchildren in a jogging stroller uphill is one hell of a workout.
5. Running before dawn and finishing with the sunrise is incredible. Even better when the moon is setting at the same time. But, running trails at night with a headlamp or under a big, bright full moon is pretty damn wonderful too.
6. If you are going really long, do not forget to Vaseline your private or sensitive body parts. Body Glide is better, Boudreaux’s Butt Paste is even better than that. If you think that I am kidding, wait till you step into the shower after failing to lube up properly.
7. Always double tie your shoe strings. I recall being passed by several runners uttering derisive comments during a race in Cairo, Georgia, with one set of laces flapping in the wind and trying to keep my right shoe on by scrunching my toes. You can’t do it. Not at race pace anyhow.
8. If you are heading out onto the trails in the evening, you can tell about how much time you will have until dark. Turn your hand sideways and count how many fingers there are between the sun and the horizon. Each finger is about 15 minutes. Then go put your light in your waist pack because you are going to get stuck out there in the dark anyhow.
9. Dress as though it is 20 degrees warmer than what it really is. Your body will generate some heat when you run. Exception: when it is windy and wet, find a windbreaker that you can wear or tie around your waist if it gets too hot. If you have a choice, start into the wind and finish with the wind at your back. Hell, that is good advice about life in general regardless of the weather.
10. I like cyclists, but I wouldn’t be caught dead in what you guys wear. Real runners are created through dedication and effort and not from the latest shoe or high tech fabric.
11. However, on trails, always give way to cyclists, for you can stop on a dime and they cannot. And do not quietly run up behind horses on the trail unless you have a death wish. Instead, make a lot of noise from a distance and wait for the rider to see you and figure out what best to do. Horses are very stupid. And awfully big and powerful.
12. Run into traffic if you must run on the roads, and don’t wear those goofy earphones, hide your silliness if you must listen to music or a book on tape or whatever, with little ear buds. Unless you like to look like a dork, because you will. On the other hand, life has symmetry. Wear whatever you want, whenever you want to. It is your business. Is that Zen enough?
13. Sometimes it is perfectly fine to run simply for the pleasure of the run itself and not because you are training for some goal race. But, having a goal will certainly help you get out the door when you don’t feel like it. A running partner or several is even better. A good running partner will pound on your door or lean on the horn until you get your sorry butt in gear. Or will leave you a nasty phone or email message if you are a no show. Guilt is a prime motivator sometimes. Use it.
14. Pain in running is inevitable. Suffering is optional. (If that is so, then why do I opt for suffering so much of the time?).
15. Leave a note or let people know where you are going and when you expect to be back, especially if you head out into the wilds for a long run or several day effort. Someone might actually care about you or at least will want to know where to send a search party. If you have special medical needs or allergies or something, have a note in a plastic bag in your backpack, letting rescuers know that. Or carry your pills or inhaler or Epipen with you, whatever.
16. Gatorade and Powerade are awful. If you need to properly hydrate and/or need electrolytes, get some Ultra or Clip2 or Amino and some Succeed. Or perhaps use Spiz. In fact, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. But be careful to avoid hyponatremia in warm or hot weather. In really long runs, water is better used on your head and back and mixed into your drink of choice.
17. Asheville has an incredible system of running trails. Tallahassee is even better.
18. If you run races but never volunteer to work at least one every year, well, shame on you. The rewards of volunteering are great but remember that depending upon the weather, volunteering can often be more difficult than running the race itself. So, dress accordingly and bring some food and drink for yourself.
19. When you pass other runners going in the opposite direction, make eye contact. Say hello or waive in kinship. We are all brothers and sisters and members of the same congregation when we are running.
20. You can’t be a real trail runner without tripping and falling every now and then. Do not be embarrassed, no one cares but you. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get going. Sometimes, but not often, you may really injure yourself. If so, then it is OK to walk. I can attest to the fact that it is a very long walk out of the Apalachicola National Forest after busting one once. It also gets real dark in there too.
21. I love dogs. I have had dogs for 30 years. A good dog is just the best running partner ever. They hardly need to stretch, they rarely say “no” even at the most ridiculous times and and in the worst weather. Be kind to your running dog, though. He is wearing a fur coat and lacks sweat glands, so make sure he will get some water during the run. Do not kill him in hot weather here, it can happen. A big treat or meal afterwards is nice too. For you, too.
22. But, damn it, if your unleashed/uncontrolled dog messes with someone else out running, then both you and your dog deserve to be punished. Remember, most people are worth more than most dogs. Most of the time. Some of the time. Well, every once in a while.
23. The only things that you should be leaving behind on your runs, are your footprints (I am not talking about what you “naturally” leave under the bushes. My bladder is 60 years old. ‘Nuff said). Truck it in, truck it out, no one wants to have to clean up after you. Gels, snot rags, you get the picture. I believe that if you dump a piece of clothing during a run, that you’d better hide it because it is fair game for anyone else who spies it and who can get it out of there sans argument. But if you get caught, you must give it back. That is the honorable thing to do among runners. If you cannot afford to lose it, maybe you shouldn’t bring it. But, never take a water bottle or fluids or food that someone leaves out for himself/herself at the trailhead or stashed anywhere else on the trail. That is orders of magnitude different.
24. Running is such an affair of the heart. In more ways than one. Some famous runners and running authors and even running heart specialists and doctors (Jim Fixx, Ralph Paffenberger, M. D., Olympic hopeful Ryan Shay, to name a few and there are more, of course) have died from heart failure or heart related ailments. Some have felt poorly in advance and stubbornly refused to seek a medical opinion or consultation, and then disaster struck. I was talking to a fellow one day after a race at the FSU track when he literally dropped dead right at my feet despite heroic efforts by Dave and Carmen Rogers, to save him. It made an impression on me. There was once a doctor who proclaimed that running a marathon gave one immunity from heart related ailments forever. It just is not so. If you feel lousy, really lousy, and this persists, go to the doctor and get it checked out. Preferably, a doctor who runs or knows something about sports medicine. Don’t put it off.
25. If you come upon a dead animal on the road or trail, remove it. It is the respectful thing to do. Except armadillo. The vultures need to eat too.