Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Born to Run for the Best Time of Your Life

Some say that high school is the best time of your life. Others will assert that college is the best time of your life. I used to go with the latter – college was the best time of my life. Wake Forest was a place where I found my own new family, completed challenging academic courses, and, of course, ran at the NCAA level. In case you hadn’t noticed, the key word here is “was.”

I’ve decided that while college was a great and memorable experience, my Wake Forest memories are just that – a conglomeration of images and conversations captured in a closed chapter in my book called Life. Of course, the friends that I made during this time will continue to be a huge part of my life, but we’ve all closed the Wake Forest chapter and have moved on to create a new life with new careers and new cities we call home.

Since I am a runner, I put more of my life thoughts together on my workout this morning with Bill and Megan. Megan and I were running alongside each other, stride by stride in lane one of the track. In a way, my legs had carried me back to my glorified memories of Wake Forest, of track workouts done with Merry and Michelle. Suddenly, I was also flashbacking to high school, watching myself run my first track workout of life, with Coach Holda yelling in the background. Before I knew it, another memory flashed before my mental eye: I was running my first Grace Race Fun Run with my dad alongside me to cheer me on every step of the way. The last glimpse into my past was of my tiny legs scurrying to keep up with my parents as they ran point-to-point on a cross country course to cheer on my older sister in the Carbondale Invitational.

For the most part, the best times of my life have always been a direct result of the presence of running in my life. I say “for the most part” because there are times when running seems to make life completely miserable, but this is usually when injury prevents running from even happening. Most of my happy memories have to do with running, whether it is how I met five of my closest friends, or that it’s the reason I still fit in my tight skinny jeans, or that it surrounds me with fellow weird and eccentric people. Running extends itself into all aspects of my life in a way that brings light into my every day.

For this, the best time of my life was the moment that running was intially exposed to me. The most promising part is that the best times continue to come. Thanks mom and dad for running marathons when I was baby because it’s been with me since I was in the womb. :o)

Note: I would also like to point out that you could swap out running and insert any of your favorite sports into this blog. Mostly, I think of Garrett Bullock, aka boyfriend, who quite possibly loves baseball more than I love running. He's been throwing baseballs since he was about two and he continues to pitch in the minor leagues for the Houson Astros organization. Anyone who knows him would know that baseball and his family are the two best parts of his life. I feel lucky to continue to learn from him.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Unleash the Wild Things!

On Friday night I decided to bring one of my favorite childhood books to life by going to the movie "Where the Wild Things Are." The main character Max is, to be quite honest, somewhat psychotic and out of control; he is so wild that he makes even the "wild things" seem tame once he gets to their remote island. I walked out of the movie thinking that kid needed some major attention, otherwise he would be a complete wackjob by the time he made it to high school.

Flash forward to the next day when I was exuberant that Garrett was in town for some quality boyfriend/girlfriend time. In the middle of washing the dishes, I would let out wild screams, cat calls, or meows. Random bursts of excitement would echo out through my strange sound effects, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. After I did these things that Garrett barely even noticed (this is a common practice for me, so it no longer seems strange to him when I cry out random sayings to nobody in particular), I realized that I was acting a bit like Max. Max loves to run around wildly, flailing his arms, and without notice to his surroundings.

The main reason I bring this up, is that despite the fact that "Where the Wild Things Are" is meant to show that sometimes being a family is hard, a completely opposite meaning resonates with me instead. My take-away from the movie is quite simple: you should let yourself be goofy sometimes.

With this main message resonating through my head, I could not stop thinking about running. Think about it...Aren't most of the runners you know a bit on the quirky side? Most of us have one distinguishing feature when we let our "wild side" come out. Take, for instance, some of the antics of our very own from the Charlotte Running Club. Aaron Linz lets out a tribal scream accompanied with a clap of the hands after almost every repition during workouts, even if he is feeling like absolute crap. This definitely keeps my spirits upbeat if my legs feel like garbage. On the other hand, Jay Holder likes to make a noise with his lips when he is either confused or surprised that sounds much like "bluh-blub-blub-blub." Matt Jaskot wears hand-me-down soccer shorts from his co-worker's eleven year old son...and the list could go on and on...What are your quirky ways???

In many ways, I believe that this wild side needs to be released every so often in order to keep life sane and also exciting. Wandering through the house, I'll break into a dead sprint and stop abruptly before I hit the fridge. This is me letting go of all social conventions, letting my soul out to fly openly and freely, shining in its brilliance. The same thing happens for me while running.

Although I am very biased, runners quite possibly could be the best at letting themselves act freely and without thought. After all, once we get into a running rhythm, our legs and arms flow freely without thought for hours every week as we mechinically go through the movements to create stride after stride. This is the true characteristic that runners eventually possess after running for years, no matter what your pace may be. For this, we should all rejoice in the spirit that we know how to let loose and just live life.

Feel free to share some of your strange antics!!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Vegetarianism and Running

One year ago my dad sent me a Vegetarian Times article on Scott Jurek. The article highlights the benefits of being an elite athlete with a vegan diet and how such a diet has attributed to his successes as an ultrarunner. His on-the-run diet consists of bean burritos or homemade bread slices with hummus spread instead of the artificially sweetened energy gels. Outside of runs, Scott focuses on eating as many fruits and vegetables as possible.

With this natural vegetable protein, his body absorbs enough protein to sustain his energy levels and then some. At the time, I read the article and almost forgot about it because I thought that it would be too much effort, not to mention money, to mimick Scott's eating habits.

One year later, Scott Jurek showed up in my life again.

Garrett (boyfriend) was given a Men's Health article about the Tarahumara people in Mexico and how Scott Jurek went down to run with them back in 2006. This article covered how this ancient tribe living in the divets of canyon walls have mastered the art of long distance running, minus the injuries and minus the well-cushioned-hundred-dolla-a-pair shoes. Somehow an ultra race of 50 miles was set up to put up America's best - Scott Jurek - up against the Tarahumara, who run more miles in a day than some people drive in a day, since the age of five.

I felt like the article was meant for me because the Tarahumara live on mostly vegetables and the land, and also run. Now I was beginning to be inspired. I wanted more. I wanted to know more about Scott Jurek, what compelled him to go down to the Copper Canyon, risk getting shot by drug cartels, and then run on trails that, with one misstep, could propel a person off the cliff.

Of course, boyfriend came through again. He found out that there was actually a book on the Tarahumara and the race that Scott Jurek came down for. Boyfriend Garrett figured I would be enamored with the book immediately. I was a little perturbed that in the Mens Health article they didn't actually notify readers of this fact, but all is well. I found "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall (same author of the MH article) on amazon.com for $14.58 and it arrived the next day.

I'm not going to summarize the book for you (go buy it for yourself!), but I'm going to recount what it has inspired in me.

Scott Jurek is my hero. Not only for his vegan diet or his running, but for his character and peace of heart.

As course record holder of practically all of the major ultrarunning races, Scott Jurek clearly has a gift for long distance running. However, in my mind, Scott's most enlightening characteristic is his simplicity, humble nature, and compassion for seemingly all people. After trekking across levines and switchbacking up mountains to win 100-mile races, instead of returning back to his hotel room to bask in a steamy jacuzzi, he stays vigil at the finish line (McDougall 125).

There were only a couple of chapters in this book but about him, but one thing was clear to me: he cares compassionately for all people and truly does treat them all with the respect and consideration that they deserve. After he was beaten by one of the Tarahumara, Scott bowed to the winner. I believe that this immense and genuine compassion for people, food, and life in general translates over to his success in running. I beleive that Scott truly runs for love.

Sigh. I want to go to Seattle and shake Scott's hand. Then I want to discuss the advantages of being a vegan while chomping on one of his black bean burritos. After that, I want to watch him run an ultra race, win, and then cheer on all the others who may be hours behind him.

Until then, I'll try to carry over my compassion for running into my compassion for other people. This book made me reflect upon how I treat others and how I should definitely be showing more compassion for everyone that I am lucky enough to have in my life.

Despite the selfish nature of this sports, maybe long distance running can make me a better person.