The joys (and challenges) of running with family
Plus 21 half marathons with (lots of) beer at the finish line
“I think the key thing is to train hard and you definitely need competition, you definitely need races ... training helps you, but you have to compete against other people who’re a higher level to build you up, make you know what else you need to work on.” — Usain Bolt
There’s a lot of wisdom in these words by the legendary Jamaican Olympic champion and world record holder in several distances, who’s considered by many to be the greatest sprinter of all time.
I think that’s because it homes in on what’s been my experience — on a much different level, of course — at the races I’ve run over the years: it helps to see how other runners, my own age and gender as well as all across the board, are running and how my own compares.
Not because of vanity, necessarily. (I’m never going to win a race or come anywhere close, let’s be honest.) But seeing other runners and how they’re performing helps me gauge whether I’m putting enough effort into my own running or if I’m just coasting.
Years ago, I ran the Bermuda International Marathon, the one on the island of Bermuda, just off the coast of North Carolina. It was an absolutely stunning run in so many ways, from the kids who ran alongside us during the race to the clear blue water we looked out onto, to the spectators who called out our names by reading our race bib numbers printed in that morning’s Bermuda Sun newspaper.
One thing I’ll never forget from that race, however, happened around mile 21 or 22 — the point in the race when you’re really exhausted and you just want it to be over. Before you’ve reached the moment when you can imagine the finish and how good it will feel and you get that extra burst of energy.
I was 25 years old at the time and probably in the best shape of my life, and I was huffing and puffing and barely making it. The next thing I know, I’m pulling behind a woman who’s at least in her mid-sixties. It took me a moment to realize that she’d been running ahead of me for the whole race!
Needless to say, that ignited a little bit of shame inside me, which I directed in a positive way, I think. Suddenly I found my legs had extra energy in them that I hadn’t felt for the entire race, and I turned it on to pass her a mile or two before the finish line.
Why is this relevant today, you might ask?
It keeps coming back to mind because I’ve been having a really interesting conversation over email the past couple of weeks with a reader named Karla, a single mother who is trying to figure out how to run and train, and bring her 11-year-old daughter to races.
The trouble is, there’s no childcare at running events. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series tried offering it a few years back, but ended up dropping it and today they don’t offer it at any of their races.
Here’s what Karla wrote to me this week, responding to a question I asked her about a Facebook group discussion on this topic that she mentioned:
“The main thing that others came up with other than a babysitter was to have her volunteer. I’m not sure my daughter is old enough though since she is only 11 years old. I love to travel with my daughter & what better way too see new places than run but I have yet to find a race that offers childcare.
Even many couples started that they would love to run races together but have to take turns due to one of them having to watch the kids. I personally have no problem paying extra for this amenity. I would probably run way too many races (if that's even possible) if this was an option.”
What’s heartbreaking about this is that Karla clearly loves running and wants to step up her participation — and would gladly spend more money on races (hint, hint, race directors!) if it were easier for her to do so.
I know where Karla is coming from, because I have young children (ages 4 and 13) and would love to be able to bring them along too. Even more than that, I want to show them how meaningful running can be in their lives, how it’s a lifelong thing that they can enjoy and become close with a group of friends that’s difficult to replicate in any other area of life.
And I want people like Karla to be able to get out of races what I got from the sixty-ish-year-old woman who was lapping me at the Bermuda Marathon all those years ago, who helped me see what I was (or rather, wasn’t) doing and what I needed to do differently.
Competition, even when it’s the friendly competition we find at races, helps us become better runners. And runners like Karla deserve that chance every bit as much as you or I do.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, in the comments below or by replying to this email. I think there’s much more we in the running community can do to support single parents of all stripes, and help bring even more people to the sport.
Enough of the soapbox for now! I hope your week is going great and you’re enjoying getting out for some runs — it’s been beautiful weather here in Atlanta, a little bit cooler than average, which has been great for us here.
Hopefully it’s great where you are as well. Let me know and as always, keep in touch.
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Races where there will be a cool one waiting for you at the end of your 13.1 miles. (Maybe more than one.)
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Many of us don’t drink enough water, and we quickly find out later during a run or race. Heck, most training plans don’t even include how much water to drink.
Beach running can be an excellent workout for any runner, but jumping into it can make you susceptible to injury. Here’s some tips to make the most of it and have a great run out on the sand.
In Case You Missed It
Run across some of the country’s most iconic bridges at these half marathon races, where you’ll get to take in stunning views of rivers, oceans, lakes and much more.
“In theory, exercise should contribute substantially to weight loss. It burns calories. If we do not replace them, our bodies should achieve negative energy balance, use stored fat for fuel and shed pounds. But life and our metabolisms are not predictable or fair.”
— There has been a raft of stories in recent years about how running and other forms of exercise really do little or nothing to help you lose weight, and that long-lasting weight loss is all about eating less. (In a nutshell.) That’s always been confounding for so many of us, because you’d think running would be great for losing weight. This interesting story by the always-worthwhile Gretchen Reynolds digs deeper.
“It’s much easier to prevent obesity than it is to reverse it. We need to teach kids how to eat healthier when they’re young so that they develop good habits to carry on for the rest of their lives. In the past decade or so, we have succeeded in recognizing the harms of sugary beverages like soda. We can’t keep pretending that juice is different.”
— Really interesting New York Times article on the long-term harm that juice does to our bodies, which prompts some head-scratching by the authors on why juice hasn’t been considered in the same category as sodas or sports drinks. For some reason, we think it contains vitamins and minerals we (and especially children) need. But as the authors add, “we doubt you’d take a multivitamin if it contained 10 teaspoons of sugar.”
“I don’t calculate my distance. I’m guessing I do two or three miles, about 30 minutes. This is one of the many reasons I prefer running outside to running on treadmills: I don’t want to see stats on a display. I’m someone whose head monologues all the time about how I’m terrible.”
— A personal, almost painfully so, portrait in Bon Appetit magazine of the role running has played in the writer’s life. It has lifted her out of depression (albeit temporarily) and shown her that even while they aren’t a permanent fix, “I’ve grown to believe in the power of small acts, repeated, that help nudge a psyche away from its abyss.” Great piece.
“Where we are in 2018 is we now have a situation where we know pretty conclusively that cushioning has no effect on injury rates whatsoever.”
— That quote, by running shoe expert Simon Barthold in Quartz, sums up where we seem to land every few years in the discussion about whether running shoes can really help prevent injuries and control the motion of your feet or not. From the minimalist shoe revolution several years ago (after the publication of Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run”) to the perhaps overhyped science of many shoes today, it seems once again that the best advice is to find a running shoe that’s comfortable for you.
One Last Thing
This will likely seem insignificant, but I’d like to change the name of the newsletter from “The Half Marathon Guide Newsletter” to simply “The Half Marathoner.”
What I like about the proposed new name is that it expresses the things I’d like to cover both more succinctly and more completely — the current name is a bit of a mouthful, and doesn’t fit easily in the name field of an email inbox.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!