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Running

  • Blue Planet Run Foundation

    Blue Planet Run Foundation is kind of a strange name for a group that raises money to get safe drinking water to those in need. 

    "You ain't gonna miss your water 'til the well runs dry." ~ Bob Marley

    The "Run" part of BPRF has to do with an around-the-world running event in 2007 that kicked off Blue Planet Run Foundation. (Even Hilary Swank promoted the run.) Since then, many people undertake athletic endurance events to raise money for BPRF.

    I'm raising money for them too, but I'm not doing an athletic event. I ran five marathons in the past to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. It is quite a commitment of time and energy.

    Writing a blog is also a big time commitment, but it doesn't make me collapse face first on the bed at night in total exhaustion. Fortunately Blue Planet Run Foundation isn't just about running. HOWEVER if someone out there donates a big enough chunk of money to BPRF in my name, I just might be persuaded to do another endurance event, even if I have to crawl.

  • Running the Sahara: 111 Days; 4,300 Miles

    "On February 20, Charlie, Ray and Kevin touched the Red Sea, just a few hours before sunset. Their quest had lasted 111 days and taken them through 6 countries: Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya, and Egypt. By the team's daily GPS record, they had traveled over 4,300 miles (6,920 kilometers). They fought through injury and extreme fatigue to reach their goal, which changed them forever."

    Charlie Engle meets the children of a local village. (Photograph by Don Holtz.)

    Read the full account of this amazing story!

    Matt Damon narrated the movie about this incredibly physically demanding adventure of three men and their team. Check out the movie trailer on YouTube

  • The Longest Urinal

    The longest urinal is 290 feet from spout to drain. It's transitory. If you want to use it, run the New York City marathon. You, and hundreds of others, can whiz into it as to run from borough to borough.

    The bridge is the Verrazano narrows. The photo is by Dan Wood, an artist who specializes in researching and documenting important historic toilets.

    Do you know of a longer urinal? Have you used this one?

  • Running 10 Miles Alone

    On a typical Saturday morning, the parking lot at the local high school is almost full. It's the starting point for running groups, high school track meets, and tennis lessons. This week I had to run on Sunday morning. When I arrive, not one car is in the parking lot. I planned on running alone, but I didn't figure I'd be all alone. Usually there are a few other runners starting out or coming back or running the track. This is the longest run for me in a very long time. It won't be easy to run this distance alone.

    Past coaches trained me not to run with headphones when running with others because it's not sociable. "Even if you're too winded to talk" one coach told me "you should use your mind to appreciate your surroundings." Today was different. I did not have any companions. So I popped the ear buds in my ears, activated Nike+, and chose my running playlist.

    The first song suited my mood --- Hier Kommt Alex. A brief bit of Beethoven fades into a scream. Then the music starts. I match my pace to it:

    In einer Welt, in der man nur noch lebt
    Damit man tglich robotten geht
    Ist die grte Aufregung, die es noch gibt,
    Das allabendliche Fernsehbild

    I have no idea what they're singing. I know the song, but it's too early to comprehend German. Sounds like gibberish. But I run on, up the overpass, over the wooden bridge, across a street. No need to stop for cars; still no one in sight. Not even the bikers are out.

    Alex becomes Through Fire and Flames. I love this song because it is long; it takes me past the first mile and into the second.

    On a cold winter morning in a time before the light
    In flames of death's eternal reign we ride towards the fight
    When the darkness has fallen down and the times are tough alright
    The sound of evil laughter falls around the world tonight

    And it is cold out -- for California. It was 37 degrees when I woke up and about 48 degrees when I started the run. I'm still wearing my coat. The scenery is fabulous despite the chill; lots of birds.

    Nobody said it was easy,
    Nobody said it was easy,
    Nobody said it was easy,
    Oh take me back to the start.

    Maybe this running 10 miles wasn't such a great idea. It isn't easy getting up this early and pounding the trail. Coldplay's The Scientist keeps suggesting to go back to the start. Maybe I should.

    Runnin' in circles, Chasin' tails
    Nobody said it was easy,
    Oh take me back to the start.

    I plod on. Maybe it's that hill up the small dam that's discouraging me. It's not really that big, but it seems so. In fact, everything seems uphill. I look at the stream next to me. It's flowing downhill. But I swear, I haven't had one downhill stretch yet. How can that be?

    Viva La Vida, another Coldplay song, brings a smile to my face. I pick up the pace. My nieces and nephew loved singing this last year. I made them "sing for their supper." They always let loose on the middle section with all the "Ooo ooo oh ooos." It was quite amusing.

    I'm getting out of breath. Mimbali brings me back to marathon pace. Shorten your stride, shorten your stride, shorten your stride. I'm not even to the turnaround point. The persistent drums and vocal whoops put me right back in Africa. If only I could run like a Kenyan. It's a great song that keeps my spirits uplifted. Now I start to notice other runners. One even waves at me. It's comforting. I see the same people a lot, but don't know who they are. Runners are great group. They'll act as if they know you as they speed by.

    The next set of songs help me pick it up again.

    I gotta feeling
    Let's paint the town
    Tonight's the night,
    Let's live it up,
    I got my money,
    Let's spend it up
    What do Code Monkey think?
    Code Monkey think maybe manager want to write god damned login page himself
    Code Monkey not say it out loud
    Code Monkey not crazy, just proud
    Everybody's gonna dance tonight
    Everybody's gonna feel alright
    Everybody's gonna dance around tonight

    How much farther? I've trained myself to think segments, not miles. This run has only two segments. One is out and the other is back. It seems shorter that way. I still can't help thinking how far it is to the start of the back segment. Running 10 miles. Not a good idea. And whose idea was it to train for a marathon anyway? If this is difficult, how am I going to tackle the Chicago marathon?

    Then I remember it was my idea. Jerree Small drags me through Minnesota. Then David Walburn's cowboy rhythm gets me to trot onwards.

    When your life gets too crazy
    All your troubles have tried to bring you down
    Just leave your troubles behind and go on Montana Time

    I'm getting tired. What was it the coach said about the secret to finishing a marathon? RFM, RFM, RFM. Repetitive Forward Motion. Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot. Don't stop. James Blunt matches my dark mood.

    How I wish I'd chosen darkness from cold.
    How I wish I had screamed out loud,
    Instead I've found no meaning.
    I guess it's time I run far, far away; find comfort in pain,
    All pleasure's the same: it just keeps me from trouble.

    The turnaround point is not far now. I hear The Low Spark of High-heeled Boys.

    If I gave you everything that I owned and asked for nothing in return
    Would you do the same for me as I would for you?
    Or take me for a ride, and strip me of everything including my pride
    But spirit is something that no one destroys
    Spirit … something … no one … destroys

    I see the turnaround point, and it really is downhill. I reach it and realize in horror that I immediately have to turn around and run uphill. How can that be? I'm certain now that I'm stuck in an Escher drawing. At least I'm on the way back to the parking lot. The bikers are out. I must look crazed now, because one of them actually let's me go first when I get to an underpass. Why am I so tired?

    Alex is back screaming at me. My foot falls are much faster than the music. I must have slowly sped up during the first segmen. I'm glad I can pull it back. The German doesn't sound as foreign to me now. Could it be in English? Or am I just more awake? Or am I hallucinating from all this running?

    In a world in which you live only to work,
    Your only excitements are your daily TV shows.
    Everyone is like a clockwork;
    Programed like a computer.
    And nobody is willing to stand up against it

    That's depressing! No matter, my mood has picked up. I crack open a pack of vanilla-flavored Gu.

    "A shot of fast-acting natural fructose (fruit sugar) goes straight to work building your energy levels back up while the maltodextrin is quickly absorbed and sent to your muscles. Vital electrolytes keep your blood chemistry in line and hydration levels stable. Calcium keeps your muscles humming and caffeine adds an extra kick to your power."

    The Gu will get me back to the car. It's a good thing, too. I left my cell in the car. Without it, I can't be tempted to beg someone to drive me back.

    The playlist might be the same on the way back, but I'm noticing a lot of things on the trail that I didn't notice on the way out. Like the fact the Robert's Road bridge was dismantled. How could I have run under what's left of it and not noticed? Is it a good sign I'm noticing more things?

    I continue to run. I know this segment has got to be uphill because I'm running against the water flow and towards the Lexington dam. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. RFM, RFM, RFM. Finally I see the parking lot. I'm glad that next week I'll be able to run with my team. Misery loves company.

    Now that I'm stopped I feel great. What an accomplishment! I need only to add another 16.2 miles to that distance by October. I have hope.

    Find out more about my marathon training. Help me raise money for cancer research.


    My Running Playlist

    Hier Kommt Alex , Die Toten Hosen
    Through Fire and Flames, Dragonforce
    The Scientist, Coldplay
    Viva la Vida, Coldplay
    Mimbali, The Beating Heart of Africa
    I Gotta Feeling, Black Eyed Peas
    Code Monkey, Jonathan Coulton
    Dance Tonight, Paul McCartney
    Reference Point, Acoustic Alchemy
    Minnesota, Jerree Small
    Montana Time, David Walburn
    Blue Montana Moon, Joni Harms
    Tears and Rain, James Blunt
    The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, Traffic

  • A Half Marathon is Just a Training Run

    Four months ago it was difficult to imagine that I'd say that. But yesterday's training run of 14 miles was longer than a half marathon and I made it! The long runs are feeling much better than that first 10 mile run (See Running 10 Miles Alone.) It may have to do with my weekly run at Rancho San Antonio. That course is about 7.5 miles and quite hilly. My long training runs are essentially flat.

    When I woke up at 5:30 AM, the temperature was already 72 degrees and sunny—not a very runnable temperature for me. I could see from my back porch that the valley was covered with clouds, an indication of an inversion. When I arrived at the Los Gatos trail, the starting temperature was 54 degrees and cloudy. I slapped on the sunglasses in anticipation of the clouds breaking and set out running.

    My grand plan was to run 5 miles from Los Gatos to Campbell, then 5 miles back. Then I was going to tack on 4+ miles by running to the top of Lexington Dam and back to Los Gatos. When I got to the start of the dam trail, I found it was closed due to pipeline work. So I headed back up the LG trail 1.5 miles, then back down, and then ran 4 laps at the LG high school track. A very screwy route, as you can see.

    I realized during the course of the run that my right toes were banging against the inside of my shoes. The shoes are already one and a half sizes larger than my street shoe size. The summer heat and the distance must really be making my feet swell up. It's time to move up to a larger size! I already lost one toenail and another one is on its way off. I really don't want to lose any more. I've been using blue toenail polish to mask the damage.

    The sun broke through the clouds after I completed 10 miles, so I had to run the last 4 miles in the sun. Only the last mile felt very hot, and that's probably due to the heat coming off the track. As I ran around the track, I thought of the table of fresh fruit that San Jose Fit had ready as an end-of-the-run treat. Orange slices and strawberries never tasted so good!

    Favorite new songs added to my running playlist:

    • In Your Eyes, Peter Gabriel
    • Clocks, Coldplay
    • My Immortal, Evanescence

    I am running this marathon to raise money for LUNGevity. Please consider donating to the cause!

  • Requiem for a Toenail

    The preparation for a long run always starts the day before by keeping hydrated and having a substantive evening meal. This time my preparations also included performing a toenailectomy. The nail started to lift during the week. It was so high that I was pretty sure it would be quite uncomfortable over the course of 18 miles. Now that the nail is gone, I won't be able to camouflage that toe with nail polish. It will be a few months until the new nail takes shape.

    When I arose at 5:00 AM, I wasn't sure whether I'd do another 16 miler or try for 18 miles. Two weeks ago running 16 miles turned out to be tough. I thought I might just try to do better on 16 again, and save 18 miles for next week. During the course of today's run, I changed my mind at least 4 times, depending on how I was feeling. In the end, I toughed it out and finished 18 miles. I had to walk some of them, but I covered the distance. It's distance that's important.

    I had some tough times on this run, so I thought I'd focus on the positives:

    • The weather was perfect—48 degrees at the start and 72 at the end.
    • After I'd run almost half a marathon's distance, I ran into two smiling friends—Padraig and Janice. Janice ran with me for half a mile.
    • Tri-berry GU tastes amazing.
    • The wasp that stung my forehead at mile 16 didn't kill me. Despite the pain, I managed to propel myself forward for 2 more miles.
    • I finished 18 miles upright and without puking.

    I am training for a marathon to raise money for LUNGevity. Please consider donating to the cause!

  • Countdown to Marathon Day

    It seems like I've been training for the Chicago marathon for a very long time. And I have been! A week and a half ago I completed a 20-mile training run. Last weekend I ran 12 miles. From now until October 10, I won't run more than 12 miles. Most of my runs will be shorter. This is what's called "taper." It's time to rest the legs.

    Some people are surprised to find out that I never run more than 20 miles in training. On marathon day I'll add 10 km to that 20. Those last 6.2 miles of the marathon require sheer determination. I may have to walk or crawl. Whatever, I will finish. Stay tuned.

    I am training for a marathon to raise money for LUNGevity. Please consider donating to the cause!