Todd’s Weblog

A place to collect and share my random thoughts about running and other stuff

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Why do you do it?

Posted by toddruns on April 1, 2008

From the Ultralist:
“Why would you want to do something like that???” I’ve been asked that about many of my adventures, both running and otherwise. I dunno. Sometimes people really do want to know WHY we do what we do. I’d challenge you to see if you can put it into words.
Marcia Rasmussen

So, why do I run, and why do I run long distances?

Oh, to put it all into words. Not easy, because the feelings are ephemeral. The reason I had thought of this evening may not apply tomorrow morning.

But I sure know that it has gotten into my blood, it is so much a part of who I am.

There is the intensity of the experience of running. How the memories of a single day get etched so vividly into my mind that I am recalling small details days and weeks later, in technicolor and smellivision and with surround sound. It is during the challenge of a race especially, and sometimes even a long training run that I experience life at a deeper and richer level, a level I don’t encounter in the mundaneness of everyday life. It’s like having my Marshall amps turned up to 11 when I am running.

Nothing can compare to the experience of challenging one’s limits and finding that they aren’t what I thought they were. I find out that I can do this stuff and not only survive, but come out the other side with a better understanding of who I am.

And I connect with something else, something deep inside of me – my inner animal, that beast that thrives on the chase. The hunt. The long journey. My ancestors before me call to me on a genetic level, because I was not only born to run, but as a species – we humans evolved to run. In the same way that a golden retreiver knows to chase the ball, I know to run. That memory of running was already installed when I was born. By running, I bring myself joy and pleasure and I honor the beast within, and I connect with my forefathers and those before me. I know that I can pace myself and wear out the antelope should I need to. I run because it is in my genes.

As an athletic pursuit – it is without a doubt the essence of simplicity and elegance. Get from here to there as fast as you can, or maybe just as fast as you care to for that matter. No implements required. None. You might argue that shoes and clothes are necessary, but you could be proved wrong.

And, as an added bonus – I get this amazing time to reorganize my thoughts, to resolve conflicts, to solve problems, to generate new ideas, to relieve stress.

I get to see eagles and finches and cardinals and deer. I get to smell fresh air and new flowers and listen to the loons and the turkeys and hear the squirrels scampering away underfoot. I get to connect with the earth, I end up wearing some home anyway, and I touch it and am humbled and reminded just how lucky I am to be here.

All this – this is what I get out of running for and by myself. It can be a solo journey, a vision quest, a test of who I am, and a chance to spend some quality time with me. Selfish, I know. But I am a better person to be around when I can run.

But get this – I can do this with friends too. Go figure. Running as social interaction – bonding me in the moment or forever to others who are on the same hunt. We strive together to get better, to get to the finish line or the coffee shop and we are richer for the experience. We download and upload and support and whine and bitch and laugh and we learn to share and learn to shut up and listen. No phones, no interruptions (usually), and the background noise is turned way down. Quality time with others. Old friends or new – it doesn’t matter. The bond of being a fellow adventurer is there almost from the beginning.

In so many ways, I am a better and happier and more balanced person because I can run. And it makes me healthier too. I have had exactly zero colds this past winter while scores around me have been sick and sniffly and coughing and hacking. Anecdotal evidence to be sure, but I believe in the power of exercise and fresh air. Maybe running is my placebo, and if so, I’d sure hate to skip a dose.

Now when I list this all out, the alternative (not running) seems bleeker than ever.

So there you have it. I run because the benefits so far outweigh the costs, that I simply cannot afford not to.

Please note – tomorrow’s response to this question might be similar, yet it may also be different. I might think of something else. My reasons evolve and change all the time. But the end result is I will run sometime in the near future (in case tomorrow is a rest day), and the funny thing is – I won’t even give it a moments pause. I’ll just do it. Because I run.


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Run Like a Dog

Posted by toddruns on March 22, 2008

On my run this morning I was mulling a recent conversation I’d had with someone I had just met – one of those conversations where I was trying to convey my love for the sport of running. I had tried to describe for this person the primal nature of running. The feeling I get from time to time that I am connected to something deeply ingrained in me, something that brings to mind ancestors who may have needed this basic skill to survive. For me, it’s a connection with the animal within. After all, we humans are so much more than just large brains and opposable thumbs. I believe we evolved to run, it’s a theory that works for me both intellectually and on an instinctual level.

Back to the run – I saw this beautiful golden retriever chasing after a decoy that the human who was accompanying him had tossed. The dog seemed to exude pure joy. I thought a bit about how those retriever traits had been nurtured in the breed over the years, how not just the ability to “fetch”, but also the pure pleasure it give to the dog. Would the golden still fetch if it wasn’t fun or pleasurable for the dog? I don’t know how that could be determined, but I kind of think not. I’ve seen more than my share of dogs who would chase after a thrown stick until my arm falls off, and yet they return the stick, perhaps a little slimy – but always with the tail wagging.

Would I still run if it weren’t fun, if I found no pleasure in it? Probably not unless it was to escape from a predator. Or the IRS. Same difference. But really, as much pain and soreness and discomfort as there can be associated with running, it is still at it’s basic core all about fun. And the connection to something deeper inside of me.

So I run like a dog, not in an imitation of a dog’s gait or anything, but for the pure pleasure of loping along the trail with the memories encoded in my genes in the way a dog runs for the joy of it. Bringing pleasure and the quickness of breath and that I’m alive feeling that I don’t usually get while lounging on the couch.

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Screwed Shoes

Posted by toddruns on December 8, 2007

With winter upon us, its time to get out the cordless drill and screw some shoes for running on icy and snow-packed trails and sidewalks. Sure, you buy some Yaktrax for 29.95, but screwing is both cheaper and more fun. Plus, it is hard to make a double entendre with Yaktrax.

First, if you’ve never seen a screwed shoe before, I am sure you are thinking How do you screw them from the inside?, and Don’t they hurt your feet? Right about here is where a picture explains more than words can (click on image for larger view):

Screwed Shoes
I put a lot on the fore and mid-foot area, and 4 or 5 on the heel area. I use #6 x 3/8″ long Hex-Head sheet metal screws, I paid about $3.50 for a box of 100 at my local hardware store. I’ve never had a problem with this length falling out, not have they ever gone all the way through the outsoles of my shoe and caused me pain.

I use a cordless drill, and the holder for my screw driver bits is sized right to drive in the hex-head. You can always get the proper sized attachment for the drill.

That’s about it. Happy screwing!

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Hyland Pics

Posted by toddruns on October 22, 2007

I ran out at Hyland on the 20th and 21 of Oct. They were both spectacular days, Saturday was the sunnier day, so of course I had my camera on Sunday. Oh well. I like this park, here are some photos I took.

The first(top) is the single track that runs from behind the ski jump, the second one (below) is the single track trail that goes up to the top of Mount Gilboa.

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Hello from my Blog

Posted by toddruns on May 12, 2007

This is my attempt to document in one place descriptions of my journey into the world of endurance sports. I had a few friends who encouraged me to make some of my race stories more public, so here goes. My main writing tends to be about running – but I am not going to try and limit myself to that topic alone.

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