Tag Archives: Running

Pronoun Trouble? Not Here!

YET AGAIN I got an education where and when I least expected it.

We’ve just returned from Richmond, where we had a great time visiting our daughter Tori in sunny, above-freezing weather, a nice break from the gray blah we’ve had in Michigan. During a mandatory visit to Lamplighter Coffee Roasters, for which we share a preternatural love, I saw the following at the register:

I was bemused. If someone has a traditionally feminine name, and identifies as female, was there a need to specify the pronoun? It would be like introducing myself to someone by saying, “Hi, I’m Jeff. I’m a man.”

And a runner!

My daughter basically shrugged. Richmond has become increasingly progressive during the ten years she’s lived there, with a strong LGBTQ(*) community and actively inclusive attitude. We initially worried about how she’d be accepted, but she’s had no trouble. During our visit she and her wife held hands openly in public, as did many same-sex couples we saw.

Tori (left) with Jess.

Yet I wondered what more “mainstream” young people thought about the pronoun display. When our niece picked us up at the airport, I mentioned it to her. “Oh wow, that’s really neat,” she said. “It’s great that they want to be inclusive like that.” She wasn’t just accepting, she was fully supportive. So there you go. Please forgive me if I still find it unusual.

Just to be clear, it doesn’t matter to me which gender you identify with (or not), or how you’d like to be referred to. To me, it’s a sign of how far we’ve come. In 1961, when I was born, gay marriage wasn’t only illegal, it was unthinkable. Even interracial marriage wasn’t legal in Virginia until 1967. Yet here we were, walking in the capital of the Confederacy with our openly (and proud) gay daughter and her wife.

At last year’s WNBR Portland and Burning Man I experienced firsthand what happens when people let go of their biases and pre-judgments and accept others for who they are. I invite anyone who considers themselves progressive or accepting to go to one of those and then let me know if their minds didn’t open at least a little more.

And I’m also proud of the inclusiveness of the running community. Do you run? Welcome, runner! We respect anyone training for and achieving their goals, whether it’s your first 5K, or your fifty-seventh 100-miler, or you just want to get in a mile or two.

Of course, even the running world is not perfect. Coree Woltering, an ultrarunning champion who is African-American and gay, feels “discriminated against,” but not in the way you might expect. I look forward to when we overcome even this kind of prejudice, because it affects me, too!

Happy New Year!

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(*) LGBTQ – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning/Queer. The “Q” is not always used, but I was reminded to include it. 🙂

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Of Cats and Ornaments

“Do you mind if we don’t put up the Christmas tree this year?” my wife asked recently.

That was surprising. She’s the sentimental one about the holidays, while I quietly grouse about lugging the dang thing up from the basement, followed by the boxes of ornaments and sundry decorations. But our kids won’t be visiting us over the holidays, and we’re hosting just one small family gathering. So I assured her I had no objections.

Then I ran the Holiday Hustle 5K and took second in my age group. The award is an ornament, which a) I wouldn’t be using, and b) I have several of already. But I took it anyway. Well, who says it has to hang on a tree? And perhaps I took it because of this memory:

What, climb that tree and play with those delicate ornaments? Never crossed my mind!

Gabby was a wee kitten when I brought home my first Holiday Hustle ornament in 2011. I kept the fragile blue ball in its protective packaging right until I brought it to the tree. As I gently placed it on the coffee table to ready a hook for it, Gabby poked her little head up. Her face was easy to read: “Ooooh, what’s that? Is it fun to play with?”

“No, you don’t!” I said, quickly picking it up and out of her reach. Relieved to have rescued it, I slipped the hook on – and missed – and dropped it. So I ended up going to Running Fit and spending ten dollars for another one, because, dammit, there was going to be a Holiday Hustle ornament on that tree.

And so there was!

The memory is bittersweet because we had to say goodbye to Gabby during the holidays last year. By the time we discovered her abdominal cancer, it was too late to treat it. The family and vet agreed it was kinder to put her down then, rather than have her suffer through a busy holiday with the house full of people and dogs. We’ll always miss her.

This year our two newest cats, Buster and Ruby, will celebrate their first Christmas with us.

Mousie on a stick is irresistible!

We adopted them in January, and they’ve provided the energy and playfulness we hoped for. (Our older cats may have a different opinion.) Perhaps it’s unfair that they won’t get the chance to bat the ornaments and climb the tree, but there are plenty of other things to play with in the house. On the other hand, this year’s ornament is unbreakable, so maybe I’ll let them have a go at it.

So our house won’t have the controlled chaos that reigned here during the holidays for so many years. And we won’t have a tree, or even any decorations on the house. The holiday week for us is setting up to be a low-key, quiet affair.

I’m looking forward to it.

Ten Years of Racing!: A Celebration, and a Lesson Learned

Last Saturday’s Holiday Hustle in Dexter – a fun and otherwise ordinary end-of-season 5K – was memorable for me. Ten years ago, the 2008 Holiday Hustle was my first-ever official race.

That’s right! A dedicated non-runner until my mid-forties, I’d begun with just a few short runs here and there to supplement bike rides and Aikido training. Then, finding out about the Holiday Hustle just a few miles from my house, I said what the hell and signed up.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Last Saturday I joined the crowd in the starting queue with over a hundred races to my name, from 5Ks to marathons and beyond, including two 100-milers and my (current) longest distance of 150 miles, accomplished last June at the Veterans Memorial. Had anyone predicted this back then, I’d have laughed and said they definitely had the wrong guy. Well, you know what they say about truth and fiction.

So there was definitely something to celebrate and enjoy about this year’s race, and I did, although like any 5K I run, it was a sufferfest for all 3.1 miles. I finished in just under 21 minutes, and claimed second in my age group. On paper, a good solid result, especially because I went right back to work heading up the event’s Zero Waste team. No sense going all out and killing myself over this race, right?

“Santa, I want a worm composting bin for Christmas!”

Except that’s not how I felt.

I wasn’t expecting a PR (personal record) because I’ve trained this year mostly for ultramarathons, and not for short races. And given I set a PR for the 50-mile distance, and got two podium finishes, including a win, I have zero complaints about that.

Third at the Dogwood 12-Hour race in March

1st at the Veterans Memorial 150 in June.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But at any race, competitive runners (at any level) should give themselves the best chance to do well, whatever that means that day. And I didn’t do that at the Holiday Hustle.

How so? First, I didn’t warm up thoroughly, contenting myself with a quick half-mile jog followed by a few strides. To best prepare my body to run hard on a cold day, I should have run at least a mile easy, coupled with dynamic stretches to get fully loose. And I should have lined up much closer to the start than I did, because I knew I’d be weaving around other runners for the first half mile otherwise.

Why did I sabotage my chance at my best effort? I’m really not sure. Perhaps subconsciously I wanted to give myself an “out” if I didn’t run up to my expectations. Which, as I well know after all these races, doesn’t work anyway. Compounding a poor run with poor preparation, or lackadaisical attitude,  doesn’t help. So much better to think, “I didn’t meet my goal, but I gave it my best shot. And that’s all I can ask!”

I can’t do anything to change the result, of course. All I can do is change my attitude going forward. Even a fun holiday race is still a race, and there’s part of me that wants to do it well. So – chalk up a lesson learned. And, Lord willing, there will be plenty more chances to apply it. Ten years is just the start of what I hope are many, many more years of running adventures. And I’ll be sure to share them with you right here. Thanks, as always, for reading!

 

Pizza and Life Lessons

Life lessons can turn up when you least expect them.

Last Sunday I went to the Ann Arbor Track Club annual meeting and dinner. I was expecting a low-key, pleasant evening – pizza, salad, a few awards, socializing – and it was. But the evening was made special for me by two people who brought words of wisdom to share, not just about running, but about life, too. And I’d like to share some of it with you.

The invited keynote speaker was Ben Flanagan, a University of Michigan student who won the NCAA title in the 10,000 meters last June. His win was particularly remarkable because he’d had to come back from foot and back injuries that had sidelined him for the entire previous season.

Ben regales us. Seated to his left is Erin Finn, a member of the U-M women’s track team who Ben specifically named as a great teammate and friend.

“That brought a complete change of mindset,” he told us. He was a team captain, accustomed to leading by example and actively helping the team. Injured, he had to rely on others to help him recover, find a way to motivate himself through the rehab workouts, and change his goal from winning events to just getting back to the starting line. Which he did, and the following year earned a place in the NCAA finals.

At race time Ben was ranked 23rd out of the 24 runners there. You couldn’t fault the guy for just being happy to be there. Not Ben. He thought he could win. And he said so to Kevin Sullivan, his coach, preparing himself for a response like, “Well, let’s try for something more realistic.”

But Coach Sullivan said instead, “Yes, you can win. I know you can.” And he did, outkicking favorite Vincent Kiprop on the final lap to win by a half-second, and, incredibly, beating his previous best 10K time by over 30 seconds.

The key to his success, Ben said, “was having someone believe in him.” And he listed many – his  coach, his teammates, and perhaps above all, his mom, who he called for right after winning. (You can see the video below.)

Then a very pleasant surprise occurred during the awards presentation, when my friend and fellow PR Run Club runner Michael Mester was awarded Male Athlete of the Year for his dedication to the AATC and participation on its Masters team (which, by the way, also wins a lot of events).

From the 2014 Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon. Left to right: Michael, me, and Aaron (another kick-ass masters runner).

A humble and selfless guy, Michael was a bit overcome by the award, but was able to share what he called four “takeaways” that he’d had from the previous year that relate both to running and his life in general. I think they ring particularly true to those of us over 50, who have had the time to acquire some perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

  1. “Have fun with running. If what you’re doing isn’t fun, why do it?”
  2. Embrace the social aspect of running. Solo running is fine, but running with a group has its own rewards. The same is true in life.
  3. There will always be someone faster than you, and someone slower than you. And in life, there will always be someone who can help you, and someone who needs your help.
  4. Commit to something and see it through. “When I signed up for a marathon, I was going to finish it even if I had to crawl across the finish line,” he said. And in life, if he tells someone he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it.

My congratulations again to both of them. Sometimes good people get the recognition they deserve!