Running is a mental sport — and we are all insane.

This entry was prompted by a question I received from a friend a few days ago.  He asked me if I had any doubts about this run.  I replied that once I’ve made up my mind to do something, I know I will do it because if I don’t it will kill me knowing that I could have done it but didn’t.  We humans are all capable of amazing things, it is just a matter of deciding to go after them.  To me that willful determination is tested everyday in a runner’s world, so I thought I’d write a post about it:

Running is an incredibly humbling activity.  I know of no other sport where one could train for two hours a day, 6 days a week, and receive so little recognition or reward for being a dedicated athlete.  I played soccer throughout my childhood, and even if I was not a pro, I at least got recognition on my team and in my league.  And some compassionate soccer mom was always feeding us orange slices. Running, on the other hand, is such an individual activity.  I have to cut my own orange slices these days!

I have a magazine clipping taped above my training calendar on my bedroom wall — the clipping states quite simply: “it’s you vs you”.  If you skip a run, or drop out of a race, you are only letting yourself down.  No teammates  or coaches rely on your performance to measure their success or failure.  At first, that is a very freeing concept, and in some ways it might make quitting seem a lot easier – and logistically it is.  There are no teammates out there at mile 22 who are depending on you to get to mile 26.

But there is a flip side to this autonomous nature of running.  It quickly becomes an immense mental contest with yourself.  Because you know what you are capable of, and you know every day that you reach that potential, and every day that you choose not to.  Because ultimately it is a choice – a choice every time you lace up – will I run hard today?

And that to me is what makes running so simple and still so rewarding.  Because I know everyday that I got up and chose to challenge myself when it would have been just as easy not to.

It might require some sacrifice, but I’ve never doubted whether it was worth it.

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A Note on Donating

This is way overdue.  I have to apologize to everyone, I have been busy inside of busy inside of busy lately – there is so much to do for this fundraiser!!  It is all very exciting stuff though, it feels like every day something positive happens.

A quick note on the donation process: A few people have asked me if the fundraiser is for the local Portland and/or Richmond Boys and Girls Club, or if it is for the national Boys and Girls Club of America.  The answer is: I am raising money for all 3. It is very important to me that the local clubs closest to me (Portland, my hometown, and Richmond, where I live now) benefit directly from this fundraiser– as such, the people that I seek donations from who have a special affiliation for either club can choose to donate directly to that local club. The people that I meet outside of the Richmond and Portland communities, who do not have any special connection to either of these local clubs, can donate to the national organization.

To make a donation to the Richmond Club, click on the “Donate to the Boys and Girls Club of Richmond” link on the sidebar on the Blog Homepage.

To make a donation to the Boys and Girls Club of America, click on the “Donate to the Boys and Girls Club of America” link.

To make a donation to the Portland Club, please contact me.  I am still working on getting a printable mail-in donation form up on the Blog, should be up soon!

If you would like to mail a check, please contact me.

ALL donations (to the Richmond, Portland Clubs, and BGC of America) will be included in the count towards my fundraising goal of $25,000.  Please let me know when you’ve made a donation!

I’ve added a “Many Thanks To” link on the sidebar, please check it out, I’ll be adding names as we receive donations.

Ok, I’ll have to sign off here — apologies if this post is all business and no play, but hey,  occasionally there are things to do besides running all day ;  )

Virginia is For Lovers — of Hot Weather.

photo credit: alexander kreher

It was not hot today. Not at all. Quite the contrary, actually.

I was beside myself with happiness on my run, I had to hold myself back a bit. I ran to the park, over the bridge, and through the woods to Belle Isle. I was hardly even thirsty. Maymont Park was having its 1st Jazz Fest, with some pretty big names and ticket prices to match. But the great thing about outdoor concerts is that you can stand 100 yards away from the stage, outside the entrance, and still hear the music loud and clear. Only you don’t have to buy a ticket. So that’s exactly what I did, stopping for a bit in neighboring Byrd Park, and enjoyed some tunes.

I continued running, rejoicing in the fact that I was finally getting a break from the heat. It must have been about 75, maybe 78. Or so I thought. I checked the weather when I got home. I couldn’t believe it – 89 degrees. Where I’m from, 89 is HOT. Very hot. And then it hit me – I’m not from where I’m from anymore. A summer down here has officially made me into a crazy Richmonder who thinks anything below 95 degrees is mild. It seems that those of us who stay here for the summer love the hot weather; it’s all we ever talk about.

I realized with mixed emotions that I could have had 3 months of wonderful summer running weather had I spent the summer back home in Maine. I’ve got to admit I felt nostalgic for a minute, even regretful. That soon passed, however, when I realized how much tougher and better-prepared I felt for having spent the summer training in temps consistently above 95.  But I have to say, after so many 105 degree training runs, today felt pretty damn refreshing. A jump in the pool after an evening in the hot tub.

Who knows, I may even sleep without my AC on tonight!

A Post for the Running Nerds

This is one of my favorite quotes from a hero of mine, John Landy.  Landy was an Aussie track star back in the 1950’s,  and besides being way, way faster than most everyone in the world, (he was one of the first guys to break the 4 minute mile) he was so incredible because of his dedication to his absolutely ridiculous training schedule.  He makes my training look embarrassingly inadequate.  Some might say he was a bit obsessive, but I really like his perspective on how running is more than just something we do to stay in shape:

“Running gave me discipline and self-expression…It has all the disappointments, frustrations, lack of success and unexpected success, which all reproduce themselves in the bigger play of life.  It teaches you the ability to present under pressure.  It teaches you the importance of being enthusiastic, dedicated, focused.  All of these are trite statements, but if you actually have to go through these things as a young man, it’s very, very important”

If anyone’s interested, the quote is from a really good book I just read, The Perfect Mile. It’s about the 3 runners who worked their butts off to be the first ever to break the 4 minute mile back in the 1950’s. John Landy, Roger Bannister, and Wes Santee.  Very good stuff.

Most of the time, just getting out the door is the hardest part.

photo credit: alexander kreher

Okay, so I actually wrote this in my notebook last Friday, but I’m just getting it up here now.

I nearly talked myself out of running today. I ran 20 miles yesterday, and had done 20 miles 2 days earlier, with just one day of recovery. My training goals for this run are to get as much mileage in as possible, and reduce the time needed for recovery, but two 20 milers in 3 days is a new level for me. So, as I was saying, I nearly convinced myself that the day would be best spent as another recovery day. On top of that, when it got time to run, Richmond slapped me in the face with a crazy thunderstorm out of nowhere. On the news they said we had 8,000 lightning strikes in less than an hour. So I started to take that as a sign from the powers above, telling me I really ought to take it easy today.

I must have had a gap in the mind-body connection, however, because as I was talking myself out of running, my legs, with a mind of their own, were walking themselves right into my running shoes and out the door. I ended up having a fantastic run. I was light on my feet, the air had cooled down because of the storm, awesomely violent signs of the lightnings’ strength were everywhere, and I got to see a full rainbow. I got in 21 hill repeats, and a good-paced run down to Nickel Bridge to see the sun pouring out from behind the thunder clouds. Not bad at all. I find that nature always rewards me the most on days when my motivation is lacking.

Aside from that, things continue to move forward with the fundraiser. I received a very encouraging email from Shekinah Mitchell at the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Richmond, my friends are enthusiastic, my family is beyond supportive; life is good. I stopped by this weekend at the Richmond Road Runners store in Carytown to see if they had strollers, and to try to get some sage advice from the employees there. They were very helpful and gave me some exciting suggestions, which I will share as they develop ; )

“What kind of crazy nut would spend 2 or 3 hours a day just running?” -Prefontaine

I never thought I would start a blog, but here I am, just me and my keyboard, faced with the responsibility of spinning out clever phrases and citing impressive statistics.  I’m a bit apprehensive, but I hope you all enjoy a post or two along the way.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a 23-year-old “ultra-runner” from Richmond, VA.  I’m in the midst of planning a cross-country run to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club, so I’ve started this blog to keep everyone in the loop about the preparations and training before the run, and I’ll keep posting while I’m on the road as well.

Most of you know already, I love running, and challenging myself under uncomfortable circumstances,  so a 5 month journey across the country on foot seems like a perfect project to tackle next.  I promise you though, I’m not the only one.  Runners are a weird breed.  There are plenty of people out there achieving far crazier feats, so much so that I feel bad even drawing attention to this small adventure of mine.  However, I would really like to help out the Boys and Girls Club as much as I can, and as such, I’ll have to get lots of people involved in the fundraiser.

I want to help the Club because I believe their philosophy is right-on, and their programs excellent. The Club gives kids – any and all types of kids – a safe, fun place to be after-school, during the weekends, whenever and wherever they need it. It provides opportunities for self-discovery, leadership development, personal challenges; and it always  encourages children to go far beyond their potential. And they do so much of this through active programs and games – sports, outdoor activities, hands-on experiences etc. So many of my real-life heroes tell me stories about their childhood days at the Boys and Girls Club – my parents, my teachers, my coaches. And I can see what a positive, life-long effect their days at the Club have had on them. I want to help give other kids the chance to have that same opportunity.  I hope the blog reaches people across the country and inspires them to support the cause.  The blog will be separate from the fund-raising web page  because the Boys and Girls Club already has an online system established for individuals who want to create their own fund-raising event. Both sites are linked to each other, however, and on this website I will also put up a list of other ways to help (offering lodging, running with me, leaving me motivation, etc)

I have the route planned roughly from LA to VA Beach, and at an average of 25 miles a day, with one day off a week, it should take me somewhere around 5 months.  As I plan the exact route from city to city, I will post it on here.  My fundraising goal is 25,000, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate any and all help from everyone.  I’ll be writing to potential sponsors as the planning moves forward, and hoping that some companies along the way are able to help me out with food and gear. I’ll keep everything updated as it progresses.  If you’d like to get involved, or if you know anyone who might be able to help with sponsorship or media interests, feel free to contact me by email: zoeromano@gmail.com or phone: 207.233.5292

It occurred to me just now that this can be a blog about jogging.  A jog blog.  I like it.  Hope all of you do too :  )