The Emerging Runner origin story

Perfect weather for running in circles today

I returned to running just about eleven years ago, mostly out of impatience. I didn’t make any great decision to run. I just started doing it during the walks I’d began taking to lose weight and reduce cholesterol. After a month or so, I grew restless walking and began to fold in short runs along my route. What started off as a sprint to the next corner quickly turned into quarter mile runs. One day I just stopped walking entirely.

Prior to 2009, I had a few brief episodes of running, but I never made it stick. When I lived in Manhattan in the early ’90s, I had a friend who encouraged me to run with her. I agreed and even went to Paragon in Union Square and bought a pair of yellow and blue Nike Cortez shoes. I’d dutifully rise, put on my running gear and go out for a few miles along Third Avenue, dodging people and stopping every block or so for lights.

I would occasionally trek up to Riverside Park to meet my running friend where I could run free of traffic, strollers and other obstructions. I put little thought into the way I ran and mostly went out full tilt every time. Part of that was due to my friend being faster than me and my fragile ego not allowing me to be left behind. I no longer have that issue, just ask any of the Runsketeers!

I continued to try and even entered my first race, the Manufacturer Hanover Corporate Challenge, in 1991. I have no memory of how I did, but ironically, it was probably the fastest 3.5 miles I ever ran. I have no records of my performance from those times and it was long before data tracking via GPS or foot pods, but I was 28 years younger. So probably.

Running hard without any conditioning plan or progress strategy led to a lack of motivation. I was tired of coming back from every run feeling terrible. When my running friend went on a two week business trip to LA, I had no daily accountability and started sleeping in. And that was that.

So in late summer 2008, as I walked up Underhill Avenue, I decided to run the 100 yards or so to Cheshire and that’s how it started. Or restarted. As time went on, these runs grew longer and more frequent. I thought about the circumstances that undermined my running in the ’90s and committed to a different tactic:

  • Run only at a pace that provides an enjoyable experience. 
  • Have a route plan.
  • Keep to sustainable distances.
I knew that if I struggled every time I ran I’d grow tired of the whole thing. The trick was finding a balance between comfort and effort that I could advance as my conditioning improved. As most runners know, it’s possible to make dramatic progress when you are just beginning. Discipline, structure and performance targets reinforce gains. By 2009, the internet provided tools like MapMyRun and the Nike+ system that gave runners a way to capture, record, visualize and analyze their workouts. I was hooked.
When I started Emerging Runner in November of 2008, I wondered if history would repeat itself and I’d find myself shutting it down after a couple of months. Somehow it stuck and, after 2,186 posts and counting, I’m still at it. I’ve had my ups and downs but I have never lost my love for the run. 
Sometimes I get tired of running my neighborhood (I am reasonably sure I have run down Lenore Street at least 2,500 times) so I’ll go out on the Bethpage trail or (like today) take 13 laps around the track of a nearby high school. But I never get tired of putting on my running shoes and heading out the door.

Return to Brooklyn Half, without the Half

Post-finish, pre-tent spot

Today’s run (street): 3.6 miles
Yesterday’s workout (elliptical): 30 minutes

I’m on day 2 of my vacation and it’s been a nice break so far. Yesterday’s plans included a stop at Coney Island which looked a lot different from the last time I was there. That’s because the last time I was pounding along the boardwalk on my way the Brooklyn Half finish line.

My memories of that time consist of 1) walls of screaming people lining the street and boardwalk, 2) grabbing the first banana and cup of water I could find, 3) making my way through the crowd toward the big (decommissioned) parachute ride where my friends had gathered after they’d finished, and 4) being “triaged” in the medical tent by a bunch of bored EMTs.

 Ahh, memories. No post race-type food on Thursday. Just good old Nathan’s. Before any of that, I did an elliptical session to maintain my goal of running or otherwise working out every day of this vacation. It was humid yesterday, so I did what I could to maintain airflow, opening windows and running the big fan at top speed. That helped but by the end, the humidity won.

This morning it was back to the road. Between the workout and all the walking yesterday, my legs felt like rubber. All the same (and probably due to consuming the equivalent of 20 Kw of carb energy at Nathan’s) I was ready to run. I did what I could to mix up the route and was pleased with how I ran, despite conditions that felt even more oppressive than on Wednesday.

Tomorrow is supposed be rainy, so I’ll probably be stuck inside with either the treadmill or the elliptical. If it’s misting or only lightly raining I may go for a run anyway. The humidity is brutal, but it always is in late August. I know it won’t be long until I’m back to running in long sleeves and wool running socks.

Do you have running amnesia?

Today’s run (street): 4.3 miles

I think about many things when I run, but I rarely remember the details once I’ve finished. I’ve heard the same from others, that thoughts while running evaporate soon after a run is completed. It may be due to the fact that we aren’t paying attention to our thoughts when we run. It’s similar to dreaming. When we dream we’re actually experiencing a situation, not creating a memory.

Today was no different and the only things I remember clearly were those situations where my attention was disrupted. I was really looking forward to getting out today after seeing the weather report that said the temperature was in the sixties and humidity was way down. I started my run a little after 7:00 AM when the sun was still low in the sky. That created a blinding glare when facing east and I was careful to pay attention to the possibility of cars whenever I turned in that direction.

I had a few surprises. The first was when I reached the top of a street and saw an unleashed dog coming out of the bushes and heading directly at me. People in my neighborhood are generally good about keeping their dogs leashed, so I was a little alarmed when this happened. The dog was not dangerous – just curious – and its owner soon appeared, saying something like, “He’s friendly.” I just looked at her and moved on.

Soon after that, I turned left onto a road where my vision was suddenly obscured by the brightly shining sun. It was like a thousand lumin spotlight and I couldn’t see a thing. Due to that, I missed a large sprinkler run-off puddle that was directly in front of me and my left shoe got completely immersed. That meant I’d have to do the rest of my run with a soaked foot.

Besides those two experiences, I don’t remember much more about the workout and that’s fine. If I ever think of something important on a run, I’m sure it will be memorable. I ended up covering just short of 20 miles this week – something I haven’t done since April. I seems that my running/working balance is improving.

The persistence of memory (non-Dali version)

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

You know the feeling you get when you think you’re forgetting something? It’s frustrating because you can’t put your finger on it, yet you can’t leave it alone. It was like that for me today. I had an early start with some business calls (this “not working” thing is turning out to be a lot of work). Before I knew it, I lost my window for my morning workout. All throughout the morning, I kept thinking something wasn’t getting done. By noon I realized what it was: my run.

I’d been sequestered upstairs in my home office until midday. When my last call was finished, I came down to see that my wife had cooked up a mixture of fresh veggies and turkey burgers. Any ideas of getting in a run before lunch were dashed. The aroma of the food was just too seductive. Unfortunately this only added to my concern that today’s workout would be lost to afternoon obligations.

I waited 30 minutes after lunch to start of my run and used the treadmill to save time. I was happy to finally be running and thought I’d go easy since it was right after a full meal. That plan was soon ignored and I found myself running a more aggressive pace that allowed me to hit my targeted distance within half an hour. It was a tough workout but, by the end, I was happy that I’d taken a bigger challenge. Best of all, that feeling of missing something was no longer there.