Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Road Review: Huntsville, AL

My job as a traveling salesman keeps me ramblin' from state to state across the South and I get the chance to experience a lot of cities that I wouldn't normally visit.  One of those places is Huntsville, AL.  I used to always see signs for Huntsville on highway 65 when we would drive between Birmingham and Nashville for cross country races, but I never had a reason to get off and head east.  Now I go there every few months on business to visit the local running stores and sell them my fabulous product lines.  Of course the best way to see and feel any city is to run it!  It wasn't until recently that I had the chance to hook up with an ole college teammate and run the Rocket City.

The Huntsville Town Square

I met my buddy, Bo Brawner, early one morning before my appointments and he led me on a loop through the old part of Huntsville.  I love history stuff and we saw a lot of antebellum homes, the lovely town square and the natural spring that originally provided water to the citizens.  We also saw John Morgan's house (Confederate General) and a bank that Billy the Kid allegedly robbed.  My buddy Bo is a huge fan of the area and spoke of great running venues, especially the trails in the surrounding mountains.

      Bank robbed by Billy the Kid

A few weeks after my run with Bo I was back to help out with a Triathlon that Pearl Izumi was sponsoring.  The event was at a park about 30 minutes south of the city on the Tennessee River, but it gave me another chance to spend some time on the ground.  I must say I now have a very positive view of the Huntsville area.  There is great access to some rivers and lakes, it is right next to some mountains (or at least large hills) and there is a strong NASA presence. #NeverTooOldForSpaceCamp  Nice to meet you Huntsville.  I look forward to running you again. 

The packet pick up/ Expo for the Wet Dog Triathlon 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

How Do You Reach the Finish Line?

Competitive running has always held an unusual mystique in my heart.  Perhaps part of it is where I learned to run and who ran with me, teaching me what it means.  Surely not everyone has run down the same path to discovering what running means to them and why they do it.

When we move into racing things often change and our motivation or even our attitude towards others can shift even if unintended.  The pain, the endurance, the sweat and heat can keep us from thinking as clearly as we might otherwise.  There are a few post race stories my parents have relayed to me that I cannot even remember, and the things I am reported doing or saying certainly do not seem like who I want to be.

But when someone in front of you takes a wrong turn in the heat of a race, do you speed up or shout out to let the person know of their error?  If someone tumbles do you jump over them to take advantage of their spill, or stop to help the person up?

A little while back there was a stir in the running community when Ivan Fernandez Anaya, an international runner from Spain intentionally lost a race to Abel Mutai by showing him his error, when Mutai lost track of where the finish line was at the end of an intensely competitive race.  From all of the comments and stories I've read after this uncommon moment, there are many different opinions on the matter and what should be done, should a situation similar to this fall in one's lap.  After all I have read here is what I think.

Just because the gun is shot, someone says go, a referee drops a puck or blows a whistle, or some other means of competition begins, does not necessarily give license for a competitive nature to obliterate all of our human nature.  Do we really want to finish a race having proclaimed through our actions "Win at ALL Costs"?  If Ivan had sped past Abel it might have won him a place on Spain's team for international racing or surely there may have been some monetary value to winning the race.  But at what cost to himself?

Having competed in all manner of sports over the years growing up, and of course random other contests such as who can pee the furthest, there seems to be more at stake then just another championship/medal for the wall/trophy for the case/whatever else a win might earn.  Sometimes the manner in which we reach the finish line can change everything.

Even if no one else was watching our actions, the course we run to reach the finish line changes us in the least, which is no small thing.  It would be great to one day tell my son/daughter of all the races I've won in the course of my racing days, but I think I might prefer to have a few Ivan Fernandez Anaya moments to share with the people I care about.

It's true that I am now older and no longer running competitively, so maybe it's easy to say things in this manner.  But I can see now that my perspectives during my racing days were not always the best.  One of the things I like best about my newfound vantage point is the communal aspect to running.  It helps to see the costs of winning and running as an individual in fresh eyes.  I have no problem with winning races - just questioning the process.

I applaud Ivan and his decision to help his fellow runner.  It is with honor I share his story and allow it to interject into my own running story.  Run, run, run... but think as you do it.  The running of the course might just make the race, even the person.