Monday, August 25, 2014

Adding Another BaddRunner to the Pack

Recently I set a new goal for myself.  My aim is to run my legs into the ground sometime prior to January 28th. I'm not trying to permanently ruin my body, but simply be in need of a long break around that time.  The reason is quite simple...Procreation!

My wife and I are expecting our first little BaddRunner in late January and I don't expect to get much quality running done in the immediate aftermath of its birth.  I decided that my first step toward my goal would be to do a marathon in late October.  One of the crazy busy seasons for my job starts in early November and my training is always up and down during that time anyway.  So hopefully I can knock out a marathon before the intense road trips and then stay in shape for some shorter races before Baby Time.

The Spinx Carolina Marathon takes place on October 25th and I am planning on toeing the line there.  The course is rumored to be relatively flat for South Carolina and pretty fast.  It is also an area of the country that I have never visited.  We are hoping to make a nice journey out of it and head to Charleston or some other interesting stops in the area. I have not done a marathon since Boston '09 so the experience will be interesting no matter what else happens on the trip.  

Boston in 2009 with 1 Mile to go. 

Do not adjust your settings, those are Man-Pris pants!

After the race the BaddRunners had a tough time walking down the stairs. 

This season will be the first time in a long time that I have trained with a specific goal in mind.  After running competitively for ten years in school I got a little burned out on tracking mileage, workouts and results.  It will also be exciting to see what kind of motivation and focus I can conjure up for the occasion.  So all aboard the Pain Train and if you see me bearing done on you with the Eye of the Tiger then you best step off the tracks!   

Monday, August 18, 2014

Do the Chasqui Runner Still Exist?

(drawn image of Chasqui runner taken from this link)
A few posts ago Bryan and I wrote a cowritten piece on our visit to some Civil War grounds near Fort Donelson in Tennessee (click here to read the post if you missed it).  One reader commented on the post and asked if I had ever heard of the Chasqui runners.  I did a little bit of online research and found myself reading about the Incan Empire during the height of its glory.

I read a few sources on these runners (and no I do not know how to say the same out loud although it looks straightforward to me - Chasqui) and by all accounts these runners were top notch.  Running at insanely high altitudes and over extremely rocky terrain these runners made up arguably the most efficient post service of all time (click here for the site I like the most for further reading), even besting the Roman system which was carried out, for the most part, on much smoother surfaces and at much lower altitudes.   

It was not possible to read about these runners without imagining what it must have been like to have been one of them.  As a runner who has competed through middle school, high school, and then in college, it is safe to say I have quite an inferiority complex when it comes to my sport.  While when reason is employed and I get beyond just my emotional passion about my own activities and I can understand why so much emphasis is placed on other sports instead of track or cross-country, there is still a yearning to see professional runners on the same level as other professional athletes.  Once every four years we get close for a short amount of time but then running tends to fade back into obscurity, especially in comparison.  

(Yes the feeling of belonging certainly did contribute to our success on
and off the cross-country course.  One example - our principle Dr.
Atkinson attended many our meets, including this one.  I believe he
attended events from every sport but I had never seen a member of faculty
come to watch a cross-country race before - it made a difference)
The strangest thing happened to me my senior year of high school when my family decided to move from Findlay, Ohio to Memphis, Tennessee (more specifically Germantown).  In Findlay being a runner was not very impressive in the eyes of my classmates.  One of my teammates even won the Ohio State Championships individually, though the rest of the school seemed hardly to notice.

When my brother and I started attending Houston High School I saw some drastic differences. The team was much larger in numbers and seemed to be relatively successful (something that had eluded our team in Findlay).  But beyond even these revelations, the students in the school seemed to have an overall genuine interest and even respect for the team.  I could not believe it when my world went from being unnoticed to being thrust just into the fringe of the "in" group.  Trying to explain this experience words feels so very off of what I'm really trying to say, but the difference was there and somehow it was "cool" to be a runner.

While we did not literally "run" an empire by delivering important messages all across a vast territory, we were loved and respected in ways I hope all runners get a chance to feel at some point.  I never felt that sort of communal support previously and certainly have not felt it since then.  It was truly amazing to feel your sport was a part of the bigger picture and was recognized as such.  I believe we ran better for it and certainly took a certain amount of pride with us as went out to compete.

(Taken at a Samford competition - we had such a great team full of
amazing people.  It's hard not to miss running and talking with them)
Perhaps something like this exists in local running communities where people all gather round the common interest of a love for running.  I know in Memphis I felt a similar belonging through the group runs and activities centered around +Breakaway Running.  The community there has built something special and it is my hope we all experience something similar wherever we find ourselves.  Yes, running can be quite solitary by nature but it does not have to be that way.  Maybe it no longer makes sense to have runners like the Chasqui employed to transfer messages and important data, but we can still pause to look back and ponder at what it might have been like.  We can still demand more from our local communities from trails to group runs to a higher level of respect for our past time.

Sometimes I wonder how much money running has raised for various charities.  Or how many lives it has changed through the ever transformational weight loss it offers.  Just in my life running has established scholarship foundations, given people new purpose, saved lives, created life long friendships, and much more.  Maybe, just maybe, the Chasqui are still out there secretly running the empires of the world.  I suppose it is possible.  I'll keep getting slower and slower as time goes on (apparently) but there is so much more to running than winning races and having a fast time.  Volunteering, mentoring, coaching, and raising funds to name a few.

Lets keep running and changing this world for the better - what do you say?