Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What is a runner? - My Guest Blog on BRU

I wrote this for Jason Robillard from the Barefoot Running University a month or so back.  It's part one of a two part post.

"What is a Runner?"

Part two probably going up in a couple of days.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

It's alive!!... AHHHH!!!!

So the last week has been an interesting week.  Everything kicked off when on Monday, my blog about "Running with a smile" was re-blogged by Christopher McDougall (I got his name right this time).  This and consequently a celebratory half bottle of wine has led into something a whole lot bigger.

The evening before the "almost famous" blog re-post, some friends of mine had been talking about how we could make "running happy/with a smile" more mainstream.  Not kidding, this idea was partly in the works before Monday.  One idea that AngieB suggested was that we would "tag" our blog posts with the blog-tag "Run Smiley" and/or "Run :)".  This seemed great and I liked the idea that we could search for the tag "RUN SMILEY" and "RUN :)" and find lot's of posts all with a similar theme..

Then the idea morphed.  How about we get a central place where we could collate our "RUN SMILEY" experiences.  From then on "THE COLLECTIVE" was born... MMMWWahahahahahah.

THE RUN SMILEY COLLECTIVE are a group of Happy Hobby Jogga Bloggers who have come to realise that running for the sake of numbers is not what is important.  Running for the journey and the experiences we encounter on the way; That's what running is all about.  We have a central blog site where numerous authors from the barefoot and minimalist running community will post certain "Run Smiley" posts about running with a smile.   Our current contributor list stands as follows:Krista Cavender, a.k.a zapmamak
    • Robin Robinson, a.k.a Norm Deplume
    • Katie Kift, a.k.a. KittyK (Barefoot Runners Society)
    • Angela Holtz, a.k.a. Angie Bee (Barefoot Runners Society)
    • Vanessa Rodriguez, a.k.a VanessaRuns
    • Patrick Sweeney, a.k.a. Bourbonfeet
    • Christian Peterson, a.k.a The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy (Barefoot Runners Society)
    • Doug Robertson, a.k.a Dirtbag (Barefoot Runners Society)
    • Jesse Scott, a.k.a Jesse (Hobby Jogga's)
    • Ryan Hansard, a.k.a Fun Running Ryan (Hobby Jogga's)
    • Swami Kahn
    • Robert Shackelford, a.k.a. shacky
    • Nora Mancuso, a.k.a Ti-living… together WAS Mammarunsbarefoot
    • Lou Rantin
    • Shelly Robillard, a.k.a. ShelBel (Hobby Jogga's)

    So as NOT to cheese them off.  These are people who we are hoping to be part of the collective but they haven't accepted their blogger invite yet!   *points fingers in a "don't blame me" kind of way*
    N.B If those below HAVEN'T received their invites OR, the invite doesn't work, please contact runsmiley@gmail.com.  Blogger seems to be a little temperamental.

    • Jason Robillard a.k.a. Last Place Jason (Barefoot Running University) (Barefoot Runners Society)(Hobby Jogga's)
    • Shelley Viggiano, a.k.a ShelleyV (Mind the Ducks 12 hour Ultra RD)
    • Larry Gibbons, a.k.a Barefoot Larry (Barefoot Runners Society)
    • Nat Wolfe (Barefoot Runners Society)
    • Katie Button-Swenson (Barefoot Runners Society)
    • Neil Zeller, a.k.a Barefoot Neil
    • Janine Schwab (Barefoot Runners Society)
We have a facebook page - in fact two of them!  You can find us as a group, "The Run Smiley Collective" and as a person (yep, the concept evolved into an entity), called "Run Smiley".  To be fair, I think the personal page will probably have a short existence, mainly because it's an arse to maintain.  We created it to see if it had more functionality than the group pages.  I also believe we were slightly drunk, so the reasons are a little clouded.

We have a twitter account.  Find us there at twitter.com/runsmiley.  If you have a "Run Smiley" adventure on your run, tweet about it using the @runsmiley tag.

There is an email address if you want to contact us: runsmiley@gmail.com. 

And to finally cap it all of, the wonderfully talented Krista Cavender made us a slew of wonderful logo's.  We did have a few submissions, but I made an un-elected decision when it came to the logo.  After I saw her logo,  I had a dream - not kidding - I literally dreamt about Krista's logo. It had something to do with eggs too, although that bit is a little hazy. The dream was SO funny, I woke up laughing.  After that, I knew I had to keep her logo's.  

These logo's you are free to use.  Please use them on your site and get them to point to the RUN SMILEY blog.

Everyone can contribute to THE COLLECTIVE.  You can either become a regular contributor/author and have access to our exclusive "MEMBER" badges, alternatively you can send me your "RUN SMILEY" posts to runsmiley@gmail.com and I will post them on your behalf with accreditation.  Don't forget to tag your facebook photo's/comments, blogs and tweats with the runsmiley tag. Simple.

So spread the word people.  Let's get everyone "running smiley"

Monday, May 23, 2011

Introducing the "Run Smiley" campaign..

Somehow over the last 24 hours I have gone "a little" viral - just a little. I would go to the Doctors but we all know they can never give you anything for a virus. Best stick to the old medicine - Wine.

It seems my blog on smiles being the new running accessory was re-blogged by Christopher McDougall and now I have had more hits in 24 hours than I get in a month. I am finding it a little bizarre. I tend to view my blog as a little bit of nonsense hidden in the mist of the internet. Now lots of people are looking at it. I can't help to wonder if this is what happens when you discover someone has a peculiar looking belly button or a third nipple - no matter how strange it seems and no matter how you don't want to look, you have to and then you have to show everyone you meet. Did that make sense? Don't worry, if you are new to this blog take comfort in that "You'll get used to me".

Anyway, my last blog was asking for idea's on how we could promote the idea of running happy. My friend AngieB's idea was to tag our blog posts with "Run Smiley" when we blog about running for the whole purpose of having fun. So here it is... the "Run Smiley" or "Run :)" campaign.

Your mission is to go out and run; run for no other reason but just to have fun. Don't take a watch, but take a camera. Take a moment to pause in your run and take a photo - I do this all the time. I sometimes think that taking a photo allows you to actually reflect on the beauty of where you are. If you find a hidden path you didn't know was there (and it's not littered with crazy people or bears) then take it. Run somewhere you haven't been before. Run with someone you haven't run before. Sing, dance, skip, make crazy noises, air-drums, scare the wildlife, touch the trees, play rocking music... whatever. Anything that gives you a big grin on your face. The idea is that you just run to experience the journey and NOT to go a certain distance in a certain time.

After you have finished your run, then blog about it and how you felt/what you saw. Then use the blog tag, "Run Smiley" or "Run :)". Simple.

Wouldn't it be great in 7 days or 7 months or 7 years, we could "Google" the term "Run Smiley" or "Run :)" and there will be thousands of posts by people just running and being happy.

[If anyone wants to make a logo for this then let me know. We could create a "Button-thingy" to place on our blogs and link to a central place where we can gather all our experiences. Any other media-promotion idea's welcome. As you can tell I have NO idea on this sort of thing!].

[Amendment - managed to nab a blog address.  Maybe we can put our experiences here:
http://runsmiley.blogspot.com/ ]

Sunday, May 22, 2011

So I am cheating a little bit... a.k.a Run Smiley/ Run :)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been seeing a wonderful change in how people see running. How running is for fun and the journey and not for the numbers it provides. Like one of those bizarre "YouTube" videos of dogs barking, or a woman falling over a fountain, this new attitude seems to have gone viral. Good viral; not viral in needing tissues, painkillers and lots of hot drinks.

My thoughts about running (and life in general) have been on this track for a while and I actually wondered when my mind-set changed. I cite my BMO (half) marathon in May 2010 as the starting point, but as I looked at my previous blog posts, I realised that I was thinking this within a few months of running barefoot/minimalist.

Here is a couple of excerpts from a blog piece I wrote in January 2010: "Finally read "Born to Run", only 8 months to late!"
"It was only when reading the book that I thought about how my mental state affects my running and NOT that running affects my mental state. In the book, it puts down the theory that happy runners who have no other motives than just to have fun run further and faster, than those who have goals in mind. It cites many internationally renowned runners known for finishing astonishing races who start and finish the race with big grins on the faces and probably no real training plans. This is where my thoughts on my depression, my running and 'cause and effect' come in."

"I will not make my runs a chore. I am going to make my run's recreational. If I am not having fun, then I'll stop and do something else. If I am having a blast then I am going to keep going. Goals are great, but if I can't laugh while I am achieving them, then I am spending a lot of my life doing something that is not making me happy."
I know it's a little lame, re-reading your old posts; Okay, so I know I am the only one who really reads them, but still, this does make me a little sad and lonely. However, this was a insight for me. Running with a laugh and just general stupidity in mind seems like such a "normal" concept for me now, I suppose I hadn't really thought about when numbers literally went out of my head - Along with every other executive function required to maintain a normal adult persona.

I wonder if the change had something to do with running barefoot/minimalist. I mean, it's hard to "mingle with the running crowd" when you have stinky gorilla feet, *cough* I mean VFF Flows. A lot of barefoot/minimalist runners cite changing footwear (or abandoning it altogether) as the reason they begin to enjoy running. Maybe it was just me climbing out of the depression I had been suffering. Perhaps it's just me growing up, (in that Peter Pan, "I am still only 6" kind of way).

Who know's? Who care's really? I suppose I was just musing on how I have grown and I was using an old post as an easy get-out on writing a full on blog post this week. Hey, why work if you don't have to!

I think I am just wanting to keep this "smile when you are running" feeling that all my friends are currently having going. I know most "viral" posts on the internet usually fade within 48 hours of being started and then are usually forgotten. Wouldn't it be nice if we could keep this one going though? In some ways I think this message is more important than what we wear on our feet. Frankly I don't care if you wear "foot Coffins" *cough* I mean motion-control, extra cushioning running shoes, or you run with nothing on your feet. You can wear what they hell makes you happy. I don't care if you run 100 miles or a 100 yards. I just want the 95% of super-determined and frankly miserable runners you see at races, chill out and enjoy the experience.

Let's get creative guys and think of ways we can make "Running Happy" mainstream. Ideas anyone?

[Angie, the "Run Smiley" blog tag is a great idea... amended my blog with it. Let's start a trend!]
[Amendment 2 - Run Smiley or Run :) seems like the tag people like. So come on people, run :), have fun, blog about it and use the tag]

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Forget minimalist shoes and sports kilts. THIS is the new running cool...

I have been reading a few of my friends blogs lately - It does happen on occasion when I am not running around putting out fires (in my case literally; D is stepping up his game on being a scientist). One of the trends that people have been writing about is how they have changed they way they view running. A year ago I would say that going further, faster and as minimalist as you could would be on everyones mind. Now the perspective is different. Thankfully so; this running gig was interfering with my other role as "world renowned lazy arse"

This is also evident from my own personal experience. At the BMO marathon in 2010 my mindset changed. I went into the race with little training and I was just recovering from an injury (ITBS due to ramping up the mileage too quickly before anyone asks). After a drunken Facebook conversation with my virtual Facebook brother, I decided to enter the half-marathon at the last minute. I had no expectations or goals. I was just going to run. As it turned out I had an absolute blast.

My ideas on running changed in those 2 hours 15 mins. I went from wanting to run faster and further to wanting to run to have fun. This attitude was borne out with subsequent races. The races I didn't run well in were the ones that I hated running (and races I had forgotten to bring alcohol with me. Can you see a pattern here?).

It seems strange that this is a concept that is alien to a lot of runners. You would think if you train and run a certain distance you would enjoy the whole experience, however I have come to realise that for a lot of people this isn't the case. They run for the sense of achievement (which is great don't get me wrong), but in doing so all fun goes out of the window. You train for months to run a marathon in a certain time and that's your only aim. This leads to a make or break situation. If you fail to race a distance OR you don't make a certain time, then the whole 4-6-12-whatever months has been a waste of time. You think I am kidding, I wish I was. I have seen them at the races I have run and I have been left wondering "Why are you doing this?"

I have been reading the race reports from friends who attended the "Mind the Ducks 12 hour Ultra". I am still secretly jealous because I really wanted to be there. However... the overwhelming image I have taken from these reports is that goals -although they were nice- were NOT the reason people went to this race. They went so they could meet their friends and have fun. This was a 12 hour Ultra where the goals were charity and dressing up in Tutu's.

It's a small, low key affair, but I think in the scheme of things this race has hit upon the "new cool" in running.

In 2009, all the hip-running kids were wearing VFF's (or nothing at all) on their feet.
In 2010, all the cool-dudes in the running circles were wearing sportskilts - or something tartan and skirt-like.
In 2011, everyone you ever needed to know in minimalist running are wearing Smiles.

Smiles are the new fashion accessory. Forget running for a new PR; that's so Passe. Running a longer distance - it will get you a pat on the back, but nothing more. If you want to REALLY be in with the "in-crowd", you need to ditch the times and goals and stick a smile on your face so wide Jack Nicolson will be wanting to sue you for copy-right (or Heath Ledger, depending on how old you are).

I see this in my friends blogs and in virtual conversations and all I can think is "Thank God" people are finally getting it. I have posted a few times about how running is for fun and should be treated as such. Running is so part of our biological heritage and so intrinsically entwined into our survival instincts that it's actually hard NOT to have fun whilst you are running. The biological chemical surges we get when we run (or do anything physically active) are our bodies way of rewarding us for doing something so primal. However, this basic reward is lost in goals and times and being better than everyone else. It's similar to taking the social aspect of our nature and turning it into a solitary experience with social networking and blogging. What am I doing again? Damn it, okay, ignore that last paragraph.

One thing that came across from that infamous barefoot running book, "Born to Run" is that we are a herd species. I will admit now, that I have only read it once and that was about 18 months ago, so I apologise to Christian MacDouglas (joking) for paraphrasing wrong. When we hunted (via running), we needed people of ALL speeds to accomplish the task. The slow ones were essential to the hunt as the faster loin-cloth clad runners. We need to remember that it didn't matter then if we ran long and fast, what mattered is that we ran. We ran and enjoyed it. If Charlie MacMillian (or who-ever; still joking) didn't write that in his book then he should have. I think it's the most essential part of the book. Forget about shoe companies making billions from un-proved scientific theories. Running and being glad about it is the take-home point you should have.

So, here is me, letting you into the new fashion accessory for 2011/2012 in the running community. It has nothing to do with technology, clothing or shoes. You will not find it at the local running store or LuluLemon. In fact when it comes to it, it's cheaper than that Garmin you put on your Christmas list. All you need is a little change in attitude. Go on, put on a TuTu and grin stupidly at the volunteers at your next race. Don't look at your Garmin and check your pace. Check out the Bum's in their compression shorts instead. Go out, Run, laugh and smile your way to the finish line.

I swear, that in 2012 you will find ALL the Hollywood stars will be doing it at the red carpet!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Everything running - Part Two (Sunday: Vancouver Marathon and IBRD)

So roll around ro Sunday. Having to get up at 4:45 after you have spent the whole night with belly ache is not the nicestof experiences. Due to thecopious amounts of food and an unfiltered wheat beer, I had spent a lot of the previous evening with a tummy full of gas that only an over-dose of "TUMS" was able to eleviate.

However, I did feel okay and so proceeded to don the Lycra and snacks and head out to the race.

I should have known that this race day was not going to go to plan as soon as I tried to find a car parking space. The Car Park I wanted to use (and which I used last year) was closed for some reason, so I scrambled around to find another one. As I am unable to find my way around the inside of asmall paper bag, this was going to cause a LOT of walking later on when I spent 45 mins trying to find where I had parked. Second, parking hurdle: In an attempt to be clever, I had not brought my credit card, just my debit and some cash to the race. This wouldn't have been a problem IF I had gone to the car park I wanted as you paid on the way out. This one had to be paid for in advance... with credit card (damn it) OR coins, (Yep, fail on that too). So after 20mins running around Vancouver trying to find a Starbucks or MacDonalds that was open - how could I NOT find a Starbucks, I finally managed to get a nice fellow racer to pay for my ticket as I gave her my cash. This had however meant I had already run about a mile and I was late getting to the race start.

Luckily, the queue for the toilets wasn't as horrendous as I anticipated - which was good because I was desperate at this point too. I did see Neil from BRS as I was waiting, so I know that there was one of our crew running for IBRD. I knew Craig and Robert were running the Marathon. I managed to get to the race start with 5 mins to go... Talk about being unorganised - may need to attempt better planning if I run this race again. Okay, this is me, that's not going to happen.

So the race started and I was off. I have to admit I felt pretty comfortable. I was cruising along
passing various "Pace Bunnies" and my speed was pretty good. It was still cool, temp wise and not raining. It was a good day to run. I was marvelling at the various bum's out there, enjoying the landmarks - I was having a blast. The only downside - I had decided to use my VFF Sprints for the first half of the race. I was going to go barefoot the second half. I haven't worn my Sprints in about 8-9 months and I quickly found that they were rubbing in various places. With now sweaty feet I could feel even after 5K blisters starting to develop on the sides of feet. As I tried to change my form to prevent the rubbing, I then began to have blisters on the sides of my big toe. I was cursing the fact that I was not wearing socks OR that I had decided agains my hacked water shoes. The water shoes would have been warmer, but they don't rub.I had also not predicted on the day being so warm.

I was wearing thick winter tights, 2 shirts and a weatherproof jacket. As the temps started climbing into the high 50's and as we were in the sun, this started to lead to problems at the half way point. At the half way check, I was on course for a time of 1:50, but then....

Almost in mid-stride I had the feeling I was going to pass out and throw-up. Literally within seconds I went from feeling fine (but a little foot sore) to almost keeling over on the course. I stopped, grabbed some of my NUNN and took stock of what had happened. When the heaving stopped, I walked a little bit and tried to see if I could carry on. I walked/ran a little and decided I was too warm - I was getting cold sweat. So I ducked behind a bush and stripped as much clothing off as I could acceptably get away with carried on. I was now in a weatherproof vest and all my shirts were draped around me like a homeless person.

I walked and ran when I could, but I mostly walked. I made sure I stopped at every aid station and I took on water and Gatoraide at every stop. This helped the faintness but NOT the nausea.
I am not sure how I managed to get to the end. I didn't go barefoot in the end - I could feel my feet were ripped to shreds, so I decided to leave the sprints on (even though they were causing problems) and NOT get dirt and muck in the wounds.

I ended up with a time of 2:13, which considering I did walk most of the second half AND I thought I had been passed by ALL of the pace bunnies, I was happy with. I wish I had more fun. I hate it when I run and I am miserable. I probably would have quit the race if I could, but if you are over half way, it's actually quicker to get to the finish than it is to get to the start. I am glad I finished..:)So as I passed the finish line, my next task was our "International Barefoot Running Day" event. As this event was overshadowed by the marathon and I hadn't garnered much interest, I was expecting no-one to turn up. Our IBRD event was just a quick 1 mile run from the "Plaza of Nations" to Science World and back. I knew I couldn't go barefoot as my feet we bleeding, so I hopped into the expo and brought some of the most expensive pair of running socks I have ever owned. Luckily I had my debit card ;)

I hobbled to "Th
e Plaza" and sat down in the Sun. It was nice to relax in the sun and chill out. I waited for about20 mins and was quite relieved when no-one turned up. Just as I was about to leave, a guycalled Rem approached me and said he had been waiting but didn't know who I was. I also then had a call from a fellow BRS member, Simon who was running late. Our IBRD event had 3 people. I was glad we had people show up, however my feet and calves were not so happy. So we ran the out-and-back and it was nice to see the looks on people's faces. It was nice to meet old friends and make new acquaintances.

Simon had to go to work, but Rem and I decided to go to our post race dinner. Luckily, we had time before any of the marathoners turned up because it was at this point I realised I couldn't remember where I had parked. Poor Rem spent the next 40+ mins trailing after me as I tried to find the car..

We met up
with Robert in the Yaletown Brewery, all glad of the sit down. Robert had a lousy race too, buthe still ran better than me..:) We sat down, drank beer and ate till we couldn't move; a good end to the day!

So here are some stats from the Marathon and our IBRD event.
Half Marathon
Neil Turner - 1:43:47 - as you can tell I looked this up
Kate Kift - 2:13:something

Craig Jones - 4:02:something
Robert Shackelford - 4:30:something

As you can see I am being very precise here..

IBRD 1 mile event
Rem - wasn't timing
Simon - could be anything
Me - I was glad just to be walking

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Everything running - Part One (Saturday: Meeting Running friends)

This weekend was a running weekend. From the minute I got up on Saturday to the time I collapsed in bed on Sunday, the whole weekend was about running. It was busy, it was fun, it was enlightening and frankly exhausting. How do dedicated runners do this?

I was registering to run in the BMO Vancouver Marathon; however I was doing the half. I was also trying to organise a "International Barefoot Running Day" event, as well as meeting up with random running friends; new, old and in-determinate.

I was adopting my usual technique of registering the day before the race, because, well... it's me, registering before then would require organisation. This meant a trip into downtown to the Expo. Normally I would hate this, but this would also provide me the opportunity to do something that is quite rare; I would actually meet-up with a friend who I have known for a while, but have never met.

As I mentioned before in previous posts, the barefoot and minimalist running movement was a little ad-hoc a couple of years ago. The only place we really got to hang out
with similar hairy toed friends was on the "Runner's World On-line Forums" (RWOL BFR). The first 6-8 months of this forum led to firm friendships being made, books to be written and ultimately the "Barefoot Runner's Society". It is safe to say that probably a good 25% of my "friends" list on Facebook are people I "virtually" conversed with (usually in a drunken and occasionally under-dressed state) on the "RWOL BFR" forum. We would spend hours talking about pretty much everything and on very rare occasions, we would actually talk about running. This was however, the first time I would ever meet one of these "virtual" friends in real-life.

So after about 2 hours trying to track each other down, I finally managed to meet-up with Robert Shackelford (Shacky) in a brewery -where else? He had traveled down to Vancouver to run the full marathon and do a little sightseeing.

I am not generally a nervous or shy person. I have spent most of the last decade being thrust into new and challenging social situations; comes with the territory when you move countries. I have to admit this was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences yet. Sometimes you wonder if the people you know but haven't met for a LONG time (or ever), really meet their on-line persona. No matter what you always wonder - "Is this person an axe-wielding maniac who didn't come across the border, but was kicked over seconds after the straight jacket was taken off?"

Luckily "Shacky" didn't disappoint. The marks from the restraints faded after a couple of hours - no-one would ever know. Joking!!! (Before I get charged with some legal offense). He was a genuinely a nice guy. He was also kind of normal looking - but that's not hard. I mean I have this vision in my head that all barefoot runners must have a beard the size of a small blanket, wild hair and a fashion sense that looks like you were attacked by a clothing closet in the middle of the night. (I mean that's the look I am trying to perfect for myself).

There was also no sharp axes in sight.

It was a beautiful day, which is a bit of a surprise in this part of the world. We had spent the last 6 months with rain, sleet, snow, freezing temps and generally weather that is only good for fungi.

We spent the day eating too much, drinking beer and walking more than you really should the day before a race. This pre-race day itinerary would come to bite me later, however, it was worth it. It was fun playing tourist and guide in my adopted home-town. I had a great time. Thanks Shacky. Hopefully there maybe more encounters with other old RWOL members in the future. It's nice to match people to the on-line personalities.

So I have decided to cut-down this post into two, because frankly, the half-marathon race report and IBRD meet-up is an event all in itself. Also I really need the loo and I had best publish this before my crappy little laptop decides to chose another random website for me to check-out. :D See you in Part two..