Running Fiesta

Writing and running in Austin, TX.

Resources Part 1: Running!

I admit it, I’ve been having fits of paranoia about continuing these posts. Not just because all these people read my one post and got super-excited, and then I posted a follow-up that received a large, collective yawn. (Although granted, that’s part or it. I know myself, and myself needs positive reinforcement.)

No, I’m also worried that posting all sorts of resources that “helped me” is just SO FREAKING CONCEITED. I mean really, who am I to think I have anything to teach anyone else about happiness?
Then again, people did seem to like my thoughts on how to find happiness, career-wise. And really, I’m not forcing anyone to read this. If you hated my blog, wouldn’t you just…stop reading? Maybe my paranoia is really just insecurity?

Or maybe I’m just way overthinking the whole damn thing. (Yes, definitely.)

How about this…here are some things I like. You might like them too. You might not.

So yeah, here’s some stuff I like. As the middle-school version of me would say: Stuff, that you know, stuck with me and stuff. You can check it out if you want. Or not. It’s whatever. Oh, and I like, tried to put it all in categories.

Category 1 is…

Running!

Remember, this IS a running blog. (In theory.)


For runners and non-runners alike…

Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall
What it is: Book
What it’s about: McDougall’s memoir about travelling to the canyons of Mexico to visit some of the world’s best “natural” long-distance runners, an indigenous tribe known as the Tarahumara. He weaves in a lot of interesting science about why these people have been such excellent runners for so long.
Why it’s here: This book is interesting as a travel book, a science book, a personal memoir, and a running book. McDougall is a talented author with journalism cred that lends an approachability to his writing. If a non-runner really wanted to read a book about running, I would recommend this one. (Not John L. Parker’s oft-lauded Once a Runner. I think that book probably resonates greatly with people who ran competitively in college, or are nostalgic for the late 70s, but even I found the main character and his infamous “60 quarter-mile repeats” workout difficult to identify with. 15 miles of speedwork? Are you sh*tting me???)
One note: This book was a major factor in the barefoot running “revolution” of the past few years. And I’ll admit, right after I finished reading about the Tarahumara making running sandals out of old tires, I headed out for a barefoot dog walk. Alas, I live in central Texas, and almost immediately stepped in a pile of sticker burrs. Runners can debate the merits of barefoot or minimalist running for hours, but I just want to warn you now that it might not be the panacea for all running injuries that this book makes it out to be. (Especially if you’re missing a ligament.)

For new runners…

No Need for Speed, by John Bingham

What it is: Book
What it’s about: So you read Born to Run and are thinking about giving this running thing a shot? I’d recommend this beginner’s guide next. It covers all the basics like attire, training schedules, injuries, etc. More importantly, it tells Bingham’s personal story of going from chain smoker to (slow) marathon runner. This is the most low-pressure, “everyone is welcome” running book I know of.
Why it’s here: I picked this up at a Barnes & Noble back in college. I’d been running to lose weight for a while — mostly circles of the teeny-tiny indoor track at my school’s gym — and had gotten the idea to run a 5K from a flyer in the dorm cafeteria. Yes, now I’m all “marathons are the most fun thing ever!”, but there was a time when a 5K was scary. (Actually, 5Ks are still scary. Running fast enough to feel physically ill is totallyoverrated.)
The Barnes & Noble is long gone, but I completed that 5K successfully, and went on to sign up for my next race. A full marathon. La la la…
I won’t “blame” Bingham for making me think doing a marathon as my second race ever was a good idea (that, if you’ll remember, was P. Diddy’s fault), but I will blame Bingham for telling enough of his own embarrassing stories to convince me that no matter what happened, it couldn’t be that bad.
I actually still pick this book up from time to time, and it’s the one I usually lend to anyone who expresses interest in starting out in the sport. The author made a whole career out of the message that no one is too fat/slow/old to start a running career, and I personally think this is his best work. To quote Bingham, “Waddle on, friends!”

For any runner who needs to remember how to laugh at their own expense…

Remy’s World, by Mark Remy
What it is: Blog…type-thingy
What it’s about: Pretty much whatever Remy feels like…usually running, unless something non-running related is just really, really funny. Sometimes it’s news, sometimes it’s quotes. In recent years, Remy (who is also the executive editor of runnersworld.com and the author of several books) has become particularly famous for his “motivational posters”. (See above.)
Why it’s here: Usually informative and almost always hilarious, Remy is another one of those “big names” in running who has a knack for making the sport accessible to the masses. (Also, he was super nice to me that one time I wrote a not-so-nice book review of one of his books thinking no one would actually read it and he actually read it. Kill me now.)
Anyway, I also think it’s important for us runners to remember that to 98% of the world, we just look crazy. This blog helps me do that.
Quick note: The RW website is infamous for it’s ridiculously annoying pop-ups asking you to subscribe to the magazine. This blog is worth the irritation.


For anyone who wants to take their running to the next level…

Coached running groups (e.g., Rogue Running)

What it is: A group of people who run. Specifically, the type that comes with knowledgeable coaches and supported long runs. (Supported = they give you a map and you don’t have to bury water bottles in bushes ahead of time.)
Why it’s here: Yes, the historic image of the long-distance runner is a solitary athlete, churning out lonely miles on country roads.
Well, guess what? Most of us live in cities with buses, potholes, and sketchy neighborhoods. Running in a group is much safer! Also, if you’re going to commit the hours of training that long races can require, you might as well make run time double as social time.
met three of my best friends on day one with Rogue, and that circle has only grown since. I took my running to the next level when those same friends told me I HAD to specifically sign up with Coach Chris’s group, because he did 1-1s and custom race plans and didn’t mind if it took you half a day to slog through your log run.
If you want to really get obsessive about running, find a coach who knows what their talking about and pays as much attention to the back of the pack as the front of it. A good one will usually let you try out a workout for free, and will be more interested in your learning style than their coaching style. I don’t know if Coach Chris consciously knows who prefers the “tough love” approach and who just needs to cry it out every now and then, but in my opinion, he’s great at both. Look for someone equally adaptable. Or, at the least, look for a coach you’re compatible with. If you need someone screaming at you, by all means, hire a drill sergeant.
Not in Austin? There are running clubs everywhere. Just Google “running club city“, and somethingwill turn up. Of course, “running club” can mean anything from “a group of drunks who occasionally break into a jog” to “a team of professional athletes sponsored by Nike”. If you want to be extra sure you start off in a good place, find a local running specialty store and ask for recommendations. 

For people who like to read about running all the time…
Runner’s World

Running Times

What they are: Running magazines

Why they’re here: Sometimes you just don’t have the energy to sit down and read an entire book about running. (Or sometimes people try to fill entire books with an amount of content that would actually better fit a 6-page magazine article.)

My favs: In the US, there are basically 2 big names in running mags, and both are owned by mega-publisher Rodale.

Runner’s World is the more approachable of the two, and tries to serve all levels of runners. This means that advanced runners will have to put up with regular “couch to 5K” features, and beginners will have to tread carefully lest the nutrition section send them to seek safety in a Denny’s. I’m not sure what “level” of runner I qualify as, but I personally like RW best for its human interest stories.

If you like you’re running advice more jargon and splits filled, or if the idea of someone spending their weekend mornings on a couch is a completely foreign concept to you, you might prefer Running Times. It definitely targets the 50+ club (in weekly mileage, not age), and has lots of serious workout articles that I read because I have an obsessive need to read magazines cover to cover. If you have no access whatsoever to coaching, maybe you’ll find them more helpful than I do. I personally like reading about the high school, college, and master’s runners they feature in each issue. I guess I’m just a sucker for that “human interest” angle.


For anyone who dreads speedwork or hills…

Mindfulness

What it is: A way of thinking that specifically involves NOT thinking. Or at least, not thinking too much.

Why it’s here: You’d think I’d put this under general life or mental health resources, right? And indeed, when I signed up for a meditation class through the university, it was at the recommendation of someone who had successfully reduced anxiety with meditation. Turns out that meditation is about a lot more than sitting cross-legged saying “Om”, and that it has applications far beyond a quiet room with a gong.
The main goal of meditation for most people is mastering the ability to be “present”. This boils down to clearing your mind of all the extraneous noise that’s usually there and focusing purely on what is happening right here, right now. Doing so successfully is considered being in a state of “mindfulness”.

If your mind, like mine, typically goes a mile a minute, you may find the “just sit there and be quiet” form or meditation to be very very difficult. It’s a bit paradoxical, but I find it much easier to quiet my mind if I’m doingsomething. When I think back to my past life as an equestrian, I remember telling people that I loved riding so much because it required my full attention, and I really couldn’t worry about anything other than the horse and where I wanted us both to go (preferably at the same time).

Astonishingly, I’ve found it easiest to apply mindfulness in my present life to…running. No, running doesn’t require nearly as much thought as riding a horse. And yes, it is 100% possible to space out on a run and lose a good hour or so of your life. But I never struggled with the spacing out part. (20 miles, anyone?) I struggled with speedwork. You know, the stuff that hurts! My mind would leap around from my aching legs to my burning lungs to the person ahead of me I couldn’t catch to the person behind me who was closing fast.

Then, one day, we were doing my least favorite workout possible: Speed AND hills. Our meditation teacher had recently discussed the idea of driving a car mindfully, so I decided to try running mindfully. Rather than focus on all my angst about being slow, bad at hills, etc., I decided to just focus on the movement of my legs. And suddenly…I got a lot faster. Did it still hurt? Probably. But it’s your brain that processes pain signals. By logical extension, pain is less painful if you don’t pay so much attention to it. So, focus on your legs moving, as opposed to your legs hurting.

Think this is all hippy mumbo jumbo? I improved my 2-mile time trial time by 15 seconds just by repeating “stay mindful” over and over and focusing on churning my legs over. I’m hoping to take off another 15 the next time. Try it!


I could go on and on about all the different running books I’ve read, movies I’ve watched, etc., but I do want to limit these posts to the realm of the meaningful. So, I’m going to stop there for today. I hope you find something interesting here!

Much like I hope Mark Remy has forgiven me for being a giant a-hole.

10 comments on “Resources Part 1: Running!

  1. Emily
    August 12, 2013

    Very useful! I'm particularly interested in trying out the meditation method for our next hard effort after my recent acceptance of the meditation challenge…I'm seeing results in life, imagine what I could do in running! Now, if only I wasn't going on vacation for the next two weeks…

  2. A. Attas
    August 12, 2013

    Loved the part about zoning out/meditating while riding a horse. When I got injured in high school, what I missed most about hockey and basketball was having my mind 100% occupied. It was just so annoying to always be stuck in my head!

  3. lgl
    August 13, 2013

    I have decided you should be a running coach for newbies. – laura gl

  4. Heike Moll
    August 13, 2013

    Directly purchased the book "No need for speed" =)

  5. Kate
    August 13, 2013

    I need to add these books to my list, as I've been sampling some running ones and looking for some more inspirational reads. Wondering if you are into Podcasts and have any recommendations for good running-themed ones? Admittedly, I probably haven't looked through all of them, but recently I checking some out & I didn't find many that I enjoyed. There are definitely some out there for a variety of experience levels, and they are at various quality levels, but I'd be interested to know your take.Great post as usual, though. I'm always reading even if I'm not responding! I promise to try to provide more positive reinforcement 🙂

  6. Chris
    August 13, 2013

    Yay! Glad to hear the challenge is going well. I hope you're manifesting many million dollar contracts ;). Enjoy vacation! This month of separation still doesn't sit well with me, but I'm trying to be adult about it.

  7. Chris
    August 13, 2013

    Wait what? Hockey players think? But not the goalies, right? ;)Ps-when are you going to start a blog about your adventures? You are my writing role model after all.

  8. Chris
    August 13, 2013

    Thanks! That's definitely on the "someday" dream list 🙂 I suppose I'd have to stop swearing so much though…

  9. Chris
    August 13, 2013

    But you're already a pro! Hope you like it 🙂

  10. Chris
    August 13, 2013

    Haha, I swear I wasn't trying to guilt people into commenting! Just embracing being my normal, paranoid self. The podcast question is a good one. I haven't found any specific to running that I love, but I also haven't searched that hard. I do usually listen to Marketplace and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me on solo runs, which are both hosted by runners. Does that count? I might have to go on a hunt and report my findings…

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This entry was posted on August 12, 2013 by in books, groups, magazines, resources, running books.
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