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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Three of my favorite things about running

For the past few months I’ve been training for my second full marathon, which is in Oklahoma City this coming Sunday. The training – as you can imagine – involves numerous long-distance runs. And after quite a few of them, I’ve learned that I really enjoy certain aspects of running. Here are some, just to name a few:

1. “The Runner Nod”

For those of you who have done any type of jogging not on a treadmill, you may know what I’m talking about without me even having to explain this, shall we say “phenomenon.” There’s a certain type of kinship among runners – a bond, if you will, symbolic of a universal understanding of running. Many times you can see it coming from a mile away, as a runner in the distance heading your direction gets closer and closer. As you pass someone on a trail, sidewalk, street or track, you’ll notice the runner nod. The on-coming runner and you make eye-contact for a brief moment, and a slight dip of the chin to bring the top of the head forward occurs – the running nod. You don’t always smile, or wave, or say anything at all – you just simply nod your head, as if to say: “Hey man, I know what you’re going through, because I’m going through it now too. Keep it up.” And as weird as it sounds, that nod from your fellow runner gives you some sort of boost to get through the next mile, few minutes or up the next hill…

2. The Uplifting Song

From my simple random samples I’ve visually collected and stored throughout the course of my runs, I’d be willing to place a bet that around 75% of runners attest to using an MP3 player. I undoubtedly use my iPod. It gives me motivation and passes time when I’ve mentally checked out. Every once in a while a certain song will come on at a particular point in the run, usually when I’m hitting a valley and struggling to keep my legs moving. But once this song comes on, the natural reaction is to smile, crank up the volume, and up your tempo. This uplifting song can come from any artist of any genre, and it’s never planned, but happens on the course of a natural basis. For that four minutes of your run, you feel like you could go forever, at whatever pace you want – the adrenaline provides for quite the buzz.

3. The Finish

Many marathon sites will give you points on the 26.2 mile course that are “must-see’s” – areas that spectators would find pretty neat. Perhaps it’s a landmark the course wraps around, a historic area of town the route goes through, or perhaps a pivotal point as far as mileage is concerned: the 13.1 split, the 40K split, the start, and of course – the finish. On any run you do, particularly longer distances, there’s nothing like the finish. Many times if you’re running outdoors your finish line is very unofficial and most definitely unattractive. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put my arms up after finishing a 15 mile haul, using a fire hydrant or bush as my finishing marker. But in your mind, it’s as if you’re the first to cross the finish at the Boston with thousands of people cheering. No matter how many hours your run was, no matter the distance, the high you get from finishing always surpasses the physical pain you may have. There’s truly nothing else like it in the world.

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