I am so excited to introduce you to Mike from Running Around the Bend. Mike is an extraordinary guy and I am so glad that he found my blog and that we have become friends. Mike is just one of those guys who you can’t help but like and he is one of the first blogs I visit everyday when I check in with my blogging friends. I really enjoy his writing style and how he talks about everything from work, family, and running to music and social issues he is passionate about and does so in a very captivating way.
Mike manages a very challenging job and runs a ridiculous amount of miles a week (I am VERY jealous) all while being a devoted family man. He freely speaks about his deep love and admiration for his beautiful wife of over 20 years and his two handsome sons. However, Mike is a runner in a non-running family and that can be tough as many of us know. He is here to talk to us about a bit more about that today! Enjoy!
Being the Runner in a Non-Running Family
I met Sara the way I often meet bloggers – through her comments on another blog. And in this case it was because she referenced Massachusetts - my home state (though we live in NY now). That was enough for me to check out her site, and I haven’t left since. Her thoughtful approach to exercise and nutrition, as well as her love of her family, and always-interesting blog posts have put her high on my daily must-read list. So I was thrilled when she asked me to fill in with a guest post while she is on vacation.
Here is the reality: unless you are an elite runner who is sponsored and paid to be a professional runner and dedicate your life to training and running … nearly every run will include some form of compromise. What do I mean by that? Let me take a minute and explain.
When I first started running at 23 to lose weight, I tried to run at night after work but that wasn’t working, so I switched to mornings. My start-time was pretty much fixed, so adding in a 30-45 minute workout meant getting up about an hour earlier every morning. THAT meant either going to bed earlier or dealing with less sleep – which is inherently a compromise, since going to sleep earlier means less time for after-work activities and so on. Make sense so far?
Add on work travel, a girlfriend-turned-fiance-turned wife, buying a house, and having two kids, all while maintaining a demanding job … and you have a recipe for loads of extra compromises during my 25+ years of running. And once you have added in all of those dynamics, you are not just compromising your own time – it starts to involve others. I have seen this reflected a lot in parents with young children training for marathons – they have to flex their lives around available time, or their spouse has to flex their schedule to accommodate training, or some other arrangements need to be made to deal with children who need supervision.
View from the Runner’s Side
Our spouses families and friends are our biggest supporters, cheerleaders, provide encouragement when you’re down, and more … but they really don’t understand why we do this to ourselves. They don’t ‘get it’ – which sounds insulting, but stick with me for a bit. Many of them understand the love of exercise, the drive for fitness and excellence and constant betterment … but there are limits. Here are a few thoughts on why we love this sport so much:
1. I Know I Don’t NEED to, But I DO!
As I said, the first 20 years of ‘my running life’, I would not run on weekends, and if we had other ‘calorie burning activities’ I would tend to skip my run. So when Lisa said to me the other day ‘you don’t NEED to run today, you know’ – I replied, I KNOW I don’t … but I want to.
It is a concept that is not easy for non-runners – they ask ‘why?’ … is it fitness? Weight loss? Endurance? Training? Sanity? or WHAT?!? And of course the answer is ‘yes’ – sometimes to all of those questions and other times to one in specific.
2. Racing Isn’t About Running, But It Is
When I sign up for a race, I am committing myself to do my best. I am not a ‘casual racer’, I sign up for very few, so I want to make the most of them, properly assess my fitness and training, and put forth my best run.
Again, this makes sense to an extent – but what can I possibly get from a 10K that I couldn’t get on my 6.25 mile loop?
Unlike running the normal routes, a race makes you start at a specific time, run with others, consider fueling differently, and realize that everything you do is measured and you get an overall assessment at the end – and learn about how you handled that run compared to a bunch of others.
3. Racing Is About Social Aspects, But Also Solo Time
Aside from my brother and the Wineglass Marathon, I have never specifically run with someone else at a race. Sure I see people I know and say hi, but basically I am there for ME. It is about how I go through this challenge, how I handle everything, and what my body delivers.
Yet I also am social and have no problem having a few chats along the way. The biggest one was during my last half-marathon last year, where I was trying to work and even pace, and ended up chatting with a woman for several miles. She had recently lost her daughter and was stuff suffering after-effects of divorce, and running was an escape.
So being at a race allows me to share the experience with others … but the experience is uniquely my own. That strange dichotomy is something non-runners don’t really understand.
4. Racing, Like Running, Is Never ‘Done’.
It seemed to make sense – once I ‘conquered’ running a 5K I would move on, and by the time I did a half- and full-marathon there was no need to ever go back, right?
Each 5K I ran I have improved my time, same for every half- and full-marathon. It is about working hard, improving myself, and doing better all the time.
This is a tough one – the media makes it seem like 5Ks are fun little things and Marathons are ‘serious’. But guess what? They are all races – and we can always learn more about ourselves and our running by challenging ourselves in new races. Which leads me to …
5. I Will Never Stop Wanting to Improve
While I do mostly the same sorts of runs during the week, I am constantly trying new things – new route, new distance, new mini-challenge, and so on. I always want to be better. I mentioned in my weekend post how hills are an evolving challenge for me, and that I have a blast pushing myself more and more with them.
Same for races – I want to keep hitting better and better times, trying new things, and find different ways to push my comfort zone.
6. I am Acutely Aware of the Chance of Injury
Many non-running people only hear about running in a bad way – injuries, attacks, and so on. And since they worry about us, they worry that we might end up hurt.
And there are many ways to get injured – under-fueling, large routine change-ups, too much too fast, and so on. When our families and friends question of we are going to get hurt, they are expressing concern – and that is a good thing. Answer honestly – tell them what you are doing to ensure you are not headed towards injury, then follow through.
7. I Just Really, Really Love to Run
There is a practice in ‘Lean Six Sigma’ called ‘The 5 Whys’ … which is ultimately about getting to the root cause – asking Why once gets you surface info, again gets you deeper and so on until you get to the core.
I feel like there are the ‘5 Whys of Running’ – and I hear them particularly during the winter. Because it is -20F and I could be on a treadmill … or in bed. But I am not.
Because I am a runner, I love running outside, I just completely love running, and there is no sport or activity that can replace it for me. So unless there is active lightning or dangerous ice … you know where you’ll find me. By choice. Every day.
Because I love running … because I am a runner.
View from the non-Runner’s Side
But that statement – that non-runners don’t ‘get it’ – doesn’t tell the whole story or paint the entire picture or whatever tired metaphor you prefer. The people around us are NOT stupid, and chances are that as runners we have provided them with plenty of reasons to be concerned and count our own objectivity about running. Which means we aren’t necessarily objective about the greater impact of our activities – and so we need to listen when we are told “you have no idea what it is like to be waiting on the other side of the finish line.”:
1. It is NEVER ‘Just a Run’
Sure you can get hurt stepping into the shower, but running presents unique challenges. All this winter I ran in some incredibly dangerous conditions – sub-zero temperatures with strong winds, days school was cancelled, unplowed roads and so on. In summer, there is heat exhaustion and dehydration to content with as well! Sometimes we say we’re going for 5-6 miles and end up doing 9-10 (that isn’t just me, right?) and our family wonders where we are. Things a runner might call ‘a challenge’, their supporters think of as ‘scary’ or ‘stupid’.
The longer the distance, the greater the chance of things happening, the greater the worry.
2. The Fear of the Medical Tent
This past year at the Wineglass Marathon was brutal. Not only were the temperatures over 88F and humid, it had already cooled down in our area so no one was ready for it! As a result I passed two people loading into ambulances, had a police officer ask about another collapsed runner, saw more people vomiting than usual, people really hating it, and so on.
But while I saw that from the road, all my wife and kids saw was the people in awful shape finishing before me, including one who collapsed and had to be carried off less than 100 yards before the finish – and an overflowing medical tent. The uncertainty is incredibly hard for those waiting for loved ones – all they can do is sit and wait for you to appear.
3. By The Side of the Road, Somewhere
Pretty much every week this year there has been something on Facebook about a runner or biker who was hit or side-swiped or otherwise run off the road. And despite having ‘Find my phone’ and so on, it can be nerve-wracking when our loved ones head out the door, and don’t really know exactly when they’ll be home, and so on.
Every weekend when my run my kids ask me about my plans – how far, how long, planned routes. And I almost invariably run longer than originally planned, so they ask a follow up, because sometimes I have a hard limit, or they will need to get somewhere, or something.
4. Running a Marathon? 3-4 Hours Means 2 – 3 Days!
Last summer when I did the PA Grand Canyon, getting the packet was the day before, and the hours were about noon to 6, meaning that with the 1+ hour drive it ripped apart THAT day, then the race day is pretty much entirely consumed. And if you are traveling further then you might end up with two nights in a hotel.
And suddenly we see how a nice little morning run and cheap shoes twice a year can transform into something that takes up entire weekends and costs thousands of dollars per year between race fees, lodging, transportation, supplies, equipment and so on.
In most families, income flows into a ‘bucket’, and expenses flow out. There are savings requirements (hopefully), and then money left for use as a family and as individuals. Once running and racing steps over the ‘discretionary spending’ line, something else is being sacrificed.
5. Fear of Injury
Runners worry about injuries, but so do their loved ones for a few reasons: the obvious concern about any injury, knowing how much the inability to run will impact the person’s life, and the ‘stupid factor’.
There are some of my friends here who will laugh at that – but I can cite more than a couple of people who have ended up re-injured or hurt their recovery by being over-zealous, and at least one I am pretty sure did it but never fessed up.
6. More Than Just You
Again, the risk you take, the chance of injury, and so on … they don’t happen in a vacuum. If you are hurt or hit by a car or suffer a heart attack, you are unable to be there for loved ones, your job, your kids, and so on. And while you can certainly get an injury doing anything, doing an endurance sport where you push your body like a marathon adds to the risk, and it is always worth considering the risk/reward in the context of all the others impacted by your life.
The bottom line? While running is a solo activity, it is very much a ‘team sport’. I am very lucky to have an amazing team to support me and call me out on all of the stupid crap I do … and I really try to listen to the feedback (key word: try). As runners, that is what we need to do – be thankful for the love in our lives, appreciative of the support, and reflective of all the worry and concern these people have for us. And we should listen.
Some Final Thoughts
It is interesting that now my kids are older most of the TIME compromise has gone back to being my own. The boys are 16 and 17 and don’t need as much supervision, and when Lisa is off either we will exercise at the same time or I will take the day off. I always run before anyone else wakes up, so I don’t impact anyone else’s schedule that way.
But the financial impact of me running many more miles and races and needing more equipment has an impact on everyone at a time when saving everything possible is more important than every with two kids looking at starting college in the next couple of years.
And the reality is there are many more ways that my running impacts things in our family life, a few of which I mentioned here.
Question of the day
How does running impact YOUR life and the lives of those around you?