Sticks and Stones

When I was running the 2011 Divas Wahine Half Marathon in Honolulu, there was a portion of the course where people had written words of encouragement and drawn funny pictures in chalk on the road. Pretty similar to what Nike did for the Tour de France a couple of years ago. It was unexpected and helped to pass the miles as it was part of the course that didn’t have much in the way of scenery.

Most of the “chalk talk” was encouraging, “You can do this!” or funny, “Donuts at the finish line!” But then there was one that almost made me stop in my tracks. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but it was along the lines of “You bitches got this thing.”

I’m not against swearing – I can swear with the best of them, thanks to 6 years of working in a manufacturing company. And I realize that words that were considered naughty when I was growing up have become more mainstream over the years. But here’s the thing – when I was growing up, our moms were ladies, we aspired to be women, and bitches were female dogs and girls who tried to steal our boyfriends. So despite the ubiquity of the word “bitches” I was a bit taken aback that some random stranger would (1) call me a bitch and (2) think that it was encouraging to me.

As if to reinforce the omnipresence of that word, on campus last Thursday, a young man in front of me called out to a young woman, “Hey there, Melissa, my little bitch.” I can only assume that they were friends as his tone seemed friendly enough and she responded to his greeting.

My goodness. How the world has changed. How the bar for civility and courteousness has dropped.

On Facebook I created an interest group of running and fitness pages that are a mix of fitness articles, motivational quotes and pictures, health and nutrition articles, etc. Imagine my surprise on Thursday morning when I saw this picture posted by the MotivateHopeStrength page:

Namaste My Bitches from the MotivateHopeStrength Facebook Page

Namaste My Bitches from the MotivateHopeStrength Facebook Page

In that same group, there’s a page called I ❤ to run. Again, there are a lot of fitness-related (mostly running) posts, article links, and motivational memes. A few months back, I browsed the website and was on the verge of buying one of their running calendars and a 13.1 sweatshirt for my brother and then I saw this:

Namaste, bitches

Namaste, bitches

 

These things struck me as discordant because to me, “Namaste” does not belong anywhere near “bitches.” To me, as I was taught in my yoga practice, Namaste is a word that means peace, honor, spirituality. According to about.com, “Namaste” is a greeting that means, “The God/Goddess Spirit within me recognizes and honors the God/Goddess Spirit within you.

How does “Namaste my bitches” honor anything about me, about you, about any human being? How does calling someone a “bitch” honor that person? According to dictionary.com –

Screenshot of dictionary.com's definition of "bitch"

Screenshot of dictionary.com’s definition of “bitch”

There is nothing in that definition that even hints at the word being honorable or positive.

If that post had been on a humor page, I might have had a different reaction – grimace and move on. But the fact that the post was on a fitness page that is meant to motivate, inspire hope, and strengthen people made me react differently. We don’t motivate each other by calling one another “bitches.” We don’t inspire hope by calling someone else a “bitch.” And you certainly don’t strengthen someone by calling them a “bitch.”

Remember that rhyme we used to say when we were growing up? “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We’ve learned over the years that it’s not true – words can hurt. Words do matter. Choose them wisely.

And the thought processor churns on…

 

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What’s in a Name?

Juliet:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Picture of a rose

Rose

You know the standard distances:

  • 5k (3.1 miles),
  • 10k (6.2 miles),
  • half-marathon (13.1 miles),
  • marathon (26.2 miles), and
  • ultra (anything over 26.2 miles).

And the not-so-standard distances – 5-miler, 12k, 15k, 10-miler, and more.

But what the heck is a mini marathon?

Apparently some people are trying to get others to call the half-marathon distance a mini marathon. According to wikipedia, a mini marathon is any distance less than a marathon, from a half-marathon all the way down to a 5k.

I don’t like the idea of calling a half-marathon a mini marathon. “Half-marathon” is descriptive. “Mini marathon” is diminutive.

I like the idea of calling a 5k a “mini marathon” even less. A 5k is a 5k, not a mini marathon. A 5k is 3.1 miles, a marathon is 26.2 miles. A marathon is nearly 8.5 times the 5k distance. Don’t diminish the marathon distance by calling anything with less mileage a mini marathon.

The Rock-n-Roll race series, which I love, has developed the annoying habit of calling the shorter distances that they add to a marathon or half-marathon event “mini marathons.” The San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon added a shorter distance race in 2012. It’s a 5 mile course and the Rock ‘n’ Roll race series calls it a mini marathon. The Los Angeles Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon also has a shorter distance race that it calls a mini marathon and it’s not even 5 miles, it’s a 5k. The Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon has a mini marathon event, as well, and – you guessed it – it’s a 5k.

What’s wrong with calling it a 5k? What’s wrong with calling it a 5-miler?

Is it so runners can call themselves marathoners without having put in the sweat, tears, and miles that goes into marathon training? Is this another sign of society dumbing things down in an effort to level the playing field for everyone? Trying to drive out every vestige of competitiveness? In elementary schools now, everyone gets a trophy or medal for something, even if only for showing up. Is this the adult version of that? Call it a “mini marathon” so that people who don’t want to commit to a marathon can call themselves marathoners?

If you run a 5k, be proud that you’ve run a 5k. A 5k is a tough little race, whether you’re running to place or to set a personal best. A 5-miler is nothing to be ashamed of, either. When I reach the 5 mile long run in my training plan, it’s a huge milestone. Running a 10k or any of those other distances is nothing to hang your head about, either. There’s no need to call them “mini marathons” to dress them up and make them seem more than they are. Your non-runner friends might be impressed because they don’t know any better. You runner friends…well, I don’t know what your runner friends would say, but I know what I would say.

Be proud of your accomplishments. Don’t be deceptive.

Happy running!

Is There Middle Ground in the Treadmill vs. Outdoors Debate?

Dark Outside

It happens every year, like clockwork.

With the onset of fall, as darkness falls earlier come the obligatory posts about running safely when it’s dark outside. And the running websites, magazines, and  Facebook groups throw out the question – Do you bring your run inside when it gets dark outside? The answers fly fast and furious, ranging from the tame, “No, I hate the dreadmill,” to the self-righteous, “It’s only a run if you run it outside.”

You know it's cold outside when you go outside and it's cold

You know it’s cold outside when you go outside and it’s cold

Now, as the country is in the throes of the “polar vortex,” we are going through round 2 of runners’ self-righteousness. Once again, the running websites, magazines, and Facebook groups are pitting the “real runners” against the “hamsters on the hamster wheel.” The question takes the form of – It’s X degrees out today, did you run outside or did you break down and hit the treadmill? Once again, the answers fly left and right, ranging from the weather-immune, “Of course I ran outside, just threw on an extra layer,” to the Eeyore-esque, “Call it what it is, the dreadmill,” to the haters, “Yes, I ran on the dreadmill, hated every second of it, and kicked it when I was done.”

picture of a treadmill

Treadmill

Every time these questions pop up or I read comments or posts about the “dreadmill” or people who proudly crow that they run outside exclusively no matter the conditions, I get a visceral reaction. “How dare they put down my beloved treadmill?” I ask myself. “Who are they to judge me or anyone else who runs on a treadmill?” I fume. “I’ve run marathons and half-marathons, too! Why are they bashing one of my training aids?” I rail inwardly.

Is this what a "real" runner's leg looks like?

Is this what a “real” runner’s leg looks like?

I‘m not sure why I have such a strong reaction to those posts, but I do. I’ve actually not renewed a running magazine subscription because one of their editors – yes, an editor – mocked treadmill runners. Why would an editor of a running magazine put down anyone who is running, regardless of where they’re running? Of course, I was accused of not having a sense of humor but what people don’t understand is that the little jabs here and there start to add up and pretty soon, anyone who runs on a treadmill will start to think that they aren’t runners. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it treadmill bullying but if the shoe fits…

Running Shoe

Running Shoe

The treadmill vs. outdoor runner debate will never get as heated as the runner vs. jogger debate. Yes, I saw one running group had resurrected that old saw recently, too. Why will it never get as heated? I can think of 3 reasons:

  1. Treadmill runners are intimidated by the “real” runners and feel inadequate after seeing all the vicious, hateful rhetoric about treadmills. These people don’t want to get flamed by the “real” runners when they make a comment that they run on a treadmill.
  2. A lot of treadmill runners probably don’t consider themselves real runners, which is an incredible fallacy. I’ll bet a majority of treadmill runners are gym-goers who are fit people. They probably crank out 3 to 6 miles 3 to 5 times a week as part of their workout without blinking an eye. But they may not consider themselves runners because they’ve never signed up for a race or because they’ve never followed a training program or because – heaven forbid – they run on treadmill instead of outside.
  3. Treadmill runners are not exclusively treadmill runners. We prefer the treadmill, but we also run outside. We are capable of finding the benefit in both.
No Haters

No Haters

Here’s the interesting thing to consider if you’re one of those outdoor-only runners – a run is a run is a run, no matter where you run it, no matter how fast you run it. We cheer the beginning runners who gasp their way around the block, but we denigrate the runners who have the mental toughness to slog out their runs on a treadmill. Why is that?

And if you’re one of those runners that thinks it’s cute to call it a dreadmill, consider this – if you name it, you own it. You call it a dreadmill and so you’ll dread every minute on it. You’ll never come to terms with how beneficial a treadmill can be. For a mother without childcare, a treadmill in the home could be a god-send. For a woman alone in a strange city, a treadmill in the hotel fitness center may be the only safe option. And the list goes on.

I’m a treadmill runner. I once ran a virtual half-marathon on my treadmill with nothing but music to keep me company. I learned my lesson after that run and now, the biggest television in the house is in the garage in front of my treadmill! But treadmill running has helped my focus, my mental toughness, and my consistency. Do I run outdoors? Of course I do! The fresh air, the sights and sounds, the social aspect of encountering other bikers and runners – what’s not to like? But at 5 o’clock in the morning when it’s still dark outside or after a long day at work, the treadmill is my friend.

My wish for the new year is that we runners support each other. Stop putting each other down. Stop making other runners feel like less than a runner because of where they run, how fast they run, or how they run. In my book, you’re a runner if you run. I don’t care if you run on the sidewalk, on a trail, on a bike path, on the beach, or on a treadmill – to me, you’re a runner. I don’t care if you run a 14 minute mile or a 10 minute mile or a six minute mile – to me, you’re a runner. I don’t care if you run, jog, run/walk, or walk/run – to me, you’re a runner.

In the meantime, wherever you run – Happy running!

Race Report – 2013 San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon

The 2013 San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll (SJRnR) Half-Marathon took place on Sunday, 6 October 2013. This was my fifth time running this race. Once again, I signed up for the 2014 event when I was at the expo on Friday.

Last year I was concerned about the lack of communication from the race organizers because the Nike Women’s Marathon (NWM) race organizers were sending out a lot of emails. This year, it’s exactly the reverse. The communication from the race organizers has been excellent, and the SJRnR Facebook site has been a good resource, too. Meanwhile, the dearth of communication from the NWM organizers is quite worrisome to me and to other runners.

2013 RnRSJ Finisher's Medal and T-shirt

2013 RnRSJ Finisher’s Medal and T-shirt

Expo and Race Swag

Packet pick-up was smooth and the volunteers were friendly and helpful. I know that they require an ID when you pick up your packet. However, it was still nice to have the volunteer tell me that she needed to see my ID because she didn’t believe the age that was printed on my bib.

They didn’t have unisex t-shirts this year so I ended up with a women’s t-shirt. I like the men’s t-shirts because they’re baggy. When I signed up for the 2014 event, I selected a men’s t-shirt. The women’s t-shirts were grey so it will be easy to match next year. I always try to wear the last year’s t-shirt to the current year’s race and, although I love navy blue (the color of last year’s shirt), it was hard to find something to go with it.

Other than the t-shirt, there was no race swag besides the little drawstring backpack. I like the drawstring backpacks because I use them when I travel.

The expo was about the same size as last year. The RnR staff working the RnR “booth” seemed distracted and disinterested. I signed up for the 2014 event and then had to find a volunteer to request my t-shirt. I ended up buying more headbands and some aloe cream, which was expensive so I hope it will be worth it.

Gear Check

The gear check area was organized and neat. As in previous years, I didn’t use the gear check because my hotel was very close to both the start and the finish line. I really like loop courses!

Race Start

The race organizers implemented a wave start this year. I saw some comments on the Facebook page about people hating the wave start. I’m generally ambivalent about wave starts because I’m slow. Although I got very antsy when my corral didn’t move for a long time, I appreciated it in the end because I was able to make a last-minute port-o-let stop, which meant that I didn’t need to make any stops on the course.

Whoever they got to sing the national anthem this year was atrocious. She was so focused on trying to sound nice that she screwed up the words, sang off-key, and was just generally horrible. Again, people have no manners when it comes to the national anthem – people didn’t remove their hats and people continued talking during the entire national anthem. No matter how horribly it is sung, people still ought to have respect for it.

Race Course, Entertainment, and Volunteers

The course hasn’t changed in the past few years. It’s mostly flat with three or four small hills to keep things interesting. I know that the race organizers added the “mini-marathon” last year to increase participation and registration but they really add to the congestion in the early miles.

I had my headphones this year so the bands weren’t as important as they were last year. This year, the music was upbeat, which was good. The cheer teams were enthusiastic and loud. It was great watching them high-five runners and wave their signs, trying to cool the runners off as they passed by.

The volunteers at the water stations and along the way were great. I wish someone could tell them how helpful it is to have someone clapping and cheering for you along the course, especially in the middle miles. Because they really are. When you hear a random stranger tell you that you’re doing great, just when you’re wondering what you’re doing out there, it’s very helpful.

In addition to the volunteers, the residents who came out to watch the race, who pulled out their boomboxes or their instruments, who turned on their water hoses and sprinklers also helped to keep the runners going. I saw a lot of funny signs – not that I can remember any of them now – along the way, too. I hope all the volunteers, cheer teams, bands, and spectators realize how much we appreciate them.

Post Race: Goodies and Medals

The 2013 medal is blah. It matches the shirt. It’s almost as if the race organizers ran out of inspiration when it came to San Jose. After all, what is San Jose known for that you could turn into a finisher’s medal? I hope they get a surge of creativity next year.

The energetic blonde lady wasn’t at the finish line again. The finish line seems anti-climatic without her.

After taking my finisher’s photo, I wandered around the loop collecting water, Gatorade, two containers of chocolate milk, a Power Bar, a Jamba Juice smoothie, a banana, and snap pea crisps. Not a lot of munchies this year but I suppose it was okay because I don’t know how I could have carried anymore. Maybe next year I’ll remember to tuck a little bag in my pocket.

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

Thumbs UP:  The organization of this event is truly flawless.

Thumbs DOWN: I absolutely hate having an event called the “mini marathon” as part of this race day, especially when the distance of that event is 5 miles. What’s wrong with calling it a 5-miler?

Thumbs UP: Getting the high school and middle school children to volunteer is great.

Thumbs DOWN: The water on the course tasted bad. Not at all of the aid stations, just at the first and second aid stations.

Thumbs UP: This event continues to grow and still maintain its high energy and great coordination.

I’m looking forward to running this race again next year. In the meantime…

Happy running!

Race Report – 2012 Peacock Acres Turkey Trot 5k

The 5th Annual Peacock Acres Turkey Trot 5k took place on Saturday, 24 November 2012. This was my first time running this race, but interestingly enough, not my first time running this course.

Check In/Registration and Race Swag

Check-in was straightforward and simple. The volunteers knew what they were doing even if some of the participants didn’t.

I had pre-registered my parents and myself, but I didn’t know my brother would be home for the race so I didn’t register him. His registration process was smooth and simple, as well. Again, the volunteers knew what they were doing.

Race Start

There was a young man dressed in a turkey costume and he was given a head start. The goal was to “catch” and overtake the turkey. The prize for the first person to beat the turkey to the finish line was – you guessed it! – a turkey. The race started on a downhill so at the starting gun, the field took off at a sprint after the turkey. Thank goodness they don’t have us run up that hill to finish!

Race Course

This trail course was very hilly and had areas of sandy soil instead of hard-packed soil. It’s a tough course on a normal day and even tougher on a hot day.

After I finished, I ran/walked back through the course to find my parents. They were a little on the slow side, and I finally found them almost at the halfway mark. My mom always wears too many layers so I ended up carrying two of her sweatshirts for her! The good thing is that they weren’t the last ones to finish. A lot of walkers were struggling with the hills, the sandy soil, and the heat.

Post Race: Goodies and Medals

For a small event, the race organizers had a nice selection of munchies for before, during, and after the race. There was a best costume contest for the dogs – something to remember for next year!

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

Thumbs Up: My entire family – including Rambo – was with me for this race.

Thumbs Down: No age group prizes – I doubt that I qualified for one but I’m pretty sure my brother did. It would have been sweet for him to get an age group prize for his very first 5k.

121124 Gilbert at the Turkey Trot 2

Thumbs Up: This was a dog-friendly race.

This is a tough little course. I would run this race again next year. I’m sure Rambo would enjoy the trail but I’m not sure if my parents will want to come along.

Happy Running!

Race Report – 2013 Run in the Name of Love 5k

The 3rd Annual Run in the Name of Love 5k took place on Sunday, 16 June 2013. This was my first time running this race. This was also the first year that this race partnered with the Big Sur International Marathon organization and I have to believe that it really benefited from that partnership.

Check In/Registration and Race Swag

Check in was straightforward and simple. The volunteers knew what they were doing even if some of the participants didn’t. There were plenty of port-a-potties and no lines, which is always a good thing.

The race t-shirts were royal blue long-sleeve cotton t-shirts, which is great for wearing around on the weekend. Race directors please take note – not all of your race participants want or expect a technical t-shirt for every race. Sometimes a nice cotton t-shirt to lounge around in or run weekend errands in is perfect. And there were bandanas for the dogs.

Race Start

Parents at the starting line ~ In the Name of Love Run/Walk 2013

Parents at the starting line ~ In the Name of Love Run/Walk 2013

The starting ceremony was a bit awkward because apparently, the official ceremony happened in the registration area. When race officials realized that all of the runners and most of the walkers were waiting at the start line, they hustled up and had a second starting ceremony. I didn’t appreciate the announcer’s snide remarks about music. After all, who named him the music expert of the day? But other than that, the National Anthem was stirring and well-sung and all participants were wished well before being sent on their way.

The runners started first and the walkers were given a separate start about 10 minutes later. From a runner’s perspective, this was great because I didn’t have to navigate through the walkers in the early part of the race. The course for walkers was also much shorter so most of them were finished by the time slower runners like myself crossed the finish line.

Race Course

The course ran through the southern part of Carmel-by-the-Sea and north along the road above the beach so there were beautiful views all along the way. The volunteers did a good job making sure that no runners went astray. The water station at the half-way point was organized, well-run, and at a good point in the race.

The finish line was a little bit congested. This wasn’t the fault of the race organizers, rather, it was due to walkers and the dogs congregating just after the finish line and just after the medals. A suggestion for next year might be to move the water tables a little further down the road from the finish line so that people will naturally keep going after they cross the finish line and get their medals.

Post Race: Goodies and Medals

The volunteers giving out the medals did a pretty good job of identifying the 5k runners and the 2k walkers. It still feels odd to me, though, to have to walk up to a volunteer and ask for my medal.

After crossing the finish line, participants and spectators move down the road and then are separated into two streams – participants and spectators. Only participants with bibs are allowed into a corral where they were given bags with munchies. The post-race goodies were pre-bagged, just like at the Big Sur Half-Marathon. I think that’s great because it ensures that everyone gets the same amount of stuff and there’s no hold-up while people pick up their food.

I thought the method to separate the participants and spectators was excellent, as well. I’ve been to enough races where spectators go to the goodie line and grab food and drinks even though they didn’t run or walk in the event at all. After participants picked up their munchie bags, they merged back in with the spectators down the road to the beach where there were tables and chairs set up for people to relax and wait for the auction and raffle. We didn’t stay for either as we had brunch plans.

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

Thumbs Up: My entire family – including Rambo – was with me for this race.

The Garcia family walkers ~ Mama, Rambo, and Papa

The Garcia family walkers ~ Mama, Rambo, and Papa

Thumbs Down: Nothing really stood out as a “thumbs down” for this race, just some things that could be tweaked for next year!

Thumbs Up: This was a dog-friendly race.

Thumbs Up: The organization and the volunteers were exactly what I’ve come to expect from Big Sur Marathon events. Keep up the good work!

I would definitely recommend this race to runners and walkers, especially if they have dogs. Happy running!

From Disenchantment to Closure

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post. There are a lot of reasons for this – the holidays came up, my travel schedule this year has been more intense than in prior years, I’ve chosen to spend time goofing off, etc. But the main reason I’ve not written is that after the 2012 NWM, I became disenchanted with the running community. To be specific, the online running community. To be even more specific, the online running groups on Facebook.

The social aspect – online or in real life – has never been part of why I run. So it’s been frustrating that I let my disenchantment with these online running groups affect my running.

In these past few months, I’ve tried to overcome my disenchantment with my fellow runners. For me, part of overcoming any feeling is figuring out why. Why was I disenchanted with my fellow runners as a result of running groups on Facebook?

I could tell you specific reasons and even share screenshots with you. But that wasn’t the why that I needed to understand. The why that I needed to understand went deeper. Why was I letting these Facebook running groups bother me so? Even after I left the groups and deleted the chats?

For a long time, I couldn’t answer that question. But on a recent trip, I read a brief bit in Hemispheres, the inflight publication of United Airlines, that said we remember things that we see in social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) better and longer than things we see in any other medium. They aren’t quite sure why. They speculate it’s because of the chatty, gossipy nature of social media.

Somehow, after reading that handful of paragraphs, I felt validated for letting those Facebook running groups bother me. And although I’m not ready to engage with those groups again, I am ready to put those bad episodes behind me. I’ve achieved closure as a result of that magazine blurb and plan to get back in the habit of posting regularly.

Have you ever simmered, seethed, and steamed over a Facebook post or a Tweet? Share in the comments below!

Happy Running!