Posted in Fitness, Opinions and Thoughts, 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!

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Posted in Race Reports, 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!

Posted in Etiquette, Opinions and Thoughts

Wednesday Whys, 28 Nov 2012

I managed to run a bit during the Thanksgiving break. Since I didn’t have to work, I managed to run outside a lot. Since I don’t listen to music when I’m running outside (only when I’m in a race!), my thoughts were darting here, there, and everywhere. Here are the ones I remembered when I got back home:

  • Why must we edit classics like ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas or It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown so that they are politically correct? Are we really being sensitive and inclusive by doing this? Or are we simply re-writing history a la Orwell’s 1984?
1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual
  • Why do people blow their noses at the table? Don’t they realize that it’s gross and disgusting to people who are eating?
Oh, that’s nasty…
  • Why are minority groups allowed to use racial slurs on one another but if another racial group uses the same word, it’s bad?
Shhh…don’t say anything
  • Why do dictionaries define words using the root word itself? Example: discretionary – subject or left to one’s own discretion (dictionary.com) At least the website gives a clickable link to “discretion” but would it really kill the writers to define discretionary as “subject or left to one’s own freedom of judgment or choice”?
Dictionary entry
  • Why do people tell you that you look great when you know you look like a sausage?
Running sausage

And the thought processor churns on…

Posted in Etiquette, Opinions and Thoughts, Running

Do You Run with Baggage?

English: Bespoke red custom baggage - Tanner K...

Do you run with baggage? What thoughts wander around in your head while you’re running? Are they good thoughts? Brilliant ideas? To do list items?

When I run on the treadmill, even if I’m watching a movie or a television show, there are a lot of thoughts wandering around in my head. For me, running time is processing time. Time to think about whatever I saw, read, observed, encountered, worked on, etc. since my last run. Or time to zone out if things were stressful.

When I run outside, my mind usually isn’t on my surroundings because it’s processing, just like it does on my treadmill runs. Do I notice my surroundings? Sure, especially if I’m running in a new place. Do I notice the cars whizzing by? Of course, safety when running outdoors is important to me. Do I notice other runners, walkers, and bikers? Absolutely, we are sharing the same space, after all.

Do I acknowledge those runners, walkers, and bikers? If you read my post, To Cheer or Not to Cheer – There is No Question, you know what I like to acknowledge others. So when I’m running outside, I’ll usually greet other runners, walkers, and bikers with a hearty, “Good morning!” or a cheery, “Hello!” Sometimes I smile and nod. I don’t wave. I’m not a fan of waving. How do I decide whether to speak or just smile and nod? If they have their headphones on, I’ll smile and nod. If they are with a companion and they’re in the middle of a conversation, I won’t acknowledge unless one of them makes eye contact. If they are on the phone, I may smile and nod or I may speak. If I’m feeling grumpy, I may just nod.

I have a lot of guidelines to acknowledging others on the road, right? I don’t have hard and fast rules about acknowledging other. I like to do it. Do I always do it? No. Do others always return my gesture? Of course not. Do I care if they don’t? Absolutely not.

A Facebook running group recently discussed the topic of runners not returning acknowledgments. The majority of people who commented said that they were offended or annoyed or irked or bothered when people didn’t return their greetings. It’s rude, some said.

I disagree with them. I’m sure I’ve been on the other side of not reciprocating an acknowledgment because I’ve been lost in my thoughts. If I ignored an acknowledgment, it wasn’t intentional. It certainly wasn’t personal. It doesn’t mean that I hate the person. It doesn’t mean anything at all.

If my acknowledgment is not returned, I know that it’s not about me. I may think to myself, “Well, I tried.” Or, “They must be having a bad day.” If my mom is on my mind, I might tell myself, “Their mom must have told them not to talk to strangers.” If I’m huffing and puffing pretty hard, I sometimes think, “They must not have understood what I was saying.” I let the thought come and then just as quickly, I let it go.

I have too much other stuff going on in my head to stuff any more baggage in there that doesn’t need to be there. I have enough emotional baggage of my own that I don’t need to be worried about whether a complete stranger snubbed me. I’m a slow enough runner that I don’t need to be weighed down by additional baggage like that.

If you see me running outside and you speak to me or smile/wave/nod and I don’t respond, don’t take it personally. I don’t hate you. I’m not ignoring you. I’m not secretly plotting your demise. It’s possible that I didn’t hear you, especially if I’m listening to music. It’s possible that I didn’t see you because of the glare from the sun or because I blinked. It’s possible that I’m struggling to find a rhythm and just missed your friendly gesture. It’s most likely that I’m lost in thought and just wasn’t paying attention. I can guarantee you 100% that it’s not about you.

So don’t hold it against me. Because it’s highly probable that the next time you see me, you’ll get a cheery greeting and a big, goofy smile. And I hope you’ll return my friendly gesture. But if you don’t, I won’t hold it against you. And I won’t give it a second thought.

Roobarb smiles

Happy Running!

Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report: MC PAL Mother’s Day Artichoke 5k

2012 Mother's Day Run T-Shirt
2012 Mother’s Day Run T-Shirt

This race report has been a long time in the making and even as I sit here now, I’m not really quite ready to write it. But I have to write it so I can move on to other topics that have been whirling around in my head.

Normally race reports are easy to write because I’m usually really excited about how I ran or felt or because  I’m annoyed by something related to race organization. I’ve been putting off writing this race report because all-in-all, it was a good race and yet I’m not satisfied.

The MC PAL Mother’s Day Artichoke Run/Walk is held each Mother’s Day, which is usually a week before the Artichoke Festival. I’ve run this race a few times before even though it’s on Mother’s Day because my mom looks forward to the entry bracelet to the Artichoke Festival that is a part of the race swag. That’s part of my Mother’s Day gift to her.

My parents don’t normally join me for Sunday events because of church – they’re rather inflexible about church while I’m extraordinarily flexible about it. But, they switched to a Saturday service a year or so ago so that excuse is moot now. I was able to convince them to participate in this event and that was a big deal because (1) this was my mom’s first 5k since her partial hip replacement last summer and (2) now I know just how much my dad’s knees bother him.

Race day weather was perfect – slightly overcast and slightly chilly. There seemed to be fewer people than in prior years but that didn’t surprise me because there seemed to be significantly less advertising for this event than in years past. There was no registration link from the Artichoke Festival website and I didn’t get an email from the race organizers until the early bird deadline had come and gone.

Some new things for this race included:

  • A nice technical t-shirt – I’m not one of those race snobs that won’t sign up for a race if the race t-shirt is a cotton shirt but it’s always a nice surprise to get a technical t-shirt as part of the race swag.
  • A new race route – the race organizers worked to change the route so that runners spent less time running next to the highway and more time running in the artichoke fields. I know that a lot of people appreciated that because that meant less exhaust to breathe in but I rather like running next to the highway because cars sometimes beep and people randomly wave at the runners and walkers.
  • Artie, the Artichoke Festival mascot was there taking pictures and hamming it up with the race participants and their families before the race.
  • Course guidance – three youngsters on BMX bikes were on the course this year, with one rider leading the pack, another rider staying in the middle of the pack, and a third rider sweeping the children from the fun run.
  • A 3k run for children.

If I were in charge of this race, here are a couple of things that I would change for the 2013 event:

  • Re-establish the relationship between this race and the Artichoke Festival – an entry bracelet to the Artichoke Festival was not part of the race swag this year and we were all disappointed but even more than that, not being publicized on the Artichoke Festival website probably hurt attendance. Personally, I would rather have the entry bracelet than a tech t-shirt or even a cotton t-shirt.
  • Go back to the old route – while it was nice to run along the artichoke fields, the 10k race route was not very graceful and included an awkward spur right at the end of the race. If I had been a 10k runner, I know I would have hated the new route. But also, the old route didn’t have us running along the highway for very long and, at 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning, there isn’t that much traffic on the highway anyway.
  • Don’t run the children’s fun run at the same time as the race. Most races with a fun run have the fun run first and then the race but the new fun run took off at the same time as the race and followed the same course, which made the turnarounds a little confusing.
  • I realize that we call it a 5k and a 10k but that doesn’t mean that the markers need to be kilometer markers. Most of us train using miles and we’re looking for mile markers. When I saw the big “1” sign, I looked at my watch and thought, “No way.” So I slowed down and by the time I realized that the signs were marking off kilometers instead of miles, it was too late to salvage a decent time for this run.
  • Get a sound system that works for the awards ceremony. The announcer was louder when she was just speaking than when she started speaking into the microphone. I’m not sure what that was all about but if you’re going to use a sound system, make sure that it works.

The food at this event is always great. Fruit, granola bars, mini energy bars, and bagels with cream cheese before AND after the race. This year there were lots of big fresh strawberries. It’s always funny to me to see non-racers pigging out at the snack table both before and after a race. We saw a lady who was neither a runner nor a volunteer cramming about a dozen granola bars into her pockets before the race. I guess people are hungry!

Despite that list of things that I would change if I were in charge, this was still a good event and I would come back again next year even if none of those things change.

Happy Running!

Posted in Running

Running with Rambo

I am on a mission. Before the end of the year, I am going to turn Rambo into a runner. That is my mission.

Pretty simple and straightforward, right? Let me explain.

Rambo is a walker. He’s used to a brisk morning stroll on the weekdays. Brisk enough to get his heart beating a little faster than normal but leisurely enough so that he can smell the wildflowers. Long enough to get out of the house to smell the fresh air but not so long that he would miss his next meal. Early enough in the day to sometimes beat the sunrise but perfectly timed so that the rest of the day can be spent doing other, more important things.

Important things like lounging around on the couch, chasing after one of the three cats, and barking at the mailman.

Yes, Rambo is a dog. He’s a four-year-old mutt with hemophilia. Had he not been diagnosed with hemophilia when he was a puppy, he probably would have been running with me right from the start. But I always worried that he might cut his paws on broken glass or sharp plastic fragments or whatever other pieces of trash there might be on the sidewalks and roads. It was easier to leave him at home than to worry about him getting hurt while we were running.

But after his second birthday, we were able to relax and stop worrying so much about him getting cut or scratched or starting to bleed internally again. So he began joining my parents for their weekday morning walks, which he thoroughly enjoys. He knows when it’s time for the morning walk and is as excited for the walk as he is to go for a ride in the car. He has his shearling walking jacket for the fall and winter walks and his windbreaker for the spring walks. He has his favorite fence posts and lamps to lift his leg on and he has learned not to just squat in the middle of a crosswalk to do number two.

With all that, why would I disrupt his routine? I’d like to say it’s solely because he’s become a little roly-poly since my parents don’t walk as fast as they used to walk – my mom had a partial hip replacement last July and my dad’s waiting to be called for knee surgery. But that wouldn’t be the whole truth.

Yes, Rambo has become a little rounder these past nine months but he’s still healthy and able to play for hours on end. My reason for wanting to turn Rambo into a runner is mostly selfish. Taking Rambo for a run makes it easier for me to want to run outside instead of on the treadmill. Since I’m a big treadmill fan, I truly need all the motivation I can get to encourage me to run outside.

Rambo 2010

Results so far have been mixed. He loves going out with me after work but he’s not used to trotting along for 20 minutes at a time. I have to keep an ongoing stream of encouragements and blandishments so that he doesn’t slow to a walk. My running pace is slower because of him, which is incredibly funny to me because I am a slow runner. The last time we ran, I felt like I was dragging him the whole time and that he only picked up the pace once we came within sight of the house.

I haven’t given up yet because I have a feeling that once Rambo finds his running legs, he’ll be pulling me along.

Happy Running!

Posted in Running

Help! I’m Being Attacked by…

Italiano: Trespolo per rifiuti English: Garbag...
Image via Wikipedia Trash can

I’m being attacked. I’m running and I’m being attacked. No matter how fast I go, I can’t escape. I dodge first to the left then to the right but it’s hopeless. There are too many of them. And each evasive maneuver only serves to move me closer to one of them.

No, I’m not dodging snowflakes or slow walkers or crazy drivers. I’m being attacked by litter on my run around the pond. Plastic bags swirl in the wind. Napkins and crumples of paper roll around each time a car passes. Take-out boxes jammed into bushes along the sidewalk rustle with each gust of wind, eager to be free, to take flight.

I cannot escape the detritus drifting around my ankles, over my feet.

As I run, I wonder who dropped that Jack-in-the-Box bag next to the garbage can. Whoever it was, it’s obvious they didn’t make the varsity basketball team. The crows have gleefully swooped onto the bag, ripping it open, looking for scraps. Surely someone too lazy to put the bag into the trash bin will have left bits of food amongst the discarded wrappers.

Plastic bags flutter as I pass, weighted down by something I can’t see. Don’t worry, I think as I keep running, the crows will get to you, too, and set you free to float along.

I suddenly find myself wishing that I was walking and that I had brought a garbage bag with me to clean up the mess that other people have carelessly left behind, thoughtlessly thrown out of the window of a passing car, inconsiderately dropped as they walked along.

And just as suddenly, I realize another benefit of my treadmill – no litter attacking my ankles.

Happy running!