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!

Posted in Running, Travel

It’s All About Choices

Where are u going to..????
Where are u going to..???? (Photo credit: Goianobe)

During a recent run, I flashed back to an exchange I had with one of my tour guides in Scotland in April 2012. She had remarked on the size of my suitcase. It was a standard 28″ case that I usually bring on non-hiking vacations. I didn’t think my suitcase was inappropriate given that I was on a 15-day holiday so I said, a tad defensively, “I’m here for two weeks.”

To which she replied, “I rode my motorcycle all over the US for three months with just my saddlebags. When you get home, go to a BMW motorcycle dealership and they’ll teach you how to pack.” I politely smiled and nodded as I’m wont to do in situations where someone who doesn’t know me treats me with an air of smug superiority.

I smiled and nodded but inside, I was a bit irked. I know how to pack. I can go on a week-long business trip and just take a 19″ roll-aboard, which covers a different outfit each day, dinner outfits for each evening, and my running gear. And this woman, a complete stranger, was telling me that didn’t know how to pack?

I flashed back to this interaction because I had just finished packing for a 7-day business trip and had too much room in my 22″ case so ended up squeezing everything into my 19″ case.

It’s all about choices.

Could I have used a smaller suitcase for my Scotland trip? Sure. But I didn’t want to spend my vacation washing my knickers and t-shirts in the sink each night. I didn’t want to have vacation pictures with me wearing the same pullover day after day. So I chose to bring a bigger bag so that I would have more time to make memories and so that those memories would be happy ones.

It’s all about choices.

The same goes for race preparation, race training plans, and race expectations. I had to switch gears last week to a different marathon training plan because the original plan I chose was simply too intense. The workouts and the paces were such that I dreaded my runs instead of looking forward to them. Dreaded them so much that I didn’t run at all during the first official week of training.

I knew that I needed to shift gears and find a plan that wouldn’t intimidate me. I needed to find a plan that would allow me to enjoy running again and not dread it. Or, in the simplest terms, I needed a plan that fit my inner slacker – one that had just enough structure but not too much structure. So I did some looking and dug up a very basic beginner just-finish-the-marathon plan. Luckily, it was one week shorter than the other plan so I wasn’t having to play catch up right out of the gate.

Since it’s a beginner plan, the build up is gradual and seems infinitely more manageable. And I know that if I follow it, I will be able to meet my goal of improving on last year’s marathon. Of course, I’m already tweaking the plan to fit my schedule and my life. But after just one week, I already notice the difference in my attitude about running. It’s no longer, “I have to run a 5-mile tempo run tomorrow.” Instead, it’s more like, “I can’t wait to see if I can push the pace a little bit during my 4 miles tomorrow.”

It’s all about choices.

Could I have gutted it out and stuck with the more intense training plan? Adjusted the paces down a little bit to be less intimidating? Sure. But that wouldn’t have addressed my attitude about running. So I chose to find a more realistic plan so that I can nurture my love of running with less potential to get injured and a higher likelihood of meeting my goal.

It’s all about choices. In packing, in planning, in running, and in life. Make your choices good choices.

And the thought processor churns on…

Posted in Race Reports, Running, Travel

Race Report: Inaugural Edinburgh Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon 2012

The days leading up to the inaugural Edinburgh Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon 2012 were overcast with scattered showers. The weather reports predicted cold temperatures (1° C) and chilly winds with chance of scattered showers for race morning. So, of course, race day dawned sunny with not a cloud in the sky and, although a bit nippy, just the barest of breezes sweeping through the starting area in Holyrood Park.

For an inaugural event, things were rather smooth, which is a testament to the Rock-n-Roll organization.

120415 RnR Edinburgh Half Medal
120415 RnR Edinburgh Half Medal

The expo was set up in the park, right where the finish festivities – concerts and awards presentation – would take place after the race. Because of the open setup, everything was in tents. The bib and chip tent was off to the left and the t-shirt and gear bag tent was straight on so most people began by queuing in the t-shirt/gear bag line. I think better signage would be helpful in the future. Or another suggestion would be to have a big tent that starts with bib/chip pickup then flows to t-shirt/gear bag pickup and then flows to the souvenir store.

I mention the souvenir tent because I also almost missed it. The souvenir tent was a compact affair with the sample items hanging on the walls with signs indicating sizes and prices. Easy enough, right? Not if you’re queued up behind a half-dozen Italians who needed to see all the sizes available for all the items. And then, as one bought an item, another one would see it and want one just like it. Only in a different size, of course. So then the clerk would have to pull out all the sizes again while trying to wrap up the first transaction. Repeat six times before it was finally my turn.

All I wanted was my usual commemorative t-shirt plus a beanie cap. The t-shirt has become my tradition at races away from home – because sometimes a finisher’s t-shirt isn’t appropriate attire. The beanie cap was for the weather. Although I packed an assortment of Bondi Bands which could be pulled down over my ears, given the dire weather warnings on the BBC, I wasn’t sure they would be sufficient. By buying that beanie cap, I took my first step toward breaking my cardinal rule of racing.

Gear acquired, I headed back to the hotel, stopping to buy a bacon roll from one of the food vendors. I promised myself another such roll after the race. Mmm…good incentive.

120413 Edinburgh RnR City Centre Road Closures
Bus stop notice showing closures/diversions due to the 2012 Edinburgh RnR Half-Marathon

The night before the race, I listened to the weather report again. The report said frosty and windy and chances of showers. I considered my planned race outfit. I watched another weather report. I looked at my race outfit again.

The road to hell is paved with broken rules, right? My cardinal rule for races is that you don’t wear race swag until you’ve earned it. If I broke my rule for this race, who knew what other evil acts I was capable of committing?

I tried on the race t-shirt. Not the cotton one I bought at the souvenir store but the tech t-shirt given to all registered runners during packet pickup. It fit perfectly. My long-sleeved shirt went on top. I waffled but the next weather report convinced me – I needed the layer. And the beanie cap.

As noted earlier, race day weather was gorgeous – chilly for sure but I could have survived without the extra layer. And probably the beanie cap, too. Ah well, at least I was prepared for the worst weather.

If I needed a theme for this race, it would be “Chilly and Hilly.” A fellow runner I met on a day tour the day after the race commented that the hills only seemed to go up and never down.

That, of course, was a slight exaggeration. We had at least two nice long downhills – heading out of Holyrood Park into the City Centre and then the final mile back into Holyrood Park for the finish. Thank goodness the race directors weren’t cruel and didn’t plan an uphill finish.

120415 Edinburgh RnR Going Down Side of Arthurs Seat
The start of a nice long downhill

The scenery went from residential to coastal to residential to park to city to park to city to park. Running along the sea wall took me by surprise – I didn’t expect us to be that close to the sea during the race. Lines from my favorite poem, Sea Fever by John Masefield, flitted through my head during those miles.

120415 Edinburgh RnR Seaside
Gorgeous views along the Firth of Forth, miles 4 & 5.

The residential areas were another surprise. Little clusters of people gathered here and there outside their houses to clap, smile, and offer words of encouragement. Since I’m a slow runner (just ahead of the 2:30 pace group through the first 2/3 of the race) the thought that people would spend a chunk of their Sunday morning cheering for strangers was quite heartening.

As usual, the race organizers set up entertaining bands and DJs at just the right spots. The volunteers on the race course were great about managing the traffic. There was a lot of waste, though.

Instead of cups of water and Gatorade at the hydration stations, they gave out bottles of water and Powerade. I thought that was great because I took a bottle of water at the first station and carried it until it was empty and then grabbed a Powerade bottle. But other people took a sip or two and then chucked their bottles. Or, even worse, they’d grab two bottles, take a couple of sips out of one and chuck it, and then do the same with the other bottle further down the road. It was especially sad to see 500 mL bottles of Powerade – almost full – chucked in the gutter.

I learned from fellow runners at a whisky tour a couple of days after the race that the bottled water and Powerade was likely in response to people getting sick from cups of city water at the Rock-n-Roll Las Vegas event last December. I don’t know if they ever proved that the people who got sick actually got sick because of the water but apparently the Rock-n-Roll organization wasn’t taking any chances. It’s too bad that their cautiousness resulted in so much waste.

120415 Edinburgh RnR Cowsgate 1
Perfect shot for #SeenOnMyRun ~ didn’t notice the front of the cow until I was looking at pictures for this blog post!

The end of the race was a fast downhill portion and when I turned towards Holyrood Park and the finish, I could hear the announcer greeting the runners as they covered the last bit of the distance. I made the final turn to the finish gate, looked up, and there she was – the little energetic blond from the San Jose Rock-n-Roll half-marathon. Microphone in hand, she cheered for the runners, exhorting them to smile, encouraging them as they took their last few steps to cross the finish line, and giving high-fives to everyone who swerved over to her.

As I’m writing this, I’m already looking forward to seeing her in October at the San Jose Rock-n-Roll half-marathon.

I’m also looking forward to getting my World Rocker Heavy Medal at the end of the year.

This is a good event for a newbie traveler (always easier to travel to a country where they speak English) who wants to run in an organized race event.

Happy running!