The Run Around

After a few running-related post mentions (like this, this and this), I’ve gotten a bunch of requests to write a more in-depth post about my hobby – so I’m veering off home topics just for today (like we’ve done with hair-cuttingEminem, nursing, and Clara’s birth story to name a few other times). But don’t worry, I’ll be back with more deck progress on Monday (it’s actually starting to really LOOK LIKE A DECK – you have no idea how exciting that is to us). As for the subject of running, I’ve hesitated to tackle this subject a few times, because although I call myself a “runner” and it’s a hobby I’ve enjoyed for over a decade, I’m certainly no expert. I don’t subscribe to any strict running lifestyle or rigorous routine. But I do run races (usually 10Ks, although I’ve done one half marathon). And I enjoy my Runner’s World subscription (despite Sherry’s jokes that it’s the same articles each month about stretching and running shoes just slightly repackaged).

How I Got Started: I got the running bug my second year of college (2002) after a couple of failed attempts to get into it before that (I never made it past the track team “interest meeting” in high school). It didn’t stick until my roommates (one was already a runner, the other was a newbie like me) welcomed me on their nightly 20-minute jogs one unseasonably warm January. What was different about this attempt? I think because for once the act of running took a backseat to other things like socializing with my friends and enjoying the great outdoors. Shortly after that, another friend convinced me to sign up for a 10K she was doing later that spring – oh the things college guys do for college women. That was Richmond’s Monument Avenue 10k, a race I’ve now done every year since (2012 being my 11th consecutive time). I threw up at the end of that first one, but apparently not enough to turn me off to the whole running thing. Though that girl and I never worked out, fortunately I snagged myself another one…

Why I Run: Let’s start with the usual suspects. I enjoy the fitness benefits of it (mainly it makes me feel better about occasionally eating junk food) and it’s a great stress reliever. I like the self-competitiveness of it – trying to better a race time or run a longer distance. But I actually like it most for the music. Weird, I know. But the main way I kept myself motivated to run through college was so that I could listen to a CD I just bought (remember the Discman?). To this day I geek out making special playlists for each race, crafting it to be just about as long as I think I’ll be running – interspersing slow songs as reminders to pace myself and strategically putting fast beats towards the end to help me keep from fizzling out. I did once get a sarcastic “har-har” from Sherry when I explained that MJ’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” belonged at the beginning of my playlist because that’s when, duh, I’m starting something.

I also like to run for the exploration of it all. My dad (who is 67 and faster than me) likes to run the same loop so he can gauge his pace against familiar landmarks. I, on the other hand, prefer to try out new routes and take random turns just to see where it will take me and what scenery I’ll encounter (one of the reasons Runner’s World’s Rave Runs photos often serve as my laptop’s wallpaper). I love getting “lost” on trails so that I can subconsciously add miles finding my way back. Or weaving through city blocks downtown to check out some of Richmond’s coolest homes. Basically, doing circles around a track is my nightmare. Unless I’ve made a good playlist for it, of course.

My Training Schedule: I’d love to share a running routine with you guys, but I don’t have one. I used to aim for 3 days a week, but now 8-10 times a month is a good month. Part of the reason I sign up for races is to guarantee at least one run in my future – and hopefully a few in advance to make sure my body remembers how to put one foot in front of the other. My most disciplined year was back in 2007, when I really pushed myself to get a good time in the Monument 10k. My 10+ mile training runs paid off with my fastest 10K time yet (and still) at 46:23. It also gave me the confidence to run my first (and only) half marathon two weeks later. That earned me a 1:52:27 time and a case of runner’s knee that has haunted me ever since.

My Goals: I have secret aspirations of doing a marathon sometime in my lifetime, but despite the physical therapy I did after the injury in 2007 – my knee still starts to complain once I get close to double-digit mileage. Sherry also reminds me that some of my first words after completing the half marathon were “Don’t ever let me do a marathon. I can’t imagine having to do this run twice in a row.” But that was five years ago, so I’m thinking of trying to tackle another half sometime soon to see if it leaves me with the same impression.

Ultimately I want to keep running fun. Right now I get a lot of joy from it – whether from music, scenery, a cheering race crowd, a good conversation with a running buddy or just pushing myself that extra mile. So if I never introduce a training regime of speed drills and hill workouts to my calendar, I’d die plenty happy. Just give me my running shoes, my iPod (with the Nike+ app), and perhaps Clara in her jogging stroller and I’ll be one content runner. Well, and I’d love to have Sherry join me too, but the bad ankle she developed from being one of the fastest girls on her track/cross country team as a teen won’t let her do much more than a fast walk without a swollen grapefruit-looking-ankle to show for it.

If I Had To Offer Some Advice: So now that I’ve firmly establish I don’t have the most conventional or regimented outlook on running, I can’t expect you to give much weight to my advice. BUT, just in case someone out there is looking to start running (or just do it more regularly), here’s what I would offer up as a few things to try:

  • Figure out what about running makes you happy and plan around that. Is it socializing? Then find a friend to run with. Is it being alone with your thoughts? Find some peaceful, uncrowded trails to lose yourself on. Is it the competition? Sign up for races. Not everyone has to enjoy running for the same reasons, so don’t be shy about embracing yours.
  • Don’t push yourself. For most people, any running is better for you than none at all. If you can’t go a mile without taking a walk break, don’t beat yourself up over it. Be proud of the distance you did run and savor the moments you’re walking (I still enjoy a good walk break – notice the red spots on the map above). Who cares if you can’t run a 5K / 10K / half-marathon / marathon / whatever is your unattainable distance? If you spend too much energy lamenting what you can’t do, you won’t put it into relishing what you can.
  • Find a race that you can look forward to. I love organized races – whether they’re 5Ks, 10Ks, whatever. They’re pretty much my favorite thing about being a runner. Not only is the energy of the crowd (both of other runners and the people cheering from the sidelines) a great boost, but I also find they’re great motivators to lace up on my own in preparation. So find a race that speaks to you for some reason – the course looks especially fun, it promises great music, it benefits a great cause, or maybe they throw colored cornstarch at you? – and sign up for it. If you don’t know where to find a race, try a local running shop, sporting goods store, or even a local gym for more info. They usually have flyers up.

Okay, now here’s the part where all you other runners (hardcore or casual like me) can raise your virtual hand and tell me a little bit about your running-self. What’s your favorite part about running? How do you keep yourself motivated? Any particular personal best or success stories you wanna share?


  1. Marjorie says

    I totally relate to this post!

    I rarely even call myself a “runner”… A friend once told me to get over it and call myself a runner already– it’s an empowering noun. It really doesn’t matter how far you run, or how quickly. Being a runner simply means you are disciplined, strong, and dedicated to staying healthy and in shape. So my 11 minute miles in a 10k still qualify someone as a runner!

    The best advice I give to people just starting out:
    1) invest in some high quality socks (I really dig SmartWool PhD running socks);
    2) get some Body Glide for things that might rub (be it shoes, thighs, whatever)- it’s sold at any running store and even some sporting goods stores;
    3) for the ladies, invest in wicking compression capris or shorts. Life-changing.

    Keep up your healthy habit, and kudos on taking Clara in her jogging stroller. She will know how to live a healthy lifestyle because of you, and there’s no better gift to give a child. :-)

  2. Whitney says

    Running is such a HUGE passion of mine. One of my biggest fears is that I wouldn’t be able to run at least three miles whenever I want. There is nothing more fulfilling after a long day at work then putting on my running shoes, grabbing my headset and hitting the pavement. Music is a HUGE part of my running. I’ve done without, but I just don’t run as far or as well. I need my mojo! I teach spinning classes and have noticed that spinning helps my endurance on the long runs. I’ve ran a half before, tempted to do another one, but I feel pretty good with running for an hour. Great post on running! Thanks for sharing.

  3. EngineerMom says


    Thank you SO MUCH for this, especially the last part about figuring out what you love about running, embracing that, and not lamenting what you can’t do!

    I love the part of running that gets me outdoors on quiet trails, with or without music. I also love how I feel after a good sprint at the end of a run, whatever the total distance. I had forgotten that – I haven’t run regularly since I got plantar faciitis in my right foot while training for a New Year’s Eve 5K in Minnesota three years ago (yes, it’s as insane as it sounds, but so much fun to tell people your ran in the middle of winter in Minnesota, plus training for it taught me my lower limit for running temp – 20F is as low as I go!).

    I keep trying to start running again, but we’ve moved since then and I don’t have access to the same quiet parks, and the weather was hot and humid. I thought it was having a second kid that kept me from running, but now reading this, I realized it’s not the kids – it’s the fact that my favorite part of running, the peaceful park-y trails in relatively pleasant weather, was missing. We’re in the middle of another move that will be taking us closer to where I can get that kind of trail again, so now I have hope that I can start again with the healed injury and a better trail in a cooler climate!

  4. Hilary says

    I LOVE running. I love the accessibility of keeping shorts, a tank top, socks and runners in the trunk of my car and having the possibility of absolutely anywhere being my track. I do it for fitness and head space. Sometimes I like borrowing other people’s iPods to mix up my music rotation. The ONLY time I like dirty rap music is while running! I keep myself motivated with registering for races and community runs…. and with snazzy, jazzy running shoes. So many fun colours lately!! I’m a dedicated Asics girl for running.

  5. says

    I am no runner. Or exerciser really. I prefer the Sherry method. Walk with the baby and try to be active around the house.

    The hubs however, is a runner. He LOVES it. He doesn’t do the 5k or 10k road races. Have you ever looked into doing a tough mudder? He did a half marathon one and said he could have done it twice in the same day. It wasn’t bad because each mile is separated by some kind of crazy obstacle that takes a few minutes so you get some time to get your breath back. And it’s fun. And all the proceeds go towards the Wounded Warrior Project. It’s pricey, but would make an awesome addition to your collection.

    • says

      Natalie, you guys must be in a warmer climate if your hubs could have done it twice in one day. My hubs,brother and friend did the Tough Mudder when it was about 40* out and raining the entire day (Cleveland area). Not a single person wanted to be out there longer than they had to be. Everyone ended up running with those foil blankets wrapped around them it was so cold. They’re doing the Virginia Beach one next year! haha! Vacation! =)

  6. says

    I LOVE RUNNING!!! I was a soccer player for 13 years as a kid and have now really gotten into running. I had knee surgery at 20 (now I’m 26) and that really deflated my athletic spirit for a while, but I kept working at it and working at it and now I’m in better shape than I was when I was 16.

    My family are really active runners too (and yes, my step dad at 61 is also way faster than me). We ran a 52 mile relay in Hawaii called the Road to Hana and it seriously was one of the greatest experiences of my life

    And over a year ago I competed in my first (and most likely only also) half marathon. I too thought I was going to die. But I was shooting for 1:55 and I got 1:48! (and I will give all the credit to my boyfriend’s great training schedule and the amazing pacing of my step dad)

    Now I stick with 5k’s because my body just can’t handle longer distances (bad knees, etc.) But I really enjoy getting faster and faster. My best time is 21:11 and I REALLY want to hit under 21 minutes, but recently I got a stress fracture from upping my training so much. But what can I say, becoming a sweaty, dirty mess after a good work out becomes addicting :)

    Keep up the good work!

  7. Amber says

    YOU need to come down to Raleigh for the Krispy Kreme challenge sometime. It’s a fundraiser for a children’s hospital put together by some Park Scholarship alumns from NC State. Basically, you run round trip 5 miles from campus to the local Krispy Kreme downtown where you have to eat a dozen glazed donuts before you can run back.

    I’m not anything near a runner, but I had gotten into pretty good shape a few years ago, losing 100lbs before I had my son. My goal is to get into good enough shape to run the challenge, donuts and all. My husband, who is also not a runner but has had great success with the Couch to 5k, is not willing to do the donut eating part, but you can still run the race anyway, and you get a free dozen donuts. You can even run with jogging strollers!

  8. says

    I’m not a runner at all… I honestly get shin splints thinking about running, but I’m challenging myself this year and getting on the wagon and signed up for an Adventure Run called One Tough Cookie September 15th and then the Color Me Rad Run here in Madison, WI in October, wish me luck!!

  9. Adrianne says

    As a fellow runner, I’m always happy to hear people love to run, and don’t take themselves too seriously.
    That’s all, carry on. ; )
    (Also we are half marathon time twins!! This spring I put up a 1:52:15 half. We’re AWESOME.)

  10. Courtney says

    The paths to Pony Pasture are at the end of my parent’s street. Running alone (with my yellow lab, Barley) with my ipod in, analyzing my life.. that was my favorite past time when I lived in Richmond.
    I am moving home, to Richmond, and starting a new job with Amazon on September 4th. Even though my Barley dog, my running buddy, is no longer with us, I hope I can start running again. And who knows, maybe some day soon I’ll be able to get another lab, perhapys I’ll name him Hops.:)
    Running was one of the only ways I could find peace, and I can’t wait to have that feeling again!

  11. Emily says

    I ran my first marathon almost two years ago, and absolutely loved it! I’ve run 4 half marathons and am signed up for my next half and full in October. I’m no speed demon, but the sense of accomplishment is amazing. It definitely helped that my best friend ran the last six miles of the marathon with me. I don’t think I would have finished without her.

    I also don’t run with headphones. I love the feeling of peace and quiet when running. I also live in a city – so it’s important to be aware of the sounds around me when I get to an intersection etc.

  12. Renee says

    Have you considered triathlons? Yes, you need a road bike, but not a fancy one. I have found that the cross training improves my running and prevents injury (especially knee injury). It also gives you something else to do when it’s too hot to run, and you can see even more of the city. Sprint triathlons are a great way to start.

    I also feel that yoga does wonders for running!

  13. Emma says

    Cool! My sister and I are running the Richmond half-marathon on Nov 10th . You doing that? We’re from the DC-area and I’ve never been to Richmond so we’re looking forward to it. We run for fun and I’m pretty slow. I kinda run races for the free food at the end :P

    • Emma says

      Oh – forgot to add that full-marathons are kinda miserable. I’ve only done two. The last six miles are not a good time. I encourage you to try it at least once though, just so you can enjoy that misery yourself. Being slow, I ran a 4:39 marathon which made the last 6 miles even more torturous.

  14. Susanne says

    Be sure to cross-train too! It will help keep injuries at bay. Yoga, elliptical, deck building, whatever suits your fancy – just make it a part of your training. I’ve run 3 marathons and several halves – after my first half, I said “I can’t imagine running that again” – well, DUH. You run a marathon slower than your half AND you train for it; no wonder I said what I did after running and training only for a half. 9 months after my first half, I ran my first marathon and loved every minute of it (okay, not every minute – it hurt – mentally, physically – but it was absolutely exhilarating to finish). Also, I think someone commented on runners don’t have to be fast – and this is totally true yet a hard thing to get over for new runners. Don’t let intimidation get in your way – run at your pace for that day. Also, if you are meeting up with someone to run with, the general runner’s code is to run at the slower person’s pace (and no resentment allowed!).

  15. says

    Thanks for sharing this!
    Oddly enough, my first and only organised run was a marathon. It totally kicked my butt, but I really wanted to complete a marathon as a mental challenge. I’m a performer (singer) and a lot of managing nerves on stage is a mental game. The fact that I could get my body to continue running when my brain and body were both screaming STOP was indeed a fantastic mental challenge to over come!
    Now I run for exercise and for the feeling of freedom I get from it. Especially when I’m stressed out, the idea of running really fast on an open road is so appealing and comforting.
    I don’t think I’d do another marathon, but after a baby and now being in my thirties, a 10K sounds about right. ;)