The Dread of Routine – Finding New Routes

Running shoes – check

Wicking clothes – check

Fuel belt – check

Running route – uhhhh . . . not sure. Or worse ‘I’ve run the same route for the last 2 months and I am sick of it!!!!’

Q: What’s a runner to do?  A: Tap into the interwebs or go local.

USATF – the USA Track & Field Association has a great tool for searching for existing routes or creating your own.
MAPMYRUN – Same functionality as the USATF site, pour through all the contributions others have made.
RULER Google Maps – DIY and really the same tool being used by the sites above.
Local running club – Google ‘running club’ or ‘striders’ and add your city, county or state name to the search string. You will most likely find a running club that is relatively near to where you live. It would certainly be a gold mine of info/ideas on new places to run as well as take your game up a notch by competing in a group. [This from the man who has talked about joining a running group for years . . . and still not joined one. Someday.]

Good luck, keep running and get those feet on the road!


Bibs, belts and safety pins

So it’s race day, the big event is here. Your pumping up for a 1/2 marathon or a full 26.2 miler. As  you get to the start line you realize a couple of potential scenarios:

  • There are 10,000 people running, how will I find family/friends at the finish?
  • I drove here, alone, not sure where to put my keys, DL and chapstick. Geez, this iPhone is big . . .
  • I bought this wicked cool shirt and don’t really want to put an ugly bib over it but need to display my number to be compliant.

The answer? I’d like to suggest you consider buying a spi-belt. Huh? What?

This is a great little tool. SpibeltI know it kind of looks like a min-fanny pack, but if you are planning on doing multiple events I highly recommend it. As you can see in the picture, this is a simple belt that has a small pouch/pocket. [Sorry if you find this photo odd or too sexed up – it is the best image from their site! I love the combo of spi-belt and sweatpants with ripped abs, odd combo of images. Check out their site, they have all sorts of variations. But just to be clear, you won’t find me wearing this thing outside of an actual running event.]

The pouch is made of a soft, thin fabric that stretches out a bit. You can certainly fit a cell phone, DL, chapstick, car keys and some money in there. The belt can be tightened up to reduce bounce while running.

Furthermore there are loops on it where you can hang your bib. Why? Maybe you have a rocking shirt design to show off. Maybe your running shirtless (either a guy or gal with sports bra), or plan on ditching the shirt later in the race if you heat up too much. Or perhaps you don’t want to put safety-pin holes in your shirt or shorts.

I have one. Or at least I had one. Bought last year, used in 2 marathons and 1 ultra. Couldn’t find it this year (although I didn’t look very hard, maybe 2 days before the race I said ‘hey honey, do you know where my spi-belt thing is . . . you know the belt thing I wore last year to hang my bib off of . . .’). I’ll look this week, if I can’t find it will probably pick a new one up at the Baltimore Running Festival next Friday, I’m doing the 1/2 marathon with a friend from NJ. Great place to store my cell phone so I call the wife, that finish area is a freaking zoo.

Good luck, keep running and get those feet on the road!

What’s on Your Playlist?

Sorry for the delay posting this week, been out of commission with a cold. FYI – next week will be a post-marathon wrap-up, I’m running Akron marathon this Saturday (9/25 – with a broken toe to boot!).

Seems like just about everyone I see out on the road is using an MP3 player/iPod of some sort. I do [iPod Nano, 16Gb, Orange, 4th Gen]. The question is – what do you put on it? Lots of ways to go on this, and frankly it boils down to personal choice. The real issue I’ve encountered in talking to people is this – ‘I’m sick of my CD collection, now what?’ – below are various ideas I’d like you to consider:

  • iTunes – ok, this is extremely obvious but still needed to be said. If you’re not familiar with iTunes, well, then you must be holed up in Tora Bora. Buy music, one song at a time. Rejuvenate your playlist incremental. Add in some things to go with your standards.
  • Podcasts – there are a multitude of FREE podcasts you can download. This is actually the bulk of what I listen to. I just find it makes the time pass much quicker, keeps your focus on something other than the running and can be fun or educational (depending on what you listen to). Here is a list of what I always have on my iPod (that 10 most recent podcasts at any given time):
    • The Accidental Creative
    • The Adam Carolla Show
    • Bill Moyers Journal  – it’s all old stuff, but still a lot of good content
    • The Moth
    • On The Media
    • NPR: Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me
    • This American Life
    • The Diane Rehm Show
    • Radiolab
  • Library – this should also be obvious (generally speaking, if you’re not utilizing your local, public library – get busy and get in there). The library just might surprise you with the selections on hand. Below are some of the things you can find there:
    • Books on CD – requires ripping them to MP3 format or dumping into iTunes, but not that difficult. Heck, you might still have an old SONY Walkman CD player lying around . . . I do.
    • MP3 Players pre-loaded with an audio book – These are becoming popular. They are small MP3 players that come loaded with a book. You typically need to supply the battery(s). A very simple way to get something new to listen to. Don’t need to muck up your iPod either.
    • Music, music, music – I am constantly amazed at how many people don’t realize their local library has a huge cadre of CD’s just waiting to be checked out. New stuff too, not just 80s and earlier.

Other Considerations – here are some more things to think about, may seem odd but the point is they may help pass the time, help you reach that ideal zen state of running.

  • Nature sounds
  • Soft, mellow classical music
  • White noise
  • Beats
  • Oration by the great minds of the 20th Century

Good luck, keep running and get those feet on the road!

You put what on your _______???

There are a lot of ways you can ruin your running experience – lack of training, dehydration, staying up too late or  eating sausage and peppers the night before a run. One topic that most people don’t think about, don’t even know about when embarking on a running regiment, is Chafing.

Did you say ‘chafing?’

Yep. This is an ugly secret that no one likes to talk about it. But head out to a local marathon and camp out anywhere from mile 16 and on. You will be bound to see at least one poor bastard with bloody nipples.

body glide

Body Glide – this is what I use. Great stuff. You can slather it anywhere you might chafe. Where you say? Anywhere. You’d be surprised what’s’ a rubbing and a chaffing’ while putting on the miles. Personally my use is centered around 2 spots – nipples and inner thighs. When your shirt gets wet it gets heavy. When you run your clothes move around. Wet shirt + the up/down of running will make your shirt move up and down over your body. This causes frictions on anything not flush or smooth. My first marathon included bloody nipples. And it’s not just the unseemly look, it really hurts during and after. Also, the inner thighs tend to rub a bit, but this may vary depending on your girth.


Vaseline – this will work the same as Body Glide except it will most likely leave an oily stain on shirts and shorts. Good in a pinch.


Band-aids – this works great for the nipples, but beware that after many miles & sweat they may come off. Also, beware the post race removal – if you are a guy this can mean extracting a lot of chest hair. Also, a variation on this is a product called nip guards – basically a custom band-aid sized to cover just the nipple. Will eliminate the potential for ripping out chest hair.

In a pinch – clear/gel underarm deodorant – that is my MacGyver tip for the day. It works. Also, you could use a chapstick tube in a pinch. I’ve also done that, it works.

Good luck, keep running and get those feet on the road.

Feet First – what to buy?

The one area of running that is thoroughly covered, both in terms of commercial options and expert opinion, is footwear – what shoes do you strap on those potatoes??? Still I think I would be remiss in writing this blog if I didn’t address it. The answer is complicated, an unsatisfying ‘well, it depends.’ It depends in part on what type of runner you are, the miles, the terrain, etc. I’m going to breakdown my footwear choices that fit my needs – long distance runner who does short (3-4 miles) and medium (6-10 miles) runs with great frequency and long runs (12-20 miles) with regularity confined to a small window of the year. Within that breakdown you may find something useful for your needs, your mileage, etc. Keep that sentiment in mind though – your running shoes are a highly personal choice and need to work for you – not meet the idea of what you ‘think’ a runner should wear or what his shoes look like. As you’ll see below I’m not singularly brand loyal. I go with what works. There are certainly enough options out there for you to experiment. [Note: I’m not going to talk pricing, but let me just say this – if you spend above $120 on shoes you are wasting your money. Don’t spend above that unless you really like the shoe, perhaps aesthetics come into play at that point.]

Short Runs: 3-4 miles

This is the Nike LunarRacer 2+. Recently purchased (early August 2010). An amazingly lightweight shoe (6.7 oz.) that fits somewhat snug but comfortably on the foot. The key behind Nike’s Lunar series is Vectran, it is a truly ‘space age’ polymer fiber, used to make space suits for NASA Astronauts!

I have been wearing this for my short runs mainly because of the weight and feel. It allows for quick action, sprinting, etc. Over a short distance (for me) of 3-4 miles I can sustain a higher speed (read: lower pace/minute) without feeling any pain for having minimal shoe protection. Over the long haul it wouldn’t hold up as well. Something like this shoe is also ideal for 5K races, where you want something give just enough but stay lightweight when you leave it all on the race course (read: hauling arse).

Medium Runs: 6-10 miles

For mid-distance runs I like something with just a bit more structure to the upper portion of the shoe but still retaining lightweight feel and action. This is where my Asics Gel-Speed Star III shoes come into play. Another phenomenal find, happened upon them (early Summer 2009) while trying different shoes from (their free return shipping is great). As I said above, these are still very light but provide just a little more ‘control’ and ‘feel’ in the uppers. For me it means being able to do varied paces at the mid-distances and using the same shoe for all of it (sprints, tempo runs, marathon pace, etc.).

Long Runs: 12-20 miles

For the long run I’m currently running in these fellas, Brooks Launch. For me, it is a great shoe. Frankly the best I’ve ever worn (picked them up mid-Summer 2009).

Why? As I stated above I do varied distances at different times and the long run is the smallest % of days per year.

The why boils down to this – on the long run comfort AND performance need to be harmonious or you won’t make it (or at least won’t enjoy it). This shoe, for me, is as close to the perfect balance I can find for comfortable ride, lightweight (they are surprisingly light) and minimal upper support/structure. I don’t like a shoe that has tons of structure on top – all of my choices reflect that, they vary more on weight and cushion variations.

The Variable – Vibram Five Finger KSO’s

I’m sure you’ve either seen this, seen them on 60 minutes of heard about them. A fairly new product (a few years out) that radically challenges the notion of what you need (or perhaps don’t need) on your foot. They reinforce everything you hear about in barefoot running [To read more about barefoot running in general checkout Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It is actually quite a fascinating read.] but provide protection. You truly feel like you are running barefoot. It provides an amazing balance that you probably didn’t know was masked by traditional form function of sneakers (yeah, sneakers – I’m an east coaster. None of this tennis nonsense).

How much do I run in these? Right now not much, but early Spring into early Summer it’s all I wore for running, stopped when I hit 12 miles and switched back to traditional sneakers for marathon training consideration.

One last note – I find it helps to have shoes that reflect who you are, hence my bold and unorthodox color choices. And the VFF’s are just plain beyond that logic.

Good luck, keep running and get those feet on the road.

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