Defensive Driving… I mean Running


I first heard the term in the late 80’s. It was 7th hour, fourth quarter of my sophomore year, and I was ecstatic to be sitting in my first Driver’s Ed class.  That day, I sort of listened to the instructor, but mostly was thinking about driving. Somewhere in the midst of a dream sequence that had me getting a convertible VW Bug for my upcoming birthday (nope, didn’t happen, drove my mom’s mini van instead), I was startled as the instructor wrote defensive driving on the board in big, bold letters. I jotted this down, thinking it might be on the test, but wasn’t really all that interested in his definition.  I thought defensive driving meant being ready to flip off anyone who offended me while driving. You know, a defend my honor kind of thing.  Or maybe, I thought it meant to tear away from a speedster tailing me on the expressway.

I don’t remember what the instructor said, but I’m sure it must have sounded close to (i.e. almost as boring as)this online definition: Defensive driving is driving characterized by prudence, diligence and reasonable cautiousness with the goal of making the road a safe place not only for a defensive driver but for other people as well. (Can you say… Bueller? What is defensive driving? Anyone? Bueller?)

I’m sure I remembered that. Not.

My take away from his lecture was be careful and don’t get distracted by other cars or my friends in my car. Also, don’t get a ticket.

Let’s face it, I was as much of an idiot as any 16 year old driver. Even with all of the warnings, I didn’t really grasp the enormous responsibility that came with driving a vehicle until years later. I was lucky I never got into an accident. 

Recently, I passed a student driver stopped at a stoplight. Instinctively, I ran the opposite direction as I flashed back to the infinite wisdom of me at 16.  I wanted to be far away from that gum smacking, texting kid. As I ran away, I thought about the poor punk. I needed to be nicer because while yes, the little 16 year old indeed ranked higher on the threat to runners, walkers, bikers and anything with a pulse scale, I realized that all drivers (and runners, walkers, etc.) need to be careful. I had just as big a responsibility to be a defensive runner as the punk did to be a defensive driver.

Wanting to get to the bottom of this revelation and put it into action, I googled defensive driving when I got home, just to revisit that original definition, and see how I could apply it to running. Thankfully, my friends at Wikipedia had collaborated with my driver’s ed teacher and developed some keys (intentional pun) to defensive driving:


Stay focused, keeping your hands on the wheel.  While as runners we obviously don’t have a steering wheel, we do steer our bodies.  My loose translation is to keep my head on a swivel, always on the lookout for distractions. A good run can take me into a zen-like state where I’m either mentally solving each and every one of my problems, or I’m deep in conversation with my running partner.  I’m sure I’m not alone in either situation. So, runners, don’t get so far into your zen that you forget that you’re “steering your own ship.”

Keep your eyes moving.  Unless you’re on a treadmill, the terrain is going to change.  Things can come at you from all directions, so it’s important to look ahead of you and scan your surrounding area.  Watch for cars coming around a corner on the street you’re crossing.  Watch for foxes darting in front of you on an early a.m. run (happened to me).  Be on the lookout for city dogs and country dogs – they are equally as territorial and just plain don’t like runners. The bottom line – scan as you run, for you never know what’s going to pop up along the way.

Stay alert.  My sisters constantly tell me, “you really shouldn’t listen to music when you run.” Yes, I know this. They’re right, but I’m sorry I enjoy music and can’t live without my podcasts like No Meat Athlete or One Part Plant.  So, I do the next best thing and keep the volume low, making sure I can still hear things around me like barking dogs, honking horns, and any other big threats.  Note that it is certainly safer to run without headphones, but again, I know we as runners sometimes need tunes to keep us moving. So, be smart with your audio intake.

Go with the flow. Let’s talk races. Sometimes, as you’re minding your own 26.2 miles of business, things are going to get bottlenecked. As a runner you’ll no doubt feel frustrated and perhaps a little edgy.  It may be so crowded that you just can’t floor it and bolt ahead.  Therefore, adjust to the pace of your surroundings, wait it out, and proceed when it’s safe for everyone around you.  Similarly, there are times when weather will be extreme, and you’ll need to adjust your pace, hydration, wardrobe, or the length of time you devote to the run. Again, go with the flow.  You can’t control everything, but you can make adjustments to be more comfortable.

Make yourself visible.  This is a big one in the land of defensive running.  If you run early morning or late afternoon/evening in the winter, you really need to light yourself up like the fourth of July.  Why? (Duh…) Because people can’t see you, and if they can’t see you, you run a huge risk of getting hit.  Period.  Therefore, invest in clothing with reflective features.  Wear a headlamp, flashing light, reflective vest or whatever it takes to draw attention to yourself.

Adapt to road conditions.  Hello, fellow crazies. Even with the best Craft base layers in place, there are some days when running outside just isn’t cool. Icy conditions are what I’m talking about here.  Below zero temps aren’t advisable either.  When these situations happen, there’s this thing called a treadmill that might be a better bet.  However, when the weather isn’t too crazy, simply dress for the temps and keep in mind that slippery roads mean cars can’t stop as quickly. Rain means a driver’s vision might be impaired and they might not see you like they could on a clear day.  Be smart and always consider what you and the drivers need to do to be safe during whatever Mother Nature is giving you.

Finally, the most important piece of defensive running advice… defending the run.  And this is where I’m talking about defending your honor, runners. There will be people who think you’re crazy for early a.m. runs, 20 milers, marathons, ultras, and quite simply your daily dedication to the sport.  To them, I hate to tell you, but there’s really nothing you can say.  They probably won’t ever understand. Just smile at them, and be polite runners on the streets, stopping at corners and running on the right side of the road. They think we’re crazy enough the way it is, we can’t add being idiots to the mix.  

So friends, when you’re out there on the streets…be sure to look both ways, be visible, and be smart whether you’re on your feet or behind the wheel!

copyright 2015

by abbey algiers


every day is a marathon

every day is a marathon

by abbey algiers


The day started out like any other marathon day. I woke up early, after sleeping maybe a total of 20 minutes. Fumbling around my hotel room, I pinned my race number to my shirt, got dressed, ate a little something, and packed clothes in my gear bag to wear after the run. All normal pre-run preparations that I’d done many times before and could do in my sleep, which it actually felt like I was sleeping since my friend and I left our room at 5:15 a.m. As we made our way to the subway, buses, and finally the Athlete’s Village, we were anxious to run. We had both worked hard and waited a long time to get to this event.

We had about three hours until the start of the race when we finally got to the Athlete’s Village.  This time was spent resting, standing in line for the porta potties, eating, getting back in line for the porta potties, and discussing the ups and downs of our training that led us to that day. Again, all part of our normal pre-race routine.

The only thing that wasn’t normal about the start of this race was that it was the pinnacle of all marathons, the Boston Marathon.  For runners, the Boston Marathon is the marathon of a lifetime. Running Boston back in 2010 was the realization of a lifelong goal; being able to run it again this year was equally as meaningful. This time, I wanted to soak in the crowds and savor every step of the journey. Knowing how fast an event like this can pass, and that a return isn’t always guaranteed, I wanted to stamp the moment in time; I wanted to fully appreciate the fact that I was there, and enjoy the run to its fullest. As I made my way to the start line, I tried to take it all in- the gorgeous blue sky, the runners from all over the world, the spectators, and the wonderful volunteers. I was determined to have the best run possible, hopefully running fast enough to re-qualify.

The first two miles were a little dicey, as I was sure I had a sudden onset of a leg injury that would sideline me for the rest of the race.  However, at mile three, the phantom pain in my right thigh went away. Things were looking up- my body seemed to be cooperating with me, and miles 4-6 went by quickly.  The spectators were excellent, and the music in each town we passed propelled me forward.  It looked like I would at least have success in enjoying the run, regardless of my time.  At around mile 7, while I was busy running in my “happy place,” my friend made a declaration.

 “This isn’t my day. Not feelin’ it.”

Since pronouncing how good one feels to a fellow runner who’s suffering is not only annoying, but also a risky maneuver during a marathon, I played my cards carefully. I simply responded, “Oh, that’s a bummer. Sorry.”  I continued on next to her, hoping she’d start to feel it.

This was probably a wise move, because as is the case in many marathons, a good run can suddenly go south for a number of reasons.  This happened to me around mile 14, when various parts of my body took turns breaking down, taking me far away from the “happy place” I had earlier experienced.

As my pace continued to slow, I knew my dreams of re-qualifying were over. However, I desperately wanted to continue to appreciate the fact I was running in Boston. I scanned the crowd, high-fived kids along the route, smiled at the fans who made eye contact. I was determined to make my positive attitude override the aches and pain the run was causing.

But, let’s face it… I’d be lying if I said that Pollyanna jumped into my body and took over the run.  That just doesn’t happen in a marathon when one’s body is pleading to stop.  The truth is, when the body reaches a certain point, the fact that one is running the Boston Marathon loses its luster a bit; surroundings become secondary to survival.  So, even though this was Boston… I adopted an attitude that was completely on pace with all of the marathons I’ve run in my life.  I retreated to my “please God, just let me finish” place.

This is a place that most runners go at least once during any given marathon. We all know that no matter how well trained we come to each marathon, that a finish is never guaranteed. Yet, I knew deep down that though it seemed like the end would never arrive, it would.  At some point during my misery, my friend realized I “wasn’t feeling it” either and suggested that we just relax and finish together.  With this in mind, we proceeded as a unit, making it to miles 20, 21, 22… WHERE was 23? … then 23, 24, and 25, where both of us would later declare we had secretly wanted to start walking.

Next came 26 and the famous “right on Hereford left on Boylston” turn that signifies the end is truly in sight.  On that final stretch, we felt our aches disappear as we ran down the spectator-lined street; their cheers propelling us to the finish.  With pride and relief, we crossed the finish line and were greeted by medics who evaluated us for dehydration or other problems. Appearing fine, we were corralled through to the nearby water station.

That water station marked the point at which things officially stopped being normal.

As I took a sip, a loud, deafening boom came from the finish line behind us. Dumbfounded, I thought it was a canon or fireworks, perhaps a demonstration for Patriot’s Day. We looked in the direction of the noise and saw a large cloud of smoke rise into the sky. Visions of 9/11 popped in my head. But no- this couldn’t be happening. This was a marathon. The Boston Marathon.  It couldn’t be anything like that.

Another blast sounded, and we knew the first had not been an accident. Suddenly everything predictable about the day- including the assumption that things would end alright- was taken out of the equation.  What happened next remains etched in my mind as if it were a dream, or a Bruce Willis Armageddon sequel. My friend and I were moving in slow motion, looking first at each other, then at the people around us.  Everyone’s expression was exactly the same- that of fear and terror and absolute uncertainty. We had no idea of what had happened or what could happen. All we knew was that we were in the middle of something and needed to get out.

Really, our predicament couldn’t have been more dramatic or ironic. After running for 4 hours, we were tired, dazed, and cold. Now, with sirens, screams, smoke, and police telling us to simply run (perhaps the most ironic part of the day)… we added shocked and helpless to the mix.

My friend and I made a quick decision to separate and get our gear bags- wanting our phones/lifelines more than anything. While waiting for my gear bag, I again thought about the footage I’d watched after 9/11. I remembered hearing that all the people in the planes and buildings had wanted to do was tell their families and friends that they loved them.  This was the most important thing. At that moment, not knowing that there were only those two bombs, our phones were our only link to our loved ones.

Looking back, I have no idea how much time had passed between the bombs going off and my friend and I getting to safety. All I remember is that I got my bag before my friend got hers. While waiting for her, a large crowd came rushing in my direction. Police were herding us out of the area, as if something else were about to happen. I frantically searched the approaching crowd for my friend, giving me a vantage that allowed me to again take in the expressions of my fellow runners.

Panic and fear were all I saw.

Minutes later, my friend approached me, and we ran to a nearby park where runners were making calls and crying. Sirens around us increased, reminding us that though we were “safe” in a park, we were far from out of danger. After texting and calling our families and friends, we put on the dry clothes we had packed earlier that morning in anticipation of needing to warm up after the run, but never imagining the scene we would be in the midst of.

Now in dry clothes, with calls made, we knew we had to get out of the city. We had taken the subway there, so it seemed like the only way out. However, the subway was the last place I wanted to go in a city under siege.

Soon we’d find out it had been shut down, offering the second ironic possibility that we’d have to perhaps walk 5 miles to safety. Yet, at that point I wasn’t tired, as adrenaline was in full force. Luckily for us, our “miracle cab driver” then came on the scene and took us to safety where we warmed up, sat down for the first time,  made more calls, and tried to process everything that had just happened.

Grateful to be alive and so sorry for the victims of the tragedy and their families, the Boston Marathon is now more than ever “the marathon of a lifetime” to me. Crossing the finish line that day and completing the 26.2 miles taught me that it’s possible to accomplish dreams, even when so many times along the way it feels as though we won’t.  However, what happened after I crossed the finish line taught me a much deeper lesson- every day we are on this planet is a marathon.  We wake up each morning sort of taking for granted that we’ll repeat the same process the next day, and the next. Each day, we know there will be glitches and challenges, but we always expect the finish line to be on the horizon.  Yet, in the backs of our minds we all know that just as there are no guarantees that we’ll finish a marathon, there are no guarantees in life.  Every one of us will start one day and not finish it. That is the reality of life.

So, friends, as you go through each day’s marathon never forget that each day truly is a gift, a bonus guaranteed to no one.  It’s not the outcome of the race that’s important, what’s important is that we do our very best to appreciate it, and not take any part of it for granted. From the fans cheering us on to the support we get when we need it the most, every moment is important. And perhaps most important of all… don’t wait until the finish line to tell your fans how much they mean to you. High-five them every step of the way.

copyright 2013

abbey algiers

One Thing Leads to Another

Runner’s Log

In February of 2003, I went to a Valentine’s Day party with the intent of finding a boyfriend or at least a date. Well, I didn’t find either that night, but rather, ended up meeting a guy who talked me into running what would be the first of many marathons. Three years later, I did meet my husband- while training for a marathon- so I guess you can say that indirectly, that Valentine’s Day party was effective.

On a totally unrelated- yet similar- note, Mike Fikes created a really cool running app in a roundabout sort of way. Mike was trying to find a good way to track the mileage on his running shoes so he’d know when to replace them.  He couldn’t find an app he liked in the app store, so he decided to write his own.  And so, Runner’s Log was born. Runner’s Log is available for your iPhone or iPad, and not only provides an excellent way to keep track of how many miles you’re logging in your shoes, but also has a ton of great features that allow you to track your runs easily and quickly.  Runner’s Log has many great features :

  • View a calendar showing which days you ran recently.
  • View statistics and charts of weekly, monthly, and yearly progress.
  • Map your regular routes—their distances are automatically computed and entered.
  • Track the total mileage put on your running shoes (which typically last 350–550 miles)
  • Record the results of a running session in a matter of seconds.

How it works:  

When you return from a run, use Runner’s Log to record your session. The date, route, and shoes used are all automatically filled in based on defaults. The time spent on your last run for the route is also presented as the default. Simply adjust the minutes or seconds and you are done! Your pace will be shown to you.

 To plan a new route to try in your neighborhood, go to the routes tab and bring up the map, which centers on your current location. Simply tap points on the map in order to create your route. When done, the route distance is automatically computed. If you run this route frequently, you can set it as the default.

 This feature came in handy this weekend while I was up north… I wasn’t sure of the mileage and wanted to quickly find a ten mile route. I mapped my route seconds before my run, then clicked on my tunes, and was off.  That beat the days of sitting in front of my computer to map out my run, or drive the route first.

Back to the shoes:

Runner’s Log makes it a cinch to keep track of shoe mileage. If there are unlogged miles on your shoes, you can easily add them to the total tracked. If you rotate shoes, you’re able to track each pair separately,  and you can choose a pair of shoes to be the default for new running sessions. When a pair is ready to be retired to “lawn mowing only” status, you can mark it as such.

Love the calendar feature:

The calendar features a cute little runner icon that shows which days you ran recently. This gives a great visual, making it easy to decide if you should run or take a break.  You can also view statistics and charts showing weekly, monthly, and yearly summaries of your distance, time and pace, as well as the accumulated mileage put on your shoes.

Runner’s Log is clear, easy to use, and has all of the features that runners need. Created by a runner, for runners.  What more could you ask for?

Check out Runner’s Log today at the App Store!

What It’s Really All About

Every now and then, I end a run feeling totally great. I have no significant aches. I’m not freezing, sore, blistered, beaten, or in need of a bathroom asap. I’m not starving, parched, or otherwise compromised. I actually enter my house with a runner’s high, thankful for the fact that I was able to run, either solo or with my running people.

Take the past few Saturdays, for example. My running partner and I, in the midst of training for a Cinco de Mayo marathon, had a number of Saturdays (in a row) that went really well. We ended these runs thinking for some brief moments that we quite possibly could be some sort of running super hero duo, having been able to brave single digit temps and live to tell about it. Even in the midst of this mild winter, we endured all sorts of things, from black ice to 100 mile an hour winds (okay, at least they felt like it) to frozen digits and stomach issues, all in the name of 15- 17 milers. We may have gone through hell, but by the time we stopped, we felt a post-run euphoria that comes after giving it your all, and doing it in the company of a good friend.

I also appreciate my early morning runs with my other running friends – one who lives down the street, and another who lives a few miles a way and has been my running friend since childhood. The only way I get out of bed at 4:45am to run at 5:00 on a weekday is when I am meeting either of these two gals. I appreciate the conversation and the fact that they get me on the road early, in essence gifting me with the rest of the day to do other things than plan a late afternoon run.

In addition to my friends I physically run with, I have a group of friends I’ve met because of running. Marathons and miles brought us together, but what have endured are solid friendships. In addition, running led me to my husband, a fact I like to remind him when he tells me I’m crazy for running so much. It led me to you, it can’t be all that bad, I tell him.

And that, in essence is the heart of it. It’s not really the act of running that has kept me out on the streets and trails. As much as I call myself a runner, and say how much I love it, I admit that it’s not always easy. After all, when I started out this piece, I proclaimed that “every now and then” I end a run feeling totally physically great, having no outstanding issues to complain about physically or mentally at the run’s end. The reality is that many times I end with aches and other minor ailments. No, running isn’t a piece of cake by any means. The truth is, though, nothing in life is. The most perfect of jobs, hobbies, activities, or situations have moments that test and challenge us. In fact, some of them seem to challenge us much of the time.

But, running has taught me that even the most imperfect situations can be made better when you share them with like minded folks, or in a state of deep self reflection that spurs a sort of inner zen.

Just as I could list many, many times when I felt absolutely tortured on a long run or in a marathon, I can counter those bad feelings with the sense of peace I felt by sharing those runs with someone else. There is a certain camaraderie that comes when we go through tough times together. In addition, it didn’t have to be the runs themselves that were physically difficult. The runs may have been the easy parts, with the challenges being the life issues my running friends or I worked out together on the road.

The thing of it is, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a bad run, a bad job, or a bad situation. What matters is that we remember that there are people around us to share these moments with. When we do this, it becomes clear that even the most awful moments are bearable, and often laughable after all is said and done.

If we keep this in mind, it seems that we might be able to tolerate the bad moments more, and learn to live through them, knowing they’re not necessarily all bad. Further, we can then end each run (good or bad) with a runner’s high, realizing that our aches and pains are not unique to ourselves- we all experience them. So why not just accept this fact, and do our best to be there for each other so our good runs are great and our bad ones are at the very least supported?  After all, isn’t this what it’s all about?

Enjoy all of your runs, friends, and remember to always be there for the people who run beside you.

by abbey algiers
copyright 2012


Laying Down the Groundwork

Every time I run a marathon, I start to royally freak out about a week before the big day. As I prepare for Milwaukee’s Lakefront Marathon next Sunday, I’m officially in the marathon zone of craziness. As I type this, for example, my left knee is hurting for absolutely no reason at all. It is physically fine, yet in my mind, I’m convinced it’ll be injured for Sunday. This Looney Tune thought is nothing new. In the past, I’ve imagined illnesses that include but are not limited to: mono, strep, chicken pox, and my favorite, appendicitis.  I never actually had any of these conditions before a race, but managed to convince myself that I did.  (Note that to date I’ve never had to cancel a race due to sickness.)

Now it is Monday, and I am carefully planning each minute of activity this week, monitoring each morsel that I put in my mouth.  I am also carrying hand sanitizer with me class to class, and considering wearing a face mask when teaching germy elementary students.  You see, these are the factors that I can control; my sneezing third grader will NOT get me sick, gosh darnit!  Other things, like worrying if I did enough miles during my training, do not help me now.   I know I’ve done my work, but the thing is, most runners freak out at this point in the game because marathon training is absolutely counterintuitive.  The training schedule has the longest runs occurring several weeks before marathon day, so that the body can establish a base, and then repair itself for race day. This leaves many a runner wondering how they’re going to run 26.2 when they can barely remember their 20-milers.

Yet, having run a few marathons, I know this isn’t true. Months of long runs have laid the groundwork, and now I know I need to just let go and leave things up to fate.  I do this, realizing that I might have a great race, I might have a terrible one; whatever the case, there is not much more in the realm of training that I can do.  Now, I simply must rest and nourish my body for Sunday, and trust that my months of hard work will serve as a solid foundation.

That said, it seems this concept of laying the groundwork comes into play often in life.  Whether we are training for a marathon, planning a wedding, preparing for an exam, or attending medical school, our lives are full of groundwork-laying events.  For example, my mom has been on my hometown’s library board for 33 years, and has dreamed of the day when a new library would be built. After the board spent literally years working to make this happen, the new library will soon open its doors to the public.  A patron at the grand opening will see a gorgeous new building, but won’t know that the groundwork for this amazing structure is decades old. Success does not happen overnight.

So, really, when you think of it, landmark events like grand openings of libraries, weddings, graduations, and marathons are only part of the equation.  They are the culminating events in the stories of our lives that are built upon hard work, dedication, and perseverance.  And when we lay the groundwork with such things, we know that no matter what happens on race day, we can and should be proud, because so much more went into it than meets the eye.  The many miles we’ve logged are the true indicators of our success; what happened along the journey is what made it possible to get there in the first place.

Whatever “marathon”  you’re training for, remember it’s really not about crossing the finish line, it’s about everything you do to get there.  After all, without some good long runs, how do we expect to get anywhere?

Here’s to long runs, hard work, and well-deserved tapers.

by abbey algiers

copyright 2011

Really, Why 26.2?

Since I completed my first marathon in 2003, I think I have been marathoning’s biggest cheerleader. I can’t count the number of people I have told, “YOU should run a marathon! You can totally do it!” I’ve said this to casual runners, serious runners, and people who would not even run if being chased. The non-runners usually look at me like I am insane, and tell me (quite frankly) that there’s not a chance in hell they are going to ever do this, so could I  (please) shut up now.  Others listen to my marathon pitches and walk away giving it serious consideration.  Some have gone on to run one or several marathons. Still others acknowledge that, yes, they’ve been considering a marathon for quite some time now, and maybe one day they’ll do it.

While on my 26.2-foot -high soap box, I’ve learned to monitor when to stop talking and when to keep on going.  Yet, for the most part, a little resistance from my audience does not slow me down. I am relentless in my marathon promotion. However, after reading, “An Inside Look” one would probably wonder why I push this multiple hour torture session, because the #1 known fact about running a marathon is that it sure ain’t easy.

So, why the hype? Why are marathons filling up at record rates… attracting droves of runners and non-runners alike? Why do people go back to marathoning even after being injured time and time again?  Are all runners basically mad? Quite possibly yes, we are mad. But there’s a reason beyond the madness that draws us in to the allure of 26.2.

The real reason lies in the fact that consciously and unconsciously, our collective human conscience is onto something as far as marathons are concerned.  It’s actually a huge secret that is revealed to us early on in the training phase of marathon preparation.

This secret goes beyond the physical benefits of running – that you can lose weight, lower cholesterol, improve fitness, reduce stress, and feel better, etc. This is what I call the “Well, no duh” benefits to training for marathons.

There is something bigger going on here.

This “something” begins with the training. A transformation of self-discipline and dedication slowly grows as one makes and follows a training schedule. What starts as “How am I going to fit all of these miles in and still get everything else done?” grows into a daily calendar that makes more space for running and eating well, and less space for TV watching, junk food eating, and unnecessary boozin’.  Going to bed early on a Friday night for a Saturday long run isn’t a chore, it becomes a normal part of existence.  In turn, waking early isn’t so bad either. After all, by the time you are done with your shower, your “pre-marathon self” would be just getting out of bed.

As this new lifestyle of scheduled runs, good nutrition, and a healthier outlook evolves, a shift takes place in the way a runner looks at the world. With more energy, better fitting clothes, and less stress, our lives in general just tend to look sunnier. The training schedule that once looked scary and impossible to tackle is in fact proving to be quite gratifying. It starts out with 5-7-9-10 mile distances for  “long” runs, and as you cover each distance your confidence grows. “Damn, I just ran 10 miles today. Who would have thought I could do that?”  Then, you hit 12, 14, 16, 18 miles, and you finish with such self-pride and accomplishment that you want to tell everyone you meet about the runs.  (“Sure, I’ll meet you for lunch. I just ran 16 today, so I’m kind of hungry…” ) And, as you hit each bigger mileage mark, you get there and feel more confident that you will be able to do the 26.2 miles you once thought were impossible.   You also think about doing more in all areas of your life… What else can I do that I didn’t think I could before?  A mental and emotional transformation is taking place as your body physically transforms.

In the midst of this transformation,  you start to think of your new routine as “normal.”  You get to a point where long runs of 12-14-16 seem routine to you, so you say things to people like, “Oh, I just ran 10 today…”  They will look at you like you’re nuts (mad), and reply, “Oh, only  10, huh?”  It’s instances like these that prove you are not the same person who started this whole marathon business.

Yes, you’re pushing the boundaries of what you once thought was possible, and you’re winning at it. Not winning in a crazy Charlie Sheen-manic way, but winning in the true sense of the word. And without even really trying, this “win” is spilling into your regular life.  It seems that your  professional, personal, and life goals are gaining new clarity as you move forward in your training program.  You become more productive and goal oriented in everything. It’s pretty amazing.

Now of course, in this land of training, not everything is fun and games.  There are runs that don’t go so well.  While on training runs, you learn about fun things like digestive issues.  You also learn about hydration and lack thereof. You find out (the hard way) about blisters and chafing and toe nails falling off. There are other setbacks too. Muscles become sore, and injuries pop up. A million roadblocks can enter your path, but you don’t quit.  If something is really hurting, you’ll seek out doctors, PT’s, massage therapists, or anyone (I’ve even sought out a body energy worker) to help get back on track.

No, you don’t want to quit, because you want, like nothing else in the world, to make it to race day healthy and ready for action.  By committing to a marathon, you have made a commitment to yourself to test your physical, emotional, and mental limits.  So, with all of this training and growth under your fuel belt, you go to your marathon. And, at the start line, you are full of emotions because you know that you did not reach this place without much, much preparation. It hits you then, that simply being there, in the sea of runners all working for the same thing, is pretty darn amazing.  You know that even at the start line, you have accomplished more than you ever thought you could.

With this little gem, you move forward, realizing that the marathon, like your training and your life, will not be easy. In fact it won’t even be that fun.  But you also know that there is something inside you that will help you get through it, come hell or high water. And this, is why you signed up in the first place; to ignite the light inside you that lets you know that when you put your body, mind, and spirit together, anything really is possible.

Whatever your particular dose of madness drives you to do, pursue it with everything you’ve got, folks… life is full of marathons, just pick the one you want to do, and enter it with spirit and passion.

by abbey algiers

copyright 2011


“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” 

– John “The Penguin”Bingham

The Life of a Runner

How many of these quotes sound familiar?

“Okay- if I get up at 5, I can be running by 5:15, in the shower at 6:05, in my car at 6:40, Starbucks 6:50… to work by 7:10.”

“I’ll work through lunch, then leave at 4:45, hopefully the 3:00 won’t go over. Then, run at 5, pick my kids up at 6.”

“I’ll be gone five days- this means I need at least four shirts, two shorts, socks. I’ll pack my shoes in my carry on; I can buy new clothes if necessary.“

As runners, we are planners. We plan what to eat before and after runs. We plan routes. We investigate bathroom locations on these routes.  And of course, we plan for races- where they will be, how we will train for them, what goals we have for ourselves. Heck, we even plan our next races while we are in the midst of races. Dare I say our minds put in as many miles as our feet.

And this is a good thing- because I really do think that such intense planning helps us be more organized in our lives.  We know that in order to get our runs in, we have to make the other areas of our lives go as smoothly as possible. Our laundry must be done.  Our apparel needs to match the weather conditions.  We require water, Gatorade, and healthy snacks in our desk drawers, gym bags and cars.  We need to monitor the weather and have back up treadmills or tracks lined up just in case.

These are all things we can control, and might I say that many of us take pride in the little systems we establish.  And, we are also pretty darn good at adjusting to the blurps that enter that picture and interfere with our perfectly planned schedules- surprise meetings at work, out of town travel, sick kids, sick selves, family parties (the nerve to schedule a birthday party at 6… really what’s wrong with 7 to allow for a quick run?).  Bottom line, as efficient as we think our mental Runberry’s are… we can’t control everything.  Sometimes we find we need to… skip a run!   Which we all know is not something we like to do.

This leads me to wonder how the other half lives.  What do people who don’t (obsessively) run or work out do with their days? What do they do with those extra hours in the morning? What’s it like to not have loads and loads of smelly laundry in addition to “regular” laundry?  How does it feel to go to bed on a Friday night and not set an alarm? Go ahead and have that second glass of wine at dinner?  Are their workdays less stress-filled, because they are not concerned about adjusting schedules before or after for a run? Do their shoulders hurt less for the lack of a gym back lugged around each day? Seriously!

While considering this way of life, I found myself thinking that not setting an alarm might be nice. Leaving the house with only a laptop case would be kind of a treat too. Less laundry- definitely a plus.

But then I thought about the other side of the story. By sleeping in, I would miss gorgeous sunrises over the lake. I wouldn’t experience the fresh air that wakes me up more than any Venti strong could do justice. I wouldn’t be energized in the afternoon after a lunch workout.  My Saturdays would still begin at 9… but this time I wouldn’t begin with 14 miles under my belt. And, last but not least, if I didn’t run around like a maniac to do what I loved, I would also miss all of the people that I run around with. My 6:30 a.m. running friend, my friends I see on our route, my once weekly run with my childhood friend.

All of these things… are worth getting out of bed for.

There’s a challenge here, though. Could it be possible that as runners we plan too much? Are we too hard on ourselves? When our mothers and husbands and concerned secretaries at work tell us we “need to get more rest”- are they right? I think the answer is an astoundingly clear “yes and no.” Yes, we may plan too much… perhaps it wouldn’t kill us to get off schedule every now and then. Give ourselves a break and go to that party, guilt free, instead of running. Or, God forbid, just go home one night and relax after work. There’s a concept worth considering.

But then again- I have to say that, as long as we do things within reason (the author credits her father here for this well said proclamation), our frenetic schedules aren’t that bad.  I like to think that when I have my runs planned, I pay more attention to planning my life as well. I think I’m a bit more prepared- in all senses of the word. I’m prepared in a day-to-day operations kind of way, keeping my own personal business going. I’m prepared physically- staying in shape, making sure I’m properly nourished and hydrated. And, most importantly, I’m prepared emotionally… because for me, running helps me keep all of the above, and everything else together.  And as we all know, that’s not the easiest thing to do, no matter what your situation is.

So, to all of you who have next week’s run schedule already outlined in your heads, your laundry in the dryer, your trunk full of the water you just stocked up on during your weekend trip to Target… pat yourselves on the back.  You may think you’re just preparing for your runs, but in reality, all of this planning is helping you be ready for the other things in life that come up that you don’t plan for. And we all know there are plenty of those, both bad and good.

Keep making plans for that which you enjoy friends, but always remember to save enough space in your day planners for the unexpected.

Copyright 2010

by abbey algiers