I Wonder What He Thinks About When Running…

George Carlin once said you’ll never see a smiling runner.  Those who have done an inflatable obstacle course 5k may beg to differ but I would have to agree with George in most cases.  Most of us usually fall into intense focus, pushing through the hard work and discomfort that comes with taking ourselves to the breaking point, lighting our lungs on fire as we strive to just go a tad faster.  As the miles and the duration add up, we tend to have plenty of time to think.  Running in a group is a bit different, because you have inherent conversation that occurs just as you might at dinner or in the car on a trip.  I want to focus more on the “alone time” runs.  I’ve been asked, primarily by those that haven’t experienced the long alone run, “what do you think about?”  I’ll let you in on what I might think on a run.  Welcome to the inside.  Remember: tread lightly, duck and move, and understand there can be a bit of arbitrary mixed in henceforth.

I, like most, spent a good portion of time focused on pace, effort, and distance:  the important performance stuff.  These thoughts can range from a countdown of miles, percentage of run complete, commentary such as: “This pace is too much for the next miles with hills” or “if I run a tad faster, I can be done quicker.”  I also tend to do calculations of guessing minutes remaining as either a slap in the face or a rightly timed motivation of having not much left – “I can do anything for 15 mins right?”

Another common focal point is similar to something you might do while in car.  Let’s call it “environmental experience.”  Ranging from the happier “that’s a pretty dog” and “look at that new car” to an “expressive” “what is the idiot in that car doing, they almost ran me off the road”, we spend a lot of time with thoughts based off what we see around us.  One of the most amusing thoughts I had recently was when I was running a few hundred yards behind two friends on a greenway.  They spaced themselves out – one on the far left, and one on the far right – about 10-15 feet apart.  Kenny and I appreciated the amusement at mile 14 of 20.

By far, I feel those two topics are going to be the most common and constantly part of each run.  Let’s dive a bit deeper, shall we.

“Some seek the comfort of their therapist’s office, other head to the corner pub and dive into a pint, but I chose running as my therapy.”
― Dean KarnazesUltramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner

It seems like I spend some portion of my long runs alone performing mental therapy on myself.  Playing out conversations, scenarios, self-reflection – all a part of the “joy” of spending a few hours alone.  Sometimes the ideas and plans I come up with are golden.  Sometimes things I plan, whether for that day or the next year, once I come back to it after the run, it’s really that good.  I once “wrote” an entire paper on a run before:  set up the thesis, paragraph organization, summary.  Grocery store list – done.  Running event plans for the next year – check.  Those usually change upon completion of said run.  I think those that have run have most likely spent periods of those runs so deep in thought that 2 miles disappear and you are left with figuring out how you got there without falling into a ditch.  I usually get blasted from these trances by the inconsiderate yell/honk from a stranger that almost causes a face plant to the pavement.  These times can be extremely helpful, as most of us have times where getting some reflective time alone is difficult.


On a run alone not long ago, I decided to make some mental notes of random thoughts separate from above that entered my brain during the course of a run in my neighborhood.  I choose this type of run because it was solo, in environment that I spent a lot of time, and “relatively” external distraction free (no sirens, stop lights, etc) I present to you a sample of the potpourri of me in no particular order (just like the run):

Did I lock the door?  My phone battery is going to run out before the end and then I won’t have music.  Spiderweb stuck on me.  Should have brought gloves, my hands are cold.  Would I rather fight one horse size duck, or 100 duck sized horses?  Why do sidewalks end on one side of the street and then start on the other?  Why not keep in on the same, or even both so people don’t have to cross?  Wonder if I could get Camden and I a Legend racecar when he gets bigger.  Thomas the Tank Engine Character Favorability Rating (1.Thomas, 2. Percy, 3. James).  Better giveway – tshirt or hat?  Still think that spiderweb is on me. They need to cut their grass.  Shouldn’t have come this way, it has a big hill.  If a snake fell out of a tree on to me, what could I do to get away?  Should I eat one pizza or two tonight? Are my keys still in my pocket? Why is it also so hot/humid? I wonder if I look in pain when I run, I should smile more.  ICE CREAM!!!!!

Training Update

As of 10/10/17, I have put in 372 miles since July for Savannah Marathon training (I did 165 miles from Jan to July of just “normal running”).  Except for a sinus trouble here and there and a few really hot and humid runs, the training has been very good.  I place the goodness of the training primarily on two things:  running with my group for the long runs, and Mr. RunnerDude (Thad).  (Check out his blog here:  Completely different experience this go round in training vs. doing it solo.  My group’s training crescendos at 20 miles, which we did 2 weeks ago and will do again this week.  I will be doing my 20 miles this week as 7 miles then 13.1 in the Cannonball Half Marathon in Greensboro, running for Greensboro Physical Therapy.  It is a unique scenario- running 7 miles before an event – but the day is not about setting records, it’s about mileage and getting out in the running community.  I enjoy the local half that takes place on our city’s Greenways and Country Park.  It’s a great setting and a fun race close by home.  Not great for spectators due to the course layout but I will be excited to see my wife and 9 month old (yes, 9 months!) at this finish line.  Perhaps I can earn a big 5 tooth grin from the fella – and then beg for water.



What Makes A Race?

What makes a race good?  If you have done one race (or more), or even if you haven’t, you probably have thought about what makes a race event enjoyable and better than other events or better than training runs.  After all, training runs are usually free (always free at group run wed and Saturday at RunnerDude Fitness).  Is the excellence of a race exclusively based on the finish time?  What makes you want to repeat a race year after year?  I recently heard about someone who complete 20 + years consecutive of a marathon race in Detroit.  What makes that happen? Maybe he had nothing better to do every October, or perhaps there were certain elements that appealed to him that sold that race as a can’t miss event.

The following is NOT an all-encompassing list of race attributes.  These are just some that I feel have a direct impact on whether an event is hot or not.  There are more qualities out there that you or someone else may feel plays a large portion in the superiority of one race versus another.  If you have one that I didn’t include, let me know in the comments and how that matters to your experience in a race.

Without further ado, I bring to you Mike’s Fab Five Race Essentials:


The definition of this one is obvious – the length of the race itself.  However, the reasoning behind this varies person to person, and may even vary year to year depending on what your goals are for that year.  Most of us that run consistently have a distance that we get a challenge of the duration of the run, but still can focus on going faster and shooting for a time.  Similarly, we all usually have a distance that we get to where the focus shifts mostly to completion with a loose goal of speed.  For some, especially those just getting started with races, the two may be one and the same – a 5k.  For others that are very dedicated and have great commitment and physical capability, a marathon may be the challenge of duration but they have the fitness to still focus on speed.  For me personally, the half marathon (13.1 miles) is the sweet spot for me.  The length of the race is long enough to require commitment of training, but short enough to allow the notion of really pushing for chances at personal PR times and competition against others in finish place.  Hello age group placing!

Mike’s distance winner:  13.1 half marathon!


Where is the event?  Is it local and familiar?  Is it a vacation destination?  City or country?  Beach or Mountain? Sounds like we’re talking about where to take the family vacation right?  This has a major impact on my view of whether the race is bueno or no.  I’ve done local and I’ve done some travel to races, but all in the Southeast to this point.  While no location of a race is bad (mostly), there are definitely some that are better.  That’s part of the allure of the Boston or New York City or even Hawaii.  When you run for hours at a time, you need something to look and be entertained.  New sights, lighthouses, urban areas, monuments, or simply nature can help provide that visual landscape.

Mike’s location winner to date:  Tar Heel 10-miler (Chapel Hill, NC) and Outer Banks Marathon/Flying Pirate Half Marathon



Contrary to what you might think, all races of a kind are not alike.  Even though a half-marathon distance is always a standard 13.1 miles, the elevation, location, weather, and size of the event can all have a drastic impact on performance and enjoyment.  You could run the 13.1 miles at Carolina Beach and gain 200 ft total during the run or visit Asheville for 1800 ft gain or South Mountains for 2200 ft gain.  Very different half marathons.  Sometimes the flat is fun, sometimes the challenge of elevation is fun.  Some events have challenges of completion of several race distances in a day or weekend.  A 5k on Saturday and half marathon on Sunday can be a fun challenge.  Disney offers the Dopey Challenge: 48.6 miles – 4 races (5k, 10k, half, full marathon) in 4 days throughout Disney parks. The name covers this rightfully so but the challenge speaks for itself.  The achievement factor definitely creates a fun factor (although maybe slightly delayed due to the suffer factor depending on events).

Mike’s current favorite challenge:  Flying Pirate 13.1/5k Double Challenge

Did you PR?

I don’t think the success or failure of a run in solely based on the setting a personal record status.  While the satisfaction of reaching that goal, and performing something you have never done before creates a well-deserved accomplishment, I think an event has potential to be just as good if the other elements of a quality run are there for you.  That being said, it’s always fun to set a new time and maybe even win your age group.


Stuff we all get.  It’s free right (ignore the registration fees)? We all forget that we paid for them by the time we cross that finish line and we get handed a medal that weighs as much as my 8-month old, get draped in that brand-new event blanket, only to use it as a towel for sweat, and clean up just well enough to put on our new hat for the post finish line photo op.  I’m not going to lie, it’s exciting to find out what non-advertised stuff we get on race day.  However, to provide a voice of reason to the proceedings, I present you with the following:  about ½ of my race shirts get donated due to variations in sizing or personal disdain for the material chosen (I hate slicks).  My medals are in a shoe box and I look at them when I get a new medal.  I use race hats all the time, wear the few pair of race socks that I have received, and missed out on the only finisher blanket at Richmond due to apocalypse like flu symptoms the night before.  So SWAG does have it’s limits in awesomeness and practicality.

Mike’s Most Liked SWAG by category:  Shirt – Bull City Race Fest 13.1, Hat- City of Oaks Marathon Raleigh, Medal – (tie) Running of the Bulls Durham (cow bell), City of Oaks Marathon

Training Update:

We are currently five Saturdays out from the Savannah Rock n Roll Marathon on Nov 4.  Training overall has been pretty good, with a hard time/self doubt sprinkled in here and there.  The training plan I started in July has consisted of about 400 miles to date, with the peak of training about to be reached with 20 miles 2 out of 3 weeks (20 miles done this past Saturday).  We are closing in!