“There is nothing noble in being superior to some other man. The true nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Tim Tweitmeyer
I think this quote really encompasses why I run, and how I define a successful run. Tweitmeyer is one of ultrarunnings legends, having won the Western States 100 5 times, and even more impressive, having finished it a record 25 times, all in under 24 hours. And yet he still defines success as measured against himself, not anyone else.
Last night, I had steeled myself to the idea of doing my lunch-hour run in the rain today. Not steeled, exactly, but rather embraced — I was looking forward to a run in the rain, being soaked to the skin and laughing and coming back to the building dripping wet and refreshed. The rain, however, had different plans, and held off until late this afternoon, so instead I go the sticky, humid, pre-thunderstorm weather for my lunch run.
Regardless, it was still fantastic. I ran in my Vibram’s, and as soon as I was out of range of the school stripped of my already sweaty shirt, and did the rest of my run in just my shorts and toe-shoes: about as close to naked as you can get without being arrested. It was humid, and I dripped sweat the entire way, but knowing my run had to be short, I made sure to have fun, cobbling together another “urban trail run” like I’ve been doing of late. I left the building with no plan at all, but steered towards every small park I could find, running along benches and up small rock embankments, down hills, and on and off curbs. I cut wove down the side streets south of the 161st, then took the 145th street bridge to Harlem before looping back around the McComb’s Dam and around Yankee Stadium.
I didn’t take my GPS, but I did strap on the heart-rate monitor, and pushed myself the entire time. I did 3.6 miles in just about 28 minutes, which is about a 7:30 mile. As long as I’m having fun, it never feels like I’m trying that hard.
I’ve got two running books I’ve recently started, and I just might review them in the next few days. One is Ultramarthon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, by Dean Karnazes, one of the biggest names in ultrarunning. He’s sort of pilloried as a self-aggrandizing egotist in McDougal’s Born to Run, but since his book is one of the best known ultrarunning memoirs, I figured I should give him a chance.
The other is the recently published Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarthons, by Bryon Powell of iRunfar.com. While there are hundreds of guides to running in general and training for marathons in particular, this is the first guide to training for and completing ultramarthons. While part of me thinks of the books as almost “cheating” (cobling together knowledge from disparite sources and trial and error seems to be a proud ultrarunning tradition), I also know that trying to train for a 50K with two kids, a working partner, and teaching full-time will be hard enough without lots of 26 mile trial-and-error training runs.