Mace

I'm a single mother of four who has been running injury-free for 27 years, astonishingly without ever losing any weight. I'm a writer and editor near Boston, and author of "Honey, Do You Need a Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner."

The Case for Meeting our Neighborhood Runners

DIY heroes
Oh, come on, who doesn’t want friends like these? Runners have fun like nobody else!

Mark Matthews, an author and Salty friend, recently posted a hilarious essay about his reaction to strangers running through his neighborhood.

“Yes, if you run by my house, my nose will detect your scent, I’ll watch you like a junkyard dog, my spidey sense will tingle, and I’ll be thinking, ‘Wait, why don’t I know you? You are a bit of a stranger here? Did you just move into this neighborhood, did you run farther than you thought, or is this perhaps your first run ever?  You are running through my neighborhood. I don’t know you, and I should.”

This resonated with me, first because it’s funny, and second, because it’s so true.  What runner doesn’t perk up a little little, like a guard dog, when we detect motion in front of our homes, especially if it’s motion that appears to be wearing Lycra?

Instinctively, we want to know who goes there.  But in reality, even when we see a fellow runner repeatedly,  we may know her pace, but have no idea what her name is, or even where she lives.  That would require stopping, something we runners are loathe to do.

Worse, it would require asking another runner to stop, which, as faux pas go, is right up there with asking if you can take a sip from a stranger’s water bottle.  Also, runners are famously solitary souls, so for a lot of us, connecting with an unfamiliar runner is as appealing as a bout of plantar faciitis.

So even though we have an extremely major thing in common, we pass each other repeatedly with only a wave or a nod, if that.  We’re intimate strangers.  But we don’t have to be. Read more >>

Snakes on the Run

Illuminated parchment, Spain, circa AD 950-955...
Illuminated parchment, Spain, circa AD 950-955, depicting the Fall of Man, cause of original sin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As if it’s not enough to worry about human predators while we’re running, there’s a whole other species to watch out for in summer:  snakes.

Runner’s World says it’s rare to encounter snakes on a run, but the editors must be spending too much time in the city.  I’ve leapt over three on the trail in the past month alone.  In New England, where I live, we’ve had a lot of rain, and rain flushes snakes out of hiding. So does the sun.  Snakes like to sunbathe, just like humans.

At summer’s peak, they’re more active at night, but as fall approaches, they’ll move around more during the day; they’re most active in spring and fall, so trail runners need to keep an eye out for the narrow fellows lurking in the grass.  I’m pretty sure they’ve got it out for runners in particular, since we have such magnificent legs and they’ve got none.

The snakes I leapt over seemed harmless enough, but then it occurred to me that I know nothing about snakes except that one offered an apple to Adam and Eve, and that didn’t turn out so great. Read more >>

What Body Part Would You Remove for Your Running?

English: Angelina Jolie at the Cannes film fes...
Angelina Jolie at the Cannes film festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I enjoy a good movie as much as anyone, but for me to sit still for two straight hours requires three things: bad weather, a long run finished, and the possibility that Russell Crowe might appear on the screen. Otherwise, count me out.

But I snapped to attention last week upon hearing the news that Angelina Jolie had removed her breasts.   Or rather, surgeons did, at her request, to dramatically cut her risk of getting breast cancer.  It was one more step in the canonization process of a bad girl turned saintly mother, and while I think hers was a reasonable decision for a woman of privilege and means (not so much for women in the undeveloped world), there was a tiny part of me that was a little bit jealous, thinking, “Man, if I only I could have a double mastectomy, I would be so much faster!”

Yes, horrible, I know.  And I can say that only because I am blessed (so far) with good health, and have never had to wage fierce battle with the Big C.  But my friends who have fought it bravely did so with a generous dose of black humor, and so I hope they understand.   This is my truth: My breasts get in the way of my running. They affect my gait, my speed, my self-image. Read more >>

Run like a rabbit this Easter

Here are the running books that most inspire me: George Sheehan’s Running and Being. Scott Jurek’s Eat & Run. Rachel Toor’s Personal Record, and, of course, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes.

Yep, the best children’s book about Easter is also one of the best grown-up books about running, despite being published in 1939, when the only people who ran around city streets were either Olympians or freaks or both–imagine what Fanny Blankers-Koen was called by her neighbors before her Olympic success earned her the title of “Flying Housewife.” (And don’t worry, even if you don’t celebrate Easter; but for the eggs and bunnies, it’s a secular tale.)

“We hear of the Easter Bunny who comes each Easter Day before sunrise to bring eggs for boys and girls, so we think there is only one,” begins the story by DuBose Heyward and Marjorie Flack. In fact, there are five, and all the bunnies in the world aspire to be one, even the little country girl bunny with brown skin, “a little cotton-ball of a tail,” 21 babies and no husband. Read more >>

When the Only Safe Place to Run Is the Center of the Road

Even though the Boston Marathon is still two months away, the course is already busy on weekend mornings.  Locals start running the course – portions of it, at least – in January, ignoring the cold, snow, and hostility of sedentary motorists unwilling to share the road.

Witness the complaint (right) to the Hopkinton Police Department:

Officer O’Brien’s fine police work notwithstanding, let’s be honest:   At one point, the runners probably were in the lane.  And what of it?   Middle-of-the-road running is sometimes necessary when there is three feet of dirty snow on the road shoulder, and icy trails are impassable.

We shouldn’t run in the road when there’s a car bearing down, of course.  But when there’s a break in the traffic, what’s wrong with a careful runner occupying the blacktop? Bicyclists are allowed there. Read more >>

5 Best Broadway Musicals to Run to

Friday 5Is there a Les Mis fan anywhere who doesn’t have “One Day More!” on her running playlist right now?

The release of the Tom Hooper movie has made us Les Mis junkies go into Jean Valjean overdrive, and for weeks, I’ve been running with an abbreviated playlist of tunes from the West End show.  It’s abbreviated, of course, because you can’t keep a sustained pace when Eponine is dying in your earbuds,  babbling on weakly about rain and flowers and unrequited passion.  Lovely as they may be, songs like that have to go.

But cobble together a Broadway show’s most stirring numbers, and you’ve got the makings of a powerful hour on the road. Getting immersed in a musical’s storyline is a good anecdote for boredom that can occur on a long run when we’re accompanied by only a haphazard collection of unconnected tunes. And shows usually have a comical number or two that can make even a hard workout just plain fun.  (In Les Mis, it’s “Master of the House” which makes me laugh out loud no matter how many times I hear it.)

Not every Broadway show is a contender.  Avenue Q is one of the greatest shows of all time, but you can’t run to hardly any of it.  And I like Cats, but it wouldn’t get me to the end of my driveway.

So, to kick off your weekend long run, here are the FIVE BEST MUSICALS TO RUN TO  (grammatically incorrect, yes, but you will agree that that sounds much better than FIVE BEST MUSICALS TO WHICH YOU SHOULD RUN, yes?) Read more >>

It’s time for us to run faster — by ending walking breaks

If we want to run fast, we must vow never to become a walker, run from the concept like it’s one of the Walking Dead. (Image via geekalerts.com.)

Can we get faster by going slower?  Occam’s razor and I say no.

Occam’s razor is the philosophic principle that suggests the best answer to any dilemma is always the simplest.   That is, it seems pretty logical that you don’t run faster by, say, slowing to a walk.  This hasn’t stopped people like Jeff Galloway from building a huge following by encouraging people to run-walk their way to fitness.

And I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that if all you want from running is to be fit.

But if you want to be fit and fast, which is a whole other thing altogether, you cannot allow yourself to become an intermittent walker.  You must flee the whole business of walk-run workouts like Officer Rick and his comrades flee the dreaded “Walkers” on the AMC television show The Walking Dead.  Read more >>

Mace’s training log, 12-16-12

Well, predictably, this being Christmas and all, I gained weight this week.   Unpredictably, I ran well, anyway.

My mileage was up this week. I think I’m running from cookies. (Image via tribesports.com.)

I started the week with a big accomplishment:  cracking a 10-something pace.  Okay, so technically, it was a lot closer to 11 than 10, but still.    Ever since I gained five pounds over the summer, I haven’t seen a 10-anything so I’ll take it, with joy.

Slowed back down the rest of the week, but my total miles inched up, so it’s all good.

SUNDAY:   off

MONDAY:   5.6 miles, 10:54 pace

TUESDAY:    off

 WEDNESDAY:   2 miles, with dog, untimed

THURSDAY:    off

FRIDAY:     3 miles, with dog, 11:38

SATURDAY:   6 miles,   11:51

Total:  16.6 miles,  157 pounds

 

Avoid Injuries: Run from Gators

Yup, I’d run faster, faced with this dude. (Image via Wikipedia.)

We hear so much about repetitive-stress injuries, like carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, or the latest, iPod finger.   For runners, just about any injury could be called a RSI, because what is running but repetitive stress, both literal and figurative?  As the late, great Bill Bowerman said, all training can be summarized in this:  “Stress. Recover. Improve.”

Too much stress on any body part, of course, can have catastrophic consequences … not necessarily catastrophic as in “surgery and six months of recovery” but as in “hurts-like-hell  and can’t-run-for-awhile.”     Every long-term runner comes up with her own tricks to stay off the injured list.  One of mine is this:   Every now and then, run from an alligator.

Anyone who’s ever lived near Florida knows the old lore that alligators and crocodiles can’t run crookedly, and so if you’re ever chased by a large, scary reptile, run zigzag to get away.   This is also useful when you’re running away from large, scary repetitive-stress injuries. Read more >>

Mace’s training log, 12-9-12

English: Christmas cookies.
The more cookies in the house, the fewer miles I seem to run! (Photo via: Wikipedia)

Invisible progress, this week.   Ever had that?

To look at my stats, it looks like I’m running in place:  too many days off, the usual pace, no weight loss or startling improvement.  But visible only to me, it was there.  My runs were more energetic than they’ve been in the past months.  And I only stopped to walk when dictated by dog.

Plus, this close to Christmas, if you’re a mom, any run at all is an achievement.  In my running journals, I see many years in which my mileage dwindled in proportion to the number of baked goods in the house.  By the time we hit peak cookie influx, usually around Dec. 22, I was barely mobile.  So for the holidays, even a boring ol’ plateau can be good!

SUNDAY:   off

MONDAY:   off

TUESDAY:    off

 WEDNESDAY:      4 miles, untimed, with dog

THURSDAY:   5.7 miles, 11:40

FRIDAY:    off

SATURDAY:    4 miles, untimed, with dog

Total:    13.7 miles,  155 pounds

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The Gift Race Directors Don’t Want Us to Give: Race Bib Transfers

Sorry I missed this race; it looks like fun! (Photo of Jack London 10K via metsky.blogspot.com.)

My fastest race ever was the one I didn’t run.

A few years ago, I registered for a trail race in New Hampshire:   the Jack London 10K, named for the author of “The Call of the Wild.”

It was in another state.  On Nov. 1.  Can anyone see the problem here? Captain Oblivious here didn’t, and so yes, I paid money to run a race in another state early on the morning after Halloween.

And no, I didn’t make it.  But amazingly enough, I ran my personal best!

A few months later, a friend spotted my name on the list of finishers. I’d finished in 49:26, a pace just under eight minutes a mile.

Had I actually run this race, I would have petitioned the Vatican to deem this a miracle.  But of course, someone just picked up my lonely bib and ran with it, literally and figuratively.   Technically, yes, that made him or her a bandit, but I don’t care.  If I can’t make a race, I’m happy to have someone run in my place, particularly if they’re going to make me look good, but race directors who forbid the transfer of numbers make this difficult for those of us inclined to generosity. Read more >>

Mace’s training log, 12-2-12

This week was a repeat of the lesson “if you can run, you must run, because tomorrow you might not be able.”

You don’t have to worry about falling when you’re only six inches off the ground! (Image via perfectleypeared.com)

I’d planned to run long on Friday, but I let work get in the way and postponed it to Saturday, which turned out to be a mistake.  Usually, I keep a close eye on the forecast so I can get pleasurably exhausted before bad weather hits, but somehow I missed the slushy snow that began late Friday and continued into Saturday.  No long, fast run for me.    Thankfully, warmer next week, so I can try once again to get my sluggish self back to a 10-something pace before the Christmas-cookie production begins in earnest.

SUNDAY:   5.8,  11:20 pace

MONDAY:   off

TUESDAY:    3 , untimed, with dog

 WEDNESDAY:   off

THURSDAY:  2, untimed, with dog

FRIDAY:    off

SATURDAY:   4.6,  11:41

Total:  15.4 miles, 155 pounds.  Miniscule progress, but I’ll take it.

Smile, and the World Runs with You

The look of suffering: one of running’s 7 deadly sins. (Photo via atrailrunnersblog.com)

Fresh off a six-mile run, I got an email that made me wince.

“If running is so good, why do you seem to be in so much pain while you’re doing it?” asked a neighbor who’d passed me in his car and waved merrily while I was staggering up the last hill, apparently complete with ugly face.

I replied,  “You saw me on mile 6.  I was positively euphoric on miles 2, 3 and 4.”

This was true.  The first and last miles of any workout are often the hardest.   Besides, the test of any experience is not how we feel while we’re doing it, but how we feel after it’s done, so whatever discomfort we experience during a run shouldn’t matter.

But that said, I still committed one of the seven deadly sins of running:  looking to the world, or at least everyone who passed me that day, like running equals suffering. This is wrong on so many counts. Read more >>

Mace’s training log, 11-18-12

Laurel Mountain, West Virginia (Photo taken ne...
Laurel Mountain, West Virginia (Photo taken near Tacy, West Virginia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vacations bring out the dreamer in me, the dreamer who thinks she is going to spend the whole week running through forests like a nymph, then stretching, then swimming, then maybe enjoying a massage or a hike or bike ride. But that bitch Reality always intervenes. Or maybe it’s her evil twin Sloth.  At any rate, I wound up with my typical weekly mileage while on vacation, though with one plus:  I was in the mountains of West Virginia, and did my miles on some not insignificant inclines.  So I was tempted to count them twice. But I didn’t. No person is ever more honest than a Salty runner in her training log.

SUNDAY:   5.5, untimed

MONDAY:  Off.

TUESDAY:   2.5

 WEDNESDAY:    off

THURSDAY:  5.7 miles, 11:44 pace.

FRIDAY:    planned off

SATURDAY:    unplanned off

Total:  13.7 miles, and too much a coward to get on the scale ( always the case after any good vacation)

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Mace’s training log, 11-4-12

Can and, more importantly, should you try to “catch up” with miles when your week has gotten off to a bad start?   The hurricane left me that quandary (along with two downed trees) at the start of the week.

The tyranny of a zero-balance training log.

Compared to its wrath in New Jersey and New York, the storm was mild here in the suburbs of Boston.  But between the wind, rain and school cancellations, it blew away any hope of running in the first half of the week.

Unable to get out until hump day, I was unsure of whether to stick with my usual every-other-day routine, or push it and run every day. (As the Geezer Salty, at the ripe old age of 50, I generally run every other day in the hopes of my knees lasting another half-century.)

But that big fat zero taunted me on Wednesday.  Honestly, a training log can be such a bully.  So, a compromise:  two back-to-back, then a day off, to guarantee I’ll be fresh next week, when I’ll be trying to break back into 10-something miles.

 

SUNDAY:   Off.

MONDAY:  Off.

TUESDAY:   Off.

WEDNESDAY:    4.5 miles, 11.16 pace.

THURSDAY:    4 miles, with dog, untimed.

FRIDAY:     Off.

SATURDAY:      5 miles, 11:21 pace.

Total: 13.5 miles, 156 pounds.