Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston… It’s Personal.

I know a good many running bloggers have posted their thoughts on the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon and I’ve frankly felt like a slacker for not getting on it myself.  But the words weren’t coming and, really, I wasn’t sure I had any business making a statement at all.  I’m not a Bostonian.  I don’t personally know anyone who ran or was as spectator at the race.  I’m under no illusions that I’ll ever be a Boston Qualifier in this lifetime.  I find sadness in any loss of life, but I didn’t think this particular event had much to do with my own life.  Over the twelve or so hours following the explosions, I took in the facts and information, I thought of the victims, but I did so as an unassociated observer.  And then a co-worker asked me Tuesday morning, “How do you feel about what happened in Boston?  I know you race – do you feel like this changes things for you?”

It hit me like a Mack truck.  The tears started and I answered, “Yes.  I think it does.”  Because, it turns out, what happened in Boston is personal. 

I’ve crossed nine finish lines since beginning my distance running journey, all with only the thought of finishing strong on my mind.  I’ll never cross another finish line without a tickle of “what if there’s a bomb, not a PR, waiting at the end?”  I’ll never again see the finish ahead and not spare a mental moment of remembrance for those who became victims of a heinous act simply because they chose to cheer for us, the folks who love to run.  That’s personal.

My family and friends have been on the sidelines and finish areas of numerous races, cheering for me and every other runner out there.  Seeing them has brought me joy, courage and determination to pick up my pace and push hard toward my goal.  I’ll never again run a race without concern for their safety.  That’s personal.

My ten-year-old son, Leo, has always worried for me when I race.  He worries that I might be injured.  He worries that I might get lost.  He worries that I might tire early and not finish.  And now he worries that some stranger may intentionally harm me.  That’s personal.

For me, the most cruelly, ironically poignant fact of the Boston Marathon bombings is this: people lost to the explosions the very limbs I use to participate in a sport I love – the sport for which those victims took time out of their lives to cheer.  Some may never walk again, let alone run.  Since first learning of their fates, I have not taken a step, pressed on the gas pedal of my car, rubbed an aching shin, placed my foot into a shoe without thinking of them.  That’s personal.

So, to answer my co-worker’s question more clearly, yes, things have changed for me.  I am more determined than ever to meet and set running goals.  I will race the events for which I’m already registered and I plan to register for more events in the future.  I will shower with appreciation those who cheer for me on-course and will be understanding of those who choose not to.  I will think of Boston’s victims at every finish line I approach and push to the strongest finish I can.  I’ll talk with Leo and do what I can to assuage his fears while imparting what knowledge I can to help him be safe.  I’ll keep running; I’ll run for those who cannot.

Because Boston?  It’s very much personal.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Fake-Africa Run: Route Review, Animal Kingdom Lodge

Everyone has a fantasy run, right?  Maybe it’s a race of special significance.  Or hitting a super-fast personal record. Or, perhaps most often, a picturesque location far from home.

My fantasy run falls into that last category – and it looks like this:

“If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?” 
- Isak Dineson, Out of Africa

Yes, I dream of running in Africa.  So, when a quick weekend trip to Walt Disney World landed Leo and I at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for our lodging, there was no question that I’d put in my scheduled Saturday run.

For those who’ve not yet been, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas includes two large buildings constructed and detailed in a meticulously rendered African theme, Jambo House and Kidani Village.  Both are nothing less than stunning.  (For a full array of photos, I highly recommend a visit to’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Kidani Village pages.)  The public spaces, rooms and eateries are all gorgeous in their own rights.  But.  The outdoor space is what really sets Animal Kingdom Lodge apart from other resorts – how’s about an African savanna right outside your window?  In Central Florida?!

Okay, okay – this is not a trip report and it’s not an advertisement for a hotel; it’s a running route review, right? On with it already…

Now I knew I wouldn’t be running with the giraffes.  And I’ve stayed at both Kidani and Jambo House often enough that I don’t need a map to get around.  But I’ve never before run there.  And I might have been a teensy bit excited about the prospect of doing so.  Remember – my African running dream?

My convoluted route - Jambo House on the far right, Kidani Village to its left, illicit trespassing on the far left.

I began in the porte-cochere of Jambo House and followed the paved path from there to Kidani Village.  This seemed like a loooong walk when Leo and I shuffled back from Jambo to Kidani after our Expedition Everest Challenge, but it fell far short of “long” while running – only a quarter-mile before I hit the Kidani parking garage.  Knowing that the garage traveled a decent distance under the Kidani building, I ducked into the garage and ran its length and back.

Not real exciting.  Certainly not Africa-like. Hmph.

Emerging form the parking garage, I hadn’t yet hit a mile, so I followed a path leading to the pool and circled back, outdoors, to a sign that pointed to the barbeque and sports courts across the drive from Kidani.  And I still hadn’t hit a mile.  And it still wasn’t feeling very Africa-ish.

But… a road leads to the sports courts.  And… it keeps going beyond them.  Okay, there’s a sign warning that only WDW vehicles are allowed past that point… but I wasn’t in a vehicle, was I?  So it didn’t apply to me.  I kept going.

Hey, this is kinda Africa-like!

MUCH better!  It was silent back there, apart from the tweets and twitters of birds and the occasional splash of a fish or turtle in that small pond.  The road was “paved” in the sense that there had once been a layer of asphalt poured down, but is now sun-bleached to light gray, beleaguered with pot holes and dusted with dirt.  It felt more like “trail” than “road” especially coupled with the wooded area to my left.  A truck full of hay bales passed me as I reached a fork in the road, but it didn’t stop and no one admonished me for being there.

At the fork, the truck entered a fenced-in area while I turned left, deeper into the woods.  Or so I thought.  Bleh.  A big, dirt patch with a handful of truck trailers in the middle.  Time to turn around.

I followed the road back to Kidani, took another loop around the pool, and then followed the path back to Jambo.  Just over two miles.  My goal was four. GAH!

Down to the bus stops, back up to the Jambo lobby.  Through the lobby (walking, not running – though I powered down the stairs…), around the pool deck, out to the savanna overlooks, back around the pool, through the lobby…

Three miles.

I thought about heading back down to Kidani, but opted to run a few speed laps up and down the parking lot.  When I finally made it to 3.75, I called it good and did another walking lap of the lobby and pool to cool down.

My feeling about running Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge?  Meh.  There just isn’t enough prime real estate to make more than a mile or so happen easily.  I really enjoyed the road away from the buildings… but I wasn’t supposed to be there, right?  Guess I’ll continue to fantasize of a run in real-Africa; fake-Africa just didn’t cut it.

However, never before have I had such a nice post-run snack/rest period.

View from our studio villa's balcony!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Motivation Monday

I have to admit it – my motivation was waning a bit this past weekend.  I’ve been dealing with the aftermath of a chest cold for weeks, Leo wasn’t feeling well, and pollen counts are off the charts around here… the right combination to make me want to hole up inside and skip a long run.

But, just as I was ready to bag my planned six-miler, I saw this from Run Chat:

Game on. Time for the #RunChat Scavenger Hunt

March 14, 2013 By David 31 Comments
Get your camera (or phone) ready, put on your running gear and start searching. It’s time for the first ever #RunChat Scavenger Hunt.
In early March we took your submissions on what to find, then took your votes to narrow down the list. We’ve taken the top 10 items for you to find to snap photos of and post them to Twitter to show off all in the name of fun … and some great prizes.
The #RunChat Scavenger Hunt will run through 9 p.m. ET March 31 to give you plenty of time to find these items in case you need more than one run to do complete the search.
Here’s how it will work: you run, you take photos of the items below, you post them to Twitter with the hashtag #RunChatHunt and you’ll be entered to win our prizes.
Here are the items to search for (in order of your No. 1 choice to No. 10 in last week’s voting):
A running sticker (13.1, 26.2, etc.)
Bridge (bonus for covered)
A giant hill you’re going to run
Christmas decorations still up
Historical marker/sign
Letters from signs to create #runchat
“Welcome to” state/city/county sign
Water (lake/river/pond)
Trail marker or mile marker
A scene from your favorite place to run

I love photography. I especially love photo scavenger hunts.  And I needed more motivation to go run.  It was the Perfect Storm of incentives.  Minus the George Clooney.  And.  Marky Mark.  Though I did choose INKS Kick and Shriekback Oil & Gold as my albums for my previously mentioned album run experiment.  So I totally had the 80s music covered.  Yo.

Ahem.  I digress…

It was a gorgeous spring day here in west-central Florida, so I headed out to the beach and started running and shooting.

Not just "a" running sticker - three of 'em! Four if runDisney counts.

We don't have big hills in coastal Florida. But we do have bridges - this covers both!

Mile marker. D'uh.

Welcome sign - and to my very favorite beach, no less.

Water: a turtle pond at McGough Nature Park.

Does 1990 count as "historical"? It was  the previous century...

Last, but certainly not least, my favorite place to run! Bliss.

So, how'd it go?  Beautifully!  Literally and figuratively.  Taking time to stop for photos forced me  out of my run-data-filled head and into the world around me.  Paying close attention to the sights so as not to miss a potential photo made me more aware of my truly awesome surroundings; I'm darned lucky to run in such an amazing place.  And having a running goal that really had nothing to do with the act of running was just plain fun.  And... I finished my six miles feeling great.

Many thanks to Run Chat for posting the challenge; I may not win a prize in the contest, but I kinda feel like I already won big!  :)