Q+A: "Why Running?"

I’ve been getting some of the same questions over and over again, so I’ve decided to just blog about some of these typical questions I get. First and foremost a lot of people have questioned (in a good way!) why I chose running as opposed to some other sport.

So…”Why running?”

Well, I chose running for a few reasons.

1. The barrier to entry is pretty low. All you need are some decent workout clothes — preferably the sweat-wicking kind, and some shoes to go for a run. With other sports you need equipment, some training, some prep time, but most humans are equipped with everything they’ll ever need to run.

2. I can do it anytime I want. In theory, you can do whatever you want at anytime you want. With running specifically, I can put on my shoes and leave for a run whenever I feel like. I don’t have to arrive an hour early to put my name on a wait list for a class to start — like the spin class at the gym — and I don’t have to rely on a teammate to work out with. The minute I feel like doing it, I can go about my business on my own. It works out pretty nicely since I have a tendency to be a bit sporadic with the times of day that I feel like running. I also like to vary my distance, and not everyone’s schedule can accomodate such fleeting desires. Thus, when I chose running, I knew that I’d be able to be flexible enough with my own schedule where I’d be able to do it whenever I felt like it.

3. I needed very little training to get started. Running seems almost instinctual. I mean, you can read up on running tips, best stretches, how to better your stride, etc., but for the most part you are born with a body that can fine tune itself. Nature has built our bodies in such a way that we run as efficiently as possible (for us at least). We can improve upon it with training but we are born with the tools, at the very least, to get started on our own.

4. I could feel results from it quickly. After one run I felt accomplished. After a few runs I began noticing changes in my body. By the time I logged 100 I felt like a different person. I have a tendency to be impatient — who isn’t? — so running was the quickest way to satiate my desire for change.

5. I have people in my life who are runners. When I decided to take up running, I knew of a few people who ran regularly. One of my clients had finished the San Francisco triathlon…I had a friend who was training for the LA marathon, and another friend who seemed to run pretty regularly. I admired these three people since they seemed to have their life figured out — they were organized, upbeat, positive, and I wanted to be like them. I figured that imitation was the best form of flattery, so instead of picking their brains I just copied their lifestyle and began running. Apparently it works!

So, I suppose I can ask you the same question — “Why running?” If you’re not yet a runner, what’s holding you back?

Long Weekends, Long Runs

Hope you all had a fantastic Memorial Day weekend! I spent my time off balancing pure relaxation and pushing my limits. All in all it was pretty fun!

 

I’ve found that double digit runs have been very intimidating for me personally, even though I’ve done a few of them already. There’s reticence on my end since I usually have to prep a bit for it. A 3, 4, 5, or 6 mile run requires nothing more than staying hydrated beforehand and then eating immediately afterwards…and usually sunscreen 20 minutes before I leave.

However, when a run goes into 10, 11, 12, 13+ mile range, I usually load up my hydration pack and a few portable snacks since I get hungry pretty easily. Then comes the lag. I take forever to get dressed. I walk circles around my apartment — even though it’s pretty small — and make excuses and procrastinate. I start flipping through magazines or organizing my desk, cleaning out the fridge, fix my hair…pretty much anything except get myself out of the door. The last bit of procrastination usually includes me laying down on my couch for a bit and visualizing my run. I never really know what gets me up off that couch and out the door but it does and I get on with it.

It’s not so much the dread of feeling tired, or getting sweaty, or whatever other excuse I can come up with, that gets in the way. For some strange reason I’m always paranoid that I won’t finish my run. It sounds ridiculous because all I have to do is choose to end it — I can cut it short, I can take a detour, I can stop and enjoy a park, or I can extend it — so really, “finishing” is relative. Finishing a run is not really the same as finishing school, finishing a project, or finishing the course of a relationship. Or perhaps it really is the same, since we are all in control of our choices, our happiness, and how we manage the things that effect us.

There’s almost an invisible amount of pressure on me that I’ve really just fabricated. Being enrolled in a marathon training class is a little pressure, but it’s really the good kind. I’ve enjoyed it thus far but what I’ve missed the most lately is running just for the sake of running — not to train for something, not to qualify for a race, not to check in or check out, but just for the sheer fun of it.

Today I decided to take a different mental approach and re-run a very difficult course with the mentality that I was just running for fun. (I of course checked in to it!) I focused on a few things: 1) keeping my composure, 2) smiling a bit more at strangers, 3) enjoying the scenery and 4) maintaining a consistent pace. I ran through Miracle Mile, Hancock Park, Sunset Blvd/The Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and back to Miracle Mile. With that attitude, my run was an absolute breeze!! I enjoyed a beautiful sunset along the Sunset Strip, and enjoyed magic hour in Beverly Hills. It was night by the time I made my way though WeHo and back towards my home and when I ran through the final streetlight, I didn’t feel a bit tired. My knees were a bit achy, but my breathing wasn’t labored and my energy wasn’t shot. Los Angeles is so beautiful, especially on the tail end of a long weekend that vacates the city. With the wind this weekend, the skies were clean and clear. For once I felt like I had the city all to myself…and I treasured every minute of it.

Now that I’ve taken this route a second time, I’ve kept my eyes peeled for some interesting photos. Next time I run this same route, I’ll create a photo album so that you guys get to see what I see! After this weekend I feel confident that I will be able to successfully take on the 15K in Santa Barbara on July 4th without a problem. I’m so excited to make my way back to Santa Barbara again…I am positive that the course will be absolutely stunning.

To end an otherwise great weekend, I received this nugget of genius in my email box just a few minutes ago…

Believe that you’re young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don’t let worn out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself. -John Bingham

Recent Read: Born To Run

I started this book today waiting for the Metro to take me home from my just-completed 13 mile point-to-point run from my apartment to the ocean. It came highly recommended by a client who also happens to be a triathlete.

I’m about halfway through it so far and I’m impressed — it’s linear insomuch that it reconstructs the chronology of particular chance encounters but also spins off into sub-chapters explaining the characteristics that each of the ultrarunners bring to the game. I’ve excerpted a few of my favorite passages below.

(Update: I’ve finished the book and it was great! I loved the storytelling aspect as the writer follows many different runners on their journey. The only part I didn’t like was that there was one small portion where the author was hypocritical: he makes a mention of an unsaid runners code of ethics, but then manages to slam another professional runner a few pages later. I wonder why the editor let that one slide by!)

Pick it up! My rating: 8/10

* * *

“Lesson two….think easy, light, smooth, and fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a shit how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooth. You don’t have to worry about the last one — you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

* * *

Was Zatopek a great man who happen to run, or a great man because he ran? Vigil couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but his gut kept telling him that there was some kind of connection between the capacity to love and the capacity to love running. The engineering was certainly the same: both depended on loosening your grip on your own desires, putting aside what you wanted and appreciating what you got, being patient and forgiving and undemanding. Sex and speed — haven’t they been symbiotic for most of our existence, as intertwined as the strands of DNA? We wouldn’t be alive without love; we wouldn’t have survived without running; maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that getting better at one could make you better at the other.”

* * *

That fall, a photo appeared in UltraRunning Magazine. It shows Jenn finishing a 30-mile race somewhere in the backwoods of Virginia. There’s nothing amazing about her performance (third place), or her getup (basic black shorts, basic black sports bra), or even the camera work (dimly let, crudely cropped). Jenn isn’t battling a rival to the bitter end, or striding across a mountaintop with the steel-jawed majesty of a Nike model, or gasping toward glory with a grimace of heartbreaking determination. All she’s doing is…running. Running, and smiling. But that smile is strangely stirring. You can tell she’s having an absolute blast, as if there’s nothing on earth she’d rather be doing and nowhere on earth she’d rather be doing it than here, on this lost trail in the middle of the Appalachian wilderness. Even though she’s just run four miles further than a marathon, she looks light-footed and carefree, her eyes twinkling, her ponytail swinging around her head like a shirt in the fist of a triumphant Brazilian soccer player. Her naked delight is unmistakable; it forces a smile to her lips that’s so honest and unguarded, you feel she’s lost in the grip of artistic inspiration.

* * *

Ann liked to tell her friends that running huge miles in the mountains was “very romantic.” But yeah, Ann insisted, running was romantic; and no, of course her friends didn’t get it because they’d never broken through. For them, running was a miserable two miles motivated solely by size 6 jeans: get on the scale, get depressed, get your headphones on, and get it over with. But you can’t muscle through a five-hour run that way; you have to relax into it, like easing your body into a hot bath, until it no longer resists the shock and begins to enjoy it.

Relax enough, and your body becomes so familiar with the cradle-rocking rhythm that you almost forget that you’re moving. And once you break through that soft, half-levitating flow, that’s when the moonlight and champagne show up.

* * *

 

A Few Observations From Today

 

On my run:

  • I ran the Miles for Melanoma 5K this morning in Fullerton. Along the run route they had volunteers hold signs of people whom have passed from cancer. It was also very nice to see families and teams working together to fundraise for a cause that was so close to them.
  • The run route was pretty — a short trail to a small fishing lake. It looped around and on the run back I felt like I was going to either trip and fall over rocks or walkers. Both would have been equally painful in my opinion.

Regarding my timing:

  • I really do need to leave a bit earlier. I have a tendency to drill everything down until the last minute. I had the map to the race venue months in advance and still didn’t bother routing my drive there since I knew where the city was. I arrived with just enough time to check-in late and head to the start line!
  • In regards to actual timing of my run, I did pretty well compared to my last 5K. I ran a 9:23 mile compared to my 10:20 mile at the LA Big5K at the end of March.

On my bike ride:

  • It is easier to maintain momentum than it is to fight inertia. (I think that applies to a lot of areas of life.)
  • I’m having a difficult time turning and braking…pretty much anything that deviates from riding in a straight line. And even that I don’t do very well yet.
  • I get skittish with people around. I get especially nervous when there are cars around.
  • Nonetheless I’ve somewhat mastered staying on for continuous blocks and dips in the road.

In my personal relationships:

  • It’s easier to just speak your mind than it is to wallow in doubt.
  • Time spent with friends is time well spent.

In my work:

  • Spent the better part of the afternoon working on a visual overhaul for a friend’s website. It’s always difficult removing myself from the equation and making sure I design for someone else’s preference and their audience than for my own taste. I think that’s a challenge all designers face whether or not they choose to own up to that responsibility.
  • When working on weekends it is best to apply the law of diminishing marginal returns.

Feeling Rather Tiny Today

I woke up from one of my infamous 10-minute-dream-flash naps and per my usual routine I scrolled through my timeline to find a (somewhat) ironically poetic mini-meme started my one of my favorite music artists, @ladysov.

From the way I’ve been feeling as of late, it seemed eerily appropriate. I was once that young girl that felt so tiny and miniscule that I too befriended a pixel. Fast forward thirteen years later and that’s how I make my living. Go figure. Anyways, it resonated with me so much that I decided to comp up a small poster that completely embodied the way I felt after reading the tweet. ENJOY.

She Was So Tiny She Befriended A Pixel

View the original tweet.

My Theory on Reincarnation

On a cold afternoon one day, I sat down in my car with my mother and had a heart-to-heart with her on the concept of reincarnation.

Samsara - The Concept of Continuous Flow

In the traditional Buddhist teachings, reincarnation was explained as the afterlife. After your physical form passes, your spirit transcends that physical form and takes place in a new vessel. That could be as a new person (moving up) or an animal (moving down). Your karma dictated your ascension or descension and it seemed limited to only the physical being. It was as if you were living your entire life for the possibility of a “refresh” button or a chance to start over.

For me, reincarnation happens the minute my spirit dies. I’ve had a few instances in my life when I’ve felt a spirit-crushing pain so strong that there’s no other way to put it but true spirit-death. When that happens I usually feel that I come to some sort of breakthrough. I vow to make a change that will never allow myself to feel said pain again. Perhaps I resolve to do things differently next time. Maybe I choose to forgive but never forget. There’s been a myriad of instances in which I’ve experienced this spirit-death and was able to reframe my perspective instantaneously. It’s freakishly powerful, usually uncontrollable, and probably one of my subconscious survival mechanisms.

In addition to this emotional pain, I can actually feel a physical sensation as well. You can actually compare it to an adrenaline rush coupled with a mental high: my heart and mind races, my skin begins to feel flush, and I become hyperaware and sensitive to everything around me. It is usually in that moment that I begin to make changes in my environment — physical and/or mental — and it is only in retrospect that I realize that I am doing it.

So, in short, reincarnation isn’t limited to the passing of your physical form. It can happen everyday. The instant you decide that you want change in your life, close your eyes. When you open them again, it’s your chance to make your world right.

Empty Pursuits of Happiness?

A mutual friend, with whom I went to design school with, posted a great article on the endeavor to reconnect with his creativity by way of strategic unplugging.

The thing about design is that the pursuit of a career in such a florid profession requires a LOT of passion. You have to love what you do, every minute that you’re doing it. You have to find the silver lining in every client complaint, every technical wrench that gets thrown in your way, and the upside to every irate vendor you work with.

I certainly believe that creativity is what sets the human race apart from other forms of life here on Earth. Our ability to adapt our physical environment to better serve our inner sanctum is fascinating. We’ve built cities, buildings, natural habitats, space stations, and our homes on ideas. To be human is to bring  ideas to fruition.

Tweet Sample @joelbeukelman

Life is pretty short. Do what makes you happy. When you find that you are sacrificing a much larger chunk of yourself than you’d like, it might be time to slow down or move on.