So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad* Training Specialist. Runner. Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) Certified Official, Category 2. RRCA Representative, Florida (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Alice's Restaurant

Went out for a run on New Years' Day with a couple of (former) athletes and good friends. Late into the run, my friend Beverly told me about a mutual friend of ours, Mel, who became so motivated by his performance at Ironman Florida he took up running with a passion. Next thing she knew, she said, he read Christopher MacDougal's "Born to Run" and began training for a "real" marathon. We spent the remainder of the run discussing the next book to recommend; she thought it should be John L. Parker, Jr's. "Again To Carthage," I held out for "Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner," by Dean Karnazes.

Listening to "born-again runners" is a joy. Most of them cannot help but reveal what they consider their personal (secret) revelation to the world around them. Most runners know there really are no secrets, other than 'train your heart out, rest when not training.' I also like to hear someone speak about running, as Arlo Guthrie once sung, "with feeling..."

Sometimes the feeling can make us parochial, even dogmatic, about what we think is best for our fellow runner. As a coach, I admit I've recommended running specialty shops, web sites, coaches, training plans, races, lodging, and - on rare occasions - shoes, equipment, and gadgetry. Years after my last lodging arrangement, I still get 'hey, just curious if you're booking rooms for such-and-such race' e-mails. From people who never trained with me.

"...you should tell every young runner to use (brand) running shoes and (device)," the boy said to George and myself over a beer last night. That's the type of statement to which my old coach, Dale Fox, would reply, "Oh? Really?" Rather than immediately shut my ears to what Steve (a.k.a. "the boy") said I decided to take a few moments and listen. Not so much to dissassemble his assertion like an assault rifle, eventually laying the greasy little parts in front of him. I trained for a few years alongside Steve's his father, so there's a familial obligation involved. I also appreciate the boy's "salta de qualitat," or recent leap in his run performances.

Shoe manufacturers can market their shoes with a statement saying "the way you should run," but normative statements don't get marketing gurus and advertising agencies in hot water. That kettle of fish is usually saved for the coach or the running emporium proprietor who has to hear from the athlete, 'so, what do you think of...?' So the shoe, which costs about 20 percent more than what the athlete already wears, is designed to make the athlete adapt their running gait? Ah, but if I were to focus the athlete on a faster turn-over and a shorter stride - the very same mechanics the shoe purports to encourage - would they give me the additional 20 percent they would have spent on the shoe?

Probably not. Shoes are sexy. Coaching isn't.

There are an abundance of gadgets on the market which are a great help to runners, but there are certain things a massage therapist will be able to do that a roller, stick, or ball won't. But a runner on a tight budget may consider self-massage items a good (inexpenxive) substitute for regular massage therapy. I have a retired friend who knows his way around a dollar. I guess when you can retire before 55 you have a blend of skill, luck and the ability to know your way around a greenback. Rather than spend 40 dollars on a self-massage modality, he took the same 40 bucks and made a bunch of very-workable self-massage sticks, giving them out as holiday presents a couple of years ago. I still have his stick in the corner of my living room, next to a 100-dollar massage kit. You can take a wild guess which gets used more often.

A new friend, Galen, ran (at least) seven marathons in seven days last week here. He told me he sees the strangest things at some of the distance runs he does. Probably the most frightening was the (his words) "runner wearing the Camelbak as well as the 'hand grenade' bottle belt."

Overkill? I think so. Galen told me he asked the name of the running store proprietor, probably in order to tell newbie runners "enter at your own peril."

So before I "rhetorically" sing a bar of "Alice's Restaurant" ('you can get anything you want...') and walk out of any conversation, I always like to remind friends that every runner is a unique experiment, a sample population of one. What works for you, works for you. If you see something cool and new, take the time to do the research or ask if you can give it a trial run before springing the big bucks.

That's probably one more race entry, from what I can figure. Races are more fun than gadgets.

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