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.

Monday, April 27, 2015

What's In It For Me?

"I want to start a run group.  What do I need to do?"

Was I surprised?  Sal's question was identical to one Suzanne brought up during the dark, drippy and miserable days right after the new year.  For Suzanne things don't change all that much based on the weather.  On the other hand; I start to ask the second question of the existentialist dilemma, once I get through the 'solitary person, placed into a world seemingly without meaning' realization...and the 'I exist here, doggone it' announcement.

So Sal's question was my reminder.  I sat back, took a sip of my beer and asked myself, as I told him, "I can help you figure this out."  The second question of the existentialist dilemma, by the way, is asked, often internally, when a person figuratively finds themselves hip-deep in a murky body of water with a hand pump.  And an overabundance of large, green reptiles.  And the original plan to drain water from said body.

"Now what?"

The nice thing was that we weren't treading an overgrown pathway.  There's at least 2400 clubs (affiliated with the Road Runners' Club of America (RRCA)) which started out as a twinkle in the eyes of one or two runners.  I'm sure the vision of a bartender and a couple of runners probably isn't far from the norm, either.  Especially in my town, where at least a half-dozen establishments have affiliated run nights.  Nothing brings runners together like a few miles and a few beers.

So, if you were thinking about starting a run group from the running surface up, what might be the most important 'got to have' factors?  Naturally, this is not a one-size meets all needs assessment; for those of us in parts of the country where the seasons are "'hot,' 'really hot,' 'humid and hot,' and 'holidays'" we're actually blessed with the lack of a "plan B."  We can run, adjusting for sunrise and sunset on occasion, year-round.

And if you're a smart guy you can drop all of the little details into the classic "what's in it for me" category.

Take a good course or courses, as a start.  There are clubs with which I've run whose run courses traverse the heart of the downtown business district.  Not such a bad thing if you're one of the drinking establishments the runners pass by each week.  Then again, this might be a mixed blessing; having the potential for hot, sweaty runners barreling through the area where your business' tables and seating happen to be.  And impacting your servers.  Busy intersections - word to the wise would be to follow all relevant traffic rules and signals.  But if I had a dollar for every time I've seen someone streak across the street and barely miss being a hood ornament...I could probably buy a few nice things.

Not every person wants to run the same course week in and week out.  Well, some do because they want to know how they're progressing or regressing over time.  A blend of relatively runner-safe courses is a good draw.

While I'm on the topic of "runner-safe," the rhetorical question often expressed by the RRCA's executive director, Jean Knaack has stuck in the back of my mind, 'are you willing to lose your house based upon this particular decision?'  I love runners; I trust many of them, I don't trust motor vehicle operators, owners of large, aggressively-nurtured dogs, or lawyers.  So, keeping courses as residential as possible, and minimizing the number of places where traffic flow and runner flow may potentially intersect without signs and lights is a good idea.  Paperwork, both of the list of persons running, and their agreement to abide by some common sense guides, minimizes the chance of the tail-end of my "don't trust list" coming to play. 

How about insurance which covers those activities?

Not too many chop houses want to put their livelihood on the line because Joe Dailyjogger stumbled and broke his nose while dodging Timmy Bagohammers' "Fast and the Furious" re-enactment, too.  So RRCA clubs can avail themselves of inexpensive insurance, with the understanding they'll operate as a non-profit and abide by the Safe Running Guidelines.  Get dinged at a recognized event, or while volunteering, and the insurance should take care of you, a'la a certain duck.  Which is just as good as money.

Other "WIIFM" details include recognition for number of runs attended, or miles run, or longevity.  Some places will provide light food and beverage specials for the benefit of the runners, too.  I've seen shirts as recognition for club membership or fidelity...not much else. 

Is there anything you as a runner, or your club if you belong to one, does which meets that "what's in it for me" to draw in runners?  I'd love to know.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Perfectionist Streak

Finally had the chance to toe the line at a 10K a couple of weekends ago.  I didn't harbor any unrealistic expectations about how well (or poorly) I was going to run.  After a few years of just plain running because my ego overcame good counsel - with the only racing being the twice-yearly half-marathon beat-down by the missus - I was grateful for the single week of the common cold/flu which occurred sometime back.  Conservative mileage and speed training meant I was 5K race fit, barely.  I set three performance goals for the race; one achievable if every potential factor fell into place, one which was a little more reasonable, and, lastly, the 'all I want is to be happy, not throw up and not fall down' outcome.  


Once the gun went off I knew the high goal was out of the question.  I guess the ability to pull that particular card off the table and not mourn my initially-perceived training failure is the difference between 'me ten years ago' and 'me now.'  At that moment my friend Johnohon rolled up next to me, swatted me on the behind and said, "Waah-Waah!"  It wasn't being addressed by my hash name that bothered me so much as it was the hand imprint which most likely could be seen on my left cheek.  That's pretty much the wake-up call for me at any race distance.  
The next time he saw me was probably ten minutes after the race finish.  We took a few minutes to exchange pleasantries and commend each other on the race performance.  He asked me how I felt and I almost instinctively went into 'coach mode,' dissecting every little shortcoming of the morning.  I suddenly sensed the fact that I was "just this close" to whining about the race when I stopped myself cold.  I then smiled and said, "You know what?  I could dwell on the negatives, but I'm actually happy about how I ran today."


"Complaining is mouth (flatus)." - message seen on local tattoo/paraphernalia shop marquee.


Rare is the person who races who doesn't try to make their "today self" better than their "yesterday self."  That's the reason we keep track of personal best times for races, it's why the newest Garmins now trumpet the longest run, or the fastest speed-work split or the best 5K performance.  There's nothing wrong with desiring to be better, as long as it comes from within.  Right?


The drive to set the standard of perfectionism comes in much the same way as motivation; by internal or external forces.  Naturally, the internally-derived is more valuable and more long-lasting than the stuff which comes from outside us.  A self-oriented perfectionist sets high standards and defines themselves based on the ability to meet those marks.


Persons who let their social environment set the standard deal with what is known a socially-prescribed perfectionism.  Let your racing performance tie directly into your self-esteem because your significant other or your circle of friends?  Those relationships are going to suffer, and so might you.


Both forms of perfectionism in the most extreme cases have been related to negative outcomes; depression, stress-related problems, body-type concerns, and such.  But the internal perfectionist streak looks toward steps along the path, copes with problems as they arrive, and has a positive affect after success is reached.
How many times have I groused about not quite meeting any of the marks I set before me?  Way too many times, I have to admit.  As a coach I try to find at least one positive thing about an athlete's performance; naturally it's simple to look at the abundance of dark cloud.  But if I open my mouth and focus only on the shortcoming it's probably going to be sonically-and-aromatically, um, unwelcome.


Sure, let me go ahead and "stink the joint up."


And I bet if you take enough time after a race you're probably going to find at least one thing you did well on the day, even if there's a preponderance of evidence to the contrary.  It doesn't necessarily mean you don't need to go back and see where your training went wrong, just that it's not going to do you any good to blow off effluvium (or steam, for that matter) around everyone else after the race.