What keeps me running when I am running

Hi Everyone

Yesterday,yesterday it was when I started writing this post, I ran 28 K on the trails. It was hard, very hard. It was the longest run in a while and the longest on the trails since last year. It was an out and back from my house to Pottery Rd and up on the trails to Sunnybrook Park. Out and Backs are much harder than loops especially on the trails. You know the hills that you will have to go back up and you will be so much more tired than on the way out. I counted about 15 major up the whole side of the valley type hills. 8 on the way back. I believe that when I do hill repeats each one is worth more than the one before and the 9th or 10th is worth so much more than the first few. So this sort of logic also applies to long runs with lots of hills, each one harder and worth more than the one before it. This is one of the things I think about when I run. I think how this run is helping me, how the hard work is worth it. I take a bit of joy at the top of each big hill and try my best, no matter how tired, to take some joy in the strides I take away from the tough hill. I didn’t give up, yay me. I use the word “Nice” when I crest hard sections. I talk to myself, I like that there is most often no one around and I am able to be there on the trails by myself and communicating honestly about my running almost out loud. Sometime I think about treats, imagined or real that I will have “earned by running today”, usually imagined. Sometimes I think about how hard the Pottery Rd hill will be and then I dash that thought from my mind by immediately substituting in the ” You get up it everyday and you will today” thought. Yesterday on this very run I took a pretty awesome fall. I caught a root on a decent downhill slope and went crashing into the trail. Nice scrap on the arm and right knee. I lay on my back for a moment looking up through the forest canopy thinking “How did that happen and how badly am I hurt ?”. A fall happens from time to time, probably about once every 2 months or so on average. I often think about each section of the trail like a familiar friend, I know every bit so well, well except for the root I caught. It is comforting to cover and push through each section that is part of me. I do think a lot about how my body is feeling, How fresh/tired I am feeling, am I starting to breakdown ?

Everyday in a certain special part of the trails I take a few moments to remember a best friend in one of her most favourite places. Sometimes I see a friend or mountain biker I recognize and that is always nice. You smile at each others effort and resolve.

Mostly I try to stay in the moment of running. Most days I come up with some part of trail running that might be useful in the trail clinics. Like yesterday, which is not the same yesterday as when I first started writing this post, someone(s) left a ton of garbage on the trail at the bottom of a tough hill. Fortunately there was a box which I packed all of it in and then I thought I would just carry it all up the hill to where there is recycling. As I began running and carrying, I actually wondered what I might learn from this. I learned that running without being able to move my arms was incredible hard and made me wonder more about the function of arm motion in trail running/running. The box was fairly heavy and I also wondered about core strength and how important it is in running.

So these are just some of the things I think about when I am out on the trails. It isn’t auto pilot like road running though sometimes I probably should pay more attention to the trail and avoid wipeouts like yesterday which isn’t yesterday anymore.


Sketch Guy does running

Hi Everyone

So one of my favourite columns is the New York Times column, Sketch Guy. The fellow’s name is Carl Richards. He is a plain spoken ordinary dude who writes this column and the accompanying sketch that goes with it. His insights and ability to put everyday challenges into understandable bits is remarkable. He is able to present doable solutions to the problem before us. His examination of the problem solving chain is great in it’s clarity and exactness.


Lots of people, well a bunch of people ask me what is the key to running. “I want to exercise /run but I don’t seem able to find the motivation”. Ok fair enough. So let’s try to get more people out the door. Sketch Guy just did a column on writing and creativity. The basic idea was that you need to remove all obstacles that impede your ability to put your creativity into action. Note this is not removing obstacle to being creative it is removing obstacles to doing something with that creativity. The idea is once you feel creative you are able to go ahead. That means if you are a painter you have paints and an easel up and ready. So if you are a runner or aspiring runner that means you have shoes and clothes and a plan of where you will run already in place so that when motivation or free time is there you can go run. No excuses. The old ” I wanted to run but couldn’t find my shoes” or ” I wanted to run but needed new running shorts” excuses are not available. Sometimes life does get in the way of things we really want accomplish. On some very difficult days it seems you just won’t be able to get out the door. If I can get out the door on those days, those are bonus days (see my post – Bonus Runs)

Get what you need, put it by the door, have a easy 4 k run route in mind that won’t be ” too long” or “too hilly” or whatever. When that bunch of people ask me what the key to starting running/exercising is, I always tell them the same thing. Open your front door and walk across the street and back. They always say the same thing back, “what?”. Just get out the door. Once you are out the door you will do more than just walk across the street, I promise you.

Here is my sketch for the “I want to run but can’t seem to run problem”

Thanks Sketch Guy for all the amazing columns and for getting me to write this one. He also does a podcast called the Behavioural Gap which is on Soundcloud and is awesome as well.

this is it


Our spring trail groups are now complete. 6 wonderful weeks of exploring and finding out who we are. Before we conclude though, this Tuesday we will be doing our first ever trail “race” I thought that a challenging “Barkleys” style 7K would be a chance for a little fun and to explore ourselves just a little bit more.

So a little reflection on the spring groups in this our second year:

I thought the trail groups were about learning to run trails but they weren’t. I also thought the groups were about sharing a place I hold dear with some other like-minded runners but it wasn’t. Maybe the groups were a chance to find out about a way to expand one’s running universe and bring something to running that isn’t usually there, adventure. But that wasn’t it either. In the classic film, “Field of Dreams”, Ray is trying to unravel the mystery of the voice and he thinks he has it solved when he sees his father as a young man and he says “it was you” and the Shoeless Joe says “No Ray, it was you”. It seemed to me that so many people in the group were saying in one way or another that “I” sure enjoyed the experience we shared as a group and everything we tried but what “I” really liked was what I learned about myself. The trail groups were about adventure, skills, a new way to experience running and friendship but I came to realize it was just as much about each runner finding out about themselves. We all wonder who we are. We all ask ourselves “what am I capable of?” That was what this was about. I saw something change in each one of us. Another step (ok a lot of steps) in finding the confidence and belief that we are capable of more than what we believe. I didn’t know that what was really going on, when we were climbing steep hills and descending even steeper ones, was that we were finding out that we could. I heard over and over again that ” I never would have tried this” or ” I can’t believe I am doing this” but then “I never” became I DID and “I can’t believe” became I BELIEVE. I watched trepidation become confidence time and time again. Without being too dramatic or overstating, it wasn’t just running and discovering trails, paths, uphills, downhills, creeks or hidden ravines it was a chance to discover just who we are.

I really want to say thank you to Sean, Shakil, Anastasia, Martin, Peter, Giselle, Anthony, Eric, Marty, Carolyn, Sherlita, Janice, Jarmila and Jennifer. This year was very special. I look forward to our “race” and also our last get together fun trail run on Wednesday June 22nd.

Summer groups are starting June 27th. This summer, Jennifer Faraone and I will be running a 5 week trail clinic series on Monday nights. The groups start at 6:30 p.m.and the location is the wonderful single track running trails in the Don Valley. There are just a few spots left. If you are interested please see the sessions page at http://www.torontotruerunning.com.