The Performance Enigma

We turn the key and expect our cars to perform – without fail. Same with our TVs, toasters, bikes, and computers.   We board a plane 99.99999+% sure all will go well. With all these machines, it’s on or off, up or down, cut and dried, no in between. The acceptable performance level is 100%. But what about us humans – what’s an acceptable % if not 100%. Let’s talk baseball. A top hitter hits 30% and gets on base 40% of the time. A pitcher striking out 25% of batters faced is an all star. On a team level, some nights the Red Sox are invincible – Gold Gloves at every position, a Cy Young on the mound, and hits and runs mount throughout the game.   Other nights, they have butterfingers, pitchers serve up dingers like it’s batting practice, and the offense is nowhere to be found. They wouldn’t beat the Lowell Spinners, their Single A affiliate, much less another major league team. Same team, different nights. So how does this relate to running? First, we are not machines, even if we train methodically with an eye on gradual improvement and excellence. I practice and preach this – aiming for … Continue reading

Why We Run!

On Memorial Day weekend, I gave a talk at the pasta dinner preceding the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington on the topic of “Why We Run.” I was initially asked to speak on the beginning of VCM, which is now 29 years old and which I helped start, and why it has flourished. But I felt that should be framed by why any one runs, period, whether it be a 5K or a marathon. So I entitled my talk “Why We Run, Why Run VCM.” I did a lot of thinking about the first part and came up with five reasons: We Choose to Participate We Challenge Ourselves We Make Friends Good Health Reasons Beyond Ourselves  PARTICIPATION Running is a choice we make. We’re not alone! Running USA’s survey indicated there were 17 million road race finishers (not unique racers – one can count multiple times) in 2015. Of those 45% were 5Ks, 12% half marathons, and only 3% (or 500,000 finishers) in marathons. Interestingly, 57% of finishers were women, up from 25% in 1990, when there were just 4.7 million finishers. Lots of reasons for this increase, including technologies allowing for net times/quick results, a proliferation of local races, … Continue reading

Finding Balance

It’s hard to describe, but you know when you have it and feel it. Your day moves along well. You think clearly. Say the right things. There’s spring in your step and you look forward to whatever happens. You see the lighter side and don’t take things personally. In short, you are balanced! I retired in October 2014. After working in finance, accounting, and nonprofit management for 38 years I just didn’t have the same energy to pour into work. Not getting any younger, there were other things to do. I spent the next year becoming a certified trainer and USATF run coach, focused on my own training, and worked part-time at a local running store. All this was fun, new, invigorating, educational, and a challenge. But it turned out to be a sabbatical, as a year later I returned to my job, for good reasons – the people, role, and mission. I was sure in the interim I had learned something about balance and would do a better job of pacing myself. And for certain stay very engaged in running-related things. Good intentions! However, upon returning I quickly inherited a backlog of projects as well as new things coming … Continue reading

Finding My Stride

I recently spoke with the Concord Academy cross-country team at the invitation of their coach Jon Waldron, a fellow CSU member. Tyler Andrews, 25 years old and a 2:16 qualifier for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials and world record holder in the half marathon on a treadmill (1:03 at the 2015 Boston Marathon expo) also spoke. Jon was looking to have us convey our respective experiences of how we developed as runners, both emerging from rather modest beginnings. He felt by having runners at the opposite ends of the age spectrum, his team might take away that competitive running continues well after high school. Also for them to keep the long view and not be discouraged if they aren’t setting records now. Tyler, a graduate of Concord Academy, emphasized the importance of process and focus on improvement. And that multiple layers of improvement will reveal one’s true potential. Tyler was fortunate to begin finding his stride as a senior in high school. Jon played and continues to play an important mentoring role but Tyler’s uncommon dedication and commitment following graduation has allowed him to rise to elite level in college and beyond. I spoke about the early days of running … Continue reading