Running Scared

4 11 2007

Top contender Ryan Shay died yesterday at the U.S. Olympic Men’s Marathon trials in New York City. Shay was a 28 year-old elite athlete and collapsed about 9k into the central park course on a cool fall day perfect for running. I really don’t have much useful or meaningful to contribute to any conversation on the matter, but his death will certainly bring the question of whether running is a dangerous sport back into the spotlight (whatever spotlight running commands in the media, that is). I find the idea of collapsing mid-run to be terrifying – doubly so because when I run at least part of my thoughts are about how I’m happy to be doing something that’s good for me, not risky.

No runner can deny that running is a high-impact (bear with me, pose methodists and chi-runners) activity, and that it puts a physical strain on our bodies. The payoff is usually that for the 95% of our lives when we’re not running we’re in much better condition and considerably less stressed/strained. I fear we’ll hear some refrains of “remember Jim Fixx“, but Jim’s tale ought not be a cautionary one but a celebratory one. Fixx had advanced coronary artery disease and a cholesterol count of 250 at the time of his death (from genetic predisposition and 35 years worth of bad habits before he took up running). From what I’ve read, Ryan Shay also had a serious medical condition (enlarged heart) which put him at increased risk. I don’t write this to down-play the risks or say that Jim and Ryan were flying foolishly in the face of medical advice, but that for 99.9% of runners running will add years to our lives, not take them away. The handful of ‘poster children’ for the risks of running should have positive voices or at least be heard in a healthy balance with the risks of inactivity (heart disease and stroke are the #1 killers in North America and Europe).





Target Practice

29 10 2007

Since this is my first year of running, I’m a little leery of losing momentum when the cold comes. The “off season” here in Halifax will probably be from January to mid-March, which doesn’t sound too bad, but extended hibernation can be tempting. I think it will be important to keep a few carrots dangling in front of me; or at least to spell out my intentions so it’s not as easy to backslide. Here are some of my immediate and not-so-immediate running goals:

2007:

  • – Join Run Nova Scotia to score a t-shirt and get ready for some friendly competition for the 2008 season.
  • – Register and race in the Halifax Santa Shuffle 5k on December 1 (goal time sub-25:00)

2008:

  • – Compete in at least 7 Run Nova Scotia races (year end standings based on your best 7 finishes)
  • – Complete Bluenose International Half Marathon (just double my current furthest distance)
  • – Complete a marathon (if I can do the Bluenose half in May, I’ll probably feel this is within reach)
  • – Finish in top 5 for my age class by 2008 season end for Run Nova Scotia

One Day/Year:

  • – Complete New York Marathon
  • – Complete Boston Marathon
  • – Complete Comrades Ultramarathon in South Africa (ya right!)
  • – Complete Spartathlon in Greece (okay, now I’m really just kidding! It’s 246km for pete’s sake!)

I think today’s post-run high is making this list a tad ambitious, but that’s what goals are for anyway, right? Just to show how there’s always a longer and tougher race out there to tackle, take a look a this elevation profile comparison which humbles a lot of people’s ‘Holy Grail’ race: Western States vs.┬áBoston





Record Breaker

9 10 2007

When I’m struggling in the middle of the pack during a 5k race, the idea of completing a marathon (42.2km) seems absolutely preposterous. The idea that someone could run that distance in just a tad over two hours is even more alien, but Haile Gebrselassie has done just that by breaking the marathon world record in Berlin this September. You don’t have to run marathons to be impressed by his accomplishments. Name your distance and Haile has probably held the record at one time or another. Have a peek at this clip of Haile from 10 years ago (check out the 12:00 mark on the race clock for a little demonstration of ‘kick’):