Virtually Running

by Shelley English

I’m betraying my age here – but when I first heard the term ‘virtual racing”, I immediately thought of the introduction of the concept of virtual reality in 80’s Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. However, virtual racing has nothing to do with “virtual reality”…you really are doing the running, but you are doing it at your own chosen time and place.

The Resolution Run 5k Virtual Race – a New Year’s tradition

Virtual racing is becoming quite a trend. There are a growing number of companies who offer virtual races; such as Will Run for Bling, Gone For a Run, Virtual Strides, and Virtual Run Events, just to name a few. Most of them offer really fun themes and cool medals, which of course is part of the attraction! But there are many reasons to do virtual running, other than the hardware!

The next best thing to being there

My first experience with virtual racing happened a few years ago when I had registered for a local race series. The final race in the series was postponed due to fire in the area. They rescheduled for a date on which I had a prior commitment, but offered the virtual option for those in the same predicament. I just had to run the distance and submit proof of the run via “Map My Run”. A friend and I ran the virtual  race the same day as the live one, but at a different location. I emailed the proof to the race coordinator. By the end of the week, my series medal and shirt arrived in the mail.

It seems more of the larger races are offering a virtual option.  I’m very excited that the Giant Race series is offering the virtual option this year. The series includes four races in different locations between March and September, culminating with the race in San Francisco and offering “sweep” medals for running two, three or all of them. Doing all four of the races in person is not an option for me this year, but doing a couple of them virtually certainly is!

Hold Myself Accountable (and get bling for my effort!)

It’s not always easy to get out there and do the miles; let’s face it, sometimes the medal is a carrot! I’m currently participating in a couple of Virtual Race challenges; one is the 200 Mile Winter Challenge which runs from mid-December to mid-March; and the other is a team challenge with 3 friends, to run a combined 2,017 miles this year. Both challenges are keeping me accountable and getting me out there to at least meet a minimum mileage goal per week.

I’m currently training for a half marathon (a “live” one!) that’s about a month away. These challenges are helping me to get my miles in not only to train for the half but also to meet these concurrent goals. The truth is, the organizations hosting the virtual races are not going to know whether I did the miles or not…but I will know; and in the case of the 2,017 miles, so will my team.

Challenging Others

It’s a great way to challenge friends and family in different locations. My mom – who lives in the Bay area – and I are both doing many of the Giant Race series separately, gearing up for the big one later in the year where we will meet up and both collect our “sweep” medals at the end.

No crowds

Although to me, the crowds add to the race day excitement, some people don’t enjoy being in the midst of a large group. So Virtual Racing is an option for introverted runners.

Support great causes

Most of the virtual races donate a portion of the proceeds to charity. It’s a good way to support lots of different causes doing something you’d be doing anyway.

For the person who has everything

You know your sister likes to run and collect medals, but you may not know her schedule.  The virtual race offers a fantastic gift option. It’s unique, and not likely to be exchanged!

These are just a few of the reasons virtual races are a great option for runners. What has your experience with virtual racing been like?

Make Room for Joy

by Shelley English

This morning I was driving to work, and approached the exit from one interstate to another.  The exit is two lanes that merge into one. Usually, fellow commuters follow proper etiquette as the right lane merges into the left, forming one line. But occasionally, drivers from the right lane attempt to squeeze in before their turn.  They do this by attempting to pass the car ahead of them, even as their lane dissolves into the left.

As a (perhaps too) defensive driver, I sometimes take it upon myself to “keep them in line” by placing my own car in the middle just enough that they cannot safely go around me.  Of course I’m not proud of this behavior. Getting to work is serious business. We have little time or patience for dawdling drivers, and even less for those who try to cut corners or push through the bottleneck to come out ahead.

As I began my exit, it seemed the car behind me was hanging to the right. Gripping the steering wheel and glancing in my rear view mirror, I expected to see the driver behind me glaring ahead, intent on passing me and cutting the line. To my surprise, she instead appeared to be singing gleefully and enthusiastically. In spite of the rest of us, she was carrying on her own car karaoke party. She appeared to be aware of her surroundings and was not, as it turned out, trying to get ahead. She was simply enjoying her morning commute, not letting a little traffic harsh her groove.

Her mirth was contagious. I immediately felt happy, and found myself smiling and singing along to my own music and “going with the flow”. The rest of my commute – and my day – was so much more enjoyable.

So during the daily commute or any other drudgery, I hope to remember the merriment of my fellow commuter from this morning.  I hope I will remember to make room for joy!

Six Great Gift Ideas for Runners

Seems like most of the running I’m doing this month is from one event to another. We’re all hustling toward the finish line …that is to say, the line marking off the last item on the gift list. A recent study conducted by eBay found that holiday shoppers’ heart rates increase by 33% while shopping, which is comparable to running a marathon.

If you are a runner, or are shopping for one, you’ll be glad to know it does not have to be a marathon task!  Here are six great gift ideas for any runner.

  • Water flask or belt: No matter what distance a runner prefers, hydration is essential. For most organized races, water and nutrition support are provided. But it is a good idea to have hydration readily available when training. I prefer the small flask with a grip free strap made by Nathan Sports. It’s very lightweight and comfortable and I don’t even really have to “hold” it while I’m running. Mine also has a small zipper pocket for lip balm, stingers and other items.  Some runners prefer the flask belt, so they can carry both water and supplemental hydration.
  • Massage Equipment: There are many, many options out there.  In my opinion, you can choose just about anything for a runner and you can’t go wrong.  From handheld rollers to foam rollers, anything that helps massage sore, tight muscles and assists with stretching is a runner’s best friend. The Pro-Tec Orb is one of my daily go-to products. You can view a demonstration of its use here.   Addaday  also has some of my favorites, and more that I’m aching to try.
  • Lights and Reflective Gear: This time of year especially, most of my running will not take place during daylight hours, so lights and reflective vests are essential. Head lamps can be cumbersome; my husband recently purchased lights that can be clipped to the bill of my cap, and they are just as bright as the expensive headlamp I bought last year. For colder weather, there are also beanies with lights attached to the forehead area.  Some reflective vests also come with lights. Many jackets have reflective material on them as well.  An extra flashing light to attach to your clothing is a great idea…can’t have too many lights. Since my dogs run with me, I also use a reflective leash, and am considering lights to attach to their collars. These items can be found at any sporting goods store.

    My Running Quilt from Project Repat, celebrating my first 3 years of running!
  • T-Shirt Quilt:  Most runners have no shortage of t-shirts and technical shirts. They are great race souvenirs, but eventually take up a lot of space. This is where the t-shirt quilt comes in. It’s a great way to re-purpose those souvenir shirts. Some companies accept payment in advance and provide a gift box with prep and mailing instructions, so the runner can then select and send the shirts they want to use. My husband happily gave me one for Christmas last year…from Project Repat. I helped design it, and I love it. Honestly, I’m almost ready for another one!
  • Bib/Medal Display: Bibs and medals are other items that a runner accumulates quickly, and there are several options for displaying them.  Medal displays come as wall hangings or standing racks. There are albums available for preserving bibs, and there are even companies who will take the collection of bibs and make them into tote bags.
  • Race Entry: Perhaps one of the best gifts for a runner is paid entry into a race. If your runner has been talking about a particular race coming up in the next year, you might look into the gift options. Some race organizers offer gift certificates so that the runner can register with the proper information at their convenience. Be aware of any rules pertaining to transfer or refund of entry fees, in case the runner is unable to participate. Another option is the virtual race, which is becoming quite a trend. There are virtual races for just about every interest and distance, and many good reasons for running them. A future post will explore virtual races in more detail.

What ideas do you have for the runners in your life? If you’re a runner, what’s at the top of your wish Iist?

Freezing Shmeezing: Winter Morning Running

by Shelley English

Evidently I have low standards.

This thought crossed my mind at 5:20 this morning. I was warming up for the first of our twice weekly predawn runs.  And my human running friends had unapologetically bailed on me.

To be fair, one friend injured her ankle several weeks ago.  The chilly weather has since crept in, and it seems understandable – wise, even – to stay in bed at least until daylight while she recovers.

My other friend informed me last night that she has higher standards…for higher temperatures, that is.  Her code?  Nothing below 20 degrees.

She had drawn a line in the frost.

Sure, it’s now below freezing most mornings. But “zero-dark-hundred” is still my favorite time to run.  One of the first things I noticed when running became part of the morning routine was how happy my dogs are to see me crawl out of bed.  Before, no one in my household was that excited so early in the morning!

There must be something in the crisp morning air. I love being one of the first in my neighborhood to step outside and breathe it in. I love the slight chill of spring and summer mornings…and yes, even the brisk fall and winter currents.

Geared up for winter running!

Mentally and spiritually, it’s simply the best way to begin a day.  It’s a great time for meditation and brainstorming, both during warm-up/cool down and during the run.  It gives me some time to clear my mind and check in with my soul before diving into all of the to-do lists.  And in the wintertime, there is nothing quite so serene as running during lightly falling snow.

And there is the bonus of accomplishment, having achieved my exercise goal before most people have even rolled out of their warm, cozy beds!

So maybe my standards are low…at least when it comes to the winter running temperatures I’m willing to endure.  But other than the ones I have declined, there has not yet been a morning run I have regretted.

Now, when my dogs don’t even want to go for a run with me, then I’ll know I’ve crossed the frost line!

Up and Running

  • img_4497My First 5K

by Shelley English

I’m very exited to introduce Life Up and Running. The purpose of this blog is to provide a space to share stories, tips and inspiration for staying active. In addition to my own experiences, you’ll hear from my running buddies, mentors and acquaintances. I hope to share advice from experts on training and physical, mental and spiritual health. And, an active lifestyle doesn’t only refer to exercise, so there will be information about all kinds of events. So I hope this blog will be something you enjoy and look forward to, and will contribute to, as well.  Comments are welcome.

From Band Mom to Runner

Let me begin by sharing some of my background as an “active adult”. Candidly, up until almost five years ago, I wasn’t all that active – or all that adult, for that matter.  Unless, that is, by “active” you mean being a Band Mom, and by “adult” you mean working full-time and facebooking over wine every Friday night.

I had been a smoker since college (yes, old enough to know better, young enough to think it was still cool and wouldn’t hurt me)! While I had made many attempts to quit over the years, the demon persisted. I’m almost ashamed to share what finally worked. The success coincided with purchasing my very first brand new car on my own. I had not smoked in a car in years, but the smell of cigarettes lingers on the clothing of any smoker, and it became all the more apparent to me when getting behind the wheel of a brand new car. Not wanting to cause premature loss of new car smell, I kicked the habit. I was able to call myself a nonsmoker before the first car payment came due.

A few months after that, I decided I may as well use the gym membership I’d been paying for but hadn’t used since my daughter graduated from high school (we had enrolled together to help her finish her physical education requirement).  Then, I figured I may as well take advantage of the trainer’s evaluation and recommendations offered. I started taking Zumba and strength training classes, and of course, used the treadmill. I followed the trainer’s recommendations almost religiously.

When it came to the treadmill, my trainer had only recommended that I walk a certain amount of time to get my heart rate up.  Running was never part of the training plan. But walking on the treadmill is not very exciting, so music was critical. And the musician in me insisted on keeping time with the beat. So one day I was walking along to my favorite 80’s mix, and “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts came up on my playlist. That’s a fast tempo, but I decided to see how long I could pick up the pace. I don’t think I was able to jog the entire song, but I do remember being surprised that I was able to keep up for the amount of time I did … I recall thinking to myself, in awe “I am running!”

The bug had bitten, and a new fever was beginning to rise.

After a few successful trial runs on the treadmill (meaning, I’m sure, two minutes without collapsing), I began to gain confidence that I could learn to be a runner. I set my sights on an upcoming community 5K benefit run, and downloaded an app to my phone to help me gradually train from walking to running for 30 minutes.  My self-training began. The gym was two miles from my house, so on Saturdays I would jog to my strength-training class.  Then after my class, I called my daughter pick me up, because running home would mean running uphill!

The First 5K

As race day grew closer, I recruited a friend to run with me. We met at packet pickup, planned our wardrobes, and when the day arrived, we were ready! My friend had more experience than I did, and I encouraged her not to wait for me…”run your own race” is a motto I adopted early on! I didn’t run all 3.1 miles, but I did run more than half of the race, and under the 45 minutes I had set as my goal! And I felt fantastic! At age 45, I had completed my first 5K!

As we were leaving, I noticed a table where they were handing out flyers for another 5K the following month. I picked up a flyer and decided hey, I think I can do one of these a month! So I made that my goal, a 5K every month.

Soon I was running distances beyond the 3.1, and up an over hills I never thought I’d attempt. I’ve completed eight half marathons, and I hope to keep moving for many more years to come. And, most importantly, the running community has introduced me to some of the nicest, most generous and real people I’ve ever known…many of whom I can’t wait to introduce here in this space!