New Love for a Few Old Friends

‘Trail Run Tuesday’ this week included a new route at a very familiar venue, and my favorite venue, Mt. Falcon Park. As much as I love our usual route and am looking forward to running it again – feel I am finally strong enough to run the full course without any stopping or walking and want to see if I am right – this new route proved a nice change of pace.

We ran what will be the course of our next race, a 9 ½-mile out and back for the Mt. Falcon Trail Race next weekend; and it was like learning something new and unexpectedly admirable about a good friend you’ve known for years. Something that brings a smile to your face knowing that you love your friend that much more. I had never run the Parmalee Trail before, had not even bid it any attention truthfully. I think it may quickly become another favorite route.

Back in my Lady Trojan Cross Country days, we used to run the race course before meets. So our running the course brought back fond memories of my first years of serious running – the feelings of excitement, of butterflies nervously fluttering in my stomach, of imagining yourself racing the course as you run it during the race that come with running a new course for the first time.

It was like embracing a best friend you haven’t seen in years, only to realize that despite years passing void of communicative exchange, you will always say ‘hello’ and pick up right where you left off at your last ‘goodbye,’ never missing a beat.

And, at the end of the run, I was out of my blast from the past and right back in my running present among great friends sharing a mutual love of and respect for the trails, flip flops, lawn chairs, and a cold brewski or two:

A lil' hard earned R'n'R

A lil’ hard earned R’n’R

I love nights like this one, live for courses that remind me of why I run, long for the next opportunity to enjoy the sense of serenity that come with sharing a beautiful place with good friends. And, in the midst of the hardest part of my marathon training, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Running – and life – don’t get much better than this.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Honesty of the Long Distance Runner

Courtesy Calleja (Diario de Navarra)

Courtesy Calleja (Diario de Navarra)

Sometimes winning isn’t everything. At least that’s what one elite Spanish runner thought when he had the chance to take the lead at a December race in Berlada, Spain, when the Kenyan runner leading the race mistakenly stopped short of the finish line, thinking he’d already crossed it.

Instead of passing by lead runner Abel Mutai, the second-place 24-year-old Spanish runner Fernández Anaya gestured to the Kenyan that he needed to keep going to finish and win the race. As the English version of the Spanish newspaper El Pais reports, from an interview Anaya did after the race:

“I didn’t deserve to win it,” says 24-year-old Fernández Anaya. “I did what I had to do. He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn’t have closed if he hadn’t made a mistake. As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn’t going to pass him.”

What’s interesting is that this isn’t simply a pollyana-ish piece about good overcoming bad. As Anaya admits later in the interview, he probably would have passed by Mutai had the race been one in which the stakes were higher, like an Olympic trials race or one for a medal.

And his coach, former long distance runner Martín Fiz, openly admitted to the reporter that it was something he himself certainly wouldn’t have done:

“It was a very good gesture of honesty,” says Fiz. “A gesture of the kind that isn’t made any more. Or rather, of the kind that has never been made. A gesture that I myself wouldn’t have made. I certainly would have taken advantage of it to win.” (Emphasis added)

Honestly, as I read this I thought to myself, how many of us would make the same gesture in our own lives — and not just in a public event like this, where our actions would be seen. Would we do the same if no one would have known the difference otherwise, except ourselves?

Read the full story at El Pais.

Make Your Flu Shot More Effective… with a Run

sylvar/flickr.com

sylvar/flickr.com

Being active, especially getting cardiovascular exercise like running and walking, may improve your body’s ability to fight off the flu in concert with seasonal flu vaccine.

That’s what the New York Times reported this week, in a Well blog post by Gretchen Reynolds on a report by researchers at Iowa State University on the potential for exercise to give a boost to the immune system and help the body produce more antibodies to the influenza virus.

While past studies had established the effectiveness of exercise in improving overall immune response in people who ran, walked or worked out regularly, the Iowa State researchers wanted to know: would just a single run do the trick?

To find out, they recruited college students to take an hour-and-a-half-long jog or bicycle ride about 15 minutes after receiving a flu shot. To compare results, a separate set of students was asked not to exercise after getting the shot.

Even from just a single session of exercise after the shot, the results were encouraging. As Reynolds notes in her post:

Those volunteers who had exercised after being inoculated, it turned out, exhibited “nearly double the antibody response” of the sedentary group, said Marian Kohut, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State who oversaw the study, which is being prepared for publication. They also had higher blood levels of certain immune system cells that help the body fight off infection.

Read the full story at the New York Times.

Don’t Stop Running

Kim Olson/flickr.com

Kim Olson/flickr.com


Our brains get lots of benefits from running and other forms of cardiovascular exercise, according to a study presented at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans last fall and reported in the New York Times Well blog.

There’s just one catch: Stop running, and the benefits of exercise don’t seem to last very long.

The study looked at two groups of rats — one that was allowed to run whenever they wanted on running wheels, while the other was forced to remain sedentary. The rats that got lots of exercise, researchers found, performed much better in memory tests than those that didn’t.

But after they took a few weeks off, the exercised rats lost their edge, researchers found.

“Brain changes are not maintained when regular physical exercise is interrupted,” he said, adding that, “though our observations are restricted to rats, indirect evidence suggests that the same phenomenon occurs in human beings.”

Meaning that the lessons of both studies point in the same direction. For the ongoing health of our minds, as well as for the plentiful other health benefits of exercise, it might be wise to stick to those New Year’s exercise resolutions.

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Let’s Get Started… for 2013

Daniel Horande/flickr.com

Daniel Horande/flickr.com


So…. we’ve been away for a little while here on the blog and on HalfMarathons.Net. But we have a really good reason. At least I hope you think it’s a good reason!

The editor, owner and publisher of the site — that’s me, Terrell Johnson — just got married and had a honeymoon with my new bride in Montana, which was gorgeous and amazing.

During these past couple of weeks, however, updates to the site and the blog have been scarce. Today, that all changes.

We have tons of updates on the way, with new articles on great running apps and race fundraising efforts from our writer Carissa Liebowitz, and a new series of posts from our new guest blogger Melissa Mincic on the way.

There’s also lots of new races I plan on adding to the site, thanks to the dozens and dozens and dozens of race directors and race management companies who’ve written me to let me know of the new races they’re hosting across the country over the past couple of weeks.

It literally never ceases to amaze me that no matter how many races I add to the site here, there are always more. That means there are more and more opportunities to run in the race distance we all love, and that many more ways to stay fit and improve our health.

Here’s to a great 2013 for all of you guys, and a HUGE thanks once again to making this site possible with all of your contributions.

Getting Rid of the Vacation Monkey

lululemon athletica


By Megan Cox

So, I just got back from a four-day trip to beautiful Colorado Springs. Both my husband and I attended college there, and we went back to touch base with old friends and enjoy a small reprieve from our awesome—but exhausting—roles as parents (although, the Medela pump did tag along—oh the joy).

To many runners, Colorado Springs is known for its high altitude, which definitely makes running more challenging. In fact, athletic activity is so challenging that Colorado Springs was chosen as the home of the Olympic Training Center.

When I lived in Colorado Springs as a college student, I was one efficient breathing machine. Now? Not so much. So this was the perfect opportunity to take my half marathon training to the next level. Right?
Wrong.

I was totally in vacation mode the entire time, happy to have a full-night’s sleep and a surplus of energy. I did pack workout clothes and my running shoes, but they never seemed to surface to the top of my suitcase. My husband and I did a ton of walking at the Air Force Falcons game (what a win!), but running? Not so much.

No biggie. Now that I’m again closer to sea level, it’s time to get back on track. The only thing is, after four days away from home, I’m up to my eyeballs in laundry and, well, everything else.

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Misery Loves Company


By Megan Cox

I am so excited! After a great deal of bullying and pleading, I have finally convinced someone to come run the Dallas Half Marathon with me in December!

My journey so far has been pretty solitary, that is, if you don’t count my five-month-old baby staring up at me on the treadmill from his play mat.

Otherwise, most of my runs have taken place during the pre-dawn hours, before the husband, the two-year-old, or the baby is up for the day.

Generally, I like the solitary feeling of a run. I need the quiet stillness (well, quiet except for my huffing and grunting), because I don’t get much of that once the day gets going. But there’s something about having company on race day that really speaks to me. Misery loves company, as they so often say.

So who is this new hero of mine? It’s my younger brother. He’s Air Force TACP, which means he’s pretty tough stuff. He’s also four and half years younger than me, which means he’s still swinging the “twenty-something” label, while I’ve migrated into the land of the “thirties.”

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Races for the ‘Bucket List’


By Megan Cox

Well, I had fully intended to blog about safety in this post (and don’t worry, that’s still totally going to happen). However, after my recent attempt at ranking the toughest half marathons was panned by the critics, I decided that list-making was way too much fun to abandon just yet.

Note to readers, I like criticism. It makes me feel loved. My two-year-old scolds me a couple times a day, and I know it’s a sign of affection.

But this next list won’t be controversial. Unfortunately. I’ve decided that I would like to post the top five half marathons that are on my racing wish list. The formula for this list is location + location + bragging rights = perfect race. Criticize it if you want!

#1. NYC Half Marathon

I love New York City. I’ve visited it in every season—winter, spring, summer, and fall. It’s the only city where I had so much fun one January that I didn’t even complain about the subzero temperatures. I’m certain in my next life that I will have a chance to live there (even if it’s in a shoebox-size apartment) and perform on Broadway (even if I’m just a tree in the Lion King).

Therefore, I can’t think of a more fun place to run a race. I’d carb-load in Little Italy, take in an inspirational show, and hum “New York, New York” while running through all the fun sites the city has to offer. Heaven.

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