Columbus Marathon training: Soloin'

My training group meets twice a week; we're given a training program for the rest of the week that includes rest days (my favorite!), a few cross-training days (which I'm bad at actually doing, because hey, isn't life a cross-training exercise?), and one other "no, really, you need to run" day.

So on Thursdays, I run alone.

One recent afternoon, I found myself more alone than usual, having forgotten my headphones. (When I'm running solo, I like to listen to podcasts. It's actually one of the little details of running I love - I get to take large chunks of  time listening to my favorite shows and classify it as something good for me!) But on this day, it was not to be. So I set out for an "easy" four miles with only my breath and my thoughts.

This was the first time in a long time - possibly ever - that I'd run without someone to talk to or my headphones to keep me company. As I trotted along, I made up a little mental chant to keep myself focused:
Take it easy
Nice and slow
You can do it
Here we go!
And as I continued down the trail (a popular spot for running, walking, and biking), I noticed something that I'd never caught onto before in nearly 10 years of running. I realized that nearly every runner without headphones in would give me a smile of encouragement, and in many cases even say, "Good job!" I'd been on this trail many times before and never noticed this tendency for other runners to encourage strangers who happened to be on the same path as them. And indeed, the runners with headphones jogged by with no acknowledgement, still in their own worlds.

And it was then I realized that I was never truly alone on a run. Not as long as another runner was on the same path. I could choose to be alone with my headphones, or I could choose to wave and smile to everyone, but I've got the choice. I'm part of a community. I'm only as solo as I choose to be.


Hudepohl 14K: The Race that Knows Darn Well it's a Race

They call it "the race that thinks it's a party."


The Hudepohl 14K (a strange race distance created to honor a strange beer name) combines the city's brewing history with its love of running stupid-long distances, making it quite possibly the most Cincinnati race I've ever run. (Any old city can do a 5K with a beer theme; it takes a special kind of dedication to the art of running and drinking to do a 14K.) The course begins and ends at the Christian Moerlein Lager House, winding through the West End and Over-the-Rhine and highlighting with signs all the spots where historic breweries once stood. There's beer (of course) and music at the end. The finisher's medals double as bottle openers.

And it's 14 kilometers long. That's 8.7 miles.

8.7 miles is a heck of a distance. If this race really thinks it's a party, I think it's fooling itself.

So I prepared for it the way I would any long run. Proper clothing. Body Glide. I stuffed an energy gel into my pocket for Mile 4, hoping none of my fellow partiers would make fun of me for being a total buzzkill.

Turns out, nearly everyone else there was also treating it like a race.

Not a beer bong in sight.

One of the things I love about running is how it lets you explore neighborhoods in a new way. A street you've driven down a thousand times can look completely different when you're experiencing it on foot. (Take, for instance, that photo of the Museum Center above - we actually ran under the museum's driveway, through a tunnel I never knew existed.) And when the course is designed by someone else, you get to go down completely new streets! This course took me to parts of the city I might not otherwise have ever seen.

I would never have had any reason to visit this part
of OTR, as they apparently don't sell $11 hot dogs.

The other great thing about the Hudy 14K was the costumes. This race offers an unusual "tethered team" competition, which means you run literally tied to your teammates. Costumes are an element of this competition, so we saw girls in dirndls (it was Oktoberfest weekend, after all), breast cancer advocates using bras as their tethers, and this - hands down, my favorite team:

It also takes some real skill to run 8.7 miles tied so closely
to five other people. So this is impressive on a few different levels.

So I ended up having a great time at the race, and by taking it seriously and treating it like a race, I also had a great race time. And in the end, we found the party after all.

There you are!


Columbus Marathon Training: The Hills

An open letter to the residents of Benchmark and Berryhill lanes:

We apologize for getting all up in your business during rush hour.

Goin' uphill like whoa.

If it makes you feel any better, we don't like running up and down your streets over and over any more than you do.

We promise.

It's just that you happen to live in the hilliest neighborhood within running distance of Fleet Feet, and our trainers are sadistic that way. (Or they want us to be prepared. Whichever.)

Almost ... done!

We didn't even know Blue Ash had hills. (And frankly, we were OK with that ignorance.)

Anyway, hopefully we didn't bug you too much. We tried to stay in single file and not dart out in front of cars or anything. Feel free to help yourself to a cup of water or lemony electrolyte drink from our fluid station before we head on home.

The Runners