Monday, October 29, 2012

How to Speak Back on My Feet Philadelphia

Wrote this one a while ago and tucked it away for a rainy day... well...



So one of my favorite aspects of being a non-residential member of Back on My Feet Philadelphia is that, since the moment we signed up, each of us had a unique experience. Some of us joined in the dead of winter, while others registered in the oppressive heat of summer. Some of us have run 5k’s in Avalon, while others have run Half-Marathons in Delaware. But despite all the differences that exist within each of our experiences after there is one similar story that we all share. One story that unites us all.

The story of our first day out.

And for some, myself included, that first day was rather intimidating. Many of us woke up that first morning in the darkness of the wee hours of the morning, without much of an idea of what to expect.

We ran,  biked, or drove down to meet the group, armed with the information provided to us during our volunteer orientation, reminding ourselves of the kind warning imparted to us, “We hug!”.

So needless to say, our first morning out can be mildly overwhelming, and that is why I decided to try and do my part to make that initial run a little easier. Cause for all the challenges we might find on that day, navigating to find the group, difficult weather, or the fact that you haven’t been awake that early since that time you ate that questionable Mexican food, surely the challenge of language shouldn’t be one of them. 

So it is for that reason that I have decided to take it upon myself to teach you a small lesson, to teach you how to speak Back on My Feet Philly. The following should serve as an unofficial glossary of terms to get you through those first few mornings out with the group.

Morning Runs- The most likely cause of you falling asleep at your desk at 3pm.

Leg Swings- A series of exercises that will make you feel like an idiot for losing your balance.

The Serenity Prayer- 1. The prayer we say before each run.
                        2. The moment you are glad you remembered to brush your teeth.

Sleeping in- Refers to setting your alarm clock to 6am.

Tall Guy- Evan

Short girl- Caitlin

Ruth- Cathryn

Cathryn- Ruth

Beth- ???

Josie's Mom- Jill
 
Double Pants- The practice of wearing two pairs of pants in the winter to fight the cold morning runs.

Team Leader- The person who sends you those e-mails you never read.

Coach- The person who takes credit for most of what the Team Leader does.

Volunteer Coordinator- The person most likely to hunt you down and find you after you miss a week’s worth of runs.

“Let’s circle up”- What we say when we mean, “Okay, shut up, it’s time to stretch”.

Car ride to the race- Where you wish for a good race.

Car ride home from the race- Where you wish you had remembered to wear deodorant.

“Can you go inside and see if (insert name) is coming out this morning?”- Translation: “Can you go inside and drag (insert name)’s a@$ out here.

OBP- Our Brother’s Place

RWA- Ready, Willing, and Able

St. John’s- Late.

Routes Take One- When the coach/team leader gives the turn by turn direction of the course for the day.

Routes Take Two- When the coach/team leader repeats the directions cause no one was listening the first time.

Morning Announcements- The forty five seconds before each run when you learn what ’22 degrees, feels 8 degrees’ means.

Broad Street - Fun

Cesar Rodney- Hills.

Walk-Run- The practice where we walk for three miles, only to reach the end and realize we forgot to add the run part.

“Try not to throw up”- Good advice.

“Leave it all on the course”- Bad advice (see above), as we know now, ‘puke’ technically falls under “it all”.

“I like your pace…”- A pick-up line/excuse to run next to a cute male or female.

Wind Chill Factor- The number that will tell you how many hours it will take to feel your toes again.

Lloyd Hall- 1. The place along Kelly Drive where we meet for Philadelphia Chapter wide long runs.
                     2. The site of Back on My Feet’s 20in24 race.
                     3. The location where the bathrooms are always locked when you have to pee.
Winter Hug- A quick way to warm up.

Summer Hug- A quick way to get sweaty.

Shower Burn- The burn you feel when the hot water of the shower meets your frozen skin.

Each of these terms will serve as solid beginning in learning how to speak the language of Back on My Feet Philly. It serves as a beginning not because the list has been shortened, but because it is a list that cannot be completed. Cause, you see, the real language of Back on My Feet Philly, is one that is never spoken. It’s not the words we use, the phrases we utter, or even the sentences we recite together. 

No, the true language is the one that we hear when no one is speaking.

It’s heard in the moments when you watch someone cross the finish line of a race, then promptly turn around to run back into the fray to help someone else finish. It’s heard in the silence between strained breaths as two people run side by side up a hill. It’s heard in the times when one sweaty hand reaches for a water bottle only to hand it to the person next to them. It’s heard in the smiles, and the hugs, the tears, and the fist bumps. It’s heard in the way a finisher’s medal bounces around ones neck. And it’s heard on those mornings, those dark mornings that we all have when we think we don’t want to hear it, on those mornings that we need it the most. 

It’s the language that we feel before we understand it. It’s the language that finds us on that first morning out, the one that makes us want to come back for a second.

And it’s the language that challenges us all, each morning, to ask ourselves the most important question of all…

“Am I listening?”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thoughts for a Tuesday Afternoon

The following is a collection of thoughts on this October 23rd, 2012.

-Some questions can't be answers longer than two minutes.

- My friend Joe spent the summer in Africa trying to turn shit into electricity... #likeaboss

- "Someone painted the trees, Mr. C.".... Not sure I could say it any better.

- Knowing where to start seems less important than knowing when.

- If you want to increase voter participation, consider putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot outlawing black leggings and boots of any kind... that'll cause an uproar... Occupy JCrew.

- There's no greater test for what kind of person you are than how you dealt with this situation on Halloween....
 

- In running, nothing kills the mood quite like your iPod dying. In life, nothing kills the mood quite like a Jerry Sandusky joke... See.

- Current teenage generation fail...
"Mr. C, what are you going to be for Halloween?"
"Not sure yet, what about you?"
"I'm gonna be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle."
"Nice, which one?"
"I don't know, the blue one. I don't know his name?"
"(Student Name), that's my childhood you are insulting. That's like me walking into a church on Sunday, being asked who my Lord and Savior is and me saying... 'I don't know, that guy nailed on the wall up there... I don't know his name."
(awkward and confused laugh)

-Most of the best things that have happened to me, happened after I ran out of great ideas.

- To the lady in the black BMW with the bumper sticker "Spread my work ethic, not my wealth". How about you take your overweight ass and spread your work ethic on a treadmill THEN we can chat about your wealth.

- "If (Presidential Candidate) wins it'll be the worst thing ever."
"Why is that?"
"Cause if he wins, I won't get as much stuff. And I really want a game room."
Sometimes the complexities of politics just need to be broken down by a nine year old for you to truly understand.

- The thing about sounding good, looking good and doing good, is that the latter almost never occurs if you are interested in the former.

- The only difference between watching freshman boys interact and watching the monkeys at the zoo is the distinct smell of axe body spray.

- It's time to admit that my lifelong goal is to never be in charge of anyone else.

- My day to day...
"Hey (student name), how was your birthday?"
"Not great, Mr. C. I really wanted to go to this party but it got busted by the cops before I got there."
"Well... uhhh... at least it got busted before you got there and not afterwards."
"Good point, Mr. C."

- As far as I am concerned as long as you make it home at the end of the run, we can call it a success.

- I wish I had a sidekick.

- How many bagels is too many bagels?

- Tapering before a marathon is a lot like being lost at sea... you want to drink the water so badly, but you know it'll kill you.

- If tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Similarly, if you take enough Advil and can't feel the injury, are you really injured?

- When my bib number is even, I always have bad races.

- If you had to bring something in for show and tell at work, what would you bring? I think I'd bring my tambourine, or vacuum cleaner. 

- The only thing crazier than sharing the bizarre thoughts that go through your head, is how crazy you feel when you keep them to yourself and convince yourself you are the only one who is.

Friday, October 19, 2012

What Presidential Debates Teach Us About Running

Growing up in my house, there were a few things that we held sacred. I can't say we were a religious household in any way, but like most families, we had our own brand of the Ten Commandments, and though they were never written down on stone tablets, in my opinion, they would go something like this.

10. Thou shalt not drink Dad's Dr. Pepper
9. Thou shalt not empty the drying rack until it falls over
8. Thou shalt not worship the Cowboys, the Giants, or the Redskins
7. Thou shalt not lie about where you hid mom's car keys on school days
6. Thou shalt not feed chocolate laxatives to the dog
5. Honor thy babysitter, even if she is batshit crazy
4. Honor thy turtleneck
3. Remember the grated cheese, and keep it stocked
2. Thou shalt not intrude on Mommy and Daddy time.. especially when Daddy needs to take a dump.

And

1. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

Only in our house, the Sabbath was a little different than others. In many households, Sundays involved coming downstairs in your Sunday best, loading into a car, driving to Church, and eating brunch. In the Colameco household it involved coming downstairs in your ratty pajama bottoms, loading onto the couch, and watch mom and dad scream at Meet the Press while they cleaned the house.

And that's how our Sunday mornings would begin. Mom and Dad hurling expletives at the television screen, while my brother and I played with our Ghostbuster action figures.

So needless to say, growing up in this fashion, this time of year during this Presidential election cycle is one that I was raised to pay attention to. And if the degree of redness in my sleep deprived eyes are any judgement on the matter, I think I have done my parents proud.

But this isn't a blog about politics (thank God), instead it is a blog about running. So without further ado, here are the things we as runners can learn from Presidential debates.

1. Keep an Eye on the Clock

So one of my favorite parts of this past debate were the camera shots of the candidate where you could see the clock running the background. It was interesting to watch how early in the debate they both stuck to the integrity of the clock. But as the debate wore on, that clock seemed to hold less and less power over the amount that each man spoke. The clock would go red, alerting them to the last five seconds, then finally hit 0:00 and they would just keep right on talking, either considering their argument too important to truncate, or to test the moderator to see if she would step in.

To sum it up, there were times they cared about the clock, and times they didn't.

And you can draw a rather easy parallel to the running world here, though not merely in it's most obvious forms.

Cause as runners we certainly have portions of our training when its very important to watch the clock, or in most cases, the watch on our wrists. It's important during speedwork, or tempo runs, and it's important during long runs when we don't want to start too fast.

There are also those runs where it's more prudent for us to leave the watch at home and simply run on feel. To head out there and just let your internal gauge dictate the pace.

But if we extend the idea of a clock, not just to minutes and seconds, but further out to days, weeks and months, I think we will find a principal that is quite relevant, and helpful.

Because while it's important not to get bogged down in the pace of each and every mile, it's equally as useful not to get bogged down in each and every run along the way.

Cause if you are like me, you'll find that the times that you are most dissatisfied with the state of your running, when you are too zoomed in on that moment. Where you narrow in on how your last run went, or obsess on a race goal you've set that's rapidly approaching, and seemingly out of reach. I'm infinitely less happy, when I lose sight of the whole timeline. When I'm trapped looking only at today, and forgetting that when I first started I could barely make it three miles. When I forget how sore I would feel after those early four mile long runs.

When I forget how far I've come.

2. Don't Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Good Story

So it doesn't take long, watching these debates, before each side is quickly telling you that the other side is being less than truthful about the facts. Both sides hurl charges of "That's not true" or "Those aren't the facts". To the point where they are both stating that the other is lying about how the other person is lying.

It's only afterwards where you read the various news organizations "fact checking" articles that you find out the truth.

They're both lying.

But in the running world, we take lying very seriously.

(Just ask Mr. Ryan and his sub 3:00 marathon time...)

But, I'll contend, that there are somethings that are okay to lie about, and I say that for one reason.

Running is really fucking boring.

And it's really fucking boring especially to people who don't run. These people don't want to hear all about your race splits, or race strategy, this shit is not only meaningless to them, it's, well, boring.

So spice it up.

Throw in a cute girl. Throw in some dangerous weather. Throw in someone shitting their pants.

3. Learn How to Smile

One of the controversies of this debate cycle, has been the media's new found love of the split screen shot. The television director has loved keeping both candidate on camera even if only one of them is speaking. The directors claim it makes for good television, watching the other one react to what the other is saying. The candidates claim it's awkward and unnecessary.

I tend to agree with the candidates. I wouldn't want footage of me listening to someone else talk, it's hard enough to pretend I care what you are saying when you are the one looking/talking to me, let alone 60 million Americans.

The result has been that both campaigns have spent time, literally, practicing how to sit there, smiling (or in some cases, smirking).

Practice that we, as runners, could use. And if you don't believe me, feel free to check out my latest marathon pictures.

I look like a cross between prisoner of war escapee and "Just Say No" anti-drug poster child.

I could use some practice.

4. It's All About the Spin

So after these televised debates have ended, the real debate begins. Because you see, after the moderator has thanked the candidates, and their families rush the stage to greet them, the rush behind the scenes starts.

For backstage, in what is known as the "spin room", high profile surrogates (Governors, Senators, Cabinet Members) cascade into the awaiting press corps giving their partisan opinion on the debate. Their job is to tell any and all reporters within earshot that their guy clearly won the debate, that the other guy lied, and in some cases, that the moderator is a closet communist hellbent on destroying America.

It's in this spin room, that popular opinion is frequently formed as to who won and lost the debate. Giving the right positive or negative spin can go a long way in cementing the press narrative for the following morning, thereby affecting the opinions of the still undecided voter.

And if you ask me, as important as these "spinners" are to candidates, they are just as important to runners.

Cause I know, for me, if I had to live through the ups and downs of a training cycle by myself, I'd probably go crazy (or at least crazier than I already am). I need those people in my life to offer my the positive spin, that everything is going to be fine, or that it's not that big of a deal. I need these people who are going through the same thing as I am to tell me that I'm not the only one who is tired, or sick of the strains that training brings with it.

We need the post run spin.

5. Don't Fake It

In the course of watching these debates, and subsequently talking with others about them, I seem to run into a recurring theme. Either you went into the debate already having made up your mind, and you watched it less for informative reasons and more as a sporting event, rooting for your guy/team to win (of which I am guilty). Or you were one of the people left to make up your mind, either because you are undecided, or due to a disdain for the nature of our current political process.

And, invariably, when I am speaking to someone from the latter group. I hear something that seems quite noteworthy to runners.

That they connect with the politician when they feel he is connected to it himself. That they feel it when they feel it, and sense it when they are faking it.

And I can't think of anything more relevant to runners than this.

Don't fake it.

Running, in my opinion, should be one of the few things in life that should always be of a personal or self-defined nature. I believe strongly that you should only ever run for one reason.

The reason you choose.

Cause while running to impress with a fast time, a crazy distance, or just to try and fit in/keep up with other runners, may not exactly be the worst thing in the world. But they all pale in comparison to running for that reason that can't quite be defined.

Whether it's to run faster than you thought you ever could, further than you thought you wanted, or simply to run at all, it's the moments that we eclipse our own perceived limitations that we find the true gifts that running has to offer us. Gifts that no one else can give you.

Gifts we can only give ourselves.

________________________________________________


Don't forget to vote! And if you don't know who to vote for, do some research and find out... and if you still don't know just do what my brother and I do... write in our father, Robert Colameco.


Monday, October 15, 2012

The Long Run

So a car ran over my foot.

No, that's not the beginning to a joke, it actually happened. I was running, passing through an intersection with a green light, when a golden Buick, who had been waiting for a few other pedestrians to pass, decided that he had waited long enough. And thats where we met. My toe, his tire. My arms, his side bumper. His apologies, my apoplexy.

But this isn't a blog about me and a golden Buick.

It's actually a blog that started quite some time ago.

But I'll explain that one towards the end.

So I guess sometimes I take for granted that everyone who reads this blog must be a runner, and on top of that, knows all the terminology and in's and out's that we are accustomed to using. So I guess, for that reason, I should start by explaining what "a long run" is.

In the course of training for a marathon, or really any long distance race, most conventional wisdom has you run four or five times a week. And this usually plays out as follows, 3/4 runs during the week of a short to moderate distances, ending with one on the weekend that we define as your long run. For a half-marathoner this distance could scale anywhere between eight and fourteen, and for marathoners twelve to twenty two.

Simply put, more most of us, it's our least favorite run of the week.

And not merely because it is our longest distance of the week.

We hate it because, on the outside what appears to be two or three hours of activity, in reality is much more. Cause the truth is, you can't simply roll out of bed, tie your shoes, and hope to run twenty miles (I know, I've tried it.). It takes quite a bit of prep, the obvious stuff, enough sleep, the right kind of food, hydration. And it also takes a wide range of things you might not expect, things that sound like this, "where the fuck did I leave my watch", "I forgot to charge my iPod", "Okay, one more episode of 'Storage Wars' and then I'm leaving.".

But it's not just the prep that make them difficult, there's a mental aspect to this too.

Nothing messes with your mind more like your long run.

If it goes well, you'll feel like a badass runner all week. If it goes poorly, you'll spend the whole week worrying about race day, and wondering how much force it takes to smash the windshield of a gold Buick with a crowbar.

They say a Major League pitcher is only as good as his last start, and that a presidential debate is the most important moment of the campaign, until the next one.

They could have easily been talking about long runs.

But beyond the time it takes to prepare for them, the potential psychological pitfalls, and attempted vehicular homicides, there is something else to be said about these runs.

Or rather, something that they can say about us.

Because if you are like me, over the course of your training, you will have a couple long runs that will play out in this manner. Long runs where you never really feel great, ones where you never really hit your stride or rhythm. Ones where you spend the whole run staring down at your watch, counting down the tenths of a mile, as they slowly pass by. They are the ones that as you begin to approach the final miles that you really begin to hurt. Where the pain of injuries, lack of fitness, or just general fatigue begin to consume you. The ones where you question just what the fuck you do this for.

They are the ones you finish, not by powering through, but merely by holding on.

Which brings me back to the beginning portion of this post.

Cause as I mentioned, this blog entry isn't about running into a Buick. In all honesty, it's really not about running at all.

It's really about something I got from running, or really, something that running gave me.

And that is, that for as optimistic as I try to be, there are moments in life, parts of my own journey where I lose track of 'what the fuck I do this for'. Moments where the good fight doesn't seem so good. Where you watch, powerless, as those around you with the least get a little bit more taken from them. Where the cruel truths of life become reality for those who deserve anything but. Where there are no right things to say, no easy words of comfort.

Where the best you can do is hold on.

I read somewhere that you can't always see the finish.

And, in this instance, I'm not even sure a finish was ever guaranteed.

So I guess this whole blog really wasn't intended for anyone to read, as much as it was important for me to write, or to say out loud.

A rather public way for me to remind myself of the truth we remind each other of in the middle of each run, or race.

That we didn't sign up for just the start, or the finish, or the easy miles in between.

That we signed up for the good and the bad, the times we'll never forget, and the times we'll try so hard to, and the untold left to come.

And maybe most of all, for the moments where the best we can do is put our head down and keep moving with the faith that we chose this.

That we chose the long run.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Training Plans: A Survival Guide

My brother and I used to watch this show a few years ago. The show was called "Survivorman", and it featured a man who would purposefully strand himself in various settings, and then teach you how to survive. It was a favorite of ours mainly because the show itself was rather ridiculous. '

It was ridiculous for a variety of reasons. The first of which is that very rarely did anything actually happen. He would basically just spend the four days allotted walking around searching for food and water, of which there was usually very little. The locations were also rather bizarre, making it hard for you to really buy into the survival lessons, as few of us backpack through the Sahara Dessert on a regular basis.


Having said that, for whatever reason, my brother and I found the show to be hilarious. Though, given the fact that my brother and I once spent an afternoon watching "Anaconda 3", this shouldn't be surprising.

But even though I am not stranded in the middle of the Everglades, Amazon rain forest, or swamp, I have had this topic of survival on the brain.

Because while early October in the Northeast is known by the masses for it's cooling temperatures, fall foliage, and pumpkin spiced everything, to runner's we know it as something else. We know it as the heart of Marathon Season. The two month period beginning in October and extending through Thanksgiving, when the majority of marathons are held.

And if you are like me, and everyone in your contacts list is a runner you find yourself having very similar conversations. Where running dominated conversations, get dominated even more with one topics... the state of their training plan.

So it's because of this that I decided to put down these discussions in their various forms into one easy to read entry, and provide a survival guide of sorts, to surviving your training plan.

1.)  53F/ Feels like 48F

So if you know me, you'll know that I take weather reports rather seriously. And when I say 'seriously', it means I don't bother fucking around with a bunch of bullshit. I don't need to know what some jackass on the local news is telling us about in front of some green screen. Cut the crap, just give me the facts.

When it comes to my weather, I get right to the chase.

I only look at two things.

If it's supposed to rain or snow, I check the doppler. I don't need all this percentages nonsense, I look at the satellite and if I see a green or white bubble over my location, I know it's gonna rain/snow.

Secondly, and most importantly, I don't waste anytime with the temperature. Instead, I opt for the greatest thing invented in meteorology since they started putting happy or mad faces inside of suns and clouds... I am, of course, speaking of the "Feels like" invention.

Nothing gets straight the point like 'feels like'. It tells you everything you need to know. And if you don't think I'm right, wake up at 4:45am one morning in January, go run outside and tell me it's not worth knowing.

Having said that, the same principal is also quite relevant to us as runners.

Cause in this day and age when training plans are so detailed to include how many hill workouts, mile repeats, and the exact pace that each mile should be run, sometimes it's more important to ignore those and stick to the "feels like".

Because while '8 miles @8:00s" may sound right, there will inevitably times when it won't be. Those inevitable times in your training cycle where you have to work late, where you help a friend move, where you get a stomach virus.

Those times when trusting a number is less important than listening to your own senses.

2.) It's a Marathon Not a Sprint

I'm not usually one for cliches, especially ones that are as overused as this one. There are only so many times where you can hear this uttered by day drinkers, and political pundits that it begins to lose it's significance, and you begin to gain a certain amount of contempt for those who use it.

Having said that...

Training for a marathon is, in fact, a marathon not a sprint.

If you are like me, it's easy to fall victim to the daily ups and downs that come with a training plan. To feel on top of the world after a good run, and then crash back down to earth after a bad one.

For me it usually happens after a long run gone bad. Maybe a 16 or 18 miler that just doesn't work for whatever reason. It's usually in the wake of these runs that I find myself trapped in the thinking that I'm going to have a terrible finishing time, if I even finish at all. And it only gets worse from there.

And suddenly, there you are, six weeks into your training plan, and you've already concluded that you'll have an awful race.

But that's not how training works.

The truth is that you are bound to have bad runs. You are bound to hate a few, shorten a few, and altogether skip a few.

And that's okay.

Because a training for a marathon is a marathon not a sprint.

3.) Meet New People

If there is one thing I would critique about my friends it would be that we are a little too similar.

And while it's great to be friends with other runners, there are downsides to having too high of a percentage of these friends be runners. If you aren't sure if this is true, I would suggest you open up your facebook page and count the number of posts on your newsfeed contain some kind of running theme.

For me the percentage is quite high.

And to be honest, the positives very much out weigh the negatives. It's great to have a group of friends that can relate to the long training runs. To have them show up on race day and understand what it takes. It's great to have a sounding board for training ideas, and a wealth of knowledge to tap into.

But one of the downsides is that sometimes we lose perspective in a way.

We lose some insight into just what a tremendously difficult and noble thing we do when we strive to run a marathon.  

For that reason I think it's important that we talk to other people outside our group of running friends. It's important to talk, not brag, but just talk.

If only to remind ourselves that it's a hell of a thing to do the things we do. It's a hell of a thing to work as hard as we do for a dream that is never guaranteed.

It's a hell of thing to run a marathon, and sometimes it takes someone who has never run one to teach us. 

4.) It's Just a Matter of Trust

So as your training plan begins to wind down, and race day approaches, you will find yourself answering the same question with various people. It's a question that is meant with seemingly good intentions, and yet, it inflicts quite the opposite.

"So, are you ready?"

And if there is one thing I have learned from the marathons that I've run, I can tell you one thing... there is no such thing as 'ready'.

At no point, after a long run, a short run, or a quick run, will you feel this thing that they call 'ready'. There is no threshold, no line the sand that you pass where you suddenly feel the cooling serenity of being ready.

And that's not meant to scare anyone.

Which brings me to the confession portion of this entry.

Cause you see, I'm not an expert on marathons, or training plans. Everything I know, everything I've learned is isolated, and limited to one thing.

Me.

I only know what works for me.

So this is my best advice when it comes to surviving your training plan, and it is as simple, as it is difficult.

Trust yourself.

Trust in your instincts to run as fast as you should, and as far as you can handle. Trust that you are as strong as you need to be, and that you will only get stronger. Trust that you are not the only one who doubts yourself. Trust that you can only run one run at a time.

And above all, trust that this decision you made to run this race was a decision worth making. 

5.) 30,000 Steps

I read somewhere that the average marathoner takes 30,000 steps to complete the 26.2 mile distance. Though I'm not sure how they came to attain this knowledge, having never counted.

30,000 steps to complete this race. This race, that for whatever reason, holds this unique quality about it that captures so many of us in it's hold. This race that so many people refer to on their list of life achievements. The one that so many people speak of as a life changing event.

But I guess, on this last point, I tend to disagree.

This idea that running a marathon is a life changing experience.

Cause in my opinion, lives rarely change that quickly. That most of the change that occurs in our life rarely can be seen.

It's not the 30,000 steps we take before the spectators that line the course, it's the times and moments when no one else is around. It's the times we lace up our shoes when every ounce of you wants to stay home. It's the times we run around the block an additional time to make 15.7 become the 16 you needed to run. It's the times you woke up early, showered later, and said "I'll meet you there".

It's the change you never signed up for, the change you never expected, and the change you never knew you wanted.

It's the change that comes so slowly that you didn't even notice.

And it's the change that makes it worth it.





Saturday, October 6, 2012

My Off-Broadway Tour

It actually started as a trail, cleared in the brush that snaked between swamps and rivers. A simple path that ran the length of the island. It has had several names over the course of it's history in many different languages, "Wickquasgeck Trail", "Heerestrat", and "Great George Street" to name a few. It was first recorded by a dutch explorer by the name of David De Vries, who described quite simply as a path over which the Indians crossed.

Not much to think of.

I'm guessing not many would have guessed, that that dirt trail in the brush that navigated it's way through swamp and rocks would one day become one of the most famous streets in the world.

The name "Broadway" is the English translation from the original Dutch name for the street, literally referring to it as a broad way, or a wide path. And in addition to it's history in the early settlement days of New Amsterdam, what would become New York, Broadway is actually much longer than you might imagine. It extends through Manhattan island all the way up into West Chester County outside the City.

But in fairness, it's not these long miles up north that give Broadway it's international fame. It's the few blocks in Midtown Manhattan, right around where Broadway crosses 7th Avenue where it's true notoriety stems from. This stretch of road is collectively known at the Theater District, or The Great White Way, or any other name you might have seen in the movies. It's home to the most famous of live theatrical shows.

It's where countless tourists and visitors pour in to catch the latest in hit musicals. It's where Ethel Merman starred in Gypsy, where Rodgers and Hammerstein churned out hit after hit, and where puppets in Avenue Q cursed their way to Tony Awards.

But one of the little known facts about Broadway shows, is that most of them, don't start on Broadway.

The term "Off-Broadway" began in the 1950's, referring to an area just outside the Theater District. It originally was meant to designate shows that perhaps weren't quite good enough to be placed in one of Broadway's illustrious theaters. But over time it began to take on a different role. Think minor leagues to major leagues, a place where developing shows could be staged, revised, before moving to the big show on The Great White Way.

And that's how many of the most famous shows in Broadway history got their start... not on Broadway. Show like Godspell, Avenue Q, A Chorus Line, Hair, Spring Awakening, and Rent to name a few.

So what does this have to do with anything?

Well it starts with a boy, a boy from outside Philadelphia, with a dream of dancing...

No, seriously, I bring it up cause it's been relevant to my train of thought lately. Cause, you see, while New York is famous for it's Broadway musicals, it's also famous for one Sunday every year in November. The first Sunday in November where the hold the largest race on Earth, The New York City Marathon.

Cause as it would seem, even the most successful of musicals have a journey to get there. So I've been thinking a little bit about my own journey or tour to reach the big stage.

A tour that's included two doctor's offices, visits to Rite Aid for Advil and knee braces, trips to the freezer for ice packs, the shallow end to the deep end and back and back and back and back and back and back and back and back and back and back and back... and last but not least, the trips the limits of frustration and sanity over an injury that just won't heel.

Not exactly the journey I had planned.

But with one month left in this tour, I'm doing my best to draw inspiration not from the bright lights of Broadway, but the ones that shine just a bit outside.

Cause I guess the lesson is that while the spotlight of race finishes or Broadway shows get the most attention whats not shown is the path that got there. And while it's easy to look at those moments crossing the finish line, or opening nights and see them for what they are, it's harder to look at them for what into making them.

So while I'm not sure what this race in the greatest city on earth will look like, or how this next month of training will go. I can at least hold onto this one line that's been repeating in my head.

That if I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere.






Monday, October 1, 2012

Playing Dress-up

So I think it's genetic.

One of the few obvious traits or similarities passed down from my father to me. Cause while we are quite similar in many ways, when it comes to how we feel about various things we do draw certain distinctions.

He hates summer, and I hate winter. He loves carrot cake, and I hate it. He loves to sleep in, and I love to wake up early. He loves do-it-yourself home projects, and I like watching them become call-the-professional-to-fix-your-do-it-yourself projects.

But, having said that, on this particular topic, we are in complete unison.

We both hate wearing suits.

And I can't exactly explain why. There's just something about the way the jacket sits on your shoulders. The way you can never figure out how to button all three buttons, or just two, or one. The way the heat just kinda locks inside them. The way they always feel too small in some parts, and too large in the others.

And maybe it's due to the discomfort I feel in them, or something else entirely, but I honestly believe you could put me in the most fashionable suit around, and I would still look like my mom dressed me. I'd still feel like I was back in my parents bathroom as a 12 year old with that thin black, plastic comb, running it under the faucet, letting the water catch between it's thin spaces and attempting to work out the Dennis the Menace like cowlick that dominated my childhood.

But I bring all of this up because last night was Back on My Feet Philadelphia's annual Bash. A fundraiser where you wear running sneakers along with your formal attire to benefit the program. It's a night where supporters of all types come together, corporate donors, and individual contributors, volunteers, and members.

And each of them, in running sneakers.

An odd collection of  neck ties and Nikes, mini skirts and Mizunos.

An odd pairing that serves as a kind of symbolism for the rest of the night.

Cause you see, it's not just the footwear and formal wear that seemingly didn't belong together. Cause by all conventional logic, the guests themselves, wouldn't seem to either.

Because within the high walls that encased the ball room that night, you could find yourself talking to the CEO of a hotel, or the man who guards their lobbies, the lawyer or the defendant, the TV reporter or the man who might not even own one.

A ballroom full of people who by all accounts shouldn't match.

And a ballroom full of people playing dress up.

Because no matter if your suit or dress cost $1000 or it was pulled off a donation rack, it seemed to me that we were all playing dress up. That no matter if we wear these clothes every day to work, or once a year, in each of us, there was an air of make believe that used to accompany those moments in our childhood when we would dress up.

That aside from the designer bow ties, the silk dresses, and the pressed shirts, we were all wearing something else. Something that covered each attendee, the CEO through to the homeless man. Because as I looked around the room I couldn't help but take note of something else.

As I looked around the room I saw men and women clothed in more than just their formal best.

I saw business men draped in colorful optimism. I saw young women shimmering with hopeful smiles. I saw homeless men modeling their self worth. I saw teenage boys and girls styling in a dream of a brighter future.  I saw lawyers, teachers, cooks, and bankers. I saw mothers, fathers, ex-cons, and councilmen.

And in each of them, I saw optimism.

I saw the unflinching optimism worn by each of us.

The optimism you need to step into a ballroom with the hopes of ending something as pervasive and complicated as homelessness. The optimism that welcomes failures for the opportunity to build something greater in its place. The optimism that exists in circles but not pyramids. The optimism that doesn't know when to quit, only when to get back up. The optimism that comes with owning your corner of the world, and picking up a shovel to help. The optimism of believing that there is something worth believing in.

That's what I saw that night.

But I don't know, maybe we are all crazy when faced against the harsh realities and statistical likelihoods of homelessness.

Maybe we are merely playing dress up and make believe.

But if you ask me... that's a game worth playing.