A Runner’s Made in the Mind

Strip away the muscles, the sinew, the bones
The flesh.
Alone with yourself.
in your mind.
A step echoing amidst chatter
doubts.Refutes.
I am stronger than you say.
dirt track mile
Tissues beg for slack,
plead for mercy.
I want to stop.
But I do not.

Mind runs on.
Push forward against protest
myself and my mind.
Friend, nemesis, untrustworthy deceivers.
I must stop.
You may not.
Only one step more.

LIAR!

——-
The June issue of Competitor magazine features Meb Keflezighi on the cover, the story is excellent and I urge you all to read it HERE. Not all can race outside of themselves, but it’s the quest to continually push our own limits that every runner is in a similar battle. Keep rising to the occasion.

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Just Think What COULD Be on Your Feet

Imagine a running world much different than our own.

running_shoe_cartoon

running shoes pizza oven
Get up, lace up, and regardless of what’s actually on your feet…get running.

——
So lots of exciting things to share here!

My friend, and distance running’s #1 Fan Girl, Lynn Cox and I just launched Shoeprints Ink!! It’s a greeting card line devoted JUST FOR RUNNERS! Yea!! Go check out all the action and there will be more cards being continually added. Visit: Shoeprintsink.com

The first instructional comic book for runners, “Effective Mental Strategy: Race faster by out-thinking your brain”, that I created was just reviewed by author Mark Matthews. He’s an awesome writer and I always enjoy reading his blog, so read my review and then get sucked into HIS writing for hours and hours.

My latest Running Times article that ran in the Dec/Jan issues is now online. Go read “The Power of Protein Timing: Three windows to refuel the runner”

If you’ve yet to read another seriously awesome blog that I stalk on the daily, The Anxious Girl’s Guide to Dating, (seriously, I think many runners can relate erring a wee bit on the anxious side!) I contribute posts there and you can go read my second one: “Table for Four: Ditching the judging, critical, killjoy”

And on Instagram…I’ve been hanging out with Ariel. She likes my latest running shirt a lot.
——-
Enough of me yet?? Fine, then go run. ;)

1) Speaking of shoes and spikes, what running shoes are you currently loving at the moment?
2) What kind of food related shoe concoctions would you toss into this comic remix?
3) Anxiety and all that jazz…what do you do when you are feeling stressed, anxious, nervous, etc.? What keeps you sane and balanced?
Well, besides what I already shared…can I state the obvious: #runforsanity

Effective Mental Strategy: My first instructional comic book for runners!

I’m excited to share my first RUNNING book: “Effective Mental Strategy: Race better by out-thinking your brain”!!
effective mental strategy ebook
Running hard hurts. In order to race and train your best you need to block out that pain and stay in an effective mindset.

This ebook will teach you strategies to refute those pain messages from your brain and refute that voice telling you to “Stop!” and “Slow down!” Also included are insights from professional distance runners sharing the tips THEY USE to stay mentally tough during workouts and races. These rocking runners, Sarah Brown, Sara Hall, and Jason Hartmann, your brain would go dizzy counting up all their accolades: World Championship Teams, Pan Am Gold, Marathon Titles, you name it!

I’ve chosen to use my cartoons as teaching tools to make the reading fun and engaging. I mean humor DOES make everything better and, after all, while training and racing does require an amount of seriousness, running IS fun. And running personal records are even MORE fun!

This ‘instructional comic book’ is written BY a runner; because who better to poke fun at our crazy quirks and thoughts than a runner herself?!!
effective mental strategy ebook





BUY NOW to order this awesome ebook in PDF form here– $9.99!
*Please indicate if the email you’d prefer the ebook be sent to is different from your payment email address.

This running ebook is also available in the Kindle version at the Amazon store: BUY IT HERE!

running comic book

Sneak peek of what’s inside!

I’m a Runner. Suck it, Stafko.

I’m a runner, not a one-woman ‘selfie’ parade. If you haven’t read a recent opinion piece by Chad Stafko on the WSJ, prepare to want to hunt the guy down and offer him a swift kick in the groin. Most likely he’ll be easy to find: his house will be the one with a mob of irate runners, he’ll already be on the ground amidst a flurry of kicks to the groin. Can’t miss him.
runner in shoe
Mario Fraioli, senior editor at Competitor, did a nice reply to Mr. Stafko’s tribute to slothdom. Fraioli pretty much covered it but, being that I’m never short on words myself, I have a few things to add.

While my own POS car does not have a 26.2, 13.1, or even 3.1 bumper sticker on it, every time I see one out driving I instantly feel a connection to the driver of that vehicle. “You’re a runner, cool! Certainly, I’ll let you slide right over into my lane in front of me.”
nike plus comic
When my Facebook or Twitter feeds are blowing up with pictures or reports from fellow runners after their amazing workouts or scenic runs I don’t hold it against them. I don’t begrudgingly think they are just egomaniacs…they’re merely riding an endorphin high. They’re just trying to share a bit of a contact high with their social media minions. There aren’t selfies; rather, these tributes to their runs are a few things: motivation, inspiration, proof that hard work and dedication pay off, and further evidence that running breeds a happier, more driven, productive individual. But heck, even if a runner IS to outright ‘brag’ about a PR they should…PR’s are fan-freaking-tastic! [side-note, there IS a huge difference between true running shoes and discount bin knock-offs]

I do find it a little funny that he pegs running as the satan of all sports. Where is Rodney Dangerfield? “I get no respect!” Bumper stickers and license plate rims with football or basketball teams are completely acceptable. Hey, I’d like to point out that the ‘My son is an honor roll student at Shiny Rainbows Pre-School’ bumperstickers are more laughably annoying, am I wrong?
keep running
In the end, he’s just not a runner and can’t ‘get it’. He certainly could, if he takes Fraioli up on his most generous offer, but he won’t. He doesn’t want to. That’s too bad, because really he’s the one missing out. Rather than a self-absorbed parade of one, he’d wind up a little less angry and lot more motivated to discover just HOW MUCH he can accomplish. “How fast can I get?” “How far can I run?” “How much better am I truly, when I ignore the self-imposed limits my mind puts on me?”

I run because it keeps me sane. We all run for our own reasons and, to be honest, at this point I just don’t know another way. I also don’t plan on figuring out another way either…I mean, I like my running as is.

1) Do you have any bumper stickers on your car?
2) Do you share about your runs on social media sites?
3) Why do you run?

Three Traits of ‘The Best’: Be it in business or running

I’m a runner, but to pay the bills I’m a writer. In doing some reading for work I came across an article highlighting a few of the traits that the author felt made Steve Jobs the incredible innovator that he was.

The thing is, be it a creative dreamer in the business world or a motivated runner with aspirations, many of the traits that will get you to the top in one apply to the other. A goal is a goal after all, being goal-driven and having the ability to persevere comes down to pretty much the same things.

The Entrepreneur article was a good read, but I found myself hearing echos of themes I’ve written about right here.
runner by tree
PASSION. Do what you love and regardless of outcome never forget that you love it. Running is wrought with highs and lows, to get through the tough times you need to remember that underneath it all, you really do have a genuine love for running in the purest form. Running fast is awesome, but running as a stand-alone needs to be your passion.

CURIOSITY. I’ll stretch this to mean more having the ability to wonder, “What can I do?” Run curious. Run for the journey of finding your best. Dream epic goals and go for them. Even if you fail you’re still better off than being moved to shoot for it.

NO FEAR. They say Jobs wasn’t afraid of failing, good. Because you shouldn’t be afraid, failures happen. They are unavoidable, you learn from failures and the epic fails of races and workouts make you BETTER. Or rather, they’ll make you better if you’re able to learn from them and apply those lessons going forward.

Running may be better different than business in a number of ways, but getting to the top of something takes the same qualities regardless. This works even if the ‘top’ is your personal best. That’s the remarkable thing about running, even if you’re never going to realistically set a World Record or win an Olympic Medal you can still take the journey. Have the courage, tenacity, and CURIOSITY to take the trek to find your best.

Run curious, my friends. Run without fear. Run with PASSION.

1) What is a trait that you had before you were a runner that has helped your running?

2) What is a trait that running has actually helped you acquire and hone?

3) How do you try to run without fear?
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The Leg That Looked Like a Fish: When muscle weaknesses cause inefficiencies in your running

When I run my right leg has this really weird tendency to kick-back behind me, it’s a sort of quasi-knock-knee flail that looks like a fish washed up on shore and is trying to flip back to sea. Sounds really pretty, doesn’t it?
puppet on string
Over the years I did a LOT of work on correcting my form, I mean a lot. Runs where I’d be thinking of dropping my left shoulder, keeping my torso tall, making sure my right arm isn’t swinging too low…I imagined myself like a puppet on a string. I ran with arm weights, I counted strides, did core work, weight work, saw ART and massage specialists, hurdle drills and plyo’s all in the quest to be more efficient when I ran. But you know what, NOTHING could explain this wonky fish out of water right leg.

Obviously there were imbalances there, something needed to be strengthened so my leg didn’t have the tendency to collapse inward on itself. We nailed it down to having something to do with the vicinity of my hips, but you know what, I still run with a wonky stride.

Side point…in a hilarious twist of irony, after I got hit by the car and crawled my way back to running all that diligent form work pretty much got erased. See, we all have to start from square one again sometimes. :)

Back on topic, the flailing left leg; it wasn’t until I was reading another article in Running Times that was describing weak glutes and how if those muscles aren’t firing they could be causing inefficiencies, injuries and messed up form. Glutes? Never thought of that one! So I did a few of the little test exercises and you know what, the next day my stupid glutes were sore.

dancer

Flashdance anyone?

Logic then leads me to: my stupid glutes may be responsible for my leg flail. I’ve been doing the exercises to strengthen them so will keep you posted on progress there. However, the point is: we ALL have imbalances and weaknesses that make us inefficient runners.

* Inefficiency = compensation elsewhere = higher injury risk = lost time running
* Inefficiency = slower times = getting beat in races

Hmm, I don’t think any of us like those equations? I just had an article published up on Competitor: ‘The Four Biggest Problem Areas For Runners’ covering the hips, glutes, ankles and hamstrings as the top points of weaknesses for runners.

Chances are you’ve got one, or maybe more, to some degree. Don’t let those weaker muscles cause you problems and don’t let them hold you back from faster PR’s either.

There are lots of exercises for you to try explained the article but here are some quick links I’ve also covered on this site:

* Pedestal Core Routine and Video
* Flexibility Routine and Video (being tight is also going to lead to compensation issues)
* Stability Ball Exercises (there are some glute/hamstring exercises there)

When I run I’d rather not look like my leg is a fish trying to flop back into the sea. How about you?

1) Muscle imbalances and weaknesses, what do you consider your ‘weak’ spot and how have you tried to strengthen it? Or how are you planned to strengthen it?

2) When it comes to form, what is an area there you need to work on? (ie: arm swing, standing tall, stride rate, etc.)

3) If you could liken your running form or self to some kind of random animal or other thing, what would it be? If someone says they run like a beautiful gazelle and have nary an issue, I’m going to call BS on you…OR as you what kind of form work you did to look so perfect. ;)

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A Runner’s Fairy Tales: Little Garmerella

Sit for a spell and let me tell you the story of quite the fast runner. Her name was Zoe and there was nothing she enjoyed more than running, and running fast. She was a chicking machine, and loved running with the big boys...they pushed her.

garmerella

Feeling a bit naked??

Zoe started running in high school when her dad suggested, “Why don’t you try cross-country?” She at first thought it was a tourist-type group that would visit far away places. She was wrong. That realization was a shock not greeted with a smile, but soon she thrived off of a steady diet of miles and Pop-Tarts. She’d gone through the runner-switch and was not a complete convert, a member of the obsessive compulsive runners persuasion…there was no going back.

Her dad was a runner and she loved going with him for their weekly long runs. Unfortunately, her dad has just gotten remarried to a non-runner. Worse, this lady was a smoker and had two daughter of her own. Both of them were of whale-like proportions and if Zoe wasn’t as fleet with her hands as she was with her feet she’d be hard pressed to make sure she had something for the crucial post-run 30-minute refuel window.

Tragedy struck when her father suddenly died, they never really found out exactly why but Zoe had a suspicion he was crushed by his wife when she had rolled over onto the slender runner while he slept. At any rate, Zoe was left all alone with this trio.

They liked to boss her around, tie her shoe-laces in knots so big Zoe had to spend 20 minutes in the morning trying to un-tie them so she could go on her run. They ate all her S’mores Pop-Tarts, they stretched out her running uniform (she never could fathom how they were able to actually get into those bunhuggers at all), and worst of all they stole her Garmin.

Zoe hunted all over for that Garmin, it was the latest one and more than a watch, sort of like watches on steroids. But it was a sweet training tool and she wanted to wear it on the big race she had planned that weekend.
garmin
This race would be epic, it had been buzzed about and hyped for months. Their city’s governator was hoping to draw the fastest runners from across the land. He’d even sprung to have a posse of Africans come in special; sure, he’d paid a pretty penny to their agents but he was certain it was worth it.

Zoe had spent days searching high and low for her beloved Garmin, so much so that her horrible step-sisters began to tease and taunt her. They’d chant, “Garmerella, Garmerella, oh where might your Garmin be? You haven’t a clue, of that we can see, you’ll surely fall flat and probably lose a shoe too!”

This fried Zoe Garmerella to death. But she kept looking and of course still pounded out that training. (Word on the street she was a Team Cait member for the Miles Madness Competition even! haha.)

The day of the big race, no sign of the Garmin, but Garmerella was primed and ready to PR. She’d earned a spot at the front of the starting line and hoped to take this race for the Americans. Though, her wrist felt naked and in the back of her mind she was remiss that her beloved Garmin, which had been through so many grueling workouts, countless miles and endless repeats would not be with her to share the fruits of all that labor.

Her last stride done and now poised at the line, she caught a flicker of movement from the corner of her eye. She turned to the left just as a handsome runnerdude was about to tap her on the shoulder, “Excuse me, is this your’s?”

Garmerella’s eyes lit up, and not just because this was on hot runnerdude, but because in his hands was her Garmin!! “Oh my gosh, yes, it is mine!”

Handsome runnerdude held up the Garmin and slipped it neatly around her wrist…it was a perfect fit. Of course it was, right?
garminella and prince
Anyways, let’s cut to the chase here…the gun went off…BANG!! Out tore Garmerella, she tucked in behind African runner 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6…dang, it was a full posse out there! The miles ticked by, her Garmin beeped each one, and Garmerella was on pace for a big PR.

Gradually the pack cut down to four, then three, and by the last mile it was just herself and one other…they ran side by side. Which really was idiotic considering they should be running the tangents and all the drafting stuff too, but I digress.

Garmerella was wrought with the oh-so-familiar sense of lactic acid assault but she knew the Kenyan was working too. They were testing each other, each trying to drop the other but to no avail…with 400 to go Garmerella knew it would be close. Down the last straight she saw the finish line ahead, the coveted tape she wanted to badly to break…she closed her eyes and dug.

The roar of the crowd fell on her deaf ears, all she heard was the pounding of her heart, the panting breaths of her and her competitor. She dug for the last gear and…

…felt the tape break, actually right across her left wrist on her Garmin. How’s that for irony?

She’d set a PR, won the race and even chicked most of the men in the field. Not all of them though, because as she worked her way through the chute her eyes met with the handsome runnerdude of just a speedy 10k time’s space before. A bit runner-mussed with lingering beads of sweat, he’d finished already but waited to see how she’d fare. Plus, let’s be honest, the whole speed-goggles factor just about upped both of their hottness points.

They embraced in a sweaty hug. Though only for a moment because it was obviously time to cool down.
garmin fairy tales
Their backs turned on us, Dear Readers, they head off apace and if you listen real closely you’ll hear just one quick, faint beep from her Garmin.

1) What age did you start running, did either of your parents run? What is the runner factor in your family, how many are crazy like us?

2) What should happen to those evil three women: the step-mother and step-sisters?

3) When you’re racing do you tend to not hear the crowd, do you pick out some of the shouts, can you hear one specific person above the rest?
When I raced it was funny, I could usually always pick out my Mommy-O’s voice or the one of my coach. The rest was kind of Peanut’s adult blabber. :P

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Runners Going Gluten Free: Could making the switch work for you?

Running on a gluten free diet may seem like more work than structuring your training regime. Though there are no shortage of runners ditching the gluten and raving that they are far better for it. Admittedly some were ‘forced’ into because they have an intolerance, celiac disease, but there are others that willingly did a diet overhaul.

running pancakes

Are those pancakes gluten-free?? ;)


I’m not going to lie, I’ve got friends who are gluten free (But being that ‘going gluten’ is basically trending on Twitter who doesn’t have friends who are eating this way?!) and I don’t envy the way they have to interrogate the kitchen staff and be extremely cautious when reading food labels. I honestly have no worries when it comes to the restaurant thing, it’s not that I mind it at all, I totally understand how important their questions are. To be frank, I think it just comes down to me being too ‘lazy’ to put in the work to get gluten-free savvy.

But I’m curious, just as many others, and had heard the benefits of going gluten-free for possibly reducing the amount of inflammation in your body and solving various GI problems. In case you missed it I wrote an article all about this over at Competitor: ‘Gluten Free = Inflammation Free?’. I also included a three day gluten-free sample menu.

The truth is, it’s not THAT incredibly complex, trust me 400 meter repeats are a far tougher pill to swallow. I’d say the hardest part would be the initial learning curve and getting used to what you ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ eat, remembering to double check labels and mostly getting used to how to travel and eat out without gluten sneaking in there.
running fast
I tapped into some AWESOME sources for this one, Krista Austin Ph.D and Amy Yoder Begley who has become sort of the poster runnerchick for going gluten-free. After you read the article, I’ll add a few more thoughts and tips that didn’t make it but I found interesting and worth mentioning.

* Amy’s Top Restaurant Picks: “For really important races, I try to go to places with a GF menu like PF Changes, Outback, etc. However, you need to make sure they have gluten-free prep not just gluten-free food. Things can’t be fried in the same oil as breaded items or grilled in the surface as bread. Cross-contamination is a word to know and ask questions till you feel comfortable, even if it takes 45 minutes,” Amy Yoder Begley explains that cross-contamination is probably the biggest hurdle when dining out.

* Kitchen Overhaul: The same issue applies to your own home kitchen and cooking habits, “To begin with GF eating you need to get rid of the old toaster, really clean down the grill or get new grill plates, and buy new cutting boards. I would also clean out the cupboards, wipe down all surfaces and read all ingredient labels until you know for sure what is in each item,” Yoder Begley explains. I actually roomed with Amy for a while and while her husband does not eat gluten free they are extremely well practiced in making sure none of his gluten products even come near Amy’s plate or food.

* Inflammation and Gluten: Austin explains that while gluten may cause extra inflammation, the biggest reason an athlete’s inflammation may go down as a result of a gluten-free diet is because you’ll be cutting out most of the overly-processed junk, “Usually if you do a gluten-free nutrition plan right, you end up replacing these [processed foods]…as a result, it automatically reduces the high percentage of unneeded trans fatty acids (most hydrogenated) and bleached, nutrient-less flour is removed from the diet. The extra chemically produced fats (think hydrogenated) are what fuel inflammation in the body, so if we eliminate them we will reduce inflammation. Bottom line: we eat cleaner more naturally found foods and thus inflammation goes down.”

* No Diet is a Magic Bullet: That said, I’ve talked a lot about how jumping into a certain style of eating, or overly-cleaning it up isn’t always the ‘best’ thing for your running or your sanity, and it really comes down to WHY you’re switching to a new style of eating. There is something to be said for both moderation and the old adage, ‘if the engine is hot, it’ll burn.’ Austin is frank about this, “However, as a side note, I know many an Olympic athletes, etc in the sport of running that eat horribly and still get the job done, (Although yet to medal so maybe this is why?) …in fact they are the guys on top! Eeeeek…so at the end of the day, the message is this: it’s how you train that matters most…however, if your fuel intake is too low or not adequate in some way, just know training is suffering and we are not optimizing performance.”

I think I’ll end or reiterating that fact: “It’s HOW you train that matters most.”
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Check out Amy’s excellent resource for eating gluten-free at her site, Gluten Free Olympian: GFOlympian.com

Check out more from Krista Austin at her own site: PerformanceAndNutritionCoaching.com
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1) Do you eat gluten free? Have you tried a gluten free diet for any sum of time and what was your experience?

2) What have you heard about eating gluten free? Benefits, drawbacks, etc.

3) What’s your stance on your running diet, how do you approach the fueling issue?
I make sure to get in enough calories, so that means eating things I want and aren’t exactly the ‘healthiest’…but at the same time I think of the ‘junk’ as ‘bonus’ after I’ve made sure to get in the good stuff and enough proteins and such. :P

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The Moment of Truth: The watch tells no lies

The watch tells no lies.

runner
There is that moment,
Less than a moment even.
The split second that hangs in the balance
Between crossing the line and looking to the teller of no lies.

Baited breathe, you hope for good news,
Slightly anticipate bad…
You pause…
Toeing the line between wanting to know and not
Unsure if you do, indeed, really want to know the truth.

All in less than that tenth of a second…
The decision is already made,
Because deep down you know
that you HAVE to know.

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A Man Finds His Home Track

A baby sits on the track and watches his mom run in circles. To the infant it’s nothing more than splotches of color, the reds and greens, the lights and darks, the shadows growing longer as the sun sets.
track in sunglasses
As a three year old, this child now plays in the long jump pit while his mom runs in circles. This time though he is more concentrated on the shovel in hand and the sandcastle he’s building in the ‘sandbox.’

As a nine year old this boy waits eagerly for his mom to finish up running those fast circles, the part she calls her ‘hard running.’ He watches her cross the line of her last interval, her slender form bends forward for just a moment before she again stands upright. He rushes towards her, she looks to him and smiles, “Ready?” He merely nods the approval and then they both take off running a few circles together.

Now a twelve year old, this boy has his first pair of ‘real’ running shoes. He’s even been able to run a whole mile…which seems like an epic distance in his mind. He now looks to the track not just as a blur or reds set to green, but with dreams and goals stamped between those lanes. He likes to look at the big number ONE in lane one; he likes to think that number is meant for him alone.

At fourteen he’s learned that this running in circles is hard business. There is much more to it than merely wanting to win, and to carry out those ‘secret messages’ calling to him from lane one he’s got to be willing to run even when he maybe doesn’t feel like it all the time.

By seventeen he’s had tastes of success, they’ve made him only hungrier for more. The victories are sweet, the PR’s even more-so but his eyes are focused ahead on what lane one has in store for him.

At twenty this man has moved through the usual levels of running; college has treated him well. He’s not the fastest on the team, but he’s not the slowest either. He is unsure of what the future has in store for him, but with running he is sure. The tracks are always the same regardless of where he is, what he is, and whatever ‘life’ has him doing. Track and running are nice constants.
runner
By thirty this man has been world traveled; though he’s always had his running shoes packed as carry-on. Yet his favorite place to run is the very same track he used to sit and watch his mom run circles around; his home track. When he can he goes there and can still watch his mom run circles, though now at a slower pace. He joins her and does his own ‘hard running’ but they always convene for a few circles together at the end.

Now forty-three this man runs circles around a track; there is the beginning of a paunch on his stomach. When that actually appeared is still a bit lost on him, it seemed like it wasn’t there last year; though he knows this is in ‘runner’ comparison and he still gets called string bean by his work friends. He pants his way through the last interval, crosses the line, bends forward slightly for just a moment, rises and casts a glance at his baby girl sitting on the track.

He is now 80. He runs in circles around this home track of his; he doesn’t run with a watch on, he doesn’t care about the time, just the action. He is drifting far into the outer lanes, it seems over the years he’s felt more comfortable in lanes five through eight, he reserves lane one for the faster runners. The young bucks with dreams in their eyes and heck bent fury in their legs; he likes to watch them and remember what it feels like to be chasing. But he’s the only one at the track tonight. He closes his eyes and then he’s not alone; his mom is running circles around the track, his daughter is zealously chasing after him with shovel in hand, and they are all home.

1) Do any of your parents run, or anyone else in your family?

2) How old were you when you were able to run a full mile without stopping, and did you think it was a distance of epic length?
I was probably in Junior High before I could cover a full mile, and I honestly thought that if a person ran a WHOLE mile a few times a week they could win the Olympics. :P

3) Today’s Olympic Trials related fodder…so it sounds like the tie-breaker for third place in the 100 meters is coming down to a coin toss. What say you, and how would you be feeling if your Olympic Team dreams were dependent on the flip of a coin?
Seriously, a coin toss? In my mind this seems pretty wonky, one of the things I really love about running is that usually you can’t ‘luck’ your way into something like a win, a PR or the Olympics…but dang if you were waiting for a heads or tails in that position you better HOPE you’d have luck!

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