Refuse to Contribute Story 5: Wilma Rudolph

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Wilma and her parents.

She was a premie baby, born lighter than a 5-pound bag of potatoes. It wasn’t for another 30-years or so before premature babies began receiving specialized care – in 1940, such babies were not expected to survive. But Wilma Rudolph did.

By the time she was 4, she had pneumonia, scarlett fever, and polio. Her parents were told she’d never walk again. Treatment options for poor, black kids in Tennessee were limited, and yet by the time she was in high school, she was a basketball and track star. By 1956, she was an Olympic Bronze Medalist.  Entering college in 1958, she was a single mom, and a second time Olympic aspirant. In the 1960 Olympics, and a sophomore in college, she won 3-more medals – all gold – and became known as the fastest woman on earth.

After retiring from competition, she began a career of teaching and coaching – protesting segregation, teaching grade school and coaching track. She was mother to four children and by 1992 she had become an executive in healthcare.  In 1994, she was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed away within 4 months.

She wore braces until she was 8. Her parents were manual laborers without much money, yet they supported each other. And that’s the true story of this refuse to contribute story: family. Wilma became an amazing athlete through sheer determination, and lived an amazing life.  Her family supported her through premature birth, disease, educated her and gave her the supports necessary for a black, single teen mom to go to college in the 1960s.  With so much stacked against her at the time, her family made sure she had the opportunity to thrive. When Wilma was a child, her mom would take her twice weekly – a round trip of 100 miles – for treatment for her legs. Her mom taught her siblings the massage therapy for her legs, and for 5 years she received these 4 times daily. It was her will that drove her to succeed, but it was the foundational supports of her family that put her in position to succeed.

To be sure, Wilma was an inspirational person and amazing athlete – people with more supports and greater hands up do not accomplish what she did, but it’s also clear to me that she would not have had the ability to be the true expression of her ability had she not have the love and caring of her family. One can only imagine what she could have achieved had she had the resources available to her more affluent peers.

Wilma’s story should be an inspiration for everyone pushing their boundaries, and her family should be an inspiration for everyone. There’s no telling where the love you show your family will go. There’s no telling where your achievements will reach.

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2018 Race Recap #44: Joe English Twilight Challenge Marathon Relay

I love this race. This year is the third time I’ve run this event, and it was a special one for me: this year my daughter was my relay partner.  She even let me name the team with a dad joke: “A Running Joke.” A ridiculous and terrible pun, but I think it’s funny.

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“A Running Joke”

The Joe English Challenge is a host of different events all held on the same 2.6-mile loop course at Freestyle Farm – a horse farm in Amherst, New Hampshire: a 6-hour, marathon, marathon relay, half-marathon, half-marathon relay. I was planning to run the 6-Hour Ultra (afterall, I AM training for a marathon and I need the long run) but then I asked her if she would consider doing it and she said yes – she’s running a half marathon in a few weeks so the training is important for her too. I’ll take a shorter run for the partnership of my daughter any day.

It’s an equine training facility, so the trails aren’t technical. There’s some up- and down, rolling hills. The course itself is great: volunteers have bonfires along the course and cheer you on. The start/finish festival area is a big old horse barn where you can spread out a blanket, bring chairs, picnic, whatever. AND they have a great spread of food, up to and including vegetarian options.  Just a super, thoughtful, well done event.  Proceeds go to support the Amherst Land Trust, an organization dedicated to preserving open space in the town. Additionally, there’s another event they do earlier in the year that I’ve thus far failed to do, but it’s been my intention to do it.

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Clearly, this was before the race started.

I didn’t realize how much better a runner I have become over the last year: while I’ve fought through some injury this year, I’ve not had anything that’s laid me out quite the way it did last year, and with that healthy time I’ve been doing more and varied running…and exercising in general.  Last year my fastest pace was slower than three of my five loops this year and even on the two that were slower, they were slower by 8- and 4- seconds respectively.  My fastest pace last year was the only one that compared to this years’ running…and I ran a race this morning!

think“Find Your Inner Wild” is a slogan for another race too, but you know I don’t think anyone is going to confuse this event for that one.

There were 5 marathon relay teams this year: the first couple of years I ran this event there were maybe 3, but consistently mine is the only two-person relay team so I like to think there’s something special about that.  The first two years I ran with my friend Andy: in 2016, we actually WON the event with a time just over 4-hours. I’ve never won anything before nor after.  In 2017 we were actually faster than the year before and finished second (third was only about 40 seconds slower overall!!). This year, my daughter and I finished 4th with a time of just about 4:17:00 or so – I didn’t think to take a picture of the results and it’ll be some time before the results are posted online but I’ll update when they’re posted. The winners actually finished in just over 3-hours. Preposterous.

I’m super proud of her, and super happy for having had the experience. Maybe, she’ll see fit to run with her old man again next year.

Results:

2018: 4:15:52
2017: 3:54:09
2016: 3:57:36

2018 Race Recap #43: Shore Park 5k

A last minute thing, I mean like really last minute. Like 10 PM the night before last minute. Hard to say “no” when your friend offers you a bib for a race.  I’ve actually run the course before for a group “fun run,” so I as familiar with it – not terribly hilly: it’s a full loop, and somehow my watch recorded 105′ of gain and 125′ of loss, so I’m not sure what’s going on there.

It’s a pretty cool (64 degrees), low humidity (56%) day so it was a really good day for a race, unlike say last week.  It was also a decent size (I’ll say roughly 180 runners) but not “major,” but the infrastructure around it – police details, radio station playing music, and the like – would have suggested a much larger race.

I quite liked the vibe of the start/finish line, but have to say there could have been a little more attention to some of the essentials.  There was about 10-minutes between the playing of the National Anthem in the parking lot and the start of the race on the street; runners were congregating at their respective paces (the race gets points for this) and spilling into the street, whereupon a police officer came up and asked people onto the sidewalk because the street was open to traffic and there were 3-officers assigned to the detail.  Now, I would think 3 should have sufficed to direct traffic around runners, but apparently not.  The first mile or so was fine (except for the quick under the interstate overpass, where work was being done – can’t do much about that), but as we reached a main street, there were no volunteers or police presence to stop cars entering the street from side streets, and a few more aggressive drivers were busy honking at the runners.  This was not an inexpensive race – day of registration was $40 – so paying customers could have – rightly so – expected a little more in the way of amenities.

Other than those slights, it was a nice race with a pretty good course on a very nice day for running.  It was the first time I’d ever actually placed in my age group (3rd!) and I finished 15th overall in a race with more than 16 runners. I wasn’t as fast today as I was a couple of weeks ago, but that’s okay – that race is likely to be my high water mark for some time (if not forever) – because I was faster than last week, although I’m sad that the weather seems to have that great an effect on me.  That said, when the winner finishes a 5k at 20:23, I feel pretty good finishing where I did at 23:14…even if mile 3 was slow and plodding: I should’ve knocked another 30 seconds off that time.

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Results

Net Time: 23:14.2 Pace: 7:29 Gun Time: 23:18.6

 

Ba-dee-ya! An exhortation to be happy.

Do you remember the 21st night of September? I bet you just sang those lyrics in your head as you read them.

Even before Maurice has those first few words out of his mouth, I’m moving my arms and doing a chair dance. September is one of those songs that I am absolutely convinced has always existed. It’s brilliant. Nothing shy of brilliant.  And it means absolutely nothing. Nothing.  It’s just an exhortation to be happy.

Allee Willis, said this of Maurice White: “I learned my greatest lesson ever in songwriting from him, which was never let the lyric get in the way of the groove.” ba-dee-ya.

No one cares that it means nothing. Just as no one ever cared that there was literally no meaning to September 21 either. I’m willing to bet that even after 30 years, you don’t even know all the words. The only reason they matter at all is that it gives us all a chance to hear Maurice sing.

It’s about the vibe.  It’s about how it makes you feel.  It’s musical ice cream: it makes you happy even if the flavor really isn’t your favorite. I love this song for that reason – it just makes me happy, I feel good listening to it. The way Ice Cream feels in your mouth, there’s nothing in this world better.

Compare this with something like Snuff” by Slayer: even if Slayer is your go to, the vibe will never make you feel “happy” (unless you’re a psychopath) and yeah, the lyrics matter for that reason:

“…Torture, misery
Endless suffering;
Pleasing to the eye
To this you can’t deny…”

The world holds so much Snuff, and far too little September.  Its far too easy to be angry – that ignorant social media post, something shocking in the news, that unfair decision at work. What’s a little bit harder is being happy – just making the decision to be happy. To ignore that social media outrage, to remember very little in the news is actually news, that work is only one part of your life.

So today, on this 21st day of September, even if there has never been a 21st of September in your life worth singing or dancing about, hit the play button right now and give yourself a gift of 3.5-minutes of happiness.   Make the choice to be happy.

Ba-dee-ya.

Crummy Today; Victorious Tomorrow

I didn’t run today, and I feel crummy about it. It was just a rainy, crummy day in New England when I woke up. Of course, it wasn’t raining at 5 AM when more than a few of my friends run. That’s a crazy time of day to do anything – even wake up – never mind go out for a run part of it. It wasn’t raining by quitting time, so I thought maybe I’d go for a quick 3-miles. But, it was humid and, DAMN, my watch had de-charged because I forgot to disconnect the bluetooth. So maybe I’ll hit the Planet Fitness Dreadmill.  Yeah, that didn’t happen either.

It’s times like this that reinforce why I worry about falling off track. It’s so damn easy to just go for three miles when you planned four, to just not run at all. Inertia does have a tendency to reinforce itself, and once my inertia of moving forward is broken its ridiculously easy to just let resting bodies rest.

I’ve got big plans, got stuff to do that just won’t get done unless I get up off my fat ass and do them. I’ve got 1500 miles to run this year, a marathon, a relay race with my daughter. I’m pretty sure I’m the most aerobically fit I have ever been, and yet my desire to just take a day off outweighs the opportunity to progress toward those goals.

I haven’t taken a day off in more than two weeks and only then because I ran almost 19 miles the day before. I went hard core yesterday: ran to my bootcamp workout where we worked core and legs, and back, then ran another 8-miles. I’m sore today…almost like I ran 18 miles. I went all out yesterday, and what I’ve found over the course of time is that full bore exercise will reap benefits, but will also knock me out. Hard to know what’s better for me: go full bore, get the benefits and risk the inertia, or risk mediocrity.

So, I feel crummy today, but I also feel like to get the gains I needed to push hard yesterday, and rest today. I’m sore everywhere I should be sore, but I’m sore because I worked muscles that aren’t used to being worked out. This is a good thing. Runners World says, rest helps strengthen your body, sharpen your focus, and reinvigorate your spirit so that you actually want to keep training.

Running daily breaks the body down. A break helps refocus, rejuvenate, recharge. I hope so, because right now I just feel crummy.

Tomorrow I rise, ready to take it on again. Inertia only wins if you let it; a body at rest tends to stay at rest. The question is which do you want to win more: inertia…or you? I’ve put too much work in not to get back at it; I’ve put too much work in to let inertia win. Crummy today; victorious tomorrow.

2018 Race Recap #42: Worcester City View 5k

Some days are better than others; some races go better than others. In the greater scheme of things, this wasn’t a terrible race for me, it’s just that in view of last week’s race, my time was disappointing. Where last week was cool and humidity non-existent, today was in the 80’s with 97% humidity. It was gross.

I was feeling crummy about the time – 24:03 – and feeling like it should have been better, until I saw the results. I mean, the winner today was preposterously fast – really good runners are preposterously fast if it’s cool or hot or humid or what. Needless to say, I’m not a really good runner.  But my 24:03 time was good for 28th in a race with more than 28 runners – 324 in total, although that said there were a fair number of walkers – so its clear to me that the weather slowed a lot of folks down.

The course has a fair amount of elevation gain, and as it turns out, I’ve run the course a couple of times already this year without realizing it so I had some experience with it. I should’ve done a long run today, The Marine Corps Marathon is only a few weeks away now, but I committed to doing this and looking back I’m glad I did because I think it would’ve been an ugly mess.

I’ve generally stayed away from 5ks other than the ones my running club puts on because I’ve been focusing on the longer distance races, sometimes though a quick short race is helps let you know how you’re progressing and I think that’s what was accomplished today. So no personal records, but a demonstratively solid progression.

Results:

24:03 | 7:44.5 /mi
Overall: 28/324
M: 23/139

     

    Refuse to Contribute Story 4: David Goggins

    Although he’s a public person, unless you follow ultramarathoning you’ve probably never heard of him. And even if you do follow ultramarathoning, you may not have heard of him. He is one of those personalities I see from afar, I don’t know him, I don’t know how heavily curated his “story” is nor just how much what he puts into the world is actually his or if it’s what he thinks the world should see.

    This matters not one ounce to me. What he puts out to the world is all about striving to be the best you can possibly be. Which is great, but who is he and why should I care?

    A quick read of his Wikipedia page answers those questions.  He’s got asthma, has battled obesity, and has had a congenital heart defect repaired. A lot of us have faced these or similar challenges – my weight over the course of my adult life has yo-yoed between 175 and 230.  He tried and failed to get into USAF Pararescue twice before succeeding and eventually becoming a SEAL. The work he’s done since reads like a guidebook of mind over matter.  This is an exceptional person and I want to believe the majority of what he puts out to the world is actually his belief system.  You cannot do what he has done, you cannot overcome what he has overcome without the fortitude and strength of mind he expresses.

    His Facebook post of Monday, September 10 struck a nerve for me. It resonates as true and I can see the truth looking back as far as High School: I’ve said for years that I was a mediocre student, but my comparator group was far more high performing than I gave credit for at the time; had I gone to my public high school, I would have been a mediocre student there too…but my comparator group would have been less high performing and I would have set my targets lower.

    His message? Be mindful of your comparator group.

    If you are always comparing yourself to mediocre people, that’s exactly what you will be! A lot of people think that they are at the top of their game because they are the best amongst a group of people who don’t even [care].

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    He goes on, much like Bill from yesterday’s post (“it’s supposed to be hard,”) that “mediocrity feels good.” Lower your expectations. He acknowledges that performing at high levels is uncomfortable, and people shy away from people that make them uncomfortable. Comfort is a drug, it becomes addictive.

    A week before he said:

    The most important conversations you will ever have are the ones you have with yourself. You wake up with them. You walk around with them. You go to bed with them. Eventually you act on them. Rather it be good or bad.

    We live in a world full of haters and jealous people. People so [messed] up in their own lives that they can’t move forward so they put their hate for themselves on you. This world is full of distractions- a lot of them are from other people, social media, some are self-imposed. In a world full of distractions, you must learn to live in it undistracted, unphased.

    Never let the weakness of this world infiltrate your mind! To do that you must truly know yourself! Don’t allow people to puppet master you from being [flipping] great!

    Here he’s speaking the language of refusing to contribute. You’re in control of your own greatness. THAT is a powerful and scary message: it means that if you fail to be great, it’s on you. How many of us want that much power and control? Control your negative self talk, live your best life, conquer your goals, avoid mediocrity.  Don’t allow anyone elses’ mediocrity, no one else’s reasons for not striving for better be your reasons.

    We all have our challenges and opportunities. Accept them, but do not excuse them. Compare yourself, your results to those you wish to emulate. We’re the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Choose the right 5 people. If you choose to be angry, you will make certain choices. If you choose to make a difference, you will make different choices. But make no mistake, you’re making the choice.