If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon

Emil Zatopek
Life is a Marathon not a Sprint - Finish Strong

Life is a Marathon not a Sprint - Finish Strong

Posted by martin.parnell |

Only eight weeks until the Calgary Marathon and it’s time to get serious about my training. Last Sunday morning, I planned to do a long run, 26 kilometers along Horse Creek Road. But before I could even think of heading out I had to select the proper clothing. The thermometer outside our front door read 15C. This meant shorts, long sleeved shirt, running hat and most importantly +30 sunblock. I also wore my fuel belt which holds my four bottles of diluted Carbropro, electrolytes, and cell phone.

Sue drove me out north of Cochrane to the intersection of Grand Valley Road and RR280. A key piece of technology for these runs is my Garmin Forerunner 201. This tells me my time, speed and distance. On the long runs I maintain a “9 and 1”. That is nine minutes running and one minute walking. This allows me to have a bit of a rest and drink every ten minutes. Two kilometers into the run, I spotted, further up the road, what I thought was a mother bear and her cub. I cautiously approached the pair and noted that they weren’t moving. As I got closer I was relieved to see it was a bag of garbage and a culver opening. 

At the intersection of RR280 and Horse Creek Road, I met a lady collecting cans along the side of the road. She calls herself “The Ditch Witch” because she collects garbage from the ditches along the road. She told me that she’s always shocked by how many cans and other garbage is tossed from vehicles. She takes the cans to the bottle depot and the money she receives is donated to an animal charity. As I ran, I noticed at least 20 tossed cans on the way into Cochrane.

On a sunny Sunday, Horse Creek is a busy section of road. The cyclist were out in their colourful spandex tights and shirts. Several of cars and trucks passed me by and I always give them a wave of appreciation when they give me a wide berth. An hour into the run my buddy Pete slowed down in his truck and offered me a ride. He always does this and I always say no.

This 26 kilometer route has a significant elevation drop and with 5 km to go it was great to see the Town of Cochrane in the valley. I crossed the 1A and started on the final kilometer to home. However, I soon found out I had one final obstacle to overcome. As I approached the train tracks crossing I spotted a police car parked by the gate. I was surprised to see him there and so I asked the officer if there was a problem. He said no but polite informed me that I shouldn’t cross the tracks because if I did there would be a $287 fine.

My house is 200m from the tracks. I had two options. Run the 4 kilometers along the 1A to the 22 junction, over the bridge, then down Quigley Drive to home or phone Sue. No contest. Sue picked me up and 20 minutes later I was home. So here is my plea to the Town Council of Cochrane: If we can’t walk across the tracks then give us a pedestrian bridge. Thank you.

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“Believe in yourself and there will come a day when others have no choice but to believe with you.”

Cynthia Kersey, best selling Author
No You Can't....Yes I Can!

No You Can't....Yes I Can!

Posted by martin.parnell |

During his Presidential campaign, Barrack Obama coined the phrase “Yes we can” and millions of people, across America, believed they could. 

But, what about when people are telling you “No you can’t!" 

In 2010, at the age of 58, my wife Sue, decided she wanted to run a marathon. She chose to do the Queen City Marathon, in Regina.  All was going reasonably well, until she hit the 33km mark, it was at this point her legs seized up, her calves were screaming for her to stop and she could only hobble to a nearby park bench. Along came a ‘sweeper’, a race volunteer who cycled the route looking for runners who weren’t going to make the cut-off time and arrange for them to be picked up. She told my wife that she was “done” and a truck would come and give her a ride as she wouldn’t make the finish in the time allowed.

This was all the motivation Sue needed and, amazingly, she stood up, hobbled for about 200 meters, then began to walk, broke into a gentle jog and ended up running across the finish line, well before that magical cut-off line.

Sometimes you need to ignore the doubts of others, test your mental resolve and try to prove them wrong.

To do this, you should ask yourself: 

1. What are the obstacles? 

2. Do I have the skill set to tackle them? 

3. Are there time constraints? 

4. Do I need support? 

In my wife’s case, she was able to address all of these issues by using knowledge and willpower, to implement the actions necessary to achieve her goal. 

1. Her main obstacle was the pain she was feeling, but she knew that, eventually, it would pass. It wasn’t life-threatening! 

2. She had put in the training and knew that she could cover the marathon distance. 

3. She calculated that, if she just got walking, it was possible to make the cut-off time. 

4. She knew there were friends and family, along the route who would cheer her efforts and aid stations to provide water and nutrition. 

It wasn’t the most positive experience, but it gave Sue the satisfaction of knowing she had achieved her goal, despite the difficulties.  Next time, she would draw on what she had gained from the experience and if a similar situation arose, she would be able to say, with confidence, “Yes, I can!”

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Things in motion sooner catch the eye than what not stirs

William Shakespeare, Author
3 Books to get you to the Finish Line

3 Books to get you to the Finish Line

Posted by martin.parnell |

I recently read three books, all involving running, but with very different focuses. The first was “Fast after 50” by Joe Friel. Joe is 70 years old, a masters multiple champion and has coached athletes of all abilities. The book gave guidelines for high-intensity workouts, focused strength training, recovery, cross training and nutrition for high performance. The book also listed some amazing older athletes such as Diana Nyad, age 64, who swam from Cuba to Florida in 53 hours, Bob Scott, age 75, who set a new Ironman World Champion record in 13:27:50 and Libby James, age 76, who set a new half marathon world record in 1:45:56. Sue gave me this book for Christmas and I’m not sure what she was trying to tell me. I did switch to Coconut milk, cut down on my bread and tried some interval training. The jury is still out.

The second book was “Two Hours” by Ed Caesar. Ed is a journalist and has reported from Iran, the Congo and Kosovo. This book looked into the possibility of a marathon, 42.195 kilometres, being run in under two hours. The current world record of 2:02:57 is held by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya set on September 28th 2014 at the Berlin Marathon. Ed spent months with Geoffrey Mutai, another top Kenyan marathoner and discovered that the world of elite marathon running is a business involving big-money races and drugs. The question is, can the magical two hour target be broken without drugs? I’m on Warfarin for my clot on the brain however I don’t think it could be considered “Performance enhancing”.

 The third book I read was “The Illegal” by Lawrence Hill. Lawrence is a Canadian writer and is best known for “The Book of Negroes”. This novel tells the story of Keita Ali. Keita is on the run and is desperate to flee Zantoroland, a mountainous black island that produces the fastest marathoners in the world. Keita signs on with notorious marathon agent, Anton Hamm, who provides Keita with a chance to run the Boston marathon. But when Keita fails to place among the top finishers, rather than being sent back to his own country, he goes into hiding. This book addresses the fate of undocumented refugees who struggle to survive in nations that do not want them. I really enjoyed this book and was thrilled when Clara Hughes defended it in the CBC Canada Reads competition and it won.

Reading these three books made me realise that running is a metaphor for life. There are struggles, triumphs and disappointments. However, whatever is thrown at you, you have to keep going to the end. Remember, having a “Finish The Race Attitude” will take you further than you ever thought possible.

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Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.

Benjamin Disraeli
Plan for the Future - Live in the Moment

Plan for the Future - Live in the Moment

Posted by martin.parnell |

Sometimes, circumstances beyond our control, prevent us from achieving our goals.

This can be frustrating and often disheartening. So, it’s important that we look for the lessons we can learn and appreciate the positive aspects of the experience. 

Take my friend Simon Donato. An extreme, elite athlete and star of TV’s Boundless series. According to an article, in the Rocky Mountain Outlook, he and three of Canada’s top adventurers set out to complete one of the Bow Valley’s most daunting challenges, the Rundle Winter Traverse, in a day.

 Their goal was not only to complete the traverse, but to highlight the story of Mount Rundle, for a short film. Before attempting their goal, the team considered previous experience and knowledge, to make an informed view of what lay ahead. 

1. Simon and fellow team member, Ryan Atkins had set the summer speed record on the traverse, last year. So they knew the route. 

2. The crew had made a series of reconnaissance trips to the area. 

3. They had worked out a way that the entire crew could tackle the project. 

However, due to adverse conditions were unable to complete the final four of the eleven peaks. After summiting the seventh peak it became apparent that they could not predict what hazards might lay ahead. 

Despite all of their preparations they had not tackled the route in winter and this proved to be the defining factor that thwarted their attempt. As Simon explained “The weather warmed up quite a bit in the afternoon and we experienced a big slide and we pulled the plug”. 

Previous experience has taught them that, sometimes, it’s best to just admit a challenge is too great, at that particular time, and accept the experience for what it is. Not to be disheartened, the team are considering another attempt, probably next year. 

As Simon put it “We’re not blitzing it. We had a chat with guys like Will Gadd, Jack Firth and Chic Scott. They all told us the same thing – to enjoy the moment, not get caught up in the goal.” Wise words indeed! 

Despite any amount of preparation and previous experience, we all have times, when factors beyond our control affect outcomes. But we should always try to look at these as learning experiences. 

We may or may not choose to tackle the same task, but might apply the lessons to help with other, future projects.

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You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream

C.S.Lewis, Author

Old Dog, New Tricks - There are No Excuses

Posted by martin.parnell |

Where I live, locals tend to know me as a marathon runner and someone who advocates living a healthy lifestyle. This means that I often get comments about what races people have run, what they are training for and other general comments about fitness. I also get a lot of people telling me the reasons why they don’t do any physical activities and the excuses can be quite diverse. But, the most common ones I hear are “I’m too old to start now.” or “I don’t have the time.”

What people should do is, instead of finding a reason not to do something is find a better reason to take action. I have met many people who have taken up a physical activity, in later life and reaped the benefits. Last year, a family member bought himself a set of small weights and a treadmill. When the weather is fine, he walks 5km to the local beach and back and, he had never been particularly active, but he does all of this because he wants to stay fit and healthy, in his “golden” years. According to my sister-in-law he has started jogging. He is 86.

Now, I’m not advocating that everyone leave it until that late in life to get started, but saying you’re too old is no real excuse.

It’s the same in business. Some people feel they are past learning new skills, they have been doing the same tasks, in the same way and it works for them, or they feel it’s not worth the time and effort. What those same people should be thinking is, “If I make the time and put in the effort, how can it benefit me?” or, better still, “How can it benefit me and my colleagues?”

They might ask themselves:

  1. How much time, each day can I commit to learning a new skill?
  2. How will it enhance what I do?
  3. Would it save me time, in the long run and make me more efficient?
  4. Will I become more productive by using this skill?
  5. Will it give me more job satisfaction?

If any of these can be answered in the positive, then surely it’s at least worth giving it a go. It doesn’t even have to be anything big. Most people will never run a marathon, but a good 5km walk is better than not exercising at all. Start by looking for small things to take on board and see where it leads. You may find that learning and adopting one new skill will make you want to do more.

Sometimes we need to find an excuse to take action rather than not.

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