Monthly Archives: June 2012

Hire A Runner

Have you ever wanted to put “Distance Runner” on a job application as either an extracurricular interest or even in the Employment category? When I was laid off a handful of years back after the economy tanked big time, and found myself up against an endless number of other applicants, I often felt compelled to add the “Distance Runner” descriptor to my resume, but always held back thinking it might seem desperate and padding.

For those of us who ARE distance runners, it probably goes without saying as to why we would add this descriptor on an application. We know the value of being a runner and the qualities one must have to be a successful athlete, which translates well to most any employment consideration. To us, running defines our character and we hope it says something to others as well.

Recently, I had the fortune of being able to actually pull the “I’m a Runner” card and add it to my resume when applying for a unique position with a progressive company. Putting “Competitive Distance Runner” as my primary descriptor I hoped would convey the quality of my character and the values and worth ethic I would be able to bring to the job. *Dear potential employer, if you are reading this, I am not posting this as a subversive Suck-Up. I’ve just been thinking about this a lot lately and feel compelled to share with others.*

After really thinking through what exactly it means to be a “competitive distance runner”, I realized we develop the skills to achieve our goals that carry over into everything else we do in life. Now, does the chicken or the egg come first..I don’t know. Are we good runners because of our nature/nuture upbringings or has running honed the qualities that help us succeed in both running and life? I’ll leave that up for further discussion.

Suffice to say though, if you want to hire someone with both appropriate skills, but also appropriate character, you would be doing your business a favor by hiring a runner. Someone needs to start a marketing campaign for this! Regardless, the following are reasons we make great employees.

We are detail-oriented – Runners meticulously log daily/weekly/monthly mileage, mile splits, workout quality, miles left on our shoes, race PRs, heart rate readings, etc., etc. We obsess over the little things, always keeping track of our progress and trying to find the smallest edge to achieve our goals.

We know how to persevere – Running takes time and dedication with many ups and downs along the way to our goals. Some days we are superhuman while other days we feel like overweight turtles. We suffer poor race performances, battle injuries and bad weather, fight through fatigue, and basically deal with and push through whatever comes our way. The little stresses in life are laughable compared to what we deal with through our training cycles.

We work hard – I’ve worked at coffee shops, non-profits, bike shops, restaurants, construction sites, etc., and NEVER have any of them posed physical or mental challenges greater than what I experience while training. Runners must push physically and mentally when they feel they simply can’t any longer, and often find the ability to do so. The ways this carries over into the work world are limitless and immeasurable.

We are goal-oriented – I don’t know any runner who wants to vaguely “get better”. Oh no, we all have very specific goals that are defined by exact times at exact races. We talk about what pace we need to train at to acheive our goals and constantly work towards that end. We don’t just slog through running, hoping something good comes out of it, but know we have something to acheive and constantly aim for that success. Give us an expected end result and we’ll find a way to make it happen.

We don’t cut corners – You can’t cheat your way to a PR in running. There is no more honest sport than distance running, because the clock never lies. 2 hours and 25 minutes is 2 hours and 25 minutes. There are no “gimmies” or “do overs”. 1 mile is 1 mile and there is no arguing it. We may constantly consider the best way to achieve our goals, but we don’t cut our long runs short thinking we can still run our goal pace on race day. No, we run the full mileage every time, even if that means running in circles around our car in the parking lot just to get the full 2 and a half hour run in.

We are passionate – You can’t run your body into the ground doing 100 mile weeks time and time again without a passion for doing it. You can’t get up at 5 am 5 days a week to run 10 miles without an incredible drive for doing so. You can’t deplete yourself to absolute exhaustion without having an incredibly convincing reason for doing so. We have an understanding of purpose and passion that carries us through some of the toughest physical challenges we can endure.

We are reliable – We must run every day, no matter what. It becomes a part of our routines as does breathing becomes part of our survival. We know what it is to start a task on time and then finish it on time in order to move on to the next project. We know how long it takes to prepare for, carry out, and recover from a 10 mile run in order to then go to work, cook dinner, play with the kids, make it to a meeting on time, etc. Running takes organization and you can’t just go out when you feel like it without a care for other responsibilities or not worry about how it will affect your run the next day. We “run like clocks”.  

We understand progression – Runners are eternally discontented. Yes, we may set goals and then even acheive them, but once we do, we are already looking forward to the NEXT goal. A 2:25 marathon leads to a 2:20 marathon leads to an Olympic Trials qualifier marathon, leads to… We always seek a higher plateau and see no reason to believe otherwise.

We are dreamers – Our goals are often attainable and practical, but that doesn’t mean we don’t always consider the “what if”. What IF I’m actually faster than I think. What IF I have a breakthrough? What IF I can win this race? What IF I do make the Trials? What IF…. We dream because it helps us run better, but also because we have tapped into an unrealized potential that brings accomplishments we once thought absurd.

For all these reasons and more, running has created and/or fine-tuned our character, to make us the best individuals we can be in so many aspects of our lives, the work world included. Granted, if you asked any competitive runner what their ideal job would be, the answer is probably, “Get paid to run”, but with such a narrow window of opportunity to make that a reality, the rest of the work world benefits from our inclusion. Employers, next time you need more help on the job, hire a runner.

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Phillip Wollen, Animal Rights Speech

I don’t often post external media to my blog….but this is a necessary exception. Please watch this video and share it. I’ve heard so many arguments, discussions, debates in my time as a vocal vegan, so it’s rather rare when a presentation gives me goose bumps. Again, this is an exception.

(in other news…running/training updates and thoughts to come).

Motivations

A facebook friend asked me about motivation tips to get started and keep running, so I’ve put together a list of suggestions for anyone to pick and choose from if you think they might help you get out the door and complete your run. Mind you, these are just considerations I juggle for my own sake and you should always listen to your own internal voices. Personally, I’ve found I’m never able to rely on just one motivation or even a few to make a run happen and so I keep a small arsenal of options at my side. Anyways, I hope you can use something from this list for your own purposes.

Tell Lies. Lots of them. 

I’ve won the Chicago marathon…and the Olympics…and set world records…and achieved a whole slew of accomplishments that are TOTAL BULLSHIT. But guess what, they not only got me through my run, but filled the act with purpose, motivation and a sense of joy. Oh, and they helped me run faster too. I tell myself lies and create stories on the run ALL THE TIME, sometimes rather organically as my mind meanders this way and that and sometimes when I’m really dragging and suffering through a less inspired part of my mileage, I force a story into my head and work it through to it’s epic climax….and the next thing I know I’m kicking off effortless 6 minute miles and finishing my run as if I cut it in half. Never underestimate the power of a fantastic lie.

Don’t Get UNmotivated.

It sounds stupid right? What I mean though, is don’t let the efforts of others keep you from getting out there and putting in work. I know it can be easy to wallow in self-guilt when we see other people SIGNIFICANTLY better than us out running or even just ANYONE out running when you haven’t. It’s easy to bring up the, “What’s the point anyways?” line of questioning when you’re feeling sluggish and someone else runs by as if they’re battery-powered. Remember, everyone is working from different levels of experience, genetics and purpose and YOUR goal is only to run for YOURSELF. The efforts of others are their own battles and yours are yours. Stay focused on your goals alone and leave others to theirs, because I guarantee someone is looking at you running and saying, “Geez…what’s the point anyways?”

Be Motivated, By Others

And the flipside of the previous motivation is to look to others for inspiration. It’s OK to use others as a sort of competitive impetus, to see someone running along the path while you drive home from work, and feel that deep urge to get out there and put in the work they are so that you stay one step ahead of them, so to speak. My competitive urges are unquenchable and I don’t care how slow or out of shape someone is, when I see them running and I’m not, all I want to do is drop everything and put in work. Use the efforts of others to draw inspiration.

Surround Yourself With Reminders

We are runners when we run, but we are also runners when we are NOT running, because we continue our interest by reading running magazines and books, browsing running websites, reading running articles, studying nutrition essays, watching running movies, ogling athletes with lean and toned bodies, etc. It isn’t necessary to become OBSESSED with running, but there is nothing wrong with posting photos of athletes on your refrigerator, hanging your medals, bibs and trophies on the wall, and just generally staying interested with running even when you’re not. Personally, on days when I have an especially difficult workout in the evening, I find myself needing to be psyched up to take on the challenge and often resort to online videos of college level workouts or just paying attention to running media through the day so I’m already in the mental “zone” instead of having to reluctantly switch at the last second.

Think Past the Run

Sometimes it sucks to think about the running effort that lies in front of you, despite how you might feel DURING the run. The best part though is always how you feel AFTER the run, when you’ve completed the mileage or workout, no matter how it went. It doesn’t matter if you felt heavy or superhuman, once you’ve completed the workout you know you’ve done something amazing and that sense of pride takes over. Don’t forget how that feels. No matter how much you are dreading a run, think about what it’s going to feel like afterwards and run TOWARDS that.

Set A Goal, Out Of Reach…But Not Too Out Of Reach

I struggled so hard when I wasn’t training for a competition and was JUST running. I drew on so many of my motivations, but often that drive so early in the morning just wasn’t enough when I didn’t have a very SPECIFIC goal to work towards. Goals are endpoints, lights at the end of the tunnel, or at least peaks with amazing views on long mountainous hikes. Set a goal, whether that is a target weight (if weight loss is your thing), a low cholesterol number, a very specific race, a time you want to run at a specific distance….and then set that goal a little bit farther than you think you can accomplish. This is your carrot at the end of your stick. The goal is your focus and the extra length on the end of your stick is how you extend your efforts, always reaping the benefits of running and sometimes surprising the hell out of yourself and forcing a NEW goal. On the other hand, don’t set a goal absurdly far out there. Don’t expect to run a sub 2:30 marathon if you’ve been stuck at a 3:00 marathon for years. This is a very quick way to frustration and running retirement.

Go On Auto-Pilot

Run….a lot. Run at the same time every day, or at least as consistent a time as is possible throughout your changing schedule. Make running a PART of your day. Don’t look at it as an “extra” or something that “needs” to be done or even a “luxury”. View running as a fundament part of your day, just as fundamental as going to work, eating breakfast (you DO eat breakfast don’t you?), breathing, taking care of your kids. Go on auto-pilot and JUST RUN when the time comes. The more you run and get used to the schedule, the easier it becomes to run when that time of your day rolls around. No exceptions, no excuses, no nothing. If you’re asked to do something else by friends, politely explain that you need to run first and then you can go out. *Of course, this is an exaggeration….but I think you get the point.

Sweat The Small Stuff (sometimes literally)

For me, sometimes it’s a new route. Sometimes it’s hoping the mulberries are dropping. Sometimes it’s hoping the log flume at the State Fair is being built. Sometimes it’s trying out a new pair of shoes. Sometimes it’s a cookie after the run. Sometimes it’s trying a new gel on the run. Whatever it is, no matter how small, look forward to it. Sometimes, the tiniest things are all I look forward to in a run and that’s enough to get me out the door, whether I’m doing 10 miles or 20. Sweat the small stuff, because ultimately there is no small stuff.

When All Else Fails, Drink Coffee

What? Do I even need to explain this? I’m not kidding though. Running is a mental game and the ability to run well is severely sacrificed if you start in a bad mood. Coffee is liquid happiness and we can always use a little bit of extra happiness early in the morning before we start out on a long run. I don’t ever start a hard workout without taking in a couple shots of espresso an hour before hand. The mental benefits are immeasurable and when nothing else is getting you out the door, a little jolt of joy can be just the trick.

Just Run

Sometimes nothing works. All the suggestions I just listed can fall short and you still feel completely unmotivated to run. In those instances it is COMPLETELY OK to NOT run. It may be a sign that you just need a break or bit of time to recharge. That’s completely ok….but on the other hand, sometimes the best way to get motivated to run is to START RUNNING. When I know my demotivation is a mental struggle and not a physical struggle, I always err on the side of physical activity, and I’ve often found that if I JUST START RUNNING all the systems kick into high gear and I have a very enjoyable run, if not one of my best runs. Sometimes running is the best motivator to run.

And that’s my list. I know from experience that these work for me, whether on an individual basis or in concert with each other, and I hope they do the same for you. If you have any motivations or tricks you think others might benefit from, feel free to add them in the comments…I’d love to hear them!