Sunday, January 24, 2010

14 miles of revelation...and PACE

For the longest time, I have considered marathon running analogous to life in that they are both long [well, hopefully life is in terms of years] and not without its challenges.

Certainly this has been true for me over the past year since my last marathon in London. Finishing my sixth marathon in a personal best for London of 2:53:14, I was ready to prep for New York in November '09 after a few weeks off. Well, New York never materialized because of injury and "the blues". While the injury healed over time, it further impacted my psyche and motivation to run again. While it's common to feel "low" after finishing a marathon and the exhilaration subsides, the past five experiences didn't prepare me for the complete lack of interest in running in New York.

Having rested for approximately the last four months, where my average mileage per week has never exceeded 10 miles [gasps from certain quarters], I am now back on the training schedule again for London on April 26. While it's a little early to set goals, coming back from such a long layoff, I'd like to think that a PB [New York 2008 - 2:51:28] could be possible given this past week's running and particularly the long run this past Saturday.

Chris Stoia, my running machine of a friend who serves as inspiration on a consistent basis, accompanied me on a 14-mile run from Washington Heights to the mid-40s along Riverside Drive [the map of the run can be found here:

During this run, with 14 weeks to go, I was reminded of how, for me, running is analogous to life and that you can PACE your way to success in both. I'm not suggesting running is for everyone. The purpose of writing this blog post is to identify four core principles that apply to almost anything in life...

P is for Passion
A is for Attitude
C is for Consistency
E is for Enjoyment

Running is not for everyone....but, life is!! Simply put, the best things in life that give us the most sense of accomplishment, enjoyment and fulfillment are those things we're passionate about. I have many passions and running is one of them; interestingly, it is a recent find. My first run was in January 2006 as part of a crazy notion I had in the New Year that I'd run a marathon - for no other reason than to check it off the 'accomplishment' list.

At that time, I'd never heard of New York Road Runners or Front Runners New York Didn't even know that you could qualify for the NYC marathon in ways other than a lottery. And I assumed that my lottery chances were pretty high, right? Yeah...not really!!

How I managed to run the '06 NYC marathon will be the topic of another post - it was all legitimate - but the ability to manage through that first 26.2 miles and the five other marathons since that date is due, first and foremost, to finding a passion for running and runners, a group of people who, regardless of their aptitude, are all INVOLVED IN SOMETHING, as opposed to nothing.

Attitude truly is everything. For those of you who know me, I believe that I am a "glass half full" kind of guy. I look for the positive in most, if not all, situations. For me, it takes this type of attitude to be successful in whatever you do.

Now, I'm not trying to be all new-age, mumbo-jumbo here....not that new-age thinking is problematic. Believe me, when I was injured and had lost the zest for running in 2009, my attitude stunk. I kept re-enforcing the "I'm injured" notion and could not get out of the running funk. And, it's amazing how if there's one part of your life that's not "running well", it can, if you let it, impact other areas - relationships, career, health, eating habits. Chocolate certainly started playing a larger part in my diet, lol.

It's easy to get sidetracked with attitude...and you start doubting yourself, your abilities...this impacts your attitude...and increases your self get my point here, I hope. For me, running attitude, as with life, is crystalized in the following:
i. believe in yourself and the power of positive thinking
ii. it could always be worse

Attitude is best summed up in tricking the mind to push for one more mile even when the legs think that they can do no more. An interesting point to discuss in a future post - suffice to say, it's amazing what the body can achieve if the mind can conceive and believe it. Simply stated - attitude!!

Practice makes perfect - and I can tell you first-hand that there is no way to short cut a marathon in training. It's not about being the best, but in order to be your best, consistency is key. For me, it means having to get up and run a weekly long-run [14 miles this past Saturday with Chris], regardless of the sub-freezing weather. It means getting on the treadmill in the dead of winter or height of summer and running 4-6 miles to ensure you get the mileage in. It means stretching the aching muscles to ensure you stay limber. It's drinking Gatorade at every mile on practice runs to mimic the fluid intake stations in an actual marathon.

Think about it - Jordan, Gates, Federer, Einstein - the world is littered with greats who were consistent in their approach to being the best they could. For those of you interested in how to vary the treadmill workouts to stem potential boredom, check here realizing that running at 0% incline is less than the advertised 'pace per mile' due to lack of wind resistance:

The last of the four PACE principles but often the most important - like anything, you have to get a sense of enjoyment from whatever you choose to do. As I mentioned, I lost the zest for running and the results were evident. None of us likes to do things we don't enjoy. I was burned out and was not running with a sense of enjoyment but rather a sense of obligation. Obligation? - not sure to what, to be honest...the need to compete? to stay fit?

It took time off from running to get to the core of why it works for me. There is a solace in being out on the road for miles and miles - some of my best thinking has been done while training. There's the comraderie of running with others who share your passion - although you have to remember that you can't always get away from the chatter. There's the benefits of being in the best shape of my life.

Find something you like and immerse yourself in it - you'll be pleasantly surprised at the results and the spillover effect that it has on other parts of your life. When we are in harmony and living the best life we can, lots of things fall into place.


  1. You are now hereby appointed my ghost writer Jason!! At some point, and I'm not sure how, you must have entered into my psyche and perused my thoughts, because it feels like I could have written this article!! :) Thank you for so eloquently explaining the wonders and virtues of distance running and positive thinking. Cheers!!

  2. Jason, your point about consistency and no shortcuts illustrates something that entrepreneurs deal with frequently: the myth of the overnight success.

    There are precious few overnight successes in business. What appears to be an overnight success typically follows years of working hard, practicing, perfecting. It's just that we don't see all the hard work behind the scenes, and so it appears as if the business is an overnight success, but it really isn't.

    Thanks for the inspiring piece.