Sunday, August 16, 2009

A (random) training run...

This is a little personal entry - which, so I hope, may have a little motivation in it for you.

I have just had 10 difficult days as a runner. First I got one of these annoying injuries, which hurt, but unlike a broken leg, one can't really tell why they hurt and what can be done to stop it. To add insult to injury, I was visiting my brother in London - which was supposed to be a highlight in terms of running - and left without a shared spin around the canals. Back in NYC I bought new running shows (this in my mind was the only possible reason for the strange tweaking) and - voila - the pain got less with every step... (Training Tip: Don't run more than 300 miles in your shoes!)

All good then? Not really! I had one of these weeks were I seriously questioned (again) the idea to spend so much time running around, sweating, sometimes in pain, sometimes tired... I kept working off miles - asking "why" every single one of them.

I found one answer finally this morning. I entered Central Park slightly annoyed at the prospect of pushing my still tired legs through 18 lonely miles when I almost crashed into some 20,000 runners... By pure accident the NYC Half Marathon had just been started and I joined the flowing mass of heads, arms and running shoes.

Goose bumps all over - despite the impressive heat - just 1 mile later. The feeling for running was back. "Why" was not a question anymore. I was completely taken by the spirit in the field of runners, spectators and the surrounding City. I saw the many runners fundraising for a worthy cause: Go I thought. I saw those T-shirts full of passion, love or meaning - I connected with many while I passed. I heard the supporters - imagining they cheered for me too. The route took us down the streets of New York and I had a flash back to last years Marathon - I suddenly couldn't wait to conquer the city once again.

I returned home after more than 2 hours and some 19 miles, utterly spent, thirsty, hungry. And, as I noticed myself planning out the next training cycle before I even did the last step, I had to smile...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jan Muench - Why I run...

"I like running. I have been running every day for more than 20 years and I guess I have circumvented the globe almost twice.

After getting up in the morning I have to run. Every day. Its my meditation. Running balances me and I guess the fact that I like long runs has provided me with helpful insight into my personality (i'm not too worried though since the best thing about any run is still coming home). Admittedly, however, I do like the fact that this balancing act doesnt come at the expense of independence and is free of team spirits and pressures.

But all these philosopical aspects aside running is above all a sport and a great way for me to explore my world, whether i'm running through the countryside of my childhood or the big city. I have come to believe that I have seen more forgotten corners and hidden canals in London than any other person.

This year I have run in more than 5 countries; I ran in a snow storm in the mountains which made me lose my way and wade through waist-deep snow. I ran though tropical heat and sun, heavy rain, poor neighbourhoods and rich ones, I was greeted by friendly people, laughed at and hunted by less happy ones and scared by some dogs. Currently I'm running on the lonely backroads of Ontario's Haliburton Highlands, including endless stretches of Highway 35.

My equipment, other than super soft running shoes and the standard 6 piece track suit, are at least two Gore Tex rain jackets (for summer and winter), a new GPS watch which tells me distance and speed (and can be anlysed on the computer) and a fanny pack with a water bottle sized can of black bear repellent spray, which doesnt help against the only real risk of occasional mosquito attacks. I guess not everything about my running is orthodox including my training plan (I make it up depending on how I feel).

But while running is more than a means to an end I certainly do have objectives. Every run is a small physical achievment which has improved my fitness every year. I also believe the will to endure is a skill worth training. The main objective for this year is the NYC marathon. While most of the time running is an individualistic experience for me I'm excited to take the streets of NYC with thousands of others. I like the city (which I know from hundreds of runs) and I think its culture is a perfect backdrop for this modern pilgrimage. This applies even more so for Camfed and its mission. Education is the road to independence and I'm looking forward to run alongside others to help to open it up."

Jan lives and (mostly) runs in London. Please support his fundraising efforts: GO JAN!

Training Tip 6: Put your legs in the freezer...

Contrary to the long-held belief that a hot shower is the best treatment after a long run, ice water might actually be what your legs really want.

I have tried it for the last year of intensive running and i am a big believer in this therapy. For me it really does work. My legs feel lighter, I can train more and I have had less problems with muscle aches, shin splints and other runners' ailments. It really helps me to recover. Give it a try!

Here is excerpt of an article on

"Cryotherapy ("cold therapy") constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. Once the skin is no longer in contact with the cold source, the underlying tissues warm up, causing a return of faster blood flow, which helps return the byproducts of cellular breakdown to the lymph system for efficient recycling by the body. "Ice baths don't only suppress inflammation, but help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles," says David Terry, M.D., an ultrarunner who has finished both the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and the Wasatch Front 100-Mile Endurance Run 10 consecutive times."

And the best part, Knut and his friends will also thank you for taking a cold rather than a hot shower.

Jan, put your legs in that cold canadian water after your run... I have been standing in the Davoser See this morning when I decided to write this entry.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Training Tip 5: Imagine yourself crossing the finish line

What makes the marathon in NY such a unique experience? For me it was the atmosphere before and during the race. You begin to get a first sense for what you can expect when you approach the Staten Island Ferry at 5:30 am. Its still dark, cold. But the streets are already filling up. Runners, wearing little more than shorts and shirt come out of every corner and fall towards the ferry like sand in an hour glass. I felt at that point I am part of something big, something good and slowly started to wake up.

You can hear every language on the ferry. French, german, japanese... they come from all over the world (or NY for that matter!). Faces feature the flags of the world, nervous smiles and tired eyes. The start is more than 3 hrs away but from now on the intensity is only increasing.

One minute to go. At the foot of the gigantic Verizano bridge. The tension is hard to bear now as 40,000 people want to embark on the race they have trained for and thought about for months, sometimes years. We all scream (senseless and full of strength...) as we make the first steps.

We pass the world as we run through NY. The russian, french, italian parts of Brooklyn - you can tell by the sudden support for the different runners around you, which nationality is living next door. A gospel choir in Fort Green - so beautiful I almost cry. A hip drummer in Williamsburg - so cool. Then my favorite fan, in the industrial parts just before Queensborough bridge. A lonely, dangerous looking fellow at the traffic light. He has brought a chair, not for him to sit on, but for his huge stereo. As I pass I hear Tina Turner shout at me: "Simply the best" ... Heavy legs as I reach the Bronx. The amateur rap artists at the curb make me forget my pain - the next mile, I think, I am running for them. A DJ is spinning the turntables a few minutes later.
I feel like fainting now, three miles to go. I think of giving up when my friends appear at the sideline. The next mile will be for them.

The final two miles. By then you will be in Central Park. ~ 1m people are screaming at you now in all the languages you have ever heard (or not). Before you know it, you have crossed the finish line and the feeling beyond that thin white line is up to you to discover... enjoy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Training Tip 4: Read a good book about running

Have you ever asked yourself if beer might make you a faster, more enduring runner? Have you ever considered cutting of a toe in order to save weight (... where it matters most)? Have you ever heard of the Native American tribe hunting deer by literally out running the animal and subsequently suffocating it by hand?

Running, endurance running in particular, is serious (fun). Bernd Heinrich - a world class ultra marathoner and scientist - mixes his personal passion for running with scientific detail and between the lines a lot of humor and irony.

I enjoyed the book greatly. It made me laugh out loud at times, taught me many important lessons (No, I did not cut any toes off yet) and gave me a lot of additional answers to the question: Why on earth do I like to run?

(Clearly it somewhat also influenced the title of this blog…even if we might be doing it for very different reasons!)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dirk Muench

“I never liked running. It all started with a bet. I said I would run my first marathon in under 3 hours. My colleagues at the time – Wall Street traders, proven to make the wrong call – put more than 6,000 USD on the table. The catch was if I were to run slower than 3 hours or drop out, I would have to match their pledge to charity. I was on the hook for a lot of money – and of course my pride. Three months to go, about 10kg too heavy for a sub 3hrs marathon I started to train. …I think the feeling of honest achievement I had when I finished the NYC Marathon 2008 in 2:43:07 cannot be topped. Yet, I guess I will run for the rest of my life trying to have it again.

I came across CAMFED in 2005 when starting to train for a Mountain bike race in the Swiss Alps. I chose CAMFED mainly because I felt edcation is the best, most efficient way to provide support and promote sustainable development in Africa. About CAMFED I particularly liked their entrepreneurial, learning approach. The reviews and the results of studies done on their work convinced me that I am supporting the right people and every dollar raised will be put to effective use.

My goal this year is to find 25 runners for the team, help them fundraise and exceed their personal marathon ambitions. I myself hope to raise 5000 USD and would like to finish the 26.2 miles in less than 150 minutes… (I know the odds to achieve this goal are close to 0, but even Wall-Streeters are more careful with bets these days)”

Why We Run

We run for…

… education, in particular education of girls, is widely regarded as one of the most effective ways to provide development aid towards a better, a more sustainable future. That is why we raise every Dollar for the education of girls.

Education makes a huge difference! An educated African woman’s lifetime income is likely to improve by 25% on average. Her risk of contracting HIV will be reduced by 66%. Further, the chance that her children will live beyond the age of 5 increases by 40%.

CAMFED is a highly praised not-for-profit organization that is widely regarded as a pioneer and expert in providing education for girls in Africa. It has won numerous awards (link) and has received the highest (four star) rating by Charity Navigator. More than 90% of all of its funds will go towards the education of girls in Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Ghana.

Provide the chance for a girl to build a better life in Africa while engaging in one of the most exciting and moving sports events—the NYC Marathon!

The Team and its fundraising pages in alphabetical order: