Tag Archives: why run?

Every Finisher’s Medal Has a Story

IMG_0734medals 2I have earned many finisher’s medals since my return to running in November of 2009.  On the right is a small photo of most of them.  Each medal has a story, a context, a tale of triumph, defeat, friends, and laughs.

Why would I only display 9 of them on my medal rack?  Because some memories/achievements are bigger than others.  These are the stories I want to remember.  These are the stories I want to tell.

From left to right…

Knoxville Marathon 2010:  The first medal represents my first marathon.  In March of 2010, I was less than well-informed about the needs of an endurance athlete.  My training was sparse.  I had no nutrition plan.  I had taken one drink of water on one training run.  That was it.  Nothing else had passed through my lips on a training run.  No calories.  One drink of water on one long run.  If you know anything about endurance nutrition and hydration, you know where this led.  I ran reasonably well until mile 17 and the bottom fell out.  My legs locked up and I could barely walk.  The skies grew dark and a cold, windy rain set in.  I walked the rest of the way.  I shivered.  I must have looked pitiful, because the medics checked on me frequently for the rest of the marathon.  I was determined that I did not need help and I would finish.  I did.  5:34:38.  Then I could barely move for a week.  Good times.  I am not a quitter.

Knoxville Marathon 2011:   The second medal happened 1 year later.  One year of studying running.  One year of reading and studying.  One year of training.  One year of learning about hydration and nutrition.  I only ran two races between my first and second marathon, but I trained.  I didn’t train every day, but I trained all year.  This time when I got to mile 17, I could feel that my body was being challenged, but I knew how to pace myself.  I paid close attention and ran as fast as I could without cramping.  I gradually slowed down, but never stopped.  3:55:59.  More than 1.5 hours faster than the first try.  Consistent studying and training pays off.

7 Bridges Marathon 2012:   In the fall of 2011, I ran my third marathon, the Seven Bridges Marathon in Chattanooga, TN.  I had done more studying and a lot more training.  I managed to shave another big chunk of time, finishing in 3:27:27.  This was great progress and I was very happy, but it was also painful.  I cramped hard in mile 26.  I was on pace to qualify for Boston until that moment.  I could see the finish line, but I could not get to it.  I had to stand and wait for my legs to calm down.  My time was 2 minutes and 27 above the Boston mark for my age group.  But this medal is from the 2012 Seven Bridges Marathon.  Why this one?  It marks my victory over two things: cramping and gluten.  I had started the 2012 Knoxville Marathon in April, but had to stop.  I had been getting weaker during my taper instead of stronger.  I tried to ignore it, but I could not.  I spent more than half of 2012 trying to figure out why I was sick.  Finally in September, I was diagnosed as gluten-intolerant.  I stopped eating wheat for 6 weeks.  Then I ran the 7 Bridges Marathon.  Even though I had been weak for 6 months, I had trained anyway.  I was hoping that the slow paces would pay off because of the big efforts that it took to fight through my weakened state.  That gamble paid off at 7 Bridges.  My slower, weaker, but valiant attempts at training during my illness led to a finish time of 3:22:44.  I had beaten gluten.  I had beaten the cramps.  I had qualified for the Boston Marathon for the first time.  This medal will always have a place on my medal rack.

Shamrock Marathon 2013:  After that, I was healthy and ready to score another big PR.  I had now studied three very different marathon training strategies.  I had even written a book about running.  I was laser-focused.  I had very consistent training with a very consistent strategy.  It paid off again.  Even though I still gradually slowed down, I did my best job of pacing ever.  I did cramp just a bit, but I was 100 yards from the finish.  I jogged it in for a 3:13:22.  My second BQ (Boston-Qualifying time).  Not only that, but I had BQed by more than 9 minutes.

Indianapolis Marathon 2013:  This one was only a PR by 37 seconds, but this is amazing in and of itself.  Why?  Because my training strategies varied greatly.  I was starting to play with speed.  I ran shorter distances and did a lot more speed-work.  I was reading and studying like always, but I was testing out my own theories about training.  I was also racing A LOT.  It was a couple of months from the marathon before I started getting a bit more focused.  I was gambling that my endurance base was maintained through out all of the different training strategies.  That gamble paid off.  Even though I did not make significant progress, I did show that I could maintain my fitness level.  This is remarkable because I was 45 years old.  At this age, we are expected to gradually become slower.  I had not slowed down.  I was 15th place overall.  Not bad.

Boston Marathon 2014:  This was one of my worst races ever.  I knew by mile 6 that I was not feeling well enough to run a good race.  I gradually slowed from under 7 minute pace down to trying to maintain a 12 minute pace. It was physically and emotionally painful.  As painful as this was, I understood that this was just a bad day.  I tried to smile and wave to the crowds a lot.  I knew my wife was waiting for me.  I knew she was worried as my splits kept showing slower times.  Every time I crossed a timing mat, I was telling her “I’m okay.  I’m still moving.”  I spent some moments of anguish in the medical tent until I recovered.  I vowed to return.  Just over one week from now, I shall.

Savannah Marathon 2013 & 2014:  I didn’t really set out to race Savannah in 2013.  It was about a month after the Indianapolis Marathon and I would not expect to PR.  I was, however, excited to run with my new wife, Muna.  We “eloped” on the way to Savannah.  We were newlyweds running together.  I paced Muna to 3:52:25, her first sub-4.  In 2014, I raced.  Even though I was doing my first triathlons that summer, I made sure to include enough specific training to prove that the performance at Boston was a fluke.  I would at least qualify for Boston again.  That is where I aimed and that is what I earned.  3:22:43.  BQ by just over a minute.  I walked away with the confidence of knowing that I know just how much effort it takes to earn the result I want.

Shrimp and Grits 5K 2015:  This is the 5K associated with the Charleston Marathon.  I ran a 19:28.  Nowhere near a PR, but that was not the goal.  I just wanted a fun run.  I usually check my pace regularly while aiming for some very specific time. Instead of aiming for a PR, I decided to race. I simply sized up the competition over the first mile and decided who I could catch by the end.  I met Tony at the start line.  He was 57 years old and in great shape.  He started out ahead of me, so I spent more than half of the race chasing after Tony.  I eventually got him in the last mile and then just held my position.  After the race I jogged down to the 14 mile marker of the marathon so I could run the rest of that race with Muna.  She was having a rough time, so my support was more important than ever.  She toughed it out and still finished with a great time considering the illness with which she was battling.  After we finished the marathon, I found out my friend Ethan had won the marathon and I had won the masters division in the 5K.  That’ll do.

These are not all my best races.  They are not all personal records.  They are, however, all significant.  Each one has a story that means something to me.  I could leave all of my medals up, but it would be very crowded.  I want to see these particular medals when I walk by… and to remember.

 “Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor



Putting the Stopwatch Away: Running Bliss

I’m putting my stopwatch away.  Not forever, mind you.  I will get it out for track workouts a couple of times each month.  Other than that, I don’t want to know.  I run for fun.  I run because I enjoy running.  Paying attention to the stopwatch is sometimes fun, but more often than not it has been the source of stress and disappointment.  This was not the case a few months ago.  I have trained for two marathon in the last two years and my times at all distances are gradually improving.  All of that was done ignoring the stopwatch and enjoying the run.

stopwatchSo how did I get into this negative cycle of setting my sights too high and having them torn apart by the reality of the stopwatch?  Success.  I have not won anything recently (not in the last 25 years), but my times have steadily gone down.  In large races, I am now “in the hunt” for age-group glory.  I may be 46, but I am kind of fast for a 46 year old.  I have gotten close a few times and started craving more success.  Worse than that, I started craving it faster.  I want it now!  This is NOT a healthy mindset.  It is not the kind of thinking that allows for enjoying a good long run.

I am going back to:  “Enjoy the run and the results will come.”  This is what brought the meager success that I have had recently.  I will still wear my stopwatch at the track and try to get faster, but not on the long runs.  Not on the pace runs and tempo runs.  Not on the hill training.  No.  I will listen to my body.  I will enjoy the freedom that running offers.  I will bask in runner’s high.  I will run with friends and family without pushing too hard.

I still expect to get faster, albeit very gradually.  If the results don’t get drastically better over time, then so be it.  At least I will have enjoyed the ride.

Happy Running!


A Word to the Newbie Runner

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners.  Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”
                                                              –   George Sheehan

I recently sent out a message on Twitter asking what questions my fellow runners had.  I received a few interesting topics that I will blog about, but this one struck me.  The tweet from Tricia was this:

 @Wise_Running “what i want to know is how to start from scratch at 40yr old woman”

I followed up by asking, “When is the last time you ran 1 mile?  2 miles?  more?”

Tricia responded, “ummm….. college 20 yrs ago :0) I walk couple miles day and elliptical – I really did mean from scratch (correct shoes etc)”.

Wow!  That is a big request.  Moreover, this is an absolutely critical juncture for Tricia.  She wants to transition from a walker to a runner.  Her experience in the next month or two will determine whether she likes running or not.  No pressure, right?

So here it is.  This blog post is for all of the newbie runners out there.


Step 1:  Realize Who You Are

You become a runner when you take that first bouncy step, that first longer stride.  You don’t have to be fast.  You don’t have to run forever.  If you start running, you are a runner.  Welcome to the club. :)

Step 2:  Get Good Shoes

Running can feel torturous if you have the wrong shoes.  Do not begin any serious attempt at running until you have shoes designed for running.  Everyone has different needs, but I will not leave it at that.  Go to your nearest running store.  Do not go to a sporting goods store, a department store, or a discount store.  Go to your nearest running store.  The workers there run.  They are runners.  They want you to enjoy running and they have a way of analyzing your needs and helping you select a good shoe to get you started.  You can go discount or online AFTER you have found your good running shoes.  For the first round, have the experts help you choose and reward them for their effort by buying the shoes from their store.

What other running gear do you actually need?  Not much.  There are many kinds of clothing and accessories available, but if you are just beginning there is no need to get it all.  Let your needs arise and inform your purchases.  If the weather is nice, all you need is shorts, a t-shirt, and supportive undergarments.  As your needs become clear, your local running store can steer you the right direction on the gear that address these needs.

Step 3:  Set a Goal

If you aim for nothing, you are bound to achieve that.  You have to determine a goal before you can decide how to proceed.  A good goal is specific, measurable, & just a step or two ahead of where you are today.  If you have not been exercising at all, your goal will be much lower than the newbie runner who has been seriously walking, using the elliptical machine, or doing aerobics.  If you have lived a sedentary lifestyle, I strongly urge you to become a walker first and gradually graduate to becoming a runner.  If you have been vigorously exercising, then you may be more prepared than you think.  If that is the case, then plan for your first 5k.

Important Note:  Signing up for a 5K or other road races does not mean that you are committing to try to win.  Most runners are racing themselves; they set goals and use a race to check their progress.  It is also a social occasion to meet fellow runners and celebrate each others’ progress.

Step 4:  Get a plan

Do not just run what you feel like running on the days you feel like running.  Get a plan.  If you try to make the plan yourself, there are two major mistakes that newbie runners commonly make.  One of these would be going too far and/or too fast.  That leads to injury.  The other mistake would be to go too short and/or too slow.  Since everyone has a different level of fitness at the beginning, I can’t say in this blog what will be right for you.  Carefully find your level of fitness and get a plan that fits.

There are several training plans that you can find out on the internet for free.  I like the free plans on http://www.halhigdon.com/training/, but there are plenty more out there. Some of these will fit your stage of development as a runner.  Find the one that makes sense to you.  You can also have a tailor-made plan developed for you by a running coach.  A running coach is like a personal trainer, but specializes in running.

Step 5:  Follow the Plan

Once you find or purchase a plan that fits your particular needs, it is time to step out and do it.  As a newbie runner, your main goal is to just get running.  It is not to be speedy; that can come later.  For now it is enough to go forth and run on the days that your plan says to run.  Just follow the plan.  You can tweak it later, after you build some experience.

REMEMBER:  Fast progress leads to injuries!  Slow progress leads to health, happiness, & achievement!

Step 6:  Join a Club

Fellow runners are your greatest source of encouragement and knowledge.  Track clubs and road runners clubs have members of all skill & experience levels.  It is a great place for newbie runners to get connected with other newbies as well as some veterans that can help guide their journey.  My club has several weekly running groups that meet and run anywhere from 7 minute miles up to 12 minute miles.

Step 7:  Have Fun

Yes, running is hard work, but you should enjoy the ride.  Run with friends, laugh, joke, share.  Enjoy the bonus of endorphins.  A good workout will reward you with this form of natural high.

Don’t beat yourself up over a missed run, a bad run, or an injury.  We all have bad days.  Running is no different.  If you have more good days than bad days, eventually you will accomplish your goals. You will begin to build confidence as you gradually become a better runner.  Enjoy the process!

Stay safe.  Stick with it.  Get connected to other runners.


“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor


Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:


The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup


Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Runner’s High: How, When, and Why

It is a feeling like no other.  I recall floating along a 6 mile run one time just about 30 years ago.  I don’t have a very good memory, but I remember that run vividly.  I had slipped into a zone where running was more like floating.  I ran fairly fast, but felt no effort.  I felt happy and my body felt happy.  I was as high as a kite!  I never wanted that run to end.

Although I hadn’t been smoking marijuana, the same receptor in the brain that is triggered by marijuana was, in fact, triggered during that run.  I really was high.  I was high on running! Until recently, many scientists actually believed that runner’s high was a myth, a self-fulling prophecy based on a misconception about endorphins.  Endorphins, after all, cannot actually produce the kind of high described by runners.  The scientists were right about one thing: endorphins do not cause runner’s high.  Even so, runner’s high is real.

What causes runner’s high?  A fatty acid called Anandamide.  It triggers the same receptor in the brain that marijuana/THC triggers.  Not only does anandamide make you feel high, but it also dilates your bronchial tubes and the blood vessels in your lungs.  End result: you feel great, run better, and run longer.

How do you get anandamide?  Run!  As you run more regularly and intensely, your body tends to produce more anandamide.  If you want to increase your likelihood of getting runner’s high, you run at tempo pace, just a little faster than your 10K race pace.  This pace adds just enough stress to cause the body to produce anandamide but not so much stress as to overwhelm your body.  It is the “just right” pace for a great workout and a trip to La-La-Land.  :)

You can read more at Runner’s World:


Enjoy the run!!!


The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com

Ebook Version – Kindle Store


Funny and Inspiring Running Quotes

“Most people run a race to see who is fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts.”  — Steve Prefontaine

“Runners are the ultimate celebration people. Running is just so intense, you’re really experiencing life to the fullest.” — Bill Rodgers

“Jogging is very beneficial. It’s good for your legs and your feet. It’s also very good for the ground. It makes it feel needed.”   — Charles Schulz

“You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.”   – Frank Shorter

2 women laughingThe only reason I would take up jogging is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.   – Erma Bombeck

“I used to jog but the ice cubes kept falling out of my glass.” –David Lee Roth

“So much in life seems inflexible and unchangeable, and part of the joy of  running and especially racing is the realization that improvement and progress can be achieved.”  — Nancy Anderson

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”  — Jim Ryun

“We all have those days, weeks, months – just keep running through it & you’ll come out the other side!”  — Jenn Bacile

Start your own nutrition business for less than $3,000!

“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.”  –William James

“Build step by step. Push yourself, but not too hard. Learn. Keep it fun.”  –Matt Fitzgerald

“Running is real and relatively simple…but it ain’t easy.”  – Mark Will-Weber

“We can’t all be heroes because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.”  –  Will Rogers

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners.  Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”   –   George Sheehan

“There are clubs you can’t belong to, neighborhoods you can’t live in, schools you can’t get into, but the roads are always open.”   – Nike

“I’ve always felt that long, slow distance produces long, slow runners.”   – Sebastian Coe

“Why aren’t you signed up for the 401K?”
“I’d never be able to run that far.”        – Dilbert

“Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must move faster than the lion or it will not survive. Every morning a lion wakes up and it knows it must move faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve. It doesn’t matter if you are the lion or the gazelle, when the sun comes up, you better be moving.”   – Maurice Greene (attributed to Roger Bannister  shortly after running the first sub-4 mile)

Finland has produced so many brilliant distance runners because back home it costs $2.50 a gallon for gas.   – Esa Tikkannen, 1979

There are as many reasons for running as there are days in the year, years in my life.  But mostly I run because I am an animal and a child, an artist and a saint.  So, too, are you.   Find your own play, your own self-renewing compulsion, and you will become the person you are meant to be.   – George Sheehan

If God invented marathons to keep people from doing anything more stupid, the triathlon must have taken Him completely by surprise.   – P.Z. Pearce

The difference between a jogger and a runner is an entry blank.   – George Sheehan

“There ain’t no shame looking at a good runner’s back. Now, if the runner sucks, that’s something else entirely… “The Rage, Training Tips “Comeback”

“No doubt a brain and some shoes are essential for marathon success, although if it comes down to a choice, pick the shoes. More people finish marathons with no brains than with no shoes.” – Don Kardong

“There will come a point in the race, when you alone will need to decide. You will need to make a choice. Do you really want it? You will need to decide.” – Rolf Arands

“Most mistakes in a race are made in the first two minutes, perhaps in the very first minute.” – Jack Daniels, Exercise Physiologist and Coach

“Why aren’t you signed up for the 401K? I’d never be able to run that far.” – Scott Adams, Dilbert (4/2/01)

“If you can’t win, make the fellow ahead of you break the record.” – Unknown

“Hills are speedwork in disguise.” – Frank Shorter

“Run like hell and get the agony over with.”  –  Clarence DeMar

“If you run 100 miles a week, you can eat anything you want – Why?    Because…
(a) you’ll burn all the calories you consume, (b) you deserve it, and (c) you’ll be injured soon and back on a restricted diet anyway.”  –  Don Kardong

“Your body will argue that there is no justifiable reason to continue.  Your only recourse is to call on your spirit, which fortunately functions independently of logic.”   –   Tim Noakes

“Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing.  You have to make the mind run the body.  Never let the body tell the mind what to do.  The body will always give up.  It is always tired morning, noon, and night.  But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.  When you were younger the mind could make you dance all night, and the body was never tired..You’ve got to make the mind take over and keep going.”   –   George S. Patton, U.S. Army General and 1912 Olympian

“My favorite moments are when I pass someone who’s huffing and puffing and all I got are some slightly tired legs” – Troy Streacker

“Aspire to be great instead of good, aspire to be remembered instead of forgotten, aspire to accompish what others have and have not done, aspire to be yourself and nothing else for when you strive to be yourself everything is limitless because you are not holding yourself to the limits of others.” – Troy Streacker

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.” – Oprah Winfrey

“Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it’s all  about.” – PattiSue Plummer, U.S. Olympian

“You also need to look back, not just at the people who are running behind you but especially at those who don’t run and never will…those who run but don’t race…those who started training for a race but didn’t carry through…those who got to the starting line but didn’t get to the finish line…those who once raced better than you but no longer run at all. You’re still here. Take pride in wherever you finish. Look at all the people you’ve outlasted.” – Joe Henderson

“The task ahead of you is never greater than the strength within you.” – Unknown

“Today I will do what others won’t, So tomorrow I can do what others can’t”. – Unknown

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor


Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & future runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup


Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life


Motivation: Getting Out of the Door

The following is an excerpt from “The Gift of Running”


“The hardest step for a runner

is the first one out of the front door.”

Oh, how true are those words!  Even if you love running, some days are tougher than other to muster up the strength to take the first step.  Nearly without fail, you will return from your run glad that you did it.  Running gives more than it takes.  You will be more relaxed and, in the long run, you will have more energy if you run.

But how do you convince your reluctant self to get up off of the couch when you just aren’t feeling it?

Remember This:

Every day that you go out and run,
you are writing your own legend,
becoming your own superhero.
What do you want the next chapter to say?


Some will say, “My own legend?  Isn’t that a bit much for a runner as slow as me?”  No.  It isn’t too much.  It is not enough.  Millions of people are sitting on their couches, eating potato chips or bon-bons and wishing that they were in shape.  They remember fondly the times earlier in life when they were more fit and active.  They wish they were in better shape.

Well, guess what?  You stopped wishing and started doing something about it.  When you decide to go out and run when you just don’t feel like it, you are taking command of your own destiny.  You aren’t sitting around wishing.  You are a person of action.  Each day that you defeat that blah feeling and passive state by going out and conquering those miles, whether or not you feel like it, you are becoming your own action hero.  A real-life legend in your own time, you step out the door and defeat the enemies known as mediocrity, complacency, and passivity.

Every day that you go out and run, you are writing your own legend, becoming your own superhero.  It doesn’t matter who else pays attention or knows the legend.  This epic tale is for you.  What do you want the next chapter to say?

Now pick up your cape and boots and head for the door.  There are more fitness adventures to be had.  You are a running legend.  Go kick some butt!


“Train hard, race easy, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor