Friday, October 18, 2019

Eating Does a Runner Good


Just read an article about how exercising before breakfast burns more fat. Article makes it sound like it's new news. Heard this for a long time. Problem is that people will just read the headlines and then start running on an empty stomach. It's true that when you run on an empty stomach, your body will use up any remaining glycogen (carb) stores and then begin to burning fat. Nothing wrong with that. However, what a runner has to ask himself/herself is...."What is my goal?"

If your main goal is weight loss, then great idea to get up early and go for that 3-5 mile run before breakfast and possibly burn more fat than if you had eaten first. But, if your goal is training for a half or full marathon, then your main focus should be on achieving a quality run. Running 10-20 miles on an empty stomach is not going to provide a quality run. When a runner comes to me to talk with me about a recent lackluster run, 90% of the time it boils down to improper fueling.

Yes, you can burn fat as a fuel source. When all the fat is gone, you can even burn protein (muscle), which is not good. But the thing to keep in mind is that the body's main fuel source and most efficient fuel source is glycogen (what carbs are turned into and stored as in the muscle). Fat can be an energy source, but it's not as efficient as glycogen.

Sometimes weight loss will happen when half marathon or full marathon training, but I don't encourage runners in the thinking that running long is going to cause weight loss. If you are training properly, your appetite will increase and as long as you're appropriately fueling based on your activity level, then you'll be fine. Most of the time, however, runners will over estimate their calorie burn and they'll eat a lot more than they need. My other concern with this article is there will be people who think.... "I'm going to run on an empty stomach and then I'm not going to refuel afterward either. That way I'll really get a good burn." Problem with that thinking is that when you drastically decrease your caloric intake and drastically increase your activity level, the brain will go into protective mode and actually latch on to and protect your body fat and burn muscle instead. Decreased muscle means less caloric burn, which can mean weight gain or a weight plateau. Not good.

So, long story not so short...if your goal is weight loss, then try running shorter distances before breakfast as a part of your weight loss goal, but if you're goal is a marathon....eat.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Hitting the Training Wall?

Many half or full marathoners can attest to hitting a wall of self-doubt that smacks them in the face about halfway through their training.

For first-time half marathoners it's often around mile nine. For first-time marathoners it's often around mile 15, 16, or 17.

Things are going just dandy in their training  and then all of the sudden, they have a tough run and reality smacks them in the face. "Oh my God! That was hard!" How am I ever going to run 10 or 11 more miles!"

This experience is pretty common with new marathoners. Most have actually had a similar experience on a smaller scale, but they forget from whence they came. In talking with a struggling half marathoner the other day, I reminded her how not too long ago, she was worried about completing the 13-min run/2-min walk intervals when she was in my beginning running group. Also reminded her that she killed it.

For most individuals it's pretty common for self-doubt to creep in when we they dip their toes into the unknown. The initial response for many is, "I Can't!" But here's the thing. You can. You have to just flick-it! Flick that self doubt to the curb! Easier said than done, right?

The first step in clearing your mind of "Can't" is remove it from your vocabulary. Next step is to be "Real." It's going to be hard. Marathon training is one of the hardest things you'll ever do. It will be one of the most rewarding and life-changing things in your life too! Training for a marathon causes you to dig deep and find a you that you may never even knew existed. Once you find this new you, you'll be amazed how much you pull on new you in other areas of your life.

So, why does it happen around mile 15, 16, or 17? Well for most, that's new mileage for them. So just like when they first began to run and it was hard and they were fatigued, and they were sore, they're going through that again. Many at this point will experience an acclimation phase while their body adapts to the new demands of this new frontier.

So, what do you do? You run smart and you listen to your body not your head. If you are extremely tired and fatigued, then skip that next speed workout. When your body say's "Uncle" listen to it and take a rest day. Pull back on the pace on your long runs. You're probably running them too fast anyway and now that you're in new territory, your body isn't able to maintain that same pace (plus you need to be running slower on the long run anyway). Make sure you are hydrating and fueling properly pre-, during-, and post-run. Those two gels your  took for a half marathon probably aren't gong to hack-it for a 20-mile run. figure how how to adjust your fueling for those extra miles. Depleted levels of electrolytes like sodium and potassium can increase dehydration even if you're drinking a lot of water. So be sure you're on top of replacing them through your fueling, electrolyte tablets, or sports drink.

According to Dictionary.com, moxie is the ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage. It goes on further to say that the term was used as far back as 1876 as the name of a patent medicine advertised to "build up your nerve."

Too bad there's not a bottled "marathon moxie" that you can gulp down just before the start and then be miraculously provided with all you need to complete your training. Man, whoever invents that will become a millionaire! In reality, marathon moxie does not come from a bottle, it comes from within you.

If you're having doubts, I want you to do some reflection. Sometimes writing down and documenting all that you've done during your training can visually confirm all your hard work and the commitment you've exuded over the past several months. This doesn't have to be a long and tedious task, just use a brainstorming web like I've done here. Once you see all that you've accomplished there's no way you can doubt yourself! (See my attached pic. This is a web I did a while back when I was training for a marathon.)

Another way to clear you mind of Can't and flick that self-doubt to the curb is by finding a running mantra to help lift you up on those hard runs. The official RunnerDude mantra is Trust. Believe. Conquer! It stands for Trust in your Training, Believe in Yourself and Conquer your Goals. Here are a few more mantras to consider or make up your own!
  • Can't Stop! Won't Stop!
  • No regrets!
  • If you don't, you rust!
  • I'm a running machine, not going down without a fight!
  • The pain of discipline or the pain of regret.
  • Relentless forward motion
  • Make Mom proud!
  • Run like you're being chased!
  • This too shall pass.
  • Perpetual forward motion
  • Not today, I will not be broken.
  • Not if. When.
  • I will keep on.
  • Define yourself!
  • Not everybody can do this!
  • When the going gets tough, the tough get going. So get going!
  • Do this today and you can eat your weight in chocolate tonight!
  • Of course it's hard, if it was easy everyone would do it.
  • I hate you Thad. I hate you Thad. :-)

If you have a coach, talk to him/her about what you're experiencing. Ask about taking rest days. Ask about fueling and hydrating. They are there to support you. They have lots of suggestions and tips to help you. (https://runnerdudesfitness.com)

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Slow is Relative. Let it Go!


I've worked with hundreds of beginning runners and runners new to distance running such as training for a first half or full marathon. The number one single-most  hindrance or hold-back to success that I see in the runners who struggle is latching on to "I'm so slow" and not letting it go.

Slow is a relative term. What's slow to one runner is fast to another and vice versa. I'm not so sure why so many runners are hung up on speed. I've always looked at it as I want to be the best runner I can be. That may be running faster. That may be running longer. That may be running injury-free.

Thinking speed is a mark of a "real" runner gets so many runners (new and experienced) into trouble. Beginning runners that bolt out on that first 1-min run of a 1-min run/5-min walk interval often are the ones who struggle later in the program or quit. The slower-starting runners are usually more successful with the program. Starting slow and building is much easier on the body and mind, then starting out too fast and having to pull back. On the other end of the spectrum,  marathon runners that run all their runs fast even their long run, often end up peaking too soon or getting injured.

Fast is not always good. There's research to back it up. Research shows that runners that mix up their run paces over the course of the week are usually better runners on race day and are less injured. Often runners who always run fast, acclimate to that fast feel. That makes it's hard for them to tell when they're running too hard. This often leads or over-training and often leads to fatigue, lackluster workouts, and often injury.

Tips for the "slower" runner:

  • Embrace your slowness. Own it. It's where you're currently at. Doesn't mean you have to stay there. So embrace the moment. You'll enjoy running more.
  • Don't worry about other runners. It's your race. Your pace.
  • Start where you're at with your running, not where you want to be and you'll get where you want to go. If  you start where you want to be, you'll only be frustrated and disappointed. 
  • Keep in mind that many of those "fast" runners were once "slow" runners. Running is a journey. Yes, there will always be those born as gifted runners. Good for them. Just means  you'll have to work a little more to get where you want to go.
  • Mix up your runs. Get out of your comfort zone. Have one run a week be a shorter run where you push your pace out of your comfort zone. A good workout for this is a fartlek run. Fartlek is a Swedish term for "speed play." To do a farlek run, run the first and last miles at your normal easy pace. For the middle miles, rotate between running 5 mins easy then 1 min "hard". Not a sprint but harder than your normal pace. It should feel labored.  Be sure there is a distinct difference in pace between the hard and easy.
  • Join a running group. One of the best ways to increase pace is to run with someone slightly faster than you. (http://runnerdudesfitness.com/runegades)
  • Stop saying You're slow. Start saying, "I'm a runner and I'm on a mission."
  • Trust. Believe. Conquer!

Let it go! Let it go! No more "slow." Let it go!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Why Do You Run?


It's hard to believe I've been running for 35 years. I known so many people over the years who have tested the running waters, and have left the sport for one reason or another. Of course my job as a running coach keeps in running, but I have 25 years of running under my belt when I wasn't a coach. So what's kept me running? 

Sure, I run for the health benefits. Sure, I run to help keep my weight in check. Sure, I run to help keep my 54-year-old self in shape. But I'm not so sure those are the main reasons I run. One reason I keep running is the awesome people I've met along the way. People like Ann Singer (Grannie Annie), who at age 50, overweight, under exercised, and wondering what she was going to do with the second half of her life until age 100, decided to start walking. It wasn't long before she took up running. By age 65 she had run at least one marathon in each of the 50 states! by age 70 she had run over 70 marathons!  

And people like Mark Cooper from Scotland who in his 20s had been a 20-a-day smoker and heavy weekend-drinker. Then one day he decided without notice to stop all of the bad habits and get fit. Running appealed to him because of its low cost and the fact that he's always loved the outdoors. That was in 2007. In 2010, Mark ran 50 marathons in 56 days from Amsterdam to Barcelona in memory of his mom while raising 30,000 pounds for the Edinburgh Headway Group who provides support for people who have suffered head injuries or other acquired brain injury such as from a stroke. Mark's mom passed away in 1997 from a brain hemorrhage.

Another big reason I run is the sense of adventure I get from my runs. I know runners who run the same distance, same route several times a week and there is nothing wrong with this. I'm a big advocate for each runner getting what they need out of their own runs. For many who run the same distance/route it's due to convenience, schedule, and habit. Also, for many, running is solely for their health, so it doesn't really matter if the run is on a treadmill or on the same stretch of greenway. 

For me, I go brain dead after running the same route over and over. It's like running on a treadmill. I need to be stimulated on a run and distracted by unique surroundings. I've run 15 marathons and one ultra-marathon. All but three were out of state, because I wanted that sense of adventure. Of the two instate, only one was an adventure--Grand Father Mountain. The other two were terrible runs for me. It really had nothing to do with them being in my state. There are some awesome races in North Carolina. But the other two I chose to run in NC had no sense of adventure. The one and only ultra I ran was 4 loops around a lake. Took me two years to return to that lake after the race. LOL! The other marathon I ran in NC was a marathon in the Triangle that had two out-n-backs on a greenway. The greenway was pretty, but the EXACT SAME VIEW for 26.2 miles. After a while, I couldn't tell if I was even moving foward, because everything looked the same. LOL! Other people love that race. Just wasn't my cup of tea.

NYC (x 3), Chicago, Honolulu, Baltimore, Richmond, San Diego, San Francisco, Twin Cities, Nashville, Marine Corps, Philadelphia, and Grand Father Mountain all provided an awesome sense of adventure for me. Whether it was from crowd support, historically significant routes, scenic routes, or a challenging route, these races kept me motivated mentally throughout the run.

I apply the same sense of adventure to my weekly long runs. Even though my normal weekly long runs take place in Greensboro, I rarely ever run the same route. Most of the time, I have no idea where I'm going. After running for 35 years, I've developed a really keen sense of distance. If I need to run 10 miles, 15 miles or more, I can mentally pretty much tell where to go in order to get in the miles without mapping it out. Only occasionally do I come up short or too long. I usually start my long runs from my studio and depending on the day, I may run north, south, east, or west, or somewhere in between. As a result, I've discovered some really cool parts of Greensboro. Parts I would have never discovered in my everyday life. I've learned so much about my city from my runs.

The annual event, RunTheBoro, that I've put on for the past 4 years in part came from my desire to explore and my desire to get other runners out and explore their city. During RunTheBoro, runners traverse around 90 miles of their city exploring 5 different greenways and around 25 different neighborhoods.

A while back I asked some of my Twitter friends why they ran. Here are some of their responses....


  • "because I am addicted to the post run euphoria." —npalefsky
  • "because as cheesy as it sounds, it frees me—mentally, physically, spiritually." —ottovoss
  • "because I like the shirt that says 'runners do it faster'." —RunnerHeidi
  • "because it always makes me feel good. Even when the run doesn't. Weird huh?!?" —Lurtz
  • "because it's the only time I'm truly alone with my thoughts, and I can work a lot of things out in my head." —clhennessey
  • "because I love feeling fit, love burning calories, love the hi-tech clothes, love competing, and love winning the occasional age-group award!" —runner510
  • "because I'm training for triathlons....IRONMAN" —SteadyState
  • "because the law is after me and I gotta keep one step ahead. Oops, here comes the police now, gotta go" —itsDice
  • "because it helps me realize my physical potential and I've met some amazing people through it!" —amlemus
  • "because it is my peace! Listening to my breath, footsteps, music, my time. Love the challenge of adding miles. GOALS!" —tortaliz
  • "because of the enjoyment, but also to try and lower my pace times to improve overall triathlon times." —kimokali
  • "because it makes me a stronger person- inside and out. I run because it feels good. I run because I can." —alitherunner
  • "because of the opportunity it gives me to set goals & challenge myself and hopefully to inspire others to do the same." —mawoolard



Why do you run?

Friday, July 12, 2019

Don't Forget To Shop Local


Small Business Saturday is in November, but you don't have to wait until one special day to support local businesses. Today while buying my morning coffee, I realized I was basically a small-business billboard today. Almost everything I was wearing was purchased locally and I myself am the owner of a small business. It's easy to be lured to the big box stores or the online giants, but small business is a vital part of the local economy. Many small business invest back into the local community. Be sure to check out Team Smiley Apparel, Threshold Athletic, Mindful Supply, Green Bean Golden Gate, Omega Sports and of course RunnerDude's Fitness

Team Smiley Apparel is a family run, community based, and fitness driven apparel company established in 2017 in Burlington, NC. In 2007, the family moved from the Miami Valley of Southwestern Ohio to the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina, where they live today. "Team Smiley" started as a name they had given themselves. Something that united and bonded them in the adventure of living in a new state, outside of their comfort zones. With every passing year and every new sports endeavor, their bond as a "Team" grew. As they referred to themselves as "Team Smiley," other members of their fitness community would inquire what it would take to belong to the "Team Smiley" family. What they have provided through their family unit is for individuals to feel a part of something larger and bigger than themselves. "Team Smiley" provides an individual encouragement to achieve their personal goals both inside and outside of their fitness endeavors. Each purchase of a "Team Smiley" apparel item enables Team Smiley to reinvest back into the community. Be sure to check out the Team Smiley products at https://theteamsmiley.com/

Threshold Athletic was born out of their love of activity, fitness & sportswear. They are passionate
about being active, sharing experiences and motivating other individuals to achieve the best version of themselves possible. Therefore, they wanted to develop and produce products that support their customer’s experiences. Whether it’s hitting the road, hitting the trails, or hitting the gym, Threshold Athletic is dedicated to providing effective & quality products that exceed the expectations of their customers. Threshold Athletic Products are Sold and Distributed exclusively by Genesis Textiles, LLC in Gibsonville, NC. Be sure to check them out at  https://thresholdathletic.com/

Omega Sports began when two friends who dreamed of creating a new kind of sporting goods store 
founded Omega Sports in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1978. Since the very beginning, Omega has been a family-run company committed to local community, quality gear, and outstanding customer service. They are still a family-run company, and their foundational values are as important to them today as they were in 1978. Omega has grown steadily, and they are now part of 14 communities across North Carolina. They’ve helped two to three generations of North Carolinian’s. Be sure to check them out at one of their area stores and online at https://www.omegasports.com/

The Green Bean opened their doors in 2002. Now owned by Joe Van Gogh, they are still an 
awesome part of the local Greensboro community with their cafĂ© at Golden Gate Shopping Center on Cornwallis Dr. and their downtown coffee shop on S. Elm St.  I’m a frequent customer at both, but I bet if you go to the Golden Gate location and ask anyone who works their if they know Thad, they’ll probably say, "He’s the Green Bean Bowl guy, right?"  If you haven’t had it, man, you need to get there quick! Delish! Be sure to check them out at http://www.gsobean.coffee/#home

The Mindful Supply Co slogan is “From Dirt to Shirt.” That’s because they literally are involved from the growing of the cotton to the finished product sold in their store or online.  The cotton for their shirts is gown in Stanley County in Richfield. The cotton is ginned in New London, it’s spun into yarn in Thomasville, and knitted into fabric in Lumberton.  Those are all NC towns!  The fabric is finished in Gaffney, SC and cut and sewn in Hemingway, SC. The graphics are created by the Mindful Supply Co owners Derek Glass and David Grubbs. TS designs in Burlington, NC take care of the dying and printing. Every step of the production process happens in NC and SC businesses employing over 700 people. Be sure to check them out at their store front location at 335 S. Davie St. in Greensboro, nc as well as online at https://www.mindfulsupply.com/


RunnerDude’s Fitness is a running coaching and fitness studio in Greensboro, NC. After I was laid off from a career in educational publishing for 
13 years back during the Great Recession in 2009, I had to reinvent myself. Being held to a non-compete contract, I was not able to work in my field for 18 months. I know, crazy, huh? So, instead of trying to fight it, I decided to pursue my passion—fitness and running--and I went back to school. I got my RRCA running coach certification, my USATF running coach certification, my American College of Sports Medicine certification, and completed a 500hr diploma program at the National Personal Training Institute in Raleigh as well as competing 100hrs of nutrition education. Then on blind faith, I opened RunnerDude’s Fitness. Almost 10 years later, I’ve worked with hundreds of runners from beginning running to ultra marathons. I’ve also worked with hundreds of clients improving their personal fitness levels. I’ve also had the awesome opportunity to work in corporate fitness, providing running and fitness classes to VF Corp, Syngenta, and Volvo Group. If you’re looking for customized fitness and/or running plans, boot camps, other group fitness classes, a in-depth video running stride analysis, running related workshops, personal training, small-group personal training, and more, be sure to check us out at http://runnerdudesfitness.com.




Saturday, March 16, 2019

What Type of Race Trainee Are You?


Life can get crazy when you're training for a half or full marathon, and sometimes life and throw things at you the can affect your training. If you are working with a running coach, remember he has created a plan for you. Also remember that your training plan is a guide, a guide created specifically for you and your goals.

As a running coach for going on 10 years, I've come to realize there tends to be four types of race trainees—the "Sporadic", the "Checker-Offer", the "Ignorer" and the "Communicator."

The Sporadic trainee tends to use the plan as a suggestion. He'll keep his normal run routine and then decide to throw in some of the workouts in their plan. Or they use the plan for a few weeks, then go rogue for a while and then maybe get back to following the plan. This runner often wonders why they are not seeing the progress they expected.

The Checker-offer trainee is that runner that has to do every workout in the plan regardless of circumstances that might dictate otherwise. For example, if the runner can't get in his/her long run on Saturday and moves it to Sunday (which is fine) he/she will still do the speed workout scheduled for Monday (which isn't good), just because it's on the plan. The desire to check off every workout overrides common sense or what they're body might be telling them. This runner feels like a failure if every workout is not checked off as completed.

The Ignorer trainee is the runner that ignores the signs of injury. The Ignorer tends to use the not-so-useful sayings, "run through the pain" or "no pain no gain." This runner has trouble distinguishing the difference between regular delayed onset muscle soreness or discomfort and pain. And... sometimes they know the difference, but keep on running because of fear if they take time off, they'll lose everything they've gained. Often this runner will keep running through pain until a serious injury occurs.

The Communicator trainee is the runner that uses his/her plan as a guide. This person communicates with his/her coach when she has to miss a run and not sure if or how she should make it up. This runner will communicate with her coach when she's been sick, when she's experiencing pain that's affecting his running. This runner will ask questions about fueling and hydration. This runner will text, call, instant message, and talk in person with her coach.

Can you guess which of these four types have a higher risk of injury?

To the Sporadic trainee: Your plan has been crafted by your coach just for you and your goals. The plan is created with consistency as it's foundation. Doing the runs and workouts as prescribed on a consistent basis will help you safely reach your goals. Running hot and cold isn't going to help your reach your goals.

To the Checker-offer trainee: Your plan is a guide. Yes, it's important to get in as many of your prescribed runs as you can, but that doesn't mean doing every single run just for the sake of having a check mark on each workout. If you miss a run, sometimes it can safely be made up, but other times it's better to miss the run completely rather than squeeze it in just for the sake of completing it. For example, putting two hard runs back-to-back is not recommended. Keep in mind that long-and-slow is "hard" and short-and-fast is "hard." So, if you miss a long run, don't try to make it up by putting it the day before your speed workout. Maybe instead, you do the make-up long run, and then either rest or run easy on the speed workout day. When in doubt, consult your coach. He/she can help you figure out how/if you should make up the run.

To the Ignorer: Communicate with your coach when you're experiencing pain. He/she may have some initial suggestions for how do deal with your issue. Or he may say you need to check in with the doc. Better to be safe than sorry. Instead of putting off seeing the sports doc or physical therapist, schedule that appointment. Much better to find out it's nothing than let things linger until you have a full blown injury and you're off running for several months. You'd be surprised how many times, I'm not aware one of my runners has had in issue until I see them in a boot. Listen to our body. Taking a rest day is much better the plugging through a workout just to get it done. Use the following pain scale to help you decide what to do when feeling discomfort or pain.
1-10 Pain Scale for Runners
Mild Pain: Rating 1-3, is the type of pain you feel when you start to exercise but it usually goes away as you start to warm up and continue running. The pain may be inconsistent and moves around the body, or you feel it bilaterally (in both knees, for example). Mild pain or discomfort is common and considered safe to run through. Apply ice at any areas of concern after your run. A bag of frozen peas works really well.   
Moderate Pain: Rating 4-6, pain that doesn't cause you to limp or alter your stride, will probably respond well to a couple days of rest, pain-free cross-training, and icing as needed. If it doesn't, go see the doc.

Severe Pain: Rating 7 to 10, requires immediate doctor attention. This kind of pain you feel before, during, and after the run. It usually starts at the beginning of a run and increases until your stride altered or you stop. Don't let it get that far. 

It's not that the Communicator trainee will never get hurt, but because they are keeping in constant communication with his/her coach, they are more likely to head off possible injury. Be proactive when training. If you're in a group training program, your coach may be working with dozens of runners. Never think he/she is too busy for your questions. Also, don't assume he knows exactly what you're going through. Communicate with him. That's what he's there for.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Silage Patches to Horror Books


It’s been two years since my dad passed. He was, for the most part, a quiet man. Quiet and reserved unless he was in the pulpit or watching football on TV.  Dad had his everyday voice and then his pulpit voice. His sermons were not all fire and brimstone, but he’d definitely get animated and this deep bellowing voice would come out of him deep from somewhere. I remember he used that voice once when I was squirming around as a kid in the church pew during one Sunday service. I didn’t squirm much after that.

When I was in elementary school, we lived in a small community, Mt. Hermon, near Snow Camp, NC. My dad was the minister at the Methodist church. We lived in the parsonage, a small little house beside the church. Cow pasture in front of us. Cow pasture beside us. Silage patch in the woods behind us. The church on the other side of us. In case you’re wondering, silage is fermented moist fodder (in our case, corn I believe) stored in a pit dug in the ground and covered with a heavy black plastic tarp that can be fed to livestock. Man, in the heat of the summer, whew! The smell of the fermenting silage was horrid. I can still smell it up in my sinuses to this day!

It’s odd the smells you remember as a child. Among mine (some more pleasant than others), include the stench of fermenting silage in the heat of summer, cow dung in the fields beside us, the fresh smell of my grandmother’s (Mama Mac’s) pound cake, my grandfather’s (Papa Henry’s) oil paints, the Sir Walter Raleigh tobacco my other grandfather (Papa Mac) put in his pipe, the  pungent sweet smell of fallen rotten apples from the trees that lined our yard,  pop corn and non-filtered cigarettes at the little league games, magnolia blooms from my great Grandma Stewart’s yard, and Sunday after-church pot roast with carrots and potatoes.

Certain sounds stick with you as well. I remember the cows mooing in the fields around us, my grandmother (Mama Henry) who’d reply “Woooo!” whenever you’d be looking for her and call her name, the absolute nighttime quiet of living out in the “country”, and my dad cursing at the lawn mower. My dad rarely ever cursed, but when he did, it typically was at the lawn mower. Another rare time (other than when in the pulpit) when I’d hear that bellowing voice. That same bellowing voice would be conjured up during football viewing on TV too. During football season, I’d be tucked in my bed surrounded by stuffed animals waiting for the next, “Ref, are you Blind!” “Go! Go! Go!” “Get it together!” “Woohoo!” “WeeDoggie!” Hey wait. Weedoggie? Is that where I got that from? Hmmm…

It was hard to sleep during those nights. I was startled more than scared, never knowing when the next bellow was coming. Remember, it was a small house. Dad was like that at my brother’s baseball games too. Those poor refs. So, as a result I spent a lot of time during games at the concession stand. Now that I think of it, that may have been when I started gaining weight as a child.  I remember going off with kids I didn’t know, digging in the dirt, playing tag, climbing rocks, making and throwing dirt bombs, and I’m sure lots of other things I’ve blocked from my memory.

Times certainly have changed. I can’t image when my kids were young, letting them wander around with strange kids and just expecting them to be back by the end of the game. Of course, we didn’t wear seat belts, got left in the car in the summer at the grocery store (windows down), and 16-year-old high school students drove our school buses, too. Somehow we survived. A different time. 

I do remember one eventful ball game when the game wasn’t the highlight. The featured entertainment was one of the ball player’s mom who started fussing at and whooping-up on her husband who had been cheating on her with another mom. It was like a live episode of All My Children. Yep, right in front of the bleachers and all the metal green and white woven fold-out lawn chairs. I remember it got dead quiet, except for the yelling mom. Everyone stood still, eating popcorn and staring. Kind of like an early Housewives of Alamance County. Another night, I remember my dad helping break up a fight between two other dads at the game who happened to be members of our church. Who says small town life is dull?

Sort of no big surprise that I never got into team sports. I did play two years of little league baseball and a year of midgets football. Did they really call the league midgets? It was the 70s. My brother was bitten by the team sports bug (baseball, football, basketball), but somehow I missed that bug. Maybe it was all the Avon Skin-So-Soft my mom put on me that she was told made good bug repellent.

Another thing I never got into as a kid was horror movies. My brother loved them. Of course we’re talking about the 70s. This was well before Jamie Lee Curtis, Jason and the Halloween movies of the 80s. He would beg my parents to let him stay up to watch whatever scary movie of the week was on TV. Cable didn’t exist back then, so these “scary” TV movies didn’t come on very often, but when they did, he wanted to stay up and watch it.  One time he bargained with my parents. He’d come home from school, take a nap, so he’d be able to stay up longer to watch the movie. It worked. Funny thing is that most of the time he stayed up, I did too (without the nap bargain). I was about three years younger and too scared to watch the movie, so I’d sit at the kitchen table reading the Sears catalog.

Our house had a family room and kitchen all in one, so the table was in eyesight of the TV. I remember peeking over to see the TV and when it would get too scary, I’d dive back into the toy section of the Sears Catalog. I spent a lot of time at that table with a catalog. Oddly enough, I can’t help but think I gained some early insight into concise text and layout design. Used those skills for 13 years as a writer/editor at a publishing company and still use those skills today owning my own business with developing promotional materials, creating and maintaining various websites, writing my blog, and my book.

Another thing that’s odd, yet funny too, is that while I was a bright kid, my reading was a little delayed. I could read and comprehend fine, but my reading ability was slow. In my mind I had to read every word and being a reflective kid. I’d get distracted by the words and content. So, while other kids would zip through a book, I’d still be on the first chapter. Today, I’d probably still be stuck in 2nd grade. Seems like today, they want kids reading in kindergarten. I actually got to play in kindergarten. Even took naps on those red and blue trifold mats. And yet again, somehow I survived. No Accelerated Reader, no Dibels, no end of year tests, don’t even think we took the CAT test back then. But here I am, a pretty functional adult….I think.

I use to stockpile books. I loved going to the library at school. One time my mom took me to the public library and I thought it was amazing. But because my reading was a bit labored, I never actually read many of the books I hoarded. Ironically the first novel I read completely from cover to cover was a horror novel in middle school. Yep, the kid reading the Sears catalog at the kitchen table to avoid the scary movie his brother was watching, picks a work of horror for his first book. Amityville Horror was my first read. No work of literary fiction, but the story line mesmerized me and I couldn’t put it down. Once I realized it didn’t matter how long it took to read a book, I became a ravenous reader.  And like anything, the more practice I got, the faster and better I got. The love or horror resurfaced as an adult during my Stephen King phase when I read all his early Bachman books as well as his classics like Pet Cemetery, Carrie, Cujo, Christine, etc. Then I had a Southern fiction phase. Yes, my reading is diverse. Clyde Edgerton’s Walking Across Egypt still makes me laugh when I think of the seat of the woven cane chair breaking, leaving poor elderly Mattie Rigsbee stuck, bottom hanging down, legs in the air. Love that book!

Reading really helped me as a teenager and young adult. It took me places I had never been. Taught me things I didn’t know. Expanded my horizons. As a kid and even today as an adult, I often felt like a fly on the wall looking down at what was going on instead of being immersed in the actual living of life. Books helped me experience life. Helped me gain confidence. I still hoard books. It’s really hard for me to part with a book once I’ve invested time with it. It’s like it’s become a part of me. Why would I want to discard it? 

My father liked books too. Of course he had a ton of books on religion, but he also enjoyed western novels. He loved Louis L’amour books. He also was an avid reader of nonfiction-history, politics, religion, true crime. Guess I got my diverse reading from my dad.

Not sure why this is all on my mind, but it’s good to take time and reflect on the things that played a part in making you who you are today. Silage patches to horror novels. Not sure what that says about me, but I’ll take it.