Thursday, December 30, 2010

RunnerDude Chats with Chuck "MarathonJunkie" Engle

Ahh the marathon. It's my favorite distance to race. If you're a marathon runner, non runners think your nuts, even some seasoned shorter-distance runners think you're nuts. But, there's nothing quite like experiencing that first marathon. I was so overwhelmed with exhaustion and emotion after finishing my first marathon (NYC '97) that I cried. Actually it was a sob. Not ashamed one iota. I earned that sob. Once you experience that thrill, you want to experience it again and again.

Chuck Engle, has taken that "experiencing it again and again" to a whole new level. Nicknamed "MarathonJunkie", Chuck has just recently experienced his 100th and 101st marathon wins. Not, marathon completions, but marathon WINS! I've followed Chuck's racing over the years and when he participated in the 2010 NC Marathon in High Point, NC (just a town away from me), I became an even more avid fan. You see, Chuck overslept the night before that race and ended up leaving Columbus, OH and driving 8 hours to High Point, NC just barely making the 8AM start time. He even got a speeding ticket on the way, but somehow he still managed to run a great race, taking first place!

Recently I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Chuck and learn more about this marathon machine, I mean "junkie." Read on to learn more about this amazing runner.

RD: I see you’re in Dublin, OH. Are you originally from there? Where did you grow up?
Chuck: Born in Grant Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Spent my formative years at Cloverleaf High School in Lodi, Ohio running for Coach Todd Clark.

RD: How long has running been a part of your life? Did you grow up in a sports oriented family?
Chuck: Running was something I started doing to stay in shape for wrestling. I began wrestling in elementary school and running was always a part of building endurance. My family did their own things. My older brother played football, ran hurdles and sprints in track and wrestled. My older sister ran sprints and my younger sister was a pole vaulter. No one does much of any regular athletics these days.

RD: What got you into running?
Chuck: I credit a guy by the name of J.D. Skrant for getting me hooked at first. Mr. Skrant was an assistant coach in my junior high school and asked me to give cross country a try in my eighth grade year. It was the influence of my high school coach, Todd Clark, that propelled me further into running and provided much of the foundation for my success and my personal running philosophies.

RD: You work as a web programmer for one of my favorite websites, I think your official title is Marathon Junkie/Public Relations. Here’s a chicken/egg question for you. Which came first? Did you go to because of your running? Or did this running persona spring forth after coming to work for
Chuck: The running persona sprang forth from an interview in 2003 with an Omaha World reporter who coined the phrase that I was "a veritable marathonjunkie" after I completed 29 marathons in 2003. The title stuck as there were no other runners competing in as many marathons and running them as fast as I had done that year.

RD: You ran 44 marathons in 2009 and won over half of them. That’s almost one marathon every weekend throughout the year. What motivates you to keep going?
Chuck: I really enjoy the traveling that goes along with my running. The other part of running is the social aspect. My running family is close to me. Most of my closest friends are those who I have met during marathon races. Winning is merely a matter of who shows up on any given day. I have gone to races with as few as 17 people and been beaten by runners who were just passing through on vacation. And I have done races as big as 5,000 where I just happened to be the fastest runner on the course that day. Granted it does take hard work to run under 2:40 in a marathon, but winning any given day takes a certain amount of luck.

RD: Man with the 44 marathons alone, you logged 1,152.8 miles. How many miles total did you log in ’09? How many have you logged so far in 2010?
Chuck: I think I put in nearly 3,000 miles in 2009 with training and recovery miles included. 2010 saw a reduction as I took a bit of a break in the early part of the year.

RD: Are you going to break 44 marathons this year?
Chuck: My record for 365 consecutive days is 54 marathons. I would like to take a shot at running more than that. It's not the running that is the tough part. It has been the monetary side of things. I have heard a lot of people call themselves "extreme" for doing 50 or more marathons in a year. But guys like Sam Thompson ran 51 in 50 days. That is extreme. Those that travel to 50 or more in a single year are merely good at being a travel agent and nothing more. Most anyone can run 50 marathons in a year. It is merely a matter of planning and logistics.

RD: With that many marathons you must go through a ton of shoes. Good thing is your sponsor. About how many pairs of trainers do you run through in a year? Racing flats?
Chuck: MarathonguideMoines in 2002 and I have had some incredible experiences thanks to my sponsors including The shoes are part of a Nike sponsorship. I have been running in Nike shoes since 1985 and I thank Nike and Second Sole Ohio for their continued support as I trash one pair of Nike Vomeros per month and one pair of racing flats per month. My racing flats are currently Nike Lunar Racers. The new generations comes out in January and I am really excited to give them a go.

RD: What do you enjoy most about running? Is it the mental? Physical? Both?
Chuck: The mental side of running is mostly conquered. I can nearly always predict, based on training, mileage and nutrition, what kind of time I will run in any given marathon. What I enjoy most is seeing so many friends on the course and of course hanging out with good friends post race. Some of my best marathon memories have been post race with friends like Matt Manning of Kansas, The Little Rock Arkansas Crew, The Nashville Flying Monkey Crew and of course Jeff and Linda Venable from Texas.

RD: What do you think about when you’re racing? Is it all focused on strategy and racing, or does your body go on auto pilot and you find yourself thinking about other things?
Chuck: Depending on the race I am either calculating splits and finish time along the course. There have been races where I am just trying to hurt and push as long as I can and I do, in a somewhat sick way, like to blow up in a race from time to time. There is a rush unlike any other I have had when your body can no longer respond to what my brain is telling it to do. That is a limit that I love to find and try to push beyond. I think it is more interesting as to what the subconscious goes through when racing at a high heart rate level. The myriad of thoughts that come rushing into my conscious when I am finished racing are almost certainly due to the brain going into over time during two and a half hours of racing.

RD: You ran your first marathon back in 2000. Was that the race that hooked you, or did it take a few more before you decided this was “your” race?
Chuck: Tupelo will always be the race that hooked me. Mike Lail was the race director at that time and he was as shocked as I was when I crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 34 minutes. It was a hot day and I loved the total feeling of exhaustion. Mike Lail was there for me. He showed me that it is the people involved in the race that make all marathons more than just 26.2 miles. My experience at Tupelo every year I have done it, is one of the reasons I keep running. I love to find races like that with people like that. In this day and age of big time marathons with exorbitant entry fees and high dollar entertainment, races like Tupelo, Little Rock, Grand Rapids, Lake Placid, Flying Monkey and a handful of others stand apart.

RD: Since you’re a “marathon junkie” there must be an addiction in there somewhere. Is that addiction for the distance, the race, the crowd, the competition, the record-breaking, or all or some of the aforementioned?
Chuck: People who have never "won" don't know what they are missing. I like to win. But as mentioned before, you just never know who will show up any given day. That is a thrill for me. Thinking I could win a race in Dayton Ohio only to finish second to Josh Cox by more than ten minutes was a complete rush. I was the most fit for any race I had been and I wanted to win badly. Josh showed up and qualified for the Olympic Trials. I was crushed with second place, but elated that Josh had led me to a new PR. The addiction is and will always be to push my body to the breaking point and when it breaks, how much further can my mind take it. I set goals beyond just finishing races or running 52 in a year. For me it's about my personal race. I know how healthy I am at any given race and I like racing sick or injured or after two marathons in the previous two days. Racing...putting my heart rate up there as high as I think it will go without my heart exploding. Then, in specific races, seeing if my heart will pop before my brain says quit. That's the addiction. That's how I like to run.... on my personal edge. It's not about bragging to the world that I finished a billion races in one year. All I need to have to do that is money and a good travel agent. I will stick to running as fast as I can in any given circumstance. Take what the day gives me and run hard. The marathon deserves that much.

RD: Speaking of records, you have quite a few—the most sub 3-hour marathons in the world; #1 and #2 fastest 50 back to back official marathons; the fastest average for 52 consecutive marathon weekends (October 2008 - October 2009); the most consecutive U.S. marathon victories with 7 in 7 weekends in which you set 7 course records in each race (2006); running 3 days of sub 3 official marathons twice; winning back-to-back Saturday and Sunday marathons twice. Man, I’m pooped just listing them all. Those are some awesome accomplishments. I’m sure you’re extremely proud of them all, but is one more special to you than the others?
Chuck: I am reminded by others about these records. At this point in my life, I just want to RUN MORE! I don't want to spend time counting things when I could be putting in more mileage. People count things when the are finished and want to reminisce. I will admit, however, that when I won my 100th marathon race and popped a can of soda in Bristol New Hampshire that the Dr. Pepper never tasted more sweet.

RD: You race so frequently, that your racing is probably your training or is it? What does a typical week of running look like for you?
Chuck: I try to do one speed day per week and one long run in the middle of the week. I also do my own version of plyos to maintain strength and flexibility. The week can be as high as 120 miles or as low as zero when I am decompressing. I like the 120 weeks better, but the zero weeks are needed from time to time. However, even during the zero weeks I will still try to bike or swim.

RD: I stress over and over to my running clients the importance of good nutrition to fuel their training effort. Do you have a favorite training food that you like to eat? Pre-run? Post-run?
Chuck: I love steel cut oatmeal with fresh blueberries and brown sugar for my pre-race meal. During the week its a lot of whole grain pastas and just a bit of chicken. But you gotta figure that during the weeks where I am putting in 120 miles I can eat pretty much anything. The book "Once A Runner" had a quote that said "If the furnace is hot enough, anything will burn." I say eat what you like and RUN MORE to burn it off.

RD: Are you a lone runner or do you run with some buddies? What do you like about each?
Chuck: I run alone. When I do run with others I tend to get into a racing mentality and that can destroy a weekly training regimen.

RD: What’s the funniest or oddest thing that’s happened to you while on a run?
Chuck: There was a race in the Pacific Northwest that I decided to make a quick stop in the woods. It's a pretty crazy story. I still won the race. It was, however, the slowest winning time in that particular race's history. Didn't bother me in the least.

RD: You mentioned that Nike has been your running shoe of choice? Why?
Chuck: My shoes have been and will always be NIKE! I love the Vomero 5 for training and the Lunars for racing. They just work for my feet. Nikes always have worked for me. I encourage any runner to find the right shoes for their feet and not to wear what the latest gold medalist is wearing.

RD: Tell us something about you that might surprise us. Bake? Sew? Sing karaoke?
Chuck: I do cook a lot. I love to cook. I even sing....when no one is around. I am a pretty simple runner. I think I am down to earth most of the time. I just have an unusual addiction to the pain found at or near the finish line of a marathon. It's just a beautiful thing.

RD: If you were speaking to a group of non-runners or runner wannabes and trying to encourage them to run, what would you say?
Chuck: One mile at a time. Most runner wannabes look at the whole cheesecake and eat it with their eyes. I tackle it one slice at a time. You can finish it if you start with one piece and don't think about the next piece until you are ready for the next piece. Any race really is just preparing your mind for one mile.....and then the next.

RD: You've accomplished so much in the past 10 years since that first marathon. What's next for the MarathonJunkie?
Chuck: I have a few goals. I would like to run another 200 sub 3 hour marathons before I hang up the shoes. I would like to win 50 more. But I will be happy just running and running more.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

RunnerDude's Stellar-Stamp Awards for 2010!

Over the past 12 months, I've tried many different running products. Most were good, but some were stellar! Listed below are 10 products that have received the RunnerDude's Blog Stellar-Stamp-of-Approval. If you haven't already tried some of these products, think about checking them out in 2011!

YurBuds—yurbuds™ are custom sized earbud enhancers (produced by yurtopia LLC) that increase comfort, don't fall out, and enhance sound quality. They fit right over your existing earbuds or you can purchase yurtopia’s version of earbuds called yurphones™ that come equipped with the custom yurbuds™.

Saucony Progrid KinvaraSaucony's version of a minimalist shoe. I've tested a lot of shoes over the past two years, and I can honestly say that this shoe tops them all. I've been testing the minimalist waters and the shoes that I've tried have worked well, but the Kinvara worked great for me right out of the box.

3BAR—3BAR is engineered to contain exactly what your body needs to re-fuel. Many of the bars on the market today are loaded with chemicals and therefore lack balance. 3BAR is a balanced nutrient-dense product to give you the most energy, and you will feel naturally energized from it! And the best part about 3BAR, it TASTES good!!!

StuffittsStuffitts is a soft, form-fitting shape that is inserted into shoes after wearing. Combining new fabric technology, a unique foot-shaped design that maximizes point-to-point absorption, and soft cedar inserts – a pair of Stuffitts can help extend the life of your shoes significantly by protecting your shoes from moisture and odor! Stuffitts work effectively in all types of shoes, boots, and cleats…they also come in sizes to fit men, women, and children. They are made from 100% natural cedar and are 100% reusable.

Thriv—Running and active-wear apparel made from bamboo that provides moisture wicking, anti–microbial, thermal regulation, UV protection, and comfort! I've tested several of their men's tops and have been extremely pleased. They wear well, and do promote moisture wicking and thermal regulation. The anti-microbial aspects does help keep the "stink-factor" at a minimum too!

Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel—While not a product like the others listed, this book by Matt Fitzgerald is great for helping you better tune into your body and what it's telling you while your running. Your body can be the best "gadget" out there to help you improve your running and training.

Landice Treadmills—The Landice L Series treadmills deliver a health-club quality workout in the privacy of your own home. Landice consistently receives "Best Home Treadmills" awards from leading magazines. In my opinion, the best club-quality treadmill you can buy for your home.

Warrior Training Bracelet—Sometimes what you need to help get you through those last few miles of a tough workout aren't the latest hydration product or GPS gadget. No, sometimes what you need is a boost of confidence. The Warrior Training Bracelet does just that. Just a simple word like "Persevere", "Courage" or "Strength" is all you need to remind you that you have what it takes to be a champion.

Sprinter Headlamp—This headlamp is ultra light, weighing only 3.5oz. It has a very bright light (around 70 lumens) which well let you see about 150 feet ahead and best of all the light is focused on the ground right around your feet and a few strides ahead, perfect for runners. The headlamp also comes with a blinking red light positioned on the back strap making it a great safety feature. Probably the best feature of all is that the lamp is rechargeable. There's no batteries!!

Toe JuiceThis simple product works great getting rid of dry calloused areas on a runner's feet. Also helps get rid of athlete's foot, jock itch, ringworm, and other fungus related skin issues.

(Note: This list is based on my own opinion and experience with each product. No payment or endorsement fee has been provided by any of the featured companies.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Christmas Winter Run

The crisp clean air expanding my lungs with every breath I take.
A visual bounty of nature’s beauty passing me by with every stride I make.

My inner being soothed by silence all around.
Only the pounding of my heart, the breaths that I take, and the soft pat of my feet striking the ground.

Alone on my run, but company nearby.
A deer in the wood, a squirrel scurrying in the leaves, and a cardinal in the sky.

The icy wooden bridge creaks with each gingerly taken footstep I take.
The sounds awaken a Blue Heron who majestically takes flight across the lake.

The soft white flakes falling from the sky add even more calm to this much needed run.
Each fallen flake a burden taken from my plate.

What a wonderful gift on this Christmas day.
Nothing better to take those silly life worries away.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Looking for a Way to Boston?

Were you one of the many who were disappointed this year when the Boston registration filled so quickly. Well, if you didn't get in this year, still want to go, and don't mind rolling up your sleeves and doing a little work, I have some good news for you!

Kristina Sym, the Special Events and Design Coordinator at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary contacted me with news that she still has a few spots open in her 50-member Boston Team!

Remember I said you'd need to roll-up your sleeves? Well each team member must commit to raising a minimum of $5,000 for research and patient care at Mass. Eye and Ear. The funds raised will be used to bring new hope and a healthier future to people everywhere who face loss of sight, hearing, voice, balance, taste and smell, as well as head and neck cancer.  Fundraising and training support will be offered. The team coach, Fred Treseler, is recognized as one of the best in the country.

Team Eye and Ear members span a wide range of athletic abilities (novice to experience marathoners) and walks of life. They are generous and dedicated individuals who are athletes, fundraisers and ambassadors for Mass. Eye and Ear. Their hard work, dedication and pure passion brings new hope and a healthier future to people everywhere who suffer from debilitating conditions affecting sight, hearing, voice, balance, taste and smell, as well as head and neck cancer.

So, if fundraising is your thing and you really want to get into Boston this year, check it out!! Interested runners can contact Kristina at  or (617) 573-6364. More information can also be found at: .

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Runner of the Week: Chris Wojtowicz

If you ask 10 different runners how they got into running, you'll probably get 10 different reasons. That's a big reason running is so appealing to me. People are drawn to running for so many different reasons. Some use it as stress relief, some use it to draw attention to a cause, some use it to build confidence, others use it as a means to stay fit, and still other use it as a means of working through the grieving of a loved one or to help them cope through a traumatic time. This week's Runner of the Week (Chris Wojtowicz) is a true inspiration and a true testament of what one can accomplish when they have the desire and commitment. Read on to learn more about Chris and his story.

RD: Where are you located? Original hometown or a transplant?
Chris: Born and raised in the Detroit area, which I still call home.

RD: Share a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? Hobbies?
Chris: I’m a 36-year old dad to three great kids and have been married to my wife for 10 years. Our youngest is not quite 2 years old and together, they keep us very busy. As a software sales executive, I work out of a home office and find myself on the road visiting customers almost every week. When I’m on the road, big business meals and bar time with co-workers isn’t uncommon at all.

RD: How long have you been running?
Chris: Less than a year. In the fall of 2009, I got an email from Rodale for a promotion for their Biggest Loser book, 30 Day Jump Start. My wife and I love the show, and thought that we’d give it a try in 2010. I started walking/running on January, 9th, 2010. At first, I could only go a ½ mile on the treadmill at 4.5-5.0 mph before I’d have to get off, out of breath and with lots of pain in my legs. I wanted to just give up and tell my wife “I’m just not a runner….let’s find something else.” But my wife and I promised ourselves that we’d stick with exercising and a better diet for THIRTY DAYS….no matter what. I’m a grown man! I can stick with something for 30 days, right? On days when I was too sore to run, I’d climb on the treadmill and walk instead. Sometimes for 20 minutes, sometimes for 2 hours while I watched a ballgame. Sometimes 3mph and flat, sometimes 4mph with incline. It dawned on me that if I was sweating, no matter if I was walking or jogging, it was good. I was tracking all running/walking activities at Looking back on my workout history, I was able to jog my first non-stop mile on day 10 (Jan. 19th). I did this mile in 10:57 and remember collapsing on the couch a sweaty, sore, PROUD mess! I did a mile! After a few more days of recovery walking, I tried again at the mile and failed! I gave up after ¼ mile! I was so frustrated and again wanted to quit. On Jan 27th, though, I completed my second 1-mile run, this time a slower 11:19. Then more walking, more jogging, more, more more. Through these first few weeks, I was beginning to learn that jumping off the belt was a conscience DECISION I was making! This realization allowed me to stay on longer. On Feb 1st (22 days after climbing on the treadmill) I finally completed my first non-stop, 5k jog, in 36:44. I was SO proud (sore and sweaty, too). From there, the confidence and determination was INFECTIOUS! Now that I knew that I could do this (seemingly) ridiculous distance, there’s no stopping me! I did another 5k the very next day in 36:30 (a new PR!). A few days off, then another 5k. I now had a base. A 3.1-mile run was my new standard! In just a month! WOOOOHOO!!! When our 30 day commitment was over, I was HOOKED! On days that I couldn't get in a run and a good sweat felt miserable, like something was missing. So we stuck with it. My wife and I signed up for a 5k in April. Having a date on the calendar allowed us to stay focused on making sure we were getting in our 4-5 runs per week. I ran my first 5k in 25:31! Since I was hooked, I needed my next event, Chicago’s Rock and Roll Half Marathon! The mileage increased and I was getting stronger and stronger. I finished my first half marathon on August 1st in 2:02 (9:18/pace). I had to put on my sunglasses as I crossed the finish line because I didn’t want my finish photos to show me crying! A September 5k was next and I came in at 22:04 (7:06/pace). Finally, in October, we ran the Detroit Half Marathon and finished in 1:50.  Next Event: We’re heading to New Orleans to run the Rock and Roll Mardi Gras FULL MARATHON on February 13, 2011!

RD: You’ve lost a great deal of weight. Did the running drive the weight loss, or did the weight loss drive the running?
Chris: On January 9th, I weighed 262. Along with climbing on the treadmill, we also made a 30 day commitment to watching and, most importantly, tracking everything we ate. It wasn’t easy, especially at first. We had planned a day trip to ski on January 9th and instead of enjoying a big pizza lunch with the rest of the group in the ski lodge, we brought our own salads and chicken breast. Tracking our input on was a fantastic way to set goals and track our daily and weekly progress toward those goals. Also, tracking our exercise (calorie burn) on this website helped bring the two most important numbers together….on one screen…for easy analysis. We learned quickly that if we monitored our food (for the first time ever) and made a commitment to daily exercise, then good things would happen. We weighed in every Saturday morning, and after one week, I had dropped ten pounds! After our initial 30 days, I was down a total of 24 pounds to 238. There is no doubt that without running, the weight would have been much slower to come off. Conversely, there is no doubt that without a conscience effort to eat more healthily and with reasonable portion sizes, the weight loss would have been slow. Combining these two practices, however, was like magic! Plus, carrying 24 less pounds HAD to make running easier. Easier running means longer distances and more miles. More miles means more weight loss. It was an exciting and very enjoyable cycle!

RD: What initiated the weight loss and a new life of fitness??
Chris: I carried my weight above 260 for a few years. I was waking up with ankle pain, sore knees, back pain, recurring gout attacks, etc. For SO long I just chalked this pain up as “…getting old…”. Getting down on the floor with the baby and (even more so) getting off the floor was very hard. Wanting a new body, more strength and energy was my primary motivation. Then the 30 Day Jump Start book showed up and the message was simple: Give us a 30 day commitment and see what happens.

RD: What do you enjoy most about running?
Chris: At first, the biggest enjoyment I got out of the daily running sessions was the “alone time”. For a few minutes or 1 ½ hours on long runs, I’m able to think about the kids (how can I be a better dad), the family (what can I do more for my wife and family), work (I get great work ideas when running), or simply create a great playlist and enjoy some tunes. Often, on the long runs, I get through all of these topics! Nowadays, we’re training for a full marathon and our training plan is defined from now until race day in February. So, I enjoy getting the “Check In the Box” after each day’s assignment. Some days, when I’m not in the mood to get on the treadmill or put on 3-4 layers and hit the street, I remind myself that there’s an empty box on my training plan. I hate an empty box staring at me, so I lace up and check off that box.

RD: Are you a lone runner or do you run with a group?
Chris: 90% of my runs are alone. On the rare occasion that my wife and I are able to free our work schedules and send the kids to friends/families, then we run together. Long runs with your best friend, especially after all those runs alone, are absolutely priceless.We chat about running articles or blogs that we’ve read, the latest running gear for cold weather runs, etc. It’s absolutely perfect. The best thing about running with someone you’re so close to is, in all actuality, hard to explain (but here goes): Running is magical in its ability to allow one person to give another person energy and motivation. Similar to reaching into my pocket and giving her a quarter, through chatting and pacing each other, I feel like we can give each other a few points of energy to keep running, to get through the rough patch, to fight through the pain, and finish the run. More often than not, I’m in need of the energy points, but on the rare occasion I’m able to talk her through a rough patch is nothing short of magical and a lot of fun to talk about over a post-run smoothie.

RD: What’s the funniest or oddest thing that’s happened to you while on a run?
Chris: On a vacation in Scottsdale, I was getting in my daily run (alone, because my wife had gotten ill) through mountainous/hilly neighborhoods when, much to my shock and surprise came a coyote….and his friend. I froze in my tracks, as did my new friends, about 20 feet ahead of me. Waiting to see what their first move would be, I had scanned the area for my ‘escape’, which would have been a sprint to a nearby 5 foot concrete wall that I’d have to scale and hope they weren’t very good jumpers. As luck would have it, though, it appeared that I scared them as much as they scared me and they took off in the opposite direction and out of sight! Phew! I don’t run across coyotes much in my Detroit suburbs.

RD: What’s your biggest running accomplishment? Why?
Chris: Even though my 2nd half marathon was 11 minutes faster, my 1st half marathon was my biggest/proudest running accomplishment. Running a 5k was a GREAT accomplishment in “becoming a runner”, but my view of a running a half-marathon seemed like a monumental feat….one that very few people can say they’ve done. When I crossed the finish line in Chicago, 13.1 miles and 2 hours and 1 minute of non-stop running, I knew that I did it….I was OFFICIALLY a runner and no one could dispute that fact. I was no longer “the biggest guy in the room” at 260+ pounds. I was a runner. I had a big, heavy finishers medal that I earned!

RD: Do you have a favorite brand of running shoe? Which model? Why?
Chris: My favorite running shoe is the Nike Lunarglide. They’re super light and provide lots of support. For training purposes, though, I’ve fallen in love with my Nike Frees and even the Vibram Fivefingers.

RD: What’s your favorite race distance(s) or favorite race?
Chris: I’ve run a couple of 5Ks, an 8K, and two half marathons. Of these, my favorite race distance would have to be the 5k. Now that I’ve built up a good base of fitness and running strength, I believe I’m finally learning how to race. My last 5K was completed in 22:04 and (for the first time ever) I even finished before my wife/coach!  It’s my goal to complete a 5K in less than 20 minutes in 2011. My favorite of all the races was the Detroit Half Marathon. Starting in downtown Detroit, the course crosses into Canada via the Ambassador Bridge. I’ve driven over this bridge so many times in my life, and here I was….RUNNING across it, high over the water below! Very neat. Then a few miles on the Canadian shoreline was great. Our Canadian supporters were so enthusiastic and encouraging that the miles seemed to fly by. Returning to the US is done via an underwater mile via the Detroit/Windsor tunnel. Again…I’ve driven this tunnel so many times, and it was absolutely amazing to run through it (although it never dawned on my while driving through that getting out of the tunnel was a serious incline!).

RD: If you were speaking to a group of non-runners or runner wannabes and trying to encourage them to run, what would you say?
Chris: “If I can do it….then YOU …. ANYBODY….can do it. It seems so simple to say, but running or not running is a choice. A simple choice to lace them up or NOT to lace them up. I tried to use the excuse that I couldn’t run (or walk in those early days) because I had to take care of the kids, or the house needed cleaning, or there’s just no time. But every day, I had time to watch Biggest Loser, or Wheel of Fortune, or the Evening News. Many times, I set the alarm at 5am to walk/run before everyone else woke up in the morning. Ball game on TV? Grab the Walkman and listen to it while I trekked through the neighborhood. A co-worker of mine, who ran daily, told me three simple letters. EFD. I asked, “What’s EFD?” He replied, “Every ____ Day….just get out there and run. Some days are easy and feel great. Some days are harder than others, but EFD. EFD”. He made it sound so simple and logical. Do you want to run and be a runner? Or do you want to stay in and wish you could be a runner? EFD. EFD.

RD: Open Mike: Share anything you‘d like about your running experiences, past accomplishments, goals, dreams….anything you haven’t previously shared.
Chris: I’m shameless on drawing motivation from any source possible and have become an avid reader of all-things-running. I read every Runner’s World from cover to cover. I use stories of other runners to get me pumped up. If they can do it, I can (at least) put in a great effort as well. I read running books, such as Christopher MacDougall’s Born to Run (which got me into the Vibram FiveFingers), Hal Higdon’s Marathon and Through the Woods. Also, Duel in the Sun was an amazing story of the 1982 Boston Marathon. I’m currently listening to Once a Runner by John L. Parker. I often refer to these stories, these amazing athletes and their accomplishments while I run…especially during a rough patch.

Thanks, Chris, for sharing your story. We will be rooting for you and your wife in February!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Running: It's Not That Hard, You Just Have To Be Patient

The other day as I stepped into the mud room after returning from a long day at the studio, I heard something really unusual. It was such a rare sound, that I actually had to pinch myself. Was it real? Could it really be? And yet, I kept hearing it. I didn't want to make any noise and possibly end the sounds of peace and harmony, so I slipped off my shoes and in socked feet gingerly reached for my camera phone. Like a panther stalking it's prey, I crouched and stealthily maneuvered around the island in the middle of the kitchen. I snuck up on the source of harmonic sound that was not unlike what the ancient Greek sailors must of heard when lured by the sirens with their enchanting music and voices. I was awe struck.

There, seated at the kitchen table, were my 10-year-old daughter and 15-year-old daughter working together on some kind of art project. Dumbstruck, I heard my older daughter say, "That's great. You're doing that much better than I could do." Followed by my youngest's reply, "Thanks, it's not that hard, you just have to be patient."

I snapped a picture to preserve this monumental moment. Being 5 years apart, and the older one just recently emerging from the demonic possession phase of 13- and 14-year-old girls, peace and harmony between the two is rare at best. Oh they love each other and if the youngest is the least bit bullied by a classmate, the older one is there in a heartbeat to protect and stand up for her little sister, but the day-to-day co-habitation has often been a little rocky.

You know running is a bit like the love/hate relationship of sibling love. And it's not much unlike what my daughter said about that art project, " It's not hard, you just have to be patient." I've seen both my daughters have the patience of Job with other friends and family, but with each other, the fuse can be a bit short.

Runners, especially new runners can often be impatient with results. They see other runners running with ease and want to be just like that. Kind of like wanting to be just like big sister. The thing is they haven't realized all that "big sister" has gone through to get to where she's at. On the flip side, sometimes experienced runners can forget what it took to get to their current level of running and may have unrealistic expectations for someone just starting out.

New runners need to realize that it takes about 4-6 weeks to acclimate to a particular distance and/or intensity. So, while they may be able to run 3 miles, it may take 4 to 6 weeks of running 3 miles before that 3-mile run becomes an easy run. Can you run further during that 4-6 weeks? Sure! But just remember that in that 5th week when you may be running a 4 or 5-miler, the first 2 or 3 miles may feel good, but the last 1 or 2 miles may tug at you. Why? Because you've run past what you're body's acclimated to. But, keep at it and in a few weeks, that same 4th or 5th mile that tugged at you will feel good and it will be the 6th or 7th mile in your run that will be tugging at you.

Another good rule of thumb for new runners is not to increase the overall weekly mileage by more than 10%. So if you've run a total of 15 miles one week, the next week, try not to increase the total mileage by more than 1.5 -2 miles. Making small increases in your weekly mileage will help reduce the chance of injury. 

One of the biggest mistakes new runners often make is falling victim to the "feel-good syndrome." The feel-good syndrome occurs when you're out on a run and your at 5-miles (to which you've acclimated to) and you feel so good that you run an extra mile. (That's fine.) But then you add a 7th mile. (Probably okay.) But it doesn't stop there. Before you know it, you're at mile 10. Doubling your mileage (even if you feel good) can really tax the body and set you back by taking longer to recover the next few days. Just because "Big Sister" ran a 10-miler doesn't mean you're ready for it yet. Remember that she worked her way up to 10 miles too. She didnt' just start out running a 10-miler.

Whether you're brand new to running or training for your 10th marathon, remember what my wise 10-year-old told her big sister, "It's not that hard, you just have to be patient."

If you're in the Greensboro, NC area and thinking about running for the first time, I'd love to have you join my next beginning running group. The 12-week program begins on January 11th. For more details [click here.]

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tunes to Add Some Holiday Groove to Your Runs!

The songs below will surely add a little Christmas boogie to your runs. I dare ya, add these up-beat holiday tunes  (some even a bit kwirky) to your running play list and see if you don't end up with a little extra holiday pizazz in your stride. Go ahead give it a try!

1. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)—U2
2. Christmas All Over Again—Tom Petty
3. Christmas Blues—Blues Traveler
4. Father Christmas—The Kinks
5. Christmas This Year—Toby Mac & Leigh Nash
6. Rocking Around the Christmas Tree—Darlene Love
7. Run Rudolph Run—Sheryl Crow
8. I Smell Winter—The Housemartins
9. Deck the Halls—Trans-Siberian Orchestra
10. Oi to the World—No Doubt
11. What Christmas Means to Me—Paul Young
12. Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You—SR17

Saturday, December 11, 2010

101 Inspirational Stories of Energy, Endurance, and Endorphins!

Still got a present to buy for that crazy runner in the family? Know someone just beginning to run? Know someone who has been running for years and already has all the latest gadgets and running gear? Then I've got a great gift idea for you!

I'm sure you're familiar with the bestselling books in the inspirational series Chicken Soup for the Soul. The series, founded by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, has close to 100 titles in the series and one of the newest is Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners. This book contains stories from over 90 contributors consisting of everyday runners, running experts like Matt Fitzgerald, and elite runners such as Josh Cox and Dean Karnazes. A good running friend of mine, Dena Harris, has two wonderful stories in the book too!

Dean Karnazes' introduction to the book really spoke to me. Although I'll never run like Dean, it was cool to know that he too left a secure 9 to 5 job with benefits to pursue his passion. The dozens of other stories in the book will have you crying, laughing, and truly inspired.

I dare you to open the book and read a story or two. If you do, I bet you end up buying two copies.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Have You Checked Out Sierra Trading Post Lately?

If you're an outdoorsy kind of person, then you've probably heard of the Sierra Trading Post. Owner Keith Richardson founded Sierra Trading Post® in 1986 in Reno, Nev. The company purchases name-brand overstocks and closeouts and passes savings on to its customers—selling dress, casual and outdoor clothing, footwear, home furnishings, accessories, and gear at savings of 35 to 70 percent.

I was recently surprised and delighted to discover that Sierra Trading Post carries a nice selection of running trail shoes as well as some road running shoes. The variety is not as vast as you might find elsewhere, but what they have is offered at 25%, 35%, and even 50% off the regular retail price.

I also discovered that you can't beat their great customer service. Customer service is a huge part of their business model. In fact, if you happen to need a customer service rep, you won’t have to punch in any numbers and you’ll get to talk to a real person! I was amazed!

Sierra Trading Post sent me a pair of Saucony’s Progrid Guide TR2 trail running shoe. I’m a big Saucony running shoe fan, so I was really excited. I'm not a huge trail runner, but I received the shoes really quickly and have been running in them for a couple of weeks now. As a trail shoe, they're really good, especially if you wear a stability shoe. They provide a nice wide base for a secure foot plant, a roomy toe box, and the design of the lugs on the bottom of the shoes prevents sticks and other debris from getting stuck in the tread while on your run. I've even worn the Progrid Guide TR2s on some road runs, and they did great. While there is a newer version of the shoe available (the Progrid Guide TR3), it's hard to beat the $69.95 price for the TR2s that Sierra Trading Post is offering (the shoes originally sold for $100)!

So, if you have some more holiday gift-giving to do, be sure to check out Sierra Trading Post. Also, be sure to enter the next RunnerDude's Blog Contest that's being sponsored by Sierra Trading Post!

Sierra Trading Post will give away one free pair of the Saucony ProGrid Guide TR2 trail running shoes to one female and one male in a contest drawing. To enter, simply send an email to with "Sierra Trading Post" in the subject line. Then be sure to include your full name in the body of the email. Just to be on the safe side, also include "male" or "female" beside the name, especially if it's a name that can be used for either sex. The email entries will be accepted through Saturday, December 18th. The emails will be sorted into male and female piles and each email will be assigned a number in the order that it was received. The True Random Number Generator will be used to select the winning male and female entry numbers. The winners will be announced on the blog on Sunday, December 19th.

Note: While Sierra Trading Post, did provide the trail shoes for testing, I received no payment for writing this post nor was I encouraged to write a positive post. This post simply represents my experience with Sierra Trading Post and the trail shoes I tested.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Prize Drawing from Endorphin Warrior!

Since beginning the blog, I have had contact with many different running and sports related companies. One of my favorite such companies is Endorphin Warrior. Endorphin Warrior makes inspirational jewelry and apparel for the athlete. About a year ago, I purchased a Warrior Training bracelet and I've worn it ever since.

The Warrior Training Bracelets are made to wear while running, cycling, working out, sweating, racing...or just anytime. Each features a positive and powerful keyword or phrase to help you train, perform and live with greater strength of body and mind. My bracelet says "Persevere." That word means so much to me. Whether it's starting my new fitness studio, dealing with health issues, or trucking through the last few miles of a marathon, just looking at that word "Persevere" on my bracelet reminds me of the inner strength I have to make it through.

The thing about Endorphin Warrior that's so cool is that they just don't sell sports themed jewelry. Their true mission and goal is to delight and inspire you – the lifetime athlete, runner, walker, endurance athlete or fitness enthusiast – with content and original products that express the joy and value of working out, endurance training and the body in motion. They realize that you’re passionate about your training and sport, and they're passionate about creating fun, and meaningful products that will help you enjoy your training even more…inspire you toward your true potential…and help you express the active lifestyle you love and live.

Endorphin Warrior is listed in the previous post, "Holiday Gifts for Runners," because of their awesome products and because of their mission. Be sure to check out their website for yourself and for the athletes on your holiday gift list!

Also, I have great news!!! Endorphin Warrior is sponsoring a Prize Drawing exclusive to the readers of RunnerDude's Blog! The winner of the prize drawing will get to choose between a Warrior Training Bracelet or a Warrior Training Ring! To enter, simply send an email to with "Warrior" in the subject line. Also, be sure to put your full name in the body copy of the email. The deadline for email entries is Saturday, December 11th! Each email will be assigned a number in the order that it's received. All the numbers will be entered into the True Random Number Generator to determine the winner. The winner's name will be posted on the blog on Sunday, December 12th!

Good luck and thanks Endorphin Warrior!!