What It’s Really Like to Run a Virtual Race

What It's Really Like to Run a Virtual Half Marathon - Run Leelanau
Photo Credit: Marathon Training Academy

Not so long ago, I provided everyone with my thoughts about signing up for a virtual race. In November, I completed the Marathon Training Academy‘s Virtual Half Marathon.

Let me tell you about virtual races; they’re weird. Running this virtual race reminded me of the time my friend asked me,

“Why do you pay to run races? Do you realize you can just go outside and run that far for free?”

At the time, I scoffed and tried (and failed) to explain the gloriousness that is race-day. He didn’t understand, as he had never personally experienced it.

However, with a virtual race, I think I would have a more difficult time arguing against his point. I paid $40 to go run alone on the same roads I always run on. I can see why some may think that’s crazy.

Yet, I would not have run 13.1 miles that day if I was not participating in a virtual race. Though it was a rare sunny day, it was cold, windy, and the sun was setting quickly. It was also hunting season and gun shots echoed around me. I’m not currently training for anything (just wait until Mid-December. How’s that for foreshadowing?), so I didn’t need to run 13.1. But this virtual race gave me the push to hit that distance.

I had a goal to run the virtual half in under two hours, thinking that would be a piece of cake. I ran two half marathons in October, finishing both in around 1:52. Considering I was running alone, I figured my ‘race pace’ would not be quite as fast. I ended up finishing the 13.1 miles in 2:06:22. Ah!! Is my normal pace really that much slower than my race pace?! Clearly I need to look into this further.

Yeah, people may judge that I paid $40 to run alone, but people will always find a reason to judge (me, you, anyone else). The people who judge me did not run 13.1 miles after work on a Monday evening, so judge away.

So while it may be crazy to pay money to go run alone, people always say that runners are a special kind of crazy. I’m going to continue to happily embrace that. And though running real races are definitely preferred, I enjoyed my experience running this virtual race. Not to mention, I got a bomb-ass medal. It is literally the biggest medal I have ever received for a race and one of the few interactive medals I have.

What It's Really Like to Run a Virtual Half Marathon - Run Leelanau
Interactive, huge medal. I’ll take it!

Tips for Not Attacking Female Runners

Sexual harassment and assault stories are flooding the news. If you’re a woman like me, you’re probably thinking,

“This isn’t exactly new.

What’s new is the attention it is getting and the fact that finally, (some) men are being held accountable for their actions. With all this in the media, many articles are surfacing about how to stay safe if you are a female runner. The tips were irritable, at best. Here are some of the suggestions (and consequently, my thoughts on such suggestions):

Tips to Stay Safe if you are a Female Runner (as gathered from many sources):

  1. “Don’t run alone” – Oh ok. Then I’ll never run. Good plan.
  2. “Don’t run in the dark” – During winter in Michigan, the sun is up from 8:30AM-4:30PM. So my options include quitting my job or not running. Next.
  3. “Run on a treadmill” –Everyday? You want me to train for a marathon 6 days a week on a treadmill? Be serious.
  4. “Don’t wear your hair in a ponytail, it is easy for someone to grab you by the ponytail” –Cool. I’ve been looking for an excuse to shave my head.
  5. “Vary your routes so your daily run isn’t predictable” –I’ll run where I please, thanks.
  6. “Run in public areas. Definitely avoid running in the woods alone” –How do you expect me to train for a trail ultra on public sidewalks? Let me guess, this is where the treadmill tip resurfaces?
  7. “Run with a dog” – Have you met my dog? 3-4 hour runs will severely cut into his nap schedule

And my favorite:

8. “Run confidently, meaning tall and focused, to display confidence” –What? What does this even mean? I’ve never encountered a female runner oozing uncertainty and looking deranged. Please provide me with a photo of what you mean by this.

So there you have it. This is what the ‘experts’ suggest when providing tips for how to stay safe as a female runner. Interestingly enough, none of these articles are aimed at predators. And that is the real issue here: it is putting the responsibility in the victim’s hands. Here is my version of tips for keeping women safe while running:

Tips for Not Attacking Female Runners:

  1. If you see a female running, do not attack her.
  2. If you feel like catcalling a female runner, do not.
  3. If you feel the need to speak with a female running, don’t.
  4. If you get the urge to touch a female runner, don’t.
  5. If you think a woman wearing a ponytail would be an easy target because of how easy it is to grab said ponytail, chop your hands off.
  6. If you think it’s funny to scare or catcall a woman, it’s not. Reevaluate your definition of funny.
  7. And again, just to reiterate – if you see a female running – leave her alone.
Tips for Not Attacking Female Runners - Run Leelanau
See that guy behind me? He didn’t disturb me at all. Be like that guy. (Photo Credit: Run Mackinac)

Unfortunately, we are surrounded by predators and we must do what we can to keep ourselves safe. It is sad that the responsibility falls on the victims, but it does. We need to change the conversation from “what can woman do to stay safe” to “it is not ok to attack/violate female runners.” It is time to shift the responsibility from the victim to the predator. Sadly, that will be a slow shift, as is any significant societal change. Until then, ladies, stay safe and trust your gut – if something feels off/unsafe, it probably is.

 

 

Finter

Finter - Run Leelanau
The only place you can find colors in Finter is on the ground

Traditionally, Michigan is fractioned into four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter. Well I’m here to tell you that is false. For every season, there is a transition season that divides them. Right now, we are between fall and winter. Call it Finter, if you will. I love fall running and I love winter running. But Finter running? Meh.

The fall colors have long disappeared and the lovely white snow has yet to fall and stick. The sun doesn’t shine and daylight is limited to the hours of 8am-5pm. Finter is truly the definition of bleh.

Aside from Finter, Michigan has Wing (winter transitioning to spring, obvs). Wing is pretty similar in appearance to Finter. Wing is slightly muddier, though. The transition periods from spring to summer and summer to fall are beautiful and enjoyable – the don’t deserve sad, made-up, transition names.

And though the daily Finter run is slightly less exciting, it is seasons like Finter and Wing that make me grateful for the real seasons – winter with 3 feet of snow, summer with its blazing sun, and spring with its blooming cherry blossoms.

So, cheers, fellow runners, to sticking out the daily run in seasons like Finter. Don’t worry, the beauty of winter will be along shortly.

Do tell – how do you guys deal with the dreary periods between seasons?

 

DNS

Three little letters that make every runner cringe.

The only thing as bad as a DNS is a DNF.

Did not start. Did not finish.

I’ve had one DNS in my life and it still makes me crazy. Last Thanksgiving I was supposed to run the Turkey Trot 5 Mile Flier, just like I do every year. However, leading up to Thanksgiving Day last year I was horribly sick. I remember going to packet pickup and feeling miserable. Despite this, I was determined to run the race.

My husband met me at packet pickup, knowing I was sick. He brought me hot tea and Vitamin C tablets. We even went to Traverse City Whiskey Company to try to cure me with some whiskey. (A trick my grandmother does – and hey, she’s 89-years-old and living independently. Clearly she’s doing something right.) We went home and rested for the remainder of the evening.

The next day when the alarm went off to get ready for the Turkey Trot, I could hardly speak. I was drained and miserable, yet still determined to run. My belief has always been that running makes me feel better when I’m sick (and usually it does!) My husband, however, had other beliefs. He informed me that I was way too sick to run a race that day. He feared not only the race, but standing in the cold before starting and getting chilled after the race. I spent quality time arguing with him, which inevitably wore me out even more. I eventually conceded, knowing we had plans to go downstate for the weekend and I’d need energy for that.

DNS - Run Leelanau
My husband and I at the Turkey Trot in a previous year, NOT last year. Last year I was trapped in bed.

Thanksgiving Day is the day when the largest number of people in the United States runs. I love being a part of that. It was so hard to miss out and lie there knowing the race was going on without me.

At the time I am writing this, Thanksgiving Day is a week away. Currently, I feel great – no sniffles, sore throat, or cough to speak of (everyone knock on wood right now!) Once again, my husband and I are signed up to run the Turkey Trot 5 Mile Flier. I can finally get that DNS out of my head with the successful completion of this race.

And for the record, I still think I should have raced last year’s Turkey Trot.

Rifle Season vs Trail Runners

Rifle Season vs Trail Runners - Run Leelanau
I try my best to dress like a highlighter when trail running during hunting season. (I also hope I don’t run into any Trump supporters in the woods)

Tomorrow is the first day of rifle season in Northern Michigan. A heavy feeling of dread falls on those of us that are trail runners. While in theory, hunters and runners should not cross paths, but that uneasy feeling still remains. Usually hunting vs non-hunting areas are well-marked. However, once in the woods, it is easy for hunters and runners alike to stray into the other’s territory.  Additionally, many areas have running trails that travel through hunting territory.

On two separate occasions, I have come across hunting blinds during hunting season in wooded areas that had “no hunting” signs posted. Both times I became anxious and extremely short of breath. My trail run quickly turned into a speed workout as I sprinted out of there. Did the hunter see me and realize I was a person? Or did the hunter hear me in the distance and raise his gun, ready to shoot?

It’s these kind of occurrences that keep me from trail running during hunting season. In fact, I get nervous about running past any large section of woods during hunting season, even if I am on a public road. What if a stray bullet did not hit its target?

Ok ok. I know some of my “what if” thoughts are a bit ridiculous and far fetched. But they are all definite possibilities. It pains me not to run or hike the beautiful trails within Leelanau County during hunting season, especially because these are the last few weeks they are available without snowshoes and snow gear.

Even though I wear ridiculously colored clothing to stand out, my fears do keep me from running trails during hunting season. I’d love to know though, what do other trail runners do during hunting season? Are my fears unreasonable and silly?

Hunters and runners: what advice do you give for us all to share the woods? How can runners stay safe and how can hunters be confident in what they are shooting at?

Mindfulness: Runners Know It

Mindfulness: Runners Know It

I’ve been hearing about mindfulness a lot lately. People discuss the importance of mindfulness at work, while driving, eating, and exercising. It is advised to take time out of each day to practice mindfulness.

So what exactly is mindfulness? Essentially, it’s being present in the moment and aware. It is the acceptance of thoughts, feelings, and self. It is allowing yourself thoughts without judgment of what those thoughts are.

With all this hype regarding the importance of mindfulness, I can’t help but think:

Runners have been practicing mindfulness for as long as they have been running.

The reason half of us get out and run everyday is to center our thoughts and feelings – becoming fully aware of ourselves and allowing judgment to disappear.

I recently read the book, Run for Your Life: Mindful Running for a Happy Life by William Pullen. This book provided some mindfulness exercises for those who prefer a more structured approach to it. Personally, I’m perfectly happy with the free flow of thoughts that occur when running. However, sometimes it can be helpful to have a little more focus.

Here are three simple ways to incorporate more mindfulness into your daily runs:

Grounding

Grounding helps get you to your baseline. It’s a scan of physical self, emotions, and environment. Take a moment before your run to focus on your body and surroundings in the here and now. Notice the temperature, the way your feet feel against the earth, and your current mood. Don’t judge or examine the mood you are in, just notice it for what it is.

Choose a Mantra

If you speak to 100 runners, my guess is that 97 of them have a mantra for when things get hard. Pick a mantra that fits you and focus on it while you are running. Some people like to develop a rhythm for their mantra, alternating words with their footsteps. For example, “This” (left foot) “feels” (right foot) “great” (left foot). Meditate on your words and acknowledge how they make you feel.

Move with Intention

Runners get out everyday and run for reasons individualized to themselves. Some people run for fitness, some run for quiet time, others run for therapeutic reasons. What is your reason for running? Focus on that and allow yourself to feel gratitude that you get to run today. One of my favorite podcasts has a mantra, “don’t treat a gift like a burden.” Being able to run is a gift. Don’t waste that gift by wishing the weather was different, scolding yourself for not being on pace, or worrying about all the tasks you should be doing instead of running.

The important thing to remember with mindfulness is that you should be paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judgment. You may be feeling mad at your coworker or upset with your spouse for something. It’s ok. Just notice that feeling and let it be. There is no right way to practice mindfulness. Do what you feel comfortable with and always remember to be grateful for the run.

 

Mackinac Island’s Great Turtle Half Marathon Race Recap

What.a.weekend. Believe it or not, we left Leelanau County for the weekend for a camping trip and The Great Turtle Half Marathon on Mackinac Island. It was the maiden voyage of the camper we bought a couple of months ago (aka The Friendship 14!) I have never camped the night before a race, so I was a tad nervous that my usual race-day routine would be thrown off.

Mackinac Island's Great Turtle Half Marathon Race Recap - Run Leelanau
The Friendship 14!

And of course, it was thrown off tremendously. I ate camp food and slept in twelve layers to combat the 40 degree weather of Michigan’s upper peninsula. I didn’t have electricity to charge my phone and feared it would die and I’d have no alarm clock. We didn’t pack breakfast and planned to wing it once arriving on Mackinac Island. As someone who has race-day anxiety, not having my race day routine was harsh.

But to no one’s surprise but my own, everything worked out perfectly. I was happily standing in the sunshine at the race starting line on time. The race went off without a hitch. The cool weather contrasted wonderfully with the sunshine. In fact, I even got too warm in the first two miles.

Mackinac Island's Great Turtle Half Marathon Race Recap - Run Leelanau
A rare moment of sunshine before the race

The race starts and ends at Mission Point Resort. The first two miles head east along the shoreline before heading inward on the island. This is where the hills begin. I wish I could explain the twists and turns that take runners literally all over the island, but it was all I could do to just follow the markings along the course. Instead, I’ll include the map of the race. We ran on trails, past the airport, up hills, down hills, past mansions and beautiful cottages, and along the stunning shoreline of Lake Huron.

Mackinac Island's Great Turtle Half Marathon Race Recap - Run Leelanau
The twists and turns of the race. Photo courtesy of the Great Turtle Half Marathon.

It rained off and on throughout the race. I finished wet and cold. But was it ever a beautiful, fun, and challenging race. We celebrated for awhile on the island, then headed back to our campsite for a bonfire, post-race beverages, and even more camp food. This was a glorious weekend. Many components were outside of my comfort zone and that turned out to be the best thing possible.

The Zombie Run: Why Themed Races are the Best

The Zombie Run: Why Themed Races are the Best - Run Leelanau
Look at my husband eating a banana in front of me. Cannibalism.

The 9th annual Zombie Run is quickly approaching. This 5k brings out some of the best costumes, make-up, and props I have ever seen. On the morning of this race, I usually get up extra early to don my best zombie make-up (please note I regularly fail at daily make-up, let alone zomb-ified make-up). As this race starts at 9AM, I cannot even imagine how early some people must get up to to put on their amazing costumes and make-up. Thank you to those that do, because you make this race so much fun.

As for me, I like to dress as various food items and zombify them. In years past, I’ve been a rotten banana, rotten tomato, and Mr. Potato Dead. My favorite costume from last year was 2 young ladies (I’m 85, I can use the term “young ladies”) dressed up as the twins from The Shining. Well done, ladies, well done.

The Zombie Run: Why Themed Races are the Best - Run Leelanau
Mr. Potato DEAD

Another item that is important to note is that this 5k starts and ends at Right Brain Brewery.

I’ve always been a fan of races that end at breweries. Ending a race at a brewery is the right thing to do and all race directors should take note.

Clearly I love Traverse City’s Zombie Run, but I’m a fan of all themed races in general. I think they are less intimidating, especially for new runners. Never completed a 5k before? Dress up and walk one. There are usually just as many walkers at themed races like the Zombie Run as there are runners. Themed races are traditionally less competitive; people are there for the show, lots of laughs, and comradery.

The Zombie Run: Why Themed Races are the Best - Run Leelanau
The year of the rotten tomato. My husband does not advise running a race in a mask, FYI

It is bittersweet that I will not be participating in this year’s Zombie Run. We are traveling north for the Great Turtle Half Marathon on Mackinac Island (watch for a race recap next week!) This is a race I have never done before, so I’m excited to check it out. But it still breaks my heart to be missing out on this year’s Zombie Run. So friends, take photos for me. I will be back next year, likely dressed as whatever food item I can get my hands on.

 

 

Runch

Runch - Run Leelanau
Lunch on the go

I recently overheard the word “Runch” and love this concept. However, I have so many questions (per usual).

For those who don’t know, the term “Runch” is where someone utilizes a lunch break to go running.

First, I’m assuming people who take a runch have a full hour lunch break. Now, do these people work somewhere that also has a shower? Or do people just go back to work after a run and not shower? (If that’s the case, these people clearly do not sweat like I do) Also, when do people actually eat their lunch??

Sadly, my job is not one that has lunch breaks. It’s more of a quick, ‘grab some food and eat it while you can,’ kind of thing. As a result, I cannot explore the best way to handle the whole ‘change clothes, run, shower, and get back to work’ thing. That being said, I would love to hear what other people who runch do.

I would also love to learn about the ways a runch makes an impact on your day. Does running on a lunch break make you better focused and centered the rest of the day? Is it nice knowing you have a run coming up mid-day to look forward to? Or is it stressful to try and squeeze a run in during that short break?

Send me your feedback – I’m truly curious. And to all those running on their lunch break today – CHEERS! You guys are all-stars.

 

 

Morning Dark vs Night Dark: The Great Debate

Morning Dark vs Night Dark: The Great Debate - Run Leelanau
It’s a glorious sight when the sun finally starts to rise

I was recently part of a #RunChat conversation on Twitter (Catch us at @RunLeelanau!) During this discussion, I learned that I’m not as odd as I once thought. See, I always thought that running in the ‘morning dark’ was scarier than running in the ‘night dark.’ All this time, I believed I was the only one who had a preference between the two different times of darkness.

(Side note, I’m mildly* afraid of the dark

 

*severely)

What a pleasant surprise to discover that others have a preference, too! Some people find night darkness more scary than morning darkness. Others are like me and find morning darkness more scary than night darkness.

What is the reason for these preferences? It’s hard to put it into words and I most certainly don’t want to speculate for others. For me, it’s more of a feeling. Sometimes the feeling of being scared while running in the ‘morning dark’ is so overwhelming that it takes some of the enjoyment out of the run.

Perhaps it’s because the ‘morning dark’ for me usually falls around 4-5AM. When I run in the ‘night dark’ it’s around 8PM. In general, there are more people awake and around at 8PM than 4AM. I feel comforted knowing that there are others alert and nearby should I need help for whatever reason.

All in all, I’m just happy to know other people feel that weird vibe while running in the dark as well. Heck, if I can help it, I don’t run in the dark at all. But can that really be avoided when you work full-time and the sun is only up for an hour in the winter? (That is hardly an exaggeration).

So do tell, fellow runners: do you prefer ‘morning dark’ or ‘night dark’ ? Or do you hate running in the dark altogether? Are there any exceptional people out there who prefer running in the dark? How do you feel safe running in the dark? I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS. Please advise.