I'm a runner, and a running coach. I used to race in high school, college, and for two years as a sponsored marathoner. Every time I thought I was done running, it would find a way back into my life. In high school, I left school records (since broken). In college, I wanted to leave school records (the danger of inflated expectations).
After college, under the auspices of a small running store called Topspeed Running in Southern California, I tried again. I wanted to qualify to the US Olympic Trials for the Men's Marathon. To do so, I enlisted the services of a very unusual person.
John Bracy, one of the top Chinese martial arts teachers in the country, agreed to offer his expertise. Although his skill set was entirely geared towards martial arts and the healing arts necessary to tune up martial artists, I thought those skills might be transferrable to running. Those skills included techniques for a level of body alignment, muscle awareness, whole body integration, and peak performance strategies.
That fall of 2009, shortly after we started working together, I had a vision that changed the course of my life. I saw myself one night vividly as a runner who transcended the pure physicality of movement into perhaps the energetic. I saw myself flying effortlessly across the earth's surface, my heart exploding with joy, my legs and arms pumping so fast that even in the vision I watched in wonder at the lack of tension. I saw myself so clearly and vividly my body itself felt temporarily healed- devoid of tension but ready for anything.
Over the course of the next two years, that vision became a reality. The structural imbalances within my body were corrected, my body began to feel powerfully integrated yet relaxed, and the very motion of running felt powered by my heart and what felt like a fountain of energy and strength within my body.
I was excited, obviously. This was my chance.
Sadly, it wasn't. Every race went terribly, as the trust and ease I felt evaporated under the pressure of racing. Two half marathons in a row sent me the wrong way — one likely costing me first place. While I did get to yell at a police officer with impunity, that didn't make up for the result.
Finally I had to admit it. Something was missing. Since my body was in peak condition, I knew it had to be my mind. I knew part of it was that I was looking for both my own approval and the approval of others through my performance. Based in part on that realization and in part on my aspirations of being a coach in the future, I began a Masters in Counseling Psychology in Palo Alto.
At first, I kept racing. I won the 2011 US Half Marathon despite a bout of mild hypothermia shortly before. I placed second in the open division for the 2012 LA Marathon at the end of a brutal winter quarter of graduate school and a full blown cold
And so I tabled my running, recognizing that 100 miles of running a week and graduate school were not compatible things. I tabled it, agreeing that I wouldn't drop the possibility of even just a few more competitive races in the future. I would wait until my motivation, time, energy, and the same rich internal feel of that heart powered internal fountain of energy and strength returned.
In the meantime, I coached individuals and groups using the skillset I had gained with Bracy, the Masters degree, and USATF Certified Coach training. And after four years, the time has come to race again.
I'll be racing the Berkeley Half Marathon on November 20, 2016. I invite you to join me as I go on this journey over the next 11 weeks, detailing my internal and external process and reasoning for all aspects of training for the half marathon.
(originally published 9/13/2016)
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