Together we run, together we thrive

By Christopher Cudworth

VeronicaMaura

Veronica McLaughlin and Maura Hirschauer. New running buds!

Veronica McLaughlin and Maura Hirschauer had just returned from their first workout together and were hanging at the local Panera Bread enjoying some coffee when We Run and Ride asked if they’d like to talk about their workout partnership. They both laughed and looked at each other. “This is the first time we’ve been out together!”

They have been neighbors for a while, yet both are relative newcomers to the town where they live. Each has young children and thus appreciates the the time they are able to spend working out because it carries forward their own athletic histories. .

Maura mentions that she was a field hockey player in high school and college.

“Did you wear those skirts and everything?” Veronica asks her.

“Yes, we wore those classic kilts,” Maura smiles. “Now the girls still wear skirts but they’re more of an athletic cut.”

“Like skorts,” Veronica offers.

“I love skorts!” Maura agrees. “It’s like they do better with a woman’s thighs. The Spandex shorts underneath are great.”

Origins

Veronica comes from an athletic background as well. She relates her tomboy status as a kid growing up. “I have four brothers. In school I played basketball and volleyball. I would have played football if they let me.”

Given her strong desire for athletics and love for playing sports with the guys, it was likely inevitable that Veronica would tear her ACL one day. Still, the experience was traumatic. “I had the whole operation,” she relates. “They used the middle section of my patellar tendon. That’s my ACL now.”

Later came a back surgery that was even tougher to manage. “But I can’t not be active,” Veronica smiles, eyes flashing at the thought of not working out. “So I came back.”

She’s done triathlons and has now gotten her certification as a personal trainer.

Beginnings

Maura listens to this history with studied fascination. The earlier workout had been the first time the two had actually gotten together for a walk or a run. “We met each other first as moms and next door neighbors,” Maura relates. “So we’re still kind of getting to know each other.”

They both laugh. This is obviously a broader friendship in the making.

photo 3It’s been a steady road for Maura since college. She kept on running after her field hockey career was over. “But I don’t really consider myself a runner,” she says quietly. “I mean, not compared to other people. I just run 5 days a week. I’m not fast…but I did have a great running partner in college. We were the same pace and when we got out there we talked and talked.”

“But you are a runner,” Veronica smiles, overriding Maura’s genuine humility. “I know people who go out once a week and call themselves runners.”

Subcultures

The conversation takes a turn into the subject of sub-cultures within the greater athletic community. “I worry for some people,” Veronica says. “They get so caught up in something like CrossFit that they’re actually hurting themselves. They’re trying to measure up to some expectation within these subcultures that they’re competing with some crazy notion of intensity. My goal is to help people learn how to work out the proper way, be a teacher to them. That’s my background.”

“I also want to help people diversify. It’s hard when someone gets hurt in their sport and they’re miserable, depressed people. My job is to ask them, ‘What is your ultimate goal?’ So I see motivation and accountability as the job of a coach. I want to help people find a more complete picture of fitness.”

Later, in an email exchange in which We Run and Ride shared the iPhone pics with Veronica, she mentions her strong spiritual background. She discusses the significance of chance meetings and how they can provide renewed motivation to achieve goals.

Their really are so many signs in this world if you pay attention. But it all starts with getting out there where you can meet others and see the world in a new light.

That’s how we run together and thrive together. By paying attention to the signs.

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Why Meb’s Boston victory as an American confuses so many people

By Christopher Cudworth

MebOpening the Chicago Tribune the morning after the Boston Marathon, I read a wonderful article by Philip Hersh, one of the leading sportswriters in America. Not only was the article beautiful, so was the photo inside. The shot of the lead group flying through the early stages is such a wonderful illustration of what the race is all about.

And there’s that word: race. It means several different things of course. The word “race” can be used to describe an event in which we compete and it can also be used to refer to an indentifiable group of human beings.

Therein lies the problem. The idea of “race” also describes the manner in which some so-called human beings choose to use skin color or cultural characteristics as the basis for discrimination.

Race 

We’re all quite familiar with the history of racial strife and discrimination in America. The massacre of Native Americans was racially motivated, as was forced bondage of African-born people brought to the continent by slave traders.

So the history of race discrimination in America is not a pretty picture. That is why the photo of racers flying down the streets of the Boston Marathon is all the more compelling. There have been Boston Marathon victors from many races of people over the years. Black. White. Asian. People from all over the world converge on the streets of Boston to run as fast as they can and prove themselves equal to the day, the task, and the humanity of a footrace.

Citizenship

Yet the temptation to question the American citizenship of Meb Keflezighi proved too strong for some commentators to resist. Meb move to America with his family when he was 12. He spent his entire adult life here and earned his citizenship. But for some people that’s apparently not good enough. In their heads, the idea of being a true American is to be born here.

Sure, that’s one of the primary qualifications to be President of the United States. Lord knows we’ve heard enough of those citizenship questions about President Barack Obama, who was borne of a multi-racial marriage in the state of Hawaii.

That is just too confusing a scenario for some people to take. Demands for Barack’s birth certificate were politically motivated, yet those pursuits also held an underlying racism that has barely been concealed at the public level. Behind the scenes and on the Internet, racists have not held their tongues. They call our President racially provocative names and hold the man in contempt. That’s how small-minded people always act. They endeavor to empower themselves in creating a sense of “the other” through some set of rules they create to support their own supposed logic about purity of soul or race.

Religion

 

It happens on all kinds of fronts. Just try arguing a theological point sometime with a group of people who view the bible literally and see what transpires. First there’s the adamant denial that you have any sort of right to question their interpretation of the bible. When you persist in arguing the symbolic logic of the bible and how Jesus himself used metaphor in his parables, biblical literalists will argue that you are “picking and choosing” what to believe in the bible. Finally, when you point out that the Christian faith has indeed evolved, having long ago dumped its support for things like slavery, their heads just about explode. Slavery is a tarsnake of sorts in the bible. It is mentioned with such frequency and is even advocated as a form of tolerable punishment in Genesis 44:10 and as a sign of obedience in Romans 6:16 to name just two of hundreds of references to slavery, both positive and negative, in the Bible.*

So the Bible is not entirely innocent if you do not apply some form of cultural filter to its context. As a global society we’ve grown in our understanding of human and racial equality. Currently we’re engaged in a massive cultural debate about sexual orientation.  Gay people are yet another category of human beings ostracized by a literal interpretation of the bible. Forget that Jesus never mentions the issue. If a clearly brilliant yet tortured soul like St. Paul can’t get his brain around a basic biological fact, then the rest of us aren’t allowed to do so? That’s a piece of cultural insanity that might possibly be the result of Paul’s own struggle with his sexual identity.

Here are the facts: We know from genetics that the human race is the same species. All the colors of skin and racial characteristics evidenced in the human race are simply adaptations to the many environments into which human beings have migrated. Being black or gay or transgender does not reduce the humanity of any individual. That should be the end-all in human philosophy.

Science

140421123349-13-boston-0421-horizontal-galleryAnd the genetic evidence points to the fact that we all likely descended from people who evolved in Africa. Those people moved out from the continent to other parts of the world, where genetics and environmental conditions went to work on the species, producing varieties of skin color and characteristics within the human race.  We find the same principles of evolutionary adaptation at work in birds, fish and other living creatures. It’s how the world works. Yet we recognize that a species such as Homo sapiens is defined by identifiable characteristic such as the ability to reproduce. And humans certainly know how to do that.

Diversity

Yet instead of celebrating this diversification and the enormously brilliant ability of evolution to enable the human race to thrive wherever it occurs, there are people who want to deny all this evolutionary history. They consistently use a literal interpretation of the bible to do just that.

Taken at a shallow, face-value level, the bible can be interpreted to suggest that all the races of the people in the world as well as animals, plants and living things right down to a microscopic level suddenly appeared in a 7-day period at the hand of God.

One must choose to forget the fact that there are giant holes in the Genesis story to believe such a thing. The moment when wives suddenly appear for Cain and Abel has never been sufficiently explained. Not without jumping through all kinds of inventive hoops.

The whole literal interpretation thing is nothing more than a massive denial of the fact that the bible was recorded from an oral history that mashed together creation stories from the Middle East into a tenable whole. While inspiring in its wisdom about the nature of human beings, the bible was never intended as a historical or scientific document.

Ideologies

Yet that latter contention is still being used to argue and contradict real science in American classrooms. And pathetically, the same form of literal interpretation has been used to create philosophies such as Manifest Destiny that led to the slaughter of Native Americans on grounds that the white race was divined to own America. The same sort of dull-headed view of Christians as a solely white and ostensibly superior race of human beings was used to justify slavery in America as well.

It’s a sickly disturbing worldview that is not easily debunked. The harder you try to argue with biblical literalists the more they entrench themselves in the “God Said It, And I Believe It” form of theology. They simply believe you can’t question anything in the bible or the whole thing falls apart.

And indeed that is true when you take the bible literally. That form of faith really is a house of cards. That’s why the cult inside the Christian religion that abides by the literalistic worldview is so determined to defend it at all costs. Deep inside their ideology they sense a tectonic fault in logic because the practical, everyday science used to produce modern medicine and science is so clear and demonstrable. But because it runs afoul of their simplistic worldview–the one thing that gives them a sense of control in this world–it must be resisted on supposedly holy grounds.

Boston Strong

But when you gaze at that picture of the leaders of the Boston Marathon, and consider the wonderful visage of humanity it represents, you realize the small-minded threat of anachronistic worldviews is not destined to win the day. All the communal support for Boston this year is evidence as well of the humanistic philosophy that drives so much good in this world. Despite claims to the contrary, people are capable of doing good, serving others and reaching out in mercy to those impacted by an evil act like the bombings of last year’s Boston Marathon.

The terrorists who set off bombs in Boston may not have been religiously motivated, but the terrorists who crashed planes into buildings on 9/11 were. It is important to remember there are Christian terrorists and Muslim terrorists and the nationalistic terrorists who started World War II and massacred millions of Jews. The unfortunate fact is that the dark specter of a fundamental form of religion lurks behind it all.

Commonality

Those of us who choose to find commonality in our evolutionary history embrace a competitor such as Meb Keflezighi as a fellow human being and American. Those who view him as an American carpetbagger and the member of an inferior race completely miss the significance of what he represents. That is, he symbolizes the best in human achievement.

Meb also struck a victory for the aging and the ages. Rising to the occasion for an American victory, and at the age of 38, proves that it is the human spirit that matters, not the color of one’s skin, the origin of one’s nationality or even how many years you’ve collected along the way. It’s more about who you are than what you are.

And to the point, whether some people care to admit it or not, we’re all Africans deep down. Bearing that knowledge, we can appreciate that every race we run is about human achievement as a whole, not whether one race or nation is superior to the other.

*“Very well, then,” he said, “let it be as you say. Whoever is found to have it will become my slave; the rest of you will be free from blame.”

Note: This piece is also an extremely good read from a reporter at CNN. 

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We Run and Ride interviewed for a Podcast at The Conscious Runner

By Christopher Cudworth

IMG_6318Last week We Run and Ride was contacted by another blogger/runner named Lisa Hamilton who produces podcast interviews on a wide range of subjects related to running. You can hear the interview here:

http://consciousrunner.com/cr019-fascinating-conversation-former-elite-runner-chris-cudworth/

Lisa is positive person and it was a great joy to talk with her. We discussed how each one of us starts out running from a different point in life. Then as we go through the realms of competition, in my case high school, college and post-collegiate running, we learn more about ourselves.

You’re invited to tune into the podcast and hear the interview. We discussed the challenges of training balance, dealing with injuries, appreciating your performance and relating running to life.

And remember, your story is important too! If you’re so inclined to be interviewed about your experience in running, cycling or swimming, I’d love to write about you! Send me a comment through this blog or contact me at cudworthfix@gmail.com. It might be about a race you’re training for, or a cause you love to support.

Or do you have a favorite training partner or friend that you’d like to tell the world about? It’s all good! We Run and Ride! And swim sometimes. And watch out for tarsnakes. 

You’re also encouraged to sign up for notifications from The Conscious Runner.

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Lifting the lid on an important etiquette for those who run and ride

By Christopher Cudworth

Perfect Outhouse 2We Run and Ride is going to let you in on a beautiful little secret. But you must promise not to ruin what you are about to learn.

We know the location of the world’s most perfect outhouse. It is a wonderfully constructed piece of practical architecture, put together with a cheerful wood that seems to absorb sunlight. There is ample ventilation so that you don’t suffer from its purpose, yet even on the coldest, windiest day there is no draft on your hind parts.

This outhouse is perched in a park on Route 9 in Northeast Iowa, about midway between Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin and Decorah, Iowa. The park in which it sits is a nifty roadside pulloff so that you can stop, relax, do your business and move on.

I’ve driven that stretch of road perhaps 200 times in my life. Yet never had I discovered this great little outhouse until recently. Of course it is clean because it may not receive that much use in being so far off the beaten path. But there’s something more. People seem to respect the Perfect Outhouse and do not pee on its seat or leave half pooped up toilet paper flapping under the lid. That is called etiquette. Why ruin a good thing?

Standards of behavior

Ever should be the case in any public outhouse. We all know the abuse dished out at Porta-Potties and public outhouses wherever we go. Pun intended.

For some reason a certain segment of the population, let’s call them Men for lack of a better word, cannot seem to figure out how to go to the bathroom without making a splashy, crappy mess of things.

Visit any public restroom in the world and you’ll find pee on the seat of many of the toilets. That’s true in airports, restaurants or the line of Porta Potties at any major race. Let’s not even talk about restrooms at rock concerts. Please.

Apparently there is an entire population of men out there who simply don’t care if they have good aim or not. They whip it out and let it fly.

Reparations

Which means the next person who visits that stall has to deal with wiping down the seat or lining it with toilet paper. Heck, in airport restrooms the pissy problem is even institutionalized. There are plastic swoop-arounds that provide a clean seat for the next person no matter how badly the guy before has missed.

Not being a frequent denizen of women’s restrooms, We Run and Ride cannot speak on behalf of the condition of those facilities on average. But it’s more than likely there are women pigs out there too who find ways to junk things up for those who follow. Is there anything more disgusted and distracting than wet toilet paper on the floor? Not much.

But it’s men or anyone guilty of poor aim with the penis that are primarily responsible. It’s good that God generally gave guys only one of those things. Too many seem to have problems learning how to use the one they’ve got.

So this is a call to men who run and ride to pay attention to their pricks when going to the bathroom. There is no reason not to lift the lid when you go. Use the tip of your shoe if you don’t want to touch the seat. Concentrate, and aim. But first, lift the lid. Leave it up when you go. And put it back down when you finish. That way women don’t drop their tushies into the wrong position.

Forgetful and disrespectful

Hey, I’ve been guilty and forgetful like a million other guys. But I try. We should all try. Because when you get to a race or are out on a workout and have to go you should think of the dozens of other people who must follow in your pissy little wake.

The world is most definitely co-ed these days. Women actually have you outnumbered, guys. According to some reports, there are more women runners than men. Every event from a 5K a marathon and beyond has women participants. So gentlemen, stop being a heathen caveman with your crank. Quit pissing on the seat.

Strange experiments

If you happen to have some kind of strange disaster from the other end, do your best to clean it up. Some guys seem to be conducting strange experiments with their bowels once they reach the can. One wonders if they simply don’t listen to the signs of the body somehow. It’s as if going to the bathroom is some kind of shocking, surprising event in their lives. The results are tragic at best.

So let’s face it: public restrooms and outhouses and Porta Potties are a necessary but imperfect commodity. It’s up to us to render them usable. They can’t do it on their own.

Perfect OuthouseSurprises

Even when well-designed, an outhouse can shoot you a surprise. A woman companion on a camping trip once sat down to use an open latrine at a State Park and got a rude surprise when the liquid below splashed back up and hit her private parts. Her shriek could be heard throughout the camp. And who can blame her? That should not happen to anyone.

Even women have to pay attention to some simple rules. Don’t throw things down the toilet that can’t be flushed. Plan ahead with your period if possible. There are ways to handle that stuff that don’t cause other people, especially maintenance folks, problems of unnecessary magnitude.

In fact, why create unnecessary surprises for anyone? Try to abide by some etiquette in your outhouse visits. And if you happen to visit the world’s most Perfect Outhouse out there in Northeast Iowa, try to appreciate its charmingly refined nature.

But put the lid up when you go, and put it down when you leave. It’s that simple guys.

See you in line.

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Take a deep breath

By Christopher Cudworth

Look at me! I'm breathing! I'm really breathing!

Look at me! I’m breathing! I’m really breathing!

As autonomic responses go, breathing places right up there with the best of them. You might be surprised to learn that breathing does have a bit of company in the autonomic nervous system however, which regulates heart rate, digestion, salivation, perspiration, pupillary dilation, micturition (pissing), sexual arousal (umm, you know that one) and swallowing.

That’s like the Hall of Fame of being alive. And in a typical run or ride, we probably experience all those sensations at some point, especially if we’re riding with someone who looks cute in their bike or run shorts.

Just breathe

However today we’re here to talk to you about breathing, which is highly recommended among the autonomic options listed above. Granted, the Good Lord, along with some really small creatures that learned to like oxygen, determined long ago that breathing was a good thing.

But let’s pause for a moment and think about the mechanics of breathing, so that we can appreciate exactly what it is going on when you take a breath.

Now, you can trust an organization such as the American Lung Association to explain it to you. Or you can simply trust me to tell you. And here goes.

Breathing with the experts

Here’s your description of breathing according to the American Lung Association. Your lungs are part of a group of organs and tissues that all work together to help you breathe. This system is called the respiratory system. The main job of the respiratory system is to move fresh air into and get waste gases out of the body.”

Oh my gosh! That last bit suggests that your lungs help you fart! Well, I already covered that subject in yesterday’s We Run and Ride, so we won’t go any more deeply into that. So let’s focus on the “move fresh air” part of breathing, so that we learn something more from this blog than how funny it is to fart in the presence of others. Which is better known as breathing through you butt. Which really is a talent.

What it’s all about

Actually when you take a deep breath (as suggested in the title of this blog) all kinds of oxygen bits and nitrogen and all kind of other gasses that aren’t worth mentioning are sucked into your lungs. If you’re lucky the oxygen gets all jiggy with your lung tissues and is absorbed into the blood stream. From there it moves around your body carried by red blood cells that deliver oxygen to your muscles. That’s just one of the important functions. Your brain needs oxygen to survive too. So do a whole lot of other bodily organs. In fact a person who is dying or even officially dead may continue to breathe well after the rest of the autonomic functions sort of shut down. So the instinct to breathe is pretty powerful. It is perhaps one of the most powerful instincts known to all living things.

Swimming and breathing

If you want to test this instinct for yourself, take up swimming. That’s what I’ve done recently and let me share with you that the hardest thing about becoming a better swimmer is learning how to breathe. How can such a natural function become such a difficulty? Get in the pool and find out for yourself.

You learn the hard way how important it is to breathe when you don’t do it well. Your brain goes into this weird zone where it thinks it is going down for the count. So your head bobs up and your butt drops in the water. Short of standing up in the pool, you could not be in a less conducive position to propel yourself through the water.

The panic really starts if you don’t suck in some air. It’s rather amazing how such a short moment in time can seem so damned long. So you stop and flail like a dolphin with a diaper full of fish crap and look around the pool to see if anyone else is watching you.

But if you concentrate by breathing out through the nose things improve a little bit. For one thing, the bubbles aren’t so loud. Which to me is really an important part of the swimming experience. Otherwise the entire enterprise sounds as if you’re immersed in some crazy kid’s music video with insane orange and blue fishes boobling around your head while a highly repetitious bubble song plays in your head.

That’s not a recommended training environment. So breathe through your nose goddamnit. I said that for my own benefit by the way.

Breathing rhythms

Once you get a breathing rhythm down you can actually swim a couple lengths of the pool. But if you get lazy and forget, the whole panic operation starts again and you can run out of oxygen in your lungs to the point where you entire body starts to sink into itself like an oblong black hole. Then you really do start to sink. See, a set of lungs full of oxygen helps you float. An empty set of lungs won’t.

Out of the water

Of course all these same principles apply in activities such as running and riding. Back when I won races people asked me all the time what I did to breathe correctly. In truth I had this weird pattern. It went like this: hehhh hehhh hehhh heehhhh…heeh heeh heeh heeehhhh. So I gues that’s a four count breathing system that covered about six strides. Seriously. That’s how I breathed.

It worked. Except when a side stitch came along. Then the breathing sounded like this: Heeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh shit.

And I slowed to a stop, grabbed my side and tried to relax the diaphragm.

Not that diaphragm, silly boy or girl. Although I will admit that I once dated a woman who used one of those other diaphragms and it was a little like making love in a Volkswagen Beetle. You kept hitting your head on the roof, shall we say.

Diaphragm diagrams

urlThe diaphragm that regulates your breathing is both strong and delicate. If something comes along that sends it into spasm, it really hurts. Your whole chest convulses and you can’t breathe deep enough to keep the oxygen flowing. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do. But most experts recommend trying to breathe with your belly to drive the motion rather than high up in the chest.

Breathing that way is in fact always recommended. Your breathing diaphragm is your friend, people. Don’t forget it.

Breathing on the bike

It’s important to govern your breathing when you’re on a bike as well. Understand that the typical road bike or tri-bike riding position is not necessarily conducive to optimal breathing. Some have even suggested that riding bibs are better for breathing than regular shorts because the shorts constrict your belly breathing? I’m not so convinced of that, but anything such as bib shorts that make it nearly impossible to go to the bathroom absolutely must be better for you right? I mean, don’t we all make sacrifices for our respective shorts, I mean sports?

More practically, please make sure that your handlebars are wide enough because that opens your chest for better breathing. So who knows?

Beyond that you can establish a rhythm for different types of riding. Uphill, don’t always breathe on the same pedal stroke. Instead try to spread your breathing out, as if you were smoothing over the effort.

Downhill you may find yourself holding your breath as you concentrate. That’s not really good either. Take a deep breath…

Sprinting

In a sprint you may not breathe so much as you hiss and spit and fight with all your might. Frankly that’s okay. Even runners who sprint 100 meters don’t breathe that much.

That’s because the gas we call oxygen is a lazy-assed element. It doesn’t go anywhere on its own. In the atmosphere it must either be sucked or blown by pressure systems. The same is true in your body. That’s why the autonomic nervous system works your lungs like a bellows, sucking and blowing and generally moving oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out of your body.

You really become conscious of breathing when you take up an un-sport such as yoga. Pretty much all you are doing is breathing so that your body goes into all sorts of contortions that cause you stretchy pain and teach you that you are a tight little monkey person with bad hip flexors. That’s yoga. So breathe.

So consider, having to breathe hard to exercise sort of sucks. But it really blows. Yet you should consider the alternatives before you get too upset about having to work with your autonomic nervous system on the issue of breathing. Without it, everything really slows down a bit. Just watch me in a pool. You’ll begin to believe in the merits of breathing. Real fast.

See you out there, fellow breathers.

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How getting behind in your workouts and relationships can be a good thing

Christopher Cudworth:

Forgot the headline! How getting behind in your workouts and relationships can be a good thing

Originally posted on We Run and Ride:

By Christopher Cudworth

7f803b27d0273d33_118161762.previewWhen you become involved in a romantic relationship with a person who runs, rides and swims, the rules of engagement are a little different.

For example, in a normal relationship it may be several years before you hear that person fart for any reason at all. People try to keep such indelicate behaviors to themselves.

But when you date an athlete and join them on a 10-miler the morning after a healthy dinner out on the town, there is a very fair chance you will hear them fart not just once, but multiple times.

If you are a man who considers that type of behavior unladylike, or you are a woman who considers the sound of a man farting a sign an insult to your honor, you are perhaps in for even more rude surprises as the relationship grows.

Training Methods

peeAthletes tend to be an earthy…

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How getting behind in your workouts and relationships can be a good thing

By Christopher Cudworth

7f803b27d0273d33_118161762.previewWhen you become involved in a romantic relationship with a person who runs, rides and swims, the rules of engagement are a little different.

For example, in a normal relationship it may be several years before you hear that person fart for any reason at all. People try to keep such indelicate behaviors to themselves.

But when you date an athlete and join them on a 10-miler the morning after a healthy dinner out on the town, there is a very fair chance you will hear them fart not just once, but multiple times.

If you are a man who considers that type of behavior unladylike, or you are a woman who considers the sound of a man farting a sign an insult to your honor, you are perhaps in for even more rude surprises as the relationship grows.

Training Methods

peeAthletes tend to be an earthy bunch not by choice, but by need. If the gas roiling around in your gut needs to come out in order to comfortably maintain your pace of choice, then farting no longer qualifies as unacceptable behavior. It’s part of your training and you fart because it is part of the sport. Men fart. Women fart. All kinds of people who work out can be heard farting because that’s what people in motion do. You’d have to be pretty anally retentive to want to run 13.1 miles with a butt blaster tied up with a clincher ribbon.

So it’s best to get wise and learn that farting is nothing more than a bit of sporting dialect. It is the language of eating and activity, running and riding. The jury is still out on swimming and farting. One cannot tell one kind of bubbles from another in the pool. So we’ll leave that subject to whet later.

Words for Farting

Athletes may well be the fartiest people in the world. That’s why there are so many words for farting. Ben Applebaum of the Huffington Post lists more than 150 different terms for farting. You can check it out, and your personal favorites may not be on this list, but some of them are pretty creative. You’ve got your Ass Acoustics. Anal Exhale. Anus Applause is rather nice. Ass Flapper sounds pretty specific if you ask me.

fart051Backend Blowout is farting term that may have particular resonance for cyclists dealing with the consequence of riding in the draft of someone making Back Blasts and Barking Spiders.

The list goes on and on, and grows more colorful, shall we say, as we go.

Answering the Call of the Wild Burrito. Booty Bomb. Brown Cloud. Butt Sneeze. Colon Bowlin’. Cornhole Tremor.

For all the color and honesty of true gas, it is still kind of embarrassing when you’re the one doing the farting. You can say “excuse me” all you want, but when you fart again just a half-mile down the road, the last “excuse me” just doesn’t seem to cover the new revelation coming from between your butt cheeks.

And when you’re running or riding with that significant someone, at some point you just have to accept that the person with whom you’re in a relationship is just as human as you are. They fart. They take dumps just like you too.

As the relationship goes on you might even give up solo bathroom time. When you’re both in a hurry to make the early morning group ride, there’s simply no time for farting around in the bathroom. Then again, nothing says “I Love You” like taking a dump when someone else is brushing their teeth. Really. It’s true. You might want to think that one through however.

Fart History

UnknownWhen we were kids, the phrase “Who Cut one?” meant pointed fingers and the embarrassing admission that you were indeed the one who Cut the Cheese. Farting was funny then. But here’s some news. It’s still pretty funny today. Farting has always been funny.

It can even be a funny weapon of sorts, like the French fellow in the Monte Python movie The Holy Grail whapping both hands on his helmet and proclaiming, I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”

Classic Farts

My personal favorite fart from a girl came when an 8th grade male friend and I were sitting on a wooden porch playing cards with a close female friend of ours. She leaned forward to choose a playing card from the deck and let rip one of the loudest, most resonant farts you have heard in your life. It helped that the space below the porch served as something like an echo chamber. I’m pretty sure several chipmunks turned up deaf and confused the next morning, wandering around the yard as if Chip and Dale had gotten into some crack.

Which, technically speaking, they had.

The Mother of Necessity

It’s never technically polite, per se, to fart in the company of the opposite sex. Yet runners and cyclists drop those rules in a pinch. You might say we’re more honest about all sorts of bodily functions. If you’re cycling with women and everyone proclaims the need to make a pit stop it is a classy move to turn your head because there’s simply no way for a lady to do that business in a dignified way in the open field. But farting? You just do that on the move. No need to stop a good training run or ride because someone has to pass some gas. Right?

So farting is one of the tarsnakes of athletic endeavors. It might be necessary to raise a stink in order to run and ride, you think?

The Fairer Sex

For certain I’ve heard far fewer women fart than men. To many men of course a good fart is a work of art with a requisite admiration for a particularly good retort. “Man that felt good,” a guy will say in full stride. The other men will nod and laugh in concert, often trying to work up a fart themselves in response to their good buddy’s anal fortitude. It’s what guys do. Beer farts? Chili farts? Much the better. They add flavor on the fly.

Women generally have more class than that. But not always. Women who train regularly with men learn there are no rules that apply to men that do not also apply to them. Sure gals will try to keep it down to a Fanny Beep, and probably ride to the side of the road so that their Free Speech is not infringed. That’s called Feminism, in case you did not know.

My own mother actually called the act of farting a “poofer.” That always grossed me out. Most of my farts at that age were anything but Poofers. They were more like butt blasts, and as I grew older and ran for miles with high school and college teammates, gas was a common language and no one called them poofers. More like Rump Rippers. A few even Steam Pressed the Calvins.

So if you find someone to date and decide to hit the road with them running or riding, go easy on the etiquette. Think of every fart they make as a sign of endearment. They trust you enough to let their Turd Burps talk. Besides, with everything in the world being stored in the Cloud these days, farts may turn out to be the best way to share our inner emotions. And isn’t that sweet?

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Running and riding into lack of sleep

By Christopher Cudworth

Tom and FredMy training companion and I determined a few years back, when we were dumb enough to think such things, that the only thing standing in the way of increased training and better performance was the time we spent sleeping.

See, our party schedules were both well-planned and spontaneous. Running with a pack of equally motivated young women, we drank and stayed up late whenever we could.

Now, consider that our training plan called for mileage between 60-80 miles per week. That meant we were averaging between 8-11 miles a day. We usually ran those miles hard too. We called our new training plan 6+6. Do all your training at six minute pace and cut the nightly sleep commitment down to six hours a night. That should give us plenty of time to get fit, right?

You know how it ended. We both got sick in under two weeks. The common cold sits in waiting for people who do stupid things. Breaking down your body’s germ resistance by engaging in hard training and lack of sleep is the absolute best way to get sick. Guaranteed.

Coming out of our collective colds, we were doing a slow six-miler together and spitting green phlegm all over the ground. Hacking, coughing, and between it all laughing that our “plan” had failed so miserably.

“What were we thinking?” my friend asked. “You gotta have sleep to train.”

“We weren’t thinking,” I agreed. “We were doing. There’s a difference.”

Sleep management

photo (13)Sometimes living with a lack of sleep is a necessary demand. At times when your schedule has you working late and rising early, there is no choice but to forge ahead. Here are few tips on how to get through a sleep-deprived day:

1. Drink water. The best thing to do is to get plenty of hydration. You don’t want to be both tired and dehydrated. That’s an additional stress on the body.

2. Take a pill. Taking a light pain reliever like a single ibuprofen seems to help get you through segments of the day. If you’re achey and tired a pain reliever can help you get through the humps of fatigue or crankiness. That takes away part of the perception and real physical effects of fatigue.

3. Take some zinc. To ward off potential cold germs, get some zinc pills such as Cold-Eaze. They help prevent cold germs from jumping into your weakened sinuses.

4. Eat light, healthy and often. Instead of gorging yourself at lunch because you’re tired and hungry, spread your eating across the face of the day. Small meals are easier to digest and don’t require so much energy. Also go light on the sugars and caffeine. They just lead to energy crashes. Go smooth and predictable. Stay in touch with your body.

5. Conserve energy at the right times. Keep conversations and social interaction to a minimum when you’re sleep-deprived. If you have a meeting to attend, plan your comments wisely and work on remaining focused where it counts.

6. If you can, sneak in a nap. Get to your car and find a quiet spot to park where you can recline the seat and catch some zzzzzs. Set your phone alarm or watch to wake you up in case you fall into a deep sleep. If you commute by train, you know what to do. Get comfortable and close your eyes. It helps.

7. Alter your schedule. If you have the flexibility to do so, alter your schedule for the day. Being sleep-deprived puts you at risk for poor judgment and mistakes anyway.

8. Be positive in your head. Overcoming a state of sleep deprivation requires focus, concentration and positivity. Be careful how much you talk about how little sleep you got. Thoughts like that tend to be self-affirming. Instead focus on a checklist of things you set out to do and literally mark them off the list as you go.

What to do when you get home…

photo (2)The temptation is the crash and take a drool nap. And you can do that if you must. But be smart too. The goal once you get home after a day of sleep deprivation is to set yourself up for a night of much better, longer sleep. You can’t really make up for sleep lost, but you can fortify yourself for the coming day or week.

So get things done that need doing, and relax. But be careful not to snork off watching TV. Then you’ll wake up and go to bed and perhaps find yourself unable to get back to sleep. You’ve used up that precious melatonin that helps you get to sleep and you’re into the danger zone of not being able to doze off.

So it’s much better to turn in at 8 or 9 o’clock and get to real bed rather than messing with the risk of falling asleep and having to get up and start it all over again. That path can lead to insomnia in both the short and long term.

Developing good sleep habits 

1. Make it a habit. Learning what you need to do to get good sleep is critical in both the short and long term. Eliminating distractions like televisions, iPads or iPhones is important to developing a consistent, predictable foundation for getting to sleep and staying asleep.

2. Turn it all off! Don’t let vibration alerts from your phone wake you up intermittently. Turn the TV off. Background noise from a TV is not consistent and can even be subliminally disturbing.

3. Communicate with your companion. Some nights you need to be left untouched and undisturbed. Tell your companion if you need to rest without being touched or snuggled. Sometimes “too tired” means a need for quiet with no distractions.

These tips are all designed to help you cope with times when you’ve missed out on sleep. If you’re in a situation where sleep deprivation is chronic and consistent, you’ll need to be even more diligent about the steps above because stress builds up in your system when you don’t get enough sleep. That’s when bad colds creep in and interrupt everything from hour work schedule to your workout schedule. And that’s not where you want to be.

Sleep aids

Eyes Have ItSleep aids are effective tools for overcoming broken sleep habits and for dealing with periods of high stress or restlessness that impact our health and undercut our ability to cope. Taking a sleeping pill is no small matter though. There’s an “entrance” and and “exit” period on both ends of the evening, and you need to plan for that by being near and ready to go to bed when sleepiness hits, and to give yourself time to emerge from the effects of the pill in the morning.

Anxiety and sleep

I clearly recall the period when for reasons of stress as caregiver to a wife with cancer, I was prescribed Lorazepam to combat anxiety and help with sleep. It is a subtle yet powerful little drug. It helps with anxiety, a common sleep disturbance.

The little pills helped, and the side effects were not profound.

Yet when I went riding on Saturday morning it was clear there was something missing or messed up in my blood chemistry. I was sluggish and tired feeling, unable and unwilling to respond to riding challenges.

After a while I gave up trying to be the cyclist I was before that period of stress and broken sleep. While I was on that drug it was important to be smart in my riding, rather than tough. I elected to ride for different reasons, and eliminated competition from my schedule. The more important goals were getting good sleep, taking care of my obligations in real life and using running and riding as personal rewards and stress relievers.

Riding dreams

Admittedly acting like a kid again.

Still, you have to learn some lessons again and again.

Just last weekend we were out late at a party and I tried to get enough sleep but I woke up feeling “sleep sore” inside and out. It’s weird feeling knowing you’re basically healthy but lacking enough sleep. There’s a fatigue inside your chest that makes breathing harder. You can quickly get a sore throat, a warning sign that a cold is pending. You might crave more water and more sweets. In other words, your body is out of balance and riding or running in that condition is not going to see you at your best.

Sure enough, about 8 miles into a morning ride at 20mph into a west wind my legs gave out. I didn’t blow up, but I just didn’t have it. My riding companion rolled off the front and the gap between us widened with every 10th of a mile. Finally she looked back and held up. When I caught her I apologized but she understood. We’ve all been there at one time or another.

The rest of the ride went fine. So it’s hard to tell sometimes how much poor performance from lack of sleep is physical and how much is mental. In either case, it does not generally add up to good results.

Sure, for a big race we can “get up” for the event and sleep doesn’t matter. I’ve run plenty of PRs on far less rest than I would have liked. But that’s the price of getting excited for a race. Yet your recovery program should include plenty of sleep and rest to help your body restore is physical and mental potential.

Getting proper sleep is absolutely vital to short and long term performance in whatever you do. For those of us who run, ride and swim it is both an investment and an insurance policy. The investment part stores up fitness for performance. The insurance part protects against getting sick.

And you can take that program to the bank. Or to bed. Whichever works for you.

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On the questions raised by a pair of wheels

By Christopher Cudworth

Filling stationRecently I dined at the Filling Station, a restaurant that features American memorabilia in its decorations. Inside the store were some of those classic pumps that once showed the gasoline you were pumping into your vehicle.

Outside the place hung a giant Sinclair sign. And it struck me how much our lives have changed since the innocence of those happy dinosaurs and 1960s mentality toward gas-guzzling cars and trucks.

Having recently been invited to attend a class at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago in which the subject was global warming, the subject has been on my mind ever since.

I drive a Subaru that is ostensibly as emissions neutral as it can be. Auto emissions have been cut quite a bit since the 1960s and 70s when smog was gacking up the air in almost every major city in America. Yet cars aren’t our only atmospheric problem. We burn all kinds of fossil fuels from oil to coal and it’s all been going on hot and heavy for the last 100 years or so since industrialization became the foundation for the world’s economies.

It wasn’t so long ago that activities such as farming and trapping drove America’s economy. That’s just 250 years ago, which isn’t even a blink in time when you come to think about it. There are toilet holes in castles much older than the American Republic.

Fossil Fuels SinclairAnd yet we’re the ones who drove all this forward. We invented and popularized the automobile. At the same time we cranked up airplanes, then jet planes and finally rocket ships to the moon. America is one big smoking engine of a place.

The technology we’ve exported to the world is both wonderful and terrifying. We’re the tarsnake of the world, a great blessing and a horrible curse all at once.

We can’t even make up our mind if all this technology and the science that drives it is even real. There are millions of Americans who apparently believe that human beings once c0-existed with dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptors. The movie Jurassic Park didn’t help things much. It brought that strange psuedo-Christian fantasy to life on the big screen. And if it happens in the movies, why can’t it be real? Wasn’t the move The Ten Commandments how things actually happened?

I so recall the innocence of the Sinclair dinosaur signs at gas stations across the East Coast where I grew up. I basically believed that melted dinosaurs turned into gasoline. Sure, it was a bit naive. But it was kind of cool thinking about all those brontosaurs making my dad’s 1965 Buick Wildcat go so fast.

Surface beliefs like that are innocent only so far as they don’t actually inform public policy. Yet that level of understanding seems to be acceptable to millions upon millions of Americans who take a literal view of the bible quite seriously. It’s so naive as to be dangerous, yet it has proven sufficient to fund a Creation Museum in Kentucky that has turned all sorts of crazy claims about biblical literalism into a moneymaking enterprise that is basically based on deceit of the tallest order. The entire premise of the museum is that science as we know it is wrong. Only the Bible can tell us truth. The motto of the Creation Museum is “Prepare to Believe.” What’s a motto? Nothing, what’s a motto with you? (The Marx Brothers).

So it kind of makes you wonder if it is going to be possible to convince so many literal-bible-believing Americans that global warming is really a problem if they can’t even grasp even the basic science behind the origins of living things and how the world actually came to work like it does. Because when you think that dinosaurs died off completely in the Great Flood, then how could you possibly think that the stored energy in dead carboniferous materials could contribute collect in the bedrock of the earth’s crust. Oh, right. That Flood thing again. The Flood did everything we see geologically, you see. It’s that simple. Right.

And if there’s no connection to be learned from the carbon fuels we’ve dug up and burned with the condition of our atmosphere and the potential demise of the human race, then there’s no logic to taking any measures to curb carbon pollution.  If people refuse to understand the geological processes or time necessary to produce fossil fuels in the first place, they definitely cannot imagine what those forces of nature can do the world in the future.

That whole scenario is simply unimaginable for two types of people: Those who don’t get science and those who choose not to accommodate it for reasons of economic convenience. Working together, that cartel forms a wicked combo. Religious people with a worldview they seek to defend and rich people with the means to debunk legitimate science are a damned dangerous alliance.

And that’s where we find ourselves in this modern age.

So you can imagine there is not too much sympathy either for people trying to make a simple difference by riding their bikes to work, or running to raise money for preservation and conservation. People are active every day doing some small part in trying to reduce the impact the human race has on the world around us. But thanks to the selfishness and lack of concern on the part of so many, we keep running into trouble.

In fact too many people believe the world is not even worth saving because only God could destroy. Or they believe that the bible says the world  can’t be saved at all.

So it’s hard to reconcile the seemingly oppositional worldviews of people on opposite ends of the science and truth spectrum, isn’t it? No wonder America is so divided.

photo (1)Yet there are people trying to make a difference in our collective understanding of the world as it is. And that’s why I attended the class on global warming at the Lutheran School of Theology.

Because instead of viewing the issues of religion and science as irreconcilable opposites, there is a movement to make sense of the Bible in context of science and what our values have to do with the way the world works, and doesn’t.

But it’s hard work. It’s as if we’re trying to take people from the age of wagon wheels to the age of (somewhat ironically) carbon bike wheels in one fell swoop. There is a lot of stubborn resistance by the people who view themselves as stalwart patriots and pioneers of the REAL America, to steal a phrase from Tea Party and the likes of Sarah Palin. Their stubborn anachronism is now tied to a brand of patriotism that is anti-intellectual, anti-science and anti-progress. So it seems that dinosaurs really do still exist among us.

Consider that one of the interesting concepts in the class I attended at the Lutheran School of Theology was a term scientists have invented to describe our position in history. They call this the Anthropocene Era. That is, this is the age in which we’re at risk from extinction through the influence of humankind. And much of it relates to global warming.

Yet people who refuse to consider the possibility that human beings could have that much influence on our climate simply throw their hands in the front of their faces when they hear such things. To them in part we owe 20 years of delayed action on global warming. That delay could wind up costing us dearly in the next 50-100 years.

Not everyone thinks like that, of course. There are plenty of people who easily reconcile their religious beliefs to science. That means they can imagine also the moral and practical benefits of something so simple as riding a bike to work in place of driving a car. Throughout the world there are cities encouraging more people to ride bikes. There are even cities like Chicago carving bike lines out of skyscraper canyons so that cycling is safer for those willing to reduce carbon emissions through personal effort.

If you take 10 million cars off the streets each day, or perhaps 100,000,000, there is going to be a difference long term in the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air. Then moderate the amount of coal we burn in power plants, replace it with wind energy or solar, and suddenly the carbon footprint of daily life is reduced.

But not if people are so stubborn in their beliefs that they cannot conceive of a world that actually operates in predictable, measurable natural laws and the human interaction with those laws that leads us to pollute and disturb even the global climate.

It’s a very strange, somewhat sad intersection in the history of our world. We live in the most technologically profound and scientifically informed age in the history of the human race. Yet there are those who simply want to deny the potential enlightenment and progress these things offer because it does not coincide with their radically primitive view of the world.

I stare at those wagon wheels in the photo above and think: Were such wheels really the beginning or the end of mankind?

 

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Why the Boston Marathon is a vital symbol for social order

By Christopher Cudworth

photoWhile doing some digging in the back yard to move some sidewalk pavers I tipped up a 2’ X 2’ stone and found a colony of orange ants scurrying around. Technically they were probably a species of red ant. I’m more of a birder than an insect specialist. Yet I do find ants fascinating. 

There are 12,000+ species of ants the world. In terms of evolution, that would rank them as considerably more successful than human beings. Sure, on the surface it appears we dominate the earth. Yet our superior brain power sometimes leads to arrogance. We mess up our own colony and fail to account for our grandiose mistakes. Perhaps the ants are smarter than we are in some way? 

Social order

HoneycombYet we attempt to calculate our place in the world. We sometimes look to creatures such as ants or bees to help explain our own social structures. We talk about the sophistication of ant cultures as if, by their orderly instincts they somehow elevate our own by comparison. The ant farms we kept as kids were a transparent way to show that working together can turn something like dirt into a wonderful home. 

We know that ants live in highly organized societies. There are workers and soldiers and nursemaids and queens. All play a role in the life of the colony. As far as we can tell, ants live this way without question. But so do human beings in many cases. There might be a Dave Matthews or Bill Maher or two among the ants to put this all in perspective, cracking wise about the inane dedication of ant colonies to their roles as ant rulers and laborers. Our own society struggles with those roles. How much conformity is enough? What is more important to our survival, liberal or conservative instincts?

To their credit

Ants don’t seem to need political commentators to explain their lives. Their instincts rule the day. Yet this biological fact may yet include a capacity for play. In nature, the activity we call play often functions as a tool for learning and governing social interactions. Wolves engage in play from a very young age to determine dominance within the pack. It measures fitness and assigns relational roles to both males and females in the pack. Without play there might be need for actual conflict. It’s a phenomenon that exists throughout nature. It is particularly important to human culture.

The human race uses play to help define social order. Our Olympic games simulate battles to some degree. We count medals and show nationalistic pride. There is pageantry and symbolism in sports at the highest level. It helps us determine our perceived pecking orders and learn about the nature of human beings from other countries and cultures. It’s one way to work out our differences and celebrate our commonality. 

Big races

That’s also what makes an event such as the Boston Marathon so significant. Recall also that the New York Marathon was cancelled two years ago due to a highly calamitous natural event when Hurricane Sandy washed all the way up into Manhattan. Some propose that such events may become more commonplace as global warming takes effect around the globe. If sea levels rise as predicted, hundreds of coastal cities will have to respond. We’re looking a lot more like ants living in a colony every day. 

Random acts of terror

Boston Marathon bombing photo from the Boston Globe website (link provided)

Boston Marathon bombing photo from the Boston Globe website (link provided)

Yet events like the Boston marathon bombing or the 9/11 attacks are much more immediate and profound. The breach in the social order is as stunning as a hail stone to the head. We can label the acts of those bombers random or calculated and it makes no difference. We still have to respond.

 In those first moments we feel no more powerful than ants in a colony. We use our instincts and start to act. It’s been happening throughout human history. From the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem to the invasion of Poland by Hitler, the human race keeps having to deal with anthropogenic incursions on peace and social order. We’re our own worst enemy. 

The human response

Yet we should recall that the terrorists who attacked the 1972 Olympics did not prevent one Frank Shorter from triumphantly winning the marathon in defiance of such disturbance. He set off a running boom that continues to change the world in positive ways. We’re ants in a good way. 

The first thing ants will do when confronted by a calamity is to set about the work of repairing the structure and ecology of their world. And that, for all their supposed inferiority to human intellect, is the best example of their highly evolved will to survive. 

Then we go beyond that as well. We study our response and communicate the best aspects of human nature so that even when evil strikes, we prepare ourselves to deal with it. And we persevere. That’s how the world works.

Critical roles

They may not think about it as such, but the role that ants play in the natural world is beyond critical to millions of plants and animals. Even the soil in which we grow food for human beings is dependent on ants who recycle organic and inorganic material on a daily basis. So there’s a purpose in their existence. Too often we are forced by religious tradition to separate the brilliance of natural evolution from our spiritual understanding of the world. The cosmic truth of both science and religion combined is much greater if we allow ourselves to admit the basic science of who we are. We share a tradition of DNA with ants as well as every other living creature on earth. It drives us to find ways to survive, to change, and to adapt. That is our hope in this world. 

The importance of play

We also continue to play because it appeals to our notions of being truly alive. We run and ride and swim to feel the world beneath our feet, our wheels and our skin. We are creatures of history, after all. Our sporting nature tells us that.

marathoners

Like a pair of red ants?

As human beings we suppose ourselves enlightened by our travels on foot and by bike. Yet there comes a moment in life when we look down on our comings and goings to realize that we’re all very small in the scheme of things. When the gun goes off for the Boston Marathon there will most likely be aerial shots from helicopters tracking the race from above. The human competitors will string out like a long line of ants. We should pay attention to that moment. 

Noble histories

It’s a noble history we share with creatures small as ants. They share the planet with us. They also share the incredible capacity to overcome adversity whatever the cost. That’s why there are 12,000 species of them and one giant species of us.

Life is random, and sometimes painful. Events happen that feel like they’ve torn the top right off the civilization we’ve created. Last year’s Boston Marathon was an event of that order. The cruel hand of unnatural circumstance and disruption tore our playful stage apart. We feel compassion and draw inspiration from those most closely affected by what we call a tragedy. We draw together as a society and sew the social order back together. It is one of the tarsnakes of existence that events that tear us apart also draw us closer together. 

That’s what will be happening as thousands upon thousands of runners again embark on the journey to Boston from a small town outside the city. It is a well-traveled route. More than 100 years in fact. Legends and legacies abound along that trail. As ants we mark our trails so that others can follow. 

It will be difficult in some ways to tell if what we’re doing in this year’s Boston Marathon is technically a form of work or play. What we definitely know is that it is a race that must be run for the inner ant in all of us. May the race be triumphant and true to the cause of ants like us everywhere. 

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