Book Review- Run the World by Becky Wade

If you could have done anything after college for one year all expenses paid, what would it have been? Becky Wade is a runner who applied for the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which is awarded to 40 graduating college seniors to fund a dream year. She was a runner at a college in Texas and chose to spend her time in foreign running communities, searching for unique and common ways people approach running and build their lives around it. In the 12 months (beginning July 24, 2012) she spent in England, Ireland, Switzerland, Ethiopia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Sweden, and Finland, she talked to recreational runners and coaches, followed the same lives as professional runners, interviewed running historians and retired legends, watched and competed in local races, and explored running routes with locals.

Wade originally came up with a list of five countries that evolved into 22 countries, some of which were spent briefly in transit. In many of the countries, she had cooking lessons by a local runner and includes a recipe at the end of each chapter of her book. Speaking of food, she found that oats, muesli, and pancakes are the breakfast of champions and there is never enough tea for runners. Other similarities Wade discovered are that Sundays are universal long-run days, kilometer repeats are a common foundation workout, and distance runners with the luxury to do so treat afternoon naps very seriously.

In the chapter on her time in England, she explains how she met up with Kenyan runners who taught her her the importance of warming up naturally, running by feel, and always wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts regardless of temperature. Runners in Switzerland taught Wade the importance of mountain trails and altitude training. She went up again in elevation when she moved on to the running training camp and hotel complex Yaya Village at 9000 feet in Ethiopia. In Australia, she joined the Melbourne University Athletics Club annual team trip and later ran in Melbourne.

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Becky Wade finished 3rd at the Chevron Houston Marathon on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017. Photo: Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle

Arthur Lydiard, running coach from Auckland, New Zealand, is attributed with starting the first global jogging boom, which was brought to the United States after US coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman visited Lydiard in Auckland. Wade ran the famous 22 mile Arthur Lydiard’s Waiatarua Circuit, considered a marathon predictor. In Japan, Wade joined an international running club, saw an acupuncturist with her first exposure to western medicine, and went to an onsen. Ending in Sweden and Finland, she experienced Finnish saunas, which are similar to onsens in that both are filled with rituals and are experienced in groups, without clothing. She also discovered competitive Finnish orienteering and was able to watch Jukola, one of the largest and most historic relay orienteering competitions in the world.

Five months after returning home to Texas, Wade ran the 2013 California International Marathon (CIM) for her marathon debut. The plan all along was to gain valuable insight from runners around the world, and pick and choose what to apply to her own training. It appears her year-long travels were a success, if her results at the CIM are any indication of this. Wade was the first female at CIM, with a time of 2:30:48, good enough for a qualifying time for the Olympic Trials and third fastest marathon time for a woman under 25.

So, what did I think of the book? I truly enjoyed it, perhaps not surprisingly, since it combines my two favorite things, running and traveling. I found the book well-written and liked reading about the friendships she gained over the year and how each country approaches long-distance running. There were several take-aways for me from the book, with probably the most important to take rest and recovery as seriously as logging the miles.

If you’re looking for an entertaining book about running and different running cultures around the world, I hope you get a chance to read this book and I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!

Link to book on Amazon

Beckyrunsaway.com

Have any of you had the opportunity to run with running groups during your travels? Have you gained any tips from running groups in other countries?

Happy running!

Donna

 

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Runnin’ Down a Dream- Being Part of an Online Running Group

I’ve always thought of myself as more of an independent runner, although the idea of running with a group always appealed to me on one level. Since I’ve always got specific half marathons that I’m training for, I always thought it would be too difficult to run with a group because they would ultimately have to conform to my running schedule or I would have to alter my schedule. I know other people run with local groups all the time and they’re training for a specific race that perhaps no one else in the group is training for, and they make it work.

Many years ago I joined a local running group and I went to the monthly meetings. They would bring in people to talk about running-related things and they would talk about specific runners in the group and events they recently completed. I don’t remember going to any running meet-ups with the group, though, and I never really clicked with any of the members. After being a part of the group for several months, I finally quit going to the meetings. This is probably not a great example since I never actually ran with any of these people.

Then I was approached in April 2018 by a blogger I know to join her online running group (well, she and her husband used to have separate blogs but they haven’t posted anything in quite some time). I agreed to join the RunninDownADream Squadrunner team. Squadrunner is an app with an easy premise. You run, import your data (linked to Strava, RunKeeper, Fitbit, MapMyRun, Runtastic, or Endomondo), answer the daily quiz for bonus points and boost a teammate. There is a daily mission that varies usually from 30 minutes, a specific number of miles, or a team mission where everyone from the team can contribute. If you complete the mission within 24 hours of it posting (and hit accept mission on the app before you run) you get bonus points on top of the points you receive for your run. In short, you get points for running, with distance, speed, and elevation factored in.

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The Squadrunner app

Teams are ranked by number of points and since joining the team, our group has consistently ranked in the “Golden Wolf” to “Silver Wolf” rankings. White Wolf is the number one team, followed by Diamond Wolf (teams 2-9), Golden Wolf (teams 10-29), Silver Wolf (teams 30-59), Bronze Wolf (teams 60-99), and so forth, down to Teddy Beta Wolf (teams 550-669). Teams are up to 20 people although some teams don’t have the full 20 people; teams with less people would obviously earn less points than teams with 20 people. Points accumulate for each month then go back to zero on the first day of every month, to re-start, but teams retain the medal they earned for that month. Our team currently has 6 gold medals and 7 silver medals.

I’ll have to admit being part of this team has influenced some of my runs, especially if I’m boosted by a teammate. Each team member can boost one person a day, giving them 10% more points while they’re boosted, for a maximum of 3 boosts from three different people for 30% more points for that run. You feel like you’re just wasting those extra points if you don’t run when you’re being boosted. It’s also made me run a bit faster if I’m boosted, wanting to get the full benefits from the boost.

Of course the best part of being part of this online running group has been the camaraderie. Over the past several months I’ve gotten to know most of the members fairly well, who are scattered throughout the US, Canada, and Europe. We chat on a private online message board using an app that we’ve all joined (different from the Squadrunner app). People sometimes post photos of their runs, running-related gear, or more personal things like photos from pets or vacations, or simply make comments about their day or events. Some are more chatty than others but I feel like it’s a space where we can all be ourselves and share pretty much anything we want. Our group is filled with some truly inspiring people and I’m happy to be a part of such a great group of people. I’ve long believed that runners are the best kind of people, and this group surely attests to that.

Probably some day I’ll join a local running group but in the meantime, I’ve got the Runnin’ Down a Dream team!

Are any of you part of a running group, either in person or online? If so, what have your experiences been like? Would you like to join our group?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

Grand Cayman Island- Beautiful Beaches, Bioluminescent Water, Stingrays, and More

If you follow my blog, you may recall I had a teaser post before the holidays on Grand Cayman Island, 10 Reasons to Skip the Cruise and Stay in Grand Cayman Island Instead. Now I’d like to dive a bit deeper in this caribbean island, beginning with the beaches. Seven Mile Beach is a world-renowned beach on the northern part of Grand Cayman Island with some of the softest powder white sand you’ve ever ran your fingers or toes through and turquoise blue water so crystal clear you can see six feet or more straight to the bottom. This is one of my favorite beaches I’ve ever been to. Parts of the beach can get crowded, especially when the cruise ships have just dropped off their load of passengers.

However, there are ways around the crowds, such as going to a part of the beach behind one of the many hotels. You may have to pay a few dollars to rent a chair and a few more for an umbrella or maybe you’ll get lucky like I did and your hotel has an arrangement with one of the hotels (Royal Palms in my case) and you can snag a chair at no charge (though we did have to pay for the umbrella) and not have hordes of people around you either. Many people assume you have to stay at a hotel to use their beach area, but this usually isn’t the case, at least not in Grand Cayman Island.

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Seven Mile Beach lives up to the hype

There are of course many other beautiful beaches in Grand Cayman Island, each with their own unique properties. Rum Point is a small beach area with shallow, clear waters and a handful of restaurants. Spotts Beach is a small beach area with some shade provided by palm trees where you can spot some turtles off past the pier if you’re lucky. East End Beach is on a more quiet end of the island with several restaurants and some shops nearby. Governor’s Beach is also a beautiful beach located near the Governor’s House and is part of Seven Mile Beach.

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Spotts Beach

One of the most unique features of Rum Point is the bioluminescent water on moonless nights. I was lucky enough to see bioluminescent water in Long Beach, California and when I saw Grand Cayman Island also has bioluminescent water, I jumped on the chance to experience it again. If you’ve never seen bioluminescent water, the best way I can describe it is when you drag your hand along the water, it’s like you’re seeing pixie dust. There are tiny plankton in the water that emit bioluminescence when they’re touched (even though you can’t feel them). We took kayaks out with Cayman Kayaks and it was an hour and a half of pure magic. I wish I had some photos but we were told to leave our cameras behind because they wouldn’t capture the bioluminescence.

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Beach in East End

We also went snorkeling with Red Sail Sports off the coast of Rum Point to an area known as Stingray City. While the coral reef wasn’t the most colorful or biggest I’ve snorkeled through, it was still one of my favorite things to do on the island. We saw loads of colorful fish in the coral and even an eel that would occasionally pop its head out of the coral. The stars of the show, though, were the stingrays. Countless stingrays were hanging out in this shallow sandbar where we could stand while the graceful creatures floated by us. Some of the guides would pick up a stingray and let snorkelers touch, hold, or kiss a stingray. The guides said if you kissed a stingray you’d have seven years of good luck.

Finally, also in the Rum Point area is Starfish Point. Some of the snorkeling trips took people here, but we had a rental car so we just drove here on our own. True to the name, there are dozens of starfish here. Technically, starfish should be called sea stars, since they aren’t fish, just like jellyfish should be called jellies, but they’ve been called starfish and jellyfish for so long, their proper names will probably never fully catch on. As a scientist it’s a pet peeve of mine, but I know I digress.

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Starfish Point

Grand Cayman Island has warm waters year-round, so you can always find something water-related to do regardless of the time of year. The coldest the water gets is around 78 degrees in February, so even then you could have your choice of how to spend your time in paradise.

Have any of you been to Grand Cayman Island? Did you love it as much as I do? If you haven’t been, are you ready to go now? What Caribbean island(s) is/are your favorite?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

Running Resolutions for 2019

This time last year I posted my so-called Running Resolutions for 2018, but if you read the entire post, you would have seen it was filled with hugely exaggerated tongue-in-cheek largely unobtainable goals meant more as a joke and certainly not meant to be taken seriously. That is until you got to the very end with my final resolution, which was the only true resolution, “Number 10- I will not take myself so seriously when it comes to running and I’ll forget every single one of resolutions one through nine!” For the record, I didn’t achieve any of those resolutions in 2018 except for number 10!

You may have guessed by now that I’m not normally a New Year’s resolutions kind of gal. I’ve always felt like if that’s what you want to do, that’s your business, but I never really got into the whole idea of making resolutions for the year. I do see the merit of having goals to strive for, but I just never sat down and formally wrote mine out.

All of this is leading me to my point in writing this post, which is I actually have a resolution for 2019, yes, a single resolution, or more like a goal really. I know by putting it out here for the whole world to read makes it more real, but here goes. I want to finish in the top three for my age group in one of the half marathons I’m running this year. There I said it. That doesn’t seem too unreasonable, does it? After all, I finished fourth in my age group at the last half marathon I ran in Arkansas, White River Half Marathon, Cotter, Arkansas-44th state and I was even dealing with anemia then, so I certainly wasn’t in peak fitness.

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I was so close to an AG group top 3 finish in Arkansas!

Looking back, the last time I placed in the top three in my age group was at the McKenzie River Half Marathon, Oregon- 36th state in March 2016. This was in Eugene, Oregon, the mecca of running and home of former runner Steve Prefontaine. Just ask any runner who Steve Prefontaine was and I’d be shocked if they couldn’t tell you unless they’re too young to know. He’s one of the most famous runners in American history. But I digress. My point is if I could place in the top three in my age group in Eugene, Oregon, where running is in these people’s blood, I should be able to do it again somewhere else.

Now, you should know I only have three half marathons planned for 2019, one in the spring (the date for a race I want to run in Delaware hasn’t been announced yet), one in Wyoming in the summer, and one in Nebraska in the fall. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of chances for me to reach my goal. I’m pretty much throwing out the race in Wyoming because based on the previous couple of years finish times for women in my age group, I don’t have a chance, coupled with the fact that it will be at almost 6,000 feet of elevation, I’ll be lucky to finish in the top 10 in my age group! That leaves the ones in Delaware and Nebraska. Both will be possible, but I’ll have to fight for a spot in the top three for both. However, if I have to run my second choice race in Delaware, I pretty much don’t have a chance for that one, which means it all rests on Nebraska if I don’t run my first choice race in Delaware.

Even if I don’t finish in the top three in my age group at any of the half marathons I’ll be running this year, I know I’ll still have fun trying! Delaware, Wyoming, and Nebraska will be states 45 through 47 in my quest for a half marathon in all 50 states, and I’ve never been to any of these states. No matter how the races go, I’ll still enjoy myself before and after the race with my family; that’s the great thing about a racecation, even if the race isn’t that great, you still get a nice vacation out of it (hopefully)!

In other news, I’ve been chosen to be a part of nuun hydration’s legacy ambassador program! Woo hoo! I’ve been a huge fan of their products for a few years now and am honored to be a part of this group. I’m also part of Honey Stinger’s ambassador program again, which I’m also excited about. If you haven’t tried Honey Stinger’s cracker ‘n nut butter bars, you should give them a try! I’ll be sure to pass along discounts for you guys when I get them throughout the year. If you don’t already follow me on Instagram, you can find me there at runningtotraveltheworld or on Twitter at runningtotravel. I often post discounts on both places when I get them.

How about you guys- do you have any running resolutions for 2019?

Happy running!

Donna