Running at night in our genes

I regularly run at night, but many runners won’t. Women especially have concerns. I called my friend at the National Institute of Running Sciences for more information.

Dr. Ayer O’beck, a running researcher, says they’ve done several studies the past few years. He says the major reasons people don’t run at night are as follows:

  • Personal safety issue – 37%
  • Afraid of tripping or running into something – 21%
  • Hate missing evening TV shows – 12%
  • Moonlight interferes with brainwaves – 7%
  • Past unpleasant encounters with werewolves or vampires – 5%

Dr. Ayer O’beck adds, “You’re missing an opportunity if you don’t run at night. Our studies show night training improves race times around 12%.”

“No way, Doctor!” I insisted. “That’s statistical insanity!”

“Jim, these statistics are not insane. And why are you yelling?”

“Sorry, Ayer, but I don’t get the 12% difference.”

Dr. O’beck explained that cooler conditions at night allow runners to train harder. In addition, there’s a primal fright factor about things that go bump in the night. This instinct causes you to run faster. Also, running at night is part of human evolution. Modern man has corrupted it by forcing workouts during daylight hours.

“What? We were born to run at night?” I asked.

“It’s obvious,” Dr. O’beck said. “Just look at the Olympic symbology of the torch-carrying runner. Torches were invented for nighttime training runs. Everyone ran at night.”

“I didn’t know ancient people even trained. I thought they were too busy just trying to survive.”

“Heavens no. Most of the time food was plentiful, life was easy, and you didn’t have to go to a job for 8 hours a day. Running was what they did to keep busy. In fact, ancient peoples spent most of their daylight hours discussing shoes, running outfits, and whose torch was best.”

A woman, alone, soon is not

When there are only two people in a room, a man and a woman, and I’m the man, it’s natural for me to want her attention. This was the situation when I went to a coffee shop this morning.

coffee waiting2After doing a seven-miler early to avoid the heat, I walked to a coffee place near my house at the corner of Wall and Nebraska. The morning rush was over and the woman in front of me, electing not to purchase the caramel cinnamon roll because it’d be too much, was the only other customer in the shop.

coffee shop bakeryAfter she took a chair in the seating area, I ordered my usual 12-ounce mocha and for the first time ever, a caramel cinnamon roll.

I sat a couple tables away, noticing she had a top with stylized lettering on her sleeve that read AFS. I offered an apology for interrupting her reading of The Inlander and asked if AFS stood for Awesomely Fast Sprinter.

She said it was natural for me to think of a running-related term after I mentioned I was a runner, but AFS stood for the company she owned, Animal Fulfillment Specialists.

After a few minutes of chat, I told her the caramel cinnamon roll was beyond delicious and offered to share. Her shy smile told me it was okay to move to her table.

coffee waitingShe had flown in from the East Coast a couple days earlier. Her company provides unique experiences for people using both ordinary and unusual animals. She was in Spokane arranging a wagon pulled by a horse, an ox, a camel, and an alpaca for a 16-year-old’s birthday party.

coffee sharingWhen I remarked on the diversity of the wagon-pulling team, she said that was only the start. Riding in the wagon with the birthday celebrants were guinea hens, Peruvian ferrets, ocelot kittens, and long-haired fedoras.

When I questioned her apparent mistake, she said in the southern Brazilian state of San Rio Escalana, natives know that long-haired fedoras are not hat wear.

Though she mentioned her husband was arriving later in the day to assist with the birthday wagon, as I departed, I asked if she’d like to go on a drive in the country sometime and identify animals for me.

She shook my hand and broke into a smile. “I have lots of experience with that. I’m a great animal identifier.”

Mega monster safety tips for runners

Several runners have told me they wouldn’t know what to do if they crossed paths with a very large monster like King Kong or Godzilla.

Godzilla attack

(Godzilla – created by Toho Co. Ltd.)

Previously, I’ve written about encounters with personal-sized monsters. These are your draculas, your werewolves, zombies, and so on who are about the same size as us. Mega monsters require a completely different escape strategy.

The first rule is to never wear earphones. Mega monsters enjoy smashing and destroying things. Nearly always you can hear the sounds of destruction well before you come to it. This allows a spur of the moment running route change to avoid an unwelcome distraction.

If you’re so unlucky to have a face-to-face encounter with a mega monster, you still have hope. Your first strategy is to turn and run exceptionally fast. Mega monsters always focus on structures, vehicles and tall things. You are like an ant to a mega monster and squishing you gives it little pleasure.

Crossing paths with a mega monster doesn't necessarily mean certain death.

Crossing paths with a mega monster doesn’t necessarily mean certain death.

To avoid life termination, turn and run

To avoid life termination, turn and run

But sometimes mega monsters get into quite a huff. They’re on a mega-rampage, and they move so fast that out-running them is impossible. What do you do?

Getting stepped on is one of the leading causes of fatalities in human-mega monster encounters. However, since they have such huge feet, the pounds per square inch exerted isn’t that great. By laying next to the curb you create enough space to avoid squishinization even with a direct foot strike. As the mega monster rampages on, you’re safe and sound in his wake and able to continue with your run.

Godzilla protectIt’s easy to get angry at mega monsters for all the death and destruction they cause. However, please remember they are living, breathing creatures just like us with hopes, desires and feelings. We can always rebuild our cities. We can learn to forgive the fatalities they cause. If we work to accept the meggies just as they are, perhaps one day we’ll be friends.

Coffee and Running

Coffee can improve race times, however it must be administered in the proper way for maximum benefit. Some runners like to drink coffee before their morning run, or even before races. I’m one of the few runners who enjoys a cup while running. Though nothing is wrong with this, it won’t lead to a big improvement in run

I talked to Dr. Ayer O’Beck, Chief of Running Research at the National Institute of Running Sciences. He said the Institute is doing new research on natural substances that can improve performance. Though the compounds in coffee offer slight improvement when ingested, it’s a different story if the digestive system is bypassed.

Dr. O’Beck gave me concrete, lab-proven results on how coffee improves performance and methods for getting it inside the body. Yet he warned me not to divulge this secret. The information was being forwarded to regulating agencies to determine if they should be banned or allowed. I gave him my solemn promise. After getting off the phone, I changed my mind.

The first method I tried was snorting. Now, I know you cocaine users will get excited just looking at the below picture, but sorry for the disappointment – there’s no high.

coffee linesFifteen minutes later, I went for a 6-mile run and did four minutes faster than usual. Not bad, but I’m after super-human performance.

I took a ninety-minute bath with steaming hot water and 8 cups of finely ground coffee. However, I got bored laying in the tub, so I started giving myself a full wash. Big mistake. I ended up with a very dark, fake tan for days. The coffee grounds took so long to clean up that I lost my edge by the time I started running. This method is too much hassle.

Finally, I tried direct injection. I made a thick syrup from high-caffeine beans and applied a rope tourniquet.

coffee turniquetAs I lifted the syringe, I got a bad feeling. This is something that heroin addicts do. Those of you who are heroin addicts, I don’t mean to offend you. You guys are fine people. However, I don’t want to be a heroin addict. It was clear that injecting coffee syrup was a first step. I threw the syringe to the floor and stomped on it.

I’ve given up my pursuit of coffee-fueled, super-human, running performance. From now on, I’ll enjoy coffee the regular way.

coffee drinker


Coffee Shop Romantics

Rocket outsideI am very pleased that my good friend, I.P. Aard, unexpectedly came to Spokane to visit me this past weekend. She admitted that besides wanting to see me, she felt bad about fooling me and making me cry, which I wrote about on July 1st. She wanted to make up for that.

Rocket indoor1It was lots of fun eating out, going dancing, and getting in a run, but on Sunday afternoon, at the Rocket Bakery in the Garland district, we were enjoying coffee and pastries, when something unexpected happened.

A very beautiful woman passed by the window, and though I.P. was sitting across from me, I watched to see if she came inside. She did, and I had to contain my astonishment. It was Petra.

I last saw her while running a few weeks ago. She was going through a breakup with her longtime boyfriend and hadn’t run with the Manito Runners Club since.

She ordered something to go, and I hoped she wouldn’t see me. Though I wanted to talk, now was not a good time.

As she grabbed a straw, she saw me.

“Hello, Jim. How’s it going?” She came to our table.

I told her my leg was coming out of its rut, so my running was improving. I asked how things were going with her and Byron. She said they were officially a former couple, and she hadn’t seen him in two weeks.

Petra and I.P. had glanced at each other repeatedly, and I couldn’t avoid introducing them. I told Petra that I.P. is a good friend and a runner as well. They shook, and Petra asked if she ran with the Manito Runners Club.

“No, I’m from out of town,” I.P. replied. “I’m just here for the weekend to visit Jim.”

The conversation that followed was between just I.P. and Petra. They talked about how pretty Spokane is and all the outdoor activities you can do and how many running clubs there are. Petra did not look at me once until she had to go.

“Have a nice day, Jim,” was all she said. She walked briskly away.

I was very concerned about what just happened. I couldn’t stop myself watching Petra leave.

I.P. tossed a wadded up sugar packet at me. “You remember I have to be at the airport at two o’clock, don’t you?”


“She seems really nice. She looks like a good runner.”

“Yeah, she’s pretty good.”

Humans vs camels

I was running in the countryside recently near Waitsburg, Washington when I came to a fenced pasture with several horses and a camel. I wondered if the camel was wild and had broken in to get at the lush forage. I believe camels are native wildlife because while hiking in the Colville National Forest near the Canadian border one time, I think I saw one. It was running through a meadow being chased by a rhinoceros.

camelHowever, as I stood at the fence watching, it came over and licked my head. I determined the camel was farm-owned, not wild. I rubbed its cheeks and forehead, and said nice things like, “You’re a nice camel. You’re healthy.” and “You should try to make your neck shorter.” I resumed my run.

The camel started running with me. I picked up the pace and surprisingly, it kept up. Camels are awkward, clumsy-looking animals. They look more like plodders than sprinters. I stopped and gave more compliments. I said, “Good job. You run well.” and “Your hooves need trimming.”

I was curious who’d win a race between us. I pointed at a telephone pole up the road, told him we should sprint to it and said, “Winner take all.” Somehow, I perceived the camel understood.

We took off, and man, I was sprinting! I was just flying! But the camel stayed with me. As we approached the pole, I really poured it on and just eeked out the win.

I threw my fist into the air and yelled “Yes” and “All right” really loud. But then I thought of something that may have tainted my win. I remember as a kid being taught that camels store water in their humps. If he had a full load, then it really wasn’t fair.

I climbed the fence and put my ear to his hump. I thumped it a couple times. No echo at all. He had a full load.

Though my victory was somewhat tainted, I believe it’s still legit, and I’m very proud of my accomplishment. When I returned home, I arranged a ceremony and presented myself an award for outstanding performance. It was a touching and emotional moment that I’ll remember for a long time.

jim championLike always, I put my ribbon in a safe place for the next time I want to honor myself for extraordinary performance.


My world record-holding Kenyan teammates


Samson Kimombwa

Samson Kimombwa

This past January, a kind-of former track and field teammate at Washington State University, Samson Kimombwa, died unexpectedly in Kenya. While a student at WSU, he set a world record in the 10K, running 27:30 at a summer meet in Europe in 1977.

When I attended Washington State University in the late 1970’s, after transferring from Spokane Falls CC, I was a track team walk-on. For those unfamiliar with this term, it means that I turned out for track, but I was not on a track scholarship. Some schools won’t allow walk-ons, or if they do, it’s only by invitation because the athlete might be good enough to make the team. However, the track coach back then, John Chaplin, was very welcoming of walk-ons.

A typical race. From left, Henry Rono, Samson Kimombwa, and Josh Kimeto leading the 1976 NCAA cross-country championships

A typical race. From left, Henry Rono, Samson Kimombwa, and Josh Kimeto leading the 1976 NCAA cross-country championships.

There were three very good Kenyan runners on the team. Occasionally I would see them in the locker room. They often spoke to each other in their native language, and the only one I ever interacted with was Samson. And to call him a teammate is not accurate. Though I practiced with the team, I never ran fast enough to make the team.

After Samson set his world record and was back on campus, someone brought a magazine into the locker room that had photos of him. At the time, I subscribed to Track and Field News, and they’d had him on the cover. I’m not absolutely sure, but it seemed his compatriots were chiding him about his dress – accusing him of being a fancy boy. Samson seemed a little offended at first, but was soon laughing.

I ran with a group of middle distance runners, some of whom were on scholarship, and others, like me, walk-ons. We were all from Washington. During the school year when I was participating, the Kenyans and our group did not do the same workouts. We hardly ever saw them.

Henry Rono was the most accomplished runner of the Kenyan group. He set four world records in less than three months in 1978. That has never been accomplished by a distance runner before. He was the best runner in the world but never won an Olympic gold medal. The African countries boycotted the Olympics in 1976 and 1980 when he was in his prime.


Tree-hugger goes running

I live pretty close to a protected natural area, Riverside State Park. Yesterday I went running there because it was sunny, warm, and nature beckoned me, and I like it when that happens.

Riverside st park bridgeOne of the first things I did was give a hug to an old friend. We go back a long way.

Rivr. park tree hugMy family used to camp here when I was a kid, even though we lived only twenty minutes away. It was during one of those camping trips that I threw a rock at a robin and killed it. As I gave it a post-mortem inspection, I didn’t feel so good about what I did. I often threw rocks at birds, but after that I stopped.

I ran around on the trails, but the photo below that I took didn’t turn out so good. The fault is the camera’s, not the camera operator.

River. prk trailrunningThere’s a pedestrian bridge which I’ve run across many bunches of numerous times. When I was a student, just for a thrill I crawled over the railing in the middle of the bridge when the river was running high and hung from the cable by one hand. It really isn’t that much of a risk. For a cautious person as myself, it’s about as far as I go.

Rivr park bridge entranceI climbed a basalt pillar next to the river that has been my favorite place to take a break from running since I explored these woods as a track and cross-country runner for nearby Spokane Falls Community College.

Rivr park rock climbingI wanted to just sit and admire beauty, but realized I would be remiss if I did not exert authority over river traffic since I was in a gate-keeping, sentry-like position.

Rivr park restbreakSoon, some kayakers came down the river. A couple of ‘em weren’t staying to the right, and they were sloppy with their oar-handling. A third member of the party was okay, and I let him pass.Rivrpark kayakersThe other two I directed to approach and issued warnings. Their apologies and promises to do better were sufficient, and I let them pass.

Even though there were very few park visitors, I ran into a couple educators I know from my days as a teacher and a couple members of a running club I belong to. It’s a good thing I didn’t run into them the last time I visited Riverside State Park. I wrote about that incident in a previous post, Trail Running Encounter with Hot Babe Leads to Disrobing in Meadow. That would have been embarrassing.

Basalt and Pine Marathon

Before you read any further, grab your calendar and a pen. Mark October 6th. I’m very happy to announce the first annual Red Lion/Basalt and Pine Marathon. This premier marathon, sponsored by a major hotel chain, will be held in my front yard. The race name comes from a couple important components of my landscaping.

Many of you remember the post from June 9th in which I gave details about how I converted my lawn into a natural landscape of indigenous plants, and how I go for runs on paths I made. Because of the many favorable comments and suggestions, I’m turning my running paths into a scenic and well-planned marathon course.

Putting in six miles, all in my front yard

I’m on a ten mile training run, all in my front yard, in preparation for the marathon

A unique feature of the Red Lion/Basalt and Pine Marathon is that spectators can view the entire race without changing location. To facilitate this, I’ll be installing bleachers along the curb and benches in several places. I’ve also been working very hard lately getting the course in shape – pruning, widening the running paths, and course beautification.

course work 1It’s been very hot lately, and where other race organizers would likely give up, not me. However, I have to take a break now and then.

course work break2Another great amenity – no foul-smelling port-a-potties. All participants and spectators have full access to my home bathroom.

bathroomThe good news just doesn’t end. I applied for and received in the mail just yesterday, documents certifying my marathon as a Boston qualifier.

course approval letterFor out-of-town guests, a 50% discount on rooms at the Red Lion Hotel has been arranged. The Red Lion/Basalt and Pine Marathon Trade Show will be held in the hotel convention area the day before the race.

red lionThis marathon is shaping up to be a 5-star event that attracts entrants from near and far. However, I’m always evaluating the mix of amenities and features that make for a great race experience. If there’s something you’d like to see, please leave a suggestion on how I can make this event even better.

It’s hard being second fiddle

On April 26th, I wrote a post called Long Hair and Beard Slows Runner. It features Britt Davis, a fellow member of the Flying Irish running group and the Manito Runners Club. For a while it was my second most-read post. Now, my site statistics show it’s the most-read by a large margin.

SONY DSCIt’s good that a post I wrote has done so well, but there’s a downside. It’s mostly about Britt Davis. This is really bothersome because I want everything to be all about me. What’s even worse is that Britt offered to be the subject for a post on long hair and beards. Oh, I just hate having to admit he came up with the idea for my most-read post.

When a new article is posted, it receives its greatest number of viewers that day, or the next day if I posted late. Over time, fewer and fewer people go to that page. After several days, the post gets read very sporadically, and most days, not at all.

However, Long Hair and Beard Slows Runner is a different story. It went downhill like other posts, but it kept showing up in my stats as being viewed a bit more frequently than others. After a while, it started showing up nearly every day. Now, more than two months after it was published, it’s gaining steam.

I wondered why it was pulling in readers. Back in May I googled long hair and beard and found that the post was on the third page of the results. Someone with a little computer background could probably explain why this post showed up on the third page out of several million results for this search term, but I really don’t know how it happens. I have no idea how search engines work. As well, the posted photo of Britt made it onto Google’s long hair and beard images. My desktop displays 40 rows of images and though Britt was near the bottom, I thought it was something that he was even there.

Every so often I googled long hair and beard, and each time I found that Britt’s photo and the post about him climbing. I checked just today and the post is now on the first page of the search results, second item down, right after images for long hair and beard. And in those images, Britt is in the third row. He’s ahead of images of Paul Rudd, Keanu Reeves and Ashton Kucher. I’m so incensed because if I had thought to grow my hair long and start a beard, it’d be me there instead of Britt.

I guess I should share the stage and give Britt credit. However, I’ve discovered I have a claim to fame, too. I know that not many people would google this topic, but if you did runners in capes, guess whose picture is the first one.