Tag Archives: fitness

Growing Up. Not Growing Old.

Last week I hit the jackpot. I got to spend some time with some young adults. Strike that. I’d rather not use that word “adults” here. I was lucky to spend some time with kids. And these were no ordinary kids. You know what? Strike that word “ordinary” too. I don’t believe there is any such thing as an ordinary kid. I was lucky enough to spend time with some extraordinary kids.

These kids have dedicated a part of their lives to entertain, inspire and motivate other kids. Some of them sing. Some of them dance. Some of them run, play football, soccer, gymnastics and any number of other sports. Some of them open up cool things up and show you what’s inside. They make others smile, get moving, get out. And so many kids today need something or someone in their lives that makes them happy. These kids are that something, that someone.

They came out to the Michael Johnson Track here at Nike’s WHQ. It was raining. It’s always raining here. They were all jet lagged. And they were hungry. Kids are always hungry. They were tired. Tours and walking and listening and more walking will eventually even tire a kid out. But here they were at the track being introduced to a Coach that wanted them to run.

And you know happened? Did they complain or make excuses? Did they ask for shortcuts or whine? Did they say they couldn’t or wouldn’t do it? Nope. They’re kids. So they said “let’s roll”. And when I said in return “get ready to race the Rio Olympic Gold Medalist Matt Centrowitz” did they back down? Nope.

They formed a relay, lined up, ran their hearts out, cheered for each other & took him down. These kids reminded me that all that is great, brave, honorable and pure about us lives within our youth. And we all have those younger versions of ourselves alive within us still. We just need to smile, get moving, get out. We just need to be on more relays together, run our hearts out, cheer for each other, and we too can do impossible things.

We can grow up and not grow old.

When the victorious tribe left the Michael Johnson Track it was still raining and the clouds still blanketed the sky. But I swear the day seemed brighter…and so did the future.

When Running Away is the Bravest Thing To Do

I was at NXN – the Nike Cross Country National Championships – with my team.
It was the night before the race.
I saw Joan Benoit Samuelson coming down the stairs.
I thought “I need to make my move. Screw all these kids. They can get in line behind me.”
I broke into a jog.
I’m a firm believer in thanking the people who inspired me. And, shaking their hand.
“Hi, I’m Chris Bennett. I made a video of you.”
My slow run combined with the weird video comment may have set off some internal alarm bells with JBS.
I thought, “at best I’m creepy and at worst I can expect a restraining order delivered to me before the race tomorrow.”
Luckily, JBS is used to people coming up to her and saying or trying to say thank you.
Unfazed, shook my hand and asked my name again
(Probably for the detective she would be talking to later I thought)
“You made The First Gold, right?”
She’d seen the video I made!
(I made videos on YouTube for my HS athletes hoping they would become fans of the sport.)
“Yes. That one! It’s about your ’84 Olympics…Gold Medal…the Marathon…in LA.”
Speaking coherently was becoming a problem.
“Thank you for making that.”
I was losing consciousness but I knew I had something to do before I did.
One of my heroes just said “thank you” to me.
But I was the one who was supposed to say thank you!
OK, rewind…Joan Benoit Samuelson was my first running hero.
And it wasn’t because she did anything superhuman.
I’m not that inspired by the idea of “superhuman”.
I’m inspired by super humans.
JBS was my hero because she took the lead 4 miles into that ’84 Olympic Marathon.
And no one went with her. 22 miles running alone.
That had to be terrifying.
And at 7 years old there’s a lot about the world that can be terrifying.
But she ran brave.
Watching her race made me realize that it’s the scary stuff that gives us a chance to be brave.
Fast forward…
I stayed conscious and I said what I needed to.
Thank You.
I was speaking for the runner and coach I had become and for that 7 year old boy I was.
She walked away.
I walked back to my team.
They had a race to run tomorrow and were probably nervous.
And I wanted to tell them a story about running brave.

Suckcess 

Go ahead and tell me how terrible you are. Tell me that you suck at running. And don’t forget to let me know that you are in such awful shape. You’ll say that it’s been so long since you were fit. You’re not even sure why you decided to show up, right?

You don’t believe you’ll be able to finish whatever it is I have planned. You’re not a runner. You suck. I know. I know all of this. 

Because you tell me. And someone else tells me the same thing about themselves…almost everyday. I hear it all the time. You’re not alone. In fact, there are more people like you than not.

And if you’re worried I won’t take you seriously when you say these things… don’t be. If you believe you suck I have no other option than to believe you. Because this, the Athlete and Coach relationship, is first and foremost a relationship built on trust. 

So, I trust you. Now you trust me.

There is no difference between you and any other runner. Because all of us runners run to get better. Sure, how we each define “better” is personal. But we all share the hope at the start of our runs that we will end it somehow better. 

Better could be faster. Stronger. Maybe longer. Could mean less stress. More joy. First run. Second Run. Next Run. Just a little better. 

So you can take me aside and repeat, again, that you suck at running. And again, I will tell you that I believe you. 

Then I will tell you what the goal of today’s run is and that you should remember it. Because it will never change. 

The goal is simply to get better. Or, if it makes more sense to you…suck less.

Now, let’s run. 

Mo In Common Than You Think 

That’s me on the left & Mo Farah on the right. We were at an event together a few months ago. I congratulated Mo & told him his performances have been nothing short of epic.
Mo Farah was a double Gold Medal winner at each of the last two Summer Olympics. He won the 5k and 10k at the London Games AND the Rio Games. Double gold medalist. Twice. 

I watched all the races on my TV & I jumped off my couch cheering like a maniac as Mo ran those final laps. And when it was over I collapsed back onto the couch. Exhausted. 

He’s a rare athlete indeed.

But Mo & I have something in common. I’ve won some gold medals too. See them right there pinned on my shirt? They’re from the Monmouth County Championships.

I lined up for the 3200m first. I was nervous as I toed the line. That’s always a good sign. Being nervous means you care. I settled in the pack & bided my time. The goal was to make the least amount of mistakes & then kick like hell. I kicked. 1 gold medal down.

I came back in the 800m. Different kind of race. The 800m is really just a long sprint. You’re in extremis the whole time. Game-plan: hold on & outlast the other guys. I did. 2 gold medals. 

I know they weren’t won in a stadium with 80,000 people on the sport’s biggest stage. My medals were won in front of 500 people sitting restlessly in aluminum stands. But, to me, 500 people was a lot of people & County Champs was a big stage. 

The competition there was just as fierce as it was at the Olympics too. My nerves, fears, & hopes were just as legitimate as Mo’s. And at the end of those races when Mo felt like his legs were filling with concrete while he ran through quicksand with fire tearing through his lungs… well, I had those feelings too.

So, I know you don’t have to be an Olympian to feel those things. You just need to take a starting line & try to get the best version of you across the finish line. 

Yeah, Mo & I have some things in common. And if you try your best, well, you have something in common with Mo too. After it’s all said and done if there’s any difference between Mo & I when we race it’s just the times on the clock. 

Well, that & the fact that I came back again & won the 1600m. 3 Golds. 1 Meet. Sorry Mo. 3 Golds is more than 2. 

There’s always Tokyo.

Worst Runs Ever

What was my worst run ever?
I get that question all the time.
And it’s funny because the sensible companion question – what was your best run ever – doesn’t get asked very often.
Which is probably a good thing because I don’t have a single answer.
But I also don’t have an answer for the worst run ever question either.
Don’t get me wrong.
I have more than enough answers…a whole collection of worst runs.
I just don’t have ONE worst run ever.
Which means I don’t have an answer.
I’ve had runs in the sun without water and runs in the snow that ended up with me on my butt.
I’ve had runs when my ego was fit as hell but I was out of shape – those never end well.
And I’ve had runs where I didn’t believe I could do what I was so obviously already doing.
I did runs by myself when I needed to be anything but alone.
And I had runs with the group when I needed those miles all to myself.
I’ve had runs started too close to an extraordinary meal.
And I had runs not started far enough away from a very suspect meal.
Cramps. Twisted ankles. Tired. Stressed. Wrong turns.
I’ve had the halfway out and halfway home bathroom emergency…without a bathroom run.
All Worst Runs Ever.
But, I also know that I learned about myself, life, running (and even what Poison Ivy can do to your bathing suit area if you are not careful) on those terrible runs.
And if I had not started those runs I wouldn’t have learned the most important lesson of all: that I can get through them.
Every run has a purpose.
Even all those worst ones.

The First Run Is The Only Run

Today we’re going to talk about the First Run. This could be your first run ever. Could be your first run back.  Could be your first run since ________ (fill in blank). 

This first run is important. 

In fact, you could make a pretty good legal career defending the case for the first run being the most important run of all. 

Without it there’s no second run. No epic journey.No comebacks either. That would be a shame.If there’s one thing I love it’s a comeback.

And I’m being selfish here. I want you to get through that first run. And I want you to finish it wanting to run a again. Because I love this sport. And I want you to love this sport. Because the more people that love this sport the more there is to love about this sport. 

So…FIRST RUN…the big questions…

How long?

There’s NO minimum distance. The run you run is a run. Period. Anyone that tells you your first run has to be a certain distance to qualify as a run isn’t qualified to tell you anything about running. 

Next…how fast?

There’s NO minimum speed for a first run. If you end your run knowing you could have run longer and you could have run faster that was the right pace! 

One foot on the ground at a time and you fly a little in-between footfalls…that’s running. Anyone that tells you differently needs to go off & run by themselves for awhile. 

The ultimate goals of a first run are to end it and want to run a second run.

If that first run is from your front door to the mailbox and back guess what?

You’re a bigger badass than you were yesterday! Yesterday you didn’t do that. Yesterday you didn’t run. Today you did.

And if you like how this feels-doing something you have not done before-having something in your life that challenges you-being able to close your eyes at night and say “I am better”-you’ll probably start another run.

Maybe next time you run past the mailbox. Maybe the time after that you run somewhere you’ve never been before. 

It starts with the first run…YOUR first run.

And if today is not your first run, well, it’s still your first run since your last run.

The Rundown on The Run

I need to coach more. 
I mean straight up coach. So, for the rest of January I am going to do just that. Fundamentals! 5 guys on the floor. Don’t get caught watching the paint dry! Wait. That’s not right. That’s from the movie Hoosiers. Let me start over.

I need to start coaching Runners again on here. Me. You. And to begin this stretch of Coaching we will start with the all important…Recovery Run. 

You may know it as…a Run. 

It’s basically every single run you do that’s NOT a speed workout or a Long Run. It’s what you do when you leave work to run in the park.  Or wake up to run before school. It’s just that run you do because it’s nice out and you’re a badass. And it’s also the run you do because it’s not nice out and you’re a badass.

It’s. Just. A. Run. 

A Recovery Run.

So, what does that mean? It means the run has a purpose. It’s called a Recovery Run because that is one of the main purposes of the run – to RECOVER. And you accomplish that purpose by understanding how to run a Recovery Run. 

Most people run their (Recovery) runs the wrong way. They get all excited to go for a run. (Which is great) They put their headphones on. (Which is fine) The bass kicks in and off they go…way too fast.(Which is the wrong way to start a run)

Blame your playlist. 

What a Runner should do is start easy. Start relaxed. Let the body adjust. Because the body has no idea what you are doing. Are you running to catch the bus? Running to the bathroom? You have to give your body a chance to get going…to warm up. Because you were not running. And now you are.

You don’t need to start fast because you shouldn’t start fast. As you naturally adapt to the effort of running – as you mentally and physically warm up – you will naturally pick up the pace. And if you run the Recovery Run the right way you will end with your best running.You will end feeling like you could have gone longer and faster. That’s how you should end a Recovery Run. 

OK. This all works best if you go for a run now. Yes. Like right now.

Next time I will talk about how to get over yourself so you can get through the first run. 

The Most Elite Version of Yourself

 

Elite is not a time on a clock.

It’s what happens during that time on the clock.

Elite is not a medal.

It’s what you did to earn that medal.

Elite is not a distance.

It’s about running the distance.

Elite is not a finish line.

It’s a starting line.

Elite is not a pace.

It’s an effort.

Elite is not perfect form.

It’s keeping your form.

Elite is not a headline.

It’s the story.

Elite is not elitist.

It just means being the most elite version of yourself. 

The Best Times Are Not On Your Watch

Running is all about the times. Sure, other things matter but the times are what define you. The times are what tell you whether you really have done your best. Whether it was worth it. Whether you took to the starting line one person and reached the other line someone different, better. 

The times tell the story. 

Like the time you decided you’d stop making excuses and get out the damn door. Or the time you ran an entire mile and then a second and a third without stopping. Or the time you ran and didn’t want to stop. 

There may have been a time when you found yourself holding on to the pace for dear life or the time you took the pace and it scared the life right back into you. That time you signed up for the Speed Run and it was at the track. And the time you walked off the track and realized the only imposter there was the version of you that didn’t believe. There was the time you ran on a day that screamed you didn’t have to because of rain or wind or heat or work or too many beers or because you just didn’t have to. And the time you ran and ran further and ran faster than you ever had before. 

That time you looked around mid run at the people you were with and realized there may not be matching uniforms or a fight song or anything other than the run that brings you together but they are your teammates. That time you knew those teammates you run with had become a part of your family. 

That time you climbed onto the roof of a big rig because you had to cheer as loud and as crazily as you could for another runner. 

That time you ran for no reason other than you run – because you are a runner. 

Yeah, running is all about the times. 

And sometimes those times have to do with the numbers on your watch. 

But usually they don’t. 

Believing is Seeing

I’m sure some people will tell me that I’m too old to believe in magic. They will tell me that anything “extra” I felt when I first stepped onto the track at an empty Hayward Field was just the strong coffee I had just finished. Or maybe it was just the result of years of wanting and imagining and dreaming that this moment would be special. I’m sure that some people will tell me that I’m just seeing what I want to see and feeling what I want to feel.

There is no magic they’ll tell me.

But they didn’t run that first turn at Hayward and hear the echo of a starting gun that was not there drift behind me as I rolled forward. They will tell me it was just construction or a backfiring car or some University of Oregon student dropping a textbook.

They didn’t hear the sound of people clapping and stomping like I did as my heart beat increased and I picked up the pace along the epic backstretch.
They will tell me that’s just the sound of old wooden stands stretching and contracting as the sun and the wind do their dirty work on the structure.

They didn’t see and hear and feel the crowd rise to their feet as I came sprinting off Bowerman’s Turn like I did. They didn’t find that one extra gear like I did because Pre’s People demanded it.
They will tell me I imagined it all – I was awake and dreaming – I saw what I wanted to see.

Well, I was at Hayward Field and I ran a magical lap there.
Am I too old to believe in magic?
No.

Believing in magic is what keeps me from ever being old.