Sunday, June 19, 2011

Be Like Mike

Well, today is my dad's 40th Father's Day and I thought it only fitting to take this opportunity to let him know just how much I love and appreciate him.

My dad, Mike (picture running this year's Memorial Day 5K with me), is one of those people who never met a stranger. Teaching for 30 years in the Zanesville City School system and also officiating basketball, volleyball, and softball helped him connect with a lot of people in our hometown over the years. He's still at it in Mount Vernon now as well as around the world on all the trips that he and my mom take. This is just one of many traits of his that I have picked up as I enjoy connecting with as many people as possible...thus the title of my blog - Six Degrees of MVNUSID.

My dad is one of those guys who was born before his time. If he would have grown up during the YouTube generation of today, he would surely have gone viral many times with all of his many sports tricks and other hijinks. While he wasn't a star athlete on a team, he was never one to back down from a challenge or turn a routine sport into some kind of crazy fun. He's been known to make all kinds of trick shots with a basketball in the gym, play catch with his brothers while standing on posts in their yard, throw a football behind his back almost as far as he throws it normally, or hop on a pogo stick to see if he could make it around a city block. As a softball pitcher, he once struck a batter out by intentionally pitching behind the hitter's head and hitting the bat on his shoulder to register a third strike. I've picked up on these traits as I always try to find a way to keep the things that I'm involved in interesting and avoid the mundane.

Through all this physical exercise, my dad has been a great example of staying active and in good shape. At 64, he has already ridden over 1,100 miles on his bicycle this year and plans to ride across the state of Indiana in a day this July with some friends. Even today on Father's Day, he spent it climbing 12 miles from Manitou Springs to the top of Pike's Peak. I guess you could say that he has been the inspiration that led me to reach the 1,000-mile mark for running this year fittingly on Father's Day as I try to reach my goal for the year of 2,011 miles in 2011.

My dad has always been a great dad who would do anything for his kids. While we were never rich as a family of six living on a teacher's salary, he made sure that we always took family vacations in the summer. We were creative about the things that we did to have fun and he instilled in us that relationships are way more valuable than money and things. I've tried to live my life that way as well and I thank him for teaching me that early on.

My dad has also been a great example to me of how to be a husband. He loves my mom more than anything and they are best friends. It is so refreshing to see this when it's unfortunately not the norm any more in the world that we live in. I hope my kids can say this about me for the way that I treat Carla.

Most importantly, my dad has always shown me what living a Godly, ethical life of character looks like and the rest of these traits all stem from that. He has always put the needs of others before himself and has been a tremendous example in this way for me to try and emulate.

Back in the early '90s, Gatorade had a commercial where NBA superstar Michael Jordan promoted their product. Here's the clip courtesy of YouTube:

While I grew up like most kids dreaming of being a star athlete, I can now say with great certainty that I really do want to be like Mike...Mike Parsons. Thanks, Dad! I love you!!! Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On Your Mark...

First, let me start this post with a disclaimer....I am NOT a running expert. I am still a newbie when it comes to the amount of time I've spent, the miles I've run, and the races I've entered.

OK, with that in mind, for whatever reason I've been getting approached by a lot of people recently with questions on how to get started running. Maybe it's because my last post recapped my first year of running. Maybe it's because people know that I'm a guy with a pretty busy daily schedule who has somehow made it work for at least a year. Maybe it's because people think to themselves that "if Dave Parsons can run then so can I".

Actually, I'm fine with all three. :) And, with National Running Day being celebrated today (June 1), there is no better time than right now to begin that journey and take up running.

One of the first things that you need to do as you think about running is to have realistic expectations. If you haven't been doing much in the way of physical activitiy, running just one mile is probably going to be pretty tough for you. However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it. It just means that you don't need to beat yourself up if you have to walk part or most of the way when you get started.

Along those regards, it would be helpful to follow a training program. There are many free ones available online. I've used different variations of Hal Higdon's programs and they seem to work quite well for me. My wife, Carla, has also followed his half marathon program and done three races of that distance successfully. For people just starting out, I would suggest either the 5K Walker's Program or the 5K Novice Program.

With realistic goals set and a training program in place, it is also important to get the right kind of shoes. This will be different for everyone. If there is a running store in your area, they can help you find exactly the right shoes for your feet. Wearing the right footwear for your stride will go a long way in lessoning the risk of injuries as you start this journey. Also, get good socks to help prevent blistering.

Now, you are ready to head either to the treadmill, a local trail, or just around the neighborhood. I would strongly encourage you to track your miles either on a spreadsheet, a journal, or one of many online sites or phone apps. While you don't want to be caught up worrying about time and distance at the start, it will provide a source of encouragement to you as you see the miles add up and the times get faster. You can also get great encouragement and a sense of accountability by posting your runs on sites such as Daily Mile, Facebook, or Twitter to name a few.

The best way to make running stick is to work it into your daily routine until it just becomes second nature and a part of your lifestyle. For me, that means getting up an hour earlier each day and running at 6 a.m. That has worked best in our schedule. Yes, it means that I have to get to bed a little earlier than I used to, but that isn't such a bad thing either.

One other thing that could really help you in this journey if you can pull it off is to find someone to run with. Even if it's not every day or even if you have to do this virtually through social media, it makes a big difference. When I started running, I did it alone. Sure, there were other people at the trail where I ran, but I ran alone. However, I had a friend, Jay, who was just starting to run, too, and we encouraged each other via social media. It didn't matter that he lives in Kentucky and that I'm in Ohio. We stayed after each other and helped each other get to the point that running had become a habit. We've since been able to run together on several occasions including in the first half marathon for both of us last October in Columbus.

And, that brings me to my final suggestion for new runners...pick out a local 5K race and pay to enter it. That's right, don't wait until you are it now. Paying the fee will keep you accountable to your training. Just make sure to give yourself enough time to complete the basic training program. Remember, you can always walk it if you have to and a lot of the local 5K races are for charitable causes so you'll be doing something for others regardless. Trust me, though, you'll enjoy the race day experience and you'll be hooked once you do one. :)

To my friends who are more experienced at running than me, please add your suggestions to this post. To my friends who are left still looking for answers after this post, ask away and I'll do my best or find an expert who will answer your question. And, to anyone who reads this post and then starts on the running journey, please let me know because I want to support and encourage you just like so many have done for me. The running community is truly great at that!

With all that said, I leave you with the lyrics to, of all things, a song from the 1970 Christmas special "Santa Claus is Coming to Town":

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

You never will get where you’re going
If you never get up on your feet
Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowing
A fast walking man is hard to beat

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

If you want to change your direction
If your time of life is at hand
Well don’t be the rule be the exception
A good way to start is to stand

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

If I want to change the reflection
I see in the mirror each morn
You mean that it's just my election
To vote for a chance to be reborn

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

...get set...GO!!!