It's amazing how goals can re-ignite our passion for running

Credit: Jack Atley/Allsport
When Liz Downing was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame this past year, she mentioned that carrots were a staple of her training diet.

And I had thought I was the only one who had made carrots the big category at the bottom of the food pyramid. Was it the Vitamin A? The antioxidants? The beta-carotene? No. It wasn't so much what carrots have as what they do not have calories.

Nowadays, we can get our carrots in convenient bags already peeled down and cut into perfect bite sized pieces (called baby carrots). But they provide the same service of replacing higher calorie foods when one wants to get down to the lowest weight possible. I'm back to eating carrots, as well as other assorted low-cal fresh fruits and vegetables.

My son's piano teacher, who is also an excellent masters runner, has incredible mind control; he convinced himself that he did not like the taste of chocolate and thereby could easily avoid chocolate treats given to him. I wish he could do a Vulcan mind-meld with me so that I could be so certain that the foods that I have enjoyed eating are not actually good.

Instead, I do it the hard way, giving up foods that I know taste good but also contain too much sugar or too much fat or both. I am not looking for the lowest possible weight, just a lower weight, and diet is half the equation.

Running is the other half. After several years of trying to get to a point of just being able to comfortably run easily for few miles every day, I am ready to go for more. When you have a goal, it is much easier to overcome the obstacles. For example, familiar muscle aches and pains have returned, speaking to me as Victor Laslow might, "welcome back to the fight."

And I actually enjoy those pains and the blessed fatigue that prevents my eyelids from staying open much after 10 at night.

Part of that evening fatigue is that I have always been a morning person and love running in the early morning. This morning, I enjoyed an incredible sunrise over Mt. Hood, the sky growing a bright red, then turning yellow, then fading to normal light. The day before I experienced the shadows cast by the morning light while running through the woods and catching glimpses of the sawed-off Mt. St. Helens.

You might have to wear sweats more often when you run in the morning, but you also get more of the world to yourself, before the world gets more of you. It is simply the easiest time to carve out time for me and so I gladly take it.

We have had a great streak of Northwest weather that has made it easier to get out of bed in the morning. Those will be ending soon as the spring rains return. I am not sure why rain is an obstacle to running. For cyclists, it is obvious rain is a true obstacle and hazard. But why do runners shy from it?

Bill Dellinger, my University of Oregon coach, had a favorite story he would tell of his roommate at a big competition who woke up to the rain and was excited. He believed he would win because the rain would not bother him, but it would distract the other competitors.

He had it right. It is just a state of mind. Within a few minutes of running in the rain, a runner feels just fine. This is especially true with the new fabrics made just for such occasions. Why are we like cats, hating the rain, when we should embrace it like any sensible dog does?

It could be the heap of wet clothes that come off at the end. For trail runners, there is the mud. But logically, none of those factors should impede a runner. The washer and dryer take care of the clothes and the utility sink can clean off the shoes.

Maybe we are back to the mind-meld being the best solution I love the rain, it brings life to the earth, it brings life to me. Or perhaps the answer is the same as it has always been. We need to step out that door because for runners, running is who we are, and we are at our best only when we run.

That sounds great on a beautiful spring day. We'll see how it plays on the next cold, rainy morning.

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