Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Yesterday, I had a good run. It was the easiest run, but I was sightseeing while running. I always sees new things when I run and that’s why I enjoying running without the distraction of listening to music. Running through Glen Ellyn is very interesting because of the old buildings from the 1800s. I enjoy looking at the expansive mansions and fantasize about what it would have been like living there. Or what it would have been like living in that era.

Yesterday, when I had to wait for red light at Main Street and St. Charles, I decided to check out Stacy’s Tavern. I always run past it, but I never really saw it until yesterday. Just by chance, I saw that the museum for Stacy’s tavern would be open that day from 1:30 to 4:30. So I returned later that afternoon for a visit. I really enjoyed the guided tour. I also felt grateful to live in our present age with all the modern conveniences.

Well, I’m off to run and see what new sights are in store for me today.


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One thing I hate more than running laps is running on a treadmill. I had always been curious about treadmills and stationary bicycles. For the longest time, I thought I would be interested in riding a stationary bike during the winter when I didn’t want to run in the snow and ice. It would be nice, I thought, to get an aerobic workout without braving extreme winter weather. I often thought about buying a stationary bicycle until I heard about treadmills. Then, I wondered what it would be like to run on a treadmill indoors instead of running through the snow, slush, and ice on a wintry day. I suppose I could have joined a health club instead of buying a stationary bicycle or a treadmill, but somehow, I thought I would use the stationary bicycle or treadmill if I owned one.

The more I ran outdoors, the less I thought about buying either apparatus. I hate the repetitiveness of running laps because I keep seeing the same scenery repetitively. However, running and cycling in one place would be even worse because of the lack of change of scenery. But I never actually ran or cycled in one place.

A few years back when I was in México, my cousin suggested that I go to the health club with her. I have never been a fan of health clubs, but I was curious to see what a health club in México was like, so I went with her. Well, it didn’t look much different than a health club in Illinois or California. Anyway, I decided to run on the treadmill just to finally see what it’s like to run a treadmill. I had not run for about a month prior because of constant pain in my right foot, so I wasn’t sure how fast or how long I could run, but I was running alongside my cousin Jaqueline. She was happy that she didn’t have to miss her workout on account of my visit. I told her I could handle running even though I had not run recently.

So, I felt a little pressure to show her that I was a real runner. I set a goal of running for thirty minutes, which I was confident I could complete. We were able to watch TV while we ran. It had never occurred to me before to watch TV while I ran. I don’t even listen to music when I run.

Well, running on a treadmill did not seem like real running to me. I jumped in the air and the belt beneath me moved my foot back. So, I was running without going anywhere. It seemed absurd to me. I sped up the belt slowly, but it still didn’t feel like real running. My cousin was enjoying her workout. She kept asking me how I liked it and I would just say it was great and smile back at her. Then I thought of increasing the incline that is supposed to simulate hills. Well, running on a steeply inclined treadmill is nothing like running hills. All I had to do was raise my foot a little higher and the belt would move it backwards. When I run up a hill, I can feel my legs carrying my entire body weight up the hill, not so with the treadmill.

Well, I managed to run for thirty minutes comfortably, but I didn’t feel like I really exerted myself very much. The pain in my right foot didn’t bother me at all. After that, I lost all desire to buy a treadmill. I’ll just stick to running on the road and running hills without watching TV or listening to music. Well, I must run now.

Running laps

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Ideally, I enjoy running one, and only, one lap. However, running is seldom ideal and occasionally we must run more than one lap. Last summer, I found my ideal running course, ideal for me, anyway. About nine miles with gently rolling hills and enough variety in scenery to keep my run interesting. I saw and greeted enough runners on this course to make me feel like I was running with someone else. This course was perfect for me! Especially since it was only one lap long!

However, during the fall, the days became shorter, and darkness covered the course much earlier than I would have liked. The first few runs of shortened daylight, I ended my run in darkness. When I lived in Chicago, this wasn’t a problem because of the streetlights. However, in Glendale Heights and Glen Ellyn, there were no streetlights anywhere except downtown. I was running in the dark. And I could barely see where I was running. I was also blinded by the headlights of oncoming cars. I had to adjust my starting time so I could finish my run by dusk when I could still see.

Then in addition to the shortened days, I also had to contend with one of the wintriest winters of my life. The first snowfall, I was able to run my usual course as the snow was fluffy and fun to run in. However, as the snow melted and refroze into ice, it became a slippery hazard, especially on the downhills. The first time I encountered an icy downhill, I re-pulled my already pulled left hamstring. I had only run about a quarter mile, but I had to limp back home at a slow trot, even slower than my already slow pace. I was able to run my course a few more times until repeated snowstorms struck. Not only was my running course dark by 4:30 P.M., but it was also at least ankle-deep in snow in ice in most places. Not everyone shoveled their sidewalks.

I was just getting into the groove of running, so I didn’t want to slow down during the winter. Before I started running this nine-mile course, I was running laps around our housing complex. Each lap was about 0.9 of a mile. I ran five laps as many times per week as my body would allow for 4.5 miles. I’m quite sure the lap was 0.9 of a mile because I measured it with my iPhone 2, my car, my Samsung Galaxy Note 2, and my car again just to confirm the distance. So, I was sure I was running 0.9 of a mile with each lap. And the reason I was running laps in our complex was that I lacked the self-confidence to go out and run on an out-and-back course. I was afraid I wouldn’t have the endurance to finish, and I would be stranded miles from home.

Anyway, once the snow and ice accumulated on my running course, I began running laps again, out of necessity. What I hate about running laps is that they’re repetitive, but because they’re repetitive, I also find comfort in running laps. Despite the snow and ice outside of our complex, snowplows cleared the street of our housing complex, and the street was salted so I had a good running surface on most days. I ran ten laps on most days last winter. I didn’t run on the coldest day of the year because my wife was told she didn’t have to go to work because of the extreme cold and so she was home to forbid me from exiting our front door. Otherwise, I would have run that day, too. Don’t get me wrong, but I enjoyed not having to brave the elements that day. Thank you, wife! Especially, for the hot chocolate you made me that day.

One thing I learned from running laps is that life is also about running laps. We do many things repeatedly in life and running. In running, it’s left foot, right foot, repeat. And I keep repeating putting one foot in front of the other until I finish running my desired distance. Or, until I can’t run any longer, for whatever reason, extreme weather, or lack of desire or endurance. In life, we repeat many things such as education: grade school, high school, college, graduate school. I have run many laps in my life, in many different areas, but it’s all repetition. I choose to enjoy the repetition of these laps because of the comfort they provide. I enjoy the comfort of life’s laps.

However, when I run, I still prefer to run only one lap!


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In order for me to run regularly, I must schedule everything around my run. My daily run determines what time I go to bed, what time I wake up, and when I eat. All these activities revolve around my run. Since I run about nine miles per day, I must time my meals so they don’t adversely affect my run. I can’t eat a full meal and then decide to go out and run nine miles. I must prepare my body to run and fully enjoy my run.

My preferred time to run is early in the morning, usually after I wake up and drink some black coffee. With no cream or sugar, which would change my blood sugar and negatively impact my running. I know that if I eat and drink too soon before a run, I feel a little dizzy and my legs feel heavy, like lead. Running with a full stomach slows me down now, although when I was younger, I could occasionally run on a full stomach. Now, I prefer to eat dinner in the evening, have a light snack before going to bed, and then wake up in the morning early to have a cup or two of black coffee. Somehow coffee helps me run. Not only is it a stimulant, but it’s also a diuretic, which helps avoid bowel problems on the run. And you know exactly what I mean if you’re a runner. Only then, after following my morning ritual, do I feel ready to run.

Lately, I’ve decided, since I’m on summer vacation from teaching, to wake up, drink coffee, write a blog post, and then run. So far, it’s working out well. During the academic year, I usually run after school, but running in the morning is better for me because then I feel as if I have the rest of the day for myself. Working a full-time job really takes up much of my day, so I enjoy my summer vacations!

Well, I finished my coffee and this post. I’m off on my run!


Miles, not calories

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I count miles, not calories. I’m into running, not dieting. Many people are obsessed by the number of calories they eat when they should be exercising more. Now I’m not one to preach about the benefits of any form of exercise, but people always seem to know the exact number of calories I’m about to consume when I raise a soft drink to my mouth or get ready to order junk food.

Lately, people have been asking me how I lost so much weight. I dropped about thirty pounds and went from a 36-inch waist to a 32-inch waist. They’re disappointed when I tell them that I run about nine miles every day. They either don’t have time to run, or they have a back injury or bad knees that prevent them from running. I don’t have time to run, either, but I make time to run because I enjoy physical exercise and time for ruminating about my daily activities. I work out some of my daily problems and plan my day while running. When I don’t run, I feel as if I’m missing out on something vital. Yes, eat, breathe, sleep, run. They’re all very important. And just as important: reading, writing, running.

And in order to keep running, I eat fruits and vegetables every day. Every morning, I eat a banana, an apple, and an orange. I also enjoy eating a granola bar and a yogurt in the morning. I’m not happy unless I eat three pieces of fruit every day. I also eat peanuts and/or pistachios every day. I love eating peanuts and pistachios! I used to work in a peanut butter factory, and I could eat all the peanuts and/or peanut butter I wanted. And I enjoy drinking orange juice, the pulpy kind. I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan, but I like going without meat on some days. I once tried being a vegetarian, but I only lasted about a month before I began craving meat, any kind of meat. I guess deep down inside, I’m a carnivore!

My daily goals are to run as much as possible each day, or at least walk a mile or two, and eat some healthy food before I eat all the other junk food and sweets that I crave and can’t seem to live without. Overall, I feel good, but people I shocked that I run so much and by some of the things I eat. Well, I’m not here to please others. I want to enjoy my life. I can only please others or please myself. I choose me!



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Very few runners think of form when running. Form is the last thing I think about when I run. However, form is what makes running easier or more difficult. Once upon a time, I focused on improving my running form. I found it exceedingly difficult. I focused on landing on the balls of my feet, keeping my body facing forward, and swinging my arms with as little motion as possible. This helped me conserve energy, which was very practical when I was training for the marathon.

When I first started running races, I noticed that my arms ached. I found it ironic that my arms would hurt while running. So, I started lifting weights to increase my upper body strength and that improved my arm motion while running. My favorite exercise was swinging dumbbells in the same motion as my arm movement while running. I started out with light weights until I could swing thirty pounds or so on each arm, I don’t remember the exact weight. Whenever I tired during a race, I would visualize how difficult it was to swing my arms swinging the weights and my running would become easier.

As far as shifting my foot strike from my heel to my forefoot, I can only do it when I focus on my foot strike. I tried when I was younger, but I always reverted to my natural form. When I feel fatigue while running, my body seems to go into some sort of protective mode that causes me to run more efficiently. If I try to focus on my running form too much, I feel as if I will not finish my run. When I’m tired and I don’t want to run another step, I focus on lifting my knees a little higher. That seems to help, but I can only do it for a half-mile or so. But it is a refreshing respite.

I have heard of runners taking classes to improve their running form. I would never take a class like that because I never entirely listened to my coaches’ advice. I would accept what seemed appealing to me and reject the rest. As far as developing form, all those high-mileage weeks developed my form more than all my other efforts to improve it. My body naturally developed an efficient form that preserved energy and protected me from injuries.

I started out by focusing on form and improving it, but now, I don’t worry about form at all and worry more about getting from point A to point B. Finishing is more important than how I got there.


Aches and pains

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I have always had aches and pains throughout my body. Perhaps it’s only one ache and/or pain that travels around in my body. Occasionally, I feel pain and/or ache in two different parts of my body. I have felt them since I was little. And I never take aspirin or pain killers for them. Enduring the pain makes me tougher. Or at least it makes me feel tougher.

Last year, after I increased my mileage, I felt a constant sharp twinge in my lower abdomen right above the crease of my right leg where my lower abdomen and leg meet. I felt the pain every morning while I awoke and when I attempted to get myself out of bed. The pain was excruciating. I felt it for about a month. I had felt this pain eight years before along with extreme back pain that made it a challenge to get out of bed. At that time, I felt as if I would die soon, but I didn’t go to the doctor. However, I could still go running because the pain would subside after about the first mile. I always feel that whatever is ailing me can’t be too serious if I can still go running.

This time, I only had the abdominal pain by itself, and the pain would subside once I was running. I would only feel the pain during the day when I thought about it. And when I laughed. Yes, it only hurt when I laughed. However, I decided to go to the doctor to make sure it wasn’t something serious since I felt the pain for about a month. I was sure I was dying of something! Well, the doctor examined me and told me he couldn’t find anything seriously wrong with me. It was most likely just a muscle strain, and that I shouldn’t worry about. Easy for him to say!

As I said before, I have always felt aches and pains my entire life. I have grown accustomed to them, and I rarely go to the doctor for them. Luckily, I haven’t seriously injured myself by running so much.  Something always hurts me when I run. And whatever hurts me usually hurts me for a year or two and then something else hurts me for a year or two. I’m not so sure these pains have anything to do with running or any other physical activity. They come and they go. I have learned to accept them.

No pain, no gain. Mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.


Is it the shoes?

Is it the shoes? Yes, I really believe the shoes are the most important piece of equipment for a runner. All the other accessories are just optional. I don’t need all that fancy running clothing. Sure, they’re nice, but any old t-shirt and a pair of cutoff shorts will do. Socks are essential, but any decent pair will prevent me from blistering. I don’t really need a high-tech watch or music on the run. All I really need is a very good pair a real running shoes. And, no, I do not plan on ever running barefoot, except on the beach. I have never seen a barefoot runner in the winter running through the snow and ice. That’s difficult enough with good running shoes, especially running downhill on an icy road.

Over the years, some of my running friends have gotten injured due to not having proper running shoes. If you do any kind of  distance running, you really need to have a very good pair of running shoes in order to increase your running comfort and prevent injuries. One runner I knew, wouldn’t spend the money on a name-brand pair of running shoes and would instead buy the generic shoes that were on sale. Not only did the shoes not last very long, but he also kept getting injured. I kept telling him that all his aches and pains were due to his lack of real running shoes. Of course, he didn’t listen to me. Another runner I knew, had real running shoes, but he kept them too long. After about a year, I told him he should replace them, but he had spent a lot of money on them and he said they still looked new, which they did. I tried to explain to him that the support was no longer there because the shoe materials break down with use and time. Yes, he took care of his shoes and they looked new; unbelievably, the soles showed little wear even after a year of training for and running 10Ks. When his right knee started aching, I told him he needed new shoes. But he insisted his shoes were still “like new”. Well, after a few more months, he could barely run and even walking was painful because of his right knee. He went to the doctor and ended up getting arthroscopic surgery on his knee. Now, I’m no doctor, but I’m sure it was because of the shoes.

I have mentioned the importance of getting new shoes, but most runners won’t listen to me. Of course, I follow my own advice on running shoes. I have tried many brands of running shoes and I have enjoyed most of them, but after all these years of running, I have settled on Asics running shoes. You have to shop around and find a brand that’s good for you and you’re running style. Whenever, I start to feel pain during running in my knees or hips, I break out a new pair of shoes and the pain goes away. So far, I haven’t needed any surgery due to running. I have sprained both ankles while running, but that had nothing to do with the running shoes. When I first met my wife Beata, she was surprised when I switched to a new pair of running shoes. She thought I was wasting money by buying new shoes when my old shoes still looked new. I explained my reasoning to her, but I don’t think I truly convinced her.

Even as I write this, I have three pairs of brand-new Asics Kayano 19 in closet just waiting for me to take them out on a run.


This picture doesn’t truly capture the grade of this hill in Glen Ellyn.

Illinois is a rather flat state. When I ran races in California, the race entry form would describe the race course as either flat or hilly. And by hilly that usually meant some steep incline. I once ran a seven-mile race that was uphill for the first half of the course. When I returned to Chicago and started running races here, some race courses were described as hilly. In California, these types of hills are called “flat” by some race directors and “gently rolling hills” by others.

When I started running cross country in Donaldson, Indiana, we never ran any hills because the terrain is relatively flat there, too. Occasionally, there were some slight inclines, but there were no real hills per se. In Chicago, there are no hills either. When I ran with the Marquette Park Track Club, coach Jack Bolton would have us doing “hill work” by running up the sled hill in Marquette Park or running to the “Nabisco Hill” near the Nabisco cookie factory. They weren’t real hills, but that was the best way to train for the “hilly” races in Illinois.

In México City, they have mountains, not hills. I once went running with my cousin through the mountains. We ran for about an hour, but I was surprised that I could keep up with him. I think he was trying to run me into the ground.  Afterwards, he told me that since I was from Chicago, he didn’t think I could handle the hills or the altitude, México City having the elevation of 8000 feet.

So now that I’m running in “flat” Illinois again, I found some “hills” in Glen Ellyn that for my area of Illinois are “hilly”. Of course, I’m not as young as I was when I ran in California or México, nor am I in top form physically anymore. However, I’ve been running these hills for the last year or so trying to get back in shape. I think back to some of the hilly California races I ran and these hills I’m running now don’t seem so steep now.

A few weeks ago, I was running up this Glen Ellyn hill, seen in the picture above, and struggling to keep running at the same pace. This hill on Prospect Avenue goes up for about a half mile. I’ve seen other runners stop running and start walking up this hill. I always continue running up the hill. It’s funny how I only remember running uphill, but not running downhill. Anyway, I’m running up this hill, when suddenly I hear footsteps behind me. I could tell it was another runner by the pace of the footsteps. A female runner passes me up and I say, “Good morning” to her. I make it a point to greet all runners I meet in order to share in the camaraderie of running. She runs a few steps past me and turns back to look at me. She tells me in a firm voice, “Attack the hill!” So, I attack the hill and pull up alongside her. I’m pushing myself harder than I would have had I been all alone. I’m struggling to keep up with her, but I actually feel good that she came along and pushed me to run faster. Her running form is smooth, but she’s huffing and puffing with each step up that hill. I, on the other hand, am not huffing and puffing, but you could tell from my form that I’m struggling to get up that hill. When we get to the top of the hill, we part ways and I shout out to her, “Thanks for the motivation!”

I guess I enjoy the challenge of running up hills.


Fitbit friends

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I hope I don’t sound obsessive about my Fitbit tracking device, because I’m not, but I do happen to think about it a lot. It means so much that I always have it on my body, especially when I run. I have rarely forgotten to bring it along. In fact, before I go out for a run, I make sure my running shoes are tied properly, I have my house key, and I have my Fitbit.

I’ve had it for a year now. My wife Beata gave it to me for my birthday last year and I’ve been using it ever since. At first, I did it to appease Beata, but then I gradually wore it out of habit. I am, after all, a creature of habit.

In order to use Fitbit, you need to set it up on your computer so it can keep track of your activities. Since I love computers, that was an added incentive to use it even though I never felt the need bring along any device on a run. But I’m not obsessed by this Fitbit tracker. Really, I’m not. Soon, I discovered that you could have Fitbit friends, similar to Facebook friends. I thought that was a great idea because running is much easier when you have running friends even if you don’t actually run with them in person. The camaraderie of runners is always inspirational. Sometimes just talking about running with another runner makes you a better runner.

Of course, my first Fitbit friend was my wife Beata. I found her first. I always told her that I was pretty sure that I walked and/or ran the 10,000 steps recommended by Fitbit, but she didn’t believe me. Even before she first gave me the Fitbit, my running was gradually improving and I was slowly increasing my miles from the 4.5 miles I thought should be my minimum daily requirement. I was exceeding 10,000 steps on a daily basis and Beata was surprised. She became competitive and upped her mileage. I also gradually increased my mileage, not to surpass her, but to compete against myself. I wanted to return to my former running form.

I didn’t expect to make new friends on Fitbit, but soon I discovered that my cousin Sandy was on Fitbit. And she is occasionally at the top of the leader board. Then my cousins Nancy and Jane became my Fitbit friends. I think we all feel encouraged to have this sort of camaraderie.

And then one day, I became friends with Lianne whom I know from my old neighborhood, the Back of the Yards. I didn’t actually know her when we lived in the old neighborhood, but we are now friends on Facebook and on Fitbit. However, I did meet her once at our Back of the Yards reunion party three years ago. I always enjoy meeting people from my past unexpectedly.

I enjoy seeing everyone’s name in the Fitbit rankings. I find it inspirational. Let’s see how many more Fitbit friends I will make.