Monday, January 30, 2012

Melissa Budd: ultrarunner, mother, teacher

Ultrarunning seemed to be an alternative universe where none of planet Earth’s rules applied: women were stronger than men; old men were stronger than youngsters; Stone Age guys in sandals were stronger than everybody
Christopher McDougall, Born to Run, p. 79

Melissa Budd is an extraordinary ultra-runner, one of the finest in Winnipeg in my opinion.  She ran every day, minimum of 6 miles, for 6 months to rebuild her spirit after a Sinister Seven DNF, she runs because she can, because she doesn't want to stop, at her first-ever 16 mile long run she broke down and cried at that achievement and still, after many marathons and ultra-marathons feels the emotions tug at this mile marker, she never asks "will I run today" rather, she asks "when shall I run today".  Melissa is a mother and teacher, but we're not here to read about that stuff!  Nope, we're here to get into her running mind.  What follows is the first of a three part series about Melissa.  I had originally thought  I would edit all of our email exchanges down to a single story, but I realized that to edit Melissa's words would be to remove her charm, her vernacular, her honesty. I hope you enjoy this story.

January 14, 2012
Hi Melissa,
You need to know that I consider you one of the finest female runners in the city, no lie, no exaggeration.  You may not be the fastest runner but I know of no one else that has your running-pluck (male or female).  Could I write about you in SMR?  Is this something you would ever consider?   Let me know.  

It’s a good day to be alive.  

January 16, 2012
Wow Mike.... you flatter me.  I love reading your blog and if you would like to write about me that would be...well...flattering.  You are right in that I don't think that I'm aware of my successes - I am probably a horrible example of how to run properly… I don't eat right, I don't taper, I run through injuries, I drink coke before, during and after a run, I avoid physiotherapy, I've mastered throwing up while running.... However, I think the thing that I have going for me is that I just love to do it.  Even though I may feel crappy during a run, I look at other people driving in their cars, or sitting in a coffee shop and I think, "If I were in their shoes, I would wish I was me".  

Thanks for your note.   : )

January 16
Hi Melissa,  
This is great news!  Your story is pretty amazing and I always brag about you to anyone who will listen.  I've always admired you for your spitting -I love a gal that can spit while running- but vomiting on the run?  Wow, that's amazing!  I want to talk more about this.

So how can we do this?  Can I just ask you some questions and you write a response in your own words?  You have a pretty interesting writing style.  I suggest I ask one question at a time so you don't feel bogged down.  We can take as long as we need.  That's the good thing about having your own blog… no deadlines!  I will only publish after you've given me the final go ahead so don't hold back on the vernaculars.  

So, if you're agreeable to this, here's your first question…

Why do you run?

January 17
Hey Mike,

Wow.... you start off with a hard question.  Why do I run?
There is absolutely no reason. I like the scene in Forrest Gump when reporters ask him, "why are you running?  Are you running for world peace? Are you running for women's rights? Are you running for the environment?"  His reply was, "I just felt like running." People couldn't analyze why he was running so far for so long.  Why on earth would someone do that?  I think people have a need to rationalize .  There must be some reason why Sarah is a workaholic...why Hal is climbing  Mt Everest....they are trying to escape life, get over their past.

Sometimes there is a reason.  But I least sometimes...there is no good reason we do the things we do.  If you've ever observed kids, especially little kids, you'll see they break into a run for no particular reason...they just felt like running.  If you asked them why - they couldn't tell you.  I think there is something inside me that just wants to run.  I realize I haven't answered your question

I run because I can
I run because I don't want to stop

January 17
Hi Melissa,
Your answer is beautiful and simple and elegant.  I love the way you have connected your running spirit to that of children, I can identify.  My happiest moment as a teacher was running with my students, Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 7:45 AM.  I would enter the school thinking it's way too cold, too wet, too windy, there will be no students today, and then, rounding the corner I would see 20, 30, 40 students waiting for me. Waiting for ME, their coach.  It was humbling and touching, and profound.  I mentored two grade 8 students through their first half marathon.  Sometimes I consider this to be my crowning achievement as a teacher.

You say, "I run because I can and I run because I don't want to stop".  I love the simplicity of this statement, and the honesty it represents, and the minimalism.  Sometimes I think I run because I'm afraid to stop.  Does that make sense or are you too young to connect with that sentiment?  You have answered the question, Melissa, beautifully and with such honesty.  

Here’s your second question…

What’s your bio?

January 18
Hey Mike,
When you say you are afraid to stop - does that mean you are afraid of how things would be if it were taken away from you (an injury out of your control)?  Or you are afraid that if you stop voluntarily, you'll lose touch with how you view the world (from a running Mike perspective as opposed to a non-running Mike view).

I think I can relate somewhat from a teaching perspective.  I taught in Thompson for 10 years.  When we moved to Stonewall - all of a sudden I wasn't a teacher anymore (did not have a job).  Students didn't know me, young people wouldn't come up and say hi to me....  I wasn't "Ms. Budd - the teacher".  I was just another person.  It was like I had lost my identity somehow.  It was scary.  I didn't feel like me anymore.  

Running is part of your identity - just like father.... husband.  It would be scary to lose that part of you (for any reason - choice or no choice).  

I'll send my bio soon - Gotta run (but not literally...I will do that later!)


January 18
Hi Melissa, 
Yes to all above… running provides me with an identity that I truly have come to love.  A 'running Mike' perspective is a good way to phrase it, for sure. I can't imagine life without running.  A non-running Mike perspective would be pretty boring I'm afraid.  Sometimes when I run I become hyper elated and my brain is flooded with happiness.  It's pretty amazing actually.  My thinking becomes crystal clear.  So yes, identity, happiness,  and friendship is all part of the experience.  When I say I run because I'm afraid to stop it is because I fear the aging process.  I ask myself, can I still do this in 5 years, 10 years?  I don't know.  I'm afraid that if I stop I might lose the motivation to keep pounding away.  David says he's always just one marathon away from quitting.  I don't know if he's serious or just talking.  I fear not running and all that it would bring.  

Now, back to that bio of yours...

Mike be continued...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Three Little Runs

There's gotta be a song left to sing
'cause everybody can't have thought of everything
One little song that ain't been sung
One little rag that ain't been wrung out completely yet
Just got a little left

Gillian Welch, One Little Song, Soul Journey

These three little runs are for those that ache. You ran beside me for these three little runs.  You were in my mind.  You were in the lyrics. You became the tempo.  Thank you for being such delightful company. You helped me dance spritely along the trail.  

One Little Run... 
On Friday I ran a 6 mile tempo run to the Forks. It's an urban run up the Crescent, through the Village, over the Queen Elizabeth and return along the river trail to the Gates and Wolseley.  I run this route at least once a week, always clockwise.  Today I broke free and ran it counter clockwise.  Turned out to be a good idea.  I didn't plan it that way, my mind led me in that direction.  It put a whole new perspective to this route which over the years has become pretty predictable.  So there's SMR's tip of the week... if your regular route is becoming predictable, run it reverse.

As I entered the River Trail from Main Street, homebound, I stop in my tracks. Before me lies a huge setting sun, silhouetting the Osborne Street Bridge.  My eyes tear up with what lies before me, a gift really, for those who take the time to see. I am overwhelmed in the moment, it is intensely beautiful.  On the river trail, close to sun down, I stop running and I watch a lone cyclist approach me from about 400 meters. He moves fast, with a huge ball of blinding sun behind him. He is a silhouette. Black against gold. He wears a mask. He is a warrior from another age. Plumes of smoke evaporate from his back. He glows in the sun. He shines in the snow. I stand in awe... in the the middle of the trail... at sundown as he passes me with a nod. I feel the rush and it is wonderful. A shiver runs through my spine. 

I run home just in time for supper, hot and with love.  

Two Little Runs...
On Saturday I run 10 miles, solo.  I run a slow dance with tunes.  Really fine tunes with tempo and lyrics.  The cadence of the tempo works well for this old bod. Wolseley, down Disney to the footbridge, sip of water at the pavilion -ahh, the life-force tastes so good- large loop of the park, homebound via the Crescent, the orange footbridge, Wolseley. I know this route well. It feels like home, comfortable like an old pair of Levis.  I like the vibe of these neighbourhoods. The eclecticism of the Disney Trail, the painted fire hydrants, the the moms and dads of Assiniboine, the dog-walkers along the back trails, the old mansions of Park Boulevard East. I pass my childhood home at 1434 Wellington Crescent and the old black and white 8 mm films click and clatter through my brain.  I smile at the memories and I keep running, strong with heart pumping. I feel connected to my past and it is good, and it is comfortable. 

I run home and fix myself a steamed hot chocolate and sit by the fire, face glowing. 

Three Little Runs...
On Sunday I run 10.5 fast miles, Grant, Forks return through Palmerston Avenue.  I run with old friends and new friends and we laugh... Loriee, Bernie, Gwen, Eric, Scott, Scotty, David, John, Clem, and the other guy.  Clem (green hat) from Texas, David (black hat behind orange jacket) training for Boston... both hard core. Clem talks of his 2:20 marathon in his 20's, David gracefully focussing on Boston.  I run with them return from the Forks.  They push me and pull me to the end and I thanked them for the experience. I died on the bridge and insisted they keep running... instead they slow to match my pace, no words exchanged, simply a runners etiquette in play. They are fast and fast is not my style, but I love it when it comes my way.  I like these two gentleman and I hope to run with them again soon.  Bill says we race the way we train.  With that thought in mind, I think I need to train more with Clem and David. John (orange top) is a fine man and an excellent runner, a smart runner with a love of life.  

I run home to an Americano, fresh ground, and a bowl of steaming homemade soup. I warm my body from the inside out.

My friend Melissa says she doesn't ask herself will I run today ... instead she asks when will I run today. I like that... when will I run today? When will you?

Three little runs for those that ache.  It's a good day to be alive... all sweaty and flush.  


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Stay in bed world, sleep in peace.

But if I had one wish fulfilled tonight 
I'd ask for the sun to never rise
If God passed the mic to me to speak
I'd say "stay in bed, world, sleep in peace"

3:45 No Sleep, The Cardigans, Long Gone Before Daylight

Yesterday, walking through the mall, I read a sign in front of the Dollar Store, Huge Blow Out Sale.  I paused, it's the Dollar Store, what kind of sale could it possibly be and a blow out sale no less? And who could possibly care?  I told Tiffany, my hair cutter, she said yes, it's such a rip off, they sell broken stuff for 25 cents.  I was disappointed in Tiffany, I wanted her to laugh and share the oxymoron, but her brain was in logical sequential mode, mine in abstract bizarre.  She gives a fine haircut though.

Today I answered an email from my cycling advocate friend, KM from Bike to the Future requesting my opinion on how wide a berth a cyclist should give a runner when approaching from behind.  It depends, I said, it depends on the speed of the cyclist.  If they've slowed to match the pace of the runner and have given audible warning from 10 meters, then a one meter  berth is sufficient.  If the cyclists' agenda includes time and distance (i.e. speed) than I think they should stick to the road way. I told him my thoughts on runners being on the low end of the transportation food chain only slightly ahead of walkers.  I told him that when a cyclist gives warning I always give a thankful yell as they scoot by.. thanks for your kindness, thanks for your consideration... it's really appreciated. I do this for two reasons, I want to educate and I really mean it.  I appreciate kindness, I really do. You?

Last week my blogging friend, Jen, received the dire verdict from her doc, stress fractures, no running for 6 weeks (may as well be a year, we're not patient we runners).  Jen talks about searching for lows in running because this is where we find the truth about ourselves.  In the lows we suffer, but it is here where we also grow our wisdom.  In the lows we learn patience, we learn humility, and we learn that all days are good, some are just better than others.  This theme, searching for lows, seems counter intuitive, we runners search for the orgasmic rush, the fleeting runner's high. It's good, I"ve been there, but it passes quickly and I don't learn anything about myself. It's while we're in the lows that we learn.  The highs are special, but they come and go.

Jen uses yoga as rehabilitation and judging from the pictures on her blog, she's pretty darn good.  I on the other hand am not, but in the spirit of lightening the load of a runner down I took the challenge.  On a 10 mile run the other day I asked about a dozen strangers to photograph me in the only yoga pose I know, The Tree.  The strangers were so helpful and when I told them of Jen being injured they put their heart and soul into their job. I only show 6 because 7 would be crazy!  These are for you Jen :)

note Canadian flag eh.

Today I ran 10 miles with D and V. Along the way I met another injured runner friend, J.  She rehabilitates through walking and swimming, but she yearns to run.  She says not running is like the continual presence of absence. That's what I mean about finding wisdom in the lows... the continual presence of absence, brilliant.  We just don't find such wisdom in the highs.  Go here to J's piece on injury.  

It was a m*gical day to be alive, all sunny and white.  In fact at the end of the run I heard a runner say " Mike's blog says "it's a good day to be alive".  That was nice.

Mike  :)