Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nike... Offensive Ad

Because I'm still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I'm still in love with you
On this Harvest Moon

Neil Young, Harvest Moon from the album Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon is the most tender love song ever written. Perhaps Neil is on my mind today because of the hype surrounding Kelvin High School's 100th anniversary (yes, Neil attended Kelvin High and yes, he did visit on the 75th anniversary). But I don't want to talk about love songs. 

But if I did want to talk about love songs, I'd say the song is a statement of commitment to the ones we love.  The ones who support us as and nourish us. The ones that still love us and still want to see us dance again, and again. I was thinking of Jennifer while dancing Fargo Marathon last weekend. In fact I paid her a silent tribute. All about people were focussed on their pace and engaged in the charismatic glow of the day. I gave her thanks, thanks for supporting me, thanks for nourishing me, and thanks for helping me realize my dreams.  I am here because of you and I run because you believe in me.  I can run and dream.... because I'm still in love with you I want to see you dance again... Yes, that's what I would say.  

But I'm not here to talk about love songs.  

I had a wonderful 10 mile run with friends this morning.  It was wet, very wet, sheet rain in fact.  And the wind, cutting and relentless. But I don't want to talk about today's run.

But if I did want to talk about rainy day runs, I would tell you how child-like it is to run splash, splash through the puddles, how invigorating, how alive I feel with the wind in my face.  The elements laid out before me like an offering of beauty. An offering there for all that care enough to accept it, the beauty of the moment. The elements are hard in my face, strong on my chest. Wet, thoroughly and not quite warm, but my heart pumps strong, and I dance with confidence. Yes, that's what I would say.

But I'm not here to talk about rainy day runs.

What I really want to bring to your attention is this offensive Nike ad (see below for legible text). 

Fortunately the Air Dri-Goat features a patented goat-like outer sole for increased traction so you can taunt mortal injury without actually experiencing it. Right about now you're probably asking yourself "How can a trail running shoe with an outer sole designed like a goat's hoof help me avoid compressing my spinal cord into a Slinky on the side of some unsuspecting conifer, thereby rendering me a drooling, misshapen non-extreme-trail-running husk of my former self, forced to roam the earth in a motorized wheelchair with my name embossed on one of those cute little license plates you get at carnivals or state fairs, fastened to the back?" 

I'm not sure what's worse, Nike executives endorsing this horribly offensive ad campaign or the eleven outdoor magazines (with a combined readership of 2.1 million) that allowed the ad to run in their publications. Nike pulled the ad after being deluged with complaints and made things worse -if that's even possible- with their condescending apology.  

Nike attempted to win browny points by stating in their apology that they employ people who are 'confined to a wheel chair' as if to suggest '...hey, what the big deal, we like the disabled, we even have a couple on the payroll'.  As if that makes it all good.  Sheesh, patronizing at its worst.  

Rick Hanson, Man in Motion... confined, drooling, misshapen, non-extreme?
Ask a person who uses a wheelchair if they feel confined and you better duck or you'll get a poke in the nose!  Steven Hawking, Itzhak Pearlman, Rick Hanson and millions of other average Joes and Josephines ...confined, drooling, misshapen? When we use words like 'confined' or 'disability first' language we unintentionally define the person by their disability and suggest they are less of a person than their differently abled peers.

(June 4) The above has been revised to reflect relentlessly positive language... When we use affirming words such as strong, driven, focussed and 'people first' language to describe individuals, we begin to see the real person and consider their character and strengths as defining features, not their limitations.  Martin had a dream... judge me by the strength of my character... 

The highlight of the MB marathon for me is running along side that fellow, about 10 years my senior, who's zipping along in a wheel chair. He's a regular dude, he's not an elite athlete, his chair is nothing fancy, and he's dressed in cut-off jeans and a tee-shirt. He's cheerful and shoots the breeze with anyone who has the energy to match his pace. Confined my foot!  

And at this year's Fargo Marathon I ran along side a runner with a visual impairment who was supported by a sighted runner.  Their pace and confidence was inspiring.  I told them both that they were amazing and he replied I too was awesome and not to forget it!  Confined my foot!

Beyond the difficulties of doing certain things, the main barrier for people using wheel chairs is discrimination and negative attitudes portrayed in the media (see Nike ad above). This is what keeps people with disabilities confined. As long as we continue to see the disability, not the person, we discriminate and exclude.  

Well friends, looking out my window I see the wind is blustery and dusk is settling in nicely.  I'm on dinner deck so I best be going.  

It's a good day to be alive.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fargo Marathon 2012, Race Report

I had two goals going into the 2012 Fargo Marathon, 1) make it to the start line, and 2) make it to the finish line.  I'm delighted to report both goals are accomplished and I feel good.  My time is not stellar, not even close to a PB, but considering the 4 week down-time as a result of a pesky calf, I'm over the moon just to have made it to the start line, the finish line was a sweet bonus.

Yes, I had a closet goal (4:10 - 4:15 always sounds reasonable in my books) but that started to smoulder at about mile 18. Up until then I was strong and on pace for a 4:10 or better. Over the course of 3 miles, starting at mile 17, my speed collapsed and exhaustion set in hard. By mile 22 it was full-on painful.  Each step hurt and my mind pleaded with my legs to stop... to walk, to curl up in the ditch, to share a beer with those friendly college kids. My Garmin conked out earlier in the race so, but I'd be surprised if I was maintaining even a 12 m/m pace by this point.  I was drop-dead tired, but I still had a little slow dance left, a little soft shoe, just enough to waltz over the white line. 

From mile 20 onward I had a vision, not the kinds of vision you might expect. I didn't see my life flash before me, I didn't see the Almighty, I didn't even get messages from the great beyond. Nope, my visions were pretty darn mundane as visions go... a cup of hot coffee and a small bag of McDonald's fries. That's right, a small bag of fries, not even super sized. That was my vision.  I could see it plain as day, and right next to it a small black coffee. Small fries and a small coffee, no cream, no sugar. Pretty pathetic vision I agree, indeed a waste of a good vision. It's my vision though and it motivated me to keep moving forward so I am grateful for it in all its pithyness. 

Once back at the hotel I showered, long and hot, and slipped into my pyjamas. I then fell into the deepest REM sleep that I have experienced for quite some time.  The sleep of the long distance runner is a beautiful thing, simple, elegant, and wonderfully satisfying. Two hours later, refreshed, I was ready for the evening fun.  I met some running pals for supper; actually the world's best running pals, all 50 + of them. Big ones, small ones, fast ones slow ones, all of them beautiful people.  All of them positive and brimming over with buoyant energy and support.  We marvel at the diversity of our backgrounds, we're all so different, and yet we all share common goals and a love of running. This is an amazingly supportive group of people, my friends, my support team.  I like to hang out with winners and all of these people are winners in my eyes.  Life is grand, but it twinkles a little brighter in their presence. 

I ran 26.2 miles on Saturday, May 20 2012. I was in pain, a blissful pain, but  pain nonetheless. I trained 500 miles for the pleasure of racing 26.2. They call it a marathon. So what? It means nothing really. Most people can do it if they put their mind to it, If they want it bad enough, but most people don't and that's ok. It's the people who do not have the option that makes it worthwhile.  It is for those people that I run.  Those people who would give their eye-teeth to stand at a line of peers and join in the fluidity, join in the surging rush of forward movement, join in the wonderful slow dance, the life dance.  Those people that are sick and tired, those people who have lost so much and suffer so deeply.  They are the reason I run.  It's that simple, really. 

I have found what I am looking for... who would have thought it was hiding along the tree lined streets of Fargo?

It is a good day to be alive, a wonderful day to dance.


Friday, May 18, 2012

That Running Feeling

I've got that running feeling again. That feeling that lingers just below the surface. That feeling that something amazing is about to happen. That feeling of awe and excitement. That feeling of fear. That feeling of reverence to the distance. That running feeling.

I'm sitting in my hotel tapping away on the iPad. Cold pasta in the cooler. A chilled lite beer on the table. The hotel is ok, 2 1/2 stars I think. I booked it months ago. It's hard to get a room in this city on race weekend. It's clean but there Is a heavy synthetic 'wild flower' fragrance that caused me to sneeze when I first walked in the room. Makes me wonder what it's masking... don't think I want to go there!

I picked up my race kit at the Fargo Dome this afternoon. I'm # 128 if you'd like to follow me virtually. Currently it's very, very windy and hot, mid 90's. I'm glad we're not running today. Tomorrow is predicted to be a little cooler, but we will see what the pasta gods have in store for us mere mortals.

I'm rereading an old favourite, Haruki Murakami's What I Think About When I Think About Running and I came upon this gem:

It's precisely because of the pain, because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive - or at least a partial sense of it. Your quality of experience is based not on standards such as time or ranking,but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself.

Tomorrow I dance. I dance for you, I dance for me.

It's a good day to be alive and I wish you much fluidity


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Winnipeg Police Half Marathon 2012, Race Report

Two weeks ago I ran a 10 k race and my bib number was 1509... September 15, my birthdate. On Sunday I ran the Cops and my bib number was 55... my age. Coincidence? I haven't received my bib number for Fargo but I'll be looking for some significance, maybe 1-9-5-6... that would be spooky! A friend suggested I combine the numbers and buy a lottery ticket (or not).  

It was a superb day for a race.. cool but not cold, drizzly but not rainy, breezy but not windy. A perfect storm for a PB, a tri-wonderful arrangement of elements that pushed everyone over the line with the smiliest of smiles.   And three, count 'em... 3...  three Hercules fly-bys. Yup for sure it was a good day to be alive and running free. I managed to shave 57 seconds off my previous personal best and that feels good... good on the bones, good on the heart and really, really good on the spirit.  Go here for race results. 

Unequivocally,  the Cops Race is the premiere half-marathon in Manitoba. No other local race comes close to competing with this race. The organization, the volunteers, the cause, the fly-by are all superbly executed. I commend the race committee for once again pulling out all the stops in making this, The Cop's Run 2012, the most anticipated race in Manitoba and beyond.  Aside from being cut off at mile 12.75 by an eager teenager hugging his cheery mom (how could I possibly get upset with a teenager reaching out to hug ma?)  the entire race was wonderful.  

Race Director, Nick Paulet is looking for feedback to improve the race.  Here's my two cents.

Ban headphones on the course for two reasons, 1) safety and 2) Joie de vivre.  

Safety:  When I pass runners I give the customary "pass left" or "pass down the middle" chime.  This is proper runners' etiquette world wide. Runners who hear the warning step a little to the side making the pass easy and safe. Without  breaking stride they know where I am and where I will be in two seconds. I pass with a cheerful smile and a positive comment on their form or the beauty of the moment.  I have connected with a fellow runner, we have shared a positive moment and in doing so we have supported one another.  All is good.

Tuned out runners do not hear the warning.  Often I can't  tell if they have plugs in their ears until I am in the actual motion of passing. I give warning of my intention but they don't budge forcing me to divert suddenly. People behind me are then forced to alter their stride suddenly.  I lose momentum and I look for an alternate way to pass. Sometimes I tap tuned out runners on the shoulder to indicate I'm passing but that causes them to startle and veer sharp. Runners need to in touch with their surroundings during a race.  The headphones cause them to tune out and focus only on themselves.  This is potentially dangerous and for this reason, headphones should be banned on the course.

Joie de vivre:  The joy of living is why we run.  It is the holy grail of life.  We search for it and we covet it when it's there because we know it is elusive.  It is being there in the moment with your fellow runners, living and breathing the same air, sharing comments as we waddle along the course... this is what is important in life.  It is the connections we make, the smiles we share, and the positivity of the runners that move us forward with grace and such happiness.  All about me people are smiling and sharing the golden moment ...except for the tuned out.  They look serious and annoyed.  During a race I listen for the cheers from the side of the road.  It lightens the load and makes me swell with pride. To intentionally tune out all the positivity of the day makes me shake my head in disbelief. 

Now don't get me wrong, I like music too.  I frequently wear headphones (see picture top right sidebar) but never during a race.

So Nick, if you're reading this, these are my two cents.

It's a beautiful day to be alive, right?


Congratulations to David R. who seems to be rebounding nicely if today's Physio Run is any indication.