Sunday, May 13, 2012

Don't Run From the Inevitable

So I haven't been on a run in two weeks. It's depressing. But with final papers, exams and the aforementioned graduation hanging over my like Thor's hammer I haven't had much time. So, in honor of the running drought, this post is going to have little to do with "running." I might allude to the act of running, but probably only when I talk about running away from things that scare me. Things like graduation.

I shouldn't be too worried, actually. I'm moving to New York City a few weeks after graduation and someone has actually agreed to pay me to do work (exciting, I know). Better yet, someone's going to pay me to do exactly what I wanted to do with my degree. I bet there aren't too many people who can say that just two weeks after graduation. So what am I scared of? I don't know actually. It might have all started when my friend Alexis told me her human development professor called the period after college "the most lonely period of the human life cycle." Now that doesn't sound like too much fun, does it?
Photo by

But it's not even that. I like changes of pace, learning new things and growing as a person. The few years after college provide opportunities for all of that. But part of me can't help but think about what I'm leaving behind, so I've decided to stop looking at it that way. Instead of running away from the idea of graduation I'm going to start running towards it. Nothing I've learned in college--about life or academics--is leaving me. I'll always have the friendships I've made, regardless of where I'm living or where my friends have relocated to. I'll always have the memories and the realizations.

So instead of rejecting graduation as an "end" that I'm not ready for, I'm going to accept it as a stepping stone--which is probably how anyone BUT a soon-to-be college graduate views it anyway. Now, more than ever, I've begun to realize the importance of life's constants. Family, close friends, and yeah, even running will always be a part of me. They'll always be around to experience that next step in life with. So yes, I'm graduating college in one week. I'll run places I've never run before, but it will still be running. And that's how I'm going to think of it for a while.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Here's to Nostalgia

I'm graduating college in three weeks. Ask me how I feel about that five times and I'll give you five different answers, but I think that's normal. At least I hope. The past four years of my life have given me all I could have asked for: a quality education, great friends, a lot of personal growth and, fortunately, something to do after I graduate. So it's only natural for me to look back at my college experience with such fondness that I've been pushed into an extreme case of nostalgia.

Since I started this blog for my class on blogs I've had one trouble with blogging that I continue to deal with--the ability to say exactly what I'm feeling in text form. I'm not an extremely personal human, but I do tend to internalize a lot of my thoughts. I don't know whether to blame this on the technical journalism training that has steered me away from a written opinion or just my personality, but it's something I want to work on. I'll start with the help of one of my fellow bloggers, Ezra. Like me, Ezra is graduating soon and to reflect upon the past four years of her life she created a questionnaire to channel her thoughts.

Here's my attempt at answering the same questions she did at this very odd, I-don't-know-what-to-think-of-this point in my life:

 1. Where are you right now? (You can answer literally, or you can stop giving boring answers to every question you’re asked, and think outside the box.)
I'm in Starbucks but I'm not really in Starbucks. My mind's somewhere else. I'm three weeks away from graduation and four from leaving only the second place I've ever called home. Ok, so maybe College Park isn't a "home" to be sad about leaving aesthetically. But this "livable community" has provided me with a lot. After graduation I'm moving to New York City for work. I think this adds to my mixed feelings about graduating. It'll be a completely new start, which is something I've always loved, but part of me just thinks college was too short. I'm just glad it happened.

2. What keeps you blogging? Your pride? Your mom? Wanting someone other than your cat to tell you that you’re awesome?
This class keeps me blogging. I'd like to blog more, but as I mentioned at the beginning of this post I have an awful filter that keeps me from saying what I want to (in blog form) and being OK with it. But I made the decision midway through this semester that I would make a strong effort to keep this blog alive after I graduate because I think it's good for me. I like that there is potential for me to grow out of my self censorship. When I do post I feel good about it. Blogging is a great way to learn about yourself and you can never do too much of that.

3. What blogs or bloggers do you look to for inspiration, ideas, or just to get the blog side of your brain turned on?
I've surprisingly found the novice blogs of my classmates to be the most helpful as I've tried to create a foundation for my blog. This isn't surprising because I didn't think they'd be great writers with provoking blogs. Rather, I felt more established blogs would be what I'd turn to for inspiration. But I've learned that the best way, at least for me, to be inspired is to learn from bloggers who aren't established yet either. We've all been in the same boat, which makes it impossible for me to say "I can't do that" and equally as impossible to not at least try something that has worked for their blogs in my own blogging.

4. What is your most Terp-like quality? Is you’re not a Terp, well, I’m sorry, but you should be. Go out and get Terpy. Then report back with your newly acquired Terp quality.
I used to be a tour guide at the University of Maryland, so I gave some rendition of an answer to this question often. The answer I'm going to give now was not even close to the one I gave two years ago to large groups of prospective students. But I'm two years older, so the changing of my answer is warranted. But my most Terp-like quality has to be my willingness to give most people, things and ideas a shot. Being a Terp, in my experience, means open mindedness. I felt it when I visited and it's one of the main reasons I decided to come here. Terps understand balance. I've managed to do so much in college because I've always been open to trying new things, listening to people's opinions and trying something even if I'm not sure it will work out. I think open mindedness is a critical part of who I am and who most Terps are and I wouldn't have wanted to go to any college where this wasn't true.

5. If you could pick any celebrity or politician to give your blog a shout out via Twitter, who would it be?
This may not completely fit the category, but Sloane Crosley. Publicist turned essayist, she's one of my favorite satirists. She's cool enough to be followed by Dwight Howard, too. I'd also love to be given a shout out via Twitter by Kevin Durant, because he's him and he chills.

6. Congrats. Wallace Loh stumbled upon your blog and wants to host an all-night party to celebrate your genius. You get to pick the campus building and the two professors who will be in charge of DJ-ing and food/drinks. Go:
We're definitely throwing down at Eppley Recreation Center so we can rage in the pool. Deborah Nelson, a pulitzer prize winning investigative journalist and faculty member in the journalism school will be spinning tracks. She shops at Value Village so I automatically feel inclined to respect her musical taste (even though I've never asked what it is). She screams cool and most of my classmates know she's going down as my favorite professor in college. Spot two would have to go to my mentor at USA Today, Alison Young, where I interned with their investigations team. I know technically she isn't one of my professors, and I'm incorrectly answering the question because of that, but she might as well have been. Like my other selection she's an amazing journalist and all-around great person.

7. And finally, a serious question. What have you learned from blogging? Did you learn about writing? Did you learn about people? Did you learn how easy it is to get distracted on the internet? (But jk on the last one; you already knew that, of course.)
I've learned all the things this question suggests and more. I've learned that people have the ability to agree, disagree and learn from each other in many more ways than we think. Blogging has made me realize that discussion and debate are no longer just done vocally, but over the internet. I've learned that people love this new form of debate because it allows anyone to chime in, regardless of their location. I also learned that writing doesn't always have to have a beginning, middle and end. It doesn't need to be in the form of a news story, with a beginning, middle and some type of end. Blogging can be short and quick or long, it doesn't really matter and it largely depends on the topic you're committing a post to. That's probably my favorite revelation from this blogging experiment.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Hunger Games: A Runner's Perspective

So I'm a second semester college senior. You'll see why that's relevant to this post in a minute. But to start, lets just go over my running history really quick.

Prior to high school I was a runner simply to train for other sports (mostly soccer). When I hit high school I made the switch to competitive running and my distance training and frequency of running went up drastically. Then, college came. And while I held on to the term "competitive runner" as long as I could, entering road races and university-sanctioned 5Ks as often as frequently as possible, I eventually had to let go of the title "competitive runner" around my junior year of college. Why you ask? Well, I was running more infrequently and, to no surprise, I had adopted a nutrition that was at odds with even the most lenient running diets.

Running, whether competitively or just for exercise, depends a lot upon the health of the runner. Running for sport is only successful at the highest level if a very stringent and appropriate diet is followed by the runner, as expressed by this runner's diet plan supported by Livestrong.

In high school I was strongly committed to a diet plan. I ate a balanced diet of fruits, whole grains, lean meats and healthy snacks. I tried to eat multiple small meals a day rather than two or three large ones and always replenished after distance runs. My diet for most of my high school career consisted of foods like this:


But slowly, over the course of college, the ease of "fast food" the introduction of alcoholic beverages into my diet and the lack of time spent running began to deteriorate whatever type of "competitive runner" I had become. When I began to realize this was happening I was a little saddened, but not much. Competitive running in high school was fun because I am an extremely competitive person. Beating myself (through times) and other runners from rival schools fueled me to keep getting better. When those aspects were taken out of my running routine, in came this type of diet:


This diet has resulted in an addition of pounds, a more sloth-like pace to my runs and a less-competitve, more I-need-to-run-so-I-don't-get-fat strategy to running. Part of me is ok with this evolution, while the other wonders what my running habits would be like had I kept up a balanced diet and cut down on the highly caloric, yet extremely tasty, intake of beer on a consistent basis. I do, however, have no regrets. I am of the belief that a runner is always a runner and I will never lose that part of me. Whether running becomes more frequent in my post college years or it continues to be a once or twice a week occurrence done mostly to offset my unbalanced diet, I will always be a runner with hunger. What I do about that hunger will always be a game and it will always impact the type of runner I am.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Alternative: Running Without Music

Since beginning this blog I have only shared my opinions about running to music. And while this is the general purpose of the blog, that approach neglects a very pertinent topic and common occurrence: running  without music.

You can't run with music all of the time. I mean you could, but the chances that you'll misplace your iPod, have it die or just prefer the ambient noise of nature over a carefully assembled playlist at some point is highly likely. And as much of a proponent I am of good running music, I'm equally appreciative of the alternative. Running without music actually came first for me.

I find the question "when did you begin running?" an extremely hard question to answer. First because I am a very literal person, so I immediately think of my elementary school's walk-a-thon (which really meant run-a-thon for first graders). I know this isn't actually what the person is asking me about when they inquire, but it's the beginning of the thought process that will result in my attempted answer.

That answer is usually high school. While I've played soccer my whole life and running was a big part of that training, I didn't consider myself a "runner" until high school. That's when cross country and track season, on top of soccer, made athletics a year-round commitment and running a frequent occurrence. And seeing that the inside of your head is all you have to listen to during a competitive cross country race, I had to make a commitment to training without my iPod.

Running without music, I'd argue, is more mentally therapeutic than running with it. The mix of endorphins brought on by the exercise and the actual act of running, which frees your mind from most other thoughts, combine for a very relaxing experience. But there's a chance I'm biased. When you grow up somewhere like this: 

(Image by: Yours Truly)
There are many other motivations to get you outside other than your iPod. Prior to college I had lived in Hawaii my entire life. So picking up running opened up a whole new kind of paradise. I could run on beaches and mountain trails for training. The simple fact that jumping right into the ocean after a long run on a hot day did a lot to make running fun in itself. So if I were to give my opinion on when and when not to run with music I'd have to say it depends a lot on the person. I personally think that the aesthetics of my run have a lot to do with the decision. I've found that the quieter my surroundings will be, the more likely I am to choose listening to nothing. I rarely leave the house for a quick run outdoors in College Park without music because they usually entail cross walks and lots of cars.

I'll also say that deciding if I want to run to music has a lot to do with the reason I'm running. When running was more often a competitive endeavor I found it helpful to run all kinds of distances without music. For me, getting as close to the actual environment of the race helped me the most. If I got too used to running to music it became very different when I ran without it. When my legs started to hurt at the end of the race I needed to know how to get through it mentally. Sometimes that did involve singing songs in my head--but it wasn't always that easy.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Simply a Playlist

So a follower of the blog tipped me off to the idea that I may be in need of a post devoted solely to a playlist of good running songs. I’m not going to be too descriptive at all with this—just provide a list of songs that I have run to (recently or for a long time) for you all to try out. Feel free to comment about any of the choices and add some suggestions if you have some great running songs that other readers might like to add to their collection of running tunes.

So, without further ado, here is a very eclectic list of running songs that have stood out in the past on various types of runs:

      1)   Greyhound” by Swedish House Mafia
      2)   Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye (Tiesto Remix)
      3)   Sail” by AWOLNATION
      4)   We Are Young” by Fun.
      5)   Hope” by Faith Evans (feat. Twista)
      6)   Drive By” by Train
      7)   Titanium” by David Guetta (feat. Sia)
      8)   Butterfly” by Crazy Town
      9)   Love Lockdown” by Kanye West
    10) “Sweet Dispostion” by The Temper Trap
    11) “Resistance” by Muse
    12)  Opposite of Adults” by Chiddy Bang
    13)  Little Secrets” by Passion Pit
    14)  Daylight” by Matt and Kim
    15)  Gifted” by N.A.S.A (feat. Kanye West, Santogold, Lykke Li)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Return to the 5K

Late last week, a reader commented on my first blog post (which wasn't too long ago) to tell me that the concept of my blog was a great idea. While this was nice and reassuring, it was also the catalyst for this latest post.

The blogger, Marie, mentioned how important music was to her and her teammates when she ran cross country in high school--and I'd have to agree. Cross country as a sport depends on workouts of various distances and paces, but the competitive aspect of the sport revolves around the 5K. After reading Marie's comment I wondered if I still had it in me: a race-paced 5K.

So Tuesday afternoon, on one of the nicest days we've had in Maryland this year, I threw together a playlist of some newer songs and some old jams. A friend and I had figured out how to run a 5K at Lake Artemesia my sophomore year so I jogged there after class and did EVERYTHING like I would have done it in high school.

I ate a banana an hour before, stretched, and even threw in some warmup strides. I started to realize how much I missed competitive running--or maybe just how much I miss being in the shape I was in when I was a competitive runner.

The nostalgia turned into adrenalin and I did it. For the first time in a year I ran 5 Kilometers as hard as I could, without stopping. I was admittedly dead at the end, as I wasn't expecting 22-year-old beer drinking self to produce a sub 18-minute race, but I was surprised when I came in at 19:40.

These three songs were most helpful in me finishing:

1) "Numb/Encore" by Jay Z and Linkin Park: Possibly one of the best pump-up songs ever (in my opinion). Sang it in my head while waiting for the whistle at the start of every cross-county race and soccer game. Might not like both genres as it is a mashup, but I can't see how this wouldn't work to motivate someone.

2) "Ass Back Home" by Gym Class Heros: Ignore the title's vulgarity. If a song has ever been catchy, it's this one.

3) "Starships" by Nicki Minaj: Don't usually like her, but this one has an amazing drop. Can't beat the beat!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Why Nike+iPod might be TOO technological

If you're a runner who prefers running to music there is a good chance you have at least heard of Nike+iPod, an innovative new technology that helps runners track their workouts and, more notably, plays music in accordance with the runners pace. Yes, you heard me right.

Released in 2006 but updated almost yearly since, the innovative running aide uses a sensor to track the runner's mileage, pace and calories. This information is used to enable motivational coaching during the run, as well as a playlist of music that fits the runner's pace (i.e. slower songs for a slower pace and faster songs for steadier ones).

(image courtesy of

For me, this last quality of the Nike+iPod technology is the most unnecessary. Being that running is a very personal thing, I find music preference to be unique to the individual as well. That's part of the reason I started this blog, to give my opinion of good running music while creating a space for discourse. We all have our own preferences, but it's not always easy to discover music on your own.And while I may have some good suggestions, but ultimately it's about what works for you. With this technology that Nike and Apple are now jointly providing, runners will have to hope that a musical tempo that directly mirrors their running pace is the music most likely to motivate them.

It wouldn't work for me. The music I listen to when running is dependent on many outside factors such as weather, type of run, location and physical preparation. For some reason, when it's really cold out, I prefer to listen to slower more anthemic music, even if I'm running at a quick pace. Oppositely, when it's a hot summer day, I prefer rock with a faster tempo, and for some reason I don't think Nike+iPod will understand the individuality of my musical preferences and provide an adequate playlist for me.

(image courtesy of

And while some of the other features of this device may be lucrative for runners, I find the extent to which Nike and Apple have tried to customize running music feels a bit like boundaries being overstepped. Not only may the music not fit the runner, but the motivational speeches that are given for breaking personal records and the undependable tracking technology have some runners, like me, thinking the key to the perfect running playlist might all still be in the mind.