A Happy Runner Vlog

I started a video log on YouTube about running, my road to staying fit,and being happy. It’s called A Happy Runner  Will upload new videos every week..

A link to my channel on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCP7H11wzxl9VRX6plu-_XHQ

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Starting from Scratch

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My last blog post was from December 2014. At that time, I was really happy to share the big news. I just finished running my 1,000th mile in a span of only 14 months. I weighed 145 pounds, and I could effortlessly run a 10K in about 45 minutes. It was not unusual for me to run between 8 and 10 miles in a given day.  Another 14 months have passed. I am back to my old weight of 178 pounds. My days of running outside seem like a distant memory. Now, it’s like I am climbing Mt. Everest every time I get on the treadmill.  After about 30 minutes of light jogging, it feels like a miracle that I not only managed to run a 5K, but stay on the treadmill in the first place.

Today, my goal of qualifying for the Boston marathon appears to be a far-fetched fantasy that may never come true. Every now and then, I take a good look at myself in the mirror and wonder what happened to that same guy who ran his last half marathon in 1 hour and 38 minutes in October 2013? How did I manage to regain my weight, slow down so much, and even stop writing in my favorite blog? What happened?

Last April, I developed a bad case of iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) or “runner’s knee.” I’ve always felt some degree of soreness in my knees and legs almost after every run. This soreness had ranged from mild discomfort to dull pain, but it never stopped me from running altogether.  Over time, I have gotten used to it, and the soreness usually went away after some basic stretching exercises. This was something completely different. For the first time after over three years of running, I felt a sharp and unusual pain. After jogging on the treadmill for just three to four minutes, I had an almost knee-jerk reaction that rendered my legs helpless. I could still walk, but I could not run at all.

I responded to this injury by significantly slowing my running down. In April, my mileage was only 38 miles compared to a decent 71 miles in March of last year. Unfortunately, I did not seek physical theray, or ,do any cross-training.  I also did not watch my diet. I did not even buy a foam roller to help stretch my legs and strengthen the muscles around my knees.  In a few months, my knee started to feel a little better, and I felt that I could run longer again.  However, the damage had already been done. By the time July and August rolled around, I was already around 165 pounds.   I was running between 40-50 miles per month compared to 80-90 miles per month one year earlier.  I was eating a lot more too.  Making matters even worse, I was eating the wrong foods. Instead of sticking to organic, non-fatty foods with low carbs and no sugar, I was gorging on McDonalds burgers, Starbucks mochas, and lots and lots of candy!  While I felt good for a moment, I did not feel good at the end of the day.  Quoting one of my favorite Austin Powers movies, “I ate because I was unhappy, and I was unhappy because I ate.”

As a result, I am what I am today, and I am not happy about it to say the least. As I think back to what I did to get back into shape, I realize that most of it was a combination of two things – focus and discipline. Those things not only helped me stay in shape, but they were also a source of happiness in my life. I took a lot pride in the fact that I could stick to my fitness and diet plans day in and day out. I took that pride for granted, and now I realize how happy I was back then compared to what I feel now.

There is no doubt the knee injury played a big part in it. However, life is not just about injuries and failures, but it’s about what we do to get back on our feet. Over the past 14 months, I felt like I had no major accomplishments to share, so I didn’t write anything. Sometimes, I thought that somehow I would miraculously lose a bunch of weight, and I could set another half marathon personal record within just a few weeks. It never happened. However, something special happened yesterday. I ran 6.2 miles on the tread mill. I didn’t think I was going to survive at times, but somehow I was able to complete the distance in just under an hour. I was tired, sweaty, and sore after that painful ordeal.  More importantly, I decided to write about my experience and struggles.   This is a sign that I’m on the road to recovery, even if that means starting from scratch.

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I Ran 1,000 Miles!

1000 miles

As of November 30, 2014, I reached a milestone on my road to staying fit. I ran 1,000 miles since October 8th, 2014! That’s roughly the driving distance from Washington, DC to Miami, FL or from Madrid, Spain to Brussels, Belgium. Instead of just one trip, it took me 221. That averages out to about 4.5 miles per run! My longest run was 13.1 miles when I ran the half-marathon last year in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Besides that, I’ve been keeping my minimum distance to 5Ks or 3.1 miles with an occasional 6-7 mile run every other weekend.

While I started running on a regular basis since early 2012, last year was the first time I decided to keep track of my mileage using an Excel spreadsheet. As I take a step back and look at the above chart, I notice a few things. First, I ran a heck of a lot of miles! However, miles are not the only thing I see. I see events from my life. For example, in December and January, my miles really picked up as I ramped up my training for the World’s Best 10K in Puerto Rico. Then, in March, I ran 87 miles. That is when I met some new friends and fellow runners. I remember every week we would talk about how much miles we covered running all around San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was easier for me to run knowing that someone right next to me is putting over 20 miles every week and seeing them do it!

Suddenly, my miles dropped significantly in July due to an unexpected running injury. I vividly remember my hospital visit to a foot doctor in Puerto Rico. There were a few weeks I could barely walk. This seriously reduced my mileage in July and August. I was literally back on my feet in September. I almost hit my personal best record with 86 miles for the month. As the weather got colder and the holidays rolled around, my mileage declined slightly to 72 miles in November.

At that point I reached one thousand miles. What’s next? A few goals come in mind. I would still like to run 1,000 miles in a calendar year, every year. There’s just something irresistible about running 1,000 miles per year.

Early this year, I really thought that by increasing my mileage I could increase my pace. Instead, I decreased my pace. Running for distance is one thing, but running for speed is different. The main reason why I didn’t run as much races this year is a slower pace. Using Nike’s sport-watch, my average pace running outside has been about 8 minutes and 12 seconds per mile since I started keeping track of my mileage in October 2013. Late last year, I somehow reached a half-marathon pace of 7:31/mile. A big part of why I run is, so I can run fast. One of the few times in my life when I actually felt happy about something was when I was going on a long run and I was getting tired. Suddenly, I would get a second wind, and I would sprint as far as I could at a pace of less than 5 minutes per mile. If that’s not living, I don’t know what is.

Now, I feel like I can barely run a 5K in under 23 minutes. There were some days when my pace has been as slow as 11 minutes per miles! I don’t have a good excuse for this. While it is true that you can’t improve your pace without improving your mileage, a lot more things need to happen.

The main reasons for the decrease in my pace have been weight gain, lack of exercise, weak stretching, and just poor training. It will take a lot of hard work and exercise to get back to my previous pace. Afterwards, I hope to join the sub 7 minute per mile club, which would bring me one step closer to qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

There is no doubt that keeping track of my mileage has improved my performance. What would happen if I started to keep track and measure my time when I am not running? While it took me almost 14 months to run 1,000 miles, it took me countless push-ups and sit-ups to get into shape in order to improve my pace. What would happen if I actually started counting those pushups and sit-ups? What would happen if I started counting the hours I spend studying for my exams? The possibilities are endless. After all, time is our most precious asset, and it would be a shame to waste it.

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Eating Healthy To Stay Fit

No matter how hard I have been training in the past two years, the key to improving my running speed is weight loss. In my previous article, the Physics of Running, I present a graph showing that a runner weighing 100 pounds could run a 10K race (6.2 miles) in under 30 minutes.  According to the same graph, a runner weighing 176 pounds would only be able to run the same distance in at most 50 minutes. I could not believe this until I actually looked up the weights of the world’s fastest runners, and I was astonished to find out that they weigh so little!

1) Ryan Hall: 130 pounds/Height:  5’10 – Holds the US record for half-marathon with a time of 59:43.
2) Mo Farah: Weight: 128 pounds/Height: 5’5 –  Winner of the gold medal in the 10K and 5K events at the 2012 London Olympics.
3) Kenensia Bekele – Weight: 123 pounds/Height: 5’5 – World record holder for 5K with a time of 12:37.
4 Tirunesh Dibaba – Weight: 106 pounds/Height: 5’4  – Women’s world record holder for 5K with a time of 14:11.
5) Paula Radcliffe –  Weight:119 pounds/Height: 5’8 –  Women’s world record holder for marathon with a time of 2:15 and road 10K with a time of 30:21.

I was able to improve my half-marathon speed from 2 hours and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 38 minutes because I went from being 170 pounds to 140 pounds in one year.  My weight loss is mainly due to eating less.  While maintaining my running schedule, I noticed that my weight has started increasing again as soon as I went back to my old eating habits.  While I prepare myself for the autumn race season, I try to remember to what I did to lose weight in the first place.  The are some of the things that come to mind:

1) Eat healthy microwave food.
For eight months, my lunches and dinners consisted almost entirely of microwave food.  It’s easy to cook, cheap, and fast to prepare.  When I shop for microwave food, I choose to go for the lesser evil and try to buy the healthiest microwave food possible.  Unfortunately, this is not easy.  With  microwave food, you know exactly what you are getting, even if it’s bad for you.   Therefore,  I try to pick the meals with the least amount of artificial ingredients.   I stick to  brands like Kashi, Lean Cuisine, and Healthy Choice. These brands tend to have less calories, sodium, and sugar.  Here is a list of my top 5 favorite microwave meals that I would buy.

Microwave FoodsFinally, I would supplement my microwave meals with fruits and vegetables.  I would buy a salad, bananas, tangerines (easy to peel), prepared pineapples, and an avocado.

2) Keep better track of my calories.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines, the average American adult woman needs between 1,800 and 2,400 calories per day, while the average American adult man needs between 2,400 and 3,000.  Eating just 250 more calories daily than your body requires for body functioning and exercise leads to a 26-pound weight gain in a year.  This is scary given that most snacks and quick drinks I eat have more than 200 calories.  A 16 ounce latte from Starbucks  has 220 calories.  A Milky-way Midnight candy bar also has 220 calorie, and a 3 musketeers mini has about 26 calories.  Even only after adding a candy bar to your daily diet, running doesn’t really do that much to prevent weight gain. Running a over a distance of 3.1 miles (5K), I only burn 340 calories or approximately 110 calories every mile.  I love to eat a lot of 3 Musketeers-Minies and drink lots of coffee, so I’ve got a very long way to run if I want to keep eating them.

3) Avoid unhealthy foods.
I  believe that foods with too much sodium, cholesterol, sugar, and calories are unhealthy.  Just like with microwave food, I always go for the lesser evil when I have to eat in a place that serves unhealthy food.   Ever since I can remember, I loved going to McDonald’s.  My typical meal was Big-Mac, fries, and a large Coke. Sometimes, I would get one more big-mac.  They are so good.  Without the extra big-mac, my happy meal is 1,550 calories.   However, a hamburger with a side salad,  low-fat dressing, and a water would be less than 300 calories!  Now, I choose the latter instead of the former.

4) Eat foods that are healthy for runners.
These foods are rich in protein,  are low in cholesterol, have lots of fiber,  contain anti-oxidants, manganese, and copper.  Foods low in cholesterol promote better heart health, which is vital.  Protein, fiber, copper, and manganese are important for supporting muscles.   Maintaining energy to run is crucial, which is where carbohydrates or carbs come in.   Much of the literature I read on carb intake focuses on eating carbs low in sugar.  Also, carb in-take should be consistent with the amount of activity.  Before a long race, eating more carbs is useful. However, during normal training days, not so many carbs are needed.  Examples of my favorite foods include chicken, cabbage, broccoli, kale, falafel, dark-chocolate, low-fat yogurt, egg-whites, whole grains, and fruits.

5) Keep running!
For me, weight-loss is not the goal. Instead, it is a means to achieving the goal, which is to become a faster long-distance runner and eventually qualify for the Boston marathon.  I am not trying to break the next world-record and get down to 130 pounds like Ryan Hall.  When I ran my fastest 5K race in 22 minutes, I felt like I did my best and gave it all I had.  However, I know that with better training and eating, I can run much faster.

Miles From Last Week

Tuesday:  3.1 miles
Wednesday: 3.5 miles
Thursday: 4 miles
Total: 10.6 miles
Miles Ran in June: 64

Ideas For Future Posts
How to Qualify for Boston
Ideal Exercise Routine
Diet Plan for Half-Marathon
Time for Cross-Training
Running in Parque Central
Time for New Shoes
Best Music for Running
Running in Different Cultures
Best Running Movie Scenes Ever
How Running relates to Other Sports
Let’s Stretch
What do I think about while I’m running?
How I Started Running

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A Miso Smile (味 笑)

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By my third year of college, I had grown sick and tired of eating pizza, burgers, teriyaki, and fast food in general. Nevertheless, I still loved going out to eat.   Sometimes, I would even go out of my way to walk down University Avenue or the “Ave” just to feel the hustle and bustle of the street and smell what was cookin’. One time, a new Asian restaurant opened up called “Yummy Bites” a few blocks down from the University bookstore. I hoped it would be a Japanese restaurant. I love authentic Japanese cuisine. My favorite dishes include “Udon,” “Zaru Soba,” “Okonomiyaki,” and “Onigiri.” However, authentic Japanese restaurants are few and far between in Seattle.   Unfortunately, there were no Japanese restaurants on the “Ave” except for a Japanese bakery, which closed down after a few months of unsuccessful operations. I was their only customer, and there was only so much “melon-pan,” that I could possibly eat in one day. I was also enrolled in Japanese 101, so what better way to practice my Japanese than by eating some Japanese food?

When I stepped inside of the restaurant, I found out that “Yummy Bites” was another one of many “Gogigui” or Korean BBQ joints that were all over campus. However, it felt awkward leaving the place since the staff was so friendly, and I was their only customer at the time. The fact that the waitress was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen didn’t seem to hurt either.

After taking another look at the menu, I ordered the most authentic Japanese meal I could possibly find, a bowl of miso soup. Miso soup is a soup made from miso paste, a blend of soybeans and other vegetables. Miso paste is known to help prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and metal poisoning. It is also known to help reduce blood pressure and weight. As an added bonus, every order came with a complimentary bowl of rice and my favorite Korean herbal tea. Refills were free. The miso soup turned out to be delicious. I had to go back the next day and the day after that.

With time, I gradually expanded my portions to include “nori” and “kimchi.”  I learned how to wrap kimchi and rice into the nori rolls, and dip those rolls into my miso soup. Nori is the seaweed that is used for wrapping sushi.   Nori lowers cholesterol. It is rich in protein and high in iron.  Kimchi consists of fermented cabbage, cucumbers, and radish. Kimchi boosts metabolism and contains more immune- and digestion-boosting probiotics than yogurt.

Eventually, I found myself eating at Yummy Bites every day exactly at 12:00 pm in the afternoon.   Seconds after walking through the door, a bowl of miso soup, and a plate of rice and kimchi were waiting for me at the same table I would sit at right across from the TV. I even got to know the family that operated the restaurant, and I can’t forget how happy they were to see their most loyal customer. They told me that the word “miso” means smile in Korean. Unfortunately, I never even got a “miso” from the gorgeous waitress mentioned earlier.   She moved somewhere else, and I never saw her again.

There were other reasons I would go to Yummy Bites. Every lunch at “Yummy Bites” would cost me only $3.23! I usually paid with three one- dollar bills and a quarter. Sometimes, I would generously say “keep the change.”   Once in a while, the owner refused to charge me saying, “this one is on us.” Today, I would be lucky to get away with paying $4 after one morning trip to Hacienda del Pedro for “un cafecito” (one cup of coffee).

Links:
How To Make Miso Soup

How To Make Kimchi

Miles From Last Week
Monday: 4 miles
Tuesday: 4 miles
Wednesday: 4 miles
Thursday: 5 miles
Total: 17 miles
Miles Ran in May: 87.5 (Personal Record)

Ideas for Future Posts
How to Qualify for Boston
Ideal Exercise Routine
Diet Plan for Half-Marathon
Time for Cross-Training
Running in Parque Central
Time for New Shoes
Running Rhymes
Running in Different Cultures
Best Running Movie Scenes Ever
How Running relates to Other Sports
Let’s Stretch
What do I think about while I’m running?
How I Started Running
Old School vs. New School Runners

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The Physics of Running

“I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it.”

Lord Kelvin

I have always been curious about the world and how things work. Perhaps that’s why my favorite subject in school was physics. I still like to go to Barnes & Noble and the local library to rummage for books about physics. One particular area of physics that has always fascinated me is mechanics.   Mechanics is the branch of physics that deals with motion and forces.  Whenever I go out for a run, I think of how my interest in physics could possibly help me find the solutions to some of the questions I’ve been asking myself.

I want to know how weight loss and running distance are related to each other. How long should I run just to lose one pound of weight?   What is the furthest distance I could run in 30 minutes?  How would my time change if instead of pavement, I ran on track, sand, grass, or on the treadmill?  What difference does the weather really make when I am running outside?

I also wonder about my health. How badly am I damaging my knees when I run? What difference do my Saucony Kinvara shoes really make over the Asics Gel Shoes when it comes to protecting my knees from the stress of hitting the ground? What is the best posture for running and how should I land on my feet?  What’s my ideal maximum heart rate while running?

Finally, I question my performance. What’s the fastest time I could possibly run a distance such as a mile or a 5K? What kind of training do I need to do in order to get to that level?   How long would it take me?

As a helpful resource, I found the following power point presentation on running and physics by Jim Reardon, University of Wisconsin.

“Overview of Physics of Running”:   http://uw.physics.wisc.edu/~reardon/Physics%20of%20Running.pdf

pic1 - WFD

The first thing that I noticed from the presentation was the above equation. The most interesting part of solving the equation would be calculating the Force factor.   We may recall that Force equals force times acceleration or F=ma, where m is mass of an object and a is the acceleration of the center of mass of the object. When running, some contributing forces include gravity and friction of the surface, which comprise the net force on the body in the above equation. Another way we can rewrite the above equation is Distance = Work/Force.  Let’s assume that our net force factor is reduced as a result of switching to a smoother surface from pavement to track.    After all, we will have a smaller friction coefficient if we change to a smoother surface. Keeping the amount of Work we performed constant, we can see that Distance will increase by the same multiple by which we reduced the Force factor. On the other hand, the Net Force will increase if we switch to a rougher surface like sand. Keeping the Work factor constant, Distance would decrease proportionately.pic2 - graph

The above graph demonstrates that as body mass increases, the maximum speed for a runner consistently drops assuming 60% relative humidity and outside temperature of 35 degrees C, which equates to 95 degrees F. According to the graph, a runner weighing 45 kg (100 lb) can run at a max pace of 20 km/hr (12 miles/hr).   This is a reasonable assumption since elite athletes today are able to run a 10K (6.2 miles) in well under 30 minutes.   It’s astonishing that if the runner’s body mass increases to 80 kg (176 lb), the same runner ‘s maximum running speed would drop all the way down to 12 km/hr (7 miles/hr)!

Reardon’s explanation behind this phenomenon brings us back to our Work equation of W = FxD.   The fact is that people sweat in order to stay cool. This occurs in running as body temperature naturally increases. Therefore, sweat naturally involves heat loss.  However, heat loss depends on surface area. Larger runners with more mass have more surface area, so it literally takes them more work to sweat in order to stay cool. As a result, Reardon concludes that “smaller runners do better in extreme heat than larger runners.”

pic3 - energycost

Another interesting fact I learned is that people burn the same amount of calories over the same distance traveled.  It doesn’t matter how fast you walk or run.  You still burn the same amount of calories.  The only difference is that it will take you less time to burn the same amount of calories if you run instead of walk since you are traveling faster.

Finally, Reardon’s presentation confirmed what Gordon Pirie wrote all along about cadence and heel strikes. Heel strikers use up more energy than toe strikers. Reardon quoted a study done on robots by S. Collins to illustrate this fact (Anthropoid Passive-Dynamic Walking Robots S. Collins et al., 2001). Using the same study as support, Reardon also added that runners should take shorter, but more frequent steps. This advice is consistent with a cadence of three steps per second that many running coaches recommend.  Also, longer strides result in more “up and down”/bobbing motion of our heads. As we run, our heads bounce up and down, which also makes it almost impossible to read a magazine on a treadmill.  By keeping our head straight and taking shorter strides, we are conserving our energy, which allows us to run faster and longer.

Miles From Last Week
Sunday: 5 miles
Monday: 3.1 miles
Tuesday 6.2 miles
Wednesday: 3.1 miles
Thursday: 3.1 miles
Friday: 3.1 miles
Saturday: 5 miles
Total: 28.6 miles
Miles Ran in May: 87.5 (Personal Record)
Miles Ran in April: 76.3

Ideas for Future Posts
Time for Cross-Training
Running in Parque Central
Time for New Shoes
Running Rhymes
Running in Different Cultures
Best Running Movie Scenes Ever
How Running relates to Other Sports
Let’s Stretch
What do I think about while I’m running?
How I Started Running
Old School vs. New School Runners

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A Tale of Two Shoes

Every time I go to a race, I can’t help marveling at the wide variety of running shoes that the runners wear. I’ve seen shoes of all shapes, colors, and shades. I’ve seen pairs of shoes where both shoes were different colors. At the San Antonio marathon, I even remember seeing a runner with no shoes!

Champion C9 shoes

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Some runners recommend alternating shoes between runs since it gives more time for the cushion to get back to normal. Therefore, I decided to buy two pairs of shoes. The first place I went was Target. I found Champion C9 shoes for only $20!   At that time, I didn’t think there was a big of a difference between a $100 shoes and $20 shoes. Comparing the Champion C9 shoes to my existing shoes I could instantly see and feel the difference. My old Asics Gel Equation 5 shoes felt lighter, more comfortable, flexible, and not as tight. I didn’t want to sacrifice quality for price, so I moved on.

Asics Gel Equation 7 shoes

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The next place I went to was Nordstrom Rack by Southpoint Mall in Durham, NC. There, I found Asics Gel Equation 7 shoes for around $60, which was a good deal since they usually sell for between $80 and $100 on-line. Buying the shoes was a no-brainer for me. The shoes are amazingly durable, which is a testament to their quality.   My previous pair of shoes lasted about 18 months. In the past 7 months, I’ve logged almost 480 miles, and the shoes don’t show too much wear and tear.   Even with the removable sock liner, the shoes have a lot of room. As a result, I’ve generally been wearing thicker socks when I go running. It feels like there is more cushion on the forefoot than on the heel. Also, I slipped a few times while wearing these shoes. Maybe it’s because the traction on the soles is not as strong.  On the other hand, the shoes have some good qualities. The mesh on the top of the shoe allows for good breathability.

Many serious runners whom I’ve spoken to have consistently relied on Asics shoes. More higher-end Asics shoes include the Asics Gel Kayano-19 and the Asics Gel Cumulus 15.   I think comparing the Champion C9 shoes to the Asics is like comparing a Honda to a Volvo. They’ll both get you to the same place, except the latter will give you a much smoother ride.

Saucony Progrid Kinvara 3 Shoes

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Hands down my favorite pair of shoes is the Saucony Progrid Kinvara 3. These have been my racing shoes since I ran the Midtown Race Series 10K last September. I’ve also worn these shoes on several other runs, but my mileage on them has been very low with under 50 miles. What I like most about these shoes is their light weight. They are some of the lightest shoes on the market weighing less than 8 ounces (1/2 pound). That weight makes a significant difference when running over long distances. I noticed that my 5K time has been a minute faster when I wear my Kinvara 3 shoes compared to the Asics Gel Shoes. The shoes are very comfortable, but they are a little tight, so I wear thinner socks while running in these shoes. Stylistically, these shoes stand out with very bright overlays on top of the shoes. The shoes do not have much arch, but they have a good deal of cushioning, which is ideal for shock absorption and support. These shoes are the most expensive running shoes I’ve ever bought.    

Below, is a summary of my two shoes:

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Miles From Last Week
Monday: 5 miles
Wednesday: 4.5 miles
Friday: 7.5 miles
Total: 17 miles
Miles Ran in March: 87 (Personal Record)

Ideas for Future Posts
Time for Cross-Training
Running in Parque Central
Time for New Shoes
Running Rhymes
Running in Different Cultures
Best Running Movie Scenes Ever
How Running relates to Other Sports
Let’s Stretch
What do I think about while I’m running?
How I Started Running
Old School vs. New School Runners

 

 

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