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August 15th, 2011
04:40 PM ET

Letters to the President: #938 'Run like a runner: part one'

Reporter's Note: The president is running for re-election. I’ve just been running a lot. For the next few days, I will try to share some of the lessons from my experience in a way that might help him…or any other contender…prepare for 2012.

Dear Mr. President,

Perhaps you have noticed in my letters a peculiar trend in recent months: I have been running like a fiend. Like a shoplifter. Like a man on fire. Miles and miles and miles. A challenge from one of my daughters to get back into the marathoning game after about 25 years absent reawakened the urge, and I have been Dr. Sneakers ever since! Over the past week alone, I’ve probably scampered about 60 miles. Maybe a few more. Maybe a few less. But a good many no matter how you slice it.

And it has occurred to me as I have happily trotted along, that there are certain lessons that come from running which apply to everyday life; and certainly to the “running” involved in political campaigns. So for the next several days, I’m going to write about that a bit.

Don’t worry. This is not a “Hey, Mr. President, you need to exercise more,” thing. I’m sure you get plenty of that from the First Lady. Ha! To the contrary, I admit that distance running is a passion for some, an acquired taste for others, and for still others, something that should not be attempted unless you are being pursued by a mugger. (And in your case, I suspect those legions of Secret Service guys would make him regret any attempt to snatch your wallet before he made it two steps.) This is more about the principles involved in taking on something that requires commitment, discipline, and the ability to meet and overcome obstacles.

So let me start, as we do in road racing, at the beginning; with the most basic and obvious lesson for anyone who takes up running with a goal in mind (such as a marathon): Have a plan. I don’t mean a “I’d better stay on this road or I’ll get lost and devoured by bears” plan; but a sharp outline of where you are…where you are going…and what you intend to accomplish along the way.

In my ‘20’s, I ran just for the sake of running even when I had a marathon looming on the horizon. Day to day, I would strap on my shoes and take to the trails, sometimes doing a couple of miles, sometimes six or seven, sometimes ten or fifteen. There was no rhyme or reason. It depended on my whims. As a result, I did not build upon my successes, but stumbled along hoping I would be ready by marathon day. Invariably, I was not. Oh sure, I made it through the race, but it was sheer survival, and I paid a terrible price in aching legs and blistered feet.

Not anymore. I no longer have the energy and elastic legs of youth, but I am a much, much more cunning runner today. Before attempting my comeback marathon earlier this year, I found an excellent Runner’s World training plan online and I followed it religiously; hitting the training hard and seriously, and using the off-days for recovery precisely as prescribed. The result: Instead of confusion and wasted effort, I felt myself steadily improving and benefiting from all that exertion.

Not only my first, but also my second marathon this year, were pleasures. And I expect the others that I have planned for later this year will be too.

I realize that having a plan may sound shockingly elementary, but you’d be surprised at how many people I have passed in big races this year, gasping along, cursing the course and everyone on it, clearly because they never really came up with a plan for the day.

So have a plan…have a plan…have a plan…then stick to it.

More tomorrow.

Regards,

Tom

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Shwetha

    You maybe writing letters to the president, not sure if he finds time to read them but one thing is surely worth noting is: they are refreshing, the comparisons made to real life situations, worth appreciating, as if u were casually talking to a friend. Thank you.

    August 18, 2011 at 2:00 am |
  2. Frankie Tyner

    Look from the beginnig repubs said anything this Pres. Try to do we gonna say no! And thats all they have been doing, It makes me wonder are people stupid or blind! They are blocking everything because they dnt want this pres. to be successful. Idiots take all the polls you want but the unions you break up, the ppl on welfare, the ppl on medicaide,medicare, unemployment,social security, ppl gettin pell grants! All gonna vote against anyone trying to cut those programs..And while we aint in your polls when we vote you will see where we stand! Votes gonna show the Tea party "yall must think we stupid" we got a party its called US!

    August 16, 2011 at 5:05 am |

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