The WHY

Last update: 2019-10-27

I regard myself as a typical citizen athlete for whom running has become a serious passion over the last 14-20 months. To earn my living and make a career, I serve as the director of research computing and a professor with teaching, research and administrative responsibilities at Michigan Tech. Much of my training takes place along the roads and trails of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. One manifestation of my sense of reverence for Mother Nature and our National Parks is reflected in the fact that I may have written God with a lowercase G at times but I have never not written Nature with an uppercase N. Given that our trails (and even the roads) are my places of worship, I pay a fair amount of attention to keep my sanctum sanctorum pristine. Even if it’s a trail on the far side of our lovely planet that I may never ever visit, I take solace in knowing that it’s preserved in its native form for generations to come. As a further evidence of my commitment to Nature, I modeled the supercomputing ecosystem that I designed, built and manage for my University after the evolution of US National Parks and US Forest Service. 

I started running in the Summer of 2009 and completed a semi-properly trained Lake Linden Wild Goose Chase 5k in 0:27:36. Like most cocky weekend warriors would do, I assumed that the fitness gained in the semi-training process would never leave me and a year later, without any further training, I attempted and completed the 2010 Canal Run 10 miler in 1:52:28. Before I knew it, the following off-season had lasted three seasons. When I started running inconsistently again in mid-2013 with a Breakers To Bay 5 miler, I had been convinced that tipping a few beers with half of a large pizza the night before was carb loading! Compared to 2011  (not even signing up let alone partake in training) and 2012 (signing up but not training or participating) editions of Journeys Half Marathon, I thought completing the 2013 Canal Run Half Marathon, sans training of course, in 2:38:48 was a big win. Though my friends took me running through Rhinelander, Mt. Baldy, Marquette, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and Madison in later parts of 2013, the only thing that I took to the next level was carb loading.

The Fall of 2013 marked the beginning of a series of stupendously failed attempts to motivate a couple of extremely naturally talented graduate students in consecutive years. I couldn’t really understand why they wouldn’t do the little things regularly that’d help them reap big benefits even though there was nothing in it for me … except the satisfaction of helping them succeed and reach/exceed their potential. Sporadic running certainly helped mask my tears (yes tears, I have no shame admitting it) as sweat and kept the passers by uninterested in my thought process. But in one of those lightbulb moments on a walk home from work in early-2014, it hit me: Maybe I just didn’t have enough karmic credits in my teacher account because I had failed to be a good student? I hadn’t been listening to my friends – in Team /var/run and (TVR) and the Keweenaw Running Group (KRG) – for about two years by then … to do just one little thing (i.e., run) regularly that’d help me reap big benefits even though there was nothing in it for them.

So began a committed journey, after a few more false starts, in mid-2014 to become a better teacher to my students by needing to be a better student to my friendly teachers in the community. The goal was to miss as few a Wednesday runs with KRG during rest of the calendar year. It transitioned me from someone who didn’t see the value in running, and called names, laughed and made faces (albeit politely) at runners to be one of them … from someone who made up excuses when encouraged to run and couldn’t be paid to run to someone who didn’t need any reason to run and better yet, paid to do so (at least in races)!

2015 turned out to be the peak year: though I didn’t miss a single Wednesday run with KRG throughout the year, I had dismissed suggestions to formally train for any event. While hopping unmethodically from one event to the next, I even completed the 2015 Marquette Marathon in 4:06:21. Not wanting to be a one-trick pony, I did the 2015 Madison Marathon two months later in 4:22:30. Second half of 2016 was spent working through nutritional deficiencies and re-building ferretin reserves. Much of 2017 was spent recovering from overuse injuries that had resulted from taking life’s rejections and frustrations therefrom on running without sufficient rest.

Personal Best Times (Road Runs)
Distance
Event
Time
Pace
3.11 mi
2019 Queen City Trick or Trot 5k
0:20:10
6:29 min/mi
6.22 mi
2019 Popeye Run 10k
0:44:12
7:06 min/mi
13.11 mi
2019 Marquette Half Marathon
1:32:22
7:02 min/mi
26.22 mi
2019 WhistleStop Marathon
3:29:27
7:59 min/mi
With a new (w)holistic approach and plethora of help from my pantheon of friends, 2018 saw me getting back on track and helped establish a semblance of work-life balance. While preparing for the 2018 Chicago Marathon, I found that a formal training cycle lends well to my preparation matters, pursuit means a lot more than possession and onto the next thing personality. The experience and the final result, of completing the marathon in 3:40:05, helped me realize that it was a near-perfect manifestation of the life is hard by the yard but a cinch by the inch – that meaningful and consistent repetition of seemingly little and mundane tasks leading to monumental shifts over a period of time … sometimes in as little as 18 weeks! I have done 30+ road half marathons, several road marathons and trail running festivals around our country so far. I have been getting better in 2019 and though my current best times stand at what the adjacent table shows, I strongly believe that I will get consistently and significantly better in the years and decades to come.

I thrive on challenges, enjoy history and relish traveling. Being local in a new place, experiencing new cultures and cuisine, meeting new people, sharing what I know and learning more from others’ collective experiences are some of my favorite things to do. Running has been affording me the opportunities to explore the aforementioned loves and the limits of physical and mental abilities, and the privilege to barter a piece of my heart for new homes, memorable experiences, and new and lasting friendships. Along the way, I started researching its history and evolution, the underlying physiology and matters of the mind. I have had the pleasure of meeting legends who bushwhacked to create a running pathway for us to follow. In a very therapeutic way, it has been helping tackle life’s curve balls, shifts, trappings and blindside blitzes. And with its disconnection to the interwebs, running has improved my ability to think on my feet (quite literally, too!) and made me a better student, teacher, programmer and writer. Though primarily intended for improving my own skill set, the online journal chronicling my journey and experiences is open-access to help anyone else that finds a value in them.

It has taken a global village and its mostly unsolicited and yet to be rewarded acts of kindness to help me get better at running and in turn, at life. The why for and story of my nordic skiing experience very nearly parallel that of running. As one such villager once told me, every mistake bridges the gap between what we didn’t know and what we should have known, and the mistakes become failures if we keep repeating the same ones. I’d love to be a cog in such a wheel to roll it forward, help others use the bridges I have built and keep the gratitude pipeline intact.