The Mezamashii Run Project is an effort by Mizuno to help create a more euphoric running experience — a more “brilliant” run — for more runners everywhere. The word “mezamashii” means “eye-opening” or “brilliant” in Japanese — it’s a word that captures the euphoric feeling of a brilliant run. In the last few weeks I’ve been fortunate to be apart of a Mezamashii Run Project fun run in Boulder, Colorado and Eugene, Oregon. During these events, I’ve been fortunate to meet hundreds of fellow runners who have had brilliant runs coming back from injury, obesity, sickness, marathons, ultra-marathons, mountain & trail races, middle distance track events, and triathalons. Each and every runner has a story of that first brilliant run when they became hooked on the runner’s high. After that first euphoric experience, the search continues, usually in the form of pounding the pavement or as famous author John Parker says in the book Once a Runner, “The Miles of Trials, Trials of Miles.”
The second brilliant run doesn’t come as easily. More miles and tougher training eventually results in another brilliant run. At this point, you’re hooked and never turning back. What does happen in the meantime are rough patches, injuries, and plateaus that cause you to question yourself, your toughness, your dedication, and your talent. When you break out of the funk – the next brilliant run is unbelievable. After an incredible last summer and fall of racing, capped off with my best brilliant run to date at the Kauai Marathon in 2011, I’ve struggled.
I DNF’d at mile 23 of the 2011 Chicago Marathon after struggling with strep throat for two weeks. After brief time off, I came back ripping workouts and mileage…notching as many as 130 miles at altitude in one week. The next thing I knew was fatigue, and a lot of it. I tried to cut back with no avail and finished with a poor 2:19:57 showing at the Olympic Trials. Clearly over-training was a root cause, but what is a highly motivated athlete to do? As the saying goes, “only those who risk to go to far can find out how far they can go.”
The winter and spring was much of the same with a continued feeling of fatigue. Recovery wasn’t the same and although I had some good workouts and a few good races, I was far from feeling the way I felt in August and September of the previous year. After two poor showings at the USA 25k and Bay to Breaker’s Centipede sponsored by LinkedIn, I decided to take two weeks off. I questioned what was wrong, why I wasn’t sleeping well and feeling off. I never hit over 90 miles a week in all spring and yet continued to feel fatigued. I took the time to get away from the sport and enjoy a new passion – fly fishing and camping – in the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and along the Bighorn River in Montana.
I drove back to Colorado ready to train. However my body still didn’t feel right. After another round of blood tests we figured out I had a case of hypothyroidism. My mom and her brother’s all have thyroid issues and I theorize that by over-training I set off a hereditary pre-condition of hypothyroidism. Google searching will show a lot of endurance athletes have struggled with similar thyroid issues. Fast forward 3.5 weeks of medication and I’m back running 100 miles this week – after the workout later today. My energy is back. My enthusiasm is back. Most importantly, my passion and love for the sport is better than ever before. In a decade of running, high school, college, and post-collegiate I have never had an “injury” yet. As a high school football coach told me, “the greatest test of a man’s character is in the line of adversity.”
This past weekend I’ve had that Mezamashii feeling again. Trent Briney and I, as well as a bunch of other people, traveled to camp at the Southwest edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. On a 2.5 hour run along the continental divide trail we stumbled upon a moose grazing through a field, the first time in my life I’ve seen the 1,000 lbs animal. A few minutes later we see a bald eagle in a tree looking for his next prey. Bounding over rocks, hurdling down trees and listening to nature without even hearing the sound of my Mizuno Wave Precision shoes touching the soft dirt and pine needle trail. The feeling? Euphoric.
The next day we do this run along the East Inlet Trail from 8400ft to 9900ft to a gem of a lake called Lone Pine Lake. I find myself carried away hammering up the steep inclines listening to the increasing sound of my breath. At the top I’m already in the brilliant run category, taking the time to enjoy the birds singing and the Green Cutthroat Trout snatching flies off the top of the water. On the way back down we are stopped in our tracks by two moose coming up the trail. Moose definitely have the right of way, so Trent and I scale a few rocks along a cliff. The moose walk by a few yards under our dangling feet. We hop off the rock ledge and continue to float down the trail with that euphoric feeling of, “did that really just happen?”
The lesson learned: there are many ways to achieve the Mezamashii run. Sometimes you turn the corner on a trail run and it’s an unexpected brilliant stroke of mother nature. Other times you’ve trained diligently for a race and you crush your goals. Another brilliant run might come after struggling for days, weeks or months.
I’m back training hard and following my dreams. I never stopped believing in what I can achieve and neither should you. Keep following your passion and achieve that brilliant run – and when you do – share it with the running community. I’ve been fortunate at these Mizuno sponsored events to meet some incredible people who’ve overcome much tougher adversity than me to achieve a brilliant run. Go out of your comfort zone and go after your dreams. I’ll be pursuing my dreams with relentless dedication over the next hours, days, months, and years and I’ll be sharing those ups and downs right here on this blog. Thank you Mizuno Running for putting the shoes on my feet & clothes on my back to go after my goals.