An invitation to bigger and better things

Posted: June 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Creativity, Graphic Design, Photography, Weddings, Windowsill Photography, Writing | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

It’s funny how life works out sometimes. I was a journalism major at Ohio University (go Bobcats!) and spent the first year of my professional career toiling away at a financial magazine, wondering if I was bound to hate my job for the rest of my life. Fortunately, I soon escaped that position and began my second job as a sports writer — a position much better suited to my talents and interests — before moving into web development and graphic design. Now, 12 years later, I enjoy design work even more than writing, a natural yet unexpected evolution that greatly contributed to the launch of Windowsill Photography, first with the development of our website and this blog, and then with an expansion of our services.

Of course, my love of photography fueled the company’s creation, but we soon realized that there were very few limits to what we could do inside our new little sandbox. So when we booked our first wedding, I suggested to the bride that we could design custom wedding invitations for her along with any other items she may need using photos from her engagement shoot. She quickly signed on and, I’m proud to say, she was thrilled with her finished products.

We hope to do even more design projects going forward, whether we’re using photos from Windowsill shoots for invitations or holiday cards, or even putting together a website for a new client. As a matter of fact, my son recently turned 6 and has just discovered the joy of the “Star Wars” universe. (Don’t worry — we made sure he watched Episodes IV, V and VI before any of the new ones.) So when it came time to plan his party, he naturally wanted a “Star Wars” theme, and what’s a “Star Wars” birthday party without a “Star Wars” birthday invitation?

FRONT

BACK

I’ve found I enjoy the design side of the business just as much as the photography side, which has been a pleasant surprise. So I guess I’ve answered the question that haunted me during my first year out of college: Turns out I wasn’t destined to hate my job for the rest of my life after all. Ain’t that a relief!


Give the birthday boy a winner

Posted: March 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Family, Features, Parenting, Photo essays, Photography, Sports, Writing | Tags: , | No Comments »

I’m convinced that Child Services will come charging into my house someday soon. They’ll pound on my door early one morning after a concerned neighbor tips them off, and they’ll rescue my children from the horror they’ve endured throughout their young lives.

I’m raising my kids as Cleveland sports fans, and as a lifelong fan myself, I’m certain that qualifies as child abuse. I’m just waiting for someone to haul my parents away for the torture I’ve endured while rooting for these teams my whole life.

The list of traumatic experiences I’ve witnessed during my time as a loyal Browns, Indians and Cavaliers fan is extensive and evolving, with the latest addition coming courtesy of a certain basketball player who took his gigantic ego to South Beach a couple years ago. So why would I knowingly expose my children to the same heartache and misery? Because I’m an optimist, and even after all these years, I have faith that the tide will turn in Cleveland. I’m just hoping it happens in time for my kids to experience the joy of rooting for a winner, and the excitement that comes with watching your team score a monumental touchdown, hit that memorable walk-off homer or win the biggest game of the season.

Unfortunately, I’m starting to fear that they may not get that chance. Not because our teams won’t ever be good again, but because they haven’t been good enough, long enough, to pull my kids in and earn their loyalty.

This guy needs a winner. So does his old man.

My youngest, Eliot, turned three today. He may be my last hope. My daughter is nine and, while she enjoys playing soccer and has a passing interest when the Browns are on TV, she already knows the drill. “The Browns always lose,” she told my wife and me last season. She had a point. My other son will be six this summer, and he’s about as interested in sports as he is in reading the dictionary. I learned early that you can’t force it.

Then there’s Eliot, who loves wearing his Browns and Indians hats, and who got excited yesterday when I told him baseball season would be starting soon. I think he shows an interest because my wife and I are both big sports fans, but I’m just thrilled we have a shot with him. If our teams don’t give him something to root for and someone to believe in, though, that chance may fizzle long before he’s truly hooked.

I know, there are so many things in life that are so much more important than sports. I didn’t used to think that, but it’s amazing how naturally and categorically your priorities change when you start paying bills and having kids. Still, fathers (and mothers) have been bonding with their children over sports for decades, and while it’s easy to become cynical in this age of me-first, multi-millionaire, multi-felonious athletes and billionaire owners who wring your wallet dry as soon as you walk into their luxurious new stadiums, these are still, fundamentally, the games we grew up loving.

I remember going to my first baseball games and being hypnotized by the rhythm of the game and the sights and sounds that you can only experience in the stadium. I remember freezing my little butt off watching the Browns go to battle with the Steelers in old Municipal Stadium, and I remember singing “Bernie, Bernie!” whenever the song parody came on WMMS during their ’80s heydays. Of course, I also remember watching Michael Jordan single-handedly devastate a city with “The Shot” over Craig Ehlo, and I remember how quiet a room full of rabid Browns fans suddenly got when John Elway ripped our hearts out in 1987 and when Earnest Byner fumbled away our Super Bowl dreams one year later.

Those were heartbreaking moments, no doubt, moments from which the city’s fans have arguably never fully recovered. But at least those teams were playing for something. Those teams captured my 10-year-old imagination and helped instill in me a belief that we are always “thisclose” to finally winning it all. If Jordan’s shot clangs off the back rim…if just one of those Elway passes falls incomplete…if Byner can hang on to the ball for one more second…if Charlie Nagy’s glove was an inch longer in the 1997 World Series….

I’d prefer my kids have happier memories of their childhood sports teams, but above all else, I just want them to care. I want them to be excited when Spring Training starts every year, and to count down the days until the next Browns game. I want to pass that kind of passion on to them, and have them tell their kids about all the games they watched with their old man when they were growing up.

Please don’t turn my son into a NASCAR fan!

So please — Mike Holmgren, Randy Lerner, Chris Antonetti, Larry Dolan, Chris Grant, Dan Gilbert, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy — I don’t care who it is, but could one of you please get it right? Could one of you build something that my kids can latch on to? Could one of you prove to them that Cleveland sports teams are capable of winning big games, and sustaining that success for more than a year or three?

For his birthday, could one of you show Eliot just how much fun it is to be a true, loyal and eternally optimistic sports fan? His dad — and his mom, and his grandparents, and his great-grandparents, his aunts, uncles and cousins, and maybe even his older brother and sister — would forever be grateful.


Growing up with Emma

Posted: March 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Family, Features, Parenting, Photo essays, Photography, Writing | Tags: , | 3 Comments »

Growing up, adult friends and family members would tell me how my birthdays made them feel old. I never really understood that until my wife and I had kids of our own. My little girl turns nine today, and I’ve already told her that this is as far as I’m willing to go. No double digits, please, because once 10 hits, then 13, 16 and 18 aren’t far behind, and then there’s college, weddings, grandkids and adult diapers for grandpa. Wow, I feel old.

But this post isn’t about me; it’s about Emma, the girl who turned my world on its ear nine years ago. Actually, Emma changed my life before she was even born. From the moment we learned that Mandy was pregnant, I began examining my life with a much different eye than I ever had before. What kind of father was I going to be? What kind of example was I going to set for her? I lost 40 pounds in those nine months (the exact opposite of sympathy weight, to my wife’s chagrin) and stopped biting my nails. I started eating better and tried to improve my productivity at work. I figured kids naturally look up to their parents, but I wanted my kids to have a reason to do so.

That desire to be better for my children has grown over these nine years as Emma’s two younger brothers have joined our family, but it all started with the blue-eyed angel who introduced herself to Mandy and me on March 9, 2003. I secretly had been pulling for a son, as I think many first-time fathers do. Come on, we’re guys – we don’t know anything about little girls, and I was more than a little intimidated by the thought of trying to raise a daughter. I was bound to screw up anyway as a new dad, but by my thinking, the chance of colossal failure shot through the roof if we had a girl.

Then we had a girl. And suddenly, I was a different person. Of course, your children change you no matter their gender, but there’s something uniquely special about the father-daughter relationship, something you have no way of preparing yourself for, and something that you can only fully understand and appreciate when you have a daughter. I love all of my children, obviously, but I’ve grown to cherish my relationship with Emma as I’ve begun to recognize the differences between my connection with my sons and my connection with her. We are all very close, but in different ways. She’s Daddy’s Little Girl, and she always will be. Even when she’s bringing my grandkids over for a visit at the old folks’ home.

Emma amazes Mandy and me every day. She’s a wonderfully creative person who loves playing the piano and writing stories, and she’s intensely curious and inquisitive. She’s kind, considerate, thoughtful and respectful, but strong-willed and stubborn at the same time. She also has an amazingly big heart with an endless supply of love for everyone in her life, and she’s particularly devoted to her baby brother Eliot. She and I share a passion for music – the Beatles are her favorite band, which makes me smile – and she’s already caught the photography bug, which is only appropriate since she was my very first muse when I bought my first digital camera shortly after she was born. I’m so proud of the person she’s already become, and I can’t wait to see what all she accomplishes in life and where her creative spirit and passion will take her along the way.

Happy birthday to my little girl, even if you aren’t so little anymore.

Love, Dad

EMMA SLIDESHOW

Below are a few of my favorite photos of Emma throughout the years. Press play to see all the photos, or click the thumbnails to see individual shots.


A runner abroad: The 2012 Tokyo Marathon

Posted: March 2nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Features, Photo essays, Photography, Running, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

© TOKYO MARATHON

My wife was worried. My mom was worried. Even my nine-year-old daughter was worried. And yes, I too was a little anxious as my departure date for Tokyo drew closer.

I’d never been to Japan before, so the thought of making my own way through customs and then from the Tokyo Narita airport to the Keio Plaza Hotel more than an hour away was a bit concerning. Would I find people who spoke English? Would I have any trouble exchanging my dollars for yen? Would I get on the right shuttle bus to the right hotel? Even though I assumed everything would work out fine, it all was a little intimidating for an Ohio guy who spends most of his days working from home and carting his kids to and from school.

And then, there was that whole marathon thing to worry about. I spent a couple hours in a local ER getting treatment for severe dehydration following the Chicago Marathon last October, and my body powered down for a quick nap in the chute after the Arizona Marathon in January. Needless to say, I was hoping to avoid any such experiences in the Tokyo Marathon, considering I would be in a foreign-speaking country more than 7,000 miles from home. The less post-race drama, the better, and I hoped my body would more easily handle 26.2 miles the third time around.

The good news is, I didn’t wind up in a Tokyo hospital last weekend. Even better, I had no trouble finding my way to the Keio Plaza Hotel upon my arrival, and I even found a small Italian restaurant for a traditional pre-race meal Saturday night. The people of Tokyo — from the hotel staff and the workers at the Shinjuku train station to the more than 2 million spectators who lined the street during the race — were friendly, helpful, patient and incredibly gracious. Many of them even spoke English (to varying degrees), which was a bonus for a Yankee like me who only knew how to say “thank you” in Japanese, and I even screwed that up repeatedly on my first day.

The bad news? I didn’t run as well as I’d hoped, but after the unbelievable week I had in Japan, I’m not really complaining. I’ve learned something about marathon running in each of my three races, with the main lesson from Tokyo being that I can never just assume that I’m drinking enough water along the way. I went into the race confident that my modified hydration and nutrition plan was sound and would help lead me to a PR if I just ran a controlled race, but evidently I didn’t take in enough water in the later stages and faded badly down the stretch before battling severe nausea once I crossed the finish line. The Japanese version of Gatorade brought me back from the dead, thankfully, and ensured that an otherwise fantastic day would not end on a very unpleasant note. I’m frustrated with the finish, but it didn’t tarnish the experience.

Race day started with some photos of our press tour group and, soon after, a realization: Wow, it’s cold out here. Colder than we expected. Fortunately, I had chosen heavier clothes than I otherwise would have, thinking I could ditch a layer prior to the start if I overdressed. Instead, I kept every last stitch on throughout the day, including the earband and gloves. In my right pocket: my little Canon Powershot camera, which I would soon learn is the perfect size for photorunning. (Someone asked if I coined the word “photorunning.” Considering how many photo opps unfold on a typical run, I doubt it, but I like it either way.) A suggestion from a friend convinced me the best method to document the race was to take shots on the move rather than stopping to compose the photos, with the resulting crooked and/or occasionally blurry pictures suiting the event well. Second-best decision of the weekend. (The Japanese Gatorade was #1. Easily.)

More than 36,000 runners gathered in the street in front of and around the corner from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, a majestic two-tower structure that now has served as the starting point for each of the six Tokyo Marathons since 2007. At 9:10 am local time, we heard the starting gun from all the way back in corral G and slowly made our way toward the starting line. Eight minutes later, my race had officially begun.

The energy at a race of this size is always intoxicating, but the amps seemed to be cranked up even more Sunday morning. The whole city was buzzing, and I felt honored to be in that place, in that moment, however insignificant my role would be. I snapped a few pictures as we crossed the starting line, went to deposit the camera back into my pocket and then realized I was better off strapping it to my wrist and just keeping it on standby. Every curve in the road brought a new memory begging to be captured, from the sea of runners rising and falling in front of me and the 10,000 cheerful volunteer members of Team Smile, to the landscape of colorful buildings and street signs and the spectators lining the course in crazy costumes, holding up homemade signs and taking high-fives from any runner willing to give them. The runners themselves took part in the fun, with countless participants dressed up in outrageous gear, including one guy who ran as Jesus Christ, cross and all. (The proof is in the slideshow at the bottom of the page.) And every few seconds, I heard someone yell “Ganbatte!”, a traditional word of encouragement loosely translated as, “Do your best!” The word still echoes in my mind almost a week later.

My head was on a swivel, enjoying the sights and sounds with a goofy grin on my face and taking picture after picture after picture (after picture), all while darting through the heavy congestion and trying to stick reasonably close to an 8-minute per mile pace. Unfortunately, there were no mile markers on the course, as we’ve all grown accustomed to here in the States, so I tried to settle into a pace of about 25 minutes per 5km, a plan that worked well in the early stages and allowed me to largely ignore the clock as I made my way through Tokyo, passing the Imperial Palace, the Tokyo Tower (above) and the Zojoji Temple along the way. Before I knew it, I was 20km into the race with the halfway point approaching.

Jamey Codding Tokyo Marathon

Because I was just six weeks removed from the Arizona Marathon, my legs weren’t as fresh as I’d hoped coming into Tokyo. I held up fine through 25km but began to lose some steam after that. I wound up taking more than 300 photos during the race — many of those unusable shots of the road or of blurry landmarks sitting behind even blurrier runners (see the slideshow below) — and considering how few of those came during the second half when I had trouble finding the energy to raise my arm, point and shoot, I’m guessing the photorunning at least partially contributed to my slow finish. Still, I wouldn’t do things differently if given the opportunity. These pics will last a lifetime — I even stopped at one point when another runner offered to take a picture of me in front of the Tokyo Sky Tree (right). I’ll have other chances to run a PR, but I wouldn’t have had another chance to get that shot. (You can check out all the keepers in the slideshow below.)

As usual, the last several miles were a struggle, made even worse by the creeping dehydration. I’m a sweater — not in a Bill Cosby kind of way, but in a “what’s with all the crusted salt on your face?” kind of way — and apparently I need to take in even more water than I thought during a marathon to avoid crashing and burning. Nevertheless, I eventually dragged my carcass across the finish line in 3:59:25, fought back against my gurgling stomach and then slowly made my way through the chute to the gear check area, where volunteers applauded every runner as they came through to pick up their bags. On my way out, I noticed crowds of runners enjoying some time in an ashiyu (“foot bath”) and minutes later, I pulled up a spot and dipped in my feet. Ahhhh…. Who do I talk to about bringing these to the US?

I was still feeling the post-race effects in the hotel lobby Sunday evening when a Japanese man approached and asked if he could take a picture of the medal hanging around my neck. He told me (through an interpreter) that he was one of the more than 300,000 people who applied for the 2012 Tokyo Marathon but he wasn’t accepted. He stared at the medal, awestruck, telling me that I was fortunate to have been one of the 36,000 runners on the course that day. He said he hoped to get the same opportunity someday soon, and then asked how I ran. When I told him my time, his eyes widened and he provided me with my biggest laugh of the weekend, asking if I was a professional runner.

Not wanting to insult him, I hid my amusement as best I could and thanked him for the compliment, but told him there were many, many other runners who finished ahead of me. His reaction to seeing my medal and his deep desire to run the Tokyo Marathon himself one day proved that the organizers of this young race have built something special in a very short time. We learned during a symposium Friday night that the Tokyo Marathon hopes to one day be listed among the other World Marathon Majors, alongside legendary races like the New York and London Marathons. After what I experienced last weekend, I’d say it’s only a matter of time.

Of course, I can’t end this without thanking the Tokyo Marathon Foundation and our guides during the weekend for their incredible generosity. When I signed up for my first marathon a year ago, I never would have guessed I’d be given the opportunity to run a race halfway across the globe. I met so many amazing people, including several runners who have competed in dozens of races around the world. I can only hope to be fortunate (and healthy) enough to try something like this again someday, but after spending the past year training for one marathon or another, I’m just looking forward to a break.

(My official results can be found here. The site has me at 4:02:38, but whereas I stopped my watch when I chose the wrong porto-potty line during an early pit stop, their clock kept ticking. Hence, the discrepancy.)

TOKYO MARATHON SLIDESHOW

Press play below to see all the photos with select captions, or click the thumbnails to see individual shots. I will be posting more photos and stories from the trip in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

tokyo-race-1

Our press tour group was filled with runners from all over the world, including Italy, Germany, Brazil, Spain, the UK and...Ohio.

tokyo-race-2
tokyo-race-3
tokyo-race-4
tokyo-race-5
tokyo-race-40
tokyo-race-6

Jesus made the front page of the paper the next morning. You can see why. Gotta respect the guy for going all in with bare feet too.

tokyo-race-7

The Smile Team of more than 10,000 volunteers were awesome throughout the day. And quite happy to have their pictures taken, to boot.

tokyo-race-8
tokyo-race-9
tokyo-race-41
tokyo-race-10
tokyo-race-11
tokyo-race-12
tokyo-race-13

Always a thrill to see the leaders, even if they are miles and miles (and miles) ahead of you already.

tokyo-race-14

Zojoji Temple

tokyo-race-15
tokyo-race-16
tokyo-race-17

BMW, one of the race sponsors, had prime location and a pretty sweet sign in their window.

tokyo-race-18
tokyo-race-19
tokyo-race-20
tokyo-race-21
tokyo-race-50
tokyo-race-44

No turning back now. Crap.

tokyo-race-23

Tokyo Tower, which I learned is taller than the Eiffel Tower.

tokyo-race-24
tokyo-race-42
tokyo-race-25
tokyo-race-26
tokyo-race-27
tokyo-race-28

Mario, in his natural environment.

tokyo-race-29
tokyo-race-30
tokyo-race-43
tokyo-race-31
tokyo-race-32

Spongebob kicked my butt.

tokyo-race-45
tokyo-race-33
tokyo-race-46

The Tokyo Sky Tree growing out of the top of my head.

tokyo-race-34

We were all wondering....

tokyo-race-47

This guy was walking. Think he needs a different shirt. (Couldn't resist.)

tokyo-race-48
tokyo-race-36
tokyo-race-37

One of the very last times I was able to muster the energy to take a picture. Glad I did.

tokyo-race-38
tokyo-race-49

Seriously, we need these in the States.

tokyo-race-39
Our press tour group was filled with runners from all over the world, including Italy, Germany, Brazil, Spain, the UK and...Ohio.tokyo-race-2tokyo-race-3tokyo-race-4tokyo-race-5tokyo-race-40Jesus made the front page of the paper the next morning. You can see why. Gotta respect the guy for going all in with bare feet too.The Smile Team of more than 10,000 volunteers were awesome throughout the day. And quite happy to have their pictures taken, to boot.tokyo-race-8tokyo-race-9tokyo-race-41tokyo-race-10tokyo-race-11tokyo-race-12Always a thrill to see the leaders, even if they are miles and miles (and miles) ahead of you already.Zojoji Templetokyo-race-15tokyo-race-16BMW, one of the race sponsors, had prime location and a pretty sweet sign in their window.tokyo-race-18tokyo-race-19tokyo-race-20tokyo-race-21tokyo-race-50No turning back now. Crap.Tokyo Tower, which I learned is taller than the Eiffel Tower.tokyo-race-24tokyo-race-42tokyo-race-25tokyo-race-26tokyo-race-27Mario, in his natural environment.tokyo-race-29tokyo-race-30tokyo-race-43tokyo-race-31Spongebob kicked my butt.tokyo-race-45tokyo-race-33The Tokyo Sky Tree growing out of the top of my head.We were all wondering....This guy was walking. Think he needs a different shirt. (Couldn't resist.)tokyo-race-48tokyo-race-36One of the very last times I was able to muster the energy to take a picture. Glad I did.tokyo-race-38Seriously, we need these in the States.tokyo-race-39

Quotes & Notes: Imogen Cunningham was never satisfied

Posted: January 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Photographers, Photography, Quotes & Notes, Writing | Tags: , | No Comments »
“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.” – Imogen Cunningham

I’m not sure I would have survived as a film photographer. I wouldn’t have had the patience. We’re all spoiled in the Digital Age, with tiny computer chips and gorgeous LCD screens satiating our need for instant gratification. I love pressing that shutter button and seeing the picture on the spot. Darkrooms and processing trays? Not for me. I’d rather spend more time shooting.

Imogen Cunningham knew all about processing trays. Born in 1883, Cunningham majored in chemistry at the University of Washington because it would make her a better photographer. Talk about committing to her craft.

Cunningham, who passed away in 1976 at the age of 93, also knew that there are always more photos to be taken, and more opportunities to improve as an artist. You can’t be satisfied with your work because the next great shot is out there, somewhere, waiting to be captured.

The only way to improve at anything is to put in the work, and Cunningham’s quote served as an affirmation that she’d be out there tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, looking for that shot. It also speaks to an optimism that, no matter how much I may like this photo that I took today, I’ll take one tomorrow that I’ll like even more. Nobody has that kind of track record, of course, but it’s certainly an ideal worth pursuing.


Marathon Mission: Complete

Posted: January 20th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Features, Running, Writing | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was sitting against a fence, shivering, my calves tied into knots and my hip flexors threatening to burst into flames, and all I wanted to do was sleep. I’d force my eyes open, take a sip from the water bottle I’d been handed after crossing the finish line, and then my eyes would slide shut again. Open, sip, repeat.

Jamey Codding marathon

At one point, a concerned medic approached me. “Everything OK?” he asked. I forced a smile, told him I was fine, just needed to rest, and then I gave in. I shut my eyes once more and drifted off, maybe for 10 seconds, maybe for two minutes. I’d never been overwhelmed by the urge to sleep after a race, but I’d also never run a full marathon. I finished (just barely) the Chicago Marathon in October, but as I sat against that fence in the chute for the Arizona Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, I could finally say that I had run a marathon. Well, once I woke up, I could say it.

In my “Why Run?” piece, I laid out some of the reasons I’ve been drawn back to the sport I’d abandoned in the 15 years since high school. Among those reasons, I wrote:

“I run to challenge myself, to set a goal and accomplish that goal. I run to find my limits and expand them, to redefine my comfort zone, to defy that voice inside my head that tells me my legs hurt too much and my lungs can’t take any more. I run to prove to myself that I can accomplish anything if I’m willing to work hard enough.”

The 3 hours and 44 minutes I spent running through Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe epitomized that paragraph. I bulldozed my comfort zone during the race and did my best to ignore “that voice” for the final six miles or so. I set out to run the whole race, and save for a handful of quick pit stops to guzzle some water or Gatorade, I did just that, even when my stomach started churning and “that voice” was pleading for a break at mile 24. I didn’t run as fast as I’d hoped, but I kept my feet moving, refused to walk, and crossed the finish line almost an hour sooner than I did in Chicago last October. Then I took a nap.

I won’t pretend that I accomplished anything monumentally profound last weekend. Heck, it seems everyone is running marathons and half marathons these days. But it was a significant personal achievement, a moment I won’t ever forget, a moment I once thought would never happen, and yet there I was in the chute, medal in hand, mission accomplished. I was sleeping, but I was there.

I didn’t think I could, until I did

“I run to find my limits and expand them.” In hindsight, this line is perhaps the most accurate in the above paragraph. I remember how awful I felt after finishing my first half marathon, and how fantastic I felt seven months later after my third. My body wasn’t ready for 13.1 miles in Columbus, but by Cleveland, it knew what to expect and I cruised to a PR.

Last Sunday, my body was toast. I crossed the line sore, nauseous, thirsty and exhausted, certain I couldn’t have run another 10 feet. That’s exactly how I felt after my first half marathon. Now, a 13-mile run qualifies as an easy day. Will the pattern hold next month when I hop onto a plane to run the Tokyo Marathon?

Man, I hope so.

Jamey Codding marathon

I know, I know, the hydration belt really makes the outfit.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting Tokyo will be easy just because I finished the Arizona Marathon, but it should be easier. Not only will my body be better conditioned to handle 26.2 miles, but perhaps more importantly, I now know that I can, in fact, run a full marathon. Clearing that mental hurdle is huge. Telling yourself you can do something is one thing, but proving to yourself that you can do it is another.

At the expo the day before the race, I bought a shirt that said “Inspired to Run” on the back. Those three words sum things up beautifully for me. The act of running – of hitting the pavement or treadmill several times a week, braving the elements in the dead of winter or peak of summer, logging mile after mile after mile on lonely roads and rolling trails – isn’t a whole lot of fun. It’s not easy either. But it’s damn sure rewarding.

I’ve accomplished things during these two years of running that I never thought were possible. In about five weeks, I’ll add one more item to the list when I run a marathon in Tokyo. That’s incredible to me. And it’s no coincidence that, with each mental hurdle I’ve cleared in my training, my confidence in other areas of life has soared as well, driving me to pursue personal and professional endeavors that once seemed out of reach and unattainable.

That may sound corny, but it’s the truth. There’s a reason running has exploded in popularity over the last decade. There’s a reason more and more friends and family members are asking me for beginner training tips or advice on picking their first pair of running shoes (I’m no expert on either subject, by the way). There’s a reason people like my aunt, who ran her first marathon last year at the age of 53, fall in love with the sport. She’s done a bunch of half marathons, some sprint triathlons, joined a team for Ragnar last year, and probably accomplished so many other things that I don’t even know about. She also completed her second marathon in Arizona last weekend, and was thrilled to PR by three minutes. That’s what it’s all about. (Way to go, Martha!)

I am a marathoner. I had to wait three months longer than anticipated to be able to say that, but it doesn’t make it any less sweet. I can’t relax yet, though, not with the Tokyo Marathon on the horizon. I’m not sure how I’ll feel when I pick my routine back up Sunday with an easy five miler, but there’s only one way to find out.


Why run?

Posted: December 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Features, Running, Writing | Tags: , | No Comments »

Written August 10, 2011

Why run? It’s a fine question, one I couldn’t stop asking myself as I trudged along during a brutal 14-mile training run last weekend. “Why am I out here?” “I feel awful.” “Wish I hadn’t run out of water five miles ago.” “How the hell am I going to run 26 miles in October?” That last one, in particular, has been gnawing away at me in the days since the 14 miler, but we’ll save that for another post. Today, let’s start with two words that non-runners will routinely throw your way when they see you lacing up your shoes or hear about your latest race: Why run?

Sunset runner

Stock photo, © Larry Maurer

Of course, there isn’t one stock answer to this question, and different runners will offer different responses. As someone who ran competitively in high school before taking the next 15 years off, getting back into running has been like reconnecting with a long, lost love. I stopped running after graduation in 1995 because whatever passion I had for the sport had dried up when I stepped onto the Ohio University campus later that fall. Who wants to go for a five-mile run when there are beers to be drained and late-night fast food to be devoured? And after four years of training and racing in both cross country and track, my body (and my mind) needed a break. I just didn’t know my break would last 15 years.

I tried to pick it back up several different times during those 15 years, but my restarts never lasted longer than a month or three for one simple reason: I didn’t have the proper motivation. If someone had posed the “why run” question during that time, I wouldn’t have had an answer. Every couple of years, I’d force myself to go on painful two- or three-mile runs with one abstract goal in mind: to get into shape. And after a couple months, with my times not improving and my body still feeling like crap every time out, I’d throw in the towel and wonder how and why I ever ran in the first place.

Everything changed last April. A friend who knew I ran in high school asked if I wanted to be a part of his four-man marathon relay team in Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Marathon. I hadn’t run longer than four miles in at least 10 years, but something about the challenge of training for and competing in a legitimate road race compelled me to say yes. I regretted it almost immediately. My leg of the race was about 5.5 miles long – the shortest of the four, but also the hilliest. What had I gotten myself into? I had a hard enough time finishing three-mile jogs around my neighborhood, so how was I going to double that up on a bunch of hills in the matter of a couple months?

I had some training to do.

If you’ve had an urge to start running but haven’t been able to either take the plunge or stick with it for any real length of time, I recommend signing up for a race. It’s instant – and very real – motivation. Your training runs take on a true sense of purpose and urgency when you’ve got an actual goal you’re working toward, rather than the abstract concept of merely running to get in shape. Spending $50-$100 on the entry fee helps too. Knowing I had committed to this race in April, and knowing that I had three other guys counting on me to show up on race day, I finally started to see my times drop and mileage increase. I soon graduated from two miles to three and four, then five. I wasn’t setting my watch on fire by any stretch of the imagination, but I was running farther and faster than I had since my high school days after failing to improve during any of my previous false starts over the past 15 years. Then one day, I set out to run six miles and, realizing just how good I felt in the middle of the run, I decided to tack on another mile…then one more. Two months earlier, I struggled through two- and three-mile runs, and now I had an eight miler under my belt. I was back.

Jamey Codding half marathon

Who goes to Vegas to run a half marathon?

We ran well in Cincinnati – not as fast as I had hoped I’d run, but not bad for my first real race in ages. More importantly, I had rediscovered the passion for running I thought had vanished for good. Being in that race environment and talking with other runners who had been working as hard as I had (and harder) to accomplish a goal energized me and served as a wake up call. After my leg of the race was over, we headed back to watch runners cross the finish line at the end of their own half and full marathons. I felt good about what I had accomplished that day, but watching them finish their race, I knew was ready for more. I signed up for my first half marathon a couple weeks later, and by May of this year, I had completed half marathons in Columbus (1:35:31), Las Vegas (1:35:34) and Cleveland (1:32:51), and am currently training for my first full marathon in Chicago this October. How’s that for a turn of events?

So why run? I run to challenge myself, to set a goal and accomplish that goal. Running can be a very personal experience – it’s just you and the road or trail. There’s no coach out there barking instructions, no teammates clamoring for attention, no scoreboard to worry about. I run to find my limits and expand them, to redefine my comfort zone, to defy that voice inside my head that tells me my legs hurt too much and my lungs can’t take any more. I run to prove to myself that I can accomplish anything if I’m willing to work hard enough. I run because, on my personal list of life’s simple joys, crossing the finish line sits near the top, and crossing the finish line ahead of my target time is even higher. I run because it’s time that belongs to me and me alone, time I take to improve my health, achieve my goals, clear my mind, and find some peace amidst the rhythmic sound of my footfalls. I run because I spend too much time sitting at a desk with my eyes glued to a computer monitor. I run because it feels good to sweat. I run because there are few things in life that taste better than cold water after a long run. I run to escape my thoughts, work through a problem or just blow off steam. I run to be part of a community, because the energy at a big race is intoxicating and inspiring, even if you’re just a spectator. I run because my kids see me run, and because we just bought my eight-year-old daughter her first pair of running shoes. She can go a mile or two at a time right now, and she loves it. I’ve asked her why, but she hasn’t figured that part out yet. She will.

Finally, I run for moments like the one I had yesterday. I was still trying to figure out why my 14 miler had gone so poorly – I finished eight minutes slower than I wanted – and challenged myself to make up for my mediocre showing with a quality five-mile run Tuesday morning. Three days after having my worst run of the year, I came back with my best run of the year, beating my target by a minute and running faster than I had for any of my previous training runs. I guess I run for a chance at redemption too.

So now the question is, why do you run…or why will you run?