Foot Notes: You don't need a gym to find a way to cross train
“How does that feel, bush?!”
Marty, the porch guy, sips his coffee and does his best not to make eye contact as I land the final pickaxe blow and stand menacingly over the uprooted bush, as if I were Muhammad Ali. It’s 37 degrees outside for this morning’s job, but I’ve already shed my layers down to shorts and a brightly colored race T-shirt because I’m dripping in sweat.
This time it’s my turn to have some coffee, so I catch my breath and fuel up with a quick sip before shoveling out a trench underneath the next bush. A single strike from the pickaxe is enough to dislodge this bush from the earth, so I move on to the next one, and then the one after that.
Before I know it, my “all day” job is completed in just over an hour. It's a new record.
Feeling strong and brimming with confidence, I transition to my daily run, still wearing my work clothes and lawn-mowing shoes. Each mile is faster and harder than the last, but on this day, I'm perfectly comfortable with being uncomfortable.
With every job I complete — from landscaping to power washing to wood chopping — I can feel myself getting stronger. I'm not a member of a gym, but I believe I've found my own way to do "cross training," and now I feel eager to aggressively pursue any challenge that presents itself, especially running.
I've come a long way since a year ago, when I began picking up intensive day labor jobs to help pay bills after losing my job as a result of the pandemic. I remember how tough it was at the beginning, operating the weed whacker under the 95-degree sun and feeling like death. For several months, I found myself questioning my toughness and durability, wondering if this was the best career choice to make for a man in his mid-30s.
At the time, running was an afterthought. I was just too tired to consistently lace them up after putting in full outdoor work shifts. All of the labor had completely torn me down to the bare minimum, and my quest for 1,000 miles in 2020 fell short.
It was a hard, sometimes excruciating, cycle, but I kept on working. And I kept on running. I can't pinpoint the exact moment all of this "cross training" began building me back up, but I've noticed several gains.
My endurance, or perhaps just my willingness to endure, has grown exponentially. It's not out of the question for me to spend an entire day working a hard job, then come home and pound out a challenging run.
My speed has increased. I find myself more able to manage my stride and breathing, and push my legs to go as hard as my mind intends. Where I used to strive for a sub-10 pace, I now start my runs determined to pursue that sub-9.
Foot Notes:Running's not your thing? Try a walk instead
I haven't lost all that much weight, but perhaps that's because my upper-body strength has improved. Running uphill is not fun, but having the strength in my arms to help drive myself forward has been a welcome addition to my running toolbox.
I'm not necessarily a better runner than I was years ago, but I certainly feel more confident. I no longer dread the days my friends pull me along for long runs, instead I'm waking up ahead of my alarm ready to go. I'm more willing to take risks and make big moves. I find myself just chomping at the bit to register for every race I can find.
For many years, running has been my lone source of exercise, and my performances plateaued before eventually going downhill. I've known for a while that cross training is key to becoming a stronger runner, but I disregarded that advice. Who knew that all it would take to change my routine would be a worldwide epidemic?
I'd be lying if I said this career and lifestyle change hasn't drastically changed my life. For the first time, I go to bed looking forward for those long jobs that start at sunrise. And even with the heavy workload, I'm just as eager to go for my runs. As I'm approaching 200 straight days of running, and 500 miles for 2021, there's a growing part of me that believes I can still be in even better shape than I was in high school.
I'm beyond excited to see where the next job, and run, takes me. As the old saying goes, if you're doing a job you love, you never have to work a day in your life.
Fayetteville's Schellhase hasn't missed a step
It's been quite a while since we've seen Brooke Schellhase on the racepaths, but if the Blue-Gray 1/2 Marathon in Gettysburg was any indication, the 39-year-old Fayetteville runner hasn't missed a step.
Schellhase was Franklin County's top female, and second-fastest runner overall, at Gettysburg, where she blazed through the course at a 7:32/mile pace to post a time of 1:38:45, good enough to win the 34-39 age group and 55th overall.
The only local to finish ahead of Schellhase was Waynesboro's Kyle Downs, who finished in 1:38:15. Other area runners at the race include Waynesboro's Mark King (2:08:00), Jeremy McQueen (2:12:21), and Terry Gladhill (2:18:07), Fayetteville's Monique Weaver (1:58:30) and Amanda Keiser-Jones (2:13:22), Chambersburg's Kirk Clever (1:42:07), Mike Hepner (1:48:32), Paul Sick (1:50:32), Shelby White (1:56:16), Chuck Stone (1:58:45), Jessica Seltzer (2:05:36), Megan Arnold (2:13:48), and Ioana Cristian (2:16:26), Keedysville's Kaci Baker (1:54:31), Gary Baker (1:56:07), Sarah Baker (2:13:54), Chris DePalma (2:14:06), and Matthew Hardy (2:18:59), Orrstown's Katlyn McKee (2:02:18), Shippensburg's Amanda Kirkpatrick (2:07:03), Boonsboro's April Aiello (2:13:53), Smithsburg's Christa Wagely (2:17:27), Hagerstown's Stacy DiFranco (2:17:44), and Mercersburg's Justine O'Connell (2:23:39).
The Blue-Gray 1/2 Marathon was one of three races that were held as part of the Gettysburg Festival of Races, with the others being the North-South Marathon and the Gateway 5K. In the marathon, Shippensburg's Spencer Van Scycoc paced local runners with a finish in 3:18:06, and was chased by Chambersburg's Jill Hazelton (3:37:50), Brian Keller (4:22:25), and Anna Jones (5:03:54), Greencastle's Joe Trace (4:10:15), Waynesboro's Emily Dickey (4:23:36), and Boonsboro's Travis Riner (4:48:28).
In the Gateway 5K, Wing Lam Cheung led the way with a 26:29 over fellow Fayetteville runner Brandon Sherman (33:12), as well as Chambersburg's Andrew Shearer (27:08), Dallon Espinosa (28:26), Alexis Shearer (29:51), and Stephanie DeShong (34:30).
In Hagerstown, a 13-year-old boy claimed his first victory in an all-ages race after topping the field at the Tartan 5K. For Hagerstown's Walker Mason, victory came in 20:37 after holding off Frederick's Devin Abshire (22:06) and his own mother, Dani, who was the top female in 22:19. Other race finishers at the Tartan 5K were Boonsboro's David Porton (24:47), Hagerstown's Jennifer Walters (30:27), William Shawn Graber (30:31), Marilia Leite (34:59), Raymond Moats (35:27), Elysia Mathias (38:48), and Mary Moats (42:13), and Smithsburg's Sherry Reynolds (32:35) and Eddie Schenk (35:52).
In the world of ultrarunning, a handful of locals showcased their talents at the Hyner 25K/50K. Waynesboro's Rheeanna Walters (7:16:36) and Gary Friese (8:41:31) each completed the 50K, while 25K finishes were recorded by Shippensburg's Josh Durff (3:23:14) and Chad Durff (3:23:14), Chambersburg's Amy Shelley (3:29:38) and Harold Coder (4:00:46), and Mercersburg's Carrie Pifer (5:04:52).
Other runners in action across the region included Shippensburg's Bonnie Craig (1:28:38 at Capital 10-Miler), Hagerstown's Danielle Charshee (32:37 at Fast and Furriest 5K) and Hunter Tedrick (32:37 at Fast and Furriest 5K), Chambersburg's Christine Metcalfe (26.2 miles in 8:01:17 at April Foolish 10-Hour Endurance Race), and Boonsboro's Jim Sprecher (23:21:14 in C&O Canal 100 Miler).
Upcoming running events in Central Pa.
EdK Virtual Walk/Run: May 1-9. Run whatever distance you'd like to complete this event, which honors the late Dr. Edwin H Sponseller and benefits the Chambersburg YMCA's LIVESTRONG program. Register on timberhilltiming.com.
Antietam Brewery 5K and Beer Mile: Saturday, May 8, 10 a.m., in Hagerstown, Md. Not a fan of watching running? Your opinion might change if you watch the runners drink beers while competing. Check out the race on racinemultisports.com.
Also: PA Dutch Half Marathon & 5K (Sunday, in Marietta); Greenwood Furnace Trail Challenge 13.1 (Sunday, in Huntingdon); Sweat Bar Fitness Marathon (Sunday, in Oakdale); Tri for Life (Sunday, in Landisville); Dirty German Endurance Fest (Saturday, May 8, in Philadelphia); Ephrata Mennonite School 5K (Saturday, May 8, in Ephrata); Friendship Community 5K Run/Walk for Capabilities (Saturday, May 8, in Lititz); Hummelstown Hunger Run (Saturday, May 8); Randi's Race 5K (Saturday, May 8, in Enola); RB5K+ (Saturday, May 8, in Reinholds); Taco 5K (Saturday, May 8, in Lebanon); Gretna Gritty Mud Run (Saturday, May 8, in Lebanon); Mother's Day 5K (Sunday, May 9, in Mechanicsburg); Run for your Mother Quarter Marathon (Sunday, May 9, in Lebanon); Maryland Half Marathon & 5K (May 8-10, Virtual).
Andy Sandrik writes about running in central Pa. for the USA Today Network Pennsylvania. Reach him at email@example.com.