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What do you do to lift yourself up?

Let me be honest:: I’ve been lagging in the motivation department. If you’ve looked at my Strava account lately (which I know no one actually does, BTW, so don’t get the impression I think I’m a fancy runner) you’ll see I haven’t logged a single mile since May. I have a little stack of not-yet-earned medals from virtual races mocking me. I’d hoped to run the SeaWheeze Virtual 10k but then Portland had a heat wave and it’s was WAY too hot to even think about going outside. (In my defense, I grew up in Michigan, and I come from two very long lines of pasty-white folks from northern climates. I’m just not engineered for the heat, and I quickly turn into a lobster when exposed to direct sunlight, SPF 2000 for the glow-in-the-dark notwithstanding.) When it finally cooled down, the wildfire smoke rolled in, and the air quality was so bad that I couldn’t workout inside the house.

It’s not just running where my motivation has been notably absent. I was basically a total slug for the entire month of June–no yoga, no stretching, no workouts, no nothing–and pretty much all of July and August and September. I mean, I did do some minor outdoor yard maintenance, but I haven’t felt very motivated to do that either. I definitely did not finish the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee. September was like a very slow car wreck, for reasons I can’t write about here. It’s like I went from coping extremely well with the stay-at-home era to not coping so well at all.

Does this describe you, too? It’s okay. In fact, it’s okay to not be okay.

Where Did My Motivation Go?

First, if you’re feeling drained lately, it’s not just you. Or me. Or us. There’s plenty of “pandemic fatigue” going around–just Google it. If you’re feeling weary, notice changes to your sleeping and eating patterns, lack of motivation, have brain fog or racing thoughts, are edgy/nervous and maybe snapping at others, YOU may have pandemic fatigue. It’s a thing. Check out the UCLA Health recommendations on how to combat pandemic fatigue. Engage your peeps and make a plan. Even if we can’t live 2020 the way each of us planned, that’s no excuse for wasting it. Listen, I’m not saying you have to turn into the person who is working from home full-time, homeschooling the kids while teaching them Japanese language and French cooking, being the perfect house-spouse, and executing a 93-point self-improvement plan. Just that if you’re sitting around pining, while waiting for the pandemic to end, you’ve got better options. It’s okay to throw a pity party and wallow in it a bit–trust me, I GET IT–but eventually you’ve got to pull yourself out of it. (No one’s going to save you–save yourself!)

Second, it’s totally normal to develop pandemic fatigue–even if you’ve been “really just fine” up until now. As science journalist Tara Haelle explains in her essay on Medium, it’s because our surge capacity is depleted: “Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters.” Well we’ve been living under an acutely stressful situation for more than half a year now, and frankly, I’m burned out.

BUT. I am sick and tired of being burned out. I know I can’t just jump in with both feet (who has the energy for that?) but I’ve had my pity party, I’ve wallowed, and while I’m still engaging in some extra indulgent self-care

Cheerleader and balloons
I have felt like the opposite of this. You?

Here’s My Process: Step 1, Pick Some Baby Steps

Okay so first, it’s okay if you’re not ready to do anything yet. Maybe you start by calling a friend, or someone you trust. If you’re having a really, really hard time, please seek a counselor or therapist or other professional help. But if you’re not there yet, or you’re trying to climb out of that pit of despair, pick a tiny step.

In July I subscribed to Imperfect Produce. My “plan” was that this would motivate me to start cooking at home, instead of relying almost completely on (boxed) comfort foods and takeout (and wine). I’m not going to lie, I’ve indulged a bit too much in the comfort food. I know this won’t fix my neverending love affair with pizza (and cheese sandwiches), but at least it will up my produce intake. (I’ve been limiting my grocery store excursions because the number of people nose-dicking–wearing masks slung under their noses so that the mask is totally ineffective, as if they were wearing underwear tucked under their penises–stresses me out.)

First I made a hearty lentil and vegetable stew from a recipe that I saw in an email. I had swap out a few things, and I added way more rice, but I thought it turned out perfectly. Second, I made a crock pot curry with a sweet potato-carrot base. I had ordered an immersion blender (on sale, with a coupon) to assist with this, as the entire soup is pureed at the end, and naturally the blender arrived the day after I made the soup!! The only problem with the curry soup is that unlike the rice-laden lentil mix, it’s not something I can eat for three meals a day. Next time, I need to be prepared to freeze part of the batch.

The third experiment was tomato sauce, specifically the kind made for pasta. I say “experiment” because I basically chopped up a bunch of produce from my Imperfect boxes that I identify with pasta sauce (onions, tomatoes, garlic, red bell peppers), sauteed them in olive oil, and threw them into a pot with a can of tomato paste and a bunch of herbs. Sadly, I discovered that while I have a lovely “pasta sprinkle” blend, I did not have all of the constituent ingredients. So while I could add basil (I’ve got two kinds) and oregano, I didn’t have any thyme. (Not sure how that’s possible, but there you have it.) I tossed in salt and pepper, but under-salted it on purpose as I knew I’d want to top any pasta with a generous handful of shredded parmesean, reggiano, and other hard cheeses with a salty flavor.

The experiments will continue as I mix comfort food (seriously, Kraft dinner never goes out of style) with fresh spinach and hummus wraps, and try to switch my snacks from all cheap carbs (Cheez Its are life) to more fresh fruit. Also I may still eat way more pizza than I should.

A monster eating cake
Some days, I eat like this.

Step 2: Wardrobe, Please!

This is also a baby-step. Since I’m working from home 90% or more, and when I go to the office no one cares what I am wearing (if there’s even anyone there), I am literally wearing yoga pants all day, every day. For me, this is delightful–I don’t give a rip about fashion, and I’d be thrilled beyond belief if I could just keep wearing the black tee-shirts I bought at Target in the early 2000s without a wardrobe change. It’s been hot in Portland, and I hate being sweaty. I bought a few more pairs of yoga pants (prana Pillar Pant, black), and a few of those Harper Wilde “bliss” bralettes. When 32 Degrees had a big sale I bought some long shorts (so hard to find these days). I don’t want to do laundry every day, and I might as well be comfortable, right? (Next buy: another pair of my favorite pajama pants.)

Since the statistics on clothing in the US are pretty wasteful and the average American throws away like 81 pounds of clothing per year, I’m trying to be very careful about what I buy and how much and how often. (Seriously, Target, those Merona tees from the early 2000s.) I want my yoga pants to last forever so I buy quality. Harper Wilde has a bra recycling take-back program and they take ANY brand. My discarded tees and race shirts go directly to a church that helps those experiencing homelessness (they go right onto the backs of actual humans, not to some place to maybe be resold); I do clothing swaps with friends; and when what I have to offer isn’t useful to either of those groups, I offer it up on my neighborhood’s Buy Nothing group.

Finally, I’m still acquiring masks. Wearing a mask isn’t a sign of some fear or weakness. I affirmatively choose to wear a mask because I understand the science of droplet management, and I know that people can spread the COVID-19 virus even when they are symptom-free; I do NOT want to spread the virus to you, your loved ones, the elderly, the immunocompromised, or anyone else. I’m wearing that mask because I care about my community, not just myself. I’m trying to choose masks in a way that reflects my values. The first ones came from a local running skirt company that pivoted since they aren’t at a race expo every weekend this year. The next one came from Oaklandish, a store in Oakland I love. I bought a few from crafters on etsy, selecting designs from stores run by individuals making their own goods. I picked a set from 32 Degrees so I could have plain black for court/work. My next masks will come from local running stores.

Step 3: Save the Environment

Well, not ANY environment, but the one inside my house, specifically. Between moving into a new space (this house!) in November and changing jobs in June, my personal environment has been in flux. I’m still experimenting with how to place the furniture (dining set and one sofa) in the main living area and how to work from home. Once I started doing most of my shopping online, the dining room started to look like a cardboard box factory. In my experience–and according to Psychology Today–mess causes stress. The last thing I need is more stress!!

First, I cleared and cleaned the bedroom. At the moment, there’s still clutter on one of the dressers, but the rest of it is in order: clean sheets and freshly laundered blankets on the bed, floor cleaned and de-cat-hair-ed on the regular (hooray for micro-fiber cloths). I now have one sanctuary where all is right with the world, more or less. If you haven’t done this, OMG give it a try.

Then I ordered a desk to use during work-from-home. It arrived four months later. Despite the wait, and the imperfect fit of the chair I bought at Home Goods, this is a vast improvement over trying to work on the dining room table (which is the wrong height for typing) or from the sofa (which angered both my low back and my hamstrings). So now I have one designated Space For Work, which somehow makes me less anxious about not leaving the house.

Next, I started to re-home things I no longer need. Obviously I can’t just drop them off at a resale shop, and many of them aren’t resale material anyway. (Plus the majority of things donated do not get sold.) Instead, I’m finding good homes for most of these items through the Buy Nothing project: the gigantic cardboard boxes that protected my IKEA furniture during shipping, the full-sized box springs I love but that didn’t fit up the steep stairs in my new place, catnip spray Professor Nick Sterling ignored, a fat stack of old magazines, modge-podge, a seat cushion, old cable TV equipment, and so much more. I’ve set aside a bag of clothes to give to a homeless outreach program, once that’s possible. I also have a number of pieces of workout clothing I’m probably going to put on Poshmark. That’s another project.

I picked one room–the one that is going to become the yet-to-be-named workout room–and focused on that. Since it is going to house the equipment I own and my workout clothes, I needed storage and picked out a wardrobe and dresser from IKEA. (They had a bit of a backed-up ordering system, so it took awhile to get them.) The wardrobe is assembled, the dresser needs a drawer fixed (I’ve kicked that to the end of the project). After much consideration I took advantage of the summer sale to buy the CityRow specialized version of the A1 WaterRower–it’s not like I’m headed back to any gym or studio any time soon–and got a TV to hang on the wall (for the DVD player, since I have a stack of fitness DVDs). I splurged on an AppleTV so that I can screen mirror my iPhone to the TV (helpful for apps), though I could have used the phone-holder on the rower, or just dealt with it. Rather than wait for the perfection of finishing off the room–I need to move the TV’s cords out of the way of the heater, and take the things in boxes and put them into the dresser and wardrobe–I did my first workout on the rower with the room in a bit of a mess. It’s coming along nicely, and I anticipate finishing the rest of it this weekend.

Robot on a rainbow with balloons
Changing my environment changes my outlook for the better.

Finally, I spent a little money and one day (when it wasn’t a billion degrees or super smoky) to solve several problems that had been bugging me:

  • My fridge has an ice maker but there isn’t a water line plumbed to it, so it is useless. I bought a countertop ice maker–model based on a friend’s recommendation–and my life is so much better (especially during the crazy hot period when I couldn’t get enough cold liquids in me to save my life). I have ice for the iced tea pot, or for drinks, or to wrap up and hold on my wrists.
  • The cat’s box is in this funky liminal space between the kitchen, pantry, bathroom, and staircase, and it bugged me that it was just “out there.” I found a table at Ross that is the exact right size to cover and protect the cat box, move focus, and provide a place to set things that come in the back door.
  • My cat doesn’t care, but his collars were all shredded from his turbo-foot scratching. I bought a new reflective safety breakaway collar for his sweet bowtie.
  • My 15+ year old lamp that I’ve used in the bedroom, and the lamp I’ve had since I was a kid, both need wiring repairs. The 15+ lamp has one of those roll-the-dial switches on the cord and developed a tic where if the cord isn’t twisted exactly the right way, the light will switch off at some random point. It’s been annoying me, but I need a lamp there and so haven’t taken it to the lamp shop. I found a lamp on sale (about $20) and a clearance lamp shade I rather like ($6.50), and the combo is more appropriate for my bedside bookcase than the dysfunctional one. Now I can pack that one off to get repaired, and eventually installed in the guest room.

Oh, and THEN a friend turned me on to The Home Edit. After binging all the episodes (hi, Little Dave!), I “edited” more things, and realized my temporary workspace is in need of some help. I have a file cart with drawers on the way.

Turtle crossing balloons
Can I help push you across the finish line?

Next Step: Help Others

If you’re a runner, you know at some races there’s the point where everything has gone wrong? Like your shoes are rubbing the wrong way (even though they never have before), and your muscles hurt, and it is too hot, and you just don’t wanna? That’s they point when I know that staying focused on myself will only make me miserable. In a race, that’s when I look for someone else who looks lonely and miserable, and I make a new friend to cheer towards the end of the race.

So, in the spirit of trying to help keep YOUR spirits up–and maybe we can all help each other?–drop a note on how you’re doing, and what you’re doing to keep your own spirits up. THEN, if you want a happy little surprise by mail, drop me an email with your mailing address. You know how we have Valen-tines? I’ll send you a Quaran-tine! (Quarantine, stay-at-home? Okay, that might have been funnier in my head…. ) Anyway, until supplies run out, I will help my beloved US Post Office help YOU by sending you a cheery little something.

Pandemic fatigue resources:

Disclosure: I am attending SHINE and IDEA World Virtual August 21-22, 2020 as a guest of IDEA. I was not asked to write this blog post. The associated giveaway is NOT sponsored by anyone, and was my idea. Per usual, all of the opinions expressed in this post are mine, and I wrote the entire thing myself.

Given that there’s a worldwide pandemic on, having a massive fitness conference that fills an entire convention center and all of the nearby hotel space (including ballrooms, bedrooms, and restaurants), seems like a terrible idea. Thousands of people depend on IDEA World to earn the continuing education credits they need to stay certified, and to stay on top of the latest developments in exercise science and programming. Because it is. So IDEA World did what any essential part of the fitness industry would do: it moved online.

I’ll be attending IDEA World Virtual and the SHINE social media event, which is the successor event to BlogFest. I’m not sure what it’s all going to look like, since the event had to pivot quickly. IDEA World ordinarily has four jam-packed days of multiple sessions going every hour, including workouts on the expo floor–in past years that’s included the “mega circuit” with more workout stations that you’ve ever seen–and sessions featuring workout equipment both new and old. Obviously you can’t recreate the entire live event virtually. I mean, I own a TRX and some Lebert Equalizers, but I don’t have all of the cool things I’ve gotten to try at IDEA World over the years, and I certainly don’t have a team to do group and partner-assisted workouts.

One Thing That Won’t Change: T.D. Will Be There!

Todd Durkin is the owner of Fitness Quest 10, a gym in San Diego. That’s always stood out to me: the man owns A, singular, gym. Yet his impact is felt all over the world and not just because he was one of the trainers on NBC’s Strong TV show. Probably not because he was one of the first fitness professionals to partner with Under Armour either. If you’ve never been to IDEA World, you probably don’t know that Todd has been Personal Trainer of the Year, or that in 2017 he was awarded the Jack LaLanne award, named for the original fitness guru–he was teaching physical fitness and advocating healthy eating starting the in the 1950s–and Elaine LaLanne handed him the award. The first thing Todd did? Thank Mama Durkin. Next? Thank his family.

Of course Todd got to give a speech, and he’s GOOD at public speaking. He’s regularly booked for gigantic events, so it was super awesome when he came to talk to us about making an impact at Blogfest. Todd generously gave us all copies of The WOW Book, which was his latest offering at the time. The book consisted of 52 selections from his newsletter, “Word of the Week.”

Did you know Todd Durkin has a new book?

It’s true! While he hadn’t intended to release it in the middle of a pandemic, but it turned out to be just what the world needed. The new book, Get Your Mind Right, is all about mindset. The subtitle, “10 Keys to Unlock Your Potential and Ignite Your Success” pretty much explains the content. The ten keys are taken from Todd’s own life experience, and are broken into four quarters just like a football game.

First Quarter: Game Plan and Kickoff

This section is about getting your thoughts in line: dream big, get your thoughts under control, and don’t let the obstacles get you down. This is one of the fat sections, taking up a good 50 pages. Todd tells the story about his time on NBC’s Strong, and how he dealt with some of the setbacks and challenges on that show. He also shares about his upbringing and the truth that no matter what you have or don’t have, you’re going to have challenges thrown in your path, and you’ve got to have the mindset to overcome. You’re only as strong as your own mindset thinks you are–so you have to plan in advance. That plan includes giving back to your community and giving to others, and Todd makes that clear too. How could he not? He’s given so much back to all of the communities that have helped to raise him up.

Second Quarter: Execution of Key Plays

Twenty pages is pretty short for a section in this book. But how many ways can you say “control your habits or they will control you?” Okay, so maybe Todd doesn’t say that, exactly, but once you have your mindset it is your habits that control you–how you spend your time, energy, and focus matter. There are definitely books that hammer this point home in a more solid way, such as Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. Todd gets the point across though: if you want the freedom to succeed, you’ve got to discipline yourself, and that means committing to habits.

Now you have to bear in mind that Todd is specifically laying out what has worked for him. So, for example, he’s big on getting up before the sun, because it works for him–he’s got a family and a business to run, so the early am is when he gets his “me time.” There’s nothing magic (in general) about that hour, it’s just what works for Todd. If you don’t have a spouse and kids, or you do shift work, your own magic hours might be another time slot for you. Todd lays out his morning routine and his evening routine, and while they work for him again, YOUR mileage may vary. For example, one of Todd’s points is “no caffeine after 2:00 p.m.” While he vaguely refers to a study about consuming caffeine close to bed-time, he doesn’t even tip a hat to some very important known science about caffeine: we know there are genes that code for caffeine metabolism! I have had a genetic test so I know I’m a fast metabolizer (I can have a triple mocha and then take a nap without any issues), and afternoon caffeine isn’t a big deal for me. I mean, I’m usually going decaff for after-dinner-coffee, but a 4 p.m. latte isn’t going to do jack to my sleep.

Third Quarter: Performing Optimally

I’m going to be honest with you: this section is the worst part of the book. When I say that, I mean that Todd is not in his lane here–but if you’ve been paying attention, you know I feel very strongly that the vast majority of the fitness industry (certified personal trainers, yoga instructors, group fitness instructors, barre teachers, strength and conditioning coaches) needs to NEVER give out nutritional advice. Why? Most of it is absolute rot.

When Todd recommends breaking a sweat most days during the week, that’s pretty non-controversial, establish best-practice that is evidence-based. Like there’s actual science to support it. Added bonus, there isn’t any harm in following this advice.

Hydration, also relatively non-controversial, though Todd’s endorsement of “Himalayan salt” really should have been an endorsement of a full spectrum electrolyte (and I’d prefer that accompanied by an quickie explanation of how electrolytes work to regulate hydration, and how it is possible to drink water when dehydrated and STAY dehydrated if your electrolytes are out of whack).

Then Todd goes off the rails and states definitively that you should “consider going gluten-free to get rid of brain fog and bloating,” as though these are universal problems for all people. News flash: they’re not, and the evidence does NOT support going gluten-free for the vast majority of people. (If you have Celiac Disease, of course you must stop eating gluten. But most of us do not.) This section basically regurgitates pop-diet-advice about “gluten sensitivity” that is not established as fact. Personally, I really wish fitness professionals would let the RDs and PhDs in nutrition science give evidence-based recommendations.

Similarly, his recommendation that everyone, regardless of their current health status and without any evidence to support it, take supplements is basically garbage. His first two recommendations have to do with specific amino acids. The science is far from consensus on amino acids, with some evidence showing that taking branched-chain amino acids leads to less serotonin in the brain, as the BCAAs limit uptake of tryptophan (which is a serotonin precursor). There are also a number of studies that show taking BCAAs actually REDUCES muscle protein synthesis. Todd recommend fish oil for omega-3 fatty acids, MCT oil, and a multivitamin–all of these are popular magazine and blogger recommendations without a hard basis in fact. Todd cites no evidence for these suggestions (other than that they work for him), and he doesn’t talk about the alternatives either. So long story short, do your homework on supplements. Don’t rely on Todd, or any other fitpro. Instead, look to the peer-reviewed research (try a PubMed search) and consult an evidence-based registered dietitian.

Fourth Quarter: Finishing Strong

Like any good motivational volume, this one ends with inspiration. The two chapters in this section are “tap into the whispers” and “live a live worth telling a story about.” Great advice even without the content. Now I knew this book was being published by Baker Books, which is a Christian book publisher. If you are a Christian, you’re probably thrilled that a famous fitness professional is openly writing to witness for Jesus. I’m cool with that too, even though I’m not a Christian. Who can argue with allowing your faith to play a role in your life? I mean really, if a god/goddess/higher power (by whatever name) plays a role in your life, why shouldn’t you pay attention to what s/he (or they, or it) have to tell you? Personally, I celebrate that. If you’re not Christian, I don’t think you’ll find the book “too much” (unless you happen to offend easily, in which case I don’t know how you get on in the US these days). You can just sub your personal beliefs for Todd’s as you read along.

Win Your Own!

To celebrate going to IDEA World Virtual and SHINE this year, I’m giving away one copy of The Wow Book (softcover) and one copy of Get Your Mind Right (hardback) to one lucky winner. But first, if you’re interested in attending IDEA World Virtual, you can register using this link. Use code SHINE20 for $20 off your registration. If you can’t attend, you can still check out the virtual expo for free! Just register here.

Now if I managed to do this right, you’ll see a Rafflecopter widget below. If not, click on “a Rafflecopter giveaway” to find out how to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sure, it’s August, so I totally missed the boat on posting about #PlasticFreeJuly while it was, you know, July. But in a pandemic where the months all look alike-ish, who cares? Plus prAna just launched #ReshapePackaging and vowed to remove ALL plastic from their packaging stream by 2021–that’s next year! (Much better than The MLM That Will Go Unnamed who has set the goal at 50% reduction of plastic by 2025.) If you want to learn more, check out the Responsible Packaging Movement page and learn how consumers can help make change–even during the pandemic.

Speaking of the pandemic… The pandemic response has me feeling grumpy about the amount of plastic I “have to” use. The grocery store is my grumpy zone. Stores where I live stopped allowing reusable bags–a few won’t even let them into the store!–and switched to paper bags. Then there was a shortage of paper bags due to supply-chain issues, and so all the stores had reusable plastic bags made from thicker plastic…but were still not allowing customers to re-use them. (BTW, I’ve found a way around this: insist on bagging your own groceries. I’ve asked the cashiers to just scan like normal, and then send items down the belt to the bagging area, where I bag my own. My local Fred Meyer has a scan-as-you-go option as well, where you carry a scanner around the store with you, scan each item, then bag it. When you hit check-out, you scan the bar code on the stand and it uploads your order.) Oh and let me be clear: I fully support all efforts to protect grocery workers, including when stores will not allow them to touch my reusable bags. I just don’t need more plastic in my life.

It’s not just the big grocery bags though. Corn on the cob is usually a bulk item you pick out of a gigantic stack, peel a little to make sure the ear isn’t a dud, and then take with you. This year, it’s all pre-wrapped on foam trays. You can’t use your own containers for bulk items at many stores. You can’t use the mesh and reusable produce bags. Even my attempts to support local restaurants have increased my plastic usage as some have switched to all-plastic disposable utensils, and many of the take-out containers have plastic (and pandemic rules won’t allow them to fill my reusable containers). I get that it’s all about safety and reducing potential virus transmission, but it frustrates the part of me that has worked to minimize my single-use plastic consumption.

So I’m doubling-down on avoiding single-use plastic in other areas of my life. As prAna says, “progress, not perfection.”

NEWS FLASH: Something is Better Than Nothing

I’m sure you’ve seen the multitude of websites about the “plastic-free lifestyle.” There’s even an entire book, Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and You Can Too by Beth Terry (Skyhorse, 2012). (If you haven’t, just run a quick Google search.) Websites like the Plastic Pollution Coalition and My Plastic Free Life even have helpful tips on how to start cutting plastic out of your life. While I think that the “plastic-free lifestyle” is admirable–every bit as much as the “zero waste lifestyle”–I know it’s not a realistic goal for everyone. It’s not for me, either–I wear contact lenses (plastic) that must be cleaned daily (solutions only available in plastic bottles); I take medication (packaging/bottles are plastic). Before you suggest it no, I’m not a candidate for laser eye surgery (I need the lenses to correct my severe astigmatism). Good luck getting the FDA to approve refillable prescription containers.

“Perfect is the enemy of good,” wrote Voltaire, centuries ago. More recently, the New York Times reported that “Life Without Plastic Is Possible. It’s Just Very Hard.” I don’t have to be 100% plastic-free to make a difference, and neither do you. Think about an item of single-use plastic and how much waste it generates. Now imagine that 9 out of 10 times, you choose a re-usable item over a single-use plastic. How much waste is left? What if everyone made similar choices–how much smaller would the pile be?

Target Plastic Bottles for Elimination: THREE Solutions

A ridiculous percentage of the plastic bottles you put into your recycling bin are never recycled. This assumes you live in an area where recycling services are available–plenty of the country still has no recycling. It also assumes that the plastic bottle was theoretically recyclable in the first place–not all plastic is. I’ve read articles that claim up to 50% of what goes into the recycling bin doesn’t get recycled. Check out the “The Violent Afterlife of a Recycled Plastic Bottle,” from The Atlantic–I bet you’ll find it eye-opening. I’m sure you’ve also heard that even more US plastic ends up in the landfill since China started to reject American recycling. (It’s unclear if this is related to the trade wars, but there was definitely a problem with contamination, or non-recyclable items ending up mixed in with the recyclable plastic.) In any case, I’ve targeted plastic bottles for reduction. Here are three easy ways to cut out plastic bottles.

Dropps works as well as any laundry soap should: clean clothes, no weird detergent scent. This is exactly what I wanted. If you prefer a scented laundry detergent, Dropps makes a “fresh scent,” “clean scent,” and a lavender-eucalyptus scent. There are also pods for small loads, and a “baby sensitive skin” (which is somehow different from the “sensitive skin” that I get). If this sounds good to you, head HERE to try Dropps. (That’s an affiliate link, and it gives you $15 off your first order. Savings for you, rewards for me.)

A box of Dropps on the washing machine

ONE: Laundry Detergent–Get Dropps

The biggest plastic bottles I was bringing into the house? Laundry soap. My theory had been that if I bought the biggest possible bottle, I’d end up using less plastic than if I bought a bunch of smaller bottles. Probably true, but still gigantic plastic bottles. With the anti-dribble spouts I never felt like I was getting all of the detergent out, either. Of course there were all the usual problems too–they’re heavy, they take up space, blah blah blah. Freeing my life from plastic bottles of laundry soap was the easiest thing I did. Even though I only want unscented laundry soap, without any added colors or scents.

When I first tried Dropps, I figured if I didn’t like the way it worked, no big deal. One of those internet ads found me and offered a deal, so I think I paid $5 for my first shipment. When they arrived I was impressed with the packaging: cardboard only, completely recyclable. The detergent itself is in a little plastic-like (but actually plastic-free!) pod. You throw one into the washing machine with the clothing, and that’s it. When all the pods are gone, recycle the box. There’s no other packaging (like the pods are not in a plastic bag inside the box). I’ve been using Dropps almost exclusively since fall 2017, and I’ve only had one shipment with a leaky pod; it was such a non-issue that I didn’t even contact Dropps about it (I just threw out that single pod).

While you can place a single order, you get a better price if you sign up for a subscription. Initially I didn’t think I’d like having a subscription for laundry detergent, but now I love it. Dropps is pretty awesome. You can log in to your account and reschedule to earlier if you’re running low. Dropps sends an email to confirm each shipment, so if you don’t need any laundry detergent you can kick it out a month or two or more. And if you forgot to tell them you moved, you have plenty of time to do so before they ship.(Not that I know from personal experience…) You also get to decide how frequently you want to receive products–it’s not a one-size-fits-all.

Dropps also makes pods that are a scent booster, a fabric softener, oxi booster, and now dishwasher pods (unscented and lemon). I still have a bottle of liquid fabric softener, but I added the unscented fabric softener pods to my next subscription. I’m switching over to Dropps dishwasher pods too (currently finishing up a gigantic bucket of dishwasher packs from Target).

Ethique St. Clements in the shower

TWO: Shampoo: try LUSH or Ethique solid shampoo bars

Shampoo bars can be a little weird if you’ve never used them before. I’d say it takes 2-3 shampoos to figure out your best shampoo bar routine. The two biggest things to know: (1) limit rubbing back and forth, and (2) anticipate fewer suds.

I say “limit rubbing” because the tendency for most people using a bar product is to rub it. Rubbing a shampoo bar on your hair–at least if you have baby-fine straight hair like mine–is a bad idea. Just like rubbing a towel on your wet hair to dry it is a bad idea. Tangles! Ugh! Instead, rub the shampoo bar in your hands to suds it up, and then transfer the suds from your hands to your hair. I also rub the bar on my hair from the top of the scalp straight down (so no “rubbing” more like one pass) It takes me 2-3 rounds of this to work up enough lather to thoroughly coat my hair and be able to run my fingers through to reach my scalp.

As for suds, at some point in law school I learned that Americans expect their shampoos and soap products to produce a LOT of suds. (Apparently we equate sudsiness with effectiveness.) One dish soap company, for example, had a problem when bottles of a familiar brand of “washing up liquid” (the British term, I guess?) destined for the UK wound up being sold on the American market. There wasn’t anything wrong with the dish soap. British customers do not expect the quantity of suds Americans do, so the product was formulated to produce fewer suds. Americans who bought it were unhappy, because the soap–which was just as soapy, and just as effective at cleaning–did not produce copious suds.

The first shampoo bar I used was from LUSH, a round green thing in a scent called “Karma.” (I later bought various other colors but have no idea what the scents were called.) If you buy it at the store, it has no packaging (though they will typically put it in a little paper bag); if you buy online, it comes packed in a paper bag, in a cardboard box with starch dissolvable packing peanuts. I loved the scent and the way it washed my hair. LUSH sells shampoo bar tins, and I made the mistake of trying to store my shampoo bar in the shower in the tin. Terrible idea–the wet bar sticks to the bottom of the tin and becomes nearly impossible to pull out. The tin is good for storage, and for travel, but let that bar dry before you put it inside! For in-shower storage, your best option is a soap dish with a soap-saver (the little oval thing with the spines that keep your soap from sitting in water), or a wire rack (like on a shower caddy). Ideally, you want to let it dry when not in use so it doesn’t get mushy. LUSH shampoo bars and solid shampoos come in a dozen varieties, and LUSH also makes conditioner bars, but my picky hair did not respond as well. One out of two ain’t bad, right? LUSH also makes solid conditioners, bar soaps, and massage/lotion bars (which I really like!).

The next one I tried was from a company called Ethique that is based in New Zealand. They make square shampoo bars and smaller travel or trial sizes shaped like little hearts. I picked St. Clements as it is made for oily hair. Ethique bars come in paperboard boxes which are, of course, recyclable. As a company, they are committed to zero plastic, including in their shipping materials, and encourage you to #giveupthebottle. They are also committed to ingredient transparency, vegan products, and direct trade. I prefer the square shape of the Ethique bar as it seems easier to hold onto when it is wet and slippery. It’s currently in my shower, so I’m going to count this relationship as a success. Ethique’s shampoo bar box is made from bamboo and sugar cane; the bottom acts as a soap dish with drainage. They also have some cool tips on their website for what to do with itty-bitty pieces, since every product they make is in bar form. Ethique is available from their New Zealand based website, at many Target locations, from Target.com, and from other online retailers. In addition to shampoo, they also make bar conditioners, face cleansers, body soaps, and lotion/massage bars.

Shampoo bars may seem expensive when you’re pricing them. (At LUSH they run approx. $12-15 each for a 1.9 ounce bar, though a few are 3.5 ounce bars; a full-sized Ethique is $16 for a 110 gram bar which is approx. 3.9 ounces, a sample is $4.) They typically last at least as long as 3 bottles of shampoo, provided you don’t let them get soggy. Depending on how you use them and care for them, shampoo bars can last much longer. So whether they are expensive depends on how much you are paying per bottle of shampoo. There are plenty of other choices out there, but these are the two I have tried and can personally recommend.

Unboxing Blue Land soap: no plastic

THREE: Hand Soap Swap: Blueland

Hand soap seems like an easy thing to swap out–just use bar soap right? If you’ve got a pedestal sink with a sculpted-in “soap dish” like I do, not so much. (That “soap dish”? First it gets slippery and the soap just slides into the sink constantly. Then as soap builds up it get gooey and keeps the soap wet. Messy!) Or maybe you’ve got kids who can’t be trusted to put the soap back, or who leave it covered in sandbox dirt or blue Kool-Aid mix or something. There are a million reasons why someone might choose liquid soap, but it comes with those plastic bottles.

Enter Blue Land. When I ordered this, I just decided to go all-in: I ordered one for the kitchen, and one for the first floor bathroom, and enough refillls to last for a year. Fingers crossed, right? When the package came, I was pleasantly surprised to find zero plastic (other than the pump in the bottle). No plastic tape, no plastic wrap, no plastic padding, nada.

It’s pretty easy after you unbox: fill the glass bottle with water, drop a tablet in, watch it fizz. Once it’s done, add the pump top.

One thing though, you do have to re-set your expectations, and maybe your hand-washing routine. If you’re like me, you’re used to pumping the soap onto your hands, running them under water, and then rubbing them together to later. STOP.

New plan: pump this foaming soap onto your hands, rub them together to soap them up with the foam, and THEN run them under the water. This soap isn’t super thick–it comes out of the pump as foam!–so you don’t need water to make it spreadable. It took me a little while to adopt this new habit, but once I did, I loved this hand soap It smells nice (I got a variety of replacement tablets). A single tablet lasts a long time, so I’m pretty sure I won’t need to re-order until 2021.

One reason manufacturers use plastic bottles for their products is the cost of the bottle (plastic is cheap, glass is more expensive). In addition, the transportation costs for glass are higher, because glass weighs more than plastic (freight charges are based on weight). Glass bottles for many products now packaged in plastic need to be thicker to make them less prone to shatter or break, especially since most are used in the bathroom or kitchen. So if a manufacturer switches a product to glass packaging, it makes sense to also make the glass reusable, so it only gets shipped once. That leads logically to shipping refills, and if you’re trying to avoid plastic that means finding a way to take the water out of the product.

What are you doing to reduce single-use plastic packaging? Got a hot tip? A product you love? Drop a comment and share your ideas and finds!

If you have spent any time with me, you know how much I love my coffee. Good coffee. Coffee that people describe using the floofy fancy terms other people use to talk about wine or single malt scotch. Coffee from a variety of small-batch roasters, neighborhood shops, and hobbyists. Coffee from Central America, Indonesia, and Africa. I’m the woman who sees a sign for a coffee roastery that offers tours and immediately suspends The Plan to go see. (True story, this is how I discovered Mariposa Coffee which literally had just a Facebook page that no one maintained at the time.)

When I read The Counter’s article, “What if the only coffee shops left after Covid-19 are Starbucks?” I was horrified. Not because I hate Starbucks (I don’t, I’ve had a gold card since back in the day when you paid $20 to get wifi access) but because my life is SO MUCH BETTER with small batch, quirky, independent roasters in it. While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has wisely determined that coffee is part of the “critical infrastructure industry” that hasn’t stopped independent coffee shops from shuttering their doors or running with a bare-basics crew to try to stay alive. Big chains like Peet’s and Starbucks are likely to survive because they have other revenue, including national distribution and big grocery store sales, and have a billion locations and have apps to pre-order. The place down the street? Not so much.

So here’s my attempt to inspire you to buy your beans from a small business. I’ve tried most of the options listed below, and the other recommendations come from trusted friends. If I missed your favorite, drop a comment and share the love!

I don’t know about you, but coffee fuels my work and my world. I swear #ButFirstCoffee was created with me in mind.
Photo (c) Styled Stock Society

Arizona

Cartel Coffee Lab. I first heard of Cartel through a subscription coffee box. Now that they have a cafe inside the Phoenix airport, I may sometimes book my travel with a connection there just so I can pick up a few bags… https://www.cartelcoffeelab.com/

California

Bear Coast Coffee. My friend Kate Durham: “Bear Coast Coffee in Orange County, CA, is a wonderful coffeeshop with a fresh atmosphere, happy regulars, super chill baristas, and damn good coffee…I really hope they survive. They have the original shop in San Clemente.and a shop they opened last year in Dana Point. I believe they’re open for local pickup and delivery.” Check them out at https://bearcoastcoffee.com/

Bella Rosa Coffee. Kelly Benson says, “I buy their coffee any chance I can. I can taste the flavor behind their roasts and I find them to be so much more aromatic.” Family-owned, organic, low-acid coffees. This is definitely the kind of place I want to see survive and thrive. What’s not to love? https://www.bellarosacoffeecompany.com/

Mariposa Coffee Company. I literally found them by the side of the road in Mariposa, CA because there was a small sign. At that point in time they had zero internet presence, and not a lot of traffic, so I got a personal tasting and tour (and saw the frankenroaster!) OMG. So good that I not only bought several bags for myself, but I also bought some to send to my brother (his Christmas gift that year was “I’ll mail you coffee from interesting places I visit”). I even bought a t-shirt. That was a half-dozen or more years ago, and now they have a lovely website and you can use it to buy their coffee, which I highly recommend you do. https://www.mariposacoffeecompany.com/

Colorado

Ampersand Coffee. This Boulder-based coffee roaster comes highly recommended by Kia Ru, due to their “mission for female empowerment benefiting growers who are primarily female. They just started selling in Patagonia Provisions as this all started. My fave is a bean out of Chiapas, Mexico which steadily procuring seems like a chore but women are amazing.” By the way, the only roasters on this list are those I know personally, or that came recommended by friends. (Because friends don’t let friends drink crappy coffee.) https://www.ampersand-coffee.com/

Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters. This is another recommendation from Kia Ru. She describes it as “run by a two-time US Brewers Cup Champion with a ton of accolades out of Lakewood, CO . Great cup, they keep their menu simple, but have a kitchen lab where customers can get a spot to play with variables of time, weight, and method. Solid beans. My fave is what they recommend that day as they like to play with offerings.” Until you can visit their coffee lab, you can order online fro https://sweetbloomcoffee.com/

Idaho

Evans Brothers Coffee. My friend Hope Buchan recommends this coffee–she’s ordered it and never even been there! Me? Turns out I was there when work sent me to Sandpoint, Idaho. It was DELICIOUS and I recommend it as well. If you ever find yourself in Sandpoint–a seemingly odd location for a vacation destination, but so beautiful!–check out the Talus Rock Retreat. Less expensive than a hotel, and much more serene, warm, and friendly. In the meanwhile, order up some coffee: https://www.evansbrotherscoffee.com/

Massachusetts

Battle Grounds Coffee. My friend and amazing marathoner Kacey Hill recommends this veteran-owned business. Founder Salvatore is a former Navy S.E.A.L. and his wife and co-founder Dana comes from a military family. They offer a monthly subscription. One of the things I love is that Battle Grounds Coffee uses their website to promote other small businesses. I also love a roaster with a good sense of humor. They named their decaf blend “Treason.” https://battlecoffee.com/

Dean’s Beans. Nomnom amazing coffee. I appreciate their support for coffee farmers, and work to make their lives better, which has been the cornerstone of their business since Dean Cycon started the company in 1993. The company has long-term partnerships with the coffee growing co-ops and communities where they buy beans. You can read about the specific communities that grew your beans (and the projects that Dean’s Beans supports there) on the website, which also has a wealth of information about coffee. You can even buy green coffee beans, in case you feel inspired to roast your own. https://deansbeans.com/

Michigan

The Proving Grounds. Recommended by a friend who doesn’t really like coffee, but has friends who do. Proving Grounds serves coffee and ice cream, so if you’re one of those weirdos who thinks there is such a thing as “too hot to drink coffee” they have you covered. The physical locations are in Milford and Royal Oak, but they ship beans (and honey, and toffee, and doggie treats!) nationwide. https://www.provinggroundscoffee.com/

Check out Freedom Hill’s gorgeous new packaging! (Photo by Freedom Hill Coffee)

Freedom Hill Coffee. Imagine that you decided to start a coffee roasting business that supports veterans. Imagine your best friend and veteran killed himself, and that your business supports Mission 22–with a goal to bring veteran suicide to zero. Now imagine you started it in February this year. That’s Freedom Hill. I personally recommend the Breakfast Blend, which is darker than medium but not a dark roast. The dark roast is also lovely. The only real “problem” with Freedom Hill Coffee is that I liked it so much that the beans disappeared quickly! Be sure to check their single origin coffee (which one is on offer changes regularly). When I made my first order, they were hand-stamping coffee bags. Their spiffy new resealable bags just arrived. Check them out! https://freedomhillcoffee.com/

New Jersey

Rook Coffee. I’ve already sung the praises of Rook Coffee in a prior post. They support runners, so I’m in. (Also as you can read from that review, nice coffee!) https://rookcoffee.com/

New York

The Spot. I wrote about The Spot in my review of the Buffalo Marathon weekend; so nice, I went there like three times http://www.spotcoffee.com/

The Death Wish “broke not busted” charity tee–all proceeds go to support COVID-19 relief for the service industry. (Photo by Death Wish Coffee.)

Death Wish Coffee. “The World’s Strongest Coffee” since 2012, with a skull and crossbones and a bit of a punk rock attitude. Buy beans (OMG there is a five pound bag!!), instant coffee, cold brew, and merch on the website. Need a patch for your hoodie? Maybe a hockey jersey or a Krampus ugly sweater? A coffee-infused chocolate bar? They’ve got your back. You even have the option to have your Death Wish delivered every week. I have a few of the gorgeous mugs made by Deneen Pottery in my cabinet–some of them are sought-after collectors’ items. The coffee is delicious and as strong as promised–but if you find otherwise, they have a money-back guarantee. https://www.deathwishcoffee.com/

North Carolina

Bean Traders Coffee Roasters. Anna Louis Kallas recommends this roaster and cafe with multiple locations in and around Durham. They have a wide range of roasted beans from blends to single origins (Mexico, Guatemala, Tanzania, Burundi, and more) as well as flavored coffee beans. They have coffee subscriptions available too, your choice of 1 or 2 bags per month. https://beantraderscoffee.com/

Counter Culture. I was going to write an entry about my favorite Seattle coffee house, but they are no longer roasting their own–they serve Counter Culture. One of the fun things is that they sell coffee in various sizes–yup, you can get a five pound bag of some roasts. They also have a search function where you can see which coffee shops in your area are serving Counter Culture. Free shipping on individual orders. https://counterculturecoffee.com/

Oregon

Fillmore Coffee. est. 2015 Portland, Oregon. Fillmore is on NE 72nd and Glisan, and I had never heard of them until the coronavirus hit. Just before The Counter’s email hit my inbox, I saw a post by owner Tim Wilcox on Nextdoor. Turns out he lives in my neighborhood too. Fillmore’s pivot is to offer free Saturday delivery to Portland’s east side. They roast on Thursday and deliver on Saturday. Coffee is available in 12 oz ($14) or 2 pound ($28) bags. If you like good coffee, get the 2 pound bag–it’s like getting 8 oz of coffee free. Not a Portland resident? You can have it shipped, of course. Fillmore is one of the smaller roasters on my list, and it is Fillmore that prompted me to write this post. https://orderfillmorecoffee.com/

Happy Cup Coffee Company. I fell in love with the coffee before I read the story and I promise you will NOT be disappointed. Unlike most of the roasters on this list, Happy Cup has the benefit of being on grocery store shelves in Portland, such as Fred Meyer and New Seasons. Awesome, high-quality coffee is only one part of the Happy Cup mission: the other half is to provide employment, at a competitive wage, to adults with developmental disabilities. (In case you’re not aware, in most states a business can legally pay a person with a developmental disability lower than minimum wage based on a “time trial,” a high-pressure test that measures how “productive” an employee is compared to a non-disabled employee doing the same task.) In many companies, developmentally disabled individuals are only offered the menial labor jobs, but at Happy Cup they work in every part of the company’s operations. I recommend the Boom! Boom! Dark Roast, and The Buzz Medium Roast. Orders over $40 ship free in the continental U.S. https://www.happycup.com/

Rhode Island

Queen Bean Coffee Company/Mills Coffee Roasters. The Queen Bean is the online sales portal for Mills, a 5th generation, continuously family-owned and operated roaster. I first learned about Queen Bean through its support for the running community, specifically projects by Run Heifer Run and Ordinary Marathoner. I got the scoop from Nicole Mills: “My great great grandfather started the company in 1860 and we have many customers who have been with us for 50+ years. Our average employee tenure is 30+ years–it is really a family/community business. We all love coffee and love sharing our enthusiasm and dedication with our customers through our products.” I can personally vouch for the quality of the coffee (sold in FULL POUND bags!) which also comes attractively packaged. One of my packages included a hand-painted coffee-themed bookmark from Nicaragua; my latest order has a set of cards showing the coffee-growing regions of the world. I’ve tried both single varietals (nomnom) and blends (nomnom) and it would never hurt my feelings if you wanted to send me some https://www.thequeenbean.com/

Tennessee

Grounds & Hounds. “Every cup saves a pup.” Okay, who doesn’t love good coffee that supports saving dogs? This is coffee for a cause. 20% of all profits go to fund organizations that help Very Good Boys and Very Good Girls find their furever homes. The source their beans from Peru, Colombia, Sumatra, Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua so there is sure to be something that suits your palate. The blends have fun names like Alpha Blend (a dark roast, duh), Rescue Roast, Sit and Stay, and Belly Rub Blend. Order beans, subscriptions, and really cute merch. Coffee with warm fuzzies! https://groundsandhoundscoffee.com/

Texas

Check that out–FULL POUNDS of coffee!

Anderson’s Coffee Company. Austin, how I loved thee while I lived there. During “Stay At Home,” a friend recommended Anderson’s to me. I was shocked and refreshed to learn they sell ACTUAL POUNDS of coffee. Not 12 oz. bags. Naturally I bought three pounds, and I savored it! I personally chose the Guatemala Finca El Limonar, Guatemala Antigua, and Costa Rica (which was slightly darker than the two Guatemala varieties). It is really hard for me to choose a favorite–especially when there are so many more types of coffee that I haven’t tried yet. https://andersonscoffee.com/

What’s Brewing. Based in San Antonio, and recommended by a friend. Born in 1979, they’ve been roasting almost as long as I’ve been alive. Their roastery location features a collection of pinball machines! If you live in San Antonio, you can find them at the Pearl Farmer’s Market every weekend, serving up brewed coffee and selling beans. If you don’t live in San Antonio, they’ll ship your beans to your door. In addition to single origin beans and bean blends, What’s Brewing also sells coffee brewing equipment, flavored coffee, and teas. https://www.sacoffeeroasters.com/

Unknown Location

Sibino’s Coffee. This roaster reached out to me on Instagram and while I haven’t ordered yet (I had ordered five pounds of coffee the day before, so…) I’m intrigued. Each coffee on the site has a tasting profile, explaining the origin, roast, tasting profile, variety, region, grower, altitude, soil, and how the beans were processed. Basically more data on every coffee than you have on whatever you are drinking right now! Another business that started in 2020, Sibino’s seems to have developed a regular following. You can choose from single origin, blends, flavored coffee, and capsules. https://sibinoscoffee.com/

Who is your favorite coffee roaster? Do you know of an excellent coffee roaster that is small, locally-owned, family-owned, charitable, doing good works, or otherwise really worth knowing and saving?

Tell me all about them in the comments!

You’ve probably heard that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” If that’s true, race directors across the country are falling all over each other to get in line to flatter race director Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell and his Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000k challenge. (For those keeping track, runners have from May 1 to August 31 to run the approximately 621ish miles across the state. A real human has already finished, and is “resting” before doing the miles to “run the other way” back to the start.)

Hmmm, that would make a good blog post…

Yesterday, I opened an email from my friends at Blue Ridge Racing. (They are the team that puts on the Blue Ridge Marathon.) Like many race organizations, all of their in-person races are canceled this season. The email was notification of the Virtual Interstate Challenge, to run the distance of I-81 in Virginia. When I shared this virtual race across Virginia with my accountability group, one of the members posted about The Great Run Across California, which is a 155, 347, or 705 mile challenge with team options.

Since I thought this was hilarious, I posted it in the facebook group for GVRAT1000 (one of the few spots on facebook guaranteed to be positive, uplifting, supportive, and 100% free of politics, bickering, woo-woo goop-esque advice, and fake-news). Within minutes the other members of the group were posting about virtual races across their states too! One runner even noted that a NY-based run was calling itself the largest virtual race, at least until a GVRAT100k runner pointed out there are around 19,000 runners signed up to run with the one and only Lazarus Lake.

It’s NOT too late to sign up to run across Tennessee with Laz, but this is America–you’ve got options! [EDIT: I stand corrected. You can still jump on this run, BUT you can’t enter any miles you ran before you registered.]

For your unbridled merriment, I present The Complete (as of now) List of Run Across A State races! NOTES: I have attempted to collect up the same information for each race so that you can make informed decisions about how much you want to run, how much you want to pay, which charities you want to support, etc. I have also attempted to find the actual event page for each event, if one exists. The most accurate information will ALWAYS be on the race’s homepage–so go there and verify! The entry fees listed below DO NOT include the processing fees charged by the registration platform, and DO NOT include any extras. Some races include a medal and a shirt in the basic swag, others do not. Read carefully!

(If You Just Want to Run For the Glory of Running…)

Runner’s World Run Streak. This year’s summer run streak kicks off on Memorial Day and runs through July 4th. No miles to log, no medal and no shirt, but plenty of social media bragging opportunities. Details: https://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/a27546583/rw-run-streak/

Run The Whole Country!

DetermiNation Runs the Country (June 1 to June 7)
Distance: Join Others in Running Across the Country
Race Director: American Cancer Society
Charities: American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation
Registration: $25 (no shirt) or $50 (shirt)
Special Note: Fundraising incentives include goodr sunglasses and more
https://runsignup.com/Race/NY/NewYork/DetermiNationRunstheCountry

Amerithon (no date restriction)
Distance: 3,521 miles (run, walk, bike, swim) solo or team
Race Director: Run the Edge
Charities: Unknown
Registration: $75, $50, or $25 (you choose the level of swag you want)
https://shop.runtheedge.com/pages/amerithon

Great American 5000 (June 14 to September 14)
Distance: 5000k or 3107 miles (teams of up to 24)
Race Director: Sports Backers
Charities: Unknown
Registration: $50
https://www.sportsbackers.org/events/great-american-5000/

America Strong Mileage Challenge (June 1 to June 21)
Distance: How many miles can you run?
Race Director: Planet Ultra
Charities: Not applicable (help Planet Ultra survive this time)
Registration: $35 (options to avoid race platform fees)
Special note: everyone who runs 15 miles per week will be added to a prize drawing
http://runplanetultra.com/americastrong-mileage-challenge

Multi-State Runs

Mountains to Sea Virtual Run (June 1 to September 20)
Distance: 350 miles
Race Director: Upstate Ultras
Charities: Unknown
Registration: $60
Special detail: choose from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, or Virginia (belt buckle design features the state you choose)
https://runsignup.com/Race/SC/Sunset/MountainstoSeaVirtualRun

Run the States Challenge (May 25 to September 7)
Distance: 379k (Missouri), 630k (Kansas), 1000k (I-70 Challenge)
Race Director: Unknown (the race website does not include this information)
Charities: the Canine Challenge proceeds go to unnamed “local animal shelters”
Registration: $39 (MO or KS), $49 (I-70), $25 Canine Challenge
https://runsignup.com/Race/Info/MO/KansasCity/I70VirtualChallenge

Road to Gettysburg Challenge (May 23 to October 17)
Distance: four options from 132 miles to 991 miles (representing the distance from one Civil War battlefield to Gettysburg)
Race Director: Unknown (the race website does not include this information)
Charities: None identified
Registration: $60
https://runsignup.com/Race/PA/Gettysburg/RoadtoGettysburgBattlefieldChallenge

California

The Great Run Across California (May 1 to August 30—teams have 30 days)
Distance: 155 (San Francisco to South Lake Tahoe), 347 (SF to LA), 705 (whole state)—team or solo
Race Director: All Community Events
Charities: The Children’s Heart Foundation
Registration: $29.99 (through May 20); $40
https://runsusa.com/greatrunacrosscalifornia

Run Across California
Distance: San Diego to Oregon; San Diego to Arizona
Race Director: Kinane Events
Charities: Feeding American California Food Banks; Miles of Smiles
Registration: $50 or $40
https://runsignup.com/Race/CA/SanDiego/RunAcrossCalifornia

California Coast 500 (June 8 to September 7)
Distance: 500 miles (Santa Monica Pier to San Francisco); option for 100, 250, or 400
Race Director: Run Local
Charities: programs to feed children
Registration: $60
https://runlocalevents.com/california/

Chase the Jester Across California (May 25 to December 31)
Distance: seven options from 220 miles to 1,364 miles
Race Director: “The Jester” (Edwin William Ettinghausen, presumably with help from Andrea Ettinghausen
Charities: Project 99 (fighting teen suicide); Living Free (animal sanctuary)
Awareness & Action: Push the government to get 988 (the newly designated National Suicide Awareness & Prevention Hotline) operational NOW—the Congressional oversight committee approved it in December 2019 but they “need” 18 months to put it into place? NOPE. Let’s get that 988 operational NOW. It’s much easier to remember than 800-273-8255 (the current number)
Registration: $59.88 and up (longer events = more bling)
https://runsignup.com/Race/CA/SanFranciscoLakeTahoeLosAngeles/ChaseTheJesterAcrossCalifornia

Colorado

Virtual Colorado Trail Challenge (June 1 to September 3)
Distance: 500 miles (solo or team)
Race Director: Bear Chase Race Series/Runners Edge of the Rockies
Charities: Colorado Trail Foundation; Tunnel to Towers COVID-19 Heroes Fund
Registration: $65 solo; $130 2-person team
Special Note: there are competitive category challenges (e.g. most vertical feet in one day)
https://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=77426

Colorado Trail Challenge (June 1 to August 31)
Distance: 486 miles
Race Director: 3W Races
Charities: The Colorado Trail Foundation; Athletes Serving Athletes
Registration: $70
Special notes: option to bike all your miles, or to enter a combined run/bike/etc.; relay team option (up to 6 run/walk or 3 bike); 28 digital badges; facebook group
https://www.coloradotrailchallenge.com/

Connecticut

The NUTmeg Challenge (May 25 to July 14)
Distance: 155, 253, or 328 miles
Race Director: Unclear (not stated on event website)
Charities: Connecticut Food Bank; Bridgeport Rescue Mission; Mercy Learning Center
Registration: $35 (register by June 1 to be guaranteed a medal)
https://runsignup.com/Race/Events/CT/Anywhere/TheNUTmegChallenge

Florida

The Sunshine State Challenge (May 18, 2020 to June 30, 2021)
Distance: 1,121 miles or 330 miles
Race Director: Advanced Running Project
Charities: ReTree PC (tree planning to replace Panama City trees destroyed in Hurricane Michael)
Registration: $60
https://www.sunshinestatechallenge.com/

Florida Virtual Challenge (June 1 to October 31)
Distances: 1000K / 500K / 100 Mile
Race Director: Chris Lauber, Florida Road Races
Charities: Running Starfish Foundation, Inc. for distribution to other small non-profits.
Registration: $60 for the 1000K; $55 for the 500K; $50 for the 100 Miler
https://runsignup.com/Race/Donate/FL/SaintPetersburg/FloridaUltimateVirtualRuns

Illinois

The Great Run Across Illinois (May 1 to July 31)
Distance:390 miles (north-south) or 210 miles (east-west), solo or team
Race Director: All Community Events
Charities: Illinois Nurses Foundation
Registration: $34.99 until May 20; $40 after
https://allcommunityevents.com/greatrunacrossillinois

Minnesota

The Great Run Across Minnesota (May 1 to August 30)
Distance: 407 miles or 181 miles; solo or team
Race Director: MNruns.com part of All Community Events
Charities: Special Olympics Minnesota
Registration: $29.99 until May 20; $40 after
https://mnruns.com/greatrunacrossminnesota

New Hampshire

Run New Hampshire Challenge. (June 15 to October 11)
Distance: 599 miles (team options available)
Race Director: Millennium Running
Charity: Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock
Registration: $30
http://www.millenniumrunning.com/runnh

New Jersey

The New Jersey Virtual Challenge. (May 15 to July 15)
Distance: 28 miles (Boardwalk Challenge), 117.2 miles (Run the NJ Turnpike), 172.4 (Run the Garden State Parkway), 289.6 (Toll Booth Challenge ), 579.2 miles (Jersey Devil Road Tour Challenge)—the website has these broken out by average miles per day
Race Director: CompuScore
Charities: CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for kids in foster care), The Community FoodBank of New Jersey
Registration: $40-$85
https://www.compuscore.com/

New York

New York State Virtual 434 (May 15 to September 15)
Distance: 434 miles (Niagara Square, Buffalo to Times Square, NYC) with options for 70, 150, 290, and 868 miles
Race Director: Score This
Charities: FeedMore WNY (fka The Food Bank & Meals on Wheels)
Registration: $60
Special detail: run/walk, bike, and swim offered as separate events
https://www.nysvr434.com/

One NY Virtual Challenge (“now” to August 31; last day to register is July 5)
Distance: 1000k or 500k (team or solo option)
Race Director: Upstate Event Management LLC
Charities: Direct Relief (COVID-19 PPE and medication)
Registration: $60
https://runsignup.com/Race/NY/EntireState/OneNY

NYCRuns Subway System Challenge (Memorial Day to Labor Day)
Distance: 245 miles (New York City Subway system tracks!)
Race Director: NYC Runs
Charites: Robin Hood Relief Fund
Registration:$0 Turnstile Jumper (no swag); $60 Token Collector (sweet swag!!); $100 Transit Enthusiast (sweet swag and surprises)
https://nycruns.com/race/nycruns-subway-system-challenge

North Carolina

Run OBX (May 25 to September 7)
Distance: 300 mile Run OBX; ? Run and Ride; 800 mile Run the Ridge and Run OBX (see entry below)
Race Director: Unknown; this information is not on the race website
Sponsors: Coastal Hillbilly Leather goods, RC Outdoor Supply, Ridge Supply, Grafig, Seaside Silk Screening, EDA Surf
Charities: unnamed food banks that serve the Outer Banks region
Registration: $45 or $80
Special note: race swag is all made by North Carolina businesses, including shirts (designed by Grafig in Carolina Beach and printed by Seaside SilkScreen in Wilmington), medals (Elevation Culture), and awards with goodies
https://www.run-obx.com/

Run the Ridge (May 25 to September 7)
Distance: 500 miles
Race Director: Unknown (this information is not on the website)
Sponsor: same list for the Run OBX above
Charities: unnamed local community food banks in the Blue Ridge Mountains
Registration: $45 or $80
Special Note: The Blue Ridge Mountains go through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and West Virginia. This event is NOT the Blue Ridge Racing virtual event.
https://www.runblueridge.com/Race/NC/Cherokee/Runtheblueridge

Ohio

The Great Run Across Ohio (May 1 to August 30)
Distance: 227 miles or 454 miles (solo or team)
Race Director: OhioRuns.com, part of All Community Events
Charities: Whole Again (at-risk children)
Registration: $29.99 through May 20; $40 after
https://ohioruns.com/greatrunacrossohio#prereg

Buckeye State Challenge (May 16, 2020 to June 15, 2021)
Distance: 1,118.87 miles or 250 miles
Race Director: The Advanced Running Project
Charities: Shoes 4 the Shoeless, Inc. (provides properly fitting gym shoes and socks to kids)
Registration: $60
Special Note: There’s a cycling challenge too
https://www.buckeyechallenge.com/

Buckeye State Challenge (July 1 to August 31)
Distance: 220 miles
Race Director: Unknown
Charities: Unknown
Registration: $29.99
https://runsignup.com/Race/OH/Ohio/BuckeyeStateChallenge

Virginia

Virginia Virtual Interstate 81 Challenge (June 1 to August 20)
Distance: 325 miles
Race Director: Blue Ridge Racing
Sponsor: Fleet Feet
Charities: Feeding Southwest Virginia; Blue Ridge Area Food Bank
Registration: $45 individual; team fees vary by team size
https://runsignup.com/Race/VA/Roanoke/VirtualInterstateChallengeI81Virginia

Washington

Run Washington Challenge (June 20 to September 22)
Distance: five options from 35 miles to 277 miles
Race Director: Unknown (the race website does not include this information)
Charities: Seattle Children’s Hospital; Food Lifeline
Registration: $35 (lower mileage) $80 (277 miles)
https://runsignup.com/Race/WA/Seattle/RunWashingtonVirtualStateRace

WAVE Run 500 (June 1 to September 7)
Distance: 2325 miles (Long Beach to Cape Flattery), 265 (Cape Flattery to Port Orchard), or 500 miles (Long Beach to Port Orchard)
Race Director: Run Amok Racing, Inc.
Charites: Kitsap Humane Society; South Kitsap Help Line
Registration: $50 or $60 ($20 for doggos, but no swag for Fido)
https://runsignup.com/Race/WA/PortOrchard/VirtualRaceAroundWesternWashington

Wisconsin

The Great Run Across Wisconsin. (May 1 to August 30).
Distance: 176 or 314 miles (team or solo)
Race Director: WisconsinRuns.com, part of All Community Events
Charities: Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance, Hope Council (substance abuse), and Hunger Task Force
Registration: $29.99 through 5/20, $40 after
https://wisconsinruns.com/greatrunacrosswisconsin

Elsewhere in the World…

The Virtual Swiss Alps 800 Race (May 16 to August 16)
Distance: 800k
Race Director: Jakob Herrmann, Founder and Race Director of the Swiss Alps 100
Charities: Not applicable
Registration: $50
https://www.swissalps100.com/vSwissAlps800.asp

The Great Canadian Crossing (July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021)
Distance: 4800 km (2982.5 miles! WHOA!) or choose a single province
Race Director: 5 Peaks
Charities: NA
Registration: $85 CDN (full country) $65 CDN (one province) +mailing if outside North America
Special Note: separate options for run/walk, bike, and “multi-sport” (anything self-propelled)
http://www.5peaks.com/thegreatcanadiancrossing

Okay, what did I miss?

I’m in a bit of a hurry to get this posted, since several of the events have a discounted price that expires today (May 20, 2020). While I did run some quick searches and ask around a bit, I’m sure I’ve missed some “run across [your state here]” events. Feel free to drop a link in a comment.

Most of us are looking at another month or more of “Stay At Home”–I’m in through July 6, at a minimum–and races throughout Oregon and SW Washington (and the rest of Washington, for that matter) are cancelled. California races are cancelled. Pretty much all the races are cancelled. That’s okay because running is NOT cancelled, camaraderie among runners is NOT cancelled, and swag and bragging rights are NOT cancelled. If you’ve never connected to the running community on social media, now is the perfect time to join a virtual challenge. Motivate to run/walk/wog/whatever those miles by connecting with a challenge or a virtual run club. Unlike a virtual race (which happens once, you probably do it by yourself, and maybe you forget?) a challenge or a virtual rub club is ongoing support and a reminder to get off the couch!

The Original Edition

Run the Year 2020 medal

Run The Year. “Virtual” since the start! You can choose to literally “run the year” (2020 miles or kilometers), alone or as part of a team, or you can choose your own goal. For the Basic fee of $25, you get access to an easy-to-use mileage tracker (it lets you separate out walking and running and “other” miles), a private facebook group (plus a regional facebook group–once the virus ends, we can meet new runners at local meetups!), and a mileage guide. Upgrade to the Deluxe package for $39 to score a medal, legacy coin, and mileage tracking poster (it’s color-by-number-of-miles!). If you want to Get It All, spend $59 for all that and a bag of chips I mean a sublimated Run the Year tech shirt. See all of your options at https://shop.runtheedge.com/pages/run-the-year-2020 and don’t forget to join the Uncanceled Project (it’s free!)–your race on your day–to get those sweet custom photo bibs I know you’ve seen on Insta.

I’ve been a member of Run The Year since it started. My favorite aspect of this group is that ALL runners are welcome. This isn’t a club about being speedy–though there are speedy members. There are walkers, too. There are people brand new to any kind of exercise, and people who regularly take home trophies. It’s an encouraging space. Last year I volunteered to lead the Portland-area Facebook group, and I met some great people. Plus I’m apparently still a child and I love coloring in my poster.

The Ridiculous Edition

This is the photograph from the GVRAT 1000k Facebook group. Yes, those appear to be buzzards looking for roadkill.

The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000k. If you’re really into running, like to the point where you read about other people running, look up stuff online about running, or like to hear “war stories” from really crazy serious runners, you’ve probably heard of the Barkley Marathons, aka “the race that eats its young” according to the documentary subtitle. (Trailer on YouTube, film on a variety of platforms.) Despite the fact that few people enter and almost no one finishes, making it almost automatic social distancing, the race is off this year. So race director Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell came up with something else: The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee. It’s a mere $60 and you have from May 1 to August 31 to run 1000k BUT the miles only count if you cover them AFTER you sign up (and that’s run, walk, treadmill miles) https://runsignup.com/Race/TN/Memphis/TheGreatVirtualRaceAcrossTennessee1000K

Now why on earth would I, a banana slug of a “runner,” who hasn’t done 50 miles to date this year, sign up for #GVRAT1000? I think back to my earlier running days, when I lived in California, and some of my friends were telling me about The Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World: run a half marathon Saturday, and a full marathon on Sunday. My reaction? “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of!” So when The Dopey Challenge premiered a few years later, I signed right up. Maybe this time I hope to learn some geography? Call it the Go Big Or Go Home principle, if you will, but there’s some magic in publicly declaring that you are going to do an insane thing. Also, it’s find of fun to do the impossible. Take it from Bib #14066. 18,000+ runners in 68 countries can’t be wrong!

P.S. if that’s not enough, perhaps your pooch can motivate you? There’s a separate division for doggos! The cost is half of the human registration (Laz says it is half as hard to run that far on four legs) and 100% of proceeds will go to animal shelters in Tennessee. So grab your pupper and go!

The Local (As I Define It) Edition

At the outset of this section, if you have the resources to support your local running club, local running store, and local race directors, PLEASE DO IT. I know many of you have lost your jobs or lost some income that makes this impossible; to you, I say go forth and shamelessly apply for every running “scholarship” there is for your local runs: then get to doing it, talking about it, and wearing the local swag. I recently read an article about coffee that mused after all this is over, Starbucks might be the last roaster standing. (Blog post forthcoming.) PLEASE DO NOT LET THAT HAPPEN TO RUNNING. While big, national “road show” type races are fun, local races give back more to your community. The money almost all stays close to home (to pay vendors, suppliers, and for security, etc.), and almost every race gives some amount of the entry fees to a local charity. A smaller local race can happen in a town that can’t support a marathon of 20,000 which means more runs in more places.

Marathon Matt’s SF Run Club is going virtual too.

SF Virtual Run Club. California is where I really started running, and Run Club was my first stab at running with people on a somewhat regular basis outside of races. Usually it’s an in-person thing, with a short run and a cross-training workout during the week, and a long run on the weekend, plus plenty of social time. Runners are often training for, or “targeting” the same SF Bay Area race. This year? We’re going the distance, at a distance. The virtual summer season starts May 16 but you can join late if you’d like. http://www.sanfranciscorunningclub.com/

Oregon Brewery Running Series May Virtual Challenge. What’s a local race director to do when all the breweries close and we’re under a Stay At Home order? Go Virtual! In addition to prizes for hitting certain targets, there are weekly Zoom happy hours (you run your miles, then it’s BYOB) with “door” prizes. I wrote about how much I love this series. You should join us. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/oregon-may-virtual-challenge-tickets-102838915966?

The Do-Gooder Edition

Reigning Roses Walk. This annual event is the main fundraiser for Rose Haven, a women’s day center in Portland that receives no federal funding. Rose Haven provides services to women, children, and gender-nonconforming individuals to achieve self-sustainability, with dignity and respect. The programs include medical, access to showers, mail service, and classes. Reigning Roses was never a run. Instead it was a sort of parade, with participants carrying jaunty umbrellas and live music. While social distancing and anti-gathering rules currently in place make it unsafe to hold the event this year, and there is a virtual version, I’m betting participation will be down. That would suck, because Rose Haven does great work and it’s likely even more women will need help in the wake of COVID-19. https://www.makeitreign.org/event/reigning-roses-2020/e275129

The Environmentally Friendly Edition

It’s A Re-Run! No, not like on TV.

Griffith Park Virtual Re-Run. What happens to all those race shirts and medals when the race is over? I know some races will sell them next year as “vintage.” The Race for Warmth uses the shirts for people who late register the next year (so if your size is unavailable, you get last year’s shirt). The people that direct the Griffith Park Run had a better idea: let’s make a new race to use them up! You sign up for 6k, 8k, or 12k and run by May 24th. You get a random shirt, medal, and bib from a prior run, a Gu product, and a Re-Run sticker. $5 of your entry fee goes to the L.A. Emergency COVID-19 Crisis Fund, organized by The Mayor’s Fund of Los Angeles. At only $22.50 (which includes your swag mailed to you), it’s a bargain that also does good (both by repurposing ace swag, and supporting the LA community). Register: https://runsignup.com/Race/CA/LosAngeles/GriffithParkVirtualReRun

One of my favorite California race companies!

Brazen Racing Retro Remote. I learned about this one right after I hit “go” on the original post. Brazen Racing is a much-loved trail race group in California; die-hards who run each of the 20+ events in a year become “Streakers” and receive official numbers at the end of the season. Brazen has pulled ONE medal from each of their prior events to make this happen. As the website explains, “Those participating will have the opportunity to choose which one of those medals they want to get mailed for their virtual race package. Every medal sent out as part of this event will be unique and the medals are available on a first-come/first-serve basis. If you want to know what each medal looks like, you’ll have to do some searching around as even we’re not sure where/if pictures exist for every single one! Or you can just pick an event medal from a certain year and be surprised.” Distances include 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, 30K and 50K (the normal Brazen distances) and you can run solo or with a team. “The goal is to at least start your run by May 16th, but there are no strict rules here. We’re just trying to celebrate the good times we’ve had and the good times to come!” https://brazenracing.com/retroremote/

The National Edition

Even though I’d strongly encourage you to run local and support your local race directors and charities first, I have to give a nod to the national series races which are also not happening.

Zooma Run Club. Zooma specializes in women’s destination races, and this is a women’s run club. Sorry gents! Set your own mileage goal for the year (250 to 2500) and get swagged when you bag it. Zooma will also have giveaways, in addition to a private Facebook group, a Strava club, and more. If you join now, you get inaugural member status (which makes it sound like this club is here to stay, even past the Stay At Home era). Price: free option, swag packages at $65 (before June 1) or $75 (after June 1). You have the option to add-on more swag (hats, jackets, etc.) and the summer challenge for an additional fee. What can I say? The hoodie was really cute… https://zoomarun.com/zooma-run-club?

Rock ‘n’ Roll Virtual Run Club. Price: free, though completing a challenge gives you the option to buy finisher swag, and there’s some sort of points system (no idea what the points are for yet). Personally I have given up on this one, as the recording platform that Rock ‘n’ Roll chose to use cannot connect to Strava, and they do not connect to Coros. NO STRAVA? What the what? True story. Sport Heroes, the platform Rock ‘n’ Roll chose to use, can only connect to the following apps: Garmin, Polar, Suunto, FitBit, Nike+, Runtastic, Map My Run, Runkeeper, Health Mate, Rouvy, Decathlon Coach, TomTom, and Movescout. The only one of these apps I use is FitBit. (I also use Strava, Coros, and Charity Miles. I do NOT need to use another app just so I can do a Rock ‘n’ Roll virtual.) While the FitBit app recognizes “activities,” and Sport Heroes can import all the data, the RnR VRC will only recognize an activity if you set your FitBit to “run” before you go run. Sadly, this is not stated anywhere in the RnR VRC materials, so I missed out on the first VR 5k–I signed up and ran 5k, but didn’t push the special button on the FitBit, so it did not count. BTW no explanation from Rock ‘n’ Roll even after I filled out the feedback form, mystified that I’d run 5k but RnR VRC showed zero miles–I had to find this out from a savvier friend! So for the second week I pushed the button to start and end a run. You might think this fixed the problem, but you’d be wrong. Turns out my FitBit and my Coros had slightly different data, so FitBit said I did 9.82k and not 10k. As a result, RnR did not recognize my finish (so no badge, etc.) though I did get 99 points (whatever that is?) for the week. The Sport Heroes explanation for why they don’t connect to Strava is lame, and frankly sounds like it was written by a whiny, overprivileged, teenager who is used to getting away with whatever they want. It also contradicts Strava’s statement, and I’ve got a solid, multi-year relationship with Strava, and trust them. Strava’s explanation is short and sweet: Sport Heroes aggregates Strava data with no transparency about it, in violation of Strava’s rules. So if YOU are interested in attempting a Rock ‘n’ Roll Virtual Run Club event, you can give it a whirl. I’m out.

The Sponsored Edition

Run 50 miles, score a free pack! Image from Honeystinger.com

Honey Stinger 50 Mile Challenge. This is a challenge you sign up for directly on the Strava app. (Why couldn’t Rock ‘n’ Roll just use Strava? So easy, free for everyone.) If you’re not familiar with Strava, it’s a great place to connect with other runners, and with running brands. Honey Stinger is one of the companies that encourages runners on Strava by hosting a run club, and sponsoring various challenges. Head to the Strava challenge page to sign up. Finish 50 miles in the month of May and score a badge for your Strava profile plus a pack of the brand new Honey Stinger Plus Chews. Fifty lucky participants will also score a race kit (though there are 189,000+ people signed up so it’s a bit like the lottery).

If you’re not familiar with Honey Stinger, OMG go check them out! My favorite products are the caramel waffles (they also have gluten-free options) and the caffeinated cherry cola chews. Pro tip: to avoid crushing your waffles, use medical tape to affix 1-2 waffles to the back of your race bib. (Medical tape is cheap, will hold the waffle in place flat, and is easy to rip off the bib without any damage.)

The UnderDog Edition

While you’re at it, join Team Ordinary.

The Ordinary Marathon. Scott Rieke, aka the Ordinary Marathoner, started this ten-day event three years ago. This year, it runs (pun!) from May 8 to May 17. Every year, runners from all over run their miles (maybe a marathon, maybe not!) during the course (pun!) of the race and connect on social media. The photos later become part of the #OrdinaryMarathon slide show video. There are daily prizes, too. Entry fees also support a charitable donation to help pets ind a “furever” home. This year the optional in-person 5k isn’t happening, but that’s not stopping the event. It’s an Ordinary Marathon because anyone can do 26.2 over the course of 10 days–even you! $30 to register, includes a medal and treats, shirt is optional extra. http://www.ordinarymarathon.com/

What are you running in May?

Know a great race that had to go virtual due to the virus? Got a run club that’s “meeting” online? Drop a link to the registration page with your comment!

Unless you’ve been living on a remote island without wifi, you probably know that just about the entire spring racing season was canceled, summer races are dropping like flies, the fall preview is canceled with a side of not happening, AND there are now 27 races every day from November to January. Even the World Majors are not immune: Yesterday would have been Patriot’s Day and the Boston Marathon (now scheduled for fall), and today the Berlin Marathon was canceled and Chicago sent out preliminary information on how to cancel (guaranteed entry for 2021, but you have to pay the race fees again).

Given that we are current living in a global pandemic situation involving a virus for which there is no vaccine and no definitive cure, you shouldn’t be surprised. In fact, you should join me in praising the race directors’ individual and collective decisions to keep us and our communities safe. (As Marathon Matt Forsman observed, “It’s been brutal these past few weeks.”) So far we know the COVID-19 virus spreads rapidly through a droplet- type method. While that doesn’t include sweat, aerosolized droplets can stay airborne for hours. We also know that the virus can live on surfaces for quite a long time; while it is an extreme example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found COVID-19 on the Princess cruise ships up to 17 days after all the passengers left. This is a menace we need to take seriously.

Graphic courtesy of Race Raves

If You Run Enough Races, Eventually One Gets Canceled

This is just a math problem. (Remember “story problems” from math class? No? [Insert Millenial “new math” joke here.]) The more races you run, the more likely one gets canceled. I ran my 100th half marathon in 2017. That’s just half marathons. I’ve also participated in dozens of races of other distances. If you run enough races, you’ll have one get canceled. That’s just what happens. Races I’ve not-gotten-to-run:

  1. Walt Disney World Half Marathon (canceled, lightning)
  2. Walnut Creek Half Marathon (course shortened due to early am traffic accident on one of the roads on the course)
  3. Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Mile In The Sand (canceled, high winds/beach erosion concerns)
  4. Blue Ridge Marathon (black-flagged while I was on course, lightning)
  5. All of my 2020 races to date…

Races get canceled ALL THE TIME. The reasons are usually more mundane, like dangerous weather (e.g. lightning near the course, high heat & humidity, smog) or unforeseen events that affect the course. But there IS precedent for canceling races due to global pandemics. In 1918 (with both World War I and the “Spanish” flu–the one that killed a quarter of the population of the world–in the background) the Boston Marathon was canceled (a military-only event was held instead), and the Indianapolis Speedway voluntarily closed. As they say on “The Good Place,” shirt happens.

I haven’t taken a picture like this in months. As a runner, that feels weird!

The Registration Form Said “No Refunds”

I’m surprised to see so many runners whining that they are not getting a refund. Did you not read the registration materials? Pretty much every race says there are NO REFUNDS, right up front, and makes you check a box that says you have read and understand the rules. Even races that have some kind of refund policy often state there are no refunds when the event is canceled due to an “act of God” or “force majeure,” legal talk that basically means things outside the control of the race director. Can you imagine people demanding a refund if the course was buried by a volcanic eruption? Yeah, me either.

Look, it’s pretty simple: the race lays out the rules when you register for a race. The rules don’t change because the circumstances do. A race with a “no refunds, no transfers” policy has ZERO obligation to do anything if you get pregnant and put on bed rest, or break your leg, or have to go stand up in your sister’s wedding, or get stuck on a hijacked cruise ship, or the venue floods, or you get kidnapped by Norwegian trolls and held hostage on a fjord. A virus–even one causing a global pandemic–isn’t any different.

Woe to the poor race director who did not have the experience, foresight, or outside advice, to spell out a clear “no refund” policy (or whatever the cancellation policy is) early. (If you’re thinking about directing a race, read this one.)

(In Part Because Your Money is Gone)

If you’ve ever been on the other side of a big event–doing the organizing, getting the permits, registering the participants–you know that a lot of planning goes in long in advance. Budgeting requires predicting expenses and how many participants you need to break even. By four or eight weeks before a race, the money you paid to enter is gone. It’s been spent on a website, flyers, race shirts, finisher medals, permit fees, and more. That booth you visited at another race’s expo? Not free. The swag you got for registering early? Not free. The down-payments (or even total payments) for the extra police and security, for barricade rentals, for the sound system rental, for the post-race entertainment? Also not free. Also probably not refundable no matter why the event is canceled. If you haven’t read “In Support of the Race Director During Crisis,” and “Why Can’t I Just Get a Refund? And Other Emails to RDs in the COVID-19 Era” go read those right now.

I asked Marathon Matt for his take on this. He said, “I think most recognize this is a ‘force majeure’ we’re all scrambling to manage. EVERYONE is being impacted by COVID-19. I also think most people recognize I’m a small operation/business and simply can’t provide refunds/transfers (this is stated explicitly in my waiver). While ‘some’ larger race production companies can support this, very few production companies I’ve seen can. There are lots of articles circulating right now explaining why races can’t issue refunds, which is really important during a time like this.” True story.

Yes, runDisney did issue partial refunds or a transfer to the marathon when they cancelled the half on marathon weekend, and they made some kind of accommodation for the Star Wars themed races (no ideas what it is/was; I never signed up to run) but they didn’t have to. Frankly, when you’re a gigantic international corporate superpower like Disney, and your race sponsors are also large and well-funded, of course you can afford to offer a partial refund. But you’re not required to.

Early morning sleepy pre-race selfie with the founder of Every Runner Counts; the fuzziness of the picture matches my pre-coffee state of mind.

Early Cancellation is for YOUR Benefit

Race Directors don’t generally get rich doing their jobs. Many organizations that put on races are non-profits, and many of the “for profit” race organizations are not making that much of a profit. Trust me, they DO NOT want to cancel. Do you really think the city of Chicago wants the Chicago Marathon to NOT bring millions of dollars into the city, fill hotel rooms and restaurants, and other prop up the economy in October? Under ordinary circumstances, larger races understand that people book hotels and flights–not to mention days off from work–months in advance; late cancellation ordinarily results in losing deposits, and eating nonrefundable airfares. With the travel industry also hard-hit by COVID-19, my friends have had better luck rearranging and canceling travel plans. If it’s clear a race isn’t going to happen–like the “Stay at Home” order doesn’t expire until a week after your race date–early cancellation benefits the runners by giving them the maximum amount of time possible to rearrange plans.

What If It Is YOUR Job to Cancel the Race?

As you might guess, it kinda sucks. I asked Marathon Matt about his experience as a race director starting down a race date that you know just won’t happen.

For awhile, I was clinging to the hope that I’d be able to pull off my race on Sun, 4/5. While many larger (1,000+) races were being canceled, I was spared for awhile as I usually see 200-300 for my races. But, as constraints around public gatherings became more and more stringent, it became apparent I needed to plan for the worst. I would need a contingency plan.


I was fortunate in many respects that a number of races were postponed/cancelled prior to mine. People were seeing it happen with a ton of events which kind of prepared them for the inevitable. It softened the blow a bit when I had to use my contingency plan.

–Marathon Matt

As with many canceled races, the race directors facing down COVID-19 did not really have “the last word” on whether to cancel. A variety of “Stay at Home” orders meant that state governors and even mayors canceled races, not an emergency response team. There are only so many options when a race date is canceled–reschedule, go virtual, offer a transfer, cancel and do nothing–and not every race director has every option. Road races often involved coordination among multiple governmental agencies, road closures that local law requires be announced months in advance, and other administrative red tape. Marathon Matt’s race was a trail race, which made it easier for him to secure a new date. “Rather than cancel the race entirely, I elected to postpone it… What I ultimately offered my participants was the option of participating in the event on the new date OR they could opt for ‘virtual participation’ and I would send them their shirt, race woodallion, and other race swag,” Matt explained. “People have generally been pretty cool about this.”

Part of the idea for this post came from the whining on Facebook in various running groups (which I sincerely hope was just temporary frustration seeking an outlet). So I asked Matt what he’s seen and heard. “I’m fortunate that most of my runners have been understanding” Matt reported, giving me some hope for humanity. “I’ve seen more than a few runners lash out at races and race directors demanding refunds, issuing threats, and other unpleasantries. While I understand being frustrated and disappointed that your race was canceled, it’s important to have some perspective. We’re all dealing with something completely unprecedented. We’re all struggling to figure out how to best proceed.”

Go Forth and Suck It Up, Buttercups!

There are no races right now and if all of your 2020 races have been canned, you might feel like ugh, there is nothing to train for and so why bother. Hey, I get it; I’ve done more than my fair share of deep-couch-sitting during the first five weeks I’ve been trying to work from home. Wearing something over my mouth and nose when I run? Sucks. Being mindful so I don’t have to pass other people on the sidewalk? Meh. Not petting any of the adorable doggos I see when I go out? I’m dying. Kill me now. Seriously though, it’s hard times all around, so be gentle with yourself.

But here’s the deal: you probably have extra “free” time on your hands. While you’re certainly not under any obligation to teach your children Mandarin cooking and how to play the cello, or to church out the next novel for Oprah’s Book Club, maybe that’s what you want to do–and maybe you want to do that instead of running. That’s absolutely fine! Or maybe now’s the time you finally check out Athletes for Yoga or check out that cross-training method you’ve been curious about. Somewhere in between “I’m going to cure cancer” and “wake me when it’s over,” is your happy place. Go find it.

“The running community is amazing and filled with a lot of wonderful people. It’s this unique community (which includes runners and race directors) that will help us get through this. It’s important to remember we truly are all in this together.”

–Marathon Matt
True, they are not buttercups, but you get the idea, right?

How are you dealing with the cancellation of your races? What are you doing for quaran-tainment?

Marathon Matt left Corporate America to spread the love of running to as many people as possible. Check out Sasquatch Racing, and follow the Sasquatch Facebook page. Tired of “virtual races” and looking for a longer-term commitment? Check out Virtual Run Club, or The (no-stress) Loch Ness Virtual 5k/10k/Half & Running Challenge.

At the outset, if you know me, you know I love nuun. As I am typing this, there are a dozen tubes of nuun products in my cabinet, with as many promotional squeeze bottles sporting nuun art. I even like the “Immunity” products (which are basically a hydration product with vitamins and an unfortunate name selected for marketing purposes). For the purpose of this article, I probably could have picked any of the countless products that landed in my inbox to “boost” my immunity–this is just one example. I was slightly annoyed when I got a bunch of email ads for nuun’s “Immunity” products, wrapped in the guise of “how to stay healthy while flying.” That might have been fine, had it not been at the exact same time we started to get the earliest news about the novel coronavirus COVID-19. (I tweeted to nuun and told them it was in poor taste–my friends who are current and former nuun ambassadors agreed.)

As the virus itself began to spread in the United States, nuun joined the throng of companies regularly invading my inbox and my social media feeds to sell me something to “boost” my immunity, or worse as “protection” against the virus. (Word to the wise: there is currently NO product approved by the FDA, or any health or medical authority, to prevent COVID-19, as there is currently no evidence that any product can do so.) Aside from my general disgust with the entire lie that is “boosting” immunity, as if your immune system is an engine you can hit turbo-charge on without setting it on fire (a “boosted” immune system doesn’t just attack invaders, it attacks your own body, and we call that an auto-immune disease—it’s why those who have an auto-immune disease take medication to suppress the immune system, or “un-boost” it), I am specifically disgusted by every company trying to capitalize on the general population’s fears during a global pandemic.

(BTW if you don’t want to read the explanation about what’s inside? Feel free to skip to the summary and conclusion.)

Screen capture photo of an email add for nuun's "Immunity" product
More like “our profits come first.” Actual screen capture of the email from my inbox. Notice the emphasis on the “botanical blend”? More on that later…

Like most supplements, the website for nuun’s two flavors of “Immunity” doesn’t have any citations to peer-reviewed research, other published studies, or even clinical trials, of the products. (Since I wasn’t able to find any, I’m assuming the lack of links and citations on the website confirms their non-existence.) Absent those, we’ll just have to take a look at the product itself.

Let’s Look At The Main Ingredients

The “Ingredients” list on the nuun website is pretty innocuous: Dextrose, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Stevia Leaf Extract, Avocado Oil, Rice Concentrate. Translated, those are: sugar, a weak organic acid that occurs naturally in citrus fruits but is also manufactured industrially, “Natural Flavors,” a sweetener that is not sugar, avocado oil, and rice hulls.

Dextrose is a simple sugar made from corn. It is chemically the same as glucose, which is the form that sugar takes when it circulates in the blood. It may also be called “corn sugar” (NOT “corn syrup”) or “grape sugar.”

Citric Acid is what gives citrus fruits a tart taste. It is used in food products for flavor, and to acidify things, but also as a chemical agent that bonds things together (a chelating agent).

“Natural Flavors” is a term that is defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (a part of the Department of Health and Human Services) in the federal rules that regulate food labeling, specifically 21 CFR sec. 101.222

“The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

21 CFR sec. 101.222

If that seems really broad to you, it is. When you see “natural flavors” on a label is it made of wheat? Or shellfish? Or eggs, or milk, or tree nuts, peanuts, or soybeans? You can’t tell—and that’s why people with Celiac Disease, and people with food allergies, avoid packaged foods that use the term. The benefits to manufacturers is that if they have to change the exact formula–say, red grapefruit extract becomes unavailable, but they discover they can use a pomelo extract and get the same taste–they don’t have to change the product labels. (Changing a product label is a very expensive and time-consuming process.)

Stevia leaf extract. Stevia rebaudiana is a plant that is native to South America (specifically Brazil and Paraguay). I was quite interested to learn it has only been legal for use as a food additive in the US since 2017, and it was Monsanto that began to lobby the US for testing and approval of stevia in the 1980s. What makes stevia particularly useful as a sweetener is that the human body does not metabolize the glycosides in it—which is why it has no calories—AND it does not ferment stevia (so you don’t get the tummy trouble caused by some sugar alcohols). You can read more than you ever wanted to know about stevia leaf extract, including the FDA paperwork approved it for “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) status for use in food.

Side note: wait, if there’s sugar, why is there also stevia? Simple: stevia can have a bitter aftertaste (and some people taste it more strongly than others). A blend of stevia leaf extract and sugar allows a product to reduce the amount of sugar it contains, while still remaining palatably sweet.

Avocado oil is an edible oil pressed from avocado fruit. It is used as an ingredient in food products. Primal Kitchen, for example, makes a mayo using avocado oil, and sells it separately as a cooking oil. It has a really high smoke point (meaning you can turn the temperature way up before the oil in the pan will start to smoke). Since it doesn’t have a strong flavor, avocado oil can be used to help spread/carry other flavors. It is high in the “good fats” (monounsaturated fat) and Vitamin E, which is one of the reasons it is also a popular ingredient in skin care and cosmetic products.

Rice hulls are not what you’d think of as actual rice. Instead, this is the outer fiber and silica layers of rice; this is used as an anti-caking agent (keeps powdered ingredients from sticking together/clumping) in place of something like silicon dioxide.

But Wait! There’s More!!

But this isn’t actually a complete ingredients list. If you look at the “Nutrition Info” section, you can see the rest of them. Below is the “amount per serving” listed on the website as of today. (“DV” is similar to”RDA,” but it does not account for age, gender, or pregnancy.)

  • Sugars 2g (this is the dextrose)
  • Vitamin A (as beta carotene) 450 mcg (50% DV)
  • Vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) 200 mg (222% DV)
  • Vitamin D (as ergocalciferol) 10 mcg (50% DV)
  • Vitamin E (as d-alpha tocopherol) 3 mg (20% DV)
  • Calcium (as calcium carbonate) 15 mg (<2% DV)
  • Magnesium (as magnesium oxide) 15 mg (4% DV)
  • Zinc (as zinc sulfate) 5 mg (45% DV)
  • Selenium (as selenium rice chelate) 20 mcg (36% DV)
  • Chloride (as Himalayan sea salt) 40 mg (2% DV)
  • Sodium (as sodium bicarbonate, Himalayan sea salt) 100 mg (4% DV)
  • Potassium (as potassium bicarbonate) 150 mg (3% DV)
  • Proprietary Herbal Blend (125 mg): (1) Elderberry extract [Sambucus nigra L. (fruit)], (2) Organic Ginger Powder [Zingiber officinale L.(root)], (3) Organic Turmeric [Curcuma longa (root)], (4) Echinacea purpurea (aerial)

Since a serving size is one tablet, and that is 5.4g, one serving of nuun Immunity is 2g sugar (dextrose) and 3.4g other stuff. At 15 calories, sugar accounts for more than half of the calories.  1g of dextrose is 3.4 calories, so there are 7.8 calories attributable to dextrose. (If you’re running or otherwise exercising–and even if you’re not–the small amount of calories aren’t going to hurt you. To be clear: I’m not trying to imply there is anything wrong with dextrose or calories in your electrolyte beverages.)

What Is All That Stuff?

Vitamins. You probably recognize the vitamins. Selenium powers the internet, according to Google, and allows you to work in parallel across browsers with no coding skills. (Nerd joke! Really though.) Selenium is a basic chemical element (Se, atomic number 34). It is toxic in large doses—notice it is measured in micrograms—but necessary for the human body in small amounts. (The acceptable daily limit is around 400mcg, though one study found humans can ingest 800mcg before showing symptoms.) It serves as a catalyst in a variety of necessary chemical reactions in the body.

Electrolytes. Sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium are all electrolytes. Nuun contains all of these except for phosphate. Dissolved electrolytes create a positive or negative charge. This is really important in the human body, as electrolytes help to maintain the balance of fluid inside cells and in the space between cells. If your electrolyte balance is out of whack, you can drink tons of water but still be dehydrated! (This is because your body has to maintain the right amount of electrolytes in each location–inside and outside the cell–to protect you.) Both dehydration and overhydration can cause major problems with the heart and brain.

That leaves zinc and the “proprietary blend.”

Need Vitamin C? Get an entire day’s worth in single orange–plus fiber and more! (c) Styled Stock society

Zinc

Zinc is another element that human bodies need in trace doses; it is the second-most abundant trace mineral in the human body (iron is the most abundant). It plays an important role in a large number of biological reactions in the body. The human body stores about 2-4g of zinc in the brain,  muscle, bones, kidney, liver, prostate, and eye. Zinc supplementation may help with acne and depression (when taken with an antidepressant medication).

Zinc appears in nuun Immunity because people associate zinc and vitamin C with preventing the common cold. I turned to Examine for more information because Examine does not advertise supplements or accept ads, and bases their articles on peer-reviewed science.  I also really like that each article includes a chart showing the claims and the evidence to support it. HIGHLY recommend you bookmark it.

High dose zinc lozenges appear to reduce the duration of the common cold; it isn’t clear whether zinc provides protection against getting a cold in the first place. (In other words, there isn’t solid proof zinc will prevent you from getting a cold.) Examine notes that “Zinc lozenges, for the purpose of reducing the common cold, seem to be most effective when the total daily dose is over 75 mg and is divided into 6-8 doses, each separated by 2-3 hours when awake. It is likely dangerous to take zinc lozenges for extended periods of time.” (This is because taking zinc at high levels can prevent your body from absorbing copper properly—taking too much of any one thing into the human body tends to cause a deficiency of something else.) So the 5mg of zinc in nuun Immunity? It’s on the low end for a zinc supplement. To reach the most effective dose to shorten a cold—remember it does not prevent the cold—you’d need to take 15 tablets per day.

Now if you’re just trying to make sure you get your recommended daily dose of zinc sure, one tablet is almost half. But you can also find it in food—animal products have zinc (meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, dairy) and so do plant foods. Assuming there is adequate zinc in the soil, plants with the most zinc include wheat, seeds (sesame, poppy, alfalfa, celery, mustard, pumpkin, sunflower), beans, nuts, almonds, and blackcurrant.

So how about that “Proprietary Herbal Blend”?

First, let’s look at the label “proprietary herbal blend.” This is a term supplement manufacturers use to avoid stating how much of each individual ingredient is in a product. Some supplement companies, and seemingly every blogger indexed on google, will tell you that this is a sketchy way of avoiding quality control, or hiding what’s in the product. To be fair, there is a reasonable argument to be made that a company may use that term in order to prevent other companies from marketing a competing “knock off” product, essentially stealing their special formula for a dietary supplement. I don’t find it particularly convincing as an argument though, since it’s still possible to buy that product, test it to see what’s really in it, and then knock it off anyway. Further, people who are taking multiple supplements may need to keep track of how much of a given component (like caffeine) is in each product. Federal law only says that the label must identify each component of the “proprietary blend” and list the ingredients in order by weight. So if a “proprietary blend” lists ingredients A, B, and C, the blend contains more A than B, and more B than C. If you want to get nerdy on it, take a look at 21 CFR sec. 101.36(c).

Maybe this isn’t even a big deal for nuun’s “Immunity.” At 125 mg of a 5.4 g serving, the “proprietary herbal blend” isn’t very much of the product. Let’s just do the math: one serving is 5.4g  or 5,400mg.  So 125mg = 2.31% of the product.

Elderberry extract [Sambucus nigra L. (fruit)]. Elderberry syrup has been a folk remedy for colds for like unto forever. I personally have friends that swear by it. If any group was going to make a claim that elderberry is helpful, you’d think it would be the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. But at least as of September 2016, NCCIH states “although some preliminary research indicates that elderberry may relieve flu symptoms, the evidence is not strong enough to support its use for this purpose” and “there’s not enough information to show whether elder flower and elderberry are helpful for any other purposes.” These are descriptions of research with PURE elderberry—not a product with some fraction of a proprietary blend. To be fair, there is a study that shows elderberry was helpful to reduce cold duration and symptoms, but it was limited to intercontientnal air travelers. The study is called “Elderberry Supplementaton Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travlers: A Randomins, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.” It was published in the journal Nutrients in March 2016. You can read the extract on PubMed. A subsequent meta-analysis—that’s not a study, but an analysis of all published studies—shows black elderberry can be effective in treating upper respiratory symptoms. “Black elderberry (Sambucusnigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials.” This was published in the journal Complimentary and Therapeutic Medicine in February 2019. The abstract is on PubMed. Again, these are studies of actual elderberry, not a fraction of a proprietary blend. Further, the studies that indicate it might be effective show it reduces the length and symptoms—there is no evidence it is preventive.

Organic Ginger Powder [Zingiber officinale L.(root)]. Ginger is well-known for use in settling upset tummies. According to Examine, doses of 1-3 grams can fight nausea. Examine also found studies tend to show ginger reduces inflammation. But remember, we don’t know how much ginger is in the “proprietary herbal blend” and it could be less than 1g. Even if there’s a ton of ginger powder in that 125g, reducing inflammation does not mean you are protected against viruses (including the common cold—caused by a type of coronavirus). It’s also notable that loads of supplement makers and processed food manufacturers are capitalizing on the current “anti-inflammatory” trend. But there isn’t any evidence that inflammation plays a role in catching a virus like COVID-19 (or even a cold, for that matter). Before you get too excited about the “inflammation is bad” theory, you should also consider that inflammation is a necessary component of the healing process for acute injuries, and is also the reason you get sore muscles after a workout.

Organic Turmeric [Curcuma longa (root)]. The health benefits of turmeric (largely as an anti-inflammatory) are intensely overhyped, as I wrote back in October 2018. The little research that has been done is on curcumin, and turmeric is only about 3% curcumin. The articles cited on Wikipedia conclude there is no high-quality evidence for using turmeric (or curcumin) to treat any disease. There’s nothing in PubMed that backs claims for turmeric either (and not much for the 3% curcumin it contains).

Echinacea purpurea (aerial). Echinacea is widely sold to prevent or treat the common cold, but the evidence that it does so is sketchy at best. Similarly, a meta-analysis I found on PubMed indicates echinacea might have a preventative effect on upper respiratory infections BUT “whether this effect is clinically meaningful is debatable” AND there was no evidence for an effect on the duration of upper respiratory tract infections. “Echinacea for the prevention and treatment of upper respiratory tract infections: a review and meta-analysis.” Published June 2019 in the journal Complementary Therapy and Medicine. Abstract on PubMed. While there is one study about echinacea being effective against the common cold, it wasn’t a study of echinacea in general, but a study of Echinaforce (a specific brand of extract—and not what’s in nuun “Immunity”). “Echinacea purpurea: A Proprietary Extract of Echinacea purpurea Is Shown to be Safe and Effective in the Prevention of the Common Cold.”  Abstract on PubMed.

In Summary: This Is Not Going To “Boost” Your Immunity

Also, that is A Good Thing. Your immune system is a complex system of structures and processes. It’s not something you can easily manipulate with a supplement, especially if your lifestyle involves insufficient sleep. Instead of looking for magic in a potion or a pill, why not adopt some permanent healthy habits and make some lifestyle changes? The New York Times has some suggestions. My favorite? “Eat a balanced diet, exercise, and skip unproven supplements.”

Citrus fruits contain carbohydrate, fibre, vitamin C, potassium, folate, calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and a variety of phytochemicals. (c) Style Stock Society

Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post. No one even knows I am writing it. I didn’t get any bonus, incentive, or anything else to write this post, and every single word is mine. I’m a proud “Brew Crew” member, and since the March and April events are rescheduled and it’s for a good cause, I signed up for the qua-RUN-tine too.

It’s a qua-RUN-tine!

Logo for the Oregon Virtual Distance Challenge

Yeah, so this just started today, and I’m still figuring out how it works, so if this part is wrong, oops. Since we can’t have our usual Oregon Brewery Running Series runs right now, this is what we’re doing. It’s $45 to enter, and the charity partner is Oregon Community Foundations’ COVID-19 Relief Fund. After you sign up–do that here–you join the group on Strava (which is how they track your miles). Strava is free, and you can connect it to your running watch or other gadget as well as a bunch of other apps.

There are prizes at 10, 25, 50, and 100+ miles, plus weekly giveaways. Even if you don’t join the qua-RUN-tine, the Oregon Brewery Running Series is having virtual Happy Hour (or should that be hoppy hour?) on Saturdays in April. Basically you go for a run, and then have your cool down (and a beer?) using videochat. Get on the mailing list, so you can join in via Zoom.

UPDATE!!! NOW THERE IS A MAY QUA-RUN-TINE CHALLENGE!

UPDATE: It’s nearly May, and we are still staying at home. Even though our testing capacity is going up, Oregon is seeing fewer confirmed cases and fewer deaths. That means IT IS WORKING!! If we keep it up, we can continue to “flatten the curve,” and ensure the Oregon health system is not overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.

For the MAY challenge, participants will set a goal during sign-up. Prizes are based on whether you hit your goal, and how close you get: 25% of goal: Wooden Coaster; 50% of goal: Socks; 100% of goal: Free run entry or t-shirt; 120%+: Beer Delivery from participating breweries! Weekly virtual post-run happy hours and live-streamed concerts will continue. Like in April, the May challenge is $45 to enter, and the charity partner is Oregon Community Foundations’ COVID-19 Relief Fund. After you sign up–do that here–you join the group on Strava.

The 2020 Brew Crew Season

Last year I bought a ticket to the season opener, a party at the Oregon Historical Society (or was it the museum of Oregon history? something like that) and an exhibit on the history of brewing in Oregon. I didn’t go because I didn’t know anyone else who was going, and I wasn’t feeling up to a big party solo. This year the running season kicked off with a Brewfest at the Run Pub. Yup, you read that right–Portland Running Company has a Run Pub. During the kickoff everyone could sample a variety of beverages from the hosts of this season’s events. There were a variety of local eats and a food truck too. Now I know a lot of runners balk at paying to run an untimed event, especially if it’s a 5k-ish, and extra-super-especially if there’s no medal. But trust me this is $30 well spent. (If you were smart and bought a multi-pack, you paid way less than that.)

Bib decorating at LEVEL

The Venues. Each event starts and ends at a different Oregon brewery. The course is a loop through whatever is nearby, so you might be running a neighborhood, or you might be running around industrial parks. So far in 2020 we’ve run four places (though I’ve only made three). LEVEL beer is an old-school arcade game themed tasting room in NE Portland with a gigantic outdoor space (currently a heated tent); it hosts food trucks in the parking lot and has super cute merch. HUB–the Hopworks Urban Brewery–in Vancouver has a full service restaurant with a variety of food (though if you don’t get the pretzel sticks appetizer, you’re nuts). Baerlic has a small tasting room in NE Portland with an outdoor event space (heated tent–which I loved since it rained and was chilly!) and a pod of food carts.

Pre-Race “Registration.” This is the antidote to “packet pickup.” Ticket sales are through Eventbrite (which conveniently sends you reminders in case you’re like me and forget what you signed up to run and when and where.) Show up as early to get your ticket scanned and decorate your bib. The event bibs look the same for each event, and you can personalize them with a variety of sharpies (or even bring your own decorations). There’s usually coffee, and sometimes there are pre-race snacks (I hoovered a donut at Baerlic). If you’re really worried you’ll get lost (you won’t) there’s a map you can study (or snap a pic).

The Starting Line. All the people, and dogs, and strollers head out to the big inflatable start/finish line for a quick but energetic warm-up–think squats and range of motion type of movements–and an explanation of the course. After a few group photos everyone takes off running.

The Course. Each course is a loop, making logistics easy. It’s not a closed course and you’re supposed to obey all of the traffic laws. This means you’ll spend most of the time running on sidewalks or paved park trails, though in some areas there’s basically no traffic and it’s safe to run in the street. Every single corner or turn has a cheering volunteer holding a big arrow sign and giving directions. No course-markings to worry about–there’s always a real person to show you the way!

After party at Baerlic

The Finish Line. The official photographers will snap more pictures as you cross the finish line. Then it’s time to get your wooden nickel–redeemable for the pint of your choice–and turn in your raffle ticket. (If you want more raffle tickets, you can visit with the sponsors and vendors.) Don’t forget to grab your swag –your choice of what’s available that day, usually pint glasses, coffee mugs, and more–and some snacks. The Franz bakery is one of the series partners, so there’s often bread or bagels to take home with you too.

The After Party. I only know one reason people run: they like to eat! Some of the breweries are brew pubs that have their own kitchen. Others host food trucks. Either way, I’ve never gone hungry. Some people bring their own food in–once a family did a whole birthday party! Of course there is beer for sale, too. The fastest man and women are recognized with “The Golden Growler” award, which they sign and redeem for their very own growler (contents included!). There are a few announcements, and an introduction to the charity partners for that season, then there’s the raffle. There’s live music too! Of course my favorite after party entertainment is petting all of the dogs, but you probably already guessed that.

Honestly, it’s pretty good value for $30….but if you’re smart, you bought one of the Oregon Brewery Running Series Passes. Unlike other race series, this one lets you share the races in a multi-pack. The Pint is six races ($139), The Growler is twelve ($249), and The Keg is a twenty-pack ($359). So if you got The Growler, you could run twelve races, or run six with a friend, or run one with an entourage. But really, the best way to do it is to join The Brew Crew at the beginning of the season ($279). Brew Crew members get an entry to every event, but you can’t share. That shouldn’t matter, as who can run all 26 events? Even if you can’t (and I can’t) there are other perks: a special series shirt, a second pint at every race, and four entries you can share with your friends. (So it’s really $279 for 30 races–26 for you and 4 for friends!) But really, that’s $10.73 per race, so even if you only run half of them, you still end up way ahead!

Not in Oregon? The Brewery Running Series exists in OTHER states too! No matter where you run, the series motto is the same: Be Active, Have Fun, Give Back.

Top Reasons to Run the Oregon Brewery Running Series

Excellent Value. Did I mention there are also free race photos? If you want to mug for the photographers they’ll snap as many groupies as you like.

Everyone-Friendly Events. Speedy runner? Slow-poke walker? Stroller-pusher? Couple? Singlet? Entourage? Doggo? This is something you can do. The volunteers are out there until everyone is done.

The Beer is Optional. Yeah, I know, I’m the weirdo running the BREWERY running series who doesn’t like beer, and I get two pints per run (one for the event, and a bonus for Brew Crew). So far, the venues all have tasty local cider as well. HUB usually has cider (I had one last year) but they were out this year; fortunately they also have wine on tap!

Happy running doggo!
My favorite reason to run: the doggos. Photo courtesy of the Oregon Brewery Running Series

Have you attended any of the Brewery Series Runs in Oregon, or another state? Or been to a brewery run? Tell me about it!