Why Running a Marathon is Just Like Sex

It’s only good if you want to do it


By Pete Estabrooks

My brilliant niece Jessie called recently about advice on committing to a marathon. The simple story: she had a friend who wanted to run a marathon; said friend wanted a partner and the athletic, ambitious Jessie seemed a good choice.

As we spoke, I sensed Jess was feeling somewhat interested, but more obligated. Prior to commitment, doing due diligence, Jessie sought out my guidance by asking specific questions. In how short a time could she prepare for the event? What was the least amount of running that would maximize performance and at the same time minimize the risk of injury? Did I think it was a good idea?

After hearing the first two questions I was easily able to answer the last one this way: “No, it’s a bad idea.”

As I struggled trying to find an analogy, I was able to get this point across. If you have to make time to run a marathon, it is not a good time to run a marathon.

Popular culture has replaced truth with mythology and removed the magic from the marathon story. The myth — anyone can run a marathon — is that, a myth. Life isn’t fair. Hard work, time, serious training, as well as the right genetics all play a role.

With all that on your side, your chances to complete a marathon are good, but not guaranteed. The magic is (if you’ve run a marathon you know this) people will sign up for a second, third, fourth or 50th marathon. A marathon hurts. It doesn’t matter if you run 2 hours 10 minutes or 5 hours 50 minutes. It hurts.

Is there an amazing sense of accomplishment, a sense of wonder and achievement in finishing a marathon?

Yes. Does it hurt? Absolutely. It often seems like so many people have run a marathon that we forget it is a statistically rare event. Not everyone can, not everyone should and not everyone needs to run a marathon. It’s a cool gig if you choose to, a bad deal if you are choosing to do it for someone else.

Here’s why. The authentic marathon magic is two-fold. First, it is a terrific feat and force of nature to run 42.2K. It feels special because it is special. Second, after two days, you forget it ever hurt at all and you begin to tell your friends, “That was so cool, you should do that.”

Maybe you even propose, “We should do that.” Maybe you even lean on them a little, just a little, because you think the magic would be good for them.

Regardless of what you think the experience would add to their lives, this is not your choice. A marathon is a decision everyone has the right to arrive at by him or herself. Maybe you should shut up.

I finally figured out the analogy (too late to tell Jessie) that cut to the heart of the matter. Running a marathon is like having sex.

Running is fun; sex is fun. Running is often great; sex often also great. Practiced properly running can create an amazing human experience; practiced properly, sex can also be a mind-blowing human experience.

Training to run a marathon gives you a regular schedule and provides a long-term goal. Training for sex is an easier schedule to adhere to, provides a short-term “wow, was that good for you?” physical goal and a long term “wow, was that good for us?” emotional goal.

Running a marathon with a partner is fun, as is occasionally running one on your own. Sex? … You get the drift.

Most importantly, neither running a marathon nor having sex is ever something you should consider because someone else thinks it’s a good idea. This is your choice, yours alone and when the time is right, you’ll know.

Written for Impact Magazines March/April 2016 Issue


3 great poses to stretch your recovery time

By Jeff Grace 

Photography by Lachlin and Emily Photography

With another race season in the bank, most fair-weather athletes will turn their focus to recovery and regeneration in what is their transition phase.

Yoga can play a key role in allowing an athlete to enter their preparation phases of training next spring motivated and in good health.

Building yoga into a winter training plan can help insulate an athlete from injury, develop weaker muscles and refresh the mind.

Three common injuries that can plague cyclists, runners and triathletes include; IT band syndrome, patellofemoral syndrome and shoulder injuries.

The following three poses can help prevent these injuries by both strengthening and lengthening muscles that are not always focused on in the other phases of training.

Extended Child’s Pose (Balasana)


  • Goal: To release and strengthen the upper and mid-back muscles.
  • How to do it: Kneeling down, place your big toes together and your knees out wide. Bend forward from the hips extending the arms out in front of you feeling a stretch in both sides of the back. At the same time, press your fingertips into the ground and feel as if you are pulling the mat back toward your armpits. This should feel like the upper arm is being sucked back into the shoulder socket.
  • How long to hold: Pre-workout routine it should be held for approximately 30 seconds. Post-workout, it can be held from 30 seconds up to three minutes.


Chair Pose (Utakasana)

chair pose

  • Goal: To strengthen quadriceps, glutes and raise awareness in the shoulders.
  • How to do it: Connect strongly to the mat through your toes and heels. Inhale and raise arms overhead, ensuring the upper traps are relaxed and pull the shoulder blades back and down. Exhale and shift your weight bringing the hips back as if you were sitting into a chair. Keep your knees behind the toes and the upper body in a vertical position with the hips in a neutral position.
  • How long to hold: This pose can be held anywhere from 15 seconds to one minute. The length should be built up in a progressive manner.

Learn the others over at Impact Magazine

Mega Flu Fighter Recipe

Delicious spicy soup to get you back on your feet


Story and Photography By Danielle Arsenault

Garlic, ginger, serrano chili, lime and cilantro all have detoxification properties and can help kick that cold before it even arrives. Here’s why.

Garlic is revered due to its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. It has the power to reduce yeast overgrowth, stimulate the production of glutathione, which helps eliminate toxic build-up and strengthen our immune system. Ginger has been used for centuries to stoke digestive fires, calm indigestion, promote circulation and facilitate the assimilation of nutrients. Serrano chillies contain capsacin, a chemical compound found in all spicy chilis known to provide relief for irritable bowel disease sufferers (it worked for me!). Capsacin is a potent anti-inflammatory and when ingested or applied topically in a cream, has been proven to reduce pain, headaches and sinus symptoms. Lime gives soup a nice kick and stimulates the digestive system, enhances alkalinity within and increases secretion of digestive juices. Cilantro is known to chelate heavy metals, thus ridding the body of unwanted toxins. Being a strong anti-oxidant, it helps to lower the risk of oxidative stress in cells that may become carcinogenic.

Get the full recipe over at Impact Magazine

Be Bold Run Cold

Embrace the high of running cold this winter


By Pete Estabrooks
Photography by Birgitta Sjöstedt

“I know where you are going. I’ve been there. I know what you’ll feel. I’ve felt that. I know it makes no sense. It’s senseless. I know you are going to do it. I am.”

These thoughts rattle through my head rhythmically, haiku-like, punctuated by my breathing, the poetry befitting a steep downhill descent. I’m running one of my favourite trails in reverse. It’s late fall and I’m preparing myself for winter. Summer’s warmth is acquiescing to the chill of an October morning as I begin to run, only to stop, turn around and rummage through the back seat of my Jeep for another layer before returning to face the day.

I am beginning my run from where I usually end and running to where I normally start. It’s a ritual that marks the changing of the season, something I do to clarify a mindset that prepares me for running in beautiful, brilliant brutal cold weather.

I’m writing this now and you will be reading this then. You will be in the thick of it, not remembering what the trees looked like with leaves. You’ll have forgotten what it feels like to run on unfrozen, unfettered, dry trail or pavement and no run will be started on the spur of the moment. Winter running is a beast.

There are few, if any, physiological benefits to running at -20C. If you want to increase your speed this winter, run intervals on a treadmill. If you want to increase your endurance, run long on a treadmill. If you want to increase your strength find a tower with indoor stairs, or run hills — on a treadmill. These are running plans that make perfect, practical sense.

Winter, however, is a time for mental toughness. Running afraid for life and limb provides the ability to focus in a way not required at other times of the year. Being aware of environmental danger and developing the skills necessary to protect yourself in adverse conditions builds huge running confidence. Displaying your ability to overcome obstacles will stick with you in any tough run situation. Freezing your ass off a couple of times a year also leaves a grand appreciation for shorts, singlets, ankle socks and the months April through October.

Be clear, I am an advocate for cold weather running, not risky behaviour. Running cold and running unprepared are different animals. Both can entail running in malevolent conditions. Running cold requires proper clothing, tuning in a weather report, knowing terrain and charting backup plans A, B and C. Running unprepared is just stupid, regardless of the season.

Winter is a time to embrace more than running’s practical benefits. There are soul-stirring reasons to running incredibly cold. Dialling into even a single “winter runner’s high” makes months of favouring your fingers, covering your ears and double-wrapping your most personal parts seem an insignificant price to pay.

Waiting for you is a sense of beauty, peace and calm that transcends temperature. In these moments your senses are suspended and the part of you that is all of you and only you becomes animated. Thoughts are clear. The answers are there. The moment is complete. You tap into a supernatural world where you are reduced to paying attention to the sound of your breathing, the sound of your feet crunching snow underfoot. Sometimes, it is the utterly awesome sound of nothing at all.

This all-consuming, omnipresent, ethereal feeling feeds the quiet part of yourself that is neglected amid the noise and clutter that is the necessity of our busy lives, connecting our bodies with the peace that resides deep within us.

Sometimes running incredibly cold is just running incredibly cold, a ballsy effort filed away in your “I am an idiot, and I’m never doing that again” drawer. But other times there is a moment of magic just outside your door that you’ll never know unless you put your shoes on and snow up.

Click to view this article in IMPACT Magazine’s November/December 2015 Winter Running & Sports Issue.

A Runner’s Rant on Rubbish

A Runner’s Rant on Rubbish


JA14 trash

I’ve developed a keen sense for rubbish. I’ve honed my talent as a master of garbage, the Lord of Litter. Maybe it’s a product of my upbringing or from picking up after kids of my own, but I cannot pass by trash. I’ve tried.

To be sure, races are no time to stop and smell the flowers, let alone be filling my pockets with debris. However, every run I return with strange junk.

It boggles my mind. How are these routes lined with as much debris as I find? It is, unarguably, a treasure to have trails near home in the mountains and at home in the city. It is, then, an even greater gift to have the ability to trace these routes of the earth. Do other trail users not feel similarly? They must!

Sadly, regardless of sentiment, I find the proof is in the pudding (that is, if the trail is quite muddy).

Sure, some will express that much of the trash is left unknowingly, accidentally. Sure, I agree.

That said, ignorance should be no solace. As runners, cyclists, climbers and hikers, we are responsible for our actions and in pursuing adventure in the world around us, are thereby tasked with being stewards of our land.

Much of the debris I’ve gathered is rather mundane, such as empty plastic bags. Other items are evidently misplaced gear such as the lost bear-bell. While still not acceptable, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone tossed the bell after realizing how annoying it really was.

Some of the litter is bizarre, like a baggie of crushed crystals. I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty confident that someone discarded an old urinal cake on the single-track.


Some trash doesn’t make a lot of sense. A tag from a recently purchased camp chair would make sense to me in a campground. But 10 kilometres into the backcountry with no campsite in walking distance? A sizing tag from a pair of jeans in the front-range forest? A Calgary Transit ticket near Banff?

Lots of trash is gross, such as a trail of used bandages I picked-up descending Whistlers in Jasper or ribbons of used toilet tissue.

One time, I came across a plastic bag with dog poop. I get it; dogs poop outside. Other animals in the woods do, too. If you take your dog off-trail, 12 kilometres from the nearest trailhead, why on earth would you bother to bag your dog’s droppings? I wouldn’t hike my dog’s poop out and neither did this trail-er. My suggestion: let it decompose in the forest! No need to trap it for millennia in plastic amid the forest critters.

To me, the greatest affront of all is the trash left from trail-side snackers. Rather than pocketing the gel tab or bar wrapper, it is left to the ground. I’ve found juice boxes, beer cans, plastic packaging and utensils, coffee cups and lids and — worst of all — energy-food shrapnel from trail runners and cyclists.

These are folks who tend to be health-focused, often otherwise quite intelligent and obviously physically capable. By far, the majority of trash I stash comes from people who consume many gels, chews or bars on every outing. The fluorescent and sticky packages are obvious eyesores as well as threats to curious critters.

Mea Culpa; I have dropped a packet tab or two in my running. I am part of the culture and participate in all ways, including those that are consumptive and potentially detrimental. However, this is no excuse.

This is my call to everyone who uses trails:

• Be aware of the consequences of consuming while out on the land.

• Pitch in, take responsibility and help make the trails we share cleaner than when we got here.

Read the rest over at Impact Magazine

Embrace the Enemy, Brave the Cold

Tips for Injury-Free Training This Off-Season

ND14 Treadmill


Long days of sunshine are gone, but your training plan doesn’t have to go cold and dark. Whether you love to run outdoors or prefer to train on a treadmill, use the following tips to keep you safe and healthy as you prepare for your next race. So pick your poison; either Embrace the Enemy or Brave the Cold.

Embrace the Enemy
For many long distance runners, treadmills feel like a hamster wheel locked inside of a jail cell. As a species, we love hitting the roads or the open trails, but nasty weather can keep even the bravest of runners from their morning training run. Learn to embrace the enemy and use a treadmill for your workout.
Simulate Race Day: Study the elevation profile of your next race and mimic it on the hamster wheel.
Turn Up the Heat: Add layers of clothing or turn up the thermostat if you are training for warmer weather.
Hydration Matters: Being in a controlled setting sometimes makes us forget that we need to do more than just put one foot in front of the other. Be sure to hydrate properly before, during and after your run.

Brave the Cold
Those who wouldn’t be caught dead on a treadmill will fight through any conditions to run outdoors. Safety becomes the priority on these runs with slick roads, ice and less than perfect visual conditions. Here are some things to focus on as you brave the cold.
Slow Down: Icy roads are not the best terrain for speed work, so slow yourself down and use this time to focus on perfect form.
Gear Up: Proper footwear for dangerous terrain is obvious, but don’t forget to keep your body covered in lightweight, easy-to-see clothing so you stay safe and dry.
Hydration Matters: Constantly remind yourself that, despite the cold, you need to stay hydrated.

Whether you train inside or outdoors, always focus on form. Here are some pointers to make you a better, faster runner when the race gun fires.

Shorten Your Stride: Aim to take 180 strides per minute. This may seem fast at first, but taking faster, shorter strides increases your efficiency while lightening the impact with which your foot strikes the ground. Lighter impact leads to less injury and will help you keep your balance when road conditions are less than desirable.

Swing Your Arms: Who knew it would be so hard to keep your momentum moving forward? Most runners fall victim to improper arm swing, which can wear down your energy and overextend your core over a long run. Keep your arms bent at about 90 degrees, hands held loose and swing your arms straight forward and back, hinging at the shoulder. Use your arms to propel you forward and try to avoid any tendency to swing your arms across your body.

Read the rest over at Impact Magazine

Snow Running

Refine Your Technique and Build Your Core This Winter

Winter trail running


The early morning symphony of snowplow blades on city streets doesn’t have to bury your winter run. After a fresh drop of the white stuff, hit the trails or roads for a physical and mental boost. Here’s why running on and through the snow will benefit your training.
A strong runner typically supplements his running with strength training. For a change of pace and scenery, you can leave the squats, plyometrics and lunges at home and rely on the snow to strengthen those often-overlooked muscles.

Matt Fitzgerald, a sports nutritionist and author of numerous training books, including Racing Weight, has found, “If you run on snow-covered trails after having previously run only on smooth dry surfaces, you will wake up with muscle soreness the next day — proof-positive that trail running in the snow activates the muscles differently.”

Different snow conditions and different footwear will also change the workout you get. Good trail shoes will keep you rolling through most snow conditions, while snowshoes can get you just about anywhere.

Stephen Gangemi, a.k.a. Sock Doc, from Chapel Hill, N.C., is an experienced runner and triathlete with 20 Ironman races under his belt. “If it’s deep snow, then you use your hip flexors and calves a lot more and if it is slippery slush, then you use your glutes and lower leg muscles more in order to stay balanced and smooth,” Gangemi says.

There is no doubt that, after running in the snow, you will notice soreness in different muscles. This isn’t limited to the leg muscles; you may also notice you are working your feet more.

Fitzgerald feels that in snow running, “there is a greater degree of activation in the ankle stabilizers and in the muscles of the feet.”

Snow running can help your form. Experienced trail runner Mark Cucuzzella says, “It works on balance and form. It is really hard to overstride and create a lot of friction. You learn to run closer to your centre.”

Elite ultrarunner and podiatrist Dave Hannaford says, “Ice or firm snow is one of the best surfaces to learn proper form. I believe learning to run without slipping on icy surfaces is better than running barefoot for learning efficient running form and body position. A stride too long will cause a slide. If the bodyweight is not over the feet, runners will slip.”

Most runners would agree that core exercises are not the highlight of their training week. But they can be if you run in the snow. A good snow running workout beats crunches in the fun factor.

Elizabeth Primrose is a personal coach with an astounding racing resume. She was the first place female Canadian qualifier for the World Snowshoe Running Championships in 2012.

“Trail running in the snow strengthens my core and stabilizers and improves my balance, especially in icy conditions. It also improves my concentration. When I am slipping and sliding, I have to think about more than just running,” says Primrose.

Read the rest over at Impact Magazine

Human Journey – Epic Ultra Across the Gobi Desert

By: Brett Sharkey, Trail Embassy Founder


Imagine a tiny valley, carving out a pass through towering, rough, green mountains. At the base of a mountain lies a traditional canvas yurt, tucked into a small outcropping of land, nestled between the mountain and the steep banks of a creek.


Smoke rises from a stack and there is a woman tending to something in the yard. There is a stone wall surrounding her sheep.

As I run along a dirt trail on the opposite side of the stream, I am taken by the scene and how surreal this moment is. Just then, a small boy, maybe four years old, comes running out to greet me. Though I probably appear like an alien from another world, he cheers and waves as I run. I can’t help but pause. I carefully navigate a route across the creek and bound up the steep bank on the other side.

I look over to his mother. She smiles and gives me a nod. I crouch down, placing one hand on his shoulder as we shake hands with the other. We are both smiling from ear to ear. This was my Gobi moment. A frozen moment in time, which I had travelled to the far side of the world for — the human experience.

The Gobi March 2013, located in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province, is one of four events in Racing the Planet’s 4 Deserts rough-country, multi-day endurance footrace series. Made up of the Sahara, Atacama, Gobi and Antarctica deserts, it is widely considered to be one of the toughest endurance competitions in the world. Covering the hottest, driest, windiest and coldest deserts on earth, each race is a self-supported (hauling all your own survival gear, food and clothing on your back,) 250K footrace spanning seven days.

For me, with the Sahara Race and Atacama Crossing successfully under my belt, this would be my third campaign in the series. A series I chose for two simple reasons: to combine my love of adventure with my passion for charity.

With my son, Oskar, undergoing heart surgery at the age of 4, our family was fortunate enough to be welcomed into the Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta in Edmonton. Since then, as a family, we have been raising awareness and funds for both the Edmonton and Calgary house through my adventures.

I started the Gobi March feeling optimistic, but cautious. If there’s one thing I’d learned through my previous two races, it’s that nothing will go as planned. This premonition was mostly realized on Day 5 (known as the long day for its 75K distance) as I flew down the side of a mountain through gale-force winds and rain and a bit of hail and yes, even snow. And this was supposed to be desert?

But this was only one of a series of hurdles the Gobi would throw at me throughout the week. Sure, there was the searing daytime heat to contend with, but it was the intangibles that made it so memorable. The ups and downs — the highs and lows . . . like the hole in my air mattress that would become the source of cold and sleepless nights (as if the effect of the previous day’s run weren’t enough.)

And while it became a major pain in my butt (literally) it also brought out the best in what the race had to offer — sportsmanship and camaraderie. This came when a fellow tentmate (and now dear friend for life) came to my aid, spending more than an hour of his precious recovery time to help me find and patch the pinhole in my mattress.

It goes without saying that, while this was one of the most gruelling physical challenges I’d ever taken part in, and while I recall the first afternoon being particularly hot and daunting, I honestly don’t remember the pain and suffering that I endured throughout the week. I know it was there, but somehow my body seemed to sweep it under the rug while I ran, ignoring the temptation to give in and quit until I reached the finish line. And as the week went on, I actually found myself getting stronger every day. And with each new day came a jump up in the standings.

Read the rest and find out how Brett finished over at Impact Magazine

Shake and Bake

Kick Up These Clean, Yet Decadent, Treats With Protein Powder

Treats with Protein Powder

By Heidi Cannon
Photography By Randy Dicken, Skazka Images

Eating clean is a wonderful lifestyle. You feel better, have more energy and your health improves. But sometimes I miss my sweets — an occasional chocolate bar, a cookie or a cupcake.

I started to think about how my favourite sweet treats could be made clean, yet tasty, so I got my protein powder out and off I went, baking up a storm. Two years later and I haven’t stopped. None of my recipes contain sugar, white flour or butter. Many recipes are gluten-free and lactose-free and I load all of them onto my food app, Mrs. Cannons Baking.

The app gets reloaded bi-weekly with new recipes, which include calorie breakdown, fat, carbs and protein.

Here are three of my recipes to try:


Makes 18 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup vanilla protein powder
  • 1 cup mashed yam
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 4 packs Trivia sweetener


Blend ingredients with mixer and pour into non-stick muffin tins. Bake at 350F for about 25-30 minutes, or until lightly brown on top.

Frosting Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup low fat cream cheese


Blend with mixer and spread on top of cooled cupcakes.

Nutritional info per cupcake (including frosting):

Calories, 125.8; Fats, 5.42g; Carbs, 21.06g; Protein, 8.97g


Makes 8 Muffins


  • 3 bananas
  • 3/4 cup of fruit of choice (try blackberries/strawberries)
  • 1 apple
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 3 Tbsp. walnuts
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vanilla protein powder


Blend with mixer and pour into non-stick baking tins. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Nutritional info per muffin:
Calories, 108; Fats, 3.2g; Carbs, 14.2g; Protein, 5.1g


Find this one over at Impact Magazine


Buckwheat Fever

Two tasty summer seed recipes to get you crazed for the season


Why is it a main staple in my athletic diet? It is gluten-free, full of essential amino acids including the good mood tryptophan and with the added bonus of being one of the easiest foods to sprout, buckwheat makes my list of top power foods for any healthy diet.

I use buckwheat as my main carbohydrate for fueling up with long-term energy for strenuous athletic days as well as for short powerful workouts. Full of fibre, iron, calcium, vitamin B, potassium and magnesium, this seed is truly a magnificent gift from Mother Nature.

Easy on the digestive system and alkalizing, buckwheat is a key dietary addition in helping me cleanse my body of unwanted waist centimetres. It also reduces inflammation, speeding up my recovery and helping get me back to what I love quicker, stronger and more energized.

I eat 1-2 cups of cooked or sprouted buckwheat two hours before heading out for a long day of activity. I also love adding in a quarter cup of sprouted buckwheat into my recovery smoothies after an early trail run.

Read the full article here: impactmagazine.ca