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Elite . . . It’s all relative

January 16, 2012

Working on the board of directors of the Charlotte Running Club, we often hear that the club is “elite”. We hear that people are afraid to join because they (1) don’t feel fast enough (2) can’t relate to the fast people. It is proving to be a very difficult task for the board to rid the club of this label, but believe me, we are trying. The Charlotte Running Club is around to be an asset to passionate runners, not elite runners, but passionate.

I have never seen a race director put out time standards that defined passionate runners. However, most large races in the US and around the world have time standards that define who the elite runners are. The Charlotte Running Club had a little over 500 members last year in the club. I’m assuming, since they were in the club, that 100% of these members were passionate, but only about 1-2% of the club is fast enough to meet elite race standards.

So, what am I saying? I believe that the word “elite” is thrown around a bit haphazardly. Does the club have “elites” as defined by the USATF? Yes, we just had 4 women, who either were or are members of the club, qualify for the Olympic Trials. However, no men in the club have yet to reach that distinction. Although, Richard Falcone, a former Charlotte resident and still current member, did place in the top 10 at the US Club XC Championships among masters runners in 2010.

This is why the title of the blog is “Elite . . . It’s all relative”. We have many different levels of runners in the club, that is without debate. Technically speaking, VERY few of them are actually elite. We could categorize each member, but is labeling our population really something we want to do? I personally don’t think so.

So, the 30 minute 5k person looks at a 15/16 minute 5k person and thinks they are a lot better. However, unless a female, the 15/16 minute person is not considering themselves elite, believe me. The 12, 13, and even 14 minute person is who they consider elite. I’m not one, but my guess is that the 14 minute person probably looks at those ahead in awe.

Is it that we feel uncomfortable around those that are faster? Do we put them upon a pedastal?

They are just people, too.

I just spent Thursday-Sunday around truly elite people at the US Olympic Marathon Trials. About 300 runners were there to compete for 6 spots on the Olympic Team. These were the best of the best and honestly when I first arrived I felt out of place. I looked at them and was in awe. However, after talking to some of those dedicated athletes, I realized we have a lot in common, they are just much faster. They were willing to shoot the shit, crack jokes, talk about running, complain about things, etc. All the things normal runners are accustomed to doing. We ate the same stuff, they were looking forward to drinking a bit after the marathon, they had families, etc. Again, all things so many of our PASSIONATE runners in the Charlotte Running Club can relate to. (note: encounters with Meb Keflezighi, Abdi Abdirahman, and Joan Benoit-Samuelson are included in this research 🙂

2012 Olympic Team: Meb (1st), Hall (2nd), Abdi (3rd)

What was even crazier and gives more reason to think, “elite . . . it’s all relative”. Every article you read before the trials basically said 5 women and maybe 5-8 men had legit shots at qualifying for the team. So, even these top athletes knew that there were different levels among these elite athletes. So elites thought others were elite!

What would I like to see in Charlotte? I would love for people to work on getting rid of this notion that the club is elite. We ARE passionate. We ARE runners of different levels. However the later shouldn’t deter people from joining, attending socials, trying out group runs, expressing their ideas, and whatever else you can think of doing.

I can assure you, just ask Megan (my wife), that I am more than happy to talk running with absolutely anyone!!!!! I could care less about your current fitness, your marathon PR, how fast you run a daily basis, etc. If you show up at a CRC social and want to talk running or just be a goofball . . . you probably found the right event. No one at a social is going to care if you ran your run that day at 5:00 pace or at 12:00 pace. If you are passionate then it doesn’t matter!

The Charlotte Running Club is not elite! We are passionate! Most likely, just like you.

CRC 1st ever Christmas Light Run in 2010

Dreams Do Come True

January 1, 2012

As a young boy, I never dreamed of becoming a runner. I was a stocky, quick, stamina-filled soccer player . . . a short, defensive-minded, short basketball player . . . and a fast, walking-specialized, strong-armed baseball player. Then in 7th grade, something happened. I was talked into running track and went from running a 6:08 1600 to a 5:11. Hmm . . . maybe I had found a new sport. I continued to play soccer and basketball and then broke the 5:00 barrier the next year in 8th grade. Hmm . . . maybe I had found a new sport. The following year I played varsity soccer and ran a handful of XC races for Providence Day. Soccer went well, as I was fortunate enough to start at striker. However, XC went even better as I made the All-State team and was the top 9th grader. I was stunned. Hmm . . . maybe I had found a new sport.

At this point, my life changed. I did become a runner. I then dove headfirst into running, not necessarily training, but just running in general. I watched the Men’s 1996 Olympic Marathon Trials right here in Charlotte and was hooked on the marathon. Even watching Bob Kempainen win while throwing up during the last few miles was so cool. I then had a dream to run in the Olympic Marathon Trials someday. I started at UNCC as a college athlete that August and began running many more miles then I had before. I was all of a sudden able to run sub-6:00 miles for long periods of time. Guys on the team told me that the marathon was going to be my calling, my coach told me to go train for a marathon my junior year (right after I told him I was done with college running ☺), so I really thought I could do it. Then, I ran my first marathon . . . ugh. Next marathon, ugh. Finally a 2:33 fell into my lap just as the USATF decided to begin changing the standards. Perfect.


I tell you all of this for one reason . . .

I made the Olympic Marathon Trials (again)!!!! I know that many of you are thinking, “What the heck!”

However, I actually have experience and I’m considered a veteran of this event. I think smart people use the word: VICARIOUS. Yes, this will be my 2nd (Women’s) USATF Olympic Marathon Trials. I’m not ashamed to say that I never reached my goal and have completely given up on it. But dang, what a HUGE perk to marrying Megan Hepp Hovis. Getting to live vicariously through her!

Marrying Megan was not only a dream come true because she is adorable, friendly, loving, caring, goofy, and passionate about her job and her family, but she has carried me to my dream goal. I have made the Olympic Trials, again! I know many of you think that making the Trials was Megan’s dream, but really she’s averaged 100 miles a week for me. What you see is a insanely driven, mileage-addicted, running stud, but what I see is someone sacrificing herself for the dream of her one true love, me.

We have agreed that after these Olympic Trials she can once again focus on her own running. People say running a 400m race is like having a monkey on your back the last 50m. Well, Megan runs marathons with me on her back. A monkey weighs 10-15 pounds on average and I weigh 128-134 pounds on average. So, who’s tougher, Michael Johnson, Jeremy Wariner or Megan Hepp Hovis.

There’s no telling how fast Megan will run once she removes the extra weight, which is me. Look out world of ultra-marathoning because she’s primed and has been training at 230 pounds instead of 100. That’s strength training!

So, what will it look like when I’m at the Olympic Trials again? I’m not exactly sure because this time around the men will be running on the same course. In 2008, I stared and admired creepily at some of the fastest women in the country. That was fun and since I wasn’t married, I was allowed. Now, the weekend of January 14th, the fastest men AND women will be in the same place. I have a feeling I’ll look a lot like the image below.

I won’t ask for autographs, I won’t sneak pictures, but I will take mental pictures like this clip from the movie Hall Pass. (please watch!)

In closing, I just want to thank all of you for your support over the last four years. I have worked my tail off trying to keep Megan focused on my goal. It hasn’t always been easy, but knowing that our friends and family were behind us, just made it so much more attainable. When I . . . Megan hit the OT “B” standard in Australia, my dream was reached once again. Megan also met her goal that day of the “B” standard, so she could get a puppy. As you can tell, the last four years have totally been worth every mile, every tear, every running shoe, and every dream (of mine).

Thanks to everyone. I promise to represent you well in Houston and Megan will probably run fast, too.

(please understand the author is full of sarcasm)

T’was the night before . . . (Miner’s Run remix)

December 27, 2011

After reading Allen’s last blog, it gave me an idea. So, props to Allen for being the creative brain behind this operation.

This is a very festive time of the year . . . and I felt the need to highlight one of my favorite Charlotte Running Club weekly runs. It has become a staple of mine and would love to see more people join us.

Tuesday
5:30am : Miners Run from Old Bell McAlpine entrance on Sardis Rd. 7-12 miles @ 7-7:40 pace. Contact me, ben.hovis@providenceday.org

_____________________________________________________________________________

T’was the night before the Miner’s Run, and all through the Hovis camp,
Only I was stirring cuz I couldn’t find my headlamp.
My clothes and shoes were tossed into piles,
So I could wake for some pretty early miles.

Dash was nestled all snug in our bed,
While visions of animal crackers danced in her head.
And Megs in my sweatshirt, and I shutting the door,
Finally ready to settle down now that Megs was done with her core.

When out in our driveway, there came such a clatter,
I hobbled out of the bed because my Achilles had grown tighter.
Away to the front door I walked on my toes,
“Geez, Beigay is early, he surely knows?”

His headlamp shown on the dew of the grass
And I gave him a gesture that signaled, “You ass!”
When, what to my stunned eyes did I see?
It was Compton, at 5:00 am! I couldn’t believe.

Compton is young, so lively and quick,
This moment is rare, like a spotting of St Nick.
So ever so leisurely we headed to Old Bell,
Typically our first mile is slow as hell!

“Now Beigay! Now, Compton! Now, Mainwaring and Shires!
On, Linz! On, Megs! On Meulemans and McGuire!
To the top of the hill and then around the pond.
Our course is the same but it’s now 5:31!”

As our tired legs began to help us fly,
We prayed for no obstacles, like owls from the sky.
So through the dark trails our large group flew,
Thinking maybe today we’ll pick up Jamaar or Shue?

And then, from behind us, we heard someone yell
“Damn, I must have just missed you at Old Bell!”
As I rolled my eyes, and turned around to see,
Down the trail sprinted Kahn, shouting, “5:33!”

He was dressed all in spandex, from his head to his feet,
His outfit was something, one I’d surely tweet.
A video camera in hand was all too common to see,
He bolted to the front, aimed and said, “Yell, CRC!”

Our lights-how they twinkled as we crossed the weir
Thinking, however, I probably shouldn’t have had that last beer.
The Godfather hung in the back, as he so often does,
And the upcoming CRC Winter Classic was all the buzz.

The hill on the course felt like a chore,
On this morning, no one was begging for more.
It’s short but steep and winds around at the top,
Then you fly down the other side and there’s no way to stop!

The pond was up next and the trail is once again flat,
The tale of Billy Shue came up, as we all remembered his SPLAT!
There was a twinkle in his eye the day he got the notion,
Giving Jay something to remember, by swimming the McAlpine ocean.

We headed back for the gravel lot,
As it was a seven-mile loop most often or not.
With Megan one-stepping our way down the trail,
Trusty Garmin’s beeped 6:50’s without fail!

Back at the cars and most everyone was done,
It was great to have a big group at this Miner’s Run.
Then I heard Paul exclaim, as he went on his way,
“Happy mining to all and have a swell day!”

A special thanks to Stan Austin, Jinnie Austin, Megan Hovis, and Mo Campbell for starting this run a couple years ago. Times and locations have changed many times, but I know you were the “Founding Runners”.

A glimpse into Team T.U.

December 21, 2011

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about Team T.U., so I wanted to let everyone in on this semi-underground training team. Hopefully this will clear everything up and open everyone’s eyes to the magic of the Q-City.

So, Team T.U. was created relatively recently as a few Charlotte Running Club athletes were running together. These three strapping young men have trained together in the past and found one another’s company to be highly beneficial.

Team T.U. derives from Latin and Australian roots. The word team in Latin is “manus”. Seeing that the group is made up of “man” or three men and that a pronoun used by the group is “us” – the word “manus” made total sense. Then knowing that it is Latin for “team” it just became a nobrainer for us to go with the word TEAM. The Australian part of the group is obvious, as one of the members hails from the great continent that is Australia. More importantly, he speaks both English and Australian. Some may think that is one in the same, but when you talk with this fine speciman of a human being, you’ll realize they are two distinct languages. So, when a group or in our case “manus” or TEAM runs a workout in Australia and someone just has a great run, leaving the other athletes behind, there is a saying. Let’s say, hypothetically, that Ryan Hall left me in his dust in a workout, then I would say, “I just got touched up.” Thus, the T.U. comes from the term “touched up”. A term in the English language that you might find silly, we on Team T.U. find it fully motivating, stimulating, and one that embodies our spirit.

Team T.U. is a partially-non-sponsored, partially-non-funded, fully-non-elite training group based in the heart of the Queen City. The team, as stated earlier, is currently made up of three athletes. All three athletes ran in college and currently have semi-fast personal bests that would be considered elite at the middle school level and semi-elite at the high school level. No one has dreams of the Olympics, except for the Aussie, as making the Australian team is much easier . . . in curling, the ski jump, and rhythmic gymnastics.

So let’s meet the team:

Runner 1:
John “too smooth” Compton
Born: Charlotte, NC
College: Wake Forest University
Hobbies: running, eating cookies, grading history tests, playing HALO, and being a mama’s boy

Runner 2:
Dan “the foreigner” Matena
Born: Adelaide, Australia
College: Belmont University
Hobbies: running, traveling, speaking gibberish, repping stuff, and supporting his lovely long distance running wife

Runner 3:
Ben “short stuff” Hovis (me)
Born: Charlotte, NC
College: University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Hobbies: running, talking about running, thinking about running, gangsta rap, and supporting his adorable high-mileage running wife

Team T.U. is currently accepting applications for membership. There is a one time application fee of $200, a one time interviewing fee of $200, and a one time “friend” fee of $20 (monthly). {Explanation of the “friend” fee is an additional $50}
If interested, please send the money first.

Team motto: “We’ll mentally chafe you!”

Running into 2012 must first start with looking back at 2011

December 19, 2011

With another year coming to an end, everyone begins to reflect on things. People reflect on life in general, work, relationships, politics (do they?), choices, failures, successes, etc. For runners, I wonder, do you think about these things before or after you think about your year of running?

For most of us, especially if you’re reading this, running is a major part of our lives. So with that said, once again I ask, “What order are you reflecting on things and where does running fall?” I’m not asking what is the most important, but what do you reflect on first. Hopefully you understand there is a difference.

Personally, I believe running is near the top of my list. Many of the other aspects of my life all tie in with running, so the major theme often is running. For me, even my work directly relates to running, at least when I think about my coaching career. Coaching high school XC and track at Providence Day is something I feel very passionate about. Teaching 4th graders doesn’t really tie in, except I wonder if I’m recruiting well enough 🙂 HA! My teaching career is a completely separate type of reflection and one that I actually need to separate from running as much as possible.

So where to begin?

Part of Webster’s dictionary definition of reflect is:
a.
To think seriously.
b.
To express carefully considered thoughts:

What kinds of questions do I need to ask myself in order to begin reflecting on running in 2011? Can I start with . . . “Am I pleased?” That seems like a huge one and a question that may go off onto many tangents, so I think I need to break that into categories or at least try to keep it smaller. So, here’s my attempt at helping you and me:

1) How was my overall mileage?

2) Were there any gaps in training this year due to injury, sickness, lack of motivation, etc? If so, how long?

3) If there was a gap, what led to it? Injury? Could it have been prevented? Lack of motivation? What pulled me out of that funk? Etc.

4) Was this a year-long progression of training?

5) How many races did I “peak” for?

6) What were my goal races for the year?(This is a large question and could take a while to answer, but hopefully you already did a good bit of reflecting on your faces themselves. The best time for that is after the race, maybe not immediately because often your feelings are leaning in one direction. Let it simmer and reflect after a few days.)

7) How did each goal race go for me?

8) Any factors that played important roles at these races? Whether I felt successful or didn’t.

9) Did I have help along the way with training? If so, how well did I listen to my coach/mentor/training buddy/peer?

10) Do I need a coach? Group? Someone to hold me accountable?

11) Did I make any drastic changes during this year that has greatly influenced my running?

12) What do I feel best about with regards to running this year?

13) On the flip side, what would I have changed if I could do it all over again?

14) What was my greatest accomplishment? Why?

15) What was my greatest learning experience? Why?

Okay, so hopefully this can be a start. Many of these questions lead to other ones and I’m realizing that this could be about 100 questions long. I think the most important idea for myself and other runners is figuring out through questioning and reflection, whether or not we feel successful or not. As I get older, it’s not necessarily about running new personal bests or the most mileage I’ve ever run. There tend to be other pieces that are more important. How healthly was I seems to be a big one in my current state of running.

Running is so much of a mental game we play with ourselves that over the course of 365 or 366 days, there are bound to be ups and downs. How we handle the good and the bad helps us as we move forward. Sometimes running has us on cloud 9, riding a wave of excitement and curiosity, ready for the next challenge. However, sometimes running has us down in the dumps, mentally beat, physically beat, ready to take time off and push that next challenge further down the road. It’s tough, we all know that, but in the end I think that’s one of the greatest aspects of running. I feel I’m running well now, so that means that all the negative running has thrown at me, I’ve gotten right back up.

I told my athletes at Providence Day this year to make a list of running accomplishments. Obviously for new runners, this was a lot more difficult, but one they could begin working on. I wanted them to make a list of times in running where they were wowed by themselves, were on cloud 9, felt accomplished, etc. These times could have been a workout, a race, a specific run, etc. The type of accomplishment didn’t matter. For many of them, I had to help remind them of some of these times. It’s human nature to remember the negative more easily than the positive. Once they had a list, I wanted them to post it somewhere that they would see if constantly. It’s really important that in the world of ups and downs, we remember the ups! This wasn’t a tool for my athletes to brag about accomplishments to other people or make them look better than someone else. This was a tool for them to recall some amazing things that they have done. Then that would lead them to the feelings they had after that accomplishment. When the mental side of running can bring you down so quickly, it’s important to remember that you’ve done some awesome things. The feedback I received from my athletes was very positive and they all added to their list year.

So, from all of this reflection (which is time-consuming when done right), comes the next step in our progression . . . setting goals. This is a huge task and one that varies for each individual. There are many different types of goals that need to be thought about, but I’ll get into that another time.

One thing that I’ll throw out that MUST be done as a runner for so many different reasons . . . log your miles, log your thoughts, log your workouts, etc. I have been using athleticore.com since about 2003 and it is such an important tool for me. There are plenty of websites out there for you to use, but find something!

Good luck in 2012!

“To Blog or Not to Blog”

December 19, 2011

After reading so many friend’s blogs over the years, I often asked myself if blogging would be something I’d enjoy. Also, would it be something that others would enjoy?

Obviously, I have chosen that it’s time. To answer the questions above . . . yes, I will enjoy it. Will others? Well, does it really matter?

I used to write all the time when I ran NCRunners.com. For about 6 years of my life I wrote articles on athletes, meets, coaches, etc. I had a lot of fun while it lasted, but boy was it time consuming. I am now in a new phase of my life and kind of wanted to get back to writing.

I’m on the board of the Charlotte Running Club, which has become a new highly involved commitment, but one that I truly enjoy.

My wife, Megan, is getting ready for her 2nd go around at the USATF Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials! She runs in January and is extremely dedicated and devoted to the sport of running. That’s why we are such a perfect match. For those that know me, you are already aware that I too love running and could talk about it for days (without a break).

So, in the end, I’ve decided to blog. Hopefully this will be a nice outlet, as is running itself. I don’t plan on boring you with all of my workouts, times, splits, etc as I already do that face to face. Not saying those things won’t pop up from time to time, but let’s just see where this goes.