Sunday, October 9, 2011

Inspired by Anonymous

As a society there seems to be a lot of hand wringing about what the age of facebook, twitter, and blogs have wrought.  Are we falling into some kind of vain and self-conscious age where we are suffocated by self-centered posts and updates?  Arianna Huffington recently said that "self-expression has become the new entertainment."  On the face of it - that sounds messed up.  It's not just self-expression, but the hope of positive feedback through the constant "publishing" of the usually mundane accomplishments of life.

Given that I posted a picture of my ironman age group award last week on facebook - I'm probably not in a place to be too critical.  And although facebook, twitter, and blogs are simply cringe inducing at times - I think that there is some value in these new technologies.  For me, the most valuable thing is that what used to be an expensive endeavor, publishing, is now basically free.  The marketplace of ideas and concepts may be more crowded - but sometimes a person or idea that has a great impact is able to find a voice when they would have been silent in previous era's.

One such person was known as "Hadd" on Letsrun.  He died last week and so I thought it would be appropriate for me to write a post of appreciation.  Hadd's real name was John Walsh - although I didn't know that until I read the recent thread on his death.  For whatever reason he wanted to stay completely anonymous.

Hadd's posts were inspirational to me for a few reasons.  First, he liked to write about and coach guys who weren't pro's, but just wanted to see what they could do.  He saw value in people attempting to find what was possible - even if it didn't mean they were going to run in the olympics.  One of his bests posts (scroll to part IV) was about a 30+ old athlete attempting to run a sub 2:25 marathon.  It was interesting to me that he didn't write about someone trying to run an olympic qualifier - but simply a guy who had gained 20 pounds and wanted to run "one more serious marathon."

Another thing I enjoyed about his writing was that he included a LOT of science written in a way that I could understand.  He made a great argument for why training should be a long process - starting with a sustained period of easy running before including intensity.  He wrote about capillary beds, muscle fiber recruitment, lactate threshold, and energy expenditure in ways in which you could actually see these processes happening - and understand why taking a deliberate long term view towards training is so important.

The truth is that a guy like Hadd would have been lost to the world (other than the 20-30 athletes who he coached) if it weren't for the modern technology.  He helped me to understand that yearning for athletic accomplishment, even after you've become an adult and have other responsibilities, isn't something that's shameful.  He also showed me that as out of shape as I was at the time (I was about 30 lbs over my ideal racing weight in my mid-20's) there was a path to success.

For all of the possible negative effects of our connected world - you can tease out a lot of great content - and I don't just mean ducks chasing dogs.  RIP Hadd - I owe a lot of fun racing and training over the last 10 years to your writing.

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