Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On Community

‘Tis the season for gift guides, cookie eating, twinkle lights, and parties, and although I love these holiday-ish things as much as the next person, I also think such social + sensory overload has the tendency to overshadow the greater meaning of the holiday season. SO, in the spirit of slowing down and reflecting on the things in my life I’m most thankful for, I’m writing this post about why I think my (our) running community is so great.

I’ll begin by pointing out that running, at its very core, is an individual thing. You don’t need anyone else to do it. You don’t need anyone to round out your roster, no one to throw the ball back to you, no one to pass you the puck—it’s really just you and the road. On a day-to-day basis, whether you get out and run is solely your decision. You are responsible. And while this may be one of the deepest and most fundamental truths of the sport, there is just nothing quite like being part of a team. Running, like most things in life, is just better with others.

The running community in the Twin Cities is pretty incredible. I suppose I am pretty biased, having never lived in another major city, but I am still convinced that what we have here really is something special—I just know it’s not like this everywhere. I can't say what it is about this area that creates such an atmosphere, but I see it everywhere. I do most of my running on the trails that run along the Mississippi River—right through the heart of Minneapolis--and I am positively surrounded by my community. If I’m out for a long run, it’s rare I don’t see someone I know by name and can greet with a smile or a wave. And what’s more, I see people every day who I've never met personally, but I feel like I really know just because we run the trails together so often.

One of the reasons I have been so drawn to this store—other than the fact that I love Jeff and Bekah, of course—is that Mill City Running so deeply embraces the idea of true community and fellowship. The enthusiasm here is positively contagious, and the commitment to welcoming every person who walks in the door, runner or not, is impossible to resist. And the group runs! Come to a group run and see for yourself—the feeling of this community is tangible. No one can stay away, and it’s because deep down, everyone wants, and really needs to belong to something. When that’s provided, we’re drawn to it. Mill City Running embodies the value of fellowship, and the idea that we as humans are better together, both in running and in life.

I’ll leave you with Merriam-Webster’s definition of community, which is the following: 

“community, n. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

This is exactly what I’m talking about—running connects us, and there’s a kind of mutuality we share, an understanding. It’s seen in a subtle nod of the head as you pass one another, acknowledging that you’re both out for your run despite the bitter cold. It’s the smile you share as you run by the sweet old man you see every day with his black lab. It’s the message of encouragement you shout at the marathoners as they will themselves through their final miles. These are all little things, but they are the foundation of why being a runner is so great. We’re really all in it together—no matter how fast we are, who we train with, where we run, or how it fits into our lives. We’ve all discovered or re-discovered running and made it a part of who we are, and this simple fact binds us together, whether we’d like to believe it or not. I was lucky enough to discover running and develop a love for it, and it has afforded me countless incredible experiences and opportunities. But at the end of the day, I have to say that the single best thing running has given me has absolutely been the people. And for that—for all of you—I’m exceedingly thankful.


Friday, December 12, 2014

A few of our favorite things ...

While nothing can top snowflakes that stay on your nose and eyelashes - especially during a silver white winter run - the frigid temps and dark days of December can make it harder to motivate to get out there. Even for folks who work at a running store! Therefore, the staff of Mill City Running has compiled a list of our favorite things - the gear & gadgets that help propel us out the door ... and into the winter wonderland. 


"Last winter I came into the store mere seconds from frostbite on a toe, I will never forget the exchange I had with Bekah: "Save my toe!" I demanded.  She told me about all the wonders of SmartWool socksSince that day, I have bought several pairs and still have all my toes."


"I used to want to be a tough guy...until I moved to Minnesota.  Then I decided that the SmartWool Neck Gaiter was the best thing I have ever owned on a miserably cold run in Winter.  Doesn't itch, doesn't rub...only warm and snugly on your neck."


"Seven Sundays Muesli is definitely my favorite nutrition item in the store. I love how versatile it is - you can eat it with milk like cereal, throw it over yogurt, bake it into pancakes or bars or make it into oatmeal on winter mornings. It's made in Minnesota with delicious ingredients and it's a great way to warm up after a cold morning run! P.S. My favorite flavor is Vanilla Cherry Pecan."


"My favorite thing is the Moji 360 Mini Massager.  I am obsessed with this little bugger to the point of embarrassment. I suffer from chronic piriformis and IT band issues, which get worse in the winter when my hips have to navigate uneven snow, and I'm unable to sit for very long without pain. This hand-held massage tool gets deep into the tissue (hurts sooo good) without making me huff & puff like a foam roller. I just throw it in my purse and take it with me everywhere! I even use it when I go to the movies, which my boyfriend just loves."


"I adore the Nike Shield Max jacket in Hyper Crimson. It is our warmest and most versatile winter running jacket. It'll keep you toasty through the most brutal conditions Minnesota can dish out and the color makes you visible to cars, winter bikers and polar bears.*"

*not recommended for use in the Arctic Circle


"My current favorite thing in the store is my Nike jogger pants.  I love them because they are super warm and comfy with the fleece lining.  I also like that they aren't skin tight so if I need a second pair of tights underneath,on a really cold day, I don't feel constricted."


"I just got the new bluetooth Liberty Wireless headphones from Yurbuds- and I think my life is changed forever. Gone are the days where I get tangled in wires, or mess up my neck from a long 'hands-free' phone conversation with my mom. Great sound, easy to connect with my phone, and they're size specific so they don't fall out."


"I think I’d have to say my favorite thing in the store right now would have to be the Brooks Utopia Thermal Headband I got this year. It is suuuper soft and fleecy, and it’s so wide! I’m not a hat person when I run (mostly because of my ponytail), so having a quality headband is a big deal this time of year. This headband keeps my ears very cozy, and actually covers an impressive amount of my face as well, with its width. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the heathery grey color goes with everything—obviously I’m a pretty big fan!"


"Unlike some runners, I do not have the gift of internal pacing.  Purchasing a Garmin GPS watch has thus transformed my running life! From helping me keep track of my pace during workouts and races to looking at my history and stats from runs past, my Garmin has helped me take my running to a new level!"


"I love my foam roller but sometimes it just isn't able to pinpoint the small knots in my hamstring or glutes.  The Orb massage ball is perfect for rolling out those more precise areas. I also love how portable it is - it's small enough to pack with you during your holiday travels and takes up just a fraction the space of a foam roller."


"The CWX Xtra Support bra is the first bra I wear every time it is clean.  After experimenting with many sport bras and sport bra combinations it is the most supportive - and leads to the least chaffing of any I've owned.  There are so many things at the store that I love but that is one of my essentials."


"My favorite items are sort of small - the SmartWool Neck Gaiter, the Brooks Utopia 3-in-1 mittens, and Dermatone (or as I like to call it, "A sweater for your face"). I am all about being warm and when combined these three items ensure a comfortable run! They really are a package deal, kind of like Santa and his reindeer. :)"