Posts Tagged ‘Running’

The true meaning of ‘competition’

May 2, 2018



I’ve been asked if running is “competition” for Harrison. This only fueled a deeper personal examination already under way in my own process. If we look at the root meaning of the word “competition,” we find its basis in the classical Latin, “competere,” which means to ”strive in common,” or “strive together.”

In these past few weeks we’ve traveled literally more than 1,000 miles to track meets in small towns all over our region, and I’ve had plenty of time and fuel for thought to ponder this question of what competition really means.

As he crossed the finish line in his first very successful run in the 1600-meters (aka “the mile”) at Mosca, Harrison loudly blurted out, “I beat Joey!” I quickly pointed out that this was not a cool or sportsmanlike way to note your own success, especially in relation to your own teammate and friend. But it did speak to a recognition of competition in what has warped into our society’s conventional sensibility.

This initial run led the way into a more meaningful season of challenges as Harrison experienced the true spirit of what it means to compete. He also runs the 400-meter and the 800-meter. The fact is I never know what’s going to happen coaching him in these things. 

As the season went on I’ve watched him freak out at starting lines. I’ve seen him run the first lap of the 1600 faster than he’s ever run a 400, then fade to last place. I’ve seen him finish strong and I’ve seen him completely lose his mind in a race.

I’ve seen the support of his teammates and fellow competitors, some of whom he’s been running against for three years. I’ve also seen the puzzled looks from people who don’t know the real challenges he’s facing down when he toes a starting line. The real race for him is not so much physical as it is mental.

In this lifetime I’ve had the good fortune myself to win some races, and I’m here to tell you that the feeling is great but it vanishes just like the proverbial lightning caught in a bottle. The competitions you really remember are those in which you learned something about yourself. The true athlete is competing with him/herself. And this is really what Harrison is doing.

This week we traveled to a track meet in the tiny town of Elbert in the rolling Ponderosa-topped hills northeast of Colorado Springs. This is a new meet on our school’s circuit, with teams from several schools we’ve never competed with previously. Harrison got a great start in the 1600 but rounding the second curve in the first lap he suddenly snapped under the pressure of hanging with the pack. He faded back, stomped and screamed. He yelled at the spectators who were encouraging him, many of them teammates and others who had no idea of his challenges. During all this I ran back and forth across the field, encouraging him onward.

Despite putting more energy into his tantrum than actual forward movement, he finished the race. Following this he threw an amazing fit, flailing about, yelling he was a terrible runner and saying wanted to go home. But then when I said “let’s go” he didn’t really want to leave.

After he calmed down a little we watched the girls’ 1600. In this race there was a blind athlete. She was running tethered wrist-to-wrist with a guide/coach. She was bringing up the rear but a true competitor through and through. We watched her run past the bleachers and the spectators shouted out encouragement just as they had wth Harrison. I could not help but draw parallels — in some ways Harrison is running “blind” even though he can see just fine.

He rallied to run solidly in the 400 and the 800. Then we watched the blind girl run again in the 800. It was an amazing Deep Sport experience and it gave us both a fresh perspective on what “competition” truly means.


June 16, 2016

Last fall when my neurodiverse son Harrison was running on his middle school cross-country team I began writing essays about our roller coaster of experiences and emotions. Some of these became columns for Colorado Central magazine and others I stashed away, or were parts of emails and other correspondences to family and friends.endurancecover

At some point I began to see a common thread of community, compassion and inclusion, and began to think in terms of combining these essays into a longer story. This long essay eventually became a short book I called Endurance — A season in cross-country with my autistic son.

At first I viewed the short book as an interesting experiment in an age of shrinking attention spans. It seemed hardly worthy of paper and ink, and so I initially published it as a kindle ebook. However, I immediately began to get requests for hard copies, so decided to publish a limited-edition run, and released it recently during an opening at The Brookwood Gallery in Westcliffe.

As an indie publisher I’ve been debating how to best distribute this short book. Because of its size, price point and sales margins, I’ve decided for now to offer it direct to my readers rather than through Amazon and other mass outlets. If you’d like a copy please send $10 to:

Hal Walter, 307 Centennial Dr., Westcliffe, CO 81252

You also can pay by paypal (which accepts credit cards) using “send money” to

Price includes shipping, and of course be sure to include your address.

The book is also available, along with my other book Full Tilt Boogie — A journey into autism, fatherhood and an epic test of man and beast, in two regional retail outlets — The Book Haven in Salida, and The Village Shop in Westcliffe.

Thank you for supporting my writing and indie publishing.

Another reason to avoid NSAIDs

September 3, 2009

It’s been known that ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may delay healing and come with other side effects. Now a study of runners at the Western States 100  indicates taking ibuprofen during the event significantly increased inflammation, adversely affected the immune system, impaired kidney function and caused bacteria to leak from the colon into the bloodstream.


Nice, huh? Seventy percent of entrants used ibuprofen during the race.


This only adds to the list of reasons I very rarely use NSAIDs of any type. Instead I consume a variety of anti-inflammatory foods that include EPA fish oil, ginger, turmeric, raw sesame seeds and oil, citrus peel, onions and garlic.


In addition, I limit or avoid foods that cause inflammation. These include vegetable oils, refined carbohydrate foods like bread and pasta and foods that contain sugar, and hydrogenated oils (trans fats).


Other lifestyle factors that contribute to inflammation include overexercising and too much anaerobic activity such as weight-lifting, and exposure to certain environmental toxins.


Inflammation is no joke and can do much more harm than just messing up your run. Chronic inflammation has been linked to many diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. For more information about the dangers of inflammation and how to control it, check out Dr. Phil Maffetone’s book, “In Fitness and In Health.”


Footloose in the Nike Free

March 21, 2009

feetYou’d think after 30 years of running (I started in 1979 and ran my first marathon in 1980) I’d have some sort of clue about running shoes. But feet, bodies and training styles do change over the years. And, unfortunately, so do shoe models.

For many of those 30 years I’ve been able to trust the Nike Pegasus models (even pre “Air”). But I’ve also had success with a number of other shoes. I won the Pueblo River Trail Marathon in 1984 in a pair of Brooks Chariots. And I won several World Championship Pack-Burro races in Montrail’s Vitesse. I had a sponsorship from that company for a few years, but the Vitesse became difficult to get, even for sponsored athletes (it now appears Montrail may have discontinued the model — I can’t find it on the website), and so I had to change shoes.

In recent years I had gone back to the Pegasus and, aside from some minor pain on the top of my right foot, everything had been pretty good until Nike decided to change the model this year. I bought a new pair a few weeks ago and my feet and ankles hurt after just a couple of runs. I decided to return the shoes.

The only running shoes in my closet that didn’t look like they’d been through a meat grinder were an old pair of Nike Free. These shoes were designed allow the feet to act as if they are barefoot, and I’d run in them periodically. Recently I’ve been editing Dr. Phil Maffetone’s 5th edition of “In Fitness and In Health” and he’s a big advocate of barefoot running. I thought, “what the heck,” and started running in the Frees daily. They are very flexible, low to the ground and have basically no support or cushioning whatsoever — sort of like wearing slippers.

Most modern running shoes force you to land on your heels, which is natural for walking but not for running. Try running barefoot on some grass or sand and you will find it virtually impossible to land on your heels. The natural way to land is mid-foot. In the Frees I found my footstrike to be very natural.

There was some adjustment as my feet, ankles and all associated tendons and muscles had to remember to do their actual jobs. But after about three weeks I felt comfortable using the Frees as my daily training shoes. I’ve been getting in 35-45 miles per week, and I’m not running on pavement, but rather on gravel roads, rocky trails, through snowbanks and mud, and on generally hilly terrain, often leading or driving a pack-burro.

Because of this mountain environment, I still felt like I might need more shoe. So after perusing the catalogs I settled on returning the aforementioned Pegasus (there was a 60-day return policy) and trading them for a pair of Nike Air Zoom Skylon +2, which looked a little like the Free on steroids. The shoes arrived this week and after just three runs I was practically crippled with pain in both forefeet.

A closer inspection of my feet revealed that their shape had actually changed over the past three weeks in the Frees. They now were shaped like, uh, feet. Not shoes.

I went back to the Frees today and felt immediately better on a 7-mile run. I’m sending the Skylons back.