Club Running is a giveaway 'zine from the Road Runners Club of America. I usually glance at it and toss it into the recycling bin. But in the table of contents for the Winter 2010/2011 issue that just arrived, an article of training tips titled "Thinking About Running an Ultramarathon?" caught my eye. I turned to it and saw the author's name and photo: Mike Broderick. The brief piece is a good discussion of moving up from marathons to longer distances, with encouraging thoughts on how to train, what to expect, and "the importance of self-sufficiency and self-determination". Sadly, it was probably Mike's last publication.
Mike was a fast, strong, happy local ultrarunner, 54 years old, who died of lung cancer on 10 November 2010. He was a coach, always generous in his advice. At a training run on 10 Sep 2006 for the JFK 50 miler. I still remember Mike's helpful suggestions to Lisa ("Bernie") Sylvester and me on how to run over rocks and roots. "Practice standing on one foot, barefoot," he told us. "You need to strengthen your muscles, so they protect your tendons when you roll an ankle. It's like driving on a winding road: your tires and suspension are what steer your car. You don't want to be scraping your fenders against the guard rails! That's what relying on your tendons is like." And then there was Mike's advice on perseverance: "If the bone ain't showin', keep on goin'!"
Mike finished the Western States 100 mile race shortly before his cancer was discovered. Even as it progressed he stayed optimistic. We corresponded, and I talked about the notion of terminal illness not as a "battle" but as a "journey". I also recommended Jon Kabat-Zinn's book Full Catastrophe Living, about experiences of people in situations similar to his who tried mindfulness meditation. Always gracious and enthusiastic, on 16 October Mike replied:
Thanks so much Mark! It's really humbling and uplifting to get messages like this from folks like yourself who I have met and know but have not ever really come to know well. I appreciate your taking the time to write such a thoughtful note and for your recommendation of Full Catastrophe Living. I recently got a Kindle (which it looks like I may be getting much more use of than originally anticipated) and just downloaded a copy of the book from Amazon. It looks like it will have a lot to offer-so thank you again!
^z - 2011-03-08