Keep Running Strong

an every day average runner and his experiences.

Running with a music playlist

Working out to the sound of nature – birds chirping, the river roaring and the gravel of the ground crunching at my feet – offers a peaceful approach to enjoying a run. And up until recently, that’s how I rolled.

But in order to break up the monotony, I’ve joined the masses of people with headphones around their heads and made myself a running playlist using Itunes and my Ipod Touch. I’ll tell you, it’s not so bad if the headphones are wireless. And at some points in the run, it can even add a boost.

When my legs start to feel like jello, Bad Religion offers to predict the future for me with New Dark Ages.

When my mind tells me I can’t move anymore, the Bouncing Souls serenade me with Born To Lose – I sing along with it like this:

“Born to lose, I’ve lived my life in vain. All my dreams have only caused me pain. All my life, I’ve always been so blue. Born to lose, and now I’m losing you. Hey, Hey.” 

And when I feel like just giving up, Joey Ramone fixes my mood with Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World.

Oh, what a great mix of music.

So … here I offer up a playlist I put together for a five-mile run. All the songs are upbeat, and most of them are punk. I encourage everyone to try this list out, and give me some suggestions for listening material:


Baby flesh in a pill for energy? Gross and wrong.

Finding a means of energy can lead people to consider magical solutions. Although caffeine has its benefits, and just eating an apple or orange can boost long term stamina, people tend to want a mysterious way of enhancing the human ability to move faster and longer.

The L.A. Times website today published a story from the Associated Press reporting that South Korea customs confiscated ‘health pills’ from China that contain human baby flesh.

The article in the L.A. Times says this is a trend from a “bizarre invigorate-seeking culture where people search for items such as seal’s genitals and bear gall bladder in hopes for boosting one’s stamina,” Ha Il-hyun, a doctor at Seoul’s Konkuk University Hospital, told the newspaper Chosun Ilbo.

Though I’m sure mystical remedies containing hard-to-get ingredients has been around for awhile, considering the price a person will pay for exotic materials, but foraging human remains from babies and powdering down the flesh to fit into a pill seems too satanic-worshipping or cultish. The practice reminds me of what the evil witch in the movie “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” conjures when she encourages the Sheriff of Nottingham to conceive a child with the kidnapped Marian.

Remember when she spits a big wad into a bowl with blood and twirls it around to come up with some sort of red solution. Yes … this is what the world has come to.

We don’t need magical pills that promise to bring glorious results, especially pills containing cannibalistic material. But really, who am I to question another cultures thoughts and practices?

Running produces same chemical found in marijuana

Yet another reason for people to run, an NPR reporter delves into the mysterious after effects a person feels after running long distances.

“When people exercise aerobically, their bodies can actually make drugs — cannabinoids, the same kind of chemicals in marijuana,” Christopher Joyce, a reporter for National Public Radio, said.

You can listen to or read about the story here.

I knew running made me feel good, but I didn’t know I was producing pharmaceuticals and getting high. Now, if only I could find a way to extract it from my body and profit from it.

I found this comic strip googling on the web.

A disguised blessing leaves me feeling fresh

An exercise routine can take a beating when a person’s life schedule begins to clutter. But last week when my wife left to teach science camp up in the woods, I was forced – having to watch my daughter – into what I realized was a much-needed break.

I missed eight days of running. And on Friday, when my wife returned, my legs felt fresh.

To anyone training on a daily basis, I recommend a break every now and then. Though I felt a little more winded and probably a little slower, my legs felt like they took on a new life.

Cal State Fullerton 5k race results

My pre-race face

Staring into the sun with my pre-race face, Todd snaps a picture of me while waiting for the 5k to start. (Photo taken by Todd Flores)

Todd's pre-race face

Todd preps himself while listening to music with his headphones being held up by his Axl Rose style bandana. (Photo taken by Daniel Hernandez)

Sofie prepping for her run

My daughter Sofie ran the Youth 1k. She came in first place (she didn’t really come in first, but shhh! That’s what we told her.) (Photo taken by Maria Hernandez)

About two weeks ago, the Cal State Fullerton recreation center threw a festival called iCare, which included a 5k run.

After a hesitant response from most of my colleagues, I managed to convince a friend of mine, Todd, into running the race with me.

Although there is no official number as to how many people participated, I estimate somewhere in the range of about 300 joined in on the festivities.

But this did not stop us from posting a personal best time for the 3.10-mile distance run.

For my friend, breaking his personal best was easy. This was his first race. And although we don’t know his official time, we’re estimating he came in around 21:15 or so. This is a great time, especially for someone who has never ran the race before.

My goal in the race was to finish under 20 minutes, but I missed the mark by about 38 seconds. My time, as I saw it crossing the finish line, was 20:38.

Both of our finishes came in dramatic fashion.

As I was approaching the finish line, the sound of footsteps began to draw nearer. I began to change my stride to a sprint, when I saw a much younger, faster, sprinter blow by me.

The last second kick I spurred was too late. The young runner flew by me, and I had no chance of catching him. As a result, I’m pretty sure I finished the race in 4th or 5th place, according to my father who was watching the race.

As for my friends finish, I was able to watch it transpire, though I was still struggling to breathe.

His was a neck and neck battle till the end.

The crowd was cheering, and I could hear my dad’s raspy voice screaming his name. Todd’s blue bandana, holding his earphones, was soaked with sweat. His knee brace began to slip down to his shin as he began to run on his toes, swinging his arms rapidly, seemingly flexing every possible muscle in his body as he and his racing foe crossed the finish line.

Todd lost the battle by a nose. But he placed a great time, and the kick only helped his final results.

The race was a good time, and it sparked a much-needed competitive fire. But a race like this reminds me of what my grandfather used to tell me in his Cuban accent. “Look at you meng, running around the track like a race horse.”

Conquering stress and anxiety

W#6 Video Blog

Coffee – aiding distance runners

Coffee and running

Recent studies show that coffee provides a boost of energy for distance runners. (Photo taken by Daniel Hernandez)

On a gloomy morning, after a late night of watching old “Cheers” re-runs, my legs feel wobbly and my mind exhausted.

When the gray clouds in the sky match my inner atmosphere, the last thing I want to do is run, yet I know the inevitable will happen, and I’ll not succumb to laziness.

As always, fresh brewed coffee eases the transition from a dull, zombie-like state of mind, to a perkier, more alert, homework-completing running machine.

But popular opinion, from personal experiences, says that coffee can dehydrate a person and might cause cramps before exercising. Not so … says a well-liked running website. says recent studies show that drinking coffee before a workout provides endurance and extra energy for distance runners.

While I’m sure I’ve figured this out from personal experiences, the article reassures my initial thought.

And throughout my college life, different professors have also uttered the benefits of enjoying a warm caffeinated beverage before class but by applying the benefits of coffee to the stimulation of mind, aiding students to think and better absorb information.

From my experience, coffee doesn’t seem to boost my physical athletic performance unless I consume more than usual. For example, I regularly drink two small cups of coffee a day. On a day where I feel a boost is needed, I’ll drink three small cups, and the extra jolt seems to provide a pick-me-up.

Although feelings of guilt might resonate through your body after the titillating sensation provided by a warm java, know that the benefits reaped from coffee aren’t considered performance-enhancing drugs unless consumed in vast quantities. And according to one study, a person might need to consume about eight cups of coffee to break any rules.

But I’m not running in any nationally recognized competition with superior athletes, and I doubt those runners rely on caffeine like I do – post-sitcom night.

Yet I need to run, and the late night “Cheers” marathon addiction my wife and I submit to might lead to a groggy morning, but the ever-present stimulating cup of coffee – always caffeinated – boosts my inner soul and physical strength before hitting the running trail.

Cal State Fullerton 5k this weekend


Cal State Fullerton's iCare festival includes a 5k run, circling the campus. (map taken from

Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Recreation center is putting on a festival called iCare this Saturday, April 21 at 8:30 a.m., which includes a 5k run/Walk and Youth 1k run.

The event costs $10 for students of CSUF and $20 for the rest of the community.

Signing up for the event earns you a free shirt, massage and pancake breakfast.

Visit this site for more information and to sign up.

My daughter and I will attend. I’ll be running and taking notes for a future blog post. My goal for the race is to finish with a time under 20 minutes.

Gnats of the river trail


Gnats stuck to my sweaty head after a 5 mile run by the river. (Picture reluctantly taken by Stefanie Hernandez)


Gnats stick to my sweaty neck after a 5 mile run on the trail. (Picture reluctantly taken by Stefanie Hernandez.)

By spending enough time outdoors, a runner realizes certain annoyances. In the city of Anaheim, and I’m guessing much of Orange County, gnats hover low to the ground in clusters, bugging everybody.

I’ve witnessed them at Angel Stadium, delaying a game because a swarm clouded the pitchers mound.

They always seem to travel in groups – little creatures creating more havoc then their size might otherwise allow.

I’ve figured out there is no avoiding a swarm of gnats on a run about the river trail. Ducking my head and closing my mouth seems to be the only solution. At times of heavy breathing I even find myself inhaling the little insects.

And when I return home, I wipe the bloody gnat carcasses from my sweaty face and neck. Like kamikaze’s, they’re more intent on obstructing my run, then living a long insect life.

Worst of all, when blowing my nose, I discover some flew threw my nostrils.

The swarms are hard to avoid while running in Anaheim, and the little buggers are part of my daily exercise.

When running in this town, one must learn to co-exist with the gnats of the Santa Ana River trail.