365 Marathons, Let’s Move! and Bona Pride

Listening to NPR makes me feel smart, educated and well-informed. Often, I am none of those three things. But what matters is that I feel that way. At least enough to get by at a dinner party. Then again, I don’t go to dinner parties. But if I did, I could speak generally about a great many things, thanks in part to listening to the variety of reporting and programming from National Public Radio and Public Radio International.

And so this week, it was through NPR that I was introduced to two stories: an update on Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and the story of marathon man Stefaan Engles.

Let’s start with Engles. The 49-year old from Belgium ran a marathon every day for 365 days. Yep. A marathon a day for a eyar. The totals, according to an ESPN story, make that 9, 569 miles with an average of around four hours per marathon with his fastest at 2:56.

In an interview on NPR’s All Things Consider, Engles answers the question of why he would attempt such a thing. First, it was an experiment. He wanted to see if he could do it, if his body would be up to the challenge. Second, he wanted to inspire others.

I will say, look, if I run every day marathon … you have no excuse to say, five kilometers run or biking or swimming is too far for me.

Interviewer Melissa Block quipped back that Engles was trying to “make us all feel lazy.” I forgive her light-hearted sentiment, but contend she might have missed the point. True inspiration comes not from shame or guilt. Crazy adventures and feats of endurance have a way of stirring our own creativity and curiosity. Anything that gets us moving out of our comfort zone is a good thing. Because that’s when we grow, individually and collectively.

(Check out the audio here: Marathon Man)

Shifting gears, as has been the tradition of the modern First Lady, Michelle Obama made anti-obesity her cause of choice and started the “Let’s Move!” initiative. The goal is to address the problem of childhood obesity, to focus on health in the family which makes not just for happier people but for more productive workers/students and lower long-term medical costs, particularly for government-sponsored programs.

Yes, her detractors say that the government should stay out of the kitchen and let parents make their own choices. Sara Palin said on her reality TV show that Michelle Obama doesn’t want Americans to eat dessert.

But the point, as Obama points out in an interview on NPR, is to give parents information to make wise good decisions. “It’s information that empowers families and communities and moms and dads,” she said.

(Listen to the interview here: Michelle Obama on Let’s Move!)

It’s not rocket science. I make my own decisions about what to eat. Food choices fuel not just my endurance training, but my health and my everyday living. Some days, there are other reasons to consume food: Celebration, consolation, tradition, emotional hunger.

When I was an undergraduate at St. Bonaventure, I lived on grilled cheese, french fries, pizza and various Hostess cream-filled products. Not a huge surprise that I gained around 50 pounds in that time frame. But through friends at school, I started to learn about nutrition outside the basic four food groups I was taught back in elementary school. (And for the record, identification of food groups does nothing to really help make good food choices.) I started to cut back on fat and calories and started to exercise more. Not only did I lose weight, I started to feel better mentally and physically.

I still have grilled cheese and french fries and pizza on occasion. Heck, every now and then I revel in a snack cake. But with information comes power — to make your own decisions and direct the kind of life you want to live.

Finally, since I mentioned my alma mater, today is the second annual Bona Pride Day. And so, I kicked off my Friday by wearing my St. Bona swim cap at the YMCA this morning as I went through an easy, but fun, mile-long swim:

Preparing for a mile swim with my St. Bona swim cap.

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