It's Al's Turn: Finding new heroes in my basement
The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.
I’m finding new heroes.
They’re in my basement. I run with them five or six times a week – on a treadmill.
They’re iFit trainers. They’re elite, well-traveled runners with a lot of experience and insights to share.
Treadmills have made giant strides in the last few years. Gone are those days when you just resigned yourself to plodding along on the “dreadmill.”
These new iFit trainers bring a whole new dimension to a workout. You watch them on a video screen attached to the treadmill. They pass along running tips and advice as they run outside through all types of terrain – deserts, mountains, rain forests, busy city streets, beaches, arctic climbs, actual races, you name it.
The treadmill moves up and down according to the elevations the trainer is experiencing. You really feel like you’re running alongside them. I’ve even ducked to avoid tree branches or find myself tilting when the path takes a turn.
Most of the trainers I run with don’t just talk about running but also get into the history, culture, architecture, religion, folk lore, and geological features about the country or region they’re in. Through them, I’ve experienced the busy streets of Morocco, and the beautiful waterfalls and cloud forests of Costa Rica. I’ve run up towering volcanoes in the Azores, joined runners in the Boston Marathon and jogged along the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the iFit trainers. You really get to know them.
They can be funny. My favorite iFit trainer, Tommy Rivs , shared this while he was running through challenging terrain at a high altitude: “Number one rule of running – don't get dead.” He also gave this advice that stuck in my head: “Hydrate – don’t die-drate.” One more from Tommy: “It is never too late to become what you might have been.”
In June, I had a chance to meet one or Rivs’ running friends, iFit trainer and fellow Arizonan, Leah Rosenfeld . She was racing a 5K (3.1 miles) in Stillwater and her camera crew, which follows closely but unobtrusively behind her, was streaming the event live to all the iFit users on their treadmills. My wife, Celeste, and I drove to Stillwater and entered the race. We had the chance to talk to Rosenfeld in person. As with her recorded workouts, she was funny, a little goofy (which she fully admits) but brimming with enthusiasm and motivation that you couldn’t help but admire and be inspired by. As it turned out, Celeste gave her a high-five at the start of the race, which was caught on camera, and I gave her a high-five at the end that was also recorded.
Celeste and I have since ran that recorded version of the race on our treadmill and I have to admit that it was kinda cool to see ourselves in it.
Back to Rivs. In the summer of 2020, he nearly died after he was admitted to an intensive care unit with respiratory issues. He eventually was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of lymphoma.
How he survived the ordeal is an amazing story of grit and determination. He withered away from being in top physical condition, a muscular 180 pounds, to under 100 pounds of bone and skin. But he didn’t give up. Some days all he could communicate on his Instagram account was a word or two, such as ‘’not today.”
With an outpouring of support from thousands in the running world, his family and his own determination, Rivs made it through. He recovered enough to enter the Boston Marathon this past April. Back in 2017, he completed the hilly course in two hours and 18 minutes. This time he had to run-walk it, finishing in about six and a half hours. But he did it
An article in www.outsideonline.com about the marathon, noted that Rivs’ “passion for endurance sports wasn’t about race results but about the pursuit of excellence within the bounds of his potential.”
In the article, Rivs said something that everyone, not just runners, can find inspiration in: “Satisfaction and happiness in life don’t come from sitting around and doing nothing. It comes from working really, really hard at something and actually accomplishing it from time to time. That is where happiness is found, in that struggle.”
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.