Monthly Archives: December 2012

Runners Etiquette

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I don’t know if any of you have seen the movie Borat, with actor Sacha Baron Cohen, but there is one scene in that movie that I always remember and laugh about. That is the scene where Borat is at a refined southern home for a dinner, and manners are being explained to him. Surely, Borat goes about and beyond to “learn” the manners explained to him but when the time for him to go to the restroom arrives, he actually poops in a bag and brings it to the dinner table. The people at the gathering are grossed out and cannot believe that he would do something like that. That is however, all that Borat knows, and he did the only thing he knew how to do. The hosts did not like that as it was a violation of the etiquette followed at fancy dinner parties. But for Borat, that was common practice at the dinner table.
As runners, we are an interesting group to say the least. The truth is that we are a happy group of people. Running is something that releases endorphins and thus makes us happy friendly and satisfied emotionally. So why did I mention the scene relating to etiquette in the Movie Borat? The answer is that as runners we have expectations. We are a group of people from, different nations, cultures and traditions who appreciate the benefit of distance running. Some of us do it for competition, some for fun, some simply for fitness. The one thing we share is that we all run and get the same benefits from running, both physically and mentally. The question asked is, whether a common etiquette for runners exists.
During my six mile run yesterday I did not see many people on the trail. Yes, it was cold as heck and many people simply stay indoors and sedentary when its cold. There was one couple I Passed, not runners, but it was in my nature to wish them a happy new year. They said it back to me but, I think they were surprised that I even spoke to them.
When I run, I always wave at other runners passing by, I think it is in my soul as a runner. Most people over they years have waved back, but there are those who don’t waive and give a nasty look. I usually just give a simple wave by raising my arm a bit, not a crazy wave, just enough to say hi.
I have had runners come up to me and start conversations, and they have indeed been the best conversations I have had. I have had other runners try to convert me to their religions, which I have amicably and diplomatically turned away. And then there are those who simply pass you up, ignore your wave and think they are better runners. Just as is the case in Borat, they have their own way of thinking, similar to bringing their poop in a bag to the dinner table.
The question that arrises is, whether in deed there is a common etiquette that runners must follow. The answer is obviously no, runners don’t have to do anything. Most however have been courteous and waved at me or waved back, or at least smiled, it is an acknowledgment that we are working toward the same goal. I love when runners wave back or acknowledge my presence as a runner. I don’t ever hesitate to wave at a runner, in fact I say hello to every runner I see by waving. I have learned however, not to take it personally if a runner does not acknowledge my presence. In fact, in the cold, I really don’t see many other runners.
I love races because the camaraderie of being a runner really is evident there. I cannot wait until my next marathon, the Miami marathon, January 27, 2013, where I hope to see that feeling of belonging to a group who cares for one-another. I really do think that runners respect each other, and most do subscribe to the etiquette also known as common courtesy. Those that don’t are just asking for a lonely and cold run, so be it.
I look forward to seeing some of you on the trail, road or at a race. Good running, and please wave and acknowledge your fellow runner. Don’t be like Borat at the fancy dinner table!

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Desk job? – heck no!

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As the title of my blog suggests, I am a lawyer by profession, and a solo practitioner. I am thankful for being a solo practitioner because I do not have a typical desk job. Usually I spend my days traveling from courthouse to courthouse within the northern Chicago suburbs (I should say extreme northern – Skokie up to the Wisconsin border). If you have ever seen the movie “the Lincoln lawyer,” that is basically my job, without the driver or the huge brief cases full of $100 bills. This has given me time to practice yoga, run weekly miles toward my marathon training, as well as meditate as necessary.
This week, although technically 3 days, has been all paper and desk work for me. No yoga, running or meditation and the truth is, most people don’t want to be around me right now, because I am the moody shark no one wants to talk to. As a lawyer I have to put in the time, and of course I do, because my clients depend on me. I also do have to put some time aside to get on the mat or run five or six miles a day. It’s one hour, it shouldn’t be a huge deal. Why am I saying this? Because the difference is clear. When I run and/or practice yoga at least once a day, not only am I more productive, I am friendlier, and can better deal with the stress involved in my profession. That leads to everyone being happier an more satisfied.
Things work the way they do for a reason. During law school I interned for a large corporation’s legal department. This was all paper work all day long. My peers are required to bill 60 to 80 hours per week, remember not every hour worked is necessarily a billable hour. Yes, they may be raking in the huge bucks, but when do they have the time to enjoy them? I have had too many close calls to know that life is really way to short to waste it that way. Go ahead, call me crazy, if I have time to write a blog, practice yoga, have a family, spend time playing with my kids, train for and run 3-4 marathons a year why can’t I cut all those things and work at a large law firm? I could, but you wouldn’t be reading about it, and my kids wouldn’t see me, if they would, they would have a miserable pissed off daddy. (I would probably still be 40 pounds overweight, smoking cigarettes, eating fast food – been there – NOT GOING BACK)
That is why I could not have a typical desk job. Yes, I do spend hours at my desk, it is the nature of my profession. But as a solo practitioner, I am able to do the things I enjoy every day. When I am in a hurry and can’t have breakfast, I will put a Beat, a stalk of broccoli, some kale an apple and a cucumber though my juicer, put it in a bottle and drink it on my way to court – it is really very yummy! That is fast food I can drink and feel good about.
These are the reasons why I could not have a typical desk Job. Don’t be surprised if I add certified yoga instructor to my curriculum one day. For now, I am just a practitioner. Tomorrow I will go for a run, and you may then find the friendlier, nicer Bernie again.
Health, peace, love and good running!

Bernie

Christmas and A Jewish Yogi!

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Wow, that is a strange title, but I think it is appropriate for this time of year. Being 100% Jewish and raising my family Jewish does not mean that I cannot enjoy and cherish the spirit of Christmas. We usually spend Christmas Eve with a really good family friend who is like family, in fact she has been key in raising my children as she takes care of them when I am out working. Not only do we participate in the holiday, we are tolerant and respect all rituals no mater how religious they are. On the flip side my friend attends each and every Passover Seder and participates in that. So I pose the question, what is wrong with tolerance, understanding and respect?
The second of Pantajali’s yoga sutras is Niyama (The five “observances”): Shaucha(purity), Santosha(contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul), and Ishvara-Pranidhana (surrender to God). Applying the principles of purity, contentment, austerity, and the understanding of a god or in my view source of energy to a Jewish yogi runner during Christmas is not that far out of whack.
Just think how much better and peaceful the world would be if people were more tolerant of each other and were to accept or even participate in others’ customs or beliefs and traditions. I have noticed a lot this holiday season regarding simple tolerance issues. While walking at the mall yesterday, I overheard a mom telling her son that “we need to look away because we don’t believe in Santa – and that is not part of who we are.” Upon having heard that, I sat down with my daughter at Macy’s and wrote a letter to Santa. I explained to her that while this is not part of our personal tradition, for every letter placed in the box Macy’s makes a donation to the make a wish foundation. If anyone thinks that what I did was wrong, let me know. My daughter in writing to Santa donated money to a child in need, an act of tzedakah or charity. This not only falls under Niyama, it is one of the 613 mitzvot, or commandments (deeds) that Jewish people must do. Saying that tolerance leads to purity, contentment, austerity, and surrender to an energy that powers us is why I participate in Christmas celebrations. Not because I personally believe in principles of Christianity but because respecting and cherishing those who do, makes for a better and more peaceful world.
I remember growing up, in Ecuador, that two ladies who were live in Nannies, Catholic and having no exposure to any other tradition, would light candles every Friday night. Their only explanation was that their mothers and grandmothers always lit two candles on Friday night. Lighting candles on Friday night is a Jewish tradition that initiates the sabbath. It became apparent that these ladies were descendants of Jews from Spain who were practicing Judaism in hiding to avoid the consequences of the inquisition. If people were more tolerant of each other’s traditions, the inquisition and people having to hide acts of spirituality would not need to happen.
My friend called me today to ask if it would be offensive if a person dressed as Santa would come to her Christmas Eve gathering. While I laughed and said, of course it is not offensive,and at first pondering why it would even occur to her that I could be offended, it occurred to me that that, sadly, santa would be offensive to some. Come on people, we are all human – whether we believe in the new testament, only the Old Testament, the yoga sutras, Bhudda, Mohamed, Nefertiti or whomever, we are all powered by the same source of energy. When we all start respecting each other and become tolerant of one an other the world will become a better place.
So as a Jew, a yogi, and a Human, Christmas is one more opportunity to share other’s spirituality and connect with friends on a deeper and more meaningful level. Merry Christmas from a Jewish lawyer who practices yoga, runs marathons and respects fellow humans!