It’s Al’s Turn: Finding New Heroes in My Basement – Alexandria Echo Press

I find new heroes.

They are in my basement. I run with them five or six times a week – on a treadmill.

They are iFit trainers. They are elite runners who have traveled a lot with lots of experience and ideas to share.

Treadmills have come a long way in recent years. Gone are the days of resigning yourself to stepping on the “dread mill”.

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 on running tips and advice as they run outdoors on all types of terrain – deserts, mountains, rainforests, busy city streets, beaches, arctic climbs, real races, and more.

The treadmill moves up and down based on the elevations encountered by the trainer. You really feel like you’re running alongside them. I even ducked to avoid tree branches or found myself tilted when the path turned.

Most of the coaches I run with don’t just talk about running, but also talk about the history, culture, architecture, religion, folk traditions and geological features of the country or region in which they are found. Thanks to them, I experienced the busy streets of Morocco and the beautiful waterfalls and cloud forests of Costa Rica. I’ve run on towering volcanoes in the Azores, joined Boston Marathon runners, and run along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

I spent a lot of time listening to iFit trainers. You really get to know them.
They can be funny. My favorite iFit trainer,

Tommy Rivs

, shared this while running through difficult terrain at high altitude: “Rule number one of running: don’t be dead.” He also gave this advice that stuck in my head: “Hydrate, don’t die.” Another from Tommy: “It’s never too late to become what you could have been.”

In June, I had the chance to meet one or more runner friends from Rivs, iFit trainer and fellow Arizonan,

Leah Rosenfeld

. She was running a 5K (3.1 miles) in Stillwater and her camera crew, following closely but quietly behind her, was broadcasting the event live to all iFit users on their treadmills. My wife, Celeste, and I went to Stillwater and raced. We had the chance to speak to Rosenfeld in person. As with her taped workouts, she was funny, a little goofy (which she fully admits) but brimming with enthusiasm and drive that you couldn’t help but admire and be inspired by. Turns out Celeste gave him a high-five at the start of the race, which was caught on video, and I gave him a high-five at the end which was also recorded.

Celeste and I have since run this recorded version of the race on our treadmill and I have to admit it was pretty cool to see us in it.

Back to Rivas. In the summer of 2020, he nearly died after being admitted to an intensive care unit with respiratory issues. He was eventually diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of lymphoma.

How he survived the ordeal is an incredible story of courage and determination. He went from peak physical condition, 180 pounds of muscle, to less than 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, like “not today.”

With an outpouring of support from thousands of people in the racing world, his family and his own determination, Rivs pulled through. He has recovered enough to compete in the Boston Marathon last April. In 2017, he completed the hilly course in two hours and 18 minutes. This time he had to run-walk, finishing in about six and a half hours. But he did

An article in

about the marathon, noted that “Rivs’ passion for endurance sports was not about running results but about pursuing excellence within the limits of one’s potential”.

In the article, Rivs said something that everyone, not just runners, can find inspiration for: “Satisfaction and happiness in life doesn’t come from sitting around doing nothing. It comes from working really, really hard at something and getting it done once in a while. This is where the happiness lies, in this struggle.

“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among Echo Press editorial staff.

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