It is difficult to find runners who aren’t anticipating this year’s running of the Boston Marathon, whether they have qualified and are actually running the race or they are on the sidelines eagerly observing it, either along Commonwealth Avenue or glued to a flatscreen.
The Boston bombings of 2013 triggered a generations-long genetic strain of Americanism.
The instantaneous reaction was for spectators and volunteers to run toward the bombings to see what they could do to help, instead of, like frightened rabbits, scrambling one over the other to get away from it, as is common in some societies.
An entire city cordoned itself off from the outside world and, little by little, in spite of obvious economic hardships and enormous use of expensive resources, squeezed hard until the pus-filled evil festering within it was isolated and ejected.
Along the way, the B. A. A. walked a razor’s edge, on one side suffering with the victims, on the other building up pressure to answer the runners’ calls to do something significant for 2014 that would be a celebration for the living, revenge for the dead and wounded, a pointy stick in the eye of evil.
In the end, the B.A.A. managed to do both with diplomacy and grace.
The victims have been honored, continue to be honored.
The Boston Marathon: A Tradition of Excellence, Independence, and Strength
Since its inception in 1897, the core of the Boston Marathon has been the achievement of excellence. Inspired by the inaugural modern Olympic Games Marathon, held in Athens in 1896, the Boston Marathon has upheld a tradition of athletic excellence that has made it the pinnacle of our sport over the past 117 years. The same tradition continues to bring the world’s best runners to Boston each Patriots’ Day to compete for one of our sport’s most prestigious crowns.
On the Road with Chris Lotsbom
Could the Marathon Thrive in College?
From September through November of last year, I helped coach the local middle school cross-country teams in my hometown of Walpole, Massachusetts. Each week on Mondays and Thursdays, a group of about 35 would meet at the high school track, do our stretches and drills, and then proceed to run, sometimes doing hill repeats, other days timed intervals. Always it was a relaxed atmosphere, more about fun than fast times.
Each week, a number of the kids—probably around 40 percent—would show up with some sort of marathon gear on. Sporting either the Boston Athletic Association’s famed unicorn logo on their shirt or a parent’s old race jacket, they would come ready to run with an enthusiastic vigor about them.
One day I asked a bunch of the kids if they would ever consider running a marathon someday. Keep in mind these are middle schoolers in grades six through eight, ages 11 to 14.
An overwhelming majority said yes, to my surprise, without a moment’s hesitation. Even before reaching high school (and never having completed a structured training regimen), the children had their eyes on someday completing the 26.2-mile distance.
After much time thinking about their answers and observing some trends in the marathon community, I couldn’t help but come to a conclusion in my mind: the marathon is getting younger, and more power to it.
Now this might not be an earth-shattering or mind-blowing observation, but I believe the young vitality and enthusiasm toward the marathon signifies an important shift not only in road racing but in the sport of running as a whole.
My Most Unforgettable Ultramarathon
2012 Palo Duro Trail Run
CANYON, TEXAS, October 20, 2012 — Twenty weeks of training through a hot Texas summer, the highest weekly training mileage ever, a persistent cough a month before the race, a couple of cracked ribs from coughing, and two weeks of complete inactivity—it’s amazing to think that all of that could add up to a race I enjoyed more than any other—the Palo Duro Trail Run.
Hari, Susan, Heather, and I all drove to Canyon, Texas, on Friday morning, each in our own vehicles with our families, running gear, and lots of camera equipment. The text messages flew back and forth as we traveled six hours through the West Texas high plains, and the news of the State Fair of Texas’s Big Tex burning to the ground earlier that morning was a hot topic.
Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon
The Wild West and the modern Mickelson Trail converge to create a memorable marathon adventure.
When you drive into the town of Deadwood, South Dakota, you are immediately transported to a time filled with gambling, gunslingers, and gold. Deadwood sits in the heart of the Black Hills, a name given to the thick pine forests because of how dark they appear from a distance. Historic buildings that look like those of the Wild West hide all the modern conveniences of the 21st century, making Deadwood a pleasing mix of old and new. The entire town is a registered National Historic Landmark.
Biofile: Geoffrey Mutai
Date of Birth: October 7, 1981, in Kenya
First Running Memory: “When I was young, running in school. And there was a period of time for three years when we didn’t do competition in school. I was lacking something. I would need to go run laps, I would need to go sweat something. The idea of a running career got me when I was young. And I found myself running.”
Running Inspirations: “To achieve. To train. The more you are training, the more you are achieving.”
On the Trail with Meghan Hicks
The Only Constant Is Change
(With apologies to Heraclitus, who said the quote I modified for this column’s title.)
Last weekend, my mother came to visit. She is not a runner. She never has been, and the chances that she will become one are approximately the same chances any of us have of winning the lottery. Sorry, Mom. I’ve spent many years worrying her with descriptions of adventures and, well, slight misadventures in running. And my mom has always been about 98.9 percent supportive of whatever crazy running idea I conjure up.
Occasionally, I tell her about something I’m about to undertake and she rolls her eyes or tells me that she’s going to agonize about my safety until it’s over. That’s the 1.1 percent of nonsupport I alluded to above. In fairness, as I mentioned before, she doesn’t run so she doesn’t really understand how safe an activity running is. I don’t know what she thinks it’s like out there on the trails. Maybe she envisions me running from devils and demons?
On the Mark
I’m wondering what your experts think of the practice of immersing your body in a tub of ice after a hard workout. The theory seems to be that the cold cuts down on inflammation and thereby speeds recovery from the workout. Besides the obvious chill factor when contemplating doing this, I’m not convinced it is worth all the trouble if you are careful to not overdo it in training. I think all of that cold would inhibit the flow of blood to muscles with oxygen and nutrients and away from muscles with waste material. Or am I wrong? Where I live, in Nebraska, I don’t think we would even need to buy ice cubes to benefit from total body immersion into cold this winter. – Jason Knorr, via e-mail
Special Feature: We Love Boston
The racecourse is constructed each year by the numbers.
The internationally famous paved stretch of Massachusetts roads from Hopkinton to Boston can be run on any given day. There are no restrictions and no attention, fanfare, media coverage, or crowds. But for one day each year, what is built from the ground up on that span of 26.2 miles for each Patriots’ Day Monday transforms it into the Boston Marathon. The coordinated effort is massive. Signage, barricades, fencing, scaffolding, paint, tents, tables, cups, wiring, generators, and much more are all part of the creation of the overall polished look of the oldest annual continually run marathon.
“I personally conduct or attend roughly about 150 meetings,” said Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray. “We have about 90 people on the organizing committee and we have 8,000 volunteers. I usually delegate to various organizing committee members, but there are timelines and planning phases along the way that we have to adhere to. I always set false advance deadlines to be sure I get things well before I need them. Doesn’t always work, but most of the time it does.”
Curto Runs Boston
A loop that must be closed.
Boston Marathon 2013. Horrid images come to mind: a backpack, a runner falling as police scramble, a man holding a bloodied flag, smoke. It’s hard to look beyond the tragedy, as if in remembering that there were things to celebrate we might be forgetting those who suffered. But under it all, last year’s Boston Marathon was still the Boston Marathon. And what it’s famous for happened that day as it has for the past 117 years: ordinary people achieved greatness.
On that first true day of spring after a long New England winter, I was standing on Hereford Street (the last turn before the final stretch) waiting for my brother Joe to finish. I remember one of the wheelchair runners struggling up the hill, his arms shaking as the wheels threatened to succumb to gravity. A tough-looking old Boston cop was screaming for him to make it. I remember wondering whether Joe could break three hours, and I remember my sister-in-law saying, “You know, Curto just finished chemo six weeks ago.”
And again and again and…
After the horrifying and heartbreaking finish to last year’s Boston Marathon, I looked for and found an article I wrote that appeared in the May 3, 1978, edition of the Buffalo Rocket, a fine North Buffalo paper that is mostly a vehicle for advertisements. It is my take on the running of the Boston Marathon that I had taken part in just a few days before, and I wrote it as soon as I returned to Buffalo, so the memories were fresh.
I would like to share this with you because I think it gives a pretty good look at what it was like to run this race back in the day. More important, it shows how much things have stayed the same, at least as far as why so many want to put themselves through this tough experience.
The runner next door.
Every runner has a back story—more of a love story—the unique sequence of events that leads to lacing up the sneakers and toeing the line at some street corner, trail, or track and that keeps him running, day after day thereafter.
I live and run on a small peninsula jutting out into Dorchester Bay between Boston and Quincy, Massachusetts, called Squantum. Ain’t but one way out—a causeway through wetlands and clam flats. For the neighborhood runners, this means the same faces passing at the same times on their respective runs: Catherine at 5:30 a.m.; George as I turn the corner into the Marina Bay complex at 5:45; and the swift teenage twin girls, high school track stars, on Wednesdays, flying down the causeway in formation, followed at a sedate jog by their father. And on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6:15 a.m., I encounter Hassan Haydar, a slender, graying runner with an economical stride and an air of ease, followed by a small group of men from the L Street Running Club.
Like all fellow travelers, we nod and exchange greetings. Over the years, each of our names appears on the various running websites and local papers, reporting races run, times, awards, and the various metrics of our sport. I know Hassan Haydar by reputation.
Love That Dirty Water
Ah, yes! Back in the day in the Back Bay.
Hopkinton, Massachusetts, is that sleepy little town that is famously known as the origin of the Charles River, which then meanders some 80 miles into Boston. This fact became known to me only after taking a Duck Tour in Boston in December 2012. My wife, Diane, and I took the tour while in Boston for a long weekend that we treated ourselves to in order to see Leonard Cohen in concert at the Wang Theater.
The driver of the amphibious Duck boat informed us, just before going onto the Charles River (I believe the river was named in honor of Ray Charles), that it did indeed start those many miles away in Hopkinton. It’s an interesting fact, indeed, but one that made us think of what else starts in that town every April. It’s hard to be in Boston without thinking of the marathon.
The Spotters Network provides real-time info to keep coverage accurate.
Imagine game coverage where TV commentators view only home plate or one goalie net, or one hoop in basketball, or one end zone in a football game. How would they be able to broadcast a game without being able to see the entire playing surface? Well, imagine covering a sports competition that plays out over 26.2 miles and seeing only the last few hundred yards. How would commentators convey the more than two hours of action?
At the Boston Marathon, that is the quandary for WBZ-TV (CBS) announcer Lisa Hughes and veteran race analysts Toni Reavis and Kathrine Switzer. From the photo bridge high above the finish line, they depend on a fine-tuned system of data collection from throughout the course. That lifeline is the Spotters Network, one of the services provided by Race SpotWatch, a media-consulting division under worldwide sports marketing and event management group TRACS, Inc.
“It’s a critical part of our ability to cover the race,” Hughes said.
Bombs on Boylston
The day started out perfectly—and then something went terribly wrong.
Among the participants in last year’s Boston Marathon, few could boast the credentials of Michele Collette Keane of Bay Village, Ohio. Keane’s first Boston came at age 2, standing beside her mother, Jean Collette, handing water to passing marathoners.
The Collette family’s private aid station was near the 12-mile mark, close to the border between Natick and Wellesley, only a half mile from the edge of the campus where Keane would attend college. While at Wellesley, Keane ran the marathon three times with classmates at the all-women’s school. “We ran it as a lark with a bunch of guys,” Keane remembers. “They dropped out. We kept going.”
Pregnancy and Beyond
Adventures of a world-champion mom.
When I found out I was pregnant in the fall of 2009, I was coming off a promising 11th-place finish at the 2008 Olympic Trials Marathon and a couple of very near misses at making the US Mountain Running Team. I was happily married and around that age when the proverbial clock begins to tick. Although we were considering growing our family, these thoughts were still theories for some time in the future. And then I found myself huffing and puffing through a workout, Googling symptoms of pregnancy, and staring at a stick in a grocery-store bathroom on my way home from a group long run. Still not connecting all the dots, I tried a different variety of stick the next day: same result. I called my doctor to ask for a professional opinion. The nurse on the phone told me there were no false positives, congratulated me, and started calculating my due date. I was in denial. Despite my insistence that there must be a more scientific way of confirming this type of thing, the voice on the other end of the phone continued to explain that my self-administered test was accurate, told me to pick up prenatal vitamins at the pharmacy, and that she would see me at my first standard checkup in some obscenely far away number of weeks. The oblivion and commitment phobia would eventually subside. I was, in fact, pregnant.
Trans-Alpine Run Versus Trans-Rockies Run
A midpacker’s guide.
OK, I lied. Some people may not consider me to be a midpacker. After all, I’ve qualified for Boston more than 50 times so I never thought I would be a back-of-the-packer, struggling to make cutoff times. But that’s exactly what happened to my partner, Stacey Shand, and me at the eight-day Trans-Alpine Run in 2011. I especially did not expect the struggle after having done the six-day Trans-Rockies Run two years before. But owing to being trail- and altitude-challenged, I can give you an honest midpacker’s perspective for the Trans-Rockies.
I’ve charted a summary of each day’s distances, climbs, and elevations for Trans-Rockies compared with Trans-Alps. Yes, Trans-Rockies has considerably more of its route at high altitude, but Trans-Alps has longer climbs, steeper climbs, and much longer days. Yet these numerical facts don’t really sum up the difference between the two events. To put it succinctly, Trans-Rockies is pure fun while Trans-Alps is pure challenge.
A Letter to Race Volunteers
Without you, we are a disaster waiting to happen.
What possesses someone who does not race, who may not even run, to get up at silly hours of the morning to stand outside, in the dark, sometimes in extreme heat but more often in wicked cold, for hour after boring hour, and offer assistance to people who are so involved in what they’re doing that they may not even notice you, let alone offer thanks, is beyond the limits of my small imagination. But nevertheless, at each race I enter, there you are, handing out cups of water, offering up Oreos, encouraging and supporting and cheering. I worship you. I wish I could offer you my first-born child. Or maybe bake you cookies. But I have no children and I can’t bake.
The race director is responsible for explaining your duties, but race directing is about as easy as wrangling cockroaches. So I wanted to take some time first to thank you for your service and then to pass on some comments from runners about how you can be great race volunteers, have fun, and hope to help you understand that runners aren’t as obnoxious as they may seem when they’re out there on the course.
Book Bonus: Going Far
When a visit to Pre’s Rock really means something. Part 10.
41. The performer
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA. May 1975. Distance runners tend toward undemonstrative introspection—a shy wave to accept cheers, a self-effacing comment to reporters. Steve Prefontaine wasn’t typical, which is why he would be remembered so well for so long after his last race. Prefontaine was a performer.
There had been and would be faster runners, but none so skilled at exciting crowds. A performer needs a stage and a crowd the way an artist needs paint and canvas, and Prefontaine had the ideal place and people in Eugene. Nowhere in this country is our sport as major as here.
Janet Newman Heinonen’s early career as a Eugene-based writer paralleled Prefontaine’s as a runner. She knew him better than other writers and could penetrate his brash shield. One of her articles about him started this way: “The image-makers have been hard at work on Steve Prefontaine, as they are on all athletes needing simplifying and classifying. The picture they paint of Steve is one of a cocky kid running around with a large chip on his shoulder, daring anyone to knock it off.”
Zombots, Afternoon Tea, and Organic Beer
I was standing on Fourth Avenue in downtown Portland at 6:59 a.m. waiting for the start of the 42nd annual Portland Marathon on October 6, the rising sun merely a hint behind the eastern darkness, when strange illuminations, like radioactive lightning bugs, began flickering as runners punched and pecked and poked their iGadgets alive. This was just about the same week that a lowlife pulled a gun on a subway and nobody noticed because everyone around him had their noses glued to the illuminated screens of their personal electronic devices. When Bill Rodgers counted down the start at Portland, there were some potentially dangerous backups as runners stopped dead in their tracks, fussing with the controls of their digital music devices. One gal ran about 30 steps, stopped, and reported into her iPhone, “Yeah. We’ve started.” One wonders what’s lacking in the life of the person on the other end of the 7:00 a.m. call.
Ode to Joy Johnson 1926-2013
One day after finishing her 25th New York City Marathon, Joy Johnson, who had taken a fall during the marathon at 20 miles where she suffered a head injury but continued the race in spite of it, died while taking a nap in her Manhattan hotel room. She was 86 and the oldest finisher of the famed marathon. She was accompanied to the race by her younger sister, Faith [Anderson], 83, who was with her when she died.
“I want to keep running as long as I can and drop in my running shoes when the time comes,” she stated in a 2011 interview with USA Today.
On the Road with Chris Lotsbom
To Put 2013 in Perspective
Sunday, August 11, was a flawless day in Falmouth, Massachusetts. More than 10,000 runners gathered in the harbor-side town on Cape Cod for the 41st annual rite of passage that is the New Balance Falmouth Road Race. The sun shone down out of a clear blue sky, temperatures comfortably warm. Overall it was a perfect day for a race and a perfect day to be outside. In a way, it reminded me of April 15, the day of the 117th Boston Marathon.
I’ve been to many races over the past five years covering athletics and road racing, ranging from high school championships to the 2012 London Olympics, World Marathon Major events, and IAAF Diamond League track meets. This year’s Falmouth Road Race stood out in a way more than the rest, and it’s not because of what happened on the seven-mile stretch from Woods Hole to Falmouth Heights. Rather, it’s about the marathon.
I’ll remember this year’s event for a brief, 10-second interaction that happened minutes before the elite women’s start. Those 10 seconds felt like an eternity.
My Most Unforgettable Ultramarathon
2012 Flatlanders 12-Hour Run
FENTON, MISSOURI, September 2, 2012 — Even though ultramarathons are becoming more prevalent in this country, probably many runners who have completed standard marathons hesitate to cross the line that divides the 26.2-mile strolls from the less-conventional and less-understood world of ultras. It’s as if the tentative ones believe the running world is flat and that stepping beyond the edge of marathons will cause them to fall into a deep chasm, never to return to marathons, families, and friends.
I was one of those tentative ones, wondering whether I could complete an ultra without having some sort of disaster leap upon me without warning. The curious interest was there, but I kept putting off a commitment to try one, too busy with family and career and the belief that I wasn’t ultrarunning material. I run as fast as a miniature plow horse and subsequently thought that I didn’t have the right stuff to venture into what some may consider the twilight zone of long-distance running.
Yakima River Canyon Marathon
It’s on the family plan.
When you’re coming from Seattle, first impressions of the Yakima River Canyon area are of a number of small towns and beautiful, wide-open green pastures with a few mountains to drive through. Serene landscapes surround you, and you’ll have a gorgeous drive from Seattle or wherever you fly into. Everyone in the towns of Selah, Ellensburg, and Yakima is friendly and aware of the 13-year-old Yakima River Canyon Marathon; you get the impression that a large number of them are involved in the planning and execution in one way or another. And everyone knows the race directors, Bob and Lenore Dolphin, longtime residents. This has been a stable race for 13 years with minimal changes, though perhaps occasionally an improvement—chip timing was instituted just last year, and the number of awards seems to increase each year.
Biofile: Salina Kosgei
Date of Birth: November 16, 1976, in Simotwo, Keiyo District
First Running Memory: “My first marathon memory is when I ran Paris (2004) and I won and I was very happy and excited. I won my first marathon.”
Running Inspirations: “Running is a nice talent. So I encourage young ones to keep on running.”
On the Trail with Meghan Hicks
Everything is Connected
“There won’t be a gun start, because we don’t have guns!” race director Shaun Martin shouts to the crowd of about 100 runners and 200 spectators. The crowd cheers in response. He continues, “We’ll start the traditional way. Everyone shouts and then you just start running!” He pauses, then yells, “Yeaaaaaaaaah!” We all whoop and holler and run east through the wet, sandy wash.
This is the start of the inaugural Canyon de Chelly Ultra, a 55-kilometer race through Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Nation of northeastern Arizona. From here, the outskirts of Chinle, Arizona, we will run about a mile through this wash to the mouth of the canyon, then about 15 miles along the canyon bottom, and then about one mile up and out of the canyon to a viewpoint on the canyon’s rim before reversing course and returning the way we came.
On the Mark
Experts answer readers’ training and competition questions.
I very much enjoyed the 100th issue of M&B. In fact, I’m still enjoying it. For someone who has been running for more than 25 years, it’s a treasure trove of keen perspectives. But I’m a little frustrated by Allan Steinfeld’s article. Although I thought it was very insightful, unlike some of the others, it did not rank the most important innovations in marathoning. It might be fun to ask a group of your experts — experts who’ve witnessed the last several decades of running — to pick what they feel is the most important innovation in marathoning over the past 40 years or so. – David Koppe, via e-mail
Special Section: Journey Runs
The Allure of the Journey
The song “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” comes to mind. He went over the mountain, and what did he see? He saw another mountain. And on and on and on.
It’s the disease of wanderlust, a disease affecting only a portion of bears and human beings. Some bears and human beings are content to stay home, to tend their own garden, and to let the wider world just hang out there where it is.
For those suffering from the wanderlust disease, though, to sit at home is to rust out, to stifle curiosity, to stagnate the sense of adventure.
The Trans-Ohio Run
Plan as you will, fate will have its way with you.
The tradition of the Cleveland-Cincinnati run dates to 1988 when Phil Freeland put together a trans-Ohio race to support homeless shelters across the state. A small group of runners including accomplished ultrarunners such as Marshall Ulrich, Regis Shivers, and Art Moore raced a continuous 258-mile route along the 3-C Highway. The race was held as an annual winter event for several years until interest eventually died out.
In December 2010, Sandi and Rachel Nypaver ran their “I Believe” run from Cincinnati to Cleveland. The 22-year-old twins ran most of the 250 miles in five days before iliotibial band injuries prevented them from finishing within less than a marathon distance to go. I was able to run a few miles with them as they came through Columbus and got a small taste of the adventure that someday I hoped to experience myself.
Following My Grandfather’s Footsteps
Retracing the Walking Purchase of 1737.
On September 19, 1737, various officials and interested parties gathered next to the Quaker meeting house in Wrightstown, Pennsylvania, to carry out a deed from the Treaty of Durham. “Precisely at 6 o’clock, as the sun rose in the eastern horizon, Timothy Smith . . . gave the signal to the walkers, who started from the chestnut tree . . . followed by a somewhat motley crowd chiefly on horseback.” (William Joseph Buck, History of the Indian Walk: Performed for the Proprietaries of Pennsylvania in 1737, to which is Appended a Life of Edward Marshall , 92-93) The walkers were Edward Marshall, James Yates, and Solomon Jennings.
Edward Marshall is my sixth-great-grandfather, eight generations back in my family tree through my maternal grandfather. The distance he walked in a day and a half established boundaries for an infamous land purchase that later became known as the Walking Purchase. The Walk began on dirt roads, changed to footpaths, and finally went through unbroken forest. It was generally reported that Marshall went 65 miles.
Running the R.O.
Personal observations from inside the race.
The Rouge-Orleans (R.O.) is a landmark race in Louisiana. It was the first official trail ultra in the state and also the first to use the Mississippi River levee as a race route. The point-to-point flat course hugs the river (the longest in the nation) as runners race atop the gravel-and-dirt levee 126.2 miles from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. The young race, created only three years ago, is timed to coincide with the Mardi Gras season each year.
At R.O., runners are provided with a visual tour of the state, running by not just the river but a smorgasbord of sites like historic plantation homes, sugarcane fields, farms, cows, swamps, a former leper colony, refineries, barges, and rural towns. You can take on the route with a relay team or solo.
Running in the Eye of the Tire
Chasing summits on the Tour de France course.
I’m sitting hunched over in the passenger seat of our white rental car, a Romanian-made Dacia Duster, legs propped up above my head on the dash. My muddied Asics are off, my socks are off, and my feet are swollen like two overripe hothouse tomatoes, fat with a fierce red rash. My flesh is dirty and chafed and is now scratched raw because the rash is on fire and it is not possible for me to stop scratching it. I’m pouring Benadryl atop both feet, emptying my entire bottle, which a host gave me “just in case you get stung by a bee,” but no amount of anti-itch liquid is going to help me now.
Runs With Vultures
What goes down must come up.
Running at observatories is a particularly insidious form of mountain running. Being both a marathon and ultramarathon runner and a research astronomer, I spend quite a bit of time running at astronomical observatories. Most mountain runners start at the bottom and run the harder uphill portion of the run at the beginning while they are still fresh. It is harder to get into trouble. Astronomical observatories are always located on mountaintops, so running at an observatory means running downhill first and then trying to get back up. As any runner who has tried it knows, that makes it much easier to get into trouble.
Covering the marathon.
There are very few sports that you can both participate in as an athlete and cover as a journalist at the elite level. NFL reporters don’t switch between typing out their reports in the newsroom and tossing a few passes around with their favorite team at practice the next day. And while you might see an Olympic medalist working as a journalist now and again at a world championship or Olympics, it’s a small and very elite class: those lucky few that possess both supreme athletic talent and the journalistic acumen (and for television personalities, the charisma and looks) to excel at the profession after their competitive careers wind down.
It’s Not About the Shirt
(Or is it?)
The Shawangunk runners train in the Shawangunk Mountains, which are about two hours north of New York City. We usually run one or two marathons a year but as of yet had not planned a fall marathon. One day while perusing the MarathonGuide.com website, I stumbled upon “The Self-Transcendence Sri Chinmoy Marathon.” It was to be held on Friday, August 24, and I was surprised to find that not only was this to be the 11th running of the event but also that it was a Boston qualifier. And it was only 70 miles from my home. “Self-Transcendence”? “Sri Chinmoy”? My curiosity was piqued.
Happiness is a Long Run
A short story.
He cruised. He ran on the wet asphalt. His hair, the color of the asphalt, swung over his eyebrows. Pete’s 6-foot-3 frame was the only traffic on the road that night. His friend, Leo, had offered to give him a ride, but the five-mile journey from the race site to his house was a good way to let go of steam. Instead, the steam built up.
On the way home Pete decided that he was done with losing; he vowed that he would train and win. By the time he reached his trailer house, he could not stop thinking about his unstoppable purpose to win. His brother had never lost a race, and he ran for his brother.
I’m Impressed With Everybody
Nobody has nothing to bring to the club of experience.
Every running club has outstanding runners. You can find these folks at or near the front of local road races. Some of them may also be competitive at a state or even a national level. Every running club has some great older runners who continue to race and compete in their age bracket. Every running club has runners who specialize in, or at least prefer, certain distances and terrains. There are 5K-10K speedsters, marathoners, and ultramarathoners. There are road runners, track stars, and trail dogs. Every running club has experienced runners and newbies. You can often find the latter being coached or mentored by the former. Of course, most members fall somewhere in between, and every running club has both older and younger runners, which is not the same as experienced and inexperienced.
Running With the Girls
Thank God there weren’t more of them.
My wife started it. I was fat, dumb, and happy running a couple of miles three or four times a week. Then one beautiful spring day in 2007, she walked in and announced, “We are running the Marine Corps Marathon.” She said it in that tone and manner that precluded any possible answer except, “Well, yes, dear, of course we are.”
As calmly and reasonably as I could, I asked Catherine why she thought we should run the Marine Corps Marathon. She calmly, and with a mind completely made up, stated that since our son-in-law Garrett was deployed to Iraq and still would be at the time of the marathon, we would run it in his honor and the honor of all the other soldiers. Now, Garrett was in the Army and not the Marine Corps, but it did not seem right to get picky at that point. Instead, I decided it was time to start training in earnest.
Book Bonus: Going Far
Some genes take their time showing themselves Part 9.
36. The daughter.
SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA. November, 1973. Some stories are better told in first draft, in words written when the experience was new, before time edits the memories and the lines. This is my first message to my first child, penned in her first days.
Dear Daughter Sarah: You’re barely 2 days old as I sit down to write to you. When or if you read this, you’ll know that we haven’t brought you into the best of worlds and haven’t always brought you up in the best of ways. But remember that we brought you here by choice at a time when some couples of our generation were balking at creating new life. Your mother and I thought you deserved a chance to see life and judge it for yourself.
Your initial timing was great. I biked home from work on a Wednesday, free now for the long Thanksgiving weekend. As I walked into the house, a low moan greeted me from the bathroom. There I found your mother, sitting on the toilet, holding her belly bulge with one arm and leaning on the sink with the other.