Junk—and the Opposite
For many years there has been some controversy over the pros or cons of what are referred to as “junk miles.”
When Joe Henderson and I wrote The Running Encyclopedia back in 2002, we defined “junk miles” this way: this disparaging label applies to slow miles and extra miles run largely or solely for the sake of putting bigger numbers in the logbook or avoiding a day with zero mileage.
The key word there is “disparaging.” A certain cadre of running experts disparages miles run that are not dripping with quality or that are incidental or that are not customized for a certain effect.
On the Road with Chris Lotsbom
A Sure Home Run: Hosting the World Championships
As I sit down to write this month’s Marathon & Beyond column, the Little League World Series is in full swing. Televisions across the nation are tuned to ESPN and ABC, showcasing youngsters playing their hearts out on the finely manicured baseball diamonds. Hopes and dreams of achieving glory and going down in baseball history are etched on each of their faces, sweat building on flat-brimmed caps of all colors. Emotions run high: a win and you move on to Little League Baseball’s highest stage, the World Series final at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, a real-life field of dreams nestled in the middle of the Keystone State.
My Most Unforgettable Ultramarathon
2004 Joe Kleinerman 12-Hour Run
QUEENS, NEW YORK, June 12, 2004 — In the northeast corner of Queens, New York, atop a forested hill overlooking Little Neck Bay, sits little Crocheron Park. This was the location of the 23rd annual Joe Kleinerman 12-hour run on June 12, 2004, put on by Richie Innamorato and the Broadway Ultra Society. Joe Kleinerman, one of the founders of the New York Road Runners Club and a great ultra supporter, had died the previous November at the age of 91, making this a very special memorial run. We were also told that this would be the final running of the Joe Kleinerman 12-hour race, so it had greater meaning still. (The race was actually held again in 2008, 2010, and 2014.)
Running with winter at the Cape.
Everyone is familiar with Cape Cod as a summer playground, but few realize the Cape is a source of winter beauty and drama as well. Cape Cod during the winter months may be cold but it is also blissful, serene, and peaceful. During the winter, you can revel in the solitude, ocean views, sea breezes, and plentiful and uncrowded halcyon beaches. Cape Cod in winter has an ambience that is totally different from the summertime Cape—it is not an idyllic playground overrun with hordes of families and lovers but a quiet winter wonderland near the sea. The Hyannis Marathon gives runners an excellent excuse to visit the Cape in late winter.
Biofile: Priscah Jeptoo
Date of Birth: June 26, 1984, in Nandi, Kenya
First Running Memory: “Was running in the high school; after high school I started training. I start to go to Brazil for road races. I started going outside Kenya in 2007.”
Running Inspirations: “I was talented. I knew that I was talented when I was a young age. But also I saw my fellow Kenyans like Martin Lel. They were inspirations to me; they showed to me that I can make it.”
On the Trail with Meghan Hicks
Markers of Change
I report to you from a pool of lymphatic fluid. Each of my toes is a swollen hot dog, my feet sausages barely contained by their cases. I have ankle bones, but you can’t see them right now; they have been swallowed into cankles. My fingers and the backs of my hands are filled with extra fluid, too, in such a way that you can push the material under my skin around like it is somehow separate from the rest of my body.
The markers of damage are in my toenails as well. Four of them are completely detached, hovering atop the dying skin of now-popped blisters. Two others are blackened by bruising. My feet throb; they literally pulse with aching pain. Nerve pain zings occasionally, beginning in the bottom of my feet and working its way into my lower legs.
This is all to say that I am a physical mess. My mind is scarred, too, but it’s too soon to really process that sort of pain, so I’ll just leave it at that. This is what running a continuous 206.6 miles with 78,000 feet of elevation gain does to your body. Two days ago I finished running Italy’s Tor des Géants (TdG or Tor).
On the Mark
Running With a Pacemaker
After being a regular runner for 30 years, I received a cardiac pacemaker in 2009 for a condition called sick sinus syndrome. My cardiologist (also a runner) cleared me to continue running. The pacemaker is set for a lower limit of 60 beats per minute and an upper limit of 155 bpm. The problem is that running at any pace, however slow, almost immediately brings my pulse up to about 150 bpm. As a result, it’s difficult to run very far before I have to walk. I’ve trained by alternating running and walking and have completed a dozen marathon or longer races with the pacemaker, including two 50-mile races. Do your experts have any advice on how I can extend my runs and reduce the amount I have to walk? I can maintain a reasonable pace for longer distances but am not much faster at 10K than at the marathon. A couple of years ago, I checked with Medtronic, which sponsors cardiac patients at the Twin Cities Marathon, to see if it had done any research with the Twin Cities patient-runners, but it hadn’t. There isn’t much on the Internet in the way of research on endurance training with a pacemaker. – Joel Estes
How I Became Gary Fanelli
And got myself to the 1988 Olympic Marathon. Part 4 of 4.
Since I was 17, I had that feeling, an intuitive feeling, the dream of competing in the Olympic Games. But more than a decade of training and racing had gone by, and although I had several times made the US Olympic Marathon Trials, I had not made the team. Now past my mid-30s, there suddenly loomed on the horizon—the far horizon, the horizon over the Pacific Ocean—one last chance to walk into the Olympic Games at the Opening Ceremonies as an official Olympic marathoner.
I saw my chances of being in the Olympic Games slipping away in 1984 after I failed to make the U.S. Team in the marathon. I ended up going into a church to pray on my fate. I asked God if this was all a bad joke on me. I became very calm and my inner voice told me to just go on ahead with my current life.
I continued to run and race and gave thanks to God that I could still do that.
Pick and Run a Marathon
For those near the top, the decision is critical.
For the majority of marathoners, especially nonprofessionals, choosing a 26.2-miler can boil down to something as simple as a favorite city, a low entrance fee, a good chance of acceptance, or another state on the list. For an elite athlete, however, there is much more involved. With but two marathons a year in which to compete, ideally, the selection criteria can involve everything from the time between Olympic Trials, the money, the chance of winning, and even the prestige.
And once a marathon is chosen, there is the matter of race-specific training, in-the-race experiences, and even whether a pro while at work can actually enjoy the race itself or the host city and its people.
I Got to Do It Every Day
Mark Covert ends his streak.
You’ve seen the videos, maybe on your local TV news. Maybe you’ve seen them on YouTube, the ones where someone constructed an unbelievably elaborate arrangement of dominoes, perhaps in a spare room, a basement, or maybe a garage. The ones where thousands and thousands of dominoes collapse into each other in precise order, sometimes folding back into each other, sometimes splitting, allowing two rows to collapse simultaneously before eventually reuniting into a single column diving along until the final domino falls.
Those videos are fun and easy to watch. They rarely last more than a minute, and that should lead a viewer to wonder about whomever it was who spent how long—days, weeks, months—thinking of how those dominoes are to be arranged, what sorts of creative patterns they can be set into, spacing them precisely, carefully setting them close but not too close to each other lest the collapse begin too soon, maybe running out to KMart to buy another set of dominoes (who has thousands and thousands of dominoes lying around the house, after all?), only to destroy the entire creation in a few seconds.
Fifty Years to Finish an Ultra
Making amends for failure—and more.
Never say die.
I had power walked 52 miles nonstop in 13 hours, and extreme weariness set in. I slumped into a comfy chair at the parish church of Saint Bridget’s in the village of Bride on the Isle of Man. I never give in, but back-to-back marathons for a 72-year-old with a dodgy knee was my realistic aim, so really no shame. I started pulling off my race number. However, at the checkpoint was a former winner of this 85-mile race who cajoled and then insulted me not to be such a wimp. I couldn’t rise from the chair but, lifted bodily, was shoved up the hilly road rather like trying to push-start a car. I spluttered into life to continue the Parish Walk through the closing dusk. This is my story of how I tried to walk farther, faster while 50 years older.
My Awkward Moment of Glory
When a last burst of speed pays off, sort of.
In Maine, like many other states, the Olympic marathon is a worthy aspiration. But here in my home state, it is the female Olympic marathon runner in particular who is at the sacred center of that aspiration. It is this way because Joanie Benoit Samuelson made it so when her gold in the 1984 Olympics made hers a household name. That such an athlete could come from my very own home state and go on to win the first women’s marathon in the Olympics was an unimaginable accomplishment and a force that followed me around through most of my adolescence. All of Maine knew of Joanie, and all the young female athletes that I knew wanted to be like her. We admired her from a distance but didn’t hesitate to presume that perhaps our hard, New England-bred discipline would help us too, in our own designs for athletic stardom, just as we assumed it must have helped her.
Heart of a Warrior
Taking on the Baker/Vegas Relay as a solo effort.
The official title of what is commonly called the “Baker to Vegas Relay” is “The Challenge Cup Relay,” which has been running since 1985.
The event began with two Los Angeles police officers who were the general manager and the athletic director of the LAPD Athletic Club, with the purpose of serving as incentive for law enforcement officers to maintain physical fitness. The race has grown from its initial 14 teams in the early years to today’s maximum of 270 teams. Each team consists of 20 members, who run one leg of the relay each. Over the years, the course’s starting line, finish line, and route have changed or have been interrupted by an occasional blizzard, but the theme of the event remains focused on “teamwork, camaraderie, physical fitness, and competition.” The current categories of participants have expanded beyond law enforcement officers to include probation officers, district attorneys, US attorneys, and civilian police personnel.
When a Trail God Falls, “Love Endures”
Ultrarunning star Timothy Olson keeps racing in perspective.
If you were like me during this year’s Hardrock 100-mile endurance run, you got online at 4:00 a.m. Saturday to find out what was happening at the front of the race. With new star entrants like Kilian Jornet, fresh off a record ascent of Denali, and Timothy Olson, who holds the Western States 100 record, the men’s field was stacked, and there was sure to be high drama. Indeed, Jornet handily obliterated an impossibly stiff course record, winning in 22 hours, 41 minutes. But as I scrolled through irunfar.com’s live feed to replay what had been happening all night while most of us were snuggled in bed, I came across an iconic photograph taken and tweeted by Dominic Grossman: illuminated by his headlamp in the black of night, Timothy Olson passionately kisses his wife, Krista, their eyes closed, absorbed for a moment in their own sweet intimacy. Grossman captioned, “In the middle of a storm, in the San Juan backcountry at mile 58 of #HR100 . . . LOVE ENDURES.”
Running the 292-Mile Badwater Double
In 1977, Al Arnold became the first person to run the 146 miles from the Badwater Basin in Death Valley (which, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere) to the summit of Mount Whitney (which, at 14,505 feet, is the highest point in the continental USA). In 1989, Tom Crawford and Rich Benyo conceived the idea of doubling this feat and became the first people to complete the 292-mile round trip, which is referred to as a “double” (Benyo 1991). In 2001, Marshall Ulrich set a record for the double of 96:07 as part of his celebrated “quad” crossing (Ulrich 2004). I set out on July 1, 2014, with the goal of completing the double and—if all went perfectly according to plan—of improving on the record. If successful, I would contribute in a small way to the tradition that Tom, Rich, and Marshall established of seeking out extreme challenge in the beautiful but unforgiving environment of Death Valley and the High Sierra—and then raising the bar.
After the experience was over, my crew and I identified several lessons learned that we thought might aid other Badwater runners in such areas as planning, crew leadership, pacing, nutrition, and footgear. We offer these ideas with the goal of inspiring others to take on the Badwater course and to further improve the times for single, double, and other crossings. But first, here’s what happened.
The pros and cons of altitude training.
The benefit of altitude training is currently a hot topic in the world of athletes, long-distance track runners, and in particular marathon runners. This involves exposure to high altitudes for several days, weeks, or months, undertaken with the intention of improving their competitive performance at lower elevations.
It is very much a controversial regimen, and there is a huge number of opinions, medical facts, and statistics both for and against undertaking this type of training.
An African Adventure
It’s about the shirt, after all.
It all began with a shirt, a shirt I had never seen but one that I was convinced would be the ultimate souvenir of my Peace Corps adventures in West Africa.
As I now run through the foothill trails in Boise, Idaho, in preparation for another marathon, I am reminded of that shirt and how it was my motivation to try my first marathon.
The idea to run the Milo Marathon was illogically raised by my friend Becky in July 1997 while drinking and smoking outside a Peace Corps suboffice in Kumasi, Ghana.
Anyone else? I wanted to jump up out of my seat, raising and waving my hand while loudly calling “Me, me, me” as I had done as a child. My mind raced. What a crazy concept! An African marathon run by a female abruni (literally “white man,” this term was used to refer to all foreigners no matter what their race, color, or sex)—I mean, who runs marathons in Africa, let alone their first? OK, so maybe it was a pretty big leap to try to train for a marathon in only two months, especially since I had not even run more than 10 miles at any one time in my life. But I was full of the optimism of youth, the hunger for adventure abroad, and a desperate desire for more structure in my daily African routine
Worst Run Turned Best
Misery loves company.
One recent morning, my 6:00 a.m. speed-work session was shaping up to be one of my worst runs ever.
The weather was awful, completely dark outside and the air temperature hovering around the freezing mark, which wasn’t the problem in and of itself. But it was amazingly wet, too. The precipitation dumping from the sky was a chilly combination of rain, freezing rain, and sleet. Most surfaces were coated in a glaze of ice and there was wind, strong sustained wind that carried the water horizontally, with gusts that drove it right through my “water-repellent” running clothes. Five minutes out the door, and I felt as though I had jumped into a glacial river.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy winter running. Subzero temperatures, snow, wind—I love running through a winter wonderland. But this particular morning was proving to be a major exception.
Distance Learning and the Ultra Life
A tale of two runners.
To most of the nonrunning world the idea of running any distance becomes more outrageous the longer the distance. Even to runners, the marathon distance has only gradually and begrudgingly gained acceptance as a reasonable goal, mostly after shorter distances have been tried and in the best cases become accustomed to. There is also the belief, or perhaps myth, that as runners age and gradually slow down they become attracted to longer, nontraditional distances. An operational definition of a traditional distance is that it is “found in the Olympics” even though the 26.2-mile marathon distance was set somewhat arbitrarily in the last century in the first London Olympics. I’m not too different from many runners in that I still have an outsider’s view of ultrarunners. What are they thinking? Just what makes them tick? I decided that I would try to compare my own experiences up to and including the marathon distance with those of a good friend who exemplifies the ultra life. There are others who have run a marathon (or farther) every week for a year, but this individual ran his first ultra at age 18 and continues to run them in his 50s.
Book Bonus: Going Far
The decline in book sales and an eye toward Oregon. Part 14.
58. The descent
HONOLULU, HAWAII. December 1979. The higher your climb, the harder your fall. Even if you settle back to where you had been not long before, the comedown is disappointing. My summit arrived in the final months of 1978 and early 1979. My royalty check peaked out at its heftiest size ever, and I imagined that such amounts would continue indefinitely. Then I accepted a Road Runners Club of America double: a hall of fame induction and a journalism award. The descent came steeply after that.
My spring royalty check from Anderson World, the book-publishing branch of Runner’s World, dropped by half from the last one. The fall check shrank to one-tenth of peak size. Fellow authors Hal Higdon, Joan Ullyot, and I refused to believe that our sales could have sunk so low, so quickly. We suspected underreporting of sales. The three of us demanded an independent audit, which our contract allowed but which also put us in conflict with RW publisher Bob Anderson.
Into the Wild
For the first time in memory, there are no campfires at Red Star Ridge. Usually, as night descends on the Friday evening before the 5:00 a.m. Saturday-morning start of the Western States 100, there is a major campfire at the site of the Red Star aid station and several satellite campfires up the ridge in the direction of Duncan Canyon.
Two years ago, nearly every campsite had its own campfire against the unseasonably chilly and damp (and, at 4:00 a.m., wet) weather.
Tonight there are none.
It wasn’t planned this way. It just spontaneously occurred when the volunteers drove the dusty dirt road from Robinson Flat (where the asphalt ends) to Red Star through acre after steep acre of fire-ravaged mountainside. Considering California’s current drought and the sobering effect of seeing so much fire-caused devastation, it dampened the usual cheery camaraderie generated around a crackling campfire. New logging roads had been gouged into the mountainside so lumbering trucks could get in to haul out the damaged trees—trees that were pristine inside but scorched on their bark.
On the Road with Chris Lotsbom
A Marathon’s Essence: The Medal and Race Jacket
For months—four, five, sometimes six—you’ve been eyeing one goal, one moment, one oftentimes circular piece of metal. Completing a marathon takes dedication and perseverance. You train day in and day out, knowing that on one day coming up, you’ll bend down, tie the laces up in double knots, pin on a number, and toe the start line. The marathon is a day of buildup, hype, and anticipation, concluding with overwhelming jubilation.
As one of my coaches once said: the hard work is done. Just go out and have fun.
Race day is unlike any other, though, a day looked forward to for weeks on end. You’ve tortured your body through long runs and workouts, tempos and fartleks, all to get to this point. And when the starting gun sounds—bam—it’s begun.
(Well, I guess you could say race day begins at 1:30 a.m., when you’re tossing and turning in bed, waiting to rise and get out the door. . . .)
But the real race begins at the start line. You start with your mindset as high as the clouds, knowing that in just a few hours you’ll have completed a goal. Between then and now, you’ll go to hell and back, likely hitting the Wall in between. Half your inner voice tells you it’s worth all the pain: you’ve trained for so long, so hard, and you’re not going to give up now.
My Most Unforgettable Ultramarathon
2013 Zumbro Midnight 50-Mile
ZUMBRO RIVER BOTTOMS, THEILMAN, MINNESOTA, April 12, 2013 — There were three running events slated for the second weekend in April in Theilman, Minnesota. The races are held in the hills around the Zumbro River bottoms in this small southeastern Minnesota town. There was the Zumbro 100-mile, but that was too long for me, and the Zumbro 17-mile, which seemed a little short. So I chose to run the Midnight 50-mile (as the name implies, it starts at midnight!), which seemed just about right.
I completed my training with a short run on the Monday before the race. I had heard the weather was going to turn bad and wanted to avoid it. On Tuesday, it was cloudy and a little chilly.
On Wednesday, it got cold, and then it rained.
Thursday, it snowed. I went online to look at photos from last year’s race to get an idea of what the weather was like then, and the runners were wearing shorts. It was the same for the year before. Everyone seemed to be smiling and enjoying a beautiful Minnesota spring day. So how come it’s snowing? It was raining again by the time I went to bed.
When I left home on Friday morning, the rain had changed back to snow. Oh, well, I had a 60-mile drive ahead of me. Maybe it will get better as I get closer.
Grand Island Trail Marathon
As close to nature as you can get.
What is Grand Island Trail Marathon? If you are an experienced trail runner, it’s not the toughest race you’ve ever run; but for a lot of you, it might be in competition. It is not an isolated race where you run forever without anyone else on the trail; the race has filled up early in recent years, since veterans of the race have spread the word. It is a race that many work hard to get in every year and that leaves its participants charmed and with warm memories of the beauty that is the island. The race crew works hard to make this a truly green race, so if you are into having your cups provided and lots of gimmes given to you, stay away.
Biofile: Willie Mtolo
Date of Birth: May 5, 1964, in South Africa
First Running Memory: “I remember the first day I came to New York in 1991. In those days, runners from South Africa were not allowed to run internationally. But we heard rumors that South Africa might be allowed to run in 1992. This is why the New York Marathon invited us to watch the race. And while we were here we signed a contract. So I remember I came here for the first time, my mind was so broad but my aim was just to finish in the top 10. So winning New York, coming to the finish line in first, was a big dream for me to win the race. So it was nice and I remember those days.”
Running Inspirations: “When I see Carl Lewis running. That is my inspiration . . . seeing Carl Lewis running.”
On the Trail with Meghan Hicks
Limitations, or a Lack of Them
Author’s Note: I had this column almost all written. It was largely about gallivanting in the forests and returning to running after my long injury, something I’ve been enjoying a little of in the last couple of months. It was also about the returns from injuries I know other runners around me are experiencing, too. But then our sport changed in the blink of an eye at the 2014 Hardrock 100, and a new theme emerged. And just like that, our sport’s slate was wiped pretty clean by what happened at that race, and so was this column. Here we go!
Less than 24 hours before I penned this, the world of trail ultrarunning was upheaved, shaken, and then stirred. This occurrence was not unlike one of the major geological events that have occurred along the San Andreas Fault or on the Hawaiian Islands that have changed the face of the planet. The earth shifts, and lava flows and flies. Twenty-two hours, 41 minutes, and 33 seconds: that’s the time it took for Kilian Jornet to run the 2014 Hardrock Hundred-Mile Endurance Run. That’s also the precise amount of time it took for our sporting world to change.
Let me back up to a little perspective of what I mean by this.
On the Mark
When the Time Comes
I was very interested in your “On the Mark” Q&A in the May/June issue, which wonderfully examined the subject of getting slower as we age—sometimes dramatically. The answers were well thought out and sensitive to the runner’s concerns about losing speed with age. I’m 72 and suffering from a similar dilemma. My last marathon was in May and I barely made it in under the six-hour cutoff. Psychologically, this is somewhat devastating in that in my prime I several times went under three hours. I was used to running 50-60 miles a week. Now, having slowed so steadily, it would be almost like a 40-hour workweek to get in that kind of mileage. And of course, with insufficient mileage, I’m not going to improve my times. I think it might be time to hang up the old Sauconys and call it a day. I don’t want to be a burden to race directors and volunteers and don’t want to continue frustrating myself by missing goals. Have any of your experts dealt with this, and more important, can I still call myself a marathoner if I no longer run marathons? – Sid Blank
How I Became Gary Fanelli
And got myself to the 1988 Olympic Marathon. Part 3 of 4.
Since childhood, I’d dreamed of competing in the Olympic Games. But I seemed to be taking a roundabout way of getting there, turning into something of an itinerant runner, seeing the world either by hitchhiking or on a Merchant Marine ship. But I continued running, training, racing. And I began getting better . . . and perhaps was also beginning to become better focused toward my goals.
1979. I felt good about my running. I was still improving nicely.
I hit a 5,000-meter PR of 14:19 at the Rutgers Relays in April and a 10,000-meter PR of 29:39 at the Penn Relays.
I continued to improve so I entered bigger races, like Falmouth, where I placed very well. I ran in the Diet Pepsi Finals in Purchase, New York, and ran a road PR of 29:37, and beat a lot of the top US runners. I was just thrilled completely. I was realizing my dreams.
In October I ran the New York City Marathon and finally qualified for the US Olympic Marathon Trials with a 2:18:19.
1980. My racing and training were very good. In April I hit a nice 5,000-meter PR of 14:06 at the Rutgers Relays. I was still improving.
At the Penn Relays it was another PR at 10K of 29:22.
In May I entered the Midland 15K, which had a star-studded field, people like Bill Rodgers, Lasse Viren, Herb Lindsay. The field was just loaded. I ran well and turned in a 15K PR of 45:47 for 16th place, beating a lot of good runners I had never before beaten.
I was fit and ready for the US Olympic Marathon Trials.
Speed Training for Marathoners
Lessons from the intersection of science and coaching.
Ever since Pheidippides allegedly ran into Athens, croaked “Victory is ours,” and (supposedly) died, the marathon has been viewed largely as a test of endurance. “If you want to run, run a mile,” legendary Czech distance runner Emil Zátopek (1952 Olympics gold medalist at the 5,000, 10,000, and marathon) once said. “If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” But these days, more and more runners are realizing that if you want to run your best marathon, you also need to be fast. If in doubt, consider this: Wilson Kipsang’s 2013 world record (2:03:23) was run at a faster pace than anyone prior to 1950 ever managed to run a 10K . . . on a track.
Not that endurance is irrelevant. If your body isn’t prepped to go 26.2 miles, it really doesn’t matter how fast you can run a mile repeat. “If you have to choose between intervals or long runs, I’d say long runs are better,” says Tom
McGlynn, founder of the online training program runcoach. But that doesn’t mean everything should be centered on the long run. In fact, weekly long runs may be counterproductive, increasing the risk of injury and leaving you too tired for other high-quality workouts, says elite coach and exercise physiologist Owen Anderson. “Implicit in the philosophy of the long run is the suggestion that the human body will somehow forget how to go long . . . unless a weekly battering is administered to the leg muscles,” he writes in his new book, Running Science. “Nothing could be further from the truth!”
Midpacker No More
Diana Treister masters Angeles Crest.
It’s the first weekend in August 2013, around 7:00 in the morning, in the Los Angeles suburb of Altadena. Bouncing down Altadena Drive is a petite, pixie-haired woman wearing split running shorts and a hydration pack, headed for Loma Alta Park. A smile consumes her face. Up onto the grass of the park’s acres she lopes, and when she reaches the banner strung above her head that says, “FINISH,” she jumps up to slap it in triumph. Diana Treister, age 45, resident of Altadena, has finished the Angeles Crest 100 in 26:25, more than three hours faster than she has ever done before. And she has a lot to say about her experience, things that will help and inspire all of us who have spent time as midpack runners, whether in marathons or in ultras.
“You’re not trapped in that [middle of the pack] group. You are if you think you are. Sometimes you need the experience to convince yourself of breaking out, like I did.” Diana’s voice, on the other end of a phone call, is speaking about performance possibilities for middle- or back-of-the-pack runners in ultras. She is cheerful yet adamant. “Now I think I cracked into this new territory, and I believe more things are possible.”
Diana of the pixie hair didn’t find ultrarunning until injury and happenstance at age 40; once there, she found her tribe and her mojo in the mountains next to her home near Los Angeles. But first, it started with cycling and a long mountain ride with a bunch of rocket scientists—really.
The Women’s Marathon
How has it changed in the 30 years since its debut as an Olympic event?
When the women’s marathon was voted into the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, it was one of the most widely celebrated program additions in the history of the modern Olympic Games. Fittingly, this was a result of the strong popularity of marathon racing that had been developing for both sexes since the late 1970s. Joan Benoit’s never-to-be-forgotten gold-medal Olympic mark (2:24:52) stood for 28 years to the day until Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia broke it at the London Games (2:23:07). In the 30 years since the event’s Los Angeles debut, record numbers of women from an increasing geographic area have tackled the distance. Huge sums of prize money, appearance fees, and endorsements are now available to top female marathoners (the winner of the Dubai Marathon netted $200,000 in prize money alone this year, as an example). Not surprisingly, factors such as these have resulted in faster times and a continually expanding depth of high-quality performances.
But what else has changed over the past three decades? How has the women’s marathon evolved on a global scale? How does the current US women’s marathon scene compare to the early years? What other interesting details emerge when looking closer at the historical data? We seek to answer such questions, along with several others, using data and lists from the International Association of Athletics Federation, Association of Road Racing Statisticians, Track & Field News, and David Martin (emeritus Association of International Marathons & Distance Races statistician) to analyze the progression of the women’s marathon since 1984.
Look Back in Wonder
Deena and Meb in retrospect.
Can it really be 10 years since Deena Kastor’s and Meb Keflezighi’s historic runs at the 2004 Olympic Games?
Thank goodness for the miracle of YouTube and for the timelessness of its content.
Even a decade later, watching Deena enter the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens and witnessing her reaction when she comes to the realization that, yes, she has just earned the bronze medal in the women’s marathon continues to inspire. Her jubilation remains as spontaneous, her relief as raw, and her tears of triumph as heartwarming as they were that magical night in Greece.
“I started crying because there were so many people in those stands who had so much to do with me being there,” Deena says. “My family—I thought about all the amazing and constant support they’d given me since I was 11 years old . . . my ultimate life mentor, Coach Vigil . . . my husband, Andrew . . . my manager, Ray Flynn . . . everybody was there and they were all able to share in that moment.”
Watching Internet footage of the men’s race is no less compelling. There is the bizarre incident involving some wacko dressed in a kilt. There’s Meb, lurking, stalking and eventually attacking. And there are the three medalists—Italy’s Stefano Baldini, Meb, and Brazil’s Vanderlei de Lima—virtually floating around the ancient track toward the finish line as they are buoyed by the cheers of tens of thousands of spectators.
“Athens was a breakthrough for me in terms of the marathon,” Meb says. “Somebody else had a better day, but I had a phenomenal day.”
These were our Deena and our Meb—the two Southern Californians who were determined to help bring US distance running back to relevance. From the moment they first established themselves as professional runners, they encouraged us all to dream big. They convinced us that we could accomplish just about anything if we simply put our hearts into it, and then they disappeared into the solitude of the mountains of Mammoth Lakes to show us how.
The Spy Who Ran in From the Cold
Only to face the heat.
The very last place you would ever expect to find a Cold War-type spy story—complete with clandestine operations, political intrigue, sworn secrecies, flying under the radar, and falsified passports—would be a 100-kilometer footrace.
Wouldn’t you think? Especially if it is supposedly a highly touted competition expected to challenge the best ultrarunners on the planet in a one-shot, winner-take-all ultimate 100K that’s secretly being heralded as a “world championship”? Yes, even so. It was an international, elite-level, Olympics-scale road race that was all done hush-hush!
Because it couldn’t be done, really, any other way. The time was 1989, the place was South Africa, and the reason was apartheid. Actually, the reason was a total ban on all things athletic involving South Africa by international sporting authorities (including the Olympics) and by American national organizations, such as The Athletics Congress (TAC) that later became the USATF and which, then and now, is ultimately governed by the IAAF.
If a banned country with banned athletes wanted to engage in something like a world championship footrace and invite the world’s best—who were all prohibited from competing there—to race within its borders, it had better do all of it under the radar.
And that’s exactly what the sports promoters did in the RSA (Republic of South Africa). They actually pulled off a cloak-and-dagger spectacle right under the very noses of those international authorities, at which those who organized and ran were, in effect, thumbing their noses.
It was the Standard Bank World Challenge 100K Ultramarathon held in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, in the RSA on the fourth of February 1989, and very, very few people alive today have ever heard of it.
He never won the big one, but he won everything else.
“It has happened in Melbourne, in London, and Oslo. In fact, almost every time I’ve been fortunate enough to achieve a world record, a peculiar sense of disappointment has engulfed me soon afterwards.”—Ron Clarke, 1966
On July 14, 1965, at the Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway, Australia’s Ron Clarke set a personal-best time for the 10,000-meter run, improving his time by 35 seconds. In doing so, he also improved the world record for the 10,000-meter run by the same amount; it was the third time he had broken the world record for the 10,000 and his time that day was 27:39.4. Along the way, Clarke regained the world record for the six-mile run, a record no longer kept, which Americans Billy Mills and Gerry Lindgren had taken away from him earlier that summer at the US championships.
Clarke’s performance that day remains one of the legendary running performances of all time. Only once had the record for the distance been bettered by a larger margin. The first acknowledged record for the 10,000 was 31:20, set by Finland’s Hannes Kohlemainen in 1912 and improved to 30:40 by fellow Finn Paavo Nurmi.
The track was cinder in Oslo, and as the race went on, the inside lane became cut up and loose, less than ideal for fast running. There were no pacemakers. In fact there were only two other runners in the race, Jim Hogan of Ireland and Claus Boersten of Denmark, who became something of a hero that day and an interesting footnote to running history. Neither runner could challenge Clarke over 10,000 meters. Hogan was a world-class runner and a close friend of Clarke’s. He would go on to a gold medal at the marathon at the European Championships the following year but could not challenge Clarke over 10,000 meters. Boersten was what Europeans would call “a good club runner.” Billy Mills, the surprise 10,000-meter gold medalist from the previous year’s Olympics, was supposed to run. Clarke had looked forward to racing the man who had denied him Olympic gold, but Mills withdrew.
The Ironman Marathon
The event where marathon training has diminishing returns.
By the time I got to the aid station at mile 15 of the marathon, I had to sit down. Then I had to lie down. I took off my sunglasses and just stared at the sky. I started pondering whether I should call it quits. I started doing the math in my head to see if I could walk the rest of the marathon and still make the 11:00 p.m. cutoff time, but I couldn’t do the math! How had this happened? I’m a marathoner! The run is my strength. I guess when it comes to an Iron-distance triathlon, my running resume doesn’t mean squat. What had gone wrong?
After two years of participating in triathlons, I felt I was ready to move up to the Ironman distance, which consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run. In those two years I participated in one sprint, four Olympic, and two half-Ironman triathlons with a whole bunch of running races mixed in, including a marathon. When considering the challenge of completing an Ironman triathlon, I thought the swim and the bike would be brutal but that I would make it all up on the run. After all, I’m a runner. Boy, was I in for a painful learning experience.
A Run Through Boston
Such a full weekend should have been exhausting. Just the opposite.
A perennially popular event during Boston Marathon week is the Runner’s World “breakfast of champions,” where the attendees get to see and listen to former winners of the most prestigious marathon in the world.
At the 2014 breakfast, past winners gave us encouragement, suggestions to improve our race, and pragmatic advice.
Sara Mae Berman, the unofficial women’s winner in 1969, 1970, and 1971—unofficial because women were not allowed to officially participate during that era—declared “finish because you can.” Jacqueline Hansen, the official women’s winner in 1973, encouraged us all to “finish because we deserved it.” Geoff Smith, winner in 1984 and 1985, gave practical advice: “Trim your toenails.” Amby Burfoot, 1968 winner, recommended we “savor the moments, don’t get caught up with your time, and focus on just finishing.” Greg Meyer, 1983 winner, urged us to “make friends along the course.”
The night before the race, I trimmed my toenails to avoid the infamous black toe. Geoff has had personal experience with this painful condition in which your toenails fall off during the race. I also took out Jacqueline’s inspiring book, A Long Time Coming, and read uplifting excerpts and quotes: “To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved but at what he aspires to do.”—Kahlil Gibran.
I made my first friends on the bus ride over. As I was high-fiving my way down the narrow aisle in my purple-and-pink pajamas, one perky runner cackled, “Those are the best warm-ups I’ve ever seen!” Suddenly, I was in a friendly contest with a lady who had alternating blue-and-yellow nail polish on her fingernails and the words “Boston Strong” written across her fingers. I yelled out, “It’s no contest, she wins, hands down!” The roar of laughter discharged the nervous energy and people settled into relaxed conversations with their seatmates for the duration of the 40-minute ride to the start area in picturesque, suburban Hopkinton.
Taking Back Boston
The return to Boylston was a time of revival.
Book Bonus: Going Far
Life, like long-distance running, involves enduring and winning. Part 13.
55. The son
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA. September, 1977. Without intervention from doctors, babies arrive on a timetable all their own. They pick the day and the hour. Janet and I appreciated our second child’s timing. Labor began after sunrise (after my run, even) on the Saturday of a short workweek (for the Labor Day holiday, fittingly). Before sunset, Janet delivered a big boy—almost 9 pounds with a head size that mom would never forget.
We named him Eric Joseph. I didn’t want him to be a junior but accepted the middle name because I wasn’t a Joseph, only plain old Joe. Grandma and Grandpa Allardyce brought Sarah to the hospital, and she met her new brother when he was less than an hour old. She was old enough, at almost 4, not to feel threatened by this rival for her parents’ attention that she had had all to herself until now.
Sarah was just a year away from starting school. As my office hours and travel time had grown, I had missed more and more of her early years. Now in preschool, she had started leaving home for part of each day. The time I had lost with her was irreplaceable. I didn’t want to let so much of Eric’s growing up to happen without me.
I couldn’t have guessed while holding him as a newborn how much we would be together in the years ahead. He would be 3 before we learned that he had been born with limited hearing and would need hearing aids and special schooling. He would be 6, and still not voicing many words at a time, when his mother and I separated, and we all agreed that he should live mostly with me.
Eric would learn to speak while talking with me. Later, as he mastered his second language, I would learn to sign while talking with him. We would learn to communicate in ways beyond words.
In early May the Road Runners Club of America held its 56th annual convention in Spokane, Washington. The group annually schedules its convention in conjunction with a road race, in this case the Bloomsday, Don Kardong’s brainchild and one of the largest road races in the country.
The RRCA consists of more than 2,300 member clubs, everything from single-event clubs to monster clubs like the New York Road Runners.
As with most conventions, as much business gets done and as much solid information is exchanged at the social gatherings and between the formal sessions as within the sessions themselves.
In this instance, get 300 race directors or race committee members together in one place, and the talk turns to, well, races, and how they are run: not how they are run by people wearing race bibs but how they are run behind the scenes by the folks—mostly volunteers—who put on the races.
On the Road with Chris Lotsbom
Thank You, Meb
I remember it like it was yesterday: July 7, 2013. It was my 23rd birthday, and I was celebrating in Clevedon, a quaint little seafront town on the Bristol Channel in England. I sat in a beautiful flat with one of my dear friends and her family, bent forward, staring deep into the television’s soul. Hopes and dreams rested on the television screen, ones that were generations in the making.
On that fateful Sunday—the seventh day of the seventh month, 77 years after the last Briton won a men’s Wimbledon Championship title—Scotland’s Andy Murray captured victory at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, snapping one of the longest droughts in sports history. Great Britain had reclaimed the crown at Wimbledon.
My Most Unforgettable Marathon
2013 Boston Marathon
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, April 15, 2013 — I’ve decided I have to run a PR at the Boston Marathon tomorrow. I’ve got to. It’s the night before the race, and I’m tossing and turning in bed, turning over modified splits and paces in my head. I’ve never run Boston before, and even though I’m here as a charity runner and have never run under the 3:35 cutoff time that would qualify me to run in my age group, I still have to do right by the Boston Marathon, and it seems that running anything less than my fastest would be disrespectful.
Stinson Beach Marathon
A serious brush with the Dipsea Trail.
Stinson Beach along the coast of Marin County in Northern California is noted for many things from nature, but two of those things stand out: the beach is frequently closed due to great white shark sightings, and the beach is often infested with runners—runners with muddy shoes, briars and brambles sticking to their clothes and hair, and often standing up to their hips in the ocean’s salt water in spite of proximity to great white sharks in an attempt to neutralize the poison oak ravishing their legs.
Because Stinson Beach boasts the finish line of the famed Dipsea Race (June), it is also the start/finish of the Double Dipsea (July), and the Quad Dipsea (August), and one year it was the start/finish of the Dipsea ’Til You Drop, which ran from sunup to sundown, the winner being the runner who traversed the 7.2-mile hellishly hilly course the most times. The Dipsea Trail is overrun with poison oak, and for those who are potential poison oak victims, the choice between being munched on by a great white or soaking in salt water to alleviate some of the itching isn’t even a tossup.
Biofile: Sabrina Mockenhaupt
Date of Birth: December 6, 1988, in: Siegen, Germany
First Running Memory: “I started to run at 16 years, and my first marathon was in Cologne in 2007. And it was hard in the end.”
Running Inspirations: “It’s my addiction. I need running everyday. It’s like I can’t live without running [smiles].”
On the Trail with Meghan Hicks
Forgive me, readers, as I know you have come here to read about trail running. I will get there in this column, eventually. I thank you for your patience and your turning of the pages until I do.
I am a passionate writer. I don’t remember not being one. In saying this, I cast no judgment on the quality of my work. I am as aware as you good readers are that the quality of my writing varies based upon a lot of variables, like my mood, how emotionally connected I am to the subject matter about which I write, the amount of background information I am able to obtain, and more. Good writing, bad writing, and, at times, ugly writing, it’s the means through which I communicate with the world.
On the Mark
Many elite marathoners train twice a day. (I’ve even heard of the occasional long-distance runner who trains three times a day!) Is there any real benefit for the four-hour marathoner in training twice a day? And if your goal for a day is to run 10 miles, wouldn’t one 10-mile workout provide more endurance benefit than a six and a four? – Tony Self, via e-mail
It’s called multiday racing today. However, 150 years ago it was called long-distance pedestrianism, and the man who inspired the blue-ribbon event in the sport, the six-day race, was the then-incredibly famous American “walkist” from Providence, Rhode Island, Edward Payson Weston.
The world-famous sporting superstar was just 40 years old in 1879 when, for the first time in his professional career, he actually ran to claim a world record of 550 miles in six days around an eight-lap-to-the mile sawdust track at the Agricultural Hall, London, to win the Astley Belt.
The Art of Ultrarunning
Make of your race something special.
There is an artist in New York City named Shaun El C. Leonardo whose work I like. His paintings, drawings, and performances explore the masculine identity in his own life and in his Latin culture, in many cases through sports imagery, particularly the hypermasculine (or combat) sports of wrestling, boxing, football, and bullfighting. (“El C.,” or “El Conquistador,” is his masked wrestling alter ego.) In one performance in 2011, I saw him as one of 15 wrestlers in a blindfolded cage match, lasting until only one man was left—cool as hell, by the way. Since he was set up as the hero, I was surprisingly surprised when (spoiler alert!) he lost.
Fifty Shades of Leadville
Very much inside a 100-mile trail run.
Leadville 100-mile endurance run: just before 4:00 A.M., Saturday, August 18, 2012.
This was my first time, and I was scared.
It was dark, 37 degrees, and there were just over 800 of us lined up for the start of “the Race Across the Sky,” the 30th running of the Leadville Trail 100-mile run.
I moved myself into the front third of the group, not because I was that fast but to be closer to the front when we hit the technical single track around the lake. Jay B. (a friend and Leadville veteran finisher and also, like me, from Greenville, South Carolina) had told me it was very difficult to pass on the 10-plus miles around Turquoise Lake. He would be right.
We were running.
Nervous laughter, bobbing headlamps, dropped GUs, and dust, it had been a long journey—finally I was running Leadville.
500 the Hard Way
Englishman Steve Edwards sets a mark that won’t easily be matched.
Historically, Englishmen have enjoyed a reputation of epitomizing what it is to be a gentleman, and the English in general (apart from a few exceptions) have always been considered honest and fair-minded when it comes to sport, whether as a spectator or a participant. Certainly the Olympics in 2012 confirmed that reputation.
And It Ends With a Wedding
Celebrating the diamond jubilee of Hillary and Norgay with a marathon.
I can think of no other races that involve a two-week trek just to get to the starting point. When I chose to do the Tenzing-Hilary Everest Marathon—celebrating the 60 years since Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest—I had no idea what I was getting into. After the long trek up and the eight-hour marathon, it all ended with a wedding.
Bob’s loved one didn’t know that he was considering the ultramarathon. Kris didn’t expect she would have to sleep in a cave. Bob took only 7 kilograms of clothes for the hike, race, and relaxation, none of them warm enough for the freezing temperatures at base camp. Sigfried’s trek bag missed the plane. Kris made a blanket out of plastic bags she found on the trail. Patrik was nursing a sore knee from training. Bob’s health would decline as we moved farther up. Sigfried suffered through the race and still crossed the finishing line with a smile.
Musings of an Accidental Ultramarathoner
We learn as much in the wake of a race as we do while running it.
In the late fall of 2012, at the age of 41, I ended up running my first ultramarathon. It was the New York Road Runners 60K contained wholly in Central Park, which translated to running the middle four-mile oval circuit for nine repeat laps. I say “ended up running” because I had not planned on participating in any of the race, let alone the entire 37.2 miles. A friend of mine who had run nine marathons informed me of his midlife quest: he would be turning 50 in 2013 and had gotten it into his mind that it would be a good—no, a great—idea to run a 50-mile race sometime after his birthday. So far, so good. I had no obligation to my friend, and though I thought he may have at some point during one of his longer runs rattled a couple of screws loose, I fully endorsed his decision (at least in his presence) to do 50 at 50.
OK, fair enough. What did this have to do with my “expedition”?
It may be easy enough to connect the dots, but the circumstances were more complex than you might suspect, so I’ll give a quick synopsis of what happened.
How I Became Gary Fanelli
And got myself to the ’88 Olympic Marathon. Part 2 of 4.
As a young lad, I developed the dream of someday running in the Olympic Games after I watched the Mexico City Olympics on TV when I was 17; I was truly inspired! I had run track on my CYO [Catholic Youth Organization] team from ages 10 to 13. I worked hard at running, and little by little I improved. But the focus of a young fellow in the 1960s and 1970s, especially one with a yen to see the world, can get a little fuzzy—especially if it is influenced by sex, drugs, and rock ’n ’roll. I had worked hard to stay away from the draft yet found myself being lured into enlisting, with the promise that I would get to run on the Army’s track team. Alas, it was not to be, and I was let go by the Army, so I was on the road again.
Back home, I got in my daily run and I hooked up with my old girlfriend Dotty; we hung out listening to good music like Bob Dylan. We got high. I was kind of happy but not 100 percent launched into my running although I was running a few miles every day.
Running the World Marathon Majors
A guide to running – and enjoying – six of the world’s best races.
I got to see the mayor of London, the chancellor of Germany, the pope, and a 101-year-old marathoner. A London taxi driver gave me a free ride and took a picture of me because I had come from the United States to run London’s marathon. I ran on the same course, at the same time, as elite runners who ran the fastest marathon times in the world. Those arm movements from the Village People’s “YMCA”? I performed them with thousands of other runners in the streets of Tokyo. I own a piece of the Berlin Wall. Millions of spectators cheered for me as I ran by them in the streets of New York City, Chicago, Boston, Berlin, London, and Tokyo. I made lifelong friends all over the world. All this happened to me because I ran the six World Marathon Majors.
Cycling for Runners
How to use cycling to make you a stronger, more injury-resistant runner.
Most of us began running as children, purely for fun. Then we learned to ride a bike, and that was for freedom. A bicycle gave us the ability to visit friends, go places, and establish some independence from our parents.
Then we grew up, and many of us gave away our bicycles. We moved away from home and bought cars. Some of us became runners, and some of us even became marathoners and ultramarathoners.
Now it’s time for us to return to our bicycles. Once again, the goal is freedom, although this time it’s freedom from the muscle imbalance, strain, and injury that may result from running.
The goal of this article is not to replace your running with cycling; instead, the goal here is to explain why adding cycling to your schedule will make you a better runner.
This article will explain what gear and equipment you need and how to incorporate cycling into your workout routine. By the end you will know all you need to know to get started.
Thom Gilligan: Marathon-Travel Man
The Boston runner who invented destination-running tourism.
“Tom” in Swedish means “empty.”
“I didn’t want to have a name that means ‘empty.’ So I decided to add an h,” Thom Gilligan said about his visit to the Council Chamber in Stockholm where he saw a lot of seats labeled “Tom.” That was in 1981, at the first European marathon visited by Gilligan’s fledgling running-travel business, Marathon Tours & Travel.
Since then, there has been nothing empty about Gilligan’s restless creativity or his record of business success. “Full” is the word for his contribution to the running industry and to running culture—full of ideas, full of accomplishment.
Top 10 Ways Your Crew Might Sabotage Your Finish
And how to circumvent them.
During an ultrarunning adventure, participants often joke that the one constant is weather fluctuation, a guarantee that conditions will change during the race.
Your support crew should be a constant, as well—not necessarily the same people each race but perhaps the same core crew and definitely similar personalities and experience. If runners understand and communicate their needs before, during, and after an event, they can potentially groom their crew to be a reliable and positive force. Once they achieve this, they wield a mighty weapon during competition: a competent, constant engine driving their running machine.
The responsibilities and expectations of any crew are dynamic and varied. They might differ from race to race or, just like a weather change, even hour to hour. Much of it depends on the race.
For instance, in a timed race on a loop course, your crew will be pitching tents; hauling gear; pouring drinks; tracking your intake, output, and lubrication; and perhaps running with you every 10 or 20 minutes for 100 yards as you eat or drink. Much of the crewing experience entails lather, rinse, repeat.
Growing Slow is Mandatory
Growing up is optional.
Do people ever really change? More to the point, do runners ever really change?
In Chasing the Runner’s High, I wrote that all runners can be divided into four groups:
• New runners are still trying to figure it out. They often have doubts about whether they’re going to keep running, and some of them don’t.
• Fitness runners enjoy how running helps them stay healthy and build strength and stamina, but they’re casual about it.
• Racers are all about testing boundaries and keeping score. They set goals and make them a priority. Those goals are often about speed, but someone who is jogging through a marathon to collect another state or someone who can’t take a day off to let a minor injury heal might also be a racer.
• Mature runners have taken the final step. Running is still important to mature runners, but they don’t let running control their life.
Book Bonus: Going Far
When it comes to marathons, once is never enough. Part 12.
46. The heat
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. April, 1977. The Japanese have a saying that goes roughly like this: “He who climbs Mount Fuji once is wise. He who does it twice is a fool.” Once this sacred peak is summited, why go back and reconquer it?
If the marathon is the distance runner’s summit, Boston is our Fuji, our holy place. A running career is not complete until it includes a marathon finish. And then, never mind if it looks foolish, once is seldom enough. This is especially true of Boston. After my first Boston, in 1967, I had to get back for another try. That didn’t happen for nine years, but I had to wait only from one April to the next to run my third here.
Some runners keep coming back for more in search of the perfect race. George Sheehan wrote, “They are much like surfers seeking the perfect wave. No matter how many times you attack [the marathon], you always think you can do better, find more energy, more fortitude, more courage, more endurance. You always think this time you will be the hero you were meant to be.”
In 2013 the Road Runners Club of America inducted three running legends into its Hall of Fame: Tom Fleming, Dr. Dave Martin, and Allan Steinfeld. Allan was the president of the New York Road Runners Club and race director of the New York City Marathon for 10 years. Dr. Dave is one of the premier researchers into running, both biologically and from a history standpoint, and is coauthor of The Marathon Footrace. Tom is . . . well . . . Tom.
During the 1970s and early ’80s, Tom was one of the most ambitious, ferocious, dedicated, hard-working road racers you’d ever encounter. He was ambitious in the sense that he wanted to win every damned race he came near, ambitious in that he was obsessed with winning Boston, which he never did, although he came close. He placed second in 1973 and 1974, less than a minute behind the winner; in 1975, he placed third—it was the year Bill Rodgers set an American record of 2:09:55—with a 2:12:05, which became his PR.
On the Road with Chris Lotsbom
Wesley Korir: More Than Just a Marathoner
Wesley Korir has become a hero in Kenya in more ways than one. Some may know the always-smiling marathoner for his exploits on the roads between Hopkinton and Boston, for Korir won the swelteringly hot 2012 Boston Marathon in 2:12:40, executing a finely calculated come-from-behind strategy to perfection.
Others may know him from the Asics Los Angeles Marathon (which he has won twice) or the Bank of America Chicago Marathon (four top-five finishes). His personal best sits at 2:06:13, run in 2012.
Perhaps those who follow the sport very closely remember Korir from the University of Louisville, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology while racking up All-American honors on the track.
Yet, for all his accomplishments in running, Wesley Korir would like to be known for something far greater than fast marathon times or his record in World Marathon Major events. He wants to be known as someone who has made an impact on society.
My Most Unforgettable Ultramarathon
2012 Palo Duro Trail Run
LOGAN, UTAH, September 24, 2010 — At 4:55 a.m. we were barreling along an empty expressway, with no exits until Salt Lake City, Utah. The downloaded directions to the 2009 Wasatch Front 100-mile footrace that I was reading with my headlamp assumed we were driving north, not south as we were. The race began at 5:00 a.m. I recognized a cross street and blurted, “I think we’ve passed the turnoff for the start.”
“What do you want me to do?” my husband, Sean, answered, his hands tightening around the steering wheel in exasperation.
“Make a U-turn.”
Our truck bounced down a weed-choked culvert and up the opposite side onto the highway going north. Soon we encountered a long line of parked and double-parked cars blocking the winding road up to the race start.
“I’m gonna just go,” I said, jumping out with my hydration pack. I sprinted up the hill into a mass of bodies and headlamps. The countdown was at “Eight!” Near the front, I found the check in and watched my name being highlighted. Relieved, I laughed. Whatever happens in the race, at least I’ve made it to the start, I thought.
Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon
Interest in Boston creates boom for Via Marathon.
To say that the Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon has grown would be an understatement, as the marathon, half-marathon, and relay drew 100 percent increases in participation in all events in 2013. The Pennsylvania race, which began in 2007 with just over 150 marathon runners, has never previously had more than 912 runners, which came in 2011. In 2013, the marathon division swelled from 697 entrants in 2012 to 2,037 entrants.
According to officials, the reason for the sudden growth was due in large part to increased interest in running the Boston Marathon. And while there are dozens of qualifying races for the event held each Patriots’ Day in Boston, the Via Marathon has separated itself from the pack.
Biofile: Ryan Vail
Date of Birth: March 19, 1986, in Portland, Oregon
First Running Memory: “Doing a holiday run in Portland with my aunt. A little Christmas 5K.”
Running Inspirations: “My wife, Eva.”
On the Trail with Meghan Hicks
Musings on Injury
Currently, I am injured.
I know, sad faces. Teary, red, temper-tantrum, stomp-around-the-house sad faces!
It has been a while since I’ve been injured, 2010 to be specific. That one was a nasty injury that set me back for over a year. A year! Luckily, I’m a few years older, wiser, and more self-preservational this time around so I jumped on the treatment of my injury straightaway. (Tell that to my injured leg, right?) I didn’t run in pain for too long, letting things fester and linger, as we runners are wont to do. Still, it’s an injury that has absorbed weeks of training in what was otherwise supposed to be peak training for a goal race. (Injuries always come at the most important times, don’t they?)
On the Mark
I may quit running, but I don’t want to. After 38 years of consistent running and 100-plus marathons, the time may have come to hang up the shoes. I’m now 71, in perfect health (I think), never been hospitalized, take no pills, good outlook and disposition, work out at the gym three times weekly, etc. But I just can’t seem to get it together anymore. After 14-15 miles in a race, my legs are shot. The muscles hurt, I can no longer hold the pace, and I alternate walking and running. I have done very little speed work or any “specialized” training over the years, so maybe I am now paying the price of ignoring what the experts advise. PR: 3:32; three years ago 4:30; now 5:15. I know aging causes changes, but this is ridiculous. Do other old guys go through this? Any idea as to what I can do? This is a big deal to me, and I will do anything to change it. I only want to get my times back down to 4:25 so I can do Boston again. – John Gillis, Greensboro, North Carolina
More Bang for a Buck!
Upgrading marathon finisher medals is cheaper than most realize.
Imagine one morning walking into your den, cup of coffee in hand, and the first sight you behold is a pig’s hind quarters mooning you from your wall. It’s not exactly good motivation for putting on your sneakers for your a.m. run, or is it? Many marathoners have a crazed addiction to collecting finisher medals and are naturally drawn to races with distinctively designed keepsakes. There are several different types of medals being presented at finish lines, yet the tired finishers don’t usually comment on their prizes until much later through social media. So what are runners saying? It’s either hot or cold with medal designs, but one thing is certain: no marathon will get a thumbs up with an average finisher medal.
Stepping It Up
Race directors are listening to the running
Back in my day, we had to walk to and from school, uphill both directions, in 15 feet of snow. Even worse, we had to do any necessary research at the library using actual books. And it was painstaking. If we needed to seek opinions from others, we had to conduct surveys in person or on the phone. Now such labor is no longer necessary—not even among the race directors of popular marathons when they are brainstorming their latest medal designs. Some wise race directors do the same as young whippersnappers do these days: they turn to social media outlets for help. Social media is proving to be a boon for race directors (RDs) who want to improve their medal design to win the hearts and loyalties of their runners.
Fastest Marathons by Event and Their Trends—Women
Based on a six-year average using winning times.
Every year, big-city marathons such as New York, Boston, London, and Berlin are won in fast times. For example, three women’s world records have been set in Berlin. However, that marathon has not always attracted the very top runners, the female winner clocking 3:07:07 in 1979. The winning times from year to year can be used to determine which marathons are consistently won in the fastest times. This study will do just that and go further to reveal how fast or slow the major marathons of the world have been won in throughout the last three decades. The men’s version of this study was featured in the May/June 2013 issue of M&B.
Shooting the Palo Duro 20K, 50K, and 50-Mile
A primer for photographers.
As a boy child in the 1950s, with an imagination fueled by TV and movie westerns, most of my play activities were built around playing cowboys and Indians. Cowboys were, of course, the good guys, and Indians were very mystical and would move with the winds and speak with the animals. Fast forward to now. Here I am, sitting in a canyon, in the dark, on a rock, waiting for the sun to make its first warm colors. I can feel the spirits of the Comanche and Apache chiefs, shamans, warriors, women, and children who stood on this very spot, also waiting for first warmth of the early-winter sun. I hear coyote packs howling. I imagine the spirits of John Goodnight and his men who began to find a way to feed the Americans as they moved west. They also stood here, as did the famed Buffalo soldiers and Texas Rangers, among these very rocks, cacti, and hoodoos.
Today my shooting is not with guns or fingers and sticks. Today’s “shooting” is with my cameras.
How I Became Gary Fanelli
And got myself to the 1988 Olympic Marathon. Part 1 of 4.
This is my attempt to tell the somewhat outlandish story of how I got to run in the 1988 Olympic marathon, thus fulfilling a 20-year dream.
As I was watching the 1968 Olympic Games on television as a 17-year-old, I kept having this strong intuitive feeling that one day I, too, was going to be in the Olympics.
And sure enough, 20 years later, it happened, but it happened after much blood, sweat, tears, odysseys, triumphs, tragedies, successes, failures, surgeries, wrong turns, blind alleys, and convoluted and winding roads.
During that 20-year process, I had to tune in to my inner self on a regular basis, had to keep the faith.
No matter where I went or what I did during those 20 years, my inner voice had one message: run. And run I did, but seldom in a straight line.
Throughout all of the strange trips I took along the way, running was my rock (and roll).
Wonders Down Under: Adrienne Beames and Derek Clayton
Two Aussies from Melbourne transformed the marathon in 1967-71.
In July 1969, a man walked on the moon. Our world would never be the same. The modern age of marathon running was launched at that same time, with three journeys into the unknown, all three blasting off, of all places, from Melbourne, Australia.
1. On December 3, 1967, when the men’s world marathon best had stood for two years at 2:12:00, suddenly the news broke that an unknown Australian named Derek Clayton had won Fukuoka in 2:09:36.4: sub-2:10! When no one had even gone sub-2:12! The shock was as if the first sub-two-hours marathon were to happen not in 20 or 30 years from now but today, right now, while you’re eating breakfast and reading this Marathon & Beyond.
2. Two years later, Clayton was no longer unknown, his big bony figure, fast low stride, and raw aggressive attitude featuring in every top marathoner’s bad nights. He was still the only man on earth to have broken 2:10. He had had injuries and surgery and we began to think he might be a one-shot. But on May 30, 1969, this time in Antwerp, he knocked our brains out again, running one whole minute faster, 2:08:33.6.
3. Two more years on, August 31, 1971, just as the new breed of American and European women marathoners were jostling to be first to break three hours, another unheard-of wonder from down under beat them all to it, by an even bigger margin than Clayton’s. Adrienne Beames had run 2:46:30, said reports from Werribee, a bit outside Melbourne. It was a giant leap for womankind.
A story in future tense.
Bobbi Jo was racing through the streets of Fairbanks when her iCoach blasted her out of her dream and into her bedroom darkness.
“Rise and shine,” said the chirpy, aerobics-instructor voice she’d thought so inspirational when she’d picked it from the 200 or so available options. “Today’s morning run starts in 75 minutes.”
Bobbi Jo squinted at her clock’s old-fashioned red numerals, the kind you could read without fully waking up. It took a moment to focus, then she had it: 3:15. Not her usual idea of morning. And if the damned thing was going to get her up at this hour, why the hell hadn’t it told her before that second glass of wine last night?
“Urp,” she said. “Why so ear—”
Then she realized arguing would require more brainpower than she currently wanted to engage. “Never mind.” She stared at the clock again, tried to do the math. “We’re starting at 4:30? I don’t need that long to dress.”
“Yes, but you do need 30 to 40 minutes to process caffeine, carbohydrates, and electrolytes and to bring your body parameters into performance range.”
Too many big words. If this thing was going to talk to her at this hour, she would need to get it the dumbed-down-communications app. But one thing was clear. “That’s not 75 minutes.”
“True. Patterns project that at this hour it will take 35 minutes to get you out of bed.”
“Yeah,” she said, wondering if she could also buy the device a snooze app. “See you then.” The too-chipper voice, though, was something she could deal with now. What was the cultured baritone she’d almost picked instead? Martin Freeburg? No, that wasn’t right. Oh, yeah. “Morgan,” she said. “From now on you’re Morgan.”
For pro triathlete Ben Hoffman.
The first time I met Ben Hoffman, he was living in Durango, Colorado. As much as he loved the Colorado mountain town, he thought he needed to relocate in order to further his triathlon career. There wasn’t anyone in Durango faster than him to swim with.
Hoffman’s triathlon career started when he saw a flier for the triathlon club at the University of Montana, where he majored in English and Spanish. “I thought it might be a fun thing to try,” he said.
He found out he was pretty good at it.
In 2007 he turned pro, and in 2009 he gave up his job to go full time with it. He went on to win Ironman Lake Placid in 2010, Ironman St. George and Ironman Wisconsin in 2012, and numerous other shorter events.
Hoffman recently placed 15th overall at the 2013 Hawaii Ironman World Championships with a time of 8:36:25 for the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run.
Being the second American to cross the finish line, he’s probably still having trouble finding faster people to train with.
First and Last Miles
Early and late in the marathon requires completely different approaches.
Every elite runner has certain physical and mental benchmarks, checkpoints, and strategic goals that can add up to a successful race. On paper, it always works. In training, it always fits. In a race, it’s always a mystery.
The master plan that each athlete constructs and executes is as varied as the individuals and the courses themselves. With 26.2 miles to cover, some segments are given less attention and focus (such as the opening miles), and some are given more attention and focus (such as the closing miles). Not all 26 miles require the same level of energy and guts.
“To be honest,” said dual Irish/South African citizen Alistair Cragg of Mammoth Lakes, California, “I don’t have a plan besides to get comfortable.” But upon further thought, he says, “If it’s with the lead [of] three or four the whole way, then I want to sit there and be with them.”
Miki and Toshi
Memories of my Japanese-American friends.
It happens every April because April always reminds me of Boston, and many runners I know make that association.
In April 2013 I celebrated my 40th anniversary of winning Boston and experienced the best and the worst of the day. I was given the honor of starting the elite women’s race out in Hopkinton. Then, like everyone else, I was exposed to the cowardly horror that diseased people perpetrate on innocent people. I leave that tale for another day.
This year’s Boston was the 40th anniversary of my teammate, Miki Gorman, winning that glorious race.
Back in those days, Miki came to work out with my coach, Laszlo Tabori, and our club, the San Fernando Valley Track Club (SFVTC), by the most unusual path of anyone on our team. Two fellow club members, Lu Dosti and Dr. Myron Shapiro, introduced her to us. Lu, Myron, Miki, and her husband, Mike, were all members of the LA Athletic Club, which Miki was encouraged to join in an effort to expand her social life and—as she told me—to help her gain weight, improve her appetite, and grow stronger.
Book Bonus: Going Far
Heat or cold, rain or snow, the run must go on. Part 11.
46. The heat
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. April, 1976. The running body is a great furnace but a poor air conditioner. The activity and the clothing warm us on the coldest days but overheat us on the hottest no matter how much we strip down. A 20-degree rule applies here, the runner’s day feeling that much warmer than the thermometer reads.
By that standard the early miles of that year’s Boston Marathon felt like 117 degrees. Even in actual temperature, a high of 97 at the noontime start, it would be my hottest race day ever—at any distance. It meant that I would work my hardest to run my slowest. I had been warned to toss out the prerace pacing plan and slow down, or else.
Dr. George Sheehan had put a healthy fear into his audience on Sunday morning when he told us, “Everyone thinks we’re talking about someone else when we tell the dangers of heat stroke. But I can almost guarantee that one of you is going to have serious trouble tomorrow.” He paused to let this message soak in. Then he added, “We had a man die of a heat stroke here three years ago, and more than two dozen were hospitalized. And it was 20 degrees cooler then than it will be tomorrow.”
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.