Volume 12 | Number 1 | January/February 2008
Children, those little sacks of raw energy, left to their own devices, resemble wild animals in their enthusiasm for life and movement. Watch a litter of puppies or kittens, and their every waking moment consists of roughhousing—everything from gnawing on mom’s ear to wrestling with a sibling to running around in circles for no discernable purpose. Toss a half-dozen kids into a room and walk away, and their antics are similar. They run around randomly, cavort, jump up and down in the same spot, wrestle with each other, squeal with the joy of just plain living, existing, moving.
Of course, concerned parents quickly attempt to squelch such innerdirected, spontaneous nonsense. These parents spend thousands of dollars on ridiculous imagination-robbing toys and games and “educational” mindnumbing videos, while all the kid wants to do is play with the boxes the expensive stuff came in.
On the Road with Don Kardong
Learning from Alan
Do the exploits of a fleet-footed miler have any traction in the mind of a marathoner? Is a runner a runner, no matter the speed or distance? Or is the relative obscurity of running’s superstars irrelevant in the lives of the millions of Americans who get up, lace up, zip up, and head out every morning for a few miles of mostly comfortable running? Stay with me on this, and maybe we’ll find out.
Let me start with this: Last summer, a running performance of considerable merit went largely unnoticed. Twenty-four-year-old Alan Webb broke a record that was set before he was born, Steve Scott’s American record in the mile. In July, Webb ran 3:46.91, eclipsing Scott’s 1982 mark by the better part of a second. Scott’s 3:47.69 had withstood all assaults for 25 years.
This was an eye-popping time at a distance understood and appreciated by almost every U.S. citizen. Many Americans have raced the mile at one time or another in their lives, and those who haven’t have at least some understanding of the difficulty of dipping under four minutes, a feat once considered impossible. Webb beat that formidable barrier by a hundred yards. He could have stopped at the top of the homestretch, retied his shoes, hitched up his shorts, waved to the crowd, and still finished under four minutes.
It was a remarkable performance, one any runner, and most nonrunners, should have appreciated. But did you hear about it? My local newspaper never mentioned it. Nothing on the evening sports telecast either. And no ESPN coverage.
My Most Unforgettable Marathon (And What I Learned From It)
MARINE CORPS MARATHON, October 28, 2001—Indeed, there is a great deal of truth to the so-called marathon mystique, isn’t there? Those who haven’t experienced the total package of accomplishing this feat view the whole thing as a mystery, while those of us who have intuitively understand its mystique. We respect it and revere it, all the while struggling to find words to adequately define it. Put another way, we just get it and others don’t!
I’ve been lucky. I’ve been able to get it 14 times. You would think that after so many marathons I might have trouble keeping them straight, but to the contrary, each one is uniquely and permanently etched into my memory and my being with precision. I remember 1998’s LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, trying to convert miles to kilometers in my mind at mile 20 and being too confused to do so. About that time, a female runner in blue shorts passed me with a strong and determined stride. I saw her again at mile 24 as I passed her. Her limbs were now rubbery and flailing haphazardly. I especially remember thinking, I need to stay in front of her because when she goes down I don’t want to be the runner behind her. Funny, the success strategies I’ve created for myself through running!
Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon
For a hassle-free spring race, this one can’t be beat.
Interested in running a fast spring marathon? Do you prefer low-hassle races that still have a fun, hometown atmosphere? The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon may be your ticket. The race exudes a friendly, down-home ambiance. The race director and all the volunteers are welcoming, cheerful, and happy to be of help.
The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is generally well regarded as a race with a low hassle factor. No need to take a bus to the start or from the finish; the start and finish areas are at the same place. Major hotels are within walking distance, as is access to public transportation, including buses and rapid-transit trains run by the Regional Transit Authority. Parking is abundant and easy to find. If you’re staying downtown, you can just roll out of bed and mosey over to the start and then mosey back when you’re done. Likewise, if you’re out in the ’burbs, you can drive, take a bus, or take a rapid transit train to a point near the start/finish area and then repeat the process in reverse a few hours later. Although the marathon and the tie-in events may host as many as 9,000 runners, the expo, the related events, and the marathon itself never feel too crowded.
Cleveland’s weather in May can be cold, warm, cloudy, sunny, or rainy, and sometimes all of the above during the same event! Another factor is the wind. Miles 19 to 23 are along Lake Erie, and the wind coming off the lake can sometimes be very strong. Nevertheless, the weather can generally be expected to be favorable.
Among the Young
Twenty-three isn’t as old as it used to be. At that age, I was racing toward the retirement that had already snagged most of my contemporaries. I had one more step to take, up to the marathon, before joining them.
At 23, I wasn’t young among marathoners of that era, when most runners stopped too soon. Now it’s a kidlike age in this sport, when most marathoners could be the parents of 23-year-olds.
I teach classes of college-age runners, but my proposal for adding a marathon class went nowhere. The given reasons: You can’t spread it over two terms, as the buildup in mileage would have required. You can’t meet just once a week for three or more hours, to accommodate the all-important long run.
The unspoken reasons: You won’t find enough students (12 was minimum enrollment at the time) to put this class into play. You won’t interest kids in running this far, which is too tough for them anyway.
Lively responses to our most recent issues.
On the Mark
Experts answer readers’ training and competition questions. This month’s question: Going Long. WHAT IS the longest practical training run that someone training for a marathon should take? What I mean is, is there a point where a long training run begins to creep into being counterproductive?
Our experts answer this question in our Jan/Feb issue.
The Aloha Baghdad Marathon
With cooperation from Honolulu, we raced two marathons half a world apart.
December 21, 2006—It was a chilly morning in December as race entrants
checked in, pinned on bib numbers, and huddled together in buses idling
with heaters vainly attempting to hold back the cold, contemplating a course as
different from its sister course, the Honolulu Marathon, as could be imagined.
This was the start of what was billed as the Honolulu Marathon in Iraq. In many
ways it mirrored any other prerace hubbub; but for 200 runners from numerous
countries and various military services, it held more than the challenge of covering
26.2 miles on foot.
The about-to-begin marathon was the second one in three years to be hosted
by the 25th Infantry Division, which is stationed in Hawaii. The two races were
sponsored by the long-running and world-famous Honolulu Marathon. Two years
before, a dozen or so soldiers had joined me on race day to run a satellite Honolulu
Marathon in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan.
For us, the event would be the culmination of the Honolulu Marathon trifecta:
Afghanistan, our home duty station of Oahu, and now Iraq. We were on the last
leg of a three-year tour with the 25th Infantry Division. This would be our last
chance to run together as part of the same light-infantry family.
Sara Day’s Quest
First lieutenant Sara Day wants to run the U.S. Marathon Trials,
but first she has to finish her Baghdad deployment in one piece.
CAMP LIBERTY, BAGHDAD, IRAQ—First Lieutenant Sara Day had just
hopped on the back of a bus near the massive concrete barriers that protect
her sleeping trailer from incoming rocket and mortar attacks here at a barren military
base just west of Baghdad’s International Airport. The 28-year-old soldier
was taking part of her platoon over to the fitness center—actually an enormous
air-conditioned canvas tent—for a group workout. But Lieutenant Day was slightly
annoyed. Her close friend in the platoon, Staff Sergeant Christine Cooper, was a
minute or two late, holding up everybody on the bus.
Lieutenant Day could see the usually punctual Staff Sergeant Cooper scurrying
toward the bus. Suddenly, a big boom rocked the air; that awful noise means
incoming indirect fire—in this case, a rocket had hit the U.S. Army base. Out the
grimy window of the dilapidated bus, Lieutenant Day could see Staff Sergeant
Cooper dive down headfirst, landing spread-eagled with her nose buried in the
hot sand. Soldiers are taught to get as flat as possible when rockets or mortars are
landing. It was July 2007, four long years into the Iraqi conflict.
Staff Sergeant Cooper was uninjured. Lieutenant Day and her soldiers proceeded
about a half mile to start their daily session of physical training. But there was a
commotion at the fitness center. It turned out that the rocket had landed about 30
meters in front of the entrance to the PT tent. A young female soldier, the military
policeman assigned to guard the entrance to the tent, had been hit by shrapnel
and killed. Lieutenant Day couldn’t help but choke back the morbid thought that
if Staff Sergeant Cooper had been on time, she and her soldiers would have been
walking into the entrance of the tent when the shrapnel was flying.
For Lieutenant Day, a shy and unassuming woman who spent her early years
on a North Carolina dairy farm, this was just another day at work, albeit at work
in a war zone. It is here, at dreary Camp Liberty, where Lieutenant Day and the
19 soldiers she is responsible for in her platoon grind through 80-hour weeks.
They go months at a time with nary a day off. Like the 168,000 other American
soldiers here, Lieutenant Day is doing her bit for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As the race progressed,
the crowds overflowed.
Countries that had contributed forces to the UN effort in the Korean War were
invited to send a representative to Seoul to compete in what was titled the “First
International Marathon Race.” The race commemorated the recapture of Seoul on
September 28, 1950. It was held exactly nine years later. The course followed the
route the UN troops took from Inchon to Seoul, finishing at the Capitol building.
Six countries accepted: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, Canada,
and the United States. One runner came from each country except Australia, which
sent two. I represented the United States. South Korea fielded 30.
It was fitting for a marathon to commemorate a war, for marathons are intrinsically
battles, battles against outside enemies and internal ones, pitting one side of
the spirit against the other. They are the trench wars of human history—exhausted
men slogging forward, holding on, one more road, one more town, summoning
courage in a never-ending struggle to reach a far-off finish. When the goal is attained,
there is no glory or vindication or meaning, only relief and a vague recollection of
combat and perplexity about the original purpose of the skirmish. The combatants
know there will be another battle the next day and the day after without end.
I have competed in over 500 races during a period of more than a half century.
All of the pain and frustration and failure endured in these contests and training
for them were wiped away by participation in two races—the Korean Marathon
and a 15-kilometer race in Mar del Plata, Argentina.1 Ten weeks and 11,000 miles
separated these races, but they shared qualities that set them apart from any other
competitions I have engaged in.
For the elites, there’s a lot more to doing well at a race than showing up and running fast.
You’re standing on the starting line, ready for the race ahead. You know about the turns and inclines. You take in a deep breath, exhale, and lower your head for a moment as a bead of sweat rolls off your nose and onto your shoe. You look to the side and notice a fellow runner who possesses a speedy final kick. The event hasn’t even started yet, and all of these thoughts are racing through your head before you take a single step toward the finish line. But you are of single focus.
The majority of the field may not necessarily micromanage or agonize over every detail involving training, weather, and competition. But for the elite marathoners whose livelihoods depend on repeated success, their minds are in constant motion regarding the selection, preparation, competition, and strategy. It’s their job. And it’s complex.
Flying With the Monkeys
How I lost my mind and created a new marathon.
What was I thinking? I mean, what business did I have putting together a marathon? I’m just a regular guy, just some local runner imbued with a touch of madness. Sure, I have picked up a marathoning addiction and have run far too many in too short a time for my own good. But to organize a new marathon? An insanely hard one? What was I thinking?
It began innocently enough, although these things tend to grow completely out of control all by themselves. We have a running club in Middle Tennessee called the Nashville Striders. In addition to all the races, training runs, and social events they put on to support local running, the Striders maintain an Internet message board with the stated purpose, "To serve the Nashville running community." Discussion threads vary widely, covering race performances, training-run locations, questions about health and nutrition, and occasional good old-fashioned trash talk. Runners use the message board to plan weekend runs and to plan or find routes. The board serves as a hub of information and entertainment for the virtual community of runners, with many having varying (and multiple) online personas and reputations.
Somewhere along the way, I picked up a reputation for using computerized online mapping tools to map nearly every possible running route for other runners.To be sure, I enjoy mapping my own runs, and I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for the routes. Mapping routes appeals to the compulsions that keep me running. Specifically, I love numbers: the number of miles covered, the number of feet climbed, the number of minutes per mile, and so on. So I make maps for an ever-widening array of local training routes, races, and fun runs. Discovering and mapping routes through my hometown of Nashville ever delights me.
Continued in our Jan/Feb issue, and online.
The Coastal Challenge Expedition
Costa Rica boasts one hot and heavy stage race.
At 10:00 A.M. on Saturday, February 4, 2007, with a cooling breeze and cloudy skies, 68 hydration-pack-clad racers (from 12 countries) sprinted off the starting line in the northern volcanic region of Costa Rica. Under the shadow of Arenal Volcano-one of the world’s most active volcanoes-runners hoofed a celebratory lap around La Fortuna’s town square.
A short stretch of road led them to a swampy jungle that quickly turned into a slick, muddy trail. Within an hour of the start, the leaders were thigh high in mud, navigating big, slippery steps over the shoulder of Cerro Chato Volcano. "I was crawling in the mud and grabbing branches to pull myself up the thick, slimy steps," said Beverly Anderson Abbs, 42, on Team Sunsweet, winner of the inaugural event in 2005. "But the payoff was a fabulous stump-hopping downhill." Local runners Juan Carlos Zuniga, 43, an agricultural farmer from Chirripo, and Javier Montero pushed the pace at the front, while Anderson Abbs, from Red Bluff, California, and Kurt Lindermeyer, from Bavaria, Germany, charged on their heels.
The 21K route shifted among jungle, asphalt, and gravel roads, for the first stage of the third annual six-day, 120-mile Coastal Challenge Route of Fire Expedition Run. Attracting a melting pot of ultrarunners, adventure racers, marathoners, and newbie endurance athletes, the staged ultra—from La Fortuna to Bahia Salinas—promised jagged volcanoes, lush jungle, steep gravel roads, and uninhabited beaches.
Two decades ago, Eric Clifton began an incredible winning streak.
Long careers in the sport of ultrarunning are unusual. The distance of the races, the difficulty of their associated logistics, and the challenge of staying healthy in spite of extremely high mileage training and racing often create career-ending obstacles for many runners. Additionally, the difficulty of integrating all of that into the normal demands of everyday life causes many ultrarunners to give up their running avocation. Few ultrarunners are consistent winners and champions for years, let alone decades.
"It is one thing to flame brightly for a short time, but another to be able to hit the heights over an extensive span of years," Nick Marshall wrote in his compilation of ultra winning streaks and multiple-decade wins in UltraRunning magazine in 2000. Marshall’s wins in ultraraces from 1975 through 1999 covered the longest span by an American at that time. We do not know of any such compilations made since Marshall did this one, although we were able to construct one for at least one runner on the list.
We were fascinated by Eric Clifton’s accomplishments, in that he was able to notch an ultra win in each of 19 consecutive years, from 1987 to 2005. Clifton’s total wins through 2005 numbered 58 among his 148 ultra finishes.
Eric Clifton claims to "just love running" but does not see himself as a very talented or biologically gifted runner. He identifies the secret to his success as his ability to run on the edge of maximum effort longer than most.
Shortly after he failed in his attempt to extend his streak of at least one win per year to 20 years, Eric, then 48 years of age, spoke to M&B about his motivation and inspirations, and of his view about ultrarunning.
The King’s Race and I
Adventures at the Bangkok Marathon.
It all started with an invitation.
In almost two decades of marathon racing, I had never before received an invitation from a race director, so I found myself in a very unusual position when I read the e-mail. To be honest, the invitation wasn’t addressed to me specifically. The director of the Standard Charter Bangkok Marathon had written an e-mail to the 50 States Marathon Club, of which I am a member, inviting club members who had amassed at least 100 marathon finishes to apply for sponsorship. The 50 States Club duly forwarded the e-mail to its members, which is how I found myself sitting at my computer, wondering what it would be like to be a sponsored runner. Me and Deena and Paula and Meb. Interesting.
I prepared my e-mail application and hit the send button. Weeks later, after I had just about given up on getting a response, an e-mail appeared from the race director apologizing for some computer problems and offering me room and board, transportation, and free entry if I would fly to Bangkok to run. In return, I was required to meet with the local media. I quickly e-mailed back an emphatic "Yes" and booked my flight. I was going to go to Thailand! The only problem was that, like many other Americans, my knowledge of Thailand is pretty much limited to knowing that it’s somewhere in Southeast Asia, that Yul Brynner was one of its kings (or so I thought when I was 6 years old), and that it invented one of the world’s greatest pasta dishes, pad thai. Beyond that, my knowledge was sketchy to nonexistent. This would have to change.
Straight Eye for the Running Guy
Ah, those were the great days of Dribble Kabibbles.
I started training for my first road race in April 1973, and I ran it at the end of September. That makes it about six months of training for my first race, which should be plenty unless the first race that you run is a result of youthful numbskull-headedness. You see, with the wisdom that comes with youth, I made my first road race the New York City Marathon, which was held on Sunday, September 30.
I was inspired to run this distance after watching Frank Shorter win the Olympic gold in Munich the year before. I waited until April to start training, since who would be crazy enough to train during the winter, especially in an Arctic city like Buffalo, New York, where I lived at the time? As you can already see, I was not very knowledgeable about what it would take to be a long-distance runner.
I had run cross-country and track in high school and just a bit in college, but I had never raced anything over three miles. But I did know running, and those high school days taught me how to prepare for a race (if it’s three miles or less). I knew nothing about training for a marathon, or running it for that matter. I would quickly learn some valuable but painful lessons.
Highland dancer, marathon runner, duathlete, RRCA president.
As a high school and collegiate wrestler in the 1950s trying to lose weight, I would run five to six miles along the path atop the 30-foot embankment containing the Susquehanna River in northeast Pennsylvania. Nary another like-minded soul was to be seen. Now when I return about once every five years or so and take a reminiscence run, dozens of runners are taking in the wonderful views. Running in the United States, of course, has boomed over the course of the past 50 years, and at the heart of that expansion has been the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA).
In the late 1950s, Browning Ross, an Olympic runner, proposed the creation of an organization for American distance runners. Several sympathetic runners agreed, and on February 22, 1958, the RRCA was born. Ross served as an acting provisional president, and over the years numerous other leaders, such as Ted Corbitt, Gar Williams, Jeff Darman, Henley Gabeau, Harold Tinsley, and Don Kardong, helped to expand the influence of the RRCA in running for health and fitness as well as in competitive long-distance racing. However, at the turn of the 21st century, the RRCA found itself in dire financial straits, attributed primarily to excessive publication costs and convention overruns, leading to the secession of a number of member clubs and the formation of a new organization that had, as one of its goals, the eventual restoration of the RRCA to its previous predominance in long-distance running. Several individuals played key roles in this process, and one was Bee McLeod.
How Morgan graduated from millworker to street fighter to
TransAm runner. Part 4.
This installment is continued in our Jan/Feb issue.
Volume 12 | Number 2 | March/April 2008
A Real-World Course—and Race
Everyone at this late date knows the outcome of the U.S. men’s Olympic Marathon Trials in New York City’s Central Park over ING NYC Marathon weekend, from Ryan Hall’s magnificent sub-2:10 performance on a course that demands the description “challenging” to the tragic loss of Ryan Shay, a runner who the Romantics from 200 years ago would have declared was cut down in the prime of his life and his talent.
The day was one of decidedly mixed emotions: from astonishment at the energy and exuberance of one Ryan who appeared that he had the steam left to run another five miles at the same speed he was going during the final miles to another Ryan who left a gigantic black hole of a vacuum in the emotional pool of everyone who followed the race either live a mere three feet from the runners or through an at-times cranky video presentation on TV.
On the Road with Don Kardong
Learning from Alan
I have an uncanny knack for maintaining weight. I’m not talking about putting on weight—that happens in spurts, and I’ll get to that in a minute. I’m talking about staying at a certain weight for long periods of time without giving it much thought.
I used to think this was simply the result of dedicated training. In college, even as some of my teammates would religiously, even obsessively, weigh in periodically and make adjustments to caloric intake for the next few days to lose a pound or two, I would skip all that and just do my running and enjoy my meals—the good, the bad, and the ugly. In my experience, if you ran at a high level and didn’t waver in your dedication, your weight would behave, no matter what you ate. That seemed natural to me, and the repeated trips to the scale I saw my teammates taking seemed unnecessary, compulsive, and silly.
During any given year, I didn’t weigh myself more than a handful of times. When I did, the number would invariably be within a pound or two of what it had been the last time I had checked, months earlier. In between, I would have run twice a day almost every day, eating and drinking anything and everything.
No worries. If you run as you should, your weight will be what it should. Or so I thought.
My Most Unforgettable Marathon (And What I Learned From It)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, October 12, 2003—Like a lobster in a pot, I was slowly coming to a boil. The temperature at start time had been in the low 40s, with runners wearing sweatshirts, plastic bags, and various other garments to stay warm. But by mile 10, the temperature was moving the mercury up in spurts. By the time I hit mile 22, the temperature was in the low 70s, and my body was rejecting itself.
The cramps started around 22, but when I came to mile 23, I was suddenly and viciously hobbled by knots the size of softballs in both hamstrings. Running was no longer an option, and what I was doing could barely be called walking: stiff legs swinging forward as I swiveled my hips, all the while talking to myself, You’re strong in the Lord and in the power of his might! I repeated this command for around 100 yards, when suddenly the softballs were tossed aside and running came back.
The old West comes alive on a fast, beautiful, downhill course.
At the start of the Steamboat Marathon lies the historic town of Hahn’s Peak. With the discovery of gold and silver in the early 1860s, Hahn’s Peak became a booming metropolis in the northwestern section of Colorado. It was the original county seat of Routt County, hosting the first school and post office in the county. The original jail cells can still be seen in Hahn’s Peak. Called the Bear Cage Jail, one of the cages accommodated Harry Tracy, who was part of Butch Cassidy’s gang. Population peaked at just over 6,000 hardy souls—unfortunately, so did the gold and silver. The town became a ghost town. The miners and businesses dried up and blew away.
Today Hahn’s Peak Village offers residents a historic and peaceful way of life and visitors a stroll through the colorful past of Colorado. The ColoradoResort.com Web site quotes: “The locals have opted to preserve the original quiet, residential character of the town and shy away from the commercial tourism development typical of many old Colorado mountain towns.”
Indeed they do, except for a very strange quirk of geography.
A Quiet Giant
One of my very best moments at my one and only New York City Marathon, in 1994, came at the starting line. There I lined up beside Ted Corbitt, who stood almost unnoticed at the back where he could see all that he had helped create.
He said, almost apologetically and so quietly I could barely hear him in the race-time din, “I only walk the course now.” His running had ended before this marathon went big time in 1976. And this is only one among many of Corbitt’s progeny.
If Fred Lebow was the New York City Marathon’s father, then Ted Corbitt was one of its grandfathers. New York’s 25th-anniversary book, published in 1994, credited him with helping take the race citywide. Typically, Ted downplayed his role, claiming a misunderstanding.
Lively responses to our most recent issues.
On the Mark
Experts answer readers’ training and competition questions. This month’s question: Three in Three Days. I AM a 50-year-old male who has run approximately 30 marathons over the last 15 years with times of between 3:30 and 4:30. I have no problem doing long, slow runs (up to 50K) when training for a marathon, and time is no longer important to me—finishing is. My question is this: I have the Tahoe Triple scheduled for September 2008 but have no idea how to train for three marathons over three days. Common sense tells me to simply run long three days in a row perhaps every two or three weeks, starting at 10 miles per day for three days and eventually working up to at least 20 miles per day for three days in a row. Weather and other commitments may make running long three days in a row difficult at times, and so I may have to settle for two long runs in a row at times. Am I on the right track or not?
Answered in the March/April issue.
When It Comes to Western States Hero Tim Twietmeyer, He’s Merely an Average Joe.
In November 2006, I snagged an invitation to the Runner’s World Heroes of Running ceremony in New York City. Nine running legends, including Frank I Shorter, were in attendance to receive awards in honor of their contributions to the sport.
But it gets better. Within half an hour, I found myself seated next to a familiar, mustached fellow decked out in an unfamiliar shirt and tie. Accustomed to seeing pictures of him in running gear, sunglasses, and a fuel belt, I hesitated in asking, “Are you Tim Twietmeyer?”
He seemed surprised by my question but nodded and smiled in the affirmative. Within minutes we were chatting like old friends. Twietmeyer seemed more in awe of his surroundings than by his inclusion in them. When Paul Tergat walked in, regal and resplendent in a dark suit, the ultrarunning legend to my left murmured, “Man, I can’t believe I’m in the same room as him.”
I began to understand why his nickname in the ultrarunning community is “A.J.” for “Average Joe.”
Confessions of an Ultramarathon Skeptic
Are They Truly Athletes? Or Are They Just Crazies?
Digging my way through the snow and scree lining the trail to Emigrant Pass, I’m only 10 minutes into the run and already feeling the effects of 6,000 feet of elevation. My initial pleasure at discovering that Squaw Valley is almost wholly without humidity—a welcome change from East Coast weather—is rapidly dissipating in the face of air that makes me feel as though I’m sucking a milkshake through a coffee stirrer. Not helping is the fact that my guide, Chuck Dumke, seems to be choosing the most difficult route up the mountain. Every 30 seconds or so, Chuck pauses to check the trail—usually just long enough for me to catch up, gasping—and sets off again, invariably straight through the nearest snowfield.
Â“I think this is the way… yeah, this looks familiar.
At first glance, the climb from Squaw Valley, the starting point of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, to Emigrant Pass looked like a nice four-mile workout. As a 2:40 marathoner, I figured to set a leisurely pace up to the top in plenty of time for the ceremonial flag raising two days before the race start. Instead, over an hour after starting, I’m thrashing myself to a pulp, and the top does not appear any closer. I finally stumble in just behind Chuck—looking quite well rested, thank you—at 11:55, just in time for the noon ceremony, only to find that we’ve overshot the site and climbed an extra few hundred feet in the process. The views from 8,500 feet, however, almost make the hypoxia worthwhile.
Continued in our Mar/Apr issue, and also online.
Making of a Marathon
The ING Georgia Marathon Was Lindsey’s Race.
The loss of a dear friend, a milestone birthday, and a longtime dream sparked the birth of the ING Georgia Marathon. Victoria Seahorn was about to turn 50 years old and had recently lost a close friend to breast cancer. She says that’s when she knew she should pursue her dream to organize a springtime marathon in Georgia for runners around the world to see Atlanta at its best. She envisioned 26.2 miles through historic streets and diverse neighborhoods that would showcase the city.
Seahorn wanted a race dedicated to spirit and life, a reminder of her dear friend Lindsey Gabe. The two women ran their first marathon together in 1993. They trained together through the Jeff Galloway program, and as many runners do after all those hours of running side by side, they formed a bond. For years they ran together, shared stories, and even volunteered for the Galloway training program to help others. Through it all, a close friendship flourished. About a decade later, Lindsey discovered she had breast cancer.
Throughout her battle with cancer, Lindsey didn’t give up fighting and didn’t give up running. Even as she was struggling through chemotherapy, Lindsey and Seahorn ran the Boulder Backroads Marathon together. Seahorn recalls what an amazing day that was: “It took Lindsey nine hours, because the chemo was taking such a toll on her that she had to walk, but she finished!
Endurance Training for the Mind
There Are Tried-and-True Methods You Can Use to Finish Well.
Out there in the distance, somewhere far, far away, is the line of achievement, the line of accomplishment, the finish line. In between here and there lie obstacle courses composed of hallucinations, blister patches, pits of fatigue, and chronic muscle pain. But none of these may be as challenging as the self-inflicted obstacles your mind creates for you. That’s the briar patch, so to speak.
There is a reason the 20-mile mark in a marathon is called The Wall. There is a reason runners of all distances have their version of hitting that Wall. But if the physical training is there, it shouldn’t be an issue, right? Not always. When that negative voice of “I can’t,” or “I’m too tired,” or “I didn’t train enough,” or “I’m not going to get a good time” permeates everything else, you’ve reached the point of mental failure; your brain wasn’t adequately prepared to go the distance.
“A lot of running is mental,” says Chicago ultrarunner Scott Jacaway. “You need the physical part, but when you go long distance, it becomes a mental thing.” Jacaway started running ultras about five years ago. In that time, he has completed more than 40 races ranging from 50 kilometers to 100 miles. And he has the right attitude to do it. “I’m not one of the top runners out there,” he says matter-of-factly. “But you don’t have to finish first; you just have to finish. That’s my philosophy.”
East Versus West Mountain Running
Is altitude in western races the defining element that makes them a unique challenge?
Not many things intimidate Ben Nephew. A respected road and trail racer on the New England scene with dozens of wins to his credit, Nephew is the kind of runner who finishes near the top at the notoriously brutal Mount Washington Road Race, which includes more than 4,600 feet of elevation gain in 7.6 miles and then follows that up by winning the Mount Greylock Half-Marathon trail race the next day. Nothing to it.
But he wasn’t too far into the Teva Vail 10K at 8,000 feet in 2004 when those races seemed like child’s play. Nephew’s head was spinning. The altitude was wreaking havoc on his body. The thin air more than a mile and a half above sea level robs the body of the precious oxygen it needs to perform aerobic exercise. Legs can feel like boat anchors, solid as old iron and equally useless for running. And the lungs, normally the most reliable part of a highly trained distance runner’s arsenal, can betray flatlanders without warning, making them feel as if they’re suddenly using the cardiovascular system of a two-pack-a-day smoker trying to lug a sofa up a flight of stairs.
Gifted, race-hardened runners can suddenly find themselves disoriented, gasping for air, thinking, Where is all the damn oxygen anyway? How do these people live up here?
Bunion Derby Fever
How the first footrace across America pulled the average working Joe into ultramarathoning.
In the last years of the 1920s, all things seemed possible: Charles Lindbergh made his solo flight across the Atlantic; the nation’s factories were turning out 4.8 million cars a year to feed America’s new love affair with the automobile; and in a sprinkling of American communities, average citizens were entering ultramarathons.
The spark that brought these races into being was the “bunion derby,” the nickname for the first footrace across America, run from Los Angeles to New York City in the spring of 1928. The runners who came to dominate the event were not international superstars but men who held everyday jobs: farmer, shipyard worker, factory worker, and repairman. Their success inspired their contemporaries to give ultramarathoning a try and brought the sport back to its roots. Long-distance running— often staged on indoor tracks—had once been the sport of the masses and rivaled horse racing in popularity. Working people bet on their favorite runners and followed them with all the fervor of today’s NFL fans. By 1928, ultramarathoning was no longer the sport of the people. It had become the bastion of college and amateur-club athletes until the Bunion Derby shook things up.
In Mar del Plata, a cavalcade of
bikes guards the runners. Part 2.
My major races arrived in pairs in 1959. The Pan American Games tryout marathons were separated by five weeks and the Pan Am and the Korean marathons by 26 days. A 15-kilometer race (its 50th anniversary) on Thanksgiving in Berwick, Pennsylvania—which I won—was separated from the Mar del Plata race by 10 days. The last would be my 19th race of the year.
The reaction of Koreans and Argentineans to foreign runners differed markedly. While the former treated them reverently, as if they were scholars or dignitaries, the latter viewed them as part of their family. After landing in Seoul, each runner received a special greeting consisting of a bouquet of flowers and his own sign, for example, “Welcome Marathon Runner Mr. Geoffrey Watt.” There were flags, speeches, and a solemn procession of cars, bearing them to the hotel.
In Argentina, I was met at the airport by one member of the race-sponsoring club and delivered quietly to the hotel. There were no bands. Why would ceremony be required for a relative? At the first introduction, the Argentinean clutches the visitor’s hands, stares into his eyes to establish intimacy, and embraces him. Given this culture, Mar del Plata could never have commemorated a war, though the group in charge of organizing the race and other events during a week of celebration was the Club Defensores de San Martin (CDSM). Jose de San Martin earned fame as a soldier and statesman, but he had died more than a century before. Whatever patriotic fervor had been attached to the club had long been eclipsed by social purposes. Besides, Mar del Plata was the playground of Argentina. It was the biggest seaside resort in the country, and with its natural beauty, diverse culture, and beautiful homes, one of the most popular cities in South America. In 1995, it hosted the Pan Am Games, and exactly one decade later it was the site of the fourth Summit of the Americas, with representatives from 34 countries, including George W. Bush.
Stepping Up to Longer Distances
Joyce Hodges-Hite finds her niche in marathons and ultras.
The number “100” is a significant one in Joyce Hodges-Hite’s running career. She eased into the sport by taking 100 steps and adding 100 each day until she built up to a mile. Hodges-Hite also has competed in 100-plus marathons, all in the last quarter century and past the age of 45, and is contemplating a 100K race.
Given her propensity for the century mark, who’s to say she won’t be running at the age of 100?
Hodges-Hite is 70 years old and lives in Millen, Georgia, a small town in the south-central part of the state. She lives there with her husband, Jim. They are both retired schoolteachers and USA Track & Field officials and coaches. Jim is a competitive masters runner who generally leaves the longer distances to his wife. “He likes the shorter races better,” said Hodges-Hite, a small woman with a friendly face and pleasant smile that mask the heart of an intense competitor. “He’s always waiting for me. He has more pictures of me because he finishes first.”
My quest for the icy grail and polar
My all-consuming love affair with polar running began innocently enough. The event that seduced me into the situation was just a whim, a one-night stand of sorts. I never dreamed that something so simple and harmless would blossom into a wild ride filled with such desire and passion. Since that fateful trip to Baffin Island in 1995, the journey has been nonstop, with no end in sight.
My wife—yes, I’m a happily married man—has allowed the affair to continue, but she hasn’t necessarily been happy about some of my choices. In one dark moment, she referred to herself as a running widow. Wow, that is just plain mean. At least she hasn’t changed the locks on the doors when I’ve been away on my adventures. She thinks the obsession with my polar mistress is like a merry-go-round that I can’t get off by myself. She thinks perhaps I need some professional help.
The Wisdom of Age
Why older runners hold up better.
Gordon Terwilliger, Len Goldman, Dan Conway, and Joe Burgasser are all masters runners with something in common. At first glance, the serious running junkie would point out that all four men were ranked in the top three of their respective age groups by Running Times in 2005, with a repeat performance by Burgasser in 2006. An extreme running junkie who pries a bit more finds something even more interesting. None of these elite masters runners did anything notable as high school or collegiate runners. In fact, the earliest any of them started to take running seriously was Burgasser at age 31. And in the case of Terwilliger: “I didn’t get serious until age 49, when I saw what the 50-year-old runners were running.”
Strangely enough, it seems these four men seem to be the rule rather than the exception. Of seven masters runners randomly selected from the 2005 list, only one, Gary Romesser (who also was a repeat on the 2006 list), competed at a high level in high school or in college. The others were far too busy with alternative endeavors. Conway, who broke the world indoor mile record, (4:41) for the 50-54-age-group in 1992, played Division III football. Goldman, who won numerous races in his age group running for the Pacific Striders in 2007, including the prestigious Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago, walked onto Indiana University’s track team as a sprinter.
The Mohave shows no mercy to the desperate Trans-America Runners. Part 5.
This installment is continued in our Mar/Apr issue.
Volume 12 | Number 3 | May/June 2008
When More Is Actually More
A theory in long-distance running that was popular in the 1970s has reemerged as a mantra of successful world-class runners today: to become a better runner, run as much mileage as your body can stand for as long as is practical, and then rest from your labors before restarting the cycle.
This sounds so eminently logical and practical that it hardly seems necessary to say it. Yet in the same way we have cycles in the seasons and cycles in a running career (think of Lasse Viren peaking every four years in time for the Olympics), we periodically need to state and then restate the obvious lest it be lost in the cacophony of scientific certainty and general-interest know-it-all-ism.
What I mean by that is that logic doesn’t always rest with the experts. In fact, on a fairly regular basis, the experts (in whatever field) bulldoze logic under a landfill of statistics and Swiss cheese research.
On the Road with Don Kardong
Return to the Marathon
I’m a marathoner again. Boy, am I proud. And,boy, did that hurt.
It didn’t hurt the whole time, just those last six miles. Or maybe it was the last eight miles. But I’m getting ahead of the story.
Until last December, my most recent marathon had been in the fall of 2001, when I ran Marine Corps and New York City a week apart. This was just a few weeks after the horrific events of September 11, and both Washington and New York were still reeling. Running those marathons was, I suppose, a tribute to those cities, a pedestrian pep rally, and a statement of faith in the future—not just for me, but for everyone who ran and everyone who cheered.
My Most Unforgettable Ultraarathon (And What I Learned From It)
LAKE MEAD, NEVADA, June 30, 2007—The Running With the Devil 50-Miler race description read: “A brand-new ultra . . . scenic . . . on gentle, rolling hills around Lake Mead near Hoover Dam . . . no crew allowed . . . average temperatures over 104 degrees.” Hmm.
I first read about this inaugural Mojave Desert event eight days before it was to be held. I hate heat but love a challenge—a nasty combination.
But the distance of the race, its proximity to Las Vegas, and its similarity to the epic ultra Badwater 135—in effect a baby Badwater—all intrigued me. And on top of that, I conveniently needed a sub-11:00 50-miler in order to be able to submit my entry for the Western States 100 lottery. The Vegas component, I must admit, weighed heavily in my quick decision. Unfortunately, this big desert adventure almost didn’t happen when my original flight from Pennsylvania was canceled; however, 12 hours and four flights later I was there, in Sin City. Amazingly, in spite of all the opportunities the airlines had to lose my baggage, it also arrived safely. Obviously, the stars were aligned perfectly, and nothing was going to get in the way of my experiencing some major desert misery.
Edge 2 Edge Marathon
If you’re getting tired of too-tame marathons, Vancouver Island offers a walk on the wild side.
Bears and cougars and wolves. Oh my!
The posted warnings regarding the imminent danger from marauding bears, skulking mountain lions, and packs of blood thirsty timber wolves provided a hint that this was not your garden-variety, big-city, high-profile, media-overhyped, flat-and-fast mega-marathon. Nor was it somebody’s idea of a joke. Bear sightings between Tofino and Ucluelet along the harsh west coast of Vancouver Island had increased as the promise of warmer summer weather tried desperately to fulfill itself while the relentless westerly winds blew salt spray and chill off the ocean.
Let’s pull down the world globe and see just how much open ocean lies to the west of the west coast of Vancouver Island. Hmm. There’s nothing between Japan and Vancouver Island but ocean, which means that winds coming from the west have 5,000 miles in which they can build up a momentum—and boy, do they. We recalled a cruise that we took several years ago from Seattle through Alaska’s Inside Passage; for the return trip, the captain took the huge cruise ship on a fast track along the west coast of Vancouver Island. The rocking and rolling was so bad that hulking, macho men were clinging to the handicap handrails and even half the crew was sporting green-tinted skin. The headlong rush of the wind and the waves batters the coast with a brutality that is unmatched in North America. The result is some of the most dramatic scenery in the Western Hemisphere: jagged black rocks, stands of stately evergreens, roiling breakers, many trees bent perpetually eastward, moody dark clouds overhanging everything, and predatory animals with an attitude.
This is not a response to the Chicago steam bath last fall. These comments took shape during a talk I gave the day before the temperatures—and the tempers—soared on that city’s marathon day (and at the less-reported but almost-as-hot Twin Cities).
I spoke as a nonrace director at a race directors’ conference at the Portland Marathon. First I thanked these people for all that they do in their sometimes thankless job, where they aren’t really noticed unless they do something wrong.
Then came a confession: I don’t get around much anymore. A few years ago I stepped off the national race circuit and now think locally and act locally as a teacher/coach of runners.
Lively responses to our most recent issues.
On the Mark
Experts answer readers’ training and competition questions. This month’s question:
Even Paced. I hear a lot about the benefits of even-paced marathon racing. But I have a lot of trouble running under control; I tend to run the way I feel, which often leaves me gasping in the final miles. How would your experts advise a guy like me to learn to run an even pace? I’m 42, a veteran of 14 marathons with a best of 4:04, and I’d like to get better.
Our experts answer this question in our May/June issue.
If you have to start somewhere, where better than the mile run?
My long and slow journey to the marathon began with a single mile. Everyone’s does, of course, but mine was a timed mile—which led to hundreds of one-mile races before I even thought of training for a marathon.
This excerpt from my next book—titled Home Runs: Early Efforts of a Writing Runner, and Where They Led—dwells on the miles that started all that would follow. These chapters appear on the 50th anniversary of my first official race. In keeping with the book’s subtitle, I supply instant updates to each of the old stories.
Training to combat marathon fatigue.
From a physiologist’s perspective, fatigue is the inability to maintain or repeat a given level of muscle force production, resulting in an acute impairment of performance. Fatigue is not something specific to slow or average runners. Even world record holders become fatigued; they just do it at a much faster pace than the rest of us. Indeed, fatigue is necessary to protect our bodies from damage.
However, the only way to get faster is to cause some damage so that the fatigue occurs at a faster pace. To do that, you must repeatedly threaten the body’s survival with training stimuli so that your body adapts and physiologically overcompensates. When the same stress is encountered again, it does not cause the same degree of physiological disruption. In other words, your body adapts to handle the threat. Below are the main factors involved in marathon fatigue.
The Olympic bronze medalist talks about Athens, Boston, and Beijing.
Six weeks before she would run in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials-Women’s Marathon in Boston, Deena Kastor tuned up by winning the Gate River Run in Jacksonville, Florida. The USATF 15-Kilometer Championships attracted 12,008 finishers. Having won the “Gate” five previous times, Kastor also was inducted into the River Run’s Hall of Fame. Prior to her victory, the woman who is known comfortably by all runners simply as “Deena” lunched with author Hal Higdon at The Lodge & Club, where she stayed before the race in Ponte Vedra Beach.
The Lodge’s dining room overlooked the Atlantic Ocean, but the pair could barely see it because of persistent rain and fog, unusual for early March. The next day’s weather was not much better, with gusts up to 40 mph that pummeled the slender Kastor as she crossed the 180-foot-high Hart Bridge over the St. Johns River in the final mile of the race. Deena’s time was 49:36, fast for the conditions but short of her 47:15 American record for that event.
Nevertheless, Deena felt buoyed by her fitness and anticipated success in the Trials and even more success in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, this summer, where her goal is (drum roll, maestro) the gold medal.
Â“And a very reasonable goal it is,” claims Higdon, a winter resident of Ponte Vedra Beach, who conducted this interview for Marathon & Beyond. He and Kastor began by discussing the documentary film The Spirit of the Marathon, in which she is featured.
Mixed Metaphors and Tenses
Trials and tribulations at Western States 100 ’06.
Down to just a couple of minutes now; brother Brian and I have used up all our nervous chitchat, and it’s time to go. Time to get up the first mountain. We’re starting at 6,200 feet and going up even from there. It’s dark, and in spite of a forecast calling for triple digits later in the day, we’ll shortly be traipsing across snow at 8,750 feet. I want it behind me, perhaps need it so. I need the whole of the high country at my back, now that I think of it—my head is throbbing with evidence that I’ll do poorly at this altitude. Unlike so many runners here at Squaw Valley this dark morning, I can’t wait for the canyons; they’ve got actual oxygen in them, even if it is a superheated, combustible thing. But first, the start.
Brother is a proud man, but in a discreet and quiet way. He prefers the thing done to the thing talked about, does not like ostentation. The Western States Endurance Run is an event fully aware of its place in the pantheon of endurance events, and he was never too keen on running it for that reason. Being a fan of smaller, lower-profile races, he was mildly scornful of a race vain enough to use a starter’s pistol in lieu of the less formal, “Is Joe back from the bathroom? He is? OK, go.” I see no starter’s pistol, but I do see Dr. Bob Lind nearby with a shotgun. I figure there’s two, maybe three reasons for that: gets us going in the first place; probably, they want to wake up the bears also; but really, I bet Dr. Bob Lind just enjoys pulling the trigger of a shotgun and seeing 399 fools head off up a mountain in the dark because of it. Hell, I would.
If you decorate the skin, make it mean something. A short story.
“I think I’ll get a tattoo.”
It was a straightforward, reasonable answer to my question about what she planned to do after high school graduation. But it did surprise me! I had never seen any sign of rebelliousness from Wesley—only proper behavior, bordering on conservative. But what do I know about women?
One thing I did know about this one—she was beautiful. Even now, seven miles into a 10-mile run, I’m touched by her beauty. What pleasure to watch her as we run, to listen to her labored breath as we tackle the hills. I am a lucky man, and I sometimes wonder why life has turned out so well for me. To run with her, at least occasionally, is a pleasure few fathers—much less grandfathers—are lucky enough to experience. I have watched her grow from an infant to a spindle-legged adolescent, to a teenager, and now into a beautiful woman. At age 15, she blossomed like March jonquils. One day there’s only promise, and the next day brilliant yellow is transforming winter into spring. So it has been with her. I noticed it even before the Jeeps, the Explorers, and the Jimmys began lining the curb near her home, leaving colorful oil rainbows sparkling on the asphalt. She’s so much like her mother that I sometimes call her by the wrong name. Being around her makes me feel decades younger.
The Marathons of Wisconsin
More to offer than just cheese.
A few years ago, I read an article by Dan Horvath in Marathon & Beyond titled “The Marathons of Ohio” (July/August 2004). At the time, I was one run away from finishing all 10 marathons in Wisconsin, a plan I had devised (much to my wife’s dismay) two years prior. I thought that Dan’s article was very well done, and it made me think about all of the great runs we have right here in America’s dairy land (OK, technically California produces more pounds of milk, but we still rule when it comes to cheese).
Although I was able to finish my Wisconsin quest in 2004, it took me until 2007 to finally send an e-mail and suggest that M&B do more articles about what various states have to offer in the 26.2 category (a growing family tends to make you kind of busy and a bit forgetful).
I was glad to hear back from M&B quite promptly after my first e-mail with the news that it would be open to articles on other states, and hey, by the way, would I be interested in writing one? I am by no means a writer (some of you have figured this out by now), but I thought, Why not? So, here it is, a complete list of the marathons held annually in my state. I’ve included as many facts as I could recall or look up, along with my personal experiences. I am not an expert on these events, just a guy who loves the beauty of Wisconsin and the charm the people here have to offer. I hope you enjoy the read and that it inspires you to visit.
Seven Habits of Highly Annoying Runners
A little common courtesy can make everybody’s race better.
Smack! It’s mile 14 of the Marine Corps Marathon, and I’ve just taken a left jab from a female runner who abruptly stopped to wave to a friend who called her name. Sadly, being smacked in the face by a female is nothing new, but this time I actually did nothing to deserve it. I was a victim of one of
the “Seven Habits of Highly Annoying Runners.”
After a standing eight count and being checked out by the fight doctor, Ferdie Pacheco, I got back to the task at hand and finished the race. For once, I was struck by something other than how bad a marathon finish line smells. As I was stuck in this smelly sea of humanity, I reflected on the previous 4 hours and 15 minutes and was amazed at the lack of courtesy and etiquette demonstrated by many spectators and fellow runners.
A Luddite’s Guide to the Best of the Running Web
Facts, figures, advice, and discussions about running are just a keystroke away.
I’m not sure that I would consider a five-minute marathon PR or the determining
of a local race’s start time and location to be one of humankind’s boons that
Messrs. Licklider and Taylor referred to when they first envisioned the World
Wide Web. I suppose it depends on whom you ask.
Surprisingly, Web surfing and running can go together. Running-related information
efficiently pruned and selectively applied from the Web can help you
run smarter—perhaps faster, too.
This article is a good place to start. It’s a review of what I consider the top
10 running Web sites. It’s a guide for those of you who perhaps predate the
Commodore 64 or have chosen, anachronistically, perhaps wisely, to leave that
wide Web to the rest of the world. It will help those of you who may not have
the time or the patience to sit in front of a Google screen and crawl—slowly and
painfully—through a googolplex of bytes in search of the perfect marathon plan;
it may point you, finally, to the right local race. It could even link you up with
some cyber community comprised of fellow like-minded sadists who love to bask
in postrun binary commiseration.
As a matter of convenience and to avoid referring readers to raw, unfiltered
opinion, I have purposely left out personal Web logs (blogs) from my list and
decided to stick with a review of mostly content-related Web sites.
A return to the scene of the crime makes everything good again.
I loved I Love Lucy. I loved Lucy. And you know what? Some days are Lucy
days. Nothing goes right, you get yourself into messes, you get all dirty, other
people find humor in your situation, and eventually everything works out. Desi
comes home none the wiser for your adventures and mishaps and kisses you on
It was to be my first race in my new home state, a 50K, my favorite distance:
longer than a marathon but easier. I had heard great things about it (the course
was beautiful) and not so great things (the race was poorly organized). But I was
ready to race and ready to roll, and roll out of bed at 3:30 a.m. I did, giving myself
plenty of time to cover the hour and a half drive to make a 7:00 a.m. start.
There aren’t many roads out here in the sparsely populated West. That I was
able to get lost—deeply, profoundly, 30-miles-out-of-the-way-headed-north-instead-
of-south lost——is a tribute to how poor my sense of direction is. It was
an achievement, really. As I drove through a geography of voluptuous mountains
and rocky, shale-showered hills, I noticed the natural beauty even as I swore at
the clock in my car, the illumination of the digits becoming less sharp as the sun
rose and I realized that there was no way, even once I had turned myself around,
that I could make it to the start of the race on time.
I did not. The Web site had directed me, without pretense of giving real directions,
to something called “Legal Tender.” I didn’t have a clue what Legal Tender
was, other than in some vague financial sense. Turns out, Legal Tender is a bar.
The bar, when I found it, was closed (it was just past seven in the morning; I was
not unhappy to see that bars were closed at this hour) and there was no indication
that an ultramarathon had ever begun there.
Crossing Over the Competitive Edge
Going for broke when you’re not prepared to pay the costs of bankruptcy represents madness.
As 24-year-old Anne Marie Letko stood at the starting line of the 1993 New
York City Marathon, she was convinced that she would win. She felt invincible
despite the fact that she
had never run a marathon and
that her coach, Tom Fleming,
had strong reservations about
Letko, “I was young and at
the top of my running. I felt
I could do no wrong.” Letko
would eventually build one
of the most outstanding road
racing resumes of her time.
A two-time Olympian who
finished 10th in the 1996
Olympic Marathon in Atlanta
and ranked number two in
the U.S. in the 10,000 meters
with a best time of 31:43,
she was a world-class runner
with an impressive career
that spanned 12 years.
The FBI decides to keep an eye on the Trans-America Race. Part 6.
Continued in our May/June issue.
Volume 12 | Number 4 | July/August 2008
Making the Rounds
On March 2, the 30th annual Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon was held under what can be described only as ideal conditions: cool air, bright sun, and a consistent tail wind.
Continued in our July/August issue.
On the Road With Don Kardong
We are sprinting happily—at least I think it’s happily—toward the 29th Olympic Games of the modern era. If not happily, at least inexorably and inevitably, so we might as well be happy about it. I know I am. I have great memories of my one trip to the Olympics as well as some, well, interesting memories of competing in Beijing.
Select Medical Corporation Harrisburg Marathon
The Keystone State’s capital hosts a gem of a down-home marathon.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a strange and diverse entity, from the cradle of liberty of Philadelphia—the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House, and Philly cheese steaks—to the northeast corner and its fall foliage and the famed Pocono Mountains. Go to Potter County in the north-central region, and you find that humans are outnumbered by deer by about 17.5 to 1. Go to Pittsburgh, and you will find steel plants, plate glass, and the Steelers. Centre County, in the middle of the state, is home to Penn State and its forever-young coach, Joe Paterno. The south-central area is home to the Amish, shoofly pies, and pretzels in Lancaster, and Hershey is famous for the sweet smell of chocolate.
So where does that leave Harrisburg?
My Most Unforgettable Ultramarathon (And What I Learned From It)
WILLOUGHBY HILLS, OHIO, August 4, 2007—On a scorching day in August 1987 in Germantown, Tennessee, I quit my high school crosscountry team. I walked away during a preseason run organized by the team’s upperclassmen. On that harsh August day, we embarked on an out-and-back eight-miler—a distance I considered at the time to be far beyond my limits. But I nonetheless joined the others, thoroughly convinced that I couldn’t withstand those eight miles. And sure enough, I didn’t. Intimidated by the distance and heat and lagging behind, I resolved within three miles of the jaunt that if this was what was expected of me, then no thank you. I stopped running and turned around, walked back to the school, and walked away from organized cross-country for good. Eight miles was too much. I quit.
Twenty years to the month after quitting a cross-country team I never really was a part of (or worthy of), I found myself finishing sixth overall in a 100-mile ultramarathon run on the hilly trails and paths of scenic northeast Ohio. The day’s heat had caused more than half the field to drop out. This race, the inaugural Burning River 100-Mile Endurance Run, brought 144 ultrarunners together at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 4, and spanned up to 30 hours for some.
Some races should stay exclusive. Not exclusively for the pros but not for just anyone, either. Not many events, but just three marathons: Boston and the Olympic Trials for men and women.
The sport needs this set of races reserved for runners who go fast, not just those who enter quickly. They draw the lines that distinguish the best of us from the rest of us. The only argument I have with qualifying standards is where to draw the lines.
When I first ran Boston, the race welcomed anyone—as long as he was male and stood a good chance of beating the cutoff time of 3 1/2 hours. That’s why I could legally run my debut marathon there, without any prior time.
Then came the first rumblings of a Running Boom. Boston had to set standards or be overrun with runners.
Today’s standards might have eased too much, since the field is 20 times larger than when time qualifying first arrived. The Olympic Trials standards might have tightened too much, at least for the men.
On the Mark
Experts answer readers’ training and competition questions. This month’s question:
Carbo Reload: I’ve heard a lot lately about when and what to eat in the wake of a long workout or at the end of a marathon or ultra. From what I gather, you should eat a lot of carbohydrates immediately after a long workout or a race. How soon is “immediately,” and what kind of carbs should they be? I’m not inclined to eat solids for several hours after I “come down” from a long run or a race.
Answered in our July/August issue.
Inspiring with the gift.
The men’s Olympic Marathon Trials come around only once every four years, and the stakes are always high.
On the morning of November 3, 2007, 130 of the country’s best marathoners, including 25-year-old Ryan Hall, clustered in the predawn darkness near Rockefeller Center to vie for the right to represent the United States at the 2008 Olympic Games. While all had spent the better part of their lives training for this moment, only three would make the team.
Not So Bright on the HTC
Some last-minute madness goes a long way.
I was lying on a floor mat in a high school gym in the small Oregon town of St. Helens, trying to get some much-needed shut-eye. At least 100 other people, including my teammates Linda, Dave, Erin, Rayne, Tom, and Francesco, were sleeping nearby. It was remarkably quiet, but every few minutes, the silence was broken by the muted piping of a wrist alarm. A groggy head would arise and murmur to teammates, and another group would gather its sleeping bags and pad into the night, soon to be replaced by the next batch of newcomers.
We were two-thirds of the way through Oregon’s Hood to Coast Relay Race. Even though everyone in the gym had already run nine to 12 miles, the collective adrenaline was almost palpable. In a few more hours, we would be on the beach, having finished a race that generates nearly as much excitement as the Boston or New York City marathons but which is so long that even the winning teams take the better part of a day to complete it. My own team was well ahead of schedule, but we still expected to spend 28 or 29 hours on the course.
A Running Journal
My winter with the Hansons, my spring at the Olympic Trials.
I’ve been around the sport long enough to be familiar with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, though returning to Michigan (where I grew up) to train with the team for the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials was not something I had predicted even a year ago. Loyal Michiganders and supportive of anyone with Michigan ties, Keith and Kevin Hanson had without exception been friendly and encouraging whenever we encountered one another over the years.
I had long been curious about what it might be like to train in such a program, focusing on
running—but never was willing to put my life on hold to do so. Running has
been an important outlet for me: a source of deep friendships, adventurous travel,
and a steady point of reference and self-assessment. But for me it was always a
pastime, not a passion. I prize balance, so focusing all my energies on a single
goal (I’m a person who triple-majored in college while working five part-time
jobs and juggling student government, music, writing for the college newspaper,
and resident advising) seemed out of character. (Yeah, I know balance.)
Every Morning I Run
Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman inspire me.
My cell phone alarm goes off underneath my pillow to start my day. I fumble
out of bed and grab my running clothes off the chair. I laid them out last
night, so I dress in record time: sports bra, long-sleeve shirt, tights, gloves, and
Teeth brushed, hair in a ponytail, I’m on my way down the stairs. I stop by
the rack of running shoes at the door and grab mine off the top. I wear the dirtiest
pair, and I am proud of every mile that I ran in those brown, broken-down shoes.
I keep my watch inside my left shoe because otherwise I would probably forget
it. I struggle to get my shoes on . . . I wiggle and stomp until my heels slide in. I
will tie them when I get to the track. I’m out the front door.
After the Elephant Screamed
Courage can challenge the certainty of death.
In November 2003, when an elephant gored and crushed Rory Mackie in
Zimbabwe, no one thought that he would survive. His extensive injuries—a
seven-inch hole ripped through his back mere millimeters from his spine, one
punctured lung, one bruised lung, several broken ribs, a broken collarbone, and
the loss of nearly a third of his body’s supply of blood—went untreated for nine
hours because of the remoteness of his location. Nevertheless, Rory managed to
survive injuries that experts agree should have killed him, and his survival was
based on his courage and mental strength as well as his superb physical condition.
Not one moment passed during his ordeal in which he thought that he might die.
The thought simply didn’t enter his mind. But how could this be possible?
Rory Mackie is an amazing person, but most important, he is an elite triathlete
who was slated to represent Zimbabwe in the 2004 Olympic Games.
Marathons Back to Back?
Â“Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.
To many readers of Marathon & Beyond, this subject will most likely seem a
non-issue; they run marathons at the drop of a hat, as a normal part of life.
But to others, particularly the general running and marathoning community,
the mere mention of running multiple marathons close together borders on insanity.
This is not surprising.
Marathoners Are a Spoiled Lot
The more people get, the more they want.
The other day my running buddy, Paul Hopkins, sent me a link to a blog of
an ultrarunner. In this posting, the author complained of the high cost of
entrance fees that marathons charge. He then made the comment that “someone
was padding their backsides.” Now, I took exception to this. I mean, my backside
is a tad padded, but it isn’t due to the marathon that I direct with Paul (the San
Juan Island Marathon and Half-Marathon). So, what would someone like me
do? I wrote back and let him know how I felt about the high costs of marathons
in today’s “marathon madness.” While writing, I realized that the problem of
high entrance fees is due to the marathoners or runners themselves. The problem
comes down to the fact that marathoners are a spoiled lot.
Now, before you start heating up the pot of tar and gathering feathers, let me
10 Steps on the Endurance Path
A prescription for a long life on the long road.
For 26 years, I have seen people get into endurance sports, quickly make the
jump into ultradistance events and training, and then pile on the miles and
the finish lines, only to wind up back on the couch, never to be seen again—all
within a few short years. That is a long sentence describing a short career as an
endurance athlete. Don’t let this be you! Whether you are fresh out of college (or
high school) or an empty nester looking for a new challenge, developing as an
endurance athlete takes several years to learn and a lifetime to master.
On to McPhee and the Highland Games. Part 7.
Volume 12 | Number 5 | September/October 2008
“I don’t think I’ll be able to run without my iPod.” Elizabeth Yoke, quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer, May 3, 2008, the day before the Flying Pig Marathon.
Is it just me, or am I missing something? Oh, yeah—that would be some electronic contrivance either attached to me or to which I’m attached.
When you look around and see the number of people with cell phones protruding from their ears, iPod blossoms or whatever they are dripping wires out of ear canals, or glazed-over eyes locked on a miniature keypad, it seems as though the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers has come to pass. We are surrounded by pod people. Be afraid. Be very afraid. We are being overtaken by a whole subrace of people mindlessly sucking cyber honey from the electronic tit.
On the Road With Don Kardong
Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’, and the mileage is high. Or so it would seem, at least for the young and ambitious. Chugging out for a five-mile run on almost any August morning, I am sure to pass, or be passed by, at least one group of teenage girls, maybe two dozen strong, on a training run. Sitting at the kitchen table later the same day, I catch a glimpse out the window of another pack of teenage runners, this time male, heading up the hill behind my house in a loose formation, a herd of young runners migrating toward … fall cross-country season.
ING New York City Marathon
The marathon that created the big-city running spectacle makes getting into it half the challenge.
Fred Lebow and Allan Steinfeld could be thought of as marathoning’s Frankenstein brothers. A set of figurative fraternal twins, Fred was eccentric, hyper, and brilliant in both his successes and failures, and Allan methodical, low-key, precise, and patient. It would, however, be incorrect to lay credit or blame for birthing the big-city spectacle marathon at only their feet. In one of those cosmic convergences, a number of members of the New York Road Runners Club and some city officials had a hand—or a foot—in bringing the marathon to the city streets and from there to the streets of cities around the world.
My Most Unforgettable Ultramarathon (And What I Learned From It)
HUNTSVILLE, TEXAS, December 9, 2006—Any ultra is an unforgettable event. I have run three 50-mile races, and I remember many poignant moments from each of them. My first race of 50 miles was the North Country 50 in Michigan. I recall my wife and kids cheering me on and hoofing it to aid stations to make sure that I had the support I needed. I remember running through the woods and hearing my girls yelling, “Let’s go, Dad, you can do it!” I could hear them for what seemed to be dozens of minutes, but I couldn’t see them until suddenly they were there.
I recall my wife challenging me at 29 miles: “Are you going to do this or not?” as I whined that it was beginning to get hard. And I cherish the memory of crossing the finish line in under 10 hours in my first 50-mile event.
Funny what you see when you take your sweet time to finish a marathon. When you slow down to enjoy the journey (or have no choice about the slowing), you have more time and inclination to look around. I took five-plus hours to meander through the 2008 Napa Valley Marathon. Some of the sights amazed me; others amused me. I’m not talking about the scenery here, though the vineyard vistas were superb. No, I’m speaking of the runners who surrounded me. Some spent so much time training, then penalized themselves in the marathon itself.
On the Mark
Experts answer readers’ training and competition questions. This month’s question:
Cross-training’s Place: Cross-training seems to be very popular with a lot of the runners who work out at the same health club I do. But I have a question about using cross-training if you are a runner: should the cross-training be used to supplement your running or as a substitute for a certain amount of your running? In other words, should you use cross-training to strengthen your overall fitness, or is it used to replace some of the regular mileage you would otherwise run? Thanks for helping me out on this.
Answered in our Sep/Oct issue.
Spirit of the Marathon
Spirit of the Marathon is a must-see movie for past, present, and future marathoners. At times inspirational, at times a wonderful historical perspective of the marathon, at times a trip down memory lane with some recent marathon champions, the movie is well done.
Many movies have featured running but this nonfiction film explores in a special way the highs and lows of preparing for, running, and finishing the marathon.
Saying Goodbye to Ted
As Long As One Person Remembers Ted, He Will Never Die.
St. Stephen’s Methodist Church, the old wooden structure where friends and family came to say goodbye to Ted Corbitt, is a little jewel, more than 100 years old. The small, round sanctuary with the oak pews softened from years of loyal church worshippers formed a crescent with Ted, resting in his treasured New York Pioneer Club sweatshirt, as its centerpiece.
Around his neck was a finisher’s medal from the 2007 New York City Marathon that his son, Gary, had run and dedicated to his dad. It was a personal gesture, very fitting to the aura of the occasion, as it was the family side of Ted Corbitt that was remembered at his wake and funeral, attended by friends who went back 40 years and had plenty of Ted stories to tell.
Honored guests at the funeral eulogized Ted not as the legendary father of long-distance running but as the family man and friend with the gentle spirit. As is often the case at wakes and funerals, the occasion brought laughter and humor as well as tears and sadness. Gary Corbitt recalled later, “I never saw so many grown men with tears in their eyes.”
Continued in our Sep/Oct issue, and online.
Sweat Is Not Enough
Mental Preparation for Better Running on Race Day.
Hours upon hours are spent preparing for races. Miles are run. Intervals are timed, and for many, the cross-training hours are also logged. However, sweat is not enough to maximize your potential on race day. Planning is one of the often-forgotten skills that allow each runner to toe the line with confidence on race day. Yet, planning or preparing a routine seems to be a lost art for race preparation. We’re not talking about the physical warm-up and cool-down; sweat is not enough. Rather, we’re referring to mental and emotional preparation for races.
An Italian Double
Running the Florence and Milan Marathons Back To Back.
Runners are a simple folk. Whatever the rest of the world may believe, all we really want is a road to run on and time enough to run it. On occasion, we like to gather with like-minded folk and run a race to challenge ourselves and see where all that running has taken us. For those who have figured out these simple needs, living with a runner becomes a very manageable proposition.
My wife, Stephanie, is one of these understanding people. When we got married, my elder sister, who understood these things about me, pulled Stephanie aside and gave her some valuable advice. “If you ever want to travel anywhere,” she said, “just find the race.” Which, of course, is exactly right. While spouses of other runners might get annoyed that every vacation has to involve a race, my wife has learned to work this situation to her advantage. So when she recently started jonesing to return to Italy, which she hadnâ€™t seen in almost a decade, she went online, not to search for hotels and flights—at least, not yet—but instead to look for marathons. Smart gal, my wife
We Came, We Saw, We Ran.
When I first heard Bob Dylan’s lines, “The streets of Rome/ are filled with rubble/ ancient footprints are everywhere …,” I thought I knew what he meant. I have always loved that line, that sense of things past, here with us in the present, being part of, informing, and driving the creation of our own art, our own lives.
Running the Pony Express Trail
Part 2: The Second Leg of an Historic Tour.
This is the story of an attempt to combine two of my passions, American history and ultrarunning. My history passion centers on 19th-century American history. My running passion drives me to cover long distances in remote areas and to participate in ultramarathons. Bringing these two obsessions together seemed possible by running the historic Pony Express Trail that travels within three miles of my home in Saratoga Springs, Utah. I was determined to run (in sections) a 145-mile stretch of the trail starting near my home and ending at the Utah/Nevada state border. To make the trip more interesting, I first researched the history behind this portion of the trail.
Is This Cool?
If You Have to Ask, You Might Not Understand the Answer.
Your path is charted by questions. When you come to an intersection, you ask of it: is this healthy? Useful? Profitable? Logical? Based on the answer, you swerve or you drive on. That’s the theory.
In practice, such stuffy questions and their civilized cousins don’t venture into my head too often, and when one does, the stay is always brief. They touch down gingerly, and a crowd gathers ’round. An airlock hisses open and a figure emerges, well dressed and respectable looking. Preparing to address what it mistakes for a captive audience, it clears its throat, then chokes, dies, and gets eaten by the locals.
Five Nutritional Mistakes Marathoners Make
It’s Not Just a Matter of What You Feed Your Running Body, But When You Take It On Board.
As we go through life, we learn important lessons from the mistakes we make.
The same is true about the marathon. We learn something about our character from each 26.2-mile journey, even if what we learn comes at the shank end of an awful day. If we ran a perfect race our first time out, we would not be constantly checking the marathon calendar to pick out the next marathon so that we could prove to ourselves that we can improve our performance.
Persistently, we dedicate months of intense training, striving for our ideal time goal. We make sure we have the appropriate training and racing shoe, schedule massages, see a physical therapist, and of course invest in travel arrangements.
From Austin to Boston
Run! No, Walk! No, Run!
On a map, the distance from Austin, Texas, to Boston, Massachusetts, is 1,969 miles. But as any marathoner knows, the distance is actually only 26.2 miles as long as you can run that distance fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. If you’re not naturally that fast, then you have to add in the training miles. In my case, I ran 6,379 miles between finishing the Austin Motorola Marathon on February 17, 2002, and qualifying for Boston in the Hartford Marathon on October 14, 2006.
Truth be told, I didn’t actually run all of those miles—I walked 552 of them. Sometimes I walked because I was simply exhausted, and sometimes I was taking planned walk breaks, as Jeff Galloway recommends. This is the story of how I decided which miles to run and which to walk during my quest to qualify for Boston.
“Like a Cat Chases Mice”
Tom Osler Teaches Us That As We Age, There Is Glory and Fulfillment in the Chase Itself.
“The success of the East Germans in the 1976 Olympic Games has called attention to the supposed advantages of employing technology to assist in the training of runners. I say bunk! The joys of running alone in the forest will never be replaced by the laboratory, nor will the inspiration of a truly charismatic coach ever be replaced by the man in white taking blood samples. . . . Frankly, I believe that running is far too complicated for successful technical analysis at this time. It is the runners themselves, through their direct empirical findings, who will point the way.” —Serious Runner’s Handbook by Tom Osler
Twelve Hungry Men
A Diary of the ’93 Hood to Coast Relay.
This is the story of 12 madmen on a voyage of attempted Arthurian scope. No armor did they wear, yet this ad hoc Coloradoan band remained an incendiary force out for adventure and, if ordained, the slaying of a dragon or two. Their journey would take them almost 3,000 miles in six days, much of it spent within two small steel-and-glass compartments generously provided by Volkswagen. These vans, one red and one white (which we dubbed Big Red and White Lightning), became temples of splendid isolation from the rest of the world, in which these 12 knights of Colorado could laugh at their fellow man’s follies as they hurled ever closer to their quest for a day’s glory.
In the Grasp of the Desert Heat, a Science Experiment Gone Bad. Part 8.
Continued in our Sep/Oct issue.
Volume 12 | Number 6 | November/December 2008
Toni Reavis’s story “Hate Runs” is likely to receive one of those love-it-or-hate-it responses from readers. It is a curious piece of work that will resonate with a certain type of marathoner but will fall totally flat with others.
The piece is centered at “the other” Bill Rodgers running store, the one out at Cleveland Circle along the marathon course as opposed to the store in Faneuil Hall, which used to be referred to as “the disco store” because of all the shiny stainless steel that helped it stand out in that wacky world of disco balls and the Bee Gees. The time frame, then, for Toni’s story is the late ’70s and early ’80s—sort of in the wake of disco.
On the Road with Don Kardong
Run of the Mill
I know there are places in the world where runners ply their avocation year-round clad only in shoes, shirts, and shorts. California comes to mind. In my part of the world, though—Spokane, Washington—November is the month when days darken at an alarming rate, mornings turn frosty, and runners become reacquainted with tights, gloves, jackets, wool caps, and wind briefs.
Unless, that is, they simply move indoors.
My Most Unforgettable Marathon (And What I Learned From It)
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA, November 4, 2007—Another late-fall early morning in Northern California. As usual, we are avoiding the cold of much of the country and the wet of the rest. Sunday-morning free parking is ample, and perhaps best of all is the end of daylight saving time. I can get an extra hour’s sleep before setting out on yet another long-distance race.
It is time for me to run the Silicon Valley Marathon (SVM), Version 10.0, as it is called in this high-tech mecca. It is my sixth visit to this race and my third on its newer course. The stars are all in alignment, and everything is set for a wonderful outcome, possibly (though I dare not say it aloud) a PR. What a perfect day!
Look up, look down, look all around.
When ultrarunner Pam Reed took over the direction of the Tucson Marathon 14 years ago, she moved the course from downtown to a venue north of the city limits. A veteran of numerous downtown marathons in other cities, Reed wanted a course that offered long, straight stretches in a beautiful setting, something the old downtown course couldn’t provide. The present Tucson Marathon runs from the little town of Oracle in Pinal County to a school playground south of the little town of Catalina in Pima County. The course, slightly modified in 2007, runs point-to-point, from north to south with a couple of exceptions, and downhill, with a couple of exceptions.
Good Times Among Bad
Nationally, 1968 was a dreadful year. By many measures, it goes down as the darkest year for a generation coming of age then, and our 40th-anniversary observances have been subdued.
Martin Luther King fell to an assassin in early 1968, then Robert Kennedy two months later. An unwinnable war drove Lyndon Johnson from the presidency that year, opening the office to Richard Nixon. Battles on both sides of the Pacific split generations and races into us-versus-them camps.
As an army reservist, I wasn’t divorced from all of this. But I remained a sideline observer, waiting to see if the next foreign or domestic crisis would bring a call to active duty. None ever did.
On the Mark
Experts answer readers’ training and competition questions. This month’s question:
Too Much Too Late? I’ve been running one fall marathon a year for the last dozen years, but I can’t seem to get it down. I basically follow the Lydiard method of building a solid aerobic base, then mix in speed and hill workouts for about 10 weeks leading up to the race. I’ve tried two- and three-week tapers after the last 20-miler going into the marathon, but I always end up dragging myself in over the last five miles. Is it possible that I’m doing too much speed and hill work? I’m 42 years old and my peak mileage week is 52 miles.
Answered in our Nov/Dec issue.
Running With Alec
In the middle of a long race is a very good time to bond.
As a runner and something of an ultrarunner, I have had several memorable milestones. I will never forget my first marathon (New York), my first ultra (Double Chubb), my first 24-hour (Olander Park), my first 100-mile (Umstead), and reaching Stovepipe Wells at Badwater 135 in 2002 and knowing that I would finish. Over the years, I have managed to entice my wife, children, and friends into running marathons, and I have enjoyed seeing them run, finish, and take pride in their success.
A few years ago, I had a memorable run with Alec, my youngest son. I had entered the Mississippi Trail 50-mile. We were coming back from Alec’s Easter vacation from school, and I had managed to talk my daughter Kari and him into running the 50K. Neither of them had run on a trail before or had run beyond 26 miles. Kari, then 20 years old, had done four marathons, and Alec (16 years old at the time) had seven to his credit.
Taking Laziness the Distance
Everyone has a reason for running the marathon, and I guess I do, too.
I’m the quintessential couch potato. At least, that is what my father tells me just about every day. I guess he has good reason. Reluctantly, I wake up in the mornings and make my way to school. After cruising through the day, I come home around 6:30 p.m., plop myself onto the most comfortable couch, and flick on man’s greatest invention, the television. To me, that has to be the closest thing to heaven on earth. That is the time when my father usually returns from work and makes his daily comment to me, which I have already mentioned. In some ways, he has a point. I mean, there is even a groove in the sofa where gravity has taken its toll—an indentation that would make even Homer Simpson proud.
Should You Run Twice a Day?
Will running twice a day improve running performance? A summary of research and perspectives on multiple daily-running sessions.
Successful distance runners around the world use the widespread practice of running twice a day. Most elite distance runners train twice a day at least a few days each week. Many elite Kenyan runners, for example, work out two or three times each day from their training base near London. This practice is especially prevalent among marathoners and ultrarunners.
But is all this mileage worth it? Or is there a point of diminishing returns where excess running is counterproductive? Let’s have a look at what the coaches, runners, and exercise scientists say about two-a-day workouts.
The end of a streak, but the start of something new!
First of all, I kneed to say that I am neither an orthopedic surgeon nor a physical therapist, although in the past I used to pretend that I was to myself and some of my running buddies. I learned the hard way, though, that he who serves as his own doctor has a fool for a patient. The medical diagnosis for this is osteocranium or, in laymen’s terms: bonehead. If I had known then what I’ve since learned the hard way about knees, I could have saved myself a lot of grief. Perhaps I can provide some insight for you.
Running in a Small Desert Town
The challenges keep your life well spiced.
The following incidents are true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Remember the Nike ad in which a group of college-age runners is seen going up and down the streets of what appears to be a dusty Mexican town? Finally, they stop and ask an impassive local woman the way back to Los Estados Unidos. She points north. I wish she had been there to help me.
What some might call “lost,” runners call “overdistance.”
Sharing the Olympic Experience
There is more to the Olympic experience than merely racing.
There is no greater sports arena than the Olympic Games. There are events, athletes, and coaches that people remember only from the Games, despite the fact that competition is year-round. For athletes who will never turn professional, the Games provide their best chance to shine on an international stage. There are accomplishments and records set at the Olympics that may stand for generations. And there are disappointments, tragedies, and the unexpected.
Track and field and the marathon reach back to the very beginning of the modern Olympics, and the connection through the Olympiads creates a special bond shared by those who have competed in them.
“I’m following in great footsteps with Joan Benoit Samuelson, Kathrine Switzer—people that have done great things for the sport and continue to be in it,” said Deena (Drossin) Kastor, the 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist. Samuelson won the first Olympic women’s marathon in 1984, an event that entered the Games in large part because of Switzer’s efforts. “To me,” Kastor continued, “I look at them as role models [for me] to be able to stick in the sport as long as possible, even after my competition days are over.”
Disasters on course are often resolved behind the scenes. How the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon dealt with a fire on race day.
“We may have to delay the marathon at least three hours.”
Few words can put a chill down a marathon staff’s spine quite like the word “delay.” For runners and walkers who have their pre-event routine timed to the minute, any kind of a disruption is upsetting at the least and devastating at the worst. But that was what the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon faced the morning of Sunday, May 4, at the start line for the 10th annual running. With a record field of more than 16,000 ready to go at 6:30 a.m., a house fire along mile 22 of the route had just turned into a three-alarm inferno, forcing the closure of that stretch of the course.
Townsman of a Stiller Town
On the death of Ryan Shay.
Have you ever seen Ryan Hall run? No? You’re missing out. Seeing Ryan Hall run is like seeing Michelangelo’s David, a pure expression of human perfection. Ryan Hall running is smooth, effortless motion suffused with light. If you took Miles Davis’s “Birth of the Cool” and transformed it into solid matter, it would look like Ryan Hall running.
Ready to Hit the Road
By keeping a marathon travel bag nearby, you’re always ready to race.
My flight was delayed, but I didn’t think too much about it. After all, I had all day to get from Toronto to Indianapolis. I was on my way from my sensible life (managing a software-implementation project in Canada) to my completely nonsensical life (running the inaugural Tecumseh Trail Marathon, somewhere in the hills of southern Indiana). It was already an insane endeavor; outside of Honolulu or Tucson, who had ever heard of a December marathon? I was a relative newbie—I had run only nine marathons at that point in my career—and was a bit naive about these things. What could go wrong?
Five events on one day? No trouble. Wait. Wait. Lots of trouble.
It was all Don Kardong’s fault! If he hadn’t competed in The Ultimate Runner in 1986 and then written a story in the Runner about how much fun he had had (at 37, he finished fifth behind four 20-somethings), I would not have been sitting on the edge of a motel-room bed, pinning number 24 on my singlet, and wondering what I had gotten myself into.
It was Saturday morning, October 3, 1987, and I was in Jackson, Michigan, getting ready to run more than 33.7 miles before the day was over. To be exact, I and all the other entrants hoping to become ultimate runners covered 54 kilometers, 304 meters that day. Rather, most of us did. The program listed 130 entrants, but Michigan Runner later reported that 115 had started. Finishers? According to the official results, the final tally was an even 100: 42 open men, 14 open women, 35 masters men, three masters women, and six wheelers.
In search of the cleansing purge.
The great herd of college students had long since migrated, and with the majority of native Bostonians either down on the Cape or up hugging some warm New Hampshire shoreline, it was on weekends that the city sank deepest into its long summer torpor. In Cleveland Circle, only the Green Line trolley cut through the sludge of the afternoon hours, its trains pulling vacantly into their yard with the screech of forged wheels over curved rails, there to await their next run east down Beacon into town.
Across the way in a small running shop on Chestnut Hill Avenue, the assistant manager sat folded on the stairs between the storeâ€™s two levels, his long, bearded face hanging in solid features framed by a mane of lank, sandy hair.
“It’s brutal being polite to people all day,” he muttered to one of his three-man crew. “In fact, it’s not healthy. You’re not being honest.”
How to Host a Hundred
In 10 easy steps.
You’ve run a marathon? That’s great!
Under three hours? Impressive. You’ve finished 50-kilometer and 50-mile
runs? You’re one tough cookie. You’ve conquered 100-kilometer and 100-mile
You did Badwater? Holy guacamole!
You’ve run Badwater twice in one run: out, back, and summiting Mount
Whitney? You are a legend—at least to the tiny, elite fraction of a percent of the
U.S. population comprising marathoners and ultrarunners.
But have you ever put on a race of 100 kilometers, 100 miles, or longer?
Have you ever hosted a hundred?
Be careful that what you claim is crazy actually is.
Running, for me, has been in large part about changing perspectives. As I grow older and am exposed to more and more die-hard runners from around the country, I find that my threshold definition of “crazy” or “impossible” is continually redefined, often to my wife’s dismay. Things that I had once never even heard of, let alone imagined anyone could do, have evolved into things that don’t strike me in the least way as odd and that are, in fact, quite common in my current circle of friends.
J. Edgar Hoover digs deeper into Flanagan and his foot soldiers. Part 9.
Continued in our Nov/Dec issue.