Volume 13 | Number 1 | January/February 2009
Good Ole Number 13
The number 13 is traditionally considered bad luck.
It is considered bad luck in just about everything except a baker’s dozen, where if you order a dozen rolls, the baker puts in a 13th to guarantee that you receive the full count. Here at Marathon & Beyond, we must be kneading dough, because we’re experiencing the ole runner’s high on this, the beginning of our 13th year.
As is quite obvious, the magazine has suddenly gone from two color with full-color advertising to 100 percent full color. The change is rather dramatic for subscribers who have been with us from the start. And it’s dramatic for us, since it involves certain editorial and advertising changes, all of them to the good.
On the Road with Lorraine Moller
I love the Olympics, I really do. Being a participant from 1984 to 1996 rates as the highlight of my running life. When I retired from competition in 1996, I wondered whether I would really care to just spectate.
Four years later, with a very pregnant tummy, I sat down to watch the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympics and went into labor to have my very own opening ceremony that soon became a marathon with a gold-medal finish. From then on, every four years as the Olympics approach, I become expectant that something wonderful will happen for me, and it always does. It’s like Christmas.
My Most Unforgettable Marathon(s)
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, COLORADO, June 1, 2008—It was while riding on the bus up the mountain to the start of the 2008 Steamboat Marathon that the events of the past year hit me. And what a year it was! Sung to the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” the words would be “Four heart bypasses/three marathons/two broken ribs/ and one other surgery!”
The events started on Tuesday, May 29, 2007. My wife and I are both teachers at Maize High School in Kansas, and this was the first day of summer break. Our plans for the summer were about to change. We had planned to travel to several sprint triathlons during the summer, and I was practicing an open-water swim. After only about 150 yards, my arms were hard to lift and I was getting tired. This surprised me, since on the previous Sunday I had swum for 25 minutes in a pool and then had ridden my bike for 15 miles with no problems. Not anything outstanding, I realize, but good enough for me and my level of fitness.
Traverse City State Bank Bayshore Marathon
Make your long run part of a long holiday weekend.
Traverse City, Michigan, and its long-running marathon offer runners and their families a wonderful Memorial Day holiday weekend. Friends and family are only too eager to join their running friends and loved ones for this weekend event in a setting that by its very nature—and its close association with nature—personifies the romanticized idea of Memorial Day weekend. The bucolic region calls itself the “cherry capital of the world” and is rich with culture, good food, fresh fruit, wineries, scenic views, shopping, beaches, and seasonal sports and water activities. The race is traditionally held on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend with consistently good running weather and a long weekend for recovering and enjoying all of the fun that accompanies the annual welcoming of yet another lazy summer.
One day before my 65th birthday I felt great, as young and healthy as anyone could expect to be at this age. On the birthday itself, both feelings changed dramatically. A visit to a urologist that day led to a diagnosis of prostate cancer and all the tests and treatments that had to follow.
My first reaction, not counting the initial uncertainty bordering at times on panic, was to keep this condition secret from all but the immediate family. This would have been a mistake. Even this relatively mild form of cancer is too big a burden to bear alone.
On the Mark
Experts answer readers’ training and competition questions. This month’s question: For many years now, I have donated blood at least twice a year. I didn’t think much about the effect the blood donations would have on my road racing, but as I’ve grown older (I’m now 49), I’ve noticed that I’m getting slower—but I’m getting significantly slower in the wake of giving blood. Dah! It didn’t occur to me over all these years that giving blood could have such an effect on my racing, but it is logical that it would. It’s sort of like reverse blood doping, right? Is there any scientific information available that would give me an idea of what percentage my performance should drop in the wake of giving blood and how long the negative effects of giving blood should last on my racing? I still intend to give blood, but I might become wise enough in my older age to schedule major races well away from the blood donation.
Answers from our experts appear in our January/February issue…
A Father’s Surprise
Be vigilant when you’re running a race; someone may be stalking you.
“You’re dead meat, Dad!”
The voice and the giggle just behind me were oh, so familiar, but in this context, they just didn’t compute. I was in Alaska, just about to step behind the starting line rope before racing the Anchorage Daily News Heart Run. The only people in the world who would be addressing me as “Dad” were my three daughters, each thousands of miles away. So something didn’t fit.
Even when I turned and was face to face with daughter Julia’s huge smile, there was still another moment of confusion. I had just spoken with her the night before last; she was in Portland, Oregon, yesterday, taking her graduate school comprehensive exams. She couldn’t be here.
But sure enough, this little twerp was standing there in front of me and had announced her presence by declaring that she was going to whip my butt in this 5K. Two seconds more and the reality registered, followed by hugs and laughs and tears.
This article is continued in the January/February issue and also online.
A training-regimen switch from Ironman to ultra is waylaid by a misplaced stone.
After 16 years of my life being focused around the month of October and the Ironman Triathlon World Championships, I really had not thought about what I would do when or if I lost that focus. In 2007, I placed fourth in Hawaii and was the top American again in the sport.
That is a career highlight for many athletes and most would be ecstatic, especially after a few lackluster performances in recent years.
As I stood on the stage with the other top 10 men in 2007, I was not excited to be there and couldn’t place why. What I did know is that something needed to change before I could put another effort into that race and again feel a sense of accomplishment. At the time, I had no idea what any of it meant. However, over the next month—a time when I would usually begin planning for another run at the title—I had no competitive desires at all. I stayed active by hiking and riding my mountain bike, but I was not ready to plan another triathlon season. I was in need of some inspiration, but I did not know where to look for it.
Tip Top Weekly
An ideal publication for the American youth. Part 1 of 4.
At the conclusion of the Civil War, literacy rates in the United States began to increase. With this came a need for inexpensive, interesting literature; thus was born the “dime novel.” Many publishing companies began turning these out on a weekly or bimonthly basis in a variety of sizes, ranging from a booklet that could easily fit in a pocket to a much larger newspaper size.
These novels were the television, video games, and DVDs of the day. They were inexpensive and often sensational or melodramatic, featuring romance or adventure. They covered the gamut of topics: the American Revolution, the Wild West, detective and mystery stories, big-city life, and countless other themes, including serials guaranteed to entice the reader to buy the next issue. No matter what the theme might be, the writers were faced with the challenge of producing a story to meet their one- or two-week deadlines.
Boulder to Petoskey, One Step at a Time
Preparation is everything. Part 1 of 4.
Let me start with this warning: reading books is a dangerous activity.
A book about a transcontinental run, which I read almost three decades ago, planted the original seed for my cross-country run. “Oh, that sounds like fun” (or some such thought) was my reaction. The seed lay quietly dormant… until I began thinking about retirement. Then the little bugger started to sprout.
A big dose of fertilizer came during a run a few years ago when one of my Saturday-long-run running buddies (one of the gang known affectionately as the “satboys”), Andy Edmondson, mentioned that a couple of female friends in San Francisco (Caroline Merrill and Annabel Marsh) had run from Boston to Los Angeles in 1984 when Annabel was 60. I, of course, piped up with “I’ve always wanted to run across the country; I just don’t know where from and to.” I started tossing out ideas when Ding! Ding! Ding! the light went on: Boulder, Colorado, where I’ve lived since 1973, to Petoskey, Michigan, where I grew up. Perfect! I make the trip back and forth at least once a year; I’ve driven it, flown it, taken a train, run bits of it whenever we’ve gone by automobile…. Why not go via my favorite form of transportation: perambulation? And thus the little seed began to grow.
Running the Perfect Marathon
How to squeeze the most from yourself over 26.2 miles. A guide to successful marathon pacing and racing from start to finish.
One-third or more of the runners in any given marathon field run their race below par for their level of fitness. Some of these marathoners run substandard times because they are novices, still very much stuck on that all-important learning curve. Others run poor races because of errors in pace judgment, misreading the course, failing to adjust for temperature, and the myriad other mistakes that are common even among experienced long-distance runners.
It never ceases to astonish me how many runners toe the 26.2-mile line with no race plan or strategy in mind—they simply start the race and “see what happens.” This is inevitably a recipe for disaster. Not many runners can have a good marathon accidentally, unless the marathon gods Pheidippides and Mercury feel particularly benevolent on that day. However, they are generally unforgiving and are more likely to punish you than to praise you.
Every marathon runner needs a plan for when the gun goes off in their marathon. Without such a strategy, you will drift badly, and when things go wrong your marathon will rapidly turn into an increasingly bad nightmare. I hasten to add that your plan needs to be flexible enough to accommodate the unexpected, such as when things go wrong—but more about this later.
A short story.
I am almost 40 years old, so running victories are a thing of the past for me. The best I could hope for would be to maybe take an age-group award, and that would only be in the races where all the local fast guys decided to stay in bed. So at this point in my running life, I’ll take them any way I can get them—even if they aren’t on a certified course and even if there are no medals, no trophies, and no recognition.
Every year we take a one-week vacation to Ocean City, New Jersey, during the Fourth of July week. This is a huge vacation in that all of my in-laws also take the same vacation. We rent at least two (and sometimes three) separate condominiums and basically party together all week. It’s lots of kids, lots of beach time, and lots of beer drinking once the kiddies are asleep. All in all, it’s a great time.
This past summer, the powers that be (my wife and her siblings) decided to extend the vacation to two full weeks instead of the usual one. I agreed, but silently I had a problem. I would be in the midst of training for the Philadelphia Marathon. How could I possibly deal with a two-week-long party and still train properly? After mulling it over for a few days, I decided to enjoy the first week as I normally would: run five miles every day with a 10-miler on Saturday and another on Sunday. This week coincided with a recovery week in my schedule anyway, so I was set. During the second week, I would have to back off the eating and drinking and get all the key runs in for the week. I would allow myself to skip only the recovery runs if necessary.
Book Bonus: Flanagan’s Run
The press conference in Denver puts the race—and the runners—in perspective. Part 10.
Chapter 15 of this reprint appears in the January/February issue.
Volume 13 | Number 2 | March/April 2009
You Are… What You Don’t Eat
Had the opportunity recently to ride to the start of a marathon with a school bus load of anxious and hyper runners. I had forgotten how little kids don’t take up a whole lotta space so the legroom on the school bus was about half of what it is in coach on United Airlines, and everyone knows how generous that space is.
What I was struck by was the smorgasbord of grub that the runners were ingesting within an hour of the start.
I guess that today’s marathoners really don’t want to run their marathons faster, because eating on the way to the start line of a marathon is the very last thing you should do if you want to maximize your training into a good race.
On the Road With Lorraine Moller
The Condiments of Heroes
These days all sorts of people are called heroes. O. J. Simpson, Pete Rose, and Barry Bonds were once hailed for their sporting feats. My 8-year-old daughter and her friends chose
Hannah Montana as their hero. Hmm. Fame from a home run or a few catchy songs may be slick marketing, but it’s not heroism. It makes me wonder if our star-struck society has made the entry pass to the hero club way too easy. What a tragedy when comfort and personal gain that offer little advancement for mankind are held as standards of worthy achievement. Perhaps it is high time to reestablish the bar for the appointment of the “hero” title.
My Most Unforgettable Ultramarathon (and What I Learned From It): 2007 Heartland 100-Mile
“Once in a while you find yourself in an odd situation. You get into it by degrees and in the most natural way but, when you are right in the midst of it, you are suddenly astonished and ask yourself how in the world it all came about.”
—Thor Heyerdahl, Kon-Tiki
CASSODAY, KANSAS, October 13-14, 2007—On Saturday, October 13, at around noon, after having run continuously for six hours and a bit more than 30 miles, I found myself atop a ridge in the middle of Kansas, the highest point on the Heartland 100-Mile race course. It was pouring rain and hailing, and lightning was striking the ground all around me. The thunder was deafening. The winds were almost knocking me off my feet, and I still had 70 more miles to run to complete this race! I thought of the quote by Thor Heyerdahl as I too wondered how I ever came to be here attempting such a feat. You really do get into these things in the smallest of degrees, and it all seems rational and normal until something makes you wonder when you lost your sanity.
St. George Marathon
Perfect for fast times—and beautiful scenery, too.
Whether you are looking for a marathon where you will run the best time of your life or just have the time of your life, the St. George Marathon may be the race for you. This gem of a marathon offers many unique features that make it one of the best choices for a fall marathon. If you are looking for an accompanying half-marathon or relay, you will have to look elsewhere, since this event is strictly a marathon. As more and more marathons move toward including other distances, St. George is for marathon purists only.
It took me a long time to find a home in my hometown. I finally found it only because a few people here asked me to help them.
Mine isn’t just any town. It’s Eugene, Oregon, which rightly calls itself Track Town USA. Some here would also have you believe that Eugene is the running capital of the known universe. By one measure, number of runners per capita, they might be right.
But for me, for too long, Eugene could have been just about anywhere that offered an airport to leave from for speaking to groups of runners I would seldom see again and offered a hideout to come back to and write for readers who were largely invisible. I took almost no part in Eugene’s vibrant running community.
On the Mark
Experts answer readers’ training and competition questions. This month’s question: I hear a lot of talk about “peaking.” What is it, and how do you get it to happen just when it’s supposed to at an important race?
Answers from our experts appear in our March/April issue…
BioFile: Rod Dixon
Date of Birth: July 13, 1950, in Nelson, New Zealand
Running Heroes/Inspirations: “I started as a 12-year-old in the Nelson Harrier and Athletic Club, and our club captain/coach was a five-time New Zealand cross-country champion. Coach Arthur Lydiard, Olympic champion Peter Snell, and other great New Zealand champions came to talk with us, and we were inspired. Chairman of the club was Harold Nelson, a 1948 Olympian and silver- and gold-medalist from the British Empire Games in 1950 in Auckland. So these are people that inspired us runners. We had a club of 300 members and we loved to run, and so that was another inspiration. The Olympics—listening to those on the radio in 1968. That was an inspiration. I said after the 1,500-meters final, ’That’s me.’ I could see myself doing that. And four years later, I was at the Olympics.”
Whether or not the earth is warming, runners can help improve the environment.
Chicago, October 7, 2007—I’m out here with 35,000 of my closest friends, while 10,000 others had the incredible good sense to stay home and chuck the whole thing. Not me. I paid my entry fee, and by God, I’m going to get my money’s worth. I am sweating profusely, and the race hasn’t even started. It occurs to me that this day may turn out to be a bad one for many or perhaps even all of us.
The gun goes off and our journey begins. Up until mile 11 or 12, I had been running mostly in the morning shadows of Chicago’s tall buildings, and it hadn’t felt all that bad. Of course, I had been taking plenty of water and electrolyte tablets. It never occurs to me that I may be using too much water and that some of those behind me will arrive at the tables only to find no remaining water. At the point where we begin spending most of our time in the sun rather than the shadows, we really begin to suffer. I instinctively slow my pace a bit, but I see others slowing more, and some are already walking. At some point, I see the first real victim: a runner lying on the side of the road and being helped by some spectators.
In the last few miles of the race, I slow down some more, but so does everyone else around me. I witness more and more carnage, right up to the finish line. What a relief to put that bag of ice on my head! I meet up with my family, and we hear that the race was canceled because of the weather. Can they do that?
10 Classic Mistakes Even Experienced Marathoners Make
Rid yourself of potential mistakes and your marathon career will begin to prosper.
With experience usually comes knowledge. This should be the case with running marathons, but in many instances it is not. Perhaps it is complacency, perhaps arrogance, perhaps even laziness. Whatever it is, many marathon performances are dulled by easily avoided mistakes.
The distance itself of a marathon leads to many more variables and unknowns that a runner has to take into account compared with other distances. The challenges are much more numerous than in shorter distances simply because it is over four times longer than the nearest popular race distance—the 10K.
With the 10K and shorter distances, mistakes are easily dealt with—but with the marathon, mistakes can cause not just discomfort but also complete failure for the runner. For example, a poorly fitting piece of clothing or forgetting to carboload and/or to hydrate are problems that can be glossed over in a 10K, but extended out over several hours of running in a marathon, these mistakes can prove menacing.
Training mistakes can also deliver a runner to the start in a suboptimal state. This suboptimal state will be compounded over the course of the 26.2-mile course, further draining already lowered bodily resources.
Running a marathon requires a huge commitment to training. Because of this, it’s probably a good idea from time to time to review the common mistakes that we all make in preparing for and running a marathon in the hope that we won’t repeat those mistakes. Here is my stab at the top 10 mistakes (in no particular order) that even experienced marathoners make.
In Pursuit of Ghosts and Unicorns
April doesn’t mean just spring. It also means it’s time to marathon.
“It may be springtime in the Rockies, but it’s Marathon time out here…”
—from a poem by Bertha Kelley, mother of Johnny “The Elder” Kelley
Ah, yes, marathon Monday in Massachusetts, according to the governor’s proclamation, approaches once again. Time to chase ghosts and unicorns, urges the whimsical mind of many marathoners.
“Bricklayer” Bill Kennedy, who won the 1917 edition of the B.A.A. Boston Marathon and ran it a few dozen more times, accurately captured the thoughts of his fellow runners obsessed with the annual trek from Hopkinton to Boston. In a 1932 letter to John Halloran of the Boston Globe, he philosophized, “The lure of the Boston race, Johnnie, is far greater than any in the country and, to me, the world. I can only speak of my own thoughts; but I have been close enough to runners for 30 years that I also know their thoughts, hopes and chances—to win the Boston Marathon, that is the dream of every runner. Sometimes I hardly believe I realized that hope 15 years ago; I am still dreaming, still building castles, and actually believe I am going to win again.
“All marathon runners are dreamers; we are not practical. The hours we spend every day, every year! The strength we expend over long lonesome roads and the pot of gold we aspire to receive for it all! The end of the rainbow, Johnnie, is a survivor’s medal.”
Read the rest online.
Boulder to Petoskey, One Step at a Time
Commence running! Part 2 of 4.
Part 1 of Paula’s journey appeared in our January/February 2009 issue.
Step 1, the preparation, is complete. It’s time to run!
We had a grand plan for the first few days of the run while my husband, Kendall (an elementary school library media specialist), was wrapping up his school year:
Day 1, son Paul would run the morning 15 with me, running buddy Andy Edmondson (affectionately referred to as AndyE) would run the last nine miles of the day with me, and my coplanner Deb would be support crew for the day.
Day 2, Kendall’s brother Andy would be support crew.
Day 3, running buddy Joe would be support crew.
Each of those 30-mile days I would return home in the evening, and on day 4, we would say good-bye to Boulder, hop in the motor home, and head out of town for the remainder of the voyage to Michigan. (Yikes!)
Dick Merriwell in Stockholm
Or, how the Olympic hurdle race was won. Tip Top Weekly. Part 2 of 4.
(Editor’s note: In the last issue, Dr. Kozloff introduced readers to issues of Tip Top Weekly that featured track and field stories starring the Merriwell boys. Tip Top Weekly was a popular nickel weekly for boys back in the early decades of the 20th century. In the last episode, our heroes were tapped to help represent the USA in the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games. It featured their adventures on the boat trip over and their early competition at the Games.)
The second episode is titled, Dick Merriwell in Stockholm; Or, How the Olympic Hurdle Race Was Won. It appeared on the newsstands for the week of July 13, 1912.
The Americans in Stockholm expect Jim Phillips to win the broad jump. Only Dick Merriwell and Michael Harrigan (head of the American Olympic Committee) know of the difficulties. Before arriving in Stockholm, Merriwell thinks Harrigan has overstated his concern about the American team. However, his coaching experience tells him that it is always better to overestimate rather than underestimate an opponent.
Harrigan has a room that no one but he can access. In this room is a chart listing all of the events, competitors, and best performances. He and Merriwell, his chief aide and advisor, study the chart and discuss the scoring at the Games. In these Olympics, only first place counts. However, these men prefer the American system of scoring the first three or five places. The American team could easily win the Games with points they would normally get for these places. Now they must change their strategy, putting an emphasis on first place finishes.
The broad jump incident, when a hidden wire had caused shorter landing marks in the pit, has been reported to the Swedish Olympic Committee, which at first scoffed at the idea that something like this could happen. However, upon discovering it to be true, the committee has been unable to determine where the wire went or who was involved.
Falling for Boston
Runners can literally go head over heels for the world’s most famous marathon.
There is no place that I would rather be than Boston in April. Boston 2003 was to be my third consecutive Boston Marathon. I managed to persuade my masters women’s running team, the Startline Babes, that we should go again, only to have life throw me an apparent detour. We had just sent in our entries and made our hotel reservations when I found out that I was unexpectedly expecting. I was 41 years old, and my fourth child was on the way.
I was thrilled! With three boys at home, I thought that this could be the little girl who would balance my family. The testosterone just drips down the walls at my house. Even the dog, cats, and birds are male. Girl or boy, I just felt blessed that I was given another opportunity to experience the miracle of a baby. I arranged a dinner with the Babes to celebrate the upcoming Christmas holidays and announce my news. They were happy for me, over the moon, but knew that Boston was no longer an option for me.
I went to my ob-gyn for a routine ultrasound at 10 weeks. The moment I saw the pictures on the screen, I knew that something was horribly wrong. Where I should have seen a small baby, a beating heart, there was only blackness. The doctor was ominously silent. She slid the instrument over my abdomen again and again, but there was nothing to be found. She said simply, “I’m sorry. This appears to be a blighted ovum. This is a type of miscarriage.”
Men’s World and National Yearly Marathon Best-Time Trends
Based on a six-year average.
Over the years, the men’s marathon has been dominated by various nations or groups of nations and by various races. Currently the event is overwhelmingly dominated by East Africans, primarily Kenyans. The following study attempts to identify trends by attaching concrete numbers and graphical analysis to the men’s marathon from 1980 onward.
The LetsRun Phenomenon
The virtual place where running coalesces.
Ryan Shay’s death caught everyone completely off guard.
On November 3, 2007, the 29-year-old Shay, one of marathoning’s most respected stars, lined up at the start of the 2008 men’s Olympic Marathon Trials in New York City. A short while later, he collapsed in Central Park, and the entire running community was mourning his loss.
Within minutes of the news, runners and nonrunners alike scoured the Internet for the most updated information on Shay. Many eventually logged onto LetsRun.com, a running-related Web site whose popularity has done nothing but grow since its inception in 2000.
Robert and Weldon Johnson, twin brothers and the Web site’s founders, set up a special message board thread devoted exclusively to Shay, and the site quickly became a meeting place for visitors to share their grief. Internet users from around the world came to pay their respects. Some who posted messages were close friends of Shay’s. Others were former teammates. And still others, who had never even met Shay, explained in their messages that they were compelled to write because of how the news of the runner’s premature death had affected them.
“The whole thread reminded me of all the good that goes on with the site,” says Weldon of the emotional outpouring. “I thought it was so refreshing. A lot of people didn’t know Ryan, but they felt as if they did. He touched so many people in some way.”
As the condolence messages continued to pour in, Alicia Shay, Ryan’s wife, visited the site to gain solace, and she posted poignant personal photographs of her and her late husband. Joe Shay, Ryan’s father, also contributed to the thread, and he made a point of personally phoning the Johnsons on behalf of his entire family to express his gratitude for what they were doing.
“It was totally flattering and a great honor,” says Weldon. “But I felt as if we didn’t deserve it. He’s the one who carried himself with such class.”
Inside the Flying Pig Marathon
From the back of the pack.
Standing fitfully at the start line, I realized that every song being played on the loudspeaker felt perfect, a favorite. It didn’t matter whether I knew the words or had ever heard the song. Hip-hop, old classics, new classics—they all had a strong beat and a feeling of victory. I was at the starting line of a 26.2-mile party, and I felt ready to take these words of strength, determination, and hope with me as I ran. I felt strong and ready.
When I kissed my husband good-bye so he could go to the front of the pack and I to the back, I wished him luck. I prayed to the running gods that he would smash his personal best, and he did the same for me. We both know how important this day is for each other, hours apart on the same path to a PR.
I am in awe of his speed, strength, and grace, and he praises my endurance. Before he disappeared into the crowd of runners, he pleaded, “When you are out there, don’t freak out if you miss a split, get tired, leg cramp, anything. Enjoy it, and keep pushing!”
Mega Miles in Margaritaville
When the urge to celebrate your birthday arrives, welcome it with open arms.
The October sun painted dark shadows on the stone plaza near the lake. Four paths meandered through the plaza, intersecting near a flowing fountain. The marathon course followed one toward the impressive Chicago skyline. The day was magnificent: cool and dry, white clouds against a blue sky. It was the 20-mile mark of the Mayor Daley Marathon—the first Mayor Daley—and the year was 1978. At that exact moment, I knew that I would finish my first marathon. Never mind the stories I had heard about hitting The Wall. This marathon was mine, and I was going to finish strong. Emotion rolled over me like fog lifting off Lake Michigan, and I picked up the pace. That was 30 years ago, but I can still summon that particular runner’s high.
Fast forward several decades. My kids now have their own kids. My young wife’s beauty is now classic beauty. I have completed 44 marathons and ran 3:34 in last year’s St. Jude Memphis Marathon—14 minutes faster than in Chicago 30 years ago—and still I’m logging miles.
Through those years the magical 26.2 has been the ultimate distance for me. Who could want or need more? It has been a manageable distance, and although I’ve never been competitive, I have been able to hold my times much as they have been through the years. As I neared my 50th birthday, the idea of running my age—50 miles—came up. It didn’t float down as a vision or a mandate but more as a curiosity of physicality. And I likely didn’t dream up the idea; probably I had read of someone who did this. At any rate, I suppressed the thought.
Bad Fortune Cookies
Carboloading the Chinese Way.
I would like to dedicate this article to an obscure off-road marathon in northern Georgia aptly titled the Twisted Ankle Marathon. It was what we call a “No” race: no finishing medals, no water stops, no fun, and no way am I ever doing that one again!
During my sojourn into the mountainous regions of the former Confederacy, I encountered a frequent dilemma by arriving too late for the pasta dinner. So what is a person to do? Being the professional that I am, I went to the grocery store and bought a sandwich, pretzels, and a box of Hostess Twinkies. (Warning: do not try this at home!) A friend suggested trying a Chinese restaurant in town, but I demurred. You would think that Chinese food is a good option for a marathon prerace meal because noodles and rice are a good source of carbohydrates. I had to pass for one simple reason: bad fortune cookies.
There is nothing more demoralizing before a big race than to get a prophecy of doom wrapped in a deformed concoction of flour, sugar, and milk. But for those of you brave enough to try, here is my feeble attempt to interpret your fortune cookies and what they might mean. I picked these fortunes from a list of common fortunes on a Web site.
Book Bonus: Flanagan’s Run
The Trans-America Race gets an assist from on high. Part 11.
Read this installment in our March/April issue…
Volume 13 | Number 3 | May/June 2009
Me… Or Else
Back in February of this year, RunningUSA, the running-industry organization, held its sixth annual convention in San Diego. RunningUSA consists of an increasing number of road races, marketing organizations, racing services companies, media groups, and others. The intention of the organization is to bring together under one banner as many groups as possible that contribute to the promotion of running with an eye toward having everyone pull in the same direction at the same time for the betterment of all.
One of RunningUSA’s services is to support Team RunningUSA, the group of runners training at Mammoth Mountain, California, including Deena Kastor, Ryan Hall, Jen Rhines, Meb Keflezighi, and Dan Browne. But the organization is also set up to advance the sport and business of running.
On the Road With Lorraine Moller
Great Strides of Women Runners
When I die, if my ideas of immortality are not completely off, I imagine I will get to review my life with my buddies and reminisce. One of my boasts will be “Earth, USA, August 5, 1984—I was there.” My friends, now omniscient, will gasp with envy, knowing full well that this was a poignant time in history. George Orwell predicted we would be a worker society, our emotions stifled by the control of Big Brother, our lives colorless and fear driven. To the contrary, 1984 for me was the year of liberation and promise. Not that George got it wrong, but he was not envisioning through the eyes of a woman runner.
My Most Unforgettable Marathon (And What I Learned From It)
2008 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon
Cleveland, Ohio, May 18, 2008, 6:58 a.m.—It’s raining. A chilly rain, the type in which winter tries to keep its grip on the weather until giving up for another year. In a couple of minutes, the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon will begin.
I am next to the fence that separates runners from spectators, standing under a large umbrella that a 50ish couple is graciously sharing with me. (I think my exact words as I approached them were, “Hi, my name’s John; mind if I join your family for a few minutes?”) Part of my brain is making small talk with my new best friends, but another part is thinking about the imminent race and everything it took to make it to the starting line…
Wait a minute. Why am I starting the story here? It really begins six weeks earlier.
Paavo Nurmi Marathon
Very much a Wisconsin tradition
Over the past 40 years, runners from around the Midwest—and the country—have been making a summer migration to Hurley, Wisconsin, for the Paavo Nurmi Marathon. Named after the “Flying Finn” who dominated distance running in the 1920s and 1930s, the marathon is a tribute not only to Paavo (his likeness appears on the finisher’s T-shirt) but also to all of the Finnish immigrants who flocked to northern Wisconsin in the late 1800s to take advantage of the Homestead Act. They brought with them a strong work ethic and sense of family, two traits that can still be found throughout Iron County, Wisconsin, today.
This is a test to see if you want to read to the end of this column. Ask yourself: Would I want to go five to 10 times longer than my average daily run? Would I want my legs to feel better than I thought possible on the longest distances? Would I want to slow down less in the late miles of a marathon? Would I want to recover faster afterward?
Who wouldn’t? But like all sounds-too-good offers, this one comes with a trade-off. Now ask yourself: Would I sacrifice a half minute or more per mile for these benefits? That’s the cost of taking frequent walk breaks to go longer, easier, more often.
In some minds, “walk” is a dirty word. It once was for me, too. I would run in circles at stoplights, fearing that the running gods would throw down lightning bolts to strike me dead if I walked one step. The only right way to run long, I thought, is to run all the way.
BioFile: Grete Waitz
Date of birth: October 1, 1953, in Oslo, Norway.
Running inspirations: “My brothers when I was a young girl. And later it was the European track runners, European middle-distance runners. And later, when I moved on to the roads… I really didn’t have any idols because I was, more or less, the first one. I ran my first marathon here in New York 30 years ago and set the world best. If I look back, the most important thing was my brothers who inspired me to take up running. Then I reached the national level and international level. They were my best training partners, with my husband. So I had three men in my life who were all important to me.”
On the Mark
Experts answer readers’ training and competition questions. This month’s question: I haven’t yet run a marathon, but I have done some long runs in the rain. I’m concerned that if it rains on race day, I’ll blister, as I have a tendency to do so when my feet get wet. Various marathoners I know seem to have different ways to prevent blistering in wet conditions—everything from generous applications of Vaseline to wearing two pairs of socks. What’s best?
Answers from our experts appear in our May/June issue…
Slip Slidin’ Away
M&B’s 75th issue. How’d that happen?
Some years ago we were on a picnic with my mother- and father-in-law and the subject of time passing by came up. “You turn your head and another year’s gone by,” I pontificated.
“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” my father-in-law said. “Wait ’til you get to be my age.”
Not that I’m yet his age, but he sure was right about time flying by faster as you get a little older.
The days of languid summer afternoons lying under a tree reading comic books on a day that promised to never end are long gone.
Thirteen years of editing Marathon & Beyond have gone by at what, in retrospect, seems like hyperspeed. It seems like only yesterday that I was putting together the proposal at the dining room table, wrestling with an 11-by-17 sheet of paper covered with boxes containing the financials—this from a guy who twice flunked Economics 101 in college.
The Fall and Rise of a Leatherneck
With enough will and persistence, any barrier can be overcome.
Master Gunnery Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps
You can’t know how you will react to being told you will never walk again until the moment you hear those fateful words.
On 22 July 2003, I was going to work on the island of Okinawa, Japan. I was stationed there with my wife, Peggy, and three children. I had been a United States Marine for 16 years and was waiting for the inevitable combat deployment to Iraq with my unit. In the meantime, we trained diligently, honing our skills so that when we were called we would be ready. At 0900, my unit was conducting prejump training for what was supposed to be a normal day of parachute operations. Prejump refresher training ensures that all emergency procedures are in the forefront of your mind, in the unlikely event you find yourself in a jam and need to react quickly. No matter how many times you have parachuted, you will go through prejump training. Our jumpmasters are the best of the best and thoroughly go over every type of scenario you could imagine. You might think that an accident will never happen to you, but it can. It most certainly can.
See How He Runs
Who is Michael Wardian? And why should we care?
He is perhaps the best American distance runner that you’ve never heard of, and perhaps the unlikeliest. At 6 feet tall with long hair, he doesn’t look like a typical elite long-distance runner; he lacks that gaunt, emaciated look. But he competes like an elite long-distance runner: he has won 50K, 100K, and 50-mile trail-run national championships, and he ran in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Trials.
These are not just cherry-picked performances, either; he races as though he never heard of the concept of recovery, throwing himself at race after race, week after week. Despite that, he wins, and wins often; he has completed over 100 marathons, finishing first or second in many of them.
Training Characteristics of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifiers
Analyzing the statistics, there is no one secret formula for success.
One day, while at the track with one of my athletes who was training to qualify for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, I began to wonder how other runners who had already qualified train. Was it similar to what I was having my athlete do? How many miles a week were they running? How much of their training volume was run at specific intensities? Did they use strength training? Unfortunately, there is little research on the long-term training of distance runners, leaving much unknown about training for endurance performance. Most of the information on the training of runners is found in books and magazines. So at that point, with the 2004 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials right around the corner, I decided to take a scientific approach to find answers to the above questions.
Two hundred fifty-five athletes (104 men, 151 women) qualified for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials by running 2:22:00 or faster (men) and 2:48:00 or faster (women) within two years of the event. They were all given a questionnaire asking about their physical characteristics, training history, financial support, personal records for various distances, and training characteristics. All questions pertained to the entire year preceding the 2004 Olympic Trials. Ninety-three athletes (36.5 percent) responded to the questionnaire (37 men and 56 women) and were divided into two categories—elite (sub-2:15 for men, sub-2:40 for women) and national-class (2:15 to 2:22 for men, 2:40 to 2:48 for women).
Time Out for a Running Holiday
The Cayman Islands Marathon delivers small-town charm in an exotic paradise.
Is this a trick question?
That was my first thought when Jan asked me, “Do you want to go to the Cayman Islands in December?” In central Illinois, December is when you start to get some really cold days, along with that first 1-inch snowfall that makes you think that all the other drivers must have just moved here from Florida, because nobody appears to be able to drive in snow. And then some more cold. And wind.
So, despite knowing nothing about the Cayman Islands, I gambled that “yes” was the right response.
Read the rest online.
When a runner greets a runner.
Most good things in life begin with a smile . . .
Little known, but of some interest, is fresh news regarding the story of Pheidippides’s celebrated run from Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. When arriving in Athens, he fell dead at the feet of his emperor—but not before reporting that the emperor’s forces had defeated the Persian army at Marathon. It was obvious that Pheidippides died from overexertion. A distance of 26.2 miles was no easier then than it is today. There is speculation, however, that more was involved.
Evidence has emerged indicating that as Pheidippides approached the outskirts of Athens, running through an area mostly devoid of vegetation and littered with large boulders, he encountered a goat herder. Joyful and exuberant, the young messenger shouted “Niki, niki,” (Victory, victory), but the goat herder ignored him. With goats in tow, the old herder trudged on. He didn’t even look up. Scholars now think that Pheidippides’s sudden death came not only from physical exertion but also from the disappointing encounter with the grumpy old goat herder. Rejection leads to dejection. Pheidippides was in a weakened condition. It may have been just enough, they say, to have pushed him over the edge.
Make every step meaningful by learning the course’s history.
About halfway through the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, racers pass a crusty old wrought iron gateway standing by itself deep in the forest. Ominous letters overhead spell out “Deadwood Cemetery.” A short side trail climbs up to the graveyard situated on a lofty bluff overlooking El Dorado Canyon. You might think that runners would be intrigued enough to have a look. Most don’t. The sign might as well read, “This Way to the Leper Colony!”
Granted, trail runners aren’t usually out looking for history lessons, which is too bad, because many race sites are alive with the past. Runners who get beyond the pretty scenery and learn more about where they’re running are often richly rewarded. Western States—the California granddaddy of 100-mile runs that begins in Squaw Valley, passes through the high country of the Sierra Nevada, and ends in Auburn—is a perfect example. Moving from start to finish, the Western States Trail unfolds like a storybook. History-savvy runners will hardly notice the 100 miles going by. Well, maybe they’ll notice a little….
Boulder to Petoskey, One Step at a Time
Adding up the miles—and more. Part 3 of 4.
Parts 1 and 2 of Paula’s journey appeared in our last two issues.
PJ’s Run, from Boulder, Colorado, to Petoskey, Michigan: six states, 57 days, 1,400 miles . . . but there is much more behind those numbers.
Let’s start with zero:
0 Obnoxious drivers. Instead, the cars, trucks, RVs, trains, and horse-drawn buggies were piloted by universally gracious drivers offering an entertaining study in waves: index finger up from the wheel; waves from the wrist, elbow, or shoulder; the windshield-wiper wave; the limp wrist wave; the salute; the arm pump; the perfectly timed, synchronized, elderly couple wave; not to mention the you’ve-got-a-cell-phone-in-one-hand-please-don’t-take-your-hand-off-the-steering-wheel-to-wave wave.
Dick Merriwell in the Swedish Stadium
Or how brain power won an Olympic race. From a 1912 Tip Top Weekly. Part 3 of 4.
It was unusually quiet around Stockholm after Dick Merriwell’s surprising 400-meter-hurdle victory. Despite this, there was disbelief that Carberry had given up. The inspector and Merriwell had his smaller boat, and he had said that it would be taken back when he was ready.
Since Carberry had set so many traps for the American group, Merriwell and the inspector decided to return the favor. They put the craft in the water next to the American headquarters ship. Inspector Lane, with a gun and small club, and Bill Brady, the Yale catcher and Olympic shot put champ, lay concealed on the bottom. The regular ship’s watch kept guard, unaware of what was going on with the Yale men and former criminal Lefty Leyburn watching from different vantage points.
Book Bonus: Flanagan’s Run
Betting it all on a race against a horse. Part 12.
Read this installment in our May/June issue…
Volume 13 | Number 4 | July/August 2009
The Road Runners Club of America held its 51st annual convention in San Francisco in late March. Whether by chance or design, there was a clear emphasis on ultramarathon running.
On Friday afternoon, Nancy Hobbs led a session on basic trail running, which is how most ultramarathoning gets done in the United States. On Saturday morning, there was a session on “Ultrarunning: Training Tips and Race Trends,” presented by UltraRunning magazine; the panel was moderated by Tia Bodington and featured Tim Twietmeyer, Jennifer Ray, Hollis Lenderking, and Nancy Hobbs.
The featured speaker for the Friday lunch was ultra-legend and mountaineer Marshall Ulrich, and for the Saturday lunch the keynote speaker was Dean Karnazes, author of the runaway best-seller Ultramarathon Man.
It’s understandable that there might be an ultra bent to an RRCA convention held in Northern California. It is, after all, the unofficial ultramarathon epicenter of the world.
An inadvertent, early testimonial to the benefits of walking.
Joe Henderson’s column “Break Time” in the last issue of M&B extols the benefits of mixing regular walking breaks into a running program as a way both to extend the distance you can cover and to recover faster. Joe reports that he began doing this even before Jeff Galloway achieved renown, or infamy to some, for his Gallo-walk program.
Joe doesn’t say when he began adding walks to his runs, but he has been running for a long time. I’m not quite as old as Joe, but I can attest, from a race years ago, that his method works. I stumbled across Joe’s method and used it successfully during the first running boom when nobody was walking in races, at least not voluntarily.
On the Road With Lorraine Moller
I almost canceled my trip to Minneapolis for the Ron Daws 25K, a race dedicated to the memory of my late former husband and coach. He’s an icon in the running community: one of those rare people who managed to outlive their own existence by deeds and words so imbued with their life force that they continue to command an audience way after they are gone.
I felt a smidgeon of the same way I had when I had left town (and our marriage) on a one-way horse called Acrimony. The Twin Cities was his territory, and I had little business being there—precisely why I now felt compelled to face off my lingering guilt and accept this invitation.
I would be hosted by Ron’s old friends, and my duties included saying no more than a few words to the modest gathering before the race started. It sounded innocuous enough but when it came to Ron, I had been hijacked by that sentiment before.
My Most Unforgettable Marathon (and What I Learned From it)
2007 Scheels Fargo Marathon
FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA, May 19, 2007—Sometimes in the pursuit of a dream, what becomes most unforgettable are the people you cross paths with and the treasured memories of the events leading up to the fulfillment of the dream. Such was my experience as I finally reached the pinnacle of my running goals: the Boston Marathon in April 2008.
In April 2005, I had the honor of working on an event where we hosted running legend Dick Beardsley at our local high school. In Dick’s relating of his amazing life story, he confessed his ulterior motive in joining his high school cross-country team—winning a letter jacket to attract girls! I tried to recall my own motivation in the early 1970s to be an Oak Creek Knight cross-country runner in southeastern Wisconsin, where I grew up. This was in the days of three-mile races on golf courses through wooded trails with Nike Cortez shoes. I honestly can’t recall why I joined the team, other than the fact that all my life I seem to have been blessed with almost boundless energy and am most content when I am in perpetual motion.
My high school cross-country career was totally undistinguished as I ran about a seven-minute-per-mile pace at the back of the pack. But that experience on the team provided the foundation for the physical activity of running that has brought me joy, fulfillment, lasting friendships, and unforgettable memories for over three decades.
Under Armour Baltimore Marathon
Stars and more stars—and superstars.
Every city with a Major League Baseball team and a National Football League team shares a love and a devotion to its Hall of Fame outfielders and quarterbacks (except perhaps Philadelphia, whose favorite sons are third baseman Mike Schmidt and center and linebacker Chuck “Concrete Charlie” Bednarik).
San Francisco has Willie Mays and Joe Montana. Detroit has Al Kaline and Bobby Layne. Pittsburgh has Roberto Clemente and Terry Bradshaw. New York starts with Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Duke Snider, and, of course, Joe Namath—Hall of Famers all, but nowhere near the level of Baltimore’s two favorite sons, Babe Ruth and Johnny Unitas.
Ask me to name my favorite marathon and I can’t pick a single race. Instead I list a handful, each for a different reason: Boston because it’s Boston, Royal Victoria because it’s like going to Europe without leaving North America, Napa Valley because its vineyard vistas are intoxicating, Big Sur because of its spectacular meeting of water and land, and Avenue of the Giants because it runs through a cathedral of redwoods.
These five stand out from several dozen marathon courses I’ve run and at least twice that many more that I visited without going the full distance. Note that all but two (Boston and Victoria) are largely or entirely rural. All except Boston are midsize to small, with none of the other four topping 3,200 finishers last year.
Marathoning today is largely citified. Urban races offer the size and services that runners have come to expect. Attractive as escaping to the country might sound, few runners will go there if it means giving up the big-city goodies.
BioFile: Martin Lel
Date of Birth: October 29, 1978, in Kapsabet, Kenya
Leisure Activities/Hobbies: “Besides running, I like to be a businessman and I like to be singing, hearing the beats, listening to music. I love also business—I started my own business before I actually took to my career in running. I have a church where my father preaches. A grocery store. And I also have lands; I am investing in farms and farm animals.”
Favorite Movies: “I like Nigerian movies—where there’s not fighting but a lesson about Christianity.”
Musical Tastes: “I like South African music. The mend in my heart is for South African music.”
Running Inspirations: “I didn’t yearn for heroes because my parents were encouraging me. Also, when I was in school, my teachers were telling me my talent was excellent, so they were really encouraging me. And while there, my friends like Paul Tergat were encouraging me very well. So inspiration came from my parents, teachers, and friends—to be a famous athlete from Kenya.”
Running with Demons
Heaven and Hell in Death Valley.
It was a dark and stormy night…
Seriously, it really was a dark and stormy night when I arrived in Death Valley in the days leading up to the 2008 Badwater 135 Ultramarathon. During a leisurely walk Saturday evening, I found myself racing against a sandstorm back to my room at Stovepipe Wells, a storm whipped up from the sand dunes that lie just a few miles beyond the tiny desert outpost at mile 42 on the racecourse. Stovepipe Wells consists of a small convenience store and gas station, a restaurant, and some modest motel rooms. I lost that race with the sand and ended up finishing the last half mile being sandblasted from every direction. The sand soon settled, however, with help from a torrential rainstorm that lasted for hours. The sound of thunder boomed through the desert for hours into the night, and lightning lit up the sky in all directions. Park rangers were saying that several of the main roads into Death Valley had been washed out or covered with rock slides. The omens were everywhere: this was not going to be an ordinary Badwater 135.
Not that there is anything ordinary about the Badwater 135. Many veteran, hard-core ultramarathon runners won’t go near Badwater. “It’s all on pavement,” they lament. But I think it is more than that. Badwater is on the edge. Badwater is fringe, and with that comes the unfamiliar, which is uncomfortable for some while appealing to others. There is no right or wrong in that. It just means that you don’t find Badwater. Badwater finds you, and everyone’s path to its scorching desert realm is as unique as the runners who find themselves there each July.
Warrior Queen in Death Valley
Lisa Tamati strides outside the Maori boundaries.
Mount Taranaki was covered in winter snow when Lisa took her last training run in New Plymouth in early July. It was 38 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind blew cold and moist off the white peak of the mountain. Two days later her next run was in Las Vegas, where the mountains are all fake, the temperature was a bone-dry 108 degrees, and the New Zealand winter was a world away. Lisa and her crew stayed in the Luxor, a replica of the original pyramid built in the Egyptian desert by the labor of slaves condemned to toil remorselessly up steep slopes under a blazing sun until they dropped dead of exhaustion—good preparation for the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon.
The transition from running a handcrafted jewelry store in a seaport town in New Zealand’s damp and cloudy midwinter to running a high summer 135-mile race across a desert and up a mountain in the hottest and driest place on earth was only one of the adjustments Lisa Tamati has had to make. Hers is a life of adaptation and survival, endeavor and adventure. In the first place, she is Maori (pronounced “Maow-ree” by the way, never “May-OR-ree”), and the indigenous Maori of New Zealand are a seashore people with Polynesian bodies, apt for explosive strength sports like rugby or softball, not extreme distance events. And their culture is one that values communal support and group accomplishment, not solo achievement and individual fulfillment.
So Lisa became the first New Zealand woman, the first Maori of either sex, and the first person from New Plymouth (which is important) to run Badwater. She had to survive physical and emotional crises even to get there. She had to raise more money than she had seen before in her life. She found support from her Maori family and New Plymouth’s business community. It’s a good story.
Measured Versus Self-Reported BMI of Recreational Endurance Athletes: Health Implications
Objectives: Few studies, mainly in controlled laboratory settings, have examined the physical attributes and training of recreational competitors. Endurance running/walking event participation has dramatically increased in recent decades. As a result, health and exercise professionals have dedicated renewed attention to safe training—both for individuals who participate in multiple races and for people preparing for only one endurance event annually to support specific causes. Media reports have suggested people placed themselves at health risk because of inadequate knowledge and awareness of training-related factors and strategies like weight maintenance.
Methods: From March 23 to 25, 2007, we assessed measured and self-reported (SR) height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) among 221 volunteers participating in a half or full marathon in Atlanta, Georgia. We separately recorded prerace weight (including SR height) and height without shoes (including SR weight) at the indoor exposition 12 to 36 hours before races. For weight, we used calibrated Tanita Body Composition Monitor BC-534 digital scales placed on hard, flat surfaces. For height, we used tape measures fixed to straight poles secured to building walls.
Results: While most participants had normal BMI, about one in eight participants changed health-related BMI categorization based on SR versus measured data; nine people appeared healthier.
Conclusions: Accurately measured weight, including for BMI, of recreational endurance athletes is an important metric. With valid, objective information, people can consult health care providers, registered dieticians or sports nutritionists, and certified coaches. Health professionals can provide training recommendations for both safe participation and improved performance over time in endurance running/walking events and any other health-promoting physical activity.
The Hells of the Bunion Derby
John Stone, Jr.’s account of running in the first footrace across America.
I have written about the 1928 Bunion Derby for the past 10 years. From thousands of sources, I have pieced together the history of this epic footrace from Los Angeles to New York City. Never in my long years of study have I read a single document that captures its spirit better than The Hells of the Bunion Derby—the short memoir by John Stone, Jr. of his 84-day odyssey as a “bunioneer.” Stone lets you feel the misery of surviving on horrible food, sleeping in leaky tents, and running, on average, 40 miles a day over some of the most challenging terrain on the planet. After reading his account, you begin to understand how seemingly normal men could overcome the challenges of transcontinental racing. He gives you a window into the souls of the 55 men who finished the race.
Stone seemed to be an unlikely candidate for transcontinental racing. He had been an outstanding high school athlete in football and basketball, but he had no experience as a distance runner. In 1926, he married at 21 and left his hometown of Marion, Indiana, with his 18-year-old bride, Viola. They settled in Los Angeles, where he found work in a paper mill. Late in 1927, Viola became pregnant. John looked as though he had found his path in life until he heard about the Bunion Derby.
Race organizer Charles C. Pyle had advertised the event in newspapers across the country, with a promise to feed and house any man bold enough to take up the challenge of racing across America. He offered a $25,000 first prize, a small fortune to a working man when the average family survived on $2,000 a year. Pyle’s offer lured 199 men to toe the line at Ascot Park Speedway in Los Angeles for the start of the race. Most left disapproving wives and families to follow this call for adventure. John’s wife could not understand the logic behind what she saw as a crazy, half-baked idea with a baby on the way and little money in the bank. He went anyway, leaving her with $100 to live on for the next three months. She boarded a train for Marion and stayed with her parents for the duration of the race.
Most of the other men faced similar reactions. Andy Payne’s father, an Oklahoma hill farmer, called his son’s idea of racing across America “not even good foolishness.” Mike Joyce, an Irish immigrant and Cleveland factory worker, left his unhappy wife with four small children and took most of the family savings with him.
Read the rest online.
Boulder to Petoskey, One Step at a Time
Reflections. Part 4 of 4.
What, exactly, did I visualize as I prepared for this run across the heartland? Blacktop, some prairie, a bunch of corn, a gentle downhill from Colorado to Michigan—and, most vividly, Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay sparkling in the sunlight as I ran my way into Petoskey. Every single time I thought about the Run, I pictured the bay. Every single time I felt tired during the Run, I pictured the bay. No way to get to the bay if I didn’t keep running.
So! What, exactly, actually happened out there on the road?
Yes, blacktop—quiet, usually rolling, with gracious drivers brightening the day with a friendly wave.
Yes, prairie—stunningly beautiful with rippling prairie grass, craggy nooks and crannies, wildflowers among tumbleweeds, butterflies, and dragonflies flitting everywhere, and dotted with shy cattle and rambunctious horses.
Yes, corn—everywhere, corn… fields of it, kernels, cobs, and stalks littering the road, and corn-motif shower curtains in the campground. But also soybeans, vast expanses of alternating fields of soybeans and corn filling the view all the way to the horizon in every direction.
No gentle downhill. No, sirree. Yes, you lose altitude, but somehow you do that by going up and down, up and down, incessantly up and down. My legs are more than willing to testify that there is at least as much up as there is down between Colorado and Michigan.
Dick Merriwell’s Marathon
Or how the last Olympic mile brought victory. Tip Top Weekly. Part 4 of 4.
The Swedish setting was much different from the neighborhood where the Yale athletes and Dick Merriwell trained and ran. However, the long runs back home had given Merriwell the ability to race in the Stockholm Marathon. According to the original plan, he would set a killing pace and be followed by all the other competitors, who would then tire themselves out. But all of the other Americans who were entered in the race were either sick or injured, and, as a result, more pressure was placed on him. Now, one of the others would set the pace for as long as possible, and Merriwell would hang back until the moment was right.
Harrigan, head of the American Olympic Committee, picked up Merriwell and they went to the hotel, where Harrigan reported that a protest had been lodged against Jack Tempest, America’s top sprinter. The hearing would be held the next day. The charge was professionalism. Then, Harrigan said the charge had been dropped and a letter of apology sent explaining that the Swedish Olympic Committee had been misled by false information.
In reality, Jim Phillips, who had been on the wireless continuously, with no success, finally heard a message from Carberry (the head of a conspiracy trying to foil the success of the American team). Carberry’s plan was to produce a letter with evidence to back the charges against the sprinter Tempest. However, as Carberry tried to harm the American team, his troubles had prevented him from following through.
Harrigan grew concerned that the strain of the confrontations with Carberry was demoralizing the team. Additionally, he worried that Carberry might attempt to free his men who had been taken prisoner.
The Pain of (Paying for) the Marathon
Inside the economics of the marathon.
Ready or not, marathoners, the $200 entry fee has arrived. It’s true—for those runners lucky enough to gain entry into the Boston Marathon through the race’s affiliation with designated charitable organizations, the entry fee has now reached that high water mark. For international runners (those who achieved the qualifying time) the entry fee currently stands at “only” $150, while U.S. residents who qualified paid a paltry $110.
Too much, you say? Not for the 25,000 runners who were more than willing to pony up the cash. The 2009 race closed out more quickly than ever before; in late January, a notice on the Boston Athletic Association Web site announced that the race had reached its quota. Even if you had achieved the qualifying standard, if you had not signed up by then, you were out of luck for this year.
Boston is not alone in charging what to some may seem like exorbitant entry fees. The 2009 ING New York City Marathon will cost New York Road Runners $138, non-members $171, and international runners $231. “As much as we’d like not to raise the prices, it was necessary at this time,” race director Mary Wittenberg told the New York Times, adding, “We’re sitting in a marketplace where we have to anticipate that costs will be up and revenue will be down.”
Other marathons are equally pricey. The inaugural Kauai Marathon in Hawaii in September will set back non-Hawaii residents $225 unless they registered before March. The entry fee for the Disney Marathon is $125, but its accompanying “Goofy Challenge,” in which entrants run a marathon and a half-marathon on consecutive days, does not come cheaply, at $285. Many other marathons have crossed the $100 barrier, including Austin, Big Sur, the Rock ’n’ Roll marathons, and Lake Tahoe. From all appearances, despite the ailing economy, these and other marathons are thriving.
Reflections on the end of an 18-year marathon streak.
In the Broadway hit A Chorus Line, 17 dancers auditioning for a show were asked by the director, “If today were the day you had to stop dancing, how would you feel?”
I recently faced the same question about my running career. After 18 straight Houston marathons, I failed to finish, not because of leg cramps or dehydration but because of something much worse: ego.
For a month before the race, I had knee pain. It got worse, but I rationalized away the problem and on race day hobbled to the starting line for the 19th time.
Within 300 yards, I knew I was in trouble. I limped along for a few miles hoping for a miracle. Then I walked. Then I stopped. The streak was over. A stress fracture forced me off the course.
It took a few minutes to register as I watched my friends run by. I had never experienced a marathon from outside the ropes. Riding back to the starting line, I was embarrassed, humiliated, and angry. How could this be happening to me? After all, I was Superman, immune to age and injury.
Disbelief became harsh reality as I shuffled to my car like an outed senior citizen. Spectators looked askance at my veteran’s race number and then at their watches, which showed an elapsed race time of only 45 minutes. Feeling like a phony, I covered my number with a jacket and avoided eye contact.
For several days I was in denial, looking for someone or something to blame. The swagger was gone from my step. I found myself dodging any discussion of the marathon to avoid reporting on my failure.
Like the Broadway dancers, I had staked everything on my perceived prowess as an athlete, a performer of sorts. But unlike the dancers, I had no real talent, and instead of using my marathon streak to reach out to new audiences of would-be runners, I allowed it to become little more than a tool to promote my own sense of self.
Book Bonus: Flanagan’s Run
Achilles tendon troubles semi-hobble old Doc Cole. Part 13.
Volume 13 | Number 5 | September/October 2009
The Red and the Black
For the first time in runners’ memories, Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, did not sell out. The 33rd running of the race on June 20, 2009, came up approximately 1,200 runners short of its 9,500-runner limit.
The shortfall was due to a number of factors, not the least of which was the depressed economy. The economy had a negative effect on many runners’ assessments of whether to make the trek to the remote northeast of the state for Grandma’s Marathon weekend.
It’s a wonderful race, with wonderful organization, a terrific course, and a wonderful postrace celebration, but some runners feel “had” by the local businesses that over the years have taken advantage of the fact that Duluth/Superior sits up there alone on the edge of Lake Superior where runners have little choice but to pay boomtown prices for rooms, complete with a two-night minimum.
In some ways, the boom-or-bust mentality is understandable. Grandma’s Marathon weekend is the biggest tourist weekend of the year for Duluth, and the merchants want to rake in what they can before the annual glacier from the north slides in and cuts the cities off from the rest of the world before it reluctantly retreats in late spring.
On the Road With Lorraine Moller
I am a runner.
These days I am a soft-bellied puffer. I have long ago gave up the measures of time, distance, and pace, or how many eager-beavers I ran down on the way. My yardsticks for a satisfying run now are epiphany, novel ideas, and inspiration.
I used to ponder the following question often: Why do we runners run? What drives us to wake early on cold mornings and stagger out the door in wet shoes? To push ourselves forward with blood blisters, to endure stabbing stitches, and to crash through walls of energetic depletion? Where do we find that final sprint when our engine is registering failure and there is no chance of a medal, a payday, or a shoe contract? How many of you, like me, declared during a race, “I hate this, it makes no sense, I am never doing this again!” only to show up and do the same thing a week later? Most of you, I bet. These questions underscored the bigger ones: “Who am I? What am I doing here? What does it all mean?”
My Most Unforgettable Ultramarathon (and What I Learned From it)
2008 Two Oceans Ultramarathon
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA March 22, 2008—The story I want to tell you is that of my first ultramarathon: the Two Oceans 56K ultramarathon held in Cape Town, South Africa. Although I ran the race, as you can see from the dateline, in March 2008, my journey to that race began in September 2005 as I began running for the very first time in my life.
Arthur Ashe once said that “Success is a journey, not a destination,” and I think that the pleasure and joy I felt on that day in Africa cannot be understood unless I tell you about my early running days. After all, you should not be so preoccupied with the destination that you forget to recount the pleasures of the journey.
I am afraid I am getting ahead of myself, so let me start at the very beginning.
California International Marathon
The best weather is overlooked because of the notorious worst.
Like a good fish story in which the size of the fish grows with each retelling, some road races earn reputations based on one unfortunate incident that is stretched out and preserved and exaggerated and retold a thousand times until it slips into legend.
The California International Marathon (run from Folsom to Sacramento, the state capitol), held in early December—a marathon in December? What were they thinking?—suffers from an unjustified reputation that it features horrid weather, simply because one year (way back in 1987, for God’s sake!) the weather was atrocious, horrible, beastly, nearly apocalyptic, the stuff of legend.
“There was never a worse day. I never warmed up one bit. That 2:16 was worth a good five minutes better in these conditions.”—Canada’s Peter Maher, who won the race with a 2:16:49 and who, near the 12-mile point, turning into the wind, had his singlet ripped from his body.
“I was very happy inside but totaled on the outside. It was very tough mentally to get through that race, and it took everything I had, inside and out. It took me a while to recover, and I really never did get it back to a level that I felt good about in time for the Trials.”—Patti Gray, who won the 1987 women’s race in 2:40:49.
“When I woke up race morning I … hoped it wouldn’t start pouring. I wore … a singlet and shorts and the wind was so bad that … I watched it uproot a tree and topple it on top of a car. I also watched it rip the singlet off eventual winner Peter Maher as I ran along with him. It looked like a plastic bag flying in the wind as it went off in the distance.”—Mark Conover, two-time U.S. Olympic marathoner. The 1987 CIM was his first marathon; he ran 2:18 and placed third.
We admit to trying to run the race that year and instead dropped out at mile 12 after using as many “up” muscles to leap over fallen tree branches as “forward” muscles to push ourselves into the wind. It was at about the 12-mile point where the course turned into the worst of the wind. We ducked into the vestibule of a corner restaurant and huddled inside with a knot of other shivering runners until the sag bus came by to rescue us.
We use the analogy of the fish story because it was a day fit only for fish. We could just as easily use the Woodstock analogy where, 40 years down the calendar, if everyone who claims to have been there actually had been, the crowd would have measured in the millions. In a similar fashion, when runners speak of the California International Marathon, they speak ill of it, as though they were all there in 1987, and every year since has been a disastrous carbon copy.
One That Got Away
It’s never too late to have a new experience. I had one in my latest marathon, and it taught me that even when this experience starts badly, it can end well.
In more than four decades of running marathons (and beyond), I had experienced almost everything possible. I’d gone much faster than expected and also far slower. I’d run dramatically negative splits and equally drastic positives (an odd term for a decidedly negative experience). I’d finished without proper training and had dropped out after training properly. I’d been injured while training and abandoned the program long before its end, and I’d finished after the early miles magically healed an injury. I’d walked unavoidably and had taken walk breaks intentionally. I’d dropped out of a few marathons and, to my eternal regret, most of my ultras.
But at least in all those cases I had shown up at the starting line. “Ninety percent of winning,” the saying goes, “is showing up.” My experience is that if you get that far, you’re almost certain to push on to the finish. I’d never pulled out of a marathon right before its start, so there was no reason to think that would happen this time. Another recent “marathon” had gone smoothly, so I’d expected the same at Napa Valley 2009.
BioFile: Lornah Kiplagat
Date of birth: May 1, 1974, in Kabiemet, Kenya.
Running inspirations: “Run, run fast. Exploit, exploit. My inspiration is like exploit what you have. How much do you still have in you? And the charity work that I’m doing. It gives me an inspiration because I feel like I’m doing something for the community. And run fast.” leisure activities/hobbies: “My hobbies is just go to a nice restaurant and eat. One of my hobbies— watching movies. But it’s not like I have to sit and watch movies all day. And my nice thing is to see things, new places.”
Favorite movies: “E.R.—it’s a [TV] series. That’s what I watch.”
Last book read: “Mandela—Nelson Mandela. I’m still reading.”
On the Mark
A Weighty Matter: In May, I ran the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon. I ran 3:47:01; I’m in the 55–59 age group. at 5 feet 10 inches and 203 pounds, I’m also in the Clydesdale category. I would like to qualify for entry into the Boston Marathon. Under its current rules, I would need to run 3:45:59. Do your experts feel that Boston should include a formula for qualifying as a Clydesdale in the various age divisions, and what kind of formula might they suggest?
Answers from our experts appear in our September/October issue…
Advanced Training Techniques for the Marathon
Consistency and sticking to a program are critical.
At some stage of their running career, all marathoners stop improving, even seasoned ones with several marathons under their belts. If you have reached a plateau where your times are getting slower, it might be time to reevaluate your training program. Likewise, if you have been getting sick or injured frequently over the past year or two and suspect that you are overtraining, restructuring your training program might be long overdue.
Even experienced marathoners need to reexamine their training periodically. So if you’ve been running consistently for three to five years and can run 50 to 70 miles per week, here is some advice to help you reassess your training schedules, with the goal of cutting time off your next marathon.
Some people have a unique idea of fun.
What a difference a good run can make!
I woke up early on the morning of Saturday, August 16, 2008, and started to get ready for a 16-mile training run. My wife, Robin, and I were planning to run the JFK 50-Miler in November, and most of our training during the year had been focused on that goal. We ran the Austin Marathon in February, and in April and May I ran four other marathons and a 50K. The summer weather in Chicago was surprisingly pleasant and great for running. While Robin had established a detailed training plan to prepare herself for the 50-miler, I wasn’t doing anything special.
My run that Saturday morning was at the Busse Woods Forest Preserve in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, just a few minutes from our home. It was one of my regular training locations, with an eight-mile loop. During the summer, you have to start your run early because by midmorning the path becomes clogged with cyclists, walkers, in-line skaters, and assorted other pedestrians. I started my first loop by 6:30 a.m.
Just over an hour later I was done. I hadn’t intended to run that fast, and I really didn’t feel that I had put forth any special effort. I grabbed something to drink and an energy gel at my car and started off for my second loop. I certainly wasn’t expecting to match my first loop, and I didn’t. I beat my time by almost three minutes! Maybe I was in better condition than I thought.
I usually run a marathon every month, but I hadn’t run one since late May. I didn’t have one on my schedule until October, although I was hoping to run one in September. I just hadn’t decided which one. My great training run really had me fired up. By the time I got home, I knew what I would do. Why run just one marathon in September when I can run three? Especially when they are on consecutive days and in one of the most beautiful places in the United States. I was going to do the Tahoe Triple!
Camp-Town Races Five Smiles Long
Or, how to get by without a barn before your next big race.
Here’s the thing: one of the principal differences between the “marathon” and the “beyond” (besides the distance) is the terrain. The vast majority of marathons happen in cities and towns on pavement, but the vast majority of ultramarathons happen in jungle. Well, let’s just say they’re mostly trail races that generally wind their way though big parks, remote rural areas, and bad footing. (Kind of like “jungle,” no?)
Another difference is how you get there and what you do before the big race starts and after it’s over. In cities and towns, there’s no problem. You book a room, or you stay with friends, or they farm you out to their friends, or you have no idea where you are or in whose crib you’re shacking. In the big woods, however, it’s different. There may still be rooms available, but you’re going to have to drive awhile. Nah, you don’t want to do that. The much better option is camping.
A short story.
Awareness arrived as a riot of colors, swimming in patterns that pulsed to a drumbeat that seemed to shake the world. My ears roared. I had no idea where I was—I barely knew who I was.
That much was normal. In the past two decades, I’ve gone through it enough times that I’m almost used to it. But then, with a suddenness that was nearly palpable, everything snapped into focus. The colors faded to the muted pastel of an ordinary ceiling, and the drum and roar receded to the murmurs of heartbeat and breath. I was lying on my back on a cot in an equalizer’s office.
I shouldn’t have awakened so quickly. Something must have gone wrong, aborting the procedure before it had truly begun. I tried to sit up, wanting to see more of the room than the ceiling, but the restraining straps stopped me with a jerk that nearly pulled a muscle.
“Now, now,” scolded a voice somewhere to my right. “You’re an old hand at this—you should know better than to move around right after you’ve been equalized.” The owner of the voice drifted into my field of vision. Short, balding, and slightly paunchy, he was wearing an equalizer’s lab smock, but he wasn’t the equalizer who’d put me to sleep however many moments before. And the portions of the office the straps allowed me to see, I now realized, were subtly different. Where earlier there’d been a bookcase, a coat rack now stood. Where there’d been a photo of a desert sunset, there was now a watercolor painting of fir trees and snowy mountains. I’d gone to sleep in Cape Town, South Africa. At a guess, I was now on the west coast of North America.
“It’s over, then?” I asked, sur prised by how readily I found my voice.
“Of course. Once you get your wits back, you’re all set for another year”—he consulted his clipboard—“on the track. First, though, you have to get reoriented.” He unfastened the straps. “You can sit up whenever you’re ready.”
A Day with Marshall Ulrich
Somewhere in Mid-America
Marshall Ulrich and Charlie Engle had taken the better part of a year to organize a 3,100-mile run from San Francisco to New York. Their goals were to strongly support the United Way, and to make the beauty and strength of the United States of America more visible to the rest of the world. An enormous physical and mental challenge was also involved, of course. The entire adventure, which started in September 2008 and was dubbed Running America, would be captured on film and made into a documentary.
By the time he reached Utah, Charlie had been derailed from further running by excruciating injuries. He carried on as part of the team by riding a mountain bike the rest of the way. Marshall and his wife, Heather, became good friends of ours through visiting Houston on a speaking engagement and organizing our trip to Tanzania earlier in 2008. As soon as we learned of Marshall’s incredible goal, we wanted to be part of it, even if only in some small way.
Accessing the “Zone”
What you think you can do is what you can do.
The last two miles of the four-mile run fly by like a whirlwind. Following a train of thought only his body understands, the runner, feeling isolated, stays on track for a PR. The straight, out-and-back course becomes a tunnel shielding the athlete from the outside world. While acutely aware of all his senses, he barely feels his feet touch the ground. For several moments, nothing else exists but the task at hand. He has reached the nirvana of all athletes: the zone. He smashes his course record with a time of 20:07 in this solo time trial.
Sir Roger Bannister, who in 1954 became the first man to break the four-minute mile, described similar sensations felt during his record run in his book, The Four-Minute Mile: “No longer conscious of my movement, I discovered a new unity with nature. I had found a new source of power and beauty, a source I never dreamt existed.”
Dr. Bannister’s description of “the zone” paints a vivid, accurate picture of what I felt in my aforementioned time trial and countless other races and training runs in which barriers were broken and breakthroughs achieved. It is well documented that Bannister, his coach, and his training partners truly believed years in advance that he could run a 3:59.4 mile.
This audacious self-belief, enhanced by vivid visualization and relaxation, is a key to accessing the zone. Despite the seemingly mythological status of this athletic nirvana, most athletes can reach this state of consciousness and unlock their full potential.
Long before he became governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger utilized this mind-set to become the greatest bodybuilder of all time. “The mind is the limit,” the “Governator” once proclaimed. “As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.”
Or, as Jedi Master Yoda told Luke Skywalker, “Try not! Do, or do not. There is no try.” Very early in my 37-year running career, these lessons became clear. During my first high school cross-country season, I was rewarded for my hard-won success with a spot on the varsity team of Mesquite High, a 5A Texas school— heady stuff for a sophomore who was an average track runner his freshman year. Coach Pat Mitchell’s “Skeeters” were a perennial cross-country and track powerhouse in the 1970s and ’80s, boasting a lengthy list of district champions and regional and state qualifiers.
Change: The Progression We Need
Resilience is the key to success.
“‘You’re too small, Pre.’ ‘You’re not fast enough, Pre.’ ‘Give up your foolish dream, Steve.’ But they forgot something—I have to win.”
At one point in his life, Steve Prefontaine actually was not fast enough. In fact, Pre may have been considered nothing out of the ordinary early in his high school career, failing to break two minutes in the half mile, five minutes in the mile, and 10 minutes in the two-mile during his freshman year. Soon thereafter, however, Pre found his rhythm and eventually became a legend in long-distance running. On the way to becoming one of the most dominant runners in U.S. history, however, Pre pulled off an incredible feat: from age 15 to 24, he improved every year in every distance he raced. Whether or not Pre was ever fast enough, thinking about it never slowed him down.
Steve Prefontaine started a running revolution in the 1970s. “He made running cool,” as Alberto Salazar claims. But he also made the idea of moving from the mile to longer distances routine. Despite the hype created in the 1960s by legend Jim Ryun in breaking the 4:00 barrier in the mile as a teen, Pre switched his mind-set to the longer distances. Pre originally wanted to be a miler after his sub-4:10 performance at Marshfield High School in 1969 but realized later that his PRs in longer events made him much more competitive. According to age-grading calculators, Pre’s two-mile was significantly stronger than his mile, and his 5K was the most impressive of the three distances.
The running career of Olympian Ryan Hall is somewhat parallel to that of Steve Prefontaine. The 26-year-old Stanford graduate recently told me that he has “joined the club” of a different group of distance runners. The humble phenom realized that, after disappointing collegiate performances in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters, maybe the role of a middle-distance runner would be more fitting for some other individual. Although Hall managed to produce All-American times in the middle distances during his high school and college careers, it was his inconsistency throughout college that frustrated the young California native. “I wanted to be a miler and was stubborn with that decision, but I was eventually dissuaded with the lack of turnover required for even the 5K.”
Running, Aging, and Human Potential
The longevity measuring stick is in the legs.
I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1955 and have spent the major portion of the subsequent years in pursuit of my chosen field of geriatrics, the medical care of older persons. It has been a lifetime overflowing with gratification, both personal and scientific.
Implicit in my daily duties has been the opportunity to explore and define the human potential—not only the length of life but also its quality, its extent, and its content. I have written three books on aging (We Live Too Short and Die Too Long, Dare to Be 100, and Living Longer for Dummies) and over 100 scientific articles, the most significant being the one I wrote for the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1982 titled “Disuse and Aging,” which importantly differentiated the often-confused elements of disuse and aging.
My conclusion, based on volumes of studies, including those from NASA concerning the profound negative biologic effects of weightlessness on our astronauts, was that the fitness contribution to human health represents a 30-year age offset. Stated in another way, a fit person of age 70 is biologically similar to an unfit person of 40—this having nothing to do with genes or medical care but due solely to physical conditioning.
Read the rest online.
Book Bonus: Flanagan’s Run
Man’s brains go up against magnificent horsepower for all the marbles. Part 14.
Volume 13 | Number 6 | November/December 2009
Form and Function
Nearly every sport has one or two iconic human symbols that at a glance capture the sport. Major League Baseball has a batter in the hitting stance. The NBA logo is modeled on Jerry West. If we think of football, it is often of a quarterback with rear foot planted, poised with cocked arm ready to unleash a bomb. In golf, it could be a silhouette of Tiger Woods taking a swing.
Since its first issue, Marathon & Beyond has used a little logo at the top of the cover of a man and a woman running in sync, presumably displaying ideal running form. Or are they?
Although running involves merely putting one foot in front of the other and then alternating, every runner brings to the sport a unique take on running form. This fact is brought home forcibly every time I stand at the finish line of a race and strain the old eyes up the road to pick out individual runners from the approaching mass. Some runners have such distinctive running mechanics that you can pick them out of a crowd two blocks away or against a sunset sky while they are a half mile away.
On the Road With Lorraine Moller
The Lydiard Lineage
I faintly remember meeting a young Japanese man in a Spokane hotel elevator at the 1982 Bloomsday Road Race. He tried to strike up a conversation with me. His timing was horrible. I was licking my wounds, having been thoroughly trounced by my Kiwi rival, Anne Audain. She had bounded off with the race from the start in brilliant style, leaving me and others to eat her dust.
“Are you from New Zealand?” His English was impeccable.
“How is Arthur Lydiard?”
“I don’t know! I don’t live in New Zealand. Arthur Lydiard is not my coach!” At that point, I disembarked without another word. The last thing I wanted to talk about was training. Clearly, at that point my marathon training was not a match for Anne’s faster preparation.
My Most Unforgettable Marathon (and What I Learned From It)
2006 Boston Marathon
HOPKINTON, MASSACHUSETTS, April 17, 2006—Chills ran up and down my spine as the moment I had so diligently prepared for the last five months approached. The next three-plus hours would tell me whether the time spent preparing for this afternoon had been worth the many miles put in while enduring the elements that a typical Michigan winter has to offer. As I waited in the starting corral, I couldn’t help but think back to when I began running. I knew very little about the marathon distance and how to train for and race it. I doubted my ability to tackle 26 miles. Qualifying for and running in the Boston Marathon was the last thing that I could have imagined.
When I began flirting with the idea of running my first marathon at the age of 29, I didn’t put any thought into what opportunities running might provide for me. A Dr. Seuss book titled Oh, the Places You’ll Go! describes the journey of life with its ups and downs and twists and turns. The last few lines of this book have a great quotation: “Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So … get on your way!” I have concluded that running provides many parallels to life and that training for and running a marathon is a mountain that is waiting. Running has taken me places that I never could have imagined, and I hope that the journey continues for years to come.
My running journey began in October 1997 when my wife, Kathy, and I watched our friend Clay run the Chicago Marathon.
We carefully planned our meeting locations on the course for race day and were able to see Clay at miles 2, 12, 18, and 25. I was very curious as to what the runners might be thinking at mile 2, knowing that they had 24 miles to go. My interest in what must be going through their minds intensified as we waited for Clay at each of the planned mile markers. I was mesmerized by the masses of runners laying it all on the line for so many miles. I had pictured a marathon runner as being small, slim, and young, but what I was witnessing was a diverse group of runners, big and small, young and old.
As we watched many of these same runners at mile 25, I was amazed that they were all just a mile away from finishing a marathon. I had thought it impossible to run that far.
A race where the hearty thrive.
The blue norther that dumped several inches of ice and snow on Fort Worth, Texas, in the wee hours of the last Saturday in February 1979 served as a harbinger of things to come for the Cowtown Marathon. Several hundred intrepid souls stubbornly lined up for that inaugural marathon and 10K, won by hometown heroes Bill Parmelee (2:27:09) and Nancy Denniston (3:24:55). As the classic Queen song said, “The show must go on.”
That frosty day made the home-field advantage a necessity. We vividly remember our frustration of being entered in the 10K but not being able to make the 60-mile drive from Mesquite to Fort Worth. All revved up and no place to go for the 16-year-old track star. By most accounts, the sticky ice that day was not bad to run on (save taking wide angles on corners) but too dangerous for a teenager and his dear mother to make the trip down the old turnpike.
More than any other race we’ve been part of in 37 years of running, weather defines “the Cowtown.” The hellacious winds that battered the runners in 2007, the last year we officially entered, are illustrative.
Kids These Days
I spend more time among the young than almost anyone my age whose own kids are grown and whose grandchildren live far away. Four mornings a week, I’m on a college campus, watching the student parade.
First impressions: they’re surgically attached to their phones and music players. Only the hopelessly unhip don’t sport body art. Smoking rates are rising. So is weight.
My wife rents homes to college-age kids. Barbara tells horror stories of evictions for alcohol parties for the underaged, which led to near riots, and for dealing drugs from her properties.
If I mistook these extreme examples for the norm, I’d despair for this generation’s future. I’d view today’s kids as the old traditionally do the young: as fatter, lazier, and more spoiled than we were at their age. I’d think they wouldn’t want to run at all, let alone train for marathons.
Fortunately, I’m on campus precisely because kids of traditional college age, 18 to 22, still run. Running classes at this school are fully subscribed, with three teachers covering as many as five of these PE electives per term.
These kids could be my grandchildren, yet they talk as freely with me as I do with them. I learn that they run for the same reasons I did when young. They thrive when given the same inspiration and instruction that my “grandpas” gave. Old or young, we speak the same running language.
BioFile: Marilson Gomes dos Santos
Date of birth: August 6, 1977, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Running inspirations: “My brother (Marcos Roberto). Because he’s the first one that actually first started knowing about running. And is the one that introduced me to it.”
Favorite movies: “Comedy mostly.”
First Marathon Memory: “I don’t remember her name, but she was an American and I can see her very clearly arriving at the finish line. She won. That’s the image of that day I have in my head. It was in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. I remember now—it was Joan Benoit.”
On the Mark
Swelling Hands—and Feet: Why is it that halfway through a marathon my hands begin to swell up and stay that way for hours after I stop running? The same thing happens to my feet, but to a lesser degree. Is this normal, or should I be concerned?
Answers from our experts appear in our November/December issue…
4 Deserts and Some Badwater
Dean Karnazes captures the coveted desert crown and lives (barely).
The tale of the desert is similar to that of a life well lived; it is constantly filled with struggle and periodically graced with a glimpse of beauty. Everything in the desert must battle for survival, from the weeds to the birds.
Nothing comes easy. Resources are sparse and shelter from the hostile elements even scarcer. Don’t get me wrong; there is incredible life in the desert, but it is tempered by the supreme difficulty of merely surviving. Above all, survival is paramount.
However, this vacuum of life also creates a landscape of simplicity and scenic beauty. Unique colors are created, soft silhouettes are placed in the distance, and the wide-open spaces allow for expansive views and possibilities. Still, the elements rule. Everything in the desert is held hostage to the environment, which can be cruel and dictatorial. Plainly, deserts are not meant to be sought, but avoided. Blowing dust and 120-plus-degree temperatures are not the ideal setting for your next vacation, unless, of course, you find comfort in extremes. Apparently, Dean Karnazes does.
Last year, he and three other individuals—Jimmy Olsen, Ken “Tintin” Johansson, and Paul Liebenberg—set out to be the first to complete all of the races in the 4 Deserts Racing Series in a single calendar year, a feat that had never been accomplished. Starting with the Atacama Desert in Chile, moving to the Gobi Desert in central Asia, meandering to the continent of Africa to cross the Sahara Desert, and finally setting sail to the bottom of the earth to traverse the great Antarctic Desert, these four intrepid explorers (or lunatics—your call) would embark upon a journey of hardship, grief, severe sleep deprivation, misery, and suffering, not to mention extreme anguish, all in the name of a good time. For a hardened endurance junkie, it simply doesn’t get any better.
A year in the life of an ultrarunner.
Connie was going for it. She had been on pace (about 10 minutes per mile) for nearly the entire event, the 2007 Ultracentric 24-Hour U.S. championship in Grapevine, Texas. The conditions were certainly not conducive to a record; the daytime temperatures had been in the 80s, and there was considerable humidity. Yet she definitely had a shot at the American women’s 24-hour record of 145.28 miles set 14 years earlier by Sue Ellen Trapp.
For the final two frenetic hours, time seemed to stand still as she ground out mile after mile at the required pace. For the final 45 minutes, runners were moved off the two-mile course and onto a quarter-mile course so that their distance could be monitored more closely. Then Connie heard the words she was so desperate for: “You’ve made it—you have the record!”
“I was completely exhausted and almost completely out of time. I immediately stopped and collapsed,” she said. There had been only minutes to spare. But that’s not the end of the story. Gardner was happy to have not only the record but also the $4,000 bonus check on top of the $4,000 she would get for the win. But here is the rest of the story. Race officials remeasured the course and determined that it was shorter than they had originally thought. Now Connie was informed that she had run 145.26 miles—about 40 meters short of the record. She wasn’t pleased. The Ultracentric race capped off an excellent 2007 year for Gardner. In the months leading up to the event, she had won the Mohican 100-mile trail run, the Buckeye Trail 50K, and the Javelina Jundred 100-mile run. She also won her age group at the Akron Marathon as well as several other events.
The year in the life of Connie Gardner referred to in the title is 2008, but we just had to include at least this run that happened to be at the end of 2007. The year 2008 was also an extraordinary one of marathon and ultramarathon running—ordinary by Connie’s standards, that is, but extraordinary by almost any other human standards.
A Different Kind of Unforgettable Marathon
What happens when an obsessive-compulsive marathon runner takes a turn behind the water table.
Like any experienced runner, I carefully reviewed all my gear the night before the New York City Marathon. First, I looked up the weather online—just in case something had changed dramatically in the three minutes since I had last checked. No, still upper 40s, low 50s, and a light wind. Out of both time and second guesses, I committed to my wardrobe: one wicking base layer, a cold-weather water-resistant jacket and gloves, a bag with extra socks and sneakers in case the ground was wet, hand warmers (check), sunscreen in case it was too sunny, and hat in case it was too cold. I checked and double-checked the NYC transit map for the correct subway train and calculated the time to the start within a 60-second margin of error, trying hard not to jump up, put my coat on, and do a dry run of my route, since it was already 9:00 p.m.
The one thing I didn’t pack? Water. Because I wasn’t going to be running the NYC Marathon this year. Instead, I was going to volunteer at a water station for the first time in my rather selfish running life. Of course, just like every marathon I had run, I was determined to make my volunteering debut, well, perfect.
Mugging the ING
The results don’t always tell the tale.
The Boston Marathon dates back to 1897, and most runners strive to qualify to run it at least once. But the ING New York City Marathon is the premier event in marathoning … running through the five boroughs … millions of spectators … the crowds, bands. The ING New York City Marathon has become perhaps the most prestigious of all the world’s marathons. I ran the race twice in the ’80s, but having turned 60 recently, and thus entering a new age group, I thought I would give this challenging course another shot. The training had gone OK, though I did have a few minor setbacks. I had contracted Lyme disease in late August 2008, the downside of being married to an avid gardener. (Surely not the result of thousands of miles on the Shawangunk trails.) I had felt miserable for weeks with absolutely no energy, and in fact I had a 104 degree temperature when I first called Dr. Heller. He put me on doxycycline for 30 days, but on far too many runs I found myself slogging along at a 10-minute pace.
One Mile Deep
Ten miles as the crow flies, 20 miles rim to rim.
Running the Grand Canyon from rim to rim offers runners the opportunity to experience one of the seven natural wonders of the world without ever having to miss a weekend of training. With well-maintained trails, water sources along the way, and food and lodging on both sides, this epic run can be done without having to bring along a support crew. The challenge to make it across draws thousands of runners and hikers every year. While the distance is only 20 to 23 miles from trailhead to trailhead depending on the route you take, the heat, altitude, and lack of shade are so grueling that 250 people are rescued in the canyon every year. Some of them don’t make it.
“This is the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Rebecca Warriner of Wake Forest, North Carolina, said of her first crossing. “Even though it’s only 20 miles, you should train for a 50-miler if you attempt it,” the 34-year-old mother of two said.
“When you hear ’Grand Canyon,’ it’s different than when you actually see it,” rim-to-rim runner Sage Grossi of Tempe, Arizona, said. “It was bigger than what I expected.”
Yet with a lot of training and a little planning, it can be the run of a lifetime. Here is what you need to know to plan a run from the South Rim to the North Rim. Running from the North Rim to the South Rim is fun, too, and actually a little easier. Regardless of which direction you go, remember to bring plenty of extra memory for your camera.
Read the rest online.
The Valley Girl
A visit with Deena before her ascension.
(Editor’s note: At the turn of the millennium, novelist Paul J. Christman visited Deena Drossin in Alamosa, Colorado, where she was living and training. He herein recreates that visit.)
She lives next to a mortuary, is a gourmet cook, has a stout former football player for a mentor, listens to techno-rock groups such as Moby, has the uninsured legs of a Betty Grable featuring a tattoo of a crescent moon and a swimming dolphin on one ankle and a laser-destroyed illustration above the other, and has toenails that are painted black. Her town sits at 7,500 feet of elevation on a somewhat picturesque but desolate plain about as far from any metropolis as the Hawaiian Islands are from other shores. She has pale gray-blue eyes that project a thousand more experiences than those of a 27-year-old. She often consorts with Kenyans and Ethiopians, with mixed success. Her name is Deena Drossin, a Valley girl from Agoura, California, now a thousand miles from home.
Even in late May, motoring through Colorado’s 10,000-foot-high South Park, the metal crate transporting the writer up to her Alamosa aerie is a solar furnace. But coming down out of the Poncha Pass, the baked occupant of the old beater comes alive on Highway 17, an arrowlike 51-mile ribbon threading between two ranges of occasional Rockies 14ers, those snow-streaked peaks slowly dripping water to the enormous arid veldt and former sea below. Southwesterly winds buffet the great dry San Luis Valley, bending sagebrush branches and creating a light haze partially obscuring the New Mexican range of the Sangre de Cristo over a hundred miles to the south. Off to the left, the 750-foot dunes of Great Sand Dunes National Monument, even glimpsed at 75 miles per hour and from 20 miles away, look like a beach without any surfers or Coronas. On the dusty odometer, the largest center dune computes to seven miles long. This vista alone, including the sand’s seemingly misplaced juxtaposition with the Humboldt and Crestone Peaks above, make the journey worthwhile.
There are no suburbs in approaching Alamosa, just a few farms, one with Colorado alligators in the middle of nowhere. Then the home of Adams State College suddenly appears, as if by sleight of hand. The town has the same imported deciduous trees, familiar roadside signs, and quaint rustic buildings of a hundred Western outposts the computer age has yet to transform. After a scant two or three blocks one crosses the Rio Grande, hardly the same roaring monster that carved gigantic canyons and now constitutes the southern U.S. border but more a somberly moving creek with slowly undulating underwater grass in the center, yet lacking mallards.
Meeting Horst Preisler
What do you say to the guy who has run more marathons than anyone else in the world?
I’m sitting with Horst Preisler inside the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, October 2008. We’re on a bench waiting for the start of the Niagara Falls Marathon. Looking out the large windows and glass door beside us, we see the trees and branches being swirled around by the strong, cool wind, the fall-colored leaves being blown all over. It feels good to be inside. We runners have been given the privilege to look around the art gallery as we wait for the marathon. In the main hallway to our right are dozens of people sitting on the floor, stretching out, relaxing, chatting, and keeping warm.
Horst sits beside me with his layers on and with notebook, pen, and camera in hand. Waiting for a marathon to start is not unusual for him; he has been doing it most weekends since 1974. Sitting with the world record holder for the most marathons ever run before the start of the marathon, though, is a new experience for me. This is the third time we’ve met. Each time, I have felt quite privileged to be talking to this very special man. He talks to me in his broken English, and I keep thinking that I wish I knew some German.
The day before, at the Niagara Falls Marathon expo, Horst had been on a panel with four other runners who, collectively, had clocked a few thousand marathons among them over the years; when I saw him, he gave me a big smile and an embrace. Meeting and renewing contacts and friendships is central to everything that motivates Horst to run marathons.
I first met Horst in Hamburg, Germany, in January 2008 when I was there doing research on a book and running in the Elbe River Tunnel Marathon, organized by the German 100 Marathon Club. I had wanted to interview Horst for my book, which is about runners who have run more than 100 marathons. Juergen Kuhlmey, the vice president of the German club, picked me up at the Hamburg airport, and we swung around to get Horst from his home on what was a gray and rainy afternoon. I had just arrived on a red-eye flight from Canada, but I was instantly wide awake upon meeting Juergen and then Horst. We went for dessert at a restaurant in a mall on the outskirts of Hamburg not far from where Horst lives (about 18 kilometers from downtown Hamburg). Germans quite like doing the dessert thing, I found out. We talked about running and everything else for a couple of hours.
The Raven Run
Consistency at any price.
Way back in the ’70s, I was a troubled loner from a broken home, an only child whose mother remarried when I was 15—to a guy I despised. I hardly knew my real father, wore black, didn’t fit in with the high school crowd, and got low grades. But I loved baseball, country-western music, and writing songs, all of which led me to Nashville when I was 19.
I landed in Nashville! There I met country-western music stars and became friends with Johnny Cash. Naively, I gave some of my unpublished songs on which I had no copyright to one of Johnny Cash’s songwriter friends to review. One was stolen, and Waylon Jennings had a number five hit with it in 1970. (No, Waylon was not the person who took my song.) I never got a penny, and no credit as the songwriter, either. Disillusioned, I retreated back to Florida and South Beach. True to a song I recorded, I was a “Fugitive on the Run.”
I became friends with a couple of boxers I met on the beach, Dennis “Bulldog” Byrne and Keith “K.O. Killer” Laufenberg, who worked out of the famous Fifth Street Gym and came to the beach to run after sparring. Before long, I would join them. I felt better. I became toned and strong and developed endurance, but best of all, running took the edge off my anger. God and the angels be thanked! I had what I needed. Little did I know that my urgent, solitary, daily pursuit would evolve into the well-publicized South Beach tradition: the Raven Run!
The Endless Run
Reflections on the 2008 Comrades.
In October 2007, I was reading a magazine article about how Alberto Salazar had nearly died from a heart attack earlier in the year. What caught my attention, however, was not how this legendary runner had rebounded from his near-death experience but rather a blurb mentioning that he had won the Comrades Marathon in 1994. Comrades? Never heard of it. Out of sheer curiosity, I put down the magazine and did a quick Google search to assuage my curiosity.
My eyes were instantly drawn to the headlines of the fifth Internet-search result: “Fifty-five brutal miles. Five torturous climbs. A ruthless clock. The Comrades Marathon may be the world’s greatest race.” With my interest piqued, I then clicked the link and was taken to an article that Amby Burfoot—himself a renowned sportswriter and former Boston Marathon winner—had written about the world’s oldest and largest ultramarathon.
According to the article, the Comrades Marathon is an annual race held every year between the South African cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg—a grueling distance of 55 asphalt miles. To add to the madness, the race alternates between an uphill and downhill course every year, and runners have to complete the run within 12 hours or they will be unceremoniously disqualified. Comrades is allegedly so challenging that even the Kenyans shy away from the competition.
As ridiculous as this event sounded, I was immediately hooked. While I had been aware of endurance runs such as Badwater and Western States, I really never felt the compulsion to participate in one. But somehow, Comrades seemed different. Amby’s write-up triggered a primordial yearning to test my physical limits; later that evening, I went to the official Web site and signed up.
A short story.
At the starting line: not exactly on the line, slightly behind it. Among the slow runners, back of the pack, he is there: tall, heavy, cumbersome, laxly dressed in a torn singlet, shady running shorts, and worn-out sneakers, surveying all around him, greeting old acquaintances, and chuckling at camaraderie from his fellows. By his side, just behind him, I am tense. It’s not the distance, 13 miles on a hilly, rolling course, but my two goals: breaking two hours and defeating David Bornstein.
We are well into our mid-60s; he is two years older. Fitness levels alike, we are in the two-hour range for the half-marathon, roughly nine-minutes-per-mile guys. What miles per hour are to drivers, minutes per mile are to long-distance runners.
David is a seasoned runner. I am a novice, a latecomer. He runs as though he doesn’t much care about the results. I care a lot, which gives me an edge. Being more determined, resolute, I have come to this half-marathon to conquer—not the race, obviously, but my personal ghosts, both real and imaginary. And no matter what, to defeat David Bornstein.
See Mary Run
A gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do.
The high school track coach had other things to do, so he casually told the girls to go run around the track until they were tired. He returned an hour later to find them all flopped on the grass, resting. All, that is, but one: Mary was still running around, no evidence that she would break her stride—or even a sweat—any time soon.
Looking back, I guess no one is surprised that my older sister, Mary Button, became an Olympic Trials-qualifying marathoner. What we didn’t anticipate was how she would turn that passion into her profession, creating a life for herself in which running is the linchpin.
Mary has run 27 marathons (20 consecutively below three hours), qualifying for two Olympic Trials and, with her husband, Gerry Hans, operates RaceReady Sportswear, a running-clothes company in Los Angeles.
Like many other long-distance runners, Mary doesn’t lack for tenacity. To keep up with our brother, who is one year older than Mary, she taught herself— with no parental input, our mother swears—to use the toilet, tell time, and ride a two-wheeled bicycle. With that same single-mindedness of purpose, Mary has persistently clocked the miles, literal and metaphorical, to build both a running career and a successful business.
Book Bonus: Flanagan’s Run
Mike Morgan puts it all on the line against the infamous Packy Paterson. Part 15.