Each year, Ryan Lamppa at RunningUSA compiles bushelbaskets full of statistics in order to evaluate just where the sport/lifestyle of running is relative to the year before. Ryan is a guy who lives for numbers, and while wading through his statistical gold mine, it becomes apparent that the lad traditionally asked Santa for slide rules and calculators while the rest of us were getting Lincoln Logs and Hardy Boys books.
The statistics cover 2011, and Ryan released them way back in late February, but with travel and reading manuscripts and putting a magazine together, I’m just getting to them.
On the Road with Kathrine Switzer
It was overheard in the pubs, the coffeehouses, the crowded tube, the jammed stadium, and most of all in the streets, where we were crushed body to body, six deep against the barriers to cheer on all the athletes, not just our athletes: “Gee, if we total strangers can be so friendly now, why can’t the world do it all the time?” It wasn’t a naïve or rhetorical question; people in London for the Olympic Games were in genuine wonder of the universal happiness.
It does make you pause and think: for 1,000 years, the Greeks suspended war during the Olympics. So if you can suspend war for the Olympics, why can’t you suspend war all the time? As if to emphasize this tragically obvious point, one of the finest moments of the closing ceremonies of the Games was a full-screen film clip of John Lennon singing “Imagine.” I’m not the only one who absorbed the message more than ever.
My Most Unforgettable Marathon
2010 Boston Marathon
Boston, Massachusetts, Monday, April 19, 2010 – Today is Patriots’ Day, the third Monday in April, and the Massachusetts skies are being very cooperative. The sun is out and shining brightly, but the temps are cool and a little breeze is present. I am wearing gloves (due more to nerves than the cold), but this is absolutely perfect weather for both runners and spectators.
Can this really be happening? Seriously, am I finally only minutes away from running the Boston Marathon? I thought this day would eventually arrive, but after six years of trying and 12 marathons, discouragement tends to overcome acceptance. But after we loaded onto the bus at 7:00 a.m. in the Boston Commons and the marshals waved us off, the school buses rolled in staggered unison through red lights and blocked-off intersections toward mecca: Hopkinton, Massachusetts, a small, rural town best known as the start of the Boston Marathon.
Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon
A picturesque marathon along Florida’s legendary oceanfront drive.
Fort Lauderdale, situated on south Florida’s Atlantic coast, brings to mind sun, sand, seagulls, soft breezes, and glorious beaches. For those of certain generations, the mention of Fort Lauderdale is synonymous with the annual rite of spring break. Since the 1940s, college students descended upon this community for sun, fun, partying, and nightlife. Following the 1960 musical comedy Where the Boys Are, the number of sun-seeking spring-breakers grew each year until hitting a record 350,000 students in 1985. The spring-break scene eventually shifted to Mexico when the state of Florida raised the legal drinking age to 21.
Biofile: Jen Rhines
Date of Birth: July 1, 1974, in Syracuse, New York.
First Running Memory: “I guess it would be running the 100 meters when I was in seventh-grade track [laughs].”
Running Inspirations: “I definitely have memories of Grete Waitz running at the New York City Marathon, and I thought about her when I ran the race.”
On the Mark
Experts answer readers’ training and competition questions.
This month’s question: Maximum Allowable Mileage. Putting in as many training miles as you can handle toward maximum marathon performance has been established as a good philosophy. But national- and world-class runners are capable of more miles per week than we mere mortals. How can a 40-year-old guy with a recent 3:14 marathon determine just how much weekly mileage is enough and how much is too much? I currently run 50 to 60 miles in the typical week. – Albert Sessions, via e-mail
In Emil’s Footprints
The Volkswagon Prague Marathon tours the heart of Central Europe.
On July 27, 1952, in Helsinki, Czech distance runner Emil Zátopek ran his first marathon. And for some 60 years, that marathon has arguably been one of the most famous in history. It came in the wake of the Czech’s victories in the 10,000 and 5,000 meters, both in world-record times.
Zátopek had nearly pulled off a track distance double in the London Olympics four years before. He won the 10,000 but lost the 5,000 by two-tenths of a second. He came to Helsinki primed to make amends for that failure. He won the 10,000 handily, beating his own world record at that distance by 43 seconds. In the 5,000 he went into the final turn in fourth place and came out in first, winning by less than a second.
The Destiny of Ali Mimoun
This short book has had a lengthy gestation. Following my documentary Race for Kenya, completed a dozen years ago, my backers agreed to fund a project on one of my athletics heroes, Emil Zátopek. Unfortunately, the company went bust shortly afterward, and Zátopek died in 2000.
Nevertheless, I decided to go ahead, and the first task was, inevitably, to interview the still vibrant Alain Mimoun, Zátopek’s great rival throughout their careers. So in late 2001, we went to film an interview at the house on the eastern edge of Paris where Mimoun still lives, at the time of this writing, with his wife of some 55-plus years, Germaine.
The Zátopek project never materialized, but I had the idea to write up the Mimoun interview, putting it into the sort of perspective that is rarely attempted in a piece about a sporting hero. But the story that Mimoun had told, or rather embroidered for me, called for something different.
Don’t Stop Now
How to convert recovery laps into critical speed training.
Many years ago my college-town track club did a speed workout in which we ran 300-meter repeats in sets of four. For the first three in each set, the recovery was a 100-meter “float.” Between sets, we got fuller 500-meter recoveries. It was fun but tough, made all the more so because the entire group started each 300 together. That meant that if you weren’t the fastest on the 300s, you had to move on the floats to avoid missing the next start.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
(With apologies to Clint Eastwood.)
Scene One: the Good – It’s brutally early (4:30 a.m.) when the alarm on my watch goes off. Under normal circumstances, I would hurl it against the wall, but I’ve been awake for the last 30 minutes anyway. I’m suffering from a more severe case of prerace jitters than usual, as I am about to attempt my first ultramarathon. I want to get a bit of coffee and at least a Clif Bar in me before running the Blue Springs 50K in Blue Springs, Missouri.
The nine circles of runners’ hell.
Since my article, “Seven Habits of Highly Annoying Runners,” appeared in the May/June 2008 issue of Marathon & Beyond, I have been flooded by fan mail asking for a follow-up piece. Actually if you replace “flooded” with “received a few” and “fan mail” with “hate letters,” it might be more accurate.
Regardless, I’m back after a long vacation with a follow-up based on Dante’s The Divine Comedy. I prefer to think of this article as paying homage to Dante, not so much stealing his ideas. Really, it’s all in your perspective and how good your lawyer is.
Actually, I can’t steal from Dante because I’ve never actually read The Divine Comedy. If I’m stealing from anybody, I’m stealing from the CliffsNotes summary of The Divine Comedy, as I took massive shortcuts in school and used CliffsNotes whenever possible. Even then I read the CliffsNotes only if there wasn’t a movie I could watch instead.
Training for the marathon.
It’s 6:00 a.m. I’m running down a frontage road in a rural area of San Diego. A breeze flows gentle and clean. Vehicles carrying folks to work and cabbages to market stream down Interstate 15 off to my left. Beyond the freeway lie hundreds of acres of open fields framed by low, rolling hills. I’ve run this frontage road many times (it’s my marathon-training ground) but have never tried to get into those fields. Today, I will. The sun, still yawning, stretches its arms over the crest of the mountains behind the fields and beckons—come on in.
So You Think You’re Tough
Jon Longley and Ben Kirkup, two Englishmen, had just crawled their way through 20 yards of hay bales, icy mud, and long strands of live electrical wire in the Electroshock Therapy obstacle and were still sporting smiles while wearing blue Afro wigs, tutus, and Union Jack underwear over their wet suits. “Man, that hurt—got it in the face,” quipped Kirkup. “Does it look like we are having fun yet?” asked Longley. Kirkup had traveled from England to join his friend Longley, who lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to compete in the World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) in Englishtown, New Jersey, on a frigid morning in December. They were freezing their arses off in the 25-degree weather and had already been through some nasty water obstacles, falling into 35-degree water. Did they think they had a shot at the WTM $10,000 prize? No way in hell. They were there for the fun of it and the experience. After doing one Tough Mudder event in 2011, they became addicted to the sport and are now die-hard Mudders.
A short story.
The mansion was quiet.
It sat perched at the top of the town’s highest prominence; it stood out and above the cheap, prefabricated homes on Oak Street. The sun was drawn to this house and its slumbering inhabitants. It awarded its rays to the highest, the top of the town, first. That morning, the sun sliced through the once-blackened curtains, projecting its light through the house’s enormous windows, exposing 6,000 square feet of absolute perfection. The light crept across the room and finally landed in Kerch Clyde’s eye. He stirred. Scout, the family’s golden retriever, heard its master and let out a bark downstairs.
You’ve just completed your first, fifth, or 50th marathon. What do you do now?.
“Never Again.” If you’re a marathoner, it’s more than likely that you’ve uttered those exact two words. Whether you’ve achieved your goals, failed miserably, or fallen somewhere in between, it’s natural to have a letdown after you finish. This is the case whether you had other races planned or hadn’t thought at all about any future running. There are a few who land on their feet and can’t wait to start training for their next marathon, but for many to most of us, “never again” is the first thought that occurs to us as we cross that finish line, at least some of the time. It takes some period of time, be it hours, days, weeks, or longer, before we begin to think about what comes next. What comes next is, however, pretty important for the future of your running career.
Painting on Walls
Images of ultras, captured spirits.
It doesn’t seem like much, a line of runners heading uphill in the dark, lit by the overhead arc lights of a dormant ski area at the end of summer. There is a faint dust cloud rising from the feet of the runners that mixes with the morning mist, the rising dew. The rope-tow shack is empty, silent witness to an annual rite of passage for the running community—the Waldo 100K.
It begins in the dark and for some, it will end nearly 22 hours later in the dark. The frontrunners disappear quickly, surefooted and steady; the rest begin to spread out along the trail, slowly finding their pace, their comfort zone. Amid the relentless litany of internal complaints about ill-fitting shoes, poor breakfasts, wrong choices, bad life decisions, and foolhardy training errors is the daunting recognition that it will be a long day, a challenge of unforgiving time over relentless distance and for some, an unsympathetic, tough love conversation between their reality and their dreams.
Michael Popov, Rest in Peace
I first heard of Michael “Misha” Popov in 2009 when he e-mailed me about the possibility of my witnessing a south-to-north, fast-packing, speed quest of the John Muir Trail. It would start in Lone Pine, California, at Whitney Portals, which is 8,300 feet up Mount Whitney (the highest point in the Lower 48), and is the highest point a vehicle can drive before it is necessary to ascend the mountain on foot. The race officially begins at the top of Mount Whitney. I showed him around town, where he did some final shopping. I got him organized at the Portals, where he planned to spend a few days acclimating.
Book Bonus: Going Far
Surviving the ’60s became an endurance sport of its own. Part 2.
4. The pre-pros.
Culver City, California, December 1967. It doesn’t take a paycheck to define a professional. A runner can work like a pro without earning the salary and benefits of one. Olympians of the 1960s weren’t like those who would follow 20 or more years later. These early models were the pre-pros, who trained like the pros today but often lived perilously close to the poverty line.
Earlier distance runners had usually retired when their college scholarships (and in a few cases, military service) stopped supporting them. They moved into the rest of their lives, beyond racing, by their mid-20s. Then, in the 1960s, an older generation of athletes began to emerge. They delayed their business careers so they could reach maturity as runners. They often gathered in training enclaves, sharing the rent as well as a top coach.
Just like the red warning light that comes up on the dashboard of many cars and trucks when the fuel tank is low, thirst is the gauge that tells a human when he or she is dehydrated. It is a gauge that has been developed and refined over millennia.
But a few decades ago, all-knowing scientists told long-distance runners and cyclists and triathletes that hundreds of thousands of years of human development was flawed. That thirst is not a proper indicator of the body’s need for fluid. That it is a faulty gauge. That we need to add fluid to the working body’s tank long before thirst kicks in.
On the Road with Kathrine Switzer
The Big Three for Women on the 40th Anniversary of the First Women’s Road Race
Vienna: how the best race in the world got that way
Cozy at home on snowy Austrian winter nights, 78-year-old Erika Pausch sits by the fire ot sewing or reading but fastening groups of four safety pins together. By spring, she has completed 31,000 sets of them.
“Really, it’s almost a kind of therapy! And she’s proud to be doing her part for the race,” said Erika’s son, Helmut.
Erika, Helmut, and Helmut’s wife, Bettina, are part of a close family of 30 and a very extended family of 1,200 that annually organize the best race for women in the world: the Austrian Women’s Run in Vienna. Every single member of this family is greatly needed, because there are more than 30,000 women in the race, and each one of them is taken very seriously.
My Most Unforgettable Ultramarathon
2007-2012 Mount Mitchell Challenge
Black Mountain, North Carolina, February 2007-2012 — Held in February, the Mount Mitchell Challenge is a 40-mile ultramarathon that runs from the bohemian town of Black Mountain, North Carolina (just east of Asheville), to the summit of Mount Mitchell, the tallest peak east of the Mississippi, and back.
When the words “mountain” and “ultramarathon” are uttered in the same breath, sadistic runners rise up like prairie dogs from corporate cubicles across America and take notice. The eye rolling begins when they realize it takes place in the relatively flat east. Mount Mitchell tops out at a mere 6,684 feet, far from the dizzying heights achieved by the western Rockies. Some scoff that we call it a mountain at all. Hell’s bells, Colorado’s Pikes Peak Marathon begins roughly where Mitchell tops out before ascending more than 7,000 feet farther.
St. Jude Memphis Marathon
“Run on for a long time.” – Elvis Presley.
Imagine a race with Southern Hospitality, a baseball-stadium finish where the name of each finisher is broadcast over a loudspeaker to hundreds of cheering fans comfortably sitting in the stands, and easy access to the start and finish lines. Imagine a city where you can be a tourist and always have something to do or see on this destination marathon, where you can take the entire family on a marathon vacation. Imagine bands lining the streets and hundreds of fans calling you a hero for supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as you run. Imagine all this and running through a children’s cancer-research hospital campus where the smiling patients and families hold out posters and their hands to give you high fives as you run by. This race is not an illusion or a dream. This race is called the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend. There is no marathon where you feel better about yourself for being a runner than this one.
Biofile: German Silva
Date of Birth: January 9, 1968, in Zacatlan, Puebla, Mexico.
First Running Memory: “When I saw some runners pass by my house. I still was very young and started to imitate them. I was about 7 or 8. School was far away from home – eight kilometers – and I hate walking, so I ran to school every day. (I’m) very impatient [laughs].”
Running Inspirations: “Many. For example, can’t say names, but I like the best athletes who make history. They’re the ones who are at the top of the world in sports. But they also have a nice heart, are a nice person. They have humility. work with people who need help. People who have something else in their life besides just being a champion and rich.”
On the Mark
Experts answer readers’ training and competition questions.
This month’s question: Staying Strong. I seem to recall that Frank Shorter said something to the effect of “The marathon begins at 20 miles.” For most runners, the 20-mile point is when things start to get ugly. It would seem that if you have worked on speed regularly, what you need in the last six miles is strength to keep running well. What methods would your experts suggest in order to build more strength (but not bulk) to get a runner through those last six miles? – Raymond Link, via e-mail
The Science of Long-Distance Running.
This scientific issue of Marathon & Beyond contains eight articles by researchers in the various fields of exercise science, including psychology, physiology, nutrition, and medicine. The author or coauthor of each article is a member of Marathon & Beyond’s Science Advisory Board. Over the years, the members of the board have actively participated in marathon or ultramarathon competition.
Countdown to the First Sub-2:00:00
It is no longer a matter of if but rather when..
The year 2011 was an incredible one for marathon performances. Along with a new world record (2:03:38 by Patrick Makau, September 25, Berlin) every one of the World Marathon Major course records was broken (London, Boston, Berlin, Chicago, and New York). Such impressive finishing times over the past 12 months have focused the world’s attention on the marathon much as the mile entranced the world of sport more than 60 years ago. With seven performances under the 2:05 mark in 2011, the once-deemed-impossible barrier of a human covering the 26.2-mile (42.195K) distance in less than two hours now seems not only feasible but expected. Achieving this feat requires running a seemingly inconceivable pace of 4:35 per mile (2:51 per kilometer), or viewed more practically to some, running back-to-back 68-second splits for 105 1/2 consecutive laps around a 400-meter track. For comparison’s sake, Geoffrey Mutai’s world-leading effort in Boston last spring equates to an average of 4:42 per mile (2:55 per kilometer) and 70-second lap splits.
The Dangers of Sun Exposure for Marathoners and Other Runners
Expose yourself at your own risk.
Runners worry about training schedules, race performances, fueling, heart rates, and nagging injuries, and they follow elaborate schedules to reach long-term goals. Many runners, however, fail to think of protecting themselves from sun damage and skin cancer risks from cumulative sun exposure or blistering burns while training and racing. According to one study in the Archives of Dermatology (2006) of marathon runners and melanoma risk factors, 44 percent of the marathoners in the study did not use sunscreen regularly.
100,000 Miles Closer to a Definition of Mental Toughness
The farther you run, the more the mind dominates.
Ultramrathon running undeniably requires a psychological component beyond extensive physical conditioning for the mileage, training, and logistical preparation. Although motivations for hitting the trails and roads for any distance over a marathon may vary, you could assume that mental toughness plays a major role in successfully completing ultras. Mental toughness has been defined in the context of team sports and elite athletes but never before investigated with a large population of ultramarathon runners—that is, until now. We sought to understand exactly what mental toughness is in ultramarathon running. In addition to identifying a definition and traits of mentally tough ultrarunners, I (Anna) found my own mental toughness and motivation to register for my first ultra and examine running in a whole new way. The following article stems from more than just a master’s thesis; it also stems from a new runner’s journey into understanding ultramarathon running.
In the Mood: Flow, Mood, and the Marathon
The marathon offers much more than amassed miles.
Marathons attract a diverse set of runners with a variety of race motives. Some choose to run in a marathon to improve health or perhaps for social reasons. Some participate to try a new activity, to seek the feeling of camaraderie from training with a partner or group, or to seek the group accomplishment felt during the marathon race. Still others may seek the challenge of running 26.2 miles as well as the desire to race against others. The feeling of challenging other runners, a previous race time, or the marathon course can be motivators for many runners, thus keeping them adherent to the marathon culture (for example, being regular marathon runners). Ogles and Masters (2003, 70-71) added additional motives for marathon running: “mood control, self-concept enhancement . . . psychological well-being . . . social status, etc.”
Because marathon runners are a diverse, individualistic group of athletes, understanding the factors that help and hinder their performance has been of interest to researchers. Of particular interest is understanding the relationship between mood states and achieving flow during a marathon race.
Recovery After an Ultramarathon
There are tried-and-true methods that will help the process.
Running an ultramarathon is not for the faint of heart. Preparation for the race requires dedication and discipline, and the race itself probes deeply into aspects of the psyche that were previously untouched. After the race, there is so much relief that the event is over that the recovery period is either neglected or taken for granted and allowed to occur passively. The lack of attention to recovery often extends to the daily training sessions. This attitude toward recovery is not unique to ultramarathoners—indeed, appropriate recovery after exercise is one of the most neglected aspects of training across all sport (Smith 2003). This behavior exposes a poor understanding of basic physiology and increases the risk of the runner becoming stale and not adapting fully after each training session. Runners who have the passive approach to recovery need a reminder of basic physiology, as this will empower and encourage them to change their attitudes and adopt a more proactive approach.
Nutrition for the Marathon and Beyond
Optimize your performance by proper fueling.
Nutrition has a significant influence on marathon and ultramarathon perfo- mance. Adopting specific nutritional strategies before, during, and after training and competition helps to optimize performance and promote health. The proper amount of food, the composition of the meal, and the timing of food intake also enable runners to train and perform more effectively and reduce the risk of illness and injury (Burke et al. 2007; International Olympic Committee 2010; Rodriguez et al. 2009; Burke et al. 2011).
Energy requirements depend on a runner’s periodized training load and competition program and vary from day to day and with the competition schedule. Runners should consume adequate energy and carbohydrate during training to maintain a desirable training intensity and thus maximize training adaptations (International Olympic Committee 2010; Rodriguez et al. 2009).
Ibuprofen and Running
Negative effects and novel nutritional substitues.
The 100-mile Western States Endurance Run (WSER) is an arduous mountain race in California reserved for the top tier of ultramarathon athletes. The trail racecourse starts at Squaw Valley, ascends 2,500 feet to Emigrant Pass (8,800 feet, the highest point) within the first four miles, and then passes through remote and rugged territory to Auburn. The total altitude gain and loss during the race are 18,000 feet and 23,000 feet, respectively. The race starts at 5:00 a.m., and most runners take about 26 to 27 hours to finish the race.
About a decade ago, I was contacted by Dr. Bob Lind, the medical director of the WSER. During more than 30 years of service to the athletes competing in this grueling mountain race, he had noticed that more than an expected number of the older runners were being diagnosed with cancer. After discussing this issue with the WSER medical board, Dr. Lind invited my research team to conduct a series of studies to investigate whether the physiologic and immunologic demands of competing in the WSER were beyond the limits of what the human body could tolerate.
Nitrate Supplementation and Endurance Performance
A wide vareity of plan foods can add to your best efforts.
Appropriate nutrition is a very important aspect in the preparation of athletes for proper training and success in competition. Over the years, numerous dietary protocols and supplements have been used in attempts to enhance sport performance, but research supporting such practices was minimal or nonexistent. With the development of the discipline of exercise and sport science during the latter part of the 20th century, the application of nutrition to sport received increasing research attention and sport nutrition became a recognized research specialty. For example, in 1991, the first issue of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition was published.
The Tale of the Pied Piper
It was 40 years ago when Frank Shorter won at Munich and led s astray.
A sudden thought occurred to me during a recent sleepless night: it has been 40 years since Frank Shorter’s Olympic marathon win at the 1972 Olympic Games. I reflected on the moment. Those Games were as memorable as any. They included Mark Spitz, Lasse Viren, Steve Prefontaine, Olga Korbut, Dave Wottle, the USA men’s basketball team’s loss to the Soviet Union, and also the Munich massacre—the killing of the Israeli athletes. But for many road runners old enough to have seen it, our most vivid, most enduring memory was that of Shorter’s win.
It wasn’t just the fact that no American had won the event since 1908. Here before our eyes, on live television, this seemingly average American man was able to train hard enough to win against the world’s best. For me, the image of Shorter entering the Olympic Stadium ahead of everyone else (except an impostor) will forever be etched in my memory.
Of course, I understand that Shorter is anything but average, but that was the thought at the time. And that’s a large part of the reason that his win marked the start of the running movement. It certainly got me going.
Jason Kehoe – In Memoriam
It was 40 years ago when Frank Shorter won at Munich and led s astray.
These lines my mother wrote to me in 1983 came to mind when I heard the sad news of the passing of my old friend, Jim “Jason” Kehoe, the longtime assistant manager of the Bill Rodgers Running Center in Boston, who died of natural causes at his home in Hull, Massachusetts, on June 3, 2012, at the far-too-young age of 64.
Those of us lucky enough to have called him friend knew Jason as one of the indelibly etched characters in our lives and a major supporting player in the colorful cast that populated the Boston running community during, through, and beyond the running boom.
For me, Jason’s outline was recognized early on and never diminished, not when I moved thousands of miles away or even now when he has departed for dimensions unknown.
Book Bonus: Going Far
Reflecting on the years when running grew up – and a writing career took off. Part 1.
Author’s Note: These Days
Eugene, Oregon. Sometime between claiming my first Social Security check at 62 and signing on with Medicare at 65, I heard an offhand comment by a fellow writer from the same age group. Rich Benyo, my editor at Marathon & Beyond magazine between 2004 and 2011 and good friend much longer than that, was into his own multivolume memoirs, and he urged me to get going on mine. “Our age is the best time to write memoirs,” Rich said. “We’re old enough to have had the experiences but still young enough to remember what they were.”
My second big push was a prostate cancer diagnosis. Doctors found this disease early and treated it well, but the episode still left me thinking: better get going on this book now, when this scare and then the successful treatment have renewed my appreciation for the life I’ve led.
Writing for this memoir began in 2008, shortly after hearing the three chilling words: “You have cancer.” I wrote and wrote and wrote that year and took the story only as far as 1967. This became the first book in a trilogy, covering my growing-up years in the Midwest.
Blisters have long been a hazard of long-distance running. Repeatedly scuff some detritus, and a blister begins to form; keep at it, and the blister grows. If it’s hot and you sweat a lot on a run or during a race, you are more likely to blister. Run through persistent rain, and the skin on your feet wrinkles and you’re likely to blister. What I didn’t realize was that if you repeatedly tear open boxes of PowerBars at a road race, you can suffer blisters on your hands and fingers.
On the Road with Kathrine Switzer
Official at Last: The Year That Changed Everything
“And, so, uh . . . you ladies are welcome at Boston. But you have to meet the men’s qualifying time!”
So spoke Jock Semple, the crusty race codirector of the Boston Marathon to a handful of us women on the eve of the Boston Marathon in 1972. There were eight of us in Boston ready to run officially for the first time in the 76-year history of the great race, and hearing our “welcome” made us beam with pride. We were Nina Kuscsik (New York), Elaine “Pedi” Pederson (San Francisco), Pat Barrett (New Jersey), Sara Mae Berman (Cambridge, Massachusetts), Valerie Rogosheske (St. Cloud, Minnesota), Ginny Collins, Frances Morrison, and me, Kathrine Switzer (Syracuse).
My Most Unforgettable Ultramarathon
2011 JFK 50 Mile
Boonsboro, Maryland, November 19, 2011 — Until Saturday, November 19, 2011, I had never run farther than 26.2 miles at a time. I consider myself a marathoner and a long-distance triathlete, but I had been reading about ultras in Marathon & Beyond since shortly after I started running, learning about Badwater, the Western States 100, the JFK 50-miler, and other races. I also read Born to Run and other books. Each time I read an article or a book, I wondered whether ultramarathons were for me. How hard can they be?
Mount Desert Island Marathon
Hills don’t deter those seeking a beautiful course.
Mount Desert Island is connected to the mainland of Maine by a bridge on Route 3. Acadia National Park covers 54 square miles of the island and is one of the most scenic places on the East Coast, if not the most scenic. Bar Harbor, where the marathon starts, is a lovely small town of 2,700 with a downtown brimming with small shops and restaurants. It is also famous for lobster (both alive and for dinner), fishing, and sightseeing. Additionally, whale-watching boats leave Bar Harbor from late May through October.
Biofile: Bill Rodgers
Date of Birth: December 23, 1947, in Hartford, Connecticut
First Running Memory: “We were active kids; I was a Boy Scout and all that. When I was 15, there was a track meet, and I won the mile in five minutes and twenty seconds. So then I joined the cross-country team in school that fall with my brother Charlie and my friend Jason. All of us still run today.”
Running Inspirations: “When I was a young runner, I saw Bikila win the gold medal in Tokyo in 1964 and then doing his calisthenics after. Amby Burfoot, who won the Boston Marathon in 1968. I also followed runners like Jerry Lindgren, Frank Shorter, Ron Clarke. Jim Ryun was a great motivator for track athletes. I think there was better TV coverage back then. The sport has been somewhat suffocated today by other sports.”
On the Mark
Experts answer readers’ training and competition questions.
This month’s question: After running marathons and half-marathons for the last 20 years, I’ve decided to enlarge my running scope by running some ultras. Unfortunately, I live in a metro area, with limited trails, and most ultras in the United States are run on trails. How can I best teach myself to run trails? Do I have to take an expedition out to the country on weekends to find suitable trails? One friend suggested that one way to learn to run trails is to run stadium steps—both up and down. Sounds boring. I’m 46 years old, have a marathon PR of 3:14, and knock out 55 miles a week. – James Webb, via e-mail
Running the Ramsay
An unparalleled Scottish tradition.
In 1978, a Scottish mountain runner set off on an adventure in Scotland’s Central Highlands that would affix his name in history. He was attempting to complete a “round” of 24 peaks in 24 hours, linking five mountain groups and circuiting a lake for a total of 56 miles. The route entailed 28,500 feet of vertical ascent and class-four ridge climbing, ending with the iconic Ben Nevis, known as “the roof of Britain,” the highest mountain in the UK.
The GLAM Circuit
One man’s career grand slam of ultrarunning.
Completion by an individual of a quartet of 100-mile races in the continental United States in four summer months of one year—Western States in California, Vermont (yep, in Vermont!), Leadville in Colorado, and Wasatch in Utah—is considered the “Grand Slam” of ultradistance in the United States.
I would like to introduce you to a concept in ultrarunning that has been popularized recently in the tennis and golf worlds: the career grand slam. Completion of the ultradistance grand slam (hereafter abbreviated as the GLAM) in one year has been done, but as Roger Federer found out in 2009, it is quite an accomplishment for an individual athlete to finish a grand slam in any sport in a career’s worth of competition.
Perseverance at the Marathon des Sables.
Rule number one: don’t run out of water in the Sahara. As the midday sun was broiling me, I kicked myself for not conserving enough water from the previous checkpoint. Yet here I was in the middle of the desert without a drop to drink. Man, was I thirsty. At my current pace, I was at least an hour away from the next aid station, where I would get a resupply of water. How I desperately craved any sort of liquid to quench my parched tongue and cracked lips.
I spied another runner in the distance, slumped in the shadow of a small bush. I could tell that he was French by the tricolors on his backpack. Ça va, tu vas bien? Barely making an effort to glance at me, he feebly nodded that he was OK, but his pallid appearance said otherwise. As he dumped water onto his head to cool off, I lustfully watched the precious liquid drain into the sand. What a waste.
Across the Years 24-, 48-, and 72-Hour Footrace
How can running in circles for that long be so much fun?
Most people ring in the new year with champagne, horns, and fireworks. Even those who don’t take to the streets stay up and watch merrymakers mob Times Square to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne.” Celebrating New Year’s Eve means parties, watching the ball drop, and with successful maneuvering through a crowded room at 11:59, a midnight kiss with someone you’ve had your eye on all evening.
Then there is the ultramarathon crowd, which would rather celebrate closing out one year’s logbook and starting the new one by running in circles for 24, 48, or 72 hours. Across the Years is a fixed-time race on a 1.05-mile course that lets runners do just that. Participants have 24, 48, or 72 hours to cover as much distance as possible, being free to stop, eat, and sleep whenever they want. But the clock is always running.
Events span the last day of the calendar year, go through midnight on New Year’s Eve, and end at 9:00 a.m. on January 1. Sunny Arizona days, two aid stations with all of the Gummi Worms you can eat, changing direction every four hours . . . New Year’s festivities just don’t get any better for ultrarunners.
Morton’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning
There are rules to run by—and rules to ignore.
This is not a story about running. It is not a story about racing or about how great are the people who strap on bibs and run all kinds of shocking distances or how impressive and heroic and what all. It is a story with a river alongside it, a sleepy old thing, lush and easy with honeysuckle, uncoiling the whole way down out of the piedmont, passing out of the Confederacy before ending at the site of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry.
It is warm and humid. Low clouds hide a waxing moon, deep in the Virginia woods where the closest highway is an interstate miles beyond hearing. It runs down to Tennessee and north to who knows where. The ring formed by the Massanutten Mountains sits between the north and south forks of the Shenandoah River. This is a beautiful place, and it is far from anywhere. Maps of the area show mostly thin, gray lines winding into nothing, marking gravel roads old residents coat with used motor oil to keep down the dust—which it doesn’t, really. It just makes for a thick smell when the heat is up and a bitter one when the rain first hits it.
A first 100-Miler
Can’t wait/can wait for the next one.
My journey began in November 2008 with a crazy idea to run a 100-mile race. I have run 50-mile races and have enjoyed them (for the most part). I have always told the kids I coach in cross-country that they can, and should, double their mileage. If I could complete a 50-mile race, I guess it was time to take my own advice and go for the 100-mile run. I started to train, and train, and train. One week prior to the race, I asked Paul if he wanted to run the 100 miles with me. He said that he “might as well” because he was training for Grandma’s Marathon. There was no hesitation in his voice. He was totally confident. I knew he wanted to do it. Paul had completed a 50K race in the spring and was in great shape. We assembled a crew that would support us during the race, which was expected to last between 24 and 30 hours. Our crew consisted of my cousin Luke and his girlfriend, Lacy. In my heart, I knew I was ready for this.
The Marathons of Hawaii
Each island’s top marathon is unique.
More than likely, the first images popping into mind when you hear the word “Hawaii” are swaying palms, turquoise-blue ocean, and golden beaches bathed by gentle waves. All that postcard-perfect scenery aside, the tropical-island state is turning distance runners’ heads these days with its multi-island marathon menu.
If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you’re well aware that each island is a unique destination. And even each side of individual islands has its own distinctive geography, climate, and personality.
It’s the same with Hawaii’s marathons. Each is a completely different animal, from running in tranquility between the stunning Pacific and deeply etched valleys of West Maui to hoofing it through action-packed Waikiki with legions of spectators cheering you on.
Research in the Marathon and Ultramarathon in 2011
Marathon & Beyond readers may be interested in research articles published in 2011 on the marathon and ultramarathon. There were 1,219 references found using the key words “marathon or ultramarathon” in a SPORTDISCUS database search of 2011 publications. Many articles dealt with cycling, swimming, or golfing. A number of articles in 2011 focused on the debate over a two-hour marathon, the lead up to London and the 2012 Olympics, and marathon cheating. Most of these articles were in Marathon & Beyond or other related magazines/journals, such as UltraRunning or in more commonly known publications such as Runner’s World. Of these 1,219 articles, 46 were of a more academic nature, and these may be of interest to Marathon & Beyond readers.
Book Bonus: The Purple Runner
The race is on, and our mystery man goes directly to the front. Part 12.
“Shit, maybe four cups of tea are too bloody much,” Warren told himself as he relieved his bladder behind a tree in Greenwich Park. Having promised himself he would consume no alcoholic beverages during the last 48 hours before the race, he had completely blown it by polishing off one-and-a-half bottles of Pouilly Fuiseé with a Dutch stewardess who had announced her arrival in London via telephone at six o’clock the previous evening. “Fug it,” he grumbled aloud, tucking his fraying, holey, Hussong’s Cantina T-shirt back into his white cotton shorts. “I can still run the thing in 2:35 with a bloody limp.”
In the week before his taper week of 20 miles and three days of no running leading up to the race, he had managed, as he had told the Scotsman, 48 miles. Although somewhat under the suggested minimum 60 miles per week for eight weeks prior to the race, he still felt his mileage would give him sufficient strength to tough it out for the entire distance at 5:54 pace. It’s lucky the “scarfaced weirdo” isn’t running, anyway. Even if his chess opponent were to run he was confident of being able to finish within 20 minutes of his time, but after his night of indulgence he was relieved there was no bet.
In the neighborhood where I live, a rural-suburban area in Northern California (deer occasionally walk past the kitchen window and raccoons like to take midnight craps in the middle of the lawn) about an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge, just about every other person either runs or walks or alternates between the two. Only one of them that I know of ever pins on a number and races, and he primarily does ultras. The rest of them have their routines of putting in a few miles virtually every day, usually at the same time. One woman runs for a half hour in the morning and then goes back out in the afternoon, taking her dog for a walk. The fellow who runs ultras (he claims not to race them wholeheartedly) does most of his workouts after dark; he wears glasses and likes to work out after dark so that he can become more comfortable running through the night; he is sometimes gone for five or six hours. It is spooky, especially around Halloween, to see his headlight ghost past the front windows of our house.
On the Road with Kathrine Switzer
From Snell to Seko, the Seminal Experience
It was like the movie Chariots of Fire when Eric Liddell ran on the banked grass track in Scotland in 1924 with the youngsters screaming in admiration and the music soaring.
And it was a little like 1962 when a 23-year-old named Peter Snell thundered around the grass track like a downhill runaway 18-wheeler and ran world records in the 800, 880, and mile and kept the little country of New Zealand front and center on the world athletics map.
January 27 to February 3, 1962, had to be one of the greatest weeks in track and field, and today all over New Zealand people still talk about it as one of life’s unforgettable moments.
Athletics meetings were popular and stands were full in those days, especially when “Arthur’s boys” were running—the three Rome Olympics medalists of Barry Magee (bronze in the marathon), Murray Halberg (gold in the 5,000), and Peter Snell (gold in the 800), all neighborhood boys coached by the legendary New Zealander Arthur Lydiard.
My Most Unforgettable Ultramarathon
2003 San Diego Rock’n’Marathon
San Diego, California, May 30, 2003 – The San Diego Airport is amazingly close to downtown. Step out of the terminal, turn left, and start walking. Half a mile later, the sidewalk hits the waterfront. From there you can walk all the way to the convention center in less than an hour.
The first time I walked in, it was an adventure. Since then, it’s been a statement. Hello, San Diego. This is who I am. Take it or leave it.
So it was that on a Friday afternoon, I was pulling my carry-on along the bay, turning down offers from pedicabs as the sun glinted off the harbor. I didn’t need a ride. I was a marathoner: too deep into my taper for serious running but not in need of a cab, pedi- or otherwise. Whatever marathons are about, in fact, walking into town was definitely part of it. It was also calming. I was 36 hours from a 20-year dream. In two days, I was going to qualify for Boston.
Or die trying.
Smile, You’re in Pocatello.
What can you say about a city where it used to be against the law not to smile?
“In 1948, the Mayor of the City of Pocatello, George Phillips, passed an ordinance making it illegal not to smile in Pocatello. The ‘Smile Ordinance’ was passed tongue-in-cheek as a result of an exceptionally severe winter, which had dampened the spirit of city employees and citizens alike.” In 1987, the city was declared the “smile capital” (http://www.pocatello.us/main/smile_pocatello.htm). And so it is—friendliness seems to be a way of life here.
Pocatello, Idaho, is also known as “the Gateway to the Northwest.” The gold rush, the railroad, and settlers headed farther west all traveled through the Portneuf Gap and what would become Pocatello. It is a pleasant city with just about everything you might want spread out over beautiful landscapes. There are art and historical events and lots of outdoor activities to supplement your marathon adventure and many events for your family.
Biofile: Ana Dulce Felix
Date of Birth: October 23, 1982, in Azurem, Portugal
First Running Memory: “When I was little, it was when I got my first medal.”
Running Inspirations: “Running gives me motivation, and I always go into the race that I trained well. That’s what drives me.”
On the Mark
Experts answer readers’ training and competition questions.
This month’s question: I’m 45 years old and have been running distance for 23 years, coming up on notching my 50th marathon. I run with a half-dozen guys on weekend long runs. Last weekend we got into a rather heated discussion regarding the value of a midweek longish run—seven to 12 miles. I’ve always tended to do a midweek run in that range and have felt it was a good bridge between weekend longer runs, but two of the guys in our group feel a midweek run of that length is going to undermine the quality of hill and track workouts, which they feel are much more important than any old midweek longish run. What do your experts feel about this? – Jason Muele, via e-mail
Chasing the Flying Goddess
Marathons scramble to keep pace with incredible finisher’s medals.
Falling headfirst into the pavement at mile 13 during the 2011 San Francisco Marathon wasn’t what I envisioned while lacing up that morning. Yet, obsessively, my only thought was leaving with a finisher’s medal while a medic patched up my two-stitch head injury. Much of the rest of the race was a blur until I passed AT&T Park, where the stars floating around my head were replaced by question marks. What happened to normal ballpark names? Didn’t the Giants play at Candlestick Park for 40 years? Why would they need a corporate sponsor?
At the finish, another question came to mind: “Who sponsors the San Francisco Marathon?” The first place I checked was its finisher’s medal but found only the quotation, “Worth the Hurt,” which I found ironic considering that I had dried blood on my hands. The answer is WIPRO, a global IT company, the race’s presenting sponsor for 2011 and title sponsor for 2012. But how critical is its contribution to the medal, and why don’t all sponsors have their names added to the marathon finisher’s medal?
The Top 25 Marathon Finisher Medals for North America for 2011
Countdown to Number 1.
John Hayes’s amazing victory in the 1908 Olympic Marathon, long-distance running in America began to rise in popularity. It was nail-biting action as Dorando Pietri staggered the last 380 yards and was propelled across the finish line by officials just before Hayes caught up. Pietri was disqualified, and Hayes received the gold medal. Back then, only a handful of marathons existed. Now, a mere century later, you could choose from more than 500 marathons to run throughout the world. Most of us won’t be winning a gold medal, but we surely look forward to receiving a medal of our own, a reminder that we have crossed the finish line, that we are victors in our own right.
However, not all medals are equally eloquent reminders of our athletic journey and marathon experience. Some are gorgeous and worthy of display; others sadly look like we picked them up at our local dollar store. To scout out 2011’s best-designed medals, we gathered a diverse panel of marathoners from across the United States and Canada. They vary widely in their backgrounds and levels of experience, but all share a love for running and an appreciation of excellently crafted medals. Panelist Rachael Brown (Oregon) puts it succinctly: “Running a marathon is a substantial achievement; the medal should reflect that.” In hearty agreement, let’s look at the medals that scored big in 2011.
We racers love a medal that captures the spirit of the marathon it commemorates. Several of this year’s medals leave us longing for a vacation somewhere warm and sunny with sea turtles and surfboards. Others conjure nostalgic feelings of historic American landmarks and towns. We love a creative medal that spins, opens, or lights up, yet we also appreciate simplicity and beauty. The common bond is excellence, regardless of the form it takes.
Again this year, we recruited a new panel to judge the 2011 marathon medals; however, the panelists’ perspectives were remarkably similar to those of last year’s panel. Fort Lauderdale A1A designed a top-three winner once more by featuring another locket-style medal. Their 2010 number-one medal was an opening oyster. For 2011, Fort Lauderdale A1A stayed with the concept and created a sea-turtle locket. Since sea turtles represent longevity and endurance, what critter could possibly serve as a better marathon-medal mascot?
Meb on Motivation and Focus
Insights that can work for a marathoner at any stage.
Mebrahton “Meb” Keflezighi has been an outstanding distance runner throughout his career, from high school and college in Southern California through winning the 2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials in January. Along the way, he has garnered awards such as the silver medal in the 2004 Athens Olympic Marathon and the 2009 New York City Marathon championship—the first time an American won New York since 1982. We sat down with Meb after his recent Olympic Marathon Trials victory.
M&B: You’ve been running a long time at a high level. Some of our readers have been running as long or, in some instances, even longer. How do you manage to keep up your psyche and your motivation over all those years?
Meb: My goal throughout my running career has always been to get the best out of myself. My performances in training show that I can still run personal bests in the half-marathon and marathon. I’m not sure if I would be running competitively at this level if I didn’t think I could run personal bests. For you recreational runners out there, always think about why you started running to begin with. During the tough times, recall your core motivation for running and draw upon that. Also, make the running experience fun by running with people, running with music, and running different trails.
Women Wept, Strong Men Lost Their Lunch
The day Jim Peters nearly killed himself.
Although the motion picture Superman didn’t appear until long after he had retired, little Jim Peters could surely lay claim to being the Clark Kent of marathon running.
Just like the comic-book hero, Peters was a mild-mannered, unassuming fellow who needed only a change of clothes to morph into something astonishing and heroic. Peters would cast off his optician’s white coat and replace it with threadbare running gear to become a demonic running machine whose motto was “Kill or be killed.”
In the austere postwar years when nutritious food was still rationed in the United Kingdom, Jim Peters single-handedly turned marathon running into a high-speed race against the clock, repeatedly smashing world records in what he called his “Woolworth plimsolls.” To Americans they were “five-and-dime sneakers.”
Until Peters came along, marathons had for decades been the preserve of elderly plodders who trained and raced slowly and steadily, believing it was the only path to success. Peters blasted such theories out of the water.
He came late to the marathon, having been humiliated into track retirement by the great Emil Zatopek in the 1948 London Olympics. The Czech lapped him in the 10,000 meters in front of his home fans, leaving an embarrassed Peters to crawl off the track like a scolded schoolboy, intent on never racing again.
Months later he was persuaded to try the marathon by coach Herbert “Johnny” Johnston, who was convinced that Peters’s capacity to endure hard work and pain could bring him glory. In 1950, Peters began training in the dark evenings after work and clocked up unprecedented mileage. Not only that, it was all intense, high-speed work with no gentle jogging: “I bashed it night after night,” he recalled with a grin. To outsiders, it seemed a crazy and almost suicidal approach, but it worked. Eighteen months later, his marathon debut on the famous Polytechnic course from Windsor Castle yielded the first in a series of sensational record-breaking performances.
Fueling the Ultra-Endurance Athlete
If an army marches on its stomach…
Many ultramarathoners will tell you their success comes as much from making the right nutritional decisions before and on race day as doing the right volume and type of training. Thus, establishing the correct fueling protocol is critical for maximum ultrarunning performance.
Your running training is all in the bank on race day, because once you’ve done the training for your ultra, there is nothing else you can do to improve on it except to follow a tapering program to allow all your hard work to come through.
However, nutrition is where you can improve the most or, conversely, cause problems that will cost valuable minutes or hours or even lead to a DNF if you mess it up. Thus, ultrarunners need a sound working knowledge of the complex subtleties of fueling nutrition in addition to a solid background in ultra-training techniques.
Jewish Girls From Brooklyn Are Not Supposed to Run
How my mother became an Amazon.
When I was a little girl, there were two places I knew to find my mother. Either she was sitting at her desk in the fourth bedroom, a little attic crawlspace housing her desk, a typewriter, and stacks of papers, or she was at the track. My mother, a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn, was the granddaughter of a union organizer and the daughter of a model. Beautiful, with thick brown hair, she wore an ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) bracelet, but she was no bra burner. She wore her sports bra all the time so she would always be ready to run. She ran in her patched Levi’s or gym shorts—yes, the classic ’70s version that are so in vogue right now. She was the first woman in our neighborhood to buy a pair of three-striped blue-and-orange Adidas running shoes, and she competed in every race from 10K to half-marathon. She loved to run. She had a 1.3-mile route around the block that would allow her to park my brother and me in front of the TV and still get in a reasonable loop. She would run a loop, check on us, and then run another. Then one day, she went out with my Uncle Lee for a run on Falls Road, and she felt pain in her knee. The stabbing pain was chondromalacia—softening of the cartilage. Her orthopedist told her, “You should never run again.” She was heartbroken but not defeated and immediately turned our cinder-block basement into a home gym with stack weights—unheard of, once again, at the time for a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn.
Fast Times Down Under
Fun and games at the Sydney Marathon.
It was, I had to admit, a long way to go for a run.
Coming from me, that was a pretty big admission. Over the years, I had gone to some remote places to try out new races, but this time I had outdone myself. I had just flown for almost 20 hours across North America and the Pacific, covering almost 10,000 miles, for a three-day stopover in Australia to run in the 10th Blackmores Sydney Marathon.
I checked my watch. It was set for the US East Coast, 16 hours behind the local time. I would have to fix that.
It was about 9 a.m. on a sunny and cool late-September morning in Sydney. I was making my way downtown to the packet pickup, pretty sure that I was heading the right way.
“Can you help me with directions?”
I turned toward the voice. A young blond woman, a bit frazzled, stood before me. She had that singsong accent that is so unmistakably Australian.
“I just got here myself. I probably can’t be much help,” I said. Then, “Wait! I’ve got a map!”
We unfurled the sheet, managed to orient ourselves on it, and found where she had to go. She thanked me, and as she walked away, she turned back and said, “I like your accent.”
Which was crazy, of course. I don’t have an accent.
At Pacific Crest ’87
Or, how to enjoy a race so much that everyone gets tired of hearing about it.
I have told all my friends, neighbors, and relatives this story, and they are now bored to death with the details of my first Pacific Crest Trail 50-mile trail race. Even my long-suffering family gets a glazed look when I tell them again how exciting the race was.
I wasn’t ready for a 50-mile race. After running the San Diego Heart Marathon in November 1986, I had averaged 36 miles a week. It was very depressing to drop down from 50 miles a week to a mere 36. During the training for the marathon, I had developed exercise-induced asthma. At the Pacific Crest Trail 50, I would be using an inhaler and other medications for the first time in a race. It was probably not the best time to experiment with new drugs, but it was my birthday weekend and this was my first attempt at a 50-miler. I decided I was going to run as far as I could and have as much fun as possible. A two- to three-hour run would be just fine with me. I didn’t need to do the whole thing. Happy birthday to me!
We left my home, in the foothills of San Diego, in a light rain and thick ground fog. When we reached the Laguna Mountains, the air was clear and the stars and the full moon looked like bright cutouts stuck to the dark sky. The morning was cold and windy—in other words, it was a glorious morning! That huge, yellow, full moon was like a Cyclops headlight illuminating the mountains and trails.
A Rocket Out of the Gate
Errol Jones has but one speed.
A talented runner may drop out simply because there is no chance for a podium spot that day. A runner with a good attitude will continue on to the finish line even though no official recognition may be forthcoming,” says Errol Jones. He feels that this sums up most endeavors in life and that many people might waste talent, but a positive attitude can push a person to accomplish things that mere talent wouldn’t account for.
The Complete Slob’s Guide to Marathon Running
A little Kookie goes a long way.
When you’re young and in great shape, running a marathon is a breeze.
When you’re old and in great shape, running a marathon is less of a breeze but a breeze nonetheless.
But did you ever wonder what it’s like to run a marathon when you’re old and in crappy shape?
Well, if you did and you want to find out the answer, just keep reading.
It all began in late May, with me on my couch, coffee mug in hand, Pippy the cat on my lap, contemplative (that is, I was contemplative, not Pippy).
Between sips of joe and pats of the pet, something strange and obscure nagged at me. Something I had to do? Something I forgot to do? Someone I wanted to see? Someone I never wanted to see?
Suddenly it dawned on me. This was the 38th anniversary of my enlistment in the Navy. It was also roughly the 38th anniversary of when I started running, since the only reason I started was to get in shape for the service.
Back then people didn’t run—at least not in any significant numbers. The only runners were high school and college ones, a few nuts who jogged for health, and even fewer nuts who ran marathons.
So when I began running, I did it as might’ve been expected—in a nutty, haphazard way—Converse All Stars on my feet, no clue about nothin’ in my head. I just started running one day, ran the next day, and the day after that . . . and kept running. Then, before I knew it, I’d gone from someone who got winded walking downstairs to a guy who could run up to eight miles effortlessly.
50 States the Family Way
Don Conradi and company touch all the bases.
There is a certain nostalgic sense of romance whenever someone says he wants to travel the country: meeting real, down-to-earth people, experiencing great natural occurrences, feeling on his skin the hot, dry heat of the desert or the biting cold of winter. The journey usually entails a large recreational vehicle of some sort and is decided upon in the latter stages of life as a way to reconnect. Oh, and there are always lots of maps involved. But that same adventuresome quest can also be experienced 26.2 miles at a time and may begin not necessarily as a senior or even as a master. Oh, and there are always lots of course maps involved.
For Don Conradi, an East Walpole, Massachusetts, resident with over 100 marathons to his credit, seeing each state in America was more of a personal hands-on—or for that matter, feet-on—expedition one marathon at a time until he had run a 42K in all 50 states. He thus became, at the age of 61, the 439th person recorded on the 50 States Marathon Club list and only the fifth one from the Bay State.
Interestingly, there were times that the journey to the journey provided an adventure all its own. A case in point for Conradi was the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska, which was his 11th state. Nine days before the race, while walking on a marble floor in an office building, he felt great pain when his oft-injured knee popped out of joint. He soon popped it back in, iced it, and then found himself on a pair of crutches.
“It swelled up a lot, and I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do. But I figured how many chances do you get to go to Alaska—I had used my airline mileage—so I decided to go anyway, even if I couldn’t run. The day before I left, I switched from crutches to a cane, and my first flight was from Boston to Washington, DC,” he said.
Book Bonus: The Purple Runner
All eyes focus on the London Marathon. Part 11.
“That’s 29, please,” the woman with copper-coloured hair and an impassive face said just as Warren walked into a green grocers in Highgate. His morning had been leisurely spent reading the Guardian over two cups of coffee in the tea room above a High Street coffee shop. There the students from the Highgate School often japed about in their navy-blue jackets, and he had gone to the tea room specifically for the purpose of engaging one of the precocious, briefcase-laden “enfants terribles” in a chess game, which he subsequently lost by prematurely advancing his queen.
“That’s 74, please,” the woman said, finishing the quick shuffling of a mixture of not altogether attractive tomatoes into a brown sack, flipping it at the corners: which effort, to some eyes—due to such overripe fruits’ relatively unrelated resemblance to those red beauties skillfully displayed in front of the counter—might have been construed as legerdemain.
“That’s 32, please,” the woman said while performing a dextrous twirling of another sack of apples: these having been weighed at the far scale, where some would say the gaunt man making the purchase would have had a less than adequate view of this mildly hasty arrangement. Warren could see that the man, whom he suddenly realized he had seen somewhere out on the heaths, recognized a bit of these subtle scams, but being in a hurry, was not about to be bothered with a confrontation.
Trials and Tribulations?
It is in the nature of some human beings to be lifelong doubters and of some others to be forever positive. At the US Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston on January 14, positivity prevailed and the doubters were shunted to the dark underworld where they thrive. For the first time in US Olympic Marathon Trials history, both the men’s and the women’s races were held not only on the same day and on the dame course but nearly at the same time.
When the Houston Marathon folks put in their bid to host both 2012 Trials, the naysayers came out in force. Can’t be done. Impractical. No precedent. Can’t ossible match New York and Boston from the previous iteration of the Marathon Trials. And then there’s the fluky and unpredictable Houston weather in January – anything from an ice storm to hot, humid, muggy, hothouse weather.
And indeed the Houston gang had some big shoes to fill.
On the Road with Kathrine Switzer
From Eritrea to Outer Space
I love Meb Keflezighi. There it is; I’ve said it.
And it’s OK—my husband knows.
The 2011 ING NYC Marathon was fabulous, featuring Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya breaking the 10-year-old men’s course record with a gliding 2:05:06 performance and a cliffhanger of a come-from-behind women’s race won by Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia in 2:23:15. In a year where course records were smashed in each of the big-five marathons, New York’s dramatic winning stories could be told as the clincher for the historic and breathtaking 2011 season.
But what defines the marathon most to me is not just speed and flash but what it means to be a true champion, and in New York, that defining moment happened when the sixth-place man crossed the finish line.
My Most Unforgettable Ultramarathon
2008 Calico Trail Run 50K
CALICO, CALIFORNIA, January 20, 2008—The Calico Trail Run 50K, mile 17. Four years later, the words “mile 17” still mean for me the point at which it occurs to you that this thing, whatever it is, might not be worth it. It’s the crossroads and the low point rolled into one. It is the point where you most want to give up and the point where you have to decide not to. It’s amazing how many things, things that aren’t ultramarathons, have a mile 17.
In the beginning
I wasn’t a born runner. I had made it through high school and college without ever joining a cross-country team or so much as taking up recreational jogging. But in my mid-20s, the metabolism of a hummingbird I had taken for granted had abandoned me, and all the hours I had spent tapping out novels on a keyboard—five books written before the first one was published—hadn’t exercised anything but my typing skills, leaving me bereft in a series of fluorescent-lit fitting rooms with a stack of ever-larger jeans.
Preferring a challenge to endless hours on an elliptical machine, I signed up for a 5K before I could run a mile. By the time spring turned to summer, I was hooked. The 5K became a 10K became a half-marathon became a full, and before I had even crossed the finish line of the 2007 LA Marathon, my first, I was thinking about running an ultra.
Marathon to Marathon
Nothing ahead but open road.
There is a shifting portal in Iowa through which you can pass and in the process rip up several decades’ worth of calendars—where you are completely surrounded by the parade-ground rows of corn higher than an elephant’s eye, where kids play blissfully at the edge of the lake, and where there are more pizza joints per capita than anywhere else in the world. And where you can finish a marathon . . . at Marathon.
The Marathon to Marathon, a USATF-certified and -sanctioned 26.2-miler, runs from the town of Storm Lake to the village of Marathon, both of them way up in the northwest corner of Iowa. In between, runners truck along on two-lane country roads that are mostly flat and eminently straight for up to eight miles at a time, where you can almost see the curvature of the earth.
Biofile: Bobby Curtis
Date of Birth: November 28, 1984, in Madison, Wisconsin
First Running Memory: “I would guess probably running around bases as a child playing Little League baseball.”
Running Inspirations: “A few people when I was first getting into the sport. That was in 2000, when Noah Ngeny won the 1,500 in Sydney. He was the first person that I knew was a runner. I found out that he ran a 4:34 mile and I thought, holy crap. Then I found out that I could run a mile in like 5:30. And I thought, I’m here, he’s there, I wonder if I could ever get there? That’s one example. Currently, there’s a lot of people that I respect, coaches and athletes that I’ll get information from. But I don’t think there’s one person or anything in the sport that I’m totally mesmerized by.”
On the Mark
Experts answer readers’ training and competition questions.
This month’s question: I had a stem-cell transplant in March 2011 to treat leukemia following chemotherapy. I have been able to remain active throughout treatment and recovery, and I am seeing slow improvement in speed and endurance. In August, I was training roughly every other day, with jogging intervals from one to six minutes in length with walking breaks of one to two minutes, for a total of about 30 minutes of jogging. For variety, I mix repeats, ladders, and pyramids. Do you know of any training programs especially appropriate for athletes in my situation? What are reasonable expectations for how quickly speed and endurance might improve and for my ultimate level of fitness relative to where I was before the transplant? – Joe Seeley, via e-mail
One size does not fit all.
When neophytes ask what I think they can do in the marathon, I usually tell them it will take three tries to find out. The first is to learn the distance. The next is a range-finding shot. Then you get serious. There are, of course, exceptions. Kara Goucher’s inaugural marathon, the 2008 New York City Marathon, was the fastest women’s debut of all time and the best finish by an American in years. But Goucher had beaten Paula Radcliffe at the half-marathon and had years of high-level training. Most of us don’t start that close to our long-run potential—which means that most of us can spend years looking for new ways to improve.
When Christy Runde lined up for the 2008 California International Marathon, she had a string of good, recent performances under her belt: 3:01:54, 3:05:18, 3:02:13, 3:07:55. She had been faster in her mid-20s (with a 2:51:08 PR in the 1993 California International) but now, at age 40 with four children, her comeback seemed to have hit a plateau.
A year before, when she had asked me to coach her, she had decided there was no point running another three-oh-whatever. Her goal was to get back below 3:00, and she was willing to take a few risks to do it.
Most of us have had times when our performances seem to have hit a plateau.
It’s always possible, of course, that the plateau came because we really have maxed out our talent. South African exercise physiologist Timothy Noakes, author of the encyclopedic Lore of Running, thinks there are evolutionary limits to what any of us can achieve simply by jacking up our training. Our bodies, he thinks, just aren’t designed so that elevating our training by another notch will always produce stronger, faster muscles. If that worked, we would see people winning the Olympics on 500-mile weeks.
ZZZs for Speed
The facts about sleep and running.
Beep, beep, beep.” Oh, no . . . “Beep, beep, beep.” Aargh! It’s 5:00 a.m. The sheets are warm and cozy, and the road outside is cold, dark, and wet. That training program you came up with in July doesn’t seem quite so perfect right now, does it? Whose idea was this, anyway?
If you are like most runners, you’ve faced this quandary before. Do you stay wrapped in the arms of Morpheus or do you get in that six-miler? For many of us, fitting in the miles without sacrificing the “zzzs” doesn’t seem possible. But what’s the story on sleep, anyway? Does sleep affect your running? What’s the right amount, and how do you know if you are hitting your sweet spot?
Your body needs sleep. In fact you spend about one-third of your life in sleep. Sure, you tried to debunk this thesis in high school and college, but the reality can’t be denied. You need to sleep for your body to function well. Early studies showed that forcing people to stay awake for a few days without sleep would result in severe mental breakdown similar to schizophrenia (West et al. 1962). More recent studies demonstrate that chronic, inadequate sleep may increase the risk of high blood pressure (Gangwisch et al. 2006), depression (Tsuno, Besset, and Ritchie 2005), certain cancers (Verkasalo et al. 2005), diabetes (Yaggi, Araujo, and McKinlay 2006), and other chronic conditions. Inadequate sleep can also impair performance and reaction time on par with the effects of a few beers. As if that isn’t bad enough, shortened sleep also increases the production of an appetite-stimulating hormone called ghrelin (Spiegel et al. 2004). This could explain why those who sleep less have a greater battle with the bulge than their well-rested counterparts. To understand why all this badness happens, you have to understand the real purpose of sleep.
America the Beautiful
A visitor’s 50-state odyssey.
You know what to do, I told myself as I toed the line before the start of the 2010 Des Moines Marathon. “You have done it before and can do it again. Just don’t go out too fast. Try to relax and pace yourself. Treat it like any other race.” For me, however, this was no ordinary race. A few hours from now, if all went well, I would have completed a marathon in all 50 states. For any marathoner, this represents a significant commitment of time, toil, and money, and especially so for a non-American who would also have to contend with the rigors of considerable additional traveling.
My mind wandered back to the time of my first marathon. Sunday, November 1, 1992, dawned cold in New York City, and I felt singularly unprepared to face what was to come. I had flown in from my home in Bermuda the previous Friday, picked up my bib number, ate my fill of pasta, and drunk numerous bottles of water. Frequent visits to the world’s longest latrine confirmed that I was not only well hydrated but also cold and nervous. Eventually, I shuffled in the company of thousands of others onto the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and waited for the sound of the cannon that would release me down a path that I am still traveling. Little did I know then that for the next 18 years, I would be flying to and competing in marathons all across this mighty nation.
Why Do People Run 100 Marathons?
Is it merely because they can?
Why do people run 100 marathons? A few years ago, I didn’t even think this was a question that was necessary or possible. Who in their right mind would run 100 marathons?
As it turns out, hundreds of individuals are in their right mind and have run more than 100 marathons.
I’ve written a book on people from around the world who have completed more than 100 marathons (and ultras). I’ve met in person, e-mailed, or talked over the telephone at the strangest hours with well over 120 runners from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, Germany, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, and the Netherlands. It has truly been a privilege to have the opportunity to meet and learn from these individuals, whom I have since labeled “the messengers,” the title of my book.
The idea of the book began with my standing on a train platform in Athens, shuffling back and forth to keep a bitterly cold wind from freezing me on the spot. The marathon was the next day. Doing the same thing beside me was a stranger—Dave Major from England. Dave explained that it was a special race for him because it would be his 200th marathon. Two hundred? Had it not been so cold, my eyes would have popped out in disbelief. For the next 40 minutes, I threw question after question at Dave. Why? How? Who are you people?
Evolution of the Boston Marathon Press Conference
What would Jock Semple think?
Nestled inside the opulent and gilded Oval Room of the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel two days before the 2011 Boston Marathon, the defending champions found themselves in front of dozens of national and international photographers, members of the media, television cameras, and previous victors and Olympians. They were presented their respective bib numbers, which were actually their last names. And that photo opportunity was subsequently followed by a scheduled brief impromptu onstage question-and-answer session.
Three days later at the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) Wrap-up Media Conference were the newly minted 2011 winners, sitting behind microphones and a row of tables on another stage in the Copley’s Venetian Room. They stared into the eyes of hundreds of camera flashes and then fielded a wave of questions from that very same mass of media.
By contrast, for the 1977 Boston Marathon, returning champion Jack Fultz of the United States not only didn’t receive his bib number—which was the number 1 as a result of his victory at the previous year’s “Run for the Hoses”—but subsequently ran the entire race without it.
And after the finish of those early Bostons, the tired and sweating winners usually found themselves immediately surrounded by a few local newspaper reporters and TV cameras in the darkened parking garage under the Prudential Center building on Boylston Street, which was near the finish.
That which is new is not necessarily better just because it is new.
It reigns supreme as the most important and historic stretch of macadam in all of road racing, according to Bill Rodgers, who won the world’s greatest race four times in six years. Full of lore and dreams, broken and fulfilled, Heartbreak Hill looms at mile 20 of the Boston Marathon. As I bounced over its crest and shifted gears to descend the “Haunted Mile” into Cleveland Circle in the 2007 Boston, I heard a voice out of sync with fans and runners: a familiar style of voice, one that we’ve all heard while standing in line at the grocery store or the airport. A fellow runner was talking on a cell phone—loudly, of course. Unbelievable.
As I hurried through that fabled stretch of the world’s most historic marathon, I told myself, “This moron is talking on a cell phone. A &#@$% cell phone!”
Then I remembered that old definition of stress: “when the mind overrides the body’s overwhelming desire to choke the living (daylights) out of some idiot who desperately deserves it.”
Well, I wasn’t going to kill him. I just wanted to throw his phone in the gutter at the bottom of Cleveland Circle, where Rodgers’s store was located many years ago, just as a tribute to what road racing once was, before the dark times of cell phones, iPods, heart rate monitors, and stopwatches with GPS devices that can tell you which blade of grass you are currently stepping on at 50 degrees east longitude, 38 degrees north latitude.
One of my old running buddies often took great pleasure in teasing me about being a “slave to the watch,” and that was just a regular old chronograph about 15 years ago.
By today’s standards, I could be considered a running Luddite. You can call me that, but unless one of us is on fire, don’t call me while we are working out.
Shared suffering and accomplishments make us as one.
How’s the 3:10 group doing?” he asked over his shoulder, flashing us a grin.
His words were greeted with a few muted chuckles.
He was a young, good-looking kid who had been running nearly shoulder to shoulder with someone who I assumed was either his girlfriend or fiancee. She was slender and girlish—unbelievably girlish, as if she was barely out of high school.
“You’re holding a great pace,” I puffed from behind. “Keep it up.”
I had first noticed them several miles earlier, the youthful couple. It was difficult not to notice them. We were running the Napa Valley Marathon, and for the first eight or nine miles, they looked so carefree that they might as well have been out for a recovery run. I watched as he periodically glanced over at her with a smile and posed what looked to be a “Still OK?” She would return his smile and follow it up with a gentle nod. For a great while, it seemed as if they were convinced that they were the only ones out on the course. Little did they realize how quickly that would change.
Napa is old-school racing at its best. It’s not one of those new-era, kid-gloves type of affairs designed to make your 26.2-mile experience as convivial and painless as possible. Sure, there are the requisite number of aid stations and porta-potties along the route. But the course was never intended to be pancake flat, there are no garage bands attempting to blow the lids off amplifier boxes, and there are certainly no organized pace groups. Once the gun goes off, it’s pretty much up to you to do your own math when it comes to getting from here to there.
So it came as some surprise, really, when I suddenly noticed that I was in the midst of some pretty fit company. As the youthful couple several hundred yards ahead of me had closed in on two more runners, a few others and I had closed in on them. And then, as if we’d all simultaneously emerged into a clearing from different directions, our universes converged into one.
The ultimate long run.
My husband and I celebrated our 20-year wedding anniversary with our idea of a dream date. We ditched our two kids with relatives and ran the Dipsea Trail from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach and back.
Along the 14 miles of rutted trail and steep stairways that climb out of redwoods to reveal the San Francisco Bay, I wondered how I’ve been married and running for so long when I generally struggle with commitment and battle boredom. I drop in and out of the workforce and start way more books than I ever finish. Half-baked projects litter my desk, and unaccountable gaps wreck my resume.
And yet here I am with Morgan, the high school boyfriend I married at 21, and here I am training for a 50-mile trail race after 15 years of running and finishing some 30 marathons. I can tell myself, I must not be a total flake or failure because I have a good marriage and I’m a good runner.
My Own Private Marathon
A race director with a twist.
It’s the day before my fall marathon, and I’m just like Harvey Danger, who sings, “I’m not sick, but I’m not well.” All that training, and now what? Should I stay home and not run the Lewis & Clark Marathon or run and not feel well? I could at least drive to St. Charles, Missouri, and see if I get an answer along the way. So like a clueless teenager going to a remote summer camp on Friday the 13th, I pack my things and make the two-hour drive.
I easily locate the running stores where I pick up my race packet. Always eager to see what treasures are to be found in the goody bag, I tear into it to find a shirt, race announcements, and coupons for carbohydrate-rich food, but no race number. That’s odd, I think to myself. I’ve never run a marathon without a race number. It’s the most important thing in the bag. I return to the expo and find a friendly worker who quickly verifies that I am registered and therefore should indeed have a race number.
She looks through a stack of orphaned bib numbers, but mine is not among them. Hmm, I wonder, is this a sign—like a dead phone line—telling me that I shouldn’t run the marathon? Probably, but like the blonde bimbo who continues to walk into a dark room of a haunted mansion even though the brand-new light bulb suddenly goes out, I need another sign. Just then a kind woman hands me a new race bib, which I’m relieved to see is not the number 666.
Slightly concerned and still not feeling well, I drive to the hotel for some premarathon relaxation, but instead it’s déjà vu. My reservation is confirmed, but my room is not ready despite the fact that it’s 5:00 p.m. I think again, Hmm, as in, “Why is the butcher knife missing from the knife rack?” Still, the second sign is unable to fully penetrate my thick skull. So while my room is being prepared, I drive to the starting area, hoping for a crucifix or clove of garlic, but as I look at the starting area and see banners flying and hard-working volunteers setting up signs, I feel as empty as Herman Munster’s head.
The Effects of Mental Preparation for Distance Runners
What coaches and runners need to know.
Endurance athletes spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy preparing for competition. While most spectators assume that physical preparation is the only way to train, elite endurance athletes understand that mental training and preparation are equally important for success in the competitive arena. Any lack of mental or physical training will certainly lead an endurance athlete to subpar performances. Some athletes and researchers will attest that the mental aspect of training is crucial to perform at optimal levels. Imagery, positive self-talk, and optimistic thinking are a few of the effective preparation strategies that athletes can utilize to aid in mental preparation. As a coach or an athlete, it is essential to understand the various types of mental strategies. It is also important to realize that individual athletes may respond differently to each of the strategies. This article will review mental-preparation methods of imagery, self-talk, and optimistic thinking that coaches and distance runners may find useful.
The London Marathon From Inside
A year-to-year history of the race by a runner who has done all of them.
The London Marathon was the brainchild of Chris Brasher, who won a gold medal in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics steeplechase and was one of the pace makers in Roger Bannister’s first overcoming of the four-minute mile. In 1979 Brasher visited New York at the time of the 10th New York Marathon and was so entranced by what the late Fred Lebow had achieved that he had the vision of organizing a transatlantic equivalent. However, there was no way the authorities would consider closing down so much of the city, but Brasher was like a dog with a bone and eventually wore down political opposition, and the first London Marathon was run in 1981. What a difference that first race was compared to current versions. The field of 7,000 runners was mainly made up of serious club athletes, and to beat three hours was no big deal. The joint winners holding hands over the line were the USA’s Dick Beardsley and Ingo Simonsen of Norway in 2:11:48. The leading lady was Britain’s Joyce Smith in the extraordinary time of 2:29:57, considering that she was 42 years old!
Fast track to 2011 and we find a field of 35,000 chiefly made up of recreational, nonserious runners, many in way-out costumes, staggering home in such slow times that in 1981 would have seen finish line officials long gone home, having Sunday lunch with their families! However, up at the sharp end, the standard continues to sharpen. In 2011 Kenyans took the money by way of Emmanuel Mutai in a course record of 2:04:40 and Mary Keitany in 2:19:19, just shy of the incomparable Paula Radcliffe’s course record of 2:17:42.
The course starts virtually on the Greenwich meridian and snakes its way alongside the river Thames, passing historical landmarks such as Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey and finishing in front of Buckingham Palace. Elevation is almost flat, making the track sympathetic for those with personal record ambitions.
Research in the Marathon and Ultramarathon in 2010
Marathon & Beyond readers may be interested in research articles published in 2010 on the marathon and ultramarathon. There were 1,911 references found using the key words “marathon or ultramarathon” in a SPORTDISCUS database search of 2010 publications. Many articles dealt with canoeing, swimming, biking, bowling, or skydiving. A number of articles in 2010 focused on Josh Cox, Shalane Flanagan, and Andrew Lemoncello and heightened research in ultramarathoning. Most of these articles were in Marathon & Beyond or other related magazines/journals, such as UltraRunning (www.ultrarunning.com) or in more commonly known publications such as Runner’s World. Of these 1,911 articles, 22 were of a more “academic” nature, and these may be of interest to Marathon & Beyond readers.
Some of the articles listed below may be found online through a variety of databases; many are available in full-text versions. Please contact Michael Sachs at [email protected] if you have any questions about accessing the articles listed below.
This feature will continue to be a regular annual service of M&B to its readers.
Book Bonus: The Purple Runner
Chris’ death has profound meaning for the Purple Runner.
It had been a week since Chris’ death, but along the Dollis Creek the runner again found himself ruminating over the dead Californian. At the fountain ominous clouds began to release very fine snow. Yet rather than turning back he continued on, immersed in thought, toward Totteridge and Whetstone. He knew how much Chris had counted on doing well at the Greater London and how hard he had worked with Watson Doyle as his mentor. Why didn’t I help him more to improve?
Continuing through the recreation grounds near High Barnet the snow abated, leaving a thin film of white upon the playing fields. Chris will never see snow again. On he pounded at a 4:50 pace, eventually veering off on May Lane. The traffic of hurrying commuters was getting heavy when he climbed the wooden stile over the fence next to the Cottage Farm, and soon he found himself dramatically having to slow his pace on the muddy public footpath threading between the farms above Mill Hill to avoid falling. He wished there were something he could do on the Californian’s behalf, but there was nothing. It was too late. Chris was dead.
Deep grey cumulus clouds continued to scud overhead and the wind began to pick up. Reaching the bottom of the long downhill path his knee began to ache, probably from the interval session he had run in the dark on a cold windy night: 10 1 mile in 4:15 with alternating 440 and 880 rests between. Too much stress on the inside knee. The “overuse syndrome.” He would have to go easy on the track for a while.
When Is It an Ultra?
When does a marathoner automatically become an ultrarunner without having to make the leap or the commitment that is usually required?
It could be argued that the transition can occur when a marathoner runs two marathons in two days or three marathons in three days, as happens each year to nearly a hundred marathoners at the Lake Tahoe Marathon, where a “Tahoe Triple” option is offered for runners who would like to circle the alpine lake over three days by running a marathon on three consecutive mornings, the third morning corresponding with the running of the annual Lake Tahoe Marathon.
Race director Les Wright over the years has attempted to turn the week leading up to the Lake Tahoe Marathon into a virtual cornucopia of sporting events, with everything from speed golf (you carry one club and play nine holes, running between holes, fastest time wins, with some rules applying to lost balls and so forth) to kayak and swimming races. Unfortunately, there are so many events offered between Wednesday and Sunday that it is easy to lose track unless you have a laminated scorecard and schedule.
Does the IAAF Have Something Against Women?
Are men funnier than women?
a. No, but they think they are.
b. Yes, but not in the way they think they are.
c. Mostly, when they don’t intend to be.
I ask this question in relation to the International Association of Athletics Federations’ decision—made its congress in August 2011—to recognize women’s road race performances as “world records” only if they were run in women’s-only competitions. Those performances run in mixed-sex races will now be assigned to the “world-best” bin. Here is the funny part: the ruling is going to be retroactive, effectively redacting the women’s marathon record book as if it were the CIA’s torture file being released for public scrutiny. While I find the ruling to have a charmingly Old Spice whiff to it, the women involved naturally fail to find the humor.
“I do think that the rule is unfair,” said marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe of England to the Guardian newspaper. “It penalizes women. It limits the amount of chances we have to set records because the majority of road races are mixed.”
On the Road with Kathrine Switzer
Berlin: Fast Course, Long Journey
“Would you like an elite start, or do you prefer to start in the mass race?” asked Mark Milde, the race director of the BMW Berlin Marathon.
I began to answer, “Heavens, no! I’m a 4:30 marathoner at best; I’ll start in the back of the field!” But then I hesitated.
“You mean, like, on the front line alongside Haile and Paula? With ‘Kathrine’ on the front of my bib instead of a number?” I sputtered.
Easy decision. Real easy decision!
And so, on a beautiful autumn morning, with a fine mist of dew just hazily disappearing in the face of a late-September sunrise, I found myself striding back and forth on Avenue 17 Juni, warming up with 100 or so of the greatest runners on earth. A kilometer in front of us, glinting gold at the end of the impressive and now totally empty boulevard, was the famous Victory Column; behind us was Berlin’s signature monument, the Brandenburg Gate. Between the elites and the Brandenburg Gate, 40,000 runners awaited the starter’s horn.
My Most Unforgettable Ultramarathon
DURBAN-PIETERMARITZBURG, SOUTH AFRICA, June 15, 2008—Where to start telling this story? If this were a movie, we would start at the revelation scene, where the hero finally gets the pivotal news, good or bad. Try to visualize it in widescreen, framed by the tawny brush of the hills of KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa. A runner is walking a kilometer or so to the Umlaas Road aid station sometime in the midafternoon about 69 kilometers into the 2008 Comrades Marathon on his way to Pietermaritzburg (or “PMB” to those of us who have visited it) from Durban. He has looked at his cutoff chart and suddenly realized that he has timed out. He shakes his head in disbelief. How did that happen? Wasn’t I making good progress on the first four of the “big five” hills of the course? Skunked again, he sighs. Skunked, skunked, skunked—his words echo as he goes into a flashback.
Blur the focus for the flashback scene. We see the same runner on another midafternoon of a difficult race a few years before. He is going for another finish of a local 50-mile ultra, commemorating a famous Civil War battle. The course, soaking up rain for the better part of a week, is a quagmire. Our runner is smeared with mud. As a BOPer (back-of-the-packer), he has been sloshing and sliding his way through the slop left by most of the other runners. He is not a good mudder and behind his pace. Thank goodness, he is coming to the next-to-last aid station before the finish. As he enters, he is informed by the aid station director: You’ve timed out. Probably by a matter of minutes, but how could he have known? He didn’t bother to prepare a cutoff chart to take with him on the run. And now he has paid the price. You’ve timed out, out, out echoes through his head as the flashback ends.
Scheels Fargo Marathon
Scenic and friendly race – with a famous wood chipper.
The city of Fargo is probably best known for the 1996 movie of the same name. The folks in that North Dakota town deny sounding like the characters in the movie. Frances McDormand, who won an Oscar for best actress in her role as Sheriff Marge Gunderson, used a Minnesota accent. But it seems as though the city has finally embraced its ties to the movie. The actual wood chipper that chomped up Steve Buscemi in the movie was displayed at the FargoDome for runners from all over the world to pose with for photos. There is a wooden statue of Marge in the historic Fargo Theatre.
Marathon runners were warmly welcomed at the airport by Scheels Fargo Marathon greeters. Locals went out of their way to talk with people near the car-rental counters and baggage carousels. They had maps of the city and race information to give to out-of-towners. All around town there were signs at many of the businesses to welcome marathon runners. People who live along the racecourse were out in their yards holding block parties and were excited to welcome the runners to their neighborhoods. There were live bands and DJs every mile and a postrace concert. Spectators were given suggestions on where to park, a list of some of the best viewing areas, and the best places for coffee and music. When participants had filled all the local hotels, the race committee arranged for North Dakota State University dorms to provide a deal for runners. A nonrunner but a huge supporter of the race, Mayor Dennis Walaker drove the racecourse daily in the week leading up to the event to make sure it was in good shape. You couldn’t ask for friendlier, more supportive communities than Fargo, North Dakota, and its Minnesota counterpart, Moorhead.
Biofile: Lauren Fleshman
Date of Birth: Sept. 26, 1981, in Los Angeles, California.
First Running Memory: “Races in the neighborhood, boys down the street. And as far as anything with a real start and finish line, I’d have to say junior high school, running the mile for PE class.”
Running Inspirations: “My parents and my high school coach, Dave Delong. I think mostly family and friends and people close to me, my neighborhood girls I grew up with, influenced pretty much who I am now.”
On the Mark
Experts answer readers’ training and competition questions.
This month’s question: I am aware of the basic concept of fartlek-speed play. Warm up, run along, and pick out landmarks ahead where you pick up the pace until you reach it, then back off and repeat the process throughout the run. My question is this: Can the fartlek concept be applied to the long run, and if so, what cautions would you suggest so that a runner does not overdo it and ruin the good effects of the long run?
John J. Kelley was a lot of things to a lot of people but consistently a friend to all.
John Joseph Kelley, who died on August 21, 2011, was the first American to win the Boston Marathon since the end of World War II. He shared most of a name with the last American to win the race before him, John Adelbert Kelley, who won the 1945 race. J. A. Kelley was still a force in American distance running as John J. Kelley’s career was taking off, requiring those who followed the sport to devise a means of distinguishing one Kelley from the other. Thus, John A. Kelley became “John the Elder” and John J. Kelley became “Young” John Kelley.
When John A. Kelley died in 2004, a couple of veteran runners and followers of the sport wondered whether it would still be necessary to refer to John J. Kelley as “Young” John. That Kelley was still a focus of conversation four decades after his career peaked is a testament to his stature in the sport.
40 Years of Marathon Madness
An event director’s take on how the marathon has matured.
We recently caught up with Les Smith in his 30th year as the event director of the Portland Marathon, which this year celebrated its 40th anniversary event.
M&B: First, how did this year’s 40th Portland Marathon turn out?
LS: Our marathon committee was very pleased with the 40th-anniversary Portland Marathon held October ninth. We believe it was a success in all respects. Our systems worked flawlessly. We had our usual excellent Northwest weather—a cloudy 55- to 60-degree day for our 11,684 marathoners, 3,280 half-marathoners, and about 1,000 or so in our 10K Family Walk and 10K Downhill Dash.
At our finish, we had more food than ever before. Goodies ranged from our usual ice cream, fruits, yogurts, and cookies to specials this year of pizza bread and sandwiches.
The Women’s Marathon Movement
Or, we’ve run a long way, but haven’t we been here before?
From the onset, women distance runners have had to forge their own way, not only with very little official support but, in fact, against a great deal of institutionalized resistance. Imagine the loneliness of the long-distance runner—especially female—back in 1918, when Marie Louise Ledru competed in a marathon in France. Or in 1926, when Violet Percy of England clocked 3:40:22. And in 1951, when a “mystery woman in red” from Canada was reported to have competed in the Boston Marathon.
A milestone was reached in 1957 with the formation of the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), a group that vowed to give women equal recognition. Not without reason have some of the largest women-only races emerged in New York City, home of the RRCA’s founding.
In the 1960s, an attitude echoing that of the ’30s still prevailed, with this country’s coaches concerned over the effect of running on a woman’s “femininity” and her childbearing capabilities.
Training to maximize your genetic potential.
If you’ve managed to master the beginning and intermediate training schedules that I outlined in the two previous issues of M&B and you’ve been able to maintain this sort of running for a year or two, including the interval, tempo, and fartlek workouts, you are certainly ready to move up to advanced-level marathon training. Indicators that you’re ready to move up are that you are handling your training comfortably and it no longer presents a challenge, your times have stopped improving, and perhaps your running has become boring.
And just to clarify a point of terminology here, you will notice that this article refers to advanced marathoners rather than elite marathoners. I differentiate between these two groups because elite marathoners are generally professional runners, paid and supported through their running career.
Although elite marathoners will find some of the general information that I present here useful, their schedules will be far more sophisticated than the ones I have produced and significantly more rigorous. Elite marathon males also tend to be able to run under 2:22 and women under 2:47 (2008 US Olympic marathon trials qualifying times), performances that manage to elude most of us mortals no matter how hard we train.
So this advice is aimed at the rest of you—Joe and Jane Runner, who have been running marathons for several years. As an advanced marathoner, you may have run the marathon in the 2:30 to 3:00 range (men) or 2:50 to 3:25 range (women). You’re able to spare one to two hours to train most days, you have supportive spouses and families, you are generally healthy, and you can afford a food bill that belies your rather emaciated appearance. And one final important criterion for advanced marathon runners—they race the marathon instead of running just to finish.
Running Across Wisconsin for Pancreatic Cancer
A nice excuse to reconnect with high school friends.
I was born in 1955 on a small farm about 50 miles north of Green Bay, Wisconsin. I started running in 1971 but managed only a quarter mile that first day, graduated from Oconto Falls High School in 1973, and joined the Army as an officer in 1977. I continued to run on a regular basis but never more than four to five miles. I finally ran my first marathon (Marine Corps) in 1987 but had such a painful experience the last five miles that I was afraid to run another.
Meanwhile, my father died of pancreatic cancer in 1990. Since then, cancer has terrified me. Pancreatic cancer is the worst kind. Once it is discovered, it is too late to treat it, and you’re dead within weeks. After serving in various parts of the world, I moved to Newport News, Virginia, in 1994 on Army orders assigning me to Fort Monroe. I soon discovered that the area has a fairly large running community, and in 1998 I resumed running marathons (and then ultras) on a regular basis. I ran my second marathon with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training and raised $2,600. After that, I began participating annually in the local American Cancer Society Relay for Life. I soon realized that I was getting pretty good at raising money to fight cancer. In 2004, based on a friend’s idea, I started my own 24-hour ultra race, the Virginia 24-Hour Run for Cancer, at a nearby nature park as a fund-raiser for Relay for Life. It started slowly but has become very successful over the years.
The Marathons of North Carolina
Geographic diversity provides a range of options for runners.
North Carolina contains some of the most diverse natural environments in America. From the sandy beaches of the Outer Banks in the east to high mountain ranges in the west, there is a plethora of options for marathon runners.
North Carolina has a wide range of elevations, from sea level on the coast to 6,684 feet at Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the eastern United States. Western North Carolina boasts the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains, with over a dozen peaks reaching 6,000 feet. The heartland of North Carolina, often called “the Piedmont,” is composed of gently rolling plains, lakes, and farmland as well as the state’s largest urban areas. The Outer Banks barrier islands along the coast include fishing villages, boutique resorts, and stretches of national seashore. Between 2008 and 2009, North Carolina was the eighth-fastest-growing state by population in the United States and the fastest-growing state east of the Mississippi River.
Most of North Carolina’s marathons are run in spring and fall, when temperatures are often ideal for long-distance running. The state offers a large and interesting spectrum of marathons: from running in blizzard conditions on a mountain to running along some of the country’s best beaches, there is a marathon for everyone in the Tar Heel State.
Mile 20, the Seawall, and Loving It All
Reflections on the 2009 Kauai Marathon.
Doesn’t it always seem to be at mile 20? Whatever you want to call it—in fact, you could call it hell—something about mile 20 just jumps up and bites you. I don’t want to call it The Wall. Everyone calls it The Wall, but that is a poor description because you see a wall coming. Here, a little bug of fatigue creeps up from your toes to the very ends of your fingertips. A vacuum of water and glucose starts to suck the energy from your core. Then you start to tighten up, maybe in your lower back, or maybe a calf starts to cramp. Ah, crap! It’s happening. Let’s not even talk about my metaphorical Achilles’ heel, which happens to be my actual Achilles’ heel that is now fully embedded with an exceptional amount of scar tissue.
Like one of my favorite lines from Chris Lear’s book, Running With the Buffaloes, “I feel like ten pounds of shit in a five-pound bag.” I’m a wreck, and seriously, what is up with this humidity, hills, and heat? Apparently they travel in threesies. Always wanted a threesie but not this kind. I still have 10K to go, and I don’t know what to do. Maybe I should negotiate with the grizzly bear that has decided to take an unwelcome piggyback ride. If only I had a honey pot. Hey, grizzly, can’t you see I’m dying here? Can’t you see it’s mile 20?
In each of my marathons, I continue to take my body to that frightening breaking point of life or death. I hate asking myself, I wonder if I am going to live. Believe me, I want to live. In fact, I love to live . . . that’s why I run. But sometimes all I want is for all the pain to fade to white. I want to let that cloudy mist engulf my body as I consider submitting to the doubt. If you’ve run a race, then you know what I mean: You just want it to be all over. And then the doubts creep in. A million “should haves” pass through your internal teleprompter. It streams: Should have trained harder, should have done more long runs, not sure if that winter of recreational drug use was such a good idea now. OK, yes, I admit it. I took ecstasy and saw Britney Spears on her “Circus” tour at the Arco Arena in Sacramento. Phew, I feel better. Hi, my name’s J. T., and I am a marathoner, and I have six miles to go.
The Belle Watlings
A new meaning to the word “old.”
Belle Watling (bel wat’ lun) proper noun. 1: Character from the book Gone With the Wind, Belle was the red-haired madam of an Atlanta brothel, a no-nonsense woman with a heart of gold, and Rhett Butler’s mistress and confidante. 2: The character in the movie Gone With the Wind played by Ona Munson, she helps save Ashley Wilkes’s life when he is injured during the Shantytown incident. 3: The name of the once-premier marathon-running club in Buffalo, New York, a club that won many honors, including taking third place out of 71 teams in the 1978 Boston Marathon, now made up of mostly old geezers and ne’er-do-wells.
Book Bonus: The Purple Runner
Chris makes a date to run a sub-5:00 mile with the Purple Runner.
“Things are goin’ well with that wee New Zealander of yairs, then?”
Watson Doyle leaned back in his favorite wing chair underneath a French flag protruding from the wall; this bit of memorabilia having been purloined during a running weekend in Normandy.
“You doana look good, laddie. I doana mean yair fitness—you look fit enough and I reckon yai’re ready to do that sub-three-hour marathon, but yai’re a wee bit pale.”
“Mmm,” Chris nodded. “Yah, well I haven’t been feeling all that well lately. I have to take some drugs for a condition I have, and they’ve been making me feel sick at my stomach. Sometimes I think I’m going to have to cut back on my training.”