Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rocket City Marathon Race Report

This weekend I ran in my target race for this season, the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, AL. Heading into it with a PR of 3:32:10, my goal was to qualify for Boston with a time of 3:15:00, the new standard for the 40-44 male age group. I knew I had little to no chance of accomplishing that, but I'll get to that later.


After following Hal Higdon's Advanced-II training schedule for previous marathons, this time I decided to try Pete Pfitzinger's 55 miles per week, 18-week schedule. Even though I felt adequately prepared for my other races, I wanted to change things up this cycle to see if I really was getting the most out of my training. In the end I'm not sure I felt any better on race day than I did previous ones, but that might be because I've grown more accustom to the training load. Anyway, I did prefer Pete's approach much more than Hal's, and if you're looking for an excellent comparison of the two look no further than Greg Strosaker's Marathon Training Plan Throwdown – Higdon versus Pfitzinger.

Applying Lessons Learned

In my previous attempts to qualify for Boston I ran into dehydration roadblocks. In my first marathon I had severe cramping starting at mile 19. I thought it was because I hadn't hydrated enough, so for my second race I focused on taking in more water and Gatorade. While that event went better than the first, I still cramped in the later miles and had to slow down a lot to keep my legs from seizing up. Frustrated, I researched the problem extensively and found it may have been more attributable to electrolyte depletion. As someone who sweats profusely during a race, my body was losing the nutrients needed to tell the water I was drinking where to go. With this knowledge I started experimenting with Succeed S!Caps, hoping they were the panacea.

Trying New Things

A few weeks into my training I visited PT Solutions and took a VO2max test. I did so to learn more about my fitness level and because I wanted to properly tailor my workouts, which were prescribed in relation to my maximal heart rate or heart rate reserve. I came away from it with a wealth of new information, some of which I wasn't prepared to receive. The good news was that I was in great shape and now had solid data to base my workouts on. The bad news was that science said my heart wasn't efficient enough to achieve my goal. I have to admit, reading those words planted a seed of doubt in my mind that I've never had to deal with before. Still, I persevered and executed my workouts the best I could. Although my VO2max could be increased through proper training, it was too late to do so this cycle.

Day Before The Race

Amanda, Dick Beardsley and Me
I drove up to Huntsville Friday afternoon, checked into my hotel and then walked across the street to join a running group for tour of the downtown historical sights. As I approached the host hotel I looked up to see Amanda aiming her camera at me. We were chatting for a few minutes when I noticed a man come out of the building that looked familiar. Someone I knew was supposed to be at the event. Under the guise of looking for the running group, I approached and then asked if he was who I thought he was. It turned out I was right and he was Dick Beardsley! He was very accommodating and friendly, and spent a few minutes talking with me and Amanda. We even got Amanda's husband, Tim, to snap a photo of us before he headed out for his run. Very cool!

After the stop-and-go historical tour I did a couple extra miles with striders and then cleaned up for the pasta dinner. The meal was typical and I enjoyed the company of James C., his wife, Penny, and Keith K. The best part of the evening however, was the guest speaker - Dick Beardsley, of course. :) He began with a 10-minute highlight video of the 1982 "Duel In The Sun" Boston Marathon, and then delivered a moving talk about how he got into running, the many obstacles he's overcome and what he's up to now with the Dick Beardsley Foundation. Since he was signing autographs after, I walked back to my room, retrieved my copy of the book Duel In The Sun, and then got in line. It turned out out I was the last person of the night, so I had the privilege of talking with him for about 15-20 minutes while he packed up for the night. It was a great experience and I was grateful he signed my book with a quote from his speech I found particularly inspirational:

"When you wake in the morning have a smile on your face, enthusiasm in your voice, joy in your heart and faith in your soul."

Race Day

Pre-Race Posterity Photo
One of the reasons I chose this race was because it's held in December and would be cooler than a November event. Well, the temperature was near perfect, but a stiff head wind was expected to be a challenge once we began the trip north at the turn. I wasn't looking forward to this, but lacking the superpowers necessary to change the weather accepted it as part of the deal.

After a brief warm-up just prior to the start I found Barbara, Amanda, James and Kaitlin in the crowd and wished them good luck. I then made my way towards the front, shed a layer I realized wasn't necessary and handed it off to my super awesome good friend/cheerleader/motivator/believer/attendant, Hilary. WOOT! Finally, I sidled up to the 3:15 pace group.

The first 16 miles of the race went very well. Adrenaline got me through the first couple of uncomfortable miles, but after that I loosened up and everything felt great. The Nike Pace Team leader, David O'Keefe, seemed to settle and surge some, but overall he did a great job of keeping us at an average 7:23/mile pace. I preserved my energy by talking very little and focusing on form, and made sure to hydrate and take my S! Caps on schedule.

It was near the 17-mile mark that I started to run out of steam. I wasn't cramping this time, but it became harder to maintain pace and I slowly watched the group pull away from me. Was it miles 15 and 16, the first ones running into the wind? Or could it have been the barely perceptible 1% climb over that same distance? I doubt it. In the end I think science prevailed and my heart just couldn't keep up with the demands. To paraphrase something Quinn Millington of PT Solutions once told me, heart rate increases over distance due to a decrease in fluid levels. Even though we take in fluids, it's difficult to maintain that base as we're racing. As fluid levels drop the heart pumps faster because there's is less blood to pump. And unfortunately, our hearts can sustain these demands for only so long. For me it appears I found that threshold just a tiny bit short of 26.2 miles.

The rest of the race was challenging, but at least I wasn't cramping like I did in previous marathons. I did get charlie horses twice in my hamstrings, but each time was able to quickly stretch them out and push on. My spirits were lifted a couple of times when I encountered Duane, Tim and Hilary on the course cheering me on, and goal bargaining kept me moving towards the finish. Do any of you do this? Once I realized I wouldn't make 3:15 I used last year's qualifying time of 3:20 as my carrot. Next I aimed for my future 45-49 age group time of 3:25. Finally, I resorted to shooting for a sub-3:30 and a PR. When it was all said and done, I finished in 3:27:09, which was good enough for 136/1150 overall and 29/146 in my age group.

After I crossed the finish line I was shepherded down the chute, given a space blanket, finishers cap and medal, and then taken inside by Hilary. In my post-race stupor she guided me to the food and then was kind enough to run to my car and retrieve a bottle of Nesquik. While she was gone I steadied myself against the wall, trying to force down some food. A woman to my right was near a cooler of water bottles, so I asked if she'd pass me one. She did, but by that point my hands were full and I just stared at it trying to figure out how to open it. Bending down and setting some things on the floor was out of the question, as were any other logistics requiring brain power. Lucky for me, a race volunteer had been watching me gaze at the bottle from across the room and rushed over to save the day. Small victories!

The worst part of the day began about 20 minutes after I finished. As I was sitting in the banquet room trying to refuel I got the dehydration shakes. I wasn't cold, but was trembling uncontrollably and got sick at one point. If I hadn't gone through the same thing after previous races I'd have sought medical attention. As it was, I kept forcing myself to drink more water until I finally stabilized about 45 minutes later. It amazes me that this occurred considering how careful I was about taking in water during the race. At many aid stations I was even taking in two cups of water.

Crisis averted, I showered up and joined Amanda, Tim, Duane, James and Kaitlin for a post-race celebration at Sam & Greg's Pizzeria downtown. Not only did we have a great time rehashing the day's events, but the pizza was great, too. I recommend you check them out if you're looking for a quaint, local alternative to the pizza chains.

Race Review

I  thought this race was extremely well executed and would recommend it to anyone that hasn't tried it yet.


  • Packet pick-up was efficient and the expo, though small, was adequate.
  • The pasta dinner was decent, consisting of the usual fare.
  • The guest speaker was outstanding.
  • The start of the race was well organized and took place on time.
  • Aid stations were spaced perfectly. Except in the late miles, where they seemed to be farther apart. Oh, wait. Yeah, I guess I was running a lot slower by that point. :p
  • Crowd support was good for a small race of 1500 registered runners.
  • The charcoal grey race shirt for men is pretty nice and I like the finishers' hat, too.
  • The finishers' medal is attractive.
  • The volunteer support was well coordinated and abundant.
  • The post-race food and facilities were excellent.


  • Apparently, the white version of the race shirt for women is a little too thin and transparent for their liking.
  • The course itself isn't all that scenic. It ran mostly through neighborhoods, and there was a 4-mile stretch along Baily Cove Rd that many didn't care for.


I said going into this race that it would probably be my last marathon for a while. The long training schedules I've been following the past year and half have have worn on me, and I'm ready to move on to other things. I plan on putting in roughly the same amount of miles, but with less structure. I'll probably be sacrificing faster race times, but I really don't care. On the horizon are a couple of half marathons, and in March I'm going to attempt my first 50-miler. At the 26-mile mark yesterday the thought of that was absurd, but already it's starting to sound like a good idea again.

Run Happy!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Marathon Training Begins. Again.

This week marks the first of my 18-week training plan for the Rocket City Marathon on December 10th, and I wanted to jot down a few things for posterity and future reflection.

Training Plan

After some failed attempts at qualifying for Boston last year I've decided to stray from my Hal Higdon comfort zone and, at the urging of other, faster runners, give Pete Pfitzinger at try. No, I don't feel like Hal let me down - his Advanced II plan was challenging and took my fitness to a level I'd never seen before. But after a couple of cycles it became routine and I felt like I'd plateaued.

Last weekend I spent a considerable amount of time reviewing Advanced Marathoning, soaking in Pfitzy's philosophies, figuring paces and preparing my calendar. I really llike the rounded approach to training the book covers. It wasn't just a collection of training plans, but addressed in depth the elements of training, nutrition and hydration, and balancing training and recovery. It's that last part - balancing training and recovery - that I feel sets his plan apart from Hal's. I'm used to running 6-7 days per week, but that won't be the case under Pfitz. Each week includes two rest or cross-training days, and my expectation is to do one of each depending on how I'm feeling.

Without going into too much depth, here are a couple of things I've taken notice of:

  • Unlike Hal Higdon's plans, there are no training days dedicated solely to intervals or hills. Instead, speed work is integrated into general aerobic runs in the form of 100m strides or longer intervals within VO2max runs. I like this very much.
  • There's a time to push the limits and a time to recover. Sure, Hal did this too, but it feels more pronounced in this plan. The book stresses the importance of the hard/easy principle - one or more hard days followed by one or more easy days.
  • Each type of run in under Pfitz' plan is discussed in precise relationship to pace or heart rate. Currently I'm trying to execute each workout according to pace; however, I hope to switch over to heart rate once I get my VO2max tested at PT Solutions in Montgomery. I'm just waiting on the machine to return from Atlanta.

Injury Challenges

There are both good and bad developments on this front. The strained adductor I struggled with last training cycle is almost 100% healed. I can feel it a little on some hard weight training days, but diligent stretching has done wonders. Another minor issue I recently dealt with that seems to have faded away is some discomfort in my left knee. It never really bothered me while running, but there was a noticeable pain when I tried to stretch my hamstring. This, too, has subsided over the past few weeks.

What's ugly is what I believe to be plantar fasciitis of my right foot. I'm not exactly sure what brought it on, but I have a lot of discomfort in my arch just forward of my heel. Mostly it aches throughout the day, but every so often when I least expect it there's a searing flash of pain that's enough to make me stop whatever it is I'm doing and grit my teeth. I've been trying everything under the sun to help it along, but so far no luck. Icing, footwear with more support, rolling it on an iced bottle, wearing a night splint to keep it stretched out, icing, Ibuprofen and, of course, more icing are part of my routine now. What's that you say? Oh, yes, I've tried that, too. The only thing I haven't done is see an actual doctor. A podiatrist friend said I could run through the injury, assuming what I had was PF. I've choosen to believe him. Everything I've read says this will be with me 6-8 months, so I figure my only choice is to manage it as best I can.


The only major change in equipment this training cycle is footwear. Last year this time I was running in nothing but minimalist shoes, like the Saucony Kinvara and Saucony Fastwitch. I don't know what, if any, affect they had on my foot issue, but right now they're on the shelf along with some new Newton Gravity trainers in favor of shoes with more support. I've been running in some old favorites, Adidas AdiZero Mana, and recently added the Mizuno Elixir 6 performance stability trainers to the rotation. The latter, with ample arch support, seem to be helping so far.


My downfall at previous marathons was leg cramping. It was so severe I could barely walk, let alone run. I tried to combat it with better hydration, but sucking down Gatorade at aid stations just prolonged the cramping a little and disagreed with my stomach. Since then I've done some research and believe my problem to be insufficient electrolyte replacement, primarily in the form of sodium. I'm a heavy sweater, and without it my body doesn't know what to do with all the water in my stomach. Enter Succeed S! Caps, which I've been using with good results the past few months and look forward to testing over the coming weeks.

So, that's it for now. With any luck I'll complete this training cycle without incident and lasso the elusive BQ I've been trying to catch. That said, at present I'm thinking this may be my only marathon this season. If I don't qualify for Boston I may shelve the pursuit until the next age bracket. Marathon training consumes too much of my life and I want the flexibility to enter more half marathons and maybe even take on an ultra. Everything's up in the air right now, though.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Run For The Heroes - Run Across Georgia Report

This past Memorial Day weekend I joined a seven other runners and three of the best support crew members a relay team could ask for in the Run For The Heroes - Run Across Georgia. Together we made our way from Columbus to Savannah, pushing our physical and mental limits in the name of raising awareness and funds for the House of Heroes.

After most races of significance I'll post an after report talking about the event itself, how I fared and lessons I took away from it. But this wasn't most races. Unlike others, I was able to post my progress along the way on dailymile (legs:1/2/3/4/5/6) and get feedback from family and friends. By the time it was over I felt like I'd worn out my welcome, and figured there was no point in rehashing it all over again in my blog. So, instead of doing that I'm going to attempt to recall some of the highlights instead.

Eat like a Kenyan, Run like a Kenyan?
Race weekend began for me late Friday afternoon when I got to Columbus. Andy and his wife, Kellye, invited me to stay the night at their house, so I took them up on the offer. I arrived around 5:30 and after unpacking a couple of things Andy and I drove over to our team captain Dorothy's house for dinner. A native of Kenya, Dorothy had offered to cook us a meal of ugali, curried beef stew and cabbage. When it was ready she instructed us to wash our hands, a motherly nudge which sounded a little odd coming from someone I didn't know very well. A few minutes later the reason became apparent - we were expected to eat with our hands like a Kenyan! Famished, I happily dug in and made short work of the meal and even went back for seconds. It was excellent, and secretly I hoped it would make me run like a Kenyan over the weekend.

The Miracle Runners
The alarm went off at 4am Saturday after a fitful night of little sleep. We got to the race start line at the National Infantry Museum at 5:15am and I was introduced to Mike and Ashley, teammates I had yet to meet. There was a lot of commotion and a last-minute briefing to attend to, so we didn't get to talk. There was a short prayer, an incredible a capella rendition of The Star Spangled Banner by the husband of a racer, and lots of photos taken. Before I knew it it was 6am and time for the race to begin. Andy, our leg # 1 racer, was visibly nervous as he toed the line, and within a few minutes he and runners from eight other teams took off. The hunt was on to catch seven other teams that had departed earlier at 4am!

This is the point of the report where it gets tricky. If I attempted to recount the next 34 hours 25 minutes of our race this would be the longest post in history. There's just too much, so here are some of the things that stand out in my memory.
    Me and Mike Buteau
  • I had the good fortune to finally meet Mike Buteau in person, a guy I knew through dailymile. I easily recognized him at transition # 3 from his picture and introduced myself. He proved to be every bit the engaging personality and crazy fast runner I'd expected, and it was great seeing him throughout and after the race. I hope we're able to run into each other again in the future.
  • The hills in west Georgia were long, relentless and humbling. I think our # 4 racer, Chelsea, drew the worst legs, but everyone got a taste of them. Looking back at my GPS data I see they ranged in grade from 2% to 4%. That might not sound like much until you realize each one seemed to be a half mile to a mile long, and they kept coming one after another.
  • At the Red Hill Baptist Church we had our first opportunity to sit and talk with another team. We met Hannah, Stephanie and Beth from the Sweaty Sistas and got to know each other while swatting away the gnats. Speaking of which, they, like the hills, were relentless. The only place to escape them was under a curtain that had been sprayed with DEET.
  • Transition # 15 at Elko Boggin was where I fell in love with a lab retriever. She was the friendliest, most gentle dog I've ever come across. She came when called, ate up the attention and appeared to have a perpetual smile on her face. If it weren't for the collar around her neck I might have coaxed her into the van.
    Me at the end of leg # 5
  • My most challenging and rewarding leg was # 5 from the Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church in Collins to the United House of Prayer in Bellville. After unsuccessfully attempting to locate a bathroom I had to hustle to the transition point because Chelsea was within sight. She handed off to me and I saw the runner from Team Sua Sponte in the distance, maybe a half mile ahead of me. It didn't take but a few steps before I experienced a sharp, stabbing pain in my abdomen. It hurt so much I winced and was afraid I'd have to stop and walk. I slowed my pace to about a 9-min/mile and breathed in as deeply as I could, hoping it would go away. I did this over and over the first mile and a half, watching the other runner pad his lead. Eventually the sharp pain was replaced with an ache and I was able to speed up. I hadn't had the opportunity to chase anyone down on the other legs, so I knew I needed to take advantage. I slowly reeled him in over the next few miles and finally passed him at the 5-mile mark. After a quick fist bump of respect I pulled away and put a few minutes between us over the last couple of miles. I later learned from one of his teammates that not only was he an Army Ranger, but one of their best. And if you're wondering, Sua Sponte is the Ranger motto. It means "Of Their Own Accord" in Latin.
  • I had just finished my final leg at the Chevron in Poole and was standing by the van trying to cool down. An older model car pulled up and a woman got out. She approached me and Ashley and asked if we were running for the House of Heroes. I was still in a bit of a fog, but replied that, yes, we were. She then handed me a $10 bill and thanked me for what we were doing. I quickly asked her name, and she said it was Sharlene. She went on to tell us that her brother-in-law was a disabled veteran and that he and her sister had been helped by the organization. For this encounter to occur at the end of my last run really reinforced what we were there for. I frequently thought of the vets we were helping throughout the race, but seeing Sharlene look me in the eye and express her gratitude like that resonated with me.
  • The morning after the race Tim and I got a chance to sit and have coffee with John Teeples and his wife, Melissa. Not only did he run the entire 260 miles across Georgia, but he's the organizer of the race and champion for the House of Heroes. It was a pleasure to speak with him and hear about trek across the state. I was taken by how gentle a man he was. Or maybe he was just really, really tired.
To wrap this up I'd like to say I truly enjoyed getting to know all of my teammates and our support crew. Even though I was the outsider of the group I never felt like one. I started writing things about each of them that stood out, but quickly realized I would be adding a couple of pages to this post. Instead I'll just say I was impressed with each and every one of them. Going into this thing you know you're going to run the gamut of emotions, but witnessing it happen and how pure exhaustion reveals true character was something to behold. Were there trying moments? Sure, but I don't believe for a minute anyone forgot why we were there and how much we depended on one another. It was a privilege to be included in this group, and I'm grateful I had the opportunity.


One last thing. If you ever decide to participate in a long-distance relay race like this here are a couple of tips.
  • Bring along The Stick. If you don't own one, get one. It helps squeeze out the lactic acid buildup in your muscles and speeds recovery. I recommend the 20" Marathon Stick for runners.
  • If it's expected to be hot (or even not) make sure you have a way to replace electrolyte loss. I'm a fan of Succeed! S! Caps, and members of my team appreciated them.
  • Again, if it's hot you absolutely must have sponges soaked in freezing water on hand to pass out every mile.
  • I brought a towel for each leg of my race, which wasn't necessary. Everyone gets so gross that it doesn't take long for a few towels to be shared over and over again.
  • If you're going to use water coolers that don't have screw-on tops, make sure the driver knows about them. :)
  • Yes, bring more than one pair of shoes and socks. And at least a couple of extra shirts/singlets to change into.
  • Car chargers with multiple USB ports are good for powering multiple phones at once.

And here are a couple of more photos from the race. I'll post others as they become available.

Andy handing off to Tim

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sports Watch Idea

You just finished your race and are exhausted. Staggering to the refreshments table, you grab a bottle of water and a banana in hopes they will speed along your quest to become coherent again. About the time the time your world stops spinning, a friend approaches and asks how you did. You glance down at your watch and realize - dang! - you forgot to press the stop button!

Yes, this is me at the
end of my first half mary.
It was your first half marathon. You trained for weeks, had a great race and are now anxiously waiting for the photos to be posted. The notification e-mail finally hits your inbox and you click through to see yourself in that moment of glory - the finish line photo. You scan the tiny, thumbnail images, see the one with the banner stretched over your head and click to enlarge it. The image that pops up on your screen is a huge disappointment, as you realize your photo was snapped at the precise moment you looked down to turn off your watch. Welcome to the club, we'll have you fitted for a jacket.

As I crossed the finish line timing mat at the Jubilee CityFest 8k yesterday an idea popped in my head that sports watch manufacturers might consider: an automatic stop feature. Though I'm no electronics engineer, it doesn't seem it would be difficult to integrate this into their products if they worked with chip timing system manufacturers. These systems basically consist of a passive chip you wear and a device that activates it. The piece that activates the chip, which is usually a mat you run over at the finish line, does so by emitting a radio frequency. If the watch could detect this signal it could be used to stop the timer, right?

Some chip system makers put
their transponders in arches or towers.
It sounds simple in theory, but I realize some kinks would need to be worked out. For instance, what about devices scattered about the course to record timing splits? Obviously, they would have to operate on a different frequency, so as not to prematurely stop the watch. But even this presents an opportunity! What if your watch could record accurate, certified splits instead of relying on inexact GPS coordinates?

What do you think? Am I off my rocker or have I come up with the next big thing in sports watch technology? I have to think a bigger brain has already thought of the idea. Can you think of other ways to achieve this or expand on the idea? Sound off in the comments.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Run For The Heroes - Run Across Georgia

A few months ago when my friend Andy asked if I'd be interested in joining a relay team for a run across Georgia I jumped at the chance. I didn't know anything about it, other than it started in Columbus and ended in Savannah, but a long-distance event like this was something I'd been wanting to do. A few clicks later I'd learned more about the race and the nonprofit organization we'd be raising funds for, House of Heroes.

Starting at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 28th, our team, the Miracle Runners, will be running some 260 miles in the Run For The Heroes - Run Across Georgia. Joined by our support team we will be racing around the clock, hoping to beat the 40-hour cutoff time and 15 other teams (total: 9 military, 7 civilian).

I've had a few people ask me how this relay works, so here are the details. Each of us will run 6 relay segments in a sequential rotating order. The length of each segment ranges anywhere from 3 to 8 miles, and we'll all put in a minimum of 30 miles apiece. If someone gets hurt and has to drop out all other runners are moved up a slot and absorb that person's miles over the remainder of the race.

Now, to the important stuff. Why are we racing? The answer is to promote and raise funds for the House of Heroes. It's a charitable organization that assists disabled veterans and their spouses by performing household repairs, maintenance and improvements and no cost to them. They do everything from painting and cleaning to installing access ramps and repairing basic appliances. Considering the service these vets have given to our country, I'd say what we're doing is a very small way of showing our appreciation.

So, the eight of us are are doing our part, but what about you? What can you do to show your appreciation for those that have sacrificed for your freedom? All we ask is that you make a donation to the House of Heroes. You can do so in the name of our team by one of the following methods:

1. Make a donation online. Click the button below to be taken to PayPal where you can make a secure contribution. In the memo section please note our team name, Miracle Runners, so that accurate records of donations can be kept.

2. Print and mail in a donation form. There's no place for it on the form, but again, please note our team name somewhere on the page.

With the important stuff out of the way, on to the fun stuff. Want to see the Miracle Runners in action? There are a couple of ways you can follow us as we make our way from the National Infantry Museum in Columbus to Emmett Park in Savannah. You can track us online by visiting this page where the map below will be constantly updated with our progress. You can also view the map separately in your browser by clicking on this link, or even on your mobile device with this one.

Another way to track our progress is to join us on Facebook. We'll be posting updates and photos along the way!

We're looking forward to this challenge and hope that you'll take an interest of your own. Thanks for your support, no matter what form it comes in!

Your Miracle Runners are:

- Dorothy Cheruiyot, Captain
- Ashley Arnold
- Chelsea Buttram
- Joanne English
- Timmy English
- Mike Gerber
- Andy Sparks
- Drew Trachy

If you have any questions for the team please post them in the comments or on our Facebook page. We'll respond as quickly as possible.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Jesse Owens Memorial Park

Ever since I became a more serious runner (all things relative, people) I've taken an interest in the sport and our community as a whole. I'll never be one to spout significant names, dates and times off the cuff, but I do enjoy learning about the history of running and the present day ongoings. The legend of Phidippides, Steve Prefontaine in Munich, the Duel in the Sun, the Wanamaker Mile - these are some of the things I've studied up on that provide a foundation for what I do, as well as inspiration to do more. So, when on a recent road trip I had the opportunity to visit the Jesse Owens Memorial Park in Oakville, AL, I knew I had to make time.

Plaque at the base of
the replica 1936 Olympic
torch. Click to enlarge.
Before going I did some homework by reading over the museum's web site. Chock full of information, I found it to be an excellent resource. Like most people, I knew Jesse Owens was one of our country's greatest Olympians. I was also aware he had won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics and consequently embarrassed Adolph Hiltler. But but beyond this I was pretty ignorant. After only a few minutes on the site I found out about his humble upbringing and how blessed he was to survive the first six years of his life. I also learned how dominant an athlete he was in college. With so much information available online I resolved to find something during my visit that could only be obtained by going there.

I turned into the park and drove past the small visitor's center up a long drive to the museum. As I approached the doors I was disappointed to see it was closed. Though the posted hours suggested it should have been open a couple of hours by then, the lights were out and the doors were locked. I figured I would at least make the best of things and look around the exterior, but before I could get around the corner a car pulled up and a woman got out. She welcomed me to the museum and then proceeded to open it up just for me. Tony, I quickly learned, was a helpful and friendly tour guide extraordinaire, answering any question I could put to her and volunteering information not readily or otherwise available through the displays.

Replica Owens' family home.
After she turned on all the lights I was invited in and able to walk around the museum. The first thing I found that surprised me was that Jesse seemed to reach his athletic stride early in life. He was still in high school in 1933 when he tied the world record for the 100-yard dash in 9.4 seconds. Two years later at Ohio State University the Buckeye Bullet, as he was known, accomplished the exact same feat at the Big Ten meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I wondered if he ran faster in the Olympics, but learned that distance wasn't raced internationally. Instead, he competed in the 100-meter sprint, making it difficult to draw comparisons.

As I continued my tour I took in some of the displays which contained various memorabilia. There were replicas of the Adidas track shoes and outfit he wore at the Olympics, as well as donated items, such as daily programs and pins. I noted there weren't any of the medals he earned on display, and asked Tony if I'd missed them. "No," she said. "They were stolen. Turned up missing in 1962." How disappointing.

Long Jump Pit
After watching a couple of short films I asked Tony if I could exit through the side doors to the attractions outside. Rather than turn me loose she unlocked the doors and proceeded to show me around, offering up tidbits of information you can only obtain in person. She took me out to the replica of the Owens' home, which I could hardly believe housed 12 people. We also went by the long jump pit (she'd never seen anyone jump farther than 16') and the replica Olympic torch, which is lit only on special occasions. The final stop was the centerpiece of the park, an inspirational bronze statue that portrays Jesse breaking through the Olympic rings. A symbolic and fitting representation of the many barriers he broke during his lifetime.

Jesse Owens Bronze Statue
Before I left Tony imparted one last item of knowledge that surprised me a bit. This memorial park and museum, located in the small town where he lived until just the age of nine, is the only one of its kind. That there isn't a similar tribute in Cleveland, where in high school he got his track and field start and tied two world records, seems strange.  And that there is no learning center at Ohio State University, where he won a record eight individual NCAA championships and broke three world records, I find baffling. So, if you want to see for yourself why Jesse Owens was and is one of the greatest athletes of all time, you're going to have to travel Alabama. It's worth the trip and I recommend it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Centerpoint Half Marathon Recap

A few weeks ago I wrote about some of the kids I coach at the local YMCA, and how they'd formed the relay team "Drew's Crew" to enter into the Centerpoint Half Marathon. Well, today was the day I got to run it alongside them, and they surpassed all my expectations.

Before I get to the relay I want to quickly touch on the race itself. As I've come to expect from races directed by Karen Barnard, it went off without a hitch. Everything from packet pick-up to the awards ceremony was well organized, and I didn't hear a complaint from a single participant. The start was timely, the water stops were well run and the course was well-marked and seemingly accurate. My compliments to Centerpoint Fellowship Church, the Prattville YMCA and all the volunteers that came together to make this happen.

"Drew's Crew" - Check Out Those T-Shirts!!!
The Setup

Now, let me state up front I was hoping The Crew could break 1:50. This was based on times turned in at recent 5k races in town, all of which fell into the 25-27 minute range. Knowing it was going to be a little warm and humid (It averaged 62°, 89%), I figured this was a goal within their reach. Anything beyond that would be icing on the cake.

Leg 1 - Madison B. (2.95 miles, 7:43/mi average pace)

Leg 1 - Madison
The oldest of The Crew, Madison took the first leg with me and set the bar extremely high for the others. We managed to keep the adrenaline in check the first mile and completed it in a solid 7:57. The second mile started out with a trip down and up the Greystone Gully, a short but steep hill by the post office. I thought this might slow her down some, but I was wrong. She attacked it, cruised over the top and kept on going strong. We wound up through Jasmine and finished mile two in 7:41. She started to wear down on her last mile, but your wouldn't know it by the 7:27 pace she turned in. An outstanding leg all around!

Leg 2 - Lauren C. (3.00 miles, 8:17/mi average pace)

Leg 2 - Lauren
Lauren must have sensed how fast Madison was running, because she picked up right where she left off. We took off around the corner and she, too, attacked the same hill Madison had decimated a few minutes earlier. She stayed with me stride for stride all the way to the top, and then we cruised for a minute to catch our breath. Mile one for her was a blazing 7:42 pace! We continued down Silver Hills Drive and around Silver Creek Circle, where our pace started to even out a little. The sun was rising and it was warming up quick, but that didn't stop her from finishing the second mile in 8:21. With the heat and the hills starting to take their toll, Lauren demonstrated a lot of mental toughness her last mile. When I reminded her that she could do anything for 8 minutes she responded with "that's what my mother always says!" Well, it must be true, because she persevered and kept her team well ahead of the goal with an 8:48 final mile.

Leg 3 - Matt O. (2.93 miles, 8:16/mi average pace)

Leg 3 - Matt
Lauren handed off the baton to Matt and we started his leg running past the start/finish line and a lot of crowd support. It was immediately clear to me that he was feeling strong, and he proved that with an 8:13 first mile. We chatted quite a bit at first, but by the midpoint of his leg we had to tackle the Greystone Gully and things got a little quieter. He pushed up it like it wasn't even there and finished mile two in 8:10! The last mile had a slight, uphill grade to it, and Matt did a great job maintaining focus. He informed me at about his 2.5-mile mark that he wouldn't be able to kick at the end, but I knew better. As we turned onto High Point Ridge there was a short downhill section that gave him just enough of a breather for a sprint to our last relay station. Final mile, 8:25.

Leg 4 - Mackenzie B. (4.07 miles, 8:23/mi average pace)

Leg 4 - Mackenzie
Entrusted by her team to tackle the longest leg of the race, Mackenzie delivered the goods. She was determined to catch the fire fighter relay team ahead of us, and that goal pushed her through to an 8:03 first mile. Just like her teammates, she did a great job climbing the steep side of the Greystone Gully and barely skipped a beat after we crested it. Mile 2, 8:24. By this point it had warmed up to 65° and 91% humidity, and that made for a really tough third mile. We rounded Silver Creek Circle and she finished it in 8:45. For her fourth and final mile was almost a straight shot to the finish. Just as I expected, the cheers of her awaiting teammates provided that extra bit of energy to dig deep and post an 8:18 negative split!

The Finish

Does It Get Any Better Than This?
At the corner of Autumn Road and Tara Drive Drew's Crew came together to run the last third of a mile to the finish line. Watching the four of them laugh, cheer each other on and finish the relay as a team was the highlight of my day, and I couldn't be prouder of their effort. They all ran great individual races, pulled for each other in a way I've only seen swimmers do, and didn't lose sight of what they were there for - to have fun. In the end they ran almost 5 minutes faster than I'd expected, finishing in 1:45:50 (unofficial). Not surprisingly, this earned them first place in the youth relay division!

Honorable Mentions

Caleb's First Half Mary!
As if I this race wasn't already exciting enough, there were some other performances by my swimmers runners that I have to mention. First and foremost, Caleb M. ran and completed his first half marathon. I'm not sure what his finishing time was, but it's beside the point. A 13-year-old completing a half mary because he wants to is very impressive in my book. Way to go, Caleb!

Another shout out goes to Harrison A., who took second place for his age division in the 5k! Woot!

And Savannah M. and Madison C. both looked great in the one-mile event! Nice job, girls!

Thank You

Finally, I want to thank all the parents and coaches that made this relay possible. I really appreciate the all the support they've give both to me and their kids. If it weren't for them none of this could have happened.

Edit: A huge thanks also to all the volunteers along the course that generously shared thousands of photos they took. All of their action shots and many more can be found here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Snickers Marathon Recap

"This circumstance is simply a fact and must
be accepted or dealt with as it exists."

                                                          -- Unknown

Today I tackled my second marathon. Like the first, the intent was to qualify for Boston. And like the first, I didn't.

The days leading up to the race I felt physically ok. I tapered as I was supposed to and was feeling rested. I drove to Albany, GA, and after hitting the expo and checking into my hotel I found a nearby neighborhood for an easy 2-miler to wake things up. Instead it was like a bad dream. The pain in my adductor, which has been with me for months now in one form or another, was pronounced. It screamed at me the first mile and groaned the second. I tried not to get too concerned about it.

Mentally I was about 50/50. Personal issues throughout the week weighed on my mind. I had a difficult time concentrating no matter the task, up to and including the race. Aside from that though, I was confident I'd trained as best I could and confident in my plan. After going out a little too fast and experiencing servere cramps at my first marathon I decided to scale back my 3:15 goal and stick with the 3:20 pacer, Chris from Sara's Pacers.

I got maybe 3-4 hours sleep the night before the race and arrived about an hour before the start. I ran into Duane, and we did a very short jog to loosen up. The cannon blast was fast approaching, so I met up with Chris the pacer and then used the few minutes remaining to wish Duane and Kym well. I was also able to meet Sarita and talk to her very briefly before we got started.

The race itself? Well, it went pretty much according to plan at first. I was determined not to get dehydrated this time, so I made extra certain to hit every water stop. I drank water at most and sometimes took a chance on the Gatorade. I was not going to experience the same cramps that forced me to walk six miles at Chickamauga. The predictable side effect of this was feeling bloated and having to push through occasional stomach cramps. If that's the price, I figured, I can deal with that.

The first half went very well. The adductor was even behaving itself. Our first two miles were a little faster than the 7:45/mi. pace Chris committed us to before the race, but not enough to bother me. By mile 3 we settled into the 7:38/mi. groove and everyone was chatty. I ran a lot of the miles with Catie from Nashville and Duncan from Albany, and things were looking pretty good. As a group we hit the 13.1 mark in exact 1:40:01, which was about as perfect as you could hope for.

At the 14-mile mark I noticed that running all of a sudden felt like work. Still, I stayed with the group and continued to hydrate and suck down PowerBar Gels. At mile 16, however, I felt the familiar twinge of an oncoming cramp in my foot. I was still feeling hydrated (no cotton mouth) so I decided to pull back temporarily in hopes it would pass. It did, and I hung on about 100m behind the pack for another couple miles. By mile 18 the twinges were coming back, this time in my hamstrings. They were my downfall at Chickamauga and I cursed under my breath. I slowed more, finished off my gel and drank as much as I could at the aide stations. How could this be happening again? I'm hydrated and have been replenishing electrolytes!

The rest of the race I focused on not stopping to walk. That's all I wanted to do. I knew 3:20 was gone, and decided to make the best of it. I slowed when I felt a twinge and picked it back up again when it subsided. I had to stop for 5-10 seconds a couple of times to stretch some, but managed to run the rest of the way in.

Duane was waiting for me at the finish and kindly guided me towards water and food. I downed a bottle of water, a banana and a Snickers Marathon bar. I was hurting much more than I did at Chick, and couldn't wait to leave. It took a few tries to get into my car because of cramping, but finally I was on my way. About halfway back to my hotel though I had to pull over, get out and stand. Everything was locking up on me. Even worse, I started shivering uncontrollably, a sign of dehydration. WTF? I guzzled another bottle of water and a liter of Gatorade. It took about 15 minutes for the rigor to let up.

What to say about this race? Well, the average temp was 59° and humidity 94%. Maybe that was my demise? I really don't know at this point. I'll reflect on it over the next few days and see if I can come up with something more helpful to learn from.

Friends have told me to revel in my marathon and be proud of my race. I guess I'm happy with a 13-minute PR, but honestly I don't care right now one way or the other. It just wasn't much fun. And the BQ? Don't care about that either. Maybe one day I'll make another go of it, but it's moved way down on my list of priorities. Right now I'm looking forward to running for me for me instead of following a training plan. Structure be damned. I just want to have some fun again.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

50k - An Outsider's Perspective

The Race to the Top of Alabama

I'd planned on writing a quick note on dailymile describing my spectating experience at the Mount Cheaha 50k. Maybe throw up a couple of pictures and call it a day. But after what I saw today I knew it warranted a full-blown blog post extravaganza.

I'd been tossing around the idea of driving up to Cheaha ever since I met up with Mark for a run this past Monday. I wasn't certain I'd be able to make it, so I didn't mention it to him or Andy, who I also knew would be racing. I had two motivations for wanting to go. First, both of them had gone out of their way to accommodate me in the past. Great guys that they are, I wanted to return the gesture by supporting them in their endeavor. Second, now that I'm not as terrified of the longer distances I wanted to see what all the ultra fuss was about.

Before I left I tried to figure out approximately when Mark and Andy might finish. I looked at last year's results and noticed the winner crossed the line in around four hours. I couldn't put much stock in that though, considering the second place finisher was over 35 minutes behind him. And scanning down the rest of the list of finishers didn't help either. It looked like every participant finished five minutes apart, with some taking over nine hours. Yikes! Nevertheless, I knew they were starting at 7:30am so I should get there no later than 12:00pm - 12:30pm if I was going to catch them on the course.

On my drive up to the Delta, AL I got a little romantic about the race. It's only 50k, right? That's what - about 4 miles longer than a marathon? Heck, I can do that. It's beautiful up here. Nice, rolling hills. Clear, blue sky. Moderate temps. Hey, maybe I could do this next year! It's like a baby ultra! Oh, how naive I was.

(Credit: CC Johnny Stiletto/Flickr)

I arrived a little before noon and made my way to the sixth and final aide station. Just as I got there a runner was coming in and I was informed he was the leader. Figuring the guys would be a while, I drove a little more than a mile down the course on a dirt road until I reached an intersection at about the 43k mark. I grabbed my binoculars and sat off to the side of the road looking down a very long hill. And waited.

As the trickle of runners slowly passed me I encouraged them as best I could. I noticed that aside from the lead 10-15 runners almost everyone was run-walking. Some would run until they got to the hill and then walk, while others walked on the flat and then tried to run up the hill. And almost all of them were alone. Every once in a while a couple would be running together, but that was the exception. This is one lonely event, I thought.

On the plus side, however, almost everyone was in good spirits. Many were hurting, but I could see that beacon of hope when I told them how close they were to the last aide station. I made a conscious effort not to tell them they were "almost there." Better to give them something specific to focus on rather than a cliché.

I sat there for almost three hours looking for numbers 184 and 60. People of all shapes and sizes kept coming, but none of them were Mark or Andy. And though I was anxiously awaiting their arrival, I didn't mind a bit. It was inspiring to see so many people persevering, and a lot of fun giving back to the community I've appreciated so many times when I've been the one racing.

Suddenly, a guy passed me that looked familiar. I took a chance and called out his name, and sure enough it was Mike! I jumped up and started walking with him to see how he was doing. I had no idea he was racing, so it was quite a surprise. He told me a little bit about how his race was going and filled me in on Mark and Andy's progress. He guessed how far back they might be and told me what they were wearing. After about a half mile I wished him luck and headed back to the intersection.

Around 20 minutes later I spied Mark's orange shirt and hollered at him as loud as I could. I began walking with him and noticed he was in obvious pain. Come to find out he was cramping from dehydration. Despite this he was walking at a pretty fast clip, and in the time I spent with him he passed a few others. I left him with an older gentleman he'd been trading leads with throughout the race and headed back for Andy.

It was only couple of minutes after I got back to the intersection when I saw Andy and his red Alabama shirt. And he was the first person I'd seen in over an hour that was actually running up the hill. Even though his feet were giving him trouble I could tell he was running strong, and he never once broke stride. I told him at the rate he was going he'd catch up to Mark, and sure enough he eventually did.

I ran back to my car and made my way to the top of the mountain. Alabama's highest point at 2,407'. As soon as I got there I saw Mike coming towards the finish line! I didn't have time to pull out my phone to take a photo, so I gave him a high five instead. Dang!

Andy Making it Look Easy. And Fun!
I figured Andy or Mark would be along in about a half hour, so I found a place in the shade to wait. I'd been there a few minutes when a couple came up to me and the gentleman asked me where I was from. I told him Prattville, but that I was actually there waiting for one friend from Tuscaloosa and another from Columbus, GA. That's funny, he said. His son was from Columbus and was running with a fellow from Tuscaloosa! Very nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Sparks!

Eventually Andy came into sight, looking strong and still running at the same steady pace as when I last saw him. This time I was ready to snap a picture! His parents followed him up the last hill to the chute as I continued to wait for Mark.

Mark Finding a Way to Get it Done!
A few more minutes passed by and Andy made his way back down to me. He said he wasn't sure Mark was going to be able to make it, and told me how he'd come across him sitting down on Blue Hell, a half-mile climb of 900' straight up. His legs had cramped so badly that he could no longer walk, even after Andy tried massaging the lactic acid out of them. We were discussing what his options might be when I saw him rounding the last corner. Woot! Knowing he was almost home he broke into a slog and crossed the line strong!

Thanks to these guys and the other participants of the Cheaha 50k I learned a lot today. First and foremost is that there's no such thing as an easy ultra. Especially when climbing to the top of Alabama on very technical terrain. If I ever decide to run one of these it will first have to be on a more modest course. I also learned that the ultra crowd is a unique breed. Maybe I haven't "watched" enough races of shorter distances, but this group appeared to have more grit and determination than I've ever seen before. When almost everyone is struggling with 7k to go, yet still finds the strength and determination to finish out, it's freakin' impressive.

So, if you were on Mount Cheaha today kudos to you! You guys and gals rock! And a special thanks to Andy, Mark and Mike. Each of you showed me a lot today, and it was a privilege to watch you complete such a tough race.

BTW, if you want to gain an appreciation for just how difficult the course is check out this race report by Christian of Run 100 Miles. He does a great job of making you feel his pain.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Drew's Crew

A couple of nights a week I volunteer at the local YMCA as "the running coach" for the Prattville Swim League (PSL). Yes, the swim team. Made up of about 80 kids, the program integrates dry-land training to a) improve their overall fitness through cross training, b) manage available pool time and c) keep the kids from getting bored. In addition to running, the team also lifts weights and sometimes practices yoga and tai chi.

I originally got involved with the team over five years ago when my daughter, Hannah, was a member. While she swam, I built the club website and spent a couple of years on the parents association. As most kids her age do, she eventually decided to move on to other things; however, I didn't. I kept in touch with the coaches, continued to manage the website and eventually, when the previous running coach moved away, talked the head coach, Marcie, into letting me play work with the kids.

On Monday nights my group consists of 20-30 kids that are 10-13 years of age. Because they're younger and aren't all that interested in a structured running program, I get them warmed up with a few laps around the track and then we they play whatever games I can come up with that involve running. This usually means variations of the game tag, though sometimes we'll have relay races or competitions that pit one team against another. It's a challenge to keep them all engaged, but is a lot of fun and I look forward to the mob of raised hands every week.

Wednesday nights are for the older kids. A much smaller group, these athletes fall into the 13- to 17-year old range. For the most part they've been with the program for a while and take their fitness more seriously. Depending on their competition schedule, I'll put them through interval workouts and cone drills. And once it starts getting lighter in the evening we'll venture out into the local neighborhoods for hill work and longer, easy runs.

A few PSL Runners at the Polar Bear 5K on Feb 12, 2011
One thing I'm particularly proud of is getting some of the runners (Swimmers? Nah!) to attend local races. No easy task when many of their weekends are spent at swim meets around the state. About a dozen participated in the Cruising the Creekwalk 5k back in January, and another 7 or 8 entered the Polar Bear 5k last weekend. In each case all the kids did really well, and many of them placed in their age divisions and set PRs. WOOT!

All this back story leads me to the purpose of this post. The other night at practice I was approached by a few of the kids, who excitedly told me they were going enter the Centerpoint Half Marathon! Lauren, Madison, Mackenzie and Matt (who ran with me at the Cruising the Creekwalk 5k) will be running on March 26th as a 4-person relay team! As if this wasn't exciting enough, they asked me what I thought of the team name they'd come up with - "Drew's Crew." O.M.G. And the icing on the cake is that they want to have shirts made up!

Suffice to say, I'm really anxious to see "my" kids run as a team. So much so that I've signed up for the race, too. I'll only be three weeks removed from the Snickers Marathon, but nothing could keep me from taking part in this experience. I'm planning to run alongside all four of them during their individual legs, which will be a challenge considering that each of them can complete a 5k between 24-26 minutes. So, check back here for the eventual race report, and between now and then I may even post a photo of our team shirt.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Rising Race Fees

Last week I noticed an article online that reminded me of a post I started months ago but never completed. It asked the question "Are runners being priced out of their own sport? Or are the demographics changing?"After I finished reading it I knew I had to finish what I started.

I've long had a suspicion that race fees have been on the rise, but never took the time to verify. With my renewed interest in the subject I decided look back and see if I wasn't imagining things. I'm one of those people that track everything in Quicken, so it wasn't going to be too difficult.

First, I ran a quick report and found these entry fees from a few years ago:

Date Race Cost
Jul 2007 Red Cross 5k $15
Sep 2007 Senator Stampede 5k $15
Jan 2008 Polar Bear 5k $15
Feb 2008 Resurrection Runs $15
Mar 2008 Founder's Day 5k $20
Apr 2009 Wright Flyers 5k $15
May 2008 CityFest 5k $18
May 2008 Pancake Run For Missions 5k $12
Nov 2008 Turkey Burner 5k $18

Keep in mind that I likely signed up for each of these races during the early registration period. I don't have anything to refer back to, but I probably saved a few dollars per race doing this.

Next, I started looking at more recent races. Since my training schedule has kept me from running in many smaller races, I wasn't able to find everything in Quicken. So, I scoured and our local running club's website for early registration fees.

Date Race Cost
Oct 2010 Chili Trot 5k $18
Nov 2010 Turkey Burner 5k $18
Feb 2011 Polar Bear 5k $16
Feb 2011 Run for the Kids 5k $20
Feb 2011 Trinity Run the Race 5k $25
Mar 2011 Resurrection Runs $17
Mar 2011 Centerpoint 5k $15
Apr 2011 Wright Flyers 5k $21

I tried my best to find the same races to compare against each other, but had to make due with just a few. What I discovered was a bit of a surprise. For the most part the fee hikes were either non-existent or modest. Sure, there were a couple of standouts like Wright Flyers jumping $6 (yes, that's the early registration fee) and Trinity charging $25, but other than that prices are still comparable.

So, what's lead me to believe that race fees have jumped significantly? I have a few theories.

  • The economy. Maybe money's just tighter and every dollar counts more now than it did a couple of years ago.
  • I procrastinate more. When I first started racing I would sign up for events well in advance. They would server as carrots for my training, so I was really good about being on the ball. These days I'm more likely to make up my mind much later in the game and miss the reduced fee deadline.
  • I don't enter as many small races now as I did a couple of years ago. Fees for half marathons and marathons are understandably higher, so perhaps that's skewed my perception.
  • The Seaside Half Marathon. I hate to pick on an individual race, but the organizers of this one have made it an easy target. I ran this race in 2009 and gladly shucked out the $55 to enter. This year when a friend mentioned doing it again this March I balked at the $90 price tag. And that's for the early registration. After December 17th they hiked it up to $115. I sure hope whoever goes really, really likes their hallmark Vera Bradley bag!
  • Schwag bags and race amenities have gone south. When I first started racing organizers seemed to put quite a bit of effort into their goody bags and refreshments. I remember coming home and dumping out all kinds of things on the kitchen counter. These days you're more likely to get a bag with a few flyers in it.

Whether I'm right or wrong, I will say that race fees don't seem to be affecting the number of participants at races. That Seaside Half? Yeah, it sold out long ago. And just a couple of weeks ago a local 5k, Cruising the Creekwalk, had over 400 finishers, which is an outstanding turnout for our area.

Have you noticed a rise in race fees the last few years? Can you think of any exorbitant offenders? Have you opted out of a race because of costs? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Running or Jogging

The other day I posted my run on dailymile, which was then cross-posted onto my Facebook page. My brother noticed it and, innocently enough, commented that I'd probably get more exercise snowshoeing up north than jogging down south. The use of the word "jogging" later caught the attention of my friend, Kym, who good naturedly joked that running sub-8s didn't fall into that category.

We don't talk about it much in the running community. If we did it might come across as being pompous or arrogant, and Lord knows we don't want to embody the guy in the video to the right. We are, after all, a generally humble group of people that relish personal achievements and talk about them in hushed tones. But that doesn't change the fact that many of us flinch when what we do is referred to as jogging, right?

So, in the interests of clarity, what's the difference? In my mind what separates runners from joggers is passion. A runner will wake up at 4:30 in the morning and go for a run because they love it. They will, more times than not, brave the elements no matter how hot, humid, cold, windy or snowy it is. And on those rare occasions where conditions are unbearable we'll suck it up and run on a treadmill. We look for ways to get our run in, and don't do it just because it happens to be a Monday, Wednesday or Friday. The problem with this definition is that most non-runners don't know the lengths we go to for our sport.

Are there are other factors that separate the two? How about the pace, for instance? Here's what you'll find in the dictionary:

Jog, –verb. To run at a leisurely, slow pace, especially as an outdoor exercise.

Run, –verb. To go quickly by moving the legs more rapidly than at a walk and in such a manner that for an instant in each step all or both feet are off the ground.

Pretty vauge, but the gist is that runners are faster than joggers. Whatever the case, I'm not sure you'll find a concrete answer that separates the two. And I imagine some might even argue that distance plays a role in this debate.

What say you? Are you a runner or a jogger? Neither? Both? Where do you stand on this most controversial of issues? Can you think of other ways to appropriately classify each term? Even better, if you gently correct someone saying the J word, how do you approach it? Humor? Ridicule? Let me know in the comments.