Sunday, June 26, 2016

Strider Indepence 10k Race Recap

There are many running clubs in South Jersey, both new and old.  Of the vanguards of South Jersey running, the Pineland Striders are among the oldest, which my dad used to be a part of (there's an old man joke in here somewhere, but I'll resist, Dad).

Every year for the past thirty plus years, they have put on the Strider Independence Races (10k and 5k) near July 4th.  The races start and finish at Shawnee High School in Medford, and run right past Camp Ockanickon where I used to live and work in my twenties.


I ran the 10k race two years ago and did reasonably well - won my age group and placed 9th overall.  This year I recruited Neale and Stevie as my cheering section, and we all made the drive out to Medford on a chilly summer Saturday morning.

Despite this event's long history, each race has less than 100 runners.  This means, though, that race morning is not chaotic.  Registration is always organized and easy, and there is access to flush toilets in the high school which don't get too crowded.

At 8:30am we took off from the high school parking lot into the surrounding neighborhoods with million dollar homes, some owned by Philadelphia professional athletes.  The course is completely flat and mostly shaded, perfect for a summer race.  In the final half mile, racers leave the pavement and run a quarter mile across the grass, then finish the final quarter mile on the school's track.

I remember the last time I did this race, I fought hard to pick off runners in the second half of the race and maintain my top ten standing.  This time, though, there was no one close to me, either behind or ahead, and it was all I could do to keep up the pace.  I did manage to beat my time from the last race by almost a minute.

Final stats:


While I was racing, Neale had a great time playing with dogs and other small kids, not to mention roaming the hallways of the high school.

I received a medal for winning my age group again, but unfortunately there was no accompanying gift certificate to the Haddonfield Running Company like last time.


There was a nice post-race spread of bottled water, bananas, bagels and oranges for all runners, but I didn't partake too much, because we went to get pizza afterwards.

Thanks to Stevie and Neale for cheering me on, and thanks to the Pineland Striders for a great morning of races!

Friday, June 17, 2016

2016 ODDyssey Half Marathon Race Recap

This was my fourth year in a row running this race.  Race reports from previous years:

2013
2014
2015

Race organizers gave runners who had run three or more years a free mini growler, which unfortunately did not include any beer inside of it.  Or a cap.  Thanks guys?


Also new this year was a relay option.  Runners could do the entire half, or join a team of two and break the race up into two 6.55 mile stretches.  Kim and Erik from Who's Up? decided to do just that.  Erik would run with me for the first half, and Kim would run with me for the second half.  Kim was one half of the dynamic duo that paced me in the final miles of last fall's Philadelphia Marathon, and I promised not to relive those profanity-laced miles this time around.


The heat will almost always be a factor in a distance race in June, and last Sunday was no exception (though as luck would have it, the very next morning was gloriously chilly and humidity free).  The race started on time at 7am, and Erik and I took off with the 7:00 pacer.  I already knew two miles in, however, that this was going to be a difficult day and it would be unlikely I could stick with him the whole way.  Before the halfway point we let him go.



We reached the halfway point in about 48 minutes where we saw all of the relay runners waiting for their partners to come in.  Unfortunately Kim was not one of them.  She was nowhere to be seen.  Erik ran with me for a few hundred yards, and I jokingly asked him he felt like running a half marathon today.  Instead he turned back to wait for Kim.

As it turns out, one of the buses transporting the relay runners to the halfway point was late. Erik only waited about three or four minutes for Kim to show up, but it meant I had to run the second half of the race by myself.  I've done plenty of races on my own, so not a huge deal, but it can still be a mental blow when you're expecting someone to run with in tough conditions only to find out they aren't there.

Not cool, ODDyssey.


I slowed down a fair bit in the second half and finished the race in 1:42:01, far from my course PR of 1:33, but not terrible.

Once I reached the finish line, I grabbed my free beer and pint glass and downed the beer as quickly as I could.  Unfortunately something had come up at home and I wouldn't be able to relax in the beer garden like every year, which is usually the best part of this race.  I had to leave only ten minutes after finishing the race.

After having a few days to reflect on this year's race, I'm left wondering how much longer the ODDyssey Half Marathon is going to last.  A few years ago they sold out a week before the race.  The following year they sold out a month before race day, and it seemed like this trend would continue indefinitely.  On the contrary, the ODDyssey Half Marathon appears to be on the decline.  It hasn't sold out in the past two years.  The expo, while efficiently run, is never in the same location from year to year.  There seemed to be fewer carnival games than ever on the course this year, and the addition of the relay race seemed like a last ditch effort to add more participants.  They also now have more competition from the Love Run Half Marathon in April, which I've never done but from what I've heard has an easier course and better weather.

So I'll just lay out some pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Free race pictures.  I wish all races did this.
  • Quick and efficient expo (though one year it was held over a week before race day for some reason).
  • Free, quality beer (Sly Fox) and custom ODDyssey pint glass at the finish.
  • Shady beer garden on the grass right next to the finish line.
  • Free post-race massages.
  • Costume contest.
  • Games on course (very few this year, though).
  • Cool medal, if you're super into collecting race bling.
  • Amazing race volunteers.
  • Pace groups starting at 7:00 and all the way up to around 12:00.
  • Decent price.  I forget the exact price, but if you sign up early enough I think it can be as low as $60.

Cons:
  • In the middle of June.  Heat and humidity almost always an issue.
  • The course has some serious hills.  It is not a very beginner friendly race.
  • Two years in a row now of bus snafus, with no apology or acknowledgment afterwards.
  • Parking is tough.  You have to get there over an hour early to get anywhere close to the start/finish area.  There is no public transport, though the race does offer a private bus from Center City.
  • Very little crowd support beyond the race volunteers, if that is important to you.
The question always comes down to whether or not I would recommend a race to someone.  I think the pros still outweigh the cons for this race, and someone who has never done it before would love it.  I would recommend that a Half Marathon virgin try a different race for their first, though.

Will I be back for a fifth year?  If money were no object, then I would say yes.  But with an ever shrinking annual race budget, I'm forced to reevaluate how much I enjoy the ODDyssey Half Marathon.  We'll just have to wait and see about next year...

Sunday, June 5, 2016

2016 Wissahickon Trail Classic Race Report

It's June, and you know what that means: time for another edition of the Wissahickon Trail Classic, the most insane trail race in the Philadelphia area.


Every year around this time, about 500 runners hungry for punishment fling themselves with gusto at the trails surrounding the Wissahickon Creek.


There is no music.  There are no cheering fans with cowbells and funny signs.  There are no Twitter or Instagram accounts for this race.  There are no shiny medals at the end for all participants.  There is no chip timing.  There are no costume contests.

What is there?  Lots of technical trails, and good old fashioned competition.  In the four consecutive years that I have done this race, I have improved on my time every year, but I still have yet to crack the top ten in my age group.  The race course is tough, yes, but your fellow runners are tougher.

Here's last year's race report: 2015 Wissahickon Trail Classic

I arrived at the starting area around 8 o'clock yesterday morning and registered for $40 (a $5 increase over race-day registration last year), then took my time using the porta potties, stretching, and doing a warm-up run.  At 9 o'clock, we all gathered at the starting line where only the first five rows of people could hear the announcements on the megaphone, and we were quickly sent down the path.

Steep switchbacks.  Lots of rocks.  Lots of mud.  A covered bridge.  Two road crossings.  Two water stops.  Single track.  Wide gravel paths.  A creek.  And finally, a turn into the homestretch and a madcap dash to the finish line.  The sweat continues to soak the clothing as the gasping for breath slowly subsides.  It's finally over.  Another year survived.




Last year I finished in 49:45 and 39th place.  This year I finished in 49:20 and was demoted to 55th place.  So it goes with this race.  I wouldn't have it any other way.


I stuck around for awhile to cheer on runners still finishing and get some of the pizza the race provided.  After the awards ceremony, I headed back to my car.

Can't wait for next year.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Global Running Day

Like running?  Like social media?  Boy is this the holiday for you:


National Running Day was upgraded this year to Global Running Day, and my Facebook and Twitter accounts have been blowing up all day with people singing the praises of this simple sport (as if we don't annoy the hell out of people already with our incessant run talk, we had to go and create a day where we kick it into overdrive...).

This holiday always falls on the first Wednesday of June, meaning I always end up celebrating it with my Wednesday night run crew Who's Up? over at the Haddonfield Running Company.

This year, though, owner Dave Welsh truly outdid himself.  Our group run is 6.6 miles long, so he recruited six race directors to come and promote their races at each mile marker along the route.  Runners received two raffle tickets at the store, and could choose two of the six races to drop their tickets into buckets while running by for a chance to win a free entry.  Just another example of the creative marketing that Dave employs and why I love the Haddonfield Running Company.

Photo by Ron Riskie

It ended up being the biggest crowd I've ever seen at a Wednesday night group run.


We were packed to the rafters until 8 o'clock when each race held its drawing.  I had put in tickets for the Haddon Twp. Turkey Trot and the Bridge 10k, each in November, but sadly I didn't win either one.  Still didn't dampen my spirit, though, as it was a great evening either way.

Happy Global Running Day, everyone!  Can't wait for next year!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May mileage

January: 59
February: 70
March: 73
April: 78

May:


















87 miles for the month of May.  Let's keep this upward trend moving in the right direction as we head into summer, eh?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Stevie's first half marathon










I normally run the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon every fall in Philadelphia.  I've done it almost every year for the last decade (unfortunately breaking the streak in 2014 when I had a wedding to attend in Pittsburgh that same weekend).  So the fact that I'm already signed up for the 2016 race this September isn't exactly newsworthy.

What makes it exciting is that my wife Stevie decided to sign up as well.  This will be her first ever half marathon.

Stevie has always enjoyed running, and a few years ago even began bumping up her mileage for no particular reason other than to challenge herself.  She made it up to 11 miles before pregnancy and winter both derailed her, and hasn't gone long since.  Stevie has transformed her body in the last year by doing DVD workouts through Beach Body, and she's completed a few 5k's in that time, sometimes with Neale in the stroller and sometimes without.  So she's been toying with the idea of completing a half for a long time, and has finally gone ahead and signed up.

I won't be running the race at my pace, but instead will stick by Stevie's side to pace her and offer encouragement (2:45 is her anticipated finish time).  I'm a little bit nervous about doing so for 13.1 miles, because there is a fine line between offering encouragement and just being annoying.  It's sometimes hard to gauge in the moment what the runner needs.  Something we'll have to work on and talk about this summer, I guess.

I'm excited to experience this race from a different angle, and I'm excited to share this world of distance running with Stevie.  September 18th here we come!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Why I won't be running the Wild Half again next year

When I finished the Wild Half last weekend, I was pretty surprised to see the clock on 1:33 as I crossed the finish line, seeing as I had gone into the race expecting to run about 1:45.  I hadn't worn a watch for this race, and knew I had significantly picked up the pace towards the end, so I just shrugged it off and went to look for beer.

It wasn't until I met up with friends shortly afterwards that I started to hear the course had been short.  Almost everyone I talked to told me they had the course marked at about 12.6, a full half mile short.  

Ah, so that explains it.

People were already questioning the course's length on the Wild Half Facebook page that afternoon.  Someone then posted this screenshot of a private message from the Wild Half, explaining that the course was indeed short and was due to last minute construction issues.


The next day, however, the race completely changed course and sent out an e-mail to all participants, claiming the course had been 13.1 miles all along, and made no mention of the above Facebook message.

"While this was a USATF sanctioned event, it was not a USATF certified course but our team has been actively reviewing course maps and calculations to ensure the course measured 13.1 miles... In addition, the course was also measured using an odometer with a reading of 13.18 miles."

In the comments on the Wild Half Facebook page, some compared Strava results to the posted course map in what became, in my mind, the most plausible explanation: the course had indeed been 13.1, but we had missed an approximate half mile detour off of the otherwise straight course.  Either this small detour had not been marked, or race volunteers had not directed us properly.

To the race's credit, in the original e-mail they claimed to be continuing the investigation and would follow up later in the week.  The next day, participants received a second e-mail from the race, finally acknowledging the short course and offering entry into next year's race for just $50.

But there was still no mention of the original message from the race's Facebook page.  And something about the language used in this e-mail bothered me as well.

"...there was confusion about the race turnaround point with several athletes, including our pacers, turning around at the last aid station and prior to the base of the Stone Harbor Bridge (the intended and published turnaround point)."

First, it made it sound like there was only a portion of the race field that turned around early, because we were just too dumb to follow the course properly, and the rest followed the true course. While I can't be completely sure, I'm willing to bet not a single person continued to the intended turnaround point.  This language also shifts part of the blame onto the participants, making it sound like the turnaround point had been properly marked and, again, some of us just missed it.

There is no way that section of the race could have been anything other than a turnaround point.  Plain and simple. 

Then Runner's World got ahold of the story and published an article about it.


They continue the blame shift with this line:

"Compounding the problem, an unknown number of runners mistook an aid station for the turnaround point just ahead..."

Not an unknown number.  All of them.  And we did not mistake anything.  We are not to blame in this mess.

I really did have a good time last weekend.  The course was beautiful, the participants friendly and enthusiastic, the weather perfect (minus the wind), and the post race party a lot of fun. But this is first and foremost a race, and one of the most important things in putting on a race is to get the course right.

Yes, mistakes happen, and yes, I appreciate the steep discount for next year.  But I will not be back.  As a husband and a father, my race choices these days are severely limited by lack of time and money.  I simply will not tolerate the gross ineptitude and dishonesty shown by race leadership this week, and in the future will choose to spend my money elsewhere.

Monday, May 16, 2016

2016 Wildwood Half Marathon Race Recap

Wildwood, NJ


This was a race that has been on my radar for a few years, and I finally got the chance to run it yesterday morning.

I had planned to sleep in my car Saturday night, but when Tom from my running group heard I was racing as well, he let me know he had an extra room in his beach house and invited me to stay with him.  His entire family was coming down for the weekend, and several more runner friends came over Saturday night for beer, wine and pasta.

We were up on race morning at 5:30, and I made the short drive over to the starting area at 6:30 for a 7:30 start.  The sun had just come up, and it was a beautiful morning for a race.


Starting line at 7am

Parking cost me $5, but I was able to park about twenty feet from the start/finish, which is an amazing feat for a mid-sized race.  It also meant that I didn't have to worry about a bag check.

Also notable was the fact that a half hour before the race, there were still no lines for the porta potties:


If ever there was a case for doing smaller races, that's it right there.

The race had pacers starting at 7 minutes per mile and going all the way up to 11 or 12, and I placed myself next to the 8 minute pacer.  I hadn't really trained much for this, hadn't gone above 7 miles since last November, so I really had no idea how I would fare.  As is usually the case with non-goal races, my only goal was to enjoy the scenery and atmosphere and get in a decent run.  I thought 1:45 might be a reasonable guess as to my fitness level, so I went with that.

We started promptly at 7:30, and quickly ran onto the boardwalk for the first mile or so of the race.  The rest of the course went along the ocean and then out into the bay area, crossing a few bridges in the process.  The wind was fierce, the most intense I've ever experienced in a race, even worse than Philly last fall.  I usually count on at least a little wind when running down the shore, and as I said I wasn't going for a PR, so the wind didn't bother me too much.

At about mile 2; can you spot me in this picture?

I ran the first half of the race conservatively, not wanting to go out too hard in the beginning and completely bomb in the end.  I was feeling remarkably good in the second half of the race, so I started picking up the pace a bit, ultimately cartwheeling across the finish line in 1:33:18, which I thought might make a fun finisher's photo, but backfired as it resulted in a pretty epic crotch shot:



The after party was pretty sweet; there was plenty of food for participants, as well as free beer from the Cape May Brewing Company and several food trucks and a live band.

Tom and his wife Becky, my hosts for the night in Wildwood.



After hanging out for awhile, I took a picture of the medal, got a slice of boardwalk pizza to cap off the morning, then made the drive back to the other side of Jersey.


So, would I recommend this race to any other runners in the New Jersey/Philadelphia area? It turns out that's a loaded question.

Yes, I had a great time hanging out with friends, eating, drinking and of course running, and the race itself was fun and well-organized, but it also turns out the course may have been short by as much as a half mile.  I'll address this in my next post, but I can say now I'm afraid this error might be enough to keep me away from any future editions of this race.

Update: Here's the follow-up post on the fall out from the mis-measured course:

Why I won't be running the Wild Half again next year

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ryan Hall wants you to know he can totally kick your ass now




REDDING, CALIFORNIA - Retired U.S. marathoner and newly buff Ryan Hall was recently spotted strutting around a local Planet Fitness intimidating those around him, sources confirm.

"You even lift, bro?" he reportedly asked a teenager adding weights to his benchpress.  "What do you max out at, bro?  Not gonna lie, I'm at like 300 now."

Hall then removed his shirt and began flexing in the mirror, daring anyone within earshot to come at him.

As the day wore on, Hall showed no sign of relenting.  When a high school cross country team showed up, he began calling them candyasses and telling them to choose a real sport as he ripped a telephone book in two.

"Gosh, Ryan Hall turned into a real douche," said computer programmer Randy Radzminski, who was warming up on the elliptical at the time.  He quickly added, "Please don't tell him I said that."

A manager was finally called over to talk to Hall, at which point witnesses report Hall yelling something about GTL.

At press time, Hall was still in the gym, grunting loudly at his reflection in the mirror while curling free weights and muttering about protein shakes.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

April mileage

January: 59 
February: 70
March: 73

April:

78 miles for the month of April.  I'm ever so slowly climbing my way back up the mileage ladder.  Maybe someday I'll run 100 miles in a month again.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Big changes coming to Philadelphia Marathon race weekend

Jen Miller has been lobbying for changes to the Philadelphia Marathon for years.  She wrote about it over a year ago as part of her column in the Philadelphia Inquirer, suggesting many concrete changes that seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Until today, that is.


Imagine her surprise to read a press release from the marathon this afternoon in which they laid out the many major changes coming to the 2016 edition of the race.  Almost every change was something Jen at one time suggested (and even some that I suggested, which I'm sure resulted from my widely read blog post on the subject).

Among the prominent changes:

  • The race leadership will move from the Mayor's office to the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation, the same department that handles the Broad Street Run, the nation's largest 10 miler, and the 6th biggest race of any size.
  • The winner will now receive $10,000, more than double the size of the previous prize purse.
  • The course has been altered to be more runner friendly, including removing the infamous out-and-back across the Falls Bridge that was inexplicably added to the course over five years ago.
  • The half marathon will now take place on Saturday, removing congestion from the course for each race.

I've written about the Philadelphia Marathon a lot.  It's my hometown race.  It was my first marathon ever back in 2005.  I've run it six times and have PR'd each time.  My dad also ran it back in the 80's. I plan to run it many more times in the future, maybe even some day with my own son.  So there's a certain level of investment I have in this race, not to mention a lot of nostalgia, which means I'm happy these changes have finally come to the race I have loved for years in spite of its imperfections.

But it is also incredibly vexing, especially given my performance last fall.  For those new around here: I gave it my all in training last fall in an effort to break 3 hours, only to come up short on race day by a mere one minute and seven seconds.  It's easy to play the what if game in such a scenario; what if I had done more of x?  What if I had done less of y?  What if the course had been altered last year and I didn't have to run that stupid Falls Bridge detour? Would that have made the difference?

I also remember finishing the race last fall and not being able to get any food because the line was too crowded with half marathoners.  Not having to share a finish line or post race food with hordes of half marathoners would have been nice.

Coming to terms with missing my sub 3 goal - what was most likely my only shot at it - has been difficult, and the timing of all of these needed changes feels like rubbing salt in the wound.

But let's not end on such a dour note.  I can't overstate my excitement for the changes to the race and what it will mean for the race's future.  Hopefully people outside of Philly will start to realize what I've been saying for years: this is a fantastic race.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Movie Monday: The Barkley Marathons

What's the hardest thing you've ever done in your life?

Now stop thinking what you did is that hard, you candyass.  You haven't experienced anything until you've done the Barkley Marathons.





Devised three decades ago and inspired by a prison break in which an inmate only covered eight miles across rugged Tennessee mountains in 55 hours, the Barkley Marathons is a race designed to make you suffer.

Over 100 miles.  60 hour time limit.  No aid stations.  No GPS.  Checkpoints consist of tearing pages from books strategically placed along the course.  The registration process is a secret, and while the start day is given, no one knows the start time until the race director blows a conch shell an hour beforehand.

In thirty years, only 14 runners have ever finished.

In 2012, a film crew captured the insanity that is the Barkley Marathons in a documentary, which is currently streaming on Netflix.  I made the mistake of turning it on the other night just before going to bed, expecting to only watch a few minutes of it.  Instead I stayed up way too late to finish it, and then I could barely sleep because I kept thinking about it all night.

The film, and the race itself, show just what people will do in the name of escaping boredom and doing something meaningful with their lives.  That of course means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but to these unfortunate few, it means nearly killing themselves in the backwoods of Tennessee just to say they did it.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the 6 minute trailer for the film:



Now get out and do something painful, you candyass.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

2016 Richard's Run 5k Race Report

I've been looking to do more 5k's this season, so a few days ago I looked at the Haddonfield Running Company's website to see if there were any local races this weekend.  Turns out there was one right at the Cooper River, just a few minutes away from me, so that's where I headed this morning for my second race of the year.


Richard's Run is in its tenth year, and benefits Go 4 the Goal, an organization that helps kids with cancer to achieve their goals.  Every year in the United States, 15,000 children will be diagnosed with cancer, and Go 4 the Goal provides family support and well wishes, and grants for research and hospitals, among other services.


Races at the Cooper all follow the same course: meet at the track and "stadium," then walk a half mile to the start line.  Run the flat and winding path around the river and finish back at the stadium.  It's a nice and scenic course, though it isn't closed for small races, so racers have to share the path with walkers and bikers who don't know a race is going on.

There was a high school boys cross country team that joined the race and seemed to use it as a training run.  They were laughing and joking as we took off and continued to do so until I lost sight of them, and all finished within a minute of each other.  One of them even ran with a small dog named Shadow.  So I got beaten by a dog today.

Final stats:

19:39
9th place overall (out of 123)
1st in age group (out of 12)

One trait I've noticed in my last two races is not pushing as hard as I could towards the end.  I get tired and just want the race to be over and never deliver the final kick that I got really good at with the half marathon distance.  So there's something to work on for the next race.


After the race there were a lot of sponsors handing out post race refreshments, including Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and Honey Grow.  The race entry fee of $30 practically paid for itself in refreshments alone.

For my age group win I received a certificate and a prize bag, including three free personal training sessions at a gym nearby, socks, shoelaces, and a $25 gift certificate to Haddonfield Running Company (redeemable with $50 purchase).


It was a perfect spring morning for a race, and though it was small, it was fantastically well run and organized.  Definitely one I would recommend.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Marathon Monday

It's hard being a teacher and being obsessed with the Boston Marathon.  I can't take time off to watch the race on tv or online, because classes must go on.  So I did what I could and followed a bit in-between periods and during my period off, but definitely not the same as dedicating all morning to it. Imagine if they played the Superbowl on a Monday morning.  Now you know my pain.

One of my students came in dressed in a Boston Strong shirt, so naturally I made her take a picture with me:


I'm amazed at the difference in weather that Boston can provide this time of year.  Last year was a slog through wind and rain and 45 degrees, while this year offered a hot and sunny day with no cloud cover at all.  Not sure which I'd prefer, to be honest.  A marathon in either scenario seems pretty rough.

Watching updates on social media all weekend from friends and strangers in Boston has been simultaneously vexing and inspiring.  I love following people and their journeys to Boston, especially first timers, because it makes me reminisce about last year while inspiring me for next year.  But then it makes me a tad berserk that I'm not there with them.

So it's a good thing it looks like I'm headed back next year.  I improved on my PR last fall and I moved up an age group, so I'm sitting on a BQ-8:55.  This means that despite Boston's increasingly difficult standards, I am pretty much guaranteed a spot at next year's race should I decide to enter.  It won't be official until September, but I'm pretty sure Boston 2017 is a go.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Why I'm being investigated for cheating my way into Boston


Apologies for the clickbait title of this post.  You'll see what I mean in a moment.

Well, it's another year, and we have ourselves another story of someone cheating to get into the Boston Marathon.  Last year we had Mike Rossi, he of the 23,000 post thread on letsrun.com (who, for the record, never admitted to any wrong-doing).  This year we have Gia Alvarez, New Jersey mother and running blogger.

Alvarez legitimately qualified for the Boston Marathon twice, but ran neither race due to a miscarriage in 2014 and a pregnancy in 2015.  She ended up giving her 2015 bib to a friend who ran in her place.  This in itself is a big violation, but the major transgression here is that Alvarez then used her friend's BQ time to enter this year's race.  Someone tipped off the BAA, and she consequently earned herself a lifetime ban from the Boston Marathon.  She will never get to run this hallowed race.


To her credit, Alvarez later posted an apology on her blog, though it has naturally sparked a debate in the running community about the fairness of this outcome, with most siding with the BAA.  But it turns out this is only the tip of the iceberg.

According to a recent article on runnersworld.com, there is a man based in Ohio who is personally combing through the thousands of finishing times in last year's Boston Marathon to see if anyone cheated to get there.  Anyone who ran Boston twenty minutes slower than their BQ automatically raises a red flag, at which point Derek Murphy and three of his colleagues begin examining race photos and past race results.  I ran nearly thirty minutes slower than my qualifying time, meaning I was one of the two thousand or so that came under investigation.

According to the article, Murphy has found 47 cheaters so far (with still more data to sift through), and reported all of them to the BAA, though what the BAA will do with this information is hard to say.  He plans to get started on the 2016 race as soon as the results are released.

That so many people are cheating to get into Boston, seemingly more than ever, and that so many people are outraged by it, isn't necessarily a new topic.  Boston being what it is, it inspires not just passion in athleticism, but in the overall culture surrounding it.  And with new runners being added to the fold every year, and the flames of passion fanned by social media, the cult will only continue to grow.

Rather than being indignant over cheating to enter Boston, what interest me are people like Derek Murphy and his website marathoninvestigation.com.  What place do citizen avengers have in the running community?  Should we give ourselves over to vigilante justice when we are convinced officials aren't doing enough?  Is public shaming the answer?

I had a brief exchange with someone on Twitter who is clearly in the "Derek Murphy needs to get a life" camp.


I might have argued that the cheaters are the ones adding to the ugly culture, and the people ferreting them out are thereby cleaning it up, but let's face it, arguing with someone on Twitter is about as fruitful as telling a toddler "no."

Like most people (especially those in New England), I like thinking of the Boston Marathon as the people's race.  Even Dave McGillivray considers himself the caretaker rather than the race director.  So I like thinking of the race as more than just any race, and something that means enough to so many that people are willing to fight for it.

So what do you think, people of the internet?  Does the BAA need average Joes fighting the good fight, or should we all just let the BAA do its job?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What's new at Spartan Race

What exactly is Spartan Race?

You don't get out much, do you?  Here's a video to get you up to speed:




Scott, tell us your incredibly interesting history with the Spartan Race.

Ok.

I have no idea what Dan Krueger looks like, or even sounds like.  But he is obviously a strapping gentlemen capable of great character judgement, because two years ago he reached out to me from Spartan Race headquarters, wanting to know if I was willing to write about Spartan Race here on the blog.  He was kind enough to provide two free race entries into any Spartan Race in the U.S., one for me, and one for a lucky reader.

I gave away the race entry, but was unable to use my own free entry.  My son was born that year and consequently things in my life went a little haywire, and I just wasn't able to make it happen.  So I asked Dan if I could get another entry for 2015.  He kindly obliged... and life once again got in the way and I couldn't use my own free entry.

Third time's a charm?  Dan recently reached out again and incredibly offered yet another free entry into the race.  There is a Spartan Sprint coming up in September at the stadium where the Phillies play, and I will do that race come hell or high water.


So what's new?

The reason Dan reached out to me was to let me know that Spartan founder Joe DeSena has a new book coming out called Spartan Fit!, which will be a sequel to his bestseller Spartan Up!














The book is coming out this summer, but the first chapter is available online here, if you want to get a feel for it.  I hope to get a copy soon to read and will of course provide a review here on the blog.


I don't like to read.  What else do you have?

Spartan race is known for its three primary races, the Spartan Sprint (3+ miles and 12+ obstacles), the Spartan Super (8+ miles and 24+ obstacles), and the Spartan Beast (12+ miles and 30+ obstacles).

But for the truly masochistic, Spartan Race recently added a Spartan Endurance series: Hurricane Heat, Hurricane Heat 12 Hour, Ultra Beast, and the new Agoge (a semi-annual retreat in Vermont for Spartan Race Aficionados).

By the way, I love that Spartan Race is one of the few, if any, obstacle races out there to offer a children's version.  You can bet as soon as my son is old enough (4), I'll be bringing him along and getting him into the muddy fun.

But for now, I'm looking forward to the Philly Spartan Sprint on September 24th.  Who's with me?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

March mileage

Another month gone by, and time for another mileage update:

January: 59
February: 70

And March:


73 miles for the month of March.  My weekly long run is with Who's Up? on Wednesday nights.  I had one race this month - the Haddonfield Adrenaline 5k.  Otherwise I'm still just puttering along.

It's been nice taking it easy for so long, but I'm starting to get itchy.  I want to go fast again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Running in West Virginia

Spring break only lasted 6 days this year, as opposed to the ten we've had in years' past. Stevie and I wanted to go somewhere during the break, just to get out of Jersey for a bit, but didn't want to break the bank doing so.  We settled on an Airbnb on a farm in West Virginia.

Cue the John Denver...

We had an entire house to ourselves that sat opposite a pasture with four enormous draft horses.  They were very friendly and we were allowed to feed them apples and carrots.  There were also four bloodhound puppies that belonged to a neighbor which frequently came over to say hello.  There were only a few other houses in the area; it was otherwise nothing but farmland and hills.  The town was about a mile down the road with a few basic amenities like a gas station, a grocery store, and a theater.



Almost heaven?  Sounds like the real deal to me.

On our first full day there we went hiking in the state forest surrounding the farm, and took in both waterfalls and cranberry bogs.



On another day, we spent the entire day hanging out on the farm, during which our hosts let me drive the tractor with Neale in my lap.  Just another day in West Virginia.


We spent a good hour that same day trying to catch frogs and rolling down a hill.  When in the company of a toddler, it's easy to slow down and appreciate the little things.


No trip would be complete without sampling the local beer:

And of course I ran every day that I was there on some very chilly mornings, up and down some very hilly terrain.


We returned last night, and tomorrow it's back to the grind.  It turned out to be an amazing, low-key vacation, and here's to the next one.
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