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 (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, 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  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.


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.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Your spelling homework

You would hate being in one of my German classes.  Not only do I embrace the role of surrogate parent and try to embarrass my students at every opportunity, not only do I force them to listen to more German rap than is healthy, not only do I actually expect them to speak German in my classes, but on top of all of the German, I also correct their English.

"Can me and Julie go to the office real quick?"


"Can me and Julie go to the office?"

"I didn't catch that."


"Excuse me?"

"Oh... Can Julie and I go to the office?"

"And now in German!"


Yes, I am that teacher.

The truth is mistakes in spelling and grammar make me a little guano.  I could tell you that being a language teacher makes me hypersensitive to all languages, but in fact I've always been this way.  Grow up with parents who insist you speak the King's English, and you might turn out similarly.

When outside of the classroom, I try not to say anything because I realize doing so would make me sound like a colossal douche.  Likewise, when reading something online, I try to give most people a break.  Blogs, Facebook posts, tweets, etc usually get a pass because they are mostly written by every day folk who don't share my neurosis for perfect spelling and grammar.

But professional publications and/or major brands should probably know better, in my humble opinion.

Which brings us to tonight's running-themed spelling homework.  Can you spot the spelling mistakes in the following examples?

First up is Zelle, the Runner's World offshoot for women:

Next up, Spartan Race shows us again how "your" vs. "you're" can be quite the conundrum:

And on to Runner's World.  Even the biggest publication of them all lets a few errors slip through once in awhile:

RunHaven reminds us that the rule's for apostrophe's can be very tricky.

And last but not least, not even my beloved Haddonfield Running Company can escape my wrath:

This post probably won't win me any friends, but at least I was able to get all of this off my chest.

Seen any mistakes lately?  Let me know!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Master Baker

One of the most hipster things about Stevie and me is that we haven't bought bread in months.  Instead we've been making it ourselves.

Despite a plethora of boxed and/or frozen versions, I enjoy making certain staples from scratch, like pizza, lasagne, mashed potatoes, guacamole, and now bread.

Making all of these things, especially bread, can be time-consuming, of course, but like training for a race, part of the reward is in the hard work involved.  Filling my kitchen with the smell of freshly baked bread is another bonus.  Knowing that I'm making something healthy with real ingredients is yet another.

We've been using this book:

We've only scratched the surface of the amount of recipes in the book, but all of the pictures and descriptions definitely make us want to keep trying.

The picture above is the multigrain seeded bread, which we've made a few times.  It never quite comes out like the picture in the book, but the heavy, nutty flavor means it doesn't matter.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Review of Running: A Love Story

First, a disclaimer: Jen is an acquaintance of mine.  We went to high school together and now live in the same town and see each other at a lot of running events in South Jersey.  I won this book at one such running event over a month before the book's scheduled release.  The book is an advanced copy, and slight changes/corrections may have been made before its official release.  She did not ask me to write this review.

As a runner, I love to read running books.  I've read books by such titans of the sport as Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar, Bart Yasso and Meb Keflezighi.  But while it's nice to read about the superheroes of the sport - people with real extrinsic benefits for pursuing excellence - it's nice to hear from the rest of the pack.  People that will never win a major race.  People that juggle careers outside of running with families and other responsibilities and continue to run for the simple joy of competition and finding one's limits.  People like you and me.  In writing a love letter to the sport of running, Jen has written Fanfare for the Common Runner.

At just 209 pages, it makes for a quick read.  It follows the same disjointed narrative structure as the aforementioned Bill Rodgers, whose memoir Marathon Man includes a mile by mile recap of a single race, with every other chapter filling in the blanks of the rest of his life.  In Jen's book, she focuses on her PR marathon, the 2013 New Jersey Marathon, by starting each chapter with a section of that race before moving on to other areas of her life.  It follows her humble beginnings as a runner during high school seasons of soccer and softball, to the magazine assignment that had her train for a 5k and record her experience, to the unavoidable progression to longer distances and loftier goals.

Jen's running story is not a unique one.  Aside from the fact that she writes about it for national publications, it is the same story played out in every running blog out there these days, including this one.  Person goes through hard times, person uses running as therapy, person gets sucked into the running lifestyle, person sets, meets and misses goals... person learns life lessons along the way.  The strength of the book lies not in its descriptions of various training cycles or races, then, but in the emotional punch it packs.  Put simply, this is the movie Inside Out in book form.  Jen takes you through the maelstrom that is her emotions with utter fearlessness.  Jen's best trait as a writer is her candidness, her willingness to share everything, and this is a no-holds-barred look into the psyche of a runner.

There is pain to be found in these pages; delicate, raw and heartbreaking pain that should force retrospection from even the most emotionally destitute reader.  This is as much a book about running as it is about love, relationships and the pain they bring, and Jen lets us in on the emotional toll that breakups have had on her.  There is no shortage of breakups here, but rather than wallow in her pain for long, Jen lets running pick up the pieces and makes herself stronger in the process.

There is humor to be found in these pages.  Jen explores the loopy thoughts that plague runners during their long runs, the long tendrils of memory and daydreaming inspired by our surroundings and the goings-on of our days that lift us above the monotony.

There is anger to be found in these pages.  Here is Jen hating on the city of Philadelphia with a tangible zest.  Here she is spitting profanity at a bar table full of acquaintances over a woman's right to just want to get laid.  And here she is, with Xena-like fierceness, staring down anyone who dares malign her beloved Garden State.

But perhaps most importantly, there is love and joy to be found in these pages.  There is familial love for a mother who has stood by her side through everything.  Three weeks after the bombings in Boston, when Jen expresses fear over her mother standing at the finish line of her marathon, the love I see in this moment is a force.  And there is the joy that any runner will relate to: that of executing the perfect race.  The final chapter, in which she describes the end of her PR marathon, will have most runners nodding and wistfully reminiscing over their own best race and what it was like to derive joy from such a physically strenuous activity.

Jen's writing throughout the book is clean and proficient, honed over years as a freelance writer, though at times it reads like a greatest hits of her articles from the last ten years.  Her journalism background comes into play as her own memories intertwine with historical tidbits and current statistics about the sport.  Many of these brief interludes identify women's roles in the sport, including Katherine Switzer's role as the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon.

Published by Seal Press, which publishes "groundbreaking books that represent the diverse voices and interests of women," it's no surprise this book is being marketed towards women. With its many tales of breakup woes and its unapologetic feminism, it makes sense.  The question becomes, then, will this book appeal to men?  Perhaps a bigger question should be, does it matter?   Jen brings the perspective of the female runner to the table in a well realized memoir, and shouldn't that be enough?

For what it's worth, I'll pose one final question: do I recommend it?


Running: A Love Story is now available for purchase:

Barnes and Noble

You can also follow Jen here:

Twitter: @byJenAMiller
Facebook: Jen A. Miller
Instagram: jenamillerrunner

Also, Jen is hosting a book launch party at the Haddonfield Running Company this Tuesday March 22nd from 6:30 - 9pm.  Free and open to the public.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

2016 Haddonfield Adrenaline 5k Race Report

Ran the 2016 Haddonfield Adrenaline 5k this morning in what was my first race of 2016, and my first race since the Turkey Trot last November.

As I've mentioned plenty, I haven't been training very hard this winter.  I usually run 7 miles on Wednesday night with my running group, and every once in awhile I'll bump it up to 3 miles when out on my own, but this winter has mostly been a series of one mile runs to keep up the running streak.  I've lost fitness and definitely gained weight in the past few months.  I also had plenty of beer and pizza from last night still weighing me down this morning.

All this to say I was not expecting to race well this morning.  I wouldn't have been surprised if I had run well over twenty minutes.

Stevie decided to run this year as well, so we drove over to Haddonfield around 8am, parked at the Haddonfield Running Company, then walked over to the high school which was the start and finish of the race.  Stevie took Neale in the stroller to the back of the 1,000 runner field, and I joined the Who's Up? folk towards the front.

Who's Up?
Photo by Ron Riskie

The course goes down Kings Highway, Haddonfield's main drag, veers left into the neighborhood, tackles one minor hill around mile 2 before coming back to Kings Highway for the final stretch.  It was a perfect day for a race - no snow like we had last year.

Erik and I took off together and stuck with each other for most of the race.  My race strategy for 5k's is usually to just run hard at the beginning but try to save some for the end where I try to pick off as many runners as I can.  But in the homestretch I was just over it and wanted the race to be over.

Final stats:

15th in my age group (out of 46)
147th overall (out of 922)

Maybe some day I'll break the top 100.

Erik came in just behind me in 19:37, which was a post high school PR for him.

After finishing I walked back down Kings Highway to find Stevie and run in with her.  I had planned to take the stroller from her, but Stevie wanted to keep going.

In the homestretch
Photo by Wayne Partenheimer

She finished in 33:49 which is a stroller PR for her.

Photo by Wayne Partenheimer

I know that I've said this before, but imagine what I could do in the 5k if I dedicated my time and energy to it the way I have to the marathon in the past.  Since I'm not running a marathon this year, this seems like the perfect goal.  Can I PR in the 5k at the age of 34?  Can I really run a sub 18 minute 5K?  I think I'm excited to try.

In the meantime, thanks Haddonfield Running Company, as always, for putting on a great race!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Like the Wind Magazine

Last summer I ran - and won - a clothing optional 5k race at a nudist resort in Pennsylvania. This may end up being the most ridiculous running experience of my life.

Two months ago I wrote about said race and submitted it to a running magazine in England. They wrote back immediately telling me they intended to publish it.  The magazine wouldn't be able to offer payment, but I was nevertheless thrilled.

At the end of February, the issue of that magazine was finally published, and on Wednesday of this week I finally received my contributor's copy in the mail, and I can now share it with all of you:

Like the Wind Magazine:

Like the Wind is a quarterly magazine published in London by runners, for runners, and now shipped and stocked internationally.  It was founded in 2014, and this most recent issue is their 8th.

It features running stories of all types from contributors all around the world.  It is essentially a literary journal for runners, so it dispenses with the endless advertising and "How to..." articles and sticks to the heart of what makes running so alluring to so many.

What further sets it apart from other running magazines is the artwork. Each piece includes an accompanying original piece of art, also from independent contributors.  Here is the painting that accompanied my piece, by Mark Frudd:

I'm pretty sure I'm going to contact Mark and see if I can buy a print of this painting from him.

I encourage you to buy a copy of the magazine yourself, not just because I'm in it, but because it truly is a beautiful magazine.  The photographs, the artwork, the layout, the thick quality of the paper and the general spirit all come together to create something to behold. I'm proud to have contributed to such a distinctive magazine, and look forward to reading future issues.

If you want to order a copy of the magazine, order any of the artwork, or simply check out what they're all about, check out their website by clicking the link below:

Like the Wind

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Fishtown Beer Runners meets Who's Up?

If you're a runner in the Philadelphia area, you've probably heard of the Fishtown Beer Runners.  As the name would suggest, they're a group that meets in Philadelphia's Fishtown neighborhood to run and then - you guessed it - drink beer afterwards.

Founded by Eric Fiedler and David April in 2007, the club's concept is actually aided by science.  They had heard of a study conducted at the University of Granada in Spain by Professor Manuel Castillo that told of beer's positive effects following a run.  They decided to test the theory, and the rest, as they say, is history.

After the club's reputation grew, David decided to contact the Professor in something of a fanboy moment.  To his surprise, the Professor wrote back, and the two struck up a correspondence that has since led to several trips to Spain, where David eventually met the woman who would become his wife.

Today the group's name is trademarked, it has received endorsements from such heavyweights as Christopher McDougall, and even been the subject of a feature-length documentary.  Through it all, the group's activity remains the same: dozens of runners meet at David's house in Fishtown on Thursday nights, always running 3-5 miles, always finishing at a local bar and always raising a glass to toast the professor before the end of the evening, just as they have done since the beginning.

A few weeks ago, one of the guys in Who's Up? ran with the Fishtown Beer Runners and decided to organize a viewing of the aforementioned documentary at one of our own club meetings.

So that's where I found myself last night: after seven sweaty miles, we all convened in the basement of the Haddonfield Running Company for our club's first movie night.  David himself and a few others from his club made the trek across the bridge, and after a short introduction, we all sat with beer and soft pretzels to watch the film together.

The film was incredible, by the way.  It starts on a low note as David reels from a recent divorce, and quickly picks up steam as running begins to save him, all while capturing Philadelphia's unique neighborhoods.  The action transfers to various bars in the city before going international, tagging along on one of the group's trips to Spain as they meet the professor and participate in one of his ongoing studies.

In my humble opinion, it's right up there with films like Spirit of the Marathon in terms of inspiration and should be included in any runner's movie collection.  You can rent or buy the movie to stream on any device by clicking here.  I don't think it's available on DVD, though.

After the movie, we all toasted to the Professor:

And I got a picture with the man, the myth, the legend himself:

Huge thanks to the Haddonfield Running Company for letting us hang out after hours, especially to Shawn and TJ for sticking around to supervise us delinquents.  Also thanks to Tom for putting the whole thing together, and of course David and the Fishtown Beer Runners for making the trek across the bridge to run and drink with us and share the movie.  And of course for spreading the gospel of running and beer.  The world is most definitely a better place because of them.

There is already talk in our group of crossing the bridge to join them on one of their runs in the nearby future.  Until then...

To the Professor!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

When seven miles is still too much

It's the Wednesday night running and beer crew, night ops style:

Photo courtesy Tom Cunningham

Every Wednesday night I run with the fine folks at the Haddonfield Running Company for seven miles through the means streets of Haddonfield.  A group of us formed an informal drinking club afterwards called Who's Up?, and we take turns bringing the beer each week.

But you're a passionate and savvy reader of this blog and already knew all of this.

Anyway, tonight I wasn't able to finish all seven miles.  It's gotten to the point that seven miles is now my long run and I sometimes struggle to get it done.  Tonight was one of those nights.

Altra stopped by and was kind enough to let us try on their shoes, but the cushion and extra toe box for which they are famed did nothing to push me through to the end.  In the end, I had to chalk it up to a lackadaisical winter training regimen and just tell myself that it will get better.

In the meantime, there's always a post run beer, no matter the length of the run, to make everything better.

Monday, February 29, 2016

February mileage

It's the last day of the month, and you know what that means: time for a round up of the month's miles and a picture of my extremely high tech method of tracking it all.

January: 59


70 miles for the month of February.  Another month of low mileage while maintaining the streak.  It's been nice laying low for awhile, but I'm starting to get the itch to bump up the mileage again soon.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Embrace the pain

Last night my wife and I went salsa dancing, which seems like a normal enough statement until I tell you how awful I am at dancing, regardless of the style.  Picture one of those wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube men outside of car dealerships.  Now put him at a wedding with an open bar.  That's me.  The upshot is that salsa dancing is not high on my list of things to do on a Saturday night, but I went because I know my wife likes it.

The night started with a half hour lesson on basic salsa moves, which was kind of fun until the instructor barked into the mic, "Ladies, rotate!"  My wife had failed to warn me that I would be dancing with about twenty other women during the lesson, the first of which was a foot taller than I am.  My face was directly level with her chest as we clumsily attempted the latest move. Nearby, a man in a tight black T-shirt and gold chain swung my wife around like a pitbull with a chewtoy.

Awkward does not begin to describe how I felt.

Which quickly brought to mind something my wife had told me about her time when she first moved to New Jersey.  Her living situation - five strangers as roommates in a Camden neighborhood vastly different from her native Florida - made every day an exercise in awkwardness.  Eventually they came to embrace the awkwardness, and it's something of a mantra that my wife has lived by ever since.  By embracing the awkwardness, they were able to rise above it.

Which brings me to the point of this post.  We're at the end of February, and a lot of people who are training for big spring races are starting to put in those long, hard miles to achieve their goals.  I am not training for a big race at the moment, but my Twitter and Facebook feeds are filled with posts by those who are, and my message to you is this:  Embrace the pain.

Even if you train with others or with a coach, running is ultimately a solitary sport.  Your performance is the only one that matters, and so it's easy to pack it in when things get tough, because no one else is relying on you.  Another runner's success is not dependent on your own success like in the all-or-nothing world of team sports.  But I encourage you again to embrace the pain.

Embrace the cumulative pain.  That exhaustion that you feel after a 70 mile week with a full time job and tending to a family at home.  The mental strain of trying to balance it all appropriately.  The incessant aches of a body being put through the ringer.

Embrace the existential pain.  The crisis of faith that comes with such a ludicrous hobby.  The self doubt and the worry that your time could be better spent.

Embrace the possibility of future pain.  The idea that all you are doing may still not be enough to achieve your goal, and race day may leave you immensely disappointed, should not be enough to deter you from trying in the first place.

Embrace the pain in the small moments.  Every time your alarm clock goes off in the darkest hours of the morning.  Every time you gasp for breath at the end of a 400 meter repeat.  Every time your thighs burn in anguish from a steep hill climb.  Every time you push through the final mile of a long run.  In the heat and humidity.  In the rain.  In the howling wind.  In the ice and snow.

Embrace it.

Because it's easy to forget in the moment that the pain is only temporary, and that it serves a purpose. Invite it in and let it give you strength.  Let it fuel your passion.  You will know that you earned the pain and its subsequent rewards, that even in the absence of a goal achieved, you have built character and strength that will carry you forward in the future and bring you to the next level where all your goals lie.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

25 random facts about me

Let's time travel back to 2005 when MySpace was king of the internet and complete this list of overly personal and completely unnecessary facts about me.

1. The only bone I have ever broken is my nose.  I smashed it to pieces in a soccer game when I was 12.  I went up for a head ball but hit the other guy in the back of the head instead, and was screaming before I hit the ground.  I had to get plastic surgery to repair the damage.

2. I didn't buy my first car until I was 22, and I still own it to this day.  Its name is Black Betty and I  plan to drive it until it falls apart.

3. I have a scar on my left forearm from a mishap in 10th grade gym class. I was checked into a bulletin board during a soccer game, and the metal edge of the board sliced open my skin.  I had to get seven stitches.  It's the only time in my life I've ever gotten stitches.

4. I once met Bill Bryson in Perth, Australia of all places.  He is one of my favorite writers of all time, and I was saddened to find out his talk at the Perth Opera Hall was sold out.  I went anyway and managed to buy a ticket off of a family whose dad couldn't attend.  Afterwards I got to shake his hand and have him sign my book.

5. I freaking love sushi and Indian food, but wonder how I would like the food if I actually went to Japan or India.

6. I speak fluent German, which shouldn't come as a surprise as I'm a German teacher, but I also speak a little Spanish.  I took four years in high school and one semester in college and try to practice it any time I'm in a Spanish-speaking country.

7. I can't grow a satisfactory beard.  It comes in too patchy.  This is one of the great tragedies of my life.

8. I don't drink coffee.  Ever.  I just never cared for the taste of it.  This is also true for every member of my immediate family.

9. I'm a closet Harry Potter nerd.  I have Stevie to blame for this who got me into the series a few years ago and now we nerd out at festivals and trivia nights together.  Gryffindor for life.

10. I describe myself as a beer enthusiast rather than a beer snob.  The difference is that I'm just as happy with a locally crafted porter or a Belgian wit as I am with a Miller Lite or Bud Light Lime, depending on the situation, of course.

11. I once hit a game-winning homerun in a Little League game when I was 12.  It was easily the highlight of my career in baseball, and I still have the game ball to this day.

12. Whenever I go out to a bar or brewery, I try to grab a coaster and have anyone at the table with me sign it.  I've been doing this since I was 17 and have a giant bag full of such coasters that eventually I plan to display should I ever have my own man cave.

13. I also have sizable beer glass and beer bottle cap collections.  I plan to make a German flag on the wall out of bottle caps.  My man cave is going to be awesome.

14. One of the great pleasures I find in life is to sit in my car and catch the opening chords of George Thorogood's "One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer" on the radio, then crank it as high as my eardrums will tolerate while driving with the windows down.

15. I know every word to "Ice Ice Baby."  It's my go-to song at karaoke.

16. I used to be really into theater, performing in community theater productions like "Grease," "Death of a Salesman," "Showboat," and "Biloxi Blues," to name a few.  This is how Stevie and I met, during a production of "All in the Timing."

17. I have a tattoo of a blue feather on my right arm.  The blue feather is the symbol of the camp where I used to work, and was awarded to one camper per village at the end of each session at the Blue Feather Ceremony.

18. I've been to 43 states so far.  Stevie has been to thirty-something.  Once we hit 49, we are going to book a trip to Hawaii to celebrate hitting 50.

19. Soda is a major vice of mine.  I would drink Mountain Dew all day every day if I didn't know any better.

20. The only Star Wars movie I've ever seen is Episode IV, which I saw in the theater when George Lucas monkeyed with the original and re-released it in 1997.  In an effort to be more culturally literate, I've borrowed the entire set from a friend and plan to work my way through it in the coming weeks.

21. I never learned how to type properly.  When I type, I just kind of stab at the keys with my two middle fingers as quickly as possible until words appear.

22. I wear my watch on my right wrist, despite being right-handed.

23. I keep my iPad, laptop, Twitter, Facebook, etc. all set to German.  This makes it super annoying for anyone who tries to borrow one of my devices or needs to help me with something.

24. I was named Time Magazine's 2006 Person of the Year.  So were you, incidentally.

25. I was raised in the Quaker faith.  This would explain my leaning towards simplicity in living and the comfort I feel being in my own head for long periods of time.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Still out there

Not a lot of running has happened over the last few months.  After a pretty epic 2015 (with over 2,100 miles run) I started scaling back on the intensity in December and have yet to pick it up again.

But I'm still out there.

I don't have any big distance races planned for the near future.  There are no major time goals I am chasing.  My next race is over a month away (Haddonfield Adrenaline 5k), but I'm not really training much for it.

But I'm still out there.

Most days I'm only out there for a mile, mostly in service of my runstreak.  We had a major snowstorm last month, and more snow today, and a few days here and there in the single digits.

But I'm still out there.

With little running going on, it's hard to find things to write about other than the fact that I'm still getting out there for the simple love of running.  My dedication to the sport may ebb and flow, but it will never die.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

2016 Olympic Trials Marathon

It was a great afternoon to be a runner in South Jersey.

Local running celebrities Jen Miller (prolific author and running columnist), Dave Welsh (owner of Haddonfield Running Company) and Erin Donahue (2008 U.S. Olympian) put together a spectacular event today in honor of the first ever live televised coverage of the Olympic Trials Marathon.

About 15 of us met at the bar at 12pm and took off into a blustery snowstorm for 2.62 miles. Aside from my usual Wednesday night 7 miles, this was the longest run I've done in a month, and probably the coldest this season.

When we returned from the run, the first round was on the house, and an epic buffet had been set up for us.

The bar quickly filled up with people - runners on the left side, and random day drinkers on the right.  It was definitely a novelty to see so many people at a bar in the middle of the day to watch a marathon.

I was ecstatic to see Meb and Galen place in the top three, and as for the women, I was sad that Kara didn't make the cut but happy Shalane gutted it out to finish third.

Stevie eventually joined us and brought Neale, and the highlight of the afternoon came when Jen raffled off a copy of her book and I won.

Bonus photobomb from Stevie and Neale.

I've been following Jen's progress on the book for months now and have been looking forward to its release, so it was a pleasant surprise to receive a free copy today over a month ahead of its scheduled release.

I'll be sure to read it and write a review here soon.

All told, it was a great afternoon of running and beer.  Big thanks to The Irish Mile for hosting the event and for the beer and food.  Can't wait to watch the Olympic Marathon this summer!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January mileage

For this entire month I've wondered if I was going to continue doing these posts.  The whole point was to track my mileage to 2,014 miles in 2014, and then when I failed that, I kept up the habit for 2,015 miles in 2,015.

I eventually decided that I wanted to keep doing these posts for my own record keeping.  The mileage this year won't come close to the insane totals of last year, but here goes:

January: 59

Saturday, January 30, 2016

5 year blogiversary

If you understand this reference, congratulations; we are soul mates.

5 years ago, while in New York visiting a friend, I went over to Central Park for a Saturday morning run put together by blogger Ben Davis.  After running, we all sat and got to know each other over breakfast, and I quickly found out I was one of the few people there without a blog.  I had written blogs before, and had long since toyed with the idea of starting a running blog, but had never gotten around to it.  Peer pressure won out, and the next day I sat down to write my first entry on this blog.

I had no idea what to call my blog, as most of the good running names and/or puns had already been taken.  Taking inspiration from a sign I'd seen at a race recently, I went with I Thought They Said Rum.

A lot has changed in the last five years.  I broke up with my girlfriend at the time, and a few months later started dating Stevie.  I started my current full time job as a high school German teacher, Stevie and I got engaged, got married, moved into a duplex across town, then had a son.  All the while, I continued to blog, mostly about running but with the occasional life update thrown in.

I've pushed myself towards different running goals over the years, striving for PR's in various distances.  I've weighed in on topics in the running world over the years, such as the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon, the death of two runners at the Philadelphia Marathon, or that perennially thorny issue of the two terms "running" and "jogging."

I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish more people read my blog.  I would love the perks of blogging that other bloggers enjoy, like free shoes or even free trips to races, but at the end of the day I keep up with this blog because I simply love to run and write.  Any readership I've gained over the years, however small, is simply a welcome bonus.

I can't imagine the blog will change a whole lot over the coming years.  I wish I had the time to update the look of the blog, maybe even change the name, create better graphics, come up with more interesting content, but it'll probably be business as usual for the foreseeable future. I'll continue to run races and blog about them, weigh in on issues facing the running world, and update you with tidbits of my life. If you've been with me for any or all of this journey, thanks for reading, and I do hope you'll stick around.
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