Sunday, November 30, 2014

November mileage

The year, so far, in miles run:

January: 65
February: 131
March: 173
April: 201
May: 237
June: 146
July: 170
August: 144.2
September: 100
October: 131.5


Ooph.  So many ones this month.  Realizing that I wasn't going to hit 2,014 miles this year, and that I wasn't going to run the Philly Marathon, and the encroaching darkness/cold all left me with a distinct lack of motivation to get in the miles beyond the requisite daily mile.

Only 75.1 miles this month.  My shortest total since January.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

2014 Haddon Twp. Turkey Trot

Over 900 participants showed up this morning for Haddon Township's 8th annual Turkey Trot, including a few of my students and some guys from my Wednesday night running club.

The chance to show up all of my teenage students and get a free breakfast afterwards?!  It doesn't get better than that.

It was 28 degrees when I got to the Pour House around 8:30am to meet my dad, and after much deliberation decided to wear just a long sleeved shirt for the race.  Only my hands suffered; the rest of my body was ok.

This was only my second race of the fall season and my first 5k in almost four months, so I told myself I would be happy just breaking 20 minutes.  I didn't bring my Garmin, and there weren't any clocks on the course, so I had no idea what my pace was throughout.  I was just trying to run hard and pick off runners ahead of me, which is usually my strategy for shorter races.

Around mile 2, I heard someone approaching over my left shoulder.  As he sidled up next me, I glanced over and made eye contact with a 12-year-old boy.  His breathing was erratic and heavy, and I inwardly grinned.  Time to make him really hurt, I thought.  I picked up the pace, which he matched, but it wasn't long until he fell behind again.  I took out a few more runners in the homestretch, and finished gasping for breath.

Final stats:

28th overall
5/30 in my age group

I inhaled a bottle of water, a breakfast sandwich and a donut and then stood by the finish waiting for my dad.  He finished in roughly 41 minutes after a recurring injury in his lower leg forced him to walk the majority of the course.

With my dad after the race.

After the race I headed back home to resume fatherhood duties.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

2014 Thanksgiving

One mile run this morning.  Year 2 of the run streak begins...

Thanksgiving, like most of our family holidays, was celebrated over in Pennsylvania at my step-sister's place where she puts on an amazing spread.  So amazing I forgot to take a picture of my plate this year.  My contribution was a homemade loaf of pumpkin bread (yes I like to bake), and a cooler full of fall beers.

Everyone made a fuss over Neale, Neale did his best to make sense of it all, we stuffed ourselves with  turkey and numerous side dishes (and I somehow convinced myself to avoid taking seconds), we talked and laughed and bonded.

From my family to yours, happy Thanksgiving.

And bring on the Christmas season.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


It was a cold and miserable day today.  Rain, sleet and snow pelted South Jersey all day, but I still hauled myself outside for a run, just like I've done every day since November 26, 2013. Yes, today marks the one year anniversary of my run streak.

I was just coming off an amazing race this time last year when I thought I needed a new challenge.  Enter Runner's World's holiday run streak.  Run at least a mile every day between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.  I started two days before Thanksgiving and never stopped, and don't plan to anytime soon.

I don't know the exact number of miles, but I estimate it to be around 1,500.  Every single one of those miles was outside.  I ran in temperatures as low as 0 degrees.  I ran in a foot of snow. I ran every day leading up to my first ultra.  I ran the day my son was born after getting only a half hour of sleep the night before.  I ran barefoot on the beach.  I ran in the woods.  I ran mostly on streets and sidewalks.

And here I am completing a year of running, with many more to come:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Movie Monday: 2014 NYC Marathon

Want to know what it's like to run the biggest marathon in the world?  Here's a great ground-eye view of the 2014 New York City Marathon shot from the middle of the pack:

2014 TCS NYC Marathon from Eric R on Vimeo.

I just found Eric Rayvid's blog "Dirty Old Sneakers" the other day by way of a race report he wrote on last year's Philadelphia Marathon.  He's based in New York City and offers a great perspective on the running (and cycling) scene up there.

And he just had a son too.

Go check him out here.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday 8 miler

I only have so many beautiful Sunday afternoons left in which to knock out a decent run, so I wanted to take advantage of it today.  Soon I'll be breaking out the wool hat, the running pants, the layers and layers of long sleeved shirts, and even the old ski goggles.  But for now I managed to get in 8 miles in pretty perfect conditions.

Training for the 2015 Boston Marathon is slated to start in about a month, and I want to go into it with a solid base.  My run streak is helping me keep up the habit, and going semi-long on Sundays is helping keep up the base.

I'll write a more specific post about what my Boston training will look like, but for now I can assume it will mimic training plans of the past: running six days a week, long runs on Sunday and rest day Monday (though I will still run a mile to maintain the streak), no alcohol, etc.

I know it will be tough training over the winter, but it's also been over a year since I've trained hard for something (I don't even feel like I trained that hard for the ultra last spring), so I'm looking forward to a training lifestyle again.

Monday, November 17, 2014

One year ago...

... I crushed it at the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon.

November 17, 2013

Months of hard work culminated in a PR of 3:03:05.  All for one goal: Boston.

A year later, both the confirmation e-mail and postcard have arrived, and we are currently 154 days out from the 2015 Boston Marathon.

Made the cut.

But it's kind of weird, if you think about it.  All that hard work really only earned me... more hard work.  Because the race is in the middle of April, the bulk of my training will be during the long, cold winter months here in New Jersey.

Was running Philly last year merely the prologue, with Boston as the main event?  Or was Philly the journey, with Boston as the proverbial icing on the cake, a sweet victory lap?

Yes, I'm excited for Boston, but as the temperature drops and the days get shorter, I can't help but think of the long road ahead of me.  One most likely filled with a lot of snow and ice.

I hope y'all follow along, because I know the next few months are going to be interesting.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Does the Philadelphia Marathon need fixing?

Excellent piece yesterday in the Philadelphia Inquirer by high school friend Jen Miller:

It should be noted that I love the Philly Marathon.  I've run it five times and set a PR every time.  It was my first marathon back in 2005, and my most recent.  I love it for the memories I have, I love it because it is my hometown race, and I love it for its size - big enough to feel special but without the insanity and logistics of races like in New York and Chicago.  So I was unaware that it needed fixing.

But Jen makes some excellent points.  The half and full should be separated and run on separate days. The half was only introduced in 2009 and has since begun to dilute the experience of the full, so it's time to return to the basics and give the full the attention it needs.

Jen also mentions that the race is run out of the Mayor's office, and there is no reason what should be the premiere event of Philly's racing season should not have its own staff and race director.  There is no reason this race should not be selling out well in advance after years of doing so, and when so many marathons around the country continue to do so.

So how can it return to "sell-out shape"?  Concentrate on the runners.

If you want to attract more runners, start with the elites.  The winner of the Philadelphia Marathon receives a mere $3,500.  For comparison, the Houston Marathon, mentioned in the article, doles out $40,000 to its winner.  Money talks, and the more prize money offered, the better the elite field.  With a more varied elite field of high profile runners, including speaking and signing engagements at the expo, it's possible this will energize the middle and back-of-the-packers.

The course could definitely use an upgrade.  There is a little nub around mile 17 that detours across the Falls Bridge, down a hill, hangs a complete 180 in the middle of the street, then back up the hill and across the bridge again.  Completely unnecessary.  And the stretches up and down the Kelly Drive do get pretty lonely (though without the twists and turns of downtown, it does let runners settle into a consistent pace and essentially run on cruise control for a bit).  In order to increase crowd support, they should keep the course in the city's residential areas allowing for easier access to the course.

Finally, runners need better amenities.  I hate finishing the marathon and finding nothing more than a green banana, some pretzels and chicken broth.  Make the finish line a celebration of the marathon itself and give me a reason to stick around.  Provide a post race beer and/or a concert, and I'll hang out around all afternoon.

At the end of the day, I've never run a big city, world class marathon, so it'll be interesting to gain some comparison once I run Boston this spring.

Have you run Philly?  What would you change?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My first marathon

Another 7 miles with Who's Up? over at the Haddonfield Running Company tonight.  Within the beer selection afterwards was this gem:

It's a coconut caramel chocolate brown ale, and it is everything you hoped for and more.

Afterwards I went to the monthly meeting for the South Jersey Athletic Club.  Normally they have some kind of guest speaker at every meeting, but because the Philly Marathon is coming up, and a lot of club members are running it as their first marathon, the club president thought it would be fun to have other members talk about their first marathon.  I volunteered to be one of the speakers and brought along this picture for show and tell:

My first marathon was at the 2005 Philly Marathon.  I'd always wanted to run a marathon after hearing about my dad's seven marathons in his day, and I finally bit the bullet after hearing about a friend who had just run her first a few months prior.

I had no idea what I was doing and didn't train very well for it.  My legs started cramping as early as mile 16, and I walked long stretches afterwards.  I finished in 4:29 and was immensely proud of myself, and spent something like $80 on this special frame.  I'm really glad I have this souvenir, especially since I've now run 10 marathons.  It's a nice way to commemorate my first.

It started as a bucket list item, but after finishing I knew I could do better.  So I signed up the next year and ran 4:12.  All told I've now run Philly five times and PR'd every time.  I'm hoping to run it next year and break the three hour mark.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

5 miles at the Cooper

It's been a long time since Suze has put in an appearance on the blog.  We met through blogging back in 2011 and were running/racing buddies for awhile, but she has since developed chronic ailments in her hips and legs and has had to back off running.

It finally occurred to me that if she was comfortable riding a bike, we could still do our usual jaunt around the Cooper River, just a little modified.  So I rode my bike to the Cooper this morning, about a mile away, at 8am, and gave my bike to Suze who then rode 5 miles with me while I ran.  It was the coldest morning yet this fall, and we finished in about 39 minutes.

To show my gratitude for waking up so early to work out with me, I made her pose for a picture.  But then we went back to my place for a giant breakfast of eggs, toast, and bacon.

Suze: (Seeing how fast I eat) You should get into competitive eating.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The meaning of running

Running is a simple sport, so I've often wondered about the tendency of runners to assign so much meaning to it in comparison to other sports.  Maybe I just don't read enough Sports Illustrated or ESPN Magazine, but it seems like there is an incessant amount of YouTube videos, articles and blog posts equating a Sunday morning long run to the meaning of life.

I am guilty of this myself.  Take the time I wrote about passion, or the time I compared my current self to my 16-year-old self.  Or the entire videos page of this blog.  And just a few months ago I wrote, "But when I push myself to my breaking point to see what I am made of, I experience a visceral connection to my natural surroundings, to the athletic world, and to my own being."  It seems there is always some life lesson to be learned on the road, no matter how tangentially related to running, and more than enough people willing to write about them.

When I qualified for Boston for the first time at the age of 29, there was the temptation to describe this event as The Most Meaningful Event of My Life, which made not getting to run Boston all the more heartbreaking.  The sequel came last year when I replicated this feat while bringing my PR down by 6 minutes.  The Most Meaningful Event of My Life Part II.

In short, running has meant a lot to me over the years.  It has given me strength, both literal and figurative, and at no other time do I feel as spiritual as when I am running in nature.  

All this to say I've been coming to a slow realization this fall: running doesn't matter like I thought it once did.  My runs have been slow and forced, my mileage has drooped, and I haven't learned a single life lesson in months.  This is all related to becoming a father at the end of August.  Because when you witness the miracle of birth and all of the raw emotion that surrounds it, nothing else seems to matter.

You want to talk about pride?  Pride is no longer running some distance faster than I ever have before.  Pride is making my son smile for the first time.  It's rocking him to sleep when he's been crying.  It's standing next to my wife, looking down at him as he sleeps, and thinking, "we made that."

You want to talk about heartbreaking?  Heartbreaking is no longer not getting to run some race.  It's looking into the confused, teary eyes of my son when he's been crying for an hour, and this time not being able to do anything to comfort him.

Maybe I'm simply in a rut caused by fatigue, the frustrations of parenthood and giving up the Philly Marathon this fall.  Maybe things will pick up with training in the winter and Boston will be The Most Meaningful Event of My Life Part III.  But right now in this moment, this face is more meaningful than any race I have ever done, and any I am likely to do:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Running distilled

Pictures from the Runner's World Half are in, and there's one that I really like:

This was in the homestretch of the race, that part of a race when the crowd gets bigger and the finish line finally comes into view, when you feel a surge of emotion and pride and enjoy it all even more for the hard work it took to get here.

In the case of this race and photo, the hard work didn't result in a PR.  But the hard work over the past few months was not limited to only running.  This was my first race since becoming a father, and that finish line after a tough race and a tough few months came to symbolize all the hard times I've overcome.

I love this picture because it so perfectly sums up everything I feel about running.  I'm what you might describe as a serious runner.  I do it all: hill work, speed work, tempo runs, cross training, you name it.  I put in extraordinary effort to achieve rather arbitrary goals with only intrinsic rewards.   With only the number on the clock as a reward, sometimes it's nice to have a reminder that there is more to it.

I wasn't even mugging for the cameras in this photo.  I was simply caught up in the moment and leaving it all out on the course.  And if I can't run a PR, I will take this as a close second.
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