Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 mileage

January: 198
February: 231
March: 281
April: 121.2
May: 159.1
June: 112.3
July: 145.4
August: 210.1
September: 218
October: 235.3
November: 193.3

And December:

52 miles, probably my lowest monthly total in years. The drastic reduction was needed, though, as I've been focusing on high mileage for so long and putting my body through so much.

This means my grand official total for 2015 is 2,156.7 miles, which is definitely a lifetime record.  I can't say if I'll ever try to beat this mark, but if I do, it won't be in 2016.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top 10 running experiences of 2015

And so we find ourselves at the end of another year, and so it's time to reflect on the best running experiences of the last 365 days.  It was an epic year of running.  365 days of runs. Trail runs.  Beach runs.  Pavement runs.  Three marathons.  Two new PR's.  Over two thousand miles.  There are so many memories from this past year, but here, in no particular order, are my top ten:

When: September 9th
Where: Haddonfield, NJ
Post: They say it's my birthday

My birthday happened to fall on a Wednesday this year.  While we celebrated with friends at my favorite Belgian Tavern in Philly on Saturday, I spent my actual birthday running a very sweaty seven miles with the gang from Who's Up?  Stevie also surprised me by lining up a babysitter and coming along for the run, then presenting me with a cookie cake afterwards. Beer, running, wife, friends, cookie cake, and more beer.  All at the Haddonfield Running Company.  Everything I love in this world all at once.

When: August 10th
Where: South Beach, Miami, Florida
Post: The Raven Run of Miami

I had known about Robert "Raven" Kraft for awhile, the man who has run 8 miles on South Beach every day for the last 40+ years, and on a trip down to meet the in-laws, I finally got my chance to meet and run with him.  He was one of the kindest, most inspiring and most humble men I have ever met, and I sincerely hope I get a chance to run with him again.  Completing the Raven Run also inspired one of my favorite posts I've ever written.

When: April 20th
Where: Boston, MA
Post: Race Recap and Reflections

The Boston Marathon.  Duh.  Years of dreaming finally yielded to reality on April 20th when I became a part of one of the greatest traditions in sports history.  The years of hard work I put in to earn my spot there only made it better.  It was an incredibly tough race on a cold, wet and windy day, but one I will undoubtedly remember for years to come.  Seeing my dad, wife and son at the finish line?  The icing on the cake.  Someday when I am old and my body fails me, I will still remember the roar of the crowd on Boylston Street and what it was like to touch greatness.

When: Halloween
Where: Philadelphia, PA
Post: Race recap

At the end of October I ran the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in Philadelphia, which ended up being one of the most perfect races I have ever done.  It was one of those days that all runners dream about in which everything comes together for a perfect race.  The weather was perfect, the course was flat, my energy and confidence were high and my pace felt effortless for most of the race.  I ended up finishing with a PR by over three minutes, my first PR in the half marathon in over four years.

When: September 27th
Where: Philadelphia
Post: What it's like to run in Popeadelphia

Pope Francis came to town and shut down the entire city for days leading up to his arrival.  I had 18 miles scheduled for Sunday and decided to take advantage of car free streets by running from my front door across the Ben Franklin Bridge, all around Center City, and then back home.  The entire city was one giant militarized playground, and this run was most likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

When: April 6th
Where: Berlin, Germany
Post: The Brandenburg Gate

In April I led a trip for ten of my students to Germany, just as I was heading into the taper for Boston Marathon training.  While in Berlin, I woke up well before my students to run 14 miles around the city.  Training while traveling is always difficult, even more so when leading a bunch of teenagers around a foreign country, and this ended up being the only decent run of the trip.  But it was about as perfect as a solo long run could ever be.  The sun had just come up, there was a spring chill in the air, and I had major tourist attractions completely to myself, including the amazing Brandenburg Gate.

When: August 23rd
Where: Palmerton, PA

At the end of August I completed an item on my running bucket list: run a naked 5k.  I had to drive an hour and a half to get there, and not only did I go through with it and actually run a race in the buff, but I ended up winning the whole thing.  It was certainly one of the stranger and more unique experiences of my running life.

When: March 5th
Where: South Jersey

I ran a lot last winter.  Over 800 miles.  All in preparation for my first Boston Marathon.  But without access to a treadmill, I was forced to do all of my runs outside.  This meant running through some insane winter weather, including one snowstorm that dumped almost a foot of snow on South Jersey.  Running in the snow doesn't make for a terribly efficient training run, but I will take the unsteady footing and cold and wet clothes if it means getting to run through a forest with every last twig covered in snow.  The breathtaking beauty and the otherworldly quiet bring this specific run into the top ten.

When: December 23rd
Where: Atlanta, GA

I was already in the middle of a hellish travel experience on my way down to the Florida Keys for Christmas.  With a mere 15 minutes to make a connecting flight, and with the prospect of spending Christmas Eve alone in Atlanta as a very real consequence, I broke into a dead sprint through the Atlanta Airport and made my flight with a mere two minutes to spare.  It was very clear that were I not a runner, there is no way I would have made that flight, and it was oddly satisfying to see all those  years of training had paid off.

When: May 10th
Where: Cherry Hill, NJ
Post: Finding Neverland Race Report

Stevie and I had technically run one race before this, but we didn't run together during that one, and Neale wasn't even a twinkle in my eye at that point.  This was a first as a family.  It was a poorly organized race, but we stuck together the whole time and stayed for mimosas afterwards.  I loved sharing running with my family, and hope it is the first of more races we complete in the future.

Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 goals revisited

I did terribly on my 2015 goals, but I'm at peace with it.  Looking back, I realize that a lot of them were just kind of thrown against the wall to see which ones would stick, which may not be the most efficient way to set goals.  I'm not even sure I'm going to set any goals for 2016 other than transferring a few from this list onto next year.

So let's take a look back:

1. Run 2,015 miles: Completed.  This was probably my biggest goal of the year and one I focused on the most.  I'll have to tally up the entire year's total and put it in a future post.

2. Run the Boston Marathon: Completed. As I mentioned in my post setting up my 2015 goals, this was more of a life goal that just happened to fall this year.

3. Run a 50 miler: Uncompleted.  I think the intention here was to combine a fall 50 miler with my next goal, but it's clear I bit off more than I could chew.  I still want to run a 50 miler someday; I think the experience of running so long through the woods would be very spiritual, but I would probably have to make this the main goal in a given year and not thrown in with a bunch of other goals.

4. Run across the state of NJ: Uncompleted.  For awhile I planned to do this in December after completing the Philadelphia Marathon since my mileage and endurance would already be high, but I wanted to make sure I gave my shin time to properly heal, so I ended up drastically reducing my mileage right after the marathon.

5. PR my beer mile time: Uncompleted.  This one should have been easy, but I just never got around to doing a beer mile this year.  They're tricky, though, seeing as they aren't exactly legal, in the strictest sense of the term.

6. PR my half marathon time: Completed.  Ran a 1:26:05 at the Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia half Marathon on Halloween.  It was a very zen race in that all the planets aligned for a perfect race in which everything felt effortless.

7. Run a sub 3:00 marathon: Uncompleted.  Sigh... this one still stings.  I spent all fall waking up at 4am to train like a madman and gave it my all at the Philadelphia Marathon in November, but came up short by just over a minute.

8. Continue to make running friends, both in my immediate community as well as online: Completed.  This one is a bit of grey area.  I definitely continued to hang out with my Wednesday night running/beer crew, and made more of an effort to connect with other runners online, but let's just say I'm becoming a bit disillusioned with the running blogosphere and its attendant social media nonsense... Perhaps a topic for another post.

9. Continue the run streak through 2015: Completed.  Can't stop won't stop.  Over two years and counting now.

10. Run more trail races: Uncompleted. I only ran one trail race this year, and that's the one I do every year (Wissahickon Trail Classic).  The problem is, to get to any trail races requires a lengthy drive, which I'm not always willing to do, especially for a race that I've never done and can't be sure I'll enjoy.

11. Run a Spartan Race: Uncompleted.  I was signed up for the Spartan Race just before the Philly Marathon but backed out due to my shin.  Fortunately I had gotten free entry from the Spartan PR team so I didn't lose any money on that one.


1. Publish a piece of writing: Uncompleted.  Someday...

2. Travel to a country and/or state I've never been to before: Uncompleted.  Plenty of time, but never enough money.

3. Continue to spend time with Stevie and Neale: Completed.  Another grey area.  We spent a lot of time together over the summer when I wasn't working, but in the fall, between my teaching job and my running, and Stevie's two plays, quality time was sparse.  This is one reason I'm not going to do a marathon in 2016 and Stevie doesn't have any upcoming shows.

And there you have it.  5 out of 11 goals on my running list and 1 out of 3 on the non-running list.  If I do set any goals for 2016, it will probably be a smaller list.

How did you do on your goals?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The airport sprint

Sitting in the teachers' room on the last day before winter break, conversation naturally veered towards plans for the holidays.  I mentioned to my co-workers that I was headed to the Florida Keys that afternoon to spend Christmas with my in-laws.  I was looking forward to this, but I could certainly do without traveling at one of the busiest times of the year.  At this, one of my co-workers chimed in.

"I love flying during Christmas!  Everyone is on their way to see someone they love, so everyone is in a good mood, and I can sit and relax with a book and people watch and enjoy the atmosphere."  His eyes practically glazed over after imagining such personal bliss.

I thought about my co-worker the following morning when I finally reached the Keys, sans luggage, after 18 hours of travel, resolving this year to slap him in the face the first chance I get when back in New Jersey.

I arrived at the Philadelphia Airport at 12:30, a full four hours before my plane departed because that was the only time I could get a ride from a friend.  My flight was then delayed an hour before we ever even boarded.  Once in the air, the captain came on the intercom every ten or twenty minutes explaining another delay that kept us from landing in Atlanta. Eventually all of these delays in the air caused an unplanned stop in Chattanooga to refuel.

After a half hour of sitting in Tennessee, the captain came on the intercom again.  "Yeah folks, looks like this airport only has one fuel truck, and it was accidentally sent to the wrong airplane, so we'll have to wait for it to come back."

After nearly two hours, we took off again and landed in Atlanta at 11pm.  I had long since missed my connection, but Delta's app told me there was one more flight for the night.  There was only only one catch: it left in 15 minutes.  Knowing it was the only available flight for the next 24 hours, I rebooked myself as we taxied to the gate and told my seatmate I was going for it.  

"Do you think you'll make it?" he asked, doubt in his voice.

"I'm a very good runner," was my only reply.  "I'm also very modest," I should have added.

I shot off the plane towards the departures screen and groaned when I saw the connecting flight was in a different terminal.  With the straps of my backpack battened down close to my body, I stormed down the terminal towards the escalators.  The airport was near empty, save for a group of guys who whooped and hollered and offered high fives as I drew near.

Onto the shuttle.  Up another flight of escalators.  Down the length of another terminal.  I pulled up beside another guy doing the same maniacal sprint I was and exclaimed, "well this is exciting!" before edging him out at the boarding gate desk.  The woman at the counter looked my name up, issued me a boarding pass, and I staggered, panting, onto the boarding ramp.  About two minutes later she closed and locked the gate.

There were no age group awards for this race.  No post race water or bananas.  No medals and no finishers' shirt.  But there was the satisfaction of finally having found a practical application to all those hours spent training to hone my speed and endurance.  And that felt incredible.

We spent another hour sitting on the plane before take off due to more odd delays.  I knew I wouldn't arrive in Fort Lauderdale until 2am at this point, and not make the drive down to the Keys until the morning.  And I knew that because my connection had been so close, the carry-on they made me check in Philadelphia would most likely be stuck in Atlanta for another day or two.  

But none of this mattered.  Knowing that I wouldn't be spending Christmas Eve away from my wife and son was all that did.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

We're down in Florida celebrating Christmas in the Keys for the second year in a row.  From my family to yours, thanks for reading and have a very merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

On the marathon and American manhood

Elizabeth Gilbert writes in her book The Last American Man,
"Briefly, the history of America goes like this: there was a frontier, and then there was no longer a frontier.  It all happened rather quickly.  There were Indians, then explorers, then settlers, then towns, then cities.  Nobody was really paying attention until the moment the wilderness was officially tamed, at which point everyone wanted it back.  Within the general spasm of nostalgia that ensued... there came a very specific cultural panic, rooted in the question What will become of our boys?
The problem was that, while the classic European coming-of-age story generally featured a provincial boy who moved to the city and was transformed into a refined gentleman, the American tradition had evolved into the opposite.  The American boy came of age by leaving civilization and striking out toward the hills.  There, he shed his cosmopolitan manners and became a robust and proficient man.  Not a gentleman mind you, but a man."
It's in our cultural heritage that a man is not truly a man unless he has endured hardship, unless he has experienced something in life and come out on the other side better for it.  In earlier generations of America, this could mean anything from striking out for the frontier to going to war.

But what could that be in today's society?  Examine American culture today and it's easy to conclude how much of it is built around the idea of comfort.  Today, one isn't truly a man until he can show it off in the form of appliances and air conditioning and the perfect car and everything Apple has ever sold; basically anything that takes the hard work out of life.  Hard work of the physical variety is just not sought out any more.  In short, material possessions and the comfort they bring have laid claim to American manhood.

Worse still, American culture lacks a coming-of-age ritual, and young adults are left to find what they can to mark the passing into adulthood.  Left with no alternative, most are simply retreating to the couch to binge watch Netflix, eat take-out and complain and/or brag about life on social media.  Succumbing to the cultural zeitgeist is an antidote to the idea that one should do something with one's life.  Something important and something grand that lays the foundation for a successful future.

Can the marathon be that ritual?  Can the months of hard work, pain, and sacrifice lead one to a higher plane of existence?  If the second running boom of the last decade is anything to go by, it seems many Americans are answering this with a resounding yes.  It seems that the marathon can serve as catharsis and ritual to those of all genders and ages.

Those who have run a marathon will recognize the pain involved, pain so acute and so dramatic for being self-inflicted that it's a miracle anyone ever does two of these things.  The word itself conjures images of both physical and emotional pain, and while hardship of any kind does not exactly equate to pleasure, there is pleasure to be found there all the same.

Pleasure in pain.  Not quite a new concept, but still mind boggling to the non-marathoner. Why does the marathon hold such appeal to me, and so many others?  Why do we insist on making such dire sacrifices, training like Olympians for such minimal gains?  Why do we endure the pain for a space blanket and the same medal 20,000 other people get?  Where exactly does the pleasure come from?

There is something to be said for those who willingly endure hardship.  There is personal glory to be found in taming the wilderness; not so much the literal wilderness fawned over in American literature, but that found within.  It allows everyone to play both the person in need of rescuing and the rescuer, to be the hero in their own journey.  To pull themselves from the depths of their lives and rise to the next level.

This begs the question: am I more of a man since I ran my first marathon at the age of 24?  I'd like to think so, yes.  I'd like to think that the marathon indeed made me more robust and proficient, that it taught me to deal with pain, both physical and emotional, that I now understand the idea of sacrifice and hard work to achieve something difficult.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The strange case of Mr. Michael Rossi part 2

Click here to read part 1.

When we last left off with Mr. Rossi, he was about to be investigated by the Via Marathon to determine whether he had, in fact, cheated in their race to qualify for Boston.  To the chagrin of message board posters world wide, Rossi was not disqualified, and that seemed to be that.

As it turns out, though, this is one of the best running stories of 2015, and the saga just won't quit.

Perhaps incensed by the lack of justice, the creators of, the website that first broke the story of Rossi's alleged cheating, decided to up the ante in July:

Can't run a 3:11 marathon?  No problem. offered to pay him $10,000 if he ran sub 70 minutes in a 10 miler or sub 20 minutes in a 5k.

Nothing seemed to come of it, though, and so I lost interest in the story, stopped reading the message boards and went about my life.  Again, that seemed to be that.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving when Rossi entered a 5k turkey trot with the apparent intention of running a sub 20.  Which turkey trot?  The very same one I ran: the Haddon Township Turkey Trot.  Turns out I ran the same race as the scourge of the running community himself, though the coincidence isn't that enormous given that Rossi does live in the Philadelphia area and apparently grew up in Haddon Township.

I had no idea he had run in the race until the following day when I received a message on Twitter from Tony Rigdon asking if I had noticed him.  I ran a 19:39, and Rossi a 20:25, and apparently Tony was contacting those who had finished within a few minutes of Rossi both ahead of and behind him.  Something was rotten in Haddon Township, it would seem.

Over the next week, Haddon Township became the 21st Century Dealey Plaza, with the running nerds of dissecting the evidence with the fervor of the Warren Commission.  Though he did not break 20 minutes to collect his $10,000, they are convinced he cheated yet again and are demanding his disqualification from the turkey trot.

Their evidence this time seems a bit flimsier than from the Via Marathon, but I agree something seems fishy.  Apparently Rossi started at the back of the back, leaving a differential of 42 seconds between his chip time and gun time, which he explained away with a shoe malfunction.  But then he somehow weaved around over 700 people on his way to a PR.  He is absent from photos that should show him finishing next to others around his time, and no one recalls seeing him on the course, myself included.

I and others I know who ran the race responded to Tony, and I once again went about my business.  For reasons completely unrelated to the race or Mike Rossi, I decided to unplug from online life for a bit right around this time.  While talking to a guy in Who's Up? last Wednesday, I was clued in that none other than this very blog and my own name had turned up in's world famous message boards during my absence.

Apparently running a 3:01 marathon doesn't impress the Olympians of, and I was even called a hobby jogger:

One of my 8th grade students, who should have finished seconds behind Rossi, was mentioned time and again as a key witness, with some posters wanting to contact him or his parents and one poster even creating a fake account in his name.  All of this, sadly, is only the tip of the iceberg of the bizarre infighting, conspiracy theories and trolling that exists in this message board thread.

It's no surprise that Rossi denied the allegations again, deleted several tweets and later his entire Twitter account.

And that about brings us to the end of part 2 of this saga, but knowing Mike Rossi's love of the limelight and penchant for feeding the trolls, I have no doubt there will be a part 3.  I just hope I'm not a part of it.
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