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 mean 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.
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