Saturday, April 30, 2016

April mileage

January: 59 
February: 70
March: 73


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

Friday, April 29, 2016

Big changes coming to Philadelphia Marathon race weekend

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

Until today, that is.

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

Among the prominent changes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 25, 2016

Movie Monday: The Barkley Marathons

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

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

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

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

In thirty years, only 14 runners have ever finished.

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

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

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

Now get out and do something painful, you candyass.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

2016 Richard's Run 5k Race Report

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

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

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

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

Final stats:

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 18, 2016

Marathon Monday

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 15, 2016

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

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

Well, it's another year, and we have ourselves another story of someone cheating to get into the Boston Marathon.  Last year we had Mike Rossi, he of the 23,000 post thread on (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?

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