Monday, April 16, 2007


Anyone who's ever run a marathon has inevitably considered the possibility of qualifying for the prestigious Boston Marathon. It's often the first question a fellow running pal will ask his first time marathon finisher friend: 'Did you qualify for Boston?' At 111 years old, it is the oldest marathon in the world, and holds a great deal of pride and memories for 1,000's of runners. Personally, I was never drawn to doing Boston, I guess because I'm loyal to my precious New York.. Why stray if you are satisfied? But at work this morning, I couldn't help getting swept up in the excitement that this morning's little race brought to my workstation. By the time I clicked onto the The Boston Marathon website, the men's race was already into it's third mile. There was an American in third place! I was tempted to email my friend Dick who knows everything about running trivia, but I imagined him telling me that a marathon is a very long race, and this guy has a lot of real estate to cover, and I shouldn't place any bets until they're further along into the game.. Then I checked out the women's race.. Jelena Prokopcuka, who won New York in 2005 and 2006, was again going out hard from the gun.. (Or cannon?) When I had more time to catch the details of the race, I gleaned this edible little tidbit from the Boston Marathon website:

The pack was now down to four, with Prokopcuka and Grigoryeva [the eventual winner] running side-by-side, Jeptoo and Perez right behind. By 25K, the women had whittled the finishing pace down to 2:32:44, but whenever the wind gusted everyone lined up single file behind the taller Prokopcuka. The Latvian, who lost precious training time to a bout of the flu a month ago, turned around several times, clearly annoyed at the role she was given. [Indeed! This isn't the Tour de France, ladies!]
And then later they had to say of the Russian winner:

As she made the final turn onto Boylston Street, Grigoryeva took a glance over her shoulder to check her lead. She liked what she saw. She looked again, just to make sure. She was clear, running the last mile in 5 minutes flat and grabbing a Russian flag from the crowd just before breaking the tape.

I thought that was cute.. And good timing with the flag. Maybe I have a little soft spot in my heart for Russian runners.. Afterall, my last coach did give me the nickname 'Russian Rocket'.. Hmm, I haven't been living up to that one for a while..
But back to notes on Boston.. I was looking up random results, just because I love checking out the competition.. A lot of women in my age group under 3 hours! Then I thought, let me check and see if my friend Deanna ran.. Deanna is such an incredibly talented runner, if she wasn't such a likeable person, my jealousy for her natural running ability would take precedence over a friendship. She ran the NYC marathon one year, with no serious training in 3:17.. Her speedwork consisted of running for the bus in the mornings for her 2 hour commute to work. She was always late. Even to races. One race I saw her from the starting line, and I could tell she was too late to join in, though that had been her intention. Instead she decided to join in at mile two to help pace me. I was holding about a 6:45 pace, too fast for me to be talking, but she was chatting away, giving calm updates as to where all my competition was at that stage in the race, and what I would need to do if I wanted to catch them.. All this and not even slightly laboring with her breathing.. Good thing she's so likeable.. So after her 3:17 marathon with no training, she developed all kinds of undiagnosable runner's maladies that my guess were simply a matter of her body asking for a break.. And for her to never run another marathon again without training. But she likes her marathons, and she seems to always do the Boston one.. So I looked her up, and sure enough, not only had she run it with the 50 mph winds and rain that caused the elite runners to slow down by a full 7 minutes off the course record, she ran close to the times she normally runs for a marathon.. So Deanna, this post is for you.. Thanks for inspiring .. And congratulations to anyone else who was brave enough to toe the line today for this old run. And to Jason Lehmkuhle, who started off in the top 3, ran his first 5k in 16:20, and his last in over 29 minutes.. That's one painful way to run a marathon, brother..

Sunday, April 01, 2007

"People who celebrate Valentine's Day should be pelted with shoes"

Original post written 2/15/07

This was one of the chants heard by the Hindu extremist group Shiv Sena in New Delhi, India yesterday. It's such a nice contrast of East meets West, Whitman's heart-shaped chocolates rewarded with a good swift shoe attack. I greeted the holiday with my own brand of shoe-pelting, as the heavens opened up and gave us our first big snowstorm this year. I finally had some fiber to sink my new snowshoe crampons into. After careful study of how to harness my foot into the bindings, out I went. I had planned on just walking the first half mile or so to adapt to the shoes, but after a few steps, was curious to see if running in snowshoes was as difficult as I'd heard it was. I took short choppy steps, minding to keep a wider than normal step so as not to kick my ankle.This was actually fun! I felt like a whole different athlete, a younger, less jaded version of myself. There was no clock to compete against since this was the very first time in my life that I was running in snowshoes. Then I kicked my ankle. Ow. That hurt. My legs must be getting tired. I slowed down a little. I saw a four-legged dark brown animal about 100 meters away. It looked at me a lot, and then twisted it's head behind it, as if waiting for back up. Back up arrived, and bambi trotted off into the woods, followed by five of his cohorts. I was happy to see that they didn't look graceful in the snow either. I kicked my ankle again. 'OWW!' I walked for a little bit now, but then got bored with that, and determined to pay more attention and stop kicking myself. I started thinking about this new training plan that I might start. It was designed by an Olympic running coach to lower your mile time. I was concentrating on the logistics of it, and imagining how my legs would feel running at those speeds, I was so focused on those thoughts that I forgot to focus on running wide, and kicked my ankle again hard. 'OH, GOOD NIGHT!',*someone screamed. I looked around, a little alarmed at the sudden anger, then in a hoarse voice started laughing hysterically. I laughed harder thinking about some innocent person taking a Winter stroll witnessing my mishap. I started developing this rhythm with my feet where the foot bed bounced off my heel with each step and it felt like I was alternately dribbling mini basketballs with my heels.. It made me want to run more, but I decided to stop at three miles. Over a 12-minute per mile pace, not bad for a beginner. This was a refreshing twist to my normal running repertoire. I think I'll leave the shoe-pelting to the Shiv Sena, I rather like my snowshoes.

* original quote not suitable for all audiences.. and I'm trying to change some unsavory habits, too..