Sunday, November 17, 2013

Why We Run

The slap of the shoe on the pavement, the swing of one's arms, the gag-inducing pace, the hop to clear the curb, the bounce on the balls of the soles as the hill crests. The efficiency and speed, plodding by some, effortless by others. The repetitive motion and the heart rate that is awakened from a slothful existence.

The act of running has me moving at a speed that is so different than on bike, car or transit, and although it's not so much faster than a brisk walk (by scale), the speed in which you travel -- real movement with the heart, legs, muscle in interplay -- have a way of activating my soul.

While I am moving while running, it is running that moves me in deeper ways that meditation could never give me. Running is my way to confront the self, but to find more that is hidden within me. I am seeking, striding, solving, negotiating, hurting, conquering, coping and -- ultimately -- living.

Non-runners don't understand. I get that now. In my years as a long distance runner, I've watched the running community repeatedly dismissed. One old example is Ted McClelland, who wrote in 2007 how the marathon was being ruined by slow runners.

Even as the sport continues to grow, capturing more women, more city dwellers and more participants at races, the naysayers feel compelled to -- shall I say -- dismiss the movement. Oh, you want 26 reasons not to run the marathon?

Just this past week, the Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed by a man who can't stand the 26.2 stickers, the 13.1 labels he sees on car bumpers. Chad Stafko, in essence, says running is an act of self-absorption, for showing off more than anything else.

He writes:
I have a theory. There is no more visible form of strenuous exercise than running. When runners are dashing down a street in the middle of town or through a subdivision, they know that every driver, every pedestrian, every leaf-raker and every person idly staring out a window can see them.

Mark Remy over at Runner's World does a takedown of Chad, much like I did of Ted McClelland in 2007, so there is no need for rebuttal, but I wanted to reinforce a few simple truths, some small reasons why we run.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Race Report: New York City Marathon 2013

I began my marathon with a sprint, cursing my nonchalance I'd taken the morning as train, ferry and bus had taken me from Midtown to Staten Island. The time was 8:56 on my Garmin, and I was a minute too late.

Sorry, the course marshall closed the corrals, the lady said at No. 13. My friend dashed to hers one ahead of mine where a rogue guard was letting people through. "We've come all this way," a runner from Italy pleaded before we made a dash for the other corral and a minute later, I found myself thanking the guard, into the corral and feeling lucky to have made it in.

From the time I left my hotel to get to the start line, it took more than three hours and 30 minutes. Could I run all the way back to Central Park in that time?

Journey to Staten Island

I began the start of the New York City Marathon surrounded by friends -- many I had met only minutes before. We traded war stories of Chicago, of heat waves and of expectations on what we'd do. We had all jotted 3:30 pace as our expected time, and it looked like this group was ready.

Right: At the corral. Left, top: walking to start line. Left, bottom: Me and my friend Jen (who had a similar finish time)

Here's the start of the NYC Marathon -- one of my favourite starts of any marathon.

Are you ready to run?

There are many moments during a marathon that you remember. There are very few moments that put a genuine smile on your face. It took me awhile to get that first smile, but once it hit, I couldn't let it go.

A lot was on my mind for this marathon -- remembering 2010, the last time I did this race, and telling myself to cherish an opportunity to run such an amazing race. I was thinking of Boston and the added security.

Monday, November 04, 2013

New York City Marathon 2013 in pictures

My final marathon of 2013 was also my 26th, so fitting that it had to be a big one. Race report to come later this week as I'm still in NYC doing some touring. In short, it was an awe inspiring race, one to remember Boston, retake the boroughs of this great city after last year's cancelled race. My race itself was fantastic -- three weeks out from Chicago, I plotted my race plan and executed it. Negative split for my third straight marathon and another sub 3:30 for the books.

I have a lot more to say, but I'll mark this with some of the pictures I took before, during and after the race.

At the start

Start of the NYCM

Up 1st Ave.

Mile 26

The finish

3:27:06 was the final time