THE EMOTIONAL SIDE OF RUNNING

03.22.2015

Jamaica Sunset - Copy

From time to time I’m known to drift off into this ‘thinky’ kind of writing. Actually, this particular post was inspired by something on social media, in which an individual was talking about running her first marathon with her husband (also a first). She had lots of questions about what to do and how to do it. Among others, I got into the conversation, but soon realized the most important advice was to remember that no matter what, it was their FIRST marathon and should be enjoyed as such because there would never be another one. Seems like I hit a ‘chord’ because a lot of people quickly agreed that they should soak in all the good stuff about a first marathon, especially that one and only FIRST MARATHON FINISH.

That was what got me thinking about the emotional side of running. The more I thought, the more I realized it could be the topic for a book rather than a puny little blog post. From my perspective, here are some top of mind aspects of the emotional part of running.

Vancouver Marathon 1988 (near finish)

Vancouver Marathon 1988 (near finish)

Since the only stuff I really, really know about is my own stuff, we’ll start with MY first marathon. I know that not everybody has done a marathon and that there is no need to ever run one. Still, for those who have or might be thinking about it, the first one has a special place in a person’s running history. For some, it may be special in their life experience.

There are a lot of mechanics to running a marathon whether you are an elite runner stepping up to that first competitive marathon, or a back of the packer taking on a personal challenge. Not having much first hand knowledge about the elite end of things, I will concentrate on the mid to back of the pack folk. Not to beat a good horse to death, I will mention once again that my first and best marathon was run in 1988 when I was 43 and was at a time just under 3:25. No chips then, so I’m rounding down a gun time of 3:25:19. Age grading would give me a theoretical time of about 3:14. I’m trying to squeeze this down to the very best time I can, at least partly to show I was an OK runner but certainly not sub-three hour, which a lot of people see as some kind of dividing line. I do.

I trained hard for that race, as hard and well as I’ve ever done. At the time, I was hanging out with a bad bunch of hard-core runners. Being weak, felt I had to do what the ‘other kids’ were doing. I ran six days a week, fitting in all the hills, speed work and intervals you might imagine as well as long runs, including doing the marathon distance twice in training. Naturally, races were done as part of the preparation and it turned  out that I ran my half marathon PB a couple of weeks before my target marathon (while holding back – at least I think I was). When the race got really near, I worked out a personal pacing plan. All this is to set the stage for my first marathon, the Vancouver International Marathon (1988). I can honestly say it was my best ever race. Best in the sense of management of my performance against my race plan. I ran exactly as planned, finishing within seconds of my target time and just as importantly, hitting my split times. I felt spent, but not exhausted. I could have run farther if the finish required it, but when I stopped I was done and could hardly even step up over the curb.

Vancouver Finish 1988 - My first marathon.

Vancouver Finish 1988 – My first marathon.

The big thing I remember about the last part of that race was the ‘bargaining’. Originally I planned that if I felt good with 5K to go, I would –  GO that is. Well, I did feel good, but at 37km, 5K seemed a lot longer distance than it did while plotting all this out on paper. “OK, 3K then.” That would be fine.

At 3K the discussion was repeated. I was still feeling pretty good, but did not feel a kick waiting to happen. “Carry on carrying on!” At a mile to go, it would be put it all out there time. When I saw the Mile to Go sign my brain said to my legs, “OK, let’s DO IT! Pick it up and take it home!” The reply from legs was something along the lines of: “Fine brain, you come on down here and do just that!” In fact, I pushed as hard as I could, but suspect that rather than faster, I just didn’t go slower. Remember in 1988, not only were there no chips, there were no gps devices to download your race to a computer for post-race analysis. I just know it was a strong finish and the best I could muster.

The last mile was quite respectable. I was definitely running, probably faster than I can right now on a good day at any distance. When I came to the finish, the precise location wasn’t as obvious as it is now with the timing mats, so I decided to run through the finish, just to be certain. I still remember the finish line official grabbing me and yelling “Stop! You’re done!!!”.

One reason I admonish first timers, or ‘marathon virgins’, to really enjoy the moment is that I had been so wrapped up in running to a high standard that I didn’t have that sense of great achievement until later. Oh, I was pleased with myself and had no doubt in my mind as to what I had done. The thing is that most of the marathoners in my club were those ‘sub-three’ people. I hadn’t got anywhere near that so was feeling more satisfied than ecstatic.  It was only later, a few days actually, that it began to dawn on me what I had done in a personal sense. It was only then that I had a feeling of great joy. Maybe because it took that long, it was the ‘best managed race ever’ idea that filtered through first and of that I was terribly proud. As I let that emerge, so then did the powerful feeling of knowing I was a MARATHONER. I guess nobody says that must happen at the finish line or it doesn’t count!

Most people do ‘get it’ when they cross the finish line, and the finish area can be a pretty emotional place. Oh yes, there ARE tears. I love to be there, especially when it is one of my charges from the running clinic where I lead a pace group, who is completing that first marathon. People start as runners and finish as marathoners. It is a magic thing.

For the moment I am mostly going to stay with my own examples and the marathon, because there can be a lot of emotion attached to a running achievement depending on circumstance, quite independent of performance.

Completing Victoria Marathon (October, 2000)

Completing Victoria Marathon (October, 2000)

I didn’t run my second marathon until 12 years later. I wasn’t planning on being a ‘one and done’ marathoner, but they weren’t as common as they are today. I was busy with work and family and frankly had no sense of urgency to do another one. My running was steadily improving and if I had any kind of a plan, it was to do the next one in 1990. Sadly, about a year after my first marathon I ruptured a disk in my back. It wasn’t until a good year after that when I was back to running of any kind, never mind being trained to do a marathon. In 1991 I did start training with a chap from work, but it was just too difficult with the work schedule, related travel and all. Fast forward to 2000 when for a bunch of reasons I just decided a marathon needed to be done. It turned out to be the (then) Royal Victoria Marathon. Did I run it well? I don’t know, but I finished and with the history of the back problem, this one may have been more emotional than the first one! It was interesting that even though I had trained pretty well and knew I should be able to finish, there was more uncertainty about how well I would do and even about finishing if I raced the distance.  There was an added bonus to this one, as I ran it with daughter Janna. Well, not exactly ‘with’ if you get my drift! Crossing the finish of my second marathon may have been more what the first should have been (on the day). Let’s just say it was pretty emotional. I had overcome a physical barrier and proven a point, to myself. AND, it was the first time I’d run a marathon with one of the kids! Running with our kids has been a big thing for me, and soon I can number a grandson along with the kids!

Family Half Marathon Challenge Complete

Family Half Marathon Challenge Complete l-r Danielle, Dan, Janna, Cameron

I think my MOST emotional marathon finish came by complete surprise. And no, I’m not going to describe every one of the 25 marathons I have run. What I am trying to get across is how we can be emotionally impacted by our achievements for reasons not directly related to the running itself. Number three was back in Vancouver in 2004. By this time, the idea of running a marathon was not quite the big deal it had been. I knew I could do it.

Until late in 2003 I had been very personally and professionally invested in a company that had huge problems. Foolishly I see now, I had put a lot into trying to ‘fix’ the unfixable. I pulled the plug in September of 2003. Training for Vancouver 2004 was never attached in any way to my career decision. It was just something I had time to do and wanted to do. So, cut to the finish of a so-so marathon that was kind of OK at the time, but which now rates only as my 8th best overall and 14th when age graded.

I was pleased to finish, but expected that I would. In those days Vancouver Marathon meant it when they said “Finisher Shirt“. You only got it when you were done. I wandered along through the athlete area of the finish and eventually collected my shirt. I decided to sit down and change into my new, hard earned and most importantly, DRY shirt. As I peeled off my soggy race shirt it was as if it somehow represented the difficulty of the last several years. I just dissolved in tears. I was literally sobbing for a couple of minutes. Good thing nobody was really near because they would have figured something was seriously wrong. The truth was, at that moment, things had become seriously RIGHT. It was completely emotional and symbolic, but it seemed like finishing that marathon had become emblematic of my new freedom. I knew right away. I just knew and let it wash over me until it was done. Frankly, it is making me a bit misty just writing about it.

I’ve had other marathons that were thrilling or satisfying – New York (2007), CIM (2009), Eugene (2010) finishing on Hayward Field and finding I had come third in my age group, but they were not like those first three with their important underlying reasons for being emotional. I suppose I should be honest and admit that emotion can go the other way. My last BMO Vancouver Marathon (May 2014) qualified as a super low. It was all me, not the event, although I’ll admit the weather didn’t help.

Chris Morales at the Reggae Marathon Finish

That Runnin Guy – Reggae Marathon Finish 2009

I said I would stay mostly with my own examples, but my friend Chris Morales (That Runnin’ Guy) has a moving story about his first (and to this point, ONLY marathon). He had powerful personal reasons and motivations to take on the marathon challenge. I am not going to attempt to explain them, but if you want to know more, you can read about it in his own blog post. Because of his heritage he chose the Reggae Marathon for his goal (he was born in Jamaica, but now lives in Toronto). At the left, he is finishing that epic race in 2009. And, if you don’t want to actually go read about it for yourself, you can just trust me that this WAS a very emotional moment for him.

All of this is to point out that running can bring us a lot of soul deep satisfaction if it is significant to the individual. I suppose for runners good enough to challenge the field, it might be a first win. In my case, the second marathon was the completion of a come-back from a physical challenge. That physical issue could be anything depending on the individual. The third marathon finish was emotionally powerful because it marked a huge milestone in my life having nothing at all to do with running, but was just symbolized by finishing that race. I would hope with these examples, many people can relate to something that rings a bell in their own life.

A forest trail on Mount Frosty (Manning Park, BC)

A forest trail on Mount Frosty (Manning Park, BC)

Personally, and I know as I write this that it is likely true for most runners, I find that the circumstances of certain runs, runs not necessarily races or finishes, can lead to highly emotional feelings. As you run a forest trail or through a field or over a mountain on a sunny morning, temperature right, birds singing, you may suddenly be filled with a sense of joy or peace: the feeling that it just doesn’t get any better. You almost don’t want to breathe lest it pass from you, it is that deep. Tell me, if you have been running for any amount of time at all, that this hasn’t happened to you. You can’t make it happen. It just does, but when it does it is deeply emotional.

I was going to qualify the previous point with something like ‘unless you are an absolute beginner, just getting through those early days when everything seems hard’ but realized that completing some of those early runs when you are just starting, can be extremely satisfying, fulfilling and emotional. As a clinic leader I’ve seen it so many times. It happened quite recently when one of my ‘charges’ stated with brightly glittering eyes after a longish training run: “That is the longest I’ve every run!”

Some events might have strong emotional meaning or impact in their own right. There are a few that mean a lot for me. When I am there, doing whatever it may be, it just feels right in an ‘all is right with the world’ kind of way. I feel that way most of the time when on the Hood to Coast Relay. There, it is the people and the oneness of the team as much as anything, but I’ve done other relays and have never felt any of them to be as ‘right’ as Hood to Coast. It’s just me, but that is the point. The event doesn’t matter. The ‘why’ doesn’t matter. Still, the feeling is powerful and IT does matter.

At the Start - 1989  Hood to Coast Relay

At the Start – 1989 Hood to Coast Relay

Speaking of Hood to Coast reminded me of another specific time when the feel-good factor can kick in for a runner. I know that not everyone runs in a competitive way, but I do and so do a lot of others. To be clear, the term competitive does not necessarily mean fast or out to win. It means not being happy unless you are striving to be the best you can, even if the only person you can beat is yourself. Hood to Coast has a rocketing downhill on the very first leg. Since my first time in 1989, Leg #1 has changed only a little. The road has definitely improved and nobody runs it in the dark now. The fastest I’ve run over a sustained distance (5.4 miles) is Leg #1. I came down Mt Hood, in the dark, at an average pace of 5:59/mile (3:42/km). I felt like I was flying. I felt like a ‘winner’. I think for a moment I got an idea of what a really good runner must feel like. As hard as I was running, it felt easy and fluid. Like I said, I was flying! If something like that doesn’t hit you where you live, I kind of feel sorry for you.

"Four Amigos" add to the Reggae Marathon total - now 18 races.

“Four Amigos” add to the Reggae Marathon total – now 18 races.

Sometimes it is the vibe around an event that makes you feel it is ‘just good’, and I don’t mean technically. The Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K is that way for me. It is the people for sure – see the picture to the right with four friends who met through this event. We span almost 35 years, are of clearly different abilities, come from a wide range of home places not to mention ethnicities and we have gelled as a close group of friends even though most of the rest of the time we are separated by many miles.  But regarding the event, it is more too. I’ve described some of that in other posts about the Reggae Marathon, and it doesn’t matter anyway because it is just a personal perception. If I’ve got you thinking about it, you will probably already be contemplating some event that makes you feel the same way.

Another personal thing is EXCELLENCE. I love to witness excellence happening. Once in a while I even know the person displaying that excellent performance, people like Ellie Greenwood, Dylan Wykes, Rob Watson and Harry Jerome (as a kid, I was in the same track club and trained ‘with’ him). It thrills me to witness the act of taking some aspect of running to a new place. I suppose in a negative way I am pretty emotional about what doping does to the purity of elite performance, even if it is just the doubt factor it creates.

It must be time to wrap this up, if it is going to remain a blog post and not turn into the book mentioned near the beginning. I hope I’ve got across that what causes a deep emotional response or impact varies across a huge spectrum. It is so very personal and while it could be performance based, it need never have to do with performance as such. Completing an event when you weren’t sure or never thought you could, might be the trigger. Coming back from a downturn can be huge. Well, you get the idea.

Maybe, on your next easy run, mull these ideas over and see what comes to you about the emotional side of your running experience.

[Ed Note: Upon review before posting (oh yes, I do review and edit these things) I realized it could easily have a sub-title along the lines of: “Or Why I Will Keep Running Just as Long as I Am Able”]

DOES ANYBODY EVER RUN 5Ks THESE DAYS?

03.16.2015
Probably my most significant 5K Medal

Probably my most significant 5K Medal

Reverse side tells WHY. Inaugural BAA 5K.

Reverse side tells WHY. Inaugural BAA 5K.

The title is a question (or something close to it) that appeared on the Marathon Maniac Facebook page. I think it may have been ‘how many of you run 5Ks’ or something like that. I will admit that the Marathon Maniacs aren’t your average cross-section of runners. They are MARATHON Maniacs. I get some interesting ideas about topics from that page though.

When you spend a lot of your time and money training for and getting to marathons some might not think there is a place for the lowly, perhaps ‘puny’, 5K. Some did feel that way, but I was pleasantly surprised how many extolled the virtues of the 5K, both as a race in itself but also as a powerful tool for improving speed and strength while running our beloved marathons.

The 5K is often the ‘go-to’ distance for charity runs. Nothing wrong with that. With a little slack on the time, most people can cover 5K one way or another and it suits the purpose.  But, it may give the wrong impression regarding what a killer distance the 5K can be. So many people, and not just my Marathon Maniac friends, say things like, “You run marathons. How hard can a 5K be?”  The answer is plenty tough, depending of course on how hard you run. Naturally, if you run 5K at marathon pace it would be pretty easy. The thing is, if you are a serious runner (and that does not necessarily mean blazing fast), you will not be running at marathon pace. You will be running at 5K pace, YOUR 5K pace, but for any given runner, by definition that will be HARD. That pace is different for each person, but sort of like the table of Boston Qualifier marathon times that are all over the map depending on gender and age, if you do your 5K all out, it will be hard! Speaking of the Boston Marathon, I have alas been unable to nail one of those BQ’s (OK, maybe on my first, but that was a long time ago and a long story). Whatever, I’ve never run Boston. I did accompany our daughter Janna when she did it in 2009, so was thrilled to be able to run the Inaugural BAA 5K, held the day before the big event. That is the story behind the photographs at the top of the page.

The 5K is hard physically AND mentally. There is no rest phase (for the weary).  Mentally, you need to be strong and keep the accelerator down. In a half or full marathon there may well be a time when you can back off the absolute edge and catch a little rest. As some people in the Maniac discussion commented, you need to warm up almost as far as the race distance in order to run a 5K well, not to mention actually TRAIN for the distance. Again, in a marathon, for most people, there is no real reason to warm up beyond stretching out your legs. The early part of the race let’s you get into a rhythm and pace zone. No such luxury in a 5K. You’d better be ready to rock it from the gun.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that you should or must run a 5K this way, but if you are a serious runner looking for performance in your races, I guess I am. Then there is the elite end of things. Watching the truly fast 5,000m runner shows what speed and endurance is really about. It is nothing short of breath-taking – literally! The World Record for 5,000m on track is an average pace of 2:32/km or just around 4:05/mile. Recall that within my lifetime it was said that if anyone ever ran a mile under four minutes they would die. [Ed. Note: This turned out not to be true at all!]

My competition at the Giants Head Run in June!

My competition at the Giants Head Run in June!

I have run more than one 5K just for fun and I have just committed to another one in June. That one will be with the older of my two grandsons. And, it will be a full circle return to the first race event I ever did as an older runner (older, as in not a teen). It is the Giants Head Run 5K in Summerland, BC. Charlie hasn’t done 5K yet, but is getting there and says he will be ready for June.

I just want to do it with him. He wants to do it with me. Time doesn’t matter. I’ve heard he might be a bit nervous because he knows I’m a long-time runner, which he seems to be confusing with being fast! He loves triathlon and has done a number of ‘mini-tri’ events. His Mom made me promise we’d go easy because like all kids, he might take off like he was only going 100m (and because I’m old?). Could be. We’ll see. Frankly, that ‘start too fast’ trait is hardly reserved for kids, as all runners know all too well! Youngsters develop so fast. He may already be able to whup me if he just paces himself a little.

Hmmmmmm. Go Charlie! Go! Run like the wind!!!  He, he, he,  – atta’ boy!

It reminds me a little of a time when my brother was a teen and working out a bit. He came up from the basement one afternoon and challenged our Dad to arm wrestle.  They struggled a bit and then my brother took the win. Not much was said, but off he went back to the basement (to work out a bit more?).  My Mom scolded my Dad and said, “You really shouldn’t let him win like that!”  My Dad paused and looked at her like only he could do and just replied, “I didn’t.” (Oh, and for the record, my Dad was no push-over.)                         Go Charlie!!  Run!  You can do it!

Actually, there is no reason his Mom and Dad couldn’t run too. Make it a real family affair. Maybe we could have a team shirt! Three generations. I like it!!

[Editor’s Note: Just checked that the GH Run ‘5K’ goes where I thought it did.] Turns out it is actually 5.4K! At least they now declare that right up front. I am quite pleased about the ‘full disclosure’ because with the extra 0.4km I would have been wondering. Now we know.

article-2211641-1548A2EB000005DC-773_634x420Speaking of running 5Ks for fun I was honoured to be asked to run a 5K as part of a local support group when Fauja Singh came to Surrey, BC and ran the Surrey International World Marathon Weekend 5K. You might remember him as the amazing 100 year-old runner who was even doing marathons up to that age. When we ran in Surrey I think he was about 102. Frankly, we were asked to kind of form an ‘invisible protective shield’ around him to make sure he didn’t get bumped or anything. HA! First of all, he ran it in 35 and change and when he saw the finish (and heard the dulcet tones of Mr. Steve King), he picked up the pace. I had to shift gears to keep up! It was a truly inspirational day. He had many family members around him including, I imagine, some great grand-kids. The whole time we were running he was making comments and even if I didn’t understand what he was saying, it seems by the way the people around him kept cracking up, that the old boy was being pretty witty while he clocked off a very respectable 5K.

Getting back to the matter of the 5K as race and off of the 5K as a family affair, it is a fun and demanding distance. Not only that, but as many in the on-line discussion pointed out, it is an integral part of a good marathon training program. Naturally we all run various distances in training for a marathon but some racing will sharpen you for the longer distance. Few can push in training, the way we do in a race. A number of races interspersed in the training schedule will put you in peak form. Some feel that if you are working up to a serious target marathon, a good half marathon a few weeks before will set you up very well. My half marathon PB came just that way, as I trained for what was to be my marathon PB. That said, a couple of short fast races add another dimension to your preparation.

The Marathon Maniacs are an interesting group among which is a crowd who do crazy numbers of marathons, running one every week and some will do a couple of a weekend. That said, and while some Maniacs count hundreds of marathons in their totals, the average is something like 3.25/year. Some just don’t care how long it takes as long as they cross the start and finish and get an official time. Nothing wrong with that. Some appear to be ‘bucket-listers’ that have set a goal to become a MM member and maybe never do another, or certainly not at the pace that you might imagine a Maniac would do. Mixed into this now 11,000 strong crowd are some very fine and competitive runners who take every race and every step very seriously. I am guessing that #1, #2 and #3 (the club founders) can still rip off a 3 hr marathon whenever they please.

So, it was interesting when this discussion of 5Ks started, it seemed like it flushed out a lot of serious runner types because most of the comments swirled around the value of the speed work and how it was great training and prep for serious marathoning. I certainly believe it, even if what I do these days doesn’t look like the work of any kind of speed demon!

Finishing the Canada Day 5K (2014) for an age group podium place.

Finishing the White Rock Canada Day 5K (2014) for an age group podium place.

One of the personal issues I have (and maybe others of my vintage) with racing shorter distances – 5K, 8K and 10K primarily, is that pushing that hard (training and racing) tends to bring on injuries. Running for endurance also has its challenges for me, but I am far less prone to injury. Even though family members are promoting that I should shorten my racing distances, I am not quite there yet. Fewer marathons? Yes, I can see that. Zero marathons?  I’m not sure. Not yet. After a really bad one at Vancouver last May and a pretty good one (for me) at Salt Lake City in September, I thought maybe it would be good to let the Big Cottonwood Marathon be my 25th (it was) and final marathon. That MAY be how it does turn out, but some new projects have been popping up in my head and as long as the last marathon I do is a great experience, I am feeling OK to go on for a bit. What is a great experience? Either a good ‘pure’ performance or a very satisfying event where I did not necessarily run for time but rather the experience.

Will 5K races be part of that? You can bet your booties (or racing flats) on that! Will the 5K be a satisfying and serious race for me in the future? It sure will! Hey, now that I’m in a new age group, if I choose races carefully, I might even win a few (age group), or at least place.

WHAT TO DO? WHAT TO DO?

03.13.2015
March 11/15  "Pirate" at the 'Puter'.

March 11/15 “Pirate” at the ‘Puter’.

First off, as long as I have this patch/shield on, I’m allowed to talk like a pirate! So mateys be warned, ahaaar.

You may ask yourself: “But why does he have the patch?”

The answer is that I just got my new ‘bionic’ eye. That kind of sounds better than just saying I had cataract surgery. I think so anyway. I opted for a lens that is supposed to correct most of my other vision issues. Once I get the other eye done in the Summer, it is highly probable that I will not need glasses. Maybe for reading, but otherwise, no. As a runner (semi-blind runner who really needs to wear glasses all the time) I am thrilled at the idea of not having to wear glasses when I run, or alternately to get myself some good sport sun-glasses for when I need them. For those who don’t know, regular glasses are not made to really stay in place when your face starts getting sweaty. I don’t have nearly enough money to afford good prescription sport sun-glasses.

Speaking of not having enough money, I sadly had to forego the X-Ray vision option. OK, so there is no such thing at the moment and even if there was I don’t have any other super powers anyway. I mean, at this point the only locomotives that I’m faster than are ones sitting in museum displays. As for the leaping over tall buildings, I don’t run trails because I trip over roots and rocks. OK, OK, you got me but I was never faster than a speeding bullet nor more powerful than a locomotive, so I kind of combined those two. Call it poetic license.

The big challenge it seems, is that I can’t run (sweat really, so no substitute exercise either) for two or maybe three weeks – TWICE. The other eye is scheduled for July and we will have to do the whole thing again then. This will be a bit of a struggle as I have some running goals including the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon followed by the Eugene Half a week later. Then, I am signed on for the Big Cottonwood Half Marathon in Utah in mid-September. I feel that I’m in decent shape as I now hit ‘pause’ and can pick it up sufficiently in the time between my return to activity and the first race (Vancouver on May 3). We’ll see how it goes, but Vancouver might wind up being a good hard training race with Eugene as the one I will do for performance. I will try to do the same thing re Big Cottonwood. Train and run well leading up to the down-time for the other eye, then pick up again in the several weeks prior to Big Cottonwood.

Having the cataracts looked after is more important in the long run than the races I may miss or have to run easy. Everyone I know who has had this procedure done raves about it. Since I’m writing this only hours after the first operation, I am still struggling a bit with one fairly dilated pupil and a kind of ‘fog’ in the eye with the new lens. That said, it is already clear that I can see so much better with that eye (no glasses) haziness notwithstanding. I’m told it will take a day or two for the vision to clear completely. It was amazingly painless with just a bit of an annoying ‘scratchiness’ or irritated feeling at the moment.

[A day or two later, OK, two days later.] What a treat! The ‘new’ eye is seeing better than it has in decades at 20/25. Apparently things are going along pretty well. I have one more visit to the surgeon and then I think other than the recovery phase, this one is done.

March 13/15  One lens glasses. No pirate look.

March 13/15 One lens glasses. No pirate look.

I’m still wearing the shield at night to protect myself from rubbing the eye in my sleep. The only one it seems to be bothering is my wife who finds all that pirate talking to be quite annoying when she is trying to sleep. As I sit here typing, I have busted the left lens out of my computer glasses which is so much better than trying to ignore the fact I can’t see out of my right eye without glasses, OR putting up with the mess of having to try to use my new eye to look through the prescription. Looks a little silly maybe, but nobody is going to see me. The rest of the time when I’m just walking around and not doing anything ‘close’, I am finding that the new improved left eye works best when I don’t wear glasses and let it just dominate the right eye. Again, better than fighting with the prescription on the left side. Can’t do the same trick with my regular glasses (removing one lens) as I still need the reading part.

I guess if I cant run or use any sweat inducing gym gear, writing may pass the time. Thanks for helping with that by reading this.

If I ever had any doubt about the tales of wonder I have heard from others who have had this procedure, I sure don’t now. The procedure was amazingly fast, taking only about 10 minutes of actual work on my eye. I arrived at the hospital out-patient facility at 7:20am and was home at 9:30am.  I must admit that the clerk who checked me in gave me a little thrill when she said, “Daniel Cumming, cataract surgery, right eye.”  Now I know I need to get the right one done, but the lens to be inserted has a prescription built into it.  YIKES

Anyway, it was OK and I must have been asked my name and what I was there for and which eye, about a dozen times!  The last time was just before the ‘cutting’ started, when the surgeon said, “Will you please tell everyone here your full name and what you are here for?” I did and away we went.

I’m sure the various, and multiple, drops going in my eye included some anaesthetics but the whole thing was painless and I was totally awake and aware at all times. To my surprise there were no diabolical torture-like devices to secure my head. There was a depression in the ‘pillow’ under my head and the rest of the stabilizing, the doctor did with his free hand.

Since I can see and compute and not much else, I have been surfing around upcoming races and planning my return to running and competing. I mean, I haven’t run my first race as a M70-74 competitor as yet.  The first one for which I AM registered is the Vancouver Half, but the Sun Run is a possibility. We’ll see what happens later. Get it?  We’ll SEE!

START ‘EM YOUNG AT A RACE THAT CARES!

03.04.2015

And, by young, I mean shortly after conception!

IMG_2843

Resting after the ordeal!

No, I have not completely jumped the tracks. This is a true and fun story about our brand new grandson, Jonah. The whole family is pretty crazy about  running (and about Jonah at this particular moment in time), even if I am the only one ‘certifiable’ where it comes to the running (Marathon Maniac #6837). Our daughter Janna is the current top performer within our ‘clan’ where it comes to speed.  Although, since she is also Jonah’s Mom, she is on a bit of a hiatus for the moment. That said, the last race she ran was the Winnipeg Police Service Half Marathon. She did OK too, considering that she was kind of in the morning sickness phase of her pregnancy (21/153 in her age group, 338/1578 OA and in a time of 1:50:42).

Truth be told, she is probably not the only woman ever to run a race while ‘in the family way’. Still, I was impressed and decided as a fairly nutso runner that even if he was doing a ‘ride-along’ (hey, it was the Police Service race) Jonah was a finisher just like his Mom. Finishers get a finisher medal. A plan was hatched!

I contacted the Winnipeg Police Service Half Marathon officials and told them my story and asked if it was remotely possible to obtain a finisher medal from the 2014 event. They saw the story like I did and got right into it! They  sent me the medal I requested AND a wonderful pink plush pig for Jonah (which will likely be more appreciated by him in the short-term, than the medal). I had the wonderful opportunity to make the surprise presentation of the medal and official race pig when we arrived in Winnipeg to meet our newest family member! To say it was well received may just a bit of an understatement.

There is more to the story, but I want to stop right here and say how much we all appreciate this fabulous gesture from a race that really gets it. I’m not from Winnipeg and even if we did live in Morden, MB for a couple of years,  have never run this race. But, I am sure that any event that cares enough to help me out with my personal fun project, is a race to be run. Since we are going to be making regular visits to Winnipeg, it is sure on my ‘to do’ list to run the race. I mean, our daughter and grandson have done it, and I’m pretty sure our son-in-law ran it a couple of years ago. Maybe one day not too long from now, we can all do one of the events together. It won’t be this year as I am already committed to the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon on the same day, but I’d sure recommend the Winnipeg Police Service Half Marathon, Relay and 5K to anyone who is looking for a good event to do.

The 2015 Version is  on May 3 and will also include a 5K this time around. The 5K is a new addition to open the event to more people. It is all part of moving into the second decade of the event (2014 was the 10th running of the race). With the half marathon plus a two leg team-relay event and now the 5K, there is pretty much something for everyone where it comes to distance, 5K, 10K (sort of) and 21.1K.

Back to Jonah’s big debut race. I am given to understand that in due course, he will be receiving his finisher certificate and also understand he MAY have won the ‘under nine months’ category! Let’s face it, we had to wait until we knew his name before a certificate could be made. OK, I admit that winning the under 9 months category  may be a bit like me winning some races in the 70+ category (just not that much competition). But hey, it already gives us something in common!

There is a new family running project in the works. With any luck, sometime before too long,

Jonah and his Grandad

Jonah and his Grandad

Jonah and his Dad and Mom, our other grandson Charlie (he will be nine years old this summer), his Mom and Dad, the Grandad (that would be me) and the Nana will all be able to enter the same race and do it together! Why, we might even convince Uncle Cameron to come out of retirement for this! Charlie says he is up for a 5K and while Jonah seems enthusiastic enough (OK, so it might have been  gas that made him smile when I asked what he thought), he will probably have to take part in a baby jogger. The big trick is going to be getting everybody in the same place at the same time because we are scattered all over the place from Victoria to Winnipeg. If we can do it, you KNOW there will be a team shirt!

When I started writing this, we were actually in Winnipeg, meeting the newest family member! The morning when this photo was taken he was having a visit with his Grandad. I thought I was entertaining him with my witty commentary, but he fell asleep right there in my arms. Next thing though, his little legs started to go – I’m pretty sure he was having a running dream!!

WHAT? IT’S 2015? ALREADY!?

01.04.2015
Dawning of a New Year!

Dawning of a New Year!

Gosh, I was kind of enjoying a quiet time there (as were my loyal readers, likely). But, here it is a brand spanking new year! Well, it is actually just a wee bit used. It is the 4th of January and I’ve already had a 16K run at the Forerunners “First Half” training clinic. (No, I’m not running the First Half Half Marathon, but I am leading a pace group of people who are. I will be back as MC for the big event and looking forward to it, but more on that at a later time.)

So yes, this post is pretty much about me, but maybe there will be some useful thoughts for others to ponder in relation to their own running and racing and the plans related thereto.

I will have a new age category in just a couple of days. It is nice that my birthday is in early January, as my whole year is always at the same age, which only matters when you change categories, but this is one of those years. Crazy as it may seem, what with a new age group and a chance for setting new (personal) age group PBs all over the place, I do not have even ONE race lined up as yet. I guess I should find one quick, just so I can say I was still racing when I was 70. One I might have done is the Steveston Ice Breaker, but I will be out of town meeting our newest grandkid (who hasn’t even been born yet, but soon, very soon). Still, there must be something doing that I can get into and get the year started, as far as racing goes.

I do have some ideas for a big project, which I alluded to in an earlier post, but think I shall keep my big mouth shut on that until I’m really ready to ‘pull the trigger’.

Near Mile 3, Encouragement from KV Switzer (261) Herself.

Near Mile 3, Encouragement from KV Switzer (261) Herself.

2014 turned out to be a good and fun year of running. I ran at least one more marathon than I intended, but the ‘extra’ one was the Yakima River Canyon Marathon and with all the folk in attendance, I wouldn’t have missed that for the world. Somewhere along the way it was supposed to be the ‘Year of the Half’, so I did manage four of those. When all was said and run, I realized I had not done even one 10K, the base to which many (most?) of us refer with regard to our running prowess. Guess that will have to be fixed in 2015. Yakima was a slow marathon for me, but then I promised myself it was ‘a training run’ for the BMO Vancouver Marathon, which was my primary target race early in the year. Don’t know what happened with that one, but it wound up being a couple of minutes slower than Yakima. If I’d known that was going to happen, I would have pushed it harder at Yakima! Fortunately, there was the Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon in September where everything got sorted in my personal world of marathons, with a time that was a recent PB (last three years or so) and it being my 25th marathon. Now, I have to decide if it will be my last marathon (finish on a high note, ya’ know). But, that brings us back to the big project mentioned earlier, so we’ll have to see.

Not that there is some kind of ‘cliff’ associated with my upcoming birthday, but I think it is time to adjust my thinking on running and racing. I’ve noticed for some time that training for and racing the shorter distances makes me more prone to injury than the longer ones, but the longer ones tend to be getting harder to do in terms of training (total effort, and tiring/straining my aging body) even if I seem to suffer less from traumatic and injurious events. I ran 10 races in 2014, but seven of them were half marathon or more. My total racing distance was 238km with a total distance run in training and racing of just over 1500km. Perhaps there is a happy medium to be found. Still, it is rather unwise to race without effective training. That WILL lead to injury.

Morning Beach Scene - Negril, JA

Morning Beach Scene – Negril, JA

I have to admit that some of the best running I did all year was in the week after the Reggae (Half) Marathon in Negril in early December. Why? Because I just didn’t care about anything other than getting out and enjoying the easy run along the beach. Longest of those runs was 5K and I think the shortest was maybe 3K. The point is that the only focus was the doing of it. And, it was so easy. Get up, put on shoes, shorts and singlet, step out door, run. It was early enough that I didn’t even need sunglasses or a hat. A few times I didn’t bother with the shoes and if I weren’t worried about frightening the ‘natives’ with my beluga-like white body (I don’t tan well), I didn’t really need the singlet either. So, technically it could have been as simple as “Get up, put on shorts, step out door, run”. In winter, in Canada – even in Vancouver, it isn’t going to ever be that simple. And, when I’m home I always seem to have a goal to my running. As a result I always seem to have a distance or pace goal to achieve, depending on whether I am doing a LSD run on the weekend or a speed, tempo or hill session during the week.

The thing is, I still like racing. I like the focus that target races give. I love the vibe of races, especially marathons. Maybe what I should do is think about a handful of Spring events and likewise a small number of Fall events and just let the Summer be a time for that easy goal-free running that was so great in Jamaica. I suppose that while my looming birthday is something I will welcome as a special milestone or badge of honour, the number attached is such that without being morbid about it, there is not much doubt that there is some kind of approaching limit to what I am going to be able to do. I mean, good grief, I have some pretty awesome examples of running friends who are going strong and are much older than me. That said, a lot of the people I have run with over the years have stopped running and if not running, definitely racing.

I suppose this musing about stuff is a way to get to a sort of New Year resolution about running.  Too bad it doesn’t seem to have worked yet!

Big Cottonwood Marathon Expo

Big Cottonwood Marathon Expo

In a way, I wish I could get my head to where so many of my fellow Marathon Maniacs are – basically that the doing of it is all that really matters. I still don’t seem to be able to comfortably (mental comfort) enter a race just to finish it. Gotta work on that! I really don’t have too much to prove after all these years. Let’s face it, a lot of times now, just showing up is going to get me a podium place in my age group. But really, what glory is there in being 1/1, other than the fact that you are still out there doing it. THAT is a worthy accomplishment, but finishing first when you are the only one to show up, is not really that remarkable. I have a friend who, when he isn’t all that happy with his performance, will say he finished 2nd out of one! I already get the point of that.

I did just have a small revelation that, at least in some instances, it may be my Scottish blood that says if you are going to spend a bunch of money to travel to and do a race, you better do it well. Value for money and all that. I mean you couldn’t go to a destination race ‘just because’, could you? Well, in a sense, I do that with the Reggae Marathon. Regardless of which of the three events I run, I am under no illusion that my time is going to be in any way remarkable. It is just too hot. Perhaps there is hope yet!

One race I want to do soon, maybe in 2015, is with our grandson, Charlie. He will be nine this year, so it is time to be looking for a 3-5K event we could do together. I’ve raced with his Mom (Danielle) and his Dad (Greg),  also with our other daughter (Janna) and her husband (Jason) and with our son (Cam). The new grandkiddly may be too young for some while, although I suppose if push comes to shove (literally) I might be able to do one with him in a stroller. I was thinking that might be with his Mom or Dad pushing, but I suppose there is nothing stopping me from being the push-OR while he is the push-EE. In fact, conceptually, it might be best if I was the one doing the pushing. Guess we’ll let his parents have the final say on that.

That seems to be enough musing and personal chat for today. 2015 is shaping up to be a fun year and I am really looking forward to it.

Happy New Year to one and all, and all the best with your own personal running goals and plans!

See you on the roads!

END OF A YEAR, END OF AN ERA (FOR ME)

12.13.2014
Sunset on 2014 Running

Sunset on 2014 Running

It has been an interesting year, this 2014. That includes both personal and general matters. Seems that with my decision that racing is now over for me until 2015, a bit of a review is in order. I won’t say 2014 didn’t have its ups and downs and I’m not talking about course profiles. All in all though, I have to say it has been an overall great year. I hope others who may read this and are inspired to reflect on their 2014 race and running records will feel as I do. I am already looking forward to 2015, and if you read on, you will see why! I’ll wish all readers a great year in 2015, as it seems a logical conclusion coming out of a post like the one to follow.

Lenore and Bob Dolphin, April 4,2014

Lenore and Bob Dolphin, April 4,2014

To begin with the personal, I did a couple of ‘old friend’ events and several new ones. The first of those races was new to me (Yakima River Canyon Marathon) as was the second (Big Cottonwood Marathon). The other was just plain new (Rock ‘n’ Roll Vancouver Half Marathon), to me and everyone else. The latter event

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer - Q&A Session

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer – Q&A Session

also had a not so new 10K component, but given that the James Cunningham Seawall race was The James Cunningham Seawall race and not the James Cunningham Seawall 10K (because the Stanley Park Seawall isn’t exactly 10K – almost, but not quite), you could argue that technically, even it was new.

Yakima was a great opportunity to meet so many old friends in a celebration of running and the contributions of Team Dolphin, not to mention Bob Dolphin’s personal marathon records. Present were a number of Running in the Zone contributors with an appearance there of Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer, feature speakers. Marathon Maniacs abounded and a couple of milestone achievements were timed to happen at the Yakima River Canyon Marathon.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon - My most recent marathon.

‘Flying’ Down Big Cottonwood Canyon

Big Cottonwood was a great race for me personally as I recaptured some feeling of accomplishment with my performance. I love running down big hills, note that of the eight times I’ve run Hood to Coast, something like five of those have been Leg #1. Big Cottonwood is like Leg 1, but is most of a full marathon (around 20 miles) of “Leg 1″! I came away happy with what I had done and fairly certain I could have done better had my original travel plan not got a bit altered due to an acting opportunity. I went from an easy driving trip covering a total of 9 days, to a hectic flight leaving Vancouver Friday morning and arriving about 4:00pm in Salt Lake City with just time to pick up the race package and get to the 7am start, then back home Sunday afternoon. The travel was not a huge deal, but I had no time to adjust to the altitude and no time to drive the course and really see that the ‘flat’ part coming just after 15 miles wasn’t, flat that is. Net zero elevation, because you start that segment and finish it in the same place. Whatever, I was very pleased and really thought the race was a good one.

BMO Vancouver Marathon - Start 2013

BMO Vancouver Marathon – Start 2013

The first ‘old faithful’ event in 2014 was the BMO Vancouver Marathon, and it too was sort of new. It was the fifth time I have run the Vancouver full marathon (on three different courses), but I had never run the recently set (2012) marathon route. Vancouver was my very first marathon, run in 1988, so we go way back, this race and me. I ran the new half marathon in the inaugural year, but since the two races share very little common ground, that didn’t help much in knowing the marathon course. I do have to admit that the Forerunners training clinic I run with and lead a pace group for, trains on most of the course at some point or other, but in bits and pieces. And, training runs aren’t the same thing anyway.

Three-fer at Victoria 2007 Danielle, Dan & Janna

Three-fer at Victoria 2007 Danielle, Dan & Janna

If there is something more familiar for me in the category of races I call ‘old friends’, than the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (and half marathon), I’m not sure what it would be. (No, the PRR “First Half” doesn’t count because I’m an organizer/facilitator of that one – never ran it.) Getting back to ‘Victoria’, a lot of the 11 total appearances were at the Royal Victoria Marathon and I sill kind of think of it that way. The Victoria Marathon holds a special place for me as it was my first marathon completed after back surgery, a full ten years after, but still the first. I ran it with some uncertainty and trepidation even if I had trained pretty well. Finishing and doing so decently was a momentous personal achievement and left me with a great love for the event. Well, and yes, ahem, it was where Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes was launched. The other great thing about Victoria is that it is our family race. Most of the times I have done Victoria it has been with one or both daughters running too.

On a very personal level, I need to note that 2014 is the end of a decade in my life. New age group coming up in January when I officially enter my EIGHTH decade! That sounds so much more impressive than just saying I will turn 70 in January. But, I got here and I’m still going. For a bunch of reasons, most of them having zip to do with running, the early part of the year will be short on racing. I’ll be running, just not racing until April or even May. With 10 races in 2014, that may be a good thing and set me up well for later in 2015. I’m tempted to get one in as soon as possible, just so  I can say I did a race when I was 70, but there is nothing making it look like I won’t have a chance to do one a bit later. Speaking of eras, the race that would have been my #1 candidate for first event in the new grouping is the Steveston Icebreaker, but we won’t be in Vancouver. Nope, we expect to be considerably farther east than that, meeting our newest grandchild. I am actively looking for a race to do with our older grandson, who will turn nine in 2015. That should work out OK. Not entirely certain I can hold out for a race with the new grandkiddly. Still, I do have friends running in their late 70s and even 80s, so who knows what may happen. I mean, it doesn’t need to be a marathon! I’ve run with all our kids and both sons-in-law (raced, that is), so time to start working on this new generation.

MC's First Half - Anjulie Latta and Dan Cumming

MC’s First Half – Anjulie Latta and Dan Cumming

There is a bit of minor surgery coming up after I get done with MC duties at the First Half Half Marathon, and I’m told I will be off running for about three weeks, so THAT is what takes things through into at least April before I can think seriously about racing or maybe that is think about racing seriously. I mean, when you are the young guy in a new age division, you better make hay while the sun shines!

Speaking of shining sun, I am just closing out my last couple of days in Jamaica, basking in the glow of the 2014 Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K, another event that has become one of my regulars. I took a few days off after the race, but then started an easy, early morning beach running program that has seen me do an easy 4-5K each morning, just as the sun is starting to rise into the sky. The beach is relatively quiet, except for a few other runners and some random guys who keep offering me ‘smoke’ and ‘herb’. Hope springs eternal, I guess. They don’t seem to see the irony of trying to get a runner to stop and light up. I don’t know much about the properties of ‘herb’, but I’m not sure it could make me feel a lot more relaxed and peaceful than these totally purposeless runs. By no purpose, I mean that I am not training and not racing. I used my Garmin once, just to get an idea of distance because pace is hard to gauge in the sand. Most of the beach is pretty flat and firm, so the running is easy and you just need to let everything sink into your being and enjoy the sound of the waves and the changing light. No purpose, means no real pace, just do what feels good and stop if there is something to look at. I’ve been running with shoes because more than once, I’ve done a bare-foot beach run and had the shifting sand give me a blister on the bottom of my foot. That in turn curtails the morning runs – kind of counter-productive you’d have to say. But, tomorrow is probably the last day for an early run. The next run is going to be barefoot, right near the water’s edge. I can feel it already!

Morning Beach Scene - Negril, JA

Morning Beach Scene – Negril, JA

IF I DON’T WRITE THIS WILL THE REGGAE PARTY CONTINUE?

12.09.2014
Rondel Restaurant - Copy

Chris at Rondel Restaurant for ‘last breakfast’.

Jetola Anderson-Blair models the all new 2014 medals

Jetola Anderson-Blair models the all new 2014 medals

You know, that is kind of how I have felt. But, as I bid farewell to Chris Morales (aka That Runnin’ Guy) yesterday, I knew the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K was indeed over for 2014. Some years back Chris and I found ourselves staying at Rondel Village and have never found a reason to stay elsewhere. FWIW, Rondel just won the 2014 Best Small/Boutique Hotel award and if you want a local resort experience with all the essentials of clean, convenient, nice beach and fabulous staff without the ‘all-inclusive’ frills and vibe, well this is the place.

I am making a vacation of it, so as readers of earlier posts will know, I arrived early and will be staying for a little while yet.

This year’s Reggae Marathon showed that no matter how good an event may be, you can always step it up a notch. New finisher medals, new pasta party organization, new finish venue arrangements and my own personal favourite, five year age categories. Until 2014, they used 10-year categories. Call me shallow, but when you are the oldest (pretty sure I am) in a 10 year category, your hopes of a stellar placing diminishes. My birthday falls exactly one month after race day and at the point, even in a five-year age group, I will move to a new category, M70-74. Yes, I know, hard to believe. I mean I don’t believe it!!!! Five or ten, I’m still likely the oldest guy, but at least I don’t have to deal with those young 60-something whipper-snappers.

"Four Amigos" add to the Reggae Marathon total - now 18 races.

“Four Amigos” add to the Reggae Marathon total – now 18 races.

As some really faithful fans may recall, a bunch of us have created our own event within an event: The Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge (2014). This year the group grew to 10 from the original three. Being the guy who loves stats and age-grading, I was the keeper of the official results and ratings. It was interesting how many of us turned out to be in the last year of our 5-year groupings whatever they were. This whole thing and the on-line bantering, OK trash-talking, is part of our particular fun. It turned out, although I really don’t

Deb's a Winna!

Deb’s a Winna!

want to rehash the whole thing here or favour this one or that, one of our number, Deb Thomas won her age group AND was top Female Master in the Half Marathon. Another, and one who has contributed to this blog, Jetola Anderson-Blair won her category in the Full Marathon. One of our number felt a marathon wasn’t quite enough, so Navin Sadarangani decided to create his own 50K challenge by running 8K before the official marathon start and timing his arrival to join the official marathon race when the ‘gun’ went off.

Times (other than the all around ‘good times)’ don’t count so much here. The race is a lot of fun and well organized but you are running in a tropical climate and in that context some really good times are turned in, but they can’t be compared straight up to times a person might do in cooler regions. You are better to judge yourself against your peers in terms  of placement. On that basis, our crowd of enthusiastic runners did themselves proud with a total of 6 “top 10″ age group finishes in our chosen events.

It was so good to see Race Director, Alfred “Frano” Francis, back in the saddle, given that he was in a Kingston Hospital in intensive care this time last year. He gave a Big Up to the race crew who did themselves proud in his absence last year and rightly so. That is no easy task, even though everyone is so good at what they do. I hate to start naming names because I don’t KNOW all the names, but no tribute to the crew can go forth without a special nod to Diane Ellis.

2014 Start Line. Just before it all got going!

2014 Start Line. Just before it all got going!

I’m not going to recount the numbers. At the moment I don’t even know the official stats. Regardless, the 2014 Reggae Marathon was clearly bigger and better than ever before. As far as I know, the race went off without the proverbial hitch. Having been RD for a few events, I know there were likely a good many ‘hitches’ but it is a sign of great organization when only the insiders know!

So, even though I know my vacation is continuing, I guess I have to accept that Reggae Marathon 2014 is truly over. This old runner is glad he made the pilgrimage and so glad to see so many familiar faces once again, not to mention meeting a bunch of new ones.

I guess that just leaves on thing to say. See you all in 2015 for the 15th Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K! Negril, Jamaica – December 5, 2015

 

 

I WOKE UP THIS MORNING – TO THE RISING SUN!

12.05.2014

Negril Sunrise Dec 5

The title is the opening lines of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds“. It goes on later: “Don’t worry – about a thing. ‘Cause every little thing, gonna’ be alright!” Let me tell you that when you start to see the sky like this one hour after the start of the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K it is hard not to believe that.

Runners start in the dark, to torch light, the sound of Marley music and a collective enthusiasm that is hard to duplicate. As you move away from the start you hear the steel drums and then you know it has begun. At 5:15am, the air is warm for us northern types, but to me it always feels like silk. Getting your run on, you start to find a pace. For the first couple of miles, everyone is headed the same direction, toward Negril Town and the roundabout that will tell the 10K runners they are almost half done already. I am always amazed how fast we seem to get to that roundabout, but I guess the music stations, aid stations and all those non-running supporters standing at the roadside just makes it go by fast. Of course, I personally tend to run the Half Marathon, so the roundabout is still a pleasant sight, but not as momentous as it may be for the 10K folk. Having never actually done the Full Marathon I can only imagine how they feel, maybe “well, that is a nice start”. In any case, as noted at the start the runners have the whole road for a couple of miles until things begin to thin out and until the real speedsters are threatening to head back against the flow. It works great and after that sharing the road is not a problem.

Sweet, Sweet Reggae Music

Sweet, Sweet Reggae Music

Larry and Karen Savitch in Negril - Photo: Chris Morales

Larry and Karen Savitch in Negril – Photo: Chris Morales

Don’t worry! I’m not about to describe the whole race, all three events! What I did want to do was set the scene for the header photograph. However fast or slow or in-between you might be, that (or something like it) is what you are going to see one hour into your race. If you are a fast 10K competitor, you will be standing in the finish area sipping fresh coconut water  from your fresh-cut coconut. Pretty well everyone else is going to be seeing something like this as they run. I am not going to tell a lie, if you happen to be passing a band or sound system playing “One Love” or even the above mentioned “Three Little Birds” you might find yourself welling up a bit. It has happened to me.

Soon enough, the sun is fully up and more and more people hit the finish where the party is definitely starting!  Don’t forget after the refreshing coconut, the equally refreshing Red Stripe! Because the Reggae Marathon is ‘an event’ as much as a race, people kind of do what they do. Some are serious, some aren’t. It doesn’t matter once you hit the finish line and that medal is placed around your neck. From then on it is party time. SEE YOU THERE TOMORROW MORNING!

First though, we have to do that amazing pasta party tonight!  Ya Mon!!

 

NEWS FROM THE ISLAND IN THE SUN

12.04.2014

IMG_2485You knew I was going to have to do this sooner or later! First post from the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K and site of the Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge. This is all fun and maybe just a couple of serious reflections on racing and friends. This is the fourth year in a row that I have participated. The race has grown each and year and while it is technically smaller than last year there is still a day of on-site registration. 1600 runners are signed up for the three distances, most for the half marathon and 10K but there are a whole lot of hardy full marathoners too. There is a pretty good chance of surpassing the registration count for last year. Friday is always the big day. Guess we’ll see.

I decided to come down early and enjoy some R and R. I spent a couple of days in Montego Bay with Lawrence Watson at his AirBnB (Castlevue). I met Lawrence in 2011, but never had the time to stop in at his place. This time was different. Great decision on my part. Even went running Saturday morning. And boy did I get treated to some special and authentic Jamaican food. Sunday breakfast was ackee and salt fish with fried breadfruit and callaloo. Then I headed off for Negril.

Nifty new shoes.

Nifty new shoes.

Wanting to fit in, I got into the spirit with new shoes that should do the trick. Almost the flag colours of Jamaica and should go nicely with the new singlet. Once you come here many (and that includes me) say they are 100% Jamaican by association. Even with my personal nod to Jamaica with my shoes and running gear, I will  have a Canadian flag patch prominently stitched into the combo, because let us not forget that I am 100% Canadian by birth. Funny thing though is that my Great-Great -Grandparents were in Jamaica for five years, just around 1840. Maybe that is the pull. Don’t know.

Doctor 'One Drop' Dread (my Reggae Name)

Doctor ‘One Drop’ Dread (my Reggae Name)

The Reggae Runners’ Half Marathon Challenge is something a growing number of friends indulge in just for fun. It started with three of us who met through the Reggae Marathon and related social media. When we discovered that the three of us were running a half marathon on the same day in three different places (New Jersey, Toronto, and Vancouver). Because of a wide age difference we decided to age-grade the results and use that for determining the winner. That was how Chris Morales (That Runnin’ Guy and official RM blogger), Larry Savitch and I got to know each other. By the time we got to the next Reggae Marathon our friend Navin Sadarangani had got into the mix and Deb Thomas. Last year, Jetola Anderson-Blair become a competitor and we continue to grow. The trash talk on the dedicated Facebook page gets pretty heated, but it is all in fun.

This year we will have a prize for the winner but also a special ‘Soon Come’ prize for the last place contestant. It is not simple to predict because we have three distances and ages from 35 to 69 and both genders. But, age-grading will prevail and we will have our prize winners. Oh, the ‘Soon Come’ award is being modeled by me above.

Reggae Marathon Buddies - showing 14, soon to be 18 appearances!

Reggae Marathon Buddies – showing 14, soon to be 18 appearances!

On a serious note I wanted to comment on one of my favourite photographs. It is Larry, Navin, Chris and me. Our backgrounds, heritages and such could hardly be more different, yet running brings us together and although we mostly have no personal contact other than when we show up in Negril, I think we truly are friends. The photo shows us holding up fingers to a total 14 Reggae Marathons. We have vowed the photo needs to be repeated this year and each can add another finger which will bring  the total to 18. I should say there are others who probably should be in the picture, but we four are kind of a core group and what knits us together is that when we met, we were all actively blogging about running.

The big pre-race pasta party will be Friday night and the weather looks like it will be good for the outdoor festivities. Big groups have made this their go-to event and several will be back. It is also very international. No count for 2014 but pretty common to see 30 or so countries represented. I’ve already met Americans, Belgians, Swiss, Dutch, Brazilians, and naturally a few Canadians, not to mention a bunch of Jamaicans. Stay tuned for more updates. Things are just getting going!

 

“I’M LEAVIN’ ON A JET PLANE……………”

12.04.2014
Perfect Sunset

Perfect Sunset

Yes, I AM going off very soon to Negril for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K, and NO this post isn’t really about that.

I will happily admit that I was packed and ready to go as I looked at the November drizzle with promise of heavy rain later in the day, I was eagerly anticipating warm sunny beaches. I will also happily admit the Reggae Marathon weekend has become an annual favourite for this Seasoned Athlete. I have said lots about this race favourite and I assure you I AM going to say more once I’m in Negril and the event is unfolding.

However, this is really about the whole idea of destination racing. I’m not going to say the Reggae Marathon ISN’T going to get mentioned again, but for the rest of this it will only be an example.

The ultimate destination racer is the Marathon Maniac, and maybe more so  the 50 State marathoners. Of course, you don’t have to run marathons to be a destination racer, but these two groups MUST do destination races to achieve their goals. I know a few people who have made it a life mission to run the Marathon Majors, meaning a lot of travel. Yes, you can get three of them while staying to the USA, but then there is London, Berlin and Tokyo.

With that last example,  the question arises quickly as to just what a ‘destination race’ really is. I suppose in simplest terms it is one held where you don’t live and perhaps where you must travel far enough to need at least one night of accommodation. One thing I’m pretty sure about is that the destination event need not be huge (like NYCM). It can be like my first noted destination race, the Reggae Marathon, which is modest in size when you figure plus or minus 1500 participants are spread over three separate events (full marathon, half marathon and 10K). In fact, technically speaking, as long as the race is ‘away’ it could be pretty small if numbers of entrants is what you are counting.

Personally, I like the ‘runcation’. We won’t ask my wife about this. She does attend a fair number of my runcations but for her the destination better have something going for it beside the fact that someone is putting on a marathon or something. What is a runcation, you ask?  A vacation that involves a race, of course! I have done a LOT of destination races, including the vast majority of my marathons. I have done shorter distances as destination events and once or twice completed a race where the race was a happy accident that popped up during travel for some other reason.

While there are many single events that have every right to be on the top-flight list of destination races, we have seen the advent in recent times of corporate event organizers who market the destination event, such as the Competitor Group and their Rock ‘n’ Roll series, Destination Races (Wine Country races) and Revel which is specializing in downhill events in the very mountainous western states. The advantage of the corporate races using a branded name is that runners come to know what to expect. To be clear, that isn’t always good, but you do know what you are going to get. Event organization is built on the idea that a lot of the participants will be traveling in for the race. So, if you want to try out destination racing one of the purpose built events might be a good place to start. Or not. They will almost always be at least a half marathon and probably a marathon. To be fair, a good many do also have a shorter distance event packaged in, but most people seem to have a mind-set that to travel, you must at least be heading for a half. That really isn’t so, but what has logic got to do with anything?

One of the best destination races I did was one of the ‘accidental’ ones. We were helping our daughter move to Winnipeg, by delivering her car to her (I like long-distance driving; she doesn’t). Just happened that there was a great little 10K happening that also just happened to be the Manitoba Provincial 10K Championship. I (we, ’cause this is one of the trips my wife definitely wanted to do) got to visit with our daughter in her new home and to run with her, our son-in-law and also a friend from BC. There was even a bonus! I came third in my age category, so for a year was the M65-69 Manitoba 10K Bronze Medal Champion. Pretty neat, eh? Who asked how many people were in your age group? Who? What does that matter?  You really insist on knowing?  Well, there were three. So what is your point?

Running is not a terribly expensive sport. You really should wear decent shoes, and they are admittedly not inexpensive. You don’t have to race and if you do, nothing says you need to enter the big expensive events. However, if you want to run the destination races, it does cost some money. That makes these events more accessible to the young singles with a decent income AND to the ‘seasoned athlete’ who has moved on past some of the more demanding (time and money) family years.

There are ways to keep costs down, at least to some extent. You can organize groups and share driving and related costs. You can at least share accommodation and when traveling to far places at least consider local resorts vs five star, all-inclusive international chain resorts. If you can work it right, you can sometimes use a vacation package deal with flight and hotel at a place you want to race, although I have never pulled that off myself.  A couple of clubs I have belonged to have designated certain events as the ‘club event’ of the year and encouraged members to enter and then organized large group accommodations at the site of the race. And, what do you think airline or other rewards points are for??? We happen to own a time-share week and more than one destination race has been done using our week or some bonus offer (including Napa, Maui and Las Vegas marathons. just off the top of my head).

One of my favourite races is actually a relay, the Hood to Coast Relay, and at least during the race itself you don’t need accommodation at all – you just keep on running and sleep in a stinky van (if you can). Most times I’ve ever done this one, the total for a four day weekend, three races (legs) covering a total of 200 miles, including the entry fee has been less than $500 per person. As such things go, that is really pretty good!

If you are really dedicated to a destination race, you can save money with planning. Enter at the earliest opportunity. Watch for flight deals if you have to travel by air. Gather your points and use for hotels or trips. The older I get, the less I do this. Why? Well, it sure isn’t because I have unlimited money. No, it is because a lot of events and cheap air-fares aren’t so cheap if you have to cancel due to an unexpected injury. At my level of ‘seasoning’, waiting (even if it costs a bit more) is a kind of insurance against losing it all. Everything considered, I run pretty healthy, but every once in a while, there is enough of an injury that a given race may go by the wayside. Actually, this is a good reason to really concentrate on the ‘runcation’. If you are going somewhere for a great vacation and you have to scrap the racing, you still have a wonderful vacation and the only loss is (maybe) the entry fee. For instance, one of my runcations was Maui, for the Maui Marathon. If I had to (I didn’t) cancel the marathon race, I would still have had two fabulous weeks in Hawaii. Same is true for the Reggae Marathon. I left nearly 10 days ahead of the race, but even though I am registered for the half marathon, I still haven’t 100% decided if I will run that distance, the marathon, or the 10K. I have reasons to do all of them, but the big reason to go is to participate and to have an amazing vacation. It is fairly hard to lose on a deal like that. So, while the trip is not inexpensive, I will still get a great vacation whether I run or not, and no matter which of the race distances I finally choose.

There is something about being in a given place with the sole intent of participating in a race. For those who haven’t ever tried it, there really is something about just being there to run/race. Frankly, even on a runcation, for me the vibe is the same either way. One of the things I love about the Reggae Marathon is that for the few days around that event, most of the people you encounter are there for the same reason. It creates an energy you won’t find any other way.

If you haven’t got the idea by now that I really like this kind of running, well I can’t help you. If you’ve been thinking about making your first destination race or runcation, what are you waiting for? Well, actually, I can tell you one reason you should wait. Unless you have unlimited travel and running budgets, planning is very important. Do take the time to select a few races that really appeal. Take the time to figure out the logistics of training, time of year, other priorities in your life and the overall destination as a place you want to go. Then, if you do need to watch the pennies, take the time to organize something you will enjoy at a price you can afford.

Warning: This kind of thing can be quite habit-forming.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon - My most recent marathon.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon – My most recent marathon.