Archive for December, 2012


HAPPY NEW YEAR (AND SOME IDEAS FOR A RESOLUTION OR TWO)!

12.28.2012

Runners Running

Well, here it is almost 2013. Here it also is, almost my birthday. These things happen quite close together – the new year and my personal new year. Sometimes it means a new year and a new age category, but not this time. That is kind of too bad, because my clever plan of just running longer than anybody else and thereby moving up the finisher lists to the podium is beginning to show some modest success. Aah well, that will be something to look forward to when I can shake these speedy young whipper-snappers newly turned 65.

So – to one and all, seasoned and not so seasoned: A Very Happy New Year!  May it be a good one for you and yours and may your running bring you more rewards than ever before!

I, tongue in cheek, mentioned the age category thing because some of us do get to look at the new year with that as part of the story. Isn’t it great fun to be the ‘kid in the category’? That tends to be the basis for some great running resolutions. For the competitive among us, there is the possibility of some better than usual category placings. So, if that is what makes running fun, go ahead and set some resolutions to move up the ranks or – dare I say it – hit a podium or two.

I still like the resolutions that concentrate on just making running a satisfying and rewarding part of life. Once, while running in a clinic group (as leader) with some newby marathoners I stated something that I still believe. Without boring everyone with another description of my personal physical running challenges and that the BostonMarathon Qualifier has been tantalizingly elusive, it is important to know that I still strive to find that magic. My statement to the clinic was along the lines that were some greater power to guarantee me that I could get that qualifying time AND actually run Boston, but at a price that it would be my last run, I would not accept. Running per se, was and still is, that important to me. I think we might all, or at least most of us, say the same.

In a recent post I talked about getting satisfaction from running. There are many ways and I certainly won’t go over them again, but when it comes to resolutions, a quick look back at that post might provide some personal ideas.

I enjoy being with other runners and as I slow and can no longer keep up with the serious younger runners, I find myself getting great pleasure from working with new runners who are tentatively taking on the challenge of the first half or full marathon. So, one of my resolutions is to continue working as a clinic leader for such folk. A quick look around will turn up lots of opportunities of that nature if it sounds appealing.

I may be getting older and slower, but I’m not ready to give up yet. In that respect, 2013 may be phase one of my new BQ plan. I didn’t mention that it is almost my birthday for no reason. Because of how the qualifying regs work for Boston, even though I will only be 68 through 2013, starting at the end of September I can record a qualifier for when I do turn 70 and then (if successful) run Boston just a couple of months after my 70th birthday. For me then, 2013 involves new running resolutions heading toward either a qualifier or some big decisions about the nature of my own running! Many others may be in a similar situation, but here is my plan. Early in the year I want to run one of a couple of marathons where you really should be able to record a good time. The goal/resolution will be to train well and record a race time within very close proximity to my M70-74 BQ target. Funny enough, both the events I have in mind resulted in my worst marathon times. Still, there were very good technical reasons for the poor times and one of those races was also the scene of one of my best ever marathon performances, not much further back (2010) and within whispering distance of the time I would need. The training has already begun and since it is being done with a clinic group, I am happily combining two of my own resolutions. If Phase I goes well, then sometime after September 30, 2013 I am resolving that there will be a real attempt at getting that Qualifier! 

I do have an alternate resolution. Should I not be able, with good training and at my current ‘tender’ age, to approximate the qualifying time I would need later in the year, I am resolving to change my marathoning to an experiential focus. That means doing races, ‘just because’ and for the location, ambience etc. I don’t know about anyone else, but there is just something in the air of a marathon event that makes all the work and sweat worth it, in spades. In truth, you can happily intersperse experiental events into your plan whether you have some ‘serious’ goals or not. Running the Reggae Marathon (10K in 2011 and Half Marathon in 2012) surely taught me that just being there and doing it was all that mattered. I WILL be doing more such events no matter what happens with the big Boston goal.

Another resolution on my part and I think really important in light of the BQ resolution, is to keep it fun – always. I urge everyone to remember that one and adopt it. Fun is many things and quite particular to the individual. Maybe ‘fun’ is the wrong word – perhaps ‘joyful’ is better.  Whateve the word may be, what you are doing should feel good. I don’t want to imply we should all just stop racing and jog blissfully through the countryside. That is good too, of course. No, what I mean is that even if you are training like a race-horse for some goal race, it should feel like a good and rewarding thing that, yes, brings joy.  I also know that it is easy to drift over into what can be an unhealthy obsession where hard training or racing results in injury or extreme disappointment if the goal is not achieved.  There is a big difference between being motivated by ‘failure’ and being devastated by it. And, I would point out that this can happen even when you aren’t in the front ranks, but just trying too hard or unwisely for something. Frankly, I probably did that in 2011 in respect to one of those PW marathons I mentioned above. Everything was on track for a triumphant return to the Eugene Marathon, a race I much love for any number of reasons. In 2010 I had recorded one of my few legitimate podium finishes – third out of sixteen. For 2011 I was looking for, if not a higher placing, definitely a better time and maybe, just maybe a BQ before they knocked effectively six minutes off the goal times. I tend to let new courses intimidate me, so I figured that now I knew the course, I could squeeze a few more minutes out. Training was going fine when a stupidly innocent little depression caused me to twist my knee and my MCL. At the time it seemed like nothing. Turned out that was not true. I limped from one long run to the next, doing relatively little between. I toed the starting line knowing my anticipated ‘triumph’ was not awaiting me out on that course, but feeling like I could do it and believing I could still do OK.  I started out and felt amazingly good -even kept my originally planned pace for maybe 10K or so. Guess it was the adrenaline!  Long story, short; by about ten miles all goals other than finishing were long gone. In truth, and this is where the unhealthy part comes in, I should have taken advantage of the natural opportunity of the Eugene route to just pack it in as I passed by the Start/Finish area and rest up for the next time. But, I didn’t.  I kept going and eventually walked most of the second half – thus a PW finish. The full cost? Loss of the rest of my 2011 racing season.   Whether it was a true New Year’s resolution or not, at the beginning of 2012 I determined that I would not pull that kind of trick again!  Hopefully nobody else out there needs to consider that sort of resolution, but if the racing flat fits……………..

A while back I mentioned waking up one morning and realizing in not so many years I was going to be 80 and without any sort of panic or anxiety, there was no time in the coming years to be wasted on things that had no purpose and would just bring un-needed stress. I decided to adopt a new motto by which to consider my decisions: Sum Nec Apta Pro Stercore.  Now, all of this is easier said than done, but another resolution on my part, which goes beyond running, is to do my very best to maximize the worthwhile and joyful aspects of life and minimize useless and stressful things.  Who knows, that might even make me nicer to be around!

So, there you have some of my own resolutions and hints for things you might consider while setting your own running and life experience resolutions.

Not a Latin scholar and wondering about the high sounding Latin motto and/or haven’t already put it into one of those handy-dandy on-line language conversion apps? Well, roughly tanslated it means “I’m getting too old for this sh*t”.  Seemed like a good approach for stuff that gets you nowhere.

HAPPY 2013!!

 

THINGS YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT A MARATHON

12.21.2012

Running in the Zone is about to try something new. In collaboration with Everyday Health, and just in time for the Christmas festivities we are bringing you some fun facts about marathons. Some might say there is nothing ‘fun’ about a marathon, but I doubt it would be anyone who reads this blog! I will certainly agree that at certain points along the way, ‘fun’ might not be precisely what we are thinking. That would probably be around 20 miles for most people. But, we all know how good it feels when we stop (at the finish, of course)- sort of reminds me of something else (also generally involving a wall).

We agreed that the best arrangement was to link to the article, but as a teaser, here is my favorite Fun Fact:

#14.  At 100 years old, Fauja Singh became the oldest person — and the first centenarian — to finish a marathon when he crossed the finish line at the 2011 Toronto Marathon. His final time: eight hours, 11 minutes, and 5.9 seconds.

Now, anyone who follows this blog is going to know why this is my favorite! I had the pleasure of running with Fauja Singh in September, right here in Surrey, BC! We didn’t do a marathon. Just 5K that time, but what great fun it was to run with this amazing man as part of his entourage of family and friends. Seeing this paricular fact, and its extension, I now better understand why those around him would break out in laughter from time to time! Even though I couldn’t understand what he was saying, I could tell the man was very witty (and maybe just a little profound) – see what he had to say as he finished his marathon at age 100!

“Just before we came around the [final] corner, he said, ‘Achieving this will be like getting married again,’” his trainer Harmander Singh said, according to Fox Sports.

Hmmmm. That has a bit of a familiar ring to it. In fact, it was my doctor (a running friend) who got me into my first marathon some 25 years ago. How? He had just done his first not long before and declared, “It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done, next to my honeymoon!” With an endorsement like that, who could resist? It seems that Mr. Singh had similar thoughts as he finished the Toronto Marathon in 2011.

For the other 25 Fun Facts – follow this link to 26.2 Fun Facts About Marathons.

I think my second favorite is the one about Kathrine Switzer and the 1967 Boston Marathon. Kathrine is a good friend to this Blog and Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes. And, she continues to do fantastic work to promote running and women’s running in particular.

So there you have a little gift from Running in the Zone as a celebration of the festive Christmas and New Year Season. Maybe it will be the motivation to sign up for your next, maybe your FIRST marathon.

See you on the roads and trails in 2013!

STEVE KING RECOGNIZED BY BC ATHLETICS

12.17.2012

Steve King - Vancouver Scotiabank Half Marathon - 2011

In what many of us would call absolutely natural, Steve King has been inducted into the BC Athletics Hall of Fame. It has been my pleasure and honour to call Steve FRIEND for a good many years. Although I can’t identify the precise day we met, it would have been about 1985 when we both lived and ran in the Okanagan Valley of BC. At the time, Steve was a member of the Penticton Pounders and I was running with the Summerland Road Runners. Later we became members of the same club when the two amalgamated. Steve’s induction and reasons for deserving this honour are found on this link, and near the bottom of the document. If there was ever a doubt as to why he has been recognized, well, a quick scan of the lists of his accomplishments should settle that matter! And, I will warn you that just reading his list of achievements and ongoing activities may wear you out, but get a second wind and keep on with my commentary here. I think there is more to learn – at least I hope so.

Bob's Border Busters - Hood to Coast

I want to offer my personal congratulations and a few brief comments that may be a little different from the official ones. As may be obvious from the first bit of this posting, my first introduction to Steve was as an athlete – and a mighty fine one at that. Steve was still in a prime part of his competing days, maybe not even quite advanced enough to be a ‘seasoned athlete’. For my part, I didn’t even start this road running thing until I was already qualified as ‘seasoned’. So, not that I was ever in Steve’s class as an athlete although I considered myself a decent runner in those days, my memories of competing against him were mostly the sight of the back of his singlet, as he raced away from me. We were members of several relay teams, including my very first Hood to Coast team. Don’t we all look a good deal younger!?!  (Steve, standing third from left – me, standing second from right.)

But, as good an athlete as he has been (race walker, runner, triathlete) what most people remember about Steve is his warmth and caring approach to other people. Who in our communities has not thrilled to hear him call out our names as we hit the finish of some race? It is always so personal. I will never forget the impact it had on a club member of Pacific Road Runners who was doing his first triathlon. I knew Steve was calling the race, so fed him just a wee bit of information about this chap. Afterwards, I casually asked how that first ‘Tri’ had gone and listened while he described how Steve had given him the treatment every time he passed through transition and at the finish! I know this guy will never forget that race. OK, so there was just a little collusion there, but just because I had passed on the information, nothing said Steve had to do anything with it.

So many times we don’t see the little things that encourage people outside the lime-light. The words of encouragement to new athletes trying something for the first time, including my own daughter Danielle as she prepared to do her very first triathlon. His perspective and encouragement on those of us maybe trying to overcome issues such as injuries is another part of the package. I venture to say that almost everyone who encounters Steve King has their own story, and that is why I am going to just stop now. This is where you can insert your own Steve Stories. And, if you think they are really good, why not add them here by way of a comment?

What I do know is that this recognition is so very well deserved and I want to offer personal congratulations to Steve. I also want to go one step further in noting that behind every good man is a good woman and I know Steve would be first to say that without the support of his goodly wife Jean, so much of what he is recognized for, might just not be possible.

RUNNING IN THE ZONE – THE BOOK – BIG NEWS

12.12.2012

I guess every good book has to go this way – Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes is an “E-Book”.

Why do you care? Well, for one thing, notwithstanding that having a nice paper copy in your hand is comforting to ‘seasoned’ readers, and also notwithstanding that the hard-copy book is a bargain, the price for the “E” version is about one sixth as much.  That is right, you can have an electronic copy for your e-reader, for the paltry sum of $3.99 and I am pretty sure that is US$3.99, so with the Canuck Buck just passing $1.01 it may be even less! I just found out about this literally yesterday. As I understand it, Trafford has effectively converted all its books to an e-book version so now readers have the choice.

The downside of the ‘Real McCoy’ is shipping cost.  You won’t have to worry about that with the e-book version. If you still want paper in your hand, and you actually know me personally, I have a small inventory and can eliminate the need for shipping, or at least use Canada Post to get it to you as inexpensively as possible.  Christmas is just around the corner and Running in the Zone could be a great stocking stuffer.

The book is the work of 26 avid runners, many of international reputation, both in running and writing. If you go to the Trafford site you can get a sneak peak at a limited part of the book, also by checking out some of the background here at the blog. If you aren’t interested in a purchase, please do know you are welcome back here at the old blog, anytime!

REFLECTING ON SATISFACTION

12.12.2012

Running isn't always about racing.

Running is one of those things we do for many reasons. Some of us are very good and run to prove it, pitting best efforts against the fiercest competition. Even those who are ‘seasoned’ can still be relatively good and still compete fiercely against those who are relatively good in the same way.

Since we don’t really define ‘seasoned’ it can mean a lot of things, but eventually we all reach a stage where, while our times may be remarkable when taken in context, that asterisk related to age gets bigger and bigger.

We can all cite individuals and performances that everyone can and should admire, but in absolute terms they do not measure up. Age-Grading is a way to level that playing field and draw fair comparisons, but there is still relativity involved. The only fair measure is what the clock says when the running is done. And, on that basis it is the same for everyone, regardless of age. I have spoken of this before and to make a point have boldly 9and maybe just a little ‘tongue in cheek’) declared that there is only ONE, yes ONE winner in every race.  Every other placing is qualified: first woman, first masters, first in M65-69 (my own particular area of interest). Ultimately, only the person who holds the world record is “the best”. We could just stop there, but what would be the fun in that??

I was never good enough to win much of anything outright, although I have seen a few podium finishes over the years. Even then I had to sort of choose my races carefully. I have had a few ‘firsts’ of late, but when you are the only one in the category it is hard to get too excited. I do take some satisfaction in the fact I was the only guy my age ready to take on the challenge. The bottom line is that while I have never been a very good and certainly not an elite runner, I am far from the slowest either. In other words, I am one of the many. That brings us to the matter of satisfaction and here, I hope I have something to say.

I can tell you specifically what satisfies me, as much as I may know it myself, and will probably use a few personal examples to make my point, but the intention is to keep this general and raise some thought provoking points.

I had an interesting revelation just a few weeks ago. I woke one morning and the first lucid thought that came to me was “in 12 years I will be 80”. There was no panic or fear in that thought. There was some clear recognition that: a) twelve years really isn’t that long, and b) while many 80 year-olds are quite spry, 80 is getting up there, especially if you are still hoping to be a runner. I let that float around in my head a bit and soon realized the ‘take away’ message was that it would be kind of pointless wasting those years doing things that weren’t satisfying or pleasing in some way important for me. It doesn’t mean avoiding anything that looks like work; quite the contrary – so long as the work-like thing was important and satisfying. For example, I enjoy the challenges and outcomes of race directing, so even though it can be a lot of work, hectic as the event approaches and even stressful at times, being the RD of a particular event could be something I would really want to do and from which I would realize great satisfaction. It doesn’t mean doing that task regardless of circumstance, as a matter of duty. That seems to be the critical point.  Kind of ‘if it feels good, do it’, not to mention the unsaid corollary ‘if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it’.

What I was really coming face to face with was the idea that time/life is too precious to waste. That is true anytime, but when you can start to make out the numbers on the ‘best before’ label of your own life, let’s just say the point gets clearer.  My new motto: Sum nec apta pro stercore! [If you care, just pop it into your favorite Latin:English translator.]

In my own case, and I assume the case of anyone still reading this, running in any number of forms, is one of those satisfactions. We all define that particular satisfaction for ourselves, but whether it is just doing it because it feels good and is good for us, or finding some kind of competition to test performance, we still do it because we love it. 

I think one of the important issues for the seasoned athlete is to get past pure performance as a marker of success or satisfaction. It is too easy in our earlier years to simply concentrate on performance. For some years, with work and training and good coaching, a person can actually get better. Then, after a time, the mark of success becomes maintaining. Finally, it may come down to relative performance either through a tool like age-grading or by comparing only to your peers. But, what of other measures of satisfaction? These are multitudinous and there could be as many as there are people willing to consider the question.

To get this started on the right foot, just ask yourself what is more satisfying than that run/race when you hit the sweet spot of everything being just right and feeling pretty much euphoric about what you are doing.

But, now that you have the idea, let’s move on to some other forms of satisfaction.

I know a lot of people who cut down the number of races they actually run, in favour of volunteering. Some, like me, turn to organization of events as directors of particular phases of a race or as race directors. Sometimes this may involve getting behind a good cause of one sort or another – and there are plenty of those from which to choose.

Many will switch from a full racing schedule to just a few important races each year and some ‘unique experience’ type events where it is the location or nature of the race that is the attraction. Some will switch totally to the ‘destination’ event.

As a matter of fact, I wrote the basic draft of this in Negril, Jamaica where I participated in the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K event on December 1. I’ve talked about this event plenty, so if you wan’t to know more about it, check out some of the other posts. It is hot in Jamaica for a northern boy. My expectations were modest when it related to my finish time, but very high when it comes to satisfaction from the overall experience. I am finalizing and editing it post-race. Actually, I already posted a piece talking about how the Reggae Marathon gave what I called a new meaning to the destination event, and without even intending to do so, provided another great example of what this satisfaction thing is all about. The people met and re-met from the earlier attendance at the same event, make a huge part of realizing this kind of satisfaction.

If you really must compete (and sometimes that does describe me) you can make up things like the Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge that three of us took on earlier this year, using age-grading to even the field for three guys ranging from 46 to 67. Also, sometimes you might find a running buddy almost at your own performance level and go head to head, as I do with my friend Ben Seghers. On head to head encounters over these last few years we stand at 12 and12. Needless to say, the next race is being picked carefully! Is it serious? Hardly, but it is fun.

Some people still like to test themselves so will change the event to something they have never done, not expecting to excel particularly, but rather to gain a new experience while pushing their own limits. A few will even think claiming the new PB is worth it. 

If you pick the right events, such as trail races, no two are the same. A 10K is a 10K for the most part, a marathon a marathon. A trail race can have all sorts of unique features and no two are the same even if the nominal distance is.  I just realized that I am, and will always be, the divisional course record holder for the Arc’teryx 21K trail race held near Squamish in September. I know this will be true because it was the first time the race was run and they are already stating that the course is changed quite significantly for 2013 and future years. Unless they change back again, I will forever be the fastest M60-69 runner on that 2012 route. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to also admit I will be the slowest ever to run that route too. You see, I was the ONLY M60-69 runner in 2012.  That was what I was talking about earlier. As far as satisfaction goes, and while I truly do keep it fully in context, I just got a certain level of satisfaction from just talking about it!

Speaking of “talking about”, I guess there are more than a few of us that derive significant satisfaction in doing just that, including writing about running as I am doing at this very moment.

Even when we may not be as able as we once were in a physical sense, many can and do coach younger developing or new runners. While some may do high level coaching, that is not actually what I’m talking about. I am thinking about the clinic level or even a personal, one to one, level with a friend who wants to start running and just needs some sound information and encouragement. It is amazing how rewarding that can be, and let’s face it – we’ve got the experience.  All it takes is to witness what happens when one of your people finishes that first race or a new and challenging distance, such as a marathon, and you will know what satisfaction is.

So, we can run because we enjoy it for itself and we can race as long as we get something from it. On top of that is all this other potential to gain more from our sport and in many cases, that comes as a result of giving back.

If you have stayed with me this far, I challenge you to just take a moment and ask yourself what satisfies you most about running. Take the time to think about it and don’t settle for the first, easy, answer.  You may be surprised at what you tell yourself.

We are all just running off into the sunset, and it is good!

DESTINATION RUNNING TAKES ON A NEW MEANING FOR THIS BLOGGER

12.07.2012

As followers will realize, your intrepid blog editor has just returned from doing the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K weekend in Negril, Jamaica. I had great intentions of posting from Negril, but technology failed me! Mine, not theirs. Internet connection was right there and ‘hot’, but my computer (a rather old one, I must admit) pretty much decided to pack it in. Anyone need a boat anchor?

There is a kind of blessing in all of this. It gave me time to think rather than just post the usual stuff directly about the race and it’s great organization and unique approach, not to mention amazing pre-race pasta party. That isn’t to say that all of those things aren’t true and very appropriate, nor that they won’t creep into this post. However, the delay let me steep a bit my post-race juices (and I don’t just mean sweat) and consider why this particular event is kind of different from other destination races I’ve done. Here’s what has been running around my mind. I guess the alternate title could have been – Running in the Reggae Zone!

Many runners like, perhaps I could say LOVE, the destination event. There is always something exciting about going to a far and different place to run, regardless of the distance to be run. The energy of the Expo and other associated features just gives it a different feel. For one thing, you are there for a purpose – running. You aren’t at home where, once you pick up your race package, you just go on about your normal business until race day. Everything is about the race you have come to do. You are surrounded by other people in the same situation. It is fun, exciting and motivating.

OK, so why am I trying to tell you that the Reggae Marathon is different from any other destination event? It took me a little time to consider why it felt different and why this is quite a unique event. I am not going to claim there aren’t others out there that could be similar, but I haven’t been to them yet. As a matter of fact, I would love to hear about them.

Negril Beach Looking North

First things first, Negril is primarily a vacation community for any visitor, runner or otherwise, including Jamaicans. It is pretty much all about the beach. I guess if your main claim to fame is a seven mile long white sand beach on the Caribbean, it isn’t that hard to grasp the concept. Because of the geo-physical reality of the area and how that beach has been formed, you have Water – Beach – Resorts – Road – Resorts (and some shops and restaurants) and then the Great Morass (a large and environmentally important wetland).  Note that I said ROAD – as in singular, one road. The nearest secondary option is about five miles away on the other side of this huge wetland. Where else would you find your event owning that road for the morning of race day?  The whole strip becomes the Reggae Marathon course.  That is kind of amazing, because while there are a lot of races where we runners do own the event route for the race time, it isn’t the only road in town.

Negril is a great destination, but also requires a fair investment of time and effort to get to, and there I think is where the magic begins. So many destination events I have done, lend themselves to a long weekend approach. You arrive Friday, pick up at the Expo Saturday, run Sunday and maybe even travel home Sunday, but if not, then surely Monday. Between the great weather, amazing beach and the time commitment involved in getting there, many people take something closer to a week. It becomes a vacation, not just a racing trip.  I know that coming from a much cooler place, I wanted a few days to acclimatize and a couple more to recover. I was far from alone and I think this is part of that magic to which I already referred.

Firstly, you will need to stay somewhere along the beach. I know, a great sacrifice, but one you will have to make if you want to do this event. Fortunately, there is an extensive range of options from small ‘family owned’ resorts through major chain all-inclusives and naturally, everything between. The word I heard was that between runners and families, most resorts were full or close to it. I know that the place I stayed had more than its share of runners starting Wednesday but definitely from Thursday on, at least through Monday. So, now there you are surrounded by like-minded people and we all know how quickly we can fall into conversing with other runners and making instant relationships.  It definitely happened at my own mid-range resort, but I’m sure it was repeated over and over from one end of the beach strip to the other. I’ve been to a lot of events where there were other runners about. Haven’t we all? But, this was different. At least from what I could observe, almost everyone was associated with the event and the vibe was heavily influenced by that. It started for me at the airport when I learned that other passengers in the shuttle from Montego Bay to Negril, were from the Runners Mark in Toronto!  Game on!

There is a big social media aspect to this race, driven by the official Reggae Marathon blogger, Chris Morales aka That Runnin’ Guy and sometimes even Sugar ‘Tuff Gong’ Bong (his reggae name).  Me, I learned mine is Dr. ‘One Drop’ Dread.

Dan Cumming, Larry Savitch and Chris Morales at Rick's Post-Race

Numerous groups where represented, some formed only for this race, such as Larry Savitch’ crew, ‘Easy Skankin’, but others like ‘Black Girls Run’ that had a considerable contingent in Negril.  There were more than a few Marathon Maniacs there too (yeah, I know, some people think any marathoner is a maniac, but we know the difference). There were whole families of runners had come together, not the least of these being the extended Morales clan! It didn’t seem to matter where you went for those days, you would find runners – happy, sun-baked runners, chillin’.  [Don’t worry  –  ’bout a thing.  ‘Cause every little thing, gonna be alright.]

Just getting to Negril starts to set the tone, but picking up your race package to the strains of Bob Marley music [One Love. One Heart. Let’s get together and feel alright.] and then taking part in “the best pasta party in the world” lets you know it is on for real. It is amazing how easily people meet one another and get talking. I actually met one chap last year who made it his mission to track me down before I even got to Jamaica and make sure we would contact each other. We did, both at the pick-up and pasta party, not to mention at the post race festivities at Long Bay Beach Park. Congratulations Lawrence Watson on winning the M60-69 Half Marathon (my category, no less).

Race Director, Alfred 'Frano' Francis introduces Burt Carlson to the Media

Another aspect of the Reggae Marathon is the ‘return businesss’, if you can call it that. You run into people you met last year or at least previously. I was there for my second time, but it wasn’t hard to find people like Burt Carlson who had been there for seven years. The race itself is of a goodly size but not huge, yet it attracts people from well over 30 countries, 36 this time I believe. One of the great charms is mingling with all these different people AND our Jamaican hosts who make up around half or more of the field.  There are three events with the 10K and Half Marathon attracting the most registrants. The marathon is the smallest of the three races and all respect goes to those who take THAT challenge. The distance is the same as all other marathons, and certified to boot, but while most people are going to finish the 10K or Half while the air is ‘cool’ and silky, marathoners commit to running in warmer conditions than most of us experience except in the heart of our summers. If you are an elite marathoner you may be recording more or less the same times as mid-pack half marathoners, so done by the time the sun is really fully up, in what this year was clear blue sky. Most Reggae Marathoners aren’t elite, so they are taking the challenge of running in pretty warm and, in my two year experience, sunny conditions. The event looks after the well-being of runners very well with pouched water and electrolytes at every mile. The plastic pouch is a great approach as you get a lot of both – maybe 200ml in a pouch. You can use it or carry it with you to use until there is a new supply at the next mile post. You just bite off a corner and consume as required, getting all you need and pretty well as much as you want. And unless you intend otherwise, it goes inside of you rather than spilling as so often happens with cups.  I had my own plan and mostly poured the electrolyte inside and the water over the outside! I’ve done a full marathon in similar conditions. It surely isn’t impossible by any means, but you must respect the conditions and hope the event will support you with suitable water, electrolyte, etc. The Reggae Marathon does this superbly. Most people don’t go there looking for spectacular results, even in the 10K. That isn’t to say that the leaders aren’t turning in very respectable performances, just that most people “come for the run and stay for the fun”, as the web site tells us to do. More than any other event I know, the feel is one of just being part of something special.

Where else would you find people walking down the road to the start line at 4-4:30am on December 1st, comfortably wearing nothing but shorts and singlets? That’s right. Not many places – definitely not where I come from, and that is for sure. The start at 5:15am, out there in the dark, with reggae music, torches and just down the road, a steel band, is hard to duplicate! From elite runners to walkers, everyone is welcome and the feeling is festive from the start.  Something that impressed me is how many people are standing at the entrances to the many resorts to cheer you on.  I mean – we ARE talking about 5:30am!  OK, so I guess the few people who weren’t actually running probably were awakened by all of us eager runners getting up and out, but you might more imagine them wanting to throw stones at us rather than cheer!

Reggae Marathoners just before full light

At the start the air is very pleasant and has what I earlier called a ‘silky’ feel to it. The sun rises officially at about 6:30 so many 10K runners are done before sunrise and the quicker half marathoners are done before the sun is truly ‘up’.  Of course, that was not me, nor a good many others in the Half. Still, the average finish time was 2:28, meaning a lot of us were done by 7:45! Guh haad an dun!  DONE is the next important part of why the race is special, notwithstanding the great support from all the volunteers along the double loop course.

The race is organized such that the Start/Finish is in the middle of the course. The 10K runs toward Negril Town, turning at the round-about and back to the finish at Long Bay Beach Park. Half Marathoners continue about the same distance past the 10K finish before returning for their own finish.  Marathoners, get double the pleasure and do it all again. While I’m not a fan of double loop marathons, this one seems to be a great way to organize the race. It sort of creates eight ‘chewable’ pieces instead of that one long string that a point to point marathon can be.

Once you finish, the party is on and I can’t tell you how many groups I saw celebrating their races together, whether they were organized before they even came to Jamaica or formed at the resorts after they arrived, and that was definitely part of the fun. On one hand everyone was proud of the achievement, but many (me included) weren’t even sure of their finish time!  Say what?  Yep, technology failed me big time. Not only did I have computer problems, but I also forgot that if I left my Garmin plugged in on the computer but turned it off, power is drained, not topped up.  Anyway, although it worked for most of the race, it quit on me with about 1K to go! Then, I forgot to look at the clock as I finished.  OK, I admit the truth is that I was too busy trying to make my best “Bolt” pose as I ran through. What is amazing to me is that it didn’t matter. I knew I had a chip on and it would be what it would be and I would find out later.  That is SOOOOO not me!  Of course, I had a rough idea of the time, but it just didn’t seem important. I had run for time a few weeks before in Victoria and this was definitely for fun, doing the best I could do in the circumstances but letting the chips (timing and otherwise) fall where they may.  Did I mention that Negril is known as the “capital of casual”?

When you finish you are draped with your well-earned medal, and sent along to get some fresh coconut water straight from the

Half Marathon Finisher Medal

coconut. Before that I decided to hit the mist tent, not so much because I needed it as that it just feels good. I was beset by two young guys who draped a cold wet towel around my neck and squeezed a sponge of ice water over my head, while handing me another to use as I required. Wow!! what a treat!  What runner support and service!  Once all that was done, it was off to collect my Red Stripe and find new and old friends and all before 8:00AM. I was far from alone.  As I looked around Long Bay Beach Park, the same was happening everywhere and photographs were being taken left, right and centre. The grand finale was to walk or run, as you prefer, across the white sand and into the azure blue waters of the Caribbean!

When it was truly ‘dun’, our little group of happy Reggae Marathoners removed shoes and walked the sands of the beach the couple of kilometres back to our home away from home. Through the rest of the morning others returned and runner talk continued unabated, except when the early risers felt the need of a nap on the beach in the tropical sun. The sense of community is something I haven’t felt at any other event. It continued for the next days as people relaxed and then started to leave for home. I was one of the earliest to arrive and to leave. By that time people who I had only just met or met on-line, were feeling like old friends and THAT is why this event seems to feel so different from others. Runners are special. We open up to each other, help and encourage each other at almost any event or time. At the Reggae Marathon, it seems to go a step beyond, and that folks is why I chose the title of this post!