Archive for October, 2013



The First Half Half Marathon  (registration link) is about to run its 25th edition of what is arguably the hottest running ticket in town.  Oh yes, there are bigger or at least potentially bigger events, including the newest one just announced for October 26, 2014, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Vancouver Half Marathon and the BMO Vancouver Marathon, but to date the only race of its size to sell out in less than a day is the First Half. It has done so for a number of years, starting with pre-race sell-outs some 10 years ago. As I write, registration is open and running. My job is to try to finish this post before registration closes!

PRR Running Seminar - Speakers

On October 28 Pacific Road Runners held the annual pre-registration running seminar at the Roundhouse Community Centre – aka the Start/Finish venue for the First Half. The race itself will take place on February 16, 2014. Today is when everything really officially kicks off, even if the race committee has been working behind the scenes to get things ready. Assuming a sell-out in the next hours (registration was at 50% of capacity before I even opened this file) the race organizing committee and pretty much the whole membership of PRR, plus a few notable others will begin the meticulous work to prepare another great running experience for all those able to participate.

It all began with the seminar where Race Director and MC, David Parker, welcomed a sell-out (can you sell out a free seminar?) crowd of about 250 to hear three speakers address some topics that might not be heard just every night of the week. We all love our ‘how to run a faster half’, ‘heel-strike vs mid-foot’ and ‘the secret training regimens of the elite’ topics. This year PRR took a different direction and judging by the questions, both tweeted and shouted out, suggested that the organizers hit it squarely on the head as far as worthy topics go.

Without rehashing everything each one said, the first speaker, Dr Jon Fleming got into the matter of sleep, including the when, how and how much of it all as it relates to realizing your best performance. The topic might have been about sleep, but I can assure you that nobody dozed off in this one, and it was clear that Jon had really just scratched the surface of the subject.

Second up was Larry Abbott who got into the matter of mental toughness and training the mind. I think we were all just a wee bit shocked as he slyly took us through a little Q&A on our training habits – number of runs, quality workouts, etc. Various hands went up at each query, until he got to the last one – mental training. Yep, he had almost all of us. In the proverbial nutshell, he got right down to the point that if your head isn’t ready to run that big race, your legs may not be able to do it alone. One of the great features of this talk and of all the speakers was that the comments applied regardless of the relative ability of the individual runner. Of course there are qualitative differences between elites and club runners, but that old head up there can stop all of us as fast or faster than tired legs. Preparing the mind shouldn’t be underestimated as an important racing strategy.

Finally, Ellie Greenwood, a PRR member who has gone from being ‘just one of the gang’ to elite ultra runner, shared with the audience the unfortunate but possibly inevitable matter of serious injury and what you do next when you really, really want to run, but can’t (shouldn’t). One can imagine that for someone like Ellie the frustration of going from a year in which she ran some 6000km to zero, or something relatively close, the strain would be almost unbearable. Even though Ellie runs in a whole different universe from most of us, this was again a topic that most could still relate to in a personal way. At some point, almost every runner, no matter her or his level of relative performance hits a point where something goes sideways. In many instances it is just minor and if respected and rested, is over soon, but often enough it is serious enough to threaten a whole year of running. I know I’ve been there a couple of times – once when the issue was not really a running injury, but the effect was the same (no running) and once when it was a true running injury, one that I did not accept, fix and move on, thereby ensuring that in the end I lost most of a year. Ellie talked us through what you do instead of running to keep both mind and body fit. Again, nobody in the house that night was drifting off in any way shape or form.

As always, the race sponsors including Mizuno, Forerunners, Ethical Bean Coffee, BC Athletics and PowerBar made the evening fun and rewarding in a tangible way for those winning the draw prizes on offer. One of the most popular of the prizes was the handful (big handful) of guaranteed entries for the First Half. Now that says something about this event! The entry was guaranteed – not FREE – just guaranteed, so you wouldn’t have to risk missing today’s registration scramble. It is actually a hard to pinpoint, yet easy to see, thing – the popularity of the First Half. Oh, you can list all the great things about the race: First longer race of the season, generous sponsors, fabulous and amazingly fast course (many people PR on this course, even if it is February), great attention to detail, by now maybe just the whole thing of ‘getting in’, the great post-race food, Variety, the fabulously deserving charity to which net proceeds have gone since 1996 and now mounting to a total of $550,000. All those things certainly count, but it would be wrong to suggest other races and organizing groups aren’t doing a great job. However, every year the feedback seems to be that the volunteers are the number one ‘praise-point’ (think I just made that up). And, as a former race director of the First Half I think I can say that by volunteers I would broadly include the entire membership of PRR as well as more than twice as many individuals from the community, some who have been with the race for years and years.

So, I’m almost done now and hope that I actually get this finished before registration is finished.

As mentioned, this is the 25th running of the First Half. It is not the 25th Annual, because another event became a bit of a conflict for dates and space in 2010 – yes, the Winter Olympics. So, for those who are trying to figure out how the whole thing kicked off in 1989 (with Peter Butler of Forerunners, winning the inaugural First Half Half Marathon), and yet this being the 25th, that is what happened. We are told, rather coyly I must say, that special things will happen, but we are just going to have to wait and see.  OK, I’m waiting!

Like most of the very small number of First Half former Race Directors, I will be there again on race day (more like race week, but that was what I was talking about before). Looking forward to seeing all those who are successful in registering today and hoping that some who can’t (because of one of those unfortunate issues Ellie Greenwood talked about) or just didn’t get registered, will become part of that fabulous volunteer crew that makes it all happen.

PS: Here’s a little secret for those who missed registering, Forerunners offers a running clinic with a (limited number of) race entry as part of the package. And, those clinics have prepared a lot of people over the years, and may just be part of some of those Personal Best performances too!



Rock 'n' Roll Oasis Vancouver Half Marathon is here!

That’s right, yesterday the Competitor Group announced that the Rock ‘n’ Roll brand is coming to Vancouver in the form of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Vancouver Half Marathon. On a brilliant Fall day at the Westin Bayshore, just paces from the actual race route, officials from Competitor Group, from Lassonde (Oasis), from the City of Vancouver, from the Squamish Nation and last but far from least, from Lions Gate Road Runners and the James Cunningham Seawall Race, unveiled plans to bring the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series to Vancouver.

Rock 'n' Roll Preview

They even brought a little taste of the rock part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll experience, to entertain before and after official announcements. Scott Dickey, CEO Competitor Group laid out the focus of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series in staging events for media and local running organizers and industry members. One of the first items of business covered by both Frank Stebner (Race Director of the James Cunningham Seawall Race) and Scott Dickey was to assure the assembled multitude that the Cunningham race was going nowhere but up. The new event coming in is a half marathon, but the much loved and long lived James Cunningham race will continue as part of the celebration of running that will happen in 2014.

Frank Stebner (RD of James Cunningham Seawall Race) introduces the new event

Clearly, a lot of consultation took place prior to this announcement, including with the City of Vancouver and the Squamish First Nation. This promises to enhance the event and experience of participants. And, the participants are expected to consist of quite a number of visitors to Vancouver as most Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon events are ‘destination races’, by definition.  On average these races involve 65% ‘out of town’ participants. That can mean big money to the local economy as has been well understand by some of the larger races in town, including the BMO Vancouver Marathon in the Spring running season. The economic impact can only be tested market by market, but the goal is to take the Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Vancouver Half Marathon to at least 10,000 participants. This new/old event will need to make its place in one of the busiest running markets anywhere, but the arrival of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Vancouver Half Marathon and 44th James Cunningham Seawall 10K, should make for a very exciting and interesting 2014 running season in Vancouver and in BC.

According to the various speakers, including Luc Prevost of Lassonde, makers of the Oasis juice brand, the focus is healthy participation and the experience of running.  Competitor Group is targeting beginners, new-comers to the racing experience, and particularly women, by far the fastest growing group in the world of running. They seem to be on the way to their goal with some 550,000 participants expected in 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll events.

Consideration was given, apparently, to forming local partnerships and making sure there was plenty of Canadian content with Oasis as the name sponsor and Running Room as the designated sport equipment partner. Lassonde is the partner in the Montreal Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, the only other Canadian event in the Series at this point.

Natasha Wodak, elite runner, with the event logo as background.

The event was closed out with a brief comment by Natasha Wodak, freshly  returned from the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, where she ran her first marathon and served notice on the Canadian running community that there is a ‘new kid in town’ when it comes to women’s marathon running.

As this was the initial announcement and there is clearly much detail yet to be rolled out, and that your faithful blogger, quite coincidentally is about to participate in his very own first experience at a Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, Las Vegas to be specific and in just a couple of weeks, this blog post is going to be kept short and sweet with more to come later. Probably, later means right after I get back from Vegas!



What can I say? Here I sit having just watched the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (some people may have still been finishing as I began to write). I love to see those smooth, fast folk at the front and how they cruise through times I would now be happy with for a half marathon. I love to see the special stories of folks like Team Joshua (Mom, Michelle, and Josh) and their personal victories. And, I know from my own experience that every runner out there has his or her reason for running and aspirations for a personal day of victory. As the opening line of the old TV show used to intone: “There are Eight Million Stories in the Naked City”. Well, there were at least 25,000 stories in Toronto today.

Most of all though, I like to see how those in my crowd of older (Seasoned, if you like) runners are doing. I’ve got a fair number of local inspirational runners to reflect upon with people like BJ McHugh and Rod Waterlow, to name two of a good many in the Vancouver/Victoria area. But, for shear inspiration none beat 82 year-old Ed Whitlock. Apparently Ed has not been too well the last couple of weeks (a nasty cold) and although nobody claimed he was actually running sick, his training has not been what it normally would be coming up to the race. It seems to have been a bad day out there on the roads of Toronto, what with Ed only recording a time of 3:41:58! (sarcasm alert)  According to commentators, his goal was somewhere in the upper 3:20’s.

I made a few posts on Facebook feeds re Ed’s day, one of which was to the effect, “I want to be like Ed Whitlock when I grow up!” What I really mean is that I just hope I can use his inspirational example to keep going myself. Ed is both so old and so good, the age grading systems have trouble properly accounting for his performances.  For the most part, anyone his age is lauded, and rightly so, if they just finish a marathon. I mean, I am starting to reach that stage myself and I’m just approaching 69. Every time Ed Whitlock laces on his shoes for a race, he is probably going to set a Single Age World Record, but for him it is no ‘attendance prize’. His times are respectable for almost anybody. For instance, his 10K split today was something like 49 minutes. I don’t know that many weekend warrior type runners who would turn up their noses at such a time.

So, with a big year of running trailing out behind me I got comparing myself to Ed Whitlock under my aspiration to ‘be like Ed when I grow up’.

The first thing I see as essential is not to grow so much, as to shrink or recede. As the race continued today it was revealed that Ed normally weighs 115-117lb, so let us say 116, for easy reference. It was also stated that he was 5’7″ in height OR, 67 inches. Now, what do we do with this bit of information? Well, the first thing I decided to explore is how his ‘density’ in a manner of speaking, compares. If he is 67″ tall and weighs 116 lb, then that would be an average of 1.73lb/vertical inch. With trembling fingers, I began entering my stats into a similar calculation, to determine, being both taller and heavier, that my comparative number is 2.63lb/inch.

I had made a comment on one of the Facebook feeds that if I was going to be like Ed, I’d need to first lose about 70lb, but that is based purely on weight, and since I’m at least four inches taller, not a fair comparison. Using my half-baked ‘density’ system, for me to attain a similar physical structure I might strive for a similar weight/height ratio and would need to get not to 116lb, but rather just to 123lb!  Ha! Piece of cake! [NOT].

I think I may have weighed 123lb at one time, but I was probably about twelve at the time. I was an early sprouter, and have been most of my adult height since I was about thirteen. In my late teens and very early 20’s I was around 165 and the day I got married was 174lb. In other words, if I really must get back to 123lb, I have been doomed for decades.  As I think about it, my BONES might outweigh Ed Whitlock! And, in all seriousness, that is an aspect of our physical make-up we can’t do much about in absolute terms. Most of us just have to come to grips with our own personal ‘facts’. That stuff just can’t be wished away. Then, there is the matter of our miss-spent youth. Mine wasn’t so much poorly spent as inappropriately oriented if I wanted to be a marathoner when I grew up. I played lots of sports, including running, but almost all was oriented to short sharp bursts of fast running. My sports were soccer, or football should you prefer, baseball and track and field. And, the T&F stuff was shorter, faster distances, so all of this required the building of large muscles in the legs and power for short bursts. In those younger days, and for that matter even now, most people could not guess my weight accurately unless I was half naked – because most of my weight is in my legs. Unfortunately, my upper body has ‘grown into’ my lower body over the years and not really in a good way – if you get my meaning.  Even if I dropped every ounce of unwanted fat, I would once again be bottom-heavy with large solid muscle in my legs, and back to being the proverbial ninety pound weakling from the waist up.

So, for me and pretty much most average people, the best we can hope for is some kind of new balance. We can modify and optimize what we ARE, but pretty much can’t become something or somebody else. I guess Ed Whitlock can now feel safe, at least from me. Somehow, I don’t think he was actually worried in any case.

I was relieved to learn I did not have to lose 70lb as first declared – just 64. But, that is still a pretty tall order and if I were to lose that much weight I would wonder if I could walk let alone run. This was always meant to be light-hearted and not taken tooooooo, seriously, but it does leave me pondering for myself and other mid-pack average sorts of runners, what is reasonable. That is a loaded term in itself. What is reasonable for one may be just plain silly for another. If at all, I will try only to define reasonable for me. If you want to play along, you will have to define your own ‘reasonable’.

I mentioned my weight, both in actual terms and in that of personal/genetic heritage. Recently, I was alerted to a relatively new age/weight grading system.  Anyone who reads my words knows how much I enjoy age grading as a way to compare some thirty years of personal running achievements. Well, this system adds the matter of weight into the mix. I have not studied it at any length, but did quickly pop in some of my times and weights over the years and concluded that having always been a relatively heavy runner, the weight factor helped to improve my results. It did NOT turn me from a relative slug into an Olympian. In other words, on a sample of one, it seems reasonable.  For instance, my best 5K time when I was 44 was mid-nineteen minutes. Pure age grading took that to about 17 minutes and adding the weight factor dropped it to 16 minutes; pleasing but not silly.

These converters or calculators generally bring everyone to the same standard. In the case of this weight and age system, the age is 25 and weight is 110lb for women and 143lb for men. At least that 143lb is a bit more realistic for me, even if it is NOT likely achievable either.

That brings us back to what is reasonable. The only way I know to stop getting older is unacceptable and counterproductive in the extreme where it comes to running (or anything else). I CAN do something about weight, but even then, just so much. When I start a marathon or half marathon I generally feel pretty good and not that I am labouring with the weight I’m carrying (even if I probably am). Naturally, that changes as the race goes on. I have been pondering this for some time, but today’s race has caused me to think more deeply and to seriously consider how to be MORE like Ed Whitlock, when I grow up. I do think my simple factor of  lb/vertical inch is a place to start. There is no doubt in my mind that losing some amount of weight will help if for no other reason than that I won’t have to pack it over 42km.

The trick with losing weight is careful maintenance of muscle and strength. Reduction of caloric intake and perhaps modification of the mix of food groups consumed can reduce weight, but should be combined with exercise and not just my personal favourite, running. I have long known that converting fat to muscle is actually a losing weight loss proposition in the sense that muscle is more dense than fat and for a time, a person may see no loss of weight, and maybe even a small gain. Exercise is extremely important to all of this but one needs to remember that physical exertion does not burn nearly as many calories as we imagine. For instance, at my weight and pace, a marathon burns about the equivalent in calories of just one pound of real actual ‘meat’. We all lose a bunch of weight when we train or race, but most of that is water and comes back quickly. When it comes to long-term weight reduction, patience is the key element. Reduced caloric intake, balanced exercise and patience seems to be the magic combination.

As I look at myself, and we would all be different, I can see myself getting down to around 180lb or 82kg. I think I could do that and may be declaring at this point, my intention to try. For me, this looks very reasonable. For the sake of argument I am going to take this as a kind of given and do a little speculating and wondering what it might achieve to go farther.

As I mentioned, I weighed 174lb the day I was married (some 45 years ago). Haven’t seen that weight pretty much ever since. The question seems to be whether or not I could ever reasonably hope to see it again. From time to time, including fairly recently, I will hit 185lb. That is why I figure that 180lb is not unreasonable. When you get right down to it, if I were to shoot for 175lb, we are talking about a maximum of another 10lb below where I’m easily able to get. As you may have already anticipated, I am now going to point out that 10 fewer pounds will not be so simple.  If I work on upper body and core strength in the process of weight reduction I should both find myself carrying less weight from the start to the finish, but having a stronger overall body with which to do it. So, I may find myself able to lose 15 useless pounds while adding maybe 5 ‘power-p0unds’ to better function while running/exercising. It isn’t just going to be carrying 10 fewer pounds. I have no idea how big a deal it may be. I don’t know when it comes to me and absolutely have no idea how it might apply to anybody else.

Another factor that comes into the complex mix of distance running is the matter of how long you can run and at any given pace. As I watched the elites fly through the last few K’s today I once again wondered about the trade-off between speed and time on the road. In 2013 I have been doing the Marathon Maniac thing of lots of volume and less speed. In the last six and a half months I have run five marathons and a 50K ultra. I have operated on the slow but sure approach and all but one of the six has been over five hours. The fastest I ever did was 3:24 and I swear, even though it was a long time ago, I felt better when that was over, than I do now at the end of a slow marathon. How much does running some two extra hours impact that? OK, OK, those aren’t quite the same legs as they were in 1988. Perhaps if a person was able to knock thirty minutes off the total time, the exertion would be that much less. An hour would be even less and it wasn’t that long ago that I could run a marathon an hour faster than a couple of my recent ‘slow and steady’ efforts. Carrying less weight and being stronger could very likely help with such a target. I am not discounting proper training with the long slow run endurance component as well as other ‘quality’ speed, interval, hill type runs. I am just saying that if you do everything to a proper plan, surely packing less absolute weight from Point A to Point B should take less time and sustaining a faster pace (within reason) should make it easier.

Now of course, if I can’t really lose the necessary weight to approach Ed Whitlock’s height/weight ration then the alternative would be to grow to something around 8’4″. That would have a fabulous advantage of an immense stride!

OK. Enough for my musings on comparative running. How about a few high-lights from today?

We have had some great running days the last couple of weeks. The Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon could not have had much better weather and I speak from personal experience on that one. Toronto and the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon today looked and sounded from all reports like another ideal day. So many people put their own hopes and goals on the line right from the front with the various records that fell, including the race record being smashed by Deresa Chimsa (ETH), but especially the Canadian Women’s record and on through the to BQ achieved by Team Joshua and Ed Whitlock’s latest Single Age World record.

We’ve seen our Canadian marathoners growing and maturing on a world stage, including Dylan Wykes (second only to Jerome Drayton) and Reid Coolsaet, neither of whom ran in Toronto this day. Today we saw Eric Gillis take the men’s race as first Canadian (5th OA) while second place Canadian (6th OA), Rob Watson laid down a new PB in his fourth marathon this year! This kind of thing is unheard of in elite running. Canadian runners Lanni Marchant and Krista Duchene broke the long-standing Canadian Women’s record with Lanni having now pushed that down into the 2:27 range. First time marathoner Natasha Wodak, made her own statement with a fine time of 2:35 and gave notice of her own intentions!

I LOVE running and this is a big reason why!

Editor’s Note: Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes is available now in e-book format through Trafford Publishing.



Three-fer at Victoria 2007 Danielle, Dan & Janna

I sit here, feeling just the slightest symptoms of mara-paranoia (because in just 73 hours I will be toeing the line for my fifth go at the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon. Back is a bit stiff, knee might be a bit tender and I’m kind of sniffling.  But, why are these things not scary-bad? Well, I wake up every morning with a stiff back, and a bit of congestion from allergies (I guess).  Oh yeah, and my knees always like a bit of motion to get the day started. In other words, if I wasn’t doing a marathon in a couple of days, it would just be normal.

Victoria has become my ‘go-to’ event it seems. It has also been the family event and unless somebody plans to sneak up and surprise me, this is probably the first time since 2000, that I will run alone in Victoria. In addition to five full marathons including the one this weekend (2000, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013), I have completed the half marathon five times as well (2001, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2012), all of it starting with that first race in 2000. That is 10 times in 14 years. Not perfect attendance, but pretty darn good. In October 2000 I ran my second ever marathon.  It is one of the reasons, I think, that I have such a warm feeling for this particular event.  You see, my first marathon was in Vancouver in 1988 and in between I had required back surgery to correct a ruptured disk. While I had run fairly steadily and raced a bit over the intervening years from the surgery in 1990, the most I had done was a 20K race in Brussels, Belgium in 1991. I did not know if I could actually do a marathon when I headed for the start in Victoria that cool October morning in 2000. I had vowed as a Millennium project of my own making that I would do a marathon in the Year 2000. I had actually made that vow on New Years Eve, standing on a cliff near Dallas Road, mere metres from the Royal Victoria Marathon course, but my mind was on Vancouver  at that time, not Victoria. My first marathon was the Vancouver International Marathon and it seemed appropriate that if I was going to get back into marathoning, then Vancouver should be the starting place.

Nearing the Finish - Victoria 2000

Well, as with all such good intentions, there was a bit of a rocky road ahead and I elected to just go for the Half in Vancouver and press on for a marathon later in the year. That marathon, of course, turned out to be Victoria. The coming together of a lot of things is what has made that race one of the most significant in my own running career as well as having quite an impact in other areas. Both our daughters have run quite a bit. For the moment, one has ‘retired’ from running competitions, but the other presses on and at the moment is carrying the flag for Cumming family running achievements. It was quite the family affair at that first Victoria Marathon. Our oldest, Danielle, came from Toronto to witness both her father and younger sister, Janna, tackle the marathon. It was Janna’s very first full marathon and we had trained a bit together leading up to the big event. Our son, Cam, who still lives and works in Victoria (all three kids went to U Vic) came along as the camera operator while Danielle provided colour commentary!  Naturally, wife and mother Judi, was there as the Cheerleader in Chief. My father-in-law even came from Ottawa to see what this was all about, and we were accompanied by our old friends from just up the road at Brentwood Bay (who had been there on that windy cliff-top when I made my vow to run my second marathon).

For those familiar with my writing, and who may be starting to worry about now: be calm. I have no intention of describing the race in detail – even though I could!

If all of this wasn’t enough, it was at this event that I caught up again with Steve King, the long-time race announcer for Victoria. We had known each other and run together with the same club and in the same events, when we lived in the Okanagan. If that had not happened, it is probable that Running in the Zone, the book especially, and this blog would never have happened. It was the beginning of the beginning, so to speak.

There is no way to state how special it was to be running this oh so significant second marathon while Janna was running her first ever. I had run my first some 12 years before and as I tell all new marathoners, once you cross that finish line you ARE a marathoner and always will be. So it wasn’t that I was trying to do something I had never done before. I was trying to see (training notwithstanding) if I really could still race a marathon. Cutting to the finish, I can say that crossing that line was every bit as emotional as finishing my first. Only some while later did I really consider the time. In truth it wasn’t that important in the greater scheme of things. Truly, how can you meaningfully compare events twelve years apart? Yes, yes, you already know my answer to that, but in October 2000 I had not discovered the magic of age-grading, and besides, at that point it was not well developed nor particularly well accepted. Only later (several years) did I examine what I had done in 1988 in comparison with Victoria 2000. So, that was not the basis of my euphoria as I recovered on the lawn in the front of the BC Legislature.  Oh, but you ARE wondering how that age-grading thing worked out. OK, here it is, keeping in mind that it was 12 mostly non-competitive years and one back operation later. My AG time for Vancouver 1988 was 3:14:36 while Victoria 2000 came out at 3:40:28. In truth, I have run several better (age adjusted) marathons since then, including a couple at Victoria. That said, Victoria 2000 is still my second fastest raw time for marathon, so another milestone for that particular race.

Although I was several minutes behind Janna (we started together, but after 10K or so, it was clear that wasn’t working for either of us), it was pretty easy to see that she was very pleased with her own race, having done her first marathon in under four hours! I think I may have been more excited than she was, at least at the time. That was the start of something for her and she has now completed six of her own marathons, including Boston and New York (which we did together and where she qualified for Boston!). Her latest was just this year in Vancouver. I will be interested to see how she continues, or doesn’t, with marathons. I mean, I was 43 when I ran my first. She has years yet to go before she reaches that age and already has six to her credit!

I do know that our little performance inspired Janna’s big sister, Danielle to want to do her own marathon. That in turn resulted in the beginning of another family tradition, the Cumming Family Half Marathon Challenge. More on that later. As far as Danielle’s marathoning goes, she ran the Toronto Marathon a bit later on (her first and apparently last). Marathons are not for everyone, but as I say, no matter what, Danielle is and always will be a marathoner. One family with three marathon runners is pretty amazing I would say, and it all started in Victoria in 2000.

Family Challenge Complete

It was so special to have all that family there for our big event (and that includes our friends, who are family that just doesn’t happen to share any DNA). In point of fact, it turned out to be the last time we saw my father-in-law in good health. By the next Thanksgiving weekend he had passed away with cancer. We did see him in May, in Ottawa when I ran a promised race with Danielle – a half marathon. By this time, my work had taken me to Malaysia and training for a marathon was pretty much out of the question. I had originally said I would run a marathon with her, just as I had done with Janna. We agreed that a half marathon would have to do. As it turned out that Ottawa Race Weekend half was on Danielle’s 28th birthday. As I pondered the matter post-race, I realized I was 56 – that is, she was half my age. We had just run a half marathon together when she was half my age. That was a complete accident, but from there began the tradition of each kid running a half with me when he or she was half my age.  For our son, that was quite the undertaking because while he has run since he was a teen, it isn’t his thing and he doesn’t run often. The longest for him has been 10K’s, so it was a major undertaking to get ready for and run the half with me. That happened and we completed the Family Challenge in November 2011. I have the picture to prove it!

Running in the Zone Book Launch 2005

I started by saying that Victoria has been the site of so many races for the family. At least a couple of times Janna, Danielle and I have all run at the same time, although not necessarily in the same event. Other than this year, I believe at least two of the three of us have always run something in the 10 years I have been there. It was at Victoria that Janna and I completed the Family Challenge. It was at Victoria that Steve King and I first started musing about writing a book for ‘seasoned’ runners, and it was at Victoria in 2005 that we launched Running in the Zone: A Handbook For Seasoned Athletes and were able to actually have just over half of the 26 contributors present for the launch.

For some years, I had trouble finding enough time to train well, so my times were nothing to brag about. I was just running for the enjoyment of doing it and because I like competing regardless. However, around 2008 I started feeling more motivated to produce better (relatively, anyway) times. The first step on that road was a pretty good performance at Victoria on the way to one of my best at the California International Marathon in Sacramento. Over the next year or so, my marathons got incrementally better, with a good performance at Victoria setting up a better one at CIM. Needless to say, I was thrilled with the progress, which culminated in a run at the Eugene Marathon in 2010 that now stands as my third best raw time and second best age-graded time. As I wrote this I was reminded that last Fall I ran the Victoria Half as one of my best recent races. I was starting to feel like the wheels on my wagon were getting pretty wobbly. I run to my own standard, due to the back issues that continue to follow me even 23 years later – nothing drastic, but nonetheless limiting in absolute terms. So, when I ran Victoria last October and registered a time that was my best half in about three years I was pretty thrilled. When I got home and could analyse my splits (what else is a gps device for???), I was really thrilled to find I had hit my splits very, very evenly AND that my last mile was just slightly faster than my first!  Sure didn’t feel that way, but isn’t that how you are supposed to race? In fact, while toting up all the special stuff about the Victoria Marathon, I have to say this may rank as my second best managed race, with my very first marathon at Vancouver in 1988 ranking as first.  I’m not talking about time here. I’m talking about race management. I have run waaaay faster half marathons with or without age-grading if what you are counting is finish time.  At this point, I am (apparently) more thrilled when I can run well as opposed to fast, something I haven’t done for such a very long time anyway.

I have lately been playing in the Marathon Maniac league, doing more volume than pace. Victoria in 2008 was one of three marathons, that first qualified me (3 in 90 days) to actually be a Maniac. This coming marathon is #6 on the road to 8 in 365 days and a new level of Maniacal Magnificence! In truth, all going well and to plan, I will hit 8 in about 220 days, but I do not think I have any interest in going for the next level of 12 in 365 days. Mind you, somewhere around 1986 I said something to the effect: “Nobody actually needs to run a marathon.” At the finish on Sunday I will be at 22 marathons and if the other two (Las Vegas in November and the Reggae Marathon in December) come off as planned, then I will be at 24. Well, nobody wants to quit on a number like 24, when 25 is so close and has such a nice ring to it, so……………………

Marathons are special, every one. Each has its own particular charm or challenge. I love some because of the vibe (the Reggae Marathon probably ranks #1 for me on that score). Some are amazing just for shear spectacle (nothing I have done beats the New York City Marathon). Some offer opportunity for performance (for me that is probably Eugene). And then there is the one event that just seems to have something that stands out across the board. I love Vancouver, because it was my first, but that marathon event is long gone and of another era. The new Vancouver Marathon event is doing superbly and growing into something special (confession, so far I’ve only done the Half). However, when it comes to rating that best of the best marathon, my personal vote goes to Victoria, whether it be the old Royal Victoria Marathon or the present day, Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon, it is hard to beat the attention to detail, the pre-race Expo and athlete activities, speakers and pasta party. The course is beautiful and pretty much second to none I have ever run, and for that matter and even though it is not the easiest course you will ever find, produces good times. Like all the best races out there, the volunteers are fabulous. Rob Reid and his crew turns in excellence year after year.

And now you know why I am so excited to head to Victoria this weekend!  To everyone else headed that way: Good Running!!!

Finishing in front of the 'Leg'