Archive for November, 2013


ONE LOVE, ONE RACE

11.28.2013

Reggae Marathon Race Plan - Relax, Race, Relax

Well actually, the title notwithstanding, there are three races, but ONE event – The Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. Things are getting serious now. A week from time of writing I WILL be in Negril, Jamaica ‘acclimatizing’. That is a much better term than goofing off on a beach. Yes, it is serious business to suddenly change your climate conditions and then run a half marathon. You must prepare yourself! I would prefer a couple of weeks of ‘acclimatization’ but will settle for a few days.

The races all start at 5:15am December 7. Between arrival and that time and place (Long Bay Beach Park) I must see to things like picking up my race package, finding old friends, being sure that Ossie’s Jerk Centre is still there, getting in a personal stock of Red Stripe (just in case they don’t have enough at the Pasta Party or Finish), getting a bit of ackee and salt fish for breakfast with a bit of festival on the side, not to mention a feed of curry goat. Then there is the matter of the best pasta party on earth. Seriously, that is kind of what they say on the web site, but in this case it is quite possibly TRUE. Let’s just say I’ve never been to a better one.

Why, I may even try to get in a few strides of running, just to remind myself of how that feels in Negril. I like running in the heat. As it gets colder here in the Vancouver area, (and yes I know there are a lot of places where it really gets cold), I find myself less and less happy about running. In truth it isn’t the running, it is the getting out the door. I’m always fine once I’m out and going, but somehow these days I just don’t like the idea of heading out into a chilly morning (or afternoon or evening). This is kind of new for me. Fifteen or twenty years ago I lived/ran in Manitoba. My rule was no running if it was colder than -25C, or if there was wind. I have become a happy summer runner. But, it will be instant summer when I step off the plane in Montego Bay and I’m going to want all of that I can get.

I’ve described the race start in detail in earlier posts, but starting in the dark early morning when all you need is a singlet and shorts (without trying to assure yourself that you’ll be warm as soon as you get going), is special. I know the temperature will be around 21-22C, which is a pleasant summer day here. I also know that I’ll get through the first 10K before it is light. For the next 30-40 minutes we will be treated to the rising sun, which of course brings to mind Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”  (Rise up this morning, Smile with the rising sun.   Three little birds – sit on my doorstep.  Singing – Don’t worry – about a thing. ‘Cause every little thing – gonna’ be alright!).  Sorry, got a little carried away, but that is kind of how it feels and if you can’t remember the words, somewhere on the route there WILL be a band or boom-box sound system playing it for you. It IS called the Reggae Marathon, you know!

By the time the sun is actually up and things are really beginning to get warm I expect to have made the final turn back toward the finish and “Bob’s Mile” – the last mile, where signs with lyrics and philosophy from Bob Marley inspires runners to make the last push.

From start to finish I know that road is not going to be the often lonely road of distance runners. No sir! Whether it is locals getting into the spirit or other resort dwellers out to the road to give encouragement, we WILL NOT be alone. Even staff from some of the resorts will be on the street cheering us on.

This event has the full range of participants. There will be some pretty quick and serious runners in all three events, including the full marathon which seems to have belonged to one Rupert Greene for some years. If he runs to form, you can expect a time in the low 2:30’s. The 10K will go down in 30 minutes and the half around 1:12.  And then there will be the rest of us. There will be serious runners who want to do a Reggae PB, but stringing out behind will be the happiest running crowd you’ve ever seen. This is where I got the title: One Love, One Race. I defy you to do this event without dancing through at least one of the aid stations or music posts. Can.not.be.done!  Ya mon! People will be running and walking, or straight up walking, but everyone reacts to the vibe. Some will have returned for years to do this special event. This is my own personal third appearance. Chris Morales, That Runnin’ Guy and official RM Blogger is here for the fifth year running, but there are others who are fixtures at the Reggae Marathon weekend.

I have no great personal expectations for the actual running. I have had a great year of running and coming off seven marathons or more since the end of April, plus a few shorter events sprinkled in, I am not worried about the endurance factor. My last marathon was three weeks prior to race day, so I’ve mostly been ‘tapering’ into the Reggae Half Marathon. From last year’s experience, I know what it is going to feel like as it gets warm in the latter stages of the race, so may hope for an improvement on last year’s time. But, if it isn’t any better – well, don’t worry, be happy!

Whatever, I know what a great party is waiting at the finish. Fresh coconut, spray tents, fruit and that other thing – oh yes, a cool Red Stripe. The special, some might say weird, part is that this will all happen (for me) between 7:30am and at latest 7:45am.  Holy Cow! Most races I do, wouldn’t even have started at that point! And naturally, there will be the post-race ‘dip’ in the Caribbean which is always waiting just there, close by that finish line.

I won’t bore you with more of this, but clearly you can’t just jump on a plane home. Well, you could, but why would you? Quite a few of us already have our post-race plans forming, notwithstanding that you shouldn’t really try to plan too much on a beach in Jamaica!

RUNNING AND OUR AWESOME COMMUNITY

11.25.2013

Runners Running 2013

I’m probably not breaking amazing new ground by saying that the running community gives us something that is, as the commercial says: Priceless.

However, in the past few days I have been reminded in several quite different ways, just how true it is that the running community is very special. I won’t say unique because I don’t know about other possibly similar communities. I do know about running and runners, including thousands and thousands that I have never even met.

I suppose we could start with the actual running part. People encourage others in their training, with management of injuries, with getting to and from events and with appreciating what they’ve done or hope to do. For that matter, runners are a never ending source of information on that ‘next race that you really HAVE to do’.  I don’t think I’ve ever had another runner tell me “you are a slow old slug and you aren’t really a runner” (or anything similar). OK, there is one guy, but he assures me he is just kidding. Quite the opposite, even when the individual may actually be thinking or saying that very thing about him or herself, most other runners will find the positive in it and be encouraging! In what is to a great extent a competitive endeavour, that is quite remarkable. I have a great running friend, and although when we compare our histories, we should have known each others for years, running is our basic connection. We are by a matter of days, the same age and have rather similar PB’s etc. We are ‘competitive’ and we  are each other’s main competition at local events and we DO compete, and we DO keep track of who has won how many head to head races. The rest of the time we are buddies when it comes to running. This is part of what I mean about the nature of our community.

Running is one of those interesting and, in this case perhaps, quite unique activities where there is effectively a continuum from the best and fastest to the very slowest.  OK, fair enough, I am a looooooong way behind the winners, but if I run something like the New York City Marathon, Berlin, Chicago etc, I am running in the same race against the World’s Best. That was pointed out yesterday by a friend in a post-run coffee gathering. You can’t go to Wimbledon and play a bit of tennis with the World’s best. You can’t take your Ford Focus out to the Indianapolis Speedway and run a couple of laps with the big boys. Anyway, you get the idea. The year (2007) that I ran New York, Martin Lel won the men’s side while Paula Radcliffe took the Women’s title. I ran in that race.  I ran against Martin Lel and Paula Radcliffe. Were they home, showered, fed and having a nap by the time I finished? Likely, but it doesn’t change the fact that Martin Lel was first while I was 18,375th in the very SAME race. Had I run a PB time that day (mine is 3:25) I would still have been somewhere around 2,800, still a good long way back. And, that reminds me of one of my favourite running stories that beautifully illustrates the breadth and depth of this sense of community.

This tale is about Alberto Salazar. I heard it a long time ago and can’t cite the source or even be 100% certain it is true. I certainly want it to be and given other things we know about Salazar, I feel it is reasonable to believe it. Apparently a reporter was talking to Salazar sometime after one of his spritelier marathons (you know, the 2:08-2:09 kind, when that was as fast as anyone was going). The question was something to do with, “What do you think about the back of the packers?”.

Salazar asked what he meant by that.

Reporter, apparently said something like, “You know, people who take over four hours to do a marathon.”

It seems Salazar asked incredulously, “You mean people take more than four hours to run a marathon?”

Reporter: “Yes!”

Salazar: “Four hours, running as hard as they can?”

Reporter: “Yes!!”

Salazar: “Man, I couldn’t do that.”

I used quotes because that is how I recall the story. Is it totally true and are these the actual words? Don’t know, but the sentiment is that the effort is admirable regardless of time. This came from a man who, at the time, was the world’s best. He clearly understood what running was about.

I am about to get on an airplane in a week or so to go to Jamaica for my third time at the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K in Negril. This is not the New York City Marathon (in terms of size or talent). Neither Alberto Salazar nor anyone like him will be there, but a wonderful running community will be. Over the past three years I have developed my own Reggae Marathon community from among other runners and the organizers. We will run. We will do our best at whatever of the three events we have chosen to do and then we will party together. We will encourage each other and everyone around us and it will be a wonderful experience for all concerned. And, in this case there will be Reggae Music and a true feeling of “One Love”.

I have belonged to a number of running clubs and for the most part they are all the same when it comes to a community of runners supporting and encouraging one another. While not a running club as such, I have run for a number of years now with a retail store running clinic, either simply as a participant or as a pace group leader. Yesterday was the first Forerunners 2014 First Half Clinic group run. The First Half Half Marathon is an event organized by the Pacific Road Runners – one of my running clubs. PRR is a superb example of a club that works together and gives support. For instance, even though some members are pretty quick, the Tuesday night club run always starts with about two miles of “warm-up” where the pace is held such that virtually anyone in the club can keep up and the whole group runs together.

Getting back to the Forerunners clinic groups, the community aspect again comes through as individuals support and even ‘coach’ each other as we run. You can tell there is community because even though this may be a paid running clinic, the proportion of repeat participants is huge. I have seen so many people grow through the clinic from rank beginners, not sure they should even be there, to confident and competent runners. Notice I didn’t use the word ‘fast’. That said, relative to their old selves they have become fast(er). I know the supportive community is part of that improvement. In this case, community is built by the participants themselves, the very dedicated coach and the owners of Forerunners. Runners of all abilities are made to feel welcome and a part of the whole. Aspiring elite runners are often around and supported by the store as they develop their skill and pursue their training. Do they run with us on Saturday mornings? NO!  But, sometimes they meet up with us and talk about what they are doing and we are talking about several of Canada’s current best distance runners.  Inspiration. Community.

All you have to do is get into the organizing side of a running event and you will see this immense community support come together to deliver a great experience to fellow runners.

Go out on a course and watch what happens if someone comes to an unfortunate situation during the run or race – a fall, cramps, collapse. People STOP and offer aid. Sure, sometimes it is momentary if the ‘stricken’ runner assures it is nothing serious, but when aid is required most will just abandon their own race and assist in whatever way they can. I’ve seen it time and again. I’ve even been ‘first on the scene’ a couple of times and been the one to really stop and give aid. I would expect no less of myself and live assured that if I was the one down, there would be no lack of others ready to do the same for me.

Social media is a relatively new phenomenon, but I see the same attitudes among running groups that have set up ‘communities’ or ‘pages’ on such platforms as Facebook. Just read the various posts. Of course, there will be a certain amount of ribbing that goes on, even trash talk. That Reggae Marathon group I spoke of has certainly done its share of the trash talking, but it is 100% good natured fun. Just check out someone who has an injury or a disappointing result and see the outflowing of support. Ask a question and stand back – you WILL get advice, lots of it and sincere. Post that you are going to run some race somewhere and you will have dozens of ‘likes’ and well-wishing comments, maybe tips from others who have already run the race before. Perhaps a smattering of ‘me too’s’.

I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. Do think about it. We live in a wonderful ‘world’, us runners. We are both fortunate and blessed to have found it and to be able to draw strength, support and positivity from it, and of course to give back to it.

OLD GUY RUNS ANOTHER MARATHON

11.16.2013

Welcoming sing on Fremont Street Las Vegas

OK, that isn’t really news these days. As far as that goes, I am not really ALL that old (in comparison to say, dirt, trees or even Ed Whitlock and B.J. McHugh). Still, I just got a ‘now following’ note from Twitter saying Run Grandpa Run is now following Running in the Zone.

I am not 100% sure when I will hit ‘publish’ on this one, but as I write it is Thursday, the day before the first day of package pick-up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon and Half Marathon. I am excited to get this project truly on the road, so to speak. A race never seems real until that bib is in your hands. The race itself is still three full days away. Well, I looked at the time and maybe that is off by 30 minutes. I figure with the wave start and my corral, I should cross the start line around 5:00pm  or so.

I am both excited about starting my sixth (7th, if you count my one ultra) marathon in 2013, and strangely apprehensive. The excitement is nothing new or hard to explain. This is a big race with a great reputation and amazing venue/route along the Las Vegas Strip among all the glitter and lights. I sure won’t be alone, as there will likely be at least 25,000 doing one event or another of the three on offer: the Full, the Half and the “Half of the Half”. I am pretty sure that one way or another, I should be able to manage the 26.2 miles. The course has some gentle ups and downs, but I’ve run several harder, this year alone.

The apprehension is something new and I decided to write about this because others may relate to it for various reasons, totally different from the specifics of my situation. It isn’t that I haven’t been apprehensive before, especially when I ran my (second ever) first Victoria Marathon in October 2000, ten years after back surgery in 1990. The source of any doubt on that one should be pretty obvious. There have  been other races, not necessarily marathons, where a terribly demanding challenge had to be faced. Still, this feels different from those. Following are my thoughts on why I am feeling as I am.

Technically, I should be better trained for the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon than any of the others this year except the first (Eugene, April 28). I have run some significant distance including two full marathons two weeks apart, and the second completed just over four weeks ago (five weeks come race day). I have been able to ‘taper’ from the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon more or less as if it was the last long training run in a normal marathon training program. And yet, I find myself wondering if I can do it again. Part of the issue, if you want to call it that, may be motivation. Since April, I have been working toward adding another star to my Marathon Maniac status. I covered this recently, but through a mis-reading of the criteria I thought I needed two more marathons to complete the goal. I signed up for this one in that belief. Then, what to my wondering eyes did appear, but another glittering star by my name. My six races to date turn out to have met the standard, so I have that coveted star (two now) by my name and in that context, Las Vegas means nothing, because I am surely not forging on for the third star and Gold status. I had another marathon planned for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K in Negril in December. That one was intended to get me to the eight I thought I needed, but is for sure being down-graded to the Half or 10K. Although I guess I could still do the same with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, this isn’t just any old race on any old course. I do want to complete the full marathon.  At least I think I do. That is what seems strange. I am not 100% sure I’m 100% sure.  Have I found a new form of “Mara-Paranoia”?

I have been faithfully following the Maniac system of running many races, slower. Getting them done is the key, not the speed. For someone as old as I am, pace is everything if you are going to run a lot of marathons in a short(ish) period of time. I am convinced that I still have sub-five legs under me with the right preparation and conditions. Eugene was under five, and I think I could have done better than I did. I suppose that all the above commentary about training notwithstanding, I am not certain about the fatigue factor at this point. Rock ‘n’ Roll has stated they have a five hour cut-off. Although I have been just over five hours on a couple and under on one, I am  unsure I can stay ahead of the sweep! Technically, I probably can. The five hours is a chip based time re when the last runner crosses the start. Still, I’ve never run worrying that I am in danger of being pulled off the course. Guess I will just have to remember Satchel Paige’s quote: “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.”  Or Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

My apprehension is a little silly since I know that if I behave myself and watch my early pace I should definitely be able to finish well inside the time specified. It is also a little silly in that it is not such a big deal anyway. I am here for fun, not to win the race! That is probably the real answer – just have fun, take it easy and let the race look after itself.  With this course, the music and all the people, it HAS to be fun!

Race Expo at the Convention Center

I’m thinking that a good thing to do re publishing this, is to wait until I’ve picked up my race package on Friday and then see how my head feels. If it isn’t clear by now, it is my head that is the real problem here! Whatever the result of hitting the Expo, I won’t change the previous content (except for grammar and spelling).  I will just update how things are feeling with the new energy that will doubtlessly flow from the Expo experience. Besides, at the moment I don’t have any great night photographs of the Strip to put in here!

Nice at 4 Miles. Nicer at 26.2 Miles!

OK. Now I have night shots to spice this up. Of course, these are just previews of where we will run, but it surely gives the idea. It is Friday night and I’ve been to the Expo, got my bib and a bag full of swag.

As I thought might happen,  I likewise got a nice dose of motivation. I am no longer nearly as concerned about the things noted above (yesterday). Maybe it is the nifty pace band I got. Or, just that I looked at my normal pacing and the points/times where the Grim Sweeper will start taking folks off the course and realized the published points are all between about half way and 15 miles and I seldom fall off pace that early.

Across the street from Venetian and the Finish.

OR MAYBE, it is the comfort of knowing I have no need to decide about dropping to the half marathon until just past 9 MILES. This is the first ever half/full marathon in which I have participated where a runner can switch from the full to the half by just taking the half route to the finish. No change of registration with swapping of bibs etc, etc. Just take the turn to the finish when the moment comes. I am not sure of the logistics, but whatever, this seems brilliant.

Fremont Street - part of the Marathon route.

How many of us have gone to the start of a race with doubts, but not big enough doubts to switch a day or two before the race? How many have had those doubts but persevered and had things turn out just fine? And, how many have taken the longer distance and then become injured in the process? You sometimes just don’t know until you are out there running. How great would it be if you could decide around 10 miles? Personally, the one race that jumps out at me is the 2011 Eugene Marathon. I started nursing an injury and knew it was dicey. Had I been able to elect to change races on the run (so to speak) I might not have lost most of my year. I use the example because the route for Eugene lend itself superbly to this approach and because had it been possible to get credit for running the half, I am pretty sure I would have opted out of the marathon and saved a great deal of the damage I did. It might require a couple of extra timing points right near the split-point so that timers can be certain of who decided to do what. It would also require clear markings and volunteer directions to be certain that runners are aware of that they are electing to do. When you get to the finish, you simply select the proper finish chute and voila – done.

So back to my doubts and where this leaves me. I now know I don’t have to decide until just past nine miles, and if things are going well I can power on, or I can just accept that this  isn’t the day for my next marathon and turn it into a half by taking what looks like a sharp left and running about 4 miles to the finish. The very fact I know I CAN do this is leaving me feeling I won’t need to actually do it. Ed. Note: I am finishing this up Saturday morning and feeling even more certain this is going to be Marathon #23.

Let’s get ready to Rock and Roll!

 

RUNNING ROUND-UP

11.10.2013

Running in the Sun! Photo by Rick Horne

So hard to pick a title when there are a bunch of things to talk about, none of which justifies one of my full-blown blogs at this point. I decided to share a few thoughts on a wide range of topics, with more to follow on a couple of them.

There have been a few commentaries out there lately about ‘real running’ that draw people like me into a discussion ‘real fast’. Also, I’ve come off a busy season with just two planned events remaining, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon and Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. Lot’s to say about both, but not quite ready for a full blog post. This is partly because I completed a goal a bit by accident and am left trying to decide what to do about that. I’m working on a guest post that I think should interest lots of readers.

Another First. Guess it will be good to start at the start. First up is another first for me: my first Rock ‘n’ Roll event. With the new Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Vancouver Half Marathon coming to streets near me next Fall, it is a happy accident that I signed up to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon. It will be the second biggest distance race I’ve done next to the New York City Marathon (2007). The pre-race info makes it sound fabulous, particularly running the “Strip at Night”. Others have told me it is amazing and so much fun with the music, lights and all. A feature of the race is the ‘Running of the Elvi’. Now, I am of the right era and Elvis and I are both Capricorns, but I don’t have the hair for it!

A Big Surprise. Strangely enough this links with another of the topics mentioned, namely achieving a 2013 goal by surprise. A bigger surprise is how that has impacted my present attitude. As some will know, I joined Marathon Maniacs in the early part of the year, using a string of results accidentally achieved in 2008. The Maniacs make it clear that you only have to achieve the given standard once and you ARE henceforth, a Marathon Maniac. Be that as it may, I thought I would do what was necessary to at least re-qualify after joining. I had trained for the Eugene Marathon in late April and could see a string of possible events that would let me run three marathons in 90 days. However, I do like PB’s and the only way this dude is going to run a PB is to find a new distance. The first distance accepted as an ‘ultra’ run is 50km, less than 8K beyond the marathon, but I don’t do well on gnarly single track steep up/down trails. Most ultras seem to take place on such courses.  What to do??  What is the point of knowing one of the world’s best ultra runners if you can’t ask for a bit of advice?  I got in touch with Ellie Greenwood and asked for a suggestion of a relatively flat, relatively rootless/rockless trail 50K course on which I could run my first Ultra. The best from my perspective was nought but a modest ferry ride away, just near Victoria: the Elk-Beaver 50K. So, I did it. And, never mind how long it took, it was a PB!

Elk Beaver was just 13 days after the Eugene Marathon. Oops! Well, trail ultras are different beasts and there would be plenty of time to complete as there was also a 50 miler and a 100K event using the same 10K loop around Elk and Beaver Lakes. Upon finishing, I was re-qualified as a Marathon Maniac (Bronze or One Star level). I had long intended to return to the Winthrop Marathon in June to improve on my heat busted effort in 2012. That re-re-qualified me and there I sat with three marathons in a mere 42 days. I had to ask myself how many times I wanted to qualify as a One Star Maniac before moving up. The answer: not long. Off to the web site to check the criteria of a Two Star Maniac.  I learned I could run six marathons in six calendar months or eight in 365 days. I began maniacally searching race schedules. July produced another race relatively close and doable, the Freedom Marathon. I didn’t want to put a lot of miles on my legs through the summer with Hood to Coast looming in late August. The next choice seemed to be the Surrey International World Music Marathon in September, followed by the Goodlife Victoria Marathon in October. I did both to reach 6 marathons. Having elected to skip any marathon in August I figured my goal was 8 in 365 days, so I registered for Las Vegas, and for the Reggae Marathon.

And then, a funny thing happened! While updating the profile of Maniac #6837 (that’s me) I noticed I already had my Two Star Silver symbol showing. I was sure they didn’t award stars for intentions (I had both Vegas and Negril listed as planned races). Nothing to do but check officially. Sure enough, even though I had not run a marathon in each month since Eugene, the actual standard was the number of days equivalent to 6 consecutive months! There I was, a Two Star Maniac with two more marathons already fully registered to get to eight.

Ready to Rock ‘n’ Roll. What was an old semi-lame Maniac to do? One thing I was sure about was that I did not intend to push on for three stars (12 marathons in 365 days). Theoretically doable? Yes! Practically doable for Maniac #6837? Not so much. I’m pretty nicely set up for Las Vegas. Although I didn’t do much distance training over the Summer, with the (inaugural) Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon, the Surrey International World Music Marathon and the Goodlife Victoria Marathon behind me, the five weeks from Victoria to Vegas looked ideal to recover and do a proper ‘taper’ from the long ‘training’ run (Victoria). I learned long ago not to predict anything regarding a marathon, but I will say I am feeling pretty good.

Every Little Thing, Gonna’ Be Alright. That brings us to the Reggae Marathon: one of my favourite events anywhere. The event is just so special and different and the people are so great whether we are talking the main organizers, the participants or especially the volunteers. This would be the eighth marathon and two more than I actually have use for in my Maniac quest. I have run the 10K and the Half, but NOT the marathon at Negril. My medal collection isn’t complete. There is nothing quite like the 10K. It starts at 5:15 am with the other distances, but even a slow runner should be finished before sunrise at 6:33 am. Even the Half can be done before it is seriously warm – hey, it’s Jamaica – you go there because it is sunny and warm!! The Start is generally around 22-23C  (around 72F) and that doesn’t change before sunrise, maybe a bit too warm for screaming fast times for anyone from Canada, but the air feels silky and watching the light come up in the eastern sky as you run is something to be experienced.

The astute reader may have noticed I have not spoken so glowingly about the marathon. At my age and stage it is realistic to feel that completing the Reggae Marathon is at least a five and a half hour project. Said astute reader would be able to take my commentary about time of day, time to finish either the 10K or Half Marathon and extrapolate forward into the second half of the full marathon. As tropical places go, a daily high of about 29C (84F) is quite pleasant. Running a full marathon on such a day on asphalt in the direct sun might be something else. The race takes super good care of participants with water, electrolytes and gels regularly available and even misting stations, but the truth is I would be letting myself in for a hard run. It all seemed worth it for my second star AND the completion of my Reggae Marathon medal set. There is another cost to this and that is missing out (for the most part) on the post race party with my growing group of Reggae Marathon friends. I am still registered for the marathon. I am also slowly but surely sliding toward a race change, probably to the Half. I plan to wait until I return from Las Vegas to decide, maybe even until Package Pick-up. Running should be about fun, and the post-race beach party with fresh coconuts, reggae music, Red Stripe beer, a bunch of running friends, and glorious sunshine is the definition of FUN.  Soon come, mon!  Stay tuned.

Real Running/Runners. That brings us to serious running stuff about which I am still formulating comment. The two topics are kind of the same. One is the subject of ‘real runners’ and ‘real races’, with a sub-text of why present day runners aren’t as good or serious enough. I feel strongly about both of these and it is probably for that reason I don’t want to have too much to say until I have the thoughts just right. However, I am ready to give a preview and maybe attract a wee bit of comment that will help me with the actual writing.

For me, “Real Runners” are people who get out there and do it. Oh, there are elite runners, competitive runners, recreational runners and likely a bunch of other kinds too. Apparently, Real Runners participate in Real Races, but what is a Real Race?? There are many novelty events arising, and attracting large fields. They are not simply runs, per se. Colour runs, mud runs, coloured mud runs (wait, did I just invent that one?) are for fun but nonetheless physical events. They are what they are and say nothing about the state of running as far as I am concerned. At least a huge part of any field, especially in really big events, are experiential or participatory runners. They aren’t there to win anything. They may be there because they love running and participation. They may be there for fitness or life-style healthy living reasons. Hardly matters – they are there. I have said (tongue firmly in cheek) that there is only ONE (1) winner in any race. Everybody else is a loser!  Steve Prefontaine said it, and in his case more seriously, that being second just makes you the First Loser. I usually pause for a couple of beats before adding that in a different sense, everybody is a winner by just being out there.  As they say (well used to) “There are Eight Million Stories in The Naked City: This is One of Them”. Every person is doing what they do for their own reason. Oh yes, a few are trying to win outright, some will be gunning to win their age category. Most are just there ‘because’. Personally, I am usually there to see whether I’ve still ‘got it’ which is why I love age grading. It gives me a tool to compare myself to me over the years.

The other topic is a bit of a laugh riot, but has created an interesting debate. One or two individuals have put it out there that modern runners aren’t as good as days of yore. Said not as good runners, at least in this discussion, are distance runners, North American, OK just American, distance runners. The complaint usually goes along the lines of “I remember when Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley and Frank Shorter were showing the World their heels!”.  Yes they were. Their marathon times were remarkable and to be admired. And showing NO disrespect, the times they recorded would not get you an A-list invitation to a Marathon Major today. Could those guys run faster with today’s technologies, training, bio-mechanical understanding? Likely. My point though is that running has moved on from those days and the dominant species at the moment is the tiny East African runner from Kenya or Ethiopia. These are the people laying down the world’s best times as was the habit of such as Salazar in his day. The concern expressed about how today’s (North American) runner just isn’t working hard enough or being good enough ignores the athletes like Ryan Hall who has gone four minutes faster than Alberto Salazar, which amazing time was only good enough to give him 4th Place at Boston when he did it. Hall seems to have made the huge error of getting born at the wrong time! A 2:04 marathon is nothing to use as an example of failure, at least in my humble opinion. I think what the commentators really mean is ‘we aren’t winning anymore, and that isn’t right’.

The argument generally includes the fact (true) that average finisher times are slower. That totally ignores the fact that many people are taking on the full and half marathon as personal goals, just as the 10K once was. It is a great sign of success when masses of people feel ready to take on the marathon for a personal achievement and express the work ethic needed to finish their first race. So the average time is slipping: the number of runners is rising fast, particularly in the half marathon and especially among women! Is there something good or right about an elitist approach to running the marathon? My first marathon had a four hour time limit. What does it matter if participants take more than four hours? Five?

So, there is a taste of some topics that are waiting to be fully explored.

Thanks for listening to my meanderings about my goals and achievements, not to mention plans and last but not least, opinions. I admittedly write about me, but try to talk about things I feel others may relate to or be stimulated/inspired by.

Guuh Ha'd an Dun!

Can’t wait to hit the Strip at Night! Especially can’t wait to hit the Beach at Negril.  And hey people, there is still time to get in on both of these events!

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