Archive for May, 2014




The Magical Distance of the Marathon

The Magical Distance of the Marathon

“I’d say that on any given outing you’re going to get in maybe 22K of glory. Then there is going to be 10K of blah, 7K of agony, 3K of…well let’s not talk about that 3K.”

Hands up, those who don’t think this is about right!

I didn’t create that opening quote.  For proper attribution, the opening is a quote by Rob Watson, taken from the print edition of “Canadian Running” (May/June 2014).

But, I COULD have said it. I really, really could have!

For anyone who doesn’t know, Rob Watson is one of Canada’s pretty spectacular current crop of top flight marathoners and trains with the BC Endurance Project. Frankly, Canada may never have seen such a concentration of long distance running talent as we enjoy right now: Dylan Wykes, Eric Gillis, Reid Coolsaet, Kelly Weibe, and do not for a minute forget Lanni Marchant, Krista Duschene or Natasha Wodak, not to mention Kim Doerksen who just served notice of intent at the last BMO Vancouver Marathon.

But, let’s get back to Rob and his quote. Rob has lots of quotes to quote. Rob is colourful. Rob tells it how he sees it! If you watched the 2013 elite field of the Boston Marathon, Rob was the tall skinny white guy in the black New Balance gear who was in the lead for a LOT of the first half. When I saw him later, after congratulating him on his 11th place finish, I ventured a question to the effect of why didn’t you let some of those tiny dark hued chaps from Africa lead the way? His answer was something along the lines that they were all playing ‘silly bugger’ and messing up his pace. They were going slow, then fast, then weaving across the road. You know, racing. He said he just decided to run as he had trained and let things go as they might, remarking that inevitably he was “passed by eight angry Africans” and that was that. I don’t believe they were actually angry at all, but I doubt I will ever forget Rob’s description of the moment! Oh yes, he also describes his racing strategy as ‘Fade from the Front’.

Enough of that though. What about his description of the basic marathon?

Rob Watson at the Ottawa Marathon

Rob Watson at the Ottawa Marathon

The reason I was so taken with it is that a guy who I consider to be one of our best, described the marathon pretty much as I experience it. And, we all know I am nowhere near where Rob and his friends are running.

What struck me about his summary was that when you put everything into your training (in context), then take the race seriously and go out to do the best you can, THAT is pretty much what you experience. I’ve heard other elites express similar ideas. In a way, it seems to confirm that the marathon is mostly between our ears. Mostly, Rob describes feelings: glory, blah, agony. OK, agony could be physical but it is also a perception (as in “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”) and includes the raging self-doubt that kicks in when, as hard as you try, you can’t push any harder.

Reading the whole (relatively short) Canadian Running article on the marathon, he hits so many ‘nails’ on the head where it comes to the why’s of pushing ourselves to and through this possibly un-natural activity. It was so great to hear that mentally or psychologically, even this old back of the packer, perceives the marathon more or less the same way as a front runner, notwithstanding the two hour time difference. The relativity of our pace can never be denied, but the similarity of experience is amazing – to me, anyway.

What is it that draws or drives us to the marathon?

There is doubtlessly a mystique to it. It has symbolically become significant to legions of runners and even non-runners who take on a long-term quest to complete a marathon. I have run a 50K Ultra, mostly because I desperately wanted a new PB and at my age, there is no standard distance at which I could possibly go faster than I did some 25 years ago (whence come all my pure PB results). This only matters in that I vividly recall taking note as I ‘crossed’ the marathon threshold, into new territory. I felt a sense of elation as I recognized both that I WAS in said ‘new territory’ and that I had a mere 7.8km to go to reach the 50K finish. Even though I was running my first ultra, the marathon was still the bench-mark.

When first I started this relationship with the marathon, it was more for the serious runner. The clock in that first race came down at four hours. Before I ran my second, some twelve years had passed. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to run another one, as much as it was that other things got in the way and at least in the earlier years of those twelve, there just weren’t as many opportunities as we have today. I did start out to run #2 a couple of times, but failed to even reach  a start line until October, 2000.

Absolute finish time hasn’t generally been a big issue for me, as long as the effort was the best I could muster. I think a lot of people run that way. None of us controls the weather and no matter how hard we’ve trained, we can only optimize our outcome ‘on the day’. If you expect to run between 10C and 15C and it is 22C at the start, you are already into Plan B, maybe even Plan C. Courses are different too. When you have run for as long as I have, especially when you were already about 40 when you started, age becomes a factor. Your goals must reflect this reality, a primary reason that I love Age Grading. It allows us to make our performances relative over a long period of time. In that respect, it is more important for me to hold my age-graded % Performance constant than to run any particular time, pure or age-graded. Naturally, one can backtrack from the Performance Standard to a goal time for the purposes of pacing and such. As I said, I hardly think I am alone in this.

There is no doubt that it is legitimate to have a goal to simply finish a marathon. For various reasons at various times, I have had that kind of goal. Most of what I’m saying here though, is related to training well and running as well as you can, whatever that might be. At one time that meant 3:20-3:30 for me. Now, it means under 5:00.

Me, faking it in those "3km" at BMO Vancouver Marathon 2014

Me, faking it in those “3km”

Rob Watson and his marathon buddies probably can’t imagine ever running at that pace, maybe not even my best pace. Of course, I sometimes wonder when I could run 3:24 at the age of 43, what I might have done at 30! BUT, I wasn’t running at 30. That said, if I truly believe in the magic of age-graded results, I could estimate that my PB-30 would have been around 3:14, but that also assumes that my first marathon was actually the best of which I was capable (rather than the best I ever did), and while respectable, it is not amazing. That isn’t really the point anyway. The age grading tables, reversing the process, would then say for me to match what I did in 1988 would require that I run 4:24:45 today. Given that I have a (well documented in these pages) physical issue over and above simple aging, it is probably more fair to make the comparison to what I did in 2010 at age 65, which grades out as my 2nd best marathon effort. On that basis I need to run 4:40:20. That sounds more or less right, everything taken into account. And remember, at all times we compare apples to oranges because there are course and weather differences, both of which are outside our control. The assumption also includes good training, good health, good rest, good nutrition and race prep, or at least that all of these would be the same. Naturally, they never are.

Anyway, let’s get back to the deep subject of the ‘Meaning of the Marathon’. There is still this thing that makes us dig down for our best and dig so deep that we are willing to deal with 7K of agony and that 3K we aren’t even going to talk about. At the front end, we sometimes see races where the object of the exercise is to win and others where the object is to obliterate the course, national or world record. Our Rob was in one of those this past Sunday. It was the Canadian National Marathon Championship at the Ottawa Marathon. Rob came in as defending champ, but left #2 behind the above-mentioned Eric Gillis. If you want to read about it, Rob describes it at Le Blog du Rob #113. The marathon record BY a Canadian was never threatened by either, but the marathon record ON CANADIAN SOIL was not only challenged, it was hammered down to 2:06:53. However, the winner Yemane Tsegay of Ethiopia had been aiming to go 2:05’ish. He seemed almost apologetic in his win and record. It wasn’t what he intended/hoped. In this case it was probably mostly weather – just too chilly for him in the early going. That’s racing!

Now let’s get back to ME!  By ME, I mean all the people like me, and by that I mean the me who could run under 3:30 at one time and who are now pushing the 5 hour barrier. I’ve gone through some real soul searching in the last 18 months or so on my marathoning and the future thereof. Rob will probably never know how much his little article in Canadian Running influenced my present state of mind. If the reader has followed this blog at all, it will be well-known that I spent 2013 ‘playing’ Marathon Maniac. By that, I mean I joined the Maniacs (based on a qualifying set of races in 2008), then decided it was insufficient to just sit there on what I did five years back. With a conscious decision, I set out to qualify to be at LEAST a Two Star Maniac. Although there are a couple of ways to achieve this, I elected the six marathons in six months route. I did it. I got my second star. Yay me!

You would assume that would make me happy, and you would be right on one level. I set a challenge and achieved the necessary goal. There is just one thing wrong with my friends over there at the Asylum”. They don’t officially care about time (a good thing re my Two Stars). Turns out, I DO.

Except the first marathon of 2013, which I guess I did run to my best on the day (turned out to be 7th best age-graded and under five hours), all the rest I did were something over 5 hours. I knew from the start that this was part of what would be necessary. No regrets at all. However, what I did learn through that stretch was that I do not like running below the standard of which I feel I am capable. At my most recent marathon in early May 2014 (BMO Vancouver Marathon) I REALLY experienced that 3K that shall not be mentioned.

On the day, I was incapable of processing two things that should have let me off the hook, at least a little. My ‘marathon mind’ wouldn’t have it. The weather was crappy (I believe that is a meteorological term). And, through some strange mental process of denial, I had magically erased 2013 from my memory (and the 8 marathons, 50K ultra and couple of each of half marathons, 10K’s, 8K’s and 5K’s I had done in the 12 months leading up to Vancouver). It had not been erased from my body. So there I was grinding out those last few kilometres toward the finish line, thinking I was glad it was raining so nobody could see my sad, frustrated tears as I thought about this as the last marathon I would even enter.

It only took a couple of days and a couple of kind friends to help me sort through it a bit, and then on Sunday at a race of a mere 8K, I ran into my ‘arch rival’ Ben. I think that really cemented everything in place in terms of context and expectation.  Of late, including Sunday, I have been able to outrace Ben, but on May 4 he nailed me by a good five minutes, but at a time that I couldn’t imagine he would be all that thrilled about. Was I ever wrong. I have no idea if he thinks he could run faster under different circumstances such as training or course difficulty, but in this instance he evaluated his realistic goal and then did better, and was thrilled! I (apparently) over-estimated my capability in the circumstances and ‘failed’, or at least thought I did. Thanks for the perspective, Ben!

The marathon is magical. It is demanding beyond the imagination of those who have never tried it, and can be cruel. It is rewarding beyond the imagination of anyone who has never finished one. It offers infinite possibilities to runners. We are only as good as we are. Running a marathon to our potential is always fulfilling (a word that is insufficient). I am actually now looking at my extreme disappointment re my run in Vancouver as a sure sign that I have not lost the mystique of the marathon in my heart and my soul, a sure sign that as slow as I might be now, I am still a serious marathoner. I have written this in hopes that others might ponder and be inspired by the words of Rob Watson that formed the lead for this essay and my perspective from the other end of the spectrum.

I think much of this just affirms my long held belief that: The marathon is more a state of mind than a distance. (Oh, and that one is mine!)

Good running!  Good marathoning!


SPIRIT OF THE MARATHON – The Challenge and the Journey

Book Cover - Spirit of the Marathon (by Roger Robinson)

Book Cover – Spirit of the Marathon (by Roger Robinson)

When you aren’t actually running, what else can you do? Well, you can read about running. Watch movies about running. OR, both!

What follows is primarily a book review of Roger Robinson’s newest book: Spirit of the Marathon – The Challenge and the Journey (Humphries Books ©2014). I say ‘primarily’, because the book “….follows and expands on the film Spirit of the Marathon II ……. taking a journey in words and images through the astonishing phenomenon of the marathon, its history, and its meaning in the lives of millions of runners.”

This humble reviewer decided that it was important to understand the movie in order to understand the book. He started by watching the DVD – Spirit of the Marathon II, produced by Jon Dunham. Without giving anything away, the film is based on the Rome Marathon (2012) and the specific experiences of several runners, a pretty fair cross-section of all who participate in such events. As a runner, and particularly as a marathoner who has run marathons with fewer than 200 finishers and more than 40,000, it was a wonderful reminder of why – why I and so many others do this thing called the marathon.

Roger Robinson’s book comes good on its promise to ‘follow and expand’ on the film. The nice thing about a book is that it sits there and waits for you to take from it what you need. All that is necessary if you aren’t sure what you just saw, is to shift your eyes back a few lines or flip back a page or so. That is not to say I don’t know my way around a remote, but there is something nice about being able to pause, without having to “PAUSE”. You can stop and think and even debate, although it is admittedly going to be kind of one sided. And, Robinson gives us lots of reasons to pause and ponder his words, not so much because you might disagree (you might, of course), but rather that he has a knack for getting way under the surface and into the history or background of events. You will likely learn a things about the marathon, how it came to be, came to be what it is and how there is not only a history to the marathon itself, but also to Women’s Marathons.

As a book, with or without (better with) the film, I recommend it highly to anyone interested in running whether currently active or not. For that matter, I would recommend this combo to all those who support us somewhat addicted runners. It just might explain what we are about and why we do what we do.

Roger Robinson contributed to Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes, bringing his special talent for telling the tale of running as an activity as well as its history, modern and ancient. Again, this latest book gives perspective like few others on the modern sport of running as we know it today. For someone of my age, the truth of the modern phenomenon of running comes crashing in with the realization of just how NEW it really is. The true pioneers of modern (distance) running still walk, nay run, among us. This fine little book introduces us to a number of them, as does the ‘special features’ segment of the DVD.

We all run for our own reasons, with our own personal goals to be realized. Whether first time marathoners or elite runners striving for podium finishes, we all have personal goals. A dominating theme throughout, and in following the seven individuals profiled in Spirit of the Marathon II, is this matter of how personal the whole thing is. The luminaries who helped get us to where we are today are also profiled in terms of their contributions in this regard.

One of those leaders is Jeff Galloway. Although I never really forgot, seeing the words on paper reminded me that it was Galloway’s Book on Running that got me to and through my own very first marathon back in 1988 – me and so, so many others. From elite runner, Jeff Galloway became one of the trail blazers for modern training and running among the ‘everyman’ (and woman) crowd, where most of us live. He made it OK to take approaches different from the elites and more appropriate for us regular folk. It was Galloway who said it is OK to walk some of the time and actually created the whole ‘run-walk’ approach to distance running.

Another pioneer in the field is Kathrine Switzer. Yes, there was that single moment in time when she dared to intrude into the exclusive man’s world of the Boston Marathon, but that was truly only the ‘starting gun’ for what followed. Who can forget the images of a young woman being physically attacked by one of the angriest men you may ever see? The angry man was Jock Semple, Race Director. Yet, as Kathrine herself puts it, Jock was just doing what he thought was right and protecting his beloved race. Later, he became a good friend and great supporter of women’s running – it just took a while. On April 19, 1967, K. V. Switzer (#261) only intended to personally challenge the marathon and test her own ability. Little did she know as she stepped over the start line, the path and journey she had launched herself upon. Instead of a weekend adventure, she found herself embroiled in a life’s work, a mission that has changed running across the board.

We learn how women’s running may be an even bigger phenomenon than popular running itself. With the exception of the full marathon, women now out-number men as participants. Women were apparently too fragile to run even 800m in stiff competition. That only changed at the Olympic level in 1960. The marathon had to wait until 1984 for inclusion in the Olympics. I could not help thinking, as I read Roger Robinson’s coverage of all this, that none of these officials who felt women were too fragile for endurance running (ie anything more than 800m) had ever been witness to the process of child-birth – the very thing which they were apparently ‘protecting’ with their ban on women in hard competitive events.

We oldsters need reminding of the things brought out in this book. The ‘youngsters’ who take today’s running as a given, need it even more. The marathon as a mass participation event is a mere blip in time. It is far less than 50 years, probably not much more than 30 that we have seen the real growth and expansion to where 40,000 and more people take to the streets of one or another of our world cities and challenge themselves in the most profound manner. Spirit of the Marathon – The Challenge and the Journey will go a long way to putting these matters into context. It introduces many of the pioneers and heroines and heroes of modern running as well as expanding on the philosophy behind the film and the individuals featured as they take on the 18th Maratona di Roma. Here you will find context – the context that makes it possible for Mimmo, Ylenia, Cliff, Epiphanie, Julie, Vasyl and Domenico to take on their personal challenges.

While I have mentioned just one or two of our sport’s trail-blazers in this review, the book and the movie bring us the stories, thoughts and words of not only Galloway and Switzer, but also Shorter, Rodgers, Higdon, Wittenberg, Radcliffe, Waitz, Gebrselassie, Dixon, Gorman and Kuscsick, with a nod to Bingham (aka The Penguin).

Make no mistake, the story is still being written, but if you want to catch up fast and prepare yourself to watch it unfold, to be part of that unfolding, I would suggest that you get yourself a copy of Spirit of the Marathon – The Challenge and the Journey. And, if you want to meet the everyday heroes of Spirit of the Marathon II and the Maratona di Roma 2012, maybe you should get yourself the DVD too. I’m pretty sure you won’t be sorry!

[Editor’s Note about the Author: Roger Robinson knows a thing or two about running as well as writing. Among his running achievements are Masters records at Boston, New York, Canberra and Vancouver (at 2:18:43 a record that still stands). He ran competitively for England and New Zealand. He has often worked (and continues to do so) as stadium announcer and radio/TV commentator, and as an Olympic analyst. His career as Professor of English Literature has now come to an official end (retired) allowing him to concentrate on the world of running – something he still does himself, though strictly for personal enjoyment. Roger has many publications including his books on running: Heroes and Sparrows, Running in Literature, 26.2 Marathon Stories (with his wife, Kathrine Switzer), and he is a senior writer for Running Times, where you can regularly find his perspectives on running.]



Good grief, what is he talking about now?!?

Harry Jerome - Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

Harry Jerome – Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

I realized lately when a Facebook page I ‘belong’ to posted a cover photo of the bronze statue of Harry Jerome in Stanley Park, that ‘Harry’ has inspired me a good many times, including in the closing stages of the just completed Vancouver Marathon. The way the ‘new’ BMO Vancouver Marathon and Half Marathon courses go, both routes pass right by Harry in his eternal lunge for the tape. At that point there is about 3km to go to the finish of both events. It might be a bit early to be thinking about ‘chesting’ the tape, but it is a sure sign that you are almost there; a sure sign that it is time to dig down and put everything out that you have left.

When I had that deep thought, it made me realize there is another statue that has often given me a shot of courage to bear down to the finish of a race I often do.  It is Terry Fox, at ‘Mile Zero’ at the corner of Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. The distance to the finish of the Goodlife Victoria Marathon is coincidentally just about 3km from the finish, but when you are running the marathon, you are indeed ‘almost there‘.

Now, I don’t really care who you are or how fast or slow, when you are that close to the end of a long race (both the half and full marathon routes in both cities, pass by Terry and Harry), you do need inspiration to take it home to the finish. I have certainly had that inspiration a good many times.

Terry Fox - 'Mile Zero' at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, BC

Terry Fox – ‘Mile Zero’ at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, BC

Terry Fox is an inspiration to all, and although I never met him personally, I have met several members of his family (more than once) and I know Doug Alward, his friend who drove the van for Terry and who also contributed to Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes.

Harry Jerome is also an inspiration to a great many, but maybe less generally known and more a hero in running circles. The difference is that I did know Harry from way back in my own track and field days when we were both running with the same Track Club.

I don’t know how many others use these two guys (or at least their iconic images) the way I do, but if you don’t, maybe you should. Terry Fox has definitely helped get me to the Victoria finish a good many times. There is even a coincidental matter that the statue was officially dedicated the same day that the book, Running in the Zone, was officially launched at the Victoria Marathon Race Expo.

It is pretty hard to feel sorry for yourself as you pass that statue just off to the right and are reminded of what Terry took on with his Marathon of Hope, and what he has inspired afterwards. Still, when I go by that corner with muscles burning, back stiffening up and my head once again reminding me that only some kind of idiot would be doing this, seeing Terry there, ‘frozen’ in the middle of his ‘hop-step’ running technique, I have called out for his help to dig down for those last couple of K’s. It works pretty much every time!

Harry Jerome’s story is less known, especially to the younger folk, but if you need to brush up on his history, find the movie ‘Mighty Jerome’ and be prepared to be amazed. Harry also died young, but not in a similar way to Terry Fox. Still it was a shock. He also overcame severe physical trauma to run fast enough to set a world record. Doctors said, after basically ripping his quads to shreds, that he would never run again – maybe never walk properly. Although I truly did know Harry as a kid, I am not going to tell you I knew him well or that we were buddies. Still, watching him train and the work ethic he displayed, it was not surprising to see him refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer and to come back so strongly that he did set another world record AFTER he recovered. Harry had another physical handicap. He was black. We don’t like to think that is an issue here, but watch the documentary ‘Mighty Jerome’ and you will understand how he was also an inspiration in the world of racial equality, in most cases with a quiet determined approach, yet relentless. Harry Jerome was a man who made a difference.

So, you can see that it is not difficult to find inspiration from that bronze sprinter, forever leaning into an imaginary tape alongside Coal Harbour. The location is very appropriate because while there is still a modest little track at Brockton Point, back in the days when Harry was ‘the man’ in Canadian sprinting, Brockton Oval was the place where it all happened here in Vancouver. My own school (King Edward High) had no track so we would find our way to Brockton Oval, one way or another, for track workouts. I have a long personal history with running in that end of Stanley Park, and apparently so did Harry, even if that is not where I actually ran with him on Club nights.

In any case, now that the BMO Vancouver Marathon and Half Marathon (Seawall and road, respectively) pass right by Harry, I am thrilled to have another inspirational statue to get me through that last bit to the finish. It has certainly helped twice now (the Half in 2012 and now the full marathon just a few days ago, in 2014). That is not to say that I’ve not been motivated by Harry a good many times on training runs often done in Stanley Park, but a race is different!

These are just some personal ramblings, but I wanted to say something both about personal motivators and in this case about those who have provided me with that motivation. I wonder how many others are motivated exactly as I am by these same two memorial statues? How many have their own similar motivating symbols on these or other race routes? I guess you really don’t have to have a physical thing like a statue, it could be something in your head – a person, a memory, whatever, but today I’m on about emblems or images like the Terry Fox and Harry Jerome statues, which were actually not placed where they are to motivate anyone to a particular race finish, but now can serve to do so. And, just to be clear, those statues are the reminder. It is what/who they represent that is the source of motivation and inspiration.

Run on!

BMO Vancouver Marathon and Half Marathon Preview

Some of the 2014 Elite Runners (Full and Half Marathons)

Some of the 2014 Elite Runners (Full and Half Marathons)

A few days ago, I gave you my own race preview for my fifth running of the BMO Vancouver Marathon (on the third different course, of course). However, other than my family, some friends and naturally my coach from the Forerunners marathon clinic, Carey Nelson, not so many are going to care how fast I run. That is perfectly fine with me. In fact, in a way I’m almost more interested in what takes place up near the pointy end of the races than at my end.  ALMOST.

Let’s begin with the Half Marathon since the race will begin first and truth be told, the winners will have likely finished before I even start the full marathon. There is an hour between the official starts for the elites in each of the Half and Full Marathon, but because of the wave start, at the very least the elite men and maybe even the women will be basking in the glory of their race wins by the time I start my marathon.

At the lead end of the men’s Half Marathon there should be a pack of three to maybe six very capable runners. Personal stats are indicative of relative abilities, but we all know that on the day things will be what they will be. Some people may have raced hard recently and some may be coming off injury and some might have eaten the wrong thing the night before. Sometimes a younger runner will be on the rise and about ready to lay down something nobody expected. That is why they make everybody line up and race. Otherwise, you could just compare PB’s and hand out the medals!

I have run the Half Marathon course and at the speed I run these days, have had a great opportunity to study it. Done well, it really should be a quick course. However, when you have a bunch of people of comparable ability the race may become strategic and then the object of the exercise often becomes winning rather than setting a record.

On paper, we would expect Paul Kimugul to lead the way. He won last year in record time (1:04:18). His lifetime best is 1:00:15 (2005). However, he also just won the Vancouver Sun Run 10K, a mere seven days prior to the upcoming race. Was that just a good warm-up, or did it cost him? One person who is going to be there to find out is Rob Watson. He comes into this event on a PB of 1:03:22 (2013). Rob knows how to win at the Half Marathon and is closer to his best time with a trajectory toward faster times. Did his team-mate, Dylan Wykes, from the BC Endurance Project take some of the spring out of Kimugul’s legs at the Sun Run, or just give him a good tune-up? Oh, the drama!

But, a last minute entry by Aissa Dghoughi (Morocco) may have something to say about it with a PB of 1:01:27. He is training in Portland and was still enroute when the athletes were introduced on May 2nd.

If any of the anticipated leaders falter, it is pretty likely that Kip Kangogo, with his brand new Canadian Citizenship papers clutched tightly in his hand (OK, maybe not in his hand, but definitely all crisp and new) will be there to show them how it is done. Kip is a well known runner in Vancouver and turned in a fine time of 1:04:52 in this race in 2013. Watch, at the very least, for these four to set the pace and make any other ‘pretenders’ work for it.

On the women’s side, Allison Macsas (Texas) appears to be the top contender, but watch out for Lloudmilla Kortchaguina who is always ready to ‘bring it’.  Two others to watch on the day will be Lisa Brooking and Kate Bazeley.

AND, as already noted, all this is going to happen (in all probability) before this blogger gets a foot over the Marathon start line!

Met up with my coach Carey Nelson (Forerunners Clinics) and Ellie Greenwood at the Media Luncheon (Photo: P Cheung)

Met up with my coach Carey Nelson (Forerunners Clinics) and Ellie Greenwood at the Media Luncheon (Photo: P Cheung)

Well, never mind. That is hardly news. I have said some years ago, and I guess it has turned out to be true, that after having done it three times I would never run the ‘retired’ Vancouver course again. The one thing I very much liked about that route is that there was an ‘out and back’ section that brought the race leaders back past us runners who were pacing ourselves more modestly. Even though it was fairly early in the race, it was good to see what was shaping  up, and inspiring too. In 2008, the last time I ran Vancouver and the last time I ran the ‘old’ course I was headed out toward the turn-around and enjoying watching the leaders already heading back. Because the women just mix in with the crowd of speedy runners just behind the male leaders, I was trying to spot the top females and when I saw the third woman coming toward me, I couldn’t help think, “Wow! She looks like Ellie!”. Well, of course she looked like Ellie, because it was indeed Ellie Greenwood. At that point, she was a fellow member of the Pacific Road Runners and someone I ran ‘with’ every Tuesday night. Going on from there she has become a world class ultra runner and winner of the BMO Vancouver Marathon in 2012 where she laid down her PB of 2:42:16 on the brand new course.

What a clever way to slide over into talking about the women’s field for the Marathon! Giving Ellie something to think about will be Wayinshet Hailu of Ethiopia. Running Vancouver for the first time, she carries a PB of 2:38:39 (2011). Horses for courses may apply here. Vancouver is bumpy. Run well, it could give a good time. Misjudged, it could mess a person up. Ellie Greenwood knows the course. Will that and her particular expertise at running ‘bumpy’ courses (hint: she is a world class ultra trail runner) be enough to make up the difference of plus or minus three minutes that the Ethiopian seems to hold on her? I guess we will find out on Sunday. Although they would theoretically not really be in the mix, all having times around 2:48, Alisa McDonald, Bean Wrenn and Sally Daganzo will be lurking. I would particularly keep an eye on McDonald as her 2:48 PB was done in 2013. While it is ten minutes slower than the apparent favourite, she may be on the rise and ready to lay down something challenging. Kim Doerksen who has just been surprising everyone with the rate of improvement she is showing in her every appearance, will be trying out the Marathon. It is going to be really interesting to see what she does with this longer distance.

That brings us to the men. The favourite has to be Kenyan Thomas Omwenga, 2013 Champ and four time winner of the BMO Vancouver Marathon. Even though his PB time of 2:10:44 was done ten years ago, there is little doubt he knows how to race, and more importantly, how to race this particular race. Gilbert Kiptoo, also of Kenya, theoretically has a better and more importantly, more recent, PB of 2:09:50 (2011). As so often seems the case these days there will be a couple of Ethiopians intending to ‘crash the party’. They are Tsegaye Disassa and Berhanu Mekonnen. Will there be team running on Sunday? Maybe. Maybe not. Will it be a fun race to watch? Oh, I think so! Watching it up close will be Richard Mosely as the top Canadian. How he will run is hard to say. His PB of 2:19:57 (2010) is theoretically good enough to top Omwenga’s 2013 winning time of 2:24:09, so he cannot be counted out. How he runs and how strategic the race is, will be key. The weather in 2013 was warm for Vancouver. Right now, the forecast suggests cool (I would call it ideal) running weather, with the possibility of a few sprinkles of rain just to keep everyone cooled out.

Could there be some surprises? Always. Will there be? Likely no big surprises. I believe the winners of all four races are covered on this page, and now we just have to sort out the details. Of course, I won’t know until long after they have showered and had a good meal and accepted their justly deserved accolades. Because my projected time assigns me to the final start wave it is certain that the men will have settled all this well before I hit the half-way timing mat, and maybe the women too! Wow, maybe there is a goal for me: half way before the male winner crosses the line! I’ll have to check that later and for sure will have to do that on chip time, not the gun.

Eager registrants cruise the Expo looking for last minute advantages for the big race!

Eager registrants cruise the Expo looking for last minute advantages for the big race!


A wee bit of Canadian Olympic history here in these Expo participants!  L-R Peter Butler, Diane and Doug Clement

A wee bit of Canadian Olympic history here in these Expo participants!
L-R Peter Butler, Diane and Doug Clement

While this is mostly and unapologetically about the elite field, it can’t be forgotten or ignored that there will be literally thousands of others running either the Half or Full Marathon events (not to mention the 8K and Kids Run). Some will very seriously be gunning for age category podium finishes. Some will be looking to lay down a solid race in their personal development as runners. It will surprise me beyond words if there aren’t a whole lot of ‘first timers’ doing either their first Half or  Full Marathon. Above all, there will be a whole lot of us who just need to feel the satisfaction of taking on the challenge one more time and pitting ourselves against our own record. For some, that will be in the form  of finding a new Personal Best. For others, like me, who are getting well into the ‘Seasoned Athlete’ category it will be maybe a recent PB, or just a time that shows we aren’t fading (too fast), but rather still holding our own. As I often say, there will be as many stories and goals as there are runners.

To each and every competitor out there I say: Have a great race, enjoy your personal challenge and be proud of what you accomplish on the day!




[Editor’s Note: We Marathon Maniacs (I’m one too – 2 Star/Silver) describe ourselves as ‘members of the Asylum’. There are now something approaching 9,200 Maniacs (hard to keep up with, as so many are joining – I am Maniac #6837 and I only joined just over a year ago). Maniacs display various levels of crazy, starting with ‘one star’ or ‘bronze’. Jordan decided to start in the middle by banging off a Quadzilla (4 in 4 days) for SIX Stars and an Osmium level. The top is 10 Stars and Titanium. Don’t ask what you need for that!]

Only Real Maniacs Can Explain the Cat.

Only Real Maniacs Can Explain the Cat.

The Quadzilla is something I knew immediately that I could do. 4 marathons in 4 days… It’s like drinking 4 pints in a row immediately without stopping. You know its possible… but will likely be a struggle, and something not repeated in the immediate future.

Below are the hard #’s and very brief nuts & bolts of what transpired over 4 days. I decided to remove what I had originally written as I felt the performances could speak for themselves…

I wasn’t the fastest or the slowest… but am certainly proud to be part of the asylum as maniac #8254.



6:00-6:30    wake up, oatmeal & a cuppa

6:45             leave for the race

7:30             arrive at race

8:00             race start

8:15             1 mile [bathroom break] – I didn’t want to wait in lines at the race start

9:15             finding a comfortable spot in the race after passing a portion of the field for the last hour

9:30-45                 halfway

11:30-45     finish & proceed to stand in lake or ice in parking lot

1:00            shower, some food, bodywork, maybe a nap

2:30            out wandering | expo | random restaurants, beer?

6:00            dinner and beer

8:00            12hr to race, nothing new (food or booze]

9:00            asleep


MARATHON # 1 | Wattle Waddle – Thursday, Nov 28

  • 3:23:20
  • 3rd overall
  • Great first run, damp & foggy, gave it too much gas in the middle of the run, in part because of nerves, intentionally slowed at the 20mile from a 3:05 pace to “rescue’ the weekend, my favorite race of the weekend, most thoughtful shwag, it most felt like an ultra, and it was on [2nd] Thanksgiving. Enjoyed lots of turkey and beer


Finishing the "Wishbone"

Finishing the “Wishbone”

MARATHON # 2 | Grampa’s Wishbone – Friday, Nov 29

  • 3:35:52
  • 3rd overall
  • Stiff in the morning, felt great as soon as I was moving, ran in brand new pair of shoes, pace felt awkward entire race,  Newton paced me for 10miles. Loved the fresh blueberry pancakes at the finish. Dropped into the Seattle Marathon Expo, saw friends, ate lots of random food, wasn’t following any of my own race advice I give to others or my plan


MARATHON # 3 | Ghost of Seattle – Saturday, Nov 30

  • 3:28:11
  • 9th overall
  • “Groundhog day” by Saturday, beautiful but a touch windy, mentally my strongest and most rewarding day. Newton dropped in and paced me for 8km [5 miles] at 4:15/km at the 20mile mark, just enough to get me in under 3:30. Very happy with the effort & pacing, felt ready for Sunday. A well organized race – had an amazing dinner with family.


MARATHON # 4 | Seattle – Sunday, Dec 1

  • 3:32:18
  • 251st overall
  • Largest crowds, my Achilles was on fire after the first mile bathroom break. Questioned if I should run through the pain. Felt a bit weird to be running with so many people after 3 small events. The hill at mile 20, I was prepared for, the wind on the I-90, but especially on the last 5km destroyed me, lost 90sec for each of the last 3mi (5km), just over 3:30.


The "Evidence" of a Quadzilla

The “Evidence” of a Quadzilla


Some people think getting up with a coffee and cigarette in the morning is insane. For others, running seems ludicrous. Some runners might think sitting on a bike for 8 hours is just pain. Marathoners think people who run ultramarathons (over 26.2min | 42.2km) are slightly off-kilter…4 marathons in 4 days is just asking for an injury. Everything is relative.

There is always a line for people. Always something longer, tougher and more challenging… Norseman, Furnace Creek, Barkley… I’ve hoped would all draw my name [still do]… the point is, that most weekends, [this weekend, in this town], someone, somewhere, will be on a start line, & someone will do something they may not have thought possible… something powerful beyond measure.

Inspiration is cliché in endurance sports. We’re all looking for that boost to lace up our shoes, climb aboard the saddle or get to the pool/ gym/ Pilates and get out the door when the legs ache and the weather grumbles. But a group of 40 regular runners attempting multiple marathons in a single holiday weekend… shifting the paradigm of how a marathon goal is viewed, pushing their own personal boundaries— that’s inspiration. I consider myself inexplicably lucky to have joined the Marathon Maniacs I’m own journey into the Asylum. I left the Seattle Centre on Sunday with an incredible sense of inspiration — from the veterans like Steve Walters, Super Sabrina, and Brad, who I wanted to mimic, to the working moms and dads, retired couples who ran more that weekend than they had all year; from the support crews of the smaller races, to my family, which included Andrew, Janine, their kids Hailey & David, my folks who offered a place to sleep and familiar faces at the finish, to Turbo & Frenchy for kickin’ my butt at 5am 4days a week for 2 months with weights & yoga, and to the creative mind I bounced my run training off of, and paced me in two of the marathons, Newton Hoang.

Female, male, young, old, it doesn’t matter. Tackling 4 marathons or just over 100 miles in four days is a feat. Simulating many challenges I suspect Tour riders or multi-stage desert marathons have… and gave me a tangible perspective on what we ran, and furthered my belief that the current local talent like Ellie Greenwood, Gary Robbins, Rob Watson [& too many locals in a variety of sports to name in this blog], and veterans like Jack Taunton, Ean “Action” Jackson, & Jim Swadling, are, well… superhuman, and have my sincere respect. Jumping in head first into this challenge, travelling solo, despite not knowing anyone in the races, or knowing the courses, or who I could run with, the atmosphere at each start line every morning, and the finish lines midday, created a camaraderie that could not be simulated in any other capacity.

I hope the experience, that start line is a driving force for every athlete. Whether you’ve just bought your first bike to start commuting to work, or you’re thinking of riding your first century, or doing your first triathlon, or running your first marathon this weekend, or even those of us who have been around the block with multiple disciplines of racing, but never made it beyond “seasoned local” … no matter what your goals may be, they are possible. Whether you’re male or female, there is no real difference between the beginner and the elite in the grand scheme of it all. At the end of the day, it’s “all good compadre”, the time on that clock doesn’t matter… we can still enjoy a beer together…. intentional or not, the instances in which we come together, push each other, gasping for air, and ignoring the inevitable burning in our legs, are the pinnacles of the experience.

[Editor’s Final Notes: Jordan Myers is far more than an athlete. He is thoughtful about it and always has interesting perspectives. He lives in the world of events, both officially and formally (making an income that way) but also as a frequent volunteer, as a competitor and sometimes both. More than a lot of people, he really seems to get that running, biking, triathlon are a continuum of effort/performance from the very best of the elites to the very last life experience participant. And, he openly and enthusiastically celebrates and supports all those levels of effort.

Jordan, like many others, is a “Double Agent”, that is both a Marathon Maniac and Half Fanatic. If you think you might be either/both and want to find out or set a goal for yourself, just follow the links. You can find out what all those levels and criteria are about, too. Although there are some excellent runners in both groups, there is a different approach. Nobody cares how fast you go. Let’s face it nobody can do PB’s AND volume at the same time.]