Archive for October, 2015


AM I A RUNNING GROUPIE?

10.12.2015

Well, depending on what that means, then in a word: YES.

It might go beyond the title though. I love excellence in all things, but running is kind of simple and pure (yeah, I know, the drugs – I’ll get to that later). It is so easy to see a runner battle through a race to the win or a record. That’s it. Nobel prizes are recognition of something amazing, but so much more complicated! In fact, I even met a Nobel prize winner a number of years ago on a professional basis, and he was very nice and super helpful regarding the advice I was seeking. But, I digress.

Rob Watson leading out at the First Half Half Marathon

Rob Watson (in black and at centre) leading out at the First Half Half Marathon

At the most fundamental level of watchful awe, I specialize in Canadian runners and just to demonstrate that, I started writing this October 10th. One of my ‘faves’ is Rob (Robbie) Watson and he is running tomorrow in the Chicago Marathon, with one major goal in mind, to join Reid Coolsaet as a qualifier for the Canadian Olympic team. Should have the news on that before I finish this post. I ‘observe’ Reid, but have never met him. Same with Eric Gillis. Rob, I know through the First Half Half Marathon and Forerunners. [Ed. Note: Tracked Rob to a 2:17:21 time. I think he will be disappointed, but at this time I have no idea what happened out there.]

Dylan Wykes (yellow and black) pulling the pack at FHHM 2015

Dylan Wykes (yellow and black) pulling the pack at FHHM 2015

Another of the guys I follow closely is Dylan Wykes and with the same connections as Rob: First Half and Forerunners. Dylan has had some injury issues and just recently ran himself a satisfactory half marathon in San Jose, CA. Satisfactory and wise. His time was OK (if you think 1:05 is “OK”), but considering what he has to say on his blog  I think you will agree it is a good outcome as he works back carefully to his full potential and a shot at a place on the Canadian Olympic Team.

Until Reid overtook Dylan (just a couple of weeks ago in Berlin, with a great time and placing – 6th OA and 2:10:28), Dylan was second best ever to Jerome Drayton, who has held the Canadian record of 2:10:09 for FORTY years! Almost 30 years ago or so Peter Butler took second with his 2:10:56 in Sacramento, and held it until just the last couple of years as the current crop of young bucks began an assault. One of these days, one of these guys or the others who are coming up from behind, are going to blow through that time, but you would have thought somebody would have done it before this, so we will see.

We have some pretty special marathon women too in the form of Lanni Marchant (Canadian record  holder at 2:28:00) and Krista Duchene (only 32 seconds behind her friend, in the same race, and both under the old record). And while it isn’t totally clear who else will emerge ‘from the pack’ there are several women coming up from behind and probably very inspired by these two. Note: at time of writing only Krista and Reid are holding 2016 (Canadian) Olympic qualifying times. Keep your eyes on Natasha Wodak, Eric Gillis, Dylan Wykes, Rachel Hannah and Lanni Marchant. A big opportunity is coming in about a week at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. It is a fast course and if everything else is right, there may be some sparkling performances for men and women. In researching the details for this post, I came across recent and unhappy news that Krista will not run due to a broken bone. The good news for her is that she already has a qualifying time and mostly needs to concentrate on healing and then training up for Rio.

I suppose I concentrate on the athletes I’ve mentioned because of my personal running interests. That said, you would have to be just on a total other wavelength if you weren’t moved by Andre Degrasse’ performances this year in the sprints at the Pan Am Games and World T&F Championships. When The Man himself, Usain Bolt, gives you props when he didn’t even have to, you are in special company. Speaking of Bolt, it just doesn’t get more exciting. He has treated the world to something we just haven’t seen before, and aren’t likely to see again anytime soon.

Back to my good old marathon distance, and the latest world record of Dennis Kimmeto. Now that we are under 2:03, the question is very real as to when we might see 2:00:00. Some argue it isn’t possible, but their fathers/grandfathers said nobody could break four minutes in the mile without falling dead on the track. Now, high-school runners do that and you probably can’t get invited to a top meet unless you can go under 4:00. Is the Two Hour marathon out there? I think so. Will I see it? That is a different question. Conditions on the day must be perfect, the course ideal and just the right mix of competitors must be ready to race to that goal. You will not see that kind of time in a race where winning is the most important thing. That Olympic Gold Medal goes to the winner of the race. Time doesn’t matter. Winning does.

By now, somebody has to be thinking ‘Oh yes, but will chemistry be the reason?’  A fair question to be certain. A question I hate to even contemplate, but based on what we know, one that is unavoidable. The Kenyans and Ethiopians seemed to represent people less touched by the pressures of the Western ways, but that may just be a myth that people like me would like to believe. The positive tests are showing up. Runners, good runners, are getting sanctions. When you think about it, the pressure and temptation may be even greater in those countries than over here. I spoke above about the Canadian men striving to break an old record just above 2:10. It is said there are as many as 300 Kenyans that can go under 2:10. Then imagine what winning the race prizes that are out there today, especially the high profile races, can do for the financial well-being of a Kenyan athlete. Now tell me there is no pressure or temptation to do what you need to do to get that tiny edge that breaks you out of that pack of 300 sub-2:10 marathoners. I am not saying they are all doing it (as some commenters kind of do), just that there is an undeniable temptation. Personally, I hope not a single one is doping, even though we all know that not to be the case.

Me, being inspired at Reggae Marathon!

Me, being inspired at Reggae Marathon!

Look how high Canada got when Ben Johnson won Gold and then the devastation when he was found to have cheated. It made it no less acceptable that (I believe) all but one of the finalists on that day were subsequently caught later and that very few believe that the ‘one’ was actually clean.  What would such a thing do to all those Jamaican kids who think Usain Bolt runs on water? He is a hero of immeasurable value in that country. He inspires (as do a number of others in the Jamaican running camp, male and female).

Harry Jerome - Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

Harry Jerome – Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

I have met many of the best and most inspiring, including Kathrine Switzer and Dick Beardsley.

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer - Q&A Session

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer – Q&A Session

I ran as a kid with our own Harry Jerome, have worked with Lynn Kanuka (Williams) in Sun Run InTraining clinics and re her contribution to Running in the Zone (the book). I talk to Peter Butler and Carey Nelson pretty well every weekend. I consider myself lucky. The list is actually quite a bit longer, but you get the idea. I find myself personally inspired by all of them and can’t think of even one who isn’t a sharing person where it comes to others in our sport.

Ellie Greenwood wins Comrades 2014

Ellie Greenwood wins Comrades 2014

Some who might be wondering, knowing me and knowing those I follow closely, why I haven’t mentioned Ellie Greenwood. Stop wondering. Ellie falls in a whole different category where it comes to excellence. She is an ultra (and trail) runner. It puts her in a completely different field of endeavour. To understand, you need to try to imagine the unimaginable speed of the world class sprinter covering 100m in 10 seconds or less, you have to see that as 1:40/km or 2:32 mile, which is of course impossible, but is the pace they travel for that short distance.

Now, consider the ultra race such as Ellie and her ilk who go the other way: slower pace but for most of us, unimaginable distance. Ellie is two time World Champion at 100km. She has won what is probably the World’s best known ultra-marathon road race the fabled Comrades Marathon in South Africa (which is effectively just over a double marathon). She seems, despite these amazing achievements, to like trails more than roads (where she has actually won a few standard marathons and half marathons, just in case you might wonder).

Trails can’t really be compared, not even one trail event against another. You can only compare performance in a given race, year over year. So, let us compare Ellie’s performances at one of the best known trail races in North America, the Western States 100 (miles that is). Her first time, she won, notwithstanding the encounter with that bear near the finish. Ed. Note: Lack of technical know-how meant it took me a little time to figure out how to get the video in here, but I’ve got it now!  [I wrote the lyrics because this just event and situation struck something within me. Our son is a talented musician and owns recording facilities. Everything you HEAR is him. He wrote the tune, played all the instruments and did the vocals, using multiple tracks to get all of this into the recording.] It is just for fun, but if you actually know Ellie, it might just be more fun. Ellie and the Bear Movie

Back to actual running. The second time at Western States, she knocked some 50 minutes out of the previous record, held by trail ultra legend, Anne Trason. I can assure you she was not traveling at anything resembling the pace of Mr. Bolt in the 100m, or even Mr. Kimmeto in Berlin. Think about it from a normal perspective though. Her pace at World 100km in Dubai was 4:30/km and at the Comrades Marathon where she won was 4:15. Apples and oranges to be sure, but now think about that 2:02:57 of Kimmeto in Berlin. Pace for the MALE record for 42.2km is 2:54/km. Now, remember that Ellie is a woman and the record for women at marathon is still held by Paula Radcliffe at 2:15:25 for a pace of 3:12/km and nobody but Radcliffe herself has come close. There is nobody who would be quicker than Ellie, to tell you that she is not in that category at marathon. She isn’t. I believe her marathon PB is 2:42. That is a pace of 3:49/km.

By now, I’m pretty sure you see where I am going with this. Although she, and other ultra-runners seldom have that ‘low end’ pace (if you can refer to a marathon as ‘low’), as the distance increases their pace does not diminish that much. To the just ‘pretty good’ runner, able to post a 3:00hr marathon, you need to imagine holding your pace (4:16/km) for a bit more than twice that distance if you want to keep up with Ellie at Comrades.

I’ve gone on at length about this because the ultra distance is just another world and times don’t resonate for most of us as do the times for shorter distances. It wasn’t really fair to compare Ellie to those amazing men, but it helps to illustrate my point about excellence regardless of distance from 100m to 100 miles. Besides, I know Ellie, but don’t know the ultra running men that outpace her quite significantly at these extended distances. I suppose one of the personal things that strikes me about Ellie is that in the time from when I met her some 10-11 years ago (when we were both members of Pacific Road Runners) she has gone from just a regular club runner to the world level athlete she is now. To my point of loving excellence, they don’t get a lot more excellent than Ellie, or real or modest. Or maybe they do. I’ll get back to that.

Those of us who do know her, also know none of this comes easy nor without hard work and pain. If you take the time to read Dylan’s blog post you will see what the real world of the elite runner is about. Striving to be the best possible athlete you can be is a costly affair and I am not talking about money. Today, I ran into Ellie at a local 10K. She herself, like Dylan, has been working back from injury and of late concentrating on her speed with her local running group and coach. Guess it is working. She won the women’s race in a time of 35:43 on a terrible day. In thanking everyone for their support and congratulations on social media, she talked about her approach this last while, as she has started her return to form.

Lead Women - Boston Marathon 2009 - Being Fierce

Lead Women – Boston Marathon 2009 – Being Fierce

Her mantra for training: “Be humble. Be fierce!”  She did admit though that with her race goal in mind, she found it necessary to drop the humble and just go with Be Fierce. When Ellie (and I suspect every one of the others I have mentioned in this post) get to Be Fierce, it gets pretty awesome to behold. Well, unless you happen to be on the receiving end of the Fierceness, but then, if you are actually that good, you will be Fierce too!

So, I think I’m done now on this topic, not that I couldn’t go on. One of my points (I realized as I was writing) is that while there are likely a few A-hole jerks out there, I’ve never met one. All of the elites (past and current) that I have met are wonderful giving people. What business do I, an aging, never was runner, have asking advice of any of these people I have the privilege to know? And yet, they have all shared advice and to my great amazement, have asked my thoughts now and then. I’m sure they are just being polite!

If you must be a ‘groupie’ in relation to something, well I think runners and running are just the best!

 

THE REGGAE MARATHON BECOMES A TRADITION

10.05.2015
RM Finish 2015

Marathon Finish 2014

It seems I have a bit of a tendency to repeat myself when I like something. I have run the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (or half marathon) ELEVEN times since 2000. I have run either the half or full marathon in Vancouver at least eight times, running the marathon five times on three different courses. There are a number of other races, like say the Eugene Marathon (4) and California International Marathon (2), Big Cottonwood Marathon  (2) and Winthrop Marathon (2)  that I’ve done at least a couple of times.  All of these involve the marathon distance, but I have also run the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon maybe six or seven times. Clearly, I am a creature of habit.

Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K

Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K

I just signed on for my FIFTH Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K and that is fifth in five years. Obviously, that does not make this event anything like the most frequent. Victoria and Vancouver and the ‘Scotiabank Half’ (as we locals lovingly know it) are well ahead. BUT, five times in a row for an event that far away puts the Reggae Marathon in a class of its own!

Everyone, just calls it the Reggae Marathon, but there are three events from 10K to full marathon and I have personally never actually done the full marathon. I tried once!  Wrote at some length on this blog about the ‘planes, trains and automobiles’ issues that beset that attempt. That was actually the first time (2011). In the end, my race wound up being a 10K, thanks to the generosity and understanding of the Race Director, Alfred ‘Frano’ Francis. The next three times I ran the Half Marathon and while I am signed sealed and delivered for the 15th Reggae Marathon on December 5, 2015, the jury is still out on the final decision to go 10K (winning right now) or half (definitely ‘in the running’ and I could switch). I guess I really should do the marathon and complete the ‘set’, but the older I get and the longer it takes to run a marathon under any circumstances, the less I like the idea of finishing in the noon day sun. Jamaica in early December is generally ideal for a tropical vacation, but in relative terms when you are running a race, it is hot by mid-day (at least for this Northern boy, heading into our winter). Aaaand, let’s not kid anyone, this IS a ‘runcation’, not a shot at a new PB or something!!

Getting ready for the Start - 2014

Getting ready for the Start – 2014

I have described the feel of the start in glowing and (I think) poetic terms in other posts. It is quite amazing to feel the warm, almost silky air of the early hours as you await the 5:15am start time, or as you walk the road to the start. There are shuttles, but I have a favourite place to stay (Rondel Village) which just makes for a nice walk to the start and shake-out before the race. If you elect that option, you surely won’t be alone. Many people staying within about a mile of the start, opt for ‘the walk’. Once the race is started, and usually after having turned back at the Negril round-about

Sunrise over the Reggae Marathon

Sunrise over the Reggae Marathon

(5K), you will (depending on how fast you are) begin to see the first glimmer of the dawn. Eventually, that turns into the sunrise if you are running either the full or half marathon. If you can do 10K in anything near an hour, you will be finished before the sun has actually risen above the horizon, but even better, then you can watch it from the beach with your fresh coconut in hand, surrounded by other happy participants. That is what I’m thinking of for myself for this year. For those not aware of my beginnings with this race (or haven’t yet checked the link to my story of same), the first year my 10K started nearly two and a half hours AFTER the actual race start. So, I have never finished in the early morning dawn and I think this will be the year.

Pasta Party Dec 6, 2013, cw one of the 'Reggae Runnerz'

Pasta Party Dec 6, 2013, cw one of the ‘Black Girlz’

This being the Fifteenth Anniversary running, I am hearing the Reggae Marathon is going to be even more special than usual. Can’t wait to find out what THAT means. This is already such a well organized event, with what is described as the world’s best pasta party (I think it just might be) and a finish matched by few other races in a venue that is hard to best, I am practically holding my breath for what they will have on offer this time.

The Reggae Marathon is not the only race to start in the dark, nor is it the only one I’ve run, but there is something special about that kind of start and personally, I just love it. One other notable race I did with a pre-dawn start was the Maui Marathon in September 2008. Big Cottonwood almost qualifies, but it starts a bit later and the dawn is already breaking when the ‘gun’ goes. I think what is different about the Reggae Marathon start is that you are not alone. By that I don’t mean your fellow runners, but rather the spectators that line the road.

Getting in the Christmas Spirit on Norman Manley Blvd!

Getting in the Christmas Spirit on Norman Manley Blvd!

The course is Norman Manley Blvd, the main (well only, for much of the way) road along the seven mile beach. Whether it be your own cheering section of family or friends or hotel staff or random tourists who didn’t know what they were getting into when they booked the first weekend in December, there are people cheering you on pretty much from the beginning and it is almost Christmas, so lots of decorations. There is Reggae Music all along the way, some organized by the race, but some that just amounts to people who have set up their own speaker system and blasting out favourite tunes, often from a ‘boom-box’ on top of a car. You’d better like reggae and even more, Bob Marley, because you ARE going to hear it. I LOVE IT. Reggae beat or rhythm is so conducive to a running gait, you will have a hard time not getting the feel. The hard part is not stopping to dance sometimes. Well, I guess there is really NOTHING wrong with that if it is how you feel.

Reggae Marathoners just before full light

Reggae Marathoners just before full light

On a brief serious note, running anywhere that the temperature and humidity are even a little bit high, requires attention to hydration. You should have NO PROBLEM with that. Of course it is up to the runner to take the water or electrolytes on offer, but there is no shortage of opportunity. And, while not exclusive to this race, liquids are offered in plastic pouches. You just rip a corner with your teeth and squeeze the contents in or over, as you require. The beauty is that you get a substantial amount in these pouches (maybe 250ml or so) and you can easily carry it with you rather than gulping it all at once or spilling half of it, as we often do with paper cups. I even think it makes for a wonderful early warning sign of any trouble you may have. I feel that as long as I’m pouring the water over my head (that is what I do with most of the water pouches) and the electrolyte into my mouth, all is well. Should I ever start pouring electrolyte over my head I figure it is time to start thinking about my condition. OK, once could be a mistake, but twice and I think it would be time to stop!! Just in case anyone is getting the idea it is THAT extreme, this is just a little joke I like to make about the support on course. It is frequent and the volunteers superb. Nobody should get in trouble as long as they take advantage of the support on offer. In the later parts of the course you will find misting stations and I’ve even seen resort staff, out with hoses providing their own ‘misting’ stations. Of course, in most of those cases, it may be a bit more than a mist, but it is welcome once you find yourself running in full sunshine.

The last mile of the Half and Full Marathon is what is known as ‘Bob’s Mile’. At regular intervals you will see quotes and lyrics from Bob Marley and trust me, they are well chosen and quite moving. Don’t be surprised if, at the end of the half or full marathon, you ‘mist up’ just a little yourself. Let’s face it, we are all a little emotional at that point.

Reggae Party Time!

Reggae Party Time!

Now, when your race, full, half or 10K is over, the real fun is just beginning. Fresh coconut, chopped open with a few skillful whacks from a machete, bananas, live reggae music, a Caribbean beach and oh yeah, Red Stripe, are just a few of the treats waiting. It is a huge celebration and party. You will find your friends again, if you didn’t actually run together and can welcome other runners as they finish. There is always top quality live music in keeping with the theme of the event: REGGAE! If you didn’t stop for a quick dance on course, now is your chance to channel your inner YAADIE. Nothing to stop you moving to the sounds from the stage and you won’t be alone! It is fun to watch as people just spontaneously break into a few dance steps, even as they move from one place to another.

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

“Four Amigos” add to the Reggae Marathon total (2014) – now 18 races, soon to be 22.

Somewhere along the way, you may well encounter me: Me and Chris Morales (aka ‘That Runnin’ Guy’ and the official Reggae Marathon blogger), and Larry Savitch (chief organizer of ‘Easy Skankin’, his team of mostly New Yorkers) and Navin Sadarangani, a citizen of the world and multiple Reggae Marathoner, for real, (Navin usually runs the actual marathon, and does it quite well). When you see us, we will look something like this photo, only we will all have one more finger held up. At this 15th Reggae Marathon we will collectively account for some 22 individual races.

Navin Sadarangani finishing first loop of the Marathon as the sun comes up (2011).

Navin Sadarangani finishing first loop of the Marathon as the sun comes up (2011).

We probably won’t catch up to Chris, who is a couple ahead of the rest of us. The rest of us will be counting FIVE in 2015. I have to say that notwithstanding everything I’ve said about the race itself, it is this crowd, plus a few more that have now joined our own little private Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge, that keep me coming back. We use Age Grading and distance conversion models to have a ‘race’ involving young (Navin) through old (Me), all three distances, as well as male and female competitors. It is a little strange, but it works and we have fun.

Deb's a Winna! (That's her in the middle)

Deb’s a Winna! (That’s her in the middle.)

Speaking of female competitors in our group, Deb Thomas has become a regular in our Challenge and ever since, has been winning.  There seems to be hope from at least one of us to wrest the title from her this year, but I personally, am NOT holding my breath, Larry. This fairly tight little group has no other natural relationship, just the Reggae Marathon (and social media the rest of the year).

Lest you think I’m being a bit exclusive here, this is just an example of the groups that have made this event home. If you look around, you will find lots of small to medium to LARGE groups who return regularly. THE biggest is “Reggae Runnerz” (under the leadership of Lisa Laws). They show up some 150 strong, plus or minus, although a reliable source is telling me more than 500 Reggae Runnerz are planning to descend on Negril this year. I can also say from close observation (got invited to one of their parties in 2014), they not only RUN, they have FUN.  I guess they are just taking the race’s own headline to heart: Come for the Run and stay for the Fun. And, you can watch out for the “Reggae Rebels” out of Toronto, led by Bonnie Fowler. I could go on, but I won’t. You get the idea. People come to the Reggae Marathon in bunches, sometimes BIG bunches!

Jetola (Turbo-Jet) Anderson Blair on the beach, post-marathon.

Jetola (Turbo-Jet) Anderson Blair on the beach, post-marathon.

One of the Reggae Runnerz, who Chris and I got to know almost by accident (because she was staying at our hotel in 2012) is Jetola Anderson-Blair. Turbo-Jet, as she is known in some running circles (Marathon Maniacs), has her own amazing story, previously presented on this blog, and since then has added significantly to it with multiple Boston Qualifier performances and Boston Marathons. Now, there is someone who loves running and loves to involve and inspire/encourage others!

OK. So that is it for now. You can probably tell that I am pretty excited about Reggae Marathon #5 (whatever distance I actually do). Obviously, this isn’t the last you are going to hear of it. That said, I do feel a bit lonely as a West Coast Canadian, so there is a bit of a selfish motive in writing now. Maybe I can inspire a few of my friends out here to give this race a try. However, I guess it is only a matter of responsibility that I should give that familiar warning: Caution – the Reggae Marathon may become habit forming.

 

IS IT SEPTEMBER, UMM, OCTOBER ALREADY?

10.01.2015
Judi and me at Package Pickup.

Judi and me at Package Pickup.

Well, it has been a busy few weeks. Haven’t been writing about running much, but I HAVE been running, a marathon no less. It was kind of an accident. More later.

I’ve talked about this before, but I do need to stop life from getting in the way of my running stuff. Now some may not see a problem with a lower rate of production on this old blog, so we’ll just leave that part and carry on.

Grandad telling Jonah all about running

Grandad telling Jonah all about running

Also, one of the “interruptions” is sitting on my lap here and HE can get in the way any old time he wants!!! Have been having a wonderful visit the last couple of weeks. Even got in a run with his Mom!

I have spent a little bit of the ‘quiet’ time re this blog, getting registered for three more races between now and early December. Part of this post is about the thinking I’ve been doing on running now that I’m a septuagenarian. Two of the races I just registered for are ones, even though they are in Vancouver, that I’ve never run! First is the Granville Island Turkey Trot. That’s right, never ran it. We are usually in Victoria for Marathon Weekend or on our way back. The other is the James Cunningham Seawall Race. Never did it either. No idea why on that one. As for the third event, it is a perennial favourite – The Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K in Negril, JA.

Will I run any others? Maybe. Not sure. Whatever, this plan would take me to 10 races in 2015, which isn’t too awfully bad: 1 marathon, 3 half marathons,  a 25K road/trail race, 2 10Ks and 2 5Ks, plus one more to be named later. At the moment I’m thinking to just take it really easy in Negril and do the 10K, but I usually do the Half, so we’ll just have to see how that goes.

Sun was up! Just so deep in the Canyon it looked dark. Photo Credit - Big Cottonwood Marathon

Sun was up! Just so deep in the Canyon it looked dark. Photo Credit – Big Cottonwood Marathon

The marathon (Big Cottonwood Marathon) was supposed to be a Half, but I’ve already talked on this blog about the possible switch. Long story short, I could not pass the opportunity to give it a go. So, I guess it wasn’t really an ‘accident’ when you come right down to it. Came 4th M70-74 but we aren’t much going to talk about the time. Even still, I have zero regrets. I probably could have had a very fine half marathon time in the 2:05 – 2:07 range, but the race has potential for an excellent marathon time and it is too far and costly to just keep going back. Also, at my age you shouldn’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. As far as the time went I probably made two mistakes. I was not super well trained due to the on-off nature of my running this year, what with the interruptions for eye surgery and a bunch of travel. Not an excuse, just reality. Still, I thought I was close enough and it became a calculated risk. The other matter was that the organizers ‘seduced’ me by cutting the four toughest miles out of the euphemistically described ‘net zero out and back’ near the end, and pushing them higher up the canyon at the start. That was good from the point of view of making it nice easy downhill for the most part, but I think I may have underestimated the difference of starting at 9700ft vs 8000ft, and the not so nice mile at about 3 miles into the race and still at about 8000ft. It felt OK while I was doing it, but I did notice more huffing and puffing than I expected. I think the extra effort piled up in the later stages. I ran well to 20 miles, including doing that tough mile way up the mountain pretty much as planned, (yeah, yeah, I know – everybody says that about the first 20) but then in the next couple of miles I pretty much just seized up. The last three miles was all walking because even a couple of running strides was enough to start cramping in my calves. So, walk it was. It was a fabulous day and I knew it would either be an amazing time or exactly what it turned out to be. So, I walked it home and collected my 26th full marathon finisher medal, and smiled. OK, the smile might have come a bit later. Crossing the line might have been more of a grimace, but I was quite happy.

Gratuitous photo of Reggae Marathon, 'cause I'm going again!

Gratuitous photo of Reggae Marathon, ’cause I’m going again!

I learned a long time ago, not to make future racing plans in the last few miles of the current marathon, even if it is going fairly well, and especially if it isn’t. Life is just crazy busy right now with a whole list of things I’m not going to go into, but I have promised myself a thorough review of my big goals for running and the longer term future of what running will mean specifically to me. I suppose a decision to do the two ‘never been done before’ races is part of that. Maybe the plan to run the 10K at the Reggae Marathon is also part of it, although that is still under consideration, as I said.

I THOUGHT Big Cottonwood 2014 was actually going to be my last marathon because it had gone so relatively well. I wanted to finish on a high note. Had a long talk with myself before changing distances for Big Cottonwood 2015, because I refused to come away sad or upset if it didn’t go well (read better than last year). As noted above, I knew it had the potential to end exactly as it did, so had to promise myself to just be glad I stepped up and took my shot. Don’t get the totally wrong idea. Notwithstanding that I wasn’t thrilled with the time, it wasn’t my worst marathon and far from worst on age graded basis. Still, BCM 2014 was sixth best (Age Graded) and 2015 came nowhere near that.

I am writing about all this because I think we all come to it at different times, to different degrees and in different ways. One of the contributions to Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes was written by Herb Phillips and covered exactly this subject. One of the people who has been very supportive of my running these last years is our Forerunners Clinic coach, Carey Nelson. Carey is a two time Olympian and a two-time knee surgery guy. I realized that while I never was anywhere near his class, he likely very much understands where my head is at this point as I contemplate giving up marathons and maybe even half marathons (mostly). At least twice, he has had to face and deal with that ‘times they are a’changin” moment. You can never really take the competition out of the boy (or girl), but at sometime you have to take the boy out of the competition. Even today, Carey is a terrific runner and he still trains hard/smart to race, but he doesn’t win races outright anymore. At some point in time he had to come to grips with that reality. So, even though we are, and have always been on totally different performance levels, I know he gets where I am, at this particular moment. Funny enough, as I get older I am actually picking up the age group podium finishes now and then, but I don’t kid myself much about how that is coming to happen. They call it attrition! That said, I’m pretty proud of being one of the few still going in their 70s. At least, re the Big Cottonwood race, it counts as a marathon done when I was 70! It is kind of funny that in reality, when I ran it in 2014, I was almost 70 – 69 years, 8 months and 7 days to be precise, but it sounds so much better to be able to just say “I ran a marathon when I was 70.”

The decision to ‘move on’ comes for different people at different times. Some quit when they just can’t do it anymore. Some quit when they can’t do it as well as the standard they set for themselves. Some love the whole thing so much they just keep going until some-THING or some-ONE (tells them it IS over). Still, that doesn’t mean you can just keep doing what you’ve been doing, and that is kind of where I am. It isn’t so much that I can’t do a marathon, but to properly prepare for one is getting to be really hard work and maybe more than this seventy year-old body is up to. If you don’t do the training, what you get is what I got in Salt Lake City a couple of weeks ago. As much and all as that was a specific and unusual situation and I’m happy enough overall, it isn’t how I want to do marathons. I always tell new marathoners ‘respect the distance’. Clearly I must do the same. And that means if you can’t do the training, you really shouldn’t do the race.

For me, right now, five hours is some kind of personal standard or performance barrier. Over five, not good. Under five, OK. Well under five, good. Now this is totally personal. I have a friend who is a fabulous runner. He is 8 years older than me and for him, that barrier, or more accurately, dividing point has been more like FOUR hours.

Marathon Maniac! Done my first and only 50K

Marathon Maniac! Done my first and only 50K

Everybody has his/her own personal ‘time’ and if you keep on keeping on, it has probably changed over the years. I belong to the Marathon Maniacs and I’m pretty sure some of them have never done a marathon under five hours. That is totally and absolutely fine. They do what they do (run a lot of marathons) and they are more than satisfied, and I’m happy for them. The goal those people set for themselves is different. However, I have – done marathons under five hours – way under (as has been noted here more than a couple of times). So, this is very personal, whether some of the Maniacs understand what I’m nattering about or not. I greatly admire people like another of our book contributors, Bob Dolphin (Maniac #32), who have completed literally hundreds of marathons. There is much to be said for the quantity goal vs speed. Taking Bob as an example, he was a pretty decent marathoner in much earlier days, but in recent years it has only been about the doing of it. I mean, Bob is in his 80s now. Good on him! Taking the other extreme of this line of thinking, most of the truly elite marathoners have only ever run a small handful of marathons. What they do is so hard, and the standard so terribly high, that a few is all they can really manage. Could they run more at times most of us would kill for? Of course. But, they can’t do what they aspire to for more than a few races.

I can’t imagine not running, but I can imagine racing a good deal less and maybe mostly the shorter distances. Full Disclosure: There is one marathon I may yet need to do. It is part of a project which I expect to start discussing soon. That one is more than a year away and it isn’t really MY project, so we will see what we will see.

How’s that for dangling something out there? For my part, it is more so you won’t all get all over me if Big Cottonwood 2015 isn’t actually my last. But, apart from that, I am seriously looking at maybe fewer races and shorter distances. I still have to decide whether part of that is pushing performance as I change my training and shorten the distances of the races. That is what I will give myself a bit of time to consider. That said, nothing is graved in stone. If the change works well, it is hard to say where it will lead. I may find that with fewer miles being logged, I have a lot more short-distance speed and might really bear down on the 5Ks. Or not. I might spend far less time racing and even more time volunteering and organizing. It could happen.

Charlie celebrates running into new territory (distance)!

Charlie celebrates running into new territory (distance)!

What I do know is that I loved running my first race this summer with our older grandson, Charlie. Now, Jonah is only 8 months old, so it will be a while yet before we can run together! Must keep in decent shape for that day!