category : ‘Race Reports/Favorite Races’


Getting it done at the Reggae Marathon 2014

Getting it done at the Reggae Marathon 2014

I think I have been very disciplined this year when it comes to blogging about the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. Until NOW.

I mean it is just one week until I arrive in Negril and I only have one big responsibility to take care of before going. Sadly, that one thing is the night before I leave, so no way to get it done and off my table early. Oh well, it will keep my mind occupied until I leave.

Just one of many pasta stations! Looks pretty - tastes great!

Just one of many pasta stations! Looks pretty – tastes great!

There are so many great things about the Reggae Marathon. There are the races themselves, the pasta party which still scores second to none I’ve ever attended, and then the post-race party on the beach. Then, there are all the friends I’ll see. These are people who I keep in touch with throughout the year, but NEVER see in person except in Negril. Finally, as well as first and foremost and all the time, there is just the charm of Jamaica.

Negril beach view. No worries here.

Negril beach view. No worries here.

Last year, I really needed a break and made my stay quite a bit longer than the few days it takes to go and enjoy the event. It was something like a total of 17 days in paradise, with the Reggae Marathon sandwiched pretty much in the middle. It was just what the Doctor ordered! That would be Doctor ‘One Drop’ Dread (my Reggae name).

By way of full disclosure, as a matter of brevity and general reference, I usually just call ‘the event’ “The Reggae Marathon“. The disclosure part is that I have never actually run the Marathon. I intended to once, but that turned out to be a 10K. If you really want to know, you can read about the whole thing HERE. The next three times, I ran the Half Marathon. This time I will really run the 10K, starting with everyone else and doing it in the early morning as dark turns to dawn! Well, to be fair, I ran the 10K that first time too, but I started about two and a half hours after everybody else! Pretty sure it will be a lot more fun doing it the usual way and probably a bit cooler.

Original Three from Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge (Dan, Larry, Chris)

Original Three from Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge (Dan, Larry, Chris)

From the first time and through to this year, a group of friends has been forming and we all have our own little ‘competition’ within the race. I’ve talked about it before but it is known as the Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge (RRHMC). It started with just three of us and last year I think we hit something like twelve. It started when three of us met in Negril in 2011 and formed some kind of instant bond. Well, a trash-talking kind of bond, but a bond nonetheless! Early the next year, Larry Savitch (New York), Chris Morales (Ontario) and I (BC) realized we were all running a half marathon on the very same day, but all of us in a different location. Now, Larry is the young’un with Chris in the middle and me the old geezer. I mean, technically, Larry could be my son (if I had got started having kids just a bit earlier in life). How do you compare? Age Grading!

Deb's a Winna! And not just in the RRHMC!

Deb’s a Winna! And not just in the RRHMC!

That was a LOT of fun, so we imported the concept to the next Reggae Marathon and the three following. We added a bunch more people (male and female) and all three distances. The core group, although we are not all always there, includes Deb Thomas, Jetola Anderson-Blair, Court and Andrew Morales. There are more, but at the risk of leaving a few out, this is the list of longest and most frequent attendees and RRHMC participants. In short, with the magic of race calculators and age grading, we convert everyone to an age-graded half marathon time and find our winners from there. Well, actually, I think the term is WINNER. Thus far Deb Thomas has won each time. Larry Savitch keeps saying he is going to fix that, but so far ‘no cigar’.

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).

Not everyone comes along every time like the “Four Amigos”: Chris, Larry, Navin Sadarangani and me. Since Navin doesn’t drink and therefore isn’t afraid the rest of us will get all the Red Stripe, he doesn’t seem to mind being on the road a bit longer, so he actually DOES the Reggae MARATHON! In any case, Chris (aka “That Runnin’ Guy“, aka the Reggae Marathon Official Blogger) has been attending the longest and has run a couple more times than any of us. When we are all at the finish mid-morning on Saturday December 5 for what has become our traditional photo, there will 22 fingers proudly on display representing our collective total and the five races Navin, Larry and I have each done, while Chris will hold up seven!

ThatRunninGuy (Chris Morales) Reggae Marathon Finish

ThatRunninGuy (Chris Morales) Reggae Marathon Finish

Come to think of it, Chris actually has done the full marathon, but tells us that is a ‘one and done’ deal for any marathon anywhere, anytime. He loves a good 10K and now sticks with that. Oh yeah, and Navin decided to make the 2014 Reggae Marathon into the (unofficial) Reggae 50K. Before the official start, he logged another 8K/5 Miles to add up to a 50K. I suppose it goes without saying Navin is a Marathon Maniac; some would say, with emphasis on Maniac. Larry would say that. I wouldn’t, ’cause I’m one too.

I mostly intend to have fun, but will be respecting (respec’ mon) the race and running it seriously. I am curious as to how that is going to work out. The one time I did do the 10K, the sun was well up when I started and it was warm. I was basically running with the marathoners who were in their second loop of the course. The other times I was doing the half marathon, so my 10K split was slower than if I was just going 10K and done. You do need to work with the course and the climate and the support to make a good race for yourself.

Sunrise over the Reggae Marathon

Sunrise over the Reggae Marathon

This time I will start with everyone else at 5:15am. I love the feel of the air at that time and all going to plan, will finish before the sun is up, probably just as the light of dawn is beginning to show in the sky. A quick check of race day conditions says it will be about 26C at the start and 31C as a high for the day. Sunrise is 6:31am and in my experience the temps never really rise until the sun is up. Also, 26C is a bit warm for 5:15am and the longer range forecast suggests it will be a low of 21-23C just a day or two later, so we’ll see. In any case, starting at 5:15am with sunrise at 6:31, I feel it safe to say I should be done by sunrise.

Finishing it up

Finishing it up

Most times I finished after 7:30am and that first time I hadn’t even started at 7:30, finishing closer to 9:00am. It is going to be quite something different to be standing at the finish in the semi-dark, watching the sun rise rather than doing it while pounding down the road in the second half of the half marathon. I think I can manage it. A big advantage will be to see if Larry will be able to beat Deb this time. The suspense is killing me! OK, maybe just making me mildly excited. I may have to think up a new prize though. I mean, how many copies of Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes do you suppose Deb wants?


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.



Running the High Country Trails

Running the High Country Trails

Someone was talking about wonderful and favourite places they’d run and I knew instantly that this post needed to be written. The hard part is going to be controlling myself and second hardest will be not kicking my own butt all over the place where it comes to missed opportunities to race. Well, here goes. [Oh, and this has to be the most ‘link heavy’ post I’ve ever written, but hey, if I’m going to entice with photographs and descriptions, the least I can do is tell you how to find these events for yourself!]

For me, there is a BIG difference between the places I’ve run and places I’ve raced, especially if we limit to countries. “Places” get more extensive if you include States and Provinces, of course. At last count I believe I had RUN in at least 23 sovereign countries. However, I have only RACED in 4 countries. I guess we can start there. Naturally, being a Canajun and all, I’ve raced in Canada. I have also raced in the United States, Belgium and Jamaica. I’ve raced in 3 Provinces (run in 9) and raced in 8 States. This is where I get all misty about the squandered opportunities because I’ve lived in more Provinces than I’ve raced in and spent three years in Europe and nearly two in Malaysia. Out of those five years, I only raced in Belgium, notwithstanding all the travel I managed to do to nearby countries. Oh, I got my runs done in some amazingly exotic places, but not races. Naturally, there is nothing wrong with ‘just running’, but I do race, so………..oh, never mind. What’s done is done. And, I guess when you get down to it, I’m not – done that is.

Inaugural BAA 5K - 2009 They let us borrow THE finish!

Inaugural BAA 5K – 2009 They let us borrow THE finish!

Now this isn’t about me and how many places I’ve run. It is about how many amazing places I’ve run. Beauty being in the eye of the beholder, that doesn’t narrow things down all that much. Some of the “beauty” has to do with the physical location and some with the circumstance. For instance, one of my great unaccomplished goals is to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. Haven’t bagged that yet, but I did run the inaugural BAA 5K, back in 2009 while supporting our daughter Janna as she tackled the main event. That was really special for any number of obvious reasons, ‘borrowing’ the Marathon finish was definitely one of them. It may be the closest I come to crossing that hallowed and iconic finish.

Spring Running in Vancouver. Near Granville Island

Spring Running in Vancouver. Near Granville Island

To simplify this a bit, I’m just going to go with a few of the MOST amazing places I’ve run OR raced without separating into categories.

Something I do from time to time, since I have had a wonderful opportunity to travel is to look at my present location and wonder how a visitor would see it. We used to live on False Creek, just near Vancouver’s famous Granville Island. The seawall promenade is second to none, and that was my normal running area at one time. Even now, some of the clinic training routes I use with our Forerunners group goes along the same area. While we are at it, Vancouver offers several major races and even more minor races that use roads and paths that border English Bay, False Creek and the famous Stanley Park Seawall. On a nice day, the vistas are spectacular, both depending on where you are and regardless of where you are. In other words, what you are seeing may be different, but all equally amazing.

As amazing as it is, sometimes it rains.

As amazing as it is, sometimes it rains.

For anyone wondering how to get in on this, the major races include (by time of year): First Half Half Marathon (February – registration sells out in one day near beginning of November), Vancouver Sun Run (April), BMO Vancouver International Marathon [and Half and 8K](May), Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon [and 5K](June), Seawheeze Half Marathon (August), Oasis Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon & Cunningham 10K (two races/two days)(October). These are only the events with a few thousand to several thousand (Vancouver Marathon events now push a total of 15,000 participants). There are many many more smaller races ranging from 5K to Half Marathon. For information on those you can consult the BC Athletics Race Calendar or go to the Timex Series or Lower Mainland Road Race Series to find specific events. Many follow similar routes, or parts thereof, used by the named races above. A lot of events now use some part of Stanley Park and are not to be missed even in what might be considered ‘off season’. Running in the mists in the Park is special in and of itself, although I DO prefer the sunshine.

Daughter and Dad do Victoria Half - photo by Brightroom

Daughter and Dad do Victoria Half – photo by Brightroom

Before I launch off to more exotic parts, I would be terribly remiss if I did not give a nod to the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon [Half and 8K]. That one is in October (Canadian Thanksgiving). Much of the course runs through a big park and/or along the shore. It definitely rivals those Vancouver routes. For me, it has been a ‘go to’ event since 2000, when I ran my second marathon there. In the last 15 years I have run either the half or full marathon some 11 times. Guess I like it! A lot.

For that matter, so do the kids. I think only once in those eleven times have I run Victoria alone. One or both of Janna (in the picture to the left) and Danielle (big sister) have run the event with me. We don’t always run the same race with one of us sometimes doing the full and the other(s) the Half, but we have been there together more times than not. AND, while we are at it, Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes was launched at the Victoria Marathon weekend.

OK, so what about some of these other more distant and exotic places?

Balinese Beach Path

Balinese Beach Path

I think I’ll start somewhere I’ve run, but not raced – Bali. You might have to ask if that is wise, since you might think it couldn’t get much more exotic. Well, I guess I will take a chance. There are a lot of large resorts in an area known as Nusa Dua, then past there along a narrow peninsula you will find many small resorts. The whole thing is a beach from one end to the other and from one end to the other there is a pathway. What a place for a nice lazy run. Warm? Yes, of course. You are practically at the Equator (south of, to be precise). The thing is, there really is no need to hurry, so just enjoy!

I guess this opens the idea of a few warm places where people tend to vacation, so maybe I’ll just stick with a few of those for the moment. The astute reader will notice there are a lot of beach running photographs in this grouping. What can I say? I love running on beaches when I’m on vacation!

Sunrise over the Reggae Marathon

Sunrise over the Reggae Marathon

I suppose I might as well jump right to my favourite exotic race, the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K, held the first weekend of December in Negril, Jamaica. It is so hard to select one representative photograph that does justice to the event as a race while ignoring all the other wonderful shots I’ve taken of Negril per se, the pre and post-race festivities and the ‘pure’ beach run done on all the other non-race days. I don’t often carry a camera while running, so action shots from the race are few and far between anyway. I decided that for this one, I would post a sunrise shot because the sun rising IS an integral part of the Reggae Marathon. All races start in the dark at 5:15am, so most runners are treated to this sight at some point in whichever race they have chosen to do. So far, I’ve run the Half three times and the 10K once.

Maui Marathon - 2008

Maui Marathon – 2008

But, the Reggae Marathon events were not my first tropical race. Nope, the Maui Marathon in September of 2008 has that honour. Like the Reggae Marathon, it starts early, in the dark. It is emotionally stirring to hear the sound of the drums and Hawaiian prayer just before the start. Running is both flat and not too bad as far as heat goes, until about the time the sun comes up. Now, depending how good a runner you are, full sun is only a factor after half way. However, the year I ran it was one of the hottest ever at 90F with 90% RH! OH, and some VOG (volcanic smog) thrown in to make it a bit more interesting, but what scenery, and most of the second half is, yep, near the beach.

Running at Coolangatta, QLD

Australian beach run – Coolangatta, Queensland

It is hard to decide just what Australian beach to feature, but I think this photograph captures the essence of East Coast Australia. If you look really closely, that is Surfer’s Paradise way in the background. Soft powdered sugar sand is not ideal for running in if you want to go fast, but it sure is fun otherwise.

We have visited Australia a couple of times and I’ve yet to find a race that worked with our timing. Oh well. I am happy to report many great runs along the East Coast (and no, they weren’t all on a beach like this, but near, very near). And then there is the West Coast, where the most spectacular of the selection of runs was near Busselton, where again, there is a beach-side pathway for walking, cycling and running. One thing Australia has no shortage of is white sand and blue water.

But, not every suitable place to run in Australia is beside one ocean or another. In Sydney there is the botanical gardens and in Melbourne, many neighbourhood, riverside and park venues. Some of those were shown to me by a former club member from one of my Canadian running clubs, Pacific Road Runners. These are the hidden gems you will never find without a local to guide you. Yay for the locals!

Greenery at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Greenery at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Just a few of the MANY orchids in the Botanic Garden

Just a few of the MANY orchids in the Botanic Garden

I suppose that while in the area, I have to say I’ve enjoyed a good many runs in Malaysia. We lived there almost two years and I ran as many as five days a week, so indeed I have run in Malaysia. Of course that makes places like Singapore (where I ran my fist EVER tropical run) with its fabulous Botanic Garden where, in the very early morning, you will find walkers, runners and any number of tai chi groups. When I went looking for some great photos of the gardens, I was reminded how hard it is to ignore the scenery in the Garden. So, just enjoy these couple of shots and we will carry on.

It was while living in Malaysia that we made our first visit to Bali. Needless to say, we also used it as a jumping off place for more than one visit to Thailand. Thai’s are renowned for being polite, but the sight of this old geezer jogging along in the sunshine was too much for most of them. I KNOW they thought I was crazy! Not saying that isn’t true. They may have had a point, but I love running in the heat and long ago learned how to keep the pace reasonable and make sure I have water with me and a hat to cover my head.

Big Cottonwood Course

Big Cottonwood Course

Some Locals Watched My Training Run

Some Locals Watched My Training Run

Well, so much for the exotic (by far off location and beauty of the beach). That is hardly where it begins and ends. Mountains go high up there on the list of amazing. As I think about it, I’ve run AND raced through a few mountain areas that rival any beach. My last marathon was the Big Cottonwood Marathon, just outside Salt Lake City, UT. The course provides one breath-taking vista after another (unless that was just the altitude – starts near 9,000 ft). As I was preparing to talk about this race, I recalled that one of my training runs involved the kind of scene you never forget! It is probably not the best photo I’ve ever taken, but it was one of the most delightful scenes with a doe and her young’un. This time, I had my cell with me for safety, so I also had a camera. A fortunate thing!

First Look at Mt Hood - from Leg #1

First Look at Mt Hood – from Leg #1

One mountain race that gets big marks for Spectacular (I’ve done it eight times) is the Hood to Coast Relay. Hard to beat this one. Starts on a mountain and finishes at a beach. Two of my favourite things! Like Singapore above, it is hard to pick the best photo. I’ve got lots of hand-offs and finishes and people drinking beer at the beach at the end, but it is so hard to capture everything about this race, so I just decided to go with a great photo of Mount Hood. This one is probably on the first Leg. (When you are running, you don’t see this. It is behind you, and I generally run Leg #1!)

Half Way to a DFL - Frosty Mountain

Half Way – Frosty Mountain Endurance Race

A mountain that I have hiked a number of times and raced a couple of times is Mount Frosty in Manning Park, BC. The area is truly spectacular and the Frosty Mountain Trail Race is both beautiful and challenging, with a 3800 ft vertical in the first half. I’ve run the race twice. At my pace, it is always worth the stop at the highpoint to take in the view!

Rocky Mountains above Fairmont Hot Springs

Rocky Mountains above Fairmont Hot Springs

Running in the mountains need not mean racing and for that matter, need not mean Summer either. Winter running is a ‘thing’ too. Having lived in places where Winter actually happens (doesn’t all that much around Vancouver), you learn to love the snow and cold (within reason). I’ve had a lot of enjoyable snowy runs, but selected a New Year vacation in the Columbia Valley of BC, with the Rocky Mountains rising majestically over the valley. Deer prints in the snow and what just may have been wolf prints too. Never saw either of the beasts that left the foot prints. Maybe I was too busy staring at those peaks.

Finish Set-Up CIM 2008

Finish Set-Up CIM 2008

Time to wrap this up before I wind up inserting a photo from almost every run I’ve done. However, I am going to say that running down the Napa Valley in the Napa Valley Marathon, or finishing your California International Marathon in front of the State Capital building, OR finishing the Eugene Marathon on Hayward Field, you get some pretty fine scenes to enjoy. How do you compare so many parts of the New York City Marathon to, well, anything?? And then, there is the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas “Run the Strip at Night” party. A big surprise was the little park I found hidden in the heart of Kowloon, just across from Hong Kong. So pretty and with so many winding paths that you could get about 2.5km in on a single lap. If I was to start on some of the races that use Stanley Park or even just started talking about the training routes we use along the seaside paths and roads of Vancouver, it would take way too many more words and images and too much of your time. So, I am going to close by going back to something that is a big favourite: the early morning vacation beach run. The photo below was taken just a bit after I had finished my own run on the beach at Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Enjoy!

Morning Joggers

Punta Cana just after sunrise



And, the first race IS done!

And, the first race IS done!

Welcome to Phase II of Charlie Runs With His Grandad!

Well, that wasn’t what the previous post was called, but this IS the report of my big FIRST race with my grandson, Charlie. I suppose I could keep this really short and say it went great and I am so proud of him and happy to have been able to do this. But, what would be the fun in that???

We were both ‘into’ it ever since the idea came up a few months ago. Frankly, because through school and his min-tris, Charlie had only ever run about 2-2.5km, I had been looking around for a 3K somewhere. Not so easy, because there aren’t that many in the first place and secondly because we don’t exactly live in the same neighbourhood. In any case, Charlie was sure he was good to do a 5K and the Giant’s Head Run was right where he lives. Bonus on that was that it was the first official race I ever ran in my adult or second running career. Seemed the perfect fit. Oh, and just as a little extra challenge, the Giant’s Head 5K is really 5.4km. As long as I’ve known the race, it has used this course, so I guess instead of shortening to a true 5K upon finding it was a tad long, they just decided to be honest and call it what it is – 5.4K.

As was not unusual in the Okanagan at this time of year, it was also hot and sunny. That is one of the reasons they run the race in the evening.

Package Pick-Up - Check

Package Pick-Up – Check

We started off the day with a visit to Action Fest and to package pick-up and learned Charlie was #18 and I had #20. Did they think we were elites??

Apparently, it was mostly to do with how eager we were to sign up online! It was fun to dream for a moment though.

As race time drew near, I think we were both a bit nervous. We had never run together and Charlie had never run so far. We had our customized race hats on, complete with autographed brims. We each signed our names to the hats so we would each have a souvenir of the momentous event. I’m not sure about Charlie, but I know mine is going on the wall with other racing memorabilia, never to be worn in a race again.

Soon enough it was race time. And, we were off like a bunch of jack rabbits. I was trying more of the turtle approach, but Charlie felt we should run ‘medium’ – not too fast (his Mom and I had drummed that into him) but not TOOO slow either. I understood that, so let him go a little bit for the first few hundred metres before I reminded him of our plan. You will be pleased to know that I do not intend to describe every step of the race. What I will say is that Charlie got the picture fast that by taking it “medium” and even walking at strategic moments, we were already passing a lot of those runners that had gone out like little bullets. This is far from a flat race and most of the first half of it is more or less up. It rolls, but it is generally going up. Charlie started to get the rhythm and soon enough it was him calling the walk breaks and the runs. He was good at it too, conserving energy in the hot sun and running easily and smoothly when we did run. I was so impressed! Charlie is not quite nine, so this was pretty mature action on his part.


Almost done and a nice fast down bit to finish!

It didn’t take long before we were in new territory (distance) for him. I was wearing my Garmin to keep track of distance and pace. I announced the milestones as we went. It also helped that we had our bike-mounted photo and cheering team  (aka Charlie’s Mom and Dad) that popped up hera and there along the course. One feature of this route is that with just around 1K to go, you get back about half of the uphill climbing you had to do in the first half!

It was a struggle but our personal papparaza made it to the finish in time to catch our triumphant dash to the ‘tape’!

Cool water and a run well done!

Cool water and a run well done!

After what was a long and very hot race, we enjoyed some cooling refreshments, toasting our accomplishment and very first race. Charlie is clearly a wise beyond his years runner. He began incentifying his effort around 4K with visions of the soft-serve cone he wanted post-race. As you can see by my face, it looked pretty delicious!

Tutti-Frutti, Orange Cone.

Tutti-Frutti, Orange Cone.

I debated quitting now, but this is my story too. Earlier in the day we ran into some old friends and running buddies from faster times (for all of us). Don and Linda were very good runners back in those days and it brought back lots of memories. Anyway, cutting to the chase, when all was said and done I was a bit surprised and a whole lot pleased to learn that Charlie had paced me to a Third Place M60+ and Don had taken Silver! I know one thing for sure, this podium sharing was not a part of the past!

Apparently, we are planning for the 10K next year!  I guess we’ll see about that, but you never know!


Running in the 80s

Running in the 80s

Well, that title sounds a bit profound and for me, it is. As you will shortly see, it refers to coming to the ‘end’ of something, but the beginning of something else.

Enough of the cryptic and weighty commentary. Let’s get right down to it.

Somewhere in the murky depths of the history of my life, I became shocked and distressed at my personal state of fitness and decided to do something about it. The murky part is related only to exactly how old I was (39, I believe). The moment of shock that got me doing something about it is quite memorable. I was at a dance in Summerland, BC giving it my all, to ‘Rasputin’. It is a) long and b) very energetic to dance to. I suddenly realized I was out of breath and my heart was pounding and I actually had to sit down.  AAAAAUUUNNCHCCH (supposed to be the sound of a loud buzzer, like in a sporting event or when you get the wrong answer on a quiz show).

What to do? I had been quite active and athletic in my younger days: baseball, soccer, track and field and kind of up for anything active in nature. Interestingly, one of my sports, soccer, gave me an injury that had made another (running) fairly impossible. I jammed my left knee very badly, ending my  career in soccer. Although I was playing for UBC at the time, I was not a future star of the game and life was demanding more of my time. The injury was kind of a punctuation point to something that was probably already in the works. After healing up I could sprint short distances and walk great distances. What I couldn’t do was what we then called ‘jogging’. After about a mile the pain in my knee was terrible and very sharp. I actually tried a number of times over the years, but right around that ‘mile’ mark there would be the pain.

Flash forward to the fateful dance. Once I caught my breath, I knew I had to do something. Since running is such an important base for so many other exercises, I decided I would start there. If a mile was my limit, I would just run a mile. Every day. And so it began.

I was pretty religious about. I have no idea how long I did this, but I would get to the mile and even though things were feeling fine, I would quit. It seemed better to get my daily mile in than to revive the injury. What if I tried maybe a mile and a half, a couple of Ks?  Hmmm. Nothing. Two miles ? Well, you get the picture. Whatever I had done, the knee was working just fine. I do wonder what might have happened (for my PBs) had I done this in my late twenties rather than being almost 40. We’ll never know.

Before moving to something more demanding, I decided I should really see my doctor, Don Williams, (for the info of any old time Summerlanders ). Well, Don was a runner and after a proper check, enthusiastically endorsed my intentions. There are other stories flowing out of that check-up, but we’ll save that for another post. The result was that I targeted my first race and began training. The race was the Giant’s Head 5K, part of the Summerland Action Festival.

THAT was the beginning. I believe it was 1985.

I soon got a bit like Forrest Gump and just kept on going, running my first marathon something like three years after that first GH 5K (first photo at the top of this post). Anybody who reads this blog or knows me doesn’t need a recap of the running I’ve done. By an informal count I am well over 200 races plus all the underlying training. Over 60 of those races are half or full marathons.

Start Line - Giant's Head Run (5K/10K) - 1986

Start Line – Giant’s Head Run (5K/10K) – 1986

This weekend I will return to Summerland to run the Giant’s Head 5K once again, completing the cycle some 30 years later. But, there is more, a lot more. This is also the beginning of something, far more than any kind of ‘ending’. On June 6, I will run my very first race with our grandson Charlie! I am very excited about this and so is he. Although he lives in Summerland with his parents and we now live near Vancouver, it is all going to come together on the roads of Summerland on Saturday evening.

Judi Cumming at the Finish

Judi Cumming at the Finish

Danielle (Cumming) Krysa - GH Run 1986

Danielle (Cumming) Krysa – GH Run 1986

Running is kind of a family thing and the Giant’s Head Run represents our collective entry point to everything that has followed. The accompanying set of finish photos (some admittedly, not the greatest photography) is from 1986 as far as I can deduce. From wife Judi, through all three of our kids, Danielle, Janna and Cameron, all are represented. Over the years, I have run with all of them, especially the kids, in our big Half Marathon Challenge, where I ran a half marathon with each offspring when she or he was half my age. I’ve run races with both sons-in-law too and can’t wait to somehow make it happen with the newest grandson, Jonah. Considering our relative ages, him being just five months old and all, that may have to be with him in a jogging stroller.

Janna Cumming - GH Run 1986

Janna Cumming (in pink) – GH Run 1986


Cam Cumming - GH Run 1986

Cam Cumming – GH Run 1986

But, the focus now is on me returning to Summerland to close the circle by running this year’s Giant’s Head 5K, and to begin an entirely new era of running things with Charlie. This is the first event, but I surely hope it isn’t going to be the last. I am hoping he will be gentle with his old Grandad and not kick my butt on the first outing. Charlie’s Dad, Greg, seems to like triathlon more than pure running. Charlie, considering his Dad a hero, as any boy should, has followed down the path of getting into triathlons. He has

My competition at the Giants Head Run - June 6!

My competition at the Giants Head Run – June 6!

been doing kids’ mini-tri events for a couple of years now. I’m not 100% certain of the final arrangement, but it may be that Greg will run the GH 10K, giving us a three generation presence in the Giant’s Head running events. Danielle was thinking about it, but her son quite astutely pointed out that SOMEBODY had to cheer and take photographs. He has a point! Sorry Danielle, maybe next time. I mean if somebody doesn’t do that, how will I be able to write the fully illustrated post-race story of how all this turns out?

Stay tuned then, for the report on the Giant’s Head 5K, both the end and beginning of an era of running in the life of the family of this old blogger and ‘jogger’.



Calm before the 'storm' - 6:00am May 3, 2015

Calm before the ‘storm’ – 6:00am May 3, 2015

The past weekend was pretty fun and exciting. It was my first race of 2015 but more significantly (to me) my first the M70-74 age category. There is no stretch of logic to point out it was also my first half marathon run at the BMO Vancouver Marathon weekend. Apart from my own ‘firsts’ it was one of those races that just couldn’t have been much better. The day was near perfect and the half marathon course is a gem. I had no expectations of my own race, something I’ll explain in a bit, but was thrilled to see that one of Canada’s budding prospects in distance running, Rob Watson, won the Half Marathon, and did so going away. That was good, but the Olympic qualifying window is open with a standard of 2:12:50, and Rob is looking to make his first assault on the standard at the Ottawa Marathon on May 31. Vancouver was his set-up event for Ottawa. Of course, even if he does go under the standard, that only gets him into the ‘lottery’. There are at least three other gents named Wykes, Coolsaet and Gillis who may have something to say on the matter. Still, it looks like three will go and if Robbie can get himself under that standard the odds are pretty good, marathoning being what it is and all.

Ellie Greenwood wins Comrades 2014

Ellie Greenwood wins Comrades 2014

Another friend I watched lay down a marker is Ellie Greenwood. Miss Ellie doing well in a race is not really remarkable. She won the Vancouver Marathon a couple of years back, so what is exciting about her Third Place on Sunday? Well, locals in the Vancouver running community as well as her fellow ultra-runners know she suffered a badly broken hand in a bike/car confrontation recently. She was on the bike. She lost. Her medical team forbade running for several weeks. Ellie is the defending champion at Comrades. Ellie was training for her defense of title come May 31. Then BOOM (literally), her training was trashed with the accident. Not only did they say no running but they didn’t want her doing anything physical. Must have been harder on her than the injury itself! So, one might now be able to see how a third place finish in a time of 2:47 and change (only about 5 minutes shy of her marathon PB) was a big result for her. Competition at Comrades is pretty fierce. There is no saying she was going to prevail with or without the accident getting in the way, but for those of us who know her amazing spirit and physical abilities, her day on the roads of Vancouver was ever so encouraging. Go Ellie!

How can all of this have anything to do with “NEW”, as the title suggests? Well, we are getting to that part right now.

My family has been on me a bit to knock it off with the marathons. At the very least, maybe not run quite so many. There is some sense to that. Having just entered my eighth decade, the strain of a lot of hard running is making itself felt. Oh, I’m not about to fall over and I CAN still do a full marathon training program, but if it ever was, it is not so easy these days. When you come right down to it, if you are competitive of spirit, you will always train to your potential (ie hard) and the finish times are just relative if they are the best you can do at the time. I am a little bit tempted to let marathons go, having run 25 and my last one having been fun and pretty satisfying as far as performance goes. I do not want my last one to be an awful experience, so running another one creates that risk. It is also highly probable that if the right opportunity comes along, I WILL run another one or two in the right place or time.

The solution has been to concentrate more on half marathons. My personal health situation has pushed in that direction for this year anyway. Not sure ‘health’ is the right term. I wrote a few weeks back about having cataract surgery and my new bionic eye! Like Ellie, though far less traumatically, that cost me three weeks of exercise at a critical moment in my Spring training schedule, meaning that even Vancouver was a bit too soon re my preparations to race. The difference in my vision has been worth every bit of it, though. Now, I face a similar situation as surgery looms on the other eye. The good news is that the date got moved up a couple of weeks, so my Fall racing is going to be far less impacted. Hey, and I’ll be able to easily read my pace on my Garmin!

Marathon Maniac

Marathon Maniac

Now for the story on the half marathon. Because I seem to need goals, I decided that if I really wanted to change my focus to the half marathon, I should find a personal challenge. As many will know, I am a Marathon Maniac. I recently joined the Half Fanatics, which has similar goals and standards (but for half marathons), all of which are strictly about fun. BUT, people have long talked about being “Double Agents”, having a foot in each camp. The powers that be among the Maniacs and Fanatics decided to make that official and have now created an official Double Agent set of standards and levels. How could I resist? I am now DA#1261 and moving along on my quest to ‘climb mountains’ as the levels are designated by names of famous Mountains.

So, I am already a two star or Silver level Maniac, but partly because I have concentrated so much on marathons over the last year, I haven’t had the kind of string in the Half Fanatics system to be anything more than base level. (No, they won’t let you count marathons as being a half or more.) What to do? Well, chase down some Planets of course (HF levels are done as planets)!

The Vancouver Half Marathon was the first of four I intend to run in 14 days. I’m not sure that is exactly what the family had in mind, but it does involve/matter HOW you run. Let’s face it, if I was training for a marathon I might well run 27K, 30K, 33K for three weeks in a row. Of course they would be LSD pace. Fanatics only care that you start and finish, nobody ever asks ‘how fast?’. So, it works – for me anyway.

Hayward Field - The Finish is Nigh

Hayward Field – The Finish is Nigh

I do have one race in there that is a favourite and falls just where I may be able to do something decent re time and placement. That is the one coming up this Sunday (May 10). It is the Eugene Marathon (half). Love that event. I’ve done the marathon three times and back when I was a mere lad of 65 it gave me my recent marathon PB and a shocking 3rd Place in my group (out of a field of 16, no less). Age graded, that one came out as my second best ever! I’ve never run the Eugene Half, so on this my fourth time back to Eugene I will be giving it a go. I know the route well. Up to something around 10 miles the half and full use the exact same course. After crossing the Willamette River for the first time, the marathoners will go right and us half marathoners will go left with less than three miles back to the fabled track of Hayward Field. Gives me goose-bumps every time I run the straightaway to the finish.  I sure hope this isn’t going to jinx it, but Eugene is my target race.

Eugene Marathon - 2010 - Passing Hayward Field.

Eugene Marathon – 2010 – Passing Hayward Field.

Eugene should be a lot of fun. For reasons I don’t actually know, some 25 runners from the Forerunners Clinic group I run with, have decided they will do the half or full in Eugene. I know a few, like me, are shooting for a good time, maybe some BQ efforts even. (It is that kind of course.) There are definitely some PB aspirations.

Moving on, I was just surfing about the Half Fanatic race schedule for potential races when I fell upon the Sage Rat events in Prosser, WA on May 16-17. By the way, if you are ever searching for a Half to run, you can go to the HF web page and view the Race Schedule. It is public. You will find races from one end of the US to the other and most major Canadian races too. If an event is listed, there will be a link to the race site. Same is true for marathons over on the Maniac web site.

The whole Sage Rat thing just grabbed my imagination. Prosser is not a ridiculous distance from here and the event looked like great fun. Saturday there is the Sage Rat Half Marathon. That one is a pretty standard ‘road race’ and there are some shorter alternate distance races too. On Sunday there is the Dirty Rat 25K ‘trail’ event. Might be some trails, but it seems more like back roads and a gnarly 1,000ft elevation gain/loss on an out and back. Talk about medals! You get one for each race, then one for doing the combo. Do well, and you might even get some age group recognition. I have a pretty good chance of being first out of ONE in both races. The Fanatics count actual half marathons and anything longer than a half, as long as it is shorter than a marathon. So, this will be my first ‘back to back’. Naturally, both the Sage Rat and Dirty Rat are going to be all about the fun and I hope to find folks of similar pace to run with and chat. Being the third and fourth ‘half marathons’ in 14-15 days AND back to back, I definitely won’t be pushing too hard.

All going well and by the time this is all said and run, I should have climbed to the Fourth Level of Half Fanatic (Jupiter). I’m sure that will also do something for my Double Agent status, but that will be what it will be and I’m not just sure how you combine a two star Maniac status with a four planet Fanatic status to get the corresponding Double Agent status (maybe Mont Blanc?), but we’ll see! Some might figure I should be called “IDIOT” (vs Fanatic) but you must know I’m not alone! There are over 11,000 members in each of the MM and HF groups. We DA’s are special though, with numbers only around 1500 at the moment. That said the group is only a week old, and now that it exists there may be interest in getting qualified as either HF or MM in order to be a Double Agent.

First things first, I am pretty excited about visiting Eugene again. For me, it is ‘one of those races’ that is special. It will not be lost on me as we turn for home after crossing the Willamette River, we will be paralleling and very near “Pre’s Trail” and when we hit the track of Hayward Field, we WILL be “Running in the Footsteps of Legends”!

BMO Vancouver Marathon (and this Blogger) Ready to GO!


BMO Van Mar Logo0001Well, I registered a long time ago. I went to the media luncheon and met the elites in all events and then I picked up my race package (half marathon for me this year). I laid out my race kit. My shoes and everything else match like seldom before!


Well, OK, guess I have to wait until they fire the starting gun, horn, whistle (?). And, I might have to wander around and look for some running friends. Of course I will have to search out Team Joshua the subject of my last blog post. Then, there will be nothing left to do but run.

The weather is looking pretty ideal, especially for the half marathon and probably for elite marathoners. It might get warmish (certainly not hot) for marathoners taking a bit longer to go the distance. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

I ran the Half in 2012 (first year of the new courses) and the Full Marathon in 2014. While I am local and know the routes quite well, you don’t REALLY know them unless you run them. So, I can say I do know both the Half Marathon and Marathon courses. “Like” is another thing. I might go so far as to say I Love the Half Marathon route, at least the territory you pass through. The Marathon covers some of the same ground in the second half and has some of its own amazing features too. That said, if you are reading this and looking for clues, the marathon route is not the easiest you will ever do. My best advice is study the course and pay close attention to the elevation profile and where in the race the challenges come. I think Respect is the best advice I can give. Show it respect and you should do OK, maybe even well.

Cambie Street - March 2012

Cambie Street – March 2012

When it comes to the Half, there are fewer challenges, but one of the big temptations will be to run down Cambie Street like you were after a 5K PB. Don’t do that. Oh, it will be fun, at first. It may come back to haunt you a bit later in the race! Moderation may be the big word for the Half. With the weather expected, you will be treated to an amazing view of the downtown and the North Shore mountains all the way down to the bridge. It could truly be spectacular, especially if you are a visitor or even a first time in this event. Then you will be treated to a corner of Vancouver’s China Town and a romp through the ‘new-old’ Yaletown area until the route puts along the English Bay shore prior to entering the City’s jewel, Stanley Park. Marathoners actually go all the way around on the Seawall. Half Marathoners stay on the road and cut over into the middle of the park, running through to the other side, where a very hard right turn (think switch-back) will be the beginning of the end. Don’t get too excited. There is still a way to, but you are definitely into the last phases. You are more or less running East at this point to Brockton Point, then turning to

Harry Jerome - Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

Harry Jerome – Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

the right past the “Nine O’clock Gun” and my old friend, Harry Jerome. If you are needing some inspiration at that point (you very well might), he’s your man (or statue). For Half Marathoners (still on the road), look left, marathoners (on the Seawall path) look right. It will be right about here that you need to start considering how you will finish. No, you aren’t there yet, but it won’t be a lot more than 2K from this point.

The two routes come together just near the Vancouver Rowing Club and everybody is on the Seawall. Of course, because of the big stagger in the starts of the two events, there won’t be many half marathoners out there when the elite marathoners come through. That should be around 10:30am, give or take. So, half marathoners will be three and a half hours into their race at that point. The final or home stretch is along Georgia and up (a little) Pender to the Finish Line. You should be able to see it once you veer onto Pender. Get ready to celebrate, because the work will be almost over and the fun getting ready to start!

Here is to a wonderful race day for everyone from the 8K to the Half Marathon to the Full. And remember, stay safe – have fun! Should be lots of spectators on such a great day! Smile (when you can) and don’t forget to thank a volunteer!  Maybe a bunch of volunteers! Without them, we wouldn’t be doing this.

Finally, if you happen to spot/recognize this old buzzard out there, say hi!




If his was a new story it might be easier to write in a way, but it is an amazing story so I guess I am going to to go with that. The simplest part of this story today is that Team Joshua will be running the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon on Sunday May, 3. I am also running the Half so will be catching up with Team Joshua on Sunday morning at the start. This is the fifth time Team Joshua will compete at the BMO Vancouver Marathon events, beginning with the full marathon in 2009, followed by four half marathons including the one coming up on Sunday.

The Vancouver running community is,  or certainly should be, aware of Team Joshua. That would be Michelle Gentis and her young(ish) and now not so very little son, Joshua. Josh is now 14 years of age and a lot bigger than the first time I met him back in 2012 or when they started in 2008. I know some members of our community are aware as we have collectively supported Team Joshua along their journey. There was a RITZ Blog piece a while back that included a segment about a fund-raising event that helped realize a custom racing chair for Josh. This is one of the things I love about the running community – so much support and understanding for everyone who wants to be a part of it. But, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

I should also say I am not the only one to have written about or covered the story of Team Joshua. Check this Impact story written by Jean Sorenson, another Vancouver runner/writer. For that matter, Team Joshua has a web site that you can find pretty easily, especially if you just click the link included right here. Among other things, you will find a number of media links that tell various parts of this moving story. Still, the story evolves and there is always more to be said and to be inspired by.

Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon - 2008

Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon – 2008

Not that it would make much difference if it had a name, but Josh has an undiagnosed brain disorder. He is effectively immobile without aid and unable to speak. This is not a new story in that Michelle and Josh began running in 2008 at the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. As the story has gone, one thing has led to another because this is one big thing that gives Josh such obvious pleasure and Michelle both satisfaction and her own pleasure in being able to give Josh something so simple and good. In Michelle’s own words, when they finished Scotiabank in 2008, “he was squealing with delight”!

Image - Version 4

Team Joshua racing to a Boston Qualifier Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (2013)

Back there a while, Michelle decided that being a pretty darn good runner, she would try to qualify them for Boston. Not many are unaware of Team Hoyt (Dick and son Rick). They were the inspiration for Team Joshua’s dream to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. Although Team Joshua has had a lot of supporters along the way she has a special spot for Jerry Ziak of Forerunners. Jerry provided the coaching support that got Team Joshua to that all important BQ time.

Even though the qualifying time was done at The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, while pushing Josh’s racing chair, it turned out that NO competitor under the age of 18 is allowed in the Boston Marathon. I personally understand why no runner under 18 can run, but the runner is clearly well over the age of 18! Apparently, there is still some small amount of conversation that continues on the subject, but for now this seems to be kind of a settled matter. And just in case you are wondering, there is no ‘special BQ’ if you are pushing a chair, racing or otherwise. BQ is a BQ – period. With good reason, Michelle worries that physics will make it pretty hard to BQ as Josh gets older and heavier and reaches the magic age of 18. I understand that Michelle’s racing weight is about 120lb. The ratio of she to he will soon be the opposite of what it was when Team Joshua began. Don’t care how good those bearings are, she will be pushing a weight WHILE trying to run a BQ.

Well, it seems that is what the Boston Athletics Association thinks – no entry for Team Joshua right now. I would offer them some unsolicited advice though: Save yourself some time and trouble on this and just give them the entry they earned. You’ll be glad you did. You may or may not have realized that as kind and lovely as Michelle may seem on the outside, inside you are dealing with the spirit of a Mama Grizzly Bear!

How do I know this? Well, Michelle already has a plan to put Boston at the back end of a rather impressive list of six fairly well known marathons: Chicago, New York City, Berlin, London, Tokyo and finally Boston. That’s right folks! Team Joshua is taking on the Marathon Majors, starting with Chicago. So tell me, when Team Joshua has completed five of six of the Majors, what are the good folks at BAA going to say then?

And HOW do I know this Marathon Majors project is going to go so terrifically? Well that is the “Big News” of the title. Just this week it was confirmed that the Bank of America Chicago Marathon has accepted Team Joshua for this year’s race. That didn’t happen without some effort either, but the Race Director, Carey Pinkowski, worked with his race team to review the earlier policy of NO WHEEL CHAIRS and will institute a trial program for this year including Team Joshua and five others. None of this is going to be inexpensive, so when Aon (Chicago) stepped up to sponsor the efforts of Team Joshua, things came together in a big way!

When writing about stuff like this, or any personal running story it is hard to know where to go, what to say, and for that matter what not to say.

Happy BQ Team

Happy BQ Team

Come Sunday, I hope that lots of runners will recognize Team Joshua, say ‘hi’ and maybe run along for a bit. I was thinking I might just run with them myself, but then I realized they would have to slow down so I can keep up! I am sure, from what Michelle tells me, that Josh is going to have a wonderful time out there and will once again love crossing the finish line and getting his finisher’s medal. Any of us who are around at the time will surely celebrate with Josh and Michelle. And then, we will go home. Team Joshua will go home too. The difference is that, as much fun as Sunday will be, Josh will still be, in Michelle’s words, “profoundly disabled”. They will go on with the rest of life, a life that has so many more challenges than having a racing chair that enables Michelle to move them quickly from start to finish.

When I personally met Josh, he was about ten. Now he is fourteen and moving into higher levels of learning. He is having difficulty with his school situation and it is apparently clear that it saddens him. Acceptance at age 14 is everything. Someone with the challenges Josh faces winds up in a category of his own. Part of what drives Michelle is this broader situation that faces Josh and all people with disabilities. While there is no doubt her cause is personal, she also wants to use it as a form of advocacy. She has told me that another inspiration is the Power to Push project of Shaun Evans (ultra runner) and his son Shamus (cerebral palsy) and their cross country run this summer to raise awareness.

Why shouldn’t people like Josh and Shamus have the pleasure of physical and other achievements? Maybe Josh doesn’t communicate like the rest of us, but I’ve seen him and trust me, Josh CAN communicate how he is feeling. Maybe he doesn’t actually run these races but his joy in participating is just as great, maybe more, as compared to the able bodied. Why shouldn’t he be able to feel this joy? Happily, and some of the time, running is just what the doctor ordered! But, it is more. It is symbolic of acceptance in life as a whole. Why just running? Why not everything in general? Oh, there is no doubt it might look different on the surface, but being fully involved is what counts.

Acceptance. That is what it is about. Acceptance. That is all Team Joshua is seeking.



And, by young, I mean shortly after conception!


Resting after the ordeal!

No, I have not completely jumped the tracks. This is a true and fun story about our brand new grandson, Jonah. The whole family is pretty crazy about  running (and about Jonah at this particular moment in time), even if I am the only one ‘certifiable’ where it comes to the running (Marathon Maniac #6837). Our daughter Janna is the current top performer within our ‘clan’ where it comes to speed.  Although, since she is also Jonah’s Mom, she is on a bit of a hiatus for the moment. That said, the last race she ran was the Winnipeg Police Service Half Marathon. She did OK too, considering that she was kind of in the morning sickness phase of her pregnancy (21/153 in her age group, 338/1578 OA and in a time of 1:50:42).

Truth be told, she is probably not the only woman ever to run a race while ‘in the family way’. Still, I was impressed and decided as a fairly nutso runner that even if he was doing a ‘ride-along’ (hey, it was the Police Service race) Jonah was a finisher just like his Mom. Finishers get a finisher medal. A plan was hatched!

I contacted the Winnipeg Police Service Half Marathon officials and told them my story and asked if it was remotely possible to obtain a finisher medal from the 2014 event. They saw the story like I did and got right into it! They  sent me the medal I requested AND a wonderful pink plush pig for Jonah (which will likely be more appreciated by him in the short-term, than the medal). I had the wonderful opportunity to make the surprise presentation of the medal and official race pig when we arrived in Winnipeg to meet our newest family member! To say it was well received may just a bit of an understatement.

There is more to the story, but I want to stop right here and say how much we all appreciate this fabulous gesture from a race that really gets it. I’m not from Winnipeg and even if we did live in Morden, MB for a couple of years,  have never run this race. But, I am sure that any event that cares enough to help me out with my personal fun project, is a race to be run. Since we are going to be making regular visits to Winnipeg, it is sure on my ‘to do’ list to run the race. I mean, our daughter and grandson have done it, and I’m pretty sure our son-in-law ran it a couple of years ago. Maybe one day not too long from now, we can all do one of the events together. It won’t be this year as I am already committed to the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon on the same day, but I’d sure recommend the Winnipeg Police Service Half Marathon, Relay and 5K to anyone who is looking for a good event to do.

The 2015 Version is  on May 3 and will also include a 5K this time around. The 5K is a new addition to open the event to more people. It is all part of moving into the second decade of the event (2014 was the 10th running of the race). With the half marathon plus a two leg team-relay event and now the 5K, there is pretty much something for everyone where it comes to distance, 5K, 10K (sort of) and 21.1K.

Back to Jonah’s big debut race. I am given to understand that in due course, he will be receiving his finisher certificate and also understand he MAY have won the ‘under nine months’ category! Let’s face it, we had to wait until we knew his name before a certificate could be made. OK, I admit that winning the under 9 months category  may be a bit like me winning some races in the 70+ category (just not that much competition). But hey, it already gives us something in common!

There is a new family running project in the works. With any luck, sometime before too long,

Jonah and his Grandad

Jonah and his Grandad

Jonah and his Dad and Mom, our other grandson Charlie (he will be nine years old this summer), his Mom and Dad, the Grandad (that would be me) and the Nana will all be able to enter the same race and do it together! Why, we might even convince Uncle Cameron to come out of retirement for this! Charlie says he is up for a 5K and while Jonah seems enthusiastic enough (OK, so it might have been  gas that made him smile when I asked what he thought), he will probably have to take part in a baby jogger. The big trick is going to be getting everybody in the same place at the same time because we are scattered all over the place from Victoria to Winnipeg. If we can do it, you KNOW there will be a team shirt!

When I started writing this, we were actually in Winnipeg, meeting the newest family member! The morning when this photo was taken he was having a visit with his Grandad. I thought I was entertaining him with my witty commentary, but he fell asleep right there in my arms. Next thing though, his little legs started to go – I’m pretty sure he was having a running dream!!


Sunset on 2014 Running

Sunset on 2014 Running

It has been an interesting year, this 2014. That includes both personal and general matters. Seems that with my decision that racing is now over for me until 2015, a bit of a review is in order. I won’t say 2014 didn’t have its ups and downs and I’m not talking about course profiles. All in all though, I have to say it has been an overall great year. I hope others who may read this and are inspired to reflect on their 2014 race and running records will feel as I do. I am already looking forward to 2015, and if you read on, you will see why! I’ll wish all readers a great year in 2015, as it seems a logical conclusion coming out of a post like the one to follow.

Lenore and Bob Dolphin, April 4,2014

Lenore and Bob Dolphin, April 4,2014

To begin with the personal, I did a couple of ‘old friend’ events and several new ones. The first of those races was new to me (Yakima River Canyon Marathon) as was the second (Big Cottonwood Marathon). The other was just plain new (Rock ‘n’ Roll Vancouver Half Marathon), to me and everyone else. The latter event

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer - Q&A Session

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer – Q&A Session

also had a not so new 10K component, but given that the James Cunningham Seawall race was The James Cunningham Seawall race and not the James Cunningham Seawall 10K (because the Stanley Park Seawall isn’t exactly 10K – almost, but not quite), you could argue that technically, even it was new.

Yakima was a great opportunity to meet so many old friends in a celebration of running and the contributions of Team Dolphin, not to mention Bob Dolphin’s personal marathon records. Present were a number of Running in the Zone contributors with an appearance there of Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer, feature speakers. Marathon Maniacs abounded and a couple of milestone achievements were timed to happen at the Yakima River Canyon Marathon.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon - My most recent marathon.

‘Flying’ Down Big Cottonwood Canyon

Big Cottonwood was a great race for me personally as I recaptured some feeling of accomplishment with my performance. I love running down big hills, note that of the eight times I’ve run Hood to Coast, something like five of those have been Leg #1. Big Cottonwood is like Leg 1, but is most of a full marathon (around 20 miles) of “Leg 1″! I came away happy with what I had done and fairly certain I could have done better had my original travel plan not got a bit altered due to an acting opportunity. I went from an easy driving trip covering a total of 9 days, to a hectic flight leaving Vancouver Friday morning and arriving about 4:00pm in Salt Lake City with just time to pick up the race package and get to the 7am start, then back home Sunday afternoon. The travel was not a huge deal, but I had no time to adjust to the altitude and no time to drive the course and really see that the ‘flat’ part coming just after 15 miles wasn’t, flat that is. Net zero elevation, because you start that segment and finish it in the same place. Whatever, I was very pleased and really thought the race was a good one.

BMO Vancouver Marathon - Start 2013

BMO Vancouver Marathon – Start 2013

The first ‘old faithful’ event in 2014 was the BMO Vancouver Marathon, and it too was sort of new. It was the fifth time I have run the Vancouver full marathon (on three different courses), but I had never run the recently set (2012) marathon route. Vancouver was my very first marathon, run in 1988, so we go way back, this race and me. I ran the new half marathon in the inaugural year, but since the two races share very little common ground, that didn’t help much in knowing the marathon course. I do have to admit that the Forerunners training clinic I run with and lead a pace group for, trains on most of the course at some point or other, but in bits and pieces. And, training runs aren’t the same thing anyway.

Three-fer at Victoria 2007 Danielle, Dan & Janna

Three-fer at Victoria 2007 Danielle, Dan & Janna

If there is something more familiar for me in the category of races I call ‘old friends’, than the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (and half marathon), I’m not sure what it would be. (No, the PRR “First Half” doesn’t count because I’m an organizer/facilitator of that one – never ran it.) Getting back to ‘Victoria’, a lot of the 11 total appearances were at the Royal Victoria Marathon and I sill kind of think of it that way. The Victoria Marathon holds a special place for me as it was my first marathon completed after back surgery, a full ten years after, but still the first. I ran it with some uncertainty and trepidation even if I had trained pretty well. Finishing and doing so decently was a momentous personal achievement and left me with a great love for the event. Well, and yes, ahem, it was where Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes was launched. The other great thing about Victoria is that it is our family race. Most of the times I have done Victoria it has been with one or both daughters running too.

On a very personal level, I need to note that 2014 is the end of a decade in my life. New age group coming up in January when I officially enter my EIGHTH decade! That sounds so much more impressive than just saying I will turn 70 in January. But, I got here and I’m still going. For a bunch of reasons, most of them having zip to do with running, the early part of the year will be short on racing. I’ll be running, just not racing until April or even May. With 10 races in 2014, that may be a good thing and set me up well for later in 2015. I’m tempted to get one in as soon as possible, just so  I can say I did a race when I was 70, but there is nothing making it look like I won’t have a chance to do one a bit later. Speaking of eras, the race that would have been my #1 candidate for first event in the new grouping is the Steveston Icebreaker, but we won’t be in Vancouver. Nope, we expect to be considerably farther east than that, meeting our newest grandchild. I am actively looking for a race to do with our older grandson, who will turn nine in 2015. That should work out OK. Not entirely certain I can hold out for a race with the new grandkiddly. Still, I do have friends running in their late 70s and even 80s, so who knows what may happen. I mean, it doesn’t need to be a marathon! I’ve run with all our kids and both sons-in-law (raced, that is), so time to start working on this new generation.

MC's First Half - Anjulie Latta and Dan Cumming

MC’s First Half – Anjulie Latta and Dan Cumming

There is a bit of minor surgery coming up after I get done with MC duties at the First Half Half Marathon, and I’m told I will be off running for about three weeks, so THAT is what takes things through into at least April before I can think seriously about racing or maybe that is think about racing seriously. I mean, when you are the young guy in a new age division, you better make hay while the sun shines!

Speaking of shining sun, I am just closing out my last couple of days in Jamaica, basking in the glow of the 2014 Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K, another event that has become one of my regulars. I took a few days off after the race, but then started an easy, early morning beach running program that has seen me do an easy 4-5K each morning, just as the sun is starting to rise into the sky. The beach is relatively quiet, except for a few other runners and some random guys who keep offering me ‘smoke’ and ‘herb’. Hope springs eternal, I guess. They don’t seem to see the irony of trying to get a runner to stop and light up. I don’t know much about the properties of ‘herb’, but I’m not sure it could make me feel a lot more relaxed and peaceful than these totally purposeless runs. By no purpose, I mean that I am not training and not racing. I used my Garmin once, just to get an idea of distance because pace is hard to gauge in the sand. Most of the beach is pretty flat and firm, so the running is easy and you just need to let everything sink into your being and enjoy the sound of the waves and the changing light. No purpose, means no real pace, just do what feels good and stop if there is something to look at. I’ve been running with shoes because more than once, I’ve done a bare-foot beach run and had the shifting sand give me a blister on the bottom of my foot. That in turn curtails the morning runs – kind of counter-productive you’d have to say. But, tomorrow is probably the last day for an early run. The next run is going to be barefoot, right near the water’s edge. I can feel it already!

Morning Beach Scene - Negril, JA

Morning Beach Scene – Negril, JA