category : ‘Uncategorized’


THE MANY FACETS OF RUNNING

06.27.2016
Chris Morales at the Reggae Marathon Finish

That Runnin Guy – Reggae Marathon Finish 2009

This piece was inspired by my friend Chris Morales, aka ThatRunnin’ Guy, aka Sugar “Tuff Gong” Bong (the official blogger for one of my very favourite races, the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K in Negril, JA. In case, you are wondering, that strange name is his Reggae Name. Mine is Doctor One Drop Dread.  Never mind. It doesn’t matter!

It is kind of funny how one little comment can trigger an idea. In response to an exchange we were having on the “Personal Message” feature of Facebook, Chris said something like: “Boy, you really are a planner!” DING!!!!  That was all it took to inspire what follows. Mostly, it is about me and my perspective on things, but as usual it also goes farther.

Bob's Border Busters - Hood to Coast (1987)

Bob’s Border Busters – Hood to Coast (1987)

Somewhere after that comment and a detailed discussion on my part of how much you need to plan if you want to put a team into the Hood to Coast Relay (another favourite event), I may have mentioned that at my age, the planning is starting to almost be more fun than the running. Where it comes to Hood to Coast, many of my team members keep thanking me for all the work I do as team captain. That is much appreciated, but the truth is I love the detail and intricacies of putting the team together and getting the right people on the right legs while planning all the logistics before, during and after. Oh, there was a time when I could consider myself a strong contributor to the actual running effort, but that was a while back now. This August will be my NINTH Hood to Coast. Could have been a much larger number, but it is no longer easy to get in, and just as an example, this entry was a ‘third time lucky’ success. Of the nine teams, I guess I have been the outright captain of five and co-captain of one other. It is no secret to veteran Hood to Coasters that planning is the key to success, whether success is defined by having a really good race or just having a whole lot of fun.

Anyway, that is how this whole thing started. It reminded me of all the different things that can be involved with regard to ‘running’.

Running the forest trails. Early morning. Friends. Just running.

Running the forest trails. Early morning. Friends. Just running.

Facet #1: Running is running. Running is good. So, right there is the first ‘facet’ from the title. I guess if you don’t enjoy running you just aren’t likely to get much into anything else that follows. I know people who started running, but have never raced and I know people who have gone from being active, even elite, competitors who no longer race, but just run for the shear joy and pleasure of it.

Facet #2: Running is NOT necessarily racing. As hard as that is to believe, it is nonetheless true! There is no doubt it is a short leap from just running for fun and health and whatever, to trying out that first race, which may also be ‘just for fun’. Nothing wrong with it stopping there, or not even getting that far. Just do it because it feels good and is good for you.

Facet #3: Racing is challenging and fun. The first point is certainly true, but if the second is not, then it may be best to revert to ‘Facet #2′. The challenges of racing are many and varied. You can run to win outright, or your age group or just to beat your former self, and so many other things too. Like so many other things of this nature, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. At my age, I kind of feel like I’m winning just be being out there. Sometimes I win my age group now, but sometimes that amounts to be ‘first out of one’, and that is when I invoke the idea that being out there is winning!

Double Agent two-fer on Maniacs/Fanatics group membership. (Photo: Courtesy of Revel)

Double Agent two-fer on Maniacs/Fanatics group membership.
(Photo: Courtesy of Revel)

Facet #4: Running is a social activity. This is true on so many levels from having one or two running partners/buddies to being a member of an organized local club, or a member of a more ‘virtual community’ such as Marathon Maniacs or Half Fanatics. The latter are real things with real people and those people self identify and congregate at races, but seldom do we members really know one-another, other than through social media exchanges or club news letters. Most Maniacs and Fanatics do know a few of the other members, in some cases quite well, but largely with both groups hitting just around 14,000 members, the association is more notional in nature. It is no less fun though.

I’ve also talked a good many times of the family running exploits involving me, my wife, the three kids and now our grandson. The Hood to Coast and other relay groups I’ve been part of may be about racing but are also social, top to bottom.

Facet #5: Racing can be enlightening. I started out thinking about how I (and many others) travel to run/race. But then I realized that in seeing different people and places, not to mention perspectives, you achieve one kind of enlightenment. However, the various achievements, from just learning you can do it through pushing yourself to performances you would never have imagined, running can open the mind and personal perspectives of almost everyone. The examples are almost limitless because this aspect is very personal.

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

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

Facet #6: Racing can benefit others. Yep, those charity runs do some amazing things. Sometimes it will be a personal pledge/challenge to raise a certain amount for a particular cause (as related to your actual entry such as for events like the Boston Marathon) or sometimes just supporting a particular event because it contributes to something worthy and special (Terry Fox Runs). Some people just dedicate their effort to supporting a friend’s struggle (no money involved).

Facet #7: Runners  support running/racing. By this, I mean that even though we may run for our own fun and challenges, we can also volunteer to serve and support others. The Running in the Zone book was divided not into chapters, but rather ‘zones’. One of those was “The Contribution Zone“. Whether you ‘just’ help at packet pick-up or at a water station or take on being race director for an event, those things enable everyone else to do what they do. Some other examples include officiating or becoming certified course measurers. There is so much that underlies our racing and there are people who must do those things. They don’t just happen. We can all take our turn at being a volunteer in some capacity. It is rewarding and sure gives perspective for when we race ourselves.

While my own Hood to Coast organizing activities are ultimately about the running, the administrative planning and organization probably fall here. I mean, that being the inspiration for this whole post, it had to come into the discussion somewhere!

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer - Yakima River Canyon Marathon

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer – Yakima River Canyon Marathon

Facet #8: Running produces heroes! Of course it does. Pre, Mo, Meb. Bet I don’t need to expand on those three names for runners who follow this blog. It goes beyond the performances of people like Paula Radcliffe and Usain Bolt who thrill us with feats almost beyond our imagining. We also have the people like Kathrine Switzer who work over decades to advance things like the place of women in running. It was really not THAT long ago that women were highly restricted in what they could run. Although Kathrine was the most notorious woman to break the Boston Marathon barrier, she really wasn’t the first, but she was the one who took it to a different level. The first women’s Olympic Marathon was run only 32 years ago (1984), and that took a lot of activism from none other than our Kathrine Switzer. While Roger Robinson was a terrific runner in his own right winning many masters marathon titles and setting records, some of which still exist, he and Russell (his bionic knee) are setting new standards of running excellence because, for Roger and many others, running is just that important!

Team Joshua in action!

Team Joshua in action!

But, there are other heroic figures in running. Some get a bit of news, but many just truck along doing what they do, but boy do they do it. A local team of heroic racers is embodied in Team Joshua. Josh has a complex affliction that severely limits him but his mother Michelle realized some years ago that he was very happy when she would run with him in a jogger. As he got older, the jogger had to get bigger and she had to get stronger, because as a teen, Josh is no lightweight, but they press on, setting targets and achieving them. What about the people like Ed Whitlock or BJ McHugh that push those upper levels of seniors running? They aren’t just amazing because they are still running, but rather because they excel.

I could go on, but the point of talking about these heroes in our sport is not their specific achievements but rather the inspiration they bring to all of us.

BJ (Betty Jean) McHugh at the First Half Half Marathon

BJ (Betty Jean) McHugh at the First Half Half Marathon

Facet #9: Running is for life. Well, for as much of life as you want it to be, barring personal standards and good health. Running is whatever you consider it to be. I enjoy running as such, but still like to compete. Compete? With who? Well, at this point, mostly myself. Long ago, my raw times started falling off, never to be seen again. That was when I embraced age grading! My competitive challenge is to try to maintain my standard of performance as given under the age-graded outcomes. I used to look at the adjusted times (and still do), but have almost moved over more to the % Performance statistic. Of course, any given race can be impacted by a wide range of factors, but I usually compare my annual PBs against previous years and maybe more significantly have started doing 5-year PB stats, simply because in any given year I may only run one race of a certain distance and that may be a fabulous result or could be marred by weather, a hard course, or who knows what else.

Facet #10: Friends. Oh sure, there are lots of ways to make friends that have nothing to do with running and not every runner you will ever meet is going to be your friend. That said there are a bunch of interesting things about ‘running friends’. On a very superficial level, the common interest or bond of running means people will start talking as if they’ve known each other for years. Running is maybe some kind of unspoken introduction made by a good and trusted friend. “Well, if Running likes you, you must be OK!”

Me with Carey Nelson (2X Olympian) Ellie Greenwood (2X World 100K Champ, Comrades winner and Western States winner X2) (photo: P Cheung)

Me with Carey Nelson (2X Olympian) Ellie Greenwood (2X World 100K Champ, Comrades winner and Western States winner X2) (photo: P Cheung)

Another facet is the wide range of people you can meet. I have to be careful here because everyone will be different, but because I have involved myself at a number of levels of running from actually doing it, to organizing it (race director stuff and all that) to writing about it and even doing announcing, I have met a lot of people that range from the famous to just regular folk (where I classify myself). Because I like to combine travel with my running, I have also had a chance to meet people from all over the world, most of them just like me. I have been privileged to know Olympians, at least partly through editing Running in the Zone, but also because of the running communities of which I am a part and some of the people I know, who know people, etc. I’m not saying every one of these people I’ve met have become friends, but some have.

There are so many people I could talk about, but I could probably write a whole blog about each one, so that isn’t going to work too well. I guess what I will do, which may illustrate several parts of this ‘running friends’ idea, is to talk about the same guy I opened this post with, Chris Morales. Now, it is only partly about Chris and me as friends because there are two others that must come into this story. Actually, there are probably several, but it kind of started with us four.

Four Amigos after RM2015 showing 22 total races (fingers up) with That Runnin' Guy second from the right.

Four Amigos after RM2015 showing 22 total races (fingers up) with That Runnin’ Guy second from the right.

We met through the Reggae Marathon. Actually, as the blogger, Chris had been reaching out to various people through the event blog and one way or another the three others of us, were drawn in by Chris. I had quite an interaction going long before I ever set foot on the white sand beaches of Negril (which, by the way, was where Chris and I actually met face to face). The other two are Larry Savitch and Navin Sadarangani. The first time we all actually met was at the 2010 running of the Reggae Marathon. Since then, we meet up each year in early December in Negril for a run in the sun not to mention a little fun. OK, a lot of fun. There have been a number of Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenges. The first happened because Chris, Larry and I were all running a half marathon on the exact same day: in New Jersey, Toronto and Vancouver. We set up a bunch of rules (OK, I set the rules) and Chris even got a friend to make us handcrafted medals, and from a major Reggae Marathon sponsor, a first prize of a pair of PUMA running shoes to the winner. Every year in Negril we continue the racing challenge but have added several more regular participants. We all run whatever distance of the three on offer, then everyone gets age graded and adjusted to the common distance of the half marathon. It is all for fun, but boy does it produce some trash-talk on social media when we can’t be there to do it face to face. Funny enough, I just realized, there is relatively little trash-talk when we ARE face to face! For several years now the Four Amigos have a goup photo taken, each of us holding up the number of fingers representing the times we have run the Reggae Marathon. When we gather in Negril on December 3, 2016 we will be collectively showing 26 fingers.

I said that you meet people from all over. This group is quite the package. Chris is Canadian and from Toronto, but he was born in and only left Jamaica in his mid-teens. Of course, I too am Canadian but from the West Coast while Navin is of Indian heritage, he also lives in Canada (at present, being a true citizen of the world). Larry is from the East Coast and American (lives in New York State). We are of a wide range of ethinic, religious and racial heritage and that one thing of running drew us together so we could become friends. Running no longer keeps us together, even if it creates some opportunities for us to see each other. Nope, in this instance running was just the catalyst for something a lot deeper and more meaningful.

So there you have it. I didn’t set out to make it 10 points, but that did seem to work out both naturally and quite well. It also feels quite appropriate to finish on the matter of friends we make. There may well come a day, and in my case it could be sooner than later, when we aren’t really able to run. However, I doubt very much that when the running ends, the friendships made, will end with it.  I doubt it very much!

2015 – 2016: The Year that WAS and the Year that is yet TO BE

12.31.2015
Nothing says the running year is done like a trip to the Reggae Marathon!

Nothing says the running year is done like a trip to the Reggae Marathon!

Here we are on the cusp of yet another New Year. That means we are also on the very tail-end of the last one. Personally, the last year has been a strange, yet good one. Personal times surely got slower, but achievements were often and many were new! First time running with my grandson, Charlie, first time running a couple of races that have been around for a long time yet never on my schedule, first time running back to back half marathons (actually one was 25K), first time to score a significant number of age group podiums (5/10 races). I joined Half Fanatics and ‘mooned up’ to Level 4 (of 10). I managed to run a marathon at age 70 and attended the Reggae Marathon for the fifth year running. At the same time, I found it hard to get as much running in as normal. The last number of years, my annual running/racing total has been around 1000 Miles. This year I just crept over 1000km. As readers here know, that was partly to do with having cataract surgery on both eyes which is still amazing to me every day, but took me out for six weeks of NO running and not even any alternate training. Lost another three weeks to the worst cold/flu I think I’ve ever had. So, I guess if you prorate my 1000K plus by the nine weeks, it comes to around 1300km. Still not 1600km, but not as bad as the simple number sounds (to me, anyway).

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

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

The year in general saw some amazing things in terms of World Championships and Pan Am Games, especially in the sprints with Usain Bolt producing jaw-dropping results and our own Andre De Grasse serving notice that he is here to be seen and heard. At the distances I concentrate on, we saw Canadian marathoners putting themselves in line for a trip to RIO in 2016, and one of those, Reid Coolsaet, inching ever closer to the Canadian marathon record of Jerome Drayton. Eric Gillis has scored a qualifying time too and a couple of others are biding their time for the right race to give them a birth there too. Watching with suspense to see how Dylan Wykes and Rob Watson will do in the coming few months. There is a fine crop of ‘fast women’ too , including Lanni Marchant and Krista Duchene, and some are even having to make decisions as to which distance (if not both) they should run.

Ellie Greenwood wins Comrades 2014

Ellie Greenwood wins Comrades 2014

It is also going to be fun to see if Ellie Greenwood, running healthy and with no altercations with autos to mess up her training, is going to be able go back to Comrades and show them exactly of what she is made.

A sad part of the year was seeing another major doping scandal arise and knowing somehow that it is surely NOT going to be the last. Another part of the past year and maybe past couple of years, is what seems to be a down-trend in race participants in individual timed races in Canada. That will be the subject of a blog early in 2016 after I’m done analyzing data I’ve been given.

2016, being an Olympic Year, Rio 2016 is going to bring lots of thrills, chills and spills, starting with the mad dash to qualify for those who have not yet done so. The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon will add another $1000 to the bonus for any Canadian who can break Drayton’s record and the event coming after the Olympics may produce some all-out efforts since nobody has anything to risk by going for it. Forty years that record has stood. Seems like it would be kind of poetic for someone to nail it on the 40th. I have this theory that once someone finally breaks through, the record will drop significantly. We’ll see.

My own 2016 is a work in progress.

Rob Watson - Wins 2014 First Half

Rob Watson – Wins 2014 First Half

First up will be running the First Half Half Marathon. When I joined Pacific Road Runners, no club member was allowed to run the race. We all volunteered. As Race Director for the 20th Anniversary Race, I used it is an opportunity to offer a (possibly one-time) chance for PRR members to run. If it didn’t work, we could just go back to the normal policy. We opened five slots on a lottery basis and made it clear that individuals still had to do significant volunteering, just not during the race. Apparently, it worked well enough that the club continues to this day to allow a select number of members to run and do their volunteering outside the time of the actual race. After several years as RD, I took up being co-MC on the stage, right up to this past year. So, I’ve never run the First Half. I asked and the current RD agreed to give me the year off from my usual duties on the stage. in 2016 and at the 27th First Half, I will get to run for the very first (and quite possibly, last) time. Guess I better make it count! Well, training began several weeks ago: looking good so far.

Tutti-Frutti, Orange Cone. Already planning for 2016?

Tutti-Frutti, Orange Cone. Already planning for 2016?

Grandson Charlie has already served notice he wants to run the Giant’s Head 5.4K race again in June. While I haven’t signed up yet (OK, nobody has), I intend to be there for ’round two’!

 

Hood to Coast Start 2012

Hood to Coast Start 2012

After three tries, I was able to get yet another team into the Hood to Coast Relay! This will be the 9th time for me. The first was 1987, so I’ve been at this for a while. I already have a full team and we are currently “Canucks to the Coast“. We may review the name a bit closer to the race, but it served well in 2013 and almost half the team is the same, so……………………….Canucks to the Coast it may well be.

 

We have been talking of a major family running event for a time now and it is looking a lot like the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (etc.) is going to be it. The “etc.” is important because I suspect none of us is signing on for a marathon this time. It will probably be the Half and 8K options for us. Our oldest daughter is already registered for the Half and Charlie is game for the 8K. Don’t think anyone else has made a specific commitment, but the Winnipeg branch of the family already has the dates blocked in and two of the three anticipate running (one is not quite a year old as I write this and unfortunately they have a no stroller/jogger policy, so I guess Jonah will have to cheer this time). Our son lives in Victoria and says he is game at least for the 8K, maybe more, depending on how the year unfolds. A discussion between Charlie and me will probably determine whether I do the Half or 8K. That, and how I survive Hood to Coast at 71! I HAVE been collecting new experiences lately and while I’ve done Victoria Marathon 5 times and the Half Marathon 6 times, I’ve never run the 8K. Maybe this is the year. Lots of time for the uncommitted to pick a distance and sign on. Must remember to register as a Team!

Judi and me at Big Cottonwood Package Pickup.

Judi and me at Big Cottonwood Package Pickup.

That is it for strong intentions. But, there are many temptations out there. I mean, Revel has just announced a brand new downhill marathon/half in Nevada!  I put in an application to be a ‘run ambassador’ for a race that shall remain nameless for now and if accepted, that will require running either the half or full marathon. Then, I also found out the Yakima River Canyon Marathon now has a Half Marathon this time, not to mention that running/writing friends Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer will be there again.

And then there is the Reggae Marathon. Of course there is. After five years in a row, I’m not sure if I would go again if I can’t convince some family to join me this time though. Then, there is another running project that has been lurking out there for almost a year that may or may not happen, but if it does would more or less preclude the now annual trip to Negril, JA.

So, while 2016 may look a little ’empty’ at the moment, it is not likely to remain that way for long. I already have my brand new running log (I’m still analog when it comes to running – like to see it on paper, even if I do a lot of related record keeping electronically, too). I do like to get a run in New Year’s Day, but that may not happen with friends here and a daughter and grandson needing to get to the airport for the trip home. January 2nd is a scheduled clinic run and that is looking pretty good! For many years, the New Year fun was a symbolic indication for the year ahead. One thing I do know is that I am NOT scheduling a January flu bug! (Mind you, I didn’t schedule it this year either!)

Early Morning Beach Runners - my Favourite!

Early Morning Beach Runners – my Favourite!

As other things sort out, we will probably try to do some interesting travel and while I respect that not ALL travel has to involve racing/running (REALLY – you can travel for other reasons than races?  Who knew?), there may be a couple of things that will provide a nice combination. One of my fun ‘collections’ is places run and raced, so maybe we can find a new place to visit and for a couple of new ‘notches’ or even medals for my collection. I’m up to at least 23 countries where I’ve run and five where I’ve raced if you include ‘fun run’ kinds of races. I have a lot of potential for new places without hitting new countries though. Two of my countries are Canada and the US. I’ve raced in just three Provinces and I believe, eight States. Think I’ve run in 9/10 Provinces and a fair number more States than where I’ve raced, but there is still plenty of scope for expansion there! Guess I need to stop repeating races, but the ones I like I usually like a lot (such as the Eugene Marathon, Vancouver Marathon, Victoria Marathon and Reggae Marathon events).

I do know there will be no new moons (Half Fanatics) or stars (Marathon Maniacs) added this year, although I may add States or Provinces to the personal profiles. With TWO Stars and FOUR Moons, what would needs to be done to rise any higher just isn’t in the cards for this old slogger.

Well, it is looking pretty interesting for 2016. I hope your year ahead offers as many interesting challenges as mine already seems to hold.

Happy New Year!!!

VANCOUVER HALF TO REGGAE MARATHON 10K IN TEN EASY STEPS

12.12.2015

Ten easy steps? Who writes these ‘headlines’???

Medals representing ten races and a couple of podium finishes

Medals representing ten races and a couple of podium finishes

While this old blogger has no intention of putting the shoes in the closet until 2016, that IS where the racing flats are going. Racing is done for 2015. Training is NOT. I already have my first race of 2016 in my sights and it is one that I MUST train for as it requires all the respect I can manage: The First Half Half Marathon. It will be the first and probably only time I’ll run it, but that will be another story sometime closer to the actual event. So, what does the Title of this piece mean? Well, of the ten races run this year, the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon was the first, run on a gorgeous sunny morning in May. What a contrast that morning of May 3rd was to the year previous when rain pelted down on us at the start and then through the race (the MARATHON, no less). Nope, May 3rd was as close as you will get to perfect. I was really looking forward to that first 5K downhill that gets the Half started. It actually runs right through my old ‘hood’ and by the elementary school I attended so many decades ago. I just entered my 8th decade and was still in my first when I started Grade 3 at Edith Cavell.

Start of BMO Vancouver Half.

Start of BMO Vancouver Half.

Almost all of the first 5K has a delicious down slope. I had a plan for early 2015 and that was to ‘Level Up’ as a Half Fanatic. I joined Marathon Maniacs back in 2013 but decided I’d also join the Half Fanatics in 2015. Interestingly, notwithstanding that I’d run a lot of half marathons in my time, I had not put enough of them close enough together to qualify as a Fanatic. You can’t use marathons as qualifiers even though you can use races from actual half marathons right up to anything short of a marathon and on roads or trails as you please. I had seen a natural opportunity, starting with Vancouver, to take myself from the basic qualifying level (Neptune) to Level Four (Jupiter). Details will follow, but the plan involved running four halfs or better in a total of 15 days. I mention this because you must clearly pace yourself and not get too excited in any given race. I suppose running the first 5K of Vancouver pretty much as hard as my hairy old legs would go, would not actually qualify as ‘pacing myself’. Still, it was an intentional decision. I knew very well that I would have to back off or pay dearly, if not that day, then surely sometime in the two weeks to follow. I have to say it was fun while it lasted though and was my fastest 5K (even if it was a split) since 2010.

Forerunners gang at Eugene Marathon

Forerunners gang at Eugene Marathon

The next of the four races was the Eugene Half Marathon on May 10. It was another pretty nice racing day, although maybe just a touch warmer than previous Eugene Marathons I’ve experienced. What made this one fabulous, apart from the fact that it is one top notch racing event, was that something like 28 of my Forerunners Clinic friends had chosen to do this one. We had a ball meeting up and comparing notes. Results were spectacular for the group with multiple PB and BQ performances. Of course my result was a tad bit slower, being second of the four races I was to run to achieve my Jupiter status.

Getting ready for the Sage Rat Half

Getting ready for the Sage Rat Half

The next week I somehow found a small race weekend in/near Prosser, WA. Let me say if you want a fun and family oriented weekend racing event, the Sage Rat Run is something you will want to look at. I had chosen the Sage Rat Half Marathon for Saturday, May 16 and the Dirty Rat 25K on Sunday, May 17. And, yes it was my first back to back races of such distance. Some felt it might be a first sign of senility, but I assure that on Sunday I was able to remember pretty much every step of the half marathon done the day before! Especially as I made my way up the 1,000ft climb that begins the Dirty Rat 25K. Until I reached the plateau at the top of that climb, I was probably first among those questioning my own soundness of mind (and body).

When all, and I do mean ALL, was said and done, I had run four half marathons (or better) in 15 days and had attained my Half Fanatic Level Four status. And, I suppose in an attempt to prove that I haven’t totally ‘lost it’, I have no intention of pushing to a higher level in either Marathon Maniacs or Half Fanatics. Really, I don’t!

Celebrating our first race done together!

Celebrating our first race done together!

I took a well-deserved rest until early June, when I ran a true career highlight race – the Giant’s Head Run. It is a quirky little race, being not 5K, but rather 5.4K. It was one of (if not THE) first races I ever did, way back around 1984 or 1985 when we lived in Summerland, BC, where the Giant’s Head Run has taken place for many years. Although the course has not really changed, it seems the distance has, or at least got more accurately measured. Whatever, the point was I ran it with our grandson, Charlie. It was our first race together, but hopefully not our last. Charlie says we are doing it again in 2016, so who am I to argue? The complete story can be seen HERE. That was June 6th.

2015 was to be ‘The Year of the Half’ and a race I have done at least six or seven times is at the end of June, the Canada Running Series, Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. Obviously, I think it is a good race to run, but this time decided to change it up a bit (being still a little drained from the exploits of early May) so opted for the 5K event instead. In hind-sight, my decision was brilliant. It was one very warm day! Running 5K looked like a very sound decision, and it was kind of fun. With all my longer distance racing goals of the last couple of years, running a 5K was truly something different.

Judi and me at Big Cottonwood Package Pickup.

Judi and me at Big Cottonwood Package Pickup.

At the end of June, I had my second cataract surgery, requiring three weeks of no sweat life, literally – NO sweating allowed. That was followed by some travel, complete with challenges for running, although I got a fair few in despite other demands on time and strange territory. All of this notwithstanding, my surgery date was moved up 3-4 weeks re the original plan. We had booked in for the Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon in early September. Both my wife, Judi, and I were going to do the Half. She is an avid walker and Big Cottonwood has a time structure that welcomes walkers. I felt that the downhill nature of this course was an opportunity to book a pretty nice half time. HOWEVER. With the change in surgery date and changes to the course that seemed to make it easier for someone who loves running down, I was seduced into running the marathon (again). There was just enough time to train up, even if it would be to minimal readiness. I couldn’t pass the chance and knew I was taking a chance. I kind of lost the bet in the end, but don’t regret the decision a bit. What the heck, I can at least say I ran a marathon at age 70!

A really WET turkey, trotting!

A really WET turkey, trotting!

While the Goodlife Victoria Marathon (weekend) has been a family ‘go to’ race for many years, I would have been all alone this time. I realized that I had an opportunity to run two races I had never done before and to add a couple of 10Ks to the list for 2015. First up was the Granville Island Turkey Trot. The main reason I’d never done it, despite the fact that we lived right beside Granville Island for a bunch of years, was that we were always in Victoria for either the half or full marathon the day before. Apart from the fact that I have seldom raced in such wet conditions, the race itself was great fun and I got to see a lot of people I hadn’t seen for some time.

The next ‘new’ race was the James Cunningham Seawall 10K. For no particular reason, I had never done that race. Of course, one reason was that while it has been going for decades, we didn’t live in or near Vancouver for a good part of that time. Although for most of its life it was not a 10K, upon being amalgamated into the Rock ‘n’ Roll series, it was tweaked up to a full 10K distance in 2014. The first year it was run in tandem with the Oasis Vancouver Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon (I ran the inaugural Half), but in 2015 it was moved out to Saturday thus allowing anyone who wanted to do so, to run both. My May experience of completing the Rat Deux being the back to back event for 2015, I passed on the opportunity. That was the last weekend of October and let me just say that it was truly fun to race the full Seawall, something I’ve never done, even though I’ve run many races that use part of it. While it was a wee bit cool at the start, it was another great running day, and for the second time in 2015 I got to do a race with Judi, who walked.

Dawn breaking over Negril and the Reggae Marathon course.

Dawn breaking over Negril and the Reggae Marathon course.

That brought me down to my final event of the year, the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. It is a long story with many facets to explain the whys and wherefores of it, but I am on a five year streak of doing that race. Negril, JA calls itself the Capital of Casual, and that whole vibe is surely part of it. So are the friends made and maintained through the Reggae Marathon. One thing I know for sure, even though the course is pancake flat, you don’t run it for time. Even if it does start in the relatively cool pre-dawn, it is still 23C up to 26C (this year) at the start. But, time is never what it is about for most people and the race continues to grow, reaching some 2300 registrants in 2015.

My 2015 experience at Reggae Marathon, as most call it regardless of actual distance run (- in my case this year, 10K) was once again right at the top of the heap of races for me. I really wanted to have a podium finish, being the young guy in my new M70-74 age group and was thrilled to come second, and NO, not second out of two! It appears that six started and at least five finished. Except that it was just a very personal ‘completion’ sort of goal, finishing on the podium was really neither here nor there in the great scheme of things, but I was still thrilled to be able to do it.

So, that was it for 2015. Ten races in all, each with a different purpose and pretty much every one of them with a deeper personal meaning than just another race to add to the total. At my age it is nice, maybe even important, to be running for some reason other than to add to the statistics. Oh, anybody who knows me or follows this blog will be well aware that I AM all about the stats, in terms of keeping track. That said, I don’t run races FOR the stats.

I am really not sure where I stand on total races run, but the number TWO HUNDRED is a reasonable estimate. Because I ran a lot of my early races in the mid-80s, I am fairly sure I’ve lost track of a few and have no way to go back and check. Never throwing anything away, I tend to have a pretty good idea how many I did from old logs and race results I still have, but it is really more of a minimum. Depending on how you score multi-leg relays, I am either just at around 200 races or well over and into the 220-225 area. The total itself doesn’t matter, other than maybe I’d like to celebrate a little when I go through 200 events, but it is a good many races and because I count 26 full marathons, one 50K ultra and at least 36 half marathons among the total, it is a considerable distance raced – some 1900km in those events alone. There are lots of 5Ks, 8Ks and 10Ks in there too, but they don’t add up nearly as fast! Whatever, let’s just say my races have covered a bit of distance over those many years.

Finishing the "Dirty Rat 25K" and doing my best "Bolt"

Finishing the “Dirty Rat 25K” and doing my best “Bolt”

Way back when I was middle-aged and just getting started in all this, and even though my PB times were fairly respectable, I was running with a bad crowd (fast) and never seemed to finish high up in my age group. I hatched a plot back then to just keep running until everybody else called it quits! I think it is starting to pay off! In 2015 I completed 10 races. Out of those ten, I managed five podium finishes with one first, three seconds and a third. Am I proud of coming first out of one at the Dirty Rat 25K? You bet! I was the one guy had the guts to get out and do it, and especially proud of the back to back, of which it was part. There were actually a couple of other races where I was fourth or fifth that just may have been superior results in that the field was considerable in size. Clearly, my times aren’t great, but I’m out there doing it and it is just plain fun to collect something more than the finisher medal from time to time.

Let’s face it, if racing isn’t fun, you should find a new hobby!

AND, LET THE REGGAE MARATHON WEEKEND BEGIN!

12.03.2015

Today is the first day of the rest………………..of the weekend!

Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K

Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K

Already bedded down at Rondel Village (my home away from home for the last four years on Reggae Marathon weekend). Been out for a run to get used to heat and humidity. Nothing so very unusual for here, but certainly unusual for this temperately inclined boy from Canada! Been over to get my media credentials and race bib/package. Already talked to all kinds of people here to run.

Early Morning Beach Runners - Negril, JA

Early Morning Beach Runners – Negril, JA

Several from US (Minnesota, Georgia, New York), Germany and Denmark. I think I even convinced a guest at the hotel that he could surely do the 10K, even if it is at walk pace. Said he was going to go over and register. C’mon Bob! You can do it!!

The gathering of the ‘clan’, that is the folks joining in our own private little competition known as the Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge, has begun. Expecting Chris Morales anytime now (aka That Runnin’ Guy and the official RM Blogger). Ran into Navin Sadarangani at the airport in Toronto and took the same flight with him to Jamaica. I know Larry Savitch is here as is Deb Thomas who has become the regular winner of the challenge. Assorted others are coming in too, but that is enough for now. There WILL be more later.

Entrance to Pick-up and Pasta Venue (Couples Swept Away)

Entrance to Pick-up and Pasta Venue (Couples Swept Away)

Package pick-up is already rolling and the pasta party venue is starting to take shape. It looks like the 15th Reggae Marathon is just about ready to roll. Tomorrow is more package pick-up and pasta before the big race on Saturday morning. I wore my shirt from 2011 (the first of my string of Reggae Marathons) and got lots of comments form people along the beach and road and more than a few “respec mon’ from the locals who know what it means.

Bolting! - Apparently, he took part in the school 10K Challenge

Bolting! – Apparently, he took part in the school 10K Challenge

Getting Pasta Stations ready for Friday Night.

Getting Pasta Stations ready for Friday Night.

Had to take the tradition BOLT pose and check out how the pasta tents were coming along. Looking good to me!

The 2015 Reggae Marathon is already the 15th Annual.  Looking for lots of fun and lots of people! Frano (race director) says most ever. Ya mon!

(MY) ISLAND IN THE SUN

11.25.2015
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?

THE LATEST ATHLETICS DOPING SCANDAL – AND ROOT CAUSES

11.17.2015

So, here we are again. Big news on the athletic doping scandals front. In this case it is ‘athletics’, the apparently proper term for track and field. We know though, that this is just the latest scandal and doping goes to other sport as well.

[Ed. Note: There are no photographs, no links, no references. This is strictly a personal opinion and perspective.]

I am certainly not an apologist for athletes deciding to take that extra elicit step to gain that last little advantage that takes them from being just generally amazing, to the gold medal – especially the gold medal in one of the BIG events like the Olympic Games. However, a little study on the matter without our sparkling white purist robes of sanctimony, might provide an explanation. And, might just pull the rest of us into the vortex of this swirling mess, because we are complicit in certain ways.

I am getting on in years, as most of you know. But, that means that when I first started competing in Athletics in my teens, even I, a mere school age runner, had to have my Amateur Athletics card! I keep EVERYTHING, but apparently not that. Sort of wish I still had it as a momento of those ‘pure‘ times.

Now, lest you think I am pining for simple and as I have put it, pure times in athletics – I am not. They may have been pure in the sense that the crazy money that comes with success, was not tainting the approach of athletes to their sport and training. But, as with so many things, nobody seems to be able to find a middle ground. In the times I am talking about you could lose your amateur status for accepting a prize of any practical value. I am talking about $5.00 or a useful prize of any sort. Naturally, ribbons, medals and trophies were fine. I DO in fact, have a bronze medal I won back in those days from a clubs track meet. And, maybe as soon as I post this piece, I will find my amateur card lurking among my old school stuff (because my running in those days was part school and part running club(s)). With my brother having just passed away, I’ve been rooting through a lot of that old stuff looking for memorabilia of our early athletic lives. So, it could happen.

Someone I currently know and who is older than me by almost a decade, was an Olympic race walker in his day, but still talks about how his status was threatened because he went to the US for a weekend workshop to coach some younger ‘walkers’ and accepted expenses. EXPENSES! After much argument, it was agreed that it was acceptable as he was not profiting. That was how it was. It was not pure. It was stupid. And with all that, did anyone ever take money under the table? I imagine they did.

In those ‘pure’ days there was so little money that athletes trained in their spare time. If they wanted to eat, they had to have a job. Nobody considered their athletic development and performance to be their job. Nobody had shoe sponsors. You bought your shoes! Nobody paid your way to a meet other than maybe via a club organized fund-raiser of some sort, but it certainly wasn’t by a sponsor.

Some team sport was organized such that a team might be sponsored by a bigger company which could offer jobs to the athletes and which might also be prepared to allow the time needed to travel and/or play. And, these were sports where amateurism was not required. I am going to add something that I am not 100% sure about, but that seems to ring one of those ‘bells’. As I recall, if you wanted to be an amateur, say in Athletics, you could not be a ‘professional’ in another sport. Of course if you were an East Block athlete, you were in the military. Your work WAS training for your sport. So much for the actual amateur on the field of play. That said, if you were one of the military athletes, you’d better keep your performance up or you really WOULD become a soldier.

People remember Steve Prefontaine for his running prowess and related exploits, not to mention his ever quotable quotes, but he was a pioneer in demanding that the athletes be able to share in the profits of the ‘sport’ that were accruing to those that ran the show, while athletes scrimped and sweated and starved. It would be interesting to know what his place in all of this would have been in later years, had he not died so young.

Some might suggest that it was only right that athletes actually profit from their abilities to excel and from the entertainment they provide the rest of us. I would be one of those people. Without the athletes, the Olympics just become the opening and closing ceremonies. Speaking for myself, I feel those have become obscene spectacles pushed by the ego of the hosting countries.

“Profit” is a loaded word though. I feel it is good that the best and maybe the soon to be best, are encouraged and supported, and given the opportunity to dig as deep into themselves as they need to, in order to produce what they are capable of producing in terms of performance on the field of play. The HUGE payday is something else. This is where it gets messy and complicated and a problem. I suppose this latest scandal with the Russians brings in another factor where the driving motive is the greater glory of the mother-land. We saw a lot of that in the Cold War days, when athletic prowess was conflated with the superiority of the political system.

Enter Performance Enhancing Drugs!

Actually, there is one more very important factor, whether it is a driving force in itself or the weak link to be exploited for profit. That is the competitive spirit of the elite athlete. Money, as such, may only be a way of keeping score. Winning is what it is all about. At one point some years ago, there was a psychological study done where the researchers asked a bunch of elite/semi-elite athletes if someone could hypothetically guarantee them an Olympic Gold Medal, but at the cost of five years of their lives, would they accept. As I recall, a huge proportion of them said ‘yes’. Now, asking a 20 year-old if a cost of five years off their life was worth it, might not be a fair question. No 20 year-old thinks he/she is ever going to die anyway. Also, it is hard to say whether it was the medal or the money that might follow, that drove the answer, but it was long enough ago that I personally feel it was the pure glory of being Olympic Champion. The really big money and sponsorships and endorsements had not kicked in the way it exists now.

I suggested the athletic desire to win is both a strength and a weakness. The big sponsors make money off the fact that the best of the best use THEIR product. If you want to be that guy/girl wearing the [insert brand here] gear and get paid the big bucks for doing so, you have to keep BEING the best of the best. Thus the ‘weakness’ to be exploited and the need for some to do whatever they have to do.

But what about the reference to the gear manufacturers? Even us weekend warrior runners buy shoes and other gear that will improve our performance. Shoe technology is just one, albeit very good example. The fabrics of our clothing are a factor too. If you happen to be a track athlete as opposed to a road or trail runner, would you even think about competing on a cinder track? If we want to be ‘pure’ maybe we should ban all these modern technological advances. What about some of the older (not even ancient, just a few decades) athletes and their records? How do you compare sprinters and their records from the cinder track era with today’s athletes. I often wonder what people like my hero, Harry Jerome, might do with modern gear, training and tracks. We are only talking about the 1960s. Maybe if we want to be pure, we should ban shoes completely, other than sandals and have the athletes compete naked, as was once the norm. But, I digress!

Many proponents of amateur athleticism did anticipate some of this modern stuff. However, there have been elements of this PED thing dating back to the ancient Olympics. Many of the early ‘games’ were military skills, and as such could be used not just for the warrior-athletes to prove themselves in a non-lethal way, but also for their  states to show their prominence. Not only that but the best of them were very much rewarded and idolized as we see today. I believe it was my old running/writing friend Roger Robinson who wrote a piece on the PEDs of the day. Yes! PEDs in the ancient games. Many athletes had secret potions, herbs and barks and special diets, that were reputed to give them extra strength or stamina. Did they? Maybe. Remember, a great many of our modern medicines are derived from natural sources. Once we know the active component, we no longer need to chew willow bark to cure our headache, we can just take an aspirin. We learn how to either extract or manufacture the active component and especially to manage and control the dose. Nonetheless, some of the stuff those ancient Olympians used probably did have some efficacy as a PED. Some, probably were more effective in making the athlete think HE was that powerful. I did learn that black magic was a no-no. Couldn’t hex your opponent, just wasn’t right.

Is it human nature to ‘do what it takes’? It seems that it is.

The Russian situation that has just come to the fore is one thing, but there have been rumours swirling for some time that Kenyan distance running may not be totally how it looks. We have seen individual athletes from almost everywhere get caught and punished. There are also stories that the US is as bad as any, where it comes to manipulating drug tests. I say these things only in the sense that the stories are out there, not that I am a believer or that I know one way or another. But, it is big business and big politics and big money for the best of the best.

Something we need to be clear on is that PEDs aren’t going to take a slug and turn him into a race horse. They aren’t like some kind of ‘nitro’ boost to the engine of a race car. That said, I have just had a sudden mental picture of the start of the 2028 100m Olympic final. Athletes are under starter’s orders. Each one approaches the blocks. A trainer is poised behind them with syringe in hand. The starter intones: “Runners, take your marks!” …… “Trainers, Inject Your Runner!” ……. “Set” – — Bang. Eight sprinters streak down the track to the finish in seven seconds, and those are the women. The men are up next to challenge the 5.31 second world record. Welcome to the All Drug Olympics.

I don’t pretend to have the answers. The root causes are terribly complex. I’ve touched on some of them here. I have tongue in cheek suggested here and elsewhere that we just let ‘er rip and go with full on drug enhanced sport and see just how far it will go. It will probably result in some spectacular performances, not to mention the odd in competition death, and let’s face it we do watch some sport not to actually SEE someone die, but with the delicious chance that the sport is dangerous enough that it could happen.

Personally, and I hardly think I’m alone, I do love to see dedicated athletes push themselves to their limit, but I’d rather see a slower record time for any given event if it was definitely the best anyone could do without external enhancement. Pure, in other words.

Something I do wonder about is whether some of the banned substances should actually be banned. What if we spent a bunch more money on determining whether certain substances really produce a significant enhancement in double blind tests? There is little doubt in my mind that there is a placebo effect in some cases. The substance works, mostly because the athlete believes it works, but in reality the enhancement comes because the athlete is inspired to dig deeper. I’m not saying that none of the so-called PEDs should be banned. There are a good many that should be banned, if for no other reason than the long-term harm they do to the individual who takes them. And, here we are back at the question about the guaranteed Olympic gold at the cost of five years of your life. BUT, if the banned list was short and absolute and the authorities were as smart and well equipped as the cheaters, we might be better off. Or not. Something to think about anyway.

THINGS YOU NEVER EXPECT

11.03.2015
A boy and his dog (Tiny)  1965

A boy and his dog (Tiny) 1965

This is a very personal post. It only has to do with running in an indirect way. If you aren’t into my musings about life and such, well maybe just read the first bit here and move on if you prefer. I will understand. Still, I need to write this for me, for my family and as you will soon understand, my ‘little brother’. My ‘little’ brother (by the way, he actually hated that term when we were much younger) died early Monday morning and very, very suddenly. And, for my own reasons I need to celebrate his life and share some of his/our story. It actually isn’t sad, but it does carry a lesson for all of us.

"Uncle Bill"

“Uncle Bill”

I suppose it is best to get the facts out of they way first. The preferred term is ‘younger’, not ‘little’, but today and just for a little while it helps me to think of him this way. His name: William Edward Cumming. He was supposed to have the name Edward, but then if he didn’t up and get born on our Uncle Bill’s birthday! Edward was another Uncle actually, but poor old Uncle Ted got shunted one name back and there he was, in April of 1949, William Edward Cumming. Interestingly, Uncle Bill was one of Vancouver’s premier soccer players in his day, and not surprisingly, taught both of us a whole lot of what we knew about the game, including skills and strategy.

Of course, around our house he was “Billy“. And, please don’t tell anyone, but at that time I was called “Danny“. I think we each made short work of that diminutive naming when we got to Secondary School. I became Dan and him, Bill.

For those trying to do the math and not having enough fingers and toes for the purpose, Bill was 66. Four years my junior.

There is a lot to say about somebody who lived for 66 years, but I will try to keep to some key things and get to where I am going as quickly as I can. As with all of us, Bill had those things he loved, top among those were his wife Hope and boys Ken and Chris. I am going to just leave that as a given.

He had the music in him!

He had the music in him!

He dabbled at various things, including music, when he was a teen. He had several guitars, including two solid body electric guitars made by our Dad (the guy in the background of the first photo at the top of this post). He has also had a more or less life-long love of fishing for the wily trout. However,  sport was his passion. I’m not sure he ever met a sport he didn’t like, nor one he couldn’t play better than average. We both did track in our teens and both dropped it after we left school. Pick the distance: he was faster than me when comparing age for age. Thankfully, he did not get into distance running later in life, so at least I had that all to myself. His energies went to baseball and soccer.

Baseball Beginnings

He had professional opportunities in both back in the days when he was at his peak, being drafted by a major league baseball team (to one of their minor ‘farm’ teams – think Bull Durham) and was invited to join the original Vancouver White Caps along with several players he came up with in Vancouver minor soccer. They all played for Grandview Legion and took the Provincial Age Group Championship at least a couple of times. Among them were Buzz Parsons and Sam (Silvano) Lenarduzzi, Bob’s older brother. In those days though, you had to be the top of the top to make any real money and he had just moved to Prince George where he had a real job that paid well. Even the best athletes usually had to have a ‘day job’ to make ends meet. That was pretty much it for a professional soccer career, but he played at high local levels for years.

Bill in his prime! 1979 Prince George, BC

Bill in his prime! 1979 Prince George, BC

While in Prince George, he learned the joys of lacrosse. So, that became the trio. Baseball, which he played early on and later coached, lacrosse, which he played until only a few years ago and Soccer. He played and coached and played again. Soccer was his game. He was fast and tricky and could shoot a ball so hard you’d swear it would take your head off. I recall one time we were ‘just kicking the ball around’ and taking turns being in goal and out shooting. Now, I played my share of soccer too, including a year with UBC, but I was nowhere near as good as Bill. So there I am tending to my goal and he yells something like “Hard One”. I swear that while I’ve heard smaller balls do it, that soccer ball made a whistling/hissing sound as it went by my ear. Oh Lord, could that guy shoot a soccer ball. Oh, and he did apologize for forgetting we were ‘just kicking the ball around’.

Well, flash forward to recent times with me running all over the place. Slower and slower to be sure, but still doing it and loving it. Bill was having his fun with lacrosse and soccer until a couple of years ago. Seems like we Cumming boys have some issues with our backs and it was getting harder and harder for him to play either of those sports due to a back problem. Long story, short, he too had an operation, about 18 months ago (mine was 26 years ago) and after suitable rehab and such, had just signed up to play soccer again. I haven’t seem him as happy in a very long time. I was thrilled because I knew how important it was to him. He had a couple of teams that wanted him and he picked one. I am almost certain that the game Sunday was only the second of the season, or maybe his second game.

So, as any of us might do heading off to work or a race, he headed out to his soccer game. I didn’t even know this specifically. I was sitting at this computer, having watched the elite women and men run the New York City Marathon, and now tracking several friends who were just the weensiest bit behind the elites. One of them, Deb Thomas (a friend from Reggae Marathon) was almost finished. The phone rang. It was my sister-in-law, very upset and with the news that Bill had collapsed at soccer and was being taken (in very bad condition) to a local hospital. We gathered ourselves up, swung by and picked her up as we headed to the hospital to meet their younger son, Chris. The older son lives/works in Edmonton and came in later on the earliest flight he could get.

Chris, Hope, Ken, Bill -2003 (It's so hard to get everybody in one place when the little ones grow up!)

Chris, Hope, Ken, Bill -2003 (It’s so hard to get everybody in one place when the little ones grow up!)

I don’t want to go on at length about all the details, because in the end they weren’t the most important parts. I will say he got the very best care, starting with players who ‘fell’ upon him immediately, doing CPR, followed by first responders/paramedics and then the Critical Care Cardiac Unit, at what I have since learned was not the nearest but rather the best hospital for his condition. More than the immense technical expertise and skill I saw, I want to talk about the ‘care’ that both Bill, as the patient, and the rest of us as his worried family, got from the health-care team. It started with the paramedic we first met in the hospital and continued through various specialized doctors, the trauma nurses and the other hospital staff that looked to our needs. After initial treatment, he was transferred to the ICU and our interaction began with one of the most amazing physicians I have met. As things went from bad to worse, he not only looked after my one and only little brother, he communicated, comforted and most importantly, INFORMED us, the family. He showed such immense respect for our right to know what was happening and yet compassion for our feelings. I don’t know how we could have been more informed than we were and although there were times when we were all excluded from ‘the room’, we were given as much access as possible. As things became more critical and certain as to where it was all headed, it was this man who helped us to understand. Never did he try to tell us what we SHOULD do, but rather supported our process.

I don’t care who you are, or how dire the situation, it is never easy or simple to make the all important decision about a loved one and then actually say: Stop. Just stop. At about 3:00am Monday morning that was the point we had reached. It was decided that all the many, and there were SO many, extraordinary measures should cease. As soon as the mechanical stuff was taken care of, removing lines and leads and turning off monitors, all five of us were allowed at his bedside where we could be with our husband, father, brother and brother-in-law. It would be very wrong to say more here about that very private time and situation. What I can say is that it was about 30 minutes until he left us. It was very peaceful and I was so terribly grateful that I was able to be there.

I felt it sort of necessary to share this bit of what went on over a pretty intense 16-18 hours, so I could get to the other more positive things to come.

Although it came later, we have learned from someone who was there at the time, Bill was ‘in full flight’ when it happened, tearing down the field to an open spot (and very likely pointing to just where he wanted the ball). It is my opinion, and I am going to believe it because I want to – I don’t think he even knew what hit him.

Another thing I plan to believe is based on what the first trauma nurse said the very first time I got to be with him in the ICU. She was explaining what had happened to this point in time. She began: “Your brother died on the soccer field, others began CPR………………………”  I don’t know if that was a slip of the tongue or a considered comment based on her trauma training, but I prefer to think that it was that neat and clean (for him). All the resuscitations (at least 8) and interventions were about keeping his body working until it was clear there was no point.

The DAY before and I do mean THE DAY BEFORE, I was talking to a running friend, older than me (better, too) about death. We both apparently feel quite the same on the matter. He had said, “I don’t fear death. What does worry me is dying.”  We agreed totally. So, my response was: “Well, I want to go of a massive heart attack as I finish a race somewhere!”

As you can surely understand then, while I am shocked and saddened at the sudden death of my only brother, there is no possible way I can be sad about how he died. I am sure he would see it the same way. As we all should, he made his wishes clear about what should or should not be done should the situation arise. Whether we liked it or not, it was apparently his time. We all felt it was too soon, but that is something else.

You may now forgive me if I continue to say things (as I think I have in the past) along the lines of doing something before it is too late, or while I can. I think whether you are young or old or somewhere between, it is always wise to do what you can, when you can. More than once when I have expressed such a thought I’ve had others pooh-pooh it as being foolish or alarmist or dramatic. You know: “You aren’t THAT old!” or “You aren’t going to die tomorrow!” (I guess my brother gives a new perspective on that.)  And, you know that it doesn’t need to be as dramatic as dropping over, all you need is a serious injury or major health problem and some things are off the table.

I don’t mean to be dramatic. I’m not looking for a reaction. I am just stating something I’ve believed for a long time. I’ve lived it for a long time, too. Not going to make a huge long list, but I have started cutting out things I don’t need to do and don’t find any pleasure in doing. We’ve done special and specific travel that might have seemed a bit expensive but it was something we wanted to and could do. I’ve run a 50K, not because anybody HAS to run a 50K, but because I wanted to do so. I joined Marathon Maniacs and took a year of running to ‘level up’. Same with Half Fanatics except that this Spring I pushed up four levels. I’m done with both of those things now in terms of pushing for even higher levels, but I’m glad I did them. I just ran two races I had never done, The Granville Island Turkey Trot and the James Cunningham Seawall Race. I have also taken a decision, that at least for this one year I will step down from the stage at the First Half Half Marathon and actually RUN the thing. I am very excited! I could leave it until the next year, but should I? Not a chance.

At Loon Lake, BC - his favourite place to be!

At Loon Lake, BC – his favourite place to be!

Oh, and one other thing I decided not to put off? Opening that bottle of Cardhu Single Malt Scotch that was given to me on my 70th Birthday. I have a wee dram at my right hand as I write. Cardhu is by “The Cummings of Cardhu- Distillers of Distinction – 1824″ The Clan beverage, so to speak. This seems as worthy an occasion as any!

Play on my brother. Play on!

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!

 

TEAM JOSHUA ROLLS AGAIN AT BMO VANCOUVER, AND OTHER BIG NEWS

04.30.2015

IMG_3662

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.

IS IT BMO VANCOUVER MARATHON TIME AGAIN?

04.28.2015
Runners Running 2013

Runners Running 2013

Well, you know I wouldn’t have asked the question if it wasn’t!

Actually, it technically isn’t for me. I am running the Half Marathon this time. Some may have noted that I got me a ‘bionic’ eye a while back and that procedure knocked a good three weeks out of my critical training time. Too much for preparing for the full marathon and I’m not interested in one more less than stellar (everything is relative – stellar for me) marathon result. Timing was even a bit short for the Half but OK.

I am really looking forward to getting to the start with those thousands of other eager participants. Some will be there to make a statement. Most of them will be lined up right at the front. However, there will be a good number of first timers, I’m sure, and they too will be making a statement of their own, regardless of what their times may be or whether it is the Half or the Full Marathon. First is always First and it is always special. By the way, there is still time to register!

As usual, there will be a fine crew of elite runners and I’ll be off to get a first-hand look at them come Friday. May be more on that later.

Even if I’m not running the full marathon, it doesn’t mean I’m not excited about it. No, sir! In fact, it is not certain that I will EVER run another marathon, but that doesn’t change its place in my heart. There is just something about the distance and the challenge it represents. And, while any marathon is special, Vancouver was my first and I’ve done it five times on three different courses. As a result, it has an extra special, special place in my heart.

Just got  me into something new this week. Some will know that I have been a Marathon Maniac for a couple of years now. I recently, really recently, became a Half Fanatic as well. Let me rephrase that. I have had the qualifications for a while, but I just recently joined the group.  Is that just too much crazy running obsessiveness for you? No? Well then you will be pleased to hear that for those nuts enough to run enough half and full marathons to qualify for both, you can now be a Double Agent! People have talked about it for some while, but it is now OFFICIAL! The Vancouver Half Marathon will actually be the first of a series of half marathons that will spruce up both my Half Fanatic AND Double Agent status!! And, just in case anyone is curious about all this, the criteria for certification are totally based on quantity. Oh, there are Maniacs and Fanatics who are mighty fine runners, but to get into either group all you need to do is finish the prescribed number of events over a range of time (days, weeks, months, etc). There are now over 11,000 members in each group.

OK, so back to the BMO Vancouver Marathon. A big advantage of running the Half is that no matter how fast those elite marathoners are, I am going to be at the finish before they are and I will get to see them finishing. With the newish finish, should there be a foot-race to the line, it will be possible to see it happening. When the finish was up Pender, onto Burrard and then back along Hastings, there was only about 1-200m between first appearance of the lead runner and the actual finish.

To be honest, this is a bit of an ‘advance notice’. There is an exciting post coming later in the week and I’m hoping a few of you will watch for it. Most importantly, it isn’t about me, and may not even be BY me!

Stay tuned. I think you will be glad you did.