Posts Tagged ‘Paula Radcliffe’

When I heard Paula and Kara would be running the NYRR New York Mini 10k, there was no way I was going to miss it. The plan was to see them at the start, then mosey to the finish, leaving enough time to hang around and maybe shake their hands and get a picture with them. I was also hoping to bump into Kathryn Switzer (who I have been saving a hug of thanks for ever since I read her autobiography Marathon Woman), and to watch the awards ceremony. Of course, life loves to squeeze me like a vise and so I was stuck getting up at 5 AM for my 10-miler to fit it in before the Mini, and then jetting from the race as soon as possible to come out to Long Island to take care of my Nana (to give Mom a break).  As luck would have it (since I don’t believe in luck, I always get the bad kind), there were all sorts of public transportation issues this morning so Iarrived at the 50th Street and Eighth Avenue station 5 minutes before the starting horn. I ended up jogging the 10 blocks north to the start of the race, in front of Trump Towers at Columbus Circle and Central Park West (smart thing I wore my sports bra and running shoes).

I arrived there just in time to snap some photos of the fillies all lined up at the starting line, and to hear Paula Radcliffe give her remarks to the crowd. I was flustered because I’d been rushing so my camera was on the wrong setting, thus my photo of the first strides came out blurry rather than clear.

Hello, abs!


Linet Masai's legs are all the way over on the right. They won.

After the start of the race, my intention was to walk to the finish line and observe from there. I am nothing if not a soul with good intentions, which is a gentle way of saying I nevertheless usually screw things up; as a result I am either a clod or erroneous. This morning, I was erroneous as I walked over towards where the finish line would be for the Fifth Avenue Mile.  Who knows why I had it in my head to go east–I even had a print-out of the course map in my backpack but neglected to check it, that’s how sure I was that I knew what I was doing. The finish line (which I will never forget now) is the same as the New York City Marathon, in front of the soon-to-perish Tavern on the Green. By the time I reoriented myself, I was too far from the finish line to beat the elites there, so I camped out instead along the southeastern curve of Park Drive, somewhere around 5.75 miles, and decided to cheer from there.

No matter how many times I spectate in Central Park, I will always be amazed at how fast the elites zoom by. I stood right on the edge of the road, and was able to see the strain in their faces, see the rise and fall of their chests as they breathed heavily, and hear their pants and footfalls. I even caught a bit of their tailwind. It was visceral and after a while I gave up on taking pictures.

Mary Wittenberg was running on my side of the street, and her form is so distinctive (lots of arm work and frowning), so I spotted her before I saw Paula. But then I copped on quick enough to offer a casual, “Hey Paula, how’s it going?” And she actually half-turned around, gave a tiny wave and said, “Hi!” That’s exactly what any normal person who runs past a friend would do! Cool. Paula is preggers so she was just running this Mini for fun, and Kara sat it out altogether.

Soon the fast locals started pounding by, which is when I saw Julie. A quick masters runner, a blogger, and a Green Mountain Relay teammate, I was thrilled to spot her. She’s had a few chances lately to interview a bunch of elites; if you’re interested, you should visit her blog and read about the men, the comeback, and the women. It’s good reading, and good vicarious living.

I stood there for about another 20 minutes or so, waiting for other runners I know to trot by, but I failed to pick them out. I was a little disheartened as I was really hoping to give them a boost. Instead I stood there and did my best to cheer on the ladies, shouting things like, “Race it strong” and “Your hair looks fabulous.” You know, the important things.

Now that I know the course, maybe I’ll even race the Mini one year.

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Day 8 of the 30-day running streak went by without a hitch. Had one of those magical runs home where I could feel my pigtails flying behind me, where I felt like I owned the streets, where I felt like the most beautiful creature on two legs even though surely I must have looked bouncy and ungainly… This woman ran 27 consecutive marathons (mostly by herself, as necessitated by her endeavor). I just don’t understand what the deal is with that massive cart… What would bum you out more if you were running a marathon: a bomb scare or rain that made your shoes & socks sodden?… This hottie French chef trained for the LA Marathon in just 8 days. Why he and everyone else is acting like it’s such a great and amazing thing is beyond me. What a terrible example he’s setting for people; folks who don’t know any better could get seriously injured! And, notice the braces he’s wearing on his knees, and his finishing time. Pbblt… My Green Mountain Relay teammate TW emailed me about this woman, Lisa Smith-Batchen, a few weeks ago. Her goal is to run 50 miles in each of the 50 states. I appreciated his affirming comments, “She is very friendly, like any other extraordinary runners.” Since I think pretty much all runners are extraordinary people, that must mean we all are very friendly… If you are looking for inspiration, or for just a little bit more of my blogging self, head on over to MsV’s blog, Gymnotes, and check out her “Women on the Rise” post and our comments in response to the questions she challenged us to. I for one am touched and honored to be among such fine company… I love these 9 Great Sounds of New York City, courtesy of MUG. My favorites? Morning, Whispering, and Bob. What are yours? What would you add to this list if you could make it 10 Great Sounds? I’d add the rattle of the N train as it heads into Queensboro Plaza (as I’m running on my bridge, of course)… I already told you about Sunday’s trail run, but I didn’t tell you what happened to BG afterwards… My relay team has finally been wrapped up, with all 12 runners committed (there’s a blood oath involved), happy  hours scheduled, and race legs assigned. We’ve got a handful of bloggers, tweeters and one podcaster. But we still can’t compete in the All-Blogger category. Damn? Nah… Some of my long-term readers may recall my post about the various levels of Skinny Jeans. Well, Claire takes it one step further with motivation being “J+B.” Funny (& true) stuff!.. I was going to head to the Poconos the weekend of June 11th, but now I think I need to stay in town and spectate at the New York Mini–and take some pictures of two of my favorite marathoners, Kara & Paula! Wow!

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NYC Marathon 2009 flag croppedIt began in the dark. At 5:30 AM, Lil Brother slipped out to Queens Boulevard to hail a cab which would take him to the bus which would take him to the runners’ village in Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island. I gave him a hug and a kiss and sent him off with one final reminder to keep hydrating. Then I went back to bed for another three hours.

At 9:15 I was out the door myself–it was time to make my way to Vernon Boulevard to catch the elites just before the Mile 14 mark. I was carrying by BlackBerry, a cowbell, my camera, the course map, house keys, my credit card, MetroCard, and about $15 in cash. All these things fit in the pockets of the snazzy lime green running jacket EN got me for my birthday last year. I was happy; I was heading off to cheer for my people. Mom and Dad were set to meet me at a predetermined corner in Queens around noon, a little before we expected to see IK come trundling by, but until then it was just me and the early runners. Communion.

NYC Marathon 2009 women elites mile 14I stood here for two and a half hours, but it felt like 10 minutes.  I was so excited to see Paula, Magda, Ludmila Petrova and Salina Kosgei I thought I’d jump out of my skin. I knew that as soon as they were here they’d be gone; I had my cheers prepared ahead of time. The lead vehicles came by, first Mayor Mike, then Mary with (I learned later) Sammy Wanjiru, Shalane Flanagan (who later said on national TV she’d be running NYC in 2010) and Amy Yoder Begley. And then here was the lead pack of women and all my cheers flew out of my head as I stood there in awe, shouting something like “oh my god” or somesuch starstruck nonsense. Paula is just. so. tall. Then here was Magdalena Lewy Boulet pulling up about 10 seconds behind in very cool orangey arm warmers. I pulled myself together enough to shout, “We love you Magda!” (The people around me had begun to back away by this point, clearly thinking, “Speak for yourself, lady.”) Then I cheered for the locally-ranked runners, those zooming by in Central Park Track Club, WXC, New York Athletic Club, etc singlets.

NYC Marathon 2009 men elites mile 14Before I knew it, the media truck for the elite men was coming around the corner from Pulaski Bridge and I was freaking out again. Abdi Abderahman was leading when I saw them, but they were all so closely strung I couldn’t read their singlets. Whoosh they were gone–wait there’s Ryan, eesh he’s lagging!–and then here came Brian Sell, oh Brian I love you for dreaming (2008 Olympics) and then for turning to practical matters (dental school). They were gone before I could think where was Torres, where was Meb, where was Cheruiyot, where was Gharib? Thank goodness for Twitter; all my faithful tweople (@runblogrun being the most reliable) were tweeting the proceedings so I could keep up with the action from the curb.

I beckon thee, oh mass of citizenry, run to me! Run through Brooklyn, run through Queens! Be the rushing river of humanity through the streets of this great city. Be greater than Manhattan, be swifter than a crosstown bus, be stronger than the Chrysler Building, be tougher than the Bronx, be your own legend. I promise I will stand here and tell you want you need to hear to get the job done. I will shout and cheer because what you are doing is amazing, it’s crazy and mythical. For a few hours the entire population of New York City hovers a millimeter above the earth as we are caught up in your tailwind. When you cross that finish line with a grunt and a cry, with a raised arm or a hung head, we will marvel, and bow.

The locally-ranked guys came by in loose bunches, I cheered for the clubs as I recognized their singlets.  They mesmerize me, these powerful yet light men, barreling forwards. Some looked so young; most looked “my age,” which very generously indicates anyone within a ten-year window on either side of 36. I love how it plays out; next come the speediest “regular” women, the ones who are used to running shoulder-to-shoulder with the dudes. Before I knew it, Vernon Blvd was a mass of people running for the hills; specifically, the hills of the Queensboro Bridge and First Avenue. Mom and Dad showed up, and we began scanning the crowd for my brother. Dad’s a great guy to have on the curb as he is so tall he’s easy to spot, and around 12:19 IK came trotting up. He didn’t see us at first, I saw him first and started screaming his name and waving my arms like mad. He saw us and came over, we all hugged him, I knocked him in the chin with my shoulder because I couldn’t stop jumping up and down. Then he ran off and that’s when I saw he was wearing compression shorts–essentially, tights that stop at the knees. Oooh I couldn’t resist, he’s my brother of course I’m going to embarrass him, so I shouted after him as loud as I could, “NICE ASS!”

[50 tense minutes ensue as we get the subway to 117th Street and First Avenue hoping not to miss him.] I sent Mom and Dad ahead to the corner as I stripped off my jeans–I was going to jump in and pace Lil Bro from Mile 19 to 22, and had on running shorts beneath my jeans & jacket. Here he came, a bit later than I’d anticipated (he was slowing down from the 10-minute miles I’d counted earlier), but glad to see us. And we were off. I drilled him with questions (his stomach was queasy and his legs were tired–oh no!) and chattered on to distract him. As we ran, I roused the spectators to cheer for him, and tried to keep the patter up but eventually he just wanted me to hush. As we came around Marcus Garvey Park, I told him that once I left him at Mile 22, it was going to start to feel like he was running up a hill. That’s because it is a hill, I said, but don’t worry because you will pass a lot of people on it. He snorted. Mom and Dad were waiting for us just past the water station, and I nearly hip-checked Lil Bro into the sidewalk as I craned around looking for him. Oh yeah I got some shit for that! So then he was off and we cheered him away. I was still excited for him, but I was a little worried. He looked tired, and I just didn’t want him to hurt; I wanted him to whoop it up through the streets of New York City.

taking subway home, Lil Bro and TKThe three of us had a long time to wait for him now–indeed, longer than we thought. I was texting with friends at home on their computers and found out that Brother definitely crossed the finish line in 4:44:16, so we knew it would take him a while more before he trudged through baggage check, etc. But as soon as we caught up with Husband in the runner’s reunion area on Central Park West, we got a call from IK that he got very dehydrated and went to the medical tent right at the finish line. Oh the poor kid! What a trooper. We all waited him out in a diner on Broadway, and then finally finally got him home to Sunnyside (taking advantage of his “runners ride free” subway discount, of course!) around 6 PM. Our newly-minted marathon stretched and showered after he cutely admitted he wanted Chinese for dinner. It was a long day for him, layered with anticipation, struggle, pain, inspiration and  ultimate success. I am so proud of him for taking on the 26.2-mile challenge, for completing the training, for persevering through the last 10k when he was debilitated from the aftereffects of his cold.

Four days later, after the Yankees won the World Series, I was finally able to sit and watch the elite race.  (Missing the coverage on TV last year is what convinced me to get us a DVR cable box). Even though I already knew the outcome, I was on pins and needles watching the moves and progress of the runners through the miles. I loved seeing them rush through my city’s streets, streets I know so well as a resident and as a marathoner. I shouted when Kosgei took a terrible tumble, I mourned when Magda, then Salina, then Paula all dropped off the lead pack. I exulted for Tulu, I felt Petrova’s bitter disappointment, and I could feel Dauney’s joy at third radiating off her. And Meb! Meb! I cried as he ran through Central Park, shivering with the excitement of an American champion, with the elation of his comeback–what an amazing career he’s already had and now this. Look at Robert Cheruiyot, crushed; and Gharib, also laid low despite his podium finish. It was wonderful the way Ryan Hall crossed the finish line, clutching his back (oh no!) but happy for his teammate’s glory; six male Americans in the top ten! What an amazing day for American distance running–with tens of thousands of epic performances, starting with Meb and scrolling all the way down, flitting upon IK and continuing past, a ribbon of effort and culmination and triumph over the competition and over ourselves.

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10 Days

Some marathon countdown images. What I wore to run on Thursday morning (do note the handsome little G, who reports that I began at 5:56 AM, and ran 4.26 miles in 37:32 minutes); and what I saw during my commute on Friday morning.

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The Berlin Marathon marked the beginning of the Fall season, it being the first of the three World Majors (Chicago and my NYC follow) that occur in the second half of the year (Boston and London are in the Spring, which you should all already know)… Haile owns this race, having set the world record there last year; and now he’s gone and set another world freaking record while also ensuring himself a spot in history as the first man to run 26.2 miles in under 2:04. Hubba hubba, who needs the Olympics?… I am psyched to see Irina Mikitenko win again, I watched her win London last year on my computer…  The elite field for NYC is nothing short of spectacular, Mary & Corps have really outdone themselves this Olympic year…. As I mentioned earlier, my girl Kara will be debuting her 26.2 mile chops… Also joining will be Paula to defend her title, 2007 World Marathon Majors winner Gete Wami, 2008 Boston Marathon winner Dire Tune, the majestic Catherine Ndereba. Among the male elites, I am most excited about Paul Tergat, Marilson Gomes dos Santos, and Abderrahim Goumri (he came in second after Martin Lel last year)… With each new name the NYRR’s releases, I feel a pang that I won’t be at my usual spot in Queens to watch these inspiring athletes flash by…. I ran my last 20-miler of training on Sunday, actually logging 20.33 miles in 3:09, wow. Ideally October 12th would have been my last 20-miler before taper, but I am determined not only to run the Staten Island Half-Marathon, but to race it… As my training winds down, I can already sense the post-race blues which await me. My friend and colleague EG recommended I read A Race Like No Other to get myself psyched for race day, since oddly I’ve begun to lose enthusiasm for this race I’ve been dreaming about for over a year… Has anyone read A Race Like No Other yet? I know I sent out some free copies… The reviews have been very positive, with an excerpt in this month’s Runner’s World, and an early mention in the New York Post. Library Journal says the book “is poetry for runners; pulsing and energizing in its immediacy, and as raw and persistent as its subject.” Now if only I could get someone to say that about Pigtails FlyingBenjamin Cheever writes in his review in The New York Times that Liz Robbins “packed her book with scrumptious details…” I expect more book coverage as marathon madness heats up in the city; early last week I received my info booklet in the mail, and today I saw my first subway ad as I headed down into the E/V at Fifth Avenue to go to acupuncture… My little G was a perfect running buddy yesterday, it amazed me when I ran past the point in the route I’d always sensed, viscerally, was the 10-mile point. I looked down at little G, who told me: 9.95 miles! See, he and I already have a special connection…One of my industry contacts works support crew in ultramarathons, even though she herself specializes in 5- and 10k’s. She passed me an article by Sunny Blende from the September 2008 issue of UltraRunning magazine that explains why I sweat more now than I ever have before during my runs: “you will sweat sooner and more as you increase your miles and become more fit.” Sweet!… Husband spent the weekend at the Pennsylvania house, leaving me pining away for the mountains’ Fall foliage. Fittingly, Manhattan User’s Guide has raked together all the links we need to get our peep on… And, will someone please give me a massive pile of cash so I can redecorate my apartment entirely from West Elm? Browsing this catalog is like staring at Clive Owen behind glass–he’s right there, and so, so gorgeous, but I just…can’t…touch.

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During my long run today, I ran with Matt and Steve.  I look forward to listening to their podcasts almost as much as I anticipate my runs, and am very strict about only listening to running podcasts when I’m running.  It’s an organizational tic, I think.  Anyway, they were (as usual) excellent episodes.

Matt, on Dump Runners Club Episode 96, once again spoke eloquently about how inspiring it is to watch elite athletes do their thing, mentioning how memories of video he’d seen of the Cross Country Championships powered him through his last tempo run before the Boston Marathon.  I’m so far from Paula Radcliffe it’s laughable, but I do pull up images of her striding by me at Mile 13 of last year’s New York Marathon when I’m doing my own racing to snap me back into form or keep my arms pumping one hundred yards from the finish line. I don’t think I’d be nearly as dedicated and passionate a runner if I wasn’t also a fan.

Steve has been issuing episodes dedicated to the history & course of the Boston Marathon on Phedippidations.  I mentioned in an earlier post how much I was looking forward to his ‘cast on Kathrine Switzer, who is one of my running heroes.  The episode (# 136) did not let me down, and Steve must have gotten her on the phone for an interview because he had a ton of voice-over from her, talking about her experience in the 1967 Boston Marathon.  Steve gave great background on women in distance running.  I am such a romantic about this sport that I get chills every time I think about the strides (literally and figuratively) that my female predecessors had to take so that now, the only thing limiting me as a woman who runs is myself. Switzer said two things in the podcast which I remember resonated with me when I read her autobiography, Marathon Woman.  First, she spoke about how as a 12-year old girl, she’d run a mile every day before school, and how much it meant to carry around that small triumph with her the rest of the day. I still feel that way, even as a 30-something woman.  Each run I complete is permanently part of my collection of “Things I’m Proud Of,” and no matter what can never be taken away from me.  The other, more expected thing, Switzer talked about was how her negative experience with Doc Semple (when he tried to take back her bib numbers) galvanized her to finish the marathon for herself, and for all women, to prove it could and should be done.  This makes me think: thank God it was Kathy and not some other (less determined, less visionary) type  of woman who was challenged by the rules.

Both Matt and Steve are running the Boston Marathon a week from Monday.  I am excited for both of them, and wish them the best possible race.  I’ll be there cheering on Boylston Street this year, since I am making the pilgrimage to spectate at the Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials, too.

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Watch Spirit of the Marathon, and you will know what I meant when I wrote in my review of Chariots of Fire that I wished it had been “more about running.”

This movie was not everything I could have hoped (because I am a pain in the ass), but it definitely came pretty close.  From the first scenes, where they had cutaways of the elites (Khalid! Tergat! Paula!), I was riveted.  (In fact, I was hoping for more audience participation, as if we were at a sporting event, but I was the only nutter cheering.)  When the film introduced Deena, and they showed her winning the bronze at the 2004 Summer Olympics, I cried for her win, and for the beauty of her performance.  That’s right, 10 minutes into the film I was teary-eyed, and I pretty much stayed that way until the lights came up. But you see, I am highly susceptible to the drama of the marathon, no matter if I am spectator or participant.

Perhaps my one complaint would have been more time on the elites! I cracked up when Paula Radcliffe says that the Chicago Marathon holds a special place in her heart because “it’s where I set my first world record.” Ah, relativism. I could watch the finish of Joanie Benoit coming into the Olympic Stadium in Los Angeles a million times & it would never fail to move me. It was a total thrill for me to listen to athletes like Kathy Switzer, Bill Rodgers, and Amby Burfoot opine in soundbites about the marathon, and about their marathons.  These are the runners who inspire me, their past performances awe me, and their experience pushes me forward.   The honesty and unflagging champion’s attitude Deena gave the camera during her injury made me respect her more (if possible) than I already do.  And I got a total kick out of spotting Brian Sell and his other HBDP teammates at the front of the pack when the documentary finally showed the start of the race everyone had been training for.

I cried when the doctor told the guy who was hoping to BQ that he had to put aside his marathon plans because of a torn miniscus.  I cried when the Kenyan came in third.  I cried when the older guy crossed the finish line with his daughter. (See? I wasn’t exaggerating when I said was susceptible.)

It would have been great if they had delved a little deeper into the experience of the fundraising runners, but I suppose that could almost be a whole nother movie.  Nevertheless, I left the theater wanting to immediately watch the movie again. (Memo to Husband: this DVD = great gift!)

You can find other reviews of this movie on these blogs: Paul Merca, Absolut(ly) Fit, Bethree.com, Normal Rockstar, Mike Fox’s Marathon Blog, and Pursuit of Runningness

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The only thing I dread more than the treadmill is running in the dark by myself.  I’ll gladly run through Central Park in the dark with my team (in fact, I’ve done so in the sleet, the rain, and the snow, as well), but running by myself before work, through the streets in the industrial neighborhood that border mine, or over the 59th Street Bridge with just the ambient light from bus headlamps illuminating the pedestrian way, is not my preferred atmosphere for swift foot travel.

Alas, in order to get in my minimum runs for the week, the treadmill it must be.  This morning I ran for 38 minutes, gently cajoling myself through every minute past the 25th.   I kept up a minimum 10-minute per mile pace, upping the pace the final half a mile.  I worked up a fantastic sweat, I haven’t sweat that much running outside since September.  I could have been a lot worse. The boredom wasn’t nearly as numbing as it could have been, I sorted out my jerky, marathon-recovery stride about 15 minutes in, and (as an added bonus) I didn’t encounter any coworkers in the locker room.

The only way I knew to get through it was to listen to Episode 89 of Matt Tartar’s excellent podcast, “The Dump Runner’s Club.”  He talked about Flow (interesting), but my favorite part of his podcast is when he gives highlights of elite running on the world stage. Based on his most recent summaries, I have to add #3 to my list:

Reasons Why I Wish I Was Running the Flora London Marathon in 2008:

1. Ryan Hall

2. Steve Mitchell (my coach)

3. Paula Radcliffe

Clearly, London is irresistible to some of the top Olympic marathoners as a tune-up race. It is shaping up to be a very impressive line up of elites. I hope it’s broadcast on television here in the US. Stay tuned for this list to be expanded as I learn more about which elites will be competing in that race. Also, sooner or later I’ll have to post about Paula, and Kara, and my planned trip to watch the Women’s Olympic Trials for the marathon in Boston.

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