Posts Tagged ‘Phedippidations’

So, GMR participant and colleage JMK came into my office today to tell me that she was googling for information on the course of the Staten Island Half-Marathon this weekend, and Pigtails Flying came up as the fourth result. As she is another book marketing guru, she teased me and said, “You’re using search engine optimization techniques, aren’t you?”

October 12 is a big day for running–for me, for my friends & wider running community, and for the elites. I’ve got the Staten Island Half-Marathon to race; I am secure (stupid?) enough to say publicly I’m going to try and nudge my PR a teeny bit and break 1:53:34. I’m looking for even ten seconds of improvement here.  SI is an easier course than Queens, and the temps will be much more hospitable, so if my body and mind cooperate, maybe I actually have a shot. No matter what, I am confident I’ll break my record for the course (2:22:27), so at least I’ll have that. (Did I just jinx myself?) Once I cross the finish line, I can also cross off another one of my running goals for 2008.

Additionally, I am running this half-marathon as part of the Phedippidations Worldwide Half-Marathon, which is kind of like that brilliant-yet-nauseasting marketing ploy the Nike Human Race, but (BIG BUT) the PWW 1/2 is way better–completely grassroots, 100% participant-driven, and not trying to sell you any godamned thing, except maybe a sense of accomplishment and, you know, some good clean fun. If you are registered to run a half-marathon, a 10K, or a 5K this weekend, click here to sign up and participate in the Worldwide Festival of Races. It’s FREE, easy and subversive (trust me on this one, kids). If you need additional convincing, click here to download The Extra Mile Podcast, an inspiring compilation of listener contributions about their training and goals for all the different races they’re competing in this weekend. A lot of my running buddies are signed up for the SI 1/2: DT, EN, JMK, JD, and that’s just for starters. I enjoy going to races knowing there will be a lot of friendly faces out on the course, I am sure I’ll also see my dear old TNT coaches, too.

Also on October 12 is the Chicago Marathon, the second of the three World Marathon Majors races that fall in the Fall (I couldn’t resist). I know a bunch of runners signed up for this flat, movie-star doozy; but the most important one who’ll be out on that course on Sunday is JM, one of my girlfriends with whom I skied in Utah this winter. She’s an experienced marathoner (and much faster than me), having already run Marine Corps in 2006 and NYC in 2007.  JM is not only running for a PR on Sunday, she’s running to raise money for Children’s Memorial Hospital, where she works as a social worker with children who have AIDS. She’s 75% of the way to her $1000 goal, so if any of you are feeling generous, have a connection to the cause, or just need another tax deduction, click here to donate. I promise you’ll feel as satisfied as if you just completed a speed workout if you make a donation. Not persuaded? The first five people who donate $25 or more and posts a comment to tell me so will get a free copy of A Race Like No Other. Run strong and beautiful Murph, you know I’ll be thinking of you from Staten Island.

How can I let a WMM event go by without at least a nod at the eiltes? The field will be exciting. The women’s Olympic Marathon gold medalist, Constantina Tomescu-Dita, is returning to a course familiar to her (she won in 2004 and has run it four additional times already). American Colleen De Reuck is also competing, I saw her run at the Marathon Trials in Boston earlier this year, [correction: I’ve never seen her run, have just read about her in local races.–PF 10/9/08 8:57 AM] and everything I read about Colleen makes me like her–she’s had a long and successful career, and is currently the top master’s woman in the 10K distance. Plus, she’s a Boulder, CO-based athlete. (Matt–have you seen her race? And thank you, we remember from one of your earlier comments that Constantina is also based on Boulder.) 

Big stuff, this weekend.

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Ultimately, it has worked out for the best that the New York Road Runners moved the Queens Half-Marathon to September. First off, I no longer have to try and PR in the brutal August humidity. and, secondly, it means the Staten Island Half-Marathon got bumped to October — October 12, 2008, to be exact. Which coincides absolutely perfectly with: the Phedippidations Worldwide Half-Marathon Challenge! For those of you who read my blog and also listen to Steve and/or The Extra Milers, you will know what good news this is.

There was just no way I was going to get out there and do 13.1 all on my own. I know myself. I’d run 18 as part of my training, but to specifically find a 13.1 mile route, and run it that weekend? Sorry, nope, I’m a stickler and I like my races on measured, official courses.

For those of you who don’t know anything about Phedippidations, or the Extra Mile Podcast, visit the website for the Worldwide Half, and consider registering to be part of this global race.  I for one am psyched to put my results up against those of other runners from around the globe. I will run happier, knowing that while I’m out there tearing up Staten Island, other like-minded runners will be tearing up their local road races.  And what I’d really like to know is: are there any other WW1/2 racers here, in New York, who will be participating on Staten Island that day?  And if so, can you give me a ride to the start?

All kidding aside, I’m glad to make the Staten Island Half-Marathon my WW1/2 race. It was the first Half I ever ran, in 2006, and I can’t wait to go back and crush my old course time, set a new PR, and run my first WW1/2, all in the same day.  How often can you run a race for the second time, while also running a race for the first time?  

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My long runs give rise to some of the strangest, most trite and–if I’m lucky–profound thoughts of the week. On this morning’s 12-miler, thoughts of every variety, for better and for worse, rose up to greet me from the depths (and the shallows) of my subconscious.

It was a beautiful run, a winner, despite my initial misgivings. It’s very hot and humid on the East Coast this weekend, so I set my alarm for 5:30 AM, in order to hit the road around 6:30 AM. I don’t mind doing this (in fact, I prefer it), except I slept terribly, laying awake for what felt like half the night, and when I finally did sleep, my dreams were of some wild party vacation on at a tropical island resort with people I didn’t know.  So: interesting, but not restful. Nevertheless, I woke up excited for my workout, even though I was afraid I’d poop out somewhere in the middle of it, from lack of sleep.

We’re in the Poconos this weekend (full disclosure: I was sorely tempted to cancel and stay in the city to work; to watch Deena, Magda and Blake run the Mini; to meet Kathy Switzer; and catch the prefontain classic on NBC), so today’s workout was an out-and-back along Route 940. The first four miles weren’t my favorite, as I got my engine running, and adjusted to the heat (at 7 AM it was already 80 degrees). But, I ran right on pace the whole way, clicking off steady 10-minute miles, right where I want to be for my long runs these days. Along the way, I waved at a packs of motorcyclists, a few police (they’re out because it’s the NASCAR Pocono 500 this weekend), whistled to a bounding deer, and passed a squashed frog (which made me think of my husband, because he would have been sad to see the amphibian roadkill).

For company on the run, I brought along Steve Runner, whose last two Phedippidations added up perfectly to two hours.  Listening to him talk about Dr. George Sheehan, and read the race reports of runners from across the country (including Sarah’s fantastic half-marathon PR–yay Sarah!), pulled me outside of myself just enough to not fret the hills too much.

When I finished my run, two hours and fourteen seconds later, I was proud. It didn’t have anything to do with the distance, since by now, for me, 12 miles isn’t a big deal. And I wasn’t proud in that egotistical way. Simply put, I was happy with who I was. It was one of those pure moments of being completely at ease with myself. This is starting to sound very Self-Help 101; and maybe this post is a little bit of that. But let’s be honest: who among us hasn’t lived through awkwardness, hesitancy, lack of confidence, or embarassment?  Sometimes I feel like I spend most of my day second-guessing my decisions and behavior, trying to communicate expectations, needs and dreams. But when I’m out on the road, getting in my miles, or even post-run, stretching & hydrating for recovery, I know exactly what I should be doing. I know who I am, and who I hope to be. I know what to expect, and even when things don’t go as planned I know how to adapt. Me, sweaty & stinky, panting, hair all matted, face flushed: I feel so cool, so right in my skin.

Chances are good this is old news to those of you who have been athletes all your life. Me, I’m an adult-onset athlete, who never expected to find peace with myself through physical activity. I give a lot of thought and effort towards being a loving wife, a kind daughter, a supportive sister, and loyal friend. My boss consistently gets my best work. And yet, nine times out of ten, it’s TK the Runner (not TK the marketing director, nor TK the wife, daughter, sister, friend) of whom I’m most proud to introduce to the rest of the world.

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Since I was laid low by this pernicious chest cold on Thursday, I’ve had to move down to Plan B in my training schedule for the week. Needless to say, it’s a bummer to have to cut out two work outs and shorten another. If I wasn’t so wiped out from this cold, I’d be emphatically pouting.

So: no run Thursday. No run Friday. Saturday I’d already scheduled as a rest day, but I cut today’s long run back to a five-miler, which doesn’t really count as a long run.  But it’s smart I cut it to five miles, since after the third block I had to reel in my pace and take it easy — as in, 10:34’s easy. It took me 52:47 to run the five-mile out and back route over the 59th Street Bridge. Nothing really notable about this run except that I was conjested, the hills didn’t bother me at that pace, and I was mostly just grateful to be out there even if it wasn’t the 10-miler I’d hoped for.

I listened to The Extra Mile podcast during this run, and I really enjoyed some of the entries people submitted.  One guy, from Flagstaff, AZ, told about why he started running, and his first race. I wish I could remember his name — he also podcasts in Japanese! — because I really liked his attitude. Laid back (he referred to himself as “dude”) and enthusiastic about running (“I had fun”). One day I will submit an audio file to the podcast, I promise. I want to record while I’m running, so I have to get my hands on a digital recorder from work to borrow either on a run home or over the weekend. But, I already have rudimentary editing skills, so the hardest part will be running with the darn thing in my hands.

I was reminded about the Worldwide Half, promoted by Steve Runner of Phedippidations. I really want to register for this, but it’s going to have to be last minute.  So far, the NYRR’s don’t have a half-marathon scheduled near that weekend, and I’m not tye type to just run my own route.

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[It is a sad, sorry statement on how hard I’ve been working that my Boston Marathon spectator report is getting posted in May.]

If I were to tell people I traveled & took a day off work to go to the SuperBowl, no one would question me.  In fact they’d be jealous. But when I tell people I took Amtrak up to Boston and used a vacation day to spectate at the Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials and at the Boston Marathon, I get one response: you’re such a geek. Even when I counter with, I’ll be visiting a friend, I know folks who are running on Monday, they remain nonplussed. All this means to me is that I’m not spending enough time with runners.

As an avid spectator at the New York City Marathon, standing year after year on the same corner in Queens, next to the tissue people and across from the high school band that plays seven different versions of “Ironman”, I will swear up and down that my city’s marathon is the best in the world, no matter if you’re running or rooting. 

I have to admit: as I headed up to Boston, I harbored a germ of skepticism that the oldest marathon in the country could compare to mine.  Was the enthusiasm reported back to me about the race simply due to local pride, and pride in the cachet of having qualified for the exclusive event? I wondered perhaps if it wasn’t the self-congratulation of those involved that puffed it up. Certainly, and rightfully so, pride does have something to do with it. But was there anything beyond that? That’s what I was hoping to find out.

No need to leave you in suspense.  There’s way more beyond that.  The crux of the issue, really, is that the character and talent of the field blows away any other race.  It’s obvious to me now, but I hadn’t considered this before April 19th as I headed towards the Expo (which, by the way, kicks ass over New York’s Expo.). Everywhere I looked there were lithe, fit, beautiful runners. Runners who had hit the wall and powered through, who had recovered from injuries, who had run scores of races, who raced with clubs, teams, or spouses. Runners who could name more than two elites, who had the fancy gear and used it, regularly (I could tell by the salt residue on their Garmins). The focus on the sport, the level of conversation about it, was higher than at any race I’d ever previously attended (as spectator or athlete). And, these runners wore their dedication to the sport with ease, like an afterthought.

This set a welcoming, celebratory tone that made for exellent spectating. Event he other spectators were a step above. I stood next to parents who were clutching for their daughter in her third running; to track stars who had cheered for friends in the trials the day before, and now were cheering for other teammates. We were elated when Cheruiyot won his fourth set of laurels for the course; ecstatic when young Dire Tune passed Biktimirova in the final stretch. I did feel very much alone in my indignation of Lance Armstrong being given a tape to break when he crossed the finish (wtf?! He hasn’t won anything, why is he breaking a tape? Give us all a tape to break!).  I spotted two of my coaches as they ran towards the finish, and I was so proud to know, personally, people on the course.  I looked for Steve Runner and Matt Runner, my favorite podcasterdudes, but missed them.  I reluctantly dragged myself away from the fence to catch my 3:20 train home to New York.  Boston really does get the special ones: in my car alone there were two runners, in sweats, with their medals around their necks, sucking back water and chowing down on turkey sandwiches, looking for all the world as if they’d just popped into town for a jog with some friends, and were hoping to make it home in time for dinner. 

One day. One day.

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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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Part of my reunion weekend with the Sacto 7 this weekend (more on that later) was a Secret-Santa-esque gift exchange, which we did to celebrate everyone’s birthday in one fell swoop on Saturday evening.  My gift was a very cute black V-neck technical tee with the word “Run” plain & simple (& small) on the chest.  I was gratified that these friends (who knew me before I started running) now consider me worthy and desiring of such a gift, and couldn’t wait to wear it on a run. Even though it’s only been three days since I unwrapped it, I have been single-mindedly watching the weather reports for temperatures warm enough.

Today was the day (60 degrees).  Normally, I put together my running outfits with one thought in mind: appropriate to the weather.  But this morning when I packed my gear, I wanted to coordinate, so as to show off my new tee to its best advantage.  So: black shorts.  Black watch.  Black gloves (unnecessary) and black ipod.  As I headed out into the 6:30 PM hubbub of my city’s streets, I felt like The Shadow, slipping in between pedestrians, bikers and automobiles.

The run wasn’t extraordinary (3.5 m; 33:37), but my new tee is unimpeachable.  Probably in the summer the black will make it too hot, but for now, it’s light as a feather, wicks brilliantly and doesn’t tug or pull anywhere. Thank you, TD!

I listened to two podcasts on my way home.  The first was the tail end of a great Running Times Radio interview with Nate Jenkins, who finished 7th in the Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials last year, is self-coached, and up until early 2007 shoehorned his training in around a job in a running shoe store and as a coach at U Mass-Lowell.  I find the RT Radio podcasts a bit pretentious at times, and Scott Douglas’ questions somewhat overweening, but Nate handily fielded Douglas’ questions with frank and interesting answers.  I was riveted.  He analyzed his own training, admitted he turned down the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, spoke about Italian coaching methods, and explained why he thought his acceptable half-marathon times makes the marathon his best event.  Download the podcast or read his training blog.  I’ll be cheering for him at Boston; this boy’s all right.

Then, I turned on Phedippidations Intervals #135B, in which Steve Runner answers the question that’s been kicking around the back of my head: how the heck did he get into Boston with his middle-of-the-pack times? (No offense, Steve.)  Turns out he received an invitational entry passed to him through the Massachussets Civil Air Patrol, one of the many municipal organizations along the race course that assists with security and logistics.  That’s cool–I think it’s important for marathons to have a contingent of runners of all levels from the local community. 

But the kicker, the part that had me laughing out loud (I don’t belive Steve was trying to be funny, though) was when he revealed his strategy on how he will one day race Boston with a qualifying entry.  He plans to hold his 4-hour marathon pace for the next 14 years, so that when he turns 60, his race pace and the qualifying time requirements for entry will intersect.  It’s true, then: I have been blogging about a hot idea (see Pigtails post “A Pint and a Fag” for starters).  This takes the mantra “train today for the runner you want to be tomorrow” about a thousand steps further.  Train yourself to the fitness you want to have when you’re 60, 65 or 70, and then simply mantain it so you can a) qualify for Boston and b) start winning your age group.

Personally, I think it’s got to be easier to win your age group by signing up for races in Bumblefuck, Idaho (no offense, Idaho) than to maintain the same level of fitness for over two decades (or for over four decades, if you’re my buddy EN). 

Steve Runner also casually mentioned that he will dedicate an entire episode to Kathrine Switzer!  This is awesome.  Ever since I read her book Marathon Woman last year, I have been telling others about her running career (she won NY!) and her contributions to the sport (instrumental in getting the women’s marathon as an Olympic event). I admire her, am thankful to her, and can’t wait to hear more about her.  I hope he scores an interview!

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Almost Famous

Thank you, Steve Runner, for featuring my Pigtails Flying blog in your most recent Phedippidations podcast (#134).

For those of you who read my blog and listen to Phedippidations, know that his mention was unsolicited and a pleasant surprise.

For those of you who read my blog, are runners, and don’t listen to Phedippidations, well, you’re just dumb.  Subscribe to his podcast now, as it is some of the best verbal accompaniament to a run I’ve ever heard.  (Apart from, you know, your own chatty company!)

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Some bloggers very actively visit other blogs, posting comments and linking to them in their own blogs.  I am not one of those bloggers.  I have a few sites I love to visit, and I spend a lot of time on them.  However, when I heard about Running into the Sun on Phedippidations (listed in my Blogroll), I had to check it out. 

So, she’s faster, younger and skinnier than I am, but that just makes me love her and her blog even more, because she has worked so hard for that (well, not for the yonger part).  She started running about two years ago to recover her health, and ended up losing over 60 pounds and gaining an obsesion with running.  Anyone who admits to checking the local race calendars when she travels is my kind of girl.

My favorite post since I’ve started visiting Running into the Sun is about her longer-than-a-5k 5k race.  Check it out. 

Welcome to the Blogroll, Sarah!  And, I’m officially issuing you an open invitation to join me on a run or in a NYRR race if you ever find yourself in New York City.

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I left for work this morning planning on getting in a treadmill workout at the gym, because of the afternoon torrential downpours my weather guy assured me would come.   So, I packed shorts and my favorite race tee, the one from last year’s Healthy Kidney 10K (Dathan Ritzenheim won that race, setting a race record, too).  However (and this is a good however), when I pressed my nose against the glass of my office window, there was no rain.  Promising, but.. Never one to believe the weather I can see from the 9th floor, I logged on to weather.com — Cloudy, 63 degrees (feels like: 63 degrees)!  My heart gave a little leap of joy as I thought, I will run home tonight.

And so I did.  3.5 miles, 38 minutes (approximately; I hadn’t brought my watch since I was anticipating the treadmill).   I had cement-block feet the first mile, I think my body is still in that post-marathon, clunky-monkey stage. I got out some of my stress by shouting a pizza delivery cyclist off the sidewalk, and then by shouting at a motorist making a left-hand turn who almost took out a whole swath of pedestrians.   As soon as my feet hit the base of the 59th Street Bridge, it started to rain, and I tucked my ipod into the torso strap of my sports bra, under my arm, having already lost one ipod to water damage from a rainy run.  By the time I trotted off the bridge and my foot touched the sidewalk in Queens Plaza, the rain had stopped, making it seem like I’d passed through some sort of cleansing passage as I moved from one borough to another, from one island to another.

The whole way, I was accompanied by Steve Runner, and his Phedippidations podcast #131.  He spoke about the running boom, and about the coaches, runners, books and track events that came together to push running and jogging into the mainstream.  I always want to learn more about the history of my sport, the elites, and the innovators of distance running, and inthat regard this episode definitely decreased my ignorance.  (For example, I thought Bowerman was just the guy who invented the running shoe, not the famous college coach who brought jogging to America from New Zealand; now I know better.) Steve Runner also touched on the second running boom, the one that started in 1997, and still continues today.  This is my boom, the second wave boom. 

But, as far as I can tell, he credits the second running boom almost entirely to the growing numbers of office workers (who want to be more active when not in front of their computers), and an increased awareness on healthy living.  I was waiting for him to mention the huge surge in charity runners as a main contributor to the running boom, but (unless he mentioned it when I was shouting at the pizza delivery guy) he didn’t. 

My personal experience has convinced me that runners for charity have a lot to do with the growth of our sport.  I ran my first and second marathons as a member of Team in Training, one of the fundraising arms of the Leukemia and Lymphona Society.  Every comparable training season (e.g. Winter 2008 to Winter 2007), TNT’s NYC Chapter recruits more and more runners, and raises more and more money.  And this is not a trend for just one chapter of one organization.  TNT nationwide pulls in more and more runners each year.  This year’s New York City marathon saw more participants running on behalf of a charity than ever before. In the NYRR’s Offical Results Magazine for the 2007 ING NYC Marathon, they write, “running in support of chaitable causes is mushrooming.”  Part of this is because it’s harder and harder to get a bib for the NYC Marathon, but it doesn’t change the fact that most of those Fred’s team or Team for Kids runners are first-time marathoners.  And, certainly, just anecdotally I can say that more and more of my friends and family are inviting me to contribute to their own fundraising goals, which they are setting in conjunction with road races. 

Steve Runner, maybe there is a show in your archives solely about folks who run for charity, and in almost every episode I’ve ever heard you share the story of someone who is running for charity.  But, if you haven’t done an episode on runners who pick up the cause and run for others, I’d like to suggest that you should. 

Episode #131 wrapped up with a guest call-in podcast from “JD from Toronto,” who spoke about why he trains so hard.  His answer to that question made me cry, because he expressed the very reason why I run, and transported me back to the finish lines of more than one race.  JD spoke about the physical joy of running the race you’d planned, of feeling the air in your lungs, the blood in your heart, your legs moving beneath you.  He spoke about the wonder and satisfaction in having nothing left when you cross the finish line.  I am paraphrasing, but I highly recommend you go download Phedippidations #131 yourself, so you can listen to how eloquently JD from Toronto explains why he trains so hard.

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