Sunday, June 19, 2016

10 Years of Running: My Favorite Shoes

December 1 will mark 10 years since I became a runner instead of a smoker and changed my life. On the way to that 10th runnerversary, I am going to celebrate with an occasional top 10 post.

My 10 Favorite Running Shoes | My 10 Favorite Running Bibs | Follow @Marathoner

10. Li Nings (2008). I worked the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, representing Major League Baseball. At Opening Ceremonies, I marveled as Li Ning, a local legend who was China's first-ever gold medal winner, "ran" around the roof ring of the Bird's Nest tethered to ropes. Then on the morning of Closing Ceremonies, I went to a local mall and bought a pair of his shoes. Li Nings were the top running brand there, and I communicated (as best I could) with salespeople that I wanted a pair of them. Unfortunately they put me in a pair that ran a size too big, so it wasn't long before I donated these. I wish I had kept them, in hindsight, but they went to a good cause.

9. ASICS GEL-Cumulus 16 (Spring 2014). They were given to me by #TeamASICS and I ran my 100th race in them. For that alone, they will always be special. They introduced "FluidRide" and I pushed them hard to retirement.

8. ASICS LA Marathon Edition GEL-Lyte 33 3. ASICS flew me, Lisa and Rachel from New York to Santa Monica to run the 2014 ASICS LA Marathon as part of our ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge team -- a first for the company -- and a box of these special editions were waiting for each of us at the front desk of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows when we checked in. So I took this picture of them from our window view over the finish line (below), and the first time I ran in them was with Ryan Hall during a shakeout run toward Malibu.

7. Saucony Ride 2 Pro Grid. On June 24, 2010, I went to the annual Wall Street 3-Mile Run to support friends, and the finish was at the World Financial One center along the Hudson. They set up a makeshift shoe sale for runners who congregated at the finish, and I snapped up these cool pair of Sauconys. I wanted to take a chance on "neutral is neutral." Indeed, I absolutely loved these shoes. Very cushiony and a lot of life. The only downside is that my English Bulldog, King Bingley, liked to chew shoes as a puppy and took a chunk out of these -- look closely at the left shoe heel. (Donated)

6. ASICS GEL-Kayano 16 (Spring 2011). My English Bulldog having munched on the Saucony above, I happened to be at the Palisades mall in the NYC area and in a Sports Authority. These were neutrals and on a clearance table for something like $60 (can you imagine today!) so I took a chance that they would at least rotate in as decent trainers. I ran the Brooklyn Half in them that year. They were OK, not ideal for me, but what made them special is that they were my first ASICS since my rookie year after a stint with Brooks.

5. Brooks Glycerines (April 2009). What footwear should a man buy to pop the question? I went with my third consecutive pair of Brooks and I wore these at the July 2009 New Jersey Marathon. It was solid rain from start to finish, but it didn't matter because at Mile 25 I picked up the engagement ring box held by race officials and carried it to the finish line. Then I got down on a knee and asked Lisa if she would marry me. She said yes and I love her.

4. Brooks Glycerines (Oct. 14, 2008). I bought these at Super Runners Shop from a familiar salesperson who ran marathons. This was probably my high point in my first five years of running: KNOWING what I want, not needing to try on any other pairs, just buying what already was proven for me at the time, and then just getting the same thing in a new color. Indeed, less than one month later I ran the NYC Marathon in 5:13, which to this date remains my PR. I was in such good shape, two weeks after that I finished my first ultramarathon, the Knickerbocker 60K. It rained solid for one of the laps around Central Park in that 37-miler, so I changed from my Brooks yellows to greens during the race, and afterwards matched my yellow shoe with the race crystal trophy.

3. ASICS GEL-Nimbus 17. About 100 miles into receiving this shoe as a gift from #TeamASICS, I decided it was the best performance shoe for me since I had begun running. I maxed out the mileage and until the very end it was so cushiony, I swore I would never run in any other shoe. I guess we all say that when we find the one that's just right, like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Currently the Nimbus 18, in black and blue, is in my training rotation and keeping me happy.

2. ASICS GT-2110 GEL. I had no idea what I was doing on December 1, 2006. I broke a box of KOOLS in half and decided to quit smoking. Instead, I took the subway from 72nd Street to 42nd Street, got out at Times Square and went to Foot Locker to get a box of running shoes. I asked where shoes were and a salesperson recommended these for me. I mostly stayed in ASICS the rest of the next decade, trying out some others along the way, and I lived and breathed the gradual evolution of the great running shoe of our times. For me not to make these my No. 1 all-time running shoes would take an almost magical box to open . . .

1. fuzeX (2016). I would have NEVER in my wildest dreams seen myself making this the No. 1 shoe on my list when they arrived. When #TeamASICS sent us these unique shoes earlier this year, I was happy to review them as part of my role as an ASICS Ambassador. We took part in a contest, asking fans where they would run in their fuzeX anywhere in the world. But train for marathons and run in marathons in them? They were really different, maybe gimmicky, so the jury was out. Well, I'm at least a couple hundred miles into them and they are my go-to on any surface and in any condition. They surpass traditional restrictions -- you can run any distance in them, any foot style, trail, gym, streets. They feature ASICS' new midsole tech called fuzeGEL, which the ASICS site describes as "a fusion of GEL property and foam for the ultimate rearfoot shock absorption that transfers to the forefoot during take off." I honestly can say I feel better in these than in any pair I have owned this past decade. And another unexpected development: They never seem to age or get dirty. To this date it looks like I just took them out of their box. ASICS hit a big home run with fuzeX, and now they also have a fuzeX Spirit collection with patriotic flair so I can rep the USA.

What's YOUR favorite running shoe?

Monday, May 16, 2016

10 Years of Running: My Favorite Bibs

December 1 will mark 10 years since I became a runner instead of a smoker and changed my life. On the way to that 10th runnerversary, I am going to celebrate with an occasional top 10 post.

My 10 Favorite Bibs

10. 2012 New York City Marathon. I keep this one wrapped in a drawer for posterity. Superstorm Sandy forced the only cancellation of a NYCM -- controversially decided within 48 hours of the race. A thousand of us ran instead on Staten Island with orange race shirts and our backpacks filled with relief supplies to help victims there. I ran the Harrisburg Marathon as a replacement two weeks later.

9. Ultramarathon bib. This one was the 2008 Knickerbocker 60K at Central Park. To me it just represents being on the pavement for so many hours, rain and hills notwithstanding, and it got me into the Marathon Maniacs as runner No. 6697.

8. 2015 Runners World Half. I liked that bib because it matched my Pat Benatar rock outfit. A bunch of us stumbled upon an actual Pat Benatar concert the night before the race in Pennsylvania, and that was legendary enough that I have to include the bib here as well. We Belong.

7. First bib. Right after I traded a box of KOOLS for a box of ASICS, I joined the New York Road Runners and started running regularly at Central Park. My first race was the Joe Kleinerman 10K, one full loop around the park, and it was gruelling for me. But I made it and my life changed forever, opening the door for some of the things that you will see below. "8875" remains special.

6. 2014 ASICS LA Marathon. I put my Twitter handle @Marathoner on a bib for the first time, and as a member of the first-ever ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge Team, a dozen or so of us runners got the royal VIP treatment from ASICS and there is a cool red VIP sticker on the bib.

5. 2012 Paris Marathon. I remembered that when I took French in high school and college, I had to use the French name of "Marc" instead of "Mark." So I customized my bib in Paris as such and then ran past the Eiffel Tower. That would start an international trend.

4. 2016 Maratona di Roma. After being known as "Marc" at the Paris Marathon, I was henceforth known as "Marco" last month through the ancient streets of Rome. I customized the name not only on the front of my race giveaway shirt but also on the back. It was only after I realized doing so that I should have done the same when given the chance to customize our bibs as well. Oh well -- it was worth it to customize the shirt, because you haven't lived until you are running through Piazza Navona and a little boy with his father sees you from outside the barricade and yells, "Bravo, Marco!" I almost started crying. I love the Maratona di Roma logo on this.

3. 2009 New Jersey Marathon. Now we get to the lovey-dovey portion of the Top-10 bib list. I brought an engagement ring box to the start line area early in the morning and the race organizers took it and told me to grab it at the Mile 25 fluid station so I could give it to Lisa at the finish line. Just in case Lisa needed any help with her answer, I put it on this bib under my number. Obviously this warrants No. 1 on this overall list, but below you will see why I had to list it No. 3.

2. 2010 Miami Marathon. As you can see from this bib, Lisa had given the correct answer at the New Jersey Marathon above. So just to keep a tradition going, I celebrated our engagement that January at my first Miami Marathon, and then really celebrated after the finish. A month after the Miami Marathon, we were married and then honeymooned in Curacao. Running life is good!

1. . . . and for the No. 1 bib in my decade of running . . . what else?

What is YOUR favorite running bib?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Rome Marathon Recap - 10 Things I Learned About Italy

Bonjourno, that's me zooming by Mussolini's Window at Palazzo Venezia in the photo above. I finished the Maratona di Roma on April 10, a major highlight of our dream trip to Italy. Lisa's father is from the Puglia region and she had not been to Italy since she was a little girl, so this was her trip and my only wish was to run the marathon and then go along for a second honeymoon.

Rome was my 130th race and 16th marathon or ultra since I traded smoking for running nearly 10 years ago. While I expected nothing more than "finishing" this one after battling severe respiratory problems for the first three months of 2016, it did feel good to get back on the 26.2 board.

We spent the entire time in Southern Italy and I cannot recommend the marathon and this trip strongly enough. I'll do this recap by posting 10 things I learned about Italy.

1. The spirit of Ancient Rome's gladiator is alive and well. We toured the Colosseum right after arriving, and I totally channeled their greatest warrior survivors. In fact, they became my mantra for the entire Maratona di Roma. At every tough point I said some variation of: Gladiators destroyed anything or anyone that stood in their way of survival. They fought to live another day. They did whatever it took to conquer and move on. The gladiator was the supreme athlete in Imperial Rome, and upon entering the corrals the sign said "ENTRANCE ATHLETES." It led to the very same arena where gladiators fought for their lives, to thrill the bloodthirsty crowd. Nearing the start line, I looked back, giddy at the Colosseum looming in all its glory, minus the stolen marble decore that resulted in its many holes. I am not comparing gladiators' "gory days" and life-or-death performance with finishing a marathon, but I am mindful that I was in for a physical battle, now in my 50s, without having a long run in the books. A test of physical survival? Yes, this was exactly that, by my own standards. As you can see above, at the finish line of the marathon, costumed gladiators waited and posed with you for pics. I was an Official Gladiator.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

2016 ASICS Fall/Winter Collection Preview

Welcome to the ASICS showroom in Manhattan's Fashion District!

I was honored to be invited by ASICS to see a sneak preview of their 2016 ASICS Fall/Winter Collection. Here's a summary, with 19 video clips below: Get ready for color-changing shoes; bright and bold styles; 360-degree protective reflection; a lighterweight Kayano thanks to amazing FlyteFoam midsoles featuring reinforced fibers; prints galore; women's studio flex gear (think yoga & classes); comic-inspired fuseX; the first-ever ASICS down jacket; NYC Marathon shoes with passport stamps to celebrate an international event; and much, much more.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ludivine's Elkmont Half Marathon Recap

I normally post my own race recaps here, but because Ludivine is a bloodhound I am going to devote this post to analysis of her 2016 Elkmont (Ala.) Half Marathon form. Ludivine finished seventh overall and first in her working-dog group with a PR of 1:32:56. She was let out to pee and wound up in the middle of this race, and through the race organizer's pics (thanks to WeRunHuntsville/G Gelmis & J Armstrong) we can now break down her impressive performance here.

Friday, January 8, 2016

How Mark Zuckerberg just changed running forever

Mark Zuckerberg started his A Year Of Running group on Facebook less than a week ago, and in my experience as one of the first of about 100,000 to join it already is the biggest running social network in the world and is already changing lives and making a difference everywhere.

The Facebook founder started it as his annual commitment to try something new, and his objective is to run 365 miles in 2016 and get others to run as well. The results are already profound, and I predict that it will live on into 2017.

Here is why I am obsessed with it: