Tuesday, August 23, 2016

15 reasons why the Falmouth Road Race is such a big deal

CAPE COD, Mass. -- Sunday's 44th running of the New Balance Falmouth Road Race was my 134th race, and definitely the first one with a 7-mile distance. I finished in 1:27:00, well off the average 1:10:55 finish time for the 10,535 who finished, but great for me right now.

I was initially confused about how a 7-mile race could possibly be a lottery event with such a prestigious reputation, but now I completely understand. Here are 15 reasons why #FalmouthRR is such a big deal and a must-add to any runner's bucket list:

1. Nobska Light. I haven't seen quite every lighthouse in the United States of America, but so far the one in Falmouth that is being restored is at the very top of my list. Before going to the Health & Fitness Expo on the Saturday of race weekend, we went to the lighthouse, took pictures and just basked in the glorious zen view of this nod to our seafaring past, looking out over Martha's Vineyard. It is the best Mile 1 Marker in the history of running and no race will ever come close to it. Originally "Nobsque" Light, erected in 1828, according to the old plaque below, and good folks are helping to preserve it.

2. The Tommy Leonard Start Line. Once you finally make your way there, you look to your left and see the race founder's face on the plaque hanging on the Captain Kidd bar in Woods Hole. Tommy was a bartender from boston working at the Brothers Four seven miles away in Falmouth Heights, and that is the distance that some runners had covered in the first actual race in 1972. Tommy made it a regular and official event in '73. Read the history here.

3. It is the Boston Marathon's little brother in New England. I don't mean they are affiliated, I mean this is the second-biggest running event in the region only to that one, and the same types of athletes and traditions are found here on the chill heaven that is Cape Cod. In 1975, the race included a great showdown between reigning Olympic marathon gold medalist Frank Shorter and defending Boston Marathon winner Bill Rodgers. Can you imagine them racing on the map below? This is a picture of them, from the official race site. They're flying down a hill. That's the same Bill Rodgers who told me in 1982 that I could be a runner, if I only ran, walked, ran and walked. (It was my first interview of a sports figure after I was hired by The Miami Herald out of Indiana University, and he was wearing an EAT NORWAY SARDINES T-shirt as we spoke about his running-boom message and sardine-eating proclivity in the Herald cafeteria.) Elites like Sarah Hall, Meb, Molly Huddle and Joan Samuelson have been examples of the star power this race draws. I swiped this map from my awesome friend @nycrunningmama after she blogged the race two years ago!

4 The people. Start with the 2,000 or so volunteers for this race, who are extraordinary in so many ways from the expo through the finish. They were so friendly. Then there are all those part-time and permanent Cape Codders who form a veritable human chain with unbelievable support for runners, especially in the second half after the roller-coaster ride that is the first 3 1/2 miles. There are an estimated 75,000 spectators along the way! The Falmouth Road Race puts your first name on your bib, so they all know to scream your name as you go by. This spectator support level was by far the thing I was most surprised by and eager to share with you. (This photo courtesy of the race site.)

5. Martha's Vineyard to your right. See No. 1. For most of the race, you can gaze at that big island just a short ferry ride away. Some people come over from there just to run. Some people go there after they run. It reminded me of a great trip we had there once and that I need to go there again. President Obama was out there somewhere while we were running by.

6. Heat management. They make sure you are amply hydrated at the start, and then once you get to the 2-mile mark, you'll never go without liquids. A forecast in the 80s had fortunately cooled to the mid-70s for this one. But you're still in the sun most of the way -- especially after the hills -- and water management was hugely important. Not only were there volunteers offering water seemingly EVERY SINGLE STEP, but there were a crazy number of locals who sprayed their hoses on the appreciative runners who passed by. One guy was even on the top floor of his home spraying the hose out over the pavement for us to run under. It was amazing. They helped me keep my cool:

7. No medal. Why would I make this a reason to run it? Because enough with the overabundance of medals in today's running community! Seriously! Disney is the biggest instigator of this. And last month, just out of curiosity, I ran one of these new virtual races and was mailed my Route 66 medal after self-submitting my many training runs that equaled a distance of 66 miles. I somewhat guiltily hung it on my medal rack, but I'm going to stop there. Let's go back to really appreciating what a medal means. They don't give you one here for seven miles. It's a great accomplishment, but you want a medal? Go run that Boston race across the bay in April and get a unicorn. I was happy to get a Yasso chocolate-chip coffee ice cream handed to me instead at the Refreshment Center.

8. Cape Cod. We stay with family nearly every August in Osterville, a quiet and awesome village in the town of Barnstable. On Friday, we made our usual trip up to the outer Cape, this time to the famed Beachcomber in Wellfleet for oysters, lobster rolls and the dazzling beach scene (pictured here) with towering sand-dune cliffs. Also pictured here is a book I bought at the Osterville book store, by the same author and local radio personality who wrote the first version that I read last year. And below that is my wife Lismo in one of the many chill moments we enjoyed just hanging out. The geography of Cape Cod itself resembles the biceps-flexing emoji that I and other runners use ALL THE TIME on IG and TW, so imagine that Falmouth is the lower part of your biceps (Provincetown is the fist). It was the first time we had been to Falmouth, and now that we know all about it, we are not only going back for sure, but are already pontificating what it would take to have a place there some day. Falmouth is beautiful, it's kind of chill, it is idyllic.

9. Buses to the start. Again, this has a decided Boston Marathon feel in the beginning. The race begins at 9 a.m., with pulse wave starts. I got up at 5 a.m. in Osterville, and we left at 5:45 for the short drive on Route 28 to Falmouth, stopping at a Dunkin' Donuts for coffee and a banana. Lisa and Rachel drove me to the runner dropoff at a local high school, and from there I boarded one of the long line of yellow school buses that took us to the start area in Woods Hole beside all the boats. Pro tip No. 1: Have someone drop you off nearby and walk to the school, because you'll be stuck in a jam if you want to be dropped off AT the school's front entrance. Pictured here is the typical Cape Cod house with shingle siding where the bus dropped us off, so beautiful.

10. Woods Hole starting area. I was there at the start area two hours before the race. I am glad I was there that early, avoiding any hectic situation. There seemed like a thousand portapotties, and I hit them three times, the last one only requiring a line. Runners lounged on the grass or on the seawalls, taking in the chill vibe. Pro tip No. 2: Make sure you find a SHADY spot. There were 12,800 runners at the start, bunched into a thin roadway, and if the sun beats down on you, you are going to be hot when you finally do go over that start line. I looked for shade at any cost.

...and here's a 360 video I took of the area where I chilled on the water:

11. You can enjoy the Cape. This is not one of those events like the New York City Marathon where you need to be legs-up the day before and avoiding touristy activities. It's a 7-mile race! Don't overdo it, but enjoy yourself on the Cape! We spent the day Saturday PADDLEBOARDING in Barnstable, weaving our way past small crafts and alongside great mansions. Thanks to Stand Up and Paddle of Osterville for making it so easy for us, and to "Pernille the crazy Danish girl" (lol) for pointing us in the right direction! It was $50 a person for two hours (that was plenty), for the three of us. It was my first time paddleboarding and I was a little worried about using new muscles in my high-ankle area, but there need be no such concern. I fell in twice, and my only real worry was not getting a couple of iPhones wet. All's well that ended well. It was a beautiful day, enjoying life before the big race.

12. Strategy. We had breakfast on Saturday of race weekend at the Pickle Jar (highly recommended!) in Falmouth, and near there I noticed a Super Lube oil-change shop that had a sign with a message for runners. It read: "RUN THE RACE WITH PATIENCE." Evidently they knew something I should know. Pro tip No. 3: Be patient and prepare to conserve energy the first 3 1/2 miles, because it is a roller coaster starting with an immediate uphill climb at the start -- up, down, up, down, up, down. It's almost entirely flat the second half, so use your speed there. After resting up in the morning, it's easy to want to go all-out the first few miles and you have to resist that urge and just bide your time. I'm including this as a reason to run the Falmouth Road Race, because you want a strategic race.

13. The Health & Fitness Expo. I was a little rushed, unfortunately, so I did not get to try on the race shirt that I bought, which I regretted later because it was so tight-fitting it was 2 or 3 sizes too small and I am stuck with a $40 expense. Here's what it looked like in my #FlatMe the night before, just as I decided to call an audible and go with an ASICS top I brought:

So make sure you have some time dedicated to really breathing in this expo. There was a lot going on. I did get to see most of the virtual race shown on a large screen, the only preparation I did for what the field was going to look like (other than seeing Nobska Lighthouse). There is gear galore. There was a seminar by the Korey Stringer Institute about performing in the heat. I am a hardcore and longtime Vikings fan, so that sadly brought to mind the story of the Vikings' Pro Bowl lineman who died of heat stroke at training camp 15 years ago. I was glad to see that his legacy is helping others. I bring this up because this expo does a lot more than just sell gear to runners. Be sure to take the time to enjoy it, as it is open from Thursday through Saturday. You'll be glad you did as it's one of the better expos around.

14. New shoes? No problem! The distance is friendly for a pair of kicks right out of the box, although I don't usually try new gear for any race. I had just received a new box of the Accelerate Hope shoes from ASICS that are enabling runners everywhere to help in the fight against various types of cancer. My new GT-1000 5 GR shoes have the gold ribbon design to raise awareness about pediatric cancer, and anyone who buys these are helping Cookies for Kids' Cancer to help that particular cause. For every specially marked product from the collection made available in retail stores nationwide from August 1 to November 30, 2016, ASICS America is donating $10 for each pair of shoes purchased to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, with a guaranteed minimum donation of $100,000, up to $150,000. Speaking of good causes, another big reason the Falmouth Road Race is such a big deal is the sheer volume of money raised by runners to help charities while helping themselves to an entry.

15. The Big Finish. When you see the giant USA flag -- one of the biggest in the nation, if not the biggest! -- you know it is time for that finish photo. In fact, this is one of the best finish-photo events on the international racing calendar. They are just waiting to pounce on the reality of your existence and you had better be running hard and happy as you reach that glorious conclusion! The video of my finish was available within 24 hours and the pictures from marathonfoto.com rolled in fast as well. I'm trying to decide which pic or package to get, but for now here's a sampler of the happy ending, including the perfect item on the menu for recovery food on the Cape.

Monday, August 8, 2016

26.2 things to know about the New York City Marathon

The 2016 TCS New York City Marathon will be my fourth, going back to the first one in 2007. For those preparing now to live out the dream journey through the five boroughs of Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Manhattan, here are some things you need to know:

1. Nothing else compares. You are among more than 50,000 participating athletes in a major televised sporting event. It does not matter whether you are starting with the elites or walking across the finish line in the back of the pack, this is the rarest of opportunities. No other sports or events globally can make this claim, with no qualifying required, as in Boston. Anyone can go for it. Give it everything you have and it's yours the rest of your life.

2. Set your clocks and watches back. Daylight Savings Time will end at 2 a.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 6 -- raceday. Get that reminder on your digital calendar right now, no matter whether your mobile device auto-adjusts. Have your #flatme laid out the night before and then leave yourself plenty of time to reach your Transportation hub. Make sure that your best, deepest sleep is Friday night.

3. Run the tangents. Deena Kastor gave me this advice at a race last year and I think it applies to ANY race. Follow the route that the elites will be running, hugging the turns. It is the true 26.2, the shortest distance. Most of us wobble off the tangents here and there, and that will all add up at the end. It's not an ultra! That's why your Garmin rarely shows the same time as you cross the finish line.

4. Choose "No Bag Check." The other option is to check a bag in Staten Island, and having done both,this is not even a close call. If you check a bag, you are going to walk forever and ever, while in pain, to finally get to your truck that has your checked bag, and then you have a long walk to exit the park. Choose No Bag Check and after a short recovery walk -- any walking will help flush the lactic acid from your legs and slow your heart rate -- a nice volunteer is going to wrap a great NYCM parka around your body (you're holding a hefty nutrition bag in one hand) and point you to the park exit. Thus you are warm and just have to get to your meetup area or your car or your subway or taxi.

5. Think 10-10-10. That's 10 miles, 10 miles and a 10K, running the second 10 faster than the first, and the 10K faster than all three. Save up, save up, save up in the first 10 miles. Our Team for Kids coach preached that back at the 2007 race and it stayed with me. Probably the most commonly offered piece of NYCM advice bears repeating here: Go easy at the start, when the excitement level is sky-high and the crowds and bands are propelling you forward.

6. Suggested mantra: "Races are run with the legs, but marathons are run with the heart." Say it over and over throughout the 26.2 miles. And then after you cross the finish line, take a look at the Central Park bench plaque right next to you. Those exact words are right there. It's where I got the mantra. Give a lot of thought to your own mantra and make it your ally in training and the race.

7. Bring a raceday bag. Since you are not going to check a bag, this is going to be the only bag you bring to the Athlete's Village. Use the same bag given out at Expo registration that you would use if you were going to check it, only you are going to throw it away before entering the corral. Include hand warmers, a banana or other pre-race snack, water, your running hat (you will be wearing a knit cap prerace), any carry items for your race (sunglasses, fuel belt, GUs, mobile device, earbuds, etc.). Anything else you can fit into that raceday bag that helps keep you warm, bring it! Get creative.

8. Get these special ASICS NYC Marathon shoes. Models like these below are coming soon -- around the start of September, I am told, so be on the lookout at asics.com. I got a "sneak" preview of the ASICS Fall Collection this past spring, and they are must-haves for this race. Hey, they'll be collector's items, too, because this will mark ASICS' final year as merchandise sponsor.

9. There is no bad way to get there. All of us make our Transportation choice, either the Staten Island Ferry or the Midtown Bus, at various times. I have done both, and either way you are going to be so moved, emotionally speaking. It is exciting. I personally prefer the bus at this point, as it is just more comfortable and it's one stop from Midtown to the Athlete's Village. It is quiet time for reflection for me, and time for visualizing my race. . . or maybe a little snooze. The ferry means you get to brush right past Lady Liberty for incredible raceday blog photos, you might make friends for life, you immerse yourself a little more. It's a little taxing getting into the line and onto the ferry and then from the ferry onto a bus and then over to the Athlete's Village for the big security check, but like I said, both ways are great.

10. Official Arm Sleeve Event. Definitely bring arm sleeves with you, whether you want to buy a pair now from Zensah or pick up an official set at the Expo. The average temperature is 40s-50s, and frigid winds especially impacted the 2014 event. You may find yourself taking them off shortly into Brooklyn, but they will be your friend early. Just tuck them into the back of your shorts. I always start with old gloves and handwarmers and then toss them. A buff is also a staple for me, so that I can lift it up over my chin and cover my ears if it's cold or just wear it around my neck of put it in my pocket.

11. Athlete's Village Warmth.
Speaking of the chilly starts, I have had a real challenge with keeping warm in Staten Island while waiting hours for my corral to open. It was fine at my first one, because I ran for Team For Kids and the VIP tent is a real perk. Unfortunately blankets were abolished a while back, so you have to get creative. Wear lots of disposable clothing and don't worry about how embarrassing you will look in the morning; I will break my no-Village-attire-photo policy just this once. Wear a secondary pair of thick wool socks over your race socks, and then dispose of them (and all your other extra gear) as the corrals open. You're going to be climbing over piles and piles of clothing getting to your start area, but it all goes to charity. There is coffee to help keep you warm, but beware overdoing it and relying too much on (popular) portapotties.

12. Take advantage of a respite. If you take the ferry, use the bathroom in the Staten Island terminal, where it's warm. You might even want to hang in the warm terminal a while if you think you have too much time until your start. This is one advantage of the ferry over the bus; once you board the bus, it's going to put you out in the cold soon enough. Portapotty lines will be a good half-hour anywhere in the village -- unless you're in a VIP tent, where you get your own dedicated portapotty. You can see why fundraising is such a payoff.

13. Feel all the feels. Go without the earbuds unless you absolutely need them. Listening to Pandora or other music was great during those brutal long training runs. But at the New York City Marathon, the course is the music. You are going to have about 120 musical acts along the way, from gospel choirs in Brooklyn to R&B coming back from the Bronx into Harlem, so soak it all in. And more importantly, HEAR all of those screaming spectators who are going out of their way to support your endeavor. See and hear all the neighborhoods and cultures. Embrace the outside world.

14. Hydrate well in advance. Drink 60 to 80 ounces of water a day in the week leading up to the marathon. Your pee should be pale-yellow . . . never clear.

15. Enter Brooklyn upright and easy.
I was initiated into marathon life at the 2007 NYCM by nearly being trampled to death and a possible God experience. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is the biggest hill right at the start, two miles leading from Staten Island into Brooklyn. So naturally Mile 2 is downhill and leading into a bottleneck, and the tendency for many is to flow with a fast surge into Mile 3 and expend too much energy there. Be intensely aware of your footing and the feet around you. Someone clipped me from behind, and I did a forward somersault like Simone Bailes on the balance beam. Somehow I was able to crawl my way through traffic over to the right side curb, and as I picked pebbles from the palms of my hands, I saw a pair of boots. Then looking gradually up I saw jeans, then a t-shirt, then a beard, then a crazy stare looking  down at me, then a sign that this mountain of a man was holding high overhead that read: "FAILURE IS NOT A F**KING OPTION." Welcome to the New York City Marathon.

16. Avoid the tourist trap. If you are an out-of-town entry, think like a local and not like a tourist. In other words, don't spend Friday and Saturday constantly pumping pavement and wearing out your legs. Do consider the hop-on, hop-off open-deck tour buses, though. Sitting is your friend. Even at the Expo, sprawl out somewhere on the floor and just chill, soak it in, watch the course visualization video.

17. Plan your meetups carefully. Tell family and friends specific street-corner meetup info. With more than one million spectators, many intersections will be deep with onlookers at every corner and sidewalk space. If that loved one is going to be waiting for you with an orange slice and kiss on First Avenue and 64th Street in Manhattan around Mile 16, ask which corner of the intersection so you will know where to look. It's easier for you to find them than vice-versa. This is more important than you might think, because it sucks when you can't wait to hear a shout from someone and it's not there.

18. Don't gets psyched out by the Queensboro. Keep your head right and pound your mantras. It's been like a barrage to the senses with all the feels until that point, and suddenly you are in a virtual solitary confinement where your own thoughts echo. You're so excited about that thrilling rush of First Avenue up ahead that it can seem never-ending. You may find yourself in those quiet moments wanting to take stock of everything, looking at the big picture . . . and you never want to look at the big picture in a marathon. Just realize that's the mile you are in, focus on your form and your breathing, glimpse the beautiful East River through the left side, and repeat the mantras that are uniquely you. As my friend Michele aka @nycrunningmama says, "Tell yourself to get up and over the bridge and feel 1st avenue and the spectators pulling you in."

19. Pick up the pace on First Avenue -- slightly. The crowds will probably help this happen naturally for you. It's a straightaway into the Bronx after Mile 20. First Avenue will start to climb gradually, so you don't want more than a moderate pace here . . . but you should be starting to take advantage of some of that smart conservation work you did in the first 15 miles. Remember, leave plenty for the last 10K.

20. Wear your first name prominently. I was "Marco" on my Rome Marathon shirt in April and I was "Marc" at the Paris Marathon in 2012, but if ever there was a worldwide race to put your name on the chest of your shirt and maybe mark it down your arms or legs, this is it. Don't worry about falling into a trap of unconsciously going into walk mode, because within seconds there is likely to be a big guy yelling at you: "Yo, (your name here)! You can walk later!" I see that guy every time. Be noticeable.You can see here how I marked up my shirt in my 2007 race, and below that is a picture on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn where I am clearly visible at the bottom. Stand out!

21. Keep calm. Having said that in the previous paragraph, don't fall into the high-five trap at your first New York City Marathon. I did that in 2007 -- wanting to run along the barricades and high-five every little kid who held up his or her hand. I wanted so much to interact in that way . . . and it used up a lot of energy. I decided after that to be a little more unsociable (sorry!) and run typically in the center of the road.

22. Don't get peed on. Every repeat NYCM runner knows to be on the top deck of the VN Bridge if you can possibly make that happen. There are going to be some guys, usually Europeans, urinating off the side of it into the incoming waters of the Atlantic Ocean below -- trying to replicate those majestic fountain streams of water shooting out of the watercraft down there. Hey, blame it on all that Dunkin' Donuts activity back in the runner village. It's all fun and games until someone running on the bottom deck experiences the thrill rush of what at first seems like breezy raindrops. If you are forced from the corrals into the bottom-deck flow, just make sure that you run in the very middle of the bridge so no one pees on you, because you're gonna wear that pee for 25 more miles. The chances of being peed on are low but why take chances?

23. Be the salt of the Earth. It may get a little tart in the second half of the race, but take advantage of Gatorade at each fluid station to keep that salt and electrolytes flowing in. I always carry my own salt with me, whether it's those little salt packets stuffed into my fuel belt or a baggie of crunched-up salty pretzels. Avoid cramps, get salt.

24. Go to the end of fluid stations. Try to keep moving through fluid stations, so your muscles don't shorten up on you by excessive walking. If you just run-and-grab water and Gatorade, go past the first table to avoid heavy traffic. They aren't going to run out of fluid at the New York City Marathon. Squeeze the cup to help make a funnel instead of splashing yourself, and it also prevents gulping. Don't splash fellow runners by dropping a half-full cup without looking; always be courteous.

25. Use your special hill muscles.
When you come upon inclines, just find that unique gear that is right there waiting to be used. Other than the first bridge, hills are mainly gradual in nature. In addition to the gradual uphill on First Avenue into the Bronx, you'll slowly climb as you head downtown on Fifth Avenue from Harlem to Central Park. Deena Kastor advises to "use different muscles" to conquer hills; put it in a lower gear and don't worry if you are slower. Once you get to 110th, you'll see trees and you are at the top of Central Park. Keep your head straight until you get from there to Runners Gate at 94th, because that's where you will turn right and then head for Cat Hill and the best downhill ride anywhere!

26. Don't overdo the fueling before and after. Enjoy a hearty brunch on Marathon Saturday -- eggs, sausage, lots of carbs -- but go easy on Saturday night and avoid the heavy "pasta dinner" appeal. Use moderation in your carbo loading the week before, so that you gain about two pounds before your race. Conversely, don't make the mistake I have several times and go hog wild feasting on massive calories in the 24 hours after your race. I got tired of running marathons just to gain weight from the celebrating.

26.2: Just a little thought. Embrace every moment and every mile. This is for you. You are running the New York City Marathon.

Follow @Marathoner on Twitter and @Marath0ner on Instagram.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The 0BPPG Plan: Why and How I Changed My World

"Change your thoughts and you change your world." - Norman Vincent Peale

Please let me start by describing that dish above: One large grouper filet split in half, seasoned with turmeric and olive oil and steamed in aluminum foil on my grill; quinoa; and grilled squash. This was my first dinner after I changed my world last Thursday and I am not stopping. (Updated Aug. 10: 6 pounds lost in first 3 weeks, 2 pounds per week. Goal is 22 pounds total.)

Every runner knows that you don't look too far ahead when starting a major challenge. You focus on right now, the mile you're in, the present rather than the future. With that in mind, I don't want to get too far ahead of myself on my current challenge, but I wanted to share it as some have inquired.

On July 21, I decided to change my thoughts and change my world. I decided to quit consuming bread, pasta, pizza and gluten. I call it the 0BPPG Plan. My family was very helpful in advising how to go about it, and I evolved my thought process in walking down supermarket aisles. This is what I want to share: why I changed and how I changed, both equally important steps.


What causes that kind of major change in a single person? What is that fine line between ACTION and RUMINATION? Here are some of the things that tipped me over the top of the mountain:

On that day I changed, I was talking at length with a camera guy at an MLB event I worked that day at Sleepy Holly Country Club. He was fit and told me about his low-carb attack (I never use the negative word "diet") and how amazing he feels. I just needed to hear that from someone new to me, I guess. He gave me suggestions, a little too much like the old "Atkins Diet" . . . but it was an impetus.

This was not the result of any kind of cautionary medical directive from a doctor. It is me knowing me. I have struggled with extra weight for much of my life, from the days when I was described by mom as "husky" through ebbs and flows. I have walked past the cupcake shop downstairs at our Chelsea Market HQ, and some years I was a regular customer. This year, it began having a real adverse impact on me. I struggled the first 3 months of 2016 with respiratory/allergy problems, meaning I was carrying a lot of extra weight and virtually unable to train for my much-anticipated Rome Marathon on April 11. It was a beautiful event and a great trip, but the amount of walking I had to do through Rome's landmarks and my finish time was deflating.

Extra weight not only was only compounding my increasing respiratory and allergy conditions, but my wife Lisa, head of Admissions at a large senior-care facility in the Bronx, has repeatedly assured me from empirical data, which she sees and logs, that longevity is very much related to lean body structure. In other words, she does not admit very many overweight people. Not because they are home healthy, but because they are GONE. I'm sorry for the frank all-caps but if you are obese please change now. They do not usually last that long. Obesity and overweight conditions lead to too many health issues to mention here, including heart problems.

My grandpa Woody, a World War II veteran, is going to turn 100 in February. I think about his life, and I never remember him being anything but lean, happy-go-lucky, jitterbug-dancing the nights away and so smooth and effortless on his feet. God bless my grandpa. May he live for many more years beyond the century mark, and may he know that he has inspired me again, in this case to be more fit and trim.

I know I can do this, because I have proof: Quitting vices is something I am experienced at and good at. Case in points:

  • On Dec. 1, 2006, after moving into a freshly painted Upper West Side apartment in NYC, I was at a tipping point. I was thinking about quitting smoking, and in visiting the couple who were moving out of the apartment a few nights prior, they explained that they ran Central Park in the New York Road Runners club. I was fascinated by the idea that I might be able to be a real "runner." I broke a full box of KOOLS in half and bought a box of ASICS instead. I stopped successfully because I would munching on celery/carrot sticks, grapes and nuts, I would drink water, I would run regularly -- and I would distance myself from places where people smoked.
  • Then on Aug. 25, 2014, I quit diet sodas and sugary drinks for life. You know, poison soda. Aspartame on label = legal poison, reduced lifespan ("diet" sodas make your body crave sugar so the label is a lie, in case you are just learning this yourself). This has been WAY harder than quitting smoking, but I have gotten through with Zevia, seltzer, teas and other substitutes.
I have said good riddance to other things/people in my life that were not good for me, so when I look at this challenge, I am NOT intimidated.


I want to stress upfront that I have NOT consulted a nutritionist or doctor on my 0BPPG program. It is something I have invented, or at least modified to my own personal interests. I had an initial plan and then Rachel, who is super solid when it comes to nutrition, gave me suggestions and was (and is) there for text feedback when I was unsure what fit into my thinking and what did not. So I mention all this because I do NOT want anyone to think I am giving expert nutritional advice, especially when I am still in my first week of doing this!

Important: I am proceeding, like we say in baseball, "pitch by pitch." You know how the 2004 Boston Red Sox came back from a 3 games to 0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the greatest comeback in pro sports history? (I wrote a book about it.) Their manager, Terry Francona, made them believe that by only focusing on the next pitch, and then the next pitch after that, and by doing that they did not dwell on the impossibility of winning the next four games but rather by "chunking" it -- like we marathoners do. THAT is how I am going forward with 0BPPG. My next hunger urge; my next snack; my next meal.

I am not thinking about how much I might weigh when the legendary Falmouth Road Race happens on Aug. 21 on Cape Cod, or how much I might weigh when I run my fourth NYC Marathon on Nov. 6. I want to be more focused than that, and just do the best I can and stay POSITIVE.

THIS is when "quit" is an acceptable word, at least in my lexicon. Let's look at the four things I have quit:

BREAD: "Give us this day our daily bread." I just said that on Sunday morning in our Episcopal church service. I've always had to have one or two pieces of bread, usually buttered, to sop up that sauce on a dish. I've always had to have those two English Muffin, smothered in butter and honey or maybe NuttZo. I've always had to have that bread on a cold-cut sandwich that I would eat on my way to work. I think that "our daily bread" is not to be taken literally, though. (Maybe I can serve as a positive example to the many people today who take the Bible too literally, as with same-sex marriage and other issues.) I decided to stop eating bread. I will get asked 100 questions but that's it, no bread. HE GONE

PASTA: Lisa and I thrived on pasta in Italy two months ago. Imagine not eating pasta! Well, I can, and I did. At least the kind of pasta that contains gluten, the pasta you buy in your pasta aisle at the supermarket. Last night, Rachel picked two zucchinis from our garden and used the food processor to make an awesome zucchini pasta. THAT is OK, but for the purposes of my 0BPPG Plan, you know what pasta I am talking about. What you get at an Italian restaurant. I am done eating pasta. It sits in my stomach and converts to sugar. I want to shrink my stomach. I don't want to eat pasta. So you won't see pasta pics from me now. I will get asked 100 questions but that's it, no pasta. HE GONE

PIZZA: I have to write this paragraph really fast because this is the one that is blowing my own mind most of all. After eating maybe 100,000 pizzas in my life, in many countries and styles, from Chicago stuffed to a slice of New York white to our old Pizza King pepperoni with Coors back in the day, I have moved on. I will get asked 100 questions but that it's, no pizza. HE GONE

GLUTEN: I realize that this is what I am quitting in the ones above, but I decided to make this No. 4 anyway because there are many other sources of gluten in the world, and I am not going to consume them if I can avoid it. This is tricky because I am finding out what gluten is. Sometimes you see it on labels and sometimes you don't. Rachel has helped me with this. It will be a work in progress. Many people have told me how amazing I will feel once it is out of my system. I will get asked 100 questions but that's it, no gluten. HE GONE

If you are a company that makes any of this stuff, then say goodbye to my lil friend...

Also in the "How I Changed" category: Fitness is a huge part of this, as they go hand-in-hand. I am going to be training for that 7-miler in Falmouth (psyched because it's New England's second-biggest race behind a certain Boston event!) and the NYC Marathon, and currently I am combining training runs with our gym membership for weight training and core, cycling and swimming.


This was actually the first food I bought after I changed my world. I went to Organica, a healthy market near us, and opted for the turkey and rice you see here.

Rice and quinoa will be key staples for me, as I am not going the grain-free (or dairy-free) route typical of Paleo. I bought a batch of these at the store:

Last Friday at our Chelsea Market HQ, I went downstairs and bought a half of a roasted chicken at one store, and then walked over to another and bought a side of roasted broccoli. I bought a TeasTea (zero calorie) and came up to my desk and ate it.

Eggs will be a big breakfast ally for me. This morning for breakfast, I picked basil from our garden and chopped them up to go into scrambled eggs. I sliced half an avocado and had a banana (which will give me strong protein and potassium). Add OJ and boom.

I am a NuttZo Ambassador, and NuttZo just happens to fit nicely into my arsenal. I just won't be spreading it over bread or English Muffins. I came to work today with a near empty jar of Crunchy Original, and a bunch of half-cut celery hearts. I slathered the celery with NuttZo as a 3 p.m. answer (eat five or six smaller servings per day rather than the traditional three big meals daily). You can use my code mark-20 and get 20 percent off at nuttzo.com.

It helps if you have a supported family, as I do. Bonus points if you have other family members who know more about nutrition than you do and are happy to share. I also know from experience -- again having successfully kicked smoking and poison soda -- that there is a massive community of fellow runners who are supportive and even inspired by such challenges. I appreciate what so many of you already have told me via Twitter, IG, FB or otherwise.

Going back to my original point, I am in no way going to predict 0BPPG success or claim that I am doing something superduper. Man, I have eaten way too many Hostess Fruit Pies and chocolate cupcakes and large sausage pies in my life to be anything but humble now.

I am just explaining why and how I have decided to go about this. There may be nutritionists out there who think it's dumb, who knows. I can tell you that I am not focused on any weight-loss goals or reduced waist size, as I am just taking this pitch-by-pitch. So there you have it; time to head home and eat something great for dinner.

Have any great suggestions for me? What's your nutrition gameplan?

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.

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.