Sunday, December 30, 2012

My 10 Favorite Runs of 2012

As a great year in running finishes in style with the #12RunsOfChristmas, I wanted to take a look back at my own favorite races in 2012. What are yours? Here's my top 10:

1. Paris Marathon, April 22. Starting at the Arc de Triomphe (right) and running past the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral and Eiffel Tower and alongside the Seine and French-kissing your wife at the finish is not going to be beaten by any marathon anywhere.

2. Portugal Day 5M, June 17. Finished in 52:11 at Central Park, a 10:26 pace that marked my fastest since 2008. One of those sultry days when you feel light and fast.

3. Harrisburg Marathon, Nov. 11. Makeup race for the canceled NYC Marathon. Hated the 3 miles of nature hills that ruined my finish time, but everything else about it was wonderful and the race organizer was great.

4. NYC Half, March 18. Running through Times Square while the taxis are forced to go elsewhere is too cool not to be in the top 5.

5. Miami Marathon, Jan. 29. I.T. Band syndrome collapse at mile 16 cost me an extra hour. But man is that a beautiful course. Running through South Beach and out toward Key Biscayne is dreamy.

6. #12RunsOfChristmas, Day 1. I only had to run one mile on the first day, and I ran with my English Bulldog King Bingley. If you knew King Bingley you would laugh all the way.

7. Brooklyn Half, May 19. It's the best finish in running, at least in my experiences. You wind up on the boardwalk at Coney Island and then hit Nathan's for dogs and drinks. 2:29 finish OK for me.

8. All-Star Game 5K, July 8. Great course in Kansas City. When you have people like George Brett around, it has to be good. Bad bottleneck at the finish, but otherwise it was a blast.

9. Halifax, Yorkshire County, England, April 17. This was my favorite non-race training run of 2012. I ran in the rain in upper England while we were visiting family. Along the way I stopped at a historic cemetery and was moved by a tombstone that read: "PEACE PERFECT PEACE." I said a prayer for an entire cemetery of those who rest in peace. Then I ran onward to Sowerby Bridge, past fish & chips stops and breathed in the classic scenery on my first voyage to Europe.

10. NFL Back to Football Run, August 30. New York Road Runners brought in Giants players and decorated the start at Central Park with NFL team flags -- a great vibe on the night the season kicked off. 4 miles in 42:22, and it was fun to see all the runners in NFL jerseys. Great tech shirt, too.

Friday, December 28, 2012

My True Legs Gave To Me: The 12 Runs of Christmas

To finish a 3-marathon year in style and to successfully transition into 2013 as another year of running with passion, I invented the 12 Runs Of Christmas, creating the #12RunsOfChristmas hashtag back in November and gladly welcoming other participants from Australia to England and points beyond, all faiths welcome. Here is my live journal as I attempt to run a progressive ultra over 12 days, from Dec. 25-Jan. 5, using the traditional "12 days of Christmas" that extends from nativity to epiphany (not the incorrect commercial usage preceding Christmas).

On the 12th run of Christmas, my true legs gave to me: the Joe Kleinerman 10K in 1:10:17. That was my fifth "Joe" at Central Park going back to December 2006, when I stopped smoking and started running, and the Joe had been my first, so this meant a lot. It also marked the first New York Road Runners scored race of 2013, meaning I have taken my first step toward guaranteed entry in the 2014 New York City Marathon -- I now need eight more races plus the volunteer assignment (9+1). I was happy with this finish time considering the buildup. My calves were screaming on hills but it was OK. My pace was 11:21. My total mileage in the 12 Runs of Christmas was 62.2 miles. I am so happy I did this. I dropped weight from all of that holiday food and got back on track right through a new year. Life is good.

On the 11th run of Christmas, Jan. 4, my true legs gave to me: one 11-minute mile. Yep, that's it. After 10 consecutive days of always running one more mile than the previous one, on this day I simply ran out of time. We posted the Top 100 Blogs that Friday, which is a big deal each year, and I left the office late and faced a 10K race early the next morning, so reality prevailed. At least I continued to run every day, I told myself. My Australian friend Sheena, who followed plan to the end (great job), cracked me up when she said of the 11 minutes: "I didn't know about that loophole."

On the 10th run of Christmas, Jan. 3, my true legs gave to me: 10 miles in 2:22 around the lower loop of Central Park. I repeated that loop as I am one of the last runners in the park on a frigid night, finishing at about 10:20 p.m. I also wanted to minimize the hills as that is flatter terrain. I was surprised to find that my legs aren't sore at any point so far, as the absence of any recovery days means they are staying "hot." I am stretching as much as possible, too. At 3 pm before the run I ate a plentiful 9-dollar cappelletti pasta dish at Giovanni Rana in Chelsea Market, and once again, I changed after work at the office, got my car out of the pay lot, drove it uptown and found a free parking spot at 65th right next to the park. I got home and made leftover potatoes and brussel sprouts, got to sleep a little after midnight. Washing runner gear is an issue.

On the 9th run of Christmas, Jan. 2, my true legs gave to me: 9 miles in 1:51 around Central Park, excluding the top Harlem Hills mile. It was a long day because this was my first day back to the MLBAM office. Changed at work, got my car from the pay lot and drove up alongside the famed San Ramos at Central Park West and parked, entered at Strawberry Fields. I was bolstered by the impressive number of other hardcore runners training in the bitter cold as Arctic air mass hung over. Thankful for the park's lights. 45 of 78 miles done. Nike Running app recorded my time but unfortunately it did not kick in on mileage until about 2 miles had been run. Stopped to read a few park bench plaques in Mile 8 and wanted to share this one: "WE LIVE AS LONG AS WE ARE REMEMBERED." Right now I am most thankful for my health. I have no issues, just running and trying to lose some weight in the process.

On the 8th run of Christmas, Jan. 1, my true legs gave to me: 8 miles in 1:39 around Central Park, including the first two as welcomed support miles along with my wife Lisa. My legs were much stronger in this run, despite adding the famed Central Park hills to this adventure. 36 of 78 miles done. In the last 24 hours, I have totaled 15 miles, spanning the last run of one year and the first of the next. This was my true and successful transition on the calendar as a runner, the heart of my progressive ultra. At this point I can tell you that this is harder than the average person would expect, even regular marathoners. There are so many reasons. Among them: no recovery days; gradual mileage increase; weather and heavier gear (snow, cold wind, ice); the holidays (New Year's is basically 2 big days); shorter days; self-motivation with no medals.

On the 7th run of Christmas, Dec. 31, my true legs gave to me: 7 icy miles in 1:35 along the Hudson River. Legs are heavy, ice bath may be needed at some point as there are no recovery days. This was my final run of a truly memorable 2012, and my favorite part about this progressive ultra is the transition from one calendar year to the other, running just a little bit more in the next year's first day than in the previous year's last day. 28 of 78 miles done. Happy New Year! I took this picture at Memorial Park in Nyack.

On the 6th run of Christmas, Dec. 30, my true legs gave to me: 6 miles in 1:22:59 on the treadmill. Planned to run this one around Central Park but 30+ mph gusts outside kept me in the gym. 100 crunches and I have added taekwondo stretching from my black belt days to stay flexible. Avoiding weights at all cost as I have no recovery time during these 12 days. Treadmill mysteriously ended my workout at 5.77 miles so I did another .23 miles here just for the record!

On the 5th run of Christmas, Dec. 29, my true legs gave to me: 5 miles on the treadmill while it was snowing outside, plus 100 crunches and 20 leglifts.

On the 4th Run Of Christmas, Dec. 28, my true legs gave to me: 4 miles between 10-11 p.m. in frosty conditions under a full moon. So at least there was extra lighting. Broke out all the UnderArmor for this one. Right heel is throbbing. The only runner amidst Friday night revelers in downtown Piermont.

On the 3rd Run Of Christmas, Dec. 27, my true legs gave to me: 3 miles on treadmill at my gym. Lismo did the elliptical while I cranked out 3 in 37:01. Then 100 crunches in the open room.

On the 2nd Run Of Christmas, Dec. 26,  my true legs gave to me: 2 miles mostly on trail in Piermont, NY.

On the 1st Run Of Christmas, Dec. 25, my true legs gave to me: 1 mile with King Bingley. I don't get many opportunities to run with my dog because he is an ENGLISH BULLDOG. But for 1 mile, no problem. He got to sniff along the way. Merry Christmas.


(Originally posted at 6:38 pm ET on Nov. 29, 2012)

Now introducing . . . the 12 Runs of Christmas!

On the drive back from our Thanksgiving trip to the Midwest, I was listening to Christmas music and was thinking about a new way to challenge myself as a runner. I was looking for a big way to put a finishing touch on a personally unforgettable 2012 marathon year, when I finished Miami, Paris and Harrisburg. I asked Lisa when exactly the 12 Days of Christmas begins and ends, and I found out that in the U.S. it traditionally starts on Christmas Day and goes to Epiphany. It ends 11 days later on Saturday, Jan. 5.

So say hello to my next crazy endeavor. I will run for 12 consecutive days starting on Christmas, totaling about three marathons. The first run will be a minimum of one mile, or a partridge in a pear tree. On the second day of Christmas, my true legs will give to me, a 2-mile run (two turtle doves), you see. Then a 3-miler (three french hens) on Dec. 27 and so on. The mileage will build each day until I run 12 miles (12 lords a leaping) on Jan. 5.

THE MORE THE MERRIER! It has been great hearing from runners around the world, from Australia to Great Britain, who say they are going to take on this challenge! Let's make it a global movement, a great way to celebrate the season! Please use #12RunsOfChristmas in your tweets and help spread the word, and use that hashtag each day when you tweet the run your true legs gave to you. It doesn't matter what your faith is; my house is a blended one where we celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah. Everyone is invited, runners, walkers, anyone. Please feel free to share it, invite your friends to run along. All-inclusive.

This is probably harder than it looks, for a couple of reasons. One, I stopped cold after the Harrisburg Marathon, going into full body rest and offseason mode, and this is a total of 78 miles over nearly two weeks, so there is a quick-increase injury risk. Two, it means just summoning the initiative to go out and run in the cold (or at the gym) in a time that spans the holidays, amid food and party fare.


Think of this as running two weeks, and you have a rest day both weeks, first at the beginning of the week and then at the end of the week. The first week mileage is 1 2 3 4 5 6, for 21 miles. The second week mileage is 7 8 9 10 11 12, for 57 miles. Total them up and that 78 miles is almost exactly three marathons. If you add two more miles along the way, that 80 miles will match 26.2 x 3.

Monday, Dec. 24: Rest day
Tuesday, Dec. 25: 1 mile
Wednesday, Dec. 26: 2 miles
Thursday, Dec. 27: 3 miles
Friday, Dec. 28: 4 miles
Saturday, Dec. 29: 5 miles
Sunday, Dec. 30: 6 miles
Monday, Dec. 31: 7 miles (don't party too much)
Tuesday, Jan. 1: 8 miles
Wednesday, Jan. 2: 9 miles
Thursday, Jan. 3: 10 miles
Friday, Jan. 4: 11 miles
Saturday, Jan. 5: 12 miles
Sunday, Jan. 6: Rest day

"Minimum" is the key word for all 12 days. Maybe I will find a half-marathon to run on the final Saturday instead of 12 miles. Maybe I will work in a marathon. Who knows? I am definitely going to bring my English Bulldog King Bingley along on the first day, since that is more his speed. We'll just see how it goes, and each day I will post a new verse on Twitter and Facebook, telling what my true legs gave to me.


Option 1: Run 1 mile the first day, 2 miles the second and so on, as outlined above. This is what I am going to do. Hydration throughout the holidays is key, minimize or avoid alcohol this time.

Option 2: For novice runners simply wanting to build up momentum for 2013 and stay fit through the holidays, I do not recommend the same approach. As a general rule, never add more than 10% more mileage from one week to the next, to avoid overuse injury. If you are up to it, just "run" those 12 straight days, whatever distance you want, maybe a mile for 12 days in a row! Maybe consult the doc first. If you're a walker and want to walk it instead of running, that's awesome, too.

Question: Does anyone have a suggestion for how we might be able to turn this into something that also can make a positive difference in the world? Please leave comments here and follow @Marathoner on Twitter. I think this is going to evolve a bit as more runners join in hopefully, but you get the idea! The 12 Days of Christmas has been around a long time, the carol itself dating back to the 16th century, a nod to the time between the nativity of Christ and the feast of Epiphany, and as far as I can tell no one has translated that tradition into running. This Episcopal runner is going to celebrate in a new way.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Running History

Today I signed up for my first 2013 New York Road Runner races at Central Park. The Joe Kleinerman 10K will be my 66th NYRR race and the Manhattan Half will be my 67th, and overall those will mark my 77th and 78th races since I traded smoking for marathoning six years ago. Here is a year-by-year look at my  running history as I strive to always be a runner for life and overcome those stretches where you'd rather walk your English Bulldog and motivation is challenging.

2012: 10 NYRR races, 14 overall, 3 marathons, 162.5 miles
Comment: Started with ITB at Joe Kleinerman, 14 PT sessions, ran Miami/Paris/HSBG marathons

2011: 11 NYRR races, 0 marathons, 73.9 miles
Comment: Gradually picked it back up and became a 9+1 NYCM qualifier again

2010: 2 NYRR races, 3 overall, 1 marathon, 57.9 miles
Comment: Miami Marathon then married 2 weeks later, honeymoon and laid-back year

2009: 6 NYRR races, 8 overall, 1 marathon, 92.0 miles
Comment: Proposed to Lisa at finish line of New Jersey Marathon, bought home, slowdown

2008: 16 NYRR races, 19 overall, 3 marathons, 1 ultramarathon, 236.2 miles
Comment: Best shape of my life, ran STL, Statues, NYC Marathon + Knick 60K. Good gymwork.

2007: 18 NYRR races, 19 overall, 1 marathon, 152.8 miles
Comment: 1st full year, 1st marathon (NYC), fastest pace (9:13), plantar fasciitis & lessons learned

2006: 2 NYRR races, 2 overall, 0 marathons, 16.2 miles
Comment: I did the most important thing -- I signed up for a race and went to start line

Other marathons: Miami (twice), Paris, St. Louis, New Jersey, Harrisburg, Statues/NYC

Other half/misc distances: OK City Half, Beijing Half, All-Star Game 10K (3)

Note: If you run at least 9 scored qualifier races and volunteer for an NYRR event during one year, then you gain automatic entry into the next year's NYC Marathon. That's called 9+1.

Resolution and Registration

This is a good day for our New York Road Runners organization, which gave me my opportunity to become a runner 6 years ago this month. The 2012 NYC Marathon Resolution finally has been announced, and I am pleased this has been done before the holidays. I know there were a lot of members like me who exerted significant pressure on the NYRR to act swiftly, and I am giving thanks where it is due.

The options are basically to receive a full refund for the canceled race, receive guaranteed entry into the 2013 NYC Half next spring, or receive guaranteed entry into either the 2013, '14 or '15 NYC Marathon. For NYRR to offer a refund to any race is a remarkable exception, and that is the option I will be taking once our January 11-25 window opens to exercise options. I've done the NYC Half twice, I am already guaranteed for the 2013 NYCM, and I can easily do the 9+1 for any NYCM.

Keeping up my end of the bargain, I greeted today's announcement by immediately resuming registration for NYRR races. I will be running the Joe Kleinerman 10K on Jan. 5 and the Manhattan Half on Jan. 27. Those will be my first two races of 2013 on my way toward another 9+1 (9 scored races & one volunteer gig) completion so that I will be guaranteed entry in the 2014 NYC Marathon. (Am already in for 2013).

For me, the Joe is a tradition. It will be my fifth. It was the first NYRR race I ever entered. On Dec. 10, 2006, one cold day at Central Park, NYRR head Mary Wittenberg took the microphone at the start. In the middle of a big pack of runners, I heard her voice say: "Start easy and finish hard." I always associate Mary with those words that got me running, and on the day she announces the marathon resolution I am thankful and can appreciate all she has been through with this ordeal.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Winter On The Verge

Winter arrives after 6 am ET Friday. I just composed this welcome ode:


The wind whistles in the dancing pine
Crimson cardinals shatter seeds
Brazen yet the corpulent squirrel
Among fallen needles forever feeds

Knowing oaks point bare fingers high
Steel-gray clouds creep in and merge
Familiar songs ride every gale
Winter on the verge

Festive lights illuminate our street
Then reflect a ballet of flakes
A flurry first before we meet
Settling snow and ice-protected lakes

A pair of skates with virgin blades
Now comes their seasonal urge
They dream of perfect wonderlands
Winter on the verge

Spring then Summer then Autumn whirl
Ephemeral life relentless goes
Beckons now a brand new day
As sure as cold wind blows

The wind whistles in the dancing pine
Hallowed memories emerge
Faith in greatest tenacity
Winter on the verge

© 2012 Mark Newman

Monday, December 17, 2012

Video: Running Around The World in 2012

I challenged myself as best I could in 2012, and I hope you might appreciate this little Animoto video I produced to look at this year in running. I would like to thank all of you who visit here and who are among those who support this marathoner in our great global running community. Peace be with you.

Make a video of your own at Animoto.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Finished 12K at 12:12:12 on 12/12/12

Happy 12/12/12! I celebrated by running a 12K around Central Park -- and finishing at EXACTLY 12:12:12 p.m. ET back at my car, which was parked at 73rd Street and Columbus. I was planning 12 miles but had to get to work! Mileage/yardage is an estimate, which is pretty easy to do at Central Park if you run it all the time. I had done once around the park for 6 miles, then I simply calculated where to do the remaining nearly 1.5 miles to make it a 12K and finish it in time. I did not care so much about my running time as I did the clock time when I finished, so I slowed a bit at the end. I got to my car at 12:11, and then started typing as fast as I could on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The finish location was significant for me. It was at that same intersection of 73rd and Columbus where, six years ago this month, I broke a box of KOOLS in half because my new apartment right by there was freshly painted and I wanted to quit and start running. That same day I bought my first box of ASICS instead. I hope you also are doing something special on this final full-repeat date of our lifetimes! It's good for your karma!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Harrisburg Marathon recap - 10th marathon

My 2012 marathon schedule is completed. I finished the Miami Marathon in January, Marathon de Paris in April, and the Harrisburg Marathon on Sunday. That brings my marathon career up to double digits since I chose to trade a box of KOOLs for a box of ASICS on December 1, 2006.

1. 2007 New York City Marathon
2. 2008 St. Louis Marathon
3. 2008 Statues on Parade Marathon
4. 2008 New York City Marathon
5. 2008 Knickerbocker 60K Ultramarathon
6. 2009 New Jersey Marathon
7. 2010 Miami Marathon
8. 2012 Miami Marathon
9. 2012 Marathon de Paris
10. 2012 Harrisburg Marathon

Nine of the 10 are "official" as I invented the Statues on Parade Marathon the summer of our All-Star Game in New York, running 26.2 miles to see all 42 replica Statues of Liberty in the NYC area. To qualify for Marathon Maniacs, I would probably need one more official one. But for me, it's 10 marathons.

I am thankful to the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and to the organizers of the 40th annual marathon there. They rolled out the red carpet for about 1,000 of us NYC Marathon refugees, who were notified after superstorm Sandy that the 2012 NYC Marathon was canceled. After coming together to help those affected in the NYC area, it was time for full closure and to run a marathon somewhere. For me, 3 1/2 hours away.


Lismo and I drove over on Saturday morning and stayed at the Radisson Hotel, which, as with so many Harrisburg hotels, was overflowing with orange-clad masses from the Big Apple. Why the Radisson? Simple. I checked online and they had a "Sleep Number Bed Special." It was two double beds, circa 1950s TV, but who cares? I've never had a Sleep Number. Turns out I like very high, like 85 or 90 -- firm. I figured that would be ideal for the night before a marathon.

There were about 900 of us NYC Marathon refugees who registered, such a crush that the race organizer extended the entry deadline and ordered an additional 1,000 medals and shirts. I learned from someone later that it was the race organizer's first year in that role, and I can just imagine what that was like. "Hey, Andy, they just canceled the New York City Marathon. You need to double the field this year. Have fun."

First we drove over the Market Street Bridge to City Island, home of the Harrisburg Senators baseball team.

I learned a lot of history about City Island there, including its heritage as a Negro League team home. Registration was in the pavilion, and it was an easy in-and-out, pick up your bib and shirt and scoot. I have to say that they had the best-quality tech shirt of any race I've attended. More on that below...

We really enjoyed touring the State Capitol during the day. It is a magnificent building. Did you know that it used to be a brick building but was destroyed by fire?

Take a close look at these words engraved into a front wall at the Capitol:

When you walk up to the top of the stairs and then look down, only then do you notice that there is a wondrous rose compass on the steps, showing all four directions with an arrow through it pointing to the north, and featuring the trademark keystone in the middle.

I decided that was a good place to have my bib pic taken.

We were blown away by the grandeur of the Harrisburg bridges. There were at least a half-dozen in eyesight, all with their own unique histories. The Susquehanna River is gorgeous, and it was so glassy and serene. Throw in an amazing sunset, and we just really enjoyed our time there. We walked back and forth across the Walnut Street Bridge, aka "Old Shakey," an iron bridge that used to carry auto traffic back in the day.

Little did I know that would be the bridge I would sprint across to the finish line the next day.

We went to the Crowne Plaza for the official race pasta dinner. They should try to group runners together, is my only advice. It was a standard dining room and we were seated by ourselves as a table of two, which we could have done at a more upscale Italian restaurant had we known that. You really want to meet runners and talk marathon, so maybe have large cluster tables next time.

After driving around in vain searching for a view of Three Mile Island -- I think I had seen it from a highway farther south before -- we drove back to the hotel to play with our Sleep Number. First we noticed this unbelievable view of Old Shakey alit at night. We're like: Are you kidding? What a beautiful town.

Then it was time for the big decision: What To Wear.

There were three choices. One was the orange NYC Marathon long sleeve tech shirt I received at the expo two weeks earlier, the same one I had worn last Sunday to Staten Island as many of us brought relief supplies and helped devastated residents. One was the brand-new blue long sleeve tech shirt that said Harrisburg Marathon on the front. The third choice was the one I had planned for all along at NYC: A red singlet with the NYC Marathon logo on the front, featuring screen-pressed lettering I had put on the back by a printer. I was going to dedicate this one to my wife. It means so much to have a supportive partner, and to support that person back, to share these experiences. I won't say what it read or show it here, because I am going to do it for a future event, but it was kind of out of place in Harrisburg, and besides it was kind of snug and it made me look like a fatty. So it was down to the long sleeves, and I went to bed thinking new/blue and woke up deciding to do my tribute to NYC. Plus, the orange one was lighter in fabric weight, and it was looking a little warmer than expected on Sunday -- 60s.


After a small breakfast at the Radisson, we drove back onto City Island, parked and went back to the pavilion to check my bag. On this morning, I was shocked to realize that this marathon was happening on the East side of the river -- where downtown Harrisburg is -- rather than the West side of the river. I had been looking at the course map totally upside down. How did that happen? That was a first.

Starting on the Market Street Bridge, we went off at 8:30 a.m. It was the first time I can remember an actual RUNNING START. I'm used to corrals and insane sardine starts. That was nice. We proceeded onto Front Street, which is peppered with one historical landmark after another. I've never seen a city  more proud of its history than Harrisburg, and that is a cool thing. I read each one. Miles 1-2 formed a loop around the State Capitol, so you saw its front and back, and just reveled in its majesty as you ran around it.

Mile 3, I realized I was starting too fast, noticing that my pace was in the 10s. I should be around 12. I can't believe I did that, and figured I would pay for it. After Mile 4, you venture into a pretty cool stretch called the Capital Greenbelt Area. It is a windy hard-packed trail that is easy on your legs, and you are thankful for that, knowing what is farther ahead. It was a little hilly, but I could deal with it at that point. I'm starting to get into a groove. You make your way past nice residential areas of South Front Street and then return on Market Street to City Island for Mile 6.

At this point, I'm already having a water issue. I'm used to fluid stations every mile or at least every two miles. I had debated carrying fluids, but I don't like to if I don't have to. I wish I had, because at this point I already have had a couple of bouts of serious thirst, with mile 5 doubling as the same water station we'd used at mile 3. Note to self: carry water from now on if it's under 10,000 or 20,000 runners.

There is a loop of about a mile and a half on City Island, where I took advantage of the row of portapotties before continuing on. We ran across Old Shaky, and only then did I really start to get familiar with the mile markers.

Between Mile 8 and Mile 9 is arguably the most beautiful stretch of marathon course that I ever have experienced. Last April, I was running for miles alongside the Seine in Paris, and this was prettier. The glassy Susquehanna glistened and reflected the blue off what I believe was the Harvey Taylor Bridge. It was serene, and it carried me for a while. I am always at my best around miles 8-9, for some reason.

And that, my friends, is the first half of the movie. You know, the kind of movie where it is all joy and paradise before intermission, knowing that a dastardly twist awaits after you come back to your seat.

We ran and ran out to a stretch of industrial park madness where semi-tractor trailer trucks zoomed alongside our left ears. One truck bore down hard behind three Athletes Serving Athletes runners. The middle runner was pushing a disabled athlete. These groups are phenomenal, adding a special touch to this race. And here was this big semi with his bumper right behind those three who were running side by side, until finally one of them noticed, like it was a snorting bull right behind them, so they scampered to the side. It was pretty scary from where I was standing. We were totally on the wrong side of the road. You are supposed to run INTO traffic, so you don't get clipped. Another change I would recommend, please.

Or just have police block the course like most marathons. Or just don't run out that far.

I was feeling healthy but overtapered, to say the least. But through Mile 17, I was hanging in there, and projecting my time, I got a HUGE lift. My PR was 5:13 in 2008 at the NYC Marathon. My second-best was 5:21 in 2008 at St. Louis. I ran a 5:43 in Paris and was over 6 in Miami due to ITB. This was going to be my race, "flat" as promised by the race organizer.

Well, you can throw that right out the window.

Say hello to Wildwood Lake Park. Miles 18-20 take place there, and they are tremendous ascent and descent angles that just don't belong, especially if you advertise your race as "flat," which is one thing that caught my eye when I was looking for a replacement race and thought..."hmm, Harrisburg." Why include it here? I walked almost literally the entirety of Miles 18-20, and that destroyed my hamstrings, my quads, and my finish time. There is no other way to say it.

Let me quote Katie Edwards, the female winner of the Harrisburg Marathon: "I definitely think Wildwood is brutal. It definitely had twists and turns. I definitely think there are flatter races. I didn’t think the course was too flat."

Oh, on top of not belonging in this marathon, Miles 18-20 featured this much water: None.

I texted my wife back and forth, failing to use important characters, saying things like "Im hllcntng" and "dying out hre." She was going to have someone sent out to me. I texted back that she should not send help, "ever."

At the end of Wildwood Lake Park, a police officer was programmed to say that was the last hill. That's good, because I still had a 10K to run. Every word out of mouth the previous half-hour started with F. And it was always the same word. Solitude, hiking Mt. Everest, dry as Death Valley, self-defeating, ruining my hope of a decent time, removing my drive capacity for hamstring and quad function thereafter...all in all I would say Wildwood Lake Park is a must-remove for 2013 or don't tell us it's a flat course.

My wife reached me with a bottle of water at Mile 23, realizing my struggle with ample fluid on the course. It was a sunny day in the 60s and it baked me for much of the marathon, making me always thirsty. She heard way too much cussing from me. It was time for me to bear down. I was constantly calculating, backing up times, targeting a certain number and doing whatever it took to get there.

That's marathon running. I still had some giddy-up left:

If all of this sounds bad, it's just part of the mission. If it was easy, everyone would be out here doing it.

And the harder it is, the more it hurts, the better it feels when it is over and when the pain goes away.

I churned and churned and worked hard and sprinted across Old Shakey and I finished in 5:45:16. My quads look like thoroughbred muscles at this point -- POWER!

Per custom, I danced across the finish line. I have done that all 10 marathons to date.


Never been to a marathon where they had better food after the finish line. I got my heatsheet and I sat there eating a sub, with lemonade and tea. They also had ice cream. They are good people at this race. It was Veterans Day, and Lismo took this pic of me under the flag:

This was the first full or half where I did not receive a medal, but I give the race organizer credit for trying. He ordered 1,000 extra ones and on Saturday they only received 600 of them from the company that makes them. Not his fault, he tried his best to accommodate our Orange Crush from NYC. So I was told that mine is being shipped to me. That's cool, it'll go on my medal rack when I get it.

I dumped myself into the back seat of Lismo's car and we made the drive back to NYC. She drove the first 2 hours, allowing  me to just slump into the back seat and relax, check my iPhone, kick back. She doesn't like to drive at night so I finished the ride. I would not ordinarily advocate driving out-of-town right after running a marathon, but it was fine. I got in a little snooze time.

I picked up a few bags of ice just before arriving home, and then filled up the tub. Here's my advice for newbie marathoners: ICEBATH NO MATTER WHAT. I was wondering if four or five hours later was beyond the window of significance, and it helped a great deal. You sit there and scream, but you can feel the inflammation go down. Doing this ensures that your next two days will not be horrible on Earth.

Lismo made me a cheese omelet, and for some reason it was the best thing I ever ate. I'm a 10-time marathoner, and I am happy.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Water and Walter: The 2012 NYC Marathon Legacy

"Who are all of these people in orange? I see them everywhere."
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Nov. 4, 2012, at Midland Beach on Staten Island

Being without power, being cold and dealing with long gas lines was only an inconvenience for me and my family in the New York City area -- frustrating and perspective-challenging but only an inconvenience. On Sunday, the day I was to run my third New York City Marathon and eagerly reach double digits for 26.2 mile or greater distance, I instead found myself on a Staten Island Ferry headed to some of the greatest devastation left in the wake of Sandy.

I think most of us 47,000 entrants were relieved that the race was canceled. For me it was a tremendous relief. On Saturday, after the cancellation was announced, I had planned to drive over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge myself and bring supplies. Then I discovered the Facebook movement of New York Runners In Support Of Staten Island. One of my fellow runners summarizes the entire day better than anything I have seen, on youtube:

About 1,000 of us, mostly clad in our orange NYC Marathon Expo event shirts (I drew the "@" sign in front of "Marathoner" on my back), met at the Staten Island Ferry terminal at 8:30 am on Sunday. The night before, I had gone to Target to buy supplies -- batteries, prepaid phone cards, dog food, baby wipes, towels, etc -- and I went down in my basement and found my 2008 Beijing Olympics backpack that had been unused, a giveaway to media there. I loaded it. Here is what the force of volunteers looked like as they gave directions to all of us awaiting the ferry ride:

All the volunteers you see with optic-yellow caps in this picture below had come from England. They were among so many internationals who wanted to do something after their marathon was canceled. I got to know a man from Denmark who said his goal was to run every marathon major, and since he could not, he wanted to be here.

We were split into several groups, and the thinking was that runners have a unique ability to "get to" areas and people most in need, using leg power. We would run anyway from 6-8 miles to 14+ miles on Staten Island, dropping off supplies and helping. When we got to Staten Island, a local who spoke to all of us came over to our group and said we should just get on the train and get to New Dorp as fast as possible.

We did that, and then we walked a mile over toward the coast, to the battered and shocking area along Cedar Grove Ave. Homes were swept off their foundation by the reported 14-foot surge of water. People were lost in the disaster. Houses had the eery spray-painted "FD OK" on the fronts, signifying the fire department had been through already. We deposited the contents of our backpacks at a long row of tables, each labeled "Men," "Women," "Children" and so forth. We were told to avoid overwhelming surviving residents with our presence, but instead to go around and simply ask how we could help.

They needed mostly cleanup supplies, because many of them were removing the visible signs of their despair -- ruined drywall, flooring, everything. I carried over a large roll of heavy-duty trash bags. "Take that to 65 Neptune. The resident requested it," said the woman at the relief-supply table. At 65 Neptune, there were at least 10 other NYC Marathon runners in an assembly line removing contents of the house, wearing masks. Missy, my new friend from Memphis, was so helpful as we walked around from street to street. She is a former E.R. nurse and I learned a lot from watching how she interacted.

This scene played out for hours in that area. I was not prepared for what I saw, but I was humbled and my greatest takeaway was this: THEY ARE HEARD. I was so moved by the mass of people all pitching in. Not just us runners, but the volunteers already on the scene. One guy, Richie, shook my hand and thanked us for coming, and he told me he was trying to get his brother to move out of his house to a hotel or shelter, but he wouldn't budge. "We took him some homemade (pasta) sauce," Richie said -- it was an Italian thing.

On Cedar Grove, we moved past U.S. flag-draped homes and got to one where a mother and her son were standing, chatting with helpers. I got down on my knee to meet Walter, her son, and we shook hands. He was clutching one of those white masks that residents and volunteers were wearing because of the dust. I realized then what I had come there for more than anything. I had a few personal things left in my backpack, and I emptied it. Then I asked the mom: "Could I give Walter the backpack?"

She said "He needs that for Boy Scouts," and then she broke into tears and cried in my arms. I asked if she could use the 2007 NYC Marathon mylar finisher blanket I still had from my first-ever marathon on its five-year anniversary, and she said, "Actually we have heat." That surprised me, in a good way. "Then maybe you know a neighbor who can use it," I said, as she took it. So amazing. All the stuff I crammed into my backpack, and then it was the actual backpack itself that in my own experience made the biggest difference. Thanks to my teammate Missy for taking this picture of the backpack handoff:

We walked around, through the streets, asking how we could possibly help. Sometimes, I felt in the way. I think that is a good thing. Work was being done, instead of crying out with no one hearing.

Then we resumed running. Anytime we weren't helping, we were running somewhere to be. I was stopped during part of the run to be interviewed by New York mag. I was happy to see so much media coverage.

It was unbelievable to see what could happen when people come together, right there in the center of devastation. I know that so many places felt the wrath of Sandy. We at Major League Baseball also have donated $1 million, and I am proud of my company for that. I see it all over. I just wanted to give a public thanks to sports Dr. Jordan Metzl and others who started the New York Runners In Support Of Staten Island movement. And I want to thank other NYC Marathon runners who donated at Sunday's Run Anyway NYC Marathon -- including Runners World legend Amby Burfoot -- and all the others who pitched in to help in whatever way they could. Mayor Michael Bloomberg (right), who originally had stood by his decision to go with the marathon and then finally relent and cancel it, even showed up in a surprise meeting with Metzl where we had worked.

It is also important not to feel like this is a recap of anything. This is a work in progress. People are still suffering, people are still trying to reach each other. Nothing is done. This is just an update on one thing that happened on Sunday. I hope it will give others an idea how they might help.

Lastly, I want to say that I am always restless the night before a marathon or half-marathon, but I never have felt the rush of excitement and anticipation that I felt in trying to sleep Saturday night, knowing we were going to do something as one to help others. And my thoughts are most definitely with those who still are struggling to restore lives after Sandy, and for those who were were lost and who lost so much.

More pictures:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Brilliant: I won a pair of $150 Mizunos

Look what just came in the mail today! Sincerest thanks to my friends at @MizunoRunning and their Mezamashii Run Project for the new Wave Creation 13 running shoes. "Mezamashii" is the Japanese word for "brilliant" or "eye-opening," and I entered their contest by posting a story early this summer about my "most brilliant run" -- running through rain all day and proposing to Lisa at the finish line of the 2009 New Jersey Marathon. Mizuno informed me last Friday that I had won shoes, so I was able to pick out a pair on their site, choose the color, call their customer service with my winning code and say which pair I wanted, and voila, they are here 16 days before I run the New York City Marathon. Think I have time to break them in enough to use them in that race? I am going to give it a shot. Read my winning post >

I am one of at least a couple of thousand winners of shoes in the Mezamashii Run Project, and unfortunately I was not emailed in time to have a chance to beat the Sept. 15 deadline to win a trip to run in the 2012 Osaka Marathon on Nov. 25. That would be brilliant! Thanks to my friend Michelle (@nycrunningmama, follow her) for telling me about the contest! Part of me wonders if this is karma, because last December I donated eight of the 11 pairs of my used running shoes to Soles 4 Souls, so that they could be worn by needy people around the world. Read that post here and see how you can do the same. Here is a look at the new Wave Creation 13s -- my first Mizunos. Even King Bingley gave them his immediate sniff of approval:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Turn any day into a great one

Yesterday I listened to my body, and it told me it was bored.

I drove down to Central Park in the morning and attempted to do a 20-mile long training run by myself, against the normal counterclockwise flow of runner/biker traffic. I had run a 3:47:07 NYC Marathon Tuneup 18-Miler the Sunday before and I figured I would run a similar route only reverse course, removing the steep Cat Hill incline, or maybe just do one loop and then run around the whole island of Manhattan. All I got was tedium, changing music along the way, trying to stay in the moment. I was only 34 days away from the Nov. 4 ING NYC Marathon, but I felt blah and unpushed. After 6 miles, I was at Columbus Circle and I just bailed, called it a 6-miler, kind of disappointed.

Two things happened after that.

I watched this premiere episode of "On The Run" from the New York Road Runners, who stage the NYC Marathon and all my regular weekend races. Look for the incredible story of the "One Spirit Runners" from the Lakota reservation of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and see how inspired you are as they prepare to send some of their own to the NYC Marathon as a once-in-a-lifetime event. It made me appreciate what am doing much more, as this will be my 10th marathon overall and third NYCM. I look forward to running with them. I needed that!

Secondly, my wife said, "Why don't you just go to the gym?" TWO A DAYS, I thought.

It went from a dismal training day to one of my best ones. NEVER GIVE UP.

Speedrope training, 8 sessions...

10 roundhouse kicks each side on big bags from taekwondo black belt routines, 3 sets...

As you can see, I tried to shake it up, introduce new (or old) wrinkles, confuse my muscles, have some fun, get my heartrate way up. Mostly I worked on my legs. I used the standing squat press with free weights for three sets. I hit all the leg machines and did 15 reps x 3 sets on each. In the gym I also did 100 crunches plus 50 leglifts, lots of stretching.

Instead of looking at my 20-mile long run as a failed 6-miler, I was able to look at my day as a lap around hilly Central Park, a great gym sessions, strength training plus running, and an inspiring video.

33 days to 5 boroughs. How do you turn a bad day into a good one?


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Miami...Paris...New York City

The November 4 ING New York City Marathon will be my third 26.2 of 2012, following the Miami Marathon in January and Marathon de Paris in April. With 42 days to go for the trifecta, just reminding myself of what it feels like . . .