Friday, August 31, 2012

2013 NYC Marathon: I'M IN

In the span of 24 hours I just qualified for the 2013 ING New York City Marathon. It will be my fourth NYCM, following 2007, 2008 and the one I am about to run on November 4!
Relying on the lottery for any marathon is usually a fail. With some 250,000 applicants from around the world vying for some 45,000 spots, I believe about 9-10% of applicants win the NYCM lottery. Many people raise funds for charity to guarantee their spot, as I did in 2007.

New York Road Runners organizes the NYC Marathon and offers a guaranteed entry method called 9+1. You have to run at least nine scored qualifier races in the previous calendar year, along with one NYRR volunteer assignment. On Tuesday, I handed out race bibs at Niketown for my volunteer credit, and last night I ran my ninth scored qualifier of 2012. I'm in again!

In addition to finishing the Miami Marathon (January) and Paris Marathon (April), plus the All-Star Game 5K in Kansas City, here are my races so far in 2012. As you can see, my 42:22 finish in the Back To Football 4M Run made it official. The first line is last night's race, followed by the previous eight. Anyone can run a marathon, if you want it badly enough.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Running Violations

I was busy celebrating my birthday when Mark Remy posted this on Runner's World's RWDaily blog last week. No way I am missing out on this one.

First of all, I can check every box on this list just based on this year of running. I would change #10 on the list to specify beer farts. Don't drink a lot of beer before you run. We know who you are in the weekly Central Park races.

I was guilty of some of these infractions early on in my running days. In the first winter of my December 2006 decision to trade KOOLS for ASICS, I was running around Central Park on a frozen day with no feeling in my face, and I cleared my nose. Completely nailed another runner who just happened to be passing me at the same time. Fortunately she did not notice the power blast onto her clothing as she ran by.

One of these days I am going to save a video blog post detailing exactly how to say hello, whether you are a runner who doesn't know how to say hi to another runner, or whether you are out walking your dog and a runner says hi to you. We'll show the proper form for this, as it is getting out of hand. Just say freakin hi, not hard to do, and if you don't, then well you're just a dumbass.

During the first mile of my 18-mile NYC Marathon Long Training Run #2 recently, we were cresting the long and tough north hill at Central Park. As we started to descend, a woman decided to dart from left to right, immediately in front of me, causing me to stop my in-a-zone form completely. That will piss you off like nothing else. Then for the next few minutes you are thinking about how much it pissed you off. This is actually a combination of Nos. 1 and 3, large fine.

Let's see, what to ADD to the list...

- Race organizers who take away baggage check from runners for cold November marathons. That is an inexcusable $216 infraction.

- Running in side-by-side packs like it's four-wide at Talladega, exchanging loud and whiney annoying gossip about boyfriends the entire time, leaving no room to pass until finally you have to ram through the wall of misery. That is $99 per blocker.

- MAKEUP. If you come out to the start in full makeup and Barbie perfection I will probably laugh at you and write up a $25 infraction. Cosmetics are not running gear.

- Clipping another runner's feet from behind while in a pack. This happened to me coming off the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn during the 2007 NYC Marathon. I did a front somersault onto the rough pavement. I would ban that person for the next year of running. Look down and watch feet.

- Stank running gear. Wash your gear after you run. Do not run twice in same gear. But wash your running shoes, $50. Also brush you teeth before running.

- Wear your race medal after two train exchanges following the race. It's OK to wear it onto your first train, because that will be filled with other runners and you are still in the positive vibe of race mode. Change from the 2 train to the A train, and if you still have your medal around your neck, you get fined $30.

- This one is for photogs. Cherry-pick which back-of-the-pack runners to photograph now that you've done most of your work capturing those in front, you are fined $1,000 for being a lazy, fatass photog sitting there on the curb. I have seen this happen in my last three races, and there is one old bearded guy who does it most. Guess what, Kodak stopped making film. Keep aiming. Don't stop aiming. Then after that keep aiming. It's why you are there.

- Twitter, $1 for each runner I cannot follow from my @Marathoner account because you have a 2,000 Following limit.

- Individuals who only want to tell you why running is bad for you, why it's bad for the knees, why it's bad for the back, blah blah. Automatic $20 fine for you for not being educated.

UPDATED 8/30/12: Just ran around Central Park last night and going up Cat Hill I was reminded of another serious violation. If you are running DOWNHILL, always yield right of way to a runner going UPHILL. The latter is working hard, grinding and totally focused, sometimes counting backwards from 100 and trying not to look at horizon just to get up that hill. You are cruising. Whenever I see someone coming downhill blazing a straight path no matter who has to get out of their way, I am reminded of the penalty for this: Life without parole, plus I will totally clothesline you the next time around the park if you are still running.

How about you? Have more to add?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why listening to runners is crucial for race organizers

I started my birthday on a great note, running 5 miles in :53 with much-needed core work, excited that in just 72 days I will run my third marathon of the year and 10th overall. Then I returned home to a bombshell: New York City Marathon organizers are taking away the runners' crucial ability to check their own bag. Imagine!

For those who don't run endurance races, the No-Baggage Policy from the New York Road Runners might not seem like a big deal. It is a huge deal, however, as evidenced by the massive outpouring of outrage from NYCM entrants all day on social media, me included.

Click here to see the exact email blast that we all received. When I saw the subject line in my inbox, I was excited. "Announcing a New ING New York City Marathon Policy," it read. Entry fee skyrocketed beyond any marathon on Earth, well over $200 this time, so my immediate reaction was that the email was going to be about some privileged bonus we receive, having shelled out that kind of money.

Wow, what a disheartening email. My first reaction was devil's advocate. I am a big fan of NYRR, which helped change my life for the better. Just look at my previous post. I was a guest of NYRR head Mary Wittenberg a few years back for a thinktank luncheon, where I joined those who expressed ideas that could help the growth of NYRR and benefit runners. I have always liked that they consider our views.

This was a great aberration in that our views were not considered. That is the failure here. The email blast included an array of qualifying info at the bottom, as they braced for the fallout that happened.

First, the facts: A marathon is 26.2 miles. On November 4, it will be chilly in the Northeast as a best-case scenario. We could get a real cold blast. After many miles it gets into your bones. By the finish line, you are just waiting for that sanctuary that is your bag. Mine typically would contain Aleve (can't pop pain meds during a marathon because pain is important), sweatshirt or coat, KNIT CAP, warmup pants, Crocs, towel, inhaler, etc. Everyone is different and no one can know what I need in my bag.

You actually bring TWO bags with you to on the typical marathon morning. Besides the bag that you check, you bring a disposal bag, one that will contain items you take with you onto the course, plus sundry items including a banana, old gloves, handwarmers, whatever you don't need later. In my 2 previous NYC Marathons, the trucks awaited our bags at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, and you dump your bag. Then you retrieve it after the race around Strawberry Fields on the West Side of Central Park and get out your much-needed belongings after enduring impossible circumstances.

Everyone can agree that the bag retrieval method in past NYC Marathons was horrific, because we were herded like cattle after the finish line for nearly a mile, cold and aching, and in my case injured. It was brutal and that had to be changed. NYRR did that. Unfortunately, they did it the wrong way.

I ran the Miami and Paris Marathons previously this year. I have not needed a bag check in Miami in my two times running that event, as it is warm and wonderful, with my wife easy to find at the finish. Paris was exemplary. Near the base of Arc de Triomphe, where we start, the bag check takes place in tents positioned on both sides of the wide, expansive Avenue des Champs-Élysées. I took this video as I walked to the bag dropoff tents before the race, when it was a cold wind on April 22. Look at the bag tents on each side:

See what I mean? You can see the arch just ahead of them. We were able to duck into those tents for wind cover before the start, and it was so easy to pick up your bag afterwards. TRES FACILE!

Central Park is FREAKING HUGE. There is no excuse in late August to make the mistake of removing bag check outright when you could have adjusted the finish line or done whatever it took to finish at a wide area, and I don't care if it's Citi Field instead of Central Park. Bag check is more important.

Mary's email provided these details, and some of my responses are in all-caps:

You can bring clothing and food with you to the start area in a clear plastic bag that you'll receive at the expo. The difference this year is that you will not be able to check this bag for transport to the finish. MAKING THE DISPOSAL BAG OFFICIAL, CHANGES NOTHING FOR THE AVERAGE RUNNER LIKE ME. • Thanks to a major new initiative with Goodwill Industries and UPS, you will be able to leave warm-up clothing at Fort Wadsworth to be donated to provide a positive benefit to the community. WE ALREADY HAVE A FAMOUS TRADITION OF LEAVING OUR RACE MORNING ATTIRE IN CLUMPS AT THE START, AND FOR YEARS THAT GEAR HAS BEEN LEFT BEHIND TO HELP THOSE IN NEED. THIS IS NOTHING NEW AND MEANS NOTHING TO ME OR OTHER PARTICIPANTS WHATSOEVER, OTHER THAN BEING BETTER ORGANIZED ON THAT END. • You can communicate with friends and family, free of charge, at new NYRR "Call Home" stations at the start and the finish. THERE WAS NO WIRELESS SIGNAL AT THE END OF THE NYC HALF AT SOUTH STREET SEAPORT SO I COULD NOT FIND MY WIFE FOR A LONG TIME, AND MANY OF US WORRY THIS WILL BE EVEN WORSE. MANY PEOPLE NEED OVERSEAS NUMBERS. SEE INFINITE OTHER COMPLAINTS ABOUT THIS ON FACEBOOK. Shortly after you cross the finish line, you'll receive a United Airlines and Foot Locker Heatsheet and Recovery Bag presented by Hospital for Special Surgery. THESE ARE STANDARD ISSUE AT MANY MARATHONS AND IN THE LAST NYC HALF. Then upon exiting the park, you'll receive a water-repellent (IF IT RAINS I WILL BE EVEN ANGRIER ABOUT THIS), hooded, and fleece-lined Marathon Finish Line Poncho. I APPRECIATE THAT THIS IS AN EXTRA EXPENSE, BUT NO TWO PEOPLE ARE ALIKE, MANY OF MY FRIENDS SAY THEIR "COAT" IS VITAL, AND IT'S JUST A TOP. • Shortly after you exit the park, you'll be able to reunite with your loved ones in our new and improved Family Reunion area. IF I CAN REACH LISA, AND I AM GUARANTEED TO GO INTO THIS MARATHON IN A WORRIED STATE. (AND SO ON...I AND OTHERS HAVE QUESTIONS FOR EVERY ANSWER BROUGHT UP BY THIS SUBJECT. I WILL HAVE TO MAKE MY WAY TO A CAR PARKED FAR AWAY AND THEN WE DRIVE NORTH TO SUBURBS. FAQs ARE USELESS BTW.)


The only logical option is for NYRR to listen to the widespread complaints and immediately revert or alter course. In the meantime, this is my only option of attack, since I have committed my entry fee (and by the way, I have paid a lot of entry fees to meet the 9+1 requirement for guaranteed 2013 entry): I will ask my wife to lug around my usual bag that I would normally check, and then I will ask her to be around Columbus Circle at an estimated time, where she will hand me my back and I will lug it to the finish line. Not ideal.

This never should have happened, and certainly runners like me should have been asked. I'm pretty mad about it, especially given the soaring cost. Lesson learned by NYRR on this one: always ask!

UPDATE 8/30/12: NYRR posted this on Facebook just now:

Dear Runners,

Many of you have shared your concerns about the new ING New York City Marathon baggage policy, which was designed to provide a better and safer post-finish experience.
We are listening and taking your feedback to heart.

We are working hard and talking with all involved parties to consider how we might address some of your concerns regarding baggage at the Marathon.

Thank you for your patience and we look forward to sharing more with you in the coming days.