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.


David Moon said...

Awesome idea Mark! I'm in!

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.