Wednesday, November 30, 2016

10 Years of Running

My 10 Favorite: Miles | Medals | Shoes | Bibs

Thursday marks my 10th runnerversary, and thanks to anyone who has been along for the ride. I never imagined I would still be doing this on that Friday of December 1, 2006. That morning, I moved into a new apartment on the Upper West Side of New York City, and it was freshly painted. While waiting for the movers to arrive with my stuff, I walked over to the bodega at 73rd Street & Columbus, to buy a few items. I stepped out, and was standing there at the intersection, with a full box of KOOLS in my hand, ready to light one. I had visited the apartment earlier that week, huffing and puffing up the steps to the third floor, overweight and a smoker for the past six or seven years, to meet the tenants who were moving out. They changed my world, without knowing it, because they told me they belonged to the New York Road Runners club and that they regularly ran and biked Central Park a block away. With that healthy thought in my head, I looked at that full box of KOOLS and I broke it in half, drawing curious looks from women who stood beside me. I went into my new apartment, met the movers, unpacked, and then immediately took the A train down to Times Square and bought a pair of ASICS at a Foot Locker. I went to and paid for a one-year membership. That week I started running hilly Central Park, and on that December 10th I ran my first race, the Joe Kleinerman 10K, finishing with a net time of 1:18:40 (12:41 pace).

I have thought about this moment for a long time, and in counting down the days to this special runnerversary I have been posting several top-10 lists of my favorite things over this past decade of running. Today, I am going to celebrate by running Central Park at 5 a.m., then running around the Washington Monument later in the day, then by popping a bottle of champagne and spraying it all over myself. I am also going to celebrate by posting my final top-10 list, so here it is: 10 unbelievable things that happened after I quit smoking and started running.

10. It taught me to be a finisher in life. Set a goal, work hard, persevere and finish. My first goal was to run the New York City Marathon within my first year as a runner, and I did that in November 2007. In the past month I finished my fourth NYC Marathon, and 17th full or ultra.

9. There are 137 bibs on my bedroom wall. They signify all the races I have registered for and then got up for early starts and put one foot in front of another until I crossed a timing mat. That has equated to thousands and thousands and thousands of miles I have run either in those races or in training. It means my heart has pumped blood in wonderful fashion amid all that activity. I owe a special thanks to the New York Road Runners, for conducting all those races I have run, and to the people who take care of Central Park and keep it so pristine and the best place in the world to run -- my track!

8. I've been seeing the world. Runcations are the way to go. I ran the Rome Marathon this April, and that follows other memorable runs in Paris, Yorkshire, Beijing, Miami, San Francisco, Niagara Falls, San Diego, Oklahoma City, Denver, St. Louis, Chicago, Boston, Washington, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Tampa, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Key West and more. Now it's time to fill out my 2017 calendar!

7. Friendships. I have made so many friends through running. That started with Myspace. In case you are too young to know what that was, it was the Internet site everyone had to be a part of in the early-to-mid-2000s (with Tom as your greeter). They started "Groups" and one of those was the Big Cat Running Group. You had to choose a "big cat" name to join, and most of the good ones were gone when I came along so I chose Monster Cat. That's how a lot of runners came to know me. I am still friends with many of them -- Roxy, Cindy, George, Carol, many. I was blogging about my running in 2007, and then in the course of that year I started, which is now the @Marathoner blog.

6. Becoming @Marathoner. A lot of people have asked me, "How did you get that?" I joined Twitter in June of 2008, when it was in its infancy. It had launched two years earlier, and by June 2008 it was starting to soar, with 100 million tweets each quarter. I had to see what this world of 140-character posts was all about, so in the same month that I did a training run at Siesta Key in Sarasota and started my second NYC Marathon training plan, I went to and began to register. I also started MLB on Twitter so they kind of went hand-in-hand back then. Today, Twitter is overtaken by runners, most of them female, lots of Millennials. When I started as @Marathoner, you had to work a little bit to find runners to follow. You can look at other running accounts' start-on date, and see that not very many beat me to the punch. It was cool to be kind of a running pioneer in that regard.

5. Brand influencer. I have been an Ambassador for running manufacturers whose products I have naturally run in since I started this life 10 years ago. Previously I mentioned how I traded that box of KOOLS for a box of ASICS. With an occasional experimentation of other brands along the way, I have been an ASICS runner ever since. ASICS made me an Ambassador from 2013-16, starting with the first-ever ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge team for that 2014 race, with the opportunity to be coached by the Kastors, Andrew and Deena (right). I run in shoes that I know will get me to the start line healthy and make me happy all the way to the finish line. This summer, I joined Zensah as an Ambassador, also natural for me because I have been wearing their calf compression sleeves nearly this entire 10-year run, purchasing them at Super Runners Shops in NYC. I hope @GarminFitness is reading this, because I am a longtime Garmin runner and my goal is to be a GF Ambassador.

4. You can do things you think are impossible. A woman who I don't know taught me that. She will likely never read this, but I am thankful to her. It happened just a month or so into my running days, in January 2007, at the Manhattan Half. The race is 2+ laps around Central Park. After one lap, I pulled off at the portapotties by the Met Museum, and I was ready to bail. Hey, I had run a steady 10K lap around that hilly park, so I was improved! Just quit already, I thought. I remember leaning over and catching my breath with my hands on my knees, and just saying to this stranger in line, "That's all I got." She said, "You can do it. Just walk and then start running again. You'll be fine." It was that simple. Remember that there are always new runners around you who do not know what they can do. I finished my first half, as you can see on the (naturally bad) picture to the right, and I have run about 7 of those events, now called the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half.

3. My lungs are perfect and my life is going to be long, meaning a long time with loved ones. According to doctors, 10 years after you quit smoking, your lungs are proper pink again and your chances of getting cancer are half that of a smoker. I'm exactly 10 years. Quitting smoking, for me, had the effect of making me want to take further healthy steps in my life. In August 2014 I quit drinking diet sodas and sugary drinks, for life. And this past July, I started an 0BPPG diet of no bread, pasta, pizza or gluten (more in moderation since the NYC Marathon). My knees are awesome, and I believe running makes your knees STRONGER, not weaker. You just have to keep your quads and hamstrings strong, to offload those knee joints. I know how to RICE injuries when I get them. I am healthy for the most part, although I have to see an ENT on Dec. 12 to resolve this perplexing problem I have with choking on food.

2. It led me to my wife, Lisa. I was sitting on a step of the Great Wall of China during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, in deep thought for an hour about how that wall was somehow constructed so long ago. The longer I sat there, the more I wished there were someone with whom to share moments like these. The first thing I did when I returned to New York was start a account, and I met Lisa there. She ran the ninth and final loop of Central Park with me during the Knickerbocker 60K ultra a couple months later, and I proposed at the finish line of the 2009 New Jersey Marathon. She said yes. Her daughter Rachel soon joined our blended family along with my three sons Matt, Ben and Josh. They are awesome.  And then came Chubby aka King Bingley.

1. The opportunity to help others. My grandmother used to always say, "Remember those less fortunate than you." It rings true my whole life as a priority. I discovered that being a runner means putting yourself in position to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than you. After the 2012 NYC Marathon was canceled due to Sandy, 1,000 of us wore our orange race shirts and filled backpacks with relief supplies and then went to Staten Island and pitched in to help those devastated by the hurricane. Think of all those times you donated to help another runner raise money for charity, or you made it possible for others to help because you were the one running for charity (2007 NYC Marathon, Team for Kids). Think of all those races you signed up for that send proceeds to important causes, from Boomer Esiaison's Run to Breathe event (fighting cystic fibrosis) or the Colon Cancer Challenge 10Ks. I have donated many of my running shoes and am about to donate another batch. We have run for runners we lost, remembering #megsmiles or Ryan Shay back in 2008 at Central Park. We ran for Boston because all of us were #BostonStrong. There is always a greater good that helps keep you going because that is living life with a purpose, I think the best part of running.

There are many, many more wonderful benefits to a running lifestyle. For that reason, I am going to celebrate my 10th runnerversary on Dec. 1 in style. Here's to many more years of running, and thank you for being part of this with me!

When is YOUR runnerversary?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Garmin Fitness chat with Alexi Pappas

Garmin pro athletes Alexi Pappas and standup paddler Jenny Kalmbach were at the Garmin HQ for a Facebook chat, and since I am a longtime Garmin (Forerunner 220) runner and am sort of obsessed with how cool and inspiring Alexi is to mere mortal runners like me, I thought I would transcribe her replies here. You can watch the full video below, including all of Jenny's replies, and also be sure to follow @GarminFitness and join the page.

Q: How do you structure your day and fit in everything you want and have to do?

A: The first thing is, I lay out my clothes and everything the night before -- which sounds like the person I didn't think I would grow up to become. But it makes the day a lot easier. That way, when I wake up and head to practice, everything is ready to go. I do normal things like eat and practice but I also eat every day.

Monday, November 21, 2016

10 Years of Running: My 10 Favorite Miles

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 Medals | My 10 Favorite Bibs | My 10 Favorite Shoes

Officially, my favorite mile is "the one you're running." It is vital to think that way as a runner, and in life. Unofficially, I definitely have some of my own favorites just like everyone else. This is the hardest of my lists to narrow down, but here are 10 that have special meaning in my life.

10. Mile 11 of Maratona di Roma. Between the 17K and 18K markers, you follow the cobblestones right up to Piazza St. Pietro and the Vatican. As I passed the Pope's window where he gives his short speech and blessing some Sundays, crowds were forming behind barricades in anticipation. It is really hard to decide on just one mile in this race. This race is a feast of the senses.