what did i miss part 3

A few of the stuff that’s happened over the past 2 weeks during nano, part 3. Sports and drinks, not sports drinks, two separate topics.

1a. marathons #1 — elites

The headlines all shouted “Galen Rupp is first American winner of the Chicago Marathon since 2002.” And although some of them clarifies that it’s the first American male since 2002 (last American female was Deena Kastor in 2005) it still feels like a huge, huge disservice to Tatyana McFadden, who has won the women’s wheelchair race fo the past seven years. I swear, paralympic athletes get an even worse deal than women athletes, the sort of media attention they get, ie zero. Not to take away Rupp’s victory, but the blatant inequality really needs to be addressed.

In the NYC marathon, Meb, in his last NYC, finished in 2:15:29, putting the 42 year old in 11th place. The women’s race was won by Shalane Flanagan. So the two big autumn US marathons both had American able-bodied winners. That’s good for the US. Much needed good news for them.

In unrelated news, Mo Farah is moving up to the marathon. And he got knighted. Yay Sir Mo!!


1b. marathons #2 — blind solo runner

Simon Wheatcroft finished the NYC marathon in 5:17:40. An unremarkable time, but what’s truly remarkable is that he is a blind runner who ran the race solo.

I ran a night race a couple of years ago and there were a number of visually impaired runners. They were just as fast and just as good as able-bodied runners. The route was through part of the country park so the terrain was rough with narrow and winding paths; the runners and their guides negotiated those with ease and I could hear the guides telling the runners to make a right turn or there is a hump coming up. I’m full of admiration for them, as I am with all paralympic athletes.

Wheatcroft suffers from a rare genetic disorder called retinitis pigmentosa, and his sight has gradually deteriorated since he was a teenager. Nowadays, he can distinguish changes in light and darkness, like seeing the world through a fog. He knows when someone stands in front of him, because he sees a blurry shadow, but that’s it. He is also an experienced runner, marathoner and ultramarathoner, previously running with guides and trains by running up and down a straight abandoned road near his home in Doncaster. He memorises routes, obstacles, and navigate along the slightly raised edges of painted double yellow lines along the road.

In recent years, there have been massive inroads made in providing assisted technologies to help visually impaired people “see” by using AI and VR technologies. However, these type of technologies are limited–it requires outside help, or only work in static situations. For instance, a google glass subscription called aira connects the blind person and a sighted person so the sighted assistant can give verbal clues to tell the blind person what they are seeing through the glasses. The subscription costs US$349 per month, which is really expensive. Most assisted technology solutions are built around some sort of visual input and an audio output, but audio output is cumbersome. The Verge:

Imagine a Siri or Alexa-like interface describing every single object in your field of vision. Consider the cognitive overload that it would create on an already loud street crowded with obstacles.

wearworks

Wheatcroft set out to look for alternatives and came across Wayband, a product from a company called WearWorks that uses haptic technology, which provides output through the sense of touch rather than audio. The company was cofounded by 3 graduates of New York’s Pratt Institute and just finished a 3 year residency at Brooklyn’s Urban-X incubator. Wayband was featured at SXSW and uses two technologies. First, it uses known GPS technology (google maps, OpenStreetMap) to map a route for the runner, the signal is transmitted via bluetooth using an armband which buzzes in a sort of Morse code (eg 2 long taps to turn right). This pairs with an ultrasonic device called the Tortoise that broadcasts and receives ultrasonic pulses. If there is an object or person in range, the ultrasonic waves that reflect back are changed and the device lets the user know using a series of vibrations. This is not new, devices that help people park their cars use similar ultrasonic technology.

During the NYC marathon, Wheatcroft started by using this system, the first time it had been tested in a race. And what a way to test. Not a small local race, but one of the largest marathons in the world, with more than 50,000 runners. During the race he was also accompanied by Kevin Yoo, one of the founders of WearWorks as well as Neil Bacon and Andrea Corak, his longtime friends and guides. They ran behind him and were there as a last resort, to prevent him from running into another runner and ruining their marathon.

It wasn’t perfect: tall buildings affected the GPS which incorrectly told him he was off course, the rain caused the Tortoise to stop working at mile 15, and at one of the water stops another runner stopped abruptly in front of him. Even a sighted runner would have found it difficult to stop in time and there was a small collision. Neither runner was hurt. The team ended the race with guides running next to Wheatcroft as per usual, but the experiment was by and large successful. There is still a way to go before the product can be marketed but the team now knows what those improvements are.

The implications are huge. Not only for running or sports, this system can help a blind person navigate through normal life. Wheatcroft on NYT:

It’s not the end, it’s just a start.”


1c. marathons #3 — grass root runner

The running bubble has popped, says the NYT on the day of the NYC marathon. A strange thing to say, considering 50,000 participated and the success rate for applications was 17%. I got my annual VLM rejection in October, so from my perspective the running bubble hasn’t quite popped.

Thing is, although interest in the big races have held steady, less well known races and shorter distance races have seen a decline in participation. Some reasons:

  • cost — gone are the days of US$10 or $25 races, now the cost is astronomical, Las Vegas RNR 5k is $79.99!
  • too much focus on charity running — while an honourable effort, it has become blackmail with too few places available for non-charity runners and huge amounts that needs to be raised
  • too many races, and competition from speciality races like mud runs
  • competition from other fitness activities like cross fit

The industry has become a victim of its own success and commercialisation. Once a race gets taken over by corporate interests, something goes missing. Not only will I not pay $80 for a 5k, I won’t ever run a RNR race again whatever the price because they have become pure greed. I remember a long time ago an ex-colleague asked me if I was running the NYC marathon and I said it’s too expensive ($295 now). She was so surprised, she thought it was free and you just showed up. I wish.

I’ve written about charity running before. TL;DR: I hate it with the venom of a million exploding suns.

What we need, is a return to grassroots. Running clubs are still popular and just look at the success of parkruns in the UK. Another reason I want to go back to the UK.


2a. drinks #1 — alcohol and cancer

The American Society of Clinical Oncological published a report that says even light drinking can cause cancer. Yet another study that tells us not to eat or drink something, so much so that there was a study on the study of what foods are bad for us–in 2013 researchers took 40 ingredients from an ordinary cookbook and found 264 studies on whether at least one of those ingredients causes cancer. We’re talking about ingredients that are in almost everybody’s cupboards: salt, pepper, flour, egg, bread, butter, lemon, onion, carrot, milk, cheese.

We know that heavy or even moderate drinking has detrimental effects. The report says in the US, 3.5% of cancer deaths are attributable to alcohol. But as the NYT says in a more-or-less rebuttal:

this means that 96.5 percent of cancer deaths are not attributable to alcohol. If we eliminate heavy drinking, which no one endorses as healthy…that number climbs. If we also eliminate those who smoke…the number of cancer deaths not attributable to alcohol approaches 100 percent.

These reports mean well, but they tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies and then the media reports them using scaremongering headlines. The traditional image of a researcher is someone who observes or achieves some results and then postulates a theory that explains those results. There are researchers that are basically reverse-researchers, they know what result they want and then they do so-called research till they get those results. I call them hacks.


2b. drinks #2 — bartending in antarctica

antarcticabar

Interesting article about bars in Antarctica. There are 45 research stations in Antarctica, with thousands of researchers there in the summer but only a few hundred during the winter. Each station has its own bar with names like Gallagher’s Pub, Southern Exposure, Tatty Flag. The bars had no owners, no official hours, and no price. People shared their stash of personal alcohol and were in luck when one of the researchers also have bartending skills. Bartending in Antarctica is voluntary and requires creativity and innovation, as not all ingredients are available. The good thing is, no fridge is needed, just put the stuff outside.

Drinking can be a problem in Antarctica, because of the monotony of life, especially in the winter months. The bars became social focus points, and bartenders did the job all other bartenders do all over the world. One bartending researcher said he:

swapped out soda for booze when people drank too much…and kept them inside the bar rather than watching them stumble out the door where, completely inebriated, they could hurt themselves or pass out in the snow.


2c. drinks #3 — escape from IPA

escapefromipa

I do quick research during nano and I came across this beer called Escape from IPA from Pipeworks brewery in Chicago. What I found hilarious is the label, which is in line with all their other labels. Look at that Han Solo pirate escaping helicopters and red F1 racing cars, kinda comic book cliché.

With a name like Escape from IPA, it suggests that it’s the anti-IPA (scourge of craft beers). But it’s actually a 10% West Coast styled triple IPA made from 3 hops with the fancy names of Equinox, Galaxy, and Centennial.

Some people bet on racehorses based on their names or the colour of their jockey’s shirt. This is definitely one instance where people may pick a beer based on name or garish label. That’s exactly what my character did.


2d. drinks #4 — free beer while shopping

So a Morrisons in Leeds started offering free beer to shoppers while they go about their weekly shop. Not just beer, they have cider and wine too. The beer they serve is Saltaire Blonde ale from a local brewery.

morrisonsbeer

It’s a whole pint, according to the daily mail (not linking to that drek). Sounds like a good idea, except I’d prefer half or 1/3 pints because of drinking and driving. They should put the featured beer on its own display stand and study how sales increase. I’m very sure more people will buy it because they are given a sample.

almost #breaking2


2:00:25.

So close. Eliud Kipchoge almost succeeded in Nike’s #breaking2 marathon challenge at Monza F1 course. Even if he had gone sub-2 it wouldn’t have counted as a world record because he had 30 pacers and a lead car. Plus Nike’s Zoom Vaporfly Elite shoes and sports drinks delivered by moped were questionable against IAAF rules.

The amazing thing is, he was on pace until around 30km, when he dropped back. Regardless of whether it was a staged event, and regardless of the fact that he didn’t go sub-2, it was still, as the Guardian said,

the most glorious of failures.

breaking2split

Just look at his splits. Wow.

vlm2018

vlm2018

I’ve gained all the weight I worked hard to lose, and then some. I’ve lost every scrap of fitness I also worked hard to get.

I’ve made a couple of pathetic attempts at running in the past 13 months but currently I’m unmotivated, lethargic and alternate between having zero interest in or mildly angry at the world around me.

It must be some sort of pavlovian response. See that it’s the week VLM lottery is open, click on the link, fill in the form.

Sod’s law means the year I’m in no shape physically or mentally to train for a marathon is the year I’ll get in the lottery.

spring marathons #bostonstrong

It’s spring marathon season. Brighton was last weekend, Paris was yesterday, London is next weekend. Today is Boston, which is an anomaly in world marathons in that it’s run on a monday.

I’m mesmerised, watching how they let pedestrians cross the street in the middle of the marathon course. Effective and using low tech ideas. Just a few officials, a couple of signs, rope and a rectanglar box in the middle of the street. Very clever.

switzer

And talking about Boston, it’s the 5th anniversary of the bombing so #BostonStrong. The biggest finisher wasn’t Geoffrey Kirui or Edna Kiplagat (yay for Kenya) but bib #261, Kathrine Switzer, aged 70. Ms Switzer was the first woman to officially run Boston in 1967, having registerd as K.V. Switzer. The iconic photo of the race director trying to grab her mid-course seems so ridiculous now, but what she did for women’s sports was set a fantastic example and role model. 70 years old and she finished in 4:44:31. Amazing.

The BAA has retired her bib #261, in her honour.

illustrated marathon maps

marathondrawinglondon

Went running the other day, did 5k around the reservoir park. Extremely slow and there is no doubt I’ve lost 100% of my fitness, probably more since I need to lose weight too. It’s been a year since my last serious run. I still follow Paris Marathon on social media but I don’t dare think about any of it. I wonder when I’ll be ready to go back to running.

Saw the reddit thread by an artist who produced illustrated marathon maps. He’s done maps for Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, MCM, New York, Pittsburg, San Francisco, and Tokyo. All the drawings are fantastic, my favourites are London and Tokyo mainly because these are two cities I know and love. Definitely worth checking out the full gallery.

marathondrawingtokyo

The prints are available for sale. $28 isn’t too bad though I wish they sold postcard sized too so I can get the whole set. If they did a Paris map I’ll consider getting the print; it’s the one that got away, innit.

vlm ballot result

vlmsorry

Not that it was a great surprise, but I didn’t get a place in the london marathon through the ballot. This makes it 0 for 4 or may be 5. Why was I not surprised? Because it’s a scam. There are barely any places for people who just want to run, people who don’t want to be blackmailed into a charity place.

You get a free e-magazine as commiseration but I didn’t even click on it, because the sorrynotsorry email was already full of charity places! charity places! charity places! I have no doubt it’s the same inside the magazine.

Disgusting.

Sour grapes? I don’t think I’m the only one who feel this. Others have described the whole thing as disgraceful and obscene. Even someone who ran it before with a charity has said never again because of the

extortionate

amounts required by these scammers masquerading as charities. They want thousands of pounds. Thousands. If that’s not blackmail what is?

I agree with the ballot approach. It’s the only solution to a race that is so oversubscribed. But they need to be more transparent on how many ballot places there are vs charity spots. And to avoid turning it into a charityfest.

Of course, London is only one of many spring marathon possibilities. One of these days, I’ll be mentally strong enough to apply for Paris again. And of course there is always Brighton, Edinburgh (which is offering guaranteed places for London rejects for only £55), Barcelona, Amsterdam…and many others.

Someone commented that Chicago has pretty good chance (50% or higher) because they want payment upfront. May be that’s what VLM can do too, to get rid of those who enter on a lark. I guess until they start charging, I’ll still do my sign up for your free “sorry” magazine in october next year.

barkley marathons

This weekend is the barkley marathons. And no, there is no typo, it’s marathons. Barkley is one of the toughest and secretive ultramarathons in the world. 100 miles in the Tennessee wildnerness. Registration, course and even start time are secretive and all up to the organiser Laz. The course is a 20-mile unmarked route,

with no aid stations except water at two points along the route and the runner’s parked car at the beginning of the loop

plus an elevation of over 50,000 accumulated climb. There is a “fun run” at 60 miles, with a time limit of 40hrs. The race itself has a time limit of 60hrs, or 12hrs per loop.

Since its inauguration in 1986 only 15 winners have won. The race mystique was increased this year with the release of a documentary.

rhonda

This year’s race is covered widely on twitter via #bm100. One of the most remarkable runners is Rhonda-Marie Avery, a blind runner who will run with a guide. This is her arriving after completing one loop in 32hrs. She tapped out at one loop but what an achievement.

Edit: the race was won by Jared Campbell, his third finish. What an achievement.

day of paris marathon

pm0k

I’m been switching between local and Paris time occasionally during the day. I was in the last coral, scheduled to depart at 10.35am CET. I was looking at the clock around 20mins before, and felt a small pang of sadness. Then we went to the hospital and there was again an improvement, which immediately took the sadness away.

When we left at the end of visiting hour, it was around 2pm CET, so I was imagining where I would have been. I got home, showered and it was nearing 3.30pm CET. If I were aiming at 5.30, I would have been around 5k from the finish. Realistically, I was probably at around 35-37k. Slowness, tiredness and definitely stopping to take pictures.

pm30k

The official fb page has been posting pics. This is a nice one at 30k, can see part of the Eiffel Tower. They have a nice set showing the glorious day (may be too sunny) and the magnificent city the route takes.

Found a google earth route. I’ve been wondering about what it would be like at the 2 borses. I guess it’s difficult unless you’re there in person.

The women’s race was won by Visiline Jepkesho (Ken) at 2.25.53 and the men’s race by Cybrian Kotut (Ken) at 2.07.11.

ZERO regrets about missing the race.

Eddie Izzard 27 marathons in 27 days

Regardless of what you feel about Eddie Izzard, my hat off to him for completing 27 marathons in 27 days. He did 2 on the last day and raised more than £1 million for charity. Awesome.

BBC3 has been following him on his quest, the clip of his last day shows dedication as well as humour. Yes he has a team supporting him but it seems so lonely to run mostly on his own. I bet he got a lift from supporters running with him and cheering him along the way. And why did they make him climb up those stairs to Nelson Mandela’s statue after he ran 56 miles that day?

Someone posted a really funny comment on runnit:

As far as I can tell, Eddie Izzard’s daily schedule looks something like:

5.30 am, Alarm goes off
Brush teeth
A quick before breakfast marathon
Shower. A healthy breakfast
Get dressed. Try on a sequined dress. Look fabulous
Change of mind. Put on a suit
A brisk 26.2 mile jog into work
Start shooting scenes for pilot of tv show. Nail every scene
The odd marathon between takes
That’s a wrap
After work drinks
Marathon
Dinner
Marathon
Head downtown to do a standup show. Audience is in stitches
Leave stage
Fit in a quick marathon before returning to thunderous applause to perform encore

Teehee, I love reddit.

running 30k

running20160312
30.36km 4.36.18hr 9.06min/km (I took 7 minutes off for stoppages, see post)

It’s been said that a marathon is a 20-mile warm up followed by a 10k race. There is definitely something mystical about the 20-mile marker. It’s the longest long run in many training programs, and is also the point where the wall hits.

After bonking last weekend’s long run, I approached this weekend’s milestone 20-miler with trepidation. Argh the first few meters: shoelaces felt too tight, knee brace kept falling down. Not a good sign.

20 miles is 32km, so I mentally split the run into sections: 12k, 20k, 27k, 32k. Increasingly smaller distances between breaks, because inevitably I get tired towards the end. Surprisingly I got to 8k and felt all right. Had a stroopwafel and the green tea I brought as hydration at 12k. Another fuel break between 19-20k of gu and water. Went over to the smaller park for the final third. Slow for a bit, another gu break at 25k after which somehow I found second wind. Legs even felt fresh at that point. Huh.

I stopped at 30k or almost 19 miles because I ran out of time–I volunteered to get dinner, prices go up after 6pm and it was 5.45pm. Could I have gone another 2k? Yep, I was slowing down a little, but not significantly.

Overall I think I did some stuff right. Mentally I wasn’t putting pressure on myself. I foam rollered my ITB beforehand. I made myself take fuel breaks, because I remembered that by the time you feel you need food and/or water, it’s too late. Unlike previous long runs, I didn’t physically stop for fuel breaks; I kept walking. Although I did take 7mins off my total time for stoppages–traffic lights and water fountains.

Quite pleased with completing this milestone training run. Legs were okay afterwards, I walked around the shopping centre in search of dinner and walked to the bus stop without too much pain. This is the key. If I’m pain-free on race day, I have a chance of finishing in decent shape. It’ll never be a PR time, I think those days are gone. Still, if I’m able to replicate today’s performance in 3 weeks’ time, I’ll be okay.

Japanese marathon monks

Something else I’ve been reading up on the last few days is the Kaihōgyō 回峰行 or circling the mountains meditation challenge that is undertaken by the so-called marathon monks of Mt Hiei, just outside Kyoto.

As part of a 7 year quest, a participating monk runs or walks 1000 marathons in 1000 days:

  • year 1: 30-40km every day for 100 consecutive days
  • year 2: 30-40km every day for 100 consecutive days
  • year 3: 30-40km every day for 100 consecutive days
  • year 4: 30-40km every day for 200 consecutive days
  • year 5: 30-40km every day for 200 consecutive days
  • end of year 5: survive 9 days without food, water or sleep
  • year 6: 60km every day for 100 consecutive days
  • year 7: 85km every day for 100 consecutive days

They don’t just walk along paths in the mountain, they stop off at places of worship too. It was moving to see in the film how people bowed and kneeled along the path of the kaihōgyō in order to be blessed by the monk.

The monks are part of the Tendai school of Buddhism, and only 46 monks have ever completed the challenge. Traditionally after the first 100 days, the monk must either complete the challenge or commit suicide if he fails. In practice, a solid selection process means no one has had to commit suicide for over 100 years. Upon successful completion, the monk achieves the revered status of living Buddha and become celebrities.

They don’t walk or run with the type of gear used by modern day runners. Their shoes are handmade from straw and they wear their white monk’s habit. What’s most amazing, as writer and runner Adharanand Finn discovered when he met one of the monks and tells a story of someone meeting a marathon monk on the last day of his challenge, expecting to see his feet all swollen and sore.

“But they were smooth and clean,” she says. “As though he had been floating over the ground.”

bookmarathonmonk

The term marathon monk was coined by John Stevens in his book of the same name. Himself a marathon monk, with 35 years experience living in Japan and an expert in aikido, this is a book I’d love to read.

The reader will learn about the monks’ death-defying fasts, their vegetarian training diet, their handmade straw running shoes, and feats of endurance such as their ceremonial leap into a waterfall

Perhaps not to buy. I don’t think the library has it, it’s a shame.

running Paris marathon for the GCLS

I’ve done the running sponsorship once before and that’s it. I remember telling my friend CC about Chicago marathon and her first reaction was to reach for her wallet and ask “who are you running for?” So sweet, but I explained that I wasn’t running for any charity. She was puzzled; like many non-runners she associated races with sponsorships. All well and good, but that’s one of the reasons I don’t run for charity–while I cheer on the fundraising and good cause, I hate the way that races have been taken over to the point of being hijacked by charities. How many years have I entered for the VLM lottery? 100% failure rate.

parismarathon

I guess it’ll have to be a really great cause to get me to go the race sponsorship route. I’ve been involved with the GCLS for a few years now, I feel like I’m contributing, and they appreciate my efforts by giving me an award last year. As the organisation grows, so do operating expenses and the need to provide even more to members in the form of scholarships and technology. It seemed an opportune time to combine Paris marathon with the GCLS.

As I don’t live in the US, I approached the Board to figure out a way that works best for everyone. I initially thought about having sponsors fill out a form (so I can track total amount) and then donating directly. The Board did one better: they kindly created a fund just for me, to provide a convenient place to make and collect donations. That’s simply…awesome.

Here is the call for sponsorship that I posted on fb earlier, and is also on the description on the fund page:

On 3 April 2016 I will wake up early, gobble down several delicious French pastries, lace up my best running shoes and participate in the Paris Marathon. This is my 5th marathon and my first race on Continental Europe. The course takes us past sights such as Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.

This year, I will run in honour of the GCLS.

As many of you know, the GCLS is close to my heart and I am involved in their mission to educate, recognise and promote lesbian literary work. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit organisation, entirely run by volunteers and funded through donations. Please consider sponsoring me in my efforts to help in their cause.

Here’s the link to donate online: http://www.goldencrown.org/donations/fund.asp?id=14228

Every little counts! Thank you in advance for your sponsorship. Look out for updates and race pics in April.

paris marathon prep

Am I still going to Paris marathon next April? France has extended its state of emergency for 3 months, and Belgium is on lockdown. Germany, Holland, the UK, Spain and all European cities are on high alert.

If I’m still going, training starts next week. 18 weeks isn’t a long time for the state of alert to die down. Then again, if we give in to our fears, then the terrorists have won. I’m going to go on the basis that I will be there, unless the organisers and/or the French government say otherwise. Last year’s race went ahead 2 months after Charlie Hebdo, so I think they will try to keep business as usual as much as possible.

Flights are still expensive, they’re mainly booking for Christmas now so I’ll look later. There are plenty of options on where to fly into. Aside from Paris itself, London, Barcelona, Geneva, Brussels, Amstersdam are all reachable by train. The problem is, it’s the week after Easter so I have to be careful of blackout periods.

parismarathonmaphotel

What’s more pressing is finding somewhere to stay for the weekend, starting from expo to at least the day after the race. I started looking in the area close to the start and end of the course. The race starts on Champs, just down from Arc de Triomphe (blue circle centre right of map) and ends on Avenue Foch, near Port Dauphine (red checkered circle left of map). All the red blobs are hotels that are fully booked, and of the blue ones left many are expensive.

The good thing about making hotel reservations is I can hold it till nearer the time and keep searching. I made 2 reservations, on the basis that mum will be travelling with me. One is within walking distance of both start and end (white label)—perfect location but €240 per night, yikes. I’m only holding onto this one in case there is nothing else. The other is €150 per night, one stop NW of the map on line 1. I’ll keep looking, and at first glance on airbnb there may be something more affordable.

chicago marathon race report

chimarathon101split

42.2km 6.35.15hr 9.22min/km

overall: 36785 / 46033
gender: 16841 / 16955
age division: 1029 / 1041

Set alarm at 5am but woke up at 4am. Tea, a couple of waffles, a banana and a cereal bar for breakfast. Superfriend Carleen dropped me off and I joined thousands of people walking towards the start line. Found a quiet spot to watch the sunrise then joined the horrendous line for the portaloo. After half an hour in the cold wind the line hadn’t moved much but then someone came over and told us about other portaloos with shorter lines.

The corral was crowded. Wave 2 start was 8am, I crosssed the start line at around 8.11am. I felt great and happy. The crowds were fantastic and pushed me on, soon I found myself at LaSalle and 5k already. Lots of fun signs from spectators urging us on.

chimarathon049theatre chimarathon063drums

Things haven’t changed from 2010 and 2011: I stopped for the traditional pic outside the chicago theatre, there was warm support at Moody’s church, music at boystown, Japanese drummers at mile 10, the lasalle church opening their toilets up for us at mile 11. The roar of the crowds really did help.

chimarathon058flag

I also caught up with a runner holding an American flag at lincoln park, same as 2011 but different guy. Saw a fireman in full gear too. And a man in his 70s with “50th marathon” on his shirt. I spent quite a bit high-fiving kids and grinning.

Around mile 10 was when it started going pear shaped. First I got a nasty side stitch, which I hardly ever do. Then my left knee started hurting, which affected my calf and then moved to my right leg and finally my back. Basically anything that could hurt, was hurting. So disappointing, the wall came early. Even the biofreeze and tylenol at mile 12 wasn’t much help.

chimarathon071beer chimarathon077turbo

It’s always good to reach halfway, located just behind the old office. HM was at almost exactly 3hrs. I was pretty behind schedule at that point. After mile 13, the crowds thinned out and there wasn’t much shade. I started slowing down significantly and walked a lot. From mile 14 onwards it was boring and tough. Mile 19 was good, loud crowds through Pilsen. Lots of music and drums. Still a lot of walking. When first the 5.10 then 5.25 and finally 5.45 pace groups caught up with me, I tried my best to follow them for as long as I could.

After mile 22 from chinatown to sox park it was awful. Walking and walking. Turning into IIT and back north on michigan was more walking. I was keeping track of my time and I knew I was perilously close to the 6.30 cut off time. At mile 25 it was the final push. I picked up the pace and ran the last mile. It seemed forever before I saw the screen and the right turn up the hill. 400m, 200m and then it was finally the finish line. My iphone registered 6.33. I think they pushed the cut off time because of the hot weather.

chimarathon092finish chimarathon096medal

I collected my medal, a couple of bottles of water and a banana. There was a beer truck right at the finish, but unfortunately the beer was warm. The best thing was a cool, wet towel they gave us. Had my pic taken with the medal, couldn’t be bothered to go to the other side of the park for the tents. The exit closest to me was nearest the train station so that was where I headed.

I had more than 30mins to wait for the train. Felt a little dizzy and realised I hadn’t had much to eat for 7 hours apart from gu, bloks and gatorade. Fished through the goodie bag and found chocolate, and chocolate milk. That helped.

Carleen picked me up at the train station and we had pizza for dinner. I was more tired than hungry, and my feet were hurting. I came back to the house with the news that my fb friends had been tracking my progress online and there were dozens of comments and well-wishes. So moving. I posted a thank you status plus a pic of the medal and there were even more well-wishes. My fb friends are so wonderful. I didn’t even meet my most basic goal (beat 6.30) but the overwhelming support from the organisers, volunteers, fellow runners and my friends more than made up for the disappointment. Looking on the positive side, I finished. And that’s the most important accomplishment.

I didn’t take my camera with me, just used the iphone: uploaded to flickr.

p.s. this also counts as #99 of 101.1001 because I found a race, and I trained for it.

#chimarathon prep

Race day prep consisted of resting and getting into a positive, relaxed state of mind. Packed for the race and for Ptown, since we will be leaving first thing Monday morning.

Race goals:

  • D goal: finish before cut off time of 6.30
  • C goal: beat 5.38 (Chicago time)
  • B goal: beat 5.05 (Brighton time, all time PR)
  • A goal: 4.59.59

I signed up with the 5.25 pace group, I hope I can keep up with them. My aim is to keep them within sight at all times and it’ll be a bonus if I can go past them.

 

Here’s a really nice view of part of the course, taken by drone. It shows the city at its best. Drones are, of course, not allowed on the race (except officially sanctioned ones).

Some of the good things I remember from last time: the excitement going through the Loop, beautiful Lincoln Park, noisy crowds at Boystown (but that’s also where I lost my sunglasses clip-on), halfway point near the office, the nice Hispanic grandmother who gave me an orange ice lolly at mile 19, struggling back up Michigan and then hitting the crowds and cowbells on the final right turn.

People are joking about why runners run and put ourselves through this. The answer is simple:

runforbeer

There’s a free 312 waiting for us at the end, plus pizza and bananas and water and free massages. I’ll see what my time is, and how long I have to hang around the park afterwards. May be a second beer before I have to catch the train.

 

 

#chimarathon expo

Caught the train to the city and walked about 15mins to the Hilton to catch the shuttlebus to the marathon expo. The queue for the bus was long, I had to wait for bus #4 before it was my turn to board. Took about 15mins to get to McCormick Place. The expo started at 9am this morning and I got there around 10.30am. The place was big enough that it didn’t feel crowded.

chimarathon011fast

Got my confirmation scanned, got my bib, got my shirt. Nice shirt colour this year, a deep red, more maroon than the bright red of 2010. I made it a point to systematically visit every stall. I had on my shopping list the race cap and a few gu packets. I bought the cap ($30!!!) and resisted the t-shirt ($45). Bought a combination of gu and bloks. Sampled many cereal bars, bloks and gatorade. Bought a set of 3 bondi bands since the ones I have are getting grubby. Looked into socks but decided the pair I brought is good enough and I’d buy socks when I get back.

There were also tons of freebies. Encouragement signs, cowbells (sponsored by ML so in ML blue), a poster, space blanket, shoe bag and lots of leaflets in the official bag. Got a 30 second massage on my ITB at the free massage stand. Chatted with people at other marathon desks. Osaka marathon in October (though I’m wary of autumn marathons now) and Dusseldorf marathon in April. The lady at the Dusseldorf desk was super nice, it’s just a shame that it clashes with Paris.

chimarathon029pizza

By the time I was finished it was 12.30pm. The bus back downtown was less crowded and I walked around the corner to go to Lou Malnati’s. It’s been a while, and I had a craving for deep dish. The wait was around 15mins for a table, during which we were encouraged to put our order in to shorten the wait for food. I ordered the lunch special — small pizza with salad and a drink for $8.95. The pizza was smaller than expected, very tasty especially the crust and the sausage. It appeared that many people had the same idea for carb-loading, I saw many people with the marathon bags or marathon t-shirts in the restaurant.

chimarathon031gear

Train back and it was time to empty the bag and sort out my gear. Less than 2 days to go, it’s getting closer.

 

 

running on relatively fresh legs

nikelast

6.5km 51.13min 7.53min/km

Rested for 2 whole days, what a luxury. It’s still ridiculously hot and oppressively humid, but I felt good running on relatively fresh legs. I also strongly believe it’s mental—I know it’s only 6km today so I allowed myself to go out faster.

Someone on runnit asked why marathon training plans top out at 20 miles when the race is 26.2 miles. What I’ve always been told is that race day adrenaline and (hopefully) crowd support will get us through the last 10k. There’s also the fact that it takes a few days to recover from a long run; during training we’re going into weekend long runs tired from all the running during the week and we need too many days to recover from 26 miles to fully follow a 4-5 times a week training program. If we taper correctly, we’ll be starting the race having rested and recovered by doing shorter runs.

Marathon season is in full swing. Berlin last weekend. Brussels, Cologne, Kuala Lumpur, Portland (Maine and Oregon), Minneapolis/St Paul this coming weekend. As I run Chicago, others will be participating in Budapest, Munich, Buenos Aires, Ottawa, Lake Tahoe, Albany and my family’s hometown of Newport RI. Then in the coming weeks it’s the MCM in DC, NYC, Niagara Falls, Snowdonia, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Frankfurt, Melbourne, Seoul, Jo’burg and the Antarctic Ice marathon on 19 November. Plus many many more, too many to list.

What will all of these marathons have in common? A winner, probably from Kenya or Ethiopia. And someone who finishes dead last. Just in time for marathon season is Nike’s newest ad, in which they salute the last place finisher. It’s so realistic. To the sound of Every Little Bit Hurts by Aretha Franklin, the stragglers slowly trudge through on a carpet of paper cups and dodging the cleaning crew and the pedestrians who’ve already begun to reclaim the road. The voiceover (Rooney Mara!) is guaranteed to bring tears to any runner’s eye:

You are not a runner.
You are especially not a marathon runner.
But at the end of this, you will be.

The ad promotes the nike+ running, and even though I don’t use it any more, I started with nike+ and it’s a place where runners of every ability can find inspiration and motivation.

Okay, enough running posts. Only a couple more weeks to go then I’ll stop the incessant posting.

 

long run and lying about running marathons

20.25km 2.57.42hr 8.47min/km

The last >10mile long run before the race, next weekend’s scheduled run is 8 miles. Sigh, it’s end of September and still 33ºC and 90%+ humidity. No breeze at all. I could feel sweat dripping down my back and it’s quite uncomfortable running in clothes that are completely soaked, even though they are made from dry-fit material.

At my last stop, one of the people who were cleaning at the park said that it’ll start raining soon. That’s it, it felt exactly like the oppressive heat that comes before a thunderstorm. True enough, it started raining after lunch.

I’m very relieved that it’s the start of the taper. Feeling tired both physically and mentally. I know I only got up to 20 miles once, and today I was supposed to go up to 15 miles / 25km but I simply was wiped out. Just hoping the training is enough and fingers crossed for better weather conditions at the race. Cold (10ºC will be perfect), dry and a little wind.

fakemarathon

On the topic of marathon training, someone posted a screenshot on runnit, of someone’s job application. The question was “Describe a time when you had to set and achieve an ambitious personal goal.” The applicant went into a detailed account of how he trainied for the portland marathon in 2.5 months, getting to 15-20 miles two to three times a week and exactly 26 miles at least once. He claimed he finished his first marathon in around 2hrs.

When I posted on fb, all of the friends who answered spotted the lie. The marathon world record is 2.03, and portland’s record is 2.17 so there’s no way this first timer with 10 weeks’ training could finish in around 2hrs. The training he described was improbable too. Seemed like someone downloaded a few training plans and pretended to have followed them.

It takes a lot of training and talent to be so close to 2hrs. People don’t realise how fast the elites really run. This was a few years ago on the NYC subway, when people were challenged to beat Ryan Hall over a short distance. Even Ryan himself showed up. Have to remember that he runs at that pace for 26.2 miles.

 

#chimarathon countdown 3 weeks

chimarathonguide

It’s starting to sink in. Three weeks till the marathon. The participant guide arrived via email, the hardcopy would have been sent by post. I need the hardcopy to claim my bib and packet at the expo. No escaping anymore.

With the guide also comes confirmation of my start corral. I’m in corral G, wave 2 8am start. I also have a map to see where my gear check is, and where the corral will be located. It’s quite a way down, almost to Buckingham Fountain. The guide has lots of information about the expo, start line and also where aid stations are. Even what is available at each aid station in addition to water and gatorade (chews at mile 12.5, powergel at mile 18, bananas from mile 20 onwards).

There are pace teams for 4.40, 4.55, 5.00, 5.10, 5.25 and 5.45. I haven’t seen pace teams go this much down the order. I’m tempted to sign up with them. In years past I followed them, but was never part of the group. I’ll chat the pacer at the expo to see.

What I don’t see is anything about a BoA customer tent. It was really useful in 2011 but it’s been 4 years. I have been tempted to sign up for either the official hospitality tent or the CARA VIP experience. Not sure if it’s worth $40 for private gear check, lounge, food & beer. They’re at the Radisson Blu, which is little bit of a walk to the start. I’ll probably just hang out like the other 40,000 people in the park.

 

paris marathon apr-2016

parismarathoncourse

I was clicking around marathon websites over the weekend (don’t ask) and realised I missed the registration for Tokyo. Then I spotted that Paris registration opens at 8am on 08-sep. I mean, it’s Paris. The course map above is small, but the route is clear. Start at Champs Élysées, run across the city past landmarks—Concorde, Louvre, Bastille, Notre Dame, Eiffel, along the Seine, finish within sight of Arc de Triomphe. It’s not a World Marathon Major event, but in terms of attractiveness of venue, is hard to beat.

The one thought I had going through my head during the last few weeks of Chicago training was: “why am I doing this? I’m never running a marathon again.” I hadn’t deliberately remembered Paris registration time until I looked at the clock, then checked the world clock: it was 7.55am Paris time. I found myself on the website, then to the registration site, then entering my details. I couldn’t even be bothered to switch to english, forms asking for name, DOB, address, t-shirt size are similar whatever the language.

The final step was to pay. It took me to a page that said redirecting and it will take some time. If I were just messing around, it was my opportunity to close the tab. But I left it, thinking if I get in, then it’s fate. If the page refreshes to quota full, then it’s also fate.

parismarathonbib

I went back to what I was doing, reading a book and surfing through feedly. Occasionally I’d glance at the redirect page, only to see it’s still waiting. More than 30mins later, it changed to give me the payment form. No going back now. €99 is a lot of money but at US$110 equivalent it’s 2/3 the price of Chicago and half the price of NYC. We get an image of our bib and race number immediately. Hopefully I’ll combine it with a trip to London and/or Amsterdam and/or elsewhere in Europe. Yikes, mm is going to kill me.

So, provided I finish Chicago next month, marathon #5 will be Paris. Or #6. London lottery results come out in october, wouldn’t it be just my luck if I got in? I can’t possibly run 2 marathons three weeks apart so I’ll have to defer one. Well, no sense thinking about that now. Back to Chicago training.

marathon training part 298

8.15km 1.05.40hr 8.03min/km

Is it possible to train for a marathon in 11 weeks? Essentially, no. But I’m going to try anyway and hope that I’ve retained some residual fitness from before. I only managed a few 5k and 10k runs in July, the longest was 12k. If I’d followed the plan, I should be doing 15 miles or 24k weekend runs by now. So I’m woefully behind and to all intents and purposes, starting from scratch. Well, not exactly from week 1, I’m going to follow the plan as if the July blip hadn’t happened. Week 9 starts with 4 miles, which in theory should be fine.

Except for jetlag, plus cough, plus it’s 32ºC. Excuses excuses.

I did drag myself out in the afternoon. All the way to the second water fountain and back, except the second water fountain was out of order. Have to remember that, and bring water next time. I got home and drank a whole litre of herbal water afterwards.

dldnfdns

The problem is, I know what it takes to train for a marathon. I even know what I need to do
if I want to PR. At this rate, I’m hoping I don’t go slower than my slowest. I mean, 5.38 is ridulously slow. Any slower is almost dead last. There are all sorts of encouraging quotes around, that dead last is better than not finishing or starting; or a slow runner is lapping all those on the couch. In other words

DL > DNF > DNS > couch

I take a small amount of solace from that.

marathon wishlist

chimarathon2011001tshirt

I’m trying to compile a list of marathons I’d like to try. There are a lot of marathons: at least one every weekend somewhere in the world. I’m sorting by the date registrations open, but sometimes the websites are coy about it, either it’s not the right time of year or they want people to sign up for their email newsletters. We all know it’s not the newsletter but the email address that matters.

So, my wishlist. Mostly I like bigger marathons because of organisation and crucial crowd support. Otherwise the route has to be an attraction by itself.

    world marathon majors:

  • chicago — I’ve done chicago and it’ll always be my home race
  • london — I try, and I try, and I try the lottery, I’ll get in one of these days; I’d love to call london my home race but I can’t do that until I’ve actually run it at least once
  • new york — registration opened this week and I got as far as the final page before realising they charge $11 just to enter the lottery and the race fee for 2015 is $255. Can I just say, daylight robbery? Yes, I am aware of the enormous amount of resources needed to organise a major marathon; I’m also aware that the NYC marathon is worth $340million and the NYRR reports $55million in revenue. So, the $11+$255 price tag? They charge it because they can, ugh
  • tokyo — I’ve heard great things about tokyo, in terms of organisation (no surprise) and the fantastic crowd support, may be I’ll try the lottery for 2016
  • I’m less keen on berlin, because it’s more important to get into london
  • I’ll never get into boston so I won’t even think about it
  •  

    city marathons:

  • uk — brighton which I’m glad has shaken off the London consolation price image; stratford-upon-avon, windermere and others with scenic route; islay single malt marathon (whisky, yay!); may be not perhaps more boring locations like milton keynes, sorry
  • europe — amsterdam; copenhagen; paris because of the route; vienna; zurich—any major city will be great; smaller places like seville and malta could be great to combine with a trip
  • americas — big sur, MCM, niagara—mostly for the scenic routes, there are way too many marathons in us and canada, my eyes glazed over the list
  • asia — any japan marathon like osaka, kyoto, hokkaido; not singapore or hong kong because of weather, inferior organisation and terrible routes through empty highways, tunnels and car parks—outside of japan there will be very little crowd or organisational support so it’s not worth considering
  • ANZ — melbourne great ocean road, sydney, rotorua
  •  
    destination marathons:

  • easter island — just imagine
  • arctic circle in finland or midnight sun in norway
  • marathon du médoc — oh the wine
  • tarawera — it’s actually a 50k ultra, but it combines stunning new zealand features like geysers, waterfalls with cream tea, that’s worth the extra training to get to 50k

 

That was just marathons. The list for half marathons is even bigger.

 

marathon training week 01 day 01

c2fm0108

The 52 week marathon training program I found calls itself couch to marathon. I’m not a big fan of the name couch-to-[distance] but I guess I have to accept that this is exactly what it is. It doesn’t make any fancy claims:

You won’t break any records by following this plan, but it will get you to the point where you can finish a marathon with periodic walking breaks in a year’s time

It starts off really easy, and builds up distance. There are a lot of walk and rest breaks. For example week 10 mid-week 3 miles come with the instruction to run 1 mile, rest 3 mins then repeat. By the time we get to week 40 mid-week 8 miles, it’s run 4 miles then rest for 3 mins. The weekend long runs, which get up to 24 miles in week 49, tells us to run 1 mile then rest for 1 min. Honestly week 49 is the last week before taper and I should think that by then I can run more than 1 mile before resting.

I think I will follow the plan with variation, the 4-times a week schedule I like, the distance progression makes sense too. I’ll use the plan as minimum and try to do more, better. For the mid-week runs the breaks can be used as interval training; for the long runs I will let myself walk or rest more. I think that in the past I’ve done too much boring useless steady-state running as opposed to intervals.

Every training plan tells us to cross train. I have at my weights, TRX and found a bunch of interestingly named bodyweight workouts. With names like mulan, hold my beer and sherlock workout, I’m sure I’ll find a fun one.


So today is week 01 day 01. The instruction is to jog (not run) 1 mile then walk 1 mile for a total of 2 miles. That’s it. And so I did my usual 5k run except I just ran around the flat instead of bothering to go outside.

 

marathon training, smart sock sensor, heel strike

chimarathon013state

Four years ago today on 10-10-10, I ran my first marathon, Chicago, in 5:38. This coming Sunday, 45,000 people will race the course over 19 neighbourhoods. Next year, I hope to join them. I deferred my 2014 place so I basically have a guaranteed entry for 2015.

I’m both scared and excited. I have not been running as much for the past year or so. I found a 52 week training plan which includes runwalking and allows short breaks during longer runs. Towards the last 18 weeks, it puts in more mileage than the Higdon novice 2 plan and gets up to 24miles (vs 20 for Higdon). Sounds good.

Technology and theories have changed since 2010, the market is flooded with wearables and fitness trackers. I retired my garmin, because it’s too bulky, too limited, and takes too long to find a satellite signal. Saw a new sock sensor that does real-time analysis of foot-striking position and stride and gives feedback via an app. Not sure I want a voice shouting “you’re heel striking!” in my ears when I’m struggling in the middle of a run though.

chimarathonbbheel

Ah, heel striking. That’s me, 2011 chimarathon. Note the knee brace, the KT tape, the orange sauconys and the heel striking. I have repeatedly been told that heel striking is bad, it increases the chances of injury and all that. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to change to fore- or mid-foot striking, and whenever I manage it, I feel quicker. When I’m tired, I lapse back to my natural heel striking form.

Turns out, heel striking isn’t the enemy of good running form. Changing footstrike may reduce knee injuries, but it may also lead to other types of injuries. My takeaway from the article is, it’s okay to heel strike at slower paces, it seems that both stride and strike will change with faster speeds. Since I’m aiming for a 12:00/mile, it probably doesn’t matter that much. 

how long is a marathon

How Long is a Marathon?

I’m woefully unprepared for the 5k race on Saturday. I keep saying to myself, it’s only 5k. We’ll see.

Saw this on rock’n’roll marathon’s twitter feed, an interesting infographic on how long is a marathon. Using their average finish time of 4:25hr, I learn that only 2,750 calories burned during the race. For some reason I thought it’s more—we always overestimate calories used during exercise. 2,750 calories is only around 2 burger-and-fries meals. But on the other hand, to get the same amount of calorie burn, we’d have to watch our favourite 30-min tv program 98 times. No favourite is worth sitting through 98 times.

Going to send this to the next person who says “5k marathon” — more useful than strangling them.

chicago marathon 2014->2015

chimarathondefer

I got into Chicago marathon 2014 through the lottery. But I’m not running. Scheduling, fitness level and not psychologically prepared for it. I kinda knew it when I entered the lottery, but I went ahead because I knew I could defer.

So today I filled in the form to defer my entry to 2015. I can’t defer to 2016 so I have to make myself do it.

In other running news, running isn’t happening. I felt a strange twinge in my left leg on the plane and it’s now developed into this awful stabbing pain that originates from this point below and behind my knee. Tough spot to roller, sigh.

marathons are good for the city

So I’m trying to pitch and write a MBA case study on the economic and other impact of holding a marathon, with focus on Tokyo, since it just joined the world marathon series. Trying out an introduction and putting down thoughts for rest of the paper.

————————————————

Joining the Super Elites: Economic and Other Impact of Tokyo Marathon Joining the World Marathon Series

wmmhistory

In 2013, only 6 years after its inauguration, Tokyo became the sixth member of the prestigious World Marathon Majors (“WMM”). The other races are: Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London and New York. These are the most prestigious marathons in the world, attracing over 200,000 participants between them. The total prize money tops $1 million, shared between the 6 races.

Marathon races have become big business, with the World Marathon Major series as the top running brand in the world. Major marathons are profit-making as well as boasting millions of dollars of impact on the local economy through visitor spending, sponsorship and increased media exposure. It is also the largest source of fund raising for many charities.

Tad Hayano, the race director of the Tokyo Marathon, wanted to join the World Marathon Majors “to promote the Tokyo Marathon to the world.” The WMM previously had rules for inclusion including a large pro and mass participation, prize money, significant news coverage and a history of 25 years or more. Tokyo Marathon was able to request for, and received an exception to, consideration of the last rule.

The first WMM Tokyo Marathon was April 2013. What, if any, were the impact of WMM membership? What will future races be like? What lies ahead for other regional marathons, in Japan and in the surrounding Asia Pacific region?

Sections:

  • growth in sports participation, focus on running and races — no of races, participation growing exponentially
  • economic impact of sporting events — summer olympics
  • impact of marathons — NYC, Chicago, London study + even smaller marathons
    • economic impact — visitors spending (NYC 2 million visitors), sponsors, vendors, positive marketing
    • charitable impact — millions raised for non-profits
    • community impact — local schools and clubs participation, volunteers
  • how and why tokyo joined marathon majors
  • possible and desired impact — prize money, sponsorship, revenue, visitor spending
  • runner and world reaction
  • knock on effect on other japanese marathons, other asian marathons

chicago marathon registration problems

chimarathon2013

Registration opened on the 19th. I didn’t register; it’s like going to the supermarket when you’re full, I didn’t feel like signing up while sick. Anyway, this year isn’t good for a marathon so far away. So I was surprised when I read about how the registration system ground to a halt 3 hours after registration opened. Likely too many people trying to get into one of the last world class marathons that didn’t operate an impossible to get into lottery system. Registration will be closed till the 28th, with apparently 15,000 place still left. This is too painful! Just get filled up already so I’m not constantly tempted!

chicago marathon registration

chimarathon012start

Registration for chicago marathon starts in just over 2 weeks, at noon CST 19 February. I’m nowhere near marathon readiness, even though it’s in October and I have the whole summer to train. I also know that logically I should go for marathons nearer home, like Tokyo, which recently celebrated being added to the world marathon majors. Or Great Wall (um, no. Way too tough). Or at least VLM or Paris or Berlin.

The problem is, my heart tells me Chicago is my home marathon. I don’t have a lot of time to decide. Places will go very quickly, as it is one of the few major marathons that are still first come, first served. Sigh. I’m in so much trouble.

10.10 26.2

chimarathon013state

I ran my first marathon 2 years ago, on 10.10.10. It was a struggle due to the heat and slight undertraining. Still, I did it and no one can take it away from me. This past weekend, I followed the 2012 Chicago marathon from afar, saw that two Ethiopians won and, most importantly, a couple of my close ex-colleagues finished. I was sad that I couldn’t make it, and sadder that I haven’t kept up my running. The sooner I get my life back into normal mode, the better.

claire squires

Claire Squires collapsed and sadly died during last Sunday’s Virgin London Marathon. She was only 30 years old, and this was her second marathon. She was running for the Samaritans and had raised around £500 for them. Since Sunday, donations on her donation page has surged and is now over £700,000. With giftaid and justgiving waiving their fee, the total donations will top £1 million.

Except for the first £500 donors, most of us who did put in a small amount didn’t know Ms Squires. I’m not a big fan of charity running, and I must admit I don’t give as much as I should to charitable causes. But her death has touched something very raw and emotional — she was a healthy young woman who should be alive today. As a marathoner, there is this fear at the back of our minds that it could happen to any of us, and just as suddenly.

There is so much sadness and tragedy in the world. When we read or watch the news, there is often a sense of helplessness. There is a want to do something, and I’m thinking this is why people have donated to her page. It was very easy, just a few clicks. There is also, at least for me, a sense of comfort, that it is through justgiving, and to the Samaritans, both reputable and trustworthy. If this huge donation can help the Samaritans provide more and better of their invaluable services, then there is something good that comes out of this tragedy.

brighton marathon race report

bm12005coral

chip time: 5:04:54hr 7:14min/km (11:38min/mi) 7174 / 8878 overall
Pictures at flickr

Here’s the short version, I had 3 goals:

  • A goal of 5:15
  • B goal of 5:30
  • Consolation goal of just beating 5:38

I surprised myself by beating even the A goal and came very close to sub-5. Had a good race, learned more about training and pacing. The rest of this post is the long version of the race report.

bm12011start

start
I met a fellow runner as I was coming out of my room at the hotel and she kindly gave me a lift in her taxi to Preston Park station, saving me a good 15mins of walking. It was her first marathon, I hope she did well. I did bag drop and wandered around the park. Tried out the squeezable water pouch we would get along the course, picked up a bottle of powerade and generally tried to stay warm. It was a sunny morning but very cold, I wasn’t the only one with chattering teeth waiting at the start corral.

The race got underway at 9am and the corrals moved out slowly. I was in the last corral, just happened to stand next to the 4:45 pacer. He was the slowest pacer, so I was prepared for the group to pass me early on. The first mile was around the park, then we headed out to the streets. I’m not familiar with the city, we were mainly in local-ish commercial areas, with some hilly bits, then we hit the Pavillion and at mile 5 turned left into (I think it’s called) Marine Drive that ran along the coast. I felt good, at the back of my mind I wanted to try to keep to under 12min/mi which, as my pace band told me, is on time for 5:15.

bm1201615km

mile 5-12 — Rottingdean and back
It was sunny with no cover, the wind was fairly brisk though. This bit of the course was boring, nothing much to see and the spectators had thinned out. I was keeping good pace, and feeling pretty fresh. Past Roedean and the hills started. At the U-turn between miles 8 and 9 they gave out bloks and cereal bars. I took a walk break up the hill at mile 9. It was good to turn around and start running downhill. The 15k marker was a welcome sight. Part of the course doubled back, in theory it was super easy to cheat, in reality who would do such a thing? The other thing about doubling back is that we could see faster runners coming on the opposite side of the road. These people are fast. By mile 12 we were back in town and aiming towards the pier.

bm1201820km

mile 12-20 — centre of town
Halfway point was at the Hilton. All the way from the pier on, the crowd was thickest and there were a lot of encouragement. At my pace, I’m running mainly with charity runners. Those who had their names on their shirt received the most shouts. Now is the time to mention the runners in costume, I saw a tiger, a badger, a lion, rhino, angry birds, spongebob squarepants and fairies. There was also an army guy in full gear and backpack, and I was lucky enough to run next to a wheelchair participant at one point. Apparently £4m was raised for various charities which is wonderful. Charity running is still not my thing, but if it gets results and people enjoy it, then it’s not for me to comment.

bm12027angrybird

Past mile 14 and we turned “inland” to first shops and then residential neighbourhoods. It was fantastic of people to come out of their houses to blast music or give out jelly babies or simply clap their support. I waved at the Queen and Kate (in masks) and received high fives from kids. Took a loo break at mile 16, there was somewhat of a queue and it took me about 5 minutes. More on that 5 minutes later.

Coming out to the seafront at mile 18 meant being hit by the wind. That part of the course was pretty tough with the wind and not many spectators. There were hardly any marshalls either, but the crowds seemed to be able to stay off the course.

bm12025mile20wall

mile 20-23 — the Wall
They even had an arch at the entrance of “the road to hell” — an apt description given its setting of an industrial estate looping around the power station. I took my second walk break just after mile 20. I was slowing down and I figured a 3 min walk will restore my energy. And it did, to an extent. There was also a gu station, someone gave me a raspberry flavoured one and I almost spit it out. Luckily there were chocolate ones scattered on another table which took the nasty berry flavour away. All through the course I had been drinking their water, grabbing bloks and I had my own blok supply too. As far as nutrition was concerned I was okay.

Coming out of the Wall area was a great feeling. The mile 23 sign flashed by and I knew I only had 5k or so left to go.

bm12030finish

mile 23 to finish
I was thinking about another walk break at mile 24, but I skipped it. It was a long way home along the coast but at least we were running in the direction of the finish line. I found myself running, not fast but not lagging. I was passing quite a few people who were plodding or simply walking at that point. Lots of encouragement from the sparse spectators along Portslade. I even got one myself, a young girl and her father shouted “Go, lady in orange t-shirt, Go!!!” And we shared a big thumbs up. It was a great feeling.

Just keep running. Mile 24, then mile 25 and we were back along the crowded part of the course. I skipped the last water station and there it was, 400m to go, 200m to go. Past the pier and the last few meters. I took my finish line photo on the run, and then I was across the line. Another marathon done.

It was a long, over 1 mile walk back to the hotel. I had to sit for a bit on the curb before I ventured out. Initially I had to walk slowly, my calves were sore. Then halfway, it got easier, I think the walk ended up being good for relaxing my muscles. First thing after my shower was I put on compression socks, they are doing their magic now.

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time
I knew, coming out of the Wall, that I had a good chance of beating 5:15. The strategy of staying under 12min/mi worked, apart from the walk breaks, I made a conscious effort to stick to it. I crossed the finish line with the official clock at 5:17 so I knew I’d done well. Nike+ showed 5:08, but it wasn’t until I checked on the marathon app (yes, they had an app) that I saw that I was under 5:05. Wow. Oh wow. That’s 34mins off last year’s Chicago PR.

HM time was 2:26 so a 12min positive split. Both Chicago times had HM splits in that area, so what I did right this race was I did not bonk in the second half. Is a 12min positive split good? It’s okay, but it should be lower. Am I okay about it? Yes, absolutely. Could I have tried harder in the second half, knowing that an even split would net me sub-5? I thought about it, but decided that preserving energy was more important. I was already on my way to beating my A goal, I didn’t want to jeopardize it.

At the end, it was only 5 minutes. Could I have gotten that 5min back somewhere else? The obvious points were the 2 walk breaks and the loo break. Not much I can do about the loo break; I did keep to only one, and I had to keep hydrated. I’m not a guy so sprinking the flora isn’t an option and although I did see an odd female or two doing the same, I’d rather “waste” a few minutes queuing for the portaloo. Should I have taken the walk breaks? Probably not, but I was tired at those 2 points and I needed the psychological moreso than the physical boost. More training will take care of that.

course
Brighton bills itself as the second biggest UK marathon. I think the organisers try their very best to promote it as a race on its own merit and not a sort of consolation for people who didn’t get into the VLM lottery and don’t want a charity place. The reality was there were a lot of “loser” VLM fleeces out there. The race has a lot going for it — location, seafront atmosphere, fairly flat course and the organisation gets high marks from me. Certainly did not feel like it’s only their 3rd time round. There was plenty of water and energy. The volunteers as usual were great. Yes, the course was boring and could do with more bands, I’m not bothered about small things like that.

I really liked the app. It’s simple, and it gave me my time almost instaneously. When I whatsapp’ed mm afterwards she already knew my time because she also downloaded the app. Much better system than the not!working text at Chicago. The biggest issue is that it only gave me my overall position, not age or gender division. Coming in the 7,000 out of almost 9,000 runners is not a result I like.

Would I do it again? It deserves it, that’s for sure. Problem is, Paris is on the same weekend, so if I’m still in Europe next year and if I’m running marathons again and if I apply and don’t get into VLM, I’ll probably go for Paris instead. Nothing against Brighton, but it’s Paris.

what next
I did Chicago in October, and now Brighton. In theory, it means I’m capable of 2 marathons a year. In practice, even though part of me is itching to do another one (marathons are addicting, just ask any marathoner), I don’t want to go through the training cycle. It’s a huge timesuck and I’d like to have a life. What did go right this training cycle was I stuck 95% to the plan. The midweek runs from work with the backpack turned out to be fantastic training tools. The long weekend runs without the backpack felt so much easier.

Here’s the dilemma. I’m so close to sub-5 I should do another one soon, within a year, to take advantage off my current fitness level and break that 5hr barrier. Asking an elite to go drom 2:04 to 1:59 is extremely tough, but for me to get to sub-5 means only going from 11:38min/mi to 11:24, it’s not inconceivable that I can take 15 seconds off each mile. I do know that in order to improve, I have to take the wheels off and move up from novice training plans. 35 miles a week will not bring 4:30; a minimum of 50 miles a week is required. Do I want to spend the time? Sigh. I don’t know. I don’t think so, not today anyway.

That said, I do like the structure of a proper training plan. I only have a couple of 10k races in the calendar so I need to find a HM to aim for. Or find a plan that focuses on speed. I’ll take some rest, then start planning for the rest of the year. I won’t stop running, it’s taken me this far, I can’t stop now.

marathon countdown part 2

bm00grand13mile

Easy, fast train journey to Brighton. Hopped onto the bus to get to the hotel, and even though I was early the room was ready so I was able to check in. The room is small, yes, but it’s okay for one person. There’s a small balcony that overlooks directly Regency Square, the sea and the derelict old pier.

First port of call was the expo, a short 5 mins walk away. A lot of charities, a few stalls selling gels and whatnot, massage, and the big Saucony (sponsors) stall. I bought a tech training shirt for £15 and a pair of compression socks for £10.

The weather turned nice and I took a long walk all the way to the pier and back. Played £1 worth of 2p pushers for old times’ sake. A pot of whelks for the same reason.

The training plan has 2 miles today, which I didn’t do but I’m thinking that walking for 2hrs is a good substitute. Got water and coke zero from the supermarket and then made my way to the Lanes to find somewhere to have dinner. Didn’t feel like the proverbial big pasta carb loading. Possibilities included venison burger, seafood, bistro or tapas. I ended up at a pub with a pint of local ale and a root vegetable pie with mash, carrots and beetroot. The pie was ok, the veg was good, the mash was rubbery. For dessert I got 1 scoops of peanut butter and blueberry gelato from an ice cream shop opposite the pub.

Seems like there’s a lot of people in town for the race. Signs are already up on Marine Drive, if the Grand is at 13 miles, then Regency Square, aka “home”, is halfway. That’s a good landmark to aim for.

Am I ready? Still hasn’t sunk in. I’ll take it one mile at a time. 6.30am start tomorrow, bed soon.

marathon countdown

Almost time for the race. I’m taking the train down tomorrow to go to the expo and explore a bit, it’s been years since I’ve visited Brighton. I’m definitely getting more nervous. Staying 2 nights I should only have a few things, but my bag is actually quite heavy because I’ve overpacked. 3 race shirts, 2 pairs of shorts, spare socks, spare everything I can think of, loads of food and even Powerade.

Can’t stop looking at the course video either. The start is in Preston Park and it looks like it winds through narrow residential streets before hitting the main stretch along the beach. The part they call The Wall starting at mile 22 looks industrial and could be tough. The weather forecast is cold (10°C) with pretty strong winds. Not liking the winds but it’s better than blazing hot sun on a course that has little or no cover.

Am I ready? I’ll know better tomorrow night.

Brighton prep

arthotelroom

Only one month to go till the marathon. Unlike the other two, I have to travel to it. (Okay, last year’s Chicago marathon I flew all the way from London; but staying at Car’s house and driving to Millennium Park in my own car is a different type of travel.) It adds another layer of organisation and, well, stress.

I’m going down on Saturday, the race is on Sunday and I’m coming back on Monday. I have my train ticket £6.60, resisting the temptation to get first class, which at £25, isn’t that expensive, but for a 50min train ride, not worth the extra expense. Hotel is the boutique Artist Residence. Let’s hope the room actually looks somewhat like the picture on their website.

finisher’s shirt

chimarathon2011080shirt

Went over to Niketown on Michigan to get my marathon finisher’s shirt. Hmm, orange. They also had finisher’s cap but I’d bought one already at the expo. I shouldn’t buy so much stuff anyway, trying to downsize.

Lots of people wearing the race shirt today. Also a fair few wearing their medals. In public. On the street. While shopping. Not something I would do. I wore it to the car, and I did take it to work to show people. Each to their own, I guess. Don’t want to take away other people’s achievement.

chicago marathon RR

chimarathon2011005lake chimarathon2011016start

42.2km 5:38:14hr 8:01min/km | 26.2miles 5:38:14hr 12:55min/mile
overall: 29,985 / 35,558
gender division: 12,145 / 15,404
age division1,017 / 1,363

mile 0: start
It took less than 30mins to drive up to town, then 15mins to navigate around the road closures. I parked at Grant Park North, wanting to be nearby and in a car park that I know. By 6.30am I was in the Bank of America tent, which they laid on for customers. There was water, gatorade, bananas, cereal bars, bench seating and most importantly, private portaloos.

As I was walking towards the start corral, the sun came out. Lovely view of it coming up on the lake. It’s gonna be a glorious day. I had signed up with the 5:15 pace group (12mm) so I found my way there. Saw my colleague K, and we lined up together. She is injured and wasn’t going to finish the race, but I said I’d walk with her for a bit.

We were lined up so far behind that we could barely hear the national anthem and the announcements. Took about 18mins to get to the actual start. I did walk K for about 100m, then she dropped out, limping. It’s disappointing for her, to DNF on her first marathon, but at least she crossed the start line and it will be the start of a longer journey for her.

chimarathon2011020theatre chimarathon2011026flag

miles 1-3: the loop
This is the best part of the race. Legs are fresh, crowds everywhere, perfect for absorbing the atmosphere. I had my headphones but didn’t put any music on. I don’t often run without music, but I find I’m not missing it. Speedwise I was going slowly, with the sheer number of people it wasn’t feasible to run fast anyway.

Ran past all the familiar landmarks. My favourite shot from last year was in front of the Chicago theatre so I did the same shot this year.

miles 3-7: towards lincoln park
It got quieter up la salle into Lakeview. There was still lots of shade, running was comfortable. Mile 4.5 was where the supporters from the Moody Church were stationed. They had music and gave everyone a high five. I’m afraid to admit that I’m not sure which denomination the church belongs to (not Catholic, that’s all I can say) but they provided much needed encouragement at a point in the race for which I’m grateful.

Feeling strong into Lincoln Park. I remember last year I had to stop at the aid station near mile 6 to wrap up a blister. This year I stopped there again to tape up the KT tape which had fallen off. Didn’t last long. By mile 7 I’d ripped it off. It was also in Lincoln Park that I saw a guy running with an American flag. He passed me, so I sprinted past him to get the shot.

chimarathon2011035boystown chimarathon2011037japan

miles 7-12: boystown, sedgwick, back to the loop
Up towards mile 7 was by the LSD, where K cheered me on last year. I thought about her, probably back at the start watching the runners. Almost to mile 8 was the northermost point of the course where it turned back at Addision. Lots of crowd there.

And then it was fun for the next 2 miles. The atmosphere at Boystown can never be beat, lots of spectators dressed up, the ROTC troupe was there, it was like carnival. It was at that point that I lost my sunglasses attachment. I spent 10mins looking for it, but it was pretty impossible. Sad, but I had to continue.

Shady down Sedgwick, which was good. Japanese drummers provided support. The stretch down Wells was okay. I was trying to see if I was feeling ok. About 1/3 done and I felt like I had 2/3 in the tank. Sponges and something luxurious — I think it was the La Salle Street Church that had a sign out front that bathroom facilities were open to runners. Oh man!! Talk about not needing to queue up for the portaloos and having a real bathroom. I know I seem to be obsessed with bathrooms, but if you’re out for 5hrs constantly drinking, toilet breaks become strategic.

chimarathon2011041sears chimarathon2011043halfway

mile 13.1: halfway
Entering the Loop again brings back the strong crowd support, especially at the 2 cheer zones underneath Sears Tower. Cross Wacker and there was the 13.1 sign. HALFWAY!! Time was about 2:40. Slow, ah well. People were shouting “Spiderwoman!” close to me, and I turned around to see that yes, Spiderwoman was running behind me. She passed me at 13.1 and I stuck close to her until around mile 14.

miles 13-19: the hard slog
Ah. Mile 14. When there were hardly any crowds, the sun began beating down and for me, that was the toughest point. I realised that I probably didn’t have 50% in the tank and it would take some digging. Not the wall as such, but I slowed down a lot. I also finished my pack of chomps. I’ve been taking gatorade and water from every station, so energy-wise I was doing okay.

My friend M met me at between mile 17-18 where they were giving out gels. I took a couple and saw her next to a water hose. Ran through the hose, but she didn’t mind giving me a hug even though I was soaked through. I was feeling a little miserable at that point and seeing her gave me a push. Thanks, M.

chimarathon2011047pilsen chimarathon2011050mile20

miles 18-21: pilsen, halsted
Mile 18-19 was down a very hot Ashland. Most people around me were walking. Turning into 18th Street was a vast relief. The Hispanic neighbourhood of Pilsen was out in force, welcoming us. Lots of cheers, music and I got the BEST gift all race — an elderly lady at the side of the road gave me a cola-flavoured ice lolly (American: popsicle). It was absolutely delicious, thirst-quenching and gave me the energy to start running again. Thank you, Ice Lolly Lady.

And then, mile 20 came up. Instead of the wall, I got my second wind. People say a marathon is actually 2 races: a 20-miler followed by a 10k. As I reached the “second” race, I felt really positive. I can run 10k. I run 10k easy. I was going to make it.

chimarathon2011052chinatown chimarathon2011054turn

miles 21-26: chinatown, the long way home
Feeling good coming up to Chinatown. The second hardest part of the course, between miles 22-24, wasn’t too bad for me. I found the 5:30 pace group and followed them for about half a mile before dropping off. I was watching the clock and realised that I probably wasn’t going to make 5:30 so I may as well conserve some energy. Coming north on Michigan I passed a few people, then slowed down somewhat in the South Loop.

mile 26: mount roosevelt
I read somewhere that coming up to the right hand turn at Roosevelt to start kicking because of the uphill incline. I felt nice and strong and managed to pass quite a few runners. Hopefully the official photos look okay too. I tried to keep my mouth closed and to look halfway decent whenever I see a photographer.

chimarathon2011057finish

mile 26.2: finish line
200m, 100m and there it was: the finish line. I was almost sprinting to the line, and saw on my garmin that the time was 5:38. Exactly the same as last year. The iphone battery had died at mile 22, and I didn’t have a backup on the nike+. Not bothered. I know I’ll get my time from the official site.

It was a long walk down the chute. Got a heat blanket, water, gatorade, free beer, , banana, a pack of snack and an official photo. Headed to the BoA tent for more food, drink and to use the portaloo. Lined up for 10mins for another free beer. There wasn’t a lot of food available — hot dog, chili and gyro. None of which I fancied so I ate a whole pack of mini cereal.

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volunteers, organisation, supporters
There are not enough good words in the world to describe how I feel about the volunteers. Fantastic, wonderful in every way. Every single one had a smile and a cheer for us. I stopped at every station except the last one and to see the mountain of cups with gatorade and water. And always someone clearing up. Like I said, wonderful.

The organisation too. There’s a lot of talk about moving the race back a week or two to avoid the heat. It got hot out there today, although thankfully it was dry. I’m sure the organisers will make the right decision. A race this size, there will always be someone not satisfied. For me? The organisation was flawless, from the expo, crowd control at the beginning and end, making sure there were enough supplies, aid stations were spaced out well, the results were out the same day. I have zero complaints.

The supporters. Wow. Hundreds of thousands on the street, cheering for someone they know or for complete strangers. I had a couple of friends, K and M, and it helped me a huge amount. I was told I’m really good at exercise. A complete stranger gave me an ice lolly. Kids waved at me and gave me high fives. At one point we were clapping with the music from a band at the side (can’t remember which song). This is why Chicago is one of the best marathon experiences in the world.

summary
I finished my second marathon. Who would have thought? I don’t feel like a marathoner, but technically, I am. I think it’s because my time is so slow. Everyone I meet have been so supportive, because to finish is an achievement. I wear my finisher’s medal proudly. Tomorrow I will go to Niketown and buy a finisher’s t-shirt.

I didn’t get into London 2012 but I’m confirmed for Brighton the week before. I’ll train for that, and then I’ll have to be very disciplined and not sign up for more. It’s imperative that I focus on speedwork. Halfs are fine, but no fulls.

Finally, my thoughts go out to the family of Captain William Caviness, who collapsed and later died at the race. He raised over $2000 for charity and was a real hero. This year’s race should be dedicated to him.

marathon gear 2011

chimarathon2011002gear

Getting my marathon gear ready for tomorrow. From top: spibelt, sunscreen, knee braces, garmin, small towel, headband, last year’s hat, phiten, shorts with bib, headphones, kt tape, pace tattoo, shirt, iphone, ipod, gu, cara card, sunglasses, gear check ticket, money/credit card/ID bundle.

Not in pic: keys, shoes, backpack, bank of america wristband (for getting into the special customer tent), other iphone, blackberry, spare shirt. Some of that will stay in the car.

the official chicago marathon weather obsession post

chiweather20111007

The obsession began a week or so ago, but every Chicagoan knows that it’s pointless to try to predict the weather here. But less then 36hrs from the start, I think I can officially start obsessing.

It’s been hot the past week, so it’s no surprise that the forecast is warm but not extreme. Probably better early in the day than last year, and then it will get hot towards the end. Another reason to work on speed next year rather than marathon distance races. The article, and the people on the rw forum say,

this is nothing drastically different than what they’ve been running in all summer and what they’ve been training in

Sigh. Except that some of us have been training during a

pitiful

summer that is coldest in 13 years.

no london marathon next year

vlmloserfleece

Came home today to a soft red package inside the front door. It’s my “loser” jacket for not getting a place in the london marathon 2012 ballot. I donated my £32 entry fee to charity in case I’m unsuccessful so I got:

  • the fleece jacket
  • entry into a draw for an additional 1,000 guaranteed places
  • free draw for 1 entry into the ING NYC Marathon 2012 including travel & accommodation, or 1 week’s sporting holiday for two

There’s also a magazine that has a huge COMMISERATIONS! written across the front cover, just to rub it in. Most of the magazine consists of adverts for charity. The message is, “come run with us, we have places!! Oh, you have to raise hundreds or even thousands of pounds for us. But hey look, we have places!!”

Sigh.

Okay, don’t get me wrong. Running for charity is a good idea. I’ve done it myself. But something clicked when I came to the UK and started looking into races. Almost all are driven by charities. The focus isn’t on running but on getting as much money from donors as possible. I’ve had a couple of people (non-runners) offering to sponsor me when I say I’m running a marathon and surprised that I said I’m not in a charity group. They thought it was a requirement.

I’m not alone in feeling the charity fatigue. People are tired of the incessant hounding. It is telling though, that one of the people in the article said,

I hate that every marathon or burst of activity has to be sponsored – for goodness sake, just get off your backside and go for a run if you want to

The problem, I think, is that the only way the person’s friend could get into the marathon or burst of activity was to “pay” the charity entrance fee (pay as in paid by their friends, family and colleagues). I understand that in these times charities are hard hit, and the majority are good causes. But there is a fine line between the noble cause of doing something for charity and blatant guilt trip to the verge of blackmail. My question is, do the charities think that the hard-sell method used by their chuggers, or the hoarding of popular race slots, really work? I guess the former mostly turns people off but the latter does work, because I’m sure the VLM will be at capacity next year.

Back to the VLM. I’m not that bothered that I didn’t get in. If I’m still in London I’ll probably go watch. And besides, I’m confirmed for the Brighton marathon a few weeks before.

london marathon

I had thought about going out to watch the marathon but at the end I didn’t feel like fighting with the crowds. Looking from this video I could have staked a spot along the Embankment and gotten a good view. Ah well. It was a hot day, and the Kenyans dominated. A good day for the sport. Congratulations to David Weir, Mary Keitany, Emmanual Mutai.

really big, free and fat (running related)

bigfreemarathon

Was reading Christopher McDougall article in the NYT about trail running. Not just any old trail run or race, but Fat Ass races, which are trail races with:

no fees, no awards, no whining. Distances are typically 50 kilometers or 50 miles, but vary according to a race director’s whims or ability to borrow his buddy’s GPS device. There are no lotteries, no expos, no qualifying times, no triple-digit entry fees subsidizing multimillion-dollar “running clubs.” No one will urinate on you from the upper span of the Verrazano Bridge, and you won’t shiver for hours in a corral before the starting gun

Needless to say, these are relaxed races, where aid stations may consist of a volunteer pouring out water from a jug from home, or giving out candy from a large jar. Sounds quite attractive to me, especially the camaraderie, and evoking spirit of early racing. I’ve yet to do one trail run, but the movement seems to attract a lot of participants.

The other discovery this week is the really big free marathon that will be held November 2012 in Las Vegas. It’s both a full and half marathon, and there will be the usual medals, tech shirts and goodie bag. The organisers are working on the premise that the estimated $300,000 to put up a marathon will be borne solely by sponsors. So the trade-off for the zero registration fee is that racers will expect to have their personal information sold to sponsors and marketers. Ugh. There is a refundable $50 deposit, which is fine by me, but it’s the being the target of marketing that makes me uncomfortable. Plus, I may want to do London and Berlin (or Chicago round 3) next year, and I’m not sure I’m experienced enough for a third marathon. Anyway, registration opens March 24, I might just put my name down for the hell of it.

marathon post-race thoughts

I’m still thinking about Sunday’s race so indulge me for another marathon post please. If I hadn’t been running, I would probably have been watching the whole race on TV. And watched in wonder at the final 1k battle between Sammy Wanjiru and Tsegaye Kebede. Wow!! The way they ran, it looks like they’re sprinting and not having run 41km. Sammy’s kick at the end…I’m awestruck now.

On another topic, I met a guy today who’s run Chicago, NYC, London, Paris, Rome, and a Swiss marathon (Zurich? Jungfrau? I have to look it up). And he came in at 5.17 on Sunday. I feel I didn’t do too badly.

Learned a new phrase today on the rw.com forums — redemption marathon. While we’re still at good fitness form, go run another marathon soon after this one, especially if the performance wasn’t ideal. For example NYC on 7 Nov is a perfect opportunity to redeem for Chicago. Hmm.

marathon splits

chimarathon050splits

Official results came in quickly yesterday, official photos are still being sorted — they must have taken hundreds of thousands of pics, and all have to be tagged. I saw a few already on the site, and I’m very tempted to buy a couple.

The official results came with splits. It’s easy to see how I started at a reasonable pace then slowed right down at the end. 35k is mile 21, just past Chinatown and into the barren, shadeless lands of Wentworth and Michigan.

I still think I did okay in terms of pacing. Could I have pushed harder? Probably, but it may have caused injury and the wheels really coming off. People always say don’t worry about the time for the first marathon, because it’s all about gaining experience. I can’t agree more. Next time, I’ll need to get even more miles in during training, and seriously ramp it up. If there is a next time.

chicago marathon 10-10-10

chimarathon012start

42km (26.2miles) 5:38:53hr 8.04min/km

Race #10. The Big One. I went to bed at 9pm, but wasn’t able to fall asleep right away. Woke up at 1am, tossed and turned again. Alarm went off at 4.30am. Had a big breakfast of cereal and cream cheese bagel. A banana at the BoA tent when I got to Grant Park. That was very nice, having a quiet area to sit down and no-queue portaloos.

At first I lined up with the 5.30 pace group, then decided psychologically I’d rather run with a faster group and get overtaken by slower ones than never being able to catch up with a group. So I moved up to the 4.30 group. It was warm already, so I knew it wasn’t going to be a fast day for me.

I was less than 15mins behind the gun, so kudos for organisation. The interesting sight was sweatshirts and t-shirts being flung to the sides as the race got going. The early parts — Columbus, Grand, Rush, State were all familiar territory. I was doing pretty well, conserving energy and enjoying the crowd support along the way. When we turned up La Salle and to Old Town and Lincoln Park the crowds got scarcer but I was going fine. I stopped at the medical tent at mile 5-6 for a band-aid to patch up a toe that was threatening to blister. By then the sun was beating down pretty hard and I took gatorade and water at every station.

My friend Karen was at Sheridan at mile 7, it was great to see her and she took a few pics of me. The turning point was at Addison and wow! the crowds there was phenomenal, Boystown really did us proud today. I ran behind Batman and Batgirl for a while, there weren’t that many people in costumes today, the ones who were got a rousing cheer. I was feeling good all the way back downtown and into the loop. More wonderful crowds all the way to the halfway point just past Sears Tower (almost immediately behind the office actually). I hit 13.1 at 2.35, was I feeling like I have 50% left? Yep.

I took a portaloo break at mile 14, and by then I was getting a little tired. Walked through each aid station but ran between them. My colleague Michelle was supposed to be at mile 19-20 but I couldn’t see her. I did see Eiffel Tower guy, boy that must be heavy. And then I got past 20 miles without hitting the wall, PR yay! Chinatown was another nice part, with crowds. Miles 21-23 down Wentworth was tough, with not a lot of cover.

chimarathon037finish

Then it was miles 23-24 and the lonely run up Michigan. The event alert system had been upgraded to Red for a few miles now. Had to dig deep and keep moving. My knees were starting to hurt, which I ignored. The numbers got smaller and smaller and all of a sudden there was only 1 mile to go. By then I knew I’d miss 5.30, but it was okay. The end of Michigan and the right hand turn into “Mount” Roosevelt and 600m to go. Had enough legs to run up, and then it was the left hand turn into the home stretch. It is very moving, to see the finish line.

I got my beer, rested a little at the tent, then took the “L” home. Had a little scare with getting dizzy and had to get off at Sheridan for fresh air. The walk home from the station was long, long, long. Ice bath, chocolate milk, reheat pizza from yesterday. Exhausted. Knees hurt like hell. Blisters on right foot. But it’s all good.

So I did it. ! finished a marathon. Results:

  • overall: 29959 / 49586
  • gender: 12459 / 16186
  • age division: 1112 / 1437

Flickr set: here

Thanks to: Karen, Michelle, everyone at work who were so encouraging; Janet for tracking my progress all the way in London; mm who says she’s keeping me under surveillance; Debra for the daily support. And most of all, every single volunteer along the route.

October 10th, A most auspicious day

race ready

chimarathon009ready

This is almost everything I’m taking with me to the marathon tomorrow. The only things missing are the camera (well, cos I was using it to take the pic) and my shorts. This is a lot of stuff! Although, I’ll be wearing or carrying the majority. From top left:

  • gatorade
  • water belt
  • sunscreen
  • cap
  • spare t-shirt
  • titanium necklace
  • sunglasses
  • race shoes with D-tag already in place, plus socks — I’m racing in these very light nike lunar racer 2
  • knee straps
  • chapstick
  • bodyglide
  • bondi band that says 26.2
  • race t-shirt
  • course map and paperwork
  • nike+ badge — I got this at the expo and it apparently gives free gifts or discounts or something
  • KT tape — which I will apply on my knees and shins before bed tonight
  • wet towel in ziploc bag, this will be gear checked and used post-race
  • small hand towel that fits in my pocket
  • ID, ICE card, credit card, CARA membership card, CTA pass
  • keys, money
  • ricola
  • bloks — tequila and cola flavours
  • gu — blueberry and chocolate
  • nutrigrain bars — the only reason I take these is because they are soft and chewy
  • bagel — in the morning I will fill it with cream cheese and chop into 4 bite-sized pieces, nutrition for mid-race
  • Bank of America customer upgrade gold wristband — allows access into BoA tent with water, bananas, toilets and seating
  • number bib with gear check and 312 beer tag
  • Polar HRM and strap
  • iphone
  • ipod
  • headset

blah blah blah marathoncakes

marathonzzz

3.01km 21.27min 7.07min/km

I changed my avatar, found this on the runnersworld forums. I think I tweeted that I’m going to be insufferable until and after the marathon.

I gave in and bought a replacement nike+ sensor. As much as I like the app, I will not have the iphone battery run out 400m from the finish line. Not at this race. So I calibrated it, and was a little aghast that all my previous runs may have been overestimated, that I am even slower than I thought. Argh!

Too late to worry about it now. There’s no time to re-train. Anyway, I went for an easy 3k according to the plan. For the first time since the awful 20-miler there was almost no pain and even a little spring in my step. I was unsure of what tapering will bring, seems like it’s working and I am getting rested physically and mentally.