Brooklyn Runner

The Ice Bath
August 31, 2008, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Hurting, Marathoning, training | Tags: ,

I have to give it up for my friend, who is training for his first marathon. After hearing about how sore he felt after a long run of 15 or so miles, I asked him whether he had discovered the ice bath yet, and the next week he tried it and became a believer.

Ah yes, the ice bath! I know, it sounds a bit scary at first, but there is truly nothing like it when you are training for a marathon — especially in end-of-summer heat — and getting in those 15-, 18- and 20-mile runs. How the muscles ache, the knees can complain, and just about anything that is a joint can creak and become irritated from all that running.

The ice bath is the perfect antidote to all that. It was first recommended to me when I trained for my first marathon. And while the idea of getting into a tub of ice cold water with a bag of ice in there is daunting in any other circumstance, when you are doing those long training runs you will discover how wonderful it is. The coolness just calms everything down, helps soothe the muscles and reduce the inflammation from all the motion on those joints. There’s nothing like it – but I would say just about the only time when it’s fitting is after the truly long runs. Because let’s face it, those long training runs can be utterly grueling.

I’m not against just filling the tub halfway with cold water, and just dumping in a bag of ice. You don’t have to submerge your entire body in there, in my opinion. Just get the legs and all the joints covered. Sit there for 10 or 15 minutes. Maybe with a hot cup of tea. Relax.

And make your recovery so much nicer.

Philly on my mind
July 22, 2008, 10:35 am
Filed under: Marathoning, Racing | Tags:

I keep thinking about Philadelphia (not the city, the marathon), where I ran my first marathon five years ago…

Today I remember being so excited and nervous and ready to go on race day morning that, in spite of having thoroughly prepared every other aspect of what I would need that day, I forgot to attach my chip to my shoe before leaving for the race. Not only did I forget to attach the chip, but I completely left it at home!

My parents had spent the night so they could see me in my first marathon, and I was beside myself with anticipation. So there I was, with my bib pinned on, fueled and hydrated, lined up at the starting point, when I looked down and saw everyone’s shoes. By then my parents had left me to go get a good vantage point just past the start of the race, and I went into a full panic. Literally just a minute or two left before the gun, and I bolted out of the lineup, over to an info tent, and seem to recall just sort of waving frantically, saying, “Someone help me!”

Somehow in my near hysteria I managed to explain that I had forgotten my chip and I was very quickly swept into the able hands of a race volunteer, an older woman with a stack of bibs and chips and a kindly, no-nonsense face. “Help me!” I repeated, as she grabbed my bib and started yanking off the pins. “I’m trying to!” she said back. She deftly replaced my bib and attached a chip to my shoe — apparently in my state my own hands weren’t quite helpful in this process — when just then I heard the starting gun go off. I think I squealed or something, and she said something, “Don’t worry, you’re good to go.”

Indeed I was. I sprinted back over to the starting line and managed to get over the mats still in my pacing group. When my parents spotted me coming through the start, they scarcely noticed anything was amiss. It took a couple miles for my jittery nerves to calm down, but they did.

A few days after the marathon I wrote a letter to the race organizers acknowledging this volunteer and the help I received. Who knows what ever happened to that letter, but to that one volunteer, I will always be grateful. I hope some day I can be the same kind of help to someone on race day.

Philly Marathon, Revisited…
July 1, 2008, 9:57 am
Filed under: Marathoning, training

I’ve had a chance to review some feedback and conversations with people familiar with Philly and it seems it’s still up in the air whether my initial disdain for the addition of the half marathon should be reconsidered. I discovered that someone I know from work has run Philly every year for quite some time (a true marathon veteran!) and also a veteran New Yorker. When I asked her about the half, she didn’t blink. In her assessment it didn’t register at all. “Don’t even think about it,” she told me. “You’re focused on what you’re there to do, that’s all.”

Other things to consider: Marine Corps filled up pretty quickly, NYC isn’t going to happen for me this year for me, and I would hate for the fall to go by without doing the marathon! I took another look at the finisher stats for Philly over the last couple years. ( is great for easily checking these things out). Turns out the marathon field is substantially larger than the half-marathon field, which is the opposite of what I initially thought. And as a commenter pointed out, by the time you get to the Rocky Balboa finish at the bottom of the art museum steps, you are crossing the line pretty much with only full marathoners.

I guess the bottom line is, it’s been too long since I’ve done some real training and submitted myself to the discipline of marathon training, and I’m starting to feel the itch again…

What a Disappointment
May 12, 2008, 11:10 am
Filed under: Marathoning, Racing, Running Routes | Tags: ,

I was dismayed to realize in the last few weeks that the Philadelphia Marathon — where I ran my first marathon in 2004 — has added a half marathon to race day.

I’m not knocking Philly for adding a half. But I’m so very not in favor of the way they did it. The half marathoners line up right alongside those running the full marathon. They go off with the same gun. They benefit from the same crowds, same support stations as the marathoners, but they only run half the course — essentially getting all the glory but without having to work as hard.

This seems extremely unfair to me. I get it that the half marathon is a good race for a lot of people, but it’s not fair to have the half run on exactly the same course at exactly the same time as the full marathon. The marathon is a special race, and adding the half in this way does a disservice to a distance that should be respected and honored. If the race organizers wanted to give people a chance to participate in marathon day, they could have set the half marathon an hour or two later, and put the finish at a different point.

And it’s worth noting that typically the field for the half marathon in Philly is about twice as large as the full marathon field. The year I ran it, the half marathon (then called the Philadelphia Distance Run, and held in September) was about 12,000 runners while the full marathon (in late November) was about 5,000. This also made the half marathon work well with the fall training schedules of people all over the Northeast. Can you imagine running in a marathon and at mile 13.1 — your halfway mark — more than two thirds of the field drops out because they are finished? Hearing them get cheered on to their finish while you still have — yikes — 13.1 more miles to go? It seems so wrong.

I had a great experience in Philly in 2004. I was living in that city at the time and did my long training runs up and down the Schuylkill (pronounced skoo-kul) River, which takes you past famed boathouse row and its teams of skullers. That strip and many others that I used to run are part of the marathon course, which made it extra special for me, to be able to run my first marathon on home turf. I loved it. The crowds were great, the weather was perfect, the finish in front of the “Rocky Balboa” steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum was the perfect way to end a marathon. It’s a race I’ll never forget.

I used to rave about this race, encouraging all my friends to do the marathon there as well. Not anymore! How sad … Why the change in 2006? Philly was a treasure among the huge fall marathons in New York, Chicago and DC, all of which are much harder to get into. It’s really too bad.

Merrill, financial services, and the marathon
December 6, 2007, 11:39 am
Filed under: Contemplating, Marathoning

The material for this post is a bit dated but interesting nonetheless. A few days after news broke about Merrill Lynch’s $8.4 billion write-down and the subsequent ouster of its CEO, the financial giant ran a full page ad in the New York Times. With a heading that read, “Why Merrill Lynch is still bullish on Merrill Lynch,” it included this telling line:

“We try to remember that investing is not a sprint, but a marathon, and that over the long term, patience is invariably rewarded.”

A month earlier, the Times ran a story about the sponsor of the New York marathon, ING, that drew the same correlation between investor prowess and long distance running:

“It is not surprising that a financial services company would find attractive qualities in sponsoring a marathon, especially in New York, a global economic capital, said Don Hinchey, a vice president of The Bonham Group, a Denver-based sports and entertainment marketing firm.

“Marathoners tend to be affluent. The average household income for participants in the New York City Marathon is $130,000. . .

“‘Couple that with the fact that marathon runners, by nature, think long term,’ Hinchey said. ‘They’re comfortable with delayed gratification. Isn’t that the essence of the appeal of an insurance product or financial planning?'”

(It’s worth noting, by the way, that “the initial three-year agreement as title sponsor cost close to $6 million, according to officials with the New York Road Runners, the race organizers. The arrangement with ING has since been renewed through 2010, and is believed to cost $2 million to $3 million a year.”)

Does this make runners a more financially savvy group? More likely to become wealthy in the long term, or at the very least maintain financial health?

I’d like to think so. But perhaps it’s enough to shoot for less tangible riches, and mental health.

Upcoming Races
November 23, 2007, 11:26 am
Filed under: Marathoning, Racing | Tags: ,

Running in the Turkey Trot yesterday made me feel like running more races! Doing races always has that effect on me, even if I don’t always get a personal best, and even if the race doesn’t live up to expectations.

There’s something about being up and out at an event early on a weekend morning, being surrounded by all these people who are excited about running, and going for their goals. Whether the goal is just to finish or to win the event, the ambition and effort is equally impressive. You’re out there, you’re doing something, and that’s worth something!

It started to make me think about whether I should train for a spring marathon. I was pretty much resigned to waiting until the fall to put in another season of serious training. And training through a harsh New York winter would be quite a feat — different from the challenge of slogging through a hot New York summer, but difficult it its own way. Plus I’d have to travel somewhere to do a spring race. I have to admit, though, the steepness of the challenge is alluring. . .

In the meantime, there are some upcoming races in the neighborhood that are worth looking into:

Peter Rabbit 3-mile Cross Country Run (Brooklyn Road Runners)
Sat. Dec. 1, 10 am, Prospect Park (Bartel Pritchard Square)
Online registration here.

Hot Chocolate 15K (New York Road Runners)
Sat. Dec. 1, 9:30 am, Central Park
A longer option for the 1st.

Joel Kleinerman 10K (New York Road Runners)
Sun. Dec. 9, 9:30 am, Central Park
(I’ve always loved the 10K distance. . . )

New Year’s Eve 3.3 Mile Fun Run (Brooklyn Road Runners)
Monday Dec. 31, 11:15 pm, Prospect Park (Grand Army Plaza)
Online registration here.

A good discipline
November 17, 2007, 10:24 am
Filed under: Contemplating, Marathoning | Tags: , ,

I have often said this to friends: I wish I could apply the same discipline and focus I seem to have in marathon training to other aspects and goals in life.      

How I wish it were as *simple* to write and publish a book or create and show a body of artwork as it is to train for and run a marathon! Of course, this is not to diminish the magnitude of the marathon and the training it requires. I have the utmost reverence for the race, and for the training involved. It is a monumental task.

But training and running, for me at least, is quite simple when you boil it down. You start out as someone who runs. You give yourself four or five months. You get a training plan, and a schedule, week by week. And week after week, you make it a priority to do the training runs, and you order your schedule around it.You eat and drink what you’re supposed to, what will enhance your training. Eventually, you actually feel the benefits of the training settle into your body.  And when it’s time to run the race, you just show up. Ready to give your best effort.

If only other goals were as straightforward and clear. Instead sometimes they seem like nebulous ideas rather than tangible goals, and getting there is a meandering road, full of false starts and stops and plenty of wrong turns.

No wonder marathoning has become so popular, that 38,000 people ran in the New York City marathon this year, as opposed to 5,000 people 30 years ago. I think we all want to strive for a goal that is lofty and seemingly unattainable, and apply the effort and discipline towards achieving something great. The physicality of training lets you tangibly feel your effort and the results.

I think there must be a way that applies to efforts in other goals as well. I’m just still looking for it.