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. (marathonguide.com 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.  



Postpartum Blues
November 6, 2007, 3:24 pm
Filed under: Marathoning, Racing | Tags: ,

The high from running the marathon in DC lasted about a week. Then it was the weekend again. Another Saturday morning, but what to do?

My Saturday mornings for the past four months have pretty much been dominated by marathon training. It was a long, hot summer, with heat and humidity lasting well into October, so to avoid running for hours in 80-degree weather (not to mention droves of tourists visiting New York in summer), the early Saturday morning run became a steady ritual.

Mind you, I am NOT a morning person. A 6 a.m. run meant being in bed by 10 the night before. Plus fueling up, hydrating, etc, etc. My commitment to training for the marathon meant forgoing a lot of Friday nights out.

But it was worth it.

I was sore for two full days, felt OK by Wednesday, and went for my first run the Thursday after the race. It was a little wierd. What was my purpose on this run? What kind of pace should I do? How far should I go? Without the discipline and focus of the marathon to determine my pacing and distance, I was a little bit . . . well, let down.

Sunday was my next run (several hours after watching the NY marathon go by) and I decided to do my regular seven mile loop. I went out at a faster clip than usual, and went even harder in the second half. Charged up the hill in Prospect Park. An older gentleman runner saw me coming up the hill and said,  “Looking good.” I laughed, and said thanks.

That night I was a little sore again, and realized it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give myself a season of rest. Not lay off running completely, of course. But a break from the intensity of training for such a long race. Once again, I felt a little let down.

Realistically, it might be a full year before I get to run my next marathon, and I’m all confused about how I feel about that. Relieved? Sad? Anxious? I want the euphoria and the amazing rush you feel from completing a marathon, but without having to suffer through months and months of discipline and pain. And yet deep down I know that’s simply not possible — that the only reason you feel the surge of joy is because you suffered through the discipline and pain. If anything, the discipline and pain makes the joy that much deeper when it does come.

I’m not a mother so I can’t talk about childbirth, but older women runners I’ve known put their marathon experiences up there among those life-changing events, like getting married and giving birth.

The assessment from a friend (also a runner), when I told her how I was feeling, came with a bit of a chuckle: “So you’ve given birth to a marathon, and now you’re depressed.”

Who would have thought?



NYC Marathon
November 4, 2007, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Marathoning | Tags: ,

It was a beautiful day for a marathon — cool and crisp and perfectly fall like. Watching the runners on Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn, three blocks from my apartment, I wished I had been running.

Marathon Sunday is one of my favorite days in New York. Enough for me to skip church and stand outside on a day that turns the entire neighborhood, it seems, into a celebration. Like a parade or a holiday or a big birthday party where everyone is invited, the marathon creates a sense of excitement and pride and heroism and awe that is contagious, no matter whether you’re a runner or not.

I went to look for a friend and running buddy who was in his first marathon. We saw him — or rather he saw us, so busy chatting away and enjoying the festivities were we. (In spite of he and I having such completely different approaches and technique when it comes to running, oddly enough we managed to have almost exactly the same finish time.)  

I appreciated more than ever the effort my spectators had made on my behalf in my own race last week, how challenging it was to look for one person in that crowd. So many runners! And they’re going by so fast! You have a few seconds, at best, to spot someone you know.

I found myself looking at the runners closely, searching their faces for clues as to how they were feeling (I was standing near mile 8, close to the beginning, the point where you still feel pretty good). I looked for names on shirts and yelled out as many as I could, remembering how uplifting it was to hear strangers cheering me on by name in DC. When they ignored me, I knew they were just focused on their race; when they smiled, or cheered back, I was happy.

So New York will have to wait yet another year for me, but some day soon, I’ll be there too, running.

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Remote Runner Alerts
November 3, 2007, 5:46 am
Filed under: Marathoning, Racing

This year, the Marine Corps Marathon allowed you to register friends’ and family’s cell phones to automatically receive text messages tracking the progress of a runner. Every time you crossed one of the splits, the computer system would automatically send a text message to the pre-registered phone numbers, displaying the split time and the mile marker. An amazing feat of technology!

The obsessive planner in me was thrilled about this. I registered seven people’s phones, including my own, and curiously anticipated seeing how it would work in reality.

The first few split times came practically instantaneously. But after the third or fourth (there were seven splits altogether, including your finish time), the text messages lagged by hours. We received my split time from mile 22 long after I had finished, eaten, and showered after the race. And we never received my finish time.

The New York City marathon is doing a similar program, though it sounds like a different type of system. The idea is the same though — pre-registering cell phones to receive a runner’s splits via text message.

My friends found them useful in tracking me along the course, helping them to position themselves as spectators. As a spectator in New York I’ll be curious to see how it works as I look for my friends who are running the race.

The wonders of technology. If they manage to work out the kinks, how awesome would that be? And what will they think of next?