Saturday, February 28, 2015

Marathon Drool - Myrtle Beach Marathon

When he gets excited or anticipates something my dog drools to a point where it is hanging from his jowls. He naturally does it when there is food around but also when he anticipates going out for a walk or run.  I felt the same one day while I was driving to Chick-fil-A for lunch anticipating the taste of the spicy chicken deluxe sandwich.  I thought of him and realized its in all of us, but we humans can mostly control it.

But, is it possible for someone to drool at the thought of running 26.2 miles?  Yes, and that's the feeling I had after I had registered for the Myrtle Beach Marathon just a week before the event.  It had been since October 18th that I had run a marathon after running 8 in 2014.  After a bunch of skin procedures late in the year and a lot of travel in December, it had been difficult even getting to do basic runs.  My first planned marathon in 2015 was Rock n Roll DC in March.  After a good month of training in January, I felt like I needed a marathon as a supported training run. 

I had been considering heading back to Myrtle Beach to run the only marathon that I have attempted to run that got cancelled.  Back in 2010, there was a freak 37-year snowfall of 2-3 inches in Myrtle Beach.  After all the runners had arrived, had gone to the expo and carb-loaded (with Kevin Abraszek), the race was cancelled late the night before.  Myrtle Beach was going to be my 49th marathon setting up New Orleans just two weeks later to be my 50th marathon on my 50th birthday where Competitor Group had given me bib number 50 to celebrate.  In New Orleans, I was also going to run with my nephew, Shawn Doub.  So, what do marathoners do when the race is cancelled?  We sit around in the bar looking for another marathon to run the following week.  Keven, Diane Bolton (now a Maniac Hall of Famer) and me, had our laptops looking at calendars while we had a couple of pints.  For me, I needed to get that 49th so New Orleans could be number 50 and the only way to do it was to run the following weekend somewhere, but where and with lodging and registrations sometimes tricky to find, would I even be able to get into a race, not to mention the cost?  I set my sights on A1A in Fort Lauderdale.  Surely there would be no snow there!  The following morning, with the roads barely slushy, Kevin and I went out for a 10-miler while some runners went ahead and did the entire course.

Fort Lauderdale turned out to be a great choice and was Cindy's first experience at a marathon and with me.  It was a great weekend at the beach, I ran well and was able to get in my 49th marathon.  Next up was number 50 in New Orleans but not without its drama.  A blizzard hit NJ and after flight cancellations and paying top dollar for changed flights, stressful drives to Philadelphia by both Shawn coming from MD and me from NJ, we made it to New Orleans for a grand birthday celebration marathon.

So, back to this year.  Once I signed up I felt that anticipation and the subsequent marathon drool.  Marathon weekends are great.  It is an escape from the daily routine, being somewhere new with Cindy, the expo, being at the starting line with thousands of others, the crowds of people cheering (OK, not always, but at many events), and the 42,000 steps taken to get to the finish line.  There was a noticeable difference in my demeanor and focus at the thought of running 26.2 miles in a eek.

Until Sunday, February 8, all of my runs since the beginning of the year had been decent.  I had been on the hills and flats alike with good pace.  Then, on that Sunday prior to the Myrtle beach marathon, on a 6 mile tempo run, I felt a twinge or soreness in my right hamstring, more around the tendon.  It slowed me to a crawl for the last 2 miles.  I took a couple of days off and tried to venture out on the Wednesday before Myrtle but from the very first step I could feel the pain in the tendon.  I struggled with a mile an a half.  The drool and anticipation  was gone and left me wondering if I would be able to start the marathon let alone finish.  In 83 marathons, I have never had a DNF and the only DNS was the Myrtle Beach marathon in 2010 due to cancellation.  So, I figured that I would rest it the remainder of the week and see what marathon morning brings.

It is hard for runners not to run leading up to an event and many hate the tapering.  This wasn't a tapering kind of thing since the marathon was going to be a supported long run.  However, I have found that times where I couldn't run the week before a marathon has always produced a decent marathon.  I just kept faith and let God guide me through that day as I do everyday.

The weekend weather in Myrtle Beach was going to be beautiful although marathon Saturday was going to be bookended by two cold days, but no snow in the forecast.  It was likely that marathon day was going to be in the upper 20's at the start and in the 40's at the finish but a day filled with sunshine.

We arrived at the Expo at the Myrtle Beach convention center around 4 after a pleasant drive from Durham.  If you have never been to Myrtle beach, the summer can be as congested as a big city.  To me, all beach towns are better in the off-season.  Upon arrival at the Expo, we had to pay $3 for parking which, to me, is absurd.  Seriously? The Expo was well-organized and of medium size.  It had all the amenities needed for a runner.  One thing we found fascinating was the organization Canine Angels Service Dogs, an organization that saves dogs and serves vets.  The dogs are trained to take paper money from your hands and put it into buckets, the proceeds going to help veterans.  We must have given $30 just to watch the dogs take it (and of course because it was a good cause.)

We stayed at the Breakers Resort which was on of the host hotels.  Little did we know that the resort is made up of a series of hotels.  It said on the race site that it was 1 mile from the start/finish.  I always look at the logistics of the start/finish for Cindy.  Well, the hotel that we stayed in, north of the main resort, was about 1.6 miles away from the start/finish.  We registered one place and then had to drive to another.  The lobby was under construction, dark with an electrician in the ceiling.  We're thinking maybe this wasn't such a good place to stay.  Our room did overlook he ocean from the 17th floor and it was right on the beach, but the room itself had a lot to be desired and the beds were awful.  But, it was at the 13 mile mark on the course so I know that I could see Cindy half way.  I always look forward to seeing her on the course.

I drove to the starting line at Broadway on the Beach.  There was a lot of free parking and probably the most port-o-potties I have ever seen at a marathon.  It was cold in the mid-20's.  I wore shorts, calf sleeves, 2 long sleeve shirts and a short sleeved one. My dress would prove to be perfect for the conditions.  Of course, I was still concerned about my hamstring.  I could even feel it walking during the week so I was pretty concerned about running.

The marathon had an early start, 6:30 AM.  The cannon sounded right on time.  It always takes 5 or so miles to warm up.  With not knowing how my hamstring was going to respond and with the cold weather, I started our slower than normal at a 10:15 pace.  I really didn't have any expectations of time although I told Cindy that if everything sent well, I should be back in 4:30.  Even from the first few steps I could felt he tightness and some pain around the tendon of my hamstring.  I knew that this was going to be a flat course so at least I would not have to overwork it on hills.  I kept the pace consistent for the first few miles while watching the sky get brighter.  My stride was shortened and I suspect my gait slightly off kilter but I kept trudging along.  I hadn't felt the piercing pain that I felt the week before because that pain might have kept me from finishing.  At about mile 6, I felt like it had loosened up to the point where I could increase my pace.  Looking at my watch, there were some splits between 9:40 and 9:55 for the next several miles (except for a short pee break in the bushes.) 

There is a long stretch on Ocean avenue from miles 8 through 18.  In between the hotels, you could see the sun rising above the ocean.  There were more people out and about cheering and I finally found a good rhythm.  I still wanted to manage the hamstring issue because I could tell it was going to be with me throughout.  I also knew that I would be seeing Cindy soon which kept me going to the half way point.  The half-marathoners dropped off at about mile 11 so it was just us marathoners and relay runners now.  By mile 12 I was feeling pretty confident in my pace.  Before the race, I thought that if I did need to drop out due to injury, I could do it at the hotel.  Oddly, enough, I was feeling like I was managing this marathon better than most I had run last year.  I was not 100% but at Bataan, in New Mexico, I was not 100% and also ran a well-managed marathon.  So, maybe that is the secret sauce.  I manage things better when challenged at less than 100%.

Finally, I see Cindy in her bright red windbreaker.  She always puts a smile on my face.  I always stop for a kiss and hug and today was no exception.  I told her that I was feeling pretty good and I thought that I could make it to the finish around my projected time of 4:30.  I would be half way around 2:12.  She would need to walk 1.6 miles to the finish.  I then ventured off for the second half.  The hardest stretch for me in a marathon is from miles 13 to 18.  To me, that is like no man's land and that is where, mentally, I must focus.  I knew that in this marathon, mile 18 turns back toward the finish so making it there would make me feel that the home stretch was waiting.  With a short out and back between miles 18 and 19, sure enough it was time to head home.  I felt really good.  For some reason although I was on a consistent 4:25 pace I caught up the 4:30 pace who really should have been behind me the whole time.  Sometimes running with pacers is a crapshoot on pace so if you ever feel like the pace is off while running with a pacer, recognize it and get on your own pace.  I passed him around mile 20, so maybe his plan was to run 20 faster and the last 6 slower.

The home stretch was much windier but not really enough to slow the pace.  I started recognizing the roads and knew that if I just kept the legs churning that I would be in fine shape to be sub-4:30.  Sub-4:30 doesn't sound like much these days but as I age, it still sounds like success especially since the age-graded time is sub-4:00.  When I hit Broadway on the Beach, I then know I had a bit more than a mile to the finish at Pelicans stadium.  I felt like I had passed about 100 runners since mile 18 and that is always a good feeling because I have been on both ends of the passing and being passed brings you down.  I finally made it to the finish chute which was pretty empty.  I spotted Cindy and gave her a hug and kiss and ran through the finish line in 4:25:52.  Each time I stop for a kiss and hug from Cindy, I always hear, "Aweeee." Its the best!

So, marathon 83 done and it went better than expected.  83 marathons later, I continue to learn and what a great learning experience it is.  We also had a nice Valentine's weekend with two nice dinners at Toscana and Greg Norman's Australian Grille followed by a show at Legends.  We walked on the boardwalk, the beach and visited the world famous Gay Dolphin.  We even got a little skee ball in.

My next drool is for Rock n Roll DC marathon, March 14.

Here are some pix from the weekend.

Expo
 
Balcony of the Breakers
 
Ready to rumble
 
Sunrise marathon morning
 
Add caption
 

Finished
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mile 13
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A favorite!
 
Cindy's Enhancements




Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Less is More in Jogging?

Any article or news clip that I see that has the word "jogging" in it immediately calls into question the content with me.  It shouldn't.  Maybe I am a "running" snob and in all likelihood, at my advanced age, running slower than I did when I was in my 30's, maybe I am looked upon as a jogger.  But I am a runner.  There are some days when I am a walker and there is nothing wrong with that. So, I am a walker, jogger and runner.  It's interesting to read where the word "jog" might have come from.  Certainly by some of these definitions, I sometimes jog and I definitely jog with Casey boy. Running on the other hand has a much more technical description. as does walking

So now that we have the definitions out of the way, why did I even bring this up?  In my 4 AM morning headline review on nbcnews.com I saw a headline "When Less May Be More When It Comes To Jogging".  It is in the section called 3rd Block, short snippets of news from Brian Williams.  Of course, I see the word "jogging" and immediately think, "whatever this is, they don't know what they are talking about."  Admittedly, it is a wrong attitude to take but I had to see for myself.  He cited a study of 1000 "joggers" that those "jogging" more than 4 hours a week had the same death rate as those people who get no exercise.  The study. published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology details the findings.  Forbes and BBC summarized and added their own commentary.

Certainly the U-shaped curve is interesting.  The death rate is not any different between me and a person who sits on their couch everyday.  But, I don't run or jog to extend my life.  I run to live my life, to experience life fully.  If I die earlier than I would otherwise, well, I guess that is the risk I will have to take. The authors of the study write “if the goal is to decrease the risk of death and improve life expectancy, going for a leisurely jog a few times per week at a moderate pace is a good strategy. Higher doses of running are not only unnecessary but may also erode some of the remarkable longevity benefits conferred by lower doses of running.”  It's a good thing that this is not my goal.  My goal is not to improve life expectancy but to improve life quality.  Many people are interested in longevity of life and I am interested in quality of life.  Running affords me a high quality life.  I work in an industry (pharmaceutical/device) that measures quality of life of trial participants when doing clinical studies.  It is a primary component of any study and sometimes a primary endpoint in a study.  This begs the question, is the quality of life for those individuals in this "jogging" study different among the different groups?  I would argue that although I would not live any longer (being a runner)  than sedentary people, my quality of life would be much better, richer, if you will.  So, maybe the next study should be done in multivariate form adding quality of life (QOL) as a component.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

High Hopes


Give me help, give me strength
Give a soul a night of fearless sleep

Give me love, give me peace
Don't you know these days you pay for everything
Got high hopes - Bruce Springsteen

God willing, this year will cap off 14 years of running nearly 90 marathons culminating in running a marathon in every state and Washington DC. Its been a long journey through some turbulent times in life. Quite frankly, running has kept me sane and marathons have kept me engaged in the insanity of being sane. With sanity comes high hopes. If you look at Bruce's words above, he appears to be asking God for these things. 

Mathew 21: 21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, ... 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” 

Today, as I got up to finish this post, the verse of the day delivered to my mailbox was this:

Ask, Seek, Knock

Mathew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

In the realm of life, with the struggles and challenges people face, I know that running is a trivial pursuit. However, there are countless stories of how running has changed people's lives giving them hope for a different life, an enriched life. Some Christian purists see the bible as doctrinal, which it certainly is, but without applying it to our daily lives, not finding anything in it that can help with our day would be a sin in itself. With the internet it is easier than ever to search the Bible for keywords, verses, people and put ourselves into the context of what we find.  The Mathew 21 verses above comes from Jesus cursing a fig tree. Yes, the doctrine and context is pure and important but how does cursing a fig tree play into our lives?  Maybe Bruce believes and is asking Jesus for help,strength, fearless sleep, love and peace.

In many ways running a marathon requires these things but in order to receive we must believe, we must ask and we must pay the price.  The price we must pay is in the daily grind of running and training, getting out the door, putting one foot in front of the other, running in the rain, snow and heat, enduring, persevering year in and year out, injuries, aches and pains, sacrifice of time.  The Bible is really the training guide of life and I find comfort in knowing that but I also find comfort in being able to apply it to running.  The Word uses analogies related to running, challenges, endurance, perseverance maybe not in the context of marathons specifically but certainly to the point of application. Again, I am sure that some purists will say that running a marathon and the Bible have nothing to do with one another and should not be put into the same context.  I disagree.  The Bible has everything to do with life particularly the gospel, the teachings of Christ and the good news.  How we apply it to our lives, whatever our pursuits, in the light of its teachings is most meaningful.  I love doctrine as well as application is is why Alistair Begg and Andy Stanley are two of my favorite pastors.

So, you would not know it with this post but this blog isn't about Christianity.  It's about running.  My high hopes this year in running is simple.  Complete a 14 year quest to run a marathon in every U.S. state and DC.  In March I will run the Rock n Roll DC marathon. Although I am not a fan of Competitor who stages the Rock n Roll events, this is one marathon run entirely in DC.  My 49th state will be in Montana, Missoula specifically.  This looks like it will be a great event.  Finally, I will finish in September in Kauai, Hawaii.  I set my sights finishing in Hawaii when I first started.  Although there are many other marathons in Hawaii, most easier, Kauai seems special and it is moderately difficult on a small, beautiful island.  I want to finish on a course that is a challenge (of course, all marathon courses are now a challenge for me). The challenge will represent the 14 years of challenge laid out before me after the 2001 Baltimore marathon.  Kauai will be at least my 86th marathon.  Besides these 3 marathons, I have already made plans for Cincinnati Flying Pig and Baltimore (my 15th consecutive).

Yes, there are other high hopes for my life in 2015 but as far as running goes, this is it.  I will kiss the finish line in Kauai like they do at the Brickyard and then kiss and hug my crew chief, Cynthia Anne who has relentlessly supported me through this endeavor.

Give me help, give me strength
Give a soul a night of fearless sleep

Give me love, give me peace
Don't you know these days you pay for everything
Got high hopes 

What are your high hopes?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2014 - A Year To Remember

Quite certainly, 2014 was a year to remember and one where I felt like I was finally back on my feet in life. No year is without its challenges but part of life is finding the enjoyment and happiness we all seek and let these things counteract or surpass those challenges.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
This post is going to be a bit about life and about running which has been such a big part of my life. However, without God and the teachings of Jesus, I would not be where I am today.
"Be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6
 It will be filled with stats and references to other posts on this blog (click on anything orange) along with some commentary.  Frankly, it is more for me than you, whomever you are, but with our social voyeur tendencies these days, we all like a little insight into the lives of others.  This is also not just my life but Cindy's as she has been part of it every step of the way. OK, let's get started.

First and foremost, the highlight of 2014 was the year Cindy and I were married, April 25, 2014 at Triple Falls, DuPont State Forest near Asheville, NC standing literally at the base of the falls.  We spent a long weekend in a premier B&B, 1900 Inn on Montford in Asheville.  It was a special day and God parted the clouds for us to have sunshine to start our married life together.  The blog entry can be found here.

Another highlight was running the Diaper Dash in Cincinnati with Bree, my step-granddaughter.  It is ironic that after the hundreds of races I have run, the thousands of miles I have run and with the 91 marathons and ultras I have run, I found a complete and pure joy in those 25 yards running with Bree seeing the excitement and joy in her face when pinning on the racing bib, getting her first medal and then doing another 100 yards out of the pure joy of running.  That blog entry can be found here.

A third highlight was giving meaning to running.  I adopted the Durham Rescue Mission as my charity of choice.  I committed in January that I would give the cost of a meal $2.05 for each mile run during the year committing to at least 1,500 miles.  As you will see in the stats below, I surpassed that commitment and provided 1,668 meals to the homeless, addicted, and those in programs to resurrect their lives.  I am humbled that I have been given the health and means to be able to do this.  That blog entry can be found here and the Durham stats page can be found here.

As for running, 2014 was filled with marathons and travel to places that may be once-in-a-lifetime destinations.  In my quest to run a marathon in all 50 states, I added three premier destinations in 2014 giving me 48 states,  Alaska, Wyoming and New Mexico.  All were unique both in the marathon itself and the destination.  Although I could continue to write about these, I already have so the blog entries can be found by linking to the posts: New Mexico (Bataan Memorial Death March), Alaska (Cordova Salmon Runs) and Wyoming (Jackson Hole Marathon).  Other posts related to these events:

I tend to write long posts which I'm sure people don't read and not even sure I would but it is a good chronicle and remembrance of the year.  Pictures and words of life experiences capture the essence of the moment.  I just wish I had started it earlier in life.  What? there was no internet back then?  Oh yes, that's right, there was (and still is) paper and pen! So here are some other highlights and then I will provide stats for the year.
OK, here are some stats for the year.  I love stats and I am in the process of organizing my lifetime racing and running stats.  I believe that I have every bib and time for every organized event that I have run.  Here is how 2014 panned out.
  • Ran 309 of 365 days
  • Ran 1,668 miles
  • Avg. per running day: 5.3 miles
  • Avg. over 365 days: 4.5 miles
  • Number of marathons: 8
  • Avg. marathon finish time: 4:24:39 (Cincinnati best 4:12:37 and Darlington worst 5:13:32)
  • Avg. age-graded time: 4:08:25 (3:43:13 best)
  • Number of states: 8
  • Number of new states: 3
  • Total number of states: 48
  • Total marathons: 82
  • Total marathons/ultras: 91
  • Number of races at other distances: 1 (half-marathon 1:54:47 age-graded 1:40:00)
  • Number of blog entries: 134
  • Number of meals donated to Durham Rescue Mission: 1,668
  • Ran over 100 miles in every month in 2014 102-172 miles
  • Avg. 139 miles per month
  • Avg. 32 miles per week (6-45 miles)
So there you have it, 2014 in a  nutshell.  Of course there are many more things that we did during the year with family like Thanksgiving with Cindy's family, Shelli's April party, Shilling family reunion and Christmas dinner, , shows at DPAC, 2 trips to England (for work), changed role at work, trips to Asheville, camping with Sandy and Paul, Hammer visit, Maniac cheer zone, etc.  It was a packed year and I am thankful to God for it.

The next post here will be called High Hopes and will layout running plans for 2015 when I will finish the 50 states and DC.  I have already had a good start to the year in running so Godspeed the year will progress at His will.

Married at Triple Falls
The Diaper Dash - Bree
Our Backyard
 
Casey Puppy Boy at Jordon Lake


Casey Boy grown up
 

Favorite all-time picture of Casey and me
 
3 Generations

Grandkids at Thanksgiving

Sisters Family Reunion

Bree and her uncle Calvin

Hammer time
Me and my Bro

New Year's Eve at Becky's

Cindy and me after a climb in Alaska

My favorite race finish this year - Bataan Memorial Death March

Showing Casey where I proposed and we got married




Saturday, December 27, 2014

Fonctionnement - Running in Paris

The French translation for running is fonctionnement.  It doesn't even sound right.  In Paris maybe I wasn't even doing it right.  When I was running the streets of Paris a couple weeks ago (for no good reason, i.e. there was no marathon going on) the Parisians seemed to look at me oddly.  It might have been because I was in shorts with the temperature hovering around 40 degrees.  It may have been that the sidewalks are reserved for walking.  I don't know.  I just felt like I was getting strange looks.  Maybe they smelled the scent of an American.  Actually, all week, the Parisians that we (Cindy and me)  interacted with were all very nice except for the kid who called me "crazy" after I found his hand in my pocket trying to pick-pocket me. "I'm crazy? dude, you have your hand in my pants!"

Then I found the places where runners run, the parks and along the Seine River.  I like to explore places by running. After a few days of sight-seeing at the Catacombs (Les Catacombes), Eiffel Tower (La Tour Eiffel), Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, the Ferris Wheel place de la concorde (La Grande Roue de Paris), the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Notre Dame (Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris), and walking past the Pantheon, I decided to visit by fonctionnement.  Since we were staying near the Montparnasse neighborhood, I figured that I would start my run at the Montparnasse Cemetery (Cimetière du Montparnasse).  It was just a few blocks away in the middle of the neighborhood but protected by high walls.  I found my way into what appeared to be a city of the dead as all the crypts were above ground adorning grandiose tributes to loved ones.  It was very crowded.  The placement of the crypts both horizontally and vertically were packed as densely as the city itself.  Ironically, the catacombs offered a similar, yet highly contrasted, view of the dead.  Bones (skulls, femurs, radius', major bones) were literally stacked in piles some resembling grand pieces of art.  The bones could be viewed nose to nose, if you will.

Catacombs of Paris










Montparnasse Cemetery



Montparnasse tower in background


count the number of crosses
After Montparnasse, I ran over Edgar Quinet, up Boulavard Raspail and over Boulavard de Port Royal to the park-like area Jardin des Grands Explorateurs down to the entrance of Le Jardin du Luxembourg which is also now the home of the French Senate.  The palace was created in 1612 by Marie de' Medici widow of King Henry the IV of France.  Finally I had found a place where runners run.  There are many paths inside the gardens so you could spend a whole workout session there.  You could deem it France's Central Park although not anywhere near as large and not as good for running as New York's.  The outer loop appears to be about 1.5 miles but combined with other loops you could easily get in 3 miles or so without repeating paths.  There were runners in every direction including what appeared to be physical education classes from a local high school running loops around the inner garden somewhat laid out as a track and similar in size.  For runners, I guess the idea is to get to a park or along the river to run and not on the busy sidewalks and roads.  I guess this is true of any city.  Many of the larger boulevards have sidewalks wide enough but you do have to do some dodging of  pedestrians and sometimes bikes and pay attention to the crosswalk signs.  Since the French drive on our side of the road, crossing the street was easier to muster.  I followed the same path back that I had come except for staying on Raspail to Denfert to St. Jaques for a total of 7 miles.
 

The gates to the gardens and palace


Getting ready for spring  - the palace and now French Senate


Not really sure but interesting



Standing guard - how bizarre that they stand in a little box


Runner girl


Cool architecture
On the following day, although a bit rainy, I decided to do a morning run to Jardin des Plantes probably the second largest park on the Rive Gauche (West Bank).  This would take me in a direction that I hadn't been before so I had to map out a way to get there.  From the hotel I ran east on the Boulevard Auguste Blanqui to Place d'Italie along and through an open market that stretched at least a mile long - fresh seafood, meat, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, pastries, sweaters, etc.  In these open markets, I'm just wasn't so sure about the meat (especially blue chickens) that were sitting out.  I made my way, still getting odd glances by marketers, to Place d'Italie.  I am sure there is more to this than a giant circle but it has 9-10 roads either coming into or going out of the circle.  I needed to find Boulevard de l'Hopital which was halfway around the circle.  This road would take me to the entrance of Jardin des Plantes.  My journey on Boulevard de l'Hopital was  like running on any other boulevard until reaching the actual Hospital, Hospital Petie-Salpetriere.  The excessive size and architecture of this working hospital was amazing. Some key facts can be found here although you might need to translate to English.  I took a couple of pictures from the gate and then continued my run.

The Jardin des Plantes houses many things of interest - botanical garden, geological museum, museum of natural history, a small zoo.  Similar to Luxembourg Gardens, there are paths for running and exploring.  Although not as large, the outside loop is probably about a mile.  But, there are many paths that can be combined to get in longer runs in without repeating paths.  In one area, there is also a place to get in some short hill bursts.  Since I was running I didn't get to explore any buildings but certainly may be worth a visit, particularly to the museum of natural history.

Place d'Italie
 
Place d'Italie (with palm trees)
 
Lots of open air farm markets in various places in the city
 
Hospital Petie-Salpetriere
 
Jardin des Plantes Musee Natural historie
 
 
Geologie Centre
 
Another place to run like many of the parks in Paris
 
Green houses in Jardin des Plantes
 
Ménagerie, le zoo historique de Paris
 
 
 
from the Jardin Des Plantes circular maze
 
Interesting tree while running up the circular maze
 
 
Running

Since the Jardin des Plantes is near the Seine river, I decided to run some along the river.    The river is not wide and the myriad of bridges that connect the east bank to the west bank are worth a visit.  The river is nearly 500 miles long and flows into the English Channel.  There are 37 bridges that cross the Seine in Paris and the view from each appears to be just different enough to want to explore them all.  Pont Neuf is one of the oldest dating back to 1607.  I probably had been on at least 10 during the visit and probably 4 on this run.  I first ran across the Pont d'Austerlitz and took pictures of the Viaduct d'Austerlitz, the bridge that carries trains.  Then the Pont de Sully, Pont de la Tournelle, and finally Pont de l'Archeveche near Notre Dame.  I traversed bridges back and forth and ran down along the Seine looking for perfect views which I seemed to find with every footstep.  Once I reached Notre Dame, I realized that on my previous visit a few days earlier I had not seen the back of Notre Dame from the outside, which arguably is more beautiful architecturally than the front.  I made this my endpoint to begin my journey back to the hotel.

Rain on lens but I think the blur adds to the effect (bikes for rent and freestanding potty)
 
Viaduct d'Austerlitz
 
 
Down along the Seine
 
 
 
Notre Dame from the rear and the Pont de la Tournelle
 
Found myself running back and forth over bridges for different views
 
A must - a boat ride on the Seine (consider day and night)
 
One of my favorite views - Notre Dame
 
My only selfie
 
 
 
 
In some ways Notre Dame is more impressive from the rear
 
Vedettes du Pont Neuf

 
Bridges (Ponts) are as impressive as the monuments

I decided to take a different route back running along side the Seine but turning on Saint Marcel  from Boulevard de l'Hopital.  I saw a sign for Denfert which I knew was by the hotel so I figured this road would get me close.  Eventually it turned into Boulevard Arago which confused me a bit but not enough to be lost.  I suspect Boulevard Arago is named after the French Astronomer (learning that now) and there is an Arago French Line as shown in the Da Vinci Code.  On the west bank, if you are running uphill you are going away from the river, downhill and you are going toward the river.  Obviously, this makes sense but it's a good way to know if you are going the right way on the streets that run mostly north and south in Paris.

My run ended at 9 miles and change.  It was wonderful to explore on foot.  You just don't get the true experience of a city without walking/running in it.  The Metro is easy and I did take it a few times but I walked/ran much of the time to experience the neighborhoods and to get those odd looks from Parisians wondering who the guy is in running shorts.  Running gives you the lay of the land but the downside is, its probably not a good idea to visit a museum or attraction in sweaty running clothes so it's mostly for the outside view.  As you can see from the pictures, the outside views are some of the best and free attractions.  Other places visited during the week included Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Monmartre, Musee de l'Armee Invalides, Musee Rodin, Boat Tour on the Seine, Les Deaux Magots, Saint Chapelle, Flottes and of course Versailles.  I suspect there were more smaller things or run/walk-bys but these are the main highlights.

Unfortunately, Cindy had to work for a full 4 days and although I would have liked to have experienced all of these with her, I was on my own for those 4 days but we did have almost a full 3 days to explore.  The weather was terrible but how can one complain when they are in Paris.  I can go on and on about things and show over 1700 pictures but I have to stop somewhere.  My basic recommendations for visiting is to learn to read maps (make Google maps your friend), learn the Metro map and how the Metro works (its simple but the Metro and RER work differently), learn some basic French, visit the main things as per above (for first timers), explore the side streets particularly on the Rive Gauche (west bank), be aware of your surroundings (as noted on the attempted pick-pocket on the Metro near Montmartre), and relax.

As for running, runners mostly run in the parks and along the Seine.  I saw runners, in Jardin de Luxembourg, Jardin des Plantes, Versailles, and the grounds between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde.  I suspect any decent size park will be where runners are running.  The sidewalks and multitude of crosswalks are not conducive to constant running for longer mileage.  But for visiting, exploring and experiencing the city, there is no better way to get a feel for the city.  I was probably even safer running than my experience in the Metro although the Metros felt pretty safe also.  I never felt unsafe in Paris. I will say running is a universal language.  While running along the Seine, another older male runner and I came to a corner, we both nodded, acknowledging the universal sport of running and we were both in shorts.  By the way, the Paris marathon looks like a great event.  I looked at the course and, now, being there, I can see how pretty it can be.

I would be amiss not to include one last picture of Cynthia and me.  This is her second time there for work so she needed to cram sight-seeing in around her daily chores.  We got to see a lot together on this trip.  I even walked her to and from the bus stop each day.  Overall it was a fun trip.

Love in Paris - night-time boat ride - Eiffel Tower in background 
 


Days 337-361: 79 miles, 2014: 1,645 miles