Thursday, October 23, 2014

...and God shuffled His feet.... Baltimore Marathon

Once in awhile, in the marathon, you have to rely on more strength than what you can muster, particularly in the late miles.  Whatever, whomever, wherever you can draw that strength from is where you focus.  I tend to find strength in a few areas: other runners, spectators, but most importantly God and Cynthia Anne.  I drew upon all of these in completing my 14th consecutive Baltimore Marathon since running the inaugural in 2001.  Its been a wonderful event over the years staged by Corrigan Sports Enterprises (CSE) and until recently headlined by Underarmour.  There is no doubt that Underarmour should be the title sponsor of this running festival (or at least the marathon) as they are headquartered right on the course and are one of the best sports brands in the world.  They still provide the high quality shirts for all the events.  I hope that they continue to do so for many years.  CSE has always listened to the runners, even after 14 years, making adjustments to enhance everything about the festival to make it the premier running festival that it is.  I am confident that they will continue to do so and again attract a premier title sponsor.  I also believe that The Baltimore Running festival should be inducted into the Legends Museum on its 15th birthday next year.

Due to the potential of the beloved Baltimore Orioles playoff run to the World Series, CSE kept us informed every step of the way with contingency plans.  I can't imagine all of the meetings, negotiations and approvals (up through the Governor's office) behind the scenes to pull off a weekend where the Baltimore Running Festival, Baltimore Oriole's playoff games, and the Baltimore Ravens football game would all occur within a 48 hour period.  Unfortunately and fortunately the Orioles lost to the Royals in four games.  The only modification to the festival was an earlier start time for all events and 7 AM for the marathon and marathon relay.  I welcomed the earlier start time which gave me more time to enjoy Baltimore after the marathon.  I hope that they continue with it.

Please click below to continue reading including lots of pictures.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Dog Fartleked

Although that is also an issue with Casey boy, I mean fartleked in terms of running.  Fartlek means speed play in Swedish and is a training technique that blends continuous running with intervals.  Casey, though, appears to have the fartlek down pat.  Whenever we run, he breaks up the run with speed play.  First, he is excited by the mere premise of going for a run and appears to like the orange stripe on my Saucony shorts, nipping at it for the first few strides.  Then it is "eat the leash" time.  It is only a 24 inch leash so there is not much there to nibble on, but he thinks he has to control his human by taking it in his mouth like he is running me!  "Leave it" works well with him and with only 50 yards into the run he gets into his running pace, stops nipping and leaves the leash alone.  He then realizes that he is going to have to run a couple of miles and throttles back a bit to tell me that we are going to fartlek if he is going to make it a few miles.  I'm sure he believes that a slower pace will allow him a few sniffs that every dog deserves.  "OK, have a few sniffs but then you will have to run!"  I quicken my shuffle to a stride and he propels himself into a sprint.  It is actually a sprint that I am on the edge of not being able to do.  When was the last time you sprinted a marathon!?  But, I keep up the best I can but it is only short-lived because dogs can't sprint (or even run) long distances.  So we sprint about 30 yards or so and slow to a crawl, a few more sniffs, then a normal pace and then he sees a person that he needs to stop for and look at.  OK, stop, smell the roses, people watch and then we are going to sprint again.  This continues for two miles - speed play - fartlek.  What I find though, is that it helps me too.  I was feeling a little twinge in my calf and after we slowed and had a few sniffs, I was good to go and didn't feel it again.  There is so much to learn from a dog, not only in running but in life.  We need to fartlek more in life too.  There are times to sprint and times to sniff, times to take notice of people and times to avoid other angry dogs.  They are all just jealous anyway because they can't fartlek with their human or even say it without laugh-barking - adolescents!  Have you farleked today?

Days 287-294: 36 miles, 2014: 1,395 miles

Monday, October 13, 2014

I Run

"I run into being and becoming and having been into feeling and seeing and hearing.  Into all those senses by which I know the world that God made, and me in it. Into understanding why a Being whose reason to exist is 'to be' should have made me to His image." - George Sheehan, Running and Being
The Quotable Marathoner as edited by Charles Lyons is my go-to resource for quotations related to, "duh", the marathon! My go-to author for running is George Sheehan, runner "duh", philosopher, medical doctor.  His last book Going the Distance was written while battling and finally succumbing to terminal cancer.  Running had such a profound effect on his life.  I've run the George Sheehan classic 5 miler in Red Bank, NJ multiple times.  I wonder, though, how many people running that race truly know who he was and his impact.  How many runners in general really know the history of the sport? I am sure that I don't know half of it but I certainly take an interest in it and learn what I can. Interestingly enough, running is a human endeavor, even before it was a sport. It is built into our DNA, particularly long distance running.  Nearly every other main stream sport involves running of some kind and if it isn't running while doing the sport, it is running to be in shape for the sport. My morning runs are generally preparation for the day.  I run for a clear, concise mind.  I run to tax my lungs and heart and allow blood to flow to the outermost extremities and certainly the brain.  I run to solve problems, to feel good and to see the world in a different light.  I run to experience God and the world He has given me.  I run to feel and I run marathons to experience the mental and physical pain it brings, to put me at the edge of breaking, to make that transition from comfortable to uncomfortable where I need to reach deeper just to make one more stride.  I run into being.

Days 277-286: 38 miles, 2014: 1,359 miles

Friday, October 3, 2014

Too Tough To Tame - Darlington Marathon

I've been a long-time NASCAR fan although my interest has waned a bit over the last few years.  I still follow the results, news and standings but I no longer sit and watch full races.  It was appropriate that the Darlington Raceway was the backdrop for my latest marathon.  The track known for its "too tough to tame" image and labeled with the "lady in black" moniker due to numerous black tire marks on the white retaining walls lived up to its reputation for the marathon also.  Frankly, the course is not that tough in and of itself, a rolling mix of hills and flats in Darlington County with a couple of laps down pit road and on the apron (inside groove) of the track.  But, marathons are not made up of just course layout.  If that was the case, most marathons would be relatively benign because most race directors try to offer a fair (I didn't say easy) course to attract runners.  The Darlington Marathon course was a fair course, a double-loop rolling course mixing short hills with long gradual uphill's, flats and gradual downhill's.  So, what it made it "too tough to tame" for me?  Let me take you through the experience so that I can figure it out.  With me was my crew chief, Cynthia, who truly is my rock (not to be confused with another NASCAR track in Rockingham, NC) at marathons and in life.  In many ways I am more concerned about the logistics for her at marathons so that she can be comfortable than I am myself.  A pet peeve of mine with marathons, which requires another post, is the lack of respect some marathons have for people who join us to cheer us on race day.  This one was very conducive to having our personal "fans" being able to cheer for us at different stages in the race.  My race reports are different than most.  I write about the entire experience and not just the marathon because at my level of running, its the entire marathon experience that I am after and not just the marathon.

Packet Pickup

Packet pickup was at the Darlington Raceway Museum (or if preferred, race day morning in the infield garage area.)  We wanted to be able to see the museum so we left early enough for a visit.  They staged packet pickup at the back of the museum providing access to the storied history of the track.

Upon Arrival

Click the Read and See More link below for the rest of the story

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Be Confident In This

6 being 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

I will allow Him to direct me in His good work... I will have faith and hope...

Days 266-273: 34 miles, 2014: 1,306 miles

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Joy of Running

This past Saturday, Cindy and I ventured to Topsail beach to expose Casey, our 6 month old puppy, who is nearly 50 pounds, to the sand and sea.  He has experienced water before at Jordan Lake and Eno River.  He was really young at Jordan Lake and was afraid of the first few steps into the wet stuff.  But, being coaxed a bit by a couple of paddle boarders and us, he splashed around happily trying to figure out what it was all about.  We then took him on a hike to Eno River, a shallow river in Northwest Durham.  One Ford on the river is ankle deep but about 15 yards across.  We lured him in with a few treats and little by little, he made his way across the river, jumping and splashing toward the banks of the other side.  Of course, both of these venues are fresh water.  Ever since, he loves running through the gutters after rain storms gobbling up the water while sprinting through it.

We decided to show him what the big pond looks like, with waves, sand, birds and fresh salty air.  Of course, he doesn't know that the water in the big pond tastes different than the fresh water in the Eno river or the rain gutters.  The sandy wide open beach was his first new experience.  He danced around like a kid in a new world, kicking sand everywhere and playing.  As we walked to the water, he noticed the waves coming at him.  "OK, this is new, why is this water trying to get me? The other water just sat there and I played with it! This water looks like it wants to play with me!"  Of course, the first thing he does as he nears a tidal pool is gobble the water.  Not good!  That was the last gobble or gargle of the day.  He tested it other places but realized that although the water felt the same, it didn't taste the same.  It was also more fun because it kept coming after him.  Eventually, he just fell in love with it, splashing, galloping, jumping and going in deeper until the water was up to his belly and the waves were tickling him.

He was having so much fun playing with Cindy in the water that I decided to do a few "strides" with him along the edge of the water, enough to splash but little enough to run.  Here is one of my favorite photos of all-time and gets to the pure joy of running!  Cindy took this and captured the essence perfectly.  God's great creations of the ocean, beach, human and dog in an activity so natural to both in a setting so natural and beautiful to this world.  It captures the pure joy of running!  Ironically, I didn't do my normal run on this day but there is no run that I could have done that would have been captured like this.  The waves are shown both calm and powerful.  I'm running relaxed and easy and Casey is surging with a great sprint.  It brings the essence of the joy of running and in life to a real and exposed existence.

Days 263-265: 8 miles, 2014: 1,266 miles (100 days left)

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Good News

"Running tells us the good news about ourselves" - George Sheehan Heroes and Sparrows: A Celebration of Running
What's your good news? No matter how the run turns out, the good news is about the effort we put into it and what we get out of it.  There are days when I have abysmal runs and struggle to find the good news.  At the very core is the good news of being a runner and knowing that each day, I make the effort to do something that I don't have to but want to no matter the circumstances.  In each run, I can find the good news.  It might be something I learn about myself, something I learn about someone else, something that works or something that doesn't, see something that astonishes or see nothing at all, hear, smell and think.  I see a different world when running. I understand more and create better. I am a different person and do things in my mind that I know I am capable of doing.  I see it all so clearly, the good news of the day, the good news of me and the good news of others.  How do I translate all of this to the non-running world?  The Christian message of the good news is described in the 4 gospels.  While running tells us the good news about ourselves, the Gospels tell us the good news of our relationship with God through Jesus.  In this world of perpetual bad news, we must seek out the good news of the day.

Days 261-262: 10 miles, 2014: 1,258 miles