running

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evolution from sloth to runner

I've read a lot of articles, blog posts and stories about how people know they have crossed over that line between what they were and being a runner.

Some say it's all about participating in races; for others it comes down to a desire to push yourself -- if you train to move faster or longer, no matter where you finish you are a runner; and in a recent article in Runners' World one author boiled it all down to the growth of the pile of stinky running clothes in need of a good washing.

I find all of those good indicators. For me, it also involved an evolving relationship with synthetic fibers.

Since college I've avoided non-natural fibers in my clothing. Partly this was out of being a pseudo hippie and in retrospect it also created a very convenient way of turning down clothing gifts from my mom without insulting her or letting her know that I just hated what she used to buy for me.

We did not have fancy tech clothing when I had last been a competitive runner. Now everyone was telling me that I just had to give up cotton.

Slowly I began to heed this advice. First I shed my cotton socks for fancy running socks with separate toes to prevent blisters. This is about function I told myself. Then I got some fancy shirts as race swag and realized just how much better they were for long runs.

Shorts came next. Right before my first half marathon I got my first pair of real running shorts.

The final move in this metamorphosis is about to happen. UPS is on the way with my new fancy fast drying supposedly non chafe underwear.

I look in the mirror and wonder just who this freak is that is looking back at me.

[note: between the time I wrote this and posted it, my magic underwear arrived and it is wonderful]

Running Goals for 2013

As this year winds down, I seem to be winding up -- putting in more miles, feeling better after long runs, really getting into being a runner again. So, here is my motivational wish list for the coming year:

1: log 1000 miles (training runs and races combined)
This year, the first full year I've been tracking my runs, I'll end up coming in between 700 and 750 miles. With my plan to run fewer but longer races this year I think I'll be able to hit 1000.

2: complete at least 2 half marathons
Manhattan Half in January and the Brooklyn Half in May (or whenever they end up schdule ing it for, it's silly but I see so many people out on training runs with their nice Brooklyn Half t-shirts I think one of the reasons I want to do this race is because I want one of those shirts).
I might find another half marathon hit as a an excuse to travel somewhere interesting.
I registered for the Manhattan Half last week, let's hope there's not a snow storm the day before like there was for last year's race.

Running in Parque Carolina, 12,000 ft elevation: Quito Ecuador

3: hit 60% age grade percentage in a race longer than 3 miles
I managed to hit 64.6% in the 5th Ave Mile, but for longer races I'm stuck in the mid to high 50s. I got close on my 4mile PR in April with an age grade percentage of 59.6%. This year, I'm going to break that threshold. 60% is the line that defines what they call "local class" which is supposed to mean that you are good enough to place (be one of the first 3 finishers) in your age group at local races (but my local races are full of local, regional, national and world class runners).

4: run some smaller non-NYRR races
I love the races that the NYRR puts on, but as an organization they leave so much be desired. They have the worst communications staff and so little respect for the membership, I need to find other races to run in order to keep from giving them too much of my money and implied support.

5: finish top 10% for my age group in at least 1 race (and if possible place in my age group)
This goes hand in hand with the 60% age grade goal and the run races not in NYC run by NYRR. The races in the City are so full of world class runners that I don't stand a chance of seeing the front of the pack, but if I run a smaller race the odds are better.
I've registered for an 8k in April in New Brunswick NJ, based on last year's results I have a good chance of placing in my age group if I train for it and push myself.

6: finish the New York City Marathon in under 5.5 hours.
Yes, I know it's insane but I want to try. I finished Grete's Great Gallop (1/2 Marathon) in just under 2 hours, so in theory I should be able to complete a full marathon somewhere between 4 and 4.5 hours -- But, I want to make sure I set a realistic goal on this one.

Mismanagement Mary must step down

The cancellation of the NY Marathon has become a huge story and a giant pile of shit. Runners in NYC have been damaged by how this was handled. Once again NYRR steps in a mess of their own making.

The problem was not the decision but the timing and lack of ability to communicate; the problem was not what they did but how they did it; the problem is the lack of any sense of connection to the community.

When I showed up at the expo on Thursday, having walked there from the blackout zone, to find not one outlet available for blacked out New Yorkers to charge their phones, it was clear that NYRR had not given any thought to the storm's impact on us, the members/New Yorkers. The continued statements that the marathon would not have diverted any resources or in any way hampered relief efforts underscores that disconnect.

Now that the race has been cancelled (and it should have been cancelled that's the only thing they did right in this entire mess), NYRR should be taking an active role in organizing runners to assist those in need instead of just saying "come to the expo, buy crap and donate it." Instead, other than badly worded emails that further dig them into a hole, there is radio silence from the NYRR leadership. (if you are looking for ways to help, there is a rather comprehensive list of grassroots groups that need help online at https://docs.google.com/document/d/13siHiBucoILQs6Pmdk0Ew2K9Oi7ujblN4OjQ... )

Once again, there is a failure of leadership and communication. Mary Wittenberg is not a leader or organizer, she might be in charge but she is not a leader.

An effective leader would have told everyone before the storm that she would do everything possible to make sure the race happened but also given clear warning that there was a good chance it would not, not build unrealistic expectations that it would for certain happen.

Then as soon as the magnitude of destruction was known, an effective leader would have stated clearly and in a timely way that there was no way for the race to continue, allowing out of town travelers to change their plans.

An effective leader would have seen that it was a no win situation and taken the lead and communicated effectively to minimize the damage to the organization, not waited for the last minute when there was already a large public outcry.

At that moment, NYRR should have taken an active role in connecting runners with local organizations in need of volunteers. That would have left fewer people upset and would have raised the image of runners in the eyes of all New Yorkers.

When the race was finally cancelled, the communication should have contained some level of apology for not acting faster. It should have taken responsibility, not shifted blame to "the media."

Instead she took a path that has everyone upset and has made runners look like a bunch of self-important privileged whiners.

I hope it has become clear to all that it is time for a change at NYRR. Mismanagement Mary needs to step down for the good of the New York City running community.

slightly redundant update, Nov 9
I posted this to the NYRR facebook page and a few people contacted me privately and suggested I add it to this rant, so here you go.

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It seems to me that the NYRR has lost its way. Under Mary's leadership it has forgotten what it is to be a membership organization. It has become more centralized; members and running clubs that used to have a voice are now just paying money for a discount on races.

Part of this is reflected in the focus on the marathon. The NYRR propaganda now states that "everything else is just a warmup for the marathon."

That's insulting to us middle distance runners. That's insulting to the folks that run the other races because we love them. It shows that the entire focus of the organization has become the Marathon, the one big money maker and high profile race.

Once, sponsors were sought for races to facilitate the mission of the organization: to enhance the lives of runners in NYC. Now membership is sought so it can be sold to the sponsors (and sponsors are being sought not for individual races, but on a more large scale and generic way). It's like the NYRR has become facebook, we the members are the value that is sold to the sponsors for profit.

The NYRR is no longer for the runners; it's no longer a membership organization; it's now more of like a sporting goods store that has a discount club that you join to get a discount. A membership organization makes it decisions based on what's best for the membership as a whole; a membership organization gives members a voice. NYRR is a corporation hiding behind the tax breaks of its non-profit status.

Mary should have been thinking about the image of the NYRR as a whole and not just making the marathon happen.

She should have given consideration to the NYRR members and other New Yorkers that were impacted by the storm, and thought about how they would be negatively impacted by thousands of people traveling to town for a race that was not going to happen. She should have understood the media image of tens of thousands of runners moving through blacked out areas, closing streets that could have been used by relief efforts, even if the Mayor was not. That's her job. She failed.

The race should have been cancelled much earlier. The idea that the NYRR keeps putting out there, that somehow the Post had whipped New Yorkers into a frenzy and that we were going to be attacked by hordes of angry thugs is just not in touch with reality.

Mismanagement Mary should have acted with the larger picture in mind, she did not. She should have been a leader in a time of crisis, she was not. She should do what's right and step down (since the dissenting members of the Board have been pushed out since she took over, there's no chance of her being fired by the Board, our only hope is appealing to her sense of what is right for the long term health of the organization as a whole.

The NYRR's lack of ability to communicate, and get ahead of this story and come out looking good is her fault. For that, and her other mismanagement moments in the past year, she should step down for the good of the organization.

Anyone know if Kathrine Switzer is looking for a job? I'd love to see her drafted to take over the helm at NYRR.

It's about more than just the miles

This weekend I'll be running the NYRR 5-Borough Series race in the Bronx. It's a 10 mile race, my longest yet and a big milestone on my way towards the 2013 marathon.

As I've written about on my blog in the past, I started running and racing again in 2011 after a 29 year haitus.

I'm a mid-distance guy, I really love the 5k-10k distance. In some ways, I think I'm insane for having started down a long training path towards 26.2 miles. In some ways, I think that is exactly what is keeping me sane.

When my mom died in March, thinking of running the marathon as a fundraiser for the Alzheimer's Association helped me to start working through the grief. Every run was a way of taking time to think about her.

I could have run the marathon this year with the Alzheimer's Association's "Team Run to Remember", but since I did not get into the race via the lottery in order to do so I would have had to commit to raise over $3,000. That felt like a huge strain on my already strained brain; I could not handle yet another job. Also, it felt dishonest -- like I was just buying my way to the starting line.

The New York Road Runners has another way in, and I was already most of the way to completing the 9 necessary races. This also meant I had to wait an extra year, which seemed like a good thing. I did not want to push myself too far too fast. Now that I'm back at it, I want to keep running for a long long time.

At this point, I've finished the 9 races and 1 volunteer shift and the only thing between me and the 2013 NYC Marathon starting line is 14 months of training.

Since I have my own ticket to the fun for next year's marathon, doing the fundraising for the Alzheimer's Association will also be easier (they ask for a much lower commitment from runners with their own spot) and will feel more like genuine fundraising and not me asking other people to pay my way into the race.

My goal was modified -- this year I'd do a half marathon and see how it went.

Since my mom was born and bred in the Bronx, and my grandfather's store, which I have some great youthful memories of, was only a few blocks from the course of the past few years, I decided to do the NYRR 5 Borough Series Bronx Half Marathon. I thought that race would be the right way to combine my training and my desire to have my running connect me to my mom and the process of grieving. Then the NYRR went and changed the 5 half marathon race series into a series of mixed distance races.

As a result, this fall's race season has two milestones. My first 10 mile race this Sunday and my first half marathon on October 14th in Central Park. The 1/2 marathon is named for Grete Waitz, a woman who was a powerful leader in a male-centric community and who left behind more than she found as a result years of hard work and advocacy. That also feels right when I think of this as a tribute to my mom.

So, here goes -- 10 miles, most of it on the Grand Concourse which was where my mom spent so much of her time from the day she was born until after she got married. I hope to have some friendly ghosts joining me along the race course.

Hi, my name is Eric and I'm addicted to running

I just got back from a nice run, giving a test run to a new pair of running shoes.

At this point, I am running on average 3 days and anywhere from 10 to 20 miles a week.

One year ago today, Jenna and I went out on our first day of the Couch to 5k training. I had not run in about 28 years and found it impossible to imagine I would really take to it again.

That first run was painful. Running for 60 seconds was difficult. I could not imagine getting to the end of the training and actually finishing a 5k race.

Fast forward to today, a short year later. The run I did today is what I now call my "short run", 3.24 miles (a 5k is 3.1). The transformation has been amazing. I log my runs, track my performance and improvement. I now run races frequently and find them joyful and enjoyable. I've become a runner.

When I first hit the 5k mark in July, I was running at about a 10 minutes/mile pace. Three weeks ago, I finished a 4 mile race in an average pace of 7:49/mile, last week I finished a 10k with a 8:14/mile pace.

If you had told me a year ago that today I would be looking forward to my 9th race of the year, which will qualify me for a guaranteed spot in the 2013 NYC Marathon. I'd have wondered what you were smoking.

I used to think that everyone that was athletic was an overly competitive jerk, what I found at races was a shock. People are running against their own Personal Record and at the same time being amazingly supportive of other runners. Everyone wants everyone to win, and since we're all running against ourselves, everyone can win. What other sport has so many people come out to cheer for thousands of people with no chance in hell of being 1st? What other sport even has the concept of Personal Records? The question you hear after a race is not "did you win?" but "did you PR?"

One of the great joys that us newbies get to enjoy is being able to PR frequently. Especially for us "age groupers" (those over 30 who's only hope is to be first in our age group, not first in the race), after a while the idea of getting faster is just not in sync with reality so it's important to enjoy the thrill of beating your own best time wile you can.

After I finish qualifying for the marathon, I'll slow down a bit and start to focus on a long-term training program. Maybe I'll also try to convince Jenna to give it another try -- she hurt herself 2/3 through the training last summer.

The next big milestones for me will be the NYRR Bronx 10 mile race, which will go past my mom's childhood apartment; and then Grete's Great Gallop, a half marathon in Central Park named for one of the greatest women runners to ever win the NYC Marathon.

Maybe I'll start blogging more about running over the next 18 months as I prepare for the marathon. Then again, maybe I'll be too busy running.