Thursday, 28 October 2010


If you've been reading my blog for a time chances are you know that I have a special fondness for first time marathoners. There is something about the spirit that moves someone to make that committment, keeps them training, in the pre-dawn darkness, chilling wind and rain, exhausting heat, and gets them to that nerve-wracked morning when they line up beneath the "Start" banner for their virgin 26.2...wondering how they wound up there.

Even though I have run very little this year, after last year's dozen marathons, I have still been following a number of folks who've been training for their first. Their journeys have been inspirational, heartwarming, funny, and sometimes frustrating. I have relished each training report, whether posted on a blog or a social media site. They have provided many an hour of early morning reading over that first cup of Blue Bottle coffee...and through many a second.

For one special runner, the training journey is over now. Sunday is race day, in Athens, Greece. Freakin' Athens, people, where this goofiness began some 2500 years ago. I was supposed to be there, but will not be. As we will not be running together, I will not get to share all my "wisdom" with her in I'm going to do it here. This is what I know...about the marathon.

It's a long way. But, the distance gives you so many opportunities for brilliance. There will be many moments when you'll lose control and focus...only to ravenously snatch them back a few steps farther on. You'll then lose it all again...and gain it back..and on and on and on.

It's going to hurt. During...and after. But, it's an amazingly good hurt. Really. It's a pain that comes from having done "it"...spending everything you had on "it". Collapsing on your bed for the first time after the race is like being on it at no other moment. It's like going home.

There are so many snapshots your mind's camera will take..that you'll draw upon well after the pain is gone. You'll see so many joyous faces, as personal mountains are scaled and conquered. You'll never forget seeing someone give up. You'll wish you could help...but will quickly realize that you only brought enough of your own "right stuff" for you.

Time doesn't matter. I firmly believe that first time marathoners should be intent on nothing more than figuring out how to finish..however long that takes...and relishing the completion. The first time is one big class about respecting the distance. The distance is the boss...and always will be. You can not beat the distance. But you can learn to manage your reaction to it. Subsequent marathons can be about time...if you want them to be.

Mile 17 is not where major life decisions should be made. It's somewhere in the 17-20 mile range where many first timers, perhaps out of boredom or desperation, begin to contemplate relationships, career goals, career changes, major purchases, spiritual pathways...anything to distract them from the insanity of the remaining task at hand. This is not good. I have an English Mars bar at every mile 17. They distract me, with childhood comfort, at a time when distraction is priceless. Whatever your equivalent is...don't be afraid to use it.

You'll be thrilled when it's over. For a few minutes. If your experience is as fulfilling as I hope it will be, you'll very shortly begin to consider your next marathon adventure. It's been said that fewer than 1% of everyone in the world will ever run a marathon. You're about to join them.

You've got this. You've done the work. The training's over. It's time to party.

Gotta run!

Monday, 25 October 2010


I have been taking my return to running slowly.

I'm training to run the Austin Marathon in my Vibram Five Fingers. The only running injury I've ever had was sustained while trying to do too much in my "barefoot shoes." Not planning to go through that again. I've gone nine miles in the VFFs in the last ten days. Seven more are planned for tomorrow.

I was feeling like a slacker...until I did my weekly check-in on all the runners' blogs I follow. Not sure if it's just the athletes I'm interested in...or if it's a wider epidemic...but it seems as though every other blog I read is all about being injured. Did you all kick off the fall marathon season with a tad too much zeal?

I'm hearing stories of torn tendons, twisted ankles, fractured metatarsyls, piercing knee pain, aching backs...and fronts. I'm hearing about depression, dreams-delayed...or even cancelled. Too sad. I think I'll stick with slow and steady. I really want some more Texas barbeque in February.
The other thing I'm discovering in many of the blogs I read is...somebody's getting some swag...and it ain't me. What's up with that?

I've been blogging about running for seven of the nine years I've been a marathoner...and I've never gotten anything to giveaway. I'm reading about bloggers giving away sunglasses, compression socks, edible goodies, energy drinks, technical wear, even running shoes, for heaven's sake! What is your secret, people?

One of my very few running rituals is that I eat an English Mars bar at mile 17...every freakin' time...and I've even gotten other runners to try the Mars magic during their runs. So, have I even gotten even ONE free Mars bar? No, I tell you, NO! (Even after my friend Leslie wrote to Mars on my behalf!)

Just in case any marketing people read this...and would like to repair this gross's a list of stuff I'd like. I promise to give some of it away...and to write really bitchin' reviews! (I'm a journalist with integrity in my professional life...but this is a running blog. Hello!)
1. A lifetime supply of the aforementioned Mars bars. (But...they must be made in England...or Ireland...the Canadian or Australian ones just won't do.)

2. Vibram Five Fingers...any one of the running models. The ones I have now will surely wear out by I wouldn't mind a couple of new pairs. (One for to give away.)

3. Lifetime plane tickets on Southwest...and/or Virgin Atlantic. The former will get me pretty much anywhere I want to run in the USA...the latter will get me to London. From there I'll get myself to Greece, or Italy, or Spain, or Estonia, or France, or Germany, or Romania. Of course, if you represent RyanAir, EasyJet, or WizzAir...have your peoples call my peoples.
4. Top class accomodation at fancy-dancy hotels near marathon starting lines around the world. I have mostly stayed at hostels, which are okay...but if I ain't paying, any Ritz Carlton or W would be just fine!

5. A Garmin Forerunner 410 would be nice.

6. As would an Apple iPod Nano. I have a third generation video's awfully big!

7. An iPhone 4 would be okay...with free unlimited I could call home from anywhere to announce my latest finish. And, surely, an extra to give away.

8. Did I mention the Mars bars?

I'm just sayin'.....
Gotta run!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

(JUST LIKE) STARTING OVER..with apologies to John

Now that I've committed to next February's Austin Marathon, and have taken a couple of short runs, it's become sadly apparent that I've been too long away from the madness of marathon training to be able draw on the physical benefits acquired over the thirty races I've run. It's obviously back to Square One.

With that in mind, I spent much of yesterday's day off going over the training I did for those, especially the twelve I ran last year, in an effort to come up with a workable, sane plan for preparing for my second trip to the Lone State state. While gearing up for that adventure, I also had to keep in mind my planned bike trip in Spring 2012, in Scotland, England and Wales. I need to train for both.

As of this coming Sunday, I have 120 days to train for Austin. Four months. Perfect. The twist in this training cycle will be that I have hung up my running shoes, hopefully for good. This time I'm training in my Vibram Five Fingers, fully intending to run the 26.2 miles through Texas' capital city, without the "benefit" of heel padding and the like. My training schedule over the next few weeks consists mainly of the short stuff, in order to get my feet ready for the future onslaught of concrete and blacktop.

The basic plan calls for only two runs a week, with a long run one day, a short or medium run the other day, and a day of core stuff at the gym or a bike ride. I'll only do about 30 miles the rest of this month, more than double that in November, 90 in December and 100 in January. January will include two 20-plus runs leading up to a 25 two weeks before the marathon on February 20th.

Over the past ten months I have gained 8-10 pounds, depending on the day. My other goal this training cycle is to drop five pounds a month, which will leave me at under 175 for the race. I have been there before, and believe it's my fighting weight. I don't think I have much to change in terms of diet, as I eat fairly well now. Just need to trim a little off the edges. One notch in the belt...that's all I ask.

Now that the physical plan's been made, I also need to work on the mental. It's been a while since I've gotten up at 3am to run...'cos I just have to get my long run in before work. The good thing is, I already enjoy running in the dark. Then there's the whole running in the rain thing, as our rainy season is just weeks away. I don't really mind running in the rain, as you can only get so wet. But, the whole VFF's angle might present some challenging debates between the voices in my head! Here we go, people.

Gotta run!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010


Okay...I'll make this quick.

I ran yesterday in my VFFs....for the first time in a very long time...and decided to hang up my running shoes for good. I have been looking for some sort of inspiration to commit myself to the marathon again...after nearly a year off. The VVFs did the trick.

I ran last week in my Brooks Beasts...and couldn't wait for it to be all over. I would have run more yesterday if I'd had more time before work. The nearly-barefoot thing just feels so much lighter, despite the eight pounds I've acquired since the Santa Barbara International Marathon last December. I'm also faster without big spongy heel strikes to battle. Bye, bye served me well. Thanks for the ride.

That was not the only thing decided during yesterday's out-and-back along the San Francisco waterfront. I have also decided on my next marathon. I'm back in the game. I am now officially in training for a return visit to Austin, Texas in February.

I ran Austin in 2009, and despite the bed bug infestion in my first motel room, I thoroughly enjoyed the city, the bbq, the post-race margarita, the music, and the race itself. Word is many of the runners that year were treated to a blazing meteor show in the sky that morning. I missed that. I liked everything about the Austin Marathon EXCEPT the exceptionally cruel steep climb at mile 24/25...on the east end of the state capitol building. My Austin Marathon medal is my favourite, of the thirty I have hanging in my den. I need another one. So...look out Texas...Whacko's coming back.

Part of the inspiration for the two new decisions...the arrival earlier this week of my new Goon Squad Running Club "Big G" singlet. This is one bad ass singlet. I am dying to put it on, but, despite the fact that it says XL on the label...I can't wear it comfortably. My goal is to train the aforementioned eight pounds away and debut this bad boy in Austin.

For my bicycle friends...have no fear. The Scotland trip in 2012 is still on. The return to marathoning will only make me stronger and leaner for that adventure.

Once again it feels good to say....

Gotta run!