Archive for September, 2013


This question just keeps popping up over and over again.  It seems to be a very popular topic of discussion in social media and media in general.  New and creative “fun run” style races such as The Color Run are everywhere at the same time that race series that sell fun and entertainment as part of their appeal (think runDisney) are selling out months in advance.  As someone who spends time with the runDisney internet community, it’s clear that many runners look at runDisney events as being about the fun with the finish time being secondary or even unimportant.  This mentality that a half marathon (or even a full marathon) should be a fun event with friends where the running costumes, photo opportunities, and the race “experience” are far more important than actually racing has led so-called running purists to complain that slow runners are a problem.

In my mind anyone getting off the couch and starting an endurance running event has already won something.  It’s hard to believe that less than 4 years ago I couldn’t even run a mile and swore that finishing a full marathon wasn’t even a bucket-list item for me.  Especially hard to believe since I’m about to take the start line of my 3rd full marathon in less than 5 weeks with my 4th full marathon about 2 months later.  Running has enhanced my life in ways I never could have imagined. During my recent efforts at fundraising for Team for Kids as part of my NYC Marathon campaign, some of my most generous donors were people I know through running, several of whom have never met me in person.  And while running through my local neighborhood a few days a week for fitness would have been enjoyable, it is through the shared race experience that I have truly made friends for life.  (One friend remembered that one year ago I helped her cross her first finish line in the Tower of Terror 10 Miler at Disney where the brutal heat and humidity caused many DNFs.)

I read a great post which outlined some solutions for “running purists” who object to slow runners and wanted to share the link as I think this is well-written and interesting: https://themarathonshow.com/joes-events/2013/9/28/solutions-for-marathon-purists

But I also wanted to share my own thoughts.

Un-timed fun run type events are the easiest to address.  I think these can be a great way to introduce new runners or children to running.  My children did one of the Disney 5k races and it was a great experience.  It showed them what it’s like to run a race that isn’t just a short distance on a track and made the experience fun and memorable.  They talk about wanting to do another 5k.  The Bronx Zoo does a family 5k which allows walking and strollers and is about the fun.  And The Color Run does the same basic idea with a different theme.  These are not really aimed at runners who are looking to PR but I think they allow families to introduce children to the 5k distance is a fun and entertaining way.  Purists need not sign up!

Next up are the race series where the goal is fun and entertainment more than speed.  Think runDisney or Rock n Roll series.  Or the Diva Half Marathon I’m running next weekend.  These races advertise fancy medals, generous time limits (16 min/mile is pretty standard), on-course entertainment, etc.  The runDisney courses are often super crowded making PRs difficult at times.  Many runners who participate in these events choose to dress up in a running costume and enjoy the experience regardless of their finish time. The races attract many first-time runners (myself included) and some of those newbies will be woefully unprepared to tackle the distance. I confess that I have mixed feelings about this one.  I, personally, have a hard time training for a races and then not actually racing it.  Stopping every few miles to wait in line for photo-ops during a race just doesn’t appeal to me.  Yes, I often run the Disney races with a camera around my wrist but I tend to just snap quick photos as I go by rather than actually stopping my races for a photo.  My bigger issue is a safety one.  Disney and Rock n Roll are both known for handing out medals even if you get swept.  This means that a larger number of participants show up to the starting line unprepared to go the distance.  I always worry, especially in events where the temperatures are higher than expected, that something bad might happen.  And this is the one area where the purists may have a point.  If you’re going to show up to the starting line of an endurance event, it should be your responsibility to be trained enough to go the distance.  It’s perfectly fine if you’ve trained to go 13.1 miles in 3 hours 30 minutes. But if your longest run ever was only 5 miles, maybe you shouldn’t be showing up.  I totally get that life can happen between the date that you sign up and the date of the race.  But safety first! And I will confess that I can understand that a Purist would have an issue with participating in runDisney-type events.  So don’t.

The third situation would include races like the upcoming NYC Marathon or even my local half marathon that takes place every October on the Bronx River Parkway with about 700 runners.  These a “traditional” races.  There are water stops and port-a-potties and maybe some crowd support (yes for NYC and no for my local race) but the race is ultimately about the distance.  It’s not about a fancy medal or exciting entertainment or costumes.  And while the time limit for the NYC Marathon is about 6.5 hours and for my local half marathon is 3.5 hours like runDisney, the level of running is much different.  At runDisney I’m a mid-packer at worst and about 1/3 of the way back from the front at fast.  In my local half marathon the first year I ran I was in the bottom 20 finishers.  With a 2:42-ish finish time.  Last year I was just under 2:30 and that still put me pretty far back. A slightly slower finish time at the Princess Half Marathon put me 1/5 of the way from the front (seriously I was about 4600 out of 21,0000.  In any non-Disney (or non-entertainment oriented) race, I’m clearly in the back of the pack.

So should I be allowed to run the NYC Marathon? Maybe not to the purists.  One hears murmurings of complaints that the charity runners at the Boston Marathon are taking up precious spots that could otherwise qualify by time.  Really? Having just raised almost $3000 in charity in order to get a spot in the NYC Marathon, I can honestly say that I would have rather spent the extra time running.  I hated asking people to donate money, even to a good cause.  And my race entry fee was the same as everyone else’s.  Plus, I gave money to charity myself – some as part of the registration process and some as charitable giving.  Perhaps equally importantly I have spent months pouring my heart and soul into training.  My 25 mile training run took almost 6 hours.  I wish I were fast enough for it to take half that time.  Even if my monthly mileage is lower than some people, my time spent training is probably similar since it takes me so much longer to go the same distance.  And there is no doubt that I am already adequately trained to cross the finish line.  Not in 3 hours or even 4 hours but well-within the time limit and in a safe and enjoyable manner.  And please don’t tell me I’m not trying to run fast.  I was up at 4:30am on Sunday morning so I could do 12 x 1 mile repeats at 30 seconds faster than race pace (and still finish in time for my eldest child to get to Hebrew School).  It was a tough workout and took a lot of sweat and effort.

So what’s my bottom line? 

One of my favorite definitions of running is that it is a “free-form activity” and there is no “right” way to run.  I think running and endurance racing are big enough and flexible enough to accommodate runners of all speeds and abilities, as long as the participants are willing to put in enough training to be prepared for the starting line.  I think there is a place for “serious” racing where speed is valued and PRs are made to be broken – regardless what time you’re trying to break.  But I also think that there is plenty of space for events aimed at fun and open to all runners whether recently off the couch or Boston qualifying.

One of my favorites things about the running community is how much love and support I’ve found there.  Maybe it’s all the extra endorphins floating around or maybe running just attracts special people.  I would hate to deny anyone the opportunity to join this not-so-exclusive club of runners.  So please join us, regardless of how fast you can go!

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Training update

New York Road Runners posted on their Facebook page today that the ING NYC Marathon is 45 days away. In 45 days I will be starting a journey of 26.2 miles from Staten Island to Central Park. Although truly the journey began 5 months ago when I registered for the race. The marathon is really the 6+ months of training – 5:30am (or earlier) alarm clocks going off for countless training runs. And in my case dozens and dozens of Facebook posts and emails asking family and friends to donate money to Team for Kids in my name and in the memory of my mother.
So where exactly am I with my training? And what do have to accomplish in the next 45 days to be ready to cross that starting line – and several hours later cross the finish line.
The Good:
I’m already completed a 17.6 miler, 20 miler, and 21 miler. Not all were very good runs but they are all in the books. (And, more importantly, in my legs.) Since starting e-coaching with Jeff Galloway I have run over 262 miles in preparation. I’ve had no major injuries or illnesses during that time. And I can honestly say that I think I could cross the finish line tomorrow if necessary. It wouldn’t be pretty but I would finish.

The Bad:
My left foot is bothering me. In the location where I had a 5th metatarsal stress fracture last December. I can’t say that it is painful but I am aware of a specific spot that feels “not quite right.” It doesn’t hurt more when I run. In fact, I almost think it bothers me less when I’m running in my Hokas than when I’m wearing regular shoes. But it’s there and I’m worried about it.
Although I’ve finished some monster long runs, 2 of 3 were not very good. My 21 miler was supposed to be 23 miles but it was hot and humid and I started off dehydrated and tired. I made it 21 miles but never felt great. The 17.6 mile run was another hot, humid disaster where I walked the last 3.5 miles. The 20 miler was actually a good run and I started earlier than the other 2 before the heat of day was in full force.

The Ugly:
Problem #1 is my crazy travel schedule. I missed a few runs during the week leading up to our Disney trip. I’m currently on an airplane heading to Vegas for a medical conference. This weekend is supposed to be a 20+ miler. Obviously that won’t happen when the conference starts really early each morning. I’m hoping to stay well-hydrated all weekend and avoid being dragged out late at night (the power of NO) so I can run the long one on Monday morning when I’m back in NY. Of course I land at 8:30pm on Sunday night so that’ll be an adventure…. Then I go to London next month for my niece’s baptism and get to run another 20+ mile run in Hyde Park. At least I’m traveling alone so I can nap after that one….
Problem #2 is that I’ve had some dips in motivation recently. I *think* there were related to post-vacation exhaustion (try taking 3 kids to Disney and you’ll understand) and the heat wave around Labor Day. Plus the madness of the fall Jewish Holidays which were extra early this year. This week has been much better in terms of motivation (although the generous donations I received this week also helped since I feel like I owe it to my supporters to be well-trained for this race). The weather was ideal for running and I’m much less exhausted (until this Vegas trip….).

Overall I feel that I’m track to finish the NYC Marathon with a huge PR. My Magic Mile predicts about a 5 hour marathon at this point. Even a 5:15 or 5:30 marathon would be a PR for me. Hopefully I stay injury-free, motivated, and ready to run in 45 more days!

In the spirit of the Yom Kippur tradition of confessing your sins, I’ve started to think about all the things I’m NOT doing to prepare for the NYC Marathon. I started thinking about this recently as I was listening to a running podcast (another mother runner podcast, for those who are curious). They were talking about sports books, both fiction and non-fiction. One of their favorite books is by the famous runner Kathrine Switzer who was the first female runner in the Boston Marathon. Her books is called, Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women’s Sports. My first confession, of course, is that I haven’t actually read the book. I want to read it but it’s not available in a e-book format and this creates an obstacle to large for me to overcome. At least to date. The podcasters were talking about the sacrifices that Kathrine made while training for a sub-3 hour marathon. Since I’m having trouble imagining a sub-5 hour marathon, I am clearly not in her league. As they read an excerpt from the book, Kathrine was talking about giving up drinking alcohol and going out with friends to maximize her marathon training. While I’m certainly not a heavy drinker, I can’t say I’ve given up my occasional glass of wine or beer during this training season.
I started thinking about other things I could (or should) do better to prepare for the marathon. While I was doing a great job of counting calories for a while, I’ve totally given it up. We went on vacation the last week of August and I just couldn’t be bothered to count calories while on vacation. And I haven’t bothered to count them since. While I haven’t gained net weight during this training cycle, I have gained back any weight I lost. Which means I’m still 10 lbs heavier than I should be (maybe 15 lbs heavier than ideal training weight). I really should go back to watching calories….
I was also doing a much better job of cross-training earlier in the training cycle. I even started doing a plank-a-day schedule for about a week or so. I don’t remember my last plank. My only cross-training recently has been the occasional tae kwon do class. Which does involve jumping jacks, push-ups, and sit-ups. But I haven’t gone consistently enough to be of major benefit. Another area where I can improve.
I was super consistent with my 3 day/week training schedule for the summer. Until the week before vacation. I started with overdoing a speed work session one weekend which left me a bit sore. That combined with a 60 hour work week and vacation packing really destroyed my running schedule. I did run a few times while on vacation but still missed about 3 hours. If you’re running 5-6 days per week, you can get away with missing 2-3 runs over a 2 week period. If you run 3 days a week, missing 3 runs in 2 weeks is a bit of a problem. I did manage a 21 miler (I was scheduled for 23 miles) right after vacation and I’m trying to get back into my running groove.
Although my various running sins will certainly impact my pace at the NYC Marathon, they shouldn’t affect my ability to finish. I’ve run 18 miles and 21 miles already. I have at least 2 more 20+ mile runs on the schedule before race day. In approximately 7 weeks I intend to cross the finish line of my 3rd full marathon (and 1st NYC Marathon).