Sunday, January 27, 2013

Manhattan Half Marathon

Today was the Manhattan Half Marathon, my 67th New York Road Runners race and 78th overall. My official net was 2:35:26 and my highlight was an unexpected negative second half split. We started in 12 degree wind chill, and I am very happy with these two laps around Central Park. Know what I liked best?

All the things I thought of while I was running.

Is there a way to verbal-blog while you run? I know, end-of-the-world if I ever get ahold of that capability. But serious, that is when I do my best thinking. I want to keep my thoughts. If anyone knows of a functionality let me know. I run with my iPhone, usually on marathon playlist or Pandora. I don't want to carry another device ie tape recorder, either, although that might be worth considering.

The Manhattan Half is an opportunity to be lapped by elite runners, and I say "opportunity" whereas others may not love this. I always have embraced this as an opportunity, because it gives me a chance to study and do my own research on the eventual race winners, admiring their form and trying to emulate.

Lean forward at one degree while you run, just enough tilt without getting your upper body in front of your feet. Piston-pump your arms straight through and back, relaxing them often during the course of anything over a half-marathon. They power-lift their quads, driving their legs from their buttocks. They are like deer. Their head is solid on top without bobbing, looking straight ahead. They are locked in.

Hills are a big degree of difficulty at Central Park. We ran counter-clockwise starting from the old Tavern on the Green, so we go up Cat Hill on the East Drive and also the steeper North Woods hill. I ran solid up both of them, and we also have the three or four rolling hills on the West Drive near the reservoir. I have a technique going up hills that I learned from our Team for Kids coach before the 2007 NYC Marathon. I never look ahead at the horizon. I look down, just enough ahead to not clip anyone, and I count backwards from 100. If I'm not there yet I repeat. Soon enough the hill is over. It works for me.

"POSITIVE thought, NEGATIVE split." I thought of that while I was running the second half of the race. At the Boat House, I was at the halfway mark and my time was 1:20. I was calculating in my head, thinking 2:40, maybe 2:45 finish. I decided to push myself in areas where I started to slow in the first lap. The result eventually was a negative second half split. I am still far from my 2:18 PR for a half, set at this event five years earlier, but I am focusing on the positive and still capable of surprising myself.

I thought of a photographer along the way. Marathon Foto is awesome compared to the old bunch. They email you beforehand to tell you where they will be positioned. I noticed there was one guy on the big North Woods hill. Right there in the middle of miseryville. But I found myself wanting to regain my best running form in that moment, powering through that hill, because dammit the camera was on. And you know what? Suddenly that photog had me running up the hardest hill. WHATEVER WORKS!

I always forget about the pain after a half or full is done. I always have that WHY AM I DOING THIS moment, then it goes away.

You know when you come upon a sign like mile 3, and it has a 9 sign just behind it for the following lap? I remember running past the 3 sign on the north end, and just staring at that 9 sign and thinking how cool it was going to feel when I passed that one an hour or so later. Little things like that keep me going. An hour or so later, I was on the north end again and I just looked at the mile 9 sign and I felt a sense of accomplishment as a runner that matters to me. I am not a front-of-the-packer, I am more toward the back. But I am proud of my times, and proud of my little milestones like that one. They teach me to drive and reach and pursue.

Next Sunday is the Gridiron Classic 4 miler at Central Park, the morning of the Super Bowl. Once I run that, I will be a third of my way to the NYRR 9+1 requirement for automatic entry into the 2014 NYCM. I am in this year's NYCM so that will be 4. I am well on my way. This feels good, keeps you driving, too.

Congrats to everyone who ran today, and especially to those hardy souls I ran with on a brutally cold day at Central Park. A year ago at this time I was running the Miami Marathon, a much different scene indeed!

Friday, January 25, 2013

A special anniversary for my feet

Happy fifth anniversary to my feet.

It was five years ago that I enjoyed what still is my biggest breakthrough in going from overweight smoker to a healthy, 10-time marathoner. I owe it all to these green Brooks Glycerins to the right and more importantly to a young unknown sales woman at the Fleet Feet St. Louis location in Chesterfield Valley. The moral of this story is this: running is at least 50 percent proper footwear; buy your shoes from someone who runs; and keep buying whatever type of shoe works for you no matter what.

My first full year of running was 2007 as a member of the New York Road Runners. I finished that year's ING New York City Marathon, but the last 14 miles I was in agony with plantar fasciitis and each footstrike landed on a different area of my right foot to equally distribute the pain. I tried all the usual remedies: Strassburg Sock, and rubbing with an iceball (fill Dixie cup with water, place in freezer and then tear off the top rim to form a ball you can rub on a sore spot). Nothing was helping. Had some shin splints, too.

I had been running in ASICS support shoes that first year. An incapable salesperson at JackRabbit in NYC had correctly done a video gait analysis of me on a treadmill and then gave me what he believed I need due to modest overpronating. They were the wrong shoes for me and I would not realize that until early 2008.

During a visit to St. Louis, I went to that Fleet Feet STL location and a woman asked if she could help me. I told her I going to be in that April 2008 St. Louis Marathon and that I needed a new pair of shoes. She was running it as well, so immediately I felt great knowing I was in proper hands. Those hands, it turned out, made all the difference. She told me to take my shoes off, and she got down and placed her index finger under the arch of my foot as I stood. That was different.

"You have high arches," she told me.

That was news to me.

She walked over and grabbed a pair of green Brooks Glycerins. I tried them on. She said they were Neutrals, which is what I needed for high arches. She told me to go outside store and run around in them a bit. I did. It felt like bouncing on a cloud. I would not truly know if these were the answer until I built up some training miles, but once I did just that, I found myself running with no issues. This went on, and on, and on, through my fastest year of running. That year I finished the STL Marathon in 5:21, then lowered it to 5:13 at that autumn's NYC Marathon, and two weeks after that I used them to finish my first ultra, the Knickerbocker 60K around Central Park. I was in love with these shoes.

I vowed to just keep changing the colors and stay in Glycerins. I have in these five years since. I have occasionally mixed in a set of trainers, and they have been fine, because they are always Neutrals. Other than a bout with IT Band syndrome a year ago, caused by a left hip weakness that physical therapy corrected, I have been a healthy runner. That is more important to me by far than any finish time.

Here are those same green Glycerins after they had been long retired. In December 2011, I celebrated my fifth anniversary of becoming a runner by donating eight pairs of my retired shoes to Soles 4 Souls.

Wherever that Fleet Feet STL saleswoman is, I hope she knows what a difference she made in one runner's life. My feet thank her. Happy fifth anniversary to my feet, we are still going strong!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Leitmotif Surrender

(Ode to an Inauguration)
©2013 Mark Newman

Leitmotif surrender
Winged Mercury appears
To Arcite in a dream
Wandering in the woods
Garland covered fears

Leitmotif surrender
Dawn us new a day
Inaugural nobility
Old hag into beautiful maid
Partisan pride decay

Leitmotif surrender
Three temples Theseus wont
Love, war and chastity
Greet was th’effect
And heigh was his entente

Leitmotif surrender
One nation under God
Three temples we are wont
Executive, Legislative
Judicial in unison endowed

Leitmotif surrender
Saturn's request of fate
A shaken Earth
Instruments of new fortune
For youthe and elde is often at debaat.

Leitmotif surrender
Beyond past farsical tale
Inauguration Day 2013
In hopeful unison proceed
On history's fleeting gale.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Forgiving Lance Armstrong

To err is human, to forgive divine.

I forgive Lance Armstrong and if he needs to re-start his life with someone who ran in two races with him, he can find me here. I would slow him down as a running partner but I would be one. I've done my life 2.0 already, rebuilt after misjudgment or misdeed, become the better for it. The measure of a man is how you come back from adversity, not how you deal with life at the top. I respect people like Rick Reilly who now lash out at him for having manipulated them over the course of years, and yet I would gladly reach out the first hand of support for someone I have run two races with, so to speak.

I am not defending what he did; I am just not judging now that he has confessed. One morning last month, I rang our Episcopal church's bells 28 times upon the national moment of silence for the Newtown shooting victims. The first 26 were for the children and adults who were killed in the school. By the 26th pull I was already in tears. After a short pause, I tolled the bell a 27th time for Adam Lanza's mother. After one last pause, emotional and standing next to a church altar by myself, I felt a chill and I pulled down on the rope that echoed one last loud, ominous clang throughout our community, and that one was for Adam Lanza.

In that moment I forgave someone who stole so many lives.

That is standard belief if you happen to be Episcopalian, if you are Christian. I am not sure what your faith is, and it does not matter to me. During a typical Sunday morning service's reading of the Prayers of the People, there comes a point where our vicar prays aloud for those awaiting execution on death row.

If we can forgive the most despicable killers in society, I think we can forgive Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong finished the 2007 New York City Marathon in 232nd place, with a time of 2:46:43. I started at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island just like him that day, ran across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge just like him, ran through Brooklyn and Queens and up First Avenue and into The Bronx and back down Fifth Avenue and over the finish line at Central Park just like him. By contrast, I was a first-year runner dealing with plantar fasciitis and there may have been 232 people who finished behind me. He was an elite runner, I was a back-of-the-pack runner, but we both ran the greatest marathon in the world that day, and that is a fact. In fact, it is one of the things that makes being a marathoner pretty amazing, that rare chance to participate in a major, televised sporting event with the greatest athletes in that same sport.

We both wore exactly the same yellow LIVESTRONG shirts for all 26.2 miles. I added a bright-lime Team for Kids singlet over mine.

The next spring, Armstrong finished the New York Road Runners' Scotland Run 10K in 34:56 (5:38 pace). I finished it in 59:56 (9:40 pace), delightedly so. For the second time in five months, I ran an official scored race with Lance Armstrong, who as we know now was a defiantly juiced athlete. I was taking peanut butter and jelly and telling no one my secret.

He has been known to ride his bike past our house and into the morning bike mecca of our little destination town of Piermont along the Hudson River just north of New York City. When you go to Bunbury's coffee shop, you see the picture of him in the window, sitting there on the bench in front of Bunbury's with one of their muffins, a turnaround break spot after you bike the Palisades from Manhattan.

In my long career as a sportswriter, I have been surrounded by athletes who cheated and lied. Just look at the Hall of Fame ballot I was asked to fill out again last month, and consider the statement by a collective electorate that admitted no one, denying even someone like Craig Biggio, who should have been automatic by virtue of 3,000 hits and a career all with one team and a phenomenal community asset. I am realistic enough to know that no matter what safeguards are added -- baseball has added a huge one -- there will always be humans who seek to beat the system in any way they can, while it is their time.

Exposing corruption is one of the reasons I chose a field of Journalism at Indiana University. Bringing the kind of lies like Armstrong's to light is always a priority. But at that point, I do not judge. It is up to that person to rebuild trust and to restart a life. That is when I forgive and extend a hand. At a time when I see no one else forgiving Lance Armstrong, that is exactly what I do right now, in this space.

The clock is ticking on your life on Earth, like it says on that stone inscription in the movie "Gone With The Wind," and if you want to spend the next 10 minutes holding grudges, that is your call. Forgive like crazy.

Friday, January 11, 2013

NYC Marathon refund option chosen

Officially requested $216 refund for the 2012 ING New York City Marathon that never happened. My other "resolution" options from the New York Road Runners were guaranteed entry in the 2013, '14 or '15 marathons, or the 2013 NYC Half. I'm already guaranteed for this fall's marathon -- this one will be epic! -- and will be guaranteed for upcoming years as well due to my annual 9+1 eligibility (run at least 9 scored qualifier NYRR races and done 1 volunteer assignment during the previous calendar year). The NYC Half is played for me after two or three years of running it. I'd frankly rather it be enjoyed by others who never have had the thrill of running through Times Square! I am happy to have an historic refund, the first time NYRR has made this exception. Thanks to Mary Wittenberg and the NYRR. Today was the first day in this 2-week window to request your option, so heads-up for others who need to make a choice as well.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Joe Kleinerman 10K pics

Here are pics from Saturday's Joe Kleinerman 10K around Central Park, my 66th New York Road Runners race and my 77th race overall since I traded smoking for marathoning.

This also marked the 12th and final day of the #12RunsOfChristmas -- what a challenge! So cut me some slack on how bad I look crossing the finish line. Interesting to see that has been replaced by The difference in photo staffing was obvious as they had more photogs shooting the back-of-packers and even pre-start and post-finish. My experience with brightroom last year especially and in recent years is extreme laziness for some photogs; hope it's permanent.