No Sleep till Brooklyn!

 

IMG_5496

The Beastie Boys told us “No Sleep till Brooklyn” but my motto today was “no sleep in Brooklyn”.  I didn’t “win” the lottery to get into the NYC Marathon at the beginning of November, so I decided to run The Brooklyn Marathon toward the middle of November in its place.

I’m not a “city” person.  I graduated with 34 kids in my class in upstate NY.  I live in a Town in Orange County with no traffic lights.  There is a giant field across the street and cows just a few houses down.  I’m not a city person.  So when I run a City marathon, I usually stay overnight near the start before so I don’t have to navigate the City traffic.  Unfortunately, my weekend was a complex weekend of basketball games and boy scouts so overnighting on a Saturday to run Sunday morning was not happening.  So I left the house at 5:30 in the morning and drove and hour and 45 minutes into Brooklyn, parked the car and then ran The Brooklyn Marathon.

My past experience in Brooklyn has been going to the Appellate Division to argue some cases.  So going to run a marathon wasn’t something I had even contemplated there (although an enjoyable part of the NYC Marathon, which I did last year, is spent in Brooklyn).  The Brooklyn Marathon is entirely in Prospect Park.  It consists of 6 loops on the outer part of the park and two smaller loops.

One of the great pet peeves of Marathon runners is people about 3 miles out yelling “you’re almost there”.   Three miles may not sound like a lot, but when you’ve already got 23 miles under you, you are tired, and three miles is still typically another 30 minutes to go for slow people like me when you are marathon running.  Here, however, on the very first loop, just a couple miles in, there was this guy trying to be funny yelling “you’re almost there”  “Keep going”  “you’ve come this far, just finish” “the finish line is right around the bend”.  Collectively, we all wanted to laugh since it was just a couple miles INTO the race – it was all still fun then.  HOWEVER, when he  was there loop after loop saying the same thing, it became less funny.  I decided on my last loop I would take a “selfie” with him, but alas he disappeared.

Prospect park was beautiful in the fall, the race was well organized.  I had only run one multi-loop course before (my “midnight marathon” in July of 2015).  This course was much more enjoyable and the crowds were nice.  One other thing worth mentioning, there is a long but mild hill – but it IS long, on some part of the course.  It was a very windy day today and as three of us were running under a tree, I heard “crack” and a ten foot branch came down.  I sometimes wear ear phones in races – today I opted not to.  It was a good thing as the other two people next to me had earphones on.  I grabbed one who was oblivious and the other was far enough away she was out of the line of fire, but that branch came right down, and I am glad not to have been hit.  Scary stuff.

Last comment – the medal (pictured above), has the names of all Brooklyn’s neighborhoods.  I absolutely love the medal.  The race shirt is very similar.  Nice day!

Advertisements

3 Marathons in 3 Weeks, but Marine Corps Marathon stopped us cold.

IMG_5115

They way you having both quantity and quality can be hard.  Three marathons in three weeks plainly meant my body would not be in the position it needed to be to run my best.  I’m not one to ever think I’m “entitled” to be under 4 hours – it’s only happened twice.  Still, having run the Clarence DeMar Marathon on September 24, then booking one weekend off but then three weekends of marathons in a row, plainly meant I would not be breaking four hours again this year.  I didn’t, but that’s ok.

I had run all three of these marathons before – Steamtown in Scranton PA (home of the show “The Office” as well as where former VP Joe Biden was born); the Hambletonian Marathon – my hometown and first marathon three years ago, and Marine Corps.    Thankfully, the last one, Marine Corps, would be a “walk run” with my wife.  I take personal pride in running marathons, but my wife enjoys a more casual pace – and I enjoy her company, so that’s fine.  We did the Disney marathon at the start of the year, and now were winding down the year with the Marine Corps marathon in Washington.

Marine Corps would be my 30th marathon.  It was particularly touching though not for our slow time or being the third in three weeks, but because of who it honors.  As you reach mile 12, you see pictures of soldiers on both sides of the running path.  They are fallen soldiers.  They are part of the Wear Blue – Run to Remember program.  That program was founded by “Ironman” Lisa Hallett.  Ms. Hallett’s husband was killed in action in Afghanistan.  She was a runner and built the Wear Blue initiative to help runners overcome grief and remember those soldiers to made the ultimate sacrifice.  She is also, as noted, an “Ironman” – having competed in Kona.

As we made it through mile 12, my wife stopped – hard.  She saw a familiar picture.  A Marine, who was a former student of hers was one of the soldiers pictured.  We had known of course he was killed in action seven years ago.  Every face of the dozens (hundreds probably) of pictures was unique.   They all had their own story.  To see though the face of the young student my wife had taught – with a giant smile on his face, certainly brings our wars home.  The young man, and I’m not saying his name on purpose as I don’t think I can give it the respect for his story that he deserves, was pictures, as I said, with a giant smile on his face – having fun.  My wife was as happy about that as you can be under the circumstance.  She remember him as such a happy kid.  Families have to choose our images when we die, and often times they are serious portraits in these tragic situations.  Here, we saw a picture of a local “kid” with a huge smile on his face, just as he had lived life.

We did finish the race of course.  The pain you sometimes feel in races though when you see the hundreds of pictures of the fallen on the side of mile 12 at Marine Corps can sure put things in perspective.

 

Air BnB and another State down

Clarence DeMar was told by his doctors that his heart was not strong enough to run long distances.  In response, he won seven Boston Marathons and an Olympic medal.  He became a teacher in Keene, NH – undoubtedly teaching students perseverance.

For a couple of years I had been eyeballing the Clarence DeMar Marathon in Keene, NH but scheduling had not worked out.  This year I was able to change that.   I’m not convinced I will become one of those “50 State” marathoners, but I’m sure trying.  I’m up to 11 so far, so I will just keep plugging.

The hotels in Keene were crazily priced and as my family would not be coming, I decided to try Air BnB.  What a great experience I had.  I stayed at a solar powered house “off the grid” with several other runners.  The race was a point to point race starting in Gilsum, NH and ending at Keene State College (in Keene, NH).  Keene is a great New England Town – think “Newhart” just larger because it has a college there.

The race organizers moved the race start time back an hour – which meant getting up super early – around 4:45 AM (which is super early for me).  I had to drive to the finish line and park.  Then we had to be bused to the start line for the 7 AM race start.  We had to sit around in a gym for about 45 minutes pre race start.  The people were nice, but the “point to point” races – where you have to be bused someplace to start, are not my favorite.

Every Marathon is unique of course (this was # 26, and while many more people have run many more marathons, with 26 done, I feel like I can speak with a bit of authority on the various types of marathons).  However, this marathon added some extra incentive – a cemetery and the threat of zombies.  My older son – who caught the “zombie” craze, questions my intelligence for running marathons (“you pay money to run a long distance and become really tired” – yup).  However, I thought the zombie training course within the marathon’s real cemetery may impress him (it didn’t, he’s 15, very little I offer impresses him).

 

My Siena Lady

In the fall of 1991, I met the cutest “girl” and chased her for all I was worth.  We met at Siena College.  She’s stuck with me through thick and thin – literally in my case.  One of her favorite movies – probably her favorite, is “The Sound of Music”.  In Europe we were able to visit the “real” Siena – the Italian City outside of Pisa, and also stay in the real Von Trapp Home – the home the Von Trapp family left in Salzburg, Austria so that they would not be forced to serve Hitler.  Ironically, Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS would takeover their home, and make it his summer house.  You could actually see one of Himmler’s bunker’s  – leading to underground areas, at the Von Trapp home still.  This was truly a terrifying reminder of our truly not too distant past.

So I ran through the Swiss Alps.

IMG_5416 copy 2

When my wife and kids and I decided to plot a summer trip to Europe, I wasn’t thinking we would be the Griswalds in total.  We did go to a beer hall in Germany (I actually had root beer).  We did see the places where the Sound of Music was filmed in Salzburg.  We did try to drive in Rome – that was fun.  The highlight though for me from an exercise perspective was I did the Swiss Alps 47k – http://www.SwissAlpine.ch for those interested in torturing themselves.

The race organizers said to plan to “double” your normal marathon time.  47K is a few more miles than a regular marathon, but there was no way this climb over a couple of hills should actually cause me to “double” my marathon time.  Yeah right.

In any event, I did double my normal marathon time.  But it was still incredible.  We ran (ok, climbed) thousands of feet of elevation gain.  We went through steep rocks, and snowy peaks – in July.  It was truly the only race I honestly thought about quitting.  The leg cramping was intense, I had no appreciation for how hard it would be.  It was painful, it was challenging, it was glorious.

In some races, there is a “sweep car”.   Here, if you wanted (needed) to get off the course, they would send a helicopter, rope down a gurney and two EMS workers, strap you in, take you back up to the helicopter, and fly you to an ambulance.  As I said – it was painful, it as challenging, but there was no way I was going to be helicoptered off the Swiss Alps.

I celebrated the only logical way possible, I strapped myself into a parachute afterwards and ran off a cliff and floated gently down those same thousands of feet to the ground. Swiss Alpine Marathon 2018?  I doubt it, but you never know.

IMG_3975 copy

Runner’s World. Me?

I grew up in the Catskills and one of my childhood friends were the Hirsch brothers.  The name “Hirsch” may not ring bells instantly, but in the running community, it’s the Gold Standard.  Right up there with names like Frank Shorter (1st American to win Gold in Marathon), Bill Rogers, Deena Kastor (America’s most honored female Olympic Runner).

The Hirsch brothers, father, George Hirsch, is Chairman of the Board of the NY Road Runners, a founder of the NYC Marathon, and a past publisher of Runner’s World magazine, Men’s Health, etc.  He also ran a 4:04 marathon, AT AGE 75, not too shabby!

While I have not seen Mr. Hirsch or his kids in years, I hope he would be happy to know that a magazine he founded has helped teach people about a sport that has changed so many peoples lives, including mine.

Each week Runner’s World tells the story of someone who running changed.  This week, I was pleased to have the story be mine.

Short post today, it’s a Saturday, I slept in, now it’s off to the gym.  Taking the kids to WWE wrestling tonight . . . priorities!

MARATHON 25!

I remember my 1st marathon 32 months ago saying “never again”.  So I still find it funny that I laced up my shoes to do marathon 25 this past weekend.

I was able to run with my wife’s and my college friend, Dr. Michele.  She is the complete opposite of her 6’3″ husband who won our shared age group last week at THE Classic 10k.  Dr. Michele is about 5’2″.  She took me though my first 20 mile run in October of 2014 and was at the start line with me at my first marathon, my 12th in 12 months, and two more – including my 25th.

She was my “security blanket” on my first one  (what’s better than running your first marathon with a real medical doctor by your side).   We stayed together for the first half of that before injury forced her to slow down.

Last year, I was able to coach her to her goal time for what was her fourth marathon.  This year we did her 5th (my 25th) together.  I was glad to be with her as temperatures stretched into the upper 80’s.  That meant I could check my pride and run an hour slower than my normal 4 hour to 415 time and just enjoy the day.

Marathon running has become a lot of fun for me.  When you are running for the pure joy though and don’t care about the time, it can sometimes be even nicer.