Sunday, February 27, 2011

Running Boom or Bubble?

In case you missed it, this year's Marine Corps Marathon sold out in 28 hours. Registration opened this past Wednesday at noon and by 9:00 Thursday morning, MCM organizers posted on Facebook and Twitter that the race was already 90% full. Around 4:30 Thursday afternoon MCM organizers announced that the race sold out in a record 28 hours and 4 minutes. Thankfully, I registered Wednesday evening so I will be running MCM on October 30, 2011.

Many of us on Twitter were amazed how quickly the race sold out. Historically, MCM has sold out in about a week. Social media is definitely playing a part in races selling out faster than ever. Facebook and Twitter have given race organizers additional avenues to promote their races as well as provide updates when races are nearing capacity.

I think there's something else going on part of which has me excited and part of which has me worried. I'm excited because more people are taking up running. When I first started running, I saw very few other runners in my neighborhood. I've started to notice a lot more recently. Several co-workers have told me they've started couch to 5k programs. Not only is it good for the sport but more people have also decided to start making healthier choices.

What worries me is that people might be choosing to run a marathon because of peer pressure or because it's something they want to cross of their bucket lists. This notion that someone is not considered a "real runner" until they've run a marathon is completely absurd. Twitter friend Michael mentioned that his wife was feeling pressured to run a marathon because he does. She has run a 15k and would like to run a half. Is she any less of a runner than Michael? Last year, a close friend of mine ran his first 5k and 5 mile races. The farthest he may run is a half marathon. Is he any less of runner than me? There is nothing wrong with being a recreational runner or a weekend warrior. The marathon is not for everyone. It requires hundreds of hours of training, dedication, supportive friends/significant other/spouse, and lifestyle changes. It's not easy, and if the reason you do it is because your friend is a marathoner or because you saw it on the "Biggest Loser" you'll get burned out and/or injured. That is bad for the sport. This sudden interest in the marathon may not quite the running boom everyone thinks it is but it's more like a running bubble waiting to burst.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Changes to the Boston Marathon

Today was the day that the Boston Athletic Association announced the much anticipated changes to the Boston Marathon registration process as well changes to the qualifying standards. These changes are in response to this year's marathon selling out in 8 hours.

Effective with the 2012 marathon:

"Registration will occur on a “rolling admission” schedule until the maximum field size is reached, beginning with the fastest qualifiers. On the first day of registration for the 2012 Boston Marathon, those who are eligible for entry by having met the qualifying standards for their age and gender group by 20 minutes or more will be able to enter on the first day of registration (September 12). On the third day (September 14), registration will open for those who have met their qualifying standards by 10 minutes or more. On the fifth day (September 16), registration will open for those who have met their qualifying standards by five minutes or more. During this first week of registration, applicants will be notified as they are accepted and their qualifying performance verified.
If the field size is not reached after the first week and additional space remains, then registration will open to all qualifiers at the beginning of Week Two (September 19) and those who have met the qualifying standards by any amount of time will be able to apply for entry. The application process will remain open for the entire week, closing on September 23. At the conclusion of Week Two, those who are the fastest among the pool of applicants in their age and gender will be accepted. Accepted athletes will be notified on September 28."

What does this mean for me? The current qualifying times apply to the 2012 marathon. In theory, it is possible for me to qualify for the 2012 marathon at the Vermont City marathon in May. However, my current qualifying time is 3:15 so it is highly unlikely that I will qualify this spring in Vermont. What about a fall marathon? Registration for the 2012 marathon will be closed before I even toe the line.

Effective with the 2013 marathon: qualifying times across the board will be lowered by 5 minutes (it's actually 6 minutes, I'll explain in a minute).

What does this mean for me? A lot. Before the changes were announced, my plan was to attempt to BQ when I turn 40. That is when my qualifying time would change from 3:15 to 3:20. Under the new rules I would need to run a 3:15. BAA is also eliminating the 59 second "cushion." When I turn 40 I would have qualified with a time between 3:20:00 - 3:20:59. The new rules eliminate the extra 59 seconds so if I ran a 3:15:01 I would have missed qualifying by 1 second.

It goes without saying that it going to be much more difficult for me to qualify. I'm going to continue to train hard and if I'm fortunate enough to get to Boston, great. If not, as I've said before, I'll still be proud of my accomplishments. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An Open Letter to Motorists

Dear Motorists,

You probably don't expect to runners on the road at 5:00 a.m. well guess what? We exist. Since it's still dark, most of us even take proper safety precautions. We wear headlamps, reflective vests, our clothes and shoes have reflective piping on them as well. If done correctly, it's pretty hard to miss us. If you see one of us lit up like an alien spaceship, just keep driving on your side of the yellow line towards the middle of the road. DO NOT:
  • turn on your high beams
  • drift towards the curb or shoulder where we're running. 
  • honk your horn
Lastly, please come to a complete stop when approaching an intersection. Is it really necessary to continue moving into the intersection and nearly run us down? Are you in that big of a rush that you can't stop to let us pass?

If we both do our part, we will able to safely coexist on the road for many mornings to come..


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Good End to the Week

If you follow me on Twitter you'll know that 2 out of my 3 mid-week runs did not go so well. This past Tuesday I had a 1:30 run in zone 2 with 3 minute surges into zone 3 every 20 minutes. The run started off well but then it started to rain. For some reason people forget how to drive when it rains. The rain, crappy drivers, and lingering snow and ice on the ground, created less than ideal running conditions. I knew if I stuck to the main streets I'd be able to complete the run. About 40 minutes into the run I took a GU for extra calories so I could finish the run without bonking. All I'll say is, thank goodness for the laundromat along my route that was open early and had a bathroom. After that, I knew I wasn't going to get the full 1:30 so I pushed the pace for the rest of the time I was out there.

Friday's assigned run was a 12 mile step up interval run where I was supposed to run miles 1-3 in zone 2, 4-6 in zone 3, 7-11 in zone 4, and cool down for a mile. The run was going well, and I was feeling great. Just as I was starting my 4 miles in zone 4, I stepped in a pot hole and rolled my ankle a little bit. Instead of risking a potential injury, I cut the run short and headed home. Thankfully, the ankle did not hurt and was not swollen. I rested it for the remainder of Friday and Saturday hoping I'd be able to bounce back on Sunday with a solid long run.

Today's long run was 2:45 in zone 2 with surges every 20 minutes. I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out. We were out with friends last night and I went to bed a lot later than I am used to. I was surprised how good I felt considering I didn't get much sleep. About mid-way through the run I caught myself racing the workout. I slowed myself down so I would have plenty of energy to finish strong. I had to stop at 2:30 not because I wasn't feeling well but because of a family obligation. I ran 17.69 miles for an average pace of 8:30 per mile. A good end to a week that didn't start off well.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Race Report: New York Road Runner Gridiron Classic 4 miler

Yesterday I ran the New York Road Runners Gridiron Classic 4 miler in Central Park. I could not have asked for a better morning to run my first race of 2011. It was 38 degrees and sunny. After logging so many miles on the treadmill, I was excited to be outside and see what I could do. I wanted to go out hard and see if I could run the 4 miles in under 30 minutes.

Going into the race, I thought the hardest part of the course was the first half mile. The race started just south of East 68th Street which meant we'd be hitting the dreaded Cat Hill very early on in the race. I was hoping this might work in my favor since NYRR races are usually the most crowded at the beginning. This would force me to conserve some energy and then let it rip once I crested the hill. Turns out the corral system worked well and I was able to settle into a pretty quick pace as soon as I crossed the timing mat. I felt fresh going up Cat Hill, the rest of East Drive, and across the 102nd Street Transverse. My pace slowed when I hit the West Side hills at mile 3 but I was able to recover and run a fast 4th mile. Here are the official results:

The 28:43 is a 4 mile PR. Needless to say, I am very pleased with my effort. I know there is a lot of training left before the Vermont City Marathon, but this is a great start. My next race is the Coogan's Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5k on March 6th. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

National Mall Run

The Anskys were visiting friends in Rockville, MD for a few days last week and weekend. We saw a lot of cool things including going to to the top of the Washington Monument, touring the Supreme Court, and seeing the original flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner. I did run while I was down there as well. Once in and around the National Zoo, once around my friend's neighborhood and on the last morning we there, around the National Mall. For those of you that don't know, the National Mall is not some sprawling structure in Washington, D.C. featuring a Sears, Best Buy, Macy's, etc.....The National Mall is the area in Washington that houses many of the famous monuments, memorials, and museums.

One of my favorite things to do when visiting new cities is run through them. It's a great way to explore the city you're visiting. The National Mall did not disappoint. In the interest of full disclosure, I did run the Mall once before, during the 2008 Marine Corps Marathon. For obvious reasons I did not take the time to appreciate all of the sites around me. This past Sunday, I brought my camera and played tourist. There were tons of other runners out, many of whom probably incorporate the Mall into their regular runs just as many New Yorkers run in Central Park or on its bridges.

Without further adieu, here is my run in pictures:

The run started at Smithsonian Metro station facing the Washington Monument:
The next stop on my tour was the World War II memorial

Next up: The Lincoln Memorial
I then followed some runners over the Arlington Memorial Bridge to Arlington National Cemetery

Back on the Mall, I stopped at the Federal Reserve
The Vietnam Memorial

Then it was time to tackle Capitol Hill
At the top of Capitol Hill is the Supreme Court
I saw many other sites along the after the Supreme Court but my camera malfunctioned until I ended the tour where I started at Smithsonian Metro Station. I like this shot because you can see both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

Totals For January 2011

Total Number of Runs: 15
Total Distance: 127.22
Total Time: 18:01:26

Average Distance: 8.48 miles
Average Time: 1:12:05
Average Pace per Mile: 8:30

Despite all of the crappy weather, January was a pretty good month. I started building a big base for the Vermont City Marathon on May 29. Highlights of the month included a 17+ miler in Central Park and a run on the National Mall (blog post to come any day now) on January 31.

So what's up for February? I'll be running my first race of 2011, the NYRR Gridiron 4 miler on the 6th and hopefully many more miles outdoors than indoors.