Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Philadelphia Distance Run

This is one of the most popular races in Philadelphia. I think it should be a destination run with these qualifications: there is no crowd support and the weather can be very warm (even yesterday was a tad humid and warm).

It is both an interesting and beautiful course. You start on Market Street past the new Constitution Center and can see Independence Hall and though most runners won’t notice you past the shop where Ben Franklin did business. Up over Penn’s landing and on to Walnut where you will get another view of Independence Hall and past Washington Square.

Then cityscape for a mile or so before turning toward the Ben Franklin Parkway. There can’t be many more beautiful venues than the run up the Parkway around Logan Circle (which is really one of the original town squares). The Art Museum looms in its Grecian glory.

From there you turn onto West River Drive where you get a great view of Boathouse Row It mostly shaded and green if you look close you may even spot the lead runners miles ahead and across the river on Kelly Drive.

I slowed a little on the hill approaching Falls Bridge a beautiful iron bridge takes you over the Schuylkill to Kelly Drive. In both the Distance Run and the Philly Marathon this is the horse to the barn time. You can smell the finish. I’m not sure if it’s an advantage or a disadvantage but those of us who run Kelly Drive can now count down the miles practically by quarters to Boathouse Row. Go by Hunting Park Tunnel and the Ghost Tunnel five miles, Jack Kelly rowing three miles, General Grant mile and half, Remington’s cowboy and the stone tunnel, ¾ mile, Boathouse Row, then back in front of the art museum. And a push down the parkway to Logan Circle.

A comfortable run for me. Goal 8:30 miles. Average 8:34. But not good pacing - first three miles much too fast, mile seven because of a water stop and hill too slow, last three slow but steady.

In A Flash

Got up this morning to a light rain, gusty winds; walked the dog; did my morning routine and was just in the process of shaving when my wife said “These winds are worse then the hurricane” with that the lights went off. Still not aware of just how bad it was. Then I noticed that pieces of trees were everywhere. In the cemetery behind my house large obelisks were knocked off their pedestals. A fire engine came down the street (later I learned a trees had caught fire from fallen wires). As I drove down my street I saw tree after tree down. And when I entered the business district a short distance away I knew we had been hit with something dramatic. The “experts” are still debating whether it was wind shear or a tornado, but it doesn’t matter the damage is done. A huge old tree fell into a nearby church shattering the stain glass window. Cars were crushed under heavy trees. My daughter who lives nearby said not a street in her neighborhood didn’t have a tree down. A large tree just missed her car. The property losses are huge but fortunately no one was seriously hurt.

Of course there were no traffic lights and power which, strangely, briefly went back on is off again. Incredibly as often happens in these wind storms the damage is very localized. Go a mile and everything is normal. The local all news radio was still saying light rain with clearing by noon.

I have seen this kind of devastation on TV and I remember the damage from Floyd but I never experienced this sudden, terrific damage so close up. (This is suburban Philadelphia not Kansas.) My neighborhood will be different for a very long time. I’ve never seen so many large trees down. Some of the smaller ones were just snapped in two. Many streets are closed but crews are already hard at work.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

David Blaine

I'm curious if any one on DRM has been following the David Blaine furor. For those who don't know Blaine is a talented magician. His close up slight of hand is absolutely amazing. For the past couple of years he has been doing "stunts" like being sealed in a block of ice. His latest stunt is being sealed in a glass box over the Thames where he will stay 44 days without food (but will have water). Now remember he is an illusionist so I wonder. But last year (I think) he put out a very strange book and I wouldn't be surprise if he actually was doing it. He is very big on acts of will.

The unusual thing is this stunt has had a very strange affect on the British. They have been taunting him, hitting the case with eggs and golf balls. The other day someone tried to cut off his water supply. Now again since this is a stunt those acts may be staged for publicity. But Blaine has been savagely attack by both left and right; the kindest critics have said he's an idiot and even that he causing anti-Americanism (or is a victim of it).

Now I agree the stunt is pointless but what the heck -who's he hurting. It may be because I regularly engage in an activity (running in general and marathoning in particular) that many if not most see as pointless and worse (I remember the screams directed at us during the Baltimore Marathon by those caught in traffic) (not to mention that I correspond with even nuttier people who do ultras), but I kinda admire the gustiness of pulling this off. There is something sublime in the essence of this in your face, pointless, look at me, arrogance of this stunt.

I’d be interested in how other runners look at this.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Got my long run in. Not pretty. Much too hot and humid. Used the walk run method and was glad of it. I'm tired but not trashed. I went out on unfamilar roads thinking it would be easy to loop back, but I didn't count on how convoluted the roads can get (roads where the 90 degree right keeps the name and the straight ahead changes name - what's that about). So I stopped and asked directions. A very patient woman gave me directions then either noticing I was very tired or just presuming that men don't pay attention asked me to repeat them. She did it in a manner that convinced me she was a retired teacher - kind but firmed. I was glad to pass the test! (And the directions while complex were perfect.)

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Edward Teller, Johnny Cash, and John Ritter all died this week. Each a generation apart. Although two were entertainers, all three lives were very different. I wonder how to measure the impact of a life. Ritter seemed a nice person who made likeable entertainment but nothing that was an enduring contribution. Teller although a scientist made his mark in politics. Some hated him for his cold warrior mentality. But would the world be better if the Soviets had the Hydrogen Bomb and the US didn’t. Teller was important but anonymous – one of many. Cash was also one of many and perhaps his entertainment will be as ephemeral as Ritter’s. Musical tastes change and the famous of one generation are forgotten by the next. But in the short haul of the long I think it likely that 20 years from now Cash will still be known, his music played and copied. What’s sad is that in 20 years Ritter would have been only a little older than Cash when he died and Cash would just be catching up to Teller’s long life. Historians would probably argue that Napolean made a bigger impact than Beethoven but oh to have written the Ninth.

This morning was cloudy and rainy and I was uncertain about running. I played with the idea of just going to the gym, but finally took a chance and headed out. Turned out to be one of those great runs. A light misty rain fell most of the time with winds and clouds adding texture. The miles sped by and seemed easy. Perhaps because I was considering the lives of others short and long that my own embrace of the world around me seemed so satisfying. Tomorrow is a long run – I hope it goes as well.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Friends of the Dove 10K

Peace Valley Park

Lake Galena

I entered this race on a last minute whim. I was checking races for a friend and chanced on this race (go to events). It sounded so interesting I decided I would give it a try. This race was about the edge of how far I’m willing to go for a small local race. Actually on a Sunday morning it wasn’t too bad; about 45 minutes up the blue route, turnpike and Rt 309. 309 is highly commercialized with lots of the newer big box centers reflecting the increasing development of this area. The back road areas are still quite beautiful. But it seems obvious that these towns are going to have to deal with congestion issues quite soon. I did get a little lost at the end but a very nice homeowner saw me puzzling over a map and gave me directions. She added that the park was a treasure and I would really enjoy it. It was and I did.

This was a no excuses race. Perfect weather (well maybe a little warm but lots of shade) and although it was crowded at the start, I was able to run at my pace quickly. I had hoped for 8 minute miles and averaged a bit slower 8:13. I had done 10 miles yesterday so that may have contributed. One long uphill in mile two but I did quite well in that part. The course is a loop around Lake Galena. Mostly on a bike path but a couple of miles on fairly well controlled lroads (amateur radio group served as marshals). After the first mile I always had plenty of room to run. At mile three you go past the nature center. A little further on we passed birders who were training their binoculars and scopes on a birding area closed to humans.

Great finish – last half mile is a straight on a causeway over a dam. Out of 266 runners I was 114.