Friday, May 27, 2005


The local weekly paper runs an occasional column written by Amy Binder. In her latest column Amy wrote a about not wanting to do a marathon or even a half-marathon. I wrote the following as a response:

Running just for fitness is great and if that works for Amy great but here is another perspective.

Goals help both with motivation and with interest. Boredom – compared to what? Sitting and watching life past you by. Choose your course carefully. A run need never be boring. If you don’t mind headsets listen to music or a book. If you do mind headsets write your next column or that book.

Racing any distance but especially racing the long distances turns a solitary exercise into a community event. The half marathon is a good distance. It tests without breaking but don’t forget that every distance has that “what was I thinking” point. Those moments really mean nothing unless your dissatisfaction persists after the race. That is less likely to happen if you train properly: this means long, slow running, but also speed work, stretching, weights, nutrition, and rest. Ten mile training runs probably will get you to the half but it’s better if you have done the race distance or better before the race. On the other hand a marathon doesn’t really require more than a good base and a couple of twenty milers. A small minority insists you should have a training run of 26 or more. My Boston qualifier was at Philadelphia after a disappointing NY so there may be something to the super long run theory but the injury risk is high. There are lots of good training programs out there – including Galloway’s walk run method. When done with care injuries can be prevented. Many aging runners like the longer distance precisely because of the more sedate pace. Your hamstring is more likely to be stressed by speed than long, slow distance.

In the Philadelphia area we have the perfect trifecta of running: May - Broad Street (10 miles), September -Philadelphia Distance Run (13.2), and the Philadelphia Marathon (26.2).

Runners like to jokingly use the term addiction, but that is a misnomer. Running is in fact a practice. An exercise that engages body and mind and rather then a flight from self is a mirror to the soul. Will I get out of bed before dawn on a cold morning and conquer my demons? Will I face down my doubts at mile twenty that another 10K is impossible?
This is not the dependence of addiction but the independence of the disciplined soul.

Why run a marathon? Because it is hard. Because it will challenge every fiber of your being. Because it will provide not just a momentary high but a continuing insight into your core being. Think of how many of your days are forgettable – but that marathon day will be etched in your memory forever. Rather than time dragging (well ok maybe some of those last miles) I am always amazed by how quickly time flies during a marathon. The pain is momentary; the accomplishment is forever.

Run for fun and for pleasure but also run for challenges and for the test of who you are.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Morning Run

It seems to me that I had heard that warmer air was coming and that a nice weekend was in store but today is cloudy, damp and very cool. Now I hear talk that a northeaster will bring rain tonight and into tomorrow.

It has been a couple of weeks since I headed south on my favorite trail. Someone has cleared the fallen trees I climbed over and under all winter. I had actually run past the first point when I realized suddenly that I was usually clambering over a fallen giant. Now fresh sawdust marks the spot. The mornings should be brighter but today is gloomy. The green on a gray day has a different quality, richer, deeper. The woods are filled with white dogwood. These slender trees will disappear in the summer but now they dominate the woods. Not many flowers survive the deer but here and there patches of wild flowers bloom and the Arboretum protected by its deer fence is full of flowering trees. The birds are in full throat – I wish I had the ability to pick out all the separate songs. A woodpecker is drumming away – I look for him as the sound increases but I never do seem him.

I haven’t run since Sunday’s race to rest the hamstring. It continues to seem achy but not painful. And as in the race it seems the ache subsides with time. Not sure how I should proceed – more rest or just some slow running. Am I doing any harm with a slow run? It seems like a knot and the discomfort sometimes low toward the back of my knee and then seems higher. Strange.

On the trail the time seems to slip away quickly. Time so relative - the last mile of a race seems to last forever and this quiet, slow run seems to be over too soon. The land is at once old and filled with new things; the air itself has an aroma perhaps of the earth itself waking up. And briefly I feel very connected to everything around me – it is a good feeling. I gave thought to a runner on my email group whose lost her Dad in a tragic accident. I hope she will find peace on her trail as she celebrates her father’s life.

I volunteered to help at Bryn Mawr’s Out and Back race tonight. Last year it was a cold, wet affair with rain that only got heavier as the night went on. It looks like this year may be a repeat.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Some background: Last week a woman in Georgia went missing – she went out for a jog and didn’t return. It was assumed she had been abducted or worse and a large search effort was made. It turned out she had seemingly gotten cold feet on her impeding wedding and fled – not a wise choice and she made it worst by creating a story of abduction with imaginary assailants. One of the stories about her disappearance described her as a marathoner. At first some questioned this fact and thought this was untrue. It turned out that she had indeed run at least one marathon. On my runner discussion group the thread turned to whether running one marathon in the past allowed one to still be called a “marathoner”. This is my response:

Well I consider myself a marathoner and even an ultra-marathoner (with only one under my belt) just as long as I also get to admit I am strictly mid-pack, go at my own pace non-racer. I do the distance because I love it. I love races even though I rarely race. Frankly, I am surprised whenever I hear someone say they could never do the distance – of course they could – whether they could race the distance is another issue. I am still taken aback when serious, hard core runners with outstanding marathon times say to me that could never do an ultramarathon. I am flattered by their admiration but at the same time I know of course they could do it just not at the competitive level they are use to. I work hard for my four hour marathons. Could I be faster? Maybe. But I would be risking injury. My genetic gifts are what they are. There is a local pol, Greg Vitali who is a very good runner. (Broad Street in 61 minutes at 48yrs). Very competitive – hard worker - he also spent almost six months in a cast last year because of a running related injury. I have chosen my path (and even that generates some criticism – you have heard it – I am going to ruin my knees, I will have arthritis, two marathons a year is too much, I will wear out, etc. And I get this from both runners and non-runners) and do not begrudge others theirs. I feel sorry for those who run under prepared or even prepared decide that one is enough. I feel even sorrier for those who tell me that they could never do the distance. But they have chosen according to their lights. I don’t want to be second guessed and will not do it to them. But I will accord to all that accept the distance the title marathoner whether it was last week at 3:00 or twenty years ago at 5:30. I was a soldier and police officer. The fact I no longer pursue those occupations does not mean I can’t assume the office emeritus. When I die I hope my wife places my SFC chevron, my police badge, and one of my Corning glass marathon medal on display at my funeral and if my ashes are laid in the ground I hope they are buried with me. (I chose the glass medallion because I think its neat to think the glass might survive a thousand years and be dug up by some future archeologist.). To each of those offices I lay claim. I am a marathoner now and forever.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Ships and runners

Ships and runners
Originally uploaded by ctbrunner.
I liked the way this capture the runner and the mothballed ship in the background.

You did it

You did it
Originally uploaded by ctbrunner.
The finish line. Many spectators had the You Did It signs.

Start Line

Start Line
Originally uploaded by ctbrunner.
This is the start line just north of Broad and Sommerville.
Broad Street 10 Miler

This race is an old friend. I think I have run every one since 1998. The race, always large, has grown from 5,000 when I started to Sunday’s 10,000 finishers.

The forecast had been for clearing skies but they were slow coming and it was lightly raining when I came up from the subway. Part of the tradition of this run is to park in the stadium area and take the Broad Street subway to the start area. The past couple of years parking has been tight because of multiple events: Phillies game, Sixers game and Circus. But I parked in FDR Park under I-95 where the various running clubs were setting up their tail gate parties. It turned out to be quite convenient and a shuttle bus whisk us to the subway stop at Broad and Pattison.

It is a well organized affair – in fact I’m surprised that Jim Marino the race director hasn’t been tapped for other responsibilities given the success of his runs. Last year runners grumbled about how far the gear buses were from the finish and this year they were just yards from the finish. That’s listening to your customers.

Last Sunday I ran the Commodore Barry Bridge which ends on a long downhill that I attack aggressively. Felt fine afterwards. Tuesday night I was at the track for some speed work. 800’s progressively faster. First two just fine. Third one felt a sharp pain in my hamstring area. I sat out one rotation and tried to go around again but it was too uncomfortable and I feared doing real damage. I iced immediately after I got home. No running Wednesday and Thursday. Friday a short three mile jog – little achy but no sharp pain.

Still I started Sunday with lower expectations. The race began exactly on time (unlike last year when a fire in the subway held up the race for a half-hour and almost forced a reroute.) The usual choke point at the start mats but once crossed you could run easily – while I passed many people I think most runners had lined up close to their proper speed.

I pretty much settled into the pace that would end up my average: 8:13. I had a 7:40 mile but also an 8:30 mile (my shoe lace came undone something that has never happen to me in a road race – and I had the new twisty laces that are suppose to prevent that.)

My leg ached from the get go but I felt no sharp pain so I figured it was safe to go on. The one time I tried to force a faster pace I felt twinges radiating out and dialed back a bit fearing a real breakdown. Ironically, the ache seemed to lessen in the later miles. But, although I felt aerobically strong, I just could not get more forward momentum.

I was conscious of the enormous crowd running since Broad Street is so straight and flat you can see the runners toiling before you. The first five miles of the race are dominated by City Hall and you judge your progress by how it grows in you field of vision. Just before and after you round City Hall runners are confined to the southbound lanes and you feel a little crowded and the water stops become more iffy (I tend to skip water after mile six). I heard a runner say he never remembered it being so crowded this late in the race, but we were in the 8 minute pace group which I suspect is the densest group. When you get to the Stadium area the course opens a bit then closes down once more as you enter the Navy Yard. Didn’t affect me but if you were planning on a dramatic sprint to the finish you might find it difficult.

Finish time 1:20:56 (chip) about a minute slower than last year. Disappointing yet I preserved and given the pain did well. I was afraid my leg would be quite sore today but it feels pretty good. Still I think I will stay off it for a few days.

Broad and Pattison

Broad and Pattison
Originally uploaded by ctbrunner.
This is stadium area where the Broad Street Run ends. The photo is a couple of years old and shows the Vet now gone and the Link under construction now finished.
The pin is Broad and Pattison where you get the subway north to race start. You can clearly see some of the mothball ships that runners past on their way to the finish line. Click on the photo to see the photo notes.