Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Pair of Cartoons

Waiting for Stephen to Finish

Exactly how I remember the wall.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Finish the Race

A short video about John Stephen Akhwari, the Tanzanian marathoner who refused to quit the marathon in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics even though he had no chance to do anything more than finish the race.

Mainstream movement

I found this article to be pretty good in dealing with why we marathon. They attribute the start of the marathon boom to Oprah Winfrey running the Marine Corp Marathon in 1994.

For runners like Alltucker, the journey will end four hours later. Or five, or maybe six. Long after the elite runners have headed home, people will keep crossing the finish line.

For them, the Eugene Marathon isn’t about winning.

“Finishing is the goal,” says Joe Henderson, a longtime running advocate and coach who has written 27 books on the subject. “It’s more a survival test than it is a race.”

In 1976, 25,000 people finished American marathons. By 1980, there were 143,000. Last year, 412,000 completed the 26.2-mile race. And according to Ryan Lamppa, a researcher for Running USA, which tracks participation, the trend continues upward.

“There’s a pent-up demand,” Lamppa says.

What you’ve got is a boom. And now, for the second year, it’s come to Eugene, where we’ve run for decades. And where most of us are used to seeing those elite greyhounds glide over the trails, moving much faster than most people could ever hope.

We know why those guys run, but what is it about the marathon that attracts the rest of us?

“There’s not one answer,” Lamppa says.

Enjoy the full article from the Register Guard of Eugene, Oregon about their marathon.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

All you have to do is give it all you've got

When I first started marathoning, I set four cascading goals.

First, I would finish the race. Given what I know now, that seems like something of a silly goal. I've finished every marathon I've ever started. Perhaps the goal is understandable when you consider elite runners who have staggered to the finish, struggling to finish at all. I take my inspiration from John Stephen Akhwari, a marathoner from Tanzania in the 1968 Olympics. In what has been called the greated last place finish ever, Akhwari struggled on and completed the race long after the race had been won and the last other runner. He was quoted as saying "My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me to finish."

The second and third goals were a bit less dramatic. I wanted to finish the race officially, ie, in under six hours. It was only later that I discovered how much of a challenge that is for so many walkers. As I carried through my training, it became increasingly clear that wouldn't be much of a problem. The third goal was to beat Ronald William's time of 5:35.

The fourth and final goal is the one that still eludes me. I wanted to finish a marathon in under five hours. Folks who should know said that was an extremely aggressive goal and the fact there aren't many sub five hour marathon walkers bears them out. But as I have continued, I have closed in on that goal. My first Boston Marathon was, at the time, the closest I had ever gotten at 5:06:53. It was nearly three minutes better than my previous best. And perhaps the thing that bothered me about that as much as anything was fairly trivial. Kalyn had told me that she was certain that I would break five hours at Boston and I had failed.

So when the opportunity came up to do Boston again, it was like a second shot at redemption. I had just come off my worst marathon performance since the second race in Phoenix and analysis made it clear where the problem lay. I had trained less for Phoenix than I had for any race. That and the fact I couldn't drink their sports drink meant that I was doomed from the outset. So for Boston I trained harder than I had ever trained. I made absolutely certain that I wasn't going to be dehydrated again. I knew the course. I knew what I had to do. I was ready.

I follow the training schedule and race advice set out by Dave McGovern, a world class racewalker. He breaks the race into three parts. The first ten miles are all about discipline. Establish the pattern. Set the pace. Do not go out too fast. And that was what I did. My first ten miles went exactly according to plan. The second ten miles is about maintaining focus. You know you have the hills coming. They are the last great obstacle. Maintain. Hold the pace. Concentrate. The second ten miles were a little slower than I had anticipated but not horribly so. By the time I got to the last stage of the race, I knew I was closer to doing five hours than I had ever been.

Perhaps it was like Deena Kastor said in the movie, The Spirit of the Marathon. The smallest thing can make the marathon either a great race or a disaster. What went wrong was the smallest of things. I thought I was on Heartbreak Hill one hill too early.

In McGovern's approach to the last few miles of a marathon are all about giving it your all. When I thought I was over the crest of Heartbreak Hill with just six miles of downhill to go, I picked up the pace. It immediately became clear that it was too early because there was another hill there. Not a problem, I told myself. Drop back to hill climbing pace and gun it again when I was really over it. But perhaps that was right or perhaps the damage had already been done. Just before reaching the top of Heartbreak Hill my thigh cramped and I had to stop to work it out. A few seconds lost. Perhaps a minute. Perhaps two. I pressed on and once over the top, I accelerated for real. Three miles to go and the math is obvious. It is the closest I've ever gotten but unless I kicked it up to 10 minute miles, I'm not going to make it again this time. I go through this mental arithmetic every time. Normally, I've abandoned all hope long before this point. I accelerate but it just isn't there. Another cramp. Another stop to work it out and now I know it is impossible.

But John Stephen Akhwari calls to me. Dave McGovern's words call to me. All there is left to do is to set another goal and give it all you've got. If I'm not going to finish in five hours, I want to at least be able to see the finish line in five hours. The Boston course turns onto Boylston about 4/10ths of a mile from the end. At that point it is a straight shot to the finish line. I'm walking at my lactic threshhold when I turn the corner just seconds ahead of my new five hour goal.

I've been monitoring my heartrate throughout the day and it has been right where I wanted it to be the entire time. With the finish line in sight, my thoughts are, "Here we go. Lactic Threshhold be damned. Heartrate be damned. Leave nothing on the course. All you have to do is give it all you've got."

And I do. The last 4/10ths of a mile are a flat out sprint. No pause. No letup. Pass these runners whenever possible. Nobody passes me. Not now. Do not stop. Do not slow down. There's that tall Coast Guard officer. Catch her. Catch her. Push. Push. Push.

I turned onto Boylston at almost exactly five hours. I did the last 4/10ths of a mile in 3 minutes and 44 seconds or about 9.5 minute miles. I have walked faster but not often. And while I didn't catch the Coast Guard officer, I did set a new personal record. 5:03:44, more than three minutes off the previous best.

And nearly four minutes slower than my goal. Perhaps a course without a Heartbreak Hill or Wellesley girls to distract you right when you need to be concentrating. Perhaps with even more training. Perhaps. But for today, 5:03:44 is good enough.

Friday, April 25, 2008

It all starts here

Need I say more?

The other Team Kimmel

As it turns out, our Team Kimmel isn't the only Team Kimmel out there. The other Team Kimmel is a fundraising team for the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer at John Hopkins that will be doing the Baltimore Marathon in October. I'll be keeping you posted about how they are doing toward their worthwhile goal.

Boston Marathon Pre-Party

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Boston Stuff and Awesome Rob

Robert showing his awesome new Boston Marathon jacket and his general purpose awesomeness.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Boston Stuff

I received my Boston stuff in the mail today. It's official...bib number 6512. We leave in 3 weeks...I'm getting excited.