Another Marathon

My running buddy and I ran the Marine Corps Marathon this fall. We had plans, dreams. We were going to run a sub 4 hour marathon! We’d been so close at Baltmore the year before. We just had to shave 10 minutes off our time. And Marine Corps’ a flatter course.

It didn’t work out as planned.

Now the question is, do I want to try again? Do I want to exact vengeance against our disappointing race and show a marathon who’s boss? Or should I chill and be satisfied that I ran 2 marathons and move on with my life? I’ve heard that only 1% of Americans ever run a marathon. Look at me, I’m in the 1%!

It’s been a few months since Marine Corps and I’m still leaning toward getting on with my life. It’s the training. It takes so much time. Halfway through your training, your long runs start creeping up to 2, 3, then 4 hours. I was getting up at 5:15 am on Sundays in order eat, digest, and meet my running buddy by 6 am. That’s no fun, particularly when the rest of the household is cuddled up, still asleep. And this doesn’t even count the weekday runs, which in the second half of training are creeping up to 5 and 6 miles four times a week. That’s tough with a full time job, 1 wife, and 4 kids. It means more getting up before 6 am and lots of running in the dark.

And I haven’t even touched on the stress of going to big events like marathons. The logistics of getting to the starting line of the Marine Corps were quite involved. Or maybe they weren’t, but it felt that way to me. One of the things I love the most about running is its simplicity. Check the weather, dress, run. I can do that. Running at an event complicates things. Many people find it exciting. I feel some of that, but at the expense of a lot of stress.

So, for now I’m being more casual about my running. 3 to 4 miles 3 or 4 times a week. Maybe I’ll run a 1/2 marathon if someone’s looking for a buddy to run with. Halfs don’t take nearly the time to train for. And there’s one that goes just past my neighborhood. #lazyrunner


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Running Home

I sit across the street from the parish I grew up in, across from a group of boys wearing the gear from my high school. In a donut shop that has changed names. but not purpose in the last 40 years.

The cars are newer, better, shinier. The weather is not. It’s still Cleveland Grey. The roads still flatter, straightet than the place I now call home. I can see a mile down the road.

It’s a good day for a run.

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Marine Corps Flop

How do you make God laugh?

Tell Him your plans.

We thought it was a modest goal. Run the Marine Corps Marathon in under 4 hours. Heck, we’d been lucky enough get into the race in the first place (it’s a lottery entry). And we’d run our last marathon, Baltimore, in 4 hours 10 minutes. The Marine Corps route is much less hilly than Baltimore. Surely we could shave off a measly 10 minutes. Our pace was on track from our last long training run, 22 miles. We got this.

Sigh. We walked the last 6 miles of the course and made it past the finish line in a little under 5 hours. 😦

Now the question is, resignation or revenge?

Training for a marathon takes a lot of time. Starting your runs at 6 AM. Running in the dark. Running for 3+ hours straight on the long runs. Is it worth 10 minutes? Maybe we should stick to 1/2 marathons.

Still. Just one more race? Just one under 4 hours. Then we could stop. Then we’d be satisfied.


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Running Through Woods on a Snowy Morning

I started working full time and gained 10 lbs, ask me how! With  my new, innovative system – sit more, exercise less and eat more crap – you too can be on your way to a thicker waist and tighter pants!

Egad, just checked my MapMyRun stats. No wonder I gained weight. I barely ran 30 miles in January. Most months I run over 50.  (Even 50 miles a month is quite modest by many regular runners’ standards.) It’s this stink’n winter weather.  Half frozen snow everywhere. Still dark in the mornings. That and the cookies, candy and other crap that’s always free for the taking on our conference table at work. They say you can’t outrun your diet, so the snacking’s gonna have to go.

Anyway, all this to say this morning I was extra motivated to run, despite the fresh fallen snow. No, actually, because of the fresh fallen snow. If you gotta run in snow, running in fresh fallen snow is the best. In two days, there will be ice from melting and refreezing. When the temperatures risesnowybrookthree21603 enough, they’ll be puddles from melted snow. Today, I could run on our neighborhood’s sidewalks and along the regional park’s trail without worrying about slipping or having to jump over snow mounds.

I saw two other runners. No deer though. Lots of car traffic. Or at least more than I would expect for a snowy Presidents Day. It was late when I ran, 9ish. Too late to enjoy the hush that comes with early morning snowfalls. It was still pretty though, the world covered in white.

I might be able to sneak in another decent run tomorrow morning, but after that the neighborhood sidewalks are going to get icy again and it’s still too dark before 7 AM to run in the park. I need to resign myself to run 6 or 7 times around the block for the next month or so. It’s dull, but better than not running at all.



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Half Crazy – River Dog

During the half marathon on Sunday, I saw a guy with a one man kayak coming up from the Potomac River. He had a Labrador sized dog with him. I wondered what he did with the dog while he was kayaking. Did he tie the dog to a tree, leave him a couple of treats and say,”Be back in an hour Rover?” That might have been par for the course in the “repressive” 1950s, but I imagine many would accuse the man of animal abuse in our more open, tolerant age.

No, I suspect the man took the dog with him. To paraphrase Forrest Gump’s President Johnson, I’d kinda like to see that. I can picture the man with his kayak helmet and double oar, paddling away in the middle of the river, while the dog sits grinning in front of him, nose turning this way and that, trying to catch each intriguing river scent.

What did the dog think the first time his owner tried to get him into the kayak? Was he eager? Frightened? Clueless? And now, after what I assume is plenty of kayaking experience, does the dog jump up with joy, tail wagging eagerly, whenever he sees the man (The Man with the Yellow Kayak!) loading the kayak onto his car? Has the dog every been in the kayak when it tipped over*? If so, what does the man do first, secure the kayak or save the dog? I vote for secure the kayak, since I’m gonna assume the dog can swim.

Anyway, the man and his dog went along their merry way, and so did I.

Speaking of merry, I got my race results yesterday. It took me 1 hour, 47 minutes and 42 seconds to run 13.1 miles. Not bad for a middle aged librarian. Well, the race is billed as the easiest half marathon in America. And my neighborhood is very hilly, so I had no choice but to train “hard” compared to the topography of the course. Anyway, glad it’s done. Gonna go for my first post race run tomorrow, an unhurried 3.5 or 4 mile run through the neighborhood.

Almost 10:30p, time for bed. Good night all.

*Is tipped over even the proper term for a kayak turning upside down, or would it be rolled over?

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Only Half Crazy

Ran my first half marathon today. It was the 11 1/2th annual Potomac River Run. It took place along the C & O Canal just outside of Washington, DC. It’s billed as the easiest half marathon in America. That’s because the course is essentially flat. You run 6.55 miles in one direction, turn around and run back. No turns, no traffic, almost no hills. The 3 hills you do encounter are less than 10 feet high. The full marathons due to course twice.

Sprinting toward the finish line.

Sprinting toward the finish line.

I was very happy to be doing just a half. The thought of reaching the finish line only to go out and do the same course again was quite depressing.

The towpath next to the canal is dirt and packed stone. I was a bit concerned about getting pebbles in my shoes, but that never happened. Maybe the dirt is too well packed. The scenery along the canal was OK. It’s mid-November, well past the peak for autumn leaves. Many of the trees had already lost all their leaves. There was still enough green around though that it didn’t look totally dead. We did get some nice views of the Potomac River. And we passed some very cool mansions overlooking the river that looked like Bond villain lairs.

If you’re looking for a race with lots of cheering bystanders along the way, this is not the race for you. There were long stretches, especially on the first half of the race, when I was alone. There were a few other runners 500 feet in front, but that was it. The trail was still open to the public, so you pass the occasional dog walker. There were also aid stations every few miles of course. But nothing like the crowds of bystanders you’d expect in a city race. The C & O Canal park is unique in that it’s in the middle of the DC metropolitan area, but it’s still isolated. The Potomac River is on the south side of the path, and, on the other side of the canal, there’s a parkway, usually hidden by trees. It’s a massive, linear park, stretching about 180 miles from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD. Running 13.1 miles of it was quite enough for me.

The weather was very good for a half marathon. It was cloudy, but no rain. The temps were in the high 30s. That’s cold when you’re standing around, but I found it quite comfortable when running. I had a compression shirt on, with 2 tech shirts over that. It was enough, but not too much.

My wife and son came with me to cheer me on. When we got there, the boy, he’s 8, asked if they were going to make him run too. We assured him that no, they weren’t going to force him to run. He wasn’t keen on being out on a cold Sunday morning, but he got over it. They walked along the canal trail, in the opposite direction from the race, for a while after I started, then went back to the car and read their books.

Feeling happy sore in the legs right now. Babbled on enough. Time for more of season 1 of the Big Bang Theory. Good night.

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Running Is Just Showing Up

Occasionally I’ll get compliments from friends or family about my fitness discipline. It usually is along the lines of “Yeah, I read about your running in Facebook. I could never do that. You’re out there all the time.”

This strikes me as a bit odd, as I only occasionally post Facebook status updates about my runs. If something unusual happened or I thought of something particularly noteworthy (a rarity), I’ll note it on Facebook. That happens maybe once or twice a month.

I try to accept folks compliments graciously. However, in my mind, I feel that I’m pulling the wool over their eyes. “You’re admiring me for running? Pshaw, running is a piece of cake compared to real work.”

One of the things that appeals to me about running, at least the way I run, is that it doesn’t require much thought. I don’t have to create something, seemingly ex nihilo, like one does when writing. I don’t have to face my insecurities or perceived career mistakes, as I must when applying for a job. All I have to do for running is show up. I put on my clothes, walk out the door, warm up a bit and put one foot in front of the other. It’s something I can just do. Even on my bad days, it’s the fitness equivalent of laundry. I may not feel like doing it, but it doesn’t take much mental effort or concentration. I can simple go through the motions.

Writing a blog post takes discipline. I have to resist the lure of the rest of the Internet. I have to exercise the discipline to keep on task, plus the discipline to make my writing cogent and reasonably organized. So far this post isn’t even 350 words, and I took a 10 minute useless, time wasting break scanning Facebook.

There’s a federal government job I plan to apply for. The application’s due date is July 31. Have I worked on it at all? No. I’d much rather run 10 miles in the rain than write a simple 500 word cover letter.

Thankfully, I don’t have to create my federal resume from scratch, I already have several versions created. I also have a string of cover letters written from previous federal job opportunities. So I don’t face the mountainous task of doing it all. It’s more a matter of customizing the resume. The cover letter, however, still needs to be written and written to the specifications of the job. That requires thought, concentration and overcoming my lack of comfort with self promotion.

Running though? That I can do with ease. All I have to do is show up.

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Pleasant Valley Saturday

My workplace is pleasant, it’s true
No reason for me to feel blue.
But I will admit
I wish just a bit
We had a mad poet or two.

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The anti-running sticker

Noticed this great sticker today on my way to work.* It was on the

The anti-run sticker!

back of an SUV that was just ahead of me. I laughed out loud. I don’t know anything about this driver, except that she’s a non-runner and proud of it!

Anyone who’s read my blog for a while (if there are such folks) knows that I am a runner. But I am also a contrarian. I appreciate a good natured raspberry :p

Every group, be it runners, librarians, cat lovers, etc. deserves a little ribbing from outsiders (and insiders), just to keep them from taking themselves too seriously. I remember a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that gently poked fun at hobby magazines. Cartoonist Bill Watterson is a cycling enthusiast, so he was thinking of cycling magazines, but it could work just as well for running mags or hobby trains. In the cartoon, Calvin was very excited to get his latest Chewing, a magazine for devoted gum chewers!  Hobbes expresses amazement that such a magazine even exists.

Runners are sometimes mocked as pretentious for their 26.1 stickers. I can understand how some folks might view such stickers as obnoxious bragging. But even before I started running, I had a more understanding view. Anyone who runs a marathon deserves to be publicly proud of it. He even deserves to brag a little. Non-runners, we’re not looking down on you, we’re just proud of accomplishing a very hard thing.

Alas, I have not yet earned a 26.2. The longest official run I’ve done is a 5k. I can’t bring myself to get a 5k sticker.  For me, finishing a 3.1 mile race isn’t worth a public brag. My usual weekday runs are at least 3.5 miles.  I don’t disparage those who have a 5k sticker though. Running such a race may be a major accomplishment for many people.

Unofficially, my longest distance has been 11+ miles. I’m scheduled to run a 1/2 marathon in November. I’ll be running the Potomac River Run. It’s billed as the easiest half in the country because the course is essentially flat. 🙂 It takes place on the C & O Canal trail.

I’m not a joiner. It took me a while to work up the gumption to sign up for the race. But I really want a 13.1 sticker for my minivan. 😉 If I ever work up the determination to train for and run a full marathon, I admit that part of my motivation would be for the sticker!

*Having crowed about the joys of biking a few posts ago, I must admit that I drove to work today. Oh the shame!

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Mother arrested because she trusts her daughter

Ran across this article today, Mom Jailed Because She Let Her 9 Year Old Daughter Play in the Park Unsupervised.

For most of the summer, Debra Harrell’s daughter hung out at the McDonalds’s where her mother works, playing on the family laptop. Unfortunately, someone broke into their home and stole the laptop. The daughter asked if she could go to the park instead. The park is very popular and always crowded with kids and parents. It’s about 1.5 miles from the McDonalds. The mother provided the girl with a cell phone and the girl would come back to the McDonalds for lunch. Some parent at the park asked the girl where her mom was. When the girl said, at work, the prude called the police. Now girl’s poor mother is in prison and the girl herself is in the clutches of child services.

The tyranny of the Bush/Obama surveillance state is bad enough, but this local gov’t paternalism might be worse. Not only is this poor woman in jail for no reason, but now all the parents in the neighborhood have likely been intimidated into further restricting their own children’s freedom. Check on the reactions of other folks in the park to this “news” report. It’s a prime example of sentiment over fact.

As far as we know from the news report, the girl was not in any kind of distress. She wasn’t being attacked or snatched. She was not scared or traumatized about being left alone. Her mother, who knows the child better than anyone else, determined that her daughter was capable of crossing whatever streets lay between the restaurant and the park. Presumably, she gave the daughter some instructions about what to do.

I walked to school alone when I was 5. “Well, times have changed,” people will say. But what does that mean? WHAT has changed? Crime has gone down since the mid 1970s. Child kidnappings have always been rare, less than 200 per year. They certainly aren’t higher now than when I was a kid. Are kids less competent now than they were 30 years ago? I certainly wasn’t anything special when I was 5. I wasn’t more mature or wiser than any other 5 year old. Yet I made it to school and back all year as a kindergartener. I didn’t live in some isolated country town either, but a suburb adjacent to Cleveland.

Two things come to mind when I read this news. The first is, we should be very reluctant to second guess a parent’s decision about their child, especially if that second guessing goes as far as getting child services involved. Short of outright abuse or neglect, it’s not our business. Clearly, letting a 3 year old alone at a park is neglect. A 9 year old though? Whatever other parents might think about doing such a thing, it’s not CLEARLY neglect. So let the mother decide. Asking the daughter where her mother was is fine. Even questioning the kid a bit more, to make sure she was alright (does your mom know you’re here, are you OK being here alone, etc.). But calling the cops? Too much. And, as I noted above, hearing about parents getting arrested for exercising their discretion intimidates other parents.  When I let my own kids go to the park alone, I don’t fear that they’re going to be snatched. I worry that some prude is going to call the cops on them for being alone.

Secondly, are we deliberately trying to curb children’s freedom? How are they going to grow up to be strong and independent if we don’t even let them out of our sight for a decade? It’s only a walk to the park. Heck, forget about growing up. Don’t they deserve some freedom now, as children?  Must their every move be monitored? I loved the feeling of independence I got biking around town alone. Today’s kids deserve that too.   Do parents nowadays really think kids are so incompetent they can’t handle being on their own for a few hours?

I’ve ranted on enough for now. Time to get some chores done. And make sure the 3 year old hasn’t destroyed the basement. She’s NOT ready for too much time on her own. 🙂

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