On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Friday, November 30, 2012

Turkey Trots: a weekend in review

What's up with my running lately, you ask?

Oh, you didn't ask? Umm... this is kind of awkward. Let's pretend you asked, okay?

Last weekend I ran not one but TWO different turkey trots. On Thursday I ran the PPTC* Turkey Trot 5 miler. For those of you keeping score, this is the fourth time I've run this race. In 2009, I ran it in 52:21 and was ecstatic. In 2010, I ran it in 47:35 and was even happier about it. In 2011, I took that time down to 46:37. This year, I finished in... are you ready for it?


No joke. I finished with the exact same time as last year.

Can you explain why my thigh looks all square at the top?
Seriously, can you explain that? Weird.

Now... the big dilemma/question: WHAT'S MY 5K PR? Astute reader-stalkers will remember that my existing PR was 27:50, set way back in June, 2011.

Last Sunday, I ran the Coney Island Sports Foundation's Turkey Trot 5k. I dragged Samantha out to do it with me and told her that she was going to pace me to a PR. Problem is, we hadn't counted on it being freezing cold (at the end of November! never saw that coming!) or on there being a massive wind in one direction (on an out-and-back course) or on us both feeling lethargic and lazy and not really wanting to run that morning. So we warmed up exactly zero miles and started the race cold.

And then I finished right around 27 minutes flat with even splits of 8:42/8:43/8:42.

I have to say "right around," because I have no official time. They did time the race - I saw the clock, I saw the recording equipment - but when the results still weren't posted this morning, I emailed the race director and was told that due to the "dire circumstances,"** the race wasn't timed.

I'm bummed, frankly. I know it was a pretty significant PR, and the race was small enough that I  definitely placed in the top ten in my age group and possibly even higher than that.

Lame. It happens. But what's my PR?

*Little known fact: I am a dues-paying member of the Prospect Park Track Club, although I have attended exactly zero of their group runs/events.
**I don't know exactly what is meant by this, but it's my no-questions-asked go-to line from this point on.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Believe it or not, I really don't like blog drama.

Drama in the "blogosphere" somehow seems even more petty than drama in the real world, don't you think? But yesterday, after my blog post about the upcoming Central Park Marathon, I got a comment on my blog and an email from the race director/head of NYCRuns that I wanted to address publicly. I've already replied to him directly via email, but here is what happened:

Before I posted my post yesterday, I emailed Steve Lastoe. Steve and I have had a mostly cordial professional relationship for a few years, and I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and ask him about the date change. Here's my email to him:

I'm having trouble getting the message header to show in gmail, but I sent this email last night at 7:54pm. I usually post my blog first thing in the morning before work, but I held off some to give him a chance to answer. And I waited. I figured he'd seen my email but just didn't have an answer. Fair enough.

I noticed partway through the day that he'd posted on facebook that we'd know the exact date of the race in "mid-December." He'd said in the original email that it would be "the first week of December." Not too big of a difference, but it still suggested to me that there was still just much too much TBD to be collecting race entry fees from this race. In the opinion of this blogger. Who has an audience of, say, 250 readers on a really good day, about 100 of whom are me hitting refresh.

His email
His fb post
By the time I left work tonight, I had an answer to my email from Steve. Here is his message, in its entirety:

And then here is the comment he left on my blog yesterday:

Honestly, when I got his messages, I was upset. Call me overly sensitive, but it had never been my intention to insult someone whose work I might not always agree with but mostly respect. But then, after I calmed down and reread my post and his responses, after a couple of my cyberfriends also commented on yesterday's post (thank you, Mike and AR), I was kind of bewildered and confused. I hadn't insulted him. I'd disagreed with the way he is running this race, sure. But personally insulting him? Not so much.

So, here is the email I sent to Steve:

The response: this morning I got a very professional email from another staff member at NYCRuns taking responsibility for the December/mid-December confusion... followed a few minutes later by a very immature, defensive response from Steve (email me if you want me to forward it to you). Again, Steve didn't address any of my actual points in the email (although he did in a second blog comment on yesterday's post), and he ended his email by saying, "If you don’t want to run our races – that’s your choice, but don’t blame our communication skills." (NB: that was the first anyone had said about me not wanting to run their races - it had only been the Central Park Marathon that I had been talking about.)

Let me stress something: I think NYCRuns is a great idea and a good company. I do not have a problem with them or their races. Unfortunately, I do think their Founder and Race Director needs to learn how to communicate better. Less reactionarily.

Coming up tomorrow: I tell you about getting locked out of my apartment after a run and nearly freezing to death and other stuff that is completely not controversial to anyone but me in any possible way.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

No refunds! NO REFUNDS!!!

NYCRuns, frequently billed (even in their own propaganda) as an NYRR alternative, yesterday announced the Central Park Marathon. Going back to the roots of NYCM, the race will be 5 laps of Central Park (the course cuts across at the 102nd St. transverse and doesn't include Harlem Hill). The date of the race is 24 February - sort of.

Here's what the email announcing the race said (in part - emphasis mine):
Right now - this race is scheduled for Sunday February 24th. However, we reserve the right to move it to a March or early April date if one becomes available... Your registration would automatically transfer to the new date. Our standard no refunds policy will apply in that instance.
In other words, give us $75 toward a race that you may - or may not - actually be able to run. You might be 8 weeks out from the race, or you might have a full training cycle ahead of you. But no refunds! No refunds! NO REFUNDS!!!

Officially, this has crossed a line for me. The rules governing race entries favor race directors, sure, and I know there are sunk costs involved in throwing a race, but this is a new low: asking participants to sign up for a race (cajoling them into it by threatening that the race will sell out early) and then not only reserving the right to change the date but actively seeking to.

By all accounts, NYCRuns throws a great race. They also threw this past weekend's Brooklyn Marathon, which got accolades despite asking participants to run a grueling 9 laps of Prospect Park. That said... there was a slight fiasco surrounding registration for the Brooklyn Marathon. After NYCM was canceled, NYCRuns petitioned the city for permission to expand their field. They started a waitlist - $200 got you a non-refundable place on the waitlist. $100 of that went to charity, and in the instance that the field couldn't be expanded, you could use your remaining $100 as a credit toward future NYCRuns races.

[Ed: I got this wrong. The registration was $125, $50 of which went to charity, per the race director and contrary to what I (mis)remembered.]

In the end, despite saying that they "firmly expect[ed] to get permission to expand the race," despite an email petition that almost sounded threatening in tone ("if you believe in your city... if you believe in growing local business..."), they didn't get permission. More than 200 runners were shut out of the Brooklyn Marathon - with wallets $200 lighter. But, you guys, people signed up so the policy couldn't be that bad. Also, processing refunds is hard, you guys!

How is this even legal?

By the way, mark your calendars: I'm totally throwing a race. It might be this year, it might be next. Entries are limited and it will be awesome. Just give me lots of money!!! Register now!

Update: be sure to read the comments (where NYCRuns' founder responds in the comments) and my next blog post/update, to which he also responded in the comments.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I'm totally doing this.

Seriously, how funny and awesome is this race? Or not race. I don't know how to describe it - but hopefully I'll see you out there in February (you have several months to train).

While you're waiting for your race registration to be confirmed, go make sure you've read the NYTimes profile piece on the Welsch sisters. Is it me, or does the Times harp on their girliness? The piece is full of odd descriptors that paint a scene of tiny, delicate cuteness. I see where the author was going and the point he was trying to make, but I still feel like young boys competing at their level wouldn't be described in such oddly diminutive terms.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Is there any other sport besides running where a lack of experience is considered a good thing? Where not being good at the sport makes your achievement somehow more impressive?

I love running and I would love it if every person in the world became a runner. That said, I'm kind of tired of reading stories that start with "So-and-so had never run a step in her life before deciding that she was going to run the New York City Marathon."

I feel like this is the equivalent of me stating that - despite not knowing any of the rules of football - I'm going to win the Superbowl next year.

That's the weird thing about running, isn't it? We're all in the same race, from elites to back-of-the-packers. We all get the same accolades and looks of non-comprehension from our friends when we roll in to work the next day, whether we ran a 2:52 or a 6:47 marathon.

Speaking of which, if the unsolicited mass marketing that Troy from Athlinks sent me the other day is to be believed, I'm above average in the 5k and 10k and waaaaaay above average in the half-marathon:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Let's talk about something that's not NYCM.


Don't care. I've stated my non-opinion, and I didn't have a horse in this race (by which I mean that I'm the horse and NYCM was the race and I wasn't running regardless).

Now, what I do want to talk about it is this: the intersection of running, young women, and social media. Specifically, why are running/fitness/food/weight loss blogs written by young women so popular?

My former cyberfriend until she had a baby Marie tweeted something last week that caught my eye:

Following up on it, I discovered that the irritation that provoked her tweet was a twitter list that RW had put together of the runners that you must follow on twitter. Specifically, they are the "Running Twitterati." (I can't even type that made up, fake word without making a scrunched up, grossed out face.) It first appeared in the print edition with the subtitle of "Elite athletes, science nerds, funny runners, and others to follow."

Here's the list. Yes, there are some runners whose names you recognize (I'm not going to argue with Ryan Hall, Meb, Nick Symmonds, or Lolo Jones). And, of course, there are some gimmes: Bart Yasso, Hal Higdon [ed: I love you, Cousin Hal*, but I just unfollowed you as you are not interesting on twitter], and RW themselves.

But then... Then the list breaks down into a hodge-podge of "healthy living bloggers," newbie runners, and twitter self-promoters. I'm not calling any of these people out individually, but if you followed this list, you'd be under the impression that twitter runners had barely a basic understanding of the sport of running and were fascinated by taking pictures of their oatmeal each day. What could have been an excellent resource for valuable - yet casual - running information instead reads like the dream twitter list of a 14 year old blogger fangirl.

It's not a coincidence that the RW list is young, affluent, and white (and heavily skewed female). That's the demographic of running, at least as RW markets it. Because guess what? We like to spend money. Here's a novel idea: what if all of my female runner friends, as a block, vowed to stop caring about Lululemon, Oiselle, or Nuun and instead looked for the best product instead of the sassiest marketing. We won't fight for the right to join a company's relay team or be on their advertising team. Instead of giving companies free advertising, we can spend our money on products that help our running - trendy or not.

Excuse me now while I go read some LRC - at least they'd never use the term "twitterati." (I'm gagging again.) But not to leave you on a bad note, how about this: here's a heartening story that has nothing whatsoever to do with overprivileged runners.

*True story: Hal Higdon's wife is my paternal grandfather's first cousin.