100 Things About Running Entry #6

100 Things About Running Entry #6

or Why I’m NOT Running the NYC Marathon

I know. It’s a big one. Possibly on more bucket lists than even Boston. It seems like everyone wants to run it (at least judging by all the angst on FB and various running forums today as it’s supposed to be announcement day for those who got in via the lottery – though apparently emails may not go out until tomorrow it’s looking like now). And if you live in NYC and run but show no interest in it, you’re sort of looked at as some kind of alien from another planet.

I know this because I’m not running it this year. Or probably ever.

I could have. I’m a NYRR member and last year I ran my 9 races and volunteered at one. Heck, I even ran at least one “extra” race because I got qualifying credit for one I wasn’t able to run – due to the Christmas blizzard, they gave credit to anyone who’d registered for the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run…and I was stuck in Orlando, so there was no way. By virtue of those two facts (membership AND 9+1) I had a guaranteed entry for 2012.

But the bottom line is they flat-out out-priced me. You have to draw a line and stick to it. My line was $200. Had I registered, I would have shelled out $227.

Granted, $27 isn’t a huge amount in the great scheme of things. But you have to draw the line somewhere, and for me $200 was it.

Would I have run NYC in 2012 if the cost had been under my bar? Yes. Part of me would have liked to have run it for a few reasons. First, I do think it would be a neat way to see the city. Second, the peer pressure in my running club is enormous, and you can sort of feel like an outsider if you’re not running it or haven’t run it. Third, I do love New York and living here. But as I said, I had my line, and I’m sticking to it.

Will I spend more going to Disney? Yes. Unless I somehow rack up enough airline miles to fly for free and stay with my sister or a friend, I will be spending more. BUT I get a vacation out of it. Ditto if I run San Francisco or Big Sur one of these years (I’ll talk about those in other posts). Or any other race that will require travel. I’ll be able to have a little vacation. (Chicago will be happening in 2013…and that’ll be another one that will just be airfare and race registration as I’ve got enough friends there I can definitely crash somewhere.) There are other marathons I’m looking at (such as the Donna) that are cheaper and in the case of the Donna actually does good without having to pledge a certain amount to a charity. ALL the money collected for it goes to help fund breast cancer research!

New York is somewhere I can literally run almost the entire course. My running club does a “Blue Line Run” which covers the last 20 miles of the marathon. About the only section I couldn’t do on my own is the bridge that opens the race. And while I’m sure it’s amazing if you’re on the top deck, with my lack of speed and my luck I’d be stuck on the lower level where…let’s just say if urban legend holds true you WANT to be in the center (not good for a run/walker like myself) to avoid getting wet with stuff that’s NOT water.

I am 100% content with my decision to not run it. I know there are people – many of whom applied through the lottery and didn’t get in – who don’t understand how someone could have guaranteed entry and not use it. But I have to be true to myself. And while I love the city, I just don’t feel a burning need to pay over $200 just to run it. I’m not a freak or an alien…I just have different priorities than some people. I don’t criticize them, and I’d hope that they wouldn’t criticize me. (And believe me, I know there are a lot of people who don’t get the draw of running Disney. That’s ok. As an old professor of mine used to say, “That’s why god made chocolate and vanilla!” Hee!)

It’s all about choices and priorities. And ultimately, it’s about running…and isn’t that what binds us runners together? The love of running? Regardless of where we run. šŸ™‚

To those who are running it, good luck! And hopefully I’ll see you at Mile 24 (where my running club is in charge of the fluid station…and also has a cheer section)!

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100 Things About Running Entry #5

100 Things About Running Entry #5

Boston.

The marathon that is.

The Boston Marathon takes place on Patriots Day – the third Monday in April every year. I’m not really one for the whole “Bucket List” thing, but this is one of those races I want to do. Which…well…

To get in on your own, you have to meet very fast qualifying standards. Standards that I’ll likely never meet. (Put it this way…my time at the WDW Marathon wouldn’t even get an 85 year old woman in on her own.) So the other option will be to get in through a charity team, meaning I’ll have to raise a ton of money. I’ve already promised my friends and family I’m not going to do any charity things until I do Boston, so they’ll be able to donate and help me out. šŸ™‚ My initial plan had been 2013, but there’s generally a 6 hour time limit, and so like San Francisco (another post), I want to make sure I CAN do a marathon in under 6 hours (another post) before I sign up. And by the Disney marathon 2013 it’ll be too late to get into a charity team. So 2014 maybe?

This past Monday this year’s Boston Marathon took place. In record or near-record heat. The BAA offered qualifying runners a chance of deferral…and reportedly somewhere in the 350-437 range of runners are eligible for that deferral. A few thousand others just didn’t start. Now, some of those may not have been due to the heat but injuries or other reasons why they wouldn’t have started anyway, but my guess is a number of those were due to the heat. They were especially encouraging “unfit” runners to not start – ironic as they would be charity runners and thus not eligible for deferral. And they encouraged people to let their time goals go and be safe on the course, using their heads in making decisions. They also extended the finish time from 6 hours to 7 hours.

A friend of mine who ran it said that last year over 10,000 people requalified for this year in the race itself. This year it was around 2700. That (and the fact that the winning time was around 10 minutes slower than last year) really tells the story of the toll the heat took on everyone.

One of my running club friends ran it and made it to 16.5 miles in before she had to stop due to medical reasons. She got an IV and was at least able to joke that the only bling she was bringing back was her patient’s belongings bag. I’m still so proud of her and so in awe of her abilities as a runner. She ran smart and listened to her body and stopped on her own. And she’s awesome!!

So yeah…it’s a race I’d love to do someday. I just have to get my time down and my funds up! šŸ™‚

100 Things About Running Entry #4

100 Things About Running Entry #4

Or… My Experience With (and Thoughts on) Competitor Group

I’m just going to say up front that these are my own opinions based on my personal experiences and those of some of my friends (I will indicate which is which) as well as what I’ve gleaned from interviews with them, specifically on The Marathon Show. Your experiences and opinions may vary, and that’s fine. This is my blog, and I’m stating my opinion.

Competitor Group is the group that puts on the Rock’n’Roll (RnR) race series that does marathons and half marathons all over the country. And a 10K in New York City.

The New York 10K is my experience with them. NYRR (New York Road Runners) seemingly has a lock on Central Park, and so RnR did a 10K to come into the market. In wanting to support something to provide choice, I figured I’d do it, so I signed up. It was expensive for a 10K – I want to say $60 or $70 – but it did have bling, and it was inaugural.

My first clue that they really hadn’t thought this thing out was seeing that they were expecting 6000+ runners. The NYRR and Prospect Park Track Club (PPTC) races held in Prospect Park are capped at a max of about 4000. And if they lap the cap is even smaller. The road around the park is just over 3 miles, so clearly there would be lapping going on. Red flag number 1. Then the location for number pick up was announced. I didn’t expect an expo since it was only a 10K. But they picked possibly the smallest running store in the city to hold the number pick-up. It was crazy. Then they randomly put all of us who registered early – before there was an “estimated finish time” on the registration form – into the last corral with a ridiculously slow estimated finish time. So a lot of us were having to change our corral. I’d brought proof of time and was put in Corral 7. By them simply putting a little round sticker on the bib and writing the new corral with a sharpie on the dot. I found out my friend who I was planning to run with was given the choice of 7 or 6 because our estimated finish time overlapped. It was not a problem to change my number when I got home. And as it turns out no one bothered to check the numbers anyway. But back to pick up…they were running out of bags and shirts so that people were having to get them the next morning. Fast forward to then. Less than an hour before the race, only the porta potties where registration was going on (yes, they were still registering people…total cash cow) were unlocked. None further up the course, which many of us had to pass based on the subway stop we got off at. We got into the corrals, and then it was announced that they were delaying the start by 15 minutes because people were STILL registering. Once we got underway, the race itself was fine. No big problems, though there was much lapping going on. After, when it was time to collect my baggage, it was horrible. We’d put them on rental trucks based on our numbers. Now…if we were going from Prospect Park to somewhere else in Brooklyn, this would have made sense. However, there was less than half a mile between the finish village and the registration village. There was no need to move the bags PERIOD. But they did. Now at NYRR races (the regular ones…not the NYC Half or NYC Marathon), yes, you go in on your own and get your bag, but your bib is checked against that tag on your way out. Here, we found that bags were being and had been tossed out of the trucks at random, thrown between trucks, and essentially were not being watched at all nor was anyone bothering to match up bibs with tags. Thankfully as far as I heard no one’s bag was stolen, but that’s sheer luck really. Basically it was a big cluster and I’m not doing it again. Especially when I can run laps of Prospect Park any day I choose for free.

This past December, Competitor put on RnR Las Vegas. Which was by al accounts one huge cluster fuck in pretty much every way it could be. I have some friends who ran it and they said they have never been so happy to simply get out of a race experience alive as they were. The horror stories that were all over the internet were truly shocking. People having medical issues afterwards – being curled up/collapsed on the floor for hours before any EMTs could get to them because of the crowds, running out of water as well as people who have run many races getting violently ill all around the same time, no one maintaining any order for who got into what corral (that one didn’t surprise me at all), and massive overcrowding on the course. Just do a google search and you’ll find PLENTY. Oh yes, they ran out of medals. And there were plenty of reports of people who were shuttled closer to the finish and crossing the line being given them (this is a stated policy on the RnR website…yet the person interviewed on The Marathon Show (it’s coming up) said he’d never heard of that happening) as well as some people reporting that some volunteers weren’t checking bibs or anything before handing one over.

They went on The Marathon Show shortly after the event and basically blamed the whole collapse of the corrals at the start of the half on “new and inexperienced runners” who “got antsy and jumped the gun, just pressing forward”. The reason they ran out of water/cups at later aid stations? The volunteers were cold and abandoned their stations. The medals? Oh, they knew going in that they were short (did I mention they were still registering people at the expo, already knowing they were short on medals?) but did and said nothing. The water? “It was hydrant water, but it’s tested.” They took very little responsibility for anything.

They were back on the most recent episode of The Marathon Show talking about the changes they’re making to ensure that things don’t happen again. My jaw did drop when the guy actually said that the corral collapse at the start was their fault – that they had to move people through faster. So at least he wasn’t blaming “new” and “nervous” runners on that anymore. It does sound like they have made changes that should help. The people getting sick? Well, the Las Vegas health department (or someone that’s local out there) determined that it wasn’t the water but that they must have picked up some virus. That all hit them at the same time? I would have felt better about those findings if someone neutral in the situation – as in not Las Vegas or even Nevada based – had conducted the testing. Because clearly they’re going to have a vested interest in saying their water is 100% safe. But still…the testing was done and the report shall stand. He didn’t mention the medal issue. But he said they are keeping the cap at 45000 runners between the full and the half. So theoretically if they order 45000 medals they should be safe.

So it will be interesting to see how this year goes for them. There are a lot of people who think that Competitor can do no wrong and will do any and every one of their races. there are others who have had bad experiences at various races they’ve done. It seems to be it and miss as to which cities they do well in and which they make a mess of.

Las Vegas was never on any plan I’d had regardless of who’s doing it. I’m probably one of three people in the world (me, my mom and my dad) who have no desire to ever set a toe in Las Vegas. So it held no interest for me at all.

They are expanding to international races now – this weekend they did one in Edinburgh, Scotland. I’ll be interested to see how it went. They had one scheduled for Dublin, Ireland in August, but it’s been pushed back to next year. I love Dublin and have been considering it. The airfare was ridiculous for 2012…probably because it was scheduled DURING THE OLYMPICS and Dublin’s close enough I could see it being a point of “fly in here and then catch a cheap hopper over” kind of place. Competitor’s story on the postponement is “Competitor Group, organizer of the Rock ā€˜nā€™ Roll Marathon Series, has decided to postpone the 2012 Rock ā€˜nā€™ Roll Dublin Half Marathon until 2013. We realized with great regret a need for more time to create an entirely new event to meet the high standards established by the Rock ā€˜nā€™ Roll Marathon Series and expected by our local community partners.” And they claim there was “tremendous support”…but I suspect that the ridiculously high airfares and the fact that it was scheduled during the London Olympics has a lot to do with it. (It would just make them look stupid to say that had anything to do with it because those dates have been set for years. But that’s my opinion.) I do love Dublin and may still consider doing it. But I’m going to look closely for reports from non-RnR junkies about their international races to see how they go.

In the meantime, I for one will pretty much avoid the Competitor Group races just on my experience and that of my friends. Yes, they may put on some good races, but that only shows that they know how to do it, so there’s really no excuse for why others consistently have problems – often the SAME problems year after year.

For those who love them, great. But I think the voice of those of us who haven’t had good experiences with them needs to be heard as well.

100 Things About Running Entry #2

100 Things About Running Entry #2

My First Race

This one actually turned out to be not the one I thought it was going to be. Initially I thought it would be the Race for the Cure (I know…I know better now and will be finding other ways to help fund breast cancer research, but we didn’t know SJK would turn out to be so anti-women then.) – I’ve known a lot of people with breast cancer, and my pseudo-older sister had died from it, so it seemed like a good fit.

But then I heard about the World Trade Center Run to Remember, which was the week before Race.

While I didn’t (to my knowledge) know anyone in the towers or planes or ground who was killed on 9/11, the WTC was a part of the two trips to NYC I made in high school, one in particular one of the only times I really felt accepted. And that day is indelibly a part of me – of all of us. This run distributed the funds among several organizations. And it had one big advantage over the Race. This one is held on Governor’s Island. Which is flat.

So I chose to sign up.

It was really a nice first race. Not too big, but not too small.

It was the Sunday of Labor Day weekend 2010. I got up and dressed in whatever I chose to run in that day, then headed into lower Manhattan to get on the ferry over to Governor’s Island. It was cool – they’d chartered the ferry just for those of us running and those coming with to spectate or volunteer. Once we got there, I had a while to wander through the tents of the organization, tie and re-tie my shoes, hit the porta-potties…numerous times.

There were no real corrals for this race. Those of us running lined up in the front – following the advice in Marathoning for Mortals I lined up towards the back knowing I would be slow – and the walkers behind us. I think the walkers may have even started after we did.

I had my iPod with me with a special playlist for the race. Because I am so musically inclined, I fall into pace with the beat of whatever music I’m listening to, which isn’t always a good thing, but I wanted to use it to my advantage so I wouldn’t go out too fast. I purposely put slower (not SLOW but slower) songs first and built up, and I had “Die Vampire, Die!” towards the end when I figured I’d be needing it, finishing with “I Run For Life”.

Overall it went well, especially for a first race. The only little glitch was that I’d probably overhydrated and had to take a pit stop during the race, thus losing a couple of minutes. Pitstops are (for me and someone at my pace) to be expected in full and possibly even half marathons…but for a 5K? That was a mistake I intended not to make again. But the rest went well. I did a run/walk plan, but I didn’t have a regular schedule for it, which I do now. I ran until I needed to walk, and found (as everyone who uses the “run until I need to walk” method finds) that starting back running was hard. I did it, but it was hard.

I finished in around 41 minutes, and I was so proud of myself.

I’d run my first race. And been well and truly bitten by the running bug.

100 Things About Running Entry #1

100 Things About Running Entry #1

So if you remember, I was at a loss as to things to blog about yesterday. A friend of mine on LiveJournal (yes, I still have one of those!) pointed me in the direction of a blogging challenge she was starting:

The 100 Things Challenge

Just what it sounds like: 100 entries about some topic you want to write on and feel like you can do 100 entries on.

I’ve thought about what I know 100 things about and am interested enough to give this a good go, and I’ve decided to talk about running. (Actually I just now thought of something else, so if I do ok with this one, I might take that one on after.) I’ll probably do some different categories: my runs, my medals, races I’ve done, races I want to do, etc. but I’m not assigning a certain number to each of those topics. (Well, right now medals will be 11…depending on when I finish the challenge there might be another medal or two in there.)

But I’ll start with…

My First Run

The day: July 1, 2010

The place: Planet Fitness

The plan: Couch to 5K Week 1 Day 1

Ok, so I was walking more than I was running, but still. That day launched the start of my running life.

Background: I grew up thinking I couldn’t ever run. I had asthma that typically flared only twice a year along with my allergies, but for when we had to run in PE I had a note that I only had to do half the distance, but I had the full amount of time. And even when I was having to deal with allergies and asthma I could walk half a mile in 12 minutes. Then as soon as I could (read: 10th grade), I took the “march in marching band for 2 years and get the PE credit” option. College? Modern Dance and Swim Aerobics were my options. Yes, I took tennis my senior year for fun, but we were baby beginners and never really got to the actual run around the court after the ball phase.

After college, I had some issues with stress, and my doctor recommended that I try walking 4 miles in an hour 4 times a week. (That’s 15 minute miles.) So I did that and managed to drop some weight. Then came seminary and a pretty much sedentary lifestyle. When I started working in Raleigh, I’d go through phases where I’d walk around the lake my apartment complex sat on. I even joined a gym. I tried a couple of classes that included running, but never felt really successful at them. And then I just fell into a really sedentary phase where I never really stuck with any kind of exercise for long.

Then came Spring Break 2010. I went to Chicago to visit my old roommate from Alexandria who lives in Chicago now and other friends I’d missed since I’d moved away from the Chicagoland area. I don’t really know what clicked then, but I came home and broke out my Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred dvd, determined to do all 30 days of it.

And I did.

Yes I was sore the first few days I started on a new level. And yes it was hard. And yes there were days that I didn’t want to do it.

But I did it.

And along the way I met some great friends on twitter who also did the Shred. Many of them also were runners, and somehow – it’s as inexplicable to me even now as what kicked my butt into gear to begin with – I decided I wanted to try and run. They told me about Couch to 5K and I found a 5K that was far enough out I could complete the program.

And July 1, 2010 I started the program.

And started my life as a runner.