Monday, April 28, 2014

All Roads Lead to Rome

For many years, it has been my dream to run the Maratona di Roma, so you can imagine how excited I was to be there this year. In anticipation of the race, my running partner and fellow LVTC member , Steffen Schneider and I signed up for a running tour of Rome the day before the race. I thought it would be the perfect way to see some of the sights and get in a short run. I was right. Our tour guide was a company called "The Roman Guy", in honor of the company's owners running their first marathon, the guys had decided to put together a "Shake Out" tour for us marathoners. We met our group at the Colosseum for an extensive tour of Ancient Rome, we then moved on -running- to the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps and the Via Condoti. We made stops at the Piazza Navonna, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon-it was a wonderful way to see the city, although a little dicey dodging tourists and traffic as we ran from place to place. The next morning we awoke to clouds and the threat of rain. Sure enough, as we walked to the starting line, the downpour started. There we were in the Eternal City, soaked, but undeterred. We ran 26.2 miles in the rain on wet, slippery, cobblestones past some of the worlds most famous sights. The race is the Grand Tour of Rome, unlike many major cities, this marathon began in the heart of Rome, every mile was filled with beauty (even in the rain) as well as history. It was one of the most memorable marathons I've ever ran. Unfortunately, the following morning it became it bit more memorable-we were out on what was to be a few miles recovery run, when I was distracted by a black and white dress in a store window, as I pondered whether or not it would need a belt, my foot caught what I later saw was a plank, I went crashing down onto the Roman sidewalk and landed on my knee. I tried to shake it off and run/walk back to the hotel, unfortunately that became more of painful limp. I spent the rest of the day in the hotel icing my knee and watching our one English channel-CNN, which replayed the same 3 stories all day. Not wanting the entire trip to be a bust, the next day, I hopped and hobbled to the nearest pharmacy and was outfitted with a "stampelle". Our next stop was the Vatican. Needless to say, handicapped accessibility does not exist in Italy. I struggled more than in any marathon just to get from the subway to the Basilica. Luckily, I found that because I was on crutches, we were able to skip the hour and a half long wait in line to go inside. When I got home, it was confirmed by x-ray that I have a fractured patella. Unfortunately, no running for me for a few weeks. I'm sorry to say my "marathon a month" streak of 54 months will likely come to an end; however my plan to finish a marathon in each of the 50 states for the 2nd time is still in place. With just 2 more states to complete, I'm hoping to finish in June at the Hatfield McCoy Marathon in West Virginia, the 50 States Club reunion race.

Friday, December 3, 2010

ING New York Marathon


Who says you can’t go home? On Sunday, November 7th, I ran the NYC Marathon-my 9th time, but 1st since 2002. While living in NYC, I was able to run every year from the time I first began running, however, these days, it’s not so easy. With runners applying from all 50 states and hundreds of countries, competition for just a place on the starting line is fierce. To give you an idea, my registration number was in the 400,000s! I did finally get in this time by applying for the lottery 3 years in a row and not being accepted. After 3 rejections, the 4th year, you're automatically “in”.
The marathon was great as usual, exceeding my memories and expectations. Out of the hundred or so marathons, I’ve run NYC is much different than any other race. The experience is something that every runner should have. The energy is incomparable; the scenery, the sites and just the other runners make it unique.
First, it's NYC-the center of the universe and 2nd, everyone in the entire world turns out! From world record holder, Haile Gebrselassie to French tennis star, Amelie Mauresmo to none other than the rescued, Chilean miner, Edison Pena, who trained underground for 69 days... the field is amazing! I ran for miles without hearing English. 10,000 foreign runners make it somewhat of a UN summit meeting.
You wouldn't believe how many Achilles runners are out there-aside from the speedy wheelchair racers, there were many blind and disabled runners-all gutting it out with the rest of the field, looking forward to the joy they are going to feel as they cross the finish line, whatever their finish time.
As for my race, I got off to a bit of a shaky start---note to self, if you want to arrive at the very last minute, you have to know your way around!
We were nearly turned back to the ferry AND I was too late for baggage check. My friend, Paul, ended up running the first 3 miles with my gear bag! Not to pass up a stellar opportunity to "throw away shop", he picked up every name-brand glove and headband discarded by runners who arrived earlier (as instructed) and waited in the cold; he reluctantly handed the bag off to a friend in Brooklyn.
AND for a bit of TMI, I had to make 3 pit stops on the 1st half. The lines at the port-a-potties were at least 10 runners long and about 10 minutes waiting each time-not surprising as they were accommodating nearly 45,000 runners! Needless to say, my time was not quite my up to my goal, I felt “off” until the 59th Street Bridge. Somehow, I was able to rally on the 2nd half and managed to run (albeit slowly) the entire time.
At the finish line, I saw one of my friends from my old team in NYC--just like old times and another guy who I've known for years, Terry, working as a timer keeper at the 26th mile.
I was staying only one block from the finish line in Central Park, however due to the crowds, they reroute the runners miles out of the way just to exit the finish area. On the long, chilly (no clothes to change into) walk back to my hotel, I saw Paul finishing his last mile. I tried to cross Central Park South, however it was closed as runners were still coming through; he once again came to my rescue and opened the barricade to let me cross rather than walking an extra mile to where the marshals instructed me to cross--why didn't I think of that? I've already applied for next year. Hopefully, it won't be another 4 years until I can run again ,

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Big Wild Life Runs - August 17, 2008 Anchorage, Alaska

Most people would be happy to spend their birthdays going out to dinner, maybe catching a show or staying out late partying with friends, however if you’re a 50 States Club marathoner, like me, the opportunity to run a marathon on your birthday is too good to pass up.
This year my birthday fell on a Sunday, so I knew I’d have a variety of choices:, Helsinki, South Dakota, ET or Humpy’s in Anchorage. I chose Humpy’s as it was also a 50 State Club reunion run; I’d have plenty of company to celebrate with. This was the second time I’ve ran a marathon on my birthday, the first was Silver State in Reno a few years ago and my second time to Alaska for Humpy’s.
I’m sure you’re thinking “What kind of name is Humpy’s for a marathon?” Humpy’s, as well as being a type of salmon, is also the name of a popular downtown bar/restaurant-Humpy’s Great Alaskan Ale House. They have been a sponsor of the race for many years, however this year the marathon and accompanying races have become so popular that they’ve changed the name of the event to “Big Wild Life Runs”, which is also the catch phrase for the advertising promotion for the city and added additional sponsors for each of the individual runs-the Skinny Raven Half and the Snow City CafĂ© 5K.
I left for Anchorage on the Friday before the marathon via a nonstop UsAirways flight from Las Vegas. If you ever plan a trip to Alaska-book early! Fares are always high, so this is a good time to redeem your frequent flyer points. Booking early also applies to hotels and car rentals. Summer is high season in Alaska, and it’s a short season at that, rates are at a premium. I saved about $100 per night by making reservations 6 months in advance. Car rentals are another story. I didn’t need to rent however I heard from others in our group that they were high. $70 per day was about the average.
If you stay downtown you really won’t need a car the entire time, it may be more economical to only rent it for a day at a time is you plan to drive to sightsee.
My friend Kathy from New York, had arrived the day before, so once I arrived we decided to explore the city before heading out to dinner. As Anchorage is so far north, this time of year, sunset is not until 10pm, which leaves you plenty of daylight for shopping or sightseeing.
For dinner that evening we decided on the Glacier Brewery. This was definitely a popular choice-there was a 2 hour wait for a table! Unfortunately, due to the number of tourist in Anchorage during the summer, this is the norm at all of the downtown restaurants! We did find a “shortcut” to getting a table. If you’re willing to sit in the bar area, you simply sit down when a table leaves—we were able to reduce our waiting time from 2 hours to about 30 seconds!
Saturday was an easy day. We went to the 50 States Club meeting. There were about 50 runners from all over the country. The race director spoke and one of the city officials thanked us for choosing their race for our reunion. Afterward we went to packet pick up at the Convention Center. A nice perk that came with having Humpy’s for a sponsor, was the pasta lunch included with your entry. It turned out to be a beautiful day, so we were able to sit outside on the restaurant’s patio and enjoyed 5 hot pasta dishes and a variety of cold pastas. Everyone was agreed that carbo-loading lunch worked out better for them than the usual pasta dinner the evening before running.
The rest of the afternoon we spent at the Anchorage Market, where you can buy almost anything. The food court offers some very unusual foods-everything from Alaskan-style funnel cake to caribou sausages and salmon quesadillas!
Sunday morning-my birthday and Marathon Day! No need for the usual super early wake- up call, this marathon starting time was a reasonable 9am. In fact, each of the races-half marathon, 5K, Kid’s Fun Run and Marathon Walk, had a separate starting time. The marathon had a 6 hour cut off, for those who needing more time the Walk began at 8am, followed the same course and offered a 7 hour time limit.
One of my big concerns was going into this marathon was the weather. On my Alaska trip 3 years ago, it rained every other day, including the day of the marathon. This time we had perfect marathon weather-overcast with temps in 50s. Ideal for someone coming from Las Vegas and 100 degree plus temps!
The race starts and finishes in the same place, making it an easy walk from any of the downtown hotels and just a few minutes by car if you opt to stay outside of the city.
The course itself is run on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, a bike path paved in asphalt. It takes you from downtown out past the airport, turns around and brings you back on the same trail then connects to the Lainie Fleischer Chester Creek Trail to a second turnaround. Then continues back to downtown and ends in front of Humpy’s. I wouldn’t say the course is completely flat however there are no significant hills; the few hills you encounter are rolling with the greatest climb in elevation being just 75 feet.
This year there were 284 finishers in the marathon; not a huge field by any means, however with the out and back course design you were never running by yourself. You’ll notice another interesting feature of the course at mile 6 as you pass by Anchorage International Airport. At this busy airport, takeoffs and landings are just minutes apart. Chances are a jumbo jet will be “buzzing” over head, close enough for you to make out what airline it is.
Of course, there is also the opportunity to see some wild life up close and personal on the course.
The first time I ran here I saw a mother moose with her calf only about 10 feet off the path. This year the wildest creature I saw was a black Labrador running “off leash”! Kathy’s closest encounter was a warning of a porcupine on the course. She had seen a bear crossing the road on her first day in Alaska. Luckily she was in the safety of her car for that sighting!
The winner of the Women’s Marathon was Debbie Cropper, a local elite runner and a member of the 50 States Club. In spite of a nagging iliotibial band injury she defended her 2007 win with a finish time within 1 second of her previous year’s time-3:14:05.
Not only did Debbie run fast, she organized the marathon volunteers, worked at packet pick up, housed several 50 Staters and threw a party for the club members at her home after the marathon. She even remembered my birthday with a cake!
I would have to say if you like small, low key marathons Humpy’s is an ideal marathon. The race is actually presented as the Anchorage Running Club’s premier fundraising event, which means as fellow runners they pay attention to details. From numerous well stocked water and aid stations, to clearly marking the course and providing quality tech shirts in great colors with cool designs, they have set the standard.
The community support and volunteers are outstanding. You can run a big name race elsewhere but I doubt you’ll come away from it with the awesome experience you’ll have at Humpy’s.

Tokyo Marathon
March 22, 2009

Konnichiwa! This March I had the opportunity to run the Tokyo Marathon on my fourth continent-Asia.

My adventure to Japan for the Tokyo Marathon began last summer. In its 3 year history the race has become so popular that they must use a lottery system. The application process begins in July, with entries closing at the end of August. If you are accepted you are notified in October and then asked to pay your registration fee in December-much different than US marathons, using the lottery system. Some have you pay upfront then issue you a refund if you are not accepted.
Last year they received over 200,000 applications for 35,000 slots. What would seem like impossible odds, apparently does not apply to foreigners. Out of our group, everyone was accepted.

I’m running a marathon every month so training is not so much of an issue-more import for this race was how to get there and where to stay, followed by what to wear-but I’ll get to that later.
With fares of $1000 to $1200 and a 13 hour flight, I decided that this would be a great time to redeem my frequent flyer miles. Luckily, due to current situation with the economy, it seems easier to confirm award space on the airlines; I had no trouble at all in booking a business class ticket.
As for the hotel, you have many, many choices in Tokyo; however my friend, LVTC member David Yung, recommended the hotel that he and his wife, Jeanne, planned to stay at-the Grand Prince Akasaka. This deluxe hotel, turned out to be a very well situated-across the street from a subway station and moderately priced-our room was approximately $136 per night.

I left Las Vegas on Wednesday morning, made a connection in Los Angeles and arrived in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon. There is a 16 hour time difference between Las Vegas and Tokyo, plus you cross the International dateline-which makes it a day ahead. I cleared customs easily and picked up a cell phone that I had reserved in advance which didn’t turn out to be as inexpensive as I had thought but was handy none the less and took some cash from an ATM.
Interestingly, international credit or debit cards are not widely accepted in Japan. Only certain ATMs, located at post offices and 7-11s, a big chain in Japan, will dispense cash. In fact, many shops and restaurants do not even accept credit cards, unlike the USA, this is a cash based society-credit cards are not used for daily expenses.

Soon after I arrived, I met up with, my friend Jennifer Whitley, who came in another flight. Jen, a former LVTC member, is now living in Tennessee. From the airport we took the Airport Limousine-a luxury bus, to the hotel. The airport is quite far from the city, as it was rush hour, the ride took us nearly 2 hours; our midday return took only an hour and ten minutes. The cost for this ride is about $30, other options such as a train would be less expensive, but not as easy and direct as the bus-especially with luggage, although they do offer a transfer service for the bags from the airport to your hotel. Cabs? Yes, they’re there too, however pricey at $200-$300, each way depending on traffic.
The next day David, Jeanne, Jen and I met our Japanese friend for lunch, Takahashi-san. He’s the Japanese runner that organizes the Canadian/ Japanese relay fun run that we do at the Honolulu Marathon each year. He has run Honolulu 22 times, however This was his first Tokyo Marathon. He hadn’t made the lottery for the earlier races. We got an early start on carbo-loading at a Japanese/Italian fusion style restaurant, Spaghetti-Ya, near Takahashi-san’s office.

After lunch we headed over to the Expo at the Tokyo Big Sight, a huge new convention center located across the river.
Getting around in Tokyo was very easy, once you got the hang of it. The subway goes everywhere, most of the signs are written in English as well as Japanese and the stations are numbered, so there is no chance for confusing the names. It was very similar to NYC, with a few major exceptions. First, there are several different lines, the Metro, the JR line as well as some private lines-the monorail we took to the Big Sight was one. Tickets are not interchangeable between the lines; the monorail ticket was about $4 each way, where the day pass for the Metro was only about $7. The other major difference, was the fact that the shutdown at midnight. If you’re out later you’d have to take a cab.


The Expo was amazing-almost as big as the LA Marathon or NYC! There were hundreds of vendors, representatives from other marathons as well as lectures and entertainment. We spent the entire afternoon here, by the time we got back to our hotel; we were so tired that we didn’t even eat dinner!

Saturday morning we had a “rehearsal run” in getting to the starting line. The start was in Shinjuko at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings, about 5 subway stops from our hotel. It only took about 15 minutes to get there. Once we were there we took photos outside where they were assembling bleachers for spectators to watch the start, then went upstairs to the 40th floor Observation deck and enjoyed a view of the entire city.
From there David, Jeanne and their friend, Luis from LA, went off to a park to see street performers and shop; Jen and I opted to visit the Imperial Palace Garden via the Tokyo Station. Later that night, we dined at an Italian restaurant in Akasaka on a side street near our hotel, home to about 200 restaurants.
Gotta get that pasta!

Sunday, Marathon morning, I was up at 5am; however we didn’t leave for the race until about 730a.
Last minute analysis of the weather and wardrobe, took probably an hour! I finally decided that there was a good chance of rain and the temperature would be in the 50s, so I’d wear pants, a short sleeve shirt and a jacket I could take off and tie around my waist if necessary. This worked out fine, in fact most of the female runners were dressed the same only with the addition of a running skirt over the pants-must be the running fashion in Tokyo!

Finally, we were off on a quick subway ride and walk through the underground tunnels, which got us to the starting area we just enough time to check our bags. The race didn’t begin until 915am however, as this is a point to point race, bags were stored in trucks and left for the finish line at 830am.

From there we walked/ran to our corrals. Each person’s number began with a letter signifying their
Starting corral-mine was F and David’s was J. I could have started back with David however I thought I may do better if I started toward the front of the pack. Unfortunately it didn’t happen. With 35,000 runners squeezed into one street, there was no moving up! AND with my limited training due to a knee injury, it really didn’t matter.

The race started under cloudy skies, no rain except for a few sprinkles until I crossed the finish line-at that point, the skies opened and it rained the rest of the afternoon and evening.

As we inched up to the starting line and crossed the mats, I couldn’t help but think of the NYC Marathon. After living in NYC and having run NYC as my first marathon, I usually compare all my other marathons to it. This marathon, more than any other reminded me of NYC.

The crowd of runners and spectators on the sideline never let up. The course was crowded from start to finish-even as the 5000 10K runners veered off at their finish line, you never had a moment where you weren’t surrounded by other runners. Only major difference was how clean the streets were and how polite the runners were. At each aid station, volunteers were divided into 2 tables –one for water and one for Amino Value, the marathon’s sports drink, each group actually wore a different colored jacket!
“Dust Bins”, large boxes and tarps for garbage caught the discarded. Those that were missed were collected by more volunteers on the side lines. The runners themselves were all very courteous-especially at the crowded water stops-each took their turn.

The course itself could be very fast-the first 10K is downhill, then it’s flat until the last 3 miles where you cross 2 bridges on the way to the finish at the Big Sight. For me it wasn’t, however not to have any major hills to contend with was a blessing for those, like me, who hadn’t trained enough!
Wind toward the last few miles over the water and long lines at the port-a-potties were the only deterrents to a fast time had you trained properly.

I finally got to the finish line at Big Sight way past my goal time, but happy none the less. Tokyo has to be one of the most well organized marathons I’ve run. I completed enjoyed the sights along the course-particularly the Tokyo Tower, a mini version of the Eiffel Tower, only in red! The “people watching” was pretty interesting, too-some very unusual costumes and running gear out there!
Once you crossing the finish line, a gauntlet begins-chip removal, medal, goodie bag, goodies—2 or 3 different fruits, drinks, and finishing towels! Yes, you get a commemorative beach-type towel; another custom, I suppose! A trip through the baggage claim and an enormous dressing room led to a long line of what looked like a communal pedicure chair, runners soaked their feet in what looked like a yellow sludge.


After the race, I wasn’t feeling well-probably from drinking so much of a sports drink that I wasn’t accustomed to. We took the subway back to our hotel, but first made a stop at Subway for a familiar sandwich and a chance to rest after a long day.

The following day Jen and I did a world wind sightseeing tour of Tokyo. Our first stop was Shibuya, to see the busiest intersection in the world, Tokyo’s major department stores and the famous statue of Hachiko, Japan’s most loyal dog. The story goes that Hachiko , an Akita, came to the subway station to meet his master every day, even after his death.
After that we went to the busy electronics street at Akihabara and then on to Ueno Park to see the Cherry Blossoms. Cherry blossom view is something similar to our “Fall Foliage” viewing: people will plan picnics and special trips to see them at various points throughout the country.
We were probably about a week to early to see them in full bloom, however we did get to see a few early blooming trees; they were gorgeous.
The next day we bid Japan “Sayoonara” and returned home. We were fortunate as this was, just a day after the Fedex plane crashed at Narita airport. After a delay of 2 hours we flew safely home.

Honolulu Marathon 2008


When I first ran the Honolulu Marathon back in 1994, I didn’t really expect to come back in 2008 and find things much the same as they had been 14 years earlier, however at this race consistency rules. Year after year on the second Sunday in December, runners from all over the world converge on Honolulu to follow the same course, eat the same food and meet up with the same people. This year I returned to Honolulu for my 12th Honolulu marathon.
Activities kicked off on Wednesday, when the expo and packet pick up opened. Having outgrown the previous poolside location at the Outrigger Reef several years ago, it’s now held at the new Convention Center. After all of these years, vendors and procedures haven’t changed much.
Before the race, runners still line up for their race numbers, timing chips and goodie bags and unlike most marathons there is no race participant shirt – only a finisher’s shirt which must be earned. It can only be picked up after you cross the finish line and a volunteer verifies that you actually completed the race.
Not to fear, you do have plenty of Official Marathon merchandise available to purchase as this is a Nike sponsored event. There is no lack of souvenir tee shirts and marathon gear, however; try to hold back on buying anything you may not want to wear over the weekend as come Monday and Tuesday, prices are reduced by 30 to 50%. “The Sale”, my favorite part of the race!
As the marathon starting time is 5am on Sunday, the traditional pasta dinner is held on Friday night so everyone can get a good night’s sleep on Saturday-however this is Hawaii and the tradition is a LUAU complete with music and entertainment! Not so traditional carbo-loading however effective just the same.
Saturday is a good day to lay low; relax, maybe do some sightseeing and try to stay out of the sun!
Nothing could be worse than trying to run a marathon with sunburn. Unfortunately, this would not be a concern for our runners this year (or LAST year!). It rained nearly every day during the week before the race. A few hours of sunshine the day before gave the misguided impression that the weather would cooperate for the race, however-not this year… again! For the second year in a row, the marathon started with a bang-not only the beautiful fireworks display over Ala Moana Park, but a burst of rain just as the starting gun was fired.
The usual routine for most Honolulu runners would be a 2:30am wake up call, quickly dressing-not much decision as to what to wear -shorts and a singlet will do fine as it’s already 70 degrees; followed by a brisk walk to the starting line if your hotel is close to Ala Moana, otherwise a short walk to the Zoo parking lot for a 10 minute bus ride if your hotel is closer to the finish line. As you walk out of your hotel you may notice many chartered buses and even some stretch limos. These are reserved for the Japanese tour groups. Same as every year, Japan Airlines is one of the major sponsors; therefore, nearly 60 percent of the field comes from Japan.
With such an early start, for most of the runners run nearly half of the race in the dark-for the winners the sun is just rising as they cross the finish line.
This year’s winners were a Kenyan man, Patrick Ivuti and a Japanese woman, Kiyoko Shimahara. Their finish times were 2:14:35 and 2:32:36 respectively, well ahead of the 20,056 other finishers who’s average time was 5:58:22!
The course has been the same for years—from the park a loop through downtown-you’ll notice the bar goers still out partying from the night before. There is a turn past the Ala Moana Mall and the starting area, before you hit Kalakaua Avenue. You pass the famous Waikiki Beach and hotels; even at this predawn hour, spectators line the course at this point cheering on friends and family members.
As you leave Waikiki, if you know where to look, the finish line at Kapialani Park will be visible (sort of anyway-remember it’s still dark!).
At this point you’ve passed the 10K marker and will begin climbing the one major hill on the course-Diamond Head. It’s about a mile long. For most runners you’re in the dark –no street lights, just flood lamps brought in for illumination. The pack is still thick and it’s only accentuated as you’re running on one side of the road; and don’t forget for the last 2 years, at this point it has been raining for several hours, therefore lake size puddles have formed and some runners are up to their ankles in water!
As you circle behind Diamond Head, there is an aid station where many runners stop to walk. Not for long though as the next mile is a screaming downhill and a chance to regroup for the longest stretch of the race-out and back on Kalanianiole Highway. If you’re fast enough, here you’ll have a chance to see the top runners as they go for a possible victory or after you make the loop at Hawaii Kai, you’ll have a chance to “high five” your slower friends and running partners.
One of the most beautiful and enjoyable parts of the course is mile 22 to 24 as you run through Kahala –Honolulu’s answer to Park Ave, NYC. You’ll see million dollar homes and be cheered on by many spectators as you run (or walk) through one of the most exclusive areas in Hawaii.
You then approach Diamond Head and the last hill. You’ll have a water stop at mile 24, most runners, no matter what their pace, resort to walking at this point of the race, however once you reach the top of the hill, you’ll be thrilled to see that the last mile will be downhill! A fast dash to the bottom of the hill and less than 1 mile as flat as a pancake and you’re done—or as they say in Hawaiian, you are “pau”.
Pass the finish line and the routine will continue. You will receive your finisher’s shell lei; collect your oatmeal cookies and apples-which is always the same finish line food. Then you will head over to the finisher’s shirt tent where you will receive your finisher’s shirt and key chain medal. This year it was the same medal as always-a very plain and simple depiction of a Hawaiian runner only this year the background hibiscus was in color!
At the finish line the festivities will continue as you shop for souvenirs, get a massage or just chill out and listen to the band play-that is until the rain starts again! After the drenching morning rain, a few minutes of rain here and there between the sunshine is not uncommon.
All and all this is a great, predictably good marathon. And best of all, in 2009, Honolulu and the Las Vegas Marathon will once again be offered a week apart, for those adventurous enough, as I was, to attempt two marathons or half marathon and marathon in a week. Hope to see you there!
Congratulations to 50 States Club Honolulu Finishers: Jim D’Haenes, Dedra Trotter, Ron Knecht, Christine Merriam, Mike Herrin and Richard Vogt


Missoula Marathon - July 2008


Leap year moved my favorite July marathon to August! Yes, the San Francisco Marathon will be run on August 2nd . It seems to be a trend this year, marathons run at the beginning of one month moving over to the end of the previous month and vice versa. As many of you may know, I’m working running a streak of a marathon a month, so August wouldn’t do. I had to find another July marathon.
Prospects were not looking good, that is until I did a search of http://www.marathonguide.com/ and discovered the Missoula Marathon. Now in its second year, this marathon offered much more than just the fact that it’s run in July- not only did it fit perfectly into my schedule, the course was beautiful and it was very easy and reasonable to get to thanks to Allegiant Airlines.
If you are not familiar with this Las Vegas based airline, take a look at their web site, www.allegiantair.com.
They keep fares low by offering service to secondary markets-like Missoula. Granted, the planes are small and they do charge extra for baggage and seats, however once you’re past the additional fees you’ll realize you are getting a better deal than the major airlines are offering and even better-a nonstop flight where otherwise you’d spend the day connecting.
My flight left early on Saturday morning, arriving into Missoula before noon. I chose not to rent a car as everything in town is within walking distant and I didn’t see that we have any time to explore outside of the city. A quick phone call from the airport to the DoubleTree, was all it took to have the hotel shuttle at the airport within minutes and whisking me back to the hotel.
The DoubleTree is rated one of the top hotels in Missoula and I have to say I was impressed. The rooms are quite spacious and very reasonably priced. The best feature is the location; it is situated along the banks of the Clark Fork River across from the University of Montana’s campus. From the restaurant and some of the rooms, you have a great view of the river.
I had a chance to get some rest before my friends arrived, Kathy and Kevin from NYC and Donald from Arizona. All three belong to the 50 States Club and the Marathon Maniacs, as did many of the marathon runners in Missoula that weekend. This would be at least the 6th marathon of the year for each of them and my 8th.
Once they arrived we headed over to the marathon expo, which was held outdoors in a park a couple of blocks away from our hotel. It was under a huge tent, so in case of bad weather there would be no need to bring everything indoors, although this weekend there were no worries the weather was picture perfect and the temperature ideally in the 70s.
After we picked up our race numbers and tee shirts, which were very nice short sleeve tech shirts in blue (the half offered a more attractive, rust brown); we shopped a bit then took a walk around town. Later, we drove out to the suburbs for an early dinner at Carino’s, a popular chain of Italian eateries. Donald had flown into Spokane and drove 3 hours to Missoula, so we use of a car; although if we didn’t have a car, there were a number of good local restaurants that we would have been able to walk to in town.
It was an early night and an even earlier wake-up call at 4am. We were ready to go and on our way before 5am. It was a short walk from our hotel to the shuttle out to the starting line. The buses left from a parking garage offering free parking for the day for those who drove.
The race started in Frenchtown, about a 25 minute ride away. After a hundred degree day last year, the start time had been pushed up from 6:30am to 6:00am and the course was altered to provide more shade for the runners.
While we were waiting at the start, we met a couple from Australia who were running 8 marathons in 8 weeks in 8 different countries. There’s always one marathoner attempting something more extreme than the next! This is a link to their web site for more on their adventures: http://www.partnerunning.com/
At 6am sharp, a cannon blast started the race and we were off. I would say that every one of the 400 runners crossed the starting line within a minute. The morning air was crisp; temps at 6am were still in the 50s-quite a difference from a typical July morning in Las Vegas!
The view of the foothills as the sun came up was amazing. We ran past horse farms, mountains, rivers and streams. With the exception of the lumber mill, there were no sign of commerce on the first half. We were truly in Big Sky country!
Spectators were limited to the few people who were curious enough to venture out of their homes to see what was going on and to several family members and friends of runners, who followed along in their minivans or on bikes. If you like the cheering crowds of a big city; don’t run here! This is the type of race that someone runs who just wants to enjoy nature and the fact that they can run 26.2 miles.
For those goal oriented runners, there were pace groups and for those on their own, although the field was small, it never seemed that you were running alone at any point.
Aid stations were spread out 2 miles apart on the first half of the race, then every mile after that. All were well stocked with water and Power Ade and offered a port-a-pottie-with no waiting lines! Power Gel was offered at two locations on the course, as well.
Plaster leg sculptures, decorated by local artists, served as mile markers along the course. These legs where part of a fund raising project similar to the cows from Chicago or the pigs in Cincinnati. The “legs” added a fun touch to the marathon; something other than water stations to look out for! Plus they were on display at the expo the day before so you were able to recognize your favorite designs.
With the exception of the one mile long hill I was warned about at the halfway point, the rest of the course seemed to be flat, so I was a bit surprised when I found out later on that there was a total gain in elevation and the entire course is slightly uphill.
In spite of the gradual incline and elevation-Missoula is 3200 feet above sea level, I would say this is definitely a fast course. At the finish line, I heard many happy reports from those who made their Boston qualifying time and PRs.
The average finishing time was 4:16; however with a 6 hour cut off, there were not many slower runners. For those needing more time or not ready for a full marathon in the middle of the summer, there is also a half marathon.
Unfortunately, if you choose the half, you’ll miss the most beautiful part of the course. The second half runs through a residential area, as it leads you back downtown, crossing the Higgins Avenue Bridge over the Clark Fork River to the finish line in front of the historic Wilma Theater. The balloon arch was a welcome sight! I spotted it about a half mile away.
Community effort was really at work at in the finish area and it showed. The locals put a great deal of thought and effort in accommodating the runners. From frozen fruit pops to massages; and Moose Drool Beer to home-made lemon pasta salad, complete with the recipe; they thought of everything.
The one thing they didn’t plan on however was my friend, Donald, running as Elvis. The crowds cheered and broke into “Viva Las Vegas!” as he approached the finish line. As in almost any marathon, you never know what to expect!

*For anyone who likes statistics, this was my 119th marathon, 14th marathon/month streak and 16th state toward 50 States Completion, 2nd time.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Eugene Marathon

The moment I heard about the Eugene Marathon, I knew I had to run it. After all, Eugene is pretty much the Mecca of running and this year, host to the Olympic Trials for Track and Field. In their second year, Eugene has become a welcome addition to Oregon’s marathon options.
Friday night I left Las Vegas with my friend and 2007 LVTC Iron Camel Winner, Phil Weiland, on one of the last flights going out of McCarran-1150pm, arriving Eugene at 2am!-a little late, however at least we'd have all day Saturday.Only small problem with an arrival that late, in a city the size of Eugene is that all of the car rentals are closed. We had to take a cab to the hotel-which actually proved to be one of the most informative cab rides I'd ever taken. In the space of a 20 minute ride, our driver, a long time Eugene resident filled us in on all the history and "goings on" in town. Hot topics for the weekend were Barak Obama's visit a few weeks earlier, the Saturday Market, the oldest open air craft market in the US (a claim they could have made 15 years ago!) and of course, the marathoners--are they crazy or what?We arrived at our hotel--actually a motel, rather on the dreary side-however inexpensive and close to the finish line, checked in and I met my roommate for the weekend, Lois from the 50 States Club. Poor girl, I felt bad waking her up at 3am!Next morning, after the hotel’s complimentary continental breakfast- we were off to the race expo at the host hotel, the Hilton. After picking up our numbers and a bit of shopping and sampling, we walked a few blocks over to the Saturday Market.If you are ever in Eugene, this is a must, after all who doesn't enjoy live music, fresh food from the Farmers Market and the chance to shop for some very unique items?Eugene is a very "green" city-probably due to the fact that it’s a big college town and most people engage in some sort of outdoor sport or activity; in fact the marathon pace car was a hybrid Prius! Recycling bins abound and you could see from the farmer's market and selection of restaurants in town, the residents are very health conscious and completely sold on the organic life style.A visit to the market is something like a trip in time back to the sixties. Except for the ever present cell phones, the atmosphere, music-everything from an impromptu violin solo to a “hippy” with a sitar and a barber shop quartet, also well as the attire of the locals (teens or seniors) would bring to mind the days around Woodstock.
The band on center stage played anti-war songs, young girls wore long peasant skirts with strings of dandelions as necklaces and outside of Jamaica, I have never seen so many guys with dreadlocks.I don't think anyone had ever seen or used a lip gloss or an eye shadow and Miss Clairol would make a killing-no bleach blondes in this crowd!Everyone seemed very happy and friendly, so maybe there is something to this simple life thing??? We spent an hour or so shopping and listening to music until my friend Mark Ornstein, from Las Vegas and the 50 States Club came to meet us and we headed off to a great grocery store something like Whole Foods for provisions.Next we went back to the hotel to watch the Kentucky Derby on television. As I had just run the Kentucky Derby Marathon and had visited Churchill Downs a few days before, I was very excited to see the race.Well, that turned into a disaster and practically ruined the rest of the weekend for me, when Eight Belles, the runner up horse, broke both of her ankles and had to be euthanized at the end of the race, right there on the track.As many of you know, I'm an "animal person", in fact, I've even been a vegetarian since I was 14, so as you can imagine, it was very upsetting to me. I haven't even watched horse racing since Barbaro, because of the danger to the horses.Anyway, I had to try to put my sadness aside and go back to the Hilton, the marathon host hotel, for the 50 States Club Reunion Meeting. This was a special day for me; although I finished my 50 States last January, I had never formally received my trophy. Unless you can make it to one of the quarterly meetings, they just mail it to you.This was my chance to actually have it presented to me by the club's president, Tom Adair. This was the first marathon Tom has been able to travel to and run since he fell and fractured his pelvis on a glacier while running the Antarctica Marathon in March. He's fine now as according to him, the fractured bones were not any "really important" bones!About 50 club members attended the meeting, there were probably about 100, who ran the marathon.
After the meeting, we met more 50 State Club members and talked so long after the meeting that we missed the pasta dinner and ended up eating in the hotel restaurant. Pasta with veggies and a salad: my usual pre-marathon meal. It was fine.I got back to the my "motel" later than I planned and of course, as usual, went to bed too late....that is after downing a bottle of water to "hydrate" for the race and waking up every hour to use the bathroom.We were up at 4:45am, marathon morning. Lois had decided to walk to the start with a couple of the guys; Mark, Phil and I opted to drive to the finish and take the shuttle over to the start-maybe a mile or 2 away at the University of Oregon's, Hayward Field, which beginning June 27th, will be the scene of the Olympic Track and Field trials. Everything went very smoothly, even when we got to the starting line- the baggage check was easy to find and port-a-potty lines were not that bad. Of course, I wasn't at the start to get a good spot to line up; however I did find a break in the corral fence to sneak in-along with about 100 others!
The race begins in front of Hayward Field, travels around Amazon Park and the University of Oregon, then crosses the Willamette River 3 times, makes a loop through Alton Baker Park East and into neighboring Springfield. The return to Eugene follows along bike paths and at least 10 miles of very scenic trails along the river while taking you in and out of 6 parks! The finish line is at East Gate Tower in front of Autzen Stadium.I was very happy with the course, not many hills, beautiful scenery, a sprinkling of spectators and plenty of runners -but not too many!-around me to pace off. My only issue was with the temperature. I had expected it would be chilly in the morning, the race begins at 7am, however by mile 20 I was still wearing my throw away shirt! I should have planned to just wear a long sleeve shirt to begin with. I was not really comfortable with the brisk temps and cloudy skies--actually this is known as perfect marathon weather...I only wished I had an extra shirt or jacket on for it!Mark and Phil were not too happy with the course at all. Mark hates to run on concrete, and sure enough, most of the bike trails are concrete. At mile 16 he decided it wasn't his day and dropped out. This was really bad luck for him as he only needed this race-Oregon and Montana, to complete his 50 States 2nd time finish. Actually, in looking through my photos from the weekend I noticed Mark was wearing the race shirt on Saturday. Could he have fallen victim to "the curse of wearing the shirt before the race"?Unfortunately for Phil, he took a couple of wrong turns, lost the pack of runners he was following and added another hour and a half to his time getting back on course. Finally we met at the finish line. Mark drove us back to our hotel and quickly left to drive back for his flight out of Portland an hour away.
Phil and I spent the rest of the afternoon resting and relaxing with Lois. She had had run a good race and was very pleased with the marathon. At marathon number 280, she’s become an expert.We left for our flight back to LV from Eugene at about 6pm---enough time for a stop for a gelato at a downtown cafe.I definitely recommend this race for next year. See www.eugenemarathon.com for details.
AND check out www.eugenesaturdaymarket.org for more info on the Saturday Market.