Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Remembering Charles Sayles... Nuclear Engineer, Marathon Maniac and 50 States Club Former Vice President; February 2, 1937-January 21, 2021

In the movies they call it a “meet cute”; a serendipitous meeting of the main characters that eventually leads to romance. In the “marathon world” something like this happens at finish lines every week. Runners chat with each other only to discover mutual friends or acquaintances in a Six Degrees of Separation type of connection. That’s how I met Charles at the finish line of the Honolulu Marathon in 2005. Over 20,000 runners, along with friends and family crowded Kapiolani Park after the race; my friends and I were there collecting our medals, finisher shirts and taking photos with the hula girls and warrior guys, when I spotted a lone gray haired gentleman in an LA Leggers shirt. The LA team was basically the West Coast counterpart of my team at the time, the New York Flyers, so I greeted him and offered my congratulations on finishing the race only to discover that he was also a 50 Stater and had just finished his 50th state. At that moment I realized that he was the “Charles” my friend, Sharon Kerson, a 6-time 50 State finisher from LA, had invited to our post-race brunch celebration at the Royal Hawaiian. From that day on, Charles joined our “squad” and either traveled to or met our little group, Steffen Schneider, Phil Weiland, Mike Sortito, and me at marathons around the country. At a time in life when most runners are slowing down, Charles began his marathon quest at age 64 at the Mayor’s Midnight Marathon 2001 as a member of Team in Training. He completed his first marathon and was hooked. Along with completing the 50 states within 5 years he also finished 70 marathons before he turned 70. To complete as many marathons in an efficient manner, he would run many doubles (two marathons in one weekend)-New Hampshire Marathon and Maine Marathon; and Mississippi Blues Marathon and First Light Marathon in Mobile, AL were a couple he participated in multiple times. His favorite marathons were close to his home- Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Francisco, as well as the many marathons organized by Charlie Alewine along the California coastline, however he enjoyed traveling and running some of the most difficult marathons- Estes Park, Colorado, billed as the highest paved road marathon in the US; Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon, MN; Calico Racing’s Red Rock outside of Las Vegas; ET, the Midnight Marathon at Area 51; Labor of Love at Lovell Canyon and Lake Mead, where he finished his 200th marathon. He went on to complete a lifetime total of 270 marathons as well as a second 50 State Finish at the Chicago Marathon in 2009. Additionally, he could be found every weekend running a local 5 or 10K or even a half marathon. Charles was very active in the running community. He served on the Board of Directors as Vice President of the 50 States Marathon Club for several years. He loved traveling to the club’s quarterly meetings and utilizing his award winning “Toastmasters” skills to work interviewing the runners as he presented them with their Finisher Trophies. He was an early member of the Marathon Maniacs, joining the club in April 2005 and became Maniac#141. He achieved Palladium Status, by running 21 marathons, 20 states within one year and ran 49 states after age 66. He also belonged to local clubs: LA Leggers and the Foothill Flyers Running Club. A fierce age group competitor, Charles loved challenging himself and was very proud of his accomplishments. As a runner over 80, he knew the competition in his age group and could tell you his finishing time and place in every marathon he ran. Although most of us knew him as an epic senior runner from Glendale, CA, Charles was originally from Oklahoma. He graduated from Oklahoma State University and earned his doctorate from Iowa State where he met his lovely wife, Carol, and went on to a long career as a Nuclear Engineer. He worked at Atomics International, a division of Rockwell at the time of the first Space Shuttle launch and Southern California Edison for many years. After his retirement from SCE he worked as a contract employee in several jobs in Connecticut, New York, Chicago, Indiana and repeatedly for GE in San Jose. Charles was also very active in his church, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glendale and often made time to attend church services while traveling. Over the last few years, Charles had dealt with many health and accident issues, however last August, while competing in a Virtual 5K, Charles suffered a fall which resulted in skull fracture. After months in rehab, he entered Grace Residential Home in October and Hospice care in December. He crossed the ultimate finish line peacefully on January 21st. He leaves behind Carol, his wife of 54 years, their two sons, Tom and Ed, Ed’s wife, Laura, and their son, Jack along with many other relatives and friends throughout the US. “Sir Charles”, as his friends referred to him, was always a gentleman. His work ethic and determination inspired all who knew him. He was always well prepared but flexible enough to go along with whatever situation enfolded as they tend to do when traveling and running marathons. I'll always remember his wit, his kindness along with the fun we had at so many marathons. Rest in peace, Charles. We’ll miss you.

Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001?

I was in NYC on Sept. 11th. As you may know, even though I live in Las Vegas, I still work for a travel agency in NY. At that time, I had an apartment that I shared with another girl from my running team in Astoria, just across the 59th Street bridge from Manhattan, as well as an apartment in LV. That morning started out as a beautiful day- almost like summer only better, no heat or humidity. I went for a run to Astoria Park, just under the Triborough Bridge. As I ran, I was listening to the DJ on my favorite radio station making jokes about how it was 9-1-1, "emergency day". Of course, I got carried away with my running and ended up late for work. When I got off of the subway I glanced at the clock- it was 9:27. (Everytime I took that train again, I looked at that clock and thought of that moment.) I walked up the stairs and out on to the street. For a point of reference, my office is in midtown-51st and Madison, a block from Rockefeller Center and across the street from the back of St Patricks Catherdral-many miles from downtown. As I waited to cross the street, I was standing near one of those carts that sell horrible coffee and cheap bagels in the AM, I heard the announcer on the vendor's radio saying something about a TV station being knocked off of the air. Strange, I thought, that seems like something that would happen in bad weather-not a nice day like this. I quickly put it out of my mind, hurried into my office and really didn't notice the "buzz" that was starting to stir around the office. I got to my desk and grabbed the phone. It was one of my clients, Beverly, was calling from her office in the Chrystler Building to tell me that her boss was canceling her trip later that day. Their building was being evacuated as a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center and it was on fire. She could even see the smoke from her window as she was on the 50th floor. When I got off the phone with her, I went into the lunch room where everyone was gathered around the television. The office takes up an entire floor in the building so there were quite a few people. Many of them had family members or friends working downtown so as we heard the news about the planes being hijacked and saw the first tower fall, most people who lived far from the office (New Jersey or Long Island) decided to leave. I heard that the subways stopped running and how there were thousands of people out on the street walking uptown, I decided to stay in the office until we had an idea of what was going on. I figured indoors on the 3rd floor was safer than outside trying to figure out what was going on outside. Reports were saying their were as many as 8 planes hijacked and as we saw on TV when that 2nd tower fell - there could have been 10 or 20 thousand people killed. Cell phones weren't working and land lines had spotty service--I was getting calls from Nevada and Connecticut, but couldn't get a number across the street. (It was like that for the rest of the week). Around 3pm one of the girls who commuted from Long Island told me that she was meeting some friends and they planned to walk across the 59th St. bridge to Queens and have their husbands drive in and pick them up. I decided to go along with them to Queens. When we got outside we saw that the subways had started running again, so we got on. I don't think anyone even took a breath for the entire ride- it was scary! No one knew what to expect, especially when the train stopped in the tunnel and the lights flickered -this often happens as they wait for the train ahead to move out of the next station. I think this made me nervous for a good year. As I got to my stop and walked back to my apartment I was wondering - almost dreading not finding my roommate there. She worked downtown for some government office, I had no idea where and of course I couldn't phone her so I didn't know where she was. I just assumed the worse. Needless to say I was relieved to find an art project she was working on that hadn't been there when I went out, meaning she had been home since the morning. When she got back to the apartment, we decided to go out and rent a movie. Watching the news was getting more and more depressing. Nothing was open. People were out on the street however most of the stores had closed. I don't remember what I did the rest of the evening- probably just watched more of the news, however the next day, I was back at the office. (My office doesn't close even for national disasters!) It was so quiet-very few people out on the street. Most stores and businesses were closed-those that were open were out of supplies. Imagine NYC without bagels! My co-worker came in hung over and still freaked out-- my boss sent him home a few minutes later. We couldn't do much work as the phones weren't working and the flights were grounded all week. The only client calls a remember were from those who were actually flying and forced to land when this happened. One of our clients spent the week in Omaha! I don't personally know of anyone who lost their life in the WTC however one of my best friends and training partner's daughter worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, the company on the 100th floor that lost nearly all of their employees. Fortunately, she had been married the Saturday before and was on her honeymoon in Hawaii that day. Everyone in her dept., except another fellow who had a dentist appt. that day was killed. Many of them had been partying with us at her wedding just 3 days before. VERY sad. She's since started a charity for children of the victims. AND usually being fired is a bad thing, however not in this case, a fellow from my running club, had lost his job in the WTC just a few weeks before. Oddly, he was on his way back there that day to work on his resume. He was coming out of the subway and saw 2 girls standing in front of him screaming- not so unusual in NY- until he looked up and saw the tower collapse. He turned around and walked back home. It's very difficult to get news when you're in the middle of it. I heard from another friend, that he was helping a woman he met on the street try to escape downtown, when her brother-knowing she was at work, sent her a text saying "RUN! The tower just fell" Where so many people were lost and unaccounted for, many friends and family were holding out hope for weeks and months after that some how they would turn up. Signs were posted on walls and poles, like you'd post for a lost pet--Missing Stock Broker, Lawyer, Account Executive, 34, 22, 40- with a photo of a nice looking dad or son or sister. It was so sad. They even created a wall in Grand Central where they left these posted for months afterward. I think today, especially in the city- even though 6 years have passed it's like it was yesterday. Some things just never leave you. (written 9/2007)

Monday, October 5, 2020

Virgin Money London "Virtual" Marathon

So... what's new? This past Sunday I ran the Virgin Money Virtual London Marathon. It was my 2nd Virtual race--- after saying how ridiculous they were-a virtual waste of time and money. That was before I realized that in addition to missing the US Open this year, I was going to miss out on running my favorite race- the New Haven Road Race, which went from a 20K to a Half a few years ago. The race fee wasn't much so I figured why not? I entered -at the last minute and promptly recieved my race shirt and number. I worked out a tentative course and headed out on the Saturday before Labor Day (the traditional race day). My course was somewhat different than my usual running route from my mother's house in North Haven, CT.
I started off on Rimmon Road, went up to Clintonville Road and out and back on Pond Hill Road, which turns into Clintonville Rd. in Wallingford and then back on to North Haven's Clintonville Rd. through Clintonville School and Chapel Hill.
My time wasn't that good, but then I didn't expect it would be, however oddly I was pleased with myself for completeing this boring version of a race that's been a fall staple on my calendar since I started running...the 5K was my 2nd race-ever, back in 1993.
A few months before, after moving the London Marathon from April to October it was canceled and went virtual. Although, I wasn't registered for the original race, I opted to join in as London is one of my favorite cities and after applying for the "ballot" year after year, I finally gave in and became a charity runner in 2018 and completed the Abbott World Marathon Majors 6th star. It was such a great experience, I signed on with another charity, Sense, in 2019 and ran again. The opportunity to "fake" run London again, or as they put it -"participate in a historic event" was too tempting, I signed up for the amazingly low rate of 25 pounds and started my planning--
My Course- I decided it would be much easier to run in Las Vegas-there are so many parks and paths, it would be simpler to find a traffic-free route. AND even though it may be warm, like 90 degrees warm, it would unlikely be raining and humid which was most likely the case in Connecticut.
Cornerstone Park, where we ran the Jackport 6 or 12 hour run in February was my first thought....until I remembered the hills and the many walkers and dogs the park attracts every morning. The lack of shade also made me think it would be too warm and dusty.
Second choice was the Pittman Was which combined with a few miles around the perimiter of Arroyo Mesa, my condo complex, worked well. There was shade, there were water fountains and even rest rooms-everything needed for a self supported race. I had planned to run 3 out and back loops, however in a last minute adjustment on the 2nd loop, I doubled up and the last 2 segments of the path-Pebble to Pecos and Pecos to Green Valley.
I started out with 4 loops around Arroyo Mesa and 1 half loop to finish up, amazingly without any "mapping" I came out with 26.2 miles and finished almost in front of my house.
The Weather- The day started out great. Temps were somewhere in 60s at the start. As the day went on, temps rose to the 90s and the sun...UGH. I should have started at least an hour earlier!
What to Wear? I decided not to wear my number, as I thought it looked rather silly running through the neighborhood my myself. Comfort was going to be a key factor, so I just wore my black and white, Nike top with black Nike shorts and a white cap. Instead of my traditional race day hairstyle of braids, I simply tied my hair up in a bun.
The App and The Electronics- The race provides an app for you to track your miles and syncs into their system. Great idea! However I was worried about using it with my Strava-also tracking miles and streaming my music as well as the fact that I'm running very slowly and expected to be out possibly over 6 hours-the battery life of my head phones. What I ended up doing- another last minute decision, was to use my radio and wired headphones for at least the Countdown on KLUC and then switch over half way-- I ended up listening to the radio for the entire race.
The app was kind of cool. I didn't use the wireless headphones so I missed out on hearing the announcements and encouraging words however I did hear the last push to the finish line and congratulations -as I slogged myself to the "finish line", I heard the announcement that the Queen was watching out of her window and even Paula Radcliffe was watching as I "sprinted" toward the finish line. Ahhh, not really, however nice thought!
My Time- Could have been much better! My last marathon was LA on March 8 and it was aweful! I stopped at nearly every port-a-pottie for half of the race. I met up with Craig Davidson, a streaker-he's run every LA marathon however his claim to fame was running every day since 1978! Sadly, he was having a bad day and walked and talked with me for a number of miles. Unfortunately his streak ended back in April when he passed out getting ready for his run and ended up in the hosptial, rather than on the road that day. He's okay now and back on to starting a new streak.
I've been running every day since June, however my mileage has been 4 to 6 miles, nothing like marathon training! And to top it off, a week before the marathon, I bruised my ribs leaning over the bathtub washing my hair! Talk about a freak accident! It wasn't that bad that I couldn't run, however there is still quite a bit of discomfort.
All in all, the Virtual Marathon was a good experience, although, it was a tough time without the proper training and some injuries. Fortunately, my hamstring injury which caused my DNF in Berlin last year was not an issue, I barely noticed it. Only issues I did have were with my hip and back. I think with more stretching and weights, I can expect better results.
Will I do another virtual race? Never say never, I may depending on the race. It was a good training run for a "real" race, however it really doesn't give you the same sense of accomplishment you feel crossing an actual finish line---whether you're first or last, it's still an amazing feeling. Anyway, we'll see when the finisher shirt and the race medal- "bling" arrive, that may sweeten the experience.

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.