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About SeePaulRun.com


Nice to meet you! I’m Paul and thank you for visiting my site.

Not so long ago in 2009, I ran my first marathon in New York City, where I live, and fell in love with the idea of an event that made the city stop what it was doing, literally closing off the streets, so that tens of thousands of average people “could take a long lap” around town and a million other people could stand around to cheer them and have a good time.

The idea that amateur runners could come together from near and far, no matter what languages they spoke or from which distant places they hailed; that they would run that day along the exact same course as the world champions competing further ahead in the pack; that they would be made to feel welcomed with no judgments by the spectators, while carrying no burdensome expectations on themselves to win any prizes; that the whole spectacle would be a celebration of something so basic, so peaceful and non-political, requiring, in theory, no special equipment nor super-human skills…All of this inspired me to see the marathon as symbolic for the happy coexistence that humans can promote for each other when they choose to.

A few weeks went by, and still hooked on the idea, I started training for my next marathon. I loosely set out a plan to run each of the remaining World Major Marathons (besides New York, these would be in London, Berlin, Chicago, and Boston; Tokyo was not yet a member of that club at the time). I took a class in Pose Method being offered by my health club and afterwards found my way to my first great running coach (Greg Close of TriBy3) who taught me how to run with better form and encouraged me to experiment in related areas such as the full Ironman and half triathlons, which I did. Since I knew I would eventually have to qualify to run in Boston as part of my plan, I next started working on speed with the goal to run a sub-3 hour marathon.

I came close, several times. But what happened was that I’d been training hard for Miami geared up by Greg’s calculations to run that sub-3 hour, but when a stomach virus hit on marathon weekend, I finished my race with a disappointing 3:10. Brushing myself off, I went back to speed work training and headed for the Paris Marathon later that spring, where a freak 90-degree heat wave in April left me with a deflating 3:18 time, even farther away from that sub-3.

But I was determined. So, figuring I was still in peak shape after the Paris Marathon and without really taking time to worry about whether I should even attempt it, I took a train to Boston to run the marathon there the very next weekend (I had qualified and had been registered and, fortunately, had never “un”registered) where I ran a 3:21 time, still not close to that sub-3 goal. Still frustrated, I took one more shot at it and six days later, I ran the New Jersey Shore Marathon, finishing with (you guessed it) in the close-but-no-cigar range of 3:12.

It was then that something hit me. Here I had been, training hard and trying to break a personal record which mattered not one whit to anyone on the planet including (I had to be honest) not even really to me. So why was I doing it? More specifically, why was I spending months of intense training, putting all of my eggs into one basket for some distant marathon, focused only on having peak performance on that one special day? Had I not just witnessed that there were many conditions—my physical health on race day, the whims of Mother Nature, even possibly the bodily fatigue of running three marathons in a row?—which might always pop up to alter even the best-laid plans. More important, I realized, that such conditions would always be out of my control, so why did I want to spend time hoping to avoid them if peak performance was not my priority?

On the other hand, I had just participated in three great marathon events, all of which were interesting adventures. But wasn’t it also true that because I was so worried about performing well I had missed out on the some of the fun? After all, in each marathon there had been so much to enjoy in the scenery and the live bands, from the generous volunteers, and the funny hand-lettered signs held by cheering fans. Were these not the things, and not some elusive speed goal, which I really valued?

I spoke to my coach about this and he said, in so many words, I probably couldn’t have both. I could train to have a few fast races each year, or I could run a lot of races each year. One or the other, and if chose to run a lot back to back—and I didn’t get injured—my pace would most definitely slow down and I would never be all that fast.

So, I chose the latter, or rather both: quantity, and for me quality…just not speed.

I began to run more races and let go of that pressure to be in the fastest starting corral. But soon I needed a structure. It was already great, I thought, to get some dream destination on the calendar and train towards running a marathon there. I had strategically figured out that if I could register for any once-a-year marathon and get it on the calendar far enough in advance, it would be far easier for me to convince my non-marathoning partner that we’d have to go there; that there could be no putting off until “someday” for such-and such place like Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, or Budapest. . .There could be room for more debate, I reasoned, because hadn’t I already committed myself by registering? So, we’d absolutely HAVE to be there on that specific marathon weekend, so we might as well make it part of our vacation plans. Believe it or not, this worked, for the most part and for some time, although these days, he does not take every trip with me, especially if he’s been there before or it’s not a destination he considers to be on his “list”. Go figure.

Still, because I’m one of those over-educated types (with advanced degrees in history, urban planning, and architecture, and with a degree in music and previous work experience in the world of professional theater production), most of my marathons tend to be in cities. I just like cities and urban culture. True, I’ve run a few marathons that were not in cities: a trail marathon in the Georgia mountains, a downhill mountain run near Salt Lake City, and marathons in suburban Long Island and the rural Hamptons. Sometimes this was due to trying out something new, and other times it was because that was the best thing to choose from for scheduling and traveling purposes. But for the most part, cities are what I want to see when I travel, so naturally that’s where you’ll find me heading before and during my marathons.

Meanwhile, as I had begun to complete more races, I started to wonder how I could apply some structure to the endeavor; how I could add some “rules” to the game. Eventually, in a move that I struggled with before making it public to my friends on Facebook, I came up with a challenge, which I thought might be interesting and keep me on course. At the age of 46, I announced on my birthday in 2013, that since I already had roughly a dozen marathons under my belt, I decided to challenge myself by picking up the pace and getting in a total of 50 marathons before I turned 50 years old.

The moment I put this “50 by 50” plan out there on Facebook, there was thunderous non-applause and no response to what must have seemed like a preposterous announcement, and most of my Facebook friends, I’m convinced, either chuckled or politely looked away.

But, as it turned, and as you might notice by the list on this site of “Marathons Finished”, somehow with a lot of planning and a lot of strategic use of credit card and airline reward points (and of course, a lot of running), it happened. Along the way, my friends got on board and seemed interested and eventually were rooting me on as we counted down the races each month to #50.

Just as the completed marathons ticked forward successfully, I realized that the day was fast approaching when I would hit that end goal and then all the fun would be over. But there were so many marathons I had not tried, so many places I wanted to explore. Without a goal in the pipeline, I knew, I’d grow concerned that I’d have no marathons to look forward to after that “50 by 50” goal was reached. Since it soon became apparent to me that if all went according to plan, I’d be hitting #50 with the Luxembourg Marathon in May 2017 (which was, in fact, ahead of schedule, five months before my 50th birthday), I would need to concoct a new goal, perhaps one that would dovetail and continue on from where the other ended.

So, I came up with a brand new goal and it went like this: to run marathons in all 50 U.S. States, in 50 different countries, and on all 7 continents. The marathons I had run previously, I decided, would be counted towards these, albeit not from all 50. Since each of the 50 states, for example, would have to be raced at least once, then only one of my marathons in each state could be counted for that state towards the total. Hence, my marathons in San Francisco and Los Angeles could only count once for California, the two marathons in Boston could only count as one for Massachusetts, and Miami and Disney World/Orlando counted only as one race for Florida.

Further, since the same rule would apply for countries, from that moment going forward, I’d have to make sure that I did not double up on races in the same country or state, leaving me to worry (but keeping it all in perspective, of course) about the future dilemmas of choosing between St. Petersburg, Russia vs. Moscow, Shanghai, China vs. Hong Kong, or Kansas City, Missouri vs. St. Louis.

Fast forward, and as you can see from this site, the adventure is ongoing. What you might not realize, however, is that along the way I’m getting to see places in the world that some people might never consider. When you need to get Chile into the tally of countries, for example, you end up visiting Santiago, a delightful city that I could have otherwise missed in this lifetime.

All along, I’ve felt fortunate and grateful to have stumbled upon the joys of marathons and travel, and to do so with the assistance and weekly running schedules of great teachers like aforementioned Greg Close, as well as Coaches Joe Bachana and Jim Saint-Amour. But I’m happier still knowing that pretty much anyone can do the same thing or something similar in his or her own way.

The world, it turns out, is a very big place, full of nice people and unimaginable surprises. Any excuse a person can come up with which allows him/her to enjoy a hobby or passion and to see just a little more of the world while doing so, can’t help but to expand a capacity for appreciating Life.

As for me, it’s been a fascinating journey so far. As I travel to marathon events around the world, I see each as a showcase for my fellow runners’ personal achievements, all built upon the simplest of human pleasures: movement, exercise, breathing…For me, it’s partly these fundamental things, which make all marathons so reliable and special. The races themselves may be seasoned with the flavors of the host city’s culture, its climate, and its distinctive history, but whether it’s in a small town or in a world capital, the basic ingredients for any marathon are always the same: you have people running towards a far-off finish line refusing to quit until they get there, people supporting and caring for them with basic food and drink along the way, people who are cheering them on, with all of them—every one of them­ ­­—­doing so in fun, in public, in the moment…together.

This site is my attempt to give both runners and non-runners, globetrotters and arm-chair travelers, a taste for some of the marathons and destinations that I’ve had the pleasure to experience, with the hope that they too will find the joy in running, or travel, or in any of the millions of pursuits that we humans can go just a little overboard in, pushing the envelope and pressing through to find the happiest versions of ourselves.

 

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FAQs

A. To say my views are my own (and that they may be different than yours) does not really explain the difference of why I hold particular opinions or memories of a race; so many factors may be behind my impressions that may not be the same under someone else’s.

For one, all of us come from different places and life experiences. A world capital city for one person who travels widely and may be a bit wow-wearied, will not represent the same experience that it will for someone who is taking a trip of a lifetime to that same destination. One’s hometown(s)may mean more, or in some case, mean less to that someone running the race for that weekend.

Similarly, cultural background and the willingness and time to engage with the host city, to learn about its history, to in some cases, engage in a greater level in its food and customs and language, can all affect one’s impressions of a place and of a race event. Weather and timing can play a big factor, as well: was it overcast or raining during one’s visit and in the race event? Was it unseasonably hot or cold, too windy, too dry, too humid, too early in the morning or too late in the day? Was it any of these things that­–because they were different from one’s home environment at the time of the race (for example, was it a race in a tropical setting in January for which, despite its beauty, a Northern person could only be so acclimatized for in his winter training environment at home?)–that made the race physically, and subsequently, mentally tougher than usual?

Finally, there is health on the day of the race and any injuries that one might bring with himself into the experience of the race that day. Anyone suffering from a mild cold, allergies, dehydration, a lingering calf injury or plantar fasciitis, worries about work, or even mild jet lag, is going to find their experience of any given race filtering through those conditions, as well.

So, I say this so that you know that I know that anything I say can and should be taken with a grain of salt. My top “thumbs up” experiences may have just been less to do with a particular race and more to do with a happy coincidence of just “having a really good day”. On the other hand, my worst “thumbs down” ratings, may say less about a particular cities attributes and more about my own less than appreciative viewpoint on that particular day and year of that event.

A. No, never. I have found that it really messes up my calves and is not really great exercise. So no, why would I? Now, if the question is really “what do you do when it’s cold or when it’s raining and you have a run schedule”, the answer is: I go and run outside! Winter is part of life in New York City where I live, so dealing with it wearing the proper running clothes is not a big deal to make it enjoyable. And rain? Well, even though I don’t like to get my shoes wet if I can avoid that (it can takes 2 days for them to really dry out), rain is also a part of the great outdoors…and you don’t want to fear that as an impediment to running, especially as it can be raining on race day!

Category: FAQs

A.  The night before a marathon, I tend to eat a small plate of pasta with butter and some protein like chicken or salmon…and for desert, anything simple like rice krispy bars or plain cookies.  What I avoid is heavy cream or spicy tomato sauces, and anything too rich, too sugary, or with too much fiber, including salad. (The night before a marathon is no time for having fiber.)

On  the morning of a marathon, I keep it simple: two bowls of oatmeal, one banana, green tea and a mix of powdered Ucann starch/energy drink which slow-releases carbs for hours.

Category: FAQs

A. No, never. First of all, I actually don’t know many people who do this, and the few who run multiple marathons have their own plans and destinations that are independent of mine. Also, most marathons –even big international marathons – are generally regional events. Add to that that marathons can often have 8,000 to 15,000 participants, so even if I knew someone from that area running, it would be unlikely for me to spot them in that crowd. Finally, while I guess I could do more races with a running club, I am not part of any such group. I don’t like to talk or socialize while I’m running. It’s my quiet time, and anyway I prefer to make my own plans and independently lay out my schedule and goals. The end result is, in my marathons I am always a visitor in someone else’s town; a tourist appreciating the area while doing a nice long run.

Category: FAQs

A. Not that often, actually: only three times a week; usually Tuesday mornings (6 miles or so); Thursday mornings (8-10 miles) and Saturday morning long runs (12-22 miles depending on how close the next marathon is). Interestingly, because I run marathons now about once a month, my downtime recovery (usually a week of no running following a race) and the marathon itself, are part of the cycle of training keeping the momentum of training-readiness going.

Category: FAQs

A. Yes, I have had several great running coaches (Greg Close, Joe Bachana, and Jim Saint-Amour) in the past few years, some of whom have taught me to run better and with less injuries, and all of whom have kept me “honest” by posting a weekly schedule for me, the details of which are tracked by my watch for the data to be uploaded and analyzed by them. It’s nice to have someone who – even if no one else cares when you keep a commitment, get up early on a Tuesday in February, and go outside to complete run as scheduled – is there to make sure you are staying on track.

Category: FAQs

A. I think about my running form, I look at the scenery, and I listen to audio books, podcasts, and music. On marathon days, I have a specific routine of saving the final chapters of a suspense novel (such as an Agatha Christie murder mystery or a David Baldacci thriller) for the last half. Wanting to know “if the butler did it” has a way of helping to take my focus off the final miles, especially the hard miles after Mile 18, in a race.

Category: FAQs

A. Speed is not my focus; getting to do lots of marathons around the world is. One thing seems certain, though, that a) getting older and b) doing constant running does tend to slow things down over time.
At one point early on, I trained with my coach Greg Close to become really fast and run near constant 7 minute miles. We trained for six months with a goal to finish under 3 hours at the Miami Marathon. I came close that day, but a stomach flu that weekend also took its toll and I ended up with a disappointed 3hrs:11 min – enough to qualify me for the Boston Marathon, but not what I had hoped for. I think I decided then that there were just too many variables at play for me to get myself all worked up about something that never really mattered to me all that much.
All in all, that was my fastest race, and my slowest one may have been when I was just starting out, in London at 4hrs:35min. But I have also run everything in between. Sometimes, it just because I’m doing too many races back to back and I’m not as well rested as I could be; sometimes I have a persistent injury that makes the process harder and slower such as when I ran through a persistent calf tear during races in the fall of 2014. Mostly though, it’s other things you just can’t control like the weather (ex. in Asheville, NC, when it poured constantly making the course slippery and covered in inch deep red mud!); or temperature extremes (ex. in Paris of 2011, and Boston 2012 when there were unexpected 90-degree heat waves in April that, in the case of the latter, sent many runners to the hospital with heat stroke). My health on the day of the race, or even just the terrain of a race (ex. Salt Lake City, with a constant downhill descent down a mountain from 10,000 feet to 2,000 feet, which is treacherous on your quads). For that reason, I am not focused on my times. I train to be able to run a lot, as opposed to just a few really good, fast races each year. That said, all of times are posted here in Athlinks.com.

Category: FAQs

A. Kind of, sometimes… While they are all 26.2 miles long, some marathons have little twists to make them more appealing by, for example, taking place at night (ex. Las Vegas night marathon) or running though a special experience (Disney World, which links five theme parks and ESPN Zone while being cheered by Disney characters, music, and sets). Some marathons start way out of town and head in a straight line into the city for the finish line (ex. Boston, New York, London, L.A.) while others are on an Olympic course-loop, meaning that they start and return to finish in the same spot allowing for the effects of wind direction to be evened out (Chicago, San Francisco, Berlin, Paris, for example). Some are trail marathons that take place on rugged, off-road terrain, and some are part of a larger athletic event (i.e. a Full Ironman, in which the marathon occurs after a 5 mile swim and a 112 mile bike race; I did an Ironman in Madison, WI). I’m sure there are some that encourage a costume, and some are set up as 4-person relays. But, again, they are always 26.2 miles if they are called a marathon.

Category: FAQs

A. I get this question all the time, but the simple answer is always the same: 26.2 miles (42 KM). All marathons anywhere in the world are 26.2 miles. No exceptions. Just like a baseball has nine innings, or basketball has four quarters, a marathon by its definition consists of 26.2 miles of running. Now, if you see something called a half-marathon, it’s literally half (26.2 divided by 2 = 13.1 miles), and if you see a race called an ultra-marathon that would be a supersized version at 50, 75, or even 100 miles. (My current coach, Jim Saint-Amour, runs those, God bless him). But anyway, I only run regular marathons. When you see me run a marathon, it’s always going to be 26.2 miles.

Category: FAQs