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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A. I get this question all the time, but the simple answer is always the same: 26.2 miles (42.195 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 former coach, Jim Saint-Amour, runs those, God bless him). But anyway, I only ever run full marathons (never as part of a relay team). When you see me run a marathon, it’s always going to be 26.2 miles.