Saturday, June 30, 2007

Crazy Eights

I've been rolling up the miles in June, both on foot and in the car, as I've criss-crossed the state participating in various road races. Starting with the Sunburst Marathon in South Bend, Ind., on June 2, and ending this evening with my second race of the day in Oakboro, N.C., I've completed eight, count 'em eight, running events this month. I've become a race junkie!

By scouring running calendars on the Internet and getting creative with my schedule, I was able to run at least one race on each of the five weekends in June. The past three weekends have included multiple races with a pair of Friday night/Saturday morning race doubleheaders and today's double-dip with a morning 10K and evening 5K. Along the way I've met some friendly people in the running fraternity in quaint North Carolina towns like Denton, China Grove and Oakboro.

Eight races in a single month may seem a bit extreme, but with two races already on the schedule this coming week, it looks like I'm going to continue to feed this addiction in July.

Following is a summary of my "Crazy Eight" races in June

  • Sat., June 2, Sunburst Marathon, South Bend, Ind., 3:54:46
  • Sat., June 9, Race for the Cure 5K, Raleigh, N.C., 25:26
  • Fri., June 15, Tour de Kale 5K Night Run, Denton, N.C., 23:57
  • Sat., June 16, St. Francis of Assisi Run for Peace 5K, Raleigh, N.C., 24:55
  • Fri., June 22, China Grove 5K Main Street Challenge, China Grove, N.C., 22:49
  • Sat., June 23, Law Enforcement 5K Torch Run for Special Olympics, Selma, N.C., 22:27
  • Sat., June 30, Freedom Run 10K, Greensboro, N.C., 53:23
  • Sat., June 30, Freedom Run 5K, Oakboro, N.C., 22:28

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Friday, June 15, 2007

One down

One down, one to go in my attempt to run races on back-to-back days this weekend. Following the two-hour drive from Denton, I arrived home in Raleigh from the Tour de Kale 5K around 11:15 p.m. I finished in 23 minutes, 57 seconds. I'll have a longer report later this weekend. Now though, I'm off to bed because in about eight hours I'll toe the line to run the second half of this weekend stunt at the inaugural St. Francis of Assisi Run for Peace 5K here in Raleigh.


Back-to-Back, Back-to-Back

As much as I enjoy participating in various road races, I've reached a point in my running life where I'm looking for quirky races or something interesting to add some spice to my experiences. Like New Year's Day when I ran two races in one day, just a few hours apart. Well, over the past few days, I've created another running stunt that I'm calling "Back-to-Back, Back-to-Back." That means running races on back-to-back days on back-to-back weekends. Here's how it came about.

I had already planned on running in the inaugural St. Francis of Assisi Run for Peace this Saturday in Raleigh. I had also planned on running the Law Enforcement Torch Run next Saturday morning in Selma. But while perusing various running calendars for additional races this summer, I came across two Friday night 5Ks this weekend and next. Then I got to thinking.....why not just do them all?

So my plan is to drive to Denton, N.C., tonight to participate in the Tour de Kale 5K, drive back to Raleigh and run in the St. Francis of Assisi 5K tomorrow morning. Then next weekend, drive to China Grove after work next Friday to run in the China Grove 5K Main Street Challenge, then drive back and run in the Law Enforcement Torch Run 5K next Saturday morning in Selma.

That's a lot of driving just to run and pull off this crazy stunt, but it will certainly make for a memorable experience.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Race for the Cure Race Report

Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer among women, and one of the leading causes of cancer death. This morning, I joined 22,000 other runners and walkers who came together to fight this dreaded disease at the Susan G. Komen Triangle Race for the Cure.

The Triangle Race for the Cure is one in a series of road races held in cities around the country in an effort to raise awareness and funds to treat, prevent and eventually cure breast cancer. The event features a co-ed competive 5K, a women's and co-ed recreational run/walk, and a co-ed one-mile fun run/walk. Plus, there's a special recognition and processions for breast cancer survivors.

I used this morning's run as a way to support the fight against breast cancer and also to get in a recovery run as part of my post-marathon training from last Saturday's Sunburst Marathon in South Bend, Ind. Today's course started and finished at Meredith College, traveled along Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, back through an adjoining neighborhood, before coming back onto Hillsborough for the finish at Meredith.

The day started in anticipation of the large crowd. I was supposed to meet up with Sandra Rhyne -- an administrator at Meredith who was bringing some fellow runners I hoped to connect with before the start -- at the flagpole in front of Johnson Hall at 6 a.m. Sandra, who was participating in the walk at 9, was going to work while the competitive division got under way at 7:15. So I could meet her at 6. At least that's what she told me in an email on Friday.

So after picking up my timing chip just before 6, I made my way to Johnson Hall and sat down on a bench beside the flag pole and in front of a broken fountain that I learned later is going to take $1 million bucks to repair. I kept my eyes peeled for Sandra but didn't see her. 6:15, still no Sandra. 6:30, still no Sandra. 6:45, still no Sandra. So I stretched a bit and wandered down to the starting line around 7 a.m.

I wanted to hook up with my newfound running pals Brad Broyles and Steve Worley (who Sandra was supposed to bring with her to the flagpole at Johnson Hall) prior to the race, but no Sandra meant no Brad and Steve, so I hoped I would meet up with them on the course. I didn't see them at the start amidst the throngs of runners.

Since I was using this race as a recovery run, I started toward the back of the pack to avoid the tempation to run too fast. When the run started, I focused on keeping a steady pace, still hoping I'd see Brad or Steve. About a half mile or so into the race, I found Brad, pulled up alongside him, and ran with him for a bit. Brad said Steve was up ahead, and I told him I was going to see if I could find him.

I caught up with Steve about a half mile later around the one-mile marker. He was running at a good pace, but said he was concerned about his hamstrings since his overzealous personal trainer administered a hard leg workout on Tuesday. I settled in and ran with Steve, whose hamstring started feeling better further into the run.

In the neighborhoods we were greeted by the choir at Forest Hills Baptist Church and several spectators offering makeshift cooling stations with water hoses, water guns and lawn sprinklers. The squirts from the Super Soakers and streams from the sprinklers felt good on this hot, summer morning.

We crossed the two mile marker at the 16:10 mark, and when we merged back onto Hillsborough Street just before the three mile-mark a young girl yelled, "You are all winners, not losers!" That was all the encouragement I needed for the final stretch run.

At Steve's urging, we pushed to the finish, crossing the finish with an unoffial time of 25:32 by my watch (although the clock time displayed a bizarre reading of 26:74). We made our way through the finish area, turned in our chips, guzzled some water and picked up a goodie bag. We walked on to the flagpole at Johnson Hall, and lo and behold there was Sandra, to greet me after the race instead of before. An hour and 45 minutes late isn't too bad.

Brad joined us after he finished shortly thereafter. Kudos to Brad, who wrapped up a personal challenge of running "16 races in 16 weeks" today in the Race for the Cure. I asked him on the course what was next for him, and he replied, "Rest!"

I tried to convince Brad to make it 17 races in 17 weeks next week, since I had discovered a local 5K scheduled for next Saturday morning. He declined, saying 16 was a nice, even number. Brad's effort has inspired me to attempt a similar feat. Today was my third race in as many weeks, so another next week would make four in a row. I don't think I can match Brad's mark, but I'm going to see if I can keep the streak alive at least one more week and maybe more. Stay tuned.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Roger and Me

Runners are a friendly bunch, and share a kindred spirit with one another. One of the highlights of doing road races is meeting and conversing with fellow runners at these events, be it a local 5K or a marathon several states away. During last weekend's Sunburst Marathon, I had the pleasure of meeting a nice gentleman from England named Roger Biggs, a humble man closing in on a tremendous accomplishment.

I ran alongside Roger for about a mile, beginning around the 9-mile marker. After exchanging pleasantries, our conversation turned to typical runner talk related to the course, goals for the day and other races we'd done. Turns out Roger is the chairman of the 100 Marathon Club in the U.K. and had completed a whopping 404 marathons. That wasn't a typo -- four hundred and four marathons.

Of his 400 marathons, Roger had run one on all seven continents (including Antarctica), and he is attempting to become the first person from Great Britain to run a marathon in all 50 states while living in his native England. Based on his research, Roger said other Brits had completed the 50 state marathon quest, but those individuals had lived in the U.S. during parts or all of their quest.

Roger said he simply uses many of his holidays to come to the United States and do races, sometimes doing a marathon in one state during one weekend and then traveling to another state to do another race the next weekend. Other times, he takes a long weekend, jets to the U.S., runs a race and jets back.

Roger had 44 different states down on his list (I'm assuming the Sunburst in Indiana made 45), and he said he plans to finish his 50 state quest at the Honolulu Marathon in Hawaii this December. I enjoyed sharing a mile with Roger on his journey, and I wish him well the rest of the way.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Back in the Saddle

Following four days of recovery, I went on my first post-marathon run at lunchtime today, an easy 2-miler at around a 10-minute per mile pace. It felt good to get my legs back under me. Now I need to get my diet back on track. I've been partaking in some post-marathon indulgences this week in the form of pizza and ice cream.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sunburst Marathon Race Report

Outlined against a sunny, blue June sky, a marathoner ran again. In dramatic lore, his name is Phidippides. This is only his alias. His real name is Austin. He formed the crest of a South Bend cyclone which swept through the streets of that Indiana city on Saturday morning with 500 other runners to set a new personal best at the 2007 Sunburst Marathon.

OK, so it wasn't that dramatic, but venturing to what is arguably the epicenter of college football history for my sixth marathon, I couldn't help but channel my inner Grantland Rice in recounting my experience at the Sunburst race. It was Rice who penned what is considered the most famous piece of sportswriting prose (and the source of my parody above) when he dubbed the Notre Dame backfield quartet of Harry Stuhldreher, Jim Crowrey, Don Miller and Elmer Layden as "The Four Horsemen" in his account of the Fighting Irish's 13-7 victory over Army on Oct. 18, 1924.

But in the land where the legends of Fighting Irish figures like the Horsemen, Knute Rockne, George Gipp, Paul Hornung, Ara Parseghian, Tim Brown, Lou Holtz, and yes, even "Rudy" Ruettiger grow larger each autumn, and in the shadows of famous Notre Dame landmarks such as the Golden Dome, "Touchdown Jesus" and Notre Dame Stadium, I added my own memorable moment by setting a new personal marathon best in the Sunburst race, finishing in 3 hours, 54 minutes, and 46 seconds.

The race is more than a marathon. In fact, it's a town-wide running festival with a marathon, half marathon, 10K run, 5K run and 5K walk. Although there were only 525 runners in the marathon, the race was a nice break from the mega-marathons I've participated in that draw tens of thousands of runners. The entire event from the packet pick-up to the conclusion had a festive atmosphere. There weren't a lot of spectators lining the course but the ones who were out, as well as the volunteers staffing the water and aid stations were very enthusiastic.

The Sunburst Marathon is billed as a route from "the Hall of Fame to Notre Dame." The race started on the street in front of the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown South Bend, Indiana, traveled through several neighborhoods, in some of the local parks, on portions of the greenway trail and along the town's river walk before a climactic finish on the 50-yard-line inside Notre Dame stadium.

The marathon got under way at 6 a.m. and based on my early mile splits, I thought I might shatter my pervious marathon best. I consistently registered mile times under 8 minutes, 30 seconds for the first half of the race, crossing the halfway point in 1 hour, 49 minutes -- which would have been a new personal half marathon best.

As the sun rose in the morning sky, however, so did the temperature, the humidity and my mile times. By mile 19, my split times were up to more than 9 minutes per mile. They were more than 10 minutes by mile 22, and more than 11 minutes by mile 25. My legs were throbbing, but I kept plodding along, putting one foot in front of the other.

I passed the 26-mile marker with Touchdown Jesus looking down and entered the stadium for the final stretch run to the finish. With the Notre Dame Victory March fight song emanating from some loudspeakers, I felt like Rudy or one of the other members of the Fighting Irish sprinting from the locker room to the field on game day. With each step the darkness of the tunnel gave way to the sunlight shining down on the field in the expansive stadium.

Running up the far sideline, I counted down, well up actually, the distance to the finish.

He's at the 10...the 20...the 30...the 40...the 50....TOUCHDOWN AUSTIN!

Crossing the finish line actually did feel as if I'd scored a touchdown, so I struck my best Heisman Trophy pose right there at midfield.

With my official time of 3:54:46, I eclipsed my previous marathon best of 3 hours, 58, minutes, 11 seconds, by 3 minutes, 25 seconds. I placed 154th out of 525 overall, 127th out of 374 among all the male competitors and 20th out of 46 in my age group of 30-34 year old males. With the finish, Indiana became the sixth state to get checked off my list to run a marathon in all 50 states.

I guess you could say, I ran this one for the Gipper.

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