Race Planning for 2011

Get out your calendar, iPhone or Blackberry and get ready to enter some key dates. We are going to help you plan your race schedule for 2011.

In the “old days” most runners decided what race to run based on whether your training was going well and if you had sufficient sleep the night before. On race morning all you had to do was pull on your nylon shorts and white cotton t-shirt, head for the starting line, sign up, pay your $5.00, and you were ready to race.

There are a few races early in the year where you can still do that (except for the $5.00). See how you feel after New Year’s Eve, then head out to the Rio Resolution Run on January 1st. You can choose the 5K or the 10K and sign up at the Rio Grill at the Crossroads shopping center in Carmel. On February 13th you can run the 5K or 10K Together with Love run at Lover’s Point with your favorite valentine.

After that it gets more difficult. The Big Sur Marathon used to be the only “destination” race in our area that required early entry, but now we have four others that are going to draw not only local runners but runners from virtually every state as well. Planning your schedule requires some logistical support.

Do you want to run the Big Sur Marathon on May 1st? We hope we are not the first to tell you that it’s too late. That’s right – it sold out over six months before race day. You cannot get in. Check out Bsim.org and see if some of the shorter races are still available. Better yet, think outside the box and enter the relay; you can still run the whole course by running each leg yourself.

Two other Big Sur events needing very early entry are the March 26th Mud Run and the November 20th Half Marathon on Monterey Bay.

We also have a first time event in Carmel on Father’s Day, June 19th, called the Run in the Name of Love. This 5k for runners and 2K for walkers and their dogs will certainly become one of the most popular events in our area. Enter early because it is limited to 1,000 runners and 300 walkers. The website is runinthenameoflove.org. This unique event is dedicated to the memory of Brian Love, a Carmel High graduate, who died in a tragic snowboard accident while competing for the University of Virginia.

The race offers runners and walkers the opportunity to honor a loved one of their choice. The 5K course is extremely fast, starting at the Sunset Center, and passing the Carmel Mission and Carmel River State Beach, and finishing along Scenic Avenue near Ocean Avenue. The 2K course is equally scenic and encourages dogs, even offering doggie race shirts.

Last year’s inaugural Salinas Valley Half Marathon sold out two months early and the 2nd edition scheduled for August 6th is sure to sell out even more quickly. Last year runners loved the wine country course along River Road, the finish line festivities with wine and beer, the luxurious buses used for transportion, and the Double Magnums given to age group winners. This year’s race has even more surprises. Go to salinasvalleyhalfmarathon.org for more information.

On-line entry to all these races, except the Big Sur Half Marathon (opens April 1st), are available now on active.com. We hope to see you at all of these great local races.

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Gifts From Head to Toe

Don’t look now, but Christmas is practically here! If you need a last-minute gift for the runner on your list, or if you’re a runner looking to exchange some of the useless gifts you receive for something you really want, we’ve created the following head to toe gift guide.

Most of these items are available at one of our local running stores – The Treadmill, Fleet Feet, or REI – and you probably even have time to grab them online if you hurry, so keep this list with you, and get moving!

(*Online note: items purchased through Wilderness Running Company are eligible for a 10% discount with coupon code R&R10.)

Head: Black Diamond’s Sprinter headlamp has a bright LED in front for visibility, blinking red LED in back for safety, is super-lightweight for comfort, with rechargeable batteries for eco-friendliness. It’s one of the best pieces of gear out there to stay safe on dark roads.

Brain: Stimulate your mind with a great running book. Last month we listed our favorites, and that list is still available on our website archive, where you’ll also find a new book from your favorite Herald running columnists.

Mouth (and/or Stomach), Part 1: Seasonal CLIF Bars come in cranberry orange nut bread, spiced pumpkin pie, or iced gingerbread flavors, all of which taste amazing. Look for them at REI or Trader Joe’s, but hurry: CLIF only makes limited quantities each year, and once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Mouth (and/or Stomach), Part 2: GU energy gel also makes two awesome holiday flavors: vanilla gingerbread and chocolate mint. A handful of these make a perfect stocking stuffer.

Trunk: Reflective vests are the cheapest insurance you can buy to increase your visibility to oncoming cars. They can be worn over any shirt or jacket, and typically last for several years.

Hands: Warm gloves make winter running much more bearable. Manzella's Hatchback Glove is a clever little creation: use the soft fleece moisture-wicking glove for mildly cold days, and pull out the retractable water-resistant hood to cover the fingers when temperatures drop even lower.

Delicates, Part 1: Some folks might snicker, but any cold-weather runner will tell you that keeping your unmentionables warm is a crucial part of winter running, and a good pair of moisture-wicking underwear is worth its weight in gold. Pick up a couple pairs for yourself or a loved one at Target or our local running stores, and thank us later.

Delicates, Part 2: The other way to keep those areas comfortable is to prevent chafing, and Bodyglide is your best weapon against a friction-related crisis. One stick of this stuff is the most useful under-10-dollar gift a runner can receive.

Legs: A pair of tights can be bundled up small enough to fit in a stocking. Salomon’s Trail III tights are super comfortable, but tough and durable enough to handle any trail or weather conditions you’ll encounter this winter.

Feet: Runners can never have too many good socks – and Drymax makes the most effective moisture-wicking and blister proof socks on the market, in both road and trail versions. Dry feet are happy feet, in winter time and all year round.

If you need additional gift ideas, check out Donald's 2010 Gear of the Year guide at Running and Rambling. Happy Holidays to everyone, and happy winter running!

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Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis

Running and arthritis seem irrevocably linked in the minds of casual observers; we wish we had a nickel for every time someone said, “You’re going to get arthritis!” after learning that we are runners. So when we heard about a great new race called the Run for Arthritis, we figured the name might generate a bit of discussion.

Is there a connection between running and arthritis? Well, yes … but probably not in the way you suspect. But before we get to that, let’s talk about the race.

The Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis takes place on Saturday, December 11th at Lover’s Point Park in Pacific Grove. The timing is ideal, as December has been a blank entry on our local race calendar in recent years. Even better, it has a fun holiday theme, includes special children’s events, and encourages participants in all shapes, sizes, and breeds.

Festivities kick off with a kids’ “Fun Run with the Elves” at 8AM, followed by a timed 5K run at 8:30. Everybody is welcome to take part: walkers, parents with strollers, wheelchair athletes, dogs on leashes … or even cats on leashes if you could somehow manage it. Entrants are encouraged to wear holiday colors, decorative costumes, jingle bells on their shoelaces, or any other creative getup to help celebrate the holiday season. It’s rumored that Santa might even show up to say hi to the kids.

You can register on race morning beginning at 7AM, or prior to race day online at www.jinglebellrunpacificgrove.kintera.org. The local event is part of a nationwide effort by the Arthritis Foundation for fundraising and awareness regarding the leading cause of disability in the United States.

Which brings us back to the question: does running cause arthritis? Contrary to what you’ve probably heard, there’s no increased incidence of arthritis among runners compared to the general population – in other words, if you’re genetically predisposed to getting arthritis, it will probably develop at the same rate whether you’re a runner or a couch potato. In fact, some studies suggest that running might actually DECREASE your risk of developing arthritis.

Leg strength built through running helps the muscles around the hips and knees support the joints more effectively. Running also improves overall bone density, giving the cartilage at the end of each bone a firm platform to anchor itself. Erosion of cartilage is what causes arthritis pain – so if your bones give it a strong support system and your muscles protect it from excess impact, you can see how running contributes to improved joint health.

We figured the perfect person to ask about this would be Dr Marc Lieberman, an exceptional local runner and veteran of more marathons than we can count, who also happens to be a rheumatologist and member of the advisory board for the Arthritis Foundation. He told us about Stanford University studies showing decreased knee and hip osteoarthritis among recreational runners – although the rate was somewhat higher among elite (national-caliber or better) runners, presumably due to their extremely high training volumes.

Dr Lieberman pointed out two other factors, calcium deficits and high body mass index, which both carry an increased risk of osteoarthritis. He recommends that runners take calcium supplements, and to exercise consistently for weight management and general overall health. “Run to stay healthy, and stay healthy to run” he says.

So follow the doctor’s orders, as well as your authors’ recommendation, and take part in this year’s Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis to celebrate the season in a healthy, fun manner.

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Best Running Books

Our last column introduced our newly released Running Life book, now available from this website (see sidebar). Ours is just the latest entry in a long history of running books, many of which are truly outstanding both for their subject matter and for their wordplay. Since the holiday season is approaching, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite books that would make great stocking stuffers for any runner on your gift list.

We thought of doing a top-5 list but decided to go the extra mile and make this a top-6 list of the best running books ever, presented here in no particular order:

Once a Runner by John Parker: The only fiction entry on our list has developed a fanatical cult following among runners for three generations. The plot is only fair, but the prose taps into the mental struggles of running like no book before or since. A few years ago, the book was out of print and fetching up to $300 on eBay; today you can find it on Amazon for 10 bucks.

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb: It’s no hyperbole to say that breaking the 4-minute mile was the greatest athletic accomplishment of all time. More than a few people, including respected scientists, believed that such an extreme effort would cause an athlete’s heart to burst, resulting in sudden death. Roger Bannister’s breakthrough run forever changed the way athletes pursue accomplishments that others think impossible.

The fact that the race to 4 minutes was also a three-way intercontinental drama involving two of the most popular athletes in the world, as well as one who never truly got his due, just adds to the compelling nature of this tale – and Neal Bascomb’s account of this golden age of running is the most comprehensive ever written. It also manages to be a good page-turner, even though you pretty much already know the outcome of Bannister’s quest.

The Four-Minute Mile by Roger Bannister: Have we mentioned that we’re big Roger Bannister fans? This memoir showcases Bannister’s refreshingly old-school properness and humility, and you may never find a better role model for idealistic young athletes.

Running with the Buffaloes by Chris Lear: Lear caught lightning in a bottle during the season he embedded himself with the University of Colorado cross country teams, featuring superstar runner Adam Goucher and tough-as-nails coach Mark Wetmore. This is an excellent account of the work ethic that is required to succeed in intercollegiate cross-country; one example is an exchange between Wetmore and inquisitive students who express an interest in trying out for the XC team. Wetmore’s standard response was to, “Run 100 miles per week, every week for a year, and then come talk to me.” Even more astonishingly, one kid actually did it.

Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes: The book that helped launch the fringe sport of ultrarunning into the national conscious. Karnazes is probably more responsible for the explosive popularity of modern day ultrarunning than any single person, and his personal story will inspire anyone to give this so-called extreme sport a try.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall: A modern day classic that triggered the current barefoot renaissance. McDougall chronicles the legendary Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyons, and describes how a maniac American gringo and a group of crazy ultrarunners banded together to help preserve their remarkably simple existence.
Check out any of these books, and we’d love to hear your suggestions for titles we overlooked.

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Inside the Big Sur Half Marathon

We soaked up the excitement of all the events on Big Sur Half Marathon weekend and enjoyed some great conversations with some very interesting runners from all parts of the country; 49 States and 8 countries were represented. No…we don’t know the state that was missing.

Marathon Memories: Deborah Telesmanic (her real name…and yes she is) from Santa Rosa showed us her ankle and calf. She has done 23 marathons and gets a tattoo to memorialize each one. The Tat is typically the logo of the marathon she completed. Very cool idea actually.

Sisterhood: Four wonderful women from the Riverside Road Runners, Teresa Pofahl, Barbara Edmunds, Pam Durazo and Romana Fierro started planning to run the Big Sur Half Marathon almost three years ago. They started training together specifically for the race in February and training was going great until Ramona had a serious bike injury just two weeks ago. Ramona wasn’t going to be able to run….in fact Ramona couldn’t even walk. BUT…this didn’t stop the 3 other friends from pushing Ramona in a wheelchair the entire half marathon. And they finished happily about 30 minutes ahead of the 4 hour course time limit. We’re impressed.

Kids say the darndest things: At the Just Run 3K and Bubba Gump Run Forest Run 5K on Saturday one little kid had a great time running the 3K and getting a medal, but he was seen being dragged by his mother over to the 5K finish area yelling over and over, “I DON’T WANT TO SEE DADDY RUN!” He’s learned really early that it’s better to be a competitor than a viewer.

Bad Juju: We’re constantly dismayed that even though we have mentioned this several times before that there are still dozens of half marathon runners who wear the race shirt during the race. One of the cardinal rules of racing is never wear a race shirt until you have completed that race. Really bad Juju.

Really Enjoying the HALF: During last year’s Big Sur Half, local runner and MPC Nursing Program instructor Eileen Lamothe, was in the hospital hemorraging and in danger of losing her leg from Peripheral Artery Disease. She recovered and this year ran the half and was smiling the entire race.

Running Shoe names: At the expo, one runner from Kansas was examining the running shoes for sale and seeing the usual names that are designed to make us want to buy running shoes: Mizuno Wave Nirvana, Nike Free, Mizuno Inspire, Asics Cumulus, Asics Nimbus, Asics Speedstar, Saucony Grid Hurricane. The names of the shoes make you feel fast and powerful. The Kansas man had obviously thought about his before as he started pontificating on possible alternative names for shoes that we agreed would probably never sell: The Blister Maker, The Bunion Blaster, the Sloth, The Pain Machine, The Quicksand, The Molasses, and the Fungus.

5K Course Record: Danny Tapia, who was this year’s Big Sur Marathon winner ran the Run Forrest Run 5K and set a course record 14:52. Danny is preparing for a “money” 5K in San Jose on Thanksgiving day. An impressive performance for a training run.

Setting a great example: We congratulate Cle Thayer, Cross Country coach at Stevenson School. Cle’s teams qualified for the State Cross Country Championships on Saturday at the CCS regional meet at Toro Park, with most runners getting personal best times. Even with all the excitement and work on Saturday, Cle ran well and placed high in his age group at the Half Marathon.

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The Running Life Book!

It seems hard to believe that we’ve had this column for more than six years; you could say the time has sort of raced past us.

We hope to continue for many years to come – but in the meantime, we thought it was time to take a look back at all the roads and trails we’ve traveled thus far, and compile them into a collection we can share with everybody.

The result is The Running Life: Wisdom and Observations from a Lifetime of Running, our new book which is scheduled for release next week. It's effectively a "greatest hits" collection of our writing over the course of six years, organized into sections that represent the topics we most frequently write about: the benefits of running, basic training guidelines, inspirational stories and motivational boosts, social commentary, and accounts of our running and racing adventures.

Our goals in starting this column back in 2004 were to promote the sport of running in Monterey County, be an informative resource for runners, and give non-runners a glimpse of what the running life is all about. The content of the book reflects this as well: whether you are an advanced runner, a novice, or even a non-athlete, we’re confident that you’ll find something in this collection that you’ll enjoy.

Much of our writing has a local focus, but many articles in the book have been revised to be applicable to anybody, anywhere. However, we haven’t lost our appreciation for the best of what’s around us – in fact, there’s a special 40-page section on the Big Sur Marathon and Half-Marathons featuring all our coverage of the events over the years, and training advice for runners who hope to complete those events someday.

It shouldn’t surprise you to hear that there’s a fair amount of silliness as well, as a healthy portion of our columns are only peripherally about running. Letters to Santa, Wizard of Oz metaphors, sexual activity of Olympians, Kenny Rogers lyrics … you’ll find it all in the book. There’s even an article that was deemed too scandalous to print in the Herald – and no, it’s not the sex one. You’ll just have to read and guess for yourself.

While publishing a book is a nice accomplishment for us, we recognize that it never would have happened without an enormous amount of support from multiple allies. Sports editors Dave Kellogg and Scott Forstner have been extremely supportive of our efforts – really now, how many newspapers even have a running column? – and the Monterey Peninsula running community has been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement for us. And obviously, our families deserve some kind of medal for putting up with our nonsense all these years, but that should go without saying.

The Running Life book is now available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle versions, and can be purchased directly from our website via PayPal or credit card (click link on sidebar). To celebrate the release, and in conjunction with next weekend’s Big Sur Half-Marathon, the book is being sold for 20% off the cover price from now through race day on November 13th.

You can also look for us at the Big Sur Half-Marathon race expo next weekend, where we are sharing a booth with The Treadmill running store to sell the books in person. We look forward to meeting you there, hearing about your plans for race weekend, and sharing a few stories of our own.


Cemetery Run

**Author's note: this week's Herald article was excerpted from a photo essay Donald published on his website last year. See the complete post here on Running and Rambling.

“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living”
- Cicero (106-43 BC)

One of the most mysterious and fatefully haunted locations in Monterey County also happens to be the destination of one our favorite trail runs.

The “cemetery run,” as we refer to it, takes us approximately 8 miles along the fire roads and single track of Fort Ord, and ultimately to the graveyard of a long forgotten pioneer family. Very little is known about the souls who rest there, and the few visible details only cause further speculation, like a real-life Monterey County ghost story.

The area was once the homestead of the Whitcher (seriously, that’s the name) family in the late 1800s, who vanished almost without a trace towards the end of the 19th century. They occupied this land for nearly 60 years, and once owned thousands of acres. However, unlike other owners of original “rancho” or “adobe” land grants, practically nothing in Monterey County bears their name.

We run up and down two major climbs on our way to the site, passing silent trees that probably knew the Whitchers personally. Their reaching branches seemingly strain to tell us about other explorers of these trails so many years ago. Finally we reach the outskirts of an abandoned military community, and about 100 yards off the main road is our destination: a humble cemetery, only 20’ long by 10’ wide, that is the resting place for five members of the Whitcher family.

Grass grows long in the center of the plot, but the site shows signs of occasional visitation: a wreath on a cross, flowers at its base, and trampled weeds on the perimeter. Below the cross is a marker for Mary H. Pearson, who at age 36, represents the oldest person in the plot. The remaining stones decrease in size according to the age of the deceased. They contain brief, touching hints of the hardships the family experienced:

Ned Eliger Whitcher, November 8, 1862 - April 29, 1879. Ceased breathing.

Floria Elvira Whitcher, July 19, 1866 – February 17, 1875. Returned to God who gave her.

Harry Whitcher, August 5, 1875 - September 16, 1875. Quit acheing.

It’s enough to break your heart, even 130 years removed. Little Harry’s marker is the most heartbreaking, but another is the most mysterious: a small, plain, chipped slab, with nothing more than the initials H.W. No indication if this is another infant, or a pet, or a member of the family who died when the family couldn’t afford a proper tombstone.

The answer might be in the wind, or in the trees ... but when our group of runners visit, neither of them are ever talking. So we ponder the gravesites for a few minutes before it’s time to be on our way.

As the minutes tick away on our return trip, the Whitcher plot is a somber reminder that time is always running out: on our days, on our precious moments shared with those we love, on our very existence. The run back is generally quieter than the journey out, as we contemplate the scene we’ve just visited.

Ideally, those who came before us – even the most downtrodden, star-crossed, and unfortunate souls among them – can live on somehow in those of us who remain here afterwards. We honor the dead by remembering them – and running to the cemetery is our unique way of ensuring that this particular family stays with us for a long time.


2500 Years

Last spring we made a big fuss about the 25th running of the Big Sur Marathon. It’s a very impressive accomplishment, and our local running community was proud to celebrate the world-class event. Imagine, then, if there were a race that was 100 times older than Big Sur – that would be pretty amazing, right?

Such a race does indeed exist: the Athens Marathon on October 31st, honoring the 2500th anniversary of the world’s first recognized marathon, run by a messenger of the Athenian army in 490 B.C.

According to popular legend – it’s hard to verify how much is actually true – the mighty Persians, with the most formidable military force the world had ever seen, invaded Greece with more than 25,000 soldiers, and were met by the undermanned Athenian army on the plains near a town called Marathon. The 10,000 Athenian soldiers didn’t stand a chance.

However, Greek General Miltiades and his courageous troops had other ideas: they surprised the Persians by going on the offensive, and the Athenians ultimately scored one of the most shocking and decisive battles in world history. As military historian Edward Creasy explains, it “forever broke the spell of Persian invincibility…and secured for mankind the intellectual treasures of Athens, the growth of free institutions, and the liberal enlightenment of the Western World.”

In other words, it was kind of a big deal. But since civilization was more than 2490 years away from cell towers, texting, or Tweeting, news of the triumphant battle was communicated the VERY old-fashioned way: a messenger soldier was dispatched to run from Marathon to Athens to tell his countrymen about the great victory.

You’ve probably heard of the messenger, Pheidippides, whose name is now immortalized in Greek lore. You’re also probably familiar with the message he delivered: Nike, a one-word phrase meaning “victory”. There’s a little shoe company in Oregon that’s made quite a name for themselves with that word.

The end of the story, as you’d expect from the Greeks, isn’t nearly as pleasant: Pheidippides died in the town square immediately after delivering his famous message. And the whole incident would have been forgotten completely if not for the historian Lucian, who came along nearly 700 years later and thought the story deserved to be documented.

Most estimates of Pheidippides's fateful run place it around 24.85 miles, and that distance was used for the first “official” marathon event at the modern Olympic Games, held in Greece in 1896. The course ran from Marathon to Athens, re-tracing the famous messenger’s steps as closely as possible.

In the 1908 London Olympics, King Edward VII wanted the race to start in front of her Windsor Castle home, which was roughly an extra 2 miles from the stadium finish area. The resulting course was 26.2 miles, which is now the officially recognized distance – but the marathon is still recognized as a classically Greek event. In fact, runners from all over the world flock to Athens each year to run the city’s marathon in the footsteps of history.

The race sells out 12,000 entries each year, but a few Monterey County runners are lucky enough to be entered in the 2500th anniversary race later this month. But if you can’t make it this year, don’t worry: the 2501st anniversary will probably be cool as well. And it will be one year more historic.

So if you’re a runner who likes to travel – or a traveler who likes to run – make a point to put the oldest and most famous marathon in the world on your to-do list.


Catching Up With Blake Russell

You’ll be forgiven if you have a hard time keeping up with Blake Russell. The Olympic marathoner from Pacific Grove is one of the fastest runners in the United States, and finished in 27th place at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Blake took some well-earned time away from running after those Games, but is currently in the midst of a comeback to competitive racing, and will run her first marathon since the Olympics at the New York City Marathon on November 7th. This time, she’s got one very important addition to her team to cheer her on: her 17-month-old son Quin, who was born to Blake and her husband Jon in April 2009.

Quin’s still practically a baby but he’s already developing a taste for Mom’s unique lifestyle. When Blake laces up her shoes, Quin yells “GO RUNNING!” Blake’s coach, the legendary Bob Sevene, has supervised both Quin and Blake during hill workout sessions; like his mother, Quin seems to have an affinity for going up and down hills.

The parenting is a joy, but returning to world-class racing shape has been a huge challenge. It’s taken much longer than she expected to get back to her regular workouts, and she’s heavily dependent on an extended support network: in addition to husband Jon, Blake’s mother and her husband have moved to Pacific Grove to assist with child care, and nanny Jenny Davis helps out as well. It’s a true team effort, and Blake couldn’t log all the necessary miles without them.

Blake trains in all the usual places that the locals run. A typical weekday finds her on roads and trails near her home in Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach. She does speed work at the Monterey Peninsula College track. Weekends are reserved for longer runs on the trails of Fort Ord. She often trains twice per day, and has been running about 100 miles a week this summer. Hang around outside long enough, and you’re bound to see her somewhere.

Her return to racing has been slow, and Blake considers her results earlier this year disappointing. By virtually any other standard, she should be proud of taking 8th place in the U.S. National Cross Country Championships in February and 4th place in the U.S. Outdoor National 10K in June – but when you’re an Olympian, your expectations are at a higher level.

Fortunately, she’s now in better shape and feeling stronger, and her coach says she’s got “all the bullets in her gun” as she heads to New York later this fall. She’ll use the San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon on October 3rd as a tune up, and try to return to the form that earned her an Olympic spot back in 2008.

Blake’s long-term goal is to make her second Olympic team for the London Games in 2012, with the Olympic trials race in Houston in January 2012. As you’d expect from a dedicated, successful athlete, the date is already circled on Blake’s calendar.

So what can you learn from an Olympian? Blake’s advice is to emphasize quality workouts over quantity. Keep your easy days easy and run your hard days hard. Have a recovery drink within 30 minutes after every workout, and maintain a healthy diet throughout the day. And if you happen to get some downtime, it’s OK to take a nap while the baby is sleeping.


Inside the Salinas Valley Half Marathon

It’s very difficult for a first-time event to score high marks across the board, but last weekend’s Salinas Valley Half Marathon was a success in virtually every aspect. We were both fortunate enough to participate, and decided to provide “behind the scenes” accounts of a few memories from race day.

Great first impressions: Logistics of the race were a little complicated, but the race committee went all-out to minimize the inconvenience. Transportation between the parking area and start area was provided by luxury touring buses, a dramatic improvement over the cramped, bouncy school buses that most runners are accustomed to riding before races.

Prayers welcome: The Soledad Mission was a truly unique and distinctive setting for the start area. It’s historic, allows plenty of space for bib pickup and staging, and provides nervous runners a nice spot to ask for some divine intervention before the race. Many of those runners could use it, because the race was a …

Beginner’s delight: Of the nearly 1300 runners in the race, more than 400 identified themselves as first time half marathoners. More than 200 of those attended the training clinics put on by local race veterans, and the success rate for these first-timers was impressively high. For them, it was truly a day to remember; for others, however, it was …

Business as usual: Seeing field workers laboring in the Salinas Valley as we ran past gave us both an appreciation for the agriculture industry that figures so prominently in our local economy, and gratitude for the people who were up early on a Saturday morning not to have fun at a race, but because it was their occupation. The ag industry was also the star one of our favorite spots on the course …

Strawberry love!: The Salinas Valley Half took a page from the Big Sur Marathon’s playbook, placing an aid station stocked entirely with strawberries late in the race. Strawberry season may be coming to an end, but you sure couldn’t tell by tasting the wonderful offerings at mile 10, which were a major highlight of the day. The great berries were only a sampling of what was to come, however, at the …

Luxurious finish: Pessagno winery hosted the finish area, which was as loaded with perks and goodies as any race we’ve seen. Runners enjoyed musical entertainment while helping themselves to bagels, fruit, water, beer, first aid, physical therapy, massages, and even free Jamba Juice served by a guitar-playing banana. (Seriously.) There was plenty of stuff for runners to talk about, including this …

Conversation starter: If you ever want to meet a lot of new people, try racing in a pair of bright white and red Vibram FiveFingers, which look like gloves for your feet, complete with separate toes. Donald has been running in FiveFingers for over a year now, and this race was the debut of his new Bikila model, which are admittedly a little bit eye-catching. They led to a lot of curious questions and discussions about barefoot running and the Vibram phenomenon, which is becoming more popular all the time.

Generally, though, the most common topic of conversation was what a wonderful race this turned out to be, from the perfect weather to the beautiful course to the outstanding organization from start to finish. Congratulations to Karen Nardozza, Kristina Morales, and the entire race staff for putting together such a great event. We’re already looking forward to doing it again next year.


We Have a Race!

Here’s a guarantee: we will definitely have a course record at the Salinas Valley Half Marathon on August 7th. There will be records set in every age group as well. That’s what you get with a first time event.

The race sold out about a month ago with more than 1,250 runners entered. 414 of these claim it’s their first half marathon, so the race organization’s goal of finding new runners and promoting healthy lifestyles is already achieved. Over 200 runners participated in the Salinas YMCA’s training program.

The event also looks to be very competitive, with big guns from the local running scene battling it out against runners from 20 states and 2 foreign countries. If everyone shows up that is expected to, we’ll see some fast times from some great runners.

On the men’s side, Hartnell grad and Big Sur Marathon winner Danny Tapia from Castroville won’t have it easy. Danny ran a 1:05 half marathon last year but Crosby Freeman from the San Francisco Bay Area track club has a previous best of 1:04. Last week, Ethiopian born Tesfaye Sendeku, who now lives in the Bay Area contacted the race director about his intention to run. He won the recent Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon in a course record time of 1:03:58, but he has a half marathon best of 1:01.

The women’s race is equally competitive. Olympic Trials marathon qualifiers Brooke Wells and Shalluin Fullove from San Francisco seem to be the class of the field. Brooke is a Carmel High and Cal Berkeley grad now living in San Francisco and has run 1:18 for the half marathon. Shalluin, a friend of Brooke’s was the woman’s winner of the Napa to Sonoma half a few weeks ago in 1:22.

Also coming out of running semi-retirement for this race is another previous Olympic trials marathon competitor, Laura Sanchez, from Salinas. Laura turned 48 this year.

Some of the best master’s (over 40) runners in the United States live in our area and it seems they are all coming out to run this exciting half marathon.

Carmella Cuva, who just turned 40 is making her master’s debut, and has been the fastest Monterey County woman a record 4 times in the Big Sur Marathon. Other fast master’s women locally who are competing and should do well in their age groups are Sophia Robinson (47) from Monterey, Christina Price (50) from Carmel, Stella Gibbs (51) from Pacific Grove, Jan Holloway (74) from Monterey, and Gloria Dake (75) from Salinas.

Top age groupers on the men’s side are Keith Hedlund (47) from Salinas, Brian Robinson (49) from Monterey, Rosalio Campos (50) from Salinas, Dwight Smith (51) from Seaside, Dan Zulaica (52) from Carmel Valley, Jefferson Seay (56) from Salinas, Steve Marshall (56) from Seaside, Gerry Reynolds (61) from Salinas, Bill Garwood (65) from Salinas, and Dave Cortez (65) from Salinas.

The race also has an interesting array of young and future stars who are running their first half marathon to get ready for their high school or college cross country seasons. Nina Anderson, age 17, from Notre Dame high school, and State qualifier in the 2 mile during the track season, will be making her first try at the substantially longer distance. Sumeet Mudahar, who just graduated Notre Dame, and won the local Wednesday Night Laundry Runner scholarship as best graduating senior runner, will also be racing her first half marathon.

It promises to be a great race, and we can’t wait to see how everyone does.


Running Obsession

So you call yourself a runner? Think you’re obsessed with your running life? Let’s find out.

We had some fun a few months ago when we created a test to rate your running partners – so we’re doing it again, but this time you’re rating yourself! Get yourself a piece of paper, and let’s see how dedicated a runner you really are.

MILES: Give yourself 1 point for each mile that you run in the average week. If you don’t keep track of your miles then give yourself 5 points for each day of the week that you run 30 minutes or more.

RUNNING SHOES: How many types of shoes do you have? If you own regular running shoes, add 5 points for each pair. Add 7 points for each pair of trail shoes. Add 10 for each pair of racing flats, 15 for each pair of running spikes or Vibram FiveFingers, and 20 if you’re brave enough to go barefoot!

PERIODICALS: Award 5 points if you subscribe to Runner’s World magazine, 10 Points for Running Times, and 15 points for Marathon and Beyond. Score 20 Points if you regularly get Running Research News.

BOOKS: Add 5 points for the number of times you have read each of these books: Once a Runner by John L. Parker Jr., Running and Being by Dr. George Sheehan, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, Galloway’s Book on Running by Jeff Galloway, and Running with the Buffalos by Chris Lear.

WORKOUTS: Give yourself 5 points for each type of workout you’ve done in the last 3 months. Fartlek. Hill repeats. Form drills including butt kicks, high knees, and karaoke. Tempo. Planned marathon pace. Yasso 800’s.

RUNNING HEROES: If your role model is Dean Karnazes give yourself 1 point. If you are motivated by Kara Goucher and Ryan Hall give yourself 5 points. If you admire Deena Kastor and Meb Keflezighi, score 10. Likewise with Bill Rogers or Frank Shorter (for you older folks) – still 10. If you are inspired by Terry Fox or Sarah Reinertsen, score 15. If Scott Jurek or Anton Krupicka are more your style give yourself 20. If no one impresses you but Quenton Cassidy, score 25. If you don’t recognize any of these names, minus 50.

TRAVEL TO RACES: Score 25 points for each trip you’ve made to a race in the last six months that required a passport. Score 20 for each race that required air travel. Give yourself 15 for races that required at least one night in a hotel. Add 5 for each race you did that you slept at home.

THURSDAY MORNINGS: If your first thought on Thursday morning is about reading The Running Life, give yourself 20 points.

Yes, that last category was self serving … but we’re just trying to fluff up your score a bit. And now it’s time for the results! Check your total score and place it in one of the following groups:

OVER 300: Dude … wow. You’re totally obsessed. Have you seen your spouse or kids lately?
200 to 299: You’ve always got running on the brain … and your friends probably consider you absent-minded.
100 to 199: This seems about average – we’ll call this “running balanced”.
60 to 99: So you have a running life … but not very much of one.
Under 60: You want to learn about this strange lifestyle, but haven’t quite jumped in yet; we’ll call you “run-curious.”


Born to Golf?

Think you know who invented golf? If you’re like most observers, you believe that the sport as we know it was invented in Scotland in the late 1400s.

Some historians also note that the ancient Romans played games with sticks hitting stones on the ground, but this pastime had no link to modern day golf. Others attribute some influence to activities called kolven in Holland and chole in Belgium that involved sticks and rudimentary balls or stones - but for the majority of golf purists, the pursuit of hitting round objects into slightly larger holes in the ground is strictly attributed to the Scots.

However, with all due respect to those historians, we have another theory: maybe golf was created by a band of runners.

Chris McDougall’s book Born to Run describes the reclusive Raramuri, indigenous people of the treacherous Copper Canyon region of northern Mexico. Raramuri are the world’s greatest distance runners, whose “superhuman talent is matched by uncanny health and serenity.” These natives were so reclusive that they were not discovered by the outside world until the 1500s by the Conquistadors, who mispronounced the name to call them Tarahumara. (They are still commonly called Tarahumara by outsiders today.)

The name Raramuri means “runners on foot” or “those who run fast”, and the entire culture of the tribe involves running for joy. McDougall set out to chronicle the Tarahumara to understand how they could run for hundreds of miles without getting injured. Among other observations, his documentation of huarache-clad ultrarunners has greatly influenced the recent barefoot running boom in the United States.

And what does any of this have to do with golf? McDougall also observed that the favorite pastime among the Tarahumara is a game called rarjiparo. These contests are typically held between village teams and involve running continuously for 36 or 48 hours over hilly and dangerous terrain. The object is for each team to move a small wooden ball called the rarajipari, made of hard wood from tree roots.

Men kick the rarajipari to advance it, but women are allowed to use an implement called the ariweta – “a ring of strong plant fibres or twigs which are hooked with a curved wooden end which allows the ball to be hit”. They hit the ball, then chase after it – up and down hills, around curves, into the dirt or bushes, and occasionally dropping into holes in the ground. Sounds like a group of amateurs on the back nine, doesn’t it?

Furthermore, Tarahumara villagers gather from miles around to watch these events - a primitive gallery, if you will - and bets are often made involving pelts, livestock, blankets, jewelry, and other items. After a rarjiparo, it is traditional that “winners do not demonstrate arrogance, and the losers show no anger” – as rivals often gather together and spend the next 48 hours drinking tesquino, a corn-based beer, until they pass out. Since the Tarahumara have no refrigeration devices, all of the tesquino had to be finished within the 48-hour party.

So let’s recap: a game that involves using sticks to knock little balls around, which claims specific rules of decorum, features large spectator galleries, and encourages betting, beer drinking, and camaraderie. What game does that sound like to you?

The Tarahumara have been doing this for more than 2000 years. Perhaps they weren’t just Born to Run, but Born to Golf as well - and maybe all the passionate golf fans at this week’s US Open owe a tip of the hat to these natural born runners.


Running Salinas

If it takes a village to raise a child, how much more is necessary to get an entire city up and running? A wide-ranging community effort is underway right now to accomplish exactly that goal, beginning with the first annual Salinas Valley Half Marathon which is scheduled for August 7th.

For the last several years, the only road race in the community has been Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital’s popular Heart and Sole 5K/10K, which just finished its 13th edition last weekend. However, for a town that’s supposedly committed to fighting the obesity epidemic, one lonely running event seems like it’s not nearly enough.

That’s why Karen Nardozza stepped up and started planning the Salinas Valley Half Marathon. Her vision is to develop a destination race that will also showcase the Valley’s world-class agriculture, wine, and tourism industries. The Salinas Valley Half Marathon is part of a larger non-profit agency she created to promote health, fitness, and community spirit in Salinas.

Karen gathered a who’s who of Salinas professionals with a track record of success to help plan and organize the race. The list includes retired Salinas City Manager Dave Mora, retired CEO of the Central Coast YMCA Sharron Gish, recent CEO of the Salinas Chamber of Commerce Tiffany D’Tullio, Kristina Morales from Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (who happens to be the race director of the Heart and Sole race), Francine Sullivan of Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway, John Lewis, owner of National Property Inspections, and Brad Griffin of Alvarez Technology.

She is also getting advice and guidance from the Big Sur International Marathon organization and even had the foresight to have KION meteorologist Tamara Berg on the planning committee. Tamara, who recently ran her first marathon at Big Sur, has promised to try to predict perfect weather for August 7th.

The 13.1-mile half-marathon starts, somewhat fittingly, at Soledad Mission, the 13th Mission founded in California. The majority of the course runs north on Foothill and River Roads, traversing beautiful fields and vineyards with slightly rolling elevation changes before finishing among the vines at Pessagno Winery. Every finisher receives a medal as well as a Salinas Valley Half Marathon logo wine glass to use at the post race celebration.

As for that larger community effort: the Salinas YMCA is hosting training programs for the half marathon, and saw more than 200 people at the first training session on May 6th. Training sessions continue every Thursday at 6PM, alternating between advice and discussions at the YMCA, or group track sessions at Hartnell track. For more information, call Lulu Vargas at 758-3811.

Financially, Karen has generated overwhelming support from the Salinas business community, with generous support from Taylor Farms, Monterey Pacific, Rotary Club, D’Arrigo Brothers, Foodsource, Ocean Mist Farms, Mann Packing, Rabobank, Balance Physical Therapy, Advance Tech Aircraft, and UCP East Garrison, LLC. However, more support is still needed, so if you want to contribute or volunteer please contact Karen via e-mail at karen@nardozzaandassociates.com.

This year’s inaugural event is already selling out quickly, with entrants from 17 different states and 2 foreign countries. The race will be capped at 1,000 runners, and the $55 race fee increases to $65 on June 1st, so we suggest that you sign up quickly on active.com. You can find any additional information about the race at www.salinasvalleyhalfmarathon.org.

Whether you’re looking to run a beautiful half-marathon course, to support health promotion in your local community, or just be part of a wonderful day, get involved with the Salinas Valley Half Marathon to help get Salinas running again.


How Young Is Too Young?

As you’re reading this, 13-year-old Jordan Romero of Big Bear, CA, is bivouacked at 22,000’ on the slopes of Mount Everest, preparing for a summit bid that would make him the youngest person ever to stand on the world’s highest peak.

Despite his age, Romero is no novice; he’s climbed to the highest points on five other continents, and has more mountaineering experience than many “tourist climbers” who pay for guided expeditions on Everest. However, his attempt has been met with equal parts praise and outrage by experienced mountain climbers. Some see him as a role model for a generation of unhealthy, overweight kids. Others consider him a poster boy for reckless ambition and misguided parental prioritization.

The question is simple, but the answer is incredibly complex: how old should kids be before taking on extreme athletic challenges?

The running community grapples with a similar dilemma – albeit on a less dramatic scale than mountain climbing – in considering at what age children should be permitted to enter marathons or ultramarathons. Nearly every race today has a minimum age requirement, but in the 1970s, very young runners were somewhat commonplace at major marathons.

Prior to instituting a minimum age of 18 in 1981, the New York City Marathon saw approximately 75 runners aged 8 to 13 cross its finish line in the late 1970s. The Los Angeles Marathon’s “Students Run LA” program annually trains kids ages 12 to 18 to finish the event. Locally, the Big Sur Marathon’s minimum age is 16 – although in an interesting twist, its medical director ran his first marathon at age 13. Last month, four 16-year-olds successfully completed the challenging 26.2-mile Highway 1 course.

So how young is too young? Is 12 or 16 more risky than 18? What about 10 or 8? And what exactly is the rationale for any of these guidelines?

The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that runners focus on shorter events like the 10K or half-marathon until age 18. A group called the International Marathon Medical Directors Association cites the AAP guideline in its own recommendation for an 18-year-old age requirement. Generally, the standards are based as much on psychological considerations as they are on physiology.

For example, it’s true that kids with developing bones and muscles are highly susceptible to overuse injuries with endurance running – but this is a consequence for many adults who train excessively as well. Children’s bodies aren’t as adept at thermoregulation, leaving them susceptible to heat-related problems during a race – but the bodies of novice marathoners are equally unprepared in this regard. Overall, the physical risks of the marathon for youngsters aren’t significantly greater than those for adults.

Instead, the primary concern expressed by most running authorities, as well as grown-ups who started as extremely young distance runners, is that kids might be trying the marathon for the wrong reasons, and might burn out on running relatively early in life. From a standpoint of promoting lifelong health, it’s always better for runners of any age to build up to the marathon gradually, over a period of years instead of weeks. And if parental pressures are any factor in a child entering the marathon, the likelihood of he or she continuing as independent adults is fairly low.

In the end, every situation is unique to the individuals involved, in running just as it is in mountain climbing. The only things we can wish for Jordan Romero or any other young athletes are for them always to be safe, have fun, and develop a passion for healthy activity that lasts a lifetime.


Scenes From a Marathon 2010

With Big Sur’s 25th Anniversary in the books, we’re sharing a final handful of observations from another wonderful BSIM weekend …

Hometown Victory!

Even though it started as a small hometown event, the Big Sur Marathon never saw a local runner win the overall men’s title – at least, not until the 25th presentation. Big congratulations to Danny Tapia of Salinas, a recent Hartnell College runner coached by Chris Zepeda. Even more impressive is that this was Danny’s first marathon; it’s possible that we’ve got a legend in the making for future editions of the race.

Coach Zepeda tried making arrangements on Saturday afternoon for Danny to ride the elite bus, a privilege that top contenders in the race are offered by the race committee. Unfortunately, the van was already full, so Danny got up early to catch the Carmel Middle School buses with the “regular” schmoes, before taking off like crazy at the starting gun. He built a big lead after 5 miles, and never looked back en route to a 90-second victory. Next year, we’re guessing he’ll be on the elite bus.

Fast Ladies of Pacific Grove

Note that we said Danny was the first local men’s winner; on the women’s side, the Big Sur Marathon has had 3 local champions: Patty Selbicky in 1987, Nelly Wright in 1988, and legendary ultrarunner Ann Trason in 1989. Interestingly, all of these women were from Pacific Grove, the same town where 2008 Olympic marathoner Blake Russell currently resides. The lesson, perhaps: if you’re a speedy girl looking to win the Big Sur Marathon, you should definitely consider moving to PG.

Blake was at this year’s event as a spectator greeting runners after the race. She has recently returned to competitive running after having a baby a year ago, so if you ever see her on the start line at Big Sur, the smart money will be on her to win big.

Smiling Happy Little People

The JUST RUN Kids’ 3K was held in Pacific Grove for the first time on Saturday and had a record number of participants. About 3,000 kids and parents ran on a beautiful out and back course from Lovers Point. 33 schools participated, and smiling faces were everywhere. Hopefully these are the marathoners of tomorrow.

Boston to Big Sur Forever!

The Boston to Big Sur Challenge was a huge success, with fantastic feedback from everybody who participated. We’re happy to report that the challenge will be continued indefinitely in years to come. Like this year, the races will probably sell out early; mark your calendars now for the July 15th online entry date for Big Sur’s 26th presentation on May 1, 2011.

Where We Shamelessly Take a Portion of Undue Credit

A special shout-out goes to our running partner Carmella Cuva, for completing the Boston to Big Sur Challenge, for winning the top local female award at Big Sur, and for characteristically smiling her way through both races. We’ve run more miles than we can count with Carmella, so we like to think that some of those mornings together contributed to her amazingly successful week of racing.

By the Numbers

This year’s race saw 12,000 participants in the various events, with 2,800 volunteers helping them. 365 Porta Potties were picked up. 350 gallons of coffee were consumed, along with 85,000 cups of Gatorade on Highway 1. Post race, 25 kegs of beer vanished, as well as 2400 bagels, 72 gallons of soup, and 100 cases of bananas. The numbers keep getting bigger, and the race keeps getting better.

See you next year.


Big Sur Centipede

One of the more unusual moments in Big Sur Marathon history took place in 1991, when a 26-leg centipede ran the race. At least, it started the race with 26 legs – the rest is something of a story.

Centipedes are typically seen at shorter, quirkier races such as San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers, but rarely in marathons, which are difficult enough for one person without your fate hinging on conditions of several other runners.

According to the International Centipede Congress – yes, really – official ‘Pedes must consist of 13 team members, measure at least 60 feet long, and have each runner connected by any non-polyester material. Twinkie feelers are to be worn on the head of each member, and the person in the rear wears a “stinger of appropriate design and toxicity.” All 13 must stay attached throughout the race and finish together.

Official rules get even weirder: A Lenichi Turn - a 360-degree rotation made famous by 18th-century Eastern European centipeders Oscar and Igatoo Lenichi - must be made twice in the race. One occurs at midrace, and another before the finish; neither of these shall interfere with other runners.

The spirit of the Centipede is best captured in the official motto: “Length, Joy, Togetherness”. Trust us, though - 26.2 miles is a very long way for anyone to be together.

The ’91 Pede was the brainchild of Dr. Marc Lieberman, who gathered 13 runners of various abilities. 12 men - Marc, Mike (your Herald columnist), Doug Colton, Wally Kastner, Don King, Dean King, Pete Sullivan, Jim Eagle, Gus Halamandaris, Skip Latham, Jay Cook, and Charlie Engle – were joined by one brave woman, Julie Lyonhardt. They were tied together with a bungee cord around each waist, with a shared (if somewhat ambitious) goal of breaking 3 hours and 30 minutes.

The Pede started far back in the pack, crossing the start line 4 minutes after the gun. Shortly thereafter, disaster struck: as the centipede reeled in some slower runners, a newbie marathoner stopped without warning in the middle of the road to re-tie her sweatshirt directly in front of the Pede. The 13 runners couldn’t stop and became tangled in bungees, with several falling. Pete Sullivan was injured so badly that he couldn’t continue, and the Pede’s numbers were down to 12, making it “officially unofficial”.

Good miles lay ahead, as the Pede gradually picked up momentum, completed a successful Linichi turn on Bixby Bridge, told jokes, sang songs, talked to other runners and had a great time until about mile 21, when attrition began to take its toll.

Wally and Jim both aggravated previous knee injuries and were forced to unhook. Gus, undertrained but overdetermined, was struggling – so badly that the other 9 runners can still show you their bungee cord burn scars from pulling him up the hills of Carmel Highlands that day.

Eventually, the remainder of the Pede completed another Lanichi turn just before the finish line, and completed the run successfully. In the 1991 results sheet you’ll see 10 runners with times of 3:33:44 to 3:33:47 – but with the 4 minute delayed start (before the era of chip timing), the sub 3:30 goal was met.

An epilogue to the story……Wally is now better known as Race Director of the Big Sur Marathon. Charlie became one of the world’s craziest and most renowned ultra-runners. Mike and Julie got married in 1995. Gus and Pete never ran another Big Sur marathon. Marc put together one more centipede in the 1996 race, which remains the last time a centipede competed at Big Sur.


Big Sur Memories

In honor of this weekend’s 25th Big Sur International Marathon, we asked some local runners for their most memorable moments from the first 25 years of the Big Sur International Marathon. Here are some of their responses.

Rich Hollaway, founder of Cornuts Inc., heard a rumor in 1985 that Judge Bill Burleigh wanted to start a marathon from Big Sur to Carmel and needed financial support. Rich left a message for the visionary yet resourceless Burleigh, who returned the call in less than 2 minutes. And the marathon was born.

Nelly Wright wrote this poem after winning the 1988 women’s race:

I start the Big Sur Marathon in 1988,
I’ve trained hard and I feel strong.
I surge ahead and all feels well,
My pace is fast, so what can go wrong?

I slip into a rhythmic zone,
The miles fly by, as along I roll.
As I run a thought occurs,
Will the Hurricane Point take its toll?

Now I wonder where the hill begins,
And as I pass a runner, I pause to ask.
His gaze is odd as he replies,
“We’re at the top, the hill is past.”

My spirit soars and down I fly,
In my focused state, I missed the hill they dread.
My exhilaration soars and carries me to the end,
To receive the laurel wreath upon my head.

Dr. Marc Lieberman and Andrew McClelland independently commented fondly on scenes from the marathon; running near Pt. Sur Lighthouse in silence and solitude with only cows as company, the struggle with the wind at Hurricane Point, the hail years, the camaraderie of friends running alongside, and being rewarded on the podium for a race well run.

15-time finisher Rick Leach recalled camping at Pfeiffer to get some extra sleep near the starting line. Brushing his teeth in the washhouse, he heard the Star Spangled Banner wafting through the trees, at which point he spit, rinsed, and started running. Crashing through the deserted start area, he caught up with the pack went on to run one of his best marathons – possibly due to the super adrenaline charge at the start.

Glynn Wood, the Peninsula’s runner emeritus, housed a young Japanese runner with no marathon experience for the 2nd Big Sur Marathon in 1987. Glynn and his wife Suzie knew no Japanese and their house guest knew no English. At the carbo-loading party before the race, Olympic marathon gold medalist Frank Shorter was the host, and went from table to table with a videographer. For $30 anyone could buy a video of themselves with Frank.

Frank asked the visitor, “How fast do you expect to run tomorrow?” The reply was, “No English…Sorry.” Frank, with extensive international experience but limited political correctness, looked into the camera and said, “We all know that Japanese are great marathoners, and that he’ll be with the leaders tomorrow!”

The guest wasn’t exactly with the leaders – he ran 4 hours and 30 minutes, but gave Glynn $30 to get a copy of the video, and flew back to Tokyo a satisfied finisher.

Sally Smith, the marathon’s long time registrar, focused on last year’s race. For the participants everything always goes smoothly, but for the race committee, it’s a very nervous time. 15 minutes prior to the start, the timing company was no where to be found. Cell phone service in Big Sur is sporadic at best; a connection was made but all that could be heard was “we’re on the way.” The company arrived 6 minutes before the race, set up quickly, and the race started only 1 minute late. The runners never knew, but Sally aged 5 years in those few minutes.

For those of you running this year, we hope all your memories are good ones.


Remembering Wayne Collett

Last month marked the passing of a remarkably talented runner who once reached the pinnacle of athletic accomplishment, but was unfortunately remembered more for his role in a collision of athletics and politics on the global stage nearly four decades ago. He also had ties to the Monterey Peninsula, and those of us fortunate enough to experience Wayne Collett’s friendship and goodwill are feeling great sorrow in the loss of such an admirable man.

Wayne is best known – and most misunderstood – for his actions at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where he won the silver medal in the 400m dash. During the awards ceremony, Collett and fellow American (and gold medalist) Vince Matthews visibly disregarded our National Anthem by not standing at attention, and diverting their gaze from the flag while casually fidgeting and chatting.

This came four years after the more famous medal ceremony demonstration by African-Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos in Mexico City, and the International Olympic Committee had zero tolerance of further political statements intruding upon their Games. The IOC immediately banned Collett and Matthews from future competitions for acting disrespectfully, and that was pretty much the last the track world saw of Wayne Collett.

Wayne was frequently criticized for his actions, but he held strong to his principles in explaining his conduct. He felt strongly that the promise and potential of America were unattainable for many of its citizens due to widespread social and institutional injustices. He was often compelled to affirm his nationalism, once telling the Los Angeles Times, “I love America … to suggest otherwise is to not understand the struggles of blacks in America.” Wayne was never Anti-American; he simply wanted his country to be a better place, with equal opportunities for all.

Nowadays, the racism and exclusion that Wayne spoke out against are much more easily recognized; with historical hindsight, we can better appreciate the frustrations of his experience and the accuracy of his point of view. For those who knew Wayne personally, there was never – at any point in his life - any question about his patriotism or his passion for social justice. And although he couldn’t compete in track meets anymore, Wayne never stopped excelling in all aspects of life.

Once called the “greatest athlete I’ve ever coached” by UCLA track coach Jim Bush - no small statement considering the number of Olympians Bush trained during his 56-year career - Wayne was also one of that college’s most successful students, earning an undergraduate degree in 1971, an M.B.A. in 1973, and a law degree in 1977 all on the same campus. He worked against many of those injustices he demonstrated against in Munich, in hopes that today’s children enjoy the opportunities that many of his generation lacked. He gave his time and effort generously to many charitable organizations, with some of his fundraising efforts bringing him to our Monterey Peninsula, where he enjoyed a wide network of friends. Wayne also spent several years working for the United States Olympic Committee prior to the Los Angeles Olympics, and carried the torch in the 1984 relay through his hometown.

Wayne died last month at age 60 after a nearly four-year battle with cancer. While the most public moment of his life occurred at age 22, all who had the privilege of knowing him will remember his lifelong accomplishments, integrity, and commitment to social equality. For track fans as well as Wayne’s friends and family, we know we’ve lost one of the great ones.


Bug Sur 25

This April marks the 25th presentation of the Big Sur International Marathon, and the race’s Board of Directors is planning a whole series of special events to celebrate the occasion. What started as a gleam in Judge Bill Burleigh’s eye after a drive down Highway 1 in the mid 1980’s has turned into one of the most respected, honored, and best-run marathons in the world.

Here are some of the festivities planned for next month:

April 5 to April 30th: Art show at the Monterey Convention Center. Featuring a special exhibit of Big Sur Marathon posters, programs, shirts and memorabilia through the years. Several Big Sur artists will have works on display that reflect the beauty and spirit of their community.

April 19th: Start of the Boston to Big Sur Challenge. A special challenge issued by Big Sur Race Director Wally Kastner for this year’s race. 350 intrepid runners, including 20 locals, signed up to run both the Boston Marathon and the Big Sur Marathon - 2 marathons, on 2 coasts, in 6 days. The Big Sur Marathon will provide a special finisher’s tent, medals, jackets, and other surprises for those completing the challenge.

April 23 and 24: The Marathon Health and Fitness Expo. Located at the Monterey Conference Center, and open for the entire community. You’ll find the latest in shoes, running gear, and health products, as well as a whole collection of 25th Presentation clothing and merchandise. There will be clinics on race strategy and general running advice. Go see what the running community is buzzing about.

April 24th: The JUST RUN 3K. This special race for kids and their parents is held at Lovers Point at 8AM. The course runs toward Monterey on Ocean View Blvd and joins the Rec trail near Hopkins Marine Station to return to the finish at Lovers point. A record number of 33 schools have already entered, and nearly 3,000 kids and parents. The Marathon will also provide a record amount of money in prizes to local schools based on participation. Enter online at www.bsim.org, be there by 7:15 AM to register on race morning.

April 25th: The 5K and other marathon events. You can still enter the 5K online at www.bsim.org, but all other events - the 21 miler, 10.6 miler, 9 miler, and marathon relay - are sold out.

April 25th: The MAIN EVENT. As usual, the marathon sold out long before race day – and the 25th edition has lots of new treats for the runners. Go to the special interest section at www.bsim.org to check out the unique new mile markers created by local muralist John Cerney; they’re certain to entertain, motivate, and inspire every runner. This year’s runners will also be treated to more musical groups than ever before, as well as perennial favorite Michael Martinez and his grand piano at the Bixby Bridge.

After race party: New this year, when the race is over and everyone has had time to freshen up, there is a special celebration at the Monterey Marriott at 4:30 on Sunday. Like the marathon, this event is sold out – but if you’re already signed up, be sure to have a great time!

Afterward, start making your plans for the 26th presentation of the Big Sur Marathon in 2011. It’s an event that just keeps getting better and better.


Take 5 To Run

Our previous column was delivered from atop a soapbox, lamenting the obesity problem that plagues the health and well-being of American children. Unfortunately, the last 30 years of public service announcements, nutritional education, and instruction on physical activity has done little to curb the epidemic, as kids (not to mention adults) are still getting fatter.

So this week’s column is a call to action, and we’re encouraging all of our running friends to get involved. It’s time to stop talking about the issue, and start DOING something about it.

If you’re like us, you know how great running makes you feel, both physically and mentally. You know how beneficial it is for your cardiovascular health and emotional well being. You also know how rewarding it feels to share these experiences with others.

So here’s what we want you to do: participate in an effort called “Take 5 to Run”. It’s not an official program; in fact, we just made it up. But the premise is pretty simple, and has the potential to be highly effective.

Look at the numbers. There are currently 30 million adults who claim they run at least a few times a month. 10 million of them run “regularly” and entered organized races last year. These are the people who we’re asking to Take 5 to Run.

Over the course of one year, invite 5 of your non-running friends for a run. Encourage them to get started, help them select shoes if needed, and take them on an easy jog. Help them through the initial uncertainty, and celebrate their every accomplishment on their way to starting a running program.

Later, ask them to pay it forward; once they are established runners, recommend that they take another 5 people out for a run. And so on and so on. Do the math: if 10 million runners recruit 50 million non-runners, and that group grows to 250 million in a couple of years … before you know it we have a nation of runners and the obesity trend is reversed.

Obviously, we aren’t naive enough to think that everyone will successfully convert 5 others, but we optimistically believe that many of you are capable of drawing new runners in. As long as the numbers trend in the right direction, we’ll still end the epidemic. So how do you instruct someone to start? Remember the name of the game.

Take 5 to Run is a phrase that can also be used as a blueprint to get friends or kids started. The first run or walk should only be 5 minutes. Aim for a habit of 5 minutes per day, 5 days a week. Tell 5 people about it, for moral support and to hold yourself accountable. Select one day to increase your distance by 5 more minutes, and then another day, and then another and another as you continue to improve.

We’d also love to see the running industry step up and help people Take 5 to Run. Shoe companies or specialty running stores could give discounts to those who are buying their first pair of shoes and mention Take 5 to Run. Races should give discounts to those who are entering their first race after they’ve Taken 5 to Run. Get some national running organizations on board, and who knows where this might end up.

But for the time being, it can all begin with you. Take the pledge, and Take 5 to Run.


Dear Mrs Obama

Dear Mrs. Obama,

Thank you for making the fight against youth obesity your primary concern as First Lady. As runners, parents, and community activists, we share your passion in this challenge.

We completely agree with the goals you have established: access to healthy, affordable food for all kids; increased physical activity in schools and in the community; healthier school meal programs; parents empowered with the information and tools to make good choices.

Since we have some experience in this area, we thought perhaps we could share some of our ideas and observations with you.

Make Physical Education and active recess mandatory from kindergarten to 12th grade: Include activities and lessons to emphasize how running or other aerobic exercise should become a lifetime habit. This is a low-cost initiative, needing no equipment and no new teachers: for example, Monterey County’s JUST RUN program is free, can be led by any teacher or parent, and has positively impacted more than 7,500 kids.

Health education should be an important part of school rather than an afterthought. Having “No child left inside” is just as important as “No child left behind.”

Make BMI measurements and fitness goals part of school programs: This might be a controversial step – but any executive will tell you that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Kids should know their fitness levels – and these assessments are a great way to open a dialogue with parents as well.

Simplify: Please avoid the typical bureaucratic solution of just throwing more money and researchers at the problem. We all know that poor nutrition + sedentary lifestyle = obesity. Most health agencies already have programs in place – the problem is that they have NOT been working. Find the few good programs out there (see Just Run above) to direct resources toward, and make them more accessible nationwide.

Use “Foot Soldiers”: Any battle needs lots of foot soldiers. In this case, use established community organizers and advocates, and recruit new ones as well. Newly proposed programs should have advocates in every school, workplace, and health organization. Encourage people to get involved at school or in the community.

Lose the anti-running bias: Maybe we’re paranoid, but we’ll put this one out there ... but we’re a bit offended that the Surgeon’s General’s “Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation 2010” says children should have 60 minutes a day of vigorous exercise but doesn’t mention running. Included in the activity examples are softball, racquetball, kayaking (Really? In inner cities?), skating, mall walking, and washing the car, but somehow running didn’t make the list.

The President’s Active Lifestyle award is based on kids being active 5 days a week for 6 weeks. 100 activities are mentioned and running is (thankfully) one of them, but so are archery, billiards, croquet, darts, gardening, horseshoe pitching, ski-mobiling, skeet shooting, and even shuffleboard.

See, here’s the thing: running is the simplest, cheapest, most accessible and most effective means of exercise there is. Although we risk offending the kayaking or shuffleboard lobbies by saying so, we feel our sport deserves a much higher profile in fitness programs.

Make it permanent: Kids need more than 6 total weeks of exercise; it has to be daily, it has to be a life-long habit, and it has to be fun and rewarding in order to be successful. If your legacy is a generation of healthy, happy kids, that’s something to be enormously proud of.

Good luck with your initiative, and feel free to contact us if you need some free consulting!


Swifter, Higher, Stronger ... Prettier?

Just for kicks, imagine the following: you’re charging through the final mile of a 10K, on pace to set a personal record or win an age group award, and giving it every ounce of effort you have.

The situation grows more difficult with every step - legs screaming, lungs burning, heart pounding like a jackhammer – but you somehow muster the courage and determination to stay on pace all the way to the finish. Finally you cross the line and almost keel over from sheer exhaustion, filled with satisfaction and pride from a maximal effort and a long-awaited goal.

Shortly thereafter, you’re approached by a race official, where the following exchange begins …

Official: Nice job – it looks like you might win an age group award. Of course, your official result is pending final review.

You: Review? What kind of review?

Official: By the judges, obviously. They deduct or add seconds to your time based on style. Like the way you were really grunting during that last mile – that might cost you about 15 seconds.

You: Seriously?

Official: Uh-huh. Also, your arm swing looked kind of funny throughout the race – that’s probably another 10-second penalty. And you had this strange grimace on your face towards the end – maybe another 5 or 10 seconds for that. Honestly, you weren’t as graceful as the other runners, and some of them really impressed the judges out there.

You: But this was my fastest time ever - I set a PR!

Official: Yeah … about that. By my calculations, your clock time was 39:35, and factoring in style points, your official time will probably be about 40:10 or so. Congrats on almost breaking 40 minutes! Unfortunately, two guys behind you earned time deductions, so they passed you in the age group standings. Something to work on for next time, maybe.

You: This is insane.

And you’d be justified in thinking so. Nevertheless, every four years we embrace and celebrate a whole collection of sports that rely on just such a premise to separate winners from losers. Tomorrow evening, the craziness begins all over again; that’s right … we’re talking about the Olympics.

Before you get the wrong idea, we’ll say very clearly that we both LOVE watching the Olympics. We love the ideals they embody: pursuit of the highest levels of human performance, uniting people from all corners of the globe, who set political and religious and cultural differences aside in the name of brotherhood through competition.

It’s just that last part – the “competition” thing – that rubs us the wrong way sometimes. In our book, sporting competition consists of either 1) defeating someone face to face, or 2) outperforming everybody on the same field at the same time. It doesn’t include who looks the prettiest, who puts the most flair into their routine, or who benefitted from better course conditions earlier in the day.

The Summer Olympics, particularly gymnastics, feature an element of this capriciousness, but the Winter Games are the stage when such absurdity truly shines. However, we realize that most of the events don’t lend themselves to side-by-side competition, and that won’t stop us from watching and appreciating the grand spectacle that every Olympiad offers.

But deep inside, part of us will be wishing for an eight-lane luge track, full-contact figure skating (have them all do their routines at the same time; last one standing wins), or a simultaneous downhill ski event – anything where we don’t need judges to tell us who the winners are.


Feel the Love

In hindsight, 1986 turned out to be a fortuitous year for creating road races. Several debut events that year – big ones and small ones, over long distances and short ones - would go on to enjoy enormous success. This year marks the 25th anniversary for many of our favorites.

In Southern California, the Los Angeles Marathon drew thousands of runners, and the Carlsbad 5K began its reign as the World’s Fastest 5K. Closer to home, the Big Sur International Marathon started from humble beginnings to become one of America’s top road races. Demand for this April’s 25th running was so overwhelming that the race has already sold out.

Another of our favorite local races keeps a lower profile, but is equally successful. The Together With Love 10K and 5K in Pacific Grove is also celebrating its 25th anniversary this year – and best of all, there’s still plenty of room to enter. All you have to do is show up at Lover’s Point in time for the 9AM start, and you’re good to go. The race is always held on the Sunday closest to Valentine’s Day – and this year, the run falls exactly on February 14th. A special anniversary on Valentine’s Day at Lover’s Point; what could be more romantic?

Together With Love features everything that makes our sport great, and supports a very worthy organization. The Monterey Rape Crisis Center provides counseling, crisis intervention services, and community prevention education programs. Clare Mounteer and her staff do noble work at the Center, and they do a superb job in organizing the race as well.

This is the largest 5K/10K race in our area and often has as many as 1,500 entrants. For the last six years they have also hosted a 1-mile children’s race. The kids’ race starts at 8:15 AM, and each runner gets a medal and goodie bag. It’s a great way for kids to have fun while enjoying some healthy activity.

Befitting the race’s title, the 5K/10K course is absolutely lovely. It starts near Lover’s Point and goes around Ocean View Blvd toward Asilomar before heading back. The gently rolling course on the cool, scenic coastline is a perfect venue for fast times.

This year each participant receives a long-sleeved technical performance T-shirt, as well as the usual post-race refreshments and entry into a random drawing for a whole lot of prizes.

Together With Love also celebrates the Valentine’s Day theme in a unique way, with couples divisions in addition to the usual age division awards. Ceramic Heart awards are given to the fastest 10K couples in various age divisions. There are male/female, male/male, or female/female categories – but if you want to participate in the couples division, you have to register before January 31st, so don’t procrastinate.

Race registration for couples and singles alike is on www.active.com or www.mtryrapecrisis.org. You can also register in person on race morning if you arrive before 8:30. If you have any questions, call the Rape Crisis Center at 831-373-3955.

Mark your calendar for a fun morning, a fast race, and a great anniversary celebration on Valentine’s Day. Enter the race, and feel the love!


Compatibility Test

Don’t laugh when we say this, but picking a running partner is nearly as important to overall wellbeing as picking a spouse. Accordingly, we’ve developed a sort of “e-harmony” test to rate your potential running mates.

For the sake of brevity, we’ll assume that you can handle the logistics of meeting times and locations. The rest of the profile gets more subjective, and that’s where the rating system comes into play. So get out your scorecard, and let’s get started!

Timeliness: Is your partner always a few minutes early for the meeting time? Score 10. Always on time, score 5. Always late, score 0. Unpredictable -sometimes early, sometimes late - minus 5.

Pace: The best partners help you become a better runner. If your partner’s comfortable pace is slightly faster than yours, score 10. Same pace, score 5. Slightly slower, score 0. Significantly slower, minus 5.

Versatility: Give your partner 5 points for each type of running terrain they enjoy: Roads. Trails. Track. Adjacent treadmills. 20 possible points.

Attitude: If your partner has a positive and enthusiastic demeanor, score 10. If it seems like he (or she) is just logging the mileage, score 5. If he constantly talks about his injuries, score 0. If he’s a constant whiner, complainer, and a downer, minus 5.

Reliability: Will your partner show up when the weather is nasty? For a partner who’s never intimidated by foul weather, score 10. For someone who takes on anything short of a hail storm or typhoon, score 5. For one who says he’ll show up only if it’s not raining, score 0. If he bails whenever there’s a 30% chance of rain, minus 5.

Low maintenance: If your partner knows all the roads and trails in the area, and always comes prepared with the right gear, score 10. If he knows where to show up to meet the group every morning, score 5. If he always asks for toilet paper or a sip of your Gatorade, score 0. If he calls you late every evening to ask you what’s going on tomorrow – minus 5.

Sense of Humor: If your partner brings new jokes and laughs at yours, score 10. If he tells the same funny jokes a lot, score 5. If he tells jokes that aren’t funny, score 0. If he tells the same unfunny jokes a lot, minus 5.

Worldly: Does he or she watch the news and know about current events? Score 10. If he likes to discuss other topics besides running, score 5. If ALL he talks about is running, score 0. If he’s overbearingly political, religious, or dogmatic, minus 5.

Running Life Fans: If they mention a Buraglio and Dove column during a run, score 10. If they know we write a running column, score 5. If they’ve never heard of us, score 0. If they’ve written a nasty letter to the editor about us, minus 5.

OK, maybe that last category was self serving … but it’s time for the results! Check your compatibility score and place it in one of the following groups:

80 to 100: As good as it gets. Let’s grow old together.
65 to 79: I’m mostly happy, but it feels like I’m settling.
50 to 64: This is OK for now, but I’d still like to see other people.
40 to 49: We need to talk. This isn’t working out.
Under 40: Have a nice life. Maybe you should get a dog.

Best wishes to everyone in seeking the ideal running partner.


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