Olympic Trials Marathon: Tune In, Turn Up (the heat)

2000OTMarathon

Hot weather at the 2000 Olympic Trials marathon in Pittsburgh resulted in slow times and only one athlete making the Olympic squad.

With the 2016 Olympic Team Trials marathon just hours away, there are as many story lines and topics of discussion as there are entrants in the races, which begin at 10 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

That time has become an issue in the past 10 days or so as it’s become apparent that L.A. is going to be blanketed by unseasonably warm weather (can everyone say el Niño?) that could see the temperatures rise from the lower 70s at the start to above 80 by the finish. Organizers even thought of moving the start earlier, as they did for the open L.A. Marathon last year in similar conditions, but then decided it was unnecessary.

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Getting Back in the Race

Whether it’s running or writing, the key to even the most moderate success is regularity. That’s because no matter how challenging a workout or an article might seem, it’s a lot harder to attack either when you’re starting from square one, rather than continuing the process from a groove, no matter how jagged or uneven.

Writing might be even closer to racing, since we’re measured or judged in both endeavors. And that fear of coming up short of expectations, of our own or of others, can prove paralytic in sitting down at a

JimGaryC

Hanging out post-race on a warm December morning with Gary Corbitt.

keyboard or pinning on a bib number. Another couple workouts, or a few more polished thoughts, then we’ll be ready to race, or write – but not just now. And that delay can stretch from days, into months, to years. How many marathons or books are stillborn from the fear of not being works of athletic or literary art?

And so, as the year draws to a close, I have made the decision to get off the dime and revive this blog on a more-or-less (hopefully more) weekly basis. For the past half year, I’ve found myself stymied, frequently by lack of time (due for the most part to poor scheduling), at times by a seeming dearth of topics worth commenting on, at others by such a plethora it feels impossible to choose just one or two, like a kid at Baskin Robbins.

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Running Through the Big Chill

Nature abhors a vacuum, in the physical sense, and so too, intellectually, do meteorologists, at least the TV variety. It’s no longer enough to say we’re in for some heavy snow or it’s going to be extremely cold; now, winter storms are being named (perhaps to give them equal billing with tropical storms and hurricanes), and most recently the term “Polar Vortex” has been burned (or perhaps more accurately frozen) into our collective consciousness.

No matter what you call it, runners everywhere, with the possible exception of those damnably lucky folks who live in California, have suffered through one of the toughest winters in recent memory, and we’re not even to the Ides of January yet. Multiple bouts of snow and ice storms, coupled with ridiculously frigid temperatures, have driven even the hardiest of runners inside to the shelter of gyms and health clubs and the completely appropriately named “dreadmill.” Continue reading

We’re still soft, in spite of JFK’s warnings

Today, November 22, is a date that, while perhaps not living in infamy, is nonetheless seared into the minds of Baby Boomers around the country. Even those of us whose memories of past events have begun to cloud a bit with the passage of time can remember exactly where we were and what we were doing that fateful day 50 years ago.

As the anniversary of the assassination of JFK hits the half century mark, news outlets everywhere are filled with retrospectives of every sort, and the sports media is no exception. Sports Illustrated ran a story on the NFL’s decision to play its games as scheduled, and almost every other sport has some sort of tie-in to the event.

ImageRunning is no exception, although its primary homage to Kennedy is longer lasting, having been held continuously since his death in 1963. Continue reading

Hitting a Raw Running Nerve

Ninety-nine percent of the time, blogs, like this one, simply evaporate into the electronic ether, and printed columns are repurposed to line bird cages or wrap fish (assuming they still sell and wrap fresh fish somewhere in America). But once in a blue moon one of them strikes a nerve so strongly it elicits hundreds, even thousands, of reactions, and even rebuttal blogs and columns, attacking the opinions originally expressed.

That was the case this week when Don Stafko wrote an essay in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “OK, You’re a Runner. Get Over It.”  Social media being what it is these days, the piece was quickly shared on Facebook and Twitter, and immediately began 26.2_sticker_500x310receiving reactions, most of them negative. Writers from the running segment of the journalistic world felt compelled to respond as well. Ultramarathoner and author Dane Rauschenberg was the first, followed in rapid succession by Mark Remy’s semi-humorous reaction in Runner’s World and a more serious piece by Mario Fraioli in Competitor. And while there is good deal of justification in the indignation all the writers and posters expressed, I have to say there was more than a grain of truth in what Mr. Stafko wrote. Allowing that the truth often hurts, perhaps that’s what put so many who read his piece on the extreme defensive. Continue reading

Off and running

If there’s one thing we, as runners, can take pride in (or be accused of) it’s persistence. No matter the conditions – snowdrifts up to the windows, thunder and lightning, or heat and humidity that would wilt the hardiest Panamanian – you’ll find at least one, and often many, of us out there on the roads, track or trails, putting in our daily miles.

No doubt this is the result of another attribute of virtually every runner: we’re creatures of habit, craving the routine our workout schedules create for us. Often, this virtue becomes a fault, like when we “train through” injury or illness when a day or two’s rest would be more beneficial. But, good or bad, hewing to a routine, and persisting even in the face of obstacles to doing so, tend to define us as runners.

It’s much the same way with writing. While the occasional burst of inspiration from a divine muse might inspire the odd book or article here or there, for the most part, writers are a lot like runners, achieving whatever measure of success we get through the often tedious process of sitting down at a keyboard and pecking away, whether it’s for a matter of minutes or months. And in doing so, the process often becomes more important than the product, just as the act of completing a 45-minute run creates its own intrinsic reward more gratifying, certainly in terms of immediacy, than any competitive accomplishments it might engender down the road. Continue reading