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Hi, my name is Eric and I'm addicted to running

I just got back from a nice run, giving a test run to a new pair of running shoes.

At this point, I am running on average 3 days and anywhere from 10 to 20 miles a week.

One year ago today, Jenna and I went out on our first day of the Couch to 5k training. I had not run in about 28 years and found it impossible to imagine I would really take to it again.

That first run was painful. Running for 60 seconds was difficult. I could not imagine getting to the end of the training and actually finishing a 5k race.

Fast forward to today, a short year later. The run I did today is what I now call my "short run", 3.24 miles (a 5k is 3.1). The transformation has been amazing. I log my runs, track my performance and improvement. I now run races frequently and find them joyful and enjoyable. I've become a runner.

When I first hit the 5k mark in July, I was running at about a 10 minutes/mile pace. Three weeks ago, I finished a 4 mile race in an average pace of 7:49/mile, last week I finished a 10k with a 8:14/mile pace.

If you had told me a year ago that today I would be looking forward to my 9th race of the year, which will qualify me for a guaranteed spot in the 2013 NYC Marathon. I'd have wondered what you were smoking.

I used to think that everyone that was athletic was an overly competitive jerk, what I found at races was a shock. People are running against their own Personal Record and at the same time being amazingly supportive of other runners. Everyone wants everyone to win, and since we're all running against ourselves, everyone can win. What other sport has so many people come out to cheer for thousands of people with no chance in hell of being 1st? What other sport even has the concept of Personal Records? The question you hear after a race is not "did you win?" but "did you PR?"

One of the great joys that us newbies get to enjoy is being able to PR frequently. Especially for us "age groupers" (those over 30 who's only hope is to be first in our age group, not first in the race), after a while the idea of getting faster is just not in sync with reality so it's important to enjoy the thrill of beating your own best time wile you can.

After I finish qualifying for the marathon, I'll slow down a bit and start to focus on a long-term training program. Maybe I'll also try to convince Jenna to give it another try -- she hurt herself 2/3 through the training last summer.

The next big milestones for me will be the NYRR Bronx 10 mile race, which will go past my mom's childhood apartment; and then Grete's Great Gallop, a half marathon in Central Park named for one of the greatest women runners to ever win the NYC Marathon.

Maybe I'll start blogging more about running over the next 18 months as I prepare for the marathon. Then again, maybe I'll be too busy running.

It's about more than just the miles

This weekend I'll be running the NYRR 5-Borough Series race in the Bronx. It's a 10 mile race, my longest yet and a big milestone on my way towards the 2013 marathon.

As I've written about on my blog in the past, I started running and racing again in 2011 after a 29 year haitus.

I'm a mid-distance guy, I really love the 5k-10k distance. In some ways, I think I'm insane for having started down a long training path towards 26.2 miles. In some ways, I think that is exactly what is keeping me sane.

When my mom died in March, thinking of running the marathon as a fundraiser for the Alzheimer's Association helped me to start working through the grief. Every run was a way of taking time to think about her.

I could have run the marathon this year with the Alzheimer's Association's "Team Run to Remember", but since I did not get into the race via the lottery in order to do so I would have had to commit to raise over $3,000. That felt like a huge strain on my already strained brain; I could not handle yet another job. Also, it felt dishonest -- like I was just buying my way to the starting line.

The New York Road Runners has another way in, and I was already most of the way to completing the 9 necessary races. This also meant I had to wait an extra year, which seemed like a good thing. I did not want to push myself too far too fast. Now that I'm back at it, I want to keep running for a long long time.

At this point, I've finished the 9 races and 1 volunteer shift and the only thing between me and the 2013 NYC Marathon starting line is 14 months of training.

Since I have my own ticket to the fun for next year's marathon, doing the fundraising for the Alzheimer's Association will also be easier (they ask for a much lower commitment from runners with their own spot) and will feel more like genuine fundraising and not me asking other people to pay my way into the race.

My goal was modified -- this year I'd do a half marathon and see how it went.

Since my mom was born and bred in the Bronx, and my grandfather's store, which I have some great youthful memories of, was only a few blocks from the course of the past few years, I decided to do the NYRR 5 Borough Series Bronx Half Marathon. I thought that race would be the right way to combine my training and my desire to have my running connect me to my mom and the process of grieving. Then the NYRR went and changed the 5 half marathon race series into a series of mixed distance races.

As a result, this fall's race season has two milestones. My first 10 mile race this Sunday and my first half marathon on October 14th in Central Park. The 1/2 marathon is named for Grete Waitz, a woman who was a powerful leader in a male-centric community and who left behind more than she found as a result years of hard work and advocacy. That also feels right when I think of this as a tribute to my mom.

So, here goes -- 10 miles, most of it on the Grand Concourse which was where my mom spent so much of her time from the day she was born until after she got married. I hope to have some friendly ghosts joining me along the race course.

Mismanagement Mary must step down

The cancellation of the NY Marathon has become a huge story and a giant pile of shit. Runners in NYC have been damaged by how this was handled. Once again NYRR steps in a mess of their own making.

The problem was not the decision but the timing and lack of ability to communicate; the problem was not what they did but how they did it; the problem is the lack of any sense of connection to the community.

When I showed up at the expo on Thursday, having walked there from the blackout zone, to find not one outlet available for blacked out New Yorkers to charge their phones, it was clear that NYRR had not given any thought to the storm's impact on us, the members/New Yorkers. The continued statements that the marathon would not have diverted any resources or in any way hampered relief efforts underscores that disconnect.

Now that the race has been cancelled (and it should have been cancelled that's the only thing they did right in this entire mess), NYRR should be taking an active role in organizing runners to assist those in need instead of just saying "come to the expo, buy crap and donate it." Instead, other than badly worded emails that further dig them into a hole, there is radio silence from the NYRR leadership. (if you are looking for ways to help, there is a rather comprehensive list of grassroots groups that need help online at https://docs.google.com/document/d/13siHiBucoILQs6Pmdk0Ew2K9Oi7ujblN4OjQ... )

Once again, there is a failure of leadership and communication. Mary Wittenberg is not a leader or organizer, she might be in charge but she is not a leader.

An effective leader would have told everyone before the storm that she would do everything possible to make sure the race happened but also given clear warning that there was a good chance it would not, not build unrealistic expectations that it would for certain happen.

Then as soon as the magnitude of destruction was known, an effective leader would have stated clearly and in a timely way that there was no way for the race to continue, allowing out of town travelers to change their plans.

An effective leader would have seen that it was a no win situation and taken the lead and communicated effectively to minimize the damage to the organization, not waited for the last minute when there was already a large public outcry.

At that moment, NYRR should have taken an active role in connecting runners with local organizations in need of volunteers. That would have left fewer people upset and would have raised the image of runners in the eyes of all New Yorkers.

When the race was finally cancelled, the communication should have contained some level of apology for not acting faster. It should have taken responsibility, not shifted blame to "the media."

Instead she took a path that has everyone upset and has made runners look like a bunch of self-important privileged whiners.

I hope it has become clear to all that it is time for a change at NYRR. Mismanagement Mary needs to step down for the good of the New York City running community.

slightly redundant update, Nov 9
I posted this to the NYRR facebook page and a few people contacted me privately and suggested I add it to this rant, so here you go.


It seems to me that the NYRR has lost its way. Under Mary's leadership it has forgotten what it is to be a membership organization. It has become more centralized; members and running clubs that used to have a voice are now just paying money for a discount on races.

Part of this is reflected in the focus on the marathon. The NYRR propaganda now states that "everything else is just a warmup for the marathon."

That's insulting to us middle distance runners. That's insulting to the folks that run the other races because we love them. It shows that the entire focus of the organization has become the Marathon, the one big money maker and high profile race.

Once, sponsors were sought for races to facilitate the mission of the organization: to enhance the lives of runners in NYC. Now membership is sought so it can be sold to the sponsors (and sponsors are being sought not for individual races, but on a more large scale and generic way). It's like the NYRR has become facebook, we the members are the value that is sold to the sponsors for profit.

The NYRR is no longer for the runners; it's no longer a membership organization; it's now more of like a sporting goods store that has a discount club that you join to get a discount. A membership organization makes it decisions based on what's best for the membership as a whole; a membership organization gives members a voice. NYRR is a corporation hiding behind the tax breaks of its non-profit status.

Mary should have been thinking about the image of the NYRR as a whole and not just making the marathon happen.

She should have given consideration to the NYRR members and other New Yorkers that were impacted by the storm, and thought about how they would be negatively impacted by thousands of people traveling to town for a race that was not going to happen. She should have understood the media image of tens of thousands of runners moving through blacked out areas, closing streets that could have been used by relief efforts, even if the Mayor was not. That's her job. She failed.

The race should have been cancelled much earlier. The idea that the NYRR keeps putting out there, that somehow the Post had whipped New Yorkers into a frenzy and that we were going to be attacked by hordes of angry thugs is just not in touch with reality.

Mismanagement Mary should have acted with the larger picture in mind, she did not. She should have been a leader in a time of crisis, she was not. She should do what's right and step down (since the dissenting members of the Board have been pushed out since she took over, there's no chance of her being fired by the Board, our only hope is appealing to her sense of what is right for the long term health of the organization as a whole.

The NYRR's lack of ability to communicate, and get ahead of this story and come out looking good is her fault. For that, and her other mismanagement moments in the past year, she should step down for the good of the organization.

Anyone know if Kathrine Switzer is looking for a job? I'd love to see her drafted to take over the helm at NYRR.

Bronx 10 mile race report

I had a hard time on Sunday.

I knew it was going to be a bad race. I'm at the end of the highest mileage two weeks in my marathon training plan. I still have my longest run ahead of me, but the overall weekly mileage starts to go down as of today.

The 18 miles I did two weeks ago was shockingly easy (NYRR's 18 Mile Tune-Up run in Central Park). I ran the entire time other than the stops to get fluids (and one stop to leave some behind at the portajohn). Some day I'll figure out how to drink and run but for now I've decided that walking while drinking is better than nearly drowning in gatorade (I just can not drink and run).

Two days before the Bronx 10 mile, I had another 18 scheduled. That one did not go so well. Had to walk for a half mile in the middle and I started to feel pain in parts that have not complained before. Part of that I attribute to the difference between running on my own and in a large crowd with fluid stations and people cheering. Still, it was a bit discouraging.

I was pretty surprised I was in any condition to run at all on Sunday. I might have just slept through the race, but it was the 4th of the 5 boro series races and finishing would leave me the option of a guaranteed entry to next year's NYC Half Marathon -- and compared to this full marathon training, I find training for halfs to be fun and without the dread that has accompanied my marathon training.

Anyway, back to the race day report.

Unfortunately, I did not realize that my friend Todd was running the race. I was expecting another friend to race but she did not show (I think because she's busy and recently married and had not trained enough). Turned out that Todd and I were in the same starting corral, probably about 5 or so feet from each other and never noticed. He started a bit ahead of me and finished many minutes ahead so we never had a chance to see each other on the course.

The first 3 miles were great and I was on target for a PR. I felt good, even as if I was holding back a bit -- then my knee started to hurt and I had to slow down until after the one serious hill at mile 6-7. After that my knee started to feel a bit better so I was able to pick up my pace a bit.

I finished in 1:31:47 according to my watch (about 7 or 8 minutes slower than last year's Bronx 10 mile).

I love that course, it passes close to the apartment my mom grew up in and a block or two away from the store my grandfather had. Totally felt like I was running with friendly ghosts at my side. Looking at the data from my watch, my best moments in the race were both proximate to the location of my grandfather's store, so maybe that was the case.