2014 Philadelphia Marathon

November 23, 2014
Philadelphia, PA
Event website

Oh my god what a day. Until Mile 21 I thought I was close to a personal record. It was a really good day, and like most good days I have (say, like the 2012 Wisconsin Marathon), I didn’t expect it.

Last week I ran the NYRR 60k, had a decent marathon split, but developed a problem with left heel. In my midweek run, after four miles, I had the same problem. I started today being nice to my foot thinking that a moderate pace would lessen impact. If I was really extra special nice to my foot, I wouldn’t have to walk 22 miles.

But, before I get to that, I need to rant about the stupid security. The extreme reaction of local police departments in the aftermath of Boston is not only ineffective, but it’s security theater. As with Baltimore, the organizers sent a series of stern emails about bag check and what’s allowed on the course.

The reality, however, is that once I walked through a checkpoint that didn’t even care I had a waist pack (I don’t even think they noticed), I was free to walk on the inside of the barriers but quite free to go up to the barriers and accept anything anyone decided to hand across. Indeed, vendors were doing this to move food and electrical equipment from one side of the street to the other through the “sterile” area.

And, the reality is still that the threat is not from the runners and it never has been. Whatever political fanatic or psychopath might want to make a scene, make a statement, or create carnage isn’t going to use a credit card to pay the race entry fee, show up at the expo to accept the bib, then go through security to be in the corrals. They can just walk up to the corral like the families and friends of the runners did.

This is seriously affecting my motivation to participate in the marathon but promote the idea of the marathon to other people. It’s a reaction to the moment; there are mostly great small events out there, but they don’t have the draw of Team in Training and the many other national organizations that get people off their couches and on the road. I’m conflicted, but in the moment it makes me sad. All sorts of public places and events have followed suit. I can’t take a laptop into Yankee Stadium (the Mets have no such rule). The Metropolitan Museum has similar problems because, as their chief of security told me, “events in Yemen”. That’s right. Events in Yemen decides what you can carry into a public museum in New York.

But let’s talk about running.

My corral lined up buy the steps of the Philadelphia Art Musuem—the same steps Rocky ran up


The Rocky statue even has a marathon shirt on. The statue was originally at the top of the stairs, where Rocky gave the arms up salute. Various people complained and the statue ended up where it is now, at ground level and away from the steps. I would have run up the steps myself as I waited for my start but all the security fences and cordons were in the way.


This race is huge; 30,000 runners! With few porta-potties (And none accessible from within the corrals that I saw), the first two miles were lined with people urinating by the side of the road. Even women were squatting rather than wait in line for the few porta-potties there were. It’s a perpetual race problem.

Not to pile on, but the organizers made the odd decision to put most of the porta potties right next to the road and to face the doors toward the course. This made people line up in the road, in the way of racers. This was a race already challenged with very narrow roads in the first half.


Somehow I was running with the 4:15 pacer and feeling really good about it. I was having to dial it back to stay with them. It was harder to stay with them as they wove through the field on the narrow streets.To gauge my effort, I breathe through my nose as many times as I can. If I can’t do it at least five times, I’m working too hard. I was hardly trying by that measure.

Around Mile 10 I looked at my watch for the first time (that I remember) and saw that my pace was 9:09. That’s a tad over a 4:00 marathon. I was feeling better and better, so I thought I must be on a really good average pace. Normally I have that field on average pace with no laps. A figured out after a couple miles that it was my mile pace, but the damage was done. I was starting to think about having a good run.


I was getting faster and faster though, but trying to conserve my effort. I was running sub 9 miles from Mile 13 to about Mile 18, all the while wondering it was going to all blow up. But then, I kept going through Mile 19, which led up a short dog leg to a turn around. I thought the flag at the start of the little out and back said “Mile 20″, so I was expecting something quick. It was “Mile 21″ but I was already committed to running back to that point, and I did.

But then my foot started to bother me. It’s an injury that I think can get much worse and I have one more marathon this year. To stretch out my foot, I took minute breaks at each mile marker starting at Mile 21, walking some of it backward. This made my foot feel better, but only for about a mile, when I’d take another break. I was running a really good pace between the breaks to make up for it though.


I end up about ten minutes off my record, a complete surprise to me. I ran a 7:35 trail marathon in Catalina two weeks ago and a 7:15 60k last weekend, so this must have seemed easy peasy. Without the gimpy foot, I could have been close. But, coulda woulda shoulda.

The crazy thing is that I didn’t run by or near any of the many people I know at this event. That’s unusual.

I have two weeks until I run my last marathon of the year in Delaware.

2014 NYRR 60k

November 15, 2014
New York, NY
Event website

A new distance and a new personal record! Today I ran 60k, and although it’s only 4k longer than the 56k I ran at Two Oceans, it seems like a big leap. Even the 50ks I ran this year seem puny in comparison for some reason. Read more »

Running on Catalina Island

November 7-10, 2014
Santa Catalina Island, California
Catalina website

I’m on Catalina Island to run the Catalina Eco Marathon for my California marathon for my 50 States goal, but I’m also excited about running through the one small town they have, Avalon. Everything else is big hills and dry terrain. I’d like to explore much more by foot, but I have that pesky marathon to complete. Read more »

2014 Catalina Eco Marathon

November 8, 2014
Santa Catalina Island, CA
Event website

What a tough day. The Catalina Eco Marathon might be the hardest marathon I’ve done, but it’s the one that I’ve been looking forward to for a couple of years. I grew up in the area and have visited these islands many time. Running a marathon on one would be quite the experience. Most of the islands are restricted by the National Park Service or the US Navy, but Catalina is more like a beach resort. Read more »

Running near ebola

When I first read the news that ebola had made it all the way to New York, I thought “of course it has”. Yesterday none of our governments had taken any sensible or reasonable measures to stop it.


What was shocking though, was that Craig Spencer, the local doctor who was treating ebola patients just days ago, lives one block from me and his three mile run since he got home goes along the same street I run on each night I’m in town. Can my simple goal of running a mile each day for a year get any weirder? Curiously, NYC health commissioner Dr. Mary Travis Bassett is reported to have noted that he must be “feeling quite well” to have gone for a run. Um, no. Just because someone goes running doesn’t mean they feel a particular way. It’s just lame bullshit to even make such an inference, and then only to build the case that he didn’t have enough information to not go bowling the night before.

I knew about the problem before he was actually confirmed to have the disease because his evacuation was in the news. On my way home I had to pass his street corner, then crowded with news vans and police, all of whom were completely unobstructed and unburdened by protective gear. They had no closed the street to pedestrian or vehicle traffic, which I thought odd, but there you have it. This is a deadly disease that we don’t know how to handle or treat, but go ahead and lick all the street poles you like.

When I went out running last night (I have to keep streaking!), the gaggle had calmed down, but there was a squad car parked in the middle of Broadway. The hard core news people were still there doing all the stuff they do when no one is looking, such as reapplying makeup and redoing hair. They try as hard as they can to get all the blood out of the turnip, but from the news I saw they had the same uninformative shots you expect from TV news. They showed the front of the building where he lived.

I’m glad that Governors Christie and Cuomo are stepping up to place some sensible quarantine procedures in place at the Port Authority airports, because no one else is. Whatever they were doing before didn’t keep ebola out of my neighborhood. Craig rode on the same trains I ride on, runs on the same roads, and uses a community supported agriculture spot down the street from me. This was a terrible disease with strict and complicated precautions in Africa, but somehow is harmless enough that you can just leave. It’s tougher to bring back a pineapple from Hawaii (and I’ve seen the beagle at O’Hare that busts you on any fruit you have).

Ebola in Guinea

Riverside Drive, and easy access to the Hudson, is the major reason I chose this neighborhood. He probably chose it because he works at Columbia Presbyterian, a mile north. I’m guessing he runs in that direction since it’s his work commute and there’s a great view of the Bridge when you get into the 160s.

I read that he is a marathon runner, so I looked for him in MarathonGuide. It looks like he ran a 3:43 in last year’s New York Marathon. I’m not sure it’s the same person, but that’s the only marathon result for his name and age. I’ve heard the rumors that this year’s New York Marathon might be shut down for fears of African runners bringing the disease over (and do you want to be at the same water station?), but I also know that most of the elites don’t live in Africa anymore.

I’m not worried about the disease, but I am worried about how much we really care about it and how we talk about it. Craig’s next door neighbor found out about the problem after Craig had already left the building because he saw the news crews, despite it being such a problem that he was evacuated in a hazmat suit. That just doesn’t add up.

All I’ve heard is that I have nothing to worry about, but the disease keeps getting closer to me despite all the assurances. Officials keep saying it’s highly unlikely anyone will catch it from him, but they evacuated him in full hazmat and with a big police escort. What they say and what they do are at odds. Watching the prepared statements stiltingly read by officials who avoid addressing the issues head on don’t do much either. No one wants to say they don’t know what to do next.

Ebola in Guinea

But then I start to do the math. The Daily Mail has a timeline starting on September 16 when he flew to Guinea. He was symptomatic on October 21-23. There’s a 21 day incubation period, so he was exposed around the first few days of the month, about two weeks into his stay in Guinea. Is it really dangerous or really hard to get? That the people infected in the US are trained medical personnel is highly suspicious, and from someone supposedly following strict protocols. That they are blasé enough about it to return to normal life (flying to Cleveland?) is even worse. The same Daily Mail article shows the NYPD putting their gloves, masks, and caution tape in the corner trash can. Maybe it’s harmless, but it’s stupid to do it on camera.

Hospitals are the worst places to be sick because doctors don’t wash their hands. I use to be a radiation worker and I’ve been trained in chemical warfare. Decon and transmission are serious issues. When I see the people at Chipotle wearing the dinky plastic gloves, I know it’s not about protecting me because everything I’m worried about is on the counters and the utensils, which are on the wrong sides of the gloves. With radiation it’s easy to know what you affected because a simple geiger counter will tell you. Most of the doctors I see don’t wash their hands before they see me. Most of them that are going to touch me do (that most of them don’t is a sad statement on medicine in the US), but the other ones are still touching chairs, clipboards, and many other things. That stuff stays in the room and can jump to the hands of a doctor who just washed his hands. And I’m not a germaphobe. Still, these are the people telling us not to worry, and the side of this problem that keeps getting infected.

Craig was in Guinea for less than a month. I’ve been in my share of disaster and war zones. I don’t know Craig’s story, but I’ve seen plenty of people parachute in, put in a little bit of work, then high tail it out when they get bored. They get the story of having worked the problem without really having to commit to it. People laud them as heroes and humanitarians, but forget about the people they left behind who can’t fly out when they are done There’s a name for this sort of thing: disaster or dark tourism.

I’m surprised that anyone would work in an epidemic area for less than a month. It seems to me that such a short stay is too much of a risk and costs too much to setup to be worth it. Taking a 21 day quarantine period must make no sense if you were only there for 26 days, but isn’t that big a deal if you are there for nine months. If that’s all the time you have, you probably shouldn’t go. The Doctors Without Borders general requirements states a minimum of 9 months for a rotation. So far I haven’t seen any reporter ask why he was there for such a short period.

How is it that Nigeria is the leading example of ebola response?. Does it matter that it’s ebola and not some other nasty disease we can’t handle? For what it’s worth, my favorite doctor is Nigerian. He knows his stuff and tells it like it is.

I also think about the 1972 outbreak of smallpox in Yugoslavia. Martial law and ring quarantines shut that noise down, but it also took a cruel dictator to do it.

Still, some news sources say he “self-quarantined”, which we now know to be false, and some have updated their stories to say “self-monitored”. For such a deadly disease, we’re going to rely on the victim to tell us he’s bleeding out? I read Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone when it came out, but then the author says he exaggerated.

None of this makes any sense to me still, but these are the things I think about on my runs now because I see that ebola is right in my neighborhood.

Training for running 5 Marathons in 5 Days

Now that I’ve done several five day series (Center of the Nation, Dust Bowl, Heartland, New England Challenge, and the Appalachian Series), I’ve had plenty of opportunity to give people advice on how to run these. I have scattered advice throughout the reports on the individual races, but I’ll collect it here. Read more »

2014 Baltimore Marathon

October 18, 2014
Baltimore, MD
Event website

My sixth marathon in eight days! After the Appalachian Series I was spent and injured. I had no goal other than finishing, and with no pressure to get to an airport afterward, I could take as long as I liked.

I came into this event with a bit of a poor attitude. The flood of pre-race organizer emails freaking out about security, course and time changes, the possibility of the World Series in Baltimore, and all sorts of other things filled me with dread about the clusterfuck this event would be. There were all sorts of paranoid warnings about bags and police requirements and restrictions, and the more I do the small marathons, the more I hate the big ones with their drama. Read more »

The Big Bridge Run

September 21, 2014
New York, NY

I accidentally ran about 30 miles yesterday. I didn’t mean to, but it happened. Running can be weird like that.

I had set out to run across the Henry Hudson Bridge into the Bronx and come back into Manhattan by the Broadway Bridge, perhaps running down the Harlem River to get back. I’ve had this goal to run all the New York Bridges in the single day and today was to be a scouting trip for that. Summer is over and the days are getting really short, so I need to finish up this goal, so I needed to figure out these paths. When it comes to actually accomplishing this goal, I don’t want to waste any time with a long route.

I hadn’t run more than five miles since my last marathon, at Victoria Falls at the end of June, but I have the Appalachian Series coming up in three weeks. I need to get back in shape. This would be my first long run to get ready for that, so I wasn’t going to go crazy. I need to get back into the mindset of long runs. Read more »

2014 NYRR Fifth Avenue Miler

Sep 13, 2014
New York, NY
Event website

I thought I was going to die with my intestines hanging out and dragging behind me. I’m not exaggerating that much as this has been the only run where my arms were shaking from the effort. There’s that line in The Bourne Identity where Matt Damon says “I can flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking”. That’s what happened to me today.

My goal was to beat 6:30, which I think I ran in the first mile of the NY Giants Run of Champions a couple months ago (where I averaged 6:47 over 5k), but I wanted the official result. So far this year I’ve set a personal record in every distance I’ve run (although I haven’t run a half marathon this year). Two years ago I ran this same race at 6:50, which was then the fastest I had ever run a mile. Read more »

Running in Zürich

September 2014
Zürich, Switzerland

After spending some time in Olten, I ended up in Zürich.

I saw a boardwalk along one of the canals and explored it, hoping it went somewhere interesting. It took a bit to find the access, but there are some stairs on Usteristrasse by the Judith-Gessner-Platz.


Read more »