Sunday, October 28, 2007

H runs the 2007 MCM

MCM. Unlike three weeks ago when it was 90 degree and humid at Chicago, the weather today was almost perfect for the running of another of the nation's premier marathons, the People's Marathon, the 32d Marine Corps Marathon. It's either the third or fourth largest marathon in the country. They know what they're doing.

This marathon, a scenic trip through the nation's capital, has never been cancelled. The Marines provided plenty of water for everyone. The police didn't deploy on the course and order runners to walk under threat of arrest. (Below: Does the marathon in your town have a view like this one that greeted today's runners?)

It was in the fifties and breezy for the 20,667 finishers. I waited on the 14th Street Bridge at MP 20 for a friend of mine, H, who was running her first marathon. I had offered to accompany her the last six miles. She wanted to run around a 4:00 (9:09 pace) marathon so I had been practicing running nine minute miles all week.

It's a lot harder to spot people as masses of faces pour past you than you might think. Last year I completely missed Bex when she ran by me at the same spot with A, who is 6-3, running next to her. How could you miss those two women running by you? Bex ran a 3:56:53 MCM last year, having been greatly helped by the accompaniment of A around the wind-blown and desolate Haines Point.

This year they added some hills. It seems they're always tinkering with the course but the core course, a beauteous run down the mall and by the Capitol, remains the same. I ran it in 2002, not very well (5:04:38), and it seemed a lot more crowded this year than what I remembered. There were 14,086 finishers back then. (Above: Old Glory on the 14th Street Bridge.)

H came by, a little off her desired pace. She was running steadily though, looking relaxed and strong. We burned a 9:12 running to MP 21. Off the bridge now, we went though the crowded streets of Crystal City, running a 9:25 mile, then a 9:30 mile. (Right: Running by the Lincoln Memorial in the 2002 MCM, my fourth marathon.)

H had worked hard all summer and fall, running according to schedule every week and keeping on her desired pace in her training runs, including a couple of 8:58 minutes-per-mile twenty milers, but she was hitting the wall now in the twenty fourth mile. She powered through it though, with a 9:59 mile followed by a 10:15 mile. Nice and steady. I ran a little bit of the last mile with her, then stepped off the course before I got penned in by the crowded finish zone. H finished with a really nice time of 4:07 and change. Nice job! (Below: H is on the left. She looks pretty good for MP 20, don't you think?)

If you haven't done the MCM, it's a must-do. There's a great spirit to this race, a great sense of community and excitement. You can have Chicago, although the spectators were terrific.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

An arresting encounter

It seems like all of my recent "encounter" posts involve the police. Here is the closest I think I ever came to getting hauled in while running.

I was running the route of the National Half Marathon with David shortly before its inaugural running. We left RFK and ran down the north side of Constitution Avenue, essentially, to the White House. There along the Ellipse we encountered a construction area where part of the broad open field leading up to the the back fence line of the White House was being landscaped. The sidewalk and parking lane of Constitution were blocked by a temporary chain link fence. A nearby sign read in bold letters, Sidewalk Closed, Use Other Side. (Below: The Ellipse. Constitution Avenue runs along the bottom of this picture, taken from atop the Washington Monument. You can see the National Christmas Tree at the top of the Ellipse)

We had just run five miles in forty-three minutes but we were too lazy to cross the six lanes of Constitution Avenue. Constitution is too busy a street to be running in a traffic lane.

There was a two-foot gap in the fence which led into the construction area. I squeezed through and David followed. This was not a good idea.

We ran along Constitution on the inside of the temporary construction fence. Ahead of us I could see a marked police unit swing out onto Constitution from where three or four cruisers typically sit blocking the entrance way of the road leading into the Ellipse. The road is closed to traffic but the Ellipse is open to pedestrians.

The squad car slowly cruised down Constitution and stopped at the point where we had entered the construction zone. Meanwhile we ran two more blocks and discovered we were in a dead-end. There was no space to squeeze back out of again. It didn't seem like the time to create an opening by shouldering aside one of the posts.

I could see the cop two blocks behind us waiting. I considered scaling the eight-foot high chain link fence like a gang member in West Side Story, but it's never a good idea to scale a fence near the White House. We retraced our steps and ran back out the original opening where, of course, the cop hailed us from his car.

He didn't stupidly ask us for our I.D.s, but he did ask if we knew how to read. He was brightly referring to the big Sidewalk Closed sign. We allowed as to how we could, in fact, read. He asked if we could read English. I decided contrition was the best approach here.

"Geez, officer, there's no way to get out of that work zone down there. Once you go through this entrance, you're stuck." I was pointing to the two-foot gap.

"That's not an entrance. Does that look like an entrance to you?"

"No, I guess not."

"And what does that sign say?"

"Cross to the other side." Hey, I passed fourth grade.


"Uh, I guess we'll be crossing the street?"

"Not here you won't. Do you see a crosswalk here?"

"No I don't."

"There's a crosswalk back there."

One block further back was a signal light with a crosswalk. The cop was grinning wickedly.

"Thank you sir." Shakin' the bush, boss.

While the officer watched, we trotted back a block, crossed in a crosswalk for the first time all year, after actually waiting for the light, and came back on the other sidewalk. We waved to him as we passed and he cheerily waved back. Everyone was smiling big, toothy grins. The better to mutter imprecations under our breaths.

Twenty minutes later we came back the other way as we headed towards the waterfront and SE. The two-foot gap in the temporary fence had been pushed shut.

Friday, October 26, 2007

My ridiculous encounter

A couple of years ago, I was out for a noontime run on a hot summer day in DC. Sweat was pouring off of me. I was wearing my Asics, socks and running shorts.

I ran across the Mall and down 14th Street. To reach the Tidal Basin to run, I decided to cut through to 15th Street on the Holocaust Museum walkway between that somber edifice and the Forest Service building. The Forest Service are the folks with the friendly Smokey the Bear mascot.

I started to cut across a tiny corner of the USDA parking lot, which is the Forest Service's umbrella agency. The brick-paved footpath skirting the north end of the Holocaust Museum was mere feet away.

"Hey, you! Stop!"

Stupidly, I stopped. I was fifteen feet into the Forest Service's domain, their parking lot, and ten feet from the freedom of the Holocaust Museum's bench-lined pathway.

A guard came out of the little gate-building which controlled vehicular access to the little parking lot. He was armed.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to get to 15th Street." I waved to the nearby footpath.

"You can't be here. Let's see some I.D." Barney's thumbs were hooked into his Sam Browne belt. A second guard materialized next to him. Fife's thumbs were hooked into his Sam Browne belt.

I was stumped. Droplets of sweat spattered to the ground beneath me. I mentally surveyed myself, a male runner on a hot steamy day. Let's see, I.D., back at the security desk of my agency awaiting my return. Running shorts, no pockets. Socks, nothing in them. Running shoes, well maybe...

"Here," I offered, pointing to the Runner's I.D. tag laced into my right Asic. "That says who I am."

The guard seemed interested. I lifted my foot a couple of feet and showed him the custom tag on my shoe. My name was printed on it, along with five other lines of text. The name and phone number of my sister in Ohio. The name of a marathon these particular shoes had been through, followed by a time and a date. The initials of my agency with the place designation of DC. A line nodding to my estranged son Danny.

The guard leaned over to read the tiny print. The second guard watched the first guard watch my shoe. If I'd a had a weapon, I could have taken them both right then.

"Who are you, Peter or Danny? Or Kate?"

"I'm Peter. The one on top." The conversation was absolutely inane.

Barney straightened up and looked into my face. Fife followed his cue and his eyes bored into mine.

Maybe they were simulatedly practicing matching a real photo I.D. with face recognition technique. Or maybe hundreds of glanced-at photos of Al Qaeda fighters were rapidly whirring through their minds as they stared at me.

"Okay, you can go. Don't you be coming through here again though."

There is one parking lot in DC that I know is really safe.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A strange encounter

Writing yesterday's post reminded me of one of my favorite running incidents, which happened five years ago. I remember exactly when it happened because my kids were still visiting me then, still affording me status as a human being. (They don't acknowledge my existence now. It's a divorce thing that happens to mostly or only guys, called parental alienation.)

I was out running in bitter cold at 3 in the morning on the main street of my town when I ran by a really strange guy. All of my ex-cop's instincts went onto full alert instantly as I ran towards him.

It was about 20 degrees out and raw, yet he was only wearing blue jeans, biker boots and a tight white t-shirt. I don't remember now whether he actually had a pack of cigarettes rolled up in one of his sleeves. His black hair was slicked back pompadour style.

He was striding down the middle of the sidewalk, marching straight ahead without so much as a glance at me. I watched him carefully as I ran past. I refused to succumb to my fears and run across the street before I went by him. Off down the sidewalk he strode at 3 am as though he was late for a lunch appointment.

I scrutinized the nearby Seven-Eleven as I ran by. It looked normal, and through the window I could see the clerk moving about inside. Mentally shrugging, I ran on and turned down a minor artery.

Six blocks later I ran by a blacked-out stationary police car at an intersection. I don't usually bother with the town police, not even early in the morning, not even to wave to them (thanks for those two speeding tickets, guys), but this time I carefully approached the idling cruiser and paused a few feet away. The woman cop rolled down her window to see what I wanted.

"Excuse me, officer, but I saw something that I thought I should tell you about. I ran by a guy about ten minutes ago who was wearing only pants and an undershirt. It's so cold out, you know, that it was strange."

Her hard look of wariness (what, do I have the information sign lit up again?) changed to one of interest. "We've been looking for that guy! Where did you see him exactly?"

"Headed westbound on the north side of Main at West. Across from the Seven-Eleven."

She rolled up her window without a further word and got on the radio. A moment later she roared off towards Main Street, her overhead lights activated. I watched her go, then continued on, marveling at the scenarios that can unfold sometimes when you run. Even at 3 am.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The nighttime encounter

The policeman peered through the windshield of his marked unit at the man in the parking lot who was undressing in public in the dark. It was 8 pm, the cop was just coming on duty, and he had barely climbed into his squad car, parked in the town hall lot, when a man had emerged from a pickup truck parked directly across the travel lane from him, twenty feet away.

The man threw down the tailgate of the truck and sat on it. He pulled off his shoes and peeled off his socks. A few people from an exercise class at the nearby community center milled about in the parking lot.

Standing on the pavement in his bare feet, the man unbuttoned his dress shirt and shrugged it off. Was he wearing anything underneath? It was hard to tell in the gloom but it seemed he was wearing a cream colored t-shirt with writing on it.

The man unbuckled his belt and undid his trouser button. Unzipping his fly, he opened his pants. The policeman's hand tightened on the car door as he stared hard through the night.

The man dropped his trousers and stepped out of them. The policeman started to open his car door. Did the man have on anything covering his lower extremities? Was that a shadow or something form-fitting and dark?

The cop’s hand came back off the door handle. The man was wearing black Lycra shorts underneath high-cut black running shorts. The man went to the cab of his truck, threw his discarded clothing inside and reached for something. He emerged with a yoga mat, wheeled about on his bare feet and strode away towards the community center.

The cop ran the plate to see where this male yoga practitioner lived, then fired up his cruiser and swung out into the street for the start of his shift. Yep, the guy lived in town all right. The cop made a mental note to drive by the address later and check out this guy’s house.

[My brother believes I dislike authority. I don’t know about that, but I do firmly believe in questioning authority. When I saw the cop watching me last night as I sat in my parked car preparing to go to yoga class, I just had to get out of my vehicle and get ready in front of him. Sort of a statement. I wasn't doing anything wrong. Funny thing is, I used to be a cop. Now I’m a lawyer. Sigh. If you’re ever in danger and need help fast, go find a cop because a cop will act swiftly to resolve the situation. On the other hand, a lawyer will be worse than useless.

Last night was only my second yoga class in the last six months. It felt so good to be back at it!]

Monday, October 15, 2007

The DCRRC Ten-Mile Program

I am proud of them all.

I directed my running club’s twelve-week Ten-Mile Group (TMG) Training Program this year. The goal race was the Army 10-Mile Race, which is or was North America’s largest ten-mile road race. This year the number of registrants was capped at 26,000.

You could read all about the TMG training on the program’s blog. It’s pretty dry reading because I did all of the posting except for once when Not Born to Run posted (Jeanne was a coach in the program).

The program was started a few years back by Kristin, an accomplished woman who was recognized for her efforts by the club as its volunteer of the year two years ago. An honor well deserved.

(Kristin, waving, leads a group of runners from the 10K Group in the spring of 2007 along the C&O Canal Towpath near Fletcher's Boathouse.) My participation in the program in the summer of 2005, which was my first foray into group running, turned my running around and thoroughly revived it after it had gone stale. As a result, my marathon time went from 4:16 to 3:53 and my 5K time, which had gotten into the 25s, went back down into the 22s for awhile.

Anywho, while I was off crawling over the mean streets of Chicago in record heat on the Infamous Sunday of October 7, 2007, my charges were running the streets of the District during the Army 10-Miler in equally hot temperatures. It was deja vu all over again. They ran out of water. Runners were seen filling their bottles from the water basin by the Capitol while pigeons splashed a few feet away. Other runners begged water from spectators or bought it from stores along the route. (Always always carry a twenty during ANY race.) There was one fatality. Except that at Army, they seem to be acknowledging some mistakes and vowing to fix them, unlike at Chicago.

This year’s TMG Program started on July 14th in front of the Lincoln Memorial with a run of three miles. The next week’s run of three miles went around the Tidal Basin by the Jefferson Memorial, and unbeknownst to anyone, a photographer memorialized it for the periodical Cooking Light, which published it in a full-page spread in its October issue (on newsstands now). Next time you're in Borders, check it out on page 75. (Yes, that’s me, the one with the hat.)

(Have you seen this magazine?) As an aside, you might wonder how I, a man, ever knew that anything was in Cooking Light. I might have lived the rest of my life in ignorance of my fame if not for the keen eyes of two program members. You see, of the 59 paid TMG participants, 51 are women. Thanks Jennifer and Hallie! BTW, if you need an extra copy of this issue, I have a few to spare.

I digress. Subsequent program meeting points included Fletcher’s Boathouse, Ronald Reagan Airport and Haines Point. We ran over bridges, by the White House, past war memorials and around the Capitol. We eventually built up to eleven miles. The coaches, Jeannie, Kristin, Linda, Matt and NBTR, all did a terrific job.

I think Matt must have been an Army Ranger because in the best tradition of Leave No Runner Behind, he would come in with (most of) the fast group and then regularly slip away to find the rest of his group. Kristin often ran to the meeting point and home again to build up her mileage base for Chicago. You know, the race that was cancelled while she and practically everyone else were out on the course! Linda smoked the Army course with the best woman's time in the program (second best overall). NBTR showed us all what she thought of our slow mileage buildup by running a half-marathon midway through the program. Jeannie amazed us all by actually having her group stretch before and after every single run. I tried to lead her group once when she was away and I was told by its members that they were going to run her route and not my route. I like loyalty.

Twenty-nine athletes from the program completed Army despite the harsh conditions and the lack of water. Their times were terrific, ranging from 1:17:06 (Scott) to over two hours. It was a tremendous achievement just to finish. Kudos to them, and to Army, which unlike Chicago, admitted mistakes, actually apologized and vowed to get better.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Running after Chicago

Chicago got bad reviews. I'm back to running after the debacle of Chicago.

Thank God I only do marathons once because I don't ever want to go back there to run that marathon again. Here's what the director of the Chicago Marathon had to say to us about our "experience."

Dear Runners,

For 17 years I have been honored to serve as Executive Race Director of The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, a race steeped in a 30-year tradition of providing the ultimate marathon experience for runners.

The record high temperatures and humidity at Sunday’s race made for a challenging day for marathoners. The conditions on Sunday presented me with the single most difficult decision I have ever made as race director. While that was a frustration to many, I stand behind the decision to end the race early– it was a necessary safety measure. However, I also recognize that because of the conditions and my decision, many of our runners did not have the experience they trained for and expected.

As an organization dedicated to providing the very best experience in the industry, the results have left us disappointed as well. Our team has spent the last several days reviewing the details and we are listening to runners, staff and volunteers. Rest assured that we take the day’s events - and your comments - seriously.

We are reviewing all details and feedback as we plan to continue the tradition of our race in 2008 and beyond. Offering the best experience possible to runners always has been our priority and it remains a commitment of the highest importance.

My personal gratitude goes to each of you, as well as to staff and volunteers, for participating in the race this year. I share in your disappointment, if you did not have the experience you expected.

I certainly hope to be able to greet you at our finish line in the years ahead, in the grand fashion that has characterized The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon for so many years.


Carey Pinkowski
Executive Race Director

There's a lot of the "I" word in there from Mr. Pinkowski. Do you see a hint of an apology? A scintilla of a mea culpa? Any indication that they might have screwed up? Any word that they're going to do better next time? Any offer of a future consideration? I don't.

The system broke down due to high but predictable water consumption rates by runners and there was no means to get fluids to the back-end runners, who are the very lifeblood of this World Marathon Majors race. These runners, paying their hefty entry fees, create the huge cash pot that fuels the enormously lucrative World Majors standings from which Chicago benefits so much. Past Olympic Marathon champion Frank Shorter wrote an article which is a much better elucidation on what happened at Chicago, with a blueprint for lessons to be learned from it.

Chicago is a great city. On the other hand, Chicago was a great place to visit, its people were fabulous (like New Yorkers, except they'll actually stop, listen and answer your questions--polite midwesterners, you know) and the crowd support for its great run was stupendous. Yay for Chicagoans! They rose to the occasion. As I travelled through the battle zone that was the back end of the Chicago Marathon (prone bodies scattered about), every downed runner I saw was being attended to by somebody.

My virtual 5K. But I haven't come to bury Caesar. After literally limping out of Chicago a week ago with my worst time in my last half-dozen marathons, watching four toenails turn a deep ebony and another four turn various shades of mottled purple, I ran a race today. It was what I call a virtual race, a run in my location that equates in time, distance and topography to a race being held elsewhere. Take your pick, I either ran the new course at the Maryland Race for the Cure 5K in Hunt Valley, MD (north of Baltimore), or the 5K version of the Second Annual Phedippidations World Wide Half Marathon.

RFTC5Ks. I enjoy doing Race for the Cure 5Ks around the country. I have done them in DC, Baltimore, Denver, Columbus, Minneapolis, Princeton, New York, Philadelphia and Richmond. I didn't go to this year's Maryland RFTC because I would have had to get up at 4 am to drive there and gas would have cost me $20 (thanks W for war and high gasoline prices) on top of the $40 entry fee. Sixty dollars for an ugly t-shirt.

Charlie. My good running friend Charlie (I'll actually run with him someday soon because I have recurring business in Denver currently) introduced me to the notion of the Phedippidations World Wide Half Marathon which is being "run" this weekend. It has a 5K component. I can't log onto the race's site for some reason but I get the point.

Running in Denver. As recovery after my marathon last Sunday, I ran a mile on Tuesday and was pleased to bring it in under eight minutes (7:56). On Wednesday I was in Denver taking depositions and I cleared my head after an all day session of sparring with lawyers (just poke me in the eye with that sharp stick now) by running a nice easy three miles at a ten-minute pace along the Platte River with my co-counsel L. I got stuck in Denver an extra night because I missed my plane out of there on Thursday (DIA is a long way from Denver) but yesterday morning I ran another mile and a half at a 7:30 pace. I was feeling much better than during the first few miles of the marathon because my cold is almost all gone now.

The race. I figure the Maryland RFTC must be flat. The Phedippidations race, being a virtual creation in the first case, is anything I want it to be. How about flat? At 9 am sharp I set off from the end of my driveway and ran up to the W&OD Trail. There I pushed the pace down its straight and flat length to the turnaround point at 11:24. I managed a negative split of 11:16 on the return because some of the last quarter mile is sort of downhill. 22:40 for my virtual 5K. It felt great.

Susan. But before anyone says, Great Job (any time under 23:00 is a great time for me, my PR is 21:58 set in 2001), I think my "course" might be a little short. But still I was really working hard, thinking of Elijah and his battles as I tired. My good running friend Susan acquainted me with Elijah's courage (perhaps you know that my life is a search for heroes. Elijah is one). I know I had a good hard run.

I come to bury Chicago, not to praise it. As for Chicago, I want to forget it. I'll tell you this fact. Running long while on antibiotics is no fun.

Monday, October 8, 2007

A 26.2 mile fun run.

My 2007 Chicago Marathon. The Down & Dirty: 4:34:06.

No place, because it was a Fun Run by the time I finished.

At least I finished. Many runners were swept off the course when race officials cancelled the race during its fourth hour due to record heat. It was 88 degrees and humid (and sunny) two and a half hours into the race. One runner tragically died and over three hundred were sent to the hospital during the race.

My running buddy A, who wasn't running due to injury, picked me up two miles out and ran me in. Otherwise my time would have been a lot worse. It was bad. I was glad to finish. Chicago is flat but the last hill right at MP 26 is an ass-kicker. Heck, Chicago kicked my ass. But I finished and I'm safe.

There's lots more that I can tell you later about my trip to Chicago.

Thanks to all of you who were concerned and checked afterwards on my status.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


I was feelin' so bad, I asked my family doctor just what I had,
I said, Doctor, (Doctor) Mr. M.D., (Doctor)
Now can you tell me, tell me, tell me, what's ailin' me?" (Doctor)

He said, Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, (Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
Yes, indeed, all you really need... 250MG Zithromax for five days.

I feel better already.

This website details what you should avoid while taking Zithromax, including exposure to sunlight. I sure hope Sunday, when I run the Chicago Marathon, is a cloudy day.

The forecast for Sunday in Chicago is continued unseasonably warm and humid. Highs may reach or exceed the record of 86 (1947). Incoming clouds late. High of 86, low of 67.

Uh-oh. I don't do so well in hot.

But my friend Dori dispensed some wisdom in her last post. A positive outlook results in a positive outcome. Well stated!

I've had plenty of support as I've gotten ready to run Chicago for a worthy cause. Through the largess of supporters (thanks Not Born To Run!) of my effort, I have met my goal of raising money to hopefully make a difference in the lives of some persons in East Africa who are less fortunate then me.

I will be running this race in appreciation of the contributions of Ashley, Beth, David, Hallie, Jack, Jeanne, Rhea, Rich and Susie to this worthy cause. My friend Ashley is injured and I am running the race in appreciation of all the generous people who contributed to her fund-raising effort as well.

See you at the finish line in Chicago!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Chicago is in...

...four days. Yikes!

Currently I am sick. I have a terrible head cold. I ran five miles today and it exhausted me. I couldn't breathe. All the discharge from my sinuses ran down my throat. I bubbled as I ran along.

I have a doctor's visit scheduled for tomorrow.

Last week I was in Colorado on an exhausting series of depositions in a contentious case. Opposing counsel is, well, I'll be charitable and say nothing. Opposing counsel mentioned the nuclear sanction (a bogus threat) of Rule 11. That's how the case is being defended.

Flying back from Denver on Friday, when the plane set down at Dulles at midnight, I thought one of my ear drums was going to burst. My head was so stuffy I couldn't make my ear pop no matter what I did.

I'm getting ready to fly back to Denver next week for more depositions. Oh, that's after I fly to Chicago on the day after tomorrow to run a marathon.

In the last ten days, I have run eleven miles.

This is how I currently feel about running in the upcoming marathon in the city on the lake.

Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need of
some stranger's hand
In a desperate land

Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain
There's danger on the edge of town
Ride the king's highway
Weird scenes inside the goldmine
Ride the highway West baby

Ride the snake
Ride the snake
To the lake
To the lake

The ancient lake baby
The snake is long
Seven miles
Ride the snake

He's old
And his skin is cold
The west is the best
The west is the best
Get here and we'll do the rest

The blue bus is calling us
The blue bus is calling us
Driver, where you taking us?

I think I'm freaking out. Do you suppose Jim Morrison knew what it was like to run a marathon?