Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Take a day off!

One day. What a difference one day makes.

My left ankle has been tender for awhile now. I woke up on Monday with it sore from my weekend training, which was a diminished workload anyway.

On Saturday I ran seven miles with my 10K Group Training Program at a ten-minutes-per-mile pace. That program’s 10K race is only three weeks away and since I was one of only two coaches who showed up, I took half the runners out.

On Sunday I practiced running at an 8:30-minutes-per-mile pace, the target pace I set for the upcoming marathon which I recently signed up for. I averaged 8:09 for the first five miles, not very close to an 8:30 pace you might say, but for those of us who still don’t have a Garmin, we have to just run by feel on the trail from one milepost to another, and see where we’re at on the watch when we arrive. I then ran the sixth mile in 7:38 to practice bearing down at the end.

Monday my ankle was suffering so I "just" ran a mile, at what I hoped was an easy 8-minute pace (7:51). Tuesday morning I lay in bed wiggling my ankle and I decided to take a day off from running, a decision I second-guessed all day long. I had put together a team for my agency for a 3-mile race coming up the next morning (today), the ACLI Capital Challenge, and my ankle was not feeling good all day long yesterday.

This morning though, my ankle felt much better after a full day of rest. Imagine that! (Right: A, M and G at the 2006 ACLI Capital Challenge 3-Mile Race in Anacostia Park in SE. The race t-shirts were yellow that year. After running a 21:22, M didn't run the next year.)

I slipped on my heavy ankle brace and went off to the 8 am race, feeling that perhaps I wouldn’t let the team down this year. It was a beautiful morning to run, cool, breezy and sunny, with no humidity. (Left: My agency's 2007 team. The race t-shirts were green last year. After running a 21:09, A departed the agency.)

I was third on my team of five, finishing over three minutes behind my agency’s rock star, G, and two minutes behind M, who always beats me but who has been absolutely killing me lately at the monthly noontime Tidal Basin 3K race. However, I achieved my personal gold standard because I hit every one of my pre-race goals. I PR’ed, broke 22 minutes for the distance, got my 3-mile PR faster than my 5K PR and beat my doppelganger Peter, who had beaten me the prior two years. I’ll give you a race report after the official results go up.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Magnificent Menace

Sunshine was glorying in the return of outdoor running weather in Minnesota after a long hard winter (lots of posts about indoor tracks) and posting a pleasing picture of a bird in the wild (check this one out in Cindy's backyard) when she raised the subject of bicyclists who don't signal. This is reminiscent of the runners wearing headphones debate, endless, subtly acrimonious and without resolution (Safe within my womb, I touch no one, And no one touches me).

She said that in the Twin Cities, most riders call out as they approach although a few do not. Charlie commented that "[m]any is the time my heart has picked up when a bicycle passes me swiftly without warning." Oh yeah. This to me is a more interesting debate than the silly headphone controversy (I've built walls, A fortress deep and mighty, That none may penetrate).

(I am a Rock, I am an Island.)

In the DC area on its many trails, it seems to me that most bicyclists race by without an On Your Left warning, while a few call out or ring a bell. (How hard is it to ring a bell?)

I try to say Thank You to the ones who signal, to encourage the practice and also because I truly appreciate knowing what is going on around me. Being run into by a bicyclist is a danger that I assess as I run, like watching out for potholes, avoiding free-ranging dogs and keeping aware through my senses of traffic around me (cars are noisy, bicycles are quiet and can be silent).

I have had a biker friend earnestly tell me that bicyclists think it is annoying to runners for them to constantly call out so they don't. Bicyclists just don't know, really, what it is like to be startled by a metal kite flashing by suddenly within a foot or two at 28 MPH with 150 pounds atop it providing force. (Bicyclists riding on Haines Point earlier this month. Runners like to watch out very carefully for swift and powerful moving forces like these.)

Being blindsided by a bicycle would be catastrophic. Time off from running could be the best outcome. Would you take a dare, even for a lot of money, and let a catapult sling a 150 pound bag of sand into your back at 28 MPH? It could kill you.

Bicyclists approaching from behind who don't sing out are putting the runner's protection wholly within their own hands. They are taking the runner out of the overall safety equation. They are allowing the possibility of the runner blindly committing some inadvertent mis-step, and leaving only themselves with the ability to exercise any control over the situation. This is arrogance, in my opinion.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What is the longest word in the English language?

Smiles. It has a mile between the S's.

An old injury reared its head recently--my left ankle swelled up and started hurting, the one I sprained last summer when I stepped in a hole while training for the Chicago Fun Run. I think its recurrence is from overuse, as I put in a 40 mile week followed by (for the first time ever for me) a 50 mile week.

Over the course of several consecutive weekends, I had put together long runs of 13.1, 20, 15 and 16.2 miles. Suddenly I woke up and couldn't walk without pain, much less run a marathon on the suddenly bum-again ankle. So I have been laying off of it.

I started wearing a heavy ankle brace and running miles. As in solitary miles. As in speed work.

I have also been attending yoga classes, at the community center, Which is exactly a mile from my house. How handy.

Tuesday I ran to yoga class at a comfortable lope, in what I hoped was an eight-minutes-per-mile pace. In fact it was 7:45. I ran home afterwards, all relaxed from the savasana, in 7:24.

Wednesday my ankle was a little swollen but it also felt a little bit better. So I attended my club's weekly track workout. The schedule called for four one-mile repeats, with a brief recovery run between each mile, on the nearby hilly Custis Trail (there was a lacrosse game in progress at the high school so the track was closed). I cut down the warmup, recovery and cooldown runs to save mileage. My splits were 7:26, 7:40, 7:49 and 7:51. No negative splits there!

Today I ran the mile to yoga in 7:17. Returning home all warmed up from an hour of stretching, I pushed it and turned the mile in 6:54.

I don't feel bad about causing my malady's onset, because how do you prepare for a marathon without running long, often? Lots of people run 50 miles per week while getting ready for marathons.

My injury is getting better. I couldn't run a marathon right now but I hope to be able to soon. I'm taking it one day at a time, one mile at a time.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Tidal Basin 3K

On Wednesday I went down to the Tidal Basin at noon to run in the free, monthly 3K race held the third Wednesday of every month. This race has been run consecutively since April 1974.

It's a short, furious sprint around the small body of water that is the Tidal Basin, with the FDR Memorial on one side and the Jefferson Memorial on the other. Soon a small park in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be added to it. (Right: The "hill" on the 3K course.)

The run is very scenic. Best of all is when this horde of dashing men and women suddenly descends upon strolling tourists, especially in the beginning when the pack of runners is still tight. Their eyes tend to get big and they invariably freeze in place, usually with their arms wrapped protectively around their torsos, until the mad pack is past.

I have run this race in 72 of the last 81 months. This month I ran a 12:59 (6:58) for the 1.86 mile distance, which is pleasing since breaking 13 minutes is my benchmark of a good race. I hadn't done that in a year. My co-worker M was complaining about feeling sick and saying he might have to drop out but he threw down an 11:48 (6:20). I should be so sick.

This is the 3-mile race we're getting ready for later this month.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The SunTrust National Marathon Newsletter

I received the SunTrust National Marathon Newsletter in my email box yesterday. Intending to delete it, I opened it and glanced at it.

It headlined 2008 as a record breaking year for the three-year old race, and posted a picture of local legend Michael Wardian threepeating in a course record time of 2:24:57. It listed both half-marathon winners as setting course records, Ezkyas Sisay in 1:06:17 and Virginian Samia Akbar in 1:16:31. It pointed out that DC Mayor Adrian Fenty PR’d in 3:40:05, and it touted essay winner Steven Babylon, who wrote about his adopted daughter who loved playing with his marathon medals, so he had to get more for her. Lastly, it listed the Featured Runner with this accompanying picture.

What a surprise. (Look, I'm wearing my Reebok shorts!)

The newsletter said that I started running in 2000 and have become a coach and running advocate as well as a runner. When I am "not wearing the tread off [my] running shoes, [I] maintain a blog about life and running in the DC area." All of that is true. Then it provided the link to my blog.

Since they didn't interview me, I can't claim I was misquoted. Which otherwise, I aways do. Keep your options open, I always say.

I sure enjoyed running the SunTrust National Half Marathon, yet I never really posted a full report about it. I already told you it was my second best time for a half marathon (my PR is 1:44:18 at the Inaugural Disneyland Half). I’m not going to bore you with a full report now, but my splits are informative, so I’ll list them. Numbers don’t lie.

The course definitely has hills in its middle part. Between the fourth and seventh miles it rises 200 feet, with the steepest climb being right at the 10K mark. Starting at the eight and a quarter mile mark, the course runs downhill to the finish, except for one more climb of about 65 feet in the twelfth mile.

I believe that to run a fast race, you have to get going right from the start--fast. My first two miles were fast, 7:41 and 7:33 (down Capitol Hill).

Then I didn't see any more mile markers til the sixth one, at 47:30 (7:55). This time included a porta-potty stop of perhaps 45 seconds in the third mile. In the sixth mile, we were into the uphill section of the course, at the steepest part. I ran over a timing mat at the 10K point in 49:22 (7:57).

The rest of the way went like this. Seventh mile 8:31 (steepest hill); eighth mile 8:05; ninth mile 8:05 (going downhill); tenth mile 7:56 (10 Miles, 1:20:10 (8:01)).

The last three miles were 8:18; 8:37 (an uphill plus I was drifting); and 8:00 (Sasha passed me by and I pepped up, thinking I might light out after her). 0:48 for the last tenth. Final Time: 1:45:35 (8:04).

It was 17 seconds faster than flat Disney World in 2006, when I was running well. It was 81 seconds slower than Disneyland in 2006, when I was at my peak. In both those races I had some gas in the tank at the end. Here, my tank was empty and I finished on fumes.

My last 5K at the Disneyland Half Marathon was 23:10 (7:27); here, it was 25:25 (8:11). That's a big difference.

Numbers don't lie. But I was thinking 1:53, so I'll gladly take 1:45.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Go For Broke

A week ago I asked if anyone knew this little memorial in the city of big monuments. Someone at work came up and correctly told me she knew what and where it was (barely a stone's throw from Union Station) but no one else showed any knowledge of it. Too bad, because it's a serene, beautiful little park, made poignant by the injustice it depicts.

Amidst the hysteria that followed the surprise bombing of our Pacific fleet by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, many or most Japanese Americans on the west coast were rounded up and interned for the rest of the war in concentration camps scattered about the western part of the country. These Americans suffered incredible hardships, and many lost all they had worked so hard for. Yet their sons, brothers, fathers or husbands volunteered in droves to fight for America, and the Nisei unit comprised of these men earned distinction for their uncommon heroism in combat and suffered horrendous casualties fighting against the Nazis in Italy, France and Germany.

The Japanese American Memorial is a tiny little park, bordered by cherry blossom trees symbolizing the delicate and ephemeral nature of life, with the centerpiece being two cranes restrained by barbed wire, struggling to free themselves. The walls surrounding them have the names of the "relocation camps" with the number of internees at each place carved into them.

It is a magnificent memorial and I love going there. Every December 7th and Memorial Day this small park is a mandatory stop on my run that day.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ira Glass

I went with NBTR and some other friends on Saturday night to the Lisner Auditorium on the George Washington University campus to see Ira Glass of This American Life. Jeanne, who works for an on-line journal, knows this noted radio personality who broadcasts a news show on NPR, whereas I had never heard of Glass before Jeanne recommended his show to me.

I asked around at work and found out that Glass has quite a devoted following. People eagerly download his weekly podcast. But nobody could really describe his show to me. Personal interest stories, well done. Humorous? No, not really, but yeah.


His show was funny, extremely entertaining, engrossing and informative. However, Jeanne assured me that it wasn't anything like his radio show. The performance featured a seated Glass executing a lengthy monologue built around recorded interview excerpts accompanied by music. There also was a 10-minute preview of a video clip from his TV series, and a Q & A segment.

Everyone there already seemed intimately familiar with his radio show. For instance, I kept hearing references to the Testosterone Show, which evidently was a recent smash hit.

Glass at one point asked for a show of hands from anyone in the audience who didn't know anything about him beforehand and got “dragged there by someone.” In the entire arena, only three other NPR ignoramuses put up their hands. I was too shy to share my ignorance with the NPR crowd so I did not raise my hand.

Glass thanked the three publicly identified philistines for coming and said he hoped they at least “got sex out of it.”

He described his method of story telling on the radio, where because there is no reliance on visual images, the taut story line is everything. Music places emphasis on important parts and builds mood. His tale-telling method is as classic as the steady stream of engrossing stories in 1001 Arabian Nights, he said. Action, action, action then reflection equals interest, and anticipation of more. Anecdote then reflection. That is how stories are told.

Even mundane things can be made interesting by this technique. How interesting is it to stock candy machines aboard an aircraft carrier in a combat zone? The military technician doing it sincerely relates that Snickers and M&Ms always sell out, but nobody ever buys Million Dollar bars. To get rid of the Million Dollar bar backlog, she only stocked the machines with those. Sales dropped to zero. You could almost see her shrug as her recorded voice said that she went back to stocking Snickers and M&Ms, with only one row of Million Dollar bars. She doesn't know what she's going to do with all the Million Dollar bars she has. Overhead sixty pilots bring death and destruction to the combat zone while here in the bowels of the great ship, a vending machine technician ponders her great problem aloud.

Modern news is told by topical sentence, Glass said. News item, detail, detail, quote. Repeat. The stock market is down. The decline is driven by worse-than expected profits at Walmart. The cost of goods manufactured in China is up because of higher oil prices, cutting into Walmart’s profits. A greeter at Walmart said, "I now walk to work because my hours have been cut and I can't afford to fill up my car with gas. ”

There’s where your true story might lie, said Glass. That greeter could have a funny or poignant story that is intriguing and will create empathy. People can relate to it if the announcer can bring it out conversationally.

Good stories lead to empathy. We empathize with seemingly inconsequential tales that resonate with the circumstances of our lives.

Empathy is the key. His story telling method can be described as empathic.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Quick Trip to Lousiville

I made a quick trip to Lousiville, Colorado, that is. That's a bedroom community for Boulder. I have a court case that is winding down in Denver, and I was there on Thursday and Friday for it. I stayed in Louisville, where I used to live when I was a State Patrolman. (Left: Harper's Lake in Louisville is especially pretty early in the morning.)

The last time I was in Colorado I got quoted by the Boulder paper. My viewpoint is that it's never a good thing to see your name in the paper. I was on damage control when I got quoted. (Right: There's a nice view of the Boulder Flatirons from atop Davidson Mesa. Photo credit P.)

My trip to Colorado gave me a chance to run with my friend P again on Davidson Mesa outside of Boulder. We had a nice hour-long run on Friday morning of six miles in the mile-high air. It's beautiful scenery out there.

(Left: There were still a few Cherry Blossoms left on Saturday at the FDR Memorial.) And then it was back to the real world. I flew into Dulles on a Friday evening flight and got home at 2 am on Saturday morning, in plenty of time to make my 9 am Saturday run of six miles with the 10K Training Group. (Right: Roosevelt Island in the Potomac is especially pretty in the morning.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Cherry Blossoms Redux

I ran around Haines Point today at noon because that's where Sunday's Cherry Blossom 10-Miler went. I was intrigued by the comment in Jim Hage's write-up of the race that around Haines Point, "the blossoming cherry trees nearly formed a tunnel." Well, yeah, I can confirm that. Imagine running through that kind of scenery in a race, with the sparkling blue water of the Potomac set off by the lush pink petals of Cherry Blossoms in full bloom. (Right: The Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin.)

(Left: M and L run under a canopy of Cherry Blossoms along the Tidal Basin a week ago. L, having just turned 60, started running in January and turned in a 1:23 at the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler. Whew.) The Cherry Blossoms are becoming wizened, for sure. A week ago they were glorious, now they are merely very good. They have definitely peaked and are starting to blow off the trees, but maybe it will still be showy this weekend in Washington. The viewing was still good today and the Tidal Basin was full of tourists out on rented paddle boats. I'll leave you with some more pictures of last Wednesday's run. (Right: Can any readers identify this beautiful and evocative little monument in the city of big monuments?)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Finally got in my twenty

The Cherry Blossom 10-Miler was held on Sunday in the rain. I've run this venerable, world-famous race four times, which I thought was enough, but they changed the course so completely this year that I might have to do it again someday. It's like a whole new race.

I did a virtual 10-Miler on Sunday in its honor, starting off at MP 7 on the W&OD Trail behind my house at 8 am. I ran westbound and hit 10 miles at 1:28:54 (8:54). Seven of my ten miles were in the 8:50s so I was being consistent. This is where the genius of my plan came into play. I was now at MP 17 and there was nothing I could to do but turn around and run (or walk) back. No backing out now. Twenty miler! Fooled you, sucka!

I had never before run out west on the trail this far from my house. There are hills out west, unlike the flat eastern part where I usually run from MP 7 to MP 0. Oy. (Left: On Saturday's run of six miles along the Potomac with my 10K Group, I started thinking that it was time to do my first twenty for the year. Photo credit J.)

It wasn't pretty coming back, especially the seventeenth through nineteenth miles where my pace dropped to the mid-9s. Thinking about home spurred me on the last mile and I brought it home at 3:00:06 (9:00). Which would be my second best twenty-mile race (I have run three). It was the furthest I have run since last September, when I PR'd at the Charm City 20-Miler at 2:59:10 (8:58). The Chicago Fun Run last October doesn't count, as I didn't run for twenty miles there because the No More Running Police intervened (among other reasons).

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Tru-Value Training

The Reebok SunTrust National Marathon and Half Marathon Training Program, powered by the DC Road Runners Club, is over. The race has been run and everyone was a winner in this first attempt.

I thought it was a little overpriced at $100, but I have been having second thoughts. It was overpriced for those persons who didn't avail themselves of the opportunities it offered. For the New Year's Resolution type of half-marathoners, who came once or twice and never again, it definitively wasn't worth signing up for. They should have applied the $100 towards the application fee for a gym membership instead, paid $1,000 on a yearly contract, and never gone there either. (Above, left: Sasha organized the pre-race dinner at an Italian Restaurant along the race course.)

But the program brought 16 weeks of gradually increasing, accompanied long runs. The running groups worked out to a maximum of eight runners per coach, but more usually two or three runners per coach.

Half a dozen free club races along the way were part of the package, to give the runners a feel for racing, from 3Ks to a 20K. Every Wednesday night there was a track workout, which a coach or two always attended. There is no faster way to get better than by doing track workouts. (Above, right: Matt on the right, ready to rock and roll before the race. Next to him is John, a club 10K Training Group coach with a terrible case of bed-head. John broke two hours in the half, and then won his age group in a sprint triathlon the next morning.)

The participants got a distinctive, technical long sleeve shirt. More importantly, they received three lectures, one by the ultimate race winner, Samia Akbar, another by local legend and double Marine Corps winner Jim Hage, and one by a respected local physical therapist.

The coaches created additional benefits for the runners. Sasha started Monday Night Footmall, a six mile run on the Mall every Monday evening. Matt ran Sunday club races with his group. Jeannie did extended weekend group runs, especially for those who didn't want to race the two times the schedule called for a race instead of a run. (Above, left: Sasha in the middle of her group after the race.)

That's actually a lot of value for $100. It was hard for the coaches to commit to 16 weeks of coaching less experienced runners (we all have our own personal goals that we try to achieve too) for free (we did receive some nominal Reebok merchandise). Our commitment stretched back into last year. I personally am tired and need a break. I'll get one in six more weeks, when the 10K Program is over.

I was worried that training slower with less experienced runners would severely impact my time in the half marathon. The other coaches must have felt the same way. Yet I had my second best time, and so did Matt. I don't know why.

The athletes who partook in everything the Program had to offer benefited greatly. Matt's two runners always did track. They also followed Matt's weekly plan for the long run, which reflected a lot of thought by this friendly, superior runner. Aside from Matt with his 1:21:54 (6:15 pace, 47/2640 in the race), this man and woman finished one-two in the Program at 1:31:40 (7:00, 121st) and 1:37:26 (7:26, 239th). These two worked hard and received real value. (Above, right: Samia Akbar, winner of the Half Marathon, addresses the Program at the Gotta Run Running Shop in South Arlington a week before the race. The two women in the middle had just run in another half-marathon race and met the qualifications for National. To the far left is Not Born To Run, who PRed.)

There were three runners who regularly ran with Sasha in the intermediate group and on Footmall runs. One got injured, but the other two finished in 1:58:38 (9:03) and 2:02:45 (9:22). Neither was an experienced runner with any real racing history when they started and they both did a fantastic job in their 16-week sprint to more-than-respectability. They received real value.

A couple of runners who feared the race's qualifying standard (2:30 for the half) followed Jeannie's plan and at a half-marathon in Virginia Beach shortly before the Suntrust National Half Marathon, they both smashed the qualifying standard at 2:10; 48 and 2:22:05. They received real value.

I guess the training program wasn't overpriced in the least for those who took advantage of it. This training program owes an incalculable amount to Jeannie, Matt and Sasha. Thanks, guys.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Cherry Blossom Run

The Cherry Blossoms are in full bloom. They're beautiful this year.

I took my work running group on a run around the Tidal Basin yesterday at noon. We did a lot of sideways running to avoid the crush of tourists. Much of our running was on the gentle bank that slopes up from the footpath around the Tidal Basin where all the Cherry Blossom trees that were part of the original gift from the Japanese government shortly before WWI were planted.

It was me, M and L. L is doing the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler on Sunday and he has been training diligently. He looks strong. He just turned 60 but he keeps very active. A couple of years ago he hiked for six days through the Grand Canyon and down a side canyon. Alone.

M is the fast one in our group. He was frustrated at having to slow up so much for the crowds, and at me for stopping to take pictures, so he took the lead. He cleared a path through the tourists for us. L ran up next to him and told him he only got one point if he bowled over someone under four feet tall, but two points for anyone taller. Three points if he knocked them into the water. M was born in Germany and I don't think he recognized that as humor. He stared at L. (Photo credit K.)

This was definitely a buddy run. I kept calling out, Hey, M, aren't they beautiful? He would intone each time, Sure. My humor also was wasted.

For a noontime workday run, let's see any of you top it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Turning right while looking left

I was not hurt but last night it finally happened after 8 years of running. I got hit by a car.

I was going to yoga class at the Community Center after work, running along a secondary arterial road, next to the curb by the sidewalk on the left side. From there I could watch for approaching traffic and if I came upon a parked car that would force me into the traffic lane when a car was coming, I could get up on the sidewalk. An SUV was driving up to a stop sign on a side street on my left that I was starting to cross.

I couldn’t see where the driver was looking because this gas-wasting Detroit monstrosity was too frickin’ tall. I now suppose that the driver was merely looking to her left as she approached the stop sign at the T-intersection, making sure that she didn’t get hit by an approaching vehicle with the right-of-way as she made a right turn onto the through-street I was running along. Pedestrians to her right crossing the side street? Let them eat cake!

A car was approaching. I guess the SUV driver decided that, having slowed for the stop sign, she should accelerate into her turn to beat the oncoming car. I was watching her vehicle and had skirted out into the roadway a little to give it some leeway but suddenly there was this wall of metal coming right at me.

"Hey!" I yelled as the bumper came into me and I put out my hands to fend off the car. The SUV was pushing me and I didn't want to fall underneath it. Really, I had nowhere to go.

I grabbed a fistful of grill with one hand and pushed off to see if I could somehow propel my body around to the side of the SUV. Its hood was too high up to try to hop onto but I used my other hand to whack it with my water bottle. The vehicle lurched to a sudden stop.

I screamed, "What’s the matter with you!" and flung my water bottle into the SUV’s bumper. It rebounded and rolled away rapidly across the road. The approaching car also stopped. I ran after my water bottle, retrieved it and stood up to glare at the offensive driver. She sat there immobile behind the wheel, face frozen, staring at me with both fists crammed into her mouth.

Fortunately I wasn’t injured, although I had jammed the middle finger of my right hand. So I couldn’t even give her the bird. What are you gonna do?

After scowling for a second, I ran off to my yoga class, after which I ran a measured mile back to my house in 6:54. It felt good to be alive.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

National Marathon Course Considerations

I listened to Keith Dowling, the SunTrust National Marathon Race Director, speak at the annual banquet for the DC Road Runners on Sunday. He is a noted runner in his own right. He was the first American at the 2002 Boston Marathon, 15th overall, in a time of 2:13:28.

He was visibly relaxed, as the marathon he had just directed the day before went pretty well. You could tell though, that he was already starting to fret about the next one coming up in 364 short days. Such is the life of a major race director. (Right: Keith setting his PR at the 2002 Boston Marathon. Photo credit Alison Wade.)

The first year of this three-year old race there were traffic issues. This led to the part of the course in Prince Georges County being abandoned (a really hilly part along Central Avenue and East Capitol Street that I called the Seven Hills of Hell) and the race was brought entirely within the District.

The second year there were distance issues with the half-marathon course which ran a little long due to an AWOL course marshal. Many runners were outraged, especially those that can’t walk down the sidewalk without consulting their Garmins. Personally, I think that everybody ran the same distance, and the times were a little slow. So what.

This year there were no major problems that I know of. Michael Wardian from Arlington won the race for the third straight year in course record time and then immediately left for Knoxville, where he hoped to win its marathon the very next day. (He was leading until the last mile when he was overhauled and he finished third.)

Some tidbits I learned: The marching band placed strategically at the highpoint of the course near McMillan Reservoir was the Howard University band, fulfilling a course requirement by performing at the race. I would grade them an A+. They were good!

The day before the race Metro announced it would open two hours early at 5 am. Many runners took it to the 7 am race. The mayor, an avid runner (3:40 on Saturday), had something to do with that.

The first sponsor, Wirefly, went through a financial restructuring and SunTrust, with its rock-solid history of sponsoring the respected Richmond Marathon, stepped in.

The marathon featured running teams while the half marathon did not. The rationale behind that is to allow the longer race to have some stand-alone features, so the popularity of the half marathon doesn’t overwhelm the marathon.

The qualifying times for the race, not always popular with runners, were installed as a way to ensure that the roads reopened in a judicious fashion. Another way to achieve this is by using a rigid timetable to reopen roads, but a benefit from the qualification approach is that it ensures that everyone on the course has raced before. This eliminates running novices who show up merely trying to do 13 or 26 miles without any prior preparation, an approach that can lead to injury or even tragedy.

Tweaking the course is always under consideration. The race is a tour of the four quadrants of the city and passes by many of its numerous monuments. (Seeing the dome of the Capitol for the first ten minutes of the race, brilliantly reflecting the sun rising behind the runners, is a good start to the day.) The course currently runs past the Washington Monument but not down to the Lincoln Memorial. Changing that is under discussion.

The course was flipped around from last year’s route so it would reopen the denser NW quadrant to traffic first, not last. The sparsely inhabited SE section along the Anacostia is now run last, not earlier in the race. The traffic control officials apparently like this course the best.

It was interesting to hear about considerations of a major marathon from its director. Keith does a great job.

My personal opinion is that you gotta do this race. I mean it. Last year I thought it was really cool to run in the 9th Street traffic tunnel under the Mall during the race, where otherwise pedestrians cannot go. This year the runners ran in the Connecticut Avenue traffic tunnel under Dupont Circle, where you could never venture on foot normally. It was cool running through there even though it was uphill coming out.