Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day Falls Church 3K Fun Run 2012

The 2012 Memorial Day 3K Fun Run is in the books at 19:03.  I was faster than last year's 19:47 but then again I wasn't a mere five days removed from stomach surgery like last year.  But this year I used an alternate route I sometimes use for this free race when I don't feel like walking the twenty minutes to the start line and jamming in among three thousand other participants on a narrow two-lane roadway without shoulders for the first half mile before the course opens up after the first turn.  You have to work your way through the initial crush of runners, walkers, stroller-wielders. dog-handlers and little darting children very carefully if you don't want to trip and plant yourself face-first on the blacktop.

There's no registration for this race, nor official time assigned to anyone (not even the first finisher).  You show up and run, and a clock at the finish line tells you the "official" time, which is always about a minute behind the true gun time, making for a super fast race on this flat course, especially since it's about  500 feet short anyway.  You can get a sweet time in this race if you can get ahead of the constricting pack of slow-movers at the start somehow, 

What I do instead sometimes to avoid the hazardous start is I begin right at 9 o'clock in front of my house and I burn off essentially a version of my neighborhood mile, which gratuitously adds two hills including the W&OD Trail's bicycle bridge over Route 7,  before my alternative route debouches onto the actual race course .86 of a mile from the finish.  I hit the stream of runners at the time and pace I should be at after a mile of running and finish the last long straightaway with them.  This is an unordered fun run anyway, which strives for inclusion to the exclusion of everything else.

This year my passage was most unusual.

Barely two minutes into my run I ran by the ex-mayor's house, a neighbor of mine, and saw her in her driveway.  I hadn't seen her in several months and she is undergoing a continuing and devastating personal and family crisis so I stopped to talk with her for a couple of minutes.  She seemed to be doing okay.

Continuing my run, by the time I hit the highway bridge I was pouring sweat on this hot, humid morning.  I wasn't killing myself with my pace and I was already rejecting internal complaints that I should walk instead of jog.  Up ahead I could see a long steady stream of runners cutting across my front on West Street where it crosses the W&OD Trail.  Several policemen were blocking the intersection with their squad cars, as usual.  Remember, I have done this version of my fun run four or five other times without a problem.

As I jogged off the trail and turned to blend into the stream of runners (no bibs) on West Street a Sheriff''s Department deputy barked out to me, "Excuse me, sir, you  have to detour that way!"  He was pointing up West Street opposite of the way the runners were going.

What?  I'm a runner and can easily blend into or work my way through (if I wanted to continue down the W&OD Trail, on foot, at that particular moment) a stream of runners.  I join up with groups of runners at various times on runs all the time!

I said to this transport officer who otherwise belongs in the courthouse providing bailiff services, "What?"

"You have to go that way, sir." he said, pointing the wrong way up West Street.  "Or else wait right there until the event is over. You can't cross this street." 

"You're kidding, right?" I asked, sweat dripping off my face and my drenched coolmax shirt clinging to my skin.  The event wouldn't be over for another twenty or thirty minutes when the last two-year old stragglers straggled by holding their daddies' hands.

Now he was engaged with me in the street and his buddy, another Sheriff''s Department deputy, was coming over to add weight to the brewing argument.  A lot of weight.  The two or three real cops at the intersection were ignoring this brouhaha,

"No sir, we're not kidding, you have to go that way."  The second officer was adding a lot to the discussion.  "But I'm not going that way," I announced brightly.

"Then you have to find another way around."  The weight of the law.

While they studied my every move, I skirted their blinking patrol units the opposite way that they were pointing, outside of the orb of their protection zone, and started walking down the south sidewalk of Park Street, which was jammed with dozens of onlookers.  A lot of townspeople come out to run or spectate this race, and I couldn't believe two cops were focusing all of their attention on me, a pedestrian.  Shouldn't they be looking to stop...cars?

But I hadn't crossed their precious line of runners, which had the normal amount of breaks and gaps in it you'd expect mid-race at any event.  A block down Park Street I resumed running, filtered into the street, and ran past the finish line a half dozen block later.  The clock said 19:03 when I finished, which wasn't bad given the couple of unexpected stoppages that occurred during my 3K run.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Honor Roll

Happy Memorial Day to my Grandfather Lamberton (WWI) and my Dad (Peleliu & Okinawa), Uncle Harry (Fast Carriier Strike Force, Bronze Star), Uncle Bill (Philippines), Uncle Bob (B-26 pilot in the Mediterranean & North Africa) and all the other World War II veterans I knew growing up, as well as my brother Jack (below in Lebanon in 1982).
Also to my Great-Great-Grandfather Daniel Webster Clark (Andersonville POW camp), my friend John (Vietnam), my friend David (Special Forces Army), my friend Bill Hovanic (helicoptor pilot in Vietnam who lost a leg), my former workmate Larry (Vietnam era Army), my cousin Bob (Vietnam era Army), my nephew Ben's Uncle Willis (on the Vietnam Wall), my ex-wife's Uncle Billy (Normandy Landings), her Dad (Korea era Army), her cousin Brad's son (1st Iraq War), my former neighbor Rich (Korea), my friend's Dad Seymour (Patton's Third Army) and my running acquaintance Adam (KIA Afghanistan).

I honor you all, and anyone I failed to mention. Thank you.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Most mornings I get off at the same subway stop on my way to work and go past the homeless shelter the last seven blocks to my office.  If I go one stop further, it's a shorter walk but I always stop in the same breakfast bar on the further walk and get coffee and a cup of cut-up fruit.

This route takes me past Gloria, a homeless woman who stands on a corner across from the shelter and greets passerbys with a wish that Jesus will bless them.  To most of us, homeless people are anonymous and we ignore them as there are far too many for us to help them as individuals.

I stopped one day and asked her her name, and told her mine.  Now when I see her I say hello using her name, and she calls out a greeting to me using my name.

Once a week I give her a dollar when I pass.  I told this routine to a friend once, who mockingly said she hoped Gloria didn't spend such largess all in one place.  That response to my effort to interject a little humanity really pissed me off.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I'm Falling

I told the Program Director of the Walk-To-Run Cycle 2 program I'm coaching for that I was going to change my status to "drop-in" coach, showing up as often as needed like last week when the director was busy and I took the trainees out.  Excuse me, the trainee out.  We went four miles on the Mount Vernon Trail past Washington National Airport at a ratio of one minute of running and four minutes of walking.

That was fine but I want to build my base up a little faster than that.  So this morning I ran with my running buddy John, who I ran with all last fall when I built my base up to 9 miles and shed 30 pounds doing so.  (Ten of those pounds have come back in my present slothiness.)

He's about my speed and a little older than me so I can run with him without embarrassing myself.  For an old timer he's fit, but he hasn't been running for awhile, so we started out at three to four miles.  It was good to lope along with him and catch up, even though first I was breathing heavily, then he was.

The omnipresence of Harleys in DC on Memorial Day weekend was evident as dozens, no, hundreds of Rolling Thunder bikes rolled noisily past us constantly for the entire 35 minutes we were out there.  A big congregation of 1200 cc riders stopped to allow us to run across a crosswalk and cheered us on with shouts of encouragement.  They were pleased to see two guys in their sixties out running and we were pleased to see dozens of guys in their sixties and seventies out on their bikes, and we were especially grateful that none of them tipped over on their heavy hogs as they waited for us to pass.

On the backside of the Lincoln Memorial I ran down the steps to the River Road and back up--twice.  John joined me for the secopnd descent and ascent.

It was a beautiful day for the first of our escalating series of Saturday morning runs but some funny stuff happened.  A pretty girl ran by us and we lamented to her that she was faster and fitter than us and she threw over her shoulder as she ran away, "You're older is why." 

We encountered congestion on the Mount Vernon Trail with a bicycle coming up on several runners approaching us the other way and I took to the grass off the footpath to avoid the bicycle but the rider took to the grass too instead of slowing down and kept pointing toward me as I went wider and wider.  He just about ran me down head on.

A heavily accented black runner stopped us and asked which way to the "D.C. Monument."  "The Washington Monument?" I asked.  He nodded so I directed him past the Iwo Jima Statue towards Memorial Bridge and said, "You can't miss it."  He thanked us and took off at rocket speed, albeit running easily.  We theorized he was an elite African runner here sightseeing.  Next he was probably going to run up to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell.

I took a full-blown header onto the concrete sidewalk, my first fall running in several years.  Talking with John, somehow I missed a half-inch rise between two cement panels in the sidewalk and struck it head on with my toe and went sprawling.  John said I did a graceful swan dive onto the sidewalk, and I merely skinned my left knee and bruised my palms.

We partook coffee at Starbucks after our three and a half mile run in just under 35 minutes, where we saw some of my acquaintances from my former running club run by on their SLR.  None of them stopped to chat with me, the former president of the club.  I resigned a couple of years ago after being subjected to unbelievable effrontery from the head of the club's IT department and his gang of twenty-something running geeks, boorish jackals all.  That guy is the current president, having barely attained thirty.

It felt great!  Next week we're going to push it out a mile further, running down the most venerated grass strip of all, the National Mall.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Where I Run and Why

Where and when do you run?  Do you run down the most famous eight acres of open space in the world (if you don't subscribe to the notion that New York City's Central Park is the focal point of the world)?

Three times a week I run four to five miles with my co-workers and friends Lola and Rhonda down the National Mall during our lunch break, urging each other on to break nine-minute miles.  We come close usually, I'm always lagging, and I always pay homage to good fortune that I am running with smart and good looking athletes that hang with me and conduct interesting conversations even while I'm dragging because I'm so out of shape.
We run by the Capitol, the Carousel, Washington, World War Two, World War One and sometimes go all the way past Korea and around Lincoln when we're firing on all cylinders.  Hallowed monuments all, we take them for granted as we dodge tourists galore and strain as we cap off our runs with a slog up the unrelenting third of a mile pitched incline of The Hill.

Crowning Capitol Hill each of those three lunch hours per week defines a successful work day for me (I do plenty of other stuff the rest of the work day).  How about you?

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Finish of Cycle One

The Marathon Charity Cooperative in Arlington offers Walk--To-Run (WTR, sometimes known affectionately as Couch-To-5K) training throughout the year; three cycles of about seventeen weeks each.  Its premise is simple enough: several weeks of walking, getting up to four miles distance, then the participants do a walk/run ratio that starts off at 1/4 (one minute of running to four minutes of walking) and finishes at the inverse ratio of 4/1.

The one requirement to complete the program (besides coming each Saturday, but that's pretty much voluntary) is to run/walk a 5K race. There are plenty of opportunities; as the program director, John, likes to say, "You can't swing a dead cat by the tail in DC on a weekend without hitting someone running a 5K race."

About a dozen aspirants started off in the program in January, and by late last month this had winnowed down to a hard core of about seven or eight, including the three coaches, John, Vandana and myself.  One Saturday John proudly showed me the time of 35:37 frozen on his watch, his time from a twilight 5K race the evening before, his best time in years.  One participant ran both a 5K and an 8K, one trainee was working towards running a half marathon later this month and did a 5K early in the program in under 40 minutes, and four others including Vandana ran a 5K on the last Saturday of the program, mere hours before our celebratory ending banquet at a local diner.  I ran a 5K in March which I detailed in my last post.

I believe in participation, and encouraging others to participate and showing them the way; that's why I moved on from my last running club, of which I was president, to the MCC as they are more in line with my preferences.  Here is a picture of the dedicated small group of achievers on our penultimate run.