Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Is it worth it to push beyond your limits?

Living life as an injured runner who cannot run is not fun! I cam happily ride my ElliptiGO (170 miles last week!) with no problems, but if I try to run it just mucks up my body. I ran for the first time in a over a month a few days ago and my body still has not recovered from the tightened up muscles and joints that are left pulling at each other and I only ran an easy 2 miles on the treadmill. I have learned that I need extreme patience if I am ever to run again pain-free. Each time I try, I realize that I am not ready yet, and go back to enjoying my ElliptiGO.

When I was young and long before I knew about the realities of a marathon, I recall reading with fascination about Dorando Pietri's struggle to the finish line of the 1908 Olympic Marathon. I was talking with one of the teachers at my school this week regarding the Boston Marathon and the struggling runner who was carried over the finish line. She was fascinated with the drama.

WHDH-TV 7News Boston

I have seen these dramas unfold many times at the finish lines of marathons, cross-country races, and Ironman Triathlons. In fact I was one of the countless numbers of runners inspired by Julie Moss and her crawl to the finish line of the 1983 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. Within months I was swimming and biking and that same year I too, completed an Ironman Distance Triathlon. I wish I had saved a copy of a Boston Herald photograph of a man crawling to the finish line of the Boston Marathon one year. In the photograph and in the videos that played on television of his crawl you could see a female runner stop, pat him on the back, and I assume give him encouragement.  I don't know how many people besides myself understood the significance of that photo. It was none other than Julie Moss herself offering encouragement to the crawling man. Who better knows what it feels like to be crawling at the end of a race? Well, I guess it was in 1999. I did a Google search and the only information I could find was a post I made that year so maybe I am the only person to have caught that (Julie was correctly identified in the Boston Herald photo, but there was no mention of her struggle as a triathlete).

This morning, I am again reminded of the frailty of runners and their dogged perseverance to finish a race. First was a story about a runner who finished a 1/2 marathon with a broken leg.  The previous year's champion, Krista DuChene had to limp across the finish line in third place, with a broken femur, at the Canadian Half Marathon Championships in Montreal. I would say "good for her" but that can be damaging to your body. She is not, however the first person to finish a race on a broken leg. Sadly, it has happened a few times that I am aware of.

The other story involves a Kenyan elite runner at the 2014 St Anthony’s Marathon in the Italian region of Padua collapsing and struggling towards the finish line. The video of  Eliud Magut could be considered disturbing, but not being a doctor, the scene looks similar to many I have seen of runners who have hit the wall and no longer have the energy, despite their fortitude, to keep moving as they wish.

As someone who has pushed the limits for years, I no longer have a desire to run through a serious problem that can damage the body, like running on a broken leg or on a hip that just won't work correctly, and I would hope someone would stop me if I ever got to the point of making a spectacle of myself by trying to finish a race by crawling to the finish.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pre Boston Marathon ElliptiGO Group Ride

The day before the Boston Marathon, 14 ElliptiGO enthusiasts from around the country gathered together for a ride from Boston Common to the Emerald Necklace and back up for the final mile of the marathon route. It was fun seeing some friends from the New England ElliptiGO classic, some of the people who work for ElliptiGO, and some new friends including a former Boston Marathon champion. Here are a few pictures I took along the way.

I was thrilled to meet and and ride with one of the great pioneers of women's
distance running. Jacqueline Hansen won the 1973 Boston
Marathon and twice held the world record in the Marathon.
She now rides an ElliptiGO.
The 2014 Boston Marathon was magical. Meb's win after a 32 year drought from the last American male winner was just what Boston needed. 32 years is a long time. I ran that race and it was the first year I was a teacher. That was a long time ago! Meb is also an ElliptiGO athlete. He uses it to cross train and is that the secret to his setting a new PR at 38 years old. That PR is perfect timing for ElliptiGO, which had just announced a new program for using an ElliptiGO to set a guaranteed PR or you get your money back.  Hurry up as you have to apply by May 2.

I talked with Darren Brown, a sub four minute miler, and the husband of elite 800m/1500m runner Sarah Brown this weekend and he says he may show up to race the ElliptiGO End of Summer Classic in August. I think I may be in a bit of trouble if I want to repeat winning this race!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

2014 Boston B.A.A. Invitational Miles

I went down to Boston for the Marathon Expo and to watch the B.A.A. Invitational Miles. It was sobering being on Boylston Street as the preparations for Monday's marathon were underway. I was also using a new camera for the first time. Here are some photos I took of Boston and the two races.

Men's Results
1. Nick Willis (NZL) 4:11.3
2. Paul Robinson (IRL) 4:12.0
3. Leo Manzano (USA) 4:13.3
4. Chris O’Hare (GBR) 4:13.6
5. De’Sean Turner (USA) 4:14.5
6. Rob Finnerty (USA) 4:15.2
7. Criag Miller (USA) 4:22.2

Women’s Results
1. Morgan Uceny (USA) 4:44.0
2. Heather Kampf (USA) 4:44.3
3. Brie Felnagle (USA) 4:44.8
4. Sara Hall (USA) 4:45.9
5. Laura Crowe (IRL) 4:46.1
6. Chelsea Reilly (USA) 4:46.6
7. Violah Lagat (KEN) 4:48.0

I also bumped into Carlos Arredondo on Boylston Street near the finish line.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Abebe Bikila: The Athlete movie

Today was the Friday before the Boston Marathon and as a fifth grade teacher that means I introduce my class to running and the great Ethiopian distance runner Haile Gebrselassie by showing the Disney biopic on his life, Endurance. I enjoy the running scenes in the movie, the fact that Haile acts as himself, and the scenes of rural everyday farm life in Ethiopia. My students always enjoy the movie and (I hope) my commentary throughout it about runners like Abebe Bikila, Miruts Yifter, and Paul Tergat. They also enjoy knowing that I went to Africa in 2011 and will be returning to Kenya this summer. They do have a hard time realizing that the movie depicts living people and a lifestyle unlike their own. Every year, kids ask if the people in the movie are still alive, and I have to tell them that they are and that they are younger than me.

I had lost my digital copy of the movie (made from my VHS copy) so I had to order a new copy from Amazon in order to show it today. While doing so, I noticed some of the other running movies that Amazon offered and one of the was called The Athlete about the life of Abebe Bikila, the first black African to win a gold medal in the Olympics and the catalyst for the current onslaught of Ethiopian and African running prowess throughout the world today.

I knew all about Abebe's barefoot gold medal run in the 1960 Rome Olympics and his repeat gold at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. I also was familiar with the car crash that left him paralyzed, the return at the 1972 Olympics to be honored and then his sudden death. I always had the sense of a sadness around Abebe Bikila and that a depression might have been part of his death.

I decided to watch the movie tonight since it was free for Amazon Prime members. It made liberal use of Bud Greenspan video from the 1960 Olympics as well as video from the 1964 Olympics probably from the Tokyo Olympiad (The Criterion Collection) film. The Ethiopian actors seemed realistic and the conversations were a mix of English and subtitles. It seemed a lot of the first half of the film revolved around Abebe's blue Volkswagen Beetle as the story slowly developed. I got the sense from watching the actor's portrayals a reaffirmation about Abebe's serious nature as well as a distance from his family and many of his countrymen during the political changes in his country.  Abebe desired to make a comeback at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Unfortunately, the accident changed his goals. I expected the film to show a slow decline until his death and that is where I ended up pleasantly surprised. Abebe participated in paralegic sports competitions: first in archery and later in dogsled racing. Who knew? The reception back in Addis Ababa after his dogsled racing victory was especially poignant. Even the commentary at the end of the film was powerful.

I enjoyed this movie, which would really be interesting for fans of running and its history as well as those who would enjoy viewing wonderful scenes shot in Africa.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

1964 Boston Marathon Documentary Video: Long lost and worth the watch!

Here is a recently uploaded long lost documentary video of the 1964 Boston Marathon. It is well worth a watch to see Boston in the old days before the running boom. This is a gem!

Featured in the video is author Erich Segal, best known for writing "Love Story" and somewhat known for his commentary during the 1972 Olympic Marathon. According to a letsrun post: Walter Hewlett, the Harvard student and  2:32 marathoner in the film is worth billions today as a member of the Hewlett-Packard family. A Rev. O'Neil Shannon prepares for his 15th Boston Marathon and at the 2:20 mark his exercises are fantastic. It is either the greatest running warm-up or the beginnings of break-dancing. At 5:27 you see a man arguing with race official Jock Semple. Jock is best known for his altercation with Katherine Switzer  at the marathon in 1967. I also had a run in with Jock Semple back in a race on Cape Cod. I tried my best, but his temper got the best of me too, as I tried to plead my case. I had placed and should have won a medal at a NE Junior 20K (or 1/2 marathon?) Championship race (1977?). I got nowhere with him and I got no medal for placing, because I had signed up for the race the morning of the race and thus no medal-which all went to runners mostly runners from his club. the BAA. The guy tells Jock, "You've got a fresh mouth with everybody!" I agree!  I also had the pleasure of  meeting Johnny Kelley, the elder, many times throughout the years. The top American (5th place) Hal Higdon also sent an email comment to myself and the superintendent of schools in Nashua back in 2000 when I was not allowed to take a personal day to run the Boston Marathon.

The actual running of the race starts at the 13:30 mark. John Kelley (the Younger) is number 2, Hal Higdon is number 13, and Ted Corbitt is number 19, Check out the pit stop (full gas station) at the 16:00 mark! I am not sure what Jock Semple is doing to John Kelley at the 19:50 mark: wiping off sweat? I love how nonchalantly the race winner, Aurele Vandendriessche crosses the finish line and then the unattended finish line for later participants. Also noteworthy was the break-dancing reverend running through Boston traffic to get to the end and the guy being dressed and hoisted up by his buddies after finishing, "Keep my legs straight!"

Here is a brief recap of the race from the Boston Marathon media guide:

68th Boston Marathon – Monday, April 20, 1964
As the field exceeded 300 runners for the first time, Aurele Vandendriessche successfully defended his championship with a 2:19:59 performance. The lean Belgian attacked the Newton hills in strong fashion, eventually pulling away from the Canadians and Finns who were dictating the pace. Noted Boston Marathon writer and historian Hal Higdon was fifth.
1. Aurele Vandendriessche (BEL)2:19:596. David Ellis (CAN)2:22:49
2. Tenho Salakka (FIN)2:20:487. John J. Kelley (CT)2:27:23
3. Ronald Wallingford (CAN)2:20:518. Osvaldo Suarez (ARG)2:27:51
4. Paavo Pystynen (FIN)2:21:339. Paul Hoffman (CAN)2:28:07
5. Hal Higdon (IN)2:21:5510. William Allen (CAN)2:28:19

A side note, one of the filmers of this documentary was D. A. Pennebaker, who also completed the Bob Dylan film Don't Look Back that same year (1965)... including this song: