Saturday, December 18, 2010

Amazing Feets

"You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have" - Scott Jurek, ultrarunner

You know, if you want to look thin, then you hang out with plump people. If you want to look tall, hang out with smaller folks. If you want to look like a fast runner, then you run with slower runners. If you already think you're a hot-shot endurance runner, read no further!

Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia holds the world record for the marathon with an astonishing 2:03:59 time. Broken down, that is a 4 minute, 44 second per mile pace for 26.2 straight miles! OK, it's 105 consecutive laps around a track at 71 seconds per lap. If Haile ran 104 laps and I raced him on his last lap, he'd still beat me by almost a minute!

Yeah, but that's just a normal, ol' marathon. How 'bout Xu Zhenjun of China who not only ran an entire marathon in 3:43, but he ran it backwards! One of my giant pet peeves are people who (in my mind) make fun of the marathon with costumes, juggling, or, yes, running backwards. I don't know how old this cat is, but if he qualified for Boston running backwards, then I'm really going to be hacked.

Speaking of qualifying for Boston, I hear there is a now a small super sub-set of runners who try to qualify for Boston. No big deal you say, but how about trying to get your BQ in the marathon of an Ironman Triathlon after swimming 2.4 miles and cycling 112 miles. I've qualified before, feeling like I'm at the end of an Ironman, but that's pretty impressive.

But, that's just one marathon...why not try the Quadzilla is Seattle. Four different marathons on four consecutive days in four different Seattle suburbs. That one has some appeal. Wait a, it doesn't.

That's all in one city in one state. Many runners (usually members of the Marathon Maniacs) want to run a marathon in every state. That takes a lot of planning, good vacation benefits from work, and mucho disposable income. A fellow named Larry Macon has done all fifty states...get this...each year for SIX straight years.

Ol' Larry doesn't stop there. He also holds the record for most certified marathons in ONE YEAR. Ready? 105!! The women's record is held by a woman named Yolanda Holder at 101. Holy Crow you say? Well, hold onto your Holy Crows for a minute. Here we go - Larry and Yolanda are going to BOTH run a marathon in Ocala, Florida this December 31st and by then, for both of them, it will be their 106th. THIS YEAR!! Now, all together, HOLY CROW!!

For the ultrarunners among us, one of the Feats of Glory has been a yearly event called the Grand Slam. It consists of four of the toughest 100 mile trail runs (Western States, Leadville, Wasatch, and Vermont) all done within about 8 weeks. Fourteen ultrarunners completed the GS this year, so not sooooo super-duper. Therefore, we handoff to Monica Scholz, who, this year, completed 25 races of 100 miles. I repeat...THIS YEAR! And on top of that, she usually will finish in the top three females. Now, we're getting into crazy super-duper.

Now, we get into the realm of the Twilight Zone of running. The longest certified road race in the world is the 3,100 mile Self-Transcendence Race in New York. The whole philosophy of self-transcendence is the idea that we are capable of more than we might believe. A couple of times, I ran 3000 miles in a year! Incredibly, these competitors run 5,649 laps of a half-mile course with a (I can't write this with a straight face) CUTOFF of 51 days. The course record is 42 days. That’s an average of 75 miles a day for six weeks! And Dean Karnazes made a big deal of 50 marathons in 50 days. How 'bout some self-transcendence Dean?

Continuing in the "I-can't-get-my-head-around-this" events, consider 4000 miles in 111 days - Running through 100 degree heat, intense wind and injuries. Charlie Engle, Ray Zahab, and Kevin Lin took on the challenge of running through the Sahara Desert. They ran through Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya, and Egypt along the way, and say that their journey was a life changing experience. Are you kidding me? You have to actually say it was a life changing experience? Now, that I can believe. A crew filmed the entire experience and released a documentary called Running The Sahara in 2007.

OK, one more. Running seven marathons in seven days on seven different continents is something I've often thought about doing...Yeah, right! Sir Randolph Fiennes and Dr. Michael Stroud managed the feat, traveling from Chile to the Falkland Islands, Sydney, Singapore, London, Cairo and New York City on their journey. Now, that's the travel agent I want...and their frequent flyer miles.

Well, for those of you in freezing, sleety, Birmingham, tomorrow we're back to training for our Amazing Race - The Mercedes Marathon. Only 8 weeks to go. In the morning, the full marathoners will do 17 miles and the halfers will do 9. So, apparently, there are many divergent paths we can take to satisfy our running fix, but whatever you choose, I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

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