Saturday, February 19, 2011


"Dead Last Finish is greater than Did Not Finish which greatly trumps Did Not Start" - on a marathon t-shirt

What a week! Winter got confused and the temperature is hitting 70 this week, baseball spring training is under way, and ol' AL, for the first time in 2 years, finally finished another marathon!!

Yes, I put a lot of mental eggs into this basket. A year ago, I probably wouldn't have given myself a snowball's chance in hell to finish another marathon. I mean, it wasn't like I got some serious health problem, or fell off a cliff, or gained 100 pounds, I just have had a lot of birthdays and a lot of miles in my feet, and instead of my ankle joints gliding like glass rubbing on glass, I had sandstone rubbing on sandstone. My running went from trying to qualify for Boston (more on that timely subject later) one year, to struggling to get under 10 minute miles the next...then 10:15...then 10:30...and so on. I still had the marathoner's mind, just not the wheels. I had to give up my coaching the TNT group after 15 years, and had my first calendar year since 1979 that I didn't run a marathon. I ran about 20-25 miles on good weeks and didn't put in one 20 mile run in 2010. All of a sudden, writing "The Non-runner's Guide to Marathon Training" seemed in my future. Through all the stretching, grunting, limping, Aleve, ice and whatnot, I always still felt I wanted to pace with the 5 hour group at the Mercedes Marathon and that was my comeback marathon goal. I have paced every year since year #2 (out of 10), although my effort was aborted at mile 15 last year, and I desperately wanted to finish this year.

As the Pace Team Director, one of the advantages is to place the volunteer pacers at the times I think they are needed. So, as I did last year, I deftly placed Marie Bartoletti from Pittsburgh to be the other 5 hour pacer. Now Marie has done 197 marathons and ultras and has also tacked on a couple of Ironman races and cycling adventures. What she spelled to me was my insurance in case I had to bail out again, I knew she was gold to get our group in.

Last weekend on race day, God smiled on Birmingham and gave us the most beautiful day to run. It was 30 at the start and warmed to 60 by the early afternoon. No wind, low humidity. There were a little over 6000 in the race (marathon, half, and relay) and we had about a dozen in our pacing group. I won't go into the details of the race itself, but we paced evenly and a core of 5-7 runners stayed together. One of the runners, Veronica, has been battling ITB problems the last 6-8 weeks, but has been showing up every Sunday at our training runs, having to cut a few runs short. She has (stubbornly) ignored my pleas that she change from the full marathon to the half. So, at about 14 miles, her knee began to complain enough to cause her to slow down. Now, also at this point, my ankles are not screaming, but slowing down was not voted down by internal registered voters. So, I decided if Veronica was going to gut it out, she'd have her coach by her side to watch for potholes (actual and mental). She hurt on the downhills, I hurt on the uphills, so we were a perfect non-match. Marie got her roadies in right at 4:59, and me and Veronica crossed the finish line in 5:09. She was ecstatic to finish her first - I was as ecstatic to finish my 129th. I really didn't know if I was going to last 26 miles when we lined up, and now it's a good feeling to know I can once again say I run marathons without the verbal rope-a-dope. Whether you run it in 2 hours or 6 hours, 26.2 miles is a long way. Congratulations to all of you that finished the marathon, and the half marathon. As I said to Ken after the race "I'm back in the saddle again but I'm not eager to get back in the saddle again".

Before I close this week's edition of RWA, I have to comment on the Boston Marathon once again making the throngs of would-be BM runners spit up. Essentially, due to the warp-speed that the 20,000 slots filled up this year (8 hours), something had to be done. Now, before I give my opinion, you have to realize that this is from a view that I have run 5 Bostons and have qualified 6 times AND the fact that now Grandma Moses has a better chance of qualifying than I do. Essentially, for the 2012 race, Boston is opening the registration process on a "rolling admission"...faster qualifiers get to register first. Then, for the 2013 race and beyond, the rolling admission remains PLUS all qualifying times are reduced by 5 minutes PLUS they are dropping the "59 second lifeline". This meant if you were running for a certain BQ time, say 4:00, you could run a 4:00:59 and that time would count. No more! So, is all this unfair? Of course not. Boston is one of the most prestigious races in the world and one of only two that you have to qualify for (the Olympics being the other). It shouldn't be easy. They can set any rules they want to. Where it is unfair is that they are changing the rules mid-stream. Say you barely qualified by a minute at Chicago in the fall. So, now you've been doing fast-finger intervals so you'll be ready to hit the computer when registration opens next September. Then Bingo! - you have to wait till the SEVENTH day of registration to even have a prayer of getting in! You can't change it to TWO STRIKES AND YOU'RE OUT after you're in the batter's box! It's not first down and 15 yards to go after the kickoff. If you want an elite field of very fast runners (along with few doctors and charity runners), that's fine. But if Jane Doe busts her butt reaching the qualifying standards by the rules you set, don't kick her in that same butt because now you want to change those rules. If Tom, Dick, and Harry meet the standards, they should proceed with the same restrictions they KNEW before qualifying (not being fast enough on the computer). C'mon Boston, show a little more class. You can see the changes at

OK guys, that's all from sunny and warm Birmingham for this week. We will continue to be at Brownell every Sunday at 6:30AM. Now that the temp has gone up, there should be much less whining from the group (ok, from me!). I'll see you all on the roads - AL

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

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