Tag Archives: marathon

a sea of (white) humanity

take a look at the following race photos:

(ottawa marathon – source)

(toronto waterfront marathon – source)

(boston marathon – source)

for years, i have had this rant bubbling in my brain that just wished to come out, but i didn’t know how to argue my thesis in a succinct and pithy manner. here’s the upshot of what i’ve been ruminating on:

marathons are so white.

i wanted to let loose about how the number of white marathon runners does not reflect our population composition, about how it is an elitist sport, about how you need to be at a certain socio-economic-level to qualify for and participate in the boston marathon…i’ve just never been able to clearly articulate my thoughts on paper (or in a microsoft word doc).

luckily, runner’s world magazine came to my rescue with their december issue:

runner's world, december 2011 issue

i no longer subscribe to the magazine because i can read it for free at the store, but more importantly, i was tired of how they were rehashing similar ideas every few months.

in this issue, however, they have a unique, well-researched and fascinating article:

the question posed by the article...

...and the accompanying visual

i avidly read the article (during a slow spurt, bien sûr)…and then re-read it and made notes a few days later.

now, the article focuses on persons of african-american origin and their lack of representation in distance running in the u.s., but the concept translates well to canada.

in the u.s., “core” runners, those who tend to enter running events and train year-round, are 90% caucasian, 5.1% hispanic, 3.9% asian and 1.6 % african american (p 94 of the article). i’d say that in canada, the 90% caucasian stat is likely also the case, but i’d propose that asians are next most represented group.

i will not hijack the entire article – i encourage you to seek it out on your own here.

to pique your interest, though, here are the three main questions asked:

  • what does account for the low participation numbers among minorities?
  • what obstacles do minority runners face?
  • what can be done to address this lack of diversity?

(these questions are found on p 95).

the reason i liked this article so much is because it is not just a whine about how we need to increase minority participation in running (a main benefit being that it is “an inexpensive and effective way to address health problems of at-risk populations” [p 97]). rather the author states his queries, provides supporting statistics, quotes professionals from several relevant fields, then answers the question, “what might be done?”

i’ll highlight just one of his five proposals: “media could be more conscious of race when choosing models” (for photos that accompany stories and for advertisements).

i love this idea. while finishing up the runner’s world article, i had a brainwave – i grabbed the latest edition of our in-house magazine in order to see exactly how diverse the models were for stories and ads.

you can pick up the magazine for free!

in our november/december issue, i found one asian male included in the promotional ad on the back of the magazine cover:

the ad in question

on the inside of the front cover, the asian male’s face is obscured:

sorry for the blur - they're jumping too fast, haha!

so, he is in the ad but you need to look carefully to pick out his nationality. all other stories, ads, features show white males and females. wow.

now – what is fabulous is the article which talks about kids running (it’s on page 34 of the issue) – it’s totally multi-cultural! how wonderful!

great photo

if we are to change the make-up of long distance race participants, it is key to target children. with events like the terry fox run, and run for the cure, we have opportunities to get kids interested in running, and encourage them to be life-long fitness enthusiasts. today’s 1 k elf run participant may very well race a future boston marathon !

in closing, i’ll reiterate that it’s worth your while to read the runner’s world piece. today’s blog post does not capture all my thoughts and ideas on this complex and multi-faceted topic, but it’s a start.

share any personal observations or thoughts that you wish – i’d love to continue this discussion!

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november thankfulness:

(for thursday november 17): yesterday…i think i was thankful…or else i am really in trouble…that

i need to read these every day

LULULEMON OPENED A SHOP IN THE MALL ACROSS THE STREET, YES A 30 SECOND WALK FROM MY FRONT DOOR!!!

oh golly, miss molly.

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when the cat’s away…

…the mice will work very, very hard!

manager paul at the store returns today from a well-deserved two week vacation. he fled the country in search of terrain like this…

(source)

and i bet he returns [he is coming back, right?!!] rested, relaxed, and energized. he needs to be – the holiday shopping season looms on the horizon!

while paul was gone, the part-timers and i must have unpacked at least twenty huge boxes of winter clothing and accessories. and, there’s always restock of shoes and gear coming in, too. we did not slack off! i pretty much re-merchandised the entire store – paul will have fun playing hide ‘n’ seek to find specific items!

my status as #2 (assistant manager) was bumped to #1 (acting manager) while paul was away. i liked being in charge…temporarily. over the six plus years of working at the store, i have come to the realization that i really like being second in command. and, i know of what i speak:

i started off as a part-timer when i was hired in may of 2005. then, four months after that, the manager who hired me quit. i subbed in and performed the manager’s duties, then, in october i was hired officially as the manager of the store. that lasted til january of 2006 when i asked to step back to assistant manager status, and now-manager paul was hired. [depending on where life is at, i have worked everything from only a few hours a week to my current full-time status].

paul and i will work together tomorrow, so i am looking forward to hearing his travel tales. and the store is still standing, and all went well while he was gone. whew! i think i need a vacation, now!…

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IT’S NEW YORK CITY MARATHON DAY!!!

(source)

for years, my tradition has been to watch taped coverage of this race on the sunday evening of race day. with no tv this year, i am hoping i can find the race online later today! i have never been to new york city. it is my dream that my first visit will be when i run the marathon – i cannot imagine a better way to see the city. until then, i will be all eyes as i read, watch, devour, and savour race reports, blog entries, news pieces!

~*~*~*~*~

november thankfulness:

(for saturday, november 5): yesterday, i was thankful for my new ipod shuffle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

let's try this again, shall we?

i picked up silv-ah #2 [no linkbacks as previous ipod talk has been of the complaining variety] on friday eve (and will wonders never cease, i received exceptional customer service from mario at the apple store!), and tried it out yesterday. all good for now! [sshhhhh, don’t tell dad but he is not getting his ancient ipod back – i have grown very fond of the relic!]

~*~*~*~*~

how’d you spend your extra hour last night, thanks to the turning back of the clocks? me = sleep! (so boring, yet so welcome!).

will you/did you watch the marathon and/or have you been to nyc? please don’t tell me who wins/won today! and i learned all i know about nyc from watching seinfeld and previous nyc marathons!

Cousin Laura’s First Marathon

My cousin Laura is pretty much my fitness idol. You will understand why, in a moment. It doesn’t matter that she’s almost half my age (22) – I admire her greatly for her sports prowess!

Technically, Laura is my second cousin: her Dad (Karl) and my Dad (Erv) are first cousins. Seeing as I come from a very small family and only have three first cousins (i ♥ u, kate, joel & alex!), I fudge the familial lines of distinction and just refer to second cousins as “my cousins.”

file photo from father's day, 2010, at the waterloo classic running events; i am on the far L and laura is beside me

On Sunday, May 15, Laura completed her first marathon at the Mississauga Marathon. Her finishing time (chip time) was 3:56:08 – a fine result, for sure! So proud of you, Laura! ❤

I love hearing race reports. What makes telling a race story so fascinating is that every single person experiences a race unique to them. We truly are each an experiment of one. Plus, there are no “givens” on race day: you can have all the stars align perfectly, you can have the wheels fall off completely, you can luck out or have bad luck befall you. You show up and do your best, and that’s the story of the day.

Laura is spending the summer out west, so I emailed her a bunch of questions which she graciously agreed to answer for the blog. The following is our “interview” about Laura’s very first marathon. Enjoy!

~*~*~*~*~

In what other sports have you participated, in your life? I know you’re quite accomplished in gymnastics, for example.

I have done soccer almost all my life, I started gymnastics seriously when I was about 12 and have since reluctantly switched to varsity cheerleading. I played ringette for a few years before switching to hockey when I was 13, I did track and field (80m and 300m hurdles) and made it to OFSAA 2 years in a row. I started roller derby last year. I also had shorter stints in various sports such as field hockey, basketball and volleyball. [See what I mean?!]

i wonder if laura has seen the movie "whip it?!" i have not - but am now inspired!

What made you decide to run a marathon, and why now? Why Mississauga?

I decided to run a marathon because my Dad has run over a dozen. He even ran one in the year following his heart attack. Ever since he qualified for Boston the first time, I have wanted to run that particular race with him; however, last year he said he was going to stop doing marathons and switch to trail-style racing instead. I realized that I was in a now or never situation, and that if I wanted to do a marathon for/with him it would have to happen very soon. I moved to northern Quebec in September 2010 to May 2011 and so it was the perfect opportunity to train in secret. Mississauga was simply good timing for me in terms of probable weather conditions and time of year. [Laura was at the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi; the exact same place I spent my own 3rd year of uni!].

What kind of training plan did you follow?

I made a combination of training plans I found online with tips I had heard from my Dad’s training. I chose a plan that is for beginners (a 0 to marathon in 6 months type of deal) and I did some strength training as well as speed work, but not intensively. The longest training run I did was 2:40.

Did you have any specific goals in mind for the race?

When I first started training, I was aiming to qualify for Boston, and I was very confident; however, I got hurt part way through the training [knee tendonitis] and lost a bit of confidence. I always wanted to finish in under 4 hours but 3:40 [the Boston qualifying time for Laura’s age group] was the primary goal.

Was your family at the race?

My brother, sister, Mom and Dad were at the race, and my Dad ran the last 10km with me.

Take us through race day, from wake up on.

Race day started the night before because it felt like I didn’t sleep at all. [Many of us can relate, Laura!] I got up at 5:45a.m., ate breakfast (2 pieces of bread and a lot of water), drove to Mississauga with my Dad, and got into the starting corall. The race started at 7:30a.m. and I was literally shaking with fear. I had heard that marathons were really painful, and I was dreading the after-race situation. During the race, I was constantly looking for my family watching from the sidelines. My mom had an orange table cloth she was waving around so they were easy to spot. [I love this idea!] Every time I saw them I got a burst of energy.

What were some high and low points while you were running?

The beginning was really fun when we were still with the half-marathoners. We were chatting a bit – once they split off though, conversation dwindled. I ran with the same person for the first 27km and we talked about his past accomplishments including ultras, biathlons and 100km races. It kind of inspired me, especially at the end because he told me he was planning to run another marathon the next weekend. I decided if he could finish and run another one in 7 days I could finish the race, too. I was feeling really good at first, but I was used to a 20min walk-run cycle and I think that is the reason I got tired around 27km. From then on, my pace got significantly slower, and I lost some confidence. When my Dad joined me around 32km I was really thankful. He helped me finish, and encouraged me a lot. The finish was interesting because somehow I managed to “sprint” across the line (I’m sure it wasn’t that fast but it sure felt like it!)… then pain, and lots of it!

(source)

How did you feel when you were done? What did you do the rest of the day?

When I was done, I was just thankful I didn’t have to run anymore. [:)] I was prepared for muscle fatigue, but I was not expecting the pain to continuously get worse for about 20mins before beginning to subside. Walking to the car was really difficult and felt like I would never make it. [Oh yea!] The rest of the day, I lounged around, still thankful I wasn’t running. Then my family and I went to see a movie.

[Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to paste in Laura’s marathon photo; but click here for a wonderful pic of Laura and Karl]

What piece of advice would you give to someone who is about to start training for their first marathon?

I would tell them to make sure they have more motivation than simply to “try to finish”. I know during training and during the marathon I was thinking about how great it would be to run Boston with my Dad and how proud he would be when I finished. I would encourage anyone who is running for the first time to make sure they have a firm goal in mind and a reason to run. I personally didn’t have a training partner but I know for a lot of people that is key.

Will you do another one?

I am not sure. I will probably do a half-marathon, and focus on speed, but the marathon maybe was too far. On one hand, I feel like I have unfinished business because I am young and there were certain factors that prohibited me from being my absolute best (injuries, training indoors, lack of experience). I want to train harder to see if I am capable of qualifying, but I also really disliked that last hour of running during the marathon itself. Only time will tell.

What did you feel you did right in preparing for Mississauga, and what would you change for next time? (if there is a next time)!

I feel like I stuck to my program very well, considering I was training on a 200m indoor track with no training partner. [Chicoutimi winters are beyond belief, let us tell you]. I did almost every long run and got my speed up to a 5min/km pace from approximately 5:50 or 6min. I think I also dealt with injury very well and didn’t get discouraged.

Next time I would do a program that is not for beginners because I know what I am getting in to, and I think it will make race day a lot easier if the training is more intense.

What did you like and dislike about the Mississauga event? (organization, course route, etc).

I really liked the event. Not only was the officially organized stuff (food and water stations) really well done, but there were also fans along the way in no way associated with the event who were handing out snacks and water on their own. I have no complaints!

Thank you, thank you, Laura, for sharing your Marathon Story. I am so proud of you! Maybe we’ll do a marathon together, some day. But roller derby? You’re on your own there, darlin’!

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Team individual sports: which domain is your forté? I sincerely have two left feet when it comes to team sports or anything involving equipment other than body parts.

Have you ever ran a marathon, or do you wish to complete one? I have raced eight marathons and two ultras. Stories for another day.

U.S. Envy

It’s Top Chef night tonight! I’m all caught up on my viewing. And so far, so good: my two picks are still in the game.

#1 Rob

#2 Dale

One of them even won the Elimination Challenge last week (I won’t say more in case you’re still catching up!). And one by one, the weakest links are being voted off the island…I’m eagerly awaiting Episode #6, “The French Feast” – I’ll aim to watch it Tuesday eve!

While Top Chef Canada is quite entertaining, the family fans (The Brother, SIL Ana, the parental units) all agree that the American versions of TC are stronger, in general. The competitors are of a higher calibre, the dishes created are more complex, and the judges/celebrity guest chefs are more renowned. (Dan Ackroyd *celebrity!!* in Episode #3? Please! Although the inclusion of Susur Lee in Episode #4 was très cool).

Our evaluation of Top Chef Canada reminded me of other areas in which the U.S. beats out Canada, hands down.

For example:

Marathon Hosting: Hoopla, throngs of spectators, corals of runners, national pride…American marathons are celebratory, high-profile-in-the-community events.

(source)

Canadian marathons leave a lot to be desired, sorry to say. Even the “big ones” (Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto Waterfront) lack spectator support, completely-car free courses, and top-notch sponsorship.

(source)

[where’s the crowd support??]

Snafus such as route confusion, parking logjams, super-small expos are quite the norm. My biggest beef is with the lack of community support from city residents, and missing financial support from city government. Americans get behind their hosting duties with rah-rah gusto. Canadian race organizers need lessons from their American counterparts.

Grocery Store Product Selections: My U.S. grocery store love is well documented on the Kiki blog! Seriously, let me loose in a Publix (my go-to in Florida), Piggly Wiggly (South Carolina discovery), Safeway (a Colorado staple) or…Whole Foods (you knew that was coming) and I am entertained to the nth degree. And likely to walk out the door with a wallet that’s $200 lighter. And 17 boxes of new-to-me cereals tucked under my arm.

States with Vacation-esque Climates: You know those essay contests, “If I Were Prime Minister for a Day…?” Well, my first order of business would be “Buy a warm state and make it a Canadian province.” I tell you, if Canada owned Florida, Arizona, California, or New Mexico, I would be transferring/moving/picking up stakes faster than you can say “pass me the sunscreen.”

Oprah. ♥ ♥ ♥

(source)

So as not to be entirely unpatriotic, I’ll toot the Canadian horn, too. Canada rocks when it comes to…

Health Care: We are fortunate to have access to free medical care in Canada. Many of us take this blessing for granted – we complain about doctor shortages and wait times to see specialists or get MRIs, but really, we are very lucky to not have to pay out-of-pocket for any of these services.

Worldwide Reputation: Canadians enjoy a favourable stereotype in countries around the globe. We are known to be polite, non-confrontational, reserved…boring, yes, but it’s a benefit to be Canadian when travelling abroad where reputation preceeds your arrival.

Money: what is more fun than our coloured paper bills? Only our loonies and toonies!

all i had in my wallet, at the moment! (loonies are the gold ones, toonies the silver/gold coins, for the uninitiated))

American money is confusing: the bills are all black and white. When you don’t know your Abe Lincoln from your George Washington, you really have to mind your p’s and q’s when settling your bill!

ATMs: cheque writing is going the way of the dodo bird. Almost everyone now uses debit cards, with credit cards coming in a close second for non-cash forms of payment. A lot of places will not even accept cheques any more. Since day one, Canadians have embraced electronic payment methods enthusiastically.

What’s something you appreciate about both the U.S. and Canada? I love my American friends, met in Aruba. I appreciate their friendliness, exuberance for life, and the gift of the gab that so many of my acquaintances possess. I love how BIG Canada is in terms of land space!

Anything you find funny about either country? Canadians looovvvve to talk about the weather. I never get tired of hearing a native New Yorker’s accent!

A Leaner, Meaner Boston

Last week, on Wednesday February 16th, the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) revealed their new qualifying standards for the 2012 and 2013 races. Runners had been anticipating this news ever since September 2010, when the 2011 marathon online registration sold out in about 8 hours. Clearly, the registration and qualifying procedures needed a revamp.

The most efficient way to relay the updates is to give you the link so that you can read the BAA press release for yourself. So, to get the information “straight from the horse’s mouth,” click here.

If you’re feeling lazy, or frankly don’t give a toot, here’s what I took away from reading (and re-reading! *geek!*) the statement:

~ the BAA is introducing a rolling/tiered admission procedure starting with the 2012 Boston Marathon. The faster your qualifying time, the earlier you can register

~ the BAA has tightened qualifying times by five minutes for every age group, beginning with the 2013 race.

~ to reward longevity, the BAA lets those who meet the qualifying standard AND have run at least 10 consecutive Bostons to register at any time (ie on the first day of registration).

As you can imagine, the reaction in the running community has been mixed. I laugh a little, because I truly believe it is just human nature to resist change. So any new initiatives, regardless of what they are, are going to be met with skepticism by some/most people.

If you’re interested in reading feedback, here are a few links to check out:

~from the Runner’s World Forum:

http://www.runnersworld.com/community/forums/races-places/boston-marathon/heres-baas-new-system

(grab a coffee – as I am posting this link, there are 309 posts in this thread!!)

~from the Running Room Forum:

http://www.runningroom.com/discussion/viewtopic.php?t=43525&sid=e8904d9131df4d1fe6742375f08bc505

(in typical mild-mannered Canadian fashion, there are only 23 replies to this thread!)

~an article from the Marathon Guide website:

http://www.boston.com/sports/marathon/articles/2011/02/17/marathon_qualifying_is_revised/

Now for my own thoughts…

I am 100% in favour of these new initiatives, and commend the BAA for decisively and boldly updating both the qualifying and registration procedures.

I, like a few of the commenters at the Runner’s World link (above) agree that runners should use these stricter standards as positive motivators in training and racing. Just run faster! Train harder! Dream bigger! Race smartly!

Boston is the only marathon in the world for which a runner must qualify (excluding charity runners). It truly is an “elite” racing experience for the masses. With demand being at an all-time high, it IS time to tighten standards and redefine what is an “elite finishing time” for the non-professional runner. 

Some people argue that women have it easier then the men in terms of their qualifying times. Maybe, maybe not. But in the interests of being fair, the BAA had to take away five minutes from everyone. Simple and just.

While Boston is an absolutely fabulous race experience (Sidenote: I ran Boston in ’97, ’98 and ’99; my PB was set on this course in 19998: my net time was 3:00:45) with a thoroughly enjoyable and unique course, it is not the only memorable or unique or fun marathon out there. Paris, Disney, New York, the Great Wall of China…there are exotic marathons, unforgettable routes, once-in-a-lifetime/Bucket List choices out there for everyone…you name it, you want it, you can find it in terms of a race experience.

By issuing the new standards in February, six months ahead of registration for 2012, the BAA gives runners the opportunity to wrap their heads around the new process. People like time to adjust, think about, whine about, debate new initiatives. I can’t wait to see how these changes improve both the registration and race experiences.

By the way…only 56 days to Boston 2011!

my race bib from 1997!

scrapbook of all things related to the 1998 race trip!

posing on the finishing line (not the day of - haha!) of the 1999 race!

Advantage: Goodlife

I’ve been scooped! For the last couple days, I was planning a post where I wanted to talk about the Goodlife Toronto Marathon and an interesting development for the 2010 race (October 17, 2010). Then yesterday, the story breaks that the City of Toronto is putting its foot down on having two marathons in one city, three weeks apart, and will issue ONE marathon permit only, beginning in 2011.

Here is the full story, as it appears in the Globe and Mail today. It’s well worth a read, if you have time. The issue is being flogged to death in various running forums and I am not going to delve into the story in depth right now. But for the running community, this is a face-off worth watching. Which race will prevail? Each one has its loyal supporters and vocal critics. I’ve competed in both events over the years, and each one has advantages and disadvantages.

Positives:

Waterfront Marathon: more crowd support, larger field of entrants, excellent organization, draws more elite level athletes

Toronto Marathon: better/more scenic course, longer history of existence

Negatives:

Waterfront Marathon: course is boring as all get-out, September weather sometimes an issue (hotter, more humid)

Toronto Marathon: poorer organization, point-to-point course necessitates transportation issues

I am willing to bet that the number of entrants increases in both events for the fall 2010 races, due to the fact that it will be the final “running” of one of these events. And who knows: the winning marathon may well go with a different course. I think we will also see an increase in the number of people/crazies who do both events – this is the last chance!

At this stage, who will prevail? I am placing my money on the Waterfront. Money talks, bottom line.

But here is the REAL story I initially wanted to discuss! Runner’s World Magazine has chosen the Goodlife Toronto Marathon as one of its  four Marathon Challenge sites for this year (the other marathons being Flying Pig in Cincinnati, San Francisco and Richmond). What happens is you sign up for the Challenge, and Runner’s World provides you with training and perks on Race Day.

This is a complete coup for the Goodlife Marathon! Runner’s World magazine is likely the most recognized running resource in North America – any association with this magazine is going to bring your event more money, more competitors, more recognition. It’s the same deal as if Tiger Woods has chosen to play your golf tournament.

So, let’s tie these two stories together now: we have a race to see which of the two Toronto marathons will prevail (due to the rivalry between race directors, there is no way a compromise or a combining of the two events will ever happen). We have the presence of Runner’s World at the upcoming Goodlife Marathon in 2010…but the Waterfront is decidedly the “bigger” event…this is going to be good!

Websites:

Waterfront Marathon – http://www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com/

Goodlife Marathon – http://www.torontomarathon.com/