Thursday, March 28, 2013

Epic adventures/challenges/wins

I think EPIC is one of my favorite words lately. Maybe it comes with being in the marathon business.

Recently, I finished a book called "Naked in the Stream" by my good friend, Vic Foerster. His stories of adventures that center on Isle Royal exemplify the thinking-ahead mentality that has to happen before embarking on any epic challenge. His story about how he and college buddy Ken Glupker, who ran his first race at our Groundhog Eve 1/6 marathon, executed a spring break hike around Keweenaw point is a story of planning, determination and overcoming obstacles.

For a person like YOU, who is determined enough to think ahead, make a plan, work through adversity, and cross the finish line of a marathon, it's a pretty good read.

Not everyone gets to experience one of those "epic win" moments in life. Unless, of course, you're a marathon runner. If you can run 26.2 miles, it's because you've done the planning and the follow-through that are critical to your adventure. Crossing that finish line? Now that is an epic win.

Whatever your epic challenge is, it's exciting to be a part of it.

I'll see you at the finish line in October.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Good Friday?

The year was 2001. The second event in my "race instigator" career. The story of that world-changing event follows.
The Frogger 5.5K 
Hair of the Frog Brewery
13 April 2001

The Setup
If you were one of the dozen who ran the Shawn & Don 5K in December 2000, you no doubt saw it coming.  An excellent microbrewery.  A guy who runs a marathon every month, another who knocks the mirrors off passing vehicles with his bare hands, and an over-speedy Yooper. Then throw in some beautiful nature trails. It had to happen. Jake and Holly were geeked when Shawn initially talked to them about it. The team was now complete.  Now to pick a good Friday to have a race.  THAT'S IT!  GOOD FRIDAY!  It was also Boston weekend, so we didn't have any competing races.
It turned out that our new friend, Jake, was quite the artist. Next thing you knew, we had posters and a really kickin' T-shirt design. He also had some family involved with Gazelle Sports, who agreed to be one of our sponsors, providing numbers and gift certificates for the race.
The Field
Figuring on maybe 30-40 people, we were totally blown away by the numbers that showed up.  We ended up with 62 runners in the race.  We had runners from as far away as Portage, Ludington, Lansing, and even three guys from New Zealand.  We ran out of numbers.  Shirts too.
The Start
At the whistle, the anxious runners headed for the nature trail.  But Big John had a plan.  He knew he couldn't outrun all those slender fast guys, but he did know he could block.  Running his butt off for the first 30 yards to get a lead heading into the trail, his plan worked like clockwork.  With his size working for him, nobody could get by him on the trail.  That wouldn't work for long, however.  There was another John -- soon to be race winner John Lipa -- who, after his third attempt, dove through the trees, blew by the big guy and let him eat some dust.
The Trail
The runners followed the trail of toilet paper hanging from the trees, chalk marks on the trail and road, and signs made by Jake and Holly with a really cool running frog on them.  The kilometer marks were on the road in chalk.  We figured that kilometer marks would be better than mile marks.  After all, no self-respecting American has a clue what his pace per kilometer is supposed to be.  So who would know if the course was short?  Or long?  On the streets coming off the trail, we did a 2k loop through a residential neighborhood, then back to the trail and past the starting line.  The second loop was one lap around Lamberton Lake.  Out on the street, take a right on Lamberton Lake Road, and a couple hundred yards to the Duck Crossing sign.  Down a driveway, skirting the bottom of the hill and back onto the nature trail.  Duck one log, jump another one, and the runners head into the home stretch.
The Finish
John Lipa emerged from the trail way ahead of the pack, finishing in a blazing 20:36.  At 23:38, our women's winner Amy Wing came in.  And the good news was, EVERYBODY set personal records for this distance.  The bad news is, we aren't quite sure what this distance was.  We did know, however, that all the people who paid for 5.5K got more than their money's worth.

Big John stopped for a cigarette.  The more svelte runners he was blocking earlier took a look at him and decided not to try to beat him mercilessly. Wise choice.
The Afterglow
Awards in the Pub.  Winners Amy Wing and John Lipa received gift certificates from Gazelle, and random drawings were held for a bigger variety of frog prizes than we previously knew existed.  Everyone was treated to some of the best microbrew to be found in the city of Grand Rapids.
The Start of Something Big
 From "off-the-wall" little races held at various breweries around Grand Rapids, we grew into something big. Ten years of our marathon, the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon. From our first event with around 20 friends at Founders back in December 2000, we've now grown to a weekend of running that involves over 6,000 people.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

An addition to your summer reading list

For the last 14 months or so, I've been working on a book. Like everyone else in America, right? Well, the good news is, it's almost done. I have a publisher who's excited about the project, and we should have books in hand by the end of the summer. Awesome.

"And The Adventure Continues ..." is the working title. It talks about the seven continents world record I set in 2011, with all the backstory to go with it. You'll also get a good bit of history from the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon. It's an exciting project, another sort of marathon. 

I'll share some excerpts as the spring and summer progress. 

We're training for the Fifth Third River Bank Run, the Kalamazoo Marathon, the Lansing Marathon, and loads of other races around here. More traditions. Looking forward to seeing a bunch of you out on the roads. It's going to be a great spring season.

And then -- I'll see you at the finish line in October.

Friday, March 15, 2013


It's one of the "rites of spring" here in Grand Rapids, the Irish Jig 5K. Thousands of runners, wearing green stuff, celebrating the arrival of spring.
The guys I run with at the YMCA have a tradition of turning our noon run into a run to the Triangle bar for beers and some corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. We revived the tradition a few years ago and always look forward to it.
We completed  the Robinette's Run last weekend, a Grand Rapids Running Club 8-mile trek that was followed by hot cider and donuts. The GRRC has been doing that run since long before I started running. At this time of year, anything can happen. We've run the route in sunshine, snow, rain, and ice so bad that Dave Hulst and I literally had to crawl back up a steep hill because it was so slippery.
I love traditions. The create a continuity between the past and the present. They give us common experiences, build friendships, and bind us together.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Seven Toughest Marathons

Yesterday someone shared this article on Facebook:  It lists the seven toughest marathons in the world. Among them are five that I've done -  Inca Trail Marathon in Peru (2004), Pikes Peak Marathon (2001 & 2004), Antarctic Ice Marathon (2007 & 2011), Blue Ridge Parkway Marathon (2011), and North Pole Marathon (2003). Only Mt. Everest Marathon and Great Wall Marathon to go. I'm planning on Great Wall in 2014. Don't know about Everest.

Six Foot Track, from Katoomba to Jenolin Caves in Australia (2007) and Speight's West Coaster at Bethel's Beach New Zealand are both tougher than a couple of the list above, incidentally.

Anyone else do better than 5?