5 Reasons Why the #Boston #Marathon Really Is a Big Deal #running

running-advice-bugThe Boston Marathon is special to many people – runners and non-runners alike. Marathon runners from all over the world aspire to earn their ticket to Boston, and running Boston is often the highlight of their running careers. But if someone asks why Boston is such a big deal, not everyone has the answer on the tip of their tongues. I’m an exception. Here are five reasons why I think Boston has earned its status at the top of the marathon running heap:

1. You have to qualify to run Boston.

US News Photo 4The first reason Boston is so unique is that it’s a qualified race. In other words, in order to register for the race, you must have already run a marathon at a particular (relatively fast) pace. The Boston qualifying standard drives many people throughout their careers as a mark of achievement. But while the Boston Athletic Association wants the race to be challenging to get in, it doesn’t want to exclude non-elite runners.

While race organizers tightened the standards to qualify in 2012, they still aim to allow approximately the top 5 to 10 percent of runners into the race. Think about that in contrast to the marathon at the Olympics, where only the top two runners from the United States participate. That’s a much stricter standard, and it’s also an example of how high the bar can be for elite competitors.

2. Even you can run the Boston Marathon.

Despite Boston being a race that requires a qualifying time, it’s achievable for non-elite runners. That makes Boston unlike almost any other “elite” event because many of us have a shot of competing alongside the absolute best runners in the world. When you spot someone wearing a Boston T-shirt or jacket, you know they met a high standard to get there.
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Insider Tips for the New York City Marathon #TSCNYCMARATHON

running-advice-bugIf you’re looking for my article on tips about the New York City Marathon that ran in US News Health, here it is:

Runners celebrate in the NYC Marathon

Runners celebrate in the NYC Marathon

Runners from around the world are about to converge on New York City for the TCS New York City Marathon, and they will all have something in common: They want to have the best experience possible. The marathon is huge, loud, packed with deep crowds and lined by some of the city’s most iconic sights. For the uninitiated, it is an inspiring – if a little bit overwhelming – experience. If you’re one of them, take heed of these tips and get the inside track:

1. Bundle up.

While the forecast looks good for this year’s race, the weather in New York City can be unpredictable. Some of my most intense memories of the New York City Marathon are of nearly freezing before the start in the staging area at Fort Wadsworth. Plan to spend hours out in the weather prior to the start with little to no shelter. There are a few tents, but for the most part, runners are out in the open and exposed to the wind and potentially cold temperatures. You may want to wear some old clothing, such as heavy cotton sweat pants and a sweatshirt, and then discard them at the start. In the past, race organizers have collected abandoned clothing and donated it to shelters. That way, you’re keeping yourself warm doing something good for the community at the same time.

2. Don’t be late.

Race organizers have devised an effective plan to get the thousands of runners out to the start, but it’s up to you to make sure that you’re on the correct ferry or bus. If you miss your ride, you may have a really difficult time getting to the start. I have heard stories of people thinking that they could “grab a later ferry,” only to find themselves out of luck. Every seat will be full, so stick to your assigned slot.

3. Bring only what you need.

Security will be tight this year at the New York City Marathon, as it has been at most major marathons over the past few years. If you’re thinking about bringing anything other than your running gear and energy supplies, you should check the prohibited items list on the marathon’s website. Keep in mind that sleeping bags and tents – which seem like appealing ways to stay warm at the start – aren’t allowed.

4. Understand the first few miles.

The start of the New York City Marathon is a massive undertaking that uses multiple waves and multiple corrals in each start. The course is actually split into three separate routes for the first few miles, with all of the courses eventually converging. What this means is that if you are trying to see or meet someone on the course, you need to understand that you might not be talking about the same “mile 5.” Also, keep in mind that there are separate color-coded mile markers on the course until mile 8, after which they all finally converge.
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How to Make the Most of the Chicago Marathon

running-advice-bugIf you’re looking for my article on tips about the Chicago Marathon tha ran in US News Health, here it is:

Some of the lead runners at the Chicago Marathon in 2015.

Some of the lead runners at the Chicago Marathon in 2015.

Runners know the Chicago Marathon as one of the greatest marathons in the world. With about 40,000 participants, it’s one of the largest races and its flat course can make for fast times.

As someone who has run the Chicago Marathon a number of times and prepared more than 500 runners for the race – including a group of 150 that I will be coaching this Sunday – I know there are a few things that set seasoned Chicago Marathon veterans apart from those who haven’t run the race. Here are some tips to give you the inside track:

1. Arrive early.

Getting into the starting area in Grant Park has always taken some time. You’ll be navigating throngs of people, covering a lot of ground and dealing with many closed streets that can wreak havoc on your travel plans. Since the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, race officials have significantly heightened security at the start area. You’ll now need to undergo a security screening in order to get into Grant Park, so give yourself an extra half hour on top of the time it takes you to get to the park.

2. Follow gear check instructions carefully.

Listen to race organizers about the types of bags you can use for gear check, and make sure you only bring what will fit in your bag. Most races, including the Chicago Marathon, provide clear plastic bags for gear check to make security screening quicker. This means that they may not allow you to bring your own backpack or another opaque bag.

3. Ensure you’re in the correct start corral.

Start corrals are assigned according to your estimated finishing time, with the fastest runners starting first. The Chicago Marathon is strict on ensuring that people only go into their assigned corrals. If you feel you need to change your corral assignment, contact the race organizers ahead of time or ask an official at the Race Expo. No changes will be allowed on race morning in Grant Park.

4. Keep your pace steady during turns.

The first few miles of the Chicago Marathon course include many right and left turns. The crowd will tend to slow down as it approaches these corners and then speed back up after them. This changing speed can be quite fatiguing, making the first few miles feel like an interval workout. Focus on keeping an even pace, and move to the outside if that’s not possible.
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Five Reasons to Run the Crater Lake Marathon #marathon #running

running-advice-bugIf ever there were a bucket-list race that is overlooked it might be the Crater Lake Rim Runs Marathon. This past weekend I ran the event and today I provide you my list of the Top Five Reasons you should run this amazing and different marathon.

Five Reasons to Run the Crater Lake Marathon

Sunrise at Crater Lake before the 2014 Marathon

Sunrise at Crater Lake before the 2014 Marathon

1. You get to run a marathon around the rim of a volcano. Talk about unique settings. In the first half of the race, you can just turn your head to the right and see views of one of the most beautiful natural wonders you will ever see. Crater Lake sits inside a collapsed volcano and you are literally running around the rim of the volcano’s crater. This pretty much beats the typical run through city streets of most marathons.

2. You want to really, really, challenge yourself. This sucker is hard. I would say that Crater Lake is one of the toughest marathons you’ll find anywhere. Included on the list of what makes this one so tough is the fact that the race course is entirely above 6,000 feet elevation and peaks out at over 7,750 feet. Also, you’ll have some nasty climbs to deal with and almost 3,000 feet of elevation gain. If that weren’t enough, one of the toughest hills on the entire course is set between miles 22 and 24 — just when you’re feeling freshest.

Elevation profile of the Crater Lake Marathon

Elevation profile of the Crater Lake Marathon

3. You want to run some serious descents. The up hill climbs may get all of the press, but running down hill can be equally tricky. It may not require as much effort, but it can tear through your quads and leave you trembling. Get ready for some big descents. The course tips downward from it’s peak about mile 14 and is almost all down until mile 22. Ouch.
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Races — Rock N Roll Madrid Marathon Really Rocks

running-advice-bugMADRID, SPAIN — The Competitor Group’s Rock N Roll Marathon series has made its debut in Europe. With its first new races in Scotland and Spain, the series of marathons that has brought big marathons to cities around the United States and Canada has landed on the Continent in style.

Preparing to Rock in Madrid

This weekend’s inaugural Rock N Roll Madrid Marathon showed that the popular format that includes rock bands, post-race concerts and smooth race organization can be transplanted to other parts of the world. The most notable impacts to the 35 year old Maraton de Madrid were a large increase in foreign competitors, from about 1,000 last year to 4,000 this year as well as a steep increase in the number of women competitors. Female participation in the event grew from only 8% in 2011 to more than 25% in the re-flagged 2012 event.

Rock N Roll Madrid drew approximately 19,000 participants across the Marathon and 10K distances with about 12,000 in the marathon and 7,000 in the 10K. Athletes from 78 countries took part in the event.

One notable difference between the Spanish event and many American marathons was a strict six hour time-limit for the marathon. Many races in the United States and Canada offer up to eight hours or more to finish, giving them wider appeal among first-timers and walkers. As Scott Dickey, CEO of Competitor Group told an audience on Saturday evening, “this is a race, not a run.”

Tough but Beautiful
The Rock N Roll Madrid Marathon route was routinely called “tough” by competitors afterward. The course sports nearly 20 kilometers of rolling downhill in the middle and a tough uphill section over its last eight kilometers. As one runner told me after the race, he recalled thinking to himself, “oh yeah, this thing goes up at the end,” when he hit the final long series of hills. Another simply told me it was “a real meat grinder.” A number of runners compared the course to the New York City Marathon, known for its tough bridge ascents and descents.

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Racing — Coach Joe’s Notes to the Olympic Marathon Trials Athletes

running-advice-bugI’m not Facebook friends with all of the athletes that figured prominently in this past weekend’s 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials, but if I were I’m sure each of them would have posted something on their wall about their performances. I would have then perhaps taken a moment to comment on their performances. Not just a “good job” but a few of the thoughts that crossed my mind as I watched the race. So today, here are my comments to some of the standouts at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials.

Dear Ryan — Ryan, oh Ryan. We love you brother. You are our fastest marathon runner. In fact, you were minutes faster than any American runner last year and you’re sitting on something like a four minute gap over everyone else in between your PR and theirs. We get it that you don’t like to “run in back”, but you seem to keep doing the same thing over again. You get out in front and lead the race from the start and then don’t quite have it at the end. Here’s all I’m saying: when you’re sitting on like a four minute differential in your PR over everyone else in the race, maybe let the other guys lead and save it for the last two miles. Then bust out that great speed and take it home. Granted, things will be different at the Olympics where there will be much faster people in the field. But you are a great talent and still young. You can race to make the difference between first and second.

Dear Shalane — Shalane, the people of Portland are really proud of you. You were facing the probably the toughest competition ever in a US Olympic Trials and you were far from the most experienced runner in the bunch. A lot of people were thinking that experience would trump the young speed in the field. I wasn’t one of those people. I knew it was going to come down to the new faces. I admit that I had picked Desi to take the win, but I would have put money on you to win, place or show. You looked great out there. Your form is picture perfect. With more experience at the marathon distance you are going to be unstoppable. Nice work!

Dear Meb— Meb, I met your dad once. Ever since, I’ve been a huge fan. You were such an inspirational American story before this win, but this just really tops it. Now you can add “comeback” to the resume. You looked so strong out there in the last miles. When other people were falling apart, you had it. You looked great on the hills in New York the last couple of outings as well. Despite Ryan’s speed, you really are the strongest American marathon runner right now. What you have is the combination of strength and strategic thinking that it takes to win. You’ve shown that you can perform on tough, hilly courses like New York and Athens with international competition. The question is how will you do in London? Thrilling I’m sure!
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Races — My Likes and Dislikes from the Walt Disney World Marathon

running-advice-bugToday I’m going to try something new. In the spirit of Facebook and “liking” things, I’m going to tell you what I liked — and disliked — about this weekend’s Walt Disney World Marathon. I’ve always wished there was a “dislike” button on Facebook, so I’ll just say thumbs up and thumbs down on some things that you might be wondering about this very large race.

Coach Joe after the 2012 WDW Half-marathon

First, a little background. This is actually the third race that I’ve done at Disney World. In 2010, I was one of the unlucky souls that was there for the Walt Disney World Marathon when temperatures were well below freezing. Yikes, that was cold. I’ve also supported the Disney Princess Half-marathon in Walt Disney World. This year I decided to run in the Walt Disney World Half-marathon, because it provides a good early season (or Winter) racing opportunity and really this course doesn’t disappoint on a lot of levels. But, as promised, my thumbs and thumbs down list for the Walt Disney World Marathon!

Course TerrainTHUMBS UP — this is one really, really flat course. There are a couple of bridges and fly-over ramps that you cross, but other than that there is very little that isn’t totally flat. There is one short hill where the course crosses under a water-way, but otherwise this baby should provide a really quick course.

Start TimeTHUMBS DOWN — So, I get it. They want to open the parks early, but the fact that the bus transportation starts at 3:00AM says a lot. Riddle me this: if the full marathon has to start at 5:30AM to get the parks open on Sunday, why does the half-marathon (held on Saturday) also have to have a 5:30AM start? Logic would be suggest that the half could start say an hour and a half later, which would be a lot LOT better experience for the runners.

Course SceneryTHUMBS UP, SORT OF — I am very enthusiastic about the scenery of the course, but it was so dark that it was hard to see a lot of it. This may be a corner case for the faster runners, because when I supported the full marathon in 2010, there was plenty of sunlight for most people. The course is really neat in that it goes right through the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The full marathon course also goes through Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and along the Boardwalk. There are few courses that can provide those kinds of sights. In addition, there is music, people jumping on trampolines, and the famous Disney Characters. Your ability to view all of this might be based somewhat on how fast you’re going.
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Guest Writer — Running Marathon de Paris In Style

[Today’s piece about the Marathon de Paris comes from Kim Lyman of West Hartford, Connecticut. Kim has run marathons in a range of places from Anchorage to Dublin and now Paris. Thank you for the submission Kim.]

I think I’m like most marathon runners. My brain plays tricks on me deep in a race. Somewhere about mile 18, I lose the ability to do simple math, control my emotions and generally do anything other than stay focused on whatever white or blue line I can find to zone out on down on the road surface. In my latest marathon something else jolted me back to consciousness at mile 18: the Eiffel Tower. The real one. How cool is that?

Running the Marathon de Paris

This past Sunday, April 10th, 2011, I ran the Paris Marathon for the first time. Saying it was amazing would just be a huge understatement, so I won’t say that. Instead, let me tell you a little bit about what I saw and heard on this very crowded race course.

The 2011 Paris field consisted of a reported 60,000 runners for an event that typically promotes itself as having only 40,000. It is hard for me to say if the increase in numbers had an impact on the event; perhaps the thinking was simply “with 40,000 already, what’s 20,000 more?”. All I can say is that being in the midst of that many people, my largest event to date, was spectacular and a bit daunting! I’m accustomed getting out of the crowds in the first five miles or so into most events. In Paris, I had lots of company from the beginning to the end of the race, affording me plenty of practice in both offensive and defensive running strategies! I learned everything from how to pass someone who didn’t seem to want to be passed (after a gentle tap on the shoulder failed to get them to yield) to placing my hand in front of my face to ward someone off or sometimes literally grabbing a few too many unintentional elbows aimed towards my face!

My continued apologies to the young woman whose elbow had the unfortunate introduction to my knuckles just as my hand was in a forward swing. While I couldn’t translate what she said, based on her reaction I am certain it hurt!
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Races — Race Recap 2011 Rock N Roll San Antonio

running-advice-bugSAN ANTONIO — More than 27,000 entrants competed in ideal running conditions at the 2010 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon & ½ Marathon benefiting the Susan G. Komen for the Cure on Sunday. While participants arrived from all 50 states and 18 countries, it was Texas athletes who dominated the leader board vying for statewide bragging rights at the third “Texas Showdown”.

Scott McPherson Wins Rock N Roll San Antonio Half-Marathon

At the third race edition, Austin’s Scott MacPherson finished first overall in the half-marathon at 1 hour, 4 minutes, 27 seconds, nearly a minute faster than last year’s showdown winner. MacPherson, 23, was an All-American cross country runner at Arkansas and now trains with Team Rogue Elite, a training group based in Austin coached by Steve Sisson.

“The pace was pretty honest and I wanted to keep it that way, wanted to run as steady as possible during the race. The plan was to run consistently and I think I did that,” said MacPherson, who was making his half-marathon debut. “This was my first Rock ‘n’ Roll and it was cool, my sister ran in Phoenix and she was telling me about the bands and atmosphere so I was looking forward to that and it certainly didn’t let me down.”

MacPherson was joined on the podium by teammates Darren Brown and Erik Stanley finishing second and third. Brown clocked 1:05:45 with Stanley right behind at 1:05:57. The top three runners ran personal bests, leading five men under 67-minutes. Both Brown and Stanley were NCAA All-Americans at Texas and have run under four minutes for the mile.
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Races — New York City Marathon — A Story of Shock and Awe

A Crowd Shot of the NYC Marathon at mile 22

running-advice-bugThe New York City Marathon is simply in a class of its own. The size and history and scope of it are so large as to leave one in awe. The 2010 race left us in shock as well.

With 45,000 runners, 2.5 million spectators and thousands of police, volunteers, media and sponsors — New York is just the biggest and baddest of them all. The crowds are overwhelming. And we’re not just talking about the crowds on the sides of the roadways. Runners are surrounded by a thick fog of other runners around them for nearly the entire distance of the race. As I stood watching the race at mile 22 this year, I couldn’t help but notice the traffic causing runners to pitch and dodge the other runners around them (and the spectators that fearlessly rushed across the streets between them as if playing a game of Frogger on steroids.)

It was another cold year and spectators were treated to chilly winds and the moving shade of tall buildings, blocking out the little warmth of the sun. The conditions were nearly perfect for the runners. Just a day later, sleet and rain would fall on Manhattan in the morning, so this day was a bit of luck for everyone involved in the race.

Race leaders Gebremariam and Mutai at mile 22

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