Races — Rock N Roll San Diego adds half-marathon for 2010

running-advice-bugSAN DIEGO -– For the past 12 years, the annual Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon in San Diego has been one of the signature events of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team In Training (TNT) charity sports training program. Beginning with the race’s 13th year on June 6, 2010, LLS will become the exclusive charity of the renamed Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon & ½ to Benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

The Competitor Group, Inc., (CGI), the race’s organizer, has also added a half marathon to the event, which is famous for its live bands, cheerleaders and block party atmosphere. Final details of the new course, which will showcase scenic San Diego and include a new finish line, will be announced at a later date.

“LLS’s Team In Training has played a major role in this marathon since the first race in 1998, and this exciting new partnership is the natural progression of our shared history,” said LLS President and CEO John Walter. “The Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon & ½ will continue to be one of the most popular events among our Team In Training offerings and I know our participants are going to be very enthusiastic about the addition of the half marathon.”

For more than a decade San Diego’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon has offered an attractive venue for TNT participants to accomplish the goal of completing a marathon, while enjoying the satisfaction of running for the greater cause of raising money to find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. The addition of the half marathon will enable even more participants to be part of a race that has done so much to support the LLS mission. Funds raised by TNT participants have helped LLS support thousands of research studies over the years from early discoveries that led to chemotherapy and radiation treatments, to new advances in targeted therapies, immunotherapies and stem cell transplantation, as well as improvements in the quality of life for patients.
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Races — Many Journeys to Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon

anchorageANCHORAGE — In the 1948 film, the Naked City, the narrator tells us, “There are eight million stories in the Naked City; this has been one of them.” I’ve often thought about that quote in the context of marathons and marathon runners. To me, with every marathon that I support, I feel that I get a step closer to being able to express how the marathon is not just a collection of stories, but the culmination of a series of long journeys that is much too complex to put our minds around. I got a step closer this weekend at the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage.

The Anchorage event has been one of my favorite marathons for some time. What it has to offer is unlike almost any mid-size marathon in the United States. It is well organized. It offers all of the amenities that you’d expect, like great aid stations that even serve oranges and pretzels. And, perhaps most importantly, it is delivered against a stunning backdrop on the edges of the Alaska wilderness.

Perhaps that’s why so many people’s marathon journeys bring them to this remote part of the world. In this place, they can achieve their marathon goals, but they can lose themselves in the woods for time while doing it.

Runners at the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon

Runners at the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon

Many of the people that come to Anchorage for the Mayor’s Marathon are brought by the Leukemia and Lymphoma’s Society’s “Team In Training” program, which like many charities provides a coaching program for marathon runners and walkers to prepare for their first marathon. And while many people in the broader media — and perhaps even the broader running culture — like to flog charity running groups for bringing people to marathons that aren’t traditional runner types, they have missed a substantial point in making their criticisms. The point is that the journey these people are on is so much larger and more poignant than just running a marathon. The marathon is just the last step, or perhaps the first, in an emotional journey that most of us don’t have the capacity to understand.
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Living vicariously through first-time runners; a journey to Alaska for Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon 2008

Sean Sullivan and Dave Brewer of TNT OregonI love what a marathon does to a person.

Take the 110 pound lady that was on the bus back to the airport with me after this weekend’s Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage. She was telling me that she was hungry and needed a snack. I reached into my bag and pulled out a small bunch of bananas, offering them to her, but thinking that she might pick one and hand the bunch back. I watched in awe as she scarfed down the whole bunch.

Another runner told me that she had been eating constantly since the race ended. She wondered aloud to me that it didn’t seem normal that she had eaten 4 muffins from the breakfast bar and was still hungry. Normal, I offered, doesn’t typically apply after a marathon.

I spent this weekend running and walking alongside the crowds at the Mayor’s Marathon race, which is becoming a favorite of mine on my yearly travel calendar. Most would expect that the scenery would be spectacular (it is), but there is something more that is special about this race. I think it is the level of transformation that’s going on here with the multitudes of first time runners in the event. There’s just something about flying to the furthest reaches of our country, to a land where the sun doesn’t really go down, that amplifies the impact of a race which turns people from normal beings into people who can snarf down three bananas and still be looking for more food.

I’ve grown to form a special fondness for the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon. Not only is it the only race course on which I’ve seen both a bear and a moose, but the special excitement of visiting this spectacular place on the Summer Solstice makes it that much more appealing.
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ING New York City Marathon Virtual Training Program with Team in Training

Team in Training, in conjunction with Coach Joe English of Running Advice and News, is proud to announce the availability of slots into our virtual training program for the 2008 ING New York City Marathon. 2008 marks the 20th anniversary of the first Team in Training event at New York in 1988.

There are only 50 slots available and these are sure to go fast!

We’ll get you ready to cross the finish line at the ING New York City Marathon with:
– personalized training by coach Joe English, editor of Running Advice and News
– training clinics on technique and nutrition by experts in those fields
– weekly podcasts and e-mails from Coach Joe to keep you going
– an on-line discussion forum for team participants
– your own personal Web site for online fundraising
– travel and accommodations in New York City

Participants in the program will raise money to help find cures for leukemia, lymphoma and blood cancers. Now in it’s 20th year, the Team in Training program has raised over $850 million to find a cure.

In order to participate in the virtual team in training program, participants must raise a set fundraising minimum. There is a $50 registration fee to start the program.

If you’d like more information about this unique opportunity, please post a question on this page or visit the TNT web-site by clicking here.

Join us in New York for the greatest marathon around!

Running Advice and News


Coach Joe’s Race for the Roses Pre-race Speech

Editor’s Note: Tonight I delivered a speech to a group of 72 runners and walkers participating in tomorrow’s Race for the Roses in Portland. I decided to deliver this speech in the form of a news story about the race as if it had already unfolded. The story is below. Keep in mind that the race has not yet happened yet and that many of the quotes may have been attributed to people at my discretion. I hope that you enjoy the story.

PORTLAND, ORE – Morning showers and cool temperatures greeted over 3,000 runners and walkers at the Race for the Roses this morning in downtown Portland. For a group of 72 of them, this was the culmination of a journey that began at the starting of January when they signed up to train for this event and raise much needed money to fund research to fight blood cancers.

Runners and walkers with Team in Training met at the DoubleTree hotel bright and early at 6:00AM, already having eaten their breakfasts and made themselves ready for their 13.1 mile journey. After some smiles for cameras and pep talks from coaches, the group headed out into the overcast morning just as the sun came up at 6:30AM.

Coach Joe English reminds his team to just do what they’ve learned. “I always caution people not to do anything different on race day than they do at any other of their training runs. They’ve done the work to get here, now they just have to go out and get it done on race day. They can — and will — do it out there today.”
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Race Report: Nike Women’s Marathon (Guest Writer)

Editor’s note: One of my runner’s named Linda wrote to me about her experiences this weekend at the Nike Women’s Marathon. Linda is an experienced marathon runner, but she has been battling with stomach issues all season. This story captures the pain and difficulty that can come up in a marathon – and illustrates how those difficulties are not limited to those experiencing the marathon for the first time.

Linda speaks of several people that are either team-mates or coaches in the text below, but the name that you might note most is Erin. Erin is Linda’s son-in-law, who has been battling a form of cancer called Lymphoma. Linda takes great inspiration from running in his honor.

Well, as you know it was a tough day. I felt fine going out; I stayed with the 4:30:00 pace group up the first hill, then when we got to the first of the long hills, I took it at my own pace. When we hit the long downhill I picked up the pace as I often do running downhill, catching them at around mile 11.

Then it hit, the familiar GI issues, so I mentally readjusted to just finishing in whatever pace I could. But, it quickly went from bad to worse: I felt so nauseous it was hard to keep running. I saw Heidi’s husband Darrell somewhere around mile 8 looking for Heidi. We had been together along the waterfront, but had lost one another in the crowd. The next time I saw him around mile 9 or 10, he still hadn’t found her and he’d been there to see the 3:55 pace group go by. After I left him, I kept thinking about what could have happened to her as she’s always ahead of me on the hills and I was sure I hadn’t passed her on the downhill.

As I approached the marathon-half marathon split, I was oh so tempted to veer off with the half marathoners – though veer might make it sound like I was moving at a more rapid pace than I was at the time. But I kept going. I’m not a quitter! This past year, watching Erin go through his second lymphoma diagnosis, chemo and all the continuing side effects. I thought about how I couldn’t quit due to some nausea, back pain and stomach cramping issues that will go away within a couple hours of finishing this event, when Erin ’s issues will be with him for life.

The third time Heidi’s husdand Darrel found me, somewhere out on the beautiful stretch in Golden Gate Park, he said that Heidi had had stomach issues and was still behind me, but to keep going and he’d run her up to me. Heidi and I finally met up around mile 15. Fortunately I saw them just ahead of me as I came out of pit-stop #2. As I ran to catch up, touching her on her shoulder, she turned to me and said, “oh, thank God!” We determined at that point that we would go the distance together, though I must say that a huge part of me wanted to head into the finish line with the half-marathoners. Going another 10 miles seemed nearly impossible at that point: As we wound out to the Great Highway through the hundreds of spectators near the finish, I thought again of Erin and why I was running. I knew that with enough will power, I could, somehow, go another 10 miles.

As we looked out at that long stretch ahead of us Heidi said to me, “ok, we’re going to run from stop light to stop light,” and that’s exactly what we did. We waved to our friend Tam at mile 25, and saw Hillary looking awesome (on her way to the finish!). We saw friends Perry and then Carl. I hugged Carl. When he asked if I was in the “bite me zone”, I shed a few tears and gave him a little grin. Next I saw Coach Julie, with her wonderful encouragement and enthusiasm, and then I needed to stop for my third pit-stop.

Heidi had kept moving when I stopped. I caught back up to her at the top of the hill, which we were told was our last (they lied) and we continued on. At the turn to run along Lake Merced we dropped our hydration belts between some rocks, taking one bottle along with us. The next pit-stop came somewhere around mile 20-21. I just had to stop again, and again Heidi carried on. This time it was a full five minute wait just to get into the one lonely Portapottie. When I came out, I was able to run for about 15 minutes without stopping, but I couldn’t catch Heidi.

From there it was another pit-stop, a couple of “barf” stops, and then I picked up of my hydration belt and it was time to tackle the final couple of miles back along the Pacific Ocean .

More hugs and tears with Carl (by then his cell phone was toast) then Julie (hers too was not working). As Julie commiserated about her broken cell phone, she turned to me and said something to the effect of “here we are talking about our phones, while you’re feeling so awful,” I told her it was ok, but that I might throw-up on her shoes. She didn’t think that was a great idea since her shoes were clean and new, and incidentally just like mine. But then, we thought, we could always trade, only mine were smaller than hers. It’s funny how little trivial conversations stay with the foggy brain.

Tam found me somewhere near mile 25 and walked for a long way with me with her hand on my shoulder. Darrell passed me with Karen and said “come run in with us,” but I just wasn’t ready. Shortly thereafter there was Heidi waiting for me saying, “I promised you that we would run in together, so let’s go!” I sprinted the final few hundred meters, losing Heidi who had already sprinted in once before. I told her as we were running for the last curve into the chute, “it’s really hard to cry and run at the same time.”

I finished with my arms in the air, but I’m not sure I was smiling – the photos will tell all. I literally grabbed my Tiffany box off of the tray, and as I had my chip removed, I was thinking to myself “please don’t barf on this nice young man’s head!”

As we made it through the crowds, we met up with so many of our team mates: Elisa, Nicole, Karen and Cassie. Everyone helped get me fed and re-hydrated. Then after some photos, it was off to the hotel to recover. I know this experience was tough, but in my delirious state at 2 a.m. this morning I was actually already contemplating another go at it in Sacramento (in December)! What was I thinking?!?

Note: I’m sure that Linda will be back at it soon. And she’ll get these tummy issues licked. When she does, she’ll be headed for Boston, which is her long-held dream.

Running Advice and News


Races: Nike Women’s Marathon 2007

The fourth installment of the Nike Women’s Marathon seems to come off as a another big success. The event is a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and in that regard the event was a major success: more $18.6 million dollars was raised to find cures for blood related cancers. 5,300 of the runners participated on behalf of the Leukemia and Lymphoma society’s Team in Training Marathon program.

The weather was extremely cooperative yesterday, treating runners to nearly perfect conditions in the morning. With mostly sunny skies and a low temperature of 53 degrees, running conditions would have been ideal over the large hills early in the race. The temperature would eventually climb to 72 degrees, making it warm for slower participants as they completed their 26.2 mile adventure.

Karl Johnson of Portland, Oregon, told me that it was “hot at the beach, but a nice breeze is cooling things down,” as he worked his way part mile 24 around noon yesterday. He added that he had seen, “more smiles than anything else” during the day.

According to press reports, no major injuries were reported on the day.

One of the items that I’ve been unable to confirm is the true number of participants on the day. I was told prior to the event that 23,000 runners and walkers were participating, but press accounts quoted the number at 20,000. Results from the marathon show about 4,152 finishers in the full marathon. That would mean, based on the 20,000 number, that about 20% of the participants attempted the full marathon distance and 80% opted for the half-marathon.

Update: the half-marathon results are now available and show 12,171 finishers. That’s a total of 16,856 finishers, which means that the 20,000 number must be closer to the real number of participants.

In racing action, Lisa Thompson of Boise won the race in 3:01:26. Second, third and fourth places overall were taken by men (Elliot Otto, Jose Reyes, and Peter Startz), continuing a tradition of men placing in high positions at the event. Last year the marathon’s overall winner was actually a man, leading some people like the editorial board at MarathonGuide to ponder whether the race has a bit of an identity crisis.

The top finisher in the half marathon was Truckee’s Giovanna Mandy in 1:20:54.

Complete searchable results for the Nike Women’s marathon are available now by clicking here.

If you’re thinking of running the event next year, make sure to stay tuned for details on registration. This year’s half-marathon event sold out in a matter of hours, with the full marathon selling out in just three days. Entry through the Team In Training program is available if you miss the sign-up period. You may also want to read my course preview to learn more about the course, which I consider to be one of the more difficult urban marathon courses in the United States.

Team in Training provides training programs for the full and half-marathon at locations all over the United States and Canada. For more information, there is link to the Team in Training program on the lower-right side of this page.

For a story on the event for the local newspaper, including a few photos, click here.

Do you have a story to share? I’d love to hear how your day went. Please post a comment here on this page if you have something to say. For one such story, click here.

Related Articles and Sites:
Full and Half Marathon Results

SFGate.com article: Runners from all over pound pavement in Nike Women’s Marathon

Nike Women’s Marathon Course Preview

Race Report: Nike Women’s Marathon (Guest Writer)

Nike Marathon Web-site

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon USA

Running Wild is a free column from runners and triathletes from running coach Joe English. Check out our archives of training and motivation articles!

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Races: Nike 26.2 Women’s Marathon Course Preview

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

Each October San Francisco plays host to a unique marathon: the Nike Women’s Marathon.

Nike’s flagship marathon is special in two ways. It was both created as a women’s oriented marathon and it also serves as a major fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

A race built for women
In making an event more geared toward women, the race features Tiffany and co. finisher medallions, hunky firemen delivering the medals at the finish-line, and some unique on-course amenities such as a chocolate stop and an oxygen bar. And while most of these features are designed to attract women to the race, the race itself is not unlike other marathons. It is a standard distance, chip-timed, 26.2 or 13.1 mile race, with all of the traditional on-course support that you’d expect from a large urban marathon.

Although the Nike 26.2 (and 13.1) is tailored for women, the race itself welcomes men. In 2006, about 750 men ran in the event alongside thousands of women.

Start at Nike Women’s Marathon

The course
One of the most interesting things about the Nike 26.2 course to me is just how difficult it is. There are lots of tough marathon courses out there, but typically courses are tough when they include lots of rolling hills, like the Boston Marathon for example. But Nike is different in that it has large stretches of flat terrain and then some very large hills that come one right after another in the first half of the race. Because the hills are early in the race, it is easy to run them too hard and to burn too much energy early, leading to a very tough second half.

The course starts in downtown San Francisco at Union Square next to NikeTown. It heads slightly down-hill in the first three miles as it makes its way to the waterfront and then past Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghiradelli Square. There is a slight hill in mile three as the course sets itself up for a flat section in miles 4 and 5 along the water. This is a really nice stretch of the run through the Marina District. Unfortunately, that ends right about the mile 6 mark when the course turns dramatically uphill.

The first uphill climbs from mile 6 to mile 7 ½ and gains about 295 feet in that short distance. The hill is very steep right at the bottom, causing a lot of people to stop and walk as they hit the base of the hill. Some of my runners last year told me that they felt that this hill “went on forever.” It doesn’t go on forever though. At the top of the hill, the course plunges down about 150 feet in the next ½ to ¾ of a mile. It then immediately starts climbing again: this time a two-stage hill, over the course of the next mile and a half. Just before mile 10, runners top out near 295 feet again.

After the top of the hill at mile 10, the course then drops dramatically all the way back down to sea-level over than less than a mile. This is a very steep down-hill section. Runners need to be very careful here not to over-run this hill. And runners with knee problems may want to walk down it. The view, on the other hand, is pretty amazing as you descend down to the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

The course flattens out briefly and then makes a hard left into Golden Gate Park after mile 11. This section of the course climbs slowly over the next four miles, gaining back 240 feet of elevation. If you’re doing the half-marathon, you’ll turn-around before mile 12 for a downhill finish toward to the beach. On the full-marathon course, you’ll start down-hill from about mile 15 to mile 16.

When runners emerge from Golden Gate Park, all of the hills are pretty much behind them and they take another left turn onto the Great Highway to head south for the next few miles. This section is flat for about two miles. It may also be mentally one of the toughest sections of the course, as you’ll be running away from the finish-line and possibly spent from all of the hills early in the early miles. Stick with it and you’ll soon be climbing a low hill between mile 18 and 19 and leaving the Great Highway for a short time.

The section off of the Great Highway comes between miles 18 ½ to 23 ½ and is a circular tour around Lake Merced. Everyone I talked to last year simply hated this section of the course. It is slightly uphill throughout and the road is somewhat cantilevered (angled) along much of it. This is a very tough section of the course mentally and physically.

About mile 23 1/2 , you’ll go up and over a small hill as you rejoin the Great Highway. You’ll be on the home-stretch now with a straight and flat section heading along the beach to the finish-line.


In preparing my own runners for this course, I had them add some fairly steep hills into their longest runs. Whether you’ve done this hill work or not, my suggestion is that you have very conservative pace goals for this race. That means not only taking it easy on the hills, but have a conservative pace goal for the flat sections before those first hills.

What I might suggest is backing off your pace goal by say 30 seconds per mile. This pace should feel relatively easy in the early miles. Then when you hit the big hills at mile 6, make sure that your heart rate and breathing stay under control coming up the hills. If you feel like your panting and really driving your heat-rate up, then back off the pace until you get to the top. The worst thing that you could do to yourself on this particular course is to run these early hills too hard and then leave yourself out of gas late in the race.

Also, because of the heavy workload on the hills, make sure that you eat and drink plenty. You’ll need more calories for the uphill sections than a flat run and you’ll likely be sweating more if you’re working harder as well. Keep on top of your eating and drinking to make sure that you avoid bonking and cramping late in the race.

Nike 26.2 is a unique event. The weekend really is a great time for women to be proud of their accomplishments in sports – and this is a perfect showplace for those accomplishments. For those running with Team in Training, you can feel great pride in being a part of a sea of purple that will be raising millions of dollars for Leukemia research. On top of all of that, Nike 26.2 is a tough marathon, but an extremely beautiful one. There is almost always something interesting to look at and experience.

Have fun out there all! Take it easy on those hills.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon USA
Managing Editor, Running Advice and News