Wednesday, October 18, 2017

It was dark in the park

It was dark in the park,

Goes the snark remark.

Today’s runner tried to be quick off the mark,

But with the dark so stark,

He’d been better off to disembark.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Running in Iberia


It’s dark in the park. But only just parts of it. Time to move back to the lighter sections. This experience here in Retiro Park is not at all like the one I had in Casa de Campo park ten years ago. This park is smaller, but it’s still large enough to get some miles in; I do a few large loops of a couple miles for an overall total of eight. And this park, unlike that other one with prostitutes in the trees (you’ll have to reference my previous blog post), has almost no other people in these early morning hours.

Here’s another version of my usual answer to the question, “What do you think about when you run?” The usual answer is, I think about running. That’s partially the case today as well. But on this first run in Iberia, there are all sorts of random thoughts bouncing around between my ears. Thoughts such as, “where am I now?”, “was that a voice?”, and, “what are we doing later today?” Mostly though, I think about my running goals for these next three weeks here in Iberia.

Having completed most of my important races for the year (only Buckeye Woods remains), I won’t at all mind taking the running easy for this trip. Of course that’s what I’m doing now, but I also anticipate doing so for most all of my upcoming runs here. I do, however, decide to try to run at every location. That’s not to say every day, but nearly so. It will be tough, since we are on the move so much. Most locations are just for one night, although some are for two, and only the Lisbon hotel will be more.


I am concerned about getting lost in this jumble of medieval streets, so I mostly stick to the main roads, and reference my printed Google map often. I learn right away to avoid the bike lanes at all costs. I try to get into some of the city parks, thinking they may be as wonderfully runnable as Retiro was. They’re locked up tighter than drums. I could probably try to sneak in, like I do at the Brunswick Track... but I don’t.

Second choice is the river. I have often found several paths along rivers in Europe, and this one, the Guadalquiver, does not disappoint.

Things are fine except that several sections are covered by cobblestones. No doubt these were placed here by the ancient Romans, or possibly later peoples such as Visigoths or Moors. No matter, they’re not designed for Danny Boy and his Brooks Ghost Nines. This causes me to slow down even more than before, if that’s at all possible. This increased slowness, in turn, causes me to turn back. We wouldn’t want Debbie to worry.


This Is turning out to be a really nice run. Once again, I have navigated to, and run along a river. Once again, it’s proven a good choice, after all the fear and loathing I had been doing about getting lost. So much so, that I’m carrying two maps along with my room key. These particular cheap-o shorts, throw-aways that I will wind up trying to keep after all, have no pockets. I also have a headlamp that I need to be able to read the maps.

My fear had at least some basis: we’d walked the jumble of narrow, twisted streets of Granada yesterday, and it seemed impossible not to get lost.

The dirt paths along the river are lovely, even though it’s still dark. Along with my headlamp, there is some lighting to help with the footing and navigation. Thus regarding my quest to run at every location possible during this journey, all is good. But here is what I should have feared and loathed about: slow-disease. I am only barely moving faster than a brisk walk. In fact, this is working out to be my slowest, and therefore shortest runs yet. One of these days I’ll need to get serious about this running stuff. But today is not that day.


This one is shaping up to be my best run so far, in just about every aspect. Valencia re-routed its river away from the city to eliminate the risk of flooding, and they re-purposed the riverbed area as a long city park. So once more, I’m running along a river, although this time it’s a river sans water.

The width of the park varies, but it’s probably never more than a half-mile wide. But it sure is long. And long is just what the doctor ordered. Getting started around 4:30, not having to worry about getting lost, traffic, bad footing, darkness (it’s well-lit), etc., all add up to a goal of at least ten miles for the day.

Having decided to run out on one side of the riverbed and back on the other, I had hit the turnaround, where I think the park finally ended, at a little over five miles. This was perfect. Now after going out on the eastern edge, I had been trying to return on the western side. But I get re-routed just a little and wind up on some of the middle paths. Here I find a dirt trail that suits me.

The lighting is a bit different - small up-lights vs the overheard ones that illuminate the other trails. I am starting to see other runners now that it’s nearing the 6:00 am hour. I notice a 2 km marking, and then others every 100 meters. It’s a trail marked specifically for runners, and I follow it all the way to the 5 km finish. This is extremely cool!

I’m not done yet, however. I have a couple more miles before I get back to my hotel. I finally pick up the pace a little, making this not only my farthest and most enjoyable, but also my fastest run. Ten miles. You can’t go farther than that.


The streets are filled with people. Not what you would expect at 6:00 am on a Saturday. But then, this is Spain. The problem of the day is not the people and the busy city streets. It’s that there’s no destination. For each of my other runs so far, I’ve managed to find a river or a park where I could run in peace. Such is not the case today.

But I knew that. I’d had low expectations going in, and I’m now reaping what I’d sewed. I go up to, and then out and back on Avinguda Diagonal, the main drag through town. I don’t feel threatened by all the young people, although a couple do remark on my presence (I think it was of a positive nature).

This winds up as just two easy miles today. It will also wrap up my running in Spain. On to Portugal!


1) I hate running here. Don’t get me wrong. I love Portugal in general, and Lisbon in particular, in lots of ways. But running isn’t one of them. It’s all cobblestones; they’re impossible to avoid. And now I’m hopelessly lost.

It shouldn’t have been that difficult; I only wanted to head over from the Marriott into the main downtown area. It’s a couple miles, and I have walked it in my previous visits to this place. But today is not a great running day. Besides being lost and afraid of tripping, I now have a cold as well. Probably caught it from a fellow traveler. Somehow I find my way back this first day.

2) I love running here. I had headed out the other direction – north instead of south - and the memories came back. This is where I used to run most of my miles whilst working here. There are universities and hospitals around here, and there’s a running trail through a university athletic area and park. It’s about ¾ mile – I do one circuit before heading back, but I will return!

3) I love running here. I know I said this yesterday, but I mean it even more-so this time. I am running in the same park, and I am re-discovering other routes around and through the place. There are more soft dirt trails, and plenty of variety. There is some lighting, but even so, it’s a good thing I have my headlamp. I figure that it’s about a 1.7 mile circuit at the most. After a few of those, I start around a smaller circular course more in the interior. A little under a half-mile in length, it goes around a stadium, and it’s on roads. It’s just beginning to get light out, and other runners are beginning to do this shorter route (they are starting to run the dirt trails as well). Some of these other runners are pretty darn fast. I pick it up here as well. It’s good to finish this ten-miler feeling strong.

4) I kinda like running here. Since I am now staying at a different Lisbon hotel, I’m in a different park: scenic, even in the dark, Parque Eduardo VII. It’s actually fine, except for the cobblestones. Did I mention that there are 17 billion cobblestones in Lisbon? And that I’ve stepped on nearly 28.3% of them? And that I haven’t tripped yet? And if that don’t jinx me, nothing will. The biggest problem with today’s run, however, isn’t the cobblestones. It’s me. I’m just too darn tired to run more than four miles. And of course I am, once again, out of time.

I had apparently missed the Madrid Marathon whilst we were there doing other things. Now in Lisbon, we actually witnessed a 10K run that was going on in the Belem area while were touring that area. I sure would have liked to participate in these events, mostly for the opportunity to experience something unique.

The Algarve

It occurs to me that if something would go very wrong during this run, I’d have a great deal of trouble describing where I am staying. I don’t even know the name of the town that I started in (I later finally get it into my head – it’s Armacao de Pera). The other bad thing that could happen, as I run down this dark, narrow road, is for some Brit who’s only half awake such that he’s driving on the left, to hit me from behind. This area is where a whole lot of Brits and Europeans go on beach holidays, and the beaches are quite lovely here.

Luckily, neither bad thing does indeed occur. I find an even more narrow road to run down, and end up making a loop around a camping area. I also run on the beach a little. Once again, I wind up enjoying this run a whole lot.

I would like to do more. Too bad I run out of time. Again.
Running on the beach in the Algarve


The cathedral again? How can I possibly be this completely lost in such a relatively small and compact walled city? Why o why can’t I find the main square, from which I would be able to easily navigate back to the hotel?

Yes, I must admit it. I’m as lost as lost can be. I had started, key, map and flashlight in hand, with honest intentions: the thought of getting outside the walled city and its complicated cobblestone roads, and back, as fast as possible. By now you know this hasn’t worked out so well. There were cobblestones outside the city walls as well as inside. Worse, it wasn’t entirely clear in my muddled brain what was inside versus outside said walls. In fact, I wasn’t sure at all whether I was inside or outside the walled city. I had wandered a lot, and eventually found myself back inside said walls.

That part was okay. By then, I’d gotten a couple miles in, and it was time to head back anyway. Too bad the fun was only just beginning. Now I keep finding myself back at this darned cathedral, from which I keep trying different roads to take me away. At one point, I travel all the way back outside the city, thinking once again that I can then navigate all the way around on the outside. No luck there either.

I had asked a couple people – it was now getting later in the morning, so they were beginning to wake up – for help, but as much as they tried, the communication barriers were too great. The map only made things worse.

What’s the danger, you ask? I check my watch. It’s 6:52. Debbie is by now becoming extremely anxious, sitting in the room awaiting my return. I’d said 6:30, and it will soon (at 7:00) be time to get our bags out and go to breakfast. The worst case scenario would be that of missing the 8:00am bus, and thus being stuck in Evora forever.

I run down for one more loop around and through and back. Back to the cathedral. Back with still no sign at all of the main square, with it’s way to Hotel Mar de Ar. I stop to ask an elderly couple for some directions. I hesitate, because none of the others had been able to help at all. There is more communication and miscommunication, but they wind up actually walking with me up and down the streets, to the main square.

Eventually we do arrive at the square. I can’t figure out how it was that I couldn’t find it before. I thank the couple profusely with multiple obigados, and then run the rest of the way down to the Mar de Ar. I get back around 7:15, and Debbie had indeed been worried, but she also had everything packed up and ready for us to go. I had been out since around 5:45, but only got around five miles in.
Extremely Lost in Evora


You won’t believe this, but I’ll tell you anyway. I’m lost. Again. This time, I’m in the early morning darkness, running on cobblestones in a medieval, walled city with narrow, winding streets. I know. This sounds much like yesterday’s debacle. But it’s today’s as well.

I hadn’t planned on going very far today. Of course, I hadn’t planned on it yesterday, either. This time, things do work out a bit differently, however. I emerge from some narrow, winding, cobblestone street, only to find…….. my hotel!! Of all things. And right where I left it.


I am not lost. I may indeed have a problem getting back to the hotel, but I’m not lost. Not one bit. I know exactly where I am. Exactly.

And furthermore, I know where I started. So, let’s summarize. I know where I am now. I know where I started. I just don’t have the slightest idea how it transpired that I arrived from there to here, or how to get back. Here, by the way, is under the famous Eiffel bridge here in Porto. And this is precisely where I did want to run today, since it’s by the river (alert readers will note that I like rivers for their navigational assistance), and also has fewer cobblestones.

And then a miracle occurs. I manage to retrace my steps, and arrive back at the hotel without further mishap. It’s amazing. 
The bridge in Porto

Figueira da Foz

I am not lost, but I have no inkling what city I'm in. You can read it just above this sentence because I am able to look it up when I return. The reason I'm not lost is that we've finally gotten to a place that's easy to navigate. Keep the Atlantic Ocean on my right-hand side going out, and on my left when I return. I can handle this.

And yet, with the heavy fog (I could only see a couple feet in front of me), I do somehow manage to get away from the ocean.  I didn't think I turned, and the bike and walking paths had appeared to go straight.  I know I've gotten away because I'm suddenly running under a huge and high bridge that's perpendicular with my path. Assuming that it's not taking drivers all the way across the ocean, I must have trailed off. Will I find my way back this time?

I do. It's a pretty good run. And it's a good final one for the trip.

I did manage to run at every location. Each one was extremely slow, but at least memorable.

For more on this trip, see also my travel blog.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Today's Tale: Torturous Track Tempo Training Trot

People often ask what we runners think about as we're running all those miles. We think about blog post titles such as this one. And when they find out, they're sorry they asked. It would have been nice to be able to include the word, tremendous in there. Nice, but not quite appropriate. Torturous, unfortunately, is the more apt descriptive adjective.

It's been tough to keep motivated now that Erie is over. Other than late November's Buckeye Woods 50K, there's nothing else on the horizon at the moment. Without some Big Race on the calendar, and perhaps with some still ongoing post-race mental and physical damage, I just don't feel like running so much or so fast these days.

Today would be different. It would be a Something of Substance Tuesday Track Trot. I show up at 5:15, and run a few easy miles with co-worker Colleen DeVito, who's getting ready for her first half-marathon in a while. Then I pick it up to begin the speedwork.

What particular speedwork am I doing, you ask? Darned if I know; I make this stuff up as I go along. That's especially true when there's no race looming in the near future.

I am nearing a mile at this tremendous 7:30-ish pace when I consider whether to slow down at the completion of said mile. In other words, should I do mile intervals, or a tempo run. (I am already committed to something longer than 800s or 1200s, by the way.)

The mile goes by, and I keep going. This does indeed become a 3-mile tempo run, and by the time I hit overall mile six, I'm ready for a quick pit stop. Can I do a few more miles at this pace?

Besides something of substance, I'd wanted to get to a total of ten, or possibly eleven miles today. This usually isn't a problem for these mid-week speed sessions. It is today. After a couple additional fast, but not quite as fast miles, I ease up for a cooldown mile. The watch indicates nine miles. What? I thought it was ten for sure. Is there some mistake?

Nope. Nine is correct; the only mistake is my brain. I struggle mightily, but manage another mile.

I am still (still!) waiting for this to become easy.

Monday, September 18, 2017

There once was this ancient runner

There once was this ancient runner from Brunswick
Who thought: to be the best that ever lived would be mighty slick
He runs as fast and as far as he possibly could
No doubt way more than he should
Guess that makes him pretty much a lunatic

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Erie Marathon Race Report, by Danny Boy

Short Version: I ran well for a while. But then... (Sorry, there's a technical glitch here. Please refer to the Long Version.)

Long Version: Danny Boy wonders where the heck he's at when the 3:00 AM alarm goes off. He somehow manages to get up, out the door and on the road to Erie before four. It takes two hours, and he has to go pretty bad when he gets to the Waldameer Park parking area. Could it possibly have something to do with all the coffee, beet root juice and water he's been gulping during the drive?

Presque Isle is not an island, but a protrusion of land that thrusts into Lake Erie. Such penetration makes for a stunning recreational venue. Okay, okay. Danny Boy will stop. The location is indeed beautiful, but now it's back to the race report.

This race had been on Danny Boy's 'A' list. We don't know why. We don't even know why he does these marathon thingies, for that matter. But with a motto like, 'flat, fast and fun', coupled (there we go again) with absolutely perfect weather, there ought not be any excuses not to run, or not to try to run well. At the very least, he certainly should do better than the 3:56 he did this past spring in Cleveland. On top of everything else, our runner ran some half marathons to get ready, and even (yes, really) tapered and carbo-loaded.

He starts out much too fast. He can't understand why everyone else, some of whom don't appear to be fast runners, seems to be sprinting. Of course he foolishly tries to keep up. After about six miles, he finally settles down to a more manageable pace. As he comes close to completing the first of the two 13-mile loops around the peninsula, his pace falters a little as he slows a bit more.

The half-way point brings memories of his only marathon DNF (Did Not Finish). In 2003 or so, he'd made the trip up here with wife Debbie and some friends. On a horrifically hot and humid day, Debbie said as he ran by, "We're going to breakfast, why don't you come too?" Without thinking at all, Danny Boy stepped off the course and went to Bob Evans. He could have completed the second 13 that day, although he'd have suffered mightily.  Danny Boy ran Erie once before and once after that incident. Those other races were super hot ones as well.

Not today. It is 48F at the start, and of course things warm up as the sun rises, but it still never gets a whole lot north of 60. Furthermore, the air was dry and crisp, and there is only a slight breeze. It's as good as it gets.

Hitting half-way with a time of 1:50 is a little scary. That's only a couple minutes faster than his two recent half-marathons. If he could duplicate the time for the second half, he'd have an extremely respectable 3:40 marathon. But can he do it?

He takes some gels, and they seem to help. He runs the next several miles nearly as fast as he ran them the first time around. He's still feeling strong at Mile 20, and the time is around 2:49. 3:40 is still possible, no?

No. The pace begins to slip. Not a lot, but enough. Perhaps those fast early miles did indeed take their toll. Now that silly 3:40 goal is truly out of reach. It's funny how it had became a goal at all. Going in, he had only thought about beating his 3:56. Faster than 3:55 would be a Boston Qualifier. Now he easily had the BQ, but wanted more.

Finish time is 3:43. It's Danny Boy's best in four years, and second best in six years. But then, he retired from marathons a few years ago, didn't he?

The word is out on Erie. The race organization is second to none; it's all about the runners. And it's nice that it's only a marathon; there are no other events. Being so flat and with timing to allow for Boston Qualification, the race has grown a lot over the years. There were well over 1,500 participants from all over.

One more thing. The results show that Danny Boy was eighth in his ancient age group. That means that seven (yes, seven) old-timers actually ran faster. Surely the large field and the perfect day mattered. It sure did to D.B.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Because He Couldn't

Why did he make it so darn hard on himself, having to sprint so hard, from so far behind? Why didn't he just stay with the leaders from the start, and then simply outlast them?

The 1972 Olympic 800-Meter race is still considered by many to be one of the greatest come from behind victories of all time. An Ohio boy, Dave Wottle of Canton and Bowling Green State University, was in seemingly out of the realm of possible winners, trailing far behind in last place with 400 meters, and even 200 meters to go. Then Wottle began to pass his competitors, one by one. Even so, he still had an incredible amount of real estate to make up as he entered the final straightaway in a distant fourth place. His final kick over the last few meters is the stuff of legend. His last victim, the favored Soviet runner Evgeny Arzhanov, dove at the finish line, but Wottle stayed upright, and passed him for the gold-medal win. It's all here in this famous video.

Why didn't he just stay with the leaders from the start? Because he couldn't.

Dave Wottle considered himself a 1500 meter runner. He stated that he was only running the 800 to prepare for the 1500, and that he didn't have anywhere near the 400 meter speed of his competitors. He actually ran even splits in the Final, whereas all the others slowed during the second lap.

I think about this race often, especially when I see runners off to a fast start in a race of any distance. Many times, I am unable to stay with those whom I think I ought to be able to beat. Stay with it, I tell myself. Run your own race. They will either come back, or they won't; all you can do is run the best you can, with the knowledge that a steady, even pace most often yields the best results. Be like Dave Wottle, I say.

The Olympic Games were held in Munich, Germany in September, 1972. Forty-five years ago, I watched them, and this race, live. I was as stunned as everyone else. These 1972 Games were also famous for the Israeli Hostage situation, and for Frank Shorter's Marathon win. I recently re-published an article I wrote about the fortieth anniversary that race five years ago. For more information about Wottle, what he's up to now, and his famous painters cap, this article in the Toledo Blade, tells it well.

It's okay to start fast, if you're wired that way. But turtles, take heart. If you run slow and steady, sometimes it works.

The Tale of the Pied Piper

It was 45 years ago when Frank Shorter won at Munich and led us astray... This article appeared in the September/October 2012 issue of Marathon & Beyond. I am unable to find the entire text online, and Marathon & Beyond has ceased publication, although back issues are still available. Now it has been 45 years, rather than 40, but I still like the article. Here it is again.

A sudden thought occurred to me during a recent sleepless night: it has been 40 years since Frank Shorter’s Olympic marathon win at the 1972 Olympic Games. I reflected on the moment. Those Games were as memorable as any. They included Mark Spitz, Lasse Viren, Steve Prefontaine, Olga Korbut, Dave Wottle, the USA men’s basketball team’s loss to the Soviet Union, and also the Munich massacre—the killing of the Israeli athletes. But for many road runners old enough to have seen it, our most vivid, most enduring memory was that of Shorter’s win.

It wasn’t just the fact that no American had won the event since 1908. Here before our eyes, on live television, this seemingly average American man was able to train hard enough to win against the world’s best. For me, the image of Shorter entering the Olympic Stadium ahead of everyone else (except an impostor) will forever be etched in my memory.

Of course, I understand that Shorter is anything but average, but that was the thought at the time. And that’s a large part of the reason that his win marked the start of the running movement. It certainly got me going.

A watershed moment if there ever was one, Shorter’s gold medal sparked running as we know it today. Before the 1972 Olympics, only a few odd, skinny people ran. There were only a handful of marathons and other road races available around the country. After the 1972 Olympics, truly average people began to believe that if they just went out and trained, great things could happen.

Great things did happen. With all the new runners hitting the roads, several big cities inaugurated marathons and other road races to accommodate them. The growth of road racing began to accelerate further; with more road racing in the spotlight, even more people began to run.

And the trend continues to this day, although not without some setbacks and lulls. But now the growth is accelerating to levels unfathomable in 1972.

It started with an American guy entering the Olympic Stadium and crossing the finish line 40 years ago.

Before Munich

Yes, there was running before the 1972 Munich Olympics. Track and field enjoyed perhaps a little more notoriety than it does today. US sprinters led the world, as they do now. Among distance runners, Marty Liquori, Jim Ryun, Billy Mills, and most recently Steve Prefontaine had all become well known in the previous decade.

US high schools and colleges fielded track and cross-country teams, as they do now. Football and basketball programs grabbed more attention, as they still do today, but some young athletes dedicated themselves to running.

Two factors limited the future for runners after their college days were completed. First, it was virtually impossible to make a living by running. With amateurism as the rule for the Olympics as well as for most other events, sponsorship opportunities were almost unknown. Professional runners were nearly nonexistent.

The second limiting factor was that there were only a handful of opportunities to compete in road races. The Boston Marathon had a proud tradition, and there were some other marathons and road races of other distances. But these events were so few, and so small, that most runners didn’t bother with them. In fact, most people weren’t aware of road races at all. Most didn’t know what a marathon was. Road running, for most practical purposes, did not exist yet.

Five years before the 1972 Olympic Games, Kathrine Switzer had her famous encounter with Jock Semple at the Boston Marathon. At the time, the Boston Athletic Association had articulated no policy regarding women runners. Switzer entered the race as “K. V. Switzer.” Partway through the run, B.A.A. race organizer Semple attempted to physically force her out of the race. A boyfriend intervened, and Switzer famously completed the marathon. Photos of the incident demonstrated a truth not generally believed before: women can run long distances. Who knew?

Katherine Switzer’s original Boston Marathon run in 1967 directly resulted in women being (finally) allowed to officially enter the race in 1972. This simple activity would never be the same, especially for women. It’s notable that the 1972 Olympic Games featured only limited opportunities for female distance runners to compete. The longest event for them that year was 1,500 meters. A couple of more Olympic Games would go by before women would be allowed to compete in longer events.

The 1972 Olympic Games

The Games of the XX Olympiad were much anticipated. They were held in Munich, Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), from August 26 to September 11, 1972. The only other time the Olympic Games were held in Germany was in 1936 in Berlin. Those had come just prior to World War II, and the war was still fresh in the memories of many in 1972. The government of West Germany was intent on showing the country in a positive light.

Cold War tension was nearly at a peak. An undercurrent of the Games would be the competition between East and West. Athletes from the Soviet Union and East Germany were often the ones to beat, from the American perspective.

In the United States, television coverage would be greatly enhanced from that of previous Olympics. The expanded coverage had Americans interested and engaged as never before.

On September 5, with six days remaining, an event occurred that would shock the world and change the Games forever. A group of Palestinian terrorists known as Black September broke into the Olympic Village and proceeded to hold 11 Israeli athletes, officials, and coaches hostage. Two of the Israelis were killed early in the ordeal when they tried to overpower their captors. Later, as the terrorists and their hostages were being transferred to an airport, West German authorities attempted a rescue mission. The result was that all of the hostages and several of the terrorists were killed.

The Munich massacre, as it is now called, understandably left the Games in disarray. Olympic events were initially suspended, and then, after 24 hours and a memorial ceremony at Olympic Stadium, they were allowed to continue.

Even after the resumption of the Olympic events, American athletes, as well as many of the others, still wondered whether they ought to compete. Besides the obvious security concerns, the massacre gave them reason to think about whether it would be respectful to participate. But Olympic officials and American coaches determined that the Games must go on. The athletes ultimately agreed, and the Games did continue.

Before and after the massacre, there were many outstanding and memorable athletic events and achievements. Olga Korbut, a young, diminutive, and gifted Soviet gymnast, captured the hearts of everyone watching from around the world. American swimmer Mark Spitz won an unprecedented seven gold medals. The US men’s basketball team lost to the Soviet Union in a controversial game for the gold medal.

Track and field events were just beginning when the massacre occurred. They resumed with even more memorable feats. Popular American runner Steve Prefontaine famously took the lead in the 5,000-meter final before being passed near the finish and coming in fourth. The winner, Lasse Viren of Finland, also won gold at the 10,000, in spite of falling early in that race. In one of the most thrilling 800-meter races ever, American Dave Wottle, who had been running dead last, passed the entire field, including the last runner, a Russian, in the final 200 meters.

In the sprints, American and Soviet runners continued the close competition, with the Soviets winning more than their usual share. East German women appeared to be winning an awful lot as well.

The 1972 Olympic Marathon

Frank Shorter was born in Munich in 1947. His father, a US Army officer, had been stationed there. He grew up in Middletown, New York, graduated from Yale University, and was then busy as a law student at the University of Florida. Running the Olympic Marathon in the city of his birth was a dream come true.

Shorter had been successful on the track, winning NCAA and national 10,000-meter titles. He had only recently tried the marathon. But he had already achieved success there as well, winning the event at the Pan American Games in 1971 and tying with Kenny Moore at the US Olympic Marathon trials. What was he thinking leading up to the race? Shorter later recalled, “You can’t be afraid of anything; you can’t let the pressure get to you. After the Israeli massacre at the 1972 Olympics, if the terrorists were going to strike again, the logical event was the marathon. I had to choose to just shut that out of my mind.” And in an NPR commentary, he also stated, “We felt the Israeli athletes would have wanted this. I had a vague feeling that if as a team, we did not try to win our remaining events, the terrorists would somehow win instead . . . I ran the 1972 Olympics Marathon and never once, once, thought about terrorism. I did it that way because I simply had to. We arrived in Munich as innocent athletes and left as the first Olympic athletes to realize competing carries a risk of harm.”

It was the last day of the Games of the XX Olympiad. The marathon start was inside Olympic Stadium, and soon the runners were out on the streets of Munich. Television coverage of the event was better than for past Olympic marathons; there were cameras in the stadium to capture the start and finish, some mobile cameras, and others mounted at various locations to provide a view of the runners as they went by.

Shorter moved into the lead by about the 15-kilometer mark. He was now clearly the best runner in the field, and the cameras displayed his efficient, erect running style as he ran alone through the city of his birth. Continuing on, he maintained his lead and was not challenged for the remainder of the race.

As Shorter was approaching the finish, an impostor ran into the stadium ahead of him. Television announcers Jim McKay and Erich Segal anxiously began screaming and shouting. Segal famously yelled to Shorter (who couldn’t have heard), “It’s a fraud, Frank!”

Initially confused, and with the original roaring ovation that should have been his stolen, Shorter soon understood that he was the true winner. He crossed the line in an outstanding time of 2 hours, 12 minutes, 19 seconds. His American teammates and friends Kenny Moore and Jack Bacheler finished fourth and ninth, respectively. It was the best Olympic Marathon placing by American runners ever.
Shorter appeared to barely grasp what he had accomplished. The Olympic gold medal would be his.

But he couldn’t have been aware that a running boom would burgeon following his achievement.
I was 19 at the time. Although I had only dabbled a little in track during high school, I had been watching these Olympic Games with great interest. The marathon itself, and especially Shorter’s triumph, was already a great inspiration. I distinctly remember my brother-in-law saying to me (paraphrasing), “Here is this guy, an average American, who simply worked hard and was able to outrun the best runners in the world.” It seemed like anyone could do (nearly) the same, or at least accomplish great things, just by working at it. And running appeared to be the way for many of us.

The first running boom

You might say that baby boomers like me were ripe for something. We had just been through the 1960s, and for some of us, that came along with the related sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. The Cold War was still raging, but the Vietnam War was finally winding down. Many of us were living just before, during, or right after our college years. At some point, we would have to (gulp) get a real job and make a living. Would there be more to life than work and family? And what was up with this physical fitness stuff, anyway?

I can’t remember whether I went out for a jog within the next few days after the Olympics. But within a year or two, I was definitely running, and I was doing it fairly regularly. A few of my friends were starting as well. It just seemed like the thing to do. The running boom had begun.

The New York City Marathon had been inaugurated in 1970, but the early editions consisted of loops around Central Park. In 1976, Fred Lebow redrew the course so as to run through all five boroughs, similar to the way it is today. Boston notwithstanding, the modern urban marathon was born. Road races, including marathons, so few in number before 1972, were now popping up all over the place. Within a couple of years, nearly every big city had to have its own marathon. New road races of various lengths also began to appear on the calendar. Some of the road runners even began making money.

The Complete Book of Running was published in 1977. Written by James Fixx, the work clearly described the benefits and the personal fulfillment that came from running. It became a bestseller. The book further inspired many to get out and run. And for those of us who had already started, it was further reason to keep going.

Nike, Inc. began making running shoes for the masses. A few other companies did the same. The availability of quality kicks for the rest of us was certainly an enabler to the running boom that was beginning to take place.

Like New York, the Cleveland area had seen some marathons in previous years, but the first one to catch on was the Revco Cleveland Marathon, inaugurated in 1978. A few hundred of my closest friends and I were there. I had trained hard and ran a pretty decent first marathon time, despite almost crawling near the finish. I remember saying to my wife afterward, “Never again!” But I didn’t stick to that promise.

We did not lack for inspiration. Naturally, Frank Shorter’s Olympic win was tops for single events, but Shorter himself continued to motivate, and so did several others. Shorter won other marathons and then went on to win the silver medal at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada. The man who beat him, Waldemar Cierpinski of East Germany, has since been linked to his country’s illegal drug program. This is ironic because by about the time this link was being verified, Shorter had become the first chairman of the new United States Anti-Doping Agency.

Bill Rodgers began to excel at road races and achieved instant fame when he won the Boston Marathon in 1975. Although Americans had won the race in the past, Boston Billy’s easy style and grace, contrasted with Shorter’s seemingly more disciplined style, made him another veritable hero to many. Rodgers went on to win Boston three more times, and he also notched a notable four victories at New York.

Steve Prefontaine evidently learned something from his experience at Munich. Although experiencing some ups and downs, he was becoming a better, more complete runner. And he was becoming more of a folk hero than before. Prefontaine had begun training seriously for the Montreal Games when he was tragically killed in an automobile accident. His friend Frank Shorter was the last to see him alive.

Where has it taken us?

In 1984, during the Games of the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles, Joan Benoit became the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in the marathon. Every bit as compelling as Shorter’s win, this event further inspired many.

After Kathrine Switzer’s Boston Marathon incident and Shorter’s victory, women also began to participate in running and racing, but not in great numbers. Now, with Benoit, they had something the men had: a champion. Yet for some reason, there was a bit of a lull in the running boom during the late 1980s. People were still running, but the growth leveled off.

Things appeared to accelerate once again in the middle to late 1990s. It seemed that the boom took off even more around about 2005. This time the growth was largely due to women. They were finally now coming out to run in large numbers. Some people call these time frames (the 1990s and 2000s) the second and third running booms, respectively. Others may refer to them collectively as the second running boom. Whatever you call them, the numbers continue to grow, and the sport continues to flourish and thrive as well as evolve.

Although I have friends who have been running as long as I have, most of those I run with are relatively new to the sport. This is a great and wonderful thing. May it never end.

And it all began that fateful day in Munich.


Blount, Roy Jr. 1969. “Tallest, Fastest, and Buggiest,” Sports Illustrated, June 16.
Brant, John. 2011. “Frank’s Story,” Runner’s World, August 31.,7120,s6-239-567--14056-0,00.html
Burfoot, Amby. 2007. “Frank Shorter Talks About His Marathon Trials, and This Year’s Too,” Runners World, October 24.,8029,s6-239-569--12219-2-1-2,00.html
Fixx, James. 1977. The Complete Book of Running. New York: Random House.
Wikipedia. 2011. Frank Shorter
“Frank Shorter,” Wikipedia, last modified May 19, 2012,
Frei, Terry. 2008. “Shorter Deserves Applause,” Denver Post, April 3.
Shorter, Frank. 2005. Frank Shorter’s Running for Peak Performance. New York: DK Publishing.
Shorter, Frank, and Steve Inskeep. 2006. “Attack on 1972 Games Shadows Olympics,” National Public Radio, February 21.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Emerald City Half-Marathon Race Report

When does this get easy?

The short answer: not yet.

Our family spent the weekend in a cabin in the Hocking Hills area of Ohio. We had a wonderful time hiking the hills and enjoying the tranquility. I had the brilliant idea of stopping in Dublin to run the Emerald City Half-Marathon on the way home Sunday morning. It wasn't too far out of the way, and I needed another race or two to get ready for the Erie Presque Isle Marathon.

I left the cabin at 4:30 AM in order to arrive in time to check in and loosen up for the 7:00 AM start. I was on my own; Debbie would return with the Dancer family. Although I had no trouble finding Dublin, the starting area was confusing, and I was disoriented. Parking was at a large shopping area adjacent to a hospital. I wasn't sure where to park or where to check in. I managed to get everything done in time for a little warmup run. Good thing, too: it was cool (pleasantly so), and I was tight from the trip. Not to mention yesterday's hiking.

I started with the 1:45 pace group. Since it was such a huge race, there were several pace groups, but this one suited me. 8 minute per mile pace could be a stretch, but I did manage an 8:10 pace at last week's race. That one had been about a tenth the size of this race, and much hillier. Regardless of the hills, I decided that I definitely like small races better. Much better.

The first few miles weren't bad, but then I discovered that I was working pretty darn hard to keep up with this group. By about mile 4, I was beginning to fall behind. A little before half-way We reached Glacier Ridge metro park, where we'd spend most of the rest of the miles. Note that there is neither a glacier, nor a ridge there. This is C-bus, you know, where it's as flat as can be. But I enjoyed this part of the run, nonetheless. Half-way went by in around 53 minutes. Now if I can only manage negative splits like I did last week, I'll make it to 1:45.

I couldn't. Almost, but not quite. Whereas last week, with the downhills in the second half, I could pick the pace up quite nicely, this week things only became more difficult.

Well, I did pick the pace up, but only ever so slightly. My finish time was just over 1:45. I suppose that's okay. It's two minutes faster than last week. Alright, maybe just a little better than okay. But just a little. I'm still waiting for it to get easy.

It was dark in the park

It was dark in the park, Goes the snark remark. Today’s runner tried to be quick off the mark, But with the dark so stark, H...