I wish I knew how to quit you [running blog edition]

In honor of this week’s historic SCOTUS decision, I’m cheekily tying in to a heart wrenching scene from the wonderfully powerful Brokeback Mountain to make the blockbuster, much awaited announcement that I’m picking up the mantle once again and blogging for the people. Did that sound as pretentious as I had intended? There’s no way to declare that you are returning to writing a blog that nobody asked for and hardly anybody reads (thanks Mom!) without sounding a little (lot) self aggrandizing, so I figured I’d go all the way.

I’d planned to pause from the blog for a few months while Awesome Wife Kelly and I made some life transitions. We left NYC, our home for 15 years, traveled around a bit and have just now started to settle down in California. A long, laborious and often wonderful process that got me away from running and certainly away from writing.

During the hiatus I spent some time thinking about the blog. When I started writing I had no goals except to get some of the thoughts crowding my head on to (virtual) paper. I suspected I’d have about zero voluntary readers and get lots of complaints from Awesome Wife Kelly, my family and closest friends who would be required to read my drivel (quizzes at the end of every post). However, after months of writing and dozens of posts, you do start to ask yourself if this is a good time investment. I mean, why not just use this time to run more? Or why not just keep a much simpler and more time efficient journal for myself?  In short – why bother?

The truth is that I really enjoy writing this blog. Indeed, given the total absence of any external reward for maintaining it, there’s no reason to continue the blog except out of a desire to keep running and keep writing. So there you go. I’m back and will be for the foreseeable future.

A few highlights from my time away:

  • I got to spend some time in California wine country. AWK and I made meticulous notes of our roaming, ramblings and tastings throughout Sonoma, with highlights including Ridge, Rafanelli, Imagery and Loxton. Obviously Russian River Brewery is a must for anybody in that part of the world and we also hit Bear Republic, which feels more like a local pub than an iconic brewery. Lest ye be deceived, I am not an oenophile and don’t pretend to be, so I will write no more on this topic
  • Sonoma
  • My time off enabled some great international travel, with Japan as a major highlight. Such a wonderful, odd (to an uninformed American) and fascinating place. Daily runs around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo are a great way to experience running culture in another country
Sumo mismatch

This does not seem like a fair fight.

  • Through the most hectic periods I tried to run 2-3 times per week at 3-6 miles per. This obviously didn’t prepare me for the next race, but hopefully has kept my baseline fitness in a place where I can pick up quickly and get back at it. This relative indolence is one of the major factors leading to the blog hiatus. I mean, if I’m not running, there’s not much to write about

And a few highlights from the blog posts of Christmas future:

  • Metabolic Efficiency Training: I join a fad running movement with a fad running diet to match!
  • Product reviews: Olivers Apparel, the Garmin 225 and Epic Bars
  • Training: For better, and worse, California is a very hot and hilly place to run
  • Rants: On why the people running the Los Feliz city council should be stripped of their jobs for crimes against running
  • Upcoming races: So much to say here

So there you go. All well here and happy to be back on the horse. Hopefully you’ll join once again for the ride.

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Sometimes failure can be fun: The New Orleans Marathon (Part 3 of 3)

A post in three parts:

Part 1: Dead man shuffle: A recap of my race

Part 2: I’ll admit when I’m wrong: Broader thoughts on the New Orleans Marathon

Part 3: The long weekend that wouldn’t end: Our week in New Orleans

 

Part 3:

There’s a common practice called deflection which, poorly summarized, means that we justify failure in one aspect of our lives with totally unrelated success in other parts. It’s okay that I’m not doing so well in school this semester because I made a lot of really great friendships. Yeah, I missed out on the promotion but it’s okay because I’m really tall.

Better yet: I feel okay about my poor race performance because I won New Orleans.

Right about now you’re pointing out that I can’t actually “win” New Orleans and yes, technically, you’re right. But if you had only been there for the week you would appreciate how great my performance was and I think that you too would objectively grant me the victory. If only you had been there to see it.

Reasons I won New Orleans

  • I got there early: Awesome Wife Kelly and I took the extra time off and snuck out for the Thursday flight. With a little romantic time before the others arrived we got to have some nice, quiet meals to enjoy at a slower pace and a quieter volume. A great way to relax and ease into the weekend
  • I stayed late: On Sunday afternoon, as we were working our way through our 4th dozen oysters, we got a text message informing us that our flight was cancelled due to a snow storm. Given the beautiful 65 degree weather this was quite confusing. Turns out we’d been living in a total bubble and didn’t realize that snowmageddon was bearing down on the east coast (though it wasn’t, really). The airline rescheduled us for Wednesday morning and after some brief handwringing about missing work, we started celebrating two extra days in New Orleans…by ordering our 5th dozen oysters. I very honestly told my boss there was no way to get home and the lovely man was full of understanding and commiserating. Best snow days ever
  • I ate everything (and ordered best): Oysters, shrimp, fried oysters, fried shrimp, po-boy of every stripe, gumbo and jambalaya and stuffed pork chops. And everything covered with heaping mounds of crab meat.
  • IMG_0837
  • I finally got to Galatoire’s Friday lunch: Be in the know – it’s pronounced without the “r”. Also, the reason to go is the Friday lunch, where the locals take over and the whole place rocks with good spirit and southern charm. Waiters are hesitant to even let you order, they’re so concerned that you’re relaxing and enjoying yourself. The food is great but almost beside the point. The point is to soak in the atmosphere, feel like you’re a part of a tradition and also to drink lots and lots of bloody marys and martinis. Don’t believe me? If you’re not waiting outside at 9 AM you won’t get seated at 11:30 when the restaurant opens (don’t worry, eventually you can put your name on a list and go back to bed) and the locals pay “agents” $15/head to wait in line and reserve them tables. Still don’t believe me? This lunch is the sole reason Awesome Wife Kelly and I took the extra time off work and ponied up for the extra night in a hotel. And it was worth it
  • I was surrounded by amazing friends: Adam, Anne, Dave and Running Partner Lindsey. Great folk all of them both in supporting the race and in doing everything they could to try to get me drunk the night before (they mostly failed)
  • I made new friends: Marty was the crazy local we met in line at Galatoire’s. He’s friends with every street walker on Bourbon, dated a (male) member of a famous political family whose name we swore we would never reveal, and offered, in exchange for a small fortune, to wait three days in line at Galatoire’s to get me a table on the Friday of the first week of Mardi Gras. The two Tulane grad students at NOLA Brewing who strongly recommended we go to F&M – but never before 2 AM – but, through knowing smirks, refused to tell us what went on there. The many, many taxi drivers, all of whom had colorful tales and language and a (small) few of whom even knew how to get us to our destination.
  • Awesome Wife Kelly was there: She’s awesome and she makes everything awesome
  • I’m going back tomorrow: Seriously, rolling it back this weekend for a bachelor party. If you don’t see a blog post next week, call the police

See, now I feel better about the run.

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NOLA scenery

The following highlights are probably only of interest to people who are planning a trip to NO and are looking for restaurant recommendations. All others consider yourself warned.

The warm-up

Galatoire’s: See above

Clancy’s: Thursday night dinner immediately after we arrived. It’s a bit of a hike, exacerbated by a cab driver who calmly explained that she had bad night vision and couldn’t really make the road out very clearly. The pouring rain made this even more exciting. I guess we were glad that she drove 10 MPH in a 25?   Our 10 minute trip took 25 and we didn’t know whether to laugh about it or to jump out of the very slowly advancing taxi. The restaurant is a classic NO neighborhood spot with a great atmosphere – with the exception of the table of very loud lawyers screaming back and forth about how awesome they are. Though it’s widely regarded as one of the top restaurants in town, we thought the classic creole cuisine was very good though not exceptional. Lots of fish and veal, blackened or with creamy sauces. Delicious crab meat tops just about everything. Good but not exceptional, especially by NO standards.

Mr. B’s: I had high hopes for this French Quarter classic but found it uneven. The service was pretty bad while most of the food was pretty good. Some raved about the gumbo, everybody loved the BBQ shrimp, which were truly awesome. My pork was fine.

Carbo loading

Domilise’s: When in NO we are constantly looking for great po-boys. We’d never been to Domilise’s so made the hike over on Saturday afternoon. The biggest draw here is the atmosphere, as it’s housed in what feels like an old run down house filled with colorful locals fueled by roast beef po-boys and cheap Abita. We rolled deep with 6 adults and two babies, taking up half the joint but folks could not have been friendlier. I thought the fried shrimp po-boys were clearly the winner, but others preferred the oysters. Definitely worth the trip.photo 3-2

Coop’s: Saturday night before the race we headed to Coop’s for the best Jambalaya in town. It’s a dive with rude (but lovable) service and amazing food. Anne, who is both discerning and In The Know, described the signature Rabbit & Sausage Jambalaya as “the best thing I’ve eaten this year.” Adam and Dave liked it so much that they each ordered seconds. Early to bed for Lindsey and me but the rest of the crew went next door to Cane and Table, about whose cocktails they raved for days to come.

Post race shenanigans

Acme Oyster House: This is where locals and others well informed will call me a dumb tourist and say this place isn’t worth the price or the line. I humbly and respectfully disagree. This is a Sunday tradition for our team and made an amazing post-race party / protein binge. The raw oysters are great, but the char grilled are mind blowing. Every time I go I’m shocked at how good they are. For six of us we ordered 5 dozen char grilled, 2 dozen raw and then po-boys to wash it all down

Peche: Sister restaurant to the instant classic Cochon, Peche is the fish to Cochon’s pig. They specialize in whole fish and total awesomeness. Unlike a lot of the classic creole restaurants, this is a scene, more interested in 10 ingredient cocktails and inventive food than the staid (but delicious) Sazerac. The whole fish was delicious, as were all of the seafood appetizers and the beers. It’s a great place if you’re looking for top quality seafood and a modern feel.photo 1-2

The following days

With the race over we relaxed and got rowdy. We hit Mahoney’s, whose Peacemaker po-boy has fried oysters, cheddar cheese and bacon and is every bit as delicious as it sounds. The NOLA brewery and tap room is worth the trip – not for the brewery tour, but for the great selection of interesting, quality beers and the free beer served from 2-3 on Fridays. Pat O’Brien’s piano bar is a classic and always worth a visit. The surprise star of the trip was K. Paul’s. Surprise because we had just modest photo 5expectations and also because we’d been there before and liked, though not loved it. The stuffed pork chop was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Awesome Wife Kelly contacted the restaurant to ask them which of chef Paul Prudhomme’s many cookbooks contained that recipe (see, isn’t she awesome) and they cheerily asked for our address so they could send the recipe to us directly. That’s good people. There are several others we hit, too numerous to recount here, and by and large all awesome. What an amazing place to be trapped as the east coast freezes. And what fun people to be trapped with!

Fresh thoughts on final week marathon planning and tapering

It’s Tuesday, January 20th, 5 days before the New Orleans marathon. As you likely know, I’m contractually obligated by the Union of Running Bloggers (URB) to write a post about final preparations. Taper’s driving me crazy! Lots of carbs! Trying to stick to routine! Not doing anything I haven’t done before! Prepping my race bag! Reviewing the course map one last time – no surprises for me! Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the stuff that matters – what I’ll be eating and drinking. To break ranks with running blog protocol, I’m not talking about carbo loading and hydrating, but about Coop’s jambalaya and Napolean House’s Pimm’s Cup. The race is in New Orleans, which presents special challenges that need to be addressed in this space. There are basically two schools of thought here: 1) You’ve spent four months training for this race. In the final days prior, you should be taking it easy. Eat lean foods, up the carb content of the diet and stay really hydrated. Sightseeing should be minor and low impact. Four months worth of turning in early, skipping out on drinks and running in the freezing cold, come to a glorious, sweat soaked culmination on Sunday. Make it worth it. 2) You can run a marathon any time. You’re in New Orleans, you’d better eat your weight in jambalaya, gumbo and po’ boys. Who cares if you run a few minutes slower, or even if you oversleep and miss the race? Eat every grilled oyster you can find, then buy some more and put them on top of some beignets. Then wash all of this down with Hurricanes. Then wash the Hurricanes down with Hurricanes (note: I know that Hurricanes are disgusting. I still love them). 232323232fp-8->nu=3247>-65>667>WSNRCG=3396893888325nu0mrj Anybody who knows me (and even many who don’t) know that I’m going with option 2. Awesome Wife Kelly and I arrive on Thursday. The rest of our group, including my running partner Lindsey, arrive on Friday. That gives us 2 days of totally guilt free eating. I plan to treat Thursday and Friday just like any other trip to New Orleans. This may mean a couple of extra pounds to lug around the course, but I feel like the overall impact will be pretty light. Maybe I’m lying to myself. Because I’m a responsible person I plan to take it relatively easy on Saturday. How easy depends on what restaurants we end up at, and how much grief my buddies give me. I mean, if they’re REALLY making fun of me, I may have to cave a bit. They do say that drinking is fine so long as you have two glasses of water for every alcoholic drink. Plus there’s that old adage (read: lie) about beer being a good source of carbs. So there’s that. Some more silver lining: if I show up hung over and bloated and wreck 4 months of training with a DNF, at least I’ll have great fodder for Monday’s blog post. Finally, and with no real reason, I’d like to recall an all time great homage to New Orleans, courtesy of The Simpsons:

A day so cold the fountain froze - we still had hurricanes outside

A day so cold the fountain froze – we still had hurricanes outside

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaJjZ9svMYM Long before the Superdome Where the Saints of football play… Lived a city that the damned call home Hear their hellish rondelet… New Orleans! Home of pirates, drunks and whores New Orleans! Tacky overpriced souvenir stores If you want to go to hell, you should take a trip To the Sodom and Gomorrah of the Mississip’ New Orleans! Stinking, Rotten, vomiting, vile New Orleans Putrid, brackish, maggotty, foul New Orleans! Crummy, lousy, rancid, and rank New Orleans!

Running against MJ

Alternatively titled: Learning humility from the marathon

Long, boring story that you won’t care about:

In 2010 I traveled with some friends to New Orleans to watch the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament.  During Kentucky’s blowout win over East Tennessee State my friends and I began a “bar debate” that got so spirited, angry and nearly violent, that all present still talk about it to this day.  The question that inspired such passion: could my four friends and I replace the Kentucky players and hold off East Tennessee State with a 19 point lead over the last five minutes? What started as a funny little discussion to while away a blowout became a heated screaming match that nearly resulted in us getting ejected from the arena by a burly, humorless security guard. You know why that argument was so much fun? There is absolutely no way to know who’s right. I mean, short of actually going out and playing those guys, all we could do is conjecture and raise our voices for emphasis. And five otherwise reasonable guys had wildly different opinions. (Editor’s note: I’m a bit embarrassed to say that at the time I was in the affirmative on this argument. Now I think we’d end up losing by 10).

That’s because there’s almost no way to quantify how good an average joe is vs. a great basketball player. Or boxer. Or football player. Or, well, you get the point.

BRILLIANT conclusion:

And this is one reason why running is so fascinating. I know exactly how I compare vs. every other person who’s ever run a marathon. More interesting, I know exactly how much better (or, more appropriately, worse) I am than the greatest runners out there. Think about this: When I run 400 meter repeats, I basically sprint in at around a 6 minute per mile pace. When Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto broke the marathon world record in Berlin with a 2:02:57 finish, he averaged 4:42 per mile. This is an insane thing. I can tell you – backed by math and science – exactly how much more awesome that guy is than me. He runs 26.2 miles at a pace 1:18 faster than I run a quarter mile. GOD DAMN.

So while we are all pretty convinced that Michael Jordan can beat us one on one, we know by exactly how much Dennis Kimetto will beat us in a race.

A Jew runs with Santa: The Rovaniemi Marathon

In 2009 I lived in Finland for a year. Finland, land of reindeers, saunas and brooding, silent Finns. In order to get the most out of my time there I resolved to take a one year marathon hiatus. I mean, I love running and racing, but I didn’t want to miss out on a trip to Rome or even a night drinking with new Finnish friends in order to get up early and log 20 miles. Also, in case you didn’t know, Finland is very cold and icy, making running just a little bit less attractive. I was doing some maintenance mileage, but all slow and easy and never anything more than 8.

In early May, my buddy Rich, who was living in England at the time, calls me up to let me know he’s planning on running the Stockholm marathon. As a runner who appreciates dedicated and reckless spectators, I immediately offered to meet him and lead his cheering crew. So at the end of May I escorted three women around the two lap Stockholm marathon where we cheered our heads off every time we saw Rich or pretty much any other runner. The Scandanavians tend to be a pretty reserved group, so we clearly stood out as foreigners as we chanted Rich’s name over and over. A quick aside – the Stockholm marathon was followed by the best post-race partying I’ve done (even though I didn’t run), highlighted by a midnight sunset, drinks until early morning sunrise, and a crazy woman throwing a drink (not just the liquid, the entire glass) at Rich with absolute zero provocation. Good times.

Back to the story. Watching Rich chug through Stockholm in front of a crowd of subdued Swedes was inspiring. Even though I had sworn not to race for the year, I got an itch. So then I figured: the reason I’m not racing is not so I won’t get a marathon experience in Europe, but rather so that I won’t have to miss anything fun in order to train. And here we come to the loophole – I could run a marathon as long as I didn’t train. This is creative problem solving at its best.

Then to find the right marathon. I’d grown to love Finland and wanted to find something domestic so I could have a Finnish race experience. As I searched the possibilities, one jumped out as a clear winner: The Santa Claus Marathon. To this day I still don’t know if this is the official or unofficial name of the race, but that’s what everybody called it. The race takes place in Rovaniemi, on the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland which, for those of you who don’t know, is the birthplace (or home, I don’t really know) of Santa. Seriously, that’s what Finns believe. We who hail from outside of Finland know this to be laughably untrue. Even we Jews know that Santa and Mrs. Claus incontrovertibly live at the north pole in a bunker filled with elves, reindeer and wooden toys.

I found the race in the first week of June, which allowed for exactly one week of training. Three runs later, capped by a slow 13 miler, I was onto the taper. Thus was I ready to take on the world (or to get a cramp and bow out after 6 miles).

Taking advantage of the endless daylight of the Finnish summer at the Arctic Circle, the race started at 8:00 PM, as many Nordic marathons do. I toed the line, a bit nervous, along with 100 other dedicated or crazy runners who had travelled far distances for the singular glory of having Santa fire the starter pistol. The race starts exactly on top of the arctic circle at a place called Santa’s Village, which is a big tourist attraction. The first mile runs around and, indeed, through Santa’s workshop, which is a pretty novel thing. It’s a bit like running through an underground Christmas themed Disneyland, so that was a new experience. After that, you get some nature and pretty lake views, but the course basically winds through mostly abandoned streets and neighborhoods over the next 25.2 miles. Despite some great spirit and comradery from this obviously dedicated group of runners, the spectators reflected the small size of the race. If you ever need a bunch of spectators to edge you on, it’s when you’ve done the patented David 1 week training program.At the finish

The first 10 miles went pretty smoothly. I ran slowly, but without issue. Soon thereafter I got the first signs that things were starting to go south. You know how you get that one muscle twinge that’s not so bad, but indicates that you’re not getting off scott free? I got that around mile 11. I gutted out a few more miles at a 9:30 pace, then finally got the good idea to start a run walk. As these things tend to, I started out at a 10 on 2 off, then slowed to a 10:4, then an 8:4, then a who-knows-what. I was just trying to move forward in any way possible – relentless forward progress as they say. Sometimes this was running, more often it wasn’t. The good news is that there were sparse, but friendly runners around and I knew that I had nobody else to blame but myself. This was all my doing. It’s odd, but that does make one feel better.

One thing nobody tells you about the northern summers is that the mosquitoes are more aptly compared to birds than bugs. So while I’m gimping along at a crawl, the mosquitoes are feasting for long, long hours. At least they did motivate me to move a bit more quickly.

One of my favorite memories of this run – or of any run actually – was the final mile and the post-race festivities. At the end of the race you enter the downtown area which is filled with bars. In the summer months the folks of cold countries try to fit 12 months of festivities into the 2-3 months that are reasonably not freezing. In a place like Rovaniemi this goal is taken to an extreme. So  at midnight, as I’m struggling through the last 300 yards on the main street through the center of Rovaniemi’s nightlife, there are hundreds of inebriated, partying Finns drinking and cheering all along either side of the course.  I have to say that I was in no shape to run, but I didn’t want to disappoint the party goers so instead I got on my horse and galloped.  Spectator motivation at its best.photo

Finishing at midnight (it took me 4:30, so I actually finished at 12:30) in the blazing Finnish sun was a pretty serene event. The medal is a thick chunk of wood emblazoned with a reindeer – one of my absolute favorites. Rather than going home to shower after the race I made a ninety degree right turn and joined the revelers in the bar. I’ve got to say that joining hundreds of rowdy, partying Finns at the finish line of a 100 person race (101 if you count Santa Claus) and partying the night away covered in sweat was a pretty cool way to celebrate my slowest, most painful race ever!

The ideal running WAG

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So I’ll acknowledge up front that this is a bit of a self-indulgent post. Self indulgent because I believe that:

1) having a wife or girlfriend (or boyfriend) who supports your running in just the right way is critical to a successful relationship and a successful run;

2) there are a few easily-identifiable but under-appreciated criteria that separate the good running WAGs from the not good running WAGs

3) that I happen to have the best running WAG out there, Awesome Wife Kelly

Note: We here at Run David Run are not sexist or any other ist, so far as we know. HABs are equally judged along the following criteria.

So here goes. Running WAGS should:

  • Be supportive: Getting out of bed at 6 AM to go on a long run is hard. Abstaining from alcohol the night before is lame. A supportive WAG who doesn’t hassle you (too much) makes these things much easier
  • Be interested: Showing genuine interest in what is probably a pretty boring story is priceless. I’m telling the story because I’m excited about it and I know nobody else will care. It’s nice to have a WAG who is the ONE person in the world who does

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    Post-race support

  • Know when to pretend to be interested: It’s simply not possible for anybody, no matter how much they love you, to actually be interested in a five minute discussion of different methods to tie your shoes to reduce arch pain. Sometimes it’s okay to nod and look attentive while you’re really planning out your weekend in your head
  • Have a firm leash / strong backhand when needed: Sometimes we become too self-obsessed. It is also your job to keep us in check
  • Be a great cheerer: Screaming our names, making signs, acting like getting a PR is the most important thing in the world. These things make a huge difference for us. If you don’t run you may not know how important it is to look forward to a great reception at mile 22, but it really, genuinely is

    This time the whole family came to cheer

    This time the whole family came to cheer

  • Be awesome

Unrealistic, but possible extra credit:

  • Be an awesome cook
  • Be okay listening to audio books about running
  • Don’t scream about sweaty running clothes taking over the bedroom

Thanks to Awesome Wife Kelly for embodying all of these things and many, many more

Chasing Bourbon with Running and Vice Versa: The Bourbon Challenge

I’ve been fortunate enough to do some really fun and bizarre things in my life – at 16 I hung out with a doped up Dennis Rodman as he tried to talk two models into a threesome – but I rank the Bourbon Challenge right up there with the all-time highlights.

Chase map

Each October, 300 12-person teams run a 200 mile relay through Bourbon County from Louisville (more or less) to Lexington. The race is designed to take about 24 hours, with each runner responsible for three legs at ~5 miles each. You can do the math, but that means you run more or less every 8 hours over the course of a day. Because the runs are so short and spread out, you can basically hit each leg at 10K pace. I mean yeah, eventually, the effects of the cumulative effort and hours without sleep catch up with you, but until it does, you really fly.

Several things make this race a once in a lifetime experience:

  • Logistics: While awful in many respects, the sheer lunacy of the logistics of moving 12 people through a 200 mile running relay contribute to the fun, confusion, panic and general tumult of the race. Each team has two seven-person vans to drive runners from relay checkpoint to checkpoint (each team is required to supply its own non-running drivers. These people are literal saints). The runners from one van will run seven consecutive legs, making this van “on” while the runners from the other van are “off” and try to find a good parking spot on the side of the road to get a couple of hours of sleep while crammed into uncomfortable seats with sweaty, stinky runners. The “on” van has to drop its runner, wait for the handoff, CHEER LIKE HELL, then collect the finished runner and hurry ahead to the next stop to do it all again. After six such hops (about 6 hours) the “off” van becomes “on” and starts the whole process again. What this means is that over 6 hours you get a bunch of short bursts of wild cheering, mad dashing (and getting lost) and one really fast (and fun) run. Then you take six hours off, eat something and try, almost surely unsuccessfully, to sleep. It’s more awesome, unpredictable, boring and memorable than I can hope to describe
  • Spirit: I’ve never been at a running event with such good natured, spirited participants. All the ITK teams show up with vans decorated to reflect the team’s name / spirit / favorite color / whatever. Similarly outrageous outfits adorn the more creative and fun teams. People take this race with the appropriate amount of seriousness. That is to say, they run hard when they’re up and just have fun in between. The lack of sleep and need to psych yourself up to run at night, really helps set the tone of pandemonium. But here’s the kicker: the runners are also the fans. Because at any given time, 13/14 runners from each team aren’t running, they’re cheering. Ever wonder what it would be like to run a marathon where everybody cheering was also running (and vice versa)? Yeah, it’s the most enthusiastic group of spectators / runners I’ve ever seen. All around, it’s like no other race I’ve experienced.

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  • Bourbon: The organizers (who are simply top notch) do a great job of taking advantage of the locale. Many of the hand-offs are at distilleries, including Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Four Roses and Wild Turkey. And you’re not just there to pass the baton, but to tour, explore and taste. My team made the most out of our surroundings and at least a few of us tasted at each distillery. Hey, you’ve got several hours before the next run and when is the next time I’m going to be at the Knob Creek distillery?
  • TURKEY: So this one will only apply to me, but I was fortunate to run with the Wild Turkey team, comprised almost exclusively of employees of Wild Turkey. Running the Bourbon Challenge with the guys who make Wild Turkey 101 is a pretty cool thing to have on your resume. Not only were my teammates top notch, passionate and incredibly knowledgeable (about bourbon) people, but they were great fun and good runners. In addition, Wild Turkey and corporate parent Campari treated us incredibly well, springing for t-shirts, turkey calls, 1st class vans and just as much Gatorade as we could handle. We even got a story written about us in something called the Urban Llama.

Sadly, my buddy at Wild Turkey moved on to another job shortly after the race. When he told me he was leaving I practically begged him to stay so that we could run the race again. Alas, he had other priorities.

Not me. If Wild Turkey ever comes calling, I’ll take the job just for this perk.

Running is fun

So much in life is obligation and boredom. Work, commuting, grocery shopping (Awesome Wife Kelly asked me to note that I do not actually grocery shop, but it does sound awful). Even lots of the stuff we choose to do with our spare time is not stuff we truly want to do (think: shopping for clothes, attending your wife’s middle school friend’s kid’s birthday party). Even lots of the stuff we like to do isn’t fun (I like going to MOMA but I can’t remember walking out of there high fiving anybody). Take a second to sift through your average day or week and think about how much fun is in there. Pretty scary.

And this is something that gets worse as we get older. Kids have all sorts of fun all the time. Their life is all fun. This is why kids are constantly laughing and screaming. It’s also why they cry so much – being told you can no longer play on the jungle gym because you have to go learn fractions seems like something the CIA would do to captured ISIS soldiers. It’s a fact of life: As we get older the amount of our lives dedicated to FUN shrinks so tiny that it’s just about gone. You know it’s true because there’s a chart illustrating it.

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Which brings me to my point (and probably the point of the entire blog) – RUNNING IS FUN.

Sure, it’s other things too. It’s healthy, it’s active, it’s outdoors, it’s social. But these are all beside the point. I run because it’s fun.

Running fast is fun. Starting strong and wondering how you’ll be able to make the full distance at pace. Building speed as the run goes, feeling the very first signs of resistance in your muscles. Maintaining your splits as each lap gets harder, until you can barely hang on. As you’re about to die, pushing for the final sprint, stretching your stride, struggling to fill your lungs. The burn throughout your body as you push just a bit further than you have the right to. Collapsing just past the finish and falling to the ground panting. All of this is fun.

Running far is fun. Long, slow running with lots of time to think. Falling into a zone where you know you could keep up this pace forever. The subtle boost and light feeling you get a few minutes after eating a caffeinated gel. Going two miles beyond the scheduled run just because it feels so damn good. Watching the rest of the runners blow by you, knowing none of them will still be at it in three hours. And especially that post run double bacon cheeseburger (and IPA).

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Fun post-race beers

Running to explore is fun. Arriving in a new city, throwing on your shoes and doing a quick five through unknown streets while the rest of the crew is sleeping. Getting lost and fruitlessly asking for directions in a suddenly foreign language and then unintentionally coming upon some grand castle, cathedral or bridge. Stopping in the middle of the run to take a picture of something you’d never expected to see and may never see again. Getting to parts of the city you’d never see otherwise. And then relating all of it to your non-running friends as they are simultaneously jealous and bored (but much better rested).

Random discoveries in Helsinki

Random discoveries in Helsinki

Running outside is fun. Especially when you get to run in actual nature. As a New Yorker I very rarely get to do this, but what an incredible treat when I’m visiting a friend and get to run on unexplored trails, with rough, uneven ground underfoot. Forgetting about the time and the pace and just following the trail that looks the most beautiful or interesting or challenging.

Running outdoors

Running outdoors

Boring runs are fun. That stupid 5 miler at a slow pace in the middle of the week or the last 12 miler during the taper. They start off so boring and lame, something you just have to do because the book said so, but you’re quite certain you will get nothing out of. Then suddenly you realize you’re half way through, you’ve barely broken a sweat and you have yet one more tangible proof point that your training has worked. That’s really fun.

Every once in a while running will stop being fun for me. So then I simply stop running (sure, if it’s in the middle of training for a race I’ll finish up with the training, then stop). At first I think it’s so nice to have more freedom in my schedule, to be able to sleep in a bit more or to be able to cross train. Then suddenly I’ll wake up on a Saturday morning and just have a burning desire to go for a nice long run. Almost inevitably I’ll get home energized and excited and I won’t be able to wait to get back out for my next run. Because running is fun.