As we exit Anno Domini 2017 and enter the new year of 2018, there are many here among us who have resolved to make a better man or woman of themselves in the coming twelve months. And within that set of resolutionists are many who have chosen running as the means to their end.
To each who have made that choice, we rose-lipt maidens and lightfoot lads who made that same resolution long ago say, good choice and good luck. But we also remind you that nothing good comes easily, nor would you want it to. A better you isn’t something that can be wrapped and left beneath the Christmas tree. Instead, it presents in the form of a long, drawn-out process that builds day by day, week by week, month by month. Yes, the running hustle exacts a toll for its rewards and pleasures.
For that toll alone, it strikes many as amazing that any endeavor requiring discomfort and delayed gratification ever caught on in the first place in this ADHD society, much less that it swelled to the size that it has – which, BTW, is somewhat below its peak numbers of 2014.
Notwithstanding, as anyone who picked up running in their adult years can tell you, the first time you try it you end up overheating like a `71 Ford Pinto, feel a severe pain in your side like Jesus being doubt-probed by Thomas, and possibly end up bent at the waist wheezing like you’re trying to make music through the broken toe of an old wooden leg. And that’s before you ever get pushed, in which case there is likely to be vomiting involved. In other words, onset running is a lot like onset cigarette smoking. That anyone continues either after day one, much less for decades, is stunning. So, evidently, there has to be something there that isn’t apparent at the start. (more…)
Times were lean in 1974. In fact, it had been a rough year all around. In the first months of that annus horribilis, the Arab oil embargo still had gas lines wrapped around the block for hours on end. Then, as we sweltered through August, President Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal, leaving the country in a state of political shock. By year’s end the inflation rate had run up to 11.3%.
For me, a new arrival in Boston from St. Louis, though spirits were high, money in the kitty was low, meaning no trip back home for the holidays. But then a friend called, and said a friend of hers was in charge of seasonal hiring at Filene’s Department store in downtown Boston, and would I like an appointment?
Stepping off the Red Line subway train at Park Street station beneath Boston Common amidst the bustle of the holiday crowd, I could make out the plaintive strains of Harrry Chapin’s Cat’s in the Cradle spilling out of a passerby’s boom-box, as Harry’s hit held down the #1 slot on the Billboard charts that Christmas week. Up the escalator, then two cobblestone blocks later I was in Downtown Crossing at Filene’s flagship store sitting opposite my potential benefactress.
“Most of the Christmas jobs have already been filled,” she informed me as she paged through a sheaf of forms. “But we do have an opening for a second shift Santa in the toy department.”
“Ho, Ho, Ho!,” I boomed in my best broadcaster’s voice, hoping that would offset my very un-Santa-like six-foot, 160-pound frame. Next thing I knew I was being fitted with a pillow-enhanced Santa outfit, and a Lysol-soaked Santa’s beard.
As I sat upon Santa’s throne on my first day on the job, elves at my feet, the store stood resplendent in its holiday dress, the line of children and their parents stretched as far as the eye could see. At first, I found it entertaining to take the little tykes upon my lap, ask them how they’d been that year, and follow on with what they’d like for Christmas. I quickly realized, however, that most children, especially the young ones whose parents most wanted a picture with Santa, were not only timid about coming near, much less touching Santa, many were downright afraid of the oddly-shaped, oddly-clad, oddly-odored Mr. Claus.
Crying, squirming, and outright bawling became the norm as I attempted to quiet their fears and hold them close enough for the photographer to snap the prize-winning $12.95 photo for the family scrapbook. On occasion, a particularly wigged out tot would pee on Santa’s lap. When it all became too much, I’d excuse myself with “Well, time go feed the reindeer up on the roof.”
A solid week of this Santa impersonating went by. I knew I’d reached my limit when instead sugar plums, the smell of Lysol and urine invaded my dreams. Then one day after seeing the line of children awaiting me stretch off into the distance as I awaited my shift in the Santa green room, it came to me while reading Carl Yung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections, my Ah-Hah! moment of clarity.
After spritzing on a last coat of Lysol to protect me from the previous germ-toting Santa, and inserting that morning’s Boston Herald under my Santa pantaloons to protect me from the bladder challenged members among generation Y, I trudged up to my throne. As the first of what would be 100s of tykes took his place upon my lap, I began my newly enhanced line of inquiry.
“Ho, Ho, Ho, and what’s your name, little boy?”
“Well, tell me Charlie, have you been a good boy this year?”
“Yes,” he replied shyly with just a hint of trepidation, like he knew that I knew that he knew that I knew.
“Well, Charlie, you know it is my job to keep track of these things, and I can assure you that you have, indeed, been a very good little boy this year. So, don’t be shy, okay?”
And with that, I gazed out into the sea of expectant faces, both young and old, and declared for all to hear, especially the parents, “And Charlie, because I know you’ve been a very good boy this year, I, as Santa, the one who decides who’s been naughty or nice, can now inform you that you will get everything you want this year for Christmas. Every! Last! Thing!”
I allowed my gaze to linger until the full meaning of my declaration gained purchase with the entire audience, at which time I could see the line begin to evaporate from the rear.
“Honey,” I could hear one parent declare, “I think he looks too thin to be the real Santa. Let’s go over to Jordan Marsh.”
My days as Santa didn’t quite make it through the entire holiday season in 1974. When the college kids who had taken Quaaludes started coming around displaying the lack of skeletal rigidity necessary to remain seated upright on my lap, I threw in my beard.
Fortunately, I had made just enough to buy a plane ticket home to visit the family.
In 1975 I took up the sport of running, and never looked back, nor seriously entertained the idea of reprising the Santa role, nor mounting a serious portrayal of any of the other Holiday icons. But bad Santa or not, I always welcomed the chance to don the robes at least once.
“By the way. What’s that fragrance you’re wearing?” asked the folks when I returned home for that Christmas of `74.
“Oh! that. It’s called Ho! Ho! Lysol and Urine,” I replied. “Got it at Filene’s.”
It’s a completely defensible position because it has been taken from a completely defensive posture. If your product can’t be guaranteed for purity, even with new and improved testing, you do what you must to mitigate the potential downside while still maintaining brand growth and awareness.
Ms. Kiplagat had originally finished second in the Series X cycle to fellow Kenyan Jemima Sumgong, the 2016 London and Rio Olympic champion. But after the putative champion gave a positive sample for EPO in an out-of-competition test in February 2017, the series title was held up awaiting disposition by Kenyan doping authorities. Today, Ms. Kiplagat, runner up in Chicago 2016 and winner at the Series X closing 2017 Boston Marathon, was officially moved into the top spot as Ms. Sumgong was banned for four years by the Anti Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK).
Ms. Sumgong’s drug failure marked the fourth time in its ten-cycle history that the Abbott World Marathon Majors has had to disqualify a women’s series winner for a failed a drug test, not the outcome the original five series events had imagined when they banded together in 2006. (more…)
Lahaina, Maui – Walking along Wahikuli Wayside Park, water to my right, the island of Lanai rising like a whale’s hump off the coast. Not too different, really, than running down off Memorial Drive along the Charles River looking over to the Boston skyline where the gold dome of the Statehouse sits framed by the towers of downtown. Same sort of feel to the traffic, too, streaming on my left along Honoapi’ilani Road.
“Come on, lads, put your back into,” comes to mind, Starbuck’s exhortation to his crew in the whaling boats out chasing Moby Dick.
After only 25 minutes I come to the end of the sidewalk before the turnaround. A rain squall hits, blowing down off the West Maui Mountain ridge. We have to stop. Toya is doing repeat 400s. With the wind against, I’m going to do one mile plus out and a mile plus back.
Along the walk back, I begin considering some of the results from the fall marathon season. Among the realizations is that there has to be intentionality in the marathon. Every other race, too, but especially so in the marathon.
For instance, stomach problems in Berlin September 24th stopped 2013 champion Wilson Kipsang in his tracks at 30K as Eliud Kipchoge drove on to victory in 2:03:32, the fastest official time of 2017.
Kipsang returned home to Kenya where he retooled for New York City in early November. There he came in a close second behind Geoffrey Kamworor. But that little extra that he had when he managed to put away Lelisa Desisa in NYC in 2014 was missing in ’17, still in Berlin recovering, I’d say. His intention this fall was Berlin, not New York, and in the end it mattered. (more…)
Lahaina, Maui – In 2003 Michael Lewis published Moneyball, his book telling how the Oakland Athletics baseball team implemented a more efficient and cost-effective way to evaluate players and strategize game situations based solely on data analysis. This approach led the Athletics to player acquisitions that other teams had overlooked or disregarded, but more importantly, led to success on the diamond.
When the book came out, many a baseball expert was dismissive. But at some point they couldn’t argue with the success the A’s were having using their new methodology.
In the ensuing years, people in many other fields took up the Moneyball example to reevaluate their businesses, positing that if the old ways of analyzing baseball were in error, couldn’t other suppositions be open to reexamination, as well? (more…)
Honolulu, Hi – Looking through the winning times of the Honolulu Marathon over the years can take you back to the days before the first Running Boom when 5:00 per mile pace was still the gold standard for world-class marathon running.
Even in today’s world where the race is on for the first sub-2 hour performance, the Honolulu Marathon record of 2:09:39, set last year by Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono, looks as modest as a peck on your sister’s cheek. But when you read the names of Honolulu’s champions, you begin to understand the challenge that heat, humidity, and hills can represent in what remains one of the world’s most iconic city marathons.
This year, for the first time in its 45 years, the marathon world record holder will toe the Honolulu Marathon starting line tomorrow morning at 5 AM. Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto will be joined by over 27,000 fellow adventurers, only a handful of whom have any chance of beating the 33 year-old. But those handful are dangerous, indeed. (more…)