Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Marathons to Run Someday

OK, we did the list: Races to Run Someday. What marathons should one attempt to do to feel like they’ve gotten a rounded out marathon career and an interesting travel experience to boot. Here goes:

I. Winter Marathon Season. You could consider the new Phoenix Rock n’ Roll Marathon (mid January), the Houston Marathon (mid January), the Las Vegas Marathon (late January), the Austin Marathon (mid Febraury), the New Orlean’s Madi Gras Marathon (late February), or even the Los Angeles Marathon (early March) at this time of year. But seriously, why spend the time and money on these away trips, when we have some of the nicest marathons in our own back yards.

Disney World Marathon - Orlando, Florida - mid January. A great way to mix the marathon experience with the theme park experience. Very well organized, if you don’t mind getting to the start area at 4 AM.

Bank of America Marathon - Tampa, Florida- late January/early February. The home town run with all the beauty of the Gasparilla 15K, plus. I’ve heard too many people using this as their B.Q. (Boston Qualifier) not to give this one a go.

Miami Marathon- Miami, Florida - late January/Early February. Another home town favorite. First half along beautiful Miami Beach, second half in Coconut Grove. Don’t feel up to the full marathon, the ½ marathon gives you the prettiest part of the course.

II. Spring Marathons. Don’t know if I’ll ever run a Spring marathon, since I would want to leave the door open for Boston. But, if you haven’t made that Boston Qualifier, and your going to mess with your short race season, you better make it a real travel experience. Go for a European adventure marathon in a year the exchange rate makes sense (not this year). The Big Sur Marathon is included as a State-side alternative to Boston that sounds like a unique visual experience. It appears the applications for these marathons become available in late August or September.

Rome Marathon - Rome, Italy- mid-March. This probably will always conflict with the short season of 5 Ks & 10 Ks. This may be a good thing as I hear you run on cobbled streets a lot and its hard on your legs. But it is Rome. You probably can’t beat Rome or Paris for a travel experience.

Paris Marathon -Paris France- mid April. Not going to Boston? Run the week before in Paris. Although I’ve heard you end up in some narrow city streets with crowding.

Boston Marathon - Boston, Massachusetts-late April (Patriot’s Day). The grand-daddy of them all and the only must qualify to run event. You can retire after this one.

London Marathon - London, England late April. Didn’t qualify for Boston? This is the best back up and advertized as the world’s largest. Tour London and run with the world’s best. A lottery situation for locals. A travel marathon for Americans.

Big Sur Marathon - Big Sur, California - late April. This has a reputation for rough gravel roads, but the most scenic marathon. Run along the Pacific Coast Highway south of Carmel, there is unique entertainment along the route, like a concert pianist along the road. Fills up early, so apply in the fall.

IV. Summer Marathons. If your going to train for a Summer marathon, it should be either to a unique place (Alaska), or to a neat city (San Francisco). Grandma’s just has a big reputation.

Mayor’s Midnight Run Marathon - Anchorage, Alaska - late June (Summer Solstice). Run partly on trails, why not combine a trip to Alaska with a marathon. You could combine this with the Runner’s World Cruise, but this gets pricey. However, if your going to ever do the pricey cruise through Alaska, the marathon would be a memorable addition to the trip. Alternatively, bag the cruise, and get to Anchorage solely for the marathon. You might be able to find a cheaper way to see Glasser Bay without the cruise expense.

Grandma’s Marathon - Duluth, Minnesota - late June. Don’t know much about this point to point course, other than its got a great reputation. Closes out early. Check early for registration in September.

San Francisco Marathon- San Francisco, CA - late-August. It’s San Francisco. The course looks interesting, but you’ve gotta figure its hilly. A great city to visit.

IV. Fall Marathons. The Big 3 State-side (Chicago, Marine Corp, NYC), and the 3 highly touted European marathons (Berlin, Dublin, Athens) make the fall season “Marathon Season”. Too bad we have to train for these in the Summer heat.

Berlin Marathon - Berlin, Germany - late September. Along with Paris and London, this rounds out the big three in Europe as far as world class runners trying to break world records.

Chicago Marathon - Chicago, Illinois - mid-October. Along with Marine Corp and NYC, one of the big three not counting Boston.

Marine Corp Marathon - Washington, D.C. late October. Beautiful way to see the nations capital. Great crowd support. Just don’t hit the museums until the day after the race.

Dublin Marathon - Dublin, Ireland - late October. Everyone I’ve ever spoken to about this one says its one of the best. With my Irish heritage, I feel I need to get there some day. Beside, the Irish are friendly and drink Guinness.

New York City Marathon - New York, New York - early November. The biggest outside of Boston, with a truly world class of runners showing up.

Athens Marathon - Athens, Greece - early November. Usually the same day as NYC, this is a true touring experience. See the battleground at Marathon where it all started. A hilly course though. The tour offered through the American based travel agency is pretty good, taking you to all the main sites. Jeff Gallaway acts as your coach and lecturer. Alternatively, you can do the Athens sites on your own.

IV. December Marathons. Didn’t train well for a fall marathon and needed a little more time to get ready to run, here’s the one.

Honolulu Marathon - Honolulu, Hawaii - mid December. Don’t know if I’ll ever get to Hawaii, but this would be the thing that would tip the balance towards going that distance. Might also conflict with ski season. A huge marathon crowd due to the large number of Japanese runners/tourists.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Races to Run Someday

One day, my brother Dave and I were talking about the Bolder Boulder 10K and the Utica Boilermaker 15K as possible road trips to noted road races. We had run the Peachtree 10K for the first time the summer before and we had a memorable time. I’ve experienced similar feelings of having gotten to see a locale plus adding in other memorable events to my marathon experiences. This got me to thinking about special event races like the Peachtree 10K that would be fun to do someday. So, I did a little research on the internet and came up with a list of events that I believe would be nice to do someday. I figure runners could target one special event every year or so depending on schedules and desire. I’ve listed them in order of the time of year they fall, not by priority. My general view is that if a trip could be arranged with an inexpensive flight and accommodations, it would be a worthwhile endeavor. Here goes:

1. Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K - Tampa, Florida- late January/early February. This one I’ve always considered the hometown race, but being across Tampa Bay from Clearwater, it just qualifies as a road trip to me (more so, since I’ve lived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida the last 20 years). This 15K should be run for the beauty of running along Tampa Bay. Pretty much the entire route on this out and back course is along the waterfront. You get the added thrill of seeing the leaders come back on your way out. May conflict with plans to run a winter marathon, or a good tune up to a mid to late February marathon.

2. World’s Best 10K- San Juan, Puerto Rico - late February. This race attracts world class runners. The lady’s race has pushed the world record lower in the last few years. Looks interesting, but I’m not sure what the cost of doing this trip would be, given air fare and hotel accommodations. Seems designed for the northern traveler looking for some winter fun. Might be an interesting way to check out Pueto Rico if cheep air fare can be arranged.

3. Gate River 15K- Jacksonville, FL - mid-March. This one’s a no brainer. This race is the U.S. 15K Championship and therefore attracts many elite runners. This is a race that I heard about for many years from my law school roommate. A large crowd attends and the course goes over a suspension bridge in downtown Jacksonville. This one would be a “drive to” weekend trip for me, with the only cost being a one night hotel stay. I think we should shoot for this one next year.

4. Cherry Blossom 10 Miler -Washington, D.C.-early April. This race is part of the Professional Road Running Organization (PRRO) race circuit which along with the Lilac Bloomsday 12K and Peachtree 10K are the Triple Crown of road racing. This 10 Miler is mostly run alongside of the Potomac River and is supposed to show off the Cherry Blossom bloom in the spring. Apparently a tough race to get admitted to, you need to get a self addressed envelope or e-mail to the race organizers for an application to be mailed out in December or early January prior to the April race. Given that we recently ran the Marine Corp Marathon in 2003, this can probably wait.

5. 7 Mile Bridge Run- Marathon Key, Florida- late April. I include this race only because you missed it this year and this race belongs in any list of races to try to run someday. (I would also include the Gasparilla 15K and the Peachtree 10K in this list if we hadn’t both done these at one point or other). Limited to 1,500 runners, this one is hard to get into. Applications must be filled out and mailed back on the day they are received, and even this in no guarantee that you will get in. The race is entirely over the 6.8 mile span of the bridge on A-1A linking Marathon Key to Big Pine Key. A point to point race, you take a bus back across the bridge for a beer party with live music back at the start area. This makes a great weekend get away and can be combined with a trip to Key West to see the Southern Most Point of the U.S. and the crazy’s that live so far from the rest of the world.

6. Bloomsday 12K- Spokane, Washington-early May. This race attracts a huge crowd of 50 to 60,000 runners and is part of the PRRO Triple Crown. It’s called the Lilac “Bloomsday Run,” which I assume means its run during a bloom period for the local Lilac flowers. The only problem I see with this race is its remote location in Eastern Washington State, which may impact on the cost of air fares. I don’t know how realistic this one is given the remote locale. I think one would need to plan a week trip to explore Eastern Washington or the Seattle area to make this a worthwhile trip. It is a 4 hour drive from Seattle to Spokane.

7. Bay to Breakers -7.46 Mile Run-San Francisco, CA- mid-May. Another legendary and very popular run. I’d read about this one in Runner’s World back in the late 70's. This race starts on the bay side of the San Francisco peninsula and ends on the Pacific Ocean side. I’ve often wondered whether if you go all the way to San Francisco for a race you shouldn’t make it the San Francisco Marathon held in early August, but this race has some real character. More than 70,000 people run this race annually. It is the longest consecutively run race in the world, which goes back to 1912 (the Boston Marathon missed the World War I year of 1918). There is costume division where people not only dress up as various characters like Elvis or Superman, but a centipede division where a group runs together in a connected costume. There is also an unofficial nude runners division which is technically illegal, but the police apparently look the other way. Either race would be a great opportunity to get to see San Francisco. Fairly reasonable air fares can be found.

8. Bolder Boulder 10K -Boulder, Colorado-late May (Memorial Day). This is one you turned me onto and it looks like another huge event, both for the numbers running and the party atmosphere. As you know, you finish in the University of Colorado football stadium. There is an air-force fly-by and parachute jump into the stadium after the race. Boulder, Colorado is a beautiful college town, and you could also visit downtown Denver in a long weekend. I would recommend getting to Denver a couple of days ahead of the race to acclimate to the elevation (over 5,100 feet above sea level). They don’t call Denver the “Mile High City” for nothing. Even with an acclimation period, my guess is we sea level runners will end up breathing heavy to make up for the thinner oxygen level. It may be best to treat this as a fun run, and enjoy the sights of the weekend.

9. Peachtree 10K - Atlanta, Georgia- July 4th. Run on July 4th each year since Jeff Gallaway won it in its inaugural year of 1970, this race goes from the fashionable Buckhead area north of downtown Atlanta and ends in Piedmont Park in downtown Atlanta. The park area ends up full of the 50,000 plus runners sharing Coca-Cola and getting their finishing pictures taken, before heading back to the Buckhead area by bus. The Buckhead 4th of July fireworks display is said to be a show not to be missed.

10. Boilermaker 15K - Utica, New York- mid-July. This 15K race is run in Utica, New York on the weekend the Runners Hall of Fame inducts its new members into the hall. The inductees typically run the race and events are held the whole weekend. This would be an opportunity to visit the Runners Hall of Fame and possibly the Baseball hall of Fame in nearby Cooperstown, New York (a one hour drive). As I mentioned to you, it appears to be a 6 hour drive from Hanover, Pennsylvania.

11. Peoples Beach to Beacon 10K - Cape Elizabeth, Maine - early August. This is a 10K race founded by 1984 Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson in her home town. The race starts at a beach area and finishes at a famous lighthouse, the Portland Head Light, the nation’s first commissioned lighthouse. This race attracts world class competition. Main in August is a nice place to be. I would recommend trying to combine this race with the next race on this list, the Falmoth Road Race in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. You could fly into Boston, run the Falmoth Road Race the first weekend, visit the Boston area and travel up the coast to Maine for this race for the bookend run for the trip.

12. Falmoth Road Race - 7.3 Miles- Falmouth, Massachusetts - mid-August. This 7.3 mile race goes back to the 1972 Olympics, when a Boston bartender, Tommy Leonard watched Frank Shorter win the marathon. The race was established on Cape Cod the following year and is another race that attracts world class runners. This is another lottery race, so you probably need to get accepted to this race first and plan a trip around this and the Peoples Beach to Beacon 10K the preceding weekend.

13. Annapolis 10 Mile Run - Annapolis, Mariland - late August. Possible tune up to a fall marathon, this event is in its 29th year. Starting and finishing at the Naval Academy stadium, the course is in the sun for the 1st 5 miles, and in shaded, but hill neighborhoods for the second 5 miles.

14. Rock n’ Roll ½ Marathon - Virginia Beach, Virginia - Labor Day. A holiday weekend at the beach and a fall marathon tune up. Unfortunately, a 15 hour drive from Ft. Lauderdale or Tampa. Also, it looks to be a Team-In-Training event, so look out for first timers running side by side blocking the way.

15. Philadelphia ½ Marathon - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - mid-September. Yet another possible fall marathon tune up depending on the date of your fall marathon. This one gets a lot of positive press. Again, the difficult decision: run this half marathon in September or the Philedelphia Marathon in late November. You may want to do both in different years.

16. Chicago ½ Marathon - Chicago, Illinois - mid-September. The final fall marathon tune up race. Probably not done in the same year as the Chicago Marathon held in mid October.