Category Archives: Observations

Happy 4th Birthday, Where’s the Finish!

Where’s the Finish turns 4 today!

I can’t remember what it was like to be 4 years old, but I’ll certainly remember this past year in running (or not running).  From my sprained/broken ankle, to the misdiagnosis, the first rehab, the correct diagnosis, the second rehab, and the final (very late) return to running, it’s been a painful year without a lot of blog posting since I didn’t have much running stuff to write about.

Central Park’s version of “Reflection Lake.”

But that’s all over now, and I’m already in the eighth (8th!?!) week of training for the NYC marathon (12 weeks to go!).  I took the last two weeks totally off from running, however, as I was on vacation in the Pacific Northwest (Washington & Oregon)!  It was an amazing trip and I throughly enjoyed myself (and all the fish & chips & Dairy Queen…) but returning to running the last couple days has been painful.  Not because of my ankle, or even my knees, but because I feel like a bloated slug full of broken marbles and quick-setting cement.

Eating all of this yesterday on a food tour also did not help.

To be honest, even though I’m incredibly grateful and thrilled to be running again, running still kinda sucks.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s much better than not running, but there are still many days when it’s really, really hard, and it’s hot outside, or it’s too cold, or it’s raining, or I’m tired, or there’s something on TV (there’s always something on TV), or I’d rather reorganize my sock drawer than go out for a run.  And even when I do get out the door, sometimes the actual running sucks, too, and I feel heavy, and slow, and I can’t breathe, and everything hurts, and I’d rather be folding socks and watching TV.

Saw this in Central Park on my run today. So prophetic…

So, yes, there is hard work ahead.  And I’m trying to keep in mind what the cute PT told me recently – this marathon is about returning to running, not about speed, not about time.  It’s about being healthy and uninjured and enjoying myself.  I can’t compare myself to where I was a year and a half ago, or play the “what if I never injured myself” game.  I can just keep slogging out the uncomfortable miles and hope the growing pains don’t last too long.

 

And as I do on every blog birthday, I reflect on my goals.  Even though I’ve been stuck on state #24 for a long time now, I still hope to run a marathon in all 50 states (although half marathons are so tempting… but I’m not ready to drop down to that level yet).  I still hope to improve my running speed and endurance (which should be easy at this point since I’m bargain basement).  And I hope to celebrate many more birthdays with all of you!

 

How do you deal when running sucks?  Is rhubarb crisp an acceptable substitute for birthday cake?  What if you put a candle in it?  Share in the comments!

The Things You See While Running

We’re all familiar with Pizza Rat, right?  Well, lest you think it’s all prosaic sunshine and flowers when you go for a run in NYC, sometimes you spot a true miracle of nature.  Today I was lucky enough to witness nature at its finest:  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Rat Rat.

 

Rat Rat also reminded me of that dog in the Frontline Gold commercial, except Rat Ran never figured out how to get his treat through the fence.

 

Beautiful day!

#blessed

 

What’s the best thing you’ve ever seen on a run?  What do you like on your pizza?  Have you ever eaten rat?  Share in the comments!

Hello, New Age Group!

Ridiculous unicorn hats are perfect for birthdays… or anytime, really.

Any runner can tell you that the only good best part about getting older is entering a new age group – which I did this week!  Hello and congratulations to the 40-45 group, as I will now be bringing down your average!

 

I also got some amazing running gifts for this big birthday – a Garmin 935 (!!!), a snazzy (and fast-looking) pair of Under Armor running sunglasses, and a gift certificate to Jackrabbit!  The running stuff makes me so happy because it shows my friends and family haven’t given up on my running, despite the seemingly endless break, and because I’m finally able to use running swag again!

Yes, this was at the end of my run – not even two miles!  😐

The Garmin Forerunner 935 deserves a full separate review but since I’m not so good with tech, and because there are many other, much better and more detailed reviews out there, I’ll just say this watch does everything (including give you text and email alerts from your phone just like an iWatch) and it magically synced with my couch to 5K app without me even telling it to (it vibrated and gave me the run/walk alerts just like the app, so I could conceivably run without headphones now).  I might turn 50 before I discover all the things this watch can do.

Pretty sunglasses 🙂

I start week 4 of Couch to 5K on Monday – they bump you up to a full five (5!) minutes of running.  My ankle is holding up ok, but my knees and the rest of me are a little upset I’ve gone back to this running thing.  Shhh, nobody tell my joints I’ve hit 40 (but I think they already know).

 

And if you want to watch Nike’s attempt to break the 2-hour marathon, you can stream it live tonight on Runner’s World (it starts at 11:45 pm EST or 8:45 PST).  The only bet I’ll make is that I’ll be asleep before we know the result.

 

How do you celebrate your milestone birthdays?  How many birthday cakes are too many for a single birthday?  Do you think we’ll ever break 2 hours in the marathon, and if so, when?  Share in the comments!

2016 Year in Review

It feels like I have more range of motion now, but the photos don’t really show it…

There’s a bit of poetic symmetry (is that a thing?) in that 2015 was the best year ever and 2016 was the worst.  If you’ve been living in the woods this year and missed all the happenings, first, I’m jealous, and second, you can watch this trailer to catch up on what 2016 was like:

That was basically my year, but throw in a sprained ankle, a broken fibula, multiple weeks on crutches (spread across multiple months), multiple weeks in a aircast boot, a cortisone shot deep into my joint, and general declining health and a total loss of fitness, and that’s my 2016.

 

Before my injury, I was doing almost a marathon per month (the Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson, the Little Rock Marathon in Arkansas, the Garmin Marathon in Olathe, Kansas, and the Delaware Marathon in Wilmington), and I was convinced that 2016 would be the “Year of Ugly Medals.”  Sadly, it just became the “Year of Ugly.”

 

I still don’t know when (if?!) I’ll ever run again, let alone run a marathon.  But I really, really, really, truly, madly, deeply hope that 2017 is better than 2016.  It isn’t a high bar, but if 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that almost anything horrible can happen.  🙁

 

Luckily, there are only a couple more days left in 2016 (plus one extra leap second), and poetic symmetry (it’s now a thing) indicates 2017 will be a good year.  I wish all of you health and happiness and health in the New Year!  (Health twice because it’s so important.)

 

How was your 2016?  Are you super glad it’s almost over?  Did you make any resolutions for the New Year?  Share in the comments!

Virtual Races are a (Big) Thing

Some of the swag you can get running virtual races (131's Brew HaHa Race's swag pictured).

Some of the swag you can get by running virtual races (131 Event’s Brew HaHa Race‘s swag pictured).

Ok, so maybe you already knew all about them, but last night over the past few days I fell down the rabbit hole of virtual races, and I still can’t believe how many are out there.  Basically, a virtual race is one that you can run anywhere at any time.  Typically you sign up, pay some money, commit to covering a set distance by a certain date, and the company mails you a prize (like a bib, shirt, medal, or some combination of those things).  Many, but not all, virtual races have a charity component, too.

 

A typical first reaction when hearing about virtual races is, “that’s stupid.”  And that’s not entirely wrong.  Without a set time, course, or race “experience,” why would you pay money to sign up for one of these?  But then again, why would you line up and wait (and wait and wait) in a huge pack of people to run a certain path at a certain time, even if it’s raining and you had to get up at 6 am and you’re sick?  And beyond that, isn’t any pastime ultimately stupid?  Golf, baseball, stamp collecting – why do any of these things?  Because they’re fun (to you…)!

 

Ultimately, virtual races are about fun and motivation – if paying money to commit to running a certain distance and getting a medal to celebrate that run gets you out there, then that’s great!  Virtual races are also a way to participate in a “race” without pressure or intimidation.  If virtual racing is a way to get more people interested in running, I’m all for it.

 

What follows is a list of all the virtual race companies I could find (29 of them!), presented in no particular order, but grouped into somewhat meaningless categories for fun.  I’m not vouching for any of these races, and I’ve never run a virtual race myself (yet…).

Themed Virtual Races

  • Hogwarts Running Club – For Harry Potter Fans!  Price:  $25 gets you a medal and virtual bib, and a portion goes to charity.  Shirts can be purchased on another site for $20 (and a portion of that also goes to charity).  They have a suggested day for you to complete the run, but no hard or fast rule of when you should run.
  • Run Disney Virtual Running Shorts – This is the first time Disney has gotten in on the virtual bandwagon, so you know it must be a way to make money if Disney is doing it.  Price:  $39 per race gets you a virtual bib and medal ($142 for the current 3-race series which includes an additional medal and tumbler).  Nothing goes to charity, and there are no spoilers of what the medals will look like.  There is a suggested time frame for completing the distance and a hashtag you can use to share your results, but no reporting requirement.
  • Nerd Herd Racing Series – Good for fans of SciFi, Harry Potter, and Disney.  You’re supposed to run the distance during a certain week, but you can break up the distance (even if only 5K).  Price:  $25 US ($35 international) gets you get a bib and medal.  A portion goes to charity.
  • Zombies Run! Virtual Race – For fans of the Zombies Run! running app, this one is popular – the 5,000 entry spring race is already sold out!  Price:  Unfortunately they don’t list the price after it sells out, so I don’t know how much it costs, but you get a medal, bib, certificate, badge, and bonus content on the app.  For more money you can get a tech shirt, and even more money gets you a long-sleeved tech shirt.  You use the app to post your results – no need to separately report your time.  You can do either (or both!) the 5K and the 10K, and you can do them multiple times.  They can also be walked with no penalty.  They also say that even if you don’t normally use the app the story is stand-alone and contains no spoilers (it’s a prequel).  You do need a phone that can run the app (iPhone or Android).

Companies with “Virtual” in the Name

  • Virtual Strides –  They have two current but several “past” races available.  Price:  $28 get you a medal and bib, and some small donation is made to a related charity, with shipping maybe included?  You can also do “past” races as long as they still have medals.
  • Virtual Running Club – They have a lot of races scheduled in 2016!  Price:  For $35 you get a shirt and medal ($25 to get only one or the other, $15 to just run and get nothing), and some portion is donated to a charity.  Not sure if shipping is included.  The run is supposed to be completed in certain time frame (you must report your time by a certain deadline to qualify for prizes, but I think if you miss the deadline you’ll still get your shirt/medal).  I’m considering the EMS run!
  • Virtual Run World – Many of their medals are large (6 inches) and feature glitter and intricate designs.  Price:  Varies, but about $30 gets you a medal (shipping included), and some (not all) of the races have a charity component.  No dates specified for the runs, and it’s optional to report your time as a comment on the race page or their Facebook page.
  • Virtual Run Events – Pretty good selection of various races for this year, and the medals are kinda funny (e.g. a running toilet is one of them).  Price: Varies, but generally $20 to $24 includes a medal, bib, and shipping.  You’re supposed to run/report time on your race by a certain date (generally you get a certain month, like July, to run the race).  Looks like about 20% goes to various charities.
  • Triumph Virtual Racing – They have two current races and 5 past races, as of today.  Price:  $10 (for “past” races) to $28 (for “current” races) gets you a virtual bib and medal (includes shipping), and a portion goes to a charity.  There’s no set date you need to run by, and it’s optional to post your finish on their Facebook page or Instagram.
  • Pure Play Virtual Race Center – A self-described newcomer to virtual racing.  Price:  $25 gets you a medal and unspecified “goodie bag” (shipped within 10 days of registering), and a portion goes to charity.  Note that they don’t show you what the medals look like beforehand.
  • Virtual Runner UK – Based in the UK, they offer tonnes of races.  You must report your time (with proof, like with your Garmin data) by a certain date to get your medal (and the window for reporting is very small – you’re supposed to run on a certain day and report by the next day).  Price:  Varies, but ranges around £10 to £15 plus VAT for UK residents, £15 to £18 for international ($22 to $26 USD) and gets you a medal (assuming you report appropriately) with a portion going to charity.  All payments are through PayPal.  Note that some of the races are open to UK residents only.

Companies with “Bling” or “Medal” in the Name

  • Will Run For Bling – They only have three current races but have many, many past events (which you can’t “run” but you can buy the medals for $10 to $30 if they’re still available).  Price:  Varies, but generally around $25 domestic (plus a bullsh*t $2.50 “SignUp Fee”), $35 international gets you a medal and bib (with maybe shipping included?  Although after that bs fee I don’t trust them to include shipping).  You’re supposed to complete set distance within a certain time frame (although no reporting is required), and some charity component is included.
  • Bling Runners –  Only 2 races are currently listed.  Price: $25 to $45 depending on the race, you get a medal and virtual bib, and a portion goes to charity.  No suggested date to run, no reporting your time, and your medal will be mailed within 60 days of the race’s window.
  • Run Bling Repeat – Three current races available (and one past event that still has medals available).  Price: $29 gets you a medal and a virtual bib, and a portion goes to charity.  Not clear if it includes shipping.  Shirts are available but extra ($19-23 depending on style).  No suggested dates to run, and I don’t think there’s a reporting system, either.
  • I Love Race Medals – Eight races currently available.  Price:  $25 US, $30 Canada, $35 international, gets you a medal and a portion goes to charity.  Some of the races have a suggested time period to run (like a certain calendar year or month) and you can post results/pics on their event page, but it’s not required.
  • Full Medal Runs – They have a lot of runs/medals available.  Price:  For $20 to $30 you get a medal, electronic bib, and online results (with free shipping to US).  A portion goes to charity.  Oddly, the prices of some of the past races are not marked down (e.g. the April Showers Run or the February Leap Year Challenge), but non-date-specific races are (e.g. The All American Family Run is currently marked down to $20).

Real Events with Virtual Options

  • ODDyssey Half Marathon – This real event offers a virtual option partially because they have pretty cool medals (wall-mountable bottle openers) and people who couldn’t travel there wanted to get the medal.  You can run the race at any time, but must complete it in the calendar year.  Price (for the virtual option):  One of the most expensive options out there, for $53.74 you get a shirt, medal, and “various goodies.”  Also, you can’t live within 30 miles of Philly.
  • Run 10 Feed 10 – This is a real race series in various locations in the US ($35 for the 5K, $40 for the 10K, both early bird pricing), but they have a virtual option as well.  Price (for the virtual race):  $28 provides 10 meals to families in need and gets you a limited edition FEED bag (no medal – but the in-person event doesn’t provide medals either).  You’re supposed to finish your miles by a certain date (Nov 29, 2016).

I-Couldn’t-Think-of-A-Category-For-These-Races Races

  • Races for Awareness – This series is more focused on the charity aspect (claiming 80 to 100% of the net proceeds go to the respective charities), however all of their charities are “awareness” charities, not charities that do research or anything else.  Price:  Ranges from $22 to $26 and you get a medal, downloadable race bib, snacks, coupons, and shipping.  No deadline/timeline to run the various races.
  • Moon Joggers – Lots of current races, and medals for past races are available at a discount.  Price:  Varies depending on race, but around $25 gets you a medal and bib with shipping, and a portion (they say about 20% of race fee) goes to the respective charity.  They offer suggestions of dates to complete your race, but it’s just a suggestion.
  • 131 Events –  This company also does “real” events around the Indianapolis area (I wish they were in NYC!).  They seem to have really nice medals and even include a shirt as standard.  Price: $28 (plus a $4 processing fee) gets you a medal, bib, shirt, and shipping ($10 less if you don’t want the shirt).  You’re supposed to complete the run by a certain date (several month timespan).  The photo at the top of this post comes from this race series.
  • Gone for a Run – You might know this company for selling BibFOLIOs, medal hangers, and other random runner stuff, but they’re also currently offering two virtual races.  Price:  Varies, but about $37 gets you shirt, bib, medal, and button (shipped as soon as you sign up, not sure if price includes shipping).  Some portion is donated to a charity.  Your run is supposed to be completed during a specific week, and you can post your photos and results online, but nothing is required.
  • Fit Fab and Lean – They only have one race listed right now – not sure if they only ever have one race at a time or if this is unusual.  Price: $25 US, $35 international, gets you a medal and virtual bib, and 10% goes to a charity.  They give you a certain time period (a month for the current race) to cover the distance, and some races have a reporting requirement, some do not (and they’ll ship your medal whether you report or not).
  • Agent Outerwear – The only company which I noticed tags all of their medals with their name (“*Agent” is embossed on every medal somewhere).  Price:  Ranges from $20 to $30, gets you a medal and virtual bib, and a portion goes to charity (they give coats to kids in need).  They have race dates but no suggested date to run, but there is an option to submit times/photos to their Facebook page.  Note that you can add on medals from “old” virtual races for only $5 when registering for another race.
  • Make Yes Happen Virtual Races – You have to click on each individual race to find out the price, what the medal looks like, and other info.  Price:  $25 for a medal, and some races have a charity component, but most do not.  Distances can be completed piecemeal (e.g. however long it takes you to run 66 miles or whatever the various race distances are) and has no time limit/ending date.  You also unlock some digital content as you hit “mile markers” like photos of the virtual course.
  • Stridebox Run – Stridebox is a subscription box service for runners.  For about $15/month they ship you a small box filled with various runner-type goodies like gels, drink mixes, and usually one non-food item like a mini towel, water bottle, LED light, phone arm band, etc.  Apparently they also have a virtual marathon.  Price: $29 gets you a tshirt, bib, and medal, and $5 of it goes to charity.  They also hint you might get other goodies in your race pack.  You’re supposed to run the 26.2 miles over the course of two weeks, all at once or in any amount of segments.  Once you send a photo of your log, they’ll ship you the medal.

No Charity Component

  • US Road Running – They claim to own the trademark on “virtual race,” which they define as “a race that can be run/walked any time, any place or any location.”  (Note that I’m not a trademark attorney, but I’d love to hear from anyone who knows whether their supposed trademark is legit and/or enforceable.)  Price:  $17, includes a medal, bib, and shipping.  Nothing goes to charity, even though some of their races seem like they’d go to charity (i.e. they have an EMT race and a Police race, neither of which support EMTs or the Police).  No time limit on when you have to run the race, although each race has a “date.”  You can post your finishing times on their website but it’s not required.
  • Best Race Bling aka Miles 4 Medals – Not sure why it’s two different companies/websites.  They have 9 current races.  Price: $22.50 gets you a medal and bib, which ship out 72 hours after you register.  There’s no charity component (despite some of the runs being linked to causes – they suggest you do your own fundraising), no set time period to run, and no reporting requirement, but you can post to their Facebook page.
  • Running on the Wall – This site is more of a store that also offers virtual run “packets.”  The English/editing is a bit off on this site, and when you register they offer “add ons” like extra medals or charms or such.  Price:  Starts at $30, includes shirt, bib, bag, and medal, but shipping is another $10.  No time limit, no set dates, no charity component.

 

If I designed a virtual race it would involve eating candy during the run and the medal would have a piece you could detach and wear as a necklace, keychain, or bottle opener (or all three!).  Or maybe I’d just make the medal a spoon

 

Have you ever run a virtual race?  Would you?  What would be your “ideal” virtual race?  Share in the comments!

Manhattan Half Cancelled & Brooklyn Half Sold Out

I actually do like this more than a t-shirt.

I actually do like this more than a t-shirt.

As you might know (even if you don’t live on the East Coast), there was a bit of a snowstorm in NYC last weekend.  While the initial forecast called for 8 to 12 inches, Central Park ended up getting 26.8 inches of snow in a single day.  Surprisingly, NYRR had the foresight to cancel the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half Marathon on the Friday before the race (making me wonder if NYRR hired its own meteorologists after the Sandy disaster).

 

I had already picked up my race number and hat (pictured above), but NYRR is also offering the medal to any registrant who wants it.  My question to you is:  should I go get the medal?  I have one more day to decide whether to pick it up or not.  I did not go for a run over the snowy weekend, and I’ve only run 3 miles all week.  If I did go get the medal, what should I do to “earn” it?  Or is it even possible to earn a medal for a race that was canceled?

 

In other news, the Brooklyn Half Marathon went on sale today at noon and was sold out by 1 pm.  My second question to you is:  do you think NYRR is going to turn the Brooklyn Half into a lottery race (like they have with the Marathon and the NYC Half Marathon)?  Or do you think the recent lawsuit will give them pause (and some of our money back)?

 

Finally, in obligatory runner news – the bandit dog that placed 7th in a half marathon.  I still couldn’t finish 7th even with an extra pair of legs.

 

Did you pick up your Manhattan Half medal?  Did you register for the Brooklyn Half?  Do you personally spell “canceled” with one “l” or two?  Share in the comments!

Medal Unveiling – Garmin Marathon

The Garmin Marathon in the Land of Oz just revealed its marathon medal for this year!

Garmin Marathon medal unveiling 2016

Oh wow, that is so cool!  A hot air balloon?!   How fun and festive and interesting and pretty and…

Garmin marathon 10K medal 2016

Oh wait…  That’s for the 10K.  The full marathon gets this:

Garmin half marathon medal 2016

Ok, well, that’s a little girly, but I guess it’s still kinda pretty and at least she’s a good… wait, what?  Sorry, no, that’s for the half.  The full marathon gets this:

Garmin marathon full medal 2016

Um.  Ok.  See you in April.

 

Do you watch medal unveilings or do you like to be surprised?  Do you care more about the medal or the shirt?  Do you think there’s a creepy medal theme going for 2016?  Share in the comments!

Happy 2nd Birthday, Where’s The Finish!

Worth bursting my lungs for this view (behind the cabins at "EMT Camp").

It was worth bursting my lungs for this view (on the trail behind the cabins at “EMT Camp”).

It’s the second anniversary of WheresTheFinish.com, and much like the clock in a marathon, I don’t know how the time went by so fast.

 

I haven’t posted in a while because I spent the last month in Leavenworth, Washington, learning how to be an EMT (with some wilderness/remote skills added for good measure).  It was an amazing course full of amazing people, and I already miss being there.  If you have any interest in that sort of thing, I highly recommend it.

 

This is the kind of thing you come across while running around an EMT learning center.  (Don't worry, the blood was corn syrup.)

This is the kind of thing you come across while running around an EMT learning center. (Don’t worry, the blood is actually corn syrup.)

 

On the running front, I only managed to run 6 times over the entire month, and those runs were mostly walking up a steep trail and then picking my way carefully back down.  I have a lot of work ahead of me to get ready for my 4 marathons in 4 months this fall/winter…

A small segment of the "blue" trail behind our cabins at EMT camp.

A small segment of the blue trail I “ran” behind our cabins at EMT camp.

 

One of the reasons I wanted to become an EMT was so I can volunteer at the medical tents at races.  I hope to do that for the upcoming NYC Marathon and other NYRR races – but I also hope to see exactly none of you at the tents!

 

Otherwise, compared to a year ago I feel pretty good about the whole running thing.  I’m still woefully out of shape, but I’m not super injured right now (I always feel a little bit injured, as any runner can probably relate) and I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll get into better shape over the next year.  I’m still working on my full marathon in every state goal and I’m still having a lot of fun doing it.  I’m going to try to do more group runs (and runs in general) and I might sign up for a NYRR class again to gain some speed.  And I just registered for both the NYC Pizza Run and the NYC Cupcake Run because those races are basically made for me.

 

As for this website, I hope to do a bit more with it but I also said that a year ago.  As always, let me know if you have requests for particular content and I’ll do my best.  Until then I’m getting this shirt and living in the 32%.

 

How’s your summer going?  What races or goals do you have planned for the rest of 2015?  How much cake am I allowed to eat this week because of a website’s birthday?  Share in the comments!

NaNoWriMo vs Marathons – A Comparison

NaNoWriMo Winner 2014 Image

I finished!  I “won.”  I wrote a novel in a month – 50,001 in 30 days – and boy are my arms tired.  Again, for those of you who haven’t heard of this novel-ing monstrosity, National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) is when you pound your head against a keyboard until you hit the space bar enough times to reach 50,000 words in 30 days (November 1-30).  It teaches you to turn off your inner editor and to use three words when you could have used one.  50,000 words averages out to 1,666 words per day, because that’s how the devil likes it.  It’s free to participate, it’s on the honor system, and if you reach 50,000 words you win bragging rights (see image above) and the satisfaction of having written 50,000 words.  So basically, it’s a lot like a marathon, because the reward is in doing it (and then telling people you did it…).

 

All month I’ve been wondering – which is harder, finishing NaNoWriMo or finishing a marathon?  To help the none of you who are trying to decide between the two, I’m going to rank the difficulty of each using as many numbers and statistics as possible, while remaining completely unscientific and wholly biased.

I updated my word count more times each day than I'd like to admit.

My personal NaNo stats.  I updated my word count more times each day than I’d like to admit.

 

NaNoWriMo vs Marathons – Which is More…

Physically taxing?

While there are many late nights and many bags of M&Ms consumed while writing, finishing a marathon requires covering at least 26.2 miles on your feet.  I mean, c’mon.

Winner:  Marathon

Mentally taxing?

Everyone says running a marathon is mostly mental.  Those people are wrong.  If you want to hate yourself and hate everything that has ever come out of your head and wonder how you can even function as a human being when you can’t even form a sentence that makes sense or sounds good, then do NaNoWriMo.

Winner:  NaNoWriMo

Time consuming?

While running 26.2 miles only takes a few hours, (proper) marathon training goes on for months.  NaNo, by definition, only lasts a month.  NaNo seems like it takes a long time because there is almost no moment during that month that you don’t feel like you should be writing.  Even if you’re writing, you feel like you’re not writing enough.  While training for a marathon, you might feel like you’re slacking sometimes, but you never think you should maybe go for a run at 2 AM because you didn’t already do enough running that day.  But still, training for and running a marathon ultimately takes more time, if only because it’s more spread out.

Winner: Marathon by a nose

Exhausting?  (i.e., How quickly could you do one again?)

After my first marathon, I was tired, but I immediately wanted to sign up for another marathon (and I did).  After I completed my first NaNo, I didn’t look at what I had written for 6 years.  For literally 6 years I did not open that file again!  And I didn’t make a serious effort to finish another NaNo until 9 years after my first.

Winner:  NaNo

Difficult to complete annually?  (i.e., How many people finish it every year?)

In 2013, 541,000 people completed a marathon in just the United States (although one runner can count for more than one of the finishers, like me!).  In 2013, about 310,095 people participated in NaNoWriMo worldwide, but only 42,221 finished it (a 14% completion rate).  Also in 2013, 50,740 people started the NYC Marathon and 50,266 finished (a 99.06% completion rate).  I couldn’t find a good average completion rate for marathons worldwide, but it’s safe to assume it is many, many times higher than NaNo’s completion rate.

Winner:  NaNo by a landslide

Difficult to complete ever?  (i.e., How many times might a person complete it?)

NaNo started in 1999 with 20 participants.  In 2011 they added Camp NaNoWriMo in April & July, so there are now three time periods that are “official” NaNo months, but that’s still only 24 times the event has ever been “held.”  Marathons made their modern debut in 1896 and there were over 1,100 marathons held in just the United States in just 2013.  It’s numerically a lot easier to have done multiple marathons than to have done multiple NaNos.  And of course, since the ultimate important factor is how many times I’ve done either, I’ve finished 14 marathons and only 2 NaNos.  (It’s worth noting that you can “do” NaNo in any 30 day period you’d like, just like you can run 26.2 miles any time you like, but neither is nearly as satisfying as doing it during the prescribed time and/or place.)

Winner: NaNo by another landslide

Verdict:

NaNoWriMo is more difficult than a typical marathon.  Thank god they don’t have an option to do one in every state.

 

Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo?  Which would you rather have to do – run a marathon or write a novel in a month?  Is there another tortuous endurance event you recommend?  Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail perhaps?  Share in the comments!

Twizzlers Heal Injuries by Where's the Finish

NYC Marathon Spectating – 2014 Experience

Twizzlers Heal Injuries by Where's the Finish

Many people asked if it were true. I said yes, and that I was a doctor.

As a marathon runner who has benefitted countless times from spectators who passed out food, beer, or just had a funny sign, I feel I have a duty to karmically pay back these good deeds.  My one big chance every year is the NYC Marathon.  I volunteered at the Expo on Thursday, but my real “good marathon deed” came today – for almost 5 hours, standing at about mile 21.5, I passed out 12 pounds of Twizzlers and 4 bags of Kit Kats.  I had two signs – “Twizzlers heal injuries” while passing out the Twizzlers and “Show Us Your Tata Consultancy Services” when I ran out of Twizzlers.  The Tata sign was from last year, but since TCS was the actual sponsor this year, many, many more people got the joke this time.

Show us your Tata Consultancy Services

Sign with candy bag detritus. They still smell strongly of Twizzlers.

 

I also learned a few things from spectating today:

 

  • Norwegians love Twizzlers.  Or they don’t have Twizzlers in Norway and they wanted to literally grasp the one chance they got to try this waxy American treat.  Either way, I think the first 4 pounds of Twizzlers went exclusively to Norwegians.  Or maybe they were Swedish.  I’m not so good with the flags.
  • There’s no such thing as overdressing to spectate a cold-weather race.  It was in the 40s today but with a windchill in the 30s.  I wore long underwear, thick jeans, an extra wool top, a wind-blocking fleece, wool socks, boots, fleece headband, hat, scarf, and (rubber, for sanitary reasons) gloves.  When it got shady I added my long down coat and hood.  All of this was just barely comfortable, although my ears and fingers were still cold by the end.  While my friend somehow, amazingly, ran the marathon shirtless, if you plan on standing still for multiple hours you won’t be sorry you’re warm.  You can always remove layers if you’re hot, but you can’t put on the extra wool sweater you didn’t bring.
  • I probably pissed off several runners today.  To those runners, I say:  I hope you understand it was only because I was trying to get candy to another runner, and I really didn’t mean for that runner to clothesline you while reaching for a treat.  I hope those minor irritations only fueled you to a stronger finish.
  • Having a sign explaining what you are handing out is very helpful.  I saw people reading the sign that Twizzlers heal injuries, which then helped them identify the strange red ropes in my hands.  I didn’t have a sign that said “Kit Kats” and people seemed confused by them, although they still went like hotcakes (assuming marathoners love hotcakes).  It would have been even better to have multiple people passing out treats, but amazingly I haven’t convinced anyone to join me on these marathon spectating adventures yet.  Maybe next year!
  • Twizzlers are a great candy to pass out.  It’s cheaper than chocolate (12 lbs for about $22 on Amazon, vs 4 bags of Kit Kats on sale at Duane Reade for $10, but they lasted about 15 minutes because there’s not much in a bag) and I personally enjoy eating Twizzlers more during a race than other candy.  I wore disposable rubber gloves so it was moderately more sanitary and I didn’t have to hand anyone candy I touched with my bare hands.  Plus the Norwegians love it.
  • Candy grabbing goes in waves.  When one person takes candy from you, usually a bunch more will also grab for candy right afterwards.  Then 50 runners will go by and nothing.  Then, one person wants candy, and 5 people right around them also want it.  If someone wants to run a detailed psychological study on this, please give me credit in the footnotes.
  • A ton of really attractive men ran the marathon this year.  I saw so many guys who could be doubles for the ridiculously photogenic runner meme guy, it was hard to believe they had already run 21 miles in the freezing cold.  If someone wants to run a detailed psychological study on this, please include my contact info in the footnotes.
  • Even when I ran out of candy, people seemed to appreciate that I stood there holding my silly sign.  I felt terrible I couldn’t offer them more, but since they didn’t know what they missed, there were no hard feelings.  Now that they know, however, I can understand if they demand candy from me if they ever run into me on the street.  “You’re that girl with the sign and the blog?  Where’s my candy?!”  “Hold on, handsome, I have some right here in my handbag…”

 

Did you run or watch the NYC Marathon today?  Or are you mostly just excited for another Walking Dead episode tonight?  Do you also always carry candy in your handbag?  DO Norwegians love Twizzlers?  Share in the comments!