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Archive for November, 2008

Unusual running races: Krispy Kreme Challenge

Friday, November 21st, 2008

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The annual Krispy Kreme Challenge hosted by the students of NC State University in Raleigh combines two of my personal favorite pastimes: running and eating. The event consists of runners jogging 2 miles to the local Krispy Kreme donut shop, downing a dozen doughnuts (that’s right – 12), and running 2 miles back to the start. The proceeds from the race go to a good cause – the NC Children’s Hospital – and although it’s all done in good fun, this is a serious race as well with some runners completing the challenge in under 30 minutes.

The event has grown each year since it was started in 2004 and last year’s event drew more than 3,000 gluttonous runners from around the state raising more than $10,000 for charity. The 2009 race, held February 7, could see as many as 5,000 runners!

In case you’re wondering, a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts contain 2,400 calories of which 1,200 calories come from fat! If the average runner burns 100 calories per mile that’s an extra 2,000 calories you’ll need to burn off AFTER the race ;) As long as it’s for a good cause I’m all in!

Best running cities in the US

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

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Leah enjoying the Boston Marathon.

Back in 2004 Runner’s World conducted a survey to find the best running cities in the US using several factors: the number of running clubs, the number of annual races, air quality, weather data, and even crime statistics. The results are a bit surprising and perhaps that’s why Runner’s World hasn’t released a similar survey since ;)

The #1 city, San Francisco, actually seems like a good pick. The weather is nice, there are cool races like Bay to Breakers, and the terrain is challenging and interesting. #2, San Diego, seems less obvious to me. Sure, the weather is good but isn’t the air quality a big issue there?

The survey chose New York for #3 and the biggest factor helping NYC to the top of the list seems to be the number of running clubs and races. Sure, NYC has the most clubs and races but that’s because it’s the largest city in the US! Perhaps a better measure would have been the number of running clubs per capita… I suspect the same factors are at play in Chicago taking 4th and DC 5th in the survey.

Boulder, CO cracked the top 10 and that seems right to me. Again, great places to run, good air quality, and plenty of active folks living in the area. Boston and Denver also made the top 10 but once again it seems a large overall population skews the rankings a bit. If anything a densely populated city like Boston or New York makes running more difficult as my friend who recently moved to NYC can attest. You can only run Central Park so many times before you get completely bored.

I’ve lived in Atlanta, Colorado Springs, and Durham, NC in the past 10 years and if you asked me I would rank Durham #1, CO Springs #2, and Atlanta #3 for running. For me a mid-sized town with access to quiet streets and extensive trail networks is the best place for running. Where’s your favorite running town?

Brooks creates biodegradable running shoe

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

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Looking to make your workout even more green? Check out the Trance 8 from Brooks – the world’s first running shoe with a biodegradable midsole. Nope, this shoe may not look or feel green but that’s the point. The BioMoGo midsole provides the same performance using a material that will break down in typical landfill conditions up to 50 times faster than traditional shoe materials. The company says this will reduce landfill waste by more than 30 million pounds over the next 20 years – that’s a lot of shoes!

Brooks seems to be pretty committed to the whole green revolution and they even changed their shoe boxes to 100% recycled cardboard at the beginning of this year. Not content to simply reduce their own company’s products’ impact on the environment, Brooks has made the BioMoGo technology freely available to competitors as an “open source” innovation. While they could have sought a patent for the new midsole material, Brooks chose instead to give other shoe companies a chance to reduce their environmental footprints as well (pun intended).

If you’re a runner who enjoys a clean environment (you know, fresh air to breathe) check out the Brooks Trance 8 with BioMoGo technology. It’s a shoe that’s good for your feet and good for the earth!

Pasadena Marathon canceled due to air quality issues, fires

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

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Smoke from a 2002 wildfire outside Colorado Springs, CO

The Pasadena marathon was canceled this weekend due to the effects of wildfires raging in the California hills. The fires produced dangerous levels of airborne smoke and ash in areas like Pasadena and organizers decided to cancel the race rather than subject the 8,000 runners to the poor conditions. Race organizers hope to reschedule the race but a new date has not been set.

I’m sure this is very frustrating for runners who had planned to run this weekend. Training for a marathon takes considerable time, effort, and money so it’s disappointing when plans change at the last minute. In the end the safety of the runners should be the top concern and hopefully everyone will understand. Many runners in the 2007 Chicago marathon can attest to the fact that running in poor conditions is downright dangerous and that it’s better to be safe than sorry when canceling an event.

Stay tuned to the Pasadena Marathon website for details on the new race schedule.

Marathon effects on local communities: traffic vs. economic impact

Monday, November 17th, 2008

The city council of Stillwater, MN is considering whether to approve a town marathon scheduled for Memorial Day weekend 2009. The idea for the race came from a citizen, Dave Eckberg who noticed the town is unusually quiet the weekend before the unofficial start of the summer tourism season. A marathon, Eckberg argues, would bring folks to town to help businesses get a jump on seasonal spending ahead of the town’s popular Lumberjack games held each year.

The mayor and some council members, however, have a different take on the idea. They argue the inconvenience imposed on residents along the closed race course coupled with the overtime pay required for city police officers would be a large burden for the city to bear. Sounds like a classic example of a runner trying to convince a non-runner that running for fun makes sense ;)

This is certainly a debate that is being played out in municipalities all over the country as tight local government budgets and the needs of struggling business owners conflict. Although I’ve never organized a race myself, I imagine most organizers pay off duty police officers to assist with course closures using funds raised through race entry fees. Of course race entry fees may be lower in a bad economy than in a good one as runners cut down on the number of races they participate in to save money. Either way, it seems like the cost argument doesn’t hold much water.

One thing that is tough to argue is that marathons are generally good for local economies. Runners often travel from out of town and eat meals, stay in hotels, and purchase gas from local businesses. The best run marathons with support from local governments are the most well attended and therefore provide the greatest positive economic impact. Just look at the Richmond marathon – it’s held in an average size city with really nothing special about the race course itself – but it’s routinely one of the most well attended in the country (this year’s race broke all previous records with 14,000 runners!).

If the mayor of Stillwater is looking for input I say take a risk Рhost the marathon and see what happens. Who knows  Рmaybe in a few years Stillwater will have thousands of runners who come out for the best supported, friendliest marathon in the state of Minnesota!

Is marathon running too dangerous?

Friday, November 14th, 2008

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A columnist for Newsday in New York wrote a controversial column last week decrying the apparent lack of outrage over 2 runner deaths during this year’s New York marathon. Anthony Rieber seems to imply that because marathon runners and spectators are wealthy individuals and races are often sponsored by big companies and media organizations like the New York Times, deaths like these are often overlooked or ignored altogther. Rieber argues that if a competitor had died during say, a boxing event, the public outcry would have been enormous. Instead there was only a casual mention of the fatalities amid otherwise positive coverage of the marathon.

It turns out the last time a competitor died during the New York Marathon was in 1994, although there were plenty of situations where marathon runners passed away during training or shortly after completing the race. Admittedly running any distance can be a dangerous activity and most competitors understand that a marathon heightens that risk to an extreme level. To many runners the risk is well worth the potential reward – increased physical fitness – and to denounce a race like the New York Marathon as being “too dangerous” is pure heresy to this group. So as you can imagine Rieber got a few pieces of hate mail ;)

All this reminds me of something I learned recently: In the early 20th century it was determined that women simply didn’t have the physical constitution for running long distance events after a few female competitors collapsed during Olympic competition. Sound familiar? Clearly today we know women can run as far as they like but the knee-jerk reaction to say running is too dangerous is eerily similar.

Look even further back to the “legend” of the marathon origin itself. The distance – 26 miles or so – from Athens to Marathon was seemingly an impossible distance for a man to run without stopping and the original marathon runner, Pheidippides, is said to have died almost immediately after finishing. So clearly part of the lure of the marathon is that it’s dangerous – and most, if not all, of those involved know the risks of participating. Just like sky diving wouldn’t be any fun if it weren’t dangerous, so marathon running gets some of its excitement from the risks involved.

Nope, I think I’ll skip boxing and keep running. At least when I’m running I don’t have to worry about being punched in the head – how can that be any fun or even good for you?

Not-so-serious running shoes

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Everyone has different running shoe needs and I would never say a particular running shoe choice is inappropriate for someone else just because it doesn’t work for me. In this case, however, I have to draw the line:

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According to the Daily Mail Australian singer Jason Donovan was out for a jog when this photo was snapped. His clothes look vaguely athletic (ok, that’s being generous) but clearly Ugg boots aren’t really designed for even recreational jogging. Judging by the height and angle of his foot I feel like he probably wasn’t out for a jog – maybe just walking when a photographer caught him off guard – but it’s tough to argue with the Daily Mail ;)

Looking for some new running shoes that are better for jogging than Ugg boots? Check out our running shoe reviews

The cost of running

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

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As far as sports or even hobbies are concerned, running is a pretty low tech, low cost affair. The York Daily Record, as part of their “What’s it cost” series decided to calculate just how much it costs a typical runner to train for and complete a marathon – and the results are a bit surprising.

First off, the obvious stuff – race entry fees. Marathon entry fees are generally much higher than say, your local 5K charity race, but they’re still not too bad considering that most people only enter one or two a year. The Daily Record estimated race entry fees at around $60-$100 and I’d say that’s a fair estimate. Some marathons, like Boston, can cost upwards of $125 so consider yourself lucky if you find one of those $60 races.

Add in other costs like transportation to and from the marathon, lodging and a meal the night before the marathon, and nutrition costs during your training and you can see things start to pile up. Next, add in the cost of a good pair of running shoes (around $100) plus another $100-$200 for clothing and accessories. Total it all up and, according to the Daily Post, you’ll spend about $645 to run a marathon. Sure this is just an estimate and it isn’t even as scientific as an average might be but it seems to be a pretty good guess in my opinion.

This number doesn’t include things like race entry fees along the way (many training plans recommend racing a 10K and/or a half marathon as part of your training) which can easily add another $100-$200 to the total. If you’re running a local marathon you’ll save on hotel and transportation but then again if you’re flying you’ll bust the $50 budget for travel expenses. Yep, the cost of running a marathon can vary widely but $645 sounds like a pretty good guess to me. My tip: send in your registration check and book your hotel as soon as you decide to run – that way you’ll be committed and you’ll generally end up saving on both!

Can running make you taller?

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

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Photo by Lindsay Lehmann via Run Run Ryan blog.

Of course we’ve all heard of the health benefits associated with regular running: weight loss, increased stamina and energy, decreased risks for cardiovascular disease, and improved mental health, just to name a few. But here’s one benefit you may not have considered: running makes you taller.

At least, that is, according to a press release I read this week. According to this press release (link provided for your entertainment only – please don’t buy this ebook!) physical exercise like swimming, cycling, and running will definitely make you taller. From the release:

Along with a balanced diet if you jog on a regular basis then this can add a lot of height to your body. The right food and the right balanced diet can help improve your height in the long-term. More and more people are going jogging or running as a means to lose weight as well as to increase their posture. Furthermore, those who go jogging well early in the morning can have an added advantage of increasing their height.

Fascinating – particularly the part about those who go jogging early in the morning. Oddly enough my wife prefers to run in the morning and she’s a good 12 inches shorter than me (for some reason I prefer to run after work). There may be some grain of truth to this in that running can improve your posture but I really can’t see this fact justifying the purchase of an entire e-book on running to make yourself taller. What do you think? Would anyone who has purchased this e-book be willing to share?

Spirit of the Marathon Movie Review

Monday, November 10th, 2008

spirit-of-the-marathon.jpgDid you ever go to a movie after hearing all your friends rave only to be disappointed, as if the hype had spoiled it for you? Spirit of the Marathon was that movie for me. Last fall I tried to get tickets to one of the special showings here in the Atlanta area and each time the movie was sold out. I figured it must have been amazing to sell out so quickly so I patiently put the DVD in my Netflix queue. In the meantime friends told me how inspiring the movie which only heightened my excitement. Last weekend I finally watched the DVD and was pretty let down.

Anyway, here’s the set-up: the movie follows several runners from first-timers to elite finishers training for and competing in the 2005 Chicago Marathon. The movie throws in some historical info about the marathon (how it came about, competitors and records over the years, etc.) and includes interviews with big names in running like Paula Radcliffe.

To help put my review in perspective, here’s where I’m coming from: I’ve been running for about 20 years (including competitively in high school) and completed my first (and only) marathon in 2005 with my Boston-qualifying (and finishing) wife. We watched the movie together and honestly we couldn’t get excited about the stories of the people who were just running the race to finish it – where’s the competitive spirit there? The one competitive “regular” guy in the movie who was hoping to use the Chicago marathon to qualify for Boston didn’t even get a chance to run at Chicago – certainly a letdown for him but also for those of us watching the movie (we need to see some competition!).

Along the same lines, early in the movie someone mentions “once you cross the finish line it will change your life forever” and that line is even printed on the DVD cover. As soon as I heard it I scratched my head and thought, seriously? Running a marathon is certainly a big accomplishment for most folks but I would hardly classify it as life changing. If you disagree with me then perhaps you’ll enjoy this movie; otherwise I say you can afford to skip this one.

The film seemed to jump around quite a bit, particularly in the beginning, and I can’t help but think the number of athletes being filmed ended up being a tad ambitious (3 women and 3 men). As far as documentaries go this one is pretty predictable and at times the musical and video choices seemed cliche. About halfway through the movie I decided the only way the movie would be worth finishing would be if were set during the 2007 Chicago Marathon when the event was canceled mid-way due to extreme heat. At least then we would have seen some conflict and some truly gutsy finishes. Instead we got a ho-hum commentary on first timers finishing a marathon. I guess what I’m trying to say is the movie lacked excitement – period.

After watching Spirit of the Marathon my wife and I decided the movie could be inspirational for those who are considering running their first marathon but pretty boring for everyone else. It’s kinda like watching your friend’s home videos – no one you know is in the movie and you find yourself bored but acting polite just because you know the events in the video were important to your friend. Nope, if you’re looking for an inspiring running movie stick to films like Prefontaine or even Run Fat Boy, Run. As Ricky Bobby says, “If you’re second, you’re last!”