Yesterday I shared a story about Liz, my girlfriend who coaches runners professionally. Today, you can read an interview with her in Women’s Running [the same running magazine that just put a plus-size model on their cover*] where she shares advice about what to do after a run or a race. Here’s a taste of the kind of expertise you can access if you don’t treat your coach like a prostitute:
What is most important to have in your checked bag?
In your checked bag, be sure to include something for refueling. “You may have to wait a long time to get out of the athlete’s village and it may be awhile before you can get out for a larger meal.” Corkum packs a protein powder and a shaker to use with the water she is given at the finish line. Within 10 minutes of crossing the finish line, you can get 200-300 calories of protein in to start the rebuilding process, to feel better, faster.
You can find Liz online at Coach Corky Runs.
*Just a related aside here: After seeing Liz, who is also a professional model and usually size zero or an extra small, rejected from the cover of another leading running magazine for being “too heavy,” it was especially gratifying to see Women’s Running use a plus-size cover model. The vast majority of runners in America look more like her than the models on the covers of most magazines–most of whom aren’t actually runners at all.
Photo: Elizabeth Corkum
It’s marathon season, which means time for runners to book hotels. Actually, it’s late September, which means marathon accommodations will be hard to find in many cities. If you’re running and haven’t booked your stay yet, get on that.
Over the years I’ve noticed varying levels of preparedness among hotel staff on marathon weekends. Some hotels cater to a marathoner’s every need, while others seem surprised to learn there is a marathon in town–especially surprising when 2/3 of the guests are probably there to run.
In the interest of improving accommodations for marathoners everywhere, and to help you hoteliers satisfy your customers and make more money, I’ve put together a quick list of ways you can better serve your marathon guests, in order of descending importance.
- Rule 1: Offer an extended check-out. Marathons generally start around 7 or 8 AM and take 3-6 hours, depending on a runner’s ability level. With wave starts, slower runners start later than faster runners–sometimes, as at the New York City Marathon, hours later. Bad weather can occasionally delay a start, and blisters and minor injuries can slow a runner’s time. Factor in time to travel from the finish back to your hotel and grab a quick shower before leaving, and your 11 AM checkout isn’t going to cut it. I’ve seen hotels offer extended checkout as late as 3 PM, but even just extending until 1:00 will accommodate most runners. On the other hand I’ve encountered hotel managers who refuse to extend checkout, which is a quick way to piss off marathoners and ensure they’ll never come back.
Tomorrow is National Running Day, and Coach Corky (one of New York City’s top running trainers, who also happens to be my girlfriend) stopped by my YouTube channel to offer advice for beginning runners, suggest a few reasons you should start running, and tell us about her crazy plan to run 100 miles in 24 hours next month.
Back On My Feet 20in24
Liz ran the Philly marathon Sunday morning. I did not–though it didn’t stop me from eating a whole pint of ice cream Saturday night! After a series of lousy marathon experiences (getting sick and having to drop out of Boston 2012, injuring herself in Harrisburg, almost being blown up in Boston 2013) she had a terrific day and posted another PR–her third in three visits to the big Philly race. Today’s was 3:05:27, good for another trip to Boston in 2015.
I put together a little video highlight real of the race, which was pretty fun. My favorite part is the line of guys peeing between the UPS trucks, but there are some other entertaining moments too–like the young girls holding a sign encouraging their dad to not poop his pants.
Worth a reminder: If you’re a runner looking for a coach in the NYC area (or for virtual coaching anywhere in the world) Liz is not only a very fast runner but also a hell of a trainer. Check her out at Coach Corky Runs.
We left our hotel a little before noon to walk to Back Bay Station. Just outside the door were a Boston police officer and two men in combat fatigues, I assume National Guard. Their mood seemed easy enough, and when I took a photo and told the officer it was a “souvenir of our trip to Boston,” he urged us to come back.
“Otherwise the terrorists win,” he said. I told him we’d be back in two years. Liz’s next marathon is Philadelphia in November, which is too late to qualify for Boston 2014.
The morning had been pretty calm. We left the television off and focused our conversation on the race, not on what happened after the finish. Every marathon is a hero’s quest, and every runner has a story to tell. Liz ran with her friend Cip, and their story was about pushing through calf cramps and mental exhaustion to get to the finish. They blew kisses to the girls at Wellesley and spotted a woman runner near the foot of the Newton Hills who had pooped her pants. By mile 25 Cip swore this would be her last marathon, but when they turned the corner onto Boylston Street and the finish line came into view, they both burst into happy tears and she changed her mind.
Being outside among other humans was much harder, emotionally. To get to Back Bay we had to walk along Commonwealth Avenue, parallel to the finish area and just a block or so away. The finish area is still closed as a crime scene, and soldiers and police patrol every intersection. Media satellite trucks crowded Commonwealth Avenue. The national media had taken over the intersection of Arlington and Boylston, setting up impromptu studios with hot lights and stools for their anchors. Behind them, a mob gathered to look up Boylston street, which remains as it was yesterday afternoon, scattered with debris and damage. Nearby were piles of the mylar blankets runners receive as they finish, silver on one side and printed with blue-on-white Boston Athletic Association logos on the other. Continue Reading
One of the stranger days of my life today. Liz ran her second Boston Marathon, and as usual I was there to cheer her on. She ran her first Boston last year, but the unseasonable heat and a stomach flu forced her to drop out around mile 14. This year, she paced a friend, and they finished a little before 2:46 PM. As you may or may not know, two bombs detonated at the finish line four minutes later. Liz was there, but far enough away that she was unhurt. She and her friend concluded their four-and-a-half-hour marathon run by sprinting for their lives. Not exactly what one expects from a marathon. At least she got her medal.
I was at Massachusetts and Commonwealth Avenues, about six blocks or so from the finish line, when the explosions detonated. I was talking to a friend of Liz’s who had finished about an hour earlier, and we both heard the bombs. We wondered aloud what the noise might have been, but assumed it was something benign. From that distance it might have been a truck dropping its tailgate, or a collision. Living in New York City sort of desensitizes you to loud noises.
I went and got a burrito for Liz, and while I was paying I started getting text messages about explosions and lost limbs. I didn’t know where Liz was, but I knew the timing was close. I spent about ten minutes telling myself not to freak out, and Liz called to say she was okay. Freaked out, traumatized, but okay. The first bomb went off just behind her, and as she fled she looked back and saw the second explosion. Continue Reading
Sunday I ran the Philadelphia Marathon, my second full marathon ever. My first was the 2011 Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, where I ran a 4:17:30. I trained a lot harder this year, and shaved almost exactly twenty minutes off my time, finishing in 3:57:31. My primary goal was to beat four hours, which also happens to be faster than both Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan (in reality, not in his imagination). Someday I could be among the fastest runners ever to lose a campaign for Vice President.
For those who don’t know, I have been running for only about 30 months. I took my first steps as a runner in June 2010, running for thirty seconds and then doubling over to suck wind. Before that, I hated running. I was never a runner in high school or before that, and actively avoided running of any kind for at least a decade. I ran my first marathon nine months after I took those first steps. I say this not to brag about my accomplishment, but because I hold myself up as an illustration that anyone can do this, if they have the desire and the discipline and follow a good training plan. If you’re looking to get started, I strongly recommend the Couch to 5K, which is how I got started.
Originally the plan was for Liz to pace me, as she did at the Shamrock. Unfortunately, she injured a tendon in her ankle running the Harrisburg Marathon on November 11 (and finished in less than four hours, mind you, after injuring herself at mile 12) so I was running solo. I was surprised how comfortable I felt at this news–I had done all my training solo, after all, and my long runs had been going really well–but I had another moment of panic when, standing in the corral five minutes before the race start, my iPod shuffle crapped out on me. As I was grabbing my cell phone from Liz and mentally preparing to run at least part of the four hours without music, a lady next to me mentioned that her Garmin wristwatch had similarly chosen to die right at the start of the race. Now, having only recently brought my own Garmin back from near-death, I knew exactly how to resurrect hers, which brought her such joy she nearly cried. As she gleefully called her husband to give him the good news (yes, little things like your satellite watch breaking really are that big a deal before a marathon) the gods of electronics paid back my karma, and my iPod came to life.
Since my goal was a sub-4:00 marathon, I had trained to run a 3:50, reasoning that if there were unforeseen delays (like potty breaks, which have ruined a couple of my longer races) I would have a nice buffer to fall back on. A 9:07 per mile pace is what I needed for a sub-4:00 race. I planned to set a pace of 8:40 per mile for my first half marathon, and then drop as slow as 9:10 for my second half. I’m pleased to say that my first half felt so good, I stayed around 8:50 all the way through mile 20. Around mile 20 I was thinking a 3:53:00 might be a realistic finish, which would mean crossing the finish line before the clock read 4:00:00. As always, the last six miles were about a million times harder than the first 20, as my legs started to burn and tighten up, and my brain starts insisting that stopping really wouldn’t be such a bad idea. There’s also the mentally-challenging sight of other runners around you slowing to a walk. Early in the race, I told myself I would stay positive and encourage those around me, but when you’re just trying to push out those last few painful miles, every person who is walking makes the race seem harder, and you don’t want to encourage them–you want to yell at them.
In the end, the dedication that I showed to my training really paid off, and the race felt much easier than my first. Liz cheered me on at the 14 mile mark, and again at the 26-mile mark, and though I didn’t spot my parents in their spot near the finish, they met up with Liz and I afterward. I high-fived Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter at the finish line, as did about 20,000 other people (and may I say how awesome I think it is for our mayor to stand there in the cold for over four hours, congratulating people as they finish the race?) and then got a little weepy as I collected my medal. I’m normally pretty buttoned-down, emotionally, but after a race that length, there’s this incredible endorphin rush and sense of achievement, and because you’re so physically and mentally exhausted, it’s really difficult to hold in any emotion. I cried a little when I found Liz, and again when my parents joined us. Then I shuffled like a 90-year-old on our way to get food.
When I started training this past July, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to run another full marathon, but I figured I could train and see how it went, and if I didn’t feel up to the full I could run the half instead. I’m glad I ran the full. Philadelphia has been my home for the last five years, and the marathon is considered one of the best courses in the country. I expect to be a full-time New Yorker pretty soon, and though I could come back for a marathon any time, I’m glad I got to run it at least once as a home-town guy.
I’m not sure how many full marathons I see myself doing. I like distance running, but the half marathon really is my preferred distance. A full is about an hour too long for me, and the training just consumes your life. But there is an incredible sense of achievement that follows, because no matter how many marathons you’ve run, the next one always seems sort of impossible. As I started writing this, I realized for the first time that, while they were twenty months apart, I technically ran two full marathons in two years. I don’t think that’s a pace I will keep up, but then again I used to say I would never fun a full marathon at all. So who knows?
For the running geeks, here are the details of my marathon, courtesy of my Garmin Forerunner.
I’ve started laying out the next novel, following a somewhat new approach for me. I’m beginning by creating a thorough biography of each character that takes them from birth through the start of their involvement in the story. I have a rough idea about the plot, but I don’t want to make specific story decisions until I understand each character and have a feel for what he or she would do and why. In the past I’ve usually fleshed out characters as I wrote, and that has slowed me down – I’m hoping that writing out bios in advance will make the writing process go a lot faster. Not to be super-ambitious, but I’d love to have this book finished (in some form) by the end of 2013.
Also, I’m going to need to learn a bit about peer-to-peer filesharing services in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Two or three short stories are also in the works, and I may try to finish those before I start the real work on the novel. The first required three hours of research into voodoo and the geography of New Orleans. I did that research, and wrote the first 1,200 words, last night while my PS3 was downloading Assassin’s Creed III. Oh yes, even while I was working, I was simultaneously self-sabotaging. That’s multi-tasking.
Also, the Philly Marathon is this weekend, and I’ll be running alone because Liz hurt her ankle running the Harrisburg Marathon this past Sunday. I feel pretty confident anyway, and the weather looks promising. Of course I am also terrified. Stay tuned to see how I do.