I like to run. I've learned that it really isn't about where you're going, it's about the getting there - the how, the why, the who with. This blog is just a little repository for my thoughts along the way; the setbacks, the lessons learned, and the occasional triumph.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Race Report: Burgettstown Turkey Trot 5K

So: What is the purpose of the existence of all the hundreds – if not thousands – of Turkey Trots across the country every Thanksgiving Day? I’ll tell you. It’s so people like with me, with merely above average speed, can go run a race in a place where everyone else present in your age group might be slower than you are. In short: It’s the only real chance I have all year to win a medal! Not a pat-on-the-back, “You Finished” medal, but a real, bonafide, you’re-a-winner-and-you-get-a-medal-to-show-it Medal. The competition is just a little thinner at most of those small town Trots. The events are maybe aimed more at getting people off the couch for the first time for some exercise as a family. This is a fantastic goal, of course, but it also has the delicious side effect of making me look like Usain Bolt for a day by comparison!

This was my third Thanksgiving Turkey Trot in a row. I still can’t win the whole race - not a chance. (I did mention that I'm just a little better than average, didn't I?) But the Age Group Awards are ripe for the plucking! I succeeded in ’06, taking home a 2nd place award (M30-39). That was the first time I’d ever placed in a foot race. Last year, in ’07, it didn’t work out as well. I finished 3rd in my division, but the event only handed out medals to the top two finishers. (Foiled!)

This year I’m back in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh, where my sister lives with my brother-in-law. This is where I got my 2nd place medal two years ago, so I came in optimistic. My girlfriend drove out with me and my parents drove up from Georgia and we all joined my sister’s in-laws for the holiday feast later in the afternoon.

I didn’t come planning to run two years ago. I’d driven in on Wednesday night, with just my running reputation preceding me, and my brother-in-law asked me in the first 30 minutes, “So are you going to run the Turkey Trot in the morning?” What? A race? Here? Tomorrow? Well, heck yeah! Why not? I ran well. Not only did I place, I also turned in my 2nd fastest 5K to that point.

This year I got bad news before the race – my age group had been expanded from just 30 - 39 year-olds to 21 - 39 year-olds! Noooooooo! Apparently the folks staging the race had, after 15 years, clued in to the fact that both the 20s and 30s age groups always had just about 15 people in each (2 years ago, when I took second, there were only 8 of us – but, shhhh, don’t tell anybody.) SO, this year, for the first time, they had combined the two groups into one.

A quick peek at the ’07 race results showed me at least 4 people who would now be in my division that ran faster than I could, three of them with sub-20s. Uh-oh. No way I was gonna be breaking 20 minutes. Well, nothing to do but show up and run and see what might happen. Because I was really just running for the joy and the fun of it, right? (Nope. Not a chance. I wanted a MEDAL.)

Burgettstown ain’t big – there’s a main road through town and an older road that runs just above it and winds through the businesses and homes there. The race route is a simple out and back that starts at the high school up on one of the hills that overlooks the town, runs down the hill on Bavington Road, then along the older road that parallels the SR, to the parking lot of the Family Dollar, and then doubles back on itself to finish back up at the high school.

The thing is, that hill the high school sits on top of? Not really just a "hill". It’s about a 500 foot rise in only 3/4th or maybe 2/3rd of a mile. What is that, like a 7% gradient? OH MY. And, of course, it starts out gentle and just gets steeper and steeper the closer you get to the finish line. Holy Crapioca! Of course, the start is great. It’s kind of like a box car derby; you just roll down the hill. Then at the end when you’re already on your last legs… Well, you get the picture.

It was still frigidly frigid outside about an hour before race time, but by 9 am, the air had warmed a little in the sunlight. They blew the starter pistol right after 9, but they were so subtle about it that most of the runners would have missed it if I and a handful of others hadn’t started calling out to all the runners that the gun was about to go off.

There were just a few patches of ice on the high school driveway. A boy running just in front of me (12 years old?) stepped right into one, slid, lost his balance, tried to get it back, couldn’t find his feet, and finally went to the ground head and hands first. But he popped right back up again and kept going, and when I asked, he said, “I’m fine.”

I coasted down Bavington Road Hill, just trying to keep my feet under me as I went. Soon, my shins started throbbing from my feet pounding down the incline with such speed and force. My family was waiting for me on a side street near the bottom of the hill. They waved and cheered and snapped photos as I blew by.

Then it was down into the town along the (far gentler) rolling hills of Main Street. My eyes were watering a little in the cold air and I was running into the sun, so I almost missed the “1 mile” marker on a small, orange piece of poster board stapled to a telephone pole. I hit the split button on my watch and was not surprised to look down and see it say 6:30. That would be – yes – the fastest mile of my life. (I grant a major assist to the HILL.)

I figured I should just push as much as I could through the next mile and a quarter until I got back around to the foot of the Hill, and then we’d see what happened. I still felt pretty good, but I didn’t have a strong sense of how fast I was moving. I was, however, passing a number of people. Had been since we’d come down off the Hill in the first mile. People started slowing down, especially some of the younger runners. Mentally it was a good thing to focus on. Just trying to keep my turnover rate quick and strong, and catching and passing runners one by one.

We got to the turnaround at the Family Dollar and I grabbed a cup of water there at the only aid station on the course. I had a hint of a side stitch in the previous half mile, and I decided a sip of water couldn’t hurt. I didn’t notice the stitch again after that, so maybe it worked.

Out and backs can be cool because you get to see all the other runners coming and going, too. There weren’t that many runners in front of me, as it turned out. I still felt powerful and allowed myself to show off a bit as I ran past all the folks behind me. I focused on my form, kept my back straight, my head up, my hips centered, and my turnover rapid, strutting my way back by those behind me. I hit my split as I ran by the 2 Mile marker and looked down. This time I was genuinely surprised to see it say 6:48, a very fast 2nd mile for me. How ‘bout that? And over the rolling hills of downtown, too.

So, with just over a mile to go, the big obstacle I had left was Bavington Road Hill, but it wasn’t the only obstacle. I was on my way over a little rise just after the 2nd mile, and looked up to see the walkers coming over the hill toward me and spread across the entire road with no room for incoming runners – namely, me – to go by on the right. I kept thinking the teenagers in my way would notice me looming and stand aside, but I finally had to yell ahead at them to get out of my way. (They heeded my kindly advice.)

We had to cross back over the SR 18 to get to Bavington Road. The local police hadn’t just stopped traffic, they had pulled their squad cars across the highway and formed a roadblock. This is a relatively significant little local highway connecting a lot of towns on the far side of Pittsburgh. With all the walkers making their way slowly around the course and the runners already heading back up to the finish, it was going to be, I’d guess, a minimum of 45 minutes that the road was closed. I heard after the race that the traffic was backed up for miles. Oh, well! Happy Thanksgiving!

The runners in front of and behind me were pretty spread out at this point, but I was still catching and passing them. We started in up the Hill and I could see three high school boys ahead. I used each of them to pull me up the monster. Focus on one, reel him in, move past and turn focus to the next one.

I didn’t have the sense that anyone was moving up behind me, and I couldn’t see anyone but much younger males in front of me, so, my division place finish seemed pretty set. I could have eased off just a touch, but that 6:48 second mile split had really excited me. What kind of a finish time could I end up with? Could I possibly turn in a PR today? My previous best came at the Ravenswood Run in Chicago a year and a half ago, when I finished in 22:02. The first two miles had me in good position to better that time. Could I just hang on and push through this final, brutal uphill?

I caught the third kid and finally (finally!), and made the turn up into the BHS driveway. I really felt like my lungs were ready to explode. There was still a little bit of hill left to climb on the driveway before the elevation finally evened out. It seemed like I could barely walk up that last crest. I knew, logically, that I was moving better than that, but my lungs kept sending pessimistic memos. That last kid I’d caught dug in and tied onto me when I went past him, and when we could finally see the final straightaway, he moved back by me and led me into the finish chute. He was the only person who passed me in the whole race.

My family was waiting in the lot near the finish line to cheer me in, but all I could see for that last 80 yards was the official race clock waiting at the finish line. It read something just over 21 minutes when I first spied it, but the seconds were ticking by far too quickly. I tried to find some kind of finish kick, but found that I’d used it all up on Bavington Hill. Tick, tick, tick rolled the seconds ever closer to the 22 minute mark. I could barely think straight about anything else as I pushed across the line and hit the stop on my watch. “21:59” Well, that was good news, but highly unofficial.

I got in line in the chute behind the kid who’d come back on me and waited while the volunteers pulled the tag off my bib and gave me a little finish ticket that said “25”, my overall finish place. I shuffled my way over to where my family was standing and got my hugs. One of the race officials overheard me wondering aloud what my official time was and looked it up on his handheld counter using my finish place – “21:59”, he told me. Woohoo! So it was real: a new PR by 3 seconds and my first time ever breaking 22 minutes. Not too bad at all.

Now, I just needed to wait and see how I’d managed to place. My dad and I walked over to the posting boards and found the column for my division. Shortly after that the volunteers added two more bib tags to the two that were already up. But neither of the tags were mine. The overall finish places had been written on each tag with a Sharpie. The top tag read “11” and on the second was “15”, but the third tag that went up said “33”. Well that couldn’t have been right. If I was 25th, then my tag should be ahead of that tag and in 3rd place, right? Maybe I’d misunderstood what the Sharpie numbers were. I asked one of the men posting tags. “Yeah, that’s your overall finish placement,” he answered. So, yep, my tag should have been up there in 3rd place.

Did I mention how important the MEDAL was to me at this race? (Yes, yes, I’m a silly, silly man, but I need my glory in the few places that it’s available to me.)

Luckily, I had that little finish ticket that said “25” on it, so I got the volunteers’ attention and showed it to them, explaining my concern. They believed me without any exasperation, and one went back over to the finish line to look for my tag. When he came back he said it was gone, but the RD would be over in a minute, and I could show him my finish ticket. That would likely get everything straightened out. The RD is also the BHS cross country coach. He was very amicable and promised we’d clarify everything before the awards ceremony. Then they made a little note about my bib number on the leader board with a ball point pen. By this time, a lot of the participants were finishing their race, but the volunteers were having a difficult time collecting bib tags fast enough. A line had formed of runners and walkers waiting on the wrong side of the finish line to be allowed to cross and be recorded. The volunteers all, clearly, had bigger problems than mine to deal with, so I left them alone with a sincere “Thank You.”

My family and I strolled inside the gym and found some seats for ourselves on the bleachers. They didn’t make us all wait too long before they started handing out door prizes in the raffle. The majority of the prizes were food stuffs that had been cooked and prepared with the runners’ upcoming Thanksgiving dinners in mind. So, my mom was far more excited about me winning one than I was. I promised to let her come up to the table with me and pick out the dish she wanted if my number got called, but it didn’t.

When I saw the volunteers bringing the leader boards back inside, I knew that the award presentations would begin soon. So, I grabbed my bib and finisher ticket and walked over to where they were hooking up the computer with all the data in it, to talk to the RD again. I just felt like it would be easier to iron it all out before the names were called and the awards distributed. (After that it could be a little awkward – rearranging placements, taking a medal away from someone who it had already been handed to, or having to find an extra medal to give out, etc.) The RD didn’t really have any doubts, so he rewrote the top four names in my division with me in the 3rd slot. So, it was done. (Yea!) And when the final announcement was made I went back up one more time to be handed my medal at last. (Double Yea!).

My dad noted that the two guys who finished ahead of me were clearly far younger than I, and if the age division hadn’t been changed, I would have been first. But that’s OK, it’ll happen eventually. I’m already clearing my calendar for Thanksgiving Day 2028, so I can come back and win the 50 & Over division and take home a first place medal at last.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Short, Quick Steps

I've been having some amazing tempo runs lately. Now that my Fall marathon season is over, my general fitness level remains really high. It's kind of exciting! Part of the success I'm having with my speedy tempo workouts is because I continue (slowly) to get better with my running technique. In particular, my stride and turnover rate.

For a long time I fell into an easy trap with my running. When I wanted to run faster, I dug deep, pumped my legs, and stretched out the length of each stride. It's a natural inclination: to go faster, you run harder and take longer steps, right?

Well, no, actually.

It took me a while to understand this, because it is, kind of, counter-intuitive. I read about it frequently, but it just didn't sink in: to increase your speed, you must take slightly shorter strides and increase your turnover rate (your "turnover" being the rate at which you pump your legs back and forth.)

If you lengthen your stride, you are actually decreasing the number of times that your foot is in contact with the ground over the course of a mile. Longer strides equals more ground covered with each step, which equals fewer footfalls per mile, which means the number of times your foot is in contact with the ground and pushing your body forward is also decreased, which means you must do more work with each push-off and you get less result in return for the effort.

Often, people who lengthen their stride to try and run faster, actually slow down. This is especially true because we are prone to lengthening our stride when we have already run a while and are beginning to tire.

I think it was, maybe, 18 months ago when it finally sunk in for me what all that really meant. The next day, I went out and tried it. Instead of the slightly loping, "easy" pace stride I normally used, I focused on maintaining short, quick, strong steps. I instantly cut 30 seconds off my per mile pace. But here's the thing that really amazed me: I did it with minimal increase in effort.

I was pretty much a full convert after that one workout.

I don't use it for every run. I still allow myself the "easy" workouts; I don't really need it so much to hit my goal times at those easy paces (i just want those to be "efficient"). But when I'm on a long run, a tempo run or just a little speed work; short, quick steps are foremost in my mind.

As the technique gradually becomes more second nature to me, I find that my speedy workouts get more and more fun. I keep my body tall and straight, lean forward slightly and motor along like the Road Runner on a length of Southwestern asphalt.

I've made one other little change lately, too. Instead of wearing my usual road shoe trainers, I've been pulling on feather-weight shoes instead. In spite of all the running shoes I own, I actually don't have a pair of racing flats. But I do have a couple pairs of New Balance 790s, which are designed as feather weight shoes with a trail shoe tread. The outsole is not overly pronounced, and there is a lot of dirt to run on beside the lakefront bike path, so it works out fine. And it feels so good to speed along in the feather-weights.

It's pretty much convinced me that I need to buy myself a real pair of road racing flats early next year. New Balance makes a racing comp that is actually 4 ounces lighter than my 790s. I admit, I'm drooling at the thought...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Spreading My Thoughts on the Sheet a Little Further…

I re-read my last post a couple of times over the weekend, and I began to wonder if I hadn’t pigeon-holed myself a little too tightly. Let me esplain…

I think there are basically two kinds of organized people. There are the type-A, super-structured, highly organized, over-achiever types. And there are also highly disorganized, procrastination-prone, slightly disheveled, fly-by-night people, who have been forced to learn special pockets of organized behavior to prevent themselves from slipping completely off the map and into a cluttered oblivion.

I believe I would be a prime example of the latter.

So, if I am going to be organized, I have to find a habit I can maintain and then stick to it. The thing is, I’m still the procrastinating, shoot-from-the-hip, go-as-I-please guy underneath. So my faithful obedience to my training schedule is not so much a day-to-day thing as it is a week-to-week thing. I often rearrange, exchange and switch my workouts to suit my schedule, needs or whims. Just so long as my weekly miles add up to the intended amount, and I get my tempo and long runs in - I am pretty strict about those things - then I’m happy. Sometimes I’m feeling really good one day and go for a few extra miles. Then later in the week, perhaps I’ll be pressed for time, and can give those miles back with a shorter-than-planned run. Sometimes, I’ll be out for an “easy” run, discover in the first mile that I’m feeling really fresh, and switch it over to a speedy tempo run mid-workout. Then that’s done for the week already.

Above all, I obey my body. If I’m not feeling good one day, I cut miles off the run. I’m not afraid to ditch on a weekend long run if I find that I just can’t turn in quality miles. (I try to carry a little cash so I can hail a cab if that happens.) I keep the two No-Run days in my schedule every week so that I can spend them on days I really need them. There have been weeks when the legs just felt worn, and I’ve eliminated the tempo run altogether in favor of an all “easy” week.

So, the training schedule maybe isn’t quite as rigid as I made it sound. There’s far too much of the artist in me to allow the drill sergeant that much control.

As for the quantity of data in my spread sheet? Well, that has just accumulated over time. In the beginning, I just plugged in date, time, distance and maybe splits if I had them. But just like someone who rearranges their living room furniture every six months, I get bored looking at the same thing every time, and get to wondering if there are any new ways to manipulate the data. So, now, after four plus years, there are any number of formulas linked and connected across the sheet. I put one mileage total into one cell and six other cells recalculate in response. I guess the real fun is watching all the numbers piling up.

Still… None of this really explains that spreadsheet art I mentioned. So, I’m probably still weird.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mastered by the Spreadsheet

It's been such a busy couple of months that I didn't even notice that I had failed to plot a training schedule past the end of October until October was already over. I needed to do a long run last Saturday but hadn't planned how many miles I should do.

The training plan that I map out for myself and keep on my computer is my running bible. I keep it all in a spreadsheet I designed several years ago, which has now grown to impressive proportions. OK, ready? With it, I track my mileage, the day, date, and time that I ran, what the weather was like, the shoes I wore, my post run weight, my workout times, split times, the location of my run, the type of workout I did, my weekly mileage, my monthly mileage, my annual mileage, and the total miles run since I created the spreadsheet. On a separate tab in the same spreadsheet I also breakdown my monthly totals for each year, and average mileage for each day, month and year.

I've already written a post where I let my possible running shoe fetish out of the closet (as it were). But I also use my training log spreadsheet to track how many miles I've put on each of my shoes, when the shoes were put "into service", and what kind of shoes they were. (When I was trying to recall how many shoes I own for that earlier post, I didn't actually go to the closet to pull them all out, I just opened up my training log to look them up!)

And this is all just my Training Log - I have a whole other, separate Spreadsheet that I constructed for my Racing History! (Just imagine!)

It's hard for me to explain, but the satisfaction I get from plugging numbers into the sheet after a completed workout is a large part of the reason why I get the workout in at all. Unless something major happens, I always run five times a week. I always get my miles in. I always do my tempo run once a week. Why? Well, that's what I plotted in my schedule and I hate having to go back later to log in different numbers.

Back in May, something happened that, in retrospect, kind of spooked me out a little. Right before I went to run the Madison Marathon on Memorial Day (m,m,m,m...), my computer suddenly crashed and died. I was hoping not to have to spend the money on a new machine, and while I was trying to explore repair options, a few weeks passed when I just didn't have a computer; no training log -- And I barely ran at all.

Now, it must also be said that I did run a really strong marathon - I finally broke four hours for the first time - just as my computer crashed. And I was overloaded with work which interrupted the time of day when I normally got my runs in. And I have rarely taken a true rest period after any of my hard marathons or training periods, so maybe it was just time. But it was an odd stretch for me, and it totally coincided with the complete absence of my training log. I did try to keep track with pen and paper in a notebook, but it was never quite the same.

What turned the tide and got me back out on the trails? I finally replaced my computer. I got into the old hard drive and retrieved my training log spreadsheet. I picked a half-marathon to work towards, plotted my schedule and everything returned to normal. I had a moment or two when I genuinely wondered if I could be mildly autistic, but realistically there must be plenty of other runners out there with this same problem, so I must be relatively normal. (Right?)

Now... Wait 'til I tell you about the spreadsheets I've been keeping for 14 years to track my baseball teams and comic book collection! Did I mention the spreadsheet art I once "painted"? (See, not abnormal at all!)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Different Kind of "Running" in the News

This is not, nor will ever be, any kind of a political blog. My opinions and experiences with running are boring enough on their own without throwing in politics to mute the flame even further. But the two things connected tonight.

I was nervous all day listing to news coverage. I took advantage of early voting services and hit the nearest polling place last week, so my duty was done days ago. Not only that, but this whole campaign seems to have lasted an absolute eternity (nearly two years!) and I was ready for it to be over.

I got home tonight from work at 4:30 and had the TV on before my jacket hit the back of the couch, or my shoes had been kicked to the wall. The evening news shows had already begun and I got sucked in for a while, but the real results were still a ways off.

So, naturally, I went out for a run.

I could have done as little as 6 miles tonight, but decided to aim for 7 instead. I took my armband radio with me. It gets AM and FM, but it also picks up VHF television audio, so I'd be able to keep listening to the network news coverage of the returns.

It was also a beautiful night in Chicago along the lakefront. Highs today were in the 70s (!) and now that the sun had set, a steady, gentle, southern breeze had settled in to cool the air a tad. Gorgeous running weather.

I had so much extra, nervous energy that I hardly felt the ground going by under my feet. I felt springy and fresh. The evening breeze was like built-in climate control. I started out at a respectable pace, but as I got absorbed in what I was hearing on the radio, I started thinking more of national events and less of my pace. So, my pace suffered, but it didn't matter.

I got openly emotional several times (luckily it was dark out), and when NBC declared Pennsylvania, I had to stop on the side of the path for a few moments to collect myself.

After four miles, I realized that I wanted to do more than 7 miles. I would do 8 instead. After 5 miles, I knew I wanted to do more than 8. I wanted to do 12. I also knew that I couldn't do 12 because my girlfriend was expecting me to meet up with her soon to see the final results come in, so I would just do 8, anyway. After 6 miles, I knew what I really wanted was to just run the full 18 miles down to the southern point of the lakefront path, then maybe turn around and run as far as I could make it north again. I wanted to do that.

Instead, I settled for a speedy, tempo-paced, eigth and final mile - but when I was done, I found I was barely out of breath.
(Maybe I should have gone for, at least, 2 more.)

Of course, it was nice to be able to spend the evening with my girlfriend, too. But it was funny how normal it seemed to be running during all of the hoopla of the evening. It felt better to be in motion. I felt more grounded while pounding the path to the backdrop of all the history being recorded tonight.

The world was busy changing just a little bit, and going for a run helped me to process that. Running did that.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Kara Goucher is 3rd at NYCM!

OK: There will be an abundance of other, better, more equipped online media outlets to be read on this subject, but... Kara Goucher took freaking THIRD PLACE at her debut marathon in NYC yesterday, in 2:25:53!

For reasons I'll never know, I couldn't get the live feed from Universal sports on my computer yesterday morning, had to hot-foot it over to my girlfriend's place to see the broadcast on her digital-tuner-ready TV, and therefore missed the first couple of miles of the women's race, but I was able to catch the bulk of it.

First, it must be said: Paula Racliffe is simply amazing. Short of her two Olympic marathon appearances, she just wins and wins and wins. Even when she was running alone out in front the last few miles, the victory well in hand, she continued to push the pace, pressing ever forward, and finished in 2:23:56. Her determination is always evident in the persistent bob of her head - up and slightly to her right, down and slightly to her left, in a constant, diagonal circle linked to her footfalls. The harder she pushes herself the more evident that head motion is. Paula is incredible to watch, leading, once again, practically from start to finish, with every other competitor content to latch on behind hoping she will pull them through, or that they can hang onto her long enough to have a shot at her in the final stretches.

Kara Goucher was equally impressive, setting not only a record for fastest U.S. female debut marathon, but also a U.S. female course record for the NYCM, bettering the time set by Deena Kastor in both categories back in 2001. Her third place finish made her the first American to earn a spot on the podium at the NYCM since 1994. (No American has won the event since Alberto Salazar did it in 1982, and no American woman has won since 1977.)

Goucher was first in line behind Paula for all of the first 19 miles. Then, on the late stages of 1st Avenue, Paula turned on the jets and Kara got broken. She slipped, temporarily, to 6th as the lead pack began to stretch out, but held on, talked herself back into it, and started to move back up. Paula had the victory all but wrapped up by that point, but Kara moved up, took over 3rd place, and was in the hunt for 2nd as the race came to a conclusion.

40-year-old Ludmila Petrova, a previous winner of the NYCM (2000), stayed with Paula the longest, and, though she faded in the last two miles, still managed to hold off Kara, and finished 2nd in a time of 2:25:43, a new female master's world record. All three women must have been immensely pleased with their day at the office.

The men's race had drama of it's own, coming down to two men in the final 10K, Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil, the 2006 NYCM champ, and Abderrahim Goumri, an impressive runner with a string of heartbreaking 2nd place finishes. Goumri's frequent tormentor, Martin Lel, could not run this year's NYCM due to an injury and Goumri was left as the favorite. But dos Santos hung with him and didn't give up. Even though, Goumri opened up a 10 second gap on dos Santos between the 35 and 40K marks, dos Santos rebounded with 1.5 miles to go, pushed forward, and with half a mile to the finish, just as the men re-entered Central Park after passing through Columbus Circle, he caught, passed and promptly dropped Goumri, finishing strong and winning his second NYCM in 2:08:43, with a negative split of nearly 6 minutes. Goumri logged yet another second place and was visibly dejected as he crossed the finish line 24 seconds later. Four American men finished in the top 10, at 6th, 7th, 8th and 10th place (and also 11th). It's been since 1982 that so many U.S. men finished in the top ten spots.

I had a good many mental flashbacks to when I ran the course myself last year, and many of the sights on TV were instantly recognizable to me. It totally made me envious of all the runners I saw on TV. If only it wasn't such an expensive trip to make and the logistics of the thing weren't so difficult, I would absolutely find a way to be there every single year. Maybe I'll have to go back more often than once every 10 years. It's a great, great race.