Science Of Sport On The Chicago Marathon

Over the weekend I found a cool website called The Science of Sport. There's a lot of great material on the site, run by two guys with Ph.D.'s in Exercise Physiology, on things like hydration, shoes, running form, etc.

It wouldn't surprise you to know I found the post Chicago Marathon 2008 - The data do not lie: The actual environmental conditions from the course to be MOST interesting.

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Say Naromiyocknowhusunkatankshunk Ten Times...Quickly

Check out this sign from Route 39 between Sherman and Gaylordsville in Connecticut. Anyone surprised the sign is stolen just about as quickly as it's put up?

Love This Album!

Favorite songs: Way Down Here, Boats, I'm Alive (with Dave Matthews), That Lucky Old Sun (with Willie Nelson).

When Winning Isn't Winning

Check out this story from the San Francisco Chronicle: At Women's Marathon, Fastest Time Didn't Win.

There were over 20,000 competitors in Sunday's Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. And 24-year-old Arien O'Connell, a fifth-grade teacher from New York City, ran the fastest time of any of the women.

But she didn't win.

Something similar happened at the Chicago Marathon on October 12. More details in the article, but the gist is that the person with the 4th fastest time didn't get the prize money for fourth place because he didn't run with the elite runners.

On Food and Food Policy

A couple of years ago I read (and enjoyed) Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. The book is a great look into the food chain in the United States and presents a damning indictment of our current farm policy.

Last week's New York Times Magazine carried a new article by Pollan in the form of a letter to our next president: Farmer In Chief. The article provides a condensed summary of the issues reviewed in Omnivore's Dilemma and sets out a series of recommended changes. While I don't agree with all of his ideas, it does seem the system we have now is kind of crazy. To wit:
After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do — as much as 37 percent, according to one study. Whenever farmers clear land for crops and till the soil, large quantities of carbon are released into the air. But the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases. This state of affairs appears all the more absurd when you recall that every calorie we eat is ultimately the product of photosynthesis — a process based on making food energy from sunshine. There is hope and possibility in that simple fact.

As I see it, the biggest question I have about Pollan's prescription is whether it's possible to effectively feed our population using the practices he recommends. I had the chance to ask Pollan about this at a dinner held at the Stone Barns Center for Food And Agriculture. He didn't have a definitive answer then, and while it seems his ideas have gotten more focused and specific, I'm still not sure it all adds up. What does seem clear is that there's great room for improvement and that a shift to more local agriculture, more polyculture, more humane treatment of animals, and pricing and policies that reflect the true costs of things is absolutely in order.

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Good Article On Economic Policy

A friend of mine at work reminded me of an article which ran in August in the New York Times: Obamanomics. I think it's worth a read regardless of your political persuasion.....

Preventing 'Asynchronous' Communication

In case one is Drunk, and Dangerous, at the Keyboard - Mail Goggles.


Sharing Some Stats - Chicago Marathon 2008

The final race results for the 2008 Chicago Marathon have finally been posted (2008 Searchable Race Results), so I can now look at some stats on my performance last weekend. A short aside - the race results posted by the New York Road Runners Club (for example, the 2007 New York City marathon results) are a lot easier to navigate than those posted by

In any case....

There were 31,335 finishers last week, of which 17,669 were males and 2,768 were males between the ages of 40 and 44. My official time was 4:53:48.

My overall place among the finishers was 17,669 (57.4%)
My overall place among the male finishers was 11,514 (65.2%)
My overall place among the male finishers between the ages of 40 and 44 was 1,887 (68.2%)

In order to place in the top half of my age/gender group, I would have had to finish about 20 minutes faster than I did.

It's possible to get some insight into the impact of the weather on performances by looking back at the stats from the 2006 race, which I believe was run under more favorable (i.e. cooler) conditions. A time of 4:53:48 would have been closer to the bottom performances of the Male/40-44 age range (84% rather than 68%), and placing in the top half of the Male/40-44 age group would have required a time of 4:01:47 - a full 32 minutes faster than the median time this year.

The New York Times Recommend Button

Most of you know I love to read and share articles. While the web has made sharing a lot easier (no more cutting out an article, photocopying, etc.) it's still not a totally seamless process (do I share on The Longest Run? via email? on facebook?).

A few weeks ago the New York Times launched a new community feature - called Times People - which enables readers to 'recommend' articles - you can find a recommend button in the box which usually appears on the top right hand side of articles on the web site (with buttons to print, email, save, share, etc.) as well as at the bottom of articles. There's an extensive FAQ on the NYT site - (see: Times People FAQ) - which describes the feature in detail as well as how to use it.

I'm enjoying the feature so far, though it's far less interesting if others aren't using it as well (few are seeing my recommendations and I'm not seeing recommendations from many others). I'm set up as aweber9 for those of you who'd like someone to follow; if you get set up to use the service let me know so I can follow you!

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Common Reflections On A Presidential Candidate

I found it interesting that James Fallows and David Brooks wrote columns more or less simultaneously about Barack Obama's calm demeanor and what it might mean. Both pieces are worth a read.

Fallows: OK, I lied, one more thing about debates

Brooks: Thinking About Obama

If you read the Brooks column be sure to check out the reader comments; here's a link to 8 of the 636 comments which were judged interesting by the editors. You can also filter the comments down to ones that readers recommend.

See This Show!

I had the chance last week to see a preview performance of a show called Clay at The Duke Theater on 42nd Street; the show is directed by a friend we met many years ago in Chicago.

The New York Times theater critic reviewed the show this week and seems to have enjoyed it (see Hip-Hop Coming of Age for Suburban Prince Hal). The NYT site has an audio slide show which will give you a sense of the look and feel of the show.

We loved it and plan to see it again during what is planned to be a short run. I can't recommend it highly enough. The show is about 80 minutes long and tickets aren't go see it!

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A Short Update

We're on our way home to New York after a great weekend in Chicago.

I'm feeling much better than I felt yesterday after the race, which
can only be described as exhaustion and wooziness marked by an upset
stomach, deeply sore and tight muscles, and a massive case of hiccups.

I also want to say thank you to everyone who sent well wishes and
words of encouragement before the race - I'm honored by all of the
supportive comments and had them in mind for inspiration during the
hardest parts of the race.

NYT On The 2008 Chicago Marathon

Here's the report from the New York Times on this year's Chicago Marathon: Another Hot and Steamy Marathon in Chicago.


Well.......we finished. 4:53:51.

It was much harder than I ever imagined.

Much more later.

Beautiful sunrise = positive energy

The Final Preparations

It's 5:30AM. Chris and I are up and getting ready for the big day. I had a short but good night of sleep (I woke up at 4AM) but feel rested and ready to go.

Latest weather report looks ok. It will be in the low 60's at the start and the mid-70's by the time we finish, with partly cloudy skies and moderate humidity.

We leave here in 45 minutes....

Pre-race Preparations

Had a nice time at the Race Expo picking up our race kit, checking out some running products, and meeting Tom Green of Runners' Lounge. You only have to spend 5 minutes at the Expo to get the sense this marathon is a huge event.

Here are some pictures:

(with an extra link in case you can't see the slideshow)

Funny Sign In A Restroom

First sign of the marathon in Chicago: The Heat Is On

Beginning The Journey

It's a beautiful morning in New York City as we start our trip to
Chicago. I'm very excited and a little bit nervous.

Saw the doctor and physical therapist again yesterday and received a
clean bill of health (the x-rays were totally normal, including all
the signs of aging one would expect). Given the rest, a steady diet of
Tylenol, stretching, and some physical therapy, my leg feels much
better. This is the longest stretch I've gone without running (it will
be 7 full days by race day) in a very long time


This list comes from a friend of mine. Substitute 'Chicago' for 'New York' and take out the part about hills and it's perfect for this weekend's race. My favorite: 'It’s the last mile and knowing you can do it.'

DEFINITIONS: What is 26 Miles 385 Yards?

It’s more than a race, it’s a state of mind.

It’s sore muscles.

It’s stiff legs.

It’s pasta parties and port-a-potties.

It’s a number and four safety pins.

It’s love

It’s hate

It’s glory.

It’s 20 miles of hope followed by six miles of truth.

It’s cramping muscles and aching legs.

It’s sweat on your forehead.

It’s tears in your eyes.

It’s anguish and agony.

It’s elation and ecstasy.

It’s blisters and black toenails.

It’s aching armpits and tender nipples.

It’s knowing better, but not caring.

It’s orange slices in the hands of kids.

It’s crumpled cups underfoot.

It’s smiling volunteers.

It’s screaming spectators.

It’s uphills and downhills.

It’s potholes in the pavement.

It’s messages on T-shirts.

It’s signs in the crowd.

It’s training programs.

It’s pace charts and splits.

It’s the wind in your hair.

It’s Uta and Cosmas.

It’s Joes and Jacks and Janes.

It’s doctors and lawyers and teachers and secretaries.

It’s tight turns.

It’s long straightaways.

It’s passing and being passed.

It’s the last mile and knowing you can do it.

It’s a warm hug at the end of the finish chute.

It’s a medal.

It’s a certificate.

It’s a photo crossing the line.

It’s success and failure.

It’s the ultimate test.

It’s never having to say you don’t try.

It’s 26 miles 385 yards of pleasure.

It’s 26 miles 385 yards of pain.

It’s the marathon.

It’s New York.

It’s more than a race, it’s a state of mind.

A Very Short Summary

One very succinct perspective on the causes of the current turmoil in the financial markets (from Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture:
...the proximate cause of the Housing crisis were 1) Ultra-low rates; and 2) Abdication of traditional lending standards, thanks to 3) originators ability to resell mortgages for securitization purposes, and hence, 4) not have to worry about loan defaults.

The credit crisis was caused by 1) the above securitized mortgage paper, that was 2) rated triple AAA by Moody's and Standard & Poors, which then 3) Which was then "insured" by credit default swaps (CDS) -- the unreserved for, shadow insurance products 4) whose exemption was made possible by the Commodities Futures Modernization Act. That legislation exempted these derivatives from any supervision or regulation. The lack of reserve requirements is why there is now $62 trillion in CDS, many of which will never pay their counter parties the promised insurance.

All Marathon, All The Time.....

Here's a cool new interactive map of the marathon course - perfect for spectators trying to plan out where to catch their favorite runners (Mrs. Longest Run, this means you!). My favorite feature is the links to photos of spots along the course - definitely worth checking out.

And for the real die-hards, here's a Google Earth file with this year's course.

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Runners Lounge 21-Day Challenge

I'm a big fan of the Runners Lounge website and blog; it's been a great source of information during my training. I recently signed up to participate in a 21-Day test of a self-massage tool called 'The Stick'. I'll pick up the stick at the Marathon Expo in Chicago this weekend and will write about my experiences in a dedicated forum on the Runners Lounge site.

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Thanks For Your Support!

I can't express how moved I am by the outpouring of help in response to my request yesterday for doctor/physical therapist recommendations.

In spite of a full day of meetings, I was able to see a doctor, have a physical therapy session, and get a set of x-rays yesterday. While I don't yet have the results of the x-rays, it seems that my problem is just a strained muscle rather than something more serious (like a stress fracture). I can now go into the marathon Sunday confident in the knowledge of what's up with my body. For those of you who are interested in the details, I have a strained adductor muscle in my right leg...

I do have to say I was surprised to hear how many of you have physical therapists or massage therapists who you swear by - it makes me wonder what I've been missing out on! On a more serious note, the lesson learned is that it makes sense to develop a good relationship with a doctor and/or a therapist who can help you get through the inevitable aches and pains of training for a marathon. I was lucky in this case that everything worked out.

With yesterday's concern now addressed, I can turn my attention to today's issue: temperatures on Sunday which are forecast to be in the mid- to upper- 70's..... The good news is it makes the choice of what to wear a lot simpler.

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Does This Make You Feel Better?

Great post on the financial crisis over at the Calculated Risk blog: The Adjustment Process.

Does reading the post make you feel better? I personally find it encouraging and share the perspective that while there's much pain ahead, at least we're on the path toward eliminating an unsustainable situation.

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A Million Fans!?!?!?!

Some interesting notes from the race organizer today. Exciting and daunting stuff....
Welcome to race week for the 2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The race is only days away, and participants from across the country and around the world are waiting in eager anticipation to hit the ground running on the historic streets of Chicago, where more than a million spectators will be standing curbside and cheering them on.
Question of the Month
For our September Question of the Month, we asked: Marathon veterans, what last-minute advice would you offer someone who is preparing to take on the marathon for the first time?

“There is only one piece of advice, and it's an essential element to having a good marathon. Quite simply, ENJOY IT! You have to get into the whole event, not just the race. Make the most of the Expo. Get excited about buying new running kit that will proudly tell your friends that you ran the 2008 Chicago Marathon when you get home. Go and check out some of the race day course preparations, go and see the finish gantry. Imagine yourself running down the final straight, arms aloft in the time you want. Talk about it with anyone that will listen, and at night, sleep! Sleep with excitement, not with nerves. This is going to be one of the greatest days of your life! Yes it will hurt, yes there may be tears, but you will never forget completing your first marathon. So don't worry about it, experience it for all it's worth, and enjoy it!”

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Weekly Training Update - 1 Week To Go

Here's the week 16 training update:

Week 16 target mileage: 27 miles
Week 16 actual mileage: 24.2 miles

Target cumulative miles through last week: 612 miles
Actual cumulative miles through last week: 586.1 miles
Variance: (25.94) miles

Training miles to go: 14*

At this point I've got just 5 days to go until the race; it's hard to believe that it's so close after more than 9 months of thinking about it, planning for it, and training for it.

Last week's training - the second week of a three week taper - was ok. I didn't feel particularly relaxed or refreshed from the reduced mileage, and while my knees and ankles feel great, the soreness in my groin/thigh got worse. I've talked with a number of people about what to do and the one point on which there is great consensus is that I should not run any further this week. I have to give a particular shout out to Tom at Runner's Lounge, which is a terrific running community on the web. Tom is one of the co-founders of the site (as well as an experienced marathoner) and generously offered to talk with me after I emailed him yesterday. We spent more than half an hour on the phone together and he had some great suggestions. I was also glad to hear that Chicago is his favorite of all the marathons he's run.

So....while the injury has me a bit concerned, I'll take it easy this week and hope that rest, ibuprofen, etc. have me ready to go on Sunday.

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Need a recommendation!

Those of you who are regular readers know I've been dealing with a
nagging groin injury. I've finally been convinced to get it checked
out, though time is admittedly short before this weekend's race.

If you have a recommendtion for a PT or sports doctor, please let me
know via email or in the comments.

No risk at this point that I won't run on Sunday as far as I am

Well Said!

From James Fallows' blog: Our Capacity For Self-Government:

From twelve time zones away, it looks as if the United States is in one of those moments where the capacity to get serious and face big problems is sorely tested.

In the short term, a worldwide financial panic and crisis. Just beyond that, the real economic and social problems that come when large numbers of people lose their jobs, their businesses, their investments, their homes, and even larger numbers become fearful about what might happen to them. And then, when we get a minute to think, profound global energy and environmental challenges, security concerns that range from loose nukes to terrorist organizations, plus a couple of ongoing wars and ever-rising medical costs. Just as starters. The United States is still incredibly rich, powerful, and productive. But the current situation is no joke, for America or the world.

In these circumstances, and with a presidential election four weeks away, is it conceivable that candidates will waste time arguing whether one of them has been in the same room with a guy who had been a violent extremist at a time before most of today's U.S. citizens were even born? (William Ayres was a Weatherman in the late 1960s. Today's median-aged American was born around 1972.) Of course, it's not only conceivable: it's the Republican plan for this final push -- "turning the page" on economic concerns and getting to these "character" and "association" questions about Barack Obama.

Grow up. If John McCain has a better set of plans to deal with the immediate crisis, and the medium-term real-economy fallout, and the real global problems of the era -- fine, let him win on those. But it is beneath the dignity he had as a Naval officer to wallow in this mindless BS. I will say nothing about the dignity of a candidate who repeatedly winks at the public, Hooters-waitress style. A great country acts great when it matters. This is a time when it matters -- for politicians in the points they raise, for journalists in the subjects they write about and the questions they ask of candidates. And, yes, for voters.

Longing For Simpler Times

I'm guessing there was a time when big marathons weren't quite so corporate....

From the 2008 Chicago Marathon confirmation brochure:

Help Nike Inspire Your Favorite Runner

Join forces with Nike as they support the marathoners along the course. Nike will feature a cheer station at the 25k (mile 15.5) mark near Ashland & Jackson, as well as a motivational zone near mile 22.5 at 33rd & Wentworth. Both stations will offer cheer supplies and entertainment to help spectators motivate and encourage their favorite runners. The 33rd Street motivational zone will also feature a live video feed of runners, music, an emcee and cheer groups who will work to give runners an extra boost as they enter the final stretch of their marathon.

Bank of America Cheer Zones

Bank of America is with you every step of the way from start line to finish line. To demonstrate support of your mission, Bank of America will host four Cheer Zones in four different neighborhoods to provide encouragement throughout the race and when you
need it most. Look for the Bank of America Cheer Zones....

The Energizer® Keep Going Superstar Contest

®The Energizer® Keep Going ®Superstar contest celebrates your greatest Marathon supporter: someone who has gone above and beyond the call of duty during your training, on race day and after you've crossed the finish line. When you are struggling to make the next mile and you've almost hit a wall, who do you think of first? Who gives you the inspiration you need to put one foot in front of the other? That person is your Energizer® Keep Going ®Superstar. ®On Monday, October 13,Energizer will begin accepting nominations for the Energizer® Keep Going ®Superstar Contest. Visit after the race for more details on how to submit your nomination. Prizes will be awarded to the top three submissions, and winners will receive a special gift basket from Energizer. Join Energizer on race day at one of the five Energizer® Keep Going ®Zones to help cheer on the pace setters and the go getters. Energizer will provide the Energizer Bunny® ears for never-quit inspiration and you provide the encouraging words.

Some difficult decisions ahead for Mrs. Longest Run and her friend E. (Chris' wife) - whether to hang out at an Energizer® Keep Going ®Zone or at a Bank of America Cheer Zone. To wear Energizer Bunny® ears or to use the Nike cheer supplies....

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