Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Monday, July 3, 2017

Training, week of June 26 through July 2 (Four on Fourths edition)

54. I'll find a way to automate these weekly "training" posts soon, including the blase' dismissal of whatever details they offer.

Happy 4th. I ran my first July 4 race in 1987, when I was 17 and headed into my senior year. It was in Hopkinton, N.H., one town over from where I lived. I was about four weeks removed from a 9:50.1 for second place at the N.H. Meet of Champions and three weeks out from a very warm and anticlimactic New England Track and Field Championships, where I never even found out my time. I took two weeks off after the New Englands, per a custom that was drummed into me early in my high-school career (I wouldn't do this if I could go back and change it), put in about 40-45 miles and ran the 5K in Hopkinton in 16:14, coming in second to Charlie Gunn by 5 or 6 seconds. That was a PR at the time and would remain one until the following June, when I ran 15:57 at the Concord Coach & Carriage 5K in Concord.

I ran a race in York, Maine on July 4 of the following year, 1988. Same general set-up -- Meet of Champs (this time in 9:49 for fifth), New Englands (this time in 9:43 for 11th), two weeks off, train for a week, race. The major differences: This time it was a four-miler, and I was staying with my then-girlfriend's family in a cottage in York, a notoriously busy summer holiday destination for people who think 64-degree ocean water is acceptable, I had a few Sun Country wine coolers the night before (remember those disgusting things?) just to fit in with the crowd. The crowd slept in, and I shuffled off to the race. It might not have been a disaster had I not gone out in 5:08 and 10:22, feeling fantastic at the midway point. 2.5 miles in and I was starting to understand that I was going to experience considerable difficulty over the next 8 to 9 minutes. I went through three in 15:45, by which time the sun was far more noticeable (this was not just my imagination -- the early portions of the course included ample shade, but the last parts were right along the beach and the temps were of course rising at that hour). I think only one person passed me in the last mile even though I suffered through a 5:55 to land at 21:40 in my first-ever race of that distance.

In 2005, I ran a 4th of July 5K somewhere near Fort Lauderdale. You already have all the information you need to conclude what a horrible fucking idea that was. I was weathering a sports hernia at the time (I would wind up not being able to train seriously for most of the summer, one of the few real injury-related setbacks I've ever had) and wanted to "test" it. Instead I "tested" how fun it was to run 3.1 miles in intravaginal conditions. Florida is always hot and humid, of course, with the mornings being even muggier than usual, but this day seemed especially obnoxious and a half-mile in I just quit. Not literally -- I blundered to the finish in 16:58, I believe, in third place -- but I spent the entire "race" hating myself for showing up and everyone involved for even allowing such a travesty to happen. Allowing a race on a Florida summer day was more precarious than allowing 7-year-olds into a strip club. I believed that then and still do. On that note, I remember having to hitch up my shorts every five or ten seconds because they were so soaked and heavy with sweat that they badly wanted to fall off. I should have just let them, and if I am ever forced to run a race in that state again this is exactly what I'll do.

Two years ago, on Independence Day in 2015, I ran a downhill mile in Superior, Colo. (just south of here) in 4:54.1. I ran hard, albeit not aggressively enough at the beginning, but I can't count downhill races as "serious" races any more than I count altitude times as representative of my fitness, although this one managed to be both. I think my time would have been as fast as 4:45.9 had I just been hurled from an airplane instead.

If I wanted to run a race on July 4, 2017, it might cost me between $10 per kilometer and $10 per mile. Even the latter is crazy to me and the former is flat-out unacceptable. Remember, I had a lot of years off from this "sport," and in that time I became old and far too slow to qualify for any freebies on my own, and race fees rose out of proportion to inflation. So now, even though I don't really have other hobbies to spend my ill-gotten gains on, I reject the notion of paying that much just to run like an intoxicated gibbon on principle. Track meets, however, remain very low-cost affairs, requiring me to provide a different excuse to avoid those.


  1. BUYER OR RUNNER BEWARE! Be careful Kev. A lot of these characters who set these high,high race fees are some of the most bitter retired runners you will ever meet. During there racing years they never quite got them PR's they wanted. Why? They were thinking about cash too, too much and bought pizza all the time so they saved money. They never reached their dream PR'S because of pizza. Now, they are more pist than ever and they basically want to bankrupt the skinny, fast, healthy runners that just do it all for the love. There strategy is unfortunately working too well.

  2. Then, after ripping off the young runners in a race that makes a few extra thousand, the Pizza Runner goes on vacation somewhere far from the US and spends all the money on something stupid which destroys our economy.