Tuesday, July 24, 2012

An author who's NOT a runner

I was reading Jason Jaggard's new book Spark and about half-way through I lost a little bit of respect for him.  I'm sure he's a great guy, but he shows a bit of his ignorance with some comments about running.

In a chapter called "Embracing Inspired Living," Jaggard writes:
I used to hate running more than just about anything else. My dad taught me a lot of valuable life lessons, and the one that stuck with me more than most was this: you never see a happy runner.
Think about it.  On Sunday mornings you see joggers out there chugging along the side of the road, and they don't look happy.  They look like they're in pain.  At best it looks like they're trying to do complex math problems in their heads. 
Or think about the Olympics.  The guy who wins the mile knows he'll be getting a gold medal, but he looks like somebody just came along and ripped off one of his toenails.  I don't know whether to cheer or call an ambulance.
So I don't mind telling you that I hate running.  I could easily make a list--a long list--of things I'd rather do than run.
He then goes on to talk about Dean Karnazes.  "Dean is an ultramarathon runner. (An ultramarathon is anything over seventy miles.)"

So first of all, and I know I'm being nitpicky, but where did he get the idea that an ultramarathon is 70+ miles?  "Ultra" = beyond.  "Marathon" = 26 miles, 385 yards.  Thus, an ultramarthon is a race covering a distance over 26.2 miles, typically 50K, 50 mile, 100K, 100 mile (with lots of variations).

Plus, to continue nitpicking, the mile is not an Olympic event!  I'm no Olympic historian or expert, so I can't say there has never been a one mile race at the Olympics, but I'm pretty sure the mile has never been an Olympic event.  The closest Olympic event we'll see in London will be the 1500 meter race.

I do know exactly what he's talking about.  Runners sometimes look like they're in pain.  They're sometimes doing complex math problems (calculating their splits to see if they can beat the cut off or their PR).  And he did get this right--sometimes they're losing toenails!  But none of that is exclusive of happiness.  In fact, it's all part of the happiness!  If Jaggard were a runner, he would know that.

He does come around a bit, when talking about how inspired he was by Karnazes: "After I heard about Dean, I started looking for the nearest pair of running shoes."  He doesn't really say whether he found them or went for a run, but at least the seed was planted. . . .

Run happy out there!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Spirit of the Marathon

Readers of this blog are probably aware that I prefer trail races over road races.  However, I have run several road marathons and can appreciate and relate to the experiences of the runners portrayed in the documentary Spirit of the Marathon.   I love the way the film is arranged, following the training and motivation of several runners preparing for the 2005 Chicago Marathon.  Marathon legend Deena Kastor stands out.  She's remembered for her 2004 Olympic bronze medal, but up to the point of this film, had never won a major marathon.  (Spoiler: she won!)  We also meet Daniel Njenga, a Kenyan runner.  He ended up placing third with a time of 2:07:14, 12 seconds out of first place.  Fast!

Besides these elites, the film also follows the training of some non-superhuman runners, both first-timers and seasoned runners.  Anyone who has trained for a marathon can relate to some of their experiences.  It takes dedication to get up on Saturday for the long runs, for the single mom to fit in her training runs, to pay attention to what you're eating (and not eating).  The interviews and training run footage will remind you of what you love--and hate--about running a marathon.  But mostly it will remind you of what you love.

Besides the personal stories of these runners, there are plenty of interviewers with other famous runners, as well as some brief historical information about the marathon racing's illustrious history.  A well-made, inspiring film.

The movie web site is here.