I was blown away! David Rudisha of Kenya is the current World Record holder for 800m (1:41.01) and was the favorite at IAAF Diamond League/Adidas Grand Prix last Saturday. There was no competition. Having run the first 400m in 49.09, it was all him in the second 400m. I assume the field would be stronger at the Olympics final, but he just looked awesome last Saturday. I don’t know where he is in terms of training/conditioning to peak at the Olympics in August. Assuming he has not peaked yet, I just cannot wait till I see him run the 800m final in a new very likely World Record time. August 9 18:30 BST, 10:30 PDT. I will be in front of my TV! I wish I could see the race in person!!
Posts from the ‘inspiration’ Category
With its history, prestige and popularity, one would think the Race is greater than its racers. The Race – I am referring to Boston Marathon here – demands so much out of runners, alters their lifestyle, and upper handedly crashes dreams of many eager runners year after year. It is one of the most exclusive marathon races, if not the most exclusive, that there is. However, John A. Kelley who ran 60 Boston Marathons with two wins and seven second places was as great as the Race itself to many. Young at Heart beautifully illustrates and brings forth tributes to his life that captivates and inspires runners of all ages. At the same time, the book loosely chronicles the history of Boston Marathon with Johnny as the main character, especially during those 60 years when Johnny kept running.
It must have been his destiny when his father’s parents emigrated from Ireland and landed in Boston on April 10, 1870 on S.S. Marathon. Boston Marathon started in 1897 (with only 15 runners!) and had already become a Boston tradition by the time Johnny was 13. That was when he first experienced the marathon. Soon after that, he discovered taste of distance running, and the history was in its making. In 1928, he entered his first Boston Marathon at the young age of 20. Though he was not able to finish the first two marathons, his talent blossomed several years later and he made a name for himself when he took second in 1934. The rest was history.
With 119 marathons completed and as a three-time Olympian (Berlin, Helsinki, and London), his athletic talent cannot be argued and truly impressive. But what makes me drawn to his character is his longevity – the fact he ran Boston year after year until he was 84 years old. Many elite runners had come and gone during these 60 years, and nobody comes anywhere close to what Johnny has achieved. He seems to give the credit to his luck, genes and support system, but obviously he knew what he was doing to stay healthy, injury free and focused for such a long time. He was king of conditioning.
Besides his running, the book shares his personal stories about his family, wives and friends. Obviously his talent and fame helped, but his down-to-earth and humble personality drew many people closer to him, not only locally from Boston but from all over the world. There is a lot of love he gave and received. Readers of this book will surely enjoy this aspect of his life.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and wish I read this sooner. I highly recommend this book, not only to competitive runners but to anyone who likes to read about inspiring people.
I first learned about this when soundsandfuries commented on my other post Stockholm Calling and introduced me to the story of Shiso Kanaguri. Having found it interesting, I did further research online and found his life fascinating. The most interesting story of his life is the fact he went ‘missing’ during the 1912 Olympic marathon competition. He was one of the favorites to win the competition; however, the running condition of the day – sunny at 40C – took a big toll on him and he could not finish the race. Without reporting to the Swedish Olympic Committee of DNF, he just went home, to Japan! His status with the Olympics, therefore, remained DNF and ‘missing’ until the Swedish Olympic Committee invited him back and finish the marathon in 1967 for the 55th anniversary of the Stockholm Olympics. When he finally finished the marathon (he just ran one lap around the Stockholm Olympic Stadium at the age of 75), it was announced “Kanaguri of Japan finishing in time of 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds. This concludes all the scheduled events of the Stockholm Games of the 5th Olympiad.”*1 This is the slowest and longest marathon time in history! If this sounds interesting to you, read on.
Not only a three-time Olympian representing Japan, Kanaguri was a great runner, teacher and pioneer, often regarded as ‘father of marathon’ in Japan for his performance and his contribution to running community back then. Before the Stockholm Olympics, he broke world record in marathon three times. In Stockholm, he was one of the two competitors (the other was Yahiko Mishima, competing in 100m, 200m and 400m) who participated and represented Japan for the first time in the Olympic Games. On the day of marathon competition, there were 68 runners, out of which 34 runners went DNF due to the scorching heat. Another one of those who did not finish was Portugal’s Francisco Lázaro who died the following day from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Till today, Lázaro is the only athlete who died during the modern Olympics event since 1896.*2
Back to Kanaguri. He must not have been in his perfect form when he started to run. It had taken him 20 days to get to Stockholm from Japan. Once getting there, he had trouble sleeping due to the long sun light in July. There was no rice to eat. And then the heat. At a 26.7km point in Sollentuna, he could no longer run and passed out. This is where the story gets strange. His story is that he passed out and did not wake up until the next morning. A Swedish family cared him over night, and he was able to go home next day to Japan. The other story is that he was too tired to run and joined the family for a tea and snack in their garden. After the friendly hospitality, he decided not to finish the marathon and went home. How bizarre is that? Anyway, that’s how his first Olympic went. By the way, the photo on the left is a pair of shoes he wore in the 1912 Olympics. They look so minimalist! He was way ahead of his time.
After he returned from Stockholm, he competed in 1920 Antwerp and 1924 Paris Olympics (1916 Berlin Olympics was cancelled due to the World War I) but never performed to his full potential. However, he was pioneer in Japan, introducing high altitude training and promoting women’s participation in athletics. He was also passionate in coaching the next generation of athletes and was instrumental in founding Hakone Ekiden, which is now a very popular annual collegiate relay over 217.9km with 10 runners (used to be 8 runners). While busy with all this pioneering work and as an educator, he kept running. He ran from the northern tip to the southern tip of Japan, and by the time he retired, he had run 250,000km. If that distance is hard to digest, it translates to six and a quarter times around the globe.*3
He died in 1983 at the age of 93. He regretted that he had not finished the marathon in Stockholm. But he joked when he was asked how he felt about finally finishing the marathon in Stockholm – “It’s been a long journey. Since then, I’ve had five grandchildren!”*4
In this 100th anniversary year of 1912 Stockholm Olympics, you might hear his great story again somewhere. Ah, what a life of a runner!
*2 – Wikipedia article
*4 – Wikipedia article
All photos from Tamana City Official Web Site
My blog will have a new name and URL soon. It will be called My Life as a Runner and the URL will be mylifeasarunner.com. As much as I endear the name Running Queen and the title image (already changed in the header but seen below), it’s kinda silly . I must have had a few drinks with ABBA songs playing when I decided to start blogging and picked the name, thinking it wouldn’t last long. However, almost a year and 60 posts later, and unlike my past failed attempts to chronicle my other musings, I’m still writing Running Queen today and I plan to keep writing. It might not be too wrong to say I’m moving into a second phase of my blogging, though the focus of the blog will not change.
Why My Life as a Runner? It is after my favorite (Swedish) movie, My Life as a Dog. It is kind of a sad movie where the main character, an innocent boy, has to move around and away from his mother and brother: He is forced to live as if he were a stray dog. But the movie shows the honest emotion of the boy, and the story is told beautifully. I am not a good story-teller, but I truly love running and hope to write and share my life as a runner, honestly. I think it will work.
How is My Life as a Runner? It’s been great so far! I did not discover the love of running until 2006, so it’s been only several years. I’ve run six marathons and have been able to PR in every race. This PR streak gets me going and lets me train hard. I know there will be a race one day that I won’t PR in, and that will be OK. In fact, it will be stopped in my Stockholm Jubilee Marathon, because I want to enjoy the race and experience the event. Anyway, I had a series of frustrating injuries. I procrastinated over training. And the race fees are getting more expensive! But these things do not prevent me from running. The sensation of my body moving forward makes me feel alive. The allure of adrenalin rush at races cannot be resisted. I have met great people through running. Running has made my life fuller and I cannot wait to make it even more so. It would be great to share my experience through this blog, as honestly as I can.
So long, Running Queen. So long ABBA. Oh, by the way, this picture of ABBA poster was taken at Stockholm Arlanda airport in August 2010. Since then, they removed it per Benny Andersson’s request.
Absolutely gorgeous day in San Francisco on New Year’s Day 2012. A bunch of Frontrunners got together and ran across the Golden Gate Bridge and back for a four-mile run this morning. Though it was a quite windy on the bridge, the view was spectacular and there were a lot of people out there. On this New Year’s Day, I broke in my new Wave Universe 4. They fit great, hugging my feet perfectly with the least amount of supporting materials. I did not notice any differences between WU3 and WU4 today. I will run in them a bit more and write a detailed review sometime soon. After the run, we all went to Bob and Chris’ house for waffle brunch, which is a tradition. Great weather, great brunch, and great people!
For 2012, I already have a quite long list of races I want to run in. The main ones are Boston, Stockholm and New York for marathons. For track, there are Western States Master’s and Pride Meet. I ran both track and road races last year and the training for both worked out very well and complimented each other. 1,160 miles of 2011 running definitely gave me a good base to build on for better times this year, and I want to run sub three-hour marathon in 2012. In order to achieve that goal, I need to increase the mileage by doing double at least a couple of days per week. It is probably too aggressive to try in Boston, because I have only four months to train. But if I can get closer to 3:05 in Boston and maybe run a fall marathon in 3:00 after another spring/summer of speed training, that would be ideal. I feel I know how to train to achieve the goal, but I also know it is not going to be easy. The prospect of running sub 3:00 marathon, however, is definitely exciting and I am sufficiently motivated to achieve the goal. I just need to avoid getting injured or sick, so that I don’t lose my fitness level. Happy New Year!
Going Long is a compilation of short but inspirational stories from Runner’s World Magazine about exceptional runners. Not all of them are distinguished or decorated runners. There are stories about everyday runners who have never placed in a race, whether it is an Olympics or local 5K run. But all 34 stories have motivational pull that every runner or wanna-be-runner will be benefited from reading. If I have to pick my favorites, they are Life and Limb by Bruce Barcott and Leading Men by Kenny Moore.
Life and Limb is a story about Tom While, who is a very active country doctor and used to be a nationally ranked cross-country when he was in college; however, the motorcycle accident in his 20s had slowly stripped his ability to run and he had to give up running all together by the time he was 47. Maddened by his condition, he decides to have his leg amputated and get a prosthesis. After the operation and rehab, he gets a custom-made prosthesis. Surely, he had a lot of adjustments to make and get used to the new leg, both physically and mentally. But he gets over them and completed a 10-K in the French Alps after six months since the operation. What’s extraordinary about him is not just his fast recovery but his conviction that his life would be much better once he got a new leg. He did not have to amputate his leg. It was not life-threatening condition. There were a lot of accomplished runners running with prosthesis these days, but almost all of them had no choice but amputate. Tom White was different. He chose to get a new leg, so that he can run again. He can run 10-K races with his daughters and a marathon with his wife. That’s extraordinary. Would I do the same if I was in his position? I will consider but I don’t know if I will be brave enough.
Leading Men is a story about Steve Prefontaine and his relationship with his coach, Bill Bowerman. Many books and articles were written about him and there are two movies, that I know of, made about him. I’ve read them and saw them. He was a super talented runner and eccentric man. His races were exciting, and many people, including non runners, wanted to see him run. But what I really enjoyed this story was the coach-runner relationship between Pre and Bill. I don’t recall the books I read and movies I saw were focused on this (maybe they should make a movie about it). Perhaps, this is because I did not have such experience when I ran track. I did have a coach in high school, but I was not nearly as talented as Pre, and my high school coach was a distance runner while I was running short distance then. Also, my personality is very different from his. Because of the differences, I thoroughly enjoyed reading and it is a classic and beautiful story about a runner and his coach.
All other 32 stories are as good as these two. Some of them are more mind-blowing, while others are tear-flowing. But these two stories stuck the most. I would recommend this book to anyone who are interested in running, whether they are runners or not.
I did not watch the track and field world championships on TV, mostly because these guys are so good and potentially discouraging to watch. And I usually do not watch track and field events on TV whether it is World Championships, the Olympics or such. But since I started to compete on track and would like to continue, I thought I’d give it a watch on You Tube and see what I think. Boy, was I wrong about it being discouraging. The 800m, 1,500m and 5,000m races were very exciting and entertaining to watch. Not that I learned anything from these super elite runners, but these races were as exciting and entertaining to watch as 100m and also inspiring.
800m – Aug 31, 2011
David Rudisha of Kenya holds the World Record of 1:41.01 (Aug 29, 2010) and he must have been the favorite of this race. Not to compare or anything, but my PR is 2:15.82, so you know how fast these guys are. What I liked about Rudisha is that he is a total front runner and he leads the race from the very beginning till the very end. And nobody can catch him. His first 200m was 23.81 and the first 400m was 51.33. He ran the second 400m in 49.68. Unbelievable.
1,500m – Sept 3, 2011
I did not think 1,500m was this fun and exciting to watch. Of course, when I ran 1,500m, I’m huffing and puffing and it is not very pretty sight to watch! The pace they run is so fast that you cannot keep your eyes off of the race. Hitcham El Guerrouj of Morocco holds the world record of 3:26.00 (July 14, 1998), and my PR is 4:48.3… Anyway, they look so relaxed and it does not look like they are running just over 60 seconds per lap. Kiprop held back for the first 800m or so but took off running the last 700m in 1:33.58 and last 400m in 51.45. Matthew Centrowitz ran a great race and won a bronze medal for USA. He is 21 years old.
5,000m – Sept 4, 2011
Crazy race. These guys run 64 to 70 seconds per lap for 12.5 laps and the last 400m sprint is just amazing. Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia holds the current world record of 12:37.35 (May 31, 2004), and my PR is 18:32… Hard to think we are the same human beings. Ethiopians led the race most of the way and both Farah and Lagat followed the leaders till 4,200m or so. The crazy and amazing thing is how fast they ran in the last 400m. When the bell rang, almost everybody sprinted and it was a tight race. Farah pretty much had the race for the last 400m but Lagat was in the fourth position until less than 100m. He is such a kicker. I noted the lap, so refer to the table below. No medal for the Keyans, though Lagat was born and competed in Kenya until he naturalized to USA.
Past 10 hours or so, having buried my face in The Front Runner, I felt as if I lived a couple of long intense years full of frustration that followed by anguish and joy. Those years were also filled with regrets, fear, tender love, and companionship, as well as running, a lot of fast running! I was drawn to and totally immersed with characters’ lives, so much so that the noise PG&E made tearing up the street in front of my house did not bother me at all. I almost did not realize the appropriateness and timeliness of music when my Pandora radio played the theme title from Chariots of Fire as Billy ran his 10,000 final at the Olympic Trials. The story and the characters simply overtook me. I could only obey to turn page after page that made me smile, chuckle, cry, and grieve. The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren is, as already known, a classic gay love story that I wish every person would read, regardless of sexual orientation or his/her athleticism.
The book took me to time and places that I appreciated reading about. New York in the 1960s and 70s when being out as gay was still a much bigger risk to personal safety and career, not to mention a threat to American society and history. I now live in a time and place when and where being out is much more accepted, which we embrace with pride. In such environment, we tend to forget how hard our Front Runners fought and how brave they were in those days.
It also took me to Europe where they toured and competed in many track meets. They traveled on a very tight budget, but that did not prevent them from succeeding in competition and having a great time. Though the level of competition is vastly different, I could not help but remember those days I visited Kölon and Vancouver, living and competing for the day, worries far away…
1976 – the year of the Montreal Olympics was both exuberant and devastating. Days leading up to the Olympic races that year were very calculated, in terms of training and dealing with politics. And it worked beautifully! It was exciting to read how Billy trained and ran so well, and it was heart-warming how Harlan did all he could to protect Billy. The races at Olympic Trials took my breath away, literally. As Billy sprinted his last lap in an anaerobic state, I felt pain and exhaustion similar to what I experienced when I ran 5,000m or 1,500m (No, I wouldn’t run 10,000m on track!). My palms sweated. It was also this year when they became more care-free about being lovers and enjoyed each other’s company.
But devastation awaited. I won’t go into details. Why the story had to turn that way – I don’t know. As if Harlan or Billy needed to be punished. It’s definitely not the way I wanted the story to end. Maybe it has more dramatic impact that way.
Regardless of my approval on the ending, this book is a must-read if you ask me. As a member of San Francisco Front Runners, I always wanted to read the book and am very glad I finally did.
Finally but not the least, Patricia Nell Warren is a beautiful writer. I had never read her books before but will definitely check out her other work.
San Francisco Front Runners is a social running club with a bunch of gay guys and gals who somehow got into running. It is the founding chapter of worldwide network of Front Runners. I joined the club a couple of years ago but have not been very active in participating in their running or social events. But that is about to change a little, since there has been more interactions between the Track team and Front Runners and it’s been fun to be around with these guys.
Today, I went to their Saturday morning run at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. The club meets every Saturday for the morning run/jog/walk at 9am. Because it was a holiday weekend, less people showed up today. Usually, over 100 Front Runners make appearance and do their own thing from serious running to running with a dog to just walking and chatting. I saw Phil, Topher, Bryant, Andrew, Martin, Mike, Chris, Bob, Lisa, Devon, Homer, Tony and met a bunch of others.
I ran the 5-mile course. Because World Masters is coming up next week, it was going to be an easy run; especially, I ran to Stow Lake from my house. It’s about 4.5 miles from my house to Stow Lake. So, I was running, minding my own easy pace, but then I saw Phil running in front of me and decided to join him. He was running faster but I wanted to chat up with him since he is also going to Vancouver for Outgames. I caught up with him and finish the last two miles or so in a faster pace, probably about 7 min/mile.
After the run, some of us went to Morning Dew Cafe for a brunch. Topher asked whether I wanted to go to Park Chow for brunch, but I had already told Chris and Bob that I would join them at Morning Dew. Besides, I needed a ride back into town. A nice brunch with guys, exchanging whatever going on with our lives.
Front Runners is doing another run on Monday for Fourth of July. It’s not a race. Just another excuse to get together and run. I plan on going and get an easy run in and celebrate the nation’s 235 birthday at the same time.