Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Courage To Start

The miracle is not that I finished.
The miracle is that I had the courage to start.
- John Bingham

John Bingham is the most famous marathoner never to win a race. He is a published author, columnist for Runners World and Competitor Magazine and an announcer the start and finish lines at the Rock n Roll Marathon races. He is also the national spokesman for Team in Training and speaks to first time marathoners at TNT Inspiration Dinners. He's also one of my personal inspirations and the inspiration of a generation of runners and walkers who are leading healthier, more fulfilling lives because of the trail he blazed. 

Dubbed "The Penguin", John and the Rock n Roll Series opened what once was restricted to the thin and speedy to the legions of people in the middle and back of the pack whose goals was not necessarily to win, but to finish. Some in the running world say he ruined the sport because people in this second "running boom" are satisfied with "just finishing" and not improving themselves. I think that if it weren't for him, hundreds of thousands of people wouldn't have developed the love and admiration of the sport as they have now.

I'm a self-professed middle of the packer with no shame of finishing near the back. After four knee surgeries, I'm not really interested in running, but I challenge myself by pushing my pace as a race walker and by adding races while continuing to stay healthy. I've won my age group for several races in the walk divisions, but I don't try to push every race, nor do I yearn to run to get even faster. About half the time, I just enjoy the scenery, chat up some of the other athletes and look forward to where we're going to replenish our calories later.

I've gotten a lot of joy out of the journey. My wife and I have been racing for close to 10 years, all the while supporting each other and strengthening our marriage with this common interest. We've gotten healthier, each of us dropping 50 pounds since we started racing. We've finished full marathons on 5 continents. Our vacations around the Australia and Antarctica/South America marathon trips were some of the best memories we've ever made. We now have friends in all parts of the country and all corners of the world and have met and raced with some world class runners and race walkers. 

How is all that considered "not improving ourselves?"

Every race I finish extends my personal record of 'most races completed in a lifetime'. Considering it was a big dream to finish one marathon, let alone over a dozen full and 75 halfs, makes me happy and fiercely proud to be part of a generation led by a many who says that all of the fun people are in the corrals with the 5 - 6 hour finishing times.

John will be retiring after this weekend's races at Rock n Roll San Antonio. Though I've heard he may still be speaking at the TNT dinners, we're going to miss his voice at the finish lines. He has seen over a million people cross the finish line in his years or work, many of them have him to thank for giving them the courage to start. We'll be racing this the 10K and the half marathon this weekend, and I plan to slow down, shake his hand, and waddle across the finish line in his honor.

John "The Penguin" Bingham is the most famous marathoner never to win a race. 

But maybe finishing first isn't really what winning is all about.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Trotting with the Turkeys - The Forma Gym Turkey Trot 10K

In an attempt to off-set the inevitable weight gain over the Thanksgiving holiday, Susan signed up for the Forma Turkey Trot in Walnut Creek held Thanksgiving morning Thursday, November 27. Ron, stayed home to walk the dogs before picking up Thanksgiving dinner catered by Whole Foods Market. Given the good weather this year, it seemed like a fair trade off for both parties involved.

The event started and ended at Civic Park, 1375 Civic Drive in Downtown Walnut Creek, CA. The event distances included a 5K and a 10K plus three Kids’ fun runs (½ mile, ¼ mile, and 100 yard dash). This was the 22nd Annual Turkey Trot hosted by Forma Gym which is rapidly growing in popularity with over 7,000 registered runners this year and their largest festival venue to date. Forma Turkey Trot.

There was still plenty of parking within a block or two of the start line if you arrived by 7 am. With temperatures of 45°F at race start and no bag check, it was convenient to drop off extra layers at the car just before race start at 8 am.

Given the Fall Thanksgiving holiday, orange seemed like a good "accent" color for the race. 

You have a choice of t-shirts when you register for the race. The standard t-shirt is cotton (light blue shown below) and for $6 more you can upgrade to a technical fabric shirt (royal blue show above).

You have to provide your own costumes and tutus of course.

The 5k and 10k racers started together without much of a wave start which made for a crowed course for the first three miles. For many of the participants, this was their first 5k which raised the level of excitement in the air. Most people were not taking this race seriously. Since most participants were local, you could hear residents shouting out to greet their neighbors, friends and family all along the course. In fact, there were people you know there but didn't know they were there until they passed you on the course. A shout out to Rudy Van Pelt who recognized me after he passed me on the bridge over Ygnacio Valley Road. Thanks to Facebook where we learn a lot after the fact what we missed out on in person!

The race started off heading south on North Broadway. The out and back loop gave us a chance to say hi to friends along the way. We turned left on Newell Ave for a couple of blocks before heading north on North Main Street. The first water stop was located just past mile 2 and was well stocked with helpful volunteers. A quick right turn onto Lincoln Avenue, brought us back to Broadway and onto Civic Drive for the turn into Civic Park for the 5k finish. Amazingly enough, the start line had already been torn down by the time we got back 30 minutes later in preparation for opening the roads.

After navigating around numerous strollers and weaving in and out of the crowds on narrow parts of the course, the turn for the 5k finish line was not only a welcome site for the 5k participants but it was also a welcome respite for the 10k participants who now had much more room to maneuver on the rest of the course. The 10Kers continued north on Civic Drive which is where I caught up to long time TNT marathon walker Barb Scramstad (who we have always admired as one of the fastest walkers on the Team). The Iron Horse Trail was familiar territory having trained there with Team in Training many times. The second water stop was at Waldon Park before we headed back South toward the finish line.

The only disappointment in the race was that there were no race medals for the participants at the finish. After the race there was a costume contest. A few adventuresome people had planned ahead and coordinated turkey themed head gear.

This creative trio even included pumpkin pie for dessert!

The majority of people participating in the event were wearing standard running or walking clothes including us!
From Left to Right:  Alexandra Mandujano, Nancy Ryder, Barbara Scramstad, Jackie McQuarrie, and Susan Carino
All in all, it was a well-run race. The warm sun at the finish was most welcome.

The event organizers are alerting people to upcoming changes planned for next year. Given the growing size of the race, they will be changing the course to accommodate even more turkeys and those who choose to trot with the turkeys on Thanksgiving Day in 2015.