Thursday, 30 January 2014

#117 The one where I ask you for money

I've just finish reading a provocative article in Runner's World on the subject of betting and road racing, specifically why no one bets money on the outcome of running races like they do for horse racing, boxing and that one really "important" football game that has all the great commercials.

You should read the article yourself but I will summarize what I feel are the main points both for and against betting on running:


- Gambling is a serious issue that many people struggle with. Providing but another area/activity for people to bet (and potentially lose) their money on is dangerous and (socially) irresponsible.
- Running, unlike other activities often associated with gambling, is more "pure" or righteous (or whatever you want to call it) and thus does not require gambling to keep its supporters/followers engaged (i.e. Running is above/better than that). As an example, this is why there isn't a culture around betting on the Olympics (although people certainly do).
- Athletes wouldn't benefit in any way and could potentially 'cheat' themselves and others by fixing the outcomes of the races they do.


- Betting on running could make the sport more popular and attract new supporters and followers who would suddenly become more engaged and invested to the sport if they waged/bet money on the outcomes.
- The increased popularity would also provide (desperately needed) increased media attention, broadcasting, and sponsorship dollars to the sport.
- The athletes could potentially benefit, not only from the increased attention/popularity of their sport, but through added sponsorship dollars, and bonuses/incentives for fast times/outcomes.

As for myself, I am strongly on the side of being For/Pro betting on running. I personally feel it would go a long way to increasing the overall profile and popularity of the sport I love. It would also bring some much needed attention and appreciation for the athletes who work tirelessly to be the best they can be. For this reason, I would hope/want any additional money/profits that are being made from this, to go directly to the athletes. 

Ultimately, this idea that betting on races would be "good" for the sport of running is simply an attempt to make running, and racing, more popular among the general population. For this I won't hold my breath. Just this morning we had a discussion in the Canadian Running office on who would be best for an endorsement of our upcoming Race Guide. We all agreed that most people (runners even) would not know (or care) who Reid Coolsaet or Lanni Marchant were, but if Justin Bieber endorsed it, everyone would want to know what it was! Sad but true.

As an experiment, I want to try something in which I'll need to ask something of you.

As some of you may know, my #1 (running-related) goal this year is to run a sub 2:30 marathon. I plan to do this on 19 October at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (No, definitely NOT in Boston). In order to see how betting on running may or may not help the sport (and more importantly, me), I'd like to propose a wager, in which you will wage/bet money based on the outcomes of my race. All this money will then be donated directly to charity (the one(s) affiliated with the race). Everyone wins (potentially)!

Here are the terms of the wager. If you agree, you will donate:

- Begin by donating $23 if I run faster than 2:30:00. 
- Add $3 for every 30 seconds I go under OR subtract $3 for each 30 seconds I run slower
- Subtract $1 for each Canadian male runner who places ahead of me (i.e. If I finish 10th, subtract $9)
- Add $5 if I run a PB (My current marathon PB is 2:34:13) OR subtract $5 if I don't
- Add $100 if I finish top 10 (overall)
- Add $10 if I finish top 10 (of Canadian male runners)
- Add $50 if I finish top 5 (Note: In 2013, a 2:30 would have placed 7th)
- Add $1000 if I finish first (Top Canadian) or $10,000 if I win overall (Hahaha)
- Add $5 if I finish top 5 in my age-group (M25-29)
- Add $5 if I run a negative or even split (i.e. I run faster in the second half than the first) OR subtract $5 if I run a positive split (i.e slow down).

If you'd like to participate in this charitable wager, please let me know via email or comment below. If you have any terms/conditions of your own, please let me know!

(Starting in the summer) I promise to blog regularly on my progress as far as training and running goes and will also aim to share some tips and advice. As for now, I will continue to train for Boston, where I plan to BB (i.e. A Boston best) which means running faster than 2:37:43. To do so, I plan to 'strategically' run the first half in 1:20 flat then speed up and run a negative, second-half split of 1:17:42 (or faster). Anyone want to bet on whether I actually to it?!

Monday, 27 January 2014

#116 The one where I run a race in -25 degrees

As of 10 a.m. this morning, there are now only twelve weeks to go until the 118th running of the Boston Marathon on Monday 21st April. 

Needless to say that if you haven't started training... you're only several weeks behind! 

Yet many of us are likely feeling behind regardless and it's not for a lack of trying. It's more likely due to an abundance of majorly miserable and totally intolerable winter weather! As it turns out, today just happens to be another one of those days to feature blowing snow/flurries, wild winds and considerable cold in Toronto with a current wind chill of -25! This has become entirely expected/normal as the winter of hell (anti-hell?!) in most of Eastern Canada continues to wreak havoc on us harriers (and pretty much everyone else too). 

Training through the month of January has to date, been largely unenjoyable. In some cases, downright unbearable and impossible. For me, it has meant far too many trips to the dingy condo gym to test my mental fortitude on the dreaded treadmill/hamster-wheel, and several outdoor sessions cut short, missed, or modified due to un-runnable roads and unkind conditions. All that said, I've still managed to #JustKeepRunning through the worst of what's been thrown at us, and logged some descent mileage including a few fast workouts/speedy sessions at the popular and oh-so-pleasant Monarch Park Stadium track in Toronto's east end. 

This was party validated yesterday, during the first fitness test of the spring cycle, when I and thirteen of my fellow Lungs traveled to Burlington, ON for the always popular and exceptionally organized Robbie Burns 8K

Conditions on race morning could be described as a "mixed bag". It was certainly cold with the temperature hovering around -15 and a "feels like factor"/wind chill of -20! Luckily, the roads were clear and not too slippery and the southwesterly winds seemed to be holding off.

After keeping warm for as long as possible before the race, the BLT crew hit the streets for a brief "warm-up" which really only served to cool us down. Normally we'd do some strides or short speed work, but no one seemed keen to do anything other than trudge along. 3K was more than enough for me at which point I was more than happy to head back inside the local high school (which also served as the race headquarters) to warm up for a few precious minutes before the start. Race time was 9:30 a.m. and so with as few minutes as I could spare, I joined the 800 or so other runners to line up for the start. Multiple world-record holder and Octogenarian extraordinaire Ed Whitlock was present to start the race off for us and just like that, it was go time. 

And they're off! Turns out 1 in 800 wore shorts. He also happened to win the race.
As is often the case, the details of the race are overwhelmingly underwhelming. I wasn't far back of the leaders right up until the first K (which I found strange... was I fast or were they slow?), which is when the pack(s) really started to separate. By 2K, I was all alone (as is often the case) and had worked my way into 7th spot. At 3K I had passed and been passed by the top female (Rachel Hannah is simply flying these days!), and shortly after, could hear someone quickly closing on me (damn, I must be slowing down). I soon realized it was my fellow BLT teammate Ross Bain, who was running very smoothly and effortlessly cruised by after we shared some friendly words. This turned out to be about the best thing to happen as I convinced myself not to let him go and together we ran all the way to 7.5K, maintaining a near steady pace (we actually got faster!) and around 6K, overtook a runner who had fallen off the lead group. There was a stiff but not overly strong headwind between 5 and 7K and again for the slight uphill final K to the finish. Running side by side with Ross, I knew that I would not be able to out kick him in the final few hundred meters, so upon seeing the BLT cheering station at ~7.5K (super shout out to the loud and enthusiastic BLT cheerleaders Dave Clark and Lyndsay Tessier), I made the slightest move and put a gap between Ross and I. It seemed to have worked as I could no longer hear him behind me when I made the final turn with ~300m to the finish. I then realized that I had also made up a great deal of ground on the two runners ahead of me, but knew that catching them would not be possible. I put in a final push and was only slightly disappointed to see the clock read 26:5X as I crossed the line. 

As it turns out, I ran 26:56, which was 3 seconds faster than the previous year (Hooray for PBs), but also good for 6th overall, which is a 3 place improvement. My Garmin splits would also show that I ran about a ten second negative split and my per K pace didn't deviate by more than 5 seconds (i.e it was a well run race on my part and I was able to finish strong). Subsequent analysis also suggests that my result was in fact something to be quite proud of as the winning time (25:41) was a full 40 seconds slower than the previous year! Furthermore, of the 9 Black Lungs who ran in both 2013 and 2014, finish times were on average 22 seconds slower this year compared to last (and only 2 of us improved at all). Nevertheless, as a team we once again performed exceptionally well. All 14 Lungs finished in the top 40 (with 6 in the top 15) and we also captured 10 age-group awards. It wasn't the fastest day in terms of finishing times, but our placing was on par or better than what we could have expected. Well done to all my BLT teammates for another great showing and team effort. Huge congrats also to the top female, Rachel Hannah, who was 5th overall in a time of 26:54 and only 3 seconds off the 10+year old course record!

The Black Lungs: We run almost as well as we pose!
Next up will be an increased emphasis on endurance (not that I don't run a lot already) where we'll start to really ramp up the mileage (to between 80 -100 miles) for the next three weeks before having a taper/down week in prep for a Half (Peterborough) in late Feb. The weather doesn't look to be getting better any time soon, but that won't deter me too much. Onwards and forwards...

Monday, 20 January 2014

#115 The one where I complain about people who complain about fast running

Recently, registration for the Chicago Marathon introduced a lottery system, to help deal with the overwhelming demand that crashed their servers in 2013 and caused mass frustration. This new lottery also includes several options for guaranteed entry including via time-qualifiers for those who have previously run a marathon in 3:15/3:45 (male/female). As far as can be seen, there are also no limits on the number of these guaranteed spots for those who qualify with a fast time. You run the time, you get in. Guaranteed!

I was personally very pleased with this decision and direction and applaud the organizers for even considering guaranteed entry based on time qualifiers, which needless to say is not popular among many in the running community. Apparently, this allowance which favours the fleetest of foot is too "elitist" for the many who are 'unable' to run the set qualifying times, and who prefer a more fair and democratic approach to the SPORT of running. And in case you didn't know, running races (i.e events that are timed and occur over a set distance) clearly fall under the definition of sport, which 'unfortunately' are inherently UN-democratic, and thus highly unfair.

This also has me thinking about the "guaranteed entry" for the other big US major marathons and running events in general. There are few who argue or complain about Boston for using their very specific (and exclusive) qualifying times in order to gain access to the event. My guess is that the historical significance of Boston (118 years running) trumps the more recent attitudes about fairness and equality in sport. Any new event that attempted to introduce a similar approach would fair without doubt.

I would also like to note that although the New York City Marathon appears to have guaranteed entry for those with time qualifiers (which at 2:45/3:10 are far more demanding than both Boston and Chicago), this is in fact not true. Upon closer inspection, the time qualifier spots for guaranteed entry into NYC (which are also limited to a set, and so far unpublished, amount) are only available to those who run NYRR sanctioned events. From the website: "Those who meet the time standard in a non-NYRR race will be required to complete the non-guaranteed-entry application". So it seems that NYC does not care about time-qualifiers, unless you've (paid) and run one of their own events (in a very fast time). Berlin and Tokyo both also opted to use lottery systems for registration but at this point, do not have time-qualifier spots available. London does, but only for UK athletes.

I don't want this post to be too much of a rant (too late perhaps), but I really don't understand why people are so opposed to the idea that those who run the fastest and are most skilled at the sport of running, should not be allowed certain privileges and priority when it comes to access to a running race. I mean no one is complaining that the Olympics are exclusive (or maybe they are?) or that everyone should have a fair and equal opportunity to apply for the 100m finals!

Ultimately, as a consumer of running races and events, I can choose how I spend my money and where I choose to race. I am not and will never be good enough to demand access to every and all events but I am grateful and appreciative to races that do show respect and offer allowances to those who compete at a high level. For this reason, I prefer to spend my consumer dollars on events that cater to such participants. These include some significant marathons in Japan (Fukuoka has a time standard of sub 2:40; Lake Biwa, 2:30), and many 'smaller' events (such as Toronto Waterfront,Vancouver, Calgary, etc.) that also offer (more reasonable) time qualifiers to secure guaranteed (and complimentary) entry. 

My personal preference would be that all events, be it a 1500m or 5K, offer access (and perhaps discounted prices) to those who meet time-qualifiers. Ultimately, this is the only way to help ensure that the sporting values of competition and excellence are upheld and maintained in running.