The NYC premiere of Forks Over Knives is tonight at the Sunshine Cinema. The movie features the always inspiring Dr. Ruth Heidrich, who beat breast cancer with a vegan diet and and an exercise regimen. Ruth is the author of Senior Fitness and A Race for Life. As the film warns, "This movie could save your life!"
Haile (left) and me: Is it time to start running yet?
This'll be my fourth NYC marathon (others here, here, and here), and I'm just as crazily excited as ever. I found myself tearing up at this video, hokey and bombastic though it is.
As you'll notice from the photos on the right, the greatest long-distance runner of all time, Haile Gebrselassie will be running his first New York City marathon. This will be the only way I'll be ahead of him; as indicated by the other photo—Haile's just much fleeter of foot. He's likely to cross the finish line in under 2 hrs 10 minutes.
One hour and twenty minutes later (!) I will cross the finish line (with any luck). I only made 3:36:47 last year, but somehow I feel I've got six minutes of speed in my legs this year. So, I'll be starting with the Orange group at 9:40 a.m. and shadowing the 3:30 pacer, who'll be carrying an orange balloon and a stick on which is printed 3:30! Subtle, eh? If you want to catch me stumbling by, go to the course map here (PDF) and just multiply the mile number by 8 minutes and you'll get the time I'll be passing.
Here's the charity bit: First off, should you wish to help farm animals, please make a contribution to my man Jim Porcaro, who's running the NYC marathon for Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. Secondly, should you wish to help the environment, please make a contribution to the Green Belt Movement, which is a grassroots organization that has planted 40 million trees throughout Kenya, and was begun by Lantern's inspirational guiding light, Wangari Maathai. Thirdly, should you wish to support the struggle for human dignity, then please contribute to a very worthy organization called Ubushobozi, which helps women and girls in Rwanda learn skills and trades.
Thanks so much. I'll see you at the finishing or final line.
Since 2007, I've been running the New York City marathon for various charities. You can read about it here, here, and here. This year, I'm running again, and I'd like you to give money to charity, but I'm going to suggest something a little different.
Earlier this year, I found myself seized with the craze of zombie literature mashups involving the undead and classic English literary characters. How amusing, I thought, it would be to apply the zombie trope to the world of P. G. Wodehouse, particularly Jeeves and Bertie Wooster. I knew as I wrote my pastiche that the Wodehouse literary estate wouldn't allow me to be published (a hunch that was duly confirmed), but there was nothing stopping me from privately printing the work. I'm pleased to say that Bertie Wooster and the Lizard King is now available for you to chuckle over. You can read the blurb about it here.
So, here's the deal. I can't sell it, and you can't buy it. However, I can give you a copy. So, if you'd like either a PDF or a printed copy, then send your particulars to me (martin [at] lanternbooks.com), and I'll send one your way. (I'll even pay for postage.) In return, I hope you'll seriously consider giving money to one or more of the organizations listed below—whether in support of writing or running, or both or neither.
First off, should you wish to help farm animals, please make a contribution to my man Jim Porcaro, who's running the NYC marathon for Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. Secondly, should you wish to help the environment, please make a contribution to the Green Belt Movement, which is a grassroots organization that has planted 40 million trees throughout Kenya, and was begun by Lantern's inspirational guiding light, Wangari Maathai. Thirdly, should you wish to support the struggle for human dignity, then please contribute to a very worthy organization called Ubushobozi, which helps women and girls in Rwanda learn skills and trades.
Thanks so much. I'll see you at the finishing or final line.
After literally thousands of such cricket matches, stretching back thirty-five years, the great Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar, a.k.a. "The Little Master," has become the first player to score 200 runs in a one-day international match.
The feat is phenomenal in that each side has only 300 balls in which to score its runs, which means that a batsman only has, on average, 150 balls with which to score a double century, an asking rate that was beyond the reach of every international-class batsman until now. That one also has to last the entire length of the innings, an extraordinary feat of physical and mental strength, is a testament to Tendulkar's level of fitness and incredible fortitude.
What makes the achievement even more noteworthy is that Tendulkar, at the age of 36, has played almost 450 of these games over twenty years. They're staged with such frequency, especially in India—the home of world cricket now—that they have, at times, almost emptied themselves of meaning. Yet, somehow Tendulkar manages to retain the appetite for the game that others much younger and with more to prove have lost.
The icing on the cake is that, by all accounts, the kudos couldn't go to a nicer individual: hard-working, a team player, and someone who has accepted the extraordinary fame and attention given to him by cricket-mad Indians with grace and humility. Sometimes, it seems, the good guys do get the praise they deserve.
You may have read about my efforts at running the New York City marathon (here, here, and here), and how humbling it was to be overtaken by people considerably older than yours truly. Well, I just found out that Ginette Bedard, aged 76, completed the 2009 New York City marathon in 4:09:57, which is just over 9:33 minutes a mile. Not surprisingly, she placed first in her age group for her sex.
All this would be remarkable enough, but there's more. Running nerds have developed a program that analyzes your age, sex, and performance against all other runners' age, sex, and performance, so you can gauge just how "good" you are against other runners in other age groups. If you are in the 50 to 60 percent range, you're pretty average. In the 60 to 70 percent range, you're locally competitive (this is where I am at the moment). If you're in the 70 to 80 percent range, you're regionally competitive; the 80 to 90 percent range makes you nationally competitive; and above 90 means that you're internationally competitive.
Ginette Bedard's age-graded performance placed her at 101 percent, which means that—given her time and age—she effectively broke a world record, and did so with time to spare. That's just a remarkable testament to senior fitness.
Some 43,000-odd people ran the course this year—the 40th anniversary—and I was one of them. The weather was perfect (cool and dry) and the support from the crowd and the logistics were marvelous.
I managed it in 3:36:47, which was a full 58 seconds faster than last year, but about six minutes slower than I'd hoped, and therefore something of a disappointment. The old excuses—that it's a hilly, difficult course, that there were so many people in such a confined space that it was hard to run my run—don't mean much. I simply ran out of energy at mile 18 and went from an 8-minute mile to a 9-minute mile from miles 18 to 24 before speeding up again. And that kind of slowdown is due to training, or rather the lack thereof.
Nevertheless, I did manage to raise about $4000 for Friends of Mysore, which is the most important thing. And I'm going to be back next year—with any luck in better shape for the long run.
An article in today's New York Times asks the question whether marathons are worthy of the name and the mystique surrounding the effort required to complete them when a substantial number of people don't run them fast, quite a few barely run them at all, and one or two people have (reportedly) stopped for lunch on the way round the course! "That's not racing," lament the elite runners who've trained all year, "that's just going out for a stroll."
As someone who's run four marathons, all between 3:30 and 4:00 hours, I'm hardly elite. I'm squarely in the middle of local class. However, I'm regularly in the top 10 to 15 percent of runners—if only because there are lots of runners slower than I am. So I rely on the slower runners to make me feel "elite"! I only get miffed when I find myself in the early stages of a race having to weave around runners who've overestimated their speed, and the corral system based on time has generally weeded out this problem.
In the end, I can't really see what the fuss is about. I may enjoy setting goals to be better than people in my age group, but in reality I'm only in competition with myself. I've had enough 75- and 80-year-olds beating my time to know that I've got plenty of room for improvement, irrespective of what I might think about those who come in at five- or six-hour pace. You run your race, not anybody else's. As long as you don't get in anyone's way, who cares what time you do it in?
In 2007 and 2008 I took part in the New York City marathon, and ran for charity, and this year's no exception. The charity I've decided to support this year was brought to my attention by Ruth Lauer-Manenti, the author of An Offering of Leaves, which Lantern published recently.
In the book, Ruth talks about her friend Shakunthala, a handicapped woman who was left at an orphanage by her family as a child and has dedicated herself to helping and teaching disabled and special needs children in Mysore in southern India. An Offering of Leaves tells several stories about Shakunthala's generosity in helping the poorest and most vulnerable, even though she herself is not wealthy and is something of an outcast herself.
Ruth often goes to Mysore to learn Sanskrit, and she was so inspired by Shakunthala that she set up the charity Friends of Mysore to help provide basic necessities for children and unfortunates in India. Any contribution you can make will go directly to buying pencils, paper, and generally improving children's lives in very practical ways. So far, I've raised over $1000, and any further money will go a long way in India.
While Friends of Mysore has been registered as a charity, it has not yet received its non-profit 501(3c) status, and therefore your gift is not tax-deductible. Nor is it possible to make a donation by credit card directly. However, you can give money via Paypal here through a sister charity, the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Charitable Trust. And you can either buy a copy of An Offering of Leaves, part of which purchase goes to Friends of Mysore, or you can send a check (made out to "Friends of Mysore Children, Inc.") to the following address:
470 Stony Brook Road
Palenville, New York 12463
As for the marathon: You can read more about it here, and if you're in New York on November 1 and interested in coming out to wave me (and 40,000) other runners on in what will be the fortieth anniversary of the very first New York City marathon, then write in the comments below (or drop me a line at martin [@] at lanternbooks [.] dot com, and I'll give you details of where I'll be and when!
Quite why he decided to do this is of course irrelevant. The British have a long tradition of doing pointlessly excessive things for charity. It's part of our barmy charm, natch. In 2003, the explorer Ranulph Fiennes ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents, even though he'd just undergone open-heart surgery, and one gentleman called Robin Kelly sat in a bathtub full of baked beans for twenty-four hours for Comic Relief. Anyway, you can watch Eddie's videos and read about his literally staggering feat (and his quite disgusting feet) here, and you can sponsor him here.
I've always liked Andrew Strauss: undemonstrative, professional, very determined. He's not flashy and he's a serious individual. In a world that seems to like flash and craves moments of genius, he goes about his job with the minimum of grandstanding and the maximum of determination. His approach has now paid off.
Long-time readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of the game of cricket, particularly the longest form of the game: the Test Match. Up to five days—yep, that's right, five days—of bat against ball. It's the purest form of the game: it can be deadly dull or impossibly exciting, and you never really know which kind of match you're going to see until you turn up.
In all of the five-day contests that take place year round, there's perhaps no more intense contest than that between Australia and England that takes place every other year. It's called the "Ashes," and you can read about why it's called that and the extraordinary heroics of the England team in 2005 by clicking here. England won in 2005 (very much against the form of the two sides) and then lost catastrophically in 2006–2007 (very much according to form). Since then, however, a number of hall-of-famers have retired from the Australian team and England has rebuilt itself. So this year's Ashes contest was keenly anticipated when in began in Cardiff in early July.
Even though I’ve lived in New York City for nearly eighteen years, I still get those moments when something about the City reveals itself to me as if I’ve seen or felt it—both moment and City—for the first time. One of these happened last Sunday. It was nine o’clock and I’d just completed the four-mile Run for the Parks in Central Park. The weather was blustery and cool, but that didn’t seem to chill the spirits of the nearly six thousand other runners and their supporters who were inhaling the sunshine, the forsythia in full blossom, and the first blooms on the magnolia trees. As I made my way south alongside the Literary Walk, the dogs were messing around in the unofficial dog-run, while their human companions talked and sipped coffee, and the kids skated on Wollman Rink.
This is the most serious looking I've ever seen Josh Hooten...
It's a gorgeous spring day here in Brooklyn, with the sun shining, daffodils pushing toward the sky, and the temperature considering hitting seventy. It's the kind of day that makes you want to ride your bike. (Unless you're Samo and contentedly lying on a catnip toy.)
That's just what our friend Josh Hooten (from Herbivore!) is going to do. Next month he's leaving Portland on only two wheels and heading 600 miles South to Farm Sanctuary in Orland, CA.
Why on earth would someone want to ruin a perfectly nice spring bike ride by making it last 600 miles? Josh says that it's to celebrate his ten years of practicing veganism. A visit to Farm Sanctuary is what helped him take the leap those many years ago.
If you feel so inclined, you can sponsor Josh's ride—he's trying to raise $10,000 for Farm Sanctuary, and is more than half way there.
You can read all about "Team Herbivore" on Josh's blog, where the tagline is "Low Class, Sore Ass." (I want to know what you can expect when you click on that link!)
And, if you're a Facebooker, which I assume must be an accepted term by now, you can become a fan of the Farm Sanctuary ride. While you're there, become a friend of Lantern!
Running laps around another boat, the Queen Elizabeth.
When I last heard from author Ruth Heidrich, it was early February and she was on a cruise ship off the coast of Australia. She'd just run a mini-marathon in New Caledonia.
I heard from Ruth again this weekend, and she's still on that same ship. She says:
Greetings from Dubai! I'm currently on a World Cruise and getting to run at a total of 40 different ports of call by the time I get to the end. In two days, we'll be in Muscat, Oman, then heading on down to the Seychelles, and Madagascar. I've given three talks so far on the ship (Holland America's MS Rotterdam) and most people seem to recognize the "other Dr. Ruth" as she goes through her daily triathlon onboard the ship. This consists of an hour on the stationary bike, 100 laps in the pool (it's a very small pool), and then 30 laps around the deck. I also throw in 3 weight-lifting sessions a week.
Miami in January has its attractions—chiefly weather in the mid-seventies and day upon day of sunshine. This is well and good if you're lounging by the pool or walking along the boardwalk, but not so good if you're in town to run the marathon, as was the case with yours truly. Actually, the organizers have attempted to get around the sun "problem" by having the race start in downtown at 6:15 a.m. so that you've run a good four or five miles before the sun rises.
The course takes you over the MacArthur causeway, past the cruise ships, into and then north through Miami Beach, then back over the Venetian causeway (very attractive) back into downtown Miami. Then you head down to Coconut Grove (the West Village of Miami) and back up to downtown. I'd like to say the journey was of some historical interest, or of great participation (as the New York City marathon is), but folks do Miami because it's relatively flat and personal bests are to be had.
This was the case with me. I ran 3:30:06, beating by over seven minutes my previous best. In addition to a rotating medal, I got bloody blisters, aching joints, and a first taste of the mental "wall" that afflicts runners between miles 21 and 22. I also raised some money for some worthy charities: I hope you'll consider making a (tax-deductible) donation.