Thanks to Running Times magazine for including an excerpt from my new book in the current (March) issue.
If you're not a subscriber, here is a link since it also appears in their online edition.
Stair climbs in skyscrapers around the world are referred to as vertical road races. The ultimate stair climb is the Empire State Building Run-up which is 86 stories to the top of the world's most famous skyscraper. The brainchild of Fred Lebow, the Run-Up has been on the New York Road Runners annual calendar since 1978 and will be run again tomorrow (Feb. 5), that is, if the competitors can get through the ice and snow which is in the forecast for NYC.
The fastest runners climb the 1,576 steps in an amazing 10 minutes! For more on stia climbs, go to towerrunning.com.
A preview of a review of my book from Rich Benyo, editor at
Marathon & Beyond.
(this will be published on their website)
My Best Race. 50 Runners and the Finish Line They’ll Never Forget
by Chris Cooper
Every runner who’s been at it a while can readily cite both a best and a worst race. For many of us, our worst race stands out more clearly than our best because many of us tend to learn more easily from failures than from successes: the more spectacular the failure, the more enduring the lesson.
Let’s face it: Unless you are perfection personified, you’ve had more failures than successes.
But a stunning success, whether accidental or well-planned, often stands out because it illuminates what amounts to a peak performance, a race where everything clicked and brilliance shone. It should be noted that a successful race does not mean that you have to win the race. If that were so, the rate of success at today’s mega-races would be pitiful.
One of the delightful aspects of My Best Race is that not all of the 50 racers who shared their best race with Chris Cooper won that particular race, and of those who did, it is often pleasantly surprising the learn that their best race was not necessarily the race they are most famous for.
In fact, in some cases, the best race occurred back in high school or college and not necessarily on the professional circuit. And, another aspect that keeps the book fresh, is that the author does not only deal with professionals. He presents a nice mix of pros and amateurs, and often the amateurs have better stories to tell than do the pros.
Cooper, whose previous book was Long May You Run: all. things. running, is a sub-3:00 marathoner and host of the blog “Writing on the Run,” so he is plugged into his subject and able to access some of the more accomplished racers in the sport. His book contains best races from Kara Goucher and Jeff Galloway, Zola Budd Pieterse and Scott Tinley, Marty Liquori and Craig Virgin. It is a virtual who’s who of running over the past four decades. But he balances out all of the star power with racers we’ve never heard of—until now.
The recreation of the prime races are long enough to give pertinent details, but short enough to sample a handful of them at each sitting. Cooper does a nice job of giving sufficient background on the specific runner while at the same time not slowing down the race in question. At the end of each race, the runner shares a simple piece of advice; none of them are especially profound, but they are all practical and easy enough to fold into our own running and racing. Things like: “Plan a strategy and don’t forget to execute that plan in the race. You can’t go into a race and just wing it.” That’s from Miguel Galeana’s account of the 2000 Chuckanut 7-Mile Foot Race. You’re right. I did not know who Miguel Galeana was and I had never heard of the Chuckanut 7-Mile Foot Race, but that glaring ignorance has now been corrected.
Although it was tempting to race through the book in a handful of settings, it was more enjoyable to read two or three race accounts at a time and let them ferment overnight before digesting a few more. Kind of like practicing self-control by eating only one handful of Doritos a day. The anticipation of the next handful is thereby heightened.
There are only a few areas of complaint:
At this time, the book is only available in a digital format. (It is published by Diversion Books.)
And Chris Cooper is listed as “editor.” In reality, Chris Cooper interviewed each of the 50 racers, and then wrote up each of the 50 race profiles, each of which flows well and is tightly drawn, so let’s call him the author. One sign of a good author is that the writing flows so easily that you’re never conscious of the author.
Being the Luddite than I am, I’m hoping that a publisher comes out with an ink-on-paper version, but in the meantime, you can’t go wrong listening in on these 50 stories of races both memorable and educational.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me . . .
Twelve months of running
Two car decals
* * *
With the new Great American Bull Run, runners, thrill seekers, and perhaps those with a death wish, can now get their jollies right here in the good old U S of A without the need to travel across the pond to Pamplona. Here is an article and video about an event that attempts to recreate the famous running of the bulls in Spain.
You can read about the real one here.
Data from Athlinks and Running USA indicate that more people race on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year. No doubt many runners want to burn as many calories as they can in order to leave room for that second helping of pumpkin pie later in the day. Coming in a distant second in race popularity around the U.S. is the Fourth of July, followed by New Year's, then Mother's Day.
Some interesting Turkey Trot numbers from 2012
Number of Turkey Trot races: 630
Runners who competed in a Turkey Trot: 777,140
Percent of Turkey Trot finishers who were Female: 54%
Most popular Turkey Trot distance: 5K
State with the largest number of Turkey Trotters: California (2nd place, Ohio)
Estimated number of calories burned per runner: 438
Average number of calories consumed per person at Thanksgiving dinner: 3,000
Go here to find a Turkey Trot near you!
And who knows, maybe it will turn out to be your Best Race!
Do you have a 13.1 or 26.2 sticker on your car? Wear race T-shirts and other "I'm-a-runner" gear? Nothing wrong with that, although here is a cautionary tale from a non-runner who, for some reason, doesn't like to see people out . . . running!
For a rebuttal to that essay, here is a humorus piece from a Runner's World columnist.
Good luck to all the runners in this weekend's Philadelphia Marathon. Looks like perfect weather.
“I can’t do this” were four words Dan O’Connor did not like hearing at the starting line of the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon. The words came from Zach Dunn, a wounded marine who was attempting his first race in a hand crank wheelchair. “He was very reluctant once we got to the starting line,” says Dan. “I knew exactly what he was going through, so I calmed him down and said, ‘Zach, even if it takes us all day, we’re going to do this.’”
Dan knew what Zach was going through because he too was a wounded marine who had taken up wheelchair racing. Dan received severe leg wounds in Vietnam from an IED while leading a patrol. “I used to run track and cross-country in high school, but that ended real quick after ’Nam,” he says. It didn’t get any easier for Dan; several years after returning home he lost a leg in a motorcycle accident. Zach, a veteran of the Iraq War, suffered gun shot wounds, shrapnel wounds, and traumatic brain injury while serving in Falujah. “I got a call asking if I could ride along
with Zach in the race because he has a lot of injuries and needed someone to do
it with him,” recalls Dan. “He didn’t have the confidence to do it on his own.”
By then Dan was a veteran of over twenty marathons in hand crank wheelchairs, and was coaching other wounded marines in the discipline as a way for them to stay active. And speaking of being active, Dan will tell you he’s in better shape now in his late sixties than he was at thirty-five. Much of that is due to his relationship with Achilles International, the nonprofit where able-bodied volunteers and people
with disabilities come together to train and race. It was at a convention for
amputees where Dan was introduced to the Achilles program and the hand crank
wheelchair. “Achilles saved my life,” he says. I wasn’t physically active, I
was overweight, I had lost my leg, and I had a bad attitude. Through Achilles
I’ve done more on one leg than I ever did on two.”
At the start, it wasn’t just the physical challenge of going 26.2 miles by hand crank that bothered Zach. His reluctance had just as much to do with being around so many people. “A lot of veterans, especially from Iraq, are not comfortable in crowds,” says Dan. “They are taught to avoid congested places where they are susceptible to IEDs and suicide bombers. I encouraged him to go to the runner’s expo the day
before, and he stayed very close to me the whole time.” While the Marine Corps
Marathon is known for a few nasty hills, it is also known for having one of the
largest fields of any race, typically over 30,000 participants. For that reason
wheelchair athletes are allowed to start well before the runners.
“We got started but he wasn’t doing good at all; it was like he didn’t have any strength,” says Dan. “When we came to Key Bridge near mile four he could barely crank it. Then I noticed the front wheel axel had come loose and the wheel was pressing up against his break. He’d been rolling this thing all that way with the break on and was worn out!” One of the officials on the course was able to fix the wheelchair, but by then Dan and Zach were way behind the other wheelchair racers, and had been
overtaken by the multitude of runners. Another problem was getting up—and
down—the hills. “Typically you roll down one hill and can get halfway up the
next with little effort,” says Dan. “But Zach was apprehensive about getting up
any speed going downhill, which is half the battle. It was much more physically
demanding for us to go uphill with no momentum from the downhill.” The time on
the course also took its toll on Dan and Zach. For someone who was used to
rolling through marathon courses in two hours, Dan was feeling it. “I found
it’s harder on you to crank slowly for six hours than it is to crank fast for
two hours,” he says. Now near the end of the course, after all the other wheelchair
racers had finished, Zach was struggling even more.
The final mile of the course takes the athletes past Arlington Cemetery and up one more hill to the finish at the Marine Corps War Memorial. “We got to the bottom of the hill leading up to the finish and Zach was completely done,” recalls Dan. “He slowed down and looked at me and shook his head. I knew that waiting for him at the top were his mother, sister, and girlfriend, and I said to myself that he was going up
that hill come hell or high water! I don’t usually wear my prosthetic leg when
I race—it weighs eight pounds—but I had put it on for this race in case I had
to get out of the my chair to offer him assistance. So, I got out, grabbed the
front of my chair with one hand and put my other hand on his back and pushed
him up the hill. When we got to within thirty yards of the finish line I gave
him one more push and he did the rest. He was so happy he literally cried.
After that you couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. I think it gave him a sense
that after all that, he could do anything, and that’s why it was my best race.
I’ve had much faster times, but it was because of him and because I was a part
According to Dan, losing his leg was the best thing that ever happened to him. “It opened so many doors and changed my whole life. I’ve been able to travel and race all over the US and Europe, and it brought me back to my beloved Marines where I am able to coach the kids in the USMC Wounded War Regiment. To be able to show these kids that it’s not the end of the world to come home wounded—that if I can do it they can do it—is the best job someone can have.” On the Wounded War Regiment emblem there is a slogan in Latin. Translated, it means “Still in the Fight.” “It’s
great to sit back and watch these kids,” says Dan. “They lose their arms and
their legs but they just don’t quit. Like the slogan says, they are still in
And so is Dan O’Connor.