Friday Inspiration — Steph Curry

Like much of sports watching America, I’m obsessed with Steph Curry. With the Nets and the Kicks stinking up the joint, the Warriors games are the only one’s I watch with any consistency. Today I read this fascinating article about Curry reworking his court movements to take pressure off his ankles and transfer the stress of play to his hips and core. Oh, and along the way working up to a 400 pound deadlift.

The man’s inspiring, at least in part people so much of his success seems to come from hard work. Here’s one of the scores of Curry motivational videos. These things are cheesy, but I love them

 

Kilian Jornet At Hardrock

This weekend, Kilian Jornet destroyed the course record at the legendary HardRock 100.  He ran the famously  “wild and tough” 100 mile race in a previously unheard of 22:41:33.  In doing so, he cemented his reputation, at least in my mind, as the best mountain runner ever.*

Kilian in the midst of crushing the Hardrock course record.

If you don’t follow the sport of ultrarunning, it is hard to express how impressive it is to run this course that fast. The previous record of 23:23:20 set by Kyle Skaggs in 2008 was considered one of the most impressive, and least likely to be bettered, course records in the sport. Yet Jornet didn’t just beat the record, he bettered it by forty minutes without really trying. He ran the first half of the course easy, waited for another runner at one point so he could have someone to talk to, and routinely spent more than ten minutes in aid stations chatting with volunteers.  When he finished, he showed the race director pictures he’d taken on the course:

Its  just an incredible performance.  And Jornet is such a fascinating character.  A professional runner and skier, he makes his living doing what he loves.  He is head and shoulder above his competition in mountain running and ski mountaineering yet he seems genuinely humble and kind. Everyone in the sport has only kind things to say about him.  Still, at the front of the ultra field, it must be strange to compete against a man who is clearly so much better than his rivals. And it must be equally strange to be so much better than everyone else at these pursuits so few people care about.

A couple of years ago, the New York Times profiled Jornet claiming he was the best the most dominate endurance athelete of his generation. There is no doubt that is true. With his completion of Hardrock, he has hinted that he might leave ultra running and concentrate on speed assents of the world’s summits.  He’s documenting that incredible undertaking in a film series called Summits Of My Life.

Cause, you know, why not?

Its truly exciting to live in a time with such an incredible athlete. I cannot wait to see what he does next.

Want more?

Here’s a couple of interviews with Jornet after the race:

 

* he is also, arguably the best ski mountaineer ever, and one of the best speed climbers ever having set a new FKT on Denali just weeks before Hardrock. That adds to the records he already holds on Matterhorn and Mont Blanc. This is just insane, you get that, right?

Hardrock

The Hardrock 100 is widely considered one of, if not the, hardest 100 mile race in the United States. It is surely the most beautiful and also wonderfully eccentric.  Organized by a bunch of rocket scientists (seriously) and mountain weirdos, entry is determined through a complex lottery that rewards those who have finished the race numerous time, or haven’t finished it at all.  The only people guaranteed an entry are the man and woman who won it the previous year.  Everyone else, no matter how fast or famous they are, has to try their luck

With 66000 (yes, sixty six thousand) feet of elevation change, all of which happens way way high in the San Juan mountains, Hardrock is a challenge for even the best mountain runner to finish. It is, as the motto proclaims “Wild and Tough”.  Only a select few people in the world can possibly compete for the win.  This year, for perhaps the only time in a decades, many of the best ultra runners in the world happened to have gotten in to Hardrock turning it into one of the most competitive races of the year.  Also, there are flash flood warnings.  And it snowed yesterday.  And its just fucking crazy and beautiful and totally captivating.  If you want to see the best performances in ultra-running this year, you need to have your eyes trained on Hardrock over the next 24 hours.

Irunfar is doing comprehensive coverage of the race.  It is definitely the best place to follow what’s happening.  You can follow their live coverage with comments  from ultra running obsessives here, or their more manageable twitter feed here.

For some background into this special race, its worth reading this article and perhaps watching some of the dozens and dozens of videos available on youtube about Hardrock.

Here’s a pretty awesome one about last year’s female winner Darcy Piceu (formerly Africa):

 

Race Autopsy: The Front Runners LGBT Pride 5 Miler

In 1982 when New York Road Runners and Front Runners partnered to host the first ever Front Runners New York LGBT Pride 5 Miler, the world was a very different place.  Sodomy laws were still prevalent throughout much of the country; the AIDS crisis was killing the community (and Reagan had still not said it name), and many LGBT New Yorkers were forced to work and live in the closet.

The early years of the race

From the start, the Pride Run was intended to be  a part of the Gay Pride march and celebrations.*  It created a place where LGBT athletes and allies could compete and declare their pride in being gay and their support for the gay community.  Year after year, decade after decade, Front Runners and NYRR have put on this race.  As Pride weekend became less political, and sodomy laws were overturned; as the fight against HIV/AIDS gained momentum, and state after state introduced first anti-discrimination protections and, later, marriage equality, the Pride Run was always there, getting the running community together, gay and straight, to run.

I like to think in some way, by putting LGBT athletes and their allies on center stage in Central Park year after year, the race has in some small way furthered the cause of LGBT rights. I think the races founders would agree.

I wonder what those early runners who are still with us think when they see the race today. The Pride Run sells out every year, and is coupled with fundraising for gay rights causes.  It brings a diverse group of runners, from serious amateurs to first time racers, to run through the upper half of Central Park in racing singlets and rainbow tutus accompanied by the cheers of supporters, and the waving of tourist’s iphones.

photo 2

It’s a pretty fun race, and I am more than a little ashamed that this year was the first time I ran it (40:01).  It wasn’t my best run (the course is hilly! I wasn’t hydrated! The run streak is killing my legs!), but it wasn’t my worst.  And there are surely less enjoyable ways to spend a Saturday morning than sweating your ass off trying to keep a sub 8 pace.

Obviously, the fight for LGBT rights is far from over, and of course a little race in Central Park is not the front lines of any struggle.  But the continuity through change that the race represents gives the Pride Run a special place in New York’s Gay Pride celebrations, a place I was proud to share for one day.  I wonder what it, and the landscape of equality, will look like when my son is old enough to join me.

photo 1

*For a history of the early years of  Front Runners New York and the race, check out the recollections of one of FRNY’s founders, Steve Gerben.  NYRR should be proud that it was on the right side of history so early.

On The Low Cost Of Running Fast

One of the great appeals of running is its low barrier to entry.  If you’re not getting out the door and running, in all but the most extreme cases, it isn’t because you can’t afford it.  High tech wicking clothing is nice, and replacing your shoes every five hundred miles is recommended, but to experience the joys of running all anyone has to do is head out the door.

These low barriers to entry create the opportunity for a wide array of people to enjoy the sport recreationally, and for individuals from extremely impoverished localities to compete on the world stage.  There are a host of reasons why West Africans dominate distance running, but the amount of money invested is not one of them.

There are many reasons why Wilson Kiprotich holds the world record for the marathon (2:03:23, suckers). What his father does for a living is not chief among them.

This weekend I saw this point illustrated up close at a track meet in Red Hook.  The meet drew participants from all over the greater New York area.  There was a team there from Park Slope with matching black and white singlets, a tent, and a slew of coaches and there were kids there from the South Bronx in basketball shorts being followed around by a moms armed with nothing more than a bottle of water. Everyone lined up together and, by and large, the fastest kid won — no matter what he was wearing.  In one heat of the 100-meter dash I watched, a kid blew away the competition while wearing beat up trainers and the free polo shirt given out by a charter school.  In very few other sports is that possible.

Sure, I know that at higher levels of racing larger incomes can draw better coaching, better cross training, and better equipment.  But to see these kids come together from such divergent backgrounds and race, and to have the fastest kid (not the most privleged kid) win was a refreshing break from the growing income disparity we see in New York and a nice reminder of what a wonderful and equalizing pursuit running can be.

16,438 Days Is A Lot Of Running

Running streaks —  impressive? Stupid? Stupidly impressive? Obsessive and unhealthy or a healthy obsession? Like many runners at different points, I’ve viewed them from different angels.  I’ve found them helpful in getting me out of a rut and hurtful in getting me injured.  I have said that they are stupid and I have said that they are inspiring.  But no matter what my view has been, I’ve always been at least grudgingly impressed with those runners who lace up their shoes for at least a mile a day, every goddamn day.

According to the United States Running Streak Association, a running streak is “to run at least one continuous mile (1.61 kilometers) within each calendar day under one’s own body power (without the utilization of any type of health or mechanical aid other than prosthetic devices).”  Over the years I’ve started, and stopped, a number of “streaks”.  Some have lasted only a couple of weeks, some a little more. The longest was 114 days during which I ran 536 miles, averaging 4.7 a day. I was pretty proud of that little streak, and I think it was partially responsible for my then marathon PR, but compared to the big guns of streaking, it’s a rounding error.

For years, Mark Covert, a college runner turned track coach held the record for the longest run streak in the United States.  He ran everyday for 45 years piling up well over 100,000 miles and arguably ruining his feet in the process.  Earlier this year, having been slowed and hobbled by injuries, Mark hung up his shoes. He ran his last mile on the 45 anniversary of his first run.

Mark Covert has run way more than you have.

Here’s a nice little video of Covert’s last run.

Yesterday, May 27, 2014, Covert’s record was surpassed by his friend and college teammate* Jon Sunderland who now has the country’s (and possibly the world’s) longest streak.

So has this guy, Jon Sunderland.

Here’s some coverage of Sunderland’s streak in the LA Times and on NPR.

Running everyday for forty-five years is beyond obsessive. It means you’ve ingrained the act of running so far into your life that is has become a part of you.  I cannot fathom doing it. I cannot even fathom why you would want to run through the broken bones, illnesses and surgeries these guys and gals have run through.** But still, inspired by these guys, I am going to set off on a little streak of my own. We’ll see how long it lasts. You can follow the progress on my twitter feed if you so desire, though lord knows why you would.

For perhaps slightly more exciting reading, check out the links I’m collecting here of the stories and blogs I find around the internet regarding run streakers.  If you’re a run streaker yourself, I’d love to share stories from your streak here on Milo.  Email me at miloandthecalf at gmail dot com.

* How crazy is it that Sunderland and Covert were teammates?  Apparently, 45 years ago, Covert told Sunderland that he’d run everyday for a year and Sunderland decided that was a pretty good idea and then they each did ran everyday for decades! Its crazy.

** Surprising no one the list of streakers is predominantly men, but there’s plenty of women.

Friday Inspiration – Gutting it Out

For weeks now, people have been talking about Meb Keflezighi gutting it out in the final miles of the New York Marathon and crossing the line with local Staten Island runner Mike Cassidy.

Meb and Mike bringing it home

If you read this blog, you probably already know this story – Meb has battled injuries all fall and wasn’t a hundred percent coming into this race.  In the latter miles, he fell off the pace and seriously considered dropping.  But, being a fucking bad ass, he stuck with it, eventually meeting up with sub-elite runner Mike Cassidy.  The two of them brought it home, trading the work at the front, and crossing the finishing line hand in hand.

Here’s Meb describing what happened.

And here’s Mike Cassidy’s article on the “time of his life”.

Its a powerful story and something that can only happen in running.  In no other sport do the world’s best run with the work-a-day hobbyist.  In no other sport can a amateur get so close to a pro.  Its one of the many reasons why, while I am struggling with my running these days, I’ll also love this sport, I’ll always deeply admire Keflezighi and I’ll always love the New York Marathon.