Posted in Opinions and Thoughts, Running

What’s in a Name?

Juliet:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Picture of a rose
Rose

You know the standard distances:

  • 5k (3.1 miles),
  • 10k (6.2 miles),
  • half-marathon (13.1 miles),
  • marathon (26.2 miles), and
  • ultra (anything over 26.2 miles).

And the not-so-standard distances – 5-miler, 12k, 15k, 10-miler, and more.

But what the heck is a mini marathon?

Apparently some people are trying to get others to call the half-marathon distance a mini marathon. According to wikipedia, a mini marathon is any distance less than a marathon, from a half-marathon all the way down to a 5k.

I don’t like the idea of calling a half-marathon a mini marathon. “Half-marathon” is descriptive. “Mini marathon” is diminutive.

I like the idea of calling a 5k a “mini marathon” even less. A 5k is a 5k, not a mini marathon. A 5k is 3.1 miles, a marathon is 26.2 miles. A marathon is nearly 8.5 times the 5k distance. Don’t diminish the marathon distance by calling anything with less mileage a mini marathon.

The Rock-n-Roll race series, which I love, has developed the annoying habit of calling the shorter distances that they add to a marathon or half-marathon event “mini marathons.” The San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon added a shorter distance race in 2012. It’s a 5 mile course and the Rock ‘n’ Roll race series calls it a mini marathon. The Los Angeles Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon also has a shorter distance race that it calls a mini marathon and it’s not even 5 miles, it’s a 5k. The Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon has a mini marathon event, as well, and – you guessed it – it’s a 5k.

What’s wrong with calling it a 5k? What’s wrong with calling it a 5-miler?

Is it so runners can call themselves marathoners without having put in the sweat, tears, and miles that goes into marathon training? Is this another sign of society dumbing things down in an effort to level the playing field for everyone? Trying to drive out every vestige of competitiveness? In elementary schools now, everyone gets a trophy or medal for something, even if only for showing up. Is this the adult version of that? Call it a “mini marathon” so that people who don’t want to commit to a marathon can call themselves marathoners?

If you run a 5k, be proud that you’ve run a 5k. A 5k is a tough little race, whether you’re running to place or to set a personal best. A 5-miler is nothing to be ashamed of, either. When I reach the 5 mile long run in my training plan, it’s a huge milestone. Running a 10k or any of those other distances is nothing to hang your head about, either. There’s no need to call them “mini marathons” to dress them up and make them seem more than they are. Your non-runner friends might be impressed because they don’t know any better. You runner friends…well, I don’t know what your runner friends would say, but I know what I would say.

Be proud of your accomplishments. Don’t be deceptive.

Happy running!

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Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report – 2013 San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon

The 2013 San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll (SJRnR) Half-Marathon took place on Sunday, 6 October 2013. This was my fifth time running this race. Once again, I signed up for the 2014 event when I was at the expo on Friday.

Last year I was concerned about the lack of communication from the race organizers because the Nike Women’s Marathon (NWM) race organizers were sending out a lot of emails. This year, it’s exactly the reverse. The communication from the race organizers has been excellent, and the SJRnR Facebook site has been a good resource, too. Meanwhile, the dearth of communication from the NWM organizers is quite worrisome to me and to other runners.

2013 RnRSJ Finisher's Medal and T-shirt
2013 RnRSJ Finisher’s Medal and T-shirt

Expo and Race Swag

Packet pick-up was smooth and the volunteers were friendly and helpful. I know that they require an ID when you pick up your packet. However, it was still nice to have the volunteer tell me that she needed to see my ID because she didn’t believe the age that was printed on my bib.

They didn’t have unisex t-shirts this year so I ended up with a women’s t-shirt. I like the men’s t-shirts because they’re baggy. When I signed up for the 2014 event, I selected a men’s t-shirt. The women’s t-shirts were grey so it will be easy to match next year. I always try to wear the last year’s t-shirt to the current year’s race and, although I love navy blue (the color of last year’s shirt), it was hard to find something to go with it.

Other than the t-shirt, there was no race swag besides the little drawstring backpack. I like the drawstring backpacks because I use them when I travel.

The expo was about the same size as last year. The RnR staff working the RnR “booth” seemed distracted and disinterested. I signed up for the 2014 event and then had to find a volunteer to request my t-shirt. I ended up buying more headbands and some aloe cream, which was expensive so I hope it will be worth it.

Gear Check

The gear check area was organized and neat. As in previous years, I didn’t use the gear check because my hotel was very close to both the start and the finish line. I really like loop courses!

Race Start

The race organizers implemented a wave start this year. I saw some comments on the Facebook page about people hating the wave start. I’m generally ambivalent about wave starts because I’m slow. Although I got very antsy when my corral didn’t move for a long time, I appreciated it in the end because I was able to make a last-minute port-o-let stop, which meant that I didn’t need to make any stops on the course.

Whoever they got to sing the national anthem this year was atrocious. She was so focused on trying to sound nice that she screwed up the words, sang off-key, and was just generally horrible. Again, people have no manners when it comes to the national anthem – people didn’t remove their hats and people continued talking during the entire national anthem. No matter how horribly it is sung, people still ought to have respect for it.

Race Course, Entertainment, and Volunteers

The course hasn’t changed in the past few years. It’s mostly flat with three or four small hills to keep things interesting. I know that the race organizers added the “mini-marathon” last year to increase participation and registration but they really add to the congestion in the early miles.

I had my headphones this year so the bands weren’t as important as they were last year. This year, the music was upbeat, which was good. The cheer teams were enthusiastic and loud. It was great watching them high-five runners and wave their signs, trying to cool the runners off as they passed by.

The volunteers at the water stations and along the way were great. I wish someone could tell them how helpful it is to have someone clapping and cheering for you along the course, especially in the middle miles. Because they really are. When you hear a random stranger tell you that you’re doing great, just when you’re wondering what you’re doing out there, it’s very helpful.

In addition to the volunteers, the residents who came out to watch the race, who pulled out their boomboxes or their instruments, who turned on their water hoses and sprinklers also helped to keep the runners going. I saw a lot of funny signs – not that I can remember any of them now – along the way, too. I hope all the volunteers, cheer teams, bands, and spectators realize how much we appreciate them.

Post Race: Goodies and Medals

The 2013 medal is blah. It matches the shirt. It’s almost as if the race organizers ran out of inspiration when it came to San Jose. After all, what is San Jose known for that you could turn into a finisher’s medal? I hope they get a surge of creativity next year.

The energetic blonde lady wasn’t at the finish line again. The finish line seems anti-climatic without her.

After taking my finisher’s photo, I wandered around the loop collecting water, Gatorade, two containers of chocolate milk, a Power Bar, a Jamba Juice smoothie, a banana, and snap pea crisps. Not a lot of munchies this year but I suppose it was okay because I don’t know how I could have carried anymore. Maybe next year I’ll remember to tuck a little bag in my pocket.

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

Thumbs UP:  The organization of this event is truly flawless.

Thumbs DOWN: I absolutely hate having an event called the “mini marathon” as part of this race day, especially when the distance of that event is 5 miles. What’s wrong with calling it a 5-miler?

Thumbs UP: Getting the high school and middle school children to volunteer is great.

Thumbs DOWN: The water on the course tasted bad. Not at all of the aid stations, just at the first and second aid stations.

Thumbs UP: This event continues to grow and still maintain its high energy and great coordination.

I’m looking forward to running this race again next year. In the meantime…

Happy running!

Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report – 2013 Run in the Name of Love 5k

The 3rd Annual Run in the Name of Love 5k took place on Sunday, 16 June 2013. This was my first time running this race. This was also the first year that this race partnered with the Big Sur International Marathon organization and I have to believe that it really benefited from that partnership.

Check In/Registration and Race Swag

Check in was straightforward and simple. The volunteers knew what they were doing even if some of the participants didn’t. There were plenty of port-a-potties and no lines, which is always a good thing.

The race t-shirts were royal blue long-sleeve cotton t-shirts, which is great for wearing around on the weekend. Race directors please take note – not all of your race participants want or expect a technical t-shirt for every race. Sometimes a nice cotton t-shirt to lounge around in or run weekend errands in is perfect. And there were bandanas for the dogs.

Race Start

Parents at the starting line ~ In the Name of Love Run/Walk 2013
Parents at the starting line ~ In the Name of Love Run/Walk 2013

The starting ceremony was a bit awkward because apparently, the official ceremony happened in the registration area. When race officials realized that all of the runners and most of the walkers were waiting at the start line, they hustled up and had a second starting ceremony. I didn’t appreciate the announcer’s snide remarks about music. After all, who named him the music expert of the day? But other than that, the National Anthem was stirring and well-sung and all participants were wished well before being sent on their way.

The runners started first and the walkers were given a separate start about 10 minutes later. From a runner’s perspective, this was great because I didn’t have to navigate through the walkers in the early part of the race. The course for walkers was also much shorter so most of them were finished by the time slower runners like myself crossed the finish line.

Race Course

The course ran through the southern part of Carmel-by-the-Sea and north along the road above the beach so there were beautiful views all along the way. The volunteers did a good job making sure that no runners went astray. The water station at the half-way point was organized, well-run, and at a good point in the race.

The finish line was a little bit congested. This wasn’t the fault of the race organizers, rather, it was due to walkers and the dogs congregating just after the finish line and just after the medals. A suggestion for next year might be to move the water tables a little further down the road from the finish line so that people will naturally keep going after they cross the finish line and get their medals.

Post Race: Goodies and Medals

The volunteers giving out the medals did a pretty good job of identifying the 5k runners and the 2k walkers. It still feels odd to me, though, to have to walk up to a volunteer and ask for my medal.

After crossing the finish line, participants and spectators move down the road and then are separated into two streams – participants and spectators. Only participants with bibs are allowed into a corral where they were given bags with munchies. The post-race goodies were pre-bagged, just like at the Big Sur Half-Marathon. I think that’s great because it ensures that everyone gets the same amount of stuff and there’s no hold-up while people pick up their food.

I thought the method to separate the participants and spectators was excellent, as well. I’ve been to enough races where spectators go to the goodie line and grab food and drinks even though they didn’t run or walk in the event at all. After participants picked up their munchie bags, they merged back in with the spectators down the road to the beach where there were tables and chairs set up for people to relax and wait for the auction and raffle. We didn’t stay for either as we had brunch plans.

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

Thumbs Up: My entire family – including Rambo – was with me for this race.

The Garcia family walkers ~ Mama, Rambo, and Papa
The Garcia family walkers ~ Mama, Rambo, and Papa

Thumbs Down: Nothing really stood out as a “thumbs down” for this race, just some things that could be tweaked for next year!

Thumbs Up: This was a dog-friendly race.

Thumbs Up: The organization and the volunteers were exactly what I’ve come to expect from Big Sur Marathon events. Keep up the good work!

I would definitely recommend this race to runners and walkers, especially if they have dogs. Happy running!

Posted in Opinions and Thoughts, Running

From Disenchantment to Closure

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post. There are a lot of reasons for this – the holidays came up, my travel schedule this year has been more intense than in prior years, I’ve chosen to spend time goofing off, etc. But the main reason I’ve not written is that after the 2012 NWM, I became disenchanted with the running community. To be specific, the online running community. To be even more specific, the online running groups on Facebook.

The social aspect – online or in real life – has never been part of why I run. So it’s been frustrating that I let my disenchantment with these online running groups affect my running.

In these past few months, I’ve tried to overcome my disenchantment with my fellow runners. For me, part of overcoming any feeling is figuring out why. Why was I disenchanted with my fellow runners as a result of running groups on Facebook?

I could tell you specific reasons and even share screenshots with you. But that wasn’t the why that I needed to understand. The why that I needed to understand went deeper. Why was I letting these Facebook running groups bother me so? Even after I left the groups and deleted the chats?

For a long time, I couldn’t answer that question. But on a recent trip, I read a brief bit in Hemispheres, the inflight publication of United Airlines, that said we remember things that we see in social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) better and longer than things we see in any other medium. They aren’t quite sure why. They speculate it’s because of the chatty, gossipy nature of social media.

Somehow, after reading that handful of paragraphs, I felt validated for letting those Facebook running groups bother me. And although I’m not ready to engage with those groups again, I am ready to put those bad episodes behind me. I’ve achieved closure as a result of that magazine blurb and plan to get back in the habit of posting regularly.

Have you ever simmered, seethed, and steamed over a Facebook post or a Tweet? Share in the comments below!

Happy Running!

Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report – 2012 Big Sur Half-Marathon

The 10th presentation of the Big Sur Half-Marathon took place on Sunday, 18 November 2012. This is the tenth time I’ve run this race.

I talked to a friend who also ran this race and we both agreed – it was an off day for both of us. I had difficulty catching my breath and struggled to find a rhythm. Not sure why but I’m glad that I figured out early on in the race that it was going to be an off day for me so I reset my expectations and had a great time.

Expo and Race Swag

I usually pick up my race packet and go to the expo on Saturday but since my brother was here and running for his first time, we went on Friday afternoon. I realize that the people handing out the race bibs are volunteers but if they don’t want to be there, they shouldn’t be there. We waited about 5 minutes for the volunteer taking care of our two  ranges of numbers to come to his station, even though other volunteers had told him that he had a line. And when he finally did get around to taking care of us, he wasn’t the most pleasant person even though my brother and I were being as nice as could be. It was as if someone hit him with the grumpy stick when he woke up from his post-lunch nap.

I don’t usually buy anything at the Big Sur Half-Marathon expo just because it’s the last one of the year for me. By the time this event rolls around, I’ve already gotten everything I need at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half-Marathon expo or online at Road Runner Sports. This time, though, I picked up a new running skirt and saved on the shipping and handling fee by buying it at the expo.

I’m not a fan of the Big Sur Half-Marathon’s virtual goody bag. It cheapens the whole experience for me. And it makes me a lot less likely to actually visit any of the vendors that had coupons in the virtual goody bag because I won’t bother to print out the coupons or flyers. I understand the whole point of the virtual goody bag but I don’t like it.

Race Start

As we were walking up to the corrals, the announcer asked if anyone could sing the National Anthem. Apparently, the singer that was supposed to be there didn’t make it. Someone in the crowd volunteered – I think she was a spectator and her son was running the half-marathon – and she was fantastic. I hope the race organizers got her contact information and ask her back next year because I have not heard such a pure and simple rendition of the National Anthem in a very long time. There were no trills, no runs, no vibrato, she didn’t sing in an octave that was beyond her control – she sang it simply and she sang it well.

The wave start was much, much better than last year.

The Big Sur Half-Marathon race bibs are personalized with the race registrant’s name – there is no option to have a phrase like, “In Honor of…” imprinted on the bib. Because race bibs – the selling of and the transferring of – have been on my mind a lot lately, I was looking at the race bibs in my corral. I noticed a guy wearing a race bib with the name Jennifer. He very definitely did not look like a Jennifer. Nor did he look like he was running in honor of a Jennifer. Obviously someone named Jennifer had sold or given her bib to this guy.

Race Course

Since this was my tenth time running this course, there weren’t any surprises. The course has not changed in the last couple of years. The scenery is always breath-taking, though, no matter how many times I see it.

A few of the aid stations ran out of cups. One aid station was reduced to using soup bowls. The second and third to the last aid stations were completely out of cups by the time I passed through so that meant no water or Gatorade unless you were carrying your own bottle. Not everyone carries their own bottle because they rely on the aid stations so to have two or three aid stations run out of cups is not good. The sad thing is that even though I’m a slow runner, I wasn’t the slowest one on the course so I felt bad for the other runners and walkers behind me.

Post Race: Goodies and Medals

The race organizers tweaked the “finish village” a bit this year so it was confusing for me. I’m not sure if it was better or worse but the end result was the same.

I got my official finisher’s photo taken by the MarathonFoto photographer. The photographer I chose was having fun with the finishers and having us strike poses. Instead of the usual finisher’s backdrop, they had arranged it so that the background was the wharf and Monterey Bay. I thought that was a great touch. After all, if you have great scenery around you, why shouldn’t you incorporate it?

The food tent was as efficient as last year. Goodies were already pre-bagged except for the cookies and bagels, which made sense because then you could choose what flavor of cookie and/or bagel you wanted. The low-fat chocolate milk was plentiful and delicious. I understand the whole point of being environmentally friendly and sustainable but the cups of water are just not sufficient or efficient for the end of a race.

Since my brother had done the event with me, I didn’t bother to check out the soup or beer booths. Maybe next year.

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

  • Thumbs Up: This was my big brother’s first race ever and his first half-marathon ever and he did great!
  • Thumbs Down: The weather report that predicted rain and more rain.
  • Thumbs Up: We had sunshine instead of rain.
  • Thumbs Down: Disinterested volunteers handing out medals at the end. When you have to ask for your finisher’s medal, that’s just not cool.
  • Thumbs Up: The enthusiastic volunteers and spectators along the course.
  • Thumbs Down: Having the announcer go on and on about the pace group leader that finished just before I did…which meant not having my name announced as I crossed the finish line. Small touches like this are important.
  • Thumbs Up: Seeing my name listed in the program as one of the “Grizzled Veterans” – the people who have run every presentation of this event.
  • Thumbs Down: Having my name misspelled in that list and having the disclaimer that the people on the list self-reported. It shouldn’t take too much effort for the race staff to research and verify – that disclaimer was quite a detractor.
  • Thumbs Up: All of the MarathonFoto photographers on the course meant a lot of photo choices – great job!

I’m looking forward to running this race again next year. Registration opens on 1 April 2013.

Happy Running!

Posted in Running

Simple Goal for the Big Sur Half-Marathon

My pyramid of Big Sur Half-Marathon finisher’s medals is missing its top!

9 years, 9 finisher’s medals ~ Big Sur Half-Marathon

With any luck and barring any injury between now and Sunday, 18 November 2012, I will be able to add the 10th Big Sur Half-Marathon finisher’s medal to the pyramid.

I have no time goal for this race – I just want to finish and complete my pyramid.

Happy Running!

Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report: MC PAL Mother’s Day Artichoke 5k

2012 Mother's Day Run T-Shirt
2012 Mother’s Day Run T-Shirt

This race report has been a long time in the making and even as I sit here now, I’m not really quite ready to write it. But I have to write it so I can move on to other topics that have been whirling around in my head.

Normally race reports are easy to write because I’m usually really excited about how I ran or felt or because  I’m annoyed by something related to race organization. I’ve been putting off writing this race report because all-in-all, it was a good race and yet I’m not satisfied.

The MC PAL Mother’s Day Artichoke Run/Walk is held each Mother’s Day, which is usually a week before the Artichoke Festival. I’ve run this race a few times before even though it’s on Mother’s Day because my mom looks forward to the entry bracelet to the Artichoke Festival that is a part of the race swag. That’s part of my Mother’s Day gift to her.

My parents don’t normally join me for Sunday events because of church – they’re rather inflexible about church while I’m extraordinarily flexible about it. But, they switched to a Saturday service a year or so ago so that excuse is moot now. I was able to convince them to participate in this event and that was a big deal because (1) this was my mom’s first 5k since her partial hip replacement last summer and (2) now I know just how much my dad’s knees bother him.

Race day weather was perfect – slightly overcast and slightly chilly. There seemed to be fewer people than in prior years but that didn’t surprise me because there seemed to be significantly less advertising for this event than in years past. There was no registration link from the Artichoke Festival website and I didn’t get an email from the race organizers until the early bird deadline had come and gone.

Some new things for this race included:

  • A nice technical t-shirt – I’m not one of those race snobs that won’t sign up for a race if the race t-shirt is a cotton shirt but it’s always a nice surprise to get a technical t-shirt as part of the race swag.
  • A new race route – the race organizers worked to change the route so that runners spent less time running next to the highway and more time running in the artichoke fields. I know that a lot of people appreciated that because that meant less exhaust to breathe in but I rather like running next to the highway because cars sometimes beep and people randomly wave at the runners and walkers.
  • Artie, the Artichoke Festival mascot was there taking pictures and hamming it up with the race participants and their families before the race.
  • Course guidance – three youngsters on BMX bikes were on the course this year, with one rider leading the pack, another rider staying in the middle of the pack, and a third rider sweeping the children from the fun run.
  • A 3k run for children.

If I were in charge of this race, here are a couple of things that I would change for the 2013 event:

  • Re-establish the relationship between this race and the Artichoke Festival – an entry bracelet to the Artichoke Festival was not part of the race swag this year and we were all disappointed but even more than that, not being publicized on the Artichoke Festival website probably hurt attendance. Personally, I would rather have the entry bracelet than a tech t-shirt or even a cotton t-shirt.
  • Go back to the old route – while it was nice to run along the artichoke fields, the 10k race route was not very graceful and included an awkward spur right at the end of the race. If I had been a 10k runner, I know I would have hated the new route. But also, the old route didn’t have us running along the highway for very long and, at 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning, there isn’t that much traffic on the highway anyway.
  • Don’t run the children’s fun run at the same time as the race. Most races with a fun run have the fun run first and then the race but the new fun run took off at the same time as the race and followed the same course, which made the turnarounds a little confusing.
  • I realize that we call it a 5k and a 10k but that doesn’t mean that the markers need to be kilometer markers. Most of us train using miles and we’re looking for mile markers. When I saw the big “1” sign, I looked at my watch and thought, “No way.” So I slowed down and by the time I realized that the signs were marking off kilometers instead of miles, it was too late to salvage a decent time for this run.
  • Get a sound system that works for the awards ceremony. The announcer was louder when she was just speaking than when she started speaking into the microphone. I’m not sure what that was all about but if you’re going to use a sound system, make sure that it works.

The food at this event is always great. Fruit, granola bars, mini energy bars, and bagels with cream cheese before AND after the race. This year there were lots of big fresh strawberries. It’s always funny to me to see non-racers pigging out at the snack table both before and after a race. We saw a lady who was neither a runner nor a volunteer cramming about a dozen granola bars into her pockets before the race. I guess people are hungry!

Despite that list of things that I would change if I were in charge, this was still a good event and I would come back again next year even if none of those things change.

Happy Running!