Monday, March 28, 2011

Call of Duty Endowment Blog Post on the Antarctica Run

Thanks to Leah over at CODE for setting this up. Supporting our veterans is a duty we all have. We can never return to the horror stigma we assigned to vets when I was growing up. Agree or disagree with our foreign policy, you can't blame our vets for the sacrifices they and their families make every day.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Muddy Sunday

Today dawned drizzly after a whole night of rain. My original plan had been to head onto the Santa Monica mountain fire roads for my last long run before the Mt Si Ultra Marathon on April 10. Knowing those would be fairly hard to manage today, I came up with a different plan.

The parkland next to the Santa Monica bluffs has dirt paths. Figuring those would be like the trail run conditions at Mt Si, I headed there for 4 laps between Ocean and Colorado and 26th and San Vicente.

28 miles and 4 hours, nineteen minutes later, I was caked with mud as seen in this self portrait shot.

It looks worse than it felt is all I can say!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Alliance for Children's Rights Makes Its Fundraising Goal!

From Janis Spire:


You did it! In addition to braving the elements in what has been described as some of the most difficult conditions since the inception of the LA Marathon & 5k, you all reached and surpassed our “Going the Distance for Kids” goal of $50,000. Your support will ensure that hundreds more children will have the stability of a permanent family, and access to the healthcare and education they need to thrive. Together we all are eliminating the injustices to children created by poverty and abuse. A very special thanks to our co-chairs, Kirk Pasich of Dickstein Shapiro and Laird Malamed and to each of our staff that coordinated this event: Darwin Hunt, Marlene McGuirt, Joelle Warren-Lane, and Christianne Ray.

Please take a moment to view a few photos from this great event:

Again, thank you for all your support. We hope you’ll join us next year for the 2nd Annual “Going the Distance for Kids” LA Marathon and 5k on March 17th and 18th!

Janis Spire, CEO

The Alliance for Children’s Rights

AND NOW…the 1st annual Alliance for Children’s Rights LA Marathon & 5k team Awards (NOTE: these awards were created from the mind of Darwin Hunt and are strictly for fun. The winners only receive a well deserved sense of accomplishment and unlimited bragging rights):

Top Fundraiser (individual): Sam Paneno @ $4,381.20

Sam was featured on the LA Marathon website, KTLA news, and his short video was playing at Dodger Stadium on the big screen before the race. Since the race, Sam’s accomplishment has been featured in local news, like the Beverly Hills Weekly. Great work Sam!

Honorable Mention: Laird Malamed: @ $4,275

Laird not only raised this extraordinary amount, he leveraged even more money through a challenge that helped us exceed our $50,000 fundraising goal!

Top Fundraiser (team): Dickstein Shapiro @ $17,455

Dickstein’s amazing fundraising efforts made the pre-race suite at Dodger Stadium possible. Thank you!

“Most Improved” Fundraiser (a.k.a. “The Procrastinator” or “The Seabiscuit”): Chris McDavid @ $2,524.92
Chris started out slow. He floated around the middle of the pack for a few months until last week he picked up the pace and pushed himself into third place. Chris illustrated that it’s not mile 5 and 6 that matter…it’s mile 25 and 26.

Honorable Mention: Karey Burke @ $2,245

Karey’s busy filming schedule did not allow her to focus on fundraising until 1 week before the race. In two weeks Karey went from last to 4th place. Great job Karey!

“TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More” Award: Dickstein Shapiro.

Kirk Pasich, Consuelo Lezcano, Fawn Schanz, Sandy Thayer, Hector Valente. “PAPPA BRUIN” Kirk Pasich led and kept his pack of five on a 12 minute/mile pace for all 26.2 miles. Great job Team Dickstein!

Fastest Marathon (Male):

Saul Colover @ 3:25. Amazing time for your first marathon! You’ve got a long marathon career ahead of you Saul. We hope you’ll join us next year.

Honorable Mention: Juan Guzman @ 3:27.

This former Alliance employee and Thomas Jefferson School of Law student did not even train for the marathon. WOW!

Fastest Marathon (Female): Karey Burke @ 4:13.

Great job!

Fastest 5k (Male): Laird Malamed @ 23:23.

This sub 8 minute pace was just a warm-up for Laird’s marathon…see below.

Honorable Mention: Diego Cartagena @ 31:02. Alliance Pro Bono Manager by day, 5k runner by night. He’s got the running bug and you can expect him to be under 30 minutes next year.

Fastest 5k (Female): Rachel Sanders @ 31:55.

Six months ago this Alliance Attorney could not run 1 lap around a track without stopping. Now she wants to do a 10k…and maybe even a half marathon. Great work, Rachel!

Honorable Mention: Elizabeth Garcia @ 33:16.

This high school track star showed her skills on the hilly loop around Dodger Stadium. Great job Liz.

“Better Late Than Never” Runner: Amy Pellman.

The Honorable Judge, Amy Pellman decided just one week before the 5k that she would run on behalf of the Alliance. I ran into Amy at the Alliance for Children’s Rights Annual Dinner and she finally decided to run after using every excuse in the book (i.e. too much work, family visiting, my back hurts, I haven’t trained, etc.). To my surprise, Amy was sandbagging. She did great and it turns out Amy is a seasoned marathoner and said she’ll be joining us next year for all 26.2!

Craziest Team Member: Laird Malamed (a.k.a LAIRDO)

By far. No question. When Laird is not creating video games, he’s with his family or running. Two weeks ago Laird ran a marathon in ANTARTICA in under 5 hours! Then, he ran the 5k Saturday morning. Then Sunday morning he ran the LA Marathon in a torrential downpour @ 3:35. This upcoming April, Laird will run an Ultra Marathon (an Ultra Marathon is anything over 42 miles.). If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he was related to Forest Gump. Great work Laird and we look forward to seeing you next year.

That’s all folks. Thanks again and see you next year!


Janis Spire

President & CEO

The Alliance for Children's Rights

3333 Wilshire Blvd. #550

Los Angeles, CA 90010

(213) 368-6010 ext. 104

5 days after LA, back on the pavement

So, I debated as I laid in bed this morning about running a short "recovery" run. Recovery runs are meant to be slow and easy and bring you back after a harder workout. If I had woken an hour earlier, I would have done a long run. But, time was short, and the most I could manage would be 4 miles. (Long for some, short for me.)

Happily, I made the right decision. Each mile woke me up and alleviated fears I did not at first notice: Did I do too much in the LA Marathon? Was the cumulative total of runs in this period weaken me? Can I really do a third marathon (and an ultra at that) in a total of 41 days?


I guess the recovery counts towards the mental and physical aspects of running.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fwd: On the Trail

Great article by the author of Born to Run passed on by my friend Ben Mason.

March 18, 2011, 12:01 AM

Born to Be a Trail Runner

Last November, I was on my way to the New York City marathon when I got word that my father had two clots on his brain and needed emergency surgery. My family urged me to go ahead and run anyway.

It was to have been my first marathon since I gave up running years ago, and my first high-profile race since writing my book "Born to Run.'' I had trained to run it barefoot, and even announced my plans to the world in an article in The New York Times.

"It's what your father would want," my mother said, encouraging me to stay in New York. But it's not what my father would do. So the day before the race, I turned around and headed home.

During my father's recovery, I teetered on that ledge we all encounter when the curtain drops on our main event before it ever goes up. Without a challenge ahead or a beat-down still smarting behind, there's no urgency to snap back into serious training. You're off schedule and like it that way, letting one week of occasional runs drift into three, working out by feel instead of formula — until you realize you feel lousy and have barely worked out at all.

Just about the only time I pushed myself was every other week or so, when I met a band of local trail runners who are have an absurd mail-carrier ethic when it comes to snow, rain and gloom of night. No matter how dark or cold, they never cancel, bobbing along by headlamp through ice storms, face-whipping branches and far too uncommon self-doubt. It's not the punishment they love, I eventually realized; it's the goofy thrill of banding together in the face of slippery awfulness.

While many of them had finisher's medals from Boston and New York and Chicago, their stories were never about marquee races or fast times. Instead they talked about Mrs. Smith's Challenge and Megatransect and Super Hike, backyard events with no more prestige than a Sunday softball game. They never crowed about nailing qualifiers or lucking out in lotteries, but good lord could they go on about tailgating with microbrews and Old Bay burgers while cheering their friends to the finish.

Before long, these war stories made me forget my disappointment over missing New York and rekindled my first long-distance love: an event that not only gave birth to modern endurance sports, but could be their redemption. It's called the "Fat Ass."

Fat Ass events are trail races governed by three rules: no fees, no awards, no whining. Distances are typically 50 kilometers or 50 miles, but vary according to a race director's whims or ability to borrow his buddy's GPS device. Fat Ass runs have no lotteries, no expos, no qualifying times, no triple-digit entry fees subsidizing multimillion-dollar "running clubs." No one will urinate on you from the upper span of the Verrazano Bridge, and you won't shiver for hours in a corral before the starting gun. Everyone charges off as equals, Braveheart-style.

On the other hand, you get what you pay for. Aid stations are as makeshift as the course measurements. Some are spartan: friends sharing a jug of water and family-size M&M's. Others are bizarre. Two volunteers at a Maryland race had their hearts set on serving deep-fried turkey, but surrendered to the impossibility of carrying enough poultry and oil into the woods for 300 runners. They settled instead for handing out fistfuls of fresh-cooked French fries.

My debut Fat Ass was in 2006, a 50K (about 31 miles) in a lonely Delaware forest on a freezing January morning. Since it was my first race on trails and my first of any kind after a six-year layoff, I decided to stick tight to a seasoned vet named Hunt Bartine so I wouldn't be stranded if I couldn't follow the trail or handle the distance. My plan was working nicely, until Mr. Bartine suddenly stopped and started cursing. Somehow, he'd wandered off a trail which he, personally, had marked the week before. It took a good 10 minutes of thrashing through brambles before we got back on course. Five hours later, I popped out of the trees and crossed the finish line. The winners were still there, ladling out steaming cups of vegetable barley soup to the runners-up.

The Fat Ass format spontaneously burst into existence, by some weird synchronicity, in three different places in the same year. In February 1978, a few American sailors in Hawaii decided to swim 2.4 miles from Waikiki to Oahu, then bike 112 miles around the island and run all 26.2 miles of the Honolulu Marathon course to see who among them was the toughest — the true iron man. Meanwhile, a gang of Colorado slackers were busy ritualizing an act of vengeance; previously, they'd pushed and pedaled their clunky, one-speed town bikes all 38 miles from Crested Butte to Aspen to settle the score with some rich Aspeners who'd parked their motorcycles in front of a favorite Crested Butte bar. In 1978, just for the fun of it, the Butte-heads declared the Aspen ride an annual event.

And in San Francisco, a runner who couldn't find a race decided to fake one. Joe Oakes needed a 50-mile qualifying time to apply for the Western States 100. He tried to sign up for a 50-mile relay, but solo runners weren't permitted. So Mr. Oakes entered seven times under seven different spellings of his name. Team Oakes pulled it off, and from identity fraud a movement was born.

"There is so much greed and so much money in sports these days," Mr. Oakes later explained to Ultrarunning magazine. To rebel against ever-escalating entry fees, he created the "Recover From the Holidays Fat Ass 50-Mile Run."

"There is not a nickel involved in any of these events," Mr. Oakes has said. "You just show up and run. It's very simple."

Soon, Fat Asses were popping up in Philadelphia, Toronto and England, gradually spreading as far as Siberia and South Africa. The rules have never changed and the name has stuck, albeit translated into regional languages (Culo Gordo) and, for some reason, Latin by way of ancient Greek (Steatopygous Quinquamilla).

Since those freewheeling founding days, big money has invaded mountain biking, marathoning and the Ironman. Gone is the era when a buck could get you into the New York City marathon. Last year, even the Leadville 100 — one of the original, old-school, mining-town, backcountry ultra series — was taken over by corporate ownership and franchised.

But off in the woods, Fat Asses are flourishing.

"Let's stop paying high prices for commercial cookie-cutter road races and let's start exploring!" the founders of the New York Trail and Ultrarunning Club declared in December. Within 80 days, that grumble of a mission statement has attracted more than 200 members. The appeal isn't strictly about cash; it's about connection. A Fat Ass is hometown and homemade. It's not Hollywood; it's your high school play.

That's the choice I was faced with when, a few months ago, I was offered complimentary entry into the Boston Marathon, one of most storied, exclusive races in the world. I thought about it — but not for long. Instead of 26.2 miles, I'll be paying back my missed New York marathon with 20 percent interest by lining up for the 31-mile HAT Run along the Susquehanna River near my home in Pennsylvania. I won't be barefoot, since it's a rocky trail, but I'll be able to wear the same homemade huaraches that my friend "Barefoot Ted" McDonald gave me when I paced him at Leadville.

In a way, I never did resume training; I've just been spending more and more time playing in the woods. The prospect of another gigantic "cookie-cutter" left me cold, but a six-hour Braveheart re-enactment was a different story. The HAT Run costs $65 to enter, but every cent comes back to the runners in gift bags, park permits and food. (The current race directors are the same two guys who once tried to fry turkeys,  and they still serve smoking-hot "UltraFries" midrace.)

"We're filling up faster than we want," said Tim Gavin, an organizer of the run. "Long-timers aren't used to this kind of rush for spots."

Fortunately, Mr. Gavin's spill-off has created its own throwback movement. Every March, the Buzzards running club holds a Fat Ass marathon near Harrisburg, Pa. The Buzzards synchronize the race date each year with the HAT crew so that anyone who doesn't get into HAT, or doesn't want to pay, has a free alternative.

And down in Mexico, the semi-mythic loner called Caballo Blanco continues to resist offers of corporate sponsorship for his Copper Canyon Ultramarathon with the Tarahumara Indians, the event I chronicled in my book. Caballo messaged me last week, after more than 300 Tarahumara and international runners turned up for his most recent race. "Together, we all created peace in a small town at the bottom of nowhere,'' he wrote. "Nowhere but beauty. What more is there?"

Laird Malamed
Twitter: runlairdrun
Support my 2011 Marathon Fund Raising Goal:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Accepted into the NYC Marathon!

Based on my sub 90 minute half-marathon last July, I have been accepted for the 2011 NYC Marathon on Nov 6! Woo hoo!!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Final update

All -

Well, we've come to the final report.

Thank you for the last minute donations that came in overnight for the marathon! We nearly reached $10,000 pending any donations coming in this week. (We always have a few. Rebecca and I will then send in our match donations as promised.)

So how was the LA Marathon today?

Mother nature ensured we runners kept from being too warm or dry. After about 3 miles (25 minutes), the rain started. And didn't stop. In fact, 11 hours later, we are still being pelted here in Southern California. Rebecca and I just went back to Dodger Stadium to pick up my car, and neither of us had driven in anything that heavy. Fortunately, this super heavy rain didn't hit me in the marathon as I was able to complete it in a speedy 3:35:21 (off a goal of 3:40). We had some intense rain, but nothing like the golf balls deciding in the past hour. Scroll down to the previous post to see me soggy but happily home with my medal.

Overall, despite the weather, I really enjoyed the race. The last 6 miles, I ran with a guy who didn't seem to be from LA. Sadly, despite a congratulatory hug at the finish line, I didn't get his name! He wasn't very talkative, but he seemed to enjoy my counting down the miles. By looking at the results, I think his name was Eduardo and that he is from Argentina which is just funny since I was just there. In any case, I think we both pushed each other during that last 10K. "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me, Shall be my brother." That connection helped me beat my 2010 LA Marathon time by over 3 minutes; Eduardo's did tell me as we run this was his second marathon. So, I'm very happy with the time - more so when taken in combination with Antarctica 20 days ago.

I actually ran into Sumalee from the Antarctica trip at Dodger Stadium this morning. She ran sub 4-hours and wanted to know if I'm running Pasadena in a few months. (I'm running the Mt. Si Washington 50K ultramarathon April 10 and then a half in Ft. Collins on May 1 but no Pasadena for me.) Still, it was great to run into one of the few other voyage Southern Californians at the race. And how random to bump into someone at Dodger Stadium given the cavernous size?

Then after the race, I bumped into one of my oldest friends, Steve, who just took a new job at a sports fitness company in Santa Monica. So, that was an awesome surprise at the conclusion of the event. Best of luck to Steve in his new position.

Thank you again for everyone's nice notes and support and donations.

Thank you again for everyone's nice notes and support and donations. While I supported three charities as always, most of my energy went into The Alliance for Children's Rights. A wonderful benefit was that we all gathered today in a Dodger suite to hang out prior to the race. I then hung out with some of the staff afterwards near the finish line and in their booth. I'll post pictures when I get copies at which I will be updating on an ongoing basis.

All the best,


LA Marathon - Nailed it!

Prelim results: 3:35:21 in super wet conditions. It basically rained from mile 3 until the end with some heavy downpours. Oh well - I still ran over 3 minutes faster than last year and delivered my 4th fastest of the 13 marathons completed.

Here's a picture of me finally home and very wet.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

5K results: Official

23:23 was the official time, and I was 96th overall out of 2921 runners and 8th for Males 40-44 years of age. That's top 4% for the overall rank; hurray!

Post-Antarctica and Pre-LA Marathon Update

Dear friends and family,

Well the sun is shining (at least it was briefly) as I gaze west out my home office window. However, the Weather Channel certainly feels differently about what will happen next versus what I can see - they say rain and lots of it. So, a stay indoor Sunday probably tops the menu of most Southern Californians tomorrow.

However, as you all probably know, I and 25,999 of my soon-to-be-closest friends will take to the streets run or shine or clouds to participate in the 26th LA Marathon. The LA Marathon undertook a renaissance last year with the introduction of the Dodger Stadium to the Ocean course. Basically a straight shot from downtown through Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood, Brentwood and Santa Monica, the course passes over 40 landmarks. Despite running an ultramarathon 5 weeks previous in 2010, I felt obligated to run last year's race to try the new course. I had such a good time that I committed to run it again. That corresponded with The Alliance for Children's Rights, one of my charities that so many of you have graciously donated to, asking me to be their co-chair of fundraising in association with the marathon. Honestly, other than attend a few meetings and offer my name to emails, I haven't done any of the logistics.

Today, the LA Marathon Big 5 Dodger 5K was run. We had about 15 runners from the Alliance, and everyone one of us had a great time. I ran a chippy 23:22 on the hilly course around Elysian Park which is probably faster than I should have, but I was having fun. The head fundraiser for the group walked it with her kids and a friend and they were beaming from start to finish. That was partly because the Alliance is just short of its $50,000 fundraising goal as being an official charity of the LA Marathon weekend. They are sitting at $46,000 or so. Of the about $9,000 we have raised together, about $4,000 of that has gone to the Alliance (with the rest to CODE and Children International). Here's the link again for any last minute donations:

The event tomorrow is a "training" run for my next ultramarathon on April 10. So, after running it, I plan to run the 4 miles back home to get in about 30 total. But I've promised to meet a reporter from our local Patch website at the Alliance booth for a quick photo before I do that. I tell you, I'm big in 90272. (At least on my block and really not even in my own house. Aspen the dog is still bigger news. Oh well.) Here's an article they posted this week about the Antarctica exploits:

And speaking of Antarctica, I think my last update from March 1 got lost in satellite email hell. Here's a link which talks all about the race. Overall, the trip was amazing. Just everything about it, including being super seasick coming back to Argentina, was great. (Ok, being sick wasn't great, but it didn't erase the smile from my face.) I think what really made the journey special was sharing it with 120 other like-minded people. Every meal was filled with a new conversation, every boat ride a new shared experience and every hour kicking back in the lounge yielded a new story. I have never done a package tour before, so this aspect was a big unknown going in.

More details on visiting the continent are posted at the Adventure Logs at Indy in the Classroom: Thanks again to Thomas and Wes for hosting me there and awaiting a long overdue next chapter!

A lot of you have asked for photos. Photos? We got tons of photos! (Too many really, but I haven't had a chance to edit them down further than the 10% cut - the full amount is nearly 1200.) One of the fellow runners on the trip is going to cut a video of all of the best photos from my various shipmates, so I'll post that when I get it.

Lastly, amidst all of this crazy running and less crazy fund raising, I would be remiss to not say a few personal things about Japan. My first race outside the US and my 4th marathon was in Nagano Japan. That visit was my second to Japan, and I have since been back for work another three times. I have enjoyed every moment I have spent in the country. I've never had a bad experience or even really a bad meal. Despite not knowing more than a few niceties in Japanese, even in rural areas, I have been able to make my way around. So, to see them suffering from the double impact of earthquake and tsunami is heart breaking. Rebecca and I have donated to their relief efforts via AmeriCares. Rebecca found them via charity navigator which identifies AmeriCares as a top charity. For anyone who wants to donate on behalf of my running to a Japanese relief fund, please do so. Shoot me a note, and as always we'll match $10 via AmeriCares for any donation as we do for any of the three on my list already. In an odd coincidence, I started reading on the trip "Underground" by Haruki Murakami which chronicles the thoughts of victims of the 1995 sarin gas attacks. It's horrifying to read about that senseless suffering, and I imagine that many of those in Japan impacted by the natural disasters must be feeling similar throughs. At least then, there was someone to blame. Murakami is a wonderful writer who also happens to be a marathon runner and I recommend his books without reservation.

Thank you all for your support. I'm excited about Sunday's race more than even I thought I would be. A final email for the 2011 fundraising will go out after with the results.

Think fast and dry thoughts Sunday morning starting about 7:25 AM PDT.

All the best,


Friday, March 11, 2011

Thinking about 24 miles tomorrow

Well, just 9 days until the LA Marathon. I got back to running this week after the 7 days on the cruise post-Antarctica of resting. Did 8 miles in Buenos Aires on Monday and then 16 Thursday in Santa Monica. Tomorrow is 24 which will take me up to 48 for the week. That's a big load for me the week before the marathon, but I have to look at LA as a trainer for the Mt. Si Washington 50K Ultra I am doing on April 10. In fact, at LA, I will run the 4 miles home for a 30 mile day (and my longest run pre-Mt. Si).

The course for LA is great - Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica - basically running Sunset blvd for half and then Santa Monica and Montana for the other half.

First though, I have to post my Antarctica photos before everyone gets really mad at me!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Some wrap up thoughts

Well, if you have been following Twitter today, you know that our voyage to Antarctica came to a close. Happily, no travel bugaboos materialized; the seats on the plane were worked out, our luggage came in on the plane we flew on (that darn red bag is always last though) and our hotel room at the Four Seasons in Buenos Aires is great. Staying one more night in BA instead of a 30 hour marathon to get back to Los Angeles was a good call.

Still, leaving the Marathon Tours group at the domestic airport was bittersweet. The staff on the boat said they couldn't think of anyone in our group who was one of "those passengers." And I have to agree. A fear in taking a tour, especially after doing so much of my own travel planning for years, is that you won't jive with the group. But this trip certainly proved that people willing to run a marathon in Antarctica are likely to get along. Probably an obvious conclusion, so that means I am not adequately conveying how harmonious and enjoyable the other people on the trip were to be with. Magical would not be an exaggeration.

Still, all good things must end at some point, and today was that day. Memories and photos will have to suffice to keep those awesome 10 days (well 9 days and 1 really rocky one in the Drake Passage) going.

And I still have some writing for Indy in the Classroom. I read a book on Frank Hurley the past two days so I can submit my Antarctica Photography article. I'll follow up that with some final thoughts and a few words about the upcoming LA Marathon.

For now, sleep on a non-rocking bed.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Antarctica Marathon: Post Race Report

I wanted to give you a more complete version of the race after my very brief update yesterday. Again, thank you for all the contributions to my various charities (CODE, The Alliance for Children's Rights and Children International). I have not had a chance to get a current count, but I saw a lot came in over the weekend. So, thank you so much. One half of my double marathon challenge complete! LA Marathon hits on March 20. site.

As I wrote yesterday, the marathon went quite well. Really, the time (and this is not an excuse) doesn't tell you how happy I am with the way I ran. The official final time was 4:25:32, and I came in 9th out of 78 finishers which puts me in my usual top 15%. My time is about 45 minutes slower than my average - again to be expected. The top finishers, Mike Hewitt from Denver who is here with his wife and two kids ran in 3:25 for the win. He just came off a 2:41 marathon, so again, 45 mins slower. You can see in the photo below pointing at a ready-to-attack skua.

The day before the race, the organizers went on shore determining the course and getting final approval from the base staffs for the event. In past years (and the adventures of this marathon's history could fill four emails), they have had hiccups in getting permission to run. As King George Island houses bases from numerous countries, and our run goes next to or through four of them (China, Russia, Uruguay and Chile), international permission has to be obtained in advance. Even then, the day of the race is a decision by the base commanders to allow the marathon to happen. Happily, all four bases presented no issues.

The "okays" in place, the marathon team then inspects the various roads linking the bases. First and foremost, they need to ensure that no animal life (including the native mosses) could be impacted by running the race. In past years, the race included a run up a small glacier. However, the glacier now shows too many signs of crevasses (hidden cracks) and melting to offer a stable enough platform. So, one of the challenges becomes finding 26.2 miles of runnable surfaces. The solutions involves multiple out and backs. If that sounds disappointing to be covering and recovering your tracks, actually I think everyone found this aspect of the course to be quite enjoyable. Because we have been hanging out together (I'm in the club lounge writing this amongst 30 other passengers as icebergs flow by the windows), you basically know everyone on the course. So, as you double back, you pass just about everyone at least 3 times. Waves and high fives are exchanged, and words of encouragement flow easily between competitors. Of course, the course staff and monitors are from the marathon team and the boat crew so again there is a small town feeling to the whole event. You literally know everyone - or at least have seen them over the past eight days.

Let me try to describe the course a bit. We started the race at the Russian Bellinghausen base. This once large base of red building and barracks, satellite dish and inflated science buildings used to be Russia's key installation down here. However, after the fall of the Soviet Union, cutbacks took their toll. The smaller base still has the best landing beach and makes a good starting point. The start (and finish) line were in the middle of the base. (Actually, the marathon started 0.1 miles behind the starting line as the course worked out to 26.1 miles - just short of the full 26.2 marathon.)

(By the way, technically I participated in my first amphibious assault of a Russian base. Well, first daytime landing but that's another story.)

From the Russian base, we headed into the island 1/2 mile towards the Chilean base, turning left before the road to the only airstrip on the island. After a few steep portions we were on the way to the Chinese Great Wall base. This took us past a small lake (pond really) and into the base itself. After about 2.5 miles, we reached the end of the road, marked by some huge fuel tanks, and headed back to the start. The conditions of this road were pretty good. Mostly hard packed dirt with some rocky portions comprised of 3 inch sized stones. We hit a bit of sticky mud, but very little you could not step around. I think we had about 4 steep rises on this part. Outbound, we ran with the wind and back against it.

And speaking of wind! On the Beaufort Scale which measures such things, the staff estimates we saw gusts above 35 knots. (Nearly 40 mph.) That's an 8 out of 12 on the scale: Category "Gale Force." Generally, the winds only hit category 7 - "Near Gale Force." Just another run in Antarctica.

Those winds were worst on the other side of the course. After the first 5 mile lap, we headed north towards the Uruguay base. About 0.5 miles of this 5.5 mile out and back were covered in thick, sticky, wet mud. Other portions were crossed by glacial run offs requiring fording the water or (as I did) a few well timed long jumps. Both sections (but particularly the mud) pretty much reduced you to walking. As I do with any ultramarathons, I walked all the steep hills (of which this portion had a half dozen). Wasting energy trying to run up them never really resulted in better speed. The windy sections needed the same treatment. If I had one complaint about the marathon, it would be that you never could really just open up and run hard. I think that is why so many people are feeling pretty good today; the walking broke up the running monotony forcing a more balanced use of muscles - speed sacrificed for better biomechanics. For some, this was a big disappointment; for me it will help my LA Marathon go better by not using all my reserves.

Back to the course, upon reaching Bellinghausen again, about 10.6 miles had been covered (including the 0.1 mile pre-starting line addition). We then ran both the Chinese and Uruguayan sections again. Two more times through those mud flats.

I wish I had taken a picture of my shoes! By the end of the 21.2 miles, they were caked and covered in dark, yucky, HEAVY, mud. Planning ahead, I had a second pair of nearly new shoes. So, after those two laps, despite the 3 minutes needed to make the change, I switch out my trail shoes. Oh my goodness, I felt like I lost 5 pounds. The staff at the finish line who saw me do this (we had our packs under cover near the start/finish area) laughed when they saw my pristine looking treads. The final 5 miles were accomplished by a third trip to China. I certainly was happy to avoid going back through those Uruguayan mud fields.

Rebecca made the trip over from the ship (as part of her first {daylight} amphibious assault on Russia) just in time to see me finish the race. After the official photographer missed me crossing the finish line, I made a short lap back through to memorialize the event. (Sorry, the photo hasn't been sent to me yet.) I caught up with my buddies and changed into warmer clothing and returned for a very needed hot shower and hot lunch aboard ship.

People took up to 7.5 hours to finish the race; I cannot imagine being out there longer than I was. I did feel very strong when I finished. My last half mile (really the best running part of the course) was in under 4 minutes (less than an 8 mph pace). But, I certainly did not need to run any further. I think a mark of how I ran was that I was probably in about 15th place after the first half. (Because of the out and back nature, I could see everyone in front of me as they returned from the turns at either end.) Without trying, I passed 5-6 people by keeping my pace going. Two people who I passed around mile 20 said to me afterwards they were amazed. All of a sudden I was just past them and gone. I don't recall it the same way, but thus are the vagaries of memory amidst running a race in Antarctica.

After the race completed, the Sea Spirit heaved anchor and sailed to the Antarctica Peninsula for 4 more days of landings. 7-8 orcas greeted us as we departed, and today we saw arctic seals, gentoo penguins and humpback whales. Pretty amazing!

Thank you all for your support over the past few weeks in preparation for this amazing event. I'll report back when we hit Argentina and can post a whole slew of photographs.

All the best,


A crab eater seal just hanging out on an iceberg