What Really Makes The Boston Marathon So Special?

On the Phedippidations Message Board a discussion about what makes the Boston Marathon special popped up in part because of Steve Walker’s recent opportunity to run the race again this year. The following is an excerpt from a runner and podcaster who I have great respect for who goes by the name dumprunner on the message board. He writes:

I am probably contrarian but Boston is  simply not as special as it is made out to be. It has history, great crowds, is extremely well run (that could be said for a lot of marathons) and a great booming voice at mile 22.

But the minute I finished, I had no desire ever to run it again and that hasn’t changed.

My mind filled with dozens of loosely connected images as I thought about how I would respond to his comment, arriving at what might be only described as a schizophrenic pattern of thought, which for those of you who read my missives know is nothing new for me.

The most amazing experiences for me at Boston always come at the point in time when I land at Logan International Airport in Boston. As soon as I step off of the plane, I see a sudden shift in the morphology of the general population around me. Lean, clean shaven, athletic folks abound, carrying water bottles and wearing t-shirts espousing the various running clubs or races that they have been affiliated with. To your right and left are small groups of folks chatting quietly and confidently while chewing on a Clif Bar or a baggie filled with celery. In truth, if you are flying into Boston, you only need to look around the plane you are flying in on to see hints of this already.  These people need no medals swung loosely around their necks for us to understand just how talented these runners are. It isn’t the Tevas on their feet or the small duffel bag on their shoulder that gives them away. Nor is it the cross country t-shirts marked simply by the graphic of two adjacent C’s split horizontally by an arrow. In fact it’s in their confidence.

What makes Boston differnent than any other marathon is that everyone that has qualified for this race has already done the work to get here. There is nothing left to worry about or be concerned about aside from any demons that we all continue to carry around with us in search of our next PR, and if it should be at Boston, so much the better. Boston is about celebrating your accomplishments, setting new standards or simply not looking silly when running next to legends of the sport.

Two years ago, I reported from La Guardia airport on my way to support @texafornia, @jettpack, @simplystu, IronWil and the rest of my friends on Team Race Athlete at Ironman Wisconsin. The piles of bike boxes stacked 6 feet high in the ticketing area at La Guardia told me that I was part of something much larger than just another race. These are the tools of battle, packaged with care and sitting innocuously just waiting to leap out before traveling 112 miles at 22+ mph over the roads around Madison. Arriving in Boston is very similar, and unlike NYC, Chicago and Los Angeles, where people wander aimlessly around the expo, the Boston Marathon Expo is very much business as usual, with runners getting in, and getting out as efficiently as possible. Remember, these folks have all done this before. Perhaps then, Boston is really about being humble, because everyone there knows what they are capable of accomplishing.

The charity entries have definitely changed this atmosphere, which is why I actually discourage folks from running Boston under a charity entry – and I founded a charity endurance training program. I simply think that there’s nothing wrong with one marathon to be held aside for those age-groupers who purely by genetic gift or training have risen to this level of performance.

All marathons have their personalities and Boston is no exception. I give great complements to those, like dumprunner and Avi who PR’d on that course and even more so to those who do so while running negative splits. The course is no joke, but it is after all, just another course, 26.2 miles long.

To me what is really special about Boston is that for a few hours you can count yourself among those who perform at that level and, especially for those who do not come by this naturally, that you have a community that is singularly committed to celebrate all of the sacrifices that you made to get there – all of those mornings waking up and running at 5am so that you could complete your run before you had to start your normal working day and before attending to all of your other responsibilities that did not take time off just because you were “in training”.

In short, The Boston Marathon is the 360 tomahawk dunk of running. Not everyone can do it, but when you do, the world takes notice and you can’t help but feel that it was all worth it.

Congratulations to all who will be participating in Boston in April. Again, as always, I am humbled by your achievement.

The Triathlon Trivia Twit-Away Contest!

Hey tri-tweethletes, it is our pleasure to announce the Triathlon Trivia Twit-Away Contest! Texafornia, Triboomer, and I will be asking one triathlon trivia question each over the next few days on Twitter.  The first question’s prize is 10 packets of Hornet Juice.  The second’s is a gift pack of Action Wipes.  The third and final question will have a truly awesome and suprise gift!

Here’s the details

  • Brett “Texafornia” tweeted the first question at 5 PM Central on Saturday, March 28th on Twitter: “On what body of water is the Wool Capital Triathlon’s swim held?” @NeuroTro won this stage and received a 10-pck of Hornet Juice for hsi knowledge.  @NeueroTri did it so quickly we had to up the ante…
  • Therefore, tonight, Monday, March 30th I will begin to drip clues each hour (that I’m awake) beginning at 9:30PM ET immediately following our airing of the Triathlete’s Coffee Shop (hint, I may ask the question sometime during the show, providing a unique advantage – the show begins at 8:30PM) until someone replies (@coachadam) me with the right answer.  You’ll have to follow www.twitter.com/coachadam on Twitter to get the clues. The first responder to @reply to me the correct answer will win the Action Wipes Gift Pack which includes a Large Pack of Action Wipes, Sports Spray and one EA Couples kits.  Thanks @MarthaVan!
  • Triboomer will tweet the third and final question on April 1st.  The prize is truly amazing, so get ready!
  • Once you win, you’re out.  You can’t win more than once.

More updates will come as the contest moves along.  Make sure you go ahead and follow these folks on twitter to keep up!

http://twitter.com/Texafornia

http://twitter.com/CoachAdam

http://twitter.com/triboomer

http://twitter.com/MarthaVan (Founder of Action Wipes)

How exciting is this economy anyway? An extreme example during my recent commute

I just made it onto the 7:57PM train out of Grand Central. This was an express train which means that it looks a lot like the picture here except that not a lot of folks wear hats like this anymore. If you look toward the back, however, you’ll see the vestibule area where latecomers like me are relegated to stand for the short forty-minute ride to the first stop in Southern Westchester.

I didn’t notice it at first, leaning against one of the glass walls that separate us from those who actually had seats. I was doing my normal thing now of flipping through my Blackberry catching up on e-mails. I just saw a young guy in khakis, a button-down long-sleeved white shirt with light blue checks and holding his greenish tweed jacket in between his knees as he read a copy of The Economist. I looked over and saw he was reading an article on corporate bankruptcy and he seemed deeply engaged in what he was reading.

Then it happened. He reached down, bent forward slightly and tugged at his crotch, adjusting what was obviously an anatomical protrusion that he was having difficulty dealing with. Now this gesture wasn’t subtle or coy or hidden. He was down there for a good five seconds which is an eternity. Think about it, one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four one thousand, five one thousand. Now release your hand. As far as I’m concerned, after five seconds you either deserve an engagement ring or need to leave money on the end table.

I was stunned. I looked around and was more surprised that with all of these people standing around us, I seemed to be the only one who noticed. He read on.

Finishing that article, he shifted both the page and his body position. “Give me your Scientists”, reach down, tug and adjust. “Physiognomy and Money Lending” tug and adjust, “Resisting the Immigration of Highly Skilled Workers” Tug and Adjust.

The more he read, the more excited he seemed to become and the more he felt the need to reach down and fix his situation.  I looked around to see if there were any unbelievable attractive women behind me, nope, just a guy wearing a leather jacket and a Ducati backpack, another woman wearing Puma shoes, a skirt over her blue jeans and a black jacket, and yet another guy about six foot eight with a Mr. Robinson sweater and a black down coat. Let’s face it, New York commuters are not exactly the best looking folks around. Hey, I’m one of them so I should know. It didn’t matter anyway, because he never looked up, never, not once.

I looked over the magazine again, to see if he had somehow hidden some porn magazine inside to be discreet. Nope. He kept reading. “The Bees are back In Town”, Tug. Adjust. “Bearing it All, The Fall of Bear Stearns.” Tug. Adjust.

OK, maybe these provocative titles were somehow stimulating to him, after all, they did include phrases about bearing it all and bees, although I read the Economist and I can tell you that it doesn’t have quite the same effect on me. “Just Click to Park”. Tug. Adjust.

Even his constant gum chewing made his actions seem that much more casual and almost normal. Tug. Adjust. Switch his magazine from his right hand to his left. Tug. Adjust. I looked around again and still nobody seemed to notice, not one person. I felt like I’d entered the Twilight Zone, except that instead of a man on the wing of the plane, I was across from an intellectually curious pervert that was only visible to me. “Hillary Clinton In The Middle East: All Charm and Smiles.” Tug. Adjust.

OK, maybe that one I get.

I have a raging sugar headache and I'm absolutely thrilled

I’m at work with the craziest, meanest sugar headache that I’ve had in months, and I’m absolutely ecstatic. I ate a muffin and this was the result.

Now while you might be wondering if I have an affinity for piercings, dental drilling without Novocaine or brain freezes, there is actually a rational reason why I’m thrilled about this. It’s because it means that I’m becoming sensitive to sugar again.

Yes, for quite some time, and I mean quite some time, I have been eating like crap, and one of the first thing that happens when you eat like crap is that you desensitize to sugar, which allows you to eat a ton of it, hoards of it, mountains of it, all of the time. You get the picture, sugar desensitivity is sort of like the evil baby brother of insulin resistance and we know where that leads.

So I’m thrilled because while I’ve been working absolutely crazy hours, I’ve begun to commit myself to a few basic things that I know are tried and true (heck, I’ve been successfully using them with clients for years) and will help me to get back to the Coach Adam of new.

Now I’m not going to go into goals setting, which is a particularly favorite topic of mine, but I will say that writing down your goals and then publishing your goals are two very important steps in the process. You also might notice that my goals are not outcome goals, they are process goals. I’m happy to go into the difference between the two if anyone cares to ask, but suffice it to say that if you achieve all of your process goals, your outcome goals are essentially faite complete.

The chart you see above displays the basic process goals for weight management that I have used for years with my athletes:

  • Eat every three hours
  • Write down everything you eat
  • Eat fresh whole foods
  • Avoid junk foods and sweets
  • Eat protein first at every meal
  • Do a minimum of 45-mins of cardio each day
  • Do resistance training
  • Sleep a minimum of seven hours

I also added in a couple more goals specific to me including stretching daily and then walking the 1.5-miles each way to the train for a little extra outdoor fun.

Now being the intelligent soul that you are, you can see that I’m just getting started and it looks like I’ve sucked in most all of the categories. And that’s the cool thing about process goals, they’re binary, you either did or did not accomplish it within the time frame you set. And in most cases during my first week, I didn’t fully accomplish those goals, and there is not a half check mark for not fully accomplishing it, so I get no credit. That said, I have gotten credit where I’ve simply done what needs to be done with most of my focus so far having been on establishing a routine around my running. And happily I’ve done pretty well with this. And while I’ve been sucking at the other stuff, we all know that this is interrelated and establishing one routine certainly helps with the others.

You might be thinking, “Uh, you have ‘don’t eat crap’ as one of your process goals and this entire post is about eating a muffin and furthermore you’re excited about it”. And you’d be right to think that, except what you may be missing is that while I haven’t been nearly perfect…ok, my diet still sucks, the good news is that my body is coming around to help. Today, for the first time, when I ate that muffin, I felt like crap. No, not like I felt guilty, I mean I genuinely felt like crap with my head killing me, and that’s because of the running routine that I’ve gotten back into and the fact that while I might have had one thing that was crap each day last week, it was still an improvement from my prior behavior of eating dinner at the office at 11:30PM from the vending machine.

Now I know that if I continue to eat sugar, the headaches will eventually go away because I’ll desensitize to them again, or I could enjoy the misery for just a little while longer and remember that running and exercise have the same effect as eating sugar on my insulin levels. So if I can get out of here at a reasonable hour and get a run in, then that too will help to get rid of this headache.

Hopefully I’ll choose the latter.

Beyond the five questions to ask a "social media expert"

I recently read a post by Jim Storer, entitled Five Questions to Ask a Social Media Expert which identified five questions you would want to ask of a so-called socail media expert before engaging them to help you with your strategy, or I supposed before hiring them to work for your company.

The five questions were:

  1. Do you have a blog?
  2. How many comments do you average per blog post?
  3. Have you ever managed a community?
  4. When did you get started in community/social media?
  5. Should I have a blog?

Commenters then added even seven more, including:

  1. Why are you positioning yourself as only knowing one facet of business/communications? (from Jennifer Leggio via Twitter)
  2. How long have you been on Twitter and how do you use it? If they say to sell things, then don’t talk to them further. (from Jason Peck)
  3. Who have you worked with in the past? Were they successful? (from Sean Bohan)
  4. Do you have an “war stories” from your past clients? (from Sean Bohan)
  5. What tools do you use regularly? (from Alex Jones)
  6. What tools have you seen or used that didn’t quite make it and why do you think it happened? (from Alex Jones)
  7. What are the top 5 social sites you would say are essential to know about in social media? (from Eric Mertz via Twitter)

While I think these are all interesting questions, I’m not sure I understand why the information request for social media should be any different than for any other type of consulting or advisory type engagement, albeit with some slightly different twists for this specific subject.

If taking this approach, then the questions I would ask expect to be asked would include:

  • Who are you? Why do you feel you are uniquely qualified to be helping us to address this issue?
  • Why should we be considering the use of social media?
  • What is the breadth of your capabilities and experiences?
  • Specifically, in which area(s) of social media is your expertise? (e.g., SEO, community development, community management, vendor selection, strategy, business case development, feasibility analysis, assessment, design, implementation, measurement and monitoring, business intelligence, systems integration, marketing, online marketing, operations and use of business intelligence in operations, enterprise applications, etc…)
  • Where have you done this before?
  • What was the impact?
  • What is the extent of your network to bring additional resources to bear?
  • Do you have access to peer benchmarking data?
  • What do you expect to achieve?
  • What is your point of view on the areas in which you have demonstrated experiences and success?
  • What reports/thought leadership have you published? What was your point of view, what positions did you support or refute? How did you support your research?
  • What is your availability?
  • Are you the same people that will be delivering the work or are you just a customer service/account management person?
  • Are you part of a team and if so who is that team comprised of?
  • In which industries and sectors have you applied your services?
  • Fees, Rates, hours, etc…?

I think all of the personal stuff asked above about your activity on the web is interesting fodder for conversations, but it is secondary to the services you’ve already delivered and your actual experiences. Even more important is understanding and describing the impact your services have had, because that shows that you are vested in their success. In short, where you have done the same or similar work before and what was the result?

Perhaps it’s because this space is still so new and so many folks don’t have actual experiences that they need to rely on a more general description of awareness of social media – and by definition, that means that you aren’t an expert, you may be a knowledgeable enthusiast, but you are not an expert.

I am an expert in exercise physiology and endurance training, and I am an expert in business strategy and strategic communications and I can provide solid and compelling responses to the questions above in those areas to support that. I can have a targeted conversations backed up with analytical reasoning and quantitative support around those issues – it goes far beyond cocktail conversations and enticing rhetoric.

As a part of business strategy and communications, I have had numerous conversations with organizations on how to begin to incorporate social media into their overall strategy, but I do not consider myself to be an expert – I invite the experts into the conversation – the right ones for the right conversations, for example, how many reading this actually know what to do with the information that they collect in an online community? How to set up systems so that the information is incorporated into an overall business intelligence strategy? How to systemetize this into the organization’s current Oracle or SAP implementations? How to build in specific security and identify management plans to ensure the integrity of the system?

Individually, you don’t have to be an expert in all of these areas but in today’s business discussions, I find it increasingly apparent that you need to “bring” experts to the table in more of, if not all of, these areas when you are talking about social media and business. That means that I’ll bring a community management expert into the discussion if that’s the issue we want to address, or I’ll bring a network analysis expert to the table of that’s where the conversation goes. But I’ll bring the experts, not just the enthusiastic participants.

A scientific vs a natural approach to your running

Our friend Adam Tinkoff, The Zen Runner, recently published an article in a UK publication entitled Running Free, in a column called Both Sides Of The Track. He was profiled as the Zen side of the argument of running. His opponent is Gary Palmer, a well known UK exercise physiologist and endurance coach. Gary took the scientific side of the debate.

This is not a new discussion topic and one that people come back to more often than not as they progress through their evolution of running, swimming, biking, rowing, kayaking, cross country skiing, triathlon or any other type of endurance activity that becomes more than just a sport, and certainly a significant part of, if not a way of, life.

Both authors raise some very interesting issues although the lead into the debate seems to create the impression that the discussion will be focused on the scientific vs the zen debate over sports nutrition which in my mind it doesn’t really address. That said, there are some really useful take-a-ways for newbies and reminders for veterans, and it’s always great to reflect back on where we are in our own evolution because like most things, the pendulum swings back and forth on fairly regular intervals and knowing where you are in that arc can be really beneficial in finding peace and balance within your life and your training.

Check out Adam Tinkoff’s “Both Sides Of The Track” article and let us know what you think.