Ron Marinucci February Column

Ron Marinucci February Column

Provided by Ron Marinucci

Last week, my running buddy, Bob Drapal, and I agreed there was something amiss about this winter’s running. We couldn’t quite put our fingers on it, but not all seemed to be normal or, at least, usual.

Compared to the last two or three winters, this year really hasn’t been bad at all. Other than the big snow storm (13-15”) on the weekend before Thanksgiving, there hasn’t been much snow. Although a few mornings have dipped into the single digits, the temperatures are quite warmer, not nearly as bone-chilling, than 2014 and 2015. No, Bob and I couldn’t say exactly what, but something seems different, if not worse.

That said, I have had some really good runs since January 1st. I’ve been able to keep up my weekly mileage, even with a typically busy class schedule and Michael’s freshman basketball games and practices. (He doesn’t drive yet, so I have added “chauffeur” to my job titles.) And, thanks to those late basketball games, I’ve done some running I’ve never done before.

One or two nights a week, the only option for Karen, Carrie, Russ, and me to run or walk is 6:00 PM or later. One night it was entirely too slick. A one-mile lap mostly walked or slid with trepidation, was all we did, by choice. (I know Carrie has now become a runner. The next day she admitted, “I was really bummed we couldn’t run last night.”) Several other nights we got in our runs, very enjoyable ones. We run, at night, on a closed bike path; no vehicular traffic at all. Once or twice we used our night lights, but mostly we have run by moonlight, a first for me. I was surprised we were able to negotiate the path so easily this way. One night was quite cloudy, with no moonlight at all. But the clouds dropped a couple inches of snow as we got in our four or five miles. The snow reflected enough light to be able to see quite well. The only problem was drifting, the whipping wind building some drifts over our ankles. We both noted sore calves the next day. But it was a lot of fun, exhilarating to be sure.

For whatever reason, on one of my usual weekly routes, a herd of deer seems to have adopted me. (How many deer constitutes a legitimate “herd?”) The least number was 7 or 8, while the most I counted one morning was 12. They seem to cross my path, maybe 30 or 40 yards ahead, at least once on my route, but often circle around and catch me some distance up the road, too. It’s as if they are waiting and are playing a running game with me.

Another morning, about 25 or so yards ahead, out darted a coyote. It sped across the road, from one copse of trees to another, out of sight before I reached him. All these years I’ve been running out here, even before civilization moved in, I think I’ve only seen 5 or 6 coyotes, those scraggly animals.

In the next few weeks it will be time to make my list of races for 2016. I’ll check out the calendar page(s) of (and print them up) and the annual calendar in Michigan Runner. I used to use the calendars in the national running magazines, sometimes even targeting out-of-state races, but no more. The national publications don’t hold the interest they once held for me. And I can’t think of many out-of-state races that are on my bucket list.

It usually takes a couple of evenings to complete a race list, leaving room for later additions as the year progresses. There are a lot of criteria and considerations, in no particular order. I look for days and dates, that is, conflicts. For instance, spring and early summer Saturday races are usually out since I’m still coaching baseball. I also have a 45th college reunion which takes care of that weekend. Evening races are fun and I really enjoy them. But they pose more potential scheduling conflicts than morning starts.

Distance is a factor, too, in two ways. I’m no longer interested in running marathons; so I skip over those. Ten-milers, half marathons, and other similar distances will pique my interest, as will 5Ks. But 10Ks? Usually those are a definite maybe. I also look at distance, as in how far I would have to drive. I’ve never been a big fan of driving and find even less enjoyment in it as I get older. More than an hour in the car usually eliminates a race, too. But ones I find close to home, sometimes practically in my backyard, are strong possibilities.

Maybe over the last 11 or 12 years costs have been a prime consideration. I’ve written about this several times. Already this year I’ve found interesting race possibilities that have attracted my attention, until I saw what seemed to me to be outlandish entry fees.

Only once that I can remember in almost 30 years of road racing have I picked a race because I thought I could win an age-group award. That was the Volkslaufe in Frankenmuth. I really wanted, after many years of trying, to win one of the attractive beer steins handed out as age-group prizes. I even chose the distance among the various Volkslaufe races to enhance my chances. But that’s no real criterion for making my list.

Old favorites always draw me. I sometimes put them on the list for nostalgia, with no real chance of racing them. Other times I fully intend to run them. There are reasons they are favorites.

I sometimes discuss race possibilities with my running partners. I bring up races I have found as well as races we have done together before. Bob Drapal is recovering from foot surgery last year and is just now returning to a semblance of normal, full-time running. He’s only talked about 5Ks, wisely. Like me, Michael Holmes is done with marathons. But the blind runner enjoys 5Ks and even some longer distances up to 10 miles. Races for him and his guide runners (including me!) take some extra thought and questions. My new running friend, Carrie Farnum, last fall completed her goal of finishing a 5-mile race “without stopping.” Now, in 2016, she’s shopping around for a 10K to run.

Some of the often small, but growing theme races may be inviting. Of course, there are some of the traditional holiday runs. The Big Bird 10K in Roseville is an automatic addition to the list each year, well, for 27 of the past 28 years. But I’ve floated some of the grape races to Karen and her wine-drinking friends, including Carrie. If walkers as well as runners are permitted, they might make the list, too.

My list might include several dozen races. I know I won’t run all of them or even most of them. In fact, in recent years I haven’t raced much at all. But I still have fun making my list and, who knows, maybe this year I just might run more of them.

A recent Alabama half marathon had a unique experience. Ludivine, the first female, was also the 7th overall finisher. She finished in 1:32:56, receiving her medal. I wonder in what age-group Ludivine was placed. Ludivine is a dog, a bloodhound. She actually ran the whole race, staying on the course, apparently unbeknown to her owners. About that age-group placing: Ludivine is 2 ½ years old, but that’s in dog years. In human years, she’s about 23. So…..? I wonder if next year the race will be re-named, maybe the Hound Dog Half or the K-9 13.1 or……

Last week, I read of two US runners who finished seven marathons in seven days—on seven different continents. I know I’ve written stories about runners who’ve done that many marathons in a week and of runners who’ve run marathons on all of the continents. But I don’t remember anything like what Daniel Cartica of Chicago and Becca Pizzi of Belmont, Massachusetts accomplished the last week of January. Their marathon began in Antarctica, with stops in Chile, Miami, Spain, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates, and ended in Australia. He averaged just over three and a half hours per marathon with a best of 3:12, while she averaged under four hours for each while running her fastest at 3:41. Wow!—on several fronts.

It’s quite a feat, no doubt. Just think of the logistics, the travel that are involved. But it’s one I would never have thought about trying. And I really don’t quite understand the attraction. But to each his or her own.

I laughed as I read the report. Me? I’m excited to say that I’ve run races in four different states (and Ontario!) and that I’ve run, just run, in 16 of them (again, plus Ontario).