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Marathon Week

Friday, October 5, 2012

Baseball: it's a marathon, not a sprint

Posted By on 10.05.12 at 10:47 AM

The White Sox were out by a toe tap this year.
It's commonly said in baseball that the season is a marathon, not a sprint. And that it is. Quality will tell in the end. Just why does it usually tell right at the end?

The White Sox were three games ahead of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central Division barely more than two weeks ago on September 18, when they were 81-66. From that point on, however, they'd win only four more games. They lost five in a row, ten of 12, and ultimately 11 of 15.

Was it always intended to be that way? Certainly the Sox overachieved and exceeded expectations. Yet that division was there for the taking, and they didn't take it.

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How I won and lost at the Chicago Marathon

Posted By on 10.05.12 at 06:45 AM

Bank_of_America_Chicago_Marathon_5.jpg
Sunday, September 27, 1981, was a bright day with stiff winds, even for the Windy City. Thousands of people decked out in running togs and numbers were packed into the streets around Daley Plaza before the 9:30 AM start of the fifth Chicago Marathon.

I was among them, a rookie Chicago News Bureau reporter assigned to cover the race, although the only thing I knew about marathons was that they could really screw up traffic.

City News, then located in grimy quarters on West Randolph and connected to its reporters by pay phone, wanted a color story, say an interview with a participant, and they wanted it PRONTO, which is how they always wanted everything. Somebody on the desk there threw me a bone: he mentioned that the lower numbers were given to the runners known to be fastest.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Marathoners, avoid twisted ankles and firing cannons

Posted By on 10.04.12 at 06:44 AM

Somethings pulled, for sure
Much of marathon running is about avoiding injury and ailment along the way. Unless you're willing to hop a bus to the finish line, your chances of winning the race (or even finishing third) are slim, so go ahead and skip the delusions of grandeur. Instead, it's best to concentrate on the little victories, like pacing yourself and dodging ankle sprains and shin splints and vomiting. I ran the Chicago Half Marathon last month and saw a runner red-faced and hunched over, puking her guts out not more than three miles into the race. My bet is she didn't finish.

As a first time half-marathon runner in 2011, I needed advice on ways not to hurt myself. Though I had learned years ago how not to stick a fork in a plugged-in toaster and how to not lift with my back but with my knees, I still wasn't well-versed in the art of running stupid-long distances without having my body fall apart—my regular runs at the time usually averaged around five miles in length. So I walked into the Fleet Feet in Old Town and asked a marathon runner for some tips.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How I won the marathon*

Posted By on 10.03.12 at 06:44 AM

Runners on Jackson in last years Chicago Marathon
  • Matt Marton/Sun-Times Media
  • Runners on Jackson in last year's Chicago Marathon
I was the first finisher of Chicago's first major marathon. True, I had a three-week head start.

The Chicago Marathon, which will be run again Sunday, began in 1977. I was 23, and writing for a new weekly Tribune section devoted to recreational sports. Americans in those days were starting to realize that sports did not have to be consumed from a couch—that it was, in fact, legal for adults to participate in them. And the Tribune was realizing it could cash in on this trend, since the new crowd of amateur jocks needed running shoes, bicycles, racquetball rackets, and other advertisable gear. Thus, the "Venture" section was born in 1976, and it gave me my first job out of college.

Late that year, Chicago runners formed a committee and began campaigning for a September marathon. The nation's cities were sick with marathon fever then, and our city was merely catching the ailment. There'd been nearly 200 marathons in the U.S. in 1976, triple the number in 1972, and the fields had grown considerably.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Losing at everything

Posted By on 10.02.12 at 06:48 AM

With the Chicago Marathon coming up this weekend, I recently took a look at some past Reader articles on marathoning—something I'd much rather read about than do. There are a few interesting ones, including a profile of tiny Kenyan runner Joseph Kahugu and an account of the 2006 marathon focusing on a wheelchair racer. What caught my attention, though, was a 2004 piece on John Bingham titled "The Man Who Ruined Running."

Bingham promotes an approach to marathons that emphasizes finishing the race over doing it quickly; his books include No Need for Speed and Marathoning for Mortals. Anyone can be a runner, he says, if they just slow down. It's proved to be a controversial stance—there are even those who argue that he's partially responsible for the fastest American racers becoming slower over the years—but I like his way of thinking. There's a certain freedom, even joy, that comes from participating in a sport without caring about speed or winning.

I got a lot of practice at losing in high school, when I was a member of two very bad sports teams. My friends recruited me for field hockey freshman year because they had ten players and needed one more to field a team (another person joined after I did, so we had one sub unless someone got hurt or couldn't make it to a game). We played mostly against Catholic schoolgirls who'd been doing it since they could walk. I, on the other hand, had literally never seen a field hockey stick before; I remember being surprised at my first practice that it looked different from an ice hockey stick. Needless to say, I wasn't overfamiliar with the intricacies of the game, and most of my teammates weren't far ahead of me. I can count on both hands the number of games we won in the four years I was there (and probably still could even if I lost a few fingers).

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Monday, October 1, 2012

All this week, writing about marathons (in anticipation of the Chicago Marathon)

Posted By on 10.01.12 at 06:47 AM

2011 Chicago Marathon Runners
I'm a fan of the Chicago Marathon. The first reason is obvious—it's cool to see a huge crowd of people running through the streets of the city and to shut down some of the car traffic in celebration of the most natural way that human beings transport themselves. But what I also like about the Chicago Marathon is that it feels in many ways like the last day of summer (or the last day of warm weather until the spring) as well as a celebration of the fall—it's the timing more than the event, but that's always been the connotation in my mind.

What's funny is that while the marathon, even with the sometimes brutal effects it has on the body, can have a calming air about it, the word's other definition is the exact opposite—endurance to the point of overload, so much of something that people question your sanity. Law and Order marathons on TV. Phone-a-thons on public access. Hot dog eating contests. The word "marathon" may not always imply something healthy or fulfilling. And in some ways, the Internet itself is a marathon—a nonstop endurance test of information acquisition and data overload (sometimes in the form of cat GIFs).

Because the Chicago Marathon is this week, and because excess and endurance are always choice subjects, this week's Variations on a Theme is Marathon Week. All week long, look for blog posts by Reader writers about running, TV show blocks, or anything else that we think of whenever we hear the word "marathon."

And in case you missed writing about stuff you missed, here's Recycling Week, last week's Variations on a Theme.

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