Archive for November, 2012

After 35 years, the Bill Rogers Running Center in Boston closed its’ doors the day after Halloween.

In 1977, when Bill Rogers was the top marathoner on the planet he, his brother Charlie and Jason Kehoe (a childhood friend of the Rogers’ brothers) opened the first of three stores at Cleveland Circle – around mile 22 of the Boston Marathon Route.  There is a great story covering the store closing on Boston.com that you can read by clicking HERE.

In the early days a store like the Bill Rogers Running Center was more than just a place to buy running shoes or gear.  It was a place where running nerds like myself could go to “nerd out”.  You could talk with other runners about training, upcoming races, workouts, run groups, race strategy and immerse yourself in the culture of running.  In a sport where so much time is spent alone with your own thoughts while you are training, it is great to have that support group.

But as things have changed with technology, many runners now purchase gear and equipment from one of the big box athletic suppliers or online to get the best price and selection.  They might go to a local running store once in a while to get fitted or to check out the new model of a shoe, but once they know what type of shoe, size and fit that they need, they do most of their purchases on-line.  I am no different, although I do make a point to support the local running stores several times a year to purchase shoes and equipment.  But the reality is that in 2012 I will cover 2,500 running miles, rotating a new pair of shoes on average every 300 miles.  That is 8 new pairs of shoes and another two pairs purchased specifically to race in (Boston Marathon and Houston Marathon).  Out of those 10 pairs of shoes, or roughly $1,000 of gear, only two or three pair will be purchased locally ($200-$300).  The balance will be purchased on-line, delivered to my front door in less than 48 hours.

That is what makes running a small, local running store like the Bill Rogers Running Center such a challenge.  If you are only able to attract 20% of the business from somebody like me, how are you going to do with a more casual runner?  Too much competition in a niche market – and it gets very, very challenging.

By the time Landry is in race flats, there really won’t be too many places like Bill’s shop any more and that is too bad.

On April 20, 2010 I visited the Bill Roger’s Running Center in Boston for the first time.  Less than 24 hours after finishing the Boston Marathon the day before, and only 12 days from running my second marathon in 13 days for Dom, I walked backwards down the steps inside of Bill’s shop to the basement level, (as only a marathoner can fully understand the pain in trying to take a downward flight of stairs forward facing).  As I was looking around at Bill’s Race flats, running gloves, photographs and memorabilia from a career of road racing over in the corner, talking running was the marathoner himself, Bill Rogers.

I got in line with a book I had planned to purchase about the Boston Marathon and waited patiently to meet Bill.

As I approached he asked if I had run the day before.  I told him yes and he asked, “so, how was it?” – with a look in his eye that told you that he knew exactly how difficult the course and the race can be in Boston.

I told him that I started a bit too fast, the downhills really were much steeper than I had trained for and I missed my goal time by just under 5 minutes.

Bill smiled at me and said, “You know, I DNF’d on that course twice.  It is a very difficult marathon to run.  You had a tremendous day out there yesterday, you should be very proud of your race.  Wait ’till next time, you are going to run it so much better ….”

He scribbled away in my book, closed the flap and handed it back to me.  I didn’t read the inscription until after I left the store.  We chatted about racing.  About Austin, TX – he asked if I knew Paul Carrozza and Gilbert Tuhaboyne and told me stories about running races with both men.  Men who I have met multiple times on our local race circuit and members of the running community here in Austin that I respect as much as anyone.  We said our goodbyes and I slowly walked back upstairs to meet up with Dawn who was 5-months pregnant with Landry and our friends Ralph and Michele who came into Boston to watch me race.

When I walked outside into a beautiful bright Boston morning I looked at the inscription.

Gracious to the end, that is something I will remember long after I put on my race shoes for the last time – whenever that day comes, if it comes.

I thought a lot about that day when I was training for Boston this year.  How much better I was prepared, how I had tailored my training to the specificity required to handle the downhill start of the race and the climbing of the Newton Hills.  I was indeed ready to really crush Boston in my second attempt.  Then of course the weather intervened with 87 degree temperatures and I never got a chance to find out.  I simply ran the course like a training run to make sure I stayed out of the medical tents and finished my second Boston Marathon 20 minutes slower than my first.

I stopped back in to see Bill again this year after the race and our conversation went very similarly to the one two years earlier.  I told him what he had said to me after 2010 and how it fueled me in my preparations for the 2012 Boston Marathon.  He smiled that crooked smile with his big eyes wide open and said, “Well, you ran the first one bravely and the second one with a great deal of restraint and sensibility – two of the things that make up a great marathoner …”

Bill Rogers touched many lives through his racing and his running centers.  35-years contributing to the sport that so many of us have grown to love.

I think I am going to stop by our local running store on the way home this week as I am in need of a new pair of trainers for my final five 20+ milers on the way to the starting line in Houston.  Sure I could order them online, but I think I need to make a point to give back to our local community stores here a little more frequently.

Thank you Bill, happy trails!  I know we have not seen the last of you yet.

A year ago today I was walking over to the Javits center in Mid-Town Manhattan to pick up my packet and bib for the New York City Marathon.  It was as excited as I have ever been for a race in my life and that includes another little marathon that they run every year up in Boston.

The forecast for race day was stellar. Low 40’s in the morning, mid 40’s by the starting gun, mid 50’s by the end of the race.  A sunsplashed sky, 46,000 runners from all over the world and of course my wife and at the time 14 1/2 month old daughter Landry there to watch “Daddy” finish the race at Tavern on the Green on Sunday.

My New York Marathon Experience was pretty remarkable.  You can read last year’s race report by clicking HERE.

Having spent a lot of time in New York over the years traveling for work, spending a long weekend there prior to the marathon actually a couple of years earlier with Dawn to take in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway, I have a lot of fond memories of the city that never sleeps.  But race day last year is a day I honestly will never forget.  Simply put, it was New York at its best.

A year later and the aftermath of Sandy is making this year’s New York City Marathon a galvanizing situation.

The city, New York Road Runners, ING and the rest of the event sponsors are clearly trying to do the right thing.  They want to put on the race for all of the right reasons, and perhaps some of the wrong ones with a city reeling to put itself back together.

To me a marathon is supposed to be a celebration.  For all but the professionals who make their living racing the marathon, the race is a reward for all of the hard work the athletes put in training for the event.  All of the early morning alarm clocks, the runs in all kinds of inclement weather, the skipped “fun stuff” because “I have to run long tomorrow …”.  The race is also a reward for all of the members of the athletes family who also make sacrifices so they can train, rest, recover and train some more on the way to the starting line.  It is not as much of an individual sport as some might think.

My good friend and training buddy Jim here in Austin was faced with a tough decision.  Whether or not he should make the trip to NYC to race this Sunday or defer until next year.  His plans of a family mini-vacation were dashed by the storm.  He would have to instead travel alone to NY to run the race, absorb unplanned costs regarding his place to stay which was no longer available, face an uncertain trip to Staten Island (he was originally scheduled to take the ferry) etc., etc., etc.

Jim in my view wisely decided to punt this year and run the race in 12 months.  There are no guarantees in life of course, injuries, illness, family emergencies – all kinds of things could transpire next year to keep Jim from Staten Island, but I think the right thing to do was to pass this year, reload and get the same experience that he was hoping for by waiting until things normalize.  I even offered to make the trip with him if necessary next year as an incentive to make him realize that missing the race this year was “O.K.”.  Jim already went through a tough day in Boston this year with me as we “raced” in temperatures that reached 87 degrees.  He deserves better.

But the other piece of this is the people of New York.  The race for them, even those who do not run is also a celebration.  It is a great day in New York, when the city shines and everyone smiles a little easier, strides a little more purposeful as their city is on display around the world as the center of the running world on that day.  I have never met more interesting and wonderful spectators as I did last year in New York.

Those people this year are not experiencing what they had hoped for on November 4th either.  The proud city is reeling again.  There has been hardship, loss of life, they are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives just as folks are doing along the Jersey Shore, up in Connecticut and other cities and rural areas along the East Coast.

Sunday I am going to go for a run, then off to church with Dawn and Landry.  I will be thinking about the people in the Northeast throughout the morning.  Wishing them all well and that they are able to put their lives back together as quickly as possible.  They will run the New York City Marathon on Sunday.  People will cheer, medals will be awarded – but it won’t be the same.  Not this year.  There just isn’t a whole lot to celebrate right now for so many in the area.

If ever there was a city who embraces what it means to be a “marathoner”in my eyes, it is New York.  That is one resilient place filled with resilient people who might get knocked down a time or two, but always get back up.  There is great honor in that, that to me is what the marathon really is all about.

NYC Marathon Finish 2011