Today in Taperville

My journeyMoon through this mythical and magical place runners refer to as Taperville continues.  This is my last week, the end is near.  So far all is going to plan. I know this because I no longer feel like a fit runner!

It’s hard to comprehend how I will survive running a full marathon at the end of this week. Yet all signs indicate all should be fine.  During this year I have lost over 15 pounds and my fear is that most of my lost pounds will miss their home and rejoin me during this visit to Taperville.  I am happy to report only a pound or two have decided to return this week.

I find my mind is going crazy making mental notes of items I need to pack for my trip to Chicago. Things most people do not think of taking. Items such as Vaseline,  precooked oatmeal with honey, GU packs, and even my mylar warming blanket from The Brooksie Way finish over a week ago.  Runners should save these blankets to help them keep warm while waiting for the gun to go off in early morning fall races.  I need to think about racing clothes, shoes, socks, and of course the standard issue garbage bag.  No, not to toss my waste into but rather to wear as a pre-race suit.  Many laugh at me for this but many more runners are jealous of me during the final pre-race moments.

Runners refer to this period as “Taper Madness”. A madness like many other madness’s I suppose, cannot be adequately explained but only experienced.

So how appropriate that as I enter this post the moon is full and experiencing a total eclipse this morning.

Continue to Run Happy my friends. Thanks for stopping by y blog today.




Welcome to Taperville

My finisher's medal, NYC Marathon 2008. I
My finisher’s medal, NYC Marathon 2008. 

Welcome to Taperville. Taperville is both an imaginary and real place. It’s the place marathon runners visit any where between 3-2 weeks prior to running their targeted marathon. For the non-runners out there you  need to understand that to compete in a marathon (for the non-non-runners that is 26.2 miles) a runner requires at least six months of grueling training. This entails building up ones weekly mileage numbers incrementally until the final 4-6 weeks prior to beginning to “taper” for the marathon.

As an example, since the end of August I logged weekly total miles from 45 miles per week to a high of 60 miles one week. It’s also not only simply running miles. A well trained runner will also include faster paced efforts referred to as speed or tempo runs each week. An even better trained runner will include runs over hilly routes or hill repeats. Most runners also include a series of other conditioning efforts such as weights, yoga, or biking.  Then there comes a point in the training process where there is little to be gained. The body needs to rest and recuperate. Muscles need to begin to store energy to enable the runner to run the entire 26.2 miles. This is the period known as the taper, or what I refer to as “Taperville”.

Many runners refer to this period in their training to “taper madness”.  I have yet to fully attain a true madness level when I enter my taper periods but I suspect there are several reasons for the term madness. First, the runner is not used to running less each week. They do not know what to do with that extra time on their hands (advice: do not over eat). There is also a sense of becoming out of shape. The runner begins to no longer experience a nonstop sense of fatigue that they have become accustomed to experiencing. They do also eat a bit more and if not careful will gain unwanted pounds. Then they begin to have serious doubts about their running ability. Not running as much, not feeling like a runner, and gaining weight too! Yikes!  No reason they call it a madness!

There is a specific approach to tapering. The misconception is that the runner should drastically cut back on the miles they have been running on a regular basis. This is perhaps the worse thing a runner can do during this time frame. While there are many formulas for proper tapering methods the successful ones all have a common element or basis. To taper properly the runner needs to continue to run their regular workouts but do cut back on the long runs. The runner also needs to continue to perform speed, tempo, and maybe even a hill run or two during the taper period. The key is to do what the name implies, taper! Gently, slowly until the final total rest days prior to the marathon.

When I ran the New York Marathon in 2008, I remember touring NYC and feeling like a total tourist, I did not feel like I could run at all! Yes, I was very worried about that feeling too. Turns out that I had my best marathon experience ever in that marathon!  I hit my targeted goal (sub 3:30) and actually enjoyed passing other runners during the final miles in Central Park.

This year as my next marathon approaches on October 12th in Chicago, I am beginning to feel the same way as I did in NYC. I feel fat and bloated, yet my morning scale says otherwise.  I have begun to enjoy extra time around the house to take the dog for a walk, complete a chore, or simply sit outside and enjoy this great Michigan weather instead of lacing up my shoes for another run.  I do plan to do a speed workout on the track tonight with the Running Fit 501 group however, as I sit here wrapping up this post, I do not feel like a runner.

Run Happy out there.



Gone But Never Forgotten

Meeting with my HS Coach Stallcup and Coach Moore. Dec 12, at the Greater Flint Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
Meeting with my HS Coach Stallcup and Coach Moore. Dec. 1, 2012 at the Greater Flint Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony honoring Coach Stallcup.

They say there are only three types of speeches. The one you prepared, the one you gave, and the one you wished you would have given.  This post is about one I wished I would have given. I did deliver a brief speech the evening of December 1, 2012 at the Genesys Health Club in Grand Blanc.

I had traveled back to my hometown that evening to attend the Greater Flint Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and dinner honoring my former high school coach, Bob Stallcup. He was being honored yet once again for his outstanding career as a cross country and track coach. Of course people rarely receive such high honors if they do not already possess strong moral character and integrity, Coach Stallcup certainly possessed both. I had intended to only give a brief speech to him, actually only saying thank you for his inspiration and to let him know the extent of impact he had on my life as a person, an architect, professor, and yes even a running coach!

As expected there  was only a brief moment where we had time to chat. I was told his eyesight was not well, his face light up  with his huge and familiar smile when I finally had the chance to shake his hand and introduce myself following the ceremony. He certainly did remember me. He was both surprised and glad to meet again. I told him about my continued running career in less than two sentences. I was able to sneak in another sentence about how he influenced my running and now my coaching efforts. He then proceeded to recall several of my special races during May of 1970, he even recalled my split times!  Time was pressing but we managed to pose for a picture together with another influential coach during those years, Coach Moore, Stallcup’s assistant and my JV basketball coach.

That was the last I saw of Coach Stallcup. The evening of Sept. 11, 2014 I learned of his passing earlier in the day. What follows is the speech I wished I would have had the opportunity to say.

Hello Coach, I would like to thank you for setting the seed of inspiration in me during my days as a proud member of the Grand Blanc High School Track and Cross  Country teams between 1966 and 1970.  I showed up for my first practice as a pudgy freshman with ambitions of running in very important distance races.  Almost from the very first practice session you saw something in me and you designated me to be a “half miler”.  There were many times I was thankful I was not one of those long distance 2 milers yet there were times I dreaded having to “sprint” an entire half mile. It truly was a sprint if we were to meet your expectations. To this very day, my favorite workout are doing half mile (or 800m in today’s track lingo) repeats. As a pudgy freshman, I first struggled to break 2:30 for a half mile race. I was at the back of a long pack. Through your consistent belief that all of your runners could achieve success beyond our expectations I continued to press on with each workout, each rep, each mile, each time. Over the time of each season my time goal for the half mile  diminished.

I did break the 2 minute barrier in the half in my second to last race for GBHS. It was the first Genesee County County Championships. I finished second to my friend and teammate Dick Hahn. I still relieve every stride of that race remembering that I felt strong and fast throughout both laps.  I took that experience to the next and final race of my career the following week at the Davison Relays.You had stacked our medley relay team with our four  fastest middle distance runners. I ran the 880 (half mile) leg. I ran the first 660 in what had to be a record time.  I think it was somewhere in area of 74-76 seconds. Then I “Hit The Wall”! Yes, the wall can be hit in a half mile race too. We still managed to set a State of Michigan Record, unofficial since it was not in a State meet. I learned much from those two races that would go on to continue to inspire me as an architectural student and ultimately in my career as an architect.

Both distance racing and architecture require a great degree of dedication, tough work, consistent effort, disappointment, joy, and ultimately, rare moments of spectacular achievement that only the individual ever believed could be achieved.

Thanks to your influence, 48 years ago, a pudgy freshman runner became a thin and fast sub 2 minute half miler with claim to a State Record. That same person overcame large odds to become an architect. But not just any architect. As I look back on my professional career I have achieved what many others only dream of achieving in this profession. My work has won awards from my peers, been published in national journals, I am well known among my local peers. I have also been a leader in my community. All because of the power of belief and work ethic you had instilled in me decades previously.

Oh yes, I continue to run, continue to stretch, eat, and train the same way you taught us years ago. You were well ahead of your time in many of those methods!

My running career includes hundreds of road races all over the country including marathons in Boston, New York City, Detroit, Vancouver, Honolulu, and in Raleigh where I took first place in my age division! I am currently in the final weeks of training for the Chicago Marathon (Oct. 12). I have found myself sharing running stories with Frank Shorter and racing along side of Bill Rogers for the final 7 miles of a half marathon (btw he out kicked me at the end). I don’t run anywhere near as fast as I did nearly 48 years ago but I am often on the awards podium following many of my races.

Lee Bill Rogers run (1)
A candid shot of me racing against, and slightly ahead of, perhaps the best hill runner of all time, Bill Rogers, at mile 9 of The Brooksie Way Half Marathon in 2008

I am a proud member of the Running Fit 501 training group from our area too. I help to lead runners train for their races. Little do they know they are being trained by your methods.  Most every Saturday we find ourselves on long runs in Kensington Metro Park. At about the 3.5 mile mark of our normal route I run by that stinking hill you made us run up so many times, again and again. Only now I smile as I run past.

It’s not unusual for our runners to run 10-20 miles each Saturday in Kensington. They think it’s a lot of miles. That’s when I tell the story you relayed to me several years ago at a reunion. You reminded me that you had us running a marathon a day, six days in a row during cross country camp in the heat of August!  What I really would like to know is our average pace during those runs. I imagine our lead group was somewhere around a 5:30 pace? We never had an “aid station” either.

I also remember the mimeographed race results that were posted following each race. I still have a few of those. The one I would love to see the most and likely never will, is my splits during my 880 run at the Davison Relays. I really am curious to know of my time. While this information would be nice to know, the most important items are the fond memories of those times and the inspiration you provided to me and no doubt hundreds of others like me.

Thank you Coach. You may be gone but will never be forgotten.

Lee Mamola AIA  GBHS 1970

PS:  Link to article about Coach Stallcup’s induction:




The Tradition Continues

Crim start

Judging solely by the title you might think this is about Christmas or a similar special event. Well, it is about a special event but has almost nothing to do with Christmas. More on the Christmas part later.

This is Crim week, the week prior to the fourth Saturday of August. The Crim 10 Mile road race is one of the best, if not the best 10 Mile road race in the US. It began back in 1977 and while I was working as a young architect in Flint at the time, I was not aware of the race. Back in 77 the race occurred 5 weeks before my wedding day so I had other things on my mind the summer of 77 besides running a grueling 10 miles in the afternoon sun. It has been 30 years now since I first ran Crim and this will be my 27th Crim race. Only a few more and I can join the truly elite runners who also have run 30 Crims and get a 10 minute head start on the field of over 10,000 runners.

So what makes it so special for me? Easy, it’s always been sort of a homecoming. It’s the area where my running career began as a high school runner in track and later cross country for Grand Blanc. Not long after that first Crim, I relocated from the Flint area to Metro Detroit where I continued to run primarily for fitness, not for competition. My passion to run long distances along rural roads or race along the curve of a flat track remained in my blood. Then late in 1983 I hooked up with a group of like-minded runners in the form of The Novi Trackers and I suppose you can say the rest is history.

I ran my first Crim race in 1984 wearing cotton gear and my very expensive $36 running shoes. Back then the race started away from the finish area downtown Flint. It started on the campus of Mott Community College. There were no timing chips, no corrals, no wave, just the national anthem and the gun. Runners lined up as close to the start as possible and dared to run across dangerous curbs and damp lawns to get as fast as start as possible. I vividly remember standing in the crowded start, wondering if I would even finish a 10 mile race my longest race distance was only 4 miles. I just wanted to survive, literally!  It was only about 18 months prior that my father passed away from a heart attack in a room of St. Joe’s Hospital that overlooked the start of the Crim course. I looked to that window and asked him to overlook my race.

A few years later the start was moved to downtown Flint and the crowd of runners grew from 2,000 to 5,000, to now over 10,000 for the 10 Mile race. They also now have several other races and events that spread over several days, and there is a full time staff to administer the good work of the Crim Foundation.

Since my first Crim I have had several personal traditions, all have evolved over the past thirty years and I trust they will continue to evolve and new ones started. In somewhat chronological order they are:

  • The first is the Saturday afternoon nap! It’s tough for me to get a good night’s sleep prior to any distance race so by the time it’s over, I am dog tired and need to recover.
  •  I have also always waked very early on Crim race morning, typically awake by 4AM. I get dressed, have a pre-race breakfast then drive up to Flint (about an hour north) and arrive just as others begin to arrive to downtown Flint, including the sun! It’s a dark ride and I enjoy my running tunes while munching on energy food or playing chauffeur to some of my running friends also racing 10 miles.
  •  Then it’s to a parking space, which has varied over the years but seldom beyond a 100 ft radius.

Bill Robin Lee

  •  For the past 20 years or so I drive up to Flint late Friday afternoon to visit the race expo. Pick up my race bib, T-shirt, goody bag, and scope out the Expo. Until 2 years ago the Crim also had a vast array of Crim related merchandise for sale. Posters, hoodies, polo shirts, even chairs and umbrellas. But my favorite has always been the coffee mugs. I must have nearly every coffee mug sold for the past 20 years. Always tastefully designed with the creative artwork by a local artist. Unfortunately this sales area no longer exists. Apparently the Crim Foundation has instead delegated the sales of such items to a major running gear company, not happy.
  •  For many years my pre-race tradition on race morning has been to simply sit on the steps of the Citizens Bank Building which fronts the starting area and simply people watch. I have met people there that morning that I have not seen in decades!
  • The race itself has many numerous traditions, the weather conditions, the start, the course, the entertainment, and the finish line. Perhaps the best feature of the Crim finish are the frozen popsicles and cold wet paper towels racers receive after running a grueling 10 miles in hot, humid, hilly, and sunny conditions. Forget the cool heavy weighted finisher’s medal it’s all about the popsicles and other post race goodies at the finish line.
  •  In early August several years ago I was inspired to sit down and type out a mile by mile description of how to race the Crim course. I titled it “Touring The Crim Course”. It’s a stride by stride of how to strategically race the course and provide a preview of what to expect along the way. I re-issue this 8 page article with update. Ironically, I found my own description very helpful to me during the Crim races since.
  • Post finish line has its own separate traditions. It begins with lining up with other race finishers to receive a hot slice of pizza and a cold beer. Yes it’s probably only about 10AM but this is one morning this combo works.
  •  Just a few feet away from the end of the pizza and beer line tent is a drive way to the parking lot. I have been arranging to meet people at this point for years. Usually people from years ago. It’s also a great spot to simply sit and people watch even after the pizza and beer are long gone.
  •  Up until about 8 years ago that would have been the end of my Crim race day. For the past 8 years I have been a part of the Running Fit 501 Marathon Training group. Each summer we have 50-80 runners race the Crim. Each year we also form some form of team and compete in the Crim Race Team event or our own event. It has always been a fun post race party regardless of how well one raced that day.

501 Crim Start

  •  Ultimately it’s back home for that well deserved nap but that’s not the end of the Crim race day tradition! Up until about 4-6 years ago, you could relive that morning’s race on TV. The local Flint public TV station had perhaps the best race coverage of any race on TV anywhere, yes even including word class events such as the Olympics! WFUM’s team did an excellent job of not only covering the leaders and elites but also the common runners too. They would regularly cut away from the elite coverage and show the middle of the pack runners in live time. I remember seeing myself struggle up the Bradley Hills at the 5 mile mark one year. That shot taught me to look up when running uphill!
  •  The TV coverage is long gone only to be replaced by same day results on the web and many YouTube videos. It’s a different world.
  •  Other ancillary traditions include stopping at my mother’s house in Grand Blanc either the night before the race or post race on my return home. The last such visit was in 2004 as she passed from this life 10 months later. My sister who lives in Flint also sends me the pre and post race clippings from the Flint Journal. I still have many of those old clippings. Good thing because the Flint Journal is also a victim of the digital age.

So, what about that Christmas tradition I mentioned at the start of this lengthy post? Well, I suppose you could say the Crim race extends to the Christmas season in our house too. For the past 6 Christmases I decorate our tree with race medals from that year and medals from my most memorable races from prior years. So adoring the Christmas tree with my medals from the New York City, Boston, Detroit, and Raleigh, Marathons are many Crim medals from the current year and many years prior.

Christmas Tree 2013

Thanks for taking the time to read this lengthy piece. By the time this gets posted I will be heading up to Flint to perhaps start a new tradition by competing in this year’s USATF, Masters 1 Mile National Championship Race.

Run Happy.


Marathon Training – Mid June

Friend and business associate, MJ, demonstrating a yoga pose I can only hope to do.
Friend and business associate, MJ, demonstrating a yoga pose I can only hope to do.

I believe the key to success with any plan is to remain flexible.  A week ago my marathon training plan was interrupted for a few days. Not by injury rather more due to life in general.  After my Monday night run on June 9th my legs were dead.  No wonder as I had completed 56 miles and 10 runs during the previous 8 days!  My old body was not use to that. So rather than get out to run the next morning, I took a day off.  The following day weather and our running group’s after glow party took priority. Then Mother Nature was not in a good mood again. So I lost a total of 4 days and only completed 25 of the intended 40+ mile week.  This is where the flexibility comes into play.

Rather than sit idle, I viewed these days as opportunities to do another form of training, yoga. I have been practicing yoga on and off for the past several years since MJ first introduced yoga to our training group more than 5 years ago.


Like running, yoga can be done everyday, but like a new runner, new yogis (especially runner yogis) seldom do these important routines nearly enough.  Back to that first Tuesday of rest, I started that morning with mediation and relaxing stretches.  Before I knew it my time was up and I needed to return to reality.  Over the next several mornings I did other stretches, generally attempting to loosen up my hips and stretch the upper body.

This past week I have returned to a more normal, on-schedule running routine. Unfortunately a few less stretches, but I do feel a difference in my stride and upper body during my runs. So I need to continue to find time for my yoga, not let it slip out of practice and remain flexible.

For more information about MJ, her yoga practice, other challenging poses, and lessons from her please visit her website:

Thanks for taking the time to visit and remember to Run Happy and Namaste




Greetings Strangers!

The start of the 2013 Chicago Marathon, I hope to be somewhere in the middle of this crowd on Oct.12 this year.
The start of the 2013 Chicago Marathon, I hope to be somewhere in the middle of this crowd on Oct.12 this year.

Greetings Strangers!

Actually I have been the stranger for not posting here in the past five weeks. I do have a good excuse however. I have simply been out there running more! This past April I won the lottery, no not that lottery, the lottery to be among over 40,000 other runners to compete in this year’s Chicago Marathon on October 12. After winning my age group at The City of Oaks Marathon in November 2011, I thought I had retired from marathons. But this year I decided to try to enter Chicago because of the unique opportunity to run it with my daughter Alexis. We each entered the lottery and we each won! This will be her first marathon.

So I thought I might stray a bit from the usual theme of mixing running and architecture and begin to post my efforts to train for Chicago. I hope to post at least once a week and will try my best to keep these posts short and sweet. To bring you up to date what follows is a very short summation of the training since April. Actually, I have been running pretty consistently all year (as I have been doing now for more than several decades) so the training started with a solid base of miles.

April was all about the mindset. Sure one needs to log plenty of miles to successfully complete a marathon, but if your head is not in it, your marathon experience will not be a very enjoyable one at all! At first I found it difficult to jump right from the regular routine of running 25-30 miles per week to a more rigid schedule with many more miles each week. The real change occurred in May.

My work schedule M-F is normally 7am to 4pm. This makes it difficult to get any kind of a run in the mornings. I was able to change my schedule to a later start thus allowing me an extra hour to run or do another type of workout such as yoga. I still get out of bed at the same time as before, but now I am out there running.  In late  May I started to run nearly every morning. These runs typically are not long or fast,  but when combined with evening runs scheduled on Mondays and Wednesdays they will provide a significant opportunity to build my mileage base to where it needs to be. At this point I am now running 40-45 miles per week.

The month of June simply is the best month of the year to train in Michigan. The weather is nearly perfect for running, especially early in the mornings. It is actually light enough at 5:30 in the morning to see your watch without any backlight! There is also a new freshness when combined with the long range outlook for racing in the fall makes this time of year my personal favorite. Like every team is a champion in their pre-season training camp, every runner is headed for a PR (personal record) in their upcoming fall marathon.

In addition to building the mileage base, I simultaneously need to lose some weight. For me this will be more challenging than building the miles. It always has been. Ironically, training for a marathon tends to add weight to people versus any significant loss. I have been paying close attention to my diet needs and doing well. I am on a path towards my goal but from here on out, it will be difficult.

For now, all is on track; I simply need to run more, eat right, and enjoy the experiences along the way. Thanks  for taking the time to read this, check back again soon, and Run Happy!


In a Perfect World


In a perfect world every runner would run their perfect race, from short distances as a 5K up to a marathon or perhaps even an ultra-event. Every architect would also produce a perfect design that pleases everyone and the drawings would be totally complete without any ambiguity, error, and would be able to be constructed without any questions. It would also of course be on budget and within schedule.

Of course we don’t live in a perfect world, nonetheless runners and architects I know constantly attempt to continue to improve while aiming to achieve the best results possible. Every time I line up at the start of a new race I always wish I had done some additional training. A bit more speed work, a few more hill repeats, longer long runs etc. Regardless, there is nothing that can be done at that time so I quickly put those thoughts behind me and focus on the race ahead. During the race there will be opportunities to assure a successful race. Staying mentally positive, focusing on the course, enjoying the moment etc. all work to assure a successful race.

A similar range of thoughts flow through my head as I sign and seal the set of final prints from which permits will be obtained, bids sought, and a building constructed. There is nothing that can be done at this point to make the project any better. Like a race, there are opportunities following the release of design documents that can be done to assure a successful project. Most of these involve some form of communication. Like a runner whose every foot strike is a communication with the race course, the successful architect needs to maintain constant communication with a myriad of entities and individuals throughout the course of construction.

Still when the race is over, when the building is complete, the Running Architect still recalls many moments during the course of the race or design and construction that they wish they could do just a little bit different to improve the final outcome.

Perhaps this is the reason runners and architects are always chasing the next race, the next design, the next will certainly be even better.

Run Happy.


To Win A Marathon

City of Oaks Marathon Finish

This was originally written shortly after The City of Oaks Marathon, Nov. 2011.  During a visit back to Raleigh this past weekend I met up with some avid runners and we shared a few running stories. I am  reposting this race report for their review and to continue my mental prep to run the Chicago Marathon with my other daughter October 12.

To Win A Marathon

by Lee Mamola on 11/15/11

There are probably as many reasons to run a marathon as there are people who run marathons. With seven previous marathons to my record I had thought that I ran out of reasons earlier this year. After all how could it get any better than my last marathon in New York City in 2008. The conditions were perfect in NY, I ran my best marathon ever and had fun all along the way. You always hear about the elite athlete who retires while still on top of their game, so why not just call it a career for the marathon?

Early this year I had decided to participate in the City of Oaks races in Raleigh NC on November 6th. I had run the Half Marathon races there in 2007 and 2010, earning a second place finish in my five year age group (AG) each time. This year however I would be competing near the end of my age group. Being one of the older runners in my AG it becomes tougher to be competitive against the younger runners. So I decided that if I was not going to be able to be competitive this year then why not run the full marathon course? I would certainly not be competitive in the marathon either but this may be my very last opportunity to run through the beautiful and scenic Umstead State Park which Runners World magazine cited as one of the most beautiful running routes in America.

So it was. I would run the marathon as strictly an enjoyable experience. Take in the sights and experiences and be happy to be able to run a very tough, hilly, and challenging course before I start the sixth decade of my life. How many other people are able to take on such a challenge and how many (or few) of them actually do take on this type of a challenge?

My serious training to prep for this marathon began back in late June shortly after I paid the entry fee. My weekly running mileage was at least 40 miles/week and my weekly long runs became longer. Then it happened!  Somewhere in the middle of the summer I did my due diligence research on the race and discovered that the winning time in last year’s marathon was 3hrs and 29 minutes, which was my finishing time for the NYC Marathon just 3 years ago. The City of Oaks Marathon course was a much tougher course than NYC and it certainly did not have the crowd support of NYC but it was still the same 26.2 miles long. How much tougher could the course be after all?

The summer training morphed into fall racing and before I knew it the fall races were over and the time had come to begin my final preps for the marathon. Perhaps the most critical part of any marathon training period is tapering. The final three weeks prior to race day is the toughest part of the marathon training to pass. If not done correctly you will find yourself in a state of tired anguish during the marathon. If done correctly, running a marathon is the last thing you really want to do in the final days before the race.

So it was for me, as our bags were packed and my wife and I began the 12 hour drive to Raleigh. I was looking forward to the trip to visit my daughter, her husband, and their dog Barley, but I did not “feel” like a runner at all. I felt fat, bloated, and generally not too interested in running period, let alone a full marathon.  As if this was not enough incentive not to run, I was fighting off a nasty cold and I was beginning to have a hacking cough too!

The day prior to race day included a drive around most of the first half of the course. This is the part of the course I had ran last year during the half marathon and the challenging hills in and about downtown Raleigh were all still there! This year’s race featured a new start and finish area in front of the iconic clock tower on the campus of NC State University.  We were able to drive a short way along part of the second half of the course but most of the last 13+ miles would need to be experienced by me for the first time during the actual marathon. This was just as I preferred too, I wanted to be surprised by the beauty of Umstead.

While many marathoners focus on running long distances  and logging mega miles per week during their training, I instead focused on running many hills. The long runs were there, but I only had two weeks where I ran over 50 miles. I did this in prep for the Raleigh course and specifically the hills in Umstead. The profile of the race course was published on-line and the most challenging part of the race would begin somewhere after the 13 mile mark with a series of never ending hills highlighted by a several hundred foot climb beginning about mile 18 through to mile 24.

My race strategy was to start slow and easy, do not allow myself to become caught up in racing with others but rather to run my own race. I also did not want to be embarrassed and have a bad effort on race day. After all, I had been telling many other runners in our training group how to run a marathon and just what to do. They were all on my mind come race day too. I was thinking it would be nice to run a 3:30 marathon, (8 min/mile average pace) but that it was not going to happen on this course. “Just run your best Lee and let the time take care of itself”.

The City of Oaks Marathon field included about 600 runners and several thousand half marathoners with hundreds of others there to run a 10k race too. It would also be a crowded field at the start.

Because the race rules would be using the “gun time” (versus chip time) as the official scoring I made it a point to line up near the start of the crowd. The conditions could not be better including the time! It was the first morning of the time change from daylight time and the 7AM start really felt much closer to an 8AM start, including temps that were rising from the low 40’s. So there I stood dressed in my skimpy and very light weight Brooks racing outfit, throw away painter’s hat and a huge garbage bag over my body to keep me warm up until gun time. With 30 seconds to spare, I shredded my bag and was ready to race.

The first mile was generally downhill. Not a good thing when you need to start slow and run 26.2 miles. I did start what I felt was a slow pace. Many runners were quick to pass me and I fought off the urge to run fast, “just take it easy Lee”. As we crossed the mile mark my watch read 7:30! Way too fast for the first mile! Not to worry as the next mile was all uphill. So I continued to relax and not get too worried about the hill. Before I knew it the second mile split came up, another 7:30 mile!  Dang, I was now worried that I might be wasting an entire summer/fall training season by this quick start.

It did not take too long for my continued internal mindset to take over and before I knew it I was running very comfortably along at just under an 8 min/mile pace. Perhaps too fast but then I also felt very comfortable and relaxed, so I just continued to tell myself to enjoy the scene and run my race according to my feel.

The aide stations came and went. I took my Accelerade gels at the appropriate times as planned. Generally early in the race so the chemicals would be in my system later when needed in the race. The first came at 4 miles, then at the 8, 14 and 17 mile marks.  Much of the first half of the course was in and around downtown Raleigh and most of the course was very familiar to me from having run the half marathon event in prior years. It was not until the course began to meander out of the city that I felt the real marathon race was beginning. This was at the 10 mile mark. I remember hitting the 10 mile mark at nearly exactly 78 minutes and thinking that 78 mins was a decent finishing time for the Crim 10 Mile race and here I had more than 16 miles yet to go! But I continued to feel good.

It remained a cool day but the sun was out and shining brightly. My kind of day for a run. A few more quick turns in the course and the marathoners were separated from the half marathoners. What was somewhat of a bunched pack of runners quickly became a long line of isolated runners with long stretches between each runner.

Almost as instantly the crowd support became non-existent too. The road that was previously totally closed to all traffic became open to guarded traffic and a lane for runners. It was just the runner, the road, the elements, and the mind of the runner. It was all good.

Following another turn we came across a farm field where huge Guernsey cows were grazing nearby. How ironic, here at about the exact same time some of my good running buds were on Staten Island about to start their journey in the New York City Marathon and here I was already deep into my marathon running along side a field of beautiful cows!

I was a bit surprised by the extent of traffic that flowed along the road as we turned to begin the several mile journey along side the edge of Umstead. It was getting close to the 12 mile mark and I still was holding my pace and feeling good. The runners were scarce. I had passed several runners in the previous miles since splitting to solely the marathon field. I then sensed and heard a runner coming up from behind me. Was it one of the runners that I had passed? I hate to have a runner pass me after I pass them! It was not someone I passed but rather another runner. A guy who was easily several age groups younger than me. It’s OK to let a much younger runner pass me. We exchanged greetings but I was not there to battle him.  Before I knew it I was at the official 13.1 mile or halfway mark. My official split was 1:43:48. Still way too fast but it was a downhill for the last mile too.

The course continued to flow downhill although it was difficult to see any actual drop in topography. The downhill slope helped to speed my way along the roadside to the 14 mile mark but before I could actually complete the 14th mile I would have to run up a hill that was definitely discernible!  The roller coaster portion of the course was here! While I had yet to enter the forested trail through Umstead, I was apparently close enough to the park to enjoy the ever changing terrain that Umstead is also famous for! It became very tough to run my pace during next two miles. So I didn’t. While I did not give up, I simply did not try too much harder either. I kept telling myself to continue to run MY race.

I was also surprised to see that the small group of runners who had been several hundred yards ahead of me or so were now much closer! Apparently they did not do as much hill training as I did this summer and they had to have been feeling much worse than me, actually I was still feeling fine at this time! Well, at least as fine as one can feel for running a hilly marathon course.

Suddenly, the reason I was motivated to run this race came, I was approaching the 17 mile mark and ready to enter Umstead Park.  However before we could do that there was a slight quirk in the course. Race officials were there directing us to make a right turn instead of a left turn?  There was one confused young man ahead of me who did as directed. He was the last of a group of runners I had been chasing up the last long hill. The right turn was actually a brief hairpin turn that was likely required to make the course the official distance. I used the hairpin portion of this turn to pass this fellow who was easily 20 if not 30 years younger than me to pass him!  A few more strides, a shot of my Accelerade GU, a drink of water, and I was onto the path in Umstead!

Urged on by the group of volunteers at the last aide station as I entered Umstead, I found myself running all alone. There were a few runners behind me, but the next closest runner was several hundred yards ahead of me. My run through Umstead was going to feel like a nice solo run through a park. The path changed from asphalt pavement to a hard packed dirt with gravel path about the width of a single lane road. The sun shone through the dense forest of tall oaks with their golden leaves waiving gently at me. The road began to climb a bit as it also began to meander. This was everything that had been promised it would be, except that I was still running a marathon.  A few runners began to pass me!  But not to threat for as they were running much faster than I cared to run, they also were wearing a sign on their back that read “Relay”. Meaning they had just begun to run their part of their relay leg. Since these folks were not my competition and since they were obviously had much fresher legs. I let them on their way. It was actually a small blessing for now I had someone to follow through this course.

For the next three miles the course continued much the same. Hills that only seemed to go in one direction and the quiet of the wooded forest. There were no aide stations apparently allowed within the park, it was all about running. There were an occasional runner or two running in the park purely as a part of their personal workout for the day. There was also a few people following along on their bikes too. One lady on a bike came up from behind me and congratulated me and told me I was looking very good (as a runner I assume). I did not realize it at the time but at this point in the race there were less than 70 runners ahead of me and nearly 500 runners that were behind me! So I guess I was looking sort of good 🙂

It was not all uphill in Umstead, there was a point at which shortly after passing two runners we came upon a downhill. The downhills were never as long as the uphills of course. Nonetheless I used this strategically placed downhill to race hard, kicking out a 7:49 18th mile!  Was I nuts?  Apparently so, for I slowed a bit the next few miles.

It was a little bittersweet to see the next aide station after the 20 mile mark for I was now leaving Umstead and returning to the sun drenched asphalt bike path and roads. I was still feeling good and remember mistakenly thinking that I had survived the worse of the hills. I might have survived the worse but I was not done with the hills yet. I had at least two more miles of “rolling” hills to conquer before I could begin to think about the finish. It was at this point that I began to break down the balance of the course into 2 mile splits. I also continued to pass the few runners that were ahead of me. Some were walking now and that certainly did look inviting, but it was not in my vocabulary that day.

I remember making one of the last turns back onto the main road and feeling totally lost!  Which direction? left? right? Fortunately there was a traffic cop there to direct me in the right direction but I feel I lost several hundred feet at least of distance. Surely the next turn would put me back onto the main road to the finish! Uhm, no… well maybe the next turn?  No,  my mind was playing tricks and I could not think right any longer. Why waste the effort, I was finally able to spot the last turn and I knew just a few more miles to the generally flat to downhill finish.

It was at this point that another runner came up to me and began to pass me. This fellow looked at least my age and was not wearing a “Relay” bib either!  I really did not feel like racing him at this point and my fatigued brain let him run ahead of me for a few hundred yards, at least until the next aide station. It was here that he STOPPED to take a drink and while I wished I could stop I saw this as an opportunity to pass him and take the lead versus him for the last few miles.

There were a few folks standing along the side of the road cheering me on again. Now they were able to see my name on the race bib and gave me a personal “Go Lee” cheer. Of course it probably helped that I was running slow enough for them to actually read it too.

Before too long the isolated cheers gave way to the lined streets of the finish line. I still had at least a mile and a half yet to go, 6 laps I told myself. There was one last stinking hill! It came and went and I ran as best as I could towards the sound of the PA speaker at the finish line. I could see the finish banner ahead now too. I had a few miles in the mid to upper 8 min/per mile pace while in Umstead and I knew I was not going to hit the magical 3:30 mark but I also knew I was running well and in just a few moments the marathon would be history!

The finish line clock read 3:34 ! as the seconds continued to tick away I passed the last runner ahead of me and watched the clock hit the 3:35 mark with just a few strides to go! Not to shabby for this old body today 🙂

Official chip time, 3:35:09, official clock time 3:35:12.!

I wanted to stop but had to keep my legs moving, keep the blood flowing.  I walked around the crowded finish looking for my daughter Bridgett and her husband Shane. They had each ran the half marathon. I am proud to report that they each achieved a personal record (PR) for their effort in the HM too!  For Bridgett it was her first HM and she battled through a number of injuries during her summer training to finish more than 15 minutes better than she anticipated! We posed for a small group picture at the finish and headed back to their house.

It was not until later that evening that I discovered that I had actually won my Age Group! I had WON A  MARATHON! What makes this win especially important to me is that I did this with only a few weeks left as a competitor in the 55-59 age group too, for next year I move up to the next 5 yr group.

So the question is, is this the time to retire from running marathons? At this time I truly have no desire to return to defend my position next year and I lack the fire within to run another marathon. I will however have a very good and lasting memory of  The City of Oaks Marathon.

Thank you to the organizers, volunteers, sponsors, and people of Raleigh for this event, you are all to be congratulated.

Thank you for this extra long race report, it was a report about a marathon after all 🙂

Run Happy.


Was Einstein A Runner?


I have a theory about the person who has presented our world with many of his own famous theories. I believe that Albert Einstein was a runner! When you hear or read his name you probably have a vision of him in his later years, looking old with his head of frizzled grey hair. It would be tough to imagine him as a runner but that’s my theory.

So what is my basis for this theory and how do I go about attempting to prove it? Well, like most of Einstein’s theories only a limited segment of the population would ever understand my theory. In this case one would need to be a runner and more specifically a marathon runner to totally understand my hypothesis. Let me explain.

It all centers on time. Einstein believed time was relative to motion and space. Without getting too technical the best example is comparing two extremes. On one end of the spectrum there are times we all experience when time seems to simply fly by and then there are other times when time just seems to move so slow.

For me the time that seems to fly by the fastest is the one hour before I need to leave the house each morning and experience the thrill of the pre-dawn traffic along the expressways of metro Detroit. I have always been a morning person and I enjoy taking my time to wake slowly, sip my coffee, check the overnight email, do some morning yoga stretches, lift a few weights, and if I got out of bed early enough perhaps even a morning run. All of this before I need to do anything remotely associated with getting ready for work. There is never enough time to eat my breakfast, iron a shirt or pants, shower, get cleaned up, and out the door. I manage to get most of these items completed but I am continuously amazed by the speed of the hands on our grandfather clock each morning.

Then there are those times when time seems to come to a near halt. Perhaps the best example is when you are at work, with little to do except to remain on duty. You ultimately begin to watch the clock. Time appears to drag on forever! Fortunately for me this situation does not occur too often but when it does I begin to have an understanding of what eternity might feel like.

Still, what does this have to do with Einstein being a runner? Plenty, for runners experience many instances where time seems to fly by and other instances where time seems to take forever. Perhaps the best example occurs during the experience of running a marathon.

Early in a runner’s marathon experience they are likely feeling exuberant and why not. The runner’s body and mind is rested, filled with emotions, and eager to perform well. Typically runners run the first mile or two faster than they should so in addition to being alarmed by the speed of their mile split time, they also feel like time has flown by, perhaps as fast as my typical workday morning.

Contrast the experience of the early marathon miles to the later miles. It could be anywhere after mile 15-16 or even as late as mile 24 or so (I need to interject to the uniformed here, that a marathon is 26.2 miles). Regardless, in nearly every marathon, the runner will begin to struggle and this struggle extends to the runner’s brain. The runner’s brain is tempting the runner with a myriad of reasons to stop running, at least slow down! Coincidentally, the runner’s pace per mile has likely slowed considerably too. The runner may only be running a minute per mile slower in the later miles than the earlier miles but it is a huge difference. As an example, if the runner started the marathon at an 8 min per mile pace and runs a 9 min per mile pace towards the end, the runners pace has slowed by over 12%. Yet in the runners mind, the runner feels like they may be running half as fast. For the runner in this condition, time seems to drag on and on and is further exacerbated by the physical difficulty of continuing to run these final miles.

Again, back to Albert Einstein, he had to have been out for at least a long run during his break time. He experienced the anguish of the later part of a long run and had the brilliant idea to relate the sense of time to one’s experience as they travelled.

That’s my theory and I am sticking to it !

Thanks for taking the time to read this and continue to RUN HAPPY.


The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Architect

The image of the prototypical architect and long distance runner is one where the architect or runner is each alone in taking on their respective challenges.  While there are plenty of times that an architect or a runner welcome seclusion the reality is that architects and runners come to depend upon a growing list of specialized experts to help them reach their respective goals.

An architect may be identified as the “Designer” for a building and in fact in some instances the architect my in fact be the only architectural person involved to produce not only the design concept but the balance of the necessary duties required to complete the building through to the end of construction. The more common scenario is one where a single architectural firm produces the design and provides on going services through the entire construction.  In this situation, there will likely be several individuals who lead various stages of the design project.

Yet even  a single architectural firm does not have sufficient capabilities to provide all the necessary services.  Most firms will sub-contract services to provide mechanical (HVAC and plumbing), electrical, and structural engineering services. Then in an attempt to provide the client with the required expertise there are also an ever increasingly list of specialty consultants.

The list of specialty consultants can be never ending list of experts. The most common include such disciplines or specialties as; acoustics, kitchen equipment, interior furnishings, signage, elevator, historic, and many more. It is the architect who determines the need for such specialists and who is also the one responsible to coordinate the efforts of the entire design team, including all of the specialty consultants.

So it is for the runner too! In my early days of running the sport was extremely simple.  A runner bought a pair of running shoes, put on some shorts and a shirt and ran.  More than thirty years ago shoes started to become more and more customized to match a runners style, the pace and diversity of options available to the runners started to increase. Then there were changes in a runner’s gear too. Specialized fabrics designed to keep runners cool in warm weather and warm in cold weather became popular.  Now there is an entire specialty industry to serve the runner. The list of toys and tools is probably best left to another post.

My point here is the observation that like architects, who have become to rely upon a team of specialists to help the architect perform better, there is a comparable list of specialists who have emerged to help the runner!  Most runners who take their training seriously must admit they seek outside experts to help them perform at their best. This list of experts are likely to be as simple as the experienced runner and sales person at a local running specialty store to, a group or personal coach, yoga instructor, massage therapist, sports trainer, nutritionist, medical doctor, and perhaps even a runners personal IT specialist to help the runner maintain their digital tools.

Sure it used to be such a simple sport. In my opinion, the sport may have become significantly less simple, it has become even more enjoyable!

Now go lace up your shoes, find your nearby satellite, and RUN HAPPY 🙂

Thanks for taking the time to read this today.


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