Tag Archives: architecture

A New Age For a New Year

While most folks are focusing on the year ahead part of my mind remains in last year. Last year was one of my most memorable years of running. Not because of fast race times but more because I am still running at my age and competing at a solid level.

The year began in Boston where I shared the road from Hopkinton with more than a dozen friends from my training group. But imagine, the true highlight was not the Boston Marathon but a race back where my running career started in prep school, Flint Michigan and the Crim 10 Miler. I was very honored to join 19 other runners as we were inducted into the “30 Year Club”. A club that has at least a 29 year waiting list to join!  Yes, my 30th running of the Crim was very special.

The start of the 2016 Crim 10 Miler, for a few brief miles there were only 3-4 runners ahead of me and over 10,000 runners behind me. (30 Yr. Club runners get a 15 min. head start)

Unfortunately for me, the year ended with knee injury. Adding to my grief was the fact that the injury was not running related. I had twisted my knee only slightly on a wet floor and that’s all it took to hamper but not prevent me from keeping my streak alive and running each and every Brooksie Way Half Marathon.  My knee required significant rest and rehab. In other words, I was gaining weight and running much less, not a good combination for a competitive runner. This is why part of my mind is back in last year, yearning to return to my pre-injury fitness level.

Last December I also turned over another calendar in my life, not only moving up to a new (older) age group but also hitting that special number many people focus on since the start of their careers.  The magical number of 65 years old!  Most people see that as their retirement age. Not me! Thanks to my career as a runner I do not intend to retire anytime soon. Which also works hand in hand with being an architect too.

For you see the architectural profession is one where most practitioners do not even begin to hit their professional prime until the have 30, 40, or more years of experience.  It is not unusual to see many talented architects practicing their profession well into their 80’s and beyond.  My doctor tells me I should zoom past my 80’s and would not be surprised to see me running at 110 or more!  Of course he also always follows that with a cautionary note for me to drive carefully too.

This is all quite a contrast to my father who passed away 34 years ago this week at the age of 52.  I also recall my maternal grandfather turning 65 and his retirement from a life long career at Chrysler.  I was 14 at the time and remember my grandfather complaining that it was not fun growing old. I witnessed his life in retirement and thought that was just the natural course of life.

Five years later I started my college days at University of Detroit, only a few blocks from my grandparents house. I visited each of them every Sunday for the day (and a good home cooked meal too). What I witnessed was the slow decline of my grandfather’s mind as dementia eroded the balance of his life and placed a tremendous hardship on those around him. He left us at 74.

Today, as I both look back and ahead, 74 seems so young! When I turn 74 I plan to join the Crim’s “40 Year Club”!

Old school sketching, design, and detailing

My point to all of this is that the number associated with one’s life on this planet does not necessarily need to align with society’s expectations. In today’s world it is much more common for older adults to be very active and participate in marathons, triathlons, and generally simply being physically active. For those who have been blessed to enjoy their career path, they stay in the work force as long as they can. Both the physical and work activity help to extend the lifestyle of active people.

So as I begin 2017 I am happy to still be working full time and looking forward to another year of competitive running. The numbers would indicate that I should sit back, relax, and watch the world go by.  Sorry, that has simply never been my style for the past 65 years.

Thank you for taking a moment to glance at my blog, I resolve to be a more consistent contributor this year, and I wish you all a very Happy, Healthy, Prosperous, an Active New Year!

Coach (and still Architect) Lee




The Chicago Experience

Chicago race day morning
Chicago race day morning

Architects and runners spend a considerable amount of effort and energy planning for the future.  Architects need to have an overall understand of a project’s goals, schedule with intermediate milestone dates, and a game plan on how to reach the overall objective.  The same is so with runners. Runners, especially runners training to compete in a very significant event such as a marathon, need to know the target date, desired outcome, and have a plan on how to achieve their marathon goal.  The plan will likely entail at least 6 months of effort and include items such as long runs, speed work, yoga, diet, and intermediate races intended to check the progress.

While such planning often is the key to overall success, it is also crucial from time to time for both architects and runners to look backwards and carefully assess what worked and what didn’t work. Was the goal achieved? If not, why not? What can be done to improve the outcome next time?

So it is that I look back on my recent experience with competing in the Chicago Marathon last month.  My overall finish time was 3 hrs. 46 min. A very respectable and perhaps even an enviable finish time as I qualified to run the Boston Marathon in April 2016. Yet I had hopes for much better.  When asked by friends how I did in Chicago I tell them I had a fantastic first 20 miles or so, then the wheels fell off my buggy and for the remaining 6.2 miles or so it was not a pretty site.  This experience is referred to has “hitting the wall”.  While I have had this experience on occasion in other races of all distances it came very unexpectedly for me in Chicago.

So why? why went wrong? How did this happen and how to prevent it from happening again?  As usual there is no one simple answer, rather there are several reasons. I won’t bore you with the tedious details but will highlight a few so in case you are planning to run a marathon you can benefit from my experience.

One of many reasons is “Corral Envy”.  My marathon race application indicated that I was planning to finish in 3 hr’s 28. min. This was a very realistic expectation based upon my 3:29 finish in the NY City Marathon several years ago and a somewhat recent 3:33 finish in the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon that included at least 600 ft of climb during the final miles.   Yet I failed to provide documented proof to the race officials, thus instead of being placed far ahead of the mass of runners in corral A or B, was assigned to corral D!  OK, my mistake, but at least I could get to the very start of that corral and besides, I knew I needed to be held back and start very slow, so starting with slower runners may be a blessing in disguise.

Speaking of disguises, I also found myself lining up next to a guy wearing a Big Bird costume!  Surely he was not planning to run 26.2+ miles on this sunny, yet cool Sunday morning in Chicago was he?  Stay tuned.

The start of the Chicago Marathon 2014. I am somewhere in the crowd of 45,000 runners.
The start of the Chicago Marathon 2014. I am somewhere in the crowd of 45,000 runners.

About 10 minutes after the official start of the marathon I was at the official start line. My timing chip (worn on the backside of the race bib) had officially been started and within the next stride I was starting my 9th marathon with 45,000 other runners.  If you have never participated in a mega marathon, or any marathon for that matter, the excitement at the start is difficult to express.  My emotions were very quickly reeled into reality with the first several yards of the race as my running shorts began to fall off!  Yes, once again, I made the mistake of packing too many energy gel packs in my race belt.  The only solution was to release them from the belt and carry in my hands. Past this near disaster I kept to my race plan and started very slow. So what if Big Bird was ahead of me already?

I hit my first 5k split time pretty close to my target of 24+ minutes. By close I mean I was faster than I had wanted to be. This is not a good place to be early in a marathon.  I decided right then that all I had to do was to hold this pace. Not a problem I told myself as I felt very relaxed, strong, and this pace felt very easy to maintain.  So it when, mile after mile, 5k mark after 5k mark. Each time when I looked at my watch expecting to see a slower than targeted pace, I was shocked to see that I was actually running much faster (7:37 +/-) then I had any business to run.

I tried to slow down each time!  I just never did.  I am not sure if this was due to the flat course, the ever present “Go Lee” from the throng of supporters that crowd the route, or what, I just kept going. Then as I approached the half way point I thought that perhaps I was on to running my fastest marathon in over 20 years!  Well, I was in fact on pace to do just that.  But as you seasoned marathoners know, this is not the way one should attempt to run a marathon.

Chic Trees SmallBetween the half way point (13.1 miles) and the 20 mile mark, my inner thighs began to give way. They were “spent”.  A runner friend from my hometown who started ahead of me in corral B passed me. Good for her, she was running a very smart race.  Shortly thereafter I was passed by, yes none other than “Big Bird” himself.  Now I knew I was in trouble!  The final few miles weave through areas of the South side of Chicago where it is difficult for crowds to gather thus, the crowd support dwindled.  Until the final mile when some of the crowd support returned.  I was constantly given encouragement by those along the side of the road. They could obviously see I was struggling. I did my best to smile at them, by a wave of my hand I let them know I was fine.

Finally, I hit the last “hill” (all of a 10-20 ft climb) at about the 26 mile mark and then made the final turn towards the finish line.  The announcer called out my name as I finished and I was thankful this long race was finally over.  The finish area consist of a very long, very slow walk back to pick up your gear. The first volunteer wrapped me in a silver mylar blanket to keep me warm during a still chilly morning. There were many other volunteers offering everything from beer, protein shakes, and ice bags.  What I really wanted was a seat to sit down and rest.  I knew if I sat on the ground I would never get up! So I shuffled onto get my gear, then eventually the mile long walk back to the hotel.

Chic Fin Line Small
I finally made it to the finish line, yippie!

Overall I had a very enjoyable experience the entire time I was in Chicago-Land.  From the huge but extremely well organized expo at McCormick Place, to the Pumpkin Fest in the suburbs on Saturday with family and grand kids, and the post race meal at a small but elegant restaurant next to our hotel. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and learned even more.

Next time I will practice what I preach and train, plan, and run smarter.  Thanks for taking the time to view my post today.

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: http://www.mlive.com/sports/flint/index.ssf/2012/11/grand_blanc_coach_bob_stallcup.html