//Heard Around the Lake: News, Notes and Idle Gossip (March 10, 2016)

Heard Around the Lake: News, Notes and Idle Gossip (March 10, 2016)

As the folks at High Five Events contemplate and work on the 2017 Austin Marathon course, there’s one aspect of it I hope they pretty much ignore: The scenery. I’m not advocating that the new course—if, in fact, there is a new one—consist of 26 laps around the Travis County Expo Center. I’m simply suggesting that the most overrated aspect of a marathon course is its scenic qualities.

There’s no doubt that newbies cite the scenery of a marathon course as one of the primary reasons for selecting a race. I get that. But what I don’t get is what that actually means to someone. Does running over a world-famous bridge or on a special section of road make the race any easier or faster? Conversely, does running on a boring stretch make the going any harder?

Take our own (current) Austin Marathon course. One of the reasons former race director John Conley repeatedly cited for changing it from the downhill, north-to-south, point-to-point course was that in its last year of use (2006), out-of-towners evidently complained about a short stretch in the first few miles that went through an industrial park in north Austin. Granted, it wasn’t a very attractive section, but it was still dark when the field passed through it and not that big a deal. Nevertheless, the course was changed dramatically to eliminate that part of the course (there were other reasons) to a more scenic course, but the only changes in scenery was a few more Mexican restaurants were passed by on Congress and South 1st, there was a glimpse of St. Ed’s University and the Texas School for the Deaf.

Maybe it’s just me, but the only scenery on a marathon course I truly care about is the last mile—and the finish tower. All that really concerns me is getting to the finish as efficiently and swiftly as possible. Running by a landmark (say, the Alamo, Minute Maid Park or the Texas Capitol) is OK, but what I remember most about a marathon are the rest of the course (terrain), weather, logistics, aid stations, crowd, etc.

Think about it. The top big-city marathons in the country—let’s go with Chicago, New York City, Houston and, of course, Boston—are all instant sell outs every year and the reason they are has little to do with having scenic courses. I’ve run Chicago at least a dozen times and although I love the race, most of it goes past nondescript buildings, stores and through ethnic neighborhoods. The final mile is great, but the other 25 miles? Not so much.

In New York City, the first mile on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, a cool stretch on 1st Avenue and the last hilly mile in Central Park are awesome, but the rest of the course won’t change your life. Neither will Houston’s. You run by a lot of nice restaurants, Memorial Park, Rice and The Galleria which I’ve seen plenty of times. I love the final mile on the Allen Parkway, but it’s just a highway and nothing special.

Then, there’s Boston. Nobody who has ever run it will dispute that Boston is the greatest marathon of all, but it’s the incredibly supportive crowds and the race’s history which make it such a memorable experience. The course? Certainly, passing the John Kelley Statue at the base of Heartbreak Hill and going through Wellesley is pretty cool. There’s no question that the final mile through Kenmore Square and then down Boylston Street to the finish is the best stretch in marathoning, but most of the course is still pretty forgettable. I’ve never heard any Boston marathoner talk about how running past the Newton City Hall or Boston College is the reason they come back year after year.

That stuff–scenery–doesn’t matter all that much. The Boston crowds are what matters as well as the amazing finish, but even the finish on Boylston Street merely goes past dozens of restaurants and bars. Its not like you’re running past Bunker Hill, the Cheers bar (Bull & Finch) or along the Freedom Trail. Those are best on sightseeing tours.

I’ve run somewhere north of 35 marathons and the only three in my mind that I would classify as “scenic” were the Antarctica Marathon (if you like lots of snow and glaciers), Steamboat Springs (Colorado) Marathon (The Rockies) and San Francisco which, when I ran it, went across the Golden Gate Bridge as the sun rose. All were (and are) beautiful races, but you pay for it with difficult courses.

Call me crazy but I happen to believe scenery/scenic marathons courses are cliches that are tossed around without any real meaning or significance. The races, taken in their totality, are what counts not a bunch of old buildings or historical landmarks you might see for 30 seconds as you run by.

Marathoners come to a marathon to race it, not check out the sights. You can always check out the sights the next day.
*****

O Scenery truly doesn’t count in the handful of indoor marathons, scattered around the country. I know there’s several winter ones (Milwaukee, Ada, Ohio, Northfield, Minnesota, Arlington, Virginia to name a few) and I think there was one a long time ago in the Astrodome, but there’s a new one coming up in New York at The Armory on April 9 where they’ll take a shot at Michael Wardian’s world record of 2:27:21.

O Wasn’t able to get down to San Marcos last Sunday for the 32nd running of Moe’s Better Half, but wish I had. My friend and neighbor Paras Shah was the overall winner in 1:16:49, followed closely by his long-run training buddy Kevin Kimbell in 1:17:57. Kevin was also the first master. David Davila of Kyle was third in 1:18:19. Top woman was Ina Ables of Midland in 1:24:29, Cheyenne Meyer of San Marcos was second in 1:36:38 and Emily Francis was third in 1:43:34. First masters woman was Jackie Riemenschneider of New Braunfels in 1:43:46.

O Despite brutal humidity last Sunday, The Woodlands Marathon was won by Hillary Too in 2:18:47 and Ayantu Dakebo in 2:35:25. Former Austinite Sarah Periman ran her first marathon—finally!–and although she died in the final miles, still ran 3:11 to get her BQ and win the 30-34 age group. But, she wasn’t the fastest Periman. Her husband Brian also ran his first and scored a BQ in 3:04. Coincidentally, Brian’s 35th birthday is the same day as the ’17 Boston so he has no excuse not to run it.

O Up in Tyler last weekend was the Fresh 15-K and its prize money drew a field of top Kenyans. Julius Kogo was the overall winner in 44:13 with Veronicah Maina topping the women’s field in 50:58. Mia Behm, the former UT star, was second woman in 52:54, while Amber Reber of Austin was fifth in 1:00:15.

O A contingent of Austinites journeyed to Chattanooga last weekend for the half marathon and to hang with old friend Fred Fletcher. James Allen led the way with a time of 1:33:44, followed by Robyn Dodge in 1:34:55 who was first in her age group (30-34) as was Danny Spoonts (60-64) in 1:36:17. Ann Pollack of Austin came in at 2:16:41. Host Fred Fletcher ran 1:42:47 but did not run in full police gear as he has done in the past. (Fred is the chief of the Chattanooga Police Department.)

O Congrats to former UT miler Darren Brown and his wife Sarah who welcomed their first child—Abigail Ann—last Thursday. Sarah received a lot of publicity (Inside Edition) because she trained through her pregnancy and now only has four months to get ready for the Olympic Trials 1500. BTW: The Browns have moved from San Diego to Warrenton, Virginia where Darren still works for ElliptiGo.

O Former UT wide receiver and long jumper Marquise Goodwin, who won the ’12 Olympic Trials and NCAAs, is living in Dallas and training for the Olympic Trials. He’s already jumped once this indoor season and is competing again this weekend in the Indoor Nationals. If Goodwin makes the Olympic team again, he’ll miss all of the Buffalo Bills training camp and most of the preseason games, but says the Bills are OK with it. Goodwin said, “Everybody’s been very supportive, especially Coach Rex Ryan. He encouraged me, as he would any other player, because that’s the kind of person he is. We do this thing {the Olympics} one time, so just make the most of it and I’m very, very appreciative of it.”

O The UT men’s and women’s teams are off to Birmingham for the NCAA Indoors which begins tomorrow. Oregon is favored to win the men’s title for the third year in a row, while Florida is the favorite to win its first women’s indoor crown since 1992. But both Texas teams are projected to finish in the top five. ESPN3 will carry it Friday and Saturday nights with ESPN2 taking over coverage on Sunday at 7 p.m.

O What I’m listening to this morning: “See What Tomorrow Brings” by Peter, Paul and Mary with the epic “Early Morning Rain.”

Have any news for me? If you have something, send it along to wish@texasrunningpost.com.

2017-10-19T00:32:56-05:00 Categories: Heard Around the Lake|Tags: , , , , , , |