Archive for marathon

Bruce Lindsay (March 7, 1947 — May 5, 2015)

Posted in Books, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2015 by xi'an

When early registering for Seattle (JSM 2015) today, I discovered on the ASA webpage the very sad news that Bruce Lindsay had passed away on May 5.  While Bruce was not a very close friend, we had met and interacted enough times for me to feel quite strongly about his most untimely death. Bruce was indeed “Mister mixtures” in many ways and I have always admired the unusual and innovative ways he had found for analysing mixtures. Including algebraic ones through the rank of associated matrices. Which is why I first met him—besides a few words at the 1989 Gertrude Cox (first) scholarship race in Washington DC—at the workshop I organised with Gilles Celeux and Mike West in Aussois, French Alps, in 1995. After this meeting, we met twice in Edinburgh at ICMS workshops on mixtures, organised with Mike Titterington. I remember sitting next to Bruce at one workshop dinner (at Blonde) and him talking about his childhood in Oregon and his father being a journalist and how this induced him to become an academic. He also contributed a chapter on estimating the number of components [of a mixture] to the Wiley book we edited out of this workshop. Obviously, his work extended beyond mixtures to a general neo-Fisherian theory of likelihood inference. (Bruce was certainly not a Bayesian!) Last time, I met him, it was in Italia, at a likelihood workshop in Venezia, October 2012, mixing Bayesian nonparametrics, intractable likelihoods, and pseudo-likelihoods. He gave a survey talk about composite likelihood, telling me about his extended stay in Italy (Padua?) around that time… So, Bruce, I hope you are now running great marathons in a place so full of mixtures that you can always keep ahead of the pack! Fare well!

 

fare well, Paula!

Posted in pictures, Running with tags , , , , , , on April 26, 2015 by xi'an

a marathon a day for… a year?!

Posted in Kids, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , on March 22, 2015 by xi'an

“I think a lot of people do not push themselves enough.” Rob Young

I found this Guardian article about Rob Young and his goal of running the equivalent of 400 marathons in 365 days. Meaning there are days he runs the equivalent of three marathons. Hard to believe, isn’t it?! But his terrible childhood is as hard to believe. And how cool is running with a kilt, hey?! If you want to support his donation for disadvantaged children, go to his marathon man site. Keep running, Rob!

走ることについて語るときに僕の語ること [book review]

Posted in Books, Running with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2014 by xi'an

The English title of this 2007 book of Murakami is “What I talk about when I talk about running”. Which is a parody of Raymond Carver’s collection of [superb] short stories, “What we talk about when we talk about love”. (Murakami translated the complete œuvres of Raymond Carver in Japanese.) It is a sort of diary about Murakami’s running practice and the reasons why he is running. It definitely is not a novel and the style is quite loose or lazy, but this is not a drawback as the way the book is written somehow translates the way thoughts drift away and suddenly switch topics when one is running. At least during low-intensity practice, when I often realise I have been running for minutes without paying any attention to my route. Or when I cannot recall what I was thinking about for the past minutes. During races, the mind concentration is at a different level, first focussing on keeping the right pace, refraining from the deadly rush during the first km, then trying to merge with the right batch of runners, then fighting wind, slope, and eventually fatigue. While the book includes more general autobiographical entries than those related with Murakami’s runner’s life, there are many points most long-distance runners would relate with. From the righteous  feeling of sticking to a strict training and diet, to the almost present depression catching us in the final kms of a race, to the very flimsy balance between under-training and over-training, to the strangely accurate control over one’s pace at the end of a training season, and, for us old runners, to the irremediable decline in one’s performances as years pass by… On a more personal basis, I also shared the pain of hitting one of the slopes in Central Park and the lack of nice long route along Boston’s Charles river. And shared the special pleasure of running near a river or seafront (which is completely uncorrelated with the fact it is flat, I believe!) Overall, what I think this book demonstrates is that there is no rational reason to run, which makes the title more than a parody, as fighting weight, age, health problems, depression, &tc. and seeking solitude, quiet, exhaustion, challenge, performances, zen, &tc. are only partial explanations. Maybe the reason stated in the book that I can relate the most with is this feeling of having an orderly structure one entirely controls (provided the body does not rebel!) at least once a day.  Thus, I am not certain the book appeals to non-runners. And contrary to some reviews of the book, it certainly is not a training manual for novice runners. (Murakami clearly is a strong runner so some of his training practice could be harmful to weaker runners…)

marathon de Toulouse

Posted in Running with tags , , , , , , on October 27, 2013 by xi'an

Congratulations to Jean-Michel Marin, running his very first marathon in Toulouse this morning! I presume this is in part due to my bad influence, just like George Casella started me running road races (with the World famous Happy Hollow 5K in West Lafayette!)…

16 667 ladies in pink [and me: 10k, 38:18, 58th & 2nd V2]

Posted in pictures, Running, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2012 by xi'an

Last weekend, I ran my second race of the week, in Caen. (This also explains for the uncontrolled posting of the weekend!) This 10k race is part of a large collection of races, called Les Courants de la Liberté, always near June 06 in commemoration of the D-Day landing on the nearby beaches in 1944. The marathon starts from Courseulles-sur-Mer (Juno Beach) and follows the coastline to Ouistreham (Sword Beach), before proceeding along the Ornes canal to Pegasus bridge, then Cambes-en-Plaine and its British War Cemetery, and ending up at the Memorial for Peace in Caen… The half-marathon starts from Pegasus bridge and the 10k even closer to Caen, as they all end up in the same place.

However, those road races (on the Sunday) are proceeded with a female race called La Rochambelle, the name of a health unit that was created and equipped by the Americans during the Second World War, as nurses and ambulance women in the 2nd Armoured Division of General Leclerc. The race is undoubtedly the most impressive of all by its size, 16 667 participants this year!, and the commitment to the fight against breast cancer through the local associations Mathilde and Etincelle. And the fact that all participants wear the same fuschia tee-shirt for the race. (The number of participants was limited to 16 667 this year to reach a support of 100,000 euros, for 6 euros by runner.) To stand in the stadium (next to my high school!) and watch this pink wave slowly but steadily occupy the whole stadium was a tremendous sight.

The 10k did not start very auspiciously as rain was pouring on us while we were waiting on a country road for the departure signal. When it came, rain had stopped and there was hardly any wind at all, which is a usual difficulty with this race. I managed to get close to the departure line (although it took me 5 seconds to reach it if I judge from the difference between my watch time and my official time). The first 5km went by in a blur: 3:33 – 3:52 – 3:46 – 3:50 – 3:48. By then I was faster than on Thursday. (Being in a larger group and passing people helped.) I started fighting by the 6th km as I was unable to reach the group of the first woman, a few meters in front of me, and ran the remaining kilometers by myself: 3:56 – 3:53 – 3:58 – 3:55 – 3:44, with two runners passing me on the last kilometer. I was quite pleased with the overall time, 38:18, but since there were many runners (57) in front of me, I did not bother checking about my position and went home for a warmer shower. It is only when checking the results after lunch that I saw I was second in the V2 category, which truly amazed me as this was not such an outstanding time. (There was no cup, though!) I presume the top runners were too busy running the half- and full marathons to take part in the 10k…

gender-neutral Olympics?!

Posted in Mountains, Running, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2012 by xi'an

As usual, reading the latest issue of Significance is quite pleasant and rewarding (although as usual I have to compete with my wife to get hold of the magazine!). This current issue is dedicated to the (London) Olympics. With articles on predictions of future records, on whether or not the 1988 records can be beaten (the Seoul Olympics were the last games before more severe anti-drug tests were introduced), on advices to Usain Bolt for running faster (!) and on the objective dangers of dying from running a marathon (answer: it is much more “dangerous” to train!).

However, a most puzzling (and least statistical) article is Stephanie Kovalchik’s proposal for a gender-neutral Olympics.  The author’s theme is that, in most sports (the exceptions being shooting, yachting, and horse riding, where competitions are mixed), raw performances of women are below those of men for physical and physiological reasons. Stephanie Kovalchik thus “question[s] whether a sex-stratified Olympics is the product of groundless stereotypes about male athletic superiority or could be justified by gender differences at the elite level of sport” (p.20). Unsurprisingly, she concludes that no amount of training seems capable to bring both sexes at the same level: indeed, for instance, Paula Radcliffe, the fastest female marathon runner (2:15:24), is still 11 minutes beyond Patrick Makau, the fastest male marathon runner (2:03:38). They are both super-terrific athletes, the top ones in their categories. Now, Paula runs half-marathon and marathon faster than the best male runners in my team (Insee Paris Club). Where’s the problem?! And why should we try to rank Paula against Patrick?!

A parenthesis: the author mentions a most bizarre (but eventually inappropriate) exception: in the Badwater Ultramarathon, a crazy race covering 135 miles and going from Badwater, Death Valley, at 280’ (85m) below sea level, to the Mt. Whitney Portals at nearly 8,300’ (2530m), with a total of 13,000’ (3962m) of cumulative vertical ascent, four women won over the 25 occurrences of the race. I found this phenomenon quite curious and went to check first the records of the comparable ultra-trail du Mont Blanc, another even crazier race (168km, 9,600 metres of positive height gain, at mostly higher altitudes, between 1000m and 2500m), and saw that last year the first woman in the race was 13th in total, with a difference of four and a half hours with the winner (20:36 hours, believe it or not..!). Going back to the Badwater Ultramarathon, checking the results showed that the race actually attracts a very limited number of runners, from 17 finishers the first year to 83 last year (where the first woman was 7th, about 5 hours from the winner), with a huge variation between runners and between years. So I would not draw so much of a conclusion from this example, certainly not that “in an event where sheer dogged endurance, guts and determination must count for almost everything, we may be there already”. It is rather a law of small numbers: such extreme events attract a very small number of participants with incredibly variable finishing times, e.g. two of the four winning women won out of…5 (1988) and 2 (1989) finishers, while the two other victories were achieved by Pamela Reed over 45 (2003) and 57 (2002) competitors, a much more remarkable feat. Meaning that one or two runners missing or giving up brings a huge change in the final time. The ultra-trail du Mont Blanc now involves a thousand runners and there, numbers count. End of the parenthesis (with total respect to all those runners, I wish I could do it!).

Going back to the paper proposal, Stephanie Kovalchik considers that “credit merit apart from hereditary luck will favour individuals who possess the best genes for sport. Thus, prejudice – in the true sense of pre-judging – at the Olympics runs deeper than gender lines. Geneticism more than sexism is to blame for making the possession of a Y chromosome an advantage at the Games” (p.21). She suggests to instead rank athletes by a “statistical adjustment [that would]  remove the confounding factor of genetic inheritance, to provide a standard of achievement that all could aim at, no matter what their hereditary luck” (p.22). In essence, the winner would be the one that had gained the most compared with a “demographically matched sample of untrained individuals” (p.24). If I may, this sounds perfectly ridiculous! First, the whole point of the Games and of any sporting competition is to determine the “best” athlete. This is not an egalitarian goal and can and does lead to poor outcomes such as cheating, drug enhanced performances, nationalistic recuperations, commercialisation, bribery, and so on. It is thus perfectly coherent to be against those competitions. (I am not a big fan of the Olympics myself for this reason. However, without competition, even at my very humble level, and with little hope of winning anything, I would certainly train much less than I currently do.) But to try to reward efforts to counteract physical differences sounds like political correctness pushed to the extreme!  Second, and this is why I find the paper so a-statistical!, the adjustment must be with respect to a reference population. If we carry the argument to its limit, the only relevant population is made of the athlete him/herself. Indeed, genetic, sociological, cultural, geographical, financial, you-name-it, elements should all be taken into account! Which obviously makes the computation just impossible because then everyone is competing against him/herself.

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