Just completed the 2016 San Francisco ½ marathon. And this despite Air France’s best efforts to keep me out of it (and thanks to my son!), a long flight and hardly any sleep before the 5:30am start. This is the most brutal, unforgiving, relentless ½ I ever ran, with a significant positive differential of more than 700 feet (215 meters) and according to other runners with tracking devices possibly 0.3 miles extra (close to 500 meters). And fierce winds on the Golden Gate Bridge, both ways! So I am utterly flabbergasted by the outcome, which sees me arriving 15th altogether and first in the over 50 group [and third French!]… Even though I presume the training for Monte Rosa, the (unsuccessful) attempt at Monte Rosa, and the additional bike rides the previous month helped, although I did very little speed sessions. The race got hard the moment we started climbing, first a little hill near Fort Mason, then the slope to the bridge that truly slowed me down. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge both ways was exhilarating, although I could not see one pile from the previous one, being in a cloud the whole time and Sun being not up yet. And although this section of the race was the most exposed, with no runner around to run in packs. Thankfully, there was one big downhill run around the 11th mile (that I passed in 1:11:11!) which helped me gaining back some time if no position, and facing the last climb, which seemed to last till the finish line in the Golden Gate Park… My overall time of 1:26:32 is surprising in itself if I account for the elevation: by Naismith’s rule, that would brings the time on a flat terrain under 1:20, a feat I only achieved once. And many other things are just weird in this race, from the 7500 runners I never saw, many of which finished over 4 hours, to the number of young winners (the third male runner is 17, the first female runner 20, a 14 year old came 22nd and even weirder the second female in the 5k is 8 year old!). And to the fact my ranking changed several times from 18th to 16th, 15th, 17th, and eventually 15th again. [Congratulations to the organisers, by the way! The whole race was brilliantly organised with all kinds of amenities I had never seen before. And thanks to the supportive Erythrean taxi who took me from the airport and offered me a free ride back if I ended up in the top ten! It sounded like a joke at the time….]
Archive for marathon
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!
“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!
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…)
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…