A Tale of Two Marathons – Berlin and Pikes Peak

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My previous blog was about running the PIKES PEAK MARATHON LINK
Then five weeks later I ran the BERLIN MARATHON.
And although they’re both marathons
they’re
 OPPOSITES in many ways. 

PIKES PEAK Marathon was a small race with 721 runners   BERLIN Marathon was a huge race with 43,852 runners. Yikes!

PIKES PEAK is the WORLD’S 2ND TOUGHEST MARATHON
and it attracts the fastest Trail Runners

BERLIN is the WORLD’S FASTEST ROAD MARATHON
and it attracts the fastest Road Runners

PIKES PEAK marathoners run up steep mountain trails to 14,000 ft. elevation     

BERLIN marathoners run on flat pavement at 180 ft. elevation  

PIKES PEAK scenery is BIG BOULDERS

BERLIN scenery is BIG BUILDINGS 

BERLIN and PIKES PEAK Marathons do have one thing in common:
11% OF ALL RUNNERS DID NOT FINISH

79 PIKES PEAK RUNNERS DID NOT FINISH (11% of 721 runners)
due to the 14,000 ft. HIGH ALTITUDE, which brought on
 altitude
sickness, nausea, or dizziness and forced them to drop out.

And 4,751 BERLIN RUNNERS DID NOT FINISH (11% of 43,852 runners).
INCLUDING 2 OF THE WORLD’S 3 FASTEST MARATHONERS!
Mainly due to 81% HIGH HUMIDITY that sapped runners energy
and slowed their pace; and if they ignored humidity and ran too fast
the result was often
cramps or exhaustion that ended their run.

I’m happy to say I did finish Berlin. Because a few years ago I learned the
impact of humidity. So on race morning when it was 81% I looked at
my humidity chart and knew I had to run 10 seconds slower per
km than planned. That saved me and I had a pretty good run.
Although the last 5 km were still very tough.

MY RESULTS
Time: 3 hours 54 minutes
Age Place: 14 of 151 Men in the 70-74 Age Category
————————————————————————————————-
Overall Place: I was 12,326 to cross the finish line, which is really depressing.
But 
43,852 runners started the race.
So only 28% (12,325) of runners were FASTER than
 me.
And 72% (31,526) of runners were SLOWER than me.
So at age 70 I was faster than 72% of all Berlin runners.
Gee, now I feel better! 
————————————————————————————————–
And a treat was being awarded this special Abbott Medal at the finish line
for being one of few to finish all of the World’s 6 Major Marathons.

So the PIKES PEAK Marathon is very TOUGH.
And the BERLIN Marathon is very FAST.
Your choice!…or just run both 🙂

 

 

Surviving the Pikes Peak Marathon

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It’s perfect weather for the 2017 Pikes Peak Marathon. A stroke of luck since the Summit is often freezing cold with snow, hail, thunder, lightning, or heavy rain.

At 7am, the gun sounds and 721 runners full of energy start to run the Pikes Peak Marathon in Manitou Springs, Colorado.

And we better have energy, because we’ll be running 26 miles (42 km) to the top of Pikes Peak and back, on this notoriously insane course at high altitude. No wonder it’s called “America’s Ultimate Challenge!” And is #2 on the list of the “World’s 15 Toughest Marathons!” 

Below are the fastest runners. And number 72 from Switzerland will win this very tough marathon in 3 hours 38 minutes. The others are from Colorado. No surprise since the fastest mountain runners live and train at high altitude.

Here at Manitou Springs we’re at 6,000 ft. elevation and breathing 21% less oxygen than the 100% oxygen in most races. And later at the 14,000 ft. Summit we’ll be breathing 41% less oxygen. But it won’t affect the lead runners because they’re acclimatized to high altitude.

But what about runners like me and most others who rarely go to high altitude?

Well, the Mountain runners call us “Flatlanders” because we live and train iflat areas with 100% oxygen. So we aren’t acclimatized to high altitude and risk getting altitude sickness.
 
It happened to me long ago when I threw-up for 4 hours climbing to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. And if it happens in this race I won’t be smiling like this!
 

 

Fortunately over the years I’ve learned how NOT to get Altitude Sickness. And the big secret is to start out running/walking much slower than you think you should. It’s the last thing you want to do in a race, but the best way for your body to gradually acclimatize to higher altitude and less oxygen. 

However many runners don’t know much about altitude sickness. So on this first steep hill of the race some are going much too fast. Soon a few will get sick, nauseous, or dizzy and give up in the first couple of miles.

 The first half of the race is uphill on steep dirt trails, and on very narrow parts we have to go single file. So each time someone up ahead yells “Runner” we all stop and quickly move to the right so the fastest runners now speeding downhill can fly past us. The stops slow us down but are also nice breaks on the steep climb.
Running through the forest, the scenery is spectacular! Although I don’t see it very much. Too busy looking down at my feet so I won’t trip over rocks and stumps. 
 
After slogging 10 miles (16km) uphill on dirt trails, we reach the Tree Line. It’s called the “Tree Line” because all the trees joined a union, then drew a line on the ground and said, “We’re not goin’ any higher past this line. There’s not enough air up there and we’ll die.”
So the trees are smart enough NOT to go higher than the Tree Line. But we runners aren’t that smart. So we just keep going higher and higher.  And now instead of trees, there are fields of huge boulders that we have to run, walk, and crawl over. I always thought Boulder Colorado was a city. But it’s really the top of this mountain.
Now there’s “only” 3 miles (5 km) of trudging uphill to reach the Summit and Marathon half-way turnaround point. But those 3-miles will be toughest of the entire race, with the steepest trails, highest altitude, and least oxygen in the air just when you need more!
 
At 12,000 ft. (3,657 m.) there’s 37% less oxygen with each breath I take. And at the Summit there’ll be 41% less oxygen with each breath. That’s what I call really, really BAD BREATH! And possible Altitude Sickness.
 

Here’s how Altitude Sickness affected Jill Parker in the 2013 Pikes Peak Marathon

“Every single step was a decision. Pain. No oxygen. Nauseous. Light-headed. My head was a bowl of mush. I wanted to stop so badly, but couldn’t. I have never felt this miserable…ever!”

It looks like the woman below feels the same way, and many other runners are also hurting. Especially those who went too fast in the beginning. And now, so close the top, quite a few will simply give up and be disqualified.

Now I’m slogging up the last mile to the summit, puffing and panting, going painfully slow, and I just want to give up. But thanks to the slow pace I have no severe Altitude Sickness. Just a bit dizzy at times, so I hug boulders and use them as crutches to stay upright .

Finally I reach the Summit, after a slow 5 hours 40 minutes and uphill for 13 miles (21 km). What a relief! But don’t let the smile fool you. I’m totally trashed! And like the sign says, I’m afraid the organizers will put me in a bag and dump me in that trash can.
Instead they offer me food. But high altitude kills your appetite, so I eat nothing and will regret it later. Just rest for a minute and drink gatorade, then turn around and begin the 13 mile (21 km) run back down to the Marathon Finish Line. And almost instantly I start to feel better thanks to more oxygen with every step down to lower altitude.

Going downhill is faster than coming up, but not as easy as I thought it would be, cause now you have to dodge other runners coming up, and there’s increased risk of leg cramps, or tripping on rocks and taking a tumble.

Luckily I get no cramps and fall only once. Nothing serious but I stop at an aid station where the nice workers put on bandages, and tell me many runners have been falling today.

My big mistake was not eating at the summit. At 5am this morning I had a good breakfast, but for the last 10 hours only a few energy gels that I’m carrying and some M&Ms at aid stations. So now I’m running out of energy, and slowing down.

I stop and reach for my last few energy gels… but don’t have the energy or willpower to open the package and eat them…and worried I’ll finish over 10-hours and be disqualified…so I just keep running. 

Then a nice surprise as I get closer to the finish-line in Manitou Springs. Suddenly I’m running much faster without even trying, cause down here at 6,000 ft. altitude there’s much more oxygen to breathe. 
 
I cross the finish-line in 9 hours 38 minutes. My second slowest marathon ever. But under the 10-hour cut off time, so have survived my 85th Marathon. And surprisingly win 2nd Place out of 5 in the Men 70-74 Age Category.
(1st Place is a high altitude runner from Colorado Springs, 3rd is over the time limit, and 4th, 5th Do Not Finish.)
 
721 runners start the Marathon and 79 drop out before the end. So 11% of all runners Do Not Finish “America’s Ultimate Challenge.”
 
Congratulations to the High Altitude overall winners, and all of us Flatlanders for making the effort. And a big thanks to the helpful Aid Station workers who kept us going.
 
Next is the Berlin Marathon, and it’s totally flat with lots of oxygen. Yippee!!! 
 
Richard St. John
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memories of San Francisco

Baiba and I love San Francisco and just spent 3 weeks
there. It’s a fascinating city to explore so I always carry
my camera on daily runs. Never know what you’ll see…

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One day we looked out our hotel window and saw hundreds
of Santas. It turned out to be SANTACON an annual
San Francisco mass gathering and pub crawl…

richardstjohn-san-fran-6richardstjohn-san-fran-7richardstjohn-san-fran-8Nice to see they’re all interacting face-to-face
instead of texting on phones…
Oops spoke too soon!

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SFMOMA
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

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Not far from the business center you can
be completely surrounded by nature…

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OLD- That’s Alcatraz prison on the island in the background
NEW- Container ships are now often bigger than the prison

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And more San Francisco containers neatly stacked…

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Running through Chinatown I saw this accident not long
after it happened and 10 pedestrians were injured

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Wonder if there’s a psychologist and couch in the back?

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This bakery gets 3 Michelin Poops

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If only this garden had a tree I could “bark”

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 Functional  vs  Organic

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Doesn’t he know San Francisco is always cold

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Neil Young sang Helpless Helpless Helpless
IN SF it’s Homeless Homeless Homeless

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Protest Protest Protest

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Ultimate Recycling
Using an old recycled truck to haul recycled stuff

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The AUTODESK GALLERY has terrific exhibits
showing how 3D PRINTERS enable designers
and architects to create innovative shapes
and models for products and buildings

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A full size partial model of a car made on 3D Printers

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Small very fine objects made on 3D Printers

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Soon you could be making your own clothes on a 3D Printer
“Touch my shoulder again buddy and you could lose a finger!”

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My wish…and probably Baiba’s

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Richard St. John


 

 

Something Fishy About My Marathons

Really enjoyed a week in Iceland, and now I’m running the 42 km Reykjavik Marathon. Terrific weather, supportive spectators, beautiful scenery, and we’re running on a nice flat road next to the ocean. But the scenery doesn’t matter, because I’ve already run 39 km, my legs are tired, and I’m only thinking, “Three more kilometers to the finish-line and it’s over.”

Then, unexpectedly, I feel something strange on my leg. Look down and see an almost invisible coil of nylon fishing-line wrapped around my ankle and foot. Thinking, “It will just fall off” I keep running. But suddenly the line also ties up my other foot, and I go crashing down face-first onto the pavement. Lying there more dazed than hurt, I’m thinking, “Is this just a bad dream?” And I curse the fisherman who left a coil of fishing-line on the road.

Try to stand-up, but can’t because my feet are tied together. So roll over and sit up, then struggle to unravel the thin, unbreakable line tightly wrapped around both shoes. Notice a bleeding gash on my leg, but my only concern is, “Other runners are beating me to the finishing-line!” When really it’s a fishing-line that’s beating me.

Finally break free from the bonds, wobble to my feet, and begin running slowly, while the nice spectators give me a round of applause for being stupid enough to keep going. And it seems the sitting gave my legs a short rest. So I pick up speed, pass most of the runners who had just passed me, and finish in 3 hours 48 minutes.

It turns out 3:48 is the fastest of my last five marathons, and I place 2nd in Men 65-69. And who knows, maybe I also set a World Record for being the first runner to ever break through both a finish-line and fish-line in the same marathon.

And here’s the really strange part. This was actually my second fishy marathon. A couple of days before the 2014 Paris Marathon I was enjoying a bowl of good thick fish soup, when suddenly a tiny fish bone injected itself into the underside of my tongue. It really hurt and I tried everything to get it out. But it was too far back and too small to grasp.

By morning there was a big, sore lump on the underside of my tongue and swallowing became very painful. It was the day before the marathon and I should have been carbo-loading and stuffing myself with food, but I could hardly eat or drink. And next day during the race it hurt to swallow energy-gels or water. So eventually I became de-hydrated, had no energy, and agonizingly walked/ran for the last 7-kilometers to the finish.

Why do the world’s fish have a conspiracy to get me? Is it nature’s revenge because I grew up in Nova Scotia, near the ocean, and ate so many delicious fishes? And why do they attack me on land, instead of in the water? Until I find the answers, there’s no way I’ll ever do a triathlon. In the swim part, the fish would finally finish me off.

Dear Robin Williams

I have always been a big fan of yours, because you were so incredibly funny and often did the unexpected – even when I had the chance to interview you. Each question I asked launched you into a hilarious, spontaneous monologue that was the opposite of what I expected. You had me in stitches, laughing the whole time. I wanted you to talk about yourself, but no way were you going to be serious – until the person who took this photo asked you to “Smile!” Then, of course, you did exactly the opposite and looked very serious. It was funny at the time, but now with your final “unexpected” we’re not laughing. We’re crying and deeply saddened. Thank you so much for a lifetime of laughs. You will be missed.

Richard St. John

Robin Williams & Richard St. John

Robin Williams & Richard St. John

If you give a talk in a forest and no one hears it…

If you give a talk in a forest and no one hears it, does it make an impact? Only if it’s later seen on TED. Congratulations TED on a billion views and making it possible for so many talks to have a big impact on the world.

I was fortunate, but very scared, to give the first TED 3-minute talk in 2005. I thought the information would never leave the room. But then TED put talks online, took mine out of the forest, and gave the information an opportunity to reach people and perhaps make an impact.

Now millions of people around the world have viewed it and comments like the ones below keep me going. Thank you TED!

Poland
Your “Richard St. John’s 8 secrets of success” short video from TED changed my world. Now I’m happiest guy in whole Poland!

United States
I saw your video on TED and knew instantly I could use your work. I teach English to students who think school is pointless and boring. But they ALL want to succeed. THANK YOU for your work. The ripple that you started continues outward.

Zimbabwe
I’m teaching workshops and empowering women in an African community in the midst of crisis and chaos. I found you on TED and loved your talk. Then I translated your book into a simple workshop that really woke people up. Many thanks for your work.

Tajikstan
Thank you very much, Richard for your inspiring speeches. They help me teach my younger brother how to be successful.

India
I liked your TED talk a lot so I got your book. My wife read it and realized she hated her job, so she went into education research. Now she’s helping children in India and she loves it. You changed her life.

Japan
I learned very much through your TED speech. I had given up hope but came to the realization that it is never too late, and very important to never give up. Thank you very much indeed.

Canada
I watched your TED video and you explained in minutes what I have been trying to figure out for years. I am going to throw the Zoloft away.


April 15, Webinar – "Retaining, Motivating, and Inspiring Today's Students: How To Do It With Eight Words."

If you’re an educator, you might be interested in our webinar on April 15. The subject is student motivation and retention. How do we encourage students to stay in college and not drop out, especially those who have lost their way or are struggling? This webinar is about how educators are doing it with 8 Words. Don Fraser and I will share the exciting results of pilot programs where college instructors are using 8 To be Great books, videos, and exercises to take students from a mindset of confusion, doubt, and anxiety, to an outlook of possibilities, confidence, and learning. In as little as an hour, students get more fired up about their career, education and future. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from students who attended a workshop:

“It was the best presentation I’ve ever seen! I learned useful ways to achieve, rather than moping around the house, telling my mother I don’t care about school.”
Thiuya, student, George Brown College

“It has helped me get through the first semester of college and will forever change the way I work and go about achieving my success.”
Rita Randelle Davis, student, George Brown College

CLICK HERE to go to the Innovative Educators website and see more about this webinar