Monday, December 20, 2010

Best Runs of the Year – 2010

2010 has been a good year for running. Helen and I re-ran some classic routes and discovered some new ones. We ran in Philly and New England, we ran in France, and we ran in Morocco. We've now run together in five countries on four continents and, by my count, seven U.S. states. We had some of our biggest adventure runs this year – no monkeys, perhaps, but there were some rather ominous cows, some major climbs, and some serious weather.

A good year for running, although I'm not sure I could call it a great year for running. Helen was dinged-up for much of it, pregnant for the rest, with some overlap to boot. This ruled out epic runs like our '08 mountain runs in Provence and Hong Kong, and our biggest adventure journey – a day in the Atlas mountains of Morocco – was a hike instead of a run. And it wasn't a great year for racing. I did PR in the half-marathon, and ran my first ultra; on the down side, though, the streak ended, and the last 10 miles of that ultra were pretty dreary.

But there were still more great runs than anyone deserves, and it's nice to take the time to relive some of them. So, here they are, in chronological order:

The Abbreviated-Four-Corners-Extended-Cake Run
This winter was different from previous winters just in the sheer quantity of snow here in Philly. Eventually I'd get tired of it, but at this point, we weren't there yet. Helen and I had planned on running the four corners with fellow wanderers Leo and Pete. It's a daunting run in any conditions, but with over a foot of fresh powder, there was No Way. What was supposed to be 21 miles in around 3.5 hours became 12 in three-plus hours. But what it lacked in speed and distance it made up for in pure fun. And cake!

The Pre-Wedding run
This run starts off a good series. This was, in one sense, just the normal Thursday-night Wanderers run. But since it was two days before our wedding, we treated that run as the start of our wedding festivities. got some extra friends to join us, ran in our 'bride and groom' baseball caps... there was even more cake afterward!

Running in Nice
We did a few runs in Nice, but it was the first one that stands out – running up in the hills above the city, going up in the gardens and the smaller roads in the hills. The conditions, the new scenery, made the run great; but it was also a great feeling being there, the relaxation of the honeymoon, the break in our routines.

Running through the Medina
The next great Honeymoon Run.
We'd had a great hike in the Atlas Mountains the day before. Beautiful, empty, with great vistas. Walking around Marrakesh had been different – exciting but hectic, with pedestrians, donkeys, motorcycles and cars all hustling for the same space. Early in the morning? That's a different story. So Helen and I woke up early and headed out, running free through the streets before the hustle began.

Running in Essouria
This was the other city in Morocco we visited – along the Atlantic coast. The city itself is quite small, so when we ran we ventured outside of it. We found some roads that followed along the ocean – one was clearly *the* place to run, but the other – a quasi-abandoned quasi-road – that was the fun part. We were brave and went past the cows that were off to the side of the road. The next hear, though, the ones blocking the road – that's where we decided to turn back. A few too many bulls.

Double Trouble
This year, we decided to do it up, and do the whole thing twice. Not sure it was the wise thing, but it worked out well for Helen, as she was able to win the long version going away. (We later learned that she was pregnant during the race, but we didn't know that then). I struggled in the last quarter of the race, but I enjoyed the first three quarters a lot, and also enjoyed hanging out in the park afterward.

Beartown State Forest
Helen and I have been going to Beartown State Forest for a few years, almost every time we go up to Great Barrington. We'd always been trying to find routes to take along the trails and skipping the roads. This time, though, we were wary of doing the actual trails. (I don't remember why exactly – Helen's ankle maybe?) So instead of the trails, we stuck with the roads in the park. Turns out they're *great* running roads. Like a network of Forbidden Drives. We'd been avoiding them the whole time, but it turns out that they might be what's best about running in the park.

Half-Wit Half
This is an annual. It's almost at the point that it's what I think of when I think of summer. Running through the woods, up and down the crazy hills (and stairs!), trying to stay on course. This was the second straight year that I stayed on course, and the second straight year I age-grouped. It was the first year that I wasn't faster than the year before, and Helen only finished second (I know, right?). I also felt like I left a minute or two on the course, but you know what? That was ok – part of the fun of half-wit is running it, but a lot of the fun is hanging out afterward, sitting around with the horde of other Wanderers.

Stumpy's Marathon

This wasn't a normal marathon; it was a trail run guaranteed to be "at least" 26 miles, running through the woods in Delaware. It took me 4 hours - I was able to run the first three hours with Bob Reynolds. Keeping up with him for those three hours probably hurt me during the fourth, though – something of a death-march toward the end. I liked the approach, though, and I liked those woods. And I liked the fact that I was able to just go out and run 26 miles and not have to spend two weeks tapering and then two recovering.

The Hamlet run
During the fall, I'd run home from work once most weeks. It takes some planning, because while I can bring as much stuff *too* work as I want, I try to run home with as little as possible – usually, a few bucks, my keys, my faculty i.d. Leaving my phone at home is easy enough. The course reading is the complication. Sometimes I'll scan something in and email it home; sometimes it doesn't matter, because I've taught the material enough to not have to worry about it. But in mid-semester I was teaching Hamlet for the first time, and didn't want to go two days without the book. In part, it was for class prep, in part it was just because I wanted to keep reading it. So I put my copy of Hamlet in a plastic bag and ran home – 11 miles – with the book in my hand.
The run wasn't great, to be honest – it certainly wasn't one of the year's best. But I've been looking for an excuse to write about running 11 miles with a copy of Hamlet in my hand, and this was it.

Philly Marathon Half-Marathon

It was a great year for running; it wasn't a great year for racing. But I did manage to PR at the Philly Marathon Half-Marathon, beating my previous time by a minute on a beautiful fall day.

Racing-wise, I don't know what's in store for next year. I'm thinking about focusing more on 5ks and 10ks. I've definitely got no plans to race another marathon.
But running will have to take a back seat, too... runner # 3 is on his way, but it's gonna take him a little while to get up to speed. For now, I'm thankful for the year of running that we've had, and I'm looking forward to all of the adventures that 2011 has in store.

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