A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The local race scene: Can you really "Go Back Home" again?

I was going to make this brief, but I guess I had more to say about this subject than planned.

This morning I went to NJ to visit some friends I haven't seen in about a year associated with the Raritan Valley Road Runners Club. They were organizing a pretty large race in Piscataway called the Miles 4 Music 20k, a very well organized race that is designed to fund music in schools. The race did very well, attracting over 1000 people over all of their races (20k, 5k, walk).

Anne McCarthy, the organizer for a very well run Miles 4 Music 20k race last year. She was at it again this morning, successfully leading an even bigger and better race this year.


I did see a lot of familiar faces, and it was overall a great experience to be talking to those again after a long time. But what stood out was the tremendous change that has come over the club since I've moved over to Staten Island.

First, there were a lot of new faces in the club, a sign that the club was thriving. A new generation has definitely taken over the club, and wow, they are fast! I was introduced to some of the "young'uns" and to see their eyes light up certainly reminded of those days when I was an excited "young'un" tackling 20 or so races per year.

On a sadder note, some of my generation has stopped running altogether. Most of them were injured or had other things in their life that they took as a priority. One of my friends I talked to said it succinctly, "Age sucks." And in a way, he was right. But I still hold firm that if one takes care of his body that he should be able to keep running until he's ready for the grave. One living proof of that was on the race course this morning. Bill Welsh, in his 80s, still keeps himself running at this time. And he still tackles the longer races like the 20k this morning. The last time I remember seeing him was at the tough Indian Trails 15k last year. So it's a sign of encouragement that we in our 40s still have plenty of years left of running. It's just a matter of making sure we give the body time to heal after each difficult workout or race.

But one thing that really struck out at me was the race itself. After all the serious ultras that I'm doing, would I ever be able to normally do these types of local races again?

I don't know.

I've travelled to a lot of races in many far off places. And knowing that there are so many great races out there in the world, I'm not sure if I really race locally again on a regular basis. I guess it's kind of like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, when four hobbits thought the world of their hometown, The Shire, before they set out into the greater world and faced much larger conflicts there. When they came back after their mission was over, nothing was really ever the same. All the local conflicts that others seemed as significant was seen by these 4 hobbits as small.

So the question remains, "can you really ever go back home again?"

Again, I don't know. When I know there is a larger world out there with epic challenges to face? I tend to have serious doubts that I can settle back into the local race scenes.

Only time will tell.

One thing I will do is to still get reacquainted with my NJ side again, lest in time they will only remember me as a name on their president's list. I've had fun talking to my old friends today, and I don't want to lose any more of them to time.

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