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It could happen?

24 Jan

The NFL hardly needs to work a gimmick (that’s the withering sport of baseball’s ball and chain).


Now Michael Irvin and the Dallas Cowboys will apparently give NFL wannabes a chance to make the roster in an American Idol-type competition.


The show, which will air this spring on Spike, will undoubtedly capture an athlete diverted by military service, family or the justice system. Yet, expect an overflow of pick-up lines and bar conversation based on the potential fire starter – “yeah, I’m going to the Cowboys camp.”



No running in the snow

12 Jan

Five inches of relatively fresh snow puts an outdoor training run on hold (the treadmill? – I’m not feeling it, today). Why even consider a January run? Well, because this is summer race selection season. What to do, or do again? Here are my favorite events thus far:


  1. Grandma’s Marathon (Duluth, Minnesota), best organized, beautiful course.
  2. Country Music Marathon (Nashville, Tennessee), great entertainment at every milepost.
  3. River Bank Run (Grand Rapids, Michigan), though this 25K is definitely not a marathon, it has become a regular spring trainer.
  4. Air Force Marathon (Dayton, Ohio), the buzz (literally) of Wright Patterson base aircraft keeps your head on a swivel.
  5. Free Press Marathon (Detroit, Michigan), my hometown course – tunnel, bridge, and island – plenty of bells and whistles.
  6. Rock and Roll Marathon (Cleveland, Ohio), supposedly a Rock N’ Roll marathon. Little live rock, big on stereo speakers at each mile marker.
  7. Glass City Marathon (Toledo, Ohio), almost guaranteed to rain, or hail, or rain hail, etc.
  8. Run Thru Hell (Hell, Michigan), only 10 miles of up and down dirt roads, but this early August run is a springboard to your favorite fall event.
  9. Dragonboat races (Toledo, Ohio), two nights of training on the Maumee River and then a full day of racing feels like a marathon.
  10. MS Bike to the Bay (Maumee to Port Clinton, Ohio), 75 miles there, and 75 miles back, unless you make a wrong turn.


I can’t decide at the moment – not feeling it. We’ll just start an 18-week training schedule and see what appeals toward the beginning of February.


Detroit Marathon

8 Jan

detroitlogoSo that’s what a marathon’s like

(October 27, 2004)

Having played contact sports like football and ice hockey for most of my life, I was intrigued when I took up running by the possibility of moving more than 10 yards without someone trying to take my head off.

Then my son, Alex, reminded me of the recent Olympic Marathon in Athens when the leader was tackled by a lunatic wearing a kilt and a beret. He said that if it would help he would don a kilt and beret and try to tackle me near Mile 20 during Sunday’s Detroit Free Press Marathon.

I declined.

But I saw something like that specter near the 18-mile mark on Sunday. It was there that the training, conditioning, and race strategy were jumbled and replaced by something else – the doubt that creeps into your head with its “what-am-I-doing-here” questions.

As first-time marathoners, my wife, Lorrie, and I started deep in the pack of 10,318 runners. We did not see winners Joseph Nderita of Kenya or Elena Orlova of Russia. We didn’t see Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm.

We did smell the tortillas being baked at 8:15 a.m. in Mexican Town, we saw the sunrise over the Ambassador Bridge, and we heard the echoes from whoops of runners in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

The view of my hometown was large and loud — a sensory overload.

Near Mile 18, ascending the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle in the Detroit River, the area of preview had shrunk to a 10-yard circle around me, and that was shrinking with each and every stride.

But by Mile 22 there was no turning back and no matter what discomfort the shortest distance to the end of this marathon was to focus on Ford Field and the finish line up ahead. You also consider the opportunity that you have before you. An opportunity to complete and earn something that can’t be purchased off the shelf.

The light at the end of the tunnel appeared literally when we descended through the stadium service entry and appeared in the open in the West end zone with only about 50 yards of Detroit Lions’ FieldTurf to the finish.

After crossing the line we were immediately making plans for another marathon.

There’s something to be said for an endeavor as simple and fair as running 26.2 miles.

Race, religion, family background, and money have little to do with what propels each individual against the voice inside their head telling them to quit.

But there are no referee’s mistakes, or cheating, or video replays. It is pretty plain that each individual gets exactly what he or she deserves in a marathon.

There’s no organization to smooth and straighten your running path, no bankroll to soften the pavement, no do-gooder to make each footfall easier. You are pretty much on your own.

You line up with an open road in front of you, and each and every runner’s success is determined by the training and dedication that they have applied to the task.

I’ll take that.

Grandma’s Marathon

8 Jan

grandmas-logoMom comes through on Father’s Day

(June 22, 2005)

I saw the Pirate first.

He was sitting by himself in the crowded Duluth Convention Center looking for a connection.

I was at the Grandma’s Marathon pre-race spaghetti dinner in Duluth, Minnesota, and although I had found a couple empty seats across the aisle, my wife sat down in the empty seats next to the Pirate and called me over.

Now I’ll say that Lorrie is fairly observant, but she later told me that she had not noticed the Pirate’s green beanie with propeller, and the shower curtain earrings.

I had seen the Pirate before in Toledo at the 2004 Glass City Marathon. He’s hard to miss.

In 2004, after finishing my marathon relay leg, I heard an odd — smackity-smack, smackity-smack. The Pirate was completing a 26.2 mile race in pink shower curtain earrings, tight black running shorts, and flip-flops.

Beach sandals.

At last Friday’s pasta dinner, he launched into rapid detail of his bus trip from Chicago to Duluth, his 187 marathons, and his shower curtain ring collection as Lorrie tried in vain to finish her pasta dinner.

So at next morning’s marathon start 26.2 miles away from Duluth in Two Harbors, Minnesota, I sought the Pirate for comic relief. But his wild attire, and the sound of his flip-flops were swallowed by the National Anthems, an F16 flyover, and the great initial movement of 7,000 runners along the Lake Superior shoreline.

At Mile 18, I lost Lorrie as she moved up in the pack, and I began to develop that anonymous familiarity with the other muckers struggling to finish. At Mile 22, the pain was shared in small groups: “Chattanooga, Tennessee woman” to my right, “red-baseball-cap guy” to my left, “Bemidji sisters” up front, the “Run-for-Jesus guy,” who gains, then falls back, then gains again.

This is no time for introductions, the language is non-verbal, instinctive, sharp, like a parent sensing and sharing their child’s discomfort.

Which was crystallized in the final mile by “pony-tail girl.”

In the three turns before the final segment to the finish line, the crowd delivers a constant refrain of “you’re almost there,” which is dashed by another twist or turn. In the final mile of a marathon “almost there” sounds like 50 feet, but feels like a half mile.

As I tried to shave yards off another turn a woman appeared in front of me with a purse slung over her shoulder and black heels.

“Clop, clop, clop, clop, clop,” went her heels on the cobblestone of Canal Park as she put herself right behind “pony-tail girl” and in front of me.

“Keep going, baby, you’re so close,” she said to 20-something “pony-tail girl,” who had begun to weave.

“Clop, clop, clop, clop.”

She ran with her daughter on the race course for almost 200 yards, rubbing her back, squeezing her shoulders, pleading with her to keep moving, willing her with another 200 yards.

At first I cringed, because the shortest line and the quickest way to end my pain was through this woman with the heels and purse.

But being a father, I recognized the same unquenchable, run-through-a-wall fever that comes from seeing your kid in pain.

With the balloon-decked finish only 100 yards away, she finally released “pony-tail girl,” and moved over to the side of the course. The “clop, clop, clops” became less rapid, and a final “you got it, baby, don’t stop” rang in our ears.

“Pony-tail girl” and I crossed together, timing chips chirping.

Even though it was Father’s Day, I’d like to thank mom for the help.