30 September 2011

Running with Ryan

Ryan Hall cresting Boston's Heartbreak Hill.
Check out that form and pace. Amazing!
Or at least behind him. Probably well behind him. With a personal marathon record of 2:04:58 (2011 Boston Marathon**) and having just placed fourth at the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon (4 September 2011) in Virginia Beach, VA, in 1:03:01, the only glimpse I'll have of Hall will likely come in the start corral. Even then, he'll be seeking pre-race serenity at the head of the Elite Corral while I jockey for breathing room in the commoners' B Corral. Still though, the field of elite runners competing at Chicago should provide for amazing spectating. If you're planning to drive, run, or ride to the marathon, don't forget to glance at the helpful info in the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Spectator Guide and website. Regardless if you're attending the marathon, there is loads of interesting  information available at the Runner's World site dedicated to the Chicago Marathon

An exciting development in the world of health and wellness.
Learn more about the recent Westin -- New Balance
health and fitness partnership here, here, or here.

In other exciting running and general health & fitness news, Westin Hotels & Resorts has partnered with New Balance (a great company that I think we all [no matter or running shoe preferences -- mine  conveniently happens to be NB] can get behind) to provide guests with complimentary athletic shoes and apparel during their stay. As the press release explains,
During their stay, guests can borrow running shoes with brand new, disposable insoles for each use, as well as a variety of men’s and women’s apparel including shorts, shirts and socks for men and shorts, capri pants, shirts, sports bras and socks for women. 
While there are some less-than-stellar aspects of this program (largely involving the disposal nature of some of the products -- but then again, there are some health concerns [e.g. MRSA, etc.] that probably make full-scale reusability a bit unrealistic), the overall concept is simply outstanding. The creation of a program that encourages more people to become more active must be applauded. Sure, there are some issues of accessibility (i.e. if you can afford to lodge at a Westin, you probably don't have any trouble affording fitness gear), this could very well initiate a wider hotel fitness trend. Although the Westin website states "Westin has recently partnered with New Balance to provide athletic shoes and apparel during your stay, for a fee,"the exact price of the program is not published anywhere. In fact, there is some discrepancy about the existence of the fee at all. Reports and press releases seem to indicate that the program will be available to Westin guests free of charge. In his WSJ overview and analysis of the hoteling trend "to beef up fitness offerings" Kevin Helliker stresses the no-charge aspect of the program, but the proceeds to question its appeal,
Westin Hotels & Resorts is launching a free program to loan guests New Balance-brand fitness shoes and apparel. But will road-warriors really want to wear communal running socks? 
Under the new "gear-lending" program, to be launched Tuesday, women will receive Capri pants, a sports bra, shirt, socks and shoes. Men will get a shirt, shorts, socks and shoes. Between uses, Westin says the clothes will undergo the same intense hot-water laundry process used on hotel sheets and towels. Also, the exterior of shoes will be cleaned and the inner soles will be replaced between guests.
Communal running socks? Come on Helliker. All of the official sites and releases emphatically state, "Shoes come with socks that are brand new and apparel is provided fresh and clean." Either the uproar over wearing laundered socks caused a re-evaluation of the program or Helliker's reporting was questionable. Suppose it doesn't really matter in the grad scheme of things. But, it seems important to make the program appealing and don't allow inaccurate reporting to discourage guests from taking advantage of an opportunity to improve their quality of life and health via exercise. Some food for thought if you ever find yourself at a Westin and in need of running gear.

And finally, my moment of marathon zen...

A bit of Obama inspired motivation after Barcelona's astonishing 2009 season (Josep "Pep" Guardiola is the current Barcelona manager [and former player]). During this dream of a season, Barcelona not only became the first club in Spain to win the treble (La Liga, Copa del Rey, & Champions League), but also became the first football club ever to win six out of six competitions in a single year -- or the never-thought-plausible sextuple (the aforementioned treble & the Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup). I'm hoping that if I recite this mantra (in addition to whatever song happens to imbed itself in my subconscious) during the race, a bit of Pep magic will help propel my legs and fill my lungs. We'll see. Superstitions are encouraging and motivational, right?

**Boston Marathon, 18 April 2011 -- Hall ran the fastest marathon ever by an American, finished fourth, but not an American record because the Boston course is not eligible for records owing to its point-to-point layout and its elevation drop of greater than 1 meter per kilometer. A kind (i.e. very strong) net tailwind (15-20 miles/hour) contributed to the runners' remarkable 2011 times (Kenya's Geoffrey Mutai ran 57 seconds under the recognized world record in winning in 2:03:02, but again, not a new official world record).