Clarence DeMar Marathon

“I’m back”, he said, and he was, in a big way – Clarence DeMar

“Can’t keep a good man down.” – Alabama 

Clarence DeMar is another great runner of our past. His “intermittent” domination of the Boston Marathon a century ago is unmatched to this day. Overall he won the infamous hilly race 7 times, but what is more awesome, is that he did it over a span of 20 years. His story is one of repeatedly returning to greatness.

DeMar was born in Madeira, Ohio and that’s where he found his love of running. Walking is boring and so as soon as he began going to school, young DeMar used to dogtrot to get himself there. The quick but easy gait was a great foundation for getting through the trials of marathons.

He entered his first Boston marathon in 1910 and got 2nd place. This is a also a time when doctors tell him that he has a heart murmur and he should quit running within a year or two. He comes back a year later to claim his first victory in Boston. He came back a year later and won again – this time setting a new course record of 2:21:39. Having used up his last 2 years of running, DeMar hung up his serious running shoes and focused on his studies at Harvard and Boston University. But since he was in the neighborhood, he entered the 1917 Boston Marathon and finished third despite lack of training. Later that year he was drafted to the army and sent to Europe.

After returning from the army, and 11 years since he first won “Boston” (and was told about his heart condition), he entered and won the race three times in a row. Setting new records and almost renaming the race to “DeMarathon” along the way. He then took a breather and placed 2nd and 3rd in the two years that followed. After the rest – he went ballistic – completely dominating every race he entered across the US, and again taking first in Boston 2 more times.

Being true to this blog’s favorite motto “You don’t stop running because you get old. You get old because you stop running!”, DeMar raced his last Boston Marathon at the age of 65 and a 15km race at the age of 69. He died of cancer one year later.

He rests in peace, but his memory continues to inspire runners. If you are ever in Keene, New Hampshire in late September, consider joining the race named in his honor. More details here:




super hero edition irunwhy

IRUNWHY Recap – Superhero Edition

Life is locomotion… if you’re not moving, you’re not living. But there comes a time when you’ve got to stop running away from things… and you’ve got to start running towards something, you’ve got to forge ahead. Keep moving. Even if your path isn’t lit… trust that you’ll find your way. — The Flash

They’ve inspired us and they’ve motivated us, today we ask (and answer) – what if our hero runners were superheroes? What would they look like? What would they use as their secret weapon? Without further ado, here we go:


He was the man who started this whole Marathon craze taking over the world.  As a superhero, he brings good news from far away in a timely fashion. You won a battle in a far away place – he’s there to tell you about it. His special weapon – perseverance.

Pheidippides - Marathon Man


She stood up to the ignorance and injustice of how women were treated (not so long ago).  As a superhero, she seeks out ignorance and wipes it off the face of the earth. Her special weapon – will and determination.

Switzer (1)


In their path – where unbreakable walls once stood – there now is a pile of rubble. They are the classic dynamic duo and inspiration is their weapon of choice. Marathons, Ironman Triathlons, running and biking across the US – they’ve done it all and with very impressive times. (Special congrats on finishing Boston Marathon a few days ago)

Team Hoyt


He is responsible for the best quote in the history of running, always worth repeating:  “You don’t stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running.” He not only spoke wise words, but proved them to be true by running cross country races well into his nineties. His superpower – running circles around young runners.

Jack Kirk


“He is the king of distance,” is an understatement.  He has ran across every major desert on this planet and he continues to defy what we think of as possible.  His special power is turning back time (superman style – by circling the globe at lightning speed).

Kevin Lin


“Hard work, grit, determination and composure are the ingredients to his success.  He has moved the goal posts in competitive running by adjusting world records in all of the distances he’s competed. His special weapon is the smile that turns his competitors – and all evil doers – into stone statues.



His fight was an inflection point in the battle against cancer. His run across Canada inspired an entire nation and raised millions of dollars to fight Cancer – all this as he was suffering from the disease himself. His superhero weapon is: being there, whispering in your ear: “You can do it!”, when doubt creeps into your thoughts.


Terry Fox



He waited until he was 61 to show the young ones what long distance running is all about. His record breaking race from Sydney to Melbourne – leaving all the competitors half his age in the dust – taught us we can learn something from the wise mature men. He trained while chasing sheep on his grazing fields, his special weapon are the magic gumboots that let him shuffle past the competition.



Only Ali gets a superhero for this post (Rocky is already fictional). He gets the highest honor possible on this blog – he is here and he is not even a pure runner. His training and mental attitude inspired thousands of runners around the world. His special weapon needs no explanation – dancing like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.



He ran not with money in his pocket, but dreams in his heart. He was a runner’s runner – loved by all lucky enough to have met him. He raced with the most contorted grimace but with the most domineering results of the time. His special weapon – inspired by his grueling training techniques – is picking up the evil doers and running them to the end of the earth on his back (coming back and repeating if there are more there).


More running stories coming soon.

Special thanks to the artist behind the superhero drawings – Rob. You can find more of his work here:

The Queen of New York … From Norway – Grete Waitz

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” ~Leonardo da Vinci

Bare with me for a bit here as I get to the point in a little round about way. Recently I was thinking about a graphic I once saw about how much a PHD student expands humanity’s realm of knowledge. It looks something like a little pimple sticking out of the circle. The circle represents all that we know.

PhD Knowledge


There are only a few people in the history of the world that really have an impact bigger than the pimple in growing our collective knowledge (Newtons, Einsteins are most notable).

The same can be applied to running: very few people have advanced the sport further than a little bump. Grete Waitz is one of those people. Her contribution can be visualized as the following (an all around expansion across the realm of running) :



When we talk about Grete Waitz, we have to go back to that shady time not so long ago, when the accepted belief was that women were not quite on par with men when it came to long distance running. We’ve already talked about Kathrine Switzer’s bold stand against the status quo. While Kathrine challenged what was being said and thought at the time, Grete unequivocally proved again and again and again all those thoughts were myths. Grete won the New York marathon not once, not twice, but 9 times in her career.

She was invited to participate in her first NY marathon in 1978 by Fred Lebow, one of the race founders. She not only won on her first try, but took 2 minutes off the women’s world record. Her path to becoming the queen of NY began. Over her nine NY victories, she reset the world record three years in a row and lowered the total time by nine minutes.

Grete Waitz Winning Her Marathon

While reigning over the five Burroughs of New York City, Grete also showed how it’s done in the old world. She won and set new course records in London and Stockholm. She also won Gold in the 1983 World Championship in Helsinki. In other words, she owned the marathon for a decade.

In the early days of women’s long distance running, Grete showed the world not only that it is possible for women to compete, but that it is possible to be a bad ass woman runner. She inspired legions of new runners to participate in the sport and thereby expanded the realm of running.

Grete ran her last NYC marathon slowly. She ran alongside Fred Lebow who was fighting brain cancer but was determined to finish the race with her now old time friend. They both finished in 5 hours 32 minutes, more than twice as long as Grete’s first marathon in NYC.

Lebow and Grete cross finish line

Sadly, Grete herself died of cancer at the young age of 57 in 2011. She was buried with honors by the government of Norway – only the sixth woman in the countries history to be so honored.

She is missed, but she still remains the queen of NY.

Ali and Rocky

Stallion and Butterfly – Rocky and Ali

“Life’s not about how hard of a hit you can give… it’s about how many you can take, and still keep moving forward.” ~ Rocky

“I run on the road long before I dance under the lights.” –Muhammad Ali

As different as these two boxers were, they had one thing in common: they ran to get ready for their battles. And in the case of the fictional character of Rocky, he inspired whole legions of runners who celebrate his training run to this day.

So you might be asking yourself, why do boxers run, or “do roadwork”, anyways? It’s all about having a good foundation. Roadwork builds your stamina, stamina allows you to have longer and more intense sparring sessions, good sparring sessions make you into a great boxer. So both the butterfly and the stallion needed to put in the miles before stepping into the ring – one needed the stamina to dance around his opponents, the other needed the stamina to keep coming straight at them.

Ali doing situpsLet’s start with the butterfly. As smooth a talker and as handsome a man as Ali believed he was, he knew the value of hard work. His training sessions are legendary and he has shared some good advice about working on your core – as we know a strong core makes a strong runner. When he was asked about how many sit ups he did, he said: “I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. That is when I start counting, because then it really counts. That’s what makes you a champion.” 

When it comes to running, Muhammed’s famous fight preparation for the rumble in the jungle comes to mind. You see the kids running alongside him. They are learning about hard work and the discipline it takes to win. He is getting his body and mind ready for a battle against the most powerful puncher the world of boxing has ever seen. 

Now, lets talk about Rocky. With this dude … it’s personal. I was nine or ten when I saw the first Rocky movie. Right after the movie I ran from one end of my town to the other, shadow boxing along the way. It was the first time I really felt bliss while running. To this day, when the running gets tough, I sing a little bit of the “Eye of the Tiger” (am I alone here?), and keep on trucking. 

Rocky might be a fictional character but his movie has inspired real people to run. Running fans have analyzed the famous training run from Rocky’s movie and documented it here. The entire route is over 30 miles. There is even an official event to celebrate the run that changed lives.

Rocky over bench


rocky celebrating

As Ali’s career and the Rocky movies have taught us, you need to run to be a champion boxer. Running also seems to be the medicine that calms and focuses a fighter before the big event. So get out there, run, and get ready for your next challenge.

NonRunner Marathon Runners

Who is Your Target? – The NonRunner Runner Edition

“My doctor told me that jogging could add years to my life. I think he was right. I feel ten years older already.”
-Milton Berle

It’s official … with the race in Tokyo last weekend, the 2014 marathon season has officially started. London is just around the corner on April 13 and Boston is just 8 days after that. So I do hope that everyone has got their target picked out for the year.

If you are like me, a human and a runner, then you might get some motivation by selecting an adversary. The graphic above and the list below is there to help you choose your nemesis.

LEVEL 1 – IF AL CAN DO IT, SO CAN YOU CLUB. Anyone who undertakes the marathon has my respect. Even top notch athletes will tell you that there is no guarantees when it comes to the 26.2 mile event. So hats off to Al Roker on getting in way under the 8 hour mark. Al Roker (7:09:44)

Level 2 – CATCH HER IF YOU CAN. You may want to do some beach runs to keep up with Pamela who came in under 6 hours. Pamela Anderson (5h 41min) 

Level 3 – IT’S GETTING SERIOUS. Now we’re talking about not having much time to talk, at this pace you won’t be taking too many walking breaks on your run. The sub 5:30 mark is a constant motion event. Katie Holmes (5:29:58) Eddie Izzard (5:00:30), Al Gore (4:54:25), Drew Carey 4:37:11

Level 4 – YOU GET OUT OF IT WHAT YOU PUT INTO IT. That’s how Oprah describes running. This eclectic bunch certainly had to put in the mileage to go sub 4:30. Oprah Winfrey (4:29:15), Alanis Morissette (4:28:45), P. Diddy (4:14:54), Bobby Flay (4:01:37), Paul Ryan (4:01:25)

Level 5 – LESS THAN 2 HOURS AFTER THE WINNER CLUB. OK, so maybe the race winners have already collected their trophies and left for the airport to catch a flight to the next marathon, but among mere mortal runners going sub 4 is a big rite of passage. Sarah Palin (3:59:36), Will Ferrell (3:56:12), Flea- Red Hot Chili Peppers (3:53:00), Ed Norton (3:48:01), George W. Bush (3:44:52)

Level 6 – “AGE GROUP” BRASS COLLECTORS. This is a club which will take home an occasional age group trophy and not just the “Finisher” medal after the race. Much respect. Gordon Ramsay (3:36:xx LA Marathon), Björn Ulvaeus, ABBA (3:23:54)

Level 7 – PERHAPS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER CHANGING YOUR CAREER PATH. I’m grateful that Alan Turing decided to decrypt the enigma machine, break the Nazi code and help end World War II, but at this speed Alan, along with David and Dominique, definitely had options. Dominique de Villepin French Prime Minister (2:57:06), David Petraeus (2:50:53), Alan Turing (2:46:03)

On a personal note – I’m happy to say that last weekend, after many attempts, I was finally able to step into the sub 4 hour club. (Sarah Pailin was my target for the last several years.)

My Marathon Time

Joy of RunningIt was perfect weather in Taipei – sunny, breezy, and not too hot. It was the first marathon in three races where it didn’t rain … the whole time.

Haile Gebrselassie – He moved the goal posts

He Zoomed By With a Smile – Haile Gebrselassie

“Always behave like a duck- keep calm and unruffled on the surface, but paddle like the devil underneath.”
― Jacob M. Braude

Every time I set out for a long run, I go through several stages and so do my facial expressions. We begin with a systems check – where we do a toe to forehead body analysis. At this point, the face is pretty happy but focused as the mind ticks off the boxes and gives the run an “All Clear”. Next is the smooth sailing zone, where I’m all smiles. The next stage is either further joy where I’m told I look like a deranged happy idiot, or it’s pain management time where I look like a psycho analyst trying to distract my brain from the loads of discomfort in one location (knee perhaps) or another (ankle or hip). The final stage is desperation and that is exactly what my face displays. There is a bonus stage. I’ve only been there twice and in both cases on runs over 50k. I call it runner’s bliss – it’s where endorphins and neurons are having a massive celebration inside your head and you literally can’t help but cry … in a happy way.

But wait, what does all this have to do with today’s story? I’m getting there.

Today we’re celebrating Haile Gebrselassie. He is a pro or more accurately a god among pros. And he is responsible for putting many different types of expressions on his opponents’ faces – everything from pain, desperation, disbelief, and awe. And he did this while maintaining just one expression – a smile – and destroying his competition in every distance he took on. He literally established new norms with regards to what it takes to be great in the 5k, the 10k and the marathon. Haile Gebrselassie - smiling

Haile was inspired to take up running by his countryman and hero Miruts Yifter who won both the 5,000 and 10,000 meter events at the 1980 Olympics. Since the age of seven, he wanted to be like Miruts. He had a dream, he had talent, and then he applied his magic touch – discipline.

10 is a special number for Haile. He was born one of 10 children and he ran 10k to school and back every day. He carried 10 (estimate for creative purposes) books to school every day. This attributed to his unique running posture, with left arm crooked as if he is still holding on to those books. Rain or extreme heat, Haile ran the 10k … and a little longer on the weekends when the destination was the local market at the end of town. What Haile didn’t know growing up in Asselle, Ethiopia, is that his determination and drive would soon lead him to dominate the sport of running in the 10k and beyond.

He first shone on the world stage in 1992 at the Junior World Championships in Seoul. He won both the 5k and the 10k events. That was just a little taste of what Haile was about. The next year, he stepped up to men’s division and won the first of what would become four consecutive World Championships in the Men’s 10k race.  He worked harder and became simply awesome. In 1995, Haile started changing the standard for greatness in long distance running. He first lowered the 10k record by 9 seconds and in the same year adjusted the 5k record by over 10 seconds. All in all, Haile would establish over 20 new world records in his career.

But lets get back to that smile.

It was during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where the extremely high humidity caused Haile to experience severe blistering. He put it simply “the skin came off my foot.” Nonetheless he entered and made the finals in the 10k event. There is footage with a shade of determination (or is it hiding of pain) before the race. Here is the shot from before the race.

Haile during the raceHe ran through the pain. He didn’t show weakness and he took home his first Olympic gold.

4 years later at the Sydney Olympics, the situation was even more dramatic. Haile was already scheduled for an operation as he had been nursing an foot injury for about a year. He came to the event only for moral support of his teammates. He changed his mind at the last minute and entered the race – hiding a limp around his competitors. The race came down to a dramatic sprint finish – Haile beating his arch-rival Paul Tergat by inches. The extent of his injury became clear as he limped up to the podium to receive his gold medal.

Haile during the race

After a successful track career, Haile took on the marathon and again reset the gold standard. He was the first person to run the marathon in under 2:04, twice setting a new record.

Haile is 41 years old these days and he no longer thinks about breaking records, but he is not against helping others do so. Look for him on April 13th at the London Marathon as he will be the main pacemaker to help break the world record. He will run the first 30k at world record pace as a guide for the top tier of runners.

So next time you’re in pain remember not to show your weakness against your adversaries. Smile … and zoom past your competition.

Want to learn more about Haile? Here is a pretty cool video:

Terry Fox and his route

“No!” is Not an Acceptable Answer – Terry Fox

“I bet some of you feel sorry for me. Well don’t. Having an artificial leg has its advantages. I’ve broken my right knee many times and it doesn’t hurt a bit.” ~ Terry Fox 

Before I started this blog, I asked my running friends to contribute their ideas of who should be included in this collection. The first and most frequent name that came up was Terry Fox. I had heard of the name before. My recollection was vaguely of a cancer survivor who ran across Canada, back in the days when things like this were simply not done. After reading a little more about Terry and after watching a couple of tear-invoking documentaries, I realized why he has made such a strong impact on so many people. His story is an epic legend, however, unlike legends and fables, which have a touch of truth and a great deal of creative amplification, his story is pure awesomeness without the need for exaggeration.

Terry led an inspirational life right from his childhood. He was one of those scrappy and scrawny kids who don’t like to hear “No!” for an answer. He loved sports, specifically basketball, and despite being smaller than his peers, he was more determined and he worked harder than the others. He made the high school team, and by his senior year, became the team’s captain. 

When Terry was 19, life gave him the biggest “No!” a young man could hear. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of cancer that typically starts at the knee.  He had to have his leg amputated and undergo chemotherapy. While in therapy, he saw how cancer took many innocent, young lives before it was their time to go. He also learned that progress in science and medicine made a dramatic difference in giving people a chance to survive. In his case, he had a chance of survival of 50%. If he had been diagnosed a few years earlier, he would have only had a 15% chance of survival. The final lesson, the lesson that clarified his quest for life, was that cancer research was terrifyingly underfunded. 

Inspired by the story of Dick Traum, the first amputee to complete the New York City Marathon, Terry decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. He called his quest “The Marathon of Hope.” It was time to hear “No!” again.

His body said “NO!” – As he went out on the track to practice running with his replacement leg, he would fall down … repeatedly. Terry got up … repeatedly, until he could run a lap, a mile, a half marathon.

Hi mother said “NO!” – This hurt, as she was the source of his determination in his younger years. Terry won her over and after his death she was the one who carried on his mission.

His community said “NO!” – A young mother said something to the effect of “Get that freak out of sight from my kid!”, after she saw Terry train and blood seep through his sweatpants where the prosthesis met his leg. Terry changed his training to night time.

Hi doctor said “NO!” – This was not a time when prosthesis were built for running. Terry took three of them for the run and had another one refitted during the trek.

The weather said “NO!” – Winter storms and gale winds met Terry at the start of the race. He kept running, a marathon a day against the wind.

Canada said “NO!” – When he started the race, nobody cared. He raised pennies as he ran through Quebec – nobody knew who this person was and what he was up to. Terry kept moving forward, his supporters kept spreading the news, and soon he won Canada over like no Canadian ever had in the history of the country. By the time he reached Toronto, the whole country was tuned in and he had to run hundreds of extra miles to give speeches along his trek in Ontario County.

The final “NO!” came from cancer. After thousands of miles on the run, Terry started to develop a cough and had some difficulty breathing. He kept going through the pain until it became unbearable. At mile 3,339, he stopped and asked to be taken to the hospital. The next day, after realizing that his cancer had spread to his lungs, he announced that he is suspending his race. Terry underwent treatment again, however, the disease continued to spread. He fell into a coma and died at the age of 22.

Terry Fox StatueTerry might have died, but his cause lives on. The news of his death was a national tragedy and a call to action. His Marathon of Hope not only raised the goal of one dollar per Canadian to combat the disease, but inspired millions of others to help raise funds for cancer research. There are statues and there are streets named after Terry Fox, more importantly, year after year the Terry Fox Run engages hundreds of thousands of runners and raises millions of dollars to help fight cancer.

Terry Fox run

Here’s a movie about Terry Fox, featuring Robert Duvall:

And ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary, co-directed by Steve Nash:

On a More Personal Note

According to Worldwide Cancer Research Fund International: There were an estimated 12.7 million cancer cases around the world in 2008, of these 6.6 million cases were in men and 6.0 million in women. This number is expected to increase to 21 million by 2030. Personally, I never got to meet one of my grandfathers and I don’t remember the other as they were both taken away by cancer in a much too young an age. I saw a high school classmate slowly disappear from our life as he battled, and eventually succumbed to the disease.

We are all affected by cancer. We also see how brave people can be in the face of cancer and how our love of life can shine brighter when faced with the battle against it. I end with the following story of a fellow runner from my running community in Taipei:

Upon being diagnosed with breast cancer, Ms. K runs a triathlon. This was after attending a late-night charity event the night before and rushing to the train station to make the race on time. Ms. K then had surgery and began chemo in the weeks that followed. One of the questions she asked the nurse, at her first chemo treatment, was “Will I be able to run?”

Ms. K keeps running strong today and inspiring her many friends to run with her.