It seems like every week is an interesting week in both the SMA and endurance sports worlds. Each week, we have a bunch of things to discuss. As usual, I’ll first briefly discuss a couple of updates on Spinal Muscular Atrophy (“SMA”), and then I’ll summarize some interesting races that went down over the weekend.
At DAWS, we realize that there are a number of charities that are dialed in to fighting SMA – the number one genetic killer of kids under the age of two in the world. Each charity has its own niche – it’s own way of fitting in to the fight. Since DAWS was founded by a group of runners that united for a common goal, our niche within this fight is raising awareness and donations through fund raisers that are geared toward running to assist with research and help families. When other SMA charities announce something interesting, it’s in the best interests of the overall fight against this disease to share such news with anyone that reads this blog. So without further adieu, here we go:
DAWS: our current event – a virtual 5k simply called The Fourth Awakens – is still underway! Proceeds will help us toward our goals of providing help in the fight to finding a cure…and helping SMA families all along with way. I want to thank everyone that participated so far, and made this event another success! Please check out our website at www.doawaywothsma.org.
Fight SMA: Provided three additional research grants to doctors within US. Universities on April 8th. They’ve done a great job donating money to fund advances in research toward a cure.
Cure SMA: Another research grant was issued, helping in the fight for a cure.
The SMA Trust: a U.K.-based charity has several challenge events on the calendar – I’ll mention them below.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy Support U.K.: Another great U.K.-based charity, they issued a new book called SMA Type 2 and Me, which is written for children and provides a basic understanding of the disease. (I’m going to leave this update within my blog posts going forward, in the hope that people will use this book for educational purposes.)
Upcoming SMA Events
THIS SUNDAY!: If you happen to be in London, check out the London Marathon…because the SMA Trust will have a few runners toeing the line to raise money to help in the fight against this disease.
May 2nd 2016: Cure SMA’s NYC chapter is holding an event called An Evening of Hope in the west village section of Manhattan. Wine and chocolate tastings are a part of the fun!
June 16th – 19th 2016: Cure SMA is holding its Annual Conference in Disneyland. Here, parents and SMA kids as well as researchers from all over the country can meet up and be a part of numerous sessions that focus on research progress and sharing of information.
September 14th – 18th 2016: The SMA Trust will take part in the London to Paris Bike Ride!
September 29th 2016: DAWS, alongside the gang of the WDW Today podcast, will hold it’s inaugural World SlowChase. The event will take place at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Food and Wine Festival, as we slowly chase each other through Epcot to taste and sip the offerings of the International Showcase Pavilions. As part of this adventure, you will receive a custom WDW Today Bottle Opener, a lanyard, a backpack and other goodies. (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wdw-todays-world-slowchase-a-do-away-with-sma-benefit-tickets-21967847423)
The SMA Angels Annual Charity Ball is scheduled to take place on November 21st 2016. Please feel free to check out their website for additional details.
If you know of any other SMA news that you’d like us to share, just let us know!
OK – thanks for taking a moment to check out our update on the fight against SMA. Since DAWS was founded by a bunch a fun-loving endurance athletes with a special fondness for running, we’re focusing the remainder of this weekly blog on a synopsis of some big races…and a preview of things to be on the lookout for this coming weekend.
There are a couple of races that I figured that I’d mention here before jumping to the big kahuna of the week: BOSTON. First up: The MORE Womens Half Marathon.
The MORE Womens Half Marathon is run annually in Central Park, with over 7,000 female athletes competing over the 13.1 mile course that includes two full loops of the park. Some challenging hills (especially the second time around) make this race not exactly the fastest half marathon course run in NYC during the year – but the weather was fantastic and the winning time was 1:16:28. Deena Kastor participated in this race (although she was not competing for the victory here) – so the female marathon star helped to bring added focus to this race that symbolizes female solidarity and empowerment.
In Walt Disney World, runDisney held it’s first-ever Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side last weekend. The series of races consisted of a 5k on Friday, a 10k on Saturday and a Half Marathon on Sunday. The half marathon course took runners through Epcot, Holly wood Studios and the Animal Kingdom, before finishing up at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. RunDisney held a Star Wars Half Marathon in Disneyland back in January – so if you were fortunate enough to score a bib in both races, upon finishing the half in WDW you received a Coast to Coast Medal along with a Star Wars-themed medal shared like the Millennium Falcon called The Kessel Run.
OK – let’s talk about the big race of the weekend: BOSTON. The Boston Marathon is run annually on Patriot’s Day – which is always a Monday in April. This year marked the 120th running of this iconic race. The race begins in Hopkinton and finishes on Boylston Street near Copley Square in Boston. I’ve never had the honor of running this race, simply because I have not earned it yet. The Boston Athletic Association’s symbol is the unicorn – and it is on the face of each finisher’s medal annually…and it’s a perfect graphic for this race, since the unicorn is a legendary creature. For the most part, the 30,000+ athletes that toe the line on Patriot’s Day have to earn their spots by finishing another marathon within the past year at a specific time or less. In the marathoning world, we simply refer to this as a runner’s BQ (Boston Qualifying) time. Now these BQ times differ based on the runner’s age and sex: for instance, as a 45 year-old man, I need to complete another marathon within the next year with a finishing time of 3 hours and 15 minutes. (So in order to qualify, I’ll need to unload this piano that has been super glued to my rear-end.) Men 80 years old and over need to finish another qualifying race in 4 hours and 55 minutes or less (now THAT’s more like it for me – so all I need to do is keep up my current running pace for the next 35 years, and I’ll have a shot to earn a unicorn!). If you have finished a marathon with a time that is under your BQ time, you can put your name into the lottery for possible selection. So – as you can see – earning a bib for this race is something to take great pride in.
Here are some facts about the race:
It’s one of the six marathons in the world that are considered The World Marathon Majors (along with New York, Chicago, London, Berlin and Tokyo).
It was first run in 1897, with 15 athletes. The winning time? 2 hours and 55 minutes.
The original distance for this race was 24.8-25 miles, which was based on the distance that Pheidippides ran from the plains of Marathon to Athens. When he arrived in Athens with news of the Greek victory versus the Persian army, he pronounced “Rejoice! We conquer!” ….and then he collapsed and died.
Since we are talking about the marathon distance, let’s cover another general point before moving on to more Boston factoids: the marathon distance was changed from 25 miles to 26.2 miles due to the Queen of England. That’s right: The Queen makes us run an additional 1.2 miles. How is that possible? The 1908 Olympic Games were held in London, and Queen Alexandria wanted the marathon begin at Windsor Castle outside the city. The total distance between Windsor Castle and the Olympic Stadium was 26 miles. Then, to add insult to injury, the olympic organizers decided to make the marathoners finish by taking a lap around the Stadium track, so that they would finish in front of the King & Queen’s royal box – and there is your additional two-tenths of a mile.
Women in this race have a cool history too. The first woman finisher of the marathon was in 1966, and she was never issued a bib. Roberta Gibb hid in the bushes near the start, and when the gun went off, she took off. Kathy Switzer took it to the next level the following year, by completing her application for the marathon by just filling in the name K. Switzer. Since there was no way of telling whether the entrant was a man or a woman – she was issued a bib. The gun went off, she took off, and it was at this point where the race organizers noticed that the K did not stand for Kevin or Kenny. So there here comes this race organizer, decked out in a jacket and tie, onto the race course to try to physically stop Kathy from running in the race. What the organizer didn’t know was that her husband had her back. So……he lunges for Kathy, and her husband throws a hip check into him that would have made the Hanson Brothers blush. Cleanup aisle 3, please.
1980 was an interesting year. Rosie Ruiz decided to hang out within a crowd of fans, and then hop into the race – official bib and all – at around mile 25. She ran the last one mile and a bit, and appeared to win the race…until an investigation found out the facts surrounding her scam.
When runners enter into the town of Newton, on their way to Boston’s historic finish line, they come face to face with the Newton Hills. These hills range from miles 16 through 20 on the course, the last of which – right near Boston College – carries the name Heartbreak Hill. Why? Because this hill – although not huge – is located at mile 20 of the race…a mile marker referred to by marathoners as The Wall. It’s the general portion of the race where the runner’s energy stores have been burned, leaving him / her running on vapors. Now – as the runner is dealing with this fueling issues – throw in a decent hill. It’s basically like the course reaching up and smacking the marathoner in the face. Pop. So where did the nickname come from? Some people say that the hill’s name dates back to 1936, when John Kelley passed Ellison Brown while scaling it. Kelley decided to give Brown a pat on the back as he passed him. This pissed Brown off, and he found another gear…and caught Kelley and went on to win – breaking Kelley’s heart.
Want to talk speed? OK. Fastest time on Boston’s course: 2:03:02. Geoffrey Mutai. Think about that time for a moment….now say it with me: BEAST.
Want to talk fans? OK. Where New York City has First Avenue and the streets of Brooklyn to boast about as far as noise is concerned, Boston has many points of spectator pride as well. From the Scream Tunnel created by the students of Wellesley College to the Red Sox fans that pour out of Fenway Park after the team’s game finishes to support the finishers, Bostonians take great pride in this race…and they show it.
We all know what happened in 2013. I’m not going to discuss it here, other than to say that one of the injured women from the bombing finished on Monday – and the fans exploded as she ran the last three tenths of a mile.
I’m sure that there are plenty of other fun factoids about Boston to add to the mix – but I am going to finish with my favorite one, and it can be summed up in two simple words: TEAM HOYT. If you don’t know who Team Hoyt is, you need to google it or – better yet – You Tube it. Seriously. I mean it. I’ll wait. …………………………………………..ok – see what I mean? Rick Hoyt was born with Cerebral Palsy. He cannot speak, and is confined to a wheelchair. While he may have these limitations thrust on him, his mind is still as sharp as a tack (he’s a college graduate), and he can now communicate with the use of a computer. So one day in 1977, Rick asked his dad, Dick, if he could participate in a local 5k that was being run to benefit a local lacrosse player that was paralyzed. They did…and they came in last. Did they care? Hell no – because Rick told his dad that competing in that 5k made him feel like he wasn’t handicapped. On that day, Team Hoyt was born. Since then, Dick and Rick Hoyt have completed he Boston Marathon 32 times. They have biked and ran across the U.S.A. in 45 days (1992), and they are Ironmen (x6). When competing in an Ironman, Dick places Rick in an inflatable boat and pulls him in the water for 2.4 miles, finishing the swim course in less than two hours and twenty minutes. Then Rick sits in a special bike seat for the 112 mile cycling portion of the race. Then they transition to his marathon chair for the 26.2 journey to the finish. For their personification of endurance and their ability to beat the odds and show the world that you can do anything if you just try hard enough, a bronze statue of Team Hoyt was erected at the start of the Boston Marathon in 2013. ESPN honored them with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.
In 2016, the men’s winning time was 2:12, and the women’s winning time was 2:29.
There are a few fantastic races coming up next week, the big kahuna of which is the London Marathon – another of the World Marathon Majors. Another great race on the calendar for Sunday is the Big Sur Marathon (if you want hills – this one has them!). The Rock n Roll Marathon series stops in Madrid, and the Gettysburg Marathon hits the roadways in Pennsylvania.
Are there any races coming up that you’d like us to blog about? Let us know! Until next week: may all your hills be downhills.