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Not Out of the Woods Yet

Apparently Old Man Winter isn’t going away without a fight.  It looks like we’re going to get some precipitation this weekend, but no real snow accumulation (here in Boston at least).  How will this impact your weekend training and racing?  For those of you running Boston, the hay’s in the barn at this point, although one last tune up race this weekend isn’t the worst idea in the world.

It was last year at this time that I ran over to the Cambridge City Run to get in one last tune-up for Boston.  Actually, it wasn’t a tune-up, it was more in line with my plan of hurriedly racing myself into shape since I had a miserable time trying to stay healthy that winter.  It didn’t go as planned, not by a long shot.  I got my ass kicked by John Jantz, and I don’t think it was as close as the final results say.  The only thing memorable about that day was the fact that I ran the 13 mi round trip to and from the race, and on the way back I had a ridiculously large trophy for winning my age group.  I tried to keep it in my tiny backpack, but it ended up literally scarring me.  I still bear the mark of it to this day.  It was about the size of the monument they gave to Daniel Larusso after he won the All-Valley Karate Tournament, but all I did was win my age group.

Give him a…trophy…Johnny?

Apparently I have what has finally been diagnosed as a partial tear of a hamstring tendon, so I’m out for a while.  Although it hasn’t been confirmed, I’m pretty sure that it is solid evidence of my leg trying to escape my body.  It’s the anatomical equivalent of Andy Dufresne tunneling his way to freedom, only I peeked behind the poster sooner than it expected (with that last MRI) and foiled the whole plan.  I would’ve like to maybe seek out some vengeance at the City Run this year, but I’ll have to settle on possibly just spectating it.

So don’t be  intimidated when Old Man Winter comes back to remind us all that we only won the battle this year and not the war.  Get out there and get it done, whatever it is you have planned.  As always, Keep It On The Level.

LetsRun Exclusive Interview

This interview originally ran in the Jan/Feb issue of Level Renner magazine.  We are re-”running” it here in case you missed it.

Weldon and Robert Johnson (twin brothers) are the founders of LetsRun.com, the internet’s most comprehensive site for all things running. Established in 2000 while Weldon was living in Arizona and training for the Olympic Trials, the site was formed to promote the coverage of running as an elite level sport and to create a place where renners could share and spread training philosophies.  What you will read below is an exclusive interview between Level Renner columnist Kevin Gray and Weldon Johnson.

KG: Can you give us a bit of background on yourselves (where you grew up and where you guys went to college)?

WJ: Robert and I grew up in Dallas. I ran at Yale and Robert attended Princeton but did not run there, though he lived with Chris Lear (author of Running with the Buffaloes and Sub 4:00).

KG: I can remember the influx of the internet and how it transformed the sport of running. I think TNFmedia.com was one of the only sites around prior to the birth of LetsRun, but it wasn’t nearly as thorough in its coverage as you guys now are. Personally, I love that you can go right to LetsRun for links to watch live NCAA Cross Country or coverage, say, of the New York City Marathon.  One of the greatest aspects of the site is that results are available almost instantly either through links on the site or on the message boards.

WJ: I met a fan of the site in South Korea, and I think he summed it up nicely when he called us the drudge report of running. It is a collection of all articles running related, and we don’t try and keep the reader on LetsRun like other running sites but want to direct them to the best coverage of the events. For example, with the Boston Marathon, Boston newspapers are going to have the best coverage, so we will post links to their articles and the same with London Marathon a week prior. Our goal is to find the best coverage of the elite side of running and aggregate it each day on the front page of LetsRun.com. We also decided to supplement things with our own coverage of select events, offering our own opinion (sometimes critical) with the hope of opening dialogue with regards to running as a legitimate sport (something that we felt was severely lacking in the coverage prior to LetsRun). We like to express our opinion and let people express theirs. Just because we may have criticized something or someone does not mean we do not like them.  People will also often times make the mistake that something they read on the message boards represents what Robert and I believe.  They have a hard time differentiating between LetsRun and something a poster said.

KG: I know that Robert is the cross country coach at Cornell but was wondering if this is your full time job? You guys do a very timely job in keeping the site current (it is always updated when I check the site early each morning). Can you explain who does the “grunt work,” scouring the web for all articles running related? I believe that you have one employee (aptly named LetsRun employee #1) besides the two of you? I’m assuming that because you guys live in different parts of the country, in different time zones, it must be a challenge to communicate with one another regarding how the site will look the following day?

WJ: I live in Texas and Robert is in Ithaca. I’m doing the site full time and Robert is coaching in addition to working on the site. We are currently onto LetsRun employee 1.1 (Steve Soprano) and in the past Emory Mort (LetsRun employee 1.0) has helped us out, and then there is the guy who made the whole site possible, coaching guru, John Kellogg. I owe my success in running to him.

The site is updated throughout the day, with one big update at night. Robert and Steve focus on The Week in Review, some of the content with the site (although I will help out as well), and we all will search around some of the better newspaper sites that write about running. After doing this for a while, we know which sites have the best running articles and we try to focus on those. And then there is the business side of things, which I handle and we all interact with our visitors, as we get thousands of emails per month, and we all play a part in responding.

KG: The site seems to have started as a hobby between you and Robert, an outlet for your passion for running. I noticed, a few years back, the site had a major overhaul and now looks much more professional. Can you bring us through the progression of the site?

WJ: The site had the overhaul that you mentioned in 2008. We are currently averaging around 600,000 unique visitors per month and are over 4 million message board posts, so it has really grown since its launch in 2000. Although we are happy with the new layout, we think it can still be improved aesthetically as there is a lot of information on the page. We aim to keep the trust of the visitor first and the rest will take care of itself. The knowledge of the visitors really makes the site and helps to harness the wealth of information.

KG: I’m sure that LetsRun has taken you on many journeys (both emotionally and physically). Can you share some of the highs you have experienced running the site?

WJ: In terms of events I’ve attended, the highlight was the 2007 World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa, Kenya. It was close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and tens of thousands of fans were packed along the course like sardines. I’ll never see something like it again, and in terms of the running experience in Kenya, until you’ve been there and seen the training camps, you don’t really understand it. It is just an amazing experience.

The biggest compliment we get is when I go to events and meet journalists from around the world, and they say they appreciate what we
do at LetsRun. That’s when I know we’re doing our job. We’re definitely not traditional journalists but when we get the seal of approval from traditional journalists, it means a lot.

KG: I guess any interview with you guys would be incomplete without mentioning the “World Famous Message Boards.”  The message boards do have a reputation for being negative and somewhat nasty. What are your thoughts personally regarding this negativity, and the fact that the boards do not require registration, allowing people to post anonymously? Some people are critical of your hands off approach to the message boards. Can you speak to your critics?

WJ: I think the vast majority of visitors enjoy the message boards. In terms of negativity, I think it’s a lot less negative than what you’ll read on the comment section of a newspaper article on a prominent person or prominent sports team. Having said that, any
community, online or real, is going to have its problems and troublemakers. We have that in ours.

Sure we have discussed the idea of registration but have decided that ultimately that limits the free flow of information. Moderating is more art than science, but we have the “Report a Post” feature and anyone can report a post they want reviewed. We’ve removed hundreds of thousands of posts.

Sure there is stuff on there that I am embarrassed by, but we remove it and get on with things. The biggest troublemakers cause trouble,
no matter what we do, banning IP addresses, etc.

I think some people’s response to the “negativity” on our message boards shows how small our sport is. Do you think Derek Jeter cares what someone is saying about him on a New York Yankees message board? Hard core fans of sports have knee-jerk reactions to the their sports and share their opinions. So Galen Rupp or Chris Solinsky has a bad race, well some hard core fans are going to act like it’s the end of the world. I live in Fort Worth, and the reaction after the Cowboys lose is ridiculous on sports radio here. LetsRun is the place where fans of the sport of running gather to overreact as well. It’s far from a perfect community but I think the vast majority of people contribute positively and understand it is an anonymous message board and what that means.

Thank you very much to Weldon Johnson for taking the time to sit down for an interview.  We look forward to seeing what LetsRun has to offer in the future.  Haven’t been to LetsRun.com yet?  Shame on you.  Check it out and see what you’re missing.

Kevin Gray can be found running on trails with Isabella and Daisy, his two dogs.

NEWS: USATF-NE GPS Change of Event

Get your calendar’s out because we have a change to announce. If you haven’t already heard, the 6th race in the USATF-NE GPS series has been changed. To make a long story short, The Jack Kerouac 5K will supplant the Legacy 5K. The Jack Kerouac 5k will be held on September 30 (1 week later than the original 5k GPS date) in Lowell, MA. Gun time is set for high noon. The race begins at Kerouac Commemorative Park on Bridge Street and ends at Hookslide Kelly’s Sports Bar on Merrimack Street.

So why the change? I contacted Jason Zagami, the race director of the Legacy 5K and he filled me in. Turns out Legacy Place officials pulled the plug on him and the race. He said, “I found out…that Legacy Place would no longer approve races to exit onto Elm Street from Legacy Boulevard.” This section of the Legacy Place was integral to the race course. Zagami tried to reroute the race but every attempt ended in snarls. His efforts to amend the course through the Jefferson Station Apartment Complex were nothing more than exercises in futility. “I made several offers to Jefferson Station to entice their residents (including free race registration), but they couldn’t justify restricting access to their residents for two races in one year.” (The other race was Bailey Run for Autism.)  Zagami and the other USATF LDR chairs contemplated other options, but he ultimately decided to award the GPS 5K to another event.  That type of humility deserves much respect.

So, there’s the scoop. Have no fear, though, on two accounts. One, the GPS will continue to have its 5K championship race. Two, Zagami will continue to direct road races that are for great causes. His next one is the Wellesley 1 Mile Road Race.

Ard vs. Wild

The Level is all about balance, and that means appreciating things outside the realm of running.  Pat Ard is a fleet-footed renner and also an outdoorsman on par with Bear Grylls, although he might not be at the Grylls level in every sense of the word.  Have you ever seen Man vs. Wild?  Bear is the carnivore equivalent of Noah, in that he’s eaten two of every animal.  Knowing Pat’s prowess in the great outdoors, I posted this story about a coyote’s big city adventure on Facebook to get his attention.  He didn’t disappoint with his response:

First I would have stopped to calm myself, then I would have torn one of the sleeves off my shirt, then I would have tied the sleeve as my headband, then I would have armed myself with some sort of fire ax, then I would have located the beast, then I would have made eye contact, showed him the ax, then put the ax down and made sure he saw me do it, then I would have instigated him by putting my hand out flat palm up and then given him my best “Matrix” bring it on , then while he was building up his rage I would be formulating a plan of attack, then I would make my best dying rabbit call in order to get him to charge, then as he was leaping in the air at my jugular, I would sidestep and as he flew by wrapped my arms around his neck and initiated the canine sleeper hold, and as the darkness slowly filled his eyes I would whisper, “go to sleep , go. to. sleep.”

I don’t know of any other renners that can do a dying rabbit call.  It’s gotta come in handy at some point, right?  If this piqued your interest in the great outdoors, check out Pat’s blog.  Looking at the size of the fish he’s holding up in that first photo, it’s much easier to picture him putting a coyote in a sleeper hold.

Blast From The Past

Remember this Nike commercial from back in ’06 (I believe)?  I auditioned for it, but didn’t get the part.  If you look closely at about the 40 second mark,  you’ll see a group of runners and some of them might be familiar.

I can only name one of the runners.  Anybody know the rest?

Marrakech, Inc Spring 5K Run and Walk

If you happen to be in the vicinity of lovely Hamden, CT on Sunday April 1, then why not check out the 1st Annual Marrakech Spring 5K Run and Walk?

According to Jason Mirsky (fellow Bryant grad and road racing a aficionado): “It’s just a 1st annual so we are hoping to get 150 runners, but it benefits a great agency. We provide a ton of support services, such as employment assistance, residential services to children and adults with developmental disabilities, brain injuries, and physical disabilities.”

I know, I know, some of you may be thinking what could we possibly do in Hamden, CT?  So glad you asked!  For starters, it’s the home of Quinnipiac University, so you could steal their mascot.  Or not, probably best not to break any laws.  Although I’ve heard that their local jail is on par with a Best Western, so you might not be in a hurry to get bailed out (depending on your feelings towards the Best Western chain).  It’s also the home of the Eli Whitney museum, and whole lot of other Whitney history.  If you’ve succumbed to Whitnemia, then this is the place for you.  Even the town nickname is pretty cool…The Land of the Sleeping Giant.  I think that’s a reference to when Eli Whitney put the last known giant on American soil into a sleeper hold in 1796.  Sounds like he was the Chuck Norris of his time.

Nate Jenkins after the 2012 New Bedford Half Marathon

Nate Jenkins also stopped by the elevator shaft at New Bedford city hall to chat with The Level after the race.  Here’s some proof:


New Bedford Champ Matt Pelletier – LEVEL EXCLUSIVE!!!

Word had started to get around that Matt Pelletier was back in beast mode and just killing workouts, and it was finally confirmed for me when I saw him post this on Facebook: “‎Patrick Moulton and I killed it out in Scituate this morning. Last 3 hilly miles-5:17,5:15, and a straight up hill 5:17. All into a headwind. Fastest last 3 miles ever on that course”.  Wow.  Joe Navas and I were waiting at about Mile 5 and we weren’t quite sure what to expect when the runners finally started coming by.  What we saw was Matty P and Nate Jenkins out in front and in the midst of a very impressive battle.  What made the battle even more epic was the beard that Matt was sporting.  It was downright intimidating.  Here it is, the Pelletier interview, along with some race highlights:

I was very excited to see him out in front and in control at the end.  He had a long battle with a knee injury but came out on the other side looking as good as new.  I’ve known Matt for  years, and you would think that’d be enough for me to feel completely at ease in front of the camera.  Nope.  Better than our first round of interviews, but still a little uptight.  I think the only thing to get me used to it would be to have my fiancee constantly record my actions at home, reality TV style.  Think Kardashians, only without any people you’d want to punch (hopefully).

Once again, a fantastic job of putting that together by Joe Navas!  He’s putting the pros to shame!

GBTC’s Ruben Sanca talks Olympics and more with Level Renner

We got a chance to talk to Ruben Sanca in New Bedford on Sunday.  Ruben just may end up walking around the Olympic village sporting a Level Renner t-shirt.  How cool is that?

Best of luck to him!

Weekend Race Report: 3/17 & 3/18

Quincy 1/2 Marathon & 5K Road Race (3/18):  In the 5K it was Brendan Kearney (17:35) and Jennifer Davidson (19:50) taking top honors.  In the half marathon, Pat Benson crossed first in 1:13:44, and Holly Madden was first female in 1:22:55.  Race coverage:

“Half of Quincy” half-marathon & 5k races draw a crowd

New Bedford Half Marathon (3/18): You know this already, but here it is again: Matt Pelletier and Hilary Dionne nabbed the open titles in 1:06:31 and 1:18:59, respectively.  In the Masters field, the men’s race was tight, but Kevin Collins  ran a very strong 1:10:46, good enough for a 9 second cushion over Peter Hammer.  Collins was 20th overall and Hammer was 25th, so it looks like they gave the kids a run for their money.  On the women’s side, Kara Haas was top finisher in 1:21:40.  Coverage:

New Bedford Half Marathon notebook

Tuneup turns into win for women’s champ

New Bedford Half Marathon: Slow and steady wins the race for Pelletier

Overall, the coverage provided by SouthCoastToday.com is phenomenal.  They do a great job not only for this race, but other races in that area as well.  It’s too bad that other local news sites can’t follow their lead.

Ras na hEireann U.S.A. (3/18):  I couldn’t seem to find anything about this one, but it deserved a mention anyway.  David Chorney ran a 15:04, and still lost by 29 seconds.  Brian Harvey took home the hardware with his smoking 14:35.  The top 6 were all under 16:00, and 4 of those guys were 15:15 or faster.  If anybody has anything on this one, we’d love to see it.

Holyoke St. Patrick’s Road Race (3/17): Zachary Hine ran a 29:37 to beat out some tough competition in Holyoke.  Both he and Philemon Terer (2nd place, 29:59) were the only two to break thirty minutes for 10k, and were well out in front of the field.  On the Women’s side, Brielle Chabot was first to cross in 34:44, comfortably finishing about 36 seconds ahead of her closest competition (Lauren Sara, 35:20).  Coverage:

South Hadley’s Zach Hine wins 37th Annual Holyoke St. Patrick’s Road Race

If you see anything that we missed, send it along!  In the future, send it along as soon as you get it to make sure it’s included.  Even if it’s just a link to some coverage, we’d love to see it.

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