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Art Garfunkel will be back at some point.

I’m still lumbering out for a run every other night. And when I’m done, I still use to track how far I’ve gone, as I have done for at least five years now.

Each time I map and save a new running route, the site prompts me to give that route a name.

And each time, I cough something out of my subconscious, usually one word and all lowercase. Sometimes it’s a bit of lyric, sometimes it’s my mood at the time, sometimes it’s a phrase I’ve encountered in my reading, and sometimes it’s complete gibberish at random.

These names do nothing to help me identify which run covers what streets, or at what length. If I were intelligent I would figure out some way to make them do that.

Instead they just sort of hover in time … disembodied blurts from a tired mind, signifying nothing.

Here, then, after a leisurely review, are the best names I have given my saved running courses on MapMyRun. No prizes for guessing which were the good nights, and which were not:


Encore Performances: OMG!!!!!!!!!1 jonas brothers!!

I went for my first run in almost a week tonight after my ice-skating injury. It was a short run but it went well. Also, I’m re-reading posts from my old blog and wishing I still wrote as well as I used to. So, to combine the threads, here’s a running-themed post from April 2008.

It was so insanely warm today that I went for my run at 9:30 wearing a long-sleeve shirt and a windbreaker and was still overdressed.
I wore shorts for the first time in months. It felt so unnatural that I had to look down at my legs to make sure I wasn’t just wearing my underwear.

My house, and many of my running routes, are under various flight paths to here.
It’s not close enough to be bothersome, but it is close enough that I notice maybe a half-dozen planes a day, and probably don’t notice two dozen more.
Practically every time I go out for a run at night, I see at least one shining blob suspended seemingly motionless over the horizon.
I hold my breath for a second … but then they always turn out to be either landing or taking off from LVIA.

I’ve often thought that running alone at night — especially on still nights like this one — would be the perfect time to see a UFO.
Never have, though.

I guess the previous statement presupposes that I believe in UFOs.
I don’t stare at the skies for them … one could be outside the window as we speak and I wouldn’t have any idea.
But, given the size of the universe, I have no trouble believing that other civilizations exist, and that some of them could be far enough ahead of us to galaxy-hop at will.
(“Then why do they let themselves be seen?” you ask. Well, maybe they don’t give a damn. And besides, if they’re that far ahead of us in development, they probably don’t stop by Earth very often anyway, since we would have little to offer them.)

The girls who live next door have Jonas Brothers slogans chalked all over their driveway.

I wouldn’t run at all.

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Today I am missing my first running day of 2015, less than a week after exulting about the amount of running I got done in 2014.

I sorta suspected this would happen … way of the world and all that.

See, I am fulfilling a long-held dream of taking skating lessons, so I can competently skate laps around a rink when the occasion presents itself.

I picked up a few of the fundamentals of skating in college, and then forgot them. Ice skating looks like a wonderful way to both relax and exercise at the same time, and I’d like to take it up, at least occasionally.

Anyway, this morning, while I was wiping out at skating class, my left knee bent and stretched in a way 41-year-old left knees aren’t designed to do.

(My right knee took a bit of a jar on the way down, too, but is in better shape than the left.)

The left knee is twingey so I’m going to skip running for a day or two and try to be nice to it. We’ll see how that goes.

Ice, ibuprofen and beer have all been administered in suitable amounts. (OK, the beer dosage is insufficient so far, but I’m pacing myself.)

I am hoping not to have to see a doctor, as I do not currently have one and can’t be bothered to go find one. That would be a useful errand, actually, which might explain why I am so reluctant to go do it.

The skating class is actually a lot of fun. There’s a couple of serious young girls of elementary-school age; a couple boys of the same age who love to wipe out as frequently and elaborately as possible; a girl of maybe 14 who is quite comfortable and graceful by Basic 1 skating standards; and me.

I fell down near one of the young girls today and she asked me if I was all right. It was kind of her to be that solicitous. Perhaps I look like her grandfather.

I am sure the parents and relatives watching the skating class have had a laugh or two at my expense, but I don’t mind. In two weeks I have picked up the basics I need to be able to skate slow laps around a rink, which is what I really came for.

So whatever we do for the next four weeks is straight-up gravy as far as I’m concerned.

(As long as I can bend my left knee.)

I would run 500 miles.

There seems to be a fad in the running community promoting chocolate milk as a post-workout restorative.

And so it is that I find myself in the basement with a glass of Hershey’s-laced milk, relaxing after my last run of the year, and once again adding up the year’s running totals.

I should really dig the word “jogging” out of obsolescence and apply it to myself, as that’s what I do. I don’t run very often (strictly every other day); I don’t run very fast; and I don’t run very far (longest run of 2014: 4.42 miles.)

If pressed, I will admit that this regimen is not really keeping me as fit or active as I need to be. But it helps keep me more or less sane, and it gets the blood moving, and I stick to it pretty faithfully all year round, and it makes me feel good. So I plod on, year after year.

This year I jog-plodded 588.3 miles — an improvement over roughly 533 miles in 2013, and 510 the year before. There were no significant injuries or prolonged time off to report.

That total included three 5Ks, which were completed in times ranging from 24:10 to 24:45, which is fine with me.

588 miles, the Web says, equals the driving distance from Allentown to Fort Wayne, Indiana, which is a pretty good road trip.

Alternately, I could have run to Louisville (576 miles); Indianapolis (568 miles); or Toronto (292 miles) and back again.

I close the year, then, quietly content, at least on this front.

Here’s to more chocolate milk.

5K at a time.

In the past few weeks, I’ve done something I’ve wanted to do for a while: Compile a spreadsheet listing every race I’ve ever run since high school.

I tend to favor small local 5Ks — no New York City Marathons for me — so it’s been fun trying to find my results from unknown races that happened a decade ago.

Many results are still out there, surprisingly, and I’ve been reminded of more than one race I’d totally forgotten. A few races seem to have vanished from history.

Using my old race T-shirts — some of which were converted into a quilt by my mom — as reminders, I thought I’d write down my memories of some of these races, before I forget all about them again.

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Schofield School 5K, May 31, 1998, Wellesley, Mass.: Only my second competitive 5K since graduating from high school seven years before. I ran my best-ever post-HS 5K time, then didn’t race again for three years. Nice plan.

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Marino Lookout Farm 5K, May 20, 2001, Natick, Mass.: Some co-workers got me back into running in the spring of 2001, and this was the first of seven 5Ks I ran that year. I ran an abysmal time and got beaten by an active NFL quarterback. (No prizes for guessing who it was.)

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High Tech Classic 5K, Sept. 16, 2001, Waltham, Mass.: This race happened the weekend after the Sept. 11 attacks. My main memory is the race organizers playing “God Bless The U.S.A.” over the PA before the start of the race, and me feeling like a lousy unpatriotic jerk as I rocked back and forth impatiently and thought, “Are we gonna have to hear this treacly shit before every single American public event now?”

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Marlborough Police 5K Police Chase, Marlboro, Mass., Oct. 7, 2001: This was a weird little race. Supposedly 110 people finished but I remember about one-quarter that many; and I know they measured the course wrong ’cause I finished impossibly fast. I wonder if anyone else even remembers this one.

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Halloween Hustle 5K, Newton, Mass., Oct. 27, 2001: I ran this one pushing my year-old son in a jog-stroller. I did OK except for one point where his blanket fell out on the road and I had to duck back and get it. I think this was also the race where I ran into a high school friend, totally out of the blue; I was kind of honored she recognized me.

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Turkey Classic 3.5-Mile Road Race, Framingham, Mass., Nov. 22, 2001: The race went OK. I mention it here mainly b/c I’m a little ashamed to admit I still have the long-sleeve T-shirt, 13 years later. It escaped being rounded up for the quilt and is still on my shelf. (In fairness to me, I always seem to have a whole bunch of T-shirts, and I tend to keep some in regular rotation, so it’s not impossible for one to land on the bottom of the stack and stay there … for 13 years.)

This was also the last race I ran in Massachusetts before moving to Pennsylvania the following spring. Perhaps someday I will return to Massachusetts, and I will sign up for some tiny local 5K in the fall, and I will toe the line wearing this shirt like a real townie.

A man can dream.


Jefferson Hospital Philadelphia Distance Run, Philadelphia, Pa., September 2003: My first, last and only half-marathon. It was somewhat disappointing — I didn’t really train hard enough, was seduced by a flat course into going out too fast, and did a bunch of walking. But, still, I got “half-marathon” off the bucket list.

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Kutztown Fools’ Run, Kutztown, Pa., March 31, 2007: A lovely 5K out in farm country; I would do it again except Kutztown’s an hour from my house. The post-race spread for this one included bagels, oranges, bananas … and pots of apparently homemade chicken noodle soup, which is just about the Berks Countiest thing ever.

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Families First 5K, Wind Gap, Pa., Oct. 10, 2009: Three memories of this race:
1. I died hard.
2. This was the first race where I ever got a T-shirt in one of those fancy sweat-wicking fabrics, rather than cotton.
3. Never run a race in a place with “Wind” in the name.


Giving Thanks 5K, Vienna, Va., Nov. 24, 2011: Ran this one while visiting the in-laws for Thanksgiving. You could dedicate your race to a fallen or wounded soldier, and on the spur of the moment, I decided to run in honor of my great-uncle, who died in World War II. My performance did not honor his memory.

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Allentown St. Pat’s 5K, Allentown, Pa., March 18, 2012: I’ve run this one every year since 2011; it’s the only race I’ve ever formed that kind of bond with. It’s a fun race, and a challenging race, and sometimes a cold race, and every year my time gets a little better. Plus, the race director is a nice guy.

In 2011, I was beaten in the St. Pat’s 5K by a sitting U.S. Congressman. In 2012, I beat him. I do not think the Congressman has been back since. Perhaps losing to me was the ultimate indignity.

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Concordia Lutheran Academy Pheasant 5K, Slatington, Pa., April 20, 2013: Another one of those great little races I tend to sign up for. Sixty-one people finished the 2013 race and probably one-third of them were walking. I like the color of this shirt, and also the menacing, vaguely fungool!-ish gesture the pheasant is making.

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Centennial School 5K, Bethlehem, Pa., May 2014: Sixty people took part in this one; I finished ninth. Contrary to the image on the shirt, the race did not end in a furious sprint between Zooey Deschanel, G. Gordon Liddy, and Yertle the Turtle.

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Forever Young 5K, Seneca Falls, N.Y., Oct. 11, 2014: The most recent 5K I have run. There are currently no others on my dance card, though I might like to get one in on Thanksgiving if time allows. This race honors a middle-schooler who died of some uncommon illness.

While the cause is noble, I don’t love the design of the T-shirt. I suspect this one will land at the bottom of the pile. Maybe I will find it again in a decade and be reminded of a flat, fast course on a crisp fall morning in central New York.

Escape at Fort Zinderneuf.

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I want to run more 5Ks this year than I did last year. (Not necessarily run them better; just run more of them. That’s easier.)

So I dragged myself to Lehigh University’s lovely Goodman Campus this morning for the Centennial School 5K, my second race of the year.

It’s not a very big race, and it’s cross-country — both of which I like, or claim to like. And it was a gorgeous morning for a race, dry and sunny but not humid.

Alas, I did not rise to the occasion.My legs felt weak and heavy for most of the first mile, which I thought I ran OK at best.

Then I died on the second mile, which, mentally and physically, was as weak and craven a mile as any I can remember racing. If this had been the French Foreign Legion, I would have been dragged behind Fort Zinderneuf and dispatched to the merciful angels with a single shot.

At the end of mile two, I even stopped twice for five-second walking breaks, just to catch my breath and try to find a rhythm. I haven’t done that in years.

Then a funny thing happened. I looked behind me after the second walking break, and there still wasn’t anyone within 500 feet of me. (This is a hazard of smaller races: You sometimes end up in a pocket where the person behind you and the person ahead of you are both distant blips, and you have to generate all your motivation yourself instead of having someone else to inspire you forward.)

I thought to myself: If there’s no one you can hand this race to, you might as well claim it for your own.

Surrender not being much of an option, I tried attacking. And I ran one of the better, stronger third miles I’ve ever run, complete with kick at the end.

It felt good. I was, within reason, even proud of it.

In the end, I finished ninth overall and second in my age group, in a time of 24:42. That’s about 30 seconds slower than the road race I ran in March, but considering how lousy I felt, I think I salvaged a decent time by my standards.

I had two epiphanies afterward that left me feeling good as I walked away:

– A couple minutes after the race, I thought randomly to myself, “I’m 40 years old, and I can still break 25 minutes in a 5K.”

For the non-runners in the crowd, that’s really not very impressive. I know any number of 40-year-olds (and older) who could roll out of bed at 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day and break 25 minutes in a 5K.

But, for a guy who was never much more than a middle-of-the-pack runner in high school, I am pleased to still be challenging myself and racing at some modest competitive standard all these years later.

There are a lot of people my age who — thanks to injury, slack or some other reason — can’t run a 25-minute 5K. It pleases me that I can, and I am resolving to keep that up as long as I can.

– The guy who won my age group finished eighth, one place ahead of me.

I was a little frustrated about that for a minute. I think I ran a stronger third mile than he did, but I’d given up so much ground during my lousy second mile that I couldn’t catch him.

I talked with him a little bit after the race — one of those hey-buddy-nice-run kinda chats.

I told him I’d never run this race before. And he said, “I ran districts here when I was in high school.”

I imagined the guy driving home with his first-place certificate, thinking to himself, “I’ve been running this course since I was 17 and I can still kick its ass when I want to. Yeah, I’ve still got it.”

That thought made me feel better; I didn’t mind having lost. If I can contribute to somebody else’s not-old-yet moment, that’s as good as having one of my own.

I’m not signed up for any more 5Ks so far. I’m going to have to find some more, so I can improve on my weak moments — and maybe find some more good ones to quietly celebrate.fat man with certificate

Still waddling.

It’s that time again when I write about something no one else cares about.

(Yes: It’s about 7 p.m.)

Another year of running has come and gone, and I am again adding up how many miles I put in.

Pure mileage is not the only measure of how successful the year was, of course.

I could also look at my racing record: I only ran two 5Ks this year, which is maybe a little disappointing, but enjoyed them both and did reasonably well.

Or I could look at my injury record, which is a pretty significant measure of success — ’cause if I’m not running, I’ve kinda failed.

I was healthy all year and didn’t miss any time, which I again credit to my habit of only running every other day — except in July, when I sometimes did two-a-days to help get my son into shape for middle school cross-country.

The knees are not entirely happy, but they continue to bear the load. Hooray, knees.

But. back to the mileage.

Without consciously trying, I have topped 2012’s total of 510 miles. Including the 3.5 miles I did this morning, I’ve run 531.9 miles in 2013. And I’m not done yet, as the schedule calls for me to go out for a jog on New Year’s Eve.

(That mileage total averages out to about 10.3 miles per week. Three runs of three-plus miles per week, or four two-and-a-half-mile runs, will get you there. That’s about what I do. My efforts are modest.)

I cannot improve on my comment from this time last year: “Running is one of the few really constructive things I do with myself, and quite possibly the only good, self-protective habit I have besides brushing my teeth.

I could stand to add a few more good, self-protective habits in 2014, especially if I want to keep running.

I think I will go put my feet up and consider that further.

Looking up.

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A long crazy week is over, and things seem to be getting better on the weekend.

I ran my second 5K of the year this morning, and decided to wear this cap while I raced.

I’m fond of the city, not the team, so you won’t see it on me too often. But it seemed apropos today:


The mojo seems to have worked, as I came in ninth overall and first in my age group, and also beat my time from the St. Patrick’s 5K by a good 45 seconds.

(I always enjoy a Top Ten finish. Maybe that’s Casey Kasem’s influence at work.)

These feats that sound so impressive are easily explained away:

– It was a tiny race. No idea how many people took part but it was well fewer than 100, maybe closer to 50.

– There were a bunch of competitive runners between 40 and 59 years of age (doesn’t bode well for me next year, I guess) but pretty much none in their thirties.

– It took place on a rail trail, which means the course was as flat as the deck of an aircraft carrier. Which meant no hills to wear me out and add to my time.

I was still pretty jazzed to have a reason to hang around for the awards ceremony.


One foot in front of the other.

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Absolutely nothing worth writing about right now, except that I ran a local 5K on St. Patrick’s Day for at least the third year in a row, and maybe the fourth.

This particular race is festive and well-organized, and it’s become the ceremonial beginning to each year’s racing season, which can include anywhere from two to seven races depending on how competitive I feel and how injured I get.

(This could be a comparatively busy year if I stay healthy; I feel like gearing up for a couple more races. I might do another one in a month’s time on one of the local rail trails. This particular race is small, low-key and deliciously flat, all of which I appreciate.)

The weather at the St. Patrick’s race this year was considerably colder than last, and the final half-mile pulled down my pants and taunted me.

But I managed to beat last year’s time by something like 15 seconds, and finish something like 25 spots ahead of last year as well.

I was gonna wait and see if I could swipe a picture of myself running to go with this post. But the photog who usually takes pictures hasn’t put his shots up, if he was there at all. I’ve never seen a picture of myself running that looked good, anyway, so it’s probably just as well.

I continue to run every other day as a hedge against injury and to keep myself fresh. Tonight we are getting 2 to 3 inches of snow and sleet in the Lehigh Valley. It is my off-night, since I raced yesterday.

Tomorrow, when I am due to run again, the snow and slush should be out of the way.

That sort of encapsulates how things have been going on the running front: The breaks seem to be going my way. I will take a moment and savor that.

The fat man soldiers on.

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“I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me, a year ago at this time, that I would be going out for a run at 9:15 pm on New Year’s Eve just because I wanted to and because I enjoyed it.

“But y’know, that’s just what I did tonight.”
– From the old blog, December 31, 2007

Fast-forward five years, and I will not be going out running tonight.

For one thing, I am full of sinful fondue and looking forward to another beer.

For another, I ran yesterday. And in the last few years, I have taken to only running every other day, as a sop to tendons, feet and other things that complain if I abuse them more frequently.

Five years ago, I put in 619.6 miles. I also missed the entire month of June, as well as parts of January and July, tending to uncooperative body parts.

In the year just past, I put in 510.1 miles — but I didn’t have to stop for anything. Which was kinda nice, because my older son ran his first year of cross-country, and I was in good enough health to take him out for his first two months of runs and kinda show him the ropes in an encouraging fashion.

I ran two 5Ks this year, enjoyed them both, and acquitted myself competently enough. Just yesterday, I signed up to run one of them again next year.

And the first thing I do after getting out of bed in 2013 will be to go run two or three miles — unless one of the kids importunes me for pancakes, in which case running will be the second thing I do in the New Year.

No one who reads Neck Pickup cares about my running; most of you tune in to hear me crack snarky about Top 40 records from 1975.

But running is one of the few really constructive things I do with myself, and quite possibly the only good, self-protective habit I have besides brushing my teeth. So I take a couple seconds from time to time to acknowledge it.

Let’ s see if I manage to keep the creep of decrepitude at bay for another year.