Archive for the ‘CATCH-ALL’ Category

…but no one was interested in the facts. They preferred the invention because this invention expressed and corroborated their hates and fears so perfectly.
­– James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

Just think — Fox News on TV is even less reliable than Fox News online

Ever since Mary Trump’s least favorite uncle first rode his gilded escalator o’ lies into the Oval Office, he and his supporters have wielded the term “fake news” to decry any media coverage that’s not in 100% agreement with their worldview. In fact, the president and his disciples use the term much like the eponymous blue cartoon characters use the word “smurf,” sprinkling it liberally and seemingly at random throughout their communications, though in their case to avoid the overarching reality that, like a reverse alchemist, everything this president touches turns to lead.

Unless you’re looking to get very wasted very quickly, I’d avoid any drinking game during a Trump press briefing that involves the term “fake news.”

Not surprisingly, Leader 45 isn’t the first authoritarian-in-training to exploit the term “fake news” to try to discredit the mainstream media. In 1930s Germany, Adolf Hitler and his Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or Nazi party, commonly disparaged independent media as the enemy of the people and as Lügenpresse, German for “fake news.” (A lot of people are saying that der Führer, who died in his bunker less than 14 months before our current president was born, may have been reincarnated as a dumb, depraved NYC real estate developer.)

And never mind the fact that as of this writing, the president himself had managed more than 20,000 false or misleading claims during his time in office — a mind-bending average of nearly 16 per day, and a number that’s actually increased to 23 per day over the past 14 months as the pressure of being the nation’s worst-ever Commander in Chief has clearly taken its toll.

All that said, fake news is indeed alive and well in America today, and in exactly the place you might expect if you have any sense for the president’s go-to strategy of deflection and projection. I recently happened upon this article from the white-makes-right-wing Fox News Network — it’s a perfect example of fake news and the template for how the GOP’s leading propaganda machine does business. So I thought I’d break down the process in a brief tutorial I’m calling…



Step 1: Grab eyeballs with a misleading headline

As anyone who’s spent five minutes on the Interwebz can tell you, controversy sells. That isn’t just Click Bait 101; it’s the North Star for both the Fox News Network and the entire Trump presidency. So using a headline that promises a “crude remark” leveled against a beloved (to the Fox News audience) member of the administration is sure to command people’s attention. What was this uncouth comment made to the White House Press Secretary? Who made it? And who do they think they are?

If it bleeds, it leads — but don’t be afraid to chum the water to get there. And now that they’ve set up those pins, time to move in quickly and knock ‘em down before they fall on their own…

Step 2: Set the stage: Weaponizing outrage

Two points here:

  1. Choosing to single out a (Canadian) reporter who works for an Arab news network based in the Middle East immediately gives Fox News an essential villain to play against the heroic American press secretary. This is the tried-and-true Fox News strategy of us (the real news) vs. them (the fake news). And no one plays the victim card as shamelessly as Fox News and the GOP in general, led by the head of the party whose presidency can be summed up in his own words: “I don’t take responsibility at all.”
  2. Saying that “social media was set ablaze” belies the unspoken truth that the arsonists were largely right-wing antagonists looking to foment distrust and create controversy where none actually existed. As Alfred noted to Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” (But at least the Joker had a sense of humor.)

So then the plot thickens — a crude remark! Social media set ablaze! And OH, the speculation! We’re on the edge of our seats now, assuming this must have been a serious transgression by this rogue reporter from a news network with a foreign-sounding name. With that the stage is set, and the puppet masters at Fox News are ready to watch us dance…

Step 3: Build a case: Guilty until proven innocent

You could be forgiven for thinking here, as any sane non-Foxophile might, “Come ON guys, no legitimate member of the White House Press Corps (and whether Fox likes it or not, Al Jazeera is a legitimate news network) would jeopardize their career by publicly unleashing a profane bomb like that.” At this point common sense dictates that at its worst, this is a misunderstanding that could have been resolved easily and without the subsequent abdication of journalistic responsibility. But of course, this isn’t journalism — it’s another Fox News hit piece, a scaled-down version of what the network did following the murder of Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich in 2016.

And if it’s true that “Many took to Twitter” (how many? MANY) and “The video quickly went viral with people on both sides of the aisle chiming in,” then why are the only two third-party sources quoted in the article from right-wing Twitter? Where’s the damning quote from an equally outraged pundit on the other side of the aisle? Nowhere to be found, because much like Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, no such nonsensical creature exists. This is simply Fox News doing what Fox News does best: fake news and faux (or is that spelled “Fox?”) outrage.

Step 4: If they defend themselves, they must have something to hide

At last, we reach the segment where Kimberly Halkett has a chance to defend herself, something (as it turns out) she never should have had to do, because she was only doing her job — and apparently doing it well by “grilling” the White House Press Secretary (note that defensive wording). That said, Halkett does defend herself quickly and professionally, knocking down this absurd house of cards with — wait for it, wait for it, here it comes — THE TRUTH. The most powerful weapon in journalism, like water to the Fox News wicked witch.

I would say an inconvenient truth, but aren’t they all to this network?

Note too that the alleged slur “lying bitch” is COMPLETELY MADE UP, with no basis in reality. Not only did Halkett never say it, but what she actually said sounded nothing like it. This is a personal smear designed to maximize outrage, and even if its own reporter isn’t the one who cut this idiocy out of whole cloth, Fox News is more than happy to give it wings and lend it credibility. Given the network has no apparent issue with publishing blatantly fabricated sexism, the allegations of sexual misconduct against key Fox personalities (including Tucker Carlson, see below) dating back to 2016 should come as no surprise. Deflect and project.

Step 5: Downplay the truth and never apologize

The final sentence destroys the entire premise of the article and does so with the curt, dismissive nonchalance of an artist who’s been here before, as someone with chronic dandruff would brush away flakes from their shoulder:

You know your journalistic boat has sprung a serious leak when even a normally staunch ally like Daily Caller pulls the plug on your bullshit. Though speaking of Daily Caller, its co-founder and shame-free Fox News talking head Tucker Carlson predictably refused to let the truth stand in the way of a new conspiracy theory, arguing that a White House reporter like Halkett might conceivably (though she didn’t) say such a thing “[b]ecause creating a moment like that, almost tailor made for social media can transform an unknown blogger into a Twitter star in just a few minutes.” Is this really the same slow-witted goof whose public “disemboweling” (to quote his then-cohost Paul Begala) by Jon Stewart 16 years ago led to the cancellation of his CNN show “Crossfire”?

Take-home lessons

So then a quick recap of what we’ve learned here on how to create fake news: 1) concoct a semi-credible lie against the enemy, the more outrageous the better; 2) build on that initial outrage with supporting evidence from questionable sources to put the accused on the defensive, 3) gently (if at all) back out of the lie when confronted with indisputable truth.

When the smoke cleared, Fox News got what it wanted from this story — another cravenly disingenuous hit piece on the “fake news” media (with bonus bigotry against a Middle East-sponsored news outlet), along with the lasting impression that a member of the mainstream media may have resorted to calling the White House Press Secretary a “lying bitch” when said reporter didn’t get her question answered. True, it never actually happened and the accusation was 100% fabricated, but that doesn’t matter — another seed has been planted in the receptive minds of the Fox News viewership. And as even the worst gardener will tell you, if you plant and nurture enough seeds, sooner or later some are going to take hold and bear fruit.

To be sure, journalism is a profession practiced by people, and as such it’s prone to human error. Typically, such errors involve harmless typos or misspellings — though I may never recover from the 2004 headline from The Providence Journal that warned, “Rumsfeld’s Pubic Role is Shrinking” — along with the occasional forgivable error of omission or misinformation. What is neither professional nor forgivable, though, is the disinformation and outright fabrication that have increasingly proven to be a feature rather than a bug of the powerful Fox News Network.

Ironically, this Fox News fairy tale just happened to appear on the same day The Hill reported that Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) was seen confronting and overheard calling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) a “fucking bitch” on the steps of the Capitol in front of reporters. (If you haven’t seen AOC’s response to Mr. Yoho on the floor of the House, I highly recommend you check it out.) Thing is, that wasn’t fake news, and Rep. Yoho is now suffering real-world consequences for his sexist outburst. Deflect and project.

Not surprisingly, a search for Kimberly Halkett’s name on either The New York Times or The Washington Post yields zero results, while CNN mentions her only to further discredit the Fox News coverage. Apparently, in the midst of a cratering US economy, nationwide racial unrest and a global pandemic that’s already claimed nearly 150,000 American lives, there is in fact enough real news to cover without having to resort to making up your own.

What’s important to note is that thanks to the stench from this red herring, Kayleigh McEnany once again got off scot-free without having to defend the president’s dangerous, evidence-free insistence that “mail-in voting is going to rig the election” and that “mailed ballots are corrupt” (except, apparently, in his own case). Keep in mind, McEnany is the same individual who, on day one of her current job, stood at the White House podium and promised the assembled press corps, “I will never lie to you.” Which was the first of her many lies since. Still, she has a long way to go to catch her boss.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Or in the case of Fox News distract, disparage, deny. It’s the Fox way — and it’s the very definition of “fake news.” Kids, don’t try this at home. (Seriously, don’t.)

Class dismissed!

(For extra credit, check out this eye-opening chart that shows the outsized influence of Fox News in brainwashing America. In a recent study from the Pew Research Center, only Fox News and ABC were trusted by as many as 33% of Republicans, whereas one-third of Democrats and all US adults trusted nine or more sources. Conversely, Republicans tend to distrust more news sources than Democrats [see original study], including several sources deemed “Most Reliable” by the Media Bias Chart, above.)

News Sources_Pew_Jan 2020

 

You have to dance beautifully in the box that you’re comfortable dancing in. My box was to be extremely ambitious within the sport of basketball. Your box is different than mine. Everybody has their own. It’s your job to try to perfect it and make it as beautiful of a canvas as you can make it. And if you have done that, then you have lived a successful life.
– Kobe Bryant

One month later, the words still don’t belong together, their syntax ghastly and incongruous, as improbable as a man suddenly floating upward toward the sky in defiance of gravity.

Kobe Bryant’s death.

Granted, if I were to cast my vote for anyone as “Most likely to defy gravity,” it would have been Kobe Bryant. And yet today, as the world looks on, 20,000+ mourners gather inside the Staples Center — known here in Los Angeles as The House That Kobe Built — to celebrate the life of Bryant and eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, all of whom died tragically in a helicopter crash January 26 in Calabasas, CA, 30 miles northwest of where I now sit typing this.

Bryant’s untimely death generated shockwaves that continue to reverberate far beyond the sports world. Like so many others, my first response to hearing the news was total denial — there was no way it could be true, no way that Kobe Bryant, 41 years old and still in the creative prime of his life, could possibly be… dead? The news made no sense, and immediately I sought to dismiss it as the cruel hoax of a macabre, or at least misinformed, online troll. Kobe Bryant could not be dead.

And so, ever since that Sunday afternoon — an already gray and gloomy affair that quickly went dark around the edges — as reality set in gradually and painfully, I’ve been racking my brain trying to understand: Why has this affected me so much?

Why, for at least a week after the horrific news dropped on all of us like an anvil, did I feel so despondent? Why did I find it so challenging to shake off a heavy melancholy, as though I were wearing that same emotional anvil around my neck at all times? Why did I find myself shedding so many tears while watching tributes to someone I’d never even known or met?

Why would I find myself in the shower, my mind wandering off to some memory of Kobe as I quickly forgot which parts I had or hadn’t washed? Or likewise, while listening to a podcast on the run, my train of thought would switch tracks to some Kobe-related musing, only to realize moments later I’d lost the gist of the conversation. Why did I feel like a dog with 100 squirrels running around in its brain? And why do I still find myself stopping to take deep breaths as I write this?

For me this was never about hagiography — I don’t hero worship. Years ago, at a restaurant in the Bay Area, Katie and I saw Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, his wife Ayesha and his tiny (at the time) daughter Riley sitting in a corner booth eating dinner. And while other diners apparently felt differently, we were happy to leave them alone to enjoy their meal in peace. Besides, we now live in LA, where celebrity sightings aren’t exactly blue moon events.

So then maybe Kobe’s death was a devastating reminder of life’s ephemerality, which as I approach the end of my fifth decade offers no shortage of shout-outs. Or maybe it was the sudden loss of a larger-than-life talent, a hometown hero and a global icon. Or could it be that the shock of his death affected me more than, say, the self-inflicted death of artists like Kurt Cobain or Heath Ledger in large part because Kobe was one of the greatest players of all time in the sport I’ve loved since childhood? After all, I’d once envisioned a future for myself as an NBA-caliber athlete before a disappointing growth spurt and limited quickness extinguished that short-lived dream.

No, there was more to it still than all that. And at last I realized what “it” could be.

Kobe and daughter Gianna attend a Lakers game at Staples Center Dec 29, 2019 (© 2019 NBAE, Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

For Kobe Bryant everything he did, he did at the highest level. Every challenge he tackled got his undivided attention and his best effort. Halfway was unacceptable, and failure wasn’t an option. Because in his universe, the one that for 20 NBA seasons revolved around a singular, white-hot passion for the game of basketball, there was no such thing as good enough.

Kobe articulated the secret of his success in the simplest of terms: “I’m chasing perfection.” Coming from most other people, such a mission statement might elicit a roll of the eyes or a bemused smirk. Coming from Kobe though, it just made sense.

It’s a mindset that fascinates me, one I admire greatly — and it manifested itself in the gravitational pull Planet Kobe had on coaches, teammates, opponents, fans and even the media. Maybe more so than all the points, wins and championships over two decades, that single-minded obsession with being the best is his enduring legacy for his millions of fans around the world.

It’s also a mindset I can relate to on a personal level. No, I’m not the fourth-greatest scorer in NBA history or an Academy Award winner, but since childhood I’ve tended toward perfectionism in much of what I do. Because as the saying goes, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

If I have one guiding principle in life, that may be it. It may not always be the healthiest approach, but it’s served me well, first as a research scientist and now as an entrepreneur/small business owner. And like Kobe, two of my least favorite words in the English language are “good enough.”

It’s ironic, to be sure. As a lifelong Boston Celtics fan I once hated Kobe Bryant, first when he wore #8 and then later in his career when he sported #24 (both numbers now hang in the rafters at Staples Center). Hated what he did against my Celtics. Hated the five championships he won as the driving force of Boston’s bitter rival, and especially the 2010 title he won against my Celtics while playing with a broken finger. Hated to see his Lakers get the better of my team so many times across the years, as his Lakers slowly but surely crept toward the 17 championships my Celtics boast as the all-time winningest team in NBA history. (That 2010 title, his fifth and final trophy, was the Lakers’ 16th.)

For 20 years Kobe was the face of the enemy, playing a role that at times felt crafted by a Hollywood screenwriter. So naturally, as any passionate sports fans would, I hated him for it.

And he certainly gave his haters ammunition — but then again that will happen when you’re forced to grow up, emotionally if not physically, in the unforgiving glare of the Hollywood spotlight and the nation’s second-largest media market. Kobe hit rock bottom in 2003 when he faced a sexual assault allegation brought against him by a hotel worker in Denver; the case never went to trial, and the charges were later dropped. But it was during this time that Kobe created the “Black Mamba” persona to help him separate his personal and professional lives.

For many non-basketball fans, the 2003 allegation is really all they know of Kobe Bryant, and understandably they treat it as much more than an asterisk on his legacy. In the immediate aftermath of his death, some writers even made the questionable decision to focus their pulpit on that ugly chapter of his life. For my part, as unsettling as it was at the time, I no longer view Kobe’s career through the lens of that period, and I’d be disingenuous to act as though I do.

So no, Kobe certainly wasn’t perfect, a realization that only drove him harder. In his 20 years as a pro athlete, through a ruptured Achilles tendon, a fractured knee, a torn rotator cuff in his shooting shoulder and myriad other injuries that would’ve derailed most careers, he never gave in, never gave up, never stopped battling, never settled for less than 100% effort. He was uncompromising in his demand for excellence, both from himself and from everyone around him. He pissed off, intimidated, and drove away many a teammate with his relentless will and laser focus.

And he never cared. Because in Kobe’s world there was no such thing as good enough.

“If somebody’s not obsessed with what they do,” he once told ESPN senior writer Ramona Shelburne, “We don’t speak the same language.”

Kobe is the only NBA player to have two jersey numbers retired by the same team (John Shearer/Getty Images)

He made it clear he had every intention of taking that “Mamba Mentality” into retirement with him when, despite a recent history of season-ending injuries, he scored 60 points on 50 shots in the last game of his career. To put that in perspective, his 60 points was more than twice as many as any other Hall of Famer had scored in their last game. (By contrast fellow Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the league’s all-time leading scorer, managed just 7 points in a loss to the Detroit Pistons in the 1989 NBA Finals. Michael Jordan scored 15.) Because giving anything less than everything he had would not have been good enough.

Or, as former teammate Lamar Odom so eloquently put it, “That motherfucker is cold-blooded.”

On that same night he retired from professional basketball, Kobe thanked the fans, famously proclaimed “Mamba out,” and walked off the floor with a towel draped over his shoulders as he had so many times before. And for many pro athletes, that night would have signaled the start of a cold, hard reality check, of an unnerving transition into a day-to-day existence without the comfortable camaraderie of the locker room or the reliable adrenaline rush of game day.

But not Kobe. To him, “Mamba out” meant turning the page on one creative and productive chapter of his life and seamlessly moving on to the next. He was ready to reinvent himself, this time as a storyteller. It was an ambition he quickly turned into reality, when in 2018 he became the first pro athlete to win an Academy Award for his animated short film, “Dear Basketball.” (Matthew A. Cherry followed in Kobe’s footsteps this year, becoming the second pro athlete to win an Oscar while dedicating the award to Bryant just two weeks after his death.)

An Academy Award. And two months later, a Sports Emmy Award. Because if you’re going to be a storyteller, well then be the best storyteller. In Kobe’s world, anything less would not have been good enough.

Like an angry scab that’s been scratched away, his death lays bare an unsettling truth. If Kobe Bryant can die so suddenly and senselessly in the prime of his life, then so can any of us — today, tomorrow, maybe next week. As in everything he did, Kobe worked so hard to craft the lasting narrative of his life, to shape his personal legacy, and to tell the story he wanted to be remembered by once he was gone.

But the one thing he couldn’t craft was a happy ending.

And that, I think, is what hurts the most — that unlike so many pro athletes who happily ride into the sunset of retirement, Kobe refused to rest on his laurels, though he had every right to do so. Along with the eight other passengers on that ill-fated helicopter, he still had too much to offer the world. And now we’ll never know what might have been. Because all we’ve gotten is all we’re getting. And this time when Kobe says “Mamba out,” he means it.

Kobe Bryant was many things, but he was never complacent. And it’s both utterly amazing and deeply saddening to think that an 18-time NBA All-Star, 5-time world champion, 2-time Olympic gold medal winner, Academy Award winner, Sports Emmy Award winner, and father of four was just getting started on a second act that, by all indications, promised to be just as successful and entertaining as his first.

And that will forever have to be good enough.


Much love and respect Mamba, you’ll be missed… I know that somewhere you and Gianna are chasing perfection together, and that teacher has become pupil as Mambacita schools you on the intricacies of the fadeaway jumper.

Like Kobe, my fellow Stanford alum and ESPN senior writer Ramona Shelburne is one of the best at what she does, and I’d recommend her excellent profile on Kobe Bryant written in the immediate aftermath of his retirement.

If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.
– Booker T. Washington

Los Angeles runner Dr. Frank Meza

(photo: FinisherPix)

I was saddened to learn of the death of Los Angeles runner Dr. Frank Meza earlier this month from an apparent suicide. Dr. Meza, a retired physician well respected within his community, had recently been disqualified from this year’s Los Angeles Marathon (in which he’d won the 70-74 age group in a time of 2:53:10) after clear-cut evidence surfaced that he’d cut the course. Dr. Meza repeatedly denied the allegations, despite the fact he’d also been DQ’ed by the California International Marathon in 2014 and 2016, and officially banned from CIM after 2016. In light of his most recent disqualification, Dr. Meza’s other marathon results from recent years have now been called into question.

To be clear, cheating in any sport is unconscionable, unacceptable and should be dealt with appropriately. And the available evidence did support the conclusion that Dr. Meza cheated. However, to ensure the continued well-being of our sport and its participants, in situations like this we should all take a deep breath and allow the data and the events themselves to be the final arbiter of guilt or innocence, not the court of public opinion. Which is why I was admittedly dismayed by the chain of events in which high-profile media coverage led to relentless online harassment and a striking lack of empathy from some members of the running community toward Dr. Meza.

Apparently for many of his critics, some of whom continued to defend their tone-deaf position in the aftermath of his death, it became more important to “put him in his place” (often anonymously) and to burn him publicly, as a child with a magnifying glass would an ant, rather than to step back, recognize the deeply troubled pathology of a serial cheater, and let the race organizers handle their business privately and professionally. Yes, Dr. Meza refused to accept responsibility and repeatedly denied the allegations, but then again what would you expect from a proud but flawed man who’d been treated like a hardened criminal by the social media outrage machine, and who’d been publicly shamed into a corner with no graceful way out?

I’ve read all the arguments from the outraged masses eager to step up and take a swing at the Frank Meza piñata: “The damage he did to the running community will never be fully calculated.” “He deserves all the blowback he will receive, and a lot more.” “He took the easy way out.” If the damage done to the sport by one cheating age-group runner is indeed irreparable, then I’ve badly underestimated the strength, integrity and resilience of a community that’s survived far worse over the years. It feels like just yesterday we were all reeling with shock after two bombs exploded at the 2013 Boston Marathon finish line, so a little more perspective and a little less melodrama is in order.

Not only that, but the overheated online outrage felt less like concern for the running community and more like a small segment of vocal armchair psychologists who felt personally wronged by Dr. Meza’s actions or who were simply rubbernecking, as drivers here in Los Angeles do for even the slightest fender-bender, hoping to see — what, exactly? Before Dr. Meza’s death, one online commentator admitted as much in saying, “I’d binge-watch a Netflix series on [Meza].” To many onlookers, Dr. Meza’s downfall was must-see reality TV, and the opportunity to be part of the action was too good to pass up.

And to those same armchair psychologists: the only one taking the “easy way out” is the self-appointed judge, jury and executioner who so casually and callously dismisses the devastation of suicide. Fortunately I’ve never been in such a position, but I can’t imagine anything harder than making the decision to end one’s life. I don’t claim to understand how anyone — and particularly someone who reportedly did so much good for so many people throughout his 70 years — could cheat himself and his sport to the extent Dr. Meza allegedly did, much less find himself in a place where suicide feels like the only viable option. Unfortunately, mental illness doesn’t boldly announce itself like measles or a broken bone; more often than not its symptoms are elusive, insidious and misunderstood. And we all have a high tolerance for each other’s pain.

As ambassadors for the sport, Katie and I love the running community because it’s just that — a community. One with the same foibles and flaws as many other communities to be sure, but one that’s far greater than the sum of its parts, and one whose members lift each other up in the toughest of times by appealing to our better angels. Where else outside your pet bulldog can you get that kind of unconditional acceptance and appreciation? We’re firm believers in the power of positive thinking and positive people, and no collective group of individuals personifies that belief like runners.

So I prefer to err on the side of empathy, because the alternative is counterproductive and leads to no positive outcome for a community that prides itself on busting its backside to chase positive outcomes. And in the end, Dr. Meza and his family suffered a far greater punishment than any race organizer, indignant critic or overreaching blogger could ever dole out.

Though his disqualification(s) may crown deserving new age group champs, there are no winners in the Frank Meza saga. His story is unfortunate, but it wasn’t the first of its kind and it won’t be the last. And hopefully the silver lining will be that this opens the door to a productive dialogue around cheating in the sport.

For the rest of us, now more than ever the Golden Rule is worth its weight in gold. So maybe we can all calm our thoughts, take a step back together and remember: words matter. Words have power. And whether you recognize it or not, your words may someday be the difference between extending someone a lifeline and pushing them off a cliff. The high road may feel like a steep climb at times, but the view from the top is worth it.

Be good to each other, y’all.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
– Dr Seuss, The Lorax


Running is an inherently selfish sport — which honestly is one of the biggest reasons I embrace it. Running lets me get out, get away, get moving and get in sync with my overstimulated brain in an overstimulated world. It’s the quiet time I frequently need to retreat, recharge and reset. I get some of my best thinking done at 7 mph. And being able to do it a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean doesn’t hurt, either.

My RaceRaves Staging Area page says it best: I run because it always gets me where I want to go.

But to (mis)quote JFK — who does, after all, have the country’s oldest ultramarathon named after him — the real power of running comes in asking not what your running can do for you, but what you can do with your running.

With that in mind, I’m asking now for your support as I launch my own version of the Texas Two-Step: Running and Recovery. On Jan 14, 2018, I’ll be running the Chevron Houston Marathon to raise funds for the disaster relief efforts of the Houston Food Bank in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Harvey unleashed the most extreme single-storm rainfall in US history, wreaking devastation across Southeast Texas. The flooding has been catastrophic, particularly for individuals already struggling to provide for their family’s basic needs. And once the daily news coverage subsided, the hard work of getting the nation’s fourth largest city back on its feet began.

Now I want to help Houston recover. And it should come as no surprise to those who know me that I want to use running to do it.

Why Houston? I grew up in Texas, and my four years as an undergraduate at Rice University (go Owls!) strongly shaped who I am. As a Texan and an Owl, I’ll always have Houston’s back — even if the Astros did beat my dad’s Red Sox and my hometown Dodgers to win this year’s World Series. #NoMoreDisastros

But since you can’t spell “fundraising” without the “fun,” here’s the twist: I’ll be starting the marathon at the very back of the pack. And I’m asking you to contribute based on the number of runners you think I’ll pass in the 26.2 miles between the time I start and the time I finish.

How many runners might I pass? Approximately 5,000, an estimate based on past finisher results and my targeted finish time of 3 hours, 30 minutes. The math: (5,000 runners) x ($0.01 per runner) = a donation of $50.00.

I’ve chosen to join the Houston Marathon’s “Run for a Reason” program to support the Houston Food Bank for several reasons:

  • No one should ever have to wonder where their next meal is coming from.
  • Every dollar donated provides 3 full meals for a child, adult or senior.
  • The Houston Food Bank receives an overall score of 97+ out of 100 and a four-star (highest) rating on CharityNavigator.com, so you can be confident every dollar you donate will go toward Harvey relief and recovery.


You can support my oddball endeavor by donating
in either of two ways:

  • a “performance pledge” based on the number of runners you think I’ll pass along the 26.2-mile course.
  • a flat amount up front, if you’d prefer.

NOTE: This is not a World Marathon Major like Boston, London or Tokyo, where fundraising is often a prerequisite for race entry — I’ve already registered for the race, so your donations do not go toward my entry fee.

With everything the country has been through recently, I realize there are a lot of worthwhile individuals and organizations vying for your dollar$. And I’m proud to Run (and dodge and weave) for a Reason to earn your support.

Thank you for helping to rebuild lives and keep the Bayou City #HoustonStrong.

See you at the finish!

Screen Shot 2017-11-19 at 11.46.21 PM
Additional resources:
Houston Food Bank Hurricane Harvey relief page
Houston Marathon Run for a Reason page
Houston Food Bank page on Charity Navigator

A Texas flag flies in flood waters caused by Hurricane Harvey on Aug 28, 2017 (photo Ralph Barrera / Austin American-Statesman)

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired!’
– the current President of the United States

Impeach graphic

Dear Mr. President,

I’m glad you asked! As a fellow countryman who shares your end goal of making America great, I thought I’d take a moment to answer the rhetorical question you posed Friday night in Alabama, in case you hadn’t already gathered the correct response from the unified wave of protests by NFL athletes and owners that you sparked over the weekend.

The answer in fact is NO, because I don’t simplistically equate exercising one’s freedom of expression with disrespecting the flag — quick history and civics lesson, that’s not how the United States works. Call me old school, but I actually equate threatening someone who exercises their freedom of expression with disrespecting the flag.

(And honestly, on that note, why does every professional sporting event start with the national anthem? To my knowledge, no other live performance does. Would we all be less patriotic without it?)

But since you ask, I would like to see a few things happen:

When somebody legitimately does disrespect the flag and our military by cowardly faking bone spurs in his feet to avoid military service, then years later ridicules a true wartime hero and a Gold Star family like the tough guy he’s not, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody who is supposedly the leader of the free world can’t open his mouth without showcasing to the world a brain that resembles a 10-year-old string of Christmas lights hopelessly tangled together and with most of the bulbs burned out, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody desperate to legitimitize his tainted electoral victory uses his presidential powers for evil rather than good, focusing his outrage and resources — and our tax dollars — on combating imaginary voter fraud rather than the clear and present (and proven) danger of Russia hacking our elections, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody blatantly fans the flames of racism to score a few political points with simple Southern snowflakes whose favorite buzz word is “libtard,” I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody who is supposed to represent all Americans routinely conducts himself on the world stage as though he’s role-playing from the white supremacist handbook, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody with the authority to fire the FBI Director exercises that authority to obstruct justice and then openly brags about it, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

(Of course, when the Republican candidate for President of the United States openly brags about grabbing women by their naughty bits, I’d love to have seen the American people say, “Send that son of a bitch back to Mar-a-Lago, out, he’s fired!” But then again that assumes, as Thomas Jefferson warned, a well-informed electorate — sorry Tom, we’ve definitely let you and your fellow Founding Immigrants down.)

When the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military on the planet treats the podium at the United Nations like open mic night, launching an infantile and ill-advised campaign of personal insults against the “Rocket Man” of North Korea, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

(I half-expected you to follow up your puerile name-calling at the UN General Assembly with “Don’t forget to tip your waitress!”, then drop the mic and walk off the stage.)

And when that same Commander-in-Chief has Americans nodding in agreement at said Rocket Man’s spot-on description of their leader as a “mentally deranged US dotard,” I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

And speaking of insults, when somebody in a position that traditionally commands global respect provokes a Twitter response of “U bum” from one of the world’s most popular athletes, a response which in turn elicits an outpouring of support and not a hint of real outrage, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

White House_out-of-business_BCH

My expectation, if this administration is indeed being run like a business

When somebody who’s made a career of shoddy, tasteless workmanship and shady real estate deals promises quixotically to build a “big, beautiful wall” between the US and Mexico (at the latter’s expense), then promises to equip that wall with solar panels, then promises to make the wall transparent because “you have to see what’s on the other side” so “large sacks of drugs” thrown over the wall don’t land on anyone’s head — here I’m envisioning large sacks of drugs with “ACME” written on them, like “Narcos” meets Wile E. Coyote — I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody who never met a lie he didn’t like has the unconditional love of an entire network of professional liars like Fox News, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody who holds human life in his hands threatens constantly to let nearly 1/5 of the American economy implode — damn thing won’t implode on its own! — while clearly having no clue about the American health care system and confusing health insurance with life insurance, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody in the ultimate leadership role apparently measures progress by how many of his predecessor’s executive orders and forward-thinking policies he can effectively reverse, no matter the consequences, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

And on that note, when somebody who once regularly criticized his predecessor for the amount of time he spent playing golf flaunts his hypocritical plumage by playing even more himself, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody makes Frank and Claire Underwood look like paragons of morality and ethical leadership, and leaves the writers of “House of Cards” talking to themselves because truth really is stranger (and more incredible) than fiction, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

When somebody in possession of the nuclear (not “nucular,” sorry Dubya) codes has a Defense Department Spokesman named Dana White in the Pentagon vouching for his foolhardy behavior, and I have to look up said spokesman because I’m legitimately curious whether he’s the same Dana White who runs the Ultimate Fighting Championship, I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

And when the President of the United States treats American values such as freedom of expression, diversity and tolerance like a dog treats a fire hydrant, and when he uses his bully pulpit like a bully — to divide rather than unite, to preach hate rather than love, and to open new wounds rather than heal existing ones — I’d love to say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!”

To help make my dreams come true, I’d love to see the morally bankrupt mess that is the Republicans in Congress stand up and say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!” Unfortunately for us but fortunately for you, Mr. President, this is the most incompetent and ethically challenged group of money-worshipping sycophants to occupy Congress in my lifetime. Luckily, when it comes to governance, they’re like toddlers with their shoestrings tied together, or we’d all be in trouble. #swamplife

No, Mr. President, if you somehow manage to survive your own attempted political suicide by a thousand cuts (and a few machete blows) long enough to run for re-election in 2020, I will love to see a reawakened American electorate, tired of being represented in front of the world by a mentally deranged US dotard (not my words), say, “Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out, he’s fired!” This despite the fact that the Democrats are their own hot mess and Putin’s minions are undoubtedly looking to use our future elections as a tryout for “Russia’s Got Talent”.

So thanks bigly for asking your rhetorical question, Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity to get that off my chest. And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s almost time for Monday Night Football, and this non-football fan has a professional sports league to support.

But I’m sure not getting up off my couch for the national anthem.

Life (and running) is not all about time but about our experiences along the way.
Jen Rhines

Let me just say that 2016 was another bigly year in racing for me. I ran some really really great races, believe me. And I ran them with great people, tremendous people, some of the very best people. I mean, some of the people I ran with are unpresidented—though of course I won’t be saying that if they don’t compliment me on their own blogs. A lot of clowns didn’t run the races I ran this past year. Sad!

Yes, 2016 was off-key in some notable ways, while hitting all the right notes in others. As for my own year in racing, I’ve been told by many many friends who are excellent runners that it was a phenomenal year—I don’t know, but that’s what people are telling me. So clearly 2016 deserves a quick look back before we get on with the better business of looking forward—after all, nobody knows the past year better than me, which is why I alone can recap it. Trust me, this is going to be amazing:

Mike Sohaskey & Paul Ishimine post-LA Marathon 2016
February
brought one of the year’s “must see” sporting events—the Olympic Marathon Trials—to our hometown of Los Angeles. On a sweltering winter day in SoCal, Galen Rupp dominated the Trials field in his marathon debut, Meb qualified for his fourth and final Olympic Games, and Shalane Flanagan willed herself across the finish line in 3rd place thanks to the unwavering support of teammate and eventual winner Amy Cragg. The next day I opened my own 2016 race season and renewed my love-hate relationship with the Los Angeles Marathon. LA is a fantastic big-city course I’d recommend to any road runner, though the organizers at Conqur LA need to do a better job of attracting more runners and showcasing the city’s historic landmarks to the runners they already have.

Peace Love Run San Diego 2016 with Mike Sohaskey, Katie Ho, Alan Nawoj
March was the calm before the April storm, the latter of which led off with the low-key Peace Love Run Half Marathon in San Diego. This would be my final tuneup for Boston, and what a non-groovy tuneup it turned out to be—a 15.1-mile half marathon, thanks to my running an extra loop on the pleasant but poorly marked course. The silver lining was that I still managed to finish 4th in my age group. And in all honestly I probably could’ve run 20 miles with no worries, so strong was my anticipatory buzz. Because as promised, two weeks later I’d be lining up on the other side of the country to run…

Boston Marathon 2016 Mike Sohaskey post-finish family hug
… the 120th Boston Marathon. My Boston debut took place on a warm Patriots’ Day that saw me struggle mightily in the second half of the race. Somehow, approaching mile 16 in the Newton hills where my father grew up, my body suddenly lost all interest in running—right in the middle of the most prestigious marathon in the world, with nothing I could do to convince it otherwise. And THAT in a nutshell is running. Not that my finish time (which luckily still began with a “3”) mattered, since this was Boston… and if I were looking to name my firstborn I’d still consider “Right on Hereford, left on Boylston” Sohaskey. As the cherry on top of my victory sundae, Massachusetts would be state #11 on my 50 states quest. Wicked pissa!

Mike Sohaskey & Krishna Keelapatla at start of Big Sur Marathon 2016
Less than a week later, to close out April and as part of the bicoastal Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge, I came together with fellow B2B’er Krishna (above) and completed my second Big Sur International Marathon in winds that topped out at 40 mph. In the process I regained my running joie de vivre and and finished with a faster time than I had six days earlier. And I earned what (aside from Boston’s iconic blue-and-gold unicorn) stands as the hands-down coolest finisher medal in my collection, the clay Boston 2 Big Sur medallion. If/when I run Boston again, you can bet I’ll be lining up in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park the next week.

Ice Age Trail 50 finish shot - Mike Sohaskey, Dan Otto, Dan Solera
After an April featuring Boston and Big Sur, I could have been forgiven for thinking the rest of the year would be anticlimactic. Oh, how wrong I would have been. In May, thanks to some gently applied peer pressure, I joined Dans Otto and Solera in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest for what would prove to be not only the most ambitious challenge of 2016 for each of us but, ironically, my most successful race day experience to date. On a chilly day that Disney couldn’t have scripted more perfectly, I knocked out my first 50-miler in less than ten hours at the verdant Ice Age Trail 50. Turns out Ice Age was an endorphin high that would keep me buzzing on cloud nine for quite some time. And it just so happened to be state #12 on my 50 states quest.

Mike Sohaskey & Katie Ho Hatfield McCoy Marathon finish selfie
With such a front-loaded 2016 schedule, I’d planned to take some time off after Ice Age to rest my legs. But that was before June fired a shot heard ’round the world. On hearing of Muhammad Ali’s passing, Katie and I made the spur-of-the-moment decision to fly to Kentucky to pay our respects at The Greatest’s memorial service in Louisville. Appropriate justification for this last-minute trip came in the form of my running the excellent (albeit sizzling) Hatfield McCoy Marathon across the state that same weekend. For me, it’s not the medals or the miles or any OCD desire to cross items off a bucket list, but rather once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like Kentucky that fuel my 50 states quest (state #13).

Omaha Marathon finish shot - Dan Solera & Mike Sohaskey

With the fall racing season shifting into gear, in September I joined fellow heartland lover Dan Solera at another start line, as together we triumphed over the “Anytown USA” ennui of the Omaha Marathon. The race start was delayed for an hour after someone started shooting at passing cars near the course—and on further review, that was probably the highlight of an otherwise nondescript event. At the end of the day, Nebraska would represent state #14 for me and state #45 for Dan on our 50 states mission.

Mike Sohaskey at Brazen Goonies with RaceRaves Lunatics
In October I excitedly returned from a 4-year hiatus to run with my favorite Bay Area race organizers at the Brazen Racing Goonies Half Marathon. I even managed a sub-7:00 mile on the downhill, hair-on-fire mile 12. As much as I enjoyed another top-notch Brazen experience, the race itself paled in comparison to the thrill of meeting friends old & new in Lagoon Valley Regional Park, many of them united in sporting their RaceRaves gear. If you’re ever looking to run some amazing (and challenging) trails in the Bay Area with equally amazing people, you can’t go wrong with Brazen.

Mike Sohaskey at Ragnar Napa and Golden Gate Half finish lines

Ragnar finish line in Napa (left) and Golden Gate Half finish line in the SF Marina (right)

November led off with a reason to be thankful: an epic three-day running weekend, starting with 22 miles in 26-ish hours at Ragnar Napa Valley and concluding with another 13.1 miles of quintessential San Francisco at the Golden Gate Half. Two races with two groups of running friends (plus Katie) in one of the world’s most beautiful locales—weekends don’t get no better than that. And I’m never one to turn down a chance to run across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Mike and Chuck Sohaskey at finish of Toughest 10K in the USA
Last but not least, no better way to round out another memorable year than by convincing my brother Chuck to join me in December for the Toughest 10K in the USA, a tour-de-force of steep hills in nearby Newbury Park. And yes, the Toughest 10K would boldly live up to its name, with only the winner managing to finish in under an hour (barely). I even managed to max out my heart rate at 183 bpm. One ignominious asterisk to my final effort of 2016: having never run a timed 10K in my 76 career races, my 1:22:22 (13:17/mile) finish time now stands as my 10K personal best, less than 12 minutes short of my half marathon PB {yikes}.

So there you have it! While I don’t have the time or interest to blog about every race I run, my RaceRaves reviews fill in the gaps nicely. And now, with 2016 in the rearview mirror, I can happily look forward to 2017 and what’s already shaping up to be another amazing year. Not that I’ve mapped out my schedule in gory detail—in fact I’ve only committed to three races so far this year, with the first coming up next weekend in state #15.

No, the reason I have such high hopes is that the sun around which my 2017 training revolves is a race which once looked like a distant star—a celestial impossibility gazed at longingly by a boy through his bedroom window. Not many foot races could legitimately lay claim to the title of the “Ultimate Human Race”. But this one does, and rightfully so. And it’s a race that will require me to run stronger and more strategically than any I’ve run so far.

comrades-logo
This June will see Katie and me strive to add continent #4 to the racing résumé as I tackle the celebrated Comrades Marathon in South Africa, where I’ll have exactly 12 hours (and not a second more) to run 56 hilly miles at the world’s largest ultramarathon. It’s an awesome challenge that already has every neuron in my body crackling with anticipation. And it’s one I slot in difficulty above all but the toughest 100-milers, since the strict 12-hour cutoff means that—after factoring in aid station breaks—a runner can’t walk or even power-hike an appreciable distance and still have any hope to finish. Because at Comrades, to borrow a line from noted non-ultrarunner Ben Franklin, if you fail to plan you are planning to fail.

Now that is a race.

To help prepare my quads for the hills of South Africa, in March I’ll be joining Bay Area friends at one of the most popular and scenic ultramarathons in this country, the Way Too Cool 50K. There I hope to improve on another of my questionable personal bests, a 6:33:45 at the scorching hot 2013 Harding Hustle 50K. Not to mention the real reason I’m running WTC—their signature frog cupcakes!

Thanks so much for following along on my (mis)adventures here, in 2016 and always—the fact you take the time to do so (especially if you’re not related to me) is the ultimate compliment. My wish for 2017 is that you live strong, be healthy, run well, inspire others, laugh freely and celebrate often. I look forward to sharing my own revolution around the sun.

Trust me, it’s going to be YUGE.

Mike Sohaskey beachside motivation_bch
Other 2016 blog posts worth a read:

Through the (crack’d) looking glass: post-election thoughts on the state of America
Child’s Play: our silly sport as seen through a child’s eyes

Looking for the best races around the world? RaceRaves.com makes it easy to find, track & review races you’ve run or want to run, and connect with other runners—you can also follow RaceRaves on Facebook and Instagram, though honestly the website is much more fun than social media.

And as you plan your 2017 race schedule, check out our RaceRaves spotlight featuring “7 quick picks for 2017”.

FINAL STATS for 2016:
2020.5 in 211 days (and on the 366th day he rested), 9.6 miles/day average
0 days lost to injury
248.5 racing miles
11 races (one 200-mile relay, one 50-miler, 5 marathons, 3 half marathons, one 10K) in 5 states (CA, MA, WI, KY, NE)
Overall race percentile: 72.2 (down 22 from 2015, excludes the Peace Love Run Half and Ragnar Relay) → 15,763/56,786 total finishers
Fastest race pace: 7:21/mile (Peace Love Run Half, despite running two miles too far)
Slowest race pace: 13:17/mile (Toughest 10K in the USA)
8 blog posts & 9 RaceRaves original articles written
My Staging Area (profile page) on RaceRaves

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
– Edmund Burke

new-yorker-blitt_feb-2016
America, you just got grabbed by the pu**y.

I’m rarely at a loss for words, especially written ones. Even in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, I had clarity into my own thoughts. But as much of a shock and tragedy as Boston was, it was a firecracker compared to the atomic bomb of this year’s presidential election, a bomb that left me (and so many others) speechless.

On the bright side, being speechless gave me time to process the 7 stages of grief—once, twice, maybe three times. Actually, my grief was limited to the first 6 stages since I have yet to—and may never—reach the “hopeful acceptance” stage. And it’s tough to turn the page and write about the race I just ran when there’s a body lying in the middle of the room.

So despite everything that’s been written already, I felt compelled to share my own post-election autopsy on President Obama’s America—how we got here and, more importantly, how we get out. There’s been a lot of angry finger-pointing the past two weeks as the nation comes to grips with its Trumpster fire. But if we honestly want the answers we all feel we deserve, there’s really only one place each and every one of us should look…

* If you couldn’t be bothered to vote, look in the mirror. And if someone can explain to me why Americans can be fined or imprisoned for evading jury duty but not for failing to vote for the leader of the free world, I’m all ears.

* If you did vote, but fancying yourself a rebel opted for one of the deer-in-headlights third-party candidates, look in the mirror. Because wow, you sure did stick it to the establishment! In elections as in life, perfect is the enemy of the good, and your pipe dreams of a political revolution that promises every American free tuition, universal health care and paid family leave to binge-watch Netflix just set this country back 50 years—if we’re lucky. There’s a reason our president-elect chose The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” as his campaign theme music.

I’m in 100% agreement with the common-sense viewpoint that government should work for the people who empower it. But understanding time & place is essential—when you look up from your deck chair on the Titanic and see choppy waters to one side and an enormous iceberg dead ahead, seasickness is the least of your worries. That iceberg doesn’t give a damn about you, and closing your eyes doesn’t change the fact you’re going down with the ship.

* If you’re embracing a smug mindset of “I live in California (or Oregon, or Washington…), we got it right and this is all of y’all’s fault”, look in the mirror. Right now you may be earning $150,000 a year coding an app to deliver vegan meals to other Silicon Valley shut-ins—but thanks to the Electoral College (see below) and your living in the land of the like-minded liberal, you and your vote are of less consequence than the fellow working the 5:00am shift in an auto parts factory in small-town Ohio, or the lady juggling two manual labor jobs and two kids in rural Iowa, whose livelihood & future are both on the line. So don’t be that smugly American nobody likes.

* If your activism consists of hashtagging your Facebook posts and tweets with #NotMyPresident, look in the mirror. Because he is, he will be for the next four years, and it’s time to own that fact. As our current President said during his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America… there is not a black America and a white America and latino America and asian America—there’s the United States of America.” And unless my current home state of California or my former home state of Texas secede from the Union, Donald Trump will be the President of that America. Now it’s up to us to hold him to his oath of office for every minute of the next +/– 1,400 days. Because a hashtag never solved anything.

* On that note, if you find yourself—consciously or not—subscribing to an “us vs. them” mentality, look in the mirror. As much as I understand and respect the level-headed assurances from POTUS and FLOTUS that “we’re on the same team”, rose-colored glasses aren’t going to fix our national myopia. One of the greatest threats to our country right now is its own divisive rhetoric, and simply living on the same floating land mass doesn’t qualify us as “United” States. Granted, painting others with a broad brush is much simpler than trying to grok their perspective, and easily done in 140 characters. But it’s also lazy, dangerous and disqualifying, not to mention a yuge reason we’re in this mess.

paul-noth_sheep

(c) 2016 Paul Noth

* If you’re willing to sit back and let extremism become the new normal—to empower a man who will enter office as the least popular president in recent history, who has more pending lawsuits against him than years on this planet, who has repeatedly espoused racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and Islamophobic views to anyone who will listen and whose presidential appointees reflect that same worldview, whose outsized arrogance & ignorance threaten not just the country but the planet, who pathologically treats the truth as though it were a Zika-infected mosquito, and who has exactly zero experience to prepare him for the most important job on the planet, a job to which we as a nation just promoted him—look in the mirror.

* If you’re trying to play the good patriot by assuring your friends, colleagues and children that “This is how democracy works,” look in the mirror. America is not and never has been a democracy, so can we stop using the word unless we’re discussing ancient Greece? If we were a democracy then Hillary Clinton—whose historic lead in the popular vote is approaching two million votes as of this writing—would be our next President. Instead, we owe our current situation to the Electoral College, an antiquated relic of a government institution that even our president-elect himself in 2012 called (in a tweet, of course) “a disaster for democracy.”

So if you agree with me or our president-elect, I urge you to actively support outgoing California Senator Barbara Boxer, who has introduced long-overdue legislation to repeal the Electoral College. Because until we can assure every American that their vote counts, voter apathy will persist and presidential elections like this one will leave even those who do vote feeling disenfranchised. Not exactly the American dream we’re all promised.

* And to the 44% of Americans who admit to getting their news from Facebook: if you blame Mark Zuckerberg for our nation’s current predicament because you’re addicted to his echo chamber, or because the Facebook “news” stories you liked, shared or angry emoji’ed turned out to be as reliable as a Nessie sighting, look in the mirror. Expecting the same website that makes money hand over fist feeding you mindless kitten videos, tone-deaf vacation photos and—yes—fake news stories to double as your trusted news source, is like expecting your dentist to take a little off the back while you’re already in the chair. Facebook may let us share the life we want others to think we lead, but let’s not fool ourselves—it’s not making us any smarter. And right now, a lot more smarter and a lot fewer kitten videos wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

* If you’re comfortable ascribing Hillary Clinton’s defeat to America’s deep-seated racism and xenophobia, look in the mirror. And take a closer look at blue-collar towns like Kenosha, Wisconsin or Warren, Ohio or even Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Clinton’s grandfather worked in a textile mill. Towns like these and dozens more voted for Barack Hussein Obama not once but twice, and yet this year they switched teams and voted for Donald Trump. Are we to believe that large swaths of the nation suddenly turned into overt nationalists motivated by bigotry, like zombies transformed by a virus into mindless cannibals? Or that all the racists came out to vote while the good folks stayed home?

Inarguably there’s a dark and {ahem} deplorable streak of racism in this country begging to be heard, one we all need to reject out of hand every chance we get. And leaders who recklessly spew inflammatory rhetoric empower this hate speech, giving it a voice it otherwise wouldn’t have. The mere notion of a Muslim registry or “deportation force”—a reprehensible rumor the president-elect has done nothing to disavow—casts two middle fingers toward the Constitution. And thanks to a doctorate in Cancer Biology not earned at Trump University, I can assure incoming national security advisor Michael Flynn that Islam is not a “cancer”. We the People cannot and should not tolerate an all-White House in the year 2016.

But to attribute the results of this election to racism is to miss the point: for millions of Americans of all creeds and colors, the government simply isn’t working. This single talking point was the central focus of Bernie Sanders’ campaign—he recognized that desperate times call for desperate measures. Even progressive poster boy Michael Moore recognized the desperation seeping from the country’s pores, so much so that he correctly predicted a victory for Donald Trump. And those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

* And if you did vote Trump for legitimate non-racist reasons, look in the mirror. It’s time to move beyond a binary “We won, you lost” mindset—the country needs you to be just as vigilant as the rest of us. Who better than the president-elect’s supporters to hold him accountable for his willful ignorance and his racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic and Islamophobic statements and appointments? Do your patriotic duty and hold his feet to the fire—just don’t be surprised when he breaks out the kerosene and your own arm bursts into flames.

paul-noth_circle-of-trump

(c) 2016 Paul Noth

* If you’re white (like me) and have at any point caught yourself self-congratulating for having gay friends or lesbian friends or black friends or Mexican friends or Muslim friends, look in the mirror. And be ready to come out swinging for them over the next four years.

* If despite every racist red flag and early warning siren coming out of Trump HQ in the past two weeks, you’ve already risen above it all to resume posting mindless kitten videos, tone-deaf vacation photos and self-absorbed personal updates on social media, look in the mirror. And be afraid, be very afraid—because you have much deeper concerns that what is and isn’t a fake news story. In fact, our outgoing President may want to seize this opportunity to publish a self-help sequel to his 2006 bestseller—let’s call it “The Audacity of Fear”.

* If you’re perfectly happy to accept what friends, Facebook and your own misinformed opinions tell you, look in the mirror. And while you’re looking, notice that shiny round skull conveniently positioned above your eyes? Beneath that dome lies the reason we spend our days building electric cars and studying the human genome, not napping in a sunbeam on the floor or cleaning ourselves with our tongue. There’s no more important three pounds anywhere on your body than inside your skull—so use it or lose it.

* And speaking of using your brain—I’m the first to admit Hillary Clinton was a highly flawed candidate. But if you think a thin-skinned 70-year-old businessman who just paid out $25 million to avoid trial on fraud charges, who filed for bankruptcy six times, who has never expressed any interest in public service and who has in fact spent his adult life fighting only for himself at the expense of everyone else, suddenly develops the temperament to care about the white working class that propelled him to the Presidency, look in the mirror—because you may find some lobotomy scars. And when you’re done I have a wall to sell you (since someone will need to pay for it).

* If you brushed aside the president-elect and his angry band of “deplorables”, while assuming that witty, well-spoken liberals like John Oliver, Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah would protect you from the dawn of Nazi America, look in the mirror. I loved the “Drumpf” skit and “Donald Trump wants to bang his daughter” segments as much as the next guy, but it’s disconcerting when sources that clearly advertise themselves as fake news provide much sharper insight and analysis than legitimate news outlets—and when a satirical cartoon from the turn of the century turns out to be our nation’s Nostradamus.

* And if, after the past two weeks you can honestly still say, “I don’t understand how anyone could vote for Donald Trump,” look in the mirror. Then look again. And start asking that question of people around you—respectfully. Spend less time on social media and more time on {shudder} conservative sites such as Fox News. Hear what the other side is hearing, and listen to what the other side is saying. The president-elect won over 60 million votes, and our responsibility as an informed electorate is to understand why. As sanity spokewoman Elizabeth Warren noted, “We have a right to be heard, but we also have an obligation to listen.” Until liberals take a long hard look in our cracked mirrors, we won’t be shattering that highest of glass ceilings.

paul-noth_inauguration

(c) 2016 Paul Noth

One final note: the most frightening thing to me about a very frightening year isn’t even Donald Trump’s elevation to the Presidency. It’s the fact that the Oxford Dictionaries already selected post-truth—”relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”—as its word of the year. (Granted, this is better than the “face with tears of joy” emoji it selected in 2015.) Call me naïve, but as a scientist with three pounds of fully functioning neurons resting on my shoulders, I refuse to accept the idea we live in a post-truth world. Truth still makes a difference.

Because as Daniel Patrick Moynihan pointed out, “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts”. We can deny the reality of climate change until the sea cows come home, but climate change don’t give a shit, and hiding our head under the couch like the family dog doesn’t change the fact that our backside is clearly visible to the rest of the world.

So do the country a favor and think for yourself. Just don’t let Mark Zuckerberg catch you in the act.

Happy Thanksgiving!

TL;DR version:TL;DR emojis for post-election recap
I won’t barrage you with links to sites like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, since you can easily find them yourselves if you truly want to act on your anger and despair and DO SOMETHING. But I will leave you with the contact information for all 50 U.S. senators and for your U.S. Representative(s), in case you’d like to call them up and (politely, respectfully) share your opinion on the state of the union.

When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.
– Winnie the Pooh

Purple & gold celebration

“How far do you want to run?” I asked.

“A really long way,” was the reply, “Because I don’t get tired. How long would it take us to run 100 miles?”

I thought about the question. I could give my indefatigable companion an honest yet unproductive answer. Instead, I opted for a more open-ended response: “Let’s start running and see how we feel,” I said. “I’m not sure we’ll have time for 100 miles today.”

Today had already been a full & productive day by most standards. With summer still two weeks away, the mercury in the East Bay had already topped out at 100°F. And yet technically speaking, this would be our second run of the day. Our morning had begun with a spontaneous “interval” session around the neighborhood—brief sprints of 50 or so yards punctuated by frequent stops, the Nephew taking advantage of these stops to bend down and pocket a handful of seemingly nondescript pebbles, while I caught my breath and watched in amusement.

We’d returned home from that impromptu sprint workout sweaty and triumphant, his shorts hanging two inches lower and clacking away like a walking bag of marbles thanks to all the rocks he’d pocketed.

After lunch, Katie joined us for an early-afternoon outing of batting practice and ‘90s arcade games at the nearby batting cages. We hesitated outside the slowest of the facility’s batting cages, the sharp THUMP! of fastball hitting backstop greeting our ears as an older boy waved helplessly at a passing pitch.

Throwing

Katie and I looked at each other, concerned that even the slowest cage may be too fast for a newly minted second-grader. The Nephew seemed unimpressed. In he went, and after lowering the height of the pitches to accommodate his smaller frame, there we stood outside the fence watching with fascination as pitch after pitch leaped off his bat, its owner eagerly scooting forward in the batter’s box (despite my protests) to greet the ball sooner.

In the parlance of his hometown, the Nephew is hella athletic for his age, with precocious eye-hand coordination that makes him the clear choice for leadoff hitter on his little-league baseball team. And it’s amazing how fast his basketball skills developed from “cute” to “formidable” in the span of one year, despite his lack of a significant growth spurt during that time. Watching him bury running bank shots, his forward momentum helping him get the ball over the rim, on a standard ten-foot basket in the first grade gave me goosebumps.

But next-gen Steph Curry or not, I assumed that when the time came for me to squeeze in my own training run later that day in the heat, the Nephew would be perfectly happy to crash in front of the TV. After all, what 7-year-old wants to go running when there’s no ball involved, much less twice in one day? I figured he’d be about as likely to welcome more running as he would be to sit still during dinner. So I was surprised when he insisted on joining me, still crackling with energy and intent on racking up 100 miles by dinnertime.

Tweaking my own expectations a bit, I laced up my running shoes, strapped my Garmin (GPS unit) to my wrist to measure our mileage, and the two of us set out toward the neighborhood sports park. The plan, formulated by Katie and me, would be to run around the sports park until the Nephew inevitably got bored/hungry/tired, then drop him back off at his house before continuing on to finish my scheduled 10-mile run. The perfect plan! {cue mad scientist laugh} Or so it seemed, at least to the naïve adults who crafted it.

Prisma-rrific

(With thanks to the Prisma app)

Before his front door was out of sight, the Nephew had already stopped twice — once to pick up a discarded bolt and again to tear open a plastic-bagged advertisement for lawn care services, laying claim to the tiny rocks used to weigh down the bag and prevent its blowing away. He jammed the ad down in one pocket and dropped the pebbles in the other, intent on adding them to the two dozen or so he’d collected that morning.

Somehow, without further distraction we reached our destination. Like most cookie-cutter sports parks in suburban America, this one was organized into multiple baseball & soccer fields, concession stands to serve the summer crowds and rows of colorful flowers to keep even the littlest spectators entertained. We set off in a clockwise loop around the complex, with the Nephew leaving the paved path and darting across the grass, because what fun is running on concrete when there’s so much grass available?

Happily we ran through the sparsely populated park, cutting through the empty parking lot which this late in the day lacked the usual hustle-and-bustle of little league activity and childhood in progress. My companion paused at regular intervals to rest, assuring me that “After I rest, I can run fast again.” But I agreed with him that this was just a run and not a race, since it wouldn’t be good to stop during a race.

Taiwan

Keeping cool in the Taipei heat (left); a first-rate photobomb, courtesy of the Niece & Nephew (right)

With the calendar approaching the longest day of the year, the sun remained high in the East Bay sky. The sweltering day had cooled off and surrendered to what was now a perfect evening for running. But more than that, it was a perfect evening for stopping. And we took full advantage:

  • We stopped to watch two teenagers hit baseballs.
  • We stopped to check out the scoreboard mounted beyond the outfield wall, its lit facade displaying a score of 0-0 to no one in particular.
  • We stopped to watch two boys and (presumably) their mother coast by slowly on bikes, the mom scolding one boy for ignoring her orders. “He’s in trouble,” the Nephew—speaking from experience—noted matter-of-factly.
  • We stopped so he could kick a semi-deflated ball over the low chain-link fence several times, and so the adult in me could dissuade him from carrying it home with us.
  • We stopped so he could pick up a discarded potato chip bag and recycle it.
  • We stopped to drink from the water fountain… after all it was still a warm evening, and running makes you thirsty!

“Are you tired?” he’d ask every so often. “Nope,” I’d answer honestly, “But I do this a lot more than you.”

Victoria Harbour

Surveying Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong

  • We stopped probably a dozen times to look at the posted sign showing a map of the park (a perfect excuse to rest, I realized), decide on a route and then quickly deviate from that route ten steps later.
  • We stopped at one end of the two football fields to touch the crooked goalposts, then race back across the semi-overgrown field to touch the opposite goalposts.
  • We stopped just because.
  • We stopped so he could pick up a discarded water bottle and, before I could protest, toss it over a tall fence with a “BEWARE OF THE DOG” sign nailed to the wooden pickets. Beware of the boy, I thought wryly.
  • We stopped to watch two pitches of an adult softball league game. Nothing interesting of note there, so we moved on.

I kept a close eye on my charge, urging him to let me know when he felt hungry or tired. Yet onward he ran with me trailing behind. “I’m not tired, but my legs are tired,” he reported as we stopped to study and re-study the map of the park.

Watching

His mom said it best: “Objectively, he’s a very good athlete.”

“I have to push myself,” he offered another time, before promptly pausing for another walk break. It reminded me of the time several years earlier when I’d first explained to him at dinner that Katie and I were vegetarians. “Me too,” he’d agreed earnestly, emphasizing his point with a wave of the oversized duck leg he was gnawing.

  • We stopped so he could walk the curb like a tightrope walker, trying to avoid brushing up against the bright pink flowers and then, when he couldn’t, creating the rule that as long as he touched them for less than five seconds they couldn’t hurt him. As he pushed his way past the branches overhanging the curb, pink petals fluttered to the ground in his wake. And his first encounter with a thorn quickly ended that game.
  • We stopped to watch a dad pitch to his son and bark at him in clipped Japanese after every swing, whether the boy made contact or not.
  • We stopped so he could try to sneak up on some seemingly unsuspecting squirrels who were, in fact, very much onto his game. Scurrying up the closest tree, the two playful park residents easily scampered out of his reach as he moved to surprise them.
  • We stopped so he could ask me which of the two side-by-side playgrounds I preferred, and we agreed that the one with the adult swings (i.e. no harnesses) was far and away the better of the two.

By stops and starts, across grass and concrete the miles faithfully ticked by. When we reached mile 3 my smaller half asked, “Is this one of your longest practice runs?”

Star Wars boy

Wookie experts agree he’s a huggable kid, as long as you don’t get on his Dark Side

  • We stopped so that, at his pleading, I could transfer the Garmin to his tiny wrist. I explained that the red button started the timer while he was running and stopped it while he was walking (a strategy I’d been following to that point). Gesturing at the screen he asked, “How many of these does it take to make a mile?” And it struck me — decimals are a foreign concept to 7-year-olds. So I taught him that once those last two numbers passed 99, the mile would end and a new one would begin. So our last mile quickly became an exercise in staccato-style sprints, each one culminating in his looking at the GPS and announcing, “It went up by 2! It went up by 2 again! It went up by 2 AGAIN!”
  • And just as we were exiting the park on our way home, we stopped one last time so he could turn and run back to the water fountain — not to drink, but to douse his head with water so the others waiting at home would think he was totally sweaty.

Watching his wrist intently the Nephew led us toward home, the Garmin chiming for the fourth and final time just as we reached his front yard. Beaming proudly, he announced to the adults waiting at the door that he’d just run 4 miles. I congratulated him on his longest run ever. “I think I’ve gotten my exercise for the day,” he agreed with a weary smile.

(And about those adults waiting at the door—apparently we’d been gone for 1½ hours, during which time Katie had set out to look for us. Not being a parent, I’d become so engrossed in our carefree uncle-nephew bonding time that I’d been oblivious to common-sense parental considerations like dinner time, shower time, bed time, the fact it was a school night, etc. The fact that we’d encountered not one other kid his age during our run probably should have clued me in but hey, hindsight is 20/20!)

June7route_GE_BCH

Garmin tracing of our 4-mile route—landmarks have been omitted to protect the guilty

In the end, our meandering route resembled a Sunday “Family Circus” cartoon—across the lawn, over the fence, through the neighbor’s flowers… it was spontaneous, it was unpredictable, it was frustrating yet freeing in its lack of structure. It was nothing like my usual training run. And it was fun.

Conventional running wisdom tells us here’s the start line, there’s the finish, get from here to there by the shortest route possible, don’t stray, don’t meander, don’t roam. Every training run should serve a purpose, or else file it under “junk” miles and don’t waste your time. Coloring outside the lines—particularly if you’re a road runner—is actively discouraged. And more often than not, we oblige.

And yet signs of pushback have surfaced within the running community. The sport’s rigid adherence to protocol and “one size fits all” mindset have helped fuel the rise of more whimsical options like runDisney, as well as the recent explosion in popularity of mud runs and obstacle course races. At the same time, increasing numbers of conventional runners are eschewing concrete for dirt—truth is, there’s no better playground than Mother Nature’s backyard.

Orange you glad he's running?

In my head I run like this, but the race photos tell a different story

As we mature, so do our hobbies—running evolves from play into sport into highly regimented activity. Strict training schedules tell us what we should run, frenetic daily schedules dictate when we should run, and wearable technology provides constant feedback on how well we’re running.

And the why? That one’s in the eye of the beholder. Like everything else the why evolves with age—from getting in shape, to completing our first half marathon, to chasing personal bests, to (re-)qualifying for Boston, to staying in shape. Grown-up goals framed on the backdrop of ever-increasing grown-up demands.

But once upon a time—before tempo runs, before specialized shoes and before personalized GPS data—there was a much simpler & more lighthearted why. Watching my Nephew run, his unchoreographed strides offered a moving reminder of that original why.

Because nothing instills joy like recess without rules. Because running always gets us where we want to go. Because there’s no such thing as “junk” miles. Because we really are born to run. And because running, at its core, is child’s play.

A day like ours deserved a happy ending, and I’m happy to report it got one, with our exhausted hero falling into a deep slumber almost before his head touched the pillow. And with that my work—scratch that, my play here was done.

Whether my Garmin said so or not.

Santa Monica Pier

With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.
– Eleanor Roosevelt

Blisters spectator sign at Walt Disney World Marathon

In case you’re still wondering about my blog title…

2015 was a busy year. In fact, with apologies to the semester I took all those AP classes, it’s no exaggeration to call it the busiest year of my life so far. With RaceRaves gathering steam and new home ownership engulfing our spare time like The Blob, Katie and I felt very much like I’d imagine the proud parents of newborn twins must feel.

So my 2015 racing landscape was notably more sparse than in recent years. For instance, between May and November I ran exactly zero races, my longest streak without crossing a finish line since 2008. I notched marathons in only two new states (Florida and – race report still to come – Arizona), a rate of progress that will see me celebrating state #50 right around the time Puerto Rico & Guam gain admission to the Union. All the while, I watched through the envious lens of social media as friends took to heart our RaceRaves slogan to Run the world, collecting medals across the globe in countries such as Belize, China, Cuba, Greece, Hungary, Myanmar and South Africa, to name a few.

All that said, I was able to celebrate a few major milestones of my own this year (blogging frequency not among them). And though I’m not a big believer in looking back, how could I not revisit a few highlights of 2015 before looking forward to what’s shaping up as a can’t-miss 2016:

1) Walt Disney World Marathon (January): Florida was state #9 in my quest to run a marathon or ultramarathon in all 50 states. And freakish though the state itself may be (high praise from a Californian), with every day that goes by my memories of the 3 hours, 41 minutes, 42 seconds spent racing through the Disney World complex grow fonder. Not that they weren’t at the time – after all, I did stop nearly 20 times for photo-ops with the full spectrum of characters along the course. And I have a sneaking suspicion that before I reach state #50, I may be hopping another cross-country flight to Orlando to relive my WDW experience. (Current overall score on RaceRaves: 4.4/5.0 based on 13 ratings)

Mike Sohaskey at Walt Disney World Expo & finish line

2) Carlsbad 5000 (March): The Competitor Group’s signature event was the first time I’d ever paid to run a 5K, and only the second time I’d ever timed myself at the distance. And though I missed my goal of a sub-20:00 finish by one second, this oceanside race is easy to recommend. Where else can you run your own race, cool down and grab a front-row seat to watch the elites compete in theirs? Or meet an American running legend like Bernard Lagat, graciously shaking hands at the finish line? Or serendipitously bump into American marathon record holder Deena Kastor at her favorite local brunch spot? The word “race” doesn’t do it justice – Carlsbad is an all-out celebration of running. (Current overall score on RaceRaves: 4.9/5.0 based on 7 ratings)

Mike Sohaskey with Carlsbad 5000 elites

(L to R) Lawi Lalang (2015 Carlsbad winner), Bernard Lagat and Deena Kastor

3) Qualifying for Boston (May): I entered 2015 having shakily qualified for Boston in Berlin (3:24:14) and at the California International Marathon (3:24:15). With competition for much-coveted Boston slots at an all-time high, though, I knew those qualifying times had as much chance of earning me a Boston bib as a forged Kenyan passport. So rather than await September and the inevitable disappointment of a rejected application, I cranked up my weekly mileage to 60-70 and got down to work with my sights set on May’s local Mountains 2 Beach Marathon, one of SoCal’s finest. The result was a solid 3:22:07, a Unicorn-worthy time that seemed all but assured of landing me a spot at Boston in 2016.

That was, until the cheetahs showed up and nearly ruined the party. During application week, competition became so fierce that when the dust settled, beating my official qualifying time by nearly three minutes meant I’d survived the cut by 25 seconds. But the bottom line: survive I did, meaning Katie and I will be celebrating Patriot’s Day with the locals come April. And not a year too soon, since I’m suffering from Fenway withdrawal and my Red Sox cap is in desperate need of replacing. (Current overall score for Mountains 2 Beach on RaceRaves: 4.4/5.0 based on 5 ratings)

Mike Sohaskey - Mountain 2 Beach 2 Boston

4) Volunteering at The Special Olympics World Games (July/August): The World Games may have been the highlight of our first 2½ years in Los Angeles. As overused and diluted as the word “inspiring” has become, watching 6,500 athletes from 165 nations refuse to be defined by their intellectual disabilities was all-day inspiring. And volunteering at the World Games was that rare moment in time when spectating is more satisfying than competing. During the Closing Ceremonies, the high-five I shared with a gold medal winner from the Isle of Man was a fitting finale to an amazing week. If you ever have the chance to be part of a Special Olympics event, do yourself a favor and seize the opportunity.

Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015

5) USA Half Marathon (November): I first heard about the USA Half from Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray at the Running USA conference in February. The idea of a qualifers-only half marathon – a Boston-like event that faster half marathoners could call their own – had been on my racing wishlist for years, and I immediately added it to my 2015 calendar. Despite a lower-than-expected turnout, the race itself didn’t disappoint. Event production (with help from McGillivray’s DMSE Sports) was flawless, the course was challenging yet runnable, and as late November race venues go, San Diego is a no-brainer. A few tweaks could (and should) be made to improve the experience and attract more runners in 2016, but for an inaugural event the USA Half pretty much hit it on the screws. (Current overall score on RaceRaves: 4.2/5.0 based on 33 ratings)

Mike Sohaskey at USA Half Marathon expo

Those wings came in handy on race day

Thanks in large part to inordinately high finishes at the Walt Disney World Marathon (793/20,048) and the Inaugural Sunset Strip Half (28/1,739), my overall race percentile for 2015 was a best-ever 94.2, meaning I finished in the top 6% of the cumulative field for the six races I ran. Not bad for someone who just stepped up to the {eek} 45-49 age group.

So “quality over quantity” sums up my 2015 nicely. But looking forward, I’m even more excited about the roadmap for 2016 which includes:

  • in February, the US Olympic Marathon Trials here in L.A. along with my second Los Angeles Marathon (which was moved up a month to coincide with the Trials);
  • in April, state #11 and the 120th Boston Marathon, followed six days later by a – fingers crossed – injury-free return to Big Sur as a participant in the Boston-to-Big-Sur Challenge;
  • in May, my first 50-miler in the woods of Wisconsin, where legs willing I’ll spend a Saturday with Otter and Dan chasing my pride around Kettle Moraine State Park – you know, for fun.

Dan Solera & Dan Otto in Chicago

It’s all fun & games ’til these two talk you into a 50-miler

Clearly my 2016 promises to stay true to this blog’s title… and that’s just the first five months. Meanwhile our vision for RaceRaves continues to expand and evolve, and we’re psyched to announce some key upgrades & new features that will make the Internet’s best all-in-one race resource even better. Curious what the fuss is about? Check us out at RaceRaves.com (and my own Staging Area HERE) – we’d love to welcome you into our fast-growing community of Raving Lunatics!

RaceRaves logos in 2015

As always, the most memorable part of 2015 was the people. Through running in general and RaceRaves in particular, I’ve gotten to know some amazing (and amusing) athletes from around the globe. Best of all, I’ll be seeing many of them again – and a lot of new faces – on my continuing journey across all 50 states, all seven continents and as many countries as time, budget & body will allow.

RaceRaves Raving Lunatic collage 2015

So stay tuned, and as always thanks for reading – I realize my blog doesn’t cater to short attention spans, but then again if length were my guiding principle I’d be writing “5 superfoods runners must eat NOW!” listicles for Runner’s World.

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2016 and your best running year yet. May the course be with you!

FINAL STATS of 2015:
2,222 miles run in 242 days (9.2 miles/day average)
0 days lost to injury (!)
107.9 racing miles
6 races (three marathons, two half marathons, one 5K) in 3 states (AZ, CA, FL)
Overall race percentile: 94.2 (up 5.0 from 2014, up 3.2 from 2012 & 2013) = 1,629/28,130 total finishers
Fastest race pace: 6:21/mile (Carlsbad 5000, my 5K PR)
Slowest race pace: 8:22/mile (Walt Disney World Marathon)
8 blog posts & 8 RaceRaves articles published
Check out my racing profile (past, present & future) on My Staging Area on RaceRaves

Do. Or do not. There is no try.
– Yoda

Boston Marathon acceptance email
This blog post is brought to you by the letters I, M, N.

As in, I M N the 2016 Boston Marathon.

After years of training, two frustrating rehearsals at Berlin & CIM, a decisive 3 hours 22 minutes 7 seconds at the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon and four more months of awaiting my day in unicorn court, the jury (i.e. the Boston Athletic Association) has finally returned its verdict:

Guilty of speeding. Meaning that next April 18, I’ll be fighting back imposter syndrome while lining up alongside some of the world’s most fleet-footed runners at the 120th Boston Marathon.

The most prestigious marathon on the planet will also be my fourth World Marathon Major, after Chicago in 2012, Berlin in 2014 and New York City in 2014. But even with a qualifying buffer of 2 minutes 53 seconds, getting in was never a sure thing – the BAA’s cutoff for acceptance this year was the most severe in the race’s history at 2 minutes 28 seconds faster than the official qualifying times (don’t know what I’m talking about? Read all about it HERE). So my qualifying time of 3:22:07 means I squeaked in with all of 25 seconds to spare.

A shocking 16% of applicants – all of whom had met the BAA’s official qualifying standards – weren’t so lucky, including one of my own running buddies. His 2015 Boston finish time, which at the time seemed like a can’t-miss return ticket, left him out of the 2016 field by two seconds. If I’d run one second per mile slower at Mountains 2 Beach, I’d be staying home next April as well.

But 25 seconds or 2500, I’ll take it and (literally) run with it, because I know how much work & how many miles went into this. And because to my mind Boston is the pinnacle of competitive – or in my case self-competitive – racing. I could cross 100, 200, 500+ finish lines over the course of my life, and with luck maybe I will. But I know myself well, and if I’m honest I know that only the blue & gold unicorn will ever make my medals rack feel complete. Silly as it may sound, I can’t rationalize my way around it. You can’t fake Boston – unless of course you’re Kip Litton or Mike Rossi.

So I’m already counting down the ticks and tocks to 10:00am EST on Patriots’ Day, hopefully followed the next week by a return to Big Sur for the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge. In fact, next year’s race schedule is already taking shape – and for good reason.

Qualifying for Boston 2017 has already begun.

CONGRATULATIONS to the 24,032 athletes accepted into the 2016 race!