Monthly Archives: April 2010

Pittsburgh Marathon: A Year Later

Well, I’ve been pretty much off the grid and off the streets for the past few weeks or so. I find when I don’t run in the early a.m. it alters my schedule — and the open window that I have each morning to write a blog post closes quickly. Wow. Who says I’m a slave to a now 35-year routine of getting up well before 4 a.m. and hitting the concrete at 5?

And for those of you who stop by here regularly or even occasionally, you know that I’ve been fretting over some serious pain in my left foot for about a year now. It ain’t going away — and the docs and therapists have concluded that it’s just something I’ll have to live with. Go figure. (Interesting NYT article here about dealing with sports injuries.)

Anyway, I was thinking about this again yesterday when I received an e-mail update about the Pittsburgh Marathon. The race will be held this Sunday — and even though I didn’t register or plan to register, I guess I’m on some kind of alumni list. Last year at this time I was all set to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon when the foot began hurting. So it goes.

I guess I could settle on spending eternity grinding away on the elliptical trainer. But nah. I’m going to give it at least another shot. I went a week or so ago to get fitted for a custom orthotic, and I’m going to get that tomorrow. We’ll see.

Hey — I didn’t call this PR on the Run for nothing.

And I know I’m not going to make it back to Pittsburgh for the marathon or half marathon.

But gee. It should would be great to get back on my early a.m. schedule of being on the streets — and on the grid.

Boston Marathon: What’s Your Goal?

Well, I spent an hour grinding away on the elliptical trainer early this a.m. But I was thinking about the Boston Marathon — held yesterday for the 114th time. The Boston Marathon is a major sports event, attracting elite runners from around the world. Yet, for average folks like most of us, it’s a celebration of what’s possible — and also a reminder of what limitations we all have.

That tension between what you want to do and what you realistically can achieve has always been one of the attractions for me in long-distance running. Putting aside the elite runners, for most others just getting to the starting line — almost anywhere and for any distance — represents a celebration of commitment and goal setting.

I know it was for me when I first decided that I wanted to complete a marathon. And finishing the 26.2 miles at marathons in Columbus, Washington and Pittsburgh is something that I will always consider to be a big personal accomplishment.

So I really don’t care all that much about the elite finishers. They deserve credit and they are tremendous athletes.

But I really enjoy watching and reading stories about the majority of other runners who set a goal — for whatever reason — and then accomplish it. You can see it in their smiles when they cross the finish line.

And for someone who would have liked to — but realistically never will — run the Boston Marathon, those stories make me smile.

The Steelers, Big Ben and Responsibility

Well, I’ve been kind of off the grid for the past several days. And here’s why. After more than 30 years of getting up almost every day around 3 a.m. I’ve been trying to sleep a little later — and longer. That’s not working very well for a variety of reasons. But beyond the sleep issues, it’s interesting to me how much of a routine I am in and how difficult it is to change behavior. The point: I’m programmed to write early a.m. and if I miss that window by even a few hours, I can’t manage to find the time or enthusiasm to do it. Go figure.

So today I’m back. I managed to get up around 3, scan the Internet, quaff a pot of coffee, and hit the concrete for a few miles with the temp nearly 60 degrees. And I was thinking about a subject that I consider here often: responsibility.

I grew up in Pittsburgh and have been a lifelong Steelers fan. But I don’t follow pro football much these days except when the playoffs start in late fall and even then only if the Steelers are in contention. And I expect that I couldn’t name more than two or three players on the team these days. One is Ben Roethlisberger. Sigh.

I expect that most know the story about Roethlisberger and the “incident” with a college student in Milledgeville, Ga. The district attorney didn’t bring charges — but that didn’t end the story. Nor should it.

We’re now talking about taking responsibility for personal actions — and regaining trust. And in saying that, I am not downplaying the seriousness of the criminal allegations. But here’s why I believe this situation is even more compelling than most. It’s not just Big Ben who needs to demonstrate responsibility and regain trust. The Steelers as an organization will have to do so as well.

I’ve long believed that the integrity and leadership of the Rooney family contributed to the successes that the team has enjoyed now for the better part of the last four decades. That well-deserved image and reputation is in play now. And the Steelers recognize it. Here’s from an article this morning in USAToday:

Steelers president Art Rooney II publicly scolded Ben Roethlisberger on Thursday and said he intends to impose discipline on the the quarterback at some point after the draft.

“I’ve made it clear to Ben that his conduct in this incident did not live up to our standards,” Rooney said. “There will be consequences for his actions.”

And more:

Rooney also said it was “in the best interests” of the Steelers to trade WR Santonio Holmes to the Jets this week. Holmes, who was accused of — and denied — assault last month in Florida, had been suspended four games for violating the league’s substance abuse program.

The two controversies have taken a toll on the Steelers. “In terms of our image, certainly I feel like we’ve taken a hit,” Rooney said. “But an image is built over time.”

Rooney said he hopes there’s “a lot of good will left” among Steelers fans.

But he added that he’s “very concerned with how fans view the situation” and said the Steelers must earn back trust.

OK, we’ll see. But clearly we’re not talking now just about football wins and losses. We’re looking at some bigger issues: trust and responsibility.

Airlines and Customer Relations

OK, I’ll admit it. If I never had to set foot again in an airport or on a airplane life would be better, if not good. Wonder how many others feel the same way these days? Of course, that ain’t going to happen for a variety of reasons — but mostly because I like to travel to parts of the country and world that make flying the only reasonable option.

And I’m still quasi-working — which requires some business travel.

Suck it up, big guy. Get in the queue — be prepared for the strip search — and don’t even think about bringing any luggage. Say what?

And I understand — and agree with — the need for security. That came home again early this a.m. when I got up and checked the news alerts on my BlackBerry signaling a possible security incident on a flight from DC to Denver. And in-flight security alerts and issues are becoming more common even with the emphasis on airport screening and public and media awareness. USAToday reports that the number of flights forced to land prematurely because of security alerts doubled — to 35 — in the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2009.

That, I guess, points to both increased security — and increased stupidity on the part of airline passengers. Go figure.

So given the security concerns — and hassles associated with flying — wouldn’t you think that the airlines would try to make passengers feel as good as they can about flying? Well, here’s the latest.

Spirit Airlines has announced that it will begin charging as much as $30 for each carry-on bag that you can’t fit under the seat. None of the so-called major airlines have piled on — as yet. So we’ll see. Maybe this is just the policy of one airline. Maybe it is an industry trial balloon.

And I get it. As Christine Negroni points out in her NYT article — “Less Baggage, Big Savings to Airlines” — there are plenty of cost savings involved in limiting baggage. And I expect that every dollar helps an industry that is struggling financially.

Yet it doesn’t strike me as doing much for customer relations — or customer loyalty. Maybe that doesn’t matter all that much these days. Sigh.

And I have to fly to DC in early May — with at least two bags in hand.

Double sigh.

Jobs: Glass Half Full?

Well, it must be spring. I actually saw another runner plodding along on the concrete at 5 a.m. this morning. Admittedly, the road scene didn’t mirror the start of the Cleveland Marathon. But hey — it made me smile just to see someone pass by with two thumbs up and a reflective vest flapping in the breeze.

Maybe I’m starting to appreciate the little things.

So running on that same track (c’mon, it’s Monday), I hope we are starting to see some improvement in the economy overall and in job growth specifically.

The Labor Department said last week that employers added 162,000 jobs in March (see NYT “Signaling Jobs Recovery, Payrolls Surged in March“) — even though many of the jobs are temporary and some 48,000 are connected to the 2010 census. And the unemployment rate overall remains near 10 percent.

Here’s from the article by Catherin Rampell and Javier C. Hernandez:

The economy needs to add more than 100,000 jobs a month just to absorb new entrants into the labor market, let alone provide a livelihood for the 15 million Americans already looking for work. Without constant, robust growth, the unemployment rate won’t budge. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office has projected that the rate will hover around 10 percent for the rest of the year.

Still, economists saw signs in the latest report that the economy was poised to make steady, if slow, progress.

“Every major industry, except financial services and information, showed gains in employment,” John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics, said. “From manufacturing, to construction, to retail, it really didn’t matter. They’re all hiring now.”

We will see in the next few months if this job growth is sustainable. And one of the keys now is to generate jobs for the long-term unemployed and those who are underemployed. Again, here’s from the NYT article:

Many of the jobs created last month were part time for people who really wanted full-time work. That caused the broader measure of unemployment along with those who are underemployed to tick up, to 16.9 percent, from 16.8 percent in February.

The situation looks worse for the long-term unemployed. The average length of time the jobless have been out of work has reached 31.2 weeks, the longest period since the government began keeping records in 1948.

So I guess you could view the job glass as still being half empty — and for those looking for work I’m sure that is the case.

But in the spirit of springtime, let’s go in the opposite direction and be optimistic that the glass is half full.

Saying that,  jobs and the economy — not health care — will be the defining issues in the mid-term elections in November.

And at that point, whether we view the glass as half full — or half empty — will make a huge difference in terms of who we elect to Congress and what the Obama administration can accomplish — or not — in the next two years.

Running: When Spring and Injuries Matter

I’ve got to admit it. I’ve enjoyed running the past two mornings more than just about any other time during the past year. All of a sudden it’s spring in NE Ohio: early morning temps near 50, mild breeze, clear sky and typically quiet, even with the birds chirping. And it’s exhilarating — physically and mentally — to be back on the concrete again after virtually hibernating all winter.

And after months of chasing the treadmill belt and grinding away on the elliptical trainer, I’ve accepted the fact that my long-distance running days are over. I’m OK to shuffle along for three or four miles — but beyond that: nah.

Anyway, it’s been almost exactly a year since I first experienced the severe pain in my left foot that just won’t go away — and no amount of doctor’s visits or physical therapy is going to get me back to where I was a year, or five or ten years ago. Hey, life’s running watch doesn’t stop for anyone: tick, tick, tick.

And it was interesting to read a story in the NYT yesterday by Gina Kolata, “Sports Injuries: When to Tough It Out.” And this is a gross generalization of an informative article, but essentially Kolata’s point is that barring an injury that clearly requires surgery, most of the time you are better off just using your own common sense than relying on a doctor’s visit and opinion that more often than not just forces you to quit doing what you really want to do.

So I’m going to quit fretting about my foot. Yeah, injuries matter. But in my case at least, I’ve made up my mind that it is not going to stop me from being outside, doing what I’ve enjoyed for better than 30 years, and taking advantage of a perfect spring day.

Hope you enjoy the weekend.