NY Marathon Expo – so many booths, so little time.

I was thinking about my progress as a runner over the last year and I’m fairly pleased. I can’t say that I’m completely satisfied with where I am because I think there’s more that I could be doing to improve my level of conditioning. I had little trouble covering my 9 miles last Sunday in the marathon relay but I recall thinking during the race that I’d wished I’d done more hill and speed work prior to the event. I guess it comes down to why we run. There are those who get out and do intervals, tempos, fartleks and hill sprints once or twice a week. These people are probably much stronger for it and it helps them run paces that would seem unlikely or even impossible for a runner like myself. Every time I go out to run I think about training rigorously and while I do occasionally switch up my pacing my primary intention remains focused on the enjoyment of the experience. I went out this morning dressed for cold and I wasn’t disappointed. After a slow start I picked up the pace in the middle and maintained it long enough to average 8:58 over 2.6 miles. It was fun to run at a quicker pace today but at other times comfort prevails.

Yesterday was the first day of the NY Marathon Expo at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC. For those unfamiliar with Javits, it’s a huge conference center on the west side in the 30’s that, for some reason, was built far away from any public transportation. The closest subway will still require a 15 to 20 minute walk. The way the event planners get around this limitation is to run busses all day from local hotels. The buses are free and the system works. The only issue I have with it is that buses + mid day traffic = long wait times to get to the place. I anxiously checked my watch concerned that by the time I arrived I’d need to get back on another bus in order to return for a 2:00 meeting. As it happened I was able to spend about 40 minutes at the Expo. Upon arriving I was puzzled to see that the main event was a technology security conference which would normally be of interest. I couldn’t see anything resembling a marathon expo. Finally, another person who was also looking spied the far away entrance and we headed over. The Expo was huge compared with any I’d seen before it. Every shoe, apparal, technology and health/exercise company had booths (although I don’t recall seeing Nike which was fine with me). The ASICS booth was so huge it could have been an Expo on its own. I spent time talking with some people promoting their races, chatted with someone representing Newton running shoes and then headed back to the office with lots of pamphlets and a few samples.

I wish I had more time to revisit the Expo today. I encourage anyone to go – it’s free!

Definition of running success

Runner’s World recently ran an article about the various types of runners breaking it down to three groups, short distance (5K, 10K), middle distance (10 mile/half marathon) and long haulers (marathons+). There’s a quiz that helps you identify where you slot into these categories and the tone is egalitarian in terms of respecting all three types. That said, it seems that most runners would be horrified to find themselves branded anything other than “marathon material” since completing a marathon appears to be the sport’s ultimate achievement. No one openly disparages shorter length races but I’ve seen many references to half marathons as warm-up or training events. Runner’s World itself would be hard pressed to publish a cover without prominently displaying the word “Marathon.” I’m asked a lot about when I’ll be ready for my first marathon and my answer to that is “probably never.” To me that’s not a goal. I would have to sacrifice too much time and subject myself to a level of training that goes beyond what’s required for fitness and balance. If I could complete a half marathon some day I’d be proud but for 2009 a 10K is the goal.

Growing audience

My original intention was to make the Emerging Runner a personal journal that I would use to track my early progress. About two weeks into it I asked a friend (who happens to be an accomplished online media executive) to look at my site and suggest any changes. She mentioned a couple of things to help make this site more “findable” and I’ve since incorporated those changes. The real effect was to make me think about an audience broader than my wife and the “Emerging Running Advisory Board.”

I have done a number of things to increase the reach of this site including using freely available SEO resources from Feedburner and Google Webmaster tools. I’ve also posted on the CompleteRunning.com network and tried to get Runner’s World to link to it. I’ve also begun to leverage social networks including Facebook, which I joined and then ignored until I had something to talk about. In addition, I’ve put the site on both my LinkedIn and MapMyRun profiles.

Another great outcome from this (owing more to Facebook than Emerging Runner) is that I have been able to connect with some people that I have not seen for a while. One of those people will be running in the Boston Marathon next year and I hope to have him write a guest column about that experience. I’ve modified the look of this site to allow more content on the opening page and can now expand it so guest writers can get their own page. After about a month I have seen traffic grow slowly but steadily. The Emerging Runner has been accessed by a couple of hundred “absolutely unique” (Google Analytics’ term) visitors with over a thousand pageviews. I can’t wait for that first $0.02 check from Google Adsense.