800 Mile Club


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MM#209 / JapanJoyful#803

    Two Saturday morning virtual marathons in memoriam for almost 1,000 Marathon Distance Paul Piplani

    SUMMARY - Ultra-Paul and I’d joked about the possibility of running a marathon in Japan and then, flying across the international date line, doing another one on the same day in Seattle. After Paul died on August 23, 2009, he annual Chino Marathon was renamed for him and his RD 100-mile friend provided a virtual division for those who couldn’t get to Chino in person.  It allowed my Paul Piplani Memorial Marathons to be 42.195 km in the 114th Imperial Palace Marathon in Tokyo on Saturday morning, October 31 and another 26.2 miles the same day in Seattle in the Carkeek 12 Hour Run.


    Paul Piplani Memorial Marathon t-shirt logo and medal. (thanks to RD Charlie's son)


    A. Running with Paul Piplani.

    It was in a Sunday May 2007 City Marathon in Olympia, Washington, ten years after I’d met MegaBob there too, that I met Paul Piplani, quietly running up one of the early hills. When he said it was his 790th marathon or something, I bragged that I'd just run a 5-mile trail run the day before at Cougar Mountain.  He casually responded that he'd done been doing his own trail run on Saturday too but it was 52.4 miles in the Redmond Watershed 12 hour run.  I'd heard 12 hour and 24 hour events but envisioning myself in one would have been akin to running a marathon while pulling a Volkswagon beetle.  However, under Paul's spell, I was there the next year in 90 degree weather chalking up 42 miles of my own. 


    We met often after that and three weeks later at the June 9, '07 Lake Youngs 28.8 mile mini-ultra, when I told him I'd done weekend double mary's (Seattle Ghost/Seattle) and had no intention of doing any more, especially after a mini-ultra.  However, sure enough, falling under his spell again, there I was the next day running my best marathon time in several years with him at a last-minute North Olympic Discovery Marathon. 




    sidebarwhen Paul kept telling me we couldn't dilly-dally as he needed a sub-five finish to make it back to Seattle in time to catch the evening flight back to Phoenix, I knew I could not run that pace so ran ahead when I saw a medic van at the half-way mark and told them the guy behind me was complaining of chest pains so be sure to check him out.  I then ran hard as hard the rest of the way to avoid him catching up and finished in 4:45, with the help of a 15 minute negative split.


    In July, we were driving across state for 14 miles up Mt. Spokane, that is,

    after a preliminary 20 run to the base of the mountain.


    Butterfly wings joined us after her relay leg was finished too. 

    They were both so joyous and overflowing with blessings never heard in the family pew

    that I thought I'd be taking flight too.


    posie - you mean the Tacoma City Marathon that I was able to enter at the last minute

    because of getting a ride down with divechief (and back when he waited

     an hour-and-a-half for me to finish after him).


    ps - if it's the Windemere Marathon over in Spokane, it might be on the barefoot friendly Centennial Trail that was part of the Let's Climb a Mountain Relay you and i made it to half way up Mt. Spokane while our late friend Ultra Paul Piplani made it all 34 miles to the top.

    pps - check with francesca but marathons don't count unless ilene knows about them.

    ppps - did you get a chance to welcome ilene as our newest Marathon Maniac ($2474)?

    I've heard rumors someone from the early time zone might be getting in too.




    . . . . . . . .

    July 10, 2007 -  mile 22. - nice thongs butterfly wings!




    jtv - good to have you back. Is your trip out here a vacation? 

    Oh, I guess anything is a vacation compared to the hours you seem to work.

    sidebar: after my doctor diagnosed knee arthritis in february 2009, I have had to give up training runs to save my knee for marthons and other events but I hope you can get  down to the waterfront park again.  It goes right past divechief's high rise condo over looking Puget Sound so maybe we can entice him out too.  If you can get here early on Sunday or go back on Saturday afternoon, we'll do a race together.



    It was fascinating to hear about his personal mission of self-discovery to run 26.2 miles a thousand times in marathons and in multiple marathon distance ultras, e.g. six marathon distances for Marathon des Sables+ (that MM's would count as one ultra or, if not, DNF). 


    sidebarThe Marathon Maniacs would have counted MdS as one event (or DNF if not finishing the last miles as happened to one competitor one year) but Paul was doing it for him (and ALS benefits as possible) and never joined any running clubs, in fact, embarking on his mission ten years before the MM's were founded and nine ahead of the North America 100-Marathon Club.


    I loved running with Paul and his non-stop bantering with any spectators and his chatting about blessings of life to say nothing of his own experiences (to the extent it was possible to get him to talk about himself).


    However, in December 2008, I went to the slopes when heavy snow cancelled the Christmas Marathon and Paul got a much-appreciated okay from the RD of the still-snow-packed Pigtails Marathon to let him run up-and-down the Cedar River course at Ravensville, WA not just the one time many of us were avoiding but two times into the night to make up for the missed Christmas Marathon. It generated some late night cell phone calls of concern between the RD and me but, as expected, somehow he ended up with 52.4 miles for the day and got to the airport in time for the redeye back to Phoenix. 

    Having encountered different kinds of weather challenges myself in running and otherwise, I admired Paul’s dogged dedication as he ground out the marathon distance after marathon, weekend-after-weekend without respite and withour regard to the weather.   

    In addition, as somewhat of a minimalist runner myself, <<<(cheapskate/cheapskate)>>>  Paul won me over with such a shoestring budget without outside support or fanfare that the soles of his favorite shoes were often almost as bare as my shodless feet.  He’d overnight in rental cars at event sites or parking garages, with friends or on certain office floors, ate very sparingly (mostly black bean concoctions), and ran efficiently like a silent ninja quietly breathing through his nose.  

    Paul was famed for joking with spectators along the way (e.g. "do you have an extra cigarette, ma'am?") but he mainly dispensed appreciative blessings for encouragement and urged other runners to follow their dreams as he was.

    When he was in town to drive across the Cascades for the 2009 Yakima River Canyon Marathon and found out that I might be developing knee arthritis, he said  it didn’t matter as he’d pace me to a hundred miler in the fall just as he’d mentored other runners to their own Big Ones.  "jon," he ordered, “if you want to do it, your legs will follow what you want.”

    Sadly, after running 100 miles and 52.4 miles (in a 12 hour run) the previous two weekends, Paul collapsed after the 2009 Rock’n’Roll Marathon in San Diego and passed away this summer August from a previously undetected cancer some 50 marathon distances from his 1,000 marathon goal.

    It was typical Paul that his last marathon steps ever were dedicated to helping another runner

    achieve her marathon goal for the first time.  I wonder if she knows?

    . .

    B.  My Paul Piplani Memorial Marathons.

    When California Race Director Charley Alewine, who ran a number of 100-milers and other events with Paul, dedicated his annual Chino Marathon on November 1, 2009 to Paul, he established a virtual option for that weekend so Paul’s friends could run too.  I signed up right away, got an Ultra-Paul t-shirt and started planning where to do my Paul Piplani Memorial Marathon.

    Then, a gorgeous notion struck as I recalled how leaving the morning sun in August 2008 for a two miles into the darkness of the Snoqualmie Tunnel before emerging to daylight on the other side had triggered our idea of a morning marathon in Tokyo, then flying through the darkness across the international dateline in time for another one in Seattle the same day.

    with Paul and the ultra-goddesses at Light-at-the-end-of-the-Tunnel Marathon (8/17/08)


    Accordingly, in accordance with my Tokyo travel schedule, I set my goal at two marathons each

    on Saturday morning, October 31, 2009 :

    . . . . . . . . . .1 -  114th Imperial Palace Marathon in Tokyo  (Tokyo, Japan)

     . . . . . . . . . 2 -  Frightfest Halloween Marathon (Rochester, WA south of Tacoma). 

    On pedestrian paths and rural farming roads respectively, they would be routine and rote by Paul standards but, in the absence of much, if any training, and more than a year hiatus in ultras, I’d need ‘em to be as easy as possible.   

    1.  Paul Piplani Memorial Marathon #1 (10/31/09) - Tokyo.

    114th Imperial Palace Marathon    . .  Carkeek 12 hour course - 26.2 miles 
    target time - 6:00:00 . . . . .actual time - 5:59:10

    shoes - waraji straw sandals . . . . hat - straw sugegasa
    t-shirt - Paul Piplani Memorial  . . . .temp - 60 degrees/cloudy

    As he’d done for the previous week’s six hour Happy 80th Birthday Bob 113th Imperial Palace Marathon, 700-marathon Takebashi RD Nakamura paced me to a 5:59:15 sub-six marathon finale for the October otherwise business trip to Japan.

    I owned Mr. Nakamura a lot more too as his running 70-80 marathons a year since 2005 with a bad knee bound and secured with multiple knee braces was all the proof I needed this year for my knee to do all the marathons I wanted with him and the other Joyfuls. <<<(slowly/slowly)>>> 


    Takebashi Imperial Palace Marathon RD Nakamura (74yo).

    note his left knee brace (and mine on right knee) + Joyful pink caps 

    .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


    2.  Paul Piplani Memorial Marathon #2 (10/31/09) - Seattle.

    114th Imperial Palace Marathon    . .  Carkeek 12 hour course - 26.2 miles 
    target time - 6:00:00 . . . . actual time - 9:15:00
    shoes - waraji straw sandals. . . . sirt - Paul Piplani Memorial
    hat - straw sugegasa . . 
    temp - 60 degrees/cloudy

    Unfortunately, flight delays resulted in a Seatac arrival too late for Frightfest logistics to work out.  Fortunately, a 12 hour run had  been underway since 6:00 am at Carkeek Park to the north and I was able to get up there just before noon for the first of 14 planned loops needed for a marathon distance around the 1.93 mile circuit of the park.  

    After permission from the RD for a late, very late, start (thank you very much Sam), it was a short jog across the parking lot down to a 100 yard path at the Puget Sound end of a gassy playfield.  However, the grassy field came to an abrupt end as the trail rose up in the first of three ascents so steep that wooden steps had to be built into the side of woodland hills. 



    There was no encouragement from a runner on her tenth lap (20 miles) saying that the meadow was the only flat section of the entire circuit.  “Oh” she remembered, “there’s also two metal foot bridges that are flat too.”  She didn't have the stairs down and up on eithe side. 

    Dog Bridge by The Kozy Shack . Carkeek Park by Swiss Chica

     even dog doesn't wasn to go down steep stairs. . . . . . steeper ascents too.


    Ultra-franci said in her race report, "tough course though, 430 feet elevation change, including tons of stairs, per 1.93mile  long loop. . . the only flat stretch of trail of the loop was no more than 100 yards long."


    I realized that the second leg of the Paul Piplani Memorial Marathon was not going to be rote and routine at all but way over on the challenging side of Paul’s marathon distances.   

    In fact, the RD indicated that 430 feet elevation/descent per 1.93 mile lap made Carkeek the “hardest 12-hour run in the country.  It was no surprise when the planned six hours planned for marathon #2 turned out to be but a 19.3 mile run at the 6:00 pm cutoff time. 

    However, I was also running on the kind of official course required for the virtual part of the Paul Piplani Memorial Marathon so just needed to go around four more times for the second marathon to count as for a second Paul Piplani Memorial Marathon. www.CharlieAlewineRacing.com

    My legs in pain on all the ascents, and descents too, and brain was strained but, as Paul had done hundreds of times all over the country and world himself, I stayed on-and-on and around-and-around all by myself, drowsing in-and-out of consciousness into the night, step-after-never-ending-step into the narrow beam of a headlamp borrowed from an official finisher who’d started in the 6:00 am darkness when I was still some 1,000 miles out over the Pacific Ocean.

    The trail was bad and, especially being so tired, it was much too dangerous to run much at all anymore in the darkness.  I would not give in though and frequently stomped my feet down hard for several steps in a row trying to keep awake, . . . along with an appropriate epithet now and then directed towards Paul for making me do once more what I'd never be doing without him. 

    It was a strange mix of being mad at him and sad for him, overhearing his voice from the adjacent woods during increasing bouts with sleep walking, even others from my current and past talking from within the woods, shocking me out of falling asleep again, several times preventing muddy feet and me a serious fall off the edge.  

    But all things come to an end at last and my poor, tired eyes finally beheld the dark and empty parking lot and picnic tables below for the last time. They’d earlier been overflowing with salted potatoes, fruits, cookies, chicken soup, energy bars and drinks along with animated encouragement and smiles from tireless volunteers. 

    However, knowing of my PPMM mission, RD Sam, of 50/50/50 fame, left plenty extra as needed for me to make it around the last four laps saying he'd been there too in his 50 marathon mission for Hurricane Katrina victims and many ultras too over the years.   http://www.50in50in50.com 

    thank you very much Sam . . . .   . .


    Now that it’s over, it doesn’t seem fair that Paul’s 1,000 marathon distance goal had failed so close to fruition, especially as he never gave up even when his bad days in weather and in trails and personal condition made my bad ones look good. 

    Then, it dawned on me that, just as putting his best effort into a two marathon ultra or something that might have ended up over the official cutoff time was still a success to Paul and the 26.2 miles he needed in his personal quest  to run1,000 marathon distances, then running in as many marathon distances as he could in his allotted time and condition was the correct standard of success for his final mission too, not whether the final total was 1,000 or only 950.


    Besides, starting with these two, if anybody anywhere is still keeping track, I'd be glad to donate all my future Paul-like runs to him too. 

    Henry the Great: "I'm going to keep running as long as I can."  Me too, I hope.

    T. Igarashi (summiting Mt. Fuji at age 100): "Enjoy yourself. Your younger days never come again."