--------------

RUNNER'S NICHE

--------------

Vol. 4 No.12 December, 1999

**********************

NOTES FROM THE EDITOR

**********************

Well, the weather outside is frightful!

But Gore-Tex makes my runs delightful.

So there's really no excuse not to go,

Outside for a run in the snow!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Millennium!

- WG

--- --- --- --- --- --- ---

MARATHON & BEYOND MAGAZINE - Marathon & Beyond, the only magazine

that focuses on the specific needs of marathoners and

ultrarunners. M&B offers in-depth articles on training, race

strategies, injuries, nutrition, race profiles, running history,

and more. Visit their web site at:

http://www.marathonandbeyond.com

--- --- --- --- --- --- ---

**************************************************

RUNNER'S NICHE / MARATHON & BEYOND TRIVIA CONTEST

**************************************************

Congratulations to last month's trivia winner, Toby Tanser. Toby

receives a free issue of Marathon & Beyond Magazine and FAME!

Trivia contest entrants are limited to one prize per calendar

year.

When answering, email your answers with the subject "trivia

contest" and answer the questions in the order they appear below.

Mail to: woodyg3@netone.com. The FIRST person to answer all ten

questions correctly wins. If nobody answers all ten correctly, we

will award the prize to the person who answers the most questions

correctly. Good Luck!

This Month's Questions:

1. What event did Ben Johnson win in he Olympics, only to have it

taken away when he tested positive for drugs?

2. Julius Kariuki of Kenya ran an all-time best of 5:14.43 in

1990 for what rarely run track event?

3. Johnny Gray of the United States owns the world best in

another seldom run event. His time was 1:12:81. What was the

distance of this run?

4. In what event do the Kenyan men own all of the top 52 best

all-time marks?

5. Italian Pietro Mennea was the world record holder in what

event?

6. Yelena Nikolayma posted a world record of 41:04 in 1996 in

what event?

7. In what event has Jarmila Kratochvilova of Czechoslovakia held

the world record since 1983?

8. Sonia O'Sullivan of Ireland ran 8:21.64, the fastest time ever

by a non-Chinese athlete, in what event?

9. Ingrid Krisiansen's old world best in the marathon has been

topped by Kenyan Tegla Loroupe, but Kristiansen still holds the

world best time of 1:06:40 in what event?

10. Curt Clausen set an American record of 3:48:04 this year in

what event?

 

Last Month's Answers:

1. Marathon star Moses Tanui, second at Chicago this year, is

from what nation? - Kenya

2. Bobby McGee is coach to what top female distance runner?

(Hint: She finished in the top ten at Chicago this year.) -

Colleen DeReuck

3. Khalid Khannouchi became the first runner to break 2:06 in the

marathon this year at Chicago. Who was the first to break 2:07? -

Belayneh Dinsamo

4. In what city is the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon held? -

Anchorage, Alaska

5. What year was the first Boston Marathon held? - 1897

6. Former world record holder for the marathon, Ronaldo Da Costa,

is from what nation? - Brazil

7. In the 1985 version of the Chicago marathon, the mens winner

missed the world record at that time by one second, running

2:07:13. Who was that runner? - Steve Jones

8. Who won the womens division of Chicago that same year of 1985

at Chicago? (She missed the then current world record by just 15

seconds.) - Joan Benoit

9. What Boston winner holds the womens Ethiopian national record

for the marathon? - Fatuma Roba

10. Who is the fastest female marathoner of all time from

Ireland? - Catherine McKiernan

--- --- --- --- ---

RUNNING DELIGHTS - all occasion and holiday greeting cards,

novelty gifts, t-shirts, bracelets and many others items.

www.ontherun.com/runningdelights

Our entire catalog is now online with secure ordering.

--- --- --- --- ---

*****************************

MY CHRISTMAS BONUS TO MYSELF

*****************************

By Michael Selman

As you know, we're getting to the time of year where we can't

help looking back to see where we are in our running life. Did we

achieve our goal race times for the year? Have we stayed healthy,

and not missed days due to injury or time constraints? What is

our annual mileage looking like with a month left?

During this morning's nice 11.07 mile run (which, of course, I

logged as 11 miles) I started to think about that little bit

extra on the right side of the decimal point. I've been building

up fractional mileage all year long, which I've never logged.

That's just how we are. If our standard course is not exactly to

the 1/4 mile, we have no choice but to round down. We can't round

up, because we would never think to log a run longer than we

actually ran. The simple truth is, the totals just round better

to the quarter of a mile when you add up your mileage at the end

of the week. So down, we round.

Ever since June, when I started running my 5.32 mile weekday run,

I've been logging it as 5 1/4. That has left .07 miles each time

I've run this route which has sadly gone unrecognized.

All my other neighborhood courses I've run during the year have

similar attributes. My 10 mile route was actually 10.13 miles. My

8 mile route measured in at almost 8.2 miles, but I could never

call it 8 1/4. ( It actually started out as a 7.8 mile route, but

I needed it to be at least 8 miles, so I added an extra little

out and back, and it ended up being 8.2, or

a very nice 8). My 7 1/2 mile route was probably closer to 7.53.

The only route right on the money was a 5 mile route which was

right on 5 miles.

So today, on my run, I started thinking about all those

fractional miles.

Almost every day, another deposit has been made in the mileage

bank. Are these the "Junk" miles of mythical lore? I decided that

it might be interesting to tally up the complied totals for the

year. When it comes to annual total mileage, every tenth of a

mile counts. Here's what I came up with:

7 1/2 mile routes = 8 @ 7.53 .03 X 8= .24 "Junk" miles

8 mile routes = 5 @ 8.2 each .20 X 5= 1.00 "junk" mile

10 mile routes = 6 @ 10.13 .13 X 6= .78 "junk" mile

5 1/4 mile route = 32 @ 5.32 .07 X 32= 2.24 "junk" miles

18 mile run (an 8 plus a 10) = 1 @ 18.33 .33 X 1 = .33 "junk"

miles

20 mile run (2 10 mile loops) = 1 @ 20.26 .26 X 1= .26 "junk"

miles

TOTAL = 4.86 total junk miles

Do I round it down to 4.75? Of course I do. Still, it's 4.75

miles I wouldn't have had any other way. Now, I know I can sleep

late on Christmas Day. And when I wake up, and go to my stocking,

hung from the chimney with care, I'll find an extra 4.75 miles to

apply to my log anywhere I need it. It's my Christmas bonus.

How much is yours?

 

***************

A TOUR DE FARCE

***************

By Christopher Goebel

Journalists whom I knew from my two years living in France

invited me to return there last March to participate on their

running team in the 13th annual Course du Coeur (Race from the

Heart). My prior experiences in that country, while generally

positive, made me anxious about the prospect of two hundred

Frenchmen under the stress of a four day/four night endurance

event. More arm-chairs than athletes, my teammates would

eventually do justice to our team name, the "Ringards" - French

for "old and worn out." In the process, they showed me, the only

American in the Race, sides of the French that I had never before

seen and, at times, even disproved some common misconceptions

about themselves.

First, a brief primer on the Race from the Heart. Seven teams,

each having fourteen runners divided into Groups A, B and C,

competed against each other around-the-clock. The Race covered

704 kilometers (440 miles) of backroads, from Paris, through

Burgundy, along the foothills of the Alps, and ending at the La

Plagne ski resort. I participated in 8 stages of a total of 38

in the Race, over 190 kilometers.

Along the way, a race caravan always followed the runners, who

numbered anywhere from seven to 100 depending on the format of a

particular stage. The support vehicles in the caravan included

the four vehicles per team carrying the three Groups, as well as

the extra runners called the "jokers"; a travelling stage for

Russian musicians; a food truck; an ambulance; referees and

others.

Prologue, Wednesday Evening, March 17

The entire pelaton ran together in the 7-kilometer, ceremonial

first stage of the Race. We trotted leisurely from the Eiffel

Tower, along the Seine, past the Concorde, the Madeleine, the

Opéra and the Pyramid of the Louvre, and finished at Notre Dame

cathedral. Eighteen motorcycle policemen from the elite

Presidential Guard, our escorts for the entire Race, blocked off

the streets as we passed. Navigating the middle of four-lane

thoroughfares on foot, at 10 km/hour, afforded a perspective on

the city that was as rare to the French runners as to myself.

On that clear and chilly St. Patrick’s Day night, the prologue

gave us runners an advance glimpse at the Spring fever that would

soon engulf Paris. The city was beginning to recover from an

unusually harsh winter that, in the Alps, had caused several

killer avalanches. The water that had overflowed onto the banks

of the Seine was just beginning to recede. The Bateaux Mouches

tour boats, idled at their docks because the high waters were

preventing them from steaming, lit up the sidewalks with their

twinkling lights. These illuminated the Parisian women who

smiled at us teasingly as they walked along the Seine, to test-

drive their Spring outfits.

Besides Springtime, the prologue also presaged the madness that

would mark the next four days and nights. At one point, we ran

past a pack of some one hundred motorcycles and mopeds, parked up

on the sidewalks along the Avenue de l’Opéra, as if waiting

edgily for their owners to return from coffee or a long dinner.

Shouldn’t those motos be racing in the road in our stead?, I

thought. As for us runners, shouldn’t we assume our rightful

places on the walkway? What was wrong with this picture?

Perhaps nothing at all, according to the dazed gazes of the

drunken masses spying us from the long lines in front of Irish

pubs. The French waiter in his pressed white apron must have

concluded that everything was amuck, as he exited his café to

gander in disbelief at the passing spectacle.

Thursday, Day 1

Total distance covered by the Race: 201.8 km, in 10 stages

After the prologue, the Race continued all night into the

outskirts of Paris. However, the four of us in my team car, who

constituted the Ringards’ Group B, were entitled to four hours of

sleep in Paris before rejoining the Race at 8:30 AM, just south

of the forest of Fontainebleau.

When not running in a daytime stage of the race, members of all

teams would follow its progress from inside their team vehicles.

My Group would not be competing until mid-afternoon. As the

serpent of Race vehicles following the runners wound through the

gentle slopes of this region, the change from cityscape to the

rich green scenery of this region totally relaxed me. The

morning fog rose off the fields surrounding us, exposing the dark

richness of newly tilled soil.

Despite the open space, the Race still came in contact with its

share of spectators. The presence of the convoy agitated grazing

horses, as well as sheep and an occasional cow. That afternoon,

runners from the Groups B and C of each team, together with one

joker, ran an 8.9-km stage. A yellow butterfly followed our team

for an entire mile as a blooming cherry tree kept a still watch.

We passed children from the village of Juoy who held heart-shaped

drawings with messages meant to encourage the one team in the

Race that was composed of organ transplant recipients. These

courageous individuals were the inspiration for this event, which

aimed to raise public awareness for the cause of organ

transplants.

The ease of the relatively flat countryside ushered in a sense of

conviviality among all participants. For me that sunny day, the

Race was less a competition than a travelling festival

celebrating many of the highlights of life in France: including

the pace of life_the clock in virtually every village church

that we passed was at least 20 minutes off; the French women_my

group included Clautilde and Valerie, the only females on the

Ringards; and the appreciation for food and drink.

Following along during our team captain Christian’s individual

stage (meaning that he competed against one runner from each if

the other teams), our car approached the official Race gagsters

(petits farceurs) along the roadside with a sign in their hands

that read "French restaurant." Suddenly they hurled fake vomit

all over our windshield. Who says the French are too intense

about their food? Our noon meal, which followed, tasted better

than the petits farceurs had predicted. We lunched in the

backyard of the château at Domaine de l’Anche, where clear blue

skies reflected off a perfectly still pond.

The French didn’t take their countryside too seriously, either.

The next time we passed the petits farceurs, next to a pig pen,

they were dressed as a cow and bull making love. Appropriately,

this occurred during a stage called the "Fat Man and His Woman."

The heaviest member of each team trekked together with a female.

Teams were handicapped based on weight. Philippe, the fourth and

last Ringard in my Group B, weighed in at 260 pounds. Needless

to say, none of the competition could overcome the initial

Ringard lead. One-hundred pound Clautilde literally had to push

Philippe up one hill, but they combined to give the Ringards our

second stage victory of the Race.

Forebodingly, that stage ended in front of a monument called the

"Dedication to the Dead." As the day wore on, the Ringards wore

out. In the next stage, a 33-kilometer bike-‘n’-run, two of my

teammates took last place.

Then, to the live sounds of the Race musicians playing "O When

the Saints Go Marching In," my Group B, plus our joker, departed

on a 33.4-kilometer relay called the "twilight marathon." The

format called for six runners from a team to freely substitute

for one another. We recruited a masseur to fill in for our

second joker, who had missed a plane. Needless to say, we

finished in last place.

Our results notwithstanding, the good life in France continued

through the evening of Day 1. At the Race hotel, five of us,

dining together, finished nearly a bottle apiece of wine,

accompanied by a variety of appetizers, and a straightforward but

delicious chicken basquaise. Afterwards, we made our way to the

massage room. Nearly naked men and women got rubbed down in the

same room, ten at a time. Besides the sensual Clautilde in her

underwear, the highlight was Philippe’s massage. As Philippe

assumed his place on a table, a Ringard named Gérard, the editor

of the sports newspaper L’Equipe, announced this headline:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, the masseurs are going to attempt to find

Philippe’s muscles." It took two of them, working side-by-side,

with clamp-like utensils, to penetrate one of his calves. A

member of the Belgian team stripped off his pants and lay next to

Philippe. He showed how two of his thighs equaled one of

Philippe’s. A petit farceur, making the rounds in the massage

ward, told another Belgian athlete that he could not possibly be

Belgian since he did not have a beer in his hands.

Throughout Day 1, the French disproved some of the rap they

commonly receive from Americans. Contrary to popular belief, the

French are self-deprecating. Philippe readily accepted his fate

as the designated fat man. Clautilde accepted hers as the Race

babe. Three masseurs at a time wanted to attend to her in the

massage room. Members of the Presidential Guard tried to scam on

her, even while on their motorcycles in the midst of escorting

the Race. Not only did she tolerate this, she relished it.

Moreover, the French can be self-effacing. Rarely, if ever,

would any commercial tour, even one organized for the French,

take the time that the Race did to pass through these areas.

After the Race left behind the familiar confines of Paris, our

exceptional but uncomplicated intimacy with the backroads of

France seemed to smooth away the self-importance of even the most

pretentious of Parisians.

In a fitting end to an enjoyable day, the Race schedule called

for my Group B to benefit from a rare, full night’s sleep before

setting out to rejoin the Race on Day 2. However, Philippe and I

could not both fit on the narrow bed expected to accommodate two

hotel guests. Philippe took the floor until one of our teammates

vacated another room at 1 AM to run the all-nighter. Philippe

hacked all night long from the lingering cigarette smoke due to

the two packs that this teammate–yes, an endurance athlete–had

smoked in the room before leaving.

Friday, Day 2

Total distance covered: 193.3 km, in 12 stages

What was, until Thursday evening of the Race, a true tour de

France, would gradually become a tour de farce.

That morning, between stages in the town of Chaux, the food-truck

volunteers posted what they called a "news flash," next to an

enormous banana dangling between two oranges:

Did you know that this is a race for organ donations?

Do you know which ones?

The best ones and the hardest ones.

Did you donate your organ at the hotel last night?

Was it chewy?

The benevolent cause for the Race was being hung in effigy.

This, to me, was an ominous sign.

Also that morning, my stomach gave me another indication that

Day 2 of the Race would bring changes. My daily carbohydrate

intake had doubled since the start of the Race. The bread,

chocolate, cookies and gruyère cheese that the canteen workers

were spreading out after each stage had begun to bloat my

stomach. What happened to that healthy French diet, you know,

the one known for producing a low rate of heart disease?

Alas, the missing element: French wine. Day 2 brought the Race

into Burgundy wine country. For a while that sunny day, the

impressive scenery alone diverted my attention from my stomach.

The stages meandered through never-ending vine stocks, punctuated

by tiny, often stone, villages known for their excellent

vintages. We went through Meursault, Chalon and Nuits St.

Georges, to name a few, as well as lesser-known wine villages

such as Santenay.

Outside another town, Cheilly les Maranges, the sun peaked out

from behind the clouds that were draping the valley. Most

farmers tending the vine stocks there marveled at the spectacle

of the brightly colored snake. One, however, threw dirt at our

cars and screamed, "Your Race makes me want to shit!" He was, it

turned out, a petit farceur.

Still physically uncomfortable, I skipped lunch, but not the

accompanying wine, a 1993 Hautes Côtes de Nuits. The alcohol

helped me endure the ribbing I received at lunch from my

teammates because of the fact that I, a 33-years-old

heterosexual, had not tried to hit on the two female members of

our team who were always in the car with me. What would have

passed for respectful camaraderie in the U.S. was, in France,

grounds for questioning one’s sexuality.

That afternoon, I ran a 11.7-kilometer, individual stage that

passed through Beaune and finished in Volnay, meaning that I

competed against one athlete from each of the other teams. The

local chamber of commerce feted our arrival by serving a nice

1993 Volnay. During the leg, the runner from the Belgian team

preferred to drink a beer. He downed it gradually over the first

kilometer as I jockeyed for position alongside him.

Psychological warfare, I thought: he must know the sorry state

of my stomach. Either his fuel or the psyche job worked, because

after he finished the brewsky, he went on to edge me by 30

seconds despite my running 5 minute, 52 second miles.

Later, as the sun was setting in the final kilometers of

Burgundy, the occasional glow from pyres of burning vine stocks

lit up the face of Philippe while he plodded through his 9.4-

kilometer individual stage. His head hung low, bringing to mind

the image of a disgruntled grizzly scavenging for scraps.

Occasionally lifting his head and recognizing the disappearing

sun, he would then raise his arms up in the air, as if summoning

our Group B to eulogize the dying light.

During Philippe’s stage, the Burgundy scenery seemed to me to

lose much of its magic. While these last fields would later bear

the renowned Mercurey vintages, this time of year the barren

landscape actually showed very few signs of life. The vine

stocks were bare. Some even incinerating.

My favorable impression of the French also began to fissure. The

French became impatient, as they were anxious to reach the

Savoyard-style fondue that the food-truck volunteers were serving

at the end of this stage. Cars from other teams were trying to

squeeze by those few vehicles that still bothered to follow

Philippe.

And the French were so damn subtle. We passed a petit farceur,

wearing nothing but a wine barrel and dancing as the Race

musicians played that tune I learned in grade school: "Tra la la

boom, dee aye, we have no school today." Darned if I could

figure out the connection. But relax, I told myself, you’re on

vacation.

Some vacation. After Philippe’s stage we sped to Sennecé, that

night’s site for the race hotel, arriving after 9 PM. We

showered and scarfed down dinner in 20 minutes while sipping a

1997 Savingy les Beaunes. Simultaneously, a physical therapist

applied electrical stimulation to both of my legs instead of a

massage. After 1-_ hours of sleep, myself on the floor,

Philippe’s alarm rattled us at 1 AM. It was our turn to pull an

all-nighter.

Saturday, Day 3

Total distance covered: 210.8 km in 8 stages

Before I could think "what happened to the supposedly high

quality of life in this county?," I was off and running into the

darkness at 2 AM from the village of Vonnas. Soon after the

start of this 18.3-km individual stage, one runner, from the

Paribas team, dropped out. He had quickly succumbed to the false

sense of power that nighttime racing on these empty, narrow roads

created. The headlights from the race vehicles following us

shone only a few meters ahead of us, causing this particular

athlete to feel that he could cover that short distance faster

than he was capable of doing.

The runner from each of four other teams, including myself,

formed a pack to chase another runner, from the La Plagne team.

As we ran side-by-side to avoid tripping one another, the narrow

beam from our police motorcycle escort could light the way in

front of only one of us at a time. I felt fortunate when it

happened to be me. Occasionally, an invisible barking dog added

to the creeping sense of solitude. I could count on one hand the

number of non-race vehicles I had seen over the previous hour.

After a 10-kilometer chase, the synergy of the pack propelled us

past the leader with five kilometers to go. Our group effort had

helped us overcome the physical shock of competing at a time when

the body knows only sleep. I managed to finished in only third

place, in the village of St.-André-le-Bouchoux, 37 seconds behind

the winner.

At the end of the stage a more violent physical disturbance

overtook me: diarrhea. All that wine from Burgundy, all that

chocolate, all those other carbos and gruyere cheese, together

with the meal-on-the-fly from only hours beforehand, had finally

totaled me.

The good life would wreak its revenge on me six times while I

followed the other stages that night. In one instance, Philippe

accelerated our car well ahead of the caravan. As I crouched

down on the roadside, my calves were killing me. With the stars

above and the gentle sounds of the backwaters around me, it was

still one of the more beautiful dumps I had ever taken. True to

form by this point in the Race, I had to hurry as I did not want

the rapidly approaching lights from the caravan’s police escort

to catch me in the act. Had I been French, I probably would not

have cared.

Morning began to break at 5:30 AM, while we were following

Clautilde’s stage near the village of Le Roset. Frost covered

the ground. The rosy ladyfingers of the sunrise reflected off a

church ensconced between two sharply sloping hills. Just what

the Ringards needed_the terrain was becoming steeper.

Our car moved up alongside Clautilde. After she drank from the

Evian bottle I had handed her, I immediately took a swig from the

same bottle. The closest I would ever come to her, I resigned to

Philippe. His 12.4-kilometer stage came afterwards. At 8:00 AM,

stocky work horses dotted the foothills. Philippe trudged along

so slowly that his catatonic motorcycle escort teetered back and

forth, nearly falling over.

At the conclusion of Philippe’s stage in the village of Oncin, I

recalled that during the prologue back in Paris, the Race

musicians had played majestic baroque music by composers such as

Marc Antoine Charpentier and Jean Baptiste Lully. At this point,

however, they managed only a French version of that ridiculous

unicorn song. Those who had just rejoined the caravan after a

night’s sleep mindlessly sang along while mimicking in unison the

whiskers of a cat, perch of a rat and swaying trunk of an

elephant. Three days of this race had reduced us to animals.

All we did was eat, drink, sleep on occasion, migrate_and, in my

case, go to the bathroom.

According to the Race’s roadbook, my group had the rest of Day 3

off. Nearly comatose after the all-nighter, we blearily followed

the sun-drenched stages. These legs followed the emerald-green

Ain river, over a stone aqueduct bridge, and through quaint

villages such as Bolozon, Condes and Chancia. They continued

along as the river morphed into Lake Coiselet, itself emerald

green, and surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs. From time

to time along the roadside, the petits farceurs, in various

disguises, would sketch out obscure French films. As we rolled

down the window to guess the title of one film, a Nazi machine-

gunned us with shaving cream.

My respite would soon end. At 3 PM, our team captain pleaded

with me to assist Group C by participating in the final stage of

the day, their 80-kilometer Supermarathon. I was tempted,

instead, to join many of the support volunteers who, by then, had

seen their fill of the Race. Right before this stage, they

abandoned the caravan and went ahead to that night’s hotel to

watch the France-England rugby match on TV.

One of the canteen workers that remained with the caravan gave me

a raw egg. She was playing a French game in which the recipient

of the egg has no idea what to do with it but dares not drop it,

lest it break. This is my brain, I thought of the white object

cradled in my hand. If I allowed it to hit the ground and

splatter, this would be my brain after three days of this

(expletive) Race. No, I would not let myself drop the ball: I

agreed to do the Supermarathon. Not officially scheduled to run,

I would be a ringer Ringard.

Poking fun at the drug scandal that scarred last year’s Tour de

France, another Race volunteer passed around granulated chocolate

and a straw to sniff it. I refused to partake–the breathtaking

scenery would provide all the doping I needed to keep me going.

Shortly after the departure from the village of Les Neyrolles,

snow, glistening from the sun, began to linger over the Alps

foothills. As we ran through the increasingly steep slopes of

the Cîmes foothills, green pastures alternated with thick

forestland.

By then, the Ringards had a firm hold on last place. What the

hell, the six of us running this stage were going to enjoy it.

At the end of one of his relays, Gérard threw the baton behind

Christian instead of handing it off to him. At the conclusion of

another, Gérard tossed the baton under the team car trailing him,

causing us all to roar with laughter except for Christian who

went to fetch it. I was running a relay at the 28-kilometer

mark, when a food-truck worker on the side of the road handed me

a glass of heated wine. Surprising the few Race volunteers at

hand, all of our runners emptied out of our two vehicles for a

toast that lasted 5 minutes. By this point, the next-to-last

team led us by so much that we could no longer even see them.

At the 38-kilometer mark, near the town of Craz, we passed

another group of food-truck workers standing in the twilight

around a glowing fire pit. They had actually driven ahead of the

Race caravan at noon to prepare the fire and cook for us weary

warriors. Recognizing this Herculean effort, all the Ringards,

of course, just had to stop again. We were the only team to stop

there. For half an hour, we cracked jokes around the fire as we

downed potatoes gunked with sour cream, warm bananas and eggs,

and more chocolate. And we sipped more warm wine. The

motorcycle cops were so fed up with our antics that they

abandoned us and sped ahead to rejoin the other teams.

Full, without an escort, and an hour behind the next team, we

realized that cheating would be our best option. Instead of a

runner continuing the relay, we all piled into our two team cars

and drove off. Ten kilometers later, we heard Algerian music. A

scantily clad Race volunteer was performing a belly dance. We

jumped out of our cars and shared a dance. Afterwards, we drove

22 kilometers before catching up to the team ahead of us and

relaying again. Our legs ached all-the-more from the extended

rest.

We finally arrived at the town of Rumilly at 9:00 PM, to the

cheers of villagers and the unsuspecting others from the caravan.

We quickly entered the bar La Grenette for a celebratory drink.

The patrons, watching soft porn on prime-time French TV, cheered

every time they saw a love scene.

Sunday, Day 4

Total distance covered: 82.7 kilometers, in 5 stages

During a steep, 25.5-kilometer stage from Pomblière to Aime in

the Alps, an estranged lover of Valerie appeared out of nowhere,

in jeans and chugga-boots, backpack in tow, and began to jog,

shadowing the four Ringards running together. A Guallist Forrest

Gump, with criminal intent? To the contrary, "C’est beau,"

opined my male teammates, who let him be despite a distraught

reaction from Valerie. What would have been stalking in the U.S.

was, in France, a beautiful gesture.

Before the last stage up the access road, the entire Race caravan

sat down, blocking the way, to stage a mock strike. We were

protesting the Race’s short supply of hotel rooms, women and

beer. Even the Presidential Guard crossed the picket line.

Actually, the Belgian team claimed that the organizers were

overly generous with hotel rooms. Those who were not running an

all-nighter spent the entire night drinking at the hotel bar.

Arriving at the ski resort, we were met with an outdoor

celebration. In a final act of tacky yet playful disrespect, the

French pelted the team of organ transplant recipients with

snowballs as they took the stage to receive public

congratulations.

****************************

UFLASH TOP TEN LIST CONTEST

****************************

First and Second place winners of the Top Ten List Contest for

December will receive a Uflash Sportbelt! And here they are:

Top Ten Effects Y2K will have on our Running

First Place from Chase Duarte:

10. Once you've withdrawn your entire savings account in

preparation for the end of the world you will now be able to

purchase that lifetime supply of running shoes.

9. Without the nuisance of that pesky job you used to have, there

will be more time to run.

8. Also, you can sleep in everyday since you'll need full

sunlight in order to clock your training runs with that new

SUNDIAL wristwatch. (Note: Patent this idea now.)

7. Hill training will be the meat and potatoes of your training

even on easy days since we will be hiding in the mountains,

unless you opted for the underground shelter, in which case

running in place would get the heart rate going. Might as well

stay in shape.

6. The roads will be crowded with at least 10 times as many

runners in the new millenium since we forgot about making those

cheesy electronic exercise machines Y2K compliant.

5. Since airplanes will be landing or crashing everywhere but

their intended destinations, AIRPORTS will be the new and safe

places to have races. For example: The Airport Agony Marathon,

Run the Runway Relays, First Class 5000

4. I hear technology is on the verge of developing

teletransportation in Y2K. This could help run some unbelievable

PR's. "Beam me to the FINISH LINE, Scotty"

3. This new technology would be beneficial for setting new world

records, age group records and course records especially since

all the computer saved times will revert back to the year 1900.

2. If predictions of "FIRST CONTACT" with other civilizations in

outer space come true, it will be necessary to create a new

category for ALIENS. The competition would be out of this world.

1. And the number one effect that Y2K will have on our running

would be if we couldn't receive RUNNER'S NICHE and all those

monthly running tips we would be lost in the new millenium.

Second Place:

From Polly Ekin:

10. Random "Power" outages will cause a shortage of our favorite

Powerbar flavors.

9. FEMA will declare running a Y2K compliant transportation

system.

8. Running will be recommended as a way to stay warm in case the

heat goes off.

7. Those space blankets you've collected from past marathons can

be made useful.

6. Since foreign runners will be unable to travel, American

runners will start winning distance events once more.

5. In the absence of electricity, "Fartlek-ing" will become a

national pastime.

4. Those anti-odor coolmax fabrics will come in handy if we can't

take showers.

3. If "the grid" goes down, we'll still have the Saucony grid

system.

2. Discreetly peeing on bushes will become a valuable skill

(right ladies?)

1.When tissues become unavailable, we'll all know how to blow

snot rockets.

 

AND FOR THIS MONTH'S CONTEST???

This month we will again have a top ten list contest. To enter

you will need to use your creativity and come up with your own

list. The title of this month's list is "Top ten things other

runners do that annoys me."

Email your entry with the subject "Top Ten List" to:

Woodyg3@netone.com

The top two entries will be printed in the next issue of the

Niche, plus they will receive a free Uflash Sportbelt!

(No profanity or questionable material, please, this is a family

oriented magazine.)

 

--- --- --- --- ---

http://www.uflash.com, your online night safety store is now

OPEN! Visit our website and give us your feedback! Be Seen, Not

Hit!

--- --- --- --- ---

*************

THIS AND THAT

*************

*Chicken Soup for a Runner's Soul?

The inaugural Chicken Soup Loop 10K race will be run in New

York's Central Park on Sunday, January 23 at 10:00 a.m. The race

is presented by the 92nd Street Y in partnership with the New

York Road Runners Club. For registration and information call the

NYRRC at 212-423-2284.

*Frank teams with RRCA

Olympic Marathon Champion and Hall of Famer, Frank Shorter, and

his sports enterprise, FRANK SHORTER SPORTS, have signed a multi-

year, exclusive agreement to produce high performance running

apparel and related items for the 190,000 members of the Road

Runners Club of America (RRCA). The products will bear the RRCA

logo and Frank’s signature and will be sold to the RRCA members

as the MEMBERS’ COLLECTION by Frank Shorter. This exclusive

product will be available in early 2000.

*********************

WEB SITES OF INTEREST

*********************

* May the Circle Be Unbroken...

Runners will appreciate you informing them of a way that they can

run in competitions throughout the world by allowing them free

accommodations with fellow members!

www.runnerscircle.com

* New Women's Running Site:

http://home.earthlink.net/~akw

* Gordon's Book:

Gordon Pirie's book "Running Fast and Injury Free" can now be

read in full, for free, online.

http://www.geocities.com/jsgilbody

*Covered Bridges Race

The Ninth Annual Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Quechee and

Woodstock, Vermont will be held on May 13, 2000.

This popular 13.1 mile footrace features 4 Vermont covered

bridges along the scenic and pastoral Ottauquechee River and

through the beautiful Village of Woodstock. There are several

musical bands and lots of good post race grub.

The event will again be limited to 2,000 runners and registration

will only be available at:

http://www.cbhm.com

*************************

LETTERS FROM OUR READERS

*************************

* 2000 in 2000!

Dear Runner's Niche,

My name is Randy Moore. My Son, Christopher, and I are building

up to run 2000 miles in the year 2000. He runs cross country for

his school, and I have one marathon (1998 Chicago) under my belt.

 

Thanks,

Randy Moore

*Fire In the Belly

Dear Runner's Niche,

I loved your opening about the second boom. "Fire in the

belly..." is a phrase that has a lot of meaning. For me it

means logging my 30 to 45 mile weeks, 12 to 14 hour days at work

with 5, 6 and often 7 day weeks, including coaching, in order to

get out there on those special days to check what's left in the

gut from mile 23 on. The marathon is a special flame for all of

us- let's light this candle!

- Daryl Anderson

********************************

LEGAL STUFF / SUBSCRIPTION INFO.

********************************

"Runner's Niche" is free, but its contents are copyrighted.

Nobody may use the content without permission of the author and

"Runner's Niche."

SUBSCRIPTION IS FREE. Just write via e-mail to:

woodyg3@netone.com.

Include your e-mail address. We'll send you an issue via e-mail

every month or so.

If you don't want to continue receiving "Runner's Niche", simply

mail with your e-mail address and ask that your subscription be

stopped.

Article Submissions are always welcome. Unfortunately, there can

be no monetary reimbursement for material used in Runner's Niche.

It is normally best to send a query letter to the editor before

sending finished articles.