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April 27, 2017

Running Documentaries and Videos You Should Watch No. 3 : Run Mama Run

Daniele Anastasion follows Sarah Brown’s buildup to the 2016 Olympic Trials while Sarah was pregnant with her first child.

April 19, 2017

A Q&A With Harry McFann, director of We Run New York

Over the weekend I had a chance to chat with filmmaker Harry McFann. Originally from Ohio, he was an All-American at Columbia University with a lifetime best in the 800-meter of 1:47.91, and continues to live and work in the Big City.

His latest project is called We Run New York. It’s a film series focused on the different groups and individuals that comprise the robust New York running scene. Below is a Q&A where Harry and I discuss his passion for filmmaking, running, and of course, New York.

The IndieGoGo for We Run New York is still accepting donations, so if you’re interested in what he’s working on, please consider opening up your pocket books and helping out one of our own.

You can learn more about the project and donate here. 

Ryan Sterner: You’re originally from Ohio. How did you end up in New York?

Harry McFann: I grew up in the suburbs of Columbus and always loved the idea of the Big City.  When I was little, downtown Columbus seemed huge to me. But even still, ever since I was a kid I wanted to visit New York. Mostly because of my obsession with the original King Kong. I had a colorized version of the movie on VHS that I would watch on repeat growing up. So much was my obsession with King Kong and New York, that I even referred to one building in Columbus (the LeVeque Tower) as the Empire State Building when I was a kid.

But I never had a chance to visit New York in my childhood. I went to Chicago once, and it was cool, but not as awesome as the New York I imagined from the movies.

Then one day during the summer leading into my senior year of high school I got a letter of interest from the Columbia track team. I was in a bit of shock (was this the real Columbia, or some off-brand school?), but when I gathered my senses I immediately went to my computer and researched all the details that mattered to me about Columbia: In New York, has a great track team, and I can study film. It was basically the perfect option for me.

RS: A lot of people talk about their “welcome to New York” moment. Profound or otherwise, did you have a welcome to New York moment?

HM: I remember when I came to New York on my visit. I flew into Newark and was picked up by Will Boylan-Pett. He was giving me the general rundown of the city as we were crossing the GW, and at one point I pointed out the window and said something like, “Yeah, that skyline is just so crazy.” He responded with a light laugh and said, “uh, yeah that’s still New Jersey, though.” He then pointed to Manhattan, “That’s the New York skyline.” Not really sure how I could have missed that, but it was a great way to remind him that I was from Ohio.

But then as we drove through the city to get to campus I was immediately in love. I’m a bit of a drama queen, and I think New York is an inherently dramatic city. It was love at first sight, really.   

RS: After you graduated it would have been pretty easy to go back to Ohio. What about the city drew you in?

HM: I basically refused to go back to Ohio after graduating.

My plan was to run semi-pro after college, but unfortunately that didn’t pan out for me because 1. I refused to live outside of the city and 2. New York is expensive and you don’t make a lot as a runner. On top of that my collegiate career ended on a pretty terrible note, which was extremely disheartening for me. Life after graduating is hard for a lot of people, and lots of challenges are thrown your way right out of the gate. For me these added obstacles to running (being able to afford food and housing, etc) were more than I could take, so I decided to give up on the dream of running competitively after college.  

But I was still stubborn and refused to go home and regroup. I basically decided within 24 hours that I wasn’t going to be a competitive runner and that I was now going to focus my energy into filmmaking.  Which as everyone knows is so much easier to succeed in and sustain yourself than being a professional runner.  I started running when I was 13, so I’ve been a masochist for a while now.  

But to more directly answer your question: New York obviously had that draw for me, it’s my favorite place in the world.  And since I was a kid I knew I wanted to make movies.  So that basically only gives me two real options as far as where I can live in the U.S. – LA or New York.  

LA didn’t seem right to me. Plus I didn’t know anyone there, and I definitely didn’t have enough money to make the move. So in a way I was “stuck” in New York. I also assumed that I would hate LA, but after visiting there last September, I must say that I actually really like the city.  It’s like walking around a David Lynch movie.  

RS: You told me that your career really took off while training in the city. In a place as dense as New York I’m sure that surprises a lot of people. Do you want to clear up any misconceptions about city running?

HM: It’s kind of weird because that wasn’t actually a huge concern of mine when I was looking at Columbia.  Mostly because my home town isn’t too great for running.  I did most of my runs in high school on sidewalks. My coach even joked once that a park to my home town was an open plot of grass with a bench somewhere. So the idea of running on concrete wasn’t much of a detracting factor.  

Then, on that van ride from Newark, Will is explaining to me where the team runs and all the soft surfaces they actually have. The running in New York is better than my home town!  You have Central Park, Van Cortland Park, and Prospect Park – all large parks with plenty of soft surfaces to run on. Then you can take a short trip up to Rockefeller State Park for tons of amazing trails.  It’s almost something I take for granted now. Traveling to other cities in the country, you don’t really get something like this. I mean, Central Park literally being in the center of Manhattan is a godsend. Anyone in the borough can easily get to it for his/her run.

In someplace like San Francisco you have Golden Gate Park, but getting there really is a destination because it’s more on the border of the city. You can’t just decide last minute you’re going to go on a run. It has to be more planned and less spontaneous.  

RS: Let’s talk a little about the film series: how did this project start?

HM:This year I had a few different projects lined up, but many of them ended up falling through. So then I found myself with a lot of free time and needing a project to work on. I contacted Paul [Snyder] and asked him more about the different groups in the city and I told him that I wanted to make the series.

For me there were a lot of draws to the project. Obviously you’re combining running and filmmaking, my two defining obsessions, but on top of that you have this massive sub-culture that so many people don’t know about.  And I’m not just talking about people across the country, I mean New Yorkers don’t know the depth of this community.  Sure, you see runners in the parks, but if you don’t stop to really take notice, you can go your whole time without ever noticing all the diverse collections of people who organize runs with each other. Sure, you know the Marathon, and people who know running will know about The Armory, but when someone thinks of a place with a strong running community, he/she will probably think of Colorado or somewhere in the Northwest, like Oregon. Never New York.  And yet, here we are.

It may not be quite as ideal as some beautiful mountain vista out west, but New Yorkers have taken what resources they have and have really done something special. Just take a look at the New York Road Runners website and you’ll be surprised at all they races that are always going on in the city.

RS: What about your personal relationship with the sport made you want to pursue this project in particular?

HM: Like I mentioned earlier, my running career ended earlier than I had hoped. My plan was to run through the age of 28 so that I could hopefully get two Olympic trials under my belt then move on to the filmmaking thing. It obviously didn’t work out like that, and when things went poorly for me after graduating I sort of had a “crisis of faith” with running. That’s the expression I’ve been telling everyone, because running was something I had dedicated 10 years of my life to. Running always came first, and I had made so many compromises and sacrifices through those years.

Would I have wanted to be more involved in film extracurriculars in college? Hell yeah, but I didn’t have the time. Film courses were 4 hours long and practice some days was 5 hours.  That’s 9 hours right there!  Plus I had homework and needed to get my 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Then to have my last race be a complete disaster was a bit more than I could take at the time.  Everything in my life was building to that one moment, you know?  

I didn’t have much to fall back on afterwards. I think that was a huge part of the problem, and mostly my own fault. I put so much of my own self-worth in running that after that last race I just hated the sport.  Even now I have trouble following results because it makes me uncomfortable that I’m not out there racing against those guys. And yet, I still continued to run. Just not competitively.

At first it was actually a way to help feed myself, where I would help pace people for extra money.  And then when I got stabilized with my videography work I stopped pacing, and then took time off running entirely.

I would go a few months without running and be glad that I didn’t have the stress of needing to get my run in, but at the same time, I still felt off. So since graduating I’ve thought a whole lot about running and why I did it. In college when asked why I ran I would usually just say, “because I’m good at it.” Which is pretty much true. It was something I was objectively good at and was sort of my self-esteem safety net.

But since high school I would see people who ran who weren’t the best on the team, or very fast, but they still showed up to practice every day and did the work. I remember thinking to myself, “would I still run if that was me?” I often questioned if those folks actually liked running more than me, since they seem to have more sincere motivations for doing it.

Fast forward to post-college and I am now in that position where I am no longer running to beat people in races. I just run… to run.

That is something that I really want to explore in this series – the different reasons people have for running. Because every different reason is equally awesome, since there are about two hundred billion reasons to not run. It’s hard, time consuming, you’ll almost certainly be hit with some sort of hardship, be it a bad race, an injury, etc., and you end up building your whole life around it. For whatever reason, people still do it.  

RS: Who is this documentary for?

HM: For this series, my “true” audience is the person who is having a rough time with running.  Apparently nobody used the sports psychologist at Columbia more than the runners. Maybe that’s because running attracts crazy people, or maybe because it’s such an emotionally and psychologically draining sport. After all, you’re competing against yourself more than the person next to you, so when you have a bad race, I think it takes a bigger blow to your psyche than other sports do.

It’s also a lonely sport in a lot of ways. There’s a book and movie titled, “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,” which is basically the best title there could ever be for something about running. Training alone can be lonely, but when you’re hurt, or just burnt out, this loneliness is magnified times a thousand.  

That’s where art comes in. Because art can be a sort of cure for loneliness. Great art can give you that feeling of, “oh, wow, I thought I was the only person who felt that way!”  And then you don’t feel quite as bad anymore.

We Run New York isn’t just for New Yorkers, or running junkies, it’s for that random kid who is having a hard time, who may even be thinking of quitting the sport. He or she may be questioning why they even run in the first place, and I want this series to sort of be a pat on the back for them. Some kind words of encouragement to help them get through whatever it may be that is affecting them. A voice saying that it will be okay. If making the series can do that for me, then hopefully watching it can do it for someone else.  

RS:For better or worse, has the documentary making process changed your relationship with running at all?

HM: It has, and for the better, I think. It has sort of brought me back to the days of running in high school, because back then the team had a wider range of talent, whereas in college you’re just around psychopaths that live for the sport. Now I’m around the whole spectrum again, and I really enjoy that.

I don’t want this to come off as condescending, but I admire the “fun-runner” in a lot of ways, because he/she seems to have found something with the sport that I am still searching for.  So meeting all of these different people has really allowed me to continue my own sort of self-reflection.

I’ve had to get back in shape so I could go on runs with these different groups. I wanted to get to know as many members as possible before I just showed up one day with a camera. I found running with these different folks has really motivated me to get runs in every day. Not just so I’m fit enough to do a long run with someone else, but because it makes me feel good. I’m running 7 days a week for the first time since college, and it’s sort of weird because I’m actually pretty overwhelmed and stressed out of my mind because of this documentary. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day, but I will always make time for my run.

It’s become the thing I look forward to the most each day. I’m racing a 5k at the end of the month, which should be interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing all the people I’ve met through the project there at the race.  

RS: Finally, give us the elevator pitch, what can people look forward to seeing when this project is complete and what are you hoping people will take away from it?

HM: You want a pitch?  How’s this?  Running sucks. Everyone who runs can tell you that. Ever run during a snowstorm? Every get a stress fracture? How about just feeling heavy during race?  You get up early to go out on a run, or you tell your friends you can’t go out to the bar with them because you have a workout. You put in all this work for something that may end up just punching you in the face. It’s sort of like unrequited love.

But we keep going, right? We don’t give up. We do our run the next day. Even when you think you’ve reached your limit, you find yourself back at it again. That’s what unites us. That’s what makes this not just an activity, but a community.

If running is a lifestyle, then that is what I want to show, the lifestyle. Not just the runs people go on, but how they balance their “civilian life” with their running. The little things people do to improve their fitness. The absurdities of it all. So many documentaries focus on moments that are “loud” and sensational, I want to focus on the quiet and intimate moments that linger with long you after you finish running.

April 11, 2017

Brave, stupid or both? Running in a costume begs a few questions

Stephen Kersh examines the thought process and feelings that come with running a race while wearing a costume. Is it stupid? Is it brave?

March 29, 2017

From the headlines: Denver-area jogger brings attention to the sport through unconventional means

Rarely do runners find themselves in the headlines of non-running-centric journalistic outlets. That’s just the way it is, and unless you discover a dead body during your morning run, help a wobbly-kneed competitor across the finish line at a local 5K, or get steamrolled by a deer during a cross country meet, that’s probably the way it’s going to stay.

But an unidentified jogging Denver man found a way to make a splash, and stir up some buzz among the local press this week, utilizing an unprecedented methodology: by assaulting a cyclist.

Yesterday, News 9 (Colorado’s NBC affiliate), reported the incident, which took place on the trails of North Table Mesa in Golden, a town best known for as the headquarters of Coors. The cyclist’s account of the attack went a little something like this:

He was cycling up a hill on the mesa trails near his suburban Denver home, when he came up on a headphone-wearing jogger. He rang his bike’s bell a couple of times to no avail, at which point a second mountain-biker crested the hill, and began descending toward the inadvertently stand-off-ing duo. The second cyclist yielded the right of way to the jogger, but motioned to him that a biker was trying to pass from behind. The jogger then pulled off to the side, and the victim cycled on past, shaking his head at the jogger’s headphone-induced lack of spatial awareness. And boy, did this ever set him off! The jogger then purportedly shouted “shake your head at me again, and I’ll beat your motherfucking ass!” Thinking little of the regular-aggressive response to his passive-aggression, the cyclist continued on his ride.

Twenty minutes later he cross paths again with the enraged jogger, but pulled off to the side to let him pass. But the jogger didn’t jog past as expected. Instead he grabbed the cyclist by the throat, punched him in the helmet repeatedly, and chucked his bike off a cliff.

The jogger jogged off after finishing his attack, then our cyclist plucked himself up, hobbled down to his bike, and walked the wreckage back to the trailhead after calling the cops and his wife.

The cyclist, going only as Andrew, gave no last name, but wrote about the encounter on a popular recreational cycling blog, drunkcyclist.com, under the pseudonym “40 Hands.”

Now for a few quick takes:

  • Assaulting people is bad, except for maybe in a handful of instances, and we don’t encourage it.
  • This is going to give the anti-headphone camp a lot of ammunition, but as a proponent of jogging to music, let me get my two cents in. If you’re going to listen to a dumb podcast while exercising, please avoid trails. Hell, avoid trails regardless because they are rocky, often steep, and can contain snakes.
  • It’s really hard for me to sympathize with a cyclist-blogger named “40 Hands,” but color me sympathetic this time.
  • Just going to speculate here, but those investigating this incident need to post up at the nearest CrossFit gym because I’d bet $50 this “jogger” flips a mean tire.
  • I’m all for runners doing stupid things to get attention. However you wanna validate yourself is fine by me, except when it gets in the way of somebody else’s living. So please, Citius readers, unless it’s in self-defense or something similar, please refrain from attacking other recreational exercisers to get your 15-minutes of fame.

No arrests have been made at this point, but if you might have information on the jogging assailant, here’s some information from Andrew “40 Hands” on what to do and what to look for:

Basic description is white male, somewhere in his 30s-40s, 6 feet tall, and somewhere between 180-190 pounds.  On that day he was wearing black shorts, wrap around headphones, and a black or dark blue shirt with either “COM” or “COR” on it.  Given that he was able to duck into a local neighborhood and wasn’t found, it seems likely that he lives in Golden and will be back out on North Table Mountain.  If you encounter someone that fits that description please reach out to either the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office (303) 271-0211, or the Jefferson County Open Space (303) 271-5925.  Also, if you have any information you think might be helpful you can email me at [email protected].

And if you, dear reader, were the jogging assailant, turn yourself in, you fucking doofus.

 

March 29, 2017

Some thoughts on the just-released Stanford Invite heat sheets

Allie Ostrander in the steeple? King Ches in the second heat of the 10,000m? Is German Fernandez in 5,000m shape? We ask the tough questions but answer few.

March 26, 2017

Charting team scoring at the 2017 World Cross Country Championships

With the World Cross Country Championships wrapping up mid-day on Sunday in the U.S., we decided to take a closer look at how the team Senior Men’s and Women’s scoring played out. Okay, here we go!

Starting with the men’s race, it was essentially a battle between five teams: Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea, and USA.

The following chart outlines each 2K split within the 10K race, by team position:

(mobile link)

 

 

Ethiopia did a wild job of hammering the last 4,000 meters, moving from 3rd place to 1st over the course of that distance. The US was in 3rd at 6K and spent the rest of the race battling with Uganda and Eritrea, ultimately finish 5th in a VERY tight 3rd, 4th, and 5th placing:

(mobile link)

 

 

For the women’s race, it’s hard to understate how hard Kenya rolled. For instance, there was only one split in the entire race where they did now have the top four spots secured. That’s pretty good! The US also did a great job of cutting down the last 2K, picking up about 30 points over the distance. about Here are the women’s team scores by split for the women’s 10K:

(mobile link)

 

To really drive it home, here are the team positions by split. It was a little more spread out, with a lot more of the jockeying action occurring in the middle of the pack. Fun fact – Uganda was in fifth place the whole race!

(mobile link)

 

Some of our overall takeaways: the East African countries fared very well, which was likely helped by the race being held in hot and humid conditions.  The Kenyan Women were dominant. The American teams beat who they should have, coming in at fifth place in both Senior races.

Lastly, for accountability, here are my predictions based on my Power Ranking model, compared against the final results (for the men’s race that had at least four racers finish):

March 26, 2017

Citius Mag Long Run Playlist

After a frenzied last few days in the Citius newsroom churning out content at a breakneck pace, attempting to keep up with the seemingly endless demand and kudos being heaped on us, we’re finally ready to conclude MUSIC WEEK. And what better way to do it than with one final playlist?

We’ve dubbed it the Long Run Playlist and it’s populated entirely with Citius Mag Staff Picks. Lucky you, only two of the songs contain some form of the word “run” in the title.

Perhaps you’ve heard of some. Maybe you haven’t heard any of them. Either way, we hope you enjoy a small sampling of the musical tastes of the people that provide you with Pulitzer Prize level journalism on a daily basis.

(Disclaimer: The Long Run Playlist is just a catchy name. Nothing about it should imply that you listen to this while running, as we take a NEUTRAL stance on the “music while running?” debate. Except for our Dear Leader, Chris Chavez, a headphones-while-running proponent.)

March 22, 2017

Jackie Joyner-Kersee: A popular name-drop in rap lyrics

Wu-Tang Clan, Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, J. Cole and many others have name-dropped Jackie Joyner-Kersee in rap songs throughout history.

March 20, 2017

This Week in Trail Running: Chuckanut 50k, Trans Americana

Chuckanut 50K; Max King breaks his own course record and Ladia Albertson-Junkans wins her 50k debut. Rickey Gates in the midst of an East-West U.S. traverse

March 19, 2017

Personal bests feel better when you’re with friends: NYC Half race report

A personal best is always nice but there’s a special joy that comes with the process of chasing that goal with others on race day.

March 18, 2017

Too Much Sauce? The effects of heavy drinking before a run

How much is too much? Will a night of drinking negatively or positively impact performance? As Gucci Mane says, you can’t get lost in the sauce.

March 17, 2017

Run4AllWomen and Making Running a Political Act

January 21, at 6:21 AM, Alison Désir and her fellow Run4AllWomen runners arrived in Washington, D.C. and raised over $100,000 for Planned Parenthood.

March 8, 2017

Wake up to Sheila Reid vs. Jordan Hasay in the 2011 NCAA Indoor 3,000m

Jordan Hasay won the mile. Sheila Reid out-kicked her as the anchor leg of the DMR. The women’s 3,000 at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships was there to settle the score.

You can watch the race above but the final 800 meters are the best.


“Fantastic last lap for this tiny stick of dynamite from the University of Oregon.” Never change, Larry Rawson.

March 6, 2017

Holding onto the tribe that you formed in high school

When you find your tribe, hold onto them in whatever way you can. GroupMe, the messaging app, goes it for my high school track team friends.

March 6, 2017

This Week in Trail Running: USATF 50K Road National Champs, Way Too Cool 50k

This Week in Trail Running: We catch up on some results from the USATF 50K Road National Champs and the Way Too Cool 50K.

February 27, 2017

This Week in Trail Running: World Snowshoe Championships, Women’s 24-Hour American Record

We’ll be bringing you a weekly look into the trail, ultra and mountain running scene.

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