This week’s article is about running along the board-walk in Atlantic city. So, pawn your gold, put it all on black and prepare to be shouted at by a crazy guy who just lost everything. It’s everything you need to know about running on creaky wood. Atlantic city, New Jersey, USA.
Gambling, it’s a mugs game, or so my gran always used to say. My gran was a good protestant and my dad’s a very rational scientist type, so it’s not really that surprising that I don’t have the gambling bug. The house always wins, and if you go to one of the big gambling towns in the US, like Atlantic city or Las Vegas, you’ll see some of the best hotels and attractions in the world built of the backs of the poor punters who lost good hard-earned money at the tables.
The hotels in these places all belong to the big casino chains and are designed so you have to pass through the floor to get out or get something to eat. Here you’ll see the punters sitting in darkened rooms pouring money into slot machines or passing it across the card table to the dealer. A lot of people tell me there’s a certain thrill in it and if you set yourself a limit and stick to it then there’s no harm done. But where’s the fun in that, losing money in a boring predictable way. If I want some risk or danger I’d rather climb some rocks or do something a bit more wholesome. Gambling just seems just a bit pointless to me.
So what was I doing in Atlantic city. Well, like most of my travels this was here for a work conference. But I also planned to get some running in. My target was 10k in under 40 minutes and I was looking at the Atlantic city board-walk to get me there with a recovery breakfast buffet at the casino.
Atlantic city 11/10/2009
It was a 6:30 start for my big run. I was still jet-lagged from arriving a few days earlier but looking forward to the run to wake me up a bit. I would start at the north end of the peer, run down and back. Good luck if you want to try this run these days. Hurricane Sandy hit Atlantic city hard in October of 2012 and destroyed this part of the board-walk as well as the peer with the big-wheel. I’m not sure how much has been rebuilt yet.
Being used to running up and down hills, I was looking forward to a fast run on the flat, but I was a bit disappointed with my pace at the start. The main problem was the surface. The wood was just too springy to give me a proper lift off. I also started off too fast and felt a bit of a strain in my calves. This was probably a combination of discomfort from my long flight, the surface and my general condition. I started with a 3:44 km split but my pace gradually dropped until the half way point where my overall pace was over 4 min/km. On the way back I ran with the wind, so sped up to just over 4min/km then slowed down again before my sprint at the end. I finished the 11.73 k with an average pace of 4:08 min/km.
Running in the states can be fun because there tends to be more other runners to pace yourself with. Especially in the morning. The bad side is that you tend to get more dogs, obstructive pedestrians and, depending on the area, crazy people. Running in Atlantic city, I was out quite early so there wasn’t too much traffic until my return back up the board walk. I sidestepped the token crazy-guy around km 10 and took my run just that bit further to avoid having him engage me in his strange brand of Manson-esk conversation.
Another good thing about the states, and especially casino towns, is the reasonably priced food. Casinos tend to use deals on food to tempt people in and I’d already picked out particularly ample buffet to feed myself up in. I went to town. Pancakes, bacon, pork, beef, eggs, milk, juice, everything. I’d worked up a real hunger on my run but the problem was my eyes were bigger than my stomach. Around my fifth helping I really started to feel bloated for some reason. I had to concentrate on keeping it down until I could pay and get to my hotel room. But this was on the other side of the hotel so I had to walk through the casino to get there. I really felt I could have been sick before I reached my room, but thankfully I made it before I could embarrass myself.
When I started running I always seemed to have this problem of gorging myself or taking too much fluid after a run. These days I tend to be a lot better at controlling what I take. I think drinking water during a run helps. These days I always take a half litre of suero when I run and I don’t normally feel so desperately thirsty or hungry when I stop.
So, I didn’t reach my sub 40 minute 10k target, but it was a good run, and I enjoyed the feed afterwards. It was also good practice for running on a springy surface on the flat. I wouldn’t have to wait that long to get under 40 minutes either. I broke this duck in Heidelberg in Germany a few months later. If I ever get back to Atlantic city I’d love to do the Atlantic city marathon. A good part of this is along the board walk where I ran back in 2010. This would be a flat sea-level race with a good prospect of a PB or Boston qualifier time. Although, I think I might take it a bit easier on the buffet afterwards.