The Birth of the Darkside

Our regular group of Sunday 20-milers got together for a Christmas dinner at the home of Paula and Eric one Friday night in December of 2001. Following dinner, we officially formed the DARKSIDE Running Club. The original four members were Paula, Al Barker, Kelly Murzynsky and I. Eric (Paula’s husband) and Joe (Kelly’s husband) were to be known as the DARKSIDE Ladies’ Auxiliary, with Eric as President. I was selected (honored!) to be the first President of the DARKSIDE.

We formed our own set of rules and regulations that we decided could be (a) changed on a whim and/or (b) made up as we went along. Some of the ‘rules’ that have stood the test of time:

  • No excuses and more importantly no whining.
  • When presented with the choice of several distances (at a race), select the longest one.
  • Run a race in the shirt from that race and face serious consequences.
  • Live by the slogan ‘If you don’t make eye contact, it never happened.’*

    *Interpretation: if you engage in a questionable behavior—i.e. public urination, changing from running clothes into dry clothes while standing next to your car after a run —if you don’t make eye contact with another person, as far as you or anyone else knows, it never happened!

  • Facts only—no boasting—report on your running credentials/race results only when asked.
  • It’s never too early/late/hot/cold/(insert excuse of choice here) to run.
  • No bailing out on group long runs (unless you say you’re going to before the run begins).
  • No name dropping (‘me and Uta,’ ‘I was telling Billy Rodgers,’ etc.) or race dropping (‘at Gasparilla,’ ‘going up Heartbreak Hill,’ etc.).
  • Relays are for those who can’t do the whole thing by themselves.
  • Leave trail running to mountain goats.

And the most important of them all (which has gotten more than one of us in trouble):

  • Once you say it, you’ve got to do it!

 

We have managed to have a lot of fun with these over the years, and we make it a point to notate any ‘infractions,’ like when Paula, Al and I were in line for the porta-john just before the start of a marathon and Paula said (loudly enough for several runners to hear) ‘I’m cold; I wish I’d brought my Boston jacket along’ (Rule violated: No race dropping.).

In 2002 we began publishing our quarterly newsletter, absolutely true…Tales from the DARKSIDE. As 2003 draws to a close, we have about two dozen ‘subscribers,’ most of which regularly contribute to the newsletter (articles, race results, photographs, etc.).

Some of our more popular regular features include:

‘The DARKSIDE answers your Questions’

As answers to running-related questions are usually nothing more than opinions, we thought we’d take the liberty to offer ours to some of the questions we run across in more prominent running periodicals. Most of our answers can be summarized by our recommendation to ‘shut up and run.’ What was the question? Here’s a composite of pretty much all of the questions we ran across over a period of almost two years:

I really want to qualify for Boston, but I’ve got several problems I need your help with. First of all, I hurt pretty much all over my entire body when I run. What can I do to make it not hurt so much? Once I can run injury-free, I know the 20/30/40 (pick one) miles I run each week will be enough to get me in marathon shape, but I really hate doing 20-mile runs—they’re just too long. What other training can I do that simulates a 20-miler? Will cycling help? By the way, did I mention that where I live it’s too hot/cold/humid/arid (again, pick one) to run long? As for speed work: it makes my plantar warts irritable and results in an ugly phlegm in my throat. Could you just recommend a training program that will allow me to qualify for Boston without running too many miles/doing any speed work/doing long runs/causing my body to hurt (pick pretty much all of these)?

‘The FLYING PENGUIN Awards’

Every month the ‘Flying Penguin’ is awarded to a DARKSIDER for a noteworthy achievement (presumably for something to do with—but not limited to—running). A few winners of the ‘FP’ award:

  • Todd Davison (December 2002) for qualifying for Boston in his first marathon.
  • Al Barker’s (April 2002) impressive 19:14 5K—only six days after he ran Boston.
  • Sandy Geisel (June 2003) completes the Western States Endurance Run, and appears on the cover of the DARKSIDE newsletter!
  • Kelly Murzynsky (December 2001, November 2002) wins her first two ultras—the Tallahassee 50K and the inaugural Peachtree City 50K, respectively.
  • Paula May (March 2003) sets a Georgia women’s state age group (50-54) 10K record.

‘Brain FARTleks

One of my personal favorites, featuring short, interesting, and often humorous bits of running-related information, such as:

  • Starting off too fast in a race and slowing down later results in a positive-split performance (therefore the first half is faster than the second half). More appropriate terminology for it would be ‘premature acceleration.’
  • Andy Velazco’s article on crewing at Badwater appeared in the July/August 2003 issue of Marathon and Beyond.
  • Quote to remember (quite possibly made by a runner coming down Boyleston Street at the conclusion of the Boston Marathon): Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

 

‘Speed Kills’

No running newsletter would be complete without race results. Note: ‘Kills’ can be read as a noun or a verb—reader’s choice.

‘The Runner’s High Photo Gallery’

Photographs of our members…taken after the endorphins kick in.

The balance of the newsletter is allocated to articles, race reviews, and letters from the readers (although nothing submitted for publication has ever been turned down). Each issue begins with ‘The Starting Line’ and concludes with ‘The Finishing Kick.’ I may be a little biased (being the Editor and all), but there isn’t a more interesting, entertaining, or down-to-earth running periodical in circulation. But that’s just my opinion:

‘Your newsletter has too many highlights to mention. It is a serious slice of journalistic heaven.’ – Gary Griffin

‘Your newsletter reflects what runners really talk about.’ – Fred Johnson

‘I enjoyed looking through your newsletter and got some laughs. Neat publication; well, maybe a d-a-r-k publication. But weird is good. All the best.’ –Bruce Morrison, Editor of The Running Journal.

‘I laughed until tears were running down my face.’ – Mary Lane Johnson

The bottom line is that the newsletter is doing exactly what it was intended to do, which is to inform, entertain, encourage, stimulate, motivate, arouse emotions, and make the reader laugh.