NBR Profile No. 13
Rodrigo Toscano talks with Max Frumes
Max Frumes was born in Redding, CA, and grew up in Fall River Mills (population 3,000) until he was 9. His family then relocated to Los Angeles, where he pursued a failed career in child acting (though he did some voice-over work in Spain) and then completed High School. He then bounced off to UC Berkeley and went free bird with stays in Morelia, Barcelona, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. He did odd jobs like selling cars until he got a job reporting about trailer park finance, and then moved around to different obscure publications until he got into grad school for journalism in Chicago. He bounced off again – this time to DC, then to Brooklyn where he joined NBR. Short of it is: Iman Wilkerson spotted fellow runners he and his future-ex in an airport on the way to Vermont for the Burlington Marathon and gregariously marched up to pass the while as the flight got delayed.
Max has engaged in the “near-extinct” sport of aggressive inline skating; he was a collegiate cross-country mountain biker, a snowboarder, and from time to time “I would have given it all up to play tennis.” Added to this list of marked physical lassitude and indolence, he’s gone deep with “intramural ball” (ask him in person).
Max is all about running form. The number of “form” + “max” searches on the NBR group list almost exceeds the legendary earphone wars from the club’s archaic period.
He leads the Weekly Form Run on Wednesday evenings in Prospect Park. His recent PR’s include a sub-3 hour marathon, sub-22 hour 100-miler, sub-5 hour 60K and sub-5 minute mile in the span of five months. But the most difficult thing he’s done in running was being a team leader for Back on My Feet during the 2012-2013 winter.
RT: Max, given the fact that running for the general population of the U.S. has been around for only about 40 years, how do we account for Chimps in Outer Space in Rotund Helmets, calm and sated, back in the day?
And why do we drink so much beer, knowing well that over time it slows us down considerably?
MF: People have devolved in many ways. Take the movie, Interstellar; in that future, except for a very elite few, we’re all farmers resigned to a fate of meaningless toil. Right now, that’s not so far off. There’s a hopelessness for most people in aiming to achieve too much thought or innovation and when you try and are frustrated to the point of despair, it must immediately be addressed with distraction – thus all the workaholism and the running and the drinking without much introspection or artistry.
As for beer, we sometimes need to be slowed down otherwise we hurt ourselves.
RT: Agreed! Aside from endless distractions, overworking has become a near permanent feature of the U.S. workaday reality. And by now, there are mass-psychological responses to that reality.
One example is the moral imperative to “keep moving” at all costs. And this permeates the amateur running community completely (I’m part of that too.)
Another response to the hopelessness that you mention is expressed by the whole PR (“personal record”) deal. And what is a PR? It’s the actual result of what one has put in to achieving a physical and mental feat. Is it our desire to feel a direct result of our efforts? After all, with an activity like running, nobody can put the effort in for you. You can’t buy it or sell it. How does one “fake” a PR? When so many achievements in society are patently fake (actually bought and sold), PR’s are – well, “personal.” But when it comes to group dynamics, one human-economic variable seems asserts itself over and over: as runners, we borrow endlessly from others’ achievements. We catch a buzz when a team member kicks ass in a new way. We welcome that buzz.
So, Max, you’re known as person who has a passion for form. At one point you turned that passion outwards by generously sharing your knowledge and experience around form. How did that come about?
MF: The form run was Misha Bittleston’s idea. Misha’s one of those people whom if you’re ever lucky enough to be invited into their world for whatever reason or whatever project, you must go for it or your existence will forever be less rich. He has a vibrant inner life, in part because he shuns the modern distractions of today’s plugged-in world. That made starting the form run really interesting because we couldn’t communicate with phones or email. So he’d hand me a sheet of paper with some pretty technical or academic aspect of form each week. I’d then run with and add my own flavor – general absurdity mostly – and email it to the group. I now add to each focus with whatever new articles (at least new to me) are out there or something new I pick up on.
Misha and I are very different people and our approaches are clearly distinct, but I think the whole project worked because we shared some key philosophies about running and life. Namely, that the more you can find a way to enjoy the process and your own development as a person and not just the result, the better off you are. PRs are great, but they won’t always be there; ultimately if we keep running, we’re going to start having personal worsts (PW’s). And in your creative life and work, your greatest successes can be your most limiting, they start to define what others expect from you and not let you grow in other ways.
RT: Totally! This defining of oneself by what one has done instead of what one is doing now, too often subverts the rich experience of what’s right at hand. This can be especially true for Masters runners. PW’s – many, are in store, but strong runs with maximum flow are also ripe for the picking!
Misha – yeah, he’s legendary. When the club was only about 10 to 20 people, one thing he used to ask us at the end of a race is, “how’d that feel?” Just like that. It was disarming. It caught on. It wasn’t the “what’d you’d do?” I loved that. Also, and this is funny, he hated winter wear back in the day. He’d show up for the Saturday Bridge run in a singlet and short shorts – in the 30’s. He would just chew his gum a little faster. I’d ask him if he was cold, and he’d give me a look like as if to say, “poor dear, are you terribly worried about getting cold?”
So, back this form thang. Could you please give us your top five tips on how to run full on homo sapiens style.
MF: Not entirely sure all of these things apply, but here are five tips that I feel have helped me become a better runner while not losing relatability as a human being:
- Run tall while mainly keeping your eyes towards the horizon and have your arms between 70 and 110 degrees swinging front to back, and when you land try to have it be on your mid to forefoot, with your foot directly below your hip and center of gravity and your knee is slightly bent and maybe you’re slightly tilted forward if you’re going at a good clip. And when you breathe, concentrate on a strong exhale.
- Fall in love with impossible people. It can be catastrophic or it can be beautiful, but no matter what, if you do this, there will be no sense of predictability in any area of your life except for running.
- Drink, a lot. Drink to the point where the only debate about the term “alcoholic” is whether you can modify it with “functional.” But keeping in mind, drinking is like heel-striking. If you do it too much, the resulting damage can be severe. So it’d be best to only do it occasionally. The people I’ve let down, the guilt I’ve felt, and the losses I’ve brought upon myself because of heel-striking can’t be overstated.
- Make sure that there’s some deep sense of emptiness that eats away at you that no matter your level of achievement in whatever it is that you do, it won’t go away unless you’ve gotten in a solid two-hour run.
- Unless you plan on winning, do a variety of running, distance, terrain, weather, solo, in groups. Practically, it works out more muscle groups and helps avoid most repetitive use injuries – but also, it keeps it fresh and takes pressure of certain races where there are established time pressures like the 5K or the marathon.
RT: Falling desperately in love with catastrophic beautiful impossibilities while running drunk and tall through a lake of mud focusing on strong exhalation and the existential emptiness of it all, is something we all could use from time to time. Mil gracias for this!
I want to ask you for advice on two issues I’m dealing with. The first is: though my leg turnover rate (cadence) has never been a problem for me (due to a few heritable fast twitch fibers—upon activation), my stride has grown considerably shorter over the last year or so. The positive side of this is that I’m not over-striding in training, and my feet are landing square below my hips. Also, my GCT (Ground Contact Time) is reasonably brief, so there’s no back pushing on the ground. Problem is, I’m not catching enough flight to tear away some inches with each stride rotation. Help!
The second one is—I’m drinking Corona Light because it’s 99 calories as opposed to a typical 150-calorie beer. Over time, the slight reduction in heft should help my aerodynamic ambitions. But my soul feels like it’s draped in saran wrap.
How much should I devote to soul and how much to my flight plan?
MF: Speaking to the second, the only real solution to your predicament is to get a glass, pour in lime, salt, some picante sauce – perhaps a little Worcestershire and even Clamato – and then pour the Corona in the glass. You now have a Michilada. Making it was probably fun, searching around for the ingredients, thinking about the proper mixture. You might want to experiment with different spices. In one way for your own health you’ve limited the only recourse some of us have in dealing with unrequited love, that strong delicious god of barley, he who imbues impoverished hearts with poetry, who fills the emptied vessels of life with new destinies and drives the stranded back into the raging currents of action. Maybe you’re in a place where you no longer need or can handle something as strong. So the best thing I can imagine – though I’m not quite there myself – is to seek your intoxication in the creativity itself, get wrapped up in the process, read and write more, conduct perplexingly conundrous interviews.
And to address your question about stride length, I would suggest do more hill workouts to start; the Vermont 100-miler has been – correctly in my opinion – described as 24 hours of hill repeats. I think that’s the sole reason I was later able to achieve a sub-five minute mile. Stairs are good for this as well, even better actually. Go to a big set of stairs (my favorite are the Barclays Center subway station stairs at 5:30 a.m.) and hop up the first set with both feet, second and third with just one foot, left then right. Explosiveness will happen. Maybe then some weight training; I sprained my knee over the summer and was told by the physical therapist that I needed to work out my side glutes and other non-running muscles or risk being crippled for the rest of my life (something like that). So do leg lifts from your side, as well as squats and lunges – preferably with weights in your hands – and use that obnoxious band that you tie around your knees and crab step left and right; Logan Yu does this and he’s really fast. Or simply and finally, resignation that no one is immune to the effects of aging except Ken Allen.
RT: True Dat. I encounter Ken Allen in his all-rubber yellow whaling rain suit holding a kerosene lamp every Sunday at midnight—so I concur, the proper mixture of ingredients might drive my stranded masters runner soul back into a raging current of action: The Cod Run.
But now…I want to lightly (as I look over my shoulder for Cherie Yanek’s kind face and wisdom) rag on Ultra. And as I type this – as people read this – chains and bats being readied for a classic NBR rumble. Kindly explain to me how an all-concrete NYC jungle ultra lifestyle is in any way doable?
MF: I don’t know it’s really a choice. Amateur ultra runners get into it for all sorts of reasons, but generally it’s something deeply necessary psychologically. I’ve gone through years in my life where I felt like nothing was improving in my life, just the opposite, things were getting worse in almost every way. And I still find myself in irons – a ship sailing into the wind, unable to ride the wind anymore because it’s too straight on, needing something that will get this ship sailing again. And running has at times been the only thing that has brought satisfaction of improvement, provided a gust just powerful enough to adjust. And when it became clear I wasn’t going to get much faster – my marathon time has improved by maybe a dozen minutes in eight years – I turned to the longer distances. I feel that’s a dangerous proposition though without at least trying to enrich your life in many other ways simultaneously. So then living in New York could be an “ideal” place for ultras if one has an abundance of dark energy requiring exor/exercising frequently in order to just deal. And as for the practicality of ultra training in NYC, I ran a small trail 100K in Arkansas and everyone asked me how I trained for mountainous trails. Some laughed – kindheartedly – when I said I got most of my hill workouts on the various BKLYN bridges. I wound up finishing first!
RT: Nough said. Awesome. I just did the math too. We’d have to do the Saturday Morning Bridge Run 20 times to cover the distance of that ultra. Quite a feat!
Returning a bit to Chimps in Outer Space in Rotund Helmets…thinking here of the quandary or gift or burden or miracle or random gaiety of the Earth’s constant of Gravity
g = 9.80616 − 0.025928 cos 2φ + (6.9 × 10−5) cos2 2φ − (3.086 × 10−6)H m/s2
—its pull on us towards the nickel-iron centermost core of this fair planet, a mysterious horny murmuring in our ears, “be concrete”— about our visions and doings. I’m wondering if running is one way of Godliness.
I’m also wondering about what running goals you have for the upcoming year. I need your help too in newly understand what a “goal” is.
MF: I was pretty amazed when I saw this video in elementary school explaining some experiment where they dropped two balls of different weights from the top of the tower of Pisa. They fell at the same rate (your crazy formula). I thought for sure heavier things fell faster. I didn’t know it then, but this would be one of a multitude of examples where the world didn’t behave as I thought.
There’s this balance between admitting to a physical and historical reality and still leaving room for the inexplicable. I can’t discount the mystical because there’s no one who’s given me a satisfactory answer of where consciousness comes from. The ways I’ve gotten closer to what I feel is a peace with this uncertainty of meaning or order have almost all come from words and running – and especially when they collide. So say I’m sitting in my shabby, rented Crown Heights studio apartment alone as per usual, probably hung over, feeling bad about the way the world has turned out. I find some podcast of standup routines or a short story and go for a run, and by the end of it I almost always find that everything has been transformed.
Yet as compelling as that sounds, it’s dangerous to think about any one thing as your only portal to the divine. I listened to Miracle Polish while running some years back and it resonated in how for a brief moment the reflection of everything through these polished mirrors somehow shone brighter, better – but it ruined the real experience of them, possibly forever.
So in terms of goals, I try not to put too much pressure on these current outlets – I’m not stable enough to give myself goals that if I didn’t meet would devastate me. People who have more of an infrastructure can fail spectacularly and bounce back, but I’m not there yet. I set goals that have the chance for serendipity but don’t rely on it.
RT: Max, I’m leaning here on a portal to the profane with a gurgling belly full of your imparted wisdom. But before I burp up another perplexingly conundrous question, I want to heartily thank you on behalf of the NBR Sub-Booboo tribe for sharing with us a glimpse into the Ultra-Booboo tribe, Infra-Booboo and Para-Booboo tribes all ears, attending.
MF: Boo boo bee doo, chico.
Have you missed any of profiles 1 – 12? Check them out here.
Registration for the 2015 NYRR Brooklyn Half Club Point Race
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
12:00 noon EST
(right after the Saturday Williamsburg Bridge Run – join us for coffee even if you can’t make the run @ 9:00)
Have you been THINKING about running with NBR but haven’t actually gotten out yet? Well stop lurking and start running. Join us on January 24 for our New Member Coffee at the McCarren Park Recreation Center.
Learn more about NBR, meet other members, and find out about some of the fun stuff coming up—races, brunches, the Gala (like a high school prom only actually fun), volunteering opportunities, how to get one of those cool NBR shirts we wear, etc. We’ll also have a pop-up gear shop so bring cash or your smartphone to shop!
Everyone is welcome, whether you’ve never made it to a run or you’ve been running with us for years. Google Group and Facebook lurkers are especially encouraged to come meet the team and start running with us.
For those doing the 9 a.m. Bridge Run and Coffee, we’ll end the run at the McCarren Park Rec Center. The run (which is good for all paces) starts at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge. You don’t have to do the Bridge Run to come to coffee.
Stop by any time between 9:30 a.m.— 12 p.m. See you there!
Filed under: Club Points Racing, Inspiration, Marathon, NBR Goings On, Races
The 2015 TCS New York City Marathon application is open now through February 15.
Route – Approx 6 miles around the neighborhood visiting several NBR historical sites along the way. There will be trivia and prizes along with bonus points for people who wear neon and sing a Disney song or two along the way.
Afterwards we will be regrouping for brunch at Spritzenhaus around 12:00pm so if you can’t make the run please join us in saying goodbye to our matchmakers, friends, community organizers, and run companions.
January 18, 2015, Sunday
10:30AM Run @ the Bins
12:00PM Brunch @ Spritzenhaus
“I can’t think of any better way to ring in the new year and bring back the Busy Bee award than with presenting this award to one of the most dedicated members of our team. For the month of January and our very first Busy Bee of 2015, we would like to honor Cherie Yanek as a CHERIshed member of our team. Not only is Cherie a national level ultra runner with an apartment lined with trophies, not only is she the Race Director for the Burning Man 50K Ultramarathon, not only is she dedicated to the community through her writing in greenpointers.com… I think you can see where I’m going with this.
Cherie has been a run leader and committed NBR for over four years. She’s coordinated events, held workshops, invited speakers, etc, and about anything ranging from hot weather running to taking care of your feet. On a personal level, Cherie is known for being able to push you farther than you’ve ever thought possible. Don’t think you can run an ultra? Tell that to Cherie and she’ll convince you that you’re wrong.
Cherie encompasses the true spirit of NBR. She is a mentor, a motivator, a doer, a talented and passionate runner, and a SERIOUSLY good baker. Thank you, Cherie, for everything you do and congratulations on being this month’s Busy Bee!”
Visit our Busy Bee’s Page for more detail and past recipients.