Archive for November, 2009


– My wife’s Facebook status on Wednesday afternoon

I spent the majority of Thanksgiving Week running from the pigs.

They came for my younger daughter Saturday night, then for my wife on Monday night and finally for my older daughter on Wednesday night. No, I wasn’t being chased by the police. I haven’t called a cop a ‘pig’ since high school. OK, maybe since college, but I digress.

I was running from the swine flu. Wednesday night we had three girls down.  I was the last family member standing.  Our Thanksgiving plans to visit family had been laid to waste.  I scrambled last minute to find a Turkey and all the trimmings. All week I was thinking one thing – with the rest of the family out of commission, I could NOT get sick. My wife had been hit especially hard and was pretty much bedridden.  My older daughter (too young to take care of the household anyway) was just entering the worst of it. I had to make sure that the piggies couldn’t get me.

I firmly believe that breaking a major sweat goes a long way toward boosting your immune system. So starting last Monday, I ran.  Not away from my family – they needed me to take care of them. No, I ran away from the flu.  Every day, I ran. Whether it was my quick 5K sprint on Thanksgiving Day morning or my slower but longer 10 mile runs on the dreadmill – er treadmill – I was determined to break a major sweat every day.  I was going to make my body an inhospitable place for any little pigs who might want to take up residence.

I ran more miles this week than I have in any of the weeks in the past several months.

My legs…are…tired.

But you know what? It worked. At this point, as I write, the girls have all come out of the depths of swine and we are pretty much back to normal. Knock on wood, I am swine-free.

Is running the cure to the H1N1 virus? No, absolutely not. But I do think that it helped reduce the effects it had on my body. There is no way that I wasn’t exposed to it. I will admit now that I woke up both Wednesday and Thursday mornings with pounding headaches and I went to bed both of those nights with a very, very slight case of the sniffles, but it never got worse than that. The sniffles were gone each morning and the headaches went away with breakfast and coffee.

So if you feel a chill coming on or your nose is starting to drip, this is my prescription: Run once a day – either hard for 30 minutes or at an easier pace for 60 – 90 minutes. Either way, break a sweat – a real sweat.

You’ll thank yourself for it later.

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“You okay?”

“I don’t know.”

“You can do it…you’re doing great…you’re almost there.”

– A brief but repeated conversation between me and my competitors somewhere between mile 20 and mile 21 at the Manchester Marathon. My quadriceps has cramped up and I was barely hobbling along.

In my two recent races I was struck by the camaraderie and solitude that is running. We all run for different reasons and some of us are more competitive than others. Some run for the physical health benefits; others for the meditative qualities of the repetitive footfalls.

To say that I was almost there was not quite true. I still had nearly 6 miles to go. 6 miles! That’s a pretty decent distance for most people. On a good day I can cover that distance in just under 45 minutes. On that day, I was barely moving. I still had what would be almost an hour and a half of “running” in front of me. Yet here these people were, my competitors, slowing down to check on me, to see if I was “ok” and then shouting words of encouragement as they pressed on, leaving me to my lonesome struggle.

The overwhelming majority of us are not elite runners. The races we run we have no hope of winning, yet we run them anyway. We don’t race to win. We race against ourselves. Sure, we want to beat the person who has been running stride for stride with us for the last so many miles, but in the end, it is ourselves that we want to beat, whether it be a previous race’s time or the inner demon that says we can’t possibly finish. We ultimately run alone.

But as ridiculous as this sounds, we are not alone in our “aloneness”. Because we all have the common experience in trying to better ourselves, we develop an empathy for each other. I have found that the longer the races are, the more empathetic the competitors are. At the marathon level, there is the shared understanding that the last 10K of the race is an internal battle of will versus sheer exhaustion. One can talk about it and understand it intellectually, but I don’t know if one can understand it without going through it.  No matter the external encouragement, we must find the motivation to move internally; the twist being that the external encouragement can guide us to our internal motivation. It is the shared pain. If we see someone struggling in those last 6.2 miles, it is instinctive to lend a voice. I did it myself, despite the fact that I was struggling with my own physical crisis as I passed a runner worse off than me. He shouted back at me in a remarkably chipper voice, “You’re doing great!”

Imagine if everyone in the world ran a marathon at least once before they were 30, and maybe again as a reminder before 50. Would people in our country, our world be less alone and be more willing to work together? Would our politicians stop talking at each other and start talking to each other. One can only dream…

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“I only run when I’m being chased…”

-My Wife and many of my non-running friends

Why do I run? For one, I run because I am being chased. By whom? By the same entity that chases all of us. Time. I know that eventually I will lose this race. It is inevitable. But I run knowing that I can put years between me and that ultimate runner.

There are the obvious ways in which running puts off Father Time. As we improve our general health we tend to physically age more slowly.

What follows is one of my favorite quotes from Christopher McDougall’s Born To Run:

“You could literally halt epidemics in their tracks with this one remedy,” he said. He flashed two fingers up in a peace sign, then slowly rotated them downward till they were scissoring through space. The Running Man.

“So simple,” he said. “Just move your legs.”

For me that was an “aha!” moment. All of the common Western diseases can cut our “run” short. The simple act of running can prevent a countless number of these ailments from affecting our society so pervasively the way they do today.

But you know what else running can do? It can literally slow down time.

Yes, I said literally.

Based on Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity, the Twin Paradox states that if one twin were to fly off in a rocket at close to light speed, fly around space for a while and then return to Earth, he would return to find his twin brother had aged dramatically more than he.  This is based on the fact that the speed of light is the same for every observer, no matter how fast he or she is going.  It has been proven in experiments.  Years ago, scientists sent several planes with atomic clocks on board to fly around the world.  Before they took off, the clocks on the planes were synchronized with an atomic clock on the ground.  When the aircrafts returned from their jaunts around the world, it was shown that the clocks on the airplanes were slightly behind the clock on the ground.  The faster one goes, the slower time moves for him or her.  At the speed of light, time essentially stops.

The faster and longer you run, the more time slows down for you. You age at a slower rate.  Sadly, you can run your whole life and only slow down time by a imperceptible amount, but I find knowing what we can do as runners poetic…beautiful. As runners we can control Time. We cannot ultimately defeat him, but by the simple act of running, we can tweak him.

I am being chased. That is one reason why I run.

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The Vibram Five Finger KSO (Keep Stuff Out)

“You gonna run this whole race in those?” -A concerned fellow runner at the starting line of the Chilly Half Marathon

I do not run in conventional running shoes. My shoe of choice is the Vibram Five Finger, currently the KSO (stands for Keep Stuff Out). I have been running in the Vibrams (sometimes called VFF’s) exclusively now for almost five months. My old Asics and New Balance running shoes have been relegated to the back of the closet, pulled out only when I have to do yard work, which my wife will attest is not that often. Why do I choose to run in these funny little excuses of shoes? These “foot gloves”?

Back in March when I was still running in regular running shoes, I was just finishing up a treadmill run when I decided to end with an uphill climb. I pushed the elevation up to about 5 or 6 degrees and within about 5 seconds I felt a pop and a sharp pain behind my right knee. I immediately lowered the incline back to zero and tried to continue running. I lasted about 5 or 6 steps and was forced to stop. It was my first real running injury. I had read that every runner eventually suffers a setback, but I had convinced myself that it wasn’t going to happen to me. I tried to shake it off and run the next day, but I couldn’t get more than 100 feet. I thought about running through the pain, but I knew that this wasn’t one of those injuries. I had run through some foot and ankle pain early on in my rediscovery of running, but I knew that pain was merely my body acclimating itself to the idea of running. This was different. Something had popped. I took about 10 days off but was back at it in relatively short order. I didn’t want to take too much time off because I was training to run the Run To Remember Half Marathon on Memorial Day Weekend. Still, every time I’d hit close to 35-40 miles in a week, my knee would ache to the point of causing me to limp noticeably. Something wasn’t right.

I went to the doctor who asked my why I was running. I thought that was kind of a funny question coming from a doctor, but I went on to list the various health benefits of running, both physical and mental. I also mentioned that I was training for a half marathon. She looked at me with a funny look and then said, “you know, we’re not made to run like that.” I nodded and said nothing. “Your gonna run this thing anyway aren’t you?” Again, I nodded and said nothing. She decided to send me to a specialist to figure out what was wrong with the knee and get me back on track. One specialist, an MRI and a lot of poking and prodding later, I was told to switch to rowing. When I said I had signed up for road races not rowing races he told me to stretch three times a day every day and if anything happened while I was running the race to stop.

I paid how much for that advice?

I cut down on my miles in the weeks leading up to the race to avoid the soreness and the race came and went. I was pretty happy with my time (1:40:47).

It was around this time that I set my eyes on the marathon. I started to think that maybe, just maybe, I could qualify for the Boston Marathon. My time in the half was nowhere near good enough, but quite honestly I hadn’t followed any kind of training program. If I stuck to a schedule I was pretty sure that I could get it done. I poked around online looking for various programs. Every one I looked at made me groan. They all gradually built to at least 35-40 miles a week. It was also around this time that my good friend Mike told me about some funny shoes he was wearing every once in a while when he went running. He told me their name. The Vibram Five Finger shoe. Sounded almost dirty. I looked at them online thinking he was crazy.

A couple of weeks later he suggested that I read a new book that had recently come out called Born To Run by Christopher McDougall. I used to be a reader. But with the arrival of kids and the variety of things that kept me busy, I had stopped reading books for what seemed like ages. But this book was about running, my new found passion.  We were going away on a short vacation soon and I would need something to read by the pool. I started reading it a few days before we left and couldn’t put it down. By the time I plopped myself down by the pool I was nearly done with it. The story itself was fascinating, but it was one particular character and a section on the science of why we run that grabbed my attention.

According to McDougall, the science behind why we run is that we evolved that way. Boiled down to its simplest terms, early man did not have the strength, speed or natural weapons to be able to kill its meal. What he developed was endurance. He would essentially run his prey to death. Running in a pack, he would jog after his target, which would sprint away and rest. He and the rest of the runners would simply keep jogging after it. The cycle would continue over several hours (about the time it takes us to run a marathon) until the prey would collapse from exhaustion. At that point,  he would jog up to the collapsed animal and kill it with ease. This way of tracking and eventually killing an animal is called persistence hunting. The hunts could last 20, 30, 40 miles, but inevitably, man would get his prey (and therefore a well deserved dinner). There were no running shoes back in the day. These early humans ran on the shoes nature had given them…their feet. Which brings me to Barefoot Ted.

Barefoot Ted was one of the more entertaining characters in Born To Run. The short story is that after years of running in pain and spending more and more money on more and more expensive shoes (I think his last pair had springs on the bottom), he finally got so fed up that in the middle of a run, he took his shoes off in disgust and ran home barefoot. Halfway through his run home he realized something. He was no longer running with pain. He has essentially run barefoot ever since. Occasionally when the terrain gets rough, he will slip on a pair of Vibram Five Fingers.

When I read that, I thought, “maybe Mike’s on to something.” As soon as I got back from our short vacation I went out and bought a pair of the VFF Sprints. That night I hopped on the treadmill and ran three miles in them.

It was one of the most painful things I had ever done. My shins hurt. My calves hurt. My ankles hurt. All that hurt was nothing compared to the next day when I could hardly walk. I called my buddy Mike and he laughed.

“Of course you hurt! You’re using muscles, ligaments and tendons that you haven’t used since you were a kid running around barefoot! You’re not supposed to run more than a mile the first time. It’s like learning to run again.” Gee, thanks. Nobody gave me a copy of the manual. I put the VFF’s away for a couple of weeks. I kept running in my regular shoes and the knee pain persisted. Finally I tried the Vibrams again. This time I ran easy. I did about 3 or 4 miles, but I did them slowly. They felt great. Over the next couple of weeks I built up to about 6 miles per run. I realized that my knee pain was essentially gone. Now, I won’t lie to you and say my knee was completely better. Every once in a while, if I stood just so, it would hurt. But for the most part, the pain was gone. I decided to follow in the steps of our ancestors, Barefoot Ted and my buddy Mike and go barefoot style completely.

When my marathon training reached its peak, my knee was fine. It would bother me a little now and again, but never to the extent that it had before. I am convinced it is because of the shoes.

Now there was a downside to switching to the VFF’s and not giving the transition its proper due. From everything I have read since one should take several months to transition permanently to the Vibrams.

I took two weeks.

I did not give the tendons in my feet ample time to strengthen. On the morning after what was supposed to be my second to last long run (a 19 miler), I woke up with a pain on the top of my right foot. I was afraid I had suffered a stress fracture. My doctor was convinced of the same and said I needed to take 6 – 8 weeks off. No running.

“But I have a marathon in 4 weeks!”

“Uh, no, you don’t. You need to take 6 – 8 weeks off”

“I’ll give you 2.”

“You’re going to run this marathon no matter what I say aren’t you?”

I nodded. I had spent the bulk of the summer training. I didn’t want to do all that training for nothing. She called me an idiot and told me to lay off for the two weeks and then get back into it slowly. I met her halfway by finding another marathon that took place two weeks later (Manchester). I took four weeks off and then eased back into the final two weeks.

Even after the grueling run at Manchester, the pain in my right foot has not returned. I am now convinced that it was tendinitis caused by my overly rapid transition into the VFF’s. From what I understand, wearing the Vibrams allows a certain amount of toeing off that you wouldn’t be able to do barefoot. This has been known to cause some tendon pain on the top of the foot in those who don’t take the time to transition properly (like me). All that said, almost 3 weeks later, I am running pain free and I am convinced that I am going to stay that way. I don’t foresee myself ever going back to regular running shoes.

If you are thinking about switching to the Vibrams, I would strongly suggest that you do it slowly. Maybe even find a transition shoe like the new Nike Free’s or the Biom running shoes to act as a bridge. Your feet will thank you. If you still think people are crazy to be running in these shoes, I would ask you to consider this. For millions of years we have run either barefoot or with thin sandals on our feet. Even up until the 1970’s we were essentially running in shoes that offered very little support or cushion.

Our feet were strong and sensitive – able to relay information quickly to the brain and allow us to adjust our footfalls rapidly. The modern running shoe has essentially taken them out of the equation by wrapping them up in a protective cocoon. Our feet have given up their job to all the cushioning and support supplied by the cozy blanket wrapped around them. They have fallen asleep…they’ve become soft.

You want to run like you did when you were a kid? Like you didn’t care about anything other than the wind in your hair and the laughter in the air? Wake your feet up. Vibrams are the vehicle to get you back to the joy of running…just do it slowly. No one, not even your feet like to be jarred awake!

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I need YOUR contributions to a project that I’m working on. Interested?

All you need to do is send me a paragraph or two telling me why you run and/ or why you think others should run. E-mail it to me at “runluaurun at gmail dot com” (written out so the bots don’t start sending me spam).

If you can, please include a picture of your favorite running shoes and tell me what kind of shoes they are. Also, please let me know how you would like to be referenced (real name, nickname, pseudonym, etc) just in case this project actually ever sees the light of day.

The more responses I get, the sooner I can put it all together, so please don’t be shy about forwarding this to your running friends and spreading the word.



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my "running shoes" after 13.1 miles

Yesterday I ran our local half marathon. After my experience at Manchester I looked to this race with a balance of excitement and fear. As I warmed up with a half mile jog I kept telling myself, “make Manchester count for something…make Manchester count for something…”

After my implosion during the second half of that race I was determined not to make the same mistakes.

“Don’t go out too fast!”

“Stay hydrated!”

“Run smart!”

As I fiddled with my gadgets (I ran with my iPhone running the Runkeeper program and a pair of Oakley Rockrs) and chit chatted with a good friend who was also running, I almost missed the starting gun.

Things didn’t start off well. Nothing came through the earbuds. No music. No voice cue from Runkeeper. I pulled the phone off my armband and tried to get it to work. Nothing. My legs kept moving but I had no idea how fast I was running (one of the cool features of The Runkeeper app is that it gives you average pace for your run). To make things more difficult, my sunglasses began to fog up. I was not only not hearing anything, now I couldn’t see! Finally, about 3/4 of a mile into the race I rebooted the program and got things going. Aaah, music! I looked up just in time to see my buddy Mike directing the runners around a corner. I waved, put my head down and finally began focusing on the race.

I passed the first mile marker, pressed the lap button of my watch and peered at the number through foggy glasses.


Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!

What had happened to “don’t go out too fast?” My pre-race goal was to run 1:35. I didn’t care about the seconds. If it had a 1:35 handle, I was going to be ecstatic. My strategy was to start in the 7:30/mile range and then run slowly progressive negative splits the rest of the way. A first mile 7:04 was NOT part of the plan! I slowed down ever so slightly and after about a quarter of a mile Runkeeper beeped and told me it was time to start a new half mile interval.


In my fumbling with my phone I had managed to restart the app 3/4 of a mile in. My stopwatch and Runkeeper were completely out of sync. “I am thinking too much about my gadgets dammit!” I said to myself. I decided to sync the watch with the app. For the next 3 miles, things were humming. I was consistenly running 3:20 half mile splits and every time Runkeeper mentioned my average pace, I was right where I wanted to be.

At about 4 1/4 miles I realized that I wasn’t getting my audio cue on my splits anymore. Then on the 35 minute cue, Runkeeper announced that my pace was 8:00/mile and I had run 3.5 miles. Somehow, today of all days, my phone had lost its GPS signal. Runkeeper had never failed me and it is my favorite app for my phone, but I guess it was Murphy’s Law that it was going to happen today! It was time to stop stressing the technology and just run. I had my music. I had my stopwatch. At mile 6 I tapped the lap button, took a sip of my honey water, put my head up and surveyed the thinning crowd.

From almost the start of the race I had been trailing a fellow runner. She had been on average about 10 – 15 yards ahead of me the whole race. Sometimes she would stretch her lead on me to about 30 – 40 yards, I’d reel her back in and then she’d stretch it out again. She did this over and over again throughout the first half of the race. She had no idea that she was pacing me or keeping me focused on the race for that matter. I was behind her the whole time.

At about 7 1/2 miles we approached the steepest hill in the race. She was about 20 yards ahead of me going into it. For no apparent reason, I decided it was time to experiment. An experienced runner who I had recently become friends with suggested that I lean slightly into hills to make the ascent a little easier. I thought to myself, “why not lean ALL the way in?” I must have looked absolutely ridiculous. I don’t know what I was thinking trying this in the middle of a race, but there I was, leaning into the hill like I wanted to kiss it. I could feel my legs kicking out behind me and then quickly catching my fall. I was literally falling UP the hill. Gravity was doing most of the work. When I got to top I looked up and there was the woman, not more that 3 feet in front of me. I had my hooks in her and I wasn’t letting go. We ran stride for stride over the next mile and a half. I made sure that I didn’t get uncomfortably close, but I wasn’t about to let her stretch it out again.

At mile 9 the two of us caught another runner as we approached a hard left turn on the course. She took him on the inside. I had been running just slightly behind her to the left so at this point I had no choice but to swing wide right and pass him that way. My plan going into the race was to hold steady for 10 miles and then push the final 5K hard. But as I passed this guy and saw the woman put a few more feet between us, a little voice in my head said, “Drop…the…Hammer!!!” And suddenly I was off. I left my lifeline and partner behind me and eyed the next runners ahead of me. Now for some reason, as I sped off, I got it in my head that I had just passed mile 10. Why? I have no idea. So when I did hit mile 10 a few minutes later, the wind was briefly taken out of my sails. I thought, “Oh, no! I’m gonna run out of gas!” But then a small miracle – a hill.

Before this race I would tell you that I hated hills. After the race, I will still probably tell you that I hate hills. But at that moment, in my particular state of mind I said to myself, “Yes! Time to kiss the ground!” I leaned far into the hill, my feet flailing behind me. As I hit the top of the hill I cruised past a group of 3 runners. There is the runner’s high, which I love. But there is another high – I don’t know if it has a name – the “I’m cruising past 3 runners as if they are standing still” high. I love that one too!

At this point I had the gas pedal floored and I wasn’t going to let up. I covered the next two miles in 13:30, picking off runners here and there. But now with a little over a mile to go I could see one more runner in front of me. He had to be a good 100 yards ahead of me. I thought, “there’s no way.” I could feel myself running out of gas. I had just covered the last 3 miles in just a touch over 20 minutes…faster than my sweet recovery run of the other day. I almost resigned myself to my place…”just hold on” I thought.

But then the next little miracle…well, three of them actually. I could hear my wife and two daughters yelling, “Go Daddy!!!” from across the street. As I peered through my foggy sunglasses I could just make them out, and then the headphones kicked in with the Rocky Theme. It was perfect. I waved as best I could and dashed off. As I rounded the corner, another hill! Yes! I pulled my new gravity move and flew up the hill. As I turn the next corner, the guy in front me was not more than 50 yards away. We had a half mile to go.

“Gonna Fly Now” rang in my ears. I was reeling this guy in. With a quarter mile to go he was 20 yards out. I was so focused on him, I nearly missed the big, lumbering man in a green shirt flying by me on the right. I panicked for just a moment and then actually heard my wife in my head say, “Oh no he di’n’t!”

150 yards to go and the three of us are racing for the finish line. I’m trailing both of them by about 10 yards, but Green Shirt obviously has used everything up passing me and the other guy is fading fast. I’m wondering if I’m going to run out of real estate. I’m pulling them in but I’m not sure if it’s going to be enough.

50 yards and I’m almost on their heels.




With less than 10 yards to go I catch them both and race into the chute ahead of them. I look up at the clock. 1:33:14!

I saw my buddy Mike with his family at the finish line. He looked at the time. He knew more than almost anyone what this time meant to me. I was 2 minutes under my goal and nearly 10 minutes better than my only other half marathon. I managed to finish 38th among 655 total runners and 9th among the men in my age group (which my wife will remind people I will only be part of for another month). What a high!!!

About 10 minutes later, I saw the woman who had carried me through the first 9 miles of the race. I thanked her. She smiled, not sure exactly what she had done to help me.

I was happy that I was able to take some of the lessons from Manchester and apply them to this race. But more importantly, I learned that making adjustments on the fly can make a huge difference. I’m not sure that the Falling Uphill move is for everyone. I’m not even sure I could pull it off again in a different race. But in this particular race, for this particular runner, it worked. I managed to climb three different hills letting gravity do most of the work. In each instance, I reached the top of the hill fresher than I had started at the bottom.

This race took away a lot of the self doubt that I felt from Manchester. I am now actually thinking of skipping both Disney AND Miami this January. My desire to run those races on short rest was predicated on the chance of qualifying for Boston 2010. Since that can’t happen now, I think that I am going to use this race as a building block. Perhaps I will finally try my hand at the Falmouth Half Marathon this February…the race that indirectly got this whole running thing started. Disney would be have been a panic race. I don’t need to panic anymore. I know I have a BQ in me and I know I have at least until September of 2010 to run it.

Meanwhile, if you see a someone flailing up a hill, face to the ground and legs flying backwards, yell out “Luau” and I’ll try to wave without falling flat on my face.

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So last night a good friend and fellow runner informed me that the Boston Marathon had closed registration for the upcoming 2010 event.  This was two months before the record closing from last year.  I had been convinced that I had until mid to late January to run another marathon in an attempt to qualify for this year’s race.   Disney or Miami – those were the two marathons I was looking at.  Based on my performance during the first half of the Manchester Marathon I thought I just had to run smarter and I would be fine.  Despite my awful crash and burn in the second half, I felt like I had learned a thing or two that I could take into the next marathon.

But then my friend emailed me and told me the news.  My first reaction was, “Okay, I can’t qualify for this year’s Boston.  How else can I get in?”  There are many charities that are awarded bib numbers that I could work with.  My friend who emailed me is running for the American Liver Foundation (if you have a moment, please check him out at http://liverrunner.blogspot.com ) and he suggested that there may be a few spots left on his team.  He also suggested running for Dana Farber.  Another running friend mentioned the Doug Flutie Foundation.  I went online and began checking out the various charities, wondering which would offer the easiest path to an official number.  They are all good and well deserving charities.

I never got past the splash pages for any of the charities, some of which are somewhat close to my heart.

The truth is I started this journey, this quest if you will, with one thing in mind.  I wanted to run a marathon and qualify for Boston.  I wanted to be able to say, “I am a Boston Qualifier!”  A few months back I saw a movie called “Spirit of a Marathon”.  The movie followed the paths of several different people, of various running skills, as they prepared for the Chicago Marathon.  One runner in particular put a lump in my throat.  He had run several marathons, always with the hope of qualifying for Boston.  He had had a good training cycle and thought that this year might be the year.

At one point he looks at the camera and says, “there are different levels of runners.  There are runners.  There are marathon runners.  And then there are Boston Qualifiers.”  I got chills hearing that.  My eyes even got a little leaky.  I was completely crushed when later in the documentary he injured himself and was unable to run.

I want to be on that level of Boston Qualifier.  I may never reach it.  I know there are ways to get in that are just as honorable.  There is nothing wrong with running to change and save lives.  It is just not the path that I want to take.

So now I know that I will not be running Boston in 2010.  I will still run part of it.  I plan on pacing my friend through parts of the race.  But I hope to still run Disney in January and run a qualifying time to apply to the 2011 race.  Just like a marathon itself – you get hit with bumps and challenges.  The key is to power through them and achieve the goal.

That is my quest.

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People keep reminding me that recovery and rest are part of training. I consistently have a hard time with this concept, despite the fact that I’ve experienced the negative impact of not listening to my body and allowing it to heal, rest and recover.

This last week and a half however I’ve had no choice. 26.2 miles will do that to you I guess. Today I finally went out for a run. Yes, I had gone out for a jog the Tuesday after the race and then again earlier this week, but in both cases, my run was slow and deliberate. My legs would only do so much and that was it. Any harder and my quads would have taken me back to mile 20. I started to have doubts as to whether I could actually run a decent race at this Sunday’s Chilly Half Marathon. I began rationalizing my race results, almost assuming that my original idea of trying to threaten a sub 1:35:00 was out of the question.

So I rested…until today.

And today’s run was sweet. Yes, it was only 5 miles. Yes, I was originally planning to plod along again today. And yes , the first mile was a pokey 8:45. But the moment I started mile 2, something in me revved up. The engine wanted to be let loose.

You see, over the last year I’ve discovered that when I don’t run I get antsy and cranky and grumpy. I start walking around in circles, bumping into walls, just not sure what to do with myself. I think that’s why recovery is so hard for me. I like the drug that is the runner’s high. It’s clean; it’s pleasant and when you’re down from your high, you still feel good. I needed a fix!

So I loosened up the throttle and let the engine rip. By the end of mile 2 I was feeling it. I ran completely oblivious to any pain for the next two miles and then coasted the last mile, riding the remnants of the wave. I never know how long the runner’s highs will last so I milk them for all they’ve got. I ran the last 4 miles of my run in under 28 minutes and the last 3 in 20:20. I haven’t run that fast outdoors for that long since high school, and back then I hated it!

My point is that if I hadn’t taken it easy the last week and a half, I probably would not have had this sweet, sweet run this morning. I’d probably still be trudging along, pulling at my quads and looking at this weekend’s race as a task. I still may crash and burn. A lot can happen in 13.1 miles, but at least my attitude now is that I am gonna try to crush it.

Recovery I guess, as everyone keeps telling me, is a good thing. Now I just hope I can apply the lessons I learned at Manchester and put in a smart race.

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Manchester Marathon 2009

I started running a year ago. Four months ago I decided to run a marathon with the hopes of qualifying for Boston. I was training to run Bay State in Lowell, MA with the hopes of running a 3:20:59 or better to BQ. Injury interrupted my training over the last 6 weeks and I was forced to stop running for four weeks, pass up Bay State and run the more challenging Manchester Marathon instead two weeks later. My last long run (19 miles) was 6 weeks before Manchester and I started running again 12 day before the race, never running more than 7 miles in those last days.

The hills were killer…felt like they went for miles at times…though they didn’t really start getting to me until about 15. The thing I think what really killed me though was that I didn’t hydrate enough (both before and during) and the pacer I was following went out at a blistering 6:30 pace…he was the 3:25:00 pacer…I’m thinking I’ll follow this guy for 18 miles and then crush it at the end…instead he raced out and mentally I was screwed.
“Dude, you think 6:30 might be a little fast?”
“Huh…yeah, I guess I better slow down.” Ya think? I tried slowing down, but I kept worrying about slowing down too much. Lesson? Don’t follow the pacer…you know what’s too fast or too slow. You’ve been training for weeks. If you can keep your adrenaline in check, you’ll know. ***and just in case I can’t, I’m bringing my iPhone with Runkeeper running to tell me my pace every 1/4 mile!!!***

All that said though, by mile 3 my head was back in it and I was cruising, feeling great. I wasn’t thinking about my depleted stores of glycerin, nor was I thinking about sticking to my original game plan. The pacer had taken me out fast and dammit, I was gonna try and keep a decent pace!

Hydrating was tough. I kept getting water up my nose…I learned three days too late the art of the crushed cup. When I hit the half at 1:35, I was pumped, but going over the bridge to the western part of town I hit a huge, HUGE headwind and hill. Knocked my pace down 70 seconds or so. Got back on track on the next mile, but I think the damage had been done…I started thinking about the fact that I was doing this all over again…it didn’t help that at 13.1, most of the people I had been running with peeled off to finish their half marathon…we went from a group of 8-12 to 3…that was disheartening…suddenly it was lonely…which is weird because I run alone usually. I’ll very happily run 14 -18 miles alone early on a Sunday morning, either enjoying the peace and quiet or plugged into some pounding music. Truth is, after 13.1 miles with complete strangers, battling the same hills, a bond is formed. I wanted my unit to run with me…instead I was very quickly a unit of one. …14 was a killer and then 16 hit me like a ton of bricks…I trudged along to 20 at a miserable 9:00 pace not realizing that the wall that hit me at 16 was nothing compared to the pain that was waiting for me at 20.

I kept thinking, “just make it to 20 and then drop the hammer. It’s only a 10K at that point. Shoot! It’s only 2 5K’s. What’s 3 miles? Nothing! I can do 3 miles hungover! I still have an outside shot at 3:20:00. Just make it to 20 and then drop the hammer. Put the foot on the gas!”. I continued to push myself along in this manner. I knew the minutes were ticking away and that my chances of qualifying for Boston were slipping away, but dammit if I wasn’t going to make it close!!!

Almost to the marker, my quads, both of them, froze. I came to a dead stop and couldn’t move for about 2 minutes. Tick! Tick! Tick! Time was slipping away. Boston was disappearing into thin air. My thoughts of a 3:10:00 first marathon were long gone at 16. Now 3:20:59 was crumbling. I wondered if I could finish. My legs wouldn’t bend…at all!!! I thought about quitting. I thought about my family waiting at 24.5. I was suddenly overcome with a sense of peace regarding Boston. All that training…all of the hard work would now have to be summoned up to finish this race. I slowly started walking like Frankenstein’s monster. After about 100 yards I could bend my knees just a little…another 200 yards and I broke into a very poor excuse of a jog…from that point on it was will power and nothing else that was moving me. Off and on the legs would freeze and I’d have to stop. It took me 20 minutes to get from 20 to 21. At 24.5 I saw the family, dug deep, put on a smile and broke into a jog. I went around the corner knowing I had about 1.2 to go…I’m screaming at my legs to bend, but I’m struggling. As I turned the final corner I saw the clock…I had found peace in the fact that I wasn’t going to qualify but I saw the clock…it said 3:54:14…at that moment I found one last gear…I wasn’t coming in over 3:55…I actually ran the last 50 yards or so…clock said 3:54:46…net time ended up being 3:54:04…next time I’m eating more bananas to keep the potassium levels up…2 days later I wanted another shot at it…trying to convince the family to head to Disney for the Disney Marathon!

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