Home

It is 10:45 and I am standing in coral six, wave three, The Boston Marathon. Waiting to start. Those final few minutes when you can either look around and take it ALL in or fret about something, anything, everything. You’re about to head downhill on one of the greatest days of your life. Suddenly, what I am thinking about is rain. At that moment, when we least needed it, we get a short but soaking shower.

Five hours earlier, standing at the door of the club bus that will take us to Hopkinton I am in a debate. Take my jacket with me on the bus or send it with one of the Somerville Road Runners who will get it to our club water stop on the course at the 30K mark. Last night the weather people had told us it would be mostly dry until noontime and then some showers. I could wait and pick up the jacket at 30K, if I needed it, or bring take it with me to the start. At the last moment, I said, “thanks, I’ll take it with me.”

My morning went perfectly; bus ride, PB&J sandwiches, banana, port-o-potties, chit-chat with fellow club members, and a little rest. Finally it’s time to get ready. Body Glide everywhere, last choice about the number of shirts, where to pin my number, and what’s in each pocket (three jells, two in the jacket, one in the shorts, gloves and a winter hat in the jacket). I put on fresh, new socks, tie the shoes and we are ready to go. A group of us start off together for the nearly mile long hike to the start. So many people, so much excitement. I make one last stop at the port-o-potties behind the market and then up and into my coral. Then it rains.

The start of the Boston Marathon is just incredible. Although it is my 5th I’m still thrilled by the experience. TV cameras, people cheering, and a feeling of incredible joy from everyone around you. Nothing beats crossing that line. The first couple of times I cried, not today, I’m a big boy and am ready to run.

Miles 1 to 5: Steeply downhill and crowded, off we go. Everyone is being well-behaved and running at a pace that suits me. I managed to hold back and cruise along. Cannot miss the first landmark, the biker bar and even through it is misting and cold, they are out in force.

Miles 6 to 10: Time to settle in and just cruise. I slide right into my marathon pace and am running relaxed. I do check my watch a bit, but only to be sure I am going slowly enough. I need to pee and I go by several port-o-potties with lines but I’m not stopping to wait in line. Then I see a row of port-o-potties sort of hidden off to the side and swing in and out in a flash. I could have waited but decided that getting it out-of-the-way would free my mind for better things.

Miles 11 to 16: Now I am working a bit. It is cold, wet and starting to be windy. But I feel under control. I eat two jells around mile 15 and although they make me gag, a little, they go down and cause no issues.
As I go through Wellesley Hills I see the oddest thing, a clown, in full makeup and costume standing by the side of the road. So creep and a good reason to pick it up a bit. Mile 15 is a huge downhill to Newton Lower Falls. And then it begins, the real race.

By now I realize that had I not taken my jacket, well I would have been in bad shape. It has rained on and off all race, plus we have had a couple of downpours and it has gotten colder. When we were going through Wellesley I heard people around us talking about the wind and the cold. I knew what was going on, the wind had turned hard, out of the east. In the spring in Boston when the wind blows off the cold Atlantic Ocean it get very cold, very quickly. East wind is cold, east wind is a headwind. East wind is no fun. But I had my jacket on, zip right up to my chin, with two shirts under it, like it had been since I started.

Now the 4 hills of Newton (16 to 21) and I am having to work really hard. My splits jump up, but honestly, I had no clue. At this point I was just running. Never looked at the watch again until mile 26. Just doing the best I could, a little faster going downhill, and slower going up the hills.
Saw the November Project gang at mile 18 and wow, what a group. Energy times 10. Then my running club was set up at 30K and gave me a little emotional boost.

21 to the end: Once I got over HBH I was just hanging on for dear life. So cold, so wet, I knew that if I stopped, even for a moment, I would be done. So, I used every mental trick that I have ever talked about to will myself to just keep running. I never looked at my watch, never thought about stopping at a water stop or even taking water. I was so wet I could not imagine drinking anything. Don’t look left, don’t look right, just keep moving. Because I know the course so well I could just will myself to the next land mark, the next corner, the next mile marker. I have never been so happy to see that hill over the Mass Pike knowing that just on the other side, in front of my favorite restaurants, Eastern Standard, is a sign painted on the road, “One Mile To Go!”
And I made it. Finally, during the run down Boylston, I did take a look around and really enjoy what was happening. I had my hand over my heart twice, as I passed the sites of the two bombings. Was so thrilled to cross that line and I nearly cried.2015 Boston Finish

I celebrated a little, hugged a few strangers and then I had to go into super survival mode. Instantly I was way too cold. I moved quickly to collect my metal, get the heat shield and get to the family and friends. Took 10 minutes or so and by then I was shivering and crazed.

They had warm, dry clothing for me, and we quickly found a cab and went right to a hot shower.
As always, I managed to throw up, but only once and by the time we got to 6 or 7 I was feeling pretty, well, OK. We went out to dinner, Eastern Standard of course, and celebrated. I was, ridiculously happy. By Tuesday morning, I was feeling great, no hang over at all. Not even stiff or sore.

I am really proud of those last 5 miles. For me the Marathon is a mental as well as physical battle. I have given in too easily at times in the past. It would have been so easy to give up. It took a real serious effort on my part to just grind it out. It was not the time I wanted, but it was a good time, a Boston Qualifying time. BQs are hard, BQs are serious and should always be celebrated.

I’m obsessed with Boston. Although I am old, I will keep trying to qualify for and run The Marathon as long as I can. Who doesn’t love competition?

One Boston Day

04/13/2015

On Marathon Monday, two years ago two men did horrid things – then thousands of people did heroic, kind, wonderful, heart-warming, brave things for people in need. That day people went out-of-the-way to do good for people they did not even know.

I was one of those lucky people. Half a mile from the finish line, tried, cold, sick and scared and so many people helped me. They gave their jacket, offered me water, let me use their phones, patted my back, told me it was going to be OK, and yes, gave me a hug.
This Wednesday, on the 2nd anniversary of the bombings, I ask my fellow November Project tribes to honor that spirit and assisting others with acts of kindness.

“One Boston Day will inspire all of us to come together as the community we are and share the spirit of Boston by giving back,” said Mayor Walsh.
November Project is about hard-core exercise and competition. As importantly it is about community, friendship and belonging. After all we hug strangers.

Brogan, one morning at the Stadium said something like, “Bostonians can be jerks but while you’re here, we are going to be nice.” Now we can take being nice out into the world.

On Wednesday, One Boston Day, I ask you to do something nice for someone you don’t know. Do something nice for someone in need. Make the world a little better place by saying good morning to a stranger. Go way out on a limb and give someone a huge. It will make you smile. It will make Boston and even better place.

#TheTribeIsStrong
#TheTribeCares

I’m a runner. Being a runner has exposed me to a lot of wonderful places. Running through the English countryside, running the Boston Marathon, running in London, the south of France, the streets of San Francisco. I have also enjoyed memorable running experiences, a great work out with a group of friends, surviving a horrid rain storm, running mile repeats till you drop, racing with a wicked competitive bunch of guys just for the fun of it. Recently I had a run that combined those two, a memorable location and an incredible experience. But it’s not what you would expect.

I have been running the stadium with November Project for a while now. There are 37 sections in Harvard Stadium each section with 31 seats and 62 steps from top to bottom. We run up the seats and then go down the steps. It is really hard, an undeniable tough workout. The only way to be really good at it, is to be fit.

Wednesday, February 11th, 5:30 am, Harvard Stadium.

But on this morning it was different. More than 100 inches of snow had fallen this winter in Boston and so most of the sections were chest deep in snow. But an intrepid group of NP members had shoveled out 4 sections. By shoveled out I mean, there was a path up and path down surround by huge piles of snow. The temperature was 19°, the wind was 11 cold MPHs, and it was dark.

A group of us gathered, bounced, hugged and made merry. Then it was time to go to work. Here is the workout we were told, run the 4 sections, then drop down below the stands and run back to the beginning and start over. Repeat as many times as you can in 40 minutes.

Garmin was confused. There was snow!

Garmin was confused. There was snow!

Off we went, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, sprint back to the beginning and do it again. I had not completed more than a couple of circuits when it became clear that a woman and I were locked in a duel. First one of us would pull ahead, then the other would come back, then one of us would get just a bit ahead. Back and forth we went, and as we did the, up, down, up, down, we encouraged each other, raced each other, cheered each other, competed, and talked. “How many is that?” “How many more can we do?” “How are you so dam fast?”

When I got to the top of the stadium and turned to start down it felt like I was at the top of a snow-capped mountain. Snow everywhere, wind whipping, cold, icy, dark. But there, all around me, were others, working as hard as they could, having a blast, racing, cheering, and laughing.

The experience was magical. The setting, the running, the people, the competition. It is a day that I will remember, it is a workout that I will remember, and it is a race that I will remember for a long time. November Project has a saying that their workouts will be, “the best part of your day.” On this day it was never more true.

photo credit: @dkathunt

photo credit: @dkathunt

So because I #RaceEveryThing (another NP saying) I can tell you that I completed 42 sections that morning. Who won? Me or her? Well, that day we both won, just by being there.

You can come too – Just Show Up.

 

 

 

 

 

If your interested, here is a video of racing the stadium, without snow. That is me at 34 seconds finishing the last section.

October 10th, 2004. Chicago.

My 1st FinishWas my hardest physical challenge ever. Was not pretty. Was not all that fast. Was not all that slow. Was an event that changed me. Was an event that inspired me.

Ten years later, four Chicagos, four Bostons, Bay State, Marine Corps, and Eugene plus a DNF in Philadelphia.

There is some thought that it is time for me to hang up the Marathon shoes. But that is a thought that I shall leave for another day.

Today I celebrate ten years of running and racing. I do love Marathon training and the challenge of racing Marathons. Competition is fun, I like to win. When you race Marathons you are competing against the event and yourself to be the very best you can. You need to be brave, you need to be willing to fail. Once committed to a race, to a time, it is hard to turn back.
Marathon racing has brought me huge highs, my 1st Boston Qualifier, 2009, Chicago.
But also terrible lows, Boston 2013.

I can really tell you why. Why I am so fascinated with this race. I can only tell you that for the last ten years, I have loved doing them.
Thanks goes to my family who have supported me these last ten years. It has been hard, I acknowledge and I do appreciate your efforts.

What will the next ten years bring? Hopefully I will keep on racing. Perhaps.

Mile 26

Mile 26 Chicago

Runners World asked, “What do you do after a bad race?”

I responded, “First I throw up and then I cry.”

I’m sure they took it as a bit of a joke, however, it is not far from what I did after Boston this year.

What have I done since? I’ve run, I’ve raced and I have gotten healthy.

Just six days after Boston I ran the James Joyce 10K and had fun. Then in June I did the Hollis Fast 5K and then the BAA 10K. No PRs, but good solid times. Plus, no pains, no injuries, no throwing up and no crying. I just had fun running.

I also started hanging out with the November Project. Wednesdays we run the steps at Harvard Stadium. Fridays we run the hill on Summit Avenue in Brookline. Hard workouts, different than running just more miles and the drills are interesting, the people are fun and the leaders are super charismatic.

So, what do I do after a bad race? I stew over it for a few days, then I get back out there and do what I like to do – run.

 

 

@Nov_Project   @runnersworld

Brave

06/29/2014

 

 

BM-2014-Pace

 

70 days since The Marathon.

When you race Marathons you have to be willing to run on the edge.
In order to get those really good times you have to get on the edge right from the start.
You cannot play it safe.

I was not going for a really good time. I was going for what should have been reasonable, do able, safe.
I was playing it safe.
You just never know.

12 miles of nice, even, safe splits. Half marathon split just where I wanted it to be.

When I could not manage to run down the hill to Newton Lower Falls I knew my day was done.
I walked another mile to The Firehouse and dropped out.

To race Marathons you have to be brave. You have to be able to accept that failure.

I’m not, willing to accept failing, so racing Marathons is tough.

He is the deal, I was crushed and sad that I failed. However, in the big picture, it just does not [really] matter, the world goes on. It still hurt.

The_bib

 

 

 

 

It is not very catch title, but I think, it is the way to think about running The Marathon, Boston. It is a different kind of course and you have to approach with thought. So here is how I go:

5 – The first 5 miles are downhill, steeply so at first. Between the hill and the excitement it is very easy to run this too fast. But don’t, the pounding your legs will take will come back and get you in Newton. Take the 1st mile easy, super easy, use the 1st five miles to settle yourself into the race. Let everyone pass you. It will pay you back later.

10 – The next 10 miles are more or less flat. A bit of up and down, just enough to keep everything working. Now is the time to settle into the Marathon Goal Pace. Watch the world go by, make sure you eat and drink on your plan, smile at the spectators, relax, have fun. You can really enjoy the Marathon experience here.

1 – As you come out of Newton Highlands at mile 15 you will face a huge steep downhill run to Newton Lower Falls and the crossing of the Charles River. Be careful! I train on the course year round and have run this hill a number of times. I can tell you, from having run up it, it is steep. Tippy-toe down the hill, save your quads, you are about to need them.

5 – The Newton Hills begin as soon as you cross the river in Newton Lower Falls. Four hills in all – Hospital, Firehouse, Kelley and finally Heartbreak. Hospital first, up and over the expressway, this can be a bit of a lonely hill but have no fear, the crowds are waiting, just ahead. After the Hospital you have a slight grade down to the Firehouse turn. There is a water stop here between the Hospital and the Firehouse, a great place to get a big drink, take some food and mentally prepare. Now comes, what is for me, the hardest hill, Firehouse. After running 17 ½ miles the course makes its first turn, a hard right and then up you go. The crowds are back in force, use them. After cresting Firehouse you slide slowly down to the base of Kelley. So named because off to the left is the dual Statue of Kelley. (A legend of the marathon) The shortest, this one for me is only a mental challenge. This is another hill that after the crest, you get a bit of downhill run to recover. Then a little flat section and the most famous hill in Marathoning is before you. Up you go and you are rewarded by a pack of spectators and just over the top, mile 21.

5 – The last 5 are mostly downhill but with nothing steep. People everywhere and an unreal energy. Before long you see the towers of Back Bay, Fenway Park, and the Citgo sign. As you go over the Mass Pike now is the time to really take it all in. Love that run through Kenmore Sq. (look right to see my go-to-restaurant, Eastern Standard Kitchen and Drink) then under Mass Ave and then just one right, one left and there it is – Finish.

There it is, 5 miles, down the hills, easy, a 10 mile cruise, then a-tiptoe down the hill, 4 Hills and then 5 easy downhill miles to a great finish.

Good luck – see you there!