Boston, inspiration, marathon, racing

Back from the Boston Marathon 2014

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Boston Marathon poster 2014: Poster Gallery

Note: I wrote this on the plane home from Boston, fell asleep and neglected to edit and post it for one solid month. How’s that for grade-A procrastination.

A bad, short training season, low thyroid and vitamin deficiency 

In the weeks leading up to the Boston Marathon, I was depressed, and not in an AJ Soprano, I’m-gonna-drown-myself-in-the-pool sort of way, but as in, my whole body was physically tired and I was seriously concerned I wasn’t going to be able to run a marathon. Especially one as hill-acious as Boston.

I was so tired just a month before the race, that I was falling asleep, literally, in the middle of the day at work. I was taking four-hour naps on a Sunday. I was struggling to keep up with my running contemporaries. I was failing to maintain my typical tempo pace, even during a 15k race.

I finally went to the doctor for lab work, which showed low thyroid.

Nothing new — my thyroid has been low for almost 10 years that I know of. Every six months, doc increases my dosage a bit. This time, after the labs, the doc’s assistant called to say I was very low in vitamin D as well. What does that mean, I asked the assistant, who replied, “It means you need to take a supplement.” Thanks for that flippin’ wealth of information, lady.

So she told me to start taking D supplement and to pick up a new more-potent RX for Synthroid. On my own — thanks, Google — I learned that D deficiency makes it tougher to absorb synthetic thyroid. That made me feel better — like I had a lead. I did as instructed and also began taking a multivitamin with iron every night. I never had done this for long because vitamins usually make me puke. But taking it at night on a half-full stomach (because I never eat dinner ‘til like 9, at least) and then going to bed made it work.

Ok, back to Boston training.

So, within about 10 days of this vitamin supplementation, I was no longer taking George Costanza-style naps at work. I felt markedly better. And my last long run of 16 miles, which was eight days before the marathon, felt OK. Not fabulous, but OK. And I started getting excited about Boston.

Fine-tuning my attitude 

The week leading up to the race was production week at work, so I was too busy to get too panicked.

I made it a point to do a (relative) lot of running with friends who I enjoy being around. Talking to them helped me put things in perspective. If I am all worried about my personal time and performance this year, after what the city of Boston and the marathon participants experienced last year, I am a selfish asshole. Basically.

I was going to be in Boston on the day that the city, the runners and all the fans of the sport take back Patriot’s Day. That alone was a reason for insurmountable gratitude. Though I trained hard, the time on the clock this day would be secondary.

In the days leading up to race day, I hardly checked the weather. Usually I check compulsively starting 10 days out. I was not as worried this time.

I was a little concerned about finding my way around the city — and I had every right to be — but about the race itself, I was not freaking out.

I am not religious, but I do frequently chat with the god of my understanding (a.k.a. pray) and when I was praying about this race, I got the distinct message to let go.

Getting there 

I did the carb-starve and carb load the same as I did before Louisiana. This has become a very important step in my improvement at long distances. See this post for a more-detailed explanation.

Leaving on a Sunday was nice because I had all day Saturday to pack and rest up.

I left Dallas at 6:30 Easter morning and arrived at Boston at 11 a.m. I got confused about the location of my hotel in relation to the marathon expo. Note to future Boston travelers: there are two convention centers in Boston. The Boston Convention Center is not where the marathon expo is. It is adjacent to my hotel. All along I was thinking my hotel was outside the expo, but it actually was three miles away.

OK, so that meant I was lugging my suitcase 1.2 miles up Boylston Street to the Hynes Convention Center. The crowd thickened as I progressed up the street. Congregants were exiting en masse following Easter service at the church, and I rolled over a kid’s foot with my suitcase and he commenced screaming.

I finally realized why thousands of people, including TV reporters and cameramen every few yards, were crammed together here in the street. I was at the Finish Line. Before I knew it I, and my suitcase, was stepping over the iconic blue paint, and my head was buzzing with the voices of hundreds of runners and running fans, speaking in myriad languages. Tons of people were already donning the bright orange 2014 Boston Marathon jackets, and reporters were stopping them for interviews. It all was, as one of my friends later said, surreal.

I took a very deep breath as images from last year’s bomb aftermath bloodbath filled my head. I was a little distressed that the Finish Line was not as somber as one might expect — instead there was giddiness and photo snapping and selfies. I get it, but it was unsettling.

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The Finish Line, Sunday

I found a back entrance to the race expo—thank God because security was examining bags and I had a freaking suitcase with me.

Got the shirt/number and hauled ass to the nearest exit, where I easily caught a cab to my hotel. I wanted nothing more than to rid myself of that horrid suitcase.

The Westin Boston Waterfront is really nice and a little removed from the chaos, which is good for me. I rested for a couple hours and then walked over to a pub where I got a pre-race dinner, baked mac and cheese, at about 4:30 p.m.

Usually before a marathon I eat my last big meal at like 1-2 p.m., but since this thing was starting at 10:25 a.m., I figured I’d eat later.

I actually feel asleep easily after watching a Boston Marathon special narrated by Ben Affleck. It featured a guy who was found after the bomb clutching his own disembodied leg. He got married this past week at Fenway Park.

I woke a few times in the night, but slept OK, considering it was race night.

Race Day

Getting to Hopkinton was smooth. I had been to Boston Marathon back in 2011, but I stayed in Framingham, so didn’t get the full experience hopping on one in a massive fleet of county school busses. A convoy of yellow busses carried more than 35,000 runners to a town 26 and-a-half miles away. On the bus, I met runners from Jersey, Ontario, New York, other parts of Texas, San Diego … you name it.

Upon arrival in Hopkinton, a temporary “Athlete’s Village” houses the marathon entrants.

Again, there are runners from all over the world. Boston is one of those races where you have to wait around for a long time pre race. It can be chilly, so people wear warm clothes that they can discard prior to the race. Therefore, you see a lot of folks walking around Athlete’s Village in funny getups — men in thrift-store suits, people in funky old coats and sweaters, three guys were in Breaking Bad style lab suits and one couple was wearing what looked like their hotel bath robes.

I fortunately ran into two friends, Brent and Ally from the WRRC, right off the bus.

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Ally and I: Don’t sue me Marathon Photo

We hung for a while. Brent who’s planning a 2:50 marathon started in the wave before us. Ally and I got in the bathroom line. And waited, oh, 45 minutes. We were supposed to head to the start at 9:50 and were still in line at 10. Nightmare. All around us people were dropping drawers and letting it all out on the grass. We opted to wait for the box. It was ugly out there. There were not enough toilets for 36,000 participants. I cannot imagine being one of the volunteers who had to clean up that dump after we left. Bless them.

Once your wave is released from the Athlete’s Village, you walk almost a mile to the Starting Line. By now the elites and the top-of-the-field runners have started.

My wave’s corral had started by the time I got to the line, but I tried not to panic. One volunteer told me: Don’t worry. The time doesn’t start until you cross the mat. So I took a minute to stretch and breath, and then I jumped in with wave 2 corral 4.

Action

The first mile of Boston is fast no matter what. It is very downhill, and people are lining the roads screaming. I mean just bellowing like soccer fans.

I thought I remembered the course as all-downhill the first half, but it is far from that. It is net down, but there are rolling hills through this entire race.

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My fellow White Rock Running Co-op members captured this image on TV. That is me 🙂

At the start, the temps are OK. It’s in the mid-50s, but it’s been worse. See 2012. I consider running at the pace of my last marathon, about a 7:20 minute mile, which seems doable for about 30 minutes. It becomes very clear that the temps are rising quickly and by mile six people are mumbling about the heat. Layers of jackets, long sleeved shirts, mittens and arm warmers are flying from the course (anyone who started with a jacket on was just in all-out denial anyway).

At that point I decide to run by heart rate for a while. The Coach and I had discussed an acceptable range and agreed that exceeding that range early on would spell certain bonk. It was tough though, with the rolling hills, to keep my heartbeat in range. I knew I could not afford to tax myself too much early on, because I remembered how tough the Newton Hills are.

Around mile 5 maybe, we pass a bar with a parking lot full of what appears to be a Hells Angels-type biker gang. They are going nuts. One girl near me says, “A gang of bikers at a bar at 10 a.m. cheering for a bunch of marathon runners.”

The crowds along the race route never thin. There are some deeper, more-intense crowds at certain points, but there never is a quiet moment. It always is a sea of runners ahead and a throng of screaming fans on both sides essentially for 27+ miles.

Going through Framingham (mile 8), the spectators roar with marked excitement and I see ahead that I’m passing the famous Team Hoyt. This is a father son team that has run the Boston Marathon for decades straight. Theirs is an amazing story.

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Team Hoyt: Vimeo

I try to take Shot Blocks every 20 minutes; I took an S Cap electrolyte tab before and during the race; I sip water and pour the rest on me at most water stops. By noon it is in the mid 60s. Great for spectating; bad for marathoning. By mile 13, when we run through the Wall of Sound at Wellsley College my legs are sore. The downhill is rough on the quads. The raucousness of that crowd propels me for the next 5k, which is where the Newton Hills begin. At this point my pace had fluctuated between 7:20 and 7:5x minute miles. My slowest miles are through the hills, but I feel surprisingly not bad. First, my legs actually find some relief running up. It’s like an opportunity for my quads to rest. Second, I begin passing a lot of people. Entering Newton, I see several runners full-stop at water stops or walk or wander over to the med tent. You don’t see this on a good day in Boston.

Heartbreak Hill is not necessarily a bad hill. Loving Hill in East Dallas is decidedly more intense. It is just the placement that makes it so tough. It is the highest of several hills that follow some serious rollers that are net downhill. It is just a really tough terrain to train your body for if you do not live in Boston.

But I think with the right mindset, these hills are not so intimidating; they are all short. None last more than about a quarter mile, I think.

Now, the best part of my race comes after Heartbreak Hill. I know I am overheating, but I am stoked after making it through Newton and there is a long downhill and there is an awesome group of Boston College kids along said downhill and I give one of them a high five and the others start going nuts and slapping my hand and it is like, neverending. I high-five probably 50 people there. I am whoo-hooing and thanking them and then — good times end — the wave of nausea hits. Dizziness. OK. Calm down, I say. I retreat to the opposite side of the course where there are no geeky-cute 20-year olds tempting me with their high-fives.

With five miles to go, there are people walking. Guys cramping up and hobbling. Mile 22-24 is the worst. I am in serious pain in my quads and I am red, sunburned and I just felt red-hot, like my face is going to explode. At each water stop, the water on my face feels heavenly. During the last third of the race it is between 65-70 degrees. It is not the worst conditions you can get, but it sure ain’t the best.

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Pain train and finally finished: stolen photos

I am pretty happy to see Brent W, another member of the WRRC who was out with an injury but cheering, at mile 24.

After that I am praying hard. “Carry me home, please!”

Every other race or marathon I run, this is the point where it hurts so bad that I’ll come up with any reason to slow to a more comfortable pace (a walk seems preferable). My reason, usually is, “Oh there’s no reason to kill yourself; it isn’t Boston or anything.” But today, I did not have that one.

“It is Boston,” I tell myself. “Hold nothing back.”

The turn onto Boylston Street is bittersweet. I am trying to take in the scene. The crowds. The history of this race. The buildings and businesses that suffered in the wake of last year’s destruction. But, argh, it hurts bad. I can see the finish now but it is so far. I am just over 3:20 and I can see the Finish. I am pushing. I feel a pain equivalent to that of giving birth. It is that pain that you would never tolerate if you didn’t know that a) it would end soon and b) the reward would be worth it.

Then I step across the line. I think my time (by my watch) is 3:23, but later learn it’s officially 3:24:00.

I struggle to stay upright, but I have a huge smile on my face. The people are still lining the section after the finish line, cheering for us. At the end, runners walk “Mile 27” — stop at medical if you need, get water, food, your medal, check the leaderboard (American Meb Keflezighi won!) and finally exit at Boston Commons. As we limp outside the official corridors of the race, a massive mob of Bostonians stand, hooting and hollering “You did it!” You beat them!” “We beat them!” They are speaking, of course, about them — the young terrorists who wreaked havoc on this city last Patriots Day. “Thank you for running!” they shouted.

“Thank you. Thank you so much,” I answer. And some tears come out of my face.

Post race reflection, gratitude 

That night, as I celebrated with friends at a Boston bar, I fully appreciated the sadness that must have engulfed this city following the last marathon. One friend mentioned how he felt guilty even going to eat at a restaurant that night and retreated to the suburbs for dinner, out of respect. Many runners packed up and went home that night; those who couldn’t hid out in their hotel rooms, feeling sickened.

It was a stark contrast to this year. The whole town filled with runners. Every business in Boston sported a motivational running sign in the window. Random citizens stopped runners to thank them for being here. Fun-loving, money-spending, crazy tourist marathoners fill the bars and restaurants.

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Dallas runners/Boston Strong

At the celebration with my D-town team, one of our more-seasoned runners, “Coach Steve,” made a toast:

“A year ago,” he says, “they stole our opportunity to celebrate. A year later, we are back … and I am so proud of everyone … Boston Strong 2014.”

Cheers ensued.

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Boston, marathon

Dallas runners remember, return to Boston Marathon

White Rock Running Co-op members Brent Yost, Grant Wickard, Ann Marie Brink, Brent Woodle, Allyson Gump. Kristi Madden and Steve Monks completed the 2013 Boston Marathon. Most of them are returning in 2014. Photo courtesy Brent Yost
White Rock Running Co-op members Brent Yost, Grant Wickard, Ann Marie Brink, Brent Woodle, Allyson Gump. Kristi Madden and Steve Monks completed the 2013 Boston Marathon. Most of them are returning in 2014. Photo by Greg Brink

Originally printed in the East Dallas Advocate Online Magazine.

A year after the terroristic and deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon, members of the White Rock Running Co-op say they are grateful to be returning to the 2014 race.

Lochwood resident James Ayers had departed the race grounds an hour or so before hell broke loose last year.

He left Boston last year grateful for he and his wife Amber’s safety (she was waiting for him near the finish line), impressed by Boston’s swift resilience and determined to return. But, like the rest of the day’s marathoners, bafflement and depression trumped a wide range of other feelings.

A sub-three hour marathoner, James handily qualified for the 2014 marathon, and the couple decided returning to this year’s race would be a privilege.

“Being a part of this year’s race is important to me because of its significance. This particular race seems to epitomize overcoming adversity. The belief that we press forward in life despite difficult situations and circumstances is something that is important to me,” Ayers says. “To see the way the city came together after last year’s horrific events was incredible. I don’t doubt that this year’s race and the events that surround it during Patriot’s day will serve as another chance for the city to move on and become stronger. It will be a special day for the city and one that I am very proud to be a part of.”

White Rock Running Co-op members Brent Woodle, Adam Rubin and James Ayers will run the 2014 Boston Marathon: Photo by Mark Olajetu
White Rock Running Co-op members Brent Woodle, Adam Rubin and James Ayers will run the 2014 Boston Marathon: Photo by Mark Olajetu

He adds that he thinks this year’s race will be about as safe as it possibly can be.

“I think there is always going to be some small worry with any large public event, and I’m sure that Boston probably won’t be the last time we see a tragedy like last year. But what can you do? Unfortunately it is the world we live in today.

Marathon organizers have taken major measures, such as prohibiting all bags and adding checkpoint screenings. Instead of tightening the race, however, they increased the field by some 9,000 runners. That means this will be the biggest Boston Marathon with the exception of 1996 when they allowed more than 36,000 runners in honor of the event’s 100th birthday.

Preston Hollow resident and WRRC member Ann Marie Brink ran her first Boston Marathon last year and was back in her hotel room before the blast.

This year she’s back and her husband Greg Brink will be cheering her on.

“Running the race after last year’s events is an honor,” she says. “I hope that by running, cheering, and volunteering we can all help the city of Boston reclaim Patriot’s Day as the celebration that it has traditionally been. The fact that it will happen the day after Easter lends even more weight to the idea of renewal and rebirth.”

Full disclosure (or am I just bragging): I also am a member of the WRRC will be running the Boston Marathon Monday.

See also: Neighborhood runners show solidarity after Boston Marathon tragedy

Boston

Marathoners: a ‘very special breed’

When several of my running buddies were racing the Boston Marathon on Patriots Day, I was holed up in my office following and writing about a breaking local story — a car chase through Dallas. Earlier in the day I had been curt to Lauren, our marketing director, who wanted to discuss a dozen things for which I didn’t have time. I told her about my pressing deadlines and asked her to shut my door on her way out (code for don’t come back; I don’t have time). A little after lunch Lauren knocked and peeked inside my door. “I know you are busy. But there was a bomb at the Boston marathon. Did you know? I’m sorry. I just wanted to make sure you knew.”

What.

What was she saying. A bomb scare, probably. A bomb threat, I thought. Probably.

O my god. Thank you, Lauren, for telling me. And I meant it.

I open Facebook. I see one of my running friends James and his wife Jenny. They are smiling and he is wearing the yellow lanyard, a finisher medal resting on his chest. Maybe it’s not real. They look fine.

I go to my running group’s page.

 

Andre: News just said explosions at Boston marathon. Conflicting reports of what is going on. Is everyone ok??

Meredith: Kristi and Haakon are ok. Waiting to hear from the others.

Meredith: Brally is ok.

Julie: Spareribs LaMothe hasn’t crossed the finish yet … looks like the finish line is shut down.

Meredith: Ann Marie is ok.

Stephanie: Little brent and his mom are ok

Kevin: Steve is fine. Just texted.

This goes on for hours.

At a desk, computer, I know more about what is going on there than those at the marathon know. One friend messages that he heard there was a bomb. But he’s not sure. He hopes it’s just a rumor.

I already know it was. I saw some of the first photos posted online. Some of those photos have been removed now. Blood. Flesh. Tears. Limbs detached from bodies. Hell.

I sat mesmerized in front of the television most of that night. For years, any mention of the Boston Marathon or really any marathon had sent a surge of excitement through me. That night I head the word a hundred times and each churned my stomach.

Our friends who finished the race — some of whom had stellar, mind-blowing performances, didn’t even talk about such things for days, weeks. Instead they talked about the bizarre sight of runners sprinting away from the finish line. For a while, the things that normally are important didn’t matter.

By the next day the numbness turned to mobilization — our running club, White Rock Running Co-op (led by Chris Stratton), immediately raised $1,500 to send to the One Fund, and all the groups in Dallas joined together for moral support.

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Runners around the world did the same.

I sat in my car the the next day and listened to the interfaith prayer service attended by President Obama. I don’t go to church and I do not subscribe to a religion. But like many, when plunged into despair or when I can’t make sense of things, I look to the supernatural. Call it God, or a higher power or the collective consciousness of good or whatever — the only way to treat senseless evil is with a power that, while illogical, I can feel. And then I know — as surely as I know there is misery —that there is good and that it is stronger.

Though our president, a great orator, addressed the crowds, the words that really touched me — the ones that alleviated that sinking feeling — came from a minister named Nancy S. Taylor.

It was a relatively short prayer and I thankfully found the transcript on CNN.com:

Located at the finish line of the Boston marathon, Old South Church in Boston has developed over the years a ministry to marathoners. And I’m here to tell you that they are a special – very special – breed. They are built of sturdy stuff. 
As we do every year on Marathon Sunday, the day before the marathon, we invite the athletes to worship. And they come in the hundreds. And during the service, we ask them to stand. And we raise a forest of arms in blessing over them. And in the words of the Prophet Isaiah, we supercharge them, saying “may you run and not grow weary, may you walk and not faint.” 

This year in the midst of it all, in the midst of a joy-filled, peace- filled, international competition unlike any other – explosions, chaos, terror. 

And from the church’s tower, this is what I saw that day. I saw people run toward, not away from, toward the explosions. Toward the chaos. The mayhem. Toward the danger. Making of their own bodies sacraments of mercy. 

In the minutes and hours that followed I saw with my own eyes good Samaritans taking off their coats and their shirts and wrapping them around athletes who were shivering, quaking with cold and whose limbs were stiffening. Good Samaritans who fed, clothed and sheltered runners and families, assisted families, shared their cell phones, opened homes and stores, and not least, guided strangers through Boston’s cow paths. 

Today, from our tower overlooking the finish line, we continue to fly our three marathon banners. Today we fly them first in memory of those whose lives were taken that day. And second, we fly them with prayers for those who were harmed and those who grieve, for there is still much, much pain in the world today. And we are very far from being healed. 

And we fly them also in thanksgiving for first responders who made of their own bodies sacraments of blessing. 

Here’s what I know today. We are shaken, but we are not forsaken. Another’s hate will not make of us haters. Another’s cruelty will only redouble our mercy. Amen. 

Boston, Dallas, inspiration, marathon, people with true grit, running, training, White Rock, White Rock Marathon

For Dallas runners, circling White Rock Lake is a rite of passage

This is part of a full-feature story in the March Advocate magazine about the many wonders of East Dallas’ White Rock Lake:

Full circle

Completing the full circumference of White Rock Lake trail, on foot, is a rite of passage

 

 What a wonderful White Rock Lake world

Dave Dozier Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

Drive to the end of Winstead, a winding road west of White Rock Lake, any Saturday morning at about 5:30 and Dave Dozier will flag you down. He assumes you are there to join him for a run. On a dewy winter morning he dons a black tracksuit with reflective stripes and he invites early morning guests, runners and walkers, jovial folks he calls friends, into his home of 50 years — cozy quarters whose décor includes display cases full of medals from White Rock, St. George and Boston marathons, to name a few, hundreds, dating back as far as the 1970s, and collages containing magazine clippings and racing bibs.

An inconspicuous manila folder contains what we came for: certificates for completing, on foot, a full 9.2-mile loop of White Rock Lake.

In his early running days, Dozier says, running all the way around White Rock Lake was something only the most serious runners did.

“Once you ran the loop,” he says, “you were somebody.”

In the 1970s a gang of diehard runners including White Rock Marathon founder Tal Morrison challenged Dave to run all the way around, rather than the couple-mile out-and-back jaunts they had seen him performing at the lake. When he eventually took them up on it, the guys gave him a certificate of completion. It is a tradition Dozier continued, mostly under the radar, long after Morrison and the other old timers stopped running. Recently a local fitness magazine publicized the practice and Dozier got an unprecedented amount of takers. But he doesn’t give these certificates away to just anyone. “You really have to do it. I have to see you. I will run with you,” he says. “And you can’t have done it before.” The certificates are reserved for those running the loop and the distance for the first time ever.

And while the certificate is a neat token of achievement, it really isn’t about the paper. It’s about the camaraderie as runners gather at the starting point. Those who meet at Dozier’s place vary in pace — taking anywhere from 70 minutes to three hours to circle the pond. The wee moments before the jog are for catching up and laughing while Dozier tells everyone to “shut up. My wife is asleep.”

Voices fill the erstwhile silent neighborhood with stories of marathons past. Dozier’s friend Julie Stauble recalls a time Dozier stumbled at the finish line, knocking out his front teeth. Dozier teases the group’s fastest runner, a psychiatrist named Joe Gaspari who is preoccupied with qualifying for the Boston Marathon. “He’s always looking at that watch. Doesn’t he know we are here to have fun?”

It’s about the other lake goers. When Dozier ran the first of his 9,000-some lake loops, he says, there were about eight guys regularly running the lake. On a Saturday morning these days, there are hundreds, maybe a thousand. “I stop and talk a lot. I know everyone out there,” Dozier says.

It’s about the commitment and motivation one feels after hitting that 9.2-mile milestone, says Stauble, who ran a marathon after meeting Dozier and joining his informal running group. She says it changed her life.

“A lot of lives have changed out here,” Dozier says. “And we’ve had people that didn’t fit in in the world, fit in with us.”

It’s about the sense of completion. The circle represents wholeness, unity and infinite possibility, right? But Dozier scoffs at all that philosophical stuff. “It’s just fun. I love this. Running is my way of life.”

If you are interested in meeting Dozier for a run around the lake and, if you make it, a certificate, emaileditor@advocatemag.com.

 
Boston, ET Full Moon 1/2 Marathon, inspiration, marathon, Peter Snell, Philly, racing, running, training, White Rock, yoga

2011 running highlights

I had some great experiences in the past year. I meant to post my 2011 gratitude list closer to the new year. I got sidetracked. Better late than never.

January 2011—Went to the 3M Half Marathon with my buddies from the White Rock Running Co-op. It was hot. Someone had told us 3M was all downhill. Now, we should have known that was too good to be true. Oh, and did I mention it was hot (and humid)? Nonetheless, we had a fine time and most of us had a decent performance, despite the day’s unwelcome sauna-ness.

3M Half in Austin, January 2011

February 2011—I’m injured, but I discovered Bikram Yoga, which I wrote about here. Continue reading

Boston, marathon, people with true grit, probably a bad idea, racing, running, Uncategorized

Not running Boston in April? There are other options

Any runner who qualifies should probably run the Boston Marathon at some point, because — as sappy and cliche as it sounds — it’s the holy grail, grandaddy and big momma, if all of those things are simultaneously possible, of marathons.

I fully appreciate the history of the Boston Marathon and what the event has meant to our sport. The magic is in the feeling of accomplishment and reward: the opportunity to run in the footsteps of the greats and being included in an exclusive tribe of accomplished athletes. I get that.

It was somewhere around the time when Runner’s World called Boston “running’s Justin Beiber”, however, that I started to rethink this thing.

Up until a few weeks ago, I intended to sign up for Boston this past Wednesday, when my registration date, based on qualifying time, gender and age, came up. But when I really thought about it, my heart wasn’t in it.

As the running nerds know, the Boston Marathon last year sold out in a few hours, so the Boston Athletic Association changed the registration process, allowing those who qualify by 20 minutes or more, 10 minutes or more and five minutes or more, respectively, to register during the week ahead of the just-barely qualifiers.

(Also as a result of the race’s increasing popularity, next year the qualifying standards will get tougher.)

I was super lucky this past season to run Boston and before that the New York City marathon. I’m glad I did.

But I am so beaten down (OK this is going to be something like a rant) by over-crowded, ridiculously commercialized, overhyped running events.

It goes against the reasons I like running—for its raw physicality, simplicity and because it is a meditative chore that is both excruciating and euphoria-enducing.

I also like the pressure, competition and camaraderie that is present in groups and at large races — but that is not exclusive to this one event, you guys. Maybe it’s the grandaddy, but we all know that when something becomes too mainstream, it loses a little of its magic.

If you aren’t running Beantown, for whatever reason, it doesn’t mean you are relegated to Big D Marathon (God forbid). Check out, say, the Gansett Marathon — it $70 compared to the $150 for Boston and capped at 500 runners.

It’s near the beach in Rhode Island. It is a qualification-only race started by a fast-on-his-feet but slow-on-the-keyboard guy who got locked out of Boston. Here’s a piece about him on NPR.

Other spring races I would really love to try include Eugene Marathon in April or the Buffalo Marathon in May .

Disclosure: My friends will know — so I must admit — that actually what this is all about is my fear and loathing of large crowds. Though I still think I make a good case for dissing Boston …

Boston, inspiration, marathon, people with true grit, running

115th Boston Marathon—a day of days.

The 115th running of the Boston Marathon proved to be a stellar event, both for professional international and American runners and Dallas runners, many who I know, if only by way of social media and running-community chatter.

At the world-class level, Geoffrey Mutai ran the fastest-ever marathon in an unfathomable 2 hours, 3 minutes, 2 seconds.American Ryan Hall busted the American record, but as we’ve all heard by now, both may be ineligible for certain official records, because the Boston course is so easy and all. Yeah. And that tailwind just pushed their 110-pound frames along effortlessly. Sure.

Kenyan Caroline Kilel won the female division followed closely by gutsy American newcomer Desiree Davila.

OK—enough about the machines who do this for a living.

On to the real heroes, in no particular order: There’s Nick Polito from Lake Highlands—this guy makes me feel utterly inadequate with his frequent Facebook-friendly running logs, but he is a fine example of what fierce determination and discipline—and a tad of neurosis—can accomplish.

The 40-something Polito has been trying for a couple seasons to break 3 hours in the marathon, but a couple of hot marathons have kept him from it, if only by seconds. But the marathon gods were with him as he brought it in at 2:58 this 4/18/2011.

He’s got a whole posse of fast friends that keep him company — Steve Pfiffner 2:53; Steve Henderson 3:15; Shaheen Sattar 3:09; Tami Darlington 3:31 — those are the ones on my Facebook radar, but there are just too many good runners from our area to name. By example, they inspire others to push the limits.

Sabine Norris, a friend from Dallas ran her first Boston Marathon in an impressive 3:27 and Julia Mungioli, who I sat and yammered with endlessly at the airport last night, knocked out a 3:37 in her first shot at the revered race—watch her break 3:30 in NYC this year, no doubt.

I too ran yesterday’s marathon. My time of 3:42 was not close to my best—even in the heat of San Diego last June I did more than 10 minutes better—but I am particularly proud of my 3:42.

Explain: Ever since the New York City Marathon last November, I’ve been battling a nasty case of plantar fasciitis. Following a tough 3M half-marathon in January, it was so bad that I decided Boston was out of the question.Then I stopped running for a whole month. I knew I wasn’t going to do Boston, even during my first run back when my longtime pace leader Chris Stratton and another running friend, Brent Yost, told me I just had to do Boston—if I could walk at all, they insisted, I must go.

Naw, I thought. I don’t want to go and “make a fool of myself”.

Sometimes I can be so shallow.

A month ago, a friend of mine from high school was killed in a freak accident. A couple weeks later, a running friend, Trey Sanchez, was badly injured in a motorcycle accident. Those two events got me thinking: who knows if there will be a next year? Is there a guarantee that my body will be able to do this next or another year? How stupid/egotistical must I be to back out just because I am not in peak condition and in a moderate amount of pain. Come on—it’s Boston. So, run, walk or crawl, I decided, I’m going.

I stayed conditioned, to an extent, through hot yoga and pool workouts. On my one long run, I limp/walked the last three miles, so I was terrified of what might transpire around the Heartbreak Hill point. Stratton accompanied me on some tough hill workouts and the Dallas Running Club 3:20-marathon pace group pushed me through a few last-minute progression and tempo runs.

My cousin Dan Devlen and his beautiful wife Kymm gave me a place to sleep and got me to Hopkinton in one piece. Then I dragged my arse the 26.2 miles to Boston, in the steps of so many admirable souls.

It was bittersweet, I’ll admit.Ego and self pity took hold of me in moments following the race—why couldn’t I have had a winning experience at Boston? I would have loved nothing more than to PR—break 3:20— on that glorious day. In a perfect world with perfect preparation, it would have happened. But things are seldom perfect for any of us, especially those passionate runners with an insatiable hunger for improvement.It’s the toughest days, the most brutal races, that turn us into those gritty types I so admire. It’s those challenges and miles of misery that make the successes feel so incredible. With that in mind, I can return to a state of gratitude for my experience.

That's me, very happy to be finished. And no, I haven't purchased the ridiculously expensive photo.

If anyone has pics to share, send them to me at chughes@advocatemag.com, (and, if people from the hood are included, maybe they will make it into the Advocate magazine too).