Friday, November 28, 2008

A New Thanksgiving Tradition

Another Thanksgiving and another Thanksgiving Day Race. I don't know how many times I have run this race, but it has definitely become a tradition in our family.

Every year I would head out early to run the race. I would come home and the family would be in their PJ's. The kids would ask me how I did and I would tell them that I came in 4th again; that is why I had no medal. Even when they were small they did not believe me.

Then seven years ago the whole family ran the race. The kids were eight years old. We trained all fall and slowly worked our way up the 6.2 miles. We would run a mile and then walk 30 seconds, and everyone took their turn running in the lead and setting the pace. It was a great time and a lot of fun, but we did not do it again as a family.

Last year my daughter Stacy ran the race with me. Stacy runs cross country and track and even though she had not run in about three weeks, she decided to run. She had started swim practice with the school so her fitness was fine, but she was a little unsure about the distance. We went slow, but that was fine. We enjoyed the race, the course and each other's company.

This year I ran the 99th Thanksgiving Day Race with both Hillary and Stacy. It was Hillary's turn this year to be worried about the distance. Since Hillary's tennis season ended, she has been running up to 3 miles, three times a week. She was concerned about running 6.2 miles since she had not run that far in training.

I was concerned on how my knee would hold up. I thought it very possible that I would have to DNF, and we discussed what to do if that did in fact happen. We decided that Hillary and Stacy would go ahead and finish the race if I could not.

The weather was perfect with race time temperature about 40 degrees, sunny and no wind. It was another record crowd of over 11,400 and it took us well over 15 minutes to get to the start line. When we crossed the start line, Hillary, Stacy and I ran together. Stacy soon took off on her own as Hillary and I settled in to a very relaxed pace. Every step I was thinking about my knee and Hillary was thinking about the distance. We did not talk too much the first couple of miles.

Just past mile two, the course crosses a bridge over the Ohio into Kentucky. Fot me, this was a point of no return. The course is a loop, beginning and ending at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati. Once we crossed the bridge, there was no real way for me to get back other than to complete the race (or get a lift from an ambulance).

At three miles I started to get concerned about my knee. It started to feel odd, not really pain, just not right. After a while the feeling past and the knee felt better. I started to feel more concern about my quads. I think I still had some loss of muscle strength from the operation. The knee itself had very little pain.

It was also at this point that Hillary started to feel more comfortable about finishing the race. With our new found confidence we started talking more about everything and anything.

Hillary is begging me to let her run more, but is not overly concerned about time. I have not let her run more than three times a week until she gets her form more like the Chi Running form. I don't want her to heel strike too much and risk injury. Mom told her recently "You have got your Father's running bug".

We crossed over another bridge back into Ohio and headed for the last mile. I remember running this race fast and hard in the past. My best time for this race was "42:37" The last mile was brutal then and I agonized about finishing in a certain time. This time I enjoyed the scenery, the company and the race experience. I even snapped a few pictures with Hillary's cell phone.

As we approached the finish line, I instructed Hillary to get some good space between us and other runners so she could get a good finishers photo. As we approached the finish I told Hillary "Well, now you are a runner". We crossed the line together in what was one of my slowest times, but, without a doubt, one of my best times.

Stacy and Hillary are looking forward to next years 100th running of the Thanksgiving Day race. For me, this may have been my last Thanksgiving Day Race. If it is, I can't think of a better way to end my tradition and to start a new tradition with a new generation of runners.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Life Is All About Choices

The news from the surgery was not too good. On the way home, sitting in the back seat of the car with my leg up I asked my wife what the doctor had said about my return to running.

“Well I was wondering how long it would take you to ask,” Holly said, “it was not too good.”

“Really? I knew it would not be great, but how bad?” I asked.

“When he told me, my jaw dropped. I told him that he would have to tell you the full story when you see him Monday. I can’t.”

I could not let it go at that, so I pressed her, “OK, but in general what did he find?”

“He said the inside of the knee was pristine, but he found more arthritis on the outside than he had thought.”

So all through the weekend I wondered how bad it really was. I knew that my marathon running would be coming to an end, but how much would I be able to do? After all, I had just ran seven miles the day before without pain. How bad could it be?

Monday morning, Holly drove me into the doctor’s office at 9am for my follow-up appointment. My doctor is a very tall, big, athletic man, who could be very imposing if he wished to be. Fortunately he is very humble and always takes the time to explain what is going on and answer all my questions. He is use to treating athletes, including some pro teams, which is the reason I choose to start seeing him. He knows what it means to me to run and be active, so the news he had to deliver must not have been easy for him, but he handled it with his usual skill and frankness.

He explained that he had found more damage to the meniscus and, even more troubling, he found more arthritis than he had expected from the MRI.

“So what does this all mean” I said “I have a race in April you know.”

“Well, if you keep running you will need a knee replacement in 5 years; if you don’t run you may have 15 to 20 years. You can still cycle, swim use an elliptical machine, but I would not recommend running.”

Given that I said that I would still like to run Boston in April, and then I would be good with giving up running and I could start to cycle and swim.

“I’m not sure you will be able to even run this April” he told me.

So there you have it. Talk about a choice. Keep running and use up my knee and maybe have to be much less active in 5 years, or give it up and move on to more low impact activities. Do you continue to do what you love for as long as you can, or do you conserve your body and take a measured approach?

It is a week after the surgery and I have full range of motion in my knee, though it can get sore and stiff if I am on my feet too much. The swelling is almost all gone and I have been doing my therapy of stretching and strengthening every day.

In three to four weeks I will start back to running with the hope of being able to train enough to at least finish Boston. I will use the FIRST method and incorporate cycling into my workout regime. I will use up some of my knee to realize the dream of running Boston. If I was a younger man, or if I had run Boston before it might be different, but at 47 this will be my last chance. One more race, one more marathon and after that, I hit the bike path with no regrets.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Challenge Begins

This has not been a normal week. Monday I received a postcard confirming my registration to the Boston Marathon. On Friday I go in to have arthroscopic surgery on my right knee to snip off the frayed edges of my meniscus. The doctor tells me I could be back to running in 4 to 6 weeks. The MRI indicated some tearing in the meniscus and a tiny bit of arthritis. Even though the cartilage around the knee looked good, he thinks that I would be susceptible to arthritis in the knee – something my Dad had.

What I like about my doctor is that he does not talk in absolutes. Yes I can run again, but it will put additional strain on my knee. If I run a lot, it may get worse quicker, but I will have had the enjoyment of being active. Cross training will lengthen the life of the knee and low impact training will help even more. He does not say “This is what you must do”, but rather “These are some likely outcomes based on your actions – choose what you think fits your lifestyle best”.

So here is the plan. Get the operation, work aggressively at rehab and get back to running up to 20 miles by the middle of December. I will start my training for Boston using the FIRST training program which incorporates 3 days of running and 2-3 days of cross training. The cross training for me will be biking, since I swim like a rock. I am getting a trainer for my bike so I can ride indoors during the bad weather.

Boston will likely be my last marathon. After Boston I will keep my running to about 20-25 miles a week and see how things go. If I get a chance in two or three years and my knees are holding up, I may try to run New York or Marine Corps.

Tomorrow I have my last run for a month or so – my regular 7.2 mile loop around my neighborhood. I can run about 20 miles a week without much knee pain, but any more than that and it starts to hurt.

Running has always been a challenge for me. It is a way to push myself and test my limits. Now I will be faced with the additional challenge of coming off surgery and preparing for the biggest race of my life. This race will truly not be about time, but about finishing and enjoying what may be my last marathon. While not exactly what I would have hoped for, it is a challenge I relish.

So if you see a pair of worn Nike Pegasus left behind at the finish of the 2009 Boston Marathon, you will know I have run my last marathon, but not my last race.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Storm Clouds All Around

Well, I guess I have not been so good about my posts. Much has happened since my last entry. I have had to travel out of town, we had the remnants of Hurricane Ike blow through town and take out the power for 4 days, and my right knee continues to be a problem.

When I last wrote I was getting up to 5 miles at a time. Soon after that post I started trying the Chi running technique and it seems to have helped lessen the impact on my knees. I can run up to 8 miles now, and if I concentrate on my form I have very little if any knee pain.

But, since my knee was still tender I made an appointment with my Orthopedic doctor. Hopefully, I have some inflammation and maybe some bursitis. Likely, I have a torn meniscus. He instructed me to take two weeks and do my stretching and get some orthodix. If the knee is not any better he will schedule an MRI to check the meniscus.

He did not say it, but I could tell he thinks it is the meniscus. I am happy that he wants to take a conservative approach first, but if it is the meniscus, I just want to get it over with. The operation to repair the meniscus would be out patient and would have a re-hab of 4 weeks and back to running in about 6 weeks. This would put me on schedule to start my training for Boston the beginning of December.

I can't believe this is happening now. I am so close to running my dream. I am registered and chomping at the bit to get going. Things still look good, even if I have the operation, but I would much rather have had smooth sailing into the start of training.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Summer Time Catch Up

Wow, it has been a long time. So much has happened since my last post – some good, some bad. Let’s start with the good.

Vacation time! Yeah, summer is when we take our vacations. We spend a week in Northern Michigan with my wife’s family at a resort on Portage Lake in Onekama, MI. It is really a cool place. Our condo is on Portage Lake which is a smaller lake and therefore calmer (for water skiing, kayaking) and warmer (for swimming). It is separated from Lake Michigan by a strip of land about 100 yards wide. Lake Michigan has long, clean sandy shores and bigger waves that are fun to play in. It is the best of both worlds. And the sweet cherries are the greatest!

After Michigan, we head up to Lake Champlain in upstate NY for a reunion with my family. We boat, ski, swim, hike, kayak and catch up with family. Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains are about as close to heaven as I can get on this earth.

So things have been busy in a good way, but there was also bad news.

Shortly before vacation I came down with a sharp pain in my left knee. It got so bad I had to stop running. I took a week off and when I ran again it came back. This time I was smart enough to stop running and walk it in home. I then took almost three weeks off to let it rest. It felt like classic runner’s knee, an overuse injury which the only cure for is really rest.

I started back running 4 miles last Monday with no pain. I then ran Wednesday and Friday for 4 miles, and again no pain. I have been icing the knee and this weekend I bought a sleeve brace as a precaution. Tomorrow I try 5 miles, in the hope to gradually build the miles back up.

It is hard to believe how much fitness I lost during the layoff – it could have to do with not running, or the increased beer intake that happens on vacation. The funny thing is how fast it will come back. From Monday to Friday I dropped 30 seconds per mile. Still, I need to take it slow and build back up so that by October I can run the World Wide Half and by December starts the training for Boston.

So there is a little catch up. Promise to be better with my posts.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Running With Cicadas

There is nothing pleasant or pleasing about this post. This post is about running with cicadas, or maybe more appropriately running on cicadas.

We are currently living through a swarm of the 17-year cicada. There are literally millions of them in our tiny, wooded village outside Cincinnati. They come out of the ground, climb up trees, shed their grub like skin and start buzzing around. For two or three weeks they fly around trying to find a mate that lays eggs in the branches of trees, and then they all die. The larvae drop from the branches, burrow into the ground and lay there for another 17 years. Meanwhile the millions of dead cicadas stink up the place.

Not much of a life if you ask me - 17 years living underground and then two weeks to get lucky before you die.

Now the thing about cicadas are that hey are harmless. They don’t bite, they don’t sting, they just annoy. They are not very good flyers and are constantly flying into things including people. I imagine living underground for 17 years will do that to you.

Since they don’t fly well, they are often getting together on the ground. Many times they get together in the street. In the morning when it is dark, and you are out for a run, well – you get the picture - crunch, crunch, crunch.

The run I had when the swarm was at its height was the grossest run I ever had. I would take running in the rain over trying to avoid the little buggers on the road and the disgusting sound when there were too many to miss – crunch, crunch, crunch.

Even though I hated it, I have only one wish. That is to still be running 17 years from now when they come back.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What is a ¼ mile worth?

From: Denise Sweeney
Dennis Purcell
Sent: Thursday, May 22, 2008 12:36 PM
Subject: Flying Pig Marathon

Thank you for your email.

We just received the results from the 2008 Flying Pig Race Officials.

Your time of 3:29:25 at the 2008 Flying Pig Marathon will be accepted for the April 20, 2009 Boston Marathon. Registration will begin on our website on September 3, 2008 at

Best of luck with your training! We look forward to your participation in the 113th running of the Boston Marathon!

Denise Sweeney
Manager, Registration Processing
Boston Athletic Association
1 Ash Street
Hopkinton, MA 01748

So I am in. I am a qualifier. It is an achievement I am very proud of, and even though it did not happen the way I had envisioned, it still feels good. It also allows me to tell you what the end of the Flying Pig was really like. I had not wanted to say much about it in case it sounded too pitiful or like I was whining.

As I have said before, I started to slow around mile 23. Up until this point, I had tried to push the thought of actually qualifying out of my mind. Sure I was trying to stay on a qualifying pace, but I wanted to allow myself an out if things got too bad. I knew I had some cushion, but it really started to be a struggle. Still I was feeling good about my chances. I had not really thought too much about the detour, because at the time, I really did not know how much distance it had added. I ran that “mile” in 8:35 which I attributed to my slowing down. In fact I had run that mile in 7:10 – the fastest of the race.

During mile 25 I heard what I thought was the 3:30 pace group coming up on me. I felt I must be mistaken because I had almost a two minute cushion by my calculations. But when the pace group leader passed me holding up that balloon with “3:30” on it I was crestfallen. How could that have happened? How could it all be slipping away so close to the finish?

I bore down and tried to keep up, but as they continued to pull away I became discouraged. This was exactly what I did not want to happen. I had raced hard, pushed my body and would come up just short. I would be physically drained and sore after the race and not have a BQ to show for it. I thought I was stupid for trying. I should have been happy just running easy, enjoying the race and not worrying about time. But that is not how I am wired.

The point from when the pace group passed me until mile 26 was the low point of the race. It might be the low point of my athletic career. How could I have thought I could run that fast? Why was it important? It certainly did not feel very important right then. It is no wonder that with this all going on in my head and the fatigue of 25 miles in my body that this was the slowest mile of the race.

When I hit the 26 mile marker something clicked in me. In one of those moments that can only happen late in a marathon when the body is failing and the mind does not think straight I saw the clock at “3:30:15”. I had 0.2 miles to go. Maybe I can still make it I thought. Maybe with the difference between my gun time and the chip time I had a chance! I picked up the pace and gave everything I had. I knew I had 44 seconds on the gun time. The next 1:50 was the most painful of my life, but it represented a time when I pushed myself further than I had thought possible. Good thing my mind was not thinking clearly enough to calculate that I would have needed a 7:25 pace to get in under 3:30:59. I would never had tried.

I crossed the line and checked my watch – 3:32:12. Even with the 44 seconds I knew I had not made it. You know you are not in good shape when a volunteer takes your arm and asks you twice if you are alright. Looking at my finish line photo I can now see why. My expression was pained and I was unsteady on my feet.

I walked through the finish area, got a bottle of water and sat down on the curb. My legs would not work. I could not muster the energy to stand and I was dejected.

I knew I had missed a BQ and I knew I had not missed it by much. I had run a great race and had a PR and a time I should be proud of, but it was not what I wanted. I felt mad that I was not strong enough at the end to push harder. At the same time I was mad at myself for feeling so selfish. I had just ran a PR, and by a significant margin. I did not want to always say I had just missed a BQ as a preface to a wonderful finish time. It was the oddest mixture of feelings I ever had.

In the end it all worked out. According to my watch I passed the 26 mile marker in a chip time of 3:29:25. This would have been equivalent to 26.2 miles. There are many things you can’t control on race day, but one thing should always be the same – the race should be 26.2 miles long. I do not fault the race organizers – they did a great job with an extremely difficult situation and always had the safety of the firefighters, racers and volunteers as the main consideration.

During my training runs I had always thought of how I would react when I crossed with a BQ. Arms raised, tears of joy cries of “I did it!” None of that happened, but a BQ is a BQ.

I am very appreciative of the Pig and Boston for considering the extra distance of the race. Now it is time to get ready. The recovery is over and the base training begins. I can’t wait to toe the line in Hopkinton next April.

No matter what comes, now I will always be a qualifier.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Joy Of Running

Tomorrow is the first day that I can really run after the marathon. For the first few days I could hardly walk, let alone run. I felt so stiff and sore; I wondered if I would ever run again. The whole family thought it funny (in a nice way) that this guy who just ran 26.2 miles couldn’t walk down the stairs without a struggle.

When Hillary and I went out for our Tuesday morning run, I tried to run a few steps and then said I could not do it. She would have to run on her own. I walked for three miles, while she went ahead and ran. I struggled to keep from trying to run, knowing it would do more harm than good.

Later that week, I was playing ball with our dog Molly when I noticed how much she loved running. If you ever want to see what the pure joy of running looks like, play ball with a dog. The eyes flash, the tail wags the ears lay back and she goes for all she is worth, just to drop the ball at my feet and do it again.

Seeing her run I realized how much joy there is in running for me, and I how much I miss it when I can’t get out on the road and chase my own kind of ball. Of course for me, the ball is not a purely physical thing; unless you count the physical fitness that comes from running. That is one of my goals, but there is more. There is the emotional and mental fitness that comes from pushing against the ground and propelling oneself through the air. Moving your body and engaging the mind until the whole process turns into a kind of joy – the joy of running.

I wonder sometimes if my eyes flash like Molly’s when I run.

Monday, May 5, 2008

2008 Cincinnati Flying Pig Race Report

I went into this race feeling very good. My training had gone well, averaging 50 miles a week. I was in great shape. My last long run had been a 16 miler at an 8:05 pace, over a very hilly course. I felt that I had a shot at 3:30, which was my BQ, but everything had to go perfectly for me to reach that goal. As the race drew nearer I made up my mind to give it a shot.

The morning of the race was great. At the 6:30am start the sky was clear, the sun just coming up and temperatures in the upper 40’s. I decided to line up with the 3:30 pace group and see how things went. At 6:25 they announced that at the 20-mile mark of the course there had been a house fire, so they were delaying the start 15 minutes and making a detour on the course. They announced it would make the course “a smidgen longer”. Everyone was in a good mood and the weather was nice so it was not that big of a deal.

I stayed with the pace group over the bridges into Kentucky and then back into Cincinnati. I stuck with them up the long climb to mile 9. I was feeling OK, but I was wishing I had tapered a little more the week prior to the marathon.

From mile 9 to mile to mile 16 I picked up the pace, not really on purpose, but because I was feeling good and I did not seem like I pushing. My legs did start to feel it at this point, but I kept telling myself to run the mile I was in – I think I heard that from Matt at the Dump Runners’ Club – and it helped.

When I got to Mile 20 I was about 2 minutes ahead of pace and starting to think it might be possible to BQ. I knew I was slowing, but I thought I just might have enough to make it. Then we hit the detour caused by the fire and I started to get concerned. It seemed like a significant addition, but there was not much I could do about it.

At Mile 23 things started to unravel. My mind was willing, but there was just no response in my legs. I started to give back time. Mile 23 – 8:35, Mile 24 – 8:24, Mile 25 – 8:51. It was here that the 3:30 pace group caught and passed me. I heard them say they were a minute ahead of pace, so I still had some hope. Mile 26- 10:19. I tried to push, throw in some surges, put there was nothing left. The last 0.2 in 1:50 for a final chip time of 3:31:26 – 27 seconds away from a BQ.

Now that is the bad news, well not all of the bad news. The “smidgen” of a detour, they announced later, had added ¼ mile to the course. I missed a BQ by 27 seconds on a course that was ¼ mile too long!

But there is good news. This was a PR. My previous best was 3:33:49 in 2001, my first marathon. That was also before my ACL replacement in my left knee. Last year, my first marathon after surgery I ran a 3:50. I had improved 19 minutes from last year and 2 minutes from my all time best.

After the race I was drained and having bad cramping in both legs. I thought it best to go to the medical tent and on my way there my left calf cramped up and I went down. They wheeled me into the medical area, gave me some chips, water and a muscle massage. I felt a little guilty using the medical services for something like cramps, but in hindsight it was the best thing to do.

I learned a few things from this race:

1. I should have done some runs longer than 16 and at a marathon goal pace. My weekly mileage and speed work was good, but I think I needed some longer runs.

2. I should have tapered more the week prior to the marathon. My legs felt heavier than they should have early in the race.

3. I should have stayed with the pace group longer, even if I felt the pace was too slow. It might have saved me later in the race.

2. I should have drunk more on the course. I thought I had done well drinking, but the cramping after the race and my last mile, indicates that I was de-hydrated.

5. I know I can reach a BQ if things go right and I correct a few things in my training and racing.

I must say, I feel this was a bittersweet race. I am happy with a PR, but it is too close to a BQ that I can’t stop thinking “what-if”. I am sure time will put things into better perspective, but right now it is hard.

I want to thank John Ellis for looking over my training plan back in January and recommending a few changes. I think it made a big difference.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Runner's Prayer

Every run is special. It does not matter if it is good or bad, fast or slow. Being out there in the darkness of the early morning I feel at peace and closer to God. After every run, I say this prayer in the hopes that I will be able to continue to run:

Dear God, thank you for these legs that have carried over the miles.
May you bless them and keep them strong and healthy and running for many years,
And may they always walk in the path you have laid out before them.

Thank you for this heart that pumps blood and energy throughout my body.
May you bless it and keep it strong and healthy and beating for many years.
And may it be filled with your spirit so that your light may shine on others through me.

And thank you for this mind that gives me the discipline to get up and out the door,
and the will to keep going when I feel like stopping.
Like Solomon I ask only for wisdom; the wisdom to know your will and the courage to follow where it leads.

All this I ask in the name of your son, my savior, Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit are honored and glorified, forever and ever. Amen.

It seems like the least I can do,

Monday, April 21, 2008


Here it is. Decision time. I have done the training and run my last long run, and run it in strong fashion I might add. Now I have to decide how I will run my race.

In two weeks I will line up for the Flying Pig Marathon. My first Pig and first marathon was back in 2001 and I ran a 3:33 and hit the wall hard. I have never hurt so badly in my life. It is funny, I can’t remember exactly how it felt, but I do remember telling someone after the race that every part of my body hurt – even my hair hurt. I do not want to experience that again.

In 2004 I ran The Pig as part of my training for the Vermont City Marathon that was four weeks later. I ran a smart race, paced myself and finished in 3:38. I felt great at the end and ran even better at the end of the month in Vermont (3:37).

Then I blew out my left knee and faced a long rehab. In 2007 I ran The Pig again, just to prove I could do it. I trained using the “moderate consistent” plan and just wanted to finish in maybe less than 4 hours. I again ran smart, finished strong and crossed the line in 3:50.

Now this year. This will be the fourth time I have run The Pig and I may be in the best condition yet. I have trained very well. I have done speed work and increased my mileage to 48-54 miles a week. Last Saturday I ran my last 16 miler at an 8:05 pace, which started me to thinking – what if I could run a 3:30? That would be a qualifier!

The race predictors say I should be able to run a 3:35 based on my training and recent race times. So, if I push it a little could I get a 3:30? It would be an incredible accomplishment. But if I do push that hard is the wall waiting for me? Hitting it again would take much of the joy out the race, but qualifying would be like a dream comes true.

I suspect the decision will be made on race day, at the starting line. What the weather is like, how my taper goes, how am I feeling, all the usual factors. I trust that I will be able to change my goals mid race if conditions change. But I am already starting to feel like I may have to go for it.

And if I hit the wall and my hair starts to hurt again – well, I have a lot less hair now than I did in 2001.

Friday, April 11, 2008


I am an outside runner. It does not matter what the weather – I run outside. I cannot say exactly why I am so stubborn about it, but I have never found a day when I would not run outside.

We actually have a treadmill that my wife and kids use. It is in our bedroom which means that if I used it when I run in the early morning; I would wake the whole family up. But it does not matter if we kept it in the basement – I still would not use it.

Since I run in the early morning, it is never too hot and the colder it is the more layers I wear. It is kind of fun to run when it is super-cold – like below 10F. The icicles start to form on the eyelids and frost covers your hat. It makes for a pretty cool picture when you are done.

Recently I ran in a blizzard – 25F, snow and wind. I had a 15 mile run scheduled so I just kept doing a 2 mile loop around my neighborhood. The road would cover over with snow, the snow plow would come by and clear the road. It would get snow covered again, the plow would come, and I repeated the cycle for 8 loops; sometimes on clear roads, sometimes on snow covered roads. I got some really odd looks from my neighbors.

The one type of weather I hate is rain. Now I am sure that there are people that like running in the rain. My daughter that runs cross country and track told me she likes to run in the rain. I will run in the rain, but I don’t like it – I endure it. I dislike everything about it, the wet shoes, and the clinging clothes. If there is one type of weather that makes me think twice about running outside it is rain.

But I do it. I just can’t run without the feeling of pushing against the ground and the sensation of propelling my body through space. The weather is just another element, another obstacle, like a hill, to be overcome. Outside I am focused, centered and things become clear as my progress is marked by landmarks and not a digital counter on the treadmill display.

Running inside to me just feels like cheating, but next time it is pouring rain as I step out the door, I may wish that treadmill was in the basement.

Monday, March 31, 2008


I always try to run the Heart Mini-Marathon in Cincinnati. Until the Flying Pig Marathon started, this 15K race was for many years the “big” race in Cincinnati. It is an out and back course that starts in downtown Cincinnati and runs out along a parkway that overlooks the Ohio River. It is a tough course, with a couple of killer hills and many smaller rolling ones. You really feel your quads after this race from both the up and down hills.

I want to fit the race into my schedule, but at 9.3 miles, it is a little short for the long run in my marathon training plan. So this year I signed up to do the “2 Beat Challenge” which meant I would run a 5K race starting at 9am and then run the 15K race starting at 10am. I thought this would be a good way to get 12.4 miles in and use it as a bit of a race simulation. This included trying out the fuel belt that holds 3 energy gels, which looked a little odd in a 5K, but I wanted to see how it worked (it worked great).

The morning was overcast, with the threat of rain and 45 degrees F. I was planning on running an 8 minute per mile pace and using this as a race simulation. My marathon pace would be closer to 8:30, but I felt the 8 minute pace would give me a good workout.

At 9am the cannon went off for the 5K. There were 1,535 finishers in this race so the crowd thinned out within the first ½ mile. My plans for an 8 min pace soon went out the window. At the mile point I started to see that there were not that many people in front of me. I knew that the top 10% in each division won an award of some sort, so I thought maybe I had a chance. I picked up my pace a little and kept picking people off through the rest of the race (including that little kid who tried to pass me right at the end). I finished in 22:24 or 7:14 pace – way too fast, but it felt good.

I jogged back to my car, dropped off my finisher medal, gloves and hat, picked up an ear band, and went back to the starting area.

I once again told myself to run my plan of 8 minute miles, and I knew it was much more important to stay on pace for the 15K distance than for the 5K. The cannon boomed at 10am and almost 4 minutes later, I crossed the timing mat. The 15K race has 2,926 finishers, so it takes a good mile or two until it really thins out. I ran nice and easy through the first few miles and was right on pace. At the half way point I ran into a friend I occasionally run with on Saturday mornings. He had celebrated his 40th birthday the night before and he was looking surprisingly good under the circumstances. We ran together for about half a mile until I needed to pick up the pace and we parted ways.

I ran the last half of the race in a surprisingly strong pace. I concentrated on my form going up the hills and lengthened my strides going down. I crossed the line in 1:11:39 for a 7:42/mile pace. I felt good after the race though I do not think I could hold that pace for a full marathon. My splits were:

7:57, 8:10, 7:17, 7:59, 7:57, 7:43, 7:39, 7:03, 7:32, 2:19 (.3 mile)

I proceeded the two blocks to Fountain Square (the center of downtown Cincinnati) to check for my unofficial results. The volunteer checked my bib number, punched it into the computer and said “Go over there to that tent for your award” What? Me? Check the bib number again. I have never won anything in running.

To my utter astonishment I had come in 6th in my age group (out of 70 finishers) in the 5K and 3rd in the combined 5K & 15K time. I joked that there must have only been 4 people in my division – a fact I later learned was no joke, there were only 4 people in my division. But, my 5K time did earn me a $10 gift certificate at a local running store which I used that afternoon to buy a new pair of shoes. That was pretty cool.

What did I learned from this race?

  1. My marathon conditioning is right on target.

  2. I probably cannot run a 3:30 marathon (BQ), but a 3:40 is a good stretch goal.

  3. If you pick your races carefully, you can win something even if you are not that fast.

  4. Always check for an award – you may be the only one in your division.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


On the drive into work this morning I was listening to The Final Sprint pod cast, when the host asked why the current group of elite runners included so many people with a strong faith. Andrew Carlson commented that he felt that since they had been blessed with the talent to run, they should develop that talent to the glory of God.

While that was a very honest and logical answer, I thought “shouldn’t that apply to all elite athletes in all sports?” Now I have done no statistical analysis on this, and maybe it is true in all other sports. But I have always thought that somehow running brings me – a decidedly non-elite athlete - closer to God and my spiritual self than many other activities.

I think it is the fact that running, once you have done it for a while, does not require the external focus that many other sports demand. For the most part there is no need to concentrate on striking a ball with a racket or bat, or even to pay much attention to other participants, particularly while training in the early morning hours. Often time running lends itself to an inward focus, a focus on breathing, footfalls and turnover. With me this naturally leads to introspection.

My running is a time for thinking, meditating and finally praying. My thoughts are almost always positive and lead me to discovering the right course of action when dealing with difficult situations. Maybe it is because it is the few times I am truly alone with my thoughts – and with God.

Looks like my running vest is not the only reflective thing I bring on the early morning runs.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Right now I am in training for the Flying Pig Marathon on May 5th. This will be the fourth time I have run the full Pig. I did run a two person relay one year. I have run one other marathon, which was the Vermont City Marathon – but that can be the subject of another post.

I am into the meat of the training right now. I just finished a 50+ mile week of training with a long run of 16 miles. I am using a modified “moderate consistent” plan from the Hanson training group.

The modification has been to fit my work and family schedule. My work schedule dictates that the only time I can really run is in the early morning hours before work. I am usually up by 4:20am and on the road by 5:00am. I get 6 to 8 miles in and then rush to get out the door for work by 7am. The weekends are a little easier, but with four kids all in different activities, I do not have time for much more that 16 miles. I also take Sunday off so that I can go to church. This makes the moderate consistent plan ideal for me.

Next Sunday I am running the Heart Mini-Marathon in Cincinnati. This year I will be running the “Two Beat Challenge” which means I will be running a 5K at 9:00am and then running the 15K race at 10:00am. This fits well with my training schedule, but my only worry is that I do not go too fast and treat it as a race rather than a training run. I will give a race report next week.

Ok, so now we have the background out of the way and in future posts we can get into some more of the fun stuff.



Why write a blog? Well how about a creative outlet. It is opportunity to step outside everyday boundaries and to share my thoughts on running.

Perhaps it is a way to connect with other runners.

Maybe it will connect with other friends who do not run, and by connecting, encourage them to adopt a physically active lifestyle.

Maybe it is just a fun way to share and record some things going on with me and provide a little entertainment.

In any case it is a start. So lets start…