Sunday, November 29, 2009

Please Kill Me . . . Actually I'm Fine

Today's post's title sums up how I felt during this year's annual Thanksgiving Day race. I lined up on Thursday morning with about 450 other runners to attack a tough 4-mile course. The first mile is all uphill; the second mile rolls and the third mile climbs back towards the start (along an alternate route). The race's saving grace is that the last mile is the same as the first mile, but in reverse, so it is a full-on descent. I ran this race two years ago in 27:26. Last year I ran a Thanksgiving Day race in Portland, Maine on a less difficult course in a little under 27:00.

This year, I decided NOT to set a time goal, but simply to run hard from the gun and see what the day would bring. I ran the almost-3 miles from my house to the start, decided it was warm enough for a singlet and arm warmers (low-40's, breezy and cloudy). I chatted with some friends and then took off, probably faster than I should have, as I kept the leaders in sight for longer than was likely prudent. I settled into a hard, yet seemingly manageable, effort level, and my Garmin kept showing what I thought was a very slow pace given that effort level. Still, I was no more miserable at the end of the first mile, and held on to ride out the downhills in the second mile. Somewhere after the mile mark, one young guy passed me, and then I found myself running pretty much alone.

At the turnaround at two miles, I saw a colleague who lives in the neighborhood cheering. We turned into a fancy neighborhood and started climbing again, getting back the elevation that we'd just lost. I was hurting badly at this point, feeling battered, wondering why this sort of misery makes any sense at all and at about the 2.5+-mile mark, another work colleague came up behind me. This guy is 57 years old, and a lifelong, intense endurance athlete with a marathon PR of 2:44 at Boston. He usually wins his age group, even in large races, though he's much more of a cyclist than a runner these days. He just returned from a long European vacation where he rode 250 miles a week on average. He gave me a playful push and told me to step it up. We ran together for a bit and then he inched ahead of me. When I saw that we'd reached the 3-mile mark, I stepped it up, knowing that the downhill would carry me all the way to the finish (in fact, that mile was my first sub-6:00 mile when I ran the race 2 years ago). I passed a lovely young woman (2nd overall female) and started putting some distance between my colleague and me. I was running alone and could not believe how fast and furiously my arms and legs were pumping, though I felt relatively relaxed. I could feel the lactic acid coursing through my shoulders and neck and wanted nothing more than for this self-imposed torture to end. With a sharp left-hand turn just before the finish, I saw the clock reading 25:2x, and I gave it one last push.

The splits:
  1. 6:43

  2. 6:27

  3. 6:45

  4. 5:33 (new mile PR!)

Official time (different from my watch, which I did not stop right away) was 26:25, good for 29th overall and 3rd in my always-competitive age group. Second place was a full 2:30 faster than my time, and that guy had run an earlier 5K that morning! Of course, he is a professional triathlete.

I did a cool-down mile with a friend and then hung around to get my very nice travel mug, not a bad prize at all. I ran the 3 miles home for 11 miles on the day.

We went on to have a great Thanksgiving Day, with an epic neighborhood Wiffle Ball game, a huge meal, and some more playing when the Dads took the kids away for a little while.

As the month comes to an end, I feared that my monthly mileage would be anemic, but despite taking a little extra time away from running, I logged 211 miles for the month. Now I will race once more before year-end, a 5K on Saturday (my 41st birthday) and will then hold easy mileage until Boston training kicks off on January 4, 2010.

There are also some major winds of change blowing around me, but I'll post about that when certain fuzzy plans come into clearer focus.

Happy Holidays, everyone. -ESG

Sunday, November 15, 2009

There's Only So Much We Can Run From

My father is not old (68). My father is not well. What my father is, is dying. There, I said it. And while it's not a huge surprise that it has come to this, it still hurts like hell.

Things have never been easy between us, and the time to "make things right" (in a meaningful way) might have passed. So, with news of my father's rapidly declining health, I went to Florida this weekend to spend some time with him, rather than waiting on the dreaded "call", only to learn that it's too late.

My father has been in the hospital four times in the past 16 months for pneumonia and related complications. He has been diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), an incurable, degenerative lung condition, of which smoking is the leading cause. He also has rheumatoid arthritis, congestive heart failure and other medical issues which are beyond the grasp of my liberal arts brain. He is on oxygen 24/7, and could keep a pharmacy chain in business all by himself as a result of his medication regimen. In a nutshell, COPD slowly asphyxiates its victims. My father will become more and more uncomfortable as less and less oxygen makes its way into his bloodstream. There's no way to know how long and - ultimately - excruciating the process will be. It could be weeks, months or even years, but it won't be pretty.

The current situation seems to have magnified some of my father's less desirable personality traits. Feeling inclined to be charitable, I could call him "eccentric" or "quirky", but I'm going to spare him, myself and my dear followers the details of why he and I have had such a troubled history. It's complicated, boring, and - at this point - irrelevant.

What I do want to share is how I think my father's life has influenced my own.

Like any dedicated runner, I run for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I have a family history of heart disease. My maternal grandfather had triple-bypass surgery in 1977. He lived another nine years before dying of heart failure the summer I graduated from high school. My paternal grandfather had died 5 weeks earlier, also likely from a heart attack while he was sleeping.

Not to be outdone, my father had quadruple-bypass surgery in 1988, at the ripe old age of 47. Yes, he smoked. Yes, he was overweight, highly-stressed and sedentary. So, putting aside the influence of my father's choices on his current health, the fact that the longevity deck is stacked against me plays a significant role if my running/exercise obsession. Truth is, however, that I don't run to extend my time on earth; I run to get more enjoyment - and meaning - from it. Should I live longer thanks to doing something I've grown to love, well, that's simply a beautiful bonus.

Being several years into the "running lifestyle", I realize that there's a duality in running, whereby it propels us towards some things (such as performance goals, health, clarity, etc.) while also moving us away from others (such as stress, obesity, monotony, etc.). Yes, running allows us to shatter a great many of our preconceived limitations and achieve what may have seemed impossible, but there are some things from which we simply cannot run.

As painful as it is to admit, I've dedicated much of my adult life to the conscious pursuit of not repeating many of my father's mistakes, be it in terms of marriage, parenting and/or professional achievement. I will admit to mixed success, but I hope I've gotten more things right than wrong.

This is a tough time for people in my age bracket, sandwiched between the needs of aging parents and growing children, being pulled in different directions when it comes to deciding on what career path I wish to follow at this stage in my life. I am certainly more blessed than many, yet the burdens of life still feel quite heavy. Thanks in part to running, I know I can handle whatever comes my way, even if it doesn't always feel that way.

While we all have that strength, runners (and other extreme athletes, adventurers, soldiers, disaster-survivors and other envelope-pushers) have developed the ability to tap into it. That skill is about to come in handy for me.


P.S. On the running front, I'm still somewhat tired after the long run 2 weeks ago. I managed a over 40 miles last week, including 13+ along the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, in what was for me very hot conditions. I finished with 1.5 miles barefoot on the actual beach, but was glad that run was done. I'm slightly achy in both knees (and my right calf is a little sore), so I'll keep running easy until that passes. I do wish to get some fast-paced running in before a Thanksgiving Day 4-miler. I'm going to go into that race with no real plan and see what happens. I'm hoping to surprise myself . . . in a good way for a change. ;-)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nacimos Para Correr

Rather than make one more bad Springsteen reference, I thought I'd resort to my first language for today's blog post. While it does lose a little something in the translation, "Born to Run" is a master work of running journalism. Mixing in cultural anthropology, human evolutionary theory, running lore, extreme ultra-running and a cast of unforgettable, larger-than-life characters, Christopher McDougall has turned a personal quest (i.e., figuring out why his foot hurt and he was unable to run) into a sort of Rosetta Stone for those of us who think about the mysteries and enigmas posed by running.

The reason for this review is because I got to spend an hour-plus last week listening to Chris speak at the Barnes and Noble in Manchester, New Hampshire. There was a crowd of about 50 people, probably 65/35 percent men to women. Some of us wore our work clothes; others looked like they might have been about to go for a run. Chris showed up right on time, wearing a black Smartwool zip mock-turtleneck and his Vibram Five Fingers, essentially gloves for the feet.

McDougall began with the story of the book, which segues neatly into the barefoot running "debate" which Born to Run has rekindled. At its core, the message of Born to Run is that running - in particular endurance running - played a critical (perhaps the critical) role in humankind's evolution. McDougall notes that our big brains required lots of energy, which ended up needing to come in the form of meat. We've had that big brain for 2 million years, but we've only had weapons for about 200,000 of those years. If that's the case, how did we kill our prey before the advent of spears, arrows and firearms? We became the ultimate endurance running animal, and through "persistence hunts", learned - literally - to run our victims to death. This realization explains why endurance is a major equalizer. As distances grow, the gap between male and female performance narrows. While we may lose raw speed with age, a well-conditioned endurance athlete can compete at long distances well into their late 40's and beyond.
The backdrop for this gripping yarn is the Copper Canyons of Mexico and the only known inhabitants of that area, the long-isolated Tarahumara Indians. With the help of a wayward specter of a man known as "Caballo Blanco", McDougall finds his way to the source of his initial puzzlement and wonder: a 55 year-old Tarahumara who had just won a 100-mile race wearing flowing robes and sandals.

The argument is compelling, but tracing our running history necessarily raises the question: how did we run before shoe companies started peddling all sorts of fancy modern shoes? These shoes provide cushioning and - by design - interfere with our natural running stride. Common sense would lead us to believe that the advent of the modern running shoe would lead to far fewer injuries among runners. While Charles Goodyear's rubber vulcanization process led to the first rubber shoes in the mid-19th century, it was not until the 1960's and 70's that mass-produced, running specific shoes made their way into the American (and ultimately the industrialized world's) consciousness. Nike, co-founded by legendary University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman, started selling "waffle trainers" in 1974. Nike grossed over $19 billion in 2008, and its stock went up 60% (in contrast to the S&P's -18% performance). There's clearly no financial incentive for Nike and its competitors to greet barefoot running with an open mind (though - ever savvy - Nike did create the "Nike Free" line of unstructured shoes to help "strengthen the foot"). And while publications such as Runner's World and Running Times may occasionally cover barefoot running as an eccentric niche within the sport, it would be potentially catastrophic for such publications to trumpet a movement - however sound - which would potentially put their advertising base out of business.

McDougall re-learned how to run, eventually arriving at the conclusion that shoes were contributing to his chronic injuries. He now runs barefoot - or in the Vibram Five Fingers - and has been injury-free (except for one problem he encountered when he wore some old running shoes on a winter run) since.

For my part, I embarked upon my path as a diagnosed "biomechanically inefficient" runner. I theorize that the severe groin tear which ended my soccer playing days has resulted in asymmetries in my hips. Start logging 30, then 50 and now 70 miles per week, and those imbalances will manifest themselves in injury. True enough, I started running in heavy motion control shoes such as the Asics Gel Kayano, a feature-packed 13-oz. behemoth which I supplemented with custom orthotics.

Interestingly, barefoot running found its way into my training (just 1-2 miles per week) before I read Born to Run. While there are certainly additional relevant factors, I have not had a running-related injury since April 2008, despite steadily increasing both my mileage and the intensity of my training. I have also moved down from heavy, overly supportive shoes to a much lighter array of training and racing options. The results have been nothing but positive.

So, whether you want a fresh perspective on what has become a tired expectation that running safely requires over-engineered foot coffins, or you want to read a page-turning tale of what human beings can do when we reconnect with our true nature (and, thus, our greater selves), pick up a copy of "Born to Run". You will not regret it.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Manchester 2009: A Brush-With-Greatness/Pacing/Fundraising/Ultra-Run Report

How exactly does one describe a week that rolls spending quality time with American running royalty, pacing, fundraising and ultra-marathoning all together into a single stretch of running-related indulgence? In a word? AWESOME.

As I have previously droned on about in these virtual pages, I have decided to do at least one "outside-the-box" running-related fundraiser per year. Last year, it was 40 miles to mark my 40th birthday and raise money for cancer research. This year, it was running 38 miles to mark 38 years of legal services for the poor in New Hampshire. Next April, it will be "Boston 2 Big Sur" to benefit the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

BILLY & ME (oh and DANE, too)

Of course, anyone with any sense of karmic balance knows that good things happen to those who do good things. I volunteered to be a pacer for the Manchester City Marathon, and one of the perks of so doing was being invited to the pre-race "VIP" Reception. While I was more of a CIP (Completely Inconsequential Person), I had the privilege of hanging out with none other than Bill Rodgers, a.k.a., "Boston Billy", renowned for winning BOTH the Boston and New York City Marathons 4 times each. The man ran 28 marathons under 2:15, a shocking achievement in the realm of distance running.

Suffice it to say that I had a chance to chat with Bill Rodgers for the better part of two hours last Thursday evening, ending up talking to him alone during the last half-hour. I also met Dane Rauschenberg, a former lawyer who ran 52 marathons in 2006, one each weekend, while working a full-time job. He's written a book, and now makes his living as an author and motivational speaker. It was good to connect with someone who's essentially living my dream (the fact that he's single is no small factor in terms of traveling around the country hitting marathon expos). I enjoyed speaking with Dane on a peer-to-peer sort of basis. Having Bill Rodgers to myself, though - hearing about Rosie Ruiz in Boston in 1980, how friendly he was with Frank Shorter & Greg Meyer, talking about his health and future running plans, even learning how much he likes cheese - was an experience I may never duplicate in my remaining running life. He was even gracious and interested in the fundraising ultra-run, and commented on legal assistance being a great cause.


Choosing to pace a marathon brought about a whole new level of anxiety. No longer did I worry about completing the distance, or about qualifying for Boston or about blowing 4 months of training with a shoddy race performance. No, instead I fretted about running too fast, a sure sign that the apocalypse cannot be far behind. I had a tough time dialing in the 8:45/mile average pace during my recent training runs, but just kept telling myself that, come race-day, I'd rise (or fall, as the case may be) to the occasion.
As befits my dysfunctional relationship with race-day weather (see 3 of my 4 prior marathons and my recent half-marathon at Bay State), Sunday turned out to be a PERFECT day for running a marathon: 40's at the start; low-to mid-50's by finish time. While I appreciated the good weather, I noted that it had to be that good on a day when I wasn't racing. As my wife pointed out, of course I'd find some reason to fault the weather.

I got to Manchester, left my stuff at the YMCA, and went for a 1.8-mile "warm-up" run. Why? Because having settled on doing 38 total miles, I figured that having "only" 10 miles to go after the marathon would seem more manageable than doing nearly 12. I saw some Kenyan-looking types going for an easy jog, and it felt good to get moving. After trying to eat everything I could get my hands on on Friday and Saturday (Halloween made that interesting), I wanted to run already. Here's how the pre-race miles stacked up:
  • 1-8:48
  • 0.85-7:13 (8:33/mi)

Total = 1.85 in 16:01


So, with 1.85 miles down, I headed for the start area, where I found the pacer coordinator, took the 3:50 pace sign and lined up a good ways behind the start. People immediately began to hover around me, and the chattiest Kathy started telling me how she planned to run with the group for the first half, and then leave us behind as she sped up in the second half. When I asked her about her training, she answered by telling me why she had not been able to run much "lately". Not a good sign for a first-time marathoner. She told me she peaked at 30-40 miles per week. I not-so-gently suggested that she not speed up at the half. She huffed and puffed her way up the hills, and I did not see her after the half.

It merits mention that the pacing strategy I chose to follow was to start close to "on pace" (8:45/mile), exert even effort on the hills and plan for a slight fade towards the end. An online running friend makes brilliant customized spreadsheets for various marathons, and he made me one for free since I was volunteering as a pacer (and fundraising). Check out his work at

The first half of Manchester is hilly, but it runs through a nice part of town, with ample crowd support and the half-marathoners making it feel like a nice, big race. I was chatting with my group, telling them stories of races past, checking in with them. We must have had about 15-20 people together for a while, with maybe 6 or so of those staying close to me while keeping the dialogue going.

Below are the mile-by-mile splits, with notable (at least to me) observations for each one.

  • 1-8:46 - Start about 30 seconds after the gun; carrying the big 3:50 Pacer sign for a mile, while finding space for our group to run; the stalwarts are with me; we're chatting (though I remind them to relax and save their energy); I'm answering questions and smiling at the crowd; missed the first mile marker, but the Garmin had us right on pace

  • 2-8:32 - More of the same, settling into a rhythm; I tossed the sign to the side during this mile, which was a bit fast

  • 3-8:35 - Smooth and steady up a short hill; still enjoying the crowd and chatting with my group

  • 4-8:41 - Hitting the first real hill, I tell the group to look up, run tall and relax up the hill

  • 5-8:47 - The biggest hill of the first half, and I see my accountant up ahead; he says hello and realizes he's gone out way too fast for his 4:15 goal time (he ran a full marathon 3 weeks earlier)

  • 6-8:36 - Keeping things steady; the group asks me about my training, PRs, what my goal would have been if I weren't pacing, etc.; we cut through the park where I plan to run most of the extra mileage later in the day

  • 7-8:46 - A couple of hills as we work our way through a nice, supportive neighborhood; pace group is sticking together nicely, with a couple of folks staying close to me and chatting away

  • 8-8:40 -The last significant hill of the first half; everyone seems to be doing well, drinking when they should and keeping it smooth and steady

  • 9-8:32 - Some rolling terrain, but some downhill lets everyone catch their breath; I suggest that they shorten their stride to save the quads for later

  • 10-8:38 (+32 secs in attempt to reset laps to match up with mile markers) - Coming back towards town, with the group hanging strong as we pass some half-marathoners who may have gone out too fast; somewhere in this mile, I notice a brand new pain on the outside of my left foot; it ebbs and flows, but stays with me for the rest of the day

  • 11-8:37 - Getting closer to town; a couple of rolling hills; I tell the official race photographers to take pics of the best-looking pace group around; we'll see if they did ;-)

  • 12-8:36 - Pass the Greek Orthodox church which occasions many remarks about the unfortunate architectural style

  • 13-8:22 - We crest the final small hill of the first half, and I remind the group to relax on the long downhill; I feel a strong headwind for the first (but, sadly, not last) time; Half-marathoners are kicking it in as I ask who in our group wants to bail out now; no one volunteers, so we turn right where the halfers turn left and are on the way to the second half

  • HALF - 1:53:31 [about 40 seconds faster than the projected pace]

  • 14-8:29 - Things changed immediately upon crossing the Merrimack River; the west side of the course has fewer runners (maybe 2/3 of the runners were half-marathoners), more wind and far less crowd support; we take a short, steep climb into a nice neighborhood, and I can sense the group beginning to thin out

  • 15-8:29 - The grind begins here; some members of the group are falling back; there is no traffic control in this part of the race (not much at all for the rest of the race really); things start to get quiet

  • 16-8:36 - Staying focused and steady; talking to those who are with me, I explain that the next mile is dedicated to my ailing father (as we'll be on "Louis Street" for a stretch); I sense some quiet support from the crew

  • 17-8:39 - Working our way along, the group thins out noticeably; there's one guy right on my hip (a guy who last ran a marathon 6 years ago and acknowledged sub-par training for this one) and one woman seeking her Boston qualifying time who's staying a step or two ahead, looking strong

  • 18-8:44 - It's been a long slog to this point, and there's still a lot of running left; I notice that some slight right hip soreness is evolving into actual pain; not sure where this came from or what to do about it

  • 19-9:06 - A very long uphill (pace projection was to do it in 9:00) and we take it smoothly; the BQ woman leaves us to go ahead, while many others drop back; the guy stays with me, and we start picking occasional "stragglers" for stretches along the way; my hip is getting worse; the HS students at the next aid station provide some welcome positive feedback about the tie-dyed arm sleeves

  • 20-9:21 - We turn into St. Anselm's College campus, and my hip becomes unbearably painful, with a shooting stab on each step; I let the group know to go ahead, and I think I will now have to walk the remaining 16 miles to make the 38-mile goal for the day; one of the "new" members of the 3:50 group offers me some topical Biofreeze gel; I stop, apply it, walk briefly and try to stretch and massage the painful spot; it feels remarkably better (still painful, but goes from stabbing pain to dull ache) and I catch back up to what passes for the group at this point

  • 21-8:17 - Trucking along, the major downhill does nothing to help my aching foot and hip; This is a "grin & bear it" mile, where I take my third gel of the day, a caffeinated Gu Roctane I see some friends who just ran the relay and we do the obligatory high-five thing

  • 22-8:47 - While I needed the energy from the Gu. I did not need the ensuing GI chaos; this required a 2-minute port-a-potty stop; according to my watch, I then ran the next mile in about 6:45 to catch back up (again); I found the one guy who'd been steady all along, and stayed with him; at this point, I'm noticing the dejected reactions of the people we're passing when they see my 3:50 Pacer's shirt; must have heard some version of "Oh, sh*t!" close to a couple dozen times in the final 5+ miles

  • 23-8:38 - A very turny, twisty part of the course, but the neigborhood is nice enough and we know we're getting there; my one stalwart is with me stride for stride, and I encourage him as best I can

  • 24-8:43 - We cross the river again over the lovely foot bridge and I know the end is coming up; in this mile, I see a guy walking wearing Vibram Five Fingers (essentially, gloves for one's feet which allow for "barefoot" running); I tell him I like the VFF's and am sorry he's injured; he replies that "sh*t happens"

  • 25-8:43 - Bringing it home, my sole remaining acknowledged "pacee" and I are buoyed by a beautiful spectator who gives us some warm encouragement; he thanks me and tells me he'll drop back in the final mile to run in with his young son in his arms

  • 26-8:32 - A volunteer tells us there's a mile to go (though it's clearly less); I look at my watch and think I'll be cutting it too close if she's right, so I step it up a bit; a guy with a triathlon race shirt apparently decides he doesn't want the 3:50 pacer to pass him, so he goes with me; I try to talk to him, but he acts like we're racing, and ends up fading back with less than a half-mile to go; I see my older two kids up ahead with less than 0.2 miles left, and they run alongside me on the outside of the course barriers; I smile and raise my arms as I approach the finish line

  • FINISH - 3:48:57 (chip time)
Boy, was I glad to be done. The announcer botched my name a couple of times before I crossed the line, but then nicely pointed out that I was the 3:50 pacer who appeared to have done his job properly ("How's that for knowing how to run"?, I heard him say). I got my medal, saw my family and took a planned 10-minute break to eat, stretch, change shirts and shoes and steel myself for the remaining 10 miles. I also saw the woman who'd gone ahead and gotten her BQ. She gave me a hug and asked her husband to take our picture together. The guy who came in just behind (but under 3:50) also thanked me and promised to look me up on LinkedIn.

As I was leaving the finish area, my running club teammate Dan appeared like an angel from heaven, having decided to come just to watch the marathon finish and keep me company during the final 10 miles (AND he gave me a check for the Campaign for Legal Services!). We bid my family adieu and were off on the final chapter of the day's running adventure.


My foot and hip still hurt, but I was able to run fine with Dan chatting away and keeping me company. We ran a couple of miles to a local park in which I often run at lunchtime, which has a 1-mile lakefront path, a perfect way to stay away from traffic on a softer surface. I chose this because a number of friends had said they might "run a mile or two" with me, and I figured this would be easy logistically. It turned out to be a tough slog, especially with the small hills and one particularly bouncy suspension bridge that was sheer torture each time we crossed. After the first lap, one of my best friends - Scott - appeared, and it was great to see him. My family cheered during each lap as we passed by.

I was not in a good place during miles 3-7 of the extra 10, with each step radiating pain and discomfort in my foot and hip. I reminded myself about novelist/marathoner Haruki Murakami's cogent observation: "Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional." It helped to bear that in mind.

After running my 33rd mile of the day, we chatted with a family which asked jokingly whether any of us had run the marathon. The mother was incredulous about the fact that I had and was doing more, and she kept saying, "You don't look like you've run 33 miles", which begged the question of just how one should look at that point. Bloody? Stooped like Quasimodo? Covered in vomit? LOL I was tired and hurting, but had not physically begun to fall apart.

After several of the lakefront laps, I needed to take a 30-second stretch break, but when I stretched my hips, my hamstrings would cramp, and vice-versa. So, I took to pulling/stretching my back and legs by holding onto a park bench. I also drank and ate during those stops, and changed back into the Brooks Launches which I'd worn during the marathon, as the Montrail trail shoes were just too stiff for my aching feet.

Dan, Scott and I rounded the pond for the fifth full lap, and then did a partial lap to leave the 2.4 miles it would take to finish at a local ale house back near the start/finish area. That was the Legal Services' folks' gathering place. Once on the road, Scott said goodbye and I found my stride again (not implying a connection there). As we came back into town, the aches subsided and I was running smoothly again. Dan actually fell back with a half-mile to go (he said he was out of gas, but I suspect he was letting me have my moment), and I finished the final mile running around 7:15/mile pace.

When I saw the sign for the bar, I smiled and raised my arms (I'd just passed the marathon finish line, with the clock showing right around 6 hours). As I arrived at the pub, a guy came straight outside, seemingly to greet me. I thought he was a Legal Services person, but turned out to be just a guy coming out to smoke a butt. He asked me what I was doing, and in his semi-inebriated state, seemed to have trouble processing what I was telling him. Then my wife came outside, to tell me that the other folks were confused about my plans and had left for the park to meet me there.

I changed my clothes, greeted the well-wishers and fellow runners when they arrived and hung out for a while. I drank a lot of water, then forced down a black & tan and some sweet potato fries, and relived some of the day's highlights, both mine and those of other runners. This included everyone from my 2:50 friend (who broke 2:52 on a tough course for a new marathon PR) to a first-time ever runner who ran the half-marathon in around 3 hours.

My wife and younger two kids left to go for the season's inaugural ice skate, while my oldest daughter insisted on staying with me (foregoing her time with her visiting out-of-town "boyfriend", a very moving gesture).

Here are the (somewhat painful) splits from the final 10 miles:

  • 29-9:52
  • 30-10:11
  • 31-10:27 (who's stupid idea was it to run on a hilly lakefront path anyway?)
  • 32-10:49
  • 33-11:03
  • 34-10:47
  • 35-10:45
  • 36-10:35
  • 37-9:56 (feels like heaven to be back on the flat, even sidewalks)
  • 38-8:59

  • TOTAL FOR LAST 10 MILES - 1:42:52

TOTAL RUNNING TIME FOR THE DAY: 5:47:50 for 38.3 miles

AVERAGE PACE = 9:05/mile (approx, not counting brief rest stops)


As with other 2009 running endeavors, Sunday's experience confirmed that I am not the runner I was last year. Consistent, mostly injury-free training has vaulted me to a new level, in terms of speed, endurance and - perhaps most importantly - mental toughness. Selecting a day where all my running was to benefit other people made it that much easier to ride out the rough patches and complete the day's mission(s). Quitting was never an option.

Pacing is something I'll definitely do again, but perhaps a little closer to my actual fitness level (say, 20 minutes slower) and without committing to additional mileage (duh!).

The fundraising aspect was moderately successful. I surpassed the $1000 goal, but by nowhere near the margin I had hoped. It was a lot of work to raise about $1200 (so far), but I have no regrets. I got to do what I love to do on behalf of an organization about which I care a great deal. It's hard to imagine many things surpassing that on the personal satisfaction-meter.

Now, it's time to run easy for a couple of months before focusing on Boston, and next year's kooky running fundraiser: Boston 2 Big Sur, to benefit the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

Thanks for hanging in for this topsy-turvy journey.

-ESG (Ron)