Reflections on Boston

As I sit home on a Saturday night, just a few days after the verdict in the Boston Marathon bombing trial, I am thinking about all that has happened over the last two years. You see, this coming Wednesday is 15 April. Besides being tax day, it also marks the two-year anniversary since two evil brothers exploded bombs at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. I have never shown these two losers the respect of mentioning their names, and I do not plan to change that here. That beautiful afternoon on Boylston Street in Boston, the explosions killed three innocent people (29-year-old Krystle Campbell, 23-year-old Lingzi Lu and 8-year-old Martin Richard) and injured over 260 others. A few days later, they killed Sean Collier, a 27-year-old MIT police officer. During an extensive manhunt, one of the terrorists was killed and the other was eventually captured. It took two years, but the trial for the other terrorist concluded last week with guilty verdicts for all thirty counts. Seventeen of those counts could carry the death penalty when the penalty phase starts next week. Personally, I hope he gets the absolute maximum penalty possible. In fact, I want him to get the death penalty on all seventeen counts where it is a possibility.

Boston Marthon Victims

Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lingzi Lu

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Officer Sean Collier

You may wonder why I feel so strongly about this. For those that do not know, I was running the race that day and wrote about it here. In fact, had I not had a minor leg issue around mile 22 or 23, I likely would have been at the finish line at the time of the explosions. Instead, the Boston police stopped us about a half mile from the finish. My friend Jack was also running the marathon that day and was just a little ways behind me. The biggest concern I had after learning about the explosions was that Jack’s wife, Barbara, was in the grandstands at the finish line. You can imagine my relief to find out that she was okay despite being right across the street from one of the bombs.

As I heard about the verdict, my first reaction was one of satisfaction that justice might finally be served. Of course, I hope the penalty phase delivers an appropriate sentence for the heinous nature of the crimes. The more I thought about it, some of the emotions from that day returned. I found myself thinking a lot about Krystle, Lingzi, Martin and Sean. Three of these victims were just watching friends and family finish the most prestigious marathon in the world. It was supposed to be a time of celebration. Instead, a senseless act took them away from their friends and family in a horrific fashion. There were an estimated 264 other victims that day, all of whom found their lives forever changed. There were numerous stories like the one about Celeste Corcoran who lost both legs below the knees and her daughter Sydney that was also severely injured. Sisters Nicole Gross, who had her left leg broken and right ankle fractured, and Erika Brannock, whose leg had to be amputated, were at the finish to watch their mother, Carol Downing, complete the 26.2-mile course. Eleven-year-old Aaron Hern was there with his dad, Alan, and little sister, Abby, to cheer on his mom, Katherine, in her first Boston Marathon. He suffered significant injuries that landed him in the ICU. Newlyweds Patrick and Jessica Downes both lost their left leg below the knee and Jessica was in danger of losing her remaining foot. There are so many more stories like this. These are the people that should be remembered. These are the people I choose to honor, not the loser that was put on trial.  You see, these people exemplify the power of the human spirit.  These people show that the terrorists will not ultimately win.

I also choose to remember the 2014 Boston Marathon. The feeling in the city the next year was much different. It felt like there was still a sense of mourning over what had happened the year before. At the same time, there was a muted excitement during the weekend. You could see the steely resolve of the runners as they walked around the expo. It was like we all knew the significance of what would happen on Monday. The anticipation brimming over by the time the race started. In a normal year, there would be around 27,000 runners lining up to start the marathon in Hopkinton spread out over three waves. Last year, there was such an interest in running the marathon that the Boston Athletic Association added a fourth wave which brought the number of runners up to 36,000.

In 2013, I felt great throughout the race. The weekend was absolutely perfect. It started with a surprise 70th birthday party for my Dad before I left town on Saturday. On Sunday afternoon, I attended my first baseball game at Fenway Park. When Monday arrived, it brought an absolutely gorgeous day for a marathon. I knew I was ready. I had devised a race plan with my coach, Danny Haralson, to run my first sub-4:00 marathon. Danny always tells us to “plan your race and race your plan.” That is exactly what I did. For about 22 or 23 miles, I was right on plan and felt terrific. Suddenly, I got a strange pain in the quadricep muscle of my left leg. It was a pain I had never felt so I tried to run through it. Eventually, it started hurting bad enough that I finally had to walk a little bit. I was frustrated at that point. The walking was enough to keep me from hitting my goal. Somewhere past mile 25, I crested a small hill and found people in road stopping the runners. At first we did not know why but we soon found out about the happenings just ahead of our location. The thoughts of finishing the Boston Marathon changed to concern for those injured or killed. I struggled with accepting a medal for that race. To this day, it is still the only race that I have started but not crossed the finish line. Jack got my medal and put it around my neck at the airport the next day just before our flights left. After he and Barbara left me to board their plane, I put the medal in my backpack. I just could not wear it. It took me about two months before I would wear the race shirt. Every time I saw something that reminded me that race, I would find myself getting emotional. Even though it was challenging to find a way to deal with what happened, I also was determined to go back the next year if given the opportunity. I knew that was my way of showing the terrorists that they would not win.

Boston Marathon Bombings

Location where the police stopped us somewhere past mile 25. That’s me in the red MEB Foundation shirt in the bottom right corner.

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This is what the scene looked like where the police stopped within just a few minutes.

Fortunately for me, the Boston Athletic Association decided to allow those of us that did not get the opportunity to finish the 2013 race to come back in 2014. There was a special registration period for the approximately 5,600 runners that fit the criteria. I registered within ten minutes of that registration period opening. I was determined to finish what I had started the year before as I wrote about here.  As I mentioned earlier, the mood in Boston was reserved all weekend, especially around the expo. Jack and Barbara also went back and I was blessed to have my wife, Caroline, join me this time. Although the mood was reserved, there was a feeling of anticipation too. The night before the race, Jack, Barbara, Caroline and I had the pleasure of spending a few minutes with Meb Keflezighi and his wife, Yordanos. We talked about the significance of the 2014 marathon after what had happened in 2013. The next day, Meb ran the race of his life. He not only ran a PR with a time of 2:08:37, but he also became the first American to win Boston in 31 years. To show what the race meant to him, Meb wrote on his race bib the names of the four people killed the year before. Even though I did not run the way I had hoped, it meant a lot to learn while I was around mile 12 that Meb had won the race. When I finally made it to the place where I had been stopped the year before, I was determined to run from there to the finish line. The excitement, especially on Boylston Street, was the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. The muted excitement from the weekend was overflowing on that Patriot’s Day. It was like the people of Boston were reclaiming their streets. They were taking their race back.

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This was Meb running through the place where the police stopped us in 2013 on his way to winning the 2014 Boston Marathon.

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My picture just after completing the 2014 Boston Marathon with the finish line in the background. I asked a volunteer to take this picture since I did not get to reach this point the year before.

The 2015 Boston Marathon is only a couple of weeks away. There is a side of me that wishes I could be there again this year. Although I will not be running the marathon this year, I will be following it closely. I would like nothing more than to see Meb win again this year. With the verdict, and hopefully sentencing, out of the way, the world can place their attention back on the race and not give these terrorist the time of day. They do not deserve it.  Instead, let us honor those that have shown the resolve that is the American spirit to overcome the tragic events of two years ago.

bostonstrong

Thoughts on Passover and Easter

This weekend is significant in the Judeo-Christian world.  Passover began last night at sunset and runs through next Saturday at nightfall. Within the Jewish faith, Passover is an eight-day festival commemorating the liberation of the nation of Israel from slavery in ancient Egypt. Many probably already know this, but the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptian pharaohs for decades. God heard their cries and sent Moses to ask Pharaoh to release HIs people. Of course, Pharaoh refused and God reigned down devastating plagues on Egypt. The last of these plagues resulted in the death of the first-born man and beast in every home. To avoid this plague, the Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of slaughtered spring lamb. Upon seeing this blood on the doorpost, the Spirit of God passed over the home and spared the first-born inside. Thus, the holiday became known as Passover. With the devastation, Pharaoh finally let the people of Israel leave with Moses. See Exodus 12:1-32 for the Passover story.

As a Christian, Passover holds significance for me as well. Just like God’s Spirit passed over the Israelite homes that had the blood from a sacrificed lamb smeared on the doorpost, God spares those who accept the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, His Son Jesus, as payment for our sin. The Israelite families did not automatically get passed over that fateful night in Egypt. God gave them specific instructions to follow to avoid His judgment that night. They had to take a unblemished year-old lamb into the home until the day of sacrifice. They took the blood from this sacrificed lamb and put it on the doorposts of their home. They also ate the lamb that night, roasted on a fire, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. This meal is known as the Passover seder. For us Christians, this event foretells of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is a memorial of HIs death as the true Lamb of God. Christians partake of unleavened bread and wine (or grape juice for us Baptists) in remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus’ beaten body and shed blood. We believe that it is this sacrifice that makes forgiveness of sin possible. Paul tells us in Hebrews 9:22, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” [ESV].

In my opinion, Easter is the most important day in human history. Christmas is obviously significant as God came to earth as a man to live among us in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus was 100% God and 100% man all at the same time. He lived for 33 years and never sinned. That was important because the Levitical law called for the animals used for sacrifices to be “without blemish” {see Leviticus 1:3,10; 4:3, 23, 28, 32). The fact that Jesus lived a perfect life, He met the requirements of an unblemished sacrifice, which was necessary to fulfill God’s requirement in the law. Good Friday is also significant because Jesus died as a sacrifice on our behalf. As sinners, we owed a sin debt that we could never pay. God loved us so much that He was willing to sacrifice His own Son so that we could have a chance to enter into a relationship with Him. Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Obviously, Christmas and Good Friday are significant dates on the Christian calendar. However, it is what Jesus did after between the crucifixion and that first Easter morning is what gives us hope. With His death, Jesus took on the sin of mankind. In doing so, He paid the penalty for us. He took on the wrath of God against sin in our place. He also overcame death and hell as The Bible says in Revelation 1:18, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”

You see, after dying as a sacrifice for us and defeating death, Jesus rose from the dead on that first Easter. It was His resurrection that fulfilled God’s plan to reconcile us to Him after Adam’s original sin in the Garden of Eden. That first sin created a rift between us, as flawed humans, and a perfect God. It was a rift that we are unable to repair on our own. That is why Jesus had to bridge the gap for us. His resurrection completed the process that makes reconciliation possible. Jesus did the hard part. All we have to do is accept His gift. He created man with a free will. Therefore, we all have to make the choice on our own. No one else can make the decision for us. We need to realize that refusing to accept this gift of grace means we are relying on our merits, which are woefully lacking.

The Bible is very clear that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. Our sin creates a chasm between us and God that we cannot bridge on our own. Fortunately, God has shown mercy on us an provided a way to bridge that gap. In John 14:6 Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In very clear language, He is telling us we cannot reach God the Father without going through God the Son. The reason is because He knew what He had to do to make it possible for us to have a relationship with God again. He accomplished the task on that first Easter. All we have to do is accept His free gift. In fact, that is all we can do. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Did you catch that? It is not based on what we have done. It is solely based on what Jesus did. We just have to accept that free gift.

Some important things to know when making this decision are:

I think too often we go through Easter without really thinking about all that Jesus did for us. Just like God saved the Israelites whose homes were covered with the blood of a lamb, He will save those whose lives are covered by the blood of the Lamb of God. If you have not accepted God’s free gift of saving grace, I urge you to do so. There is not a more important decision you can make.

World Majors Achievement

The article I wrote for this month’s Birmingham Track Club newsletter, The Vulcan Runner, is about a major achievement accomplished by one of my good friends, David Kahn.  Below is the article as it appeared in the newsletter:

What do you think of when you hear the word “major”?  I looked it up on www.dictionary.com and found a couple of interesting definitions:

  • Noun – one of superior rank, ability, etc., in a special class
  • Adjective – greater in size, extent, or importance

What does this have to do with running?  I am glad you ask.  I decided to look online to see what I could find a connection with “major” and “marathon”.  On www.active.com, I found a list of the biggest marathons in the United States:

  1. ING New York City Marathon – 43,660 finishers
  2. Bank of America Chicago Marathon – 33,701 finishers
  3. Boston Marathon – 22,843 finishers
  4. Marine Corps Marathon – 21,405 finishers

I am not sure of the year that these numbers represent, but the point is that these are the largest attended marathons in the country.  I guess you could consider them the United States’ major marathons.

I know several runners in our area that have run all four of these marathons.  Some have completed one or more multiple times.  They are all great and unique events in wonderful cities.

On the world level, there are six marathons that are classified as World Marathon Majors.  These major marathons are Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York and Tokyo.  On their website, their mission statement states:

“PROVIDE GLOBAL LEADERSHIP IN ELITE AND MASS PARTICIPATION MARATHONS.”

The World Marathon Majors is a series consisting of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world:  Tokyo Marathon, Boston Marathon, Virgin Money London Marathon, BMW BERLIN MARATHON, Bank of America Chicago Marathon and TCS New York City Marathon.  The organizers of these events are united in their effort to advance the sport, raise awareness of its elite athletes, and increase of the level of interest in elite racing among running enthusiasts.

The Abbott World Marathon Majors (AWMM) determines the world’s best male and female marathoners, awarding a $1 million prize purse split evenly by the men’s and women’s champions.  The purse is awarded after each full year cycle of competition.  A one year series is defined as follows – AWMM Series IX begins at the 2015 Tokyo Marathon and ends upon completion of the 2016 Tokyo Marathon.  AWMM Series X begins at the 2016 Boston Marathon and ends upon completion of the 2017 Boston Marathon.  Each subsequent series will begin and end at the next AWMM race on the calendar.  The Olympic Marathon and IAAF World Championships Marathon will be included in the race schedule in years they are held, but will not begin or end the series.

The ninth running of the Tokyo Marathon on 22 February 2015 marked the official start of Abbott’s title sponsorship of the Abbott World Marathon Majors.

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The champions are the male and female runner who scores the greatest number of points from Qualifying Races during the one-year scoring period.  During each scoring period, points from a maximum of two Qualifying Races will be scored.  An athlete must start in two Qualifying Races over the Series cycle to be eligible for the championship.  If an athlete earns points in more than two events, the athlete’s highest two finishes will be scored.

Points are allocated following each race as follows:

1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place 4th Place 5th Place
25 points 16 points 9 points 4 points 1 point

If you are still reading this, you are probably wondering why I went into so much detail on the World Marathon Majors.  Well, I am glad you asked.  With the 2015 Tokyo Marathon, one of Birmingham’s own has actually now completed all six World Majors. David Kahn began his quest to complete the major U.S. marathons with the 2009 Chicago Marathon only about a year after he started running.  He followed that up with the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon, 2011 New York City Marathon and the 2012 Boston Marathon.  To make this achievement more impressive, he started a new business during this same time and grew Yogurt Mountain to over 40 locations.

Once he completed the largest U.S. marathons, he looked for another goal to go after.  Since he was half-way through the World Majors, he decided to complete the three international races.  In 2013, he completed the London Marathon.  After that he set his sights on Berlin, which he completed in 2014.  With the completion of this year’s Tokyo Marathon, he rounded out the World Majors.  He has also started another new company, Pizza 120, while wrapping up these international races.

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As far as I can tell, David is the first runner in Birmingham to complete all six races of the AWMM series.  He may be the only runner in Alabama to complete this feat.  We all know that only a miniscule percentage of the population ever complete a marathon and David has become a member of an even more exclusive group.

Congratulations to David on this most impressive achievement!

Lessons from Meb Keflezighi

As many of you know, I write a regular column in the monthly newsletter published by the Birmingham Track Club. My column is titled “Ramblings” because I just write whatever I feel like writing each month. For the January issue that was just released, I shared something that I read not too long ago about Meb Keflezighi. Since we are starting a new year and I thought this was good advice, the following is a reprint of the article:

Sports Illustrated recently blew a historic opportunity to make a strong statement to the sports world when it selected Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants over Meb Keflezighi as their 2014 Sportsman of the Year.  Taking nothing away from Bumgarner, he was incredible in the playoffs last fall, but Meb accomplished something that transcended sports when he won the 2014 Boston Marathon.  To me, it seemed like such an easy choice to select Meb as Sportsman of the Year.  One year after the terrorist bombings at the finish line on Boylston Street, Meb ran a PR on his way to winning the marathon.  He honored the four victims killed the previous year by writing their names on his bib.  He wanted to do something special for the running world and, more specifically, the city of Boston.  And he did!  Just shy of his 39th birthday, Meb took the lead early and held it throughout to become the first American winner since Greg Meyer in 1983.  With his victory, Meb brought pride to our country and he reclaimed the streets of Boston for the community and runners.  The win also made him the first runner in history to win both the New York City Marathon and the Boston Marathon along with an Olympic medal.  Those of us who know him personally could not have been prouder.  I just wish Sports Illustrated had recognized the magnitude of his accomplishment.

Reading all of the posts on the internet in the aftermath of Sports Illustrated’s decision, I ran across an excellent article outlining lessons that we could all learn from Meb.  I dug it back out and thought I would share the advice here.  Regardless of ability, all of us can strive to better ourselves in 2015.  I hope you find this as good as I did.

Lesson #1:  No Pity Parties

If you have run for any length of time, you have most likely experienced a pity party.  If you run a marathon, you will see many pity parties all around you as you get deeper into the race.  When things become difficult, human nature is to dwell on the pain and suffering.  This is something Meb does not allow to happen.  Because of his mental strength, he is a master at refocusing his attention away from negatives.  When my wife told him she did not like to run long distances because it hurts, he laughed and told her that a marathon hurts him for all 26.2 miles.

Just like all of us, Meb suffers when he runs but he refuses to live in the suffering.  He quickly redirects his thoughts to things, usually external, that can be beneficial to get him back on track.  I have heard Meb say that he often thinks of his father who escaped Eritrea by walking more than 200 miles to get his family out of the country.  When he began to struggle in the Boston Marathon and Wilson Chebet was gaining on him late in the race, he thought of the victims from the previous year’s tragedy to find the strength to keep the lead and race to victory down Boylston Street.

For those of us that have been fortunate to train with Coach Danny Haralson of Run University, we often hear him tell us to think about other things when we feel tired or deflated during a race.  He tells us to think positive thoughts to get our minds off the negativity.

Meb’s ability to refocus from the negative to a positive mindset is a key to his consistent success in running and life.  As he often says, “I run to win but winning doesn’t always mean getting first place.  It means getting the best of yourself in each race.”

Lesson #2:  Relentlessness

Meb displays the same relentlessness in training as he does in races.  If you are familiar at all with his story, you know he has had more than his fair share of injuries.  Others have written him off repeatedly.  Sponsors have chosen not to renew his contract.  He just keeps coming back, stronger and better.  His secret is relentless hope.  He believes that if today is not his day, then it probably will be tomorrow or maybe next week or even next month.  He is always looking ahead with hope.

When he races, he always has several goals.  At this year’s New York City Marathon, he had three goals:  win, top three finish or PR.  The wind gusts created conditions that took the PR off the table, but he kept his sights on his other two goals.  He ran with the lead pack for most of the race but was unable to match some of the late surges and fell back to eighth place at one point.  He saw the reigning world champion, Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda, ahead of him and thought, “Well, that’s not too bad to finish behind the Olympic champion.”  As soon as he thought that, his relentlessness kicked in and he decided to give it one more push.  He soon caught Kiprotich as they set their sights on the next runner ahead, defending champion and course record holder Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya.  That is when Meb thought to himself that this might be his only chance to beat Mutai so he continued to push.  Just like that, he found himself in fourth place and began thinking, “Maybe one of the top three will fade and I can achieve my goal.”  No one faded, but that is how he thinks during a race.  He is always hopeful and ever relentless.  By the way, that fourth place finish was good enough to be the top American finisher.

Lesson #3:  Hard Work Pays Off

An interesting fact about Meb is that he thought the marathon distance was too hard for him after he ran his first marathon.  He then went for a visit to his native Eritrea and was reminded of what “hard” really is.  The trip rejuvenated him and what he thought was hard was no longer hard.

In both his running and non-running activities, Meb works hard.  He spends a significant amount of training time on non-running activities such as cross training, mobility, massage, nutrition, etc.  At age 39, Meb believes he has to work even harder on these non-running elements than he did ten years ago.  His long and consistent career is testament to the fact that he knows hard work pays off in running.

It does not matter what kind of runner you are, we can learn something from these lessons.  Whether you are a front-of-the-pack runner trying to win races as Meb does or a middle- to back-of-the-pack runner just balancing life and running, you would do well to keep these three simple lessons in mind.  I call them simple because conceptually, they are.  Putting them into practice is much more challenging.  We all have the tendency to focus on our pain or feel content with where we are rather than push to see how much better we can be.

Most of us want this running thing to be easy.  I hear people say all the time that if it were easy, everyone would do it.  As runners, we are already mentally, physically and psychologically stronger than the vast majority of the population.  The truth is that the only thing that can really hold us back is ourselves.  As we embark on a new year, make the commitment to “run to win” as Meb describes it.  Find out how good your best can be!

If you have not read Meb’s book, Run to Overcome, I highly recommend it.  If you cannot find a copy at the bookstore, just go to www.runtoovercome.com to order a copy.  The latest edition includes a chapter about this year’s Boston Marathon.

I also like to include some inspirational quotes with each of my articles. Since I chose to include quotes reflecting on hard work, I wanted to share those here as well.

“Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.”

   ~ Sam Ewing, a former baseball player for the Chicago White Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”

   ~ Thomas A. Edison, (1847-1931) an American inventor and businessman

“All growth depends upon activity.  There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.”

   ~ Calvin Coolidge, (1872-1933) the 30th President of the United States

“We forget that every good that is worth possessing must be paid for in strokes of daily effort.  We postpone and postpone, until those smiling possibilities are dead.”

   ~ William James, (1842-1910) an American philosopher and psychologist who was also trained as a physician

“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work.  Hard work is the price we must pay for success.  I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.”

   ~ Vince Lombardi, (1913-1970) an American football player, coach and executive best known as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers during the 1960s

“Focused, hard work is the real key to success.  Keep your eyes on the goal, and just keep taking the next step towards completing it.  If you aren’t sure which way to do something, do it both ways and see which works better.”

   ~ John Carmack, an American game programmer and the co-founder of Id Software

“It is only through work and strife that either nation or individual moves on to greatness.  The great man is always the man of mighty effort, and usually the man whom grinding need has trained to mighty effort.”

   ~ Theodore Roosevelt, (1858-1919) an American politician, author, naturalist, soldier, explorer and historian who served as the 26th President of the United States

I hope you enjoy this and find it to be good advice. I did.

2014 Running Recap

It seems like just last week that I was writing my 2013 Running Recap.  Of course, that is probably because I have been such an infrequent blogger this year.  I guess I do not see the need to write a post unless I actually have something to say.  Regardless, we will usher in 2015 tomorrow.  Therefore, the following is a recap of my running in 2014:

Running summary  =>  365 days and 2,441.0 miles (daily average = 6.7 miles)

Current running streak  =>  1,104 days and 7,697.9 miles (daily average = 7.0 miles)

Total races  =>  20

  • 6 5Ks (ABB 5K in downtown Houston; TX, 2nd leg of the Mercedes Marathon Relay in downtown Birmingham, AL; Iron Tribe 5K from Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, AL; Junior League of Birmingham 5K from Regions Field in downtown Birmingham, AL; Girls on the Run 5K from Marconi Park in downtown Birmingham, AL; Happy Hour Hustle 5K in the Town of Mt. Laurel)
  • 2 10Ks (Vulcan Run in downtown Birmingham, AL; Sam Lapidus Montclair Run from Levite Jewish Community Center in Mountain Brook, AL)
  • 1 10-Miler (Red Shoe Run from SoHo in Homewood, AL)
  • 7 Half Marathons (Mercedes Half Marathon in downtown Birmingham, AL; Tuscaloosa Half Marathon from the amphitheater in Tuscaloosa, AL; Scottsboro Half Marathon in Goosepond Colony in Scottsboro, AL; Rockin’ Choccolocco Half Marathon at Coleman Lake Campground near Heflin, AL; run leg of the Toughman Alabama Triathlon from Lakeside Park in Pell City, AL; Talladega 21000 Half Marathon at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, AL; Magic City Half Marathon from Regions Field in downtown Birmingham, AL)
  • 3 Marathons (Chevron Houston Marathon in downtown Houston, TX; Boston Marathon from Hopkinton to Boston, MA; TCS New York City Marathon through all five boroughs of New York, NY)
  • 1 Relay (Bourbon Chase Relay along Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail with three legs totaling 21.8 miles)

Total Personal Records  =>  1

  • 1/19/14 — Marathon PR at Chevron Houston Marathon (downtown Houston, TX) in 3:51:18

It was not quite as busy as the last couple of years, but a successful running year nonetheless. I had to deal with more illness than past years. I also had a few nagging injuries. Both affected my mileage but nothing was so bad that I could not maintain my streak.

Since I started logging my mileage in 2009, I have run a total of 13,155 miles. I am averaging 183 miles per month over the seven years through this year. I expect 2015 to be another fun running year.

Four Great Contributors to the Birmingham Running Community

For those that are members of the Birmingham Track Club, you should have received the August issue of The Vulcan Runner.  As some of you may know, I have written an article in the monthly newsletter for a couple of years.  My article is always at the back of the issue where it belongs.  I agreed to write the article as long as I could choose whatever topic I want.  I did not want to have to write every month about a specific topic.  That is not my strong suit and I knew it would get tiresome and boring for me quickly.  Plus, that would be a sure way to lead to “writer’s block” for me.

Up to now, my articles have been published exactly as I have written them, grammatical errors and typos included.  Since I have never claimed to be a good writer, I figure people get what they get when I write something.  It is the same way with this blog.

This month, however, someone decided they needed to edit my article.  In doing so, they included incorrect information.  I received the mass email from the BTC at 2:01pm notifying the members that the August issue was available on the website.  At 3:55pm, I received an email from someone telling me that I incorrectly credited Danny Haralson as being the Race Director for the Vulcan Run 10K in 2007.  I never included a year when I mentioned Danny taking over as race director.  To be clear, in case there are others that want to make sure that my facts are correct, the year was added by whomever decided to edit the article.  For those that want to make an issue over this matter, please know that it was not something that I submitted.  The edits were done without my knowledge or consent.  I was not even given the courtesy of being allowed to make my own edits.

Because it took less than two hours to ruffle some feathers, I would like to make it clear that this error was not mine this time.  Of course, I did find where I left a word out but I always find something like that once the issue is published.  The irony to me is that some people seem to think that everything is always about them.  Well, my article was all about four gentlemen that have made a tremendous contribution to the Birmingham running community   I attempted to point out, to the best of my knowledge, ways that these men have selflessly gone above and beyond for the benefit of those that went before us as well as those of us that are still running.  I have personally never heard one of these men ask for recognition for their efforts.  The intent of my article was to show my appreciation for what they have done for all of us.

I had already planned to repeat my article here in my blog after The Vulcan Runner was released.  I wanted to express my thanks for these men to those outside the BTC too.  Since the published version of my article includes incorrect information, I have chosen to post the article as I wrote it here:

 

We Should Honor People While We Can – A Tribute

As we saw in last month’s issue of The Vulcan Runner, the Birmingham running community lost another icon.  Dr. Arthur Black was highly regarded as one of the founders of the Birmingham Track Club.  (He was the first President of the BTC in 1976 and he served a second term in 1979.)  The BTC was an offshoot of his belief that exercise had value and could lead to a long and healthy life.  Apparently, he knew what he was talking about since he lived 93 years.  Even in his later years, he was said to be seen walking around Vestavia Hills picking up trash along the road.  He obviously took great pride in our community.  Needless to say, Dr. Black will be missed.  (If you have not read the article in last month’s newsletter, I highly encourage you to do so.)  In the last year or so, we also lost other prominent members from the earliest days of the BTC such as Versal Spaulding (a Vulcan Run founder) and Les Longshore (a BTC charter member).  Although I never had the opportunity to meet these men, I always heard them spoken about with high regard by everyone that knew them or met them.

Reading the tribute to Dr. Black last month also got me thinking about how we tend to honor people after they are gone.  It is obviously an appropriate thing to do.  I just wonder sometimes why we so often fail to honor people while they are still with us.  I guess we take them for granted like we do so many other things.  The BTC is blessed to have so many wonderful people who have done so much for our local running community.  I wanted to take this opportunity to express appreciation for a few of these individuals that we still see and hear from on a regular basis.

Al DiMicco

For those of us that have only been running for the past six or seven years, Al is known primarily for leading the Sunday morning group that trains for the Mercedes Marathon and Half Marathon each year.  In addition to that running group, many of us also know Al for his blogs (runningwithal.blogspot.com and trainingwithal.blogspot.com).  This past year, Al turned the reins of the marathon/half marathon training group over to Natalie Ferguson and the BTC.  Of course, he stayed involved with the group and continued to post regularly to his blogs.  His posts are not just interesting and entertaining, but provide a wealth of information to help all runners get better by learning from his experiences.  What experience you ask?  According to his blog, Al’s running resume includes over 140 marathons and ultramarathons.  His marathon PR is 3:03.  He has also run over 100 miles seven times!  For fifteen years, Al was a coach for Team-in-Training, which is a running program that benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  For those of us that read his blog regularly, we know he has ankle issues and those issues have slowed him down a tad.  However, you will still find Al and his running partner (Moha) tackling trail races all the time.  Al also still covers the ultramarathon distances, even with bad ankles.  It does not matter if the terrain is hilly or flat.  Al finds ways to stay out on the trails.  Al was the recipient of the Dr. Arthur Black/Rick Melanson Annual Service Award in 1996.  In addition, Al was just the second person to receive the BTC Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.

Danny Haralson

If you have not been involved with the BTC for very long, you may only know Danny as the Race Director for the Vulcan Run.  But he is so much more than that.  Through his Run University program (RunUniversity.com), he has trained literally thousands of runners from the couch to a 5k or 10k.  In many instances, those runners have gone on to conquer half marathons, marathons and beyond.  I know because I am one of those runners.  Moreover, I am not alone.  I would challenge you to run with almost any group in Birmingham and not find at least one (probably many more) runner that started running through Danny’s program.  Almost everyone in my regular group started with his Running 101 (also known as “Couch to 10k”) program through Run University.  The thousands of participants that have gone through his program would be impressive enough.  However, Danny’s involvement in the local running community does not end there.  Over the years, Danny has served the BTC in a number of positions, including Club President from 2004 through 2006.  His introduction as Vulcan Run Race Director was a fire by baptism.  When the previous Race Director resigned, Danny (with help from his wife, Micki) agreed to take over as Race Director for the next year.  He has graciously stayed on and made the Vulcan Run the premier race organized by the BTC every year.  A couple of years ago, the BTC recognized Danny’s significant contributions to the club by adding his name to the annual award now known as the Randy Johnson/Danny Haralson Annual Service Award.  The club gives this award each year at the annual party to “a ‘newer’ member who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and freely given of his or her time in a volunteering capacity in ways that help further the mission of the BTC.”  Danny and Micki jointly received the Dr. Arthur Black/Rick Melanson Annual Service Award in 2004.

Rick Melanson

For years, you could find Rick just about every weekend timing a race somewhere in the Birmingham area.  In addition to timing races, Rick also certified racecourses.  I would argue that no one else has worked at timing as many road races as Rick.  In addition to working races, Rick was an active member of the BTC for many years.  I still remember him at board meetings reminding us about the history of our club.  He always stayed true to the mission of the club in every way.  His fingerprints are all over the BTC, even today.  As I researched, I kept finding Rick’s name attached to something within the BTC.  Our most prestigious award given each year is the Dr. Arthur Black/Rick Melanson Annual Service Award.  This award is “our oldest award and is annually given to the most outstanding club member over the past year or for continued outstanding leadership and service to the BTC.”  In other words, this the MVP Award for the BTC and it has Rick’s name on it.  Rick himself won this award in 1980 and 1986, which makes him the only two-time recipient.  In addition, the club honored Rick in 2012 when the Peavine Falls Run officially underwent a name change to become known as the Rick Melanson Peavine Falls Run.  This was done to recognize his many years of service as the Peavine Falls Race Director.  That same year, Rick became the first to receive the BTC Lifetime Achievement Award.

Charles Amos Thompson

If you were to attend a BTC board meeting today, chances are you will find Charles there with his stack of papers.  Personally, I have no idea what is in that stack but he has them with him at nearly every meeting.  Charles’ reach into the Birmingham running community extends far beyond our club’s road running.  You will also find Charles at track meets and other races working finish lines.  He may be at a high school track meet one day at a local school then working a collegiate indoor meet at Birmingham Crossplex the next day.  I overheard Charles tell someone once that he has participated in over 2,000 events as a runner or official.  That is incredible to me.  Those that run from National Bank of Commerce (formerly Brownell Travel) on Shades Creek Parkway near Jemison Trail can thank Charles for providing the water and hydration drink on the brick wall each Sunday morning.  Charles also puts out the materials about upcoming races at the base of that wall.  I have had the pleasure of working the finish line with Charles on a couple of occasions.  The first time was the Southern Conference track championships when Samford used their new track for the first time.  I had never been to a track meet, much less work at one, but Charles was patient and taught me what to do.  On another occasion, I worked the finish line with him at the BTC Classic.  Although this event was much less tense, Charles took his job just as seriously as he had at Samford.  Working with him, I saw that he has a real passion for running and creating an environment where runners can have the best experience possible.  Charles received the Dr. Arthur Black/Rick Melanson Annual Service Award in 1987.

These are just a few examples of the people that we still have running with us today that have made significant contribution to our running community and the BTC.  I include myself when I say that we should try harder to show our appreciation to these folks, and so many others, while they can still hear us.  I certainly understand the importance of honoring people when they are gone.  It is the right thing to do.  How much more right is it to honor them while they are still here?  Without these early founders and long-time members, the BTC would not be where it is today.  For anyone who has ever worked with a volunteer organization, you know it is often a thankless job.  Let us try to make a more concerted effort to show our appreciation to those that have made significant contributions to an activity that we all love so much.

That’s it.  I hope Al, Danny, Rick, and Charles know that many of us truly appreciate what they have done for us and all runners in our community.  Without these men, the BTC would not be where it is today.  Birmingham running would not be what it is today either.  More of us need to take their lead and do our part to make running fun and inclusive.  Although I was not there, I think that is what Dr. Black and the other founders envisioned when they started the Birmingham Track Club so many years ago.