EIGHT YEARS AND COUNTING: What I’ve Learned From My Run Streak (So Far)

Back in December, I completed the 8th year of my run streak. At that time, I was asked to write an article for “The Vulcan Runner” (the monthly newsletter distributed by the Birmingham Track Club). It was an interesting request since I have had a somewhat tumultuous relationship with the club over the last several years. I originally decline the request because I do not think others care enough about my run streak to want to read about. I was then asked if I would consider writing an article about what I have learned during the streak. I thought that would be a more interesting topic, so I agreed. As I am closing in on Streak Day #3000 in a couple of weeks, I though I would share this in my blog. The following is what was published in the January issue of the newsletter…

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Running in the Tallulah Half Marathon in Jasper, Alabama

When I finished a run on 23 December in Liverpool, New York, my run streak hit its 8th year. I was asked if I would share what I have learned about running during this time. It is an interesting assignment for me because I do not consider myself an authority on running — I just think of myself as an average runner who is simply more consistent (and slightly more obsessive) than most others. Regardless, I will attempt to share some thoughts, and I hope someone else may find this helpful.

Stats on my run streak after my 23 December run

  1. The first steps are the hardest. I was 41 years old when I started Run University’s Running 101 (Couch to 5K) program in May 2008. I was much heavier and had no idea that it would be so hard. I went home after the very first session (during which we just completed one mile by walking an eighth of a mile and “slogging” an eighth of a mile until we covered the whole mile). My wife, Caroline, asked how it went, and I told her it was too hard and I did not think I could do it. There was no way I would ever run a 5K. She encouraged me to stick with it until at least the target 5K, Race to the Courthouse. Since she was not offering the needed level of sympathy for my situation, I decided I would quit after finishing the 5K. Eventually, the shin splints stopped hurting, and the running got a little easier so I stuck it out. I think we forget that it can be, and often is, hard for many new runners. If you will just stick with it, it will be well worth it.
  2. Run for you. I believe that you ultimately have to run because you want to do it. Running for a cause or running because someone else wants you to run will only keep you motivated for a little while. If you do not have the desire within you, it will become easy to stop. If you can set personal goals and reasons to keep going, it can become a part of who you are and becomes a lifestyle choice.
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    Finishing the Magic City 5k as 1st overall Grand Masters in 2019

  3. Run for others too. This might sound contradictory based on my previous point, but I can explain. Running is a great way to give something back. There are so many great charitable organizations that benefit from running events. We all know about the charity groups at large races like the New York City Marathon or Boston Marathon. However, there are numerous smaller charities that benefit from local races as well. We have lots of options in Birmingham alone. The Bell Center and Mitchell’s Place have benefited from charity runners at the Mercedes Marathon weekend. Open Hands Overflowing Hearts is the beneficiary of a fun 5K/10K in Helena as well. Even if you do not fundraise, you help these charities be participating in these events. I do not want this point to be only about running for charities, however. I enjoy running with other runners too. I get as much joy and satisfaction from helping another runner complete a race or hit a time goal as I do when I race for myself. We can build a stronger running community by helping one another.
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    Running with Alison Noble in the Statue-to-Statue 15k

  4. Cherish the relationships. My best friends these days are the people I run with or have run with in the past. I suspect this one does not need to be mentioned here, but it is one of my favorite things about running. The bonds that are developed through the miles on the road together run deep. You know the relationships are strong when you can have deep philosophical discussions or highly personal conversations with your running group. When you develop close relationships, you truly want the best for your friends. And that is what they become, your best friends. Also, what is said on the road stays on the road.
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    The 1st place overall mixed ultra team at the Ragnar Relay Tennessee with Julie Pearce, Jack Burnette, Becca Fite, Sara Turner and Kile Turner

  5. Push your boundaries on occasion. Running is unique because it is a sport that can be whatever you want it to be. If you want to become a 5K specialist, you can. If you want to run a 100-mile race, you can (you are borderline insane, but you can choose to do that). If you want to run a marathon or half marathon in all fifty states, there is nothing stopping you except maybe your budget. I do believe that you need to push yourself on a regular basis. Whether that is pushing pace or distance or something else, I do not want to get comfortable with my running. P.T. Barnum once said, “Comfort is the enemy of progress” and I believe that. If you can find your limit today, you may be amazed how much further you have to go to find it again in a year. I have only been running for a little over eleven years and I hope I have not found my potential’s boundary yet. However, I do not think you can physically push your limits every day. If you do, I think you are asking for an injury. The great thing is that there are multiple ways to push yourself, and I believe that should a regular part of your running plan.
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    Running in rainy conditions at the St. Jude Memphis Marathon with Jennifer Cole

  6. Learn from tough runs. Not every run will be magical. Some days, it is just hard. Maybe you have tired legs or you did not fuel properly. You can expect to have some tough runs. Rather than lament those runs, look for the lessons. You may have started too fast and ran out of fuel. It may have been a hot summer day, and you did not adjust for the heat and humidity. It does not matter the reason the run was difficult, there can be a lesson to learn. Personally, I do not believe in bad runs. I think they all have merit and can teach us something; I just have to identify the lesson.
  7. Celebrate every accomplishment. No matter what you accomplish, you should celebrate it. Every accomplishment is the result of dedication and effort. Success is rarely an accident, especially in longer distance events. I am amazed at what Micah Morgan has accomplished in the world of 100- mile races and 24-hour races. To be honest, I am in awe. Those results did not just happen. They reflect the hours and miles of training she puts in daily. However, Micah is so humble, that I also appreciate her husband, Cary, touting her results. I love seeing others doing well. It does not have to be on the level of Micah either. I am amazed when I see Beau Talley or Suman Silwal complete yet another 100-miler or hear Robert Kracke or Allen Jones talk about running their first marathon. I hope we all can be as happy seeing someone else accomplish his or her goal as we are when we do the same.
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    Celebrating my 1st sub-4-hour marathon at the 2014 Houston Marathon

  8. Never downplay an achievement. One of my pet peeves is hearing someone make excuses for his or her achievement. The most common example of this that I hear is when you ask someone about a race, and they reply with, “I just ran the half” (as if 13.1 miles is nothing to be proud of). That is malarkey! If you look at any race, only a very small percentage of the population will even participate. There may be 55,000 runners in the New York City Marathon but that is a minuscule percentage of the population of New York City. Even with about 60,000 runners in the Peachtree Road Race, that is a very small percentage of Atlanta’s population. In addition, I would expect over half the participants in both races are not even residents of those cities. According to a USA Today article in 2015, “marathoners and half-marathoners still make up less than one percent of the American population”. I do not know the percentage of the population that has run a 5K, but I would expect it to also be a small number. Whatever you achieve, own it, and do not downplay what you have done.
  9. Never take it for granted. Those of us who can run should never take this running gift for granted. Enjoy every time you have the opportunity to run. I have not missed a day in over eight years, and I am thankful for that. I just read an article about Coach Rich Wright of Baldwin High School in Pittsburgh. On Christmas Eve, he ended his run streak a few months short of 30 years because he needs back surgery. On the other hand, Robert “Raven” Kraft of Miami Beach is about to complete 45 years of his run streak at the end of December. He says he has slowed down over the years, but he still runs the same 8-mile route every day. I hope to go to Miami to run with him one day. There is also Ernie Andrus, a WWII veteran who is running across the United States for the second time — at 90+ years young. It will take him about three years to complete this cross-country run, but he appreciates each day (you can follow his progress on Facebook). An injury or illness can end a streak at the drop of a hat. I try to be thankful for each run.
  10. Consider every run a great run. I have already mentioned that I do not believe in bad runs. The flip side of that is that I think every run I am able to do is a great run. Every opportunity to run solo or with friends is a gift. I never want to forget that.
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    With Meb Keflezighi where I ran for his charity at the 2013 Boston Marathon

There are many, many other things I have learned, mainly by making mistakes — And while I am sure I still have more to learn, I am looking forward to each and every run. If I could close with one thought, it would be this:

“Be thankful for every time you get to run, and never forget to give back to others in return for those who invested in you when you were getting started.”Trail Run

10 Years on Cinco de Mayo

It has been quite a while since my last post. I never claimed to be a good blogger, or consistent for that matter. You get my ramblings when I decide to ramble about something. I promised myself when I started this blog that I would not post just for the sake of posting.

So what is worthy of a post today? Saturday was Cinco de Mayo. It was the Mexican holiday that commemorates the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Here in the U.S. I think Americans “celebrate” Cinco de Mayo as an excuse to drink beer. I suspect most people do not even know why it is a Mexican holiday. I had to look it up myself.

If anyone is still reading, I guess they are still wondering what warrants this post. Cinco de Mayo 2018 marks the ten-year anniversary of my first day in Run University‘s Running 101 (couch to 5k) program led by Coach Danny Haralson. In other words, 5 May 2018 marks the beginning of my running career. I met Danny for the first time that day at the formerly Colonial Bank parking lot next to the Mountain Brook YMCA. That building is near the site of the old Shades Valley High School and is now a BB&T office building that we run by often.

If this were a movie script, that day would have been the launch of a glorious running career. The reality is that I did not like it and wanted to quit. The program lasted seven weeks and culminated with the Race to the Courthouse 5k in late June. I hated everything about it for the first six weeks and had every intention of stopping as soon as I finished the 5k. A week before the race, we ran the route and it was the first run that did not suck in every way. I still did not like running, but I realized the 5k was doable.

After the 5k, I stuck with it and ran another 5k in July. Since there were no 10k races in the summer due to the hot Alabama summers, our group just continued running together until our 10k in October. It was during that summer that I started to enjoy running. In reality, I probably enjoyed spending time with the friends I met in the running group. It also helped having Jerry Smith run with us during almost every run. Jerry was a long-time runner and helped Danny with his C25K groups. Between he and Danny, I learned to push myself while learning to enjoy running.

I went on to finish the Hueytown 10k in October and followed that up with the Vulcan Run 10k in November. From there, I ran my first half marathon (Mercedes Half Marathon in Birmingham) in February 2008 and my first marathon (Baltimore Marathon) in October 2009.

To date, I have run 36 marathons (including five ultramarathons) and almost 60 half marathons. I have also run numerous 5k, 8k, 10k, 15k and other distance races. I am not very fast, but I will finish what I start. I enjoy pushing myself to see what I can do.

As my blog title denotes, I am also an accidental streak runner. I have run at least one mile every single since 24 December 2011. I never thought my streak would get this long. Early on, I was inspired by Prince Whatley‘s streak. His run streak went for over 11 years before an injury forced it to end. He is an amazing athlete that has coached so many runners through the Team In Training program that benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Like Prince, I want to be an encouragement to others with my running. I want people to understand that I am a very unremarkable runner. If I have a strength, it is consistency and determination. Some might call it obsession and would probably be accurate in their assessment. I am not very fast. I am also not overly slow. I am just very average. I see a lot of runners that are much faster and possess much more impressive achievements than I do but I understand that everyone runs for different reasons. I can appreciate each person’s journey is different from mine. I just want them to reach whatever goal they have and will be happy to help in any way I can.

This post got much longer than I expected, but that is what can happen when I ramble. Come run with me sometime and find out how true that can be. I want to close with one of my personal running quotes that guide my running journey.

There are two types of distance runners: thoroughbreds and pack mules. I am perfectly happy being a pack mule. ~ Randy Lyle

2000 Days and Counting

With the completion of my run on the morning of 14 June, I officially hit 2000 days in my running streak. Just the thought of that still sounds crazy. That’s almost 5½ years of running every single day. The streak started with no thought to go a significant amount of time. Back in January 2011, I saw a Runner’s World challenge on Facebook. The challenge was to run every day in the month of January so I decided to give it a try. I made it about 20 days before I got sick and the streak ended. The next year, one of the members of my running group at that time, The Village Runners, saw the same Runner’s World challenge for January 2012 and suggested we try to complete it as a group. We felt like the accountability of the group would make it easier to stick with it. That is kind of how it started.

Although it was not on my mind at the time, my streak actually started on Christmas Eve of 2011. My wife, Caroline, and I went to Syracuse, New York, for Christmas to spend Christmas with her brother (Donny), sister-in-law (Anica) and niece (Maddie). We flew to Syracuse on Friday, 23 December, and I intended to go for a run when we got there. Donny picked us up at the airport and we began visiting when we got back to the house and I never did run. I did wake up the next morning and go for a run with Caroline to Onondaga Lake Park. It was 22° with snow and ice on the ground.

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When 1 January came around and we started the Runner’s World challenge, I had already run for 8 straight days. We made it through the entire month and I was at 39 days. For those that know me, you know I am a numbers geek. I realized that I could reach 50 days in less than two weeks so I decided to go for it. At 50 days, I wondered if I could get to 100. By the time I reached 100, my friends were encouraging me to try to run for the entire year. I did not think I could make it that far, but I decided to go for it and I made it. By that point, I was committed to keeping the streak going. At some point, I had to change my mindset from “I have to go run” to “I get to run every day” to take some of the pressure off of myself. Maintaining a run streak this long was never my plan. It just happened. It is also the reason my blog’s subtitle is “Ramblings of an Accidental Streak Runner”. The ramblings are self explanatory if you ever read any of my blog posts. The accidental part is just a fact.

I used to say that I would keep going until I got hurt or sick. Well, I have been both hurt and sick but I somehow have managed to get a run of at least one mile in every day. I typically run in the morning because I have learned that it is a good way for me to start my day. My run wakes me up and gets my juices flowing.

As I have mentioned in other posts, I am still a relatively new runner having started running only nine years ago. For over half my running career, I have been maintaining this current run streak. It was more challenging in the beginning because I was putting too much pressure on myself to make sure I ran. It was not always fun because I made it more of a chore that I had to do. When I decided to enjoy the runs and to run for the fun of it, the pressure went away for the most part. My running buddies have been a huge factor in helping me to keep the streak going because someone is always willing to run with me. There have not been very many solo runs in the 2000+ days of the streak. For that, I feel very fortunate.

Another thing that I have done is study other runners. I read about them to see what makes them tick and what motivates them to do what they do. These runners have become my heros and role models. I cannot express enough how these people have encouraged me, some personally and others from afar. As a show of gratitude, I want to acknowledge many of those runners here:

  • Dick Beardsley – One of the most famous Boston Marathons was run in 1982 where Dick came in right behind Alberto Salazar after running neck and neck the entire race. He was a great marathoner during that era but it is his story since 1982 that makes him an inspiration to me. He overcame some serious demons in his life and is now inspiring people with his story.
  • Owen Bradley – As a local Birmingham runner, Owen is one of the best ultrarunners in the country. I am always amazed at what he is able to accomplish. He is also one of the best runners that I personally know.
  • Terry Fox – I went all the way to Vancouver to run a half marathon back in 2012 primarily for the opportunity to visit the Terry Fox Plaza and see the tribute to him. His Marathon of Hope inspired Canada back in 1980. Although he did not reach his goal of running across Canada before he was stopped by his cancer, he became a Canadian hero and the Terry Fox Foundation still raises tremendous amounts of money for cancer research.

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  • Kathleen Hamrick – Another local Birmingham runner that has achieved some crazy things. She and her sister ran the Grand to Grand stage race and then ran a similar event in the Amazon. Just the thought of one of those races blows my mind.
  • Danny Haralson – If you have read my blog before, you know Danny has been more influential to my running than anyone else. His Run University is how I started running in a Couch to 5k program back in 2008.
  • Dick and Rick Hoyt – I first saw a video of Team Hoyt when our church played it one Sunday morning. I was so impressed with their story that I began reading and watching everything I could find about them. I had to the honor of meeting Dick at the race expo in Boston in 2013 and 2014.

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  • Dean Karnazes – I became intrigued by Dean when I read his book, 50/50, about his adventures running 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states. Once again, I looked for everything I could find about him because his story was so incredible to me.
  • Meb Keflezighi – I had the pleasure of meeting Meb back in 2010 at the expo of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas and became friends over the years. He has always been an inspiration and encouragement to me. Meb is just an incredible runner but an even better person.

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  • Nadia Ruiz – I became Facebook friends with Nadia a few years ago and have been amazed at all she has accomplished in running. She became the youngest person to complete 100 marathons and most of those have been Boston qualifying times. I had the honor to finally meet her at the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon in 2016.
  • Joan Benoit Samuelson – Joan was the Gold Medalist in the first women’s marathon in Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. At a dinner the night before the 2013 Boston Marathon, Meb introduced us to Joan and she was such a nice lady. The next day, she set the course record for women over 50 years old.
  • Erica Speegle – Erica is a local runner in Birmingham that is the fastest women in town. I had the pleasure of watching her run in the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles. She is another terrific runner that has always been so encouraging to other runners.
  • Michael Wardian – I first read about Michael when he ran two marathons in the same day back in 2013 and actually won one of them. I have followed him since then. I learned that my admiration was warranted when I heard an interview he did on a podcast with my friend, Suman.
  • Julie Weiss – Julie is another incredible runner that I first met at the Walt Disney World Marathon when she was nearing the end of her quest to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks while raising awareness and money for pancreatic cancer. I also had the privilege of running in the same marathon where Julie celebrated her 100th marathon in the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon in 2016.

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  • Prince Whatley – Prince is a local runner in the Birmingham area that ran a run streak for over 11 years before an injury ended it. Besides being a tremendous runner, he has always been such an encouragement to me and other runners in our community.

I am always interested in learning about runners that I think are some of the best. I am interested in learning what makes people do what they do. We all have our own motivations and reasons for running. For me, it is about challenging myself and pushing my boundaries. I have no idea how long I will be able to maintain this current run streak but I plan to see how far it will go. And I will have fun doing it.

What a Difference a Year Makes

Last year at this time, I was wondering if I would be able to run without pain ever again. I had hurt my hamstring somehow at the end of 2015 and it affected my preparation for the 2016 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon. During the month of December when I planned to work on speed drills, I found myself having to walk up hills and being unable to push the pace during my runs. I had registered for Los Angeles with the goal of running a PR at that marathon. Suddenly, I was not able to do any of the things I wanted to do to get ready.

We went to Los Angeles in February 2016 to run the marathon as well as watch the 2016 Olympic Trials the day before. We wanted to watch our friends, Erica Speegle and Meb Keflezighi, run in the Trials so it was a good time to go. At the time we registered, my goal was to attempt to run a PR there. With my training not going as planned, I realized I had to adjust my goals and I did. Although the first half went well, the second half was a real challenge. The beginning of the marathon was hillier than I had anticipated and it was unseasonable warm for February with highs in the low 90s. It was actually worse for the elite runners in the Trials on Saturday because of their later start but it warmed up quickly for us as the sun rose into the sky. I ran with my friend Teresa who was coming off a foot injury and we both suffered over the last half of the marathon and finished much slower than we had planned. But we did finish!

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After returning to Birmingham, it took me much longer than normal for my legs to recover. I usually start feeling pretty good again within a week. This time I found myself struggling even after six or eight weeks. I could not figure out why the recovery was so difficult when I felt like I had not been able to run very hard at all in the marathon. It just seemed that every run, especially the longer runs, were such a struggle and that was not what was normal for me. Nothing I did seemed to help with the excessive fatigue I felt in my legs during my runs. Eventually, I started having days where I was feeling more normal and I was ready to get back to training again.

Almost immediately after I started getting back to my normal routine, I noticed I started having pain in my foot. It began to bother me more and more but I tried to ignore it. I told myself I could deal with the pain in hopes it would eventually go away. It did not.

A year ago, my running buddies in Run University went to Jasper, Alabama, to run the inaugural Tallulah Half Marathon. The run started well and I ran strong for about six miles. At about the halfway point, we run up a hill and my foot starting to really hurt to the point that I had to walk most of that hill. From that point on, I determined that I had to walk up the hills for the rest of the race. Unfortunately my foot started to hurt running downhill too. Needless to say, the last seven miles were not much fun. After the race, I tried to hide the pain but it was obviously hurting me based on the comments from my friends. It hurt bad enough that I was almost certain that I had a broken bone somewhere in my foot. I made an appointment with Dr. David Linde at Foot Specialists of Birmingham for the next week and learned that there were not broken bones. However, I did have plantar fasciitis and was told that I could continue to run as long as I could tolerate the pain.

For the next few months, almost all of my runs hurt. Some hurt worse than others. I had the IMT Des Moines Marathon coming up that October in Des Moines, Iowa, and was trying to prepare for that race. It was a frustrating time as I was not able to finish my long runs on Saturday like I needed. I found myself walking the last mile or so just about every week. The level of frustration was growing each week such that I was prepared to let Des Moines be my last marathon. I was tired of hurting all the time. I was even having to wear sneakers to work because my loafers hurt my foot within minutes of putting them on. I followed my doctor’s instructions but nothing seemed to help.

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I continued to run as best I could through the summer. On Labor Day, some of my running group went to Scottsboro, Alabama, to run the Scottsboro Half Marathon. At the start, I was asked if I had a goal for that race. I said I wanted to run at a pace that would allow me to finish within two hours and I would stay at the pace until I finished or my foot started hurting, whichever came first. I finished the race that day in 1:55 but was most happy that I ran pain free because the previous week had been one of my more painful weeks so far. I am not sure why, but my foot has not hurt again and I got back to running and training again. It felt good to run without hurting again.

Yesterday, our Run University group went back to Jasper to run the second annual Tallulah Half Marathon. I did not have a specific goal other than to run well, especially since I ran 3:58 in the People’s United Bank Vermont City Marathon in Burlington just two weeks ago. My only plan was to run the first two to three miles hard and then decide if I thought I could continue running that hard. After last year’s experience, I just wanted to run a good race. I am happy to report that I not only ran a good race, but I was to exceed my expectations. After the struggle last year, it was redemptive to come back and run well.

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Since the Scottsboro Half Marathon, I have turned 50 years old but I have been running as well as I ever have. Since I was 41 years old when I started running, I missed my prime athletic years but that gives me the opportunity to hit new PRs even at my age. At the beginning of March, I ran a new PR at the Tuscaloosa Half Marathon in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. About a month later, I ran a new 15k PR at the Ellis Porch Statue to Statue 15k in Birmingham. This race is billed as the South’s toughest 15k. Just a couple of weeks after that, I ran a new 10k PR at the OHOH Run for Their Lives 10k in Helena, Alabama. The lesson I learned (again) is not to give up on yourself. We can all do just about anything we want if we are willing to work for it. After suffering for several months last year, I am more appreciative of being able to run than ever. It makes a huge difference to run with the right attitude. I enjoy running with my running groups more now than ever. It really helps with my run streak too. Most of my friends probably have no idea how close I came to ending my run streak last year due to the foot pain I was enduring. I may have had a few more one-mile days than I would have normally but I was able to keep the streak going. By doing so, I should be able to reach run streak day 2000 on Wednesday, 14 June. For the last couple of months, I have been looking forward to hitting this milestone. A year ago, I would have said there was no way I could get here. Wednesday, I will show myself the reward of maintaining the consistency that I have been able to maintain. I hope to show others that anything is possible if you are willing to fight for it. It is not easy but that is what adds the value. Never give up and stay focused on your goal. You can and will achieve your goals if you can do that.

My Running Story

Unlike my running, my blogging has been very, very inconsistent.  I would like to make an excuse but it’s just a matter of not making it a priority.  Because I have not been consistent, I decided that I would write this blog post about why I run.

People run for lots of different reasons.  Some run for the competition.  Others run for their own well-being.  Still others run for camaraderie.  Non-runners have a hard time understanding why people would want to run without being chased by someone or something.  I know.  Before I started running in 2008, I thought all runners were idiots.  When I saw someone running in the rain, I thought they were stupid idiots.  I just could not understand it.  Until I started running.

My running story goes back to wrestling days at Scottsboro High School.  My coaches, Wayne McNutt and Larry Morris, were two of the greatest male influences on my life.  Only my Dad influenced me more (click here for more on that).  Our coaches liked to make us run.  Sometimes it was for conditioning purposes.  Sometimes it was for disciplinary reasons.  It was never fun regardless why we ran.  I hated it but was highly competitive so I always tried to be one of the fastest.  Once my high school wrestling career was done, I swore I would never run again.  Then I tore my ACL playing flag football at The University of Alabama and my physical therapist made me run again.  My orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Les Fowler, also made me run as part of my recovery.  On my last visit to see him post-surgery, he told me that he wanted me to find a 10k and finish it.  Two months later, I ran/walked the 1989 Cotton Row Run in Huntsville, Alabama.  As I crossed the finish line, my only thought was that I would never do that again.  For the most part, I did not really run again until I joined a Couch to 5k program led by my current coach, Danny Haralson (click here for more about him).

When I started the C25K program with Run University in May 2008, I absolutely hated it.  I was overweight and I thought it was too hard.  I wanted to quick after the first day.  It was a seven week program and my wife, Caroline, convinced me to stick with it until the 5k.  Actually, she didn’t seem too sympathetic to my whining so I decided to just get the 5k done and then quit.  I hated every run for the first six weeks.  It was hard and I had to contend with shin splints.  Nothing was enjoyable other than I met some really good people.  The week before our 5k race, Coach Danny had us run the race route.  For the first time, I did not think the run was too bad.  In fact, I was surprised how well it went.  I ran the 5k the next week and it went as well as I had expected.  I ran another 5k the next month and did better.  Eventually I ran a couple of 10k races near the end of 2008 and then worked up to a half marathon in early 2009 and eventually a marathon in October 2009.  To date, I have completed over 50 half marathons and 32 marathons.  Included in that 32 marathons are a few ultramarathons (races with distances in excess of 26.2 miles).  Because I have a compulsive personality, I started a run streak on 24 December 2011 and will hit 2,000 consecutive days of running at least one mile sometime in June.

I don’t recap that simply to brag about what I have accomplished.  Don’t get me wrong, I am very proud of what I have done because it represents a lot of hard work.  One thing I do realize is that I would have done none of this had it not been for Coach Danny.  He taught me to love running and Run University introduced me to the best running group on the planet.  What I have learned so far in my relatively short running career is that anyone can achieve a goal if they are willing to work for it.  I was the poster child for non-running.  Prior to 2008, I would have never believed I could do any of this.  Now, I tell anyone that they can do the same if they really want to make a life change that will truly improve their overall life and health.

When people tell me they could never be a runner, I have to disagree.  If I can be a runner, anyone can.  You see, I am just a regular runner.  I may be a bit more compulsive than most, but I am still just an everyday runner.  I am certainly not overly fast.  I just enjoy the time spent with my running family at Run University and Run4FunBHM.  There are no more supportive friends anywhere than my running friends.  We help each other achieve whatever upcoming goals we set.  You can’t overestimate the value of these friendships.  They make running fun every day.  It doesn’t matter how fast you are, how long you’ve been running, who far you run, what economic bracket you are in, we are there for one another as equals.  Maybe if our politicians would start running together, we would see more issues resolved.

I believe the following quote expresses my opinion on runners.  We all have our place and I have accepted my station in the running community.

There are two kinds of distance runners – thoroughbreds and pack mules.  I am perfectly happy being a pack mule.

Return to the Blog and 2016 Review

When I started this blog a few years ago, I did not want to put myself in a position to have to post on a schedule (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) because I did not want to force myself to write something just because I had to post. I decided that I would post when I had something to share, whether it was interesting to just me or I thought others might find it interesting. If I was going to write a blog, I was going to do it because I wanted to share something. Having said that, I have not posted in a long time. In fact, I have not posted anything so far this year so I decided to post a brief review of 2016.

First thing of note is that I hit five years of my running streak as of Friday, 23 December. It is hard for me to believe that I have been able to maintain the streak for this long and avoided any sickness or injury serious enough to prevent me from running at least a mile each day. It surprises me that so many people credit me for being a much better runner than I am just because I am anal enough to force myself to run every day. I really am just an average runner at best. I am not all that fast but am not the slowest either. There are many more runners that I know that have so much more impressive running credentials than I have. I just get recognized for being OCD and finding the time to get in a run every day. It really has much more to do with the fact that my running friends are simply awesome. Our weekday running group, Run4FunBHM, have developed a strong bond with one another and we always look for ways to push and encourage one another to reach whatever goals are set. We all know that we do not have to do go out on our own unless we want. As the name of our group implies, our primary goal with running is to make it fun. There has been enough drama and conflict in the Birmingham running community over the past few years that we just decided to get away from it. To be fair, I participate in the drama early on before I decided that running needed to be fun so I pulled away from it so I could get back to running for fun. Fortunately, I found a group of people that felt the same way and we have thrived as a group. It is largely because of this group of true friends that I look forward to my run every morning. I have also kept close ties to Run University, which is the group I started running with under the direction of Coach Danny Haralson. I still run with this group just about every Saturday and any other chance I get. I always know that I am meeting a terrific group of runners that look out for one another and help each other achieve whatever running goal is set. That is the key to being able to run at least one mile per day for five years.

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Other key running achievements this year include going to Los Angeles in February to watch friends Erica Speegle and Meb Keflezighi participate in the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon. As expected, Meb earned a spot on his fourth Olympic team by finishing in second place behind Galen Rupp. Erica is a local Birmingham runner that earned a spot in the trials but unfortunately had to deal with injuries leading up to race. It is a tremendous achievement to run a qualifying time to run in the trials. The day after the trials, I had the privilege of running in the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon. Although it was Valentine’s Day, it was very warm and I really struggled after the halfway point. Fortunately, I had my friend Teresa Crain with me the entire way. Even though our time was not what we had hoped, I was glad to cross the finish line to complete my 30th marathon. More importantly, this marathon was #100 for my friend Julie Weiss, also known as the Marathon Goddess. It was an honor to be invited to her post-marathon celebration as she marked an incredible accomplishment.

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Met up with Julie at the Skechers Performance Marathon expo

 

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Spending time with Meb the night before the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon where we had to maintain the tradition of conferencing in David and Jack so Jack can say a prayer over Meb

 

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Erica runs past us during the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon

 

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Meb comes by us on the last loop of the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon knowing that he had secured his spot on another Olympic team

 

In addition to the marathon in Los Angeles, I also completed IMT Des Moines Marathon in October. The primary reason for going to Iowa was because my friend, Micki Haralson, is trying to run a marathon in all fifty states with Iowa being #46. That day I had the privilege of running with another good friend, Brooke Weaver. She is one of the strongest runners I know and it took all I had to stay with her for 26.0 of the 26.2 miles. She just had more juice left for the finish than I did but I was very pleased with our performance that day. One learning for me that day is that Iowa is NOT flat like I thought.

 

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After the Des Moines Marathon with Brooke and Micki

 

Earlier this month, I had to honor of running with Jennifer Cole at the St. Jude Memphis Marathon. She had asked me a few months ago to run with her. Her goal was to run a PR (personal record) and we were able to do just that by about a minute. I never doubted she could do it but what made is such an incredible feat is that she had overcome so much adversity leading up to race day. What she was able to do that day is a testament of her strong will, dedication to training and the adaptive coaching of Danny Haralson to tweak her training plan.

 

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Finishing the St. Jude Memphis Marathon with Jennifer

 

These three marathons were the highlight to my running year. I would be lying if I did not say I was looking forward to 2017 from a running perspective. This year has been more challenging physically and psychologically than any other time in my fairly brief running career. I came into 2016 hampered slightly my a sore hamstring, which affected my training for Los Angeles. It took me six to eight weeks after Los Angeles to feel like my legs were back to normal when it usually takes a week at the most. As soon as I started feeling recovered, my foot started bothering me in late April. It got progressively worse until I went to the doctor thinking I might have a broken bone. It turned out to be plantar fasciitis and Dr. David Linde at Foot Specialists of Birmingham took care of me but told me it may take a while for the pain to go away. Eventually, my foot just stopped hurting suddenly at the beginning of September. I do not know what made it stop but was sure glad that the pain was gone in time to finalize preparation for Des Moines. For the past few weeks, I am finally feeling like my old self so I am really looking forward to a much less painful 2017.

 

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.

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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.

900-Day Running Streak

Back on Christmas Eve in 2011, I went for a run with Caroline.  We had gotten to her brother’s house in Liverpool, New York, the day before to celebrate Christmas with their family.  Caroline told me that she needed to run for an hour.  The only way I knew to do that was to run six miles.  We got up that cold (22F) Saturday morning and got ready to head out for a run .  It was about a mile to Onondaga Lake so we ran for a couple of miles along the lake until we got to the marina.  That put us at three miles so and the return back to the house would get us to six miles.  We had to watch our steps a little bit since there was snow on the ground from the night before.  It was such a serene setting for a run, especially for an Alabama boy who does not get to run in snow very often.  It was also a great day for me because I do not get to run with my wife too many times.

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I ran every day while visiting with Donny and Anica.  When we got home, I kept going.  Right at the end of the year, Runner’s World posted a challenge on Facebook to run every day in the month of January 2012.  Several runners in The Village Runners decided to accept the challenge so I thought I would as well.  When January started, I did not realize that I had already run eight consecutive days leading into the new year.  Along with a few others, I was able to make it to the end of the month.  That is when I realized I was actually at 39 consecutive days.  Being a numbers guy, I thought that fifty days was a better stopping point and I could get there in less than two more weeks.  So I ran another eleven days and got the streak to fifty days.  That is when I wondered if I could make it to one-hundred days.  I decided to try.  Once I got to one-hundred, several of my running friends encouraged me to go the entire year.  I did not think I would make it that long but decided to see if I could.

Not only did I make it the rest of 2012, I kept going until I had run every day in 2013 as well.  I used to tell people that I did not know how to stop the streak without getting sick or hurt.  It turns out that those reasons have not stopped the streak either.  According to the United States Running Streak Association, “The official definition of a running streak, as adopted by the Streak Runners International, Inc., and United States Running Streak Association, Inc., is to run at least one continuous mile (1.61 kilometers) within each calendar day under one’s own body power (without the
utilization of any type of health or mechanical aid other than prosthetic devices).”  That means it only takes a one-mile run each day to continue the streak.  It has not happened often, but I have had to rely on the occasional one-miler to keep the streak alive.  I have run through walking pneumonia a couple of times (not fun) as well as hobbling through runs with sprained ankles.  Fortunately, those instances have been few and far between.

Somehow, I have found a way to run every day for much longer than I ever expected.  In fact, this morning’s run with The Village Runners marked my 900th day of the streak.  When people find that out, they automatically assume that I am some kind of super-runner.  The reality is that I am just a regular runner that has a slightly obsessive personality.  So I get up and run every day.  It has become a challenge for me.  How long can I keep it going?  Can I continue to avoid serious injury or getting really sick?  I certainly hope so.  I do not have a goal to speak of.  At this point, I would like to get to 1,000 days but I have no idea how far it will go.  I know someone here in Birmingham that has a streak closing in on ten years.  There are seven people on the running streak registry with streaks in excess of forty years.  That blows my mind.

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It has become somewhat of a challenge for me to keep this thing going.  For now, it is still something that I do because I enjoy running.  I enjoy spending time with my friends in my running group.  I enjoy running races.  I just hope I am still running when I am sixty, seventy, eighty years old and beyond.

One Month Later

One month ago today, I was running the 118th Boston Marathon.  If you have read my blog in the past, you know I was participating in the 2013 Boston Marathon when I was unable to finish because of the bombing at the finish line.  It was important for me to get back to Boston to finish what I started last year.

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I thought last year was going to be a one-time event for me so I wanted to make the most of it.  My friend, Jack, and his wife, Barbara, were also up there last year.  Neither Jack nor I got to finish so we both went back to remedy that.  If you missed it, you can read about my experience last year here.  After what happened last year, I could not wait for the opportunity to get back there.

I flew up to Boston early on that Saturday morning.  Once again this year, I wanted to make the most of my time in Boston.  As soon as I got there, I headed straight to the expo to pick up my race packet and bib.  I had been unable to check into my hotel, Boston Park Plaza, because my room was not ready.  I roamed around the expo waiting for the hotel to call to let me know my room was ready.  The longer I waited, the closer it came to time for me to head over to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play the Baltimore Orioles.  It was a beautiful day for a baseball game and there is no place like Fenway to watch a ballgame.  Of course, just as I got to Fenway, the hotel called to say my room was ready.

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Jack and Barbara got to Boston about the time the game was over.  We had agreed to meet for dinner before going to the Easter Vigil at Trinity Church there in Copley Square.  After a terrific dinner at Max Brenner, we headed to the church since the vigil started at 8pm.  It was my first Easter Vigil and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The church is spectacular and there was a reverence in that building as we celebrated the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The service lasted for a while as there were more scripture readings than they normally have.  When it was over, we went downstairs and had desert.  The Episcopal Church knows how to end a service!

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The next morning, I headed back over to the expo to try to meet Dick Hoyt again.  Dick is the father in Team Hoyt, which are running heroes of mine as I have previously written.  When I got to the expo, I found the Team Hoyt booth quickly but Dick was being interviewed by the local media.  I walked around for a little while then made my way back to their booth.  This time I had an opportunity to speak with him again.  Dick and his son, Rick, are legends of the Boston Marathon.  Last year was supposed to be their last time to run the race but, since they also did not get to finish, they came back for one more year (their 32nd running of the Boston Marathon).  I am awed by what Team Hoyt is still able to accomplish, even as Dick is now 73 years old and Rick is 52.  I could watch YouTube videos about them all day.

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After talking with Dick, I headed over to the finish line where I was scheduled to meet Larry Miller for a brief interview.  Larry is a reporter from ABC 33/40 here in Birmingham that made the trip to Boston to cover this momentous event.  Before I found Larry, I ran across the group photograph for the Marathon Maniacs.  I always miss these pictures so it was cool to finally get in one.  I also got the honor of meeting Larry Macon.  If you are not familiar with Larry, he ran 108 marathons in 2008 and was recognized by Guinness Book of World Records as the most marathons run in a single year.  Not to be content with the record, he ran 113 marathons in 2011 and another 157 in 2012.  As if that was not hard enough, Larry ran an unbelievable 255 marathons in 2013.  Needless to say, Larry is a legend in the endurance sports community.  After leaving Larry Macon, I was able to find Larry Miller for my interview.  My wife, Caroline, got to Boston on Sunday morning and met me while I was talking with Larry Miller.  Jack spoke with him after I did so he could tell his story.

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Caroline and I went back over to the expo so she could see what they had.  We also went by the Skechers booth so she could try on a pair.  I have raved about my GoRun Ultras so much, she wanted to see if they had something she liked.  They did and I found another pair as well.  We roamed around the expo a little before heading back toward our hotel.  On the way back, we stopped at Marathon Sports so she could see it.  You may remember that one of bombs detonated right in front of this running store last year so there were people coming by there all weekend.  We made it back to the hotel to rest some before meeting Jack and Barbara for dinner.  As a guest of John Hancock, Jack got us entry into their dinner at The Fairmont Copley Plaza.  We attended this dinner last year and knew there would be some running celebrities in attendance.  More importantly to us, this was the same hotel where our friend, Meb Keflezighi, was staying.

We had been in contact with Meb’s brother and agent, Merhawi, in hopes of getting to see them before the marathon the next day.  We had run into Merhawi at the expo but had yet to see Meb.  He told us Meb was at the elite’s dinner, which was also in the hotel lobby area.  When we were unable to catch up with Meb, Merhawi just told us to go up to his room so we did.  We did not want to stay too long because we assumed Meb would want to get to bed early.  We stayed in his room for about ten or fifteen minutes during which time Meb’s wife, Yordanos, came in.  Although I had spoken with her on the phone when we were with Meb in Houston, this was the first time I had to pleasure of meeting her in person.  When we got ready to leave, Jack asked Meb if he could say a quick prayer for him.  After the prayer, Meb asked if we wanted to get a picture before we left.  Of course, we said yes.  He went to his safe and pulled out two boxes.  One contained the Silver Medal he won at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.  The other held the medal he received for winning the 2009 ING New York City Marathon.  He put the Silver Medal on Jack and let me wear the New York medal for the picture.  Now that was cool!  As we headed down the elevator, Jack and I talked about how confidently calm Meb appeared.  We knew he was going to run well the next day.

meb's room in Boston

On Monday morning, Patriot’s Day in Boston, Jack and I met up to do a telephone interview with Good Day Alabama on FOX 6 in Birmingham.  The interview was short and sweet then we made out way to catch the shuttle bus in Boston Common for the ride out to the start in Hopkinton.  We felt like we rode that school bus forever.  Jack even tweeted that he thought we were headed to New York.  🙂  Once we made it to Hopkinton, we headed to Athlete’s Village.  The place was crazy.  There was such a buzz in the air.  It was a beautiful day but we feared it could get warm for a marathon.  We hung out in the school gym for a little while as Jack was able to convince the lady at the door to let me go in with him even though I was not a John Hancock VIP.  We closely followed the race as the Boston Athletic Association was tweeting updates on the progress of the elite runners, especially Meb, Ryan Hall and Shalane Flanagan.  It was exciting as the Americans were leading both the men’s and the women’s races on every tweet we saw.  It was finally time for our wave to head to the start line.  It is quite a long walk but it was the first time I have ever had spectators cheering for me as I walked to the start corrals.  If nothing else, I knew the crowd would be amazing.

The race finally started for us and we headed down the road.  All I could think about was that a year of waiting was finally over.  I had decided that I wanted to take everything in this year instead of trying to run a personal record.  I felt like I missed some things last year trying so hard to run my best marathon.  This year, I was just going to run comfortably and enjoy the entire experience.  I felt like that was the best way for me to honor those that were injured last year as well as honoring the memories of Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, Martin Richard and Sean Collier.  Throughout the race, images of these four victims would come to my mind.  I just wanted to do right by them.

Boston Marthon Victims

My race was going as planned early.  I had thought I would like to run a time better than what was assigned to me last year (4:12:51).  In my mind, that was certainly doable without requiring maximum effort.  After all, I had just run 3:51:18 at the Houston Marathon in January.  Around mile 7, I started to feel hot.  Although the temperature was not overly high, we had not been running in any heat yet in Alabama.  We had a mild winter and spring so I was not acclimated to any heat.  I think I saw the first person being taken off on a stretcher around mile 8.  It may have just been in my mind, but I started to feel like I was overheating as well so I slowed down a tad.  I hit the halfway point at 2:03:23 so I was right where I wanted to be, but I knew I was starting to suffer.  Around mile 12, I actually felt like I was starting to hit the wall.  I knew there was way too much race left to be suffering already so I pushed on, albeit at a slower pace.  The only solace I felt at this point was when a man on crutches near Wellesley College told me MEB WON.  I was ecstatic and thought that bit of information would propel me through to the finish.  Unfortunately, around mile 16 I was really beginning to hurt so I decided to walk a little and I started getting two cups at each water stop (one to drink and one to pour on my head).  By mile 19, I knew it was going south in a hurry so I called Caroline.  I wanted to let her know that I would be coming to the finish line much later than I had expected and I did not want  her to worry.  I really had to fight myself mentally to keep moving forward.  I was hot and hurting but knew I had to finish regardless of the time.  Finally, I spotted the famous Citgo sign that is about a mile from the finish.  I was still about a mile-and-a-half away from it, but that is when I knew I was going to finish for sure.  I knew I could push for a little longer.  I also knew it was not too far past that Citgo sign where the police stopped us last year.  At that moment, I decided that I was going to run from that spot to the finish line regardless how bad I was hurting.  I had to finish the marathon strong even if I struggled through most of the second half.  When I crested the small hill, I recognized the place where people were standing in the road last year yelling for us to stop so I started running.  The crowds that had been so enthusiastic all along the route seemed like they had been whipped up into a frenzy.  I knew there was only about a half-mile left and people were going crazy.  I started running faster, somehow.  I came to Hereford Street and turned right.  The crowd was so loud and crazy.  My adrenaline was keyed up.  When I got to Boylston Street and turned left, it was like a movie.  I could see the finish line about four blocks away but the number of spectators blew me away.  Here I was, coming up on five hours of the last wave and Boylston was lined with thousands of screaming people.  I felt like I glided to the finish line.  I am not even sure if my feet touched the ground.  It was the most amazing experience.  I may never get to do anything like it.  In terms of finishing times, this was one of my worst at 4:54:06.  In terms of experiences, this was one of the best ever.  I was able to run across the finish line on Boylston Street, something that was denied me last year.  More importantly, my good friend became a Boston Marathon Champion and joined a very short list of runners to win both the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon.  I could not have been more happy.

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In the spirit of honesty, I was hurting more during and after this race than I ever have before.  As soon as I crossed the finish line, I asked a volunteer to take my picture with the finish line behind me since I did not get to do that last year.  As soon as she took the picture, my iPhone died.  I made my way to the family reunion area to wait for Caroline.  Since my phone was dead, I had no way of telling her where I was.  The first letter I came to was “O” and it looked like “L” was way down the street.  I saw a man standing under the “O” sign doing something on his cell phone.  I went to him and asked if he would send a text to Caroline to tell her that I was also at the “O”.  When she found me, I was sitting on the curb still trying to catch my breath.  She asked why I was at the “O” and I told her that I did not think there were too many people whose last name started with “O” so I thought it would be easier for her to find me.  I also told her the “L” sign appeared to be down the road and I did not want to walk that far.  We eventually made it back to our hotel and I got a much-needed shower.  I laid on the bed and Caroline said she wanted to take a post-race picture.  Since I was already laying down, I told her she would have to take it with me that way.  She had me put on my medal and snapped the picture.  I obviously looked very bad because a number of my friends expressed a great deal of concern for me.  In my mind, I just needed to rest and get off my feet.

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We met Jack and Barbara for dinner at Abe and Louie’s to have a well-earned steak.  Since Meb won the marathon, we lost the opportunity for him, Yordanos and Merhawi to join us.  I have to admit, as much as I would have enjoyed spending some time with them, I am glad he had other obligations that go with winning the Boston Marathon.

I may never get to run this marathon again.  If that turns out to be the case, I cannot complain.  It was an amazing experience that took over a year to complete.  There was a lot of emotion that welled up inside me all throughout the race, especially when I finally saw the finish line.  Several times during the race, I found myself thinking about those that were killed and injured last year.  It was an honor to be part of this Boston Marathon and it was an experience I will never forget.

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