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.

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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.

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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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