Lessons from Meb Keflezighi

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

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

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

Lesson #1:  No Pity Parties

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

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

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

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

Lesson #2:  Relentlessness

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

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

Lesson #3:  Hard Work Pays Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014 Running Recap

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

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

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

Total races  =>  20

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

Total Personal Records  =>  1

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

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

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

Four Great Contributors to the Birmingham Running Community

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

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

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

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

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

 

We Should Honor People While We Can – A Tribute

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

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

Al DiMicco

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

Danny Haralson

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

Rick Melanson

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

Charles Amos Thompson

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

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

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

World Cup Dillusion

In case you live in a cave or have been stranded on a deserted island, the FIFA World Cup is currently going on in Brazil.  That is a big soccer tournament that happens every four years.  I can understand why other countries think this is a big deal.  Soccer is about the only sport played in those countries.  However, I do not understand why anyone in the United States gives a rip about it.  After all, you can watch ninety minutes (or more) of a game and chances are you will not see a single point scored.  Before you freak out — I know they are called goals, but I just do not care.

For some reason, there are a number of people (mostly in the media) that feel like those of us that do not care about soccer are somehow lesser people.  I keep hearing commentators make statements about how popular soccer is becoming in the United States.  It is either that kind of statement or they say something about how Americans are “evolving” or becoming more like the rest of the world by liking soccer more.  If only we would adopt soccer as our most popular sport and become like the rest of the world, that makes us better people.  That is simply a bunch of crap.

I have made no secret to my dislike for soccer.  I also do not like NASCAR racing or tennis.  Both of those sports are also fairly popular.  Like soccer, neither or anywhere near as popular as the major sports in the United States.  All three are nowhere near as popular as football, baseball and basketball.  I know that hurts the feelings of soccer fans, but it is simply the truth.  Even with the bump in interest with the World Cup, soccer is not a significant American sport.

As much I might dislike soccer, I have much more dislike for the propagandist that create the disillusion about soccer.  They are like the political spinsters that just cannot tell the truth.  They have to mislead (or lie) about the popularity of their sport to give the appearance that it is more popular than it really is.  They also present an argument that those of us that do not like soccer are somehow backwards or lesser people because we do not like their sport.  They just cannot accept the fact that the majority of Americans simply do not care about soccer or find soccer boring.  It really is that simple.

Boring-Soccer-copy

It is interesting when friends want to argue with me about soccer.  I know they are desperate in the discussion when they bring up wrestling.  Knowing that I was a high school wrestler and still have a love for the sport, they will make a comment that goes something like “more Americans are watching the World Cup than watch wrestling”.  I guess they think that is such a smart point to make.  However, it has absolutely nothing to do with my arguments against soccer.  As a wrestling fan, I look forward to watching the NCAA wrestling championships every March as well as wrestling in the Olympics every four years.  The difference is that I understand that wrestling has a relatively small following, especially when compared to the major sports.  I have no disillusion that wrestling is anywhere near as popular as those big sports.  Nor do I make negative judgments against those that do not enjoy wrestling the way I do.  Even though I think wrestling is one of the greatest sports on the planet, I understand that not everyone understands the sport the same way.  The difference between my view of wrestling and what seems to be the majority of soccer fans is that they feel like there is some kind of moral deficit in those that do not like their sport.  Of course, that is an utterly ridiculous notion but soccer fans do not see it that way.

The other funny thing to me about soccer fans is their complete lack of a sense of humor as it relates to soccer.  I have so much fun on Facebook harassing the soccer folks.  They get so worked up whenever someone points out that their sport is not as popular as they think or that their sport is simply boring.  They cannot see that I am just having funny yanking their chains.  They make it so easy and are so blinded by their disillusion that they cannot see that I am just having fun at their expense.

soccer_images_1

There’s no other way to say it but I love seeing the way they freak out when someone like Ann Coulter writes an article about hating soccer.  They are just unable to see the satire in her article.  The result is that they have fits over her comments.  I suspect Ann is like me in that she is saying what she believes but knows that the reaction from the soccer nuts will provide significant humor to make the outcry comical.

Soccer fans would feel much better about their sport if they just accepted the fact that there are more people watching soccer today in the U.S. than at any other time.  That should make them happy.  Unfortunately, that is not good enough for them.  They insist on overstating that popularity even though all the polls suggest otherwise.  The poll released recently by Reuters shows that two-thirds of Americans do not care about soccer and only 7% plan to follow the World Cup closely.  That is it.  It is true that the World Cup will draw more spectators because it only happens every four years.  However, soccer has no where near the same numbers for “regular” soccer.  Put in proper perspective, the numbers show that some Americans may love the World Cup but we still do not care about soccer.  This article shows that the U.S.-Ghana game had an audience of 11.1 million.  That compares to 33.6 million for the London Olympics, which is another every-four-year event.  Of course, those numbers are not even close to the 108.7 million audience generated by the NFL championship.  If you look at the “regular” events, MLS playoffs get an average of 0.32 million audience which is much less than the 0.69 million average for MLB, 1.4 million for the NBA or 17.4 million for the NFL.  Therefore, a soccer playoff game does not come close to a regular season game for the big sports.

l__soccerisboringtshirt

Who knows?  The World Cup may increase the popularity for soccer in America.  After all the U.S. did make it to the “knockout” round by winning one game, tying one game and losing one game.  At least now if they lose, they are coming home and we can get back to the sports that matter.

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.

321865_2686994087170_1983976769_o

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.

10460840_10203159684086052_1456748245508896065_o

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.

boston_marathon_lead

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.

10264219_10202798827344859_1384798877763449244_o

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!

10269259_10202801154403034_7033094862311303553_o

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.

10272567_10202803627424858_833326002011110882_o

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.

1965650_10202804455285554_4642922344062988624_o

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.

10153645_10202825630894931_8410504644596512500_n

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.

891955_10202813601474203_3762406099817297524_o

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.

882070_10202816920517177_6807064878540844120_o