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Getting over injury, Traveling, Training and Illness

Just when I thought I was getting over my hamstring issue and getting back into training, I get slammed with an awful head cold. I did my best to train through it safely. I took tons of cold meds and just when I thought I was getting better, I get hit with a sinus infection.

Before the sinus infection took over, this was my training post cranky hamstring.

4/1-4/7

Sunday –7 miles at 8:45 pace to test out the hamstring
Monday – 4.5 miles after work  at 8:29 pace
Tuesday –  Double run day! Run #1: 1 mile WU, 6×800, 2×400, .25 recover and 1 mile CD. 7.2 miles at 8:32 pace
Run #2: 5 miles after work at 8:41 pace
Wednesday – Orange Theory – 2 miles during class
Thursday – Rest Day
Friday – 8.7 miles, supposed to be tempo but I added hills to it too. Pace at 8:12
Saturday – Rest Day

Total Mileage: 34.4

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Bodhi is always trying to get us to feed him dinner early. I swear it’s like he can read a clock.

4/8-4/14

Sunday –1 mile…Supposed to run the Towpath Half Marathon but came down with a bad head cold.
Monday – 6 miles at 8:31 pace
Tuesday – 1 mile WU, 4×800, 2×400, .25 recovery, 1 mile CD – 6 miles total
Wednesday – Orange Theory – 1.7 Mile in class
Thursday – 1 mile WU, 5@tempo, 1 mile CD, 2% incline! I hate incline so this was tough.
Friday – Rest Day
Saturday – 13 miles at 8:50 pace. Running through my favorite Boston spots! Lots of Hills!

Total Mileage: 34.7

The past couple years when we go to Boston for marathon weekend, I am still training for another race so I get to do my long run there. This year was cool because I didn’t even need to use my GPS to get where I wanted to. I’ve been running the same route for a couple years so it’s about time I memorized the route. However, I also got to run around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir this year. We drove past it a couple years ago so I was excited to be able to run on the path around it this year. I would LOVE to be able to run on it more often.

We really only take 1 vacation a year and that is to go to the Boston Marathon and it is by far my favorite. Every year while there I say “we should move here.”

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Don’t worry, we aren’t moving. We like it there a lot…to visit. The Boston lifestyle year round is not for us.

How many vacations do you take a year?

Do you run on vacation? Even when NOT training?

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Guest Post: Ryan’s Second Boston Marathon

One year ago, Jess and I were returning from the Athens Marathon when we heard the news.  There was a bombing at the Boston Marathon.  Our ride home was silent; we were in shock.  When we got home and watched the news coverage, shock turned to heartbreak.  Two men had used one of the great traditions of the running community to kill and injure innocent people.  We felt as though something had been taken from us.  It was then that I knew that I had to be in Boston in 2014.  I wanted to be part of the crew that took the marathon back.

Jess and I at the finish line this year.
Jess and I at the finish line this year.

Two years ago, I was preparing to run my first Boston Marathon, and I had one goal in mind: To run it in under 3-hours. Or, in runners’ terms, “run a sub-3”. Unfortunately, record-high temperatures forced me to back off of my goal and basically just try to survive the 85-plus-degree temperatures. Truthfully, two years ago, I do not believe that I was ready to run a sub-3. I was probably more in the 3:05-3:10 range. I ran my first sub-3 in Akron in 2012, and a second time in Athens in 2013. However, I wanted to do it on the hardest marathon course I’ve ever run: Boston.

Boston 2012
Boston 2012

When this training cycle began, I was feeling good about where I was. Unfortunately, some ankle tendinitis in January really halted me. I did a 15-miler in the snow and I can only assume that the uneven surfaces got to me. One night, I remember breaking down to Jess and telling her that I did not think that I would be able to do Boston. I could barely walk without experiencing any pain and I just saw no way I could get in the workouts I needed. I took 2 full weeks off of running and did some spinning and swimming. It was not the same, but it still helped me keep my fitness level. In the next 2 weeks, I had to ease back into running. So, I felt like I missed almost 4 weeks of true training.

2As we got into March, things started to click again. I was able to really nail my key workouts (intervals, tempo runs, long runs) and my confidence was building. As the time came to taper, I felt like I was ready for Boston. But was I ready to go sub-3 there? Had I really done enough preparation for the hills? There was only one way to find out!

My buddy Steve, a local elite runner, told me that if I ran the first half of the race conservatively, then I would be passing people like crazy after Heartbreak Hill. See, in Boston, the early miles consist of multiple downhills. Many runners hammer these downhills and think they are on pace for a PR. Then, they get to the Newton Hills in miles 16-21, ending with the famous Heartbreak Hill. Maybe they survive up to that point or maybe they don’t. However, if they hammered those early downhills, it is highly likely that their quads are shot for those last 5.2 miles. It is common to think that it is the uphills that hurt the most. In Boston, it is the downhills. If your quads are shot after Heartbreak Hill, miles 22-26.2 will likely consist of a lot of walk-running.

My buddy Ryan and I in Hopkinton
My buddy Ryan and I in Hopkinton

On race-day, I spent the time before the race hanging out with my buddy Ryan. We had a solid 3.5 hours once our bus arrived in Hopkinton, so we just relaxed and talked a bit about our training. When the time came to line-up, I remember him turning to me and saying, “This is why you trained. This is why you’re here.” Those words stuck with me throughout the entire race. Next thing I knew, it was time to roll.

I stuck to my plan on running conservatively on the early downhills.   My plan was to run even-effort, not even-pace. Therefore, I should feel approximately the same in each mile. If the terrain was downhill, my split would be a bit faster; if it was uphill, it would be a bit slower. This strategy truly worked for me and I was really pleased with how well I was able to put the brakes on when the downhills arrived. I still had some fast miles, but I felt like I was truly saving my quads for the Newton Hills.

As the miles continued to clip by, I was overwhelmed by the crowd support. Just imagine a 26.2 mile parade…this is the Boston Marathon. Obviously, this year was truly special. In 2013, something was taken from us; in 2014, it was our turn to get it back. People chanting “Boston Strong” all throughout the course gave me chills. I knew I was truly experiencing something special.

"You gotta keep you head up"-Andy Grammar was in my head a lot during this race.
“You gotta keep you head up”-Andy Grammar was in my head a lot during this race.

As I got into the double digit miles, I started to think, “Man I feel good.” However, at that point, it is still too early to “make a move.” There is simply too much distance. I got to the half-marathon mark at just over 1:28, which was right where I had hoped. The second half would be much harder and I would surely lose a little bit of time. How much I would lose would depend on how ready I truly was for this. As I saw the sign, “Welcome to Newton”, I knew it was go-time. Rolling hills continued to click by, and my body was holding up nicely. Yes, it was hard, but I felt like I really had it in me. I remember saying to myself “2 slow, 1 fast, 2 slow, then it’s on”. This was referencing miles 17-18 (2 slow), mile 19 (1 fast) and miles 20-21 (2 slow). This strategy was based on the terrain of these miles. I knew what was coming, and so I had planned for it. Before I knew it, it was time for miles 20-21 and I really felt good. However, Heartbreak Hill was coming…

I ran mile 20 a little faster than expected, but I was feeling good. Then came Heartbreak Hill. I turned to the person next to me and said, “Let’s go…this is why we train so hard.” Kind of cheesy? Sure. True? Most definitely. While going up Heartbreak was not easy, my body really felt ready to tackle the challenge. Next thing I knew, I was at the top and I was seeing signs saying that we had conquered heartbreak. Then, it time for the moment of truth. Were my quads shot? If they were, I was not going to reach my goal. If they still had some juice, I was good to go. I knew immediately that they still had some juice in them and I could not have been more excited. The guy next to me asked if it was smooth sailing from here on out. I told him as long as you still have some gas in the tank, you got this. There are a great deal of downhills in these last 5.2 miles and if you’re hurting, you are pretty much done. That is a blunt statement but it is true. The downhills HURT. I remember two years ago having to stop and walk multiple times, and I was running at a pace much slower than I was running this year.

10Shortly after realizing I had juice left and my quads would hold up, I looked to my left and saw Jess yelling and cheering for me. It was a moment I will NEVER forget. I pointed to her and yelled “I love you! I got it! I got it!” It was then I knew that I was about to crush these last few miles.

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I will not lie to you…these last 5.2 miles were not easy. Fortunately, it was just a little bit of pain. I still had energy and the slight discomfort was nothing I could not handle. Next thing I knew, my buddy Steve’s advice was dead on. I was passing people left and right. My paces were increasing! Barring something unforeseen like something locking up on me or a serious cramp (both of which, make no mistake, were still possible), I was going to run a sub-3.

13The rest of this race will live with me forever. The miles clipped by as I saw my paces stay right around the 6:45-6:50 mark. When I had exactly 1 mile to go, I mentally stopped for a second and decided to soak it all in. This is what it was all for. Freezing cold runs outside, getting up at 4:30 AM to get miles in, running 800 meter repeats into the wind, and even once having to do a 16-miler on the treadmill (side note, Jess can do crazy high mileage on a treadmill…it’s pretty amazing). All of those memories came into my mind and I knew that the hard work was so I could enjoy this moment, a moment I would never forget. The infamous “Right on Hereford, left on Boylston” to the finish was on its way.

12As I made my way down Hereford and turned left onto Boylston, I was grinning from ear to ear. I could see the finish line and my legs felt swifter than ever. As I finished, I just could not stop smiling and thinking about what I had just experienced. I came in at 2:58:40 (6:49 min/mile), a time that qualifies me for the 2015 Boston Marathon (I am not sure I will go as I would like to do another traveling marathon next spring, but it is nice to know I can go!). This was easily the most fun I have EVER had running a race, and I truly believe that it was the best I have performed in my running career. A marathon had never felt so smooth to me and I had never executed a race plan as precisely as I did here. Now, all that was left was to wait for Jess.

I am Boston Strong
I am Boston Strong

As I waited in the family meeting area for Jess to arrive, I felt some of the strongest anticipation I had ever felt. When we finally saw each other, it was one big emotion-fest. Yet again, another moment from today that I will never forget. We spent that evening celebrating with beers at one of the best beer bars I have ever been to, Sunset Grille in Allston. It was a perfect way to end the day.

15One thing I want to say is that this race proved to me that I do not have to run 70-80 miles per week during marathon training to run a good time for the marathon. I know many people who believe that they have to get their weekly mileage into the 70’s and 80’s (I was once one of them). For me personally, all this does is get me injured and it lowers the intensity of my most important workouts. I have seen runners go crazy with mileage only to “bonk” during the marathon. My mileage during this training cycle never surpassed 56 miles per week. The difference was that my key workouts (intervals, tempo runs, and long runs) were totally spot on. I was able really ramp up the intensity during these workouts, and that was truly a difference-maker to me down the stretch during the Boston Marathon.

I don't know when I'll run Boston again but I will run it again.
I don’t know when I’ll run Boston again but I will run it again.

I am not sure what is next for me other than being a pace leader for the 3:30 group at the Cleveland Marathon and hopefully going for another sub-3(and possibly sub-2:55) in Akron in the fall. Otherwise, I am looking forward to a summer of speed races and enjoying life with my amazing wife and of course, our dog Bodhi.

Just a reminder that we are still fundraising for Jordan’s Family Foundation through May 18th.  Help us promote awareness around congenital heart disease!

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Boston Marathon Day: A Spectator’s View

Neither Ryan or I could sleep the day before the race because we were so excited. Ryan was signed up to take a chartered bus from MIT. It’s a nice cushy bus with a bathroom and when they get to Hopkinton they can stay on the bus and keep warm instead of being outside when they get there. I didn’t take any pics when I dropped him off because it was so hard to drop him off at 6am and then know he won’t race for 4 more hours and I won’t see him til the middle of the afternoon after the race! Also with no bags this year he left his phone behind.

With hours to spend in Boston all by myself, I grabbed breakfast at Dunkin Donuts, watched Bodhi on the webcam and got ready for a 6 mile run to Boston College which was the area I was planning to watch Ryan from.

Hours before the race
Hours before the race

I got to the race a little earlier than I planned so I sat down on a nearby bench to relax before the race started. After a few minutes, someone approached me that I knew!!! What are the chances of running into someone you know from Cleveland in this section of the race! We instantly decided to stick together since our guys were running similar times and then we both had someone to take the subway with back to the finish. We knew we would only see them at this point of the race and would not make it to the finish in time but I was too chicken to be near the finish line this year.

Tiffany and I near Heartbreak Hill
Tiffany and I near Heartbreak Hill

I was able to watch the start of the race at the house Tiffany was staying at but we made it back to the race with plenty of time to check out the crowds and wait for the lead women to come by.

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I swear I was close enough to touch the lead women, Shalane on the other hand must have known I have a major thing for her since she went on the clear other side of the road.

In the downtime of waiting for Ryan to come by, I live tweeted any times of his I could get my hand on and cheered for all the runners who ran by. It’s a miracle I had a voice after the race.

Through the power of twitter I could see that Meb was in the lead. I had no idea how much of a lead he had until he ran by.

Go Meb!
Go Meb!

I don’t know how far of a lead Meb had but it felt like minutes. I do know that you could not even see the rest of the pack. They came straggling along eventually…they wish they were as fast as Meb.

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Not long after the lead guys went by I received Ryan’s last time and I was bounding with excitement waiting for him. People started coming by faster by now and I was almost worried I wouldn’t find him in the crowds and knew the crowds would only get worse.

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Finally, I found him! I was so excited I didn’t cry and almost didn’t get a picture because I was jumping up and down like a crazy person trying to get his attention! And it worked!

IMG_0600He saw me in the crowd and shouted “I love you! I got it!” and then I had tears in my eyes and quickly tried to snap a picture before he took off for the rest of the course.

IMG_0577Shortly after our guys ran by Tiffany and I headed to the subway to take it back downtown to meet up with our guys. I had about 20% battery life by then so I was hoping I had just enough battery life to get me to Ryan. The subway took a very long time and was beyond crammed. Multiple times I wanted to jump off and just run to the finish. While on the subway I learned my homeboy Meb won the Boston Marathon!

IMG_0589I have been a fan of Meb for awhile now. A better person could not have won the marathon this year. He’s amazing!

Also while on the sub way I received the final alert that Ryan had finished and reached the goal time he was after. 10 minutes later he called, we don’t have each other numbers memorized so I had to write it on him before the race. It was so nice to talk to him but I still had a ways to go to get to him and 12% battery life on my phone.

When I finally got off the subway, there was a lot of running from Tiffany and I trying to get to our meeting areas. I literally ran the whole way from the subway to Ryan and jumped into his arms. Yes there were some tears involved but I was so proud and happy for him. I tore myself away to snap a picture of him beaming from ear to ear.

Love this guy
Love this guy

Quickly with less than 6% battery life left we asked someone to take our picture and as soon as we saw the picture my phone died. Perfect timing for a perfect day.

IMG_0585Stay tuned for Ryan’s guest post on actually running the Boston Marathon.

 

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Boston Day 2

Day 2 of our Boston trip consisted of me getting up early to start my long run while Ryan hit up a beer store 40 minutes away. (It was awesome because he brought me home some good surprises) Which was awesome in Boston since the sun comes up at least an hour earlier than in Cleveland. At 5:50am I thought it was 8am with how bright it was. A 12 mile long run was not a bad way to start the day.

Seen on my run
Seen on my run

Soon after my long run I quickly showered and we headed out for a long day of walking and shopping at the expo.

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After attending multiple marathon expos and going to the Boston Marathon expo as both a spectator and a runner in the past, I was disappointed in the Boston Marathon expo this year. It has reached the point where it is so over packed that it is no longer enjoyable. You could barely move in most sections so shopping was extremely difficult and most places were sold out of any sizes Ryan needed (size medium). We’ve always gone on a Saturday so we were disappointed, we’ll be going on Friday from now on.

photo 1(5)After the expo we made our way towards the finish line to check out the area and snap some pictures. On the way we saw a multiple story Apple store that we had to check out. I suddenly feel like I need a new ipod after visiting.

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This is an apple store not a mall

I was kinda nervous as we neared the finish line. We took some pictures but I didn’t feel comfortable there and was happy we didn’t spend as much time there as in the past. Also solidified my plan to not stay near the finish line for the actual marathon on Monday.

photo 3(5)Shortly after visiting the finish line we were able to meet up with some friends from Cleveland who now live in Rhode Island! We also made our first brewery stop of the trip at Trillium Brewing Co. I highly recommend stopping there if you are nearby, free samples and good beer!

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Next we stopped at The Barking Crab for dinner for my first and only lobster roll of the trip. I am now obsessed with lobster rolls, it was delish!

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After a 12 mile run and a whole lot of walking (6-8 miles of walking, lost track somewhere) I was pretty beat for the day. I can’t even remember if we did anything else that day. Except take a cute new picture by the water.

photo 2(7)And this picture with the giant Boston Strong flag.

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Boston Day 1

In 2010 I ran the Boston Marathon, in 2012 Ryan ran the Boston Marathon and in 2014 Ryan ran the Boston Marathon again! It’s starting to become an every 2 yr vacation for us and I’m perfectly ok with that. (or every year that either one of us qualifies).

Crossing Bridges on the drive
Crossing Bridges on the drive

Instead of flying to Boston this year we decided to drive so that we could have a car to get around while we were there and also so that we could take as much stuff with us as we wanted. (or take a lot back with us since there seem to be quite a few beer stores in Boston).

Yes I love bridges
Yes I love bridges

I’m not sure how long it too us to get to Boston but we made awesome time the entire drive until we hit the downtown Boston traffic. But what could you expect with a Holiday weekend and Boston Marathon weekend.

We immediately checked into our hotel and hit up a close craft beer bar that we had heard a lot about, Lord Hobo. Although Lord Hobo was only 1 mile from our hotel, it took an hour to get there and  find parking. We thought by being outside of the city of Boston we would be free of traffic and crazy parking. However, it was worth the wait.

photo 5(1)It was pretty dark inside so my pictures didn’t come out that great but we did get great seats at the bar.

photo 4(2)And in case you were wondering, we are both missing Bodhi like crazy. It’s hard to be without our main dude.

photo 1(3)I did a lot of running in Boston, cant wait to post my training recaps!

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Boston Heartbreak

I can’t believe this happened.
I can’t believe this happened to my favorite race.
One where I have been both a participant and a spectator.
I’m in shock that this happened to runners.
Runners who give back, raise money for charity, support each other,
are humble and a tight community who welcomes everyone.
But this did not only happen to runners.
This has happened to the the supporters.
The family and friends of runners who think you are crazy
but come to support you anyways.
This has happened to volunteers who gave up their day
to help out with the Boston Marathon.

Yesterday morning I was up early to watch the Boston Marathon. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time waiting to see what the elites could do. I was also tracking many of my friends online and cheering for them from afar. I had no idea the turn of events that would happen after those elites had finished…

It’s no secret that the Boston Marathon holds a special place in my heart. I trained hard to qualify in 2009 and ran it in 2010. I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. My worst fear while running the Boston Marathon in 2010 was that my little sister (6 yrs old at the time) would get lost in the crowds. The area along the finish line is very busy and a lot of people walk through that way to get past the finish line and meet up with their families. As busy as it was, I never once felt it was unsafe. I never once felt that extra security was needed.

In 2012, I was at the Boston marathon as a spectator. I thought the race was incredible to run but watching it was just as incredible. Being in the crowds was awesome. You would not believe the amount of people who come out to watch. Some are family and friends of runners, some are locals who come to see the race and some travel just to watch the most prestigious race. In 2012, my biggest fear was that I would lose the group of 9 people I was traveling with. I was trying to keep us all together despite the crowds. Still, despite the crowds, I still felt safe and never felt the need for extra security.

While watching the Boston Marathon yesterday I kept showing Ryan “Look! Look! That’s where I was standing last year to watch you”. I was so excited to see that same spot I was in, as I watched Ryan complete his first Boston. This year, that spot I was watching from last year, was where one of the bombs went off. If we went to Boston this year, I would have went to that same spot to watch. It was a perfect spot, great crowd support and was the fastest way for me to meet up with Ryan after the race. Seeing that spot on TV last night as where the explosion was brought tears to my eyes.

I have so many friends that were in Boston yesterday running. Ryan and I immediately starting tracking them down to make sure they were ok. It took us awhile but we were able to track them all down and they were all ok! Some immediately left the city while others are leaving first thing this morning.

I can’t imagine being a runner near the finish line when the bombs went off. It’s obviously something you would not expect but also hard to run away from after you’ve just ran a marathon. I can’t imagine those runners who were stopped on the course and diverted away from the finish line. Those runners didn’t know what was going on or how bad the situation was. The Boston Marathon is a dream come true for runners. The Boston Marathon should not be a runners nightmare.

The fear that the runners and supporters had to go through yesterday is unthinkable. Not only because they couldn’t finish but because they couldn’t get to their bags to get their cell phones. To meet up with family and friends after the race is difficult when you can’t get to the family meeting area and  you can’t get to your phone make any calls. Not knowing is a scary thing. 

The events of yesterday hit a little too close to home for me. Tears are still in my eyes today. I’m praying for those who have lost their lives yesterday and for those who have been injured. I am thankful for the first responders yesterday and the brave people who stepped up to help in such a crazy situation.

The running community is great and I know they can handle this. But if you can hug a runner today.

 

 

 

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Guest Post: Ryan’s Boston Marathon Recap

Note from the Editor: Ryan does not have a blog of his own but is an amazing writer and I really wanted everyone to hear his Boston Marathon Recap. Enjoy!

From the moment I first decided to run a marathon, I had one goal and one goal only: to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. My first marathon was the Columbus Marathon in October of 2010. I ran a 3:05:31, which, at the time, met the Boston Marathon qualifying standards (the qualifying time was 3:10 or under for males ages 18-34; the new qualifying time is 3:05 or under). Simply put, I was on cloud nine. Unfortunately, when the 2011 Boston Marathon registration window opened the next day, it immediately sold out. Because I was at work for the entire time that the window was open, I was shut out. What began as heartbreak turned to anger; it just seemed cruel for me to feel so happy and then so disappointed. I then remembered that there are much more important things in life and that I would get another chance. I ran 2 marathons in 2011 and ran Boston qualifying times in both. Just before running the Akron Marathon in September, I was able to successfully register for the Boston Marathon (huge thanks to the amazing girl who runs this blog for submitting my registration while I was at work). Knowing I was going to run Boston changed a lot about how I trained. I decided that I had to give this my absolute everything.

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As I began to think about goals for Boston, my first thought was to PR. I needed to run under a 3:04:23, and since I had done that in Akron, I felt confident that I could do so in Boston. When I revealed to Jess that my training for Akron was not ideal (no speed work and skipped long runs), she told me that if I truly buckled down, I could go for a sub-3-hour marathon in Boston. At first, I did not believe that. However, as my training went along, I noticed significant gains in speed work, long run pace, hill work and race times. I began to believe in myself; sub-3 was the goal.

RyBib
Packet pick-up

Let’s fast-forward to Boston Marathon weekend. The dreaded news began to hit the internet about 5 days before the race; temperatures were likely to be in the 70’s for the race. That is terrible marathon weather. 2 days later, the projected high for the day jumped into the mid-80’s. With a 10:00 am start time, this was going to be one difficult (and perhaps dangerous) marathon. I did not panic at first; I told myself that sub-3 remained the goal. As we got closer to race time and I started feeling the warm temperatures over the weekend, I knew I had to adjust. Things got serious when the Boston Athletic Association sent out an e-mail warning only the “fittest” runners to participate; they even offered the option to defer your bib to 2013. I then read the words that I did not want to read: “For the overwhelming majority of those who have entered to participate in the 2012 Boston Marathon, you should adopt the attitude that THIS IS NOT A RACE. It is an experience. “ Disappointment began to set in, along with some fear. I remember telling my family and friends the night before the race that I felt as though I was about to “walk the plank”. However, the thought of deferring never once crossed my mind. I was going to run the Boston Marathon in 2012 no matter what. As the day finally arrived, I had to come to grips with the fact that my adjustment to my pace had to be much more significant than originally planned.

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After a 45-minute bus ride on the morning of the race, I made the walk from Hopkinton High School to to the start line. I was already sweating and had a small headache (a sign of heat exhaustion). What started as a goal now turned into survival. I wanted to run a strong pace, but knew that anything new goal pace would easily turn into a DNF. It was at that point that I decided that there was no time goal; surviving the heat was the goal.

Groupshot
A couple local runners at the start.

The first few miles brought worry to my mind. Yes, I felt good, but I could feel the heat taking a toll on my body. As you can imagine, that is not a good sign so early in a marathon. The first water stop was almost a stampede. Everyone cut over from the middle to grab water. I literally had to stop running to get my water. At about mile 4, I found myself locked into a comfortable 7:20, much slower than my goal pace, but very comfortable if I wanted to finish in one piece. As the race continued, I grabbed water at every single water stop, which is not something I normally do in a marathon. Spectators had their hoses out, which helped to cool us off. Around mile 9, I did something that became a crucial strategy for me down the stretch; I grabbed a handful of ice cubes from a spectator and put them in my hat. This helped to cool my head and give me a small bit of relief from the heat. At this point, my legs felt fine, but I was incredibly hot. I started to see runners with bib numbers in the hundreds stopping to walk. I remember seeing a guy with a top-200 bib number completely stopped in his tracks along the side; he looked like he was completely done. Obviously, this was not an encouraging sign. You could spot multiple walkers everywhere you looked.

Staying focused and enjoying the little bit of shade

Miles 12-13 brought some excitement as we approached Wellesley College, an all-girls liberal arts school. You could hear the girls screaming from a half of a mile away, and their “Kiss Me” signs were awesome. As a side-note, I did not kiss any of them Smile. I knew that the dreaded “Newton Hills” were approaching at mile marker 16, so I began to mentally prepare for them. It was at this point where I realized what this race meant for me: I was about to learn what I was made of. Could I overcome the disappointment of having to back off of my goal? Was I able to handle a marathon in this heat? I knew deep down that these lessons (whether they were good or bad) were ones that would ultimately make this a memorable, fulfilling experience. Once we finally reached Newton, the sun truly felt hotter than ever. There was no shade in sight, and as my legs began to tire, I felt nearly helpless. I decided at this point that I was not going to look at my watch anymore; I was going to run as well as I could without regard to time. What I learned in miles 16-21 is this: going uphill is not the challenge; going downhill is. I had done a great deal of uphill work in preparation for Boston. Downhill work was still a key part of these workouts, but I had no idea the pain that downhill running can cause. The up-hills on the Newton Hills were not bad at all, in my opinion. Yes, they were tiring, but I felt comfortable on them. Even as we rose up the infamous “Heartbreak Hill”, I felt comfortable. I even had to ask a guy next to me if this truly was THE “Heartbreak Hill”. Unfortunately, the down-hills became something I completely dreaded. As soon as we’d reach the crest of a hill, I knew pain was in my future. It was a pain I could tolerate, but with the heat, I felt very miserable. Many times, I began to doubt myself. I walked for about 20 seconds immediately after “Heartbreak Hill”, something I had never done in a previous marathon. Once I started to go again, I felt like I would be able to finish strong. My quads were hurting and I felt like an endless supply of water was not enough to keep me hydrated; however, the race was nearing its finish.

Running past the Citgo sign

Somewhere around the end of mile 23, just when you think the worst is over, you reach another hill. This hill was milder than the previous hills, but at this point, it was an unwelcome sight. Again, going uphill was feasible; downhill was painful. There were people walking everywhere. As we reached mile 24, I began to think about how I usually feel so excited and strong by this point of a marathon. This time though, I found myself taking a few seconds to walk and ponder how I was going to do this. 2.2 miles should be nothing, but the heat had sucked the life out of me. I then decided that the pain was worth it; this was my moment to take in and remember. At mile 25 we reached the famous Citgo sign and it was that moment that I will never forget. I started to think about all of the training runs in the snow and wind, the way I felt the moment I found out I got into Boston, and how proud I was when I got to go pick up my bib. For that moment, the heat and pain were an afterthought. I was about to finish a temperature record-breaking Boston Marathon. Time did not matter; I was about to be a survivor. These thoughts carried me through the next mile. As I turned the corner onto Boylston Street for the finish, I again began to enjoy the moment. I rarely smile at the end of a race, but I could not help but crack a smile, if only for a few seconds. That smile did not do justice to the happiness I felt inside. As I crossed the finish line at 3:23:49 (way off of my original goal time), I cared about only one thing: seeing Jess, my parents, and my friends (Renee, Laura, Bill, Bill, and Nate). After walking for what seemed like hours (it was maybe 10 minutes or so), I finally got my cell phone and determined where I would meet all of them. As we met up, the conversations and hugs shared are memories that will last for the rest of my life. The heat and quad pain went to the backseat; they simply did not matter anymore.

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Nearing the finish

So where does this leave me now? The Boston Marathon was truly the most amazing marathon experience I have ever had. Being welcomed in town after town by incredible crowd support made the whole thing feel like a 26.2-mile running parade. It was truly amazing. Unfortunately, the work that I put in for a sub-3 marathon was really not utilized in this race. I want redemption. Therefore, I am now going to upgrade from the half-marathon in Cleveland to the full. This leaves me with about a month for recovery, which is not a great deal of time. However, 3 of the guys that I began the Boston Marathon with are also going the same route. We put in the work, we are hungry, and we are ready to focus on time, and not simply survival. See you in Cleveland Smile

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My Boston marathon supporters!

Finally, I want to thank all of my family and friends for the outpouring of support on Twitter and Facebook. I feel truly blessed to know people like each and every one of you. I also want to thank everyone who donated to Jordan’s Family Foundation. The humbling experience of seeing the generosity of so many folks is something that transcends any marathon high. I hope you know how many people felt the love and compassion that came from your generosity.