Archive for October 4, 2010

Each and every fall weekend there are numerous races that take place in large cities, small towns and hamlets literally from sea to shining sea.  When I was just starting out in the sport I tended to view footraces with a certain naiveté.

Marathons of course were “hard”, while local 5K and 10K races were “easy”.

A half-marathon?  Sure 13.1 miles is a long way to go as a runner.  But really, I mean it’s only half as far as the marathon calls for.  How tough could it really be?  I ran 15 miles on Sunday morning just “because”.

What I have come to realize is that each and every race is its very own entity with its very own battle to be waged.  It is not about the distance traveled on race day that makes racing so challenging.  It is about the distance traveled to get to race day where the magic occurs.

In addition to my own racing on Saturday, three of my running friends took to the streets from New Hampshire to South Carolina this weekend. 

Jim, Brendan and Richard are all runners who have it exactly right.

Jim was has been training for his first marathon in 15 years.  He will be running in the Mount Desert Island Marathon in Bar Harbor Maine in two weeks.  This past Sunday, he toed the line at the Smuttynose Half-Marathon in New Hampshire to test his fitness level as he has been managing a painful hip injury that he suffered during marathon training.

Jim and his wife Patti

Jim and his wife Patti have been true partners in getting Jim to the starting line of MDI. 

Training runs, Physical Therapy, afternoons and evenings spent talking about whether Jim is in fact going to be ready in time for MDI. 

I can never remember a runner dealing with an injury so close to race day that was able to stay so positive.  I am convinced that Jim’s outlook and energy helped him recover in time to race this weekend as much as his physical therapy did. 

Brendan

Brendan who is known as Maine Runnah on Twitter and Dailymile was also racing at Smuttynose on Sunday.  He was chasing the magical 3:20:59 mark in the full marathon to qualify for his first Boston.

Richard  was racing on Saturday morning at the Lieutenant Dan 5K at the Beaufort, SC Shrimp Festival benefiting Severely Injured Veterans. 

Oh, by the way, Richard is an amputee runner who is training for the Charleston Marathon on January 15, 2011.

Richard IIAGDTR (It is a good day to run!)

Each of these athletes serve as a constant source of motivation and inspiration as I chase my own goals in our sport as well as doing my best to honor Dom and his fight against cancer whenever I toe the line at an event.

For Jim, just getting himself to the starting line at the Smuttynose half-marathon took an enormous amount of dedication and courage.  Just three weeks ago, Jim was on the shelf, no running allowed, as his Doctor was examining the results from the MRI on his hip.

In his downtime, Jim walked, stretched and started cycling all in the hopes of keeping his dream of running MDI Marathon, his fifteenth life-time marathon, fifteen years after his last marathon finish.

Although Jim could not run and train, he made a point to support all of the runners in the community on Daily Mile.  Reading about everyone else’s training and preparation, Jim would give encouragement and offer advice to others – all the while wishing he could be out there preparing for MDI.

Jim continued with his rehabilitation and strengthening plan just hoping for a chance.  A chance to be able to make it to the starting line and compete.  To be able to simply run pain free and test his physical and mental strength alongside thousands of other runners.  He was prepared for some pain and discomfort, he was willing to go all in. 

He just wanted his shot.

Brendan’s quest on the same day was born from identical spirit.  The same age as I am, Brendan trained hard for 18-months preparing for the Smuttynose Marathon.  This race was really important to Brendan as during his last attempt at a Boston time, Brendan had gotten a nasty cold that affected him on race day.  After a tremendous training cycle, Brendan experienced what all of us fear on race-day.  An “outside” factor that will keep us from reaching our goals.

Marathoners are prepared for a long day, a tough day.  There are a lot of certainties as you take your first of more than 40,000 strides required to cover 26.2 miles.  You know there will be good miles and bad, uphills and down.  There will be crowds, wind, moments that you want to just stop and give-up.  There are also moments of exhilaration and great accomplishment. 

All we ask for is our shot.

Well at Smuttynose Brendan received what he was hoping for.  The weather was near idyllic, the course was fair and Brendan had made it to the starting line healthy and ready to rock.  3:20:59 was in his sights, with a spot in the 115th running of the Boston Marathon in the balance. 

This was Brendan’s shot.

Richard running along the Battery in Charleston, SC as a boy

For Richard, the Lieutenant Dan 5K was a race he felt like “he just had to run”.  Richard was born to be a runner.  From his earliest days as a child he fell in love with running.  Something that did not happen for me until I was 38 years old.

Back in 1963 Richard’s right foot was run over by a school bus.  Over the years Richards’s situation with his foot grew increasingly painful.  To the point in April of 2008 where Richard had his first surgery to hopefully enable him to return to running injury free.

As procedures and options were tried, nothing was working.  There was essentially no improvement, and Richard bravely discussed the only option he felt remained for a return to running.  Amputation.

On April 14, 2009 Richard underwent surgery to have his damaged foot amputated.  After many milestones, including returning to work, driving himself there and home, walking with crutches, being fitted for his first prosthesis and riding a bike – on September 26, 2009 Richard ran his first mile.

Richard says that on that day he was “a runner” again.  Although I believe Richard always was and forever will be a runner.

Richard and I will race in Charleston, SC on April 2nd this year at the Cooper River Bridge Run.  This race is why October 17th has become so important.  If Richard is willing and able to overcome so many obstacles to make it to race day in Charleston.  The very least I can do is honor his effort by earning my place “up front” for that race by achieving that sub 40:00 minute time at the IBM in less than two weeks.

So how did my guys do this weekend?

Jim ran strong and confidently on Sunday finishing with a time of 2:02:50 posting a smoking fast 8:45 final mile despite some pain in his hip and groin beginning around the 11 ½ mile mark.  Congrats to you Jim!  You are an animal!

Jim Finishing strong

Richard ran a tremendous race at the Lieutenant Dan 5K Race finishing with a time of 25:02, a new Personal Best!  You can read Richard’s race report on his blog IIAGDTR (It is a good day to run) by clicking here.

Brendan battled the Smuttynose course for 26.2 hard-fought miles.  He ran his best ever marathon and took more than 5 minutes off of his previous best marathon time, finishing 3:21:32. 

Brendan missed his Boston qualifying time by just :33 seconds.

Brendan - Bib 2334 on way to a new PR

When I saw Brendan’s time this morning I felt like all of the wind was knocked out of me.  We traded a few messages and of course Brendan and I started sharing what was really important.  We talked about our passion for running, but more about our passion for those things in life that are truly what it is all about.

Love, friendship, family, our wives and children.  Brendan passed along a little wisdom that his sister had shared with him after the race.

“It is not the moments that define us, but the gifts we bring as a person”.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that when we earn our way back to Boston at the Austin Marathon, Brendan will be there to greet me in 2012.  That race and everything it stands for was made for runners like Brendan, Jim and Richard.

I am honored to call them my friends.  You are all everything that is right about our sport.  Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.

2nd Place finish on Saturday