Thankfullness in Action

Wow! November. Thanksgiving. We are here again. It’s become my  tradition, since last year, to focus  during the week of thanksgiving on making mention and giving thanks for the many blessings that running has been to and given me. Not that I’m not thankful everyday, I really do try to  embrace thankfulness and wear as a bit of a second skin – if you will – but it behooves us to take advantage of the holiday to get in-touch with our inner self and really reflect on how we and our lives are better because of  this gift called running.

One of the easiest ways to tap in to the idea of being thankful is to take a look at how far you’ve come in one year. I’d be first up to tell you it hasn’t always gone the way I foresaw, nor have I always gotten what I wanted or worked hard for, which brings to mind my goals for this year; there are still some on there unaccounted for. Should I then consider myself a failure, put it all behind me as a lost cause, see it all as a waste? Most adamantly not. For each time I slipped up or missed the mark there were lessons learnt and many other successes gained. I’ve always maintained that living a healthy and happy life depends on choice and perspective. You can always choose to take the positive out of a situation or circumstance. The alternative is often not pretty.

imageRunning has been a game changer of sorts for me. It has given me focus and direction and allowed me to be a force for good. As a result, I am physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually stronger. I have formed some deep and lasting connections and friendships and travelled a bit in my pursuit of various running adventures. But maybe most important is my discovery of running as a platform for causes I care deeply about. Through running I can support and advocate the issues that inform and bring meaning and purpose to my ideas, words and actions. Through running, I, simple, very not rich nor famous me, can touch and transform lives.  There is great power and purpose in that knowledge, which I do not take lightly.

Additionally, none of us have very far to look to in order to be able to give thanks today, if we’ve made it this far into the year healthy, strong and running, then that should be enough of a reason to be thankful.  In case you’re lacking in any one of those areas then there’s always having a job, having the opportunity to be passionate about something that matters, being a blessing, having family and friends to share  thanksgiving with, having a thanksgiving meal – period, beautiful Fall, sunshine and nice weather, having a roof over our heads and warm clothes, being safe and protected ( we can certainly identify after the Paris attacks & subsequent threats to the US) and a host of others. There is no lack of things each and every day to live in thankfulness of. We are all on this wonderful earth making the most of our time here, while some of us may choose to do so one step at a time, all of us should be thankful for the opportunity each moment presents to leave this world a better place than we met it. That is thankfulness in action.


The Tempo Run: the key to your fastest marathon



If you’re anything like me you’ve probably asked yourself a time or few what you need to do to improve your time – your 26.2 time that is – and if you have, chances are you’ve tried a thing or two and it has either worked or not-so-much. Well, since we’re always on the look-out for new and improved ways to up our running game I figure this is a must share. Elite and competitive athletes and coaches agree that the tempo run is the best indicator of your marathon time. For my part, I swear by it as a significant if not the most important aspect of half marathon and marathon training. While the long run is essential to build endurance, the tempo run is critical to racing success as it trains your body to sustain speed over distance (Former Elite Athlete and Coach, Toby Tanser)

A tempo run is a faster paced run also known as lactate-threshold (the point at which your body fatigues at a certain pace ), LT or threshold run. It is running at a hard but somewhat comfortable pace where you you can answer a question but conversing would be difficult. A classic tempo run would be running at this sustained pace for about 2-4 miles. The idea is to run hard but not going all out as though racing, you can go this way for a while but you would be happy to slow down the pace as well.

Tempo runs improve our metabolic fitness by teaching the body to use oxygen for metabolism more efficiently by increasing your lactate-threshold. Carwyn Sharp, Ph.D., an exercise scientist and marathoner claims that lactate and hydrogen ions, which are by-products of metabolism, are released into the muscles during tempo runs. These ions make the muscles acidic, leading to fatigue. It follows that the better trained you are, the higher your threshold as your muscles become better at using lactate and hydrogen ions resulting in less acid in your muscles, which keep on contracting thus allowing you to run faster.

The tempo run will vary for different runners with varying goals and differing thresholds. But the result will remain the same, a definite increase in your ability to maintain your speed over longer distances. While it seems then that the tempo run is beneficial primarily for longer runs such as a 10 miler to the marathon, as it is run somewhere between 15k and half marathon pace, the 5k runner too can benefit to a smaller degree. The key here for runners is consistency and intensity; running regularly as often as once per week during peak training time and at a consistent pace (your threshold) will improve your running and put you in the best position to run your fastest marathon.

This is going to be a key component of my training for Boston 2016. I’ve discovered in my running that boundaries are there to be pushed, obstacles to overcome and benchmarks to be reached. We will only ever know what we are capable of when we push ourselves beyond our perceived limits. I figure the tempo run is one way of discovering the dormant Kenyan in me. LOL


Embracing what’s left of Fall and Running On



I often wonder what I would do with myself if I weren’t always training for a race, how would I keep my very active self motivated to stay running; then I think I’d probably divide my time equally between running and hiking – my next great love. As it is, training for a race or two at a time keeps me pretty much in a marathon frame of mind year round with an endless wish list of races to run with the only thing impeding my characteristic jovial attitude being the winter weather.

Looking ahead to what’s next now that New York’s behind me, for this year at least, I’m filled with nervous energy as it pertains to Boston 2016. My track record this year has been anything but stellar though I began with a PR at the New Jersey Marathon in March, my performance took a dive thereafter, finally succumbing to injury a month ago and it’s been pretty much “bleh” since then. Given all that, I have reason to be antsy though I’m one for not dwelling too much on things out of my control. What is needed is a quick plan of action to get me up and ready for Boston in April and so I’ve been getting some feedback from some of my “groupies” aka my running group with the sole intent of tailoring my training and diet from here on (or as soon as my ankle allows) so as to maximize strength, efficiency and distance.

While all this is in the works, there’s still the holidays and winter to get through. The holidays present it’s own challenges with eating and drinking, family, travel and then there’s winter: an even bigger challenge for me. Where, how and what to run becomes a very real dilemma that has very little hope of being worked out or planned for in advance. It becomes a sorta wait-and-see season, which cannot be good for runners planning a big race in early spring. Now we know where we are and where we’re heading, all that’s left is finding the best way to get there – the easy half. Haha not really, but definitely doable. That’s my running mantra these days.

In spite of all that’s gone down so far, I remain encouraged by the running community and the various inspirational stories that come out of all the dedicated training and sacrifices that many runners subscribe to in order to achieve their goals. It’s that kind of spirit that drives me and provides the impetus for subsequent runs. The variances in running also keeps me on my toes; despite all the training and plans, one can never be quite sure what will give as time progresses. This can prove to be a good thing more often than not as hard work often brings rewards. That being said, I will try not to dwell too much on the upcoming season but remain solidly rooted in Fall, enjoying these rainy, sometimes chill, sometimes humid, sometimes perfect, pretty, falling-leaves days when running outside is still very much a treat.

NYC Marathon; The marathon we love to hate

Caught on camera @ the TCS NYC Marathon finish line

Caught on camera @ the TCS NYC Marathon finish line

It will be some time before I can talk about the TCS NYC marathon 2015 without some disappointment and frustration. It can’t help that I have immediate proof of its passing in a pronounced hobble that passes for walking and the accompanying pain it produces. This is by no means a pity party as I was fully aware of what I was facing on Sunday gone, but I am one wont to hope and in this instance it didn’t seem to pay off so well.

Armed with pain meds, a good breakfast, a night of semi-sleep, my eternal optimism and beautiful weather, I felt I was in  a more-than-less good place at 9:50 on Sunday morning. My plan had always been to start with the 3:30 pace group and so I did. We took off amid much fanfare to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s New York, over the Verazzano bridge in Staten Island, a beautiful view for those who took the time to enjoy the magic up there. Thousands of us in wave one ran into Brooklyn, the elite and wheelchair participants some distance ahead. It would be fool-hardy to imagine a seamless take-off, even though that was only a fraction of the race at that time. Inevitably what happened was a persistent dodging and weaving among those of us who were trying to keep pace for about 4 miles while pushing harder to make up for lost time. Around mile 6, I figured to slow down the blistering and unsustainable 7:42 p/mile pace and take the chance of losing the pace team, which I did, and realized I should have done it a whole lot sooner to save myself the angst and energy of weaving through hundreds of runners. For about 10-12 miles of the race we were in Brooklyn, one of the five boroughs of New York and home to the most amazingly diverse mix of people you will ever find anywhere. Brooklynites were on point with their support for every nationality under the marathon sun, they cheered, sang, danced and urged runners on and up 4th Avenue to Atlantic Avenue to Bedford Avenue all the way into Queens. Here we were met by a much smaller crowd but they were by no means any less supportive and did Queens runners proud with their unwavering support and encouragement for all runners. We headed over the Pulaski bridge at around mile 13, the second of the five bridges that make this a tough but essentially scenic, interesting and culturally unique marathon experience that highlights the unique aspects of each of the five boroughs.

Mile 16 presented one of the most challenging aspects of this marathon, the ascent of the Queensboro bridge with no end in sight and also no crowds. It turned out to be the longest, lonliest, most silent segment of the entire 26.2 miles. My knees took such a pounding, I honestly did not recall such an experience the first time around, that they almost seized right up when I greeted some friends a couple miles later on first avenue. On the bright side, it is the most thrilling experience to come out of isolation and be greeted with the roars of applause and chorus of cheers that overtook us as we came off the bridge and entered Manhattan’s first avenue. I greedily sucked it in as I’m sure did the other runners, happy to see the crowds but happier still that we were about 8 miles away from the finish. The support and encouragement in Manhattan is an experience you run for; the endless cheers and giving you are showered with along the way from both the crowds handing out everything from candy to paper towels and volunteers with fuel, sponges, fruit and gels. Losing yourself in the crowd is easy here and for a few I forget my quads that feel like they’re in a vice grip and my ankle that has begun to throb like nobody’s business.

At any other time I would be happy to cross this “little” bridge but on Sunday the Willis Avenue bridge that took us into the Bronx felt more like the hill from hell and I could feel a steady decline in my pace from there on. Up to that point, except for the Queensboro bridge, I had been keeping a steady 8:10/min mile pace and was only slightly removed from my goal but suddenly it was all about not stopping. The goal shifted from finish time 3:30 to just keep moving as the words “Welcome to the Bronx” was sung to us from a jazz player on the bridge. If the Bronx is known for anything, it is for being the birthplace of Hip Hop, so ideally I would have loved to be jiving along to the music and sounds that we were treated to as we ran along, except that I was totally tuned in to my pain by then and all I could manage was a few grimaces and thanks. And, as if I hadn’t been punished enough, there was a final hill – the Madison Avenue bridge – I sincerely hated all bridges at this point and crawled on; my deternination stronger than ever that I would not stop, not even at the water stations. The cheers continued and carried us back to Manhattan and onto the famed Fifth Avenue, which is a key indicator that there was just about four miles to go.  Ordinarily, I would be exuberant at being so close but I was too busy trying to connect with the crowd, anything to not think about my ankle, that I almost missed the turn into Central Park for about a mile. My family perked me up a bit coming out of the park and then it was the final stretch of 59th Street, into the park again, and a sudden burst of energy as I touched Trinidad and Tobago’s national flag on my way to the finish line. I made it in just behind James Blake from the Cancer Research Foundation and was totally humbled to share his struggle if only for a moment.

Looking up and seeing the clock somewhere in the vicinity of 1:50 left me feeling mildly surprised as I was convinced I had toiled up 5th Avenue for the better part of one hour; a dead watch and phone did not help. There were numerous thoughts running around in my mind then but more than anything, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment for having run those 26.2 miles, not for myself, but for the children – the cause I ran for. It was that, coupled with the crowds’ encouragement that kept me going when the going was tough. As it is, I do not as yet feel like I have conquered this course; it is for this reason I pledge to do it again. Plus, they say three time’s a charm. I’m counting on it!

The Buzz is The TCS New York City Marathon


Every November, here in New York City, we celebrate Marathon Sunday, a legacy of deceased runner and race director of New York Road Runners (NYRR), Fred Lebow. The  New York City (NYC) Marathon is a stalwart tradition to NYC runners and New Yorkers alike. Indeed, it has become an event of international standing and is chief among its other counterparts: Chicago, Boston, London, Tokyo and Berlin, which together make up the World Marathon Major Series.

The Marathon is now in its 46th year and running stronger than ever with 50,530 finishing last year and 50,000 plus the year before that. This year a strong élite field and many sub-elite and competitive athletes will vie for a place among the top finishers while many others, like myself, will settle for raising money for a great cause, a personal record (PR) and a medal. Still others will be in it for the bragging rights, the glory of running on the world’s premier running stage, to make a statement, or, simply for fun. Whatever the reason, crossing the finish line at Central Park will be enough to place you clearly in the shadows of greatness and among the thousands that have achieved the title of NYC marathoner.
For months now we’ve trained for this, each race taking us a step closer to what, for many, is the ultimate marathon experience. Two more days and runners, 40,000 plus of them, will stand together on the Verrazano bridge, God’s willing, and seek to conquer the streets of New York; all five boroughs of this great city to the tune of one million plus spectators. I get the buzz; one would have to be severely incapacitated not to, but I’m a bit more tempered in my approach this time around. The first time I ran New York I was facing my first marathon; in two days it’ll be my seventh so don’t mind if I save the excitement for the course, it will serve to fuel my energy on those rolling streets. Also, I’m coming down from a Chicago-high, which leaves New York with a lot to live up to. Even so, I expect a great race and hope to run my best time here on my home soil – so to speak – actually my second home anyway. It will not be easy as this race is nothing like Chicago – no fast, flat course here – but consists of five bridges, lots of ups and downs and turns; New York City Marathon rolls. The offset is the nice weather we have been promised, the tremendous energy from the crowds and the amazing volunteers. Inspiration abounds on Marathon Sunday and you don’t even have to be a runner to inspire someone. Everyone plays a part in making this race a phenomenal experience for all. You, I know, will be there in spirit if not in person.

Good Vibes in Marathon City

I’ve been out of commission for a few days post-Chicago, giving myself time to heal and so ran just two days last week and one this week so far. I confess to have running plans this weekend on a small-scale. The thing is it’s pretty hard to rest in this city at anytime, far less around this time with marathon madness in the air.

Here in New York City, runners take this tapering business pretty seriously and what you will find is not so much less runners out on the streets, just that they’re not running as hard and lengthy; but look around, they’re everywhere. Ideally, this is the best thing for visiting runners and those who find themselves on the fringe of the running community; one can’t help but be caught up in the excitement that is the New York City Marathon.

I had such a great time in Chicago followed by a successful fundraising effort for Team UNICEF U.S.A that I’m in a really good place now in my head and had it not been for this ankle injury, which is still a concern, I would be in seventh heaven. Right now, I have to be ok with just the  first level; it’s still an awesome place to be. It’s not everyday one chooses to run a marathon for an awesome cause like I am, it is my first and I’m awfully proud of me and thankful for all the support that made this possible. My supporters seriously rock! Which leaves me feeling incredibly hopeful, that, and all the good vibes in this super city. As a runner, I know how important it is to prepare oneself for a race both physically and mentally as both are instrumental in getting to the finish line. As it is the work has been done, leaving only my ankle to coöperate.
My ankle-tester of a run yesterday took me through the city streets into and around Central Park’s lower loop a couple times. Often, I like to sightsee while I run and it was such a beautiful fall evening that didn’t dissapoint from the perfect weather and colorful trees and falling leaves and motivation by the handfuls to other runners with possibly hopes like mine or some of their own. Days like that make you thankful to be alive, running in NYC. I was able to mimic the last quarter mile of the marathon and cross the imaginary finish line area, which is being prepared. Now if that didn’t put me in a marathon frame of mind then forget it, but seeing how I was already there, it provided the proverbial icing on the cake. With marathon week coming up, I expect things will only get better and, eternal optimist that I am,  that includes my ankle.

Recapping Chicago: 26.2 miles of Awesome

@ mile 13 along the course

@ mile 13 along the course

If I had to sum it up in three words, I’d say the Chicago Marathon was “a thrilling experience.” It is the ideal race a runner desires for a PR, a qualifying time, or simply to finish well. Fast and mostly flat, the course boasted 26.2 miles of cheering, energy-giving, vibrant and entertaining spectators and awesome volunteers.

Whatever you needed was available, from volunteers handing out the expected Gatorade and water and continuos encouragement, to random spectators with pain killers, Vaseline, fruit, snacks, water hoses, beer – if you didn’t cross the finish line it was not from a lack of support. There seemed an organized and concentrated effort to get you through, from the range of awesome Nike pacers with those looking to finish in times of 3 thru 5 & 1/2 hours, to the enthusiastic spectators. I mean, what do you do when faced with an average of 1.7 million people cheering you on? Chances are you run your heart out, even if you’re in pain, want to give up or you’re sick to your stomach; you run because the odds are there will never be another occasion or opportunity where you get to take center stage to such a large audience. Finally, an understanding  of why there are so many in show biz, being in the limelight can be a heady feeling alright.

For the most part, I barely remembered I was nursing an ankle injury I sustained a week before, not until mile 22 when it appeared I developed a blister under the other foot. My struggle began in ernest at that point and it was all I could do to stay focused on the crowd and the finish line. However difficult those final four miles – my personal goliath if you will – it cannot take away from the sense of utter satisfaction I feel about the overall experience. Over 40,000 runners took to the streets to “own Chicago” as Nike’s official hastag for the event encouraged, to the thrilling accompaniment of music, cheers, chants and dance. It was similar to New York, only better. Here I was able to enjoy it more. You may recall that I was also nursing an injury in the New York race, only I ran that entire time in pain. It appears I am doomed to repeat past mistakes.

Chicago is a beautiful city with its towering skyscrapers and modern architecture, which was on spectacular display. Our course took us from Grant Park,through the city and neighborhoods, and back again. A much bigger city than New York, one would think this would allow for more running space as it did for the big buildings, sadly not. Runners were toe to heel for most of the race with enough bobbing and weaving to make you a little crazy trying to keep pace. But with perfect weather conditions, albeit a bit sunny, you really couldn’t complain. For as much as it was within the control of the organizers of the Chicago marathon, they ran a well-executed race. As a result, Chicago is high up there on the few courses I want to re-run, minus the injury of course.

Ready, Set, Chica-Go!



The buzz and excitement are high with a bit of nervous energy tossed in for good measure. And why not, we’ve earned the right to this moment right here. Our sweat, sacrifices and sometimes tears have informed our right to be here so make no mistake or apologies for owning what is rightfully yours: runner status and soon-to-be marathoner ( again) which would make me, us – simply put – bad asses.



Chicago, I am told, is a fast and flat course and, God’s willing, we should have great weather. A good opportunity for a lot of good to happen here, which sorta doubles the perks I think, though I’ll try to reign in my enthusiasm given my won’t-dwell-upon ankle issue. Whatever happens, It won’t be a lack of me trying. I’m going out there and give it my best shot. I’ve often touted focusing on the things within one’s control and doing your best with that while leaving the rest, not up to chance, but up to God. That done, there’s nothing left to do but to get this party started. After a final run through of my marathon gear check-list to make sure all the ingredients are in place to make magic happen on Sunday, I’m ready to hit the airport and join the thousands in owing those city streets, even if it’s just for a day. I know the memories will last a lifetime. Yass (new word)! Pardon the expletive, this sh*t is real!

Tapering’s the Word



All the fuss about Tapering. What is it? How is it done and why it is and can be beneficial to you the marathoner are some of the questions I’ll attempt to to shed some light on while I try to get you, “Speedy,” – that would be me – to slow it down some in order to bring it home on marathon day.

To Taper or Tapering, with respect to marathon training,  is the process whereby runners reduce their weekly mileage and effort in the final two to three weeks before the marathon so as to be completely recovered from previous workouts and be rested for the big day. Sucessful runners across the board swear by this as a vital part of training and preparation while it’s aim is to secure your marathon goal; even that of first-time marathoners.

The Tapering Phrase usually consists of the two weeks (sometimes three) prior to race day. During this time a concentrated effort is made to ease up on the long and hard runs, usually reducing workouts by as much as 25-50% leading up to race day. For example, for a two-week period, long runs which generally consisted of 20-24 miles should be reduced to 14-16 miles in the first week with two rest days while the second week should ideally be an easy running week with -say- one 10 mile run with three leg-rest days. Reduce weekly mileage so that runs average between 5-7 miles on other running days with the week leading up to the marathon consisting of less mileage than the week prior. One may be tempted to push it a bit, since with the cut back you might be feeling stronger and think you can go faster and longer, but coaches stress that this is where it is important to stick to method over ability so as to avoid injury and compromise on optimal muscle repair. It is wise to note that there is nothing you can do in those two weeks leading up to the marathon that will make you perform better on race day. You’ve already done it all so resist the urge to add anything new or do any more than – just enough.

Benefits of Tapering

1. Provides ample opportunity for muscle restoration and repair while allowing you to get some much needed rest from a rigorous training routine.

2. Decreases the risk of injury and setbacks.

3.  Encourages a sustainable training methodology that secures your race day plan and increases your chances at goal realization due to optimal performance.

4. Allows you time and energy to listen to and care for your body, which time may not have allowed for before.

5. Allows you to place yourself in a total state of preparedness for marathon day. Here the focus is on proper nutrition, sleep, rest and getting the necessities together for the event.

While tapering is no exact science and largely depends on the individual, their needs and the distance of the event; it is a fact that some measure of this process can benefit you the runner. Be open to making the method work for you by tailoring it to suit your needs. For example, instead of long, hard runs, consider short sprints to regulate speed and bursts of energy. Given that this is my sixth time around, I’d say you have it on good authority that it works to maximize your marathon day performance and in every instance makes you an all-round better runner. So talk aside, let’s taper on!

References: Runner’s World,


Life Around Running


                Source: runningfitnessmagcom

I often hear the expression “I am not my job,” with a bit of ambivalence. I’m not sure, but how do you get up for the most part, five days per week and spend eight to ten hours at a job for years and not become some part of what you do? It’s like saying, I don’t smoke, but I sell cigarettes. Maybe it begins as just a job, but I think that if you do “it” for long enough it becomes a bit more than that. Like Aristotle, I too, believe you become what you repeatedly do, sometimes with little effort on your part; however, more often effort is the game changer. Some would argue that effort actually turns mediocrity into super real talent; add a little passion, and the result is unparalleled excellence.

“So what of a social life?” “Do you guys live outsider of running?” Someone once asked. Most runners will say running is a social sport. I recently went to a birthday event of a runner friend and was thrilled to meet other runners to which races and PRs and other running chit-chat was par for the course. What can I say, you get a bunch of runners in a room and it’s bound to happen. We eat, shop, dress, socialize, serve – and if we could – work; all in the context of running. It is what we do and while there may be times of disappointment, we factor it in as part of life and never a result of running.

The life of a runner is spent pretty much.. well.. running; life happens while, when, and on the run. Just like with any other passion in life, running becomes the central activity that everything else adjusts to. The average runner prepares and trains for a race not with that race as the necessary goal but always with his or her eyes on an even bigger race/ prize. Technically there’s no off-season so it’s year-round training and racing with a slight let-up in colder months.

“Slow down,” many, who clearly don’t get it will often say. They see the constant movement as a dissatisfaction with life and self, not understanding the innate desire for personal achievement and wanting to make a difference the best way we know how. Ultimately, it is what drives us and gives purpose to our lives; why we live to run and surround ourselves with all things running. For the non-runner, your challenge is to discover your passion -whatever it is- and run with it. Your happiness depends on it.

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