The Chicago Marathon, my running sweet spot


@ the start line

Last Sunday 40,400 runners crossed the finish line in Grant Park at The Chicago Marathon. We weaved a determined and exhilarating path through the streets of Chicago, from the downtown area through the suburbs and neighborhoods, out to the medical district and back. Runners came out in their numbers, each wanting their moment of glory, some with personal goals, others as part of a collective effort to raise money for a favorite charity. Whatever the reason, we embraced the warmth, cheers and encouragement of over 1.7 million spectators and thousands of volunteers to cement this, at least in my mind, as the most superbly organized marathon event I have run thus far.

The New York City Marathon runs a close second to Chicago because of its phenomenal crowds and volunteers and because..well, it’s New York. I don’t for one second take for granted how challenging it must be to pull of an event of this magnitude in any city. We, runners, are just super thrilled that organizers of these racing events have the experience and know-how to make it happen and thus afford us these epic moments. Because this was my second time around in Chicago, I was prepared for am amazing race. I had such a good time last year even with a slight injury; this year I had no such encumbrance and felt that as long as I was well rested I would do well. While circumstances did not permit such ideal conditions – I missed my flight on Friday and got in Saturday afternoon, which is an entire blog by itself – for various reasons, many having to do with optimal training (no over-training this time), better rest, hydration and diet in the weeks leading up to race day – all somehow conspired to make sure I ran amazingly well.

Chicago is a beautiful city with a diverse populace and a common passion, or so it seems – a love for running and the marathon. Because I always credit the success of a race in large part to its spectators and volunteers, I truly appreciated the huge turnout on both counts. I maintain there is nothing in the world quite like running down the home stretch of a race to the tune of a roaring crowd urging you on while suddenly hearing your name announced over the loud-speaker as you approach the finish line. That is one of the remarkable moments, and there are others, that we, runners, run for. That and the medal of course.

Like ever race though, this one was different and special. Foremost was my reason for running, I felt so motivated to run for the kids at St Jude’s to the extent that I kept up an average 7:45 min/mile pace for most of the race. My intent was to try for a negative split but I ended up running faster in the first half, then fluctuating a bit, then dropping down to a 8min/mile until mile 24 where I was able to up the anté and run my fastest time through the finish line. I finished at 3:27:11 – my fastest Marathon and a personal best. I was/am thrilled. However, like most type A personalities, I’m quick to see that I could have done better. Because I  was scared of running out of energy, for the first half and a bit beyond, I consciously reigned in my enthusiasm, which was probably wise, as it ensured I finished strong, but it’s also possible I could have put out just a little more, since at the finish I felt reasonably strong.

me @ around mile 15.5 in Chicago's medical district

me @ around mile 15.5 in Chicago’s medical district

Oh well.. hindsight remains what it is while I remain committed to improving that time. My next big race is the Boston Marathon in April while I volunteer at New York City Marathon next month. In the meanwhile before Boston, chances are looking really good for another race.

2016 Bank Of America Chicago Marathon Medal

2016 Bank Of America Chicago Marathon Medal

The Running Life: Finding balance and loving what you do


Online source unknown

Juggling running, exercise, work, family, volunteer commitments and a social life can be challenging at best. Oftentimes, it can be downright difficult, though there are the few times one is able to soar, until challenge sets in and things progress to the difficult stage; on and on it goes, becoming a cyclical norm that you soon get accustomed to. Difficult much? Yes, Impossible? No. It becomes the goal of the challenged to strike a precarious balance so as to maximize the benefit of all.

Indeed, it doesn’t require any specific skill per se, but ideally a set of character traits and a passion or love for what you do that motivates the heck out of you. The average Joe seeks a purpose in life and has a desire to be happy. Uncovering his purpose and actively working/ walking it out sets him on a path to happiness and success. It is no different for the runner. He or she is able to enjoy the gift of running when other areas of life are in sync. Running may even be seen as the glue that holds it all together – the stress release factor to make sure that everything runs smoothly. However it may be looked upon, it is necessary to apply it in concord with life’s other goals. For example, for those with immediate families running is treated as a family affair. It is encouraged, supported and advocated among family members to ensure that the runner has support to successfully pursue it. As such, it becomes a daily routine of sorts, this ensures it has its place in the runner’s life and maximizes his or her chances of success. Also, it is viewed as much more than a sport, more as a lifestyle with healing and health benefits.

Many successful runners who are not pros pursue running as a passion and tend to build a support network around it. For my part, I find it easier to perform in other areas of my life with running and/or exercise as part of my daily schedule. A typical day either beginning or ending with running will generally flow between family, work and some type of social engagement. Of course I credit the healthy flow among my various roles to running and exercise. I’d be lying if I say I didn’t believe it centers me; but more than that, it gives me an outlet to express so many emotions (negative and positive) as well as provides a basis for my faith and personal growth.

The key on living a successful life, and that may mean different things for different people, remains pretty much constant across the spectrum: find a happy medium. In this your “happy place” you will be able to treat with the challenges of life and be able to channel any resulting negative energy into creating something good. You better believe it, fit and healthy has a lot to do with happy.

10 Popular Fall Races




Fall, like Spring, to my way of thinking has some of the best running events for the adventurous runner. If you’re anything like me and you’re on the lookout for fun runs with a slight twist of purpose and brimming with pretty, then this is the season for it. From 5ks to marathons, and even ultras, there’s a race for everyone –  from the newbie to the well-seasoned marathoner. Grab a pair of running shoes, pack an overnight bag and be ready to hit the road for some of these races, which are to run for.

  • Oct 8-9: Blue Mountain Beach 1/2 Marathon, 10K//30A, 5k and 10 Mile Weekend; Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
  • 9, 2016: The Bank Of America Chicago Marathon
  • Oct 9, 2016: Portland Marathon; Portland, Ohio
  • Oct 30, 2016: NYCRUNS Haunted Island 10k and 5k; Roosevelt Island, NY
  • Oct 30, 2016: Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Relay and Ultramarathon; Boalsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Nov 6, 2016: The TCS NYC Marathon
  • Nov 5, 2016: The Presidential 5k and 10k; Washington, DC
  • Nov 12, 2016: Down2Earth 5-10k Cross Country; Dania Beach, Florida
  • Nov 10-13, 2016: Super Heroes Half-Marathon Weekend; Anaheim, California
  • Nov 13, 2016: Mermaid Run, San Francisco (Sirena 10 mile, 10k, 5k)

It’s hard to believe that we’re already knee-deep in the Fall season already. I’m almost afraid to say it but before long we’ll be bidding it adieu and moving on to much tougher weather. That being said, we really just have a couple more months at most or a few weeks at best to take advantage and get out there. Run, volunteer, walk, go on an adventure, discover something; whether it’s a trail, a new course, a PR or even if it’s just a fun run or a new runner friend. The time is now. The season is Fall.

Loving Fall Running In New York City


       Fall foliage @ The Mall, Central Park

If ever there was a time it’s now, if ever a place it’s here, and if ever a reason it’s Fall. Maybe I’m biased as I live here, but there is something essentially beautiful about this city amidst the bloom of Autumn; It’s in the smell of the air – the musky yet sharp scent of the foliage, the kalidescope of colors dotting the trees and sweeping the ground, the gentle brush of the wind the almost-there kisses of sunshine and of course the abrupt arrival of early sundown and the subsequent coolness. I liken early Fall in New York City (NYC) to one of the most stimulating assault on your senses you will ever experience. The setting is ideallic and brings out the runner in just about all of us.


           TCS NYC Marathon, Finish Line

The true NYC Fall experience calls us to embrace Fall fashion and trends, its colors, its shopping – fall fashion meets running wear, its fitness, exercise and the marathon fever that permeates the air leading up to the NYC marathon in early November. There is an expectation in the atmosphere that fills the parks and spills out into the streets; running is everywhere.

15126805808_a582f5e3f6_mRunners welcome, should be our tag line because truly the city embraces runners like it does tourists. It is what New York does. And so it’s easy to fall in love with running here; you have a community of runners that is easy to become a part of and the access to many different courses and routes from bridges to parks and trails and beyond. Be a part of the city running community, the outer boroughs, or, head to the outskirts and get closer to the mountains and more hilly terrain; there it gets even more scenic and if you’re a nature-lover like myself, you’re sold. NYC boasts views, sunsets and snapshots and photos to run for.

808c919cef9194c11828e1701181e186Just a small disclaimer, don’t be surprised to see yourself starring in a famous shot. Central Park is just about the most popular park and boasts many fabulous photo and movie spots. But better than that, it is a beautiful green oasis in the midst of the concrete jungle of New York City, and, my running home. It embodies the beauty of Fall for six miles all the way around and among its many hills, trails fields, playgrounds and various other scenic spots.

Central Park

       Bridge over the Lake in Central Park

It’s easy to see why running is easy here in marathon city. We have all the trappings to make a great runner out of you. Your only responsibility is to bring your enthusiasm and willingness to give it a go. Despite what the corporate people may say, of which many are runners, it is us..runners who run this city. I promise.

Chicago Marathon for the Kids of St Jude


I’ve always maintained that running is not for the fainthearted. If you’re looking for easy, effortless, comfortable and safe then I posit that running won’t work for you. In the years that I have been on the roads, trails, track and treadmill, I have never not been challenged, called out, exerted, pushed and stretched beyond my limits. Through it all, I’ve experienced excitement, sadness, anger, disappointment, success, and every other emotion except boredom and the desire to quit. What I’ve discovered though is that nothing gives me greater satisfaction than running to make a difference in the lives of others.  While I’m all into PRs, racking up medals and destination marathons, these all fall short of a transcendent purpose (and I really do not mean to sound lofty) which adds meaning and value to life. Running for a worthy cause adds true meaning to my miles, it removes me from the center and places focus on the always worthy cause.

I never take this opportunity and gift lightly; opportunity because here is where I get the chance to use the running platform to highlight something close to my heart and do my bit in transforming our world, as I like to say, one step at a time, gift because as long as I understand that I have been blessed with this ability to in turn be a blessing, I will continue to find meaning and value in running. Additionally, it will continue to fuel my passion to get out there; to defeat the hurdles, overcome the obstacles and cross the finish line time and again. In running, motivation works side by side ability to ensure success. I’m convinced that those runners who are in their eighties and still going strong must have buckets of it.

Choosing a cause or charity to run for is relatively easy though not so much at the same time. You’d think, there are tons of them, what’s the big deal? Well for one thing, too many choices can make for difficult decision-making. I try to keep it simple by sticking to causes for children and then choosing those that I feel some connection to. Truth is, that’s the hardest part because almost everything affects us whether directly or indirectly these days. It’s the price we pay for the global village we live in.

This year, I latched on to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They are such a prominent force for good in this world with the amazing work they do through providing care and conducting research in childhood cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. Words fail me when I think of the suffering and pain of so much of our children, we cannot continue to live unaffected lives; at some level, at some point, we must get involved and take a stand. However we choose to do so is our decision, it’s only important that we do.

In that spirit, here is the link to my fundraising page on St Jude’s website with a lot more information on what they do and the impact your gift can make.

Please support the cause and share. There are only a few more days left for donations for Chicago Marathon and helping get me to the finish line. I’m thrilled to be a part of Team St Jude Heroes!

Life Happens; Incidentally there’s Training, Marathon Fever, Boston Registration and 9/11 Memorial Tributes


Last weekend after two weeks of endless pain from having oral surgery done, I ran away to Georgia. I’ve always been able to retreat to the peachy state to re-establish a measure of peace and some semblance of balance in my life. Why run? Well.. figuratively speaking of course, since it was all I could do to get my thoughts together and I was on the verge of freaking the hell out considering my Chicago run coming up early next month. I tell you, not being able to eat and run nor sleep is no fun, but especially sucks when you’re smack dab in the middle of training. So here I am freaking out, wasting away ( losing weight), and I take off to Georgia to primarily attend a wedding and get a run in during my short stay. Sunshine, peace and quiet, friends, big roads and less traffic, wide open spaces, the Savannah River and the blanket of nature provided the necessary salve to my aches and pain. Returning to New York I find myself in Marathon city in the thick of training, Boston registration looming and Sept 11 memorial tributes.

Not surprisingly I came back on the mend after discovering the miracle of wine – I’m of the view it preserved my sanity. Back home, back in running form, and really I just dive in, back to the gym and back to getting Chicago ready. I’m working on bumping up my diet even though my mouth is still tender and eating is such a pain; but a runner has to do what she has got to do. Quite a bit on my agenda in the next couple months, there’s the Chi marathon, registering for Boston 2017 and volunteering at NYC marathon and of course training doesn’t stop as.. hopefully Boston’s up. All this as the weather cools down and we enter the training period I like the least. I will try not to anticipate that at this time.

We’re sweltering a bit these days but I’m not complaining, I’m gonna squeeze as much sunshine as I can out of these last fall days with the hope that it’s not gonna be too bad moving forward. So steamy days aside, where I just hunker down at the gym, it’s good getting back in the game and enjoying the vibes of the city. This is Marathon season and no city does it like New York as New Yorkers prepare for the largest running event of the year. It’s an exciting time to be in the city and to be a part of the New York City Marathon. But before that, I run Chicago and past experience does not lie. It was a phenomenal run and I plan on making that happen again.

While Marathon fever is in the air, New Yorkers are very somber this weekend with remembering the attacks on the World Trade Center and the City of New York 15 years ago. It’s a sad but also strong time for the city that will go down in history as a time when the state of New York rallied together to foster hope, community and support to all those affected that tragic day. We remember and pay tribute to all those who lost their lives then and subsequently in relation to those events. While all this is going down this weekend, I have my long run planned for later, which I always do in remembrance of the victims of 9/11. I’m reminded that I have the opportunity to run, which is more than they will ever have. I am thankful.

Run Faster Still with Better Form

The Olympics games are over. Bummer of course, but life goes on as must we. As promised, taking up where we left off last week, here are some practical tricks/tips, if you will, to speed up your everyday runs and help with better form. As you will see not all of running is hard work, there are various ways we can tweak workouts to make allowances for a bit of fun.

1. Run Hills – whether as part of speed work training or as part of  your long run, at least once a week, hill repeats are bound to make you faster as it develops aerobic capacity, leg strength and running economy.

2. Sprints – weekly sprints can add variety and fun to your workouts while increasing stride power and running economy, even better if you can get on the tracks to do so.

3. Proper Arm Movements – can power your runs and ensure running efficiency. The forward and backward motion of the arms should remain short and to the side while running and should increase in power and momentum with increase in gradient and speed.

4. Core Exercises  – strengthens the core which allow runners to tap into more force and speed out on the road. Core work can also be fun and easy to do as it can be as easy as a crunches in front of the television or a Barre or Pilates class.

5. Good Breathing Technique – allows for better oxygen distribution through the body which ensures you’re able to run at aerobic capacity longer. As such, using the nose and mouth while inhaling and exhaling will get the maximum amount of oxygen to the muscles.

6. Staying Focus by Looking Ahead – staying in the zone by keeping your eyes ahead while running/ racing and giving oneself small goals to reach will keep you pushing the pace and elimate the chance of getting distracted.

7. A Hot Running Playlist: songs that make you sing out loud, shake and get your adrenaline flowing will add a boost to your step and some sparkles in your eyes maybe?

8. Forefront Running – runners who land on the forefront of their feet and not the heel has a faster step turnover which translates into a faster pace.

9. Stretching and Yoga – practicing good stretching techniques before and after runs guards against injuries but practicing specific yoga poses for runners increases flexibility and fluid, limber movement, which boosts speed and  has the added benefit of aiding recovery post workout.

10. Less is Better – when all is said and done running efficiency can be achieved with as little as possible in the way. Do away with all the extra layers and embrace the minimum in terms of running gear to get a faster time or pace.

I’m sure there are lots of other ideas on this topic so please take the time to share whatever has worked for you as we’re all in the business of getting better at our running game. And please, give some of these a go, you’ve got nothing to lose but time off your last run.



Team: Run Faster

Usain Bolt, 3x Olympic champion 100m, 200m

Usain Bolt, 3x Olympic champion 100m & 200m

Which runner do you know that doesn’t want to run faster? Who wouldn’t want to do a better time or run a faster PR? No one I know. Rarely will you find a runner who is contented with just being average; and if you think you have, then I’d go so far as to say, they’re visitors ( for want of a better word) and not really runners at all. Runners are a mostly competitive lot. Whether we’re competing in races or among each other or even with ourselves, the goal is always to improve. While improvement can vary to include better form, more endurance and/or strength, it ultimately translates to becoming more pace efficient or a faster runner.

One can never be too run savvy, not unless you’re an élite or pro and even then, I’m sure they keep up with relevant and new information as it pertains to the sport. They must in order to stay on top of their game and so too should we. As such, here are a few pointers I have found that ishelps with increasing speed and can make you a faster runner:
  • Speed work: tempo runs, hill repeats, interval and fartlek training increases your anaerobic capacity. It’s important to keep these speed workouts short and focused to avoid over-training.
  • Racing: 5ks and 10ks are good for cultivating a competitive spirit and encourages you to put your best foot forward each time through establishing PRs and pitting yourself against others.
  • Rest and Recovery: Just as important as training is resting. The body needs time to recover and heal itself after racing and training hard (reducing inflammation and joint pain and speed up healing times when you’re injured), it’s why any good training plan includes rest days. Sleep is also very important for this reason as well as to improve performance.
  • Cross-training: builds strength, develops complimentary muscles and fosters all-round better performance ( breathing, flexibility, endurance) which translates into increased speed.
  • Protein and Muscle Recovery Supplements: provide a faster turn around and an added energy booster pre and post workout.

In essence, there really is no magic to faster running. While there is such a thing as a natural fast runner, he or she still has to work to harness that ability. For the rest of us, we simply have to work harder. Practice really is everything. As is the case with anything, so it is with running; the more you do it, the better you become. Next week I’ll touch on some approaches to proper running form that can also help improve your pace; but for now, let’s stick to the standard methods above that has worked for me and many other successful runners.

Run Rio-Inspired



The Olympic games are here! It’s the only other time beside the World Cup, when I log enough television viewing time to be compared to a couch potato. Better still, track and field, my favorite part, is on. I cannot pretend not to be extremely awed by those runners in Rio; their speed, agility and determination is something that we, runners, would love to be able to bottle up and save for ourselves. It’s no wonder they are the best in the world. I, however, can dream. And that’s what the Olympic games bring to us: the dreams of ordinary people finding within themselves the fortitude, determination and commitment to make extraordinary happen.

The most awesome thing about these games are that athletes come from everywhere with their stories of hope;many overcoming adversity to get a few brief moments to show the world a small piece of why they matter. Few will make it through the first rounds, fewer still will medal, but all will have been changed by the process of qualifying to get there. This, if nothing else, makes the sacrifice and hard work worth it in my view and, I wager, most runners agree.

Living in the United States gives one the opportunity, while being from anywhere in the world, to support any athlete or country and feel right at home doing it. Too, it’s totally cool to be seen supporting multiple teams; that’s one of the beautiful things about this country and its rich and diverse population and culture. You can bet that Team USA is a melting pot with athletes hailing from every country under the sun but who now call the United States home and thus for all accounts and purposes are deemed American.

Don’t be surprised to see my tweets featuring Americans, Trinidadians, Jamaicans, Italians, Portuguese, Brazilians and Australians. I throw a lot of support into the ring when it comes to swimming, gymnastics, soccer, track & field, basketball, cycling and tennis and who I’m supporting varies depending on my favorites at the time. I must say, I love it; the excitement, looking forward to watching the games and meeting up with friends to enjoy some Olympics hanging-out-time. It’s all about celebrating sports, athletes, and their journeys to the Olympic world stage; inspiring, encouraging, celebrating and rewarding those who have given their best to the sporting world in true Olympic-spirit-style.

The Thrills of Hills: A Recap of The San Francisco Marathon


I’ve heard it said often enough, “Learn to love hills, they’ll make you a stronger runner.” After last Sunday’s run, I believe it. It’s hard to know when you register for a race online what you’re really signing up for? You can’t know, not with any degree of certainty, what you’re getting into – the run of a lifetime or the challenge of a lifetime? You can only research the course, maybe suss out a few runners who have done it before and get some feedback, but really just hope and pray for the best. I suppose that’s what makes it challenging and exciting to begin with – the unknown factor, the anticipation of discovery – in the end, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The San Francisco Marathon (SF Marathon) was a dream hills course, that is, if you ever have such dreams or nightmares. Lol. Truthfully, I wouldn’t describe it in nightmare terms because despite the hilly terrain, I enjoyed it and thought it was quite scenic and interesting. My favorite part of the course was running on the golden gate bridge (big thrill)..about three miles out from the Bay area into Marin and back to the tune of perfect San Francisco-type weather, overcast and drizzly with a cool breeze. I was in my element at tempo pace with a slight incline to relatively flat run in the company of thousands of runners and spectators lining the bridge; a perfect run setting if there ever was one, if only it could have stayed that way. But it was San Francisco, you would think I didn’t know it as I really didn’t expect it to be quite as hilly; suffice to say my expectations were surpassed. I especially wasn’t thrilled with the downhill portions of the race as it was hell on my lower back and butt cheeks but on the other hand, the variance kept the race interesting. What I knew of the law of gravity kept me sane and pushing forward on the hills and if you know anything about running downhill, then you know the momentum pretty much carries you; only there needs to be some sort of control to your running, which was the hard part, since there was no traction.
Running along the bay area was another thrill. Starting from around mile 3 to 6, it was beautiful, cool, and calm around 6am looking out over the bay to the boats as they floated on the still water. The heavy fog surrounding us like a cocoon made as if to seclude us in a space where only running existed. One could feel the immense hush settling over us as we dug in and psyched ourselves for what lay ahead. Of course nothing in my training on those very miniscule hills (in comparison anyway) in Central Park, New York could have prepared me for what must have been mountains (or so it seemed at the time) I had to run. However, it was encouraging to see the locals running with slightly less effort, it gives me hope that mastering those hills is possible after all; I only have to incorporate it into my training. Only, right.
In hindsight, I should have made more of an effort to tame my pace in the first half, and to be fair I tried, but with the early ups and downs and stronger muscles to play with, pushing it kind of just happened and I was able to keep up a more or less steady 8:15 min p/mile. It was the steady decline of mile 13 that saw my decrease in pace which just about summed up the rest of the race. Getting past the historic residential areas and closer to the city provided a bit of a reprieve in terms of a flatter landscape and difference in scenery but it was a case of too little too late, as I was already heading toward a 3:50 finish. Not much that could have been done at that point and not for a lack of anything not provided on the course.
The 31st running of the SF marathon ran pretty smoothly. Lots of fluid and energy gels strategically placed along the course made sure we were ready to take on the hills right up to the finish line. Crossing under the merciful covering of an overcast sky was a blessing I did not take for granted, for San Francisco’s glorious sunshine soon appeared as if out of no where. Boy was I grateful to have finished and was especially heartened to see the streams of runners that kept pouring in despite the damnable heat. 27,000 runners found their strong last Sunday, which I think speaks a lot to what determination, perseverance and the right attitude can do when coupled with a runner on a mission. That said, it’s a course I’d love to run again; maybe I’m a sucker for punishment after all.

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