26.2 miles of New York City: unofficially marathon #20

E66 Run Group

Bet 2020 didn’t think I had it left in me! After all the crazy dished out this year, the opportunity to run a marathon this Fall was a blessing, a clap-back, and a slight risk all at once. All things considered and with the recommended guidelines in place, we chalked up any reservations we had and got all excited to run. And run we did. Last Saturday we, my pre-covid run group, and still my run group, took a jaunt through manhattan on our own New York City marathon distance, some of us anyway, the others chickened out and did a half. LOL. I’m kidding. No chickens. We had decided a few weeks ago that some people just weren’t prepared for 26.2 miles just yet – many not having run much this year at all. And so a couple of us opted to push ahead and tackle the distance. In fact, I had only gotten to 18 miles in training and was willing to swing it for the remaining distance. I usually tell people who ask to listen to your body and go with your training, a bit of advice that, more often than not, works pretty well. This time I heeded my own advice and was the poster child for listening to one’s body. Early on, I had decided that if I could do 18 miles mildly uncomfortable, then I could finish a marathon distance. I went in knowing that while it mightn’t end pretty, it would be doable.

November is known for its versatile weather in NYC. I have a number of past nyc marathon experiences to hail from when it comes to the unpredictability of the weather during this month. Fom wet, cold, windy days to hot, humid, and even perfect conditions, I’m almost certain that we’ve had a snowy one in there too; there’s just no accounting for what a typical marathon day in November in this city could look like. In 10 years I’ve seen them all. So while we were hoping for good running weather, we didn’t really hang out hopes on it. When we got 45°- 50°F we were thrilled. Sunshiny, partly cloudy, and with some early wind was a bargin really. Two of us started out just after 8:15 am Saturday morning and ran from the East Side of mid-Manhattan over to the west side highway and down along the waterfront to Battery Park for a looped distance of 13 miles whereupon we met up with 8 others to run the latter half of our marathon and their half marathon. We were supposed to have met up with another runner in our earlier half who we eventually saw in the latter half of the run, he having run the full distance also, albeit via a slightly different route.

It is worth mentioning that for all the nyc marathons I’ve run, this is the first time it didn’t feel like such a chore, though to be honest the Fifth Ave leg of the run felt just as difficult as previous times, and this is without the crowds. What! Why! I don’t know. For sure it has always been the most difficult part of the marathon and this time proved no different. It was long, tedious, uphill-ish, and having to use the cobble sidewalks, which I avoided at all cost, did not make it any easier. I lagged the entire way until we got to the park as I had taken a wrong turn in Harlem and fell behind. There was just no way I was catching up and I opted not to kill myself trying. It was such a beautiful day for running, it was no surprise to see endless runners among others out in Central Park enjoying the sunshine. We did one lower loop then the hills were too much to take and so a couple of us headed out the park to do the final 2.5 miles on Park Avenue. By that time, I was ready to finish, muscles were tight and sore and I was getting cold. We finished up at our run group location at Lululemon on the Upper East Side in a record 3:32 time minus a bathroom break in the earlys and 2 water stops. Not bad at all to the tune of a masked-covered runner’s reunion with snacks and socks instead of medals. LOL.

And that my friends was a wrap to my 20th marathon distance, the only unofficial one and the one I enjoyed the most. Technically, I shouldn’t still be getting lost and running off course – veteran of the course that I am – and so maybe I missed my chance of having a better 5th Ave experience because of that, but I guess I’ll never know now. Regardless, I’m chuffed that we were able to get together and respond in a positive way to all that 2020 dished out. Running and friends to the rescue of a year headed for the history books as one of the most difficult and mentally challenging years yet. By God’s grace we are still here and we even have a couple of runs planned through December. We will get through this one run at a time.

Marathon Season 2020

It happens every year around this time, New Yorkers fall into marathon mode. This year, notwithstanding Covid-19 and all the challenges it presents, we’re moving ahead full steam to take back what has been stolen, or at the very least what we’ve been cheated out of. And damn it it feels good! With all the virtual racing going on in lieu of typical road races, I’ve been feeling pretty isolated and so I decided to get everyone together for a kick-Covid-ass 26.2 run.

Truth is with everything and everyone on shutdown since March, folks are not ready for a full marathon distance. I don’t know that I am, but I’m all for giving it a try and among the old running crew there might be a few others crazy enough to have a go at it. I’m betting on it anyway. It’s hard to believe that we’re heading for November and what would have been the NYC marathon in just over a week! Except of course there’s no actual race this year..though the virtual race is set spanning a week or so and anyone anywhere in the world can sign up and participate via Strava. You can run the 26.2 distance wherever you are: get folks to support and run with you, have your own cheer squad, post pics, and tag race organizers doing it all your way and at your pace and convenience. Cool huh! I suppose that’s one way of keeping the spirit of the race alive.

We’ve planned our own version right here in NYC on November 14. A few, or dozen, of us plan on doing at least half of the 26.2 miles making use of the latter part of the nyc marathon course starting in Manhattan on the east side and running through Harlem, down Fifth Ave to finish up the final 3 miles in Central Park and end at the official nyc marathon finish line on Tavern on the Green. I, on the other hand, with at least one other – so far, plan on starting out earlier that morning to complete the first half (13.1 miles) before meeting up with the others to run the remaining distance. We’ll start out with the lower loop of Central Park and head out on Central Park West to run over to the West Side Highway where we’ll run a few miles heading downtown and do a loop to run back to meet with the other runners. Sounds easy enough but really I have no idea how I’ll feel that day. I haven’t run a marathon distance since last November and my longest run thus far has been 15 miles. I’m hoping to up that a bit this weekend but even so it’s still limited training in so far as long runs are concerned. Still, I like to think it’s like riding a bike, the body absolutely knows how to do it, it’s just getting it to remember and cooperate.

When this year started out, I had few running intentions really, just to do a spring triathlon and run the Chicago marathon. Because of Covid, neither panned out but it’s been years that I’ve been running a marathon almost every Fall and at the very least once for the year, even with the way things have gone in 2020, and because things have gone the way they have, I feel it’s even more necessary to show some fighting spirit and not allow the year to end on a note of defeat with many despairing and bemoaning the times. I refuse to sit down and take what life throws at me. I can run at least; thank God for good health and the ability to do so. And so that will be my response to this mess of a year. Speaking intentionally, the intention is to finish within 4 hours. While 3 & 1/2 hours would be great, I have low expectations given the training aspect as well as the biggest unknown factor, our infamous November weather, which can be anywhere on the weather map. Daunting prospects anyone?

Actually, I feel fine about the entire adventure. Yes, that’s what it is. We’re heading out on a dare-to-run-adventure that says more about us than anything else. I have to prove, to no one but myself, that I am fully capable of finishing what I start. And finish I intend to. I have a couple long runs left in me before the day and we’re about to find out just how a New Yorker does running pandemic or no pandemic. Stay tuned to find out how it goes!

Strength for the Day 🏋🏽‍♀️

Wow what a crazy bunch of weeks the past month has been! I’ve had a death in my family – no relation to Covid- had to sit an exam in the same week, facilitate online activities and projects for the kids I tutor and my volunteer group, and still find time for running, cycling, and strength exercise. I need a vacation! Yup. Somewhere idyllic that involves a lot of nature, beaches, hiking, waterfalls, incredible sunsets, and sunrises to run for and that is non-covid threatening. If anyone knows of a place on earth like this that I could safely travel to, please help out a fellow runner. I’ll pay all that I have, which may not be a lot but c’mon it’s all I have – cause then I’ll probably never come back. In the interim, I really need to get into a sustainable routine that’s not so crazy and I should be fine. I think.

Since time waits on no man, and there’s no woman exception, we’re going full steam ahead into October and the full effect of Fall season. We’re talking Halloween🎃, which I don’t really care for and then Thanksgiving🦃, which is going to be very interesting this year, and the holiday Sales💰, which I might care more about if I had money to spend but really it’s not even on my radar right now. What is on there is that we are slowly and differently running again! I mean no big fall marathons, such as we’ve gotten accustomed to – ♥️NYC marathon and Chicago Marathons♥️ – but there are smaller races happening and the novel option to run said bigger races as virtual experiences this year. This is good news for runners like myself. It’s been all sorts of terrible for the racing world, and everyone really, since March and it’s good to know that we’re taking some running steps if not strides yet. I am thankful and strong!

Good news is also spreading in our fitness community. While things are different and not ideal, gyms are open and those that have been climbing the walls of their apartments in this city have the opportunity to hop in and out for a bit of a different scene that involves a lot of new guidelines but allows them to workout in the company of others once more – of sorts anyway. School too, has resumed, of sorts, and some people are back to work, again of sorts, but these days I’ll take all the “of sorts” as oppose to not-at-all. Among the important and relevant news is that I’m finished with my PT certification! It’s been some 10 weeks that I’ve been inundated with nothing but the biomechanics of the human movement system and I swear if it had not been for the the Good Lord and running, my mind would be toast. I made it and none too soon as cooler running temps are here. I have a lot of energy, good and bad, to burn as I get my feet moving and the blood pumping once more. Marathon season, whether there is a live one or not, is here and I’m about to run one just because I can. Well I hope I can anyway; while it’s been a minute with that sort of distance, I’m not worried about it. My lungs and feet are strong!

It’s the little things my friends. Gratefulness is my new mantra. That I can run, exercise, commit to a program, have the resources I need, pass am exam, celebrate my dad’s long years and that I have life, enjoy physical health and a sound mind – they are in fact not at all little but they’re definitely the things I’ve taken for granted in the past. Covid-19 has forever changed that, and me, and a lot of us I’d wager, but it’s for the better and that can only be a good thing. Each day I awake, more aware, more focused, more blessed to be here, no matter the inconveniences and despite the tragedies and loss. My story isn’t over and neither is yours; we have been given strength for today, and for tomorrow, and for the next day, and the next if God wills it. Now let me dig deep for the strength I need for 26.2 in this very unconventional Marathon season. And, BTW, yes you can! We are strong and getting only stronger in this season together.

Comment below if you’re up for it! #letsrun🏃🏼‍♀️🏃🏽‍♀️🏃🏾

Endless Runners, Perfect Weather, New Champions, Missing Cheers, and my Best Attempt @ the TCS New York City Marathon this year!

Ready, set, go…

Four times brings the charm. Who knew! Yep. Here I am once more, my fourth time, recapping the New York City Marathon. Thankfully, it’s my last! Back in 2014 when I had then decided that I would run this course until I was comfortable with the results, I never dreamed it would take four attempts. Well here we are five years later, and I’ve finally decided to call it quits and it’s hardly because I’ve finally run a “good” race. That in and of itself is arguable and only a small part of my decision to make this my last NYC marathon. What is closer to the truth is that I’m over fighting this race: the course, my body, and the change in weather, and the fact that over the years each time I stood in Staten Island toeing the startline, I have been somewhat incapacitated with everything from a sprain ankle to the flu. I’ve finally had enough and so I’m quitting while I’m ahead. It helps me feel better that I met my goal of finishing under 3 hours and 40 minutes though just barely. Many of my friends point out that this year I’ve had to deal with just a cold and cough so things are progressing..the cheek!..and point to this being my best time even so; therefore I couldn’t be serious. I am! For the foreseeable future, I will be leaving well enough alone and spreading my adventurous wings elsewhere. That being said, I have enjoyed the running challenge that this wonderfully diverse city has handed me. Many will agree that there is nothing straight forward or easy about the NYC Marathon. Fun tangential fact: many New Yorkers will also agree that there’s nothing straight forward or easy about living in NY either. LOL. In fact, of the eleven other courses I’ve run around the country, this course remains the most challenging outside of a Ragnar event I did in Cape Cod two years ago. The attraction for this race for many runners, I believe, is its location and famed one million strong spectators.

On to Marathon Village we go

This year was better than most as far as the weather was concerned. It began at 5:30 am with a 40 minute ride to the start in Staten Island via the midtown bus option, my preferred mode of transport now that I’ve had a go at the various options. We got off the busses to the usual flow of runners – hundreds of us – making our way to the security check point and through to marathon village. Windy and Staten Island is all the same with the water around us so you can appreciate that 7 am was no picnic but more like a refugee zone  with everyone staking out a bit of sunshine, covering – a rare sight- or a break from the wind behind a tarp, or under a blanket, or blankets, or covered up in just about any and everything warm you could legally bring into the area, right there in the middle of everything and everyone.

the masses cloak and dagger style

We were all layered up to our eyes and reaching out to the free buffet of coffee, tea, hot water, hot cocoa, and bagels courtesy the super amazing folks of Dunkin Donuts. No donuts though. I know! In any event we had lots to eat and hydrate us until start time, which in my case came soon enough as I was in the first wave and carded to start at 9:45 am.

they say it’s therapeutic

It helped some when I ran into some runners from my running group and we sorta hung out; got to pet the therapy dogs, visited the bathroom, took a couple pics, and then it was time to head to our assigned corrals. Apparently time flies when you’re hopping to keep the blood flowing.

Into the corrals we flowed and there were lines everywhere for the bathrooms, which I decided I definitely had to have a go at once more before the race started. But things were moving along nicely, though albeit too orderly – did I really have to stand in one line and wait my turn? I mean, come on! Cooling my heels in this cold? I had a race to run! Fine, so did everyone. And that’s how chill took on two very different meanings. Pretty soon it was our turn and we were moving and headed towards the Verrazano bridge and the start.

the bridge

It just never gets old on the top looking out: runners are divided into two groups when headed towards the bridge, some go under while others get the top – my preferred view – to ensure a smoother and safer start given the large number.

giving us the send off

On the bridge we can see the helicopters (NYPD and news) and cameras, the elite runners starting out, race officials and other VIP personnel. More importantly, we have an amazing view of the water as we run across the bridge to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s New York and into Brooklyn.

On the Verrazano Bridge

This year I stopped to snap a

on the Verrazano Bridge

few pics and strangely enough totally missed hearing Sinatra during my run across. I’m sure they started playing it eventually, Wave 1 was a big wave of runners after all.  Guess I’m just spoiled from the previous times.

selfie on the VB

Running through Brooklyn is always a huge hit. It is the most densely populated of all the boroughs in NYC and boy do they represent. Only this time I felt the crowds on Fourth Ave were a bit sparse here and there. Again, I’m just spoiled and feel confident that I’ve experienced a better showing at this race. Lafayette Ave is always a total scream show, it did not disappoint, miles 8-10 were amazing. Brooklyn remains my favorite part of the marathon course mainly because of the noisely cheering crowds and the fact that I’m usually still feeling great and running as strong as possible under whatever the prevailing circumstances are at the time. We entered the borough of Queens around mile 13 and I’m never looking forward to the advent of bridges on this rolling course much less to the mile-long Queensboro Bridge. The promise of a million spectators cheering for you on First Avenue in Manhattan is hard to beat though so that’s the head space I occupied while running those four miles in Queens. The crowds are never as large or as loud in this borough but they’re decent enough and hugely appreciated by all. Up till then, I’d been doing a good job of staying wide of the fuel stations so as not to get bogged down by runners in the rush to grab a drink. My strategy was to hit every other station and stick to the outer end. It worked to keep a steady momentum and to avoid any slip ups. Those volunteers though, were pulling double duty with their smiling, cheering, while serving us. Truly the best and the backbone of an event such as this.

Queensboro bridge is memorable because of its quiet – no spectators here – and the laboring breath of runners as we dig deep on its ascent. One miles feels more like two and I suppose everyone was glad when they finally began its descent to First Ave and the crowds, it has always been a welcome sight and sound to runners as we enter the borough of Manhattan. Only this time it wasn’t party as usual, the crowds appeared pushed back somewhat as you came off the bridge and the sea of spectators that are usually right there waiting weren’t. The question came up with some runners behind me, who appeared to be visitors, as they wondered aloud about the famed cheer crowd at this location. I offered that they should give it a minute and they would be sure to get that promised standing ovation, thinking that maybe the push back of the crowd meant that the cheers were imminent, except that never quite happened. For as I made my way under the bridge and onto first avenue while the crowds were there, for the most part anyway, they were not nearly as deafening as they’re so famous for. In fact, as my run slowly progressed up the avenue the crowds were downright thin in some areas and almost quiet in others. I thought about this for a few seconds then realized that that which I thought would be helpful at this point was not going to happen. I needed a distraction there and then, my feet were numb from my bad choice in shoes and my knees were beginning to hurt like hell. Support wasn’t coming on the waves of the crowd that day and so I did the only thing I could think of – I video-called my sister in Trinidad and allowed her chatter (which I couldn’t hear a lick of LOL) and excitement (no sense in not showing her what I was a part of) to push me up First Ave and all the way over the Willis Avenue Bridge and into the Bronx.

In the past when I had run through this area I had always been aware that Manhattan wasn’t far away; race day was no different. Six miles to go and I realized that it was pretty neat that I was actually going for another finish at this race that had plagued me in my inability to run it well and finish strong. At that point I started focusing on keeping a consistent pace and giving the fuel stations a wider berth. I also refused to look at my clock anymore from then, it was not helpful and I just couldn’t deal with another disappointment just then.

We were in Harlem and closing down on Fifth Avenue – my least favorite part of the race – mainly because it just wouldn’t quit and by then I was so ready to be done already. In hindsight, I have never really enjoyed this part of the race because of my get-to-the-finish-mindset. I’ve never taken the time to appreciate the hundreds of spectators lining the roadway screaming their hearts out with encouragement, maybe if I had been able to tap into that it would have inspired a more positive response at that point in the race. In any event, we eventually came to Engineer’s Gate entrance to Central Park and I’ll tell you right now, it felt amazing to be home. Yes, Central Park is my running home, so I was now on home turf and slowly closing in. With the help of the crowds and the familiarity of the course, I was able to pick up the pace a bit going down Cat Hill, and it lasted untill we turned off to head out to Central Park South. Then it was back to plodding away for the final mile, though I did try somewhat successfully, to focus on the spectators on this final leg and was ecstatic to find myself sooner that I expected back in the park with 800 meters to go. On the final run up, I was able to locate and touch the Trinidad and Tobago flag – as I have always done – and sprinted to the finish line to make it there in 3:39:41. Another one in the books and an apple for my efforts. While I’m not at all certain that was my best effort, it certainly was the best result I’ve had on this course. As to my best effort, I’m hardly itching to find out. 😜

I can still walk!

                          🍎🏅💐

Chicago Marathon Recap: Running gains or pains?

@ Abbott Fitness Expo (Chicago Marathon’19)

Let me just start by saying this marathon course remains my favorite in all the cities I’ve run in the United States. From the start on Columbus Drive in the Grant Park area through its popular wide (NYC it’s not) city streets and local districts just outside the city loop: Lincoln Park, University Village, Chinatown etc… and back to the finish in Grant Park, it really is a beautiful course with all the trimmings of sights, sounds, and support. One couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day outside of the winds that picked up in the last few miles. No surprise there though, they don’t call it the windy city for nothing. Indeed, notwithstanding the wind, the weather was miles better than last year when it rained the entire time. This brought the fans out in their numbers along the route while sunshine littered the course. A good day for a marathon I’d say!

I’m afraid my back and knees wouldn’t agree. I mean, we had some fun out there during the first half. I enjoyed the crowd support, the pace was great, and so were the volunteers and fuel stations as per always. But man, it was hugely disappointing around mile 13 to feel my lower back caving to the pressure of the tempo pace I had been sticking to from miles 5 through 13. Up till then I had been ignoring the twinges in my right knee, hoping the other knee would remain silent. Unfortunately for me, with the start of those lower back pains, I had to yield to a slower pace and a couple bathroom breaks, which were more rest-my-back breaks, and slowly embrace the pains in both knees by this time, made much worse by my having to overcompensate for my lower back. By mile 18 I was in suck-it-up mode and was working on keeping a steady pace with minor interruptions for fuel – always sticking to the outside and picking it up close to the end of the line. I was aiming for no stops for two reasons: so as to minimize the pain and the length of time for which I was experiencing it, and yes, I was still keeping an eye on my pace. I figured finishing under 3:45 wouldn’t be so bad all things considering.

One thing I have learned over the years with racing and running marathons, and I think I’ve become good at, is adapting and adjusting a racing strategy. Experience has taught me that there’s a 50/50 chance on any given race day that I will actually run the race I had been training for. Because there are factors at play beyond my control such as the weather and, yes, God forbid injuries, one is always hoping and praying that all things being equal it will be a typical/ normal running day. However, if you know anything about typical/ normal these days, you’ve already realized that its no longer a thing. One must roll with the punches and play the hand you’re dealt to avoid being left somewhere at the side of the road eating the proverbial dust.That being said, I was prepared to let my body and how it felt that day determine the race I was going to run. Since I was well aware of my knee issues going in I figured I at least knew what, if any, my challenge would be. Imagine my surprise when the back issue popped out of seemingly no where. Only, on further thought – not while I was running but later on after the race, I remember the unfortunate instance of doing a round of heavy deadlifts at the gym the week prior, which had left me sore and pained. Days later the soreness and pain were gone and so was the unfortunate memory. But these things, left untreated, have a way of resurecting. And so that is just what happened.

At the end of the day, the why is less important than the how and the fact remains that because of my experience, training, and sheer determination I was able to suck it up and got to the finish line in a time I could live with and for a phenomenal cause too! I often joke when asked “what if you don’t finish?” that it’s never a question of if, but when. I’ll endeavor to stay true to that philosophy and in the event I ever feel that I don’t have it within me anymore, I will bow out gracefully, 26.2 miles intact. For now, I can only hope the rolling hills of New York City will be kinder to me. I know what you’re thinking, and in all probability you may be right, I’m hardly likely to fare much better in NYC given the wide disparity in gradients of these two courses. Add to that my obvious disadvantage of being three weeks out from my last race, and with injuries, and well it all seems to add up to one possible outcome right? The only thing is I’m sorta in the habit of defying odds 😉.

Oh ye of little faith. 😊

Running Feels heading into Chicago #hopeful

on the streets of NYC

Over the last couple months running has not been as easy as it used to be. My body’s telling me something’s up. You know that feeling, the one that nags at you and won’t go away. It sits on your chest and reminds you, hey, I’m still here. Stopping during runs are more frequent, breathing’s a little harder, running’s requiring a bit more effort, and then there are those knee pains. When you hear that nagging voice or see those little flags, you should pay attention. That being said, I know my body’s going through some changes and it’s all part of the growing older bit so I’m not too worried though I’d obviously love to stay in mint condition all the days of my earthly life. Lol. One can dream.

Nagging voices and colored flags aside, I’m so excited for the things that are happening in our sport! Once considered a one-man sport, and some may still agree, running is growing into this diverse, multi-varied, and interpersonal sport with all the coming-of-age, ultra adventure running experiences that are now everywhere you turn. I, for one, am super excited by this new showing up of the sport and want to do it all – go as far as this human body will take me. Hence why it’s even more important to make sure we’re (all the parts lol) working together on this. So we’ve scheduled doctor visits and tests etc and are actively working to get within the 95-100% performance range. Meanwhile, running continues!

I’m presently on my way to Chicago for my race there on Sunday. I’m looking forward to it and hoping this human machine of mine cooperates so we can have an amazing run as per past experiences. But the devil’s in the details really with my main focus being my knees and the weather, of which the weather promises to be fine. Looks a bit windy from where I sit but I’m praying it’s not adverse & cold winds. I’ve been following some really exciting running these past few days and I gotta say I’m really inspired to get out there and do my best in these exciting times.

Elucid Kipchoge ran a 1:59:40 marathon time at the Ineos 159 Challenge earlier today, 2:30AM in fact, and I was up for the entire thing! Probably not the wisest move on my part, with my run hours away now, but I had to see his #NoHumanIsLimited effort. He was, and is, amazing really. I mean, wow! Who the heck runs splits of 14, 28, 42 min… for 5K, 10K, 15K resp. I think he’s superhuman actually – a superb human machine – and we could only watch in awe and be inspired along the way. Now, if only I could get some of that Kenyan magic tomorrow, and I’m thinking just a fraction, I’ll settle for being slightly-less amazing. 😄

I simply couldn’t help taking these snaps live as I watched him bring it home! #amazingrace #makinghistory #ineos159challenge #NoHumanIsLimited #viennaaustria

26 2 Miles for a Cause: Chicago Marathon ’19

It’s time once again for 26.2 for a great cause! Truth is I’m always amazed at how fast this time comes around. How well I know, every year it seems I barely get time to shake off my last run before it’s full on training mode again. Such is the life of a runner; one is either running races or training for them. We, my friends, are back in training camp and this year I’m dedicating my miles-for-a-cause charity run to Back on my Feet Chicago, a nonprofit organization that—literally and figuratively—helps individuals experiencing homelessness get back on their feet through self development, empowerment, and running. I’ll be running the Chicago Marathon on October 9 for this amazing and very close-to-my-heart cause.

What they do: (click here) ↩️

https://youtu.be/LBtyydzyu1Q

Why, Back on my Feet? You might ask. Well, I first came across this organization about five years ago when I began volunteering with a local non-profit, Hope for New York. This organization partners with a wide range of affiliates to serve the various needs of marginalized New Yorkers. Suffice to say, Back on my Feet is one of the affiliates with a chapter in our great city. I connected with them because of their unique idea of using running as a tool to connect, mobilize, and empower individuals who were at the time mainly down-on-their-luck, returning veterans who were struggling to reintegrate within society. Running, I thought, well there’s something I can do. We would meet three times per week at 5:30 am in 42nd Street, near Times Square, and spend about an hour running and getting to know the guys, developing a rapport, and sometimes sharing a snack or other niceties. We’ve even had award functions and special runs/events geared at community building where the guys were honored for reaching a mile marker or achieving a goal. My first-hand involvement in the running aspect left me with a truly memorable and inspired running ethic. It’s one thing when you run for yourself – you reap the benefits of calories lost, self development, and/or physical well being – but it’s entirely different when you come to understand that what you take for granted can be life-changing in every way for someone else. Truth is I haven’t looked at running the same since.

I haven’t run with Back on my Feet for a while now, not because I haven’t wanted to, but because my schedule doesn’t allow. So of course when I saw the opportunity to run for the organization, albeit the Chicago chapter, I was thrilled to do so as I greatly admire their work and feel that while I’ve been a part of what they’ve been doing in the past, I’d love to continue to do so and see their impact grow nationwide. Running as a tool for self development is empowering and liberating and has already been proven to be making a difference in our communities. With the support of our leaders, educators, and ordinary people like you and me, who feel we can help make that difference and make our world a better place, there’s no limit to the lives we can help change.

That said, I’m inviting you to join my efforts to support the work of Back on my Feet Chicago through donating to my miles-for-a-cause campaign by giving a tax-deductible gift of any amount to this phenomenal cause. Click the link below to pledge your support and please share the link with anyone or any entity/organization you think would like to support the work of empowering individuals in our society, especially veterans, to get back on their feet. I am blessed to be a blessing and so are you!

Donate here⬇️

https://give.backonmyfeet.org/2019chicagomarathon/lorimilesforacause?tab=MyPage

Memorial Weekend Running @ Vermont City Marathon

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May has turned into June and Spring into Summer bringing with it lots of sunshine and a lessening of the showers we’ve been getting of late. Before we run on though, I ought to pause for a worthy mention of a pretty 26.2 I recently experienced.

IMG_20190526_074203Two weekends ago, aka Memorial Day Weekend, a couple of friends and I drove up to Vermont to run the marathon in Burlington. The course was scenic and somewhat hilly with many unknowns including the weather. It was my first visit and I found the city and its people quite charming. While we didn’t get to poke around too much so as to save my legs for the race, we did venture into the city to absorb the local scene the evening before the race. Unfortunately, it rained cats and dogs then, which more or less ruined our outdoor dining experience at a popular local restaurant with supposedly good food. On the other hand, the Expo, which was held at the DoubleTree Hilton, made for a fine experience and really showed up the warmth and friendliness of the people of Vermont. We met some fine folks and got some tips on how to take on the course from a couple of veteran Vermont marathoners. I made sure to voice my concern as to the uncertainty of the weather, and the then current downpour, and was told my fears were unwarranted, Marathon Day was going to be great, a little wet early on but the weather would dry out and turn out a beautiful race day. One thing was certain, we were told, the race would be memorable and it was hoped we would enjoy it enough to come back next year.

As it turned out, the course was indeed pretty but it had a few hills that wrecked havoc on my back on both the ascent and the descent. Now I’ve been having back issues since soon after I started CrossFit and I’ve recently started working to adopt correct form, wearing a belt when I lift, and rolling out, and taping up. But that weekend, I was in recovery from a previous week of heavy lifting and was experiencing some pains in my lower back. I was optimistic that I would get taped up at the expo since I am terrible at taping up myself, and even walked with my tape to show the good folks at the KT Tape booth – who I hoped, more than expected, would be there. Turned out they weren’t and there went my hope of running anywhere close to a 3:30 time. I reluctantly engaged my friend to help with the tape but as expected that didn’t turn out so well, and so I adjusted my expectations and went to bed.

Race day dawned with beautiful skies, a bit of clouds here and there but nothing major, and I was pretty glad that we were scheduled to run as early as 7am. Early start translates to early finish so I was ready to run. God may have had other ideas because we were barely in Battery Park, where the start line was located, amidst the rolling out of the stars of the show – the elite guests – when amidst the blue skies, there came an announcement for all runners to exit the Park area due to inclement extreme weather condition that was expected momentarily but should only last for about 20 minutes. We all thought it was a joke, then we thought it was something else, maybe a bomb threat or some such thing, because, how could there be a storm? Well to make a long story short, it stormed alright, while many of us took shelter in a nearby church. There were others scattered about in nearby hotels and other buildings. The priest and others at the church were so gracious and welcoming it was heartening to sit and receive a blessing as he prayed for us and sang accompanied by a pianist. Out of nowhere the skies burst and lightening and thunder put on a display we were able to witness from the inside. Time passed by and 20 minutes turned into an hour and so we didn’t start until about 8:20am. By then the sky was once again blue and the sun was out. One would never have guessed a thunderstorm just happened except there were puddles everywhere and everything was wet. With little fanfare now, except for the singing of the national anthem, the race started and we were off.

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Some things I enjoyed about the course were that they kept the race in the city for the most part, which made it easy for supporters and so I was able to see my friends three different times. I also liked the bits of trails they threw in, it broke up the running on asphalt bit as well as provided shade as it got hotter and miles seemed longer. I also enjoyed that it was scenic, which allowed me to take pictures, and that we ran along Lake Champlain, it was refreshing. I loved the support from the locals who were handing out refreshments as well as providing encouragement and various forms of music like drums and flutes etc at odd points. Too, I appreciated the volunteers – so encouraging, especially the kids, who were so very cute. I thought interesting the aspect of the relay runners which made the run different and a study for me as there were quite a bit of youth runners, which was new to me as far as running with them.

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A few things I was a bit “meh” about were the hills of course, seeing spectators 2-3 times meant that there were a few loops in there – not a few of my favorite things. Then there was the puddle jumping and muddy areas of the trails brought on by the rain and the omniscient sun. All in all though, I lean in favor of the positives as we ended on a grassy, softer finish with a finish line that was right there and medals soon thereafter. Pizza and snacks wrapped up the Vermont City Marathon experience and a photo op with one of my running inspirations, Bart Yasso, was the cherry on top.

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Measuring Success in Running: The Providence Marathon negates my Boston performance or does it?

If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again…

In running, as happens often in life, there appear to be more failures than successes. As a runner, it’s quite likely that for every good race you have, you may experience two bad ones. How do you reconcile this with a competitive, burgeoning spirit that thrives on success? A slightly baffling quandary if ever there was one, since on one hand you need success to push you and to make it all worthwhile, while on the other hand, failures are what pushes your dig deep, press on, try harder buttons. It is also what causes frustration, despair, and those doggone dry spells that have you questioning yourself and doubting your ability.

What if I told you last Sunday I ran the Providence Marathon and BQ’d. I kinda, totally did! Two weeks after a horrible race experience in Boston, I bowed to internal pressure, of my own design, and ran a race out in Rhode Island that was the antithesis of Boston in so far as the weather was concerned. It was a pretty course with some hills here and there though mostly flat that required a steady approach with incremental increases over time. I’m afraid I was exhausted by mile sixteen, from the week prior, and didn’t really do it justice. Still, I was able to stay within goal range and that meant something. A bit of redemption if you will.

I began this year of running with two major race disappointments, which leads me to the question that’s been on quite a few peoples’ minds – what is it that keeps me going back for more? Doesn’t successive disappointments make me less-inclined to lace up for another race?The simple answer is obviously not and unequivocally no. On a more complex level, I can argue for the feeling of having accomplished something that was challenging, exacting, and totally out there. There’s no feeling quite like it for someone with a competitive nature such as mine. The daredevil in me will never pack up and go home when failure knocks, but sees (and seizes) the opportunity to push boundaries, overcome limits, and redefine the impossible. This is what motivated me to run last Sunday at a moment’s notice, it is what has motivated me to run the Boston Marathon three times and has me heading for, quite possibly, a fourth. Boston and I, we have unfinished business. Maybe it’s engraved in my DNA, but I refuse to stop until I have conquered that course.

In all honesty, that’s how I live and treat with any challenge that life throws my way. I dust off failures as missed opportunities and consider the next step that will take me closer to my goal. And everytime that I run a race and it doesn’t turn out like I hoped it would, which is often enough, I shake off the disappointment, turn off the self recriminations, dig deep, and muscle up for the next time. So if anything, I’ve learnt that goals are simply benchmarks we put in place to help us navigate this life with some accountability and a modicum of affirmation, challenge, and encouragement. Perspective allows us to see each step of the journey as just another move forward to realising our true potential. As Des Linden, female winner of the Boston Marathon 2018 likes to say, “keep showing up.”

The Spirit of the Marathon thrived at Boston 2018

@ marathon finish

It is often said one should be careful what one asks for. It is also said that one should be specific in prayer. Whichever it is, it seems I didn’t cover all my bases as far as preparing for the Boston Marathon last Monday. On any typical spring day 26.2 miles is a good and challenging run. Because we haven’t been enjoying typical weather since last season, I shouldn’t have been overly surprised at what blew our way and maybe a bit more prepared – though I’m at a loss as to how, maybe mentally. On this day, the weather was unforgiving in its intent and threw everything it had at us. In fact, it was considered the worst conditions in the 122 years of the running of the Boston Marathon. I won’t dwell too much on the unceasing pouring rain, which started with the light snow on Sunday and ended with Snow again on Monday night post-marathon, or the 40 m/ph wind gusts, and the resulting permeating coldness and chills that saw many runners suffering hypothermia-like symptoms yet fighting valiantly to the end. There were also those for whom conditions made it too difficult to finish, and yet more still adjusted pace and hunkered down with raincoats, heat sheets, or plastic bags determined to run the race of their lives, if just to finish. I won’t dwell I promise; Instead, I prefer to focus on the amazing spirit of the Marathon that shined through the heavy rains on that Marathon Monday and the fact that over 30,000 runners braved it and got their moment to shine amidst the overwhelming clouds.

Runners entering Athlete’s Village

It was something that you couldn’t really prepare for. We began our trek to the buses at Boston Commons, from our respective hotels last Monday, also known as Patriot’s Day in Boston, aware that things were going to be a bit dicey. I mean from the day before at the Expo, we were hearing lots of “good luck out there tomorrow, you guys are gonna need it” and so the seed was sown..it would not be an easy one. Hell, I doubt there’s anything like an “easy” marathon in Boston. In any event, I felt it was just rain and that couldn’t possibly be worse than the heat of the two years prior. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Runners I spoke with at the hotel and on the bus that morning were, like me, wet but optimistic and excited. Not so exciting were wet shoes, which we tried to cover up for as long as possible. Under the tents at Hopkinton we huddled while the rains continued to make mud pies and pools everywhere. What stood out to me then, and even now, was how determined people were to not let the elements outside of their control dictate their ability to see this race through. I recall standing next to a guy under a raincoat, who sounded quite the Englishman, he mentioned being part of a larger group who were all running that day and that they were scattered about seeking warmth but would meet up in their corrals. “We’re running it,” he said, “I just need to change my socks.” See, the question of not running never even entered the conversation. At the hotel earlier, runners had been busy detaining the inevitable onslaught of wet shoes and feet by taping up their shoes or wrapping their feet in bags –It took all of two steps outside to see how futile that was. So there we were, busy strategizing on how best to get started and on staying as dry as possible for the duration. I don’t think quitting even entered anyone’s mind. What you think about are the months of training, the road to qualifying, how far you’ve come, and/or the cause you’re running for. At the end of the day it was the only motivation that was needed to face the elements. And out there, when the wind and rain kept drumming away at that thought, and the cold was attempting to chip away at fortitude months in the making, thousands of us hunkered down, adjusted expectations, and determined we would remember this day, maybe forever, and certainly because it was the day Boston kicked ass – but we also kicked back with over 90% of runners finishing the race in miserable conditions.

Volunteers give high-fives as well as fuel to runners (source: boston globe.com)

EMT officials helping a runner across the finish line (source: bostonglobe)

Another heartening image ingrained with my memories of this race is that of the amazing volunteers that carried us through. From start to finish they were out there with not just fuel but words of encouragement and support that embodied the heart and spirit of the marathon. You had to give it to them, who leaves their warm and comfortable home on a day such as that to stand out there for hours on end to support people they didn’t even know. It’s the bigness of heart that was present time and again, from the kind words and help offered from one runner to the next, to the volunteers at mile 16 water table that offered an encouraging smile along with a drink under pouring rain, to the police men throughout the course, some of whom added a few stripes to their uniform, in my opinion, when they offered words of encouragement while carrying out their duty. The odd soldier was also in attendance along with fire department officers quietly cheering us on and in support of us having a safe and enjoyable race. I remain thankful for their service.

Spectators cheering runners on (source: bostonglobe.com)

Runners on Heartbreak Hill (source: bostonglobe.com)

Additionally, the spectators were an outstanding feature of the race that spoke to the indelible awesomeness of the people of Boston. From Hopkinton to Newton, through Brookline to downtown Boston, despite the rains and in spite of the damper atmosphere threatening to overshadow this race, Bostonians came out and cheered their hearts out for the runners. And yes, the crowds might have been a tad smaller than previous years and the funny, unique, and sassy signs were pretty much absent, but that in no way diminished from either the race or the experience. It would be remiss of me if I didn’t call out the volunteers at the finish, in particular for staying the course really and waiting it out as each runner made it home and crossed that finish line. There they were all lined up, ready to assist and help us transition from, what was for many, a difficult run. They hugged, congratulated, and saw to our needs – with the medics and those in the medical tent especially – providing first class care to those of us that were shaking, crying, shivering, hurting and having difficulty breathing.

Desiree Linden wins the women’s race @ the Boston Marathon in a time of 2:39:54 (source: bostonglobe.com)

Runners crossing the finish line on Bolyston Street (source: bostonglobe.com)

The true spirit of the marathon was present and on full display in Boston that Monday, as it was on that fateful day five years ago in that very same city. Any future obstacle might do well to remember that as American, Des Linden showed us how to rally like the champion she is as she ran her way to finish first place in the women’s division. While it was the slowest winning time ever recorded in Boston, it was an amazing finish in miserable conditions and reason for us all to smile. We did. We are, after all, Boston strong.

Me @ post-race

Photos courtesy Boston Globe

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