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 (I’m from New York) 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 where 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. Enough with the cliches, I’m sure you get the gist. 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. 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 these rolling hills of New York City will be gentler on me. I know what you’re thinking and in all probability you may be right – I’m hardly likely to fare much better here 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 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

Chicago Marathon for the Kids of St Jude

download

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.http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=3992776&pg=personal&fr_id=57054

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!

Making My Miles Count

chicago-marathon-logo

Two years ago I made a commitment; a promise to myself to use running for more than personal gain; to – in some way – be a blessing to the wider community. Turns out, once a mind is made up it becomes relatively easy to forge ahead. Enter my miles-4-a-cause project this year: The Chicago Marathon for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. St. Jude is  a hero of mine, they provide free treatment for children with cancer and research, diagnose and treat other types of childhood diseases. I’ve often wished they had a presence here in New York so I could do some volunteer work with them; as it is, Tennessee is not next door so I’ll just have to settle for what I can do right here.

Running is a great platform to highlight the phenomenal work St. Jude does. These days most races provide the opportunity to run for a good cause and are pretty much open to all runners. It’s as easy as picking the charity of your choice, registering with them and building a fundraising page, which you then share with friends and other interested parties. Better still, social media has made fundraising so much easier as you’re able to reach a wide audience with relatively minor effort. The only challenge is being comfortable with asking others for help. Ideally you begin by encouraging, enlisting and persuading family and friends and then extending your reach to friends of friends and so on. 

Some organizations provide incentives for your efforts but really when I’m running for a cause, there is no way I want to benefit from this except to feel good crossing the finish line knowing that my running has made a bit of difference in someone’s life. The medal, possible PR and celebrations are strictly bonuses then.

The Chicago Marathon is on October, 9; that gives me a few months to work hard at garnering as much support as I can for a pretty amazing cause. Wish me luck! And please click on the link below to give to St. Jude and become a St. Jude Hero by saving a child’s life today.

Support us here: http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=3992776&pg=personal&fr_id=57054

 

screen-shot-2014-04-04-at-6-09-45-pm

 

A Check-In with our 2016 Running Goals

2016-predictions-930x527

“The trouble with not having a goal is that you could spend the rest of your life running up and down the field and never score.” – Bill Copeland

We’re back in “running” business! It’s always a struggle to get runners to rest up, mainly because we’re too afraid of losing momentum. We often think that we will have to fight our way back in as the body can become quite use to being on vacation. There may be some merit to that but only to the extent that a break amounts to weeks or months off. Surely it can’t mean one will suffer a setback if he or she takes a well-deserved couple of weeks off? In fact, struggle or not, coming back from my two weeks off feels great and based on my running this week, its all good. You can breathe and rest easy now; two weeks will make you not break you.

Also, we can get ready for better running weather, for it’s May and we’re on the brink of summer – how did that happen? In any event, this is a good time to stop and reassess or check-in regarding our running goals for this year. Yep, the very same ones we were all excited and up in arms about around January 1st of this year. You’re totally entitled to a bit of guilt if you’re nowhere where you want to be, but know that it’s ok. You’re here, healthy (hopefully) and so happily you can give it another shot.

A big goal of mine was running the Boston Marathon so.. check – not the desired result – but it’s done. Even so, there are other races on my agenda, others I still have to do. What is interesting to note is that as I cross one item of my list, it actually has bearing on my other goals in a real way. Take for example Boston, I have now decided to run it again next year, to earn my medal this time, if my registration is accepted. As a result of this decision, I’ll try for a better qualifying time in Chicago this year. It’s a little crazy how it never stops with me; it’s as though there will always be another goal, another race. Maybe there always will be, but goals do many things, chief among them is to inspire us to give of our very best and even if we fail, we get up, stomp the dust off and try again.                                                          

In the upcoming months, (half the year is almost up, unbelievable), I have two, maybe three, big races and a few smaller ones while I have my heart set on a 5k and Half-Marathon PR. Additionally, I have a charity goal to fulfill which I will do at the Chicago Marathon. Because summer is usually an all-round hot time, I will be limiting my runs to fun, short ones with one destination marathon in July.                                             

I jokingly say that my life is a scatter plot, with my running all over the graph. But despite how it seems, it keeps me focused and happy – the world could go to pieces around me, as long as I’m running, it’s fine. LOL! I’m kidding! It’s really not that bad, just a tad bit crazy (my friends would say). Regardless, I’m no fine running example as I have fallen off the goal wagon a time or two. For yet another year, I’ve been terrible with keeping count of my miles while I can’t seem to start the tri program just yet. I try to convince myself that maybe I will in the summer but in the meantime between getting a handle on my health ( making sure I’m fit as a fiddle) and getting coached to improve my time, and working and keeping up with my volunteer activities, I’m a little stretched for time. While I’m not complaining, since that’s the way I like it, I would love time to slow down just a tad and maybe someone up there can add a few more hours to my days? Just saying.

Ready, Set, Chica-Go!

Source: loopchicago.com

                  Source: loopchicago.com

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.

Source: chicagotonight.wttw.com

Source: chicagotonight.wttw.com

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!

nytimes.com

nytimes.com

Running a Fall Marathon (Part 1)

Bank Of America Chicago Marathon

Bank Of America Chicago Marathon

Sometimes there’s no help for it, you just have to take the proverbial bull by the horns and have faith in your handling. Deciding to run your first marathon or going for a fall goal after some absence away from running or maybe you’re like me, just looking for a good race in cool weather; whatever your reason, let’s pave the way to make it happen with as little pain and pomp as possible. Choosing your run should be among the first set of things you do so here’s a list of some great, local ones. Choose your fancy.

  • The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, Minneapolis, St. Paul/Minn.
  • The Bank of America Chicago Marathon
  • Under Armour Baltimore Marathon
  • Detroit Free Press/ Talmer Bank Marathon
  • Nike’s Women Marathon, San Diego, Cal.
  • New York City Marathon
  • Marine Corps Marathon, Washington DC
  • Anthem Richmond Marathon, Virginia
  • Philadelphia Marathon

For some of these races there are pre-conditions to racing or some pre-qualifying standard to be met, so that should be taken into consideration when choosing. For my part, I’ve decided on one not on the list there but part of the Rock n’  Roll series which are always loads of fun,  this one in Denver, Co.

So you’ve signed up..Congratulations! Now what? It’s time to start training. Various training plans exist ranging from 12 to 18 weeks but before taking up one it’s wise to get your body used to running four or five times a week and build some base mileage. This can offset injuries and help you prepare for the longer training runs due in a few months.  There are five parts to a successful marathon training plan says Jason Devaney, writer for Competitor Magazine, 1. Establishing a base. 2.Building core strength 3. Increasing mileage and developing fitness 4. Running a tune-up race and 5. Executing on race day. Next week we’ll cover similar aspects to these according to my experience in tandem with what the experts say. For now, let’s focus on building our base mileage by continuing to put in a few steady runs per week, slowly increasing as we go along.

Happy and focused running!

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