The Spirit of the Marathon thrived at Boston 2018

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 prepared. The weather was unforgiving in its intent and threw everything it had to give 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, while there were those for whom conditions made it too difficult to finish, 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 though; I prefer instead to focus on the amazing spirit of the Marathon that shined through the heavy rains on that Marathon Monday and the fact over 30,000 runners braved it and got their moment to shine.

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 we knew 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 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 amidst pools of water 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 thought was. So there we were busy with strategy on getting started and 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 weather. 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, but certainly because it was the day Boston kicked ass and we 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.

Photos courtesy Boston Globe

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A Month of Marathons

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Source: Pinterest

These days life is a marathon: a long, sometimes tough, sometimes enjoyable, but always enduring experience. And our city is caught smack in the middle of what I refer to as, the throes of a malady – marathon fever. This feeling, though widely prevalent, is not unique to New York City, for while we boast a ridiculous amount of runners and the largest marathon around – the TCS New York City marathon – the running obsession that hits here in the month of October is sure to be similar to cities around the world that are part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors (WMM).

The WMM is a premier racing event where runners take part in six stipulated marathons to earn the coveted title and medal of world marathon major. Thus, I’m sure cities such as London, Berlin, Tokyo, Chicago and Boston are similarly prone to this type of marathon-induced crazy that characterizes NYC these days. Notwithstanding, New York’s marathon, which is November 5 this year, October happened and with such a bang with so many marathons and half marathons happening around the United States, some very close to home, one could be forgiven for missing out on the change in weather, which certainly must have something to do with the hike in running. We had the Marine Corps marathon last weekend, which I ran, the Chicago marathon, the Steamboat marathon, and the Staten Island Half marathon, which I also ran, and which were all the weekend before last. Apparently we like to keep it pretty busy around here. This has all served to keep the pressure on and have everyone either on their A game or on the edge.

As such, the city is busy trying to keep up with the countdown that’s underway. Even if one is not running the New York City (NYC) marathon, chances are good you either have friends who are or know someone who is or a few who are – hence everyone’s involvement. While I’m not running it this year, I do have ongoing plans to try to qualify for next year after wrapping up two races in the last two weeks. With all the attention it’s getting, it’s fair to say the NYC marathon is the hottest ticket in town for the running community and no expense (where the currency is time) is spared by runners in ensuring they have the best seats in the house, whether that is on the course running or cheering on fellow runners. In the days ahead, as we whine down the year, there will be more races to come. For now, my part will be out there cheering my heart out for those running folks who’ve earned their spot on the world stage, if only for a moment, hoping to inspire the run of a lifetime.

10 Popular Fall Races

 

source: bratislava.com

                      source: bratislava.com

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.

Marathon Training: The Long Run

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If you’re running the TCS New York City Marathon in November or have another marathon coming up in October, like me, the experts would suggest that right about now is a good time for your first long training run. Long runs, as part of your overall marathon training, are important for a variety of reasons, but particularly to allow you to ascertain what your body can do to date. This is not your first run, tempo run, sprint or a race; it is the opportunity to engage the distance you’re running with a substitute of similar factors to bring about a simulation of what your marathon day run will be like. It can range from 18 to 22 or even 24 miles, this all depends on what your goal and your training plan is.

Here are some reasons why you need that long run:

1. Training Gauge

It’s an opportunity to test and assimilate how far you’ve come and how far you have to go in your training.

2. Builds a Race Strategy

It provides an opportunity to try out a race strategy you may want to implement on race day. For example; pacing yourself while wisely utilizing energy gels and hydration fuels on course.

3. Nuetralizes the Fear of the Unknown 
Long runs can be a form of initiation for many first-time marathoners; it eliminates the fear of the unknown, and provides a race-day simulation that incorporates distance, companionship, encouragement and motivation to the newbie marathoner when done in an official setting.

4. Prepares You Physically and Emotionally for Race Day
It builds your endurance, stamina and confidence so that you will face marathon day fully prepared and confident in your ability to run 26.2 miles.

5. Cardiovascular Enrichment
As with all forms of exercise, running more strengthens our hearts and its ability to provide oxygen-rich blood to our muscles (CompetitiveRunner.com).

6. Teaches Your Muscles to Store Glycogen                          
Long runs teaches your muscles to store more glycogen, the primary source of fuel during exercise, this is very important to avoid “hitting the wall” on marathon day.

7. Ups Your Performance    
Depending on the regularity and duration of your long run and this would depend on whose training plan you’re using, it could be an instrumental part of your training to assist with speed, endurance and strength training leading up to PR and even a possible coveted placement at the finish.

8. Helps Burns Fat as Fuel  
When your glycogen storage decreases as is the case on a long run, your body fat becomes a secondary source to provide energy for your muscles.

9. Recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers to help out in slow-twitch tasks

10. Increases Mileage and adds to Experience

Practice indeed makes perfect. The more and longer you run perfects your knowledge of your body, its capabilities and of the sport of running.

In essence, the long training run is essential to you not only running but completing your marathon. Additionally, it is good practice for general race training from 5ks to marathons and beyond as it helps to hone pace, endurance and strength skills while also building up the runner psychologically. In my humble opnion, it is the key to running your best marathon.

What It Means to Run with Faith

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 “I have learned that track doesn’t define me. My faith defines me. I’m running because I have been blessed with a gift.” –
Allyson Felix

Ten years ago when I started running seriously, I would never have imagined it becoming so intricately woven into the fabric of my life that not a day goes by when I either don’t run or think about running.  Back then, my future mapped out looked pretty simple: humanitarian work, writing at some level, and travel and adventure on the side.  The New York City Marathon was to be a bucket list event among a host of others.  Today, I remember it as the running event of a lifetime that inspired many others.

I recall completing my first half-marathon and the heady feeling that ensued, but I really didn’t think it would transform into the passion for running that it is today.  Life often hits you with nice surprises like that.  Eight years ago when I moved to the united States, I moved with a ton of baggage by which I don’t don’t mean suitcases; rather, my issues and a ton of issues on top.  In hindsight, running was my saving grace. If you have ever made a major change in life, then you can attest to the life transforming event it is.  Because I was in a new environment, where a lot was also new to me, I had to find something that was at once comforting and familiar, but which gave me the opportunity to lose myself and not focus on the uncertainties I was faced with.  Enter running – my saving grace – it became my outlet, my escape, my connection, my mode of survival.

Running, I discovered peace, beauty, tranquility, inspiration, challenge and a profound sense of self.  Conversely, my future loomed, a blank, uncertain canvas.  Many years, runs and races later have added splashes of color and slowly an image is breaking forth.  The process has been painstaking: deliberate and tough, but extremely instructional and not a journey I could have completed without my faith.  Daily, those runs have taught me that I do not, nor have I ever, run alone.  I am immersed in the love of God; whether evident in the trickle of a running stream or the mad rush of a waterfall, the burst of sunrise or the quiet outrageous sunset; He runs with me.  In the white mass of winter or the first signs of spring, the solitary morning run or the packed course filled with runners, every step I take, I take with Him.  He surrounds me with His presence, covers me with His protection, enfolds me in His love and when the going gets tough, armors me with His strength.  He is the wind at my back, the lift in my legs and the power in my stride.

Running Ahead

running aheadThere’s not a lot of racing going on in winter on my end. I tend to plan my Spring and on runs during this time when my running is limited to the treadmill with very few outside runs and one or two races out-of-town wherever warmer temperatures can be found.  As such, I like to think of this as training season for the months ahead, which will consist of a few marathons, half marathons, and some fun runs with goals of a few PR and raising money for charity.

I have my sights set on at least four marathons this year: New Jersey, Chicago, New York and Savannah SC. There’s also a very good chance of a run upstate, while my shorter runs will be at local competitive level here in the city.  I’m also always open to exploring the area around New York with the fun races hosted in and around town over the summer.  Lastly, but just as important, is my goal of training for and completing a triathlon; I’m searching out a place that does not involve these cold waters but isn’t so far away to maximize cost and potential.

The Marathon is a much more comfortable race for me now that I have four under my belt (shoes), at least in my mind, when I don’t have an injury to contend with. I feel pretty sure I can make one this year my best yet if I could just run issue and injury free – that’s my prayer anyway. Half-marathons are my babies. I feel confident, fit and at my peak during most runs of this ilk and feel I can qualify for the NYC marathon 2016 with a PR this year. On the other hand, Fun Runs are what I call any race less than 10 miles and would include obstacle, mud etc., These are my relax and roll with the tide races that I oftentimes take too seriously, such is my competitive spirit. This year, the triathlon will be my biggest challenge. Though I’m a Caribbean girl and love the open waters, experience has taught me to have a healthy respect for water I cannot stand in. So while I swim, I am timid when it comes to exploring my potential out there; this I feel will be my biggest obstacle in such an event. I am to begin brush up classes in Swimming in February, hopefully it helps to build my confidence. Cycling, I don’t consider too much of a big deal, except that I haven’t ridden a bike for any time for a couple of years now. I’m hoping that “like riding a bike” cliché is true in my case. These minor (thinking positive) obstacles aside, I’m looking ahead with much anticipation, excitement and determination. By God’s grace and with the help of my two feet, I can get this done and have a blast while I’m at it.

All my running this year provides an opportunity to support the causes I care about and in so doing give a little back to the community that has given me so much. Whether it’s through fundraising, donations and/ or volunteering, it is with the deepest pleasure and gratitude that I give. My mind’s running ahead now.. better wait on my feet.

Redefining Running (Part 2)

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In the first part of this topic we discussed the evolution of running and I highlighted some of newer aspects of our sport, which takes us beyond the typical run-for-health-or-exercise reasons to that of fun and competition. We explored this in the context of ultra running events for those of us who wanted to expand our horizons and push our limits; no longer accepting of the status quo or what it means to be the average runner.

I find this new push for endurance racing or running quite interesting, first because it indicates the presence of a relentless and demanding drive in our personalities that mirrors that of the competitive athlete: supremely confident and highly driven to achieve one’s personal best, and second, because now I’m curious about the extent of our drive for self-actualization in running: what does this mean for the future of running and how far can our desire for more take us?

While those questions are sure to set us a’wondering, it behooves us to consider how far we’ve progressed since the days of Pheidippides (our marathon namesake) and to see the evolution of running as the natural progression of a sport of passion, which brings us to my first point: the personality of the runner who determines that a marathon is no longer enough. I can safely say I identify since I know what it is to achieve your first marathon – the anticlimax of a build up of complex emotions: demanding physical and mental preparedness coupled with extreme psychological and physical adjustments. The finish line is now associated with time, medal and the next event. Crazy right. I recall completing my first marathon, was it only last year – deep in the bellies of pain – and there I was thinking of the next one, which was to be less than two months away, and the next, a month later. Now I’m at crossroads, considering my first ultra event next year. Sure I have set other goals along the way, like completing the World Marathon Majors and running some of the most amazing and toughest courses, however, now I have a new goal: completing a triathlon next year while vaguely in the distance I can detect the shaping up of an iron man. I have demanded of my mind to stop there though I suspect there are a lot more ideas buzzing around. In this instance, I find the challenge to be one of keeping focus on one goal at a time and not splitting oneself into various parts attempting to achieve different things. But it’s always right there on the periphery of my mind; what’s next, where to run, how can I get faster, be stronger, do better next time? For there is never a doubt that there will be a next time only a matter of when.

Many runners share this crazy passion, always on the look out for the next big race or event. Whether it’s cross-country, over trails and mountains, across ice, over rocks, through streams and in valleys, over five hours or a couple of days, I will go so far as to say we thrive on it; our aphrodisiac if you will – what stimulates and motivates us to being better people and better athletes. If you’ve ever faced the question of – why do you do it – then you know deep down that it’s as simple as, why not. The training, sacrifice, dedication, and various daily deprivations, that’s the hard part. Then again, it comes with the guarantee of an utter sense of fulfillment upon completion of each big one. So indeed, why not.

New Year’s Running Goals

imageWow! It’s already January 3! And I just couldn’t let another day go by without sharing my goals for this year.

For most of us, New Year resolutions give us an opportunity to begin afresh, dream big, have a meaningful purpose and/or do something we’ve always wanted to do.  There’s something about a new year that gives us guts and passion, fire and determination and everything else that is needed to make us feel that we can conquer the world.  Never mind that midway during the year one would be hard-pressed to find that well of positivity, but hey let’s not get ahead of ourselves and be content to run, no pun intended, with all we feel.  For this reason, among many others, I think setting goals are important while doing our best to fulfill them; reviewing and revising as life circumstances permit.

With that in mind, my running goals and it’s affiliates for this year include:
. Running the Miami Marathon
. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon 2015
. Doing a Mud Run in Summer
. Exploring new running territories in the NY area and Expanding my running base
. Running at least two other out-of-state marathons, hopefully one to include the Chicago Marathon
. Running a PR of 1:30 in a half marathon
. Logging my mileage

I think I’ll stop here.  Oftentimes, I’ve fallen into the trap of having too many goals, which can be either unrealistic or too constraining.  This year I’ve decided to set wisely and save myself a lot of stress by making them achievable and time-bound.

Cheers to 2014 & fulfilling Running Goals!

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