Thursday, April 17, 2014

Boston 4-15-13, Part 2

*It has taken me over a year to finally document my experience of the events on 4-15-13 in writing. I wanted to accomplish this before returning to Boston this year, to hopefully allow more healing and closure...

Although it had been quite a challenge, my first Boston Marathon had been exquisite - exceeding all that I had envisioned it would be. The organization, logistics, volunteers and community support along the entire route was amazing, on what was like a 26.2 mile parade route! In all of my marathons, I had never felt such literal energy or mojo flow from the crowd, right into me as I struggled to keep running to the finish.

As I walked past the medal area and paused at the water table in the recovery area, I looked for a place to sit down, but decided I better stay on my feet and keep moving, to allow proper cool down of my legs. I reflected on the events of the day, watched as others finished and received their medals, and relived the emotions of my Boston experience again. I'm not sure how many minutes had passed since I crossed the finish line, but eventually I walked to the waiting buses about two blocks away to retrieve my drop bag with my extra clothing and subway pass. I showed my bib number and a volunteer quickly found my bag and reached out of an open window to hand it to me. Just as I took the bag into my hand, I suddenly felt and heard a loud explosion, which shook inside my chest, and then echoed off the tall downtown buildings. A short time later, a second explosion shook the city, just as inexplicably as the first...

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Stopped in my tracks, I clutched my runner's bag, staring in the direction of the Boylston Street cacophony, which seemed to originate near the finish line. Questions filled my mind, and the uncertainty of what had just happened was obvious on the faces of everyone in my immediate area. Although we could not see the damage and injury caused by the bombs, clouds of smoke began to rise from the street level. Confusion quickly turned into chaos, terror and fear that another explosion could occur at any second. In a brief moment, all of the Boston Marathon finishing celebrations suddenly ceased, and were replaced with the sights and sounds usually reserved for the evening world news broadcast. Triumph had suddenly transposed into tragedy.

Police, first responders, emergency personnel and volunteers began bringing the wounded to the first aid tent, as emergency vehicles began quickly taking them away to the closest hospital. Police had already begun evacuating the immediate area of destruction, and started expanding the perimeter, urging runners and family members who were not injured to leave the area. The family meeting area had been closed off and cell phones were not working, leaving thousands of runners no way to re-connect with family and friends. The subway had also been shut down, with the only remaining choice being to continue walking away from the destruction. I joined the sea of exhausted, dazed runners walking across the Boston Common, as the ugliness of the afternoon had begun to sink in, along with the confusion and so many unanswered questions.

 photo 0415031605.jpg I found a bench and stopped to rest, while every 5 minutes the sirens of another emergency vehicle wailed through the city streets, and helicopters hovered above the building tops. The runner next to me was texting on a phone, although calls were still not going through. I asked to borrow it, and quickly texted my wife, telling her that I was okay, and would call her later. Unfortunately, she did not get that text until nearly two hours after the explosions. During those two hours, she was bombarded with calls, texts and e-mails, asking if I was okay, but she had no way to know for sure.

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With no phone, no wallet, and only a subway pass and some leftover food from breakfast, I started walking across the common, with no idea where I was going or what I would do. Here I witnessed the first act of kindness by a Boston local, as two young men who had collected armfuls of the scattered mylar blankets, were now handing them out to wandering, disoriented runners, many of whom did not have the chance to retrieve their clothing bag. Although the cool weather was perfect for running, the post-race exhaustion made it difficult to get warm with the chilling breeze. As I continued walking, I stopped to look back toward Copley Square, seeing what appeared to be more smoke rising above the buildings.

 photo 0415031612.jpg Not yet aware of the extent of the damage or injuries, I took time to say a prayer in my heart, asking God to please help those who had been harmed, and to please help me to know what to do or where to go. How would I get back to my host home in south Boston? How could I let my family know that I was okay?.. I walked toward the capital building, where a news reporter was broadcasting a live update. I stopped long enough to hear him say something about "two confirmed deaths" as a result of the bombings, at which point I quickly moved on, not wanting to hear anymore about this nightmarish scene.

As I considered what to do next, I remembered my host, Marian describing the large building in which she worked, so I asked a local if they knew where this building might be. The person told me they thought it might be on the other side of the capital building, so I continued walking in that direction. Finding the building that I was pretty sure was the one, I approached the entry, only to be stopped by Boston Police and Homeland Security officers, all armed with assault rifles. Because it was a government agency, this building was being evacuated, and everyone was being sent home. I watched for my host to come out, but I did not see her, even after everyone had exited the building. I did not have my phone, and did not even know her phone number, and even if I had money for a cab, I was unsure of the address.

 photo 0415031637.jpg I sat down on the sidewalk and leaned up against a fence to contemplate my quandary, when I heard and saw a local woman on the sidewalk actually talking to someone on her cell phone. When she ended her call, I approached her and asked if I could please borrow her phone to let my wife know that I was okay. She said, "Of course" and asked me if I was alright, or if there was something she could do to help. I called Keri, and after 3 or 4 rings, she thankfully answered the "unknown" number with a frantic, "Hello?!" I said, "Hi, I'm okay," at which point I could hear her tears of relief on the other end, as she had apparently not received the text I tried to send just minutes after the bombings. I proceeded to tell her how to get into my e-mail, to find the cell phone number for Marian. She quickly located it, and I asked her to please let everyone know that I was okay, as I would not be near any internet or computer access until tonight at the soonest. We said our goodbyes, and I then called Marian, who was relieved to hear that I was okay. She was walking toward a subway station that she had heard was still in operation. She told me to stay put, and she would come find me, and we could then make our way home together.

I thanked the kind lady, who I know only by the first name of "Teresa," for the use of her phone, as she opened her wallet and tried to give me money to help me get home for the night. I politely declined, telling her that I had found a way, and thanked her again for her kindness and concern. About 15 minutes later, Marian appeared, and greeted me with a hug, glad that we were both safe. We walked toward the subway station, and found it to be open, so we boarded the next Red Line southbound toward her home. While on the subway, cellphones were now working again, and there was steady chatter about the events of the day, as people talked to loved ones to make sure everyone was accounted for and okay.

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 We made it home, and I sunk into the couch, and watched reports of the day's horrific events unfold on the evening news. Slowly, all of the details began to fill in the blanks of the day. I was somewhat numb to the images and descriptions, and at some point I had to stop watching, finally took a shower, and laid down on my bed, emotionless, but still filled with questions, mostly starting with "Why?!" My cell phone was filled with texts, and my voice mailbox was full. My facebook page also had countless messages and postings, all asking if I was okay. I wanted just to go to sleep, but I knew I had to reply, so I updated my status with a posting of gratitude for the outpouring of concern in my behalf, assured them that I was okay, and asked them to pray for the victims and their families more directly affected by the tragedy.

I finally got to sleep some time in the early hours of the morning. I awoke, packed and prepared for my return flight that afternoon. I thanked Marian for all of her kindness and hospitality, and we exchanged a hug, communicating without words the bond we now shared by the events of April 15th. I boarded the trolley and then made the connection to the subway toward the city. Up to this point, I had remained mostly emotionless since the life-changing events of the previous day. But as I stared out the window toward the passing Boston cityscape, the headlines of a nearby newspaper being read by another passenger caught my eye. Suddenly, without warning, tears filled my eyes, as all of the feelings I had ignored the last day began to surface. Images from the day before returned to my mind - images and feelings which would haunt me in the coming days and months. My emotions swung back and forth from anger, to fear, hopelessness, despair, pain, sadness, disbelief and guilt.

I left the subway at a downtown station, since I had a few hours to explore the city before my return flight. I wore my marathon jacket, not so much as a matter of pride, but more because I did not want the dark events of marathon day to diminish my runner's spirit. As I made my way through the city, the people of Boston went out of their way to ask if I needed help with anything, and if I was okay. I browsed through a vintage book store, and as I checked out, the owner said to me, "I hope you don't have bad feelings toward Boston, and that you will return again." I told her that I had no ill feelings, but rather respect and compassion for the people and city of Boston, as I witnessed so many acts of kindness, some of which I was the recipient. I told her that either as a runner or as a visitor, I would return some day. I walked along the waterfront and saw a number of historic sites, realizing that it would have been nice to have more time to explore.

I made my way back to the airport, which had been shutdown through the night due to the bombings. Thankfully, there were no more delays by the time I arrived, but security had obviously been increased. As I was putting my shoes back on after the security check, I was approached by a homeland security agent, and asked a few questions regarding what I may have seen in the minutes after the bombings, bringing the emotions of those moments back to the surface. As I waited to board my flight, an overhead television news program was blaring the latest reports of the bombings and investigations. They showed a picture of one of the confirmed fatalities, 8 year old Martin Richard, and as the guilt and anger returned to me, I lost it again. People began looking at me, so I took my carry-ons and just started walking until it was time to board.

 photo photo111.jpg After boarding my connecting flight form Charlotte to Salt Lake, the captain welcomed all of the Boston runners, resulting in spontaneous applause from the passengers.  My assigned seat was on the emergency exit row, so the flight attendant asked the runner seated next to me and myself four different times if we felt able to help with the exit in the event of an emergency. We both replied "yes" each time - but she was obviously still concerned.

The Utah runner seated next to me was a blessing, as we soon discovered that we had quite a bit in common, including a love for flight in the form of hang gliding. We talked at length about the path each of our lives had taken leading up to yesterday's marathon. It seemed helpful to talk with another runner about the events during and after the bombings, to see that I was not the only one feeling the way I was after our shared experiences.

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I made it home that night just after midnight, but my wife was awake to greet me with a big hug. I was emotionally unprepared to return to work the next day, and fortunately my boss was a very understanding runner himself. Although the outpouring of love and support from family, friends and even strangers had been incredible, I did not know how to face all of the questions regarding what I had witnessed and what I was feeling. I did my best to not hide or stuff my feelings, but any kind of congratulation for my accomplishment was very difficult to accept, and seemed only to result in feelings of guilt for celebrating an event which had caused so much pain to so many people.

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 As the days following Boston turned into weeks, I sensed an uncontrollable depression overtaking me, fueled mostly by feelings of guilt and selfishness, at the heart of questions such as: "Why did I get to finish when thousands of others did not?" to which some people would say to me, "Wow, you must be living right!" This would cause me to think, "What about 8 year old Martin Richard - was he not 'living right?' Why did he have to die, while I made it through physically unscathed?! Was I somehow at least partly responsible for the 3 deaths and hundreds of injuries?!"

I continued to run, but I noticed that my miles were now motivated by anger, as I began to question God. Why would God allow me, a 47 year old runner, who had already experienced life to its fullest, as full of flaws as I am, to survive the events of that tragic day - but allow an innocent boy, with his entire life ahead of him, to be killed in an instant? "Where were You, God?! Where were You?!"

I found myself beginning to seek isolation, and avoiding loud or noisy public places. I would not watch any news programing, and avoided the media in general. Sudden loud noises would terrify me, and bring back a flood of thoughts, images and feelings. The days around Independence day were especially difficult, as I yearned for silence. Certain sights, sounds, smells or words seemed to trigger all sorts of negative reactions in me. The vivid nightmares came more and more frequently, causing me to wake suddenly yelling, afraid to go back to sleep. The voice mailbox in my cell phone was still full from that April day.  I could not bring myself to listen to them, but could not seem to delete them either.

My guilt and anger intensified, as I felt bad for being so negatively affected, even though hundreds of other runners and spectators had been so much closer than I was, and had so much more severe outward consequences...I found myself in a downward spiral, and a hole deeper and darker than I had been in since my pre-recovery days, over 9 years ago. The more I questioned God, the more I knew that my Recovery was at risk. I found myself physically unable to get out of bed and face the day, and began to make preparations to quit my work, at times wishing that I could just sleep and not wake up.

I knew that these secrets would keep me sick, and eventually destroy me, if I did not do something. At this lowest point, in desperation, I reached out for help. First from my wife and family, then from clergy, then a few friends, then from past counselors and professionals. I made it clear that I did not want sympathy which would just lead to self-pity, but at the same time acknowledged that I needed help to get through this, and back on solid footing.

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In the days and weeks that followed, and with help from many - to whom I am very grateful, I was gradually able to recover my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.  It did not happen overnight, but through some hard work, and time, I began to learn how to work through and deal with the realities of survivor's guilt, PTSD, confusion, anger and depression which had day by day consumed me since the events of 4-15-13.

With some time off, I was able to keep my job, as I learned how to better understand and deal with the very real emotional roller coaster I had been riding. I learned that God does not cause bad things to happen to good people, but that good people can be hurt by the choices of others. Blaming God for acts of evil cowardice is not rational thinking.  I learned that the atonement of Jesus Christ, is not just for sinners, but also to help carry us through the inevitable trials and pain that we all face in this earthly journey we call life. I learned that I am never alone, and that, at some point, we all need help when life steps up and smacks us down hard. I have also learned, that the answers to some of life's questions may not come immediately, and some things we may just never know.

As I have learned these difficult lessons over the past year, I have also found my running motivations to have gradually shifted from anger, to feelings of victory - not for me personally, but for good to triumph over evil and the runner's spirit to prevail. When certain perpetrators selected the Boston Marathon as the focus of their attack, they messed with the wrong Marine - marathon runners, their families and supporters, and the great people of Boston!

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This motivated me to train harder than ever, to return to Boston to run in 2014. On September 14th of last year, I ran my second BQ time in a race, the Big Cottonwood Marathon. This allowed me to put in for Boston, but was still no guarantee.  Even with 10,000 new slots opened up for more runners in 2014, the BAA would still have to turn away many applicants who had qualified. Finally the e-mail came, telling me that my entry and qualifying time had been accepted, and I was IN for 2014! I had made the time cut by a mere two seconds!

I now have come to realize that there were a number of reasons I was at Boston in 2013, exactly where I was, when the bombs went off. Many of these reasons are the lessons I have learned as a result of this past year's experiences. Some of them may be to write this 'blog posting, or to help others with similar struggles. Part of my challenge, is to discover why I have gone through these things, and also, why I get to return this year, when many were turned away.

I have also learned that life is too fragile and short to go through it looking backward, just wishing you had at least tried to accomplish a dream or two. As I witness runners of all ages, abilities, shapes and sizes train for and run marathons, I have come to realize that the champions are those who dare to dream, and then cross that starting line!

 photo Bostonrun.jpg As Boston 2014 approaches, the media is full of incredible stories of triumph over evil, and not only runners, but countless people impacted by the Boston bombings have come back stronger than ever, with new resolve to make the best of their struggles, and help others along the way. Although it will no doubt be an emotional event, I am looking forward to creating new Boston memories this year, and to the additional healing it will bring. Boston 2014 is, in my opinion, not just about the victory of good over evil, but also about the triumph of the runner's spirit, the American spirit, and the human spirit.  It will clearly demonstrate, that there is innate goodness in most people, and a rare few who seek to harm others in evil, destructive ways.

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Like many others, my life was changed forever that day - but I have a new resolve today, to allow that change to be a forever positive one. I am proud to not only be a survivor, but also a runner, and a Boston Runner!

 photo photo210.jpg This year, I run with Gratitude in my heart, not only to family, friends and the people of Boston, but also to God, for helping me through hard times, and giving me the strength, desire and opportunity to keep on running, and return to Boston. I pray daily that I may use this blessing to somehow help others along the way, to find a portion of the grace and peace He has granted me.

Boston, 4-15-13

I made it through the SLC airport security check without any major hassle, and arrived at the gate with an hour to spare. When it was my turn to board, I noticed a number of other people with running shoes, clothing, and body types who I guessed were on their way to Boston also.

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*(Note to self:  If you make it back to Boston, arrive at least two days before race day, so you don’t feel so rushed!)  I took the subway from the airport to the station closest to the Runner’s Expo. As I walked up to street level, I paused to soak in all the sights, sounds and smells of Boston, still in disbelief that I had actually made it here!

 photo photo32.jpg I identified the cross street leading to the Hynes Convention Center, and once safely on the other side, paused to take some pictures of the obviously old, historic buildings, which had been nicely restored.  

 photo photo1.jpg      Suddenly I heard a fire alarm, and the garage doors of a fire station began to open.  Two large, hook and ladder fire trucks pulled out with lights and sirens, with firemen in full attire riding on the back, obviously en route to an emergency.  In retrospect, I feel a bit guilty that I did not give a second thought of gratitude for those who serve and protect…

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Uncertain of exactly where to go, I joined in the steady stream of runners going up the escalators in the convention center, and then saw a sign directing me to the bib and packet pickup.  My excitement built, as signs everywhere welcomed the world – and ME to Boston!  I found the line leading to my assigned bib number and did my best to patiently wait my turn,

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watching the excitement of each person ahead of me. Finally, after showing my picture ID, I was handed the Holy Grail, of Golden Tickets - my runner’s packet and bib! I suppose that if this were not your first time running Boston, it might not be that big of a deal, but I had to pinch myself to make sure I was not dreaming!

 photo 0414031137.jpgAfter trying on my shirt and taking more pictures, I began walking through the expo, determined to see all of the over 200 exhibits, taking in over two huge exhibit halls.  I found the Nordic Track booth, and talked with the employees there, who know my neighbor.  It was nice to make a connection in such a big city.  I found the Adidas official clothing area, and started by trying on the official running jacket.  I was willing to shell out $100 for this prized piece of clothing, because I did not know if I would ever return again, and there would only be one “first time.”  I realized that I would need a size medium, but it became apparent that I was too late, as that size was sold out.  I thought about buying a large, but decided to wait, and check at the other Adidas booth on the other side of the expo.  I asked there if they had any medium jackets left, and they said they had just sold the last one.  Just then, a runner came up and asked if he could exchange a medium for a large – 

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 I was in luck! I was worried about spending too much time on my feet the day before the race, so after a couple hours, I left the expo and found a restaurant in the mall with pasta on the menu to load up on some spaghetti.  (My assigned ticket time for the Boston Marathon dinner was not until 7 pm, and I did not want to get to my host home too late.)  

 photo photo312.jpgI made my way back to the “T” subway, and took the Red Line southbound past Ashmont to Mattapan Station. 

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Here I made the connection to the Mattapan Trolley, which was like a step back in time!  I made it to the correct stop, and then walked a few short blocks to my host’s home, proud of myself for not even getting lost.

 photo photo211.jpgAfter chatting with my gracious host for a while, I prepared my pre-race breakfast, retired to my room, opened up my runner’s packet, pinned my bib to my shirt, and laid out my clothing for race day. I checked and double-checked my race drop bag, making sure I had everything I would need.  I included my subway pass, but did not pack my wallet or cell phone, as I did not want to risk losing either of these. I did include an older de-activated cell phone to take a few pictures on race morning, which I would put in my drop bag before starting the race.

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After saying goodnight to my wife and family back in Utah, then setting two wake up alarms, I laid in bed for a couple of hours, before finally drifting off to sleep.  I awoke before either of my alarms went off, but any more attempts at sleep were pointless, as my mind was already racing in anticipation of race day at Boston!  My head was formulating questions quicker than I could possibly answer – “What if the Mattapan Trolley is late?  What if the buses to the start are all full?  Do I have enough warm up clothing?  What is a runner “corral” anyway?! How will I ever keep from tripping over someone at the start? What if I get hurt? What if it is too hot, since Wave 2 starts at 10:20? What if I can’t finish? Did I really wake up, or am I just dreaming? Do I really deserve to be running in the Boston Marathon?!, what if...”
The only way to silence the incessant questions in my head was to get up and get going. I jumped into my running and warm up clothes, brushed my teeth, grabbed my race day breakfast, and left the house. I knew I would have to wait a few minutes for the first trolley, but I was just glad to be walking the short distance to the stop in the cool, humid morning darkness.  I only had to wait about 10 minutes before boarding as the first passenger on the very first northbound Mattapan trolley of the day.   

 photo photo48.jpgAlthough it was a number of hours before start time, I nervously nibbled on a bagel with cream cheese to pass the time on the ride into the city.  Even with the transfer to the subway, I made it to the bus loading area about 20 minutes ahead of my assigned boarding time.

 photo 0415030541.jpgI walked along the long line of double and triple-parked buses along Tremont Street, which seemed to extend for many blocks. By now the sky was beginning to lighten above the leafless trees on the Boston Common.  As I neared the front of the sea of yellow, one of countless volunteers waved me into a bus, strategically loading each one to capacity.
I don’t remember much about the bus ride to Hopkinton, other than it took for-ev-er, seemingly traveling much farther than 26.2 miles!  The din of runner-speak seemed to gradually increase in volume the closer we got to the drop off area by the athletes’ village. 

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When the bus finally came to a stop and the air brakes were set with a "psssssshhhhff," my eyes were no doubt, as big as saucers as I stepped onto the street and saw hundreds of volunteers and thousands of runners, the huge tents,

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and signs that said “Welcome to Hopkinton!” As I paused to take some pictures, I noticed a runner off to the side who had actually stopped for a smoke! I did a double take, thinking that maybe he was a volunteer, but he had an official runner’s bib on his shirt!

 photo 0415030735.jpgThe athletes’ village covered an area the size of at least two football fields, included a number of huge white tents over tables of food and drinks, and had blue porta-potties lining a majority of the perimeter.  Small vehicles were hauling off trash and debris from the first wave of runners, while other vehicles were bringing in more food and supplies for the second wave.  It was a logistical marvel of organized chaos, as there was adequate room, food and supplies for over 10,000 athletes at a time!

 photo 0415030909.jpgI walked through the tables and selected a bagel, banana and some hot cocoa to add to my breakfast, and then found a spot on the damp grass against the fence to relax and eat, using some scrap cardboard to insulate myself from the cool ground.  The weather seemed perfect for running, cool with no wind, and the sun peeking over the trees felt good on my face.  

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 I found it hard to relax or meditate, as I was in awe that I was part of this spectacle 117 years in the making.   

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A line started to form leading to a large sign, so I walked in that direction for the photo opp.  

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I marveled at how, for the most part, Boston Marathon runners came in all different ages, shapes, sizes and nationalities, and did not look superhuman, but for the most part appeared “normal.”
As the time for the start of the first wave approached, the announcer asked for a moment of silence from the thousands of runners and hundreds of volunteers in the village, in memory of the victims of the recent tragic Sandy Hook school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.  After this quiet time for reflection, he began blaring his “welcome to Hopkinton” over the loudspeakers, and started providing the designated times for each assigned corral in wave one to start walking toward the starting area.
I passed the time trying to relax, gently stretching, people watching, and making conversation with whoever happened to be next to me at the time. 

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 I found myself reflecting on my running journey of 34 marathons leading up to this day. Feelings of intense gratitude swelled inside of me – not only to be a part of Boston today, but also for the many life lessons learned from all of the miles, races and new friends. I thought about everyone who has been such a great support through challenges along the way, including family, friends - and especially God – who has given me the desire and strength to keep running.  I also thought about how each person running today had their own story, each with their own set of struggles to overcome, but all united in the goal of the Boston Marathon finish line.
As time for the start of the second wave neared, I could no longer stay sitting down. I made a last bathroom stop, packed my extra clothing into my drop bag and gave it to a volunteer at the truck waiting to haul them to the finish area. I then began following the steady parade of runners, walking between nearby school buildings and through the quaint streets of Hopkinton.  Finally, the runner corrals came into view, which were actually roped off areas in the street from sidewalk to sidewalk, each one marked with an assigned number.  I searched for my assigned corral, but it wasn’t until I found it that I began to question why they were all empty!  I realized that I had somehow miscalculated the amount of time it would take to walk the .7 mile from the athletes’ village to the start, as I looked beyond the starting line and saw the tail end of the second wave of runners already underway.  I hurried to the starting line, knowing that I should not panic, because the chip timing would recognize when I actually began the race. 

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Although I was a bit flustered by my tardy start, it actually worked out well, as the mass of runners had already begun to disperse, and I did not have to worry so much about tripping as the race began. As I settled into a conservative pace, a huge grin came across my face. The Boston Marathon mystique began to unfold before my eyes in the form of people lining both sides of the street, cheering for the steady stream of runners – one of whom was me!  Yes, this really was happening!  Committed to enjoying every minute of every mile, I soaked in all of the sights, sounds and ambiance from the start. I began looking for landmarks and signs that I had seen only in pictures or on the internet, now that I was personally running the course for the first time. Because I had taken the Winter months off from running, I did not set any time goal for today, but mainly wanted to finish healthy, with a focus on just taking it all in, mile after mile. Having realized my goal of running the Boston Marathon, I planned to take a break from racing this year, to allow for other areas of focus.

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When I saw these missionaries showing their community support, cheering the runners on, I made it a point to high-five each one of them, thinking about my missionaries out in the field too! As the miles gradually ticked away through each of the small towns, such as Ashland, Framingham and Natick, I was impressed with the incredible spirit of volunteerism, service and support of people lining the entire route.  

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I could have literally given high fives the entire distance, if I had wanted! There were banners and signs of encouragement all along the way. I even saw a banner for the Big Cottonwood Marathon later this year in Utah! Aid stations were plentiful, with an official one at every mile, and many impromptu food and drink stands set up by families along the way – some with very interesting and creative offerings! As the race and day progressed, the roadside celebrations seemed to get more pronounced – front yard barbecues, picnics, family reunions, and some resembling frat house parties!
Nearly a mile before Wellesley I could hear the building roar of the “scream tunnel,” and before I knew it, I passed the halfway point at mile 13.1. Up to this point, I had maintained about an 8:15 minute per mile pace, knowing that I would need to conserve enough energy for the later miles, after my Winter running hiatus. The rolling hills seemed to bottom out near mile 16 as the course approaches the community of Newton.  After cresting the first hill at mile 16.5, I thought, “Is that it?” But my rhetorical question was soon answered with another hill at mile 17.5, another at 19, and the actual “Heartbreak Hill” just past mile 20. 

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Although I had run steeper hills with more elevation gain on training runs or in other races, my lapse in conditioning had become obvious.  Although I could now see the general downhill grade going into Boston, my legs had turned to Jell-O, and my pace slowed to a shuffle.  The crowds lining the course at Boston College gave me the push I needed to get running again, but the irresistible urge to walk soon seemed to consume me. Walking the last 4 miles just did not seem like an option, but I was physically spent. As I contemplated my situation, the thought came to me, “just run!” I laughed out loud, and said, “yeah, right!” – only to have the thought return, “just run.” I was too tired to argue, so, as painful as it was, I ran. Before long the groups of people lining the streets continued to grow, and the cheering seemed to intensify. 

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 I turned off my music, and felt the mojo and energy of the crowds somehow flow into me. It seemed to give me just enough strength to put one foot in front of the other, and just keep running toward the finish. A cool breeze from the Boston Harbor became apparent, as I saw the Citgo sign, and knew the final mile was not far away.  I wanted so badly to finish, but I didn’t want it to end!
Soon the course turned onto Boylston, and the finishing chute came into view.  

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 As I focused on crossing the finish line, the surreal scene was nothing and everything like I had imagined.  I was physically spent and emotionally drained, as a volunteer placed a finisher’s medal around my neck and congratulated me, and another wrapped a mylar blanket around me to help prevent hypothermia. 

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The reality of the moment suddenly collided with emotions of gratitude, joy and incredulity, and stopped me in my tracks, as the tears began to flow freely. Another finisher beside me seemed to be having a similar experience, so I congratulated her as we instinctively hugged. My Boston dream had been realized, reminding me, that if you want something bad enough, and if you are willing to put in the work, and IF it is God’s will, you can achieve it! Never Give Up!..

Sunday, January 13, 2013

If I can run a BQ Marathon Time - You can Too!!

...I began "running long" about 12 years ago at the age of 35, mostly as a form of therapy, stress release and a way to challenge myself.  I am not a naturally gifted runner, and generally finish in the middle of the pack, and quite a ways down in my division.  I never imagined that I would someday qualify to run in the Boston Marathon!

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*The purpose of this posting is neither to call attention to myself, nor to solicit accolades, but rather to journal my running experiences and what I have learned before I forget.  By doing so, hopefully I can learn from my mistakes and not repeat them, share what has worked for me, and help others reach their running goals.  I am by no means an expert, and the information I share is not gospel, but I am happy to share what I have learned training for and running injury-free for over 30 marathons.  I post this 'blog at the risk of allowing pride to sneak in, but I will seek to maintain humility by giving credit to God for helping me reach my running goals :-)  In this posting, I will first list the Training Principles and then list the Race Day Guidelines which helped me reach my goals, in spite of my lack of natural talent.  But first, a look back at my running roots...

Before I began this journey, the farthest I had run was a 10K.  I have always been very active in sports and a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities, but had never considered running longer distances as "fun." In 2000 I began running longer, gradually building up my miles until I decided that I wanted to run a half marathon - something I had never imagined possible.  In 2001, I realized this goal by running the Top of Utah Half Marathon!  I had so much fun, I set a new goal to run a full marathon, but I was too late to get into the Top of Utah full marathon that year.

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 So I found the Portland Marathon, which allowed last minute entry, and ran it later that year.  I survived that race, in spite of making many first-timer mistakes, including going out too fast and attempting to "bank minutes" early.

I was hooked on everything about "the marathon" distance - and running in general. I found so much fulfillment, spirituality, physical and mental challenge in running, as well as the camaraderie, adventure, race day excitement, community unity, spirit of volunteerism, sense of accomplishment, and many life lessons which I have learned through running!  As I logged mile after mile, and race after race, I gradually learned how to run and train smarter and my finishing times slowly improved. At some point I set the goal to run a time fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon - the world's oldest, modern annual marathon, originating in 1897... It seemed impossible at the time, as my fastest time up to that point was 14 minutes too slow, and I didn't see how I could possibly run more than a couple minutes faster.  I was not obsessed with the goal, and my "success" or satisfaction with running marathons was not based on reaching this lofty aspiration.  So, I kept it tucked away in the back of my mind, and just continued to enjoy each mile and race, regardless of a BQ or not!

As my conditioning improved over the years, I fine-tuned my running mechanics, talked to other runners, read books and 'blogs, learned how to properly eat and hydrate between and during runs, developed smarter race day strategies and tried to learn by experience along the way.  In 2011 it all began to come together, and my race times improved until I finished the Pocatello Marathon within 6 minutes and 24 seconds of a BQ. With St George later that year, I knew I had a chance! Then I found out that the qualifying times would change just days before the 2011 St George, requiring a time that was 5 minutes faster! I accepted that it would not happen, ran a great race, but still came up about 8 minutes short - which would have been within 3 minutes, had they not shortened the time standards!

After spending my Winter hiatus considering giving up on chasing the BQ dream, in the Spring of 2012 I laced up my shoes and went back at it, signing up for a number of marathons.  In September I held back during the Top of Utah marathon, knowing that my best chance for a fast time would be at St George.  The morning of October 6th, I did not feel particularly fast as I crossed the start line at St George, but little did I know that there would be some "race day magic!"

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I stuck to my race plan, applied all that I had learned over the years, and put myself in a position, with 2 miles to go, to be able to run a BQ time... What happened those final 2 miles is difficult to explain.. some may call it luck, guts, race day magic, or the x-factor - but I recognize and give credit to God.  On this day, He blessed me with the gift of enough strength to somehow cross the finish line with not only a Boston Qualifying time - but also a PR which had stood for over 10 years! *(Click Here for my full race-day 'blog account of this day.)

...Drawing from personal experience, what follows are the Training Principles that have helped me have an enjoyable, rewarding, injury-free ongoing running career.  After years of patience and persistence, these lessons learned allowed me to accomplish all of my running goals.  The following list may seem like small or trivial things, but if each one shaves one minute off of your overall marathon time, combined they could result in a 20 minute faster time!  For a novice runner such as myself, minutes, or even seconds could be the difference between running a BQ, or not.  Although many of you will progress much faster than me, there are no shortcuts, and no substitute for putting in the miles.  Even naturally gifted runners must put in the miles, train smart, and follow good training principles in order to reach their full potential.  These principles are followed by "Race day Guidelines" which I have learned from experience - some of which I had to learn the hard way.  If I can BQ - You can Too!

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 Marathon Training Principles: 

1.  Set realistic training goals:  for your first marathon, commit and sign up for a Fall race, then find a beginner training schedule, and train all summer with race day as your target.  Commitment can be scary, but is can also be liberating when you actually sign up and tell someone else your goal - whether it is to finish your first marathon, or to run one fast enough to Qualify for Boston.  If you can find a half marathon that fits into your training schedule when your long run is 12 or 14 miles, that will help you get used to "race day" excitement without getting off of your marathon training schedule.  

2.  Consistency is key in your training schedule: Unless you are a gifted, freak of nature you cannot just get up one day and run a marathon without training.  There are no shortcuts and no substitute for hard work.  You must put in the miles consistently over at least a four month period, or you will suffer beyond mile 18 on race day.  Many people have the desire to run a marathon, but few are willing to put in the miles for months to prepare. Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant said, "It's not the will to win that matters - everyone has that.  It's the will to prepare to win that matters."  Find a 16 week beginner schedule, such as one at marathonrookie.com, print it off, then follow it as well as your schedule and health will allow.  Vary your workouts, and utilize regular tempo runs to increase your lactate threshold and teach your body how to more efficiently use oxygen for metabolism.  The net result of tempo training is an increase in your speed over distance, and faster race times! As I am, obviously, not as young as I used to be, I make sure and schedule rest days between workouts, and never run hard two days back to back.. I follow a modified version of this, running only 3 days a week: Tuesday, Thursday and my weekly long run on Saturday.  The book, Run Less, Run Faster advocates three running workouts per week, supplemented by cross training.  

3.  Long Runs are important:  Your weekday runs can be more flexible, depending on your schedule and ability to recover.  Your weekly long run is more important, and should not be skipped if at all possible.  The formula I follow is to run a combined total of miles during the week equal to the scheduled long run mileage on Saturday. Most marathoners agree that any training program should include at least one, if not two long runs of 18-20 miles, usually 3-4 weeks before race day. When your long runs get beyond 9 or 10 miles, you must practice and learn how to hydrate and eat on the run.  Treat these long runs like race day to learn what works best for you regarding your night before routine, "pre-race" breakfast, clothing, hydrating and eating on the run.  If any one of these aspects do not work on your long training run, make changes until you figure out what does work, and then follow these on race day.  I generally try to run at my "goal race pace" on my long runs.  In other words, if my goal is to run a 3:30 marathon, my long run pace is 8:00 minutes per mile. (I will address this a bit more when talking about "pace.")

4.  Gradually build your miles: Do not increase your total weekly mileage or your weekly long run distance by more than 10% per week!! (Hear me now and believe me later!) Many people feel so good about their progress, that they violate this rule, and end up injured and frustrated.  Non-injury mileage build-up takes time and patience.  Most of my running acquaintances that I have seen struggle with injury, violated this "10% rule."  

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5.  Be flexible and listen to your body: Don't ignore pain which is more than expected soreness after workouts. Although consistency is important, staying healthy must be a priority if you want to make it to the starting line.  Rest and ice injured areas and cross-train as much as needed to solve the pain.  As your training progresses and miles increase, you must develop an increased tolerance for discomfort and soreness, but outright pain should not be ignored.  

6.  Eat to run - before, during and after:  Proper nutrition is important, as your body needs fuel to run, and the components to rebuild muscles and recover after workouts.  There are many different diets advocated in the running blogosphere.  I will not recommend any specific one, but tell you what generally works for me:  My diet focuses on carbohydrates before a run, and on lean proteins afterwards.  Eating protein within an hour after a training run helps me recover more quickly as my muscles rebuild.  I don't drink soda or any carbonated drinks.  I also avoid saturated less-healthy fats, but I do eat a reasonable amount of healthy fats, such as those in nuts and fish. I only eat red meat once or twice a month, but I do eat chicken and fish 3 or 4 times a week.  I also eat fresh fruits and vegetables regularly - especially bananas.  On long runs and on race day, you must also be able to consume calories on the run, or you will bonk.  Exactly how many calories per hour and in what form depends on many factors.  Use your long runs to determine what your body requires and to find out what works for you.  I have found that to maximize my potential on long runs or race day, I eat a light breakfast of yogurt, half of a bagel, cream cheese, half of a banana and some peanut butter an hour or more before starting time. Then I consume one Clif Gel every 4 miles, or about 2 per hour, along with half of a banana every 2 miles beyond the 20 mile mark. I have also used chia seeds or chia gel to help stabilize my blood sugar and maintain hydration.  *(Nutrition is a science, and I'm sure I could do much more to improve my eating and performance in this regard.)

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7.  Hydration: Proper hydration is critical to performance on long runs and race day.  The consequences of insufficient hydration will at a minimum be a decrease in pace and performance, and may also result in severe leg cramps, or even life threatening conditions.  The exact amount needed per hour will depend on each individual, but generally I try to alternate consuming a small water bottle and a similar amount of Powerade every 4 miles.  Water only is okay up to 10 miles, but beyond that electrolytes must be supplemented to help maintain the body's balance and prevent muscle cramps.  On training runs, I try to plan my route around reliable water stops, or I make advance water bottle drops on my planned route, or I will carry a water bottle.  On race day, I walk through every aid station (usually every 2-3 miles) and alternate drinking a cup of water and a cup of Powerade.  This must be done at every aid station, especially the early ones when you may not feel thirsty yet.  If you wait until you are thirsty, your performance is likely already suffering, and you cannot catch up in a short amount of time.  

8.  Rest and Sleep: Your rest days are as important, if not more important than running days - especially as your age increases.  At age 47, my body just does not recover as quickly as it used to.  This doesn't mean I still can't consistently improve, it just means I have to train smart.  For this reason I only run three days a week, allowing a rest day between each weekday run and two recovery days after each long run. Getting adequate sleep at night is also important.  This is the time when your body re-builds and recharges.  

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9.  Gotta be da shoes! Find a good pair of running shoes which fit your foot and running style, and stick with them.  A half size larger is a good idea, to allow for foot swelling on longer runs, and prevent toenail loss.  Expect to spend 60 to 100 dollars on a good pair of running shoes.  You may want to get your first pair at a specialty running store to find the right shoe.  Once you find the right shoe, find the same model on the internet for a lower price.  Keep a running logbook, tracking the miles for each new pair of shoes.  Most people will get about 600 miles out of a pair of shoes, and up to 800 if you are lighter on your feet.  I can tell I am due for a new pair when I feel a twinge of pain on the outside of one knee.  I check the miles and I am usually right near 750.  The shoes may still look fine, but the cushioning is worn down, and it is not worth risking injury to squeeze extra miles out of them.  I use my "expired" shoes for yard work or other projects.  Also, avoid trying new shoes or gimmicks in the middle of the season when you are running longer, as this is an invitation for injury.  If you are considering trying a different shoe style or model, wait until the off-season when your weekly mileage has significantly decreased.  

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 10.  Socks, shorts and shirt:  For years I ran with thin, wool ankle socks, but last year I tried out calf high compression socks. I found little benefit on my short or medium runs, but they do make a difference for me on long runs and race day. The compression socks increase circulation, and reportedly increase overall performance.  They also reduce leg cramping, and seem to speed recovery.  You can spend a good chunk of money on actual running compression socks or calf sleeves, but I just use the less expensive circulation stockings for reducing diabetes lower leg symptoms, found on the pharmacy aisle.  I recommend running with actual lightweight performance running shorts and tank or shirt.  Running with basketball shorts and a cotton t-shirt creates more resistance against your arms and legs, and forces you to carry more weight.  This may not seem like a big deal, but over 26.2 miles, maximizing efficiency can translate into savings of minutes!  

11.  Pace:  As you start your training schedule, you should run at a pace that does not elevate your heart rate to the point beyond which you can carry on a conversation.  Use this pace to build a solid mileage base.  At first don't worry about your exact pace, just find one which allows you run your entire scheduled distance.  A month or two into your schedule, you can begin monitoring your pace.  I like to calculate my route distance with an online program such as RunningAhead.com.  I determine my total elapsed run time with a wristwatch, then use an online pace calculator, such as coolrunnings.com, to calculate my overall pace.  On my weekly runs, I may run some at faster than race pace (speed work), some with intervals or fartlek training, and some at my marathon goal race pace (MP).  On long runs, some training programs advocate "Long Slow Distance" (LSD) runs at slower than race pace.  This may be good if training for your first marathon, but I was unable to decrease my total race times and even come close to a BQ time until I began running my long runs at my goal marathon race pace or MP, which for me was 8 minutes per mile.  

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  12.  Cadence, Form, Mechanics and Economy: Running a BQ is not just about running fast for 26.2 miles.  It is also about finding a cadence, stride and running style which your body can maintain for the duration, while at the same time reducing the chance for injury.  Developing a stride with a cadence of 85-90 foot strikes per minute per foot naturally encourages a shorter stride with a mid-foot strike while the front leg still has a slight bend at the knee, and quicker foot turnover.  The net result is reduced stress and impact on the lower body and improved pace, speed and race times.  Using good overall form, such as minimal side to side arm swing, relaxed hands and shoulders, slight forward lean, can all help contribute to maximizing overall running economy and efficiency.  Look for every opportunity to eliminate any wasted energy in your form and mechanics.  The book Chi Running has many ideas to help with this part of fine tuning your running technique and mechanics. Finding your optimal body weight will also maximize your efficiency.  Extra weight means extra work, but allowing your body fat percentage to drop too low will cause your performance to suffer on longer runs and race day.  When I began running marathons, I was a bit too scrawny (5'9" @138 lbs) - but when I finally qualified for Boston I had allowed my body weight to hover around 148 lbs, which seems to be my optimal running body weight.  

13.  Run to the beat:  At first I did not run with any music, as I enjoyed the time to think or meditate, listen to the rhythm of my feet below me, or just enjoy my surroundings. As I began fine-tuning my pace and cadence, I found music to help with my goals, with a beat similar to my goal race pace cadence, and loaded up my ipod shuffle.  Lately, it is mostly Foo Fighters, Chili Peppers and a few others.  This can be especially helpful on long runs and race day when pace can be critical to not going out too fast, and ultimately help reach my goal time.  

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14.  Hills are our Friends:  Make hill work part of your regular training regimen.  Plan routes which include both uphill and downhill, especially if your next race has significant climbs or descents.  Hill work adds challenge and variety to your training, and improves strength and conditioning for muscles which you may not use as much when training on the flats.  Regular hill work will also help prevent race day injury.  

15.  Cross Train: Using cross training to supplement your running can have many benefits, including injury prevention and improved overall fitness.  Upper body and core strength and conditioning will improve your running performance and overall times.  I have used activities such as swimming, cycling and hiking for cross training.  

16.  Follow your taper schedule the last 3 weeks before race day.  Hear me now and believe me later!  At this point, "the hay's in the barn" and "rest is best." RESIST the urge to run a little "extra."  

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17.  You can achieve what the mind believes:  This is not to say that that you don't have to train and prepare.  Keep a log book to track your miles and progress, and to remind you when doubt starts to creep in that you actually have done the work!  Once you have done your part to prepare, believe in yourself, if you are so inclined - turn it over to God,   visualize your success, then get out and make it happen!  Sometimes we set up our own mental barriers which can prevent us from reaching our goals.  Sometimes we keep a number of handy excuses at the ready, and allow ourselves to fail.  We must dare to believe, although there is a fine line between believing in yourself and overconfidence.

18.  Success is Not the absence of failure.. it is Persevering in spite of falling short of your goals! It is important to learn from each training run, and especially each race - even if you don't make your goal time and qualify for Boston.  I consider every marathon which I finished as a success.  In my opinion, the people who dare to dream - who dare to cross the starting line, are all champions. Thomas Edison, having "failed" over 6,000 times before finally inventing the light bulb said, "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to succeed, is always to try just one more time."  Babe Ruth, who struck out 1,330 times on his way to his record-setting 714 home runs said, "Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game."

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 19.  Run for a Reason:   Different people run for different reasons - find purpose and meaning in your running, dedicate your race to a cause, and it will inspire and motivate you to put in the training miles and hang in there on race day.  By doing so, you will likely help others along the way who may face similar challenges as you!  I have witnessed amazing people with staggering physical, mental and emotional challenges not only overcome their life struggles, but also finish a marathon.  If you find yourself lacking motivation to stick to your training schedule, watch an inspiring running movie, such as Chariots of Fire, St Ralph, Prefontaine, The Long Run, or another one of your own choosing.  Get out and volunteer at a marathon aid station, look into the eyes of participants and see that they come in all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities.  Search the internet for "inspirational marathon stories" and you will find a plethora of people with little or no running talent, who set a goal to run a marathon and then put in the miles to be able to realize that goal!

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20.  Run for Fun!! Although as your training progresses, you do have to start watching your pace and be dedicated, don't forget to enjoy the journey.  Some days run without a watch, just for the sake of running.  In my off season (December, January and February) I simply run for the sake of running, about once a week, as the weather allows, and I don't worry about pace time.  For me, running can be a great time to ponder various challenges and have a "running conversation" with God (pun intented :-)).  A nice run can be a great form of therapy - better than any shrink or counselor for getting my head on straight!  Running a marathon - or just running in general, can be a metaphor for life.  There are so many life lessons running can teach, if you just open your mind - such as "I can do Hard things,"  "Put one foot in front of the other," "One step at a time," etc.  Books can be written on lessons learned from running! Remember to take the time to enjoy each moment, to notice the beauty all around you, and appreciate the feel of your body moving as the ground passes under your feet!  Goals are important, but remember what LDS General Authority Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, "Sometimes in life we become so focused on the finish line, that we fail to find joy in the journey."
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Marathon Race Day Guidelines and Helps:
  1. Stay well-hydrated the day before race day, and get a good carbo-loading meal by 6 or 7 pm the night before.
  2. Avoid too much physical activity the day before the race, such as hiking, biking, swimming or excessive walking.  If you like to plan "marathon vacations," plan activities the day before the race which will not leave you tired.  Remember, your goal is to make it to the starting line rested, healthy and well-trained.
  3. Prepare and lay out your race day clothing the night before.  Put your bib number on your shirt and try it on to verify placement.  Prepare your race day breakfast and put it in a bag in the refrigerator, so you can roll out of bed, put on your running clothes, grab your breakfast, and catch an early bus.
  4. Set 2 alarms for race morning.  Buses usually start loading between 4 to 5 am.  After all you have done to prepare for this day, make sure you are not late!
  5. Get to bed at a decent hour - but don't worry if you don't sleep well due to pre-race jitters.  Try to get a full nights sleep the night before race day eve.  Your body will do okay even if it only gets a few hours the night before.
  6. Approach race day like any other long training run.  This helps me not get "psyched out" by the sheer magnitude of race day.  Follow the routine which you have developed, and don't try anything new on race day - such as shoes, clothing or foods.  Stick to what has proven effective on your long training runs.
  7. Wear enough warm-up clothing to the start line to stay warm at the estimated pre-race temperatures.  I wear light warm-up pants, a fleece jacket and a stocking cap, so that I can lay down, relax and not lose any energy shivering during the hour and a half before start time.  A closed-cell foam pad is great for a ground cushion during your pre-race meditation and visualization.  Extra warm-up clothing can be put in the drop bag 15 minutes before start time, and will be transported back to the finish line for retrieval after the race.  Use a marker the night before to put your bib number, name and phone number on your drop bag.
  8. Line up with the pace group matching your goal finish time. Don't crowd the start line, especially when the race provides chip timing for each runner.  I always set 3 goals for race day: my "best day" goal, which is my BQ time, a middle goal time if I find myself struggling with "the wall" or cramping, and an overall goal if "the wheels fall off" - which was simply to finish the race.  Regardless of my overall time, I always consider a race successful if I finish it without injury.
  9. Avoid the temptation to "bank time" early in the race.  This is a very common first-timer mistake.  Select a pace that is within your training, fitness level and abilities - which fits your overall race plan and will put you in a position to hit your BQ time.  Use common sense when evaluating the grade and course profile, but generally speaking, forcing yourself to run a reverse split to hit your race time goal is best. In other words, you want to run the last 13 miles faster than the first half.  It only took me 30 marathons before I learned this and was finally able to BQ, by running a 1:45 first half, and a 1:38:20 second half.
  10. Run your own race. Plan your race and race your plan.  Based on the course and elevation profile, determine your average pace for the first half, set your first half split goal, and your average pace needed for the second half.  If you have family or friends that you train with, decide before race day if you plan to run together the entire race or not.  If your goal is to run your fastest time and BQ, I would recommend not trying to run alongside someone else.  Each of you will have your own desired pace at different points throughout the race, which will likely not match the others.  The end result is lost efficiency, wasted energy and potential frustration.  Training runs, pre-race expos, start line preparations and finish line recovery areas are great opportunities for socialization and camaraderie.  But if you want to maximize your race day potential, you need to focus on the above listed principles during the race to squeeze every extra second and minute out of your race time.
  11. Walk through every aid station, and drink a cup of water and Powerade at each one if possible.  Before slowing to a walk, check over your shoulder to avoid impeding other runners, then I like to walk through the aid station behind the tables and help myself to the fluids as I quickly walk by.  Eat adequate calories regularly throughout the race, as you have learned from your long training runs. Walking through aid stations, hydrating early and regularly, and consuming adequate calories will all work in your favor to push "the wall" beyond the finish line, and allow you to finish strong.  If you wait until you are thirsty and hungry before hydrating and eating, you have waited too long, and your pace will suffer.  I have learned that I must get adequate fluids and food early in the race, because by mile 20 my stomach may not take any more.
  12. Stay Positive! This begins with your training, but is especially important the week before a race and on race day.  Once you put in the miles and make it to the starting line, you must add mental toughness to overcome thoughts of stopping or giving up in the later miles.  Replace any negative thoughts with positive, and smile often during the race, especially when you don't feel like it! George S. Patton, US Army General and 1912 Olympian said, "Now if you are going to win any battle, you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired."
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    Summary: I hope the above Training Principles and Race Day Guidelines help you not only reach your running goals injury-free, but also learn to enjoy every mile you run!  Although some training runs and races are not easy, the rewards can be incredible - not only physical, but also emotional and spiritual.  The above principles and suggestions are just my opinion, and are not all-inclusive - but my experience has shown that they work for me.  They can help you reach the goal of simply running your first marathon - or if that doesn't cure you - help you set your sights even higher and qualify for Boston! You can Do it, if you set your mind to it - and are willing to put in the miles!

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     *An extra Big Thanks to Keri, Josh, Tanner and Landon for your support and tolerating my running madness! I also give all credit to God, and give thanks to Him for the desire and ability to run!
    *If I can do anything to help you reach your running goals, please feel free to post a comment and I will contact you.  (All comments will be reviewed before they are actually posted to prevent any SpamSpamSpam.)