Running in the Land of Oz

Surrender Runners

A week late but here is my post-race report from my trip to Olathe, Kansas for the Garmin Wickedly Fast Half Marathon.  I had heard about the race from Team Wil-Sun.  A race in Kansas called “Wickedly Fast” and with a Wizard of Oz theme just sounds like fun. IMG_1607

I got to Olathe a couple days before the race so I had time to drive around and more importantly learn how to pronounce Olathe (oh-LAY-thuh), which is a Shawnee Indian word for “beautiful.”  Nothing says “visitor” more than butchering the local town’s name.


My Forerunner 220

My Forerunner 220 comes back home to Garmin

I cruised by the Garmin headquarters where my running watch, a Forerunner 220, was born.  It must be a good watch – the woman who won the Boston Marathon was wearing the same model.  The race started and ended at the Garmin headquarters.

I woke up race morning and caught myself humming “Over the Rainbow” in the shower.  I never sing or even hum in the shower but I was getting into the mood for a race through Oz.   Even the weather was getting in the mood.  It was cloudy with high winds and thunderstorms expected later in the morning. I was going to need to run fast to avoid the bad weather.

Ruby red running shoes

Ruby red running shoes

Although I don’t wear costumes for races, there were plenty of people who did.  There were lots of women (and even a man) dressed as Dorothy – complete with ruby red running shoes.  It was fun to see groups of runners in costumes – each dressed as a different character – Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch (complete with green face paint).  IMG_1661I even saw someone dressed as the yellow brick road – wearing a cape with gold bricks (sorry no photo of that, I only caught the back of her as she headed into a port-a-potty).  What I don’t understand is why no one dresses up as Auntie Em.  She was an important character in the story too.  But I have to admit, if you don’t dress right for that, you could be mistaken for Anthony Perkins dressed as his mother in “Psycho.”



There were several pace groups at the start for both the full and half marathon races.  I have never seen the pace group leaders all bunched up like they were.  It would be a real shock to think you were with the 2:40 half marathon pace group when it was really the 2:40 marathon pace group.

There wasn’t much in the way of course entertainment but that didn’t really bother me.  Garmin had lots of funny signs along the course that kept me amused.  I found myself stopping to take pictures of them to share with you.  As a result, my time suffered.  I probably could have finished 10-15 minutes sooner if I had just focused on running. IMG_1674


Typically in a race, I will pick another runner out of the crowd and gauge how I am doing relative to them.  A guy dressed as a scarecrow passed me early in the race.  I figured that I would never see him again.  Much to my surprise, I caught up to him around Mile 10.  It had been raining for a while and the rumbles of thunder had started.  He was a pretty soggy scarecrow by then.  I was able to keep him in my sights and then passed him around Mile 12.  I was satisfied that I wasn’t going to get beat by a scarecrow.

But this scarecrow wasn’t a push over.  I was surprised when I looked over my shoulder in the last 0.1 mile to see the scarecrow gaining on me.  When he came up along side me, I yelled “I’m not getting beat by a scarecrow!” and then tried to pick up my pace.  Unfortunately, the scarecrow heard me; he had more kick left than I did.  The announcer at the finish line saw what was happening between me and the scarecrow and commented on the obvious battle for the finish.  In the last 10 yards, he blew by me and crossed the finish line.  We were both laughing over our competition at the end.  The scarecrow gave me a high five and told me that I kicked too early or I would have beaten him.  No matter.  It was a fun way to end the race.

The Half Marathon medal and shirt

The Half Marathon medal and shirt

Between the costumed runners and the weather, it was a pretty authentic Oz experience.  The only things that I think they could do to make it better would be if Garmin projected something on their building to make it look like the Emerald City and had a hot air balloon outside.  I wouldn’t mind running that race again just to see how fast I could go.IMG_1683

There are many versions of  “Over the Rainbow” but my favorites are the ones by Eva Cassidy and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, a famous Hawaiian singer also known as Iz.  In case you have never heard Iz’s version, watch this video.  Iz died at age 38 and at the end of the video are scenes from his traditional Hawaiian funeral.

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

To achieve your true potential you must first find your own limits then have the courage to go beyond them. #beyondlimitsknown BLK 

I originally planned to give you a post-race report from my trip to Olathe, Kansas for the Garmin Wickedly Fast Half Marathon.  Monday was the Boston Marathon and as I watched the pre-race coverage, I knew that this week’s blog was going to be about the race.  I promise to tell you about the Garmin race next time.  It was a funatical runner kind of race and I have lots of photos to prove it.

The Boston Marathon is one of the six major world marathons.  The others are London, Berlin, Chicago, New York and Tokyo.  But the Boston Marathon is special – it is the world’s oldest annual marathon, definitely the most well-known, and arguably the most prestigious.  They invite the top marathoners in the world – also known as elite runners – to compete in the race.  This year there were 33 invited runners (20 men and 13 women).  Everyone else has to qualify to enter the race – meaning that you have to run a really fast marathon someplace else.

After the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon, several of my friends contacted me to make sure I wasn’t running in Boston that day.  I was touched that they were concerned about me and flattered that they thought I would be there.  My best marathon time is an hour over what I would need to qualify.  If I am running when I am 80, I still won’t run a qualifying time for Boston.  That race is really for the best marathoners around.

As I sat on the couch watching the athletes line up for the start, I realized that the Boston Marathon is all about dreams – the dreams of the elite runners, the wheelchair competitors, and the weekend runners.  All of them came to that start line to test their limits and see if they had the ability to go beyond them to run the hills and against the headwinds to make it to the finish line.  The way the race unfolded showed how true that was.

The first to start were the wheelchair competitors.  It had been raining and I feared that the wet roads would cause them to wipe out.  Later in the race they showed several wheelchair competitors struggling up one of the hills, against the winds.  I could only imagine how the muscles in their arms were burning.  I was in awe of their strength and determination.

Marcel Hug won the men’s wheelchair division, defeating the 10-time champion Ernst van Dyk.  Marcel has a dream of being “respected as an athlete instead of being admired as a person with an impairment.”  I respect Marcel as an athlete.  I hope he feels he has achieved his dream.

Tatiana McFadden won the women’s wheelchair division, her third time winning the Boston Marathon.  Like Marcel, Tatiana was born with spina bifida.  And like Marcel, she is an athlete although she is in a wheelchair.  I love this quote from an interview Tatiana did with CNN back in 2014:

“Don’t put limits on your dreams. If you want it bad enough, you must try, and if you miss the first time, you must try again. Don’t let others tell you that your dreams are too big — or you ambitions impractical. We all must learn to listen to that drive that is within us. If we all listen carefully to that drive within, there are no limits to what we can achieve in life.”

Tatiana is living her dream.  She won the wheelchair division in Boston, London, Chicago, and New York in 2013 and again in 2014.  Tatiana is the first person—able-bodied or otherwise—to win four major marathons in one year – the Grand Slam for marathon runners – and she has done it twice.

When the women elite runners came to the start line, I saw Shalane Flanagan and Desiree Linden (known in the running community simply as Desi), two American runners who both came to win.  In 2014 Shalane had a dream of winning the Boston Marathon – her hometown race – to help her beloved city heal from the 2013 bombings.  She led the pack for 19 miles, forcing the other runners to go fast.  Despite her determination to win, she ended up finishing 7th with a personal record of 2:22:02, making her the third fastest female American marathoner ever (behind Deena Kastor and Joan Benoit Samuelson).  It really hurt when she learned that the women’s 2014 Boston winner tested positive in an out-of-competition drug test in September 2014 and is facing disqualification.

On Monday I was cheering for both Shalane and Desi.  The sports announcers were cheering for them too.  Shalane had stayed with the pack until the middle of those Newton hills.  I remember running those hills last June during the Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon.  In a headwind, those hills would take their toll.  As the lead pack sped up, I was sad to see Shalane drift back.  She finished in 9th place, less than 3 minutes behind the winner.

I remember Desi leading the pack at various points in the race and then falling back.  Just when I thought she was out of it, Desi would work her way back to the front.  I was screaming at the television “Come on, Desi!”  Maybe this was part of her race strategy – tucking in behind the other runners so she didn’t have to fight the wind.  After Mile 22, Desi fell back and the lead women pulled away.  Desi finished in 4th place, less than a minute behind the winner.  In a post-race interview, Desi said, “To do well here, you have to be in for a long day of pain and that’s why I think I do well here. I’ll certainly keep coming back and giving it a shot.”  She still has that dream of winning.  I hope she makes it.

Meb Keflezighi was among the elite men.  One month away from his 40th birthday and here he was defending his memorable win in the 2014 race.  Who hasn’t seen the photos of him crossing the finish line last year?  It meant so much to have an American win the race the year after the bombings.  Meb also had a dream – a dream of repeating that moment.  I love Meb (if you recall, I even wrote an entire blog post about him).  So yes, I was cheering for him.

The elite men started almost 30 minutes after the elite women.  The conditions were just as challenging for the men.  The pack stayed together and I could see Meb tucked behind the other runners – still in striking distance.  But at Mile 21 he couldn’t hang on any longer.  The leaders pulled away without him.  I later learned that he had to stop and throw up 5 times in the last 3 miles of the course.  As he ran towards the finish, I couldn’t help but cheer (and shed a tear too).  He might not have won but you could tell that every one of those spectators along the course didn’t care – they were cheering Meb too.  He won everyone’s hearts.

Then Meb did something that I will never forget.  As he approached the finish line, he saw one of the elite women runners, Hilary Dionne from the US, ahead of him.  Hilary said later she was just trying to finish the race when she heard the announcer say that last year’s winner [Meb] was coming.  Meb sprinted hard to catch her.  When he reached her, he grabbed her hand and they crossed the finish line together, arms raised.  Meb said it was fun to do that.  If I was Hilary, that would have been better than winning the race – running across the finish line, holding Meb’s hand, raised in victory.  They hugged after they finished – Meb in 8th place and Hilary in 15th.

Then there is Rebekah Gregory, one of the Boston Marathon bombing survivors.  They tried to save her leg but after 18 surgeries, she made the decision that to move forward, she would have to leave her leg behind.  In November of last year, they amputated her damaged leg.  On Monday, Rebekah who had only been wearing a prosthetic for 3 months ran the last 3.5 miles of the race course.  Rebecca’s dream is to run the full 26.2 miles next year.  I have no doubt that she will do it.

I know I will never qualify to toe the start line of the Boston Marathon.  But I will happily cheer on everyone who does – the elites, the weekend runners, and the wheelchair athletes.  Their determination to achieve their dreams inspires me to be the best I can be.

Where Are They Now?

The other day I started wondering about some of the people I have written about in my blog posts.  I decided to find out what they had done since I wrote about them.  It was interesting to learn who was still swimming, running, cycling or whatever.  I continue to find their stories interesting and inspiring.  (In case you forgot the details or missed the original posts, I provided links back to them.)

Lewis Gordon Pugh was the focus of a post back in August (Ultimate Ice Water Challenge).  Lewis is famous for swimming in freezing water in places like the North Pole.  In 2014 Lewis became the first person to complete a long distance swim in the 7 seas – Mediterranean, Adriatic, Aegean, Black, Red, Arabian, and North Sea.  During his swims, he saw no sharks, no whales, no dolphins, and no fish longer than 11 inches, a testament to declining marine life.  Lewis hopes his swim motivates the countries bordering these waters to create more marine protected areas.  For everything he has done to bring attention to the health of the world’s seas, National Geographic named him one of its 2015 Adventurers of the Year.

I wrote about William Trubridge back in October (Week 7 of Recovery).  William is still free diving at Dean’s Blue Hole.  In December 2014 he went to break his own record and, despite diving 102 meters on a single breath and without fins, his dive wasn’t officially recognized.  William forgot to remove his goggles on arriving on the surface – disappointing I am sure.  Besides free diving, William has taken up the fight against seaborne plastic, which is having a devastating effect on all kinds of sea life.  Even coral is consuming micro plastic with fatal results.  William has kicked off the #PlasticChallenge to raise awareness and get people involved to save our oceans.

Reza Baluchi appeared in a post about his failed attempt to run from the US to Bermuda in a big bubble (October’s Bubble Running).  His bubble bit the dust when it was being towed back to the US.  Undeterred, Reza is working and saving money to build the next generation of his running bubble.  You have to admire someone with as much determination as Reza.  I just hope the next time he attempts this feat that he has a support boat following him.

Sadly Steve Abraham (January’s 365 Days of Commitment) was only able to bike 3 months, just shy of 17,000 miles in his attempt to break the record for biking over 75,000 miles in one year, one of the longest standing records in any sport.  Steve was cycling 100-200 miles a day when he collided with a moped and broke two bones in his ankle.  He is working on rigging a recumbent trike so he can pedal with one leg.   From someone who crashed and burned while running, my advice to Steve is to sit back and heal.  The record will still be there when he is back to full strength.

Meanwhile, Kurt Searvogel, an American who started his own attempt 10 days after Steve, is still going.  Kurt has covered over 19,000 miles and is averaging over 200 miles a day.  Looking over his progress, I think Kurt is a serious contender to not just break the record but shatter it.

I haven’t heard any more stories about races being disrupted by trains in the middle of the course (October’s Trains and Volcanos).   The volcano part of that post was about the Mt Cameroon Race of Hope.  This year Yvonne Ngwaya won the race.  She has won the race six times – five times consecutively –  and is getting closer to breaking Sarah Etonge’s record of seven wins.  Sarah, known as the Queen of the Mountain, is a local hero in Buea where the race is held.  It will be a sad day when her record is broken.

I have written a couple posts about people who run a lot – as in every day – called streakers.  Take Hal Gensler (July’s Going the Distance).  Back in July he had run 9,000 consecutive days.  Well, now Hal is up to 9,260 days (or 25.35 years).  In January (365 Days of Commitment) I wrote about Robert Kraft who has run over 14,711 days in a row (or 40.28 years).  Robert is still running too.  But neither of them holds the record for the longest streak, according to the US Running Streak Association.  That honor goes to Jon Sutherland with a running streak of 16,759 days (45.88 years).

Kayla Montgomery (November’s Gratitude for the Gift of Movement) finished her first collegiate cross country season last fall as a freshman at Lipscomb University.  Kayla who has MS must still have someone at the finish line to catch her.  She inspires her teammates who realize that Kayla isn’t guaranteed anything, especially the ability to move.  It was an adjustment for her to go from high school competition to NCAA D1 level competition.  But Kayla loves to run and she is going to keep on running.  Take THAT MS!

Holland Reynolds (March’s Pain and Inspiration) is a sophomore now at Colgate.  Holland is doing well both academically and running (outdoor and indoor track).  She has earned a few career bests at Colgate.  Coach Jim’s influence was undeniable when she was in high school.  I bet every time she toes up to the start line, Coach Jim is on Holland’s mind (and I think that Coach Jim is watching her from above too).

In my first post back in June (Observing National Running Day) I wrote about Harriette Thompson who had completed her 15th Rock ’n’ Roll San Diego Marathon and set the US record for the fastest marathon in the Women’s 90-94 category.  Harriet is still running.  In the last year, she has completed some shorter distance races – 5k, 8k, and 4 Mile.  I am interested to see if she will run her 16th San Diego Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon next month.

I also wrote about Reinhardt Harrison in that first post.  Reinhardt is 11-years old now and still tearing up race courses.  The two events where he seems to perform the best are the 5k (where his PR is 19:01) and the half marathon (with a PR of 1:31:33).  His claim to the world record for 10-year olds in the half marathon was rejected (because the original race course was altered after it was certified).  I don’t think it would have lasted long though.  That is one very competitive age for half marathoners.  Who knew?  On March 7, 2015, Jack Butler, a 5th grader who trains with his Boston Qualifier mom, broke the half-marathon record for 10-year olds with a blazing 1:31:08 in the Lucky Run in Davis, California.  Jack didn’t get much time to savor his achievement because two weeks later, Elliot Daniels broke Jack’s record by almost 2 minutes running the Oakland (California) Running Festival in 1:29:14.  Afterwards Elliot said, “It was pretty hard at the end.  I got pretty tired.  But I did it.  I’m happy.”  Funny.  That is how I feel after my races.

While reading about all these 10-year old half marathon phenomenons, I found stories about other young runners (boys and girls, some as young as 6) setting world records in 5k, 10k, 10 Mile, and half marathon distances.  It almost took my breath away.  Hey, US Olympic Team – we got some real contenders on the horizon!

I plan to keep following these people – Kurt and his quest for a cycling record, Reinhardt, Kayla, Holland, Jack, Elliot, and the streakers.  They remind me of what I can do when I put my mind to it.

Interested in the fight against seaborne plastic?  William Trubridge has a contest to see how committed and creative people can get in the fight against seaborne plastic.  See how you can get involved and maybe even win a prize at  #PlasticChallenge 

50 States or Bust

A couple years ago I decided to run a marathon or half marathon in every state.  I was inspired by a couple I met on the Great Alaskan Running Cruise.  They have a blog – Team Wil-Sun – about their running adventures.  They ran 40 half marathons the year Will turned 40.  This year their goal is to run 15 half marathons (“15 in ’15”) while continuing to work on their 50 State Half Marathon Challenge.  It is hard not to want to jump off the couch and lace up my running shoes after reading about the fun things they do.  Many of the races on my “To Run” list have come from their blog.

With Team Wil-Sun in mind, I joined the 50 State Half Marathon Club. I started mapping out all the races I would run.  I set a goal of doing all 50 states within the next 4 years.  Given that I had already completed about 11 states, it seemed doable.  But the planning alone was making me tired.  It was too much like work and it wasn’t fun anymore.  So I dropped the idea until this year when I decided to resume my own 50 State challenge.

This past weekend my husband and I traveled to Springfield, Illinois for the Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon.  He had wanted to visit Springfield for some time and having a race I could run made the trip a win-win for everyone.  He came prepared this time – he remembered to pack a cow bell.

The day before the race we spent seeing all the Lincoln sights- his house, his law office, his tomb, and the Lincoln Museum (extremely well done – I highly recommend visiting this museum).  We even had time to stop in the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Museum (which has a piece of the flag that hung in Ford’s Theater where Lincoln was shot, torn by John Wilkes Booth’s spur as he jumped out of the President’s box).

This was my first race where I was able to meet other 50 State Half Marathon club members.  Members had come from all over the US for the race – Missouri, Illinois, Florida, Georgia, and Virginia to name a few.  Mary, one of the members who lives in Springfield, organized a pre-race pasta dinner.  There were about 18 people at the dinner.  She had a gift for each of us from her local running club as well as a small raffle.  I appreciated her thoughtfulness and hospitality.

Over dinner there was lively discussion about races – ones we have done, ones we have coming up, and ones we would like to run.  Our shared enjoyment of running created an instant camaraderie.  I made notes on my iPhone of all the race recommendations that I got.  At the end of the dinner, we made plans to meet up in the morning for a pre-race picture.

Race day morning was in the upper 20s but not as windy as the weather report predicted.  Some of the 50 State club members were wearing their club shirts.  (The shirts are an informal way to keep track of the states you complete – you color them in as you go.)  We met on the steps of the Old State Capitol for the group photo before heading off to the start line.

My 50 State Half Marathon Club shirt

My 50 State Half Marathon Club shirt

It was a small race – only 1707 runners.  My husband commented that the smaller field made it easier for him to see me on the course.  It is difficult to find me when there are 30,000 runners – many wearing white hats like mine.  What I found interesting was the split between women and men – 977 women and 730 men finished the race.  It looks like women are taking over the race course!

I was in serious race mode for some reason so I missed a lot of photo opportunities – like the finisher’s photo with the Abe Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln impersonators, and the guy who was wearing a giant penny costume.  My husband said there was a car covered in corks near the start line too.  I later found out that the car is an art car owned by the Springfield Arts Association.  They took a donated Ford Taurus and glued corks and bottle caps to it.   They drive it around town and take it to local events to promote the arts association.  I was disappointed that I missed it.


The race medal and shirt that showed the race course with all the Lincoln sights

It was a fun weekend.  I got to see everything Lincoln that I think I could ever see.  I earned a big honking penny medal for completing the race.  And I got to meet some fellow 50 State Half Marathon Club members.  They were an interesting and fun bunch.  I hope to see some of them at some of my upcoming races.  It is much more enjoyable to share dinner and running experiences with others than to sit alone in a hotel room watching television.

I don’t know if I will ever run a marathon or half marathon in all 50 states.  (I think I am the only person in the world who is not that interested in going to Hawaii – even to run a half marathon.)  But I know there is a terrific group of people out there to join me if I do.

Interested in the 50 State Half Marathon Club?  There are no minimum requirements to join.  You don’t even need to have run a half marathon (or as I put it, just purely aspirational to run half marathons in all 50 states).  The race calendar is available for everyone (members and non-members) but only members can take advantage of discounts on race entry fees and running gear.   Members meet up for informal dinners like the one I enjoyed in Springfield or participate in the annual club dinner meeting and awards ceremony (always in conjunction with a race).  As you meet other members and make new friends, you can find people to share rooms and rides to races.  If you decide to join, tell them the Funatical Runner referred you!