The New York City Marathon Will Move You

Earlier this month I ran the 2017 New York City Marathon and I have been struggling to write about it.   It has been difficult because so many different emotions are swirling around inside me.  I started out wanting to write about what a world-class event it was.  I have never heard people refer to a race as being “world-class”.  When people use this term, they mean that whatever they are referring to is the best of the best.  The race organizers, the New York Road Runners (NYRR), have thought of everything when it comes to planning the race to ensure the runners have the best experience, all the way down to therapy dogs in the runners villages while we waited for each wave’s start.  Never saw that before.

Over the weekend there were a number of opportunities to meet and greet the elite runners, ones that I have watched and admired for years.  I saw Bill Rodgers, Paula Radcliffe, and Ryan Hall on one panel.  Afterwards I had an opportunity to talk to Bill.  He chatted with me as if we were long-lost friends catching up on things.  I listened to Joan Benoit Samuelson telling an audience of runners what to expect on each mile of the course.  She pointed out different spots where it could be windy.  She gave tips on how to handle the bridges, which are the real hills in the race. When I was running through Brooklyn, I remembered what Joan said about the winds and how to deal with them.  Because of her tips, I remained focused as I ran.  I can’t think of any other sport where professionals make this kind of connection with amateurs.

With over 51,000 runners from 139 countries, it was like a runners version of the United Nations.  There were flags from all the represented countries lining the course near the finish line.  I rode the bus to the start on Staten Island with a group of runners from South Africa.  As we waited in the cold and wind in the runners village, I shared space blankets and running stories with runners from California, France, and Switzerland.  The camaraderie I experienced was special.  We were all one big group of cold runners waiting to head to Central Park.  Everyone was happy.

The race director, Peter Ciaccia, understands the commitment people make to train for a marathon.  He wants to ensure that every finisher, whether they are the first ones or the last, is cheered at the finish line.  Peter has a tradition of being there for the final finishers, even if it takes them over 8 hours to finish.  I have never heard of a race director of any race doing that.  He was even joined by some of the elite runners.  I want to go back and be one of the people cheering for those final finishers.

When I couldn’t get too far with the “world-class” idea, I started thinking about November and how it is the month of giving thanks.  There were so many times over marathon weekend when I was thanking someone.  This race required a lot of volunteers – 12,000 volunteers who worked the Expo, stood for hours on their feet at water stops along the course in the cold rain, or guided exhausted runners at the finish.  There were the hundreds of police and military personnel who protected the runners from the runners village all the way to Central Park.  Without them and the volunteers, there would be no marathon. I thanked them all as I ran by.

As a member of the MEB Foundation team, I thanked Meb Keflezighi for inspiring us by his incredible marathon performances, especially the win we all will remember – the 2014 Boston Marathon.  I also thanked him for showing us how someone can overcome adversity and achieve greatness.  I think I was the only person who called him “Sir” instead of Meb.  But to me, he is running royalty and informally calling him by his first name didn’t seem to convey the respect I have for him.

There was Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially enter and complete the Boston Marathon, who was one of the speakers at a pre-race dinner I attended.  Following her speech, I had an opportunity to meet Kathrine and thank her for making it possible for me to run a marathon.  Without her there would never have been a funatical runner.

But I still wasn’t happy with the direction my blog post was going.  Then I received a gift that pulled it all together for me.  It is a bracelet engraved with the saying “prove them wrong.”   Those three words define the accomplishments of so many of my running heroes.   In 2014 no one expected Meb to be a contender for a podium finish in Boston.  But he proved them wrong – he won the race.

In 1967 no one believed that a woman could run a marathon.  Women were too fragile; people actually thought women’s uteruses would fall out.  Then a brave woman, Kathrine Switzer, entered the Boston Marathon and finished it (not without controversy).  Kathrine proved them wrong.  In doing so, she started a discussion that ultimately led to athletic organizations across the world to allow women to participate in running events longer than 800 meters.

In 1984 the world watched the first women’s marathon in the Summer Olympics.  A young woman runner from the United States passed up the first water stop on what was a hot Los Angeles day.  I remember the commentators saying what a mistake it was.  The other runners had all taken their hydration.  Not Joan Benoit Samuelson.  She kept going and ended up pulling away from everyone.  Joan won the gold medal.  She proved them wrong.  She knew how to win.

There is Shalane Flanagan.  She had to withdraw from the Boston Marathon in April due to a fracture in her lower back.  Coming into the race, Shalane said she was thinking about retirement.  I understand.  Training for marathons takes a lot of time – time you can spend with your family doing other things.  Mary Keitany, a three-time New York City Marathon winner, was the favorite to win.  But anything can happen on race day.  Just like April 21, 2014 was Meb’s day, November 5, 2017 was Shalane’s day.  Shalane proved them wrong.  She proved she had what it took to win the race.

Finally, there is Justine Galloway.  Justine was running for Team Fox, Michael Fox’s foundation, and fundraising for Parkinson’s disease research.  Justine isn’t a normal runner.  She has a neurological disorder called runner’s dystonia.  The only way Justine can run is to run backwards.  With the help of a guide, Justine completed the New York City Marathon.  I am sure there were people who didn’t think she could do it.  But Justine proved them wrong.

They say the New York City Marathon will move you.  I went to New York expecting just to run another 26.2 miles through another big city.  I didn’t think there would be anything special about it.  But they proved me wrong.  I came home with more memories than I ever expected to have.  It moved me in ways I never thought possible.  It is a very special race that every marathoner should run at least once.

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Chicago – My Kind of Marathon

People have told me the Chicago Marathon was their favorite race. Other people have told me how much they hated that race. I ran the Chicago Marathon a couple of weeks ago so I now have formed my own opinion about the race. Of the big city races I have run, the Chicago Marathon is one of the best.  To put it another way – the Chicago Marathon is my kind of marathon.

First off, the location is perfect. Chicago is centrally located so it is an easy trip from the East Coast or the West Coast. Chicago is a great place to visit too. There are many excellent restaurants, plenty of shopping, and interesting museums. I didn’t want to walk around much before the race so I enjoyed the architecture boat tour on the Chicago River – a fabulous way to get a unique view of the stunning buildings that make up the Chicago skyline.

Yep, it was fun back in the L corral

With such easy access for everyone across the country as well as around the world (from over 100 countries), the Chicago Marathon is a big race. About 45,000 runners participated in this, the 40th anniversary of the race. At the start, runners were divided into three waves with multiple corrals in each. They staggered the wave starts so there were about 30 minutes between each wave. I was in the last corral in the last group – the L corral. Doesn’t get worse than that but I have to admit – it was fun back there.

Don’t see this kind of booth before a race too often

Since Chicago is located on the shores of Lake Michigan, I thought it would be at sea level. Surprisingly to me, the elevation in Chicago is about 600 feet – higher than New York, which is only 33 feet. The marathon course itself is pretty flat too – not many hills in Illinois. The course is a big loop through all the different neighborhoods of the city. The race is a great way to see Chicago’s rich ethnic diversity.

This was her first marathon

The race started in Grant Park behind the Art Institute on South Michigan Avenue and headed north to Lincoln Park, past the zoo. There were plenty of spectators holding interesting signs and cheering along the way. We ran past a senior citizen assisted-living center where the windows were plastered with motivational signs for the runners. Some of the residents sat by the windows waving at us while others sat in wheelchairs along the road, clapping and waving flags.

And this runner’s last marathon

In Lincoln Park I ran past a car on the side of the road with the windows rolled down. Its radio was tuned to race coverage. I could hear them interviewing the men’s marathon winner. He had finished and I was still at Mile 6. That was the most discouraging moment of the race for me – the winner had finished and I still had 20 more miles to go.

Just north of the park we turned back and started heading south towards the central part of the city. As we ran, we passed beautiful brownstone townhouses and many cheering spectators. It was definitely a lively crowd. This was also the section where I did my first (and, I hope, my last) face plant in the middle of a race. Fortunately, I was up and running with no significant physical injury (though my ego took a big hit).

When we got back to the center of Chicago, we made a right and headed west. This part of the race was very enjoyable. We ran through Greek Town and Little Italy. At one point, I smelled pizza baking. I was tempted to make a detour to find the source of that mouth-watering smell. I doubt I could have run another 13 miles after eating pizza but I made a note to look for Chicago-style pizza after the race.

Charity Block Party

The best part of the race was at Mile 14 where the Charity Block Party was set up. I was stunned by the number of charities represented. There were EZ-Up tents, side-by-side, one after another, lining both sides of the road, representing charities whose runners were fundraising for them. I have run more races than I care to admit but I have never seen anything like the Charity Block Party. It was amazing to see tents for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, American Brain Tumor Association, Best Buddies, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Alzheimer’s Association, and The Organization for Autism Research (OAR) to name just a few. Each was manned by enthusiastic cheering volunteers. I was so overwhelmed by the sight of all these groups that I stopped just to look at them all. It is incredible how galvanizing a cause can be for people and in such a positive way.

The next part of the course took us through Pilsen, Chicago’s second largest Hispanic neighborhood. There were many mariachi bands and dancers along the course in Pilsen. It was the liveliest and friendliest part of the whole course and my favorite.

The last 6.2 miles of the course were the toughest. We turned onto Wentworth Avenue and ran through the huge red gate that welcomed us into Chicago’s Chinatown. There were plenty of cheering spectators here but once we left Chinatown, things were less exciting. This is typically the point where runners will hit the proverbial wall in a race – where there aren’t so many cheering spectators or interesting things to see. The only thing that kept me going was the realization that each step was getting me closer to the finish.

As I ran up South Michigan Avenue towards Grant Park and the finish, I could tell when I was getting close to the finish by the noise and the crowds.  The crowds got thicker and the noise got louder as I approached the first of two final turns on the course. I was not prepared for the little hill we had to run up after the first turn. I shouldn’t complain – I run longer and steeper hills on my training runs at home.  After the final turn, the finish line was straight ahead. I could hear the announcers reading everyone’s name as they crossed the finish line. Joan Benoit Samuelson was one of the announcers and I was hoping to hear her read my name. Honestly, when I finished, I only had one thing on my mind and that was getting my checked bag and taking a rest. If she said my name, I sure didn’t hear it.

I can see why people like this race so much – cheering crowds, beautiful buildings, unique neighborhoods, each with its own character and feel. I am a Chicago Marathon fan now too. I’d like to run that one again (without falling though). I didn’t get my post-race pizza so that would be a reason to go back. The Chicago Marathon should be on every marathoner’s to-run list.

This is my second post about the Chicago Marathon.  Check out my first post about my race – Chicago – How Bad Did I Want It.

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Chicago – How Bad Did I Want It

I just came back from running the Chicago Marathon, one of the 6 World Marathon Majors.  I know you want to read about the race itself but you have to wait until my next post  for that.  I first need to write about my race.

Last week before I traveled to Chicago, I picked up “How Bad Do You Want It?” by Matt Fitzgerald.   The book is about mastering your mental game in order to reach your fullest potential.   In the first chapter of the book, Matt wrote about Sammy Wanjiru, a Kenyan marathoner who won the 2009 Chicago Marathon.  Sammy returned the following year to defend his title.  He admitted at the press conference the day before the race he was only 75% prepared.  2010 had been a difficult year for him.  Sammy had suffered injuries to his knee and his back, and contracted a stomach virus that interrupted his Chicago training.  On race day, Sammy was up against tough competition on a warm day.  He went out too fast.  The last three miles were a battle of wills between Sammy and his rival who was in the lead.  When everyone else had written Sammy off, he dug down deep to keep going.  Sammy came from behind to beat his rival by 19 seconds and win the race.  Where logic might have said Sammy would be lucky to finish the race, he instead proved how bad he wanted to win it.

It was kismet that I happened to start reading the book a few days before I headed to Chicago.  This was the very question I had been asking myself as I trained.  It ended up being the question I asked myself repeatedly as I ran it.

My journey to the start line was bumpy to say the least.  I originally was scheduled to run the 2016 Chicago Marathon.  I broke my big toe in July 2016 and was unable to train in time for the race. I deferred my entry to this year.  While I struggled to recover from my broken toe, I developed ankle issues that required physical therapy and help from a rehabilitation fitness trainer.  In April I ran the Boston Marathon but didn’t quite feel 100% yet.

After Boston, I turned my focus to Chicago.  My training was going well until mid July when I experienced flashing lights in my peripheral vision.  A visit to the ophthalmologist revealed I had detached vitreous.  I was instructed not to run until the flashing lights stopped.  If I ignored my doctor’s instruction and ran, I risked developing a torn or detached retina, even possibly loss of eyesight in my eye.  I refused to let this latest challenge derail my goal of running in Chicago.  I knew how badly I wanted to finish that race.  For three weeks I found ways to maintain my cardio condition without running and jostling my head.  I rode a stationary bike.  I did water running.  I worked extra hard on strength training in my Pilates classes.  I bounced back quickly when I resumed running.

In early September I ran the Kauai Half Marathon.  It was the longest distance I had run since my last half marathon in July.  I felt like I was back on track.  Life, however, had other plans.  A week after I returned from Hawaii and the day after my 16-mile training run, I developed a cough that quickly deteriorated into bronchitis.  I was exhausted from coughing all night.  My allergies kicked in and exacerbated my condition.  I was unable to run for over a week.  When I finally resumed training again, I found breathing was more difficult and I was running much slower.  The marathon was only two weeks away and my longest run had been 16 miles.  For some runners that might have been enough to pass on the race.  But I am not most runners.  I was determined to run in Chicago.  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I was willing to endure whatever I encountered in order to finish.

Transverse Myelitis, injuries, illness – nothing was keeping me from going for my dream

On race day I felt good.  I followed my coach’s advice and kept telling myself I was strong and I was prepared. I didn’t allow my mind to be clouded by negative thoughts.   As I stood in my corral, I was confident, not nervous.  I chatted with the runners around me, reassuring first time marathoners who were questioning their own preparations for the race.  Finally our corral headed to the start line and my race began.

Although the course was crowded, I was running well until  mile 6 when I started to feel a twinge in my ankle, the one that had bothered me during my Boston Marathon training.   I knew I had to keep the pain in check or it would only worsen.  I remembered the marathon monk and how he meditates while he walks.  By focusing on his breathing, the rhythm of his walk, his mantra, or just emptiness, the monk is able to ignore his physical pain and quiet his mind.  I decide to follow the marathon monk’s strategy.  I visualized my ankle muscles relaxing.  In a short while, I no longer felt the pain.

The Chicago course was full of bends and turns.  I was advised by my coach to run the tangents, in other words, run the straightest line possible.  Around Mile 10.5 I began maneuvering myself in preparation for the next turn. I looked over my shoulder to ensure I was not cutting off another runner.  In doing so, I took my eyes off the direction I was headed.  I tripped over something in the road and fell.  Two male runners behind me quickly scooped me up and put me back on my feet.  My fall happened very quickly, which was probably a good thing.  I didn’t have time to try to catch myself or I might have broken my wrist or arm.  I had skinned my knees but otherwise I was fine.

After cleaning off my scrapes with a Wet One, I started running again.  My knee was throbbing from the pain and I could see it was starting to get swollen.  But I only had one thing in mind – finishing the race.  I kept asking myself “How bad do you want it?”  Did I want it enough to ignore my scrapes and knee pain to keep going?  I thought again about the marathon monk.  He endures pain and exhaustion in his quest.  I thought about Sammy in 2010.  I would not let my mind keep me from my goal.  I pushed myself and finished faster than I had planned, given the warm temperatures and my interrupted training.  I wanted it bad enough and I proved it.

I saw this sign at Mile 24 – it gave me the strength to make it up the hill at the end

I wasn’t the only one in Chicago on Sunday who proved how bad they wanted it.  Jordan Halsay, a young American marathoner, was running only her second marathon.  She finished 3rd in her first marathon, the Boston Marathon in April.  In Chicago, her coach had cautioned her about running too fast in the first half or she would not have enough energy for the second half of the race.  As Jordan ran, she realized she had a decision to make.  She could hang back with the pack and run for a personal record (PR) or she could stick with the leaders and compete for a podium finish.  She decided to compete.  We saw how badly she wanted it.  Jordan finished third in her second marathon appearance, knocking two minutes off her previous PR and putting her in second place on the all-time list of American marathon performances.  Yes, Jordan wanted it.

In his book “The Last Lecture” Dr. Randy Pausch talked about challenges – the brick walls that he ran into that prevented him from achieving his dreams.  He pointed out the walls were not there to keep him from achieving his goals but to show how badly he wanted to achieve them.  Because as Dr. Pausch pointed out, the walls are there to stop people who don’t want it badly enough.  They will quit trying.  I had encountered my own walls while going for my 5th World Marathon Major finish – injuries, illness, the heat on race day, and even a fall in the middle of the race.  Ultimately, I proved how badly I wanted to finish.  I am now just one race away from achieving my dream of completing all 6 World Marathon Majors.  No matter what – I won’t quit.

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Boston Strong

I have been struggling to write about my experience running the 2017 Boston Marathon.  There are so many different emotions swirling around in my head that it has been difficult to distill it down into a post of under 1000 words.  I could write a book about that race.  Today I realized the theme that most describes my Boston Marathon experience.  It is a cliche but it fits:  It took a village.

It took a village to get me to the start line.  In mid-February – 8 weeks before the race – I couldn’t run more than 6 miles before my ankle started to scream at me.  I knew I needed to address the issue or I wasn’t going to be able to run the race.  I went to a physical therapist, Jessica, and a rehabilitation fitness trainer, Carrie, who helped me work on ankle strength and flexibility.  Carrie identified issues with my gait.  She gave me a mantra to say as I ran, words that help my brain focus on proper form.  I kept my running coach, Jenny, informed of my issues and she made adjustments based on feedback on my runs.  Jennifer, my massage therapist, dedicated hours to ensuring the muscles in my ankle, foot, calf, and quads were loose.  Through their collective efforts my 6-mile ankle was ready for 26.2 miles.  Each of them was instrumental in getting me to the start line.

It took a village – a very large village – of race organizers, volunteers, police, and emergency responders to put on this race.  The logistics for a race through 8 different cities and towns over a distance of 26.2 miles are more than you can imagine.  They spend a year on organizing the event, coordinating resources and planning for every possible issue.  I bet the race director was monitoring the weather forecasts all week like I was.   Every time I looked it seemed the race day temperatures were predicted to be higher than the last forecast.  On race day it was in the 70s – warm for any race and particularly warm for someone like me with Transverse Myelitis.  Ever since my experience at the 2015 Rock ’n’ Roll Half in Savannah, Georgia, I am always concerned they will run out of water on the course.  That would be disastrous.  But the race organizers had that all covered and there was no shortage of hydration for the runners.  Security was never a concern either.  The course was lined with local, state, and military police, on foot and on bicycles.   This was one of the best organized races I have ever had the privilege to run.

It was not exactly the top of the hill but close enough

The number of volunteers was incredible – 9,500 – that translates to one volunteer for every 3 runners.  The only other race that I recall having as many volunteers was the 2015 Tokyo Marathon.  The volunteers stood for hours, on an unseasonably warm April day, handing out water, Gatorade, and Clif gels.  And they were the friendliest bunch of people too.

In case you forgot something, you could get it on the way to the corrals at the start line in Hopkinton

The last two turns before the finish line

I felt an incredible sense of community as I ran.  The people along the course came together to celebrate with the runners.  This is their race, a source of pride for Bostonians.  Many people who lived along the course handed out water, candy, oranges, and ice.  Some even played music to entertain the runners as they passed by.  The runners were welcomed.

Because I am not a Boston Qualifier, I participated in the race as a member of a charity team benefitting the Charlestown Boys & Girls Club.  Most of the kids in the club come from disadvantaged and even harsh circumstances.  Hillary Clinton once wrote that it takes a village to raise a child.  The kids in Charlestown need a village to provide guidance as they navigate all the challenges facing kids today. The money the team raised will help them support an increasing number of kids who participate in the club activities.  Another member of the Charlestown Boys & Girls Club team put it so eloquently: “kids are 25% of our population but they are 100% of our future.”

I wish I was as fast as a shooting star

I have run for several charities before but none has touched me the way this one did.  Enclosed with my team singlet were notes and drawings from the kids, thanking me for running for them as well as providing words of encouragement.  In their minds I was doing something very challenging to help them.  For one day I was their hero.  What they didn’t know is that they were inspiration to me.  When I had doubts on race day about finishing the marathon, I only needed to think about those notes to keep going.

Yes, I would have liked to be a Boston Qualifier and entered the race without a fundraising obligation.  But I never would have made a connection to a community of kids who need my help.  They made my race about more than a medal.  This race is a cherished memory for me because of them.

Over $36 million was raised for the various charities participating in the Boston Marathon charity program.  The charity runners included many first time marathoners too.  I encourage anyone who wants to run the Boston Marathon – both runners who qualify and those like myself who don’t – to participate on a charity team like the Charlestown Boys & Girls Club.  Boston puts on a great race.  Fundraising for their community is a terrific way to show appreciation for their hospitality.  Because it really does take a village.

Contact me if you would like to donate to the Charlestown Boys & Girls Club Boston Marathon team.  The kids would appreciate anything you can do to help them.

Setting Records in January

Winter is not the time of year I expect to hear about new running records.  But that is exactly what happened in late January.

Ron Hill probably has a big pile of shoes

Ron Hill probably has a big pile of shoes

First there is Ron Hill, a 78-year old former Olympian who lives in England.  Ron was a running streaker who had run at least one mile every day.  During a run in late January, Ron started having pains in his heart.  Ron was concerned about his wife and family so he decided it was time to hang up his running shoes and end his streak at 52 years and 39 days.   I would call Ron the Cal Ripken of running.

Although Cal’s record for most consecutive baseball games played will probably stand for a long time, there are a number of people who could break Ron’s impressive record.  I wrote about the US Running Streak Association (USRSA) a year ago because I was following the running streaks of several runners (Did They Make It?).  In looking at the current active streak list on the USRSA’s web site, I saw 66-year-old Jon Sutherland’s streak is over 47 1/2 years.  As long as Jon stays healthy, he has a good chance of breaking Ron’s streak record in less than 5 years.  In the meantime, I hope Ron basks in the glory of having the longest streak record.  That is one heck of an achievement.

The other records set at the end of January were all associated with the 2017 World Marathon Challenge.  I wrote about the World Marathon Challenge at the end of 2015 (7x7x7).  Participants run 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days.  If you think about it, the World Marathon Challenge is also a running streak of sorts.  The only difference is that it ends after 7 days (though I am sure somebody somewhere is thinking about how many days in a row they could run a marathon, if they haven’t tried it already).  When I wrote about this challenge last year, I thought it was a flash in the pan (the price alone would deter a lot of people).  But the number of runners has grown every year with only 9 men and 1 woman in the first year (2015) to this year’s challenge with 22 men and 9 women.

The records set with this year’s participants are impressive.  Sinead Kane from Ireland became the first blind person, guided by John O’Regan, to complete 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days.  Guoping Xie set a new world record for women by completing 7 marathons on 7 continents in 6 days 8 hours and 30 minutes.  Nahila Hernandez became the first woman to run an ultra marathon (50K or 31.0686 miles) on all 7 continents in 7 days.  And to think there was a time when women were not allowed to participate in the marathon because there was a fear it would physically harm them.

But the big record was the one set by Michael Wardian, a 42-year-old ultra marathoner who has a day job working as an international ship broker.  From the first race in Antarctica where the windchill sent the temperatures to -30C to the last in Australia, Michael set a blistering pace for each race.  He won all 7 stages of the challenge.  Michael set a world record for the average time for completing each of the 7 marathons – 2:45:57.  Michael’s overall time to complete the 7 marathons on 7 continents was 6 days 7 hours and 25 minutes.

Michael is no stranger to world records.  In 2007 Michael set the record for running the fastest marathon while pushing a stroller with his son in it.  He even finished that race in third place.  In 2015 Michael set the world record for the fastest 50K run on a treadmill in 2:59:49. In 2016 Michael set the record for the fastest runner to complete each of the 6 Abbott World Marathons (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York) in one calendar year, averaging 2:31:09.

I am not sure what is left for Michael to run.  He has run the most challenging ultra marathons all over the world.  He even ran at the North Pole (in the 2014 North Pole Marathon).  Michael isn’t the type to stay home, running local 5K and 10K races.  In a recent interview, Michael said he likes to do stuff that scares him.  I don’t doubt for a moment Michael has something he wants to try.  No matter what it is, I will be cheering for him.  He is an incredible athlete.

Interested in running 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days?  They are currently taking applications for the 2018 challenge.  Visit their website for more information http://www.worldmarathonchallenge.com

Running with My Heart

Bench outside Fleet Feet store in Coeur d'Alene

Bench outside Fleet Feet store in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Happy National Running Day! And Happy Anniversary to the Funatical Runner blog.  I started writing this blog in 2014 on National Running Day. When I started writing, my goal was to run a marathon on all 7 continents. The blog was going to be a way for my friends and colleagues to track my running adventures. Things have morphed since then. A year into my blog I realized traveling to Africa and probably South America was going to be risky because of my Transverse Myelitis, an autoimmune condition. I am not certain how my body would react to any immunizations I might have to get to visit those places. I don’t want to get immunizations that would cause a flare up of my Transverse Myelitis symptoms. I ended up scrapping my 7 Continent goal.

I still planned to run a marathon in Antarctica. I continued to read everything that I could find about other runners’ experiences in the “Last Marathon” (as Marathon Tours calls it). Some of the stories mentioned runners falling on the icy surface and having other challenges during the race. Then I broke my arm during a training run. The long rehabilitation process to regain my range of motion made me reconsider whether traveling to a remote part of the world on a ship in heavy seas would be a good idea. If something bad would happen to me down there, I would be very far from an emergency room. I recently made the difficult decision to cancel my reservation to run in Antarctica next year.

My new goals are to run 1) a marathon or half marathon in each of the 50 States and 2) run each of the 6 Major Marathons. When I started writing this blog, I had only run races in 12 states plus the District of Columbia and none of the Major Marathons. If I was going to reach my goals, I had a lot of running to do. I joined the 50 State Half Marathon Club and started plugging away at my 50 State goal. I started running half marathons all over the country while I was training for marathons (much to the frustration of my running coach). As of today, I have run half or full marathons in 32 states and have completed 3 of the 6 Major Marathons. (“My Endurance Races” page shows my progress towards my goals.) In total I have run 12 marathons and 41 half marathons since I started running in 2007. It is hard for me to believe. I had only planned to run one marathon when I laced up my first pair of running shoes back in 2006.  I started running but just couldn’t stop at that first finish line.

View from the Coeur d'Alene race course

View from the Coeur d’Alene race course

IMG_5116This past weekend I ran the Coeur d’Alene Half Marathon in Idaho (state #32).  [Coeur means “heart” in French.] Coeur d’Alene is on a beautiful lake surrounded by pine-covered mountains. I couldn’t have picked a more beautiful place to run. Plenty of eye-candy to keep me going. Those nice big mountains meant the race course had some serious climbs. There was a hill with a 2% grade at Mile 4 and Mile 7. I had expected to be moving pretty slow because of those hills.  At the end of the race, I was surprised to still be running fast.  I felt great.  It was a small race (just what I like).  There wasn’t any course entertainment but the residents made up for it, standing with signs and cheering us on.   The Coeur d’Alene Half Marathon is one of my top 10 favorite races to date.

Super Hero corner along the Coeur d'Alene race course

Super Hero corner along the Coeur d’Alene race course

I have more races scheduled. By the end of the year, I will have completed half marathons in Vermont, Maine, Nebraska, Washington, and New Hampshire while I train for my next Major Marathon, the Chicago Marathon. I enjoy my running adventures now as much as I did 2 years ago when the Funatical Runner was born. I know that running is helping to keep me healthy plus my travels take me to interesting parts of the country and world. While Scott Adams may say that goals are for losers, I think I’m winning with mine.  🙂

One in A Million

You might think that every marathon is the same.  Same race, just different place.  I can tell you from my experience that they are not.  This past weekend I ran my twelfth marathon, the Virgin Money London Marathon.   It was very different than any other I have run.  Someone said the London Marathon is “so much more than a race.”  Truer words have never been spoken.

This was a special year for the race.  The London Marathon started in 1981 with a mere 7,000 or so runners.  This year over 39,000 runners were entered.  At some point during the race, the one-millionth runner was going to cross the finish line.   To generate excitement before the race, the organizers started the #oneinamillion campaign about this remarkable milestone.  As of today, they are still trying to determine who the one-millionth runner was.  I might not be that one-millionth runner but I am hoping I crossed the finish line before them.

There are runners who have completed every London Marathon since it started.  They call them “Ever Presents”.  They started tracking the Ever Presents in 1995 when there were 42.  This year the number of Ever Presents was down to 12, all male runners between the ages of 57 and 79.  I can’t imagine running the same race for 36 years in a row.  I have to take my hat off to these gentlemen.  They are committed.

The race among the elite runners was full of excitement. The overall male winner, Eliud Kipchoge, finished in 2:03:05 – the fastest London Marathon finish and the second fastest men’s marathon record – only 8 seconds off the current world record of 2:02:57.  The overall female winner, Jemima Sumgong, fell at Mile 21 when another runner clipped her heels.  She went down hard, striking her head on the pavement.  But she got back up and kept going despite a gash on her head.  Jemima worked her way back into the lead and finished in 2:22:58.

Officials from Guinness World Records at the finish line

Officials from Guinness World Records at the finish line

The race partners with the Guinness World Records (GWR) folks so that amateur runners attempting world records can get record verification immediately after completing the race.   Anyone who planned to attempt to break a record during the race had to apply to GWR prior to the race.  They also wore special signs on their backs indicating they were working on a GWR attempt.  There were 55 record attempts during the 2016 London Marathon.  I saw several of them during the race.  Of these, 31 were successful.  Here are a few of the new records for fastest marathons set at the 2016 London Marathon:

Fastest four-man costume

Fastest four-man costume

  • In a four-person costume achieved by four real life firemen who ran wearing a fire engine.  They completed the race in 5:25:02.
  • By a man wearing chainmail in 5:45:51.
  • Wearing a full body dinosaur costume (man) in 3:08:34.
  • Dressed as a plant (a man dressed as a forget me not in a flower pot) in 3:02:43.  This runner also is the current record holder for the fastest marathon in a wedding dress.
  • Dressed as an organ (prostate) in 3:13:20.
  • Dressed as a bottle (in this case, a bottle of Wimbledon Brewery beer) in 3:09:37.
  • Dressed as a crustacean (a lobster) in 3:17:57.  My biggest fear realized – I was beaten by a guy dressed as a lobster.
  • Dressed as a fast food item (hotdog) in 3:57:17.
  • A woman dressed in a full-body animal costume (polar bear) in 4:22:08.
  • Two person costume (horse and jockey) in 4:21:21.  They must have beaten the two runners I saw dressed as Native Americans wearing a canoe.

    Two man costume attempt

    Two man costume attempt by runners dressed as Native Americans and wearing a canoe

Major Tim Peake, a British astronaut ran the fastest marathon in orbit by running the marathon on a treadmill in the International Space Station while we ran through London.  As he ran, Tim watched a video of the route on his iPad.  He had to use a harness to keep himself on the treadmill while he ran.  Tim finished his “London Marathon” in 3:35:21, only 16 minutes slower than his time running the 1999 London Marathon.  If there is a record for someone running the same race on Earth and in space, he should get that one too.  While Tim ran in orbit, Martin Hewlett ran in London and set the record for the fastest marathon dressed as an astronaut in 3:06:26.

One of the most amazing records is the one set by three men for fastest four-legged marathon.  They finished in 4:44:19.  I can’t imagine the amount of coordination that it took to keep them all in synch for 26.2 miles, especially for the runner in the middle who had each of his legs tied to one of the other runners.

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 7.19.17 PMI was most impressed by the number of charity runners.  The London Marathon had more charity runners than any other race I ever have run.  Approximately 3/4 of the runners were raising money for one of the over 80 charities associated with the race.  For the “have-a-go” runners (as one newspaper referred to first time marathoners), entry through a charity guaranteed them a spot in a very popular race plus a way to support a cause that was important to them.   By raising money for a charity, they have a way to honor a loved one who was lost to cancer or a stroke, or show support for a family member or friend suffering from diseases like Colitis or mental illness, or help raise awareness about various social causes.   They become someone’s hero.  Not surprising that the world record for fundraising through a marathon was set at the 2011 London Marathon by Steve Chalke who raised £2.32 million (nearly $3.4 million by today’s exchange rates).

One of the many runners dressed as a rhino

One of the many runners dressed as a rhino

Many of the charity runners wear costumes to help raise money for their cause.  I saw runners dressed as Star Wars Storm Troopers, Paddington Bear, Sponge Bob, film and book characters, full body dinosaur costumes, an old fashioned desk telephone.  As I passed a man dressed as a toilet (who was running for water.org), I teased him by saying I disliked when a toilet runs.  He laughed and replied that he would be flush when he finished.  There was a large number of runners dressed as rhinoceros (for Save the Rhino).

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 7.19.05 PMShortly after the race, I learned that a runner had collapsed at Mile 23.  It was David Seath, a 31 year old Green Beret in the British Army who was running for Help for Heroes, a charity that provides support to wounded service members.  He had set a modest fund raising goal of £250 ($365).   He died later at a hospital.  News of his death shocked everyone and his fundraising web site was flooded with donations.  As of today, people have donated over £69,500 ($101,000).  One of David’s friends created another fundraising web site in his memory also to benefit Help the Heroes.  That web site has raised over £93,000 ($135,813).  Between the two fundraising web sites, over £162,500 ($236,00) has been raised for Help for Heroes – all because of David.  From such a terrible tragedy came more money than David could ever have imagined raising to help an organization that was important to him.

Of all the races I have done, the London Marathon is right up there at the top of the list.  It is a celebration, a chance for runners to test their limits and possibly set new world records, and an opportunity to be heroes to the charitable organizations many of them were supporting.  Yes, it was much more than just another marathon.

Although I am running faster these days, I ended up finishing about 15 minutes behind my personal record (PR) for the marathon. My husband was disappointed that I didn’t push myself more and go for a PR.  But I had decided before the start that this race was special, one that I needed to savor.  Along the course, I took time to stop and take pictures, to capture some of the excitement.  As I neared the finish line, I didn’t want the race to end.  I paused for a few moments between Miles 25 and 26 to look around and soak it all in.  It was a fabulous race.  I was one in a million.

Here is a link to the press release listing all of the new Guinness World Records set at the 2016 London Marathon.

Do you want to run the London Marathon?  Travel partners like Marathon Tours can get you in the race.  I have travelled to several races with this company and I have never been disappointed in them.  They know the races, provide the most convenient accommodations, and help ensure you have a pleasant running vacation.  Check them out!

How Do You Define Adventure?

A couple weeks ago I was looking for an interesting film to watch on the long flight to Utah for the Zion Half Marathon.  I found a documentary called “The Five Elements of Adventure.”   Given that my goal is to have more adventure in my life, I was curious to learn what Matt Walker, a mountaineer and the film’s creator, thought the five elements of adventure are.  For all I know, I could be missing a key element of adventure.

The first element Matt said is getting out of your normal environment.  This makes total sense to me.  The way I look at it is you can represent your environment in a Venn diagram.  Your normal environment is a circle within a MUCH larger circle.  Things get boring and monotonous if all you do is stay inside your little circle.  You have to break through into the bigger circle to see more of what is out there in the world.  If you live in the mountains, go see a desert.  I can guarantee that life is a lot different there.  As Matt puts it, getting out of your ordinary routine results in a shift in your perspective on life and living.Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 6.32.10 PM

Next, Matt says there needs to be uncertainty about the outcome of what you are doing.  Predictable by definition means “able to be foretold or declared in advance.”  Sounds like another word for routine to me, just the thing adventure is suppose to take you away from.  You need to go for the unpredictable.  This element reminded me of Mike Hall, the cyclist in the TransAm Bike Race and his view of adventure.  The cyclists in the race couldn’t predict what was going to happen every day.  Everything was up to chance, fate, or whatever you want to call it.  They controlled nothing but how they handled each challenge thrown at them.  If everything was predictable, it would be the same as any other long bike ride that they take.

The third element, according to Matt, is passion.  Matt feels that to have adventure, you have to do something that gives you tremendous joy.  As he sees it, people are getting lost in the monotony of their daily lives.  They need to get lost instead in something that they love to do.  I understand that one.  When I worked, there was no time in my days to do anything that gave me joy or personal satisfaction.  I guarantee you – there was no adventure in my life.  I often felt like I was just existing.

Matt’s fourth element is mindfulness.  For something to be an adventure, Matt says you have to be in a mental state where you are fully present in the moment.  When you are mindful of what you are doing, you aren’t distracted by other thoughts.  In today’s world, that is a tough one.  Most people are busy multi-tasking, only partially paying attention to what is going on around them.

Finally, Matt’s last element is companionship.  Matt believes that you have to share an experience with others in order to get the most joy from it.

After I finished watching the film, I sat back and evaluated my running “adventures”.  I certainly had the first one down.  I am traveling to races in places as varied as Tokyo, Berlin, Montana, South Carolina, and Utah.  In the process I have gotten exposure to different parts of the world.  I have seen things like snow monkeys in Japan and a ghost town in Utah, eaten foods like wild Maine blueberries and Montana huckleberries.  I never would have enjoyed these things if I had stayed in my little circle.  As a result, my little circle got a bit bigger.

My races may all seem predictable but they really aren’t.  I never expected the extreme weather we had for the Rock ’n’ Roll Half in Savannah that ultimately caused the race to be halted.  I had never run in a mud race but in Utah I got a little taste of what a mud race might be like.  When I ran the Rocky Mountain Half, I had never run a race at high altitude.  It was a very different experience running at over 7,500 feet, one that required me to adjust my racing strategy.

Yes, I am passionate about my running.  I have tremendous gratitude and joy that I am still able to keep moving.  Many people with Transverse Myelitis don’t have that gift.  It is something that I can’t stop doing.

I am a little light on the mindfulness part.  The only place where I experienced what Matt described as mindfulness was when I ran outside Zion National Park.  Without any course entertainment or other distractions along the way, I got caught up in the beauty of the scenery.  I found myself focusing on each breath, each footfall, the wind on my back, and the rain on my face.  My mind became very calm and I felt an overwhelming sense of peace.  It was a spiritual experience.

For companionship, I always have the other runners, some I know beforehand and others I meet along the way.  My running companions (including my “running spouse”) and I have shared many running adventures (and a couple misadventures) over the years.  Through those adventures we have created shared memories and forged friendships that I cherish.  I will never forget the “buddy” I made during the Rock ’n’ Roll Half in Savannah.  It was a difficult race and we helped each other get across the finish line that day.  My fellow 50 State Half Marathon Club members have also added companionship to my racing.  We come from varied backgrounds and areas of the country but we share a passion for running.

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 9.08.57 PMThe comedian Chris Rock once remarked some people say life is short but life is long and you have to live with the choices you make.  I think it is too long to stay confined in a little circle.  Adventure starts when you make the decision to step outside your circle and into the unknown that lies beyond it.   By taking that first step outside my circle and into the big one, I know that I am putting myself on the road to adventure.

Matt Walker has a website and a blog.  Check it out.  Here is a teaser for Matt’s film “The Five Elements of Adventure” but I encourage you to watch the whole film (available on iTunes).  In addition to his message about adventure, you will enjoy the beautiful scenery of Nepal while you plan your next adventure.

World Records

MES20061A year ago we lost our beloved dog, Dillon, at the age of 6 1/2 years to hemangiosarcoma, a very nasty cancer.  The weekend after he died, I decided to enter a 5K to help get my mind off losing him.  Surprisingly, I got 2nd place in my age group.  First place was awarded a pie (for second place I got a Dunkin Donut hat).  I decided to enter the same race again this year.  I had high hopes that I would finish in the pie.  I could tell when we lined up at the start that this year there were more women runners in my age group.  I had my eyes on a pie and I was in better shape than last year.  My best efforts on race day weren’t good enough.  I finished 3rd – out of pie placement.

I know many people who strive for podium finishes at races.  Heck, I am just happy to finish a race and not hurt for days afterwards.  If you can’t earn a spot on the podium, you can always try for a world record.  I don’t mean a record like the fastest marathon (which is 2 hours 2 minutes 57 seconds set by Kenyan Dennis Kipruto Kimetto at the 2014 Berlin Marathon) or the fastest half marathon (58 minutes 23 seconds set by Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea at the 2010 Lisbon Half Marathon).  Those records would be a real challenge for recreational runners like me to beat.  Recreational runners have the best shot at breaking world records that most people ignore.  Things like the fastest marathon dressed as a dairy product, or a plant, or even carrying an 80-pound pack.  Elite runners don’t train for those kinds of records.  From what I saw on the Guinness World Record website, as long as you are willing to put in the training effort (and be a bit creative), you can get a world record too.

I got interested in the world records last year when I was writing about Harriet Thompson who became the oldest woman to complete a marathon.  I went out to the Guinness World Record website and started searching “fastest marathon”.  There are so many world records associated with the marathon and the half marathon, it would make your head spin.  Many of them are set by people dressed up in a costume.  I can’t imagine running a race dressed as a cactus or a toilet or wearing over 61 pounds of medieval battle armour.  What was even more difficult to believe was these runners are completing a marathon dressed as a toilet or a banana or whatever considerably FASTER than I can run one dressed as a regular runner.  (Oh, and the guy who ran dressed as a toilet – he beat out competition from two other runners dressed as toilets in the same race!  It brings new meaning to “the toilet is running.”)

In looking over all the marathon world records, I noticed that many of them are set at the London Marathon.  At the 2012 London Marathon a man set the record for fastest marathon run dressed as a vegetable (in his case, a carrot) of 2 hours 59 minutes 33 seconds.  That was also the year that a runner completed the race wearing the tallest costume in a marathon (26 feet 2 inches); his costume was the Blackpool Tower.  There were 30 world records set during the 2014 London Marathon and 34 set at the 2015 race.   It occurred to me that I missed my chance.  I should have been working with my coach to train for the 2016 London Marathon dressed as an eating utensil (a spoon perhaps?) so I could get a world record.

I was scratching my head about a couple of the records.  The record for fastest marathon dressed as a female film character is 3 hours 53 minutes 40 seconds set by a woman dressed as the bikini-clad version of Princess Leia at the 2010 London Marathon.  The record for the fastest marathon dressed as a male film character is for a guy who ran as Captain Jack Sparrow in 2 hours 42 minutes 52 seconds at the 2013 London Marathon.  Surely there is someone who has completed a Disney Marathon dressed as Princess Leia  or Captain Jack Sparrow faster than those records.  I have seen lots of women run Disney marathons dressed as a fairy, complete with wings, tutu, and wand (even Pixie dust).  One of them has to have beaten the current record of 3 hours 20 minutes 52 seconds set at 2011 London Marathon.  Disney races are well-known for costumed runners.   I wonder if Disney runners are missing their opportunity to go down in the Guinness record books.

Given the recent interest in barefoot running, I thought it was interesting that the record for the fastest marathon run in bare feet (2 hours 15 minutes 16.2 seconds) was set a long time ago at the 1960 Olympics.  The only newer records for barefoot marathon running are for the most barefoot marathons run on consecutive days (10) and the most barefoot marathons run in one year (101), both set by Eddie Vilbar Vega in 2014.   Eddie was required to carry a GoPro to record every footstep to prove he was completely barefoot.  He also had to take pictures of the soles of his feet at the start, during and at the end of each race to prove he hadn’t run in shoes.

Trying to break the record for the most runners dressed as Santa at the 2012 Las Vegas Great Santa Run

Going for the record of most runners dressed as Santa at the 2012 Las Vegas Great Santa Run, benefitting Opportunity Village

Some of the world record holders had a lifelong dream of setting a Guinness World Record (like Sean McShane who completed the fastest marathon dressed as a zombie in 3 hours 18 minutes 38 seconds).  But in reading the  stories behind the records, I realized many were running dressed up in silly costumes to raise money for charity.   The guy dressed as a toilet was raising money for WaterAid.  Eddie the barefoot runner was running to raise awareness for the 300 million children worldwide who do not have shoes or adequate footwear.  Then there is David Babcock who ran while knitting and set the record for the longest scarf knitted while running a marathon (12 feet 1.75 inches), raising money for an Alzheimer’s research charity in the process.

I have never been one for wearing a costume in a race.  I tried it once and it was such a disaster that I refuse to ever do it again.  But if you think you want to go down in the record books, take a look at the Guinness World Record website and see what record you’d like to break.

The world records for women are 2 hours 17 minutes 42 seconds in the marathon set by Paula Radcliffe at the 2005 London Marathon and 1 hour 5 minutes and 9 seconds in the half marathon set by Florence Kiplagat of Kenya in Barcelona, Spain in 2015.

Goals: To Have or Not to Have

I use to tell people to be careful setting goals because they could kill you.  Goals can become the monkey on your back that drives you to do things maybe you shouldn’t be doing.  I would classify myself as being very goal oriented.  Having a to-do list and checking things off gives me a sense of accomplishment.  Lately, I have started wondering about this whole goal thing.

My 50 State Half Marathon shirt showing the states that I have completed

My 50 State Half Marathon shirt showing the states that I have completed

I joined the 50 State Half Marathon Club last year and signed up for the 50 State Endurance Challenge.  This challenge allows me to count both marathons and half marathons towards my goal.  I have been plugging along, checking off my states (23 so far).  But my goal of completing endurance races in all 50 states is nothing compared to the goals of some people I have met over the last few years.  They make me look like a loser.

A 50under4 Club member

A 50under4 Club member

I have met runners with variations on the 50-State-goal theme.  There are people who want to run marathons in all 50 states.   Then there are those people who want to run marathons in all 50 states but complete each race in under 4 hours (as if  running marathons in all 50 states wasn’t hard enough).  They even have their own club – 50under4.  In Atlantic City, I walked from the hotel to the start line with a man whose goal is to run a marathon AND a half marathon in all 50 states.  I don’t think there is a club for that one.

I met a man who has a goal of running a half marathon in each of the 50 states.  He added the personal challenge that he has to finish each race in under 2 hours.  He is moving along on his goal and has over 30 states checked off.  It would be a bit higher but some of the races he completed in over 2 hours.  He won’t count those states towards his goal and will have to go back to run in them again.

IMG_0497Doug Kurtis had a unique personal goal.  I met Doug in Duluth, Minnesota in 2013 when I ran the Grandma’s Marathon.  While waiting for the bus to the start line, Doug started talking to me.  He pointed to his bandana that had “200” written across it.  He was 61 years old and was hoping to run his 200th marathon in less than 3 hours that day.  Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate and he didn’t make it.  He finished in 3:05:23 (I would have been overjoyed to run a marathon that fast).   A few months later, I read about him in Runners World magazine.  He was able to reach his goal at his hometown race, the Detroit Free-Press Marathon.  It is a very impressive accomplishment.

There are runners who have the goal of running the same race every year.  Sometimes the races give these runners special names.  The Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) calls them “Ground Pounders”.  There are only two Ground Pounders left who have run all 40 MCMs – Will Brown, 67, and Alfred Richmond, 74.  There are the “Perfectly Goofy” runners who have run all 10 Goofy Race and a Half Challenges at Disney World (half marathon and full marathon over 2 consecutive days).  I know some people who want to be “Perfectly Dopey” by running Disney World’s annual Dopey Challenge (5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon over 4 consecutive days).  I was Dopey once and that was enough.

When I was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis (TM), I wasn’t sure I could keep running.  I searched the Internet to find other runners with TM and learn how they handled things like running in heat.  I found a blog written by Kimberly Kotar who also happens to be the President and Founder of the Canadian Transverse Myelitis Association.  Kimberly was a marathon runner when she was diagnosed with TM.  Despite her diagnosis, she kept running with the goal of completing a marathon in each of the 10 Canadian provinces.  She completed her goal last month.

Some runners set a goal to run on all 7 Continents.  I had that goal for a while until I realized that, for health reasons, I can’t travel to all 7 Continents.  Now I am trying to run each of the 6 Major World Marathons.  I might not be able to reach that goal either since I won’t qualify for the Boston Marathon even if I am still running when I am 80.

I started questioning the focus on my goals after reading “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” by Scott Adams.  Scott thinks “goals are for losers.”  According to Scott, if you set a goal, you spend all your time working on getting to that goal and that gets tiring.  Ask Doug Kurtis – after he reached 200, he stopped running sub-3:00 marathons because it is a lot of work to run that fast.   Scott also points out that if you don’t reach your goal, then you feel like a failure.  Who needs the emotional baggage that comes with that?

I chatted with Cathy, my hair stylist, about goals as she cut my hair today.  I have known Cathy a long time and she always provides wise advice on things like this.  Cathy told me that she thought goals were good because they put you on a path to where you need to be.  She pointed out that my original goal back in 2007 was to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by running a marathon  in honor of my friend, Marnie.  After that, I kept running and set the goal of running 5 full marathons and 10 half marathons by the time I turned 55.  I did that with 6 months to spare.  She watched me deal with my TM diagnosis 5 years ago.  Running, she pointed out, is keeping me healthy plus I am having fun traveling to races.  My original goal – running to raise money for my friend – put me on the path to something so much bigger.  Score 1 Cathy.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 11.35.28 AM

Source: Dictionary.com

Scott, however, points out the same thing that I realized when I read the definition of goal.  There is an “end” when you are talking about a goal.  There are only 50 States, only 7 Continents, and only 6 World Majors.  When you have run all those, what do you do next?  Is it time to hang up your running shoes and turn off your Garmin for good?

I remember when I was working in the business world they sat us down at the beginning of the year to define our goals and objectives.  It was a very formal process where everyone signed a document like a contract.  The whole thing had a lot of negative connotations to it.  If the regular goals weren’t enough, they added stretch goals. I felt compelled to meet those along with the already challenging regular goals.  Periodically I would pull out the document with my goals to see how I was doing.  I would get stressed out over the goals I knew were impossible to reach.  Then at the end of the year, they sat me down to see how I did.  Colleagues that didn’t make their goals were put on probation or worse.  Somehow I usually came through relatively unscathed.  They couldn’t make the work environment any more stressful if they tried.

I have been spending a lot of time planning my 2016 race schedule.  It is starting to feel a lot like a job.  My 50 State goal is getting stressful.  I decided today that I am going to look at my running goals differently.  I am going to think about them more as aspirations than goals.  If I don’t make a particular goal, it isn’t a big deal.  I already failed at running the 7 Continents and nobody fired me.  I aspire to run all 6 Major Marathons.  Maybe I will and maybe I won’t.  And maybe along the way I’ll find something even better to do.