Monday, April 25, 2011

Boston - Day One

I have always trained in a group setting. The few times I have had to run alone I felt "out of step" as if something was missing. Yes, something was missing, my Friends! On April 18th, I had a dream come true when I ran the Boston Marathon. It seemed so long ago that I had run my qualifying race and the countdown began.

This post will not be about the marathon. This post will be about the incredible journey to Boston and the events we participated in for four days. So many stories that I will divide the blog by days. This is about my Friends!

The fun began early Saturday morning and didn't end until midday Tuesday. Lea Anne and I were met at Orlando International Airport by Donna and Linda, both of whom would run the 5K on Sunday before the marathon. Lea Anne unfortunately was still recovering from bunion surgery and both the 5K and marathon would have to remain for another day. The flight was perfect into Boston. We were greeted with the announcement that the temperature was 39 degrees and windy. Walking toward the terminal in the walkway from the plane I prayed that Monday morning would not be a similar day. Bags arrived on time. We had plans to ride the "Silver Line" to our hotel. Tickets purchased, off we go. Two stops to our destination and the chatter and smiles had not let up. Exiting the train station we were greeted by Terry and Jean who had arrived on Friday. A few photos and a quick walk to the hotel. The weather was cold, windy, a few sprinkles, not what runners from Orlando were looking for.

Once checked into the Seaport Hotel we heard there was a shuttle leaving for the expo. Quickly we gathered and boarded the van for the ride. It seems the ride was arranged by a lady from Switzerland who was not a runner, but needed to get to downtown Boston. We enjoyed her company and conversation. As we approached the Hynes Convention Center, the feeling of fish swimming up stream overwhelmed me. It appeared that everyone else was exiting toward us. Through the doors, we were not alone. Both the up and down escalators were packed with runners and their guests. The crowd was a sea of Boston Marathon jackets from the late 1990's to 2011. Runners wore shirts from the New York City Marathon, Marine Corps and hundreds of other races. Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtic jackets and hats dotted the crowd. The expo was so large it filled two rooms. Anything and everything you would ever need to run was contained in this building. Again I was trapped in the onrush of people. It seemed I was the only one going in the direction I chose. Finally, at one point you have seen all you need to see and it becomes time to eat. The remainder of our Saturday would be spent eating lunch, napping, then off to dinner. At dinner we were joined by Susan, Steve, Dan and Dustin, more friends, more fun! I will devote a separate blog post to the restaurants of Boston where we dined. Our first day was complete, a fun filled, full day of preparation was had by all. That's what friends are for!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Grete Waitz (1953 - 2011)

The day after the 115th running of the Boston Marathon, we lost a legend of the running world. The newspapers, television and running publications have posted their stories about the accomplishments of this lady. I would like to take this time to write about an encounter I had with Grete in 2007.

I was working with EMMI in Orlando and we were assisting the New York Roadrunners Club with the events surrounding the New York City Marathon. I had run NYC in 2005, but this year I was getting a behind the scenes look at part of the operation.

A group of us were at the expo, just passing time. I heard an announcement that Grete Waitz was going to be at the Adidas booth signing autographs. I made my way to the booth and saw upwards of 100 people lined up to see her. She sat smiling at the people who came by for the free autographed poster. I was amazed that no one was stopping to say "Hello" or engage her in conversation. Watching this process was like watching an assembly line stamping out widgets.

As those of you who know me, I am not shy. As my turn came to receive my poster, I extended my hand and introduced myself. She shook my hand and smiled. Before I could say anything she asked me if I was running the marathon the next day. I replied that I had run the Marine Corps Marathon the previous week so, I would not be running New York. Her response was, "you come back next year and we'll run together." Now I know she was kidding (or was she), but a very charming personality was on display. So many people had walked passed her without a word. We exchanged a few more comments and was ready to move on and let the people behind get their poster. As I was saying "good-bye", she reached under the table and took out a black Adidas ball cap. Picking up a silver colored "Sharpie", she autographed the hat and handed it to me. I shook her hand and wished her well as she encouraged me to keep running. Her closing comment was, "see you next year."

There was not a next year, there will not be a next year. I have one ball cap that I will cherish along with a memory of a very charming and gracious lady.

Hello Again

I completed the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 18, 2011. Therefore, I will be resuming this "original" blog and discontinue "My Goal is the Boston Marathon" blog. I will be updating this blog with new stories and photos. The Boston experience was wonderful! Thank you for reading my blog, I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Goal Is The Boston Marathon

In an attempt to consolidate my blogs, I will be posting most of my running adventures on my blog, "My Goal Is The Boston Marathon". Click on the title and you will be able to follow my journey toward April 18, 2011. I will resume this blog following the 2011 Boston Marathon. Thank you for following "Geezer" here, but please share the fun at my Boston blog.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Boston Marathon Memory

With the 2010 Boston Marathon two weeks away, I chose to post this memory. Enjoy!

In April 2006, I had the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon. I was able to run the marathon thanks to a friend who is a Massachusetts State Police Trooper.

As most of you know, the Boston Marathon is the premier marathon in the world. The history, the tradition, the runners. There is not another sport where you are able to participate and compete against world class athletes on their field. For the average person this equates to the World Series, Super Bowl or Daytona 500.

The field of runners is stacked with "elite" runners from throughout the world. In addition to these gifted runners many celebrities run each year. Actors, actresses, sports figures, politicians all want the spotlight.

I can recall my journey from Hopkinton to Boston like it was yesterday. Initially, I was overwhelmed by the fact that I was running the Boston Marathon. My footsteps were following those of immortals who have made the run.

There are so many highlights along the course, the Wellsley College "girls", Heartbreak Hill, Kenmore Square and Fenway Park. The last highlight before the finish line are the two final turns, fondly noted on t-shirts and bumper stickers. "Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston", words that send chills down a participants spine.

As I approached these turns I was tired, my IT band was screaming in pain, but I wasn't going to give up, not on this hallowed ground. My goal of finishing the Boston Marathon was less than one-half mile from finality. As I turned "right on Hereford", I saw a mass of humanity packing the one block run up to Boylston Street. All along the course over one million spectators cheer you on. On this short, narrow street there were hundreds, if not thousands of screaming fans. Every shout, scream, clap of the hands or cowbell helped propel me forward. As I scanned the crowd, I became aware they were not cheering directly for me, but for a runner who was coming up behind me. Who could it be? Which celebrity would I get a glance of, or cross the finish line one small step ahead of them? At the top of Hereford Street, I made the "left on Boylston". Making the ninety degree turn allowed me to glance over my shoulder to see who was inspiring all of the cheering. I could not miss his bright yellow running outfit. So bright on a day that was gray and overcast. I recognized him immediately for his years in baseball. The bright yellow reminded me of the uniforms worn by the Pittsburgh Pirates of the 70's. Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, the "We Are Family" team that went on to win the World Series. I was in the shadow of a baseball legend! As he passed me, my first response was to nod in acknowledgement of his presence. Then my attitude changed to one of disappointment. No, not that a fellow competitor was passing me. Not that I wouldn't be along side of him as he crossed the finish line. I saw his yellow colors moving further and further into the distance.

As the question from the "Lone Ranger" television show ended every episode, so will it here.

"Who was that masked man?"

He was the "San Diego Chicken".

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Biggest Fan - My Dad

My emotions at the Breast Cancer Marathon weekend were high. The people who I chose to represent and the thousands of others my fellow runners selected, were in the forefront of our minds.

As we lined up awaiting the start, thoughts of my Dad came to mind. It was in December of last year that he passed away. It occurred to me that this would be the first race I have ever run that he would miss. No, in recent years he was unable to attend my races, but he was my biggest fan. He enjoyed the stories about the races, loved getting pictures and always inquired about my running group. He kept up on who was going to which race and who was injured. I learned from several people at his wake that he quite often spoke of my accomplishments.

Several years ago, I reunited with a group of high school friends. We were all members of our track team. One of my friends commented to me that he remembered how my Dad would attend our track meets. He continued saying how he wished his father could have seen him compete. As with many things kids don't understand, I didn't realize the importance of his presence until many years later.

It has been difficult in the weeks following the race. There was no phone call to tell him of my accomplishment, nor photos to mail for a spot in his living room. Yes, he saw the race. His hand guided me and kept me safe.

Thanks Dad for all you did for me.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Another Day at the Beach

Following my last post and picture, yesterday was totally opposite. Although it was a bit cool at the start, 37 degrees, it was great for a run. The forecast was for sunny skies and warming to 72 degrees. By the time I finished my half-marathon, it had reached the low 50's.

This was my third year running the "26.2 with Donna - The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer". Each year I have chosen to run the half-marathon. This is an outstanding event and I have already signed up for next year. The date is February 13, 2011.

Please see my other blog: "The Pink Bandanna" for a different perspective on the race.

I arrived in Jacksonville on Saturday along with my friend Bob (aka Sponge Bob) and we immediately went to the expo to get our race packets and scan the many booths of the various vendors. My first stop was to say "hello" to race founder and all around wonderful lady, Donna Deegan. She was at her booth signing copies of her book, "Through Rose Colored Glasses". She was hooked up to a microphone, so I had to go behind the counter to accept my hug. I also saw Donna's husband Tim, who is the meteorologist for a Jacksonville TV station. Tim promised a beautiful day, and boy did he deliver!

My next stop was to visit with Hal Higdon, the author of many notable books and columns about marathon running. I purchased a copy of his newest book, "Marathon", which he graciously autographed.

For those of you who follow this blog, I had the good fortune to meet and run with Bill Rodgers at last years race. He was scheduled to speak later in the afternoon on Saturday, so I thought I might find him in the mix of people.

I continued my search for Bill Rodgers as I picked up free samples of various goodies to make me run better. A stop at the "Minute Rice" booth and a spin of the prize wheel won me a box of brown rice. Onward.

On a final sweep down the last aisle, I spotted Bill Rodgers at the booth where Hal Higdon was. Bill was ever so gracious as usual. Runners are wonderful people! We joked about the results of last year where I finished third behind Bill after running the first five miles of the race with him. That is an experience I will never forget. I told him I would be looking for him at the start.

An early dinner at Carabba's Italian Restaurant was whole wheat pasta with sauce and chicken. The salad and bread came first and I must admit I ate more than I should have for a pre-race dinner. It was so delicious!

Morning came as I had anticipated and I felt no side effects of my dinner. My breakfast consisted of an oatmeal bar and a cup of coffee. Got dress for the run and off I went to meet up with several other runners. In the lobby of the hotel we "ran" into Jeff Galloway who stopped to chat and offer some words of encouragement. If you are not familiar with Jeff Galloway, he is a former Olympian who now leads the largest marathon training program in the country. Jeff has authored many wonderful book on our sport.

The start of the race utilizes the "corral" system whereby you start according to your anticipated finish time. Having run well last year, I was fortunate to get the "Yellow" corral at the front of the field of runners. We were now getting close to the start time, the speeches were finished, the National Anthem was sung. With a countdown from 10-9-8...... and we were off. Once again I was fortunate to be running with Bill Rodgers. I knew this year it would not be in my best interest to try to maintain his pace. We completed the first mile together then I made the decision to run "my race" not his. I kept a pace of about 8:15 minutes per mile. I don't recall all of my splits, but at 6 miles the clock read 49:00 minutes. I settled into a run/walk of 7:45/:30, a system developed by Jeff Galloway. Running for 7:45 minutes then walking for 30 seconds. At about mile 9, I met Dan, a man from Illinois who was running this race for the first time. We chatted and it made the mile go faster.

As I passed the 12 mile mark I knew I would accomplish the time goal I had set. As I reached the final turn a lady asked, "how much further is it?" I told her, "less than a half mile", maybe I was off by a bit, but she didn't need the truth. We turned the corner together and we could see the finish line and the big screen TV. She was struggling and I asked her if she was running the race for someone. She responded, "for my mother". I now had her, every time she hesitated or started to let up I reminded her of her mother. It must have worked as she pulled ahead of me as we reached the finish line. I forgot to stop my watch and get my time. I remember seeing a time on the finish tower, but it was the "gun" time. I would have to wait. I can't wait to see the finish photos as I was not at all focused as I usually am. It was worth it.

After some time I got the final results; I ran a 1:49:51, placing 4th out of 44 in my age group and 257th overall.

Today I registered for next year and made my hotel reservation. If you are a runner you have to do this race.