he 117th Boston Marathon, in which I will run as a 70 year old, will take place on April 15, 2013. I've decided my marathon training has officially begun, somewhat arbitrarily, as of Thanksgiving 2012. Of course it seems like I've been gearing up for this race for years, and that's true. But it's time to get in the training groove again, map out the long runs and other runs and get really serious. This blog is about this last part of my long road to Boston, a title I borrowed from a book (), a book I've read a few times which tells a very inpirational story. Inspirational or not, my own journey to Boston will only be successful if I put in the hard work over the next 5 months that I need to get to the starting line, and more importantly, to the finish line. So enjoy the blog and wish me luck. To paraphrase a well known ex-president, "Here I go again!"

Thanksgiving: Framingham Turkey Classic 5K

omewhat arbitrarily, I decided the "official" start of my training for the 2013 Boston Marathon would be on Thanksgiving, 2012. Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone (and a great Thanksgiving it was). But I don't mean it started at Thanksgiving dinner, no, it was earlier in the day at the local "Turkey Trot". Specifically, the . I love this race. We visit my son and his family every year and this race is in the next town. My daughter-in-law Nancy and I get up before the sun and drive the 5 miles or so to the Framingham Police building for the race. There are tons of families with kids and dogs and you name it and it is a totally fun and happy way to start Thanksgiving. I wrote a more detailed race review of last year's race which you are welcome to read .

After warming up and stretching a bit in the large hall, and after a cup of cocoa and one donut hole (I swear I only had one), I had a 5 minute rub down by the massage guy, and I was off to the start, just outside the building. It was a few minutes before the gun and with shorts and a long sleeve coolmax shirt, I was dressed for the race, but not dressed for standing around in the high 30°s temperatures. Luckily we had sun, which together with the crowd, helped to keep me from freezing. Then we were off.

I wanted to hold to an 8 minute per mile pace and break 25 minutes. Unfortunately there was only one mile marker (mile 1 — which I hit at 8:11), so I had to wing it. The first mile is a straight shot along Union Avenue, one of Framingham's main streets, which has a nice down hill just before a turn onto a residential street. The hill was nice and the long straight portion along the road served to stretch out the pack. There was never a problem with crowding.

The course wends its way through pretty neighborhoods and goes by sereval ponds. Unfortunately you don't get much chance to see these since there are houses along the streets much of the way — plus a large school — and the ponds are out of view. I counted two modest uphills with corresponding modest downhills, so all-in-all, the course is pretty easy. Here's a course map: .

With about a half mile to go, we turned onto Concord Street (aka Route 126) and headed back to the Police building. This is a major thoroughfare and here we were restricted to the rightmost lane. This was the time to push it if you had some push left, and push it I did.

I crossed the finish line at just over 25:10 on my watch, but I knew I had taken a few seconds before I crossed the starting line so I wasn't sure if I had made my goal or not. Like most races now-a-days, they use "chip" times which measure elapsed time, so the clock doesn't start for a given runner till he/she crosses the starting line.

I met Nancy in the parking lot and we made our way inside. I checked the times posted on the wall and it turns out my official finishing time was 25:04.8 (8:05/mile pace). This is close enough to my goal to satisfy me, and since it was almost 15 seconds faster than last year, I felt good about it. At this rate I'll break 25 minutes next year for sure. I was 2nd in the 70+ age group. The first place was taken by a 76 year old (who has won the 70+ age group for several years) who ran a 23:09. A bit out of my league.

After another cup of cocoa and just one more donut hole (and another rub down by the massage guy), we were ready to go. We hung out at the awards ceremony for a while, but since they only gave awards for the 1st place in each group, I was out of luck. Then we headed back home and everyone there was STILL sleeping. But at least we could enjoy the turkey which was to come later in the day — guilt free!

It was a great start to my training, but there's still a long road to Boston in front of me.

November 30th — My Training Plan, Part 1: Long Runs

ne of the most important elements of any marathon training plan — and there are dozens of such plans out there — is the length and spacing of the long runs. Those runs, more than anything else you might do, will have the greatest effect on your success in meeting your marathon goal. Yes, there are other important things that belong in your plan, such as your total weekly mileage and the inclusion of some type of "speed" workouts (e.g. tempo runs or hill repeats), but the long runs come first. If you're too busy, or too tired, or short of time, you might skip some of these other elements, but don't skip the long runs.

What's a long run? For me it's a run you do on Saturday or Sunday every week that is 12 - 20 miles in length and is run at a "slow" pace. How slow? Slower than your goal marathon pace, maybe as much as a minute per mile slower. If you're a beginner you may have to start with shorter long runs, maybe 8 or 10 miles, and if you're an "old salt" like me, you've probably worked out your own definitions by now — for both length and pacing. To put it another way, "Your mileage may vary".

In doing long runs, as with any component of your training, you should observe two rules:

  1. Progression: Work up gradually from the starting point, where you are at your "base" level of fitness, to the end point, where you are fully trained for the race.
  2. Stress/Recovery: Alternate between "hard" efforts (in this case longer runs) and "easy" efforts (shorter runs).
The second principle is very important. If you just did all your long runs at the maximum length and pace, you would burn out. You need the easy weeks to allow the body to recover and get stronger.

The last couple of years, as I've reached my "senior" years, I'ver found a 5 week schedule works well for me. Here's a 5 week period in the middle of my training:

Long Run Mileage — Typical 5 Week Sequence
WeekMiles  WeekMiles  WeekMiles  WeekMiles  WeekMiles
113  218  320  415  520

You'll notice in the first 3 weeks it's "easy" (13 miles), "medium" (16 miles) and "hard" (20 miles), and the last two weeks there's just an "easy" (15 miles) and a "hard" (20 miles) run. Obviously the terms "easy", "medium" and "hard" are relative terms. Especially when your start your training, they're all hard. This has worked well for me, but you will need to find what works for you at your particular level.

What about length? I've fixed 20 miles as the maximum (although I occasionally go over that by a mile or so). I find more than 20 is too much for my body. I know others who have done longer runs, sometimes up to 26 miles or beyond. Not me — I save that for race day. As for the "progression" mentioned in rule #1 above, I try to progress to a 20 mile maximum and then stay there. But those 20 milers should get easier as I get closer to the marathon, and towards the last few weeks I might pick up the pace, or insert episodes of marathon pace running into the long run.

One last question: How can you train slower than marathon pace and never even run the marathon distance during training? How can you run both longer and faster on race day? Answer: you just can! When it all comes together, it works. Take my (experienced) word for it, it does work.

Here's what I've worked out for this particular training period. I've increased my training time from 15 weeks to 20, which allows me to add one additional cycle into the schedule (the date is for Saturday of the given week, except the marathon):

Long Run Mileage — Complete 20 Week Sequence (with dates)
WeekMiles  WeekMiles  WeekMiles  WeekMiles  WeekMiles
1 (12/1)12  2 (12/8)15  3 (12/15)13  4 (12/22)18  5 (12/29)20
6 (1/5)13  7 (1/12)18  8 (1/19)20  9 (1/26)15  10 (2/2)20
11 (2/9)13  12 (2/16)18  13 (2/23)20  14 (3/2)15  15 (3/9)20
16 (3/16)15  17 (3/23)20  18 (3/30)13  19 (4/6)10  20 (4/15)Marathon

Marathon veterans will observe that this is fairly heavy on long runs. It's true, but this is what I need to do. Remember this is a very special race for me and it's been a long time coming. If you wanted to try something like this but were short on time, you could take out one of the middle 5 week cycles and you would get a more typical training plan — it's what I did last year for the St. George Marathon where I BQed.

In a future post I'll talk about the other elements of my training plan, but in the meantime, do those long runs!

December 1st — A Long Run to Inwood (Week 1)

I'm going to start posting entries each week with emphasis on the Long Run (or sometimes a race), but with a mention of the other stuff going on that particular week. The week numbers are from my training plan post of November 30th.

'm calling this week "Week 1" even though, Thanksgiving — the "official" start of my training — was last week. I did so little training last week, except for running the Thanksgiving 5K, that I decided to call that "Week 0" and this week, where serious training starts, gets to be week 1.

This week I moved to 4 days of running per week, which I will stick with till the end. For now, I run Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, with Friday a short and easy run (Saturday, of course, is the long run). I'll discuss the 4 day a week plan later on the blog, but for now you'll know that's what I'm doing. I've been training for marathons on 4 days a week since 1995 (including 4 BQs), so it works for me.

A 14 miler to Inwood

didn't run precisely to Inwood — the most northernmost part of Manhattan — but to a great brunch restaurant there: . Hey, it was a cold, windy day, and this place is warm, and besides they have great beer! But first the run (I know, it would be nice to skip the run and go straight to brunch, but this is a running blog).

It was rather cold (high 30°s) and windy and to make things tougher, Susan, my running partner, has a broken arm and can't get back to running for 6 or 8 weeks, so it was a solo run. But luck would have it that Susan wanted to visit the Cloisters Museum, so she got up there about an hour ahead of me and then walked the mile or so and met me at the cafe at noon. But back to the run.

I knew from previous runs that the restaurant was about 10 running miles from East 86th Street if you run up through all the Manhattan parks as I like to do. I generally meet friends at either Carl Schurz Park or Central Park for runs, but today I wanted to do 14 miles, so I figured since I would be solo, I'd just run up to Carl Schurz from home, just about 4 miles. But as I headed out the door towards the East River I was hit by a cold, strong wind off the water. So I decided I would head up First Avenue from 37th Street and then up Sutton Place / York Avenue from 55th Street on up, and skip the river altogether. This was a smart move but it was still cold. I had my long Drylete top and bottoms but I could really have used a windbreaker.

At 87th Street (I always try to avoid 86th) I headed over to Central Park. Things were better here since the wind wasn't so bad. But the water fountains in the park (and in all the other parks) were turned off so I had to use the bathrooms for water. Cold or not, you still have to hydrate. For anyone who would like to run through the parks in this off season, I found bathrooms in Central Park (Conservatory Garden), St. Nicholas (near the southwest entrance), High Bridge (near 185th Street), Fort Tryon (bottom floor of Cafe) and Inwood Hill (on Dyckman Street) . You don't need to carry water.

The Escarpment Parks

The route through the parks can be seen on the map at the left. I call the series of parks, starting at the north end of Central Park and following up through Morningside, St. Nicholas, Jackie Robinson, High Bridge, Fort Tryon and Inwood Hill, the "Escarpment Parks" since they follow a line of steep ridges up through northern Manhattan. You can see on the map that the parks align themselves along the Manhattan street grid and all involve steep ridge lines. Click on the map to bring up an on-line Google Map version (produced using the USATF route application). You can also get a detailed description in the report I wrote a few years ago, (just don't go all the way to Wave Hill ).

Simply put, head up through Central Park, down through the Conservatory Garden and around the Lake and out the northwest entrance. From there head west on 110th Street a block and head up through Mornigside Park to the north end at 123rd Steet and Morningside Avenue. Then head up Morningside Avenue 4 blocks to 127th and hang a right and then a left on St. Nicholas Terrace where you will arrive at the south end of St. Nicholas Park. The bathroom is a few blocks north in a playground. Head all the way up through St. Nicholas staying on the westernmost path (along the top of the hill). Finally at the north end, go down the stairs and exit at 141st Street and St. Nicholas Ave. It wouldn't hurt to look at the map to follow this description (use the on-line map and zoom in).

Now head down (east) on 141st St. one block to Edgecombe. If you zoom in on the map you'll see I missed Edgecombe. No big deal — in any case head up to 145th Street and you'll get to Jackie Robinson Park. Make sure you're at the entrance at the top of the hill, not the bottom (like I was). The simplest way to traverse this park is just to stay on Edgecombe along the west side of the park all the way to 155th Street. I actually went down into the park about half way up and followed an old abandoned path. At 155th Street, head left up the hill and make sure you go past the road heading down the hill to the Harlem Rive Drive, and cross 155th St. to the Park. You should be on Edgecombe (again) heading north up a hill, with a triangular park on the other side and housing beyond. This is High Bridge Park, my favorite.

I like to head througth this park on the Old Croton Aqueduct (aka the OCA), starting at 158th Street, but you could also just stay on Edgecombe, but I strongly recommend the OCA. When you finally get to the end point of the OCA at the Manhattan end of High Bridge (yes, there is an actual bridge, unfortunately fenced off), head up the stairs, check out the tower, and get onto Amsterdam Avenue (yes, Amsterdam, the longest Avenue on the Manhattan street grid, extends all the way up here). Go up Amsterdam, cross all the highways and finally take a right on Laurel Hill Terrace. At this point I normally go down into the park and follow the park roads another half mile north, but this time I stayed on Laurel Hill.

When I finally got back to Amsterdam, I took a short cut. Instead of following the park all the way up, being cold and hungry, I crossed over on 190th Street and headed west. Then I took two "secret" underground shortcuts: The subway elevator & tunnel at the 191st St. #1 Train station (west side of St. Nicholas just north of and 190th) and the tunnel & elevator at the 190th St. A Train station (west side of Bennet Avenue north of 192nd St). Check the map carfully if you go this way. The tunnels are free, safe, well lighted, have lots of traffic, and they save you some very steep ups and downhills. Besides, it's cool to traverse these pieces of New York City infrastructure, all but unknown outside this neighborhood.

Fear not, you are in the final stretch. When you get out of the elevator at the A train station, you are at the entrance to Fort Tryon Park. Go north through the park staying on the westernmost path and circle around the Cloisters and take the steep winding path down to Riverside Drive and then down another block to Dyckman Street. Cross Dyckman and follow Payson, Seaman, 214th St. and Indian Road — skirting around the eastern edge of Inwood Hill Park (see map) — to the , our destination.

I walked into the place exactly at noon and Susan was there, having arrived not two minutes before. She had enjoyed her short visit to the Cloisters and now we both enjoyed a scrumptious brunch. The place has a great menu of brunch food, plus wines, beers, coffees, etc. etc. And just what is that I'm eating in that photo? It's Baked Stuffed French Toast with Maple Whipped Cream Cheese, Chocolate Chips, Dried Cranberries, Pecans, Cherries and Currants. An astounding dish. I'll be back soon, wanna come? You won't get lost with me.

December 8 — East River / Central Park Loop / Holiday Party (Week 2)

his week I felt like I'm getting serious. One way I know is that I'm dead tired right now after today's 15 mile long run. The week was full with an 8 mile medium run on Monday, a tempo run on Wednesday and a short, easy 4 miler on Friday. That's the pattern (although not neccessarily the mileage) I'll follow for the rest of this month. A good indication was my vital signs this morning: my weight was 153 (slighly lower than average) and my resting heart rate was 48 (the lowest for quite a while).

An East River / Central Park Loop 15 miler

oday I really was not thrilled to go out for my run. The weather was chilly with light showers forcast for the morning, and I would be going solo — both of my sometime running partners were out of town. And I was a little tired (although not completely beat, like now) from a full week of running. I decided to forego a brunch destination, and just do an out and back from home. But I wanted something interesting, instead of just running the same old route along the river, so I chose a route up the river to Carl Schurz Park (about 4 miles) then a mile over to Central Park where I would do a 5 mile loop, then return the same way. Check the map — it was a simple plan and it got me just over 15 miles. The part along the river may be confusing on the map since the outgoing mileage and return mileage are both shown. You can figure it out.

But the upside was that the Flyers Holiday Party is tonight, which should make up for missing a special brunch. I'll add a bit about that in the morning.

I started over to the river, but unlike last week when the temperatues were in the high 30°s with stiff winds off the water, this week it was in the mid to upper 40°s with no wind. But there was heavy fog — on the point of rain. So it was still chilly and very damp. I took a similar route but this time I got on the river from just north of the Queensboro Bridge and stayed all the way to Carl Schurz Park. There I could get some water to drink at the bathroom, which luckily was open. I actually carried a bottle of water for the first mile or so and hid it behind a fence at First Avenue and 40th Street, hoping to retrieve it on the way back.

I crossed over to Central Park on 87th Street and got to the Engineers' Gate after a little under one hour of running. My pace was to be slow but consistant for the entire run with various stops for water and other necessities. I did a 5 mile park loop (counter-clockwise) with a side jaunt to the Conservatory Garden to hit the bathroom, and staying primarily on the bridle path. The loop ended up a bit over 5 miles which was fine. I was hoping for another water stop an the Boat House, but unfortunately that bathroom was being cleaned. As I expected, all the fountains in the park were turned off. I don't expect them to get turned on again till Spring.

From 87th and Fifth, I headed back over to Carl Schurz Park and down the river, retracing the route I took at the start of the run. But Something was not right — I would get dizzy almost every time I stopped for a light or for any reason. I would stop, the dizzybness would hit me, and then when I got running again, it would pass. My legs were tired, but not overly so, but the dizzyness was disconcerting. I attributed it to either dehydration or to lack of energy (low blood sugar). So I made sure to get a good dring at Carl Schurz and rest for a few moments. I made a mental note for runs like this, say over 12 miles, to bring water and some energy food (Power Gels, etc.).

When I got back to 40th Street and First Avenue, I couldn't find my hidden water bottle, but I had but a mile more to go at that point so I soldiered on. [Ironically, I spotted the water bottle from the bus I was riding on Sunday morning, so it was not lost or removed after all.] I ended the run a the Deli across from my apartment building and bought some Gatorade and a couple of candy bars. I drank and ate on the spot, but who knows if that made any diference.

I ate, showered, and took the obligatory nap and woke about 4:00 in the afternoon, feeling tired and stiff. But fortunately the upcomong party cured me.

The New York Flyers Holiday Party

his year's party, like last year's, was held in a party room at Rockefeller University. It was tricky to find the room and several party goers were found wandering around the campus, lost. I think they all finally found their way. It was a wonderful venue, with plenty of room to sit or to stand. There was a big spread of very good food involving veggies, chicken, pastas, salmon, rice and other things I can't remember. And to top things off, there was a full bar with a special beer station with popular brands on tap (I liked the Sam Adams) — not the usual wimpy collection of bottles of Bud Lite and the like. And desserts — all those miniature pastries — I love them all. Enough to forget I was in training.

But the people made the party. A very happy, mellow crowd of all ages, with attire from jeans and T-shirt (that was me) to little-black-dresses (yes, little). Joy and I arrived fashionably late and a myriad of friends were there. It was a great night and enough to make me forget how tired I was from the morning's long run. Yes, a very good substitute for a fancy brunch and the perfect antidote to the post-nap blahs!

December 16 — The Massage Guy Visits / A 10K Race (Week 3)

his was a busy week, what with a visit by the Massage Guy (Joe Y.) on Tuesday and the "long run" morphing into a 10K race (preceded by about 6 miles of easy running to get to the race) on Sunday. The fixed parts of the week's training — the Monday medium run (8 miles), the Wednesday tempo run (about 2 + 2.5 + 2 miles) and the easy Friday run (about 4 miles) — went as planned. I also went to a Guinness beer tasting event Wednsday night and a get together with the trail running group at Agozars (a Cuban bar / restaurant) on Thursday. Although pleasurable, these evenings contributed to the overall exertion of the week — without adding any real training value .

The Massage Guy Visits

've been seeing Joe, my "Massage Guy" for about two years now, usually about once a month. Joe is also a running coach and has been very helpful in a number of ways, not least during the period of chronic calf problems that went on for some months starting about two years ago. This was a critical time when I started to get into shape for my first marathon in 8 years, which I was to run in the fall of 2011. Suffice it to say I ran the St. George Marathon in St. George Utah on October 1, 2011 and qualified for Boston. After all, that's why I'm writing this blog today.

One thing that has been a little bothersome lately is an ocassional soreness in my left ankle. This didn't feel like a muscle strain — it was down near the heel — but more like a bruise. Joe didn't detect any specific tightness or swelling at Tuesday's massage, so we agreed I would just "see how it goes". So far it's not getting any worse but not going away.

The Long Run: A 10K Race plus some miles getting there

uring marathon training, I occasionally like to do a race in place of the long run, just to see how I'm doing. Some times I take it easy (so as not to blow my training away) and some times I will push it. A race can give you a chance to run faster than in most of your training so your muscles remember how it feels.

This particular race was put on by , a small organization that puts on a number of races in the area, all on the small side. That's a big attraction for me. The race was the "Hot Chocolate 10K" and was held on Roosevelt Island on Sunday, along with a 5K race. The 5K went aound the Island a little short of one time and the 10K went twice around. There were a similar pair of races held on Labor Day at which time I slao ran the 10K (see ).

The weather looked problematic as the weekend got closer. Most forecasts said temperatures would be in the low 40°s with light rain. Then on Saturday, "light rain" became "few showers". Finally on Sunday the weather map showed the showers had moved out to sea. I breathed a sigh of relief (so did the race organizers). Inevitably, any race involves standing around before and after with very little shelter. Cold rain is about the worst. Snow in the low 30°s would be preferable to rain in the low 40°s. And I had the additional complication of running from home to the race (about 5½ miles) with the coordinartion required such that I arrived on time but not too early, and not late. I actually screwed that planning up since I didn't read the directions carefully. I arrived expecting the race to start to 9:30, but that was for the 5K. The 10K started at 10:00 so I had an extra half hour to kill. So I ran an extra 20 minutes or so for my warmup.

The race itself went well. One complication was the fact that the north end of the Island, where the lighthouse stands, had suffered some damage from hurricane Sandy (to the path, not to the lighthouse) so there was a minor reroute in that part of the course. I kept a fairly even pace and finished in 54:12, not quite what I was hoping for, but not bad. I was also first in the 70+ age group, but admitedly that was not a great accomplishment in such a small race — there was only one other 70 year old in the race. I tend to worry too much about the competitive aspects of these races so I have to remind myself that the race is just part of my overall training.

All in all, not a bad week!

December 22 — The Long Runs Get Longer (Week 4)

t was a bit of a mixed-up week. First of all, last week's long run (actually a 10K race plus around 6 miles before) was on Sunday rather than Saturday. But I decided to do my Monday medium run anyway rather than put if off, and I ran that (8 miles) very easy. Then late in the day on Monday, Susan emailed me if I wanted to run some easy miles in the park Tuesday morning, and I said "sure". Susan is just getting back from a broken arm and hasn't run in almost 2 months, so I didn't want to miss it. That's 3 days in a row, not my usual at all. Then Thursday night I had a dinner out with a friend so I could not run late in the day as I hope to. Instead I did my tempo run mid-day on Thursday, and took Friday off. A crazy week, but I did get everything in.

16 mile Long Run in Central Park

If you recall my plan (look down at my November 30th post where I put in ther long runs planned for each week), this was supposed to be an 18 miler and next week would be my first 20. I decided to cut this back to 16 miles since 18 would be a big jump. Next week would still be a big jump, but the increment would be spread out to 4 mile each week, rather than 6 and 2, so 16 it would be. I also decided to do the run entirely in Central Park, since I was solo and it would easier to stash some water and Gatorade and get my liquids on each loop. There were also bathrooms for the inevitable pit stops (and to get water in the middle of the loops).

Saturday was a cold and windy day. The temperature was 37° throughout the run, but the wind gusted up to 35 MPH, so the wind chills varied bertween 28° and 31°. Besides two layers, I had a Gortex windbreaker. I took it off after about ½ mile, but had to keep taking my gloves (thin glove liners actually) off and on as conditions changed. The worst wind gusts were at the north end, next to the open fields. I stayed on the Bridle Path as much as possible (I was still worried about a sore left heel). I did 3 loops: a 6, a 6 and a 4.

The first loop went well and I did it in 66 minutes including a pit stop. Making an adjustment for that, it was probably a 10:30 pace. More importantly, I felt strong and had no soreness or twinges. This loop was clockwise (up the west side and down the east side) which is probabaly the easier way since I would be going down Cat Hill, the steepest hill on the loop (the north hills are longer but they are about the same in either direction). I started each loop just south of the Boathouse Café, where I could use the bathroom if needed and stash my liquids in the bushes nearby.

The second loop (counter clockwise) also felt good. I impressed myself by not reallty getting tired the whole way, and actually picked the pace up to about a 10:00 pace. Ideally that should be my long run pace — about a minute slower than my hoped-for marathon pace.

The 3rd loop, 4 miles clockwise (mostly on the bridle path), also felt good — and no dizzyness when I made a stop, as happened two weeks ago. I was tempted to add a mile to this loop, but resisted the tempation — besides it was cold.

I finished in good shape, and headed into the Boathouse Café (no beer after this run, sorry). I got my coffee and a delicious banana/walnut muffin, but those darn tourists had taken all the seats, so I ate OUTSIDE. Yikes! I should have changed my shirts (I had brought dry shirts) but I was in a hurry, so I just put on the windbreaker over the damp, cold stuff I had run in. Bad idea! But I sucked it up, got to the subway and got home without freezing, and here I am warm and comfy typing this.

Next week will be another busy one with Christmas on Tuesday and the first 20 miler of my training on Saturday.

Gotta run, bye!

December 29 — The First 20 Miler (Week 5)

his week was a busy one, what with Christmas falling on Tuesday. We were home in New York and most of our time was taken up with holiday stuff. But I did manage to get in my Monday Medium Run (8 miles), my Wednesday Tempo Run (6+ miles) and an easy Friday morning run with my friend Terry. And tomorrow (Sunday the 30th) we're off for a family visit, returning after New Years.

But today was the the day for my first 20 miler for this training sequence, and that was the focus of my running.

To Indian Road Café with a Loop in the Park — 19.99 miles

  got a kick out of putting 19.99 as my mileage. I got it from the USATF mapping software: you plot your route on a map, and it figures the mileage. Of course it's not accurate to .01 miles, far from it. There's lots of uncertainties in the calculation: using a bunch of straight line segments (not the way you run), map inaccuracies, using geodetic instead of slope distance (Huh? don't worry about it), and on and on. Suffice it to say it was 20 miles, probably a bit more.

I was worried about the weather, but I needn't have worried. It was gray and cold, but not too cold. And the wind (mostly along the East River) was not too bad. I only needed my Gortex windbreaker for about a half mile, then I was fine (if a bit chilly here and there). My hands got cold with my thin running gloves, but I put on some mittens I was carrying, and then my hands were fine. We got some snow for the last mile or so, but that was just pretty, not unpleasant. All in all, good running weather.

The run was basically in four parts (all mileage is approximate):
  • Running up along the East River, meeting Melissa, and running over to the park (5 miles).
  • Running a full loop of the park with Melissa (6 miles) — she had to leave at this point to do some other things.
  • Meeting Susan, running up and out of the park and up to Washington Heights, mostly along St. Nicholas Avenue, Broadway and Fort Washington Avenue (7 miles).
  • And lastly, finishing up by running through Fort Tryon Park (home of the Cloisters) and around Inwood Hill Park to the restaurant (2 miles).
The map to the left shows it all (click on the map to bring up the on-line Google Map version), but a few details are worth mentioning: there was little street traffic, a big plus since I don't usually like to run so many miles on city streets; we ran most of our Central Park miles on the bridle path; once out of the park, the route is almost all up hill till we got to the cloisters; and lastly, it helped greatly to have such nice running companions — they turned what would have been a chore into a fun trek.

An Interesting Elevation Profile

ills, hills, always another hill. But there are a few hills on this route I never thought much about before — look at the elevation profile: the little bumps around mile two are where I had to leave the river and head up First Avenue and Sutton Place (37th to 60th Street); and that gradual uphill from mile 3 to mile 5 (from the River over to the park and up to 90th Street) surprised me; Central Park (mile 5 to 12) is full of hills, no surprise there; the gradual and then steep rise from mile 12½ to 18 is tiring to say the least. And did you know the two high bumps near the end of that section are the two co-highpoints of Manhattan? (Bennett Park and Fort Tryon flagpole — intrigued? see ). And lastly, the down hill from Fort Tryon Park to Inwood Hill Park (mile 18) is indeed steeeeep!

usan and I went to this little gem of a brunch place on my first real long run in this training plan on December 1st (use the index to check it out). It was a similar route (minus the loop of Central Park — so it was a 14 miler rather than a 20) except for the section going north from Central Park: in that run it was mostly through parks, today it was mostly on streets. But the brunch place (check it out ) is always a treat. I suggest you go there even if you DON'T run — just for the experience. Most of my great runs end at a great brunch spot. Today, my first 20, was no exception.

Perfect snow — almost

esterday I read this blog on the NY Times web site: , a lovely and clever essay on what makes a "perfect" show storm in the city: enough snow but not too much, cold but not too cold, etc. In the blogger's words, "blankets the landscape without burying it, beautifies but does not burden, transforms and cocoons without paralyzing or even particularly inconveniencing". Well, when we left the Café and walked the several blocks to the subway, the falling snow seemed just that. It gave that quiet sense that new snow gives. Then down into the subway we went to wend our way home. About 45 minutes later I climbed the stairs out of the subway in my home neighborhood. Oops ... cold rain and sleet! The spell had been broken. No longer the perfect snow, but just another yucky winter day in the city.

Oh well, at least we finished our run and finished our brunch before reality intruded. Happy New Year everyone!

January 5th — A New Year and a 13 Miler to Pierogies (Week 6)

appy New Year! We spent the holiday at my son's house. We watched the ball drop in Times Square on television with the grandchildren and then listened to the last of the Classical Countdown on WQXR.org (Beethovan's Ninth was #1 again). The next day I did a nice 8 mile run. Temperatures were around 30° and it was partly sunny and with the recent snow narrowing the roads, there wasn't much of a margin for running (no sidewalks in the suburbs). But most folks slept late so the roads were pretty empty. Here's the route: . It was a nice run and a great start to the New Year. We got home on Wednesday and on Thursday morning I had a nice run in Central Park with Susan. Her broken arm is much improved and she's working hard to get back up to speed. But boy was it cold — mid 20°s, if that. I was one day short on my weekday runs but after the previous week's 20 miler, it was a recovery week anyway.

For today's run we literally chose the destination and figured out a way to get there while running 13 miles, this week's long run target. After Thursday morning's run, Susan said, "I'm in the mood for pierogies", and the rest was just detail.

A Long Run to Pierogies — 13 Miles

hen you're running to pierogies, where else would you go but to ("kru-lev-ska yad-lo") on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (yes, Manhattan Avenue is in Brooklyn). It's simply the best Polish Restaurant west of Szczecin!

Melissa was also coming but she wanted to just run 10 miles. And to complicate things, Susan's place is only about 5 miles from the restaurant by the most direct route, over the Queensboro Bridge (aka the 59th Street Bridge, aka the Ed Koch Bridge — hey, this is New York!).

Solution? Easy: Susan and I would do a 3 mile warmup along the river, meet Melissa at 78th Street, go down and over the bridge, and then take a 5 mile side trip over to Roosevelt Island to check out the recently completed Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial at the south end of the island. From there we would take the usual route to Greenpont (see the map on the right; click on it to get the on-line Google map version).

The day started cold (around 30°) but with a cloudless sky and a good pace, we all ended up overdressed. It was just great running weather. As always, running down along the river and across the bridge was delightful. And we were in such good spirits that we couldn't help but wave at the tourists in the Roosevelt Island Tram as it went by. I know, very unlike New Yorkers!

Roosevelt Island, with river views in all directions was supurb. We got there via the bridge from Queens and did a partial circumnavigation of the Island. And although we had all read a bit about the new FDR Memorial recently opened at the south end of the island, the reality of it was stunning. Simple, yet perfectly placed to take advantage of the island's setting. All I can say is you MUST SEE IT!.

From there we got back off the island and headed back towards the Queensboro Bridge, crossing under it at 21st Street. We then headed due south on 21st, zigged over on Jackson Avenue to the Pulaski Bridge. As we crossed the Pulaski Bridge, with the stunning views of Manhattan, we were impressed by the string of pleasure boats anchored along the Queens side of Newtown Creek. This poor waterway, a superfund site, must be improving. Horray!

After crossing the bridge, we stayed on McGuinness Boulevard to Greenpoint Avenue, then east to Manhattan Avenue and down the ½ mile or so to the restuarant.

Królewskie Jadlo — the Best Polish Restaurant west of Szczecin!

Once we got to the restaurant, we were happy. Happy for a good run and happy to be in this place. We each had the speciality: "Chef's pierogies stuffed with goat cheese and spinach with chanterelle mushroom sauce". The beer (which I can neither spell nor pronounce) was also quite good.

And to make matters even better, on the walk to the subway, we spotted what looked like another great eating place. We'll be back — count on it!

January 12th — A Tough 17 Miler in the Park (Week 7)

his week was a busy one and in the end a tough one. I'm slowly building my mileage: 8 miles on Monday, 5 on Tuesday and another 5 Thursday afternoon. Outside of my running, things have been very busy at home and both my wife and I were more tired, more of the time than we'd like.

Come Saturday, I was shooting for an 18 miler. My 5 week cyles, of which I am in the second cycle, are based on long run mileage of 13, 18, 20, 15, 20. I think the hardest part of the cycle is in the second and third weeks where I'm scheduled for an 18 miler followed a week later by a 20. Somehow, it's the 18 that seems hardest. For my first cycle I pared that back to 16 miles, but this time I was shooting for the full 18.

Long Run — One Mile Shy of 18 miles

n this particular Saturday I was going Solo. On days like this I'm less inclined to take off for the outer boroughs and finish at a nice brunch spot. On such days, I generally stick to Central Park with its bathrooms, water and the ability to stash Gatorade and get to it on each park loop.

So I got going near the Boat House just after 10:00 AM and stashed my Gatorade in the bushes. Besides sticking to the park, I also tend to push the pace more when I'm by myself. Ironically, being by oneself in Central Park means being alone amidst hundreds of other runners. Today was no esception — the lower loop was simply clogged with runers.

The first loop was a little over 10 minutes per mile and the second (after a Gatorade and bathroom break) was actualluy a bit faster. Unfortunately on the third loop, the pace, or maybe my tiredness, or maybe my old shoes caught up with me. By the 3rd mile of the loop (mile 15 of the run) I had some pain in my right forefoot, an occasional twinge on the outside of my left knee and even a twinge or two in my right adductor. So when I got up to the 102nd Street transverse on the west side, I decided to skip the north hills and head across the transverse and down the final two miles to the Boat House. It was "only" 17 miles, but it was a tough and honest 17.

After a bite to eat, I changed my shirt, walked to the subway, got home, showered and slept for about 2 hours. Thus ended week 7!

January 17th — New Shoes

 should have bought new shoes two months ago. My shoes had been used in my training for and running the Shires of Vermont Marathon last May. They were probably giving my feet a hard time and might have been responsible for some new aches and pains I've been having. You might say my shoes were on their last legs.

So on Wednesday, I bought a pair of Asics GT2000s, which were the follow-on model to what I was wearing — why do they always change models just when you find something you like? I've worn the new ones around the house for the last couple of days and last night I wore them in the park for my tempo run. They still feel good and felt good during, and importantly, after my run. So cross your fingers, they look like winners.

Then yesterday, I bought another new pair. This time it was for a type I'd not even heard of two months ago. It's a new brand (or at least new to me) called "" (ho-kah oh-ney oh-ney, ancient Maori for "Now it is time to fly").

They make a variety of running and trail running shoes. The particular model I got is the "Stinson Evo Tarmac". Melissa has been wearing them and they have received some good reviews on-line. I hope they might help with the occasional numbness and soreness in my right forefoot. So consider them an experiment, albeit an expensive experiment. I've done no real running in them yet, but I'll keep you posted.

January 19th — A Beautiful Day for a Run in the Park — 21 miles (Week 8)

or my weekday mileage this week, I increased my Monday Medium Run (MMR) to 10 miles, up from 8. This will eventually increase to 12, probably in another month. The Wednesday run got moved back to Tuesday to coordinate with Susan's schedule, and the Thursday evening run, this time with Melissa in the park, became a tempo run, something I've neglected for the past several weeks.

Saturday - A Beautiful Day for a Long Run

oday was a beautiful day for running: temperatures in the upper 30°s to the mid 40°s sunny skies and little wind. After warming up, I tied my wind breaker around my waist, took off my gloves and felt comfortable the whole way.

I was ready to go solo, but Melissa's plans changed at the last minute and she was able to run about 8 miles with me. This helped a lot, thanks Melissa. For the first 5 miles, I ran from home up to Carl Schurz Park, then down to her place where she joind me, and we ran over to the park (to the Boathouse). This would be my start/finish for the loops. I planned 3 loops in the park, a 6, a 5 and a 4 mile loop. These were not exact mileage, but close enough for planning.

We did the full 6 mile loop with as much running on the Bridle Path as possible. This first loop was clockwise (down the east side, up the west side). When we finally ran down Cat Hill and arrived at the Boathouse I had done 11+ miles total and Melissa had done 7. I had stashed some Gatorade in the bushes just south of the Boathouse so I inbibed and caught my breath for a moment.

We reversed directions and headed up Cat Hill for our second loop. Once again we stuck to the Bridle Path whenever it was available. When we got to around 96th Street, Melissa cut out — she had done her 8, and had to put in some time at her work. I continued on and took the 102nd Street transverse since I was skipping the north hills (this was a 5 mile loop).

Unfortunately, my right forefoot started hurting around this point (about 13 miles into the run) and it hurt off and on for the next 3 or so miles remaining in this loop. At the end of the loop, after having a swig or two of Gatorade, I took off my shoe and did a self-foot-massage. It helped — I had no pain on my final loop. I was wearing my new Asics GT2000s (see previous post). They were similar in this regard to my old Asics (in which I had also experienced forefoot pain), but on the whole they felt good.

The last loop was to be a 4 mile loop, but instead of just doing the middle 4 mile loop of the park, I did the lower loop again. ran up the west side and cut acrosss 102nd Street in what would have been a 5 mile loop, but I stopped at 90th Street by the Engineers' Gate since I knew this was about a mile from the Boathouse. I did it this way because Melissa and I had agreed to meet for lunch near her work which was in the 90s.

When I measured my run on the USATF web site I came out with a total of 21 mile, yikes! Where did the extra mile come from? Well, it came from a little bit here and a little bit there. First off, the run to the park from home came out to 5.5 miles, and the loops were 6.2, 5.1 and 4.2 miles. One reason may be that we used the Bridle Path, which is evidently slightly longer than the roads. The other thing is not to take the measurements too seriously. I always get different numbers from my iPhone friends and my Garmin friends, and they get different numbers from each other. So as I've said a number of times, don't sweat these numbers. I'd say it was 21 miles plus or minus a few tenths, and leave it at that.

As for the forefoot pain, at least I had found a temporary solution (self-foot-massage), although it would not be optimal to do that in the middle of a race. My other hope is my new Hoka One Ones (see previous post) which feature added mid-foot cushioning. I'll keep you posted.

— a New Destination

elissa had recently discovered this place since it's near her work. It's a veritable hole-in-the-wall at 97th and Park. It was amazingly good. They had 4 beers on tap and evidently they cycle through a number of good local and regional microbrews over time. I had a Magic Hat "Heart of Darkness Stout" which was terrific. This, along with a scrumtious Mac and Cheese was the ideal post run recovery meal. If you're wondering what the deer are doing behind our table in the picture, they were part of a rather large painting on the wall, just a few inches from the table. You must try this place some time.

January 21 - 27 — Aches & Pains & Cold but a Strong Half-Marathon (Week 9)

f you scroll down to my last post (Jan. 19th) you'll note that my 21 mile long run, although a satisfying run on a great running day, involved some troublesome episodes of right forefoot pain. Well, that problem continued into this week. On my 10 mile Monday Medium Run I wore my new HOKA One One shoes, hoping the extra mid foot padding they have would be a corrective to my forfoot pain. Far from it, they were just as bad and miles 6, 7 and 8 were painful. I took the shoe off and did a little messaging at mile 8, and the last 2 miles were OK — numbness but no pain. In addition, soreness in my left heel, which has bothered me lately — mostly late in the day and not during my runs — was quite evident. Hardly a great debut for these shoes. I realized that it was a mistake to introduce a new shoe with a different feel into the equation and so I decided to put them aside for the time being and work on the problems at hand by sticking to my old shoes.

I sent a detailed note to Joe, my massage guy, on the problem, and he theorized it was probably due to compression in the foerefot from the shoes, which would affect the nerves and lead to the numbness and pain. I will meet with him the next week and he will try to come up with some ideas.

I took it easy on my Wednesday (5 miles) and Friday (6 miles) runs and I'm happy to say neither the heel soreness nor the forefoot pain were evident. There was a slight numbness in my right big toe, but it was of a very low intensity — something you noticed if you paid special attention but which might ordinarily be ignored. Having noticed it during these runs, I realized I could sense a little of this big toe numbness around the house, not just while running. Some more information to discuss with Joe next week.

The other thing about these two runs were that the temperatures were very cold — in the teens on Wednseday and in the low to mid 20°s on Friday. This kind of coldness, especially when it comes on suddenly as it did, makes for tough going for all your muscles. Everything is very tight and, in fact, you tend to try and run faster to warm up, just the opposite of what you should be doing. Nevertheless it looks like I had made some meaningful recovery from these issues with the Manhattan Half-Marathon coming up on Sunday, a race I hoped to do well in as a "time trial", so to speak, to see how my training is going.

Sunday — The Manhattan Half-Marathon — a Cold but Very Satisfying Race

he Manhattan Half is one of the few NYRR races that I try to do every year. It wasn't always that way: until about 5 or 6 years ago it was a summer race and it was a bit of a death march. In those days I used to try to do the Brooklyn Half every year but with that one getting very crowded and a hassle to get, to I'm sticking to this race. The half-marathon distance is one of my favorite — that and the 10 mile distance. But NYRR races in general are getting too crowded so I may abandon this one eventually. But that's another story ...

At 7:00 AM, when I left for the race, temperatures were in the high teens. I brought my bag with a compete change of clothes including 2 pairs of gloves. To me this is really cold. Worst still, the coffee shop on Lexington and 70th Street was closed so I had to jog over to the park and wait in line for the port-o-sans. Evereyone was jumping and stomping and shivering. Finally I got to do my business and dropped my bag in the luggage area. I wore my complete running stuff: two layers top and bottom, with a full hat, a nylon neck warmer, light gloves and mittens over the gloves. On top of that I wore my Gortex windbreaker. With winds gusting to 12 MPH, the wind chills were in the single digits.

I lined up in my corral with about 5 minutes to go, and standing, freezing, in a crowd of close to 5,000 runners about a quarter mile from the starting line, I wondered what on earth was I doing here? But then the starting horn went off, and the crowd slowly got moving and my legs started to move. It took about 4:30 to cross the starting line and I gradually got into my running mode.

The first mile was slow (see below where I talk about mile splits) due to the 2 "C"s: cold and crowds. But after swinging around the lower loop and passing that little dip before the Boathouse, the race really started for me. First problem: Cat Hill. I've must have done it a gazillion times but it's never fun. But my legs felt strong and my pace steady. Luckily this hill is not too long. If you check the map on the right, the Boathouse is just past the first water stop. BTW: the mile markers on that map are not too accurate, but on the ground the markers seem to be pretty much on target. There's a long section from the top of Cat Hill till past the Reservoir which is pretty flat, and then you start the long downhill to the north end of the park. This, the 3rd mile, is the fastest mile of the course, but it is followed by the slowest mile where you climb the steep North Hill.

This is where you see folks who went out too fast start walking, and the pack thins out. At about the bottom of the hill, around mile 3½, I took off my windbreaker and tied it around me, and about a mile later the outer mittens came off. Now I just had light weight gloves which were sufficient for the rest of the race.

The west side is not a hard stretch as the mile splits (below) show. But you do have a few hills from about 100th Street to the Reservoir to contend with. Finally there's a nice gradual downhill to where you pass the starting line, having completed one complete loop of the park.

The second loop — what can I say? It's usually faster (unless you don't have the endurance) but definately you are working harder. This loop, especially the last 3 miles, were the hardest thing I've done since my marathon last May. But the main thing is I held it together and maintained (actually improved) my pace. There is, of course, the 13th mile, which unlike the "19th hole" in golf, is actually the hardest. It's flat and there are no crowds but it's still the hardest!

My goal the whole race was to maintain a 9:00 minute per mile pace and thereby break 2 hours. And although the pace went up and down with the hills (see below) the overall pace was almost exactly on target.

Hills, Hills and more hills

entral Park is a hilly course, and the fact that in the half-marathon you do the park loop twice (plus a bit more) makes the effect pretty strong. To say it another way, twice around the park is MORE that twice as hard. Look at the elevation profile below. There are two tough hills, "Cat Hill", just north of the Boathouse on the East side, and the "North Hills", which are actually two hills with a big dip in between at the north end of the park. Runing in this direction is probably the easier way to run the north hills since there is only one steep uphill section. The "Back Hills" are not a real factor, but it's wise to remember that when you come off the north hills in this direction, there is another uphill section as you head down the west side.

Now look at the two graphs under the elevation profile. Those are my mile splits recorded on my watch (how long it took to run a given mile) for the two loops of the park. It's hard to decide where to put the mile split value since it represents a mile's worth of effort, so I put it more of less in the middle of the corresponding section of the profile. You can see a definite effect of the two tough hills, and in fact the splits are almost exactly the same for both loops. Except for mile 1, which is a lot slower than the corresponding mile in the second loop (mile 7). That's for two reasons: 1) The tempertatures were very cold and it takes (at least) a mile to warm up and get into your stride and 2) the race course was very crowded the first mile (or more) and it's hard to get into you pace with everyone else getting in the way. Another way to look at it is to say the cold and the crowds of mile one slow you down as much as the worst hill on the course.

The other effect, somewhat obvious, is the fastest miles on both loops were on the down hill sections. Bottom line: hills matter — a lot!

The Finish — Looks Like I'm Making Some Progress

  hit mile 13 with about 2:02:00 showing on the clock. Then I had to subtract 4:30, which was my start delay and add a minute to get the last .1 mile. This calculation was going on in my head while I was in great pain with severe oxygen debt. But the numbers came out fine as did my finishing time: 1:58:11. Not only did I make my personal goal, but I was second in the 70-74 age group, a rarity for NYRR races. Except for a little numbness in my right foot in the last 3 miles, it was a great race and a very strong effort. I picked up the "medal" the following week. It's actually a beautiful engraved slab of hard plastic. Take a look — I like it, especially since it's so rare for me to get an age-group "Podium Finish" in an NYRR race.

It's interesting to compare today's race with , which I ran last September 30th. In that race I finished in 1:58:37, alomst a half minute slower than today. I also had forefoot pain after mile 10, which I did not have today (although I did have some numbness today). This is remarkable, since today's race was significantly harder — much hillier and colder — both of which will slow you down. So today was a big confidence builder; it shows that just over two months of marathon training is paying off.

The 19th Hole

o workout of this intensity would be complete with out some quality R&R after. With that in mind, I met Susan after the race and we found a nice window table at the Boathouse Café where we enjoyed an excellent brunch. It took me a while to get my emotional level down from the racing high to the brunch low. We spent a good 45 minutes enjoying the food and the view of the beautiful snow covered lake with a fire going in the fire place. A proper ending to a great race!

Jan. 28th - Feb. 3rd — A Recovery Week, a 20 Miler
and the Annual Awards Gala (Week 10)

his week was week 10 of my training. Wow! That means I'm at the half way point. But I hardly feel like I'm half way done with my training. Like the marathon itself, the second half is the harder by far. In a marathon race I usually say the 20 mile point is the half way point. By that I mean the last 6 miles will take as much effort and pain as the first 20.

This week lays between two 20+ mile runs in my schedule and, in addition, the weekend in between (last weekend) was not an easy run. It was the Manhattan Half-Marathon, which may well be the hardest effort of any run, including numerous 20+ milers, till the marathon itself. So by neccessity, this week's weekday schedule was cut back from 3 to 2 runs and both were very easy.

Tuesday was to be the Monday Medium Run displaced by one day (so I could take off the day after the half-marathon). I ran with Susann and we were to do the usual run to her work (about 5½ miles) but I would cut out where we usually exit the Park (at 59th Street) and then do an additional 4 or 5 easy miles. Well, as we moved around the north end of the park, stopping here or there to check out very early flowers blooming (snow drops are out and dafodills are almost ready — and it's still January!), or watch the Mallards clustered in one unfrozen spot of the Reservoir, Susan suddenly said "why don't we just go to the Boathouse Café and have coffee and a bite to eat?" Well, how could I refuse, so that is what we did! And after a leisurely 30 or 40 minutes of eating and admiring the scene out on the frozen lake, we were done. But still having a bit of ambition left, I took off for a very easy 5 mile loop of the park as Susan headed down to work.

My Thursday after-work run with Melissa was similarly broken into two pieces. First we ran over to Symphony Space on 95th and Broadway to get tickets for the . (Check it out: it runs 4 nights, alternating 2 different programs, and you will love it), and then we ran back to the park and finished our run. It was dark and we had no lights, but the city lights from around the outside gave us enough illumination to make our way around the park, and also gave us a special night-time beauty where the park is lit by myriad tall buildings which literally sparkle. The view from the reservoir path was especially beautiful. If you've never run it at night, do it! Tonight!

Saturday Morning — A Cold but Sunny 20 Miler

his run was to be like the one I did two weeks ago, except this time I would know NOT to run an extra mile. Luckily, Melissa was also available and she would run the first loop of the park with me and later meet for brunch. That run went pretty well so I had high hopes this one would too.

The single difference in my route was to cut the 2nd loop from 5 miles (5.1 to be precise) to 4 miles (4.3 to be precise). That brough my total mileage to 20.2, which seemed just right. Another difference was that it started cold and stayed cold. The run 2 weeks ago started cold but gradually warmed up. This time I was repeatedly taking of my extra mittens and my windbreaker off, only to put them back on as I continued. The 4 miles up along the East River were, ironically, the warmest, even though the thermometer said it was only 20° at the start — the key ingredient was that I was running in direct sun almost the whole way. Later on, even thought the mercury crept up slightly (to 24°) the route through the park had more shade and a thin layer of clouds moved in throughout the run.

For the last 2 loops, (about 8 miles) I pushed the pace, even though my legs were tiring. I was happy with how that went. The other thing I did was to give my right foot a short massage between each loop. This, I believe, kept the foot pain I had experience 2 weeks ago at bay.

After the run, I met Melissa at , the same place as the last time. The food and drink were fine but I was more concerned with the cold, which was waiting for me when I left the place and made my way to the subway, and ever moreso when I walked the final 6 blocks from the subway to my apartment. But I'm here to tell about it, so somehow I survived. My last comment for the day: cold!

Saturday Evening — The Annual Awards Gala

his was billed as the 23rd Annual Awards Gala for the New York Flyers, and I've been to 22 — all but the first one in 1990 (I joined in 1991). They've all been fun but this one had just the right combination of people looking their best, the venue, the menu and the program. From the cocktail hour to the dinner to the awards presentations and to the dancing till midnight. My wife concurs it seemed to have just the right "feeling" of nice people having a good time.

I got home from my run and brunch about 3:00 and barely had time for a nap when I had to wake myself up, get out my finest duds, and go out into the cold (again!) with Joy, to make our way down to the , in Battery Park next to the Staten Island Ferry at the very last stop on the M15. The place is a great restaurant right on New York Harbor with views of the Statue of Liberty.

It had been a very long day and around about 11:00 we had to make our way home, as the dancing was just getting going. But it was a super day in my training with a strong 20 miler, a nice brunch and a really great evening. There are not a lot of days like this one.

February 4th - 10th — Cold & Snow and an Honest 13+ Miler (Week 11)

A Cold Week, Ending with a Blizzard

onday's Run was cold and windy with temperatures in the mid 20°s. I was hoping to run up to Susan's place since she needed a little help with some stuff. Since she lives 4 miles north, I decided to run 3 miles south, then turn around (by the Brooklyn Bridge) and return back to 20th Street (making it 6 miles). Then I would continue up up to Susan's to make the 10 miles for my Monday Medium Run. I took a brisk pace from mile 5 on up, partly because I was feeling good and partly because it was cold. I got to her place barely a few minutes before she arrived by cab with her husband and there were actually minimal "stuff" to help with. My legs felt fine and although my right foot was occasionally numb, stopping briefly helped. Susan made some coffee and soon after I took the M15 bus home.

On Wednesday morning I met Susan for a run to her work from the park. It was a nice run, warmer – in the low 30°s – but there was sun and not much wind. There was a thin layer of snow on the ground which made for a pretty park.

When we got to the west side at 102nd Street, I did a tempo pace run down to to 72nd Street – about 1½ miles. I felt sluggish but I did push myself, which is the main thing. I wore my new Asics shoes and had no particular problems. We parted company at 44th Street and I walked over to Grand central and took the bus home.

Since I was doing my long run on Sunday, I ran my 3rd weekday run on Friday instead of Thursday. A big storm was forecast for late in the day so I went out about 10 AM. It had first started as snow and then turned to sleet, which, with the wind picking, up made for very unpleasant running. Sleet hitting you in the face with a brisk head wind was no fun at all.

My right big toe was a little numb, and interestingly, the toe was cold to the touch in comparison with my left toe, indicating some circulation problems. Probably a tightness in the shoe would explain both the numbness and the cold.

It snowed all night Friday (they called the storm "Nemo" — those weather guys love to humanize all the storms now, not just hurricanes). The sun came out around noon on Saturday, and I went to the park to check out the scene. Beautiful is the only word for it. And every kid within 5 miles of the park was out there sledding.

Sunday — An Honest 13+ Miler in the Snow Covered Park

usan and I had planned to go up to Van Cortlandt park in the Bronx on Sunday to do our long runs, and then get brunch up there. But with the heavy snow we decided to stick closer to home. So we met at her place, ran over to the park, and hoped to do at least 2 loops and then head for the , an old favorite of ours on Amsterdam and 96th Street. It would add up to about 14 - 15 miles. The snow covered park was beautiful — check out the following pictures which chronicle our first counter-clockwise loop of the park (click the picture to start the slideshow):

The park was beautiful but our run was not. Both Susan and I felt some soreness in the back of our legs starting after the first mile or two. Our best guess is that the problem stemmed from our running the first half mile or so on the snow covered Bridle Path (notice the 3rd picture). This sort of thing can throw off your stride, resulting in tight and easily injured muscles. The rest of the two loops were done in some pain, although not enough to stop us. But only now, two days later, are my legs getting back to normal.

But we did run two loops of the park — minus about a half mile when we cut over to the West Side at the 102nd Street transverse. We then headed out of the park and over to the Dive Bar. We ended up running around 13½ miles, a very honest run, considering.

Après-run at the Dive Bar

e were both feeling tired and hungry and not a little bit down from the less-than-optimal run. But being here cheered us up rapidly. The first uplifting thing was that the place was serving Heart of Darkness beer, one of our favorites. The place serves 20 or 30 types of beers, and they had just got some of this Vermont Micro Brew in. Next we ordered their hearty and plentiful Mac & Cheese and I supplemented that with an order of brocolli (I had to order SOMETHING healthy!) Soon we were fat and happy. All good runs ought to end at a good brunch spot, and even a not-so-good run can be greatly improved by some good food and drink!

And you can quote me on that!

February 11th - 17th — An Off Week and a Painful 10 Miler (Week 12)

ast Sunday's run in a snowy Central park had unfortunate consequences. What had been soreness in the right hamstrings morphed into general soreness around the right hip: both in the front (the aductors) and at the back (the glutes). I took time off from running and did deep water running on both Tuesday and Thursday. I was hoping the extended rest would allow me to do a good job on my Sunday 10 Mile Race — The Prospect Park Track Club Cherry Tree.

This race is a favorite of mine and I've written several accounts of it: and from my "Running to the Shires Blog", . Last year's run went very well: I first ran from the Manhattan end of the Brooklyn Bridge to the race, mostly along Flartbush Avenue, and then I did a reputable 1:27:52 in the race which got me an age group award. I would have been delighted to do as well this year.

It was not to be. The right hamstrings complained during my easy 6 miles from the bridge to the park, but in the race they did more than complain. I was in persistant pain the whole way. Last years 8:47 pace was well beyond me and I ended up doing a 10:25 pace. I was embarassed to win 2nd place in the 70+ age group but I was worried that my marathon training program was in jeopardy.

I decided I needed to stop and address the problem while the Boston Marathon was still 2 months away. I got in touch with Joe, my massage therapist and set up an appointment for Wednesday the next week.

February 18th - 24th — On the Disabled List (Week 13)

oe, my massage therapist and general coach/mentor, came by on Wednesday and did a very thorough massage. I was fearful he would not find any muscular problems which would have put me nowhere, but in fact he found definite stress in the right biceps femoris, the outer of the three hamstring muscles.

He found tension along what he called the "short head" which is the part of the muscle that attaches to the femur (the thigh bone) on the outside, about halfway up. In this case, the stress or tension lay along a line of muscle tissue. As Joe worked his way up, the tension was painful but was somewhat relieved by his work. This is consistent with the pain during the race which was in the back and the outside of the thigh. He also found some stress at the "long head" attachment point. This is where the muscle attaches to the pelvic bone (the back of the hip). In this case, since the problem was at the point of attachment to the pelvis, he was working against the bone. Once again his work was initially painful but the tension was largely released.

It took me a while to understand how this muscle attaches to the various points in the thigh. The picture might help (the view is of the right thigh from the back). Starting at the bottom, the biceps femoris attaches to the top of the fibula and swings around the outside of the knee to the back of the thigh. Further up, it splits in two and the outside part (called the short head) attaches to the femur about half way up. The other part (called the long head) goes all the way up to the pelvis and attaches to the bottom protrusion of that bone. The red outlines show the approximate location of where Joe did his work.

In addition to the massage, Joe also prescribed a set of stretches and a program of work to be done in the gym to preserve as much of the level of my fitness as possible during a period when I would not be running. Later I would add deep water running.

So at this point I'm on the disabled list — no running! I'm doing the work and the stretches. As Joe said, all I need is time and patience.

March – Rehab, Cross Training and Planning (Weeks 14 – 18)

his problem looked like it was not going to disappear in a day or two, or even a week or two. So the first thing I had to decide is on a new plan for the marathon. I realized that by qualifying, I had already accomplished my goal. But it's hard not to want to do a super job at Boston. But I had to get my mind wrapped around the new reality.

I had already done 3 20+ milers and numerous runs of 13 miles and up. It looked like there would be no more of them. I had to start over and build up the mileage that my right leg would tolerate and at the same time do as much cross training as possible to preserve the fitness I had built.

So my goals in the marathon, given the unlikelihood of a fast race, were (in order of priority) 1) cross the finish line standing on my own two feet and 2) enjoy the race. The second one may be more important, but I couldn't very will enjoy it if I didn't finish, so that's the order.

Getting back to running

After two weeks off, I started running – at first just 2 miles and then built up. I also did some combos where I would run for 45 minutes and then do 45 minutes on the stationary bike – these were tough wokouts. There were triple combos: 30 minutes on the rowing machine; 30 minutes on the bike and 10 minutes on the elliptical. And then there was Deep Water Running: as much as I could stand (up to 75 minutes now).

I scheduled Joe for every other week and he gave me several stretches and self massage routines. He could no longer “feel” where the problem was but he said in cases like this, that was not surprising.

It was boring and it was frustrating but I managed some progress. My “long run” increased from 2 miles to 4 mils to 8 miles and I'm working on that every week.

And all the time I walked and walked and walked.. I figure, if all else fails, I can walk the marathon course. But I need to make sure my walking muscles and shoes are well practiced (somehow walking muscles are not exactly the same as running muscles). Heck, since I've hiked probably 2000 miles in the last 10 years, a mere 26 should be easy.

So if you see me out there running, you should know that you caught me at a lucky moment .

March 30th – Back to Running – to the Orchid Show (Week 19)

t last, this is a blog post about running! Well, not entirely, we also saw some pretty flowers. But a couple of good things — running wise — happened this week. On Monday night my running partner Susan came back from a 10 day vacation in St. Petersburg, Russia. So Wednesday morning we did an easy 4 mile run in Central park ending with breakfast at the Boathouse Café. Good weather for running and good weather for watching the pond with a fire going in the fireplace as we spipped our coffee. Then on Saturday, I joined both Susan and Melissa for a run from the Upper East Side to the NY Botanical Garden to check out the Orchid Show.

Ordinarily, we would have worked our way up along the East River to 125th Street and crossed to the Bronx on the Willis Avenue Bridge. Then we would have headed north on Willis Avenue, thence to 3rd Avenue and thence to Boston Road. When we got to around 170th Street we'd have our usual argument discussion on whether to run through Crotona Park (that's "Crotona", not "Corona") or around it, and then finally we would find our way to Southern Boulevard and thence to the Botanical Garden (important details omitted from this summary).

But today, when we got to the pedestrian bridge to Randall's Island, I innocently said, "Hey why don't we cross over, run around the island and then cross over to the Bronx on the walkway on the Triboro Bridge". So they said, "OK, whatever." Of course this obsoleted the maps we had taken for the route, mine, in my head (imperfectly remembered), and Susan's, on her iPhone (which, having upgraded itself, was uncooperative in displaying directions).

We took the shore path up around the west side of the island, across the foot bridge over the marsh, went around under the bridge to Manhattan and finally got onto the walkway of the Bronx part of the Triboro Bridge and crossed over to a fairly seedy area of the South Bronx.

Then we headed north at the first opportunity, which was on St. Ann's Avenue, intending to eventually intersect 3rd Avenue, at which point we could resume the original route. But unexpectedly, we first bumped into St Mary's Park — and when I see a park I always want to run through it (even if it doesn't quite get you to the right place) — so we ran through it. We asked a couple of people in the park how to get to Crotona Park and no one had heard of it, including a Parks Department worker. So we kept heading more-or-less north and when we got out of the park got onto Cauldwell Avenue. That kept us happy for about a mile. Then we met up with Boston Road and our troubles were over. Not!

I was still anxious to get to and cross through Crotona Park. I think one or two of my companions thought I was more interested in Crotona Park than in getting to the Botanical Garden. Nay, I say. I just prefer running through parks than along streets (not least streets in the South Bronx). In the end we found our way to Crotona Park and crossed it in a sort-of-northward direction, and finally succeeded in getting on Southern Boulevard and at last — 8.7 miles and many tired muscles from the start — got to the Botanical Garden.

Well, what about my "Injury"?

'm happy to report that aside from some tightness in my right leg the first mile or so, everything felt pretty good. True, 8.7 miles of running with lots of stops is hardly a marathon, but it's a big improvement over where I was 3 or 4 weeks ago. Next Sunday we will run the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in Washington D.C. Hopefully that will also go well and then it's on to Boston a week later. Wish me luck!

The Orchid show and the Botanical Garden

e have run to the Orchid Show perhaps 3 or 4 times over the years and it's always spectacular. And the rest of the Botanical Garden is no less striking. We have spent literally hours hiking and running along the back woods trails and along the Bronx River and it's truly a treasure. An added benefit was that my work ID got us all in (my work is a corporate donor). I had always gotten in with myself and one guest, so today I asked if I could have two guests. The nice lady said you could have up to 5 guests! Wow, next time let's have a real party.

The beauty of the Orchids speaks for itself as a glance at the photos shows. Suffice it to say we spent more time in the Botanical Garden than we took to run there. We had a nice lunch at the café (including the totally unexpected availability of Magic Hat #9 Ale), and when we were done we took the tram (included in our free entry) back to the entrance to see how the tourists tour. And today was especially busy with tourists, given the beautiful weather and the Easter weekend. And the last mile walking to the subway was more than enough to put us into nap mode upon returning home — happy and tired. It's just too bad the tram doesn't go to the subway!

And winding things up, here's a link to the photo album:   Carl Schurz Park to the NY Botanical Garden - Photo Album

Note: a training run report based on this post is located
at .
Check it out when you have a moment.

April 1st — Some Cushioning Insoles

 while back, I asked Tim D. — all around expert on ultra running and running stuff in general — about cushioning for my forefoot, which is subject to numbness and soreness in the later miles of runs. The problem is, the soles of the shoe may (or may not) have plenty of cushioning, but the insole, where the "rubber meets the road", so-to-speak, has a hard stiff surface. Tim suggested , which are said to be quite "squishy". I finally looked them up and they are popular with folks who spend a lot of time on their feet, such as postmen and police. So last week I bought a pair on the internet and today they came.

So I stuck them in my Asics. I tried them with and without the regular insoles. My arch support insoles were too thick, but the regular Asics insoles were thin enough so that the Sorbothanes could just fit on top of them. I walked around a bit and they do give an extra bit of comfort, so I decided to use them in Sunday's Cherry Blossom 10 miler and see what they can do for me. Click on the picture to see what the marketing guys have to say about them. Stay tuned for a real life report in next week's post.

April 7th – The Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run – a Confidence Builder (week 20)

his week was the last week of marathon training, actually tapering. In one week from today (Monday) I'll be at the starting line of the Boston Marathon. So what was on the agenda for this weekend? Obviously, the in Washington D.C. No, I did not plan on running a PR in a 10 mile race the week before a marathon, but let's call it an easy 10 mile "long run" with 18,000 of my closest friends in the midst of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington.

If you've read my running blogs over the last few years you'll know that this race is one of my absolute favorites. I first ran it in 1990 – I still have the beautiful 1990 shirt – and last year I had a great time running it (see ).

The only real problem was – you guessed it – no cherry blossoms! Last year we were too late by a week, and this year we were too early. All the buds were ready to burst into flowers. I guess they were just waiting for us to leave. However, the Magnolias were quite beautiful, and the weather (sunny with highs in the 50°s all weekend) was perfect.

Saturday – Plenty of Walking

usan, my running partner, and I took the Bolt Bus down Saturday morning, and after picking up our race stuff, we checked into the conveniently located (about a 2 mile walk from Union Station) where we had stayed last year. If you're not familiar with "Hostels" (formerly known as "Youth Hostels", before they discovered that adults liked to travel cheaply too), they offer a free breakfast, an open kitchen (you bring and cook your own food), dorm style rooms and very low prices. This one was about a 15 minute walk from all the major sights of the Capitol — 30 minutes from Union Station. In fact, I'm booked into the one in Boston for next Sunday night. Just two blocks from the Boston Common and only $45!

Since we had a major race the next morning, we spent most of Saturday aftenoon, playing the tourist, walking down to the Tidal Basin and across the 14th Street Bridge to the Jefferson Memorial. The next day we would be running in this same area. We probably did 5+ miles of walking. My legs, of course , were exhausted, but I'm glad to say my feet felt fine with the Sorbothane Insoles (see the previous post, below). Take your small victories where you can!

We dined at , a place we discovered last year only a few blocks from the Hostel. For reasonable prices, they have good pastas and burgers, plus an excellent selection of beers. I had the American Brown, and Susan had the Amber. Great thirst quenchers after a long dusty day of walking. We got there early to beat the crowds and got back to the Hostel by 6:00.

We planned to spend the evening catching up with our reading, but I'm afraid we both had trouble keeping our eyes open. Meanwhile, the Hostel had organized a group to go down to the Washington Monument to watch some fireworks. No thank you! I hit the hay about 9:30. My room had 4 double bunks and it was full (the whole place was full) with a variety of guys. I got two of their names but I would hardly see them again the whole weekend. Curiously, there were very few Cherry Blossom runners there. I think we just don't know these places are around.

Sunday – The Race, The National Gallery, and a Fancy Restaurant

he race started at 7:30. That means I got up around 6:00 AM, got dressed to run, ate something, did a little self massage (with "") and was out the door about 7:00. It was cold (40°s) and I was dressed to run. Being close to the race course, it was too much trouble to check a bag. I had the good fortune to discover a McDonald's with a bathroom on the way down (at New York and 13th) and that saved a lot of hassle. The scene at the start was pandemonium. Forget it if you had to use the portosans or check your bag. But the plus side for someone like me was there was little time to stand around and get cold. I had just a long sleeve coolmax shirt over a singlet, and that (plus some gloves) was the extent of my cold weather gear. This race has come a long way since 1990 when there were only a few thousand runners.

The race had 6 waves (of about 2500 runners each), which started about 5 minutes apart. We were both in the third (the "Blue") wave, but I never saw Susan. Once I got started, things went very smoothly for me. I hoped to run at a very easy pace, perhaps around 10 minutes/mile. My cohort in the "Blue" wave was just about right for that. Not a lot of pressure to speed up or slow down. And yes, I was warm once I started running.

Susan had a less easy time and said there were a lot of folks around her who kept pushing to get ahead or otherwise making life difficult for the other runners. They never learned to say "excuse me". Don't people learn anything in kindergarden any more?

The course was a bit complicated with a number of out-and-backs, starting with the bridge over to Alexandria Virginia and back. Here's the course map: . It was quite easy with no hills whatsoever — unless you count the slight grade up to the bridge.

My goal was to have a nice run, keep a steady pace, and hope for the best from my problem leg. You might say this was a trial run (for my leg) for Boston coming a week and a day later. In the end I had more than that: I had a great run, my leg did not act up (but for a little soreness the last mile), and my pace came out to be 9:40 per mile. And I was 7th in the 70-74 age group (out of 28). Not bad for taking it easy. And a confidence builder it certainly was. I just need the same relaxed mindset next week in Boston.

Oh, and those Sorbothane Insoles? They were very comfortable. It's hard to prove they kept the numbness and soreness away from my forefoot (you can never prove a negative), but I liked running in them — to say nothing of all the walking we were doing. They'll be in my Asics next Monday in Boston.

We met back at the Hostel around 11:00 and had a second breakfast, or perhaps a brunch. Susan also had a great run. We both took it easier than we had last year and that made all the difference.

The National Gallery

In the afternoon, we walked down and saw two major exhibits in the National Gallery: and .

I liked the former and no, it's not the art of those coming before Raphael, the rennaisance master. It's a 19th century movement in art based on the (perceived) ideals of early Rennaisance art. My Favorite (above) is Millais' Ophelia (where Hamlet's bride, in her crazed state, drowns herself). But by the time we got to Dürer, my mind and body were shutting down so I didn't get much out of that. And at that point I left Susan and headed back to the hostel for a much needed nap.

Birch and Barly

The last stop of the day was to , a restaurant we "discovered" last year, and just loved. We didn't actually discover it, but Susan found out that a friend of a friend was the manager there. We were treated like VIPs an we enjoyed the menu and the service greatly. This year it was good, but perhaps not quite as special. So I think next year we'll try to discover another gem within walking distance of the Hostel.

Monday – Time to go Home

We took the 12:00 Bolt Bus on Monday (and of course, we did a couple of hours of walking in the morning) and were back in the good old NYC by 4:30. A great run and a great weekend. Next year, you come too!

April 15th – The 2013 Boston Marathon

The Pre-Race Dinner

  spent Sunday evening with a group of Flyers and members of my family at in the North End having a scrumptious meal. It started out with some stress while we waited for our table in the chill, and even when we got seated it seemed crowded and noisy. But we (or maybe the venue) soon got mellow and we were in for a great dining experience. Yes, of course I had some wine (actually 2 glasses). This is about relaxing and having fun, remember? I took the orange "T" line back to where I was staying the night at the hostel on Stewart Street, just two blocks from the Boston Common. I got to bed early after hanging out in the common room for a while to relax and gather my thoughts.

The Marathon

Before leaving for Boston, I had in mind several versions of the final marathon day report depending on how things worked out. Well, as everyone knows, things worked out in a tragedy that was beyond anyone's wildest imagination.

Informed by this reality, my race report became a very personal narrative of my inner thoughts, drawing on Boston Marathons past and from my own personal Boston Marathon recollections. Particular spots along the Boston course evoked thoughts that were good or inspirational and some that were not so good. But all of these thoughts helped to keep me going. I wrote most of this report on Tuesday evening when I had gotten back to NYC.

The First Few Miles — Katherine Switzer (1967)

told myself at the start to take it easy and hold back. Don't go with the flow on these easy downhill miles. But I can not run the first few miles at Boston without thinking of Katherine Switzer, the first woman to get an official entry (in 1967) and whom the race director Jock Semple tried to forcibly evict from the course. Look at the photo (click on it for a larger version) — Semple is apoplectic and Katherine is scared for her life. Her boyfriend runs interference and eventually pushed Semple out of the way. Even now 45 years later, when I think of this scene (which made the front page of the NY Times) I never fail to conjure that image shown in the photo.

But I told myself to take it easy, so I put Katherine out of my mind and concentrated on my pace. BUT I'M STILLED PISSED OFF!

Thanks a lot Jock you jerk! Once again you messed up my pace.

Natick — My Family

y right foot was hurting starting aound mile 7, so I stopped and gave it a little massage. It felt better and I got back into my pace. But at Natick I got an even bigger lift. My entire family was there. My daughter Susan, my son Peter and his wife Nancy, their children and of course my wife Joy. Peter took a video of my meeting and it looks lile a bunch of chaotic hugs and kisses, "Good Luck"s, "See You Later"s, and the rest, It was one of the high points of the race for me. I took off with renewed energy and headed for Natick center and thence on to Wellesley. The photo (click for a larger version) shows me coming in with my son back to the camera with an iPad, my wife to his left and my daughter-in-law behind her.

Thank you one and all for the support you have always given me!

Wellesley — Bobbi Gibb (1966)

hen you get to mile 12 in Wellesley, runners start to glance at one another expectantly. When they get to Wellseley College, they encounter a screaming phalanx of "Wellesley Girls" (and now some Wellesley Boys) lining the course with all manor of signs and suggestions. You have to be there to appreciate this tradition which goes back to he earliest days of Boston.

But in 1966, something very special happened at Wellesley. In the year before Katherine Switzer's "push seen round the world", Roberta "Bobbi" Gibb, who just loved to run long distances and did it well, applied for entrance to Boston but was rejected because she was a woman. She ran anyway as a "bandit" and was ignored by the race officials, but the other runners and the crowds adored her. She made headlines throughout the region, easlily finishing in the 3:20s, ahead of about two-thirds of the field.

At Wellesley College, women crowded the course. They saw one of their own and cheered wildly. Word spread among the crowd that a woman was actually running the Boston Marathon. At every intersection Gibb got more and more encouragement. For this attention she was not prepared.
(From Tom Derderian's article .)

When I get to Wellesley, I always remember Bobbi, who one year when I was just 23, brought the screams of the Wellesley girls to a higher level, and unknown to many of today's Wellesley Girls, opened the door a little bit wider for them.

Thanks Bobbi for just doing your thing.

The Firehouse — The NY Flyers

fter passing the wall of screams at Wellesley College, you pass through the town of Wellesley, plus a golf course or two and then you cross the upper reaches of the Charles River at Newton Lower Falls and enter the town of Newton. This point is the low point on the course, so it's all up from here. Then you quickly go over Route 128 aka I-95. I think of this little overpass as the first Newton Hill, although it wasn't there in the day of Johnny Kelley or Tarzan Brown so technically it "doesn't count". But don't tell that to your legs. But there's a relatively flat portion prior to the real hills where you travel over miles 15 and 16.

Then having just passed the low point, you reach the high point — especially if you're a Flyer. Here you will find on the left side of the course an aid station that has been here since 1996. Principally the "baby" of Ed A. with the generous help of his Newton friends Martha and Jay H. and staffed by Flyers too numerous to name. They will give you everything you need provided it's legal, plus a very large supply of encouragement. Here's me coming in: . I stayed there almost two minutes massaging my right foot (again!) and imbibing in some dihydrogin monoxide as a chaser to some vitamin I. I told Ed I had been stopping every 4 miles or so to give my foot a little massage and we both hoped it would last till after the hills this time.

Thanks Ed for doing this for us for so many years.

Heartbreak Hill — Ellison "Tarzan" Brown (1936)

ell, not only did my foot pain abate for the notorious hills, but I charged up and over the same at a strong pace. I decided the hills are all in your head and just a little foot pain is all you need as a distraction. Well, maybe. In any case, they start as you turn onto Commonwealth Avenue at the Newton firehouse and last for about two miles till you reach the last and most famous hill, Heartbreak Hill. Why do that call it Heartbreak Hill you ask? Ah, therein lies a story.

It seems that Johnny Kelley (the elder) won the race in 1935 and was a favorite to win again in 1936. Then out of nowhere came an unknown Naragansett Indian named Ellison "Tarzan" Brown who took off and broke all the check point records up to Newton. Then when he got to the hills he slowed down. Kelley, seeing an opening, surged past Brown and patted him on the back as he went by. Soon after the gentle pat, Brown passed him back and after some give and take, surged and never looked back. Kelley could not respond. Kelley fell apart on Beacon Street and was relegated to walking 6 times. Will Cloney, a reporter for the Boston Herald noted "Kelley was walking like an intoxicated man". Brown won handily and Kelley ended up 5th. Jerry Nason of the Boston Globe coined the name "Heartbreak Hill" for the 3rd Newton Hill where Kelley met his demise, because Tarzan "broke Kelley's heart". And for all the years since 1935, that's what they have called it

Today I had a picture of Brown and Kelley in my head as I ran these hills. But I played the part of Brown, not Kelley — my heart was unbroken, hah! So there. So I'll give ½ credit to Tarzan and ½ credit to Ed's aid station.

The Reservoir — I Meet my Dad (1993)

fter the last of the Hills, you pass by Boston College. It offers a distinctly different culture than Wellesley. Instead of the screams of young women you might be offered beer by some guys. It's all good and enjoy it while you recover from the hills. Soon you will take a giant step downhill when you get to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. Boston College, unsurprisingly is in Boston as is the Reservoir. But when you get to the bottom of the road running along the side of the reservoir and get to Cleveland Circle, you will enter Brookline.

Along that short stretch of downhill known as Chestnut Hill Avenue a wonderful thing happened in 1993. It was my first Boston Marathon and I was supposed to meet my family along that stretch. I spotted my son about halfway down on the right and stopped. "Where's Da?" I asked. "Across the road with Mommy." So I cut across the road – thronged with runners – annoying a few of them with my sudden retrograde course change. I found them and got a big hug from my dad. It was probably the first time he had been to the Boston Marathon since the 1950s when he took us to watch. The proud look in his eyes was all it took for me to finish strong. A circle of some 40 years had been closed.

I thought of "Da" when I ran down this stretch yesterday. He died in 1998 at age 93 and this brief "encounter" with his memory is always uplifting. I don't have any photos of him at the 1993 Boston, but the picture (click on it for a larger version) shows my whole family at Da's house on Cape Cod after the '93 Falmouth Road race. It's fun to compare this photo with the one above taken Sunday night at the dinner. What a difference 20 years can make.

Thanks Da for introducing me to the Boston Marathon. And thanks for everything.

Beacon Street — Bill Rogers Ties his Shoes (1975)

hen you get to Cleveland Circle at the bottom of the hill, you get onto Beacon Street. Beacon Street takes you all the way to Kenmore Square, just past Mile 25. Almost the whole of this stretch is in the city of Brookline, which is almost entirely surrounded by Boston. It's also in Norfolk County although it is completely separate from the rest of that county. I'll bet there were interesting politics going on when Brookline was founded. From the looks of it along Beacon Street, you would never guess Brookline is not part of Boston.

I've always felt kind of lonely on Beacon Street. It's straight with a few rolling "bumps" but I usually have little steam left when I reach this part. You would think a flat section after the hills would be welcome, but I never find it so. I just never can wait to finally see the Citgo sign and know I'm finally getting to Kenmore Square.

Perhas to give myself a lift, I usually think of Bill Rogers who, in 1975, on his way to a course record, and running in a hand lettered T-shirt, stopped to tie his shoe somewhere along this section. Yes, he really did. Look at the photo if you don't believe it. I think I get my lift from the sheer craziness of it.

Thanks Bill, you helped get me through another year of the Beacon Street Doldrums.

The Last Mile — My Cheering Section

y son and daughter had taken the train from Natick to Boston and we had agreed to meet at a spot underneath the Charlesgate overpass, about ¼ mile before where Mass. Avenue crosses the course. This is roughly a half mile from the finish. Later we would realize this was a very lucky plan. As I passed the 25 mile mark just before Kenmore Square, I saw that the race clock showed a time of 5:19:xx. (xx = don't remember). Subtracting 40 minutes for the wave 3 start meant that I had 21 minutes to break 5 hours. Since I was running between a 10 and 11 minute pace, this was reassuring, since at least I would break 5 hours.

Just before the Charlesgate overpass, I spotted my kids and went over. They said how strong I looked (but of course) but also said that they had heard that "something happened" and it might be a problem meeting at the Arlington Street Church we had agreed on after the race. So I said I would just call them on my cell phone and we would arrange another spot to meet.

A few blocks later things came to a halt. There was just a huge mass of runners waiting but not moving. Many were on their phones trying to figure out what was happening. I would guess that it was about 3:20 to 3:25 PM. The police were stopping runners at the Mass. Avenue underpass and said that the finish line was closed and the race had been stopped. At first I thought that they might start ut up again but I soon learned that things were much more serious than I imagined. At this point, perhaps at 3:30, I knew my race was over. Only later did I learn that this was about 45 minutes after the explosions at the finish line. I was probably a little past Mile 23 when it happened.

The Race is Over

was standing on Commonwealth Avenue near Mass. Avenue. People around me were crying, trying to call friends, trying to find out details. Only now did I learn that some explosions had gone off and that some people may have been killed. After finding out what I could, I realized I had to do something for myself. I had on only shorts and a singlet – AND, thank goodness, I had my cell phone – and I was beginning to get cold. I had to go back and find my kids. They had some clothes for me and we needed our own strategy to get through this.

I walked back to Charlesgate and looked around where we had met (about 100 yards west of Charlesgate). Cell phone coverage was non-existent to very spotty, but finally I got a text through to my daughter Susan asking where they were. She texted back but I did not understand her directions. At least we were talking. I texted again and said I would go to where we met and stay put. In the mean time I went to the first aid station near Charlesgate and got a plastic bag to put on. I got another text from Susan saying she was at the spot and Peter was circling. A few minutes later he found me and we were reunited. I would guess it was around 4:00 PM.

Making our Way Home

eanwhile, back in Natick at Peter's house, everyone was frantic, not knowing our whereabouts or if we were OK. Peter's daughter, age 8 was hysterical. We soon realized we had an advantage in that we knew we were safe and we knew we would get home. They could do nothing but try to call us, and watch TV, which had a constant flow of very disturbing scenes and commentary. Finally, a text from Susan to Nancy (Peter's wife) got through and things settled down a little, but they still wanted to hear Peter's voice. A text was not quite enough for the reassurance they needed.

My kids and I were standing around at our meeting spot. Someone was cooking some stuff on the green in the middle of Commonwealth Avenue and I accepted a leg of chicken and something to drink. Thanks guy.

We heard rumors that the T was shut down and commuter trains were not running (this was a false rumor). So we decided to walk up on Beacon Street to get away from the Back Bay, find a place to eat and drink and call Nancy to come pick us up.

About then Susan realized that in spite of the tragedy, we needed the finish line photo I never had a chance to get. The following photo is my "Finish Line" photo. We look happy because we are safe and we are together. But beneath the smiles we were pretty freaked out. But given the situation, I love this photo, taken by an unknown teen somewhere on Beacon Street. Thanks kid.

[After some sleuthing with Google Maps Streetview, we determined the picture was taken in Brookline from the SW corner of Hawes & Beacon Streets, facing across Hawes Street with No. 1093 Beacon Street on the SE corner. See .]

We decided to walk up to Coolidge Corner (about another half mile further) since there would be several good places to eat there and it would give Nancy a place to pick us far enough away from the Back Bay. We first looked into a bar, but it was packed and the TVs were blaring out the gruesome news and it was just too much for us. We then found the perfect spot on Harvard Street a block from Beacon. It was Otto's Pizza and they had really good Pizza and a variety of beers, both of which we needed. After further conversations with Nancy, it was decided we would walk down Harvard Street to Commonwealth Avenue (about a half mile) and meet there so she could get off and then back on the Mass. Pike.

Meanwhile we couldn't help but talk about what had happened. Contrasting our own lucky situation with that of the wounded and families of the dead was difficult. There were very bad things out of our control, and a few good things we could control. We had, you might say, survivor's guilt. It won't go away, so we each tried to cope with it and we will continue to do so for a long time. Thoughts of 9/11 came to mind — a much larger tragedy but much less personal. My wife just walked in as I was writing this and said she was in a state of shock on Monday and she realizes now that she could have lost her husband and two children just like that. How lucky we are!

At about 5:45 we walked down the hill and met up with Nancy. She got us back to Natick in about 20 minutes and soon we were back with the very grateful members of my family.


t's now the second day after the race and my thoughts are still in flux. Being home in New York City reading the New York Times makes the whole thing worse, the more I read. A front page article about the bombs, another article about the victims flooding the ERs. It's very, very hard to take.

Given the tragedy we experienced, plus my own experiences, past and present, what do I think about running future marathons and in particular future Bostons? Will I ever go back? In 2003 I said "This was my last Boston. It's not fun any more. I'm getting too old for this sort of thing!". Well, that was about fatigue and burnout and those things don't bother me now.

After the race, someone emailed and suggested "I know in the scheme of things it's not your focus, yet I'd think not being able to cross the finish line is still disappointing on some level. So I hope you may run it again next year if it's something you want to do." Honestly, with all that happened, not crossing the finish line was not on my mind.

I thought a bit about some of my mental scenes from my run. There is an interesting comparison bnetween Katherine Switzer and Bobbi Gibb. Katherine became an outspoken activist for women's sports equality. I'm guessing she ran the race in 1967 because it was right and fair. Bobbi, on the other hand, ran because she just loved to run. Her agenda was personal, not political. I strongly respect both points of view.

But thinking through my experiences yesterday, and my personal feelings developed over my 70 years, I think I will lean towards Bobbi:

"I will run Boston again, not because I must, but because I can! I'm old enough to know there's lots of other great things out there besides Boston that I can do, but still young enough to want to do them all!"

Postscript: Gaining Some Closure

 number of things happened in the weeks immediately after the marathon which deserve mentioning. They all helped give me a greater sense of closure than would have been the case if I just went back to life as if this particular race were just another marathon.

April 20: A Unity Run in Central Park

he reaction to the tragic happenings in Boston from the running community in all parts of the country (and the world) was one of overwhelming support for the city of Boston, for the BAA, for the volunteers and first responders and especially for the victims. In NYC, Alan G., president of the New York Flyers, organized a "Tribute Run" for Saturday the 20th. This soon morphed into one of many "Unity Runs" which were held across the country. Unsurprisingly, other runs cropped up with the same purpose in mind. In Central Park there were no less than 3 such runs on that Saturday and Sunday. Everyone dressed in Boston Marathon colors (blue and yellow) and groups like the BAA (through Adidas) and the NYRR came out with special Boston tribute shirts. All proceeds from the sale of these shirts went to help the victims. I got one to wear in my next marathon.

I met Susan and Melissa before the run and we did about 4 or 5 miles on the Bridle Path. This was my first run since the marathon and was my limit. The others kept on with additional miles and we met afterward for lunch. It was quite a nice day in the park and the following photos will give you the flavor of the run.

April 26: A Letter from the BAA

he BAA is one of the true heroes of this entire episode. Their immediate response at the finish line was amazing. Who can ever forget the videos of volunteers running towards the blast to help the victims rather than away from the blast for their own safety. During the aftermath they have been on top of things in support of the victims and setting up counseling for their own people. And they have reached out to the many (over 5700) runners who were kept from finishing the race.

On the 26th, I got an email from the BAA. The level of their concern speaks for itself.

2013 Boston Marathon
Dear Richard:

Thank you for your patience over the past 11 days as we have dealt with the aftermath of the tragic events at the Boston Marathon. We have received many questions, and we are working towards a resolution to the issues. We do not have all of the answers at this time. We are particularly sensitive to the questions relating to runners who did not have the opportunity to cross the finish line on Boylston Street on Monday, April 15.

We have included your split times below from the 117th Boston Marathon.

5K:  0:30:50
10K:  1:04:53
15K:  1:37:37
20K:  2:10:02
Half:  2:18:51
25K:  2:46:58
30K:  3:23:42
35K:  4:00:23
40K:  4:35:59

As a participant who was not able to cross the finish line, we know that you have questions relating to:
  • whether or not you will be considered an official finisher;
  • if you are provided with an estimated finishing time, whether or not that time will be considered official and if this time will be printed in the Record Book, posted online, or can be used for other purposes (for example, qualifying for next year's Boston Marathon or to preserve a streak of consecutive races);
  • whether or not you will be able to run the 2014 Boston Marathon.
You will receive a finisher's medallion and certificate. We know that some have received a medal and others did not. As we reconcile our records of those who received medals in the days following the marathon, we ask for your patience as we work through the process to determine the best method of distribution for those who did not receive a medallion. Certificates will be mailed during the Summer.

Also, we know many of you have individual questions that you have been waiting to ask the B.A.A. We appreciate you holding these questions during this time and until we provide answers to the questions above. Please know that all questions, answers, situations and issues are receiving careful attention by the B.A.A. and we have been fully engaged in matters relating to participants and also the general public.

These discussions are underway and as we decide on the answers we will communicate our decisions to you. At this time, we must continue to ask for your patience.

We also thank you for your kind messages of support and your demonstrations of resiliency.

The Boston Athletic Association
Boston Marathon Sponsors

April 27: A Run to Wave Hill

 week after the Unity Run, Melissa and I ran from the Willis Avenue Bridge to Wave Hill, something over 9 miles. We went through the South Bronx, then back across to Manhattan and followed the Harlem River up. Then we crossed again into the Bronx and got to Wave Hill around 11:30 (it's free until noon).

I was better able to run this distance than the previous week, but my muscles were still complaining. The weather was perfect and of course Wave Hill is a treat in any season. I would say the trees are a few days behind those in Central Park, and there aren't any stands of cherry trees, but it was still beautiful.

This run was very positive because I was running again with a friend on a good day to a great place — and it was fun. We all need that!

April 30: An Unexpected Package Arrives

ast Tuesday when I got home, I found a square box with a FedEx label at my door. The sender was the BAA. What could the BAA be sending me? I took it in and opened it up and much to my surprise, wow! I discovered my baggage bag, right before my eyes!

I had not been able to retrieve it on marathon day and I was watching their web site for instructions on how to get the baggage back — but it just showed up without my asking! Great! The BAA could sure teach some race organizers a lesson!

This particular bag had more than the usual stuff since it included everything I wore to the dinner the night before and brought with me to the hostel I stayed in on Sunday night, and thence to the marathon.

So what was in it?
  • a pair of socks and underwear (from Sunday night at the hostel)
  • a small towel
  • my son's hoodie
  • my 1991 NYRRC running suit
  • sun block
  • my miniature massage "stick"
  • my 2000 Boston shirt
  • my expo badge
  • a travel alarm clock
I mentioned to a friend as we were getting ready to go to the start that I never put anything in the baggage bag I couldn't live without — and this one time I really never expected to see this stuff again. Yes, I would miss my 2000 Boston shirt and 1991 running suit for their nostalgic value, and I think my son might miss his hoodie (and my wife did miss the alarm clock), but let's face it, these were not essentials.

I ran with my ID, a Charley Card, some money, a credit card AND MY CELL PHONE. And I am very glad of that. Note to self: do thou likewise in the future!

To Get a Medal or Not?

ast Friday I got another email from the BAA. They wanted to know if I wanted them to send me a finisher's medal. (Click to see the ) Yikes, a dilemma! I did not in fact finish, and besides, my medals just get stuck in the back of a drawer. But this race was special, particularly in how it ended. So I clicked on YES, send it. Better to have it and later decide I don't really want it, then to decline and later decide I would like it after all. When people ask about Boston I tell them, "Yes I was there and it was traumatic," I guess it won't hurt to have the medal.

Some Take-aways

ere's a few thoughts 3 weeks after the marathon:

Postscript 2: Closure

May 15: Another FedEx package from the BAA arrives:

May 16: Another email from the BAA arrives:

2013 Boston Marathon
You are receiving this email because you have been identified as a 2013 Boston Marathon participant who reached at least the half-marathon mark on April 15 but who did not cross the finish line on Boylston Street.

B.A.A. Extends Special Invitation To 2013 Boston Marathon Starters Who Did Not Cross Boylston Street Finish Line

The B.A.A. is extending an invitation to register for the 2014 Boston Marathon to official entrants in the 2013 Boston Marathon who were unable to cross the Boylston Street finish line.

To be eligible for this special offer, a 2013 Boston Marathon participant must have been an official entrant who started the race and who reached at least the half marathon mark in this year's race on Monday, April 15.

In early August, you will receive a non-transferable unique code via email. This email will outline a specific timeframe for you to register. Your entry will be guaranteed only during a designated registration period in August.

You will be required to pay an entry fee, which has yet to be determined.

Seeding details have yet to be determined and will be forthcoming.

An additional note from the B.A.A.: The opportunity to run down Boylston Street and to cross the finish line amid thousands of spectators is a significant part of the entire Boston Marathon experience. With this invitation to return and participate in 2014, we look forward to welcoming you back to Boston next year. Thank you for your patience as we continue to work through the details of arranging this accommodation.

The Boston Athletic Association
Boston Marathon Sponsors