Archive for February, 2011

Everyone Is A Coach…

Posted: February 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

Are you surprised by how many people offer you advice once they learn that you’re running the Boston Marathon?  People that haven’t even run the marathon seem to have words of wisdom for you.  They can range from diet, shoes, avoiding injuries, managing the course and the list continues.

It can be so confusing and overwhelming because, aside from the volume of opinions, it’s difficult to determine what information you should follow.  My suggestion is to simply follow the advice that I offer you.   While these people are well-intentioned, I recommend that you rely on the information that I share at training, in our weekly communication and on my daily blog.

I’ve always marveled at the pattern of communication I have with runners.  There’s always a core group that regularly communicate with me but there’s also an equal number that either don’t attend training or ever communicate with me.

If you were taking a college course and knew the professor was providing regular answers to the final exam on their blog, would you take the time to obtain that information?  The primary purpose of my blog is to educate you about running in general and the Boston Marathon in particular.  Inevitably I eventually hear from the runners in the final weeks that I’ve had little or no communication with and it’s never as comforting for them as I would like.  Their questions tend to mirror the questions that I’m commonly asked in the first month of training, not the final weeks.   This can cause a state of panic at a time where they should feel more comfortable and confident. 

As the marathon approaches the volume of opinions tend to exponentially increase.  You will be well-served if you focus on the training techniques that I have offered you throughout training.  If you’re uncertain about any aspect of your training please notify me and I’ll provide further clarification.  I’m always comforted when I hear stories like this from a former runner:

“Rick, I couldn’t wait to share this story with you!  One of my colleagues, who has run more than 10 Boston marathons, learned that I was running Boston and began offering a battery of recommendations and asking an equal number of questions.  He seemed particularly shocked that I had answers for every question and was also familiar with every recommendation he offered  since Boston is going to be my first marathon.  I just want to thank you for all the support, encouragement and inspiration that you’ve provided all of us the past several months.  I’m convinced that I am in good hands and right on track with my Boston preparation.”

As a coach, there’s no better endorsement than that.  Keep on the advice that you’re being offered in perspective and let me know if there’s anything that I can do to support you!

Surviving Travel

Posted: February 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

I have been in Houston since Thursday attending the National Association of Colleges Stores (NACS) conference.  I had a major presentation yesterday (Mining Gold In Your Own Backyard) which focused on an intra-campus marketing program to help college bookstores sell their products to departments (i.e., president’s office, alumni, development, athletic, etc.).  The highlight of the presentation was having a representative from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa attend.  I haven’t seen him in over 25 years when I was selling textbooks to college professors.  It was in incredible surprise.

Traveling presents several major challenges to my running and fitness, particularly when I’m at a trade show.  I am usually on my feet for 10 hours each day interacting with hundreds of people so I’m typically exhausted afterwards.  This also disrupts my normal eating pattern and then I usually have to take people to dinner at restaurants I would never choose on my own.  When I travel I realize how self-indulgent and undisciplined people are…it’s frightening. 

I continue to struggle with my left Achilles tendon.  I took a 5,000 mile motorcycle trip last June and returned unable to run.  Keeping my foot in the same position for 10-12 hours each day for ten consecutive days caused tendonitis in my tendon.  It’s time to seek physical therapy…what a revelation!  It’s unsettling because it’s prevented me from running on consecutive days and it’s particularly painful when I first walk each morning.  My hope is that it doesn’t place my Boston Marathon effort in peril!

I leave Houston on Wednesday and travel to San Antonio to spend several days visiting 4 military installations.  I completed my boot camp and survival training in the area so it’ll be interesting to return after 35 years!

Race Ready (Posted by Lori)

Posted: February 25, 2011 in Uncategorized
The Hyannis Marathon and Half Marathon are Sunday and I’ve been looking forward to it all winter- I’m doing the half.  It’s not the best time of year to run a half, especially with a winter like we’ve had.  But, the way I look at it, the timing of this race has been beneficial to me in keeping me disciplined and accountable in my training when I otherwise would have said forget it.  It motivated me to get out on my snowshoes, which I haven’t done in years, along with our son, Rider, and enjoy the trails again.  This race is also not in the most convenient location for me- Hyannis is a two hour drive.  BUT, I get to visit with one of my most special friends, Anita, for an uninterrupted two hours during the drive down AND another two hours on the return.  I LOVE that!  The weather on race day is unpredictable, it could be cold, windy, or worse… we could have snow, sleet and freezing rain!  Big deal- give me something I haven’t run in before.:-)
 For me, the excitement of the day starts long before race morning, and I enjoy every minute of it.  The anticipation and preparation is all part of the package and I wouldn’t want to miss ANY of it. Pasta for dinner on Saturday. Weather check one last time, then set out my clothes and shoes.  Pack my “after the race” bag with a change of clothes (mostly fleece for warmth).  A tall glass of water before bed and lights out (whenever that may be).  Anita and I have our plan, we’re meeting at 6:30 AM- I’ll drive this year since Anita has to work late on Saturday- she’s a nurse and will be on her feet for a 12 hour shift, so maybe she’ll get a few more winks on the drive (doubt it:-). 
I don’t even hesitate when the alarm goes off at 5:30 AM to start the day.  I’m up, I down another glass of water, head to our barn to feed our horses, eat breakfast (banana), shower, dress and then we’re off,  like two gitty girls going to a party.  The race venue is always exciting- hundreds of runners milling around, stretching, warming up, laughning and talking race strategy- and lots of bagels, water bottles, and, of course, porta porties.  The energy is palpable.  Our routine is the same… drive, talk, drink (I always stop drinking 2 hours before a race), park, pick up race packets, pin numbers on, warm up, strip layers, warm up some more, head to the start, squish into the starting area with the rest of the field (at least it’s warm!), some announcements (can’t hear a word), the National Anthem of course, and BANG we’re off- well we will be in a minute, just got to get everyone out of my way!  Actually, I think I’m in THEIR way because everyone is passing ME!  That’s okay… I’ll catch ’em on the home stretch. 
What a lucky girl I am!:-)

Listen Closely…

Posted: February 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

Listening closely to how your body is responding to the rigors of training will allow you to remain injury-free, avoid burnout and sustain your enthusiasm.  It’s more beneficial to take a much-needed and well-deserved rest day than to abide strictly to the prescribed training schedule.

Monitoring your resting heart rate each morning is the best method of determining the degree of  intensity for each workout.  Establishing a baseline or average resting heart rate can be achieved after a week of daily monitoring.  Simply place your index and middle fingers on one of your carotid arteries and count your heart beats for 6 seconds and add a zero.  If there’s an increase of over 5 beats per minute over your average RHR (resting heart rate) the warning lights should go off.

Too many runners base the length and intensity of their runs on the prescribed schedule, the weather, their schedule or another runner’s schedule.  It’s far more beneficial to base your runs on how you feel.  You should adjust the intensity and distance of your runs based on how you feel and your resting heart rate.  An elevated heart rate is your bodies warning system that it’s stressed or not well rested.

Simply reduce the intensity and duration of your run, cross train or take the day off completely when needed.  Provided you eat well, stay hydrated and get sufficient rest, your resting heart rate should return to normal the following morning. 

Other signs that you may need additional rest are a general lack of enthusiasm for your running, muscle soreness, signs of a cold or general irritability.  I realize that you may experience all of these fairly regularly, almost daily, when training for a marathon; but you have to determine what is a normal by-product of the rigors of training and what is unusual or new.

This extremely simple practice can completely transform your running from a seemingly endless uphill battle to having a greater degree of confidence and an increased level of energy. 

Listening closely to how your body is responding to training is as important as a great long run!

“The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.”
          – Juma Ikangaa, Tanzania

The majority of runners I am currently coaching for the 2011 Boston Marathon are first-timers.  Every training run that they’ve completed for the past  several months has been their longest.  The unknown of what they are capable of achieving, mentally and physically, is both exhilarating and unsettling.

When training began nearly 3 months ago they never imagined 13  miles would be an easy run.  However, after their scheduled 18 mile run this weekend they will be taking a huge step back on their mileage to ‘just’ 13 miles for their next long run.  This will allow their bodies to recover and their minds to begin to believe they can actually handle th rigors of marathon training and move into the final stage of training.

I am a huge advocate of running in the moment.  It’s important not to focus on how many miles are remaining and how you’re going to spend the balance of the day.  Too many runners allow negative self-talk to dominate their thought process and suddenly they become consumed by how uncomfortable they are and how miserable running is.  But there are times where you need to remove yourself from the moment and visualize what Marathon Day will be like.

Imagine arriving at the Marathon Expo with your Boston Marathon confirmation card and your driver’s license.  Walking up to the volunteer and presenting your credentials provides a moment of incredible pride…you begin to realize the magnitude of the next several days.  You’ve worked extremely hard to arrive at this moment and begin to feel you’re one of the chosen ones…rightfully so!

You step into the Marathon Expo and become immediately overwhelmed by the magnitude of products.  There’s a special aura to being close to so many runners that you’ll be sharing the journey from Hopkinton to Boston.  Enjoying carbohydrate-rich meals in the final days with people who have supported you for so many months and admire your commitment, allows one to appreciate how special the marathon journey is.

Arriving in the Athlete’s Village and realizing you’re on the verge of one of the most significant experiences of your life is incredibly powerful.  Suddenly you’ve entered your assigned corral and you realize it’s show time.  You hear the Star Spangled Banner and the fighter jets fly over…the gun sounds and there’s a sea of runners as far as you can see.   The feeling that you have at that moment is what all the months of difficult training are all about.

The experience of running Boston simply cannot be adequately described in words…you have to experience it.  I have always said that,’When you cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon you will realize, possibly more than any other time in your life, who you truly are and what you’re capable of achieving!’

So when you are battling the headwinds, hills, traffic and snowbanks on yet another seemingly endless long run; remove yourself from the moment and consider ‘why’ you are training for the Boston Marathon and the impact it will have on the remainder of your life.  One day your finisher’s medal will be tucked safely away in a drawer but the benefits of enduring the challenges of training for and completing the Boston Marathon will pay significant dividends forever. 

You cannot earn this experience without the will to prepare!

Mass Mentoring Partnership

Posted: February 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

“The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves”

Helen Keller

The realization that you can make a significant difference in the life of another with the smallest gesture is so empowering.  As the coach of the 7 education-based charities that comprise the Marathon Coalition, I’ve been so inspired by the countless stories I’ve heard from runners that are so dedicated to mentoring students.  They’ve provided hope to those that have the skills, but not necessarily the support network, to pursue an education and a better life.  I hope that you will view the video of Pat & Justin and read more about Mass Mentoring Partnership and the wonderful work that they do. 

Mass Mentoring Partnership is the only statewide organization solely dedicated to strategically expanding quality youth mentoring in Massachusetts. As the umbrella organization for more than 170 mentoring organizations supporting 23,000 youth in mentoring relationships across the state, MMP supports its network of programs by:

  •  Providing a range of services and support, including training, consultation and volunteer recruitment assistance. Two of MMP’s most comprehensive services are the Quality-Based Membership program, a quality assurance and indicator of quality process for mentoring programs that is now a national model for other state mentoring partnerships; and the Highland Street Corps Ambassadors of Mentoring program, an AmeriCorps program to which start-up and existing mentoring programs can apply to host AmeriCorps members who are co-recruited, co-hired and trained by MMP to help build their host sites’ capacity while enhancing the quantity and quality of mentoring.
  • Securing private and public funding, and advocating for the field. MMP works within the private and public sectors to identify and develop funding streams for mentoring programs, and creates partnerships with other organizations, including long-standing relationships with the Red Sox, Celtics, and Patriots. MMP mobilizes program partners in advocacy campaigns that increase mentoring state and federal budget line items, disseminates frequent updates throughout the budget processes, provides technical assistance for programs applying to public sector grants, and interacts with state government on issues pertaining to mentoring including youth violence prevention, education, public health, and workforce development.
  • Conducting statewide research on the impact of mentoring. The findings from Mass Mentoring Counts, the statewide mentoring survey conducted in conjunction with the UMass Donahue Institute, are used to benchmark the field of mentoring in Massachusetts and inform and guide policy-makers, funders, and practitioners.
  • Developing and managing public awareness and volunteer recruitment campaigns. MMP works with programs to address the need for mentors, managers the state’s only online mentor referral system, develops workplace mentoring programs, and implements high-profile campaigns, including Mentors of Color, the Red Sox Mentoring Challenge, and National Mentoring Month, for which MMP is the state lead. MMP’s extensive media outreach increases the awareness of the important role mentoring plays in strengthening young people and our society.

 Over the past five years, MMP has:

  •  Reached 100 programs in the first year operating its Quality Based-Membership program – a quality assurance and indicator of quality process for mentoring programs that is now a national model for other state mentoring partnerships
  • Increased by 30% the number of youth served in MMP-assisted programs from 2006 to 2010, and aims to double the number of youth served to 40,000 by 2013
  • Engaged and signed on more than 50 mentoring champions in the state legislature, thus retaining funding for mentoring in the 2010 state budget
  • Launched the Red Sox Mentoring Challenge and Mentors of Color recruitment campaigns, referring nearly 1,500 new mentors to programs statewide

Lauren Dean

Manager of Communications & Public Awareness

Mass Mentoring Partnership


Watch our new PSA featuring Paul Pierce and Ray Allen of the Celtics!

Long Run Preparation And Recovery

Posted: February 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

This stage of training for the Boston Marathon is undoubtedly the most difficult.  The increased mileage each week without a step-back week can cause doubt about your ability to handle the remainder of training.  However, we have a step back week to 13 miles coming up and the 3 week taper prior to the marathon allows your mind and body to recover for the marathon.

Feeling exhausted and having doubt shouldn’t cause excessive concern.  But managing both of these should be your primary focus.  It’s imperative that you fuel properly before, during and after your runs.  The meal the night before the long run should consist largely of complex carbohydrates (i.e., pasta, whole grain brown rice and bread, etc.) and the morning meal, which I prefer to have two hours prior to running,  is more of a balance of carbohydrates and protein (oatmeal, skim milk, bagel with peanut butter, banana, etc.).  Too many runners aren’t refueling properly during the long runs.  There are a wide variety of choices during the long runs that you should try in an effort to determine what’s best for you.  Too many runners wait until they feel they need to eat or hydrate and then it’s frankly too late.

I don’t like to take a gel or gu followed by water so I literally mix two gels in a water bottle and mix it thoroughly.  A good rule of thumb is to take something every 3-5 miles to sustain your blood sugar.  I have noticed many runners returning from the long run cranky and emotional, unwilling to even talk to others…that’s a clear sign that they’re on the verge of total exhaustion from lack of fueling.  If someone has a challenging or disastrous run it’s likely caused by improper fueling.  I also like to keep my electrolytes up during the run.  I saw so many runners return from our 17 miles run with salt-stained faces, that’s a clear indication that they need to replace their sodium.  I take endurolytes every 5 miles during my long runs and eat pretzels at every water stop.

Within 30 minutes of completing my long run I have several glasses of chocolate milk, a Lara bar, a banana and a bagel with peanut butter.  The additional protein begins the process of repairing the microscopic tears that occur while running and the carbohydrates are being stored  for the next run.

Equally important is using the stick or foam roller immediately upon completing your long run.  This will get blood flowing throughout your major muscles and flush the lactic acid out.  Ice baths are critically important to reducing inflammation.  This can be the most important 10-15 minutes you spend afterwards.  Compression socks and tights also contribute to faster recovery and inflammation reduction by improving blood flow to your running muscles.

Long runs are the cornerstone of every successful marathon training program.  Runners that properly prepare for the long runs (before, during and after) manage their training far more effectively and tend to have  far greater success and a more enjoyable experience on marathon day!

Difficult Runs

Posted: February 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

The Marathon Coalition TEAM ran 17 miles on the Boston course yesterday.  We ran to Wellesley College and back for the first time.  It’s challenging to deal with traffic, snow banks, ice-covered sidewalks and 50 mph winds.  It was nice having Paul Oparowski join us for a portion of yesterday’s run.  Paul has run 2:18 at Boston and provided the TEAM with insight into managing the Boston Marathon course.

Change is definitely in the air with several days of unseasonably warm temperatures this past week.  This is the time during training when the volume of e-mails I receive increases significantly as runners realize the marathon is looming. 

It’s important that runners keep the quality of their runs in perspective.  Less experienced runners tend to place too much stock into individual runs, particularly the long runs.  This is understandable since they’re the cornerstone of our training program.  I caution runners not to get too exuberant over runs that seem so easy or too depressed over seemingly disastrous runs.  

Challenging runs are actually far more important and beneficial to your training than the best runs.  The great runs can be a HUGE boost to your mental state but there aren’t significant physiological benefits to these runs.  The difficult runs benefit your running immensely because you have to deal with and overcome challenges.  Those challenges can range from weather, the course, or a range of physical obstacles.

Challenging runs help you to deal with adversity that you’ll likely encounter at some point in the marathon, particularly in the closing miles.  Dealing with difficult training runs in the most positive manner will provide a much higher degree of confidence that you’ll be able to manage anything you encounter on marathon day.

Running 17 miles by yourself or with a small group of runners is far more challenging than running 26.2 on marathon day.  The Boston Marathon course is magically transformed from a course filled with traffic during training to one lined with spectators from Hopkinton to Boston giving so much of themselves to encourage you to the finish line!

So realize that these difficult runs are an important part of your marathon preparation.  Challenging runs rank closely with the weekly long runs as vitally important to your marathon preparation and success…embrace them with a positive attitude!

From 220 lbs. To Marathon Monday

Posted: February 18, 2011 in Uncategorized
I am excited to share Sheree’s profile with you because it speaks to the significant challenges runners overcome to make it to the starting line of the Boston Marathon.  Then they experience a life-altering transformation that pays significant dividends for the balance of their lives.  I’ve been so inspired by Sheree’s dedication to her training and look forward to sharing in her achievement of completing the Boston Marathon!
“I was 11 years old, I was chubby, and I’d been squeezed into a tight brown unitard against my will. I looked like a sausage link, but I wasn’t a sausage. It was December 14, 1996 and I’d auditioned for and won the role of Rudolph in the Leanne Leslie School of Theatrical Dance annual Christmas pageant.

Before I continue, you need to know that this is not a tale triumph; I will not narrate a story of a girl who overcomes obstacles to achieve her dream of dancing in the limelight. It is much more significant. It is the story of my very first girdle.”

And so began my college application essay. We’d been asked to describe our most significant life’s moment to date. Mine was the day my mom bought me my first pair of extra hold granny panties. I had a girdle and now I was safe from ridicule. That moment defined my life.

Weight was always an issue for me, in childhood and in adulthood. I never owned a pair of jeans as a kid because I couldn’t fit into them. When I moved back to Boston in 2008 after college, I’d hit my all time high: 220-ish lbs. I was depressed. I wallowed in that heavy burden until I finally saw the light; it shone in the form of my primary care physician. I had two options: get healthy or bust.

Busting was really not an option. I bought myself a gym membership for my 23rd birthday, I made sure that gym had televisions, and planned my workouts according to my TV schedule. Two years later, I am training for my very first marathon. (Ironically enough, I don’t watch TV anymore.)

A lot of people have asked me how I do it. The truth is, it’s been a difficult and long road. I have to search for little sources of inspiration every day to keep on track. The Boston Marathon was just supposed to be another means of inspiration for me to continue on my fitness path. I began a blog to keep myself accountable to my peers ( and in return, I was completely inspired.

Now, I find that this whole process has encouraged me to be a better person. I no longer run for just myself. I run for the friend who sent me a message about how I have inspired her to buy a gym membership. I run for my friend who called to say that she’d registered for her first 5K. I run for the complete stranger who has read my blog and finds (somehow) that I inspire her to be a better runner. I run for an amazing organization that benefits kids who are not unlike the insecure child I was dressed as Rudolph. I run for a dear friend who recently sent me this:

“I, for one, have put mentoring on my to-do list. My guess is, others have as well because of the light you’ve shone. You do good things.”

Doing good is why I run. It’s amazing to me that two years ago I could barely run down the block and now…I will run 26.2 miles for everyone who has supported me along the way. Thank you.


I welcomed yesterday’s news that the Boston Athletic Association was raising the bar relative to the qualifying standards for the Boston Marathon.  I also endorse the rolling admission system, whereby runners are granted early entry based on their qualifying times. 

Registration Process for the 2012 Boston Marathon

Date registration opens for runners with times…
September 12, 2011 20 min., 00sec. or more below their qualifying time (based on age/gender)
September 14, 2011 10 min., 00 sec. or more below their qualifying time (based on age/gender)
September 16, 2011 5 min., 00 sec. or more below their qualifying time (based on age/gender)
Second Week  
September 19, 2011 All Qualified Runners
September 23, 2011 Registration closes for qualified applicants
September 28, 2011 (appx) Qualifiers from entry during second week of registration are notified of their acceptance.

 If the field is not filled at the conclusion of the two weeks, then registration will remain open and qualifiers will be accepted on a first come, first served basis until the maximum field size is reached.

I find it extremely motivating to improve my qualifying time so that I improve my chances for a spot in Boston.  Here are the new qualifying requirements based on age:

2013 Qualifying Times (effective September 24, 2011)

Age Group Men Women
18-34 3hrs 05min 00sec 3hrs 35min 00sec
35-39 3hrs 10min 00sec 3hrs 40min 00sec
40-44 3hrs 15min 00sec 3hrs 45min 00sec
45-49 3hrs 25min 00sec 3hrs 55min 00sec
50-54 3hrs 30min 00sec 4hrs 00min 00sec
55-59 3hrs 40min 00sec 4hrs 10min 00sec
60-64 3hrs 55min 00sec 4hrs 25min 00sec
65-69 4hrs 10min 00sec 4hrs 40min 00sec
70-74 4hrs 25min 00sec 4hrs 55min 00sec
75-79 4hrs 40min 00sec 5hrs 10min 00sec
80 and over 4hrs 55min 00sec 5hrs 25min 00sec
*Unlike previous years, an additional 59 seconds will NOT be accepted for each age group time standard.

When I ran my first marathon in 1978 in Richmond, Virginia, the qualifying standard was 3:00 hours.  When I began the marathon that morning I had never heard of the Boston Marathon.  The first I ever heard of Boston was at Mile 26 when I passed a runner that said, “We are going to qualify for Boston!”  I ran 2:59:55 and made it by 5 seconds.  Unfortunately he missed qualifying by just one second.  I ran the Marine Corps Marathon less than a month later in 2:55:00.  I then ran the Virginia Beach Marathon a few months later (March ’79)  in 2:47:28 and finally Boston in April ’79 in 2:48:35!  It was quite a Boston Marathon debut…here are a few pictures taken in the Athlete’s Village…I’m in all black and actually have quite a bit of hair…how things have changed.

(These socks were actually cool in 1979!)

Running 4 marathons in 6 months was an example of how little I knew about marthoning when I began in 1978.  Running 24 consecutive marathons under 3 hours is something I am extremely proud of along with qualifying for Boston in 36 consecutive marathons.

So I welcome the new qualifying standards with open arms.  I’m motivated to be able to register for the 2012 Boston Marathon on the first day of registration in September.