Archive for January, 2012

The Hills Of Newton

Posted: January 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

The Finish 

For months you prepare for the journey, a mere 26.2 miles.  All downhill at the start, a drop of over 300 feet.  But the hills near the end define the race.  The hills of Newton dictate the training.  Training to replicate race conditions, the wise runner mixes long runs with interval repeats on grades to strengthen the legs for the steep climb and steel them for the rugged descent. 

Run, diet, rest; everything works together.  Long range goals and short-term plans evolve into a race day strategy, culminating in achievement, satisfaction, and the realization of a dream.

We pay tribute to all who run the race!

This quote is posted on the 3rd floor of Nike Town in Boston with an elevation chart beneath it (see below).  The Marathon Coalition runners have spent most of their training miles on the hills of Newton.  I reminded them last Saturday that the familiarity they have on this segment of the course will pay huge dividends on race day. 

The Boston Marathon course is extremely hilly and challenging.   It’s so important to be patient and conservative in the beginning.  You can easily get into trouble after waiting so long for the start and then unleashing so much pent-up energy on the longest downhill section of the course. 

One of the most critical sections of the marathon course is seldom mentioned.  Please note the significant downhill just after mile 15 into Newton Lower Falls followed by what I consider the most underrated uphill on the course.  Heartbreak Hill is significant because of it’s location between miles 20-21 but the hill coming out of Newton Lower Falls and over 128 is significant because it’s wide open, can be extremely windy and there are very few spectators on this section.  It is also instrumental in setting the stage for the 4 mile stretch of the Newton Hills from miles 17-21.  Once you take a right onto Commonwealth Avenue at the fire station, you really need to focus on your form and be mentally tough.  This is undoubtedly the most challenging section of the marathon course.

While you may hear, “It’s all downhill from here” once you crest Heartbreak Hill…it isn’t true!  The last 5 miles, while relatively downhill and flat compared to other sections of the course, do include some rolling hills that seem more significant because of the miles you’ve already run.  Patience is a virtue on the Boston Marathon course.  If you can manage your energy, particularly before the start and in the early miles, you will be rewarded with a strong finish!


Time of Reflection

Posted: January 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

The past week has presented some unexpected challenges.  One of our key vendors has experienced a significant decline in business and the ripple effect is considerable.  My role has been closely tied to this vendor so my position will be eliminated March 1st.  While news of this nature is seldom welcome, the past week has been one of the best of my life.

I have reflected on the abundance that I have in my life and how this situation has so much potential for positive change.  I have spent more time with my family and hope to continue on that path as I pursue other opportunities.  I plan to explore opportunities that are more aligned with my values and interests.  I’m confident that I’m going to benefit from this temporary setback.

I have been defined far more by my setbacks, disappointments, failures and challenges than by any of my successes.  I have no doubt that the journey that lies before me will be a defining time in my life.  I am determined to not be paralyzed by fear or uncertainty and to come away from this as a more enlightened and appreciative person.

The highlight of my week was sharing a 14.5 mile run with the Marathon Coalition runners.  Being surrounded by so many inspirational people who remain steadfast in their commitment to serving others provided a much-needed perspective on what is truly important in life.  Their example will sustain my spirit during this journey of discovery!

One of my runners, Greg Sullivan, just sent me this recent quote that he gave to his father before he passed:

Power of Attitude

“Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but rather by how we react to what happens; Not by what life brings to us, but the attitude we bring to life.  A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes.  It is a catalyst…. A spark that creates extraordinary results.”

I have been so touched, motivated and inspired by the support I’ve received this past week.  I am at my best when confronted by a challenge!


Hopefully you will be making the journey from Hopkinton to Boston on the 116th running of the Boston Marathon!  Patriot’s Day likely seems extremely far away as we find ourselves in the first stretch of sub-freezing temperatures this winter and it’s nearly 3 months away .  It will assuredly arrive sooner than we expect.  Consequently, it’s time to focus your attention on your preparation for what promises to be one of the most significant days of your life!

Far too many runners lose their focus during this stage of training and pay the greatest price by enduring unnecessary stress in the weeks before the marathon.  Consistency and moderation in your approach to training are the keys to success.  It’s vitally important to hit the weekly mileage totals outlined in my training schedule.  If you suffer a setback in your training please don’t try to make up for lost training time in one fell swoop.

Your primary focus should be on remaining injury-free by warming up properly before each run, cooling down gradually and stretching after each run, staying hydrated, eating well and getting sufficient rest.  All the small things add up collectively to a formula of success.  Training for a marathon isn’t rocket science but it does require diligence, discipline and determination beyond the scope of most major challenges.

Nevertheless, the return on investment is beyond measure.  Imagine what you will feel like as you stand in the starting corral of the 116th Boston Marathon and you take a deep breath and contemplate how the day will unfold.  The new’s helicopters will be flying overhead, you will likely hear languages you can’t identify, you will experience feelings and emotions that are entirely foreign to you, you’ll beam with pride during the playing of the national anthem, the fighter jets will make a final pass overhead and you’ll soon be underway.

Hopefully you’ll find the time during your trek from Hopkinton to Boston to comtemplate the significant difference you’re making in the lives of others…to provide them more hope for a better future.  Any life worth living has to include compassion for others and a dogged determination to pay whatever price to make sure those less fortunate are provided a similar opportunity to pursue their dreams.

As you crest Heartbreak Hill and begin to believe you will actually make it to the finish line on Boylston Street, I hope you enjoy every sight, smell and sound during the final 5 miles of the marathon.  Because, although your efforts during the past 5 months have been focused on serving others, today is YOUR day!  The Boston Marathon will change you in unbelievably significant ways.  When you take the final right onto Hereford Street and the left onto Boylston Street, that will be the closest you will likely ever come to being a rock star.  The noise is incredible and every person standing on the sidewalk is beaming with pride and wishing they were you!

Your family and friends will be jumping up and down and screaming with pride!  And your coach will be filled with uncontrollable emotion and more admiration for you than you could ever imagine…and hope that when you cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon that it really isn’t the finish line for you…that it’s actually the first step of a long journey of believing you can make a significant difference in the world.  Because you just proved that you can!

I look forward to seeing all of you this weekend and, most importantly, I look forward to sharing April 16, 2012 with you!


Winter Running

Posted: January 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

Since most of us are in the midst of training for the 2012 Boston Marathon, we have no choice but to face the challenges of training through the New England winter.  We have been extremely fortunate to this point with respect to the moderate temperatures and lack of snowfall.  But I suspect we’re finally going to see more typical weather for this time of year.

Here are a few recommendations that I have for managing the challenges of winter running:


  • Dressing for temperatures 20 degrees warmer will prevent you from becoming too warm in the latter miles of the run.
  • Avoid cotton entirely.  Wicking material will keep you dry and reduce the chances of becoming hypothermic.
  • Wear a thin base layer close to your body and add needed layers based on the conditions.
  • Most of your body heat will escape through your head and hands.  I prefer fleece hats and gloves.
  • Zippers allow you to regulate your core temperature.  I begin my runs with the zippers on my jacket and top fully closed.  As my body temperature rises I unzip them and close them again in the closing miles as my resources are low and the need to retain body heat is greater.
  • Wear reflective material, particularly on your wrists and ankles, as the movement from these body parts is more likely to catch the attention of motorists.
  • Change into warm and comfortable clothes immediately upon completing your runs. 


  • Trail Running  shoes are a great option on snow and ice covered roads as they tend to have more traction and structure.
  • Yak Trax and similar outsole options are great for ice covered roads.
  • You can also place small screws into the lugs of your outsoles where your feet strike the road.  This can become problematic when you’re running on a dry surface, however.  I recommend this option for the worst possible conditions. 
  • Placing duct tape over the front/top of your shoes will help keep your feet warm on arctic days.


  • One of the more common misconceptions is that you don’t have to hydrate as much in colder temperatures.  I actually stay more hydrated in the winter as the lack of humidity is problematic.  It’s also far better for your skin.
  • Runners tend to be less disciplined with sunscreen during the winter months.  I recommend protecting your exposed skin as much as possible.  Wearing proper sunglasses are equally important.
  • On extremely cold and windy days I apply vaseline to my face to prevent chafing.
  • Begin your runs into the wind so that you will have some reserves for the closing miles of your runs.
  • Avoid roads with heavy traffic when signficant snow forces you to run more in the road.

I urge you to make winter running fun.  Running on trails will protect you from the wind.  And if you really want a challenge, try running on snowshoes as the return on time investment is considerable.  Like most things in life, running through the New England winter is so affected by your mindset.  Embrace the winter and realize you’ll be better prepared for the Boston Marathon because of the challenges you’ve overcome!

Learning From Failure

Posted: January 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

Several years ago I attempted to run 100 miles in 24 hours on the local high school track.  The headlines in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette sports section read, “Muhr to Attempt 100 Miles in 24 Hours!”  Ironically, this was the most challenging day in 33 years of running.  We had gale force winds that nearly stopped my progress completely on one side of the track and nearly blew me over on the other side.  We also received nearly 5 inches of rain and one end of the track held all this water.  I wasn’t able to keep any fluids or food in my system when I decided to cut the run short at 2:00 a.m.  This wasn’t an easy decision, particularly since I had so many supporters still by my side.  I ended up running 62 miles…it was an impressive distance but still considerably short of my goal.

The reporter called the following day for an update and, after hearing that I had come up short, asked me what I thought he should do?  I suggested he write the headline, “Muhr Comes Up Short!”  I didn’t want to sugarcoat my failures…I have learned far more from my shortcomings and failures than any of my successes.

I simply don’t want to be one of those poor souls that is so paralyzed by failure they don’t accomplish anything.  One of my favorite quotes is from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. ”

I realize his quote isn’t considered politically correct today but I didn’t want to alter history.  Trust me, no one knows better than I that women can endure far greater pain than any man I know, particularly when it involves the marathon and beyond :-)! 

You are also going to encounter critics when they learn that you’re training for the 2012 Boston Marathon.  They are going to question ‘why’ you would want to attempt something so significant and even cast doubt on your ability to finish. 

For all the people who might say that you can’t do it or that you won’t do it; or that you are crazy for even trying, You will see them at the finish line!

As your coach,  I look forward to helping you to silence the critics, ‘those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. ‘

As an athlete, when you least expect it, you may find yourself standing on the threshold of an accomplishment so monumental that it strikes fear into your soul.  You must stand ready, at any moment, to face the unknown.  You must be ready to walk boldly through the wall of uncertainty.”  John “The Penguin” Bingham, The Courage To Start

Running a marathon is a life-altering experience.  When you cross the finish line of a marathon you may never in your life have a closer glimpse into who you truly are and what you’re capable of achieving.  Facing your fears and doubts prepares you to experience breakthrough accomplishments beyond your imagination.

Overcoming doubt and the inevitable pain of the closing miles of a marathon prepares you for far greater challenges that await beyond the finish line of the marathon.  Becoming a marathoner is one of the most empowering experiences in life.  Once you prove that you can prepare for and complete the 26.2 mille distance, there’s little doubt you can accomplish practically anything.

So many of the runners that I’ve coached have expressed an incredible void in their lives after completing Boston.  Those seismic gaps need to be filled with even more significant challenges.  It might be running another marathon, attempting at a Boston Qualifier or it might be something far removed from the finish line on Boylston Street in Boston.  It might be an effort to be a better person, a parent that instills confidence in a child, a spouse that is truly committed to a lifelong partnership. 

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Learn like you will live forever.  Live like you will die tomorrow!”  My appetite for learning increases as I age and the challenges of life are equal to or greater than running a marathon.  Appreciating the simple things in life, living in the moment as well as in the spirit of continuous improvement are traits that have resulted from being a runner for the past 35 years.

I hope that you dream of taking on huge challenges and have the discipline and determination to see them through.  More importantly, I hope the inspiration and confidence garnered from these journeys of achievement will fuel a commitment to greater service to others within you! 


Managing Abundance

Posted: January 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

I constantly caution runners not to waste energy during their runs, particularly in the beginning.  I’ve stood at the starting line of the Boston Marathon countless times and saw experienced marathoners whooping and hollering in the starting corral.  I’ve made mental notes of these runners as I inevitably will pass them later in the race as they’re walking dejectedly on the side of the road after mile 20.

I am sure they would love to have some of that energy back  to sustain them in the final miles they so carelessly wasted before the start.  Whether it’s the starting line of the Boston Marathon or your daily run all by yourself, you will NEVER have more energy during your run as when you start…you simply will experience a loss of energy from beginning to end.

It’s important to be mindful of this during your training runs as it prepares you to be calm before important races.  The runners that have an aura of calmness before races understand the importance of energy conservation and managing abundance.  These are the runners that experience peak performance.

This concept applies not only to energy.  When we have abundance in any form we tend to be wasteful.  We tend to be less focused on the value of time at the beginning of a vacation than we are in the final days where we want to make every moment count.  In a marathon we are far more concerned about time in the closing miles than you are at the start.

You’ll enjoy training and racing far more if you manage your energy by being conservative  from the beginning.  Treat energy as the valuable resource that it is and you’ll maintain your form throughout your runs, lessening your risk of injury and, more importantly, you’ll experience a higher degree of satisfaction and enjoyment from your running!

Training Setbacks

Posted: January 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

This is the time of year that training can be disrupted due to the many illnesses of the season.  This is particularly unsettling if you’re training for the 2012 Boston Marathon and further exacerbated if you’re training for your first marathon.

The tendency is to rush back to training and attempt to make up for lost training miles in one fell swoop.  It’s always better to err on the side of caution and gradually allow you body to acclimate to the rigors of running.  Finding comfort in adopting the proper approach to recovering from an illness isn’t intuitive for dedicated and determined runners.

I recommend incorporating more cross-training until you feel you’re fully recovered.  It’s equally important to eat well, stay hydrated and get as much rest as possible to also increase your recovery.  You should reduce your mileage by 50% for the first 3-4 runs back and then increase to 25% for the next two as your transition back to full training mileage.

This recovery strategy is your insurance that you don’t experience an additional setback!