Archive for November, 2012

Why Run A Marathon?

Posted: November 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

The motivation to run a marathon is as varied and numerous as the runners themselves.  The significance of running 26.2 miles cannot be discounted-it serves as the benchmark for every runner to reach.  Many simply want to check it off their To Do list along with other significant accomplishments.  Others embrace the challenge of running a marathon and it becomes an integral part of their lives.

I’m drawn to and inspired by those runners that take it to an entirely new level.  These are the runners that are also motivated to  help others through their running…charity runners!  While they have a healthy respect for the training required to finish a marathon, they take on the added responsibility and challenge of raising large amounts of money to support the mission of the charity they’ve chosen to support.

Running in general,  and training for a marathon in particular,  is an extremely consuming and selfish act.  But charity runners are the most selfless people that I know.  Their efforts provide hope and opportunity for others without both.  The commitment they invest in making a difference in the lives of others and the world ensures they have a greater chance of making it to the finish line than even the best Kenyan runners in the world.  This journey is more than just about them!

When a charity runner encounters difficulty in the latter miles of a marathon, they don’t need any more motivation to make it to the finish line than a reminder of all the support they’ve received (financial and otherwise) from friends, colleagues and family and the knowledge that the community served by their respective charity will have an immediate opportunity for a better life!

And there is no greater motivation to run a marathon than that!


The Season Begins!

Posted: November 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

Training begins in earnest Saturday for the 2013 Boston Marathon!  The start of a new training season promises to be filled with challenge, empowerment and inspiration.  It’s always exciting to begin training a new group of runners and share my 36 years of running and 17 years of coaching experience with the Marathon Coalition runners.  It continues to astonish me that most of my runners will be running the 2013 Boston Marathon as their first marathon.

I ran my first Boston Marathon in 1979 after running 2:59:55 and qualifying by just 5 seconds, which is only 1-2 steps after running 26.2 miles.  I didn’t even know what the Boston Marathon was when I approached the starting line of the Richmond Newspapers Marathon that morning in Richmond, Virginia so I certainly didn’t know I needed to break 3 hours.  I knew so little about marathoning before my first marathon.  I had never run more than 7 miles beforehand and I consumed a large stack of pancakes just before the race.  I then ran 4 marathons within 6 months, all sub 3 hour efforts.

We had our kick-off for the Marathon Coalition last night at the Museum of Science.  It was heartwarming to hear representatives from  the 13 charities present their respective mission.  I felt so proud as I listened to each charity describe their mission and the impact it’s having in the lives of so many..  The Marathon Coalition didn’t exist 5 years ago and was spawned from my desire to continue coaching after being the head coach at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ‘s Team In Training program for 12 years and the vision of Mike Wasserman of Bottom Line.

The Marathon Coalition includes the following charities:

  • uAspire
  • Boston Partners in Education
  • Bottom Line
  • Boys & Girls Club of Dorchester
  • Boys & Girls Club of Newton
  • Camp Shriver
  • College Bound Dorchester
  • Dream-Big!
  • Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts
  • Jumpstart
  • Mass Mentoring Partnership
  • Museum of Science
  • Summer Search

So many students will benefit from the fundraising efforts of each Marathon Coalition runner.  The gift of hope, particularly for a better education, can be life altering!  Each Marathon Coalition runner should find considerable comfort in knowing they will make a significant difference in the lives of so many from their effort during the next 5 months.  The money raised is an annuity that will sustain itself for generations.

I cherish my role as a coach, it ranks right beside being a husband and a father.  I enter each training season with the knowledge that it’s going to be extremely challenging to prepare nearly 170 runners to run Boston.  But I also know it’s going to be an incredibly rewarding 5 months that will be completely worth the effort I invest.  I’m also so excited to have Greg Guarriello joining the coaching staff.  He brings a wealth of athletic accomplishment, compassion, and a desire to serve others to his new role…we are lucky to have him.

Our goal is always to prepare each runner to complete Boston in relative comfort.   Greg and I are mindful of the importance of being the best role models possible in an effort to inspire our runners to accomplish more than they ever imagined in life…well beyond the finish line of the Boston Marathon!


Greg and Dawn Guarriello after completing Ironman Wisconsin!

I am so pleased that Greg Guarriello will be joining the Marathon Coalition as our newest coach.  In an effort to manage our considerable and unexpected growth,  it was necessary to add an additional coach to make sure we continue to give every runner the time, attention and support they deserve as they raise funds for the 13 Marathon Coalition charities and prepare for the 2013 Boston Marathon.  That was the easy decision.

The bigger challenge was to recruit a coach that has the athletic credentials, compassion for serving others, and extensive experience in the charity running community; a unique combination to say the least.  I also needed someone who has great people skills that I could trust to pass the torch to when I decide to end my charity coaching career.  I’m beginning my 17th year of coaching and, while my enthusiasm is a great as ever, I need a transition plan in place.  The pool of candidates that possesses these unique skills is relatively small.  However,  the decision is as difficult as though there were 1,000 candidates.  But Greg made the decision much easier because he stands alone on all that he’s accomplished the past 9 years in the aforementioned arena.

Greg has completed 11 marathons and over 80 triathlons (from sprint distance to 2 Ironman finishes).  He brings a wealth of knowledge in all aspects of preparing for endurance events.  Lori and I trained Greg for the 2004 Boston Marathon with Team In Training.  He’s remained involved with and committed to the charity running community in the subsequent years.

The Marathon Coalition is so fortunate to have Greg joining our TEAM!

Track Town USA

Posted: November 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

Visiting Oregon has exceeded my expectations on every level.  I left Bend, Oregon early yesterday morning and drove through the mountains to Eugene.  I was so taken by the beauty of the area that my I failed to closely monitor by speed.  An Oregon State Trooper stopped me and indicated she clocked me at 74 m.p.h. in a 55.  When she took my license and registration she said, “I wouldn’t have to write this ticket if you were going just a little slower!”  So I waited for nearly 25 minutes for her to write the ticket and regretted not watching my speed.  She finally returned and asked me where I was heading.  After I indicated the University of Oregon in Eugene she said, “I’m just going to give you a verbal warning today.  But the speed limit between here and Eugene is 55 m.p.h.!”

I drove the remaining 80 miles to Eugene at a pedestrian 55 m.p.h. and had little old ladies passing  in blind turns like they were driving the autobahn in Germany.  Oh well, this pace just provided more time to enjoy Oregon’s beauty.  When I finally arrived in Eugene, commonly referred to as Track Town USA, I immediately felt at home.  This was the first time in 54 years that I was happy my parents gave me the middle name Eugene.  I felt like I was destined to be a runner.

Eugene is all about running. I visited the Eugene Running Company and the owner engaged me in conversation.  We soon realized that we were within two years of one another and shared the same marathon PR of 2:33.  His store is steeped in history and he shared stories, pictures and letters that brought be back to the beginning of my running career years ago.  That was a time when you had to break 2:50 in the marathon to qualify for Boston…and we did!  It’s interesting, whatever the Boston Qualifying standard is, runners tend to gravitate to that exact time without expectations of exceed it.

He had a picture of Joan Benoit Samuelson running the 1979 Boston Marathon and I mentioned that she passed me on Heartbreak Hill and went on to win in an American Record of 2:35.  I finished a pedestrian 2:48 in my first Boston Marathon.  I left their feeling so connected to my past and enthusiastic about my history and connection to running.  I then drove to Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon and the host facility of the 2012 Olympic Track & Field Trials…this is sacred ground.   The University of Oregon track team was finishing a series of 200 meter repeats as I entered.  I was the only other person in the stadium and took a seat up high in the stands to savor the moment.

It just seemed magical when I noticed a beautiful rainbow in the hills behind the stands.  It was as though my mom was reaching out to me saying…”Now you know why we named you Eugene!”

Running Journal

Posted: November 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

I have kept a running journal for 36 years and have benefitted immensely from this practice.  Keeping a journal tracks your personal running history that can serve as a useful reference in the future.  I find that keeping a journal keeps me motivated.  I like to see my progress documented.  I have also avoided injuries when I’ve scaled my running back when necessary.  I undoubtedly have greater insight into my strengths and weaknesses as a runner.

Here is an example of an entry from my journal:

April 13, 2012

Mileage 12 miles

Total Running Time: 1:29:15

Average Pace: 7:26

Time of Day: 7:00 a.m.

Details: Ran the Keith Hill loop in Grafton.  My morning HR (heart rate) was 48 so right at my normal level.  This was a progressive run that included 2 miles @ 8:00 minute pace to warm-up.  Miles 3-5 were at 7:30 pace.  Miles 6-8 were at 7:15 pace.  Miles 9-11 were at 7:00 pace. Last mile was a cool-down @ 8:00 pace followed by 5 x 100 meter strides.  Focused on maintaining efficient running form (i.e., landing with my feet beneath my center of gravity and on my midfoot, stride rate was 180 SPM).

The weather was fantastic and I felt extremely strong.  My hip flexor seems to be improving but tomorrow will be a better test considering the pace I ran on this extremely hilly course.  My average HR was 155 and my max HR was 172.  Wore the Asics Gel Cumulus.  Morning weight was 162.  Post-run meal within 30 minutes included a protein shake and a toasted bagel with peanut butter.  Stretched thoroughly.

My daily entry takes less than 5 minutes.  It’s important to be honest and accurate with each entry.  If I have a difficult run I include every detail and attempt to understand why.  An elevated resting heart rate in the morning is a great indicator of how well I am handling the rigors of training.  If I have an elevated RHR in the morning I’m sure to scale back the intensity and the distance of my run.  Wearing a heart rate monitor allows me to closely monitor and adjust my effort.

I have enjoyed 36 years of running because I listen to the signs my body is providing and adjust my training accordingly.  I haven’t always avoided injuries but I have kept them to a minimum.  Several recent injuries lingered as a result of not listening to the signs my body provided.  I simply needed to pay closer attention to my running journal because all the indicators of a potential injury were there.

I hope that you also document the details of your runs so that you can get maximum benefit from your training.

The Love Of A Father…

Posted: November 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

The weather in New England has been wonderful.  I began the day with a run with Lori on one of my favorite courses that included a trail near the Willard House Clock Museum. We met there 15 years ago while walking our dogs and were married there on a beautiful summer afternoon.  Each time I run there I’m reminded how fortunate we are to have so much abundance-wonderful friends, great health and the opportunity to make a significant difference in the world.

Afterwards I rode my road bike 40 miles on another course that I enjoy.  As I was riding through South Grafton I noticed a runner approaching with a Boston Marathon shirt.  His form looked so efficient and familiar.  I soon realized it was Russ Trottier and so I stopped to greet him.  Russ is a dedicated father of four boys.  He dedicated last year’s Boston Marathon to his third son, Colin (who has Down Syndrome), by running for TEAM MDSC (Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress).  He and his supporters raised nearly $20,000 for this important cause.

Russ is a 2:56 marathoner and one of the areas top runners.  More importantly, he’s one of the most genuine and wonderful people that I know.  If you want to make a difference in the lives of others, you simply need to follow his example.

Running Mecca

Posted: November 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

I am really looking forward to my visit to Oregon this week.  It’s one of only three states that I’ve not visited.  Hawaii is certainly on my list long before Louisiana to complete the cycle.  Oregon is steeped in running history and this is a trip that I’ve dreamed of for decades.

I will be visiting the University of Oregon and running on Pre’s Trail and the track at Hayward Field.  I remember the tragic day in 1975 when Steve Prefontaine was killed in a car accident.  I began my running career shortly afterwards and have been a huge fan of Pre and Nike ever since.  I look forward to a private tour of the Nike facility thanks to my friends at Marathon Sports.

My focus on running will shift slightly on Saturday as I drive to Bend, Oregon for a fly fishing trip on the historic Deschutes River.

I will spend the last two days in Portland exploring all the bike trails and finally meeting Kristen who I have coached  for several months.  Actually meeting someone who I’ve been coaching for Boston will certainly change the dynamic of our partnership.  The ultimate validation of a Boston Qualifying time is to qualify AT Boston…I know she will accomplish that goal!

This long overdue trip promises to exceed my expectations.

Slow Down To Speed Up

Posted: November 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

Runners tend to train at the same level most of the time.  Any variance tends to be an attempt to run faster to improve speed or prepare for a race.  Slowing down and focusing on form can actually provide the greatest return on investment of time.

Runners with truly efficient form are in the minority.  I’ve always recommend starting every run at a pace that’s 2 minutes per mile slower than you expect to average for the remaining miles of the run.  This is the perfect time to focus on form and finding a rhythm that can be sustained to the end of the run.  Far too many runners land with their feet in front of their center of gravity and on their heels.  Although this will allow a runner to maintain forward momentum, it creates a braking effect and disrupts the rhythm of the run.  It also places unnecessary and harmful stress on the lower extremities that leads to injuries.

Landing with your feet directly beneath your body (center of gravity) and leaning slightly forward from the ankles (not the waist) will provide a position of efficiency that requires less energy to run.  The ideal stride rate is 180 SPM (steps per minute).

Inefficient running is like driving a car with the front-end misaligned.  The tires wear unevenly and prematurely, and the fuel mileage is severely affected.  When I see poor or inefficient running form, I see a runner needlessly struggling to propel themselves forward.

It seems counterintuitive that you can run faster and farther with less effort.  But it’s absolutely true when you focus on efficient running form and sustain it throughout each run.

Slow down and be mindful of your body position and you’ll discover a new realm of efficient running and enjoyment.

Tribute Run For Fulvio!

Posted: November 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

Lori and I joined a wonderful group of Team In Training friends and teammates yesterday morning to honor the memory of Fulvio Abela.  This was an opportunity to take another step down the healing road that promises to be much more difficult and challenging than any marathon we’ve run.

I left Lexington, Virginia at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and arrived home at 3:00 a.m.  I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to return to the Wellesley Community Center and share this special morning with Fulvio’s wife, Rita, and this uniquely special group of friends.

During my 17 years as a marathon coach, I’ve always referenced a quote by Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed people can change the world; Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has!”

My hope is that the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society will establish the Fulvio Abela Team Spirit Award and present it annually to the TNT runner that embodies Fulvio’s spirit.  It will take an extremely unique and compelling runner to earn this coveted award.  I know that we will continue to honor his memory with other events and continue to provide support to the mission of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Providing comfort and support to Rita is important to all of us.  I simply cannot imagine the magnitude of her grief from losing someone she was so in love with.  Just as I felt when I lost my mom and Dr. Cynthia Lucero, I have a burning desire to help.  The direction of that help hasn’t been defined, but I know, along with the others pictured above, it will reveal itself in time.  And I know that effort will be commensurate with the contributions Fulvio made to the lives of so many.

We will attempt to live our lives in his spirit and example.

We will never forget you, Fulvio!

The Mason Dixon Line

Posted: November 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

I always experience a feeling of ‘being home’ when I’m south of the Mason Dixon line.  I grew up in West Virginia and feel connected to the mountains.  I’m now in Virginia visiting the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Washington & Lee University.

Since I made the trip by car I was able to bring one of my bikes.  I visited a local bike shop and purchased a few replacement tubes and air cartridges in exchange for several riding suggestions on local single track.   I never would have located these trails without the local knowledge of the owner.  The shop was in an old brownstone mill in Staunton, Virginia and provided the perfect ambiance of a mom and pop local business.

As soon as I departed the bike shop and headed for the trails, I realized that 90% of the people I passed were smokers.  I continue to have difficulty understanding why people choose to poison their bodies with drugs, alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy foods.  Once I located the trail I was in paradise.  Despite the volume of leaves, I was able to navigate the trail by the openings in the trees.  Jumping over the logs presented a greater challenge, particularly since I’ve obviously lost the thrill seeking tendency of my youth.

I then headed into the mountains and relied on the guidance of a high school girl I encountered for even better riding.  I loved her southern accent and hospitality.  Today I plan to complete a reconnaissance ride of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I plan to ride the full length (469 miles) of the BRP next summer, which will require a Herculean effort.

I won’t arrive home until about 3:00 a.m. on Sunday but I plan to take part in the run from the Wellesley Community Center to honor Fulvio Abela.  I will also be thinking of the runners that I have coached for Team In Training and the Marathon Coalition as they take part in Sunday’s New York City marathon.