Archive for February, 2013

Marathon Day Preparation

Posted: February 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

This is undoubtedly the most challenging phase of training for the Boston Marathon. We are in the depths of New England’s winter and the marathon seems so far away.

Runners that retain their focus on the ultimate goal exponentially improve the likelihood of a positive marathon experience. This is a great time to begin developing a Marathon Day plan:

Here are several recommendations to consider:

1. Arrive at the Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton no later than 9:00 a.m.
2. Bring a folded piece of cardboard to sit on while waiting for the start.
3. Bring a large garbage bag or poncho to wear in case it’s damp.
4. Wear an older pair of running shoes and don’t wear the shoes you’re planning to wear during the marathon until after you leave the Athlete’s Village and walk to the starting line.
5. Pack food and fluid for the village.
6. Wear loose fitting and comfortable clothes that can be left in the village or checked with your athlete’s bag. You will be leaving this with someone from your charity or on a designated bus (by runner’s number) on your way to the start.
7. Bring a marker if you plan to write your name or someone that has inspired you during this journey on your singlet or body.
8. Check the laces on the shoes you plan to run in to be sure they are in good order.
9. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. If it’s a sunny day, one of the more common areas that require extra sun protection is the back of your knees.
10. Don’t wear any jewelry to the village or during the marathon.
11. Start developing your own checklist of items you will need on Marathon Day to minimize unnecessary stress.

Time passes quickly and the marathon will be here sooner than you realize. Careful preparation now will provide reassurance and peace of mind that you’ve done everything possible to prepare for the Boston Marathon!

Anything But Average!

Posted: February 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

I am astonished by the level of mediocrity in our society! I simply don’t understand why most people don’t ask and demand more of themselves. We seem to have lost our fighting spirit and have settled for far less than we ever imagined. One of the primary reasons that I have been interested in and enjoyed being a running coach for charity runners is that I’m constantly reminded that not everyone has succumbed to this quagmire of complacency!

I believe that any life worth living has to include serving others…a lesson that I learned in the most difficult way imaginable. Being consumed by selfishness most of my life, it was a revelation beyond measure to learn my needs could be more than taken care of once I focused on the needs of others. Charity runners embody this spirit and live it every day of their lives…not just on the day of the Boston Marathon.

Their example of service and compassion has inspired me to pursue their level of commitment to others. And while the Boston Marathon will conclude in less than two months…the impact the Marathon Coalition runners have had on my life with continue well beyond the finish line on Boylston Street…it will last forever!

The Runners Body During A Marathon

Affects of running on the body left side graphic
Affects of marathon on runners body left side graphic
This Washington Post article shows the affects of running a marathon with a step by step process.

With just over two months before the Boston Marathon it’s time to assess what changes may be necessary to your training.

This is the phase in training where runners can easily lose their mental focus.  Your mileage has been gradually increasing since December but it might feel like an arduous process. It’s similar to taking a long trip and feeling as though you’ll never arrive at your destination…suddenly it appears and new life is restored.  The Boston Marathon WILL be here soon so you need to capitalize on the remaining weeks of training.

Rather than focusing on just ‘getting through’ the next two months, I recommend that you prepare for them like you would the actual marathon.  You need to go into them the marathon with plenty of rest, properly fueled, well hydrated and with the proper mental preparation.  Begin each run moderately to find a rhythm that’s comfortable and maintain is as long as possible by maintaining efficient running form.

One of the greatest challenges a runner faces is maintaining good and efficient running form as they become tired.  Incorporating brief and regular walking breaks increases the likelihood this will occur.  When runners become tired they tend to lean forward from the waist and tense up their upper bodies.  I recommend occasionally exhaling forcefully to rid your lungs of carbon dioxide, take a really deep inhale, drop your hands below your waist momentarily and then become mentally focused on sustaining this form until the next walk break.

Now is the time to share your fears and concerns with me so they can be addressed immediately.  Going into a state of denial won’t serve you well in the marathon.  We have plenty of time to adjust your training to provide the best possible situation on April 15, 2013!

In 17 years of coaching I have only had to cancel training 3 times…all related to weather. The expected conditions of the impending storm made the decision to cancel training easy from the standpoint of runner’s safety. However, it was a difficult decision on several other levels.

I look forward to sharing every Saturday with the Marathon Coalition runners. Spending time with such giving people has fueled by enthusiasm for coaching for nearly two decades. Their example of giving, determination and dedication serves as my True North in all aspects of life. Missing just one training session with them leaves a significant void in my week.

I suspect my runners don’t realize how much I need them. The truth is, I receive so much more from them than I provide. I’ve never lived my life expecting things to be fair or equal. I have always needed to feel that I’ve given far more than I’ve received. Training such remarkable people makes the task of coaching more challenging than 100 marathons.

The satisfaction and enjoyment is off the charts…but I will never feel like I’ve compensated them fairly for their contribution to making the world a far better place and the inspiration they’ve given me to be a better person.

Marathon CoaltionIt didn’t take more than a moment to come up with a tag line for the Marathon Coalition 5 years ago. Empowering Others Through Running captured the essence of our mission.

Marathon Coalition runners have committed themselves to providing opportunities and inspiration to others. I am so inspired by the example of giving that I witness each week. Every week, one of the 13 Marathon Coalition charities share their mission before our run and provides volunteers for our water stops. These are young people that are benefitting from the funds being raised by the runners from their respective charity.

Marathon Coalition runners are committed to serving others and providing hope to people that are so deserving and appreciative. Any life worth living has to include serving others. The True North for a charity runner is the desire and commitment to helping others realize they are capable of achieving far more than they ever imagined.

True greatness is not what we accomplish ourselves, but what greatness we inspire in others!

Marathon Dreams

Posted: February 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

“We are different, in essence, from other people. If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon.”-Emil Zatopek, Czech runner who won the Olympic gold medal in the 5,000, 10,000 and the Marathon in 1952

The start of the Marathon was moved from Ashland to Hopkinton in 1924. You will certainly begin to appreciate the magnitude of what the small New England town will feel like on April 15, 2013 when we complete our 20 miler just 3 weeks prior to the Marathon! As we arrive, there will be excitement in the air as thousands of other runners, many of them charity runners, will be preparing and departing for their final text over some of the most challenging miles of the Boston course.

However, there is a seismic gap between what you experience the morning of the 20 miler and the morning of the actual start. On April 15th the excitement level is beyond your imagination. There will be helicopters hovering above the start when you arrive, you’ll likely proceed to the Athlete’s Village and attempt to calm your nerves before dropping the items you want at the finish line onto buses parked along the route to the start. Volunteers will check your race number to ensure you’re entering the correct corral.

Once you enter the corral you’ll likely be a bundle of nerves. You’ll connect with the runners next to you and undoubtedly feel their nervous energy. Once you hear the national anthem and the fighter jets fly over, you know the start is just minutes away. Take a deep breath and close your eyes for a moment and reflect on all the work that you’ve done to get to the start. Most importantly, remind yourself that patience is a virtue and the importance of running conservatively the first few miles until you settle into a rhythm.

You will be so tempted to run too fast at the start because of the initial downhills and the seemingly endless flow of runners passing you. Remember that many of these runners will likely be walking on the hills of Newton from miles 17-21. I have always felt the halfway point of the marathon is not at 13.1 miles but actually at mile 20.

You have a lot of work to do long before we ever arrive in Hopkinton but it’s important to look ahead several months and begin to appreciate why you’re making so many changes and sacrifices in your life now when most of your friends, family, and colleagues are simply going about their normal lives. When they are cheering you from the sidelines on Marathon Day you will need no other reminder of ‘why’ than the encouragement from the people who are most special to you and the tens of thousands of other spectators that dream of one day running the Boston Marathon!

Your dream of finishing the Boston Marathon will soon be a reality!

Tribute To My Runners

Posted: February 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

I commented recently that several of my Marathon Coalition runners mentioned there would be a huge void in their lives once the marathon is over. There will actually be an even bigger void in my life. I certainly have so much abundance in my life (i.e., family, friends, work, interests, etc.) to focus on after the training season concludes. But coaching marathon runners has been such an integral part of who I am for the past 17 years.

I never imagined that I would ever become a coach. When I lost my mom to leukemia in 1996 at only 57 years old, little did I realize that my last conversation with her would lead to my coaching. I promised her that I would commit myself to doing something significant with my life, something that would make her proud. I ran the Ocean State marathon in Rhode Island shortly after I returned to New England after her funeral. That is when my focus began to shift to thinking about others.

Serendipitously, there were Leukemia Society of America signs along the entire marathon course. I called the executive director of the Leukemia Society of America the following day and shared my story. That was the beginning of what has become one of the most amazing journeys of my life.

I began to speak in front of large groups of people about losing my mom. I shared my last conversation with her and my commitment to honoring her memory. It was very emotional but I soon became comfortable with just speaking from my heart.

I struggled with giving oral book reports in school and always considered myself relatively shy so standing before a group was something I wasn’t comfortable with. I suddenly found myself eager (albeit nervous) to open my heart and share my emotions with so many. Losing mom changed my life considerably. I began to realize the importance of giving to others. It was an epiphany to realize I actually thought less about myself when I focused on others. I also realized that I had the unique opportunity to inspire people to do far more than attempt to complete a marathon.

I was the first coach of many of my runners…they had never been on a sports team. When you have someone say, ‘ I have never had anyone say they believe in me!’, you begin to view your role very differently. I realized that I also had the opportunity to motivate and inspire people to believe they were capable of achieving far more than they ever imagined!

The boxes of cards and letters that I’ve received during the past 17 years are the ultimate validation of the unique opportunity I’ve been given. It’s an opportunity to honor my mom’s memory in a significant way and to establish a legacy of helping others…that’s important to me.

None of this would have been possible without Lori. We met shortly after I began coaching and her example of selflessness dramatically influenced my coaching and my view of the world…my view of myself! She has stood in my shadow for far too long but I’ve never forgotten that I owe who I am today to her. I also have been deeply influenced by all the runners that I’ve coached.

To witness thousands of runners commit themselves to making a significant difference in the world has changed my life. I survived in a world of selfishness most of my life…coaching charity runners has dramatically changed that. I’ve seen countless runners, who couldn’t complete one lap of running on a local track when training began, become marathoners in less than 5 months. And they were able to accomplish that because they were so committed to helping others and making a difference in their lives.

Charity runners have a higher completion rate in the marathon than any other group. That’s undoubtedly due to their commitment to serving others. The marathon becomes far less about them than it is to fulfilling a commitment to the charity they’re representing.

Completing a marathon training season is bittersweet for me. The pride that I feel for each of my runners is immeasurable. The sadness of knowing I may never say many of them again is something I don’t like to consider. But I find considerable comfort in the knowledge that I’ve been given a unique gift of being their coach and I’ve given my absolute best effort to them.

My greatest hope is that I’ve instilled in each of them a belief that they can accomplish ANYTHING they commit themselves to and believe in.