Gratitude

Satisfaction!

Chapter 9

I finished my marathon!

Not in the time I was hoping for, but I finished nonetheless, and my first-time journey has come to an end.

What day it was! As predicted, steady rain developed overnight, and continued into the pre-dawn hours when I arrived at the race start, outside the Pentagon. Thousands and thousands of people congregated there – some to listen to a pre-dawn prayer service, others to go through their pre-race routines.

Like me, many were wearing garbage bags to stay dry for as long as possible. For good measure, I wore bags over my running shoes, but they still got quite wet by start time. For good luck, I wore my Needham Running Club cap, and my Needham July 4th tee shhirt – bright lime green, so my family would might find me in the crowd more easily.

A wet start! The big plastic bag I wore before running did little good.

The National Anthem was an emotional moment, as the imminence of my goal was apparent. By the start time, the rain had tapered down to nearly nothing, and soon there was no rain at all for the first 60 minutes of my run.

My only challenge during the first phase was keeping my pace under control. No matter how good I felt, I had no idea whether I would need that energy at the last phase; pacing was a theme and a concern throughout my training.

The crowds filled my heart, and my acknowledgements had them cheer even louder. They didn’t have to be there, in the rain, but they were, so generously offering their support and energy at just the right moments. I’ll never forget finishing a quiet stretch on the George Washington Parkway, and turning onto the Key Bridge into a tunnel of sound. Goosebumps!

Comfortable and Sustainable

At 5.5 miles, the course turned north to Rock Creek Parkway, a beautiful wooded road, but with almost no spectators. Just us runners, 30,000 of us, 2 miles up the parkway, and then back. Still feeling good at that point, and settling into a 10:30-11:00 pace that felt comfortable and sustainable. Water or Gatorade at every stop (don’t miss a single stop!), and take energy gel every 4-5 miles. That was my plan.

Then, around mile 10, the heavens opened up. Not just a little rain, but a lot. Fortunately, it wasn’t a cold rain, and it wasn’t windy. I was soaked to the skin, and my shoes and socks were totally soaked, but it all felt very comfortable.

My family saw me for the first time around Mile 11, and it was such a sweet moment. Big smiles and big kisses all around. And they were soaked, too!

A Solemn Moment

And then there was the Blue Mile at mile 12, where, every six feet or so, there was a poster showing the name and picture of someone who had fallen in combat, and the date they fell. Some of them went back to World War 2. Taking a cue from another runner, I said aloud the names of everyone I passed. It felt like a prayer.

When that was over, a line of people stood on both sides of the road, holding American flags and honoring the runners. If this didn’t move you, well, I have nothing to say.

At the Blue Mile

Then, the solemn moment gave way to a phase of levity. At the halfway point, at Hains Point in East Potomac Park, the Pacers social running club that I’ve been a part of set up a sequence of dozens of signs exhorting club members, and offering some of the funniest running jokes I’ve seen. I can’t remember many of them, but I did like the sign saying “Short Cut Here” and pointing directly across the Potomac to the monument area of Washington. I found two signs cheering me on!

At this point, Mile 15, still feeling good. Still lots of heavy rain, but I was keeping my pace. Lots of wonderful people again along the route. And the sun came out for good!

My Marathon Actually Begins

And that’s when MY marathon truly began. At Mile 18, approaching the U.S. Capitol building, as blue skies appeared, the twinge I felt in my left hip early in the week returned, and I couldn’t shake it. When the pain grew, I slowed to a walk, stretched, let the pain subside, and resumed running until the pain resurfaced. I did this continuously, even as my left knee began acting up because I was favoring my hip. Pretty soon, the hip and knee became tolerable, but then my legs were getting heavier and I had little to no running rhythm. My cardio was great, but the race had become a grind.

Around Mile 17

At this moment, I made the choice that helped me finish – I abandoned any idea of keeping to my anticipated 4:35 finish. My purpose was now to persevere, manage my pain, not hurt myself seriously, conserve my energy, and make sure I finished, at whatever time the race gave me. I read somewhere that the marathon is almost guaranteed to humble you – and it sure did that for me.

Mile 20 introduces the 14th Street Bridge on I-395, heading back south into Northern Virginia. Hard concrete, direct sun, a self-serve water station (no thank you), and no cheering spectators. They were the longest two miles of my race.

Into the Crystal City district of Arlington, with high rises, cheering crowds, and a direct sun that was starting to get quite warm. My legs were getting even heavier. At mile 22, I said to myself, no more walking – I can run four miles without stopping! Then came a second humbling moment – my right thigh started to tighten. So went back to alternating walking and running, to avoid hurting myself so badly that I wouldn’t finish.

The Finish

Back onto Route 110, where it all began, past the spot where I started nearly five hours earlier, in the drizzle and darkness. That’s when I started to run without walking – nothing would keep me from running steadily the whole way in!

After the “Mile 26” sign (so welcome), a left turn at the roadway up a fairly steep hill up to Marine Corps Memorial (otherwise known as the Iwo Jima Memorial). High-fiving the marines along the side of the road. I actually heard my name announced from the loudspeakers about 50 yards from the finish, but cannot remember hearing anything else, even the cheering of my family in the bleachers. (Sorry, folks!) I wasn’t even sure when I actually finished. There were two timing strips, but no big “finish” sign overhead.

Finish time: 5 hours, 12 minutes, 23 seconds – about 30 minutes longer than planned.

I’d anticipated the finishing moment often during the past 16 weeks. Despite everything I thought I might experience (crying, shouting, collapsing…) I felt only relief, along with deep satisfaction for doing the best I could, doing something I had wanted to do since I was in my 20s. I sometimes say to myself, “In any given race, you can only do what you can do.”

That was certainly the case today.

Gratitude:

  • To God, for giving me the strength to persevere.
  • To the great spectators, even those whose signs read, “Random Stranger, We’re Proud of You!”
  • To New York Road Runners for their incomparable virtual training program. You haven’t let me down yet.
  • To the Pacers running group, for welcoming me into their Saturday long runs, which gave me the confidence that I could do this.
  • To all my friends who cheered me throughout this journey, read this blog, and held my commitment as their own.
  • And most important, to my family: My wife Lois, my daughters Allegra and Daria, and my in-laws the Ritarossi family, for giving me the space and time to follow this dream, and for being there today in the rain, when everything was on the line.

What’s next? I’m taking the day off from work tomorrow, and getting a massage. And no serious running for a week or two. And then probably a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day.

Next year? No rush – that’s for next year. But I am already thinking about what I might do differently.

One Day To Go

Truth.

Chapter 8

It’s almost here.

It’s less than 24 hours before I step off for my first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, along 30,000 other souls. What a ride the last few days have been!

Monday, I awoke with a twinge in my hip, probably due to sleeping in an awkward position. I got a little panicky, called the chiropractor, but couldn’t get an appointment for another day. By that time, the twinge had gone away. But he found something in my hip to adjust, and I felt more freedom. Exhale.

By midweek, it was becoming more certain that it would rain on Sunday. It will be a mild rain, and probably won’t be a soaking rain, but it wasn’t what I’ve dreamed about.

So, If you can’t control the weather, you can prepare for it, right? Well, there’s preparation, and then there’s obsession. I spent lots of time thinking about how to stay dry, stay warm, and avoid blisters. I never thought I’d use body glide, but here we are!

Thursday evening was my regularly scheduled chiropractor appointment, and he urged me to relax and have fun with it. Was my anxiety becoming that obvious? (I’m guessing, yes.)

If it’s like this at 9 a.m. …

This morning was the runner’s expo, and it was soooo much fun! I was there at 9 a.m., and it was already crowded. Lots of positive energy and genuine support. I bought a few things (see the pics) and went home to get my stuff together and relax the rest of the day (or try to). There’s a big chicken parm dinner tonight, and a good night’s sleep, if that’s possible. My plan tomorrow is to awake around 5pm, get my usual pre-race breakfast of toast and peanut butter, and stay hydrated.

My family will be there with me. My wife Lois and daughter Allegra will be there in the rain, along with my daughter Daria, who is flying in from Colorado, and my father in law Lou, who made the trip from Rhode Island. They lift me up – not just for this, but on every blessed day of the week.

It’s almost here – the moment of truth.

What will tomorrow bring?

Inspiration.

Entering the Home Stretch: Being Coachable

Sunrise at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, Alexandria, VA, Oct. 12, 2019

Chapter 7

Race day is one week from today!

Seven months ago, nearly to the day, I put my name in the lottery for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC – a distance that I had once sworn I would never do. But some time over the winter, the marathon bug hit me, and so here I am, seven days to one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

The truth is, the journey has been even more memorable. And none of it would have been possible without being coachable.

Being coachable means giving yourself over to the wisdom of someone who’s traveled your path before. Someone who knows the ups and downs, twists and turns, and holds your commitment as if it was their own.

For me, my “coach” has been the staff of the New York Road Runners, who built the Virtual Trainer app and have guided me through the four half-marathons that have formed the foundation of this training experience. Their guidance has never let me down.

My other coach has been you, my community – encouraging me, and quietly holding my goal as their own. I owe a special debt to my new friends, the social runners with Pacers Running in Northern Virginia. They’ve been a great support through the last big long runs of my training program.

You must be humble to be coachable – which, for me, is sometimes easier said than done. If you ask for a coach, and then don’t do what the coach says, what are you actually trying to prove?  Michael Jordan had a coach. Michael Phelps had a coach. Bobby Orr had a coach. So who am I to reject a coach?

In this program, being coachable means doing what the training program tells you to do. If it says you should do 5 miler today, you go out and do it, exactly the way the plan says you should. If it says don’t run too fast today, then take it easy even if you feel great. There’s a reason for it, even if you can’t see it. This plan provides one back door, and only one. If you’re hurt or feel sick, you can deviate. Pushing through an injury is just stupid, and grinding through an illness proves nothing.

So this week’s objective, as it has been the last two, has been to get my legs fresh without losing my edge. That means two short runs, and four days of rest. What’s the fine line between resting and regressing? Easy – do what the plan says to do! As the training plan states:

“What you’ve accomplished over these past weeks is what you signed up for. You’ve accomplished your goal, and you know it. You trained through difficult weather conditions, you’ve skipped parties, awaken early, suffered through Long Runs — you have nothing to prove.”

I definitely feel ready. I am the most fit I have ever been. I will try not to obsess about what I cannot control (weather), and focus on what I can – nutrition, rest, and preparation. If you’re in the DC area on the morning of Oct. 27, I invite you to join my family on the course. They’ll be at the western end of East Potomac Park, where miles 12, 15 and 20 converge, near the Jefferson Memorial.

Millions of people have run a marathon. So why not me?

In the stretch run, gratitude

Chapter 6

Tomorrow, I go on the longest run of my training for the Marine Corps Marathon – 19 miles. I’m working today, and it’s all I can think about.

A few months ago, this distance wouldn’t have been even remotely feasible, at least in my own mind. I knew it was in the plan, way out there in the future, almost too scary to contemplate. But here I sit, today, at the end of the 13th week of training, and it beckons. “You can do this.”

My plan is to do tomorrow’s run with a group. A local chain of running shoe stores organizes a long social run every Saturday. I did the 17-miler a couple of weeks ago alone, but that was about as long as I want to go by myself. Tomorrow’s run is expected to last nearly three and a half hours, which is a long time to run alone, even for someone like me who doesn’t mind solitude. I did the 13-miler last week with the running group, and it made everything go by much faster. And I made some new friends!

This group sets up the course in concentric loops, so while we all start together, you can do your own thing. If you want to do 6 miles, you can turn around at Roosevelt Island. Or, if you want to do 13, you go further, and turn back at 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac. Runners of all speeds are welcome, and they naturally cluster into groups of people of roughly equal pace. One thing about running: No matter how much you improve, there’s always someone who will run faster than you! And that’s OK.

Sometimes you just need a little encouragement, and the group provides that. I also get it from my excellent online training program, which was developed by New York Road Runners. Earlier this week, it delivered something that had me reflect on what I’m doing:

“Remember to enjoy the training; once you start overanalyzing, the fun diminishes. You’re at the culmination of 13 weeks of work, this plan is working, and you’re ready to achieve your goals! Enjoy being the fittest you’ve ever been in your lifetime.

Certainly, I want to do well tomorrow – keep my pace, and not burn myself out. But more important, I want to appreciate what I’ve already achieved. And to express the gratitude I feel for my wonderful family’s forbearance that allows me to do this.

The weather tomorrow morning will cooperate: 50 degrees, sunny and dry. After that, just three weeks to go. I can’t wait, and I know I will miss it!

24 Hours Later: A Postcript

The run was a success! I went 19.25 miles at a pace of 10:33 per mile, which was squarely in the midpoint of the range prescribed by my training program. I ran almost all of it with another first-time marathoner who was not only running 19 miles like me, but was also planning to go at the same pace as me. The perfect running partner!

The morning was so chilly I wore my cold weather gear . The air stayed cool, so I kept it on throughout the run. We ran from Roosevelt Island on the Potomac in Arlington, northward on Capital Crescent Trail through Bethesda, reaching the outskirts of Silver Spring before turning back. I kept my pace under control throughout the whole thing, which was great practice for the race itself. The only time I struggled was during miles 16 and 17, when the accumulating miles were starting to take a toll on my legs, and my mind was fighting me.

But it was all good, and even though my legs are little heavy, it didn’t break me down.

And, I got to see a beautiful sunrise!

Roosevelt Island at sunrise, 10/5/19

Running, the Problem-Solver

The Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

Chapter 5

Running is one of the best problem-solving tools that I know. When I’m stuck on something – a problem to solve, a crucial work conversation to get just right – a good run will produce a better answer than the one I already have.

A few years ago, I was applying for a big job, and a major part of the interview was a presentation on an assigned topic. With a week to go before the interview, I still wasn’t close to nailing it, despite working on it for hours. After a relatively short run, the answer came to me, and it was a good answer. I got the job.

Why does this happen? I don’t know HOW it works, but I just know that a mile or two into a run, I’m in a steady rhythm, just listening to my breathing, monitoring how my legs and body feels, and solutions start to present themselves.

Unless like many runners, I don’t listen to music when I run. It doesn’t work for me. It throws off my pace, and I’m not truly monitoring how I feel. So I’m alone with my thoughts. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced the clichéd “runner’s high.” But I do know that in many runs, I have zoned out enough so that I will “wake up” and not remember how I got from there to here. It makes the run go faster, and quite often, I have a problem solved.

My last couple of weeks

I did SEVENTEEN miles today! It was my longest run ever, and I did it in 2 hours and 54 minutes – much faster than my goal of finishing between 2:58 and 3:02.

I really did not know how it would go. Ten days ago, I got the second dose of the shingles vaccine, and I felt run down for three days – two more than the last time. Still, I was able to run four straight days, pursuant to my training plan, kicking off with a relatively easy 11-miler.

However, after those four days (which coincided with four especially long days at work), I was feeling run down, and felt really tired for the next four days, almost as if I was fighting a cold. This has happened before – three of my four half-marathon training periods were marked by mild breakdowns like this. This week, for recovery, I had two scheduled off days, skipped another scheduled workout, and deferred the 17-miler by a day, to see if I could get myself together.

Sunday morning dawned and I felt pretty good, so I decided to give it a go. The temperature was 68, and not too muggy. I had no idea if I would wear down after 10 miles, 15 miles, or even 5 miles. This FORCED me to start off slowly.

I saw a lot of interesting things today. I started around 6:45 a.m., early enough to see a light blanket of mist settle over some soccer fields. I saw a deer bounding down the road, a female cardinal darting across the path, and a squirrel collide with a bicyclist. Poor squirrel!

Around Mile 4, I fell into a good rhythm, knocking off 10:15 miles where the goal was 10:30-10:45. By Mile 8, I knew I could do it. I was SO happy when I finished it – not only beating the goal, but beating the cold, too.

Next week is a recovery week, with the long run dropping back down to 13. Then in two weeks, the BIG long run – 19 miles! Then taper time starts.

The big day – the Marine Corps Marathon – is coming!

A success, and a failure

The Washington & Old Dominion Trail,
between Falls Church and Vienna, VA

Chapter 4

A few days ago, I passed the halfway mark of my training program for the Marine Corps Marathon. Eight weeks down, eight weeks to go.

This is where the real work begins. Before today, the plan was mostly familiar – things I had done while training for the four half-marathons I’ve already run. But starting today, it’s uncharted territory.

The plan for today was to go 15 miles, which I had never, ever run in a single day before. The previous week, I did 15 miles spanning two consecutive days, but this was obviously different. I was actually I little nervous this morning getting my stuff together to go out for it. Could I actually do it at all? How would it feel?

This is a familiar pattern – new things make me both nervous and excited. If I’m on top of my game, I’ll push through the nerves, knowing that the sense of satisfaction will be all the better. If I’m not, I’ll hate myself for it.

For today’s run, my goal was not only to finish it, but do it at the same pace that I’m targeting for my marathon, which is between 10:24 and 10:42 per mile. See, that’s the rub. If I’m feeling strong, I typically want to go much faster than that, and see what happens. That’s OK for a shorter race, but potentially disastrous for a marathon.

Training for, and running, a marathon requires discipline. Plan your work, and work your plan. There’s no escape hatch.

So this morning, I both succeeded and failed.

I succeeded because I did the 15 miles without a mishap: Two hours, 27 minutes on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, on a sunny, mild, dry morning. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and I had plenty of company on the trail. I traveled parts I’d never seen before: new hills, new vistas, new experiences. That was great.

And I did 15 miles! Woohoo!

But I also failed because I did not hold my target pace throughout the run. I averaged 9:48, which would be much too fast for a full 26.2 miles. And, the last mile was a grind, which is not a good sign. There is little chance that I would be able to keep that up for my entire race – I would probably bonk. Today, there were some stretches where I hit the sweet zone, but it was on uphill segments, so it doesn’t really count. Mostly, I struggled to stay above a 10-minute pace.

This is something I’ll have to work on. And it will be key to completing the 26.2-mile course on October 27.

Around Mile 10, looking none the worse for wear.

Track Work is the Best

Chapter 3

I absolutely love track work. There may be runners who think I’m out of my mind, but I do love it, and I cannot lie.

Why is there speed work in the training plan of a marathon runner? Because it works.

The best marathon training plans go to work on all aspects of the endeavor – fast running, slow running, hills running, flats running, you name it. In my training plan, one run every week is for speed work. This morning, it required a trip to the local high school track to do seven repeats of 1000 meters at a faster-than-normal pace, each separated by 45 seconds of walking. The last interval had to be same pace as the first one.

I got my start running competitively during the indoor track season of my sophomore year of high school in Providence, R.I. The indoor “track” was an old, stately National Guard armory in the heart of the city. The surface was a flat, one-tenth mile oval painted on an unforgiving hardwood floor. The air in that place seemed intent on sucking every drop of moisture from your lungs.

No matter. I loved it, and my times were quickly improving. I was ALL IN.

When it came time for outdoor season, we ran on the streets until the cinder tracks could dry from the winter snow and mud. But the hard surfaces and my bad shoes punished me, and I hurt my foot. I could barely walk pain-free. Every time I felt better, I would try to run, and the pain would return. I had to stop. I thought it was a muscle strain, but in retrospect, it must have been a stress fracture. I didn’t go back to running until I was done with college.

I missed that outdoor season – perhaps more than I realized at the time.

So this morning, while it was still dark, I did an easy mile and a half jog to the local track to warm up. The school parking lots were still empty, the gates were open, and it was just me, my watch, and my training plan.

A thousand meters is two and half times around the track. My plan prescribed each interval at between 5:35 and 5:47, with very little variation. Faster would be OK, if I could handle it and stay there. And on every other interval, practice drinking water while running.

I did the first 1k within the prescribed range, and then snapped off all the rest at BELOW the range. That’s what felt right. And it forced me to concentrate! Get the distance right, keep the same pace, drink my water, and most important, keep an accurate count of how many intervals I had done. As #5 and #6 approached, I was working harder, but that was exactly the point. I was doing fine.

By the time interval #7 was complete, 45 minutes later, the sky was brighter, my legs were heavier, and I had crushed the workout. Time had flown by, and I felt a deep sense of satisfaction. I was where I was meant to be.

And as a bonus, I didn’t choke when I tried to drink and run at the same time.

The rest of the week

Last Saturday, the long run was a 12-miler. I chose a paved trail in Fairfax County that I had run only once before – the Washington & Old Dominion, a rehabilitated railroad right-of-way. A heat wave had finally broken. At 7 a.m. it was sunny, only 62 degrees, and the dew point was in the 50s. Heaven!

And the trail was busy! Runners, walkers, bikers, people with strollers, and all combinations thereof. I saw one guy pushing a stroller containing a crying infant, a whiny toddler, while dragging a small dog on a leash. He deserved a medal.

The run was quite successful, though I’m a little uncertain about the precise time and distance because of operator error with my watch. (Ugh.)

So far, so good. Next weekend – another 11 miler.

The honesty of running

Chapter 2

Running is an honest sport. To get better in running, there’s only one way to do it – to run. No pills, no magical foods, no hocus pocus.

Just run.

Putting in the mileage doesn’t guarantee success. You can have good days and bad days, and the reason for it is sometimes a mystery. But if you want to get better, you have to put in the mileage. There’s no such thing in running as a lucky swing, or a lucky shot.

I’m not saying people don’t cheat in track events or in marathons – it happens all too often. But take a look at a typical training plan – like this one from one of the sport’s training gurus, Hal Higdon. It’s a half-marathon plan for a first-timer. What do you notice?

You might see that are no shortcuts. There is a gradual buildup from the first week all the way through Week 12. No more than a 10% increase in mileage from week to week, to minimize the risk of injury. Lots of recovery time, with some variety thrown in. Even a basic Couch to 5k plan follows the same principle. Impatience puts you on the sideline.

The good news? You don’t need to be an athletic freak to do it. If you’re reasonably healthy and fit, it’s achievable. Listen to the coach, and follow the plan.

Plan your work, and work your plan.

A good principle for life, too.

My training this past week

Week 7 has been a good one. It started with an 11-miler while visiting relatives in Rhode Island, following a coastline road in Narragansett on a cool, but muggy and foggy morning. It was an out-and-back, and the only surprise was that the run back included a long, gradual, unrelenting uphill from miles 7-10. Somehow, I didn’t notice it was downhill on the way out! I really should pay more attention. Still, I finished it in 1:42, well ahead of my plan’s recommended 1:48.

Then there were two regular runs of 5 and 6 miles on the weekdays, back here in Virginia, at a good pace. Warm, muggy early mornings on my hilly home course. This morning I saw a fox dart across the road in front of me, the second one I’ve seen in the past month. A few weeks earlier, I saw a small red fox, carrying a dead mouse in its mouth, stop at my traffic light and crosswalk, look both ways, then scamper across the road. Smart fox! I don’t run with my phone, but those were times I wish I did.

The things you might see, when no else is one around, can make that 5:30 wakeup call very rewarding.

This coming Saturday, I have a 12-miler in Fairfax County. Maybe this time I’ll figure out how to use that Camelbak that I struggled with last week.

Starting the journey

Chapter 1

So why is this guy, of reasonably good health, well into his middle age, training for his first marathon? Is he playing with a full deck?

Five weeks ago, I began training for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, which is this coming October 27. This, despite swearing up and down for years that I was satisfied with the handful of half-marathons I’ve been running, and denying I had any interest in putting myself through the ordeal.

So what happened? All I can give you are the facts.

In January of this year, I got an email from the New York Road Runners, inviting me to put my name in for the lottery for their marathon in Nov. 2019. So I did, fully expecting I wouldn’t get in. The chances of successfully entering via the straight lottery for NY are about 1 in 12 – in other words, harder than getting admitted to all but the most elite colleges in the country. As Laureen, a friend of mine who also runs said, it must have been right after a good run. She was right.

The law of averages being what they are, of course I didn’t get in – and to my shock, I was sorely disappointed! I got a nice note – digital pat on the back, and that was it.

Right? No.

I realized that I had started thinking of myself as a marathon runner. The mind plays funny tricks, right? Especially on mine.

I started asking around – what race should I enter? My friends, mostly through Facebook, said:

  • Boston! (yeah, right. Even the people who meet the brutal time qualifying time aren’t guaranteed an entry.)
  • New York! (they weren’t paying attention)
  • Chicago! (OK, maybe … )
  • Berlin! (because it’s fast – nope, too far)
  • One of the Rock ‘n Roll marathons (Nah – I’ve heard mixed reviews)
  • Baltimore! (Seriously, Charm City! I ran the half marathon in 2018 and it was a great time. So maybe…)
  • Disney! (too flat, and it’s so early in the day there are few spectators on the course)
  • Marine Corps Marathon in Washington! (Getting warmer … )

The Marine Corps Marathon is just a few miles from my home in Northern Virginia. I had heard great things about its spirit, its energy, the course, the inspirational finish line at the Iwo Jima Memorial … AND I would get to sleep in my own bed the night before.

There was only one catch – another lottery! But the odds weren’t so difficult. So I entered my name, paid the provisional entry fee … and I got in.

Great – now I really have to do this! I bought a subscription to the New York Road Runner online training program, which I had used for my half marathons, and hasn’t steer me wrong once. My plan would start in early July.

So for four months, I thought about it, not actively training for it, aside from keeping up my general running fitness, running about every other day for 4-5 miles. For a while, I would say I’m “entered” in the MCM.

Note the subtle back door I was giving myself. Not actually “running” in it, just “entered” in it. Finally, as July approached, I had to choose – close the back door and go all in, or remain a weasel and leave it open. I shut that sucker dead tight.

All in, baby! So on July 8, the day after returning from a vacation, at 5:45 am, I set out for my first training run – an easy 4-miler.

So now I’m really all in. I want to record what happens to me, at least for my own sake. This is going to be an interesting ride – ups and downs, and sideways journeys too. What will the next two and half months bring? What will follow is my journal of what I’m doing, thinking and feeling.

I know, I know, what’s the deal starting a running diary so late in the game? Really, I was thinking about this all during June, and didn’t commit. So maybe you can see what I’m working on – following through on my plans. No more bullshit. Ideas are cheap; the gold is in the doing.

And, I want to share with it you all. Perhaps you’ll enjoy it, too! Hop on board – the next one’s coming in a day or two.

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