State 39: Delaware (2014 Delaware Running Festival Marathon)

I was happy to be shivering.

Three years since her PR at Flying Pig -- CAN SHE DO IT?

Three years since her PR at Flying Pig — CAN SHE DO IT?

Laura and I walked from the Wilmington Westin to the starting line of the 2014 Delaware Running Festival Marathon, a short trip around the Christina River and toward Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park. The day before, I was flicking away sweat in the first mile of the Maryland Half Marathon and promptly spent the rest of the day assiduously drinking water. Had my legs not carted me across 13.1 relatively fast miles the day before, the cool breeze sliding through the thin fabric of my running outfit would have imbued me with tremendous confidence.

An hour later, I was on the road, chugging along at a relaxed pace. The opening miles weren’t terribly scenic and included a few long sections through the parking lot of the Westin, far from any shade or greens. But my biggest enemy in this race wouldn’t be the scenery as my mind had already begun to defy me.  At some point in tough races, a tiny voice starts to rise above the breathing and plodding of feet.  It usually surfaces around mile 22, but today its dastardly voice broke through the noise at the first mile marker.  It said:

This is going to suck at mile 14.

2014 Delaware Marathon Google Earth Rendering

2014 Delaware Marathon Google Earth Rendering

You see, the Delaware Marathon is a two-looped course. Laura was running only one loop, where every single turn would reveal new territory to conquer, with the very last revelation being the finish line. I would have to repeat all of it, which meant that I couldn’t help but constantly wonder how I would feel the next time I saw this mile marker. While stronger minds might be able to shield themselves from thinking of the second round, I wasn’t faring too well in ignoring the mile markers 14-25 peppered across the course.

Just before 5k, on the Riverfront

Just before 5k and 25k, on the Riverfront

To palliate my fears, the course quickly became very beautiful.  By the second mile we were running on the wet, wooden planks of the riverfront. They felt like rubber, springing softly below my feet, absorbing the impact. We followed the river to the starting line and then cut through the city of Wilmington, where we would abandon flat terrain for the rest of the loop. Despite being in the city proper, there weren’t many spectators.  We soon entered Brandywine Park, where under the peaceful canopy of trees, the temperature felt like it dropped ten degrees.

That tranquil pause in the chugging of legs and arms was interrupted when we crossed a cobblestone bridge and turned onto South Park Drive, where a mile-long hill made heart rates soar. Relay runners were happily flowing downhill and just up ahead was a friendly spectator with a Captain America shield that said “Press For Power.” Somewhere in the middle of the hill, I heard it again.

This is going to suck at mile 20.

Miles 3 and 16, by the Riverfront

Miles 3 and 16, by the Riverfront

At the top, I saw Laura’s parents. Over the last two days, they had hosted me at their home in Silver Spring and drove up to Wilmington to watch us run. From the moment you meet them you know they’re going to be a hoot. Not only is her mom a fun, charming woman, but you can almost hear the synapses in her mind firing a million times a second. In the scant 36 hours I had known her, I had answered a thousand earnest questions. Her dad, a person of much fewer words, is just as affable and welcoming (and surprised me by knowing more about Costa Rica’s economy and trade relations than I was ready to discuss). I smiled as I passed them.  Her mom was cheering so emphatically, she was practically squawking.

The next five miles were run through the neighborhoods of Highlands, Bancroft Parkway, Wawaset Park and Hilltop, with almost every single step having a tiny slope. I was by this point completely drenched in sweat and making sure to stop at every aid station. I kept looking for a mantra despite the mounting doubt in my head, like searching for a gummy bear in an anthill. And despite plentiful shade, it had become a warm day.

Miles 6 and 19, South Park Drive

Miles 6 and 19, South Park Drive, “the hill” everyone talks about

“Looking good, Larry,” I said as I passed an older runner. He was wearing a yellow shirt with a blue singlet on top that said “1,300 Marathons Larry,” power walking, slightly hunched under an orange cap and pumping his arms. It was Larry Macon, one of the most prolific marathoners in the world, who currently owns an un-ratified world record for most marathons run in a year (255), and continues to put all of our running accomplishments to shame.

Two downhill miles later, I was back in the city, with one hill left until the “finish” line. As I ran toward the crowds, I couldn’t help but think that I’d be happy to call it a day. I was already tired, had left a trail of sweat beads on the pavement since the start and would not have bet on a strong finish. I thought, if today were supposed to be just a half marathon, I would be proud of this time.  But instead, I reached the split and turned away from the roar at Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park and back onto the familiar road from earlier that morning.

Those first hundred steps were the worst.

Miles 9 and 22, through Wilmington neighborhoods

Miles 8 and 21, through Wilmington neighborhoods

I tried not to, but the inevitable rapid-fire slide show of the next 13.1 miles flashed in my head. Every turn and landmark, but most menacingly, every hill burst in a matter of seconds alongside shrill, staccato horns, like a flashback to a war. That might be inappropriately hyperbolic, but it really was demoralizing. The first half wasn’t the sweet and easy jog that I was expecting, to the point that my mind was ready to check out.

I know myself and how I function. With this sweat rate at this point in the race, I can all but guarantee a disastrous second half. Why did I think I could comfortably keep this pace for this long? Why can’t I ever just run the race I’m supposed to run and not push it? And think of the sunburn I’m going to get …

There is much to be said about the power of the mind over the body. There is certainly no shortage of inspirational running bumper stickers that tout how a variable percentage – but usually more than half – of the effort is mental. I’ve never really known whether this is just a fun platitude to believe in or if it holds its weight in a lab. But let this post serve as anecdotal evidence of the exact opposite situation. The mind certainly can affect the body in numerous, wondrous ways. But on May 11, 2014 in Wilmington, Delaware, I ran my twenty-third marathon and watched in disbelief as my body overcame my weak, jellied mind.

Miles 9 and 22 in Hilltop, far from the cover of trees

Miles 9 and 22 in Hilltop, far from the cover of trees

My legs, heart and lungs were not paying attention to the quailing voice in my head. They continued onward, ticking off the miles. Though I wasn’t running that much faster, the distance between mile markers seemed shorter. It was as if my body had effectively shut off my brain and its powers of perception, allowing me to simply execute forward locomotion. I had become a machine, steaming past runners and spectators with a steely gaze. There were no more distractions, no more moments of quiet introspection or sightseeing. I had taken pictures in the first half of the race, but for that second loop, my camera was firmly clutched in my left hand, not to see any more daylight until I was done. The part of me that would have enjoyed that had been silenced.

South Park Drive would have one more go at shattering my momentum. During this climb I ran the slowest 5k of the race and it was looking likely that my body was going to join my quivering mind. But every moment of despair was followed by a surge of easy speed. I cruised through the dew-drenched neighborhoods and over the sun-burnt roads of Hilltop, passing everyone I saw ahead of me. Under normal circumstances, I would have covered those miles fraught with concern over the inevitable bonk, but today I had stuffed that poltroon perspective in a paper cup and tossed it at an aid station many miles ago.

Miles 12 and 25, through the city, and the final climb of the race

Miles 12 and 25, through the city, and the final climb of the race

Instead, I ran from 35k to 40k in my fastest split of the race, aided by a long downhill and the pull of the finish line. Once back in the city there was just one hill left to scale before the irresistible finish line. Still on auto-pilot, I was powerless to object.  It was only until I crossed the finish line in just under 3:38 and heard the announcer say my name that I felt normal, human again. It’s a good thing this metamorphosis happened when it did because right as I got my finisher’s medal, I felt someone jab me.

“Hey, you might not remember me,” he said to the back of my head. I turned around and instantly recognized him. “Andy the Pacer!” I yelled before he could get another word out. We had met over two years ago in Little Rock, where he paced (and entertained with frequent trivia) the 3:45 group, with whom I ran for twelve miles in completely new clothes and shoes before taking off to earn an unexpected PR. For that reason, I will always hold a special place in my running books for him.

0511_1_delawaremarathon 230511_1_delawaremarathon 27

Laura continued her PR streak with a 1:52 finish, going 4 for 4 and confirming that I am her lucky half marathon rabbit’s foot. After the race we made our way to a Mother’s Day barbecue hosted by her extended family in a nearby neighborhood, where I became happily acquainted with northeastern hospitality and half of the charming genes that led to her incredibly affable and lovable personality. A few hours later, I was back on the road towards Baltimore, ready to fly home smiling.

2014-delaware-marathon-elevation-chart

I have faced time and time again the difficult truth that strength and confidence in long distance running, much like the elevation chart above, exist in a wave form. There are months where nagging pains and tiny setbacks make intense training feel like a chore. But there are also spans of time when everything feels easy, effortless and that the body’s limits can easily bend to your will. At the end of the Delaware Marathon, I felt strong, powerful, and incredibly optimistic about the rest of the year’s challenges. The last few months have had their aches and pains, but as I finished my 39.3 mile weekend averaging an 8:07 pace with almost 3,000 feet of vertical change, I felt incredible.

Now I just have to make sure, as my mom advises, to not overdo it. Because running two and a half marathons in ten days is certainly not that.

Marathon_Map 049 (DE)

 

State 38: Maryland (2014 Maryland Half Marathon)

I was tired at the start of this race. It wasn’t because I had done anything strenuous the day before, nor was it from lack of sleep or the marathon I ran last weekend. I was yawning at the start of the 2014 Maryland Half Marathon because I was simply running this race to cross off another state, and for little else. The real reason for flying from Chicago to the Northeast was to run the Delaware Marathon the next day, but in the interest of frugality, I had chosen to add this race to save on travel expenses.

Start / Finish Area

Start / Finish Area

As I stood waiting for the minutes to count down to the start, I wondered with a slight grimace if my parsimony was cutting out some of my enjoyment of the sport. Some of my favorite activities are special precisely because they happen infrequently. I have a three-month window for skiing and Chicago’s merciless winters don’t allow for beer garden gatherings with friends for much of the year. Since I typically run between 16 and 24 races every year, few of them have the special haze that comes with months of daydreaming. I think of groups like the Marathon Maniacs, who run one or two marathons every weekend for the entire year and wonder how they can enjoy races if they’re a staple of the everyday, like eating or brushing your teeth.

So instead of writing about my performance at a milquetoast half marathon, I have decided to focus on three key lessons I learned during this 13.1 stretch of Maryland neighborhoods.

* * *

And we're off!

And we’re off!

Don’t Get Cocky

As you become more comfortable with the marathon distance, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that its shorter brethren is a walk in the park. I liken it to running eight miles during training – since it’s much shorter than a typical long run, you go into the run thinking it will be a quick, effortless jaunt. But if you start with that attitude, you’ll soon find yourself bored or worse, tired and humiliated.

Long stretches of gently rolling hills

Long stretches of gently rolling hills

Sadly, I was going into this race with this kind of thinking.  I wasn’t running for a time or the thrill of a race, nor was I expecting Mother Nature to put up a fight.  But it was a warm morning, the air was thick, and the course ahead was stubbornly hilly. I stepped over the start mats with a slow, slumped stride, as if running were punishment for not doing the dishes. There was nothing particularly special about this race that grabbed my attention months ago. It was simply on the Saturday before the Delaware Marathon. Convenience alone got me to sign up for it.

I soon realized, after dragging myself through that first mile, that if I wanted to successfully navigate the hills, heat and humidity, I’d have to overcome my own attitude. That process began by recognizing the challenge that lay ahead and to never assume that any given race is in the bag. Hubris is dangerous because it sets up unnecessarily high expectations, and the looming threat of an injury is increased by perfunctory form.

Each Run Should Have a Purpose

Whether you’re running three miles on a weeknight or a half marathon, you should have a purpose every time you lace up. Many people might disagree with me here – how often does a 4-miler really have its own unique mission? I’d like to say, hopefully every time. There exists a debate on “junk miles,” or miles that you run conservatively to rack up a bigger weekly total, and I’m on this side of striking them from your training program. Running miles simply to rack up mileage isn’t as effective as targeted miles. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of perspective. Four miles at marathon pace can either be four junk miles for the hell of it, or four miles to recover from the previous day’s hill repeats.

Lots of old residential neighborhoods

Lots of old residential neighborhoods

When each run has a purpose, it makes training much easier. So you could say there was a hypocritical conflict of interest when I decided to sign up for this event in the first place. By squeezing in a half marathon before a marathon, I was basically creating junk miles that would tire me out for the next day’s run, going completely against this ethos.

And then it hit me: these aren’t junk miles at all. I actually need to start the Delaware Marathon on tired legs. After this 39.3-mile weekend, my next big race is the Bighorn Trail 50k, where I’ll face the debilitating effects of mountains and altitude. The best thing I could do for my legs at this moment was to run long while tired. Suddenly, this impromptu, hilly half marathon was not a footnote but a bullet point.

Even in a Training Run You Can Still Challenge Yourself

And lots of new residential neighborhoods.  All in all, mostly neighborhoods.

And lots of new residential neighborhoods. All in all, mostly neighborhoods.

But that didn’t mean that it was suddenly time to run with zeal like a lissome gazelle. Had I decided to tackle this race at the threshold of my abilities, I would put myself at risk of dehydration and injury, neither of which would help me get through the next day. So instead, I mapped out a plan. I would keep a relaxed pace until mile 9, and then crank up the speed to a tempo until the finish. This not only made the race fun, it made the finish much more worthwhile.

Last year I ran the Garmin Marathon as a training run leading up to my first 50k and the finish line was all but celebratory. It felt like I had walked through an aid station and simply decided to stop running. I finished the race, but didn’t give myself a moment to feel pride

Last ditch effort

Last ditch effort

because by playing it safe the entire way, I had somehow cheated myself out of a meaningful experience. By actually kicking through those last four miles, I made the race itself count for something other than a conscious attempt at tiring out my legs.

It became a fun experience, a chance to run with new people in a new place.

It’s strange to have to re-learn such fundamental lessons. Racing is why I got into this sport so you would think that it would be at the forefront of my runner’s psyche. I thought this 50 States project would keep me excited about running, but it seems like I let myself forget that the true purpose of the sport is, quite simply, to run. The race is the carrot, and dipping race times are the stick. But both of them come together to push me out the door five times a week and quickly course air through my lungs and blood.

* * *

Fun weekend with Laura and the Fam

Fun weekend with Laura and the Fam

I crossed the finish line just over 1:41 and went to meet up with my college friend Laura and her mom. Not only were they generously hosting me for the weekend, but Laura had signed up for the Delaware Half Marathon the next morning, so the two of us had very important pre-race rituals to perform, including but not limited to two hours of bottomless mimosas and three miles of exploring Washington DC’s Museum Campus.  It would be our fourth half marathon together and we each had our own hopes and doubts about them.  She had PR’d at all three of her half marathons (but the most recent one happened almost exactly three years ago), and I was aiming for a respectable performance on tired legs.

The next day would prove interesting.

Are there any unexpected lessons you’ve learned during a race?  Perhaps some old, obvious ones that you had forgotten over the years?  Have you ever run a race “just for the hell of it” and ended up unexpectedly enjoying it?

Marathon_Map 048 (MD)

State 37: New Mexico (2014 Shiprock Marathon)

“It’s really masochistic if you think about it,” I told my friend Ryan as we sat in the finisher’s tent, downing bottles of water and chocolate milk. “They load you up in a bus, haul you thirteen or twenty-six miles into the middle of the desert, drop you off and say, ‘Alright, you’re completely on your own now. Run.’”

0503_shiprockmarathon 04

In any big city race, there’s a “loop” of sorts that we’re expected to traverse, which gives us the illusion that we’re sightseeing but with an elevated heart rate. Or we can trick ourselves into thinking we’re participating in an extreme scavenger hunt. But when you’re driving the very course you’re expected to run, it can feel a little defeating. It’s so remarkably easy to sit on a school bus for about thirty minutes. But knowing that returning on your own two feet will leave you ragged and gasping for air can feel like a kick in the gut.

If we’re expected to run over five miles, then why did god invent cars?

2014 Shiprock Marathon Google Earth Rendering

2014 Shiprock Marathon Google Earth Rendering

Flag Song

Flag Song

But there I was, just a rattlesnake strike away from the Arizonan border, staring straight into the sun as it rose above the 2014 Shiprock Marathon. A crowd of two or three hundred other runners were shuffling excitedly for the race, every one of them grateful for the lack of sandstorms that had besieged New Mexico all week. A cloudless sky had welcomed us, along with a slight breeze from the northeast that got me well acquainted with the bone dry air of the high desert.

The non-profit NavajoYES organized the race, now in its thirty-first year. Instead of the national anthem, we were treated to a flag song, performed by a local drum group. Six men huddled around a large rawhide drum and began chanting to a tribal rhythm, their voices echoing harmoniously. The announcer rattled off a list of states near and far to a few hoots and hollers from the crowd, far from the louder calls he received when he began listing the different Native American tribes participating.

I started the race with a Canadian teacher and Marathon Maniac named Marc, whom I met on the flight to Albuquerque the day before. Affectionately known as “Mr. T” by his students, he was on the final stretch of his 50-states marathon quest, which will end in June with Grandma’s. The first two miles were a gentle uphill, which we ran modestly, as if paying respect to the distance before sparring with it. I could feel the thinness of the air in my nostrils, a familiar sensation from my trips to Colorado. I was unsure how the race would play out at this point, but I was increasingly thinking it would be a slow day.

The start is a gentle, yet consistent uphill.

The start is a gentle, yet consistent uphill.

Once past the starting line, the race was quiet.  The only sounds came from labored breathing, feet upon the pavement and occasional chit-chat.  In that opening mile, an older runner plugged a nostril and sneezed out a thin mist, as if evaporation were irresistible in the high desert even to snot.

The first five kilometers were mostly uphill, culminating at 6,103 feet, the race’s highest point. I still felt completely dry, having used these opening miles to warm up and get acquainted with the air. But once at the top, it was time to scream downhill, with no time to issue apologies to everyone who got fleeting glimpses of my soles.

The road pulled me downward, each foot behaving on its own, spinning relentlessly at a pace I reserve for much shorter races. One by one I sped past runners, wondering if I would see them later, heaving by the roadside, cursing my naïve exuberance. But I couldn’t help it. I was feeling powerful and confident. I had not forgotten that the marathon has taught me time and time again one of its harshest lessons: reel it in at the beginning and save that boiling energy for the end.

Most of the race looked like this.

Most of the race looked like this.

But with downhills, all bets are off. I can’t help but banish the worrisome auditors that run pace calculations in my ear every two minutes. That voice that tells me to take it easy and play it safe becomes too faint over the roaring flood of adrenaline.  I am all but forced to embrace the runner’s id, the childlike freedom to run forever, unencumbered by the silly notion of conservation.

In times like these, I just want to fly.

During this flight, I could see for miles. The road shot out ahead of us, thinning until it became a gossamer thread that spilled over the horizon. There was nothing to distract us from forward movement, which given the endless desert ahead, seemed like a joke.  It sometimes felt like running on a giant treadmill and we weren’t going anywhere. Nothing changed except the people around me.

But I loved every second of it. This was an exercise in running, pure and simple. If you didn’t like the activity itself, free from the polished sheen of flashy races, this wasn’t your event. There were no changes in scenery to draw your attention away from the punishing distance, no turns to hide the many miles to come, and no monuments to admire as we crossed them off … with one very impressive exception.

I love this picture.

I love this picture.

The race itself is named after a giant rock formation that juts out of northwest New Mexico like a castle. Where many mountains in the area are either rounded out or completely flat, Shiprock rises like a cluster of sharp spires. Its silhouette against the morning sun gives it the appearance of a villainous lair built thousands of years ago by a civilization forgotten by time. Given how haunting it looks, standing alone in the middle of a flat expanse, it didn’t surprise me to learn that it holds a very special place in the customs and folklore of the Navajo.

For most of the race, Shiprock kept gaze over us. No matter how many miles we would run, it was always off in the distance, permanent, unfeeling.

I reached the halfway mark, where about fifteen minutes earlier, the half marathoners had begun their own journey to the finish line. Ryan was part of that pack, running his first ever half marathon. I was hoping that he would enjoy it, especially since this race would challenge him in many unique ways that he couldn’t anticipate during training.

I kept hammering out the miles, invigorated by every downhill. It wasn’t long before I felt like I was running alone. With every mile marker, the trappings of the organized race disappeared, leaving the runner bare to run, pure and simple. I started noticing that uphills were somehow capitulating to my momentum. I was breathing easily, my teeth weren’t clenching and I had no curses to spit into the air. As I approached the back of the half marathoners, my heat-seeking straight line path became a bit more serpentine and it felt, once again, like a race.

If you zoom in, you can see the half marathon crowd about a mile ahead

If you zoom in, you can see the half marathon crowd about a mile ahead

Now with a crowd of people, I kept the relentless progress through the unchanging world. The desert remained ahead, infinitely revealing, with no end in sight. Every few miles I would sneak a glance at my watch and realize how close I was to running a PR pace.

What is happening? I asked myself. How is this pace possible? Is the downhill enough to overcome the thin air? Is 5,500 feet even considered altitude? How is it not even warm yet?

And yet, despite the confident pace and joyous stroll through the ancient plains, not all was well. Right at mile 19, I felt an awkward shift in my right foot, as if all the skin on the outside had separated from my flesh. I hadn’t developed a serious blister in a long time, but I felt that streak end in one chilling step. Downhill running is a double-edged sword, and after wielding it with gusto for two-thirds of the race, I was beginning to notice the cuts on my skin.

Ryan 10/13 of the way through his debut half marathon

Ryan 10/13 of the way through his debut half marathon

A mile later, we made the first turn of the entire race. The dedicated two-lane road we had been navigating for the last 20 miles stopped when it reached 491. We would run north for the last six miles, heading toward the town of Shiprock. Up ahead I spotted a runner with a bright, neon tech shirt and a white hat. I caught up to him and confirmed that it was Ryan, looking strong and smiling.

But I couldn’t say the same for myself.

The altitude and hard effort had taken their toll and my body had started to rebel. Miles 22 through 24 were almost completely flat, which meant that I had to run harder to keep the same pace. Right on cue, my calves began to falter, and every step sent a buzzing current into my legs as if the road were suddenly electrified. Each one was closer to delivering an unwanted and untimely cramp, so I had to stop and walk, the ghost of my PR floating toward the finish line.

Airborne during the final dash to the finish

Airborne during the final dash to the finish

The rest of the race was the familiar pattern of grunt and breathe. I would run as fast as I could to the next aid station, drink and douse myself in water, and continue to the next one. It was finally starting to feel warm and the cold water absorbing in my tech shirt was heavenly. Though it was no longer muscular and dominant, the engine was still working and I kept a strong pace through those last miles.

We returned to Shiprock High School, where the buses had boarded four hours earlier. We left the road and entered a dry, dirt field, just a zig and a zag away from the cheers of the finish line. It was the first crowd of spectators we had seen all day and they were generous with their support. I passed under the timing sensors and stopped my watch at 3 hours, 28 minutes, having finished my twenty-second marathon in the sacred grounds of the Navajo.

Never would have guessed that time, I thought, clenching a proud fist.

Ryan finished just a few minutes behind me, ending his first half marathon just shy of two hours. When I first saw him, he mentioned something like “every part of me wants to die right now,” but his smile betrayed the morbid sentiment. Most people aim for a local, flat race to test out their mettle. But circumstances made it so he would face the distance at altitude, on a downhill course in the middle of the desert with skin-flaking dry air.

(left to right) Ryan's sinuses acting up, Tom, me, Shiprock

(left to right) Ryan’s sinuses acting up, Tom, me, Shiprock … and this picture makes it painfully apparent how short my shorts are.

All things considered, it was a great day for both of us.

That is, until we spent the remainder of the day trying to get out of the bottlenecked parking lot. The organizers may have done a great job with everything else, but if you’re thinking of running the Shiprock Marathon in 2015, make sure they’ve addressed the post-race parking exodus, because it felt like being in the music video for “Everybody Hurts” but with legs on the verge of seizure.

Once back in Albuquerque, we got together with Amy and Aaron of Lavender Parking Running Fame at Il Vicino Brewing Company.   We shared dinner and a few drinks with them and our college friend Tom, who graciously hosted us for the weekend, before moving to La Cumbre Brewing Company. Much to my delight they had also brought Giuseppe, their snow-white Westie, who often makes cameos in her race stories.  During the course of the evening, I learned that they had hired the same photographer who worked my wedding, and that Aaron’s parents live two houses down from Tom.

But more importantly, I learned that there’s something special about running bloggers. Whatever chemical reaction that causes people to run and write about it also produces the most welcoming and caring people. It’s an infinitely complicated route that has led me to this sport, but if I continue meeting such wonderful people, then I will gladly tread that same path for many years to come.

(left to right): Aaron, Ryan, me, Tom, Amy

(left to right): Aaron, Ryan, me, Tom, Amy

As midnight approached, the day had already caught up to us. We had gotten up at 4 AM, throttled our legs, dehydrated ourselves and sat in a car blaring 90’s hits for three hours. We said our goodbyes and drove back to Tom’s where we all fell instantly asleep.  At the moment, I am doing whatever it takes to make sure this massive blister heals before the 39.3 race miles I’ve committed to running this weekend. If the hot and humid forecast holds up, then I’m staring down another intense challenge.

Maybe we are masochists.

Marathon_Map 047 (NM)

Dear ESPN,

Dan:

Spot-on reflections on the state of the sport and how the popular sports network has not caught on.

Originally posted on Blisters, Cramps & Heaves:

It’s a global sport; this isn’t a little sport anymore.
– Bill Rodgers at the Boston Marathon, 21 April 2014
Meb & Shalane

(source: boston.com)

John Skipper
President, ESPN Inc. and Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks
Bristol, CT 06010

Dear Mr. Skipper,

Did you see THAT?

Did you step out of your thrice-daily NFL draft meetings in time to catch the Boston Marathon on Monday?  Did you see one of our country’s all-time great marathoners, Meb Keflezighi, not only keep the race close near the end but actually win it, the first time an American has captured Boston since 1983?  And did you see him show more heart in 2 hours, 8 minutes and 37 seconds than my rudder-less Dallas Cowboys team has shown in the past 15 seasons combined?

Did you happen to catch Shalane Flanagan’s act on the women’s side?  The rhythmic bouncing of her blonde ponytail gracefully leading the…

View original 1,957 more words

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