End of Year Recap (2015)

2015 began with one singular, driven purpose: to qualify for Boston at the Berlin Marathon. I put everything I had into the quest, attacking it with a balanced combination of aggression and caution. In addition to re-tooling my approach to training, I tried my best to avoid signing up for races just to scratch the itch. Berlin became my singular focus, and with it came a powerful, if not familiar surge of motivation. I became reacquainted with what it meant to train specifically for one event, months away. As my legs would tire during intervals, I would remind myself, this is for Berlin. As the soft tendrils of my bedsheets would threaten to keep me away from my early morning runs, I’d quietly murmur the mantra, this is for Berlin.


I hadn’t felt this committed or excited for a race since my first ultras in 2013 and my first marathon in 2009.

With a newfound thirst for success, I mapped out nine months of training, each with its own goals and milestones. In the spring, I narrowed the gap to my goal in Fargo with a 3:16 PR, and in the summer I stayed strong through warm temperatures, signs that a BQ was not only possible, but almost inevitable if I could only maintain my progress.

And maintain that progress I did. I earned PRs at the 5k (18:52), 10k (40:12), and 10-mile distances (1:06:36). I ran long runs at paces that I couldn’t believe and no run was finished without a confident smile or an overpowering enthusiasm that convinced me I was on my way to greatness. My date with the Brandenburger Tor was to be the culmination of nine months’ worth of planning, dedicated training, and execution.

0125_mediamiami 15And then, halfway through the Berlin Marathon, things fell apart, the center could not hold.

Fortunately, I did not follow the Yeats poem with its successor line, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. Instead, I ate delicious food, drank full-bodied beers, took a few weeks off and then got back to what I love to do. I was concerned that Fargo had been a fluke, a magical moment of perfect confluence that I might never again replicate. So, I did what I swore I wouldn’t do all year, and impulsively signed up for another marathon.

Only seven weeks removed from Berlin, I ran a 3:17, 0215_lostdutchman 30just a minute shy of my PR, in a course with four times as much elevation change. The race didn’t get me any closer to my goal of running a marathon in all 50 states, nor was it a bucket list event on everyone’s list. Instead, it was for personal assurance, a validation of trial through fire, that I hadn’t overestimated my progress. That race showed me that I had indeed moved the chains in the right direction, that 2015 would indeed be another year of progress and improvement.

As for the actual, raw numbers? Thanks to my meticulous stat-tracking – which I learned in 2015 was unusual at 0509_1_fargomarathon 01best, psychotic at worst, even amongst my most diehard running friends – I know that this year I laced up 177 times for a total of 1,433 miles, or an average of 8.09 miles per session. I ran for 7 days, 18 hours, 54 minutes and 22 seconds, which means an average yearly pace of 7:49.

I know that my fastest 10th mile was at the Fort 2 Base 10 Nautical Miler (6:42), my slowest month was June (average 0705_correcaminos 26of 8:14 per mile), it took me only 20 days to run 100 miles in August, and I placed in the top 1% of racers at 3 different races.

Will any of these stats actually help me become a better runner? Maybe. It all depends on how I use them to plan for 2016. Running goals are, pun fully intended, a moving target. Because while I didn’t achieve my goal of running under a 3:05 for the marathon and earn a Boston qualifying time, I’m not necessarily sticking squarely to that goal for the new year. Instead, I am returning to an old goal, one I did not accomplish back in 2013, and has since remained the only unsightly DNF in an otherwise 2015-0719-rnr-teamchance 01clean sheet: the 50-mile distance.

It truly was another banner year, even with the surprising meltdown in Deutschland, one that I will etch into memory as the one where it all came together: speed, distance, audacity and care.

That doesn’t mean I will abandon fast marathon ambitions in 2016. As I train for distances absurd, I will continue my speed training and stick to the 80/20 training philosophy that I adopted this year to achieve my best big10kever fitness, all without a single injury. Thanks to my unwavering focus on Berlin, I only added one state to the map in 2015. I am hoping to run more than that over the next twelve months.

But most importantly, I will aim to run as many of them in the company of good people. Race stats and chip times are worth very little if they’re not part of a fun and increasingly social sport. Every year since I joined the running masses, I have tried my best to rope others into the movement and 2015 was no exception. Thanks to wonderful friends and family members, the vast majority 2015-08-23 11.35.58of the bibs I pinned had companions.

Because every result, whether scratched on a calendar or inked in a labyrinthine spreadsheet, is a continuation of everything that has come before it. No run or race exists in a vacuum, but instead relies on the staggering distances whose sum has written the story of our struggles and aspirations.

And so, with my sights set on the many adventures to come, I look to 2016 with a buzzing mix of eagerness, trepidation, and ambition. Though my plans aren’t completely 2015-0823_fort2base 06set in stone, I hope that whatever path my trail takes, that I will share it with fleet-footed travelers of all dispositions, from starry-eyed newcomers to ragged veterans. We’re all searching for the same thing, so we might as well enjoy the company.

Happy New Year!

About Dan
Running a marathon in all 50 states because there's no better way to explore the world around you than on your own two feet, for as long as you can, until you hate yourself and everything around you. Then you stop, get a medal, and start over.

13 Responses to End of Year Recap (2015)

  1. Marathons are organisms that depend on so many different and often uncontrollable variables. As I gear up for my big one in 11 days, I look at it like you look to 2016 – eagerness, trepidation, and ambition. Sounds like you’re going to have a good year! Happy New Year to you 🙂

    • Dan says:

      Agreed — there’s no such thing as a guaranteed PR or a surefire success with the marathon. Shorter distances, maybe, but not with 26.2 miles. You prepare as best as you can, keep as many variables in check, and then hope for magic. Thanks for reading, and I hope we both have rewarding 2016s!

  2. MedalSlut says:

    Yes! Make this the year you make 50 miles your bitch! And perhaps qualify for Boston when you’re least expecting it. All the best for 2016.

    • Dan says:

      If past performance beyond 26.2 miles is any indication, 50 miles will have its way with me … handily. But I will do my best to reach the finish line in one piece. Thanks for the support, as always, and happy 2016 🙂

  3. Mike says:

    Ha ha, yeah right, 50 miles, are you CRAZY? Oh wait…

    Think about it – if not for one morning in Berlin, your 2015 would have been bulletproof. And even in the face of unmet expectations, you collected a World Marathon Major medal in one of the world’s most amazing cities, with family cheering you on. Maybe you weren’t able to secure a BQ thousands of miles from home on your first try, but luckily your hard-earned aerobic fitness and positive energy aren’t going anywhere. PRs at every distance but the half? That’s nuts, and I’d happily claim your 2015 as my own if Athlinks would let me. Luckily you’ll be switching gears a bit to tackle a daunting new challenge in 2016, because 2015 will be a tough act to follow.

    Speaking of that new challenge, look forward to joining you on the trails as you avenge your DNF. While you and Otter will be the seasoned veterans with payback on your minds, I’ll be the newbie sampling everything at the aid station and digging deep for motivation at mile 35.

    And I love the fact that you know your average yearly pace, what an awesome stat. If I were to run with my Garmin everyday, I’d have to calculate as well the number of hours spent standing by, idly waiting for it to lock on the satellites.

    Onwards to 2016 – see you in May!

    (And given that the state yielded your marathon PR, I do believe you’ve earned the right to color North Dakota a pretty shade of blue on your map!)

    • Dan says:

      You know, I think part of the reason I decided to return to the 50M distance in 2016 was, as you insinuate, because I couldn’t reasonably continue 2015’s speedfest without bludgeoning my legs and burning out. So although it means putting my aggressive, targeted BQ plans on ice, it will renew my motivation to once and for all vindicate that gutpunch from my running report card.

      Haha, and as for the satellites, since I start 95% of my runs from the exact same spot, I know the exact location of the first two miles, regardless of what direction I’m going. So if it’s too cold or hot, I will just start running and let it pick up a decent signal on the way, knowing that by mile 2, it’ll have a good read on me. Such is the life of a stats-craving lunatic.

      Lastly, not to get too sappy, but I really appreciate that, three years after your 2012 Chicago Marathon, where I first discovered Blisters, Cramps & Heaves, we’re still engaging in each others’ running stories and that we’re planning on racing together this year. All the best to you and Katie in 2016!

  4. Pingback: Race Schedule & Results | Dan's Marathon

  5. Marc Pelerin says:

    Great story! I have a question though: are you aiming for adding to your 50 states goal or aiming to BQ? Those seem like competing goals in a way.


    • Dan says:

      Yes, which is why I’m not necessarily aiming to BQ this year. My goal of running a 50-miler will require an uptick in weekly and monthly miles logged, so I’m going to treat that as an opportunity to run long races in other states. Maybe. Don’t quote me on that.

  6. What a fantastic 2015 you had ! You’re taking that new fitness baseline into your 2016 training – it’ll help with prep for the 50 miler too. With many, many miles more on your legs in 2016, you will actually be in a better position to BQ come 2017. I fully expect a new level of fitness at the end of this year.

    • Dan says:

      Thank you for the kind words and encouragement! I too hope that I’ll strengthen my legs in new ways this year, hopefully nudging them a few minutes closer to the BQ. Given our similar PRs, I have placed a target squarely on your marathon best. Whether I will reach it this year or the next is anyone’s guess … but I will be trying both years. Happy 2016!

  7. Alan Rosenthal says:

    Wow Dan, you’re nuts! That’s a heck of a calendar to have kept in 2015. I’m looking forward to training with you again for the Rock & Roll Half Marathon this spring & summer. I’ve kept up the running since then and completed several 10+ milers on my own!


    • Dan says:

      Glad to hear you’ve kept running too! I know it was rough in July of last year to slog through that insufferable humidity, but it’s great to see you didn’t let that dampen your enthusiasm. Which 10-milers have you run? Was the Navy Pier Perfect 10 one of them? I’ve been meaning to run that one but it’s during a typically crowded time of year for races.

      Anyway, I hope that Carrie & Team Chance reach out to me again this year for a third shot at coaching the foundation. I would love to help out again, and if so, glad to hear you’d be joining – it’s quickly becoming a tradition.

      Hope all’s well!

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