Category Archives: Boston Marathon

Saturday Stories

It’s time once again for another edition of Saturday Stories, a collection of some of my favourite stories and blog posts from the past week.

Here are this week’s stories…

Can a regular running routine replace antidepressants?

A post about Heartbreak Hill in honour of Monday’s Boston Marathon.

A post about how not to lose a race. 

 

2017 in Review

I am late in getting around to posting my recap from last year. Here is my look back at the year that was for me as far as running goes.

Overall I ran 2681.1 km (1666 miles) in 2017. That is less than the 3000 + km I was able to manage in previous years but I still managed to fit in a good year of running.

Of course the highlight for this year was finally getting the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon in April. The short version of the story is that it was well worth the wait  and is one event that certainly lives up to the hype. If you want the long version you can read my race recap here.

Just over a month later I managed to run the Ottawa Race Weekend half-marathon. I was pleased with being able to come close to running a sub 1:30 half just 6 weeks after running a marathon. Of course seeing my family at the finish line is always the biggest highlight of Race Weekend.

In September I resumed my annual pace bunny role in the Army Run half-marathon. This year the Army Race was more special for my family because my oldest daughter ran her first 5km before I ran the half. You can read more about that here

I closed out the year with a couple of shorter races that I had not thought of racing at the start of the year. Given the way my training slowed down in the second half of the year I was pleased with my results on both occasions.

The first was a 5 km effort with work colleagues. I managed to finish the race in under 20 minutes the previous two occasions I ran it. My goal was another sub 20 minute result and managed that and came closer to my times from the previous two occasions in the process. 

My final race of the year was a 10 km I found out about after travelling 5 hours to visit family on the west coast. Having not planned to run a race and feeling the effects of fatigue and jet lag I did not really have a goal for the race. As a result, I was quite pleased with a 6th place finish.

When I look back on it, despite the fact I ran less mileage and fewer races in 2017 it still ended up being a good year of running for me. Hopefully 2018 will be just as good!

Why the Marathon?

After running the Boston Marathon last month I had an opportunity to give some thought to why I enjoy training for and running marathons while I took time off from running to recover.

For me the answer to that question is twofold. The first reason is the challenge involved with training for and running a marathon. The process will push you to the limit both mentally and physically.

It takes a lot of discipline to properly train for a run a marathon. By this I am referring to the need to ensure you are eating the right foods to fuel and recover from your workouts, don’t cheat on your training and get a decent amount of sleep to help you recover from your workouts.

The second reason I enjoy running marathons applies more to out of town races. Believe it or not running a marathon is a great way to see a city. In my case I’ve run through neighbourhoods of large cities that I would never have visited if I had not been running a marathon.

When I think of this the first thing that comes to mind are  neighbourhoods in Boston and Philadelphia I ran through that were filled with families enjoying breakfast or a bbq as they encouraged the runners going by.

Runners who are not from Ottawa also likely have a similar appreciation for the opportuniy to run by the Parliament Buildings and the residences of the Governor General and Prime Minister during the Ottawa Marathon.

For me the biggest reward from training for and running a marathon comes when I cross the finish line . Following 3-4 months of dedicated training involving several hundred miles in multiple pairs of running shoes I get to celebrate. In my case this involves going out for beer and food I would not normally eat ( ie. cheesesteaks in Philadelphia) once I have showered and changed.

Unfortunately the high  from completing a marathon is often followed by a bit of an empty feeling when it is over. I went through this phase after I got home from Boston. Fortunately this time I already have a half-marathon coming up in 3 weeks to help get me over it.

I am not sure when or where my next marathon will be yet.  I just know that I will run another one for the reasons mentioned above.

Final Thoughts on Boston

Since it was an eventful weekend I thought I would do an additional post to share some thoughts on my weekend in Boston. If you are currently contemplating whether you can qualify for Boston or whether you are working on getting your qualifying time hopefully this will help motivate you to get there.

I can’t recall when I decided that qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon was a realistic goal but it took me several tries to finally get my qualifying time. This included some frustratingly close calls – 3:12 twice, 3:14 and 3:15 when I was trying to come in under 3:10.

Now that I have run the Boston Marathon I can say that without a doubt the hours of training, often early in the morning or late at night in my case, were worth it. The experience lives up to the hype and then some.

In particular, experiencing the run past Wellesley College and the final turn from Hereford St. onto Boylston St. make the road to Boston worth it.

The first thing you notice when you arrive in Boston for marathon weekend is the excitement in the air. The people of Boston are proud of the event and it is hard not to get caught up in the excitement. Our hotel was close to the Science Museum. Even T-Rex was ready for the marathon…

Since we arrived in Boston around noon on the Saturday I ended up heading to the expo that afternoon to pick up my race kit. It was as busy as I expected it to be based on what others had told me. There was even a lineup outside the convention centre just to get in due to security checks.

That said, based on my experience I would say that the process is efficient and well organized. It did not take long for us to get inside to pick up my bib and race kit.

As you can imagine you can find just about anything at the expo if you are looking to spend money. Most of the shoe brands seemed to have Boston themed shirts available. I ended up picking up an Adidas celebration jacket, which in my opinion is an improvement compared to some of the recent ones, and stuffed unicorn mascots for my 2 oldest daughters.

My family and I spent much of the day Sunday at Fenway Park Watching the Red Sox  – Tampa Bay Rays game. Even if you are not a diehard baseball fan I would recommend taking in a game if you are in Boston for the marathon. I say this despite the fact that my 7 year old traded in her Montreal Expos hat for a Red Sox one once we got to Fenway Park. You can’t beat a stadium hot dog for some extra carbs the day before a marathon 🙂

My final comment about marathon weekend here will be about the people of Boston. Unless my experience was an exception, and I doubt that is the case, you will really gain an appreciation for the people of Boston on marathon Monday.

I quickly lost track of the number of locals (race volunteers, police officers, random people) who wished me good luck as I made my way to catch a bus to the athletes village in Hopkinson and as I made my way down Grove St. to my starting corral. Similarly, after the race, I had a number of people stop to congratulate me as I made my way through the finish area toward a T station so I could take the subway back to my hotel.

If there is anything you can take from my experience last week I hope it is that qualifying for and running Boston is a realistic goal if you want it bad enough. If you stick with it I guarantee you that your journey to get there will feel like it was worth it once you experience marathon weekend in Boston.

Race Report: Boston Marathon 2017

This is a race report I have been waiting a long time to write. There is so much to say about my experience in Boston that I will leave tonight’s post to my race day experience and I will likely post additional thoughts on marathon weekend in Boston later this week.

My day started off at 5:30 when I got up and had breakfast consisting of a bagel and a banana. Following that I slowly got ready, said goodbye to my family and left the hotel room just before 7:00 to catch the subway to Boston Common where I would catch a bus to Hopkinton. Since I was in wave 2 I was instructed to catch a bus between 7:00-7:40.

The process for getting on the buses was my first indication of just how well organized the B.A.A is on race day. Within 5 minutes of getting off the subway I was sitting on a bus waiting to take runners to the athletes village. Shortly after we pulled away, drove past Cheers on Beacon St and headed down the highway.

The bus ride took roughly an hour. Not that I needed one but it was a reminder of just how long a marathon is. It was also gave me my first visual of some of the communities along the course (Newton, Wellesley, Natick) that I had heard so much about since I took an interest in the Boston Marathon.

At the athletes village I took advantage of the food that was available and had a second breakfast consisting of coffee, a banana and half a Clif bar. I had a couple of magazines with me to help pass the time but I really could not focus on them.

Fortunately my time in the athletes village went by quickly. Before I knew it my wave was called to the start area and it was time for me to drop my throwaway clothes in the donation bins and head down Grove St. toward the starting corrals.

The walk down Grove St. is just under 1 mile long. It is the first glimpse you get of the downhill nature to the start of the marathon. I made a point of heading to the left side of my corral because I read that T.J. Spirits, a biker bar in Ashland,  was the first area with vocal crowd support that the marathon passes. It is located along the left side of the course at mile 2 or 3.

I was in the corral for about 15 minutes before wave 2 started. Due to the downhill nature of the first portion of the course my plan was to try and run conservative for the first 5 miles in order to keep my legs in shape for the uphill portions in the late stages of the course.

The fact that it was a warmer day than expected (18C at the start) was another reason not to go out too hard. I was later told that this year’s marathon was the second hottest Boston Marathon in the last 10 years.

T.J. Spirits did not disappoint. There was a large and boisterous crowd as we passed by. I felt good as we passed through Ashland and into Framingham where the course started to flatten out a bit. My initial plan was to try and pick up the pace in Framingham after a conservative start.

My first indication that I might have a tougher second half came around 15 or 16 km into the marathon when I started to feel tightness and twitching in my calf muscles. Based on my previous experience this is usually a precursor to muscle cramps later on.

If you have heard anything about the Boston Marathon you have likely heard about the scream tunnel at Wellesley College just before the half. I am not sure how far away I was but I could hear the noise coming from a distance before I reached the college and the boisterous crowds of students. Here is a sample of what runners encountered this year.

After the scream tunnel we went through the city of Wellesley. It was at this point where I decided to make the most of my experience and have some fun. I began giving high-fives to as many of the smallest spectators along the course as I could. I also offered encouragement to the military veterans running on artificial limbs I passed along the way.

Between 25 and 26 km there is another lengthy downhill portion as the course moves into Newton. Once I got to the bottom and made the right turn onto Commonwealth Ave. and passed the Newton Fire Station I knew that I was about encounter the Newton hills,  a series of 4 uphill sections culminating in Heartbreak Hill at 32 km.

At this point I knew I was getting slower and losing time. Despite that I was determined to push ahead and not take any walk breaks on the hills. Although I was moving slower I survived the first 3 hills without stopping.

At some point on Heartbreak Hill I started to get cramps in my left calf. Since they were not yet as bad as cramps I have experienced in the past and I was still determined not to take a walk break I decided to slow down and keep going in the hopes it would go away.

My plan worked and I crested Heartbreak Hill knowing boisterous crowds were coming up at Boston College and the course was mainly downhill the rest of the way. The support of the BC students and the downhill nature of the course gave me a boost I needed at that point.

The next boost I received was the appearance of the famous Citgo sign on the left side of the course. From there I knew I had roughly 2 km to go until I crossed the finish line. The final portion of the course involves a right turn on Hereford St. followed by a left turn on Boylston St. for the final 0.5 km.

About halfway into this final stretch I saw a runner in front of me in need of assistance. Two runners in front of me stopped and were holding the runner in difficulty up by her arms when I got closer. I stopped to see if I could be of assistance in getting the runner to the finish.The runner was experiencing cramping in her legs and did not want to be carried to the finish line at that point.

I did what I thought was the next best thing and hurried to the finish line and alerted the first medical official I saw to the fact that a runner nearby was in need of assistance. Based on this article it would appear that what I observed was not an isolated incident and given the warm conditions I am not surprised,

As I walked away I turned around took a last look at the scenes on Boylston St. before I to collect my finisher’s medal medal and put an end to my Boston Marathon experience.

Week 18 of Training for the Boston Marathon

Race day is now only a week away. This will be my last training update before I run the Boston Marathon next Monday. By this time next week I will be recovering from another marathon.

Being two weeks away from race day last week was my first week of tapering for the marathon. Feeling run down and really tired I ended up running less mileage than I have at that point in other training cycles. To make up for it I tried to focus on quality over quantity.

I ended up doing 4 runs for a total of 46.4 km. Of those 4 runs Tuesday’s run was done at my tempo pace, Thursday’s run included strides and last night’s 16 km run was done at my usual goal marathon pace.

Overall I am pleased with how my training has gone. It has not been a text book training cycle but I can look to a few of my long runs for positive signs.

In early march I set out for a 30-32 km on a Sunday night after the kids had gone to bed. Unfortunately my Garmin would not pick up a GPS signal so I ended up leaving with a plan to run based on overall time and a rough idea of my mileage in my head based on my knowledge of running routes around the city. What I ended up with was a 32 km run with 30 km done at close to my goal marathon pace followed by an easy 2 km to finish.

A couple weeks later I planned to complete another 32 km run after my kids were in bed. Unfortunately my Garmin would not turn on at all on this occasion. In a rush I plotted out a 10 km out and back route from my house that I would do 3 times before adding additional mileage in my neighbourhood to the last lap. It might not have been the most exciting run but I got it done.

Finally, last night my plan was to do a 16 km run. Since I had done  less mileage than planned up until that point, I decided to do my run at my goal marathon pace. I also decided to plan my route to include as many hills as possible to simulate the rolling nature of the Boston course as best I could.

What does this all mean for next Monday? The best answer is that I am not sure and I am ok with that. It may come as a surprise to some who know me but I decided long ago not to set a goal time for Boston. I am just planning to run based on how I feel next Monday.

That said, I am still competitive and I have no intention of going there to run a 4.5 hour marathon. I have done some research and have come up with a plan, or more like a series of key messages for myself since I work in communications.

I did not set a time goal for two reasons. The first is that I worked hard to qualify for Boston so I did not want to go through this training cycle stressing myself out about whether I thought I was ready to run a specific time.

The second reason is that I have 3 kids, including a soon to be 10 month old. That has meant adjusting my training at times either because my wife needed a break or I felt like rest was more important than adding more mileage to my training cycles. Don’t get me wrong I am not complaining here. I would not trade my family situation. At the end of the day I am fortunate to still be in shape to run another marathon.

So that is it for my training. I will get in a few more easy runs this week before I head south of the border at the end of the week but those will just be maintenance runs. The only run left that matters now is the one I will do next Monday.

Week 17 of Training for the Boston Marathon

Race day is now 15 days away. This week was the start of my taper for the marathon. At this point I am more worried about getting sick or injured than I am about the rest of my training.

The biggest news this week was that my passport for the marathon arrived in the mail..

In terms of training I finished with 74 km for the week. That involved my usual routine of easy runs mixed in with a tempo run on Tuesday and speed work on Thursday.

Tuesday’s tempo run was a 10 km run with 7 km done at my tempo pace. Thursday’s speed work involved a run along the same route with a series of strides mixed in.

This morning I did my last run over 20 km before the marathon. I ended up doing a 22 km run. Next Sunday I will probably aim for 15-16 km for my longest run.

The best part about this week is it finally seems like winter is coming to an end. This morning was a perfect spring morning for a long run. If the weather in Boston on race day is anything like that it will be a good day to run a marathon.

How was your week?

Week 16 of Training for the Boston Marathon

It is still hard to believe that in three weeks from tomorrow I will get to run the Boston Marathon. First it took me several trying to get my qualifying time then since I ran my qualifying time in the fall of 2015 it seems like a long time since I ran my qualifying time.

Since it is down to three weeks before race day this was meant to be my last busy week of training before tapering. Overall I think I managed a decent week of training with a final tally of just under 82 km for the week.

Monday I planned to run home from work. However, a lack of sleep over the weekend caught up with me. By the time 3:00 rolled around I knew it would be better if I headed straight home from work and planned to get to bed early that night.

Tuesday I opted for a tempo run home after work. My run ended up being a 10.5 km run with 7 km done at my tempo pace. Generally I try to do at least 6-8 km of these runs at my tempo pace so I was pleased with the result.

Following an easy run home from work Wednesday night Thursday ended up being a two run day. I got my speed work in during my lunch hour with a 6.3 km run that included several strides. My second effort of the day was an easy 8 km on the treadmill while I watched hockey.

Friday and Saturday ended up being two more easy paced efforts. Saturday’s run was also done on the treadmill while I watched hockey. This winter I have probably done more of my runs on a treadmill than in previous years.

I am still not big fan of treadmill but since I have access to one it is convenient to be close by if my wife needs help with the kids or if I have to wait and run later at night. Being able to do it while a hockey game is on is a bonus that helps keep me distracted from the monotony of running on a treadmill, particularly if the Oilers are playing.

I ended the week with my long run this morning. I was fortunate to be able to head out early because we had freezing rain in the forecast for the afternoon. My goal was to do around 25 km and I ended up with just over 24 km.

Now I get to dial back on the mileage for my final three weeks of training. This training cycle has different than my other marathon training cycles. It has been the first time that I have trained with a time goal in mind and without the use of a formal training plan.

Instead my training has been based more on what I had time for more than it has in the past. With three kids now, including a nine month old, it has been tougher at times to fit in the mileage I have in the past. At the same time, I consider myself very fortunate that I have been able fit in a training cycle that has me in shape to run another marathon.

How was your week?

Saturday Stories

It’s time once again for another edition of Saturday Stories, a collection of some of my favourite stories and blog posts from the past week.

Here are this week’s stories…

5 essential strength exercises for runners.

A post about finding the perfect running shoe.

If you are also running the Boston Marathon in a few weeks here is a great read to get you more excited about race day.

Week 15 of Training for the Boston Marathon

Last week I mentioned I mentioned that my goal was to make this week my heaviest week of training so far in this training cycle. I wanted to get in a bigger week of training before I start to taper.

Fortunately I was able to manage just that with a 97.4 km week. I have to admit, and maybe this is not surprising to those who know me, but I was tempted to head back out for a short run tonight to make it an even 100 km for the week. I eventually talked myself out of it because it would not have added anything to my training.

The week week started off in a different manner than any other week of training I have done before. Since I did not have time for my long run last week I did a 32 km run Monday night. If you read Friday night’s post about my recent long runs you will also know I completed the run by doing 3 laps of a a 10 kmout and back route from my house.

Tuesday night I had a tough run home because it was snowing and it was windy out..

Wednesday night I opted for a treadmill run while watching hockey on tv because the conditions outside were similar to the previous night.

Saturday I ran my first run of the year, the St Patrick’s Day 10 km. Doing this race has become a bit of a tradition for me in part due to the fact that it starts and finishes down the street from my house and my family comes to meet to go for coffee and hot chocolate afterward.

I will write more about the race tomorrow but for now I will say it went well…

That brings me to today. I headed out looking to get in around 25 km and came home with just under 23 km on my Garmin. It was cold when I started my run but had warmed up to the point that I had removed my hat and gloves by the time I was finishing my run. Hopefully that is a sign spring is about to start.

How did your week go?