Tag Archives: marathon

In Search of a New Goal

For the first time in a while I currently find myself without a running goal. When I started this blog my goal was to qualify run Boston and I was able to accomplish that this year. Now I am searching for a new goal to focus on and to keep me running with a purpose.

For the time being I only have one race on my calendar for the rest of the year, usual pacing gig at the Army Run half-marathon. Although pacing a specific time poses a challenge I also want to run a fall race at my own pace.

As a result, I am currently contemplating marathon and half-marathon options within a reasonable distance (2-3 hours) from home. Something in October or early November would be ideal in terms of timing since the Army Run is in mid-September.

I don’t really have a preference in terms of the distance. I think the main issue will come down to what I can find for races at either distance during the timeframe I am looking at.

What are your goals for the fall? If you have any recommendations for me feel free to send them along!

Final Thoughts on Ottawa Race Weekend

As mentioned in my half-marathon race report this year 12th year of participation in Race Weekend. It has become one of my favourite events of the year and in recent years my family’s involvement in the event has grown as my two oldest daughters have started to participate.

Based on my own experience running marathons in Toronto, Philadelphia and Montreal I don’t hesitate to say that Ottawa Race Weekend is a great event and the best race weekend in Canada. The organization, volunteers and crowd support make it a great event every year.

Race Weekend started off on Saturday afternoon for my family with my daughters running the 2 km with their grandparents. That went so well that my oldest (7) is now intent on doing a 5km or even 10km race. She also came home and placed her race bib with my collection of bibs, covering my Boston bib in the process…

For the 10 km race later that evening I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and watch from the finish line. My role was to make sure the 3rd place male finisher made it to the media area and the podium for the award ceremony following the race.

It was impressive to witness a 10km finish this vantage point. It went from being very quiet before the motorcycles and trucks came through the finish area to very hectic when the top finishers started coming in quickly afterward with some of them collapsing at the line due to exhaustion and cramps.

Once the top three men had finished I along with an assigned doping control agent  followed Nicholas Bor of Kenya around as he recovered then made his way to the media area and eventually the stage for the award ceremony.

The doping control agents were present because the Race Weekend 10km and marathon are IAAF Gold Label events.  For those who are not aware, Race Weekend in Ottawa is the only event in North America to host two IAAF Gold Label events. Lisbon Portugal is the only other city in the world to hold the same distinction.

Once the awards were handed out I headed back to join my family nearby as they waited for my wife’s sister to finish the 10km. Once she finished I headed home to get some rest after a long day.

My participation in the half-marathon Sunday morning ended our Race Weekend experience in the best possible way.  I must be one of the luckiest Race Weekend participants because I had the benefit of knowing exactly where my would be waiting for me as I approached the finish line of the half-marathon while a friend who is a professional photographer waited nearby.

 

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.

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.

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…

Good advice here about the intensity of your workouts. 

A great post about why you should run the Ottawa Marathon this year.

An interesting post about what happens to elite runners after a big marathon PR.

Book Review: Long Road to Boston

This is a book I was looking forward to reading because I am finally heading to Boston in April. The timing of its release last month seemed appropriate for me for that reason. I also enjoyed Mark Sutcliffe’s previous book about running,  Why I RunYou can read my review here.

The book tells the story of the Boston Marathon before going into Mark’s efforts to qualify for Boston followed by his race day experience when he ran Boston. I enjoyed the historical aspect to the book because I was not familiar with all the stories and events that are described. It gave me a better idea of why the Boston Marathon has become the Holy Grail for many runners. 

Mark’s qualifying experience resonated with me for a few reasons. First, it also took him several attempts with some close calls along the way because he ran his qualifying time. Like me he finally met the qualifying standard in Pennsylvania (the Run for the Red Pocono Marathon for Mark and the Philadelphia Marathon in my case). Finally, when we both qualified we ended up beating the cutoff by 22 seconds. 

Last not not least I enjoyed Mark’s description of his trip to Boston and his race day experience. With my training cycle for Boston about to get underway soon it got me excited to start a formal training routine again and about what I have to look forward to when I go to Boston in April.

If you are like me and are heading to Boston or if you have Boston as a long term goal I recommend grabbing a copy of this book. 

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…

A post about running and beer.

A post highlighting Canadian marathoners Eric Gillis and Reid Coolsaet.

A post about knowing when to go hard and when to take it easy.

A 40 year old dad qualified for the Olympic marathon

Race Report: Ottawa Marathon 2016

Yesterday was my 8th consecutive Ottawa Marathon and 14th marathon overall. Initially my plan for it was to try and beat my time from November and in the process improve my Boston qualifying time. Once it became apparent that we were in for a hot and humid weekend I changed that plan and decided just to run based on how I felt.

After watching my daughters run the 2 km with their grandparents Saturday afternoon I went home and made my usual pasta meal for dinner. I managed to get to sleep early and was ready for my 3:30 wake up call for a breakfast consisting of orange juice, oatmeal, a banana and a bagel. Finally, I ate a handful of raisins before I headed out the door to top off my glycogen stores.

Since I live close to the start line (2km) I opted for an easy run down there to serve as a warm up. It was already 18C (64F) before the start although there was a cool breeze to help. I decided to start out at a 3:15 marathon pace (4:35/km) and adjust accordingly if needed.

Figuring it wouldn’t be long before I started to feel the heat and humidity I settled into a routine of dumping a cup of water over my head at every water station and made sure to run under every misting station set up along the course. I figured it was best to get started on making sure I took efforts to stay cool before it was too late.

In response to requests from the organizers many residents living along the course also set up sprinklers and hoses to provided more relief for runners. The crowds supporting marathoners are usually strong  along most of the course but this year the support seemed even stronger than usual. As mentioned people had sprinklers set up all along the course, there were several locations where people were handing out freezies and there were even a couple of locations in between water stations where people were handing out bottled water.

My 4:35 pace felt fine through the first half but as I passed that point I knew I was going to start losing time due to a combination of a stomach cramp and the heat. By the time I hit 25 km I was now on pace for a 3:23 finish. From that point on my goal was to maintain a steady pace to get myself back to the finish line. My right calf also felt tight at times throughout the second half. I expected to have to deal with a cramp at some point but was fortunate to avoid that.

Around 37 km the 3:25 pace bunny caught up to me so I knew if I held on at that pace I finish in around 3:25. That task became a little more difficult when we made it back downtown to the point where the marathon and half-marathon courses merge. Normally the half-marathon starts at 9:00 and by the time I reach this point only the fastest half-marathoners are coming through (last year the lead male runner passed me at this point). This year, due to the heat, the half-marathon started at 8:15 and there was a large crowd of half-marathoners merging with the marathon course.

I probably lost some time over the last 3 km as I tried to make my way through the crowd but by this point but it did not matter. My goal for the day was just to have the best run possible given the conditions and I had already accomplished that. In addition, this change was necessary in order to make the day as safe for as many runners as possible.

I had the advantage of knowing exactly where my family would be watching for me to come in. As I rounded the corner to take on the final 1 km stretch I worked my way over to the west side of the road to be in position to see them. I slowed right down to give my girls high fives and my friend Greg who has been at the finish line for at least 6 of my 8 Ottawa Marathons was there to capture the moment with this photo….


I crossed the line in 3:26:37, not quite the time I was hoping for when I started my training but I am pleased with it for reasons mentioned above. Marathons are not easy and many things have to  come together on race day to reach your goal. If my current Boston qualifying time is not sufficient when registration closes in September I’ll just have to go after that again next year.

I went home and celebrated with a beer…


And lunch from Five Guys…

In a way I am sad to see Race Weekend come to an end. It really is a great weekend to be in Ottawa and an event I think is the best race weekend in Canada. Hopefully I can continue my marathon streak here going next year…