On Possibilities, Boston, and the Decision to Run my First Marathon

Each day we wake up, we are blessed with new possibilities. As a runner, I am routinely reminded of this blessing. With the simple act of lacing up my shoes, I am invited to consider what may be. What might appear to an average person as just another run may in fact be my fastest run yet, or my farthest run yet, or a run in a new place with new sights and sounds to enjoy. The simple act of training is to use each day as a building block toward a new possibility. Last year I trained hard for thirteen weeks, harder than I had ever trained before, for the possibility that my October half marathon would be my fastest yet. It was.


The events of the last week have forced me to stare long and hard at the possibilities I have been putting off, burying away for a time when they would be more attainable or would fit into my life with greater ease. Such reflection is inevitable at a time like this, and I imagine many in the running community have found themselves engaged in the same penetrating look inward.


The events in Boston have hit me harder than any tragedy since 9/11. I wish I knew why, how it could be put into words that I can explain that don’t seem, to me, callous and unrecognizing of other attacks and tragedies. The immediate first thought I had on Monday was that this attack, to a runner, was so unfair because Boston is Mount Everest for so many runners. Before I had ever committed to running seriously, I used to causally think to myself, “Boston, boy I’d like to run that someday.” That was before I understood the qualification process or the dedication, the true lifestyle commitment, that is the training to qualify for Boston.


The truth is, and I am ashamed to admit this, but the terror in Boston served as a wake up, an alarm that sounded and led me to rather selfishly say, “Thank you Lord, that you continue to give me the possibilities that I have put off.” This is selfish because, hidden in that relief is the reality that for Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, and Lu Lingzi, there are no more possibilities. For the wounded, the possibilities remain, but they are altered in ways large and small from what they were before. And there are victims, so many victims, who felt no physical harm, but will look over their shoulders for demons they had not previously feared but now know, far too intimately.


I have long dreamed of qualifying for Boston, knowing that such a feat will be a long slog, filled with highs and lows, advances and setbacks. I am experiencing one of those setbacks now, having given in to the reality that I will not be running my third straight Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon next month due to a persistent case of knee pain.


At this time last week, I was not considering a go at a marathon this fall. I have spent two years pushing that distance off into the hazy future. “One of these days,” I would mutter to myself. “One of these days.” But here I am, still open to the many possibilities available to me. Running a marathon, taking that first step toward qualifying for that great race which has been knocked down, but will stand up next year, stronger than ever, is no longer something I can afford to push back, or should push back.


I, and the rest of the running community, will run, we must run, because it is what we love, because it is what we crave, because there are those who no longer can. I will work, with everything I have, to run my first marathon this fall, not because it will be easy, or because I expect glory, but because in that grit and fatigue and soreness is a respect for those who are gone but left such vibrant lives behind.


I woke up today and could the possibilities before me. I promise to make the most of them.


For Boston.



An Invitation to Runners Everywhere

Dear Readers (all two of you),

I hope you are enjoying success in your running goals for the year. Slowly but surely I am getting back on track toward my goal of balancing my new(ish) full time job and half marathon training. I still have my sights set on that evasive 1:30:00.

So, getting back to my two whole readers. I’d like to up that number. When I started this blog, I intended it to be a forum for people to share their stories of new encounters and experiences on the road. I’ve done little to promote this. That’s my fault.

Yet this is a new year and a new attempt at making this goal a reality. As I said in my last post: it is all about baby steps. Consider this a baby step. And how appropriate, for what running goal can ever be accomplished without mustering the courage to take that first step?


^Zen moment of the day


I digress. Here is my invitation to you, loyal readers. As a comment to this post share with me your “firsts” as a runner. This could be the first time you laced up and hit the road or tackled a treadmill (sidenote: my running anniversary is in three days!). You could share the emotions you felt the first time you crossed the finish line in a race, or that sense of accomplishment that accompanied setting a new PR or taming a new distance you once believed was unreachable. Have you used running as a means to raise funds for a charity you care about? Great! Tell me about that experience. One day I want to do that same. If you give me permission to use your comments, I would like to re-post them in the near future.

Lastly, help spread the word on this little venture of mine. Running is truly a community sport. You might run alone, but the weight and support of runners everywhere is behind you. Help me share this little part of my running journey with others. Ok, shameless begging is over now.

Thanks, in advance, for your help. Happy running.



Starting small

I ran through the most beautiful sunset tonight. A picture accompanies this post, though it sadly fails to fully capture the intensity of the red sky and the thrill of having that orange fireball coasting next to me, pacing my run.

I am taking a few minutes out of my grading to write this because I must. If my first year of teaching has taught me anything it is that while air might be necessary for me to survive, running and writing are necessary for me to live. Sadly, I’ve let the former get away from me as I adjust to the gauntlet of full time teaching work. And the latter, well, check out the number of posts I’ve made on this blog in the last year and the latter speaks for itself. I simply have not been writing.

So I am starting small. Just look at that sunset. Trust me: the picture does not do it justice. It was a pleasure to take in that beauty, fill my lungs with the cold air and enjoy the ache that accompanies a good workout.

Starting things small is all about getting the blog back up to a slow crawl. And in a way that is fitting. I started this blog and chose the name with the idea of recording all those first strides I was taking as a runner. Here I am, in my third year hitting the road and the “firsts” just keep on coming. I’m not just talking about first races and first PRs. Each run itself is a first. I can tell you that running with this full time teaching job is a totally new experience. Making time to do the sort of training that was commonplace this time last year is now difficult. In many ways it is like I am learning how to run all over again.

So I’m starting here, writing small, taking it one post at a time, like I was taking it one mile at a time two years ago when I started this crazy sport of distance running. More to come, sooner, rather than later.

A Public Service Announcement About Dogs

Dear dog owners:

Please keep your dogs inside, or on a leash, or trained on an invisible fence, or separated from the road by a moat and a mine field and a pit 20 feet deep.

I’ve been bit once while on a run. I have the scar and the $400 dollar tetanus shot to prove it.

I’ve been chased on several other occasions. There’s nothing quite like hopping a fence to avoid two 120 pound dogs charging after you.

So please, keep your dogs where you can enjoy their loving personalities and I can avoid their long teeth.




Running, an Opportunity to Invigorate Your Senses

First I feel the rhythm. Then I let my nerves unfold, inhaling anything and everything the road has to offer my senses. At least that’s what I try to do.

The longer I train, the more comfortable I feel with my regimen and the more open I am to letting myself simply “be” inside a run. Thursday I christened my third season of training, delaying my meeting with turkey and trimmings for a four mile jaunt on back country roads. I was reminded of the rewards running has to offer me.

Where some see only boring repetition in adding up mile after mile, I see boundless opportunity. No two runs are ever the same. The same four mile trek I ran this past summer took on new life on Thursday. Gone were the tyrannical beat of the July sun and the joyous shriek of children running through sprinklers. They were replaced by the rich, smoky scent of bonfires, as neighbors left the promise of cooking turkey indoors to take advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures to complete left over yard work. Shrieking children now caught lofted footballs. Cars lined back roads as families congregated to celebrate their many blessings (or argue their dysfunction while stabbing for the last drum stick – not everything is Norman Rockwell here).

I hope you all have occasion, every now and then, to mix your competitive running edge with the time to stop and metaphorically smell the roses. I have come to appreciate running, not for it’s routine, though routine it can be, but for the small sensory moments that make every run unique.

Happy running,


Anatomy of a disaster, prelude

In May I stepped to the start line for my third half marathon. I was back on the first course I had ever run, in Cleveland, at the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. Everything about my training said I would run a 1:32:00. If I hit everything right, I could push it to 1:30:00. That was the ultimate goal. The one I tell no one about.

Someday I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Until I’m 35, if I want to make it to the Mecca of distance running for its most fabled event, I have a run a 3:05:00 marathon. Of course I first have to move up to the marathon distance. But in my mind, if I can push my half marathon to 1:30:00 or under, I believe I can run down that 3:05 qualifying time.

Returning to my original story, everything said I should push for 1:32:00. I was confident I could meet that time and kick myself over the last two miles to reach my hour and a half goal. It was the thought that I fixed in my brain as I waited for the starter’s gun to go off. BANG! I was off. Twenty-four weeks of training lay behind me for this moment. I was ready. I was confident. I was heading for disaster.


That’s what I ran. Almost ten minutes slower than the slowest time I thought I would run.


Slower than the first half marathon I ever raced. Last May, after four months of scattershot, injury-riddled training, filled with rookie mistakes, I ran my first half marathon. I ran smart, I ran loose, I ran controlled. I finished in 1:39:48. I was thrilled. In October I tried my luck again, this time in Columbus at the Nationwide Columbus Marathon. Sticking to the half, I peeled off almost three minutes off my time. My training had once again been filled with injury woes. I was wearing shoes that were not appropriate for my feet. My right hamstring was constantly sore. My feet were sore. I had to stop training for weeks on end. And still I set a PR, blowing my Cleveland time away.


I had built up to this year’s Cleveland half slowly, building a base in the winter that never was quite winter. I developed on minor hip injury, a case of bursitis that went away with a week of rest and constant heating and icing. I had run a five-mile race just after I returned from the time off and finished seventh with a time just over 33 minutes. I took it all as a sign that my slow build up had been the right move, that I had established a baseline of strength that would allow my to build on the progress I had made by last October.

Instead I ran a freaking 1:41:24.