2018 Race Recap #47: Marine Corps Marathon

I’m actually not entirely sure where to begin with this recap. This was an emotional event by design and a personally important event. This affected me on several levels. Let me start with how I came to this point, what I decided to do with this, the results of the work I’ve put into it, and finally the meaning behind the race itself.

Earlier this year, I learned that the Marine Corps Marathon was accepting lottery entries and just like the way I’ve managed the rest of my life, I entered the lottery because it didn’t require any sort of real commitment: if I were accepted via the lottery, I could choose to register or not, unlike, Say, the Chicago or New York Marathons where in order to enter the lottery you have to cough up your credit card that will be charged if you are accepted to enter via the lottery. I remember I sent my registration fee to my undergraduate college because it was refundable vs. the more prestigious school that had a non-refundable deposit.  When you’re making $3.60/hr, $100 means a lot…I guess.

At any rate, I entered the lottery on the last day I could. Within a few days I was notified I was accepted for entry and that I had only a few days to register…which I did on the last day. Now that I’d committed,  I wasn’t quite sure what I should do with it.

Now that I’d committed money to my race, I needed a reason to do this. I actually hadn’t anticipated getting into the lottery, although the lottery is apparently not as lucky as one may expect.

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Finished!

Given the Marine Corps Marathon IS hosted by the Marines, and is an exposition of not only the organizational prowess of the Marines, but also the expression of gratitude for the fallen, this is something much more than any other race in which I’ve participated.  This is a city built on the expression of history. I’m proud of the fact that I ran this to raise funds for modern Veterans facing the problems of modern life.

I met a woman on the shuttle over to the runner’s festival from Crystal City. We discussed the weather – a generally innocuous topic when speaking with strangers – she felt very cold while I thought it was perfect running weather, perhaps even balmy. It turns out she was from Barbados, which would explain our differing sense of the same experience. It further turns out she was exactly the person I should meet heading to the race: a professional motivational speaker and life coach, she had me ready to run through a brick wall by the time we were off that bus.  I appreciated her friendship for the 15 minutes or so that our lives intersected, because she really did help me see this for what it was: living my best life and giving back.  Thank you for that Joya.

Now, my goal for my first marathon was 4-hours. I’m never going to time qualify for the Boston Marathon, unless I can maintain my pace for the next, say, 30-years, but I am interested in maintaining a respectable pace.  So the 4 hour mark was kind of important to me for reasons. End of day, for the Marine Corps Marathon, I ran 4:03:17. A little disappointing – I got a very nasty cramp between miles 24 and 25 that effectively derailed my 4-hour attempt – but overall reasonably respectable.  According to one site, in the 2011-2012 marathon season the average time for any person, regardless of gender or age, was 4 hours, 24 minutes and 0 seconds; the median finish time for men was 4:17:43.  I’m sure there’s some variation from 2012 to today, but it seems like a reasonable number that shouldn’t vary too too much.

The first couple of miles are up hill, not unlike the hills I run in and around Worcester, so while I was used to it, I wasn’t feeling it early on. I was stiff and just didn’t feel up to it, at one point asking myself if I was going to be able to finish. After that first hill though, the payoff was the downhill for a couple of miles, which had me feeling much better about things, and from there until the finish line it was reasonably flat.  I was on cruise control for more or less the majority of the race.  There were a few places where I was running out of gas – more than I care to admit, frankly – but I was still on pace for that 4-hour mark.  I was actually pacing with the 3:45 runners for a while, but clearly by mile 22 I was running on fumes. and it was clear 3:45 was not going to happen for me.  The finish is uphill toward the Iwo Jima memorial, and curiously enough I had enough in the tank to run up and past several others because of the hills around home – thank you quads!

Marathon Statistics Data
Percent of the U.S. population that has run a marathon 0.5 %
Record time for the fastest marathon ever run 2:01:39 hours
Total number of U.S. marathons held annually 570
Total number of people who finished a marathon annually 581,811
Data from statisticbrain.com

Now, this was an amazing race and I’m glad I took the opportunity to run it. I loved the crowd support, and seeing folks lining the streets. My own family was along the course to root me on, and the energy was palpable. Running 26+ miles is hard, but running with others is certainly motivational.

Before I left Washington, I made it a point to visit Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Of the times I’d been to Washington, I’d somehow never been able to get into the cemetery: it was either closed or my schedule didn’t permit it.  This time though, it was important to me to be sure to visit: for perspective, to remember, and maybe most importantly to be sure I gave back just a little more.  I was moved by the race’s “Blue Mile,” I was there raising money for veterans in need; I needed to show respect for those who have come before me and who have given their lives. I needed to give something to them too. It’s an amazing place, and I was humbled being there. Godspeed, soldiers.

Results

RACE TIME: 04:03:17

OVERALL PLACE: 3744 of 27640

DIVISION RANK: 3696 of 21158

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Leave Me a Message at the Tone

I found a “bonus” episode of a podcast I listen to occasionally in my feed. It’s about the power of the human voice and discusses, in part, the physiological effects of hearing the voice of a loved one on the body.

Nothing new or earthshaking there, but then it was revealed one of the speakers had acquired a new phone and lost the only message he had from his now deceased mother.

Hearing the voice of a loved one has the same chemical affect on your body as hugging that person. Hugging releases oxytocin and generally relaxes.  According to a 2016 article in US News: The hugging and oxytocin release that comes with it can then have trickle-down effects throughout the body, causing a decrease in heart rate and a drop in the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine.  Just hearing her voice was treated by his brain the same way as a hug, with all those positive benefits, and now, he’d never have that again.

In 2011, I got at first iPhone as an upgrade from my top of the line Motorola Q – the best technology 2005 could offer. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I too would lose the only recording I had of my dads voice.

For the previous 3 years, I had replayed that voice mail often. Just calling to check in, “I love you…” just thinking about hearing that makes me happy. In the time since he passed on, the sadness I would feel has become far less pointed. But man I wish I still had that recording. There are times I could really use that rush of neurotransmitters like the ones awash in your brain when you get a hug. Those times where I can sit and reflect and wish I could ask Dad for his advice.

I remember being incredibly upset about losing that recording. It was an obvious sense of loss, but I never really thought about it in quite the way the biology was presented today. A hug. I was missing the hug from my dad.

This year was the 10-year anniversary of his passing; the passage of that amount of time remains unfathomable to me and I could’ve really used that connection both on the anniversary and at a myriad of other times in the last 7-years or so.

I now know that others have had the same experience and suffered the same loss and I now know that there’s a real, biological effect of hearing that voice. It’s somewhat humbling in that having that recording in the first place was a relatively new phenomenon in human history: I’m sure he would have loved a recording of his father, but alas all we had were photographs.  So in the end, I’ll choose to be happy for having that extra time with his tired, fading voice.

 

2018 Race Recap #46: BAA Half Marathon

I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to feel about this race. The last half I did was horrendous after running it with a chest cold and the one previous with a taped up shin splint.  I really wanted to hit a personal best, and ideally hit 1:45:00.  That didn’t happen, although both were fully within reach. In the end, this was a long heaving “meh.” Sure. I out performed all but two previous halfs, but then again this was only my 9th – one of which was a trail race, so it’s not wholly comparable.  I felt great heading into mile 6, averaging about 8 minute miles and then…not so much.  I take some comfort from the idea that this is a big boy’s race – not flat, but “rolling hills” – but when you head in with certain expectations that aren’t met, it kind of stings.

It’s funny, I grew up around here. I remember rolling with my friends in Linda’s 1974 Pontiac Le Mans down the Jamaica Way, and never once did I say, “hey, you know what would be awesome? RUNNING this!” And yet, here I was. AND I paid to do it.  It had been years since I had been in this area and had forgotten just how hilly it is. That said, at this point I’m just griping.

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A slightly disappointing time, but I didn’t die.  At the 10-mile mark, I was at 1:25:00. It took me almost a full 30 minutes for the last 5k of the course. This is what upsets me most – I had a 5k in front of me and I blew it.

Normally, I wouldn’t have much to say about the course. It’s not waterfront. It doesn’t go through any historic areas of significant (other than my own personal history, I suppose), and yet when I was researching the elevation profile beforehand so I knew what to plan for, I found a blog  that was doing pretty much what this one does: a little bit of everything (actually, I kind of dig how he outlines his race results) but more specifically he recaps his races.  In it, he details the course – how beautiful it is.  Now, his review was from 2014 and I know the course hasn’t changed, so I deliberately took the time to pay attention. And I wasn’t disappointed. It was a fresh look at an area I so often overlooked as a kid.

The homes ARE magnificent, and the area really is beautiful along the “emerald necklace.” I’d like to thank him for that point of view because I wouldn’t have seen it left to my own devices.

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It’s always nice having friends along the course.  Photo Credit: Joan Recore

As for organization, it’s the BAA.  It was top notch. Plenty of porta-potties, bag check was super organized. The only thing I was disappointed about was that according to the BAA, there was a cap of about 9000 runners: 3000 of whom entered by virtue of their distance medley (a 5k, 10k, and half-marathon), another 6000 or so entered first come first served and for charity, yet, the results show I was one of  6220. Hey, we’re in the age of Trump where apparently attendance numbers can be a subject of some dispute.

 

Previous Results

Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon 1:54:11
Independence Rhode Race: 2:06:32
Horseneck Half Marathon: 1:57:29
New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57
Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48

One Month: Marathon Valor Run #MCM4OVF

valor runONE MONTH. In 30 days I toe the line at my first marathon at the 43rd Marine Corps Marathon. I’m using the opportunity to raise money for an Army veteran in need through the O’Connell Valor Fund. 25 pledgers have helped me raise $1750 of my $2000.

Although the training miles have piled up, I’m not going to qualify for the Boston Marathon, especially not with the qualifying times changing, but more specifically I’m not that good a runner. I’m hoping to finish in the 4:15:00 – 4:30:00 range — only an hour or so (30%) longer than my BQ time. Supporting this run is not about supporting a runner seeking any glory other that the personal victory of finishing a marathon. This is about doing good, giving back.

The O’Connell Valor Fund has presented me the family this fundraiser will support and they have a devastating and heartbreaking story.  Our veteran was medically discharged from the Army, disabled and unable to work, he has been undergoing treatments at the Veterans Administration. Meanwhile, his wife had been supporting the family and his son with special needs had been contributing to the family income.

Earlier this year, his son committed suicide in the family home. If not devastating and traumatic enough in and of itself, his family now stands on the verge of losing everything as his wife has been unable to work as a result. After months of working with local resources, they’re able to move out of their home – away from the trauma and closer to his treatment options.

Our veteran has been vetted through Veterans Count, the philanthropic arm of the Easter Seals Military & Veterans Services, and the O’Connell Valor Fund directs 99% of their funds to Veterans just like this.  To learn more about why I’m doing this, I detail it here, but simply put, it’s a labor of love and to give back.   The money raised here will help our Veteran move away from the trauma, and move back toward regaining his life.

I would consider it an honor for you to express your support for this effort, no matter how small.  I need just 10 people to pledge $1 a mile to reach the goal.  10! I’ve been presented this veteran because I believe I can raise this money.  The sad part is that while his story is heartbreaking, there are many many more stories just like his. We need to do better for the men and women who have served our countries and for their families.  I know there are 10 people who can help make this happen.

You can make a flat dollar contribution or pledge an amount per mile (26.2!!) by clicking the graphic above or just following this link.

Contributions/Pledges are tax deductible.  Thank you for your consideration and support.

Refuse to Contribute Story 5: Wilma Rudolph

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Wilma and her parents.

She was a premie baby, born lighter than a 5-pound bag of potatoes. It wasn’t for another 30-years or so before premature babies began receiving specialized care – in 1940, such babies were not expected to survive. But Wilma Rudolph did.

By the time she was 4, she had pneumonia, scarlett fever, and polio. Her parents were told she’d never walk again. Treatment options for poor, black kids in Tennessee were limited, and yet by the time she was in high school, she was a basketball and track star. By 1956, she was an Olympic Bronze Medalist.  Entering college in 1958, she was a single mom, and a second time Olympic aspirant. In the 1960 Olympics, and a sophomore in college, she won 3-more medals – all gold – and became known as the fastest woman on earth.

After retiring from competition, she began a career of teaching and coaching – protesting segregation, teaching grade school and coaching track. She was mother to four children and by 1992 she had become an executive in healthcare.  In 1994, she was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed away within 4 months.

She wore braces until she was 8. Her parents were manual laborers without much money, yet they supported each other. And that’s the true story of this refuse to contribute story: family. Wilma became an amazing athlete through sheer determination, and lived an amazing life.  Her family supported her through premature birth, disease, educated her and gave her the supports necessary for a black, single teen mom to go to college in the 1960s.  With so much stacked against her at the time, her family made sure she had the opportunity to thrive. When Wilma was a child, her mom would take her twice weekly – a round trip of 100 miles – for treatment for her legs. Her mom taught her siblings the massage therapy for her legs, and for 5 years she received these 4 times daily. It was her will that drove her to succeed, but it was the foundational supports of her family that put her in position to succeed.

To be sure, Wilma was an inspirational person and amazing athlete – people with more supports and greater hands up do not accomplish what she did, but it’s also clear to me that she would not have had the ability to be the true expression of her ability had she not have the love and caring of her family. One can only imagine what she could have achieved had she had the resources available to her more affluent peers.

Wilma’s story should be an inspiration for everyone pushing their boundaries, and her family should be an inspiration for everyone. There’s no telling where the love you show your family will go. There’s no telling where your achievements will reach.

Refuse to Contribute Story 3: Bill

One of the guys in my running club, someone I consider a friend, is a very good runner.  Earlier this year, he time qualified for the Boston Marathon, demolishing the minimum time by some -minutes or so. Then came out to run 5-miles the following day with the group on our weekly “fun run.”  I’ve seen him decide that he’s going to run home from somewhere, when his home is some 30-miles away, and complete the track with an average mile of 8:18 minutes.

He seems to live his personal life diving into interests and hobbies with more verve than I think most people dive into theirs. He’s into pinball, and computers so of course he’s got a pinball game replicator – load up just about any pinball came onto the console and play it. He bought a 30-year old truck on eBay.

I think it’s good to know and appreciate interesting people, because they’re the people I’ve found enrich my life the most.  And Bill is an interesting guy.

This weekend, he set out the goal of running the length of a local rail trail up and back twice – I’m pretty sure that if it wasn’t on a whim, then it wasn’t a long held plan to do so. This is a total of roughly 34 miles, not a short jaunt in the woods.

His commentary?

“I did turn around at mile 29 and started heading back to the start, but I said “NO. THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE HARD.” and I turned around and headed to Glenwood. Let things be hard. No matter what happens this week, I can always reflect that I ran 34 miles on Sunday.”

“This is supposed to be hard.” Pushing himself to run another 5 miles AFTER 29 MILES. It’s supposed to be hard to run 20 miles, 26.2 miles. After 29 miles and several hours (this took him 5 hours to complete by the way), he was willing himself to finish another 5-miles because it was hard.  I wasn’t going to run until I read that; afterward I got up and ran 13 miles BECAUSE I didn’t want to.

“Let things be hard.” Life isn’t easy. Life isn’t about taking the easy way to get things done. Life is about adventure, and growth, and pushing the boundaries of what you think you can do.  Let things be hard. If they’re hard, you’re growing. If they’re hard, you’re expanding your horizons. If things are hard, you are becoming your best you.

I spoke with him at one point in the past week and he was reflecting on a recent run. He couldn’t understand why people would run a hill, stop and walk for a half-minute and then run again. “Just keep pushing,” or something to that effect. “I run behind them and keep pushing silently.” I know why they do that, I *DO* that. Or I did. Since that conversation, I’ve had his words in the back of my head at each point I encounter a hill and I imagine him sidling up behind me, staying there, willing me to keep going.  I’ve not stopped since.

Bill is an interesting guy. I’ve never once had a negative conversation with him. He’s a survivor, and he is one of the few people I know who consistently pushes those around him to be better, through both example and word.

Do something today BECAUSE it’s hard. Not EVEN THOUGH it’s hard. BECAUSE it’s hard. Don’t give yourself an excuse not to do it, because it’s supposed to be hard. When it’s done, no matter what else happens, you’ll be able to look back and know you’ve accomplished it.

Refuse to Contribute Story 2: Charlene

Going back almost 35 years to 1984, I met some of the people who have been the most important in my life – if not consistently, certainly in intervals, and absolutely over the course of time. The boys I met September 1984 were and have remained some of the most important people in my life since.

The important people in their lives have also become important in mine. We’ve been their for the births of our children, the deaths of our parents, the weddings, the divorces. There have been times of strain in our friendships, and there have been revivals. Guys I have reconnected with as a middle aged adult whom I could not have imagined having considered my friend all those years ago.

And then there is one mom. The mother of  of my classmates, and another schoolmate. Dave and I were close in school – good friends up to and through college – but as things go, we’ve gone through ebbs and flows in our friendship. As time goes on, we exchange text messages, but have gone years between actually seeing each other. It’s just time and laziness coming between us, nothing more, but it’s that inertia – the same inertia that has gotten in my way of accomplishing of my fitness goals. He’s not on social media, but his brother and his mom are, and they and I are connected.

His mom was always pretty cool. Younger than most of the moms of our classmates, so of course the object of some consideration: she was (and frankly still is) very pretty. But she’s also, as I’ve come to find, a good soul.

Quietly, over the course of time, she has captioned a series of beautiful pictures with a hashtag, #RefusetoContribute. At one point I asked her about it – perhaps even teasing about the origin, because a quick Google search suggests that no such hashtag has trended. Actually, that same search yields results almost the opposite of the intention:

“What about those who refuse to contribute…”

Dec 5, 2016 – I began to reply and quickly realized that my response was spinning out of control, far beyond the bounds of a socially acceptable Facebook …

“Fin Aid: What if No Help from Parents”
http://www.finaid.org/otheraid/parentsrefuse.phtml
The US Department of Education has published guidance to financial aid administrators indicating that neither parent refusal to contribute to the student’s …

“My wife doesn’t want to contribute to any bills/mortgage payments …”
https://www.quora.com/My-wife-doesnt-want-to-contribute-to-any-bills-mortgage-paym…Makes you wonder, if she isnt willing to contribute anything when things are good, … Then again, if she continues to refuse your request, you’ll have to decide …

Donate – Refuse Fascism
donate.refusefascism.org/
Only the people taking to the streets in mass, nonviolent, sustained political mobilization can stop this nightmare!

So, what is the intention? Months before I got fed up with the Manufactured Outrage, she was simply posting pictures of paradise, simple tableaus of treasured scenes. She works that hashtag like a boss, and truly her whole feed is family and love.

Here are a few of her #refusetocontribute pictures

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Usually captioned only with the hashtag. A small, silent protest against an increasingly polarized world. Cherishing the small, beautiful moments. One voice in the vast interwebs calling for beauty and peace.

No commentary. No judgement.

Let’s all take some time and refuse to contribute.