Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston...and my 40th Birthday

Monday morning, I outlined my plans to celebrate my 40th birthday yesterday by running my age in kilometers vs. miles, considering that I have my 27th marathon this Saturday. That would've been about 24.85 miles. Then....Boston. I was on my break Monday afternoon at work and talking to my wife when just prior to hanging up, she asked "Did you hear that there were explosions at the finish line at Boston?!" I was well aware of the Boston Marathon as many of my friends were there. I have never been to the race as I've never qualified, but I still hold the Boston Marathon with high regard. In the marathon world, it's the pinnacle of marathons, on a global scale. As the news trickled in, more so on Facebook than anywhere else, it got worse and worse.

Runners: we're a tough bunch. Runners aren't "holier than thou" when compared to others but many runners, especially the distance type that I am, possess a different kind of perseverance and determination to charge on through challenge. If you've ever done a marathon, you know what I'm talking about. There's a reason they refer to "The Wall" in the low 20's, prior to finishing the 26.2 mile footrace. Mental blocks start to appear and it takes a runner who can forge through that who tastes the sweet finish of the finish line. So for terrorism and marathon security, these are terms not really put together in history before. Not that our events are immune, but they've felt insulated from the wretched, fallen world around us. Running at its core, is very pure. It is a sport of 1. The runner. No one else gets us to the finish line or forces us to take the next step. It is the human spirit and drive that keeps us moving. A pair of shoes (well, not always!), some clothing and a path to travel...not much else required to do what we do. So, if the cowards who did this awful act meant to intimidate or beat us down, they most certainly picked the wrong group to do that to. Will we mourn over the fallen and badly injured? Of course. Fundraisers are already happening to support them! But, we will take this, flip it on its head, and make good of it...even great.

So as I stood in my living room Monday night, thinking about my looming birthday and the run to follow, I decided to run for Boston...for the fallen, the injured, the first-responders, and the many runners who were still on the course and were robbed of a Boston Marathon finish. I decided to run a full marathon for them...to show that we cannot be stopped, our spirit cannot be crushed, and we will persevere. Birthday morning came and it was time to run...

In years past, I had mapped out my course. In recent times, though, I rarely even wear a timing or GPS device. I just run. I continued on and only strapped on the GPS to track the mileage. I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted to go and I would just adjust on the fly as the day progressed. On birthday runs in the past, I typically start from home and travel through about 4 or 5 cities/townships/towns, and make a few stops to see friends who are at work. Birthday morning started with some birthday surprises from my girls and then I kicked off the first 3 of my run with my bride. Now, we share the number "40." No doubt, she is happy about that! I put the harness on my dog and us three hit the road for a comfy 3 miles together. Birds were singing and it was the perfect start to the day.

As the day progressed, I kept a pace just over 9min per mile, got a few bursts of rain, some thunder, and a very rare peek of sunshine. It was in the low 50s for most of the run and humid. In case you don't know, heat and humidity are my weaknesses and a common "issue" on my birthday run each year because it is so early in the season. It wasn't any different this time and as I approached the mid-20s, walking breaks got inserted...but I did not quit, I did not stop. Here are a few photos from the run.
Mile 14 along the Cuyahoga River on the Portage County Bike & Hike. Also part of the first half of this Saturday's On My Own Two Feet Marathon and Half Marathon

Mile 15.4. This was the furthest out I got from home. Ann (pictured here) is the owner of Logos Bookstore of Kent and a good friend. A bottle refill, a hug, and a photo and I was off!

Mile 16.5. I took this more because I have taken one every birthday run. It's in downtown Kent along the mighty Cuyahoga River and my favorite photo spot for family photos...plus, there was a perfect ledge to prop up the iPhone for a pic!

Mile 23.6: Portage County Veterans Memorial at the county courthouse. 

Mile 23.7: This is Heather, my barber of many, many years. This, too, has been birthday run tradition and she hates me taking her picture! I got her approval on this one, though. "Thanks, Heather!" :-)
After I left Heather, I was fully aware that I was a good deal more than 2 1/2 miles from home so a marathon was the least of what I would do for the day. Just after crossing back into my hometown, I hit the marathon point but charged on. Arriving home about 3 miles later, the final tally was an even 29 miles. So I guess I can chock it up to an ultra-birthday, right?! Right! I was in pretty sorry shape, though. Throughout the entire run, I only had 3 bottles of electrolyte and one Hammer Nutrition vegan bar (which was THE bomb, by the way!). I was grossly dehydrated and in great need of calories. For the next 90min or so, I was nauseous, couldn't eat, and couldn't even drink my Hammer Recoverite drink. I did force down an orange to try and combat any cramping (oranges are full of potassium which helps that a bunch). This is me in my driveway right when I got home. I found myself in this position many more times before I'd eat again...just to prevent throwing up and passing out.

Also waiting at home was a gift on my front porch. One of my good friends and huge supporters made up a custom sticker for my car. Just recently, I ran my 20th ultra marathon at the Buzzards Day 50K. That's what this sticker means...26.2+ (an ultra is anything over the marathon distance) x 20 (reaching the 20th ultra mark). Thanks, brother!

The rest of the evening was great. We had an early dinner at a local cafe in Kent followed by music lessons for our girls. Just prior to heading to dinner, though, my in-laws had their own gift for me...raw maple syrup! 5 QUARTS of it!!! Late last year, I switched from using Splenda in my morning espresso and replaced it with raw honey. From what I hear, raw honey and raw maple syrup are great natural sweeteners instead of the man-made things. So, I broke the seal on one of the quarts this morning and had my 3am espresso. WOW!!! I'm totally serious in saying it is the best sweetener I've ever used for my espresso. Extremely good! The good thing? I won't be running out of "sweetener" any time soon!

So how does it feel to be 40? The same as it felt to be 39. I do have a desire to run a 5K or something in my new age group, though...curious what these long distance legs could do over a short 3.1 miles. I will look for one to do sometime this Spring/Summer. 

I want to leave you with a quote today, reflecting back to Boston and runners in general and especially applicable to me. Coach Bill Bowerman coached the great Steve Prefontaine and he has been quoted as follows. I can say confidently that most runners I know echo Coach Bowerman's thoughts:

"The real purpose of running isn't to win a race, it's to test the limits of the human heart."

Keep "Running Happy," friends. (for me, I think I'd better taper for my marathon in 3 days...HA!)

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