Tag Archives: marathon

Terror Can’t Run Our Lives

2013 boston marathon logo

Like most Americans, I’m stunned and saddened by the dual bombings at yesterday’s venerable Boston Marathon’s finish line. But as a long-time runner, it hits me even deeper.

I was never fast enough to come close to qualifying for the U.S.’ most-prestigious marathon in any of my nine 26.2-milers. Boston is a dream race for so many runners. To have their experience and that of their loved ones and spectators shattered and ripped from them is horrible and unacceptable. What should have been a joyous occasion was bloodied by yet another senseless, unprovoked act of violence by cowards.

The marathon is a great equalizer, whether it takes place in Boston, Houston, London, or Surfside. Old and young, fast and slow all run on the same course; all are suffering during the latter miles for just one goal: To cross the finish line. There are few experiences better in life than that.

This is yet another dark day for America. Yet we continue to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and hope for a better tomorrow, especially for our children. We can’t let evil win.

My first Houston Marathon shirt (there were no finishers’ shirts back then)

What I’m wearing today

Today I’m showing my solidarity as I mourn for Boston, the victims, and their families by wearing my 1987 Houston-Tenneco Marathon shirt. This was the first 26.2-miler that I completed (there were no finishers’ shirts back then, by the way). I’ll never forget how I felt when I crossed the finish line in downtown Houston that cold day . . . just like I’ll never forget what happened yesterday at the finish line in Boston.

Like all runners . . . and all Americans . . . I stand united with Boston.

Running for a New Reason

This year’s fundraising cause

Want to come along with me as I run the Chevron Houston Marathon on January 15? Help me raise money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

For the fourth straight year, I’m fundraising through the marathon’s wonderful Run for a Reason program. But this time, I’ve changed the recipient. In the past I’ve run for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which is near and dear to my heart because too many of my loved ones (especially my father, stepfather, and cousin Lisa) have died from blood cancers. Plus now my friends’ kids have fought them.

Sheri when she had hair

But this time I’ve been inspired and motivated by a couple friends who are battling breast cancer. Sheri was diagnosed just this fall. We’ve known each other since our #1 sons were in the first grade.

Janet has lost her hair again. (Photo by Janie Picou)

Meanwhile, breast cancer has been a part of Janet’s life since 2001. She and I became buds through her sister Claire, whose #2 son is the same age as my older boy.

I’m counting on the motivation from these two lovely ladies to push me through those 26.2 miles. And I’m hoping that my readers will help those miles count by donating at this link:  Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Let’s kick breast cancer to the curb! Thanks for all your help and for keeping Sheri and Janet in your thoughts.

Hot Running an Almost Half Marathon

A day late and a dollar short

There’s a running rule of thumb about the weather: Conditions the day before and/or the day after a long-distance race will be better than the day of the event.

I would like to turn in for evidence yesterday and today. Right now as I type before 10 a.m., the temperature in the Houston area is a wonderfully refreshing 62 degrees. Oh, what a beautiful morning!

My view of the race start

Yesterday at 6:45 a.m. when I was standing at the start of a half marathon in my little town outside of Houston, it was 72 degrees. As in waaaaaay too hot to be running 13.1 miles, especially for slowbos like me who suffer from asthma. It was awful from start to finish.

Was it a good thing that the course was only 12.63 miles, according to my Garmin GPS watch? Well, not for those who wanted to run an official personal best. I knew instantly that the route was short when we made a u-turn along a 4.1-mile double-loop stretch and hit the seven-mile marker. I checked my watch and saw 6.59 miles on it. What the heck? Unfortunately, whoever set up the u-turn didn’t look at the official course map and put it in the wrong place. Pretty disappointing.

Unusual music is played on the final stretch.

I always think that signing up for a race and plunking down your hard-earned cash (or really the Mister’s hard-earned cash) enters runners into a contract with the event. We’re promised a safe, accurate course; in return, we should be adequately trained for the distance.

I think this particular race broke that promise (it also didn’t help that the first water stop was more than two miles from the start on such a hot day). Hope it doesn’t happen next year, because it benefits some good causes.

Plus it’s close to home (about 10 minutes away) with plenty of free parking. I’m all about convenience when it comes to running . . . no matter what the weather.

Half is NOT full

Want to know how to rile up a runner? Call a half marathon a marathon.

My friend Stacie, who runs but doesn’t enter races, told me a few weeks ago that our mutual buddy Lana was going to be running a marathon soon. I asked her if she meant the half marathon the last Sunday in March. Maybe, she replied.

So I e-mailed Lana to ask what race she had entered. The marathon in our city on March 27, she said. You mean the half marathon? Yes, that’s the one, she replied.

Lana, Lana, Lana! There’s such a huge difference between the half and the full marathon. It’s not just the extra 13.1 miles. You need to experience that last 10K (most marathoners will tell you that the race truly begins at 20 miles) to really understand why it’s such a great yet hard accomplishment. A half marathon is a walk in the park compared to its 26.2-mile older sibling. Especially when that half is almost a half-mile short!

Lana is about to finish! (Photo by her husband Mark)

By the way, Lana finished her first almost half marathon with a smile on her face. Congrats to my wonderful pal who is turning 50 this Wednesday!

A Charming Marathon Expo

Is that all we get? Half a t-shirt? (Olympus Stylus Tough camera)

One highlight of Houston’s annual marathon and half marathon is the expo, where we pick up our packets a day or two before the big event. As well as great deals on clothing and gear plus freebies and food.

We’re fortunate that the Chevron Houston Marathon is staged at the George R. Brown Convention Center, a great place to go before the start and after the finish. It’s also terrific for the expo.

Which one is Janet and which one is the mannequin?

My friend Janet and I have driven together to the expo now for six straight years. It’s become a ritual for us. We get to catch up on what’s going on with our kids (her daughter is the same age as my #2 son) and talk about our goals for Sunday’s race (she was running the marathon). It’s something to look forward to all year!

Got a proofreader?

One new expo wrinkle, at least for me, was that those of us who participated in the Run for a Reason program earned a special packet, which included a hat. I almost didn’t want to wait in line to get my goodies because of the “HEROE’S” mistake. Move that apostrophe in back of the S!

As always, Janet and I scored some bargains and a few cute freebies as we walked among the many booths and vendors.

Very charming!

Then we saw a new vendor that we just had to investigate. Marathon charms! What an interesting idea!! Well, until I looked a little bit closer at one of the “charms.”

Not so charming!

According to the website, the outhouse charm is “a fun way to remind you where you spend some of the time on the race course!” Yeah, right! Would any runner really want to proudly display a port-a-can charm on their bracelet?!?

Janet always says that going to the expo with me brings her luck. Did it work this year? Well, she finished the marathon in 3:50:54. She qualified for the prestigious Boston Marathon!!

Looks like that makes me a lucky charm!

Random Running Snippets & iPhone Apertures

Me pre-race (note Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS watch) complete with my Hero hat

Wondering how I did in yesterday’s Aramco Half-Marathon?

Short version: I finished with a wide smile on my face and tears in my eyes.

Longer version: I finished with a wide smile on my face, tears in my eyes, and with my left arch hurting almost every step of the way. That had plagued me in training. But numb feet had not; unfortunately, I suffered with those from miles three through six, forcing me to walk from time to time until I could feel my toes again.

Thankfully, my tootsies felt fine once I hit mile seven, so after that I only walked through water stops and when I ingested Gu energy gel. Oh, and when I took iPhone 3Gs photos, which I uploaded to Facebook along the way.

I wasn't the only one taking iPhone photos at the start.

I figured I’d try to take iPhone photos and keep updating my Facebook status during the race. In hindsight, it would’ve been much better to have used my Olympus Stylus Tough point-and-shoot camera. It was awkward stopping mid-race to take a photo, typing in a caption (especially considering I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses), and then hoping AT&T would allow me to upload it to Facebook. I missed out on lots of potentially good pix of cute signs and even cuter babies. And that guy at the half-marathon start wearing a Lion King costume. Wonder if he finished still wearing it? It got pretty warm.

Lots of people in front of me as we head towards mile two. Guess I'm not going to win!

We did have perfect running weather—it was about 45 degrees at the start at 7 a.m. and about 60 degrees when I finished around 10 a.m. Which means that probably half the participants overdressed. Those who were wearing tights, jackets, gloves, and beanies looked like the temps were still frozen over from last weekend!

I felt very comfortable in a short-sleeved t-shirt and shorts, complete with my Hero running hat that I earned by raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Oh, and my Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS watch. Why was that important? Because, as in 2008, it showed that I actually ran 13.3 miles instead of 13.1. Oh, that aching extra two-tenths!!

Heading up a hill just past 10K (6.2 miles).

The race starts with the half-marathoners and those running the Chevron Houston Marathon on separate streets. We mesh together around mile two until mile nine where the halfers blissfully turn around (180 degrees) and head for the finish. The organizers like to boast that the course is flat . . . but it is NOT! There are enough hills in the first seven miles to stretch out our legs and tighten our arches (well, my left one).

Cresting the hill over Allen Parkway nearing mile 7. As we're running outbound, faster runners are about to turn near mile 11.

Here were my plans for the race: First goal always is to finish. My second goal was to break three hours. That’s a slow pace and nowhere near my personal best, but my training had been done at snail speed. Mentally, I was going to concentrate on just getting into the swing of things for the first two miles, which includes the much-hated (by me) Elysian Viaduct. At least two people slipped and fell behind me as we approached the first mile on the viaduct. I’ll bet they hate it, too.

Sidebar: Years ago there was talk about getting rid of the viaduct, which is a concrete overpass. I volunteered to be the one pushing the plunger when it came time to dynamite it! But, alas, it still stands if only to torment me every year.

After the Elysian, I was going to think about the six people in whose memory I raised funds for LLS. The first was Dick Jones at mile three, then my dad, my stepdad, my cousin Lisa, Don Queen, and Ron Kalteyer at the subsequent miles. After that I felt like all of them were on my back spurring me along to the finish.

The halfers will turn around in 200 yards!

Two of the best aspects of Houston’s premier marathon/half-marathon event are its volunteers and spectators. We couldn’t have a successful race without thousands of helpers. And those watching make us feel like running gods and goddesses, as well as providing plenty of distractions. I saw so many great signs along the course! Some I remember were “Run like you stole something!” and “So easy a caveman could do it.” There also were live bands and boom boxes providing great music along the way.

No balloons for my pity party at mile 10?

Once I made the turn at mile nine, I focused on one sight: That mile 10 banner. I just couldn’t wait until I was able to have my very own pity party and feel sorry for myself and my aches and pains. Funny thing, though—by mile 10, I was rolling along at a decent clip for me. Sure, my arch was hurting, but it wasn’t slowing down my pace any, and I knew that in a mere mile we would be on Allen Parkway running along with the fast marathoners across the median. Plus I had those six precious souls riding on my shoulders whispering in my ear, “You can do it!” Cancel that pity party!

Mile 11 is a good time for prayer!

Houston’s Christian radio station had several prayer stations set up along the course. What a great idea . . . even for those of us who are Jewish! All runners are grateful for divine intervention late in a race.

My biggest disappointment once we got off Allen Parkway and headed through downtown towards the finish line at the George R. Brown Convention Center? No Elvis sighting! That’s the first time I haven’t seen the supposedly dead rock ’n roller during either the half (now five finishes) or marathon (eight finishes).

Disappointment reigns for those who finished behind me.

Finally, there was the most-spectacular sight of the entire 13.1-mile race: The finish line! Why do we run races? To finish them! As always, when I crossed the line, I looked to the sky to thank my dad for being along with me.

And then I thought of Dick Jones, who I had hoped so much would be there at the finish watching me run for him. He was there in spirit, of course, interrupting his golf game in heaven to ride on my shoulders. I couldn’t help but break into a wide smile and start to cry.

Building Excitement By Watching a Race

Marathoners and halfers are bundled up as they walk in my community.

In a mere six days, I’ll be running the Aramco Half-Marathon, the shorter version of the Chevron Houston Marathon. The Sunday before that pivotal day is one of growing excitement, as the reality of the upcoming event crashes head-on into the reality of one’s lack of good training and fitness (e.g., an ever-hurting left leg).

In years past, I would stew and grumble about how awful my training had gone while wondering how race day a week away would be. But this year all of that changed . . . thanks to a long-distance race that involved our community.

Cory May is on his way to winning the marathon in 3:02:44.

This is the second-straight year that USA Fit, which is a national marathon and half-marathon training program, has put on its USA Fit Marathon and Half-Marathon in the Houston area. Dubbed as “everyone’s marathon,” its draw is that it has a generous eight-hour time limit. That’s two hours longer than our Chevron Houston Marathon allows. USA Fit especially appeals to walkers; the Houston Marathon doesn’t, as is its right. When Houston decided to finally strictly enforce its six-hour time limit two years ago, USA Fit jumped in with its own event.

Sidebar: Every year around this time I read where faster runners snootily decry slower runners and walkers, saying that anyone who finishes a marathon slower than they do isn’t a marathoner. Last time I checked the dictionary, the definition of “marathon” is a distance, specifically 26.2 miles. Complete that distance? You’re a marathoner, no matter what your time is.

Last year the race was at a small, cramped venue. This time it was moved to our local University of Houston campus. The course was such that it circled our four-mile loop during its out-and-back route (twice for the marathoners). With only 1,500 runners and walkers, it didn’t inconvenience us very much. But it did serve to inspire me!

Walkers approach the 11-mile mark in our community. Numbers should NOT be on your back!

That morning, which was a chilly 25 degrees, I ran six miles while watching the runners and then walkers travel parallel to me (I was on the sidewalk, while they were on the coned-off street). Even though it was cold, they were ready to try to achieve goals they had set months ago when the temperatures were much too warm.

Sidebar: Oh, how we long for those too-warm days when the temps are in the 30s and below!

It's nice to have some noisy support!

As I watched them, I discovered that I couldn’t wait until it was my turn to be out on the streets of Houston, traveling 13.1 miles from start to finish. I was cheering them on as I jogged along only to find that they were the ones spurring me on! I just hope it’s going to be good karma that will push me towards the finish line Sunday.

Here is a runner's lifesaver: A water stop.

After I finished running, I stopped at my house and grabbed my Nikon dSLR with its Nikon 105mm lens. I wanted to document this event that was happening a mere five minutes from home. Unfortunately, the participants were so strung out once they reached our community at a little over seven miles from the start that there weren’t many groups to shoot. Ah, the loneliness of the long-distance runners! I know it well, being as slow as I am.

Is it an energy drink or is it milk?

Even though I didn’t get to take many photos, it was nice being among the competitors and thinking about what they were experiencing as they pounded the pavement. My final thoughts as I headed home? In one week that will be me going the distance and, hopefully, finishing my fifth Houston half-marathon. Sure glad it won’t be as cold!!

Running for a Reason

My dad in 1969

My dad in 1969

In 1986, my parents were driving from their former home in Virginia to their new abode in the Los Angeles area where my father had gotten a new job. When they got to L.A., my mother called me and said that my dad hadn’t been feeling well, and that she had driven part of the way.

Ever have warning bells go off like mad in your head? That’s what happened to me when I heard the news. My father NEVER let my mom drive. It didn’t matter if they were going a mile down the road or cross country. He was the master behind the wheel. I immediately knew something was wrong.

A few months later I got the frightening call from my mom: My father, at age 57 (a year older than I currently am), had been diagnosed with leukemia. Back then he was too old to qualify for a bone marrow transplant, so his prognosis was bleak.

At first I went through the range of emotions that affect most of us when we hear that one of our important loved ones is terminally ill. But then I got busy. I had been running avidly since 1978, but I only had participated in 5Ks (3.1 miles) and 10Ks (6.2 miles). I decided in the fall of 1986 to train for and run the Houston Marathon the following January in honor of my dad and to encourage him in his fight against leukemia.

I finished my first marathon in January of 1987. My dad, who was touched by my efforts, passed away in March of 1991, almost a year before my #1 son was born. I ran a four-mile race right after he died, and I still can remember crying away the miles.

I’ve finished several Houston marathons since then, but I’ve switched to the half-marathon distance, because it’s so much easier to train for and complete. I haven’t trained for a marathon since 2001, and I only miss those 26.2 miles when I’m watching marathoners finishing. Ah, but then I remember the hours of running and the aching muscles and the agony of mile 23, and I’m glad that Houston started its half-marathon tradition in 2002.

Dick Jones celebrates his birthday.

Dick Jones celebrates his birthday in happier times.

But then my next-door neighbor JJ the organizational whiz’s father, Dick Jones, was suddenly diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma this past spring. It has been a tough, hard battle for him . . . kind of like a marathon. And that got me thinking (always dangerous for me!)—I need to draw inspiration from Mr. Jones’ fight as well as try to encourage him and help raise money for a cause. Why not train for and complete the January 17th Chevron Houston Marathon in his honor?

lls_c_hi_res_jpg

Fortunately, the Chevron Houston Marathon has a long-standing Run for a Reason charity fundraising program. I’ve signed up to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), and I hope my readers will help me inspire Mr. Jones. Here is the link to my fundraising page: Run for a Reason. Let’s show Mr. Jones that he is not alone in his war against this dreaded disease.

In addition to running for Mr. Jones, I also will run in memory of those who have died of leukemia: My father; my stepfather, Earl; my friend Karen R.’s brother, Ron Kalteyer; and my neighbor Tami’s father; as well as my cousin, Lisa, whose life was cut short by non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I hope to gain strength along the route from all of them.

Please join me in my efforts to raise money to help find a cure for blood cancers. I’ll do the running; I hope that you’ll support me by contributing to this worthy cause.

Let’s fight along with Mr. Jones!