Archive for May, 2018



What it was.

A ‘little thing’ has sure made my life miserable for the last 2-3 weeks! You can see it in the photo here.

It was lurking in my running shoe during the BMO Vancouver Marathon. By the time I was done, I had a major soft tissue bruise on my left heel and walking was extremely painful for a number of days. I did have my doctor look at it and pretty much confirm that it WAS a bruise. Recovery is now coming along and just prior to beginning this post, I went for a 2K run/walk, just to see if I could.

What it felt like!!

That little pebble found its way into my shoe, sometime, somehow. I have no idea if it was before or during the marathon. What I do know is that today, before starting out for my run, I was inserting an extra (gel) insole into my shoes just for a wee bit more cushion between me and the road. As I was starting to put the one in my left shoe I felt this hard little bump, right near the back of the heel section. I pulled the shoe’s own insole up and there it was!

Now, had the marathon not been a marathon (shorter race) or had it not been on pavement (it was), or had I run it in far less time (I normally would if I was actually trained), this all might not have happened. OR, I suppose, had I inspected my shoes before the marathon, I might have found that little guy. Well, that may or may not be true since I actually don’t know when it decided to hitch a ride. It may have flipped in there during the marathon, although I can’t imagine when.

Good news is that while my heel is still a bit tender, I think I’m close to the end of this little saga and ready to move on with coaching the Forerunners Learn to Run 5K Clinic and my own training and racing – slowly and carefully, of course.

However, the impact of such a truly, physically small thing caused me to pause and think about how small differences can impact us in a huge number of ways, but since this is a running blog, I will try to keep my comments to things running.

Among the ‘little’ things that can become big might be a whole range of decisions and circumstances.

  • To skip a particular workout (more often a good thing than bad, since missing one workout generally does not lead to ruination of a training block, while doing a hard workout with a borderline injury could end training for a good long while, and maybe your race or performance)
  • In a strong race, to push just a little harder – a few seconds per kilometre or mile might be your BQ time
  • A degree or two of temperature or a few % humidity can make or break a performance
    • And deciding to push in such conditions can make or break you
  • At the pointy end of the field a decision to run for time might cost the win, when you should be racing to win without regard for time (see Boston Marathon 2018, Linden/Kawauchi). OK, so maybe this isn’t small.
  • Arriving at a race with time to spare vs rushing to the start with no time to prepare mentally or physically. The small part being paying attention to leaving home or hotel in good time.
  • Checking your gear to be sure there are no stones in your shoe! OR, that you are dressed properly for the day whether training or racing
  • Paying attention to hydration in a race – that is, NOT skipping water stations on a hot day
  • Paying attention to the condition of your shoes – uneven wear, or breakdown can lead to injury and problems, but wear is subtle and happens little by little over time.

Most of this comes down to mental processes and related decisions that then have a serious and significant influence on physical matters. I would imagine that we have all had times when we were guilty of ignoring or getting on the wrong side of one or more of the above examples. There are probably times too, when we consciously made the right decision and were handsomely rewarded.

I could have included the runner’s number one anthem “I went out too fast.” I could but that is not a small thing because we all KNOW about it and still DO it. The few times I have truly paid attention and executed properly, I have been richly rewarded.

Post-race, sunrise at Reggae Marathon. No winter jackets even if it is December!

I think one of the biggest ‘little’ things is paying attention to the weather/climate and realizing that conditions are seldom static during a race, especially a longer race like a marathon. As anyone who reads this blog knows, one of my favourite events is The Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K in Negril, JA. I have written extensively about it, so will try to be succinct. It is HOT in Jamaica. That is not really news. However, on race morning everyone starts at 5:15am. It is dark. It is relatively ‘cool’ in Jamaican terms. I have seen it around 21°C, although the last couple of years it has been more like 25 or 26°C. As long as it is dark, the temperature stays down. Sometimes, it might even drop a degree. Humidity varies, but at that time of year (first weekend of December) humidity is relatively low – for Jamaica. For us Canucks from the Great White North (at least the part I come from) those temperatures are already full on SUMMER. You must start, by understanding and respecting that. THEN, when the dawn begins to glow in the sky, followed fairly soon by a blazing tropical sun, temperatures rise several degrees in a very short time. Now, you better really be paying attention. That means watching your pace AND getting hydration and cooling at each and every aid station. (The race does a wonderful job of providing the means, but you still have to do your part.) The difference will be having an amazing experience (although far from your fastest time) or having an awful race that could even wind up at the medical tent. Most people are smart enough to not have that happen, but it sometimes does, usually to the racers who want to score some kind of time or PR.

The same kind of thing happens at races where the weather turns out to be unusual compared to normal. Perhaps you go expecting to run a good time, but then it turns hot or cold despite all your training for ‘normal’. That was why I referenced Desi Linden and Yuki Kawauchi and the 2018 Boston Marathon. They won because they adjusted and ran appropriately for the day. Their times? Dreadfully slow for such a race. Their placing? First.

First Place M70-74 at Mt. Charleston Half Marathon and Age Group Record Holder.

Most of us are recreational runners, certainly most of the people who read this blog. We run for our own satisfaction and to meet our own challenges. That doesn’t mean some of us don’t win our age group from time to time. It doesn’t even mean that some of us don’t plan for and strive to win or at least podium in our age group. Being recreational doesn’t mean you aren’t serious, that you don’t train and plan your racing to do as well as you can. That said, for some of us doing our best still doesn’t produce any hardware and it doesn’t matter anyway. The truth is, that I do from time to time pick me up a podium finish, but that is relatively recent and since I’ve become more Seasoned. The photo shows the swag from Revel Mount Charleston Half Marathon. It was the inaugural race, so winning my age group also meant holding the record, at least until the next year when it was smashed by about 30 minutes. Fun while it lasted, though!

When I could run pretty well, particularly in decent sized races, I would still be closer to mid-pack in my age group than near the pointy end. I don’t kid myself: other people’s attrition is more responsible than my training, for my recent success. I suppose if collecting placement medals really turns your crank, then choosing races wisely can certainly help. You could even call it one of those ‘little’ things (a little race is great for coming first out of one, once you start getting up there in the age groups.)

I am struggling with defining things as ‘small’ because they may sound small initially, but the outcome is so big that when you look back you have to conclude that the ‘small’ thing was actually ‘big’ after all.

Running with daughter Janna at Victoria Marathon (half, actually), while pulling off constant effort, brilliantly.

Something I am thinking about as ‘small’ is running to a constant effort through a race. It sounds simple enough, but having the discipline to do it and the experience to know what it is in the first place, is really important. I mentioned the old ‘went out too fast’ earlier in this post. There is the stupid, caught up in the moment too fast, but there is also the miscalculated too fast. In other words you aren’t too fast according to your plan, but your plan was too fast according to your training. That is generally my ‘little’ mistake. If you can run to constant effort and you get it right to begin with, the chances of having a superb race are very good. I think people know what I mean when I say ‘effort’. Simply put, it means if  you can run comfortably at a certain pace on the flat bits, you try to maintain the feeling of the effort necessary to do that, whether climbing a hill (you will go slower) or running down the other side (you will go a bit faster). Where we get in trouble is when we decide to charge a hill and try to maintain pace regardless of the pain. Equally, scorching down a hill to bank time has its own drawbacks. Accepting that you will slow down going up a hill and will not run as fast as you can going down the other side, will often get  you a more even run and a better final time. I can count my own really, really good races on one hand. They were all done that way. I swear. The best (managed) race I ever ran was my first Vancouver Marathon. Quite possibly, the second best is the one shown in the photo, at Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon, where in addition to everything else, I came within seconds of a negative split in a race that was both managed well, and which produced an excellent time (for me, that is).

I have to go back at least 10, maybe 15 years to a June morning when the Scotiabank Half Marathon was being run on one of the hottest days of the year. The course started at UBC, just as it does now. Unlike the current course, we started in a similar location, but headed immediately for Marine Drive and down the hill to Spanish Banks. The result was that instead of being about 10K to the bottom of the UBC hill as it is now, it was more like 5K. I don’t know how many runners there were, but there were a lot. I was running around mid-pack, maybe just a bit ahead of that when we got to the water stop at 5K (I think it was also the first water station). No water. Well, there was water, but the volume of runners overwhelmed the ability of the volunteers to pour and supply. It was HOT (kind of like my description of the Reggae Marathon). I stopped. I waited. Many did not stop, but ran on through.  The second water station wasn’t much better when I got there. I stopped. I waited. I got water. I ran on. Many didn’t. After that we were stringing out and it was OK. However, in those days we ran through Second Beach, Third Beach and around Stanley Park Seawall to Lumberman’s Arch where we finished. While I am guessing a bit, since it was that long ago, I would say if you missed the first two stations, you would have run 10K before getting any water.

Jean spotting for Steve – Scotiabank Half 2011. It was hot that time, too.

As I neared the finish (maybe 1K to go) a chap I kind of knew and had been chatting with at the start was just in front of me, wobbling on his feet and about to go down. I got there just in time to catch him. About then, two young guys who had already finished and were coming back along the route in a bit of a warm-down, asked if I’d finished, to which I said ‘no’. They bade me run on and said they would look after our fallen warrior. I saw him a month or so later and asked how he was and how things turned out. He said: “Oh, I wound up in the hospital, you know! I was really dehydrated and collapsed on the course.”  I told him that was why I was asking, because I was the guy that caught him when he collapsed. He looked at me, thanked me and told me he had no idea as he had truly passed right out.

So, if you think missing a water station is no big thing. Just remember this little tale. It was kind of a big thing to both of us. I finished comfortably. He went to the hospital.

Wear Point Change over time and work with PT. Left is ‘before’, middle is ‘during’ and right is ‘after’.

Coming full circle, in a kind of way, I want to finish by talking about worn shoes. As I already said, most shoes don’t wear out catastrophically in a single run session. No, they crush down, they wear unevenly in key locations such that, as wear continues, it can throw off your form and even cause injuries to knees and hips. I am a particularly unique individual when it comes to shoes and wear. I mentioned my recent encounter with the 27th cousin of the Rock of Gibraltar and at least part of the problem was that because of nerve damage due to a ruptured disk long years ago, I come down hard on that heel and can’t help it. A number of years ago, I began seeing a personal trainer who helped me get a bit more life in my left leg. Because the nerve problem is in my calf, I tend(ed) to drag the left foot. (See the left-most shoe in the photo, marked with red.) It was getting pretty bad. I was tripping quite often and falling. After I had worked with the PT for a time, a lot of that was corrected. I was able to go from scrubbing off the ‘toe-kick’ because I dragged that foot, to having most of the wear on the ball of the foot. See transition to the right-most shoe, marked with green. The most substantial change took place over about six to eight months. I still have a wonky gait but not the trouble I once had. As I said, mine is a special case, but your shoes will wear and if you don’t pay attention and replace them you may well develop some serious problems. The value of really knowing how you wear your shoes and when to replace them is big even if the incremental wear is small within any short period of time. And while it is a whole different subject, it is a good reason why you want to get your shoes from a running store that has staff who know their stuff where it comes to shoes.

I think I am going to stop now. I’m sure anyone who has run much at all, will have their own similar stories about little things; about how the so-called little decisions can be the ones that impact us just as much as a little stone in your shoe during a marathon.




A strange title to be sure, but maybe not after you hear the story.


Boston. 6 Star Finisher (2018)

Running in the Zone (me) was very excited to sit down with a runner who had (as of Boston 2018) just completed the Big Six or Abbott Marathon Majors races to become what is known as a Six Star Athlete. I was primed with questions that all us eager runner types would find interesting: How long did it take (first to last)? Did you qualify, buy your way in, use charity entries, get lucky in the lotteries? Ummm, ……………. how much did it all cost???

OK, let’s step back for just a moment and get everyone on the same page. The Abbott Marathon Majors and the Big Six races that the mortal man must run to qualify to become a Six Star Finisher, represent quite a list of global running races! In annual order the events are: Tokyo (Feb), Boston (Apr), London (Apr), Berlin (Sept), Chicago (Oct) and New York City (Nov).

How it looks, approaching the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Recapping the general introductory stuff, just a bit more: it takes luck and/or money (and the will to spend it on running), if you expect to achieve this goal. I was also going to say a bit of speed since you generally need to qualify for Boston, but if you were right down to it and only had Boston left, there is the Charity Entry as an option. Some of the events will let you ‘buy’ your way in with a travel package that includes a guaranteed entry. After researching all six races, it seems like the two most certain ways to get in are to be fast enough to meet the qualifying standard for a guaranteed entry, or to buy the travel package with guaranteed entry. For most of them, the lottery is a pretty so-so option considering the odds of success.

OK, so now everyone is kind of in the same place here and should understand why I was so excited to sit down with someone who actually owns one of the NIFTY completion medals showing all six races.

What happened next is where the title originates and by which it was inspired. At first I was shocked, then amazed and finally realized I couldn’t agree more.

Our intrepid runner actually said he would prefer that his name wasn’t even used, because that isn’t what he wanted people to take from his experience or this write-up of the whole thing. I pointed out that while I understood his point, SOMEBODY actually went and ran those races! That said, I am going to do my best to stay true to his sentiments and intentions in talking publicly about this matter.

So! What ‘village‘ was responsible for bringing this marathoner along? Our Superhero, we’ll just call him Major Tom for obvious reasons, is a long time member of the Forerunners Marathon Clinics. As he puts it, the community of runners, coaches and supporters. That is the village to which our title refers. As he talked, I realized how many of us who are part of that community probably feel exactly the same way. I am particularly happy and humbled to try to convey his feelings and core message.

Let’s start at the beginning and see if I can do justice to the story and the information shared.

As for many of us, at first running was kind of a health and wellness thing for our Superhero. He would get up early before work, get the gear on and do a modest run of up to maybe 10K. Every three months or so he would enter a half marathon somewhere around Vancouver, but more as an excuse to justify why he got out of bed to go for a run when asked by his non-running friends. He was “Training.” Over the years he ran probably a dozen half marathons, before someone planted the seed in his mind one day: “You should do a Full marathon! It would be a great bucket-list item!” Like all good ideas, once it was planted, the idea grew over time until he decided to do something about it…

So, with a little bit of Dutch courage one night (all the best life decisions are made this way, right?) our Superhero decided to test his luck and put his name in for two race lotteries. If he was only going to run one marathon in his life, it had to be a good one! New York or Chicago were the obvious choices (apparently). He told me he forgot all about this after the evening, something about waking up the next day a little hazy, but a couple of weeks later he got the “Sorry, try again next year” email from New York (a common experience). He confided in me that there was even a little relief when the rejection came. He admits it may have been one of those “What did I just do?” kind of things. Then, a couple of weeks later, there was another e-mail. “Congratulations! You’ve been accepted into the Chicago 2014 Marathon.

A sense of panic quickly set in! What was he going to do? He figured he’d continue to do what he had always done, get up and go for a run… but just a bit longer! This didn’t quite go to plan. He went for a couple of longer runs of 25km – 30km with what he called “horrible results”. He found out what “The Wall” felt like half way around Stanley Park one day and couldn’t get over the mind games that he kept playing with himself as well. You know the thoughts that sneak into your mind sometime around the 30- 35km mark of a marathon when everything is hurting? Yes those ones…

Where it began in 1986, Forerunners on Fourth Ave.

So he found himself in a bit of a dilemma. He knew that because getting into the race is pretty hard and a lot of people miss out, it would not be right to just blow off the entry. Still, he felt he couldn’t do this alone either. After a few conversations with a couple of other runners  and a little internet research, he walked to the Forerunners store on 4th Ave.

He recalls the first night that he showed up to the clinic. Butterflies in his stomach, he started to question his decision about joining when the Coach started talking about pace groups and times. It should be noted our Superhero has never worried about his times, but I’ll get to that later. He also recalls feeling like an imposter. Everyone was wearing marathon t-shirts from various events they had run. To his eye, they were all serious runners and he was definitely not. He mentioned that everyone seemed to know everyone else really well. People were hugging, joking and talking like they were all life long friends. He figured that all the people in the clinic would obviously be running Victoria, it is only a short ferry ride away after all, which meant he would be on his own for the Chicago Marathon. Oh well, it’s going to be a one and run event anyway he told himself, so, “Suck it Up”.

Major Tom nails the first one.

Shortly after, while doing a speed workout with the Forerunners folk, he began talking with one of the group leaders, She asked him if he was training for anything, the answer obviously being Chicago. Her response: “Me TOO!” Within a few moments, there were several more people in the group who revealed they were also running Chicago. He didn’t realise it at the time, but he would have a little “community” there with him and a group of people who would push him along the way through his little journey.

Some of the ‘Villagers’ that did Berlin together!

Once into the Forerunners group, and the various training options offered, he found himself part of a close-knit group of people of similar talent and ability as well as the larger community of all the people of various levels of talent/ability that make up the clinics. It felt good. It felt welcoming. It became a kind of stimulus to work at running and to challenge himself to improve on his own abilities. Now, our man is hardly a back of the packer, but he is still waiting to break three hours, soon probably, but not done yet. It doesn’t matter, but does give context.

Typical Saturday morning at Main Street. Pre-run, marathon clinic.

I don’t want to seem to be jumping on his personal band wagon, but as we talked I realized we couldn’t agree more on the community and encouragement side, and I AM fast becoming a back of the packer. It is part of what makes the magic in the running community. And, while we are talking here about a specific situation and a specific community of runners associated with Forerunners, it is a common experience in running groups whereby you do become part of a true community that supports and encourages.

Maybe this is a good time to get some basics of this particular story, out of the way. It is no secret that all SIX of the Big Six got done, so here is the sequence: (1) Chicago (2014), (2) New York City (2015), (3) Berlin (2016),  (4) London (2017), (5) Tokyo (2018) and (6) Boston (2018). It would be wrong to suggest he only ever ran these six. It isn’t so. Needing to qualify for Boston required hard work and a good race to ensure a time fast enough to meet the ‘fastest first’ policy now applied to the BQ. While there were a number of “Crash and Burn” events, he actually BQ’d twice in 2017. The first time was by 43 seconds, which was not fast enough to guarantee a spot, so he tried again and succeeded 6 weeks later. This time, finishing with time to spare.

London Marathon. Oh! Did we mention Major Tom is from Australia?

Once all this began, the ‘village’ kept him moving forward and for four of the six races, some of the ‘villagers’ came along for the ride. OK, nobody was just coming along. Everyone had their own reasons and goals, but the race(s) turned into something far more than a race with time goals and PR attempts. Far more. It was the experience.
One of the experiences related to me was the impression of finishing the London Marathon. Apparently, the vista before the runner as he approached the finish near Buckingham Palace was so amazing and perfect on the day, and knowing he would not likely see it again, he actually slowed down to take it all in and savour the moment. Would that we might all do that; experience such a moment.

Something I know about our Superhero is that he doesn’t much do ‘technical’. Oh, he has a sport watch with GPS that he uses, but is known in races to tape over the face so he can’t see it. I’ve seen him do it. I actually ran the first race at which he ‘just qualified‘ for Boston, and saw his watch. He just likes to run as his body tells him he should. After, he is quite ready to assess how well he did with it. Although I can’t personally say I’ve ever taped over my sport watch, I do understand his point and I know I get far more out of it post-run when I analyse what went right and wrong, than I do while running. Maybe I need to get that tape out myself one day soon. Whatever, his approach and success is inspiring.

NYCM is in the ‘books’.

We know that all six of these major marathons got done, but that wasn’t the primary message of the story. Before getting back to the community of the Forerunners training groups, I must relate one more anecdote from the roads.

As anyone who pays attention knows, Boston Marathon 2018 was one of the most brutal Boston Marathons in recent history. If you don’t know, it was raining the proverbial cats and dogs, was very windy and was cold. With the wind-chill factor, the commentators of the elite races stated that temperatures never got above 0°C. Apparently it did warm up marginally later in the day but was still very, very cold.

Making it happen on one certifiably AWFUL day in Boston.

At the bottom of Heart Break Hill, there were nine runners going all about the same pace and had been for much of the race. That happens in big events. You often wind up in a small group that never seems to really break up, at least for a long way. One of the more assertive members of this intrepid little group said something like: “Right, three in front, three in the middle, three in back. We are going to do this thing together.” They took turns of about 200m, with the leaders dropping to the back and next row moving up, until they were through that section of the course. Amazing story, but yet another aspect of what runners do together.

Tokyo Marathon (2018). He looks pretty happy. Just one to go. Little did he know what Boston was going to be like!

Back to Vancouver now and the four years from 2014 to 2018, over which the Major series was done.

Don’t worry, we aren’t going to review every workout and minor race done over that time! What is important is that the clinics and run groups go pretty much year-round. You can do that in Vancouver, although some of the winter runs can approximate this year’s Boston Marathon, at least for wind and rain. What is special about that is not that we silly runners will go out in such conditions and run/train, but that our common coach, one Carey Nelson, has for more than 10 years been out on that course manning a water/aid station, waiting for each of us to make our way through. Some of the better runners, cover the distance pretty quickly on our long runs (usually Saturday mornings), but until I began coaching the Learn to Run 5K clinic, I was the pace leader for the slowest marathon pace group and trust me when I say we were a LONG way behind the fast kids!

Water station on NW Marine (UBC Hill).

Coach Carey was still there for us. He could have been out doing his own training, because although he is a one-time international elite runner, he is nonetheless very much an active and very good runner. He is not alone though. This is a bit of a norm with the founders of the store, Peter and Karen Butler do such duty when needed, and other coaches too, as the stores have expended from one to two, to three.

A few of “The Villagers” stop by to wish a local Olympian well. Major Tom is in the back right.

In what other world do you see Olympic athletes not just supplying truly expert and often personalized coaching advice, but also standing out in the rain so clinic groups can keep hydrated, providing tissues for runny noses and if necessary taking people off the course when something isn’t going right. This is the kind of thing that is meant by the community of runners.

Another thing is the encouragement and inspiration that comes when part of such a group. Before a race, clinic members support and push each other to improve. By push, it is not meant as the idea of cracking some kind of whip. No, nobody who runs (or plays other sports), always goes out, every time, feeling great and running to peak performance. It is on those days that the others drag us along (in a good way) when we just aren’t feeling it. Other times it is you who is doing the ‘dragging’.

In representation of “The Village”, Coach Carey symbolically ‘presents’ the Six Star Medal.

When it is all said and run, this community sits down after a workout or after a race over a coffee, beer, food to just kick it all around. Congratulations go along with the ribbing. Trash is talked, but heartfelt concern shown for those needing support. Individuals come and go as life dictates, but over the years a group seems to endure and to have the spirit that inspired this man who wanted me to write about that part of the experience that got him from a sometimes lonely early morning run to the owner of a fancy Six Star medal, supported by this amazing community made up of all its components, only some of which is described here.









Finishing my very first marathon.

As posted previously, the BMO Vancouver Marathon marked the 30th anniversary of my fist marathon and my first Vancouver Marathon. I guess if I had been paying closer attention, I could have figured out how to make it my 30th marathon too. Of course, I count ‘marathons’ like a Marathon Maniac. How’s that? For the purpose of your MM statistics and level qualifications, anything 42.2K or longer counts as a marathon. So, I actually have 28 marathons and one 50K Ultra. We’ll just call it 29 marathons.

It has been an interesting journey and nobody need worry that I am about to chronicle the whole thing.

A small part of the King Edward High School track team (1962). That’s me in the back.

Beginning at the beginning, I used to run (mostly shorter distance track) when I was a kid. I also played soccer finishing up on a UBC team before a knee injury put an end to that. For the next twenty odd years, I would try to do this new thing called ‘jogging’, but any distance at all at that kind of pace would produce a piercing pain in my knee. I could sprint for a short distance and walk forever, but I couldn’t jog. Over the years, I tried several times, but it wasn’t until I was 39 and getting too heavy and out of shape that I decided to MAKE running work. I figured that if I could run about a mile at a jog pace (I could) without pain, that is what I would do and I would do it more or less every day. I consulted my doctor about it, because under the circumstances of my motivation, age and relative current condition, you really should. I also mention it, because in the end it was Dr. Don’s fault that I even ran my first marathon.

The old at the new. Me and the shirt (old) and the posters at Expo (new)

As you might imagine, after a bit of doing a mile a day I began to wonder “If a mile, why not two?” About three years later, I ran my first marathon. It was Vancouver 1988. Not surprisingly, given the title, that was 30 years ago. It was actually May 1, 1988, so Vancouver 2018 was a few days past the precise anniversary but that is neither their fault nor mine. We came as close as the calendar would allow.

Did I pique your curiosity just a little when I blamed/credited my doctor for my decision to take on the marathon? As you might have guessed, he was a runner too. Living in a small town, we ran together fairly often. Why was it his fault that I ran my first marathon? Well, when he told me it was the second most exciting thing he had ever done next to his honeymoon, how could I resist??

Start of Vancouver Marathon 1988. Trust me, I’m in there somewhere!

Little did I know, but my first would be my best and fastest. After that first one, I was pretty sure I would do more. I had trained well and felt strong. I had run closely to my plan. There was nothing to make me swear off ever doing another. However, back in those days marathons did not happen every weekend. You had to hunt a little to find one. It didn’t bother me that much. I was pretty busy just around then. One would come along soon enough. Apparently, I ignorantly missed out on a lot for that attitude. Only a few years ago and because the magical and illusive BQ has remained out of reach, I sleuthed out the BQ time for my age in 1988. It turned out it was BQ-worthy. In my own defense, I must say that it was not as big a deal back then. Yes, you had to meet the standard, but if you did, you were in. While I was happy with myself for my time, I was not as impressed as I maybe should have been. I was hanging out and running with so many people able to go sub-3:00, that my 3:24 wasn’t that impressive (to me anyway).

Two years after my first marathon, almost to the day, I was in a hospital having back surgery (ruptured disk). While recovery was pretty good, I seemed to have lost the edge I had prior to surgery. It may have had something to do with the residual nerve damage in my lower left leg (old and well chronicled news).

All my PB times came when I was 43/44 and were still improving when interrupted by the disk problem. That included my half marathon time. A bit more than a year after my surgery, and while living in Brussels, Belgium, I ran the 20K of Brussels, which was as close to a half marathon as I did around that time. I trained well and seriously. My pace prior to surgery, at half marathon range was 4:26/km and after, 4:48/km on a slightly shorter course. That is only 22 seconds slower per kilometre, but it adds up and represents a time difference of 7:42 over a half marathon. I never got that back. Obviously, with that kind of loss, I was not likely to better my marathon time. Also, I was very busy with work and family and although I certainly DID run I didn’t race much for a good 12-14 years. That went on up to and through 2002. There were a couple of periods when I did run/race more, but not steadily. There were also a couple of aborted attempts at doing another marathon.

Janna Finishing RVM 2000

Dan Finishing RVM 2000

My second marathon was kind of a Year 2000 project. I resolved I would train for and run a marathon. I actually intended that it be Vancouver, but I wasn’t anywhere near ready. I finally pulled it off at the Royal Victoria Marathon in October 2000 (which has now morphed into the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon). The fun of that was running it with daughter Janna, who was taking on her first. I now found myself over four hours, never to dip under again. Not a lot over though, and still my second best raw time at 4:17. I mention this as a set-up for something coming ten years later. Oh, and Janna went sub-4:00 for her first time. Just to complete the family story re marathons, our oldest daughter, Danielle came out from Toronto to cheer us on and was so impressed that she went home, trained for and ran her own marathon a year or so later!

Danielle, Dan and Janna 2007 at Victoria Marathon. That year we all three did the half marathon. My shirt was from the 2000 marathon, though.

So, you might think that having got #2 under my sneakers, I would be running more marathons. Again, life got in the way. About the time I got rolling again, we moved to Malaysia for almost two years. There were NO marathons happening over there (for me, anyway), even if I did run nearly every day. When I got back to Canada and settled into Vancouver it seemed time to get another marathon on the go. In 2004, I signed up for and did Vancouver again. It might as well have been a new race, because it certainly was a different route. Time and therefore my age was making a difference. In 2000, I was already 55 years old, not the spry young runner of 43 that I was in 1988.

Napa Marathon. It was a challenge!

I was not that inspired in 2005, but in 2006 I really wanted to do a marathon somewhere that wasn’t Vancouver or Victoria. I picked the Napa Valley Marathon. When you would read the web site description of weather and conditions, it was near ideal for marathon running. The day before and day after were pretty much as advertised. The day of the race was brutal. A storm rolled in and we were being threatened with wind gusts of up to 50 mph. That never happened, but we had steady rain, steady wind of about 15 mph (24km/hr) and gusts to 25 mph (40 kph). If that wasn’t bad enough it was also cold, probably never higher than about 4-5°C. Because it is a point to point route, we were lucky enough to have a headwind the whole way. While not quite as bad as Boston 2018, I had no difficulty understanding what those people were going through.

I just kept going slower and slower, but never did myself any major damage. I decided to use Napa as a training run and signed up for Vancouver again, where the outcome was far more satisfying.

Janna and Dan ready to start the NYCM. Shirt design courtesy of Danielle!

2007 saw me make the big move to run the New York City Marathon. After that one, I swore I would never run NYCM again. Why? Not because it was so awful, but rather because it was so perfect. Again, I ran with Janna (and SHE came home with the big BQ). Because I was then RD for the First Half I got in on a race directors’ special program and special it was, including grandstand seating to watch the US Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials the day before (Ryan Hall won). Day was great, had other friends there and made a last minute decision to bring my wife Judi along (originally she wasn’t going). Oh yeah, considering I was coming back from injury, the race was pretty good too! I actually passed and beat the whole cast of Star Wars and a lighthouse!

Vancouver 2008 (20th Anniversary). Nearing the finish! Again.

In 2008, I got right carried away with myself. Being big on anniversary things, I signed up again for Vancouver for the 20th Anniversary. Unfortunately and as chronicled in detail in a post prior to this year’s marathon, I hurt my back getting out of the shower about a week before the race. Long story short, I got it done anyway.

Later that year (September) we planned a vacation to Maui, where I was signed up for the Maui Marathon. That one was HOT. Bart Yasso (RITZ contributor and CRO for Runners World) ran it too and afterwards declared it officially brutal. By this time, I was chasing the illusive Boston Marathon ‘BQ’ again and was planning to run the California International Marathon in December. I was signed up for the Half at Victoria as a kind of preparation race for CIM. I didn’t do much damage to myself in Maui, as it turned out, so a bit on the spur of the moment (because Maui kind of amounted to the long slow run building up for Victoria) I switched to the Full. FWIW, Maui was the first marathon where I went over five hours. It wasn’t surprising, but I had some fun with it, telling running friends my time had been 4:66. That brought some strange looks, until they figured it out and had a good laugh (at my expense).

That began a string of races where my time got incrementally better as I chased after a BQ. It went Victoria (2008), CIM (2008), Victoria (2009), CIM (2009), Eugene Marathon (2010). As it happened, the Maui, Victoria, CIM sequence qualified me not for Boston, but as a Marathon Maniac! Still, it took several years before I joined, because all of the very few Maniacs I knew had dozens and even hundreds of marathons to their names. Thankfully, some of them told me, “That’s not what it’s all about- JOIN.”  I did.

Rolling by Hayward Field, about nine miles into 2010 Eugene Marathon.

Eugene in 2010 was a huge milestone for me. You may recall I mentioned something about my second marathon in Victoria in 2000 being second best raw time, but to wait for what was to come. Well, this is what was coming. Around this time of incremental, yet ever better results, I was working with the Forerunners marathon clinics and really driving my training. In Eugene, finishing on the fabled Hayward Field, I laid down my third best raw time, 10 years and 10 marathons after Victoria 2000. Those 10 years were important though, because my Eugene time was only about 10 minutes slower than the race in Victoria in 2000 and clearly, by some distance, my second best age graded result. Getting older does slow you down, but not nearly as much or as fast as you might think, if you are ready to work at it. I’m not sure if it was some kind of running karma or reward, but I got my first marathon podium (3rd M65-69, with 16 of us in the category). I nearly fell over when they handed me the slip of paper with my splits, finish and placement! But, I didn’t get the BQ. I did get a lot closer though.

Six of my seven Reggae Marathon medals.

I promise to ease back on talking about every marathon, but I have to say that with progress on the Boston time, I headed into 2011 with fire in my eye and planned a triumphant return to Eugene. Unfortunately, stepping in the most modest of potholes on a training run, I tore some cartilage in my knee, which I didn’t know at the time. It kind of came around a bit as the target race (Eugene) approached so I decided to go ahead and do the marathon, knowing full well the progression of better and better times had come to an end, at least for the time being. Bad decision. It cost me most of the rest of the year of racing. That said, as Fall came on I did have a diagnosis and regimen to deal with the knee and I began the seven-year love affair with the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K that continues to this very moment. (FYI – you can’t run Reggae Marathon and CIM – they are the same weekend, and starting this year, will be the same day.) I was signed up for the actual marathon in Negril, but miscommunication and unfortunate transport arrangements saw me reach the start line nearly 2.5 hrs late. I mean, it IS Jamaica, but even there, ‘soon come‘ just doesn’t cover that amount of time. Lucky for me, I was able to run the 10K and get credit. No marathon though. Not to this day and very unlikely to happen now.

I think somewhere around that point in time, I began to realize marathons just had to be for fun. I joined Marathon Maniacs at Bronze Level, but marathons #17 through #22, moved from the base level to Two Stars or Silver Level, by running 6 marathons in 6 consecutive calendar months. One of them was the Elk-Beaver 50K mentioned before.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon – #gettingair – Racing CAN be fun!

I’ve done some seriously downhill races in hopes that I might trip and roll my way to a BQ, but that hasn’t worked yet either. I traveled to favourite races with favourite people (yes, I’m talking about Eugene and a LOT of Forerunners runners). That is always great fun. I ran the current BMO Vancouver course because it was relatively new and would mean that I had run Vancouver on three distinctly different routes. I’ve ‘Run the Strip at Night‘ in Vegas and through a tunnel (Light at the End of the Tunnel). I’ve run them cold (that would be Napa) and hot (Maui at 90°F, 90% RH and a bit of volcanic smog). I’ve run ’em dry (Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon, near Salt Lake City and ever so wet (Vancouver 2014). I’ve done them BIG (NYCM) and pretty small (Freedom Marathon – #3 in a Maniac Quadzilla four marathon weekend). Some were hard. Some were fun. All were satisfying.

That brings us to 2018 and the 30th Anniversary of the first time I ever ran a marathon or the Vancouver International Marathon. As I mentioned in the preview post, I really wasn’t trained. How I missed the point that it would be the 30th, I don’t know. Couldn’t be my age! Still, having done the Seven Summits of Vancouver Challenge (longer and hillier) in October 2017, I figured I could tough out a marathon on almost the same route, minus 5K and at least three major hills. I had signed up and was in the process of getting ready to train for the half marathon, but switched up to the marathon. I’m so glad I did.

Pre-Race with Walter Downey. You remember him, he was featured not long ago.

Unlike 2014 (wins for wettest ever), it was an absolutely gorgeous day in Vancouver. Spring has been late, so trees were still blossoming, flowers were out in profusion and the sky was largely blue. In theory, it was hot for ideal marathon running, but a high of 21°C is not really THAT hot. I knew a lot of people running and saw many on the course (not to mention before the race started). I guess it was warmer than ideal. While the first half of the race went almost exactly to plan (actually about 2-3 minutes ahead of the theoretical split times I had in mind), I will admit I was only able to run to my training. Funny how that seems to work.

A few steps from the finish! 30th Anniversary Marathon in the books. Coming in for a high-five with photographer, Mary Hinze.

The second half was a grind. That said, it was no surprise and there was no sense that things had gone badly off the rails. I expected most of what I got and in truth was only 10-15 minutes slower then my realistic prediction/plan. (We won’t discuss my optimistic plan.) I can even account for some/most of the extra time in terms of one PP stop, a pause for re-application of sun screen, another for re-application of Body Glide (yes, when it is hot and you keep pouring water over yourself, chafing happens) plus a brief self massage to loosen up a rapidly tightening ITB. None of it mattered except to point out that I got exactly what I expected. I’m not saying the finish line was not a very, very welcome sight. It surely was. So were the people I knew, still there and cheering us stragglers in, not to mention Judi and her friend Ann. The icing on that finish line cake was good friend and co-editor of Running in the Zone, Steve King, calling me home over the last stretch, with his magic commentary.

May 6, 2018: 30th Anniversary Marathon. Done!

Oh, and to save  you the trouble of trying to count them up (’cause I didn’t actually name them all), it was the 29th marathon, and my sixth running of the Vancouver Marathon.