30 YEARS OF RUNNING 29 MARATHONS

05.11.2018

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.

 

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