Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rock N Roll Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 13th Edition
322.4 miles raced in 2009

Race: Rock N Roll Marathon
Place: San Diego, CA
Miles from home: 751 miles
Weather: 60s; cloudy, humid
My original goal for my birthday run was to do 7 miles after the marathon. That didn't work (or more accurately, I was told last minute, for no real reason other than incompetence that it wouldn't work), so I switched to running 7 miles before the marathon.With this change, I knew I was going to be a tired puppy for the "actual" race. You see, the run before the actual race contained a nice little hill which I hadn't originally had in my plans.  But hey, at least someone got their way, after they removed their panties from the bunch they were in.

In order to make sure I had enough time to get to the start of the race and get into my starting corral for the 6:30 AM start, I had to leave my mile 7 starting point about an hour before that. That means I had to be up at 4:30ish. Yuck. Fortunately, by complete luck in booking a hotel, the mile 7 marker was less than two blocks from where my hotel was. Yay!

Prior to the race I had one of the most physical and mentally exhausting weeks in recent memory. My idea of running a sub-3 hour marathon after the 7 mile warm up was rather ambitious for someone ho is only a 2:49 PR guy to begin with but the additional events that transpired made it even more difficult. When I saw the race day temperature would barely get into the mid 60s by the time I should be finished I rejoiced. However, upon waking up, dressing and heading out to the door to 91% humidity, I knew I was going to have to re-evaluate my plans.

A rather uneventful jog backwards through the first 25% of the course is what transpired, if you do not count me making one wrong turn and having to backtrack. Also the looks of all the volunteers as a runner with such a low number (the Rock N Roll Marathon people were kind enough to give me number 33 for my 33rd birthday) was running in the complete wrong directions, miles from the start, not too long before the race would begin was quite funny.

As I neared the start, I made note of how much I was already perspiring and how little of it was evaporating. Yep, I was not going to be running a sub-3 today.

In the VIP area just minutes before the race, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Ryan Hall for the first time. Ryan and fellow US marathoner Josh Cox (who I have actually had a few email conversations with and appears to be a very nice guy) were pacing the son of the London Marathon Race Director in hopes of running a 2:25. Full details of how and why can be found here. Ryan turned out to be the same humble, self-effacing and polite man who also happens to be the fastest US-born American marathoner ever. It was quite a pleasure to meet him.

Before long the Running Elvi were assembled, the Team in Training masses were readied, the skinny elite runners were prepped, and the gun sounded the beginning of my 98th lifetime marathon.
First 10k: 6:40, 6:59, 6:56, 6:33, 6:52, 7:11
Just a few hundred meters into the race I heard a familiar voice and my friend Sam appeared next to me. Sam has the enviable distinction of having one of the most painful personal best marathon times out there: 3:00:04 (or something akin to that). Agonizingly close to breaking 3 hours and doing so at a solid 190lbs give or take. This after once weighing in excess of 260 lbs. I asked him if he as going to shoot for sub-3 and he said he would see what the day would give him. I told him I would be happy to run with him as long as possible and try to help him out.

The next few miles had us feeling out the course and having just ran it about 45 minutes earlier I was able to tell him exactly where aid stations and everything else would be set up. I had a plethora of people wishing me Happy Birthday,apparently noticing the "See Dane Run" on the back of my singlet and having heard my story in the days prior. I was flattered and touched.

Right after the 10k mark I could tell Sam was struggling to keep up the required 6:52 pace. He told me that I should just go ahead without him and shoot for the sub-3. When I said I was happy to run anything under 3:10 I could sense he had no problem with me pulling ahead. Before I knew it, I was doing that exact thing and this is the last I would see of Sam on this day.
To the halfway: 7:12, 6:57, 7:30, 7:04, 6:18, 7:11, 7:00
Elapsed time: 1:31:17

Around mile 8 as we began the climb through the biggest and one of the only hills on the course, the need to use the restroom overcame me. Well, actually it overcame me a while back but the necessity of a portapotty is what held me from remedying the urge I had.

Taking my sweet time in the bathroom, partially as I was drenched in sweat and was hoping to cool off a bit and partially because the toilet paper had not been removed from its protective wrapping, I was in the bathroom for much longer than one would normally do so in a race. When I came out I expected to see Sam and thought I would encourage him to get moving. Unfortunately he was no where to be found.

At the top of the hill around mile 10, I was feeling pretty good, especially since this was essentially mile 17 for me and typically where I start to play mind games to keep myself mentally sharp. Right here my good friend Kate appeared and ran with me for about 100 yards. Cheering on her friend Sonia she said she had been looking for me as well and hoped I held together for the rest of the way. I told her to wish her friend good luck and tell her husband Jimmy he is a chump. (Just kidding, Jimmy. Good luck at Western States in a month!)

Sliding down the other side of the hill towards the halfway point I was trying to decide what time I wanted to run today. Maybe a 3:03:33?
To mile 20: 7:14, 7:19, 7:20, 7:31, 7:52, 7:58, 7:12
As I went through the halfway point I made a decision. I think I actually made said decision out loud: "Screw it. I am going to have fun." So rather than do a cutesy little time goal thing with all 3s I was just going to enjoy the day. Part of this had to do with me being rather tired, I am not going to lie.

Somewhere in the next few miles there as a line of teenage cheerleaders. With the effects of humidity and the miles weighing on many, their cheering efforts were not being acknowledged by many of the runners. I ran over and high-fived them all, grabbing pom-poms and doing a "We Love Runners yes we do! We love you runners!" cheer.

A little further down the road I saw a black lab who looked just like my parents puppy at home so I stopped to pet him and let him lick the oodles of salty sweat off my arm. I think I was his most favoritest runner of the day.

Around mile 18, I knew my friends Todd and Lisa would be waiting so when I saw them on the side of the road I pulled up and sauntered over nonchalantly. Todd said that when he saw me stop he thought: "uh-oh!" But we chatted for a bit, I told them that I had essentially run a marathon already and was a big idiot for taking on 7 more miles at the end. After a few more seconds of talking I told them I needed to skedaddle.

Barely 100 yards down the road my friends Cindy and Christy who own Running gave me a holler. I waved and one of them began running with me. Looking at her Garmin she said" I want to see how fast you are running!" I replied: "Well, let's see how fast I can go!!" and turned on the burners. She laughed and fell back before snapping a picture of me passing by.

I had barely gone another quarter of a mile when a voice shouted out: "Dane Rauschenberg!" There on a bike was a law school classmate of mine who I hadn't seen in 7 years! This was the busiest stretch of road I have ever had in a marathon!

I suddenly had new found energy and even with my breaks to tussle little kids hair, grab popsicles from spectators and have a merry old time, I was still running some great miles.

To the finish:7:13, 7:53, 7:00, 7:29, 7:48, 7:48, 1:43
As I crossed the bridge at mile 20 and headed past Sea World, I saw the last major exchange for the relay race ahead. Tons of people were crammed onto the sides of the road and a very familiar voice came over the Loud speaker. It was my buddy Rudy Novotny! When he saw me he immediately began to say so many nice things about me to the crowd. I think he was a little shocked when I came up to him and stopped to say hello. Rudy told the crowd I was doing 33 miles on my 33rd birthday and there was a huge cheer! After talking for a few more seconds, I said: " OK, Rudy. I guess I better go finish these last few miles!" and away I went.

A few miles later, one of the many rock bands on the course was playing a little AC/DC or some other hard rock stuff and I began to headbang as I went by. The band loved it and when I threw my hands up in the air he gave me a wave to "come on over." What the hell? I ran over to the stage, up a few steps and started head banging on the stage! "It's my birthday!" I yelled before jumping down and getting ready for the final 5k.

As the final miles ticked away, a girl I had run past and then fallen behind numerous times by stopping and talking to people, came up to me on my right. With less than a half of a mile to go, she was going to get a huge PR and a sub 3:10. She said, "Come on, Dane! Let's go!" I told her "No way! You earned this 3:10, you need to run in all alone, Erin!" She smiled brightly and said: "Well, I couldn't have done it without your encouragement and fun-loving spirit out here on the course." It was my turn to smile big and I playfully pushed her forward and said "Go get it!"

In the final 100 meters I began to wave to the assembled masses and thanked them for being out there. 33.2 miles after I started running that morning, with the final 26.2 timed, I crossed the finish line in 3:09:47.

What a birthday!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Recent Interview- Run Oregon

I recently gave an interview with Kelly Johnson who writes for Her posts fall under the heading of Run Oregon but she was kind enough to reach out of her NW corner of the United States to take the time to interview me and review my book.

You can read her review here. Enjoy and thanks Kelly!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My birthday run

Last year I started a tradition I hope to be able to keep up for another 50 years - running my age in miles on my birthday.

On 32 birthday in 2008, I ran the tail end of a 4 mile race I helped direct in the Reston, Virginia area, picking up the mile markers as I ran, sweeping the course for any debris. I then went for about 21 miles of running with my friend Jay Wind, wherein we were belted with some of the hardest rain I have ever felt in my life as we ran along the W & OD trail. (On the map it is the "F" east of the mile 20 marker to RT 495 and back along the red line.)

Lightning crackled overhead and Jay said, "Well, at least we aren't underneath power lines". This was funny since the path we were on follows directly, a long line of massive electrical power lines for miles and miles.

I then packed up Jay's vehicle, which included attaching a balloon arch of a finish line to his comically overflowing minivan. Jay wished to use this arch for another race we were directing about 15 miles away in Georgetown. Jay left to drive on 66 into DC with this balloon arch trailing behind him (if you are from the DC area, imagine this: a dilapidated Minivan, filled to the brim with race cones and mile markers and everything else, with 60 feet of balloons trailing behind it, sticking out of two windows as it rapidly approaches the Beltway.)

I then went on another 6 mile run in the opposite direction on a day which had started warm and humid, rapidly turned into horrible storms and was now cooling a touch and had the sun shining brightly.

After finishing my 6 miler, I hopped in the car and headed into G-town myself. Along side the road on Route 66 was a large conglomerate of mostly popped and whipping in the traffic-induced wind, balloon arch. I did not get a chance to take a picture of that as I was laughing too hard.

Reaching Georgetown I had the pleasure of doing a quick Q&A with some runners at a gym whose building was about half a mile from the start of the 8k I was helping to direct and also run. Michael Wardian and I answered questions for people who had gathered and many were actually running in the race just a short while in the future. It was a very serene and calm setting, especially since most of the people were wearing the bib numbers for the race they would be running!

With this done, I hustled out to the start and seeing there was nothing more I could do to make sure the race could go smoothly, Jay said I should just run it with the others. As I lined up for the final 5 miles of my 32 for the day, I was pleased that I had been able to fit this all in. I had been up at 4 am to drive my friend to the BWI airport from DC before going out to help with the race in Reston. Then after this final 8k, I actually went and had dinner with a friend, called up another friend who I hadn't talked to in years, and wrapped up the whole day by going out until about 2 am with another new friend. Quite the day!

Well, this year I will be getting my miles in without any such rest and hopefully without any of that excess travelling. You see, I will be taking part in the San Diego Marathon held right on my birthday. I have wanted to do a marathon on my exact birthday for years now and here is my chance.

The current plan is to start at mile 7 of the course about an hour before the race starts around 5:30 AM and head towards the actual start line. (If you know me, this is about 2 hours after I usually go to sleep. This may be the hardest part of the entire idea!)

I am hoping to time my arrival to get me to the start mere seconds before the gun will be fired so that I can cross the mat and turn around and start the marathon. More than just finishing the 33 miles I will be going for a sub-3 marathon as well. It might be a little ambitious given not only the day's events but the past two months. But that is why they are called "challenges", right?

I will also be taking part in signing books at the expo, and I will be doing so at the Under Armour booth with my good friend Anne Bonney! Anne is quite the traveler herself having run the Antarctic Marathon, although she chickened out on the nude dip in the arctic water. :)

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Stillwater Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 12th Edition
296.2 miles raced in 2009

Race: Stillwater Marathon
Place: Stillwater, MN
Miles from home: 1,324 miles
Weather: 40-70s; dry and sunny

Going into this race I had a lot to think about. One of the many great things about racing as many marathons as I do is that I get empirical evidence to back up many of my statements. For example, I felt I could go under 2:50 even running multiple marathons. I did so last week, in spite of some who said there was no way I could. But going into the Stillwater Marathon I was curious if my hard effort in getting that sub 2:50 would leave me flat otherwise.

As I have mentioned many times, in my Kentucky Derby Marathon a few weeks back, I ran one of my worst times ever, mostly because of the unprecedented heat that day. When I rebounded with a stellar Pittsburgh Marathon performance as a Charity Chaser, I felt vindicated and thought the heat of the KY Derby marathon alone was what had decimated me so. However, I had some lingering doubts that perhaps my collapse had something to do with my PR attempt at Salt Lake City the week before where I ran a 2:53. As such, would me getting that 2:49 hurt me badly in Stillwater as I hoped to pace the 3:10 group to perfection? Instead of debating it and wondering whether it would, I am fortunate enough to be able to go and test that theory!

Race expo:

I was scheduled to speak on a variety of occasions at the Stillwater Expo. However, we felt that the current setup that was originally planned was not conducive to allowing the maximum amount of listeners to hear my speech. So, on the fly, we threw down some chairs in front of my booth and blammo! Instant speaking area.

I had quite an enjoyable time getting to know so many of the race participants, many who were just a short drive from the city of St
illwater. The speeches were well-attended, I got to answer some insightful questions and dispense lots of last-minute marathon tips. However, I was eager to get some sleep and get my last race as a 32 year-old underway. So not long after the expo closed, I was grabbing a quick dinner and heading back to my hotel. Yet, I could not fall asleep right away and I tossed and turned a bit. I was wondering what the next day would hold.

Race Day:

Signed up to be the 3:10 pace group leader, I knew that in a marathon in its inaugural year, that the number of runners whom I would have with me who legitimately would be trying for a 3:10 would be low. However, if I only get one person across under that magical threshold, than that is more than enough for me. As a group gathered behind me holding my dowel rode with the 3:10 group sign attached to it, I wondered who would be with me the whole way.

My usual race day instructions were put on hold as an invocation was given as well as the story of Jon Francis was told. I feel THIS link does a much better job than I can of telling his heat wrenching story.

Soon after we all composed ourselves, the race was underway.

First 10k: 7:05, 7:08, 7:22, 7:23, 7:15, 7:15
Goal: 44:56
Elapsed Time: 44:55

A few hundred meters into the race, I turned around and began to tell those behind me how I would be pacing them. I asked how many were running their first marathon and when no hands shot up and no voices outed themselves as newbies, I felt maybe I had a good chance to have a high number of 3:10 people with me as we crossed the finish line just a few hours from then. There were a heck of a lot of runners out here so who knows?

After a mile or two of trying to settle everyone down, and almost literally fighting back the surge of my runners as they pushed us forward, we settled into a nice even and almost perfect pace. Our first hill at mile 4 slowed us just a touch but after the slightly fast first two miles, we were right on schedule. A surprising amount of spectators were out in force to cheer us on. I say Surprising as the city of Stillwater only boast about 15,000 residents.

Passing over the 10k mark only one second off pace, one of the runners right beside me named Phil, chuckled out loud and shook his head. "How did you do THAT?" he said.

Half Marathon:7:15, 7:18, 7:18, 7:16, 7:11, 7:19, 7:06
Goal: 1:35:00
Elapsed time: 1:35:02

Starting around the 9-mile mark, we began to climb through the second hilly section of the course. Passing by the Minnesota Correctional Facility I told the runners to think about how lucky they were to be outside of the barbed wire running on a day like this, instead of inside looking out. Someone commented that we should not pickup anyone in an orange jumpsuit. I gave the retort that if the prisoners could maintain a 7:14 minute mile pace until the end, they should be allowed to go free.

Even as we went over hills both up and down, my crew stuck right with me, repeatedly nailing almost exactly-paced miles. As usually happens when I pace, I had a few guys who felt the need to run right ahead of me for miles and miles. I mean, RIGHT in front of me. I often have to weave around them as they fluctuate in their own pace. I mean, understand the machismo reasoning behind this - the whole "I don't need YOU to pace ME". Nevertheless I tried convincing as many as possible that if they wanted to run with the group, well, they should run WITH the group - not in front of it.

Nearing the halfway point, we began to climb what would be the second-to-last big hill of the day. With the 13 mile marker at the top of its crest, I urged my runners to run this hill smart and easy and then enjoy the downhill on the other side. Even though I fell back a few meters as some of the runners shot ahead, I was still pulled along with them. Next thing I know, we all ran through this mile, with its rather tough hill, in a phenomenal 7:06.

Now just two seconds off of the goal pace for the day, Phil once again laughed and said he had no idea how I was nailing these times. I told him it was good luck.
Or maybe the 96 marathons I had run previously.

20 miles: 7:03, 7:13, 7:05, 7;13,7:14, 7:00, 7:25
Goal: 2:24:40
Elapsed Time:2:24:35

Just when I was feeling that I had a super solid group that was going to crush mile after mile, my group began to dissipate. After cresting the hill, I easily had 10 members running right with me. Within a mile or two it was down to 5. Another mile after that and there remained just four total, including myself. We passed a golf course, went down around the bend, made a 180 degree turn and now there were three. Myself, Phil and the only lady who had been running with us the whole time - Jess. Here Jess almost continued right pass the turnaround and proceeded to run right into me as the headphones she was wearing didn't allow her to hear the instructions the volunteers had shouted.

I will admit I was a little perturbed with her earphones. Especially when on numerous occasions I had told my pacees a few things about the course, such as "We have a hill at X mile and another one at Y mile" and she would ask a few minutes later: "Do we have any hills left?" I get the "need" for them by so many. I really do. Doesn't make them any less annoying though.

In fact, as we began the final stretches of this race, it was just Phil and I, who were establishing quite a rapport, and the girl who we would just call "iPod" for a few miles.

Phil had already run a sub 3:10 before with a PR of 3:04. with no one else anywhere close to us and me not being able to converse with Jess, I admitted to Phil I was a touch bored. If no one needed me and I still had 7 miles to go, I told him I just wanted to get the darn race over with. People think that as a 2:4x guy a 3;10 marathon is "easy". Believe me, 26.2 miles is never, ever easy!

At one point Phil said that mile 20 was just on the horizon. I thought it was mile 19 but since earlier in the race I had actually lost track of where we were (even though I had hit my watch at every mile marker) I believed him. When the next sign marker appeared and it said Mile 19, I think both Phil and I were a little bummed out. "Wishful thinking, Phil?" I asked.

In fact, I should have know better as mile 19 began the last and final big uphill of the day.

And here is where Jess became a little more conversational. She asked if this was the last time we would be dealing with a hill. I said, all we had to do was get to mile 20 and we were home free.

To the Finish: 7:08, 7:13, 7:09, 7:13, 7:17, 7:04, 1:28

Phil said he was feeling good and was just going to see what he could do. I told him I was going to keep back and continue with my 3:10 pacing effort. When Phil pulled ahead, Jess looked at me and I told her I was right on pace. She slowed a little bit and fell back beside me. Still listening to her iPod, she seemed to be in a zone.

We began the final downhill slope towards the end and the St. Croix river appeared on our left.

I was doing all I could to not only run my pace but also keep Jess in check while looking behind me to see if there were any hard charging 3:10 possibles. None appeared and none would. The only people we were passing now were those who were doing the variety of shorter races head throughout the day. Something told me that Jess had never been in this territory before. Unless we were mistaken she was the lead female. So now, my job was to not only keep the 3:10 pace going, but to help the potential women's winner!

As the miles ticked down and we hit the 25th mile, I made an executive decision. There was absolutely no one who was coming close to the 3:10 time. Phil would eventually finish in in 3:08 and the results show that the next fastest person behind me would be nearly 4 minutes over a 3:10. So, when Jess picked up the pace in the last mile I decided I would be her personal Paul Revere. With every crowd we encountered, I would shout: "First female!" and the people would go ballistic.

As we rounded the final bend and saw the balloon arch of the finish framed by the Stillwater Lift Bridge, I began to extol the assembled masses to cheer for Jess. Falling a step behind her so she could enjoy this special moment all to herself, I pointed to her and raised my hands in triumph.

Jess ran a 3:09:06 and won her first marathon ever. I came in two seconds behind her and was soon enveloped in a bug hug. Jess had removed her iPod and began to tell me that there was no way she could have done this without me. Not only was this a win for her but her first time under 3:10.

On a day when I wasn't sure how my legs would respond to a hard effort the week before and when I had been quite bored 75% through the race, I was able to find a way to make this last race as a 32-year old, special to me.

Sorry for the sweaty shirt, Jess.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Running through Stillwater

There really is no better way to see a new town than on foot. That is why, regardless of how tired I am when I get off a plane in a new town, somewhere in the next few hours I am going to go for a run. This practice started for me before I was even all that much of a "runner" per se back in 2000 in Florence Italy. Studying law for a summer in the great Italian city, I was the first of my roommates to arrive that summer day. Wanting to shake off some of the jetlag and see the town, I laced up my shoes and went for a run.

Long story short, I got lost. Bad. I blame it on the cute Italian girl on a bicycle (not a racing one, but the kind with the basket in the front, filled with all sorts of yummy looking food) who led me astray. Two hours later and lord knows how many Italians I questioned, I found my way back home. No idea what I was thinking, as I left my apartment and neither checked what street I was on or what the building was called. Nevertheless, for the rest of the summer, I was directing my pals to a nook or cranny that I knew about in the city because I had spent hours running
around it looking for my particular nook and cranny of an apartment.

So after landing in Stillwater late last night for the Stillwater Marathon this weekend, I thought about going for a run. But it was dark and I was exhausted from a day that included losing my wallet and then having the person who found it, "rewarding" themselves for their effort by liberating me of all the cash in it. So this morning, the shoes were on and away I went. Fortunately, in 2009, the internet is far more helpful in finding your way around a new city so after plotting a brief course, I was ready to go.

I immediately noticed the humidity. It wasn't bad and given the temperature reading on the bank was only 67 (it had been in the 90s here earlier in the week) I wasn't complaining. But boy, the difference between the high desert of SLC and places like this is instantly recognizable.

I ran past a beautiful body of water called Lily Lake with a small playground situated in front of it. The few children playing waved and shouted hello without hesitation and the mothers did not hurry to see who the stranger was running by.

I passed through some old style homes which I just don't see too much in Salt Lake and reminded me a lot of the oil homes in my hometown of Titusville. After winding through the outskirts of the downtown and taking in the fresh air and lilacs blooming, I headed down towards the St. Croix river which separates Minnesota from Wisconsin. Looming ahead was the Stillwater Lift Bridge.

Down along the waters edge was a paved path that just was begging for me to run on it. However, and I really cannot explain why, there is just nothing like running from one state to another over a bridge. I love it. Boundaries set by man are so arbitrary. My property ends here and yours starts there. This is the state line. Don't trespass onto this land.

But natures boundaries are not to be trifled with. Here is a mountain range. You must go around. Here is a river. Swim it, find a way around, or build a bridge over it. They are set. Permanent (or at least as permanent as things can be). So I decided to run to Wisconsin. After stepping foot in Green Bay Packer land and immediately getting the hives (I am a Chicago Bears fan after all) I hightailed it back to Minnesoooota.

I could see on the way back over some beautiful homes situated on a cliff race overlooking the St. Croix River. So I turned my rudder toward these homes to see the view they had. On my way up a pretty steep hill I passed the most adorable park (FYI, I passed about 7 children's parks in my 7 mile jaunt. Stillwater seems to know how to take care of its youth). I wish I was making this name up as it is too frigging cute to be true but the name of the playground area was Teddy Bear Park.

I mean, seriously. Disgustingly cute.

Time for me to head back. I needed to shower and eat before the expo and my speech began. And I knew exactly where I was going to eat: Darla's Grill and Malt Shop and downtown Stillwater. You simply can't pass up a Malt Shop.

Seven miles and my little tour of this gem on the St. Croix river was over for the day. I will do the extended 26.2 mile tour in 48 hours.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

While Others Find Reasons Not To...

Some are too busy doing what they shouldn't be able to.

At the Ogden Marathon this past weekend, I heard of a great story that I wanted to share. At first, I was going to incorporate it into my own recap but realized that a sentence or two couldn't do it justice.

At the awards ceremony after the race I remember remarking that the female winner of the marathon did not have that "usual" look to her. She looked a little older and perhaps, just a smidgen heavier than your usual winner. Now, please let me clarify my use of the comparative adjective here. The winner did not look "old" or "heavy". Not one bit. Not one single iota. I am calling her neither old or heavy or anything negative. Simply -er on both of those words than the usual winner. You know, enough that it gives you pause.

It was not surprising to learn that the women's winner, Anna Judd, was a mother. Let's be honest here -we are in Utah. Heck, even I am almost pregnant. But to learn that she was less than a week from her 40th birthday and that her time was 2:58, well, that's when I know I have a little story I need to share with my readers.

Anna has run the Ogden Marathon 4 times, including the inaugural race in 2001. Her goal was to simply break three hours "because I haven't done that. I did not expect to win, but a marathon can be anybody's day." This sentiment was echoed by the men's winner, one Seth Wold of Salt Lake City, who simply went out and shaved 5 minutes off his marathon win time of the year before. FIVE MINUTES! When asked about the pressure to repeat, Seth simply replied "I realize with running that you can only control your own race. If somebody has a better race, then it's just their day and I'm happy for them." But one one came close to Seth as he went on to win by over three minutes.

Anna, however, won a nail-biter only by passing the eventual second placer finisher in the final few miles and winning by 22 seconds. But what a story for both these athletes. Seth is definitely an up and comer on the national cirucit with a time like 2:22. And Anna?

Well, as a 40-year-old mother-of-one, she just nullified all those excuses out there I hear from others who say that either Father Time or parenthood is what is keeping them from achieving. I guess they will have to find another excuse now.

Way to go!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

2009 Ogden Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 11th Edition
270 miles raced in 2009

Race: Ogden Marathon
Place: Ogden, UT
Miles from home: 40 miles
Weather: 30-70s; dry and sunny

I had hid from no one that the Ogden Marathon was going to be my attempt to set a new personal best in the marathon distance. In fact, it wasn't just breaking my time of 2:51:40 that interested me. Sure, running faster than that would be great. But my main goal, the only one which would truly make me happy, was running below a 2:50.

As runners we assign extraordinary weight to arbitrary number values. If you run a 4:00:00 marathon, it can be devastating - but one second faster in 3:59:59 and pure elation follows. Ticker-tape, cheers of joy, hugs all-around. With me, it has personally been the same way with breaking into the 2:40s in the marathon. There are a multitude of real reasons why breaking into the 2:4X:XX range would be beneficial for me but mainly I just wanted it. And wanted it bad. Take a stroll with me.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Well worth it Part II

I not only paced an appreciative group of runners at Fargo last weekend but also seemed to get one of my more thankful and verbal groups as well. I received another great email and as I love sharing good news, wanted you to see it. As soon as Darius gets me some more info on his own journey, I will be updating this entry here. For now, his email:

Hi Dane,

I thanked you at the finish line of the Fargo Marathon last Saturday, but I want to express how thankful I am for your support in leading the 3:10 pace group to Boston qualifying times. Thinking back to my first marathon in 2004 that I finished in over 5 hours it seems crazy that I was even running with your group.

At the start line you told the group "if you stay with me you will be in Boston". That is something that I kept in my head for the entire race and told myself that I have to do everything to stay with you. I slowly dropped off the group just before the 25 mile mark, but knew I still had a chance to make it to Boston if I ran as fast as I could at the time. It was close, but I crossed the line with a time of 3:10:50. I don't know if anything will top the emotion that I experienced after finishing and knowing that I did it...I qualified for Boston.

I plan to run the Boston Marathon next year. I know that this accomplishment would not have been possible without your pacing, encouragement, energy and advice. I will never forget the experience of running in a group of runners chasing the same goal.

Again thank you Dane, keep it up and run on!!

- Darius K


Darius was kind enough to send me his picture from the finish. That is one happy guy!

For those of you who think they cannot improve dramatically over the course of a few marathons, look at Darius' rocketing up the time charts:

2004 Manitoba Marathon 5:02:59
2007 Manitoba Marathon 4:11:03
2008 Manitoba Marathon 3:32:37
2009 Fargo Marathon 3:10:50


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Well worth it.

* Bloody ankles.

* Sore body parts.

* Chafed upper buttocks ( I have no idea how that one happened, by the way).

* Lost luggage.

* People who don't realize they can walk on moving sidewalks, escalators or at least get out of the way of those who want to do so.

All made irrelevent when you receive emails from people who you helped get their first Boston qualifying time like the one below:

Dane I just wanted to say thank you for everything you did during the Fargo Marathon for your pace group. I was part of “the pack” from about mile 2 to the very end. When I crossed that finish line and earned the chance to run the Boston Marathon I was absolutely floored by the emotion. It was my 3rd marathon overall, my first qualifying time, and I don’t think any experience will ever top this. I am planning on running Boston next spring and I don’t know if that would have been possible without all of the support, advice and energy you gave to the runners around you. 

 I had never been a part of a pace group before and I will never forget the experience of crossing that line under 3:10, knowing what it meant to me, and seeing and congratulating other members of the pack on completing their goals at the same time. I assume you must get hundreds of emails from runners thanking you for the inspiration, advice, encouragement…etc that you give them – but this truly was 3 hours and 10 minutes I will never forget and I wanted to thank you.  

PS – thank you so very much for the 3:10 pacer sign as well – That will definitely be a part of my Boston memorabilia after I go. Take care and run fast and safe. Brian Voeller

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Fargo Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 10th Edition
243.8 miles raced in 2009

Race: Fargo Marathon
Place: Fargo, ND
Miles from home: 1154 miles
Weather: 30-40s; cloudy; some rain, some windy conditions
Putting on a marathon is an exhausting, tiring and often thankless task. (I know this from personal experience and have learned vicariously through others.) And that is when everything goes right. So when late March precipitation in various forms flooded the Red River in Fargo to record heights, doubts about whether the Fargo Marathon would be even run immediately cropped up. Volunteers, townspeople and paid workers seemingly toiled endlessly to shore up dikes and make new walls to hold back the surging water. They weren't doing this to save the marathon but rather to save their homes and the town.

However, their efforts were just indicative of the sort of effort that the marathon committee itself was doing to save a race about to enter its 5th year. With Herculean planning at basically the 11th hour (OK, maybe 10:30 PM but close enough) the Fargo Marathon assured all its runners the race would go on, albeit slightly modified in nature.

Instead of heading over to Moorhead, MN across the surging Red River, the race would now stay completely in Fargo, making 2 laps of the same 13.1 course. To me, I loved this idea. I did not assume many would echo my sentiments. Why? Well, I have come to find that people will often complain about anything in a marathon. There is absolutely no pleasing everyone. Besides running many races, I have read about many races from various sources. I talk to many racers of all speeds to get their viewpoints on how a course looked and felt to those finishing under 3 hours to those bringing in the sag wagon.

Complaints and seemingly illogical whining are not limited to any one particular speed of runner but they are more focused on those who are ignorant of marathoning history. By this I mean those who have either just started running or haven't taken the time to learn how we got where we are now. Those who complain that there are not enough choices of fluids on the course or that the race did not cater to enough needs seem to be oblivious to the fact that even the Boston Marathon did not have official aid stations until the late 70s and early 80s was only after almost boycott by a previous year's winner until something was done about it. So, I never expect everyone to agree with me when I praise a race. (Ironically, the ediotr of Marathon and Beyond Magazine wrote a similar editorial piece about entitliement in Generation ME in this month's magazine). But praise the Fargo Marathon I will and quite often.

Race Expo

I had a busy day the day before the race. I am not even sure how I had a chance to sit down to sign books as I was running from radio interview to press conference to television interview and twice giving speeches to the assembled crowd. I nevertheless got to enjoy sharing a booth with a runner and coach I had met previously at the Illinois Marathon a few weeks ago named Gerard Pearlberg, or Coach GP to everyone on the planet.

GP's story is quite amazing even if you only look at how he has improved his marathon times. With a first marathon of 4:43 to his current PR of 2:34 (and a 3rd place finish at the Napa Valley Marathon), GP shows he knows how to improve his time and has coached many runners to do the same both online and through his book, Run Tall, Run Easy.

GP and I kept each other quite entertained with funny anecdotes and stories and soon had an entire language of inside jokes even if I could understand his British half the time (I kid, GP!) Well before the day was done I had sold out of my book and was taken advanced orders from those in attendance. Time in and time out, GP were dealing with some of the most pleasant people, be it runners or Fargo locals and were often saying "Well, you sure as hell couldn't get away with that in a big city!"

GP and I also spent some time with a friend of both of us - Bick Deardsley. (Complete inside joke. ask me someday). You might have heard of this runner as one of the greatest in the history of American marathoning or as he is better known - the author of the foreword to my book See Dane Run. :)

Even with the little time I spent at the booth, I got to meet some new friends and also finally greet face to face some of my readers from all over the country. I never tire of this sort of meeting and it is always great to spread my joy of running.

With the (rather exhausting) race expo day wrapped up, I grabbed my 3:10 pace group sign and headed over to my hotel. My 5th marathon in 4 weeks time lay ahead in just about 10 hours.

Race Day:

After my hot day debacle in the Kentucky Derby Marathon two weekends ago, I have been weather watching like I was a paid meteorologist. When I saw about a week ago that the weather looked a little on the cool side for race day in Fargo, I was ecstatic. As race day approached it kept getting cooler. When I woke up for the race it was 32 degree. Brr. But I will take cold over hot any day and as I moseyed over to the starting line toting my 3:10 pace group sign I was surprised how not cold it actually felt.

It was a little hard to give my usual pre-race instructions to those who were gathering around me as the PA was up a little too loud. A few runners mentioned there was just a little too much pre-race chatter. I told everyone who could hear me to just stay tight and over the miles I would give plenty of instructions, advice and bad jokes. The would be look back on the time of the loud announcer wistfully as the most pleasant part of their day. This got some good chuckles.

Soon we were afoot.

First 10k: 7:15, 7:04, 7:19, 7:12, 7:09, 7:12
Elapsed time: 44:37
Goal: 44:56
I told the runners assembled around me it is nearly impossible to take the first mile slow. Crowd excitement, revved engines and goals in the mind push you forward too fast far too often. So when we hit the first mile dead on, I was stoked. Then we went 11 seconds too fast on the 2nd mile. Whoops! A lot of that was because we were trying to get around many runners who simply were not where they should be.

I get a fair amount of page views every single day to this blog (whether I post or not). I am guessing a fair amount of you who read this are runners. I am again guessing that you have running friends. I IMPLORE you to forward this next little bit on to every runner you know.

Please, PLEASE, pleeeasssse - puh-leeeeeeeazzzze line up properly at the start of the race. In the year 2009, ANY race that has ANY amount of people that MAY POSSIBLY slow you down at the very beginning of the race so that it could take you a few seconds to get the the start WILL have chip-timing. As such, YOUR correct time will be accounted for. I promise. You ABSOLUTELY do not need to be at the front of the race line unless you plan to run the pace of the rest of the people at the front of the race line. I will NEVER understand the logic of pushing to the front only to get passed by hundreds and hundreds of runners almost immediately. It is self-defeating, disheartening to get passed by that many people, but most importantly, it is EXTREMELY dangerous and inordinately rude to those faster runners who have to run around you. This slowdown at the start causes gridlock, tripping, elbowing, swerving etc. I beg of you to know your pace and move to the appropriate start. And if for reasons I have not thought of, it is absolutely imperative that you be at the front of the pack when you don't run at that speed, I triple beg you to neither:

a. run three abreast
b. wear any sort of music-player that impedes your hearing in such a way that you do not hear runners trying to pass you.

My rant is now over but I truly mean every word of the above. I am absolutely certain that we wasted a fair amount of energy running around through, over and by, far too many runners who were simply out of place. I am in no way trying ot be rue to slower runners. This race is just as much yours as it is the fastest person in the race. However, you simply must no race etiqutte! But I digress.

As soon a we were able to get out to mile 3 and away from the masses, our pace settled down to exactly what it should have been. When we hit the 10k, I whipped a cellphone out of my pocket and called GP (who was announcing at the finishline) to tell him the 3:10 group was right on pace. Someone asked if I was calling my wife and I said: "My bald British male friend will get a kick out of that one!"

Halfway point: 7:16, 7:17, 7:15, 7:12, 7:14, 7:13, 7:19
Elapsed time: 1:34:30
Goal: 1:35:00

With my pack firmly in charge of the roads, we began to really settle into pace. Almost every mile was about as dead-on as possible and this was hard to do for a number of reasons. First, the course was so flat and easy that my runners were chomping at the bit. I would often sort of get swallowed up by the pack as runners would push by me, look back and see I was behind them and then readjust their pace. When we hit the mile right on they would shake their heads and laugh, knowing I was going to bring them to the promised land (Boston) if they just ran with me.

Second, the crowds were fantastic. For those who have only run in big city races or were running one of their first marathons, they had no idea how spectacular these crowds were as people lined almost every square inch of the real estate of the 13.1 mile loop. Part of this has to do with the fact that because of the two-loop nature of the course fans knew they would see not only the half-marathon runners but the marathoners twice in the exact same spot (and sometimes double that as we ran up and then back down a street a few miles later). The other fact had to do with the civic pride that Fargo had in its marathon. People were thanking runners for coming to run and we were thanking them right back for being out there. Remember, as great as low 40s is for running it can be pretty miserable for fans standing in one place. I was not the only one in my pack that was continual in my thanking of not only police for manning the streets but for volunteers and those cheering for us for hours on end.

I spoke to a volunteer afterward who told me a usual conversation around town that weekend was whether you were going to run them arathon, helped put on the marathon or cheer for the marathons. there seemed to be no other option for the townspeople. With a population of only around 90,000. I bet your that 1 in 9 people were lining the streets if not more. And they were cheering. I was asked by runners if I was going to hold my pace sign the whole way and I told them in my best Fragonian accent: "Yah, you betcha!" When the crowds roared for us as we went by, confirming that they would do that exact same thing, I know it made my pacees happy that I held onto that sign for the whole race.

As we neared the FargoDome to begin our second loop, I told those in my group that we now knew what lay ahead. No surprises and no reason to worry. I expected that my pack of 20 strong would be whittled in half when the half marathoners took their turn to finish in the warm and friendly confines of the FargoDome and readied myself for the second half.

To Mile 20: 7:21, 7:18, 7:15, 7:12, 7:11 7:12, 7:19
Elapsed time: 2:24:52
Goal: 2:24:40

Imagine my surprise when nearly every runner in my pack stayed with me as we began our second loop. I was so shocked and enthralled and excited. I began telling my runners some of my trade secrets for staying focused through these next seven miles (which you have to run with me for me to reveal.) I was doing everything I could to keep my runners focused and also continue to run my own race. Contrary to what many think, regardless of how fast you can run, a 3:10 marathon is never "easy". One is still traversing 26.2 miles and as a pacer the desire to pull your runners along with you can sap your strength.

On top of that, for whatever reason, my shoe was bothering me. My right ankle was being rubbed and I could tell there was going to be some chafing. In fact, I looked down at one point and saw that my white sock had a splotch of blood on it. One of my runners looked down at the same time to see what I was looking at and said "Nice sock, Schilling!" (For those not getting the reference, my sports-minded runner was making an allusion to the blood seeping from Curt Schilling's sock in the 2004 baseball playoffs where he famously pitched just hours after having surgery on his ankle and receiving a cadaver's tendon in the process.)

I told him I hope I get the playoff bonus that Curt got when we crossed the line in just a few miles.

To The Finish: 7:10, 7:18, 7:18, 7:17, 7:19, 7:27, (last .2: 1:21)Goal: 3:10:00
As the miles passed by my group stayed tight. When the wind would whip up they would heed my advice and use me as a shield (for the most part at least. Some runners, who baffle me to this day, use me as a pacer but like to stay right in front of me or slightly ahead to the side. No idea why but it would make my job a lot easier if I did not have to keep dodging them!) We lost a runner here and there as one fell back or surged ahead but we were a solid group of about 7 or 8 as the miles ticked by. Each mile brought us closer to our goal, a shared goal even though it meant so many different things to so many people.

With about a mile left, as always happens, those with the desire to get this darn race over with, pushed ahead. There goal was not to hit 3:10 right on the nose but rather break 3:10 or get as close as possible and not pass out at the end. The finish line and that time was often what they had been dreaming about for months and working hard for mile after mile on this day.

For about half a mile I was alone. I then came upon this sprite-like female who I had seen pass us miles before. I could tell she was struggling just a bit and a post-race analysis of her times proved this (she slowed considerable in the last 10k). With no one else around me to pace I slowed my step a bit and began to encourage her the best I could. She picked up the pace but then quickly fell back. I began to encourage her again and these same thing happened. Pick up, back off. I could tell that she was obviously going to qualify for Boston (being a young female she has a much slower time than a comparable man of that age) but I also knew she was hoping to break into the 3:10s. However, up ahead I saw another runner who had been right by my side for miles and miles. For about 10 steps I saw his pace slack and now I knew I had a new charge to get to finish line.

As we neared mile 26 I saw I had slowed by a good 15 seconds off the previous pace. I knew we were going to get a Boston qualifying time (3:10:59 or under), the question simply remained whether it would be under 3:10. Bill was this runner's name and I could see he wanted that BQ more than anything else in the world. My showing up by his side lit a fire under him and away he went. He left me in the dust over the next quarter of a mile and I smiled inside. As two more runners appeared by my sides who had been with me earlier but slowed a touch at the end, I now had two more reasons to run.

Around the outside of Fargodome, down the ramp and into the final 100 yards we ran. I thought I might have a chance of an exact 3:10 but at the time I did not care. With fans cheering from the stands and an carnival-like atmosphere all around us (the expo was still open for runners and spectators alike as we hurried down the chute) every runner felt like a rock star.

We sprinted across the finish and began high-fiving and hugging. I found Bill who was beside himself with glee and he just thanked me over and over again. The 3:10 sign which I had been holding for hours had broken in a stiff breeze at one point. I handed it to him and told him he deserved it.

I found out he ran a 3:09:52 and smiled at that. You can't get away from that number 52, can you? :) As for me, I was pretty close as pacer shooting for 3:10:00 as my chip time revealed I ran a 3:10:01. Not too shabby. I spent the next few minutes hugging and laughing with tons of runners who were so grateful for my assistance during the race. So many PRs and new goals were srt. As good as my memory is I think I may take a tape recorder next time to get all of their stories.
I quickly found the RD Mark Knutson and lavished praise on his course, the city of Fargo and all those involved. I implored him to keep the two-loop format, not only to encourage spectators to stay on the course longer but so that interactions amongst runners could continue. It is obvious the nearby city of Moorhead should be involved once the flood damage to the roads is solved but I truly believe that this two loop format is an absolute winner. Having run Mark's other marathon in Illinois (a first time event that was an extremely well-run event) I was not surprised that he and his committee pulled off another spectacular event. As I have told many, Fargo was originally on my schedule of 52 to run in 2006 but finances changed those plans when I was able to run a race much closer to home. since that time I have been eager to make it back to the land made famous by the Coen brothers. I had high expectations and I can honestly say I was not disappointed.

To all of those at the Fargo Marathon: "Uff Da!"

Next up: the Ogden Marathon in Utah on Saturday. While logic states I should in no way try to set a new PR in my 6th marathon in 5 weeks, that is what I will be shooting for nonetheless. Hope to be sharing that news with you in less than a week!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Holy Softball Pitcher

Nope. No batman like pun here. I just came back from running the Fargo marathon, sat down in my hotel room and before i even showered saw this story about a high school softball pitcher in Connecticut.

Rachele Fico is her name. And pitching is her game. Or more accurately, playing catch with catcher is her game. She has thrown 25 perfect games (meaning no batter made it to first base for ANY reason be it walk, run, error etc), 46 no hitters, has a career high school record of 93 wins and two loses. Her ERA is .006.

Oh yeah, she is also her school's only pitcher. This is where a collective ARE YOU KIDDING ME crept into my mind. still caked in sweat and salt and funk from my marathon, desperately needing to shower, I began to google this girl. I am dumbfounded.

She has given up2-3 hits this entire SEASON. Her teammates often will go games before they even need to field the ball. In her most recent game, she faces 21 batters and struck out every single one of them.

Rachele, you are my new hero. Knock them dead at LSU this fall. (Now, seriously, I need to shower).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sawtooth Relay - Dane's version

In a previous posting about a speech I gave in Boise, I made mention of something I had brewing for this summer involving Shu's Idaho Running Company in Boise, ID. Well, many of my faithful readers wondered what this event may be but never really checked my upcoming schedule (which I always tell my friends is up-to-date and always contains information that usually answers their questions). Well after a week of having this information posted and still receiving "So when are you going to tell us what you are ding in June?" emails, I guess I need to do a posting about it!

On June 13th, from Stanley to Ketchum, two towns in Idaho, the 61.9 mile Sawtooth Relay takes place. Six teammates, each running two 5 mile legs (approximately) will battle it out. I, however, will be running it solo.

This isn't the most novel thing in the world. People have been running long-distance relays solo for years. In fact, the Sawtooth Relay actually has an option for solo runs. This actually made me quite pleased since I now did not have to petition the RD to allow me to run it solo. However, I will be petitioning him to add .2 of a mile to the race. Why? Well, right now it sits just shy of a quarter of a mile short of being a full 100k (62.1 miles) and I figured since I am going to be running so darn long I might as well get an official 100k time out of this!

(ADDENDUM: I unfortunately was not able to persuade the race director to add 400 yards or so to make this race a true 100k. I am disappointed as I have a feeling there is plenty of real estate in the middle of Idaho to find 400 yards extra but I am nonetheless still running the race.)

I will be running under the Shu's logo and name and am proud to represent such a great store. When I was on my run the day before the Pittsburgh Marathon with Bill Rodgers, I mentioned how I had been in Boise recently. "I hope you were at Shu's!" Bill said. If you need any further recommendation of a place, then I have no idea what I can give you!

In case you are wondering, this is not just going to be 62 miles of running. I wish! No, there will be 3694.5 ft of climbing and 4241.3 ft of downhill (the race website has slightly different numbers - I am going by my map below), all in the 6,500-8,500 feet above sea level range. Ouch. Look at that hill at the halfway point (click to enlarge it). I am pretty sure I will be crying.

All my logistics for crew have not been worked out yet but if you are willing and able to give a little assistance that day, let me know. Every one of my crew members will receive a gift certificate for a free pair of Spira shoes of their choosing! How is that for incentive?!
So get in touch with me and let's go do some running in Idaho!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pittsburgh Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 9th Edition
217.6 miles raced in 2009

Race: Pittsburgh Marathon
Place: Pittsburgh, PA
Miles from home: 1840 miles
Weather: 50-60s; humid, some rain, some windy conditions
I think it was the French Renaissance philosopher LL Cool J who said: "Don't call it a comeback".

After one of my worst marathons ever at the Kentucky Derby Marathon last weekend (recap here), I was really feeling the effects of three marathons in 3 weekends and all the traveling I had been doing. The Pittsburgh Marathon presented me with the opportunity to raise a lot of money for the Pittsburgh Promise (details on that here) but there was also a lot of pressure. As I tell audiences that come and hear me speak over and over again, there is no such thing as an easy marathon. Have run dozens of them does not guarantee success in the next one. I knew forecasted weather for this weekend looked a LOT better than last weekend's so at least I had that going for me.

The days before the race had me making a trip to Titusville to make sure everything was going great for the upcoming Drake Well Marathon. I couldn't be more happy with the progress there and it was quite neat to actually watch my high school participate in a dual track meet. I am turning this recap into a page of links but please take the time to read the piece I wrote about my old high school track coach here. I am happy to say they won again handily and Coach's loss record still hasn't hit double digits!

In Pittsburgh the days before the race I got to meet some of the very kids I would one day be benefiting by running on Sunday. Speaking to a 6th grade communications class on the north side of Pittsburgh, I was presented with some of the most thought-provoking and intelligent questions I have ever received after one of my speeches. Gone were the limiting questions. By that I mean adults often would inquire about my life in a way that showed that they were looking for excuses for why they could not achieve this type of goal. "You had corporate sponsors, right?" "You didn't work that entire year, I assume?" "There is no way you have a family or kids or a mortgage or car payments or......." The kids instead wanted to know how they could do it. They wanted to know if there were ways for them to achieve other things in life that were similarly challenging. Instead of trying to bring what I have done to a level of unattainablilty they tried to raise themselves up to challenge their own limits. I cannot tell you how much of a breath of fresh air this experience was.

After that I got to once again treat myself as Bill Rodgers had come to the Pittsburgh marathon to speak as well and we once again went for a little run around the Steel City. Bill and I talked about numerous things, some running, some not and the 5-6 miles flew by. His insight and years of experience help me every time we speak. I am grateful for his friendship and also pretty darn giddy every time he asks me if I want to go for a run.

Race Day

This was the sort of race I love to run. with a 7:30 AM start and my hotel just 2 blocks from the race start line, I got up at 6:50 AM. This left me just enough time to shower, use the restroom, put on some clothes and mosey to the start. Ideal. Nearly 10,000 people stood between me and the starting line but I felt no rush to get to the start.

Nevertheless, it would have been nice if they had moved JUST a little bit for the guy wearing the double digit number so I could get to the start where I was to meet with the PA announcer and a few others. By the time I got up to the front, there were about 90 seconds left. The pre-race anxiety I usually feel simply wasn't there. I loved it.

The gun fired and the Pittsburgh Marathon was underway for everyone but me. Soon thereafter I was announced to the crowd after the runners were underway but would have preferred being announced to the runners before so they knew who the idiot running past them and weaving in and out was and wouldn't get angry at me. Alas.

After the absolutely last person had crossed the start line I waited around a few more seconds. I knew there would be a straggler or two and I was right. First a joggler went by (the guy who juggles while he runs) and then a few others who apparently wanted to be the last to start but upon seeing how I was standing in the middle of the road and showing no apprehension whatsoever about not moving, got it in their heads that this was not a battle they were going to win and finally ambled off. I then gave it about another minute or so to allow the people to actually get out ahead of me. I did not want to immediately run up the back of people and in spite of the urging of the crowd and the announcer held still for a few more seconds. Finally, almost 9 minutes exactly after the race started, I was off.

First 10k (6:28, 6:53, 6:12, 6:12, 6:43, 6:37)

True to form, I took the first mile a little faster than desired. My goal was to break 3 hours which, given how exhausted I was from the previous week, seemed to be a lofty one. So even weaving in and out of the runners the first mile's time being 24 seconds fast (a 6:52 minute mile is a sub 3- hour marathon) was shocking. Around mile 2 I saw my high school friend Teri and her mom who were waving hand-held signs. I smiled really big as it has been years since we had crossed paths.

I reeled it back in for the next mile but then surged like crazy for the next two, shocking myself with consecutive 6:12s. I know exactly why I sped up here. You see, this part of the course was where the most children wearing the Pittsburgh Promise logo were stationed. Their cheering and screaming pushed me on to passing as many people as I could right then and there!

I was already very thankful for the 50 degree weather and completely cloudy skies as 78% humidity really hung in the air and then onto my specially designed Charity Chaser shirt. I ran past some people around mile 6 who said "Wow, he is already soaked!"

Doing my best to weave but also be unobtrusive was difficult as this type of running is like herding cats. I was already a little thirsty but avoided every aid station and instead used those opportunities where everyone else was crushing each other on the sides to run unimpeded down the exact center of the road. I knew soon enough I would be more free to grab drinks, breathe freely and not take an elbow to the ribs as I skirted by.

To the halfway point: (6:37, 6:43, 6:47, 6:49, 6:37, 6:49, 7:06) 1:28:30 half split

Each mile or two had me passing a pace group and I shouted out encouragement to all of them. I caught the 3:30 pace group a little after mile 7 where the first relayers were making their exchanges. I was running surprisingly well in spite of my fatigue and the relative humidity and know I owe most of that to the "chase". The question was how well I would run when I passed most of the runners and had little more to go after. I hoped that relay runners would spur me on as the race got long. But right here I was doing great and feeling wonderful.

After a few miles through the "Sou-sie" which is Pittsburghese for "SouthSide" I passed the 3:20 group which looked strong even though their numbers were few. We crossed the Birmingham Bridge and prepared for the most difficult climb of the day up to the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. I will say this for the race organizers: Pittsburgh has a LOT of hills, and they did their absolute best to avoid most of them. Absolute kudos goes out to them for that!

Heading up the Forbes Street hill I saw a familiar friend. Dave is his name and he was one of the original runners in the 2006 Drake Well Marathon. Dave has been battling some health issues lately but was absolutely crushing the course. I jokingly said: "Out of the way, old man" and he smiled big. In am email later he told me that I again looked drenched. I said I was doing my best to stay watered but was feeling great. I then left him behind and wished him well. He went on to finish in a stellar 3:15. He is on the comeback train! Below is a picture of the first time we met at the Hatfield and Mccoy Marathon where he soundly spanked me (Dave is on the right.)

Cresting the hill in Oakland I looked to my right and saw the street I lived on for a year in between college and law school. Hard to believe that was a decade ago. The halfway marked loomed and even with a slowish mile up the big hill, I passed in a time I was super pleased with.

To mile 20: (6:42, 6:45, 6:50, 7:11, 6:40, 6:48, 6:57)

Around mile 15 or so it started to rain. Well at least a high humidity could have a cooling effect! Right there we passed a bank with its display showing the temperature and it was still only 57 degrees. Pretty darn perfect. A slight biting wind took hold here for a few miles but it was brisk enough to cool off some of the sweat I had accumulated. Unfortunately the rain was thoroughly soaking me and I could tell there was going to be some chafing later on.

I needed to use the bathroom and had felt this need for miles but could never find a place to quickly get in and get out. I had a job to do and it was not lingering in a portapotty line! Around mile 17 I saw I had just passed two bathrooms and did the unthinkable by running backwards 30 yards to hit one of them. Fortunately they were open and soon I was back on the course feeling much better. (And was quite pleased with a bathroom break mile of 7:11)

Some rolling hills kept runners honest through this section and at mile 18 I saw the 3:10 group appear ahead. This was a little bittersweet as I knew the numbers ahead were going to get slimmer and slimmer. I slowly crept up to them and tried to keep an even keel pace until another mile or so when I would once again turn the speed on. Well, "turn the speed on" is a very relative term for me dear readers!

At mile 19 I caught the pack and said, " I hope everyone is feeling great!! Who is going to Boston?!" My enthusiastic cry was met with blank stares and sour looks as if I had just invaded a private party. All right then. I picked up the pace and then all of a sudden heard a voice say "Anyone who went to Dickinson Law school is a jerk." I turned around an lo an behold was a law school classmate (well, two years ahead of me) and all around great guy, John Cherry. Was one of my favorite people at Dickinson and to be 100% honest, I had seen him from behind and thought: "Wow, that sorta looks like John Cherry." But I knew John was living in North Carolina and didn't even know he was a marathoner. Well, here he was and running great in his 9th marathon ever!

John and I chatted for a bit and he actually confirmed without me asking that, for whatever reason, the 3:10 group was a little surly. I have to admit I have never heard of such a thing before but was glad I wasn't the only one thinking this.

When we hit mile 20, I saw I had run a few seconds off of my pace and told John I had to either let him go or he had to keep up with me. He said he was going to let me go and for the next mile or so I could hear him behind me cheering on runners and talking to spectators. Great guy. Ended up running a 3:09:22 and said he had never felt better after a marathon.

To the finish: 6:47, 6:59, 6:21, 6:22, 6:52, 7:31, (.2 in 1:52)

I was glad to see my next mile was back below pace and also it brought a smile to my face when a fellow runner friend named Lloyd stepped out to take my picture.

I then almost hit a 7 minute mile again as I began running with a woman from Ohio named Mary. We chatted for a bit and I found out that she has a marathon PR of 3:14. I told her that she was well under that and would crush it if she just held on. She immediately began to match my step and it was worth the slight bit of slowing to now have a running partner. Up ahead a woman appeared. I told Mary there was no way she wasn't going to catch and pass her.

Right then we got to run down the big hill we had run up at mile 13 and we began to smash it. A 6:21 and a 6:22 might have been a little too fast for my tastes but we both seemed to be feeling it. We quickly left the woman (and about 10 men) behind us and prepared for the home stretch. The flat mile of the Strip in Pittsburgh felt like an uphill after such a fast downhill and I knew I was in trouble. We hit mile 25 right at my goal pace but I was weakening. I told Mary to go along ahead as I had bigger fish to fry and a finishing kick at the end of this marathon was not that fish!

I made the final few turns of the race and could feel I was quite ready to be done. A slowish last mile and then an equally slowish .2 had me cruising into cheers from the crowd as the announcer let them know I was the man raising money for the Promise.

Crossing in 2:59:19 I was pleased to have another marathon in the books and another sub-3 to boot.

While the numbers are not final here are some stats. The Pittsburgh Promise is tallying up all the donations to see how much money I earned per person but right now it looks like around $3.50.
*There were 3463 marathon finishers. I passed all but 72 of them.
*There were 4106 half-marathon finishers. I passed all but 40 of them.
*There were 2008 relay finishers. I passed all but 48 of them.

That means I passed 9368 of 9529 people including the relay guy I held off who tried to pass me in the last 5 feet. (Take that, punk.) That comes out to about $33,000 raised for 3 hours work Sunday morning, based only on the donations I know about(IT ened up being over $40k). I am going to say I am indeed pleased. Maybe not as pleased as Malcolm East and his fiancee, though. Malcolm, a former winner of the Pittsburgh Marathon, dropped to one knee after the race and proposed to his fiancee. Her comment after saying "yes"?

"This is much better than a bagel!"

Follow your dreams, everyone. See you in Fargo in 6 days.