Running and architecture have been a part of my life since early childhood. I have owned my own award winning architectural firm for over 25 years. My work as an architect has been published in local and national journals and been recognized with receiving design awards. I am currently the Director of Architecture at an engineering and architectural firm (see My Work Place link below). My favorite projects are those that include a client that values my contribution as an architect. My competitive running began in Jr HS and continues well into my years as a Masters Runner (over 40yrs). I regularly finish at or near the top finishers of my age group (60-64). When I compete in races from 5k to marathons. I enjoy my second career as an assistant coach in the Running Fit 501 training program. I am a husband, father, proud grandfather, and dog owner.
So race weekend is nearly here after logging over 600 miles of running, strength training, stretching, and more, ready or not here I come Boston. Like a football coach having a game plan for the “Big Game”, runners need to have their personal game plan or strategy to assure success in their marathon.
Every marathoner shares at least two common goals for their marathon. The first is to simply get to the starting line healthy and ready to race their best. This is often much more difficult to attain than it sounds, for many runners fail to listen to their bodies during the grueling training period of 16 -20 weeks and thus experience an injury that at a minimum disrupts their training. The second goal is to simply finish the marathon! This too sounds so simple for anyone who has trained. However, the marathon is a very humbling experience. Over the course of 26 plus miles so many influences are challenging the runner that to simply complete any marathon is a sweet victory.
Then there are the various other goals. Typically runners have a specific finishing time they aim to achieve. Others may run to experience the thrill of it all and could care less about the finish time. For most runners participating in the Boston Marathon are running Boston as a result of attaining their previous goal, to qualify to run Boston! One does not simply enter the Boston Marathon, a runner needs to qualify in a previous marathon in order to become eligible to enter! The result is a field of 30,000 runners who represent the best marathon runners in their respective divisions.
My expectations for the Boston Marathon are rather basic and focused more on enjoying the overall experience while still running a very respectful race. Short of a last minute freak accident, I should toe the start line in a healthy condition. I also feel confident I can finish the 26 plus mile route. The big question is how long will it take me and how will I do it? What is my goal time to finish the Boston Marathon?
To answer those questions I needed to compare my experience at Boston 10 years ago to my race prep this year. In 2006 I had a 4:03 marathon time. Up to that point it was my slowest marathon finish time by 30 minutes! I was both disappointed and somewhat embarrassed. So my next goal for this year’s Boston is to finish in at least a sub 4 hour time. Again, I still feel confident about being able to run a sub 4 hour marathon, but the challenges of the Boston course will not make this an easy goal to reach.
Back in September when I gained entry to this year’s Boston Marathon I had the lofty goal train hard and aim for a 3:40 marathon time. A bit optimistic, but not out of the question. That is until somewhere the middle of this winter. I realized that real-life obligations also play an important role in one’s marathon training schedule. Back in the fall I had planned to run much more than my training in 2006. Actually, when I run my final, very slow paced, 4 mile run tomorrow morning, I will be 3 miles short of my 2006 training miles!
But, this does not mean I am doomed for a 4 hr plus marathon either. I also incorporated several new regimes into my training. Back in January I enrolled in a 7 week course with famed professional sports trainer Kirk Vickers of Triad Performance. Under Kirk’s tutelage I my core strength improved as did my running form and efficiency. I sacrificed training miles for training improvement.
Also different from 2006, was my early speed training with the Ann Arbor Track Club. From November through March each Tuesday night, various speed sessions at the University of Michigan’s indoor track was a great way to sharpen my running and conditioning while running with friends too.
Then there is the backbone of all my runs, my running buds with the Running Fit 501 training group out of Novi and Northville. I have been honored to help coach this group of people who enjoy running and running together. Our Wednesday night workouts continued to challenge us all especially during the dark winter Michigan nights. We also do our long runs each Saturday at Kensington Metro Park. This park is packed with Boston like hills so the long runs that incorporated challenging hills also. So simply stated, my training did not include mega miles it did include an overall better quality number of sessions. The results will not be known until some time mid-Monday.
As an obsessed runner who keeps detailed records of all my training for the past 30 years I know that I am also 10 pounds lighter going into this year’s marathon than my 2006 Boston run. Of course I am also 10 years older too and age does play a factor. I have experienced a slight slow down of my training runs this year.
So what started out as a goal finish time of 3:40 has been ratcheted down to a 3:50 mark. But in the end, if I simply finish and have a fun time doing so in the process then that will make all the work worth it. Regardless of my experience I will return to continue to RUN HAPPY 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to read this post and check back next week for the results!
Just when you think you know the major events you have control over in your life, things change! In 2006 I ran the Boston Marathon for my first time. It was the most difficult experience I had ever experienced in my life, ever, even until this day. I remember attempting to run (or rather a fast walk) up Heartbreak Hill thinking “I am NEVER going to run another marathon”. Well, in the intervening years I have run 6 more marathons in venues such as Detroit Traverse City, New York City, Honolulu, and winning my age division in Raleigh. All along the way I have never had any desire whatsoever to return to run the Boston Marathon again! That is until a few weak moments last September.
So what changed? Well, to start, it helps to understand what my running life and career were like 10 years ago. 2006 was my 20th year of business as owning my own architectural practice. I had survived a challenging market conditions for the past few years. I had earlier decided to diversify my practice and take on a new project and client type. What I initially thought to be an awesome project for nice people turned out to be the project from Architect’s Hell. No need to go into details but I have never experienced such a stressful condition in my entire lifetime. The stress was heightened in April of 2006 as the project was eventually nearing completion. Needless to say, my training to run Boston was greatly impacted. With minimal and inconsistent training it was no wonder I had a terrible race experience. I was also training on my own. I had no peer support. Most of my running buddies no longer ran. Training is much easier if you are able to train with some level of regular support, especially someone to run with you on long runs.
Well, it was 20 months later and if you must go to Hawaii you might as well run another marathon right? We actually returned to Hawaii for our wedding anniversary and we had not been to Hawaii since our honeymoon 30 years ago. However as a condition to return to paradise I insisted on running the Honolulu Marathon. What another dumb idea. My two worse marathons ever, back to back! I had joined a marathon training group in my area but about half way through the program the group more or less disintegrated. I was fortunate enough to drop-in to a neighboring training group in nearby Ann Arbor. Little did I know at the time that my running life had just taken perhaps the most significant change in my entire career, at least as an adult runner.
The summer of 2008 I joined the Running Fit 501 training group in Ann Arbor. The group was led by a very experienced and extremely dedicated Coach, Coach Gina. It was a large group and a very easy group to find someone of like capabilities as well as challenge you as a runner. I met a number of awesome people many of who I still remain in contact and often still run and train with, especially during the winter months. What resulted from this experience was what remains today as my all-time best marathon experience, New York City Marathon. I need to post a separate story about my NY experience, but the short version is that I told Coach Gina of my goal to run a 3:30 marathon. She cautioned me that I should be happy to run a 3:40 marathon as NYC course is a very tough course. Then 4 weeks prior to running the New York City Marathon I find myself racing along side of 4 time Boston and NYC Marathon winner Bill Rogers! Bill Rogers personally offered me advice on how to race NY! Bottom line, I ran 3 hours, 29 min, 30 secs!
The point is that I was now hooked to run and race competitively once again thanks hugely to the Running Fit 501 training program. The next year I returned to the more local program in Novi/Northville due in large part to the new coaches. Coach Doug and Coach Suzi. They have since reached out allowed me to assist the program, as an assistant coach with this very popular and successful training program. I thought that nothing could beat my marathon experience in New York so I had no further plans to run another marathon ever again. That is until three years later!
For several years I had enjoyed racing in Raleigh NC while visiting my daughter Bridgett. The City of Oaks Half Marathon in early November (actually the same day as the NYC Marathon) became a regular venue on my racing schedule. I also did very well in this race too! I have always managed to finish in the top 3 in my age division including one win! Then came 2011. I can’t really remember why, but I decided to run the full marathon this year. I was lured by the fact that most of the last half of the marathon route was through a very hilly and challenging Umstead State Park. i think between miles 13 and 23 runners needed to climb at least 500 total feet! Another long story short, I won my age division will only 33 days before I advanced to an older age group! So THIS was to be my LAST marathon! Why not retire from marathoning after winning a major marathon?
So I was a retired marathoner, finally! Well that lasted all of another 3 years. In 2014 my youngest daughter Alexis had become a runner. (another long story and separate post) We decided it would be fun to run the Chicago Marathon. That year most runners needed to gain entry to the Chicago Marathon by a lottery selection. We had each been selected by lottery (luck us) and the training began. Alexis became injured late in her training and was not able to run the marathon. I had managed to stay healthy and had a good training season. I ran Chicago very well, well at least for the first 18 miles or so, the my “wheels fell off”. I hit the proverbial wall that is often reported. I did not run a smart race. It was my own fault.
I was determined to get my revenge only 7 months later by running the Bayshore Marathon (Traverse City MI) in late May. My training was good, but again, I lost my wheels after mile 18 or so again. Both Chicago and Bayshore are known as fast courses primarily as they are defined as mostly flat courses. I train on hilly routes. I was not accustomed to flat courses or for the mental aspect too. Regardless, in Chicago and Bayshore, I had run sufficiently fast enough to qualify to run the Boston Marathon in 2016 with nearly 9 minutes to spare each time. Nice, but I was not planning to run Boston again.
So why Boston now? A combination of reasons I suppose. First there is the idea that I would like to pass-on my major marathon medals to each of my three grandchildren. Not so much to encourage them to run, although that would be great, but more to help them each to understand the importance of establishing personal goals, self discipline, a?nd achievement in whatever they elect to do in their lives. Wouldn’t if be great to be able to pass a separate Boston medal to each child? I could have my second Boston medal this April and hopefully find a way to run again in 2017?
Another compelling reason is our training group. Each season since 2008 our training group has been sending several runners to Boston. The Boston Marathon registration period is open for only a handful of days each September. Not all who qualify are actually able to gain entry to compete in Boston. The registration process favors runners who exceed the basic qualifying time based on one’s gender and age. Our group was set to send nearly 20 eligible runners who had trained with us for one season or another. More than many other recent years I also have the resources and job situation that will enable me to travel to Boston. So only the day before it was my turn to register to enter, I decided to do so. A day or two later my entry was confirmed and my next challenge was to determine the travel arrangements. Thanks to the help of my training buds, that was not difficult at all.
Boston 2017? Not sure if I will enter 2017 or not at this time but thanks to my Detroit Marathon experience this past October, I have qualified with nearly 19 minutes to spare, to compete in Boston again in 2017. Check back next September to see what my decision will be.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and Run Happy 🙂
PS: We were also informed recently that we will become grandparents for the fourth time in August! So…. Boston 2018??? . . . . Stay tuned 🙂
This blog reflects my world of architecture and my running experience. Accordingly, I have goals and intentions in each of these areas. This post will focus on my running life for the year ahead.
My plans for the 2016 running year actually became quite defined back in September of 2015. Even though I had qualified twice in the past 12 months to compete in the 2016 Boston Marathon, I really did not give running Boston in 2016 until only a day or two prior to the application process. I ran Boston in 2006 and had always felt once was enough, until September.
The chance to return to avenge my previous poor experience in Bean Town and to do so with about 16 others from our training group were significant influences in my decision process. However, the kicker was the opportunity to earn my second Boston finisher’s medal and pass two medals onto two of my three grandchildren. For my third grandchild, I have thoughts of running again in 2017. I have already more than qualified for 2017 and official acceptance from the Boston Athletic Association should not be a problem. It does not hurt that I also will move into a new age group if I run in 2017! So in the end, three finisher’s medals for three grand kids. Should a fourth or more grand kids show up I guess I will need to qualify again!
The other significant item that occurred in late September was my official notice from The Crim Foundation that I had completed 29 Crim 10 mile races thus qualifying me to be one of about a dozen other runners who will join the prestigious 30 Year Club. As a member of this group I will be provided special recognition and receive a 15 minute head start ahead of the elites. My goal is to make it to the Bradley Hills (about 4.8 mile mark) ahead of the Kenyans and other elites. This will also be the 40th anniversary of the Crim and no doubt there will be special events leading up to Crim Race day.
Other races will include a return to the Tobacco Road Marathon in Carey NC in mid-March. This will be a tune-up race for Boston but I also believe I can be a strong contender to win my age group. I have also competed in all of The Brooksie Way Half Marathons. In September 2016 I will compete in this race for the ninth time. The difference this year is that it will be a focus or destination race for me. In past years it has primarily been a training race for me.
Finally, I look forward to bringing the world of running to many new people I already know and others I have yet to meet this year. This will be done via my workplace and the Running Fit 501 training program where I enjoy helping others as a coach.
Oops! Correction, this is the final goal, I resolve to visit this blog on a much more regular basis (weekly?) this year as I attempt to share by preparations for running in the most prestigious marathons in the world, the 120th Boston Marathon.
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As a coach for the past seven years to many adults who are training to run a half marathon or marathon as a part of the Running Fit 501 program, I offer advice on how to successfully train and attain their goal for their race. The problem is that what I tell these runners is much easier said than done. I ought to know for I have not been able to fully follow all of my marathon advice until the Detroit Marathon this past October.
First let me set the stage. I thought I had retired from competing in marathons in November of 2011 when I won my Age Group in the “City of Oaks Marathon” in Raleigh NC. That was until sometime early last summer when my daughter Alexis and I each were selected via a lottery to compete in the Chicago Marathon. It would have been Alexis’s first marathon. Unfortunately Alexis became injured late in her training and could not compete. On race day, I found myself alone again at the start line facing the challenge of a 26.2+ mile run. I knew how I was suppose to run a marathon, start slow, be smart, etc. But this was Chicago, a nearly totally flat and therefore fast marathon. I am accustomed to hilly courses. So when I started faster than I should have, I thought this is great! I may run my fastest marathon in nearly 20 years! Somewhere around mile 16 I was reminded of how all marathons can be very humbling. I will spare you the details, let me simply say the next 10 miles were not pretty. Nonetheless, I was able to qualify to compete in the 2016 Boston Marathon with nearly 10 minutes to spare. Regardless, I knew my poor performance was my own mistake and I did not set a good example for my runners.
So it came to be that my daughter Alexis, her in-laws, and my other daughter Bridgett wanted to take a trip and run the Bayshore Half Marathon in Traverse City at the end of May (2015). Instead of running the half marathon, I was determined to avenge my Chicago disaster and compete in the full marathon at Bayshore. Like Chicago, Bayshore has a reputation for being a fast and mostly flat route to race. Well, I will spare you the details of that marathon except to say I made the same mistakes again. In fact if I had not had to make a pit stop at mile 16 my finish time (3:46) was nearly the same as Chicago.
Bayshore was not to be my last Marathon. My daughter Bridgett, was planning to run her first marathon at Detroit in October. My plan was to surprise Bridgett at the starting line and run the entire marathon with her. This would no doubt mean I would run my slowest marathon time, but instead this would be a once in a lifetime type event. I prepared a training plan for Bridgett and she did very well adhering to the plan throughout the summer until the combination of higher miles, the hot and humid weather where she lives (NC), her final term as a grad student, along of course with family and work obligations all combined to cause her to pull out of her marathon training in mid- September. Her decision was the right one for her. But it meant I had only a few weeks to “tweak” my physical and mental preparation. Yes mental too. I firmly believe that a marathoner needs to mentally prepare to compete in a marathon as much as they do physically too.
People can appreciate the time it takes to physically prepare to endure a marathon, but only a very few understand the importance and time required to prepare mentally. With less than 5 weeks to marathon day the time to tweak my body and head was minimal. Nonetheless, I was convinced in my mind to make this my best marathon since my previous decoration to retire from marathoning 4 years earlier. I decided to minimize my taper time from the normal 3 weeks to a minimal time of 2 weeks. On each of my training runs I began to visualize my upcoming marathon. It helped greatly that over the course of the past several years I had participated in several marathon team relay events so I knew the quirks of the course, especially the final half. I had also ran the first half of the course even more times as it is the Half Marathon route. That along with being a native Detroiter and toured Detroit in the back of my grandfathers car more than half a century ago all helped greatly in taking on the mental challenge of the race course. So each training run I visualized a part of the route. My training hills became the stretch up the Ambassador Bridge. My speed work on the track became my final kick along Fort St. and so on for many segments of the course.
While mental preparation is important if not critical, no amount of mental prep will result in a successful marathon if the runner fails to train their body for race day. Some of the training advice I offer runners for race day include:
Get plenty of rest the day before your marathon and hydrate
Start slow, make your first mile your slowest mile
Concentrate on running a negative split (second half faster than the first half).
Fuel properly during the race.
Do not go out too fast
Do not do anything new, do not experiment on race day.
Do not go too slow or too fast as you run up and down the Ambassador Bridge
Do not get caught up in the cheering crowds as you exit the underwater mile tunnel, you will waste too much energy too early (mile 8) in the race.
You would think these all are very sensible items therefore simple to do correct? Well, no, ironically as simple as they sound they are very difficult to actually achieve. In fact I have never achieved all of these during my marathons. I have never run a negative split in any race yet alone a marathon. I tend to be the runner who believes in miracles and start races a bit too fast thinking this time I can hang in there to the finish. No, not even close, witness Chicago and Bayshore results!
If I was not going to run with Bridgett then I was convinced I would run my smartest marathon and avenge my Chicago and Bayshore Marathons.
The day before the marathon (rest day) I went downtown to watch my grandson Charlie run a kids mile race with his mom Alexis. Bridgett, her husband Shane, with granddaughter Katie, and I enjoyed watching Charlie and his fast finishing kick to the finish line. Following Charlie’s race we trudged over to the race expo to pick up our race bib and a few souvenirs. This was all fun and good, but I was on my feet too long! Remember rule number one (see above) Lee! I remember thinking most of that day that I really wished I had not entered the marathon. What was I thinking!
Race morning came early, very early as we left the house at 4:00 AM to get to downtown. Parking was to be easy. Our training group had once again rented out Cobo Joe’s Bar. It is strategically located near the start and finish area, but we needed to get downtown early to avoid the street closures. Our bad, as the streets had closed much earlier than we had planned. Our normal parking area was not accessible! This only added to my stress and anxiety of not wanting to run not to mention a long walk to Cobo Joe’s too.
Soon enough it was time to lose my warm clothing, face the chilly elements wearing my thin racing gear, and get to the start line. I always prefer to race in shorts and singlet (tank top style) race shirt. My rule is if it is 40 degrees and rising then singlet and shorts are my dress. This morning the temps were in the low 30’s and it was a bit breezy, and this was in and around the protective buildings of downtown Detroit. Imagine the wind high on the open Ambassador Bridge! So I decided to wear a lightweight long sleeve shirt under my Brooks singlet. This would still not be enough to ward off the predawn chill, so I also added my usual garbage bag cloak.
The half marathon and marathon runners start together and run the same course until about the 13 mile mark. Thus as you line up at the starting corral you don’t know who is running which race, unless you are able to see their bib color. They also place you somewhat in order of each runners anticipated pace. Faster runners to the front and slower runners towards the rear. Runners are further divided into waves. Each wave consist of a limited number of runners and the start of each wave is about 2 minutes from the previous wave start.
I found myself up near the very front of the second wave with a bunch of other scary fast looking runners. Again, why am I here? Am I really going to run more than 26 miles, at a reasonably fast pace, without stopping, and hope to be done in about 3 hrs and 40 minutes?
Joining me at the start was Meg Schulte, a fast runner from the 501 training group. Meg had run the Chicago Marathon only one week ago and was planning on competing in the half in Detroit. We chatted about race strategies, she asked about my plan for the marathon, asked if I was planning on an 8 min or so pace. I simply said no way and proceeded to explain my last two marathons. My goal was to start out very slow (for me) perhaps not any faster than 8:45 and I would not be disappointed to start even slower maybe 9:00 pace. I explained my goal to run a smart race and run a negative split. That was my focus!
I started as planned, very slow yet warm in my garbage bag cloak. I did force myself to keep it slow and not stay with other runners, I just kept repeating “run my own race”. It wasn’t long after that that teammate Meg Schulte came up along side of me and while I was tempted to run along with her I knew it would be race suicide to stay with her, so she ran off into the still dark of the pre-dawn ahead of me as I ran down Fort St.
My garbage kept me warm and I was determined to keep it on as long as possible. The problem is that runners need to be able to display their race bibs to Homeland Security agents as you approach the Ambassador Bridge (about mile 3) and begin to leave the good ole USA and run into Canada. So for nearly a mile I ran with the bottom of my bag pulled up over my stomach to display my bib. Normally it probably would have been OK to lose the bag by now but we were heading up and over the bridge about 400 feet above the Detroit River and nothing to block the somewhat strong winds. I continued to focus on holding my pace, no need to spend too much energy on this hill climb, yet no need to slow down too much too.
Top of the bridge, a beautiful view in all directions. Two countries and thousands of runners. Pace picked up a bit on the downhill route into Canada. Off came my garbage bag as it found it’s next home appropriately enough in a garbage barrel. Running through Windsor Canada is always fun. Its great to look up and see the thousands of runners behind me strolling down the Ambassador Bridge, great crowd support along Riverside Dr. too eh? I remember seeing the Canadian election signs out in the yards.
I also remember watching runners who appeared to be candidate for my age group ahead of me. I ever so slowly gained real estate on them to the point where I could peripherally glance a peek at their race bib and see that they were in the Half Marathon. Not a problem as I continued to slowly pass and see yet another potential competitor just ahead.
In the past I made the mistake of looking at my Garmin to see my pace etc. During the past few years as a Garmin runner I had come to depend too much on the device and less upon my “feel” as a runner. I knew that if I was to run a smart race I needed to rely more upon the feel of my legs and body and less on a satellite in outer space to run a smart race. After all, it worked well for me for over 40 years of running. Nonetheless, of course I gave an occasional glance at my Garmin but this time it was truly only occasional and it was to assure myself that I was still holding the pace back and not running too fast. All through Canada, it felt like a very easy controlled controlled jog and I was still holding back. In fact, I had actually began to run a bit faster pace but not by all that much. I told myself “all is going according to plan”, “you have been here before Lee”, “just hold this pace”. In other words, a whole lot of positive reinforcement.
Running along Riverside Dr. in Windsor offers runners the best view of Detroit. Within the a few stride lengths the runner can see Detroit’s entire riverfront. I was remembering back to my childhood the image of the riverfront, the Boblo boat docks, concrete silos, and an overall industrial look. Today’s view is much improved and will continue to improve. I also noticed the river walk location. The 23rd mile mark is along that area. I quickly put out of my head how much farther it was to there and redirected my brain to running consistently along Riverside Dr.
Runners soon make a few turns and head out of Canada and back to the good old USA by way of running under the Detroit River! The tunnel is a truly unique feature for the marathon. While I was not cold, neither was I overheated in my running gear but the tunnel would soon change that. During the nice downhill path into the tunnel I unzipped my turtleneck shirt and removed my hat. Yes, as always, the tunnel air was warm and dry. Just about the time that the tunnel’s warm air was truly becoming uncomfortable my legs felt the pavement’s incline and there really was that light at the end of this tunnel!
Back in the USA
One recommendation I always share with Detroit marathon runners, especially new marathoners, is to avoid a fast spurt of energy when you come out of the tunnel. There is always a huge crowd awaiting and cheering the runners and you can easily get an adrenaline rush that will cause you to waste too much precious energy too early in the race. Mile 8 of a marathon is not when you want to start your “kick”! I thought I did pretty well in holding my pace out of the tunnel. When I exited and turned left onto Jefferson Ave. a race announcer announced “Lee Mamola, Novi, MI”! Talk about trying to avoid an adrenaline rush! Nonetheless, I have literally been down this road before and I managed to keep my cool and continued to the next downhill, under Cobo Hall.
The next stretch of the course was not to be my favorite. Runners run along a part of the Lodge expressway before returning to the streets of Detroit via the incline of an exit ramp. It felt like this part was added only because officials needed to add some length to the route at some point. Then when you do return to the streets the route becomes long and straight. A few years ago my legs fell off at this point in the route while running in the Half Marathon. I remember that this part required continued concentration. I continued to tell myself my pace was good, I still felt very fresh and relaxed, no sense of tiredness at all.
Before I knew it we were back onto the winding streets, into historic Corktown, and the bricks of Michigan Ave. The half way point was only a bit more than a mile or to be exact, 8 minutes and 37 secs away. It was at this point that I started to target a runner ahead of me and focus on slowly gaining on them if I could. Some I could, or rather wisely decided not to chase too, but of the ones that were maintaining a pace near mine, I did pass. It’s especially fun to pass runners that are clearly at least 30 and sometimes 30+ years younger than me at this point in any race. It was a great confidence builder as I headed to the midpoint of my marathon in Detroit.
Half Way There
Actually just prior to the 13 mile mark the half marathoners are separated from the marathoners as the half marathoners make a right turn to their finish line and marathoners continue the route. My guess is that about 3 out of 4 runners are competing in the half marathon. So all of a sudden what was once a pack of familiar fannies you have been following suddenly diminishes to a much smaller group of serious marathoners. You also quickly realize that this is serious business and you need to continue to press ahead.
My second half began with a downhill along Griswold and between Detroit’s tallest and significant buildings. I remember a little more than a year ago walking down this very street with my boss at the time Lou Trama. We had meetings in the Ford Building and Guardian Building. Lou had been ill and had a difficult time breathing during this short two block route, his lungs were not healthy. Within 6 months he would pass on to his next life. I was remembering Lou and that day when I came across two enthusiastic members of the Running Fit 501 group. Thanks to the cheers from Ron Smerigan and Liz Wright my mind was just as quickly refocused to the marathon. These streets of Detroit have been in my head for over 60 years, it was like running in my own neighborhood.
It had also helped that for the past several years I had competed at various legs of the Marathon Relay too. Familiarity with a race route, especially a marathon is crucial to a successful race. Last year I ran a nearly 7 mile leg of the relay beginning from just prior to the 13 mile mark to the 19+ mile mark. This helped me greatly for the marathon. The long stretch along Lafayette became more bearable. I also remember trying to listen closely to my body. The time to hold my pace was behind me, if I was going to reach my goal of a negative split then I needed to slowly increase my pace without increasing too much. I remember passing the historic streets of St. Aubin, Beaubeon, Mt. Elliot, and how these streets were named for the families that settled along the Detroit riverfront. With each passing street I knew I was getting closer to historic Indian Village.
Fueling My Marathon
During the summer I experimented with a new sports drink, a product called UCAN. This product is designed to minimize the peaks and crashes of other energy sources that are primarily sugar based and instead it forces your muscles to burn energy from fat sources within your body. It has a taste that takes some getting use to liking but once you do it’s not all that bad. I loaded up on the drink for 48 hours in advance of marathon Sunday while resting as much as I could. Then on race morning I also drank sufficient amounts to extend my energy to about 2 hrs.
Throughout the marathon I would take cups of water or gator aide at every aid station (roughly every mile or so). It also was very apparent to me that I was more than adequately hydrated for shortly after I drank a cup, I also lost a cup, all throughout the marathon. But for the first time ever I had never raced this length of 16 miles without some sort of energy gel or candy. The UCAN was doing it’s job! Then shortly after the 16 mile mark I could begin to feel my legs beginning the start of feeling fatigued. Every runner knows this feeling. I did not bring any UCAN product with me, so at the next aide station at mile 17 I would take a gel. I had packed a few “emergency gels” in my pants just in case they would be needed. But at mile 17 they were passing out a gel product called “Boom” I had actually used this product in the past and had very good results. So I grabbed a banana flavored gel and washed it down with water as I began my entry into Indian Village. But before I did, I grabbed another “Boom” gel from a volunteer.
Boom gels are very appropriately named because my legs did feel a boom as I returned to my senses and reminded myself that the 8:05 pace my Garmin was telling me was too fast at this point. The run through Indian Village is essentially a run around a big city block. It’s a block that includes many of the older and finer homes in Detroit. It also has maintained a vibrant neighborhood over many years despite the myriad of challenges that eternally seem to plague the city especially for the past 50 years or more. But on this beautiful sunny Sunday morning filled with God’s autumn colors, all was just fine with me. My pace was steady, continued a bit faster as I started to pick off more and more runners during the next two miles. Then before I knew it my trip to and through Indian Village was coming to an end. As much as I enjoyed this part of the route I was glad to take on the next segment.
I remembered this route from my leg of the marathon last year. Runners leave the cozy confines of Indian Village and are thrust onto the wide open venue of Jefferson Ave. I remembered this stretch to be a short distance before the route takes the runners over the Belle Isle Bridge. In fact this segment along Jefferson was much longer than I remembered. No problem I was still running strong, I felt relaxed, and kept telling myself how awesome this was as I continued to “pick-off” even more runners ahead of me! My pace continued to steadily increase albeit at only a few seconds per mile, I looked at my watch and noticed I had crept down to below an 8 min mile pace, ouch! A bit too fast Lee, cool it! So, I did, I relaxed, smiled and waved at the DJ along the course offering encouragement and focused on the next milestone which was a relay exchange point.
It was at the Jefferson Ave. exchange point where I ended my leg from last year passing off to my son-in-law Steve. Steve was a good sport just to participate in the family relay team last year. It was this same spot several years ago that I stood awaiting to receive the relay tag from my teammate Jessica Shehab. I was very familiar with this point in the course and the many fond memories of running here in the past came back to me in a flash.
It wasn’t much longer when I found myself feeling isolated as I ran the length of the MacArthur Bridge and approached entry onto this famous island. As an architect I appreciated the fact that the island park was designed by the famous landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmsted. For those who may not know who Olmsted was, he is to the landscape architecture profession what Frank Lloyd Wright is to the architecture profession. He was also designed New York’s Central Park, many other parks in the city of Detroit, and even nearby Ypsilanti. This sense of history did not help me as I was beginning to bake in the warming morning sun.
Once again I unzipped my turtleneck and removed my hat to release some warmth. I could begin to feel my legs begin to fatigue. This was surely the result of the “crash” side of taking the Boom gels earlier. I needed to fend off this fatigue. I remembered the last minute sage advice from my training partner, an excellent marathoner herself, Jessica Shehab. She sent me a note reminding me to have my mantra to get me thru any rough spot(s) in the race. So as I was about to begin to exit the bridge, I knew I had to maintain my pace, I could not let myself slow down at all. So I told myself the following: “I am a running machine, I am a running machine” over and over. As I entered onto Belle Isle I could see that I as also approaching another aide station so I reached for my honey gel, grabbed a cup of water to wash it down and noticed the sign that read “Mile 20”. I had just run 20 miles and frankly still feeling pretty good! My pace was about 8:10 per mile, not too shabby for this point in the race.
Despite the natural beauty, scenic urban vistas, and level flatness, the Belle Isle portion of the marathon route is not a welcoming part of the marathon. In many prior marathons the runners ran entirely around the island (about 6 miles) and in the early years the marathon finished on Belle Isle. More recently the organizers cut the marathon route to about half of the island, the half that looks back to downtown Detroit and where the finish line is located. The reason the island is not favored by runners is the nature of the elements along the route here. Despite the weather conditions on the mainland, Belle Isle inevitably offers tougher running conditions. Runners will experience stronger head winds, minimal crowd support along the way, and most runners are battling the effects of “Hitting The Wall” all combine to make this a difficult struggle at best.
The head winds of Belle Isle were upon me as I ran along the southern edge that overlooked Canada to the South. Yes, this is the only area of the world were Canada is actually south of the USA! I could feel my form weaken and I knew this was that turning point in the race where it would be easy to give up emotionally and struggle to finish the final few miles. Thankfully I was able to fight this off and began to focus on catching the runner who was about 50 yards ahead of me. I focused on maintaining a steady pace as I fought off the head wind. Up ahead I could see the fountain. This is where the route would turn and the wind would be at my back. I caught the next runner as I passed the fountain.
Just ahead was the next relay point. I was very familiar with this part of the route from running here the past two years. I had flashbacks of passing off to my teammate Marianne Carter here. Before I reached the actual relay point I ran over the finish line of the Detroit Grand Prix! I also grabbed another gel to fuel up for the final portion of the course. Mile 22 was now behind me. I told myself the race was going good. “I was a running machine, just continue to hold your strong pace Lee”.
There were not many runners arond me as I headed for the final turn before leaving Belle Isle and the long run over the bridge. There was a woman standing along side the route cheering. She noticed my name on my bib and shouted encouragement to me “Lee, you’re a running machine Lee, you look strong”! How did this woman know my mantra that had kept me going through the toughest part of the course? I took it as some sort of a magic sign, took her advice, and picked up the pace over the bridge back to the mainland.
There was great crowd support for runners departing the bridge. Their cheers helped me keep strong as I ran down Jefferson Ave. heading towards the Detroit River Walk park. Between Jefferson and the River Walk we ran down a part of the course where Charlie had ran the day before. I remembered how Charlie managed his “final kick”, if Charlie could reach down and go for it surely his Papa could too!
I finally reached the River Walk, the part of the route I was both anxiously awaiting and dreading. I welcomed this part of the route as it represented the beginning of the end. I dreaded it because of the uncertainty of the winds a runner might need to resist and certain twists and turns in the route would require additional energy resources from my continually dwindling reservoir.
I remember a young lady runner was attempting to pass me. I decided not to let this runner who was likely 40 years younger than me pass this old dude. It meant my pace would need to increase slightly as I fought her off for the next half mile or so. This was the part of the river park where there were several twists and turns in the route. My proven radar for running the tangents (shortest distance between two points) ultimately allowed me to pass this young runner for the last time. Next, focus on another runner.
The next runner was actually RF 501 coach Suzi and 501’r Raymond Yost, They acted surprised to see me and yelled encouragement, told be I was looking strong (I felt strong too). Suzi encourage me to catch the only 501’r who was only a few hundred yards ahead of me. Another young-in 30 years my elder, Anthony Miller. I was not going to focus on Anthony I was going to focus on my own race effort. I felt strong, knowing too that the end was coming. I continued to run strong along Atwater St. passing runners as I did. I remember some runners turning their heads as I passed them and telling me I was looking strong! Keep up the good work guy! When you receive encouragement from fellow runners along the way it only serves to keep you going even stronger.
The next part of the route was a challenging little hill between Atwater and Jefferson. This was a huge struggle! It was short but relatively steep hill at a very strategic part of the course. Normally I charge up hills, not this time though. My brain decide to take it easy, do not waste any energy, just get to the top in one piece. It was slow, but my legs kept turning and before I knew it the hill had passed and I was crossing Jefferson, approaching Larned.
The Final Kick
I survived the little hill and was turning onto Larned. Ahead was the parking lot I used to park in when coming downtown for meetings with AIA Detroit and the Michigan Architectural Foundation. I was surrounded by buildings I was very familiar with for many years. My legs were feeling totally drained. The crowds along the route where larger again. Many voices from strangers reinforcing my effort. I could not let them down. I came upon Woodward Ave. How many times have I been at the intersection of Woodward and Larned in my life?
I was aware the finish line was approaching but I was not ready for the next turn leading to the finish line approaching so fast! Before I knew it I was back on Griswold for a short stint, an uphill stint too! Ugh! There were two runners just ahead of me as I approached the bottom of the hill. They were running strong. I was determined to show these “young kids” how to finish a race. Knowing this was the last hill in the marathon and that the finish was near, I kicked my pace into another gear, pumped my arms, held my head up high, finished the hill and rounded the final turn!
There it was the finish! Yikes it was not that far away, just a few blocks to go! So I continued to run even a bit faster passing several more marathoners! I simultaneously felt totally fatigued and strong as I did my best to focus on the finish line. The announcer called out “Lee Mamola from Novi finishing”. Finally, arms reached in a victory reach as I crossed the finish line! My final kick was at a 6:10 per mile pace!
I was relieved the marathon was done, I was greeted by volunteers placing a finisher’s medal around my neck and another wrapping me in a mylar heat blanket. Over to my left were Bridgett and Alexis who each had finished their half marathons and came back to see me finish and finish my strongest marathon too!
It took some time and effort to exit the finish area but before I did, Bridgett and Alexis joined me in the area and we posed together for a finishers final picture. Between the three of us we ran 52.4 miles this Sunday morning!
The final numbers are in, once you have completed a race there is nothing you can do to change the actual results and nobody can ever take away the fact that you completed a race, especially a marathon!
My final net time of 3:41:06 (8:26/mile average pace) was good enough for a 3rd of 68, Place finish in my age group, 503 of over 3,800 other marathoners. I hit my goal of running a negative split by nearly two minutes, felt strong throughout the entire marathon, and finally avenged my previous two marathons in Chicago and Bayshore (Traverse City, MI). The final notable mark is that I also qualified to run the Boston Marathon (should I elect to run) with nearly 10 minutes to spare for 2017! I finally ran a race the way I coach other runners to do.
Following a slow and somewhat chilly walk from the finish area with Bridgett and Alexis, I returned to Cobo Joe’s to be very warmly greeting with applause and cheers from all the great folks and running buds from Running Fit 501! I must admit that caught me totally off guard. I don’t remember what I wanted to do more at that moment, change into dry pants or devour some of those juicy looking chili fries and onion rings some folks were already having. I do remember the fries, onion rungs, and the suds that washed them all down tasted great!
I was onto the long walk back to our car, a refreshing shower, and more eats as we celebrated our youngest granddaughter Katie Jane’s second birthday too!
Thanks to all who took the time to read this long story, it was about a marathon after all. This has taken me weeks to gather and ultimately post. I look forward to any comments, feedback, and especially from anyone who may now be inspired to run a Marathon!
What does lining up at the starting line of a marathon have in common with creating an architecturally designed building? Plenty! Frankly too much to mention in one post so let me focus on one common element and that is the lack of preparation.
What? How can that be? Marathoners run all those miles during training, suffer through heat, winds, snow, etc. mile after mile. How can any runner standing ready for the start of a marathon ever feel unprepared? Well, every marathoner I know regardless of their training will tell you they wished they would have run one more long run, or pushed themselves a little harder in the early months of their training. Maybe their dietary habits were not the best. The list is endless. I remember having these feelings overwhelm me as I toed the line for my first marathon in 1993. Now with less than 48 hours to the start on Sunday morning I still have the same worry and anxiety.
OK, that might make some sense, but how does that relate to designing a building? In every design effort there must be an end. A time to put pen and pencil down and move to the next step. Typically this involves some form of an intermediate due date. Inevitably all design and drawing must be completed, prints assembled, and drawings submitted for permits, bidding, and construction. This is the point that the architect truly understands that the set of design documents are not perfect and the architect wishes for more time to continue to “tweak” the design. The sense of worry and anxiety are much the same.
What changes is time. The more experienced the marathoner and the more experienced the architect the more likely the worries and anxieties become less of an issue. They never go away.
There is no such thing as a perfect marathon or a perfect design. All the marathoner or architect can hope to ever do is to simply do their best each day or workout and trust that the culmination of effort will allow them to achieve a high level of confidence on race morning or project deadline and that they continue to pursue excellence going forward.
Being a marathoner means you are not a part of the normal population for less than 1% of the population ever completes a marathon in a given year. Being an architect also means you are not among the count as “normal” at least in terms of statistics, we will not even venture to go down the path of other various reasons why architects may not be a part of the “normal” population. Since you, the readers are normal, you will be able to compute the rarity of an architect who is a part of both select groups!
This week is Marathon Week here in Detroit. I plan to run the Detroit Marathon this Sunday morning for the 5th time in my long running career. Yet I hardly feel like a runner this week at all. In fact I feel just the opposite! I feel slow, I feel overweight, I feel sluggish, I fee hungry, etc. I also have more time on my hands to feel these things because I am in the final week of my training also known as the taper mode. As an experienced runner I know this is exactly how I should be feeling. It is ironic that the more one feels like a non-runner the odds increase that they will do well during their respective marathon race. I recall feeling this way in New York City prior to the NYC Marathon in 2008. I also remember thinking how in the world would I ever be able to run let alone a complete marathon that represents one of the most grueling routes in all of the major world marathons! Well, I did and I also had the best running experience of my entire marathon career!
The taper period is one where the runner decreases the miles, maintains a certain amount of intense running, builds on rest, stores energy by way of proper eating, and generally lets their body get ready behind the scenes to endure the 26.2 mile challenge that awaits. Thus, there are fewer times to get out and run and when you do run, the runs do not last as long. Therefore the runner has more time on their hands and starts to become a “Normal Person”.
My normal state of mind will not last long as the Detroit Marathon is less than 6 days away from now as I write. But I do plan on a very quick return to the land of Normal after my marathon. We have family birthdays to celebrate and a whole lot of good food and fun await as soon as I do complete my 26.2 miles. I do plan to take some quiet time off next weekend and enjoy the sights of Northern Michigan and leave my running gear behind. Now that to me sounds like a real trip to the land of Normal where I hope to learn first hand what normal people do.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and continue to Run Happy!
What a difference a year makes! About this time a year ago I had a job that kept me busy, was reasonably secure, but not exactly professionally fulfilling or challenging. I was counting the days and sometimes even the hours to my retirement. I also believed my participation in the upcoming Chicago Marathon would prove to be my last marathon. In fact I was coming out of a 4 year retirement from running marathons. I had won my Age Group at the City of Oaks Marathon in Raleigh NC in 2011 and I had decided that was a perfect time to retire from marathons. Little did I know what the future had in mind for me!
In the spring of 2014 I entered the lottery to run Chicago only because my daughter Alexis was planning to run Chicago as her first ever marathon. We each were selected via the lottery to run the Chicago Marathon. Alexis joined my training group and was making excellent progress towards her first marathon when a freak injury prevented her from participating. So I continued without her and ended up running a decent race in the windy city, well at least for the first 18-20 miles. I knew I had started too fast (7:45 avg pace) for the first 13 miles. I had fantasies of running my fastest marathon in over 20 yrs! Alas, it did not happen. Let’s just say it was not a pretty sight to see. Nonetheless I did manage a 3:45 finish, good enough to qualify to run the Boston Marathon with over 8 minutes to spare. Not a major concern to me because I already ran the Boston Marathon back in 2006 and I have never had any overwhelming desire to return. I did not have a good experience in Boston in 06 and I never had a very strong motivation return. One must first be highly motivated to train and compete in any marathon, otherwise do not even begin to attempt.
What I did have a strong desire to do was to attempt one more marathon and prove to myself that my Chicago experience was a fluke and I wanted to avenge my finishing performance. Thus, The Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City MI in May of 2015. I’ll spare you the full report of that experience and let me just say that while I thoroughly enjoyed most everything Bayshore, my marathon performance was a very similar experience to Chicago! My Bayshore time was less than a minute different and thus I once again had another Boston Marathon qualifying time, my 8th of 10 marathons. No big deal as I still had no desire to return to Boston,
My official days of competitively running marathons were now over at last! I did however have at least one more marathon in my aging legs and that would be to run along side of my daughters Bridgett and Alexis during their first attempts to complete a marathon. So it came that Bridgett had decided to return from North Carolina back to her hometown and make the Detroit Marathon her first experience. Meanwhile Alexis was recovering from her injury and aiming to once again compete in the Detroit Half Marathon in October 2015. I had decided to run with Bridgett and help her achieve her goal. Her marathon time would likely be slower than I am accustomed to running thus a new experience for me to look forward to enjoying.
Bridgett did very well with her training plan for Detroit but in mid September the combination of a busy workload, graduate school, daughter Katie, a very hot and humid training environment in NC, all combined to not quite attain the level of training she needed to achieve to be able to successfully complete her first marathon. She made the wise decision to back off of any further intense training and plan instead for another race.
All of this is a very long way of saying that two weeks from this morning I will once again be running another marathon! This will be my 5th Detroit Marathon and my 12 marathon. I will run it as a competitive runner in the 60-64 Age Group and despite not being focused over much of the summer, I do intend to race a smarter race than my previous marathons in Chicago and at Bayshore. It will also be my 3rd marathon in 53 weeks! Now that is something I never would have imagine achieving! (Most runners run one marathon a year).
Oh and what about that marathon in Boston? Well, it has only been a few weeks now, but I did decide to return to compete once again in the Boston Marathon April 18 2016! I truly never ever thought I would return for the Boston Marathon! My motivation is to join the 16 other runners from our training group to train this winter and enjoy the sights from Hopkinton to Boston and to once again avenge my disastrous Boston experience from 2006 (that is a separate story post). The Boston Marathon will be my last competitive marathon!
So much for the running part, back to the career part. A year ago I was not happy at my employers firm. While I thoroughly enjoyed working with the people it was clear that the firm’s owners had a different view of not only architecture but also of how a firm should be managed. As a result of various simultaneous events within the firm at that time I emailed the President of my previous firm OHM Advisors, several years prior to ask if there might be a position available and how I might be able to help them with the architectural efforts. Within moments I received a very welcoming response and the rest as they say is history. It took a short bit of time to complete the transition but by early December in 2014, I was back at OHM Advisors as a leader within the architectural group and very happy to be there.
I have gone from my unnatural thinking of counting the days and even hours to retirement to looking forward to many years of contributing to the success of OHM and I rarely ever think of my retirement. I am proud to be associated with a strong, growing, and innovative, interdisciplinary group of design professionals who value my contributions. http://www.ohm-advisors.com
As a part of my return to OHM, I have also been able to rejoin another previous passion of mine over the years. Following a ten year or more absence I have also rejoined the Novi Rotary Club. http://www.novirotary.org The club membership has changed since my previous years as a member between 1986 to 2004. There are new members, new leaders, new service projects, but the same high level of integrity and commitment to service remains. I am very proud and thankful to be a part of this group and look forward to years of service.
I never would have guessed that any of these main events would ever likely happen, let alone in a short period of time. So the moral of this story may be to plan ahead, but always be aware of potential opportunities that may exist. You just never know what lays ahead in your future. It’s been a great year and I am excited about the year ahead too.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and continue to Run Happy.
PS: I also have a very significant announcement I will disclose in early November too, check back often.
Finally! Here it is my next post. It’s been months since my last post and the reason has a lot to do with why I write this post. The two are related. My last several posts were about my participation in the Chicago Marathon last October. This post is about my participation in the Bayshore Marathon next week in Traverse City Michigan.
The marathon route is one of the most scenic routes of any as it travels 13 mile up the easterly side of Grand Traverse Bay then returns and finishes on the track at Traverse City HS. This is a flat and fast route, a favorite marathon of many runners. It will be my first Bayshore.
Despite my diligent training last season preparing to take on Chicago I did not finish the marathon very strong. That finish was my inspiration to enter the Bayshore Marathon. My initial goal was to train diligently and finish the marathon in 3 hrs and 20 some minutes (3:28 would be sufficiently awesome). Then reality hit.
Instead of starting my first month of training, I sat out most of November due to a small stress fracture in my foot. There was also the tragic loss of my baby sister’s husband in late November. In December I took advantage of a career opportunity and returned to a firm where I had previously worked several years ago. This move was a very positive move in many ways including being training friendly, nonetheless, the new job keeps me very busy but all in a good way. Before I knew it two months of training opportunities were lost along with my waistline.
Then there was Mother Nature and our frigid winter (yes I did run outdoors at -14F). It seemed like all winter I was never able to get into a training rhythm during the week and my long runs on the weekends were more like medium runs. Then just as I was able to string together a reasonable training week or two, I stumbled on a patch of ice and needed to give my injured foot a week of rest. Following a week of decent running, I caught some form of a nasty bug that was going around. So, you can start to see the picture of my training?
I was down to the bare minimum amount of training time required to finish a marathon. I can report that much of this time has been fruitful. I raced two half marathons and actually finished well but they were difficult efforts. My week day efforts improved. Still, my weekly mileage of only 30-35 miles per week less than recommended minimums of 40 plus miles per week.
All of this adds up to the title of this post. I do have many lingering doubts about running a marathon 6 days from now! So why post this? Because earlier this morning I read an article about overcoming negative thoughts during a marathon. Among a number of methods was a suggestion to make your goal public. Tell as many people as you can about your marathon, your goals, your thoughts, your experiences. So I am putting this out to the entire world!
I may not run a 3:20 something marathon, I may not win my age group, but I will run a marathon, I will run a SMART marathon, I will enjoy the experience, I will celebrate afterwards, and I will anticipate the next marathon!
Architects and runners spend a considerable amount of effort and energy planning for the future. Architects need to have an overall understand of a project’s goals, schedule with intermediate milestone dates, and a game plan on how to reach the overall objective. The same is so with runners. Runners, especially runners training to compete in a very significant event such as a marathon, need to know the target date, desired outcome, and have a plan on how to achieve their marathon goal. The plan will likely entail at least 6 months of effort and include items such as long runs, speed work, yoga, diet, and intermediate races intended to check the progress.
While such planning often is the key to overall success, it is also crucial from time to time for both architects and runners to look backwards and carefully assess what worked and what didn’t work. Was the goal achieved? If not, why not? What can be done to improve the outcome next time?
So it is that I look back on my recent experience with competing in the Chicago Marathon last month. My overall finish time was 3 hrs. 46 min. A very respectable and perhaps even an enviable finish time as I qualified to run the Boston Marathon in April 2016. Yet I had hopes for much better. When asked by friends how I did in Chicago I tell them I had a fantastic first 20 miles or so, then the wheels fell off my buggy and for the remaining 6.2 miles or so it was not a pretty site. This experience is referred to has “hitting the wall”. While I have had this experience on occasion in other races of all distances it came very unexpectedly for me in Chicago.
So why? why went wrong? How did this happen and how to prevent it from happening again? As usual there is no one simple answer, rather there are several reasons. I won’t bore you with the tedious details but will highlight a few so in case you are planning to run a marathon you can benefit from my experience.
One of many reasons is “Corral Envy”. My marathon race application indicated that I was planning to finish in 3 hr’s 28. min. This was a very realistic expectation based upon my 3:29 finish in the NY City Marathon several years ago and a somewhat recent 3:33 finish in the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon that included at least 600 ft of climb during the final miles. Yet I failed to provide documented proof to the race officials, thus instead of being placed far ahead of the mass of runners in corral A or B, was assigned to corral D! OK, my mistake, but at least I could get to the very start of that corral and besides, I knew I needed to be held back and start very slow, so starting with slower runners may be a blessing in disguise.
Speaking of disguises, I also found myself lining up next to a guy wearing a Big Bird costume! Surely he was not planning to run 26.2+ miles on this sunny, yet cool Sunday morning in Chicago was he? Stay tuned.
About 10 minutes after the official start of the marathon I was at the official start line. My timing chip (worn on the backside of the race bib) had officially been started and within the next stride I was starting my 9th marathon with 45,000 other runners. If you have never participated in a mega marathon, or any marathon for that matter, the excitement at the start is difficult to express. My emotions were very quickly reeled into reality with the first several yards of the race as my running shorts began to fall off! Yes, once again, I made the mistake of packing too many energy gel packs in my race belt. The only solution was to release them from the belt and carry in my hands. Past this near disaster I kept to my race plan and started very slow. So what if Big Bird was ahead of me already?
I hit my first 5k split time pretty close to my target of 24+ minutes. By close I mean I was faster than I had wanted to be. This is not a good place to be early in a marathon. I decided right then that all I had to do was to hold this pace. Not a problem I told myself as I felt very relaxed, strong, and this pace felt very easy to maintain. So it when, mile after mile, 5k mark after 5k mark. Each time when I looked at my watch expecting to see a slower than targeted pace, I was shocked to see that I was actually running much faster (7:37 +/-) then I had any business to run.
I tried to slow down each time! I just never did. I am not sure if this was due to the flat course, the ever present “Go Lee” from the throng of supporters that crowd the route, or what, I just kept going. Then as I approached the half way point I thought that perhaps I was on to running my fastest marathon in over 20 years! Well, I was in fact on pace to do just that. But as you seasoned marathoners know, this is not the way one should attempt to run a marathon.
Between the half way point (13.1 miles) and the 20 mile mark, my inner thighs began to give way. They were “spent”. A runner friend from my hometown who started ahead of me in corral B passed me. Good for her, she was running a very smart race. Shortly thereafter I was passed by, yes none other than “Big Bird” himself. Now I knew I was in trouble! The final few miles weave through areas of the South side of Chicago where it is difficult for crowds to gather thus, the crowd support dwindled. Until the final mile when some of the crowd support returned. I was constantly given encouragement by those along the side of the road. They could obviously see I was struggling. I did my best to smile at them, by a wave of my hand I let them know I was fine.
Finally, I hit the last “hill” (all of a 10-20 ft climb) at about the 26 mile mark and then made the final turn towards the finish line. The announcer called out my name as I finished and I was thankful this long race was finally over. The finish area consist of a very long, very slow walk back to pick up your gear. The first volunteer wrapped me in a silver mylar blanket to keep me warm during a still chilly morning. There were many other volunteers offering everything from beer, protein shakes, and ice bags. What I really wanted was a seat to sit down and rest. I knew if I sat on the ground I would never get up! So I shuffled onto get my gear, then eventually the mile long walk back to the hotel.
Overall I had a very enjoyable experience the entire time I was in Chicago-Land. From the huge but extremely well organized expo at McCormick Place, to the Pumpkin Fest in the suburbs on Saturday with family and grand kids, and the post race meal at a small but elegant restaurant next to our hotel. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and learned even more.
Next time I will practice what I preach and train, plan, and run smarter. Thanks for taking the time to view my post today.
Following months of training that included long runs, fast runs, slow runs, hills, diet, yoga, weights, and yes even an occasional massage session, the time has come. There is nothing else I can do at this point to improve my training effort. Now the best thing for me is to relax and attempt to rest as much as possible so I can report to the starting line healthy, rested, and ready to race Sunday morning in Chicago. My journey to and through Taperville is nearly over.
The marathon is a very humbling experience. Despite how one has trained the runner needs to be very prepared and to prepare for anything can happen. I am at a loss for expectations for this marathon. For me the wild card is the course. It is a very flat and fast course. I do most of my running on very hilly routes in Milford and Northville. I do very well with hills, so you would think running on a flat route would be to my benefit. I will let you know how that works out after Sunday.
The Chicago Marathon will be my 9th marathon. After placing first in my age group in the City of Oaks Marathon in 2011, I decided to retire from the event with my win. However over the past 18 months my youngest daughter Alexis has taken up the sport, trains with our group, and completed several half marathons. She decided to make Chicago her choice for her first marathon. We entered the lottery back in December and learned that we each were selected to compete this past April. However she will not be running this marathon as a previous injury has yet to properly heal so I will look for her along the route cheering me towards the finish line.
I have two finish time goals, a realistic one and an optimistic one. Realistically I hope to complete the route in 3 hrs. 40 mins or less. Optimistically, and if all the stars are properly aligned on race day I would be very happy to break the 3 hrs. 30 min mark, which is very possible based upon training and conditions. Hopefully these times will place me in the top 10% of the entire field and somewhere near the top 25 in my age group. My strategy is to start slow, run a very even pace for the first half (1hr 46 min) then continue until somewhere about mile 22-23 where I hope to press the pace and run a negative split (1hr 44 min). This will not be easy, as I said at the start, the marathon can be a very humbling experience.
If you like you can follow me along the streets of Chicago by visiting www.chicagomarathon.com and find the link to “Track a Runner”. From there you can enter my name and you should be able to see my split times at key points along the course. You can also watch the marathon live via the web: http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Watch-the-2014-Chicago-Marathon-272105781.html Coverage should begin at about 8AM Detroit time and extend until about noon. Following the live TV coverage the NBC station continues to broadcast the average runners (like me) crossing the finish line. Look for an old architect in a light blue running singlet and shorts. I start in the first of two waves at 8:30 Detroit time.
Regardless of the outcome, you can safely bet that I will be out there “Running Happy”. Thanks for your support and time to view today’s posting. Please check back soon for my marathon report.
Sharing the Running Experience and My World of Architecture
Being confronted with adversity in your life is inevitable. Just keep in mind that it does not have to defeat you. Adversity is often short lived. Giving up is what makes it permanent. As a certified fitness professional, this blog is my way of helping you feel capable of anything.