Category Archives: A Running Life

The Ottawa Marathon Preamble

A decision to run another marathon might include mulling the details of fitness, nutrition, volume running, long runs, speed-work, hill work, the course layout — is it flat? hilly? urban?  oh-natural? —  all of which require dedicated planning and training for 16 weeks prior to showing up.  Or, the decision might evolve from a chance meet at a running Expo, where two lovely Canadians sitting at a booth in Corning, New York, describe the views along the course, surrounded by the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal,  the friendly spectators that line the course; while speaking with that pleasing French-Fargo  twang.  The ladies behind the Ottawa Marathon booth multi-tasked, handing out brochures, patiently explaining geography to Americans who were unclear if Ottawa was a city or a province, greeting other runners with more Bon Jour, and then describing croissants at the finish line.  I found myself mesmerized by their friendly Canadian vibe, losing all need to weigh the pros and cons of marathon training, and saying ‘why not? sign me up’.

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The warmup

Signs of an aging runner…


Doris drove the oversized van —  a rehabbed ambulance — into the lot designated for runners taking four parking spaces while Lois tended to other matters.  Outside, runners no older than 40 congregated, wearing singlets and shorts in 45-degree weather, not growing goosebumps, waiting for the half marathon to start. Inside the van, the temperature a balmy 78.

Sporting an age category far right of the runners bell curve, Lois and Doris broke a sweat with two layers of pants and a full contingent of long sleeve shirts, Goretex vest, and a winter jacket.  Behind the driver’s seat a long hallway  – presumed once used for stretchers – flanked a private bathroom, a closet with two fold out chairs, a coffee station and a large sofa covered with knee braces, ankle supports, bandages and four pairs of running shoes.
Continue reading The warmup

The Code

25870657461_8490430f96_zAs their AmTrak train arrived in New York City, the screeching sounds of brakes grinding to a stop gave way to a sense that something special was about to unfold.  Doris and Lois, dragged their carefully packed bags, backpacks actually, that were only easy to carry during the departure from Baltimore.  Somehow, during the train ride these bags transformed into cement blocks, becoming heavier and wider, and any plans to walk the distance from mid-town to Battery Park seemed less likely.  It was New York City at 9AM and the hum of the city, the tall buildings that on some blocks shut down the sky, had that unique smell of humanity that the shop owners did their best to hose back onto the streets, for a city that claimed to never sleep.

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Inside the finish of the NYC marathon

I learned from my own NYC Marathon finish in 2014, that the volunteers are a special breed of human.  From a runner’s perspective, NYC Marathon volunteers, wear official jackets, along with unofficial halos.  They take the time to look you in the eye, grant your every wish (mostly), restore your anxiety to a sense of calm, listen to you as if you were the most important person amongst a sea of thousands, and let you know that no matter how much pain you are in, everything will be all right.  These are the volunteers that make up an army of 12,000 to support the 50,000 runners on NYC marathon Sunday.  I wanted to be a part of that army of angels – or at least try.

I arrived at my designated location on 33 Central Park West to sign in for my shift.  Our shift was from 10AM to 6PM.   I was assigned to “Zone 3” in the NYC marathon finish area.  Zone 3 is a location 5 city blocks past the actual finish line.   When you run the NYC marathon you are not actually finished when you complete 26.2 miles.  That’s just part one.   Part two is the additional mile walk that all runners must endure.  It is the longest mile you can imagine, and your body has only one thought.   It want’s to shut down.  But no, you must keep walking. Continue reading Inside the finish of the NYC marathon


Mill Mountain Star
Mill Mountain Star

Every once in awhile, you challenge yourself beyond what you think you are capable. You push the limits, and there is still a reserve to push harder.  You consider the “Q” word, but somehow manage to talk yourself out of quitting.  You think the worst is over, only to find you need to push yourself even more.  You wonder what provoked the need for such a challenge?   Or, maybe you just don’t realize what you have signed up for.

We had signed up for the Blue Ridge Half Marathon in the dead of winter.  The days when the temperatures were in single digits, the outdoor runs were slim to none and signing up for something that was advertised as the “worlds hardest half marathon’ seemed like a way out of the winter doldrums.  We live at sea level in Maryland.  Our altitude of 300′ with hills that might reach 1/4 mile at most is plenty challenging.  Yet, we were drawn to an event that claimed to reach the stars.  Words that touted 2 mountain climbs with nearly 4000′ of elevation change drew blank stares.  Fixated by the claim of the worlds hardest half marathon – well, I had to see it to believe it.  In that blissfully unaware cold winter day, sitting at my computer with a hot cup of Joe – I clicked on the “Register” button.   Now, all I had to do was to convince my running partner to do the same.  Fortunately she didn’t read the fine print. Continue reading Elevated

Flying palm trees

Krabbed IT on Kent Island!
Krabbed IT on Kent Island!

Many people consider the Chesapeake Bay as the waterway that divides the Maryland mainland and the Maryland Eastern Shore.  However, hidden in the geography details, is a small island.  Kent Island. An island where the “Q” sisters rule.  Sisters Quaint and Quiet.

It is also a splat of land where the terrain is sculpted perfectly for runners.  Perfect in my world translates to flat terrain, off road running trails, unbelievably scenic views of the Bay and roadways mostly devoid of traffic.  Welcome to the karma of Kent Island.

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Taking in Charleston via the Charleston Half Marathon and 5K

16299021661_bf26caba9f_zToday, I will run the Charleston Half Marathon – which is a charity running event that supports the Arts in Charleston SC.  We left our campground in Mount Pleasant by 6AM – for a 30 minute drive into downtown Charleston.  At 36 degrees, I was expecting to be cold, bone cold while waiting outdoors 1.5 hours for the 8AM start.  I was thrilled to find that the Burke Middle School was open to the runners, and all 4300 of us piled inside to stay warm.

This is where I met Rosanne – a lovely lady in her early 50’s who is a cancer survivor and has run over 30 marathons and a few Iron-Man triathlons.  She was quite inspiring and engaging and I nearly forgot that I was preparing to run a half marathon.  With 10 minutes before the race starts, I said goodbye to my new friend – and stepped outdoors. Brrr.  I was wearing too many clothes for running – but I really need to stay warm at the start.  Aaah, the runner’s dilemma boils down to how much clothing to wear. Continue reading Taking in Charleston via the Charleston Half Marathon and 5K

Seeking heat – A winter diversion to Charleston

We are seeking a winter reprieve to 20 something degree Maryland temperatures, and choose Charleston SC as our destination.   What’s not to love about Charleston?   A big city, with a small town southern charm.  Oh – and it should be warmer than Maryland.

Our southern mini-vacation began with a good old fashioned ice storm.  The kind of ice storm that starts in the south, aligns itself directly with the I-95 corridor, and dares us to really really really want to make this trip.  We do.  And, it’s a long one.  An ice storm from the south translates to just enough ice and snow precipitation to barely coat the roadways, with show stopping multi-vehicle accidents.  For some, this is a very bad day.  For us, it means more time on the road.  More time to dream about reaching warming temperatures. Continue reading Seeking heat – A winter diversion to Charleston

Inspired by a touch of summer…

With temperatures rising to 32 degrees and a rain-sleet storm heading in our direction – I had a mid-day window to get in my 10 mile run.   I’m wearing my usual wintertime running outfit — long sleeve moisture wicking shirt, thin insulated jacket, lined sweat pants, wool socks, mittens and a bright orange cap.  Born-n-raised in upstate NY, I should be able to handle 32 degree weather.

After the first 3 miles of hilly terrain – I had worked up some steam.   Apparently not enough steam.  I was passed by an older man wearing t-shirt and shorts.  That’s right – wearing summertime clothing.  The last I checked, it was still winter in Maryland.  And he zoomed past me.  Continue reading Inspired by a touch of summer…

Running the Alps of Crozet

Oh sure.  You can Google the Alps of Crozet.  And likely you find them located in France.  Exactly where the Crozet Alps belong.

But, if you are not needing to cross the Atlantic, live in the burb vicinity of Washington DC, and have a “thing” for running uphill in an all femme half marathon – the Alps of Crozet – located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Crozet VA is for you.

Continue reading Running the Alps of Crozet