Category: Marathon

2015 Philadelphia Marathon

Almost there!!!

Almost there!!!

The 2015 Philadelphia Marathon day has finally arrived! The commitment, energy, time, and training are done. Now, it’s the REAL deal! Prior to two years ago, the thought of entering into a marathon was out of the question! In addition, reading about a soldier running 26.2 miles from Marathon to Athens to proclaim victory and drop dead; that is not very encouraging! But, since joining Philly Achilles, the idea of running in a marathon was inevitable!

I was pumped Sunday morning! The morning was crisp and chilly but NOT a drop in the sky. I wasn’t scared or intimidated by the length of the marathon. I knew in my mind I had trained hard and stuck to Hal Higdon’s marathon training novice 2 schedule. When Stacy, Abby, and I got out of the taxi, I could feel the energy of excitement in the air. Many others were walking in our direction. We were heading to the fountain area in front of the Art Musuem where we planned to meet up with the rest of the group. Eventually, around 6:30 AM or so, Tyrrell, Joe, David, and Jessica showed up. I was bouncing around, clapping my hands wanting to get the show on the road! I remember David and Joe saying that they hope that I had the same enthusiasm around mile 20. I returned a big smile in their direction.

Team Mark walked over to the startting line. Our team consisted of David, Tyrrell, Jessica, Abby and Stacy (Joe took on the role of supporting and cheering us!). The starting area was crowded. We moved slowly. Finally, after twenty minutes or so, the moment had arrived. The song, “Be Happy” was blarring all around us (not the kind of momentum song I really wanted to hear to get movin’.). We were OFF!

Tyrrell guided me from the start. We moved slowing. David and Jessica were in front clearing the way. Stacy and Abby guarded the right side and rear. What a team – a “HOT” team that is! I was feeling good and the energy all around us was amazing. People were cheering everywhere – felt like a rock star.

At about the two mile marker I saw my wife, Kay. I took off my pants, gave her a kiss, and continued on. Seeing her gave me an extra boost. The morning was perfect for a long run. I wore shorts with compression socks and a long sleeve Philly Achilles green tech shirt under another long sleeve shirt (a throw away shirt given to me by a friend, Rodney). I kept it on till we got past the half way mark.

SMILE!!!

SMILE!!!

I like to run with an entourage not just for the social aspect but equally important for safety reasons. It makes me feel safer while running. At about mile five or so, an older gentleman smoking a cigar just happened to walk out in the middle of the race just as we were running toward him. Luckily, my team was alert and took care of him before something bad could have taken place. That was a close call.

This is where my memory escapes me but eventyally Stacy and Abby took over the reign as my guide for a while. We eventually hit mile eleven where I had to PEE (in fact, I had to pee since mile two but waited to find a port-o-potty with little to no lines. I waited in line with four people in front of me. David had taken off to the trees. As he was coming back, Abby asked me if I wanted to do the same thing and I said yes! She steered me toward David and he took me to a tree. I felt SO much better now! Even Abby went out to the trees – good for her!

We moved on. I saw another runner wearing an Emmitt Smith Dallas jersey. I started to sing the Eagles chant song. He smiled. I introduced myself to him and the rest of my group. It was his first marathon. too! Hope he did well!

Jessica guided me from mile eleven to the halfway mark. As we approached the halfway mark, we could hear the crowd and louder music. This is the point where we separated and continued on for another thirteen miles – GULP! No stopping now!

At about the halfway mark, Ali jumped in to join us. She was the jolt of positive energy that we needed at that point. With her huge smile and enthusiastic attitude, we continued on! Jessica handed me over to Ali around mile fourteen.

As we were running toward Manayunk, I saw runners coming back. Rodney, Greg, and Cedric shouted out words of encouragement. Man were they moving’! Abby told to stay focused and not let the oncoming runners distract me. Fortunately, my tunnel vision keeps me on track!

Guides at Work

Guides at Work

 

I could tell we getting close to Manayunk. The crowds were cheering loudly. I saw Natalie, a fellow Philly Achilles guide, I remembered her named (inside joke)! At one point, before we hit the slight incline, the song, “Eye of the Tiger” came on. Oh, I so needed to hear that song. It was perfect at this point. My legs were beginning to stiffen. We hit the Manayunk hill and people were lined up – what an amazing boost of energy! Pat and Katie, fellow Philly Achilles peeps, were there to cheer us on. We got to the turn-around point and headed back to the finish line. I believe we had about four miles left.

Prior to hitting Manayunk, around mile eigthteen or nineteen, my legs were getting tired and stiff. I thought to myself, I have seven or so miles left to go. Oh boy, I’m in trouble. But, I kept on. No way in hell I was giving up.

The last three miles were tough. I had to slow down and walk for a little bit to try and stretch my legs out. My group was awesome – they kept shouting out positive words/phrases of encouragement. My mind kept wanting to go but my legs kept screaming to stop. At about mile 24 or so, David took over as my guide. We were getting close to the finish. The crowd noise coupled with the boomin’ music was intensifying! Chills were running through my body. Almost there – the reality of finishing my first marathon was about to come true.

Mile 26! Two-tenths left! As we approached the finish line, I was smiling from ear to ear filled with joy! David held my arm up just in time to give Mayor Nutter a high-five. MARK – YOU DID IT shouted out from my group of guides! Indeed, I finished proudly. I finished with a time of 5:09:43. In addition, I neither crossed that finish lline not having to seek medical assistance nor did I pee or crap in my pants. All was good and I was feeling like a CHAMP!

Feeling like Rocky!

Feeling like Rocky!

WE DID IT!!!

WE DID IT!!!

 

As we continued to walk, I heard my local guide and friend, Vicki, shout out my name. I turned toward her and raised my hands in the air like Rocky Balboa. I was thrilled to see her. Also, eventually, my amazing friend Kelvin and his wife, Kelly, shouted out words of praise.I didn’t see my Dad and Arloa cheering me on but they were there – they had pictures to prove it! Seeing and hearing friends before, during, and after the race brought such joy to me. I eventually found Kay and Abby’s family. I was so happy to see Kay waiting to hug me!

I can’t thank my team as well as all those other guides enough for their enthusiasm, support, dedication, and perseverence to help me reach a marathon victory! Abby, Ali, David, Jessica, Stacy, and Tyrrell – you guys absolutely ROCK!!!

I celebrated my victorious marathon run with family and friends at Max Brenner. What a way to treat myself – a beer, a bacon-cheeseburger, and a yummy chocolate cake!

Marathoners!

Marathoners!

 

Red Light, Green Light

Ali and I Last 2 MilerToday is the day before the marathon! I took the train into Philly like I have done many times to meet up with the Philly Achilles peeps. Ali met me at Suburban Station where we continued to head over to CIGNA. I planned to run two miles. Others showed up for the workout – those who were not running in the marathon or half, chose to run slightly longer distances while others ran three-four miles. Usually I have I an entourage of guides, but today, its just Ali and me.

We took off and headed to the Market East ramp and turned left on the trail going opposite of Lloyd Hall. We eventually hit a turn-a-round circle near the Boardwalk Perfect spot to turn around since it was the one mile mark. The nice thing about cooler weather is you see fewer bikers (sorry, JP). There weren’t as many runners either but I was happy to be out! We headed back up the ramp and home towards CIGNA. On the way back, we felt like we were playing a popular elementary game called, “Red Light, Green Light”. Why? Ali and I hit just about every red light at each block. Finally, our destination arrived! The training is officially DONE! I high-fived Ali and we headed back up to the fourth floor to enjoy some refreshments.

Runny Noses

Vicki and I 3 MilerThis is the last week of training for the full marathon next Sunday. According to Hal Higdon’s marathon training schedule (Novice 2); I am to run 3 miles on Tuesday and 2 miles on Wednesday. I did just that!

Of course, Tuesday’s weather was beautiful but extremely cold! Temperatures were just below freezing with very windy conditions! Our exposed faces were numb and our noses were running faster than we were! It felt like we were the only ones in the park other than the park ranger. It feels amazing to be outside and enjoy the scenery even if we were nuts running out in the sub-freezing conditions. It was fun and I’d do it again – I know Vicki would!

Juliann and I 2 MilerWednesday’s forecast was slightly better but still below freezing. There were very little winds and the sun was shining brightly. Juliann and I ran the same route in Tyler Park; the one that we learned how to run together for our very first time. Juliann does a great job guiding! I am proud of her! The idea of just running two miles seems absurd but you have to trust and respect the marathon schedule. Hal’s schedule was created based on experience and wisdom AND it’s FREE!

I can’t believe it – there is only one more run before the marthon. Holy cow! Wow, where did the time go? Now I can enjoy two days of rest before one more two miler to do on Saturday prior to Sunday’s race. Yikes!

Last Eight Miler

Kerry, Jessica, David, Mark, ALi, Tyrrell, Matt, Josh, Alison

Kerry, Jessica, David, Mark, ALi, Tyrrell, Matt, Josh, Alison

I can’t believe that this is the last training weekend before the full marathon! OMGosh! The time has flown by so quickly. Unbelievable!

The air is cold but the sun is shining! I wore my man pants, shorts, two long shirts, gloves, and a tech hat. Other runners have told me that it is a good idea to dress as if the outside temperature is twenty degrees warmer than the currect temperature. What to wear for running is sometimes tricky. But, fortunately, I dressed just right!

David and Ali met me at the Suburban Station at 9 AM. David got some coffee before heading over to CIGNA. We met with the rest of the crew at our usual meeting place. I was greeted by some first time volunteers: Kerry, Josh, Alison, and two others (I will get their names soon)! After some mingling, we set off to run eight miles!

What a spectacular morning for a run. Tyrrell took the tether and off we went. David and Matt led the way while Josh, Kerry, Jessica, and Alison were behind us. It is SO much fun running with a group of wonderful people! We ran to Lloyd Hall to quickly get a drink as well as take a group picture. After the group picture, we ran two more miles where Tyrrell handed me over to David. The point at which you turn around to head back home is a beautiful feeling especially when you run shorter distances after running distances longer than ten miles. Glad to have you back, David! At one point, David asked me if this was the pace for our marathon, I smiled and said no. Our pace was a little faster probably because we were following Matt and Josh. The crew returned to Lloyd Hall. David handed me over to Ali for the remaining two miles back to CIGNA.

On our way back, the sun was shining brightly in our direction. I couldn’t see a darn thing. Ali did a great job assuring me that I was in the middle of the pathway. We pressed on till we reached the Market Street ramp. I told Ali to keep moving up the incline – no time to relax just yet! We hit Chestnut and continued to run back to CIGNA. What a great feeling – the last eight miles done! Thanks to David, Tyrrell, Ali, Jessica, Matt, Kerry, Josh, and Alison for a superb run!

Congratualtions to Jessica for earning her official Achilles shirt! You deserve it! Also, thank you to Kerry, Josh, Alison, and two others for coming out and joining us!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Race To Remember

Stacy and I

Stacy and I

This race has a double meaning. One, the purpose of this race event was to raise awareness and funds for homeless Veterans as well as honor our military men and women. Secondly, I completed this course in 27:30:00 – by far my fastest 5K time!

Prior to running this 5K, I was concerned that my left IT band would not allow me to run. After running a half marathon the previous day, my left knee was sore. I didn’t know what to expect when I woke up Sunday morning. Today, Stacy, my guide and friend, was going to guide me in an official race for the first time. On the previous Thursday, Stacy and I did a practice run to familiarize ourselves with the course. Our practice run took us a little over thirty minutes. Stacy was adamant that I was going to PR this race since we just finished our practice with no issues. GULP! She obviously didn’t factor in that I was running 13.1 miles the day before Sunday.

Sunday morning was beautiful! My left leg was still sore. I kept thinking to myself that there was no way I was going to PR this race. At my request, Stacy and I ran around the track to hopefully loosen up my left leg – it worked! Now, I was ready to run.

The race started and we were off! Oh, prior to the race, I found out that there were about ten other elite runners in my age category. What does that mean, it means that I would have to finish faster than twenty-four minutes – not happening (at least not today). Throughout the course, Stacy did a fantastic job guiding me. She pushed me hard and didn’t let me slow down on the incline heading back to the school. I couldn’t believe that I was running under nine minute miles especially after running a half marathon the previous day. But I did! I finished the 5K race with a best time of 27:30:00 – the fastest 5K time thus far. Again, thanks to Stacy for an amazing job and support!

I would also like to thank Cliff Robbins for organizing this race to help honor and acknowledge our true heroes. I received a text message on Monday from Cliff stating that his son had come home safely from Afghanistan. Wahoooo! In addition, my cousin, Neil, and friend, Eryn, and all the other men and women who have or are currently serving our country – THANK YOU!

Sunday, November 9, 2014 in Newtown, Pa (Council Rock HS North) @ 9 AM

Trenton Half Marathon

Abby, Me, Natalie

Abby, Me, Natalie

The Third Annual Trenton Half Marathon kicked off sometime after eight this chilly morning (they never start on time). My guides, Abby and Natalie, and I were waiting anxiously to get movin’. I had to run twelve miles as part of my training schedule for the full marathon. This half marathon was my first last year and I wanted to run in it again. I loved the layout of the course, the opportunity to run in two different states and across two bridges, and the thrill of crossing homeplate in the Arm and Hammer Stadium. This race was a perfect fit. Even though it is a race, I had to consider it a training run – period!

The race started and we were moving. The first mile or so was tough since three groups went out at once – 5K, 10K, and the 13.1 mile runners. The problem with this scenario was that many of the 5K runners who bolted from the start line were now gassed out. Therefore, we had to continously weave in and out, left to right or vice versa, to find an open lane. Once we hit the third mile, the crowd started to fizzle out.

Throughout the course, Abby moved me right or left while Natalie shouted out the directions. My left hearing aid battery died around the sixth mile. Great – just what I needed. A couple of times, Abby started running toward the left while I kept running straight. Oops – I didn’t hear Abby or Natalie. At times, the sun was so bright, I couldn’t see at all. This is where I had to have complete trust in both of my guides. In addiition to the sun creating a hazard, runners who listen to music create potential issues. When we need to move around a runner or two and they don’t hear us, what do we do? I’ll leave that to your creative minds what I would like to do. J

Natalie did a super job grabbing the water and placing the cup into my hand while in stride like two track runners exchanging a baton. Running and drinking water is a skill – I didn’t gag or choke. Okay, I did spill a little here and there. But, the three of us never stoppped to walk through any of the water stations!

At the tenth mile, I wanted to bust loose. But, thanks to Abby and Natalie, they held me in check. I was feeling good and wanted to really crush my last year’s time. Instead, I stayed within our pace time of 10:30 per mile.

The Arm and Hammer Stadium was in sight according to my guides. Yes, almost to the finish line! Once we entered the stadium, we ran around the entire perimeter of the outfield. I though it would never end. Before we turned down toward the third base line, we joined hands in order to cross the finish line together. Indeed we did! What a fabulous run! Abby and Natalie were fun and both did a fantastic job of guiding!

The end result was 2:16:51. Ten minutes shaved off from last year’s half marathon!

THree WIse Monkeys - Mute, Blind, Deaf

THree WIse Monkeys – Mute, Blind, Deaf

Saturday, November 8, 2014 in Trenton, NJ @ 8 AM.

Rain, Rain,and Some More Rain

 

As the garage door opened, I could hear the rain making music off the aluminum siding of my house. I knew this was not going to be a pleasant 20 mile run. My wife drove me to the Woodbourne Train Station to catch a 7:05 AM train to Philly Suburban Station. We walked up to the platform and said our goodbyes. I stood there thinking I was absolutely nuts to be running in this weather.

The whole fifty-five minute train rideI to Philadelphia, I kept second-guessing myself. Should I push the run to Sunday or suck-it-up and get the run done today? After texting back and forth with several of my guides, we were debating whether or not to run. However, after posting a question on Facebook, it was official – the 20 mile run was on!

I met Jessica and Fred at Suburban Station and then jumped onto the Manayunk/Norristown Regional Rail to Manayunk Staton. We stepped off and walked over to Starbucks to meet up with the rest of the crew. As we walked over, we commented on the rain slowing down. At this point, I was thinking positively and hoping the rain would eventually stop – NOT!

Starbucks was a perfect meeting place before our run. Some got coffee while others used the bathroom. The woman behind the counter allowed me to leave my cane while I went running. The crew was ready – ready to embrace the wet, windy, and cold conditions.

Natalie took the tether for the first 6 miles. We dodged puddles for about a half a mile before hitting paved grounds furthur along the towpath. Tyrrell was to my left and Natalie was to my right while Jessica, Hal, and Clair were in front of us. We were running at a good pace. The group was in good spirits despite the constant cold rain. As originally planned, Natalie was going to run 5 miles before turning around. However, she changed her mind and decided to run with us to the halfway point where she could hop onto a train at the Norristown Station. Smart move – so we thought!

The crew ran to about 7 miles before we stopped to take a GU/water break. We continued onward and eventually saw another one of our runners, Dave. He kind of got lost and fortunately found us. As we were approaching the 8-9 mile mark, we saw various shopping stores and restaurants. We continued running before stopping at an intersection at about the 9.6 mile mark. Norristown Station was not in sight. The crew felt that if we had continued on, we would not have hit the station, but rather continue heading towards the Valley Forge area. Natalie quickly called a friend to see if she could be picked up at Crackel Barrel across the street. Her friend was available and another smart move on Natalie’s part!

The rest of us turned around and we headed back. We decided we would make up the extra .4 of a mile on the back end. Around the twelth mile, I started to feel lightheaded. I was in serious trouble if I couldn’t press on. I told Jessica I needed some Gu. I took not one, but two at this time. Thank GOD! It worked. I felt much better and continued on. On our journey back on the towpath we saw a part of the trail that split off to the left. This is where Clair saw a sign that signaled the path leading to Norristown. We must have been in such a zone that we totally missed the sign. But, now we know and will never forget. Also, we know that if we want to run to Valley Forge, we have that option too!

We still had about 6 miles to go. Our clothes were sopping wet and our shoes felt like weights. But, we were mentally sharp. The miles were diminishing but the rain was relentless.

1 mile to go! We had to continue dodging big puddles. I think that was the toughest part of the run – the stopping and starting again. We pressed on. We passed Starbucks to continue to the 20th mile. At one point, we passed a restaurant where I could smell something real tasty. Oh, man! I was hungry and thirsty. I couldn’t wait to chow down a juicy, delicious bacon cheeseburger with a cold beer.

WE DID IT! 20 miles in the book!!! The rest of the crew was waiting for us at Manayunk Brewery Company. Thankfully, Ali and JP welcomed us with dry towels and T-shirts. Stephanie brought us her ymmy brownies. I was SO hungry I woofed one before my meal. Oh, it was amazingly delicious.

I can’t thank everyone enough for their support! Thanks to Dima, Fred, Keith, Dave, Hal, Claire, Natalie, Tyrrell, Jessica, Ali, JP, Stephanie, and Greg for making this experience a memorable. Fantastic job to all!!!

Bring on the Philly Marathon!

5 – 5 – 5

Tuesday, October 28, 2015 5 mile run with Vicki on the towpath along the New Jersey side in Lambertville was absolutely stunning. The beautiful, fall-like morning with a ray of sunshine made this easy run very enjoyable. This is the kind of morning you wish for any type of run or race. At one point along the canal, there were these tall trees lined up about ten feet apart on both sides of the path. I felt like they were cheering for us as we approached the end point of our run. The cool thing while running is you have time to think. I do not always see what surrounds me while I run, but having an artistc friend puts things into perspective for me. We ended our run with a delicious breakfast at Lambertville Cafe. I enjoyed a meat-lovers omelette! Yummy!!! Wonderful job, Vicki!!!

The next day, Juliann and I hit the hills at Tyler State Park for another 5 miles. We tackled the hills during the first half of the journey while enjoying the flatter portion of the course for the last 2 miles or so. A couple of times, a fellow Bucks County Road Runner yelled out my name when we crossed paths at two different points on onr run. Who is this mystery runner (male)? Despite the hills, Juliann and I were running about a ten-minute per mile pace. I could hear myself as well as my guide breathing laborously up the long incline. At the point at which you feel the hill begin to flatten out fills your body with an abundance of positive energy. If you can conquer a hill or hills, you can push yourself to run longer distances! We completed our 5.3 mile run at the boathouse. Juliann saw a gentleman siiting on a bench with a shirt that read, “Born to be Wild, Old Men Rule!” Fantastic job, Juliann! You are SO ready for the Trenton 10k and the Philly Half!!! Go for IT!

Thursday turned out to be another gorgeous day for a 5 mile run with Stacy along the Yardley canal heading south toward Morrisville. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see well at all. I literally put all my trust in Stacy. I couldn’t see the ground or the edges of the path. The afternoon sun created a glare that made it difficult for me to see clearly with or without my sunglasses. But, Stacy did a great job communicating to me along the canal. Ironically, not knowing exactly where I was on the canal made the run seem to go by faster. I guess when you are feeling comfortable and having fun, any run will go faster! Bravo Stacy!

A Walk in the Park

Philly Achilles Family

Philly Achilles Family

The Achilles Family Saturday Workout had a big showing. Finally, the weather was much more pleasant than the past several weeks. After we took our group photo, we set to hit Kelly Drive toward Falls Bridge. Team Mark consisted of Ali, Claire, David, and Tyrrell! David, who hasn’t guided me in weeks, was back in action. He guided me for several miles along with saying some pretty corny jokes. At about the 3rd mile, David unleashed me to Ali and he headed off in the opposite direction with Team Matt.

Before we hit Fals Bridge, the four of us stopped for a quick drink/Gu break. Afterwards, Tyrrell took over guiding me. We were moving at a good pace of about 10:10 per mile thus far. We crossed the bridge and onto MLK. Here we go again – I took the bungy cord and took off following the double, yellow lines. I picked up the pace. However, my legs were feeling heavy and tired. I realized that running the previous day at a fast pace might not have been the best thing but I didn’t care. I pressed on with Claire while Tyrrell and Ali were behing us. At one point, we say Patricia wheeling towards us. Man, she is FAST! Also, we saw another Achilles runner, Bruce, with his guide Dave. Around the 8th mile, Claire and I stopped to walk to give my legs a break. I know from here on out, I won’t run the day before my long run. Didn’t I say that in one of my previous posts? LOL.

Claire, Ali, Mark, Tyrrell

Claire, Ali, Mark, Tyrrell

We pressed on before returning to Kelly Drive. I gave Tyrrell my bungy cord and we were heading back to CIGNA. When we got to the top of the ramp, a nice gentleman took a group photo of us. We moved on and are less than a mile to go. When I run on sidewalks, I slow down big time.I wish I could go faster but the idea of spraining my ankle scares me, especially after training for so long. We finally made it to CIGNA! 12 miles as Ali put it “is a walk in the park.” Great job Team Mark!!!

Cold and Rainy 5 Miles

Vicki and Me

Vicki and Me

This week’s routine of running on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday did not go as planned. I didn’t run Tuesday or Wednesday due to crappy weather. Therefore, thankfully, I got in a 5 mile run with Vicki in her neighborhood on Thursday despite a cold and rainy afternoon. We ran throughout her community. There was very little traffic and we made quite a few left and right turns. From time to time, Vicki did tell me we were going left or right but ended up going the opposite direction. Since she is an artsy individual, Vicki was entriqued by the Halloween decorations displayed in front of the houses. I’m glad we both pushed eachother to get out and run. Indeed, we got it DONE! Awesome job Vicki!!!

The following day, I met Kim at Starbucks in Yardley. Of all things, I forgot my bungy cord. Fortunately, Kim lives close by and we picked up a bungy cord. We hit the towpath from Black Rock parking lot  toward Yardley. This morning was perfect for running. The towpath had a lot of puddles which I had to avoid since we didn’t know how deep the holes were. I felt good today and moved at a faster pace than usual. After the first mile, I kept a consistent pace of under 10 minutes a mile. My pace time slowed a little during the 3rd and 4th mile to compensate the low bridge at Yardley and some choppy spots on the towpath. However, we were bookin’ on the last mile!! After our run, Kim treated me to a delicous chocolate frosted apple cider doughnut from Styers Orchard. Yummy!!! Thanks Kim!!! Fantastic job Kim!

Yum

Yummy!

Yummy!

 

Mile 1 – 10:27

Mile 2 – 9:41

Mile 3 – 9:47

Mile 4 – 9:49

Mile 5 – 8:58