10 Reasons Why Jimmy V’s ESPY’s Speech is the Best Ever.

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This week is Jimmy V Week on the Worldwide Leader, and undoubtedly viewers will have ample opportunity to catch replays of Jim Valvano’s memorable ESPY’s speech from 1993.

I was only 22 when Valvano delivered his famous “Don’t Give Up” speech as he accepted the Arthur Ashe Award at the 1993 ESPY Awards. And much like a famous work of art, it’s brilliance grows through the years. Now, 19 years later, I can easily make the case that this speech is, without a doubt, the best one ever.

10 Reasons Why Jimmy V’s ESPY’s Speech is the Best Ever.

It’s prophetic. Early on, Valvano challenges his audience to “laugh, think, and cry” everyday. Therefore, it’s only fitting that by the end of his 11 minute speech, anybody watching this speech was moved to do all three.

It’s timeless. Regardless of whether you saw the speech live, like me, or just checking it out now it for the first time, Valvano’s remarks easily stand the test of time. A great motivational primer for all generations… and for any motivational purpose.

No waste. Just like a good screenwriter, Valvano moves things along so effortlessly, with no wasted throw away lines. You can tune in at any point during the speech and feel like you didn’t miss anything.

Valvano pays homage to his family, past and present. And justifiably so. He alludes to not only his immigrant parents, but takes the time to point out his wife and kids seated in the audience. A nice touch, and very humanizing.

Self-deprecating humor. Of course. This was Jimmy V afterall… it was his calling card. He recounts a memorable (and funny) anecdote about a locker room speech early on in his coaching career, pointing out how he badly butchered the inspirational payoff line in front of the entire team.

He doesn’t oversell himself. Throughout his delivery, you don’t hear Valvano raise his voice, shout, or use senseless sports metaphors to make his point. Quite the contrary. He’s silky smooth the entire time, even in the face of death, devoid of any stutters or pregnant pauses. A true professional.

Valvano addresses his own mortality, and doesn’t allow anyone to feel sorry for him. The back half of his speech is full of his proclamations of his fleeting time left with us. He’s very matter of fact, making sure not to overplay the sympathy card, though in this instance he’d have every right to do so. Several times we hear him say “I don’t have much time left” in a way that inspires rather than saddens.

“Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”  Self-explanatory. If you’ve never heard these words uttered, then I’m truly speechless (pardon the pun).

Eerie foreshadowing. When Valvano begins to wrap up his speech, he bids adieu to the audience with the farewell words “I know I’ve got to go” as if he’s telling the audience that his time is in fact coming to a close. Valvano passed away 8 weeks later.

Best closing line. Ever. Who hasn’t heard Valvano’s infamous closing charge “Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.”

If you’ve never seen Valvano’s speech, you should.

And in doing so, who knows, you may in fact find that you’ll laugh, think… and cry. Now that’s some speech…

Connecting with AFib Influencers in Chicago

IMG_5389Recently, I was privileged to attend to the #MyAfibStorySummit on November 15th in Chicago. This digital influencer event, produced by Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.*, featured a collection of AFib bloggers and well known thought-leaders. The timing of this event was set against the backdrop of The American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions also occurring that same weekend in Chicago.

At the summitt, we all participated in a roundtable exchange to discuss the needs of the AFib community. This session was moderated by Dr. JoAnne Foody, Director of the Cardiovascular Wellness Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. As we went around the room, we all contributed our ideas and thoughts to ways we can further grow and impact the online charge when it comes to atrial fibrillation. I made sure to address my specific area of advocacy: emphasis on early detection and for those who are newly diagnosed.

IMG_5376It was an eye-opening event. It really was. I had never really “hung out” with others who had been touched by AFib. I came to quickly understand and appreciate everyone’s own individuality when it came to AFib. For each of the panelists, AFib presented itself in a different way. Some experienced severe daily pain, others minor flutters, and some were even in normal sinus rhythm for more than 10 years.  I shared with the panelists my coincidental tale of how I had just bounced back into atrial fibrillation the day before [Read more here].

The next day, I made sure to stop by the Scientific Session hall to visit the booths and find out about the next wave of technology in the cardiovascular space. It was a massive event – a who’s who in heart health, science and research.

The weekend was both informational and inspirational. My biggest takeaway is that we all can come together to form a support chain for those who are in the dark about AFib. The people I met in Chicago are a testament to that notion.

*Disclosure: Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., paid for my travel expenses for the summit. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

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When AFib Bites Back (Again)

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On the morning of November 14, while driving to work, I placed two fingers on my carotid artery to take my morning pulse. It was something I had trained myself to do every day since being diagnosed with AFib, and before long it becomes second nature.

But on this morning it felt different. Three normal beats followed by a rapid fourth. At first I dismissed it. Maybe it was just the vibration of my car causing a misread. I decided to wait until I arrived at the office.

When I got to the office, I tested again. Same result.

I chose  to remain calm. I instinctively called my cardiologist’s office and convinced them to see me later that afternoon to perform an EKG.

Unfortunately the EKG confirmed what I was fearing.

I was back in atrial fibrillation… again.

Usually when one is diagnosed with AFib, there’s a sense of sadness that sets in, a “dark cloud” if you will. But this time around I’m hopeful. This is my third time going through this, and I know there’s options ahead. I had enjoyed 5 1/2 months of normal sinus rhythm, and it truly was a great run (pun intended).

In December, I’ll meet with my medical team to see what the best next step(s) should be. Either way, I’m optimistic I’ll be back running on the road soon.

AFib and Me: One Year Later

Today’s the day. It was exactly one year ago – a day that changed everything.

[Insert flashback effect here].

When tafib2he cardiologist walked into the room, it didn’t take long for him to diagnose. A quick glance at the heart rate monitor confirmed what I had been fearing for weeks.

“Yep. That’s AFib alright.”

I was shocked. It was a punch to the gut. I really didn’t know much about Atrial Fibrillation, but one thing I did know is that AFib is practically a death sentence to a marathon runner like myself who was aspiring to run the Boston Marathon.

After all, here it was, November 8th, 2013, and “Boston” was just six months away. And afib one yearnot just any Boston. This one was going to be the holy grail of all marathons. 2014 was going to be special, especially for me for a number of reasons. It was going to be my 10th and final marathon, and it was going to be very emotional for me given the tragic events from the previous year (I was stopped at the 25.8 mile mark).

And now I’m not going to be a part of it. All because of a condition where my heart decided to beat rapidly and abnormally. Shit.

And just then is when I heard the words that would change everything….
“but, Tracy… if you’re up to it, there is this one procedure I can do that might possibly take care of this…”

Ding!

It was like a scene out of a sports movie. Ahh, the prospect of hope.

rr2My cardiologist then pitched me on the concept of an electro cardioversion, a procedure where the heart is literally reset to normal rhythm. It doesn’t always work, and even when it does, it’s not guaranteed to “stick.”  I underwent the cardioversion a few weeks later, and my heart was reset to normal rhythm. The anesthesiologist said that when he put me under, I had a noticeable smile on my face. And it’s obvious why.

So it’s been one year. And a lot has happened in that short time. Throughout it all, I basically earned my PhD in AFib and heart disease (or so it seems). It was a very active year — with five different medications, two cardioversions (I relapsed in late April), countless EKG’s, four half marathons, two 10K’s, an 8 miler, a triathlon relay, and one very special Boston Marathon finish.

Andheart2… as a side benefit, I fulfilled the long time goal of fully quitting caffeine. I haven’t drank one Diet Coke since that day I was diagnosed (and trust me, I used to drink A LOT).

Proudly, and surprisingly, I “PR’d” in every race except one. I chalk this up to the fact that my heart was now operating much more efficiently, plus I was taking better care of myself.

As I reflect, there’s many takeaways. But my biggest one is the following:
If you are one who enjoys an active lifestyle, AFib doesn’t mean the end. Oddly, in my case, it actually was just the beginning.

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Looking Back – October Sunday Challenge Highs and Lows

It’s now been almost a week since the conclusion of my October Sunday Challenge, and as is the case with most things I do, I tend to come to grips with the right words only after having thought about it for awhile.

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The October Sunday Challenge was an idea I conjured up primarily as a way to stay motivated (and fit) throughout the Summer and early Fall. The idea of running four consecutive half marathons is not one that is altogether that difficult,  but for someone like me it was crazy enough and demanding enough to keep me focused.

And, in the end.. it was fun… it was challenging… and it was memorable.

One thing I immediately learned is that there’s a certain inner peace you get when you know you’ll be racing every weekend. I compare it to being a football player – if you lose one week, you can improve and try again the following week.

I guess the worst part about the four week challenge is the fact that it’s now over. I miss the early Sunday morning wake up calls. I miss waiting in line at the porta-potties in 40 degree weather. I miss loading up in the post race food tent. And I certainly miss the 5 minutes of euphoria and jubilation immediately following the crossing of the finish line.

Here are some quick superlatives fromthe October Sunday Challenge:

Most scenic race: They were all very breathtaking, each for different reasons, but it’s hard not to mention the Smuttynose Half Marathon as the most scenic. Perfect weather along Hampton Beach made for a picturesque race.

Most organized race: They were all very well run, but I give the nod to the B.A.A. Half Marathon. Anytime DMSE is involved in organizing a race you know it’s going to be first class.

Most challenging: Unquestionably the B.A.A. Half Marathon. With two hairpin turnarounds and several annoying rolling hills, this race always gives me problems.

Easiest race: I would say the Smuttynose Half Marathon. Except for one small incline, this race is pretty much dead flat. The Baystate Half Marathon is also fairly level, but there are a fair number of hills and inclines. Not as easy as Smuttynose.

Now that’s over, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. All four races were great in their own way, and if I had to choose four races for next year’s October Sunday Challenge, I’d pick the same four.

RACE RECAP: White Mountain Milers Half Marathon

Today was the fourth and final leg of the October Sunday Challenge. Today’s race was the White Mountain Milers Half Marathon up in the Mt. Washington Valley in northern New Hampshire.

I have never run this race before, but I wanted to give it a try since I spend quite a bit of time up in North Conway. It’s a smaller race, between 400-500 runners, which I actually liked as a change of pace (pun intended).

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The first 3 miles traveled through North Conway’s main street (Rt. 16) before making its way into the rural portion of Conway. I started out pretty steady, hovering around an 8:10 pace. I stayed consistent between miles 5-11 as the race route continued down a single road.

After turning right back onto Rt. 16, the race concluded back where it started at Schouler Park. The finish line was unique in that the last tenth of a mile is on grass which I thought was pretty cool. I finished in 1:55:20. Not a PR, but I wasn’t expecting one given the elevation and the fact that this was my first time running in this event. I placed 10th in my age group, which for me is an improvement.

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The finish line area was pretty subdued and laid back. My two daughters participated in the youth dash race and both received medals.

I give this race a thumb’s up and definitely recommend it. I will certainly add this to my race calendar next year.

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The PR Streak Continues – A Windy Day at the Baystate Half Marathon

Family PictureThis week, the October Sunday Challenge took me to Lowell, MA for the Baystate Half Marathon. I had run in this race twice before. It’s well run with a large volunteer base and great post-race setup.

The weather couldn’t have been better, or at least I thought. Once the race went off, there was an annoying head wind that was very noticeable. And because the half marathon was a double loop, it meant that the runners would face this wind twice.

I hit a wall early on, around mile 2 or 3, but kept plugging away. I finished in just over 1:55, by far a new course PR for me. By way of comparison, last year I finished in 2:12, so this was a marked improvement year to year.

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And though I significantly improved my time from last year, I still feel like I didn’t run a “complete” race. I’ll get another crack at it next week when I travel up to North Conway, NH for the White Mountain Milers Half Marathon, the fourth and final leg of the October Sunday Challenge.

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Another Race, Another PR – My Day at the B.A.A. Half Marathon

Today was the 2nd leg of the October Sunday Challenge as my travels took me down to the prestigious B.A.A. Half Marathon in Boston.

I had last run this race back in 2012 (my time that year was 2 hrs 7 min). My memories from that date were good, but not great as I remembered being humbled by the course’s rolling hills and hairpin turns.

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Today, two years later, my goal was just to finish around the 2 hour mark. I ran with 2 co-workers, and the weather couldn’t have been any better.

The race started out pretty easy, with most of the first 2 miles being all down hill. I started hitting a wall around mile 7. I turned the first 7 miles averaging just over 8 minute miles, but I labored a bit on the back side.

I was able to rebound strong, and pretty much sprinted the last mile to finish in 1:52:27, a new BAA Half Marathon PR for me.  Yes, it was a struggle, but I feel like I was able to finally answer for the mediocre performance back in 2012.

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The October Sunday Challenge continues next Sunday as we travel to the Baystate Half Marathon in Lowell, MA.

Half Crazy! A memorable day at the Smuttynose Half Marathon

Today I kicked off the October Sunday Challenge, a series of four half marathons I intend on running over the next four weeks. Today’s race was the Smuttynose Rockfest, a half marathon in Hampton, NH.

Though it wasn’t the easiest day out there (I’ve been not running as much recently due to a bad case of Plantar Fasciitis in my left foot), I was still able to piece together a pretty good race, finishing in 1 hr 53 minutes, a new half marathon PR (previous was 2 hrs 2 min).

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A couple of observations about this race:

Very scenic. The race begins and ends right along the beach area… and when the sun is out, it rivals any other finish line setup I’ve seen.

Attendance. For a half marathon, there was an extraordinary turnout. There must have been thousands of people along the route. It was incredible. Especially the finish line which was 4-5 people deep for the last quarter mile.

Post Event Party. Apparently this race is well-known for it’s after party, and I was quickly able to see why. A band, beer stand, lobster roll tent, refreshments… it was all there.

This race is a must-run if you live in the New England area. I highly recommend it.

Next week, the October Sunday Challenge takes us to the BAA Half Marathon in Boston.

Convenient MD Urgent Care 10K

Today I ran a 10k right here in my hometown – the Convenient MD Urgent Care 10K on the Windham Rail Trail.

I felt pretty good about my performance. I started out blazing fast, turning the front 5k in just over 23 minutes (7:33 avg pace). I slowed a bit on the back side, finishing the race in 50:44, good enough for 14th in my age group and 73rd overall.

Next week starts the first leg of the October Sunday Challenge, a series of four half marathons throughout the month of October. Next week’s first race will be the Smuttynose Rockfest in Hampton Beach, NH.

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Another Podium – Third Place at the DWF Triathlon

This past Sunday I participated in the DWF Triathlon Relay in Brockton, MA. This relay event features three legs – 15 mile bike, 2.1 mile kayak, and a 4 mile run.  For the fourth consecutive year, my responsibility was the running portion of the event.

Though the calendar says it was late September, the temperature was more like mid-summer, hovering in the mid 80’s. Made it a bit tough out there.

I grinded out the 4 mile run, finishing in just over 32 minutes, or an 8:18 per mile pace, about 10 seconds faster per mile than last year. Our team came in third in our division, finishing in just over 2 hours and 1 minute.  We had won this event each of the last three years, so we were a bit bummed that we didn’t take the top spot this year. The silver lining, however, was that we improved our overall team time by about 3 minutes.

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Less than One Month until #RUNtober

Counting down the days until the October Sunday Challenge. The first race is now less than 30 days away.

Here are the four races I’ve picked – one for each Sunday in October.

-Smuttynose Hampton Half Marathon, October 5th
-BAA Half Marathon, October 12th
-Baystate Half Marathon, October 19th
-White Mountain Milers Half Marathon, October 26th

I am running in a new role – as a health care advocate, hoping to spread the word about the importance of getting an annual physical exam. Early detection is crucial. Trust me, I’m know.

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Special Announcement: Get Ready for the Sunday October Challenge

This October I’ll be running a different New England half marathon every Sunday during the month. I’m calling this the October Sunday Challenge.

I’ll be running the following four October races: Smuttynose Rockfest, B.A.A. Half Marathon, Baystate Half Marathon, and the White Mountain Milers Half.

October Challenge whiteI’m not doing this to fundraise, but to instead create awareness. I’m hoping any awareness I can create will shine a light on the fact that everyone must get their annual physical exam. You see, too many people are choosing to blow off their annual exam for a number of lame reasons: laziness, procrastination, fear, or even indifference. And as a person who found out first hand the importance of early detection, I can’t stress enough the importance of making that annual trip to the doctor.

I’ll share more on this over the next few weeks, but in the meantime, join me in passing the word along to everyone, “get a physical!”

So where’s your asterisk now?

Last last year I wrote this post (“A Subtle, Unintended Motivation. Thank You”) expressing my conflicted feelings at the time about the finishers’ certificates for the 2013 Boston Marathon.

You see, those who weren’t able to finish the race because of the marathon bombings (like myself) received a certificate with the carefully chose wording stating I “participated in” the Boston Marathon along with a computer-calculated finish time. Though this wording was very diplomatic and polite, it left a hollow feeling inside both for myself and fellow 5700 non-finishers.

Needless to say, I used this as an opportunity to create a chip on my shoulder the size of Heartbreak Hill. Though I can’t blame the BAA as they were put in an awkward position on this issue. But nonetheless it stayed in the back of my mind as I plugged away at my training for Boston 2014.

Well, it’s now almost a year later, and our 2014 finishers’ certificates just arrived in the mail. And safe to say, this time the phrasing leaves no doubt…

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Marked Improvement at the Stowe 8 Miler

Today I ran the Stowe 8 Miler. This is my second year running this race which leads through the rural sections of Stowe, Vermont. Last year I was clearly not prepared to run this race, which makes sense considering I stumbled upon it while vacationing in Vermont.

This  year, however, I was ready. And though I wouldn’t call this one of my best efforts, I was very pleased with the results. My official time was 1:10:30 (compared to last year’s 1:23:40).

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The runners make their way to the start.

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Thumbs Up at the finish

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Post-race rest with Lila and Emerson

An Awesome Day at the BAA 10K

I’m a little behind in posting this. The BAA 10K was this past Sunday at Boston Common, and once again Team Five was well represented with 10 runners.

The cooler weather paid off as they were giving out PR’s like they were tootsie rolls. I had a very good run, starting out the first two miles in the mid 7’s, and finishing the last four miles right around an 8 minute pace. My final time was 49:34, blowing away my time from last year of 57:58.

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Introducing the 2014 WCVB Running Club

Today the 2014 class of the WCVB Running Club was unveiled…

5 Ways to Guarantee Your Best Finish Line Photo Ever

I recently wrote an article for Runkeeper’s “Beyond the Miles” about a very important matter that affects all of us – taking a good finish line photo.

In my article below, I take readers through a 5 point plan to guarantee successful photos in your next race.

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Hot ‘n Hilly at The Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon

Today I ran my first significant race since the Boston Marathon when I participated in inaugural Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon in Chestnut Hill, MA.  This race is presented by Runner’s World magazine. Plus, the fact that the race is managed by DMSE was also a major selling point.

It was hot out there, reaching into the 80’s. And, it was hilly, which should not be a newsflash when the name of the race itself is based on one of the most challenging hills in all of running.

IMG_9139My official finish time was 2:01:16, which I’m very satisfied with, especially having “strategically” walked various hills on the course (I wanted to go easy back today, plus walking at times helped keep my heart rate at a modest level).

IMG_9154All told, I thought it was a great race… and well-managed. If this race comes back again next year, I would definitely participate again.

It’s National Running Day

Today is National Running Day, so no better time for a selfie.

Just what does AFib looks like when running?

In case you ever wondered what AFib looks like when running, below is a chart from my recent 3-miler. The heart rate wildly jumps up and down, often soaring above 200 beats per minute.

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When AFib Bites Back…

Just one week after the Boston Marathon, I noticed my heart rate was rapid and irregular. I went to the hospital, and they confirmed what I had feared – I was no longer in sinus rhythm… I had suffered another episode of atrial fibrillation.

Some people may get upset, but not me. How can I? I enjoyed 5 1/2 months of great health, and I’ll be very grateful for that time. I even was able to squeeze in a full marathon training schedule.

From here I’ll leave it up to my cardiology team to come up with the best plan for me. I intend on remaining active, and not giving in to this condition.

This may sound cliche, but it’s true. I may have AFib, but AFib doesn’t have me.

 

My Recent Article for BEYOND THE MILES

Last week I was asked to contribute an article to Runkeeper.com’s Beyond the Miles blog about the post-marathon blues. My article was titled “I just rand the Boston Marathon… So now what?” This was a follow-up to an article I wrote last year about runner’s postpartum and the lows one feels after running in the world’s greatest marathon.

And safe to say that compared to my article last year, my perspective was completely different this year.

You can read my article by clicking on the graphic below.

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The Calm Before the Storm…

Today was number pick up day at The John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo down in Boston. This event, though always great, can often be a zoo because of the huge attendance. Nonetheless, my wife and I braved the large crowd, visiting pretty much all the exhibitors. At the end of the day we also attended a lecture given by race director Dave McGillivary about the marathon course and this year’s new safety precautions.

Time to start getting ready…

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Making It Count at the One Fund Telethon

This past Tuesday I volunteered at WCVB Telethon for The One Fund. This event was produced by the television station I work for, WCVB-TV 5, so as you can imagine I did not hesitate when they asked for volunteers.

I helped with some of the behind the scenes stuff, including taking incoming pledge calls and processing the credit card forms.  A great day all around, and a great event as the telethon collected more than $100K for The One Fund.

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One Year Later, Boston Remembers…

All I can remember was that the runners started moving much slower, and finally we log jammed right at the Mass Ave underpass. My wife, at the finish line, called me on my phone, so I was tipped off on what was happening. Right at that time cell phone coverage gave out. The only thing working was social media.

Below was the tweet I put out when stopped at the 25.75 mile mark…

This day was supposed to mark my final marathon. Little did I know at that time that this would just be the beginning…

Add this to the Inspiring Marathon Video List

There will no doubt be a ton of video tributes, montages, produced pieces, promos, and even songs between now and Marathon Monday.

And I say… the more the merrier. In my opinion there can’t be enough. Each one, whatever it is, comes from its own voice, and quite frankly its inspiring to see how different people are telling their story about April 14, 2014.

This one video below is no exception. I stumbled upon it this morning, and immediately watched it 3 times. Different thoughts from different runners about what Boston means to them, and the emotional effect that day will have. I think what I like about this video is that it takes viewers inside the mind of runners training for the big day, and what they’re anticipating. Well done.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

Braving the Rain at the Eastern States 20 Miler

The weather forecast for today’s Eastern States 20 Miler called for “100% chance of rain.”  The Eastern States 20 Miler is usually the last tune-up run before beginning the taper for Boston. It’s a 20 mile run that starts in Portsmouth, NH and winds down the coast ending in Salisbury, MA (although today it concluded in Hampton Beach, NH due to bridge construction which slightly altered the course).

The day was mixed, though more positive than negative. I did great through the first 13, turning the half way mark in 1:21:00 and the half marathon in 1:47:35, but encountered cramps in my quads around mile 15 which slowed me down considerably during the last five miles.

I finished in 2:56:38, but I feel like I left some minutes out there on the course. Nonetheless, it’s a considerable improvement from last year (3:23:57).

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This Running Video Hits Home…

This video has been making the rounds lately, spreading quickly through the running social media community. Truly inspirational.

If you’re a runner this video touches a nerve, in a good way. No need for further explanation.

In my sleep, “I see unicorns”

The Boston Marathon is just 30 days away. Time to add another “unicorn” to my collection. And there’s no question this medal will be the most meaningful.

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The World Reacts to Boston… A Look Back

It’s been almost a year now since the events of last April 15th, and I remember finding this post on BuzzFeed the day after the marathon.

I can remember being particularly moved (and fascinated) by the news coverage from dozens of newspapers from around the world.
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