One thing I've learned about myself as a runner is that I love road races. Part of me thinks that if it weren't for races, I wouldn't actually be a runner. My reasons for loving races is too long to go into detail about here, but I would like to spend some time giving you a recap on some of the more notable races I've completed, just in case you were thinking about trying any of them.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Finish Time: 56:53
I knew this race would be a big deal. Before the 10k, the last race that the BAA hosted was the Boston Marathon. Admittedly, I was nervous for different reasons than I normally would be before a race. Back in April, I had been right behind the finish line of the marathon, as a volunteer, and witnessed both bombings and the chaos that followed. While I still don't know how to describe or really even talk about that day, I knew that the BAA 10k, their first race since Marathon Monday, would be an important event for runners and the city. After a small spell of the weepies from the national anthem and a heartfelt opening speech, the gun had been fired and the runners were off.
Let me clarify one thing, I was excited about this race; I was not excited about the weather. When I woke at 6:30 that morning, the temperature was already in the upper 70s, with a sugarcoating of 80 percent humidity (or more). I am not a hot weather runner, nor do I like out-and-back race courses. For this particular race, I was more tolerant of the course than the weather. A 10k race through the city (any major city) is hard to pull off because of road closures and traffic control, so I understood why the course was structured the way it was. The weather was another struggle. All I could do was drink lots of water on the way and pour even more of it over my head to keep from overheating.
The spectator crowd thickened as I ran along Commonwealth Avenue toward the Public Garden. After a right turn and two lefts, I found myself on Charles Street, closed to everyone but runners, and a few hundred feet from the finish line. Despite being tired from a late night bartending (followed by a glass of champagne), I pushed as much as I could until I crossed the finish line, relieved to see the clock read less than 60 minutes.
Would I do it again, despite the inevitable heat and humidity that define Boston in the summer? Absolutely.
Reach the Beach - Massachusetts
Friday, May 17-Saturday, May 18, 2013
Wachusett to Westport, MA
Team: Brew n Gu
Finish Time: 32:11:17
I'd had a relay race on my wish list for some time. I had a friend who completed the Ragnar Relay, and I dreamed of doing it as well. Problem was, I didn't know 11 other runners who would want to run some 200 miles with me, so I spent a few years secretly wishing someone would ask me to be on a team. Making no progress, I conjured the powers of social media and asked a bunch of Facebook runner friends if they might be interested in organizing a team. With enough positive reaction, I decided to captain a team.
We ended up having 11 runners and 1 driver (RTB recommends 12 runners and 2 drivers), but we made it work and crammed ourselves into two mini vans for two days of running, sweating, carb-loading, and uncomfortable napping.
The race was such an incredible way to see Massachusetts, not to mention getting to know a handful of people I had either never met or only done a few races with. Though the organizational logistics can be a bit intense, this race series is a great low-stakes event. Our team was not in it to win it, so there was no pressure on anyone to run harder to beat a certain time. It was all about enjoying ourselves and covering a whole bunch of ground, topped off with 'Gansetts and Boloco on the beach.
Would I do it again? Yep! In fact, am on a team for RTB-NH. Stay tuned for updates.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Finish Time: 27:47
For five years now the Boston Athletic Association has been hosting a 5k as the kick-off to its signature event, the Boston Marathon. The race starts on Boylston and takes runners to the Public Garden then winds them back along Commonwealth Avenue nearly to Kenmore Square before turning them back to the finish line on Boylston.
Boston is my dream marathon. I've wanted to run it since I started training for my first marathon, and running that 5k only made me want it more. Running down Commonwealth and taking that signature "right on Hereford, left on Boylston," I found myself fantasizing what those final 385 yards might feel like after having covered the 26 miles from Hopkinton back to Boston.
The size of this race is perhaps one of the more exciting and frustrating elements of this race. Over 5,500 people finished the 5k. While the BAA anticipates a large participant field and encourages runners to line up according to their estimated pace per mile, I found myself weaving around lots of liars. That's not to say that I was hard-core racing this 5k, but my goal is always to PR. Bottom line though, I rarely say no to a 5k.
Would I do it again? The question is hardly necessary. You should do it too.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Arlington,VA and Washington D.C.
Finish Time: 3:57:04
Some runners need to know exactly what the race course looks like before the big event. They want to know the hills, the flats, and the turns. On some level I understand this. You don't want to be taken by surprise on race day; you want to be in control of as many elements as you can. When it comes to the course though, I like to be surprised by what I see when I run. The Marine Corps Marathon did not disappoint. I had only been to Washington D.C. one other time, and spent most of that short weekend walking around the National Mall. During the MCM, I got to see so many beautiful parts of D.C. and Arlington—the trees in Arlington with their vibrant fall colors, several national monuments, Georgetown, the Capitol building, and a constant stream of enthusiastic spectators.
Besides the view, this race took me by surprise. Around 7 miles, I had to go to the bathroom. Because of the sheer volume of runners (the race caps at 30,000) several men, and even women, were making pit stops on the side of the road because there were long lines at all the port-a-potties. Now, I have no problem squatting in the bushes, but, and this might be a too-much-information moment, I have to be comfortable in order to go the bathroom quickly. So, at 7 miles, I waited in line at the port-a-pottie. For 3 minutes!
After that pit stop, I thought my goal of finishing in under 4 hours was crushed. But I noticed I was maintaining an 8:45 minute per mile pace and didn't feel fatigued. I decided to try to keep that pace as I stacked on the miles.
At 23 miles, I was pretty sure I was going to finish in under 4 hours, but, anything can happen in a marathon. I didn't want to jinx myself. So I focused on the thick crowds through Crystal City and resisted the temptation for a Dunkin' Munchkin.
At 25 miles, I knew I would make my goal, but I still didn't want to jinx myself, even though I had nearly a 15-minute window of time.
After a surprisingly nasty, albeit short, uphill, there was the glorious finish line. Feeling I'd earned the right to raise my hands in victory as I crossed, I took it all in.
There were many more wonderful surprises after the race, including one of those shiny aluminum blankets meant to keep you warm (if you're not a runner yet, dried sweat makes you pretty chilly, not to mention the breezy fall air), along with a line of marines waiting to shake the runners' hands and give them medals. I couldn't help but tear up and felt that I should be thanking them for their service. After the initial finish, the runners were shuffled through lines to get their picture taken in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial (also called the Marine Corps War Memorial) before being ushered to a line to receive a loaded goodie bag of post-race re-fueling/recovery food.
If you aren't convinced to do this race, here are some other cool things you should know about it. The MCM is one of the 10 largest marathons in the United States. It's also nicknamed "The People's Marathon" because it doesn't offer prize money to the top finishers. There's just something about competition for the sake of competition.
Would I do it again? YES, Please!
Monday, October 10, 2011
Finish Time: 54:12
Empowering. The highlight of this race was running alongside thousands of other women, plus a handful of men who just couldn't say no to a road race with a bunch of women.
This race should be a fun fall run, and probably is most years. The year I did it, the temps were in the 90s and there wasn't a cloud in the sky, or many trees on the course, so it was an unforgivingly hot run.
The celebration after was well worth it. Since the event is for women, the shirts aren't unisex and the appropriate size actually fits. Plus, there were several vendors both selling products and giving out samples of others. It was like an outdoor mall/ health expo.
Would I do it again? The only reason I haven't is because I've done the BAA half marathon, which is usually the day before.
Sunday, September 24, 2011
Finish Time: 1:55:19
I decided to do this race last minute. I had a friend/running partner who had never done a half marathon and wanted to. He hadn't exactly been training for or planning on this race, but, on a whim, wanted to give this it a try. We both had trained for a sprint triathlon earlier that summer and were in shape for the half (plus I was supposed to be training for a marathon anyway, see MCM marathon above).
The group that hosts this race, B&S Fitness is fantastic. The owners, a husband and wife, are both well educated and experienced in their field. They offer a number races and training groups. Check out their website for more details.
As is common on the east coast, race day morning was gray and muggy. Humidity always upsets my runner self. Though I maybe didn't have the mileage to try and beat my best half marathon time, I thought my running partner would be enough to push me. He was, after all, a man and a faster runner than I.
Around 8 miles, he asked me where, in a half marathon, one should pick up his pace in order to achieve the much advised negative split (running the second half of a race faster than the first). I responded that it would be at about 8 miles, which is where we split because of our different fitness levels. It was the longest I've ever run another race with someone else. He ended up finishing at least five minutes ahead of me, and I ended up with my second fastest half marathon time. Not bad for a whim.
Would I do it again? Yes, but without a car, getting to Salem for a race becomes more complicated.
October 31, 2010
Finish Time: 1:01:51
Imagine this: Zombies dancing to Michael Jackson's "Thriller". Thousands of runners dressed as devils. Unofficial aid stations handing out Bloody Mary's to struggling runners.
Yes, yes, yes!
Admittedly, I was wicked hungover for this race, which looking back, seems fitting. It also holds a special place in my memory because it was my first race since moving to New England. I haven't been able to go back and do it since, because it has fallen too close to marathon training in recent years, but I think about doing this race again all the time.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Finish Time: 4:19:21
You never forget your first. Isn't that reason enough to run a marathon? If not, here's why you should run Fargo. Think about the three F's: fast, flat, friendly. Fargo has all that and more.
The course is fast because it's flat. Fargo rests in the middle of the Red River Valley, which means the biggest hills on the course are when you run under the railroad tracks that cut the city in half horizontally.
The course is friendly because the entire town seems to get involved. The course is lined with spectators from start to finish. And they stand outside and cheer on runners regardless of the weather. North Dakotans have seen the worst weather, so a little snow (yes, that can happen in May) or rain won't keep anyone indoors. Rather, it will have them setting up an aid station stocked with coffee and hot chocolate.
In recent years, the race director has scheduled a band at every mile, that means 26 bands providing a range of entertainment for anyone passing by. And don't forget about the post race party.
Next year, 2014, will be the 10th anniversary of the Fargo Marathon, which means it will likely be the biggest year yet. The marathon caps at 2,500 runners, so sign up soon. Or, participate in one of the other events that weekend (half marathon, 10k, 5k). I'll be there trying to qualify for Boston (yep, it's a Boston qualifier, and, according to their website, boasts that over 25% of runners qualify for Boston in Fargo).
So, what are you waiting for? Who doesn't want to be able to say they've been to Fargo?
Click around below to find out how to get involved in any number of physical activities in and around Boston. Check out the Weekly Workouts for a list of free workouts that happen around the city. See my list of local run clubs as well as links to some solid race calendars and other local resources.
Boston is not only the Walking City, it's an active city. The list below goes on and on and on about fun, free, weekly activities.
Marathon Sports Group Run
When: Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Marathons Sports in Wellesley, Brookline, or Boston
Because it's most convenient, I try to make it to the Boston group run whenever I can. The store manager leads the runs, and is constantly trying to break the record of having the most runners (latest record was set on August 14 with 79 runners). You can choose to run a 3.5, 4.5, 5.5, or 8 mile loop around the Charles River. The run starts from the Marathon Sports Store on Boylston, and the staff has a space for you to keep any personal belongings. There are often reps from any number of companies there to let you test out products, or just to chat. All in all it's a great time, and I always seem to have some of my fastest runs with this group.
City Sports Group Runs
City Sports has a handful of group runs each week. All runs leave from one of their stores with the time and location varying depending on the day. Bonus, if you don't live in Massachusetts, City Sports has run clubs at their locations in New York City, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Maryland, and Washington D.C.
When: Tuesdays at 6:00 p.m.
Where: 480 Boylston Street, Boston, 02116
When: Saturdays at 10:00 a.m.
Where: 1815 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, 02140
When: Sundays at 9:00 a.m.
Where: 475 Washington Street, Wellesley, 02482
lululemon Run Your Asana Off!
When: Thursdays at 6:00 p.m.
Where: lululemon athletica, 337 Newbury Street, Boston 02116
This group run offers 3 to 5 mile loops around the Charles, followed by food, drinks, and socializing at the Mass Ave Tavern. Embarrassed about going out post-run? Don't be. Coming from someone who is quite pale and stays red for some time after a run, you'll feel too good about the run to worry about what you look like. Plus, you just ran multiple miles, that should make you feel like a rockstar. And, if you're wearing lululemon's running apparel, you'll not only be in good hands on the run, but you'll look great too. You earned it, enjoy!
Besides offering a wealth of workout clothing, Athleta holds several workouts throughout the week, including pilates, bootcamp, and a run club. For a full schedule of events check out the website for the Boston store.
Somerville Road Runners
Monday Night Bur-run
When: Mondays at 6:45
Where: The Burren
247 Elm Street (Davis Square), Somerville, MA 02144
This run is an unofficial 5k group run.
Thursday Night 4.06 Miler
When: Thursdays at 7:15
Where: Casey's Bar, 171 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02145
This run is timed by the SRR.
South Boston Running Emporium
When: Wednesdays at 6:30
Where: SBRE, 343 West Broadway, South Boston, MA 02127
The November Project-Boston
This group is intense and awesome, a must-do. The group meets three times a week for various run workouts that are guaranteed to make you a stronger and faster runner, as well as just an all-around bad-ass. The workout depends on the day, and they all start at 6:30 a.m. You gotta want it with this group.
Mondays: Destination Deck
The location of these workouts goes up on the November Project Blog (as well as Facebook and Twitter) the Friday before. If you live less than 6 miles from the workout, you have to run there. Once there, a deck of cards determines whether you're doing push-ups or sit-ups and how many of each.
Meet at Harvard Stadium to run the stairs. The group has a number of different workouts that push you to either run stairs for a specific amount of time or to cover a certain distance.
Meet at Summit Avenue to run up and down (and up and down and up and down) Corey Hill near the Brighton-Brookline border. In all the workout covers 4 miles. Are your hammies and quads up for it?
Don't live in Boston? Well, you're missing out, but The November Project also has groups in Madison and San Francisco.
Depending on your personal athletic goals, joining a run club might be a good option for you. For a yearly fee, most run clubs offer some version of the following benefits: coached workouts, scheduled group runs, a uniform or other apparel, discounts at local stores. And most importantly, camaraderie with other club members. Check out some of the clubs below if you're looking to up your running game, or meet some running buds.
There are many many more clubs throughout the state of Massachusetts, not to mention in and around Boston. For a more complete list, check out Running in the USA for a list of run clubs in Massachusetts, or any other state for that matter.
There are several local groups that have thorough lists of upcoming races. I've included a few of the ones I frequent the most when contemplating signing up for a road race. Besides race calendars, all these sites have loads of information about all things running as well.
New England Runner
For all you local Bostonians, you've probably heard of or been to the Esplanade, the stretch of parks and paths along the Charles River, near the Longfellow Bridge. But you may not know about the Esplanade Association, the group that not only maintains the park, but hosts a wealth of events throughout the year. Besides concerts and volunteer opportunities, the Esplanade Association also offers Free Summer Fitness classes. Check out their calendar for a wide range of activities, ranging from yoga, to running, to Crossfit.
Rose Kennedy Greenway
Similarly, the Rose Kennedy Greenway offers not only a ribbon of parks flowing from North Station down to Dewey Square by South Station, but also a series of events and attractions, including a brand new carousel, farmer's markets, outdoor movies, as well as weekly workouts. What a beautiful alternative to the Central Artery! Check out their calendar for a complete schedule of events.
In a serendipitous moment, I met (and went for a run with) the owner, Wayne Levy, of this company. Run Boston is a group that offers customized running tours of the city. Any mileage, any time, any day. You call the shots and a knowledgeable guide will meet you, you guessed it, anywhere, and give you a fact-filled tour of Boston.
See below for a brief description of my "must do" road races:
Where: New York City, NY
When: first Sunday in November
Hands down, New York is the world's largest marathon. It held its inaugural event in 1970, and 127 men (women weren't officially running marathons yet) paid $1 to run six laps around Central Park. Fifty-five of them finished.
Then, in 1976, race director, Fred Lebow, extended the marathon course to visit all five boroughs, which is the course that is run today.
Because this race is so big, it is a lottery to enter. I put my name in the lottery in 2012, thinking it would be a fun gamble, and one that I wouldn't "win" since the odds are about 30%. When I saw that my number actually had been picked, I had to check my bank account to verify.
As you may recall, Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast and flooded out much of Manhattan. The New York City Marathon was cancelled for the first time in its history. As a solution to the cancellation, the New York Road Runners offered 2012 registered runners a number of options, one of which was guaranteed entry into the 2013, 2014, or 2015 race. Hopefully I'll be able to cross this race off my wish list soon. I picked the 2013 guaranteed entry and have pounding through Round 2 of training and planning for the race.
Where: Chicago, Illinois
Chicago hosted its first marathon event in September of 1977 when 4,200 runners toed the start line of what was then called the Mayor Daley Marathon (per Chicago Marathon website). At the time, this was the largest marathon in the world. While it hasn't grown at quite the rate as some of the other big city marathons, Chicago is still a big race, in the top five largest marathons in the U.S.
I travelled to Chicago in 2012 for a writer's conference, and left with a crush on the city. As a whole, Chicago seemed like the perfect mix of Midwest and big city. Plus, I hear that the course is flat. I don't know when I'll run this marathon, but it's on the list.
Where: Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota
When: early October
Okay, so I'm a sucker for fall marathons. All that brutal training during the heat of the summer ends with the reward of a beautiful fall marathon (yes, I think of the race as a reward). Plus, there's a special place in my heart for Minneapolis-St. Paul, the closest major city to where I grew up, even if it was about and 8 hour drive away.
The field for this marathon caps at around 12,000 runners. The inaugural event took place in 1982 with an entry fee of $6. Today, the course takes runners through, not only the Twin Cities, but also around many beautiful lakes and along the Mississippi River. Minnesota's nickname "land of 10,000 lakes" is no exaggeration.
Where: Duluth, Minnesota
When: June, early to mid-month
Named after the Duluth-based restaurant chain, Grandma's, this marathon has been hosted by the city since 1977. Dick Beardsley, a Minnesota native, holds the current course record at 2:09:37, set in 1981. He's perhaps better known for his "Duel in the Sun" with Alberto Salazar at the 1982 Boston Marathon.
This marathon also hits close to home for me, which is why it's on my wish list. I've been to Duluth, eaten at Grandma's, and met Dick Beardsley. I don't know when, but Grandma's is on my list.
Where: Big Sur and Carmel, California
When: end of April
Simply going to this marathon's website makes me want to run it. Check out those views! This is the latest addition to my race wish list. It all seems to exotic. I've never been to California, and since I became a runner, my favorite way to travel is for a race.
If the website photos aren't enough for you, here are some other fun facts about this marathon:
What more convincing do you need? And, what am I waiting for?!
Where: Falmouth, MA
When: early August
According to this race's website, in 1972 Tommy Leonard, a bartender from Boston, working in Falmouth, was inspired by Frank Shorter's gold medal victory in the Olympics that same year. Drawing from Shorter, Leonard, with the help of John Carroll, the local high school track coach, organized the first Falmouth Road Race, a 7-mile race from Wood's Hole to Falmouth, which took place in 1973. The following year, Bill Rodgers, still an unknown runner at the time, won the race in 34:16. Then, in 1975, Frank Shorter toed the start line and beat Rodgers, who was fresh of his first Boston Marathon win.
The Falmouth Road Race still draws an elite field, and because of the popularity of the race, registration is a lottery. What an excuse to spend some time on the Cape!
Where: Marathon and Athens, Greece
Unofficially, this marathon dates back to 490 B.C. Legend has it that, upon defeating the Persians at the Bay of Marathon, the Athenian army sent one of their messengers, Pheidippides, back to Athens, some 25 miles away, to announce victory. Upon his arrival, Pheidippides used his last breaths to declare the Athenian victory before dropping to his death.
The truth of what actually happened is far more fascinating, but you'll have to check back for that narrative. Officially, the modern Athens Classic Marathon (not to be confused with the Athens Marathon or the Athens Marathon. Those are probably fun races too) has been run since 1982.
Athens is also the site of the first Modern Olympic Games, revived in 1896 and during which, the first official marathon race took place. So, lots of history surrounds any marathon run in Greece. Plus, there is, once again, that travel factor...
Where: Central Park, New York City
New York Road Runners New York City 60k. Say that five times fast. Yes, I might be crazy in that I actually want to run an ultramarathon. Okay, fine, I am crazy. Sixty kilometers translates to 37.2 miles, or nine loops of Central Park, however you want to look at it.
Where: Boston, MA
When: third Monday in April (aka Patriot's Day, or Marathon Monday)
How can I best express what this race means to me, or any runner for that matter. For most, Boston is THE marathon. It's the oldest annual marathon in the world, and the only marathon, outside the Olympic Trials, for which runners must qualify. After 117 years, you can imagine that the race has a rich history, and the chance to be a part of that is every runner's dream. Here's the thing about marathons. Unlike other sports that have an elite, or professional, field, marathon runners get to toe the same start line and run the same course as the pros. Plus, your chances of meeting and shaking hands with a professional runner are much higher than they are with someone like Tom Brady.