GO Commando! Is there really any other way?

I’ve been reading a bunch of articles lately on what runners wear when they run.  I seriously cannot imagine wearing underwear when running, but I guess some people do.  The percentages are very interesting.

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Runner’s World magazine has a kinda gross, kinda interesting article about portopotties.  After reading it last night, it made me want to blog about the “necessities”, or “nature calls” down and dirties that us runners face.

For the guys, do you free-ball it, or wear bike shorts underneath your running shorts?  Jock strap, underwear?  I think the only way to go is au naturale.  I just can’t even imagine the chaffing involved by wearing anything other than nothing underneath my running shorts.  And if you don’t want to see the bounce effect, well, don’t look!

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How about it ladies?  Do you go commando when you run?  Seems like it would be the easiest thing.  I saw a few female backsides at my last marathon, and let me tell you, these ladies were not shy.  I think us runners know how it works.  We just try to respect privacy as best we can when we are emptying our bladders one last time before the gun goes off.  I’ve seen more private parts at races than I’ve seen in the bedroom.  It doesn’t bother me, it’s just what happens at races.  Please tell me you aren’t one of those shy people that will not use nature, and insists on standing in that dreadfully long porta-potty line.

That leads me to the next topic.  The dreaded porta-potty.  Luckily I am a guy, let me just say that right off the bat.  It’s easier for us, I know,  Having a urinal right in there means not having to touch anything.  I don’t even touch the door handles on the outside or inside.  I use my shirt to cover my hand when opening and locking and unlocking the door.  Do you?  Please say yes!  Please tell me you lock it, too!

Let’s face it, these port o johns are just NASTY.  The lines are most often ridiculous, and why is everything in there wet and gross?  I know most folks that have to go #2 do the old hover routine.  I mean, who would want to sit their ass on that thing?  Gross!  If it can’t be avoided, and you happen to look down into the horrible abyss, hopefully it won’t have been used more than 1,280 times, or it would be overflowing onto your nice new running shoes.  If you’ve caught a glance of that tank below, you’ve noticed that it’s blue down there.  Why?  It’s a masking agent, limiting your view of the complete nastiness.  Thank God for the blue dye, tell yourself the next time you slide down your shorts, and hover.

I encourage you to read the article in the magazine.  It has more info than you could ever want to know about the Porta-Potty.  It’s really quite interesting.

Pease feel free to share any horror stories you may have had with the dreaded business of when nature calls right before a race.  I’d love to hear them!

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#RunBullCity – Bull City Race Fest Discount Code

Just wanted to take a moment and spread some hype about a great local race.  The Bull City Race Fest is taking place this year on October 18th, in downtown Durham, NC.  This race festival includes a family friendly 1 mile run, an awesome 5 mile run, and the ever popular Half Marathon.

An amazing Food Truck Rodeo greets runners at the finish line.  And let me just say that the race course is beautiful!  Challenging, but gorgeous!

I have a friends and family discount to offer when you sign up.  Save $5 by entering code “USB13” at checkout.  Check out the race website at https://www.bullcityracefest.com.

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Join in me this Fall at one of our areas most amazing races!  Follow them on Twitter at @BullCityRace.

are you #UnStoppaBull?  Prove it this Fall!

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Revel Rockies Marathon – Race Recap

Time to summon the beast within, it’s marathon morning.  It’s BQ attempt morning!

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As I rolled out of bed before 2am, I think I had myself talked out of a great race before my first cup of coffee was even brewed.  I tried and tried to get my head in the game early on that morning, but something just didn’t feel right.  Most of the time when I awake on the morning of a race, I start visualizing.  I start feeling that energy.  I get my game face on.  So here begins the struggle within.

I’m not sure if it was the pressure that I put on myself was what was taking a toll or not.  I think I was feeling just some overall exhaustion, too.  I just didn’t feel 100%.  You know, it takes feeling 110% to run your best marathon.  I think it was probably a combination of the two.

I knew, and posted about this previously, that I was really taking a lot on by scheduling myself such a whirlwind trip to Colorado to begin with.  I couldn’t leave well enough alone.  I couldn’t just be satisfied running one race (a marathon), I just had to go and schedule a second one.  Looking back on it, more than likely it did me in.  Oops, I’m giving away the ending already aren’t I?  Well, it’s probably no surprise, but I didn’t get my BQ on Sunday at the Rockies Marathon.  There, I said it.  I’ve admitted it.  Now I have to own up to it.  Here is what happened, and it may or may not have had anything to do with flying for four hours on Friday, then driving for four plus hours right afterward.  Going to bed at 2am, getting up and pacing a Half Marathon on Saturday morning.  Driving another four hours back to Denver….  Yes, it kinda goes something like that.  My hips hurt, my feet didn’t.  My hips rarely hurt.  My ass hurt.  I just drove 8 hours, and flew for 4 right before a marathon.  A BQ attempt.  DUH!

And so it began…  With a drive to Bandimere Speedway in Morrison from my hotel in Westminster at like 3:30am.  Total darkness, about a 20 minute drive.  Smooth, right?  No one else on the roads except for other runners heading to the same place.  Simple.  Well, you would think.  It was completely simple until I got to the exit for the Speedway.  Headlights streaming into view from the other direction, lined up for what seemed like miles.  I was on the easy side though, with just a right hand turn off the exit, and another quick right into the parking lot.  It was dark.  There were too many cars trying to merge into one lane.  It took far too long.  It added stress, that just didn’t need to be burdened on a marathon runner before the big race.  As I past into the parking area, there were two buses on the side of the road.  One was being looked at by a mechanic.  PANIC!  See?  Those words rhyme.

I finally parked.  Still with plenty of time to catch the marathon buses.  You see, the marathon and half marathon had different times to load onto buses since the races started in two different locations at two different times.  We started earlier.  6am, to be exact.  At an elevation of over 10,000 ft.  This meant we had about a half hour bus ride.  No portopotties that I saw in the parking area, but still plenty of darkness.  I say I’m sorry to that 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix that may have gotten accidentally splashed with urine.  Sorry, really.  I got into what seemed to be a three tiered line for the marathon buses which were already going.  Within about 5 minutes I was loading onto a bus which clearly was going to reach maximum capacity before I could find a seat.  Note to bus driver…. Count passengers as they load.  If the bus has room for 65 passengers, count to 65, and then tell the next person the bus is full before they get on,  argh!  Of course this didn’t happen, and I am on the bus with about ten other people, all standing there realizing there are no seats.  We all had to get off, and of course, lose our place in the bus line.  Ok, don’t get me started!  I just tried to roll with it.  I got into the line again.  And we waited, and waited, and waited.

Once another bus finally showed up, I found a seat next to a woman who was also going for a BQ.  We chatted away in the darkness.  Eating oatmeal bars, and hydrating.  We had a great conversation.  I told her I had paced in Aspen the day before.  She said, oh, I know a woman named Jill that paced up there, too.  Lol, yeah, same Jill I drove to the start in Aspen.  Small world.

After a long and winding journey up into the mountains, we arrived.  We arrived at about 5:30am.  Just barely getting light out.  The sun was rising.  It was chilly.  About 45 degrees.  I made my way to the table to grab some throw away gloves and a Mylar blanket.  A perfect race amenity that surely was needed on a chilly morning way up high in the Rockies.  This is what I saw.

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Views abounded through the pines.  I knew right then that this was going to be a masterfully beautiful run.  I took these photos on my cell phone, and aren’t the best quality, but you get the picture.

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I stretched, and took in the mountain air.  With a slight delay of ten minutes while we waited for the last bus to arrive, I shook out my legs, my nerves, my bladder.

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We lined up, got my Garmin set and soon I was running.

I ran free.  With abandon.  I felt good.  Wasn’t feeling my sore hips.  Was breathing great considering the altitude, was developing a nice fast pace.  For me, that is.  A pace I knew I needed on the downhill.  Not too much, but just enough.  Comfortable.  I never felt I was going too fast.  I had overheard a runner at the expo talk about three uphill sections later in the course that would be a test.  I tried to plan for them both mentally and physically.  I didn’t want to pour on too much sauce too early.  Been there, done that.

The miles ticked by.  Taking in the views of the sunrise, the gorgeous mountains in the distance, the fresh air.  I was happy.  I felt good.  I enjoyed myself.  I was going after my BQ, and things felt better than I though they would.  I was positive and smiling.  My pace was great.  Five miles in at about 7:25 overall.  Not too fast like Big Cottonwood last year, I told myself.  Keep it even.  Stay focused.

8 miles in…. 7:35 pace.  Perfect, I thought.  I was feeling good.  As the course continued it’s downward path, I enjoyed every bit of it.  I spent a bunch of those miles hanging out with, and swapping positions on the road with this woman.  She had Boston in mind, too.  Luckily a photog on the course caught us in a happy moment.

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She didn’t get her BQ either, and I never saw her again when we hit one of the hills on the course.  Thanks for keeping me company Denise!  Hope to see you in Boston one day!

Somewhere between miles 10 and 12, it happened.  BQ hopes and dreams went up in smoke.  I felt the first twinge.  Then another.  Then another, and another.  My calves were starting to give me trouble.  They finally set in, and pretty much out of nowhere.  Cramps that were just debilitating.  The kind of cramps that set you off the side of the road, in pain.  Waiting for the pain to subside.  Massaging it away, willing it to go away.  Stay away!

They didn’t.  Unlike any other race prior.  Mind you, this was my 20th marathon.  For the next 10 miles I struggled with these damn cramps.  Off and on.  On and off.  Terrible.  I struggled not only with those, but also the voice inside me saying “it’s over”.  It was over.  I knew it.  When the cramps didn’t go away after a few bouts, I knew it was over.  Ok, wrap your head around just doing the best you can.  I tried to make the most of it.  Hell, I even took some pictures when I was trying to walk out a cramp.  At least I had great scenery.

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The cramps were relentless.  I adjusted my stops at aid stations.  Trying just water, trying just Gatorade, trying a combination.  Eating a banana.  Well, bottom line is that they lasted easily ten miles, the most irritating ten miles I think I’ve ever run.  Irritating because of all of the starts and stops.  Knowing my time was slipping further and further and further away from my goal.  It was just excruciating.  The agony of defeat.  A bitter pill, for sure.

As my time slowed to a nonsensical pace at times, it took everything I had not to cry out of pure frustration.  Was it the altitude?  How was I dehydrated?  Did I overwork myself the day prior?  Why in the hell was I cramping like this today?  The day I was going after my BQ?  Why?  Bite the bullet and run when you can.  Try to salvage what you can.  I convinced myself that I would not give up, that I would still give it all I had.  What?  Now my nipple was bleeding?  Bloody hell!  What now?  I did my best to cover the suspect at photo spots on course.  What’s worse than free photos with bloody nipples?

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I tried to paste on a smile.  Every now and then.

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Sometimes it worked, other times, well, not so much.

But guess what?  This guy doesn’t give up!  I don’t quit, and I make the most of what’s given to me.  And I’ll be damned, I ran that final three miles and never stopped.  Sure, I struggled for what seemed like an eternity.  But you know what?  I didn’t stop.  I will never stop.  I won’t stop.  Nope.  I know it will take the perfect race for me to get to Boston, but it will happen.  One day.

I made it to the finish on Sunday.  I ran with pride into the town of Morrison.  Not a soul passed me the final three miles of that race.  The cramps subsided, and I made the most of it.  I may not have scorched the finish line that day, but I ran my way to my best marathon finish of the year, despite the trouble I had.  It goes to show that part of my race was good anyway.

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I crossed the finish line in 3:46:46.  Tired, but holding on.  Marveling in another marathon finish, really, what can I not be proud of?  Sure, I didn’t get that BQ I had hoped for, but I still finished strong.  My calves did me in that day, but so hard to complain.  I made it to the finish, in one piece.  Breathing, alive, and mostly happy.  It would take a few minutes for the sting to wear off, but it did.  Looking back on it now, I wish I had a second chance.  That is such the perfect course for a BQ.  I know in my heart that if I hadn’t dealt with cramping issues that day, I could have done it.  It just wasn’t meant to be that day.  But, there will be more opportunities.  That is what I love about our sport.  The opportunity is there tomorrow, if you want to redeem yourself.  Really, the opportunities are endless.

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When I had a chance to sit in the grass afterward with this ginormous medal around my neck, my thoughts turned to this…. Where to next?

The Long and Winding Road

It just occurred to me.  My trip to Denver this past weekend could easily fill about five blog posts.  The trip out there alone could have been one post, but I chose to abbreviate it to just the hightlights and combine it with my first race recap.  It certainly was an epic first day!

From the time my plane took off in Raleigh until I had finished a Half Marathon in Aspen, the time span was a mere 17.5 hours. Crazy!  It was all worth it though.  Nearly four hours on the plane, four to five hours in the car, three hours of sleep and a race.

Ok, deep breath.  Moving on.  Like I said in my previous post, I had an expo to get to four hours away, so hanging out after the race for more than an hour was really unrealistic. Since I had come into town the night before along a different route, I wanted to take the shorter route back to the Denver area.  This meant driving from the race finish in Basalt, through Aspen and on through Independence Pass.

Once I started driving this route it became abundantly clear to me that I was actually glad that I hadn’t tried to drive this route the night before.  It was a winding road to say the least.  It was incredibly high up in the mountains, and barely one lane in spots.  It WAS beautiful though, just incredible.

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Little did I know that I would be driving along The Continental Divide.  I guess I really haven’t given much thought to what the Divide really is, so I’ve had to read up on it.  Yes, there is still snow up there.  I didn’t stop to take many pictures, but what a great place to do some sightseeing, hiking and even rock climbing.  I saw a ton of folks doing each of those things.

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The Continental Divide- the principle, and largely mountainous, hydrological divide of the Americas.  The Continental Divide extends from the Bering Straight to the Straight of Magellan, and separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those river systems that drain into the Atlantic Ocean.

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It was an amazing drive!  I still can’t believe the elevation of over 12,000 ft.  Maybe that’s why my ears kept popping.  Eventually my route took me back down through the Rockies and on into the Denver area.  I desperately needed a shower, so finding my hotel was the first order of business.

I stayed in Westminster, CO, about a 25 minute drive from the Revel Rockies race expo in Golden, and about the same distance to where I needed to catch the race buses in the morning in Morrison.  After a quick shower and a few minutes to relax I got back in the car and proceeded to the expo.  I completely forgot to take one single picture at the expo, but it was easy to find, and laid out perfectly.  There weren’t a whole lot of vendors at all, so after grabbing my bib, bag and shirts, off I went back to the hotel for some much needed rest.

Although there were many options for group dinners with other ambassadors, run groups, etc., I was so overtired, I just needed some quiet time, and an early bedtime even more.  I grabbed some food from a local restaurant and ate it in my hotel room.  Starting to fade very early in the evening, I mapped out my drive for the morning, got my gear ready to go, and set a very, very early alarm.  Like, isn’t 1:50am a bit too early?  Well, with needing to be at the parking lot for the busses leaving for the marathon between 3:30-4:15am, I felt this would be best.  I think I was fast asleep by 9:30pm.  Wish it had been even earlier.

I’ll end this post with a photo of my team and race shirt.

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Race Day post coming soon…….

Aspen Valley Half Marathon – Race Recap

As I sit here on the couch, still in complete recovery mode from an epic weekend of running, my thoughts are now gathered and ready to recap the first of two races.

The Aspen Valley Half Marathon – Colorado

My plane ride to Denver was uneventful, and arrived right at 8pm local time.  Since I traveled from the east coast, it was 10pm, “my time”.  I took the shuttle out to the rental car pickup, and within a speedy 20 minutes, was off and driving west.  I had mapped out my journey west prior to getting there, but included none of the necessities like finding somewhere to buy a drink for the trip, and also stopping for a bite to eat before the epically dark trip into the mountains.  I knew it would take about four hours to drive from the airport to Aspen, without stops.  Once I found a place to stop off and grab some food and drink, I was on my way.

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Being completely unfamiliar with the area, I tried to stay focused on the road.  I took Interstate 70 west.  I’m sure the drive is tough enough during daylight because, let’s face it, you’re driving through the Rocky Mountains, but driving it in total darkness added more interest and intrigue.  In other words, stress!

I had to come up with plan “B” more than an hour into my trip, because in the darkness, I completely missed the first exit that I needed to take.  Once I noticed it, I decided I would just go up to the next exit, and come back around to make the correction.  Well, the next exit was too far away to double back around so I just decided to keep going and take the longer interstate route.  It was a long drive!  Making it worse and even more stressful were two incidents.  The first being a car fire.  Not mine.  As I was driving west of Vail, I started seeing smoke in the distance.  As I got closer I realized that a car on the side of the road was completely ablaze.  I mean, ON FIRE!  Luckily there were already a few cars stopped to help the passengers of that car, and I could see the fire trucks coming in the opposite direction.  I slowed down, and carefully passed, although for a moment I thought, watch it explode as I drive right next to it.

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Another 1/2 hour later there was road construction happening, where the interstate was closed in my direction for repairs.  That meant we were merged into one lane for eight miles.  Complete agony!  I was so tired, and this wasn’t helping.  Needless to say, the trip was long, and taxing on my body, after having flown for almost four hours to Colorado.  My ass was killing me from all of the sitting!  I finally made it to my hotel at 1am.  (3am, “my time”). Exhausted, I fumbled around getting my race stuff ready for morning, and hit the hay about 1:45am.

I woke up about three hours later to get ready for my Half.  I was thanking my lucky stars that I was only running a half marathon and not a full.  Plus, the fact that I was there to pace the 2:15 group, I knew that even being so tired, I could still manage that.  After meeting up with fellow pacer, Jill, from the Denver area, we made our way to the parking lot about five miles away to get ready, and wait for a shuttle to take us to the start.  Jill had never paced before, so I gave her some advice while swapping running stories.  Jill, if you ever read this, it was a pleasure meeting you!

We met up with other pacers for the Half, and I took a few photos before we boarded the shuttle.

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I have never been to Colorado, and since I arrived in the dark the previous night, I was just in awe of the natural beauty of the mountains.

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The starting line was just so picturesque.  I knew it was going to be a beautiful run from Snowmass to Basalt.  I got rid of my drop bag, and we all got lined up to start the race.  I met up with a bunch of runners who wanted to run with me.  Tricia was the most vocal.  She was a part-time resident of Colorado, part-time New Yorker.  She told me she would be running the New York City Marathon, so maybe we will bump into each other there later this year.

The run was beautiful.  My plan was to keep an even pace, so once we broke out of the crowd, I settled into a 10:14 per mile pace, allowing a tiny cushion just in case.  I had no issues with the high elevation, the air was so crisp and clean.  Chatting with runners all around, we made our way down the Rio Grande Trail toward Basalt.  Even pacing, perfect pacing and company, it was a very enjoyable run.

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Most of the course is downhill, but a few uphills on the final miles were just enough to test your legs.  I had no trouble, but many folks were having to walk the uphill portions.  I guess my hill work paid off!

Nearing the finish I started thinking about having to race again the following day.  I was happy I was getting in the shake out run I wanted, but worried that it was too much.  I didn’t have any leg issues, and no trouble breathing.  Pacing the 2:15 was really a great warm up.  I hope I felt that way later in the day.

Coming through the finish line, I grabbed a medal and water, and waited to welcome in folks from my pace group that had faded along the course.  We high-fived and chatted before heading over to a nice picnic area set up as the finisher village.  There was all sorts of food from custom made salads, to donuts, coffee, beer and more.  There was music and friendly runners everywhere.

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My finish time was 2:14:41.  19 seconds under the goal.  I thought I ran it perfectly.  My pace after mile 1 never wavered more than two seconds from my goal pace.  What a great, relaxing atmosphere to soak up an achievement.  I relaxed with some other pacers for about an hour before we hit the road back to Denver.  I had an expo to attend, so I needed to get going.  That is a story all itself, as I traversed through Independence Gap, and over the Continental Divide.

Wow!  What an amazing and tiring trip so far.  I wouldn’t have done it any other way!  The Aspen Valley race was very well done.  If you ever find yourself in Colorado in July, I would surely recommend this race.

Take A Peek! Sharing & Caring

I am a runner.

I am running the TCS New York City Marathon this year in honor of the countless cancer patients all over world.  I am running for charity, and my charity partner, The James Blake Foundation, raises money to further the efforts of cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

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Every dollar raised advances the research, and I am a proud member of the team raising money for this wonderful foundation.  Memorial Sloan-Kettering has the most advanced and largest cancer gene sequencing effort in the country.  In 2015, 12,000 genes will be sequenced and in 2016, 20,000 patients will have their tumors analyzed for genetic mutations.  The work they are doing allows patients to receive more precise and less toxic treatment, specifically targeting their tumors’ mutations rather than one-size-fits-all trial-by-error approach.  It is amazing research, and having long lasting impacts.  The Center for Molecular Oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering is leading the revolution in personalized medicine based on tumor mutations.

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This fundraising effort really gives more meaning to my training, and will certainly make my marathon in New York City worth so much more than just the race itself.  It feels really good to give back, and support this foundation.

My fundraising platform is Crowdrise, and I have a fundraising page set up there which makes donating to this fine organization very easy.  Just a few clicks, and done.  I would appreciate any and all size of donations, and I thank you in advance for your amazing help.

I am continuing my amazing partnership with Angie at MarathAngBands.  She hand sews amazing headbands, is a runner like me, and offered up her services to help make in impact with my fundraiser.  Any donation of $10 or more will score you a FREE headband in the Stars and Stripes, or Chevron pattern seen below.  As an added bonus, any donation of $25 or more will get you (2) headbands.  So, what do you think?  Donate today….

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Every dollar helps advance research, so please dig into that pocket and give today.

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This Crazy Running Journey I’m On

I guess when a past time turns into a habit, turns into an obsession, turns into a passion, it’s a really good thing.  My running journey has afforded me so many great things!  Better health, both physically and mentally, focus, intent, goals, and so much more.

It started so innocently back in 2010 when my main goal was to get out on the pavement to support my oldest son when he joined the cross country team at school.  I gave him advice, I motivated him.  I signed us up for races.  We had fun running both together and separately.  We love the competition, and being out there supporting one another.

I started running more and more and more.  I wanted to tackle more distance.  Once I had run a few Half Marathons, I think it motivated him to at least think about running a Half one day.  I started running marathons.  He started running Halves.  We love racing together.  He is in college now, and doesn’t live at home.  A few weeks ago I got the greatest text ever from him.  It simply said ” Dad, when is our next Half Marathon?”  Awe!  He was basically saying, find us some races, and sign us up.

So that is exactly what I did.  I found us a few to run this Fall, since there aren’t any races with any distance here during the Summer.  It’s just too hot to race 13.1 or 26.2.  So, we will be running the Marine Corps Half Marathon in September, and the Bull City Race Fest Half in October.  I couldn’t be more excited about it, and how his running originally influenced me to run, and how now my marathon running is keeping him interested in distance running.  He’ll run a marathon one day, I’m sure of it.

Running has given me such great satisfaction over the past few years.  I started this blog, really as a diary for myself.  A place to record my memories, my achievements, my day to day running stuff.  It has become so much more than that though.  It has led to some pretty amazing friendships both virtually and in real life.  I really enjoy reading about the running journeys of people from all over the globe, we really are a family.  A running family.

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My “diary” contains a lot of personal achievements, and when coupled with race medals, really tells a story of my journey.  A journey I love to share with you.  What started so small and really just for me, this blog has had far reaching impact on others in the community, and I love that about blogging.  I am nearing 10,000 visitors on my blog, and well over 500 followers, and I want to thank each of you for providing me inspiration to be my best.  To set goals, and to achieve them.  So many of your stories have been huge inspiration on my running journey, and I hope my musings do the same for you!

Run on……