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The Road to Boston

Posted Oct 15 2010 3:30am

During our last training run for Steamtown , I asked my dad to write a guest post for the blog and he happily agreed. I said he could write about whatever he wanted, but he wouldn’t tell me what he was working on. He emailed it to me yesterday and I am so excited to post it. So, here it is, a guest post from ‘The Blue-Eyed Dad’

This past weekend, my daughter, Keri, a k a, The Blue-Eyed Runner, and I ran our second (my 3rd) marathon together. The Steamtown Marathon, held in Scranton PA, this past Sunday 10/10/10 is supposed to be an extremely fast course with just about half of it downhill. Our mutual goal was to qualify for the upcoming Boston Marathon this coming April. We will both be running the New York City marathon next year in 2011, me by default, i.e., three consecutive years of applying and not being chosen, and Keri, by meeting the qualifying parameters. Keri, I am happy to say, easily qualified for Boston with a 3:29:35, beating my previous PR of 3:30:31 which I achieved in Atlantic City in 1995. What can I say; she’s faster than I am. I may not have qualified this year, but I’m either going to raise a lot of money for charity so they can’t refuse my entry or I’m going to be Keri’s personal photographer during the race and, more importantly, be able to walk back to the hotel afterwards without the telltale signs that come with completing a marathon.

Our road to running marathons together started many years ago when I decided to increase the distance I would normally run during the week from six to 10 miles, and then 15. Initially during the week I would awake at 5:00 or 5:30 a.m., run six miles or so and do the same on the weekend. About 10 years earlier, I had run my first race, a five miler, in Jersey City which was part of the old New Jersey Waterfront Marathon sponsored by People’s Express. I was working in New York City at the time as a consultant and would pass those ubiquitous newsstands in Penn Station every day that sell newspapers and magazines to 10s, if not 100s of thousands of commuters and travelers that pass through the station every day. You couldn’t help but notice the covers of the magazines which were prominently displayed. One in particular caught my eye: it was Runner’s World.

I was already running back then, but only about four miles per day with an occasional six miler. Money was tight because I just out of college and I didn’t think it would be wise to spend frivolously on a magazine such as Runner’s World, but then one day while walking by the newsstand after getting out of my train and rushing with the other passengers to our final destinations, I looked down and saw a folded up five dollar bill on the ground! No kidding. Immediately, I purchased the latest copy of Runner’s World and continued on to my office.

Within the pages were numerous articles on running, nutrition and fitness. One article in particular caught my eye on marathon training. From that point on I was determined to raise my game. Also, in that edition, was an advertisement for the New Jersey Waterfront Marathon and Five Mile Run. I don’t remember my time or pace, but I do remember getting caught up with the throngs of people at the start and not being able to actually run the first mile. I think it took about 9 minutes to travel the first 5,280 feet, but from there things opened up and I ran with ease and began to pass a lot of people and finished feeling much better than expected. (I still have the worn blue t-shirt and finisher’s metal given out as part of the race package) After all, five miles seemed like a long distance to race back then. I thought to myself, if I could run hard for 5 miles, could I also train for and run a marathon?

Not too long after that, I decided that my next challenge was to run 10 miles. So I set out one weekend not only to complete the 10 miles, but to test my durability for an eventual run at 26.2. While I met the challenge that day, my durability came into question when I had somehow injured one of my hamstrings. Just like I thought that the five dollars I found earlier was the incentive to purchase my first copy of Runner’s World, I thought that injury was a warning that at 6’ 1” and 185 pounds, I may not have a body built for long distance running. So for the next 10 years, my running consisted of 6 milers with a 5K or 10K race thrown in to keep things interesting. That is, until the bug hit again.

Fast forward 10 years or so, Keri is 10 or 11 years old and ready to tag along on my weekend runs. Well, on her bike at least. We initially navigated the quiet, but narrow roads that had become my stomping grounds, a route that I refer to as the Chatham Township 6 or simply River Road. Over time, 6 miles turned into 10 miles, which led to 15 miles and the dream of training and running a marathon. I set my sites on the 1995 Atlantic City Marathon and began training. Keri would get up with me during the week and pace me on her bike for my early morning training runs. On the weekends, we’d head out to Chatham Township, where I graduated from high school, for a long run eventually peaking at about 22 miles. It’s a great place to train because there are some really challenging hills which I love. Before GUs and Power Bars, we would fill up Keri’s backpack with Pop Tarts, bananas, Nutrigrain Bars and Gatorade so I could stay hydrated and practice eating on the run.

Training for a marathon is great because I could eat anything I wanted to. My weight began to drop to the mid 160s and even dropped to the high 150s for a brief period of time due to all of the training. I think I weighed more than that in 7th or 8th grade. By October 15, 1995, I was ready and fired up. I was sailing along until mile 24 or 25 when I decided I felt great and would pick up the pace. I learned then what hitting the wall was like. The last mile or so hurt more than I can describe, but then it was over.

I swore that I would run a marathon again and soon so as not to waste the conditioning that I work so hard to achieve, but I soon began to enjoy the comfort of only running 6 miles or so too much and began to focus on 5K and 10K races again. It wasn’t until Keri started college at Gettysburg that I started to regularly stretch my miles, but this time with Keri off her bike and into a pair of Nikes.

Without the demands and challenges of high schools sports and the added benefit of the increased freedom that comes with a college schedule, Keri began taking advantage of the country club-like facilities at Gettysburg College. Between classes she would venture into one of the areas set aside for the students that were complete with treadmills, precors and an assortment of weight machines. She soon graduated from the treadmill to running with me outside during school breaks and when we would visit the college. First 3 miles, then half an hour and finally her first, what I consider milestone runs: a 6 miler, a 7-8 miler and finally a ten miler. She was on her way and I guess I was too. I’ve included the times and dates of those runs below to show how far and fast she has come.

First 6 mile run: Sunday June 22, 2003 Time1:00:03
First 7-8 mile run July 18, 2003 Time1:13:23
First 10 mile run July 27, 2003 Time

During this time, Keri began to suggest that we set our sights on a marathon. While the thought appealed to me, I wasn’t sure whether I could devote the time and energy necessary to complete the trek. By this time we were entering a few races a year together, but generally nor more than a 5K or 5 milers. That increased to 10Ks, 15Ks and a few half marathons; however, on November 22, 2009, 26.2 miles and 3:55:42 later (chip time), we arrived at the finish line together. The next stop-Boston!

Thank you, Dad!

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