Sunday, November 2, 2014

3 Beaches Minimum Half Marathon Recap

The beautiful start and finish location
The first ever 3 Beaches Minimum Half Marathon took place in Boston's South Shore and was a beautiful, winding course along the Atlantic Ocean. No knowing exactly what to expect, I figured I would give the race a try and see what this new half was all about. And I was pleasantly surprised.

Limited to just a couple hundred runners, this course was not closed to traffic. However, the beauty of the course (a long stretch was on Jerusalem Road) was stunning. There were beautiful views of the water, neighborhoods, and for a new race, a lot of crowd support.

The course is full of small hills and isn't prime for a PR, but the out and back race is enjoyable nonetheless. It was also a beautiful day, which helped a lot. It actually reminded me of the Fools Dual Half Marathon because the course felt very similar.

I'm not sure if I'll run it again next year, but it is one that I'd recommend for everyone looking for a fun, small race.

Weston 5 Miler Recap

Runners take off downhill as the race begins
This year I ran my first Weston 5 Miler race, which has been going on for several decades. I wasn't sure what to expect from the evening weekday race, but given that it's put on by Marathon Sports I figured it'd be fun.

It was a beautiful evening to run, and since it starts late in the day the heat wasn't too bad. The race starts and ends at Weston high school right next to the track. It then winds through beautiful neighborhood roads in Weston (towards Wellesley). The windy and gentle hills of the course make it interesting and fun to run, plus the houses we run by are stunning to look at. Then the last mile of the course winds through fields and trails along Weston High School, until the race untimely finishes on the track.

This was an absolutely awesome race to run and I'll be adding it to my annual running calendar in the years ahead.

B.A.A. 10K Recap

The stat of the race
This summer I ran the B.A.A. 10K, a fast and competitive race through Boston's Back Bay. The mostly flat and straight out-and-back course is designed for people who want to shoot for a PR, and with the B.A.A. in charge, extraordinarily well organized.

This year's race was an absolutely beautiful day. In some past years, the heat and humidity has been pretty brutal, but this year it was an awesome summer day to race.

Overall rating: 8 (out of 10)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Runner's World Heartbreak Hill Half Recap

Shalane and I after the 10K
This weekend ran in Runners' World inaugural Heartbreak Hill Half & Festival. The races I did were the 5K and the 10K, which both took place on Saturday morning (which was called the Five & Dime).

The races all began and ended on BC's campus, with the 5K going around the Chestnut Hill reservoir and the 10K an out-and-back course on Commonwealth Ave. in Newton (along the marathon course). Overall it was a beautiful day and well organized and fun race - basically everything you'd expect from a Runner's World event.

I treated both races as a workout opportunity since I'm still getting back into racing shape following a few weeks off, plus my IT band was very aggravated following last weekend's half marathon. And it turned out I wasn't the only one doing that. Olympic medalist and elite marathon runner Shalane Flanigan also joined the races. She ran with a group of people about 10 seconds behind me in the 5K, but the 10K was an experience that was pretty cool.

For the first four miles of the 10K I was hearing cheers for Shalane from the crowd and fellow runners (after the turnaround point) and realized that she was about 15 meters behind me. Then at mile four she pulled up alongside me and we ran side by side for a mile. It was a pretty cool experience running with an elite, professional runner (even if it was just a workout for her). Between all the cheers (which she was giving back to the other runners), I told her I couldn't wait to see her win Boston. Then I managed to snap a selfie after the race.

Overall - a pretty awesome experience and a really fun race. If Runner's World decided to make this an annual race, I'd highly recommend one - or several of them - to everyone!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Covered Bridges Half Marathon Recap

A stunning covered bridge that the course goes through
On Sunday I ran the Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Vermont - one of most difficult races in the country to get into because it fills up in just minutes!

And the race lived up to the billing. It was one one of the most beautiful courses I've ever run, winding through stunning fields, neighborhoods, and down a winding dirt path next to a river. The course is also an overall net loss, so it's not too strenuous either. Since it was a hot day, the shade from the trees was also a welcome sight, so I was able to stay relatively cool on the course.

Fan support was also quite strong, especially for a small town race. There were pockets of crowds that made a lot of noise, especially in Woodstock.

The only negative is that we ran through just one covered bridge. Given the name of the race, I was expected to go through several of them. The Swanzey Half Marathon in New Hampshire.

Overall this race is a must-run for any person within driving distance. And if you aren't, turn it into a vacation. The town of Woodstock is awesome and a great place to spend the weekend. Just strolling through town or going on an easy run is such a nice way to relax and get away from it all.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My 2014 Boston Marathon

All smiles after the marathon!
This winter was rough. Between snow, ice, freezing temperatures and darkness, training for the 2014 Boston Marathon was not fun. Even weekend runs - when the sun was out - were brutal. Add to that a nagging case of plantar fasciitis, and the challenges were even greater.

Throughout the winer my training for Boston was adequate at best, and probably closer to below average. My runs during the work week didn't exceed 35 minutes and I took two weeks off in March while on vacation. My two longest runs were 14 miles (three weeks out) and 21 miles (two weeks out). That was pretty much the extent of my preparation for Boston.

Needless to say, I was a bit unsure of what to expect on Patriots' Day.

Regardless, the 2014 Boston Marathon was about more then training, it was about making the race a celebration for the city of Boston and showing the resiliency of everyone who lives here. So on race day there were no nerves or second-guessing of my training (or lack thereof), instead I was filled with calm excitement about being part of such a special day.

When I got to the starting line the sun was out, with temperatures a bit warmer than I had expected. I focused on staying hydrated throughout the race, which ended up serving me well. I didn't really feel the heat until Heartbreak Hill, at which point I started dumping some water over my head, cooling down my body temperature (at least it was nothing like 2012!).

As I ran through Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham and Natick, the crowds were full, loud and supportive. It made the first 12 miles more fun and interesting than in past years. Then I got to Wellesley, and Wellesley College was awesome! There were so many students cheering us on and I high-fives the whole line of them. The rest of Wellesley was out in large numbers, loudly bringing us to Newton.

Then the Newton hills. Rather than fear or anticipate them, my plan was to continue the same amount of effort through the stretch, and the entire race. While my calfs tightened up a bit on the uphills, the calf sleeves I had on did their job and kept them as loose as possible, so I could quickly recover on the flats or downhill. Around mile 19 I realized I had a good chance of running close to three hours, well above the 3:15 I anticipated for myself.

Once I got past Heartbreak, I let out a smile. The hardest part of the race was done, and it was all flat from here (with the exception of a few small inclines that would feel more like mountains). I made my way to Cleveland Circle, down Beacon Street and through Kenmore Square, right on Haverford and left on Boylston Street. As I turned and saw the finish line, I soaked in the 25.7 miles I had just run, the fans cheering us on and the view of that finish bridge. I'd be crossing under it this year, along with everyone else in the race.

I ended up finishing in 3:01, a personal best for the Boston course, and far exceeding my expectations. After finishing and catching my breath I turned around and tried to take in the scene a little bit. I was standing in a very special place and I wanted one last glance to remember it.

A few weeks before the marathon I told everyone this was my last Boston - there was no way I was going through that training again in the winter. But, there's something special about Boston. I'm not sure if I'll run next year or not, but there's a quality that pulls you back and makes it difficult to turn away from it. I thin part of it is Patriot's Day. Boston doesn't have a marathon early in the morning so that it can open up streets in the afternoon. The Marathon is the main event, and everything in the city revolves around it, in such an awesome way.

Unlike the other seven marathons I've run, this one was different. I was so clear - both mentally and physically - throughout the whole race, allowing me to stay consistent and even-keeled. I'm not sure why this was the case (maybe because I didn't have a set goal and therefore felt no pressure to accomplish running a certain time), but it worked to my advantage. I think I will look back very fondly of this race years down the road, remembering it for the special atmosphere and my relaxed state of mind, leading to one of my smarter and better races.

This one was a lot of fun.

Hyannis Half Marathon Recap

In February I ran the Hyannis Half Marathon, for a second time. We got lucky, it was a beautiful day on Cape Cod, with the sun out and warmer temps - a very special day considering how brutal the winter was.

The race, once again, was well planned and executed. The police and volunteers did a great job at keeping the roads clear for runners. I was also amazed at how many people there were cheering us on. For a small race, it was impressive how many folks came out and offered their support.

The course itself was flat. There's a couple of tiny hills but nothing major. And the route brings runners on a picturesque tour of Hyannis, through neighborhoods and by beaches. The only thing that could make it better if if it were warm enough to jump in the water after finishing!

I used this race as my first tune-up for the Boston Marathon. I'm sure other runners did this as well. It's a great time of year to get a solid distance run in while getting used to heavy crowds (for at least a couple miles) and a narrow road. Plus, it's nice to get away from the snow and have a clear road to run on. This won't be my last time running the Hyannis Half.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Product Review & Giveaway: OrthoLite Insoles

Since 2012 I've been running with plantar fasciitis. Some days, weeks and months are better or worse than others, but I've kept on running despite the pain, for better or for worse. During this time I've tried several types of shoes and orthotics. Some work really well, others don't. Some work for a few months, others last longer.

Recently I was sent a pair of OrthoLite insoles to try out. Right away my foot felt better. The support it gave me was noticeable right away and has helped during my training as the Boston Marathon approaches. They're comfortable and have the support that's needed for me, which I think speaks a lot given my recent foot problems.

Because the Boston Marathon is less then a week away, the folks at OrthoLite have offered to give away a pair of OrthoLite insoles to anyone who comments on this post, as long as they're a fan of OrthoLite on Facebook and/or Twitter.

The contest ends at 6 p.m. ET on Monday, April 21, so comment before then for your chance to win! 

Note: winner will be randomly selected