Ask me about the Marathon Challenge

Good morning,

This is a less than subtle attempt to have you send me questions about the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge. To make my intentions even easier—excitedly responding to several emails and talking about the incredible work that you make possible—I have come up with a few questions that you can use. Or, you may also feel free to ask me anything else that comes to mind. Before I encourage you to hit ‘Reply’ at the bottom of the email, there is one, rather important step to complete.

Today you can help me get closer to my personal fundraising goal of $10,000 and, in the process, closer to more lifesaving therapies for cancer patients around the world. There will be many reasons to celebrate the 2014 Boston Marathon including, the 25th running of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, my 10th marathon, my patient partner, Alex, is now done with treatment, and Blair is 2-years cancer free. Thank you for making it an incredible year for all of us returning to finish our marathon challenge.

3…2…1…Here is the part that I alluded to earlier in the email—and subsequently the part of my day where I get to see several fundraising notifications and questions. I expect you were already thinking of how much to give and whom you would like to list on the honor roll; however, in case you haven’t come to that point yet, I’ll offer my unbiased opinion now. The modest response is to give generously in honor of a loved one who was affected by cancer. I’m feeling inclined, though, to ask you to give a little more this year. As you’ll read some of the questions below, I hope you can envision how the answers may change—for tomorrow and the years ahead—because of your very generous support today. 

  • What breakthroughs in cancer research have been possible through the Marathon Challenge?
  • Who are the researchers that receive funding from the Marathon Challenge?
  • How does this funding translate into cancer treatment for patients at Dana-Farber? Around the world?
  • What will be an exciting discovery from the support of the Marathon Challenge this year?
  • What will it be like to run the Boston Marathon this year?
  • What has been the best part of running with the Dana-Farber team for seven consecutive years? 

I can promise that my answers will be entirely void of any hyperbole. My sincere, exclamation marked response, as you may know, can be found in all of the emails I have sent over the years. I even looked up a few to make sure I hadn’t already sent something similar to this. I’m glad I didn’t have to start over at this point.

Thank you for helping me reach my many goals of the 2014 Marathon Challenge…exactly one month to go! 

Eric

The “ugh, really?” continues

Adidas made it really easy for me to not buy the official 2014 Boston Marathon jacket. First I wish they could decide if they want the jacket to be a windbreaker, a rain coat, or a running jacket. It’s foremost a bragging right. And I’m fine with that…but a little use out of it would be nice, too. Though, please, keep picking ugly colors. 

The overwhelming disappointment for the color pattern selected by Adidas has been only one of many head-scratching moments where I can’t help but be a little concerned at how out of touch sponsors are. That is unless, of course, Adidas was trying to reach the demographic of Miami Dolphins fans who intend to get caught in a cool and rainy fall day in New England.

We will all remember the iconic images of last year. I get chills and have to take a deep breath when I reflect on the days after April 15. I know I was less affected from the bombings than many other people. I have friends still coping from that day and even my family members are going through a lot after what they witnessed near the finish line. I have been really worried that, as the 2014 Boston Marathon approached, the attention would be heavily focused on celebrating the achievements of the runners.

And my concern was realized when I saw WBZ TV’s promo for the Boston Marathon. The ad begins with the skyline of Boston in the frame, viewed from the Memorial Drive side of the Charles River, as words slowly pan across the screen…”on 4.21.14 we will remember, we will honor, we will celebrate, and run…together.” Runners cut across the screen on a snowy Boston morning just as the words, “and run…together” appear. The first 20 seconds of the ad were perfect until the emphasis was on the runners.

Hey…I am a runner. This will be my 7th year running. Do you know who makes that day the amazing celebration that it is every year for me? The spectators. Primarily my family who will get me out to Hopkinton in the morning and wait for me by Keefe Tech, then again at the Newton Wellesley Hospital, and give me a hug at the Marriott. After my family it has to be the kids who are holding out orange slices and twizzlers in Natick; the students at BC who will yell my name and tell me to keep pushing to the point that I start to hate them; and all the friends cheering me on along the way. April 21, 2014 is about the spectators as well. So, WBZ, we will high-five, hug, yell, say “thanks” AND celebrate together. 

Of course it didn’t end there…

You may have noticed the story on your yahoo home page, preferred online news source, or elsewhere about a few thousand runners who stopped during a California Road Race to thank a 95-year-old WWII veteran. I thought immediately about the heroic men and women who participate in a march each year along the Boston Marathon course. Well, now, that is cancelled. For which, I guess, we have to understand the security reasons behind this decision.

I know I won’t be the first to say, “ugh, really?” However, this news really bothered me today. The marathon easily humbles the toughest people, but, giving the active soldiers a pat on the back as they walk in full gear is definitely up there as one of the most important parts of the 26.2 miles.

The hyper-sensitivity surrounding the Marathon is only going to increase as we get closer to April 21. Undoubtedly there will many incredible, heartwarming, and judgement-altering moments from all those who are involved in the behind the scenes work of the Marathon. I know, sadly, there will be some rather disgusting and terrible moments as well. As we know…it will be a celebration. And, because of that, I will do my best to maintain mostly positive thoughts over the next month and a half. 

"It’s hard to express what it means to return this particular year to the place where I grew up and compete," Flanagan said. "In one word, I guess it would be ‘pride’. I and many in the field will be fueled by those who were affected by the tragedy and will be running for those who cannot."

It’s possible this is one race that will never again be dominated by USA. But, if there were to be just one year, let it be 2014. And, come April 21, I hope Shalane Flanagan is turning onto Boylston with her sights on winning.

You go, Slim-Fast!

The Slim-Fast diet is ranked higher than Paleo and Vegan diets by U.S.News and World Report. This is a fascinating review of diets. We already know that many people in this country need to look closer at what they are eating. But now, even more!

I’ll add myself to that list since my diet of “calories in > calories out” was not reviewed by a panel of experts. It would be good to see a review of healthy eating options for athletes. I simply have to consume an insanse amount of food.

What incredible timing, though, for this review to come out. I hope it gives anyone who, a week into their New Years Resolutions, was struggling to start eating healthier, a jumpstart toward that goal.

Last summer, after crushing a 20-piece McNuggets at 1am, I decided to swear off McDonalds. I haven’t had Wendy’s since March either. Small (not super sized) victories.

Adding more greens, like lettuce, to my diet this year. I mean, I’ll never order a salad at dinner, or bring one to a dinner party, but from time-to-time maybe I’ll have some spinach and arugula at home.

There was also something I recall about a benefit of Apples? Oh well, I can’t remember. But more oranges, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and pineapple for me. And can we finally stop putting cantaloupe every where? It’s the worst. There, I said it.

Five Favorite From 2013

The following five constituted three races, four states, one country in Africa, and, after accomplishing all that I set out to do this year, a total of 71.4 miles. There was plenty I could take away from the other 1,200 miles I ran this past year…but I wanted to leave this recap relatively brief. I’ll do my best.

Derry, NH

Expect a reaction close to this when you tell another runner that the Boston Prep 16 Miler is part of your training schedule. By the end of January I was ready for 16 miles, freezing temperatures, and hills for days. Hills I tell you! Perhaps people loathe running Derry because the first mile and a half is a gradual climb for 200 feet. Maybe the real reason some people detest this race is that the hardest hills begin just before reaching mile 9, and, after knowing when to submit to a higher power, end 3.1 miles later. The reward, though, from a climb of more than 330 feet was a generous descent all the way to the finish. As in life, there are lots of ups and downs; however, unlike Derry, you try not to torment people along the way. I found that the few chances I had to chat with other runners during this race were rather discouraging. To which maybe I shouldn’t have sarcastically exclaimed after passing runners toward the top of one hill, “I thought I heard someone say this was supposed to be hilly?” Or, I should know it was ill-conceived to let a runner know, who told me that this race is, “tougher than the Boston Marathon!” that, actually, those 26.2 miles he has to look forward to are, “yes, so much fun that you will hardly notice those hills—especially around mile 20.” As most races went this year, and how I know 2013 is ending, I felt even stronger toward the finish.

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New York, NY

Until one Saturday morning, in mid February, when the sun finally got out of the clouds and 11.4 miles were behind me, did I begin to question if running in NYC was better than Boston. A tour that began on East 9th St, crossed over the West Side Highway, followed the Hudson to West 74th St, dodged strollers in Central Park, stopped at traffic lights on 1st Ave, gained pace on the East River, and ended at the Whole Foods on Houston nearly had me convinced. I later realized it was the walk through Whole Foods and the generous, post-run Bloody Mary’s, which gave me these euphoric feelings. I would have two more runs, including a midnight half marathon, but this no-waiver-needed, slow paced run was a perfect distraction from the routes that became routine last winter. Maybe next year, during the NYC Marathon, I will have to keep thinking about post-run Bloody Mary’s.

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Casablanca

West of Mohammed Ben Abdellah Blvd and just north of Blvd de la Corniche there are, at least on a map, streets with no names. Which I would realize as I ran through the slums of Casablanca. Huts barely supported by collapsed bricks. Suspicious stares from people who were also milling around. Cats and trash scattered everywhere reminded me that this is not home. One Google Review, in particular, of the lighthouse I was on my way to run around sums up the location, “Just a white lighthouse, surrounded by poverty and sadness.” Well, Google, where were you when I began running in that direction? My limited knowledge of real estate would lead me to believe that along the Atlantic Ocean, in Morocco’s largest city, I might find an exotic running route. Amid the horrible pollution that I was breathing in, the nearly lethal intersections, and the early morning heat, I am so glad I did not pass on the opportunity to see the sunrise that morning.

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Boston, MA

The figurative and literal wounds had not healed in Boston by Memorial Day Weekend. The informal One Run preceded Boston’s Run To Remember on a rainy, and unseasonably chilly weekend in late May. It was apparent that running would help many people cope after the 2013 Boston Marathon. On both days, but in particular during the Run To Remember, I was amazed to see the outpouring of support from Police Officers, all across the Commonwealth, who came to stand by runners. It was something I’ll never forget. And something I’ll also say, “shouldn’t this be the other way around?” As I ran by one cruiser to the next, giving high-fives to cops, and saying “thank you,” I knew this town was beginning to pull itself back up. On a typical Sunday morning in May, a 13.1 mile run would be an exhausting exercise through the early summer heat and humidity. In many ways it was just the opposite. It was one rewarding and memorable run that I look forward to again next year.

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Richmond, VA

October 10, 2010. April 18, 2011. October 16, 2011. April 17, 2012. April 15, 2013. Those five days were my other attempts at a sub-four hour marathon. Some days I went out too fast in the first half. Other days I faded toward the end of the race. By around 7:55am on November 16, 2013, I knew I was going to set a PR. Waiting at the starting line of the Richmond Marathon, I was ready to cross the finish line at 3:59:59. Just a few hours later, as I reached mile 20, I knew that, even with a 10 min/mile, I was going to finally run a sub-four. Also, at that mile, I told myself that I trained too hard to leave anything out on the course. The end result of a negative split was a 3:51:03. Beating my previous PR by 14 minutes and finally realizing that I was going to have many more marathons ahead of me to get even faster. 

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I have a feeling that this will have to be a top-10 recap in 2014. Many amazing races and places ahead.