Monday, April 8, 2013

Marathon Mailings

The following post is simply a way to enable people who are just getting my recent emails to read my previous emails regarding my Boston Marathon training and running news. Enjoy.

--- The first email I sent on January 7 to a couple of friends with whom I'd casually entertained the idea, and who suggested that I contact the MassGeneral Cystic Fibrosis team ---  

I'm doing it! (Maybe) ...

and I blame you! :-)

After much dithering, I'm gonna attempt to run the Marathon. My legs hurt just thinking about it, but as you said, we don't get many chances to be an official "player" when the game includes the best in the world, and while I'm still (relatively) healthy and (less relatively) young, I figure that now may be my only chance.

You also mentioned that there are people who can help with the dreaded long-run training, which I may also want to take advantage of. Let me know if this is still a possibility and what it'll take to do this. My phone is 781-352-4228 and you can give me the pep talk (or maybe talk me out of this idiocy).


--- First wider email sent January 12, just after I'd committed --

A Message From Tyler:

Hello. I’m running in the 2013 Boston Marathon to support Cystic Fibrosis at Mass General Hospital for Children and will be fundraising for Massachusetts General Hospital.

I just officially committed to running this thing. Starting today (January 12) my plan is to train by running 20-30 miles per week, until April 15, the day of taxing pain. On that day, I will run 26.2 miles. Even though I've never run a race longer than 6.2 miles, I will run the Boston Marathon to the end of the course. I've made my commitment to running the marathon.

 I would like to ask you to support the cause and make a donation to my fundraising page: Tyler Carpenter's Page. I need your help. Donate. It'll be good. And it'll be fun to consider the possibilities. Visit my page to see all the choices I offer!

All donations are secure and sent directly to Massachusetts General Hospital by FirstGiving, who will email you a printable record of your donation.

Please share my page with any of your friends and family that may be inspired to donate as well, or follow my training progress on twitter @uubuntu.

Thank you for your support!


--- On January 23, after receiving many contributions (and more than a few inquiries regarding the "wisdom" of my choice, I sent this ---

Thank you thank you thank you all!

Hello -- if you're getting this email, it's because you (a) have contributed to my MGH Cystic Fibrosis Research Page, (b) have "promised" to contribute to my page, or (c) are just someone who I like to pester on a regular basis. If you don't want to get any more of these mails, just reply with an "I don't want any more of these mails" and you won't hear from me again (at least with regard to my marathon endeavor).

The first thing I'd like to say on this is THANK YOU! To be honest, I did not expect to see so many family members, friends, neighbours, and colleagues pitch in so quickly and generously, and I feel both grateful and humbled. Within less than 2 weeks since setting up my page, I've raised almost $2000 of contributions from you. You can see an up-to-the minute tally of how my fund-raising is going:

While all of you have been generous and kind with your encouragement (and your money!), I have heard a few expressed reservations about my sanity and my health and risk of injury, as well as concern over my cardiovascular and skeletal systems. As to my sanity, I'll leave that to you to evaluate. But as to the injury/health risks, I'd like to say that (1) I had a physical a couple of years ago and am in fine health. I have another physical coming up in a couple of weeks and  will ask the relevant questions, and (2) I'm taking the training pretty slowly and have bought appropriate footwear and clothing. I have a training schedule that I believe will get me to the point where my body won't break down before I complete the thing. I've gotten my flu shot.

So I'm now into my second week of training, and so far, it's going well. No injuries, no unexpected pain (which is NOT to say "no pain"), and my distances are increasing. I did a little over 12 miles last Saturday (the last couple of miles were tough), and I'll try to do a similar amount this coming weekend.  I have my up-to-date training schedule here: (and because I use MapMyRun, every run's completion is posted on twitter)

I'll try to send out occasional emails telling of my progress toward April 15, and as the day of reckoning approaches, I'll send out information about the best place to watch in person, as well as a link that will enable you to follow the race in real time if you're not in Boston.  I promise that those emails won't be quite so wordy.

Again, thank you so very much for your support.

--- A few weeks later, February 20, after I'd received some difficult news, but training continued.  ---

Marathon Training Update

Hello everyone --

Right now, I'm on a low-mileage week, recovering from my long run, which at 16 miles, was about 3 miles farther than I'd ever done in practice before, and that run brought my weekly total to over 42 miles! On the one hand, I'm getting stronger, but on the other hand, those last few miles were real slogs through the hills of Newton. Definitely slowed down in the last couple of miles.  And I'm starting to feel pain in my thighs (which is OK) and knees (which is not) on Sunday and Monday. But with 8 weeks to to go, I'm still managing to (more or less) stick with the schedule (link) even with the snow and slushy streets around here.  This week, I'll be doing no more than 4-6 mile runs until I put in another 15+ mile day on Saturday.

If you're getting this email, its because you've contributed to my fundraising effort for Mass General Hospital, you've offered to contribute, or you're an old friend, for whom I'm using this email to say hello and reconnect. In any case, I'll send out these occasional emails so that you can follow me on line or in person when I get my "official number" in the beginning of April.  But for now, I have a paper that says "I'm in" from the BAA (see my picture or this entry), so I continue to be committed (perhaps in more ways than one). The nice thing about training with the MGH team is that I run with others (more or less) and that there are people providing running and training advice along the way. I got to listen to and meet Tim Ritchie, who's also training for his first Boston marathon. However, his goal time is 2:10 (!), while mine will be twice that.

Interestingly, one of my biggest "training supporters" of my event is my former employer, who felt that the marathon was so important that they chose to let me go so that I can train for it "full time" without the distraction of work. Of course, I now get to seek other opportunities and hang around with our soon-to-arrive puppy, but hey, that's just the fun of life. Things look good however, as I've been interviewing when I'm not running. 

Hope all is well with everyone here. You've all been *wonderful*, and I feel fortunate to have such a wide group of supportive friends and family. Thank you very much for all of your support.  

--- And on March 13, after the results of many hours of training started to set in... ---

Training Update: 

Hi all,

Well, with just under 5 weeks to go, it's been an eventful past couple of weeks for training.  First, what I feared -- possible injury during training -- seems to have occurred. Last week, as I ran (or in this case attempted to run) my long run of 18 miles, my right knee acted up, and by the 10 mile mark, was so painful that I had to abort this run and call for a ride home.

But not all is lost. The doctor (who claimed to have run her first marathon last year) indicated that it's simply acute tendonitis, and that with 5 weeks to go before the marathon, I should have sufficient time to rest the knee and run the thing. But those long pre-marathon runs are over. So, I'm not out, but my goal should be to finish rather than to finish *fast*. And I should gently ease back into running as much as possible, with only short "test" runs to avoid re-injury. And perform a series of stretching and strengthening exercises. So I'm still on. And though last Saturday felt pretty disastrous, I'm feeling a whole lot better now, and I have to tell myself not to go out and try to run for the next few days.

Today, bib numbers were assigned, and I'm number 24783 (or CHRUD for you telephone keypad users). I'm in the way-back of the pack, with an expected start time of around 10:50 or so. Here's a link ( to the current entry list. I took screenshots of everyone with the last name of "Carpenter" or the first name of "Tyler". The "Tyler" list is pretty intimidating, with 18 entrants, a median age of 27, and only one person (me) over the age of 40. Ouch. The "Carpenter" list is a lot more reasonable, with only 10 entrants, including a couple of us middle-aged folks.  You'll be able to follow me on race day on line using this number no matter where you are.

As usual, I'd like to thank everyone who's provided moral support and encouragement through this process, as well as all of you who've contributed to the MassGeneral Cystic Fibrosis Research program. It's been a welcome shot of encouragement.

--- On April 8, with one week to go, the news starts to look better ---

The Home Stretch of Training Updates:
OK, with one week to go, I have several updates and pieces of news about this event.  And unlike the previous mails, this one is full of good news.  Also, if this is the first email you're seeing from me, you can read my previous "trials and tribulations" emails here.

First, yesterday afternoon, I finally got to meet my "patient partner". She's an engaging and sweet 11 year old girl named Jenna who has CF (as does her older sister Haylee), and aside from having to take pretty frequent assortment of drugs to keep their lungs as clear as possible, the two of them were among the most healthy and pleasant people to be around as I've seen in a while. Jenna just finished her basketball season (they won the championship in her age group!), and now both of them have moved into the softball season (Jenna pitches, Haylee catches). They even had those "teenager disagrees with mom's advice" interactions I so remember from when my daughter was 11 (and even more when she was 15). Our meeting was as delightful as I could imagine, and I look forward to seeing their mom again as I run the marathon (I think that she'll be at the big meeting spot around mile 20, and if you're there, I encourage you to meet her).  I've updated the picture on my fundraising page to include the 3 of us (Jenna, Haylee and me), and have posted a picture of the three of us here.

Second, I got the (mostly) all clear from the orthopaedist, who (after xrays and an MRI) could say with certainty that the cause of my knee pain was not a tear or a bone chip. It was simply a combination of a quad strain and an IT band syndrome, which means that -- by following my PT's advice on stretching and pacing -- I should be able to complete the marathon. As I said previously, my ambitious goal of finishing *fast* will not happen, but my comparably ambitious goal of finishing should. This is good news.
Third (and this is also good news), the fundraising effort continues on, and I'm getting closer to my goal. In fact, between those of you who've contributed on line, those who've sent checks, and those who've made promises, I can say that I'll meet that $3000 goal! And I can say with 100% confidence that I could not have done it without your help.  Having said that though, the MassGeneral CF program is really good, and the people they help (like Jenna and Haylee) are far, far better off because of the years of research that our money pays for.  So please continue to contribute -- even as my marathon goal gets met, there is still more work to be done.
Now, as the big day approaches, I'm in "preparation" mode. I will pick up my number (24783) this Friday, and I'm scheduled to start in the last (9th) corral of the last (3rd) wave. This means I'll probably cross the starting line between 10:50 and 11:00 (or about the time that the lead runners are passing through Wellesley). From what I understand, the start will be very slow.  So if you want to watch me as I pass certain points, here are the best places to see me pass by (or pass out?):
Mile 10: The Natick Center Historic District (intersection of Main St and Rt. 135)
Mile 13-14: Wellesley College ("The Screech Tunnel") -- a lot of fun for both runners and observers
Mile 17: The Newton "Firehouse", where we all turn onto Commonwealth Avenue and start climbing those hills, and can use some encouragement.
Mile 20: The start of Heartbreak Hill (where the CF cheering team will gather) -- this will probably be the best spot since if I have anything at all left in the tank, I'll show it off there.

To follow, I would recommend watching the start on TV (Channel 4 in Boston, UniversalSports or BAA online) and following my progress on line for the first few miles (the Boston Athletic Association website updates my progress during the race, or you can receive text messages at each 1/4-complete progress mark) before heading out to one of the many places to watch.  Keep in mind that I probably won't cross mile 10 before 12:30, and won't get to mile 20 until sometime between 2 and 3 (and that assumes nothing bad's happening), so relax and come on out and cheer all of us on.

Finally, I do welcome company during the race! If you would like to run a few miles with me (or even a few hundred meters), I would love to have company! I will, however, need to know where you will join me, so that I can look forward to the meeting and listen to you as you pass on messages of (hopefully) encouragement. Even if you only run a mile on the course, it'll be a mile you won't ever forget! And who knows, accompanying someone else for a few miles is what got me to consider running this race in the first place. It might even happen to you!
Once again, thank you all for your encouragement and your support. 

P.S., No major news on the employment front -- I continue with the phone- and in-person-interviews and emailing and following leads, but nothing has turned up yet. I remain optimistic.

--- On April 14, the day before the marathon ---

The Final Pre-Race Update

Hello everyone,

It's the day before the race, (the calm before the storm, the darkness before the dawn, the worm before the early bird, the trite saying before the hipster eye-roll), and I'm ready. Maybe. But it's still on, and I'm feeling pretty good (despite catching a cold last week -- ugh).  So tomorrow morning at 10:40 EDT, my marathon wave will start, and about 10 minutes after that I'll start running east from Hopkinton.

We just returned from our "pre-race carb-loading" pasta dinner with the Mass General Cystic Fibrosis Team (and my patient partner's mom, Ann), so I should have enough fuel to last me a few miles. The knee's taped up, and the race clothes are laid out, and the 5:45 bus will be ready soon.  All I need do now is rest and then run.  And be careful.

I have people running with me for several sections (thank you, Debbie, Jan and MaryAlice), and people (thank you, Fred) who will help guide friends and relatives to the best spot for cheering all of us who are running for MassGeneral programs, including the CF research group: the MGH tent near mile 20 (link goes to the exact address on Google Maps), which is just north of the Newton Center T stop. If all goes well, I'll pass that spot between 2:15 and 3:15, about 3 1/2 - 4 hours after my start.

And I'll be trackable too, either through my MayMyRun website (which tracks me through my phone every mile) or "officially" through the BAA website (or Android/iPhone app), which updates at every 10k point (or maybe 5k point). My bib number is 24783.

If you're going to be on the course, send me an email and I'll  to look for you at that spot. And of course, please continue to contribute to the CF team. As of this evening, the 12 of us who are running for the Mass General CF team have raised over $35,000, all in the form of many individual contributions. You have all been really good and generous, and tonight I feel an incredible amount of gratitude to all of you. Now, tomorrow I'll (mostly) run over 26 miles and feel some pain.

Thank you all.


--- April 16, the post marathon mailing ---

Race Day Events and Outcomes.  And Gratitude.

Hi everyone.

First, as you all know at this point, there were explosions near the finish line at the marathon today. Fortunately, we were still several miles away when they occurred, so we were not injured by them.

But they did (obviously) affect the race. The running continued until around 25.5 miles, where suddenly there was no more running. So we stopped, walked around and eventually walked back toward my house in JP. My parents picked us up around the medical area and drove us the last couple of miles home. I sent out the "We're OK" email and watched the news and learned of the events the same way all of you did. My thoughts and sympathies goes out to the victims of this crime, and I hope that over the upcoming weeks, we learn of the identities and rationale of the perpetrators  and that they  receive appropriate justice.

So, aside from those events, how was the race, especially as I hadn't been able to train or run significantly for the last several weeks? Well, it was a struggle. Even though I ran slowly for the first dozen miles or so, my legs (and particularly my flaky knee) started showing real pain by mile 15. But with a combination of walking and running (and a quick stop at a medical tent for a knee wrap), I "officially" crossed the 40k mark (the last BAA measurement, just under 25 miles) at 4:55. I'm pretty happy with that, and and resting and slowly getting better now. 

But it wasn't a journey I made alone, and without the help of the following people, I never would have "finished" at all. 

My biggest debt of gratitude goes to MaryAlice, who, in addition to accompanying me for the last 6 miles of the race, provided both the pre-race encouragement, the coordination of support plans, and the post-race TLC. I would love you no matter what, but your kindness and faith in me goes far beyond anything I have a right to expect. I might have started this thing by myself, but I never could have completed it without you, ever step of the way. I love you.

But MaryAlice wasn't the only person who responded to my call for help in a big way. There are many of you who stood out in special ways, and I'd like everyone to know who you are.

Thank you Debbie Maki, for returning the "Sherpa" favor from 2 years ago, providing moral and physical support for those middle miles and for accompanying me from miles 10 through to the end! And for providing the voice of reason when the race came to an end, telling us that it was time to turn back when we considered trying to move further into Boston.

Thank you, Jan and Fred Civian, for (1) accompanying me up the hills of Newton, and (2) providing all transportation and support for my parents so that I could see them (and their fantastic sign) at the beginning of Heartbreak Hill. 

Thank you, Victor and Cathe Carpenter, my extremely loving and supportive (if slightly skeptical) parents, who provided training run pickups, sympathetic listening and expression of appropriate concern for my health with each apparent setback during training. Even though I was woozy as I passed you on the course, your sign and your presence in Newton was an inspiration to push on.

Thank you, Jenna and Haylee Reed, my MGH Patient Partners who provided me the motivation to keep going, even when my training had to be placed on hold. I know that every person who helped   contribute to my fundraising goal has contributed toward the cure for Cystic Fibrosis. I hope that your futures are as bright as you deserve them to be.

And finally, I'd like to thank every one of you, who has provided love, friendship, support, concern and money to this cause. I'd said many times in the past few weeks that without my promise to you and your incredible financial response to my promise, I would have given up this race at the first (or second) training setback. But because of you, this wasn't an option, and after 25+ miles on the course, I can honestly say that I could not have done it without you.

Thank you. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.


--- July 27, the epilog ---

3 Months Later...

Hello one last time...

I promised myself that I would not keep sending unsolicited email full of happiness and gratitude to everyone after April, but I figure that 'just one more update' won't hurt. I do promise that this will be the last large-scale mailing though.  Much has happened since April and though I've answered many questions to individuals, I haven't put them all together in one (more or less) coherent posting. I'll (try do) do this here. I'll also keep this to marathon-recovery-related news so this will not turn into one of those "holiday newsletters" that we're all so fond of scorning (usually after we read them).

To the questions...

1. Did you ever get to cross the finish line? Are you an 'official' finisher?
No. I didn't get to cross the line that day, and I'm not considered to be an 'official' finisher. I'm considered to be a 'projected' finisher. However, the BAA did permit all entrants who started a chance to receive a medal, and my 'officially projected' finish time of 5:11:30 (based on my 40k time) is on the record. Because of the events of the day though, as a "starter but non-finisher", I may be invited to try it all again.

2. So, how was the race?
Tough. Really tough. I made a few mistakes (like starting at a bad pace by accompanying and giving encouragement to someone for the first 7-8 miles who slowed down to an 11-12 minute/mile pace), and then I tried to speed up midway through, only to need to start running unevenly to protect my knee. But the big "learning experience" was discovering exactly how different the second 13 miles are from the first. I felt pretty good at the 9-10 mile mark.  I felt OK at the 13 mile mark. But at 15 miles, things changed. Quickly. By 16 miles, I was done. The last 10 miles were a matter of walking and sometimes jogging, and trying to ignore the right calf spasms, and the left hip and shoulder (shoulder?) soreness. About the only thing that felt OK for the entire race were my feet. And because of the events of the day, the end of the race was just plain weird.

3. Have you recovered? How's the knee?
I've recovered. Both knees feel good. The right knee (that became such an issue before and during the race) took about 4 weeks to get better, and I'm now able to run at "full" speed (which isn't all that fast) without feeling any knee pain at all. There appears to be no permanent injury, and rest/stretching seem to have alleviated the knee problems. Now my hip, which started hurting a lot during the race, seems to be taking much longer to get better, and it's only now -- 3 months later -- that it feels OK. As to my aerobic "in shape-ness", all that rest has made the injuries go away, but it's also made my ability to run distances go away too.  I tried to run a 7 mile stretch a couple of weeks ago, only to have to stop after 4 and call it a day. Quitting after 4 miles may be the wise thing to do, but it sure doesn't feel good.

4. What was your reaction to the explosions as they happened? Any reactions to the story as it unfolded over the following week?
The day of the marathon is kind of a big blur at this point. We were around Coolidge Corner (about 3 miles from the finish) when Debbie and MaryAlice (my accompanists) started receiving phone calls and texts from people about the explosions. I was in pretty bad physical shape at that point, but we just kept on going, figuring that we'd be stopped when we could go no further.  At that point, I was using an 80+ year old woman who couldn't have been more than 5 feet tall (#21114 -- yes, I remember that number!) for pacing and motivation to keep going. The whole experience was quite similar to the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail (The Noble Quest, the Castle Anthrax, the Killer Bunny, the Bridge of Death, and finally the all-to-abrupt ending). I don't have much insight on the bombings themselves, or the perpetrators' motivations, or the closing of the entire city for the full day on Friday, when I had two job interviews scheduled (one of which had to be cancelled as my contact at this company had to say at his house, next door to the house that had the boat where the kid was hiding).

5. What have you heard from Jenna and Haylee? How are they doing?
To be honest, I haven't talked with them since exchanging a couple of emails indicating that I'm alive and uninjured after the explosions (and the running). I hope that they are having an excellent summer, and I should reach out to them again (whether or not I decide to run this thing again). Meeting them was one of the most pleasant surprises of the whole training/fundraising/marathoning experience.

6. Was the fundraising successful?
Yes. And thank you. Between the online contributions and a few post-race pledges fulfilled, we raised almost $3500 for Mass General Hospital. I felt both proud and incredibly grateful for the wide and generous support from all of you during the training and the marathoning process. Seeing the generosity from such a wide variety of people some of whom I've known for only months, others for my entire life, and some of whom I haven't seen in decades, was an extraordinarily life-affirming experience.

7. Are you going to run it again?
Well, two months ago, the answer was easy. No. I was done, and the race was over. Even if I never actually got to run (or in my case, hobble) down Boylston Street to cross the finish line, it was simply too exhausting, too injurious, and my body is just not prepared to do this again. It was like the end of the first Rocky movie where I just went the distance -- "Ain't gonna be no rematch".

Then the BAA then issued a statement that anyone who didn't finish (with some restrictions) automatically qualifies for next year's race, which means that I only pay the entrance fee and I'm all set to go. Since qualifying is such a big deal (and I'd never qualify based on marathon time), it seems like a chance that I'd be foolish not to take. And I'm starting to feel pretty good physically. So last month, my answer became Yes.

But then I tried that longish run, and stopped after only a few miles, reminding myself that the training for the run will take a lot of time and a lot of effort, and that I'm already slipping out of shape. And I'm getting older. So now my answer is "Maybe". The BAA will issue me a "number" next month, and I'll have a few days to respond. I'll weigh the pride and privilege against the training pain and planning, and decide then.

But as I write this, I suspect that I already know my answer.

8. What's new with you? Any other news?
Well, Milo graduated from Wooster last month and is now working on Star Island for the summer. Simone finished her sophomore year at Macalester and has an internship at a public school summer program in South Boston. We remain in Jamaica Plain, and I started working for SunGard in Burlington last month. We're all fairly healthy and doing OK and looking forward to a vacation in Vermont in August.

All my love to everyone here. It's been quite the experience.


--- March 14, 2014, Marathon II, the sequel ---

The Siren Call of the Marathon ...

"I do promise that this will be the last large-scale mailing though" -- I really did say this in that last letter.

Well, like my eschewing of the passive voice, some promises just don’t get kept.

Hello for the first of "post-last-time-I-promise" emails. It's another marathon mailing, as Boston will arrive right on schedule. Even as this winter threatens to drive us all a little crazy with the endless snow and/or cold, Boston will arrive on schedule. So consider this a source of warmth as you read on. And of course, if you haven’t seen the previous stream of emails from last year, or if you've successfully forgotten them, I kept a running record of last year’s sendings here:  Marathon Mailings
As many of you know at this point, the Boston Athletic Association invited all qualifying ‘non-finishers’ to register for the 2014 Marathon last August.  I took advantage of this “opportunity” and registered, even as I thought it foolish to try again.

So, after a few short runs and a battle with more age-related running injuries (mostly plantar fasciitis and a minor-but-persistent groin strain), and a re-evaluation of my general physical condition (knees are OK, hip is generally OK, ankles are good), I felt ready to take on this thing again. Only this time, I’m taken it (the training and the running) very slowly and focusing on getting through this process in one piece with no trips to the ER. And when (yes, it’ll be 'when', not 'if') I need to stop and walk for a few miles, that’s what I’ll do. All part of my plan to achieve the goal.

My goal this time is simple: finish in one piece without falling apart during the process.  No raising money, no running for time, no worrying about performance. Just run in a slow and comfortable pace for a 5 or 6 hours, and walk before I'm completely out of gas. I expect to finish within the course limit of 6 hours (which is about a 13.5 minute mile pace), and I'll be delighted to finish with a better time than last year's "projection" of 5:11. But -- as least as much as possible -- I won't hurt myself in trying to get to Boylston Street.I feel a kind of freedom in this goal. Freedom in knowing that if my body insists that this is a bad idea, that I can quit. That I don't have to run this. And while this goes against the Vince Lombardi quote, this knowledge has made my training runs easier and more enjoyable. Or perhaps it's just that I'm taking everything too easy this time around and will learn another hard lesson on April 21.

I have been training. I've run 10-15 miles each the past few Saturdays, and I've had shorter, casual evening runs during the week with a small local group in JP that consists of runners who are younger, faster, fitter, and finer than I'll ever be. They're also really supportive and encouraging and willing to humor me in conversation.

I'm not raising money this year. However, the fact that I'm not raising money does not mean that I'm not giving money. Last year, I spent the first several miles accompanying Ellen Davis, another runner on the CF team who could not finish. Like me, she will run this year's Marathon, but she is running with the Mass General CF team again, and is raising money for their group. I made a contribution (how could I not?), and if you are feeling generous and want to contribute to the Mass General CF team again this year, here is her page:

One last thing. I feel extremely fortunate to have had a support team of family, friends, colleagues and neighbors. You came through last year (and how!), and even my "final" email where I expressed my ambivalence, many of you asked me about this year's marathon. Some of you even stated that you miss these missives (which feel incredibly self-indulgent as I write). So yes, I decided to run again. The love, friendship and support that came from all of you factored greatly in my decision. Thank you all.  

--- April 15, 2014, with one week to go... again ---

Things happen when we run ...

Well, here we go again... One week to go and all is quiet. The long(ish) runs are complete, the injuries minor and body feels pretty darn good. I've really emphasized my balance between easy preparation and general laziness. But I've tried to take my weekly long runs slowly and patiently. In the past month, I've done some long (12-18) mile runs.  Even when my thighs burned (at mile 10) my calves twitched (at mile 12), and may chest started to bleed (around mile 14), I still felt like I could keep going. The knees have held strong.

Honestly, I'm really not taking this race nearly as seriously as I did last time. I'd said that my goals were (1) to finish, and (2) to not get injured by running only 15-20 miles per week. Since I plan to walk part of the course anyway, why hurt myself training? Initially, I figured that I'd run a little and walk a lot. But the running has gone well enough that I may actually run the majority of the race, with the hope that I can plod over the hills instead of stumble on them.

That's surprising to me. In fact, unlike last year, when I approached the race with physical therapy and MRIs and fear, I'm actually looking forward to the event. I've needed no trips to the doctor, and I've replaced PT with an occasional "Yoga for Runners" class on Sundays. I've replaced trepidation with optimism. At this point, even the weather reports look good.

As to the race details, my number is 34563 and I'll be starting near the very back of the pack (wave 4 corral 8), crossing the start line sometime around 11:40, which means a finish sometime around 5.  The BAA website will track my progress so you'll know when I've moved from jogging to plodding to limping. You can also sign up to track me automatically by texting my bib number to 345678. 

As we all know (and as media outlets have reminded us repeatedly), last year's Marathon was um, ... eventful. This year, the BAA (and governmental agencies) have tried to orchestrate the Marathon with a balance between the free-spirited nature of an audience-participatory event and the security needs that rise from last year's experience. With that in mind, there will be a substantially larger police presence, and nobody (runner or spectator) will be allowed to bring bags to the course. On the other hand, it's also likely that the crowds will be larger and more enthusiastic, and I sincerely hope that the interaction between people running and people watching will remain and there won't be an overly active separation between the two groups of people. Also, as the BAA has banned unregistered runners ("bandits") from the course it looks like there will probably be no "jumping in and joining" for a mile or two (or 16) at all. Which is a little disappointing.

Now I don't begrudge the BAA for banning bandits this year. The field already contains 9000 more runners than last year, and we'll likely see substantially larger-than-normal crowds. So cracking down on the unofficial runners makes sense. But I hope that this change does not stay. To me, the democratic nature of the Boston Marathon -- where even those who cannot afford the entry fee get to run the course and where friends and family run a mile or two with you -- is part of the charm and part of the history.

So even if you aren't permitted to run a mile on the course next Monday, coming out should be an experience. If you can make it anywhere on the course next Monday, do so. The atmosphere should be exciting, especially given the media attention and the overall enthusiasm. And contrary to expectations, it's likely that many areas will provide enough space where I'll see you as I run or walk by. Just just let me know where on the course you'll be and I'll look. On some of those long stretches it really helps to have someone to look forward to seeing.

There will be several spots that should be especially good: Natick center: mile 10
Wellesley center: mile 14
Woodland T stop on the green line: mile 16
The base of Heartbreak Hill (at the MGH tent)
and of course, Boylston Street, outside the Public Library.

Keep in mind that since the field is larger, the start times are later for the not-so-fast runners, and even as the race winners will finish just after noon, those of us "in the back of the pack" will just be getting started. I expect an exciting day for a run. Come on out and have fun with us.

Many thanks to everyone.