I have enjoyed life through my first 50 years. My wife and children have been the focal point for more than half of my life and my career is creeping up on half as well. One of my greatest personal success stories came out of nowhere. On Saturday May 25, 2013 I logged my first walk through an App on my phone. I walked 2.3 miles through my neighborhood in 34.24 minutes. This was the start of something I never anticipated. Less than two years later and at 50 years old I decided I wanted to run the 10 Mile long Broad Street Run. Where and how did this target come about?
In the spring of 2013 I was walking on a regular basis and using an App on my Phone to log the distance and the time. At first I used this because it was new and I enjoyed logging my neighborhood walks. Most of my fellow associates use it as well and gave us common ground each day. We would talk about the frequency of the walks, bike rides, or in their cases runs. My favorite walk quickly became around the Cooper River, a 3.7M distance. Many walkers, joggers, runners, and bikers frequent this beautiful setting. I think I enjoy just watching others as much as I enjoy the activity myself.
Over the next few weeks I started to turn my walks into a jog and for VERY brief stint runs. I recall my attempt at running like it was yesterday. In 0.2 tenths of a mile, I was out of breath. Thought I was going to die. I worked my short runs into most walks for the next several weeks until I felt I was ready for a RUN. On August 10th 2013 I ran 1.6M in 18.52 mins or an 11.21 min/mile. I was laboring, but mostly felt the joy that I could run that long. What progress in 3 months! Can I actually run a mile under 11Min? Just two weeks later I hit that mark with a 10.57 mile. Next target, lets stretch out the runs so I can run a 5K race before I turn 50.
On 8/26 I ran/walked my first 3.1M to get a time I can build on. 43.01 minutes was not the important part, but the fact that I was actually going to sign up for a 5K race now that I know I can do it. This also set into motion a series of wagers at work which challenged us all to post a time to win a bet from our supervisor. For several weeks I trained with longer runs and shorter 1mile runs. In those weeks I was able to post a 10.19 Mile while building my confidence. At work, the pressure was there every day with bragging rights on the line. On 10/13 I posted my “bet” time of 31.59 (10.12 avg mile) and was of proud of myself. I helped our team win the bet (a free lunch) from our supervisor. Side note, our supervisor actually won as all he wanted to do was to get us all out running. Nice win Jim!
The day has come, my first Race. On 10/20/13 I ran my first 5K at my favorite place to run Cooper River. I got out to a great start and shattered my 1 Mile time posting 9.07 min first mile. This helped me to better my previous 5K only slightly, but what a thrill. I looked at my time and my splits for days. Just starring at the data with a smile on my face. This was something special I will never forget. I had set a target and achieved it and enjoyed it more than I ever imagined. It was late October and I continued to run a little, but by middle of November I was done running. I had no reason to run. No target to shoot for.
In the spring of 2014 I started assisting coaching my daughter’s softball team and had no real desire to run. I would walk on occasion but had no time to really get involved in anything. As softball was coming to an end I was becoming antsier. I started to post some runs again. Then on July 26th 2014 I posted an 8.40 minute mile. This was a great feeling getting below 9 minute mile. I started looking for 5K runs to enter and started training again. I posted bests almost every week for a while running in races or on my own. Didn’t matter, I was feeling good about my breathing and progress I was making. My next goal was to break the 30 minute mark. I was so ready to do this in my next race. All I could think about.
Sub 30 Minute 5K? Monday 9/1/14 Labor Day, on an unfamiliar course and in extreme heat I missed and missed big. For the first time I was very disappointed in myself. I posted a 32.24 time which was not even one of my top 3 times. I felt beaten and that I had no more room to improve. I really was ready to stop this activity all together. A high school classmate and avid runner had been commenting on my running and texting me advice and lending support if needed. On this day, I needed. Rachel gave me much needed advice and told me to sign up for another race right away. Just do it. She would not let me feel bad about my run. My disappointing run had valid reasons for occurring and I had to learn that this will happen from time to time. Best advice was to sign up for another race and I did, the next day.
I signed up for a race to take place 6 days after my disappointment. On Sunday 9/7/14 I ran in the 9/11 Travis Manion Foundation 5K Race at my Cooper River Park. I was simply looking for a simple rebound based on the advice from my adopted running coach. This race would prove to be much more than that. Weather was perfect (check), I was at my favorite place to run (check), and was going to run with MARINES? Yup, Marines. Lots of them. This run was full of 9/11 ceremony and emotion. Several dignitaries spoke before the race. Family members of 9/11 Heroes made this a very emotional morning that I was not anticipating. After the ceremonies finished, we all started to walk to the starting line for the race. As we all waited for the race to begin, behind us comes the Marines in full uniform marching in cadence. What a sight and how intimidating. Honestly my target of 30 Minutes was not even on my mind at this point. I was just enjoying the moment. The race began and I found myself running next to Marines and one in particular running with an American flag. How cool was this. With all that was going on, I forgot about pace, goals, etc… I just ran and felt good. I heard my music interrupted by the Strava (running App) lady voice. I hear “Distance 1 Mile…. Time 8 minutes 34 seconds”. Two things quickly go through my mind. 1) WOW, best mile ever. 2) Uh oh, I’m in trouble, too fast I’m gonna be hurtin’. About half way through the race, some Marines were kind of just running at my pace and they started pushing people with encouragement. How can I slow up now! They are running in full uniform and boots. Target 30 minutes 5k…. 29.19! What a feeling. I hit another mark I really thought was not possible. More importantly, this came on the heels of a failure (in my eyes). Double Win! What an experience. I didn’t want to leave that morning. Emotional Morning in September that I will never forget.
- Run a Mile
- Run a 5K Race before I turn 50.
- Break 30 Minute 5K
Once again, I fulfilled my goal and felt like I was done running, until an unfortunate accident happened and affected me in a big way.
In the late spring of 2014 I was helping to get our team prepared for a softball tournament that our town was hosting. Right before the tournament I see the best player on our team, Jade walking up to the field with her leg wrapped in a bandage and what looked like a soft cast. This 12 year old girl was kicked by an opponent while playing soccer which turned into a torn ACL. She was the best player on our softball team and that hurt us, but more importantly I could see the total disappointment on her face that she couldn’t play in the tournament. I truly felt worse for her than I did for our team losing the best player. We found out later that her surgery was scheduled for a week or so. She helped cheer us on as we won a couple games and had a lot of fun and she was able to be part of. A few weeks later we get word that something went terribly wrong and there were complications with the surgery which led to her parents making the tough decision, to have her leg amputated from above the knee. This 12 year old girl with all kinds of energy and spirit was struck with real bad luck that will change her life. During weeks and months that followed, Jades family were sending out pictures and videos of Jade rehabbing and learning to walk and yes, RUN.
Sometime in November, I received a video of Jade in a gym working with her new leg. Mixed feelings of sadness for this girl who did not deserve this misfortune, while feeling motivated by her pure drive. This is something you read about or see on TV and it was right in front of me. The support and spirit of her family, friends, and community was truly inspirational as well.
At work, discussions came up about the Broad Street Run which takes place in the spring. Modell’s has been a sponsor for this popular 10 Mile run down Broad Street for several years. Being a sponsor offers 20 bids for the race in which several co-workers have used each year. My immediate supervisor, the same one that we won a bet from, asked me to join this year. I was a couple months removed from my 9/11 run. I had not run or even walked since I achieved my target time. Then in early November I saw some pictures of Jade rehabbing and participating with her friends in a 5K Color Run during the summer. I remembered the advice from my adopted running coach to just sign up, and announce it. With that advice and inspired by this young girls drive, in my mind I set my next target! The 10 Mile Broad Street Run.
To make sure I could really do this, I first wanted to see if I could train properly. Ten miles is not something you just go doing. It’s not a marathon by any means, but it may as well have been from where I started a year ago, out of breath in less than 0.2 tenths of a mile. The 2015 race was scheduled for Sunday May 3rd. (I will never forget that date) Waiting for spring to begin running was not going to allow me enough time to properly train. Also waiting would not satisfy my desire right now to get started. I have a goal and I am motivated. So I went the gym and signed up for 30 day membership. On November 11th, I ran on the treadmill in the gym for the first time ever. This was two months after one of the most memorable personal accomplishments I have had. My time wasn’t very good for 2.7M, but left feeling, maybe I can do this.
Running in the gym had a totally different dynamic than my favorite place, Cooper River. Instead of the running with people, watching the boaters, seeing dogs being walked, and breathing the fresh air, you are just in your own world. Runners outside look like they are enjoying the run. Runners in the gym look like they are hurting and are not enjoying anything about running. I found that my focus had to become the music, simply so I didn’t get bored. I had to cover up my time and distance and just relax and run to the music. (I would note how many songs I had listened to get an idea of my distance, but mostly enjoyed my various song lists)
After a several weeks I started seeing people I knew in the community and then began noticing many of the same faces. I was going straight from work couple days a week. Changing up my run distances often to keep fresh. I actually started to enjoy the gym experience. It was clean, well maintained temperature, close to home, and feeling each day like I was working closer to my target.
After the Holidays, and with some guidance from my coach, I decided to plan out my training with a bit more detail to ensure I would be ready for May 3rd. Most of the 5K races I participated in would have between 100-300 runners. The BSR will have over 40 thousand runners. I found a run that would a little closer to the larger race and seemed to be timed just right in my training. On March 28th I ran in the Phillies 5K race. This looked like a great fit for me. 5,000 runners, 4 free Phillies tickets, Phillies tech shirt, and ending with cool down lap in Citizen Bank Park. Cool!
March 28th is not supposed to be cold in Philadelphia. It was 67 degrees just two days before the race. At race time it was 29 degrees. 29! What am I doing??? Is what was going through my mind? Do I wear a Hat? Gloves? Hoodie? How do I stretch? My IPhone is bad in cold, will it die on me? Not sure what to do. I was not able to stretch, wore the knit cap, no gloves, no hoodie, and I ran without music. About two miles in, I was trying to pass some runners I actually knew in the race ahead of me and it hit. Bad Bad Bad cramp in my calf. I had this same cramp a few weeks before that made me back off my training for two weeks. But this was the first time this ever happened in a race and it hurt real bad. Less than a mile left, I didn’t want to stop. I slowed my running (with a limp) so I could finish in front of the crowd running. Cursing under my breath and pushing myself hard I got to the 3 mile mark, knowing now I can push harder. It’s almost over. The temperature was now irrelevant, the pain was magically less, and one of the guys I wanted to pass was right in front of me. This was a great test in many ways. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was all perfect for me to overcome. Not the time I was looking for, but I remembered what happened back on Labor Day and learned. Knowing that one week after my Labor Day “failure” I had a big win! Will this second cramp in a month deter me from the BSR? Answer, NO! Final thought on the Phillies 5K, I passed the former co worker who is 15 years younger than me in the last tenth of a mile somehow.
I could not afford two weeks off like I did previously due to my cramp, so a few days later, I got back out. Need to stretch out my runs to get closer to the 10 miles. One week after the Phillies 5K I ran 4 miles very smooth at a good time for me of 10.21. One week later on April 12th I challenged myself to do two laps around Cooper River. That would be 7.3 miles. I kind a struggled for the first couple miles not really feeling it, but made the decision to head into the second lap anyway. This is what you have been training for is what I told myself and pushed. 7.3 miles in 1:20 or a 10.59 pace was just a great feeling. I wasn’t spent either. Three weeks away was the big day.
For me, Saturday May 2nd felt like Christmas Eve for a child. I couldn’t wait for the morning to come. I was working on my race song list. Working on my strategy on how to run first 3 miles, then second 3 miles and hopefully have enough to finish strong. Over and over I kept envisioning the race. Worrying if I would be able to get to sleep. Just wondering! Kids were away for the weekend and I went to bed at 9:30PM. Last thoughts, I AM READY. My initial target to be able to complete this race turned into a target of under 2 hours building up to the race. My feeling night before the race was I can do this in 1:45! LET’S GO!
I had set two alarms to ensure I was up at 4:45am, didn’t need either as I woke up at 4. But trouble…. I was a bit dizzy. I have a history with dizziness, some bouts worse than others. This didn’t feel severe, so I quickly took my medicine, told myself I can’t let this happen, and hoped for the best. One hour later, phone charged, finished my pre-race wheat bagel and peanut butter with orange juice, and head seemingly clear, I am on my way to meet the team.
Race to begin at 8am, I arrived at meeting destination at 6:30 to carpool to race start line. When I arrived, the other co-worker running her first 10 mile was already there. We acknowledged each other with a mutual smile both feeling that nervous excitement of this event. The rest of the team arrived and off we went to the corals. Getting into the correct coral was a mini workout trying to get through all the people trying to get to their coral. I could not have even imagine this scene. Finally arrived in Pink coral a few minutes before 8 not knowing we had over a 45 min wait by the time our coral actually started. My pre-race meal was now over 4 hours ago. Rookie Mistake. The sea of people was an unbelievable sight. Straight ahead was City Hall and William Penn looking so tall and so far away. Oh my, he is only half way to the finish. The nerves were building. Trying to act cool while soaking it all in. The best was yet to come! At approx. 8:53, off we went.
Strategy check: Start strong with sub 10 Min first 3 miles. Settle into a few 10-11 min miles. Finish strong with whatever is left. IT’S A RACE! Everyone you pass matters I kept reminding myself.
We are off and within minutes, I altered. The crowd was much more than I thought even though I thought 43K was a lot. It was very hard to navigate and develop the pace I wanted. I exerted a lot of energy moving in and out and around people. The thousands of people didn’t seem to spread out until about 1 mile into the race. Even with that I still felt good and strong. With all the extra effort I put out, I still posted two sub 10 minute miles out of the gate. With William Penn STILL looking far away, I decided to back off my pace and settle in. Finished my first 3 miles slightly higher than my ten minute goal at 10.14, but still happy. A stretch of little hills seemed worse than they actually were in the next segment and now the unseasonable heat was starting to take effect. It was now over 70 degrees before 10 AM. But, breathing good, legs fresh, and happy with where I was at this time. Enjoying the feeling of where I was and that I was actually doing this. All the effort I put in preparing for this day was evident. I was feeling so proud of myself. I’m not even close to being done, but I know now I can. I really can.
As I approached City Hall (FINALLY) there were some larger crowds. The shade of the tall city buildings felt great. I picked up my pace for a bit during this little stretch downtown. Coming out of the shade I quickly felt the heat again. I had planned on staying away from the water stations during the race. I didn’t want to slow down, slip on a cup, etc.. I had my Gatorade gels and was figuring about mile four or five I would take one. So I did. At the 5 mile mark I was a bit confused on my time as the buildings messed up my GPS on my running App, so I kind of lost track of my time but I felt like I was in the ballpark of where I wanted to be.
One of the best things about the race was the crowds. The crowds in the different sections we passed were very inspiring. Business owners, families in the communities, church groups, runner’s friends and family members, and even Temple University had big time support. The Football team, cheerleader s, and Marching Band were out cheering us on. The signs everywhere where just great, they really helped keep everyone going. What spirit our city displayed. The most emotional feeling I had during the race was passing Children’s Hospital. Many kids were out in their wheelchairs with doctors and nurses cheering us on. I could not believe that sight and I became pretty emotional for a bit. After several hundred feet of thinking of how lucky I am to be running, got focused back on the race.
Water stations seemed to be popping up every half mile it seemed now almost teasing me. The heat was starting to take its toll as it was approaching 80 degrees. I started feeling tired for the first time and I remember telling myself I only have a 5K to go. No problem! But there was a problem. I was starting to get tired. After my two previous long runs of 7.3 miles, I felt like I still had something left. But now almost an hour and a half in, lots of extra excitement energy spent, and the heat making it difficult to breath comfortably and stay cool, I believe I was hitting that wall I have heard about. The Gatorade Gels were not helping and I needed to be cooled off. I needed to slow down. I needed to make sure I could finish. All the work and strategy did not mean a thing right now. I lost my desire to pass people or to realistically hit 1:45. I NEED to finish and I need to be able to run down the stretch. Now the water stations I planned to avoid became a bit of heaven. I used the water stops as an excuse to slow down now. I did drink on a few occasions and on a couple I simply dumped it on my head to cool down. I used this time to justify walking a bit. It did not bother me at the time, as I really don’t think I could have pushed myself too much more and still finished running down the stretch. I was still enjoying myself as I try to accomplish this run, but in a different way now, I was hurting.
I crossed the finish line in front of hundreds of people, TV cameras, and other runners that had finished. ITS OVER!!! I did it, I finished. I had no clue what my time was at this point and really didn’t care, until a bit later. I was totally spent and just needed to get some water. I didn’t care where my co-workers were or anything else except, get some water and sit down in the shade. I stretched, drank some water, and relaxed before getting some food and finding our team. Now I need to know, how did I do?
I finished the race, I was just under two hours, but did not finish strong and did not get to the 1:45 I was hoping for. The overwhelming joy of doing what I was able to do overshadowed the disappointment of the last two miles. I do not think I could have done any better that day, so I am content with myself. So many people have told me how great a job it was to do this and that really helped me be at ease with the results. I look at my bib and my medal almost every day and smile. I just cannot get the feeling out of my head of how good it feels to have done this.
I really appreciate the support and guidance I received from some key people. Jim was instrumental in getting me started by challenging me to get in shape and be in better health. This has been ongoing for several years and I do appreciate it. My wife was always proud of my accomplishments. I think she felt bad that we couldn’t do some of these together, but was happy for me and put up with all the time I spent running. Rachel has been like a coach for me. We haven’t seen each other in over 30 years, but formed a connection recently and she has really helped me get better, challenge myself, and prepare myself properly to achieve my goals. I probably would have stopped running seriously after my Labor Day disappointment if it were not for her support and guidance. And the misfortune of a young girl that helped inspire me to do the BSR. Jade will be successful in so many ways during her lifetime as she battles through her handicap, but she will not be able to fathom how many others she will help along the way, like me.
It’s been two months now and I have had not had the desire to do anything. I thoroughly enjoyed every step I took to reach my targets. Do I enjoy the feeling of running or the feeling of accomplishing a goal or target? I am not sure right now. I do know that I will be running again soon. Maybe I will just to run for relaxation or maybe some 5K races for fun. But, I will find a new goal or target to accomplish whether running related or not. I have been asked if I have the desire to just go three more miles to do a half marathon. I have been asked if I will do the BSR again next year. I do not know if I want to spend the time away from my family that it takes to do more. Not sure.
I do know one thing now, that whatever I want to do, I now know that I CAN! That was really the greatest accomplishment!