A Bridge, a Fox, and a Tie-in to Running

Unless one were lost in the woods these last couple of weeks, it would be impossible to miss the uproar over the George Washington Bridge closures.  Last September 9-13, lanes were closed on the Fort Lee side of the bridge, which is the busiest bridge connecting New Jersey to Manhattan, in a sudden and unexplained move, later brushed aside by port authority officials as a “traffic study”.  On Dec. 16, 2013, John D. Rockefeller IV, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, wrote to the chairman and vice chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey requesting answers to very direct questions regarding the lane closures.  Answers were provided in a letter written by the Port Authority Board Secretary which were filled with standard protocol type language.  It was not until a subpoena from state legislators demanded emails and text messages from various people involved with the closures, specifically Bill Baroni and David Wildstein, that it became evident that the lane closings were political retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, a man of Croat heritage mistakenly referred to as a Serb in one of the emails, perhaps the biggest insult of all.  The people who instigated the lane closures were all close allies and working for Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey.  While the governor has claimed he knew nothing of the involvement of his team in the closure of the lanes, he has a reputation of being a bully, and taking retribution on a political foe is consistent with his character.  He is known for his bullish, bullying style, making fun or yelling at opponents who have the temerity to speak against him.

It was time for the television pundits and posturers to take a stand, generally, as one would guess, along political lines.  There was one comment that really stood out, though, as being a strange, and utterly outdated way to see this debacle for Governor Christie.  After all, he is positioning himself to be the spokesperson for the republican party, and possibly to run for president in 2016.  He should be preparing the big tent, to attract conservatives and near-conservatives, libertarians and tea-partiers, whites and off-whites, men and, yes, even……women.

Brit Hume, senior political analyst at Fox News, on a Sunday talk show called “Media Buzz”, had this to say:  “Well, I would have to say that in this sort of feminized atmosphere in which we exist today, guys who are masculine and muscular like that in their private conduct, kind of old-fashioned tough guys, run some risk.”  He went on to explain that the governor is an old-fashioned guy’s guy, a masculine and muscular guy, in constant danger of looking thuggish or sexist.  He got a quizzical look from a co-commentator on the program, Lauren Ashburn, but later was supported in his contention by another Fox star, Bill O’Reilly, who said that real men who are rough around the edges, maybe rude or blunt, get a raw deal from the public.  Another way to look at this, though, is that real men, manly men, have a right to their own way of behaving, and women are trying, and now succeeding in ruining it for them.

Has running “suffered” from feminization?  The Olympic Marathon of 1896, held during the first modern day Olympics in Athens, Greece was a men-only event, as were all the events at that time.  Initially, women were probably not considered for competition, since they were not felt physically capable of participating.  They were also excluded based on a men’s club mentality.  But, a woman did run the first Olympic marathon, just not as an official competitor.  Her name was Stamata Rivithi, and she completed the 40 kilometer course in 5 hours and 30 minutes.  The winner that year, a Greek named Spyridon Louis won the men’s event in 2:58:50.  Violet Percy, an English woman, was the first officially timed woman marathon winner with a time of 3:40:22 at the Polytechnic Marathon in London in 1926.  These women broke barriers, but the premier marathon event, the Boston Marathon, had yet to be tainted by the presence of women.  It was not until 1966 that a woman named Bobbi Gibb (co-alumnus(a) of mine from Revelle College, UCSD), ran the Boston Marathon as a non-registered runner.  It being an AAU sanctioned male event, women were not permitted to officially run it.  Bobbi Gibb’s story is nicely told in an interview she did which is posted on the Bill Rodgers Running Center website.  She reports she applied for an entry to the race, but got a reply from the race director, Will Cloney, stating that women were not physiologically able to run a marathon, and furthermore, were not allowed to.  She had to hide in the bushes at the start, wearing her brother’s shorts and a hooded sweatshirt.  She joined the race after about a third of the runners had started.  She reports that she was recognized as female, as she put it, by the men studying her anatomy from the rear. The men around her were very supportive.  She says they told her they would not allow anyone to remove her from the race.  She finished with a very respectable time of 3:21:40.  While unofficial at the time, she has since been recognized by the Boston Athletic Association as the first female winner, and she won three years in a row.  Ironically, at the time she ran her first Boston, the longest sanctioned race for women on the AAU calendar was 1.5 miles.

Since then, the number of women participants in running races has grown dramatically.  In a Wikipedia article, a graph of women’s participation (not just runners) in the summer Olympics has grown dramatically from the early 1900’s to the present:

Women as a percent of participants in the Summer Olympics

Women as a percent of participants in the Summer Olympics

In one of our major races in the Philadelphia area, the 10 mile Broad Street Run, held the first Sunday in May, the number of women participating has grown steadily since the race began in 1980.  This past year, 2013, the total number of women finishers was 17,269.  There were 14,773 male finishers.

For major marathons, women have not yet reached parity with the men, but are not far behind.  For 2013, at Chicago, there were 17,395 women and 21,488 men finishers.  For New York, 19,567 women and 30,699 men completed the race.  In Europe, at the Berlin Marathon, 8,946 women and 27,528 men finished.  And in Los Angeles, 7,773 women and 11,761 men crossed the finish line.  In Boston in 2012, 9,006 women and 12,666 men got to run that last stretch down Boyleston Street to the iconic finishing banner.

Women have also become leaders in the world of running organizations.  Mary Wittenberg, the president and CEO of the New York Road Runners, is responsible for the business and operations of the club, including the production of the New York City Marathon.  Stephanie Hightower is president of the USATF, the national governing body for track and field, long distance running, and race walking in the U.S.

Every Sunday morning, I meet with a group from my running club at 7:30, to run a 13 mile loop.  Sometimes we go farther, if we are in the midst of training for an upcoming marathon.  We’ll start out earlier, get the extra miles in, and then meet the group at 7:30 to start together.  We have a balance of men and women in the group.  I’m sure not one of the guys feels put upon, inhibited or less manly because women are participating in the sport.  Likewise, the thought that women are not capable of participating, the thought held 30 years ago and earlier, has been proven to be bunk.  It is true, that when men and women mix together in a social setting, men behave more civilly, less crudely.  At least, they should.  There really is no excuse, in my mind, for bullying and being obnoxious, and it certainly is not the fault of women if someone who behaves that way is brought down.  I would say, yes, running has been feminized, in that women have been able to participate in this great sport which was once closed to them.  They have shown their mettle, and taken on the challenges of the toughest of races, the marathon.  They have contributed greatly to the organization and running of the sport, and their participation keeps growing.  Far from making us guys unmanly, less of a man’s man, they have joined our ranks, and made it better.  What a bunch of “bushwa” (got that from a NYTimes crossword puzzle) coming from Brit Hume and Bill O’Reilly.

Brandon Runs New York

Brandon, in the SJAC jacket, organizing our club's Great Grace race.

Brandon, in the center in the SJAC jacket, organizing our club’s Great Grace race.

People living on the east coast (of the US, for my non-US readers), cannot forget hurricane Sandy.  For some, it was a big storm which didn’t do much damage.  For others along the coastline and in New York and parts of New England, it was a devastating storm from which many have still not recovered,  although it has been a year.  Even if there was recovery, in this campaign season we in New Jersey are constantly reminded of how our fearless governor stood face to face with the storm and chased it away, then went out to help our citizens recover, walking arm in arm with the president.  It made for some strange politics, now replayed as political ads.  It also created mayhem for the New York City marathon, which was cancelled at the last minute.

The New York City marathon started as several loops around central park in 1970, organized by Distance Running Hall-of-famer Fred Lebow.  At the time it had a starting lineup of 125 runners, 55 of whom actually crossed the finish line.  The winner, Gary Muhrcke, finished in 2:31;38, while Mr. Lebow finished in 4:12:09.  Since then it has grown to be the largest marathon run annually, and now traverses all five boroughs.  Staten Island is included by the race starting on the Verrazano Narrows bridge, then it progresses through Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and finishes in Central Park in Manhattan.

Since its start in 1970, it has only been cancelled once, in 2012.  As Sandy hit New York, causing flooding, destruction of houses, buildings, roads and tunnels, electricity outages, and isolation of communities, the Road Runner Club of New York, and Mayor Bloomberg, pushed on, wanting to show the world that the dominant spirit of New Yorkers could overcome anything.  About 36 hours before the race, it was cancelled when the organizers and the mayor recognized the severe impact of the storm on the citizens of the boroughs through which the race would be run.  Instead of using sorely needed generators to provide emergency backup power, these generators were used to heat tents along the route for the runners’ support.  The race was cancelled, and tens of thousands of runners who had gathered in New York were turned away.  Some used their energy to volunteer, helping hurricane victims.  Others, having come from far off points around the globe, returned home, peeved that the race had not been called off before they made the trip.  The sponsors of the race eventually refunded the entry fee to several thousand runners, while others opted for a chance to run in 2013.  My friend and running partner Brandon chose a 2013 entry.

Among several things that Brandon lives for, his beautiful wife and their adopted special-needs son, his faith and his church, running is a very big part of his life.  He ran track in high school, and still relates stories of the races he ran and competitors he raced against.  He has run many marathons, among them multiple Boston Marathons.  He has a tie hanger loaded with Boston Marathon finishers medals on the wall in his living room.  It also displays medals from London and several others, including one from New York.  He ran New York in 1993 at the prime age of 26, finishing with a gun time of 3:02:28.  This was before the modern era of chip timing.

Brandon is a very hard trainer.  He regularly runs upwards of 60 miles per week, mixing long distances at marathon pace, speed work and recovery runs with core training, stretching, and foam roller rolling (for lack of a better term).  Often when I drop by on Saturday mornings for a run, he has a video on in the background of a DVD for core workouts on standby.  The intro shows a woman on a mat raising and lowering her midsection endlessly.  No wonder he enjoys doing core workouts.  Our Saturday morning runs are at marathon pace for me, but a very slow recovery run for him.  He is driven by the fact that our club has some very fast runners who are older than he, and he uses them as a stimulus to keep his game going.  He is also a terrific coach for runners like me who benefit from his years of training and racing experience.

Brandon heads to New York today.  He has plans to take the train to Penn Station, get his number and other swag at the expo, then check in at his hotel.  As he put it, he’ll spend $425 for the privilege of a few hours sleep in a fine New York City hotel, only to have to leave before sunrise to make it to the start line.  Twenty years since he last ran, he has a very good shot at breaking his previous New York City marathon time.  His friends and supporters will be watching the race on TV and on-line, wishing him a great run with the wind always at his back, not too hot or too cold, no stepping in potholes, and a fine finish in Central Park.


Turning 59…

Nov. 66…ain’t that special.  It’s not one of those banner years, like 18, when you get to vote, and can join the army.  Or 21, when you wait until midnight the night before, then whip out your drivers license in the bar showing you are now of legal age to imbibe liquor.  Why it’s okay to kill or be killed for your country at 18, but not have a beer, is one of those mysteries of society I will never understand.  If I stretch my memory way back to the earliest birthday I can remember, I probably was 6.  But, I also probably only remember it from the grainy 8 mm movies my dad took of the birthday party, and along with that, the distinctive sound and smell of the projector.  The flap, flap, flap of the film at the end of the reel is a lost sound, recognized by us older folks, but unheard in the YouTube age.  In the movie version of my birthday, the films of which lasted only about four minutes each, I was dressed in a cowboy costume, chasing other kids around, and sliding down the slide in our backyard.  My cousins posed for the camera like glamorous stars.  There was a nice birthday cake with six candles, far from the fire hazard I’d require today.  The photo at left is me, far more mature, at the age of 12.  Children are  still very naive at that age, especially in the suburban setting in which I grew up.  The worst that would happen was getting into a fight with one of my friends.  A few punches were thrown, we’d go off and lick our wounds, then make up and get back to our usual cordial games.  Not that I had not known grief.  I had already experienced the assassination of President Kennedy.  In fact, I saw him a few days before the fateful event, on a motorcade in Houston, where we lived at the time.  I recall coming home from school to see my mother very upset, but not really understanding the importance.  I was 9 at the time, three years before this photo.  All of my close relatives were still alive, so I had not experienced death and loss.  I did know something about World War II.  My father had been in the Merchant Marine on an oil tanker that provided fuel oil for the battle ships and destroyers in the Atlantic and the Pacific.  He didn’t speak much about the horrors of that war, but he related some stories of harrowing times under attack by German subs, when an escorting destroyer in his convoy was blown up.  The image of sailors being blasted off the deck clearly made an impression on him, and I picked up some of the fear for their lives these men must have felt.

As birthdays passed, I marched on to my 16th.  Living in Arizona at the time, I was able to get a full, unrestricted driver’s license at that age.  I believe the reason they allowed such young kids to get licenses in Arizona was that it was a lightly populated state, with many agricultural communities, and someone needed to be able to drive pops to the liquor store to stock up for the weekend.  It made for an interesting singularity, though.  We moved to California that year, and while the driving age there was officially 18, 17 and a 1/2 for a permit, they recognized my Arizona license and gave me a full license in California.  I was the only kid my age in high school to have a license, which made me pretty special.  While this held me until I was 18, the drinking age was 21 in California, but only 18 in Arizona.  I took a road trip back to visit friends in Scottsdale when I was 19, and the first thing I wanted to do was get a drink in a bar.  My experience with liquor to that point was very limited.  I had sips of my grandfather’s beer from time to time, Rheingold, and my parents drank the cocktails of the day, the martini and manhattan.  As a child and teen, my parents would have parties with the obligatory mixed drink cart, cigarettes in attractive boxes about the room, and fancy lighters which doubled as decorative accents.  So, when I hit the bar with my friends in Arizona, I hardly knew what to order.  I settled on a scotch on the rocks, having heard of that drink in a movie somewhere along the line.  It burned my throat, and I don’t think I was able to finish it.

Around this time, though we were still in the worst of it in Vietnam.  Shocking photos from war journalists were making the cover of Time and Newsweek, and statistics of soldiers killed and wounded were broadcast on the news.  I signed up for the draft as required, although my parents swore that if I was drafted we were headed for Canada.  Oh, Canada, thanks for being there in our time of need.  As it turned out, my birthday was given a high enough number in the draft lottery so I was not called up either year I was eligible.  I’m not sure what I would have done if I was, probably try to join the Navy.  After the second year of the draft, President Nixon ended our role in the “conflict”, and brought the soldiers home on March 27, 1973, forty years ago.  The war between North and South Vietnam continued two more years, until the North, backed by China, had crushed the South.  The Vietnam War was my awakening to the inhumanity possible in man against man.  Women and infants slaughtered, because they might be abetting the enemy, and indiscriminate bombing and exfoliation of the jungle led to massive protests in the U.S., and  many students who took part were injured or killed for doing so.  When I started my college years at UCSD in 1972, the campus was still reeling from the May, 1970, self-immolation of George Winn, Jr, who was a graduate student at UCSD and was protesting the war.  While terrorism hardly started in the 1960’s, it was in the late sixties and early seventies that the term terrorists seemed to become well known.  Bruce Hoffman, a specialist in the study of terrorism at Georgetown University, defines terrorism to include several features including that it is conducted by an organization with an identifiable chain of command.  His definition can be found in this Wikipedia article.

Through college and medical school, birthdays seemed to fly by.  No longer the cause for a gay party with balloons and cone hats, they more marked our stages of development as adults.  At 25, one is considered old enough to be more responsible behind the wheel, and the auto insurance costs go down.  At 29, one is on the verge of losing youth, and everyone seems to want to be 29 for a long, long time.  Come 35, one should be married, have a job, and some kids.  Work becomes an every day responsibility, as we take on the raising of children, the house mortgage and all the other obligations of becoming truly adult.

While things were still happening around the world, some wonderful, like space shuttle trips to the space station, or the invention of the car phone (bit of a double edge sword, that), the world also was getting hotter with extremists and their attacks.  Names such as the IRA, Shining Path, Cuban Hijackers, the Red Army Faction, the Unabomber, the PLO, Islamic Jihad, Armenians, Italians, Sikhs, and many others became front page news items for their atrocities.  Yet, with a family to raise and a very busy work schedule as a young surgeon I was much more interested in my immediate circle.  One slightly ironic note was that, as an attending at the V.A. Hospital, I found myself caring for Vietnam Vets whose lives were destroyed back in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  I also took care of vets from the first Iraq war, Desert Storm.

Victims of the 9/11/2001 attack on the World Trade Center

Victims of the 9/11/2001 attack on the World Trade Center

We go through stages as adults where we are at first very aware of what is going on in the world, and want to do something about it.  We protest, join the peace corps, and are activists politically.  Then, we knuckle down to raise a family, provide for the family, and deal with the everyday little problems that fill our world.  As the children become independent adults, we again get more involved with what is going on in the world.  The US has been lucky lately, situated where we are between two big oceans and two friendly neighbors north and south.  We have not had the daily threats of violence experienced by those in the middle east, Europe, Asia and even South America.  The attacks of 9/11 woke us up to the fact we are not immune to horrific terrorism, just rather well insulated.  We also have had a large number of senseless home-grown attacks by gun wielding psychotics, or attacks like the Okalahoma City bombing in 1995, politically motivated but not from an organized anti-government force.

Frank at Boston, 2011.

Frank at Boston, 2011.

The Boston Marathon occurs a week, or at most almost two weeks, before my birthday.  For me what this means is I will never run it at the peak power of my age group.  I will always have to qualify for a year into that age group.  As I’ve reached my 59th year, I can see that I no longer can run with the speed I had ten years ago.  It doesn’t sound very old, 59, but the legs don’t lie.  I had the humorous experience of seeing one of my patients of many years, perhaps twenty, in the office the other day.  While she still looked fit, I thought to myself, “my, she seems so much older than I remember her when she first came to see me”.  She must have caught wind of that thought, and said out loud, “you are really looking pretty old”.  I laughed out loud, realizing we both must have been thinking the same, that we really have changed as we got into our late fifties.  From inside my body looking out, I don’t feel old.  In fact, I feel the way I perceived myself looking perhaps twenty years ago.  But, take a look in the mirror, and that older individual looking back, the one I don’t recognize, is definitely me.

The bombing at the Boston Marathon was such an awful, unexplainable attack, and when it happened, I found myself in shock.  I was not there this year, but had very close friends there, many of whom would have been crossing the finish line within minutes of the bombs going off.  It took quite some time before we back home found out that all of our friends were alive and had not been injured.  I am so thankful for their sakes and for their worried families.  The attack, though, seems not to have a thought behind it other than to be some kind of copycat attack.  It is one thing for Chechens to want to attack Russians, who have politically dominated them, or for the IRA to lash out at the British.  Inexcusable, and not productive, but the reason behind these attacks, or of myriad other terrorist attacks, is not mysterious.  This incident must have had it’s intended consequence, to make us fear for our lives and limbs on a daily basis.  But it does not carry forward any particular agenda and so becomes just a very awful, desperate and destructive act.  I feel a little sorry for the young man who aided his brother and now has lived to face the punishment.  In the picture that emerged of his pre-bombing life, he does not seem like someone hell-bent to cause pain and death.  Nevertheless, I feel much greater sadness for the victims of his heinous crime, the families of those who died, and the ones whose limbs were blown off them, and who now must learn to live a completely new and more difficult life.  Ultimately, running a marathon is a selfish act, but the outpouring of support one gets at the Boston Marathon shows that we runners have somehow given inspiration to those watching.  I had many a spectator yelling support and cheering me on as I struggled to complete the course and get across the finish line.

So today, on my 59th birthday, not relevant in the list of birthdays, but, for me, a time of reflection, I realize that what we do and say makes a difference.  How we behave and comport ourselves sets an example for others to follow.  If we are mean, and engage in cruel acts and torture, we are setting an example, not declaring some high ground as ours.  While this incident was not the worst attack in recent history on US soil, it is for every individual killed or injured.  I hope we as a country learn from it to be kind, to encourage and to support, not to take revenge and continue a cycle of destruction.

Frank today, with wrinkles.

Frank today, with wrinkles.

A Silent Mile

Yesterday was a tough day. It started off wonderfully. I was able to work while watching the Boston Marathon on my computer. The elite women ran a compelling race and the men didn’t disappoint either. Then at approximately 2:50PM, two bombs exploded near the finish line killing three people and injuring more than 180 others.

I’m not going to rehash the details of this gruesome event because we’ve all heard them. It’s time to start healing.

I saw a Facebook post today asking runners to gather at their local high school track to run a mile in silence to honor of the victims. I thought about going, but the 9PM start conflicts with my kids bedtime. Then my wife saw the same post and said I should go. After some hemming and hawing, I decided to go.


It hit me when I put my running shoes on – many of yesterday’s victims may never be able to do what I was about to do – run. I was pretty somber from that point on. I left the house. It was a beautiful night – clear, cool, calm, and quiet. I walked to the end of the block (as is my ritual), started to run, and it hit me again – those victims were no different than me.

These tragic events cultivate fear and anger. I felt both and needed a release. It’s about a mile to the Woodbury High School Track from my house and I was going to run because it makes me feel better. To be completely honest, I had no idea what to expect. Would there be five people there? Ten? 20? 50? I passed the sign for the Underwood Memorial Hospital Emergency Room and my thoughts went back to Boston. What a horrible scene that must have been.

When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to see about 30 people. I didn’t know many of them, but they are familiar faces that I see at local races. I saw some people running around the track. I thought it was a little strange, but I know that runners like to run. It makes them feel better.

John Carter, part of the RRCW (Road Runners Club of Woodbury), waited until exactly 9PM and spoke briefly to the crowd. He thanked everyone for coming on such short notice and mentioned that events like this were happening all over the area and they would all be running simultaneously. I looked around and noticed that the crowd had grown to well over 50 people. John reminded everyone that the run would be in silence and we would take a slow pace. He then introduced three people who were dressed in their BAA Boston Marathon jackets and wearing their medals for completing the 2013 Boston Marathon. They heard about the event on the train ride home and decided to attend. John had the 2013 Boston Marathoners take the lead and start us off.


The whole idea seemed a little strange – running a mile in the dark to honor people 300 miles away. But as we ran it felt more and more comfortable. The silence was palpable. After the 1st lap the crowd stretched out and the pace began to increase. It felt good. While making the turn on lap 3, I noticed the flag at half mast.

The pace got a little faster. By the final lap we were breathing hard and sweating and at that point I realized what this meant to me. Runners are comfortable running. Yesterday was awful for everybody here and lacing up our shoes helps us deal with it. Some may not understand that, but that doesn’t make it untrue.


When we finished everyone was still relatively quiet, although breathing heavily. I immediately noticed how much better I felt. Another gentleman thanked the group and said how happy he was that so many came out to run. We dispersed and I made my way to the parking lot.

It was time to run home.

Tony Runs Boston

Tony Walter, after qualifying at Steamtown, 2012 for Boston.

Tony Walter, after qualifying at Steamtown, 2012 for Boston.

Back in May, 2012, a group of us from the SJAC decided we would head up to Scranton for the Steamtown Marathon in October, 2012.  One of our dedicated group, Brian, suggested we should write a blog about the group preparing for this event.  I happened to be the one who moved forward on this suggestion, and the sjacmarathoners.com was born.  Through the hottest summer on record in the Philadelphia area, we trained as a group, sweating, running, sweating some more, wringing out wet socks and shorts, hydrating, rehydrating, and getting in the miles.  Our experiences were documented in our blog.  After the grueling summer, and a bit cooler September, our group headed up to Scranton to participate in the Steamtown Marathon.  It is small as marathons go.  Three thousand signed up, the maximum allowed, and the event was closed to registration by the end of May, which speaks to it’s desirability.  It is also known as a Boston qualifier, since an average of about 25% of runners in this race qualify for Boston.  What this means, though, as I found out, was that it is an elite runners marathon.  The reason so many qualify for Boston is that so many fast runners run this race.  This was evident when we were gathered in the gym at the Forest City high school, waiting for the start.  I had not seen so many Boston Marathon jackets since I ran Boston in 2011.

Tony ran Steamtown with an eye to qualifying for Boston, although he would have been happy just to put in a decent performance.  He needed to hit under 3:40 to qualify.  He also needed for Boston not to be filled up by the time his race was run.  There were a few factors that made this prospect interesting.  One was that the Boston Athletic Association decided to change the qualifying times the year before.  Two years ago, Tony could have qualified with a 3:45:59.  They decided to drop the time for all entrants by five minutes, and drop the 59 second allowance.  That set the new time at 3:40 flat.  In addition, they decided to allow finishers who beat the time by certain margins, 20 minutes and 10 minutes, to get preferential sign up privileges.  Theoretically, one could make a qualifying time but not be allowed to run because all the places were taken.  This happened the year before, when some runners had hit the qualifying time, but there were no places left.  For 2013, an anomaly occurred.  The 2012 Boston Marathon was run under very hot conditions, with temperatures into the high eighties.  Participants at Boston who normally would have qualified at Boston for the following year had times much slower than normal due to the heat, and some actually decided not to run.  This left a few places available still in October, after the Steamtown Marathon.  So, when Tony hit his qualifier of 3:39:06, he was able to sign up for Boston.

At the end of Steamtown Marathon, Tony was beat.  He could hardly move, and when someone in our group offered to get him a drink, he had the look of a zombie as he answered that he really couldn’t say.  Our group went out to eat lunch at a very nice Mexican restaurant in Clarks Summit.  Tony ordered a delicious tortilla soup, which remained untouched as he stared at his bowl not saying a word.  We got a little worried about him, but he still had a pulse and respiratory rate, so we figured he would be okay.  On the way home to the Philadelphia area, he stopped at a rest stop to get some coffee.   Lisa, one of our group, followed him there, just to check on him.  Seeing he was managing alright, she drove on and Tony eventually made it back home.

The next day, he signed up for Boston.  Good thing he did, too, for it filled up by Thursday of that week.

Tony is a terrific training partner.  He seems like he is always in a good mood, and he always has kind things to say about everyone.  He is very steady in his training, and got through the summer having put in the miles, logged the long runs and done the track work to be well prepared.  He kept the rest of us going strong, and set a good example for us.  In other words, he earned it.

Many of my non-running friends have asked, “what is so special about Boston?”  Anyone who has run a marathon knows about Boston.  It is the oldest modern marathon, run since 1897, with the exception of 1918, during the first world war.  It is also a marathon for which one must qualify in ones age group.  The runners are all elite runners who have achieved a qualifying time which puts them in the top echelon of marathoners world wide.  But the best thing about running Boston is the support of the fans, who turn out in droves on the day of the marathon to cheer on the runners.  It doesn’t hurt that the event is held on Patriot’s Day, commemorating the start of the revolutionary war, and, as it happens, a holiday in Massachusetts.  The crowds that line the route, cheering, giving support, and making a lot of noise, especially in the last few blocks before the finish line, make the race a wonderful experience.  And, to make it all that much sweeter, the students from Wellesley, an all-women’s college, come out to offer kisses and high fives to the runners as they pass the midpoint of the race.

Tony will be running his first Boston Marathon tomorrow.  From his training partners back home, who didn’t make it in to Boston this year, we wish him the very best.  This morning, after our Sunday morning training run, a 13 mile route, the group gathered to offer Tony advice.  “Don’t go out too fast (duh…).”  “Go out easy and then back off.”  “Go get ’em, but take your time at Wellesley.”  And “whatever you do, make it across the finish line.”

I would like to ask any one reading this to offer support for Tony and we will pass on your advice and good wishes.

Best wishes to Tony from the SJAC Marathoners back home.

Best wishes to Tony from the SJAC Marathoners back home.

Uncorking Croatia



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