As most of you know, I donate $1 for each mile I run to the University of Virginia Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I started doing this about 7 years ago as a way to help other families that are going through what my wife, Jen, and I went through when we lost Lucas shortly after he was born.
We set a goal of $50,000 and hit that number in May of 2018! Thank you to all who helped us get there. We can’t express our gratitude enough to each of you.
Once we hit the goal, it was like, “So what’s next?” Jen and I thought about what to focus on to help more families. In the big scheme of things, our $50,000 that we raised is kind of a little drop in a big bucket. We wanted to keep helping the UVA NICU, so we met with their fundraising director. Together, we came up with the idea to focus on a more specific need at the hospital.
Our new goal is to raise $30,000 over the next three years for the benefit of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’s Bereavement Program. The Bereavement Program will use these funds to help emotionally console families with items such as hand and foot molds, memory boxes, offsetting funeral costs, and photography.
Personally, I think the moment that we packed everything we had of Lucas’ up (locks of hair, hospital bracelet, photos of us holding him after he passed) into a small heart shaped box to take home, and that he was not coming with us, was the hardest moment of my entire life. It became real. And that little box means more to me than anyone can understand.
We want families to have memories to take home, even if they are not taking home their child that they dreamed and prayed for. And with this program, the funds are going to be more specifically directed.
Once again, from both Jen and myself, thank you to everyone that has contributed over the years. Future donations will go to families who just need something to hold onto when they are hurting in their hearts.
I had such a great time with my running family at this race that it makes up for how I actually performed on race day. Which says a lot because I really pooped the bed. I signed up for this race to try and improve my Boston qualifying time and ensure my spot in the 2019 Boston Marathon. At the 2018 Boston Marathon I ran faster than my age group qualifications to get the privilege of registering for the next year’s race. That does not guarantee I get in, though, since the race has a limit on number of participants and the people who beat their qualifying standards by the most time get first acceptance. I am sitting on a paltry three minutes and thirty-one seconds of cushion. It will be a nail biter.
Anyway, back to the race. If you are looking for a fast race, this one is for you. Especially if you want a BQ. 46% of the participants this year ran a BQ time! That is astounding! And here I am … in the 54% who didn’t … Cue the “whomp, whomp, whomp” sound effects.
THE RACE: The Erie Marathon was held on September 10, 2018. 2200 runners registered for the race to make it a completely sold out event. It is a favorite among runners looking for a last ditch effort to get into Boston since the race is right before the opening of Boston Marathon registration. Erie has a high percentage of finishers hitting those qualifying times that they seek.
Getting in and out of the race area is easy. Catch a bus at a nearby amusement park with ample parking to get to the start. Catch a bus afterward to get back to your car. Check in and registration is very easy as well. When you pick up your race bib, they take a photo of you with it to verify that is is you running the race and not a bandit or bib mule. There is not a big expo like larger races, but a few tents with essentials if you forgot gels, chews, chafe cream, whatever.
THE COURSE: A two-loop course, the race runs through Presque Isle Park on paved roads. The peninsula is very flat, only a few “hills” which are bridges over water. There are water stations every mile and the volunteers are awesome! Most of the stations had a theme and they all competed for “best in show”. The local swim/dive team won with their speedo clad young men handing out water.
There are a few spots along the course that spectators can watch and cheer. A bus can take them form spot to spot to see their favorite runners go by. At the finish you get your finisher medal, water, bananas, bagels, chocolate milk and a Subway box with sandwich, chips and a cookie.
MY DAY: My main running goal for the day was a sub 3 hour time. My secondary goal was to secure a time better than 3:10 so that I could feel confident of acceptance into the 2019 Boston Marathon.
My coaching goal was to see the handful of runners that had followed my training plans, trained with me, logged countless miles with for the past 5 months, meet their goals.
At mile 16, I knew my main running goal was not in the cards. I hit the halfway mark exactly where I wanted to be, but slowly the energy and momentum faded. I had missed a week late in my training cycle due to a hip injury and it clearly impacted my time. Not too long after, I knew my secondary goal was out the window as I struggled to keep any kind of pace going. So I ran and walked my way into a not-so-great finish time. I hate to say it was a bad time, but I had trained for a specific time and missed the mark big time. It happens. I tell my athletes all the time, run the race you trained for. I did not do that. I guess either lead by example, or set the example.
The good news, though, is that four of my athletes got new personal best times and three of them got Boston Qualifying times. Yeah!! That far outweighed the bad.
Any negativity I have from the race is not with the course or the organizers. This race is very well organized and if you like a flat, fast course, Erie Marathon at Presque Isle is the marathon for you. It was my own accord to push for a fast time I was not properly trained for instead of running smart and at least meeting my secondary goal.
If you are looking to BQ and coming down to the wire for races to run prior to the deadline, the Erie Marathon is perfect for you.
I am very proud of Team Runner In Training and thank you to our families/support crew that helped!
Photo Credit: Josh Patton Designs
NAME: John Kelly
RESIDENCE: Rockville, Maryland
FAMILY: Married to Jessi Kelly with three children, a 4 year old boy and one year old twins (a boy and a girl).
OCCUPATION: Data Scientist
Introduction: John is the most recent finisher and winner of the Barkley Marathon. He is also an accomplished triathlete. Unbeknownst to either of us, we ran a portion of the Shamrock Marathon a few years ago together with the same pace group. I have followed John on social media for a while and got to hear him talk about the Barkley experience at the screening of “Where Dreams Go To Die” in Washington DC. John will be running the Miners Lady 8 Hour Endurance Race this weekend and speaking at the Trails In Motion Film Festival in Charles Town, WV.
Before you skip over this thinking “Not another run-blogger telling us it was the worst conditions for the Boston Marathon in 30+ years blah blah blah”, I have more to the story than a weather report. It was my fourth consecutive Boston and the one I had the most fun running. The wind, rain, and cold just added to the challenge.
The two years prior, the weather was on the hotter end of the spectrum. Conditions that I do not do well in. I remember at quite a few points on the course this year when I thought to myself, “I was already struggling at this point in the race last year”. My momentum came to a crawl fairly last year and I could never regain it. The temperature was cool in 2015 with scattered showers that started about midway through my race. I ran my fastest Boston that year. I was also better trained for that one and several other factors lead to it being a successful race for me.
This year, though, I went in not quite as ready as I would have liked. I never really found a groove to lock in on a fast marathon time. Running 26.2 miles was not an issue at all, but running it at a fast pace was not in the cards for 2018. I had a lot of races mixed in prior that truncated some of my Boston prep. I had a career change, and the stress related to that, in the middle of my training cycle. So I never had that laser-focus it takes to get to the next level of training.
But I was OK with that. Life gets in the way sometimes and you have to make the best of what you have available on race morning. I had set goals of sub 3 hours, or if that was not happening, a Boston Qualifying time. For my age group, that time is 3:15. I had run “easy” at Shamrock a few weeks prior and finished in 3:17. I was confident I would hit at least one of those goals.
Once again, our good friend Sharon opened her home to Jen and I on marathon weekend. Without her generosity, I doubt we would do the race every year. Her location makes it so easy for us to move about the city without any real stress. A large contingency of Shenandoah Valley runners embarked on Boston as well, making it feel like a big family vacation. Jen and I flew into Boston the Friday before the race and met Sharon at her apartment, then went to dinner with the McGraw family, Mario, his niece and her boyfriend. Mario and I had done the race before, so it was cool to see Becky taking in the whole experience of her first Boston. We had all trained together leading up to this, so there is a bond shared between all of us as we prepared to cross that start line on Monday.
Saturday was the Boston 5k. The weather was perfect. Cool temperatures, but not cold. Sunny, but not steamy. Running the race this year in our group was Jen, Sharon, Mario, Becky, and Becky’s son Dylan. Becky’s husband John and mother-in-law Marcelle as well as Mario’s niece were there to cheer us on. The race accommodates around 10,000 runners. Among those runners are some of the fastest in the world. Ben True. Molly Huddle. True elites. And as usual, I ran into fellow Running Dad Mike Wardian and got a chance to chat before the race. I always enjoy chatting with such an accomplished and down-to-earth runner.
Mario, Becky, Dylan and I lined up as far forward as we could squeeze. Jen and Sharon found a spot in a pace group they were comfortable with a little bit further back. The first few turns of the race are usually pretty congested with runners settling into their paces. I did not have a real time goal for the race, but Mario had said “I want to race.” Well then. Let’s do it. I didn’t want to push too hard though and jeopardize Monday’s race. I ran right next to Mario at a steady pace until we made that historic left turn on Boylston. Mario said “Go get it, Coach,” and I couldn’t help but surge ahead. I still felt comfortable, not running at top effort. I crossed the finish a few seconds in front of Mario, who was only a few seconds off his own personal best time. Dylan and Becky ran together, making memories on the streets of Boston. I got to share this experience with Connor last year and it is something special we will always cherish. Jen and Sharon had fun running together and hamming it up for the cameras, enjoying time together since they do not get to see each other much during the year. Jen even set a new personal best 5k time along the way! Everyone had a great time. And if you know our group, you will know our next stop.
After breakfast, we all met up at Sam Adams Brewery to take a tour and sample some of their beers. I highly recommend taking the tour if you find yourself in Boston. We have done it twice now and it is fun and informative. And there is free beer involved. Win! We bounced around a few other destinations before returning to our temporary homes for the night.
Sunday’s agenda was a morning shakeout run along the Charles River, packet pickup and dinner. Jen, Mario, Becky and I met local running friends Shane and Renee to do our shakeout. As we ran, we passed another friend, Duane, doing his shakeout with a group. Sunday’s weather was a good bit cooler and a lot windier. A sign of things to come. Later, when we headed to the expo to retrieve our packets containing race bibs and goodies, it began to snow. As Sharon told us, if you don’t like the weather in Boston, wait 15 minutes, it will change. Not always for the better. That evening we all met up for dinner at Mother Anna’s, joined by more of Becky’s family that came to cheer her on. We all enjoyed chatting and strategizing how we would deal with the weather Monday morning.
The plan was to meet Mario at the corner of Beacon and Charles at 5:55 AM. Busses board at 6:00 and I am habitually early for everything. Fortunately for me, Sharon’s home is close to that location, so I could get up, dress, eat something, and easily walk to the corner. My race gear included from top down:
For Lucas Headsweats hat
Goodr sunglasses (rain shields)
Jen’s fancy pink Buff
Rabbit Singlet customized with Running Dad and For Lucas Logos
Gloves – 2 pair
SpiBelt with fuel – dates stuffed with peanut butter, Pickle Juice Shot, Sport Beans
Altra Escalante Racers – Boston Edition
I covered all this up with some throw-away sweats and grabbed my clear bag with trash bags, snacks, heat shield, and essentials for athletes village. Off to the corner I went to wait for Mario. I waited. No Mario. 6:15 rolled around and I decided I am a horrible friend, but I am outta here. I boarded the bus and took off for Hopkinton.
Once in athletes village, I found a spot under the tent furthest away from the busses and set up camp to meet our crew since we had predetermined this to be the meeting point. It had been raining all night and morning. Top say it was muddy is an understatement. It was a mess. I put bags over my shoes and treaded through the muck and mud, laid down a trash bag, wrapped up in a heat shield blanket and waited. And waited. Finally Becky sloshed her way through the mud to join me. Then Tom, a friend from the Outer Banks who I have raced with before joined us. Still no Mario. I was feeling guilty for not waiting, imagining him standing on the corner waiting for me in the rain. What a horrible friend I am. Then I hear Becky say, “There’s Mario!”. I looked to my left and outside of our tent was Mario wrapped up in his heat shield, looking like a baked potato with legs. Turns out, he thought I said 6:55. Whew! I am not a horrible friend! I did not strand him on the corner. And he had less time to have to wait in the rain and cold. Win! I could tell he was cold though. Being Guatamalen, he is more attuned to heat than cold. There was an announcement for wave one to start heading to the start. Mario and I were in the same corral, so we headed out together, wishing Becky luck as she waited for wave two to be called. Here we go. Almost race time!
Mario and I settled into our corral with enough time to do some running around in circles to loosen up and try to stay warm. I planned to keep my sweats on until the last minute. Also in our corral was local runner, Courtney. She was shooting for sub 3 hour as well. We all chatted and made friends with the runners around us. The Elite Women and wheeled racers had already started and we got the announcement that the rest of the field would start in one minute. I shed my sweats and braced again the chill. It was cold, but I knew once I started moving, I would be fine.
And we were off! Mario and I planned to stick together since our goals were similar. It continued to rain and the wind buffeted us from the front, slowing us a bit and making us work a little harder. We settled into a comfortable pace and tick off the miles. At mile 11, Mario needed a bathroom stop. I expected him to jump off, take care of business and then come storming back up to catch me. I continued on, getting a big rush from passing through Wellsley and high-fiving every screaming college girl I could get a soggy gloved hand on. They were loud! I think the nasty elements just ramped up their enthusiasm and they shared that energy with the runners. I know my pace picked up after passing through the scream tunnel.
I continued a steady pace, nearing what I knew would be the make or break point in the race – Heartbreak Hill. It broke me last year. I had been reduced to a fast walk up those hills. This year, I was feeling much better and my pace dropped, but I was still running at a good pace. Midway up, I planned to take out some of my food to eat. Unfortunately, my hands being cold and covered up by 2 pair of soggy gloves made it next to impossible to get the fuel out of my belt. The only thing I could fish out was the pack of Sport beans. I had wanted another few peanut butter stuffed dates. They had given me a nice boost at the hour mark of the race. I managed to rip the top off the beans, but could not get the top to open. I kept an eye on the spectators, looking for someone who looked like they had enough finger dexterity to help me out. I found my target, made my way over and asked a young lady to assist. She tried her best but struggled as well. It seemed like forever. I figured Mario probably caught and passed me by this point. Finally her friend grabbed the pack and ripped it open. My hero! Back on track I downed a few beans and got the boost I needed. Up and over Heartbreak I went. Only 6 miles to go and I was feeling like a million bucks. Not super fast, but not on the pain train. Still on pace for a BQ. I locked in, put a smile on my face and surged through the puddles. Right on Herford, left on Boylston and down the home stretch. I spotted Jen in the crowd, waved and picked up my pace for the last bit of my fourth Boston finish. I crossed the line at 3:11:29. A BQ time!
I made my way through the finish chute, grabbing my medal, space blanket, and food. I had told Jen, Sharon and Mario that we would all meet at the George Washington statue in Boston Common. I got there first and was still feeling warm from my run. I had not felt cold during the race at all. I dug into my food bag, finding chips and energy bars to eat. Then my temperature started to drop. Brrrr. I stood there huddled alone until Jen and Sharon came around the corner. I asked about Mario and how Becky was doing since Jen had everyone on her tracking app. Mario had just finished and Becky was on track with a good pace. I could not stand there shivering any longer and once again, I abandoned Mario. His niece was going to meet him, though, and Sharon waited a while after Jen and I headed back to get me in the shower. So I am not a horrible friend even though I felt quite guilty leaving. Again.
After I was showered and feeling human again, I checked on my friends. Mario found his niece and Becky had finished and found her family. Our plan was to all get together for a celebratory beer, but the shuffle to get warm again made it impossible to meet up afterwards. Jen, Sharon and I went to a nearby pub, medal around my neck, and grabbed a beer and wings. Perfect. Another Boston in the books.
I am so glad I get these opportunities to share these experiences with my family and friends. The Boston Marathon truly is a treasure for the running community. Even if you do not run fast enough to qualify, or have no real desire to run a marathon, you owe it to yourself to take in the city during Boston Marathon weekend. You will leave with a renewed passion for running and proud to be part of the running movement.