Friday, September 19, 2014

One month to go!

THIRTY DAYS! The countdown. Too early to taper. This stuff is getting serious! The Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon preparation is in full swing.

Yesterday we got the order for Clif Shots in. Clif is our official energy gel sponsor this year. I ordered another 2,000 Heat Sheets as well. We get them on rolls because they're a lot easier to handle than boxes of flat sheets. 

Night before last, we had a kids training run. Every year we set up an obstacle course at John Ball Park and before you know it, the kids have run another of their 25 miles without even realizing it. They'll be running the last 1.2 miles the day before all you big kids run your race.

Then last night it was staff meeting night again. With a month to go, the meetings are well attended. The buzz is that of a whole group of people working toward only one purpose - to give you the best-ever racing experience. 

Staff meetings are magical. People on our staff are nearing a count of 800 marathons at this point. They know what a marathon should be - then they set out to make it even better. They're people who don't need to be micro-managed. They're all leaders. They aren't afraid to make things happen. I really love these people.

Friday, September 12, 2014

It's not just 26 miles

Before too long, many of you will once again complete the magical distance, 26.2 miles, that has come to be called a MARATHON. 

The distance is arbitrary really. Modern-era marathons started at more like 25 miles until the 1908 Olympics in London moved the starting line at the order of the queen. It's been 26 miles, 385 yards ever since. And that's if you run all the tangents and ignore the "short course prevention factor" that those of us who measure courses are required to use to make the course a certified distance. In other words, you'll never run ONLY 26.2 miles in a marathon. It will always be a little longer. (And don't even get me started on some of Randy Step's trail marathon distances :-) )

All that being said, what you may be about to undertake is SOMETHING BIG. And it's more than just running 26.2 miles. It's a big plan. It's persistence. It's sacrifice. It's seeing something through all the way to the end. 

Your life will never be the same after finishing a marathon.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Aren't You Afraid?

In 2011 I signed up for my first iron-distance triathlon, the Rev3 at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. Not long after that, a friend came up beside me during a run and asked me, "Aren't you afraid?"

"Huh?"

"What if you fail? What if you can't do it?"  

I hadn't considered that.

Wow.  I hadn't considered that.  I suppose there's that possibility, but what if I did?  

Truthfully, I've had things that didn't quite work out before.  I had already tried to break the world record for running the seven continents TWICE. Still hadn't done it. I was going to be a millionaire by the time I was 30. And 40. And 50. Maybe I'll make it by 60. But what if I fail? 

Some people have questions like that going on in their minds when signing up for a marathon. There's a possibility that you'll fail. So what? What if you never even try?

The 2011 Rev3 is in the books, successfully: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run. 

Yesterday, the Ironman Louisville was a different story. The swim started upstream, and because of the previous two days of heavy rains the river (and therefore the current) slowed me down a lot before making the turn downstream. The bike course was quite hilly, and the combination of heat, hills and perhaps not enough training got me in a lot later than I planned. At that point, I knew that I couldn't finish before the midnight deadline. I started anyway, amidst lots of encouragement from volunteers and even a little extra from back home. After two miles, I made the call - at the pace I could run, there was no way possible. I pulled the plug. It wasn't going to be my day to cross the finish line and hear, "You're an Ironman."

Still, it was a great training day. I learned a lot about myself and my abilities. I had a great time and felt good when I got done. My endurance is fine. My speed isn't. 

Sometimes we fail. But we get to choose what to do with failure. Use it as a reason to try again and do it better? Use it as a life lesson. Figure out how to make it better next time. 

Things don't always work like you plan. Sometimes your attitude is great but your training didn't keep up with it. It's a great time to step back and re-evaluate. That's what I'm doing today. A friend sent me a text and asked if I'm going to sign up for another Ironman today. Maybe I'll give it a couple days. But it's bound to happen. 

In the meantime, I'm taking the lessons and my attitude and continuing the adventure. And looking forward to hosting a lot of you at a marathon or half marathon sometime really soon, either the Boston Qualifier, the Grand Rapids Marathon or Groundhog Marathon. And watching all of you accomplish goals and set new ones along the way. 

"What if you fail?" Really? Reframe the question. "What if it doesn't work the first time you try it?" You'll learn something about yourself. You'll benefit from the conditioning, and find out how much more you need to do. And you'll sign up for another event real soon, and show the world the stuff you're made of.

You'll learn to be fearless. You'll look at the world and say, "Now stand back and watch this!"

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

There's more

There's more inside you than you realize. It's something that I like to remind people over and over. If you've been reading my stuff for a few years, you know that!

Recently, I've been a lot more aware of that in my own training. In a bit of a rut after a couple years of knee problems, training wasn't as much fun. I fought my way through marathons because I like marathons. But they weren't as fun as they were 10 years ago. 

I also struggled with getting older. Things are not like they were a few years ago. We get slower. We heal a little bit slower. It happens. 

So recently I mixed it up a little bit. Legs are feeling better, but I'm really slow. So I started getting up first thing and just going out for a 2-mile run out-and-back from my house. In a short time I went from 10:30 miles to 10:00 miles. Cool. I signed up for the Grand Rapids Triathlon half-iron distance in June, and decided if I felt OK afterwards I'd sign up for Ironman Louisville. Well, that will keep a guy motivated. 

And then a friend told me about this little excursion in February. Check out http://www.triple7quest.com. And, of course, I need to do that. So, training is back on. There's nothing like signing up for stuff to motivate. 

Things heal. Injuries get better with a little patience. (And a little help from OAM Metro Sports Medicine, of course.) 

There's more. There's more strength inside you. There are more adventures. There's more fun to be had. Go for it.

Friday, August 01, 2014

24,902

An interesting number. If you're excited about geography or maps or something like that, you know that 24,902 is the number of miles around the world at the equator.

But for me, it's a goal. And this Sunday, my mileage logs will actually reach the number 24,902. I have run enough miles in my running career to have run all the way around the world at the Equator. 

It's an exciting time. I was never an athlete in high school. Never in college. But late in life, I discovered something cool. RUNNING. I had grown up at a time when nobody even knew what fast-twitch muscle meant. 

Now I'm a runner. I've run enough miles to run around the world. A really cool milestone. Who'd a thought? I'm running a few miles on Sunday, then heading to The Hideout at 8 p.m. to celebrate a little bit. 

What's the point here? I'm a late-in-life athlete who has actually done a lot of really cool stuff. Never was an athlete. If I could do all this stuff, YOU CAN TOO!


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

You're Stronger Than You Think

A lot of the last three years have been spent trying to get my knees back into good shape for running. I've still been doing marathons regularly, but not at the frequency of the past. The last two or three months have been a real confidence booster, however. Weekend before last was a real test of my level of endurance - a double marathon weekend. 

It was the Stonemad Ultramarathon event, beginning in Carlow, Ireland. You could create your own event, running ultramarathons one or both days, marathons one or both days, or even half marathons. Francine and I picked the two-day marathon option. Day 1: a scenic run along the River Barrow from Carlow to Graiguenamanagh. The beautiful Irish countryside, the river, the pastures filled with cattle or sheep, and a few friendly locals along the way made for a beautiful run. But that was the easy day. Day 2 was a run from Graiguenamanagh up to the top of Mt. Leinster and then down a trail on the other side as we looped back into town. The night between we slept on the floor at the local Scout hall. 

The thing that struck me the most at the end of the event is that I felt even better at the end of Day 2 than at the end of Day 1. I was expecting my knees to be in worse shape, but no. When we continue to demand things from ourselves, we find out that we're in better and better shape. 

If this is your first marathon or half marathon, you'll find that out about yourself. There will be times that you expect things to shut down. But they won't. You'll keep going, and find out that there's a lot more in the tank than you imagined.  

Just don't ever give up. You're stronger than you think.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Adventure - the reason we run

Fresh air, cool trails, and marathons all over the world to enjoy. Places to explore that you would never have known about if you didn't run.

I found a "jungle ruins" type of stairway up from the end of Sixth Street up the hill to Lookout Park. At the end of the bike bridge across the Grand River the trail can actually be followed along the old railroad bed, under the freeway and to the train yard on the other side. There's a great sand hill to climb in the middle of Richmond Park. And tons of other cool place right close to home. Stuff to explore with your friends and your kids.

Then there's Pikes Peak. Wild Horse Canyon in Green River Wyoming. The Pacific coast at Big Sur. The Inca Trail. The world is a big playground if you can cover a few miles of it on foot.

If you're training for something close to home, that's great. But there are a lot of good adventures to enjoy everywhere your feet can take you.

Approach your next run like it's an adventure. Explore a new road, a new track, a new trail.

See you at the finish line.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Singing with the voice you have

I posted on Facebook the other day something that popped into my head while driving down the road: We all have to sing with the voice that we have. The sad part is that people don't let their music come out.

It occurred to me that this also applies to the running world. Everybody has a different "voice to sing with." The guys who run out front, going for the win. The charity runners who are raising money for a good cause or a friend who was a victim of something. The people who lost a ton of weight and totally turned their lives around. The bucket list people. The thousands of runners with thousands of stories. 

We all feel the same joy, the same pain, the same struggle, the same victory. We're singing different parts, but the harmony is amazing. 

P.S. You don't have to be good. Ever listen to Bob Dylan sing? You all know who Bob Dylan is, right? (Maybe that's all the metaphors I'll use for today.)

Friday, June 06, 2014

Leadership

A little bit ago, I had an interview with Croft Edwards about LEADERSHIP. Croft blogs about leadership, and was interested in what happens at our marathon. Seems it's pretty easy to look at our staff and recognize that LEADERSHIP IS HAPPENING!
 
There will be some pretty good blog entries coming up, but in the course of the interview, he got me thinking about the world's coolest marathon staff.
 
If you've run any of our events, you know that I'm really proud of every one of our staff members. They are ALL leaders. They have some great traits that make them that way:
 
PASSION--Nearly every one of our staff members is a marathon runner. Ranging from one marathon to over 100, they love running marathons. That passion shows as we prepare for your marathon
 
CONFIDENCE--Setting and achieving big goals is a key to building confidence. These people personify that! They're accomplished not only in their running, but most are successful in their careers and businesses as well. 
 
WILLINGNESS--From top to bottom, everyone is ready and willing to get his or her hands dirty. We lead by example, jumping in where ever needed.
 
I'm not going to spend the day writing about them, but I could. Everyone on our staff is amazing. I love these people. They are awesome! Over the summer I'll share some of the staff stories with you. 

SUMMER!
 
Lots of new runners this year, because of a brand new charity partnership. Team World Vision. Keep an eye here and we'll update you on that too. They're about to kick off their training season as well. 

Summer plans? This weekend, the GR Tri. Half Iron distance. July--heading to Europe to knock a couple things off the life list. RUNING WITH THE BULLS in Pamplona, and KISSING THE BLARNEY STONE. Oh, and between those two things, run a couple marathons with the lovely Francine. 

Lots more adventures planned. Share your summer plans with us on our Facebook page

See you at the finish line.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I don't believe in the wall

On Sunday, I ran the Med City Marathon in Rochester, Minnesota, a really cool milestone for me --my 250th marathon.
 
On the back of a girl's shirt I saw something that got me thinking: 
 
                 I DON'T BELIEVE IN THE WALL
 
I thought about it a lot. About how the things we believe in govern our actions and what we even think is possible. Belief systems vary widely--Christians pray and things happen. So do Jews. And Moslems. People stick pins in Voodoo dolls. Stuff happens. 
 
Belief is a strong thing. It tells us what is possible. Refusing to believe in things can be powerful too.
 
So I like the idea, of not believing in the wall. Of not believing that running 26 miles is impossible. Don't believe in any limitations. Like Captain Jean Luc Piccard says, "Things are only impossible until they're not!" Refuse to believe in the "impossible."
 
Something To Believe In
 
OK, we talked about what not to believe in. Now, here's something to believe in. 
 
GO LOOK IN THE MIRROR.
 
It's you. That really cool person who operates in life without limitations. Who makes things happen. Who cares about other people. 
 
That's what I have to say about that. Sorry about ending so many sentences with prepositions.  
 
See you at the finish line.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Stats

Seven or eight years ago a bunch of us got together at Kosciuszko Hall for a special run. We were only going to run about two miles. It was in honor of my friend Kevin Holmes, who that day would log his 100,000th mile of running. 
 
Runners are crazy about their stats, their streaks, their accomplishments. It's part of what we are. The reason I'm thinking about that this week is because on Saturday, I ran my 241st marathon in Okoboji, Iowa. That day I went to about 990 miles left before I've logged 24,902 miles. That number also happens to be the circumference of the earth. Sometime early in 2014, about 20 years after I became a runner, I will log the mile that says I've run the distance around the world. 
 
Also in Okoboji, I ran into the 2011 winner of our marathon, Justin Gillette. He's a speedy guy, and went on to win Okoboji that day. Right now he has a pretty nice stat going -- he's won at least one marathon every month since February 2012. What's that -- 17 months in a row now?  Nice work Justin!
 
This year, our 10th running, we have a bunch of people who have run our marathon or half EVERY YEAR so far. I think we have everyone on the list, but if you're not, please let me know and I'll fix it. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

So far ...

Hey, it's been a great training summer! Not too hot most of the time. Nice.

 

Now, as you lengthen your long run, especially those of you new to the marathon, you'll notice new muscles you didn't realize you had. Your first 10-mile run hurts. So does 12. And 14, 16, 18, 20, ....

 

But then you back off. After you've done 12 miles, 10 doesn't seem that hard. When you hit 18, then back off to 16 the next week, it's not nearly as bad as the first time you ran 16.

 

What you're feeling is your body getting stronger. You're allowing the AWESOME to come out. It's FUN. Race day will be even better. The next day you'll be able to walk, but you really won't want to. By Tuesday night it will feel better and you'll actually be able to do stairs without that stupid grimace on your face. After that, you'll continue to heal and feel better. 

 

But you get to keep the finisher medal forever! Bragging rights, accomplishment, officially awesome and loving it.

 

We're almost ready to order the race shirts. This is fun. Lots of good stuff planned for our 10th running.

 

I'll see you at the finish line in October.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Fun with course certification

Wow! Some of the long races around West Michigan are updating their courses this year. Recently, I was over measuring the Park 2 Park half marathon course in Holland. It's a great half-marathon warmup if you're doing our marathon about three weeks later. Flat course, scenic, well organized. 

The Octoberfest Marathon in Spring Lake is reworking its course as well. It's another great tuneup race - while you're in shape for one, may as well do two, don't you think?

Certification is the key to being a Boston Qualifier. What that means is that the course is measured to USATF standards. It also means it's NOT SHORT. 

You probably think a marathon is 26.2 miles. (Actually 26.21875.) It's measured that way, plus a tiny "short course prevention factor" which puts it a little closer to 26.25. And then, the course is measured via the tangents, which means if you cross the road or run beside someone or don't follow the exact inside of all the curves, you're going to run longer. Most marathons can't be done in less than about 26.4 miles. If you're in Chicago weaving in and out around thousands of other runners, you may even get to 26.6. If you're running a trail marathon, it's not certifiable in most cases, but they're rarely short.
Especially if Randy Step has anything to do with it.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer Time!

Are you a camel? I like to pretend I am. (When I'm not busy pretending I'm a superhero or something.) That means going for long distances in the heat with no extra water. Usually it works for me, but I don't have too many problems with hydration, stomach, etc.  In spite of all that, I pay real close attention to what my body is telling me, especially in hot weather. 
 
For most people, the heat is something to deal with. Plan your routes around the locations of water fountains. Carry a bottle or two with you. Go out in the early morning before it gets too hot. BE CAREFUL! The hot weather can cause some problems and you need to be cautious. You've only got about three months of this to deal with -- in Michigan it's usually less than that. So be careful - -we want to see you in October at the starting line!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Print it!

It's a marathon worth of effort. Maybe an ultra. But I just reviewed the final edited version of my book, called the publisher, Mascot Books, and left them a message. "Print it!"
 
In three or four weeks, I should have actual copies of the book in my hands. To say I'm excited by that is probably an understatement.
 
and the adventure continues....
 
That's the title of the book. It's the story of setting a world record. It's the story of the Grand Rapids Marathon. But most importantly, it's the story of how an ordinary guy can do some pretty amazing stuff -- AND HOW YOU CAN TOO! 

When I was training for my first marathon in 1995, I discovered/decided that if you can run a marathon, you can do ANYTHING. Since then, I've been privileged to run marathons in a lot of really cool places. I've seen all the oceans, climbed a few mountains, made a ton of friends. Wild horses, penguins, cheetahs, whales and animals of all kinds have crossed my paths during a bunch of adventures. 
 
RUNNING CAN TAKE YOU TO AMAZING PLACES! You can enjoy adventures all over the globe, or even close by, as you explore the trails and streets of your own city.
 
My friend Bart Yasso puts it like this: "Never limit where running can take you!"
 
Check out some of the great destinations on Marathonguide.com, or get even crazier at marathontours.com and go explore the world!
 
Sign up for something cool and go do it.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Summer?

I'm hoping that the cooler temperatures will be good for the crops so that food prices will go down. I didn't realize that the cooler temps would increase the price of gas so much. Oh well. Guess I should just go for a run and save the gas. 
 
I like it when people read what I write. I can tell especially when I make a mistake because someone (usually several people) will be nice enough to point it out. They're always nice, though.
 
And then I'll get something which I'll share a little bit with you. It reminds us of the joy we get from running, sometimes when we don't even expect it.
 
"I was in the process of deciding whether or not to run my hometown race, the Sunburst (half marathon) in South Bend, when your newsletter hit my inbox.  This year year was supposed to be my "redemption race" after running in brutal  heat in 2011 and running injured in 2012.  But, as life goes, training did not go as anticipated this spring and I knew I could not run the race I had been hoping for.  The debate raged in my mind and heart, "should I just run for fun and set aside the hopes I had, or should I just wait until next year and shoot for the redemption I longed for?".  After reading your heartfelt words, my decision was easy.  I signed up within the next hour.

And this past Saturday, I ran.  I ran because I could, I ran because this moment was here and now, I ran because it is a gift I've been given.  I smiled through a good portion of the race.  I even made myself run the entire "damn Niles hill" (that's what I like to call it :-) ) at mile 12.  The joy of coming through the tunnel onto Notre Dame field this year was second only to finishing GR.

And wouldn't you know it.... I still finished 3rd in my age group and 18th woman overall.  My time was not my best, it was even slower than what I ran last year when I was injured.  But NONE of that mattered, the "goods" or the "bads".  All that mattered was that I had the chance and ability to run and I didn't take either for granted.

So thank you Don for the inspiration you have given me once again.  Thank you for the reminder of how precious life is and to embrace every moment. I thought of you often as I ran even though we've only met through newsletters and a finish line hug!
"
 
Thanks to Cleary Jankowski for this. Sometimes I get kinda choked up by reading my email. This was one of those mornings. Here's some video of Cleary running the marathon.
 
"I had the chance and the ability to run and I didn't take either for granted."
 
Did you get that?

Friday, May 31, 2013

No Time Like the Present

The big "Milestones" serve to remind us how special life is. They help us to connect to our roots. 

 

We're not always going to do things that are of a spectacular nature. But even the little things we do go a long way to affecting the lives of those around us. I learned that in part from my little sister. As RUNNERS, we know that. We run for personal reasons, of course. We run to stay healthy and to achieve personal goals.

 

We also run to connect with friends, and in doing so we help each other through our various problems and challenges. 

 

We run, and set a great example for our families. They see the benefits of setting goals and working through a plan. They learn the joys of physical fitness.

 

We run, so that we'll still be there for the people we love far into the future.

 

Now is the time we have. Use it wisely.  


I'll see you at the finish line in October.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Fan Club Needs a New President

This edition is pretty personal, but I've been running for a lot of years now, and my running friends have become part of my family. In honor of my sister, Lauraine Kern Emmons.

It's been an interesting last week and a half. A reminder that life is important and we shouldn't wait to do what needs to be done.

 

She was the self proclaimed president of the "Marathon Don Fan Club." She bragged about me all the time, and even thought almost ALL of my jokes were funny. She's my little sister. I got a call from my brother-in-law, Brian, on Friday just over a week ago. It wasn't good news.

 

and the adventure continues ...

 

The next generations go on - after the funeral on Monday, Tuesday was a three-day trip to Mackinac Island with my middle granddaughter, Amber, for a third-grade field trip. Friday night, her brother Cody graduated from Hopkins High School. 

 

The lovely Francine and I spent the weekend in Cheyenne, Wyoming with my good friend, Brent Weigner, and his wife, Sue. Brent directs the Wyoming Marathon, and on Sunday we celebrated my sister Lauraine's life by running the marathon in her honor. 

 

I had LOTS of time on Sunday to remember the 53 years we spent together. Time to smile, cry, sometimes regret that we didn't do more together. Time to reflect on the things she left behind. She was the one who kept up on the family stuff, keeping track of everyone. She drove up to visit my Grandma once a week. (Grandma will be 99 in July.) I called her once just to recruit her to travel on a marathon trip with Francine so she wouldn't have to road-trip alone.


We have right now.


This past week has been a great reminder that we shouldn't waste the time we have. Right now we need to pay attention to the things and the people who are important. Right now, we need to work on our goals and our relationships. Right now is the time we have. We need to use it wisely.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mosquitoes and Inspiration

You know what's worse than sore legs after the River Bank Run? It's the mosquito hatch that usually happens the next week. It's nature's way of telling you that you need to do tempo runs. Because, if you stop running for even a second or two, you suddenly become a blood donor. Your only hope is to keep moving. What a great training opportunity!

 

Inspirational stuff.


I try and write something that will inspire people in this newsletter. But this time I can't really come up with anything better than the article that the lovely Francine wrote in her GRRC Mentor Group newsletter. (Incidentally, she won her age group at the Fifth Third River Bank Run)

 

Individual Success is Really a Group Effort

by Francine Robinson

 

"No one who achieves success does so without the help of others.  The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude." Alfred North Whitehead

 

I was trying to find just the right quote to express myself this week. As many of you know, I had a very good River Bank Run on Saturday--it was my best time (2:02:29) since 2004! I was very pleased, and surprised, to learn that I also placed first in my age group, 55-59.  I've received all sorts of congratulations, and I appreciate them all.  My good friend Sue, whom I run with throughout the week, sent me a very complimentary e-mail, crediting me for "setting my sights high, working hard to achieve my goals, and proving to myself and everyone what I am capable of."

 

But while I will acknowledge that I train hard to reach my running goals, and constantly work at drawing on my inner strength when the going gets tough, I can honestly say that my success WOULD NOT be possible without the continual support and encouragement from family, friends, fellow runners, running coaches--and even the occasional stranger! Allow me to elaborate by sharing with you parts of my journey at last week's race and the "Lucky Seven' lessons I learned.

  • My journey really started before the race, when my friend Bree (a RBR pacer) said to me, "So, is it going to be an age group award today?"  I laughed at her, giving her every reason why that wouldn't happen ("two marathons in April, tired legs, stressful day at work on Friday, etc.")  Lesson one.  Be grateful for friends who believe in you, and then believe in yourself.
  • Next, I was lined up at the start line with another friend, Andrea, and telling her that I was concerned that the stress I was under from circumstances the day before would cause me to have less energy for the race.  Andrea said,"Don't think about that.  Just go out there and enjoy the run, and focus on the race experience."  Lesson two.  Stay positive, and don't waste energy on negative thoughts.
  • I went out a little faster than I originally planned, and around mile five there was a runner who heard me talking to friends that I met on the course about how I should back off, because I went out too fast. When I began to back off, this woman said to me, "Hey yellow! (I was wearing a yellow singlet.) Keep up that pace--you can do it!"  I thought to myself, "Hey, thanks random stranger!" And I kept going.  Lesson three.  Don't give up so easily. Other people, even strangers, can recognize your potential.
  • All along the course I came in contact with other runners or spectators who knew me and gave me thumbs up or said, "You're looking strong!"  Lesson four. Let the support and encouragement of people who care about you lift you up.
  • About halfway through the race, I thought if I stayed at or near my pace, I could finish faster than last year.  However, at mile 13, I was feeling ill and sore, and I started "negotiating" with myself. You know--"Well, I have been running 8's for so long, even if I back off to a 9-minute pace, my finish time will still be respectable." At that point, I was blessed to be spotted by Mike Lapp. Mike knows me, and he only had to look at my face to know what I was thinking.  He knew I had the inner strength to stay on pace, and so he jumped in and ran a mile with me, staying just a step or two ahead to keep me from slowing down.  At mile 14, he knew he had helped me enough that I could get through the remaining miles by myself, and he ran off to help someone else.  Lesson five. Take advantage of the help others offer you.  You don't have to do this yourself! Inner strength is important, but sometimes it is drawn out through the kindness and encouragement of someone else.
  • As for the final miles of my race, there were even more familiar faces closer to the finish line, and constantly hearing, "Good job, Francine!" lifted my spirits and kept me strong, knowing I didn't have that much farther to go.  Lesson six. Embrace the energy and enthusiasm around you.
  • My success was also made possible by the amazing volunteers. From the cheer stations, to the course marshals, to the aid stations (where they carefully hold the cups just right so the runners can grab them as they pass), to the medical volunteers, and finally to the finish line volunteers who stand there for hours supporting the runners.  Lesson seven.  If you recognize the contribution of the volunteers and express your gratitude, you will feel a positive energy.

So I leave you with this thought that occurred to me after my race last week. While I have written many times about being successful in your running and your life through your own efforts--by having a positive attitude, by recognizing your inner strength, and by digging deep when you're struggling--don't think you ever have to "go it alone."  Let the people who care about you be your support and your strength when you need it. Then make sure they know that you are grateful to have them in your life!

 

Don't stop dreaming, and always keep moving forward! 

Monday, May 06, 2013

River Bank Run Week!

It's here! The Fifth Third River Bank Run is this Saturday. It's like a holiday for runners here in Grand Rapids, with many people challenging themselves to a 25K distance for the first time ever.

 

It also has a special place in my heart. In 1995, somewhere out around six or seven miles on Indian Mounds Road, I listened as a couple runners talked about marathon training. Before we turned off Indian Mounds, I decided training for a marathon that fall was my next big goal. 

 

The next day was spent with very sore legs. But the summer was spent building up my long runs and visualizing that first marathon medal hanging around my neck. I'd get up super early on Sunday mornings so I could run longer and longer on the back roads around Martin, Michigan. It was an exciting time of life.

 

THE RIVER BANK RUN CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE! It sure changed mine. Hope to see you out there this weekend.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Be Vigilant, Not Fearful

Be vigilant, but don't live in fear. One of the questions that the press was asking as soon as the events took place in Boston was about the implication for other events. My answer: None! We pay attention to what's going on around us. We have great first responders trained to deal with emergency situations. But we're not going to let a couple of young punks change our lives.

Like in Boston, Americans come together at times like these. We won't live our lives in fear, and we'll continue to work toward our goals. There is more good than evil in this world. The people of Boston proved that on Monday by pouring out their hearts and homes to the guests in their city. Now, runners across the nation are proving it as we run events to help with the recovery in Boston. Bostonians, Americans, Runners! Great people!

Lots of runners who qualified at the marathon here in Grand Rapids will be in Boston again next year. Many more will qualify here this year. 

I'll see you at the finish line in October.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston Marathon 2013


This recap I wrote on Tuesday on the way home was published as a guest column on the M-Live site (Grand Rapids Press)

Don Kern is the director of the Grand Rapids Marathon, and has run the 26.2-mile races in all 50 states -- plus Washington D.C. -- twice. He is sharing his experiences at Monday’s Boston Marathon

By Don Kern
Monday afternoon, I stood at the 26 mile mark of the Boston Marathon, and with great pride watched as Francine Robinson ran by me on her way to a sub-4 hour, personal best Boston Marathon.

I ran down the sidewalk toward the finish, then walked, then was stopped by the wall of spectators. I cut through a store and out the other side, and as I walked around the block to get past where the finish line was on Boylston Street the text message came over my phone telling that she had finished in 3:59:23.

I was proud, excited.

Seconds later a loud explosion happened. I thought maybe it was a construction site or something, then a few seconds later a second explosion happened.

A Boston cop hurried by and was on his radio. "Two bombs by the finish line" is all I heard him say.

I was on the phone, trying to locate Francine, she didn't answer. She had just finished within a minute or two of the blast. I left a message, sent a text, and tried to find my way around the block.

Immediately, cell phones were in action everywhere, and getting calls in and out was next to impossible. TJ Suchocki managed to reach me and became my relay person for messages and information.

After repeated attempts at text and calls, Francine and I reached each other at the family reunion area.

The City of Boston reacted in the most remarkable fashion on Monday. As soon as the blasts went off everyone took action.

Runners who were stopped before turning onto Boylston were immediately met by Bostonians pouring out of their houses, offering help, drinks, their houses and their bathrooms to confused sweaty-and-getting-cold runners. Boston police, FBI, National Guard, and what seemed like every ambulance in New England were on the scene immediately. Businesses that were open welcomed displaced runners and spectators in out of the cold.

Our rental car was stuck under the Prudential Center, which was part of the locked down portion of the city. As we walked around a few blocks looking for a place to get in out of the cold a young black girl saw Francine's medal and said, "God bless you, I'm glad you're safe," as we passed each other on the street.

We found refuge at the Cheesecake Factory and stayed for quite a while, eating and drinking and hanging out with other runners. Everyone was on Facebook and checking up on each other via text messages. Phone service was spotty, with all the bandwidth jammed, but the occasional call we could get out was relayed to family and friends.

People pull together in the face of these events.

Our friends Carol Neckel and Nancy Wooley invited us to spend the night with them at their hotel. On the way there, a woman who was helping us with directions saw that Francine looked cold and offered to give her the sweater she was wearing.

Farther down the street a group of guys saw us walking and stopped us just to make sure that we were OK and that we didn't need anything.

The event was tragic, yes. But it is times like these that remind us that there's more good in the world than bad, and that Americans will come together when we're met with adversity.

The Boston Marathon on Monday was filled with tears of joy and with tears of sorrow. With confusion, with resolve, with strength.

One of my favorite quotes of the day: If you're trying to defeat the human spirit, marathon runners are the wrong group to target.

Thank you to all my friends and family who have expressed their love and concern. I treasure you all.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pilgrimage to Mecca

At least once in his or her lifetime, each Muslim is expected to undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca, the sacred city of Islam.
 
On my "Life List," there's an item that reads, "Make a pilgrimage to Mecca." No, I haven't converted to Islam or anything like that. But I am a marathon runner. In my world, I'm in Mecca right now.
 
Which is known in these parts as....
 
BOSTON.
 
It's the annual pilgrimage that happens every April by marathon runners from all over the world. It's a Patriot's Day celebration of our sport.
 
Many thousands have purified themselves through much sweat and physical training. Many have trained their bodies hard just to get here. Others have sacrificed and raised funds to help others by finding cures for diseases and other physical problems.
 
Tomorrow morning, they'll take part in the annual ritual. The 26.2-mile journey from Hopkinton to Boston.
 
I'm not running tomorrow -- but I have enjoyed the race before. In 1996, for the 100th running, I was picked in the special lottery held to select runners for the "open division." Even as a fairly new runner, the magic of the event didn't escape me.
 
There's a respect here. A love of the sport unlike anywhere else. It's special. Can't wait for the starting gun.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Epic adventures/challenges/wins

I think EPIC is one of my favorite words lately. Maybe it comes with being in the marathon business.

Recently, I finished a book called "Naked in the Stream" by my good friend, Vic Foerster. His stories of adventures that center on Isle Royal exemplify the thinking-ahead mentality that has to happen before embarking on any epic challenge. His story about how he and college buddy Ken Glupker, who ran his first race at our Groundhog Eve 1/6 marathon, executed a spring break hike around Keweenaw point is a story of planning, determination and overcoming obstacles.

For a person like YOU, who is determined enough to think ahead, make a plan, work through adversity, and cross the finish line of a marathon, it's a pretty good read.

Not everyone gets to experience one of those "epic win" moments in life. Unless, of course, you're a marathon runner. If you can run 26.2 miles, it's because you've done the planning and the follow-through that are critical to your adventure. Crossing that finish line? Now that is an epic win.

Whatever your epic challenge is, it's exciting to be a part of it.

I'll see you at the finish line in October.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Good Friday?

The year was 2001. The second event in my "race instigator" career. The story of that world-changing event follows.
 
The Frogger 5.5K 
Hair of the Frog Brewery
13 April 2001


The Setup
If you were one of the dozen who ran the Shawn & Don 5K in December 2000, you no doubt saw it coming.  An excellent microbrewery.  A guy who runs a marathon every month, another who knocks the mirrors off passing vehicles with his bare hands, and an over-speedy Yooper. Then throw in some beautiful nature trails. It had to happen. Jake and Holly were geeked when Shawn initially talked to them about it. The team was now complete.  Now to pick a good Friday to have a race.  THAT'S IT!  GOOD FRIDAY!  It was also Boston weekend, so we didn't have any competing races.
 
It turned out that our new friend, Jake, was quite the artist. Next thing you knew, we had posters and a really kickin' T-shirt design. He also had some family involved with Gazelle Sports, who agreed to be one of our sponsors, providing numbers and gift certificates for the race.
 
The Field
Figuring on maybe 30-40 people, we were totally blown away by the numbers that showed up.  We ended up with 62 runners in the race.  We had runners from as far away as Portage, Ludington, Lansing, and even three guys from New Zealand.  We ran out of numbers.  Shirts too.
 
The Start
At the whistle, the anxious runners headed for the nature trail.  But Big John had a plan.  He knew he couldn't outrun all those slender fast guys, but he did know he could block.  Running his butt off for the first 30 yards to get a lead heading into the trail, his plan worked like clockwork.  With his size working for him, nobody could get by him on the trail.  That wouldn't work for long, however.  There was another John -- soon to be race winner John Lipa -- who, after his third attempt, dove through the trees, blew by the big guy and let him eat some dust.
 
The Trail
The runners followed the trail of toilet paper hanging from the trees, chalk marks on the trail and road, and signs made by Jake and Holly with a really cool running frog on them.  The kilometer marks were on the road in chalk.  We figured that kilometer marks would be better than mile marks.  After all, no self-respecting American has a clue what his pace per kilometer is supposed to be.  So who would know if the course was short?  Or long?  On the streets coming off the trail, we did a 2k loop through a residential neighborhood, then back to the trail and past the starting line.  The second loop was one lap around Lamberton Lake.  Out on the street, take a right on Lamberton Lake Road, and a couple hundred yards to the Duck Crossing sign.  Down a driveway, skirting the bottom of the hill and back onto the nature trail.  Duck one log, jump another one, and the runners head into the home stretch.
 
The Finish
John Lipa emerged from the trail way ahead of the pack, finishing in a blazing 20:36.  At 23:38, our women's winner Amy Wing came in.  And the good news was, EVERYBODY set personal records for this distance.  The bad news is, we aren't quite sure what this distance was.  We did know, however, that all the people who paid for 5.5K got more than their money's worth.

Big John stopped for a cigarette.  The more svelte runners he was blocking earlier took a look at him and decided not to try to beat him mercilessly. Wise choice.
 
The Afterglow
Awards in the Pub.  Winners Amy Wing and John Lipa received gift certificates from Gazelle, and random drawings were held for a bigger variety of frog prizes than we previously knew existed.  Everyone was treated to some of the best microbrew to be found in the city of Grand Rapids.
 
The Start of Something Big
 From "off-the-wall" little races held at various breweries around Grand Rapids, we grew into something big. Ten years of our marathon, the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon. From our first event with around 20 friends at Founders back in December 2000, we've now grown to a weekend of running that involves over 6,000 people.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

An addition to your summer reading list

For the last 14 months or so, I've been working on a book. Like everyone else in America, right? Well, the good news is, it's almost done. I have a publisher who's excited about the project, and we should have books in hand by the end of the summer. Awesome.

"And The Adventure Continues ..." is the working title. It talks about the seven continents world record I set in 2011, with all the backstory to go with it. You'll also get a good bit of history from the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon. It's an exciting project, another sort of marathon. 

I'll share some excerpts as the spring and summer progress. 

We're training for the Fifth Third River Bank Run, the Kalamazoo Marathon, the Lansing Marathon, and loads of other races around here. More traditions. Looking forward to seeing a bunch of you out on the roads. It's going to be a great spring season.

And then -- I'll see you at the finish line in October.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Traditions

It's one of the "rites of spring" here in Grand Rapids, the Irish Jig 5K. Thousands of runners, wearing green stuff, celebrating the arrival of spring.
The guys I run with at the YMCA have a tradition of turning our noon run into a run to the Triangle bar for beers and some corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. We revived the tradition a few years ago and always look forward to it.
We completed  the Robinette's Run last weekend, a Grand Rapids Running Club 8-mile trek that was followed by hot cider and donuts. The GRRC has been doing that run since long before I started running. At this time of year, anything can happen. We've run the route in sunshine, snow, rain, and ice so bad that Dave Hulst and I literally had to crawl back up a steep hill because it was so slippery.
I love traditions. The create a continuity between the past and the present. They give us common experiences, build friendships, and bind us together.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Seven Toughest Marathons

Yesterday someone shared this article on Facebook: http://www.wengerna.com/blog/the-7-hardest-marathons-in-the-world/  It lists the seven toughest marathons in the world. Among them are five that I've done -  Inca Trail Marathon in Peru (2004), Pikes Peak Marathon (2001 & 2004), Antarctic Ice Marathon (2007 & 2011), Blue Ridge Parkway Marathon (2011), and North Pole Marathon (2003). Only Mt. Everest Marathon and Great Wall Marathon to go. I'm planning on Great Wall in 2014. Don't know about Everest.

Six Foot Track, from Katoomba to Jenolin Caves in Australia (2007) and Speight's West Coaster at Bethel's Beach New Zealand are both tougher than a couple of the list above, incidentally.

Anyone else do better than 5?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Marathon Minute - Leadership

A conversation with three-star General David Huntoon during the Bataan Death March Memorial Marathon was a lesson in leadership.  He's an awesome leader, who leads not only by virtue of his rank, but by his EXAMPLE!    Listen.  

Friday, October 05, 2012

Don't Rehearse The Wrong Stuff

Our brains react to whatever we put into them over and over.  So why is it that when we do something wrong, we run it over and over through our head?  Shouldn't we be rehearsing the RIGHT STUFF?  Listen.