Thursday, May 12, 2011

Moments That Change Our Lives!

I always get a little nostalgic when the River Bank Run comes around.  Granted, it's only 25K.  Many of us refer to that distance as a "warmup."  But it was only 16 years ago, in 1995, that I experienced that distance for the first time.  Joe Hulsebus, from down the street, had been the guy who told me about the race and got my brain going in that direction. Now, here I was, never having even run 10 miles before. (Not my best training strategy!)  But somewhere out there at the end of Indian Mounds Road, around six miles into the run, I overheard some guys talking about marathon training. (#1) Something in my brain something went "Whoa!"

So, in spite of finishing VERY SLOWLY, I came away from the experience with the belief that training for a marathon that fall was NOT UNREASONABLE!

I made a plan.  After all, I could barely walk, I might as well sit around and think, eh?  I picked Columbus on November 12 as my target.  Originally, I wanted to run Chicago, but had other things going on.

Things were going well as I lengthened my long run a little every couple weeks.  Then Runner's World came and I found out about the Boston Marathon lottery for the 100th in 1996.  (#2)  I sent in my application, hoping to get lucky.

Another month, another Runner's World.  An upside-down article talking about "The Last Marathon" which was held in Antarctica in 1995.  The next one would be in 1997.  (#3)  I called Marathon Tours.  "Where do I send my money?"

My schedule freed up, and now Chicago could work for me. Plus, I had a free place to stay with my short college buddy, Mike Schwartz.  (#4)

Hey.  I guess I was a marathon runner.  Signed up for four marathons before I ran my first one.

The big moment was here in Grand Rapids though, out on Indian Mounds Road, as I was working to finish my first River Bank Run.

There's lots more to the story--but there'll be another newsletter soon.  Or you can go to and read a bunch of my other stories, if you wish.  You never know where this running stuff will take you! (The numbers are what I refer to as "marathon minutes" -- the times that have a way of changing your life in a very short time!)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Roanoke, Virginia Marathon

It started to just be a marathon in Virginia--check off my third time
in that state, and get a marathon in for April.  I didn't realize what
the day would bring!

I was traveling with Dave Thierjung (one of our GR Marathon Lifetime
Entrants #105) on a weekend road trip.  On the way down, we heard
about all the tornadoes that were happening and the weather map
started looking pretty ominous.  On Saturday morning, we looked out
the window--RAIN.  Nice and steady.  It was going to be a wet day!
The Blue Ridge Marathon is billed as America's Toughest Road Marathon,
while that may just be their opinion, I'm sure they can make a great
argument for it!  The easy first mile was followed by the first hill.
We followed the course basically uphill for quite a while, then turned
onto a 4 mile scenic drive which got even steeper!  Of course, the
downhill was pretty stiff too, and I knew that my quads were going to
be sorry the next day!
It was a 26-mile-long wet t-shirt contest.  (I think I was winning?)
As we started up the next hill I worked my way up it with Nancy
Wentink, who, it turns out is one of our greatest fans!  We had some
fun running up hill and through a park with some beautiful views.  She
went on ahead of me as we headed back down the hill.
Did I mention it was still raining?  Around 18 or 19 we started up
hill again.  Through a beautiful neighborhood and up hill a long way,
I caught up with Brian.  He was doing his 3rd marathon, and it turns
out that he had family only a mile or so away.  We topped the hill and
went down for a bit and there they were.  He sent his brother-in-law
into the house for a couple beers, which helped us make it up the next
hill.  Finally, the turnaround and back down STEEP for a mile or so.
The weather was getting a little worse. Thunder and lightning! Just
before 23 miles, a cop came around the corner with his lights on.  He
pulled up and rolled down the window.  "They're calling it.  There's a
truck around the corner you can get a ride back."  "Thanks."  Like
that's gonna happen.  I went around the corner where another runner
was talking to a guy who had a pickup truck.  "You want a ride?"
"Nope."  The other runner there saw that I was going on, and followed
me down the street.  The rain had turned into a downpour.  Only 3 to
go, what the heck.  Brave volunteers were still at the next aid
station, and they were encouraging us to keep going before we got
pulled off the course.  At a couple turns, I could look back and see
my good friend Mary Ritz, plugging right along behind me.

Almost to mile 25, we crossed a bridge on one side, looped down around
under it and back up on the other side.  Rivers were running down the
side of the bridge where the course used to go, so we were up on the
sidewalk.  As I looped under the bridge, a group of runners and
volunteers were waiting for a bus to come get them.  "Maybe you
noticed the weather was bad."  Hmmm... I always enjoy sarcasm late in
a race.  "Yup.  Which way does the course go?" I asked.  One of them
pointed and I went on.  Back across the bridge and a couple turns and
another cop pulled up.  "I can give you a ride or I can give you
directions."  I like this guy.  "I'll take the directions."  Past mile
25.  Down an well-crowned industrial street, with only about 10 feet
of street showing in the middle, a mini-bus approached.  I tried to
motion for them to go over a little bit so I could get through.  They
stopped and opened the door.  "You have to get on the bus sir, you
can't continue." a well-meaning volunteer told me.  "Watch me!" I said
and went off down the street.  Now the streets are barely visible.
Moving over a couple more streets, there was nothing but standing
water as I waded over to the street where the finish line was.  I was
having a blast!  Finally to the Finish Line and I heard the timer
beep!  Hey--you didn't turn the clock off.  Thanks!  Ronny, the race
director was there, so I met him and told him how much I enjoyed it.
Dave had been finished for a while and looked pretty waterlogged.
Mary finished right behind me.  The rain continued for about 15 more
minutes, and the sky suddenly cleared and the sun was out!

For years I've used marathons as a road to adventure.  Guess got what
I paid for last weekend!