Friday, October 24, 2014

What's Next?

We never rest, it seems. The week has been full of dealing with the after-effects. Washing coolers and tubs, storing signs, repacking MyWay box with stuff we won't have to use for another year. 

But planning the next thing. Cool stuff on the horizon. Groundhog Day, the Frostbite Marathon Relay, and a few adventures of my own next year that will be crazy. 

In September next year, we'll do our second annual BQ.2 Marathon. Stay tuned for more info on that too!

I'd love to hear about your next adventure that's coming up as well. Anything really cool on the schedule??

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Afterglow


The end of a long journey. The moment you've all been waiting for. The FINISH LINE.

Sunday, I stood at the finish line and greeted many runners, from the speediest guy early in the morning to the last person to finish, somewhere after 3pm. I laughed with people who laughed. I cried with some who cried. I was there to watch the victory being celebrated by thousands of runners. It was an awesome day. 

Yeah. I know I use the word "awesome" a lot. But when you're talking about people who have done what you did, it totally applies!

My inbox is full of great comments. So is our Facebook page. We appreciate them a lot. I share lots of them with our staff. It's a great part of the fun of the event.

We always have a few people who have great suggestions for improvement. Those are great too--because every person on our staff is dedicated to making the event even better next year.

Thank you. To all the runners, the people we work for, who share with us a part of their adventure. 

Thank you. To the nearly 1000 volunteers who make this event a reality. 

Thank you. To the best marathon staff in the business. The people who work on the event because they love it, and they love you. They are truly wonderful people.

Thank you. To our sponsors, who join with us to bring this great event to our community.

One of the runners crossed the line on Sunday and told me that she had a hard time getting through one of my emails without crying. I sometimes have the same problem. This inspires me. I'm crazy about doing this, and I thank every one of you for giving me the best day of my year. And next year, I hope to...


Friday, October 17, 2014

Two days to go ...

Last night was our final pre-race staff meeting. We started early. We loaded all the shirts, packet pickup stuff, signs, medals, and about half of my household furniture into a UHaul truck and a MyWay Storage box and headed for the YMCA. This morning we'll be covering up the gym floor and getting ready for the expo. 

I was looking around the house last night at the amazing staff of people that we have working on this event. Resourceful, passionate, dedicated. Little meetings were going on all over the place as they figured out where everyone was going and what they needed. 

If you see people walking around in a bright yellow/green jacket with our logo on it this weekend, stop and give them hugs or something. They're AWESOME people.

And Then There's YOU.

The reason we're doing this. To give you the best race experience ever! We're all excited to meet you this weekend. 

All weekend--YES, I'm busy. But not too busy to stop for a minute and say hello. Stop me if you see me at the expo or anywhere else this weekend. 

And most importantly, I'm excited to see you Sunday, crossing the FINISH LINE. Looking forward to a handshake or a hug. 

This is a life-changing event. I'm proud of our staff, our runners, our community. Race weekend is here!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

It's Mile 25!

Sunday morning.  Or afternoon.  For YOU!

It's Mile 25. God Save The Queen!

You're almost there, just about to jump off the bike path onto Wealthy Street. The 25-mile mark. Take out the headphones. It's time to engage ALL your senses and fully feel what's going on. Your legs are sore. Your body is tired.  Your stomach has had ENOUGH Gatorade and water. The people around you are all feeling the same.  All that discomfort is a result of YOU, DOING SOMETHING FEW OTHERS WILL EVER DO!  Feel it. It hurts. It's supposed to hurt. But YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES. Talk to your comrades, the people you've been sharing the battle with. Encourage them. Rejoice with them.

The "1 Mile To Go" flag comes into sight. Three more turns, and far in the distance you see the FINISH LINE. The race announcer's voice is heard as you approach the 26-mile marker!

You push forward, giving it all you have as your friends and family come into focus. Your emotions are running faster than your legs. The announcer is calling YOUR NAME. Feel this moment with your whole being!  It's a victory! It's a marathon!

It's gonna be a great weekend! Mothers will be proud. Angels will rejoice!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Some next-to-last-minute thoughts

It's race week!

The highlight of the year, for me at least. On Sunday I'll be at the FINISH LINE all day, shaking hands and hugging people. Sharing the moment that you've worked so hard to achieve. There's nothing like it. I can't wait to...

There's poison ivy all over the course out on Indian Mounds and a lot of Millennium Park. Just be aware of that when you're heading off into the woods for that emergency break.
Your toenails will grow back. But it's Wednesday, so this would be a good day to trim them down and keep the damage to a minimum. 

If you send me an email asking something you could find on the website or on a weather website, I probably won't get around to answering it until Tuesday.

Marathon recovery works better when you don't have to walk funny due to chafing. Use Body Glide, Sportwax, Gold Bond anti-friction stuff, Aquaphor, or something to lubricate the parts that need lubricating. Guys--nipples!--blood in finish line photos never looks that great.

Oh, and there's this:

YOU'RE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK. No matter what happens, there's a little more still in the tank. It will come out when you run up beside another runner who needs some help and start talking. The best way to take your mind off your problems is by encouraging someone else. The next thing you know, your legs feel better, and you're a half mile farther down the road.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Aren't you afraid?

Lots of feelings creep in during the lead up to the marathon. Let me share this story with you. 

My friend Christa was going to run her first marathon a few years ago.  I had referred her to the same hotel we were staying in, and when we went to her room, her fiancĂ© answered the door.  She was sitting on the bed with a pillow in her lap.  Her head was buried in the pillow.  She was crying. 

There was too much stress and too many things to remember.  All the advice, the coaching, the books, the words of the "experts" were swirling around in her head.  Combined with the next day's venture into the unknown she was completely overwhelmed.


A few years earlier, I had jumped off a bridge in New Zealand.  Don't worry.  I was connected to a big rubber band.  As I stepped off the platform into thin air, I discovered something in the next half-second.  There was nothing I could do.  Either I was going to die or I wasn't.  After that, my mind totally changed modes and I was focused on the experience, the fun, the adrenaline, the sensations.  IT WAS GREAT! 


I gave Christa a hug and shared the lesson that I learned in that very short second in New Zealand. "Either you're ready or you're not. It's too late to worry about that now."  All that advice she had echoing in her head was just extra noise.  We went out to eat, relaxed, and enjoyed the moment.  We met again at the starting line. She was still a little nervous, but enjoying the experience.  On the out-and-back course, I saw her, still on her way out, two or three miles behind me as I was heading back.  She was smiling.  Enjoying.  I crossed the road and gave her a big smooch.  She was having a great time. I was having a great time.  

Later, as she crossed the finish line, I grabbed a finisher medal from a race volunteer and put it around her neck.  The tears of the day before were replaced with joy.  Her first marathon. 

So, I said all that to make this point:


When that moment of truth comes, there's nothing more to be done other than to enjoy the moment. You can't prepare any more. You're as ready as you're going to be. Have fun. Feel the energy of those around you and encourage them. Absorb all the joy from it you can. 

Monday, October 13, 2014


Sometimes doubt will creep in--you're getting to the final days of training. Was it enough? Are you really going to be ready a week from Sunday? Relax. It's natural to have those thoughts. There are a couple things you should know:

1. Your training has probably been adequate! 

2. There's more strength inside you than you realize!

Tomorrow I'll share a couple cool things with you. Dr Ed's last minute instructions for your sports medicine needs, and one of my favorite stories about my friend Christa when she ran her first marathon.

Now get up, go to the nearest mirror and smile at the person you see there. Look that person in the eye and say this:


See you at the finish line.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Nine days!

Let me start out by doing something that no one has ever done before. I'm going to quote the Bible out of context.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?"

Well, in the gospel according to Marathon Don, it doesn't work that way. Yes, there will be some skinny, speed guy who crosses the finish line first. And he'll get his finisher's medal and a hug. And a trophy. 

But here, everybody wins. 

"I've lost 100+ pounds, and I'm running a marathon." 

Is that a win?

Runners running to raise tens of thousands of dollars for Leukemia and Lymphoma research.

Is that a win?

Last year, I got an email from a 70-year-old who had hip replacements. He knew he couldn't move very fast, but he just wanted to do one more marathon and he couldn't find a race that would let him take as much time as it might take him. Of course, I said yes. His son stuck with him all day, as he walked the course with walking sticks. He arrived at the finish line close to 5:30 p.m., finishing DFL (Dead Freakin' Last) with a smile on his face and his son at his side.


There area as many stories as there are runners. Some of us race to finish first - overall or in our age groups. Some of us race to conquer our own fears and limitations. Some to test their mettle. Some to help others. The finish line is a place of VICTORY, for everyone who crosses it.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Ten days!

It's time for the countdown to begin.

Your marathon staff ran the course on Sunday. The good news is there were no surprises. The course is ready, and it's still 26.2 miles long! 

We run the course every year. Not only to earn our own medals, but to make sure everything was in place when all of you get here in less than two weeks.

It was great, enjoying the cool fall day with friends. That's what running is about! Friends, fresh air and exercise. 

You are about to embark on a life-changing experience! You're heading into the last weekend. The taper has begun. The run this weekend is enough to keep your legs. 

Friday, October 03, 2014

Two Weeks!

Just a little over two weeks. People are starting to taper. Whatever that is. 

Sunday morning - the staff run. The "Dress Rehearsal" for the marathon. We're pretty busy on race day, so two weeks before the marathon, members of the staff go out and run the course so we can earn our medals too. It's not nearly as exciting as race day, but we manage to have fun anyway. It's also where we make sure that there are no surprises. 

A few years back, when we had a short out-and-back on Indian Mounds road, we ran out to the turnaround on the Grand Rapids end of the road, only to find that GR had repaved that piece of the road. Our turnaround and the 21-mile mark had been paved over. Easy to fix, but what if we hadn't found out until the day of the race? 

Then, three years ago, when we changed the course to take advantage of the new trails in Millennium Park, we had a little surprise. We turn off Maynard and onto the trail around the recreation core of the park at the driveway of the brown house. As I instructed staff members at the Y before we started, at least three times I said, "Turn at the brown house." 

Which was all good. Everyone took off, all faster than me. Then, at about 10 miles in, I was running with Judi B. and we went to turn in at the brown house. ???? There's no brown house. Just a bunch of ruts and mud where the driveway was. They tore down the darn house in the week since I last saw it. We were using that driveway. 

We don't like surprises on race day. That's why we do the staff run. 

Sunday. We're running from the Y at 8 a.m. We'd love to have you join us for a few miles. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

What if?

Saturday night, I was hanging out with a bunch of really old people. I was at my 40-year high school class reunion. (Class of 1974, Chippewa Hills.)

Then I got in the car, drove to St. Charles, Illinois, for the fifth annual Fox Valley Marathon. I snoozed a couple times on the way there for a half-hour, then rolled into the race site at about 2:15 a.m. Dave Sheble and a couple of his crew were there, still working. 

Normally I would go down the day before, but I wanted to see my old friends. Then again, I couldn't miss seeing my guys in Fox Valley. In early 2010, when they were thinking about starting a marathon, they called me for a conversation. That event turned into a great friendship. I'd really hate to miss their event.

But in my haste to get there on time, I neglected to take my race pouch with me that had my Chapstick, my anti-friction stuff and where I usually carry my phone. As I got ready for the race Sunday morning, I discovered that my stuff wasn't in my backpack. Darn.

Then this morning, I got this question in my email. It seemed appropriate to discuss for a couple minutes:

"Got a question for you. With less than 30 days until the marathon, my nerves are kicking in, playing the 'what if' game. What if I forget to bring something? What if I start too fast? What if I get dehydrated? Blah, blah, blah. You've been through this process before... how do you silence those voices, reassuring yourself that everything's going to be just fine?"

Remind you of anybody? I dug a little sample-size of Aquaphor out of my backpack and lubricated anywhere that might chafe. I was running on about three hours of sleep, all of which happened in my car. 

How do you silence the voices? I have a rule: IF YOU DON'T HAVE IT, YOU DON'T NEED IT! You will adapt - your brain is very resourceful. I got through the marathon without the usual stuff. No tunes. No glide products, no Chapstick. Aquphor on my lips and stuff. Silence the voices? Screw that. Just sing along with them. They're coming from your own head anyway. And if you don't like the tune, change the channel.

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?"


"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 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


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


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. 

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. 
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.