The Running Whys – Jennifer Spinney

Jenn SpinneyThis story ran in the Daily Gleaner in August.

Near Jennifer Spinney‘s house on the Carlisle Road there is a hill. It’s not any hill but the kind of incline that can get inside your head.

Whether it is biking or running, the climb can be daunting, a challenge that requires a mini celebration every time it is conquered.

Some call it a beast. Continue reading


The Running Whys – 2016 Marathon By the Sea previews in review

White concrete room. Grungy urban wall and floor

White concrete room. Grungy urban wall and floor background interior

One runner lost 70 pounds. Another dropped more than 45.

Several used the sport to deal with the stress of difficult family situations.

Two others detailed their reasons for volunteering at Emera Marathon By The Sea.

And one extremely special woman encouraged us to Never, Never, Never Give Up. Demonstrating determination and a strong will allow you to accomplish anything. Continue reading

The Running Whys – Daily Gleaner wrap up

Rob Jackson, right, shown competing at the World Masters Athletics Championships, was one of the 14 athletes featured in the Running Whys this year in the Daily Gleaner.

Rob Jackson, right, shown competing at the World Masters Athletics Championships, was one of the 14 athletes featured in the Running Whys this year in the Daily Gleaner.

It’s not over, but the most of the official business associated with the 2015 running season is in the bank, with preparations for awards galas and end of the season runs on tap to wrap up another busy season.

In fact, it could be said that the training that takes place in the coming months will determine success in 2016 as many, including a collection of Boston Marathon participants, will soon begin long training segments aimed at peaking for the April 18, 2016 date in Massachusetts. In all, 63 New Brunswickers are registered for Boston, successfully beating the increasingly difficult qualifying standards in their respective age categories. Continue reading

Preparing a Chicago Marathon recap

wordpress coverEDIT: This weekend, Nov. 21st-22 for sure.

It’s coming. I have a big recap planned detailing the highs and lows, the joys and the regrets from the 2015 Chicago Marathon. It was big in every way. wordpress 2

So much to say. But if you get a chance, go for it. The lottery for 2016 is slated for early April, I believe.

To the right is the iconic Chicago Theatre, one of the many Windy City landmarks we passed, this in the early going. The biggest takeaway I have are the fans – more than 1 million – encouraging, applauding, roaring in support. The signs that read ‘Go Random Stranger,’ epitomized their spirit.

Hopefully, I will get this finished by the end of the week.

Stay tuned. Continue reading

Marathon by the Sea – Recap

The 20th anniversary running of Emera Marathon by the Sea took place Sunday.

The 20th anniversary running of Emera Marathon by the Sea took place Sunday.

This is the final story in a series profiling runners who competed in the 20th anniversary running of Emera Marathon By the Sea Marathon in Saint John on Sunday. The individual stories, which can be seen by scrolling on this blog, are also running on the MBTS Facebook page and MBTS website.

Those aching muscles feel slightly better today than Monday. Another night’s sleep made things much better and today, many of those who participated in the 20th Emera Marathon by the Sea on Sunday are thinking about their next run. Continue reading

The hay is in the barn and another look back at the 2012 Legs for Literacy Marathon

I wrapped up the final training run for the Prince Edward Island Marathon last night, although I may get out today and/or tomorrow for a 20-min jaunt to shake out the cobwebs.

I went 8.5 km at relaxed pace with 2 km at MP. I am definitely in full taper madness mode as I wanted to go so much faster, felt phantom aches everywhere and kept thinking ‘Did I do enough?’

The weekend is pretty hectic with activities planned with the family, some carb loading and the Spud Run for kids at UPEI. That’s a two-lap event around the track at the university, followed by medals and lots of other stuff. We are staying at a hotel in the heart of the city, Continue reading

Looking back before racing ahead

It had been a while since I was that nervous for a sporting event. I mean, I never really reached any significant level in minor sports but the 2012 Legs for Literacy marathon was a special event personally – a Bucket List moment which I delighted in sharing with my family for a weekend getaway in Moncton.

That was last October and while I was so happy I finished in 4:13:13, I never truly evaluated my performance, other than feeling fantastic about finishing and understanding there was a lot of room for improvement.

So before I get too far into the 2013 Marathon training, I needed to review my result in Moncton.

BEWARE – Number crunching ahead!

My optimism levels were reasonably good for that first marathon, considering I had a 38:02 clocking in the Hampton five miler about five weeks before. I had a tough time in the half at the Marathon By the Sea (August, 1:52:53), dealing with hills, no taper and high humidity but I was thrilled with a 1:42:53 in the Fredericton half marathon in May. It was this result which gave me the confidence to go ahead and give the 42.2k a try. Looking back, that time provided a little too much confidence during the dog days of summer training and I think caused me to believe I could always maintain that speed with basic maintenance running in the summer (i.e. no tempos or hills). One of many lessons learned along the way.

For Moncton, I used the Hal Higdon Intermediate 2 plan, which called for long runs on Sunday that grew in distance each time out. There were also two weekly medium long runs that progressed in length throughout the journey as well. Things were completed with small maintenance runs that assisted in boosting mileage. I tried to run throughout each of the runs, not deploying the 10-1 philosophy some suggest. Mileage peaked at approximately 45 miles per week.

Generally, my pace for the shorter runs was at 5:45 per kilometre and the long runs clocked at 6:00-6:05 per kilometre. A massive challenge was discipline, particularly with eating, diligently completing those medium runs. At times, I struggled in longer runs with stomach issues.

Using past performance as a guide and the great unknown as a reality check, I figured I might fall anywhere between 3:50 and 4:30.

Prior to the Moncton, we arrived the day before, enjoyed the carbo loading meal and took in Crystal Palace with the girls before calling it a night.

The next morning, I was up early and because the hotel’s entrance was adjacent to the start line – I was one of the first ones there! There were some anxious pre-race moments as my battery for my MP3 player went dead and at 6:30 a.m., it was hard to find another. Thankfully, I got one from a generous hotel clerk, who had a supply on hand!

After a warm up and seeing some friends near the start line, the horn sounded and we were off. It was hard to hold back from the surging pull of the rabbits in the early stages but I tried to keep in mind that a 5:41/k pace would get me near 4 hours at the end. As it turned out, I went out a little too fast, held on for about 32 k and then hit the dreaded wall. That is not a smack, slamming feeling but one of sheer and utter exhaustion. Next time, I hope to avoid that stage.

Anyway, here are the splits with a few comments: For nutrition, I ate a chocolate gel every seven KM and drank a few sips of water every 2.5 k.

First 10k (55:35) – 5:41, 5:39, 5:30, 5:29, 5:21, 5:27, 5:38, 5:34, 5:36, 5:36. (Felt too good at 4-6 km, was high fiving volunteers, low fiving others, thumbs up to all, not conserving energy)

Second 10k (1:51:40) – 5:34, 5:39, 5:29, 5:46, 5:35, 5:36, 5:35, 5:33, 5:36, 5:38 (pretty consistent but 3-11 seconds per km faster than desired pace, not  a big deal I thought. Wrong).

Halfway 1:57:13 (the turnoff toward the finish for the half marathoners took place at about 18-19 k, so midway through, there were very few of us on the full course, alone with our thoughts in the middle of a nice flat trail).

Third 10 k (2:50:00) 5:32, 5:34, 5:36, 5:52, 5:25; 5:40, 5:45, 6:04; 6:28; 6:18 (still felt pretty good until I encountered the gentle rolling hills in Dieppe. Stopped a couple of times in 28th, 29th and 30th kilometres but always got back at it and felt I could deal with it, which was evidenced early in next segment. I also thought since I had banked some time earlier, that as long as I resumed, I’d be OK to finish steady…of note, banking time in a marathon is not a good idea).

Fourth 10 k (3:55:05) 5:49, 5:37, 6:39, 6:49, 6:42, 6:41, 6:40, 6:10, 6:45, 7:07 (at 31-32k I thought I had recovered from the worst. But the continuing rolling hills in Dieppe and my earlier enthusiasm got to me. From 33-37k, it was a lot of 2 minutes run, 30 seconds walk, or 1 minute run, 1 minute walk – in other words, slow going; I recovered slightly for 38th kilometre and then fatigue really hit. I had a hard time lifting my legs in 39th and 40th kilometres. People were passing me with ease. The finish seemed light years away. Honestly, it was quite a fight at this point.

Moncton run 053web

The final stage (4:13.13) 7:43, 7:15, 3:11 (My Garmin measured 42.52k which from what I understand is normal. I read prior to the event that apparently Garmins can be off one per cent, which accounts for the difference from the official distance. But the 41st and 42nd  kilometres were torture, really. The pace bunny for 4 hours had come back to help, encouraging me to the finish. Finally, the last turn came and the final stretch run of about 400 metres was down Main Street in front of the crowd that remained. When my daughters joined me, I mustered up whatever bit of energy I had and pointed toward for home. It was a special moment, with them along for the ride. Prior to the race, the girls and Kathy each gave me a stone with an inspirational message on it that I did hold at various times in the race.

When I finished, I could barely walk and was surprised how instantly cold I got. I was elated to finish, caught off guard on emotions and thankful the girls were there. I got a massage but it was awful as I cramped the entire time.

I chugged 4-5 chocolate milks, warmed up and that was that! My friend April snapped some great shots and at Christmas time, Kathy gave me a framed print of one of the photos along with the stones and a small plaque with my time engraved. Very special.

Start 8:15 a.m. finish 12:28 p.m.

Average pace 5:57; calories burned 3,797 (that is the equiv of two of those massive bags of nibs – trust me, I know).

Looking back, it was an accomplishment I took more and more pride in during the winter. Reviewing it with an eye on improving, my long runs in training were too fast, and for various reasons, I had to stop on many of them, even briefly. Also, on race day I went out way too fast (55:35 for first 10k) in the big race and I paid the price. I probably should have paid a bit more attention to my diet (damn Party Mix!).

All lessons learned.

All in all, a wonderful experience and when looking back when I weighed 235 pounds in 2006, it was something I never envisioned taking place.

Now for the second one!