My guest post on a great blog!

I have been blogging for over a year now.

I have had a few posts that people have really liked and have a lot of great followers who I really appreciate.

About 6 weeks ago I wrote a post about the freedom that running gives me and, for me, went viral.  I got about 10 times the number of views on that one post compared to my average.

One person whom I follow and who follows me, wrote and asked if he could post that post on his blog.  His name is Bruce Matson and he recently published an awesome book about health, running and his journey to Christianity.  The way I found out about Bruce was my running buddy @BigBigGeek bought me an audio copy of his book to listen to as TJ and I drove up to Pennsylvania to run our first (and so far, only) marathon.

Bruce asked that I add a few references on the spiritual side for the post which I was glad to do.  I honestly don’t post much about spiritual things on my blog, not because I am afraid to post about them (see my Faith tab above), but I set out to write a running blog and though I give God all the credit for all that I have accomplished, I’m sure He understands this is a running blog and is not offended. 🙂

Okay… First I want to say thank you to Bruce for posting my edited post on his blog…

Go here: http://bhmatson.com/2014/03/14/faith-running-freedom/

Second I encourage you to read his blog and look into purchasing his book.  It is very well written and is close to paralleling my journey from 278 to … soon Boston… maybe.  It is almost uncanny how closely our journeys have paralleled each other.

Lastly, thank you @BigBigGeek for introducing me to Bruce.

You know, it is really cool that I started this blog with just a few people following me and now I have hundreds and I have a post on Bruce’ blog – an author.

I am grateful to Bruce for the post and all of you who read my blog… even when I have to only write about walking. 🙂

Tom

My dream, my hope, my life – Thoughts from yesterday’s run

As I ran yesterday, I thought about dreams.

Not dreams as in sleep, but dreams as in aspirations, desires, goals that seem beyond reach, but something you want to attain with a desire that is beyond normal desire or hope.

Dreams are an important part of life.  Some dreams never come to pass.  They sit in front of us an become a frustration, depression or just make us angry.

I realized yesterday that I have had many dreams I wanted to attain in life and many of them I have actually achieved.  Most were within my ability to achieve if I persevered beyond normal effort.  As I ran, realized that each major phase of my life has had a dream just outside my reach that I had to really work for in order to see it come to fruition.  Many times those dreams took perseverance beyond my own ability to achieve.

I am being purposefully vague here as I don’t need to go into all those dreams.  But my thoughts went on to the fact that so many people deal with anger and depression because they don’t get to fulfill their dreams, at least in the timing that they have chosen to see them fulfilled.  Without a dream, or as the Bible says, a vision, we will perish.  Hope is essential in life.  The American Dream has kept people pursuing their lives vocation for generations.  A hope for a good life and an even better life for their children.  I think a lot of Americans have given up on achieving their Dream.

My current dream or hope or goal is to qualify and maybe one day run in the Boston Marathon.  Back before last year’s race (and tragedy) TJ would talk to me about us qualifying together.  Then, last March I made that my goal.  I hadn’t even run my first marathon yet, but my new goal would be to qualify for Boston… Then I ran my first marathon in September and that dream seemed to be pushed beyond achievement.  I ended up hurting myself after the marathon and it took months to get back to a semi normal running routine.

I still have that as my goal, my dream.  It keeps me going home each day and heading out to run in good or bad weather.  It helps me get past heel spurs and hip pain.  It makes me run up mountains in order to build my endurance and run down mountains to build my strength.  

It is my dream.  

I could give up on my dream.  It is going on 2 years since I began running and a year since I made that decision to qualify for Boston.  That is a long time.  I am getting close to 2,500 miles run, mostly in my neighborhood.  It seems like a dream that is out of reach.  But that is exactly what makes it a dream.  That is what gives me hope.  The thought of the day I achieve another dream and overcome almost impossible odds to do just that…  That is what makes life fun.

So my run ended yesterday much quicker than most.  Not because I ended it early, but because I had so distracted myself from running by dreaming about dreaming.

Keep dreaming.  If it were easy, it wouldn’t be a dream.

Tom

The Pebble run and 5K prep

Yesterday’s run was hard.

No, it isn’t what you think.

I made the decision that I would run slow and easy since I ran hard on Wednesday.  In the past I would run as hard as I could, even the day after a hard run.  Well my recent 2 month off and on sabbatical from running because of my hip has made me a little wiser (I hope).  So when I started my run I told myself that I wanted to run between a 10:00 – 11:00 pace.  I decided that if I looked at my time and I was under a 10:00 pace then I would walk for a bit and then start my run again.  That way I would keep pulling my nature to run hard in and hopefully keep from getting injured.

I got a half mile into my run and had to walk.  Actually I felt a twinge from my hip and looked and I was running near a 9:00 pace.  So I walked for a few minutes and started running again.  It wasn’t long before I was walking again.

Enter Pebble watch.

The most frustrating thing about starting and stopping my run was the fact I had to keep starting and stopping my iPhone.  So one of the times that I was walking, I started pushing buttons on my Pebble and found that the middle outside button actually pauses and starts the app on my phone.  So as I started my run I would press the button and my app would announce that it was started.  When I walked, I pressed the button and my app would tell me it was paused.

So cool.

I no longer need to even interact with my phone.  I don’t need to have auto pause on (which does not work well on the iSmoothRun app).  In fact, I can put my phone in an arm band and never look at it again the whole run.

I’m FREE!

Back to my run.  I walked about a dozen times, but managed to get 3 miles in on the 4 mile route and my pace at the end was 10:39 – exactly where I wanted to be.  This is the first time I was able to pull back and not run faster than I knew I should.

Today is another run, hopefully between 8:30 – 9:00 pace and then tomorrow I’ll be walking my 4 miles.  The race starts at 9:00 Sunday morning, but evidently there is a church meeting at the building where the race starts, so we will only have limited access to the building.  It is going to be 35 degrees and we aren’t even allowed inside the lobby to keep warm before or after.  Had I known that, I wouldn’t have chosen this race, but it is too late now.  I do understand the church not wanting a lot of sweating runners hanging around with people coming in for services, but the planners of the Magic City Half Marathon and 5K should have made better plans, especially with the cold weather.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the 5K and it will be fun to run with TJ again.  We haven’t run a race since the Lehigh Valley Marathon in September. RS has to work and so he can’t make it.

Have an awesome Friday and rest of the weekend.

Tom

39 years later, he will be a runner

I got this picture from an old friend of me at 11 years old.

Tom at 11

Tom at 11

As I looked at it, I stared into my own eyes and wonder what I was thinking at that moment.  Of course I was eating cake, so I must have been happy.  🙂

Anyway, if you had asked this boy what his life would be like in 39 years, I wonder what he would have said.  I know he would not have had any idea of the ups and downs he was about to encounter.  He probably would just laugh if you told him he would one day weigh 278 lbs.

2011

Tom at 278 lbs

How would that be possible?  Then tell him that less than 2 years later he would weigh 180 lbs and run his first marathon and I’m sure he would call you crazy.

Running my first marathon

Running my first marathon

There have been so many good things that have happened in my life.  I have wonderful kids and a Lovely Wife.  I have a great job.  I am thankful for everything I have and everything I can do at 50 years old.

39 years ago, I only hoped to have the life I have now.  Things aren’t perfect.  There are good times and bad.  There are ups and downs.

But if you took that 11 year old into a time machine and forwarded him to today, I think he would be pretty excited to have seen all he would see with those 11 year old eyes.

This make me thankful.

My 3 mile run + Bonus

3 miles!!!

I ran 3 miles yesterday.  It went well (of course it was just 3 miles).  I was pretty tight in the beginning and then I loosened up and ran better.

Heading out to run with @BigBigBeek in our beautiful State Park.  I haven’t run there since before my marathon.  I’m looking forward to the run and getting to catch up with Neill.

Short post today.  Just trying to get back into the swing of running.

As an added bonus ( 🙂 ), below is a picture I’m going to purchase from my marathon 3 weeks ago.  This was taken at the end of mile 24.  I’m on the left and running with me was a neat guy I met around mile 22 and ran together until just after this picture was taken.  It really helped me get through those last few miles.

Mile 25

Mile 25

Johnny’s Rant on The VIA Lehigh Valley Marathon

I read the funniest post yesterday afternoon (at least to me).

I was reading using an app on my iPhone and hangin’ with my Lovely Wife and I saw this post on a website called, “Johnny’s Rant on The Via Lehigh Valley Marathon”.  Knowing all that TJ and I went through from the traffic jam before the race to waiting for hours for a bus to take us back to the starting line, I had to read and see what Johnny said.

He and I must have been in the same area much of the time.  He mentions the issue with traffic (at least he didn’t go to the wrong hospital for the start of the race).  He mentions the port potties.  He mentions the buses (or lack there of).  But he also mentioned other details that I forgot to mention or didn’t write about in detail.

It was so funny, because as I said, we must have been close together, especially waiting for the bus.

Oh and by the way, he said that like me, they offered him a complementary entry into next years race.

Anyway, I have never read a random article on the Internet that so closely paralleled my experience that took place somewhere 850 miles away from where I live.

Here is the link if you are interested.

http://www.believeintherun.com/index.php/2013/09/17/johnnys-rant-via-lehigh-valley-marathon/ 

Good writing Johnny.  It made my night.

The rest of the story

The Lehigh Valley Marathon was special for me in that I finished it.  As I was running near mile 23, I thought to myself, “If I finish this, I bet this will be one of those moments that flash before my eyes right before I die.”  Funny what you think about when your body is close to collapse. 🙂

This post is about the unusual occurrences that happened before and after the marathon.

First, wanting to be careful and make sure we know where we were going, TJ and I drove to the Lehigh Valley Hospital Saturday afternoon.  I looked it up in my GPS and we drove there fairly easily.  We ran around a large parking lot for 2 miles and drove home.  I felt better knowing where we would be going in the morning.

That morning I woke up at 3:00 AM and never went back to sleep.  We left the hotel at 5:45 to get to the marathon starting line at 6:00.  We drove there fairly easily other than a traffic jam (at 5:50 AM on a Sunday morning).  They were working a bridge on the Interstate and had a lane shut down.  But we still managed to get to the hospital by 6:00.

Hmmm.  There was no one there.  No police, no runners, just a hospital.  My stomach sank.  We were at the wrong Lehigh Valley Hospital.  TJ figured out where the OTHER hospital was and I looked it up on my GPS.  Fifteen minutes later, we were at the right hospital, in another traffic jam.  Talk about nerve wracking!  We were 45 minutes away from the start and stopped in traffic trying to get to the parking lot.

We finally got to the parking lot and ran for the porta potties.  There were a total of 6.  We waited another 20 minutes, did our business and headed to the starting line.

Marathon Starting Line

Marathon Starting Line

They counted down the start and we were off.

(See Finishing the race! for details of our run).

The finish line was chaotic for me.  I just crossed and couldn’t hear anything because of the loud speaker and people and just lots of noise.  I told my mom and brother (that I had FaceTimed a few minutes before the finish) that I had to hang up (since I couldn’t hear them) and hung up on them.  Then I looked up and TJ was coming towards me.  He was a sight for sore eyes.

Just finished

Just finished

Getting Finisher's Medal

Getting Finisher’s Medal

I got my finishers medal and a water and just tried to make sense of the situation.  TJ suggested I go to the medic tent and get checked out.  I didn’t look very good I guess.

The medic tent was well done.  I got and IV after 3 needle pricks and laid there for an hour while it filled me up with fluids.  I felt badly for TJ having to sit and watch me get an IV for an hour, but he never complained.  Finally, I got up SLOWLY and we walked out to find the shuttle back to the starting line.

This is where everything went wrong.

TJ and I literally limped to get the shuttle.  The race is run in a straight line, so we were a half hour away from our car.  No one could tell us where to go to get the shuttle, but just pointed us in a general direction.  We finally found the spot…  Two hundred marathon runners stood in a line for a shuttle.  We waited about 10 minutes and the first shuttle pulled up.  It was tiny.  Probably 20 seats total.  It filled up with some runners and took off.

At this point I was becoming desperate.  I had to check out of my hotel in an hour and my 2 youngest sons were waiting for me.  On top of this, my phone battery died and TJ’s had only 4%.  I had to get back to the hotel to get a shower and head to my mom’s birthday party 3 hours away.  I walked around SLOWLY and looked for anyone I could ask for help.  I saw a police officer and told him my situation.  I asked if I could get a cab.  He said the wait for cabs was really long.  He was nice, but no real help (not that there was anything he could do).

A half hour after the first shuttle left, another shuttle arrived.  This was a full sized bus.  The line made progress.  A half hour later the tiny shuttle showed back up and took a few people.  There were probably about 50 people in front of us to get the next shuttle.  I should be able to make it.

I love runners.

We all stood in line after running 26.2 miles and everyone talked, laughed and waited.  A nice lady in front of me lent me her phone so I could call the hotel and my kids.  It was getting late and I had to make a decision.  Did I make my boys pack the room and sit in the lobby until I got back or did I bite the bullet and stay another night in the hotel.  It was now 1:00 PM.  I knew it would take 30 minutes to get back to the starting line if I could get on the next bus.  Then it would take about 15 minutes to drive back to the hotel.  I knew what I had to do.  I called the hotel, paid for another night and had HR call my Lovely Wife and let her know we were staying.  She called my mom and told her we would miss her birthday.

Now the frustrating part of the day.  We waited for the bus.  We stood in the sun for another hour with no shuttle and no explanation.

Nothing.

A runner forced suggested we move the line to the sidewalk where there was some shade, so everyone reluctantly moved.  As we waited on the sidewalk by the main road, one runner held out a $20 bill to passing cars asking them to give him a ride.  Finally one stopped and loaded about 4 people.  Everyone cheered.  We all talked, vented, stood, sat and baked in the sun.

Finally a guy came up with a couple cases of bottled water.  That was nice.  But we still stood with no bus.  In fact 2 large buses went past and just kept going.  Talk about some upset runners.

Finally a bus came by and stopped.  Cheers.  Only 2.25 hours later.  We started to load.  I wasn’t sure I could get on this one, but I knew I would give it a try, even if I had to sit in the toilet.  Then another bus pulled up behind the first bus.  BUT… It didn’t wait for the first bus to load and then move up, it just opened its door.  So we were in the back of the first line and others were loading in the other bus.  I was an unhappy camper.  Fortunately, TJ and I made it on the very back of the first bus.  People were actually sitting in the isles.

30 minutes later we were back to our car.  3:00 PM, 3 hours after we got in line, we arrived back at the hotel.

I wrote the race director and asked about the transportation issue.  They were apologetic and gave me a free pass for next years marathon.

Sorry for the long post.  I wanted to get all this out.  I must say that although it was a tough afternoon, I met so many great people.  Exhausted runners standing for hours and smiling.  Everyone was great.  It wasn’t fun waiting and I was upset to miss my mom’s 85th birthday, but I will remember this marathon for a long time to come!!!

Finishing the race!

I finally arrived at my mom’s and will help celebrate her birthday a day late. Better late than never!

Here is a recap of the marathon… I will write some more later about the interesting time we had outside of the actual race, but I want to write about the race alone in this post.

We started at exactly 7:00. I was so nervous at the start, but after we got 1/4 of a mile into the marathon, nerves turned into running. It was really crowded for the first 4 miles or so and then it spread into a manageable amount of runners.

For me, I started at an 8:00 pace. Fast for me, but I had my reasons. I really wanted a chance at my dream of running it under a 3:30 and I figured if I didn’t try, I wouldn’t know if it was possible.

It wasn’t. 🙂

I ran an 8:00 pace for 12 miles. Not bad. But that was about all I could do. Almost out of nowhere I lost the steam to keep the pace. So, knowing I wouldn’t make my first goal, I settled in to finishing the race and enjoying the run!

It was an interesting course. Fairly hilly in the beginning. Then we got to the river and the trail beside the river. For about 8 miles we ran this trail. Two grooves of dirt with grass in the middle and on either side. So runners settled into a groove and did the best they could to pass when possible. I fell in behind a guy who was keeping an 8:00 pace. For several miles I just ran his pace. That was nice, until he suddenly stopped to walk. Ugh. That messed with me a bit. But I kept going and finally got through that 8 mile stretch.

At the half way point when my steam ran out I ate gels and drank Gatorade to keep me going. That was a good plan. I ran for a couple of miles and walked through the water/Gatorade stations. As soon as I downed my sugar, I was running again. At mile 15 a woman handing out Gatorade asked me if I was okay. I said yes, but I guess I didn’t look that great. After that, I turned off my app and just ran as I could run. Not very fast, but not walking either. In my mind I kept thinking, “If I walk, I won’t finish as fast”.

At mile 20 I fully hit the wall. We had just run 16 miles of river trails and gone up a hill and now were running on gravel. I had to walk a bit. I then got a text from my Lovely Wife saying to keep going and she was pulling for me. I thought, I can do this. Not long after, I started running again. I never walked longer than a minute or two. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Finally around mile 22 we got back onto asphalt. I never thought I’d be so happy to see a road again.

This was the hardest part. Between mile 22 and 24. I hurt a lot. I would run a while and then have to walk because my whole body hurt. After a minute I’d start running again. Then I made it to mile 24. Another runner, about age 35 came up beside me and we began to talk. He told me he had run 3 other marathons but not run one in a couple of years. We talked for almost 2 miles. Wow, that really helped. At the point where the finish was a half mile away (uphill), he asked if I was doing okay and I told him I was and to head on as I could see he wanted to run strong at the end. He took off up the hill.

As I ran up the hill and onto the final stretch I was feeling much better. The finish was visible and I could hear the announcer on the loud speaker. So I went to my phone app and FaceTimed my brother. He had suggested that a few days earlier, but I didn’t know if I would be in a place to be able to do it or not. So I ran my last .2 miles with my brother and mom cheering me on. I saw the finish in front of me and was running well. Suddenly my right calf cramped. Ugh. Only a couple hundred feet to go and I was limping as I ran. It then worked its way out and I was running again, though a bit more carefully.

The finish line

My running friend of the last two miles finished ahead of me with his two toddlers running with him. How cool. I ran over the finish line only to see TJ there to greet me. I got my finishers medal and a water.

I did it. I finished. 4:14. I then, at TJ’s and my Lovely Wife’s request went to the medic tent for an IV. I was a bit out of it. After about 30 minutes I felt fine and finished with my Intravenous beverage and headed out to catch a shuttle home (a whole other blog post).

Tj finished amazingly fast at 3:08 (3 minutes off Boston Qualifying time). I am so proud of him.

Special thanks again to my big bro Jeff and my Lovely Wife for posting all the updates. Also special thanks to all of you. The support I have received from the blogging community was way more than I ever expected and had a huge impact in my marathon. When I felt the wall hit and wanted to give up, I would think of YOU. I couldn’t face not finishing and having to post that to this blog. Thank you so much!!!

That is it for now. I am more sore than I have ever been in my life. Right now my 85 year old mom could beat me in a race! 🙂

Ahhh. Life is good!

Quick update from me (Tom)

Thank you!!!

First, thank you to my brother Jeff and my Lovely Wife for posting updates and keeping you all updated on my marathon.

Second… Thank you for all your support.  This was a rough run, but a good one.  I had a great 12 miles and a tough 14.2 miles.  I will post a race recap tomorrow , Lord willing.

Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed running this marathon.  It was my first and I’ll never forget it.  I was thinking during the difficult times about the fact that 2 years ago I couldn’t run a 1/4 mile.  Well I did, but I had to stop and walk home!!!

Now I am a marathoner.  Crazy.  After a quick stop in the medic tent for an IV, I was back to normal… Sort of.

Anyway, you have been wonderful and I can’t thank you enough for your encouragement!!!

God bless!

Tom

Final Thoughts before tomorrows marathon

Here we are in Bethlehem PA (near Allentown) about to go down to breakfast and prepare for our day and get ready for the Lehigh Valley Marathon tomorrow.

We have a fun day ahead of eating, picking up our race bibs, eating, watching football, eating… you get the point here.

My thoughts on tomorrows race.  Overall very positive.  I haven’t run much over the past week, 6 miles in all.  So my body feels much better and happier.  My only issue, and one of the reasons I haven’t run, is the top of my left foot where I tie my shoe is still hurting.  I’m sure I could run on it, but I am pretty sure it will impact my performance.  Nothing I can do about it now.

I am so excited.  Tomorrow at this time the race will be starting and I will be on another leg of my journey.

I am excited for TJ also.  He has trained so hard, averaging 70 – 80 miles a week.  He will do fantastic.

So away we go.  I’ll post some updates throughout the day and tomorrow as I can.  Unfortunately I got a rental car for the trip and no one under 25 can drive it.  I’m the only one over 24 on this trip.  So after the marathon, we head back to the hotel and pack the car and I drive 3 hours to my mom’s.

Needless to say, I’ll try to post after I finish, but I imagine it will be a one liner.  Lord willing I’ll be done between 10:30 and 11:00 Eastern.

One again, and I never say this enough, THANK YOU for taking part in my journey.  I honestly know I would not be this ready if it weren’t for all your help and encouragement.