Category Archives: Sports

Haven’t hung up my sneakers yet

I’m dismayed. It’s been two months since I last wrote—and that post wasn’t even mine! But thankfully, my feet haven’t been as lethargic as my fingers (which are getting a stern talking to, by the way). I’ve continued to do races, just in a somewhat less elegant fashion than before (and considering I’m the world’s least elegant runner to begin with, that’s saying something).

Rather than write an individual post about each event (my memory isn’t that good and they stretch back to May), here’s a quick roundup of what I’ve been up to. Proof that I keep pinning on those bibs despite the fact that my form has seriously regressed.

Boston’s Run to Remember (5 miles)


Boston’s Run to Remember, 2013. Freezing!

Boston, May 26, 2013
The event: well-organized, poignant, cold
My performance: middling (53.26)
Hubby: 1.35.57 (half-marathon)

* Despite being so late in May, it was a seriously cold morning (I saved a screen grab of the weather, and it was 6C/42F. Brrrrrrrrr). The 5 mile race was late getting started so we all stood around shivering in short sleeves for what felt like forever.
* There was a great deal of significance attached to this race, as it was the first biggie in Boston since the marathon. Sean Collier, the MIT officer killed in the aftermath, was prominent on T-shirts and in speeches. The “Remember” part of the Run to Remember, which usually refers to fallen law enforcement officers, took on new meaning for many. The race itself was huge. In the weeks after the marathon, everyone was a runner!
* The shadow of the marathon hung over this race in its extreme security: significantly, no one was allowed at the finish line and the runners’ area was strictly controlled. It wasn’t inconvenient, but it was sad.

P.R.O.N.E. 5K


P.R.O.N.E. 5K with Tonto (star of

Boston, MA, June 1, 2013
The event: cute, fuzzy, very hot!
My performance: I walked (leisurely) the whole way, so it doesn’t count, but for those keeping score (i.e., me): 1.01.24

* I did this event last year in soak-you-to-your-bones rain, so it was only fitting that this year it would be boiling!
* This race is for Pug Rescue of New England, so there were lots of cute dogs around to make me sneeze, although probably not as many as there would have been seeing it was so hot.
* Tiffany from Cute Dogs and Hugs, her hubby, and I met for the first time at this race last year so it was only fitting that we do it again. However, Tiffany was pregnant this time around, so she, I, and Tonto took a 5K stroll. There goes my average! I’ll never look at Athlinks again.

BAA (Boston Athletic Association) 10K


BAA 10K, 2013.

Boston, MA, June 23, 2013
The event: crowded, hot, poignant
My performance: dismal (1.16.31, a whopping seven minutes slower than my 10K PR)

* If any race deserved to be heavy on the “Boston strong” references it was this one. This was the BAA’s first run since the marathon, and it’s not surprising that their blue and gold signature colors, which had become ubiquitous across the city of Boston, were on prominent display here.
* It was heavier on the celebration than the emotion, which I appreciated, although there was a great moment after the race when the winner of the marathon, Lelisa Desisa, returned his winner’s medal to Boston Mayor Tom Menino and the city. There were some injured folk there from the marathon too, and they got an ovation from the huge crowd that stuck around.
* I also appreciated that this run wasn’t overzealous on the security. Hopefully a sign of things to come.
* Oh, my run was terrible. I walked a huge chunk (I didn’t have a dog with me, so there wasn’t really an excuse). It was hot and my heart and legs just weren’t in it. I’m beginning to think I dreamed 2012.

Mad Half-Marathon Walk

Mad Half Marathon, 2013.

Mad Half Marathon, 2013. Rural splendor.

Waitsfield, Vermont, July 7, 2013
The event: fabulous, picturesque, very hilly
My performance: decent; a little slower than 2012, but fourth overall in the walkers category (3.05.17)
Hubby: 1.44.57

* I love this event. We did it last year (it was the first time I had done a half-marathon distance—I was a walker) and knew we had to go back. It’s an extremely hilly course but worth it for the views (although not necessarily the barnyard odors).
* I can never quite tell how many walkers are in front of me, but I could see at least two, and I knew I had to get ’em. They’re in the photo above, one is in bright pink and the other in the yellow scarf. It took me a while, but I eventually caught up with the pink lady. The woman in yellow was a formidable foe and we walked together for a few miles before I got slightly ahead at about mile 9 and spent the rest of the race alone. I mean, really alone. It’s a lonely walk at the end.
* I could barely move for three days.
* On the plus side, I kept all my toenails this year!

Shipyard Old Port 5K


Shipyard Old Port 5K. Blistering!

Portland, Maine, July 14, 2013
The event:
hot, damn hot
My performance:
I’d rather not talk about it (44.13)
1.43.05 (half-marathon)

* Beautiful setting, but man it was crazy hot this year. The half-marathon course was very hilly and there was a lot of moaning afterward that it was too hilly for the weather, which is just silly.
* Last year’s 5K had a stairwell that we had to run down. This year, we had to run up it, too. Seeing as it was so hot, quite a few runners switched to the 5K. The result: a HUGE bottleneck at the stairs in the first mile. I’m talking almost seven minutes of standing around. I like a good rest as much as the next person, but this … well, I though it was pretty funny, actually. Good thing I wasn’t looking for a PR. I think that ship may have sailed …

This coming weekend: I’m doing the SeaWheeze Half-Marathon in Vancouver. Training? I’m not even going to go there. Promise it won’t take me two months to write about it.


The Back on My Feet 24-hour challenge

In July, Hubby will be running for 24 hours straight to raise money for the awesome organization Back on My Feet. That’s 24 hours of running. In a row. I think that deserves a guest post, don’t you?


When I was a kid growing up in Australia, we watched the Lone Ranger on Saturday morning TV. He was cool, he fought for good, he had an awesome name (way more awesome than Walker Texas Ranger. Sometime in the future Chuck Norris may be paying me a visit), and he rode a horse.

Riding a horse is something that may make a lot more sense when I too become a Lone Ranger as part of the Back on My Feet 24-hour Challenge in Philadelphia on July 20.

Back on My Feet was started in 2007 by Anne Mahlum, who as a young woman found strength in running as she dealt with her father’s gambling addiction. Years later, living in Philadelphia, every morning she would run past a group of homeless men staying at the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission. Knowing how running had helped her, she contacted the executive director of the shelter and asked if she could invite the men along on her runs. The first group run took place on July 3, 2007.

From the Back on My Feet website:

The theoretical question that Anne asked herself was, “if we can change the way people see themselves, can we change the direction of their lives?” She felt very strongly that if we could help people experiencing homelessness see themselves as deserving, capable, hardworking, responsible, disciplined, focused and reliable, it would be possible for them to move toward independence. This question is no longer a theoryit is a reality.

There are now chapters in Maryland, D.C., Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, Atlanta, New York City, and Austin.

The Back on My Feet program is designed to build personal responsibility. Resident members have to be 30 days sober and maintain a 90 per cent attendance record at three weekly runs. In return, they receive running gear. After six months of participation they get admission to other Back on My Feet partnership programs, which can assist with education and employment.

I read about Back on My Feet a few months back and was inspired to contribute to their fundraising by competing as a Lone Ranger in the 2013 Stroehman Back on My Feet 20IN24 challenge.

The object of the challenge is to run as many laps of the 8.4-mile course as possible in 24 hours. Yes, there are certainly easier ways to contribute, but how often do you get to run around the clock!

Before you start getting sympathy blisters, competitors don’t have to be on the course the entire time. Rest breaks are permitted and, given that it’s summer and I am the palest Aussie, probably wise. How far will I get in 24 hours? Well, I am no Cliff Young. (What, you don’t know who Cliff Young is? He was an Aussie who won the 544-mile Sydney to Melbourne ultra-marathon at the age of 61 in a then record-breaking time of five days, 15 hours. My goal is somewhere around 50 miles.)

Some of the other 310 Lone Rangers will do many, many, many, many more miles. There are events over the course of the 24 hours that I do really want to be on the course for. These include the Midnight Madness run, where another 525 runners do a lap in reflective gear (I am definitely cueing disco music on my RoadNoise vest for this) and a Pajama loop at 7 a.m. (just what you want to see after a night of little sleep—well-rested runners). After the race finishes at 10 a.m. on Sunday, I am sure it will not take me long to get into my pajamas. Monday will not be a work day for this Lone Ranger.

Since signing up for the challenge, I wanted to see Back on My Feet at work, so I have run several times at one of the Boston locations. The residents and the volunteers do an amazing job and the benefit to those participating is definitely apparent.

If after reading this you’d like to either a) support Back on My Feet or b) bet on how far I can run, please make a donation.

For whom the cowbell tolls

Because the weather has been seven levels of crap here in Boston, I thought I’d cast my mind back to a happier time—one that didn’t involve wearing winter socks at the end of May and shivering my butt off. (UPDATE: So, Memorial Day turned out to be a stunner, but it was a cold, cold road to get there.) My sunny time-machine moment comes courtesy of the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K in Richmond, Va., which was a month ago, but I had to post about my awesome adventures in Pittsburgh first, so I’m a little out of chronological order.

Ukrop's Monument Ave 10K 2013

Waiting for the elites to start the Ukrop’s 10K. Look at that sky!

I’ve done a lot of races, but the Ukrop’s 10K is officially my favorite. It’s the happiest run around. You should all put it on your calendars for next year. Ukrop’s is a huge event (40,000 participants) but run so smoothly you’d think it was tiny. It has a superior expo (having also been to a number of expos, I know that for sure. Is it possible to get expo fatigue?). And it has a fantastic course: flat as a pancake, which, as you all know, speaks to me. As do pancakes, but that’s another story. The route, which travels out and back along Monument Avenue (wide road, gorgeous houses) is lined with great bands and crazy spectators. There are so many bands, in fact, that you don’t need headphones. I love that, because my new headphones suck.

It’s such a big race that Hubby’s 10K is over before mine even starts, which I find more amusing than it probably is.

Ukrop's Monument Ave 10K 2013

Walking to the start of my run. Hubby has already finished running. Or has he …

It’s become a cliché to say that I wasn’t prepared for a race, but this time I had a legitimate excuse: a horrible, no-good, weeks-long cold, which on the flight down from Boston had developed into horrible ear pain. At the risk of sounding like a whiner, it was really, really, really bad.

But I wasn’t going to spend yet another runcation stuck in the hotel (hello, North Carolina Half), so I decided to suck it up. I was meant to be in a slightly faster corral, but I hung back a bit, assuming I’d just walk the whole way. Hubby, who had finished his 10K in fine form, as is tradition, decided he’d run/walk along with me for moral support. He also brought along a cowbell.

Continue reading

Two days in Pittsburgh (with a half-marathon in there somewhere)

At the end of last year, Jill from Jogging Jeans had the genius idea that Hubby and I should come to her hometown of Pittsburgh to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. The promise of a new city plus meeting Jill was too good to pass up (also, I wanted to be able to call myself a Runner of Steel). To add to the excitement, Charla from Running Haiku decided she would join us, stopping over on the way from Seattle to D.C. I had a feeling this was going to be momentous (all it was lacking was Tiffany, from Cute Dogs and Hugs, but she was there in spirit).

Here’s what transpired …

The city


Apparently Pittsburgh has 446 bridges, and, according to the very reliable Wikipedia, “is the world record holder for brides with piers and stands contained entirely within city limits.” So there you go.

Apart from the mandatory run up the Rocky steps in Philly eons ago and, oddly enough, a recent half in Allentown, we hadn’t spent much time in the Keystone State. Who knew there would be so much awesomeness in Pittsburgh? (In addition to Jill.) We weren’t really sure what to expect from the city but we loved it. It’s small but has a big personality, a gazillion bridges, and a great ballpark (more on that later). There’s an inclinator thingy, with great views, that looks like a house riding up and down the side of a hill. And there’s a sandwich chain where the coleslaw and fries come ON the sandwich. OK, that last one sounded kind of nuts, but Jill said it was an institution. (We didn’t get to try it, um, unfortunately.)

There’s a long-running joke between Hubby and me that every time we visit a new (small) city, he will ultimately want to move there. It’s happened with Cleveland (no thanks), Little Rock (no way), and Salt Lake City (maybe). Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is a place I could actually see myself in.

the company


The four of us mentally preparing to be Runners of Steel by standing under a banner.

I can’t say enough good things about Jill and Charla. They are as fabulous in the flesh as they are on their blogs. Meeting them was such fun, and we had one of those weekends that’s like a seven-course meal—rich and memorable. Everyone got on so well, and we were in hysterics much of the time, especially about …

The port-a-loos

One of the first things Hubby and I noticed when we went to pick up his race packet for the 5K (yes, he did both races; and yes, he did the 5K in jorts) was the presence of flushing port-a-loos by a company called Mr. John. Did I mention that they were port-a-loos that flush? This was nothing short of a revelation and I immediately snapped a photo. We don’t have such luxuries here in New England.

Apparently they don’t in Seattle either. Charla was equally as excited, which led to this shot …


Flushing units!!

Jill clearly thought we were all nuts. Apparently, outdoor toilets that flush are a dime a dozen in her world. She needs to come and rough it with us in Boston for a while. In the summer.

Charla had us all write haikus and she posted a hilarious (if I do say so myself) mash-up on her blog that you must read. You wouldn’t think we could keep the port-a-loo theme going the entire weekend, but we somehow managed to—ably assisted by …

The ballpark

PNC Park

PNC Park.

What do running, port-a-loos, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have in common? Nothing, really, unless you are three bloggers and one hubby who happen to wind up at PNC Park sitting next to an old guy who happens to be wearing the shirt from the Pittsburgh 5K that morning, who also happens to be someone Jill met a year before, who also happens to be … wait for it … the owner of a (flushing!) port-a-loo business just outside of Allentown (he and Mr. John have somewhat different business models though). I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

His name was Kenneth, and for any Aussies reading this who have seen the movie Kenny, you will know why this is extra funny. If you haven’t seen Kenny, download it now.

Kenneth was sweet on Jill, and he spent the whole game chatting with her and Charla while his clearly long-suffering wife rolled her eyes. We were in hysterics, pretty oblivious to the fact that there was a baseball game going on. Great ballpark though.

The run

Oh, right, there was a run …

It’s disturbing how little prepared I was to run a half-marathon (I think I should trademark that phrase). I was ill-prepared even for me, whose training strategy recently has basically consisted of “watching others run.” Last year, I ran many, many races, so when my two half-marathons came around, I at least had something to work with. This year, not so much. Also, I’d been sick. Also, as the arm warmers Charla got at the expo so perfectly put it: “I like running, just not while I’m doing it.”


Right at the 5K mark. Are we done yet?

I had no illusions about this half. I just wanted to finish in less than three hours (my half PR is 2:30; how the not-so-mighty have fallen). I can walk a half in 3:00, so it would be shameful if I overshot that.

Here’s how it went:


The half-marathon crossed five bridges. I like bridges.

Mile 1: Start alongside Charla and Jill and watch them immediately disappear into the crowd (this was Jill’s first half and she did amazingly well. So, that’s what training gets you …). Realize I hadn’t cued up my playlist and spend five minutes fiddling with my iPhone. (You’d think I’d never done this before.) Run slowly.

Mile 2: Realize that the new Apple EarPod headphones are useless for running. They keep popping out of my ears. Spend five minutes fiddling with them and cursing Apple for getting rid of the old style (mine broke). Spend another five minutes cursing myself for not trying these new ones out before the race. Run slowly.

Mile 3: Realize my watch isn’t showing the distance, only the pace. Spend five minutes stopped on the side of the road fiddling with it. Run slowly. Nice bridge!

Mile 4: Run really slowly. Start sticking fingers in my ears to try to keep the headphones in. Nice bridge!

Mile 5: Run really, really slowly. I think it’s called walking. Nice bridge!

Mile 6: Run really, really, really slowly. Reset watch again.

Mile 7: Give up on headphones completely and shove them into my pocket. Now all I can hear is the sound of my breathing. (I have an ear infection so I’m hearing every noise inside my head.) Nice bridge!

Mile 8-10: Out for a stroll. Lovely day for it. Give up on watch completely.

Mile 11: Major mile marker confusion with the marathon. Think I’ve gone farther than I have. Crap. Nice bridge!

Mile 11.5: Massive hill. Not unexpected, but still massive.

Mile 12: Holy crap, it’s still going.

Mile 13: Nice downhill. Think I’m going to breeze into the finish like I’ve been running the whole time. Crowd starts to roar. Realize there are early marathoners coming in. It’s not the first time this has happened to me. Stupid little bonus hill takes the wind out of my sails and I have to walk for a few seconds in front of the crowd. Sadly, no more bridges.

Mile 13.1: Can’t see the cameraman. It’s probably a good thing as I may have punched him out.

Told you, momentous …

The event: Pittsburgh Half-Marathon
The location: Pittsburgh
The date: May 5, 2013
My time: 2.43.18
Hubby’s time
: 1.38.22
The T-shirt:
Bright yellow long-sleeved Asics
The aftermath: Smile cookies from Eat’n Park, potato chips, bagels, fruit cups. There was also a huge finishers’ expo but we didn’t partake as it was so crowded, which meant, sniff, no beer.

One day in Boston

What happened in my adopted hometown on Monday defies belief. Many people have already said many profound and moving things about it, in better words than I ever could, so instead I thought I’d just share my small story.


I was a little too far away to see the clock at the Boston Marathon finish line, and my phone had strangely stopped sending me the athlete-tracking text messages. The last one I got, at 1.34 pm, about an hour earlier, said Hubby was at 30K. His time was 2.44.44. In the two marathons he’d run previously, his time was just under 4 hours, so I began to get excited. I knew he had a bad cold though, so I couldn’t be sure where he was.

I started bouncing up and down, partly from nerves, and partly to stay warm—my spot was on the un-sunny side of Boylston Street. When I arrived downtown, around noon, I tried to figure out how to get to the other side. I walked around for about 40 minutes, 10 of which were spent inching through a crazy human traffic jam. When I realized my sunny-side hopes were futile, I settled on a spot that was only a few people deep, hoping that their runners were faster than mine and that they would eventually move away so I could at least be at the front. They did, and I found myself on the barricade. I was right opposite the Forum restaurant.

It was a pretty good spot. The only teeny hiccup came when a woman decided to hold up a homemade sign right in my line of vision. I jokingly groaned and she shifted it with a smile. Previously, a woman had asked me if my runner was coming in and did I need to switch with her to get closer. I thanked her and said I had some time. Everyone was good-natured and so excited. They were all there for the same reason.

I’ve stood near the finish line at plenty of long-distance races now, but there was something special about this one. Many runners sported huge, silly grins; they almost looked too relaxed, given what they had just done. Others were expressionless and focused, some were grimacing in pain. The crowd clapped and hollered every time an army recruit ruck-marched past in full uniform. One runner, injured, was helped to the finish in the arms of a soldier and another athlete. Runners who looked as though they weren’t going to make it got an extra loud push.

At 2.33, I got a text message from a friend saying she had just seen Hubby pass the 40K mark. Then a picture. Blue shorts! She had asked me earlier what he was wearing so she could spot him, but I didn’t know. When he said goodbye to me at 5 am, he was covered up in a black jacket and track pants. I had been scanning shoes as I figured he’d be wearing his new, vivid orange Newtons, easily spottable. Turns out he was in his pale army green Newtons instead. Not very helpful at all.

He finally passed by at about 2.41 pm, albeit on the other side of the street. I yelled his name, but he didn’t hear me and kept going, focused. I got the text message a minute later saying he’d finished, in 3.53.13. A five-minute PR! With a cold! I was so proud.

I stayed for about a minute or so and then turned and started to make my way to the “W” section of the meeting area, where we had agreed to reunite. I stopped in at a grocery store for about 3 minutes. Just after I walked outside, there was a loud, piercing, thunderous boom. It was a wholly unfamiliar sound. My heart didn’t really start to thump until I heard the next one, which was much, much louder. Closer, as it turned out. I immediately looked to the sky, horrified, expecting another. There were a couple of seconds of shocked silence, and then, sirens. I have never heard so many all at once.

I knew Hubby had crossed the finish line but I had no idea where he was and assumed he had no phone. I tried to get to our meeting place, but I was having trouble navigating my way there. Cops had materialized, seemingly out of nowhere and were yelling at everyone to clear the streets. My heart was still thumping. I didn’t know what had happened. I called a friend in Quincy and asked her to put on the TV. I went on to Twitter but it was too early for anything concrete, and besides, my hands were shaking.

About 10 minutes later I got a text message telling me to meet him at the “W.” Relief. Then I got another text asking me where I was. Then another asking me if I was OK. He didn’t know where I had been standing. I kept trying to reply and call but nothing was going through. I have a string of undelivered texts on my phone. We spent the next little while trying to connect. It was probably only 20 minutes but it felt like longer. We finally met up. His lips were blue he was so cold.

Turns out he was at the water table just beyond the finish line when the bombs exploded. He turned in time to see the second one. Then there was a stampede. He said later that he really pushed hard to get the result that he did. Five minutes …

We’ve lived in Boston for seven years. We knew the marathon was a huge deal, of course, but it wasn’t really a part of our New England experience. We’d never gone as spectators. Then we started running races. Hubby tried to get a number in 2012 but it didn’t work out. This year, he got one through the National Guard and couldn’t have been happier.

Given all the preparation and training, and talking and stressing about the race in the weeks prior, I had joked with him that, after this experience, his life was going to be forever split into two: what came before the 2013 Boston Marathon, and what came after.

I guess that really is true now, for so many.

The running community is full of amazing folks. They’re hard core and spirited and tenacious and resilient and friendly. They don’t care if you’re a complete slowpoke like me. I doubt I’ll ever run the Boston Marathon, but I’ll definitely be on the streets in 2014 to watch the city reclaim its marvelous race.