Author: Steve Fales

Hello. My name is Steve Fales. I am an ordinary human being trying to make the best of this journey. My life is fairly simple – not boring by any means, but simple nonetheless. Here is the overview … • A great family consisting of a wife and two grown daughters. We manage to love one another despite our imperfections. • Employed in senior management at a marketing / advertising agency. • Avid distance runner. • Chess player. • Collector of people, including a handful of close friends who have likewise collected me. I’ve been a student of life management, productivity, personal effectiveness, business, and biblical spiritual growth for over 35 years. Currently, I’m actively engaged in building what I hope will be a positive legacy that will benefit someone’s life. Feel free to contact me any time. -

Runner Down

NOTE: The full article, below the dotted line, will take about 8 minutes to read. Here’s the short version:

On Tuesday 10/18/16, I was hit by a motorized bicycle from behind as I was running on a sidewalk near my house. The bike had no light and the rider apparently didn’t see me. A passing motorist called 911. An ambulance took me to the hospital where I was diagnosed with four broken ribs, a punctured/collapsed lung, and a gash on my head requiring four staples. I spent a week in the hospital with a chest tube on suction, waiting for the lung to expand and seal.

For the whole story, see below.

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Runner Down

Tuesday October 18, 2016 started like so many mornings of my life. But after only a couple hours, things got interesting.

5:30am — Alarm clock rings, a little later than my regular time to rise. Being in the taper stage of a marathon training cycle, I slept in. After all, the day’s workout would be only four miles, not the six to eight I’d typically run mid week.

The route was familiar. Take a left from my driveway, exit the housing development, follow the road behind the shopping center, over the bridge, and around a loop. The sidewalk on the overpass is narrow, but it’s a sidewalk, which should be safe. I’ve run it dozens of times.

Traffic on the roadway was steady. I often play a car guy game with myself while running. I listen to engine sounds and try to guess the vehicle. Diesel pickup … European sedan … Small block V-8.

For a few seconds I heard something odd. “It must be a souped up Japanese pocket rocket,” I thought. Maybe a Honda Civic with special exhaust. But then it got loud. Too loud.

The thought “This isn’t right” hit me. In the same instant, the source of that sound hit me as well. It was a cruiser style bicycle with a gas engine, being ridden on the sidewalk, going against traffic, without a light. It got me from behind, so I never saw it coming. No chance of escape.

My vague recollection is of bike colliding with runner twice. The first blow knocked me forward and off my feet, while the second impact came on my way down. The rider fell off his saddle, then started to get back on. “You’d better not leave,” I somehow yelled. He stayed put.

Moaning and on the ground, I took inventory of my limbs, which fortunately were moving. I stood. A motorist stopped, lowered his window and said he had called 911. There was blood covering my shirt and pain from my head and core. The cyclist kept repeating “I’m sorry Sir”. I borrowed his cell phone and called my wife, Linda.

Two ambulances arrived, blocking traffic. An emergency technician ran over to speak with me. “I’m fine,” I said. “I’m just going to walk home. It’s only about a mile.” Adrenaline talking.

No doubt, the tech had heard that before. “Why don’t you just come sit in the truck and let us look at you?” Reluctantly, I agreed.

Surprisingly, the side door of the ambulance opened and one of my running friends appeared. She was driving to work on that very road, got held up behind the commotion, and recognized me. (Thanks, Madeline. There are no coincidences.)

As the medical staff took my vitals and asked basic questions, Linda showed up. We spoke briefly. Then the room began to swirl.

Whatever happened next took place outside my consciousness. I now know that I went under twice. Truth is that I have a history of fainting easily, but that didn’t matter. When someone passes out in the back of an ambulance, a certain protocol kicks in. The techs can’t take any chances in case the victim suffered a spinal or brain injury.

My next recollections are a handful of EMTs and Paramedics yelling “Wake up, Steve”, “Come back to me, Steve” as they strapped me onto one of those boards I’d only seen on TV and NFL games. Collar around my neck, tape across my forehead and every few inches down the length of my body, my arms secured by my sides.

“The collar is tight. It’s uncomfortable”, I uttered. To which the Paramedic replied “It’s better than being paralyzed.” That got my attention.

The ride to the hospital is a blur. I remember being asked questions, which I assume were meant to keep me engaged and conscious. “What day is it? What’s your middle name? Where were you born? Do you know where you are?” I could hear the chatter on the radio … “61 year old white male. Trauma Level 2. Severe abdominal pain. Laceration to the scalp.”

When you arrive at the Emergency Room in an ambulance — siren screaming, lights flashing — and you’re classified Trauma, you go to the front of the line. X-rays and CAT scans happened quickly. Fortunately, they revealed no spinal or neck injuries, so I was taken off the board.

Less fortunate was the rest of my diagnosis. Four fractured ribs, a punctured/collapsed lung. Various areas of road rash and the two-inch gash on my head requiring four staples are barely worth mentioning.

The official name for my lung situation is “pneumothorax.” A hole in my lung was allowing air to escape into the chest cavity with every breath, putting pressure on internal organs and causing the punctured lung to collapse further. It’s a downward spiral that can have a very unhappy ending. The CT Scan showed my lung 40% collapsed.

Treatment for said condition involves inserting a tube into the patient’s chest, with a suction device hooked up. Escaping air is sucked out, allowing the lung to re-expand and seal. Amazingly, God made it so that lungs heal pretty quickly. Within a few days, generally, the tube can be removed.

So, next stop, Operating Room. On my right was Doctor Hugo, whose acquaintance I made only moments before, and a young lady also in a white lab coat with a stethoscope. To my left was Marcy, the seasoned nurse who’d been working trauma 41 years and promised she’d never leave my side.

Dr. Hugo warned that the procedure would be painful, but that he’d tell me everything as it occurred. “No surprises,” he said. Just before giving me a shot of anesthetic from a needle that looked eight inches long, he addressed his female counterpart. “Do I make this injection above the rib or beneath the rib?” That concerned me a bit, which must have shown on my face. Nurse Marcy jumped right in “He knows. He’s quizzing Kelly. She’s a medical student.” It’s funny now.

I’m glad to say that Dr. Hugo oversold the pain. I felt a weird pressure from the tube going in, but that’s about it. They took me to a waiting area while a room was assigned.  Another running buddy called (apparently Madeline, who saw me in the ambulance, had spread the word), and a police officer came to take a statement.

Room 5025, bed 2 soon became my temporary home. The story gets tedious at this point. Here are a few items worth noting …

— People reaching out. So many people reaching out via text, phone, Facebook Private Message, and visits. Co-workers, friends, clients, and an unbelievable show of encouragement from the running community. I am blown away and deeply grateful to each of you.

— Medical staff. Doctors, students, x-ray techs, nutrition workers, various therapists, housekeeping people, nurses and Patient Care Associates (PCAs) assigned to me in 12-hour shifts. Some of them were not so great, and others were absolute angels. Simple kindnesses moved me to tears.

— The food wasn’t half bad. And I never lost my appetite.

— Time moved slowly, but I wasn’t up for much anyway. I got half way through David Copperfield, an 1100-page novel by Charles Dickens. Never even turned on the TV. Friends in need of prayer came to mind.

— Linda’s support was unwavering. Our marriage recently crossed the 37-year mark. In fact our anniversary was last week … while I was in the hospital.

— I’ll confess that there were some emotionally dark moments. A few special people helped me through, and I tapped on my long-time relationship with our Father in heaven.

Medical wisdom dictates that a pneumothorax patient can’t be released from the hospital until the lung is fully expanded or very nearly so. Each morning the portable x-ray crew came to take a picture of my chest. Sometime during the day a doctor would read that and send a resident to give me the news. As mentioned, I started at 40% collapsed. On later days it was 10%, 5%, 3%, and finally to a point where the chest tube could be taken out.

Removing the tube was a simple procedure. I did not say “easy.” Details will be spared. It took just a few seconds, but they were some of the most memorable seconds of my life. Ouch.

The quick moment of pain was followed by twelve hours of anxious anticipation. That’s how long it would be until my next chest x-ray which would determine future steps. If the x-ray showed that my lung remained expanded without the tube, I could be discharged. If not … well, we didn’t want to think about that.

An x-ray tech showed up at 4:20am, Tuesday, October 25. The restless wait began. Around 10:00am the resident (doctor) delivered the news. All was well, and he’d be putting in the order for my discharge. A few hours and several pieces of paperwork later, I was wheeled out the front door and into Linda’s car. A hospital stay of just over seven days had ended.

I write these words on October 29, 2016, more than 96 hours since my release. The ribs hurt like crazy when I move certain ways, and I wouldn’t dare lie flat on a bed, as it might not be possible to get back up. But I can walk, eat, sleep, etc., and have even been to the office. Sadly, I won’t be running the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC tomorrow, despite the fact that I’m signed up, flights and hotel were booked, and I logged nearly 600 training miles in the past four months. It’s disappointing, but there are worse fates.

Since this article is posted on a blog about running, an important note is in order. Virtually every medical professional has remarked that I had a huge advantage in my fight to overcome significant injuries: the fact that I was very physically fit at the time of the accident. It might have even saved my life. (The combination of broken ribs and collapsed lung can lead to pneumonia, serious infection, and become fatal.)

Certainly one’s fitness level does not improve in a hospital bed. Someone who comes in as a 4 doesn’t leave as a 6 after lying in one position for days on a restricted calorie diet. So, fellow runners, here’s another way your crazy obsession prolongs life. And to those thinking of getting in shape, there’s no better time than now to begin.

Yes, I plan to run again. Just as soon as I’m able. And to sign up for another marathon. True, I was a runner down, but — God willing — not out.


Say What, Body?

Runners have a phrase they quote for a number of different situations. It goes like this: “Listen to your body.”

“Listen to your body” is supposedly a guiding principle that helps us know when to push, when to hold back, when to go a few extra miles or end the session early, etc. I’ve noticed, however, a deep flaw in that advice.

Living in south Florida, there are many days when temperatures are in the 80s with 90 percent humidity and higher – and that’s at 6:00am or earlier, before sunrise. Maybe it’s just me, but this body isn’t exactly sending messages like “Let’s go out and suffer for a couple hours. It’ll be fun.” Instead, I hear “Hit the snooze button,” and “Crossword puzzles might be a really nice alternative hobby.”

What’s a runner to do? In those situations, most of the athletes I know simply ignore the old adage and pay no attention to what the flesh is saying, at least the stuff that would have them pack it in. He or she hits the streets anyway. The sweat pours out in rivers. The body temperature and heart rate soar, even at moderate paces. There are moments of misery.

Then comes the end of the workout and the incredible feeling of accomplishment. Euphoria. The runner’s entire being is high-fiving itself with shouts of “That was great!”

And now we’re listening.


“Good Night. Gotta Run.”

Being a runner can take a toll on a person. The physical exertion, mental challenges, and financial costs are notable. But an element that might not be so obvious is what running does to someone’s social life.

Those who’ve trained for a marathon know the scene well. The movie to which everyone’s going starts at 8:30pm. A quick calculation reveals that this will put you in bed around 11:30, allowing less than six hours sleep before tomorrow’s scheduled 16-miler. Sadly, you decline.

More often than not, the runner’s night is winding down just as the party is winding up. There’s not much there he or she could eat anyway. Sour cream onion dip doesn’t mix well with a monster track workout the next day before sun up.

After a few years of one’s schedule zigging while most others’ zag, the invitations dwindle. Active relationships turn into an occasional touch base. A few of the old gang might make adjustments to accommodate their aerobically-obsessed companion. (Such efforts are much appreciated, and reciprocated whenever possible.) More often, however, the bigger crowd goes out, while the lone athlete goes to bed.

On the other hand, deep bonds form with a new group. These people truly understand and become close friends. They talk about everything, including this very topic, during glorious conversations along dark streets while they’re running together.


On The Road To Peace

A short story written in 1959 and made into a feature film three years later bears the title “The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner.” While I admire author Alan Stillitoe’s accomplishment, I feel certain that he himself didn’t take part in the sport. If he had, he would have known that loneliness is not at all a concern.

Running can be a very social activity. Deep friendships are formed through conversations covering every topic imaginable during miles together. (See my article, “Runner’s Hi.”)

There’s also a positive flip side for days when the athlete prefers to go it alone. Solitude. Blessed solitude. Rare, welcomed, rejuvenating, even restful, solitude.

Years before I hit the streets myself, I’d ask runners “What on earth do you think about? It must be so boring!” Now I know. The privacy provides a long list of blessings.

Many of my best business ideas have popped up during runs. The needs of friends and family, which could have gone unnoticed, come to mind. Words of thanks or encouragement to be shared later, chess moves, the location of misplaced items, prayers, strategies and tactics for self development … these have all been byproducts of solo time on the road.

Then there are the lost miles, and I mean lost in a good sense. It happens when the runner becomes suddenly conscious that he or she is at mile nine, and can’t remember anything since mile five. The bliss of temporary nothingness. It’s hard to explain, but anyone who’s trained for a half marathon or longer is letting out a wistful sigh right now.

In an age when “me time” is both rare and precious, running offers a solution. Hours of intentionally chosen isolation with few distractions. Peace. The ability to focus—on my breathing, life’s blessings and challenges, or nothing at all.

Loneliness? I respectfully disagree. But the solitude of the long distance runner … oh yeah.

Running Feels Great. Until It Doesn’t.

People sometimes ask me what it feels like to get out and run. My answer is simple. It feels absolutely tremendous, amazing, fantastic, and wonderful. Until it doesn’t. Then it stinks—big time. The secret that veteran runners have discovered is this: the highs make the lows worthwhile.

Admittedly, running is not for everyone. I fear, though, that many beginners give up on the sport too soon because of a few bad experiences early on. There’s an easy fix: Once it starts to get rough, stop.

When I took up running at the age of 52, a quarter mile was all I could muster. No problem. That’s where the walking began, either straight back home or around the two-mile loop circling my neighborhood. The short-ish distance didn’t diminish my sense of accomplishment one bit.

Gradually, the run portion increased, but I took it easy so I could finish the route smiling. Then came the day (I remember it well) when I decided to stretch my abilities. It was difficult, but I now knew from experience that there would be ecstasy at the finish. And my hope was that maybe next time I’d get a little further before it hurt.

That’s pretty much how it goes. A quarter mile becomes a half mile, then a mile or two, perhaps  eventually an official 5K while wearing a bib. Some go on to 10Ks, half marathons, full marathons, and even ultras. A common thread for all these folk is the mixture of dancing in the clouds and embracing the pain.

Running is one of the greatest feelings in the world … until it isn’t … and then it’s the pits. The newbie should stop and enjoy the victory before agony sets in. Those who’ve been around the block a few hundred times, however, have learned that tomorrow it might feel even worse. But that’s OK, because it will definitely feel even better–in fact, fantastic–as well.


A Regular Guy Runs Boston

Running the Boston Marathon is the ultimate goal for any long-distance runner. On April 20, 2015, I – a mere mortal runner – got to do it. Of course there’s a lot more to the story, so here it is.

There are two common ways to get into Boston. One is by running a qualifying time at an approved marathon somewhere else prior to registering. Qualifying times vary by gender and age, but they all have one thing in common: you have to be fast to achieve them. Very fast. And since I’m not, this method was not an option for me.SHF - Boston - 04.20.15

The second way is to run for charity. Race organizers grant a certain number of entries to non-profit organizations which in turn give the spots to individuals who commit to raising funds for them. But getting on a charity team is also difficult, as there are many times more applicants than there are bibs.

My personal journey started long before the race… in fact a couple decades before, depending on how you look at it. Unfortunately, it’s a sad one.

In 2005, the world lost an amazing young man named David Goldstein to a 14-year battle with cancer. Although I never met David, I’ve heard a great deal about him from his brother Gregg, who is my co-worker, and their father Mark. During his illness, David received care from Massachusetts General Hospital, where the family lived at the time. David’s doctor, it turns out, is a marathon runner and heads up the Boston Marathon fund-raising team for MGH Pediatric Oncology.

To make the long story shorter, Mark and Gregg Goldstein reached out to Dr. Weinstein who has never forgotten David and the family, and asked if I could run in memory of David on the tenth anniversary of his passing. The doctor agreed and I was in.

My fund-raising commitment was $5,000, or MGH would charge my credit card for the difference. It was very humbling to see family and friends of both myself and the Goldsteins, plus many members of the running club I’m in come through with a huge $9,686 in donations. These ranged from $10 to $501 — from college students who I know couldn’t afford it to corporations which voluntarily reduced their profits to help.

A marathon training cycle lasts 16 weeks. I took it seriously and was very consistent in my workouts despite a heavy travel schedule, logging over 550 miles including a 22-miler in Boston on the actual marathon route. My typical week consisted of five to eight easy miles on Monday, a high intensity track workout Tuesday, hill repeats on Thursday, and a long run – anywhere between 14 and 22 miles – on Saturday.

And here I must thank my coach Terri Swanson for advice, motivation, and creating the training plan, plus members of the Runner’s Depot Training Team in Fort Lauderdale for their encouragement, support, and companionship on those early mornings. I made it to the starting line healthy and confident, which is all a coach and running buddies can do.

Boston is an amazing experience. Although I’d run seven previous marathons, nothing has the larger than life feeling of this one. Beginning with Logan Airport, the city was all about the race. There were signs of welcome and congratulations everywhere, volunteers all around providing information, companies handing out samples of various products, etc. And there were runners … kindred spirits in the hotels, malls, restaurants, and on the streets.

Major marathons have what’s known as an Expo in the couple days prior. Think of a trade convention full of products for runners. Boston’s was enormous, with every manufacturer represented. That’s where I picked up my bib and official shirt. It’s also where I spent a good deal of money on several pieces of apparel sporting the marathon logo. This included the famous Boston Marathon jacket – the most coveted piece of apparel in the running community. I did not, however, wear any of these before I finished the race, due to equal doses of superstition and respect I guess.

My travel agent, Linda, who doubles as my wife, had chosen a hotel right in the middle of things, so we were able to look out the window and see related festivities. That, resting, and walking around like tourists took up the time we were in the city prior to marathon day. Linda ran the 5K race which took place on Saturday morning. I was pleased for her as she crossed the finish line in a good time. Ironically it was her motivation that got me to sign up for my first 5K not that many years ago, when I could barely make it a quarter mile without stopping.

Mass General Hospital had a pasta dinner Sunday night. It was quite an emotional time and I shed tears as I heard stories of the brave young people currently or previously enduring life with cancer, with various outcomes from celebratory to fatal. Mark and Gregg Goldstein came all the way from Florida to be there and to cheer me on in the race. That was very special.

Monday, April 20 … race day. (The Boston Marathon always takes place on Patriot’s Day, a holiday in Massachusetts.) One thing nobody could control was the weather. It was 45 degrees, windy, and raining. Later I was told that the “feels like” temperature was 32.

All marathons are 26.2 miles, and Boston is what’s called a “point to point” course, meaning that you start one place and finish somewhere else. (As opposed to a loop or out and back course, where the start and finish lines are at the same place.) I got up early and walked half a mile to Boston Common, where the busses are loaded that take runners to the starting line in Hopkinton. Not surprisingly, there were more than enough pleasant volunteers and everything was extremely well organized.

The bus ride to the start area seemed incredibly long. I couldn’t help feeling a little concerned about having to go all the way back under my own power. Race day jitters. Eventually we arrived at Hopkinton.

The next order of business was to await my start time. Races with so many participants start in waves. The faster runners take off first so they won’t be held up by slower folk. I was assigned one of the latter waves, so I’d be hanging out awhile.

Another one of the perks of being on the MGH team was that they had arranged a special place for all of us to wait. Rather than sitting on the wet ground (the experienced bring a garbage bag or piece of cardboard) among the hordes at Athlete’s Village (a Middle School athletic field), I walked a hundred yards down the block to a special private enclosed tent. It had heaters, food, sport drink, and the ultimate pre-race luxury, porta-potties with no lines. Hallelujah.

When my wave was called, close to 100 MGH runners walked to the actual start line. Soon I heard the announcer tell us that we could begin our 26.2 mile trek. Due to the cold, I had employed the common practice of wearing sweat pants, hat, gloves, and extra outer t-shirts purchased at thrift stores for the specific purpose of being discarded once the race starts and the runner begins warming up. I tossed everything except the hat and gloves into one of the many bins put out by Salvation Army for just that reason, and off I went.

My previous PR (Personal Record) was 4:44:38, which is a 10:51 per mile pace. I told myself that if I could get close to that I’d be thrilled, and with anything under five hours I’d go home happy.

The Boston Marathon course is notorious for its hills. It’s the uphills that get a bad rep, but the downhills provide physical and mental challenges of their own.

Miles one to four are mostly downhill. For that reason, many Boston runners start out too fast. It feels great and easy to run quicker than goal pace. You pay for it later, however, via sore quadriceps and loss of endurance. I was well aware of this danger, having talked to many veterans of this course, so I maintained a moderate effort rather than going for it. Still, my mile times (splits) were in the 10:18 range. A bit too fast, but not alarming. Besides, who knows? Maybe I’d have a great race. (I most always think that in the early miles.)

From mile four to nearly 17, the course is basically straight with just enough rolling terrain to make it interesting. I couldn’t believe how good I felt. Without hardly ever looking at my GPS watch between miles, my splits were extremely consistent – 10:16, 10:20, 10:18. Those were the glory miles, when I was in a zone and cruising.

The crowd support seemed incredible. Screaming people lined the entire course despite the cold, wind, and rain. Runners who’ve done Boston before tell me that the weather did affect the number of cheerers, but it was still amazing to me. As a Mass General Hospital charity runner, I was wearing a shirt supplied by them, with their logo on the front. People yelled all along the way “Go Mass General”, “Go MGH”, etc. The encouragement was helpful. It was also very emotional, and I cried a bit as I ran, my mind moving toward David Goldstein, in whose memory I was running.

Somewhere around mile 12 or 13 were the famous Wellesley College girls. It’s a tradition dating back 100 years or so that these students kiss runners as they come by. Dozens of co-eds were holding signs that said “Kiss Me I’m _____.” fill in the blank … “A Senior”, “An Engineering Major”, “Asian”, “From St. Louis”, or whatever. Although I saw many men indulging, I abstained.

Also around this time I realized that my stocking cap and gloves were drenched in ice water and doing me more harm than good. (It was still raining.) I tossed them to the side of the road, which is a very acceptable practice. Someone would pick them up and donate them to charity.

At about mile 16.5 the painful climbing begins. Boston is known for a series of four hills starting at the Newton fire station, and ending with the famous Heartbreak Hill that crests at mile 21. The hills aren’t really that steep or long, but they come at a point in the race where you’re definitely fatigued. Fortunately I was able to get through them, though I did slow a good bit.

I had been told that Massachusetts General Hospital had a specific area of cheering spectators at mile 20. They told me to look for the MGH t-shirts, the same color blue as the singlet I was wearing. I approached, but not a blue t-shirt in sight. Fortunately I saw Gregg and Mark Goldstein, as well as my wife Linda. They had on the blue t-shirts alright, but under heavy coats. It felt far colder to them, standing stationery, than to me running for hours. When I stopped to give quick hugs and hellos I felt my calf muscles tighten. Oh no! Was I about to cramp? I had to keep moving, so the visit lasted only a second.

Mile 21 – the top of Heartbreak Hill. Running friends told me that the course was almost all downhill from here. They lied. Looking ahead I kept seeing another incline – and another incline – and then another stinking, rotten incline. These might have been just highway overpasses or slight hills, but I was ready to be done with increasing elevations.

Yeah, 21 to the end was tough. The headwind, which had been with me the whole way, really picked up during those miles as well. Supposedly it reached about 22 miles per hour. I switched my GPS running watch to what I call the Zombie Screen. That’s the one that shows only distance. I no longer cared about current pace, average pace, heart rate, or anything else. At that point, all I wanted was to finish.

Very notable for the last five miles were the crowds. Wow. The cheers were so loud that it nearly hurt my ears. Any thought I might have had of walking, even for a few feet, went away quickly, lest the mob turn on me.

Top of mind also were those 130 donors who gave generously to my fund raiser. I had to finish for their sake as well.

The running community has a phrase that’s kind of an inside joke. It goes “Right on Hereford, left on Boylston.” That describes the final two turns of the Boston Marathon route, covering the last three quarters of a mile or so. Finally, I was there, making the right on Hereford. With unbelief I stared at another slight rise in the terrain. Give me a break!

Left on Boylston. Only about a quarter mile to go. Everything from my waist down was screaming.

Finish line. 4:41:38. A new PR by exactly three minutes. And although even then I thought I should have done better, this wasn’t half bad for a mere mortal runner under the conditions. Plus I somehow botched the course tangents and wound up running an extra three tenths of a mile. (NOTE: The Ethiopian gentleman who won it did so in 2:09:17.)

Again, wonderful volunteers gave or offered me a bottle of water, a banana, other snacks (which I didn’t take, as my stomach wasn’t up to it), and a finisher’s medal that I will cherish forever.

Yes, I ran the Boston Marathon. Me. All 26.2 miles. It’s exciting to think about and an accomplishment of which I’m pleased. But I’ll never lose sight of why I was there … because many young people and families – one in particular – endure and endured the horror of a terrible disease. The Goldsteins have expressed appreciation to me many times for honoring David in this way, though I don’t deserve it.

I’m glad I had the experience, but even more glad that I helped in a small way, financial and otherwise, to support some very special people. That made this race much more meaningful.


Finding The Time

Disclaimer: Running is not for everyone. This article is not meant to imply otherwise. The principles here go for any hobby or pursuit, so no offense meant to non-runners, and – I hope – none taken. Deal?

As I began a run one night, I waved to two of my neighbors having friendly discussion in one of their front lawns. Five miles and a little less than an hour later, I returned. The neighbors were still there so I walked over to say “Hi.”

“You must really enjoy running,” one of them said. “Yes,” I replied, “It’s great in so many ways.” And then he asked “How do you find the time?”

At this point a pause to reflect is in order. I had just logged five miles while this gentleman stood near the sidewalk and talked, then wondered how I found time to run. Do you catch the irony?

“How do you find the time?” is a question all runners hear on a regular basis. I’ve gotten it from people who follow three or four night-time dramas, from a man who told me he sits on his patio and smokes a cigar every evening, from guys who never miss a televised game of the hometown sports teams, etc.

Runners know that it’s not about finding the time. That’s just as difficult for us as for anyone. It’s about how we use the time we have. I’ve left the party way before I wanted to on many occasions because I had to get up at 4:30am the next day. I’ve been sorely out of the loop re: who’s trending on American Idol and the latest viral video. I’ve taken an extra long lunch break to cross train at the gym and had to catch up on e-mail after dinner. It’s part of the lifestyle.

My running buddies are CEOs, single moms, surgeons, blue collar workers, attorneys, college students, and more. And there we all are several times a week, at the track or the park or the streets. A CPA friend trained for a marathon during tax season. That’s dedication.

Once in awhile even the most hardcore have to skip a workout. When the child is sick, the friend is in need, the work deadlines loom, or the laundry pile gets too high, we might have to adjust. But we get back to it just as soon as possible, realizing that “I don’t have time” is a slippery slope.

Time alone isn’t the issue. Making running, or anything considered important, a priority and sacrificing to accomplish it is. Of course the benefits outweigh whatever we have to give up, so on the grander scale there’s joy rather than just a burden.

Everyone gets the same number of hours each week. I have no quarrel at all with people who use them differently than I use mine. But at least now you know how runners find the time. We find it because it’s there.


Runner’s Hi

Running is a social sport, believe it or not. This plays out on many levels.

It starts with warm greetings as runners pass each other on the roads. These range from an enthusiastic “Good morning! Isn’t it beautiful today?” in the early miles to a withered smile and a grunt as fatigue sets in. All are equally sincere and understood.

At most every organized race, participants are given a commemorative t-shirt. Wearing one anywhere in public almost always prompts a conversation. “I see you ran the Bay To Breakers Marathon in 2012,” some random stranger in a restaurant will say. “I did it last year. It’s an amazing course.” And the spirited dialogue begins.

Several kinds of more subtle communication also exist. Certain jackets, shoes, bracelets (like the popular Road ID), and other forms of runners’ secret handshakes abound. I once had a bonding experience with a woman while we were waiting in line to use the lavatory on an airplane. It started when I saw her 140.6 pendant, indicating that she had completed an Ironman Triathlon. We do spot each other from across the room.

Perhaps the pinnacle of social engagement is the running club. Most cities have them, usually sponsored by a local running store. They are inexpensive to join and have group runs throughout the week accommodating all levels from beginners to speed demons. Even if you take part only now and then, they’re well worth it and add a dimension of community.

My running friends are a significant part of my life. A few of us have formed deep relationships. Rubbing shoulders for ten to 20 miles on a Saturday morning will do that. We talk about everything as we run. Parenting rebellious kids, workplace challenges, marriages (present and past), even politics, religion, and sex. Nothing is off limits when you’re sweating and trying to divert your mind from the difficulty of the effort. And where else could a guy my age hang out with so many lean females!

So to anyone looking for a great group of peeps, my advice is simple. Head out to the nearest retailer of running shoes. Get the pair that suits you, ask about a running club, and by all means hit the streets. Soon you’ll experience the many variations of the runner’s “Hi.”

(P.S. – Of course running alone brings its own benefits as well. Those are explored in my article “On The Road To Peace.”)


“Two Easy” Is Not Too Easy

Runners talk about various types of workouts. One of them is the “easy” run. You’ll hear them say things like “Let’s do five easy”, meaning five miles at a moderate, conversational pace.

This takes me back to the day I decided to become a runner. I laced up my brand new running shoes (Brooks Addiction), which I purchased early that week at a real running store (Runner’s Depot). To further prove that this act was premeditated, I had clocked the distance of the loop around my neighborhood and found it to be right at two miles. That would be my route.

Out the door I went and took off. But then reality set in. In less than a quarter of a mile I was out of breath and had to walk.

For some reason I tried again a couple days later, and many more times beyond that. Finally, after several weeks, I completed the two mile loop 100% on the run.

Although my workouts are a bit longer today, I’m totally convinced that two miles is a very respectable goal for anyone considering this wonderful sport. It will burn a couple hundred calories, relieve stress, and for most it will fulfill the medical field’s suggestion of elevating one’s heart rate for 20 minutes. What’s more, it doesn’t require a huge time commitment, making it doable within most any schedule.

So if two miles of running is all your wildest dreams can imagine, be encouraged. Non-runners will bow before you in awe. They’ll look in disbelief and say “Really? You ran two whole miles before work this morning? Without stopping?” And runners of all levels will applaud you heartily, because we all remember our first time out, and realize that “two easy” is not too easy.


Morning Madness

Recently I had what could be titled “One Of Those Mornings, the runner version.” Here are the highlights …

– Got to bed later than I wanted the night before, so set the alarm for 5:00am instead of 4:30.

– Spilled sport drink powder all over the kitchen counter.

– Shoe malfunction. Insole slid off center somehow, causing a blister situation waiting to happen. Spent too long trying to fix it.

– Finally got out the door. Garmin simply would not find satellites. Eventually turned the GPS off and on again. When in doubt, reboot. That did it.

– Forgot to put the special surgical tape over my nipples. (Yes, we can talk about such things on this blog. It’s a runner thing.) My body reminded me (ouch) so I circled back home for a pit stop.

– AND … I had a really stupid song stuck between my ears. I won’t tell you what it was lest I pass the plague along.

For a few seconds the voice in my head pondered whether all this was some cosmic message telling me to cut the run short, rather than doing the entire 12 miles I had planned. I quickly identified where that voice was coming from and told it to sniff my sweaty shorts. Then, just to show it who’s boss, I did 14 instead.

Actually, it was a great way to start the day.