As long as I can write this post at the end of each year and conclude that I JUST KEPT RUNNING then I consider it a very successful year!
But of course, we don't just run. We look for new challenges and exciting adventures that keep our running interesting and add meaning to our lives. So without further ado, please allow me to count down my top 5 running highlights of 2013:
5. Run For Boston. After the Boston Marathon bombings, we all bonded together in the running community and went out in the streets in support of our brothers and sisters who were impacted. I was among many who donned blue and yellow "I run for...BOSTON" running shirts and hit Central Park for the first official New York Road Runners race after that tragedy, the City Parks Run for the Parks 4-Miler. The Boston Marathon bombing was the biggest story in 2013, and naturally it hit home especially in the running community. It was good to see so many people rushing to help in any way they could, and another reminder of how running brings good to society and puts you in a position in life to help others. Also, I am constantly uplifted by the stories of so many who were injured on Boylston that day and have surged back in life with a positive attitude. And just to show how much this subject rather dominated my life in 2013, consider that I left Fenway Park in the middle of the clinching game on Oct. 30 and hiked quickly over to the bombing site so that I could interview Red Sox fans and citizens on what it meant for a World Series title to help their healing process. I then rushed over to a Copley hotel lobby to type my story and FTP the videos to our Major League Baseball Advanced Media HQ back in NYC, and my story and video from that night can be found on MLB.com right here. I really thought the City of Boston should have been TIME mag's Person of the Year, but I can live with the Pope.
4. Publix Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon. You can't ask for much more than a pancake-flat run that starts on beautiful Las Olas Boulevard and runs all the way along the Atlantic Ocean surf up to Hillsboro Inlet and then returns back to the Fort Lauderdale strip for the finish. I unfortunately hit a couple of snags that day -- a freak cold front that iced us over at the start line, and a stiff wind out of the North that was in my face for half of the marathon. But all in all it was worth the signup last February, especially after having already run the Miami Marathon twice. We stay each January at our family's condo in Fort Lauderdale, so this worked out amazingly and my family and friends stood out front of the condo and gave me some much-needed support. Maybe the star of this show is the medal. They are very creative, and for this one the race organizer handed out seahorses. The medal was so heavy and with moving parts that there actually was a defect, causing some of the medals to break. But they kept their promise and shipped everyone with a broken medal the replacement, and I have to say I love having seahorses on my wall! Run this race!
3. Marathon Maniacs #6697. I was all excited to finally earn membership into the Maniacs after that Fort Lauderdale marathon, because it was my 10th overall. Alas, I found out that I'm just a dummy. I had actually qualified for entry way back in 2008, when I ran the Knickerbocker 60K ultra within 15 days of a previous marathon (New York City). So for five whole years I could have been a Maniac and had a nice low roll number there. Hey, what the hell, I finally was welcomed aboard. Maniacs have a ton of camaraderie, and you get a lot of inside information and help along the way in terms of race entries and training. I am still waiting to wear the yellow and red gear to show off my Maniac status, but I expect to have years and years to do that because I am a runner for life and now I am a Maniac for life. Who else is a Maniac?
ING New York City Marathon. I wanted to keep the "ING" in this just as a final nod and thank-you to the longtime sponsor of the greatest marathon in the world. They meant a lot to me. Now it's the TCS New York City Marathon, and shortly I will take advantage of my 9+1 qualification in 2013 -- at least nine scored New York Road Runners races and one volunteer assignment -- and enter the 2014 race. Looking back on the 2013 race, I was a little bummed that my training was substandard and I could not approach my 5:13 PR. But in the big picture, this one was for my Mom, who was diagnosed in 2013 with lymphoma and at this writing is responding beautifully to chemo. The most painful moments of that marathon journey were the times when I tried to put it in perspective and remember what my Mom is fighting. Mine was just a race. After we missed 2012 because of the cancellation caused by Superstorm Sandy, it was nice to have the NYC Marathon back, and not just back but bigger than ever -- the largest race in WORLDWIDE MARATHON HISTORY. It is still hard to accurate describe the thrill of being cheered on by 2 million spectators and enjoying 100 musical performers and diverse neighborhoods and the conga lines of children who just want you to high-five them as you go by. And the creative signs!
There were a lot of candidates for my Number One. I thought maybe I should go with the first day of 2013, when I ushered in the year by inventing my own #12RunsOfChristmas -- those late nights running in the cold by myself at Central Park just to keep my streak. Or a very typical training run, maybe in the rain, just you and the open road or trail, the kind of run that makes you know you are alive. Or possibly the Staten Island Half because I actually climbed a freakin U.S. Army rock wall at the end of it. And then I thought, Hey, the Fifth Avenue Mile because I ran a faster pace than any time in my life. And you could argue for Boston here, but honestly I would only do that if I had run it or been involved, and I am never going to be fast enough to run the Boston Marathon. Had it not been for something that happened in the last month, my discovery of a new bathroom on the West side of Central Park honestly was going to be my No. 1 in 2013, because that is just how important knowing where the relief is while you run.
So, ladies and gentlemen, a drum roll if you please...
#ASICS! The same premiere running company that has been so important in my running life -- from my first pair of shoes in 2006 to all that Expo apparel I have purchased through the years -- approached me and asked if I would like to run for ASICS. ME! I am not from Kenya and I do not train in Mammoth. I am in my 50s. ASICS asked if I would like to be part of the ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge, for which they would provide race entry, air and hotel, 12-week training plan and followup from elite Coach Andrew Kastor (Deena's husband), and ASICS gear shipped to me during the winter. This is very cutting-edge stuff for a running company, in fact for any company. (Hello, Runners World? Story.) I give big props to ASICS for reaching out to the running community in this way, for about a dozen of us, and I look forward to extolling their virtues as I continue training for my March 9 marathon that starts at Dodger Stadium and ends with a Forrest Gump pose at Santa Monica Pier...ever so fittingly for this MLB guy. I can't wait for 2014!
Please let me know how your own Year in Running went! Happy New Year, Pleasant Running and Peace on Earth. - Mark