October 9, 2017

October 9, 2017

“… and those last 6.2 miles, you run those with your heart.”

Team RMHC runners—CONGRATULATIONS(!) on completing the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

For those of you for whom this was your ‘first ever’ marathon, your training and participation yesterday have earned you the right to be called an ‘endurance athlete.’

For the rest of your life, you are a “marathoner”… and that will forever be a part of how you (and others) identify and define what you are capable of achieving.

If you’re a marathon ‘veteran,’ but this was the first time you’ve “run Chicago”—I hope you enjoyed the way the city presented itself, and the way you were supported by the estimated 1,700,000 spectators who were shouting their encouragement to you on the course.

And for those of you who have run the Chicago Marathon before, but not with us—I hope that being a part of Team RMHC helped make this your ‘best ever’ Chicago Marathon experience.

If you have friends who are encouraged to run the Chicago Marathon because of what you’ve shared with them about your training and Marathon Weekend experience, we hope you will encourage them to run with Team RMHC next year. (Thank you!)

My only “advice” at this point is to not stop running.

Okay. You can stop for a couple of days…

… but what I mean is that after the training you’ve done for the past 5 months, there’s a good chance you’re in the best shape you’ve been in for ‘quite some time.’

Why stop now?

There are 5K, 8K, 10K or half marathon events EVERYWHERE(!) that can help you maintain the “fitness” lifestyle you have committed to while training to run the Chicago Marathon. (And until you begin training with us again next year… hint.)

Stay out there!

Over the next several months in particular there are ‘Trick or Treat/Pumpkins in the Park’ fun runs; Hot Chocolate events; Turkey Trots; and Rudolph Rambles. And to begin 2018, you can sign-up for a New Year’s Day run… most of which (mercifully) start at around 11:00 AM.

(Okay. Lecture over.)


As much as this E-mail is about congratulating you, it is (even more) about THANKING you… for the effort you’ve made to raise more than $1,200,000 to support Ronald McDonald House Charities; and for the important difference your running will help make possible in the lives of the children and families we serve.

On behalf of the volunteers, staff and Trustees of Ronald McDonald House Charities please accept our most sincere gratitude for the months of training and fundraising you have done to support RMHC.

And now, if you will permit me… a little “business” (this is after all a HUGE and important fundraising event for us).

Please know that a good portion of our total fundraising takes place in the next 7-10 days.

As you return home (or return to work) and share your marathon experience with friends, family and colleagues… what ALWAYS happens is there will be people who slap their forehead and say, “Oh, shoot! I was going to support you!”

Well, good news. THERE’S STILL TIME!

The Team RMHC fundraising site (and your individual fundraising page) will remain open until the end of October!

Please (please), today or early this week (if you have not already done so)… write everyone who you originally E-mailed asking for support, and tell them about your marathon experience.

THANK those who did support you; and REMIND those who haven’t that their support is STILL important to the children and families served by Ronald McDonald House Charities, and that there is still time to support you and to support RMHC.

(Even if you’ve already met your goal, please continue your fundraising efforts by E-mailing everyone on your list—it’s OKAY to be an “over achiever.” What the heck—we’re ‘marathoners’… that’s what we do!)

Thank you, Team RMHC… for, for, for everything!

You’re THE BEST!





Marathon Training Tip #19: “THE HAY IS IN THE BARN!”


Marathon Week is finally here!  Upon reflection, it’s hard to believe that the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon is less than one week away.  19 weeks ago we embarked on a journey which culminates this Sunday morning in Grant Park.

Through your dedication, perseverance and effort, that goal which seemed Impossible on Memorial Day morphed into the Improbable by Labor Day and now, reaching the goal successfully is Inevitable!

Less than 1% of the general population has completed a marathon.  Be proud of your accomplishments.  This week show your Marathon PRIDE:

P  lan  –  have  a plan for the race, and be sure to follow it.

R  est  –  get plenty of rest every night this week.

I            – I  know my running type–generally runners fall into three types (even split runners, negative split runners, or positive split runners) — know the type you are and plan your race strategy accordingly.

D  rink   –   stay hydrated throughout the week, do not overdrink on Friday and Saturday. Your urine should be the color of pale lemonade.

E  at  –    eat the right amount of protein and carbohydrates.

Nutrition breakdown:

60 – 65% (up to 70% towards the end of this week) Carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grain bread, pasta and cereals);

10 – 15% protein (lean red meats, poultry and legumes);

25 – 30% fats (staying away from trans fatty oils and fried foods).

Structure your time at the Expo – allowing enough time to tour, but not too much time on your feet.

Friday or Saturday – set out all the clothes you will wear on race day.  Start with the clothes you will wear in the race.  These should be clothes you have already worn on a long run.  Go through a checklist.  Start at the bottom and move up:  shoes, socks, shorts, shirt, running bra (women); band-aids; Body Glide; sunscreen; sunglasses and headwear (hat or visor).  Dress as if the temperature will be 15 – 20 degrees warmer than the air temperature.  While you may be cold in the starting corral, you will warm up quickly in the first mile or two.  If the weather is predicted to be chilly, consider long pants or long sleeve shirt, gloves and a headband.  Bring a large empty garbage bag to wear over your torso while in the starting corral, or throwaway clothes (don’t expect to see them again) to wear until the race starts.  Pin your bib number to the front of your shirt.

On Marathon Day – allow extra time to arrive at the starting area.  It is better to be early than to panic over being late.  Line up in the appropriate corral, based on where you have been assigned with your bib number.

Nothing New On Race Day!

If you are running with a pace group, know the pacer’s philosophy on pace and fluid stops.  If the pacer’s way of running does not suit your plan or style, consider how to adjust so you meet the pace group after mile 20.

Don’t panic if you are off pace at the first few mile markers.  The most common mistake many marathoners make is running too fast in the early miles.  It is better to be in control and a little behind pace during the first 5 miles than to run too fast.  Even if you are 2 minutes slower than your pace at mile 1, you have 25 MILES to make up 120 seconds (about 5 seconds per mile).  Remember the race is timed by a chip, meaning your race time starts when YOU cross the starting line.  And the six-and-a-half-hour time limit for the Marathon begins when the last person crosses the starting line.

Know when you will consume water, Gatorade and nutrition.  If consuming gel packs or food, consume with water (not a sports drink) at planned intervals according to how you trained.  Recommended consumption is 4 – 6 ounces of fluid every 15 – 20 minutes of the race, more if the weather is hot and humid or if you are a heavy ‘sweater’.

If running with a group or with a few friends, discuss where you will take fluids and where you will regroup after fluid stations.  (There are multiple tables at each fluid station.  Each fluid station is set up the same way with Gatorade at the first tables and water at the back tables.  Don’t stop at the first table (for either Gatorade or water).  It is less crowded towards the back of the tables.  Regroup about 100 yards after the last table at a fluid station – and know whether you will regroup on the right side or the left side of the road.)

Run tangents ‘on the corners’ whenever possible.  Remember your high school geometry – the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Run the race backwards.  Think of how you want to finish the race – a big smile on your face as you crest “Mt. Roosevelt” and turn onto Columbus with the finish line in sight!  Now plan the race backwards from the time you cross the finish line to the time you read this tip.  Prepare for certain landmarks on the course, visualize how you will feel at mile 25, mile 20, mile 15, mile 10, mile 5 and at the start of the race.

Build a positive bubble around yourself.

Repeat to yourself – “I am prepared!  I will have a great experience!  Good form will carry me through!”  Let the words and the thoughts sink in, listen to the words, believe the words, feel the words.

Success is when opportunity meets preparation.  The preparation has been building over the last 19 weeks—“the hay is in the barn!”; the opportunity is Sunday morning – success is the outcome!

Run (or Run-Walk) well.

And if all else fails, repeat:  “Good form will carry me through”.

Coach Brendan

“Good form will carry you through”®


‘Top 10’ Final Thoughts For Marathon Week

Oh. My. Gosh.

It’s Marathon Week!

In just 6 days, you’ll be standing at the ‘START’ of the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

And just hours later, you’ll be crossing the ‘FINISH’—with arms raised, and the biggest EVER smile on your face.

And in your heart.

At this point, the marathon is inside of you–or as Coach Brendan likes to say, “The hay is in the barn!”

Your training is complete… and your job this week is simply to focus on the absolute thrill of running in front of 1,700,000 cheering spectators, and having an amazing personal and Team RMHC experience on Marathon Day.

To that end, I’ve been blessed to have finished six marathons; and if you’ve got the patience, I’d like to share a bit of what I’ve learned—lessons that I’ve found helpful, and that will help you have a more successful run on Marathon Day.

I’ll call this my ‘Top 10’ Final Thoughts for Marathon Week 2017

  1. NERVOUS IS NORMAL. Feeling nervous and ‘anxious’ is totally to be expected. It means you’re respecting the challenge ahead. As you should.  26.2 miles is a serious distance, and running a marathon is a “big deal” event. But PLEASE know (as I’m certain you do), that the commitment and effort you’ve made to get yourself to the ‘START’ will get you to the ‘FINISH.’ (You KNOW that.)
  1. RUN YOUR OWN RACE. If you’re standing at the ‘START’ on Marathon Day with a friend or ‘running buddy’—you can agree “upfront” that you’ll TRY to stay together… but it’s likely that (at some point) one of you may be trying too hard to ‘keep up’ with the other; or one of you may become frustrated that you have to slow down to keep your friend company. If you truly (truly) agree to stay together for the entire 26.2 miles, then ‘okay’—that’s the deal… but if you’re there to run the best you can, then agree at the ‘START’ that it’s okay for one of you to run ahead or run behind. This is YOUR marathon. Your friend (whether running ahead of you or behind you) will NOT be by themselves–there are 45,000 other runners and 1,700,000 spectators to keep them from feeling alone.
  2. RUN THE TANGENTS. There’s lots of ninety-degree turns on the course… this is one place where it is entirely permitted (and totally encouraged) to “cut corners.” Running each corner on a straight line (tangent to that corner) is how the course is laid out and measured. Running “in the middle of the pack” or on the ‘outside’ of the corners only adds mileage to the marathon distance–and who wants to run 26.4 miles?
  1. RUN THE CROWNS. On all the ‘straightaway’ segments of the course, stay in the very center of the road as much as possible. Streets ‘peak’ (crown) at their center, and taper to each curb for water run-off. Running on the ‘tapered’ part of the street causes your foot and ankle to run on an angle, and your ‘core’ to become (slightly) less centered—which is not much of a problem if you’re running 3 or 4 miles… but over the course of 26.2 mile, it DOES make a difference.
  1. SLEEP. Get as much rest and sleep as you can on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. It never fails–on Saturday night I am ALWAYS staring at the alarm clock at midnight, 1:00 AM and 2:30 AM… asking myself, “How am I ever going to run 26.2 miles in just 5 hours from now?” (And yet you will run 26.2 miles… but sure helps to ‘bank’ a few hours of extra sleep during the week).
  1. FOOD AND WATER. As much as you hear that it’s important to have a good ‘carbo load’ the night before the marathon–it’s even better to have a ‘carbo build‘ over the several days leading up to the marathon… on Thursday, Friday and Saturday—giving your body time to process and absorb those carbs, and turn them into glycogen ‘stores.’ Also throughout the week, keep hydrated—drinking plenty of water every day.
  1. COME TO MARATHON DAY WITH A ‘PLAN B. “You just can’t control what you can’t control.” That may include the weather, which may not be ‘perfect’ for running; a muscle soreness that was SUPPOSED to go away by now; or a “funny tummy” marathon morning. But none of these need spoil your experience on October 8. Anticipate that any of these MAY occur, and have a ‘PLAN B’ for your race. Too many people train for 20 weeks and come to the marathon DETERMINED to run “the plan they planned”… and often hurt themselves trying, or find that they’ve run out of “everything” by mile 18 or 20. DEFINITELY come to the Marathon with a race plan; but also come with a ‘PLAN B.’
  1. “DON’T TAKE THE MEDAL!” Every runner is handed a ‘finisher’s medal’ when they cross the finish line. DON’T TAKE IT! Instead, bend at the waist and have them place it around your neck. For ‘first-time’ marathoners, this will be one of those “moments” you will remember for the rest of your life. (FYI—the volunteers are there to hand-out the medals as quickly as possible, but when you don’t take it and they see you bend from the waist, they “get it.”)
  1. PACE YOURSELF. Probably the single biggest mistake marathon runners make is starting out too quickly. Veteran runners. “First-timers.” It doesn’t matter… the tendency is to run too fast, too soon. I always use the marker at ‘Mile 3’ as a benchmark… if my plan is to run the marathon at an 11:00 pace, then I should be at ‘Mile 3’ in 33 minutes—and I always add 90 seconds, because the first mile or two is crazy-crowded… so I should be at ‘Mile 3’ as my watch reaches 34:30. If I get there in 32 or 33 minutes (or anything less than 34:30), I’m running w-a-y too fast and need to SLOW DOWN. Now!
  1. AND MY #1 “FINAL THOUGHT” (and something that has become my personal ‘marathon race plan’): “Run the first 10 miles with your head (that is—run smart; run your race, at your pace); run the next 10 miles with your legs (these are the ‘tough 10’ miles that you need to put your whole body into running); and those last 6.2 miles… you run those with your heart.”

Those last 6.2 miles ARE the marathon–the miles you trained 5 MONTHS to run.

Team RMHC runners, THANK YOU for all that you’ve done to train and run and fundraise to support Ronald McDonald House Charities.

If you’re from out-of-town, ‘safe travels’ to Chicago.

I look forward to seeing each of you Marathon Weekend.

Run Strong. Finish proud.





Marathon Training Tip #18 – Turning the Impossible into “I’m Possible”

Turning the Impossible into “I’m Possible” – Planning your race day experience for optimum results

As we enter our second week of taper, we’ll likely find ourselves having more time on our hands– and (consequently) more time for anxiety to fill the void left by less training… an anxiety which often leads runners to doubt their training (“Have I done enough???”); and shorter runs seem counterintuitive for race day preparation (“I should be running more, not less, as race day approaches!!!”).

This is a good time to review ALL that we have achieved over the last 5 months; and to plan ahead for the next two weeks, from now until we cross the Finish Line!  Visualize what awaits us.  Prepare yourself for a successful race day experience, knowing that we are getting stronger physically and mentally in preparation for Marathon Day.

Review your training log.  Look how far you’ve come!  If you have kept notes in your training log, look back to see the improvement in performance, increases in the distance covered in long runs and your changed perception of your abilities as a result of your training efforts.  If you have not kept a training log, review the training schedule and realize how much training you have done to reach this point.  Think back to the early part of training when a 6 or 7 mile long run seemed like a ‘long run’ and this past weekend, most said ‘It’s ONLY 12 miles’.  Note the paradigm shift.

Our perspectives HAVE changed, so has our fitness level.  In June, at the start of training, 26.2 miles seemed like a long way to go, it may even have seemed impossible to run that far at all, or, for experienced marathoners, impossible to run that distance faster than before.  But now, as we have crossed the 20-mile threshold, the marathon distance seems less daunting and more within our reach.

Whether running our first marathon or our 20th, training has prepared us for the distance and we can prepare mentally as well as physically these last two weeks.  During the taper phase, we take the next step, realizing that with all of our training, all the dedication, all the preparation: what seemed Impossible has become Improbable and what seemed Improbable will become the Inevitable!  Success is ahead.

Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance – Use the extra time in the taper phase to create a script of how you desire these next two weeks unfold.  Prepare a script of all that could possibly go RIGHT for you in accordance with your desires.  After writing the script, put it away for a few days.  Then retrieve it and review it – item by item.  Ask yourself what you will do if the script does not evolve as written.  This is a positive exercise, for we will not panic or have our positive energy disrupted if we have a ‘back-up’ plan on how to adjust to each circumstance.  Transportation, weather, crowds – all of these circumstances can be overcome when we think of our options in advance of race day.  Planning ahead and being flexible will result in optimum performance on Marathon Day.

Proper planning also entails a race day strategy.  Think back on your racing and running career.  What type of runner are you?  Generally, we fall into one of three categories: (i) even split runner–whose pace per mile is consistent throughout the race or training run; (ii) negative split runner–who runs the second half faster than the first half of the race; or (iii) the positive split runner–who will run fast from the start and tries hanging on in the later miles of the race.

When have you had the best results?  Use this knowledge to plan strategy on Marathon Day.  Plan your pace and what time you should reach Mile 5, Mile 10, Mile 15, Mile 20 and the finish!

Visualize your success on race day!


Coach Brendan

“Good form will carry you through”®

Enough Said

Well, the last long “long-run” is in the books… and after 18 weeks of training you are ready to run and successfully complete the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

Your BODY knows that.

And if you’re honest with yourself, your HEART knows that as well.

But at this point in the journey, your HEAD may not yet have caught up—so for the next two weeks, it’s a ‘head game’… and to that point permit me to paraphrase a famous quote from baseball legend (and ‘every man’ philosopher) Yogi Berra: “Running a marathon is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”

And on October 8th, that is EXACTLY the truth.

If a marathon runner’s ‘Rule #1’ is “Listen to your body”… then it’s now time for my ‘Rule #2’: “Listen to your heart.

You are ready.

One year, as I was standing at the “START” of the Chicago Marathon, I overheard a conversation between a ‘first time’ marathoner and a marathon ‘veteran.’

The ‘first timer’ was doubting himself, saying how nervous he was and how worried he was that he wouldn’t be able to finish the 26.2 miles.

The veteran paused for a moment and simply asked, “Did you do the work?”

The first-timer said, “I’ve trained for more than 4 months, if that’s what you mean.”

To which the veteran replied, “Then what are you worried about? Get out there and have the time of your life…

(Enough said.)

And that sentiment is exactly my wish for each of you as well—on October 8th, get out there and have the time of your life!

Train safe. Run strong.

Finish proud.







TAPER TIME—The Calm Before The Excitement of Marathon Day

For most of us, this past weekend was the longest long-run of the training season.  We had a tough day for our long run here in Chicago with warm weather and some humidity; but there were smiles aplenty when the run was finished.  And now with just three weeks to go we are in the final phase of training for the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon – the “Taper Period”.

This training phase confuses many runners, especially first time marathon runners.  I am often asked:

“Why is our longest long-run less than the marathon distance, and why do we run our 20-miler so far in advance of race day?  Won’t my training suffer by running less over the three weeks before race day?  Shouldn’t I be running more miles these last few weeks?”

First, we run less than marathon distance as the longest training run to reduce the risk of injury.  Marathon training, like training for most endurance events – is a risk/benefit analysis.  The risk of running too many training miles (based, in part, on the experience, base level and current condition of the individual runner) must be weighed against how much training will maximize performance on race day.  And the stress on the body is cumulative throughout the season.

Some of us did not run 20-miles, because the long run was limited to 4:00 hours of time on our feet whether we reached 20 miles, or 18 miles or 16 miles.

Studies have shown that running long-run distances greater than 20 miles in training of about 4:00 carries a higher risk of injury than the physical benefits resulting from longer training runs.  This is true for experienced marathoners as well as first time marathoners.  This is why only experienced and well-trained runners should run multiple long runs of 20 miles or longer or long runs covering more than 4:00 running time.  Time on our feet is the best preparation for marathon day.  Once we have a long run in the range of 3 hours or longer, we are better able to handle race day, and we should not run longer that 4:00, regardless of our predicted marathon finish time.

Second, we run the longest run of training three weeks before race day to allow our bodies to recover and get stronger for race day.  Physiologically, our bodies need one easy day of recovery for each mile of a hard workout.  For a 20 mile run (which is a ‘hard workout’ due to total mileage – regardless of pace – and moreso in hot and humid conditions), this is approximately 20 days, or three weeks.  During this time, we do not stop running or training, but shorter runs allow our bodies to adapt and recover from the cumulative stress and physical ‘wear and tear’ on our bodies resulting from several months of training.

Third, our training does not suffer over the taper period.  Our body’s adaptation from training requires about two to three weeks to fully benefit from training.  The maximum benefit from this weekend’s long run is realized on or close to race day.  A reduction in mileage at this point of training improves performance, while additional miles tend to hurt performance on marathon day.

Over these last few weeks the shorter runs brings life back to our legs as we prepare for the journey on Marathon Day.  The ‘Taper Phase’ of training is the time to fine-tune our training, and many runs are now run at our marathon pace.  Remember – for many first time marathoners, your long run training pace IS your marathon pace.  Practice running at a comfortable pace for race day.

This is also the time to reflect upon training and re-establish goals for race day.  Visualize a successful race, from the time you leave home to the time you cross the finish line and all the way back home.  Prepare for the unexpected – weather, crowds, traffic, slow start – and have a ‘PLAN B’ in advance of how to turn each of these potentially negative events into a positive situation.

Coach Brendan

“Good form will carry you through”®

And… Taper

To those of you who just ran your “first ever” 20-miler, CONGRATULATIONS!

And to those of you who just ran your 2nd, 3rd or “10th ever” 20-miler,


At this point, you can truthfully say that you’re no longer training to run the marathon. You can now say you are running the marathon.

Right now, at this very moment… the marathon is inside of you.

And on October 8 you can stand at the ‘START’ with the certainty that you ARE prepared to run 26.2 miles.

(BIG smile.)

If this was a ‘tough 20’ for you (and why shouldn’t you feel that way… YOU JUST RAN 20 MILES!) and you’re wondering “how in the heck am I ever going to run 26.2”—don’t EVER underestimate your training or the inspiring and empowering support you’ll receive from running in front of 1,800,000 spectators—every one of whom is there to applaud you, to shout-out their encouragement to you and to recognize your achievement…

… that you are a marathoner.


And if you need even more support on Marathon Day, just look around you at

the more than 900 other Team RMHC runners in their Team RMHC shirts and singlets … all of whom will NOT let you fail—just as you will not let THEM fail.

(Deep breath.)

At the very beginning of this training journey I said, “The hardest part of running the marathon is NOT running the marathon. The hardest part of running the marathon is TRAINING to run the marathon.”

And now, the hardest part of that training is completed.

(Okay. So it’s not quite a “Mission Accomplished” moment—but you CAN unroll the banner and begin to check the spelling!)

Now, it’s “taper time”—time to let your bodies recover from the 300 or 400 (plus?) miles you have likely run over the course of the training season.

Your ‘mantra’ at this point—from today until Marathon Day—should be “DO. NO. HARM.”

If you’ve missed a couple (or more) long-runs, don’t try to play “catch up” over the next 3 weeks. Those runs are gone, and it’s best to leave those missed miles behind you.

And if you feel a need to run more miles than your training schedule calls for… “step away from the edge.” (That is to say, FOLLOW YOUR TRAINING SCHEDULE!)

Finally, please accept my MOST sincere gratitude (again!), for ALL that you’re

doing to train and run and fundraise to support Ronald McDonald House Charities.

You’re THE BEST!

Train safe. Run strong.

Finish proud.