‘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.






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.






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.




Mind Game

For most of us, this coming weekend is our ’20-miler.’

And no matter whether this is your ‘first-ever’ marathon, and the first time that you will ever be running 20 miles, or your ‘10th-ever’ marathon… this is a “BIG DEAL” run.

When you started this journey some three months ago, the “spirit’” of the marathon was somewhere inside of you—either in your head; or your heart; or in your legs.

The ’20-miler’ is when that spirit takes flight… when you (and it) finally soar—knowing that the next time you run 20 miles, you’ll be running 26.2.


20 miles?

You’ll do it.

Just like you did 14 and 16 miles. And 18.

One mile at a time.

And once you run 20, you WILL run 26.2.

Trust me. (I’m not making this stuff up.)

And yes… after you finish your ’20-miler’ there’s a good chance you’ll say to yourself, “How can I possibly run another 6.2?” (Hey. I’ve been there.)

But it’s a “mind game.”

The reason you’ll say that to yourself is because all week long, all you thought about was running 20 miles; and because on the day of your 20-miler, you started the morning knowing that “20 miles” was what you had to run.

Not 21. Not 22.

Not 26.2.

You knew you were running 20 miles–and when you reached that 20, your mind and your body said “STOP.”

(Just as it did on earlier long runs, when you ran 16 and 18 miles.)

On October 8 you will be standing at the ‘START’ mentally and physically prepared to run 26.2 miles.

Which is what you told yourself you would do on Marathon Day.

Which is what you trained yourself to do.

Which is what you will do.

Train safe. Run strong.

And (of course), finish proud.





Reason(s) Enough

For many of us, this past Saturday was an 18-miler…

… and no matter whether you ran your “best ever” 18; your “first ever” 18; or had to ‘dig deep’ and push through 18… YOU RAN 18 MILES!

To any of you who may have struggled through 18 (or through any of your long-runs) it’s time to accept the fact that none of us are really going to win the marathon (gasp!)… so believing that we need to have our “best ever” run every time we run really isn’t the point.

“The point” is… we’re training to run a marathon—competing with ourselves to be our best and to run our best on Marathon Day.

We’re training to either get ourselves fit, or keep ourselves fit.

We’re training so that on Marathon Day, we can have a SAFE (read: ‘injury free‘) run; and have a GREAT time doing it. (A “great time” experience-wise… in your heart. If you also happen to have a “great time” clock-wise, so much the better!)

And we’re training to support children and families served by Ronald McDonald House Charities who are running a whole other kind of marathon—persevering through weeks, months or even years of hospital visits, surgeries and outpatient recovery.

These are the “reasons why” we’re doing this… “reasons” I encourage every one of us to keep tucked in our hearts every mile we run.

According to most training schedules, there’s just one more “really long” long-run left.

(Okay… two, if you’re going to count the marathon. Although I don’t think of the marathon so much as a ‘long-run’ as much as it is “The Big Dance.”)

In these last few weeks of training, besides JUST focusing on Marathon Day, take the time to feel good about everything you’ve accomplished over the past 3-4 months… and to feel the joy of letting your heart ‘beam‘ with pride over the fact that you have become an endurance athlete!

(Which is what you have become.)

And enjoy the joy (the rather ‘twisted’ joy) of getting up at 5:00 AM on a Saturday morning, so you can out-run the sun.

Oh… and speaking of joy, “They say that money can’t buy happiness… but it can buy new running shoes. And that’s kind of the same thing.

(Works for me!)

And thank you, runners…

… for the commitment you’re making to your own health and fitness by training to run with Team RMHC; and for the fundraising commitment you’ve made to support the health and well-being of the children and families served by Ronald McDonald House Charities.

You’re THE BEST!

Train safe. Run strong.

Finish proud.





“With A Little Help From My Friends… ”

For many of you, this past Saturday was a ‘cut-back’ week…

… which is actually a good thing, because our bodies can probably really, really use a ‘cut back’ week; and because it gives me a week to talk ‘not so much’ about training, but to say THANK YOU for ALL that you’re doing to train and run and fundraise for Ronald McDonald House Charities.

At this point, you should definitely be seeing your fundraising support begin to “gain traction”—especially as we approach the Labor Day weekend, and the closeness of the marathon begins to ‘sink in’ with prospective donors.

(Donors… “IT’S HAPPENING!”)

And if you’ve already reached your fundraising goal (or are about to reach your goal)… please, don’t stop fundraising! In fact, raise your goal!

As you might imagine, prospective donors who have not yet made a donation to your fundraising page will be much more likely to support you (or support you more generously) if they see that you still NEED their support.

And remember, once you reach your “minimum” fundraising commitment, you are not liable for any increase in your goal—you’re simply ‘raising the bar’ for others to support you… and to support Ronald McDonald House Charities!

And please don’t be ‘shy’ about asking friends to support you—you’re training for 20 WEEKS to achieve a rather amazing personal goal, of course these people want to support you… THEY’RE YOUR FRIENDS!

Experience shows that when you write them a second (or even a third) time, closer to Marathon Day… they really are grateful for your reminding them, and they really will make a donation.

And now, a couple of thoughts about marathon training

These next three weeks include your 18 and 20-mile long runs. If you’re not already part of a training group (or you don’t have a ‘training buddy’ that you run with) PLEASE try to recruit a friend or two to meet you on your route and run a few of those long-run miles at your side–especially on the “back half” of your run.

Doing so will give you something to look forward to as you’re running ‘on your own’ during miles 6 through 10; and the company of friends will help make running miles 12 through 18 (or 20) a lot more manageable.

If you don’t have any ‘runner’ friends, recruit a friend to bike the second half of your run alongside you. (But no trading places!)

(And again, don’t be shy about asking friends for this kind of support. Of course these people want to support you… THEY’RE YOUR FRIENDS!)

Finally, thank you (again!) for the important difference you’re helping make possible in SO MANY lives as a Team RMHC runner.

(I know I keep saying that… but it’s only because I keep meaning that!)

Train safe. Run strong.

Finish proud.



On Becoming A Better You

Many of you are now running your longest runs ever (or your longest runs in a very long time), and you’re being reminded of the fact that “the hardest part of running a marathon is NOT running the marathon—the hardest part of running a marathon is TRAINING to run the marathon.

That said, these coming weeks are the real “discipline weeks” of marathon training:

… those weeks when the reality of October 8 is seriously beginning to plant itself in your mind, that in just 7 weeks you are going to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon!

… those weeks when you stay in on Friday nights because you really, really need to be in bed before 9:30 PM.

… and the weeks when you’re most likely to you say to yourself, “Tell me again why I’m doing this?”

But then, you DO remember why you’re doing this.

You’re doing this because being a runner is now a part of who you are, and all that you’ve become.

You’re doing this because of the commitment you’ve made to your own health and fitness; and, as a Team RMHC runner, because of the commitment you’ve made to support the health and well-being of the children and families served by Ronald McDonald House Charities.

And you’re doing this because running makes you a better you… an idea best reflected in this quote from writer, mother and runner Kristin Armstrong: “I am not a ‘good runner’ because I am me. I am a ‘good me’ because I am a runner.”

(I LOVE that!)

If running these really long ‘long runs’ seems like a challenge, you’re not alone.

(What the heck… you’re running 16, 18 or 20 miles! OF COURSE IT’S A CHALLENGE!)

But (again), remember… you’re NOT alone.

Look around you on the path, streets or sidewalks that you train on–and take strength from all the other runners who are doing exactly what you’re doing.

Look to your family, friends and colleagues and take strength from their good wishes and prayers; and from the donations they’re making to support you, and to support Ronald McDonald House Charities!

And on Marathon Day… look in total (jaw-dropping) awe at the 40,000-plus runners at your side, and the nearly 1,800,000 spectators who show up to encourage and cheer you on to the ‘FINISH.’


Many thanks to each of you for ALL that you’re doing (every day, and every week) to train and run and fundraise(!) to support Ronald McDonald House Charities.

You’re THE BEST!

Train safe. Run strong.

Finish proud.