Thursday, June 22, 2017

The 107th Dipsea Race - Lessons Learned

"Oh, you're fast just didn't want it enough."

Such was the feedback given to me by a 24-time Dipsea runner at the finish line, soon after I gasped to a personally disappointing 126th place (1:00:51). This was just after he scolded me (loudly) for NOT pushing him to the side when careening down the crooked stairs of Steep Ravine, an act that would be considered an assault charge on any other day of the year. But on Dipsea day, you have to give everything for every place, and my new friend was correctly pointing out that I had not. This was a day of lessons learned.

I had high hopes for the 107th running of this 7.2 mile classic cross country race, even though it was only my second time running it. Last year I was in the "runner" section, and had finished fast enough to get an "invitational" entry this year where I assumed the pace would be faster. I was old enough to get a six minute head start (the race is handicapped by age), so if I just took a few minutes off my raw time from the previous year, I had a shot at one of the coveted "black shirts" given to the top 35 finishers. My fitness was good (more tuned for marathons or longer, but still) and the weather was felt like the stars were aligning.

(I'm coming for you!!!)
My inspiration was on full stoke as well. I started running the Dipsea in honor of my great uncle, Ray Morris, whom on his death bed two years ago made me promise I would honor his 17 finishes and 3 black shirts by "giving it a go" (thus gifting me the right "sob story" to actually be accepted to run the race). I had a fancy new Rabbit singlet covered with inspiring women ultrarunners that was worth at least a 45-second boost, and the brand new inov-8 TRAILROC 285 shoes that had quickly become my favorite downhill running shoe. One of my running heroes, Amby Burfoot (winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon and editor of Runner's World), was going to be running along with us, and a one week sit-on-a-boat-and-drink-beer vacation was lined up the day after the finish. What more could I need?!?

(Hanging with Amby Burfoot!)
(My Uncle Ray, running the Bay to Breakers with my Dad in the early 70's)
(Time to do this!)
(The famous Dipsea stairs, photo courtesy of
(If you've got road, PASS!!! Photo courtesy of
(77-year-old Hans Schmidt en route to 35th place, photo courtesy of
Well, as it turns out, I needed more race experience, ferocity, and training specificity. Here are a few things I figured out:
  • For a fast runner, the "invitational" section is actually more crowded than the "runner" section. Last year as a "runner", I was able to enjoy a few miles by myself in the second half, but it was butts 2-3 wide the whole way this year. 
  • Unlike the "runners", most "invitational" runners don't step aside for faster runners, even if you ask. I got caught up behind 10-year-olds on Suicide, and 70-year-olds on the Swoop, and easily lost four minutes waiting for places to pass. The runners who got by them (and me) didn't wait at all, even if it meant a few elbows and some bushwhacking in the poison oak. 
  • It's not enough to be familiar with the Dipsea Trail, you need to know it cold. Particularly the left eight inches of the Dipsea Trail where you will be passing people. 
  • The climbs are everything. In comparing my splits with black shirt finishers, they were taking the steeper climbs like Dynamite and Cardiac 1-3 minutes faster than me. That means they were full red line and had the leg cannons to back it up. 
  • There really are some undocumented shortcuts out there. I kept seeing the same runners popping up in front of me like a glitch in The Matrix. Time to train with some locals! 
  • You get your "old person" extra minutes because you need them. Even Galen Burrell, a many-time Dipsea top finisher (5th here today) commented "I thought with one extra minute I was going to crush it...turns out I needed every one of those 60 seconds to hold the same place I got last year". 
  • You have to pass while running down stairs. You HAVE to. Just make that decision before you start. 
So, plenty of lessons learned. My Uncle Ray had tried to tell me this, saying I shouldn't expect to do well in my first 3-4 runnings. I guess I'll have to come back again and "give it another go". 

(Chris Lundy lines up with previous winners)
(Chris gets the champagne shower)
(Runners of all ages!)
(50 finishes!)
(The top finishers)
Personal setbacks aside, the Dipsea Race was a great experience, and once again a tremendous source of inspiration. I got to run with Amby for a few steps, climbed Hogsback with some wicked-fast 12-year-olds, watched Chris Lundy become the first women to win the Dipsea in decades, see Alex Varner pick up 2nd place (his best yet!) and his 7th fastest time award, and talk to former winner Hans Schmidt, who at age 77 took the coveted 35th place black shirt. In the grand scheme of things, 126th place isn't bad (and it is auto-entry for "invitational" next year) and much like all of these superstars, I am grateful for health, adventure, and perspective.

This is one of those races that seems to allow fitness to defy time, both young and old. I will certainly be back, hopefully in black!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Stealing Fire, Ultrarunning, and the Pursuit of Ecstatis

Fellow Prometheans...if you are reading this, then YOU ARE A RECEIVER. 

Have you ever reached a transcendent state by engrossing yourself in a passion? Immersing yourself so deeply that time and effort just slips away? Perhaps you know the feeling by another name -

achieving flow
getting in the zone
the runners high
being in the pocket
creative immersion
finding your groove
a oneness with the universe/your God

It seems we all have a way to get there. My jam is the runners high (trail running, preferably 90 minutes or longer), but I find it uncanny that nearly every person I know has a way to achieve a similar state, and does so regularly through music, code, art, meditation, writing, church, racing cars, cooking, travel, you name it. It's to the point I wonder if this pursuit of transcendental joy is a fundamental need of the human condition.

This is exactly what authors Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal explore in Stealing Fire, a fascinating new book that resonated with my favorite passions. The authors go in depth on the human desire (need?) to seek altered states of consciousness, and how this journey connects high performance athletes, Burning Man participants, Navy SEALS, psychedelic tripsters, EDM concert goers, artists, monks, and Silicon Valley elites alike. It's a fascinating read, and I found a lot of parallels to the joy and mindfulness state found in distance running.

Their framework for explaining flow is called STER, based on the four characteristics of Selflessness (loss of the sense of self), Timelessness (loss of the sense of time), Effortlessness (little or no perceived effort), and Richness (boosted creativity and connection making). As they apply it to people deep in the pursuit of flow, it sounds a lot like why and how we like to run. Their in-depth explanations of the neurochemistry also helps explain why we like to run together - when serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, endorphins, anandamide, and oxytocin all get triggered, it increases our feelings of trust, openness, and intimacy, and promotes tighter bonds and heightened cooperation. Yup, that sounds like an ultramarathon! We may call it the runners high or “long run revelations”, but the foundation of the experience is strikingly similar.

The “exploration of ecstatis” (ecstasy-like states) is far more universal than one would think, with a history that goes back thousands of years. No matter how each generation or culture pursues ecstatis, it delivers incredible ramifications to creativity, teamwork, global empathy, and shaping humanity. Cutler and Wheal propose that those who partake and share it’s secrets are the modern day rebels, stealing fire for the masses like Prometheus stole fire from the gods (thus the title). It's not just a fringe thing either - today, the altered states economy is north of $4 trillion annually.

For those looking for a new read outside the normal running texts (although those are also good), I think you might like Stealing Fire. The book is full of so many anecdotes, stories, and studies, it’s hard to put down once you get started. For example, did you know:
  • Some people with depression can get instant relief from taking botox in their frown lines because if your face can’t be sad, you can’t be sad? 
  • A deciding factor for Larry Page and Sergei Brin (founders of Google) to hire CEO Eric Schmidt was he was the only candidate that attending Burning Man? 
  • Only four days of meditation can produce significant improvement in attention, memory, vigilance, creativity, and cognitive flexibility? 
  • You can boost dopamine 400 percent by teasing about sex before the act? 
  • Flow, in its extreme, can achieve “transient hypofrontality”, a complete shut down of the self more akin to taking extreme psychedelics?
Yeah, it gets a bit crazy in a few parts, but it’s a page turner. If you like it, there's plenty more in Kotler’s previous book, The Rise of Superman, or at the Flow Genome Project where you can get guided tours (particularly attractive if you like the opening line of this post - there's a lot of engrossing language like that).

The spiritual journey of trail running, and sharing its extremes with fellow warriors, continues to be a limitless source of joy and perspective for me. It’s nice to know there are many others walking a similar path, that it has positive outcomes for our world in general, and that we all continue a journey that has been going on for thousands of years. Looking forward to sharing more about this with you on the trails!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

My New Race T Is Awesome! Almost...

When Rabbit and created a special edition Elite Race-Her-Back Ultrarunner tank top featuring top women trail runners, I knew I had to have one. Featuring amazing women athletes from our sport in a clever "in the know" kind of way, it was bound to be a great conversation piece, a source of inspiration, and a fun way to talk about my favorite sport with my girls.

When I showed it to my 10- and 6-year-old daughters, however, they asked "Where's Devon? Where's Bev? Where are those other female trail runners you are always talking about?". Hmmm, they had a point. So I swung down to Michael's and got some lettering and made a few modifications.

I'm not much a crafts kind of guy, so I was stoked that it turned out least up right until the point I realized I had misspelled Gunhild Swanson's first name. DOH!!! Blew it. I'm such a doofus. Guess I'll have to make another! But the right idea, I think.

To the women who inspired me to get on the trails, and those who inspire me daily to keep at it, my heartfelt thanks for just being you. I couldn't possibly fit all your names on here, but YOU!!! are on there!

See you on the trails...


(All fixed!)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Ten Great Chris Cornell Songs For Your Running Playlists

As a long time fan of Chris Cornell (lead singer and songwriter for Soundgarden, Audioslave, and Temple of the Dog), I was devastated to hear of his sudden unexpected passing this last Wednesday. I'm normally not the kind of person who takes this kind of news hard, but damn...I could not snap out of my funk.

Then I looked at my iPhone and realized there were 30+ years of his songs all over my running playlists. Songs to get my rage on, songs for contemplation, songs that reminded me of growing up in Oregon as the grunge scene formed. His music is the backdrop of my life, from raging teen slam dancing in the front rows of their concerts, to being a musician who could appreciate his craftsmenship as we picked apart their songs. I am super grateful for his music and his inspiration.

So with that, I give you the Top 10 Chris Cornell songs on my running playlists. These are in order of "most often played", and have more to do with the beat/pace than are these his biggest hits. But I hope you'll find some gems in here to add to your playlists.
  1. Superunknown (Soundgarden - Superunknown). This is a good chunky metal song, and one of the best examples of Cornell's soaring voice. Lyrics are ultrarunner worthy as well - "If this doesn't make you feel, it doesn't mean you've died...if this isn't making sense, it doesn't make it lies...alive in the superunknown". 
  2. Burden In My Hand (Soundgarden - Down On The Upside). This is one of his more popular songs, and it grabs you right away with some country instrumentation and Cornell singing "Follow me into the desert, as thirsty as you are...". Definitely follow him out into the sunshine!
  3. Seasons (Singles Soundtrack) - One of Cornell's outstanding acoustic songs, this is a great one for your long runs. He slowly takes you into the dark side, then with one note changing from minor to major, pulls you right out. 
  4. Pushin' Forward Back (Temple of the Dog) - Many don't realize that it was Chris Cornell that formed Temple of the Dog as a tribute to his former roommate, and the artists he rounded up included a little-known singer named Eddie Vedder (and the musicians that would become Pearl Jam). This song has a killer groove, and is very punk...certainly more uptempo than Hunger Strike, which is the song most people know from this band. 
  5. Outshined (Soundgarden - Badmoterfinger) - You'll recall this breakout song for Soundgarden the moment Cornell says "I'm looking California and feeling Minnesota", but for running, nothing beats the heavy bass of the chorus when he asks you to "show me the power, child". 
  6. Rhinosaur (Soundgarden - Down On The Upside) - This 12-count beat will get you rolling along the trail, particularly when he describes you as "only happy when you hurt, only healthy in the dirt". Word.
  7. Shadow of the Sun (Audioslave) - When Cornell joined the musicians from Rage Against the Machine to form Audioslave, a few of their songs had a great balance of his melancholy with the heavy thump of Rage. This is a good one, and includes the lyrics "every drop of flame/lights a candle in/memory of the one/who lives inside my skin", which is quite honestly how I think of him right now. The song Doesn't Remind Me of Anything is also a good selection. 
  8. Pillow Of Your Bones (Chris Cornell - Euphoria Morning) - Another song with a catchy groove, while Cornell's iconic voice boundlessly slides into the stratosphere. I still have no idea what he means by pillow of your bones, but often my bones feel they could use a pillow when I'm running. The song You Can't Change Me is also a good one from this solo album, particularly if you've ever tried to resist falling in love with a woman who can change the world. 
  9. A Thousand Days Before (Soundgarden - King Animal) - This whole album is solid, but the groove on this song is particularly good for running. When there's no one else, I'll stand beside it.
  10. Jesus Christ Pose (Soundgarden - Badmoterfinger) - When you need to get your rage on, this song will get you there with its relentless pace and audio attack worthy of its philosophical position. If you need something more mellow, try Searching With My Good Eye Closed
So many more good tracks beyond this, it's hard to pick ten. Do you have a favorite that I missed? Let us know below...

...and thanks again, Chris. You will be missed!

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Communing in the Redwoods at The 2017 Avenue of the Giants Marathon

In the far reaches of the Northern California coastline lies a magical ancient forest, stunning in its revelatory power. Giant coastal redwoods, in one of their last native habitats on the planet, have stood here for millennia. Their magnitude, both in size and age, are such an otherworldly phenomena, one can do little more than add to their serenity with jaw-dropped silence when in their presence. It is a level of grandeur beyond imagination, beyond comprehension, that simply must be experienced.

(Doing laps around Giant Tree, a 700-year-old redwood)
(Amazing trails!)
Such is the backdrop for the aptly named Avenue of the Giants Marathon, where 2,000+ runners gathered for its 46th running and the RRCA State Championship race. The roads along this historic 30-mile drive through Humboldt Redwoods State Park would be closed for a day so 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, and Marathon runners could enjoy some quiet time in this special sanctuary. Like many of them, I came a few days early to explore the towns and trails in the area.

(Avenue of the Giants)
(It's hard to capture the scale of these giants...I'm the little black dot on the left)
As a resident of the California coastal range, I am no stranger to redwoods. But the sheer majesty of this park, full of 300+ foot tall, million pound giants, unexpectedly brought me to my knees. Its scale hits with delirious force at every turn, yet within this cradle of seeming immortality lies a preciously fragile world. It took a full day exploring its lush trails to understand the self-contained ecosystem that takes almost 900 years to play out a single turn. I found it oddly comforting that many of these trees predate the English language that had now left me wordless.

(Catching the morning rays in Fern Canyon)
(When this million pound tree fell in 1991, it measured on the seismograph in a town 10 miles away)
(Coastal redwoods grow in excess of 300 feet, and live to be 400-700 years)
(Just in case redwoods like the banjo, I had a few tunes for them)
There is also much to do in the area beyond the redwood forests. I was a solo tourist on this trip, which provided plenty of opportunities to seek out local wildlife and attractions. I saw live elk walking on sand dunes, eagles yanking fish from the stream, and flying squirrels crossing the canopy in chase of one another. When it came time for food, there was fine dining at Ivanhoe in Ferndale, mashed potato cones in Trinidad, "adult" root beer in Redcrest, and delicious seafood at every stop. But every couple of hours, I found myself back in the redwoods, wandering quietly, meditating among the giants. I met a bunch of other runners doing the same - the Kirkpatrick family from Montana, a couple from Alberta, Canada, a pack of students from Davis, CA, two friends from Texas - all joking that our constant upward glance would certainly help our running posture. It was apropos that no mobile or Internet connection could (or would) dare enter these sacred grounds. This was an experience to be shared in person, later spoken of in gasps and ah's that would do it justice.

(Who's up for a mashed potato cone?)
(Sorrel at sunset)
(A fallen redwood is a two lane bridge)
Race day was a perfect way to share it with my running brethren, and Sunday morning couldn't come soon enough. At 7:45am, the 400 marathoners were sent down one out-and-back section on Mattole Road, with all the other runners heading down the Avenue of the Giants soon after (we would see them in the second half). We got our countdown and were off!

(And we're off! Photo courtesy of Yoon Kim, Six Rivers Running Club)
(Here we come!)
(It didn't take long before we were all spread out)
I paced along with local Tami Beall (here for her 5th "Ave"), Washington track star Megan Alfi (fresh off a 5,000m competition the day before), and Adam Goering from Eugene, OR. The road was uneven and full of potholes, so it felt more like a trail run for the first few miles. But the wind that kept our collars up the previous two days was gone, and the temperature was a crisp 50 degrees, so it was quite pleasant for running.

(The lead women stick close in the early miles)
By the time we hit the turnaround (mile 6.5), Benjamin Arbaugh from Westminster, MD, was a minute ahead of Arcata's Aaron Campbell, both running a sub-2:40 marathon pace. A few more runners were about 2 minutes back. The lead women were grouped closely, with less than 30 seconds between Katarina Mueller (Vancouver, WA), Alfi, Beall, and Dani Reese (Portland, OR). I found myself running with Darren Rees (a recent transplant to Santa Cruz, well ahead of pace to lock in a 3:20 BQ), and we were roughly in 12th/13th place.

(Early leader Benjamin Arbaugh is too fast for my camera)
The return path was glorious as the sun peeked through the giant redwoods and warmed up the valley. By mile 10, I was running by myself, with nothing but the bubbling creek racing me back to the Eel River. I pondered what sage advice these redwoods would have after all they have seen, and if they had any special secrets for a life long-lived. Or perhaps they have already been telling us in their own swaying sign language, but it takes 200 days to communicate the first sentence, far too long for us busy humans.

(The scenery never gets old!)
When we hit the halfway point (mile 13.1, ~1:26) and turned onto the Avenue of the Giants, we joined the half marathon and 5k/10k runners where the party kicked into full gear. Costumed walkers, dogs and kids, signs and cowbells, and serenading friends lined both sides of the road. The fast marathoners had to stick to the double yellow line in the middle, but that meant plenty of high fives from both sides. For a flat course, there weren't a lot of flat sections - it seemed we were always slightly up or slightly down. 

At the last turnaround (mile 20), I was grateful for every section of downhill as my hiking-weary legs slowed their turnover. I managed to catch a few marathoners along the way, pulled by a group of sprinting half marathoners looking to go sub-2 hours (#breaking2!). I soon found myself across the finish line in 2:56 for 7th place and the Masters win.

(There's that finish line!)
(Avenue of the Giants champions!)
Aaron Campbell (2:35) had closed strong for the Marathon win, with Asheville, NC's Arek Robinson (2:39) and Boston's Kyle Coffee (2:49) finishing out the podium. The Women's race was settled in the last four miles, with Megan Alfi (2:59), Katarina Mueller (3:03), and Tami Beall (3:09, Masters winner by 30 minutes) taking the top spots. (all results) 62-year-old Jeff Wells from Woodland, TX, clocked an amazing 3:18, with 59-year-old Brian Nelson from Bakersfield, CA, just seconds behind him. Those are some fast old guys! Race Director Cindy Timek and her crew handed out some beautiful awards, which included Eel River IPA's that were promptly consumed.

(A good haul on swag, complete with beer)
(One last nap in the forest)
I stole away for one last trail run before heading home, eager to share a few more moments in this glorious playground. I took a short nap in the thick sorrel, nestled in the bosom of a giant that fell a short century ago. The redwoods whispered gently from their swaying canopy....

Our time here is brief, so
reach for the stars every moment you can
Fear not for the day you fall
for the world will blossom from your riches

So glad I stopped to listen!

My thanks to the Race Director, her amazing crew and volunteers, and all the runners who helped make this an once in a lifetime trip. If you haven't been to this part of the world, you simply must come, and the Avenue of the Giants is an ideal host. Hopefully I will see you there!

- Scott

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Nike Sub-2 Hour Marathon Attempt Will Be Broadcast Live This Friday

If you're interested in watching the Nike Sub-2 Hour Marathon Attempt at the Formula 1 track in Monza, Italy, this Friday, it will be streamed live at Nike's Facebook pageRunners World, and at 11:45 p.m. Eastern/8:45 p.m. Pacific. There is likely going to be some pre-race build up, so log in early if you want to check it out.

Eliud Kipchoge, Zersenay Tadese and Lelisa Desisa cruising along at a 4:34 min/mile pace in the strangest (and possibly illegal) shoes ever....even if it fails, gotta say, it's some wicked good PR. ;-)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rebel Run at the 2017 Boston Marathon

The 2017 Boston Marathon was my 13th consecutive running of this iconic event, and once again, the experience exceeded all expectations. There’s nothing quite like this quintessential American road race that consistently conjures a unique recipe of new and familiar, struggle and breakthrough, and story-building experiences that are nothing short of magical. It wasn’t my fastest Boston by a long shot, but has already become one of my favorites.

(Feeling fast!)
(My Mom enjoys playing tourist at the Boston Tea Party Museum)
My co-pilot for this trip was my Mom, Dr. Diane Dunlap, who has somehow gone nearly 75 years without experiencing the rush of a big city marathon or Patriot’s Day weekend in Boston. What? Who’s Mom is she anyway?!? (ha, ha) But as we all know, bringing fresh eyes to a favorite city has a way of presenting a whole new perspective. Mom definitely did not disappoint on that front.

Within hours of her arrival, we were at an April 15th protest at Harvard Square demanding that President Trump release his taxes. The protest wasn’t on my original agenda, but as soon as she asked, it did feel like Boston was a perfect place to yalp the voice of freedom (Huzzah! As they would have said in the 1770’s). My Mom has spent much of her career as a college professor helping students find their voice, and in our hometown of Eugene, OR, campus rallies are so common the protest signs are made of dry erase white boards. Yet in all this time, I’ve never seen her fire burn as bright as that stoked by the kerosene-soaked tinder of Trump. She even posted to Facebook live during the demonstration to unite with her sisters in New York, Maryland, and more…yeah, Gramma D! It was fascinating to exercise our right to demonstrate on the very grounds that birthed our nation from similar passion centuries ago.

(Who you calling chicken?)
(At Haavahd Yahd)
(Sam Adams, my man!)
A few hours later, we were dressed to the nines at the movie premier for Boston - The Documentary at the plush Boch Center Wang Theatre (with a live performance of the original soundtrack by the Boston Pops, no less). Pre-event dinner and drinks at the Local Crossing provoked so much deep conversation, it was 1950 by the time we found our seats. The documentary was amazing (highly recommended!), giving my Mom a perfect intro to the history and personality of a race that has survived 121 years. She was eager to experience marathon Monday, especially with Katherine Switzer back 50 years after she broke the gender barrier by entering herself in the race as “K.V. Switzer”, and now once again donning her original number, #261.

(At the premier for "Boston - The Documentary", with live orchestra!)

(E. Bunny makes an appearance)
Sunday found us playing tourist, grabbing coffee and green tea roasts at Ogawa Coffee (so good, we went there every morning), throwing tea crates into the Boston Harbor at the Boston Tea Party Museum, spending a whopping $12 on Old Navy sweats for me to wear to the start (and donate), and grabbing a Sam Adams at the local pub. It was flip flop weather (~86 degrees), and we could see the nervous faces of runners throughout the town. This was definitely going to be a hot one!

(This guy will likely go deaf from the cheering)
(Hanging with the Alaskans in Corral #1)
Race morning cooled a bit (~65 degrees), but heat and humidity would clearly be a big factor. This wasn’t an “A" race for me, but instead was the last long run before the Avenue of the Giants Marathon in a few weeks. On the way to the race start, I made the decision to take it easy today and try not to overheat.

(And we are off!)
(OMG, so funny)
Corral #1 had different ideas, and as we headed from Hopkinton to Boston at 10am, Strava was already pinging me with Top 3 personal performances in the first 5 miles. Whoops! I crossed through the first 5k in 19:45, and in the first 10k in 39:30, well ahead of a casual pace (casual for me is 3:05-3:10+ marathon pace, and this was closer to a 2:45 marathon). But as we approached Natick and Wellesley (mile 10), I was dumping water on my head and grabbed every Otter Pop I could find (thanks, kids!). The heat beast was ready to rumble.

(Matching floral outfit was the wise choice today)
(Santa was there once again, and we got our 13th consecutive photo!)
(Check your form!)
As the Scream Tunnel of Wellesley approached (mile 12), some ladies holding up a sign quoting the movie Magic Mike (“the law says you can’t kiss…but I see a lot of lawbreakers out there”) made me a rebel in every sense of the word. If my face wasn’t hot red already, it certainly was now! I downshifted my pace to 7:30 min/miles to try and get my testosterone-infused core temp back into a reasonable range.

(Scream tunnel! The sign quotes Magic Mike - "the law says you cannot kiss...but I see a lot of lawbreakers out there")
(Boston College means beer time)
We had a slight tailwind, but that just meant the air was hot and stagnant until we crested a hill or changed directions in the Newton hills (mile 16). There was a collective sigh with each breeze, and from chains of runners hitting the firehoses and haz-mat tents along the way. Heartbreak Hill had its fair share of walkers this year, but the crowds got everyone moving with their encouragement.

(Locals more than happy to beer me!)
I grabbed a beer from some good folks at Boston College (mile 21), which put a huge smile on my face to brave the final slog. I held out my hand and counted 261 hand slaps (go K.V. Switzer!), just enough to bring the Citgo sign into range (mile 24).

(Citgo sign, there you are!)

(Ben Beach completes his 50th consecutive Boston, a new record)
Boylston lifted my spirits with its deafening roar, and I slowed to embrace every breath, every step, and the angelic hum of thousands of people screaming their lungs out. Soon enough I crossed the finish line in 3:07:47 (2,419th place), feeling good, but glad to be done. Boston #13 was in the books! I fell into the arms of a volunteer massage therapist, who pushed twitching dehydrated cramps out of my calves and sent me on my way with a smile.

(2:27 marathoners Michael Wardian and Matt Flaherty celebrate at the finish)
(With Jean Pommier at the finish)
(70-year-old Katherine Switzer with an impressive 4:44)
Although I thought the conditions were tough, I ran into a lot of runners who defied the heat to clock spectacular performances. Jean Pommier (2:44) finished 2nd in his age group, while Michael Wardian (2:27), Jorge Maravilla (2:24 for 30th!), Matt Flaherty (2:27), and Jon Kuehler (2:39) all crushed it. Alex Varner (2:34), Mario Fraoli (2:47), Erin Beck (4:34), Paige Alam and Kristin Armstrong (4:34) also did well in adverse conditions. At the professional level, the Kenyans swept with Geoffrey Kirui (2:09:37) and Edna Kiplagat (2:21:52) taking the wins, and American runners turning in incredible results with Galen Rupp (2:09:58) taking second and Jordan Hasay (2:23:00) taking third in her first marathon, and the men taking 6 of the top 10 spots.

My Mom braved the crowds of Boylston to see the pros finish, citing it as one of the grandest experiences she has ever witnessed (and sacrificing a toenail from all the walking, which seems an perfect marathon spectating result). We joined up at the Beantown Pub for dinner where she actively engaged with marathon finishers about stories of the finish and the history she knew. I was so proud! We all cheered as Katherine Switzer crossed the finish on the TV, looking as fresh as she did 50 years ago. Last stop was the Carrie Nation speakeasy for a nightcap before going facedown on our hotel beds a few hours later, exhausted and fulfilled from a truly American experience.

My thanks to the directors and volunteers of BAA for yet another great race, and a big congrats to all the runners who got through the heat to find that finish line. If you haven’t done this race, you should…and we will see you there! To my Mom, a huge hug and thanks for a perfect weekend, and making this annual pilgrimage more iconic than ever!

 See you on the trails… Scott