Sunday, April 12, 2009

Can't go swiming in a Baseball Pool

It's become a tradition over the last three years to title my last blog before the marathon from the Roger Miller song "You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd" (now on YouTube As I was hunting through the verses of the song to find an appropriate phrase it struck me how much the song resembles the way we look at life at times....through the eyes of the "you can't". You couldn't possibly get that job with your experience, you can't...make the team, make the Olympics, win your event, stop smoking, survive being homeless, climb a mountain, walk again, beat cancer, run a marathon...with one leg. The world is full of "you can't".

When I went into Boston today to get my number I stood in line behind a middle aged woman running her first Boston Marathon. She told me when she started running a little over 3 years ago she could barely make a quarter mile. The first time she entered an organized run it was only a mile. She finished third in the "Heffers Division". They literally made her get on a scale (talk about a left handed saying you don't sweat much for a fat person). Just before her first marathon she was told she had cancer. She ran anyway. Now as a cancer survivor she is running her first Boston and has raised over $12,000 for the Dana Faber Cancer Institute.

In two days about 26,000 people who fought off the "you can't-s" will line up to run 26.2 miles and every one of them has a story (and probably more than one).

Like Susan Hurley, our team organizer, mother hen and one of my favorite people. You may remember from last year's blog that Susan fell a few weeks before the marathon and shattered her hand and fingers. She didn't let that stop her and ran with a cast on and metal rods sticking out of her fingers (looked like Freddy Kruger from "Friday the 13th"). This year one charity wasn't enough for her so she was organizing and managing two (Lazarus House and Go Kids) and has been running with both teams.

Or how about John O'Connor from neighboring Bradford, MA who will start running Sunday Night and run the Boston Marathon route 3 times before showing up at the starting line in Hopkinton to start officially with the rest of us for his 4th marathon of the day (that's right...4 Boston Marathons, 104.8 miles ). He is running to raise money for wounded solders from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then there's Bill Pennington, our Lazarus House Hunger Strikers coach. He has advice, experience and kind words for everyone from the first timers to us veterans. Like EF Hutton...when Bill talks, I listen. And if you ever need company on a long run, Bill's the guy. He's got more stories than the Brothers Grimm. This will be his third year in a row coaching and running for Lazarus House.

Kelly Buckley is running her first. I met Kelly at Lazarus House when were serving lunch together in the soup kitchen 2 years ago. I was training for the marathon at the time and she expressed an interest in doing it some year. This year is her year. She has raised $5000 for Lazarus House. You can see news video of Susan, Bill and Kelly talking about Lazarus House at (just click on the picture of the three runners on the top right).

Then there's Dave McGillivray who is the race director for the Boston Marathon. Dave will be running his 38th Boston Marathon in a row this year.....this time with broken ribs. If that isn't hard enough, Dave spends the day managing the race and then when it is pretty much over, drives out to Hopkinton and runs the race himself...mostly in the dark. He is a truly inspirational person who has worked hard to make the Boston Marathon not only the world's best marathon but also an awesome machine for raising funds for charities.

Speaking of inspirational heroes, in addition to Dave, one of my long time marathon heroes has been Bill Rodgers. It was Bill's series of Boston Marathon wins in the mid-late 70's that got me started running Boston. I had the opportunity to chat with Bill (see the picture above) a couple of weeks back and exchange stories of those early days of marathoning for both of us (his were much more successful than mine). At 61 he will be running Monday in his first marathon in a decade.

But not everyone who starts down the path actually makes it to the start. I had the privilege of running with Christine Andersen back in Feb. and she helped me through a difficult time with my injury. At the time she was not only running well but fast (I could barely keep up). The amazing thing is Christine has raised almost $10,000 for Lazarus House while being a mother, Doctor, and marathoner. Unfortunately Christine will be sitting this one out with a hip injury. We will miss her.

My story starts with doing something every year that celebrates Nick's memory. A little over three months ago I was trying to decide if I should even try to do the Marathon this year. I hadn't run in over a month (what my wife describes as the month from hell), was struggling with a hamstring injury that just would not quit, and wasn't sure if I started running again if I would have enough time to get ready. My long run the first week of Jan. was a tortoise-like 1 mile. But Monday I will be there on the starting line and while I am the least trained I have ever been going into the race and the hamstring is still giving me fits, I'm convinced I CAN make it to the finish (though it may not be pretty).

So back to the Roger Miller song and my mantra for Monday:

All you gotta do, is put your mind to it
Knuckle down,
buckle down,
do it, do it, do it

Thanks to everyone for the kind words of support and encouragement as well as the donations. There is nothing I can say that even comes close to letting you know how much of a positive impact you have had on so many people's lives.

PS: If you a morbid streak and care to track my progress during the race you can go to and put in my number 13477. I should be crossing the starting line sometime around 10:20.

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