Category Archives: Races

Six Athletes, Six PRs, Five BQs with Run SMART Project Jack Daniels Marathon Training

All the ingredients of success were there. But what would happen on race day? I knew my six friends were ready to race well, but the results knocked my compression socks off.

Earlier this year, I volunteered to coach Tina, Karen, Chris, Mark, Natalie, and Cheryl for fall marathons. I delivered weekly workouts using the Run SMART Project VDOT Coach app and also posted the workouts on Facebook. Run SMART Project provided the Jack Daniels Marathon Training Plan and we set individualized VDOT training paces for each athlete using the VDOT Running Calculator, which is embedded in VDOT Coach. Then we got down to some serious training. We did a lot of workouts and long runs together and it was a blast.

Now I’ll introduce my friends and let them tell you about their training and racing experiences in their own words.

Steamtown 2015, 3:43:53, PR by 2:10 and first-time BQ

Tina (right) with Theresia, who paced Tina to her BQ & PR (Photo by Gwen)

Tina (right) with Theresia, who paced Tina to her BQ & PR (Photo by Gwen)

Total previous marathons: 16
Previous PR: 3:46:03 (Steamtown Marathon 2014)

Training, coaching and the VDOT O2 App: The program and the coaching were top notch.  All the quality workouts were comfortably hard, and I always felt good when I hit the pace (which didn’t always happen).  The VDOT O2 App was good and easy to use.  The training program prepared me better for my marathon than I’ve ever been prepared before, and of course having Tim as a coach made it so much better.

Race day: The two marathons I ran after putting in my 16 weeks with the VDOT program were two of the best and most well-paced marathons I have ever had.  I had nutrition right, and I never felt like I hit a wall and had to stop and walk (a first for me in marathons).  I ran my best time and my third best time after the 16 weeks of training with this program, and my body felt strong even towards the end, which is completely different for me!

Favorite workout: I loved the track work and especially the 800s.  I felt like they pushed me to work hard, but didn’t overwork my body.

I thought this was a great program. I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to increase their pace for a marathon.  I never in a million years thought I would run fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and here I am with a BQ after this program.  My first marathon (5:35) was almost 2 full hours slower than I ran Steamtown this year.  Thanks to the VDOT training program I feel much more confident about my overall marathon and my pacing, as well!

Steamtown Marathon 2015, 3:16:45, first-time marathon, PR and a BQ


Karen puts her track speed to good use in the final miles (Photo by Gwen)

Total previous marathons: 0

Training and coaching: I followed the training plans that Tim sent out weekly starting in June to prepare for an October marathon. I liked that there were two quality workouts each week and the focus wasn’t always on going as fast or hard as you can, but instead it was an achievable pace (Threshold) – not like the repetition paced workouts I was used to in college and high school. Because I was trained very differently in my school years (for a different distance too) I wasn’t sold on the Threshold pace right away. I remained patient and confident in trying an approach to training that was new to me – later finding out that the way I knew was “old school” or at least not geared towards marathon training.

Race day: Then came race day. I knew I was well rested and took it very easy the final week of taper as written in the workout plan. When I ran the marathon, I was pleased to see how great I felt! I maintained my predicted marathon pace or faster for the entire race!! Not just was it my first marathon, but I felt it was one of my best races ever because of how strong, fast, and confident I felt.

Favorite workout: 18 miles with 14 miles at Marathon Pace. It was a really hard one to complete but I like that it got me out there and practicing what my goal MP would feel like for this length of time. It was a nice long run that allowed me to not only focus on my stride and pacing, but also think through my race strategy according to how I was feeling in this workout. For example, I started out running in the 7:20’s and 7:30’s and I came to realize that I should stick closer to the goal pace calculated for me and to have patience. I exceeded my predicted time on race day and felt great.

On a final note, not only was the training plan so well thought out to the very detail, but Tim was so knowledgeable about the how and why behind every workout. I went to him with various questions throughout training to find out why we were running at certain paces vs. others or why we weren’t doing a certain distance as a repeat and how that specific training would transfer to the marathon race. He always addressed my concerns very professionally and educated me on the how and the why. He stayed true to Jack Daniels’ training approach and strategy. It made sense to me to hear his explanations and it helped me to further entrust in the training. I never doubted Tim or his recommended training, but instead wanted exactly what he gave me, a solid answer that made sense.

Steamtown 2015, 3:37:48, PR by 17:38

Chris bringing home a negative split (Photo by Gwen)

Chris bringing home a negative split (Photo by Gwen)

Total previous marathons: 4
Previous PR: 3:55:26 (New York City Marathon 2014)

Training, coaching and the VDOT O2 App: I loved working with a coach and being accountable. The support and camaraderie of running with others with the same goal encouraged me to take on a tougher regimen than I would have on my own. The VDOT Calculator was a great tool to set the right paces for the various workouts. It would be nice if the VDOT O2 App could link to Garmin or Strava, so it pulled in the run data automatically.

Race day: I was cautious through my taper and set a conservative goal, because I wasn’t sure what I would be able to do – I felt strong, but didn’t know how that would translate. I was able to maintain a comfortable pace through the first 16 miles and then gradually began to open it up. Busted through the wall with my fastest mile at mile 21, and cruised the rest of the way in. Was able to pull a negative split from 1st half to 2nd half. I think the mix of training and a solid nutrition plan really helped me have enough energy late in the race to maintain a strong pace. I had never done that well in the last 10k of a marathon before.

Favorite workout: Any of the Interval or Repetition pace workouts. I liked the feeling of going fast. It helped me understand what I could do at the top end. I think the most beneficial workouts were the long Marathon pace runs – learning how to maintain that pace in training really helped me handle it in the race.

Overall I’m very pleased in the results the Daniels’ method provided my first time through the program. I look forward to using it again and being able to apply what I’ve learned this time to improve even further and eventually BQ!

Steamtown Marathon 2015, 3:26:45, PR by 10:19 and a BQ

Mark (right) tearing it up on the way to a big PR (Photo by Gwen)

Mark (right) tearing it up on the way to a big PR (Photo by Gwen)

Total previous marathons: 4
Previous PR: 3:37:04 (New Jersey Marathon 2015)

Training, coaching and the VDOT O2 App: I don’t think I would have had the results I had at the Steamtown Marathon if it weren’t for the training program Tim put together. His words of encouragement helped a great deal. My goal was to beat my first marathon time by an hour. My first marathon was the Philly marathon in November of 2013. The VDOT O2 app was very useful. Having each of the workouts posted on my calendar helped me prepare for the quality sessions. Plus, scheduling my workouts with other members of our team was much easier having everything in one place. Would like to see an iPhone version of the calendar. Would be nice to be able to update your workout results on your smartphone.

Race day: I felt very comfortable going into this race. Last year I was a nervous wreck. Knowing that I had done this training helped give me the confidence boost I needed to achieve these results. My plan was to keep a pace of 7:50/mile during the race. I felt very comfortable with this pace throughout most of the race. When I hit mile 24, I started getting a little tired. But, I believe that was due to the lack of drinking & food intake during the last half of the race.

Favorite workout: My favorite workouts were the Marathon pace runs. I also enjoyed the hilly long runs. Doing this training with a group of people was awesome! It was great to see how everyone was so enthusiastic.

Chicago Marathon 2015, 3:34:41, PR by 1:25 and a BQ

Natalie takes the Windy City by storm!

Natalie takes the Windy City by storm!

Total previous marathons: 9
Previous PR: 3:36:06 (New Jersey Marathon 2014)

Training, coaching and the VDOT O2 App: I really liked the two quality workouts per week approach.  These workouts “forged” me to go out on days that I didn’t feel my best, but they paid off during my races.  Individualized attention and shared aspirations helped me define and meet my goals.  Tim customized the training plan for me because of my monthly marathon races. He is always available for any questions and provides great tips for injury prevention, nutrition, and fueling. Tim is amazing!  The VDOT O2 App was very easy to use and provided very accurate prediction on my races.  I forgot to wear a watch on my 10k race and I finished that race on the predicted 10k time from the VDOT O2 App, pretty amazing!

Race day: I had a great race despite the heat in Chicago.  The night before the race, Tim shared the heat adjusted calculator from the VDOT 02 App.  I went into the race to do my best, but didn’t think I would PR due to the heat, so I adjusted my goal.  I started out with the 3:45 pace group and hoped to finish with them.  I felt very good after mile 18 and went for a PR instead.  The last 6 miles of the race, all I could think of was the interval workouts Tim had us do, and I believe I ran my fastest 10k of any marathon during the last 6.2 miles.  I felt great at the end, a few volunteers from the race told me that they have never seen anyone so happy after running a marathon.

Favorite workout: 3×2 mile Threshold workout.

Marine Corps Marathon 2015, 3:38:33, PR by 8:13 and a BQ

Cheryl after MCM - One very happy running girl!!

Cheryl after MCM – One very happy running girl!!

Total previous marathons: 4 (All BQs)
Previous PR: 3:46:46 (Boston Marathon 2014)

Training, coaching and the VDOT O2 App: The VDOT O2 App was relatively easy, but I did have trouble with the cumulative miles, which Tim always kindly adjusted. The speed workouts definitely made the difference for me. Completing them gave me more confidence.

Race day: For MCM, I ran a faster and more consistent pace than in any of my previous marathons.

Favorite workout: Threshold workouts were my favorite, not for the fact that they were hard as hell usually, but seeing them on the calendar and thinking there is no way I can do this, and then completing them, sometimes a lot better than I thought I would, made me feel more bad ass and gave me the confidence to get through the tough times… kinda like knowing I could dig deep and get it done.

Despite my minor ankle set back and not starting from week one with the program, I think the whole plan/approach is great!!! Tim’s knowledge and guidance through the whole process was top of the line. I feel my PR is a direct reflection of this program and his expertise. I look forward to really concentrating on another PR for Boston 2016!! Thanks!!

I ran Steamtown with Tina, Karen, Mark, and Chris, and never had so much fun at a race. Karen flew by me at around mile 16 and it was a great feeling to see her passing everyone. Then Mark did the same thing at mile 23 and he was also flying past everyone in front of him. There were over thirty people running from our local running groups and we had a gigantic crowd cheering each finisher as they crossed. Chris came through with his huge PR and then we watched every second tick off the clock as we waited for Tina. Then someone saw her coming down the hill. Could she do it? She did. Tina finally got her BQ!

Mark and Tina after Steamtown (Photo by Gwen)

Mark and Tina after Steamtown (Photo by Gwen)

How to Run Steamtown Like a Champion: Q&A with Heidi Peoples!

“The marathon is a beast of a race, and training should not be taken lightly. It takes dedication and a strong commitment to training.” Heidi Peoples

Welcome to Heidi Peoples, 3-time Steamtown Marathon Champion, 2-time Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon with a PR of 2:39:48, and Run SMART Project private coach! Heidi has graciously agreed to answer training and racing questions from members of our local running groups here in the Philly area as we prepare for the Steamtown Marathon on October 11th, 2015.


Heidi’s wins at Steamtown came in 2008, 2010, and 2012 and she set the course record with her PR in 2010. While her fall racing plans are not yet set, she is considering several races that would provide an opportunity to qualify for the Olympic Trials for a third time. Steamtown is not a trials qualifier, but it is still a possibility as Heidi has twice run both Steamtown and the Philly Marathon during the same year. Heidi is also considering Chicago and New York as options.

Heidi joined the Run SMART Project coaching staff in 2011 and has many success stories coaching runners of all levels. You can check them out here:

We have scores of local runners who will be racing at Steamtown this year, and many of us are chasing PRs and BQs. I’m sure we will be hanging on Heidi’s every word as we gear up our fall marathon training plans in search of any possible advantage in training for and racing this speedy downhill point-to-point course in Scranton, PA.

Here’s the Steamtown Marathon course profile from the race website,

Steamtown Profile

Heidi’s post, Preparing for Downhill Races is an absolute “Must Read” for anyone racing Steamtown, Boston, or any other downhill course and it’s a great intro to our questions below.

OK, so let’s get started with the Q&A! The Facebook post below is how we first received the questions from our local runners. Heidi replied via email, and then we spoke over the phone to follow-up on a few topics and to talk more about Heidi’s coaching and her plans for the fall racing season.

FB Screenshot

The questions fell into three categories, Training for Steamtown, Racing Steamtown, and General Training Questions:

Training for Steamtown

Lynn: How do you do the downhill training for Steamtown or Boston if you don’t have those same lengths/miles of downhill to train on nearby?

Heidi: You have some options. You can also enter a half marathon with a similar elevation profile. Once or twice before the marathon, you can a drive to an area which does have a long length of downhill. Another, less time consuming, alternative is doing hill repeats over a shorter distance.”

Lynn: What type of MP (Marathon Pace) long runs do you do, and do you incorporate the hills at the end of them or do separate hill training workouts?

Heidi: For my long runs, I have also been incorporating hills, tempos, and speed – I focus on one of them when I train.   Incorporating hills into the long run is very helpful, especially finding a route with long downhills first. Scranton is full of hills, so my runs usually include them.”

Tim: Did you have a favorite “go-to” hill workout when training for your three Steamtown wins?

Heidi: “I have a nice 10-mile loop starting from my doorstep. It starts with a gradual incline, but has a significant drop, and finishes with a slight incline. I like to accelerate a lot on the downs, and make sure I am ready for the uphill at the end.”

Follow-Up: During our phone call, I asked Heidi for a few ideas on how to incorporate hills, tempos, and speed; she provided several examples:heidi.freihofers06

  • Incorporate a 3-mile tempo into a long run.
  • Do a 3x2k or 2x2mi tempo on a downhill stretch.
  • Do 3 x1 mi at Threshold Pace downhill.
  • Do 800 intervals on a shorter downhill stretch.
  • Mix downhills into a Marathon Pace workout.
  • Do 400 repeats at a faster pace.

On a week when combining a quality pace workout into a long run, the second quality workout of the week could be adjusted to be lighter, 2×2 minutes at Threshold or Interval pace during an easy run for example.

Racing Steamtown

We know there are some fast times out there to be had, but we want to do everything right to take advantage of that opportunity on race day:

Terry: How have you approached Steamtown’s course pace-wise – both in terms of plan and actual outcome?

SteamtownHeidi: With Steamtown the golden rule is do NOT try to bank time in the first half of the race. Even though the race begins with downhills and ends with a few uphills, it is best to keep an even pace. During my best Steamtown race, I felt like I was holding back for the first half of the race. Once I hit the 13.1 mile mark, I started increasing my pace.”

“For my first Steamtown race, the early downhill miles seemed too easy, so I ran a little too hard in the beginning, and felt the effects around mile 20. My second time around, I ran my marathon PR. I learned from my mistakes and ran very close to an even pace. When I run a race, I was told to visualize that I am running the distance I have left. For example, at 13.1 miles, I try to pick up the pace and become a half marathon runner, with a 10k left, I tell myself I am racing a 10k. This helps me focus on the distance I have left.”


Tim: Did you run negative splits for your PR? If so, by how much?

Heidi: “I do believe I very slightly ran faster for the second half – I think I was 1:20 at the half, but I am not certain of this.”

Tina: How do you plan for the hills at the end after running downhill for 20+ miles?

Heidi: As long as you have done your hill training and do not run the first half of the race too hard, they are not too bad. You will have a lot of crowd support along the way to help boost you up them as well. With each Steamtown I have done, I knew at the 18-mile mark whether or not it was going to be a good race.”

Laura: How do you fuel, during training, leading up to the race, and along the course?

Heidi: This really depends on personal preferences and food choice. There are several ways you can get the same nutritional values from food. I try to reduce my sugar intake a few weeks before the marathon. I focus on eating a variety of healthy foods and making sure I get enough protein to recover from long runs. During my long runs, I experiment on what type of nutrition I will do for the actual race – that way I am prepared on race day.”

“During a marathon, I drink at every water stop alternating between water and Gatorade/PowerAde. After every 40 minutes of running, I take a gel – my favorite is the vanilla PowerGel because it does not seem as thick as most gels. After the race, I focus on eating protein to repair and replenish my body.”

General Training Questions

We had a few great questions on getting back into racing shape after giving birth and on training in general:

Claire: Do you do any strength training or drills to stay injury free?

Heidi: “I did not do any drills until recently, but I do believe they help. High knees, jumping exercises, squats, and lunges are a few of the ones I do now. I have always incorporated core training focusing on each abdominal group.”

Marita: What helped you the most postpartum? What did you do to help you recover safely for you & baby?

Heidi: What helped me the most was continuing to run throughout pregnancy. I was fortunate to be able to run up until the day I gave birth with all of my children.   I never looked at the pace I was running or did any speed workouts, and ran for time. After giving birth, I really tried to listen to my body. Mentally, it was difficult not to run. I tried to return to running gradually, but as soon as possible.”


Tim: In your experience, what is the biggest change the typical recreational runner can make in their marathon training to get to the next level?

Heidi: The marathon is a beast of a race, and training should not be taken lightly. It takes dedication and a strong commitment to training. It also takes a considerable amount of mental strength. To get to the next level, runners must make sure they do their long runs and incorporate speed workouts. The biggest mistake I see is people allowing themselves a short period of training to prepare for the race.”

Follow-Up: During our call, I asked Heidi, “How long should an experienced runner rest after a marathon before starting quality workouts again, including someone running back-to-back marathons?”

Heidi replied that two marathons per year is ideal if you are racing them all-out each time. You can’t race all-out every month; micro-tears occur in muscles that may not be obvious, but they require adequate recovery. After a marathon, take two weeks off. Do non-impact training if you wish to continue with some type of training during the two weeks of rest following the race. Gradually get back into it.

Finally, if someone is interested in having you coach them for Steamtown or for any other race, how can they do that?

A HUGE THANKS to Heidi for sharing her experience and expertise in training for and racing Steamtown or any other marathon for that matter! I’m sure it will help many of us conquer the hills of Scranton this fall, and if you really want to take it to the next level, contact Heidi about private coaching!

Qualifying for Boston in New York City

Written by Jason Saltmarsh

Tim Jones and I have had the pleasure of running together a couple of times. The first time was an early morning training run around the University of Delaware campus. Then again, at the 2014 Gore-Tex Philadelphia Half Marathon as members of the Gore Running team. Tim is a great masters runner and a good friend. We’ll meet again in Boston next April. I can’t wait.

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon

Qualifying for Boston is something that defines distance runners. Even non-runners know that the Boston Marathon is something special. I live 45 minutes outside of Boston and around here it’s the only race that matters.

“Oh, you ran a marathon in New York City? Good fuh you. Whattabout Boston?”

That is word for word, exactly what the elderly librarian at the town library said to me the weekend after my first marathon.

New York City Marathon 2013

It was my first marathon. I was a rookie with no idea what I was in for that day. I walked around the city like a tourist the day before the race. I went out too fast and was ahead of pace at mile 13. I didn’t fuel with anything other than a drink of Gatorade or water at every other aid station. To put it mildly, I was in over my head.

Battling the demons at mile 21

Battling the demons at mile 21

By the time I reached mile 20 I was crawling inside myself and mentally detaching from the race and the people around me. I was introduced to a new kind of suffering that slowed my pace from 7-minute miles to 9-minute miles. My race photos show a determined face staring at the three feet of pavement directly in front of me. Every ragged stride was a small victory.

By the time I crossed the line the clock had reached 3:26:15. I missed my BQ by 11:15 (40-44). The Timex magnet with my official New York City Marathon time on it, would mock me from its place on the refrigerator for the next 12 months. I was happy to complete the distance but unhappy that I had sabotaged myself by running like a newbie.

New York City Marathon 2014

This was the race that qualified me for Boston in 2016. I was a savvy veteran this time around. I rested properly, I ate well, and I had a plan for my pacing and my fueling along the course. And, as a guest of ASICS, I also had an awesome pep talk from some of the best runners in the world.

This is why we do it!

This is why we do it!

Not even the record-setting 50 mph headwinds could keep me from reaching my goal. The blustery winds were so fierce that I literally ran sideways crossing the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. The temps were chilly too. This wasn’t a BQ kind of day.

But it was. I ran a great race and followed my plan. I crossed into the Bronx with my head held high and hurdled the wall that other runners crash into at that stage in the race. I fist pumped to the crowd and roared out loud as I ran towards Central Park. I crossed the line in 3:20:01 and beat my qualifying standard by almost 5 minutes (45-49).

Can You Qualify for Boston in New York City?

You can absolutely qualify for Boston by running the New York City Marathon. New York is 3rd on the list of races that qualifiers come from to get into Boston. The only two in front of it are Chicago and Boston.

Photo Credit

Photo Credit

Pros of New York City as a Qualifier for Boston

  • The Hype – New York City is one of the biggest and most celebrated cities in the world. On marathon weekend everyone is talking about one thing- the race. You can’t get that level of hype anywhere else. It’s like a running mecca. All out media blitz.
  • The Size of the Race – 50,530 finishers! I don’t care how fast or slow you are, you’ll be surrounded by people who will carry you to the finish. Strength in numbers!
  • The Crowd – The spectators are unbelievably awesome! You cannot imagine what it’s like until you experience it for yourself. Almost 26.2 miles of rock star glory. The only quiet times are on the bridges where it gets eerily quiet and your ringing ears hear nothing but breathing and footsteps – thousands of them.
  • The City of New York– I challenge you to visit this city and not get goosebumps. It is an amazing place. The NYRR and the city of New York roll out a red carpet for the runners to tour the city in a way that nobody else ever can. Revel in it.

Cons of New York City as a Qualifier for Boston

  • The Course – The course is pretty hilly compared to other marathon courses. The bridges will challenge you. Especially, the first one. But, the real kicker is the rolling terrain of Central Park over the last 4 miles of the race.
  • The Size of the Race – There is a downside to running with 50,530 other runners. You can forget about running the tangents and you’ll be forced to slow your pace around the aid stations. A tip from me to you: estimate your time a little on the quick side. This may help you start with a group that won’t get in your way too much during the early miles of the race.

The New York City Marathon is an epic race. Every marathoner should try to run it at least once during their running years. It’s the kind of race that makes for good rocking chair stories no matter what pace you run.

JaJason Bio Picson Saltmarsh
Editor at Saltmarsh Running

Jason is an RRCA certified Adult Distance Running Coach and competitive masters runner from seacoast New Hampshire.  Twitter | Facebook

Welcome to the Club! Running My First Ultra at The North Face ECSDC GORE-TEX® 50 Mile


 Saturday Morning, April 18th, 2015

We ran single-file over rocks and roots as we climbed the hilly dirt trail along the Potomac River at daybreak. There were hundreds of us and we had been running since five o’clock that morning. Now we were strung out along this trail that skirted the lush dew-soaked fairways of the Trump National Golf Course before careening off into the woods, taking us high above the river as the sun broke through the early-morning haze.trail pic

We crossed a few creeks, rock-hopping across one, doing a balancing act on a branch across another. I was caked in mud after having fallen into a boggy quagmire in the darkness during the early miles, but I felt great.

“I can’t wait to see what 26.3 feels like,” I said to the guy in the orange singlet running just ahead of me on the trail.

“You’ve never run farther than a marathon?”

“No.” I replied.

He complimented me on taking on a 50-miler for my first ultra and asked me about my running and training. I told him how I had just qualified for Boston at the Tobacco Road Marathon, and we talked some more before I dialed back my pace as he cruised ahead.

Another thing I remember about my conversation with the guy in the orange singlet is that he said he liked running with first-time ultra runners because it allowed him to experience the race through a new set of eyes. I remember the conversation so well because that guy in the orange singlet was none other than the legendary Dean Karnazes.

Can you think of a better way to experience your first ultra than to log a few miles with the Ultramarathon Man himself? You gotta hear the rest of this story, but first let’s back up to the night before the race.

Friday Evening, April 17th, 2015

Gore Associate Cynthia Amon and I were having pre-race pasta dinner at Macaroni Grill in the Dulles Town Center. Several months back Cynthia had invited me to run The North Face ECSDC GORE-TEX® 50 Mile Race as a guest of GORE-TEX®.

I would train and race in Merrell Ascend Glove GORE-TEX® Trail Running Shoes and Gore Running Wear®. I ran the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Half Marathon as a member of team GORE-TEX® and loved running and staying dry in my Saucony Ride 7 GTX® shoes all winter.  I was excited to be running in some new GORE-TEX® trail shoes.

“As soon as I got your email inviting me to run the race, I called you right away to say YES!”

“Had you thought of doing an ultra before?”

“I had been toying with the idea of running my first ultra this year. I was thinking maybe a 50K. But when you asked, it seemed like it was meant to be.”

I went on to tell Cynthia how I had been listening to Dean Karnazes’ book, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, during the three-hour drive from my home outside of Philadelphia. The book was great motivation, but Dean’s description of his first 50-miler also gave me a very healthy respect for the distance. If you’ve read the book, you know what I mean. I gleaned every bit of advice that I could and told myself I would “run with my heart” when things got tough.

I had already logged a sixty-five mile week this year and was averaging over fifty miles-per-week, so I was ready to run long. Could I keep running for fifty miles?

The Race Start

At two-thirty a.m. my iPhone buzzed and the hotel phone rang. I was already awake. I got up, got dressed, drove to the shuttle bus pick-up, and I was off to the starting area at the Algonkian Regional Park. I checked my drop bag and downed a few cups of coffee.race startJust before the race started we heard an announcement that got the hundreds of assembled runners cheering: Dean Karnazes was running the 50-miler with us!

My GORE-TEX® Shoes & Gore Running Wear®

I started training in my GORE-TEX® Trail Running Shoes, the Merrell Ascend Glove GORE-TEX®, as soon as I received them.  My peak mileage week, two weeks out from the race, was seventy-six miles. I ran in wet and muddy conditions and my feet stayed dry and comfortable.

gtx shoeSee the GORE-TEX® logo on the front of the shoe? It’s not just there to look pretty. Through my experience visiting the Gore plants and racking up over seven hundred miles in GORE-TEX® shoes, I’ve learned exactly what it means when you see that logo on a shoe.

First, the shoe is both waterproof and breathable. The GORE-TEX® membrane keeps water out and allows sweat vapor to escape. Gore works with the top shoe manufacturers to not only integrate the GORE-TEX® lining that keeps your foot dry and comfortable, but to help design the entire shoe to be waterproof and breathable. And they do this for a good reason: even though the end-product is not made by Gore, they still 100% lifetime guarantee the shoe to be waterproof, windproof, and breathable.

GORE-TEX® is in the most popular shoes from top brands including Asics, Brooks, inov-8, La Sportiva, New Balance, Salomon, Saucony, Scott, and The North Face.

The rest of my race kit was from Gore Running Wear®: the X-Running 2.0 Zip Shirt, X-Running 2.0 Shorts, and a Gore Running Wear® Running Cap.

me pre-race

The Race

After my time running with Dean, I continued to enjoy the beautiful views while running up and down the successive three-hundred foot hills along the Potomac Heritage Trail. My pace stayed mostly in the nines for the first fifteen miles, sometimes the high nines, and I hit ten and eleven going up the steep hills. Mile ten was my fastest of the day at eight fifty-five. Little did I know I wouldn’t come close to those paces running back to the finish on this same trail many hours later.

My TomTom graphic below shows the course and the elevation profile. When we arrived at Great Falls Park, we did three seven-mile loops before returning on the Potomac Heritage Trail. You can see those three loops in the center of the elevation graph below:

tomtom The Great Falls Aid Station was at the entrance to the three loops. Our drop bags had been transported to Great Falls and we passed through that aid station a total of four times at miles 15.3, 22.2, 29.1, and 36.0. This picture shows me as I’m approaching Great Falls for the first time, still wearing my headlamp:


I was cranking out close to a nine minute mile at this point. The picture below shows me on my second pass through the Great Falls Aid Station:

great falls aid station

Somewhere during the second loop, after I took this picture, I had run farther than I had ever run in my entire life. I didn’t hit a wall or feel drastically different, my legs just got more tired as the miles built up. I hurt, but the experience was still amazing. Here are a few views from the Great Falls loops:

river view 1

There was a little rock-hopping required.

river view 2

This picture is from the third loop, approaching thirty-six miles, and I smiled for the camera:


I drank Gatorade from the beginning, carrying a bottle with me. I refilled it with electrolyte replacement drink throughout the entire race. I ditched the bottle in my drop bag for two of the Great Falls loops. I also drank plenty of Coke, Mountain Dew and water. I ate four Salted Caramel GUs, a pack of Cliff Blocks, a few bananas, a few bags of potato chips, some Skittles, and part of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was harder to eat after thirty-six miles; after forty-one, I stopped eating but kept drinking.

The trek back up the Potomac Heritage Trail was hard. I focused on “turning it over.” I walked up the steep hills and drank a lot at the aid stations. Each mile took forever.

I fell hard with about two miles to go and slammed headfirst into a bank full of scrub, scraping up my knee and attaching myself to some more mud and dirt. It was time to just grind it out.

Then all of a sudden I was crossing the parking lot and turning into the chute, finishing with a wave of kids from the Karno Kids’ Race. How cool. The last mile went by in a speedy ten thirty-five as the old horse smelled the barn and was determined to fight off a trip to the glue factory.

finish pic

When I finished I felt a combination of euphoria and exhaustion and it was a good feeling. There was also a letdown, the kind you feel after being close to a group when it’s time to say goodbye. Everyone encouraged each other out there. Former infantry officer Brandon stopped to help me out of the mud when I fell in the darkness. Veteran ultra runner Eric encouraged me during the tough miles in Great Falls, and then found me to congratulate me after the race even though he had finished well over an hour before I did. Ben got me back on course when I made a wrong turn. There were people saying, “Good work,” and “How you doin’ brother?” throughout the entire race.

These GORE-TEX® Shoes Were Made for this Race

This was the perfect race for the Merrell Ascend Glove GORE-TEX® shoes. Or maybe the shoes were perfect for this race. Or maybe both. I was ankle-deep in mud and water many times during the race, and we ran the first part of the race through grass that was saturated in dew. My feet might have been soaked for the entire fifty miles if I was not wearing shoes with GORE-TEX® in them.

At the aid stations, I saw people sitting on the ground taking their shoes and socks off, draining blisters, changing socks, changing shoes. I didn’t need to do any of that. My footwear was not an issue. My double-knotted laces stayed that way from three a.m. until I got back to my hotel room later that evening long after the race was over. The outside of the shoes looked like they had gone through a tough fifty-miles, by my feet were dry and comfortable the entire day.

shoe comparison

A few more shots of what fifty miles of comfort looked like:

fifty miles of comfort

I’ve run in GORE-TEX® shoes since last fall and have been running outside all winter in snow, slush, rain, wind, and a lot of times in sub-zero conditions. In sharp contrast, last winter, when I did not have my GORE-TEX® shoes and Gore Running Wear®, I ran outside exactly once. That really says it all.

Welcome to the Club!

Cynthia met me after I finished, congratulated me, and helped steer me into some shade and into a seat. I would not have been able to do that by myself at that point.

sitting down

After a brief rest, we went to the awards tent and I picked up my Hoo Rag, the prize for my age-group win. My finishing time was ten hours and eleven minutes. Next I picked up the shirt that instantly became my favorite race shirt ever:

race shirt

Then we met up with Dean again. I told him how much I enjoyed meeting him and running with him. He congratulated me on my first ultra and said he hoped to see me in Boston in 2016. I thought that was pretty cool that he remembered our early-morning conversation, even after he ran with so many different people throughout the day.

dean k and me post-race

When I recovered enough to operate my iPhone later the next day, I didn’t waste any time tweeting my thanks to all involved for a GR8 first ultra. The first reply I received was from that guy in the orange singlet:

welcome to the club

I BQ’ed by 21+ Minutes with The Run S.M.A.R.T. Project!

My 2015 running goal was to qualify for Boston. Done. Thanks Run S.M.A.R.T. Project!


This past Sunday, March 15th 2015, I ran the Tobacco Road Marathon in Cary, North Carolina. I needed a 3:40 to qualify for Boston. After training with my Run S.M.A.R.T. Project Jack Daniels Marathon Training Plan since December using the VDOT O2 App, I ran a 3:18:53, over 21 minutes under my BQ time. This was my 7th marathon and it was very different than any of the other six.

What was different? I was passing people for the entire second half of the race and ran a 5-minute negative split. Mile 26 was my second fastest mile in 7:15. I finished strong. I started the race with the 3:30 pace group, left them at mile 9, then caught and passed both the 3:25 and 3:20 pace groups before I hit the finish line.

I’ve never experienced this kind of strong second half in a marathon. In my previous marathons, I faded during the last 10K. Even for my 2004 2:53:14 PR in Philly, I slowed by 20 seconds per mile after the turn at 20. During my one trip to Boston in 2003, I ran a 12+-minute positive split, dragging myself past the CITGO sign and down Boylston Street in 3:12:22 after hitting the half in an even 1:30. But this past Sunday at Tobacco Road was a different story.

What I’ve learned from training with The Run S.M.A.R.T. Project Jack Daniels Marathon Plans over the past year is that each workout has a specific purpose. My easy runs were easy and enjoyable and the hard workouts were very hard, but I never felt overtrained. Just the opposite: I felt confident that I could bring it all together on race day.

One of my favorite workouts was the combined Threshold & Repetition pace workout we did on January 31st. The screenshot below shows the workout in the VDOT O2 App:

threshold 1

I posted this on Facebook and we had a good group respond and join in the workout:

workout post

Here are the splits:


Another huge day was the bunched long run we did on February 6th, 24 miles in one day. We did 12 miles early in the morning and then another 12 after work. The second 12 miles started just about twelve hours after the first 12.  We also had a lot of interest from our group in this run.  The picture below was taken after the first 12, but we were still smiling at the end of the day with 24 miles in the books!

12 Miles Part 1

When I entered my 3:18:53 time into the VDOT O2 App after Sunday’s race, I was prompted to answer whether or not I wanted my VDOT number to be updated based on this race performance.  Of course I did! And I went from a 44.35 to a 48.42 and my VDOT badge changed from gray to yellow. Looks like I’m getting faster with The Run S.M.A.R.T. Project. I’m looking forward to Boston 2016!


My GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon Race Recap!!!

A Rollicking Running Tale Starring Tom Wolf, Tweet-Ups, and Kandy-Kolored, Tangerine-Flake, Streamline GORE-TEX®, Baby!!!

Center-City Philadelphia, Saturday November 22, Mid-Afternoon.  I MASHED the brakes and SWERVED into a tight parking spot on Level 5 as echoes of HONKING HORNS and SQUEALING TIRES cascaded up and down the endless BLIND-TURN concrete ramps in the JAM-PACKED parking garage at the corner of Broad and Race!!! I threw off my seat belt and joined in with THOUSANDS of RUNNERS as we SPRUNG from our CAGES and RAN like ENDORPHIN-FUELED CARBO-LOADED MANIACS down Broad Street!!!


Expo Entrance

And what to my WONDERING EYES should appear? BOSTON BILLY amidst ACRES of RUNNING GEAR!!!

Bill Rodgers

After snapping that pic of the GREAT Bill Rodgers, my first stop was bib pick-up, then I changed my starting corral from BLUE to BLACK. With a TORN MENISCUS and a HURTIN’ HAMMY, I had NO IDEA how close I might come to the 1:41:25 HALF-MARATHON finish time predicted by my Run SMART Project Jack Daniels Training Plan, but I was definitely going to run faster than THREE HOURS!!! The bib pick-up and corral change were quick and easy, an indication of the OUTSTANDING job that I saw from EVERY race worker and volunteer I encountered all weekend!Bib Pickup

Next stop GORE-TEX® EXHIBIT! If you ever need a HEAPING HELPING of ENERGY, POSITIVITY, MOTIVATION, and COMMITMENT to MAKING A DIFFERENCE in the WORLD through RUNNING, spend some time with Scott Crossin, Executive Director of Back on My Feet (BOMF) Philadelphia. BOMF Philly was the charity partner of GORE-TEX®, official title sponsor of the Philadelphia Marathon since 2013.  I was a BOMF fundraiser AND a member of Team GORE-TEX® for this year’s race, and I was TOTALLY STOKED that I had a chance to meet up with Scott at the Expo!!! Scott and Me

Scott told me about several AMAZING BOMF Residential Members who had gone from HOMELESSNESS to running the FULL MARATHON!!!!! And many more were running the HALF-MARATHON!!! Scott himself ROCKED the full 26.2 on RACE DAY!!!

BOMF is showing us how RUNNING has much deeper roots than just notching a PR, that RUNNING has a transformational effect on ALL HUMAN BEINGS in building self-worth through HARD WORK and SWEAT. Since September 2008, 230 BOMF Residential Members have gone from homelessness to obtaining employment.  Since 2009, BOMF Residential Members have collectively logged over 63,000 miles and boast an 81% attendance rate at their weekday early-morning runs!!!

After talking with Scott, I filled out one of the running-shoe-cut-out notes wishing BOMF runners well (see picture below).  For each of the thousand-plus notes that runners wrote, GORE-TEX® donated a dollar to BOMF Philly!! WIN-WIN-WIN…..TIMES A THOUSAND!!!!!!


I drifted over to the shoe display of the GORE-TEX® exhibit to visit one of the FEW PEOPLE who can match Scott’s INCREDIBLE ENERGY LEVEL and DEDICATION…DRUM-ROLL!!!…Kirk Christensen!!! Kirk, GORE-TEX® Running Footwear’s Global Leader, asked me if I had ever been part of something so spectacular as THIRTY-THOUSAND PEOPLE ALL GOING AFTER THEIR GOAL AT THE SAME TIME!!!! WOW!! NOW THAT YOU PUT IT THAT WAY KIRK, IT IS PRETTY COOL!!! How are the GORE-TEX® shoes selling? They’re flying off the shelves!!! GORE-TEX® is in A LOT of the MOST POPULAR RUNNING SHOE MAKES AND MODELS!!! Gore also outfitted BOMF members with Saucony Ride 7 GTX® footwear for the race!!!

Kirk & Shoe Display

As a member of Team GORE-TEX®, I had over 300 Miles on my Saucony Ride 7 GTX® shoes going into the race!! GORE-TEX® adds less than an ounce, is just as flexible as non-water proof shoes, and will protect your feet in the worst conditions!!! MAGIC!! Kirk and I jumped into the mini-pool just to feel the EXHILARATION of standing in ankle deep water with DRY FEET!!!! Go GORE-TEX®!!! Innovations currently in the pipeline are taking GORE-TEX® Shoes from 3-Seasons to 4-Seasons!!! OPTIMUM CLIMATE COMFORT!!! See my post, These are not your Father’s GORE-TEX® Running Shoes!, for more on the WONDER that is GTX® Running Shoes!!!

With Kirk in Mini-Pool

Kirk told me he would look for me at the finish line as he hung out with with Philadelphia Mayor Nutter and Pennsylvania Governor-Elect Tom Wolf (OK, not…that…Tom Wolfe!!!) in their attempt to HIGH-FIVE every last finisher!!

Now it was time to check out the Gore Running Wear® exhibit where I found Gore Running Wear® SUPER EXPERT and Sales and Marketing Associate Cindy Woods, whom I first met, along with Kirk, during my visit to Gore Headquarters back in September!!

I KNEW I could count on Cindy for a GREAT recommendation on which of my Kandy-Kolored Streamline Gore Running Wear® items to wear on Race Day!  Cindy recommended the Mythos 2.0 WINDSTOPPER® Soft Shell Zip Off Light Jacket, which has detachable Zip Off sleeves. GREAT CALL CINDY!!! Cindy pointed out that with the Zip Off sleeves, you don’t need any throw-away gear for a cold early-morning race start!!


I let Cindy get back to the throngs of runners eager to buy up some COOL Gore Running Wear®.  Then I came upon two MARATHON MEDIA MAVENS, Lauren and Darby!! They are two of the SUPER-FRIENDLY FACES behind the Philadelphia Marathon’s SOCIAL MEDIA presence!!! I realized this was a REAL-LIFE FACE-TO-FACE TWEET-UP!! We had been tweeting and re-tweeting back-and-forth for months leading up to the race and now I got to meet them in person!!!

Lauren & Darby

My last stop at the Expo was a WEIGHTLESS JAUNT on the ANTI-GRAVITY Treadmill!! Running at ten-minute-per-mile pace at 60% of your body weight might look EASY, but you gotta have THE RIGHT STUFF to ride this thing!!!!!Anti-Gravity Treadmill

I left the Expo, checked into the Marriott Downtown as a guest of Gore, then hurried up to my seventh-floor room to get ready for a six o’clock dinner with my GORE-TEX® and Gore Running Wear® teammates at Bliss Restaurant on Broad Street. We met our host, Gore Associate Cynthia Amon, and walked through the City Hall Courtyard and down Broad Street to Bliss. Cynthia gave us each a wrist band for access to the GORE-TEX® tent after the race and a MEDIA PASS for access to the press-only areas around the finish!! COOL!!! The food was SUPERB and the company was COMPELLING!!! Make sure to follow my teammates: @TheGearJunkie, @SaltyRuns, @rhodymomrunner, @KBruning, @rowdy406, @kitfoxnews, @ROJRunning!!!

After dinner I met my wife Charlene, who had taken the train into the city, then we grabbed a couple frappuccinos at Starbucks in the Marriott lobby and went upstairs to lay out my racing gear, pin on my bib, and get some sleep!!!

MY GORE-TEX® and Gore Running Wear® RACING GEAR!!!

I went with Cindy’s pick, the Mythos 2.0 WINDSTOPPER® Soft Shell Zip Off Light Jacket, for SCALABLE COMFORT that turned out to be PERFECT!!! I trained in this one A LOT, so I had a good feeling about wearing it!!!

Mythos 2.0 WINDSTOPPER® Soft Shell Zip Off Light Jacket

Mythos 2.0 WINDSTOPPER® Soft Shell Zip Off Light Jacket

With their LIGHT, SHEER, COMPRESSION FIT, the X-Running 2.0 Shorts were made for RACING LONG!  I TRAINED in these babies a lot too!!!

X-Running 2.0 Shorts

X-Running 2.0 Shorts

I love my Gore Running Wear® SO MUCH I dipped into my own pocket to buy this Mythos 2.0 Neon Beany to COMPLETE THE PERFECT HALF MARATHON RACING KIT!!!  You won’t get lost in the crowd when you’re wearing this LIGHT, BRIGHT, EAR-WARMING GEM on your NOGGIN!!!

Mythos 2.0 Neon Beany

Mythos 2.0 Neon Beany

POST-RACE: I picked the Mythos 2.0 Gore-Tex Active Jacket for after the race.  I’ve trained in this waterproof beauty in the rain, but it’s just as comfortable in dry weather. You’ll see it in some of the post-race pics!!!

Mythos 2.0 Gore-Tex Active Jacket

Mythos 2.0 Gore-Tex Active Jacket

I did all of my training and racing in my Saucony Ride 7 GTX® Shoes with GORE-TEX®!!! They are my new favorite shoes, so wearing them for the race was a NO-BRAINER.  In the picture below they had over 300 miles on them; they have over 400 on them as I write this and they still look and feel brand new after slogging through endless puddles and muddy trails!!!

Ride 7 GTX

Saucony Ride 7 GTX® Shoes


I didn’t sleep very WELL or very MUCH!! Five-thirty came early!! Charlene wished me luck and said she’d be out there on the course cheering and we’d meet up at the finish! I grabbed coffee, met my teammates, and we walked down the parkway to the start. The corrals were filling up!!! The ADRENALINE started to PUMP!!!!At The Start

The last time I toed the line at the Philly Marathon was for the full 26.2 in 2004.  That’s the day I ran my 2:53:14 Marathon PR back when I was a spry 45-year-old. I’m not in that kind of shape now, but I was still ready to GET AFTER IT!!!

I started STEADY!! I felt GOOD!!! I EASILY unzipped and stowed the ZIP OFF sleeves in my pockets at mile three while keeping up a sub-seven-thirty-per-mile clip!!!  I ran a pretty even race, slowing on the hills and speeding up on the flats!  According to RunKeeper, via my iPhone stored in the Mythos Jacket’s COOL media pocket, I ran 13.48 miles!!! Looks like I didn’t exactly run the tangents!!!

Phill Half RunKeeper

The going got tough in the final miles, rendering every one of my race pictures UN-purchasable due to the ZOMBIE DEATH-MASK EXPRESSION on my face. I did, however, shell out the bargain-price of $4.95 for the video clip of my finish (I’m crossing the line at the 12-second mark):

Charlene found me at the finish for a post-race photo:Finish Pic 2

We went to the GORE-TEX tent and had some coffee and talked about the race with the others gathering in the tent. We checked my finish time…AND…I…WAS……ASTOUNDED!!!!  I ran EXACTLY – DOWN to the SECOND – what my Run SMART Project Jack Daniels Training Plan predicted!!! 1:41:25!!!  A BIG Thank You to Run SMART Project Founder Brian Rosetti!!!  You and Dr. Jack Daniels are so GOOD it’s SCARY!!!

Charlene headed off to catch the train home and I got a free massage!!  Now it was time to use my MEDIA CREDENTIAL!!!! I wanted access to the most deeply-guarded MEDIA areas I could find!!!

The crowds were building and by the time I figured out where the media areas were and worked my way back through the flow of finishers, the winners of the Full Marathon had finished and were already on the podium receiving their awards.  I snapped this picture from afar, still not having reached the inner sanctum of PRESS PRIVILEGE!!!  I had been SCOOPED by the PROS!!!!  You can see Kirk there with Mayor Nutter and Governor-Elect Wolf.Marathon Winners Podium

I finally arrived at a gated area just outside the PRESS TENT!!!

“Can I get into this area with this credential?” I asked two young ladies.

“Why of course! Come right in! Hey, are you The Running Jones?”

“Why Yes, YES I AM!!!”  It turns out I had walked right into another TWEET-UP!!! This time with SUPER-FRIENDLY Gore Media Associates Kate and Toni, who had been re-tweeting all my tweets about GORE-TEX® and Gore Running Wear®!!!Kate & Toni

They took my picture and didn’t waste any time tweeting it!!!Gore Tweet And I re-tweeted it, of course!!!

With my entrance into the inner circle of media insiders, I began to explore my limits. Could I get into that little area in front of the main podium, between the finish lines for the Half and the Full? The PERFECT place for finish line shots? YES!!! RIGHT THIS WAY!!! And just in time to catch Ultra-Running LEGEND Keith Straw, veteran of multiple BADWATER, LEADVILLE, WESTERN STATES, and MANY more ultras and over 300 MARATHONS, as he was finishing the Marathon with a smile on his face!!!  I’m proud to count Keith as a friend, and he has helped me TREMENDOUSLY this year as I’ve gotten back into running!! I was SUPER-HAPPY to be in a prime position to get this shot of Keith in his Trademark Pink Tutu:Keith Straw

Then I saw a familiar face as I went back into the area where the Half Marathon winners were waiting for their awards. It was Lauren!! She pointed me in the direction of another tent and said that Mayor Nutter and Governor-Elect Wolf would be handing out the awards for the Half very soon. THANKS LAUREN!!!

I was burst-snapping away with my iPhone, angling for space with the REAL PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS!!! They treated me well, albeit with a few askance looks and requests to see my PRESS CREDENTIAL!!!! Here are some of the pictures of the Half Marathon award winners waiting for their trip to the podium!!!Half Winners

While I waited for the awards, I continued to meet the OUTSTANDING and EXCEPTIONALLY NICE Race Staff and Volunteers!!! First I spoke with Dawn Roberts, founding partner of KD Communications Group and speaker, media consultant, and event specialist extraordinaire!!!Dawn RobertsThen I talked with volunteers Vera (who gave me some advice on my upcoming torn meniscus surgery) and BJ (who’s a PhD in Psychology):Dr. BJ & Vera

Finally  Mayor Nutter and Governor-Elect Wolf appeared at the podium!! And the HALF MARATHON WINNERS ARE:Half Winners Podium

I made one last stop back into the media tent to grab a cup of coffee for the ride home and it turned into a FINAL TWEET-UP!!!! As I picked through the last of the bagels, two SUPER-NICE young ladies, another DYNAMIC MEDIA DUO!!!, offered to open a new tray of croissants!!! Would I like one? Sure!! And with that very hospitable introduction I met sisters Heather and Colleen who were at the race working media relations for none other than….. BOMF!!! It was a FANTASTIC experience to finally meet so many GREAT TWEEPS in person!!!

Heather & Colleen

I walked the mile back down the parkway, coffee and croissants in hand, and arrived at the parking garage that now seemed like a far distant memory from a previous lifetime!!!

Running with Team GORE-TEX® and fundraising for BOMF was FUN, REWARDING, and a ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME EXPERIENCE I’d do TWICE if I could!!!


You can read about my visit to Gore Headquarters and my reviews of GORE-TEX® shoes and Gore Running Wear® by following these links to my previous blog posts leading up to race day:

Gearing Up for the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon!

Training for the Gore-Tex® Philadelphia Marathon in Gore Running Wear®

A Rainy Thursday in my Mythos 2.0 Gore-Tex® Active Jacket

Summer Running Recap!

My iPhone jolted me awake at four-thirty this morning.  It’s September now and the chill is in the air.  I got myself out of bed, tiptoed past running buddy Griffin’s cage (too early for him), brushed my teeth, downed an espresso, and made the fifteen minute drive to meet up with the five o’clock Friday morning running group at Wegmans.  It was great to be back after battling a pulled hamstring that finally required me to stop running completely for the past month.



There was a large group, around a dozen of us.  We ran over ten miles on the Chester Valley Trail, illuminated most of the way by LED headlamps, and I didn’t keep track of the time.  I’m guessing we were running somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00 minutes per mile.  The run went by quickly as I got a chance to catch up with everyone and hear about their summer races.

The conversations continued over coffee inside Wegmans a little after 6:30 and I shared some of my summer running-related escapades since completing the ½ Sauer ½ Kraut Marathon in Philadelphia back on June 14th.  Here are the highlights:

The Saucony Mile, June 20th


The Saucony Mile, Elite Heat

My daughter and I went to watch the Saucony Mile at the Pottstown-Limerick airport.  The race was run straight down the single runway, around a turn, and then back up a taxiway to the finish.  There were multiple heats ranging from elite through age groups and kids.  It was great fun on a sunny summer Friday evening.  I took the above picture of the lead group in the elite race, which was won in a blazing time of 4:10!

Downingtown Good Neighbor Day 4th of July Races

This is a very popular community 4th of July event that lasts all day and into the night ending with a fireworks show.  I ran the 10K and won my age group.  My daughter ran the warm-up with me and then she snapped a great action pic at the start:

Downingtown Good Neighbor Day Races

Downingtown Good Neighbor Day Races

We had Wawa coffee after the race:

Wawa Coffee Time

Wawa Coffee Time

in24 Urban Ultra Midnight Madness 8.4 Mile Race, July 20th

Midnight Madness

Midnight Madness

The Midnight Madness 8.4 Mile Race was part of the Back on My Feet (BoMF) in24 Urban Ultra weekend of races, featuring the 24-hour ultra race as the centerpiece.  It was a different experience driving into Philadelphia late on a Saturday night for a road race.

As I approached the Spring Garden Street exit I could see the lights of Boathouse Row and I started to get pumped up for the race.  I parked near the Art Museum and headed toward the start.  There were runners dressed in glow-in-the-dark gear jogging and walking back and forth stowing their bright yellow swag bags in their cars and warming up.  A midnight running vibe is a cool thing to step into.

Midnight Madness Starting Line

Midnight Madness Starting Line

I had a great time and got a chance to meet BoMF Philly Executive Director Scott Crossin as he greeted runners at the finish line!

Ready to Run at the in24 Midnight Madness Race

Ready to Run at the in24 Midnight Madness Race

2014 Advanced Sports Chiropractic Runners’ Pentathlon, Presented by the Greater Philadelphia Track Club, August 10th

This truly unique race-among-races was contested at Germantown Academy’s Carey Stadium & Athletic Complex, Fort Washington, PA 19034.  The competition was open to all athletes 14-and-older.  The event was sanctioned by USA Track & Field, and officiated by certified USATF officials.

Runner's Pentathlon

Runner’s Pentathlon

More from the event website:

“Each runner competed in 5 track races (3000m – 200m – 1500m – 100m – 400m/800m), with a minimum of 30 minutes recovery time between races.  Athletes chose either the 400m or the 800m for their fifth event (400m and 800m heats alternated). With an equal mix of sprints and distance events (order as above), this challenging (but fun!) competition pitted sprinter against distance runner to determine the best all-around track runner. Scoring was age-graded using the World Masters Association’s 2006 age/gender-graded tables. Points were tabulated for each race (the age/gender-graded percentage), and awards were based on the cumulative percentages for the five races. This meet presented a rare opportunity for men and women, young and old, to compete directly against each other on a level playing field.  The 2014 individual winner was Nick Berra, who amassed 429.60 age graded points to win for the second consecutive year.”

My daughter and I volunteered to help run the race.  I worked behind the scenes entering scoring data into a computer and posting results while she worked at the finish line assisting with automated timing.  We had a great time and then went for a trail run after the meet was over!

It was toward the end of summer when my hamstring began to get worse and sidelined me for almost a month.  It’s great to be running again, but I made an adjustment and switched from the full marathon to the half for the upcoming GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon because there’s not enough time left to ramp up to the distance I would need for 26.2.  Can’t wait to toe the line for the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Half Marathon!

Questions for you:

What races did you run over the summer?

What races do you have planned for this fall?

Good luck out there on the roads and trails!



Thank You Run SMART Project for getting me back into Marathon Shape!

New Year’s Day this year found me overweight and out of shape after nearly a decade of decline following a string of running injuries.  I ran 2:53:14 at the Philadelphia Marathon in November 2004 at age forty-five, but in January 2014 I couldn’t hold a twelve minute pace for a full six miles.Race Pic w caption

At fifty-four and not getting any younger, I decided to lose the weight and get back into shape.  I changed my diet and the pounds started to melt away.  But I didn’t have a training plan for running.  I was just jogging slowly every day with no real direction.  I knew I wanted to race again, but I thought it would take at least a year of easy “base-building” before I could think about racing, much less running a full marathon.

Then in late February I found out about The Run SMART Project via Twitter.  After I requested an invitation to try out their VDOT O2 App as a beta user, Run SMART Project founder Brian Rosetti sent me the invitation and offered to provide one of the custom Jack Daniels Marathon Training Plans for me to load into the VDOT O2 App.  I found a local marathon here in the Philadelphia area, the ½ Sauer ½ Kraut Marathon, and selected the Jack Daniels 15-Week Marathon Plan, which coincided with the June race date.  I was skeptical that I could complete a marathon that soon, but I was willing to give it a try.

Fast-forward five months:

On June 14 June 2014 after training with The Run SMART Project for 15 weeks I ran a 3:43:10 marathon in summertime conditions, several miles of it on rocky, muddy trails, and took second place in my age group.  Then a few days ago on July 4th I won my age group in a local 10K with a 44:11, an average of 7:07 per mile.  Here’s my VDOT O2 schedule from June and early July; the races are shown in red:RSP Screenshot 1

I still can’t believe I got into shape this quickly – The Run SMART Project turned me into a runner again and they did it fast!  I’ve won some nice prizes too:both awards

Here’s how I got started using VDOT O2 with my Jack Daniels training plan:

After receiving the link to the VDOT O2 App back in February, I logged-in and selected my Jack Daniels 15-Week Marathon Plan.  Then I was prompted to enter a variety of information on my running history, mileage per week, recent performances, preferred days for long runs and days off, and information on my goal race.  Brian customized my plan and loaded my complete training schedule into the VDOT O2 App including my goal race.  He sent me an email letting me know the plan was ready and I started running and logging the workouts.  Here’s my training schedule for April:April-Training-VDOT-O2

The VDOT O2 App was very cool.  Every workout was pre-loaded and it was easy to click-and-drag workouts from one day to the next when I had to travel for work.  The training paces were pre-determined based on my Daniels VDOT number.  All I had to do was the running.

There were two major differences between training with The Run SMART Project and what I was doing on my own:

First, each workout had a purpose. I was no longer running every day at roughly the same pace; I was running very specific paces and each workout had a specific training purpose. Here’s an example of a threshold workout I did to sharpen up for my marathon later that week:Threshold

Second, I worked harder and rested more. The plan was built around quality workouts that were tailored for my goal race. There was a progression of long runs culminating in a twenty-miler, but there was also a significant amount of threshold pace work, interval pace work, and marathon pace work. By running this variety of paces and intensities, and then taking two days off every week, I got faster in a shorter period of time by running smarter than I would have on my own.  The work at faster paces built my confidence too.

It was a huge kick when I entered my 10K time yesterday and the dialog box asked if I wanted the VDOT O2 App to update my VDOT and training paces based on the race time.  I selected “yes” and my VDOT jumped from 43.23 to 46.24 and the circle turned from gray to yellow, indicating I had moved to a new level.  All of my training paces were automatically adjusted to my new VDOT and my predicted race times are faster, which is a huge motivator.

Now I’m training for the Philadelphia Marathon and I plan to continue training with The Run SMART Project to reach my goal of getting back under three hours.  It might not happen this fall, but I feel more confident that it is achievable, and I know I can get another BQ whether I break three again or not.

Saying a few well-deserved good words here doesn’t come close to repaying The Run SMART Project for what they have done for my running, but I would be happy to share my experiences with anyone who is interested in trying out the VDOT O2 App and I still have a few invitations to send out for the beta version.  Just send me a Twitter DM with your email address and I’ll send an invitation.

Thanks Run SMART Project!

Tim Jones

Race Report for the ½ Sauer ½ Kraut Marathon

“You will not be running a PR today,” said Stephan Weiss, Race director for the ½ Sauer ½ Kraut Half and Full Marathon, at seven-thirty yesterday morning, Saturday, 14 June, 2014. He was addressing the runners just prior to the start of the races.

WebpageBefore I tell you why Stephan said that no PR’s were out there on the trails yesterday, I’ll strongly recommend that you run this race if you ever get the chance. It is a superb race and a wonderful experience that continues long after you cross the finish line. It is exceptionally well run, has phenomenal support from both runners and volunteers alike, features aid-station volunteers dressed as Bavarian Beer Maids, and has a post-race party that’s as close as you can get to the Oktoberfest this side of München.

Even with all these enticements, Stephan still had good reason for laying a dose of reality on the 800+ runners gathered at the starting line in Pennypack Park in Philadelphia. Here are some excerpts from the website,, describing why this race is not to be taken lightly:

Course: …The midsection of the course features a bunch of short but steep rolling hills along with a trail section (Mount Cuckoo). Some have referred to our course as an Achterbahn (“rollercoaster”)…Is this a Boston Qualifier? Hell no!!!!! !!!This is a summer race, there is a good chance that high temps will make this harder than you anticipate!!! I recommend running the marathon only if you are an experienced runner, who can handle all kinds of adversity. You have been warned :-). No whining on race day.”

coursemapsauerMount Cuckoo: Not to make this any more difficult than it already is, but around Mile 6 you will have to conquer MOUNT CUCKOO. Mount Cuckoo is a 1 mile trail section that might feature minor roadblocks like rocks, dirt, possibly horse poop and some short rolling hills. This section is relatively easy by trailrunner standards, but the surface is definitely different from what you usually discover during a (half)marathon. This might just slow you down enough to miss your PR even if the weather cooperates. Run it if you must or walk it for your safety. On the positive side, once you conquered Mount Cuckoo, you will be running downstream towards the finish line and you get to see Heidi at the Oktoberfest aidstation for a 2nd time.”

An additional warning about running a June marathon in Philly appears as you scroll further down the webpage:

“Word of Caution: Once again, this race may become the “hottest” race in town. Running a marathon in temperatures in the 70ies and 80ies is exponentially harder than running one in November. We only recommend the marathon to experienced runners, who have ran long distances in the summer before and understand how to pace themselves in the heat, and how to stay hydrated properly. We do not recommend the marathon for first timers or PR seekers. This race is not about your finish time, it will be about how to deal with the course and the temps. You may be able to beat runners, who are usually faster than you, because you can handle the temps better, or because you manage your water intake better. We make you earn your beer, and we will make sure, that it will be cold :-)”

Stephan’s sage advice was very accurate and to be ignored only at great peril. The temperatures climbed into the high 70’s, and maybe even up to 80 if you ask me, and Mount Cuckoo did not disappoint with several sections of rocky hills, plenty of gnarly roots, and several patches of deep mud that could not be avoided!

Pre-race:  I arrived at Pennypack Park at about around 6:30 AM and found one of the remaining parking spots as shuttle buses delivered a steady stream of runners who had opted to park at the Cannstatter Volkfest Verein, a German club in Philadelphia. I jogged a warm-up along the trail, tweeted a few pictures, and took my place in the first of four waves at the starting line just in time for the aforementioned pre-race announcements.


Pre Race

The Race:  I started easy and felt good. I decided to respect the conditions and to run according to how I felt with a goal of finishing the full marathon. Full-marathon runners had the option of stopping at the turn-around, which was the finish line for both the full and half marathons, and being scored for the half instead of the full. This made it very easy to stop at the halfway point if you had half a mind to do so. I didn’t. I didn’t wear a watch or carry any electronics to make sure I stuck to my wise plan of not chasing a mile pace on a day that was too warm for my liking.

About a mile or so into the race, I heard a familiar voice up ahead. Sure enough, it was a certain runner who is a legend in these parts, and I’m sure in many other parts, as much for being an all-around great guy as for his formidable running accomplishments. He was swapping race stories with the group running with him and I stuck with them for a little while. The pace was too fast for me and I settled back into a pace that felt right as the pink gaiters opened up a gap and faded into the distance ahead.

I plugged along chatting with other runners and cheering for the leaders as they passed us on their way back. I ate my Cliff Blocks and PowerGels throughout the race and took Gatorade at every aid station, greeting the volunteers with, “Grüss Gott,” and “Danke,” then doubling up on Gatorade and water for the last three aid stations.

I ran the first half of the race a minute per mile faster than the second half on average, but I did not hit the wall thanks to the 60+ grams of carbs per hour I took in during the race and the 700+ grams of carbs I scarfed down on Friday.Carbs

I just gradually slowed as the day got hotter, the hills got steeper, and the mud got deeper, but I had stretches of feeling good throughout the race. The bad patches were there, but they came and went.  I was passed by three guys during the second traverse over Mount Cuckoo, but then I passed two of them back in the closing miles. The last two miles were tough and the third place female passed me looking very strong with a little over a mile to go.

After what seemed like a mile farther down the trail, a few young boys were walking in the opposite direction and yelled when they saw me, “Just a mile to go!” The rest of the lyric completed itself in my mind, “My old buddy you’re movin’ much too slow.” The boys’ mothers were behind them and I said, “Please tell me it’s not a full mile.” They laughed and said the finish is right around the corner. It was.

After propping myself up on a table, and then on a small tree, I drank a bottle of water, two cups of Gatorade, ate six slices of orange, a piece of chocolate-chip banana bread, and then checked my time at the timing station. I punched in my bib number at one of the three monitors and saw I had run a 3:43:10. Eighteenth place overall and second in the M50-54 age group.

When the counting was done, there were a total of 146 finishers in the full marathon and 675 in the half marathon.

Post Race:Dance 2

We took the shuttle buses  to the Cannstatter Volkfest Verein where runners were treated to authentic Bratwurst and Sauerkraut, German beer, and a German Dance Group. I received my award, which has to be the best race award I’ve ever gotten, a German Weather House from the Black Forest:Prize and Medal


PresentationThis was a great race, an even greater experience, and I plan to run again next year. Maybe I’ll see you out there!


Attention Philly Runners! Win an entry to the #in24 Midnight Madness or Finale 5K!

UPDATE, 7/13/14: The winner of the race entry to the Finale 5k or Midnight Madness is ! Congratulations & good luck at the race!

One lucky runner will win an entry for either the #in24 Midnight Madness or Finale 5K in Philadelphia on July 19th-20th 2014!

In24#in24 is a fantastic and unique weekend of running events that affords runners the opportunity to run anything from a 5K to a 100++ Mile Ultra!!!!

From the race website: “In24 Philadelphia is a 24-hour race weekend featuring an Ultra-Marathon, Relay Challenge, Midnight Madness and Finale 5K – a weekend full of FUN! All proceeds benefit Back on My Feet [BoMF], a national for-purpose organization that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness transform their lives.”

Here’s HOW to enter the contest:

  1. Visit my BoMF fundraising page and donate at least $5 to this great organization. Every increment of $5 will give you another entry into the drawing! So if you donate $10, you get two entries, and so on.
  2. You’re done! A winner will be chosen at random from all who make a donation on my page by 7/11/14! The drawing will be conducted on 7/12/14 and the winner will be announced via my blog,, and on Twitter @TheRunningJones. Feel free to toot your horn for a good deed done by posting a comment here on my blog!

Here’s WHY you should enter the contest:

  • First and foremost, BoMF is a great organization. They are taking running to a new level and transforming lives in the process. I believe strongly in this cause and donating to BoMF is truly a way to enable and empower positive change through the sport we all love so much. From the BoMF website:

“The organization’s mission is not to create runners within the homeless population, but to use running to create self-sufficiency in the lives of those experiencing homelessness. The program’s success is measured by how many Members obtaining independence through employment, job training and housing.”

  • Two great races to choose from if you win:

In24 RacesMidnight Madness (8.4 miles and a $65 value): “For the mid-distance runner looking for something truly unique, run through Fairmount Park like never before at The 2014 Stroehmann Back on My Feet in24 Midnight Madness! Light the path for the Ultra-Runners and Relay teams in Philadelphia’s only glow-in-the-dark run, which takes place on Sunday, July 20, at midnight. Midnight Madness runners will race the 8.4-mile loop around Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River.”

Finale 5K (a $35 value): “What better way to celebrate the end of the in24 Race Weekend and cheer on the final steps of our ultra-runners then with a fun filled 5K! A perfect race for the novice runner to the most seasoned runner looking to test their speed, the Finale 5K is not a race to miss. The course will be comprised within the Schuylkill River Running Loop.”

Here’s WHEN you should enter the contest:

DO IT NOW! You’ll be glad you did! Just donate at least $5 here and you’re in:

Disclosure: I am fundraising for BoMF Philly for the Philadelphia Marathon. I paid my own entry into the Philadelphia Marathon and volunteered to fundraise because I strongly believe in BoMF. BoMF provided me with one complimentary entry into either the #in24 Midnight Madness or Finale 5K and also provided me with one complimentary entry to give away in this contest to promote my blog. I plan to keep blogging about running and to stay involved with supporting BoMF in the future!