Last Saturday, for the first time in my life, I ran ten miles. The number looks impressive. I’ve had several people remark on “double digits” in the lead up to this first one. From any perspective, it’s a milestone moment in endurance training.

The sad truth for my poor legs, however, is that ten miles is less than 40% of the total marathon distance.

The encouraging takeaway from each of the long runs during this training plan is that my stamina hasn’t felt truly tested. Every week, I’m convinced I can squeeze another couple miles out if I had to. I’m resisting the urge. I’m training smart, steady and slowly.

I fear the amount of progress is lulling me into false confidence. Training comes with gains and plateaus. I haven’t hit the latter yet. But I know that I can’t possibly continue for the next 21 weeks free from frustration and setbacks. I’m remaining as optimistic as possible.

To test my fitness level on the way to the Disney Marathon, I signed up for the 39th Annual Ridgefield Pamby Half Marathon on October 4th in Ridgefield, CT. It’s hosted by the local Wolfpit Running Club and should be a great event. I’ll be using this race as my “Proof of Time” for corral placement in Disney. Since past corral cutoffs have been heavily weighted towards projected finishes beyond 4:00, I’m not looking to race too hard, overexert myself and derail a couple weeks of training. Anywhere between 8:30 and 9:15 would be a comfortable pace for the half and would probably guarantee I’m seeded in the top 25% of marathon runners in January. My tentative goal pace is 8:45.

The half marathon will also be an opportunity to test my race nutrition both in carbo-loading beforehand and fueling during the race. It’s obviously nowhere near as intense as a marathon, and running a reserved pace may not require the same habits as if I was attempting a PR (though anything will be my PR the first time), but practicing energy gel timing and the logistics of water station approaches is essential to success when I finally run the marathon.

So cheers to 10 miles, but I continue to look to the real challenges ahead. I’ll have another running-related post once I’ve completed the half marathon. After that, it’s the long journey from 13.1 miles to the 20 mile run 3 weeks out. Then race weekend with the prospect of a week in Walt Disney World waiting as reward.

Ever upward.


26 weeks from yesterday, the 2016 Walt Disney World Marathon will get underway at 5:30am. I’ll foolishly or triumphantly be among the participants. Our shared goal: Run 26.2 miles through the four theme parks and the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex without collapsing from heat exhaustion.

I can still recall watching the Boston marathon runners along Comm. Ave. in my freshman year at Boston College. Obviously, it’s just another excuse for college kids to drink (non-alcoholic beverages, of course, I was only 18), but I couldn’t help taking a moment of clarity to scoff at anyone who would willingly subject his or her body to such torture for bragging rights. I was a little shit of a kid. Thousands of athletic, strong-willed people passed by and my only answer was derision. I’ve come a long way.


Disney bills their marathon as “The most magical race on Earth.” The starting line is on the road outside of Epcot. The route starts north towards Magic Kingdom. Parts of Miles 6 and 7 are inside the park. You pass the main entrance, down Main Street USA, turn right into Tomorrowland, swing around to Fantasyland, through Cinderella’s Castle, then out a side exit near Frontierland. The route then turns back south for the longest stretch between park encounters. During Mile 13, the race enters the rear of Animal Kingdom, ventures past Africa, through Asia and Dinoland USA, then exits the main entrance and begins heading east towards Wide World of Sports. This is the second long lull of the race, but also prefaces what I’m expecting to be the most motivating section.


The Wide World of Sports Complex hosts major collegiate, amateur and professional events. It’s also the Spring Training home of the Atlanta Braves. I’ve never been, but photos reveal a sprawling expanse packed with pitches and fields. The circuitous route hits miles 18, 19 and 20 all inside its confines. A highlight is doing a lap around Champion Stadium, where the Braves play.

At Mile 23, the race enters Disney’s Hollywood Studios through the side entrance, doing a loop past most attractions and then exiting out the front. From here to the finish, the route never leaves major guest walkways, so I’m counting on the familiarity to keep me moving. There is a lakeside path between the Studios and Epcot area resorts, which is a little over a mile. Then comes the comforting visages of the Swan, Dolphin, Yacht and Beach Club resorts, as well as the Disney Boardwalk. We’ll reach the 25 Mile marker just inside Epcot’s International Gateway, journey past every country in the World Showcase, hit the 26 Mile marker in the shadow of Spaceship Earth, then it’s just two tenths of a mile to paydirt just outside the park’s main entrance.

The appeal of Disney for the first marathon attempt, as I’ve tried to describe, is always having that next magical landmark to reach. My Disney fandom might just propel me to finish the feat I mocked ten years ago. The beacon of Epcot, my favorite park and Spaceship Earth, my favorite ride, can’t be overstated. Armed with this (and a little bit of training), I finally believe I can complete this thing.

There are varying opinions on how long to train, especially for a first marathon. Having run fairly consistently for a year, a four month plan would probably suit me fine. I’m electing to do six, however, so I can feel confident in my level of fitness prior to the race. And so the half year commitment begins today. Weeks and weeks of long runs to look forward to, all culminating in a breathless finish outside the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow..

Wish me luck.

Hey everyone. It’s been awhile since I’ve updated and I just wanted to write a quick blog to check in. These past two weeks have been a wonderful mixture of busy and relaxing, but I’m ready to get back to work.

Fourth of July weekend was an overall success. The Goose Rocks Beach 5K was held on Sunday, July 5th and I set a new Personal Best, coming in at 23:14. That was good for 100th overall, out of over 700 runners. I saw the Portland Sea Dogs get pounded (dog pun) and two long fireworks shows. One highlight was listening to an enthusiastic old man sing all four verses of the Star Spangled Banner (who knew). A lowlight was being forced to endure “Proud to Be an American,” perhaps the worst song ever made by a human.

Lobster was eaten twice. Once from the shell and once on a lobster roll. I almost braved the McDonald’s lobster roll for my third of the trip, but I elected to wait until later in the summer for that one.

The reliability of available Allagash and Shipyard beers is an appreciated feature of traveling to Maine. I was sad to return home, but everything has a beginning and end.

I’ve got a lot of ideas for upcoming blog posts. The final trip reports for St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm are forthcoming, complete with photos of all your favorite Russian palaces, Finnish kites and that sexy Swedish infrastructure. I’ll be writing an analysis of Westeros from A Song of Ice and Fire (that’s Game of Thrones for all you illiterates). A longer rant about the South may be on the way, too. Marathon training begins next week and periodic updates are in the works. Plenty of other thoughts in the nascent stage, too.

Stay tuned for your regular programming.


I wasn’t raised on running. The longest I remember purposely going as a child was the mile run during the middle school physical fitness test. A 6:45 mile. Respectable. Even though I wasn’t compelled towards this particular activity, I kept fit through hockey, bike riding and weirdly running in circles like kids seem to do. There wasn’t any need to run outside the desire to get somewhere in a hurry.

After high school, hockey and biking surrendered to binge drinking and excess eating. My priorities changed as my invincible teenage attitude persisted. The result was as ugly as one might expect. I remember trying to play a men’s league the spring I graduated college, 65 pounds heavier than any point during my adolescence. The shame of allowing myself to retreat so far into sedentary abyss prompted a personal revolution. As Sam Cooke sang, “I know a  change gonna come.” I dropped the weight that made me border on obese and fluctuated after that at various levels of “functioning overweight.”

Weight training and dieting are essential components to large scale weight loss, but this post obviously isn’t about them. I can wax poetic about how working out automatically improved my outlook and burned fat quickly. Unfortunately, weights don’t require great levels of sustained activity. They helped return me to human acceptability, but didn’t drive me back to youthful activeness.

For the longest time, whenever somebody would mention running a 5k or a half marathon, I’d dismiss it as something pseudo-douchey people do to flex their superior fitness in other’s faces. Like all things foreign, what we don’t understand is often what we end up hating. My disdain was envy, directed at those who never allowed unfounded excuses prevent real accomplishment. Running requires effort and that’s the point.

My race experience thus far has been minimal, but seeing progress as the fruit of hard work is rewarding as hell. After posting a disappointing time at my first 5k in October, one where underpreparedness and bad allergies forced me to walk parts of it, I could’ve been discouraged from further participation. But I decided to register for the Boston 5k, which I ran this past weekend, and attempted to improve. Improve I did. Three minutes and thirty seconds faster than October and my fastest mile was the final.

Watching runners compete in the Boston Marathon on Monday, the perseverance required not just on race day, but in a half year or more of training, is motivation enough to want it. A marathon isn’t a physical feat, it’s mental. Any person’s body can be crafted into the ideal form for such a challenge, but even the fittest can’t simply show up in Hopkinton and blaze 26.2 miles of trail into Copley. You have to be willing to make running a significant part of your identity. And when it’s done and you think you’ve accomplished something great, you can still do better. Both the male and female winners of this year’s B.A.A 5k set American road records. Others, like me, set personal ones.

Improvement is always possible, not just on the road but in every aspect of life. Continuous effort is essential. Complacency sets in quickly if you’re not careful. It’s so easy to say, “I’m not going to run today because…” and this is the most dangerous thing you can do. Once you start in on excuses, you’ll convince yourself of anything. Instead, get up and go. Running made me accountable every single day and I can honestly say it has transformed me. Let it transform you, too.