Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .


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A matter of time, crossing the line at Boston

It is taking me awhile to process the experience of crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon at 2:39:20 p.m. – 10 minutes before the explosions went off at 2:49:43 p.m.

BostonFinish Area3in-x

Where I was standing when I heard the explosions is shown by the *X*

Runners are greeted at the finish line by officials whose  job is to make sure they move along quickly through the post-finish line area which spreads over three city blocks. This process includes; recovery drinks and water, getting a heat sheet blanket, a sticker to keep the heat blanket secured, a medal, the option of a photo while wearing the heat sheet blanket and medal and then a bag of food. I did all of the above, except for the drinks in those ten minutes.

Just after receiving my bag of food explosions were heard and a very large plume of smoke rose to what seemed like 20 stories high. It appeared to be at least a mile away. My sense is that we were all thinking “this can’t be good” but were hoping that it might be simply be a gas explosion. Nobody wanted to believe that it could be something more sinister.

An integral aspect of the Boston Marathon experience is the spectators. Having been buoyed by their support all the way, I now realize survivor guilt is inevitable. The rational question is “Why anyone?” but as a benefactor of the incredible enthusiasm and cheer-leading at Boston the question for a participant becomes “Why so many spectators when they were only there for us?”.

PROTECTED FROM ANXIETY

Somehow the mayhem did not immediately spread two blocks past the finish line.  We did not hear a chorus of sirens wail, leading one woman to echo our hopes (or state of denial) when she said, “It’s funny that there aren’t more sirens maybe that means its not serious.”  We saw one or two officials run towards the finish line but without giving us any direction. We had no idea what was going on. The roar of the crowds at Boston are deafening. I think I will always ask myself why we were not able to make out that the screams of encouragement from two blocks away had turned to screams of anguish, pain and terror.

We finishers continued,  albeit with some anxiety, with the usual post-race routine, the next step to pick up a checked bag. My checked bag contained items that I was willing to leave behind should the line-up be overlong.  I have a cache of old gear saved expressly for this. My habit with out-of-town marathons is to stay at  hotel within reasonable walking distance to the marathon finish should I decide to skip picking up my baggage and have just a heat blanket to keep warm. I still considered picking up my bag as there was still no sense of panic in my immediate area. I walked by the baggage bus and saw that there was a line-up of 6-7 runners for my bib number sequence (which by usual standards is quite reasonable) but decided that it was sensible to skip the baggage check. I walked quickly out of the runner-only area eager to reunite with my husband asap.

Our hotel was 1 mile from the finish line and our meet-up plan was a street corner enroute to the hotel. The understanding was that if he was not there, I would likely head back to the hotel and message him. At the best of times, nothing is more unpredictable than trying to connect with friends and family after a marathon, especially when you are away from your home city. The chaos and worry that ensued for all those who were more immediately affected by uncertainty in reuniting must have been grueling.

Boston after the finish line

Turning towards a spectator friend for a photo after crossing the finish line in 2007

My mental construct was that my husband may have seen me cross the finish line and be walking parallel to me on the sidewalk toward the exit to the runner-only area or our meeting spot. I drew this image from 2007 when I was spotted by a friend just after I finished and she took a photo from the sidelines. Since I did not realize how close the blast had been this image did not cause me to worry. I walked over to our meeting spot and my husband was not there so I walked quickly back to the hotel where I immediately emailed him.

3:26 p.m.
Subject: I am at the hotel 🙂

Shortly after, he replied . . .

3:31 p.m.
Subject: re: I am at the hotel 🙂

Thank God

After this an email arrived which included a link to a photo from the devastation at the finish line. I was then that I became aware of what had happened.

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Post-Boston Marathon

Dear friends,

Thank you for all your concern and care. I deeply mourn and grieve for the loss of life and injury suffered by so many at the Boston marathon. My heart and prayers go out to their friends and families. The spectators at Boston are one-of-a-kind and exemplify the best of American exuberance, civic pride and love-of-sport. As a runner whose spirits have been buoyed by the unbelievable cheer-leading of Bostonians for a fifth time, the fact that spectators were a target adds yet another element of tragedy. If city dwellers everywhere could rise to the level of support and celebration that exists at Boston, cities everywhere would be better for it. Boston, we feel your pain.

Lynn

Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi

Finish line 2007


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The Boston Marathon, a bigger picture

Toronto_Marathon_1995

Running a first marathon with mom

Before I met Amy, the author of this blog post, I met her mom, Jeraldine Ballon. But the circle has closed and now Amy and I are members of the same track club. Knowing something of what the Boston marathon means to her, I asked her to share her very special memories of her mom and their shared love of running. Here is her beautiful story.

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It has been 12 years since I last ran the Boston Marathon, but this time of year still brings back many memories of Boston and my mom. Of the 10 marathons my mother ran between the ages of 51 and 56, four of them were Boston. This is her story of becoming an athlete, and her road to Boston.

Boston marathon 1997

Boston marathon 1997

Always the last kid picked to be on a team, I don’t think my mother thought she had an athletic bone in her body. Plus, as someone with a penchant for beer and potato chips who happened to be rail-thin, she may not have thought that she even needed to exercise. Everything changed when she won a membership to a posh, downtown Toronto gym. I remember the day she went in for her fitness assessment in a pair of sparkly sneakers she’d purchased on vacation at a K-Mart because they were the only ‘runners’ she owned.

The positive experience she had in the gym quickly snowballed and she fell in love. Not only did she enjoy watching her body grow stronger, but she discovered running. Her goal of running a marathon followed soon after and she planned to run the New York City Marathon. As I stood on the sidelines that day, both our lives were changed. My mom was hooked, and I was inspired. I promptly began training for my first marathon

Together we ran marathons in Toronto, Chicago and Washington. My mother also went on to run Paris. Our times decreased and our love of running increased while we logged hundreds and hundreds of training miles together. My mother started to get really fast, consistently winning her age category. I counted myself lucky to have this special relationship with both running and my mother.

Boston 1998

Boston 1998

And then there was Boston. My mom ran Boston in 1997, 1998 and 1999. And she ran with me after I qualified in 2000. Boston in 2000 was also special because it was just six months after her hysterectomy. She had had emergency surgery after cancer had been discovered in her uterus. Funny enough, it was her running that led her to self-diagnose. Her training had made her so aware of what was going on in her body, that went things started to feel ‘off’, she advocated for herself very quickly. She was treated, given a clean bill of health, and a 98% survival rate.

Things were good that fall: I was newly married, newly graduated from business school, and working in a great job. Training for was going well too, until one day when my mother told me that she didn’t think Boston 2001 would be in the cards. She wasn’t feeling well.

A few months later her worst suspicions were confirmed: Against the odds, the cancer had metastasized and her body was riddled with it. She was told that she had a few months to live. Nothing could be done to treat her.

In April 2001 I traveled to Boston with my husband, my dad and my mom who came to support me. My mother was not in great shape. It took a lot of effort to walk even a block or two. But she managed to score three passes to the finish line seats on the bleachers on Boylston Street. (Thank you, Adidas!) That was not an easy race. Heartbreak Hill took on a new meaning for me that day. Choking back my tears, I saw my family in the stands as I crossed the finish line. Boston was the last trip my mother took. She died a few months later.

Losing my mom was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. But how lucky am I that I had a mother who, by inspiring me, introduced me to running and changed my life? How lucky am I that I got to run the Boston Marathon with my mother? How many people get to say that?

Boston 1999

Boston 1999

I haven’t run Boston since that year, and in fact took a ten year hiatus from the sport. But I have started to run again. Who knows, maybe I’ll be back on Boylston Street one day; maybe with one of my own daughters. One thing I know for sure: When I run now, the inspiration my mother provided is right there with me.

~ Amy Ballon


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The Easter Bunny & the Boston Marathon

Easter bunnies

Once again, I find myself on the last day of the month rushing to meet my twice-a-month minimum blogging goal. We are hosting our family Easter dinner, making things a little busy around here. Although, I was pleased to find out that my husband will not go into the office today. It is a busy time for him. So having assigned him some chores, I now have a bit of breathing room for a quick blog post.

Tapering for Boston

I started tapering for Boston on Thursday by taking a day off. This on the heels of a 10 day cycle of 100 miles total. Things went well and I found myself wondering if I had trained hard enough. Although for the final 16 miler on Wednesday my pace was at the slower end of the pace-range I had in mind.

Thursday night I met a friend for a very informal Scrabble tournament at a local restaurant. I had warned him that when my husband and I play, we really, really take our time. In fact, we read while the other is taking their turn. Nonetheless, I think he was a bit surprised at how long I took and I felt a bit rushed. I was supplied with a *Cheat Sheet* which included; all the allowable two-letter words, all three letter words, all short words using *Q* and more. Newcomers are allowed to use this for their first three games.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of this outing but despite getting whopped, I found sipping a glass of Malbec over the course of three Scrabble games and intermittent conversation very relaxing. My friend who recently read the book, “Younger Next Year” has increased his workout habits. I’m hoping that if I get more serious about a mental fitness program that my brain will be younger-next-year.

My husband and I are very evenly matched at Scrabble and we have recorded the scores for all the games we have played. I feel I learned quite a bit on my evening out and am thus very eager to test this out on him. He has declined and is sticking to the solitary pursuit of Sudoku. He’s much enjoyed the beautiful board pictured above, a gift from our son’s girlfriend. Quite a striking “objet”.

Cute bunny

Happy Easter friends!

My mental fitness routine, as yet, is not fully articulated but roughly includes reading more,  making the effort to learn new software and how to use all the features of the many gadgets that have come into my life. I’m  hope to tackle some Sudoku however having gone through a phase of Sudoku-obsession when they first came on the scene, I have concerns about taking the plunge again.

I’m plodding towards completion of “Les Miserables” having read 850 pages of 1202, I am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been interspersing this with another book of reflections and a teaser for “The Great Convergence, Asia, The West and the Logic of One World”. I generally read more non-fiction than fiction but the plan is to read “Tale of Two Cities” after that. While I love Dickens this one wasn’t at the top of my list until reading “Les Miserables”. Dickens by the way, was born 10 years after Victor Hugo and died 10 years earlier.

There’s bread to bake and houses to clean so I must go. Although, I no longer have to make breakfast having fueled up on one of the chocolate bunnies from the  top photo.

Wishing you a Happy Easter!

“Woe, alas, to those who have loved only bodies, forms, appearances! Death will rob them of everything. Try to love souls, you will find them again.”  Victor Hugo – Les Miserables


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Friends, Runners & Committee Members

Much going on and there are nice intersections of the above. Monday was the start of a ten day training blitz, my peak training for Boston. My plan is to average 10 miles a day for this ten day period. I ran 18  miles on Monday during which I picked up the pace through 10 miles to the end. Two days before I raced 3K at the Canadian Masters Indoor Championships and was happy to have my best performance of my four-race indoor season of two 5K’s and two 3K’s. I was able to raise my age-graded score by 1% over each race. My 12:30 for 3K translates into a 9:42 as an open female, a solid national class time. It was an honour to be awarded the Ontario Masters Athlete of the Month for February. You can read about this HERE . . .

April is the Busiest Month

The Boston Marathon is on Monday, April 15th and the People4Kids Gala on Wednesday, May 1st. My husband and I are Co-chairs and what we thought would be a two- year commitment now has a life of its own. The funds raised at the gala go towards an orphan sponsorship program in Ethiopia which is run by the largest community group of Ethiopians and Eritreans here in Toronto, People to People AID Organization Canada (P2P). We have sponsored a little girl for a few years and while on my runs, I often visualize myself running in Africa, especially while listening to the song Viva Africa which has become a favourite of my Boston 2013 training cycle. You can have a listen at the YouTube link at the bottom of this blog.

View from my Laptop

View from my laptop

The photos to the left of “little Tigist” – so called because the Chair of P2P Canada is our “big Tigist” – were taken at Christmas. She is wearing a hoodie that was a gift from us along with a schoolbag and Christmas card. We hope to visit her soon. Our friend Ambaye, who is on the Board” of P2P traveled to Ethiopia in December and kindly offered to take these gifts with him.

Earlier in the month, I enjoyed planning a breakfast reception held in the Old Senate Chamber at University College to celebrate our gala supporters and kick off year three. We have a committee of eleven which includes four Ethiopian-Canadians. Defying stereotype, none of the Ethiopians run while five of us, including four Asian committee members do. Three of us are on the UTTC Masters track team, as is one of our key supporters.

We in fact sold two gala tickets to a runner friend who challenged our Ethiopian friend to do, what for Ambaye is the improbable, run a 5K.

Yesterday I jogged an easy 3 miles in the morning and in the early evening did a 10 mile run on the treadmill which included 60 minutes of running at marathon to half-marathon pace. I broke it into sections of 1 x 20 minutes, 2 x 15 minutes and 1 x 10 minutes, running progressively faster for each section. Tomorrow, I’m running 16-18 miles with the Saturday Guys. Although two of the four are lucky to be in warmer places . . . sigh. On Monday, I plan to do intervals with the team, the longer the better and will reach the summit of my training on Wednesday with a final long run of 17-18 miles which will include 8-10 miles of progressively faster running.

At right, big Tigist

At right, big Tigist

Did I mention that I’m doing Boston for fun?! That and to raise funds for P2P. Yes, my training is not what it used to be and I’ve resigned myself to doing well at shorter distances but not being able to maintain the quality of performance over the long haul. Lacking natural endurance I used to compensate by running a lot of mileage but at age 57 the miles don’t come as easily.

I am hopeful that my recent foray into more track racing will result in some self-knowledge gains that will point me towards how to  best train for marathons in my late-50’s and early 60’s. While I am happy to be able to run Boston this year, I don’t plan to return until 2016 when I will be in the 60-64 age group. I turn 60 in the fall of 2015. Can’t get my mind around that one. Three cheers for the prospect of being able to run marathons at age 60 but make no mistake  . . . 60 is *NOT*  the new 40.


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Treading winter on a treadmill

I’ve been running long enough to remember when treadmills were an exotic species of gadget, used almost exclusively for tests administered by exercise physiologists.  I”m not sure when they started to become part of your standard gym equipment but thank goodness for that.

Over the past month I’ve done two 18 milers and both were done on the treadmill at my local YMCA due to very messy weather with treacherous footing. I’m an old hand at treadmilling but over those runs I learned a new trick. I can READ and RUN at the same time! If I set the font size on my Kobo reader to large, I can read without any difficulty. This is quite a discovery for someone who is trying to make it through the 1200+ pages of Les Miserables. I’m now 48% of the way through.

A cautionary note here. I think I can easily manage this feat as not many people have logged as many treadmill miles as I have. My theory is, that since running is second-nature for me and requires very little concentration, the door is open to multi-tasking. I think some of the findings presented in Thinking Fast and Slow by Nobel prize winner, Daniel Kahneman would support my view. Nonetheless, one should not get too cocky. Last fall I stumbled and fell on a treadmill and was hurled off. Thankfully I was not going very fast. I can’t imagine what would have happened otherwise. Wearing the safety catch while on a treadmill is a good idea.

Treadmill

A surprising development

For the latest 18 miler I did this. For the first hour, I listened to Thinking Fast and Slow, the audiobook. I own the hard copy of the book but had stalled at page 135 and knew that I needed the ease of the audiobook to get me back into it. I would like to have the “reader” option but three options for one book, seems excessive not to say, expensive. The book is a bit demanding so I knew that after the first hour, switching to Les Miserables would be in order. For the third hour, I listened to music. The week before I looked at all the “tags” I had collected on Shazaam, the music identifying app, and downloaded those from www.legalsounds.com for a pittance. It is always motivating to run with new music in hand.

No,it has not been easy getting geared up for winter marathon training, most of it on my own, but thank goodness for all these toys!


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A fast pace

Indeed! With seven weeks before the Boston Marathon I’m heading into the heart of marathon training. In addition to 60+ miles of training a week, a number of other activities are keeping me busy. But first a running update.

Lynn Kobayashi, Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi

*The Look* On the verge of death or childbirth? I think I need some finish line coaching from Usain Bolt.

A few weeks back I set a Canadian age-group record for the indoor 5K. It was “low-hanging fruit” as far as records go but as one friend said I’m sure it was delicious nonetheless. I ran 21:55 – breaking the old mark of 26:14 held by Gossette Radlein since 2008. Tomorrow, I’ll be running another indoor 5K so it looks like I will be running to lower the Canadian record 🙂

Lynn Kobyashi, Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi

Why am I HERE? (far right)

The 5K was an invitational race with athletes of all shapes, sizes and ages, and just one woman. That would be me. I’m not sure what the logic was of putting me in the best starting spot, the inside track, so to speak, perhaps that was the spot where it would be least likely for someone to trip over the vintage 1955 wannabe record chaser.

5K jerry k

Jerry, the class of the field.

A couple of other records were broken in the race. Jerry Kooymans broke the men’s 55-59 record and Jack Geddes ran 23:29 – breaking the record of 27:46 held by Whitey Sheridan in 1991. I was happy to take the record down to a respectable level, a solid national class time (equivalent to about 17:40 were I in the Open category).

Mini Meet JackLynn

Setting the pace for a 75 yr. old record-holder.

Jerry on the other hand is the crème de la crème of masters running in Ontario, an international caliber athlete who has been competing his whole life and still holds records for the Princeton team. Jerry ran most of the way by himself, finishing in 16:44. He broke the old record of 17:27 held by Robert Jackson set in 2011. Jerry is just a few months older than me which makes me an expert in knowing when he enters a new age-category.

Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi, Lynn Kobayashi

We did it!!

This blog post has filled up rapidly thanks to all the great photos courtesy of Doug Smith of the Ontario Masters Track and Field Association. So I’ll have to elaborate on my other activities some other time. As far as that goes, let’s just say that Ethiopia is on my mind.

My To Do List for the Next Ten Weeks

  • Organize reception at University College on March 7th to recognize and attract sponsors and supporters for gala to benefit Ethiopian orphans. If you are interested or know of companies who might be interested, download this invitation: Sponsor Reception or email: people4kids@bell.net for more details.
  • Organize gala for Ethiopian orphans at the ROM on May 1st
  • Finish reading Les Miserables – The harsh conditions in the book make me think of hardships faced by those in developing nations. I am 45% of the way through.
  • Run for Ethiopian orphans at the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15th.