Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Rebuild Our Neighborhood Playground Dammit

I'm not sure where to even start. When your wife tells you that you need to get a house before the baby comes you do your best to find one. About eleven years ago, my wife and I found a great little house in Kansas City, Missouri located up in what is referred to as the Northland. We settled in an area we call "Park Forest" which abuts Platte Woods, Missouri and in the Park Hill School District. The other "driving" factor in our home purchase was the proximity from St. Therese Parish, where my wife accepted a job as a first grade teacher.

This is exactly what you would call the American Dream. A working class neighborhood, with neighbors of all races, ages, and nationalities that are by and large single family owned homes. The average home price is around $130K. About a block or two from our house was this wonderful little playground at Park Forest Park. It looked just like this when we moved in.

Nothing extravagant. A few picnic tables, one built in grill, and a playground designed for kids aged two to seven. We could walk down the streets, pushing the kids in strollers, or shepherding them on bikes, let them burn off some energy for a little bit and walk back home. This park even had a little trail that ran along a creek where the kids could explore, get a little wet (when they fell off a rock), and climb an overturned tree or two. This is exactly the environment we wanted for our kids. Play with others instead of just in the backyard, skin your knees or get some stitches when you were learning and stretching your limits, while being close enough to home that as they grew up they could learn to do things by themselves. Yes, that meant we would like them go to the park on their own as they got older and learn a little responsibility. We don't parent as if there is a danger around every corner. In fact, we parent our kids to believe that most people are inherently good. It's our own little way of trying to fight against the tide of bubble wrap parenting and instill in our kids to get outside and live. This park one of the ways we allowed our kids to have their OWN adventures without us and then come home and tell us all about them.

Well, nearly a year ago our little jewel was vandalized.

It was a sad day at my house. My kids were having a hard time understanding why someone would want to do that to the playground. I tried to explain that most likely, some older kids were smoking or playing with lighters and it got out of hand. Look, I was no angel growing up and one of the few places we could go in Cape Girardeau, Missouri was to the park. The police generally let us "experiment" and as long as we weren't hurting anything or others so I don't begrudge middle-school kids or even high school kids hanging out at the park after the kids have all gone home. What does irritate me is the attitude of Kansas City, Missouri's Parks and Recreation Department. When they came a few days later to tear it down a neighbor asked what the timeline was for rebuilding. Their response, "why would be rebuild it? Those punks will just burn it down again."

I know that doesn't speak to the attitude of the overwhelming majority of the Parks Department because I know some of them personally but it's disappointing because I believe there must be some truth to that attitude. You know why? As of this writing, it's been 316 days since it burned down and not so much as a thing has been done to replace it. As a matter of fact, they took out the picnic tables and the grill so now there is nothing there but a rubber pad with melted plastic remains.

Pay special attention to the picture below and notice the tire tracks running through the park. There used to be protective wooden beams or posts along the side of the road, acting as a barrier in case a car tried to drive through. Now due to inaction by Kansas City cars, ATV's and other motorized vehicles have been driving around doing further damage to the park. 

Well, I have finally reached my tipping point. I refuse to just complain anymore and want to do something about it. I reached out to Fox 4 News and they did this excellent story about the relative inaction of the City to get this fixed.


I also engaged the City on Twitter because they are pretty responsive over social media.

While I understand two weeks isn't long in bureaucratic terms, nothing has been done. The City says that a playground has been identified, they just need to negotiate with a contractor to get the work going. I know at least gfive contractors who would have this done tomorrow so alas the wheels of justice grind slowly along.

Finally, I know getting the Intercontinental Hotel designated as blighted, building a new animal shelter, and continually trying to get KCI turned into Love Field, are more pressing issues for the City than my neighborhood park but it's been nearly a year and that's not good enough.

So please share this post with your friends and stop being satisfied with inaction. It's up to us to make our neighborhoods the great places we want them to be.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this story.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Saying Good-bye to My Work Wife

This week marks my one year anniversary as a manager in Corporate America. To celebrate said occasion my work wife, Karen, is also celebrating her freedom from those same corporate bonds. My friend's last day is today, December 18th, 2015. She is the rare individual that sees something she wants, takes control, figures out how to do it, does it and turns the page. I admire her skills and willingness to take a chance or risk that I otherwise would shirk from.

I met Karen a little less than four years ago. I was one of the people who interviewed her and then, in a scenario that would only work to foreshadow why she would leave, we didn't get back with her, left her dangling in the wind and then one day reached back out and offered her the job. We both worked for the same manager at that time who had the wisdom to recognize that Karen was a good fit the very first time we spoke with her.

It took only a matter of days or weeks for me to figure out I was fortunate to meet her. While I call her my work wife, it's more like a slightly wiser sister who actually likes me and doesn't mind my uniqueness. She would allow me to interrupt her whenever I wanted but was always thoughtful enough to not interrupt me. She would bring me McDonald's, on the regular, even when she might be dieting or avoiding fast food.

She was one of my main advocates in getting me into management. You have to have people who are willing be on your team. and she was always kind and understanding to me while I made the mistakes a new manager makes.

Her uncompromising self confidence that when she puts her mind to it and plans for anything, she can make whatever she wants to come true, come true. She is giving up the security of a consistent paycheck, not just for another paycheck but for work she finds rewarding. She is willing to take the chance that it might not work out but you never know unless you try. It seems so simple on the outside but the guts it takes to make those changes will always impress me.

She will probably read this and not agree with the vision I have of her in my head but it's how I will always see her. Good bye and have fun on your next adventure.

I read this last night at a meeting.

Look to this day,
For it is life,
The very life of life.
In its brief course lie all
The realities and verities of existence,
The bliss of growth,
The splendor of action,
The glory of power –

For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision.
But today, well lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day.
Sanskrit proverb

Monday, December 14, 2015

Pre End of Year Blog That May or May Not Ever Get Written

There is a lot to share that I'm probably not going to get around to writing. My kids are making me a better person everyday, my wife sees me through everything, everything. I have so much to be thankful for not just in the "season of giving" but all the time. We can give something back every day. If you can find that little piece of humanity and build on that, life finds of way of being alright.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Value of Mentorship - A Tribute

My mentor at work is off to a new challenge and opportunity. More responsibility, more pressure, more money, and potentially more difficulties. Even on her way out she has impressed me with her positivity, her grace during her transition out of her role, and the tact that she has taken to leave this place better than when she got here.

I'm not sure when I got on her radar. Maybe it was running, maybe it was background, maybe it was when I applied and she read my resume and saw we had a lot of similarities. Anyway, she welcomed me to her inside sales team after my first two years of toiling away in marketing trying hard to make my mark.

"Rough around the edges and has a tendency to rush towards a solution rather than fully investigate all the ramifications. Occasionally can be verbose and can get off topic and spend a large amount of time talking and not doing." This would be a kind description of who I was professionally when Shannon got a hold of me. What I believe she also saw, was someone who loves to lead people, who is an optimist, who can inspire others, isn't afraid to ruffle feathers, and shares similar personal priorities. The honesty and openness that her mentoring provided was an environment where I felt safe to make mistakes. I had an ally who was willing to mold me into a better version of myself and would not hang me out to dry when I did mess up. She has my back and the good mentors do.

My mentor has the self defeating attribute of being so selfless it hurts her. Every person who is under her management is coached to realize their potential, whether that's on her team, on another team, in a different role, or even at a new company. She would literally sacrifice her own advancement for the advancement of her team. That is what a REAL leader does. She has a vision and actively inspires her team to achieve it. From the outside or from a higher position in the company it could appear that her team is always in flux but that would be a superficial way of looking at it. The reason it's in flux is because she is tirelessly working to find the best fit for every team member and maximize their potential.

In the past four years of mentorship, I have gone from Inside Sales Rep to Manager of Global Operations. The old me would have been upset that it took so long. The new me recognizes it ONLY took four years because of the direction of my mentor and persistence to my own vision.

Running is another passion with which we share an interest. She likes the big races, I like the small ones but if life works the way it normally does, I will be running a big one in the Fall and she will be running a small one. We rub off on each other even when we don't know it.

I'm also mentoring on my own now. She inspired me to take on that challenge as well and it's tremendously rewarding. When we are growing up, we need role models. Whether it's our parents, teachers, entertainers, athletes, presidents, we look up at others and look to behave like them. We don't stop needing them just because we get older. Now, we give them a fancier name, mentor, and it's really an adult role model both professionally and personally. I saw what she had, how she behaved, and the respect with which others in the organization saw her and I wanted that. The only way to get it was to ask her how she got there. That little spark of a conversation has blossomed into a real friendship and I don't know about you, but I don't make friends as readily as I did when all it took was a shared love of play-dough and crayons.

Shannon Glass is someone whom I will forever be indebted. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for your friendship, kindness, compassion, encouragement, laughter, listening, and guidance. I can't say this about more than a handful of people in my life but I can say this about you with 100% complete confidence, you made a positive difference in my life and I am a better human being because of you. I'll miss you Shannon Glass. I'll miss you.

To new adventures my friend!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

New Adventures Coming Soon...

I have done a lousy job of chronicling my adventures in coaching. From where I started with youth wrestling, to soccer, to competitive soccer, to club soccer, then cross country and now track, it one of the most rewarding and challenging parts of my life and I want to share it.

For the remainder of the year, I will be kicking out one a week, to share my love of coaching.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for...
my wife
my kids
my health
my friends
my family
my health
my house
my clothes
my food
my freedom
my running
my job
my boss
my dog
my shoes
my car
my life
my life
my life
my life

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Running the Boston Marathon

Do you know what "life-affirming" means? Have you ever really looked it up in the dictionary to  crystallize the definition in your head? It is a phrase that keeps coming up in my mind as I try to put into words what the 2014 Boston Marathon was to me.

The Oxford Dictionary states:

Definition of life-affirming in English:


Having an emotionally or spiritually uplifting effect: meeting these people was a life-affirming experience

Stated in common parlance, Yahoo Answers has this as the number one response to the question, "what does life-affirming mean?"

Bezi_Cat states: It sort of revitalizes you. Life-affirming means that it gives you a new faith in life. It reminds you that life is good and that everything will be fine. 

All of these answers might lead you to believe I think life is being devalued or our many trips around the sun are worth little. On the contrary, I consider myself an optimist but when I dig into what being an optimist means to me, the boundaries of my optimism typically range only to my immediate family and surroundings. When you start to ask me of my optimism for the greater public or world at large that is where my positive outlook weakens and the doubting begins. The Boston Marathon was a rock from the back of truck that put a crack in my carefully constructed window view of the world. 

I have a mentor and I suggest you get one as well. She is my manager at work and in a friend in my life. She provides solicited and unsolicited advice to me about my career, running, and life. It's important you set a few ground rules with your mentor or at least come to a shared understanding of how this relationship is going to work. Rule number one, don't be a sensitive cry baby. Your mentor has to have the freedom to give you constructive criticism. They can't just be a dick to you, but tough love is something you should be grateful for. The advice is uncompromising because they value you and one way or another what they are telling you is going to be exposed sooner or later. Respect the fact they have the guts to tell you something somewhat uncomfortable in an effort for you to remedy that situation. Rather than have someone else burn you or hold you back due to this characteristic or action your mentor is trying to help fix. My mentor provides another perspective or frame with which she views an event and knows how to relate her view to me. 

In 2012, I did not finish the Boston Marathon. I made it to somewhere around mile 17 or 18. In hindsight I'm not 100% sure anymore. All I know is that at one point in the race this year, I passed that medical tent where a nurse saved my life and said a quick prayer of thanks and cried a few tears. They weren't the only tears I shed during the race. It was unseasonably hot during the 2012 Boston Marathon and I opted not to adjust my strategy and suffered the consequences. It was briefly devastating to both my confidence and health. After that beat down, I needed to be built back up. My mentor was there for me then and provided the perspective that helped me to get back out there again.

In the months and weeks leading up to the race, Shannon, that's her name, kept hammering on me to enjoy the race, take it all in, live the experience, be in the now. Be in the now? What the hell does that mean? It means slow down, look around, appreciate the people cheering, the volunteers helping, the police, your friends, your family, the hours and time you put in to get to the start line. Think about how much more there is to Boston then all the races I have ran before. 

What makes my relationship with my mentor even more enjoyable is we are very different in some ways. She loves big races, Chicago, Vegas, Phoenix, Kansas City. Races where you are around a lot people and the camaraderie of your fellow runners. I like small races in small towns with few runners. To me BIG races are where people run because that's cool. Small races are where people run because they have to. Humanity is full display in the big runs and maybe it's the fact that I don't want my fragile faith in humanity to be troubled so I stay away from those. Or I'm cheap. 

I went into this race with two main goals. Stay with my best friend Nick as long as possible and finish. One time, in a 50K, I had a pacer for the final ten miles but I've never ran a marathon with anyone before. Nick is fast, like 1:22 in a half marathon fast. He was queued up for a personal best and his first sub three hour marathon. In hindsight, I should have been more willing to really share my experience from last time and the words of wisdom that had been shared to me about this race. Like slow down and enjoy this, it may never happen again.

Boston is a hard run. It's point to point. You start in Hopkinton and run right into downtown Boston. It feels like a straight shot and it pretty much is. It's a pretty intense downhill start and remains somewhat downhill or rolling hills until mile fourteen. This can be very taxing on the quads and the anticipation of running combined with being surrounded and I mean surrounded by fast runners makes it hard to hold back and not go out too fast. If you have ever played Mike Tyson's Punch Out on the old school, original Nintendo you have an stamina bar across the top of the screen. Your energy goes down the more times you are hit and the more punches you throw. Your energy goes back up but very slowly and only as long as you aren't hit, but can go up dramatically if you can make it to the next round. Boston is like fighting Soda Popinski. He can be defeated if you stick to your plan and keep your stamina high. If you go out to fast and try to do all your damage at once, then in the last rounds you will have nothing left and here comes the knock out. 

The hardest section of the marathon starts at mile sixteen. It's called the Newton Hills. A series of four hills that culminate with "Heartbreak Hill". The first hill was the hardest for me. After running downhill or flatish roads your legs aren't exactly thrilled when you motor into the first long incline. It's difficult to gauge how hard to go. Have you banked some time in the first half so you can ease off a bit? Are you feeling strong and want to keep the same pace up the hills? Are you feeling really strong and want to attack the hills and recover on the back side? If you are hesitating to answer these questions trouble is coming. Having an A, B, and C plan makes situations like these less mentally fatiguing and more intuitive. Mental stress can be just as crippling to a runner as cramps. From mile sixteen to twenty one you hit these four hills and runners are hitting the wall all around you. Once over Heartbreak it's another downhill screamer to mile twenty four and then pretty flat. Unless of course you take into account the little overpass you go under and then up at the "1K To Go" sign. Just steep enough to flush out whatever gas you had left to burn for a sprint to the finish. 

Cumulatively, the downhill start, mileage of the hill section, the constant maneuvering through traffic during the entirety of the race, and mental challenges of pre-race logistics make this an extremely challenging test, especially if it's your first time and you are trying to PR. Fortunately for me, this was my second time running and my goal was to finish.

The PBS Documentary called Pioneers of Television - Acting Funny recently aired and Tina Fey was one of the comedians interviewed. In it she talks about preparation and being in a state of "relaxed readiness". You do a ton of preparation and spend a ton of time getting ready so that when you are performing and something unexpected or new happens you are ready to react and incorporate that into whatever you are doing. It resonated with me completely. Going into the Boston Marathon I was in a state of relaxed readiness. Eighteen weeks of training is a farce. I had been training to finish Boston for two years. Your best time could happen with only eighteen weeks of training, on a base of nothing, but that seems unrealistic to me. It took me almost six years of running every week to start to see and feel that relaxed readiness that I felt going into Boston and numerous other races I have ran in the past twelve months. 

Boston does everything in it's power to get you out of your routine. Most runners I know are creatures of habit and most fast runners I know are pretty meticulous in their race weekend routines. Boston is on a Monday so you have to adjust your last few weeks of long runs to account for the extra day. The race starts at 10:00am unlike most 7 or 8am start times. You load a bus in downtown around 6am to take a nearly one hour ride out to Athlete's Village in Hopkinton, meaning in our case we were up at 4:45am to get in the car to ride down to the bus. You get out to the staging area and have roughly three hours to kill before go time. It was cold and one of the biggest changes was that you weren't allowed a drop bag due to security. Previously, you took your phone, food, clothes, etc., and put them in a bag with your bib number and they drove them back to the finishing area. With the changes, that meant everything your brought out to the start had to be either taken off and donated to charity or carried with you as you ran. If you wondered what a zombie slash homeless slash refugee camp for extremely fit people looks like this was the place to be. Sunken faces wearing old clothes carrying foil wraps or old blankets were scattered around all over the place. Real estate was at a premium but Nick and I managed to get a little area where you would have thought we were having some odd picnic. We had comforters and blankets that La Quinta was kind enough to give us and made a little padded bed. Our morning prep was considerably better than most of the runners out there. 

You have to eat and continue to hydrate sometime during the morning and again I can't stress enough that these times for consumption are normally regulated by runners. The hydration part is really accomplished during the week before but the race day nutrition part is day before and day of typically. Of course diet is important all the time but the fuel you are burning is normally in that 24 hour window. I am usually up only two hours at the most before the race starts. I pound a few glasses of water as soon as I wake up and then eat a banana, bagel or banana bread and a bagel an hour before race time. I ate the first bagel on the bus out about four hours before and then had a second bagel and banana about an hour and a half before. The rest of the time in the Athlete's Village I spent trying to rest or almost sleep on our comforters for two. At this point I knew I was in good shape because I was nearly fell asleep. The nervousness was practically gone. The anticipation leading to stress was gone and now I have a name for that feeling. Relaxed readiness. 

About an hour before the start time you are called up to your corral. Boston has four waves of start times and nine corrals in each wave. Roughly one thousand runners per corral and you are packed in like cattle. It is about three quarters of a mile from the village to the start. Nick and I were both in wave one but different corrals. You are allowed to go back into other corrals but not up. Since the goal was to run this thing together we had already decided we would go in the same corral. As we walked down the road people are already cheering for you. Loudly. All you are doing is just walking to the start and people are already building you up. Five or so high school boys started high-fiving me when they saw my long hair and headband. I chose to wear my "Coach Ben" headband given to me by my youth soccer team in a way to thank them for loving me. Nick got a big kick out of how crazy these kids were going for us. I stopped at the same driveway I did in 2012 where a family has all kinds of supplies laid out for free. Sunscreen, Vaseline (for preventing chaffing), energy gels, water, and most importantly a giant book where you can sign your name. I am now in there twice. At the bottom of the hill you take a right and then you have to commit to your corral or face having to go through security again if you get out. It really wasn't that big of deal to get back in you just had limited points of reentry to the starting area but it looked rather seamless. I say looked because once I got in the corral I stayed. 

Another routine killer is trying to find a place to stretch and warm up. My plan calls for me to get in a twenty minute light jog and dynamic stretches prior to the race. I used the fifteen minute walk down to the starting area to jog and stretch a bit. Before I entered the corral I did some static stretching, said some prayers of thanks. Nick had to use the bathroom one more time so I waited for him to come back before wading into the sea of runners. Once in the corral you have about ten or fifteen minutes to bounce around and think about the race. When the huge helicopters did a fly over we knew the race would start soon. I looked at my pace band which read, "Good Day For Fast." The gun went off at 10:00am and it was a little after 10:05am when Nick and I went across the starting line to start this phase of our experience. 

He was using a Garmin watch to track our mile splits and I was using an old fashioned Timex watch and pace band. We had a good idea of what we wanted our splits to be and we managed to hold back a bit, get passed a lot, and ease into the race. At this stage you are trying to avoid falling, not go to fast, stay in a relatively comfortable spot on the street, and try not to zig-zag all over the place. My plan was to get water at every other aid station. Considering the crush of athletes all over the place, Boston has Gatorade and water every two miles. The also have them staggered on both sides of the road. My decision was to use the ones on the left. It was going to be a decently warm day by the mid point, with temps rising to the mid to lower seventies and I took two waters at the stations I hit. One to drink half of and one to pour on my head. I also had Gu Energy Gels to consume at miles five, ten, fifteen, and twenty. I ate one thirty minutes before the start and, as mentioned earlier, I had also taken a S-Cap (sodium and potassium supplement) and took one at mile thirteen. 

Around mile three to four we started into the meat of our race pace goals. We needed to run somewhere around a 6:47 minute per mile average to meet Nick's goal of subbing three hours. As we started to hit those times I was honestly questioning if I was going to be able to maintain it. I did not communicate those thoughts to Nick but rather continued either right next to him or right behind him. In retrospect, that might not have been fair to Nick. I had told him I was going to just let him lead because honestly I didn't want the responsibility of setting the pace because I was afraid I might let him down. The last thing I wanted was to feel guilty that I caused him to not achieve his goal. While we never communicated this to each other we both knew that if one of us was having a good day and one of us wasn't we weren't going to allow our performance to affect the other one. We almost never talked during the race except for Nick to mention our splits. If one of us was going to go then so be it. We did attempt to chat about where our families were going to be on the course. My impression was that we would see them at mile seven but Nick told me they should be around mile ten in Framingham. This was an unexpected blessing. I was still questioning my pace but this forced me to concentrate on the crowds for the next three miles. Forgetting about the race or my legs was good for me and thinking about what side of the road they were going to be on was really my focus. Funny how we allow ourselves to really question some random things while running. My head kept saying, "how are we going to know where they are? What if we are on the left side of the road but they are on the right? Will we be able to merge across the road in time for some encouragement?" We stuck to the left side of the road and around mile ten I heard a yell, "I SEE THEM or HERE THEY COME!" My wonderful wife had taken control of our supporters and said she would be the look out, they would be the picture takers. The girls would be ready with hands out for high-fives and slapping. Later she said she was looking for the head band and that's how she saw us. I always say you have to look good to feel good but with mane of hair I was rocking I needed to keep that in check while keeping the sweat out of my eyes. The jolt of energy from seeing my family, hearing their cheers, and high-fiving my kids was what I needed.

Around mile eleven I started to feel I was getting stronger. The pace which had felt fast early on was becoming more comfortable. The urge to speed it up was there but I kept my plan in the front of my mind. Make it to the hills in good shape and be ready to deal with them. We hit the half right around 1:29:05 which put us right around where we needed to be. My confidence was building. To this point whenever one of us hit an aid station the other one kept the pace in the middle of the road and we would merge back together. This unspoken plan was working and it kept us both hydrated and together. It was somewhere between miles fifteen and eighteen that we started to split. I can't pinpoint where because I went to get water and came back in the middle I assumed he was getting water and would be on my side any minute. I don't look back when I run and I'm a front runner. My whole life, from track as a kid to adulthood, personally looking back means you are worried or aren't in control. Looking over your shoulder gives the person behind you confidence that you are concerned they are catching you. Plus, with this many people running you almost have to keep looking forward. The hills start around mile sixteen and my legs were good. My pace stayed unchanged around 6:49 mile per minute through all the hills. That is not something I was anticipating but they felt good and around mile twenty two I was planning on looking to see how close I was to my pace band goal. By mile eighteen I had a gap of about twenty three seconds on Nick. That is information I only knew in hindsight. At this point I was aware he wasn't on my shoulder but we had decided we weren't going to hold each other back. 

At this point I was passing a lot of people. It was a doubling encouraging. Seeing people hit the wall, start to walk, stop, sit on the side of the road, defeated. Harsh? Not really. You never know what you can do unless you fail. If you never cross that line you never know what you are truly capable of. My opinion on Heartbreak Hill is people are very, very close to their goal pace and overall time around mile twenty one. They can't really afford to slow down too much or else you won't be able to make that time back in the last few miles. If the slow down comes on an uphill or worse you have to walk or start to cramp this defeats you. Runners hang there heads, they realize the goal is lost. It's tremendously discouraging because it's hard to find the motivation to really push the last miles if you know your goal is already out the window. Seeing the giant heart drawn on to the top of the road and the banner saying you have finished Heartbreak were the only indications I even knew I just ran it. That makes you feel strong.

I had singled out mile twenty two as my key signpost for a couple of reasons. It's mostly downhill and flat from this point on and four miles carries a significance from my soccer playing days. At my high school, if you wanted to play soccer you had to run four miles in under thirty minutes. You didn't have to make the thirty minute cutoff to make the team but it was certainly a factor. If you didn't make it on your first attempt you had to keep doing it every week until you did. This was probably the most formative athletic standard in my life. I have no idea where our coach got this from or why we did it but to this day I somewhat judge my level of fitness on my ability run four miles in thirty minutes.With 4.1 miles remaining I had about twenty eight minutes to hit my time. It was going to be close. The strength coursing through my legs in the middle miles was rapidly waning. I measure my pace by footfalls or steps per minute mainly by sound and feel and I could tell I was begeinning to fade. The noise through these sections is tremendous. The wall of sound is constant. People screaming and encouraging you at every step. 

Unlike in 2012, I did not write my name all over my legs but only in one spot on my right calf. I remember walking down the middle of the road around mile sixteen feeling as if a vice was being turned with every breath on my chest and people were yelling, "Ben! You can do it! Keep going!" My internal monologue was chastising me. "Why did you write your name on your legs? Won't these people please shut up? Stupid, stupid, stupid." This year I took the more humble, less look at me approach.  

At mile marker twenty four my time was really close to my goal and I managed to run another 6:50 mile and I gave myself a chance to sub three. I would be lying if I didn't think around mile twenty that I was going to sub three easily but the truth is the hills took quite a bit out of me and when I mentally asked my legs to give me some more they wouldn't do it. I couldn't do it. I don't remember much about the last two miles other than I saw the giant Citgo sign and it was so loud. People were ten to fifteen deep on the roads. Reality set it around the twenty five mile marker when I realized I had made a mistake. I had to run another 6:50 in the final mile but there is another .1 left. That damn .1. The mistake sunk in when I passed the "One Mile To Go" sign. "CRAP!" Right then I knew 2:59:59 was not going to happen today and a feeling of warmth and happiness spread all through my body. It was not the feeling I was expecting. There was one last little down and up when you see the 1K to Go sign on an overpass. You run down a hill and up the other side. It was just enough on this day to officially squash any lingering thoughts that I might sprint in. I'm glad it did. With two minutes to sub three my decision was made to cruise it in not sprint it in. Was ten seconds going to matter much at this point? Nope. Great choice. 

Slowing down as I ran past the first spot one of the bombs went off and seeing throngs of people standing right there...resilience. Looking around me at all faces of both runners and spectators, all the different colors of people, flags of all the countries, kids, babies, old, young, men, women, all together to celebrate life, the human spirit, the city of Boston. For all the people tracking me at home, friends, family, co-workers, people I barely knew I was running for them too. I was finishing for them too, I was representing them too. 

3:00:35 was my official time. The second best marathon time in my life. Normally, I probably would have analyzed where I could have gotten thirty six seconds back. Festered on it and not allowed the sheer joy of finishing what I had started many years before. Not this time. The feeling in my body and spirit was a celebration of life. I'm surrounded by people who love and care about me in a city that can not be defeated and is proclaiming to everyone, "we are strong!" In a global community that believes the power of the human condition radiates love, strength and togetherness. 

Life affirming. From the first day in Boston when a woman stopped me on the corner to ask if I was running and gave me a hand knitted scarf. Her church had put out a call to get three hundred scarves to hand out as a symbol of togetherness. They got seven thousand. Life affirming. To the gentleman in line to pick up our race bibs who talked about living in Kansas City as well but growing up in Boston. Looking for the similarities rather than the differences. Life affirming. To the support from my employer, Perceptive Software, who allows me to run at lunch everyday so I can pursue what I love and have balance in my soul. Life affirming. To my family and friends who traveled halfway across the country to cheer me on and celebrate. Life affirming. To my mentor, Shannon, who I know was sitting at her desk with a smile on her face. Life affirming. And to my best friend, Nick, who reached out his hand and saved my life in 1999. There is no one in this world I would rather run a race with and can't believe I am living here today. I will cherish these memories everyday of my life.