This Running Life

Essays by runners about running.

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Going from Jogger to Competitor

November 7, 2014 by John Foster

Going from Jogger to Competitor

I started out running as a means to balance my insatiable desire to eat and drink, and that lead me to a new direction I never expected. When I started running I never thought about being a competitor, or even worse, an athlete. It dawned on me when I had to fill out the USATF membership application for the first time. There were checkboxes: Coach, Administrator, Official, Athlete. I guess I have to check Athlete. That felt awkward. Am I an athlete?

The realization what we are doing out there becomes more clear when you do more of these USATF Grand Prix races or the NYRR races. Where do these guys come from? The caliber of runner at these races just amazes me. Guys in their 40's, 50's, 60's who are amazing athletes and super competitive. No matter how hard I train there are always 5-10 other guys in my age group who finish ahead of me. How do they do it? I've run a bunch of races outside our metro area and I always do much better. Somehow it seems all the good runners are here. What is it about this area that breeds so many good runners?

Going from a weekend jogger to wannabe competitive runner has built up inside me a strong desire to compete. That desire wasn't there when I started to jog for fun. Something changed inside me along the way. What drives me isn't that I like to win or hate to lose. My passion is putting myself out there and giving it all I can until I cross the finish line. I only run against my watch, or more pertinently, my PR at that distance. Can I beat my all time best at this distance? I am certainly going to try every time.

When I started running it was a hobby, a past time, something to do but with only casual concern. I had no regimen, no workout schedule, no goals. After my first few races I developed a desire to be more competitive. I guess I got a little better and got a taste of what it feels like to run well in a race. Well is a relative term. I was not even age group competitive, but I saw what I was up against and I thought I could get to that level. This wasn't something I set out to do. It just happened. At that point I decided I needed to join a club.

I had no knowledge or experience with running clubs and I had no idea what to expect. I only came into it with a desire to be a better runner. I thought a running club could help with that. I remember I was at the Liberty Half Marathon one year, my first half marathon ever, and I saw a bunch of these runners in the same singlets. I thought they looked cool, serious, organized. I noticed most of them were amongst the top finishers. That gave me the idea that maybe I could join them and run as well as they do. And wear that cool singlet!

Becoming a member of North Jersey Masters wasn't easy for me. In the beginning it was very intimidating. It seemed everyone was an olympic athlete and wasn't good enough to keep up. By attending workouts and getting to know a few of the members over time it got much easier. The coached workouts gave me tons of new information for training, improving, and competing. It wasn't just the coaching. Getting to know a few members, making friendships, sharing ideas about running and life, that all built up over time. Training with others with similar goals helped make me better. In fact much better. It also made me feel like I was part of something bigger. My running has improved dramatically since I became a club member, I made a lot of great friends, and I wanted to give back to the club and the running community.

Considering where I started and where I am at now, I've come a very long way. I owe most of it to the North Jersey Masters. Now it is time to go out for a run!

Member Comments:

William H. Grae
3 Dec, 2017
Well put!

Karen Ann Byrne
7 May, 2015
That's so cool

RJ Montouro
7 Dec, 2014
Great article John. Thank you for all that you do for the club... NJM is my 'running family. Going to workouts, races and spending time with all the friendly, supportive, and encouraging teammates is such a great way to enjoy our sport .

Kevin Burns
10 Nov, 2014
On November 9, 2014, toed the starting line at Giralda 10K with John Foster, and for 5 minutes he did not notice that the he stepped into the corral right in front of me, that is a racer with focus. NJM Summer Coach Tom Treimel would advise when you race, concentrate, focus, channel all your energy. Get rid of the headphones, the Garmins, the chafe, it is time to race, and nobody competes harder than John. With a minute to go, wished John fast feet.

Matthew Ishkanian
8 Nov, 2014
Thanks John for your service to North Jersey Masters.

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April 15, 2013 by Norman Chester


A year ago, I ended an article for this newsletter with the following: Now if only I could qualify for Boston!

Six months later, I ran a PR in the Hartford Marathon but was still about 21 minutes short of my elusive Boston Qualifying time. Realizing that life is unpredictable, I decided to enter Boston through another route and was accepted as a "charity runner" for the Multiple Sclerosis Society (MS) of Greater New England. I had no idea at the time just how unpredictable life would become.

Chris Kunkel joined me for a beautiful Patriots Day weekend in Boston. It was to be his 50th marathon. We drove the entire course on Saturday afternoon from Hopkinton to Boston, then parked the car and wandered around the finish area. From there, we headed to the Expo and ran into Dan Kirsch and his family on Boylston Street, just down the block from the finish and then went on to the Expo to pick up our bibs and take in the excitement.

My charity partner, MS, held a dinner that evening for their fundraisers and guests at the nearby Sheraton. Chris and I found the speakers very interesting. We were both influenced by one woman who told us to high-five as many kids as we could and we took her advice; we high-fived hundreds of kids on Monday.

After a brief run along a reservoir on Sunday, I joined an old friend for brunch followed by a Boston Red Sox game. The Red Sox carried a no-hitter into the 8th inning. The pitcher was then tagged with a broken-bat single at which point Chris and I left to prepare for the big day. First, we needed to carbo-load and were joined by his cousin and her two sons at a local Italian restaurant.

I was awake before the alarm went off on Monday morning. As a seasoned Boston runner, Chris knew just what to do. Instead of taking a bus from Boston to the start, we would drive to the start and park in a nearby office park. Buses would be available at the finish to bring us back to Hopkinton. Since Chris would finish well ahead of me, he could wait at a nearby hotel where MS was holding a reception. I wrote his cell number on back of my bib in case there was a problem reconnecting.

As is typical of big marathons, we had plenty of time to wait in the Athletes Village. Fortunately, it was a beautiful sunny morning. I was sitting in the sun, checking emails and Facebook and saw that Gail Kislevitz had copied me on an email to an official at River Dell High School. North Jersey Masters gives an annual scholarship to a deserving senior and this year there would be two winners from Oradell. Gail told them that, since I was an Oradell resident, I would hopefully be available to present the scholarships but I wouldn't get back to them for a while since I was currently running the Boston Marathon. I replied to confirm that I would be pleased to do the presentations. Gail wrote back to wish me well and to comment on what a great day it was.

Chris left ahead of me as he was in the second wave. As time came near for the third and final wave, I packed my cell phone, along with dry clothes, into the yellow bags that we had been given and dropped it off at a numbered school bus. These buses would then head to the pickup area a few blocks from the finish to be collected later.

I walked with thousands of other runners into downtown Hopkinton. Most of us in this group were charity runners with varying levels of abilities. The race organization at the start was exceptional, which was clearly necessary as Hopkinton, while a beautiful town, was really not built to accommodate the start of a race of this magnitude. The start went off without a hitch.

I can't remember how many people have told me to start out slowly, as most of the first half of the marathon is slightly downhill and then followed by five miles of very challenging uphill climbs. I settled into my pace but almost had my day ended when a spectator literally ran across my path to greet a friend, nearly tripping me in the process. I muttered to myself that I thought this was supposed to be a world-class race. Shrugging it off, I fell back into pace and remembered my guidance from MS to smile and to high-five every kid I could find. This was becoming a lot of fun!

The miles passed easily. Soon I was approaching Wellesley College, where most of the female student body would be lining the road and cheering their hearts out. Some of the women honored a long-term tradition of kissing as many runners as possible, and I must confess that I kissed five of them. I high-fived most of the rest.

The course followed a train line from Hopkinton to Boston and, like the train line, had very few turns. On a perfect day, runners are treated to a tailwind out of the west. Unfortunately, this was the only part of the weather that was less than perfect as there was a breeze out of the east that picked up late into the race.

My next landmark, and one of the few significant turns, was a right turn at a firehouse that signaled the start of the hills. Things were about to get interesting. Staff from MS was situated nearby and cheered me loudly as I passed. My strategy was to run at least part of each hill but to run the entirety of Heartbreak Hill, which was the last big challenge. As many people warned, the continued downhills had taken a toll on my quadricep muscles but the damage was minimized as I had maintained a relatively steady and easy pace until then. I also took brief walk breaks every two miles. This helped but the hills still presented huge challenges at a point in the race where my energy was low. My pace dropped more than I wanted but I hung in there and ran the length of the dreaded Heartbreak Hill. At the top, I walked for a bit then resumed at a slower running pace. I was becoming increasingly aware of the headwind, which was probably not that significant but certainly felt strong at the time.

It was invigorating to run past Boston College. The students were even louder than the Wesley women and I'm guessing that many of them had done a bit more drinking. They spurred me on very effectively. From there, my thoughts moved forward to the Citgo sign a mile from the finish, which was still a long ways off but would be the point at which I was hoping to find Bob Hollis. Bob and I were there last year and the spot by the "One Mile To Go" sign has become his annual hangout. I was getting really tired but tried to tell myself to hurry up so Bob wouldn't have to wait too long. The race followed some trolley tracks and I remembered that Chris warned me not to trip over them where they crossed the road. The Citgo sign finally came into sight but was really just a huge tease as it was still a long way off. I hung in there the best I could and finally connected with Bob. I stopped to thank him for waiting for me.

I don't know where I was when the bombs went off. I never heard or saw the explosions. I continued running with increased strength after my visit with Bob and simply visualized the finish area. Shortly before the underpass that would bring me to the final two turns, my Boston Marathon came to an abrupt halt (see photo). I literally almost ran into a crowd of runners. I hadn't been looking ahead very far and was shocked and angered that I needed to stop short. Somebody announced that two bombs had gone off at the finish area and that people were killed. My anger turned to even greater shock mixed with confusion.

It was quickly apparent that the race was over. I walked to the sidewalk and spoke with two teenage girls who were watching in horror. They confirmed that they also just heard about the bombing. I realized that my wife, back home, would also learn quickly, so I asked one of them for her cell phone. She kindly handed it to me, and I called Vivian. When she answered, I quickly said "I'm OK." She asked, "How was the race?" Good, I thought, she didn't hear yet. I said ,"I'm OK but there was an explosion." She screamed and the line went dead.

The next few hours were a blur. As I was in a singlet and shorts, I became cold. My first hope was that I could reconnect with my baggage. Walking around the police checkpoints that were immediately set up, I couldn't get close to Boylston Street and couldn't see the buses. I did spot the Sheraton where we had dinner on Saturday, and sought refuge in their lobby. I sought out somebody with a phone. A man told me the lines were all down but I could try his phone anyway. He was right, but I got off two quick texts: one to my wife to reaffirm that I was OK, and one to Chris with the same message. At least I had made an interesting discovery. I could communicate by text.

Having warmed up a little, I went back out in search of my baggage. I teamed up with a woman whose race had stopped at the turn onto Boylston. She had seen the explosions. We were both getting colder. We came within sight of a tent in the finish area but as we headed toward it a policewoman came running toward us screaming at us to move back. She said a third bomb had just gone off. It turns out that she was wrong but it was clear that the area was still off limits.

There was a train station nearby. Going inside for warmth, I quickly spotted Bob Hollis, who was waiting for a train home! We compared notes on what happened, and I asked if he could try to call Chris. He and I needed to reconnect. The phones, unfortunately, were still down. Feeling even colder, I spotted a souvenir vendor. As a last-minute whim, I had taken $20 with me for the race. I showed the vendor the money and asked her if she could provide me with something to keep me warm. She took one look at me, then walked in the back and came out with a beautiful Boston sweatshirt.

Now I was thirsty and broke. Bob very kindly lent me some money. I bought a coke from another vendor. I realized that we both needed to move on: Bob to his train and me to hopefully reconnect with Chris. I thanked Bob profusely (he's terrific!). I found the hotel where Chris had gone to wait for me on a map at the train station and asked an attendant how to get there. She said it was a 10 minute walk but thought that, since I had just (almost) run a marathon, the train would be better. I could get on for free. I took the train to the second stop as directed, got off, and was immediately lost. Wandering around, a few minutes later I actually spotted the school buses! A runner was walking my way with his bag. I asked him how to get there and he told me the police still had it sealed off but there was a side approach that he gave me directions to. It worked, and I actually spotted the bus with my number sequence on it but, on approaching it, two policemen stepped in from of me and told me I needed to wait. It seemed like forever but eventually I retrieved my bag.

Pulling my phone out, I quickly engaged Chris in a text conversation. He had continued our game plan and left the hotel to get a bus to Hopkinton. He said there was no way for him to get back into Boston and told me where to find these buses. I followed his advice and caught the next bus out! While waiting for the bus to leave, I spotted a text from George Carlson. I confirmed that I was OK and so was Chris and asked if he could post that on Facebook, since I still couldn't get into it.

It was only when I was clear of the city that my internet access returned. There were dozens of Facebook posts, emails and texts ranging from R U OK to a more emphatic Please Let Me Know You're OK. I even had emails from friends and colleagues in Europe, where it was late at night. My family was manning the phones back home and handling things from there very well. The North Jersey Masters support network was in sprint mode and working wonders. We were out of Boston and heading home!

Most of those in NJM who ran that day finished well ahead of the bombs. Nobody in our club or in my MS group was hurt. For one day in my life, I was actually happy that I was a bit slower than I had wanted to be. It's good to be slow.

My thanks to this very special group of friends.

Now if only I could qualify for Boston!

Norm Chester

Member Comments:

Mark Snyder
30 Apr, 2013
I always carry wet money with me too in case of a worse case scenario. Who would had thought it come true. You literally survived the marathon. For that you can be thankful.

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My Post 2013 Boston Marathon Thoughts

April 15, 2013 by Jeffrey Ruttner

My Post 2013 Boston Marathon Thoughts

It's been a week since the tragedy of the 2013 Boston Marathon massacre bombing terrorist act. Someone suggested I put down in writing my thoughts, there have definitely been a lot of thoughts.

My performance at the 2013 Boston Marathon pales in comparison to the events that took place. Nonetheless, I had a terrible race, my worst marathon ever, I actually consider it a DNF (did not finish) even though I crossed the finish line in 3 hours 53 minutes on my Garmin watch (3 hours 54 minutes on the official clock). I knew after about 5 miles, trying to run close to or with my friend and training partner Yitzy, that this was not going to be my day. My previous injury (groin and abdomen) and lack of fitness due to recurring injuries during my training leading up to the race and time off to recover from those injuries, left me not prepared like I should have been. But I was registered to do the race and felt I recovered and rested up enough to give it a try. I am glad I did even though it turned out the way it did.

After running about 5 miles at goal race pace (2 hours 55 minutes) I decided to slow it down gradually to "just" sub 3 hour goal pace but that lasted only about 5 more miles when I decided to slow it down even more, half marathon time split was 1 hour 34 minutes so I was still on sub 3 hours 10 minutes pace but I decided at that point to just make the rest of the run a LSD (long slow distance) run until mile 20 since I felt too much pain in my injured areas. Well, by mile 17 I decided I had enough and started to walk. I was hoping to find a bus or train or shuttle to get to the finish line to meet my friends and collect my belongings but was not able to. I thought, oh well, I guess I am going to have to walk the next 9 miles, no big deal, it was a beautiful spring day and there was plenty of water and Gatorade to keep me hydrated and I would just take it all in with the atmosphere in Newton and the crowd cheering and the runners running.

It was not easy though, being the first time giving up in a marathon and feeling "is this the beginning of the end for my marathons". I think this marathon was number 26, first started in 1988 when I was 23 (the Green Mountain Marathon in South Hero, Vermont finished in 3 hours 6 minutes just behind Doreen Friedman, my training friend from Montreal, first female overall), so that would make 25 years of doing these marathon races since I think I am now 48. When I was walking those 4 miles people kept yelling at me to start running and stop walking and after going up the Newton hills including Heartbreak Hill, at mile 21 some guy from either Boston University or Boston College (thank you whoever you are) finally got to me after yelling at me "you can do it, start running", I started off really slow, and gradually picked it up to a "normal" jogging pace for me, around 7:30 a mile, probably closer to 7 flat or sub 7 for the last mile or so.

Little did I know that 15 minutes after I crossed the finish line 2 bombs would explode (at 4 hours 9 minutes on the finishing clock, the same time my friend and neighbor, Pesach/Marc finished the race last year) killing 3 people, including an 8 year old boy Richard Martin, a 29 year local female and 23 year old female visiting Chinese university student and injuring more than 175 people. I was standing about 2 or 3 blocks away next to my friend Yitzy Mittel and Scott Avidon talking outside the medical tent, Scott was just coming out after having received help for leg cramps he experienced after running a very respectable 2:57. Yitzy and I were standing near the finish line about 5 minutes earlier waiting for our other running friends from the NJ Masters and Essex Running Club on Bolyston Street to go and have a celebratory beer when we discovered that Scott was in the medical tent so we went to see how he was doing and we were going to return to that same spot near the finish line on Bolyston Street to meet for the post race beer.

Then we heard the explosion and boom and then another one. We thought it was a construction accident but within a short time, maybe 2 minutes maybe 5 minutes, police told us it was a bomb, ambulances, police, other medical and emergency personnel and vehicles all rushing to the scene. Scott rejoined his wife Emily and 5 year old boy Leo and tried to get out and return to their hotel.

Yitzy and I tried to find a subway to get back to Newton where we had our stuff but the subways were shut down due to the bomb. All the taxis were full. So we started to walk and walk and walk, maybe about 2 miles when we finally asked someone going into a parked van if we could get a ride. These guys were roofers finishing a job right near the bomb sight, they actually heard and saw the bomb go off from the roof they were working on. They gave us a ride to Newton and then we got another ride from someone else and then we walked the last few blocks to my friend Valerie's. We showered, changed, ate and thanked our lucky stars and left back to New Jersey.

Back home by 9:30pm, we went straight to the Ahavas shul to daven/pray and then home to our families and beds. Unbelievable. Sad. Tragic. What a senseless horrible act. On such a beautiful spring day, celebrating life and the simple activity and sport of marathon running, where people dedicate themselves to train and prepare to compete against others and themselves, where people can watch for free and support their friends, families and loved ones and the elite from all over the world. We pray for those hurt, killed, including the families and friends as well as the runners, BAA (Boston Athletic Association) organizers, volunteers, first responders and all of the people of Boston. Unfortunately, these acts can occur anywhere and at any time, there are many evil people in the world, who are sick and cruel, but there are many, many more people who are kind and loving. Good will win out over evil. The city of Boston will recover and be stronger. The Boston Marathon will also recover and be stronger. And I and my fellow Boston Marathon runners too will recover and be stronger.

Jeffrey Ruttner
2013 Boston Marathon Finisher (and 6 time Boston Marathon finisher)
Passaic, NJ

Member Comments:

Mark Snyder
30 Apr, 2013
Such a stessful experience. Luckily the hitchhiking went well and you got back safe and sound.

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October 14, 2012 by John Foster


FACES IN THE CROWD, featuring club member Amalie Park, from the AMICA 2012 Half Marathon, Newport, RI

It's a constant feeling of walking under water or with an anchor tied around one leg. That's how I feel every day. Walking sometimes feels funny; my balance is always off. When complications of spinal surgery 10 years ago resulted in permanent nerve damage on my right side, I was devastated.

It could have been worse. I could have been paralyzed on one side of my body. So I walked everywhere, every chance I could. I would walk for miles, for hours. I tried to run, but could never get past the end of the block. So I stopped, and thought, "I can't do this."

But one day, toward the end of 2011, at the age of 35, I decided I would give it another shot. I signed up for a 5K scheduled for New Year's Day. On December 4, 2011, I took that first step and I never looked back. My first time out I could barely run a quarter-mile, and when I finally reached a mile it took me 16 minutes. That didn't stop me.

I vowed to finish my first race in less than 30 minutes. And I did, finishing at 28:58, placing top 10 in my age group. I was ecstatic and signed up for another race that same day. I improved my time with each 5K I did, finishing in 27:21, 26:52, 26:39 and 25:00. I improved in just a few months' time. It was exhilarating. Since then I have continued to participate in various other road races, including my first HM in September.

I was never considered an athlete. I was that shy kid in school who dreaded gym class and was always picked last on teams. But when I discovered I could run, I realized that there is an athlete in me. With my husband's tremendous support, I've come a long way since that 16 minute mile. And I plan to keep on going.

I love to run. It doesn't matter how slowly or how fast I go. It doesn't matter if, because of my 'disability,' that it feels like I'm dragging my leg with each stride. I love how free I feel when I'm out there, the camaraderie of fellow runners and the idea of competing against no one but me, always striving to be the best I can be.

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Ironman, Random Act of Kindness

September 2, 2012 by Kevin Burns

Ironman, Random Act of Kindness

On Saturday night, approximately 1935h, a young woman came into North Jersey Masters U.S. IronmanChampionship's water station located under the cliffs near Englewood Cliffs, NJ. She is sitting on a rocksobbing and repeating "I didn't come this far to fail." She wanted to finish, but did not know how, asshe hit her first "wall." The looming darkness and deadline to reach the George Washington Bridge bydeadline was overwhelming her at Mile 8. This was her final stage of the U.S. Ironman Championshipthat started so well in the 2.4 mile Hudson River swim more than 12 hours ago.

Mary Anne Burns, was first responder and was consoling her, but nothing she said stopped the tears, soshe ran for help. Mary Anne found me at a picnic table grabbing a snack at the end of the day as runnertraffic had subsided. "Hurry, this runner needs help," and we ran back to meet Bib #458's blood shoteyes and quivering body sitting on a rock. We walked while I double checked vitals, and the quiveringsubsided, but the doubt was still hanging in the humid, night air.

We were heading north to the next water station when we did our first pick up, and took readings offher Garmin Heart Rate Monitor. She hit 160 BPM pretty quickly, and we walked again. This went on for4 miles, and I was breaking through her anxiety and fears. Was dark, getting late, would we make TheBridge in time? By now, have checked with race officials on how to pace my injured runner, and wasvery careful to follow the rules.

We hit the turnaround, crossed the mats signaling another checkpoint, and were heading south to TheBridge. Bergin was checking her watch, Garmin, Heart Rate Monitor, and pace like an ICU nurse, whichwas my sign to step up the effort and speed, or we would never make the time limit set by Ironman.

Mile 12, back at North Jersey Masters water station, and I have to change out of my "Volunteer," 100%cotton, sweat-soaked shirt, and get into race wear that I had in my back pack. The humidity was still inthe 80% range, temperatures in the high 70's making it brutal on the runners to stay cool. Bergin foundtwo Advil from Medical Tent personnel, and one more ailment was treated. Her nausea and G.I. issueswere abating, but still could not figure out why we could not pick up the pace, so I remained patient. Wecovered two more miles to the psychological and physical turning point in Bergin's marathon, Mile 14.

Bergin retrieves her personal, checked bag, and disappears in a Port-a-Potty. She comes back as a newwoman cracking the first smile I have seen in 6 miles. "Let's get the hell out of Jersey!"

The bridge is now in view, and is lit up for the occasion, but we have two more miles to cover, and amstepping up the pace as Bergin responds. Her gait is different as I observe from behind, and realize thechafe has been subdued since Mile 14 allowing Bergin to open up. We passed under the bridge and itwas the last, steep uphill to conquer as we exited the park on to Hudson Terrace. We hit a water stationbathed in bridge light, and smiling Spanish women were putting glow lights around my neck like leis inHawaii! Little did they know how much pain Bergin has endured, and still has10 miles to go.

The Bridge lights were welcoming us hour before the deadline. The run/walk was giving us a decentaverage, and the staircases to the pedestrian walkway were a chance to stretch muscles for the finalpush. As Bergin's mood elevated, I was confident in her strength. At this point, was time to turnover the controls, and cut her loose. "You promise me you won't stop running until you fall into yourboyfriend's arms," and she said yes like an Ironman! At 11:14 P.M., my new friend Bergin Smith kepther promise and became an Ironman, while I back tracked to my water station to rejoin my North JerseyMasters volunteers, and my very proud wife.

This story is not over as I asked Bergin to tell her side of the story, which she wrote one week later:

There are moments in your life when you meet people at the right time, and that meeting makesall the difference. I was mile 8 of the marathon of the Ironman US championships, and I wasn'tsure I was going to get much further. My head was pounding, my body was hurting, and myspirit was breaking as the 9:30 cut off to the bridge crawled ever closer. I wasn't going tomake it at this rate, and that thought was breaking my heart. 14 months.... To not finish what Ihad been obsessing over. Around mile 9/10 I sat down on a rock by an aid station and startedsobbing. I so desperately just wanted to be done, to say "I quit" but the spirit is a strongeranimal than we ever think. Immediately volunteers were asking me if I was alright. Was Ieating? Was I peeing? No. Yes. They immediately knew I needed salt and calories. And blessthem, they never even suggested I quit. Instead two guys began walking with me as I forced downGu and pretzels. One of the guys without even thinking about it decided he was going to getme to the bridge by 9:30. He shucked his volunteer shirt for a singlet, and without a thoughtfor himself began to help save my dream. For about 7 miles, Kevin, ran with me. He told mestories, kept me checking my vitals, reminded me to eat and drink, and mostly gave me hope.He figured if we did 16 minute miles we would reach the bridge by 9:00. With his help we werethere before 8:45. As we reached the bridge, a single giant firework went off, and he said if thatwasn't a good sign, nothing was. Kevin truly was my guardian angel that night. He didn't doit for personal glory, or a triumphant finish line waving him in, but because he knew he couldsave some ones dream. When he left me at the bridge I knew i was going to make it. As I reachedthe finish, my boyfriend met me with a giant hug and a bouquet of flowers, and my parents werescreaming themselves hoarse as I crossed the line. Beyond those moments of connection with myfamily, the finish truly pales in comparison to my few hours with Kevin. It is truly thanks to him Ican say I am an Ironman.

As volunteers, you may think you are just handing out water or flat Coke. Actually, you are providinghope every time you extend your hand, or scream encouragement. In the words of Bart Yasso, "it doesnot matter how fast you may run, we are all in this epic journey together."

Member Comments:

Rudi Trivigno Jr.
25 Sep, 2012
Wow!!! What a story! Thanks for sharing that!

Kevin Burns
25 Sep, 2012
As runners, we are often dependent on one another for support, safety, entertainment and motivation. When Bergin Smith felt like she hit the end of the road, North Jersey Masters would not let her quit. Am prepared to carry you home on my back, and if I should fall behind, perhaps, someone will carry me.

Rudi Trivigno Jr.
25 Sep, 2012
Wow!!! What a story! Thanks for sharing that!

Kevin Baltzer
14 Sep, 2012
Very Inspirational Story. Sometimes it\'s more gratifying to help someone else reach thier goals - than meeting your own. That has been my personal experience.

Jocelyn Gertel
5 Sep, 2012
Can\'t resist helping a damsel in distress!! Nice the way you reach out to people in the club and beyond.

Hugo Del Bove
3 Sep, 2012
What a great story! This is incredible. Way to go Kevin and of course Bergin Smith. You are both an Ironman so far as I\'m concerned. God bless! Hugo Del Bove

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THE FROZEN TUNDRA of Lambeau Field

May 24, 2012 by Robert Hollis

THE FROZEN TUNDRA of Lambeau Field As many of you know, I am on a quest to run a marathon in all 50 states. My next marathon was to be the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon, state number 28 on my list. Due to construction of Lambeau Field, the course was to be changed, ending in the parking lot instead on the 50 yard line. Running through the tunnel and on the "frozen tundra of Lambeau Field" would have been such a thrill, but finishing in the parking lot was something looking forward to. But Mother Nature did not co-operate on race day. The temperature was already in the 70's at the start of the race at 7:00 with no relief in sight. So the thought of a PR or a BQ was pretty much out of the question, changing my focus to going out to run a smart and safe race. The one thing that the race organizers had going was that they knew of the potential of hot weather and nearly doubled the amount of water stops and had folks with hoses and sprinklers along the course. I was picking off miles one at a time doing the best i can under the circumstances when around mile 18, we were hearing rumblings that the race has been BLACK FLAGGED!!! Then 2 hours and 52 minutes and 20 miles into the marathon, the unspeakable happened. We were told by the volunteers at the water stop to stop running. The race and medical directors 2 hours and 25 minutes into the race had pulled the plug, turned off the timing chips, and cancelled the marathon. The medical teams could not handle all the medical emergencies which possibly could have gotten worse if the race continued. Shuttle buses then were sent out to bring all the runners back to the finish line at Lambeau Field. I was a bit disappointed about the circumstances. It was a very unpopular but in the end the correct decision to cancel this possibly deadly race. so , thats my story. I didn't get to finish marathon #35 and state #28, but it was an experiance, and enjoyed the rest of the weekend taking in Green Bay Packer history, a remarkable hour long tour of Lambeau Field, and re-hydrating and maybe come here next year to try it again. THE FROZEN TUNDRA???

Member Comments:

Bob Roemer
24 May, 2012
I am so sorry Bob. What a bummer. Who would have thought that Green Bay would be a problem with heat? Bob Roemer

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April 24, 2012 by Norman Chester


After 8 previous marathons, I finally lost my virginity at the 2012 Virgin London Marathon (VLM).

This was my first overseas race and a great opportunity to revisit London. I work for a British company and occasionally get to visit my colleagues for business, so this was also an opportunity see them and to get taken out for 3 free lunches. One of my colleagues ran the VLM in 2:53 last year and we spent much of the afternoon a few days before the race talking about running instead of working. This was also a terrific chance to see London 3 months before the London Olympics and to witness the transformation of a formerly beaten up part of town into a world-class Olympic city.

London is one of the most popular marathons in the world, but I managed to get in through a Boston-based tour group by buying a pricey hotel package. In fairness, their service was excellent and it was nice sharing the hotel with a group of other American runners. We were also joined at the hotel by a tour group of Irish runners who kept things lively throughout the weekend.

Weather expectations going into race morning were for rain, wind and cold. We were collectively shocked to wake up to sunny and mild weather. To be safe, I brought 3 choices of running gear with me on the bus and made my final choice to go with my lightest clothing just before turning the rest into baggage check about 30 minutes before the race.

I was greeted at the athletes' village to the sounds of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" and hung out with a semi-retired business exec from LA who I had met at the hotel who was also running his first VLM. We chatted with athletes from around the world and were treated to a big flat-screen TV where we saw the wheelchair and elite womens' starts before heading to our corrals.

The VLM course is point-to point and starts in a large park in southeast London that is more than sufficient to accommodate the 37,500 runners who were assembled. Pre-race organization and support was very impressive. Even the bathrooms were well organized and, besides the usual port-a-johns (they call them port-a-loos), included separate male and female urinals (yes female).

The mass start, including the elite mens' race, took place simultaneously at 3 different locations around the park. I was busy talking with other runners at the start, did not hear the opening gun, and was finally told by another runner that the race started 2 minutes ago. Fortunately, we had chips so my official race started eight minutes later, and I was relieved to find I could get right into pace as I crossed under the starting banner.

The course was a gradual downhill out of the park and then flattened out for virtually the rest of the race. Crowd support was consistently good, although not usually as rowdy as the big city races in the US. I wore a singlet with USA in the front and was driven on by regular chants of U-S-A, usually with a British accent.

Costumes are a bigger part of this race than in the US. Early in the race I passed a guy who was going for the world's record for completing a marathon in the tallest costume. He was wearing a 26.2 foot high replica of Blackpool Tower and at the time I passed him was working his way under a power line. Having been beaten in the past by Larry the Lighthouse at the Jersey Shore, I was pleased to know that I could at least beat a British tower. He did manage to crawl across the finish line to set a new world's record. My luck was not as good with some other participants including the new recordholder for world's fastest vegetable (2:59:33). Do we have any challengers in North Jersey Masters?

There were water stops nearly every mile along with periodic distributions of Lucozade, which is the European equivalent of Gatorade. This sports drink is much sweeter, and not as salty, as what we're used to and I don't think it's as effective for hot races, but it did provide a quick energy boost. Both water and Lucozade were served in bottles instead of Dixie cups which I found excessive since most of us would take a few sips and throw the rest to the side.

The race progressed to the west on the south side of the Thames River until we crossed near the mid-point at Tower Bridge, which was spectacular. From the north side of the river, the crowds grew even deeper as we headed east to the business district at Canary Wharf and then circled back west. I found myself running behind Minnie Mouse until I realized she was getting all the cheers, at which point I sped up to pass her.

I hit the wall at 19 miles but was urged on by the crowds who became increasingly vocal, especially when I slowed down to walk. I visualized the finish in front of Buckingham Palace which I had visited the night before (see photo) and managed to gain some strength with the mental image of this final turn.

And what a finish it was when I finally go there! This turn took me into sight of the finish line a few hundred yards down "The Mall", which is a wide boulevard alongside St. James Park, and then on through the finish chutes.

From there, my chip was clipped off and I received a goody bag and medal. Baggage pickup (they call them kit bags) was far better than any previous marathon experience. Our bags were shipped from the start in trucks organized as usual by race number but our numbers were randomly assigned instead of by estimated finish time, so we weren't all ganging up on the same truck. In fact, as I approach my truck somebody was waiting with my bag in hand!

My finishing time (4:26:32) was a bit disappointing given the conditions and the training I've done this year but the London experience was unforgettable and joins New York and Chicago in my collection of World Marathon Majors finishes.

Now if only I could qualify for Boston!
Norm Chester

Member Comments:

Jerald Schragen
27 Apr, 2012
Norm you are an inspiration for us. Really well done and thanks so much for sharing; and for all you do.

Kevin Burns
26 Apr, 2012
London is one of the world\'s Five Major Marathons, and it was great to hear how well organized it was. Given the choice, would select London over Paris Marathon, but I can\'t complain about French entry fees paid by Dassault Aviation. Your time and effort was very respectable on foreign turf and consuming British replenishments that you were not familiar. All-in-all, a good crackin time!

RJ Montouro
25 Apr, 2012
well done

Rob McCarthy
24 Apr, 2012
Fantastic retelling of your wonderful experience - makes me a tad homesick - Great Run Norm!

John Foster
24 Apr, 2012
Great job Norm! You did us all proud!

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Atlantic City Marathon, Against the Wind

October 22, 2011 by Kevin Burns

Atlantic City Marathon, Against the Wind

Americas Playground. It has been accessible by railroad since the 1880's, and remains a resort city of hopes, dreams and despair that spawned and survived the growth of Las Vegas. The lure to visitors remains The Boardwalk, pristine beaches, casinos, headline entertainment, and salt water taffy. The Diving Horse that jumps off the pier is long gone, Bert Parks and Miss America has come and gone, and Tom Jones is coming back to schmooze the silver haired women who remember when.

Our purpose on this warm, autumn weekend was to run a fast, flat marathon that touched all the corners of the island, and finished on The Boardwalk and Monopoly Board at Bally's Casino.

I pay attention to the details when it comes to marathon training, including nutrition, hydration, anti-chaffing, and no wardrobe malfunctions on race day, but I had one more worry. Would my friend finish her first marathon?

It didn't take long to realize that Hal Higdon's training plan was working like a charm. She powered through the first half, and had to work hard in the second half due to small craft warning winds that battered fishing boats and runners alikee. Mile 17, Longport, the tip of the peninsula, I realized that my worry was no longer about my friend who joined a pace group and was upbeach from me, it was about how I was going to make my number, or crap out in Atlantic City.

Running alone gives you more time to doubt yourself, but there are no hills, what's the big deal? As a 3-hour, elite marathoner explained later, I had headwinds all the time, I expected tailwinds later, but I didn't feel the tailwinds. This was exactly what I was thinking as a 4-hour, middle of the packer, where is the push home? When will I feel the lift?

Mile 22, back on the boardwalk, as the struggling marathoners are entertainment for the Ventnor coffee sippers sunning themselves on benches, How far are they running George?

When the pain piles up late in the marathon, it is a good time to displace it with a good tune in your head, or a mantra that gets you home. Bob Segar and the Silver Bullet Band was my choice for this day because he must have been a runner when he recorded Against the Wind,

Moving eight miles a minute for months at a time
Breaking all of the rules that would bend
I began to find myself searching
Searching for shelter against the wind.

Just viewed my finishing pictures, which do not match how raunchy I was feeling as I crossed the finish line with my head up, almost a smile, and shortened stride. The wind took its toll today as I departed Bally's with my beer tab still attached to my bib. It looked like I had the never-agains, as I huddled over the courtyard railing, but by Monday morning, was already planning my next marathon at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, December 10, 2011. Only 55 days away so I better shake this one off and get back on the road.

Against the wind
We were runnin' against the wind
We were young and strong, we were runnin'
Against the wind.

My friend found shelter from the wind surrounded by the hugs and love of her family at the finish line. Life takes on a new look after your first marathon, and you can't tag that on Facebook. It is now an indelible part of her runner's soul.

Member Comments:

John Foster
25 Feb, 2012
really nice article. inspires me for my next marathon. thanks!

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Running the 5th Avenue Mile

September 24, 2011 by Mike Machuca

Running the 5th Avenue Mile

As many of you know, I am a fan of the USATF-NJ Grand Prix. Basically you run several races in three distance categories 5K, 10k, and 15K or longer. Finally you are compared with other runners in NJ. This year, I had Hernia surgery and started training late. Eventually I realized that I couldn't train appropriately for the longer races so I settled in for a year of 5Ks & 10Ks. However, that opened up an opportunity to do something new. I had never run a competitive Mile, had not run in NYC in 30 years, and thought it might be different and fun.

My goal was to break the 7 minute mile and to run it as four 400-meter segments of 1 minute and 45 seconds each. I went to the website found an 8 week training regimen and on Saturday September 24, I arrived in NYC and weaved my way from the parking lot to the registration area by the museum on 5th Ave and 80th Street. The schedule included twelve age-group competitions run from 9 to Noon, followed by the elite men & women races. My age-group was made up of more than fifty men & women in their 70s and up. We were the last age-group for the day, scheduled for an 11:55 start.

As we assembled for the start (right on time) I was struck by the fact that I was standing near the starting line. In NJ, I would be boxed into a street block with 2000 other runners and would likely run with 700 people in front of me. As the gun went off, I was suddenly running with the two favorites Sid Howard from Plainfield and ThomWeddle from Minnesota, last year they had finished side by side in 5 minutes and 50 seconds. Joining us was Pat Cosgrove, an excellent Grand Prix and short distance runner from NJ, who last year ran the Mile in 6:30 and had beaten me in all of our previous encounters. I was feeling good, but rest assured, I knew with whom I was dealing.

The rest of the trip was over before I knew it. I don't remember most of it, except that it was mainly a series of snapshots culminated by the finish line at the bottom of a lovely hill. The two guys had again finished 1-2 in approximately 6:00 and Pat in 6:28. To my astonishment I had held on for fourth in my age-group, and hit the tape at 6:45.

Following is what I remember:Before the gun went off I was standing in the 3rd row and wondering what I may need to do to get by. But suddenly I was staring at the lead truck with a clock on top when the gun fired. I was mesmerized by something I had never seen in all my races and somehow I had jumped in front of the two people in front of me. At this point I was running with the guys and then realized that if I continued this foolishness the ambulance would be picking me up at the 1200 meter mark. Wisely I let them go (so to speak) but I was now battling Pat and I pulled away. He knew better, waited for the right moment, and went shooting by me when he was ready. I looked at the 400 meter clock and it read 1:20, it did not bode well. Then John Foster standing on the sidelines cheering called out my name and woke me up, I waved at him, obviously I had a sign on me that said "AMATEUR". At the 800 meter my time was well under the forecasted 3:30 and I never even saw the 1200 meter clock, probably because I was focused on the big finish line at the bottom. My final thought was don't let anyone else pass you and I sped to the finish.

Aside from all the costs and inconveniences of NYC, I may consider going back next year. It was an extremely interesting and well run set of races. Also the Elite runners races following us had some great finishes and were well worth hanging around to see. Toshi D'Elia, who was there to support us, was so moved by what she saw that she is considering coming out of retirement next year for this race. All in all, it was a day well spent. I strongly recommend it.

Member Comments:

John Foster
25 Feb, 2012
I really enjoyed running this race and participating in the event. Not sure about that comment though, I was cheering you on seeing if could catch those few guys ahead of you. You ran a great race!

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Teterboro Airport 5K

July 16, 2011 by Hugo Del Bove

Teterboro Airport 5K

Well I knew this run was going to be big. Being somewhat new torunning at age 60 and new to the Club, I was a little nervous gettingready to run the Teterboro Airport 5K which was held Satuday July 16,2011. I had heard there's a lot of people (almost 1000), it could getreally hot even at 8:30 in the morning and there's no shade at all(obvious as we're running on an airport runway). The Club wasadvertising this as the race of the month. Uh-oh! I was even thinkingI certainly don't want to make the Club I recently joined look bad.

Well I jumped up at 6:30AM, had all my security ID in order and gotthere really early so I had plenty of time to be nervous. Looking forfriendly faces but couldn't find any one I knew. I'm new to the Cluband wasn't figuring on seeing anyone I would know anyway, but when Ichecked the results at home there were a few of us there running withthe almost 1000. Some people looked pretty professional to me. Itlooked like they had all the latest equipment and the best runningshoes money could buy. I did some warm ups and ran a few short laps bythe hangar. And then at 8:20, they were calling everyone to thestarting line. So I checked my shoelaces, will the running chip comeoff? Will I trip over someone? Could it really be this hot already?Should I stop for water at each station?

At 8:30 sharp off we went. It wasn't too bad although the leaderslooked like they were already a mile away. But I just kept to myselfand did my thing. And everything worked out fine. I had my second bestpersonal time, it was hot but very doable. I thought I might have thatproverbial kick at the end but not really. I was pretty much done bythe time I crossed the finish line. The snacks were good and the TShirt is a keeper. I even wore it to church later (maybe not a goodidea). I didn't finish high in my age group 11/17 but was prettysatisfied over all. (Wow...there's a lot of fast men and women who are60+...I need to keep running and training.)

So in the end there wasn't much to be nervous about although I hearthe Ridgewood Run is really big especially as the Club is so involved.Uh-oh! Look for me next Memorial Day and if you see a nervous looking60+ guy standing around who got there really early, that will be me.Should I do the 5K or 10K? I've got a whole lot of running and practicingto do while also learning not to be so nervous.

Hugo Del Bove
Wyckoff, NJ

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Woodstock to New York, Our Ragnar Relay Story

May 17, 2011 by Kevin Burns

Woodstock to New York, Our Ragnar Relay Story

from team "We Can Do It"

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, Runners are from Pluto!

"We Can Do It" is prototypical, a conundrum of friends, who asked friends to pursue a running experience across 197 miles of New York state back roads.

Prototypical ends when you crunch twelve nervous runners with gear, food, water, Gatorade, small bladders and a driver into a mini-van and SUV for 2 days. Our team represented 4 decades of education, music, comedy and theatrics, so there was bound to be a few insults tossed from front to back seat. Personal sacrifices abounded, like playing Springsteen's "Born to Run" to inspire one of our runners hammering a 9.9 mile leg. My insult vocabulary expanded like a Thesaurus.

Racing two 10K's in a day is usually unthinkable for the average runner, but take away sleep, hot showers, and conveniences, you have a Ragnar Relay Day, but am getting ahead of myself without describing The Night.

After a magnificent, Catskill mountain sunset, the night trekking ensued. Reflective vest, headlight, taillight and the support of your team starts the night. It gets a lot darker in the hills of New Paltz in contrast with vibrating, downtown college bars, music, and the Yankees/Red Sox game stirring the locals. Outside of town, dogs bark in the dark, but don't approach. Ginny moves closer, but holds her breath. Jack holds her tight as they walk the moonlit path, on an upstate night.

It's only 9:20 P.M. and we lost our first runner on a railway trail that covertly leads across the Beacon Bridge and Hudson River. Our driver Jeanette rights the ship, and navigates the backstreets of Poughkeepsie, where we found our lonely runner waiting at Exchange 14. Jenna was all smiles and piled into the van that careened up a one-way street taking dead aim at a downtown trolley. The "Waz" was on the loose, sporting a Nordic helmet with Dall sheep horns that even Marist students found a little strange on a Friday night. The second legs were going faster, but the devil is lurking in the 3rd leg. After handing off the baton to Van II, Van I was emotionally spent and tried to sleep for two hours. 4:20 A.M. time to start the mighty third leg.

It's hard to gloss over the gut wrenching 3rd leg, which is the essence of Ragnar. After 29 sleepless hours, a runner's will to finish is put to the ultimate test, but 11 people are waiting, there is no time to feel sorry for your self. When you finish a race as 12 instead of 1, you get that Ragnar Relay loving feeling. It might compare to winning a major championship when teams stack up to touch the trophy, but the question is still open, why did we run the Ragnar Relay?

To feel alive,
To feel the love of team,
For a fleeting moment,
To feel fulfilled as a runner.

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Woodstock to New York, A Ragnar Relay Story

May 9, 2011 by Kevin Burns

Woodstock to New York, A Ragnar Relay Story

All the 5K's and 10K's and 1/2's and marathons are run, so is that all there is, than I will keep running? Than along comes Ragnar with a movie called Hood to Coast, and a tuxedoed Master of Ceremonies in lime green frame glasses who may have fallen off the bus to Woodstock. Oh, it's Bart Yasso, Runners World, and the coolest runners in the world. Signed my waiver, and it was time to meet my team. Neurotics, Neurologists, Nutritionists, Narcissists, Nurses, a 50 doing 50 States, and that's Van #1. I guess the normal people, like me, are in Van #2. Surprise! We are all nutz!

Was taught to never answer a question with a question, but why we are running Ragnar may only be partially answered May 13-14, 2011. The altruistic observer says it's to be part of a team, feel the exhilaration of crossing the finish line, get a bunch of hugs, take some pictures, and go back to Jersey. If it was only that simple, there would be no essay contest, elite runners will take home the trophies, and the volunteers take out the garbage, but there must be more.

It's eleven enablers on your team, with the collective hope that you will bring something to the table. A new recipe, an internet joke, a smile, be yourself. Do you like peanut butter?"If you don't get on the bus, you will miss the trip," Ken Kesey advised back in the 60's when the real Woodstock took place. So, am on the bus to Woodstock to New York Ragnar Relay. Was passed the Ragnar Bible (Safety regulations and local etiquette), and was instructed to read and follow. Lots of rules and gear, and I get to run at night. What's next?

Team practice runs start the epic journey, as everyone gets to know each other and sweat together. This is more than a 20 mile run in the country as each runner does three legs of various distances and difficulty. Something must happen when you "rest" in the van between legs because everyone is fretting the third leg. We need to practice our rest and recovery which is my specialty, sleeping on buses. Some kind of atrophy gremlins must crawl into the vans to make this run a little more challenging, so will keep a lookout, and bring bug spray as per the Ragnar Checklist!

I am the oldest on the bus, and was the only runner on our team who made it to Woodstock, Bethel, and Monticello in August 1969. Just ran into my friend who took that ride 41 years ago, up the New York Thruway, across Route 17M and ditched my car when we could drive no further. The details got sketchy, but he remembers me jumping on a passing fruit truck and tossing watermelons over the side. Oh, to be 17 again!

So, the question is open, why are we running Ragnar Relay and the answer is quite simple, to feel alive. To enjoy the energy, the intellect, and yes, the recipes of my fellow teammates. Will try to remember more details than Woodstock '69, as Bart Yasso encourages us all to enjoy the journey, and so we will.

Kevin Burns
"We Can Do It"

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A Day with Bart Yasso

March 10, 2011 by Kevin Burns

A Day with Bart Yasso

I signed up for Little Rock's Marathon because my company has a large manufacturing and service center on Little Rock International Airport, so I combined a two-year project with 26.2 miles. LIT, as it is known in flying acronyms, fancies itself as "the biggest little city." It did not matter that they copied the tag-line from Reno, Nevada, this is Clinton Country.

After two great days of work, meeting my French and American counter parts in LIT, was time to check into the Health & Fitness Expo in the sub-floor of The Peobody Hotel, host of the 9th event. Received my lucky Irish bib number 317, in honor of Saint Patrick's Day, so I started to feel more spiritual confidence. Have not met a marathoner who wasn't superstitious and full of rituals, and I am no different.

After activating my chip, I turn to the first vendor table, and there he is. Same green-framed glasses he wore in Hood To Coast running movie as Master of Ceremonies on the Red Carpet Premier in 360 theaters across the country. Hood To Coast followed four unlikely teams on their epic journey to conquer the world's largest relay race. Same smile, sense of humor and wit as he held court in the Expo hall. He signed his book, took pictures, and seemed to know everyone by first name in the room. He was the rock star of this running show, and was only warming up.

I had him sign my book and the next thing I know, he has Pam Oliver from FOX Sports on his cell phone. "Hang out, she'll be here soon," and explains she is here to take down Troy Aikman, her NFL booth anchor, in the 1/2 marathon. Bart is Pam's coach and hopes she can pull through.

Never snapped that picture with the vivacious Pam Oliver because she was detoured to Central High School in Little Rock to pay homage to the site of forced school desegregation during the American Civil Rights Movement. In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the 1,200-man 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky to escort the nine students into the school. Good reason for Pam missing a photo opp with yours truly.

An Expo life is not an easy life, but Bart bounces with youthful energy and interest in everyone's reason for running Little Rock. He was in vintage form at the Peobody Pasta Party on Saturday night with his patented speech on how we are on this journey together. Does not matter what speed you run tomorrow, elite or walkers, we are in this together for a reason.

I can hear Bart's voice on the mike at the early start for 14:00 milers and walkers as I escorted Carla from Chicago from the Peobody Hotel to the starting line. Checked my watch and it was 5:54. Reassured Carla that she had plenty of time. Asked her what she expected to do today, and she hoped for 6:30 in the dark, cold, windy morn, and I began to encourage her. "Extend the arms and the legs will follow," I shouted, "c'mon, we have a race to run today." Carla picked up the gait and we laughed all the way down the River Walk where Bart was welcoming the early starters. I asked Carla to finish in 6:00 today, hugged her, and pushed her into the starting corral. I proceeded to the Elite Tent for an early morning massage with Darryl Griffith's Massage Team that had been working overtime for three days at the Expo and race. The Kenyans were already in the Elite tent when I arrived at 6:02. They were huddled in a circle in front of the space heaters that were attempting to thwart the wind and chill of the morning.

Received my follow up massage and pre-race stretch. Decided to head for warmer ground in the Marriott Courtyard lobby with my New Jersey friend, Terry. We enjoyed a cup of Rustico coffee, and the growing company of chilled runners. At 7:50, stepped outside and found our respective corrals. Bart was on the podium pumping up the crowd, and entertaining before the start. No speeches, we were off on time!

My marathon time and struggle with hernia pain was insignificant, as I heard other runners' troubles. Over 3,000 jammed the Clinton Library for some great BBQ, beer, and N'awlins style music, but the night was young. All that wind caused flight delays, and Bart was staying over. Did not know this until Terry and I stopped at Duggan's and Gusano's on our way up the River Walk, and walked alone to the Peobody.

Bart was holding court, so I thought, at the lobby bar, but it was the lady from St. Louis who was leading the choir tonight. Sat down and started to get roasted by Kansas City, St. Louis, Denver, and Wilmingon, NC. Bart was an innocent bystander as the gauntlets were being dropped like rocks. Runners sure have funny rituals as they express their friendship and love of the sport. Bart kind of reels it in, and sets up another round of debate as everyone is enjoying the round table. Inevitably, last call drives us back to our rooms and the fate of a 4:00 AM wake up call is imminent.

The Bart Yasso epic drama red carpet hard core elite absurd running story is coming to a Fairway near you. Through the power of 3-putts, and slicing drives, have invited Bart to RG&CC for a round of golf and a Fairway-to-Fairway run, Jersey style. He has not set a date, but I believe we will meet again, soon, as our interests collide over fairways and trails. Thank you Bart Yasso for all you have done for the sport of running, and how to cherish the families we come from.

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Roxbury, CT: Step Back in Time

December 14, 2010 by Kevin Burns

Roxbury, CT: Step Back in Time

Did you ever want to go back in time when there were no $20.00 entry fees, micro chips, compuscore, bad t-shirts, mile markers, closed roads and convenient water stations, and just run races for the joy of running? Well, I found a place about 85 miles away tucked into the Western Connecticut hills called Roxbury. We actually drove through a New England framed town called New Milford with lots of little shops and am sure I passed up a great stack of pancakes at the local eatery.

Roxbury is a self-sustaining running club that puts out a bucket to collect race fees for their annual December marathon and half marathon. The course description says it best, as they don't wish to attract the feint of heart, "all hills." This answered every question I ask fellow runners when I arrive at a new course.

There is a huddle around the starting line due to 18-degree temperature and a light breeze. Roxbury's President decided to explain the course through a ratty, old bullhorn with a frozen battery to 100 people who just wanted to run. It was stand-up comedy at its best, as this Lynard Skynard impersonator rambled on about Judds Bridge and Botsford Hill.

The first three miles were chatty as guest runners like myself exchanged pleasantries with local Roxbury runners. Spirits were high as we descended at least 300 vertical feet entering a dirt road that shall be known as Damn Dirt Road for the next 4 miles. 4x4's and runners use this road for their purposes, and now the pack runs silent. Up easy and hard downhill over a few side hill icy patches that formed overnight. Had to concentrate on ruts and loose footing and follow the pack through this rugged terrain. Every time you passed or were passed, encouraging words from Roxberians were expressed, "looking good," "keep it up," "you can do it." I realized this was not about time, skill and speed, but about everyone finishing safely, and enjoying the run.

Well, my stopwatch says it was a worthy effort and was quite pleased to see the finish line. The "SWAG" consisted of a bottle of water and a bag of apples, probably picked from one of the local orchards we passed. There was no DJ chirping on a microphone, only a few tired runners with an open hand saying "nice run Jersey." I learned a valuable lesson about running clubs and the joy of participation, friendship, and helping each other up the next hill. It has inspired me to give back to my club as I plan another "Fairway-to-Fairway Run" which is a free run for North Jersey Masters to support each other in the New Year. Wishing all a Happy and Healthy 2011!

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First NJM Fairway-to-Fairway

November 28, 2010 by Kevin Burns

First NJM Fairway-to-Fairway

What is all this golf stuff doing on NJM's website? Golf season was over in October and it's way too cold to grip a club. As many runners can attest, there is nothing softer on the feet and joints than running golf course fairways. I have been fortunate enough to be able to get up early, and run them barefoot, as I live on the 10th hole at Ramsey Golf & Country Club. I thought about how I could share this experience with my friends at North Jersey, discussed it with John Foster, and the e-mails started trickling out on November 24. This was way too short a notice during Thanksgiving week with Ashenfelter and Dick Meighan and NYRR already committed, but 8 runners promised to be there.

What a morning! Thirty degrees, sunny, should I wear gloves, shorts or leggings, better load up the layers. 10:15, it's time to go, but we are missing two. NJM runs like the trains, on time. Mike Machuca taught me that lesson when I was a NJM newbie.

Downhill through Ramsey Golf & Country Club's, (RG&CC) first seven holes and everyone is smiling. Passed a few wary golfers who were all bundled up in frost bite gear. Through downtown Ramsey, next stop Fairway #2, Darlington County Park and Bergen County's newly renovated golf course in the Ramapo foothills.

We encountered a closed gate that six of us shimmied through and were making our way through the staging area of the Mahwah 10K. I asked the group to keep all eyes open for a hole in the fence so that we could access the golf course. Fence number two was negotiated easily by scaling a fat tree trunk that Mother Nature dropped on the border fence, and before we knew it, we were dancing on the 5th fairway of Darlington.

At this point, Jim Weismann takes the lead and the cross-country experience is about to expand. Jim has never met an incline that he didn't want to climb, so we started up those Ramapo foothills, but are off any course calculation that I made in my e-mail. Hats are off, gloves are off, down to one layer, and this just got serious. We are looking for a hole in the fence to return, and kept climbing. Bob Hollis is smiling because he is at one with Mahwah, his hometown, but Christy is starting to get concerned on her first long run over ten miles. Third fence, steep road embankment, thickets of bramble that has lost its foliage and most thorns, puts us out on Campgaw Road. Now it's time to depart Ramapo Valley Reservation and enjoy the downhill side through Maryrest Cemetery. The group runs fast and silent as they remember their lost loved ones. 5 miles to Fairway #3 on the other side of Mahwah stands Apple Ridge Country Club.

The group is relieved, but I sense Jim may be disappointed that we didn't keep climbing the Campgaw Ski area. Re-entering Ramsey, the planned water stash that nobody thought they needed welcomes the sweating six. 16 oz bottles went down easy as dehydration in the winter seems out of place, but skiers and mountain people know it all too well.

Having Jim and Greg Paddon's Garmin working overtime helps the group push on to the trifecta of fairways, Apple Ridge. Christy is still running strong with her male alpha dogs leading for the last two hours. Gliding down Lake Street with a half mile to go, I observe the ease Peter Molyneux is running after 12 miles. His shorter gait and rapid turnover is a style I have tried to copy for the last three years as he is one of the premier runners in the state.

The runners reward for a great workout is the Lakeside Grill where crocks of soup are downed as fast as pints of beer and ice water. How can the 2nd Fairway-to-Fairway top this day?

The jingle bells will be ringing on December 19th at RG&CC!

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A Runner's Camelot

November 18, 2010 by Kevin Burns

A Runner's Camelot

Camelot in running terms has come to mean a place or time of idyllic happiness, "when weekly workouts with professional coaching in the spring, summer and fall are conducted in a supportive and friendly club environment. By running in groups with others of similar speed and ability, and by learning training techniques through shared experience, members dramatically improve" and reach their place. Runners are motivated, connected, and excited about their achievements. There is hope and optimism in every step taken.

Running is a sport that expresses sports and games which are sublimations of aggressive urges, as we sublimate the desire to fight, into the ritualistic activities like formal running competition in USATF, NYRCC and the neighborhood's 5K. Running seems to be the highest form of sublimation. Marathons are the proof.

So they trained and they trained, they ran and they ran, through summer's heat and states of repression. Statistics, coaches, fellow runners and family all said you were ready, but ready for what? Camelot, of course.

On the marathon starting line, a catharsis occurs as the last six months fast forwards through our minds and soul. Am I ready? The starting cannon awakens me and it is time to go. I come from a special place where it is not enough to simply finish a marathon; it has to be raced to the nth degree. It is the underlying form that drives our achievement. It is the means to our end...Camelot.

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Race Sniglet

September 18, 2010 by Kevin Burns

Race Sniglet

September 18, 2010, Fallen Heroes 5K, NBGP-500 pts, Bar A (Anticipation), Lake Como (Belmar), New Jersey.

Race is held to support the mission of the FMBA (Firemens Mutual Benevolent Association) to improve the health and safety of our brothers and sisters and to secure the well-being of the widows and children of our fallen heroes. The bagpipe presentation and remembrance of 343 firemen and all who lost loved ones on September 11 had a thousand people at Bar A fighting back tears, but the day was about strength and resilience demonstrated by all who attended.

In the race the overall winner was Dominic D'Agastino, age 16 of Wallington, NJ in a time of 16:46. Dominic is a member of the Dassault Aerospace Fly Faster racing team out of Teterboro, NJ, and he sure ran faster then everyone else. North Jersey Masters Christy Dellapenta and Kevin Burns teamed with Dominic to take first place in the Coed Team Division for Dassault Falcon RaceTeam. We hope to see Dominic at Tuesday's NJM workout as he develops into one of Bergen County's finest runners. Imagine how fast he will be after Coach Joel oversees his development.

There was something about this day that inspired all to run their best as Christy and Kevin posted PR's on their NJM race records. Coach Joel's speed work on Tuesday was a difference maker as Christy and Kevin sprinted through the finish line. Weather was ideal as the sun burned off the cloud cover as everyone finished at Bar A. For those over thirty, Bar A is a club that entertains over 3,000 on a summer's Friday night. Bruce and Southside Johnny appear often in a multi-tiered environment that includes 8 lanai's, a grotto, at least 10 bars, BBQ, and ProTour Volleyball courts. Mayor Michael Ryan, mayor of Lake Como, aka South Belmar, kept the speeches short and kept the firemen and families in the spotlight.

If running and the Bar A barbeque lunch was not enough, down 16th Avenue, Hurricane Igor was supplying 5-8 footers for world class surfers competing for $25K first prize at Belmar Beach. "Wind is weird, but the surf is pumping - busting longboards like toothpicks at Belmar."

Aloha, mahalo, see you in Belmar next year.

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September 6, 2010 by Mike Machuca


Early in the 16th century Ponce De Leon spent his time traveling around Florida looking for the "Fountain of Youth".Since that time many seniors have traveled to Florida in search of the magic waters but failed to find it. In the 21stcentury there is emerging proof that "Running" is the long sought after youthfulness elixir. By this we mean that at anadvanced age we still possess the characteristics of vigor, flexibility, bounciness, smooth body surfaces, and baby faceness.

How does running become the elusive "Fountain of Youth"? Is it because of the extra doses of Vitamin D, or the improvedcirculation, or the abundant oxygen? Or is it a combination of these things which provides us with an extremely powerfulImmune System that delays the aging process? It really doesn't matter as long as it works. One thing is certain though,the the results from current products in the marketplace cannot live up to the basic characteristics of youthfullness; running stands alone.

I have been a member of the North Jersey Masters since 1980. My observations over the years indicate that as a groupour running club appears significantly younger than the general population. Many of our "older" members seem to be 10-20years younger than their actual age. Today, when I look at people with whom I ran 30 years ago, it is hard to believe thatthey are more than 60 years old.

The most difficult characteristic of youthfullness: vigor provides some proof. In the last two years we have seen twosixty year old club members run a marathon in under four hours. This year we have also seen more than a half dozen 70 yearolds in New Jersey run 5Ks in less than 8 minutes per mile; 5 years ago there were none. As we age the the bar keeps moving up,to where the 70s are now the new 50s. Therefore, I must conclude that we have found the "magic Fountain". It didn't start that way.We began by doing something that we enjoyed and accidentally found something that has eluded humans for centuries.

To support my thesis, recent empirical evidence (2008) from Dr. James Fries andhis Stanford University School of Medicine team indicate that "Running" may help you live longer and healthier.In 1984, Dr Fries began a study of 961 older runners (age 50 and up); 538 were runners and the rest (423) were non-runners.The researchers collected yearly questionnaires from all subjects to help explain their ability to perform daily activities such asbathing, dressing, walking, ability to grip objects, and maneuver out of a chair. Twenty-one years later the results showed that runnerswere healthier and happier and remained independent longer than did non-runners. Running delayed the onset of age-related disabilityand frailty by a whopping 16 years.

How lucky are we? It's great to have been proven right in making one of life's great decisions, and to be running at atime where those of us above 50 can count on many more years of fun. Also it is important for the club's newer and youngermembers to keep running, so that they too can lead a long and healthy life of new discoveries and records. Unlike Ponce DeLeon they have, just like us "older" types, stumbled upon the Fountain of Youth.

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August 26, 2010 by Mike Machuca


At the most recent Dunkerhook workout, Jose Fernandez queried about an article that I posted on "This Running Life", on May 20, about improving my 10K race times by 2 minutes.I was stunned! Not only did somebody read my article but three months later was inquiring about the status. I thought that no one had seen it, and if someone saw it they would have forgotten it by now. C'est la vie, I can't hide anymore and must now respond .

Since May the 20th, I ran a disastrous 10K at Ridgewood and then devoted June and July to running 5Ks for the Grand Prix Mini-1. Currently I am using the August lull in the racing calendar to prepare for the upcoming Fall Grand Prix races, which includes several 10K races. At the same time, I continue my main goal of developing a perfectly aligned body. It should translate into the proper biomechanics followed by the elusive 2 minutes improvement in the October and November 10Ks. I believe that my hard work is on the verge of paying off. Below is a list of the Fall races which will be used to evaluate failure or success, they include the 2009 results for future comparisons.

  • October 3 - Mahwah 10K (53:55)
  • October 10 - USATF-NJ XC 8K (44:50)
  • October 17 - Paramus Run 10K (56:06)
  • November 14 - Giralda Farms 10K (54:25)
  • November 25 - Ashenfelter 8K (42:28)

The two minute target (1 Minute for 5Ks) is based on a study by Dr Nancy Hamilton at The University of Northern Iowa which concluded that aging is not the main culprit in slowing us down after 40. It is not age but a shortening stride length which leads to poor running biomechanics. According to the study, we should be able to run into our 90s by improving flexibility. It is the "flexibility of the hip and knee joints, as well as the quadriceps that are the key factors in preserving stride length" and running times.

The question still remains about how to do it. That must be left for another time. But if you wish more information on biomechanics, check the following two sources:The "Peak Performance" website at,and the PDF file at

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Can't Change the Weather So I Changed My Shoes

July 22, 2010 by Kevin Burns

Can't Change the Weather So I Changed My Shoes

Do red cars go faster? Some say yes, especially law enforcement. Do yellow shoes go faster? A fellow runner asked me and I tried to explain that one should never underestimate the deep bond between a runner and his yellow footwear.

For the past month of June, I tried four times to break 24 minutes in 5K's, but could not break the pattern. I wasn't in a rut because my results were competitive in my age group, but not in my mind. The heat was wearing me down and I was ready to wait until Fall, or the Jingle Bell, or whatever. I needed a change, but was it training, diet, stretching, or what?

My spirits needed a lift so I purchased a pair of yellow racing shoes just in time to run on my company's team in the Teterboro 5K. I looked out my window and scouted the course that was still hot, flat and straight. I would be at one in the hot sun flying over 100 degree tarmac in my magical (metaphysical) yellow shoes. They made me cheerful and happy as I dripped in sweat at the crowded start wondering if this was my day to break 24.

Flat and fast felt good with a little headwind from the north for the first mile. Turned 180 degrees at the cone which draws out the Teterboro monster which is convection heat from all directions. Kept the zen thoughts streaming, because there are no songs written about yellow shoes. I passed a guy I never passed before but recognized from all the championship runs in June. In the last mile, where the finish line radiates like a mirage in the hot desert, realized am not getting passed. Sprinted through the finish line where the EMT's were treating runners like an Express Lane at Shop Rite.

Yellow shoes were my lift when I needed it most, what lifts you?

Kevin Burns

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A View from the Middle of the Pack

July 1, 2010 by Kevin Burns

A View from the Middle of the Pack

It's July and one race is hotter than the other. Instead of saying hello, runners ask if is hot enough for you? It's 8 weeks since the Our House 5 Miler, and my tolerance for the heat has improved along with my pace, but the 2010 burn continues. President's Cup cooled off to 84 degrees while Pine Beach climbed to 85 with 85% humidity, and the jellyfish were stinging in the Toms River.

It was so hot Tuesday, Coach Joel moved his chair under a nearby shrub for partial shade and relief from a 90 degree start at Paramus Catholic. One of his observations was NJM runners are still getting acclimated to the heat which meant better race times for all the sweat.

Fourth of July is here already, and expect abundant sunshine. Highs in the upper 90s. Think I will practice my hydration intervals, raise the flag high, and taste some of Jersey Shore's finest.

Kevin Burns

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May 20, 2010 by Mike Machuca


Originally I excused my failure on getting old or not working hard enough. But soon I realized that there was a limit to working harder, and began surfing the web for another solution. A British running website suggested that by using the proper running posture (biomechanics) I could improve running time by as much as two minutes in a 10K. This had to be my problem, because at the time, my body ran in different directions at the same time. All I needed was to change my biomechanics, but how?

The answer was to use the same tools that I had used for eliminating the earlier Sciatica problem. Simply square the shoulders and hips, straighten the spine-neck-head, use gravity to drop the arms and legs in a straight line towards the ground, and loosen all my joints. The rebuilding of my body is reaching completion, but my pursuit of the two minutes is now threatened by age. Last year I entered the "Bermuda Triangle of Life"; I became a septuagenerian and wondered if age deterioration would offset the gains from my improved biomechanics.

Well, now is the time to test if the 2 minute goal will provide me with continued running into my 80s. There have been good indications from time to time, but setbacks like the Newport 10K two weeks ago have dimmed my hopes. There is only one thing to do, try my new body in a series of races like the USATF-NJ Grand Prix racing circuit and see what happens. There will be about 15 races by Thanksgiving which will point to success or failure. I look forward to checking my running times against the historical information that the website provides. Hopefully the times will be significantly faster than those in my late 50s.

Wish Me Luck.

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Race Day Journal

May 2, 2010 by Kevin Burns

Race Day Journal

Our House 5 Miler, Summit, NJ
Sunday, May 2
Weather: Sunny, 88 degrees, 59% humidity
Pain Index: 10

Back in my Harley Running Club days, Shawn Gallagher and I would drive just about anywhere in the state to run a "TAF" race. We lived on the same block in Bergenfield so carpooling was a cinch, but we missed one spot in the Garden State, Summit, NJ. When you ask a fellow runner about an upcoming location, you tend to get a minimal answer based on the old adage, if you have nothing good to say, don't say it. Always heard nice things about Summit from my friend who was the building inspector and he would go on about how the old houses were out of code, but he never talked about the hills.

Got to the 1:00 PM race in just enough time, but the 92 degree readings on the Garden State Parkway spelled trouble ahead. At the start, greeted a few familiar faces from NJM, but very few for a 700 point extravaganza! Summit's Village Green was the staging area and the only flat spot I would see all day.

Clean start and settled into a pace when NJM's Bettina Garber ran by with a purpose. We have trained and run in many races over the last year so this seemed like a normal race. These were the last coherent thoughts I had for the next 4 miles. Bettina had disappeared in mile three and I was just hanging on. One hill followed another and I remembered to give myself permission to walk 10 seconds in mile 4, but the worst was still to come.

Dousing my head at the water station provided little relief from the heat and my lack of training in April. Finally a wake up call in mile 5 when another NJM runner passed politely and silently by. Shawn and I always talked about getting picked in the final stages of a race and those thoughts propelled me. The same NJM runner picked me in mile 7 last December, so I had to make up my mind to settle on the outcome or make my move. Am sure I looked like a tortoise climbing the last hill but never looked back after I repassed my NJM friend.

Coming down homestretch, another NJM voice broke my thoughts of pain as John Foster encouraged me to finish strong, and so I did, breaking 45 minutes, my worst 5 mile USATF race ever. Limped over to Bettina, John and Greg who offered me an icy bottle of water and congrats on finishing. How could Bettina look so refreshed after a day like this? The comforting truth was we all suffered together enduring this record breaking heat wave in May. My journal reminds me why I joined this club. The People.

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Runners Come Together To Aid Haitian Victims

February 9, 2010 by Bob Roemer

Runners Come Together To Aid Haitian Victims

An event occurred on Saturday February 6 that, once again, emphasized what we have always known - runners are good, caring people who are always ready to lend a helping hand.

Sponsored by the Ridgewood Running Company, a three mile 'casual' run was held in windy 25 degree weather to raise money for the suffering people of Haiti. Approximately 60 runners were on hand for the cause which raised $562. That figure will be matched by the Ridgewood Running Company, according to the store manager Beth O'Conner, making a total of $1,124.

Athletes from high school age to masters runners in their sixties made the effort and several North Jersey Masters members were in attendance. The prize at the end of the run was an array of donuts and bagels as well as hot coffee. Although it was a cold day, all who participated left with a warm feeling in their heart.

Member Comments:

John Foster
27 Feb, 2012
It was a nice easy run.

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North Jersey Masters Track and Field Club Mission Statement

North Jersey Masters is a running club that provides a healthy running environment for runners of all ages and abilities. Through coached workouts and weekend runs, members attain their goals and enjoy a lifelong pursuit of the sport within a supportive and friendly club environment.

North Jersey Masters Track and Field Club is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation registered in the state of New Jersey, founded by Fred and Toshi D'Elia in 1976.

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