What Runners need to know about Tick and Mosquito Season

Summer running season is also tick and mosquito season. Here is what you need to know to protect yourself.

Warmer weather brings with it tick and mosquito season for much of the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the number of illnesses caused by mosquito, tick, and flea bites more than tripled in the United States between 2004 and 2016.

Nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks were discovered or introduced into the United States during this time.  These include Zika, West Nile, Lyme, and chikungunya.  1

As runners, we often find ourselves on trails, in the woods or fields or near bodies of water where we are likely to encounter these pests.

Mosquitoes, black flies and ticks have been a menace to humans throughout history. But as the CDC reports, the number of diseases carried by these pests and the areas in which they can be found has grown considerably over the past decade or so.

With reasonable precautions we can protect ourselves and reduce the chance of contracting a disease from one of these insects.

Tick and Mosquito Season

Ticks and Tick Season

Tick season is generally April through December and peaks from May to August in Massachusetts. During these months you should be particularly vigilant for ticks on your body or clothing.

It should be noted that ticks do not die in the winter. They take cover in leaf litter under the snow. You may find them in debris or compost piles in your own yard.

When it is over 40° F ticks can be active and emerge from their winter homes. On warm winter days, you should take the same precautions that you would in peak season.

Tick season is essentially whenever the temperature is over 40° F. In some areas this is most or all of the year.

Last November I was in Maine for Thanksgiving.  On a mild day we went for a walk in the woods behinds my sister’s home.

My brother-in-law looked at me and said I had a tick on my pants leg. I looked down and saw a tick on my right leg just below the knee.

I had never seen a tick before and was surprised as I had been trying to be careful where I walked.

I knew that ticks are hard to kill, but I picked it off of my pants with my gloved hand and pinched it. I waited for a cracking noise, but through my gloves I could not apply enough pressure. I tossed it into the grass away from us.

Tick Born Diseases

The most common tick-borne disease in New England is Lyme Disease. Much less common are Babesiosis, and Anaplasmosis. Rarer still are Tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Borrelia miyamotoi, and Powassan virus.

All diseases carried by ticks start out the same way according to Massachusetts Deputy State Epidemiologist and State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Catherine Brown.

The four common symptoms are fever, chills, headaches and muscle aches. More specific symptoms related to each illness develop as they progress, but they all start with these four symptoms. With Lyme Disease you may also see a rash around the bite location.

Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease is wide-spread in Massachusetts, most of the Northeast and in Michigan and Minnesota. Lyme disease appears to be spreading to any area with ticks.

Lyme Disease is named after Lyme and Old Lyme, CT where the disease was first discovered.

Lyme disease came into public view when an epidemic of what appeared to be rheumatoid arthritis began afflicting children in Lyme, Connecticut.

A young rheumatologist at Yale named Allen Steere, who now conducts research at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, studied the children.

In 1976 he named the mysterious illness after its locale and described its main symptoms more fully: a bull’s-eye rash; fevers and aches; Bell’s palsy, or partial paralysis of the face, and other neurological issues; and rheumatological manifestations such as swelling of the knees.

After much study, Steere realized that the black-legged ticks that live on mice and deer (among other mammals) might be harboring a pathogen responsible for the outbreak. In 1981, the medical entomologist Willy Burgdorfer finally identified the bacterium that causes Lyme, and it was named after him: Borrelia burgdorferi. 12

Lyme Disease Human Risk Map, Tick and Mosquito Season
Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts are hotbeds for Lyme Disease in the US.

40% of Nantucket’s 10,000 year-round residents have had the disease or are currently being treated for it! 3

It is so bad that they are considering the release of mice genetically modified to be immune to the disease. A team from MIT lead by Kevin Esvelt wants to use  CRISPR and Gene Drive to make the mice immune to Lyme Disease. 4

White-footed mice carry the disease and ticks transmit it when they bite the mice and then humans. Research and discussions continue but many people on Nantucket are ready to try anything to deal with this problem.

The most common early symptom of Lyme is a rash which can look like a ring around the bite site. Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, stiff neck, sore and aching muscles and joints, fatigue and swollen glands may also occur.

Early treatment is crucial to prevent more serious problems as the disease progresses.

The joints, nervous system and heart are most commonly affected as the disease progresses.

• About 60% of people with untreated Lyme disease get arthritis in their knees, elbows and/or wrists. The arthritis can move from joint to joint and become chronic.

• Many people who don’t get treatment develop nervous system problems. These problems include meningitis (an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord), facial weakness (Bell’s palsy) or other problems with nerves of the head, and weakness or pain (or both) in the hands, arms, feet and/or legs. These symptoms can last for months, often shifting between mild and severe.

• The heart also can be affected in Lyme disease, with slowing down of the heart rate and fainting. The effect on the heart can be early or late.

Prompt treatment with antibiotics prevents later, more serious symptoms. 5

Lyme Disease is nothing to fool with. If you are in an infested area you need to check yourself often and take precautions to protect yourself.

The other tick born diseases are less common and generally less dangerous to your health. If you have been in a tick infested area and develop flu-like symptoms or develop a rash call your doctor right away.

Mosquitoes and Mosquito Season

Mosquito season generally begins when the temperature approaches 50°F.

Mosquito Season

As the temperature rises, so does the population of mosquitoes. It should be noted that some mosquitoes hibernate during the winter and some can winter-over in your house.

Closets are a common place to find mosquitoes in your home during the winter months. 2

In general, you should be safe from mosquito bites most of the winter in North America.

Mosquito Born Diseases

The most common diseases carried by mosquitoes are West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). Less common in the US are Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue.

Tick and Mosquito Season

 West Nile Virus

The majority of people who are infected with WNV (approximately 80%) will have no symptoms.

Approximately 20% will have symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands. They may also develop a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back.

Less than 1% of people infected with WNV will develop severe illness, including encephalitis or meningitis.

The symptoms of severe illness can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.

Persons older than 50 years of age have a higher risk of developing severe illness.

Since most people exposed to WNV have no symptoms it is difficult to determine the actual rate of infection.

Between 2000 and 2010, 67 people were reported infected with WNV in Massachusetts. Six of these people died. There is no specific treatment for this virus so we are fortunate that most of us have little to no reaction from the infection. 6

Eastern Equine Encephalitis

The first symptoms of EEE are fever (often 103º to 106ºF), stiff neck, headache, and lack of energy.

These symptoms show up three to ten days after a bite from an infected mosquito.

Inflammation and swelling of the brain, called encephalitis, is the most dangerous and frequent serious complication. The disease gets worse quickly and some patients may go into a coma within a week.

There is no treatment for EEE. In Massachusetts, about half of the people identified with EEE died from the infection. People who survive this disease will often be permanently disabled. Few people recover completely.

Since 1938 fewer than 100 cases have been reported in Massachusetts, with 60% of cases in Plymouth and Norfolk counties. Outbreaks of EEE occur about every 10 to 20 years with the most recent Massachusetts outbreak starting in 2004 and ending in 2006. Of 13 reported cases, six were fatalities. 7

Zika

Zika is a relatively new disease to North America. Much like WNV, 80% of people exposed to Zika report no symptoms.

Those who do react to the virus report symptoms 2-7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. If a woman is pregnant and contracts Zika the disease may spread to the fetus.

It is extremely unlikely that anyone could become infected with Zika virus from a mosquito bite in Massachusetts. The kinds of mosquitoes that are known to carry Zika virus are generally not found in Massachusetts. 8

Most people contract Zika when they travel to areas where it is prevalent. Zika has been reported in Texas and Florida in the past with a few neighborhoods in Miami listed as active transmission areas.

World Map of Areas with Risk of Zika 

Zika can also be transmitted through unprotected sex and can be transmitted by a pregnant woman to her baby during pregnancy.

Tick and Mosquito Bite Prevention

As the old saying goes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here is what you need to know.

Preventing Tick Bites

ticks, tall grassTicks are most active in warmer weather and can be found in tall grass, brush and wooded areas.

Ticks do not fly or jump. They latch onto passing mammals when they brush up against grass or a plant where the tick is clinging.

DEET and permethrin are both recommended to repel ticks. You can buy clothing infused with permethrin and permethrin actually kills ticks, not just repel them.

Permethrin should be applied carefully and according to the manufacturers directions.

Long-sleeved shirts and light colored pants tucked into your socks or boots are also recommended. This doesn’t work very well for runners who typically have a great deal of exposed skin.

Staying on cleared trails while running and avoiding the brush and grass along the trail is also recommended. Ticks are literally hanging out on the vegetation next to trails and clearings waiting for a mammal to come by.

For runners the best advice is to put on some DEET or permethrin and to stay on the trails. Since it’s almost impossible to avoid brushing up against foliage while running, you need to do a post run tick check.

Ticks like warm and moist areas of the body. Areas to check include:

  • Inside and behind the ears
  • Along your hairline
  • Back of your neck
  • Armpits
  • Groin
  • Legs
  • Behind your knees
  • Between your toes

You should also check your skin for new freckles which could be a tick.

The best way to remove a tick is with fine point tweezers. Do not use a hot match, petroleum jelly or any other home remedy. 10

You should save the removed tick and make note of the date and where on your body the tick was removed from. Ticks can be analyzed in a lab to discover if and what they are infected with. This can be crucial to your diagnosis if you end up with an infection.

Save the removed tick in a tightly sealed container.

Notify your doctor if you develop flu like symptoms or a rash.

If you run with your dog, this article from YourDogAdvisor.com has some good information for you.

Preventing Mosquito Bites

DEET and permethrin are recommended to repel mosquitoes. Since mosquitoes are active 24 hours a day, it is a good idea to use repellent if you are in an area active with mosquitoes any time of day.

You are more likely to find mosquitoes near bodies of water such as ponds or streams. But mosquitoes can lay their eggs in a table spoon of water, so you could have mosquito habitat on your deck or in your back yard.

It’s important to tip water out of flower pots or anything else that can hold water.

Most mosquitoes do not fly far from where they hatch. Eliminating breeding spots near your home is an important way to protect your family.

Dusk to dawn are peak hours for mosquito activity and using repellent at these times is highly encouraged.

Long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks are also recommended. Since these are generally impractical for runners it is best to use repellent, avoid high mosquito activity hours and locations.

Unlike ticks, mosquitoes do fly. While running, you are probably safe from getting a bite. But when you stop running the little buggers are sure to find you and all of that exposed skin!

How to Choose a Repellent

The EPA has a great site where you can select a repellent based on your needs. You can specify how long you need protection for, what you need protection from and which ingredients you are interested in.

You can also look up specific products, companies and EPA registration numbers.

They also provide instructions on how to apply repellents which may be difficult to read on a can.

Click HERE and scroll to the bottom of the page to look for your repellent.

Tick and Mosquito Season Running Go Bag

I always keep a bag of running gear in my car. In the winter this is often just a pair of gloves and a winter hat.

In the summer it is easier to spontaneously go for a run after work with friends. So in addition to keeping some running gear in my go bag I also keep sun screen and a can of insect repellent.

If you are running after work in the summer, it is likely you will be out at dusk. While you are running you will probably be okay. But when you stop for a drink or to hang out after your run, you could be swarmed by mosquitoes, black flies and possibly horse flies.

Having a DEET based repellent in your car is a great idea. I’ve been at races along The Charles River in Boston and seen runners freely passing around a can of bug spray. Stranger or no, no one can stand by and watch others suffer. Hanging out next to the river before a race can literally suck!

I hope you have a great summer running season and stay healthy.

Andy

This post was originally posted May 29th, 2018 and has been updated May 25th, 2020.

SOURCES

1 https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0501-vs-vector-borne.html

2  http://www.mosquitomagnet.com/articles/mosquito-season

3 https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/genetically-engineered-mice-reduce-lyme-disease

4 https://www.statnews.com/2016/06/07/nantucket-lyme-genetic-engineering/

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/lyme-disease

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/west-nile-virus-wnv

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/eee-eastern-equine-encephalitis

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/zika-information-for-the-public

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/world-map-areas-with-zika

10 https://www.mass.gov/service-details/tick-borne-disease-information-for-the-public

11 https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you

12 https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/09/life-with-lyme/594736/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=atlantic-daily-newsletter&utm_content=20190814&silverid-ref=NDg5MzY0ODg2MjY3S0

This Is How I Roll

Every runner has habits and preferences. We find our what works for us and keep it or continue to experiment. Here are a few of mine.

This Is How I Roll is an idea from Meditations in Motion who borrowed it from Donna at RunningToTravel and Tracy at The Writing Runner.  They got the idea from the back page of Runners’ World magazines.  Every month, Runners’ World interviews a runner and asks them to sum up their running preferences.

This is how I Roll

  1. Wave                Nod
  2. Heart Rate    Feel  
  3. Lead                 Follow 
  4. PR                     Finish  – Most PRs are behind me
  5. Stride               Glide
  6. Athleisure       Sweats – not into either, but given the choice
  7. Gel                    Chews
  8. Hat              Gloves – Easy ways to adjust if you get hot.
  9. Morning          Night – Not a morning person. It’s coffee time!!
  10. Swift            Strong – I enjoy hills more than most people
  11. Struggle           Slay – You have to embrace the struggle
  12. Hot                   Cold – I have run some of my best races in the heat
  13. Low Socks       Tall Socks
  14. Shoe Store       Online
  15. Uphill                Downhill – my competitive advantage
  16. 5k                       Half Marathon
  17. GPS                   Naked – I wear my Garmin 610 24×7
  18. Stop                  Go – not sure what this means. I just keep running
  19. Start                 Finish – The finish always feels better
  20. Heel                  Toe
  21. Calves             Quads – people actually comment on my calves. Embarrassing!
  22. Headphones    Inner Voices  – I like to hear what’s going on around me
  23. Bagel                  Banana – a plain bagel before a marathon seems to work
  24. Treadmill         Frostbite – Will run outside as low as -20
  25. Medal               T-shirt – I really have enough of both
  26. Warm Up         Cool Down
  27. Distance          Time – Need to get my miles in
  28. 400s                  Hills – Not that I love them but…1. I wave to most people I see while running. With this lock down it’s the most socializing I get in all day!

2. My watch has a chest strap to monitor heart rate but it broke and I never replaced it. Now I run based on feel.

Some days I feel great and full of energy and can really push it. Other days it’s all I can do to get in 5K.

3. When I’m following someone I feel more in control. On a training run the person in front of me can only run so fast before they are running by them selves.

Andy Nagelin and Bobby Taylor Main Street in WakefieldDuring a race when everyone is running as fast as they can, running behind someone allows me to control the pace.

If I push up a hill, they have to run faster or I’ll pass them. If I want to back off, I’m still behind them.  During a race I often set my sights on someone, catch up and follow them and then pass when I can.

4 and 5 – I think my PR days are behind me. And while some people say I have an efficient stride, I feel like a bag of bricks.

8. My ears ache in the cold and my hands freeze in the winter when I start a run. If it stays cold I leave them on. If I warm up, hats and gloves are easy to take off.

9. Like just about everyone, I’ve done plenty of running in the morning. The Honolulu Marathon begins at 5:00 AM!

But, outside of a race, I prefer to run in the afternoon or evening. I’m just not that motivated in the morning!

10. I’m not a particularly strong runner, but I don’t give up and I always go 110% in for a race.

11. Running is about embracing the struggle. If you’re not willing to be uncomfortable or in pain you’ll never reach your potential.

12. I hate to bundle up and run in the cold, but I will do it. I’ve run some of my best race times when it’s 80° F out. As long as I have plenty to drink, I’m okay. I also know to run in the shade and pay attention to my body.

Heat stroke can be very serious.

14. You may pay a bit more at a shoe store but you know the shoes will fit. People who work at shoe stores are also fonts of knowledge and some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They are runners after all!

15. I’m a bit of a hill runner. I’m not great but I’m probably above average.

When I run a race with out any hills, I feel like I’m at a disadvantage.

16. I think most runners prefer the half marathon. 5Ks are fun but they’re  over before you get started. 10Ks are great and you feel like you’ve run a race by the time you cross the finish line.

The half marathon is a challenge but it’s not the major under-taking that is a marathon. I can run several halfs per month, but I can only run two to three marathons a year.

17. GPS Watch – if you didn’t track the run, did it really happen? Does it count? I use my watch to track my pace. During a race keeping track of my pace is essential to my race strategy.

21. I’ve received more comments on my calves than even my formerly red Scott Procopio Gold Star Honor Run 10K 2018, Andy Nagelinhair. Sometimes people will see my legs at a race and say something. And sometimes it’s a little embarrassing.

I’ve had conversations with colleagues about my legs. And I’m no body builder. It’s kind of odd.

I guess it’s nice to have some redeeming physical attribute!

24. When I’m training for a marathon I’ll do what I have to to get in my miles. I’ve run a half marathon training run on a treadmill before, but I didn’t enjoy it.

I prefer to take my chances with the elements. I’ve run in – 20° weather before and will run in shorts down to about 32°.

There’s nothing like the great outdoors.

25. Medals and t-shirts. I wish more races would eliminate both. I have running medals, marathon medalsenough of both items and often medals are more like trinkets just to say you got something.  I say save the money for fundraising .

26. I’m not really good at warming up or cooling down. I do minimal stretching before a race and will do a warm up jog before a 5K sometimes.

I hardly ever stretch much after a race and I need to fix that!

I could write a paragraph or even a blog on most of these items. But this was supposed to be a brief post, just for fun.

How about it? How do you roll?

Run well my Friends!

Andy

2019 Running Review

It’s time to review my 2019 running goals and take the lessons learned along the way. Have you had a 2019 running review to take some lessons?

It’s that time of year to look back on the past twelve months and look forward to the coming year.

I don’t like to make New Year’s Resolutions as they seem to be short lived by nature. I prefer to set out goals for the year. They are pretty much the same thing but goals tend to persist.

For 2019, my goal was to run 1,000 miles. My stretch goal was to run 3 miles per day or 1,095 miles.

I’ve never run 1,000 miles in a year and I didn’t do it this year either!

2019 Running Review

I did run 957.37 miles on 152 runs. This includes 250.2 racing miles which is an all time high by about 45 miles.

I ran 31 races in 2019 including The Boston Marathon and The Philadelphia Marathon, 9 half- marathons, 4 10Ks, 2 5 Milers and 11 5K or close to 5K races. I also ran a 1 miler and a 15K race.

Hangover Classic 10K 2019, Salisbury Beach, MAI started the year off with The Hangover Classic 10K in Salisbury, MA. Over the past 10 years, I’ve run this race seven times. One year I ran the 5K with my daughter, another year I ran another race.

Getting 6.2 miles under your belt on January 1st is a great way to start the year.

There are a few races I run almost every year like The Hangover Classic, but I like to mix things up.

A few times in 2019 I gave away my registration due to unforeseen conflicts. Over the years I’ve been the recipient of such generosity.

A few years ago I had to pass on to a colleague a Boston Marathon charity bib with the fundraising obligation covered! That’s like a Willie Wonka golden ticket! Who hasn’t seen an Umpa-Loopa somewhere out there on Comm. Ave?

BAA 10K Running Streak

Melrose Running Club, BAA 10K 2018The BAA 10K is my only streak race. I’ve run each one since they added this race in 2011. My goal is to keep running this race until I can’t run anymore.

It’s a great 10K that starts on The Boston Common, runs out Comm Ave to the BU Agganis Arena and turns around.

Held the 3rd Sunday in June, it’s usually hot. Sometimes blazing hot. A few years ago in poured cats and dogs right up until the race started and then turned into a sauna. Steam was rising off of the pavement!

It’s a massive race with well over 5,000 runners. There are so many runners that they start the race in waves. I’m not sure if they did this early on but the race has become very popular.

Two Marathons for 2019

I was fortunate enough to get a 2019 Boston Marathon charity bib again. This was my ninth time running Boston over the past 17 years.

Between work and laziness I didn’t do all of the training that I should have. My training went pretty well and I had a decent 20 mile long-run. Better than some of my previous year’s 20 milers.

I ran Boston on April 15th and finished in 4:14:56. Excepting for 2018, this was my slowest Boston in five years. 2018 was 4:46:20 but we had horizontal rain the entire way and no one set any world records that year.

Philadelphia Marathon new the finish, Andy NagelinIn November I traveled to Philadelphia with two friends to run The Philadelphia Marathon. While not my first destination marathon it felt like it.

Leading up to Philly I ran five half marathons for training. All of them felt pretty good and were well under two hours. The relative success of these comfortable halfs had lulled me into complacency.

But experience kept reminding me to respect the distance and that you get back what you put in.

Philly is a great marathon and I’d encourage anyone to run it. It is a big city marathon but doesn’t feel as big or produced as Boston.

The weather was cold, it rained the last hour of my run and I did not execute well.

My finish time was 4:21:09. I had hoped for 4 but deserved nothing better than 4:30. So no complaints on my finish time.

The race organization left a few things to desire, but you can read about that in my Philadelphia Marathon Review.

2019 was the third year in a row that I’ve run two marathons. I hope to keep that streak alive in 2020.

Goals set and Goals missed

The closest I’ve come to running 1,000 miles was in 2014. I ran  977.82 miles over 123 runs including three marathons.

When you have three marathons on your calendar you do a lot of training. By the time my third marathon came around, The Baystate Marathon, a certain amount of joy of the run was missing. I ran my 2nd fastest marathon at Baystate – 3:49, two minutes off my previous year’s finish.

That same year I ran one of my most magical races, The Bay Of Fundy International MarathonI went with my oldest sister and we ran into friends of hers, went to the runner’s dinner and met a physics student from Heidelberg. He had hitch-hiked from Boston and was Air BnBing on someone’s couch. Everyone in town knew him!

He didn’t have a ride back to Boston, so I drove him. We spent the night at my sister’s and I think he had a great experience with us Americans. I dropped him off at North Station so he could get to Syracuse University for some physics experiments.

2019 was my 2nd highest miles run. So having a goal, even without three marathons, helped me.

Lessons learned

Over the past seventeen years, I’ve had a variety of injuries. These effected the number of miles I ran and my speed.

Runners are always learning and avoiding injury and recovery is probably the most important lesson to learn.

My knees bothered me so much in 2018 that I consulted with an orthopedist and had PT. By the end of the year I was well enough to run Honolulu and improve my finish there by almost eleven minutes.

In the past, if I had inflammation I’d take the maximum dose of ibuprofen. And I’d do this for months at a time.

In 2018 I stopped that and began to use spices with anti-inflammatory properties. It may sound crazy but I ran Honolulu in December 2018 and didn’t have any significant running issues in 2019.

Looking back on 2019 that seems pretty remarkable to me. I probably took 5 ibuprofen all year and those were for headaches.

Food as medicine is real.

In 2018 my sister also turned me onto Arenica gel. It’s a topical anti-inflammatory and it seems to work. When ever my knees or IT bands are sore I rub that gel on and the pain and tightness goes away.

You can get in at any pharmacy and it’s relatively inexpensive. Best of all, it doesn’t mess with your liver or kidneys.

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned over the past 17 years is consistency.

It’s better to run shorter distances five times a week instead of two long runs. You’re more likely to get injured running two long runs. And the ease of shorter runs helps keep the motivation level up.

When setting a goal such as 1,000 miles or 3 miles per day, consistency is also important.

I was within 50 miles of my goal early in December. I could have pushed hard and hit my goal but I would have risked injury. I had too many other obligations and I just had to let it go.

This is similar to running a race. There is always a point in a race where I question how much I want it. I tell my self I didn’t train for this race, didn’t train enough period. I’m just running for fun.

Those moments of doubt and hesitation can be the difference between a PR or achieving an incremental goal and just another finish.

Large goals like 1,000 or 1,095 miles need to be chunked and each chunk needs to be met. Otherwise, you end up in December with the goal within sight but out of reach.

I didn’t reach my goal for 2019 but I learned a few things, and I’ll take that.

Run well my Friends,

Andy

What distance can my child run?

Here are some guidelines and resources for parents to help decide what distance your child can run safely.

Many parents wonder what distance can my child run safely?

It’s an important question to ask before running a race or starting a training program with your child.

I put together these guidelines based on expert recommendations. 

You should consult with your pediatrician before beginning a training program or running a race with your child.

What distance can your child run safely?

The two main factors you should keep in mind are your child’s health and overall fitness level, and their age.

Your child’s health and fitness level

Pediatricians disagree on how much running is too much for children and little research has been done. Some question if rigorous training may  damage the growing areas of children’s bones. 

Young runner’s bodies are still figuring out the mechanics of motion. Why wouldn’t young, growing, un-matured bodies be more susceptible to injury?

With increasing numbers of children leading sedentary lives, it’s difficult to argue against allowing children to run if they want to.

As a parent you know your child better than anyone else.

Before deciding to run a race or start a training program, think about your child’s health and level of physical activity.

While some children may be highly motivated and need you to keep them in check, most kids are just like adults.

They will get tired while running and eventually some of the excitement will wear off.

In most cases your child will come to appreciate the effort that it takes to run. This realization is enough to keep most children from over doing it.

At your child’s annual physical let the pediatrician know that your child is interested in running or starting a training program. 

This is a good way to start a conversation with the pediatrician and your child. Your pediatrician will be able to tell you about your child’s overall health and any concerns you should be aware of. 

Based on your child’s age and fitness level they may have some training or distance recommendations.  

If your child wants to run a 5K, but their doctor recommends a shorter distance, the doctor’s orders are more likely to be followed than yours.

Your child may be excited to run because you do. Maybe they like the colorful shirts or race medals you bring home. They probably do not understand how much training you do or how hard it is to finish a 5K.

If you do not have a pediatrician’s appointment coming up, you can do a basic assessment of your child’s fitness level.  

Does your child participate in sports already or do they spend most of their spare time watching TV or playing video games? Are they generally active and full of energy? 

While you may not know what your child’s heart sounds like, you do have a pretty good idea of their activity level.

The best advise for any new runner is to ease into it. Start with short runs and don’t worry about speed. The first few runs will give you a better understanding of your child’s fitness level.

Remember, if you push too hard early on, your child may decide that running isn’t for them.

It’s a good idea to keep running fun and not to focus on goals. That will all come eventually.

If your generally healthy 5-year old wants to run a 100-yard dash, you  probably don’t need to train. If your 10-year old wants to run a 5K with you then you should run with them a few times before the big day.

Your Child’s Age

In addition to your child’s health, your child’s age is the other important factor to consider.

children running. kids races, what distance can my child runThe Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) is the largest running organization in the US and provides educational materials for clubs interested in hosting youth running programs.

These same guidelines can be used by you.

The RRCA guidelines recommend that children under 5 participate in kid’s fun runs. 

These “Fun Run” races are often free and part of other race day activities. This is a great way for your child to try running in a fun and encouraging environment.

A Fun Run allows your child to participate in a running event with you, but have a race of their own. 

RRCA Youth Running Guidelines

As your child gets older it is generally agreed that it is safe for them to run longer distances. Here are the RRCA’s guidelines:

  • Children 5 and under should focus on “dash” events that range from a few yards to 400 meters.
  • Children 5 and over, kids fun runs that are a ½ to 1 mile long may be considered, but allow for a combination of running and walking.
  • Children ages 12 and over may want to participate in a 5K run.
  • Children ages 15 and older may want to participate in a 10K to half marathon event.
  • Children 18 and older may want to participate in a marathon or further distance.

These are general guidelines. You should take into consideration your child’s health, fitness level and motivation. 

I believe that the RRCA’s Guidelines address the issue of young children putting too much stress on their bodies. Younger children should stick to shorter distances while teens can move to longer distances that require training.

Running should be fun. Children should not be pressured into running longer distances than they want to. As any parent knows, it’s not unusual for a child to change their mind in the middle of something.

As adults we know about challenging our limitations and pushing through to the next level. Children often do not have these motivations and just know that “this isn’t fun anymore.”

If your child wants to stop or walk while training or racing you have the difficult task of knowing when to let them have their way. 

For pre-teens, the emphasis should be on fun, participation and enjoying the event. The emphasis should not be on competition and attaining goals.

If a young child has a genuine enthusiasm for running, let it grow naturally. They will move up to longer distances as they mature and grow stronger.

As the parent your role should be to guide your young runner and help them make wise choices about running.

As a rule, young children should not be training to run a “fun run.”

Additional Guidelines

child running distances, What distance can my child runHere are the distances that the Hartford Marathon Foundation (HMF) uses for their youth events.

The HMF organizes dozens of races each year that include youth running events. They have a lot of experience in this area.

Most Fun Runs award a ribbon and sometimes provide a drink and a snack. They usually do not provide a medal or shirt as they are free events.

Some races allow you to register your child ahead of time for the Fun Run, but some only have “day of” registration. 

suggested distances for kids, youth runningThe Healthy Kids Running Series was created by Jeff Long, Founder and President of Pattison Sports Group, to provide kids with a positive, educational, and fun experience in the world of running.

They help parents set up youth running programs in their own towns and provide these youth running distance recommendations.

The program emphasizes fun and encourages weekly organized runs for children. You can find out if there is a program in your town at their website. You can also find out how to set up a program in your town.

Angela Bekkala wrote an article for Active.com: How to Get Kids Ready for Their First 5K It’s a quick read and offers additional advice.

Your child wants to run a 5K with you. What should you do? 

  • Do not put any pressure on them to achieve a certain goal
  • Forget about your own time. You need to run their pace
  • Be prepared to walk and always be positive and encouraging
  • You are mom or dad, not their coach, so always be supportive

If your child has a positive experience with you at their first 5K, you may have a new running buddy. What could be better than that?

Make sure to emphasize the fun race environment. Make them feel like one of the other runners by introducing them to your friends and including them in conversations. Everyone loves a new runner, and your child will thrive on the positive energy at a race.

Some 5K races are adult events with loud music and drinking. If you run one of these 5Ks with your child it may be a good idea to only stay for a while after the race.

Competitive Running for your Child

Around the age of 12, the RRCA says children may participate in 5K races. Moving from fun runs to a 5K race should be your child’s decision. The emphasis should still be on fun and participation.

When a child starts running 5K races on a regular basis, they may become competition. A child may compete with themselves, friends or you.

Competition is good and running competitively teaches many life lessons. As the parent it is up to you to guide expectations and be supportive.

It is important for children to understand that few of us ever come in first place. Most of us have friends who finish ahead of us. As adults we understand this and our self worth and image are not dependent on how we do at a race.

For a pre-teen or teenager, winning and loosing can become the focus of running. As a parent, it is your role to focus more on the fun and participation in the event and running community, and focus less on competition.

As your child runs more races and improves their running, competition can become more important.

Setting goals and training to achieve them are important life lessons. If a child sticks with running and maintains a healthy enthusiasm for the sport, your guidance can help them set healthy goals and expectations of themselves.

When your child moves from the 1-mile fun run to the 5K, let them guide you. You can see when they may be pushing too hard and you can see when they should push for the next goal. As the more experienced runner, you can guide them.

Moving to longer distances

As always, the age and the health of your child are your main considerations. Around age 15 it should be okay for your child to run a 10K or half-marathon.

Many marathons will not allow anyone under age 18 to run. Some will allow teens to run with a parent’s permission.

If your child has run a few 5Ks and enjoyed themselves, then it should be okay to try a 10K. While a child may not need to train for a fun run or a 5K, they should do training for a 10K and definitely for a half-marathon.

In your child’s mid-teens, running 5Ks and 10Ks should be sufficient. In the later teens an occasional half-marathon and perhaps a marathon should be okay.

As your child moves up to longer distances, you child should train with you or a coach at school. Fitness and conditioning become more important at longer distances in order to avoid injury and to run successfully.

If your child does not get an annual athletic physical as a requirement to participate in school sports, make sure you are making those appointments.

I hope this information is helpful. I want to emphasis again that this information should be used as a guide only.

If your child has a medical condition, please consult with your pediatrician first. If your child has no known conditions, at their next check up mention to their pediatrician that your child is interested in running.

races with medals, 5k medals, my first 5k medalIf your child is running their first 5K race and you would like to get them a medal to remember the race, check out the My First 5K medal. Most 5K races do not give finisher’s medals. Usually only the top male and female finisher and top age group finishers.

Run well my friends and happy running with your child!

Andy

Running and Chewing Gum

Running and Chewing Gum is an easy way to make a long run enjoyable by avoiding a dry mouth. It’s really quite easy to do.

These days, most of us are multi-taskers. But can you run and chew gum at the same time?

It seems the only way to keep up with the never-ending demands on our time is to multi task. It may be as simple as putting in a wash and then cooking supper. While cleaning the kitchen as I wait for the food to cook. With the BBC News playing in the background, getting me up to date with the world.

These tasks are more of process and time management. Chewing gum and walking is the proverbial physical coordination test.

Running and Chewing Gum

Doing two physical tasks at the same time can be challenging.

Try rubbing your belly while patting the top of your head. Now do it faster. Now rub you belly in the opposite direction! Now switch hands!

Chewing gum and doing most anything else is much less taxing than this exercise. Chewing gum is done pretty much unconsciously.

Because it is so effortless is why people joke that you can’t do anything else and chew gum. It’s a very low bar!

Often while I run, my mouth will get dry. Sometimes my throat gets horse and it’s difficult to get words out. Even drinking water doesn’t relieve these issues for me.

This Sunday I had a pack of gum in my car. I decided to have a piece before the Sunday Long Run to knock back my coffee breath. Then I forgot I had it in my mouth and started running.

During the entire eight mile run I barely noticed that I had gum in my mouth except at water stops. Then I had to avoid swallowing it with a cup of water.

As I drove home I realized I had run the entire eight miles, about 70 minutes chewing gum. “I guess I can walk or run while chewing gum” I said to myself with a chuckle.

It’s really not that big of a deal.

Most runners don’t run with gum. Many worry they will swallow it or inhale it. It can also get in the way when you take a gel or other food and beverage.

I’ve run a few races with gum and one of my running buddies does it often.

Because I had gum in my mouth, my mouth never dried out and my throat felt fine for the entire run. I was even able to carry on a conversation with the two people I was running with.

Without the gum my mouth and throat would have been too dry to talk after a few miles.

Sunday Long Run Week Ten

This week the Sunday Long Run was sixteen miles. The long run ran out Main Street from Brueggers in Melrose, looped Lake Q and headed down Nahant Street to Breakheart Reservation for a hilly loop of the park.

I didn’t run last Sunday because of an odd hip pain. I only ran a 2.5 mile test run up to the bank and back on Thursday to see what was going on. Oddly enough, my left knee acted up on that run but my hip was fine. After a mile I could have done 10K.

I’m beginning the 10-week road to Philadelphia right now, so I decided to play it safe and run eight miles.

This early on I don’t need big miles and I need to make sure I’m okay. It’s better to deal with an injury early in the plan than later, but you do have to deal with it.

I ran with Aine and David Lunney this week. Two relatively new club members. David is training for his first half marathon, the Newburyport Half Marathon on October 20th.

Since I could talk this week, we were able to have a good conversation about running. I’ve been running since 2003 so I can answer most questions and have plenty of advice. I also tried to keep quiet and let them talk!

Running and chewing gum worked well for me this week. Hopefully I didn’t talk Aine and David’s ears off!

Do you run with gum? Besides water, do you have other ways to keep your mouth and throat from drying out?

Run well my Friends!

Andy

What to do One Week to Boston

We are now down to one week to Boston.

If this isn’t your first rodeo, you know what to do. If you are giving it a go for the first time, here are a few last minutes tips.

One Week to Boston

This is the last week of your taper. If you ran more than you should have last week, cut it out! You should have run your last long run over the weekend. You just need to run a few short easy runs this week.

This week is about resting your legs. Do a few easy runs at or below your marathon goal pace. At this point in the game you can’t improve your fitness, but you can certainly hurt your self.

The two weeks of taper give your body time to recover from what you have put it through over the past few months.

With all of this time on your hands you will feel lazy. Expect to feel lazy.

Watch some of those movies or shows on your DVR or binge watch something on Netflix. You’ve earned some lazy time.

You’re about to kick your own ass, so you absolutely deserve some ass in chair time!

What to do One Week to Boston

Boston Marathon 2016, one week to BostonYou should have all of your clothes picked out by now. If something is too tight or loose, fix it. Some of us have actually lost weight during our training. Not me, but maybe you. So if those shorts are falling off of your now skinny ass, you need to choose a different pair.

If you buy any new clothes, god forbid!, wash and wear them two or three times. You don’t want to get to Framingham and realize there is a seam or tag ripping a hole in your skin. Framingham starts at Mile Five. So that would be 21.2 more miles of skin ripping agony if you make a mistake here.

Clip your toe nails. Super important. You don’t want to run with long nails which may tear your socks or rub against your shoe toe box. If you happen to cut a nail too closely, you have a few days for that mistake to heal up. Get those clippers out!

Pack your drop bag and go bag. The BAA will give you a drop bag and a go bag at the Expo. The drop bag is an 18″ x 19″ clear plastic bag for all of the clothes and stuff you will want after the race.

You won’t get these bags until the Expo, but start getting your gear together. Don’t leave anything for the last minute.

Don’t put anything valuable in your drop bag. Nothing ever happens, but it can. I’d keep my car key or hotel key card in my running belt or a pocket. You don’t need your wallet, but you should tuck your ID and some cash in your running belt or pocket.

I always include some food in my drop bag and a long sleeved shirt. You will get cold after the race and you only get so much food at the end of the race.

Your “go bag” is a one-gallon clear plastic bag that the BAA will let you bring on the bus out to Hopkinton. The last time I ran they didn’t provide this bag, so I’m really happy that they provide these now.

The BAA web site says this bag is only for food and drinks, so don’t stuff it full of other items. If you want to bring sun screen or anything else, try to get it into your running belt or a pocket.

Anything that you bring to Hopkinton will either be carried back to Boston by you, tossed in the trash or donated to charity. The BAA no longer returns bags to Boston.

If you don’t like bagels and coffee, your go bag should have whatever you like to eat before you run 26.2 miles.

Yes, you will need sun screen. Even if the skies are overcast our tender winter skin is going to get fried over four plus hours of running.

I also like chap stick with an SPF built in. It always wears off after a few miles, but I hate dry lips just a mile or two into the race. That’s just me, but you might want to consider it. I bet you can pick up half-a-dozen chap sticks at the Expo.

Don’t walk in the dark

With one week to Boston you don’t have time to recover from stupid mistakes.

Don’t walk around your house in the dark. If you step on a Lego or ram your foot into a chair leg or doorway you could be screwed.

You should be wearing slippers or a pair of clean shoes that your spouse will let you wear around the house.

The other night I came home from my Tuesday night club run and made this mistake. I dutifully took off my running shoes and shut off the front hall light. I was in total darkness! I’m pretty good with walking around my house in the dark.

But I knew I was taking a stupid risk. One that I should know better than. Except for that one time, I always wear slippers or shoes in the house. You should too.

Boston Marathon 2018

One Week to Boston Check List

  • Get all of your clothes together
  • Get all of your race food and beverage together
  • Confirm travel plans, parking etc.
  • Confirm where you will meet family and friends after the race
  • Make sure your ID is in your wallet or the BAA wont give you your bib
  • Make sure you have your Bib Number Pick-up card, or the BAA wont give you your bib
  • Check the BAA web site for all and any additional details. 

 

If you are looking for a frame for your Boston Marathon finisher’s medal, I can help you with that. click HERE

You’ve done the hard work, now it’s time to relax a bit and make the final preperations for the race.

Run well my Friends and see you in Boston!

Andy