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

AIDS Walk Boston & 5K Run

AIDS Walk Boston 5K Run is Sunday

I have signed up to participate in this event to help raise money for HIV/AIDS awareness, education, treatment and research. While many of us do not know someone personally with HIV/AIDS it is still important to keep research towards a cure moving forward.

AIDS Walk Boston,fund raising

The Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard has a talented group of scientist and researchers working diligently to find a cure. Vast amounts of money have been pledged to support the efforts of The Institute.

As many of us will recall, AIDS was once a death sentence. In the 80’s the mortality rate was virtually 100%. Today many people live with HIV and never progress to AIDS. Many with AIDS have been able to live full and productive lives due to the efforts of researchers and scientists at places such as The Ragon Institute.

Live well my friends,

Andy

© Andrew nagelin 2014

Why do I get sick after a race?

Last year I wrote a blog post, Why do I get a cold after a race? 

In that post I wrote about the ways that runners can pick up germs at a race. My post was based on my observations of what runners do at races and during races. There are many ways that runners exchange germs at races and I talked about the importance of keeping your hands clean.

The science behind a compromised immune system

My previous post was about how to avoid picking up germs and how to keep them out of your body. Here is some information on why you are more susceptible to these germs after a race.

A 2012 article from Outside Online discussed how an athlete’s immune system is weakened. In the article, Outside cites a study published in Exercise Immunology Review in late 2011 outlining what they currently know.

To paraphrase:

While researchers still have a lot to learn about the complexities of our immune system and how it works, they do believe there’s an “open window” of impaired immunity that may last between three hours and three days after a big event. During that time, your body’s resistance to pathogens is lowered, leaving you at higher risk for infection.

Livestrong.com posted an article in October of 2013, Sickness After Running a Marathon which helps explain why you are vulnerable for up to three days after an event.

Why Runners Get Sick

While moderate exercise has been shown to improve the body’s immunity to disease, periods of strenuous exercise lasting longer than 90 minutes can weaken the body’s immune system. After about 90 minutes, depending on a runner’s reserve of carbohydrate energy, the body uses up its natural energy supply of glucose, triggering the release of the stress molecule cortisol. Higher levels of cortisol, in turn, can weaken the immune system and make the body more susceptible to infection, “Marathon & Beyond” magazine explains, most commonly upper respiratory tract infections.  – from www.livestong.com.

The article goes on to recommend getting plenty of rest after a marathon to allow the body’s stress levels to return to normal. In addition to a good night’s sleep, a nap may not be a bad idea either. They also recommend replenishing your body’s carbohydrate stores and getting plenty of vitamins and minerals through fresh fruit and vegetables.

supplements
Energy Supplements

Runners often supplement their natural stores of energy with energy products. Your body can absorb about 350 calories per hour, but can burn more than 600 calories per hour during a marathon or strenuous workout. Even if you manage to ingest 350 calories per hour you will eventually run an energy deficit during a marathon. You cannot avoid running down your natural reserves.

How to reduce your chances of getting sick?

  • Protect your self from common sources of germs at a race
  • Refuel properly after a race – see Additional resources below.
  • Get plenty of rest before and after a race.

Additional Resources

Here is a post from Greatest.com that discusses the virtues of chocolate milk as a post race or exercise beverage. The low-cost is one to keep in mind.

Here is a good review of energy products written by All Season Cyclist. lots of good information here on products you are probably using all ready.

At Get Going, Get Running, Bernie writes about how he uses nutritional supplements while training for a race and during a race.

Run well my friends!

Andy

Why do I get sick after a race?

Ever get sick after a race?

Many runners feel that they are more likely to get sick in the days right after a race. Not after every race, but often.

A lot of runners also tend to get sick in the days and weeks right before a race. As we all know, sickness isn’t caused by the weather or fatigue: Illness is caused by germs. The fatigue and stress from increased training, increased exposure to the elements and sleep loss can compromise your immune system.

My Observations

While I went through my pre-race routine at the 2012 BAA Half Marathon, I kept thinking about what we runners do at races that expose us to so many germs? As I walked around and did my pre-race routine I began to notice things.

I noticed that no one was coughing or had a major case of the sniffles; everyone looked healthy. It was about 50 degrees and we were all standing around in light clothing waiting for the start. Normally just being in the cold would cause the sniffles. I didn’t do a scientific study, but I didn’t see anyone who looked sick.

So I started to think about those times or parts of the race when runners come into contact with each other, either directly or indirectly. While we are getting ready for the race and then standing in the corrals everyone can get quite close. At the start of a race it’s not unusual to be shoulder to shoulder and in everyone’s personal space. With this close proximity it is easy to transmit germs.

With this intimacy, we are all breathing each other’s air and you can see how easy it is to transmit germs. During a race, we are breathing deeply and releasing germs from deep inside our lungs. In the winter it is easy to see everyone’s breath and this intimacy is obvious.

Snot Blasting

During the race things eventually spread out and everyone gets some breathing room. One particularly disgusting and unhygienic act that I see at many races is snot blasting. That’s when someone plugs one nostril and lets it rip through the other in order to clear things out. While this might be an awesome way to clear your sinuses it is utterly disgusting.

When someone does this, do they know where this aerosolized snot is going to land? When I see people doing this they are often more focused on their nasty little task than they are on the people in the blast zone. I’ve never received a direct hit, but a few times I’m pretty sure I’ve been within the snot blast zone. Talk about spreading germs!

Dirty Hands

Runners are always wiping their noses when they run, especially on cold days. We then high-five each other, slap hands with by-standers and then reach into a tub or barrel full of ice and water to grab a drink. All of that “nose candy” and germs from hundreds of hands gets collected on our hands and redistributed on ourselves, our fellow runners and into those buckets of cold drinks.

It’s difficult to keep your hands clean even under normal circumstances. The medical profession tells us that hand washing is the best way to prevent the transmission of germs.

Most people don’t think about their hands and how they transmit germs. If you have germs on your hands and then eat food or rub your eye, you can infect yourself with something you picked up.

The Prize behind Door Number Three!

why do i get sick
Porta Potty by David Shankbone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before the race, runners are in and out of the porta-potties several times.  This provides another great opportunity to pick something up.  We all use the hand sanitizers (I hope) and many of us look like surgeons as we emerge from doing our business and try not to touch anything with our Purell laden hands.

If we get enough Purell and rub it in sufficiently we can be relatively germ free. But nothing is 100% and if you miss your finger tips and them rub your eyes or put something in your mouth you could be a microbe winner!

In the porta-potty you can get bacteria and viruses from both ends of the human body. You need to be especially careful in there. If you can hang up your bag or jacket instead of putting it on the floor, that is probably a good idea. All manner of fluids get spilled, sprayed and dropped on those floors.

Take a second to think about everyone else who is waiting to use the facility after you. Try to be reasonably hygienic. I walked into a porta-loo once and the person before me had pooped all over the seat. I’m not sure how you do that since most of us learned how to aim that shot when we were two-years old. I’m sure the person was embarrassed, but I had to change my plan. And try not to hurl. Also a very un-hygienic thing to do!

The most unhygienic thing that I have ever done happened in a porta-loo. Before leaving the porta-Turdis I rummaged through my running belt pouch for a final inventory check. Somehow one of my GUs popped out and landed on the floor. This was about 30 minutes before the race so the floor was well trafficked and teaming with wild life.

Without a thought I picked up the GU and stuffed it back into the pouch on my belt. I may have brushed it off on my shirt but somewhere during that race I stuck that packet in my mouth without a second thought.

I can only imagine what gets tracked into a porta-potty on hundreds or thousands of pairs of running shoes. Or what gets “spilled” on those floors. A few days after the race I reflected on that vacuous moment; I would not recommend anyone doing what I did. If you drop food on the floor of a porta-potty just chuck it. On race day I tend to get very focused. It’s all engines full speed ahead, dammed the torpedoes, viruses and bacteria! Sometimes focus is not a good thing.

I don’t mean to gross anyone out or to give you a complex. These things go on at races; I thought it would be good write about them. Some people never think about these things, but wonder why they get sick after a race.

At your next race be sure to take care in the porta-loo, wash your hands, especially your finger tips, well. You may want to tuck a small bottle of sanitizer or a sanitizing wipe in your race kit just in case the Purell runs out. If you are sick try not to sneeze, cough or snot blast on your fellow runners.

And remember, all surfaces have germs on them. Every hand you shake has germs on it. Germs are everywhere and you cannot avoid them completely. If you take reasonable precautions you should be able to run your race and be healthy afterwards.

Run well my friends.

©2013 – 2014 anagelin

How I became a Runner

How I became a Runner

When I was 38 years-old, if anyone told me that I would be running races when I was 48 years-old I would have told them that they were crazy. When you are not a runner the idea of running seems crazy.

Why would anyone in their right mind want to go out and run? To a non runner it seemed like so much effort and such a waste of valuable time. When I was 38 I was a busy guy with a family and a long commute to work. The last thing I needed, or thought about, was another way to spend my time.

Unemployment & Uncertainty

In the late 90’s I worked for a large technology company. We rode the wave of Y2K and the Dot-Com boom. Companies were buying all kinds of hardware and software. Y2K scared the hell out of a lot of people and the Dot-Com boom made a lot of people foolish. We were busy and we all made pretty good money. By mid-2000 the party was over and by February 2001 I was out of a job.

I spent the next 13 months out of work. I had never been laid off before and I had never been out of work for that long in my life. We were fortunate that we lived in a small house with a small mortgage and my wife had a good job.

In the first three or four months that I was out of work life was great. I had my severance package and was confident that I would get another job soon. I did a lot of projects around the house and spent extra time with my kids.  We had two young children and when the unemployment checks and severance money ran out it began to get a little scary.

Getting laid off was a real blow to the ego. It didn’t matter that my whole office got laid off due to events beyond our control. As time went on and job offers failed to materialize it began to wear on me.

Exercise as stress relief

A few years before all of this we had purchased a treadmill. Like all buyers of treadmills, my wife and I had high hopes and visions of trim bodies in our future. We were gonna get fit! With a treadmill in the basement it was gonna be so convenient. Like most treadmills, it turned out to be the most convenient place to hang cloths. And that’s about all it got used for.

About half way into my extended unemployment I re-discovered the treadmill. When my projects around the house were finished I had nothing else to fill my days. I could only look for non-existent jobs for so many hours a week. After I dropped the kids off at school and did the shopping and whatever else needed to be done, I had hours to kill before it was time to go pick the kids up.

I started out with a 15 minute walk at a moderate pace a few days a week. Then I walked five days a week and started to walk longer and increase the incline. Eventually I got to the point where I was walking 2 hours a day, 5 days a week. I don’t remember the pace or incline I built up to, but by the time I went back to work I had lost 30 pounds!

I think what mainly drove me to use the treadmill so much was the stress relief. Not fitness. I had a lot of time on my hands and way too much to think about. I had two young children and way too much career uncertainty. Anyone who has been unemployed for a long time has thought about being unemployed forever at some point in their ordeal. For a guy in his late 30’s it was scary to think that way.

Not only did the workouts provide a distraction from my worries, they also gave me something to look forward to and allowed me to set and achieve goals. While my career was in the tank I was making great progress physically. When I finished my workouts I felt like I had accomplished something that day. For a guy who is unemployed that feeling of accomplishment was important.

While I was doing all of this I never once thought of it this way. It was just something to do each day. It wasn’t about fitness, sanity or stress.

I was compelled. It seemed as natural as day follows night. I did not plan it or need to make room for it in my schedule. I would just start-up the treadmill and try to go a little further and or a little faster than I did the day before.

A New job and a new Life

In March of 2002 I finally started a new job. I was thrilled and grateful to have a job. The position turned out to be a good career move, but I had no idea how much it would change my life. The building I worked in had a small but fully equipped and staffed gym. I signed up and continued doing my treadmill workouts and added some weights. I couldn’t work out for two hours a day anymore, but I still got down there two or three days a week.

It turned out that some of my new colleagues were changing up in the locker room and then heading outside for a run. The concept of going out for a run at lunch time was completely foreign and inconceivable in my mind. Those guys were runners and that’s what runners do. For the most part they were in good shape and had plenty of running stories to talk about.

In the fall of 2002 my new running friends started talking about invitational numbers to run in The 2003 Boston Marathon. Our company was a Marathon sponsor and got a certain number of “invitational” numbers. My friends who were runners were sending in their names for the company’s random drawing for these numbers. None of them had run a qualifying time for Boston, but for an invitational number you didn’t need to run a qualifying time.

They kept telling me that I should go for it. Many of them had run Boston before through the company’s invitational numbers and said it was a great time; a one of a kind experience. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I replied to the email and tossed my name in the hat.

A chance encounter with fate

I didn’t get picked when they pulled the names from the hat. I was a little disappointed and a little bit relieved. Some of my friends did get a number and they started training in November. It was getting cold and they were running about the neighborhood in tights! They kept talking about their training and the race. Their excitement was contagious. I began to feel more disappointed that I hadn’t been picked.

In the middle of December we heard that one of the runners who had been picked got hurt. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but he could not continue training and had to drop out. He worked in a different office and I had no idea who he was.

I was fortunate enough to get picked to receive this person’s number. It was now late December. My friends had been training seriously for a month now. We all took our Christmas vacation.

I started training in January of 2003 after the holidays. I would go running at lunch time with some colleagues who were runners of various levels of experience. Some of whom were also training for Boston but most of them were just running to keep in shape.

I had never trained for anything in my life. I did not know what or how much I needed to do of anything. I had never seen a marathon training program or any other sort of athletic training program. I had some sneakers that were not too old and some cotton gym shorts; nothing fancy or high-tech. I knew absolutely nothing about running and had none of the equipment or experience. I followed the lead of my colleagues and did what they told me.

I’ll never forget when I went out for my first lunch time training run on a cold Massachusetts January day.  As we jogged away from the building, into a 200 breeze I kept thinking, “why the hell are we running away from a perfectly warm building?” This is insane!

boston's run to remember, first race, runner
My First Half

The wind whipped through my clothes and I wished I had a parka on. For a few moments I really did re-consider the whole thing. I wondered to myself, couldn’t I just run on a tread mill for this? Did we really need to run outside in this nasty, cold New England weather? Was I really that interested in doing this? Did I really want to run The Boston Marathon? Did I really want to run the World Series or Super bowl event of running? With that thought my heart rate quickened and I looked up to see my two running mates moving further away from me. Hell yeah I thought, I wanted to do this!

This was the lucky coincidence that changed my life. I got laid off as a result of the economic calamity at the dawn of the new Millennium. I happened to get hired by a company that sponsored The BAA Boston Marathon and I happened to get an invitational number to run the 2003 Boston Marathon. If I had gone to work anywhere else, I would not be sitting here right now telling you my story. I guess I need to thank my friend Marty for encouraging me to apply for this job and my running colleagues who encouraged me to apply for a bib number.

In my next post I will write about my 2003 Boston Athletic Association Boston Marathon run.

Thanks for reading.

©  2012 andrew nagelin