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5 Ways to Cut 5 Minutes off Your Marathon

Even the best runner in the world can loose time by making simple mistakes. You don’t have to!

Updated November 20th, 2022

Are there really 5 ways to cut 5 minutes off your marathon?

There are many ways to cut 5 minutes off your marathon time.

All runners focus on training to get faster and stronger.

But genetics and age put a limit on our peak performance. And most of us don’t have the time to reach our peak fitness level.

Even if you are at peak fitness and an old pro at this, these tips can still help you.

The easiest way to improve your finish time is to avoid adding time by making these mistakes.

Use the Porta Potty

Something about race morning seems to get the innards all worked up and ready to explode.

Most races have plenty of porta potties but you need to use them.

No matter how many porta potties a race has, the hour before a race the porta potties will be more crowded than the registration tent!

During a race, stopping to use the facilities can easily add a minute to your time. If you can’t wait and there is a line, you could loose much more time than that.

Shalane Flanagan may have the course record for using a porta potty during the 2018 Boston Marathon, at 14 seconds. But watch this video and see how that stop effected her run.

Des Linden won that year.

Des Linden 2018 Boston Marathon Winner
BAA Photo

During every Boston Marathon that I’ve run, I’ve seen lines at most of the on-course porta potties also.

Usually the first water/porta potty stop is at mile two or even mile five. For Boston it’s at mile two, and I’ve seen men and women “in the woods” side by side well before that first stop.

If you can avoid the first water stop you may find a porta potty without a line. But when you really gotta go, you may have to wait in line.

Tip #1 – use the facilities before you cross the start line.

Stop eating and drinking 1 hour before you start

Most people have nerves before a race and will eat or drink as a way to deal with their anxiety. Many of us do this unconsciously.

If you use the porta potty and then keep drinking, your system will not have time to process that fluid, or food, before the race starts.

Then you will have to make that porta potty stop.

Sometimes eating too much before a race can upset your stomach. Often there are samples of power bars and sport drinks available before a race.

Boston Marathon 2019, Hopkinton, MA
BAA Photo

While these items may be tempting, you should avoid eating anything new or over eating on race morning.

Even if you give your system an hour to digest everything, something new could upset your stomach. This could force you to make a pit stop or even drop out of the race.

Tip #2 – stop eating and drinking 1 hour before your race starts.

Double tie your shoes

double tied laces, 5 ways to cut 5 minutes off your marathon, Newtons

I see people running with loose laces all the time.

If you double tie your laces you can avoid this problem.

Un-tied laces may cause you to trip and fall and at some point you will have to stop and tie them.

Just like a porta potty stop, you have to fight the crowd and move to the side of the road and get out of the way. Then you need to bend over and tie your laces and possibly undue some nasty knot that tied it self as you ran.

Double tieing your laces can cut 5 minutes off your marathon time by avoiding the stop.

If you have to stop later in the race, your muscles may tighten up when you stop and bend to tie your laces.

All of this can be avoided by double tieing your laces, even if the second knot is fairly lose.

Tip #3 – Tie your shoes properly!

Carry a Water Bottle

Some people always carry a water bottle and some people never carry a water bottle.

For a Marathon or a Half, you will want to take a water bottle of some kind.

Even if you just use a Poland Spring 500ml bottle, you will save yourself a ton of time.

Here’s why.

Everyone who has planned poorly will be at the first few water stops and probably in line for the porta potty!

5 ways to cut 5 minutes off your marathon finish time, run with sports drinkAt most big marathons, including Boston, those water stops will be a crowded mess.

To get to one of these water stops you will have to make your way through a crowd of runners to the side of the road.

Then try to grab a cup, drink it and get back up to speed all without tripping over someone else.

Even if you don’t fall over someone or drown yourself with a cup of water, you will have to slow down and break your stride.

If you can skip the first five or more water stops, the rest of them are usually pretty easy to get to.

I like to run through the stop, grab a cup, pinch it and chug the cup in one or two gulps.

Tip #4 – carry a water bottle and avoid the crowds!

Bring some Food

I know that some people like to run as light as possible while some people look like they are packed for expedition.

I would suggest something in the middle.

Hopefully by now you know what your stomach will tolerate. There are many brands of gel to choose from and you should have tested a few while you were training.

fig newtons, glycemic index, glucose, marathon foodI’ve run a few races with Snickers bars or fig bars. Both are loaded with sugar and I’ve been eating them as long as I can remember.

I know these foods wont upset my stomach.

Even the elite runners take on fuel while they run. It may be sports drink in their water bottle, a gel or both.

They know what they need and during your training you should have figured out what you need and what you body will tolerate.

If your stomach can only tolerate certain sports drinks you really need to bring your own. Even the elites cannot finish a marathon without some hydration. And you know the mix in their bottle is what they have trained on.

It is similar with food or gels. Some people hate gels so they need something like fig bars.

Some races hand out gels late in the race. But you should not wait to fuel during a marathon. Over the years, I’ve learned to start fueling at 5K.

Your timing may be different, but you will need to replenish your energy stores during a marathon or half.

Tip #5 – bring food that you have run with before

It’s all about control

There are things you can control and things you cannot.

You can’t control the weather and often you can’t control your sleep or how your body will react to the last proper meal you eat before the big race.

My post, My 2018 Boston Marathon Experience, is an example of how I prepared to run in horrible conditions. If you’ve never run Boston before, this blog post will also give you a few insights about the course.

Boston Marathon 2018, 5 ways to cut 5 minutes off your marathon
BAA Photo

All of the tips I have provided here are things that you can control. Any one of them could save you five minutes. Together they could save you much more time than that.

You’ve put in the miles and the time to get here. You are as ready as you can be.

I hope that these tips that I have learned from running 18 marathons and 9 Boston Marathons will help you have the best marathon of your life.

Looking for a fall marathon? Check out New England Marathons Fall 2023 for some ideas.

Run well my Friends!


Fig Newtons and the Glycemic Index

Fig Newtons for Running

Many of us grew up eating Fig Newtons. Maybe our parents thought they were better because they had figs instead of frosting in the middle!

It turns out that Fig Newtons, and similar “fig loaf” cookies are loaded with sugar.

For runners and other endurance athletes this turns out to be a good thing.

These cookies are less inexpensive than gels and are a great way to fuel during training and competition.

Fig Newtons and Running Nutrition

I’ve been running for more than 18 years and like to experiment with training plans, shoes, clothes and nutrition. I’m always looking for something that works better or solves a problem that I have.

I’ve tried most of the gels on the market. I’ve tried pure honey and even ran a marathon with Snickers Bars! Not only were the candy bars tasty, they didn’t bother my stomach and provided the energy I needed.

A few years ago we had Fig Newtons in the house when I was getting ready for a marathon. I took a package with me to the race. I ate a few before the race, instead of a power bar, and took some with me instead of gels.

I had a good experience with the Fig Newtons so I decided to find out what they are made of and how they compare to gels and power bars.

Runners can burn 125 to 150 calories per mile, and during a marathon an athlete can burn around 4,000 calories. Runners need convenient high energy foods.

What is the Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating.

Foods with a high GI (over 55) are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

Low-GI foods (under 55), by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health.

The University of Sydney’s Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Service has done extensive research and testing of many common foods. Their website hosts their research results, information on the glycemic index (GI) and the International GI database.

The above GI definition is paraphrased from their web site.

You can find information on many foods that you commonly eat on their web site. Understanding the GI of the foods you eat can help you make better choices.

For runners and other endurance athletes, understanding the GI of foods helps us make better choices when we prepare for an event. Using the University’s free database you can look up the Glycemic Index (GI) of just about any food. The database does not have every American brand but you can find equivalents for most items.

Fig Newtons and the Glycemic Index

Fig Newtons and all varieties and brands of “fruit bars” are cookies. They should not be considered a health food just because they contain fruit and or whole grain.

Nutritional data for President’s Choice Fig Bars

Serving – 2 bars 40g
% DV
Vitamin A 0%
Carbohydrate 31 g 10%
Sugars 14 g *
Fibre 1 g 4%
Sodium 110 mg 5%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 2%
Iron 6%
Trans 0 g *
Saturates + Trans g 0%
Calories 130 Cal *
Protein 1 g *
Fat 0 g 0%
Saturates 0 g *
Cholesterol 0 mg *

The University of Sydney analyzed President’s Choice Blue Menu Fig Fruit Bars (PC Bars) a few years ago.

It appears that the manufacturer, Loblaw Company, doesn’t make these cookies anymore. The nutritional information listed here was taken from their site when the product was still available.

Unfortunately, I do not have an ingredient list.

The University has not analyzed Newtons, so this is a rough comparison that assumes that the ingredients are similar.

The University of Sydney GI database shows that the President’s Choice Bars had a GI of 70 and contained 30g of carbohydrates.

President’s Choice listed 31g of carbohydrates of which 14g were sugar. Since we are primarily interested in the carbohydrates from sugar, the difference in total carbohydrates is not important. Sydney did not analyze for sugar content.

Newtons with a variety of fillings are widely available in the US. There is a flavor for everyone and hopefully this comparison will be helpful to you.

Newtons are now made by Mondelez International and the table below is from the Mondelez website.

Nutritional data for Fig Newtons from Mondelez.

Serving – 2 bars 32g
Total Fat 2g 3%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Trans Fat 0g 0%
Monounsaturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 110mg 5%
Potassium 95mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 22g 7%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 12g *
Protein 1g *
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 2%
Iron 4%

The University of Sydney analysis showed a GI of 70 for the PC Bars with 30g of carbohydrates and 14g of sugar.

The Newtons have 22g of carbohydrates and 12g of sugar from a 20% smaller serving (32G vs 40g)

The Newtons have fewer total carbohydrates (22g vs 30), but the ingredient we are interested is sugar.

Newtons have 12 grams of sugar out of a total serving size of 32 grams.

PC Bars had 14 grams of sugar out of a total serving size of 40 grams.

While Newtons have fewer calories and grams of sugar, their serving size is also 20% smaller than the PC Bars.

Comparing sugar content to total serving size it would appear that the Newtons with figs should have a higher GI than the PC Bars.

Newtons are 37.5% sugar and PC Bars were 34% sugar. If PC Bars had a GI of 70 and were 34% sugar, than Newtons should have a higher GI as they contain approximately 10% more sugar.

Newton PC Bar % Diff
Serving 32g 40g +20%
Carbs 22g 31g +29%
Sugar 12g 14g +14%
% Sugar 37.5% 34% -10%

Using simple math, if the GI of PC Bars was 70 and Newtons contain 10% more sugar by volume, than the GI of Newtons with figs should be around 77.

Here is information published by the Harvard Medical School on The Glycemic Load of 100+ common foods. The glycemic load of a food is effected by a number of factors such as other nutrients in the food. An interesting chart to take a look at.

In Glucose and the Endurance Athlete I give a laymen’s explanation of how your body uses glucose and one of my running experiments.

Live well my Friends.


My Three Favorite Inflammation Remedies

My Three Favorite Inflammation Remedies are delicious and there are many more that you can incorporate into your diet. Read my blog to learn why I transitioned from pills to food.

In my recent post 2019 Running Review I mentioned that I transitioned from Ibuprofen to natural inflammation remedies.

This comment generated a lot of interest and questions.

Most of what I know is from journal and news articles and anecdotal stories from friends.

I decided to write this post to answer some of the questions and take an overview of some articles on the subject.

Natural Remedy Skepticism

In The West we have long been accustomed to doctors doing procedures and prescribing medications. There seems to be a drug or procedure for everything.

Watching TV, I am often surprised to learn about new drugs for conditions I have never heard of.

Most of us have cabinets full of drugs we use without much thought. If they are available without a prescription, they have to be safe, right?

In ancient times before chemistry and modern science, physicians derived remedies from the plants and minerals around them.

courtesy –

Hippocrates recommended chewing on willow bark to relieve pain and fever.

Willow bark contains salicin and German scientists isolated salicylic acid from willow bark in the early 1800’s.

It was expensive to extract, tasted awful and could cause bleeding. In the late 1890’s scientists at Bayer synthesised acetylsalicylic acid which Bayer went on to sell under the brand name Aspirin. 1

Peruvian bark, which contained quinine, was used to treat malaria. Today you can buy quinine over the counter. 2

While our ancestors chewed on bark or drank bitter concoctions, we now get most of our treatments through a tablet or pill. Bayer actually created the first tablets with aspirin to counter competitors.

In part, because most of our medicines come in a bottle these days the efficacy of natural remedies is questioned by many.

How can spices or teas do anything? They are just food and food is not medicine.

Many societies still rely on natural treatments

In a CNN series Chasing Life, Dr. Sanjay Gupta examined how societies around the world maintain health and treat illness.

In one episode he traveled to Kerala state in India. Thousands of years ago in this Indian state they began the practice called Ayurveda which means the science of life. 3

It was a fascinating program. While Ayurveda involves much more than just using food as medicine they did discuss the spices that go into the foods this practice utilizes.

In addition to ginger and cinnamon they used spices we associate with Indian food like cumin, turmeric, hot peppers and others. The food looked unbelievable.

It’s difficult to believe there isn’t something to a medical practice which has survived thousands of years.

Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen

I’m not a medical professional or scientist. I’m just a runner who is constantly dealing with inflammation. Between muscles, joints and tendons, I often experience pain from inflammation.

In the past I would take Ibuprofen or Tylenol to manage this pain.

I had bursitis in my left hip for years. A few years ago I visited an orthopedist due to chronic knee pain. I’ve pulled or strained various muscles in my legs over the past seventeen years.

Over the years my doctors have recommended rest and ice, sometimes compression and elevation.

None prescribed meds and my PCP and orthopedist both cautioned me about over-use of Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Acetaminophen controls pain but does not reduce inflammation. Controlling pain is good, but my pain is often caused by inflammation. Taking too much acetaminophen can damage the liver, sometimes leading to a liver transplant or death.

Doses over 3,900 milligrams or 12 325 mg pills per day can cause liver toxicity. The safest daily dose is 8 pills or 2,600 mgs. 4

Years ago I stopped taking Tylenol and started taking Ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID.

NSAIDS do treat pain and inflammation, so I thought I was doing the right thing.

When treating an injury I would often take the maximum daily dose (1200 mg) for weeks.

According to the FDA: NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding, reduced kidney function, and other side effects. The chance of harmful side effects increases the more you take and the longer you take them. 5

A small study published in the July 2017 edition of Emergency Medicine Journal found that 44% of ultra-marathoners who took 400 mg of ibuprofen three to four times toward the end a seven-day, 155-mile race experienced significant reduction of kidney function. 6

The study only had 89 participants in an extreme event but it did highlight the risk of kidney damage. Taking the maximum dose over a prolonged period may have similar consequences for the rest of us.

During several marathons I took 400 mg of ibuprofen. While that is a lower dose and a less extreme event than the study cited above, my kidneys were probably impacted.

When I learned how both classes of drugs could effect my health I made changes.

My Inflammation Remedies

As I mentioned before, I’m not a medical professional or scientist. Please consult your physician before changing your treatment.

First I switched to ibuprofen and then in 2018 I cut back on ibuprofen. Then I began to read about foods and spices that have anti-inflammatory properties.

I was surprised to learn that spices in my own kitchen were potent anti-inflammatories.

turmeric curcumin
Courtesy – Happy Happy Vegan

Both ginger and cinnamon have anti-inflammatory properties. Most studies use purified, concentrated and precise doses of these spices. In order to conduct a scientifically valid study you have to use standardized extracts and try to control all variables.

You can search the web and find thousands of studies on these and other spices. Some using purified extracts others using common spices.

One VA study looked at 247 patients with significant knee pain over a six-week study period. 7

The VA study found a statistically significant difference in the relief of knee pain between the control group and those receiving the concentrated ginger extract.

Both spices have been in common use for centuries and their medicinal properties have been known for that long also.

You can buy concentrated extracts at your local drug store, or you can eat delicious food.

A cinnamon roll each morning doesn’t have enough spice to make any difference. I think I’m pretty safe in saying that.

Inflammation Remedies that work for me

Most days I have oatmeal for breakfast. I used to add brown sugar and raisins, but cut the sugar and added ginger and cinnamon.

The raisins add enough sweetness and the spices add a lot of flavor.

I’m not a scientist, so you wont find me in the kitchen with a scale or even measuring spoons.

Cinnamon, anti inflammatory spices, Inflammation RemediesI add 3/4 cup of oatmeal and about an ounce of raisins to a Pyrex container. To that I add 2-3 shakes of cinnamon and 1-2 shakes of ginger.

My guess is that this equals about 1-2 teaspoons of each spice.

I’ve tried adding more but the flavor can be overwhelming. I also try not to eat an entire cup of oatmeal for breakfast.

If I’m dealing with an injury I have this breakfast 5-6 days a week.

Green Tea

green tea, anti inflammatory foods, Inflammation RemediesProbably 15 years ago I started drinking water at work. I wanted to reduce my coffee consumption and to stop drinking soda.

Over the years my daily water consumption has increased. To make things more interesting I started adding two bags of green tea to my water bottle.

After about five minutes the tea infuses into the water and adds some flavor.

I use two to four bags of green tea five days a week and sometimes at home also.

The health-promoting effects of green tea are mainly attributed to its polyphenol flavonoids which can represent 30% of fresh leaf dry weight.

Green tea is not fermented like black tea so the flavonoids are preserved. This gives green tea it’s healthy benefits. 8

If an average teabag contains 1.5 grams of tea or 1500 mg, then each bag contains approximately 450 mg of polyphenol flavonoids.

Two bags of tea per day should be enough to achieve the healthful benefits, according to some studies.

Studies have also confirmed that green tea helps control Type II diabetes, blood pressure and many other conditions.


As a runner, I train and push my body twelve months of the year. I consistently experience higher levels of inflammation than most people.

Now I only take ibuprofen for a head ache, and those are rare.

We all experience inflammation caused by the environment and stress so I think that anyone can benefit from adding these food items to their diet.

Consuming tea, ginger and cinnamon are part of my regular diet now.

If you add these items to your diet your health will benefit also.

You don’t like tea, ginger or cinnamon? Try adding or consuming more of these spices:

inflammation remedies, spices

1. Curcumin (Turmeric)
2. Ginger
3. Spirulina
4. Cayenne pepper
5. Cinnamon
6. Cloves
7. Sage
8. Rosemary
9. Black pepper
10. Green tea 9

There are so many great options.

Eat well my Friends!


Health On Sale


7. – VA study

DEXA Body Composition Scan

The DEXA body scan is the most accurate method to measure body composition and distribution of fat and muscle mass. Read about my scan and learn more about the DEXA body composition scan.

You may have seem TV commercials for the Cenegenics Medical Institute in Boston.

They provide a variety of services from nutrition coaching, metabolism and exercise studies and healthy aging strategies.

One of the services they provide to assess patients physical condition is the Body Composition DEXA Scan.

The DEXA scan is considered the Gold Standard in body composition measurement and is commonly used to measure bone density. Increasingly it is being used to measure body composition.

I received a Body Composition DEXA Scan at Cenegenics Boston as compensation for writing this review.

Cenegenics has offered the DEXA Scan to their clients since 2011 and to the general public since 2015. In 2012 when I first wrote about body composition studies, no one in the Boston area offered the DEXA scan.

Cenegenics Boston provides a single scan for $175, two for $300 and four for $500. If you get a 10 scan package the cost is $99 per scan.

Why get a DEXA Body Composition Scan

The DEXA Scan is performed using a GE Lunar Prodigy Advance. This machine exposes the body to 1/10 the x-ray radiation of a chest x-ray. So the exposure is minimal.

DEXA Body Composition Scan, Cenegenics BostonDEXA Scan gives you the most precise information about your body fat, muscle, and bone composition, and lets you track changes in body composition over time.

Fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and dieters often use body composition scans to get a baseline of where they are now, and to objectively measure their progress.

Scanning every three to six months is a good way to monitor and evaluate your progress.

Some of us need to monitor our bone density or body fat. Athletes want to measure their body fat and muscle composition.

The primary advantage of DEXA Scan over fat estimating devices such as bioimpedance scales, calipers, tape measure, or displacement estimate devices such as hydrostatic dunk tank or Bod Pod is that the DEXA Scan is actually measuring your body fat and giving you precise measurements.

DEXA Scan gives you precise measurements of fat and muscle distribution around your body.

The DEXA Scan scan also shows muscle asymmetries between your left and right sides. These asymmetries throw weight distribution off, cause muscle miscoordination, and create unnatural stresses that lead to injury.

As a true body composition analysis, you can track potentially dangerous visceral fat around your vital organs. This cannot be done with any of the other body composition measurement tools.

You get a better sense of where you are now. And you can track the improvement over time.

For the average amateur runner like me the DEXA Scan can be very helpful.

Getting a DEXA Scan

DEXA scans are available in most major US, Canadian and UK cities. Many large hospitals also offer them to track the bone density of their older patients.

Check here to find the office offering the scan closest to you. Enter your zip or postal code, or use the map.

Check here for how to prepare for your scan and what to expect during your scan.

My DEXA Scan and results

I became interested in body composition several years ago. In 2012 I wrote about the different tests available in a post titled “What’s Your Number?”

You can perform a BMI calculation online or your doctor may provide your BMI at your annual physical. However, the BMI is imprecise and measures body mass, not body composition.

Over the past 15 years, my weight has fluctuated between 175 and 185lbs. When I began running in January of 2003, my weight was 203 on the bathroom scale. In 2014 I trained all year and ran three marathons and my weight dipped to 169lbs briefly.

When I went for my DEXA scan the office scale had me at 188lbs but the DEXA machine had me at 183lbs. I’m also shrinking and am now just under 6′ tall! Between my weight and decreased stature, my BMI was recorded as 25.7. This puts me just into the “overweight” bracket which begins with a BMI of 25.

The DEXA scan gave me the following numbers:

Total Body Mass: 183.7 lbs
Total Tissue: 176.3 lbs
Total Fat: 43.6 lbs
Lean: 132.7 lbs
Bone Mass: 7.3 lbs
Fat Free Mass: 140.1 lbs

Fat Free Mass combines Bone Mass (7.3) and Lean Mass (132.7) to get 140.1 Fat Free pounds.

Currently I am carrying 43.6 lbs of fat on my body. I was shocked to hear that number. That’s almost a bag of cement!

Dividing 43.6 lbs into my Total Tissue Mass (176.3) gives me a body fat composition of 24.7%. Again, this seemed high.

The important part of this analysis is the next part. The DEXA scans measures both Android and Gynoid fat.

Android fat is primarily carried in the belly area while some is also carried in the chest and upper arms.

Android fat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, hormonal imbalances, some cancers, sleep apnea, and more.

Some Android fat is subcutaneous (under the skin) and some is visceral and surrounds our organs.

The subcutaneous fats is what we see in the mirror and which hides our six packs, no matter how hard we work to get them.

Our bodies need some visceral fat for normal body functions. But too much of a good thing can cause the variety of issues mentioned above.

My estimated Visceral Adipose Tissue was estimated at 2.85 lbs. I was told this is the fat under my abs and that it should be about 1 lb! Yikes! This much fat in this area is not a good thing.

Gynoid fat refers to the body fat that forms around the hips, breasts and thighs. For men this type of fat is typically not an issue. We didn’t discuss this type of fat in depth, but the technician did say that my legs have a healthy amount of fat.

Next Steps and Moving Forward

My goal is to get to 175 lbs. That means loosing about 8 lbs from where I am now. Since my total body fat is 43.6 lbs I need to loose about 18% of my body fat to reach this goal.

With age it becomes increasingly difficult to loose weight. It also becomes increasingly easy to gain weight.

I employed some dietary restrictions over the holidays and didn’t gain any weight. I also maintained my light running routine. This put me in a good position to reach my goal.

By paying attention to my refined carbohydrate and alcohol intake and increasing my running, I will be able to get to 175 and maybe beyond.

My next steps are to train like I have a number for The Boston Marathon. I’ve also been eating more fruit and nuts instead of corn chips and guacamole. I will also be more diligent avoiding sugar as I have been a little lax over the holidays.

Each time I think about heading to the fridge for an IPA, I think about that 2.85 lb pad of fat between my abs and my intestines. Do I really want to feed that thing?

Knowledge is Power

You don’t know what you don’t know. Getting a DEXA Scan is a lot like getting a blood work up at your doctor’s. Until the blood work comes back you don’t know what your cholesterol or triglyceride levels are. You don’t know what your A1c or vitamin levels are.

You can’t take action and control of your health until you know whats going on inside.

While a DEXA scan may seem expensive, I would encourage you to go at least once. It’s not just knowing how much you weigh that’s important. It’s important to know where you carry your weight so that you can understand your risks and what to do about it.

Run well my Friends,


Big Long Run

This Saturday was the longest of the long runs before Boston. We had a convoy of cars take us out to Hopkinton for the 21.5 mile run to Boston College.

Big Long Run

We have spent the past twelve weeks building up to this run. Prior to this run, our longest had been 20 miles. 21.5 isn’t a big leap in miles, but we did add in the Hills of Newton including the most famous hill in running, “Heart Break Hill.”

boston marathon, big long runThis was an inter-club run with several Mystic Runners joining us and a few runners whose affiliation I did not know. I also met John Worrall one of my team mates from FamilyAid Boston.

There were thousands of runners on the course and in many towns there were police directing traffic for us. In Newton the actually had the right-hand lane coned off for several miles. I must have said thank you 100 times to all of the police and people who came out to support us.

The Big Long Run is the dress rehearsal for the big show on April 18th. This is where we try out anything new. After this point you probably shouldn’t buy new shoes or a new shirt. Don’t even change the expression on your face! If it worked on Saturday, chances are it will work for you on Marathon Monday.

On Friday I happened to be in Trader Joe’s and found this delectable delight.

danish, pastry We had one of these at my office before last Christmas. Let’s just say that it didn’t last long! This is the best Danish I have ever had. I’m not a big fan of the Danish you often see on a breakfast buffet at a hotel.

This Danish has a soft buttery crust, and just enough crust to hold the frosting, fruit filling and a small amount of pecans. It is to die for!

It was so good that I took this photo when we had the Danish in the office.

I thought I had to order these from Wisconsin. When I saw it at Trader Joe’s I just had to have it. It is loaded with carbs after all.

I had several slices while I got ready for the run. It goes great with coffee! Unfortunately it does not go good with running! While there are plenty of carbs in this delight, there is also a lot of butter. Butter and margarine are both listed along with several forms of sugar.

Butter is not a runners friend. I had to make three pit stops including a Starbucks in Newton. A nice lady in line directed me to the restroom as soon as I stepped inside the door! On Race Day this would be a disaster.

On race day I’ll be sticking to plain bagels without butter. Lesson learned! This pastry is strictly for home use.

Aches and pains and discomfort, oh my!

If you have been following along on my brief journey to Boylston Street, you know that I have been dealing with several physical issues. Injuries are not something you can control, but they are something that you can manage and attempt to heal.

My $500 seat at work almost broke my back. A $2 lumbar support that my colleague Jeff Thomas picked up for me at Micro Center in Cambridge has been a life saver.

I’ve run through many of the aches and pains that runners get. Back pain is different. I don’t exactly know why but it’s not a pain I can push away. Maybe it is fear. I can get a new knee or hip, I sure as hell don’t want spinal surgery.

I’ve had this back support for about three weeks and experienced immediate relief. Within a week my back was 20% better. In two weeks it was 40% better. This Saturday my back didn’t bother me at all until around mile 15!

When it twinged I though, “oh, here we go.” But it just twinged once in a while. No lightning bolts. No thoughts of paraplegia.

As much as my running crew has helped me out with advice and running slow with me, I have to give credit to Jeff for saving my marathon. I don’t think I could fight through the last five or ten miles of the marathon with that pain.

Much gratitude my friend!

My knee spoke up at mile 9.51. Again, I was afraid it would be all down hill from there. Hah! I’ve been icing my knee for the past month like a case of beer. Almost every night I lay on the couch to watch TV with an ice pack under my knee and sometimes one of top.

I’ve been taking fish oil for about two months and started taking turmeric recently. The great thing about these items is that they are all natural. I eat this stuff all the time.

My knee didn’t start to impact my running until around mile 15. By then that pain had to compete for mind share with my flaming quads. Climbing hills is a be-yotch!

The knee pain has been with me for over a year. When I was only running 5Ks and long runs were no more than 7 miles, my knee didn’t bother me. When FamilyAid Boston gave me the opportunity to run Boston, things got real serious real quick. No more half long-runs. It was all in for Boston.

While up-hills will tear your quads, down hills will beat up your knees and hips and every joint connected to the bottoms of your feet. You know the tune!

My right knee never bothers me but those blessed down hills get my left knee every time.

Heading out of Hopkinton I kept the mantra going that Terrance Mahon taught me several years ago – pretend you are running on egg shells coming out of Hopkinton. The idea is to not land like a ton of bricks on your feet. You have to be mindful and think about what you are doing.

Automatic for the Runners

Easter Bunny, big long runSo much of running can become automatic. The focus is on moving forward and getting up the next hill. Late in a race, form goes out the window for many of us. We just want to survive.

Being aware of your running form is important and can make a big difference. Keeping Terrance’s mantra in mind helped me get as far as I did before pains interrupted my perfectly pleasant run.

If you do something often enough it becomes automatic. Over the past year or so with this bum knee, I’ve been more conscious of my foot falls and envisioning egg shells.

Running the day before Easter, this was much easier to do!

When the knee acted up I had a few moments of worry. Would it get worse? I was running at least 5 miles further than my longest run in over a year.

While I paid attention to it and assessed it with each step, eventually I was able to push it out of my consciousness. It just stopped hurting after a while. Will power.

My third problem area has been my right shoulder. Soon after injuring it I ran the Super Sunday 5 Miler and thought I would not be able to finish that race.

I tried light exercise of my shoulders and that turned out to be a bad idea. For the past six weeks or so I haven’t done anything with my shoulders. Not even planks.

Sometimes my right hand tingles and gets numb in spots, but it is getting better. Now I am able to run with zero pain and only occasional tingling.

On the big long run, my shoulder wasn’t a problem.

The Long and Winding Road

big long run, boston marathonFor some reason, when we got to the right-hand turn in Newton to head up the hills I was surprised. I’ve run this course eight or nine times. That turn still gets me every time.

A few minutes after we arrived at Boston College a runner came up to us and asked us which way to Boston? He was serious but we all kind of laughed. He laughed too. We told him to turn left at Cleveland Circle and keep following the runners.

If he didn’t know that the road continued to Boston, he probably didn’t know where the hell Cleveland Circle was either. Still, there were plenty of runners heading to Boylston Street.

It felt so good to be finished. The official distance was 21.5 miles. My Garmin has 20.95 at a moving pace of 9:05. At that pace I could still do a 4 hour marathon.

I have three weeks to taper and be cranky! I’m hoping that my knee will get better during this time and that my back will continue to improve.

One of my goals was to get down to 180 lbs before the marathon. I knew I didn’t have time to train properly, but I knew that loosing a few pounds would help. Even after refueling after the run, I was 180 lbs exactly. Hopefully Easter wont pack all those pounds back on again!

If you have donated to FamilyAid Boston, I thank you. If you would like to contribute to FamilyAid Boston, please see my fundraising page. We are making progress towards our goal and you can help us get there.

Run well my Friends!


Photos courtesy of Paul Locke, Mary Comerford O’Connell. Link to Paul Locke’s Flickr account for more photos.

February Wrap Up

In my last post I went over my mileage and training for February. For tracking purposes February ended on Saturday for me. But on the calendar February is still rolling along.

Last week I ran a grueling 14.6 mile long run. It was just awful in so many ways. Looking ahead to this week’s 18.1 mile run left me apprehensive. I knew I made some mistakes but some of my issues were physical and not easily addressed.

February Wrap up Run

One of my big problems last week was improper fueling and hydration. To address those issues I ate a high carb dinner Saturday night and had two beers in the afternoon.

Sunday morning I had a large bowl of Grape-Nuts and even put some sugar on top. A half-cup serving has 47g of carbs. I had well over a cup and added sugar on top of that. So my carbohydrate stores were pretty well stocked.

I made an extra pot of coffee on Saturday afternoon and put a quart into a sport cup and put that in the fridge. Sunday morning I added some milk, but no sugar. I really need caffeine to get me going in the morning and 32oz of high octane juice really hit the spot.

Stretch This

Last week I did a nice stretch and yoga session Saturday night. I’m pretty careful, but I did manage to over do it a little bit. With the issues I already have, a little over stretching didn’t do me any good. This week I sat on my glutes and watched some TV. The result was positive.

stretching, yoga

I also did no stretching before my run. Instead, I took the first mile to warm up and loosen up. This worked out well for me also.

After the run I did some stretching. I was really surprised how easy the IT band stretches were. I didn’t think I would be able to bend over like that and my back didn’t hurt at all.

When I got home I rolled my glutes and hamstrings. When I rolled my calves the pain was amazing. I could only bear about one minute of that business.

My left knee is still a mess. I tried some stretching but it was painful. I decided not to push it as I really was concerned I’d break something. Knowing when to say when is very important.

Stretching before a run has seen some controversy. I tend to agree with the no stretching before a run camp. I do a few moves to loosen up my ankles, knees and hips that Terrance Mahon showed me at a BAA clinic a few years ago. Sometimes even stretching the day before can effect your run.

The moves that Terrance showed us are enough to get the “kinks” out. You know, those snapping sounds your joins make sometimes?

Final February Run

This week the course was 18.1 miles. I really had no idea how this was going to go. I took a few precautions and planned well, but 18.1 is a lot more than 14.6.

I was a little stiff for the first mile or so, but I had planned on this. By the time we hit the hills in Breakheart Reservation in Saugus, I was attacking the hills. I felt pretty good. The hills began just after we hit 5 miles. My legs were warmed up, but not fatigued.

I was worried that poring it all on for those hills would make the hills on Main Street difficult. We hit the Breakheart water stop a second time on the way out and I grabbed a GU. As we ran down the driveway to The Fellsway I could feel the carbs hitting my system.

My shoulder didn’t give me much trouble at all. A few twinges late in the run, but nothing like last week. Around mile 10 my left knee spoke up and about the same time my back chimed in. Physically I was not exhausted at this point, but those aches had me concerned.

Getting the legs to move that first 100 yards or so after the last three water stops was increasingly difficult. At the last stop knowing that our last hill was just around the corner didn’t make getting started any easier.

After the last water stop and hill it was pretty flat for the last three miles. My knee and back were just killing me at this point.

15 miles was further than I ran last week, and no walking this week. Somewhere along Main Street in Wakefield I managed to will my knee pain out of my mind. All of a sudden it just didn’t hurt so much.

Don Keren, Malden Irish American 5KI ran the entire 18 miles with Don Keren. Early in the run he pushed the pace but eventually he settled into a pace that I could run. We ran a pace of 9:16. Last week we ran a 9:56 pace for 14.6 miles. I was a wreck last week but my friend stuck with me even though I slowed him considerably.

Preparation for next week

Next week we run the 20 mile Mystic Lakes Route. After this week’s run I’m more confident about this run. My fueling and hydrating worked out well this week and I’ll continue that.

Consistent training is important. Last week I had two 5 mile treadmill runs. Nothing grueling, but enough to help me build up for this week’s 18 miler. I’ll do two 5-6 mile treadmill runs this week also. Again, nothing grueling, but good consistent miles that will allow my body to recover and be prepared for the 20 miler.

By running inside last week I was also able to recover substantially from my chest cold. Congestion is not good for running! I’ll probably skip the Tuesday night club run and just do the two treadmill runs again this week. It worked well last week, and perhaps I can kick this thing.

  • How is your training going?
  • Any tricks for running an abbreviated marathon plan?
  • Are you running Boston this year?

Run well my Friends!


© 2016 andrew nagelin