Randi Walters’ Journey Through Running

We all run for different reasons. What is interesting for Randi Walters is how the reasons and character of her running has taken on additional aspects through the years.

Randi was active in high school. She participated in the team sports and even tried out a Cross Country practice once but decided it was not for her. It wasn’t until she was in graduate school in California that she watched a close friend finish a half marathon. This friend had always told Randi that anyone could run. So, Randi gave it a try.

She jumped right into running at the half marathon level. She ran a three-quarter mile run for her first training run and built from there. The more she ran, the more fit she became. She found that running complemented her graduate studies in that it gave her something else to focus on, to balance out her time. There is so much that feels out of control in graduate school; running became a space where she could see more immediate results. “You can finish a half marathon a heck of a lot faster than you can finish a master’s degree.” Completing her first half marathon is still one of the high points in her life.

Randi soon discovered another aspect of running.  “The more I did it, I started noticing…my fitness was increasing, I just felt better, I felt clearer, like my mind was clearer. I felt happier. It was one of those things where there were just too many pros to not run.” As she kept at it, she joined communities of runners and got better. The better she got the more she wanted to keep doing it. “I started to feel more competitive. I started to place in my age group for events, and I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I am not too bad at this.’”

The drive to compete soon became another component of her running. “It’s not that I felt competitive with the people I was racing against, but I started feeling more competitive with myself.” She began pushing herself and seeing results. As the results of improved times continued, she figured, if she keeps pushing herself, who knows what kinds of results she might see.

Running communities have also added a significant layer to her running. While in California she ran a number of Ragnar Relays and experienced the joy of being involved in team competition running through the night. A highlight of the last Ragnar Relay she ran was taking first place in the open women’s division.

When she and her husband, Austin, decided to move to Boise, they looked up the Boise Area Runners (the BAR) on meetup.com before they even arrived. The BAR has been a big part of her running since relocating. It was at a BAR run where the idea to train to qualify for the Boston Marathon was planted. She trained all summer, running a number of fast laps with the BAR on the Boise High track, and completed a Boston Qualifying time at the Sunriver Marathon this last September. Her training for the Boston Marathon in 2017 begins this coming January.

As Randi reflects on her journey through running and the added dimensions it has taken on, she says, “I still feel at my core I am running for the same reasons, but now it’s like there is this added challenge of trying to do it a little bit faster.” And that is why Randi will be out there running for years to come! See you out on a run!

Randy Thompson – Becoming a Marathoner

This month, Randy Thompson shares a race report he has written describing how he completed his first marathon. Enjoy!

Sunday, Oct 9, 2016, Portland Oregon (d2)

The runner staggered slightly as another wave of pain shot through his legs. Off balance now, he splashed into a nearby puddle, flooding water over the top of his soaked shoe. The big white 20 mile course marker crept into sight ahead, on the right, as packs of chattering runners passed on the left. Everyone seemed to be having fun, but it dawned on the runner that he was not having fun. This was not going according to plan or expectation.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-6-20-22-pmHe was 62 years old. This was his first marathon. As a runner for 15 years, he had completed twenty 1/2 marathons, with times ranging from 1:45, in his youthful 40’s, to 2:15, recently. He had carefully planned the past 40 weeks, since Jan 1, 2016. He had read all the training materials, consulted with experienced marathoners, watched endless videos. He expected challenges, rough spots, and difficulties. But THIS?

They said “Don’t go out too fast”, “Take all your early walk breaks”, “Hydrate”, “Eat”, “Keep a PMA (positive mental attitude)”, “Don’t try for a time”, “Focus on finishing”. And his favorite: “Have fun”. He had embraced all this wisdom and more.

Well, maybe he had started a bit fast, at his aggressive pace of 9:45 (minutes per mile). OK, maybe, he had forgotten about those early walk breaks. He had planned a 30 second break every mile, which was conservative and should make only a minor impact on his overall time. But the early energy, music, cheering crowds and thousands of runners packed closely together had swept him up, there was no time for walking. The big, warm, sweating group of runners around him, felt like a single breathing creature with heaving sides, and he was part of it.

Against all advice, he had a secret time goal of 5 hours. It seemed logical, double your recent half-marathon time of 2:15, add 20-30 minutes and presto: 5 hours. 4:45 if everything was going well, 5:15 if it wasn’t. Already relegated to the “F” wave, he could do better. He expected more of himself.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-6-21-46-pmThe 40 weeks of training involved 600 miles during 100 runs, ranging from 5 to 20 miles each; 3 pairs of shoes, dozens of dark groggy 5am morning runs, hours sweating in the Boise summer sun; gallons of Gatorade, Core Power, GU gel. Running on vacation for heaven’s sake (Yes, it was Hawaii, but still).

This was his 4th try at the Portland Marathon. The first one was over 10 years ago. Something always seems to come up to disrupt the training and set the marathon beyond reach: injury, health, family issues, business problems.

The three training runs to 20 miles had produced some desirable effects. His body adapted to the stresses and responded with remodeled muscles, connective tissue and metabolic changes. Actually, one of the runs was really only 18 miles. Another was a total disaster, with dehydration and exhaustion. Probably not much adaptation from that one. But the trainers and coaches said that was enough to “finish”. No one said anything about “compete”. He should have thought about that before he started.

Miles 1-5 passed quickly and pleasantly enough. The rain, which had been on-and-off since the corralling at 6am, was not an issue. Sure, sun and warm air would be nice, but that has drawbacks as well. 60s and drizzle was OK, The fearsome Harrison St Hill was a yawn. Maybe that was the first sign of getting cocky. Nearly the entire family was on hand and they had waved signs at his first mile and then the 4th mile, on the way back from the hill. He felt strong, limber, relaxed, cheerful ….cocky.

Miles 6-12 were a dreary “out and back” into the train yards and industrial area. The rain picked up and the wind started, cold and unpleasant. His glasses fogged, his fingers went numb. His shoes, socks and feet were soaked. He worried about his cell phone getting ruined in his hip pack. But the bathroom stops were easy, water and Ultima was plentiful, his GU supply and flask worked well and he felt pretty good, all things considered.

During miles 13 to 16, a father and two 20-something kids were ahead, all wearing the same bright outfits, all tall and stringy, all running carefully and consciously, probably first timers too. The runner likes to chat a little after being shoulder-to-shoulder for a while.

“First time?”
“Yes, you?”
“Sure, how’s it going?”
“Ok, you?”
“We’re on a 5:00 pace and the rain has stopped. Life is good”

Sounds a little cocky, doesn’t it?

“I’m from Boise, you?”

If the conversation sounds short and choppy, remember they are running after all.

“Father, son, daughter”
“Mind if I run with you for while”
And so on…

The time and miles pass pleasantly enough. Something to do and think about, besides the road. Then the steep ramp up to the St Johns bridge, a good time for some walking and then shuffling. Only 1 mile to the top of the bridge and then the view; grey and misty, but it’s mostly downhill from here, he thought. He remembers that the photographers start to appear after the bridge. They say smile and wave like you’re having fun. He was.

More family at mile 19, his sister and her husband, a retired track coach, “You’ve got this, no problem” he says. That should have been a warning.

His marathon WAS NOT a double 1/2 marathon. And three 20 mile training runs at 13:00 do not prepare your mind and body for the challenge. PMA is not a substitute for trained muscles, joints and connective tissue that know what 50,000 steps will feel like.

The combination of a fast start, too few breaks, and a fixation on finishing time led to his meltdown at 20 miles. How cruel.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-6-21-27-pmIt started with profound aching in his big butt muscles where they attach deep inside. At the other end of his kinetic chain, all 26 bones in each foot complained at each step. His feet felt mushy and weak. In the middle, between pelvis and feet, his calves, knees, quads and hams all quivered, whined and flashed warnings of approaching collapse. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Was he really too old for this? Did he not train enough? Train correctly? His mind was racing, as the coaches predict. He was trying to solve problems with no answers, get fixed, get back on track, but his body refused to respond.

The only possible response is to slow down, mix in walks, take deep breaths, relax his frantic mind, and try to find some positive thoughts. But now, the rain returns again in earnest, thick grey sheets in visible waves, soaking his thin clothes, skin and soles. Oh well, what else could go wrong? Great, the course markers and his watch now disagree by 0.7 mile and his watch is predicting 5:20. His left brain spins frantically, trying to figure it all out.

The pack is now clearly divided into the “haves” and “have nots”. He does not “have it”, despite his brother–in-law’s assurance that he did. Might as well lie down and die.

He should have followed his race plan but it was too late. He went from too little walking, to too much. Now a walk every 1/2 mile was necessary and the walk rate went from a fast 15:00 to a stumbling 18:00. A satisfactory 5 hour finish was lost, even 5:15 seemed unlikely. His world was collapsing.

The runner’s vision tapered down to only 10 ft. in front and almost nothing to the side. His head is down and dejected, not held high and confident. There were a few hardy cheering souls out in the rain or under pop-up shelters and tents. A few soggy musical performances were bravely going on, but he was having none of it. A particularly enthusiastic cheering group, close by, interrupted his misery with cheerful “looking good”, “keep going”, “you’ve got this”. They were mocking him for sure. It earned them a curt “this is horrible”. He felt immediately ashamed and his funk deepened. The entire time and space of the world existed between mile markers; first 20, then 21, then 22, then 23. The walks became more frequent and longer. He developed a limp, but it was so unfocused that it varied from leg to leg, responding to different pains. He was in a dark hole.

Unexpectedly, 24 emerged from the mist, the rain stopped, an open portable restroom appeared at the friendly aid station staffed by the Red Lizards, who were all dressed as… you guessed it. 24 is a wonderful number, divisible by 2,3,6,8 and 12, making it the very best number on the entire course. He had one pouch of his reserve energy gel, “2nd Surge Ultra”, to be used only in a moment of great need. He ripped it open and swallowed it in one gulp. Caffeine, amino acids, sucrose, maltodextrin, and probably miracle ingredient X9, chased with two waters. He imagined it had magical powers.

Mile 24 starts at the bridge back to town, and to the finish. You mean there is an end to this? With an empty bladder, magic X9 in his veins, modest sunshine, a great song in his earphones and his world turns brighter almost immediately. The runner’s head clears and he smiles.

Mile 25 is still a slog but the runner is running hard now, his breath fast and loud, blood pulsing, pain forgotten. Then the 26 marker appears. The crowds are thick and noisy, the runners have the entire street, separated by the cheerful, bright blue barriers. Suddenly, he sees the finish arch ahead, the cheering is overwhelming. It all merges into a head-exploding flash.

And then it’s over. He is a marathoner.


Thanks to Jenn, Cari, Scott, Henry, Blake, Sam, Marilee and Nile who stood in the rain to cheer me on or sent powerful messages.
Thanks to Jeff Galloway who wrote “Randy, You can do this” in my autographed copy of “Running Until 100”.
Thanks to my extended family and friends who offered encouragement and advice along the training journey and who sent congratulations at the end.
And special thanks to Janet, who arranged our life to make it possible, and supported and encouraged me along the way. Couldn’t have done it without you.

Jill Mulder and the Transformative Power of Running

“I was very anti-exercise. I did not believe in it.” That was Jill’s view before taking up running. All her friends were having babies and saying that exercise helps delivery. She said, “No, exercise does not help delivery.” True to her claim, she had her four children pretty fast. It was at that point where Jill soon discovered the power of running to transform a life.

In 2006, after having her fourth child, the whole family went to the zoo. “Every few steps I had to stop. I was tired. I had no energy at all whatsoever.” Just walking was a challenge. At that point Mike, her husband, said, “You are lazy.” That really kind of stung.

The next day, while watching kids play, Jill shared what Mike said with a neighbor. Jill confessed, “You know, I really think I am.”

Her neighbors response: “You know what? I want to take you running.”

“I don’t run. I don’t exercise. What do you mean? I can’t do that.” Her neighbor persisted and Jill went out and bought a pair of running shoes. She went on her own first. She ran to the neighborhood mailbox. “It was not that far at all, but I thought I was going to die.” In spite of that, she decided to go again the next day. She went not even a half mile and came home spent. “This has got to get easier.” When Jill did run with her neighbor they ran a mile and the neighbor talked the whole time. Jill was dying.

One of the challenges Jill faced was being overweight. As Jill improved her diet and continued to run, the weight came off pretty fast. Six months later Jill was running up to two miles regularly, but the most she had run was two miles.

Jill describes the next step: “Friends said, ‘If you’re running, you better do a 5k.’” That was another nerve inducing adventure. Jill took that on and was hooked. Then, she discovered the half-marathon but asserted that she would never do a full marathon. That resolve lasted until a friend of hers with Rheumatoid arthritis completed a marathon. This friend has mornings where she can’t get up, yet she did it. “If she can do a marathon, I can do a marathon.” Jill then took on the marathon.

Jill’s running didn’t stay just with Jill. As Mike looked on he decided to join in saying, “Well, if you are going to run, I am going to run.” They still run together. Jill also started coaching her kids in their various sports including their school’s track and field program. “Seeing the kids excelling and wanting this, I had to do this. I looked at my kids. I didn’t want them sitting there watching TV. And, I wanted to be out there with them.” She realized that she gets to be the role model for them.

Jill has also encouraged and recruited many other moms to run. “I have four kids…people tell me they don’t have time to run. Yes, you do! You have to make time.” She has been a go-to source for numerous moms and others venturing out into the world of running for the first time.

After all these years of running numerous races including six marathons and two half Ironmans, when asked, “Why do you run? Why do you do this to yourself?” Jill has many answers. One would be the sense of accomplishment: “I have worked hard to get where I am at.” Another would be the freedom to eat (though she says she has learned to eat better as well). “Running clears the mind” and helps her be better as a parent, spouse, and employee. Running has also become a way that she can help others and give back to her community. “Because I run people want to tell me when they run.” Running has become an integral part of who Jill is.

Jill’s story is a testament to the power of running to make real and lasting changes to a person’s life. See you out on a run!

Rob Hancock Running Boston

“I get it now, this Boston thing,” says Rob Hancock after he finished the Boston Marathon in 2009. “Still the pinnacle running experience” of his life, Rob’s peak race highlights the long journey it takes to master the marathon.

He ran his first marathon in Los Angeles in 1998 with a “just finish alive” effort of 3:59:21. Nine years later he caught the racing bug again, dropped 30 pounds, and attempted to qualify for Boston in the 2007 City of Trees Marathon in Boise. He bonked horribly with a 3:35:38 and 17-minute positive split. In 2008, he ramped up his training, and qualified on the same race with a 3:17:48, and 1:40 negative split. Boston bound he followed the same training plan – Pete Pfitzinger’s 18 weeks, up to 70 miles per week – through the cold Idaho winter leading up to Boston.  What time to shoot for? “After much deliberation, I settled on an ‘A’ goal of sub-3:10.” A personal record that is not only ambitious but a Boston Qualifying time run in Boston.

Boston is more than just a race, it is a gathering ground for many notable runners as well as friends from across the country. The days in Boston leading up to Monday morning’s event provide Rob the opportunity to chat with Jack Fultz in an elevator (1976 Boston winner), visit with Dick Beardsley (see 1982 “Duel in the Sun”), and connect with an online “nemesis” to trade jabs. After the expo and even a “Duck Boat Tour” of the city, Rob made it to bed the night before. He remembers thinking, “strangely, I’m calm.” A good sign.

The morning of any race is a special time. “I wake up on my own at 4:30 (that’s 2:30 A.M. my time – gulp!). My first order of business is to check the weather. Still predicting high 30s to high 40s throughout — that’s good. But the flag atop the adjacent Copley Square Hotel is flapping wildly and pointing directly west – a strong direct headwind. That’s bad.” The mixed weather report notwithstanding Rob makes his way to the buses next to the Common and rides to Hopkinton, some twenty-six miles away.

There at the Athlete’s Village, Rob grabs a snack, waits for the time to start at the home of a friend of a friend, and then checks his bag at the bus as he walks the quarter of a mile to his starting corral (#7). The wait is almost over. Everything goes in quick succession now.  “The seven thousand runners down the hill behind me are a sight to behold. Flyover. National Anthem. Gun. Holy crap. I am running the Boston Marathon. I am alive.”

Rob pursues his goal, mile by mile, staying in control of his pace. On his first mile, there is a “steep downhill, but the throng of runners keeps me from going out too fast. I’m grateful for that, and right on pace.”

Of the many memorable things along the course, the people that come out to cheer have to be at the top. Rob recounts, “I high-five another little guy…and I hear his dad say ‘You’re slapping hands with people from all over the world!’” Rob continues, “Of course, I’d heard how great the spectators were, but I was completely unprepared for their enthusiasm. I expected the usual polite applause and shouts of ‘Go runners!’ or the occasional cowbell. Oh no, this is something entirely different. All you have to do is point at the crowd or raise your hands, and you’re greeted with this deafening roar more befitting a winning three-pointer or touchdown. I find this new power intoxicating, and I start using it frequently.”

By the halfway point Rob is right on pace with a 1:35:36. 7:21 pace. The remaining question he asks himself: “Can I do a 3:10? With the hills looming? We’ll see.”

Rob continues to run just a few seconds below his target pace for each mile. After mile 20, when the challenge of a marathon can truly begin, Rob recalls, “The crowds continue to grow. As I’m approaching the third hill halfway through the split, an older gentlemen yells out. ‘Ya just gawt this little one, and then Hahtbreak, and then it’s awl downhill from theah!!’ I bet he’s been doing this for years. This little bit of inspiration makes me pick up the pace, attack the hill with vigor, and log a split 23 seconds faster than I’d planned.”

Rob conquers the Newton Hills and then clicks off the remaining miles still running just a few seconds below his target pace. As he runs within the last half mile through a deafening roar of cheers he thinks, “I want to be done, but I don’t want it to end. I glance at the Garmin just as it turns from 3:07 to 3:08. I smile, knowing sub 3:10 is in the bag. But man, 3:08 sure sounds a lot better. I give it all that’s left, and cross in 3:08:53.

I stop and grab my knees. A few paces past the line a guy next to me is doing the same thing. He makes eye contact and nods. I say, ‘Man, wasn’t that something?’

‘Unbelieveable,’ he says with a thick accent.

‘Where you from?’ I ask.

‘Holland.’ We share a quick man-hug and high five. I’ll never see that guy again. But I’ll bet we remember each other forever.”

As Rob makes the long slow walk to get his medal and check bag he thinks back to all that led up to that moment. All those winter training miles. The sacrifices his wife and boys made. His folks, now gone, and how very proud they would be. At that moment, “I look around, relieved to see I’m not the only one choked up.”

“Whenever I hear other runners talk about Boston, it’s always in superlatives: The best crowds, support, organization, course, etc. They say you won’t understand until you experience it. I wondered if all those veterans were just maybe a little loony. Could it possibly really be all of that? Oh, yes. It can. That, and much more. I get it now, this Boston thing.”

Look for Rob out on a run with the BAR!

Austin Hopkins On the Run

Austin has been running five to six years now. While he started running initially to impress a girl, he has continued on a rich and rewarding journey of learning.

Randi, Austin’s wife, took up running first after watching a friend in a race inspired her to give it a try. She was the faster and more committed of the two until recently. Now they enjoy parity in their runs and the companionship that they share as they pursue running goals.

The Payette Lake Run in 2014 was a big learning moment for Austin when he placed third in his age division in the 5k. He discovered the satisfaction of “seeing how far you can push” and the resulting performance gains that come from that. He increased his focus and commitment to training after that race. Just this month (July 2016) he decided to go out with the leaders in the Dirty Dog Trail Half Marathon and soon discovered he was the leader. He continued on to finish first overall.

Austin has also been acquiring wisdom and learning patience in the process. At one point early on when he was able to run enough that he realized that he was feeling healthier and he could go faster, he started to run faster. “I wasn’t patient about it at all! I was like, ‘Oh, if I can go faster, I need to go ten times faster!’ and I just started blowing stuff out.” He ended up with a lot of muscle strains in his calves, but his enthusiasm carried him along for about three months until one day in the middle of a run. He stopped at a stoplight. When the walk light came on, he went to step off the curb, and he suddenly felt something pull loose straight up toward his knee. He ended up having to take six months off from running to recover from that injury. From that experience Austin says, “Now I am seeing the benefits of taking it easy.” In the end, he has learned there are times to push through the pain and times to stop. “To learn this you just got to run.” Everyone’s body is so different and the line between “too much” and “enough” is unique to every individual.

After several years of running Austin has learned that there are “too many good reasons to run and not enough bad reasons not to run.” He has learned that the specific motivations to keep running day after day vary for him. On some days, he loves feeling healthy. The idea that his running reduces health risks is very satisfying. On other days, feeling fit and pushing it physically provides a real charge. And there are those trying days where running is the reset button that restores his mental health and outlook on life.

Austin recognizes that he will need to learn many more lessons if he is going to run well in the decades to come. He admires the role models he finds among the more seasoned runners in the Boise Area Runners. Runners who still “crush it” even though they may be older than his parents and grandparents.

Austin’s story is far from over and he can look forward to many more learning moments as he continues to grow and develop as a runner. See you on a run!

This article is the first in the BAR Story Project where we will be telling stories of BAR runners. A new article will be published each month.

May Monthly Mile

We had a great run last week for the Monthly Mile. We had six runners log their first BAR Monthly Mile time and five other set new PRs. Additionally, one of the new PRs was the fastest time we’ve seen on the track, 4:40! Great job to all the new and returning runners.

If you’re interested in tracking your improvements in running, we run a timed mile the first Tuesday of every month at the Boise High track. Details and a list of times is available on our Monthly Mile page.