JFK 50 Miler

Oct 17th, 2010 - Race - Bay State Marathon - 26.2

Day 290 - Today is the day that many runners have looked forward to all year. The Bay State Marathon (hosted by the Greatest Road Runners in my hometown of Lowell) has become the Mecca for those looking for a relatively easy and well-organized BQ'er.

It's no coincidence that the BAA is opening up Boston 2011 registration the day after Bay State.

I was late leaving Tewksbury, and didn't get dropped off at Lowell High until 7:30AM for the 8AM start. I still had to check in my bag and make a quick pit stop.

Right away I ran into familiar faces from GLRR and the other running clubs in this the final grand prix race of the season.

I can't even begin to recount all of the story lines that would be going on today, but the bottom line for most of the runners was to BQ.

Justin Soucy was going for his first BQ with a sub 3 hour target. Alex Gomez had been training his butt off, religiously training on the course for the past 3+ months. Katy Agule was pacing her friend Lauren to a BQ, needing a sub 3:30. Frank Georges was out to prove that you can indeed run a sub 3:10 while writing a doctoral thesis. The same BQ story for Matt "Pooh Bear"  Story who would need a 3:15 with his friend Denis.

(Story Time with Pooh Bear)

Also, Joe Ferris and Dave Dunham were continuing their comebacks, along with Mike Brodeur. Mike Stanwyck was ready to experience his first marathon. Jill Trotter had sub 3 on her mind. Kara Haas was going to pace her hubby, Mike, to a sub 1:30 half. Reno was using this as a high tempo training run for JFK, while his wife, Susan, was going to go for the big B-Q.

Of course I can't forget GLRR members Jeff Clark, Peter Floss, Kathy Burley, Virginia Ford, Charlie Knutson, Jim Garcia, David Katz, Steve Kanaracus, and Melanie Hire on their BQ missions.

And last, but definitely not the least, is Douglas Sylvester. Doug was going to go for the much coveted Grand Prix Iron Man title with a finish at today's race.

(JT on a 3 hr Tour)

Fil's goal was to not kill any angry motorists while providing traffic duty for the early part of the morning. Thanks to Fil and all of the volunteers that make this race possible for the rest of us!

Then there was Cody, Andy, and myself. My goal was to get them to the finish line in under 3:10. I had already hit my marathon goal for the year with a 2:55:01 (must I remind myself) at Hartford 8 days previously. That was just a warm up for this.

Pacing can be a tough job. You need to keep in mind the welfare of those you're leading, otherwise, things can turn disastrous. Running becomes a team sport when you're pacing others to a goal.

Andy and Cody had been nursing some ailments leading up to today, but they both looked ready to run when I saw them shortly after I arrived at Lowell High.

The weather couldn't have been any better for a marathon, making up for last year's hell freezes over run. The winds from the past two days finally subsided right on cue, with a little sunshine to add to the pre-race festivities.

I opted for the green sweater vest (no rain in the forecast) and shorts, along with my white (collector's edition) GLRR cap, compression shirt for the chest area, compression sleeves for the forearms, compression shorts for the family jewels, a pair of mittens for the fingers, shades, and my Newtons.

I never thought that there could be such a thing as home field advantage for a road race, but it definitely helped to be wearing the NEW slime green singlets today.

Things at the start got tight in more ways than one. Cody, Andy, and myself were still in the porta-john line when we got the call to get to the starting line. The porta-john line was on the course itself, so that meant NOW! Fortunately, Cody and I managed to unload one last time, but poor Andy didn't make the cut-off.

Like I said, the start was very tight with over 1500 marathoners squeezed into the left lane of Father Morissette Blvd. Cody and I were about four rows back from the front, mainly because we couldn't push ourselves any further back. We were shoulder-to-shoulder with all of the other shivering runners.

(Like shooting runners in an alley)

It was at this point that Andy Schachat announced that a recording of the Star Spangled Banner could not be played due to technical difficulties. A couple of grumbles and mumbles emanated from the crowd, and then, the moaning transformed into a chorus of live voices singing the anthem! The feeling of pride washed over all of us, warming us from head-to-toe. The shivering completely stopped.

I admit, I too often take the singing of the anthem for granted, since we hear it all of the time, but today truly showed me the power of its words. Even if I had the worse race of my life today, this inspiring moment had already made my day. If anybody reading this has this sequence on video, please post it to YouTube and provide me with the link!

(Est. 1776)

There was not much left to do, but wait for the G-O signal.

The sardines quickly exploded out of the can a little after 8AM.

....but before we continue, I need to go back. Back 9 years....

Today was actually my second time running the Bay State Marathon course. Way back in 2001, a friend and I kicked off our running careers by jumping into that year's Bay State....without any training. This was a recurring theme early in my stop-and-go beginnings.

Here are the results of that disastrous experiment: 2001 Bay State Marathon

What? You can't find me? Maybe it's because I dropped out at the half-way mark. This was on the old course when the half and full finished at the technical high school. After one loop around the river, I had had enough and left my friend out on the course to do the death march by himself. Needless to say, we're no longer friends.

Since that fateful day 9 years ago, I've ran parts of this course at least a hundred, if not a million, times on training runs.

So here I was, 9 years later, back home again. Not much has changed, other than the start and finish. The double loop death march is still there to suck your very soul from you. Time to tackle this thing once and for all.

Cody, Andy, and myself ran three across for the early part of the race as we set off on a relatively easy 7:02 pace through the first mile. We spent a good part of the first 5K chatting it up between ourselves and others, including Tom O'Leary (There, you're on my blog!) who was doing the half. We even saw Mike Haas, and some fast chick, fly by as they worked together to a 1:26 half.

(Tres Amigos)

Frank Georges also made a quick cameo early on as he caught up to us, and then decided to run his own race. Something told me that this wasn't going to be the last time I was going to see him today.... 

Using my pacing strategy from my first BQ'er in Portland last year, my first goal was to get Cody and Andy to the half marathon mark somewhere between 1:32 and 1:34, with an end goal of running a 3:05-3:08. I figured that the buffer would make up for any issues we might face along the way.

(Tres Amigos Dos)

We continued to feel great going through the first 7 miles, hitting the Bouncing Bridge at around mile 8 in about 56 minutes for an overall average pace of about 7:04. My parents were out there cheering them on, and putting me down. Sorry dad, I can't run faster than the Kenyans! And this is why I run...

It was also nice to see Jim Hansen out here cheering us on. I later found out that Jim had dropped out about 3 minutes and 12 SECONDS into his marathon run. I am always in awe of runners who have the mindset to drop out when things just don't feel right. Live to race another day!

Miles 9 and 10 were uneventful as we entered the "dead zone" of the run. The most boring stretch on the course, with nothing but trees to one side and more trees on the other. Stuck in the middle again. It wasn't actually that bad once I caught sight of Keith O'Brien, and the Tyngsboro High kids, working the water stop out here. 

Before I knew it, I quickly lost one of my wing men. Andy had mentioned at the start that he would probably drop back a bit, further into the run, but still try to maintain a qualifying pace. I intentionally slowed the pace down a bit at Mile 11 as to not get too far ahead of Andy. We were pacing pretty well, with a few minutes to spare, so it was worth a shot to see if Andy could regain his momentum.

By Mile 12, I had a feeling that it was probably not going to be Andy's day as I could no longer see him in the packs behind us. Cody and I continued to march on at a 7:05 pace, and we reached the half-marathon mark in 1:33:30. 

Glenn Stewart was in his tree battered Baja, taking up the middle section of the Rourke, guiding the half-marathoners home. He managed to give me a quick high five from his driver side window.

(Our GL Presidente (left))

The crowds at this point (probably the largest on the course other than at the finish), before and after the Rourke Bridge, spurred us on. We were now heading outbound towards Tyngsboro once again.

(Half of the Story)

It was around this point that I caught a glimpse of a red Whirlaway singlet out of the corner of my eyes. It was Reno cheering me on from the sidelines! He shook his head "Yes", when I quickly asked him if he had dropped out. I shouted to him, "smart move", before I continued on. Once again, another veteran runner listening to his body (hamstrings). Very smart.

(Running with Reno (c))

Cody and I took our first GU packs around 14, since this appeared to be what helped me the most at Hartford a week earlier. With GU flowing through our bloodstream, Cody and I blasted through the relatively hilly Mile 15 with a 6:58 mile, our fastest yet on the day. Things were looking great!

The two of us continued back down familiar territory as we crossed the Bouncing Bridge one last time at 18.5. The next 3 miles would prove to be critical as we entered the mentally draining portion of the course once again.

I was starting to feel gassy and bloated at around 19 (God damn pasta!). I contemplated pulling into one of the porta-johns on the course to relieve myself like a gentleman, but the feeling eventually got the best of me, so I managed to rip a BIG one without sharting. Good thing nobody was running behind me at that point, but Cody did get a good laugh out of it! It felt great, but I didn't want to push my luck any further for fear of sharting in my shorts with 6 miles to go.

My original plan was to have Cody take one more GU around 22 for the final kick home.

I then started to notice that Cody was beginning to fade, and his running posture changed ever so slightly. I took a GU from under my cap and told him to take one at the next water stop around 21. At that very moment, I second guessed myself on the timing of the second GU. It should have came a little earlier, before Cody started to feel the effects of the Wall creeping up on him. I had a feeling that it was probably too late at this point if he had aleady indeed bonked.

We had about 45 minutes to get to the finish with less than 10K remaining. Hoping to get his fading spirits up, I told Cody that we could do a 45 minute 10K in our sleep! I should have farted again.

I started to slowly lose Cody as the miles ticked away. By Mile 21 I was ahead of Cody by about 25 yards and our pace inched up to 7:10. We didn't have much left in the bank to spare, so I gave it one more mile to see if Cody could recover.

I was now about 50 yards in front of Cody, so I stopped, waited, and then I did something that I thought I'd never do during a marathon. I ran the course in reverse. I got a couple of interesting looks from the other runners passing by. Yeah, I know, I'm going the wrong way.

Frank made his second cameo on the day as I was running back to Cody, and I told Frank that he had 3:10 in the bag if he kept it up!

(Frank the Tank)

I finally got back to Cody and my watch showed an overall average pace of 7:12 (really 7:14 since the course was running long by about .10 at this point). I told Cody that he could still get under 3:10 if he was able to continue on.

He just said that his knee was hurting and that he could barely walk, so I knew right away that it was over. Cody was upset for obvious reasons, and I learned first hand how difficult it can be as a pacer when things don't go as planned. I didn't know what to do or say at that moment. All I could muster was to tell him to get to the Rourke Bridge, about a mile and a half away, and that there should be someone from GLRR/medical to help him out.

The only other thing I could tell him was to hang in there as I turned around and continued my run.

Now what?

Well, both of my charges for the day had now dropped from qualifying, so I had to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of the race.

I was here for one thing today, and that was to get someone to Boston 2011! 

I quickly targeted the ugly yellow Somerville singlet worn by Frank, changed gears, and hurried my ass back down the boulevard. 

We're going home!

I finally managed to catch up to Frank, at around Mile 23, before we hit the Rourke one last time. Glenn and Scott Casper was still out here cheering us on. You guys rock!

(Casper the Friendly Volunteer)

Shortly after the bridge I caught a glimpse of familiar dirty blonde hair bouncing up and down. It was Jim Rhoades! He was getting ready to jump into the battle and pull us home!

(365 Day Race Leader - JR)

Mile 24 ended up being my fastest mile on the day, clocking in at 6:47. It kind of helps when you have Ben Ndaya and Jim be your pacers this late in the race.

It was finally down to the last two miles. The four us were cruising past other runners. Up and down the rolling VFW we went, arms pumping, legs kicking. I couldn't believe how much fun I was having!

We were now in very familiar territory. The last 1.5 miles of the marathon course is the 1.5 to 2.25 mile stretch of the GT5K course, which I basically lived on throughout the spring and summer.

Frank, Jim, and Ben began their final move and took off ahead of me. Frank was good to go and was on his way to a BQ. Gutsy!

At around Mile 25, I heard my name being called after I passed a runner in a blue shirt.


I looked back and didn't recognize the face or form. He introduced himself as Bash, and he was a friend of EJ's, my best frenemy!

"EJ told me to find you!" said Bash, a little out of breath. "Do you mind pulling me in?"


Bash was trying to get under 3:10 to BQ, so he had about 10 minutes to run a little over a mile. He was still looking fresh, but pain was definitely attacking his body at this point. He had been having spasms in his legs and lower body late in the race.

(Having Too Much Fun!)

I gave Bash the countdown as we crossed over the Aiken St Bridge.

Three minutes!

One lap around a track!

Two minutes!

We entered the ballpark and Andy Schachet announced our arrival.

One minute!

We rounded the final stretch of the warning track, with our eyes on the prize!

Bash and I crossed the finish line together in a glorious 3:09:49!!

(This is why I run)

(Nah, this is why WE run)

Congrats, Iron Man!

Big thanks to Jessica Costa, Glenn Stewart, Mark Coddaire and all of the volunteers who worked tirelessly to put on this spectacular event for the rest of us to enjoy!

Thanks to EJ, Scott Mason, and Joe Ferris (and family) for taking some kick butt photos!

Final Splits:

(Time to Taper for JFK) 

(Representatives of GLRR Nation)

(Joe Ferris & Family)

(Maureen Garvey)

(Kathy Burley)

(Mike Thompson)

(Jeff Clark)


  1. I was wondering where you went at the end. The last time I saw you, you were ahead of us at 25. I thought you actually finished ahead of me and was surprised to see you about 20 seconds behind in the results. This explains the mystery. You must have stopped to help Bash near the bridge. I don't remember going by you...even I was starting to zone out a tad at the end. You two were the last ones under 3:10...pretty cool.

  2. I was actually contemplating standing at the finish until the clock read 3:10:59...

  3. Way to go Jason. Rest up for JFK. You're on fire!!!

  4. The word "REST" is not in Jason's vocabulary....lol