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We All Run Boston

As a runner, the bombings at the Boston Marathon last year touched me in a more personal way than other terrorist attacks. The emotion I felt wasn’t as overwhelming as that caused by 9/11, but, although Boston was 1800 miles away from Laramie, Wyoming, it felt that the bombs had struck at my family.

You see, I should have been there. I’d qualified, through a deferral allowed because of the previous year’s devastating heat. Because of financial uncertainty, I’d not used my deferral when entries were opened the previous September for the 2013 race. When Patriot’s Day arrived, I was feeling bummed that I wasn’t there. Not only that, I had a feeling in my gut that I might never make it back to Boston. My running hadn’t been going well for quite a while. In fact, prior to that awful day, I had not logged a single mile in the previous three months. I was 56 and I was sure my best running days were behind me.

Then word reached me … bombs at the finish line of Boston. I logged on to find a flood of social media and news about the frightening event … and the brave, heroic response of race officials, bystanders, and runners. Almost immediately, anger and determination began building inside me. After a short time of watching the coverage, I just had to lace up my running shoes and get out. Running was the only thing I could do at that moment to show solidarity with my comrades in Boston. And it was then that I decided that, no matter what, I would be in that race in 2014.

I started training for the American Discovery Trail Marathon in Colorado Springs which would be on Labor Day just over four months away. It was one of the last opportunities to get a qualifying time.

Naturally, life put a few obstacles in my way; stuff that all runner’s deal with from time to time … a  crazy work situation, nagging injuries, the occasional doubts about whether it was really possible. I got to September 2, the day of the race, fueled by hope that I could pull it off. Hope that the mostly downhill course would help me overcome my training deficiencies. Hope, not confidence.

Hope wasn’t enough. I missed a BQ time by 4:26.

I was crushed. Those last painful miles, when I realized that my goal of reaching Boston had slipped away, are now among my darkest running memories.

Four days later, I was on the East Coast for an extended job assignment, counting on work to make me forget my failure. I’m not sure what drove me to check for marathons in the Washington, DC area, but I did. And found one. It was after Boston entries had opened for those beating their qualifying time by five minutes or more, but it was the day before entries were opened to those who had “only” met the standards. Although Boston was filling fast, the race had not yet closed entries. If I could get a BQ, there was still a chance I could get in.

Only twelve days after my ADT disaster, I ran the Abebe Bikila International Peace Marathon; a race run on  the C&O Canal Towpath. It was an almost dead flat out and back course on dirt. It may have been the fact that I love running the C&O; it had felt like my home course before I’d moved to Wyoming. It may have been the drop down to sea level, or maybe this second chance stirred me to a stronger effort. Whatever it was, my race that day was charmed. With a strong kick over the last half mile,  I not only got my BQ, I beat the standard by 5:13. I was able to enter that night and not wait for Monday. I was in.

This song and video helped motivate me as Boston got closer.

Being in Hopkinton this year will be an emotional high unlike any other. For me, coming down Boylston Street toward the finish line will be like slapping every terrorist in the world and yelling in his face “You can’t beat us, we don’t quit. We are Boston Strong.” The bombings united the running community; it connected us all in a way that I don’t think has happened before. I feel like the multitude of runners at Boston this year are participating on behalf of all runners across our great country. Runners who know what it is like to overcome adversity and just keep running. I know that everyone of you who can’t be on that starting line in person, will be with us in spirit.

Yesterday, I saw a picture of a woman who’d been badly injured in the bombings, but has recovered. She wore her scars like a badge of honor. Across her stomach she’d written “You can SCAR me, but you can’t STOP me.” Along with 35,000 others, she will be running the Boston Marathon on May 21 …Patriot’s Day. You can’t get more inspiring than that.

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The Morning Stretch #11

Here’s an easy stretch for today, in case you are sore from yesterday’s tough one.

Describe the sky, as it looks right now.

Every jet in the world has crossed the Laramie Valley and left behind a jumble of pick-up sticks on a powder blue table. The newer lines are crisp  beams of white shooting across the sky. Older ones drift and dissolve, twisted by high-altitude winds that leave me untouched as I enjoy the gentle, sunny morning.

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The Morning Stretch #4

For some strange reason, I sometimes like to close my eyes and pretend I’m blind. I’ll do this on occasion when I’m moving about the house, trying to visualize my path as I get a water-glass from my desk to refill at the kitchen sink, or run some other small errand. A few times, I’ve prepared for bed as if I’d lost my sight;  changing clothes, brushing my teeth, washing my face … the whole routine. I would notice the hazy rose snow behind my eyelids turn dark as I switched off the light (silly that it was on in the first place) and get under the covers. I’ve even closed my eyes while I’m running, usually—but not always—on long, straight, empty stretches of road where I would count off the seconds as I attempted to keep moving straight. I made it almost a minute once, stumbling every now and then as I drifted off the shoulder, but never falling. I think this helps my powers of observation, it also gives me some empathy for those who are blind.

This morning’s stretch is more of an exercise in visualization than a writing prompt. While you are at your computer, close your eyes and do an imaginary tour of a room in your house. Write out a description, trying to capture every detail. Remember, this is more about memory and visualization than writing beautifully. When you’re finished, compare your description with the reality.

Our living room isn’t a distinct space, but part of an open area that includes the dining room.  There isn’t an entrance foyer, so you step directly into the living room from the northeast corner onto a large, gray rectangular mat from which you can view the textured red walls, natural oak floors and the black wool area rug on the floor. Immediately to the right of the door is a peninsula with a granite top. It is usually cluttered with mail, gloves and other stuff that one drops as soon as they enter the house.

The rug is rectangular with a border and an interior of squares containing a variety of patterns. I think cream, gold and dark red are among the colors in the rug.  On the left (east) wall just beyond the door is a wooden shoe bench stained a mahogany color with several pairs of running shoes on it. Butting up against that is an old pedestal fan that shouldn’t be there, but we have been using it to try to blow heat from the woodstove down the stairs (which are just beyond, and face, the peninsula) and that is where we put it when not in use. The idea doesn’t work very efficiently so I really should put it back in the garage.

Past the fan is a set of bronze fireplace tools and a black ash bucket; I believe it is currently filled with ashes. Then comes the ceramic-tiled pad and backboard where the woodstove sits. The stove is black, squat and square, with black stove-pipe rising out of it and up through the vaulted ceiling; a magnetic burn indicator is attached to the stove-pipe. It faces the center of the room and has a glass panel in the door, that is pretty dirty right now, if I remember correctly. On top of the stove is a cast-iron black pot and a cast-iron teapot. On the floor in front of the woodstove is a half-circle, gray hearth rug that is pretty dirty, too. It overlaps both the tile and the rug.

Past the woodstove is a small wood rack, empty except for the wood chips and bark, which spill onto the floor around it. Against the wall behind the woodrack is a square black bucket that I use to put kindling in, but currently is stuffed full with brown paper packing material that came in a delivery my daughter received yesterday.

Which reminds me that also immediately to the right of the door are a bunch of empty cardboard boxes from the deliveries made over the last couple days. Oh, I also failed to mention that there are two bar stools at the counter-height peninsula, they have a wood frame and tan, cushioned seats; not technically part of the living room, but they sort of feel like they are.

Now, back to the east wall. Where it meets the south wall, there are two windows at a 90 degree to one another. In the corner, are two large plants, one is a tall, tropical looking thing with big fronds that almost touch the ceiling. The other one is a peace lily, the kind with the neat, white, vertical flower that looks like it is cupping an offering. It is in a big pot on a plant stand that I can’t picture at all. I think there are about ten lilies on the plant right now.

Squished between the invisible (since I can’t picture it) plant stand and our larger sofa is a black trashcan overflowing with a variety of burnable trash that we feed into the woodstove—but obviously haven’t done so lately. Hiding behind that is two boxes of business checks from our old electrical contracting company. My wife found them in her closet and they are also destined for the fire.

On the black rug in the center of the living space is a simple, solid oak coffee table that I made myself. It is a little darker than the floor, with rounded corners. There is a mahjong set in a fancy red box with gold filigree on the table along with several books, including Stephen King’s 11-22-63.

I made the table to complement the sofas, which are blue, with oak banding along the bottom and under the arms. One is a two-person which sets  toward the center of the open space and faces the woodstove; the other is a three-person that is in front of a sliding glass door—one of two side-by side in the big open space on the south side of our house. The curtains are the same shade of red as the walls, but have a gold paisley pattern on them. There are four pink pillows on the couches, two off a corduroy material and two that are satin-like. There is a cream and blue checkered fleece blanket over the back of the two-person sofa.

In the southwest corner of the living space is an end table that has two levels. On the top is a poinsettia, still setting on a Christmas-patterned cloth. The lower level is stuffed full of books and magazines.

Chances are you’ll also find little collections of dog hair in various places, since we have a German shepherd/Husky mix that sheds like crazy. What else? I think there is something on one of the windowsills but I can’t remember what; there is a basket of dog toys under the end table; some square glass coasters with pictures of my daughter and son-in-law embedded in them are on the end table, too.

What I missed: the snowman banner that hangs on the east wall near the door, a pottery-like wind chime hanging from a beam in the ceiling, two empty Asics running shoe boxes on the shoe bench, a pair of work gloves on the floor near the woodstove, a log in the woodrack, large tongs laying on the floor (instead of hanging with the other fireplace tools), a white blanket on the large sofa, a pair of Chaitan’s socks on the coffee table, his green hat on the small sofa, my sweatshirt hanging over the back of the small sofa. The plant stand under the peace lily is one of those three-legged wrought-iron deals that have curls at the top and bottom. And the squares in the black rug (which really has more burgundy than black) aren’t squares, but rectangles. The poinsettia is in a shiny tin bucket that has snow flakes embossed on it. There is a lot less dog hair than I thought, someone must have vacuumed recently! 🙂

I’m disappointed that I missed some important details, but overall I did remember a lot.

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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog. This blog was started eight weeks ago.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,400 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Springy legs and a moving sunrise

It was cloudy all across the wide, white, Laramie valley, except for a narrow band of clear sky near the eastern horizon. The sun was trying  to rise as I started my run; trying and failing, or so it seemed from my perspective. That narrow slot of open sky moved ever so slightly along with the rising sun, so that, for forty-five minutes, I was treated to a moving morning sunrise. At the very end of my run, the sun appeared for a brief moment, and then the sunrise turned upside down while the sun moved back into the clouds, as if setting.

During the run, I thought about how adapted I’ve become to running in the cold, (It was seven degrees this morning.) and the strategies I employ to make my runs comfortable regardless of the temperature or wind conditions. I also gave a lot of thought to how I could share those strategies. Coming soon: How to make your winter runs fun, comfortable and beneficial.

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There is no mystery to marketing

There have been a lot of blog posts from new or indie authors begging for the “inside scoop” on how to market their books. For a while, I was searching  for it too – that one magic key that would unlock the glaring spotlight of publicity for the release of my debut novel “Harvest of the Heart”. Within the first hour of combing the web, I discovered that there is no such thing as a magic key. After that failure, I kept searching for the easiest, most efficient and guaranteed reliable book marketing method. It has taken me many more hours to find out that doesn’t exist either. None of the marketing methods out there are magic; none are easy; none are guaranteed. If you have a lot of money to burn, there are certainly a boatload of marketing gurus and websites more than happy to take it. I haven’t found one that will guarantee your book’s success. or any level of success at all.

It isn’t that some aren’t good. It is just that they are in the business of making money regardless of whether you make any or not. I’d love to see a marketer that was willing to go out on a limb and say, “I love your book. I’m certain it will be a success. Instead of charging you upfront, I’ll take 10% of the royalties up to my fee.” I’d be willing to pay a marketer/publicist like that double their usual fee, just to see them tied to the success of my book.

Since- A) such a marketer doesn’t exist, and B) I don’t have the money to pay a marketer, I am wading through this marketing morass on my own. Valuable nuggets have been gleaned from discussion forums and OPBs (other people’s blogs). Carefully studying the information available from Amazon, CreateSpace and various marketers has yielded a lot of useful advice.

Blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, Networking, Goodreads, BookBuzzr the list goes on and on. They all take time away from my writing, but it seems I don’t have much choice if I want people to buy my book when it comes out in December. Time to pull on my boots and keep on wading.

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Comments ARE wanted

My apologies to those of you who may have attempted to leave comments on my blog. There is a WordPress learning curve involved and, apparently, I’m still climbing the slope of that curve. Comments have been enabled on my blog page, so please feel free to let me know what you think.

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