Posted by: Jack Savage | April 7, 2014

Ten Random Observations from a Charity Runner


1. There are three important elements of training:

a. Talking about an upcoming training run, how hard it will be in the snow and ice and cold, and what current injury you are dealing with.

b. Running.

c. Talking about how the latest training run went, and how hard it was in the snow and ice and cold, and what new injury or strain that you must deal with.

2.  Training is a bit of work. Marathon training typically involves a 16-20 week program, with a presumption that one has some basic level of fitness at the beginning of training. For me, that will mean around 800 miles of running before the marathon even starts.

3. By the day of the 2014 Boston Marathon on April 21 I will have gone through four pairs of running shoes. My imperfect gait wears out the left shoe in particular, especially the inside of the shoe. If you know anyone who needs a dozen or so slightly worn size 10 ½ right-foot shoes, let me know.

4. It’s fun to talk about being in the Boston Marathon. Running is a lot like golf, in that the runner enjoys talking about their training and races WAY more than the non-running listener ever enjoys hearing about it. But because it’s the Boston Marathon instead of the local 5K, friends and family are particularly tolerant and willing to pretend to be interested in hearing about your hydration strategy or your favorite flavor “GU” or exactly where you plan to apply Vaseline to stave off chafing.  In fact, I think the real endurance athletes are the spouses and partners of marathon runners, who bear the brunt of endless droning on about such things.

5. You may learn about things like bleeding nipples and black toenails. (Sorry, TMI.)

6. Upbeat attitude essential. (See number 5.) The crowd’s cheering you and others along the way can be powerfully emotional.

7. You don’t have to be fast runner or elite athlete, but there are at least three critical characteristics of a successful charity marathon runner:

a. Willingness to organize your life around training for a few months.

b. Lots of supportive friends and family members who care enough about you to embrace your quest.

c. Absolute determination to reach a specific goal (such as finishing and reaching a fundraising goal).

8. It’s a unique opportunity to compete directly with the world’s best athletes. Where else does the average person get to enter the field in the exact same competition as the world’s elite? In my case, Ryan Hall doesn’t have anything to worry about this year, but when I ran in the 89-degree heat of the 2012 Boston Marathon I beat 2011 men’s winner Geoffrey Mutai. (He dropped out at mile 18, whereas I finished—albeit hours later.)

9. There are many kinds of participants—wheelchair athletes, elites, qualifying runners and charity runners. Boston is unique among major marathons in that you can’t just sign up in order to participate. You must demonstrate that you can run a “qualifying time” for your age group (and even then it can be tough to get in). If not, your other option is to be a charity runner, whereby you agree to raise money for one of the organizations that gets bib numbers for that purpose. In my case, I am running as part of Team Eye and Ear, raising money for research to combat Ocular Melanoma. To learn more, visit

10. The event is huge. Last time I ran, as I crossed the start line in Hopkinton they were already announcing the winners of the wheelchair competitors 26.2 miles away.


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