Posted by: Jack Savage | April 9, 2012


One of the challenges of long-distance races like a marathon is making sure that you allow adequate time for recovery during training. Tapering–the two-to-three week period leading up to the race–is about letting the muscles recover from months of training. And while it’s easy to understand that concept, it can be difficult to accept the idea that after motivating yourself to build your endurance and speed with ever-more-challenging workouts week after week, the best thing to do now is back off. Combined with the anticipation of challenging yourself in the marathon itself, you can get pretty antsy during this last week.

But imagine what it’s like for a terminal cancer patient in hospice care. They often have battled fiercely for months or years against the cancer. They’ve put themselves through tremendous physical and psychological challenges attempting to survive. And they have arrived at a point at which they are being told that nothing more can be done. They should put their affairs in order and nmake the most of the time they have left. They are coached to do the most unnatural thing in the world–accept death.

I don’t know what that is like. We watched Michael continue to battle, even as he began to show acceptance in little ways. The physical toll was excrutiating. It was a rollercoaster for him. Perhaps that’s the way it is for everyone.

It makes a silly little marathon seem so easy.

Posted by: Jack Savage | April 3, 2012

Two Weeks To Go

I continue to be so impressed and appreciative of everyone’s support. With firm pledges, the fundraising has reached the $4500 mark! That means there’s still $3,000 to raise to reach the $7500 goal. There’s still time to donate…checks can be made out to Foundation of Mass Eye and Ear.

Quite a bit of my training this winter has been done at Planet Fitness. During the worst weather I did my best to wear out their treadmills, and I continue to do strength training and stretching there. To support my Run for Cancer Research, Planet Fitness is donating a one-year membership to one of it’s clubs in New Hampshire along with a gear bag. I’ll be holding a drawing from the names of donors to determine the winner of the Planet Fitness membership. For the list of the clubs where the membership is good, click here.

I get lots of questions about how the training is going. In general, good! I’m now in the tapering phase–letting the body recuperate from the hard work up to this point. That means running fewer miles this week and next,while increasing the intensity of the shorter workouts to sharpen my speed. ‘Speed’ being a VERY relative term, given that I could not run even one mile at the pace that the top ten runners will run 26.2.

Posted by: Jack Savage | March 28, 2012

The Route to Boston

On Saturday March 24 I had the opportunity to join some of my Team Eye and Ear teammates on an organized run along a good portion of the Boston Marathon route. We met at Fitcorp at One Beacon street, where we got on school buses for a ride out to Framingham. There were quite a few Boston Marathoners-to-be on the bus, including former New England Patriot Tedy Bruschi and his wife. The bus ride seemed extraordinarily long, given that we all knew we had to run back. Basically, the bus dropped us off in a parking lot in Framingham, somebody pointed in the direction of downtown Boston, and said–it’s that way, 21 miles.

The cool thing about the long run was that we had lots of company. Given that we were three weeks out from the race itself, many runners were looking to get in their last long run on the course. For a newbie like myself, it was a chance to get familiar, literally, with the ups and downs of the course. There were numerous runners tackling the course in both directions.

The run was also well supported–the various charity teams had water stations set up along the route, as did some of the shoe manufacturers (New Balance, Saucony, for example). I was impressed with not only how friendly everybody was, but how encouraging they were–people were actually cheering us on as we went! And every charity runner has a story–often of a close friend or family member for whom they are tackling the marathon and in who’s honor they are raising money for a good cause.

In Newton, where the runners were thick practicing on the hills (including the famous Heartbreak Hill), police officers were on duty at the intersections to help avoid runner/vehicle collisions. At the bottom of Heartbreak, I watched three wild turkeys cross Commonwealth Ave–I don’t know which charity team they were running for–probably the Eat More Pork Foundation.

I counted my own run as successful, given that I arrived back at One Beacon with my legs still propelling me forward. Running up Beacon Hill at the end was a “special treat”. It was good training since it came about the same point in the run that Heartbreak will be in the Marathon itself.

Posted by: Jack Savage | March 22, 2012

Glass Half Full

On Sunday March 18 I ran the New York City Half Marathon, which was great practice for running alongside thousands of other participants through an urban landscape. The NYC half had 15,331 runners–we started with a counter-clockwise loop around Central Park, then headed down Seventh Ave. to Times Square, where we turned right, then left down West Side Drive to South Street Seaport. I finished 2191st, a good 40 minutes behind the elite top ten.

With that many runners it took about five minutes from the time the starter’s horn went off until I crossed the starting line. I learned a couple good lessons and practiced drinking on the fly from the paper cups they use (I only poured water up my nose once).

About six miles into the race I wasn’t paying enough attention to runners around me and was tripped from behind. I took a tumble and ended up on my butt in the middle of the course, 10,000 runners bearing down on me. As I hurried to get up (at age 52 I don’t bounce like I used to), a thought flashed through my head–what if like my Mass Eye and Ear teammate Chris Mehmel, I only had one leg? How hard would it be scramble to my feet then? That thought made me feel lucky, and I shook it off and took off running again.

Later, I asked Chris about this. He shrugged and said–‘I’d just use my left leg to stand up’. Great attitude.

I had planned to run a fairly easy race, as a training run. But then a few weeks before the NY Half my brother pointed out to me that if I managed to run under 1:40, I could qualify for the NY Marathon in November. So that’s what I did: 1:39:41.

On to Boston!

Posted by: Jack Savage | March 17, 2012

A Winning Circle

I can’t adequately express how amazed I am at the generosity and support from so many people. Thanks to all–with pledges, we’ve crested over the $3000 mark on our way to the $7500 goal.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a monthly meeting of the Winner’s Circle Running Club, which serves the North Shore, Seacoast NH and southern Maine. Mike Kimball was a member of the Winner’s Circle before he died. Thanks to Laurie Gaudreau, who counted Mike as a dear friend, the club made a donation to this run in Mike’s honor. The club members passed the hat (literally, the Mass Eye and Ear hat I’ve taken to wearing everywhere I go) and in now time it was full of generous and freely-given donations. Runners are nothing if not incredibly generous. I told the folks at Team Mass Eye and Ear about how supportive the club was, and they have made Winner’s Circle Running Club an official sponsor of Team Mass Eye and Ear and will put the logo on our team singlets for the Marathon!

But it gets better. This past Sunday I participated in the Winner’s Circle Boston Marathon training run hosted by Bruce Lander in Dover, NH. It was a great course and Bruce and his wife were wonderful hosts. During the 20-miler, I had the privilege of running with two Winner’s Circle members who were extremely encouraging. Dick L’Heureux, and other good friend of Mike’s, has run the Boston Marathon 22 times, including some sub-3 hour finishes. Listening to his advice–as well as his stories of him and Mike running together–made the long run fly by. Another Winner’s Circle runner, Michelle, is running the Boston Marathon, and is nothing if not full of energy, enthusiasm and positive thinking and I drew from that as well.

Thanks for all the support!

Posted by: Jack Savage | March 3, 2012

Thoughts from a Sister by Cheryl Kimball

When Jack first mentioned what he was up to—running the Boston Marathon on the Mass Eye & Ear Team in honor of my late brother, his brother-in-law—I thought, this is cool. Then we started poring over Michael’s medical records and his running trophies and photo albums to gather information for the team write-ups, and I thought, this is sad. Then Jack started getting donations and some were from people who knew my brother and some of those donations were accompanied by stories of those people’s personal relationships with my brother and I thought, this is both cool and sad. Ultimately what has happened from this, seven years after my big brother’s death from cancer, is that he has come a bit alive for us again—and that is not sad at all. That is way cool.
It almost makes me feel like Michael was out there in the universe giving us a little prompting to say, hey guys, don’t forget about me (not that we would). But knowing my brother, who was perhaps one of the most unselfish people I have ever known, I even suspect he was responsible for pointing Jack in the direction of the Mass Eye & Ear Team saying, “Hey, I know you want to run the Boston Marathon. Here’s your chance to accomplish a personal goal and at the same time raise some money to help with research into this horrible disease and maybe help some other people avoid what I went through.” And that would be the coolest thing of all.

Posted by: Jack Savage | February 13, 2012

On Training

Great day for a run!

Some more donations came in over the weekend via snail mail–thanks and more thanks for that!

The most common question I get from people about this run for cancer project is how the training is going. The short answer is ‘so far, pretty well.’ The challenge for any runner, but especially for a relative beginner like myself, is to build up endurance and speed without overdoing it and injuring yourself. The challenge for a runner in northern New England training for Boston  is getting in the mileage during the winter. So far it’s been such a mild, snowless season that we haven’t had too many days where running outside meant slogging through icy slop.

Today took some determination, though, as it was 17 degrees with an arctic wind whipping down out of Canada this morning. I took part in the Winners Circle Running Club long run in Rye, NH, and put in 18 miles. Yes, it was cold and any time we turned directly into the wind was, um, invigorating. I was definitly stylin’ with a baclava, two hats and two pairs of gloves.

Experienced marathoners observe that running a marathon takes mental preparation as well as physical training. So keeping a positive attitude during a run like today’s is good practice for those inevitable miles during the race itself when it seems impossible to finish, much less meet a time goal. One of the great things about training for a marathon is that it takes you well beyond your comfort zone, and you learn that you can accomplish–physically and mentally–far more than you thought possible.

So here’s what I thought about as I tried to get my legs to bore through the wind. It was a beautiful day along the oceanfront–one of those days so clear that not only could you see the Isles of Shoals, but they seemed less than a mile away. And here I was healthy enough to run, albeit slowly and with no particular talent. Compared to anyone fighting cancer, fearful of a perhaps foreshortened future, compared to the fight for life that I watched Mike put up in his final months, today’s run was a glorious opportunity. Bring on the cold and the wind.

The 18-miler gave me 60 miles for the week. My training plan calls for running six days out of seven, so it’s an average of 10 miles per day. I’m walking a little gingerly this evening, but I feel pretty lucky.

Please donate if you can. You never know who you might be helping.

Posted by: Jack Savage | February 10, 2012

Positive Steps

First, thanks to those who have already donated! Though I still have a long way to go, the momentum is starting to build on the way to my $7500 goal–in fact, just this morning we hit the $1,000 mark! I really appreciate the support–from colleagues, from friends, from friends of Mike Kimball, and from my family. Thank you to all.

I received in the mail this week the official notification of my acceptance into the 2012 Boston Marathon from the Boston Athletic Association. It’s certainly a thrill to get in, though that’s tempered by feeling guilty about the fact that there are any number of runners out there who worked incredibly hard to qualify for Boston but did NOT get in. Although there will be some 27,000 people officially running this year, there are still thousands who desperately want to run and didn’t manage to get a bib. I try to remember that charity runners like myself aren’t really taking away someone else’s opportunity, we are part of the system that allows the BAA to put on the race.

Team Eye and Ear posted a short video of ‘why I’m running’ this week–you can see it here:

Posted by: Jack Savage | February 2, 2012

A Son’s Best Friend

Thanks to those of you who have been helping by donating and by sending on a link to this blog to people you know who may be willing to help!

Ocular melanoma took Mike Kimball’s life when he was 52. He left behind his five kids–the youngest, Stephen, was 16 at the time. Stephen wanted the people who attended his Dad’s funeral to know what he was like, and so he put together some of his own thoughts about his Dad. He asked me to read the following at Mike’s funeral, and I was honored to do so:

In Memory of My Dad, My Best Friend

By Stephen Kimball

 I have so many good memories of my Dad. He was my best friend. I remember the road trip to Buffalo with Patrick. Going to Dad’s races. Going to Boston and him getting all stressed out over the traffic. We’d always hang out on the weekends. I remember last summer staying at camp, playing board games, makin’ that canoe. Playing Monopoly, he’d always get mad when I beat him five times in row.

 Up at camp we rented movies so often that we got so many free movies. We’d just buy subs and then go up and hang out. We both liked the same movies, like Old School—we saw that about 50 times. He liked Field of Dreams. He used to cry at movies. It would be a movie that you didn’t usually cry at and he would cry.  Coach Carter he was crying at…I would always look over if there was a part that was remotely sad, and he would be crying.

 I could say anything in front of him—that’s why he was so cool. I’d talk to him like I talk to my friends. About girls. About sports. About music. I remember in the car, even though he hated rap, he would still let me listen to it in his car.

 He didn’t like people who talked a lot. He was more of a quiet guy. He always make fun of me ‘cause he said I had a loud mouth, but I knew he was kidding about it, ‘cause he always would say I was a good kid.

 We were always mouthing off to each other, talking trash to each other. I was always making fun of him, tell him he was going to go down to Florida and wear his man thong. He always told me he didn’t, and I always said he did. Instead of a forehead I told him he had a fivehead. I would always make fun of him blowing his nose, he sounded like an elephant. I’d say, what did a herd of elephants just come through? It was so loud.

 He was always joking around. Even when he was in the hospital he was still joking around. When I told him I had a girlfriend, he said I deserved a girlfriend because I hung out with him…that he rubbed off on me.

 I would just laugh; laugh laugh laugh. He would always turn bad situations to good with his smile and humor. His laugh was really loud. I remember him and Shannon. She has a really high laugh too. I remember we went to see ‘John Q.’ in the movie theatre and all you could hear was him and Shannon laughing.

 And then our favorite foods. Dunkin’ Donuts, Dunkin’ Donuts, and some more Dunkin’ Donuts. He liked the coffee there. And chocolate glazed donuts. Or a blueberry muffin. I would get like four. He would get like one.

 We didn’t sit down to eat a lot. He would say it was expensive to sit down and eat. That’s why we ate fast food a lot. We’d always get Moe’s. He liked Moe’s subs ‘cause it was cheap.

 He could be stubborn. And he’d always get mad, but then later you could joke about it. I remember one time, we got some ice cream. He was driving and he had an ice cream cone, the whole thing fell on his lap, he cussed big time. He blamed the ice cream guy.

 I remember when I was about 11 or 12 years old, I spilled Gatorade in his car and he got mad, and I ran into the house crying, but then he came back in and apologized.

 Dad gave me advice about school–we were sitting in the car about to go into the movie theater. He told me about how he wanted to be a professional hockey player when he grew up. He told me school was important. That he never went to college and that I should definitely go to college. He wanted his son to be better than him…get more education…

 I’ll always remember my Dad as a good person.  What I’ll miss most is just hanging out with him. Going to races, going to bicycle shops, watching movies, doing stuff with him. I’ll miss having my best friend.

Posted by: Jack Savage | January 30, 2012

11 Weeks to Boston

The weather cooperated nicely today for a 16-mile run organized by a local running club along York Beach. We passed very near where Mike Kimball is buried–one of Mike’s friends told me in an email earlier this week that she goes by his grave at the end of some of her runs and says hello.

I ended up putting in 53 miles this week. The plan I’m following peaks at 59 miles a week. The longest ‘long run’ is 23 miles.

Not bad weather for a 16-miler on Jan. 29 in southern Maine.

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