Ominous realities loom large as Boston Marathon approaches

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Jose running and determined
Jose and Randy are determined!

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.”— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Most of us will face times in our lives which challenge us to our very core. Sometimes this is of our own making and sometimes it is part of the world in which we live. I am embroiled in one of my more difficult medical challenges and the impact upon me physically, mentally and emotionally has been tremendous.

I’ve been asked when I’ll cancel my Boston Marathon participation and I understand the question as well as the intent behind it. The real answer is not yet, and hopefully not at all, which I suspect may cause those who do not truly know me to take umbrage with that response. I think those who know me–which includes my supportive wife Tracy and my Boston Marathon guide Jose–will understand I do not make any of those decisions without thorough investigation, competent advice and reasonable evaluation.

Another blog here talks about my medical situation, and the reality is that it will not be resolved in the short term and I will not be entirely healthy while undertaking the Boston Marathon this year. I have had to choose to forego much of the final weeks of training to properly tend the medical concerns and that means I’m unwell and insufficiently prepared to accomplish the Marathon in a traditional approach.

My doctors are very clear that the running will not put me at any increased detriment for my condition, and in fact they suggested exactly the opposite–that the perseverance, drive, and determination which have been my hallmark will be part of how this helps me overcome the present challenges. That confidence and the caring support of so many around me are a significant part of my decision to continue with the plan to run the Marathon unless something significant suggests that would be wrong.

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” – George Sheehan

This Marathon won’t be about trying to match last year’s time of 3:50:37, but rather something more powerful. It will be in part a celebration with my cherished friend Jose Acevedo for all that we’ve accomplished together. It will be a celebration of the most iconic Marathon. It will celebrate friendship, community, perseverance, and determination which we’ve each needed in our lives.

It will be all the more epic for all the setbacks and challenges that could have easily let us choose to not line up together in Hopkinton. There were many times that choosing to not run seemed likely or appropriate and we kept a calm focus that this would be acceptable, supporting each other no matter what. We remain equally committed to giving each other support and encouragement to keep the hope and potential present, as often as possible and for as long as we can.

Now that will pay dividends as it seems likely we have the opportunity to overcome all the adversity and savor one of life’s most rewarding experiences: the opportunity to be involved in a meaningful experience together.

I hope you’ll find a way to help be part of our team on that day and beyond.

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Boston Marathon plans–and how you can help out!

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Jose running and determined
Jose and Randy run the California International Marathon in December 2014.

April 18, which is the 120th running of the Boston Marathon, is rapidly approaching! This is my second time and I’ve learned enough from the first to reach out and ask you for your help and support in any of several possible ways. I believe so much in TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) and would love to add you to the team in all or some of the below ways. Whether you can join in or not, I’d appreciate your consideration to share this post and help us connect with more support for the opportunities ahead.

1) There are times along the course where just a little encouragement or friendly voice may help. Despite the thousands upon thousands along the route, I’m building an audio file which I can play when I need to hear the encouragement of a friendly voice along the way. If you email me a short audio file (less than 30 seconds please) which starts with “Hi Randy this is (You) and I just wanted to say…”, I’ll put them into one larger file and play them for that extra motivation. Please have all of these to me no later than April 10 so we can finish the file and have it ready for Marathon Monday!

2) If you aren’t running the Boston Marathon–or even if you are!–maybe you can join us for the NHAB 3K Walk for Sight on June 4! We have a team and would love to have you be part of our team as a walker or donor. It’s a very reasonably priced event with a chance to spend some quality time while helping support both 2020 Vision Quest and New Hampshire Association for the Blind. I’d always rather you walk with us, but if you can’t, perhaps you’d consider donating to one of the walkers on our team? While I don’t seek donations directly for Boston, I welcome the notion of a donation through this walk/fund raiser!

Join or donate to our team or me directly via our team page. This is our second largest fundraiser for 2020 Vision Quest and a family friendly event complete with a puppy kissing booth, barbecue lunch and so much more.

3) Finally whether you send me a supportive audio file, join or donate for the NHAB Walk or not, you can help us by sharing the 2020 Vision Quest charity with friends and family. We are always trying to increase our outreach of our website, our social media, and mission. Please consider taking the time to share us with those who will help us build a stronger community of support for the valuable work we undertake and for the positive influence we hope we can have in their lives as well.I’d love to see our Facebook community reach the 5,000 benchmark this year, I’d love to see our walk team reach the 100 walkers who shared in 2012, but mostly I want to see the work we undertake continue to make a difference in the lives of the students to whom we present and the blind services we support at NHAB and Guiding Eyes!

Now back to training for Boston and advancing the 2020 vision!

Randy and Christine cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon 2015.
Randy and Christine cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon 2015.
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Boston Marathon Plans and Planning

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Jose running and determined
Jose and Randy run the California International Marathon in December 2014.

“We do not plan to fail, we fail to plan.” – Lorrie Ross

I was excited to announce that my good friend and fellow 2020 Vision Quest Board Member, Jose Acevedo, would be running as my guide for the Boston Marathon. But now it’s time for the discussion of some details. Just making the announcement won’t help either of us run the Superbowl of road races. It takes a plan and plenty of hard work in implementing the plan.

Most marathons require roughly 18 weeks of training in order to prepare for the endurance experience impact upon the body. Running it as a team requires being in synchronicity sufficiently to ensure the best chance of success. So Jose and I reached out to Greg Hallorman, a good friend and excellent run coach. We use a modified version of the Hal Higdon training program with a few lessons from our past marathon experiences.

Having very successfully run the California International Marathon together in 2014, we understand fairly well how to work together. There is an additional burden on my guide to be able to find their comfortable pace for not only running their marathon but having the reserves mentally and physically to be my guide. This includes the breathing room to call out warnings of obstacles we might not be able to simply steer around such as a pothole or manhole cover. It involves tracking not only the pathway they are running, but the wider path for me with an extra bit of attention to provide warning time for me when those obstacles cannot be avoided. The guide often has to alert other runners of our presence and the visual challenge to help us be good citizens to our fellow runners. On the very crowded Boston course this can be an especially significant challenge.

Given these factors, Jose set our goal race pace as 8:40 minutes/mile as our target. This was the basis for our plan. Added to this is the expectation that four days per week of running was the right and reasonable limit for the rest of our busy schedules.

This does not mean that we only train on four days, however. There are two additional days of cross training for roughly an hour each time. These days help develop a different range of muscle motion, enhance our cardiovascular conditioning as well as hopefully support our body clearing lactic acid build-up from the running. Jose often uses his Kilimanjaro favorite of stair climbing at his high-rise office building, I tend to visit my local YMCA and put the time on an indoor bicycle. Many alternatives can exist to help supplement the core run training with cross training.

While staging to ever longer runs as we near the April 18 Boston Marathon date, our typical week might look like this glance for the week of January 18:

Jose on a training run.
Jose on a training run.

Monday: 60 Minutes of Cross training

*Thanks to Rick Perreira who drives me to the YMCA Each Monday Morning, helps me with the touch screen cycles and takes me home!

Tuesday: 5 mile run with 4x hill repeats in the middle (alternates weeks with speed intervals)

*Thanks to Tracy for pushing me and helping with the timing on the key points of this hard workout!

Wednesday: 60 Minutes of Cross training

*Thanks to Alex Newbold who drives me to the YMCA each Wednesday morning, helps me with the touch screen cycles, and takes me home!

Thursday: 6 miles of “tempo run,” meaning 2 miles of warm-up at 9:00 minutes/mile, 3 miles of “lactic threshold”at 8:10 minutes/mile, and 1 mile cool-down at reduced/recovery speed like 9:30 minutes/mile.

* Thanks to Matt Shapiro who works hard to give me this very early morning speed push most Thursdays!

Friday: My one rest day to recover and prepare for the weekend push!

Saturday: 6 miles of race pace (8:40 minutes/mile)

Sunday: 11 mile “easy pace” run (8:45-9:15 typically)

* While we often switch Saturday and Sunday, Rob Webber has been steadfast on longer and faster runs with various guides or treadmill options for the other day as necessary!

Those weekend-long runs will rise to 20 miles and as the snows fall, roads become icy and temperatures can drop; training for Boston is simply a challenge. Meanwhile my counterpart in Jose will contend with Texas temperatures and we check in with each other regularly to see if our progress remains encouragingly comfortable. All this work for an incredible celebration together as we share the legendary experience which has become the Boston Marathon. Hopefully some of you will be helping us out with encouragement throughout the training and especially on our big day.

Boston Strong!

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Failure, triumph, determination, love and support: A moving testimony to the human spirit

By Randy Pierce

“Long after the names of the medalists have faded from our minds, you will be remembered for having finished, for having tried so hard, for having a father to demonstrate the strength of his love for his son. I thank you, and I will always remember your race and I will always remember you – the purest, most courageous example of grit and determination I have seen.”

– 1992 Canadian Olympic Athlete to Derek Redmond

My friend and running coach, Greg Hallorman, recently shared the below video with me. While he unsuccessfully searched for a more audibly descriptive video than what I’m sharing below, I had the power of his emotional description in support. What transpires in this video is one of the strongest demonstrations of grit, determination, and parental love. It moved me and I hope it may do similarly for all of you. All of us no doubt face moments when we may wish to quit. Quitting is an option only when we succumb to the urge to quit. There are many ways to win, most notably giving your absolute truest and best effort to the goal – especially when it’s about succeeding far more than winning.

Here is the video of Derek Redmond, a British 400-meter champion. In the semi-final round of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, he begins strong when an event occurs to change his life. It involves his choice, his father’s choice, and the crowd’s choice, and readily becomes one of the most memorable moments of Olympic history. I hope you’ll choose to watch and experience it for yourself:

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Up Next: USABA National Marathon Championship

By Randy Pierce

Peter Houde and Randy running at the Boston Marathon 2015.
Peter Houde and Randy running at the Boston Marathon 2015.

While there have been many blogs about why and how I run, there are precious few to talk about the incredible number of  blind athletes brought together by Richard Hunter, the USABA, and many other organizations responsible for the National Marathon Championship held at the California International Marathon December 6, 2015. I cannot say enough good things about this event, the inspirational people behind the scenes and the incredible stories which will join me on the course.

As such, let me just encourage you all to visit an excellent blog about the event.

Note: You’ll find my bio in the list along with some incredible individuals with whom I’m proud to be sharing a course.

For those perhaps connecting to the event more personally through me, here’s a little bit of information. There are three divisions of visually impaired runners. I’m the B1 division. This is the effectively total blindness category. While B2 and B3 each have significant vision impairment, they have some level of usable vision. Not surprisingly, the B3, most sighted of the divisions, typically has the fastest race times as well.

I always run with a sighted guide and we use a rigid tether. Guiding me this year will be a pair of sighted runners each taking a half of the race. First up is a volunteer whom I have yet to meet except via email. A local of New England, he lives in the Bay area and has very kindly agreed to take me the first 13.1 miles to where I’ll meet up with my friend Peter Houde who is flying out with me. Many may recall Pete from his Guide work in the first half of the Boston Marathon this year. This time he gets to cross a finish line with me!

There’s no doubt Kilimanjaro and my Achilles impacted my run training, but I did make a late push and think I’ll be improving significantly on last year’s finish time. While I placed first in B1 last year, there are several new runners and even a few international competitors who will be running under the 4-hour mark to push me to be at my best. I’m hoping to be under 3 hours and 45 minutes if all goes well.

For those wishing to follow me, our 2020 Vision Quest website and social media will hopefully be sharing ways to get updates and providing them as best possible. I’ll be using Runkeeper and broadcasting my run live through that application. With the race starting at Folsom Prison at 7 am PST, I’m hopeful to be finished by 11 am pst. I’ll be staying for the awards ceremony to celebrate all the victors and whether I place or not I know I’ll give my very best and bring home another collection of experiences to share.

So let’s wish for good running weather and many healthy and happy participants who will have won a much more important race when they all chose to believe in the celebration of “Ability Awareness” first and foremost!

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Overwhelmed and Taking it in Stride

Autumn with pumpkins.By Randy Pierce

“How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss

I am overwhelmed as the return from Africa has been a steady stream of busy in catching up with schools, presentations, our Peak Potential dinner, Marathon training, Lions Presidency and so many more things. Not surprisingly this has led to several mornings of feeling overwhelmed. There are times when figuring out the priority of things takes more time than I can reasonably want to spend and so I often dig right into the work. The trouble is this can lead to me feeling exhausted and at times be a surefire formula for my having a migraine, which only serves to set me further behind.

So in this blog I’m going to share just a couple of the healthier ways in which I cope and to invite you all to help me a little with my work. Autumn is pictured above because she is one of my best means of getting a little mental meditation and recovery. Whether it’s our morning walk forcing me to take time to get out and appreciate the world with her, the play session after that work or during a break or the curl up on the floor snuggle-fest which for those of us who can take solace in time with our pets is simply fantastically beneficial.

Randy and Jose running and determined-smallWhile Autumn prefers the take it in stride approach of the walk, a second method is the mindset behind my running. Marathon training is a lot of work and I can all too easily view it as a chore in advance. The thing is that once I’m actually running, I find it easy to switch the mindset and fully embrace the experience. It’s a chance to escape from the other work and reach a better understanding of myself. Running to improve and prepare for a marathon is likely going to involve sometimes wanting to quit. The more we expose ourselves to this and push onward, the more we learn to fully understand the difference between a real need to take a break or ease off and our body’s protective measure of keeping something in reserve. This can work for running and for those other challenges which lead me to feeling overwhelmed in the first place. In pushing through I find I increase my ability to recognize that difference and to more comfortably push on when there’s a goal in my reach.

So what does this all have to do with you helping me? I was late in getting to this blog this week and my work load has eased back my creative inspiration to write this. So why not drop me a Tweet, Facebook comment, or blog comment telling me about what types of blog posts you most like and most want to hear more about in the future? Perhaps revisit a few of your favorites and share those as an indicator or give us suggestions for totally new directions of blogs. People often share with me inspirational stories and I probably don’t get to share them often enough in this blog space but I hope those keep coming. Maybe this pause will be your own break from feeling overwhelmed and we’ll have both helped each other a bit… or we could go out for a run together! 😉

 

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Frustrations and challenges as an injury arrives

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Jose nearing the finish at their National marathon Championship victory in December 2014
Randy and Jose nearing the finish at their National marathon Championship victory in December 2014.

It’s so easy and fun to share success and celebration and so much more difficult to report on setbacks, failures and injury. Very often I can use determination, willpower, and perseverance to overcome many obstacles and achieve fantastic results. I think occasionally this creates an illusion for some that I do not get mired in frustration or failure at times. Right now I’m in the midst of one of those challenging times which has some ramifications I’m still exploring and trying to find ways to manage properly. I hope it may lend a beneficial perspective for people to get a look inside one of these difficult times for me.

Several weeks ago, I finished a run through Mine Falls which had gone poorly due to some type of stomach bug. As I recovered from that a few days later, I noticed my lower calf into the Achilles tendon was unusually tight. I worked at stretching it but it was fairly minor so I didn’t worry too much. A five-mile outside run with a friend had loosened it up nicely and alleviated my concerns. With Kilimanjaro looming, I broke in new hiking boots on a series of mountain climbs of ever-increasing duration and the tightness seemed manageable through those.

Yet, every faster run or hill-based run soon had the tightness returning and worsening. I have a fair bit of neuropathy in my legs which can mask pain, but soon it was clear to me that the Achilles was sensitive to the touch at an unacceptable level. It was relatively pain-free without my weight on it, but when would lean my knee over my feet with weight, that stretch would be very painful. Every morning I began to hobble a little more. When going down stairs, the back foot would really let me know it was unhappy. It was time for some professional medical explorations.

I halted all training, began a regimen of 4x’s-day ice and Achilles-specific massage while awaiting the appointments. Two weeks of rest with those treatments improved things notably but it hadn’t gone away.  The doctors initially suggested bilateral Achilles tendonitis and a specialist modified the diagnosis to bilateral Achilles tendinopathy. The physical therapy began that same day and continues for a bit of time still ahead.

The harder news is that this condition has an age component and I’m certainly getting older. Often this is not a curable situation as much as it is a managed care approach to minimize the impact. While it absolutely does not presently halt any of my athletic goals ahead, it does add a component of uncertainty.

Kilimanjaro remains absolutely certain at this point. It’s the California International Marathon and the USABA Championships which, while still likely, will require me to be very attentive to continually working with and adjusting a plan for managing the injury and easing into the right training for that injury. My original plan had August 3 as the start of my formal training, but I have not yet even been able to reach out to guides because of the uncertainty of how/when to begin training properly. I may still be a few weeks away from knowing more.

Friend and 2020 Vision Quest secretary John Swenson guides Randy through a water crossing on Mt Liberty.
Friend and 2020 Vision Quest secretary John Swenson guides Randy through a water crossing on Mt Liberty.

So, you may ask, how am I managing my approach?

Overall, I’m fine mentally and emotionally. There is certainly frustration, but I’ve already begun the shift of mentality to accepting my present condition and exploring every possible means to go forward successfully. Well, perhaps not every possible means, as while there are many marvelous home remedies folks might begin suggesting, I need to reasonably limit myself to a targeted plan that has earned my confidence. I’m on the path of that targeted plan right now and will continue to research and undertake with my full determination.

Does that mean I’m not still a little down when my foot hitting the floor each morning gives a little pain and tightness? Of course I feel that frustration, but now I’m as quick to reach for the leash and try the stretch techniques to help it improve and continue to heal. It’s the small steps forward with the long-term goal still in my vision but not overshadowing the need to attend to a lot of small details to manage the immediate challenge. After all, you don’t get to those glorious summits without learning how to manage all the twists and turns of the trail along the path, without learning to get up after each fall and without a little consideration for how to ensure we fall a little less along the way.

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Guest Blog: Running a Mile in Another Man’s Shoes

By Greg Neault

Greg and Laura starting out their blind race.
Greg and Laura celebrating their blind race.

“I once was blind, but now I see.” How many times have these words crossed my eyes and ears? But never before have they elicited the response from me that they do now.

Saturday morning found me waking early with a 5k to run at 8am. Not an entirely unusual activity for me on a weekend in the warmer months. But this race was different.

This race I ran blindfolded and remained blindfolded for 6 hours past the finish line. One might say, “Why would you want to run blindfolded?” A legitimate question, for sure.

For one, it was a fundraising event. We were raising much needed revenue for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, helping them to continue their work assisting people to make a successful transition into a life affected by vision loss. The race offered a challenge and a new experience, which I always enjoy. But prime among my motivations for embarking on such an endeavor was to gain perspective.

For three years I have been guiding Randy Pierce through hikes, road races, and obstacle courses. This race provided me with an opportunity to experience life on the other end of the guide/guided relationship. I had high hopes that it would teach me some things about the way I guide and the way Randy experiences that guiding, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I walked into it with preconceived notions as to what the difficulties would be. It was a very large 5k, 10,000 runners strong, in an urban environment with lots of background noise to challenge communications with my guide. I have no experience running blind, and was unaware of how my balance and sense of direction would fare without my eyes to aid them. My confidence level was also a concern. Would I be hesitant to run at a normal pace without my sight?

Greg and Laura run through the streets.
Greg and Laura make great progress.

Race day brought surprising results. The weather was nice, the crowd energetic, the runners forgiving of my missteps and my guide more than able. Only a few noise disruptions to otherwise fluid communication and very successful and respectable 9:45 pace over 3.1 miles.

As welcome as those surprises were, there were some not so welcome, but equally surprising nuances to my adventure. Our post-race activities included a walk around Boston Common, lunch at the Beer Works, gelato in Boston’s famed North End and a subway trip back to our parked car.

Having transitioned from Laura (my race guide) to Loren (my post-race guide), we met with some adversity. Loren had little experience navigating the streets of Boston. Though I have been known to wander Boston somewhat regularly, I had no experience navigating blind. Randy has provided me with direction on numerous occasions, but his path finding is based more around distance, number of blocks traveled and street names. My typical navigation is focused more, as you might guess, on visual landmarks. Unable to see these landmarks, I was forced to describe them to Loren and subject to her interpretation of my articulations. Some missed cues as to our current location led to some frustrations when my directions proved unfruitful after two attempts.

Lunch brought some new challenges as well. Some condescension from our waitress when I misspoke my beer selection coupled with my previously accrued navigation frustrations led to a curt response from me. Fortunately I was blindfolded, so my looks were unable to kill!

One lesson learned over lunch was the utility of a same-sex guide. The public restroom can be a scary place when you’re on your own! I’ve frequented the Beer Works for years, so I’m fairly familiar with the layout of the restroom. That didn’t stop me from spending a few minutes trying to find the hand dryer, imagining all the while the look on the face of the next patron to walk in and discover me blindfolded and scouring the walls with my hands.

My experience with the Blindfolded Challenge was enlightening in many ways. My theories about impending struggles were way off base, and challenges arose where I thought smooth sailing would prevail. When I look back at our recent California Tough Mudder trip, I think of all the focus I placed on the event. In retrospect, I see more obstacles and challenge in the travel, the airport, and the commute than I do in the mud, the hills, and the walls.

Group shot of the runners.
The runners together! Building trust is a key lesson of the day.

The next epiphany was that of trust. The first time I put the blindfold on and WALKED around a track, I questioned my ability to run the race. It was awkward, I felt unstable, and I was more than a bit nervous for myself, my guide, and the general public! I felt unsure as we navigated a track with scant few others using it. How was I going to fare on a street course with 10,000 other runners?! Taking into consideration that I had the benefit of seeing the track immediately before running it, I’m in awe of Randy yet again. The miles of mud, rocks, roots, and potholes of our past endeavors jump out at me and my chest gets a little tight just thinking about it. I watched Randy put his trust in Loren and Sky, whom he had never met previous to our Tough Mudder adventure, which was in a much more technical landscape than my flat track in a quiet park! The level of trust necessary to commit your well being to the discretion of another cannot be overstated. That Randy has entrusted himself to me on so many occasions, whether it be guiding him myself or in trusting that others that I have brought into the fold are quality people that will have his best interests at heart, is one of the greatest compliments I have ever received.

The last, and maybe the most profound takeaway of this experience was the last. After six and a half hours under the blindfold, after running, walking, eating, drinking, navigating restrooms and subways, it was time to call it quits. I removed the blindfold and returned to the ranks of the visually able. When I pulled back the blindfold, there was sensory overload. Bright light, cars, people. Accompanying that rush of visual stimuli was a large sense of relief. I could see again. All the difficulty and frustration left behind with the return to the visual world. Then, just as profound a revelation: the realization that I was experiencing a moment of relief that will never come for those experiencing actual vision loss.

I once was blind to the realities of life with vision loss, but now I see that I once knew very little and now know a small portion of that experience. Life is learning and I’m on the path.

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The power of purpose as Boston Strong goes Quinn Strong

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Pete have a strong start to the Boston Marathon.
Randy and Pete have a strong start to the Boston Marathon.

The 2015 Boston Marathon was a week ago and a lifetime ago by the feel of it for me at this point. While I’m still basking in an exuberant glow from the race itself as well as the thousands of congratulations, I wasn’t certain our community would want to hear more. There is, however, a potent enough message for me that I thought it worth sharing here.

But before I share it, I want to yet again commend the incredible work by my Guides who make it possible for me to undertake such an epic experience. Peter and Christine Houde split the course as my official Guides with Greg Hallerman assisting throughout as has been discussed in my pre-race posts. I did not give fair estimate to the enormous work of managing so many fellow racers on a difficult course and with fairly challenging weather conditions throughout. My friends and Guides were simply stellar and we were, I think, an incredible team.

As most know, one other Guide was my motivation for this race. I ran Boston to honor the Mighty Quinn for his years of loving loyalty in guiding me to walking, hiking, running and each day of our too short lives together.

With the training behind me and my intent clear, I lined up in Hopkinton for the start of the race. The rain picked up and a chill wind made me eager for the heat of the run to come. We started moving with me tight behind Pete and my legs eager to find a stride. For the first 2-3 miles that stride was in check tight behind Pete as we simply were in a wall of people moving fairly swiftly down the hills into Ashland. Greg’s voice projected to help us ease a space to move through and ensure other runners understood a little space was safer for us.

Randy and Christine powering through the second half of the Marathon.
Randy and Christine powering through the second half of the Marathon.

It was a constant effort to keep our pace a little slower as the energy was incredible. Thousands of spectators stood along the route despite the far less than ideal conditions, and continued to encourage all the runners. Finally in Ashland I was able to emerge and run beside Pete with Greg weaving back and forth to support us in pacing and spacing. With my arms marked with “Quinn” and my shirt in his honor as well, many shouts for Quinn buoyed my spirits along the way. Each time I heard a “Randy” it told me it was someone who knew me rather than reading my shirt… and there were oh so many of those times all along the route because of the incredible friends I have in my life. The mental burden on my Guides and Pete as primary was intense and before the 12-mile mark we reached the transition point for Christine to join the race and Pete to depart as the rules dictate. I was sad for his loss but strong in my focus–we never even paused for the transition as they switched in mid run with practiced ease.

Christine was strong and eager as we shot through Wellesley and into the infamous Newton Hills. Even effort suggests a slight slowing of pace for the uphills and slight increase on the downhills and our overall pace stayed strong as four successive up and downs brought us close to the crest of Heartbreak Hill at mile 21. Many runners suggest a marathon begins at mile 20. It’s where the hardest effort begins, but in Boston that starts with Heartbreak Hill and often drives the point home.

Randy, Greg, and Christine conquer Heartbreak Hill.
Randy, Greg, and Christine conquer Heartbreak Hill.

We had a pack of friends together and I was buoyed by the group effort. I knew that if I reached the summit of Heartbreak Hill still strong that my marathon had just 5 mostly downhill miles remaining. Still, I knew those would be the miles that break many runners. As I crested the hill, my purpose was surging within me and I gave two significant efforts. I tossed my head back and shouted to the skies “You did not break my heart!” because the hill had not broken my will nor my heart. Quinn’s death had wounded my heart but his gift of love and loyalty had made it strong enough to survive. My own gift of love and loyalty had helped me heal and my purpose was a demonstation for me and somehow to him that this was so.

With 21 miles of the Marathon having stripped away so much of the decoration which surrounds our essential being, I was finding in myself the raw and real passion of my purpose to honor him. I threw my head back once more and shouted “I love you, Quinn Boy!” with all of the fervor and strength I had. The potency of that shout was cathartic and I was energized in a way I’d have never thought possible deep into such an epic race.

Randy, Greg, and Christine after a successful finish!
Randy, Greg, and Christine after a successful finish!

I knew then without doubt I would finish the race as strong as I’d run already. There was no thought of quitting or slowing, but instead a calm steady confident determination that I would stride out the rest and he would be with me as he was in the moment of shout. I didn’t waver the rest of the route; there were hard miles left for certain but I realized then with crystal clarity that the power of a purpose can ignite a fervent drive.

My Marathon has so many moments worthy of sharing but the message for me was this: Find a purpose in your life, find a purpose to drive your small and your grand goals. If that purpose is truly your inspired choice, you very well may find as I did that it can take you to incredible heights. I crossed the finish line in 3 hours, 50 minutes, and 37 seconds. I crossed with so much support from so many places but I crossed strong enough to run further and faster if needed. I had more to give, not just in that moment, but in the many moments ahead because I know how to infuse purpose into my goals.

Quinn, my beloved boy, will not be the only purpose in my future endeavours. He’ll always be a beloved part of my life and may at many points be an inspiration. The purpose in each goal will vary, but I always know that finding the right reason, the right motivation for me and for that next moment is how I can fuel myself to be strong, to be Boston Strong on this year’s race… to be Quinn Strong as my boy was so many times… as any of us can be… with purpose.

Quinn on Mt. Flume. We love you, boy!
We love you, Quinn Boy!
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Celebrating the 2015 Boston Marathon!

By Randy Pierce

As always, I welcome all forms of support including donations to 2020 Vision Quest Donate

Often my blogs receive careful consideration on both my intent and content. They receive polish from friend and volunteer Beth Foote before you ever get to read them. I’m frequently candid and yet a distance between my thoughts and emotions filters much of what becomes the words and phrasing I choose.

Randy and Guide Thor crossing the Finish line of Cox Providence on 5/4/2014 to qualify for Boston as detailed in “Qualifying for Quinn.”
Randy and Guide Thor crossing the Finish line of Cox Providence on 5/4/2014 to qualify for Boston as detailed in “Qualifying for Quinn.”

Endurance events often strip away our filters and expose us to ourselves. Those along for the journey and the powerful legacy of Boston elevates this beyond measure. So I hope to give you my candid thoughts at several points now and in comments below as we lead into and through my first Boston Marathon experience. I hope you’ll all feel welcome to share any thoughts, questions or observations along the way of this semi-permanent record of our journey.

Thor and I qualified together in a well chronicled experience that absolutely bared much of my inner turmoil through the challenge. I was still so tangled in the absence of Quinn and my drive to honor him. I knew I was not properly prepared and was ready to accept the painful consequences of forcing through the experience to lay the foundation of training and growth ahead. When the shoreline winds began to buffet us at mile 19 or so, I wasn’t sure I could do this. Beyond my blindness the balance challenges were rocking my world in all the wrong ways. Thor’s many marathons, problem solving, calm and encouraging words were likely the difference that day. I was strong in my determination but definitely met my match against the marathon.

I must have questioned my choices nearly a hundred times in the second half of the run and names of people who encouraged me or made a positive impact on my life were how I dealt with those miles and in some points just in each step. Each decision to run when my body had demanded a walk. To lift a leg quivering with muscle spasms and telling me I wanted to quit. People who haven’t been in these experiences with me often perceive an indomitable strength–I’ve been told that many times. Not so by any means, as Thor, Jose, Greg, Meredith, Justin, Tracy and many others know all too well. Determined and willful for certain but one who wrestles with that will as often as most of us I suspect.

Randy and Jose with determination and focus as they close in on the finish which would earn them the B1 National Championship in Sacramento, California on 12/7/2014
Randy and Jose with determination and focus as they close in on the finish which would earn them the B1 National Championship in Sacramento, California on 12/7/2014.

Quinn was my inspiration to returning to running and the reason for this Boston Marathon goal as I detail in our #Miles4Quinn program. It began with our hiking and in the conditioning and training he soon had me running. Most don’t know that Sarah Toney’s support for her sister got her into running and her infectious determination helped push Quinn and me further. Bob Hayes brought us into the road race world and I’ll forever appreciate his contributions to my running and hiking adventures. Jennifer Liang took over for Bob and all along the way my wife Tracy’s encouragement, knowledge, and support helped expand the inclination and opportunity. When my outreach for guides began, many answered the call and began this year of dedicated training. Christine Houde as one of the earliest human guides and half of the husband and wife team who will be my official guides in Boston. She joined me for a snowy first run which set the tone for this winter.

Few, however, answered the call as well as my well cherished friend and “Coach” Greg Hallerman. He believes running has given so much to his life that anyone who wants to run ought to get a little help to achieve. He has overachieved in logging more miles with me than anyone else despite some heroic diligence by Matt Shapiro. Ultimately Greg has taught me as much about life and friendship as he has about running and yet that running has brought me through failures like my Did Not Finish (DNF) at mile 23.5 of the Bay State Marathon (Sorry Meredith!). It brought me through the triumph of a B1 National Championship at the California International marathon (Congratulations to us Jose!) and it brings me to this epic goal of the 2015 Boston Marathon where he will be a part of our team.

Randy and his Boston Guide team of friend/coach Greg Hallerman and Guide team of Christine and Peter Houde from their last training long run together.
Randy and his Boston Guide team of friend/coach Greg Hallerman and Guide team of Christine and Peter Houde from their last training long run together.

#WeRunTogether is the hashtag for the Boston Marathon for many and yet I think it is never more true than for a blind runner. I’m actually part of Team with a Vision who coordinate blind athletes from around the world. They are a tremendous group in many ways such that I hope you’ll learn all of their amazing stories along the way this year. Most of all, though, I’m part of my team of Greg, Christine, and Pete. I always have the gift of sharing the team sport of running. I have someone to lift me up when I struggle mentally or physically. I have someone to whom my support can sometimes fill my own spirit with such strength as I think an individual might never fully realize on a race course. It’s this sharing of experience which is the essence of team and the acronym I well appreciate: T.E.A.M.; Together everyone Achieves More. The preparation for Boston is mostly behind and so much experience awaits. Every day I’m reading a tip I’ve probably heard many times. Every spare moment I’m visualizing my journey through the 9 towns/cities along the route. Yet there are still more days until the experience and so much more beyond that all I can say is I feel ready, excited, nervous, anxious, hopeful, motivated, honored and perhaps most of all grateful. It isn’t every day we get to be part of something epic but at this time I feel very connected to a community and an experience unique in the world. I cannot wait to see how it helps me learn, grow and celebrate for myself and for my most amazing Mighty Quinn. Let’s go Boston!

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