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Runners breathe a little easier after announcement of expanded marathon field size

Posted by Chrissy Horan August 30, 2013 05:00 AM

If you listened carefully Thursday morning, you may have heard it; the collective exhale from runners around Boston and throughout the country, waiting to hear about the field size for the 2014 Boston Marathon. Runners uncertain about their chances of getting into next spring’s race just learned their chances may be a little better than they thought.

Thursday morning, the Boston Athletic Association announced the field size for the 2014 Boston Marathon will be 36,000, and increase of 9,000 runners from the 2013 race. The BAA recognized the “significantly increased interest” in registering for the 2014 race and thanked the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the 8 cities and towns along the marathon route for their cooperation in making the field size increase possible.

Of the 9,000 additional entries, over 4,500 will be filled by runners who did not complete the 2013 Boston Marathon. Registration for this group of runners closed at 5pm on Thursday, and about 80% of those eligible registered. I’m not at all surprised, though I would have guessed closer to 90%. No one wants to miss this race.

Thirty-six thousand runners is a lot of people. According the 2000 US Census, Hopkinton, MA, home to the starting line, has a population of just over 13,000 residents. On Marathon day, the runners alone will triple that. And then there are the spectators and the media.

Fenway Park holds just over 37,000 people. Imagine a Sox game ending and everyone running down the street. The new field size is sure to lead to some operational changes in the race.

The increased field size does not guarantee even qualified runners entry into the 2014 marathon. Qualified runners must still register on a rolling basis, with those with the best qualifying times (more than 20 minutes faster than the required time) registering first, starting Sept 9. Registration opens to additional qualifiers every few days, first to those with times 10 minutes faster, then 5 minutes faster than required and finally anyone who met the qualifying standard until the race reaches capacity.

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is not an easy accomplishment for most people. Meeting the qualifying standard for Boston, or “BQ-ing” is a goal for many marathoners, including this one. Knowing there was increased interest in this year’s race, many of the runners I know who had qualified did not feel entirely confident that their time was good enough to allow them to register before all spaces were filled. While the expanded field size still does not guarantee entry for all qualified runners, it does increase their chances of getting in.

Outside of meeting the qualifying standards, runners can register for the Boston Marathon through many local charities that offer bibs in exchange for runners fundraising for their organizations. There were no changes made to the non-qualified entries given to existing participating charities. The Alzheimer’s Association, the charity I have run for since 2006, receives 10 entries. Last year they received 150 applications. This year they will receive 10 entries again, but I bet they will get closer to 400 applications. Just a (somewhat educated) guess, though I hope I’m wrong. Because one of those applications will be mine.

These little piggies

Posted by Chrissy Horan August 26, 2013 07:40 AM

Last Friday, I ran my first hill workout in a while. I ran 4 times up a hill .4 miles long, and then tacked on some additional miles, finishing up Heartbreak Hill. While this workout had plenty of obvious challenges, one I had not thought of before hand was the beating my toes would take.

These little piggies cried wee, wee, wee all the way home.

It’s hard to be a runner and have lovely feet. There is just a lot that can go wrong. Here are just a few things and some suggestions to prevent to treat them. (Please note, I am not a clinician and any suggestions given here are based on what I have read or have worked for me, but should not be viewed as medical advice.)

Bruised toenails
Bruised toenails are not uncommon among runners. The toes sliding forward in the shoe or the top of the shoe repeatedly hitting the toenail can cause repetitive trauma. For me, this kind of bruising is often uncomfortable for a day or 2, but usually not too painful. Generally, the toenail will heal as training volume or intensity decreases, however, if it is more painful, a podiatrist can help by draining fluid from under the nail to release some of the pressure.

I thought I was so clever hiding my bruised toenails by painting over them with dark nail polish. As it turns out, covering the toenail with polish keeps it from “breathing” and can actually cause the nail to fall off. That might explain the 4 toe nails lost post-Boston marathon…

To minimize black toenails, the experts suggest wearing running shoes that are the right size to avoid toes smashing into the front of the shoe. They also suggest that toenails are kept trimmed. (Also just a good idea in general. They are toenails, not claws.)

Last spring I ran the Long Island Marathon. At about the half way point, I could feel a hot spot developing on my left baby toe. As it got more painful, I could feel myself favoring that foot a bit to try to avoid making it worse. Around the 23 mile mark, all the pressure just seemed to release.

412881_3176306922944_1441235907_o.jpgApparently, I went through the full life cycle of a blister (this one a blood blister) in that race. While a loss for my white running shoes, probably a gain for me, in that I was at least able to finish the race a little more comfortably than if the blister was still pressing along the side of my shoe.

Blisters can be frustrating because, at least for me, they can occur without any rhyme or reason. I take all the preventive steps for most runs, and definitely all races. I wear well-fitted shoes and breathable running socks (I love Balega socks and coat my toes with Vaseline or body glide to keep them from rubbing. While 95% of the time things are fine, the other 5% of runs are ugly.

If they don’t pop by themselves mid-marathon, you can use a sterilized needle to puncture the blister and release the fluid. Just leave the skin covering the blister as is, and cover the spot with ointment, like Neosporin, and a bandage. Once it is not longer super raw, I also find Band Aid’s Blister bandages really help keep existing blisters from getting worse.

Athlete’s Foot
I am happy to say this is one foot issue that I have not had to deal with myself, but is relevant for a lot of runners. Athlete’s foot is a rash on the skin of the foot, caused by a fungus. The fungus is often spread as a result of walking barefoot in locker rooms or swimming pool areas.

Symptoms include burning, itching, peeling or cracking skin. It can be treated with over the counter creams or sprays, or prescription medications for stronger cases. To prevent athlete’s foot, wear sandals while walking around the pool or locker room. Keep feet dry by changing out of sweaty socks quickly and into dry shoes or sandals.

Between bruised and missing toenails and blisters...well, let's just say I won't be doing any foot modeling anytime soon. But despite this, I do try my best to keep them uninjured. After all, I have a lot riding on them.

Running for Fun: Social Boston Sports Community Running

Posted by Chrissy Horan August 22, 2013 10:45 PM

I can be a creature of habit and can often get stuck in old routines. My running routes are often familiar enough that I know, within strides, when my GPS will alert me that I completed my next mile. This week I had a chance to mix things up a bit when I ran with the Social Boston Sports Community Running group.

Every week, the group meets at a different location with a plan for a 3 and 5 mile run. This week, the run began in Copley Square. The 5-mile route ran through Back Bay, up Beacon Hill, past Government Center to South Station, through Downtown Crossing before finishing up down Boylston Street and back at Copley Square. Being distracted by landmarks like the Christian Science Monitor, events like the large group aerobics class taking place on City Hall Plaza and scenes like the fountains along the Rose Kennedy Greenway at sunset made the miles go by much more quickly than 5 miles usually feels.

The company helped with that as well. About 10 runners showed up this week, a bit smaller than average turnout. Most runners were veterans of the group and knew one another, and a few were familiar faces, if not names. I was the only newbie this week, which was quickly pointed out and followed by a round of smiley introductions.

Most of the runners fell within a pretty similar pace and everyone generally had someone to run with at all times. If they could run faster, they didn’t for the most part. As the name suggests, this is a very social group, running for fun and not for time. In fact, I may have been the only one wearing a GPS watch. What impressed me most however, was when the route took a turn, or when a traffic light slowed down part of the group, the others would wait, making sure no one got left behind.

Much of the group learned about the running group through involvement with Social Boston Sports in some way. The community running group does not require any registration or fee, like some of the other activities offered by Social Boston Sports. And you do not have to be involved with Social Boston Sports at all to participate. The group is just simply about running, with others.

And going out afterwards. SBS April.jpg

Following each week’s run, the group decides on a local bar to grab some food and drinks. Afterall, they are social folks.

For more information visit the Social Boston Sports Community Running website or Facebook page.

If you organize or participate in a running club in the area, let me know about it at

Deferred Runner Registration Opens for 2014 Boston Marathon

Posted by Chrissy Horan August 18, 2013 11:14 PM

On April 15, 2013, 5,633 runners were unable to complete the Boston Marathon as a result of the bombings that took place that afternoon on Boylston Street. Earlier this summer, it was decided by the BAA that those runners would be given the opportunity to register for the 2014 marathon, without meeting a qualifying time or committing to fundraise for a charity.

August 19th at 10:00 am, a special registration period opens for just these runners. Runners of the 2013 marathon who were identified as having a recorded time at the ½ marathon checkpoint received registration information earlier this month and will have from August 19-29th to register for the 2014 race.

In 2013, I ran the Boston Marathon for the Alzheimer’s Association. I crossed the finish line minutes before the bombs went off, but many of my teammates were unable to finish the race. Earlier this month when the notification email from the BAA went out to the 5,633 runners, our team coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Association sent out a follow up email to the 12 members of our 2013 Run to End Alzheimer’s team, asking if they planned to register for the 2014 race. The email went out at 6:30pm on a Tuesday and by 9:30 Wednesday morning, 11 of the 12 had responding, all with some version of “YES, YES,YES!”

Training for a marathon is not a task taken lightly by most runners, regardless of experience. Registering for a marathon requires a level of physical fitness, time to train, a schedule allowing one to participate on April 21st and in many cases support from family and friends. Despite this, when asked if they are planning to register, the responses among folks I have spoke to have begun much like this:

“My wife is going to kill me for saying yes, but…”
“Running 20 milers in February was awful, but…”
“We were planning to be on vacation, but we could always leave Tuesday morning, so…”
“I said this would be my last one, but…”

I bet you can guess the end to those sentences.

Runners who ran and fundraised for a charity in 2013 and are receiving a deferred entry for 2014 are not required to fundraise again. Our Run to End Alzheimer’s marathon team was made up almost entirely of runners who have a connection to the disease, and those that responded that they would register for the 2014 marathon also volunteered to fundraise again. While my involvement with this group may lead me to be a bit biased about our close-knit and committed team, I am certain many other individuals offered this registration opportunity will also choose to fundraise for charities again.

The BAA has not made any final determination about the field size for the 2014 Boston Marathon and how these potential 5,633 registrants might affect the decision. As of August 18, the BAA website acknowledges that no decision has been made about the field size, including qualified and invitational entries. Registration for qualified runners is set for September, although no specific date is given on the BAA website yet.

The 2014 Boston Marathon will be a very special event for a lot of people, individually and collectively. And on Monday August 19th, the process of determining who will run the race begins.

Falmouth Road Race: A premier event with a local road race feel

Posted by Chrissy Horan August 12, 2013 11:51 AM

It may be the most sought after race to run in Massachusetts after the Boston Marathon. The runners entered in Sunday’s New Balance Falmouth Road Race were selected through the registration lottery, local residents or fundraisers for one of the race’s many charity partners. All together, over 12,000 runners covered the 7 miles from Woods Hole to Falmouth for the 41st running of the race.

The Falmouth Road Race is not just a race, but a weekend-long event for the town. The town of 31,000 welcomes 12,000 runners plus family and friends. The race weekend also includes a family run and the Falmouth Mile on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

I have run the Falmouth Road Race twice, in 2008 and 2011. The first year I ran, I was impressed from the time I picked up my number. It was the first race that where I received a bib with my name on it!

Falmouth is a point-to-point course, with runners beginning in Woods Hole and finishing in Falmouth Heights. Squeezing 12,000 runners onto a 2 lane coastal road requires the runners to start in waves beginning at 10:00. This year, for the first time, the elite women had their own start. Also this year, Jeff Bauman, injured in this year’s marathon bombing, addressed the crowd before the wheelchair race.

Both years I ran, I was in the second wave of runners. I don’t know if every runner would agree with me, but I never felt like I was sharing the roads with more than 10,000 others, and both years was able to find my pace pretty easily. To me, Falmouth is a premier running event with a real local road race feel.

And while I can’t say I enjoyed it too much on race day, the route is quite beautiful. (I did drive it prior to the race and actually saw this all without sweat in my eyes.) The first 3 miles are on hilly shaded roads while the second half of the race is flat, with a view of Martha’s Vineyard to the right. Runners dig in for a short but steep hill before reaching a finish line, framed by spectators.

Meg Reilly, of Boston, MA, has run Falmouth several times but decided this year to head to the Cape as a spectator. She was cheering for the elites, her friends and anyone who looked like they could use a cheerleader. Her tip for runners: Wear a shirt with your name on it and you’ll feel like the Mayor as you run through Falmouth Heights, with EVERYONE cheering your name.

“Small town” road races that attract internationally renowned runners don’t happen every day. Well, unless you count Beach to Beacon, which took place last weekend in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. And incidentally Michah Kogo (32:10) and Joyce Chepkirui (36:43) won both races.

From casual joggers to professional athletes, the New Balance Falmouth Road Race welcomed running shoes of all speeds and sizes on Sunday. And the town of Falmouth welcomed many more visitors than a typical summer weekend at the Cape. Suggestions have been made to move the race to an earlier start next year and the race will move back to its traditional date of the 3rd weekend in August in 2014. But despite whatever changes are implemented, I would bet that there will be just as many runners who want to be at the starting line in Woods Hole next year.

Partner Up!

Posted by Chrissy Horan August 9, 2013 02:27 PM

When my alarm went off on Wednesday morning, I did not want to get up to run. I went to bed too late and was still sore from a workout earlier in the week. And it was 5:15.

But I got up (after hitting snooze once), threw on my shorts and t-shirt and laced up my running shoes. I was meeting my running buddy, Laura for a run that morning. We ran our usual 5 mile loop and while it was not the greatest run, it was better than I expected when that first alarm went off and I was glad I did it.

A good running partner makes running more fun, more consistent, more challenging, more successful or perhaps just more likely to happen at 5:45am. Finding the right person is not always easy however. It’s helpful to share similar locations, schedules, paces and training goals.

I’ve been pretty lucky to have several pretty consistent running partners who have each played different roles in my running life:

  • The Neighbor – Laura lives about 3 blocks away and likes to run in the mornings. We each run about 3-4 minutes to our meeting spot and usually run together about twice a week. Knowing someone else is also getting out of bed around 5:30 those days keeps me from hitting snooze (more than once).
  • The Cross Trainer – Shekinah and I were not only running buddies, but swimming buddies, gym buddies, yoga buddies and volleyball teammates. We liked to do all the same stuff, so why not do it together? She holds the record for the most shared workouts; until she left Boston, we worked out 3-5 days a week together for about 3 years.
  • The Goal Sharer – Brenna and I had the same time goals for the 2011 Boston Marathon. We ran most of our tempo runs and long runs together, and when we did not run together, we talked about our other workouts during the week. Our runs were fun and friendly, but competitive. We never allowed to other to get to far ahead before picking up the pace.
  • The Coach – Jason runs a pace about 1-2 minutes per mile faster than I do. While we would show up to the same training runs, we didn’t spend many miles actually running together. We did, however, spend many hours talking about training runs, how to mentally prepare for the next race or race schedules. Jason even gave up his spot in the 2nd coral to pace me in the 2011 Boston Marathon (where unfortunately, I cramped up and was unable to reach my goal. That’s a story for another day.).
  • The Entertainer - Dale and I did many of our long runs together for the 2013 Boston Marathon until he was sidelined with a broken leg. Dale will run any race, under any conditions. The more ridiculous the challenge the more likely he will agree to it, and always with a smile. He has the capacity to tell his stories for 20 miles or more, and since we would only see each other once a week, he usually had plenty of material.

I have been really fortunate to find several great people with whom I have shared many miles over the years. Each of the partners I have run with played different roles and helped me enjoy running in different ways and I hope I have done the same for them. While running may be thought or more as an individual activity, I do not discount the value of teaming up to participate in this sport.

If you have a running group or run club where others can join and meet their next running partner, email me at

Coasting through Maine: TD Beach to Beacon 10K

Posted by Chrissy Horan August 3, 2013 05:31 PM

Summer weekends are never short on road races, but not every race can brag they include a field of multiple Olympians. The 16th TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race took place this morning in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Lining up at the starting line were top American distance runners Deanna Kastor, Meb Keflezighi and Ryan Hall, as part of the field of 30 elite runners.

Beach to Beacon was founded by Joan Benoit-Samuelson, 1984 Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist and Cape Elizabeth native. According to the race website, she wanted to create a race along the routes where she trained to share the beautiful environment, sense of community and rich history that played an important role in her life.

A classic New England course along the Maine coast, this race is still on my bucket list, however, I will need to plan well in advance if I want to register for the 2014 race. Running on narrow coastal roads, the race accommodates 6,000 runners. After the first 4,000 spots sold out in 4 minutes for the 2013 race, runners could enter a lottery for the remaining 1950 spots.

Two runners I know did make it in this year. Trish Elliott of Jamaica Plain, MA ran Beach to Beacon for the 4th time. Running with 5 of her family members, including her 76-year-old father, the family began running the race in 2007 to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to honor the 20th anniversary of her mom’s passing. The race has since become a family favorite.

Tricia Verrier of Arlington, MA ran Beach to Beacon for the first time. She compared the race course and phenomenal spectator support to the Falmouth Road Race, which she has run several times. She noted that the cloudy skies and temps in the low 60s in combination with an early start time (8:00am), made running this race a bit more comfortable than her Falmouth experiences, though the start time would require a very early departure to drive to Cape Elizabeth the morning of the race from the Boston area.

Although she ran her goal time, the highlight of Tricia’s race came when she got to shake hands with her long-time hero, Joan Benoit Samuelson at the finish line. Shaking hands with the race director at a 6,000 person race doesn't happen often and just emphasizes that Samuelson is serious about fostering a sense of community and enjoyment at this race.

Despite the strong field of US runners, the top men and women’s spots went to Kenyans Micah Kogo (28:03) and Joyce Chepkirui (31:23). 24-year-old Erica Jesseman of Scarborough (34:17.6) and Riley Masters, 23, of Veazie (30:19) won for the women and men respectively in the Maine resident races. For full race results, click here.

If you are interested in running Beach to Beacon in 2014, check out the race website for more information. Participants don’t have to run fast to enter, but once registration opens, runners may want to act fast for the chance to take part in this classic New England road race!

Yankee Homecoming 10 Mile and 5K Race

Posted by Chrissy Horan August 1, 2013 07:39 AM

Summer means longer days and with that, evening races. Between May and September, it is not uncommon to see a 5 Miler or 5K race on a Thursday evening.

Not in Newburyport though. Newburyport does it big.

July 30 was the 54th Annual Yankee Homecoming 10 Mile and 5K Races, held at Newburyport high school. According to the race website, the race began in 1960 with just 30 runners and a course 8 miles long. As the race grew in popularity, the shorter option was added. Jon Pearson has directed the race for the last 32 years.

Friends of mine in Newburyport have run this race for years. Dale Ann Granger-Eckert ran her first Yankee Homecoming race in 2002 when she ran the 5K after she turned 50. Since then she has run the 10 Miler every year since. Her husband, Dale Bob Eckert ran the 5K for the first time in 2001 and joined his wife for the 5K again in 2002. He has also run the 10 Miler every year since, with the exception of 2007, when he walked the 5k while undergoing chemotherapy. “We kinda have to do this since it’s tradition,” he told me. Coming back from an injury, he admitted he was undertrained for this year’s race but of course he will run. His only complaint about the race is that he is disappointed that they don’t serve hot dogs at the end anymore.

I ran this race for the first time last year. Despite a humid evening and achy hamstring, I really enjoyed it. I couldn’t make it back this year, so I asked Dale and Dale for their thoughts on this week’s race. Here is what Dale Ann had to say:

“It was a perfect night for Yankee. 10 miles on a summer evening is tough but the temperature, considering the recent heat waves, was runnable without the humidity.

For locals it is great because you see all your friends and neighbors out cheering along the route. That makes you run a little faster too. It is always like a mini Boston (Marathon) with the crowd support. There was one good neighbor offering sample cups of a local brew early on. You look for the regular cheering stations - the boom box and party about mile 4.5. Lots of music as well as hoses for misting. Crowds were there all along the way. Market Square is always full and there are still people even out by Maudslay State Park. Great race support from the cops and even snack and water still available for those of us coming in with the mosquitoes as the sun goes down."

This year’s race had almost 1300 runners finish the 10 Miler and almost 1900 finish the 5K. Check out the race results here.

The race starts at 6pm, making it necessary to work a half day (or duck out of work early) to make it to the start on time if you are coming from the Boston area or further. Other than that, the Yankee Homecoming 10 Mile and 5K race is a really nice, well organized evening race for the middle of the summer. Consider putting it on your race calendar next summer.

About the author

     Chrissy Horan has been running around Boston and nearby neighborhoods since 2000. An athlete through high school and college, she has found the running community in Boston to More »

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