Manchester City Marathon
26.2 Miles – Manchester, NH
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Team Relay
Every once in awhile, something happens in your life where you realize that your work is worth while. I’ve made it my life’s work and my mission on this earth to inspire as many people as I can. To help as many people as possible realize their own true Human Potential. To help individuals realize that through some of life’s more exceptional experiences, you too can accomplish anything you put your mind to. This past Sunday in Manchester, NH is where some of my work has finally come to fruition. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here again, that in all the work I do, my family tends to be the hardest people to get through to. While I was raised with the belief that you can do anything you put your mind to, I see a flurry of hypocrisy in my genetic relatives that at times leaves me speechless, aggravated and on the verge of giving up my mission. Until this past weekend…

Leg 1: Sibling Motivation
We arrived in Manchester dangerously close to the start of the race. It was my step-mother Helen who suggested first that we run the Relay here as a family team. unsure of if she could run a 6 mile leg and after having not heard form her for her decision, my sister Ann stepped forward to take the spot. My sister Ann who up until today had yet to run further then one and a half miles at any given time previously. She’s never been a runner, isn’t a runner… but she’s stubborn. She has a ton of heart, some motivation, and if anything she has hope. She trained with my nephew Timmy in the months heading into the race, repeating out loud how much she hated running and how much it hurt. Yet this morning as the air is frigidly cold and windy on Elm St, I found her ready to run. hat, gloves, knee brace and a “Why the hell am I doing this.” It was perfect.

I walked with her to the very end of the crowd of people and told her there’d be no pressure back here. We stood around, shivering a bit as the national anthem was sung. Here we were, two siblings, who grew up in this city the son and daughter of blue collar workers just trying to make it… about to run some miles together down memory lane. The race started, we walked across the starting line and then we began to run slowly. It was all about Ann’s pace. We knew we had to average 13.6 min miles over the course of 26.2 miles for our team to finish officially.. our simple goal was to finish the first 10K of the race, at that pace. Ann thought for sure it’d take her 2 hours or more to run the 6 miles. I didn’t care if it took 3…

We ran together down through the mill yard and I pulled every pacing trick I could out of my bag of tricks. I engaged my sister in conversation about anything just to make sure that she was running and running at a pace where she could hold conversation. This conversation pace, is a pace where you can run at a decent clip while still breathing. It’s just below thresh-hold and she knew none of this. At the first hill an ultra-friend of mine, Tammy, and I were yukking it up. She laughed that I was running a hill as she said, “Sherpa you NEVER run the hills,” my sister refused to walk the first hill so.. so did I. We ran as best we could and kept running when we could. Before we knew it, we were at the very tail end of the entire marathon/half marathon field. It was us, a handful of others and the police escort.

My sister kept looking back to apologize to the cop. I kept telling her that the longer it took us the more overtime he got… “Don’t worry about it! Stop apologizing.” We walked when she felt like walking but the further into the run we got and the more the miles began to tick away the more my sister wanted to run. She wanted to run that she almost couldn’t walk. We eventually did walk those hills, but we moved at a good clip. I tried to give her a Powergel Chew, she spit it out in a fit of laughter at how awful it tasted. We looked for Halloween Candy at aid stations.. nothing but water and gatorade. We walked and ran and walked… we picked objects in the distance to run to, we picked objects to walk to. Before we knew it, we were making the turn at Dorrs Pond and out on the trail. My sister, after more then 5 miles of running was finally feeling discomfort but she kept running anyway.

We ran together that last bit on the trail. I can’t describe here or anywhere how proud I was of my sister. There were no excuses, no reason why not, just the belief that she could run 6.2 miles and then here she was at the end of 6.2 miles. Sweaty, breathing heavy, sore legs and hips but smiling from ear to ear and happy. Not only did she make it the first 10K of the race but she did it in 1:16… a far cry from the 2_+ hours she thought it would take. The only problem now was, our crew and her husband weren’t in the transition area. We had arrived way sooner then they had anticipated us to and they were away eating at Dunkin Donuts. My brother-in-law Mike was supposed to run the 2nd leg but since he was no where to be found, I knelt down and took the chip off my sisters ankle and took of running up the hill.

Leg #2: Run Like The Wind
After having run 12ish minute miles with my sister, I knew it was up to Mike and I to pick up the pace, to give Sarah a little cushion with the final leg and to ensure we finish in under 6 hours. So with that, and the chip around my ankle, after having run the first 10K with my sister as a warm-up; I settled into my own threshold pace. This would immediately turn into the greatest game of pac-man I’ve ever played. My sister and I rolled into the transition area as the very last two people to come into the 6.2 mile point of the race… out of EVERYONE. One after another I started to catch people. While some huffed and puffed, I could hear the frustrations of the many runners who felt that they were standing still as compared to my blazing pace. I was now running 7-8 minute miles with my mission to get to the half marathon point in an hour or less.

One after another… and about a hundred or so of that, and I was still feeling great. At first I felt like I was running much too fast, gasping for air, hurting a bit but eventually I settled into a pace around 8 minute miles where I wasn’t breathing heavy. This was around mile 10 where I was trying to maintain a decent clip while also preparing for the final run downhill towards Elm Street. I had worn my Nathan Waist Pack so I had no need to stop in an aid station for water or other. I just focused on what was ahead of me, focused on runners up ahead and then catching them then finding another. This went on and on and on. I lent encouragement to those with their names on the backs of their shirts. I lent encouragement to other relay runners I passed. To those who were walking or stretching I offered gel packs or salt (they all declined). I knew I wasn’t alone out there and every one of these other runners were helping me get the job done quickly and inspiring me.

After topping out on Hanover St. now began the long 2ish mile run downhill back to Elm St. I picked up my pace and let gravity take me downtown. As I made it right down in the heart of the city, the wind picked up and blew in my face almost standing me up but I cut through it. Cheers rang out from both sides of the street. Half Marathoners to the left, Marathon and relay right. I took the hard right onto Elm where I saw my family waiting in the transition area. I ran in, Mike bent down and took the chip off my ankle and put it on his wrist. I took off running with him, “John…. you can stay back if you want.” “Nah, I want to run the whole thing. I’ll run with you.” I thought I’d be pacing him. I was unprepared for what would happen next.

Leg 3: Holy Blazing Tornado!
Mike and I ran over the Merrimack River and into Manchester’s West Side. Up the hill into Manchester’s old “French City With-in a City,” and across Rimmon Heights. We talked along the way about how Ann had done on leg one and then how I tried my best during leg 2. During leg two I had run faster for further then I’d run in the last 2 years of running. I ran the 7 miles back to Elm St in a tiring 1:07. After talking with Mike for a bit I pointed out that if we could keep the pace going we’d give Sarah an excellent cushion and still finish with a great time as a team. That’s all I needed to say. From that moment on I struggled to keep up with Mike. I was expecting to pace him but after the first half of the race, half of that which was faster then I’m used to, I was cooked. Mike began to take off and I struggled to keep up.

As we came to the Kelly St Bridge, Mike took off across the span and I couldn’t keep up. I played it smart and hung back, letting him go. I knew he knew what to do and he was doing it well running a 7:30 min mile on average. I was beyond elated to see this happen. I wasn’t the least bit upset at not being able to keep up because I knew at this point that we were kicking ass. That’s not all, we were running this thing about an hour faster then planned at this point and Mike was running faster then I thought he was capable of over the course of 8 miles. I stopped at a porta-potty for a Sherpa Ritual and when I came out he was nowhere to be seen.

I kept running as best I could. In all the hustle of getting to town and then chasing Mike, my hamstrings were now shot. I mean.. SHOT. It had been a very long time since I’d been in so much pain and I forgot the essential role hamstrings play in our abilities to remain upright. Hunkered forward, I trudged along as best I could to make it to the next transition area. Around St. Anselm’s college I realized I was running next to the News 9 Weather man. “Skarupa” We talked for a few miles while running to the top of St. A’s then I took off down the hill. I ran into the next transition area where I saw Ann and the Kids. They ushered me into the van and we took off to a point on the course about 2.5 miles up.

Leg 4: Sarah
I saw Laura Bleakly round the turn somewhere at Mile 23.6. So I got out of the car knowing that there was no way we were that far ahead. Laura was pacing the 4 hour marathoners to their finish. I got out of the van and sat on the sidewalk trying to stretch out my pained hamstrings. They hurt and hurt bad. After about 10 minutes Mike and Sarah came running down the hill. At the last transition, Mike handed the chip to Sarah and she took off alone. Mike had come in some 15 minutes ahead of me after he blasted his section of the course. He eventually caught Sarah to keep her some company as I was supposed to.

They appeared from off a hill and the three of us ran together. We ran through the last neighborhood on the west side before crossing the new pedestrian bridge back over the Merrimack. Sarah was doing great, running at her own threshold and managing her own race. There was no doubt that she was in charge of her run, running her own race and doing so comfortably and at a good pace. I was so proud of her. We settled into her pace while crossing the river, around Fisher Cats stadium and back up towards Elm. We only walked a few times as Sarah told us she’d run almost the entire way. Sarah has run 4.5 miles before, today’s run was putting her at a personal distance record of 5.1 miles. It was so great that the three of us could run together and then, around the final corner there was Ann and the boys.

The entire family was out here. Sarah, myself and the Robinsons. As we ran the final mile together I was elated. My sister was running with her husband now, trying to keep up with Sarah and I who were trying to keep up with the boys. What a GREAT feeling this was for me. My family had finally gotten it. You CAN do anything you put your mind to and nothing in this world is impossible. We all peeled off to let Sarah run it in. She picked up the pace on Elm St and sprinted across the finish line. Score one for Team Sherpa on This day!

Our team time was 4:21:26.
I managed to run all but 2.5 miles of the race.
We came in 51st out of 67 Relay Teams. Not bad for being dead last at mile 6.
We were 30th out of the 37 Coed Relay Teams.


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