Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top 10 running experiences of 2015

And so we find ourselves at the end of another year, and so it's time to reflect on the best running experiences of the last 365 days.  It was an epic year of running.  365 days of runs. Trail runs.  Beach runs.  Pavement runs.  Three marathons.  Two new PR's.  Over two thousand miles.  There are so many memories from this past year, but here, in no particular order, are my top ten:

When: September 9th
Where: Haddonfield, NJ
Post: They say it's my birthday

My birthday happened to fall on a Wednesday this year.  While we celebrated with friends at my favorite Belgian Tavern in Philly on Saturday, I spent my actual birthday running a very sweaty seven miles with the gang from Who's Up?  Stevie also surprised me by lining up a babysitter and coming along for the run, then presenting me with a cookie cake afterwards. Beer, running, wife, friends, cookie cake, and more beer.  All at the Haddonfield Running Company.  Everything I love in this world all at once.

When: August 10th
Where: South Beach, Miami, Florida
Post: The Raven Run of Miami

I had known about Robert "Raven" Kraft for awhile, the man who has run 8 miles on South Beach every day for the last 40+ years, and on a trip down to meet the in-laws, I finally got my chance to meet and run with him.  He was one of the kindest, most inspiring and most humble men I have ever met, and I sincerely hope I get a chance to run with him again.  Completing the Raven Run also inspired one of my favorite posts I've ever written.

When: April 20th
Where: Boston, MA
Post: Race Recap and Reflections

The Boston Marathon.  Duh.  Years of dreaming finally yielded to reality on April 20th when I became a part of one of the greatest traditions in sports history.  The years of hard work I put in to earn my spot there only made it better.  It was an incredibly tough race on a cold, wet and windy day, but one I will undoubtedly remember for years to come.  Seeing my dad, wife and son at the finish line?  The icing on the cake.  Someday when I am old and my body fails me, I will still remember the roar of the crowd on Boylston Street and what it was like to touch greatness.

When: Halloween
Where: Philadelphia, PA
Post: Race recap

At the end of October I ran the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in Philadelphia, which ended up being one of the most perfect races I have ever done.  It was one of those days that all runners dream about in which everything comes together for a perfect race.  The weather was perfect, the course was flat, my energy and confidence were high and my pace felt effortless for most of the race.  I ended up finishing with a PR by over three minutes, my first PR in the half marathon in over four years.

When: September 27th
Where: Philadelphia
Post: What it's like to run in Popeadelphia

Pope Francis came to town and shut down the entire city for days leading up to his arrival.  I had 18 miles scheduled for Sunday and decided to take advantage of car free streets by running from my front door across the Ben Franklin Bridge, all around Center City, and then back home.  The entire city was one giant militarized playground, and this run was most likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

When: April 6th
Where: Berlin, Germany
Post: The Brandenburg Gate

In April I led a trip for ten of my students to Germany, just as I was heading into the taper for Boston Marathon training.  While in Berlin, I woke up well before my students to run 14 miles around the city.  Training while traveling is always difficult, even more so when leading a bunch of teenagers around a foreign country, and this ended up being the only decent run of the trip.  But it was about as perfect as a solo long run could ever be.  The sun had just come up, there was a spring chill in the air, and I had major tourist attractions completely to myself, including the amazing Brandenburg Gate.

When: August 23rd
Where: Palmerton, PA

At the end of August I completed an item on my running bucket list: run a naked 5k.  I had to drive an hour and a half to get there, and not only did I go through with it and actually run a race in the buff, but I ended up winning the whole thing.  It was certainly one of the stranger and more unique experiences of my running life.

When: March 5th
Where: South Jersey

I ran a lot last winter.  Over 800 miles.  All in preparation for my first Boston Marathon.  But without access to a treadmill, I was forced to do all of my runs outside.  This meant running through some insane winter weather, including one snowstorm that dumped almost a foot of snow on South Jersey.  Running in the snow doesn't make for a terribly efficient training run, but I will take the unsteady footing and cold and wet clothes if it means getting to run through a forest with every last twig covered in snow.  The breathtaking beauty and the otherworldly quiet bring this specific run into the top ten.

When: December 23rd
Where: Atlanta, GA

I was already in the middle of a hellish travel experience on my way down to the Florida Keys for Christmas.  With a mere 15 minutes to make a connecting flight, and with the prospect of spending Christmas Eve alone in Atlanta as a very real consequence, I broke into a dead sprint through the Atlanta Airport and made my flight with a mere two minutes to spare.  It was very clear that were I not a runner, there is no way I would have made that flight, and it was oddly satisfying to see all those  years of training had paid off.

When: May 10th
Where: Cherry Hill, NJ
Post: Finding Neverland Race Report

Stevie and I had technically run one race before this, but we didn't run together during that one, and Neale wasn't even a twinkle in my eye at that point.  This was a first as a family.  It was a poorly organized race, but we stuck together the whole time and stayed for mimosas afterwards.  I loved sharing running with my family, and hope it is the first of more races we complete in the future.

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