I was excited to attend the Onward Shay event. I had read about it with a column by David Willey, @dwilleyRW, on staff at Runner’s World magazine. I usually read David’s editorial every month. I loved the idea behind Onward Shay. It was to commemorate Shay Hirsch, who passed after an 11 year battle with cancer. Shay was married to George Hirsch, who was worldwide publisher of Runner’s World magazine.
Shay sure sounded like a special lady. I never met her, but everyone at the race and expo that knew her said how special she was and I loved the story on how George and Shay met. She was always looking out for others and she was always with a smile, from what people said. George met her at a race and introduced himself and asked her out. She said no, so he showed up the next day to seek her out and run the marathon with her. I imagine they chatted quite a bit over the course of 3+ hours and she got a Boston qualify running with him. He stepped aside before the finish line as he never registered for the race. The story kinda reminded me of Jim Morrison. He didn’t meet his girl at a race, but said she was “the one” and followed her until she went out with him. Both cases are merely an example of an interested guy that doesn’t want to date online. (Of course dating online didn’t really show up till the late 90’s, and if you watch the show Catfish on MTV, you might not ever want to try it). Not to say nice people aren’t online, just that meeting in a scenario like this is more original.
Also, I might add, a beer was created in the memory of Shay, and The Onward Shay marathon. It’s an IPA entitled “Onward Shay”. It can be found at the Payette Brewing Company, @PayetteBrewing, Boise, ID. Such a radical way to celebrate life, and a fabulous postrace beverage.
It was a clear sunny day on the morning of the race expo. I had taken a few flights to get to Idaho the previous day. It was what I jokingly called, “let’s play a game of how many time changes can I do today and still keep my sense of humor?”. I had worked out of Amsterdam on Friday, landed in Newark at 5:30ish and got flagged in customs getting to my next flight to Minneapolis. I figured if I got held up in customs and didn’t make my flight, then I’ll catch a flight home in the morning and Boise wasn’t in the cards this year. As it turned out, it was.
People ask me about my job and why I do it. I’m a flight attendant with a major carrier and love my job. This race is a prime example of why I fly, to get to fun events when I’m off of work. I joke I don’t fly solely for my health, but the flight benefits sure do come in handy. After work on Friday night, getting into NYC no one can skip security or customs, even as a crew. I did not violate any rules trying to do it coming from Amsterdam, but got “flagged” and sent over for additional screening. I just had to smile and say “sure, go ahead and do the once over”. Friday it was quite entertaining. No one was telling me why I got flagged, just “do what we say and this will all go away”. When I got to the second area, the guy looked at me and laughed and said, “so what is it that you are here for?”. I hardly had the answer. He said he still had to follow rules, too. “All you brought back from Amsterdam was cookies?”. It was a yes, because this trip I was packed to the gills with clothes for Boise and stroopwaffels were all I had room for. He went through both of my bags. When he got to the running shoes he said, “running is every flight attendants choice of exercise isn’t it?”. I laughed and said, “yeah, we try to stay in shape”. The next five minutes were a laugh fest, the guy was asking me why I had laundry pod detergent capsules and self tanner spray. He was african american and said he’d never need self tanner. I said I agreed and he was saving money with not buying it. I got done with the screening and made it through customs.
I got to the flight to Minneapolis and over to the flight to Boise. Given I travel standby, it’s not when you want to go, it’s when there’s a seat available. I was grateful for open seats and an open row in coach. I opted out of food and took the whole row for “coach row crash”.
When I landed in Boise with a car rental reservation but I found out they closed at 11:30 and took off. I was miffed. Given we landed at midnight, this did me no good. The initial company I booked with shouldn’t sell car rentals if they plan to be closed when flights are still landing. All the other counters were open and with no lines. I got by three counters looking for a decent rate. When I went with the last one, the guy said “yeah, they stranded a whole Canadian soccer team last night”. My only response was, “man, that’s worse than this”. Probably the thing that made my night was the kid making the reservation for my rental car said I didn’t look as old as the birth date on my driver’s license. I walked off thinking “well, the other peeps can cut out early anytime they want”. At least their competitors knew how to work.
I got to the race expo. A local at the grocery store gave me directions & it was all within close proximity to downtown. And was trying to iron out the issues with my race number. My relay team was comprised of two others who were paralympic athletes and we were still down one more runner a few weeks ago. I was still looking for the last one when the other two team members said they were injured, and likely not even going to be able to do the race at all. They both ran into issues with sores on their “stumps” while training and needed to pull out to not risk infection. I was disappointed at first, but it’s just one race and I agreed it was the best thing to do. There will be other races, and like I told one teammate, “if you push your injury and still run the race, you might be out of work for a few weeks with infection in your blood which is worse”. No one is going to pay his bills but him. The way I see it, no race is worth sidelining the paycheck. Nowadays, you even have to worry if your insurance will cover your doctor bills.
They couldn’t have been nicer at the race number table. They got my race number and downgraded me to a half marathon and I said I’d try and run at least 7 miles of it. I had no idea what I could do, and knew after mile 9 it would all be mental. The longest distance I had done since the 2003 NYC marathon was 15K, but after that distance, I had no idea what kind of shape I’d be in. I only run 6 miles a week, if that, at low tide at home. I do no formal training for running as I no longer do much racing. I keep about a 8-9 minute pace for that, which is fine by me. I raced a lot of 10K’s in my 30’s and got bored with the schedule it took to get my race times down. I now cross train hard with other forms of cardio (eliptical, bike, swimming and walking). I also work in 2-3 days a week of weight training. I’ve really taken a liking to my cross training, and with my international travel, it fits. I figured I could do two hours of running, because I’ll sometimes spend 2 hours in the gym (one hour for weights, the second for cardio), and I love it as much as I love to eat.
The first athlete I saw at the expo was Amby Burfoot @ambyburf. He’s the ’68 winner of the Boston marathon and an excellent writer. I’d been reading his stuff for years in books and Runner’s World magazine. Probably my most favorite article he wrote was on what it was like to run with the legends like Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter back in the day. Amby went to college with Bill. He said in the article that back in college Bill was usually pulling in from late night honky tonks. (All I could do reading that was laugh). I saw on the expo bulletin board that Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers were going to be speaking and were also selling their books. When I met Bill, all I did was laugh.
Leading Ladies in running were also speaking at the expo. Joan Benoit Samuelson, @JBSamuelson, talked a lot of her training, love of running & challenges she faced in running after a arthroscopic knee fix. She overcame the knee surgery in weeks, won Olympic Gold, & is still a strong runner, completing marathons on a regular basis. I found her story compelling. I was once told I’d never run again after an arthroscopic knee surgery, and though I don’t win Olympics, I still run once a week. (In my case, the doctor gave me the worst case scenario post surgery). My injuries were from going down a flight of stairs the wrong way. The tear in my knee wasn’t healing on it’s own and a scope was recommended. I’m grateful to still be running. Any runner will tell you, getting news you may be out of running is the social equivalent to telling a squirrel not to have nuts, or a literal buzzkill to a party where a DJ prematurely throws a ballad into a 4 song dance jam to a full dance floor. I’m grateful I can still run, I love it that much. I think you get the gist.
Also at the expo, an interesting tip I picked up was from Mary Wittenberg, @marywitt She said to cut out caffeine for a complete week prior to a race, and then have some on race morning. I’m going to try this on my next race day. Sounds like a fun way to get a race going and taking a break from caffeine isn’t a bad idea now and then.
Getting back to Bill. I mentioned I was from Florida and we had the Gate River Run that he should come back and run it. He said in front of Frank Shorter, (without asking Frank), “Frank and I would love to be at the race. I need to beat him you know.”. Just a scream, and I said I didn’t work for the race, but had to support my hometown somehow by mentioning the GRR and would be at the Onward Shay half start line with a Gate River Run shirt on. I mentioned the 70 keg post race too, and that you see friends you haven’t seen in years. Even if you don’t run the race, it’s a blast. Meeting Frank was a pleasure too, as he went to the University of Florida, so we chatted on how the Florida/GA game that was on TV as the expo was going on. I love football, missed all my games this expo, but who cares.
After the conference was over, George Hirsch, @giorgiothon, who helped create the Onward Shay event, took pictures with all of the athletes and some of the locals that were left at the expo. I was unable to chat much with George, but enjoyed meeting him. He still has the passion for the sport. I posted all the pictures on my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages. I headed out to grab dinner afterwards and was dead to the pillow solo at 8 o’clock local time. On the east coast it’s 10 pm, my usual bedtime.
I got to the race and met Keith Hughes. He is the race director for the event and it was a pleasure to meet him. We chatted quickly on how his training was going and how much fun the event was going to be. He mentioned too, the reason there were costumes from the Wizard of Oz was because Shay loved the movie. It was a scream seeing girls that took the time to make blue checkered tights the color of Dorothy’s dress in the movie. My phone went dead and I didn’t get pictures of this, or the ruby sparkled running shoes I saw, but it was a nice touch. The locals really went the extra mile.
There was a short delay in the race start. Normally I would’ve been miffed, but given I needed to find a restroom, it worked out just fine. I made it back before the two minute delay ended and started with everyone else. I’m not sure why there was a delay and didn’t bother to ask later.
The course was flat and scenic. It started raining about mile five and i was thinking, “really mother nature? today?”. If I had any control over the weather, it’d be cool and sunny at all of my races. This race was reminiscent to my very first NYC marathon in ’97. It was a tad rainy then, but I had such a blast. Locals lined the streets all along the course. I was so glad I didn’t have to see a time clock every mile because it just would’ve pissed me off. Back in my “glory days of faster race times” I’d have wanted to see a click at every mile, but this one, no. I knew I was running slower than normal and set my mind to just not stopping until mile 13. At mile 5, Amby was yelling, “Beth, wake up, I’m trying to cheer you on”. I had my headset on, and was jamming to Boston and other rock tunes.
I usually listen to rock, top 40 or R& B, and it keeps me focused. I can tune things out and just focus on what I need to do. It works in the gym too, because I love to chat with friends. IF I had the headset off, I’d never get any weight training done because I’d always be talking. Seeing Amby made my day. Yelling my name in the race and cheering me on like he was to several other runners was very kind.
After I passed the sign for 6 miles, the rain kicked up a bit more. I put my jacket back on and tried not to get wet though I knew it was inevitable. It was nothing but a hydroplane through then next few miles. I felt so good at mile 9, and was on total “runner’s high”. I wish I could bottle and sell the feeling you get when you get a runner’s buzz. It’s practical nirvana. I stayed in the nirvana zone till mile 12. After that, my legs were asking me what the deal was, and, “when are you gonna knock this off?”. One local said at mile 13, “it’s almost over”. Another local said, “I like your jacket”. I was so happy I had ran steadily the whole time without stopping. Even when I grabbed water or the sports drink, I kept going. I didn’t want to hit any walls. It was what I had to do in the ’03 marathon. I set my mind to running 20 miles without stopping and it was “touch and go” afterwards.
It’s best if you can get through the whole distance without stopping, at least for me. I haven’t tried the Jeff Galloway method as of yet, but maybe one day:-). Before entering the race, I even gave myself the option to “DNF”, but didn’t need to. I said from the start of entry, I was there more to mingle and see friends than to run hard and try to set “PR”‘s.
I saw a sign that said 14, and thought I’d taken a wrong turn so I asked a lady standing next to the sign “where’s the finish line for the half?”. She said, “about a quarter mile ahead”. I walked about one minute and then kicked back in for a running finish. The best part to my finish was the announcer yelled “Beth Adair is coming across the line now. She’s from Florida”. They were yelling all of the runner’s names by their race numbers as they crossed the finish. It was a nice touch, and I was happy with a 2:08+ finish. I came across in 3 shirts & 2 pairs of pants that were soaking wet and a jacket unzipped so you could see the @gateriverrunjax shirt. (I wanted to market my area a touch). All of my makeup was off, and of course it was a bad hair day, but such a blast!!
My PR 15k is 1:10, back in yesteryear. My PR half marathon of 1:51 was in 2000 at the Bermuda Half Marathon. A 18 minute difference with no formal training was thrilling. My best finish time in a full marathon was 4:16, at the 1999 @nycmarathon, so the way I see it, it’s 17 years later, and I’m not in a bad place. I was never a Usaim Bolt anyway, haha. I’m grateful for all my miles.
May you all find inspiration from my writing and remember to laugh everyday:-). “Work hard and laugh harder”, I say, and because it’s always worth it:-).
*It is not recommended that you increase weekly mileage by more than 10% per week. Though I enjoyed the half marathon, next time I’ll either train for it, or have a backup relay team:-
pictures from inside expo are from 2016 Onward Shay. Pictures taken outside were from 2017 Onward Shay. In 2016, it rained, & in 2017, I came back to Boise with a pack from my employers, and we had a ball!