2015 Chicago Marathon

How to Run 26.2 Miles with Leg Cramps

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On race day, 1.7 million spectators came to watch over 45,000 runners treat themselves to a 26.2-mile tour of diverse cultures, historic buildings and residences, renowned architecture, vibrant murals and the mouth-watering scents of some of the best dining in the world. Known as a “major” in the marathon world (other majors include Berlin Boston, NYC, London, and Tokyo), this unique race takes runners through 29 different neighborhoods in the Windy City.

In past years, runners could participate in the Chicago Marathon on a first come, first serve basis before all 45,000 spots were filled. However, due to increasingly high demand, all interested runners were required to register online and wait until the April 28, 2015  lottery. On the 28th, all registered runners would either receive a confirmation email or the dreaded “wait until next year” notification. After registering, I convinced my good friend at Northwestern Medicine, Kevin, to register. He was one of the first people to listen to my Run4Papa pitch back in August of 2010, and has been advocating for my efforts ever since.

The experiment was set in motion: local Chicagoan + rookie marathon experience = ideal opportunity to run together to raise Alzheimer’s and other related dementia awareness.  Honestly, what where the odds he and I would both win the lottery?

Apparently, 100%…

October 24: Starting Line at Grant Park, 65 degrees, 7:45 – 8:33 am

Like most race days, I tried my best to project a sense of calmness, not just for myself, but also for my first-time rookie marathoner. I kept telling him since April 28, 2015, he was going to finish this race and there would be no other ending then him and I crossing the finish line.  More than anything, I believe that all races are 80% mental, 20% physical. For me, that has always held true…until today.

Kevin and I patiently waited as we inched our way to the start line.

Kevin and I patiently waited as we inched our way to the start line.

Mile 1.5 – State Street, 66 degrees, 8:51 am
Considering it was the middle of October, you might think that the weather would be cold and windy; however, it was 63 degrees and rising! As Kevin and I made our way onto Grand Ave., my parents were cheering us on as we rounded the corner heading toward the historic State Street and the Chicago Theatre. As runners, we feed off that adrenaline shot of support whether it’s at mile 1.5 or 25.5.

IMG_8568Mile 3 – The Loop, 67 degrees, 9:09 am
The spectators of Chicago made their presence known by lining the streets, producing some of the most original signage at a race. One of many benefits to capturing video and pictures of these races for Run4Papa is intentionally taking time to soak in the moment. To complete 26.2 miles is an accomplishment onto its own, but to be able to truly capture the race in its most pure form along the way, is utterly priceless.

Miles 6-12 – Old Town, Lincoln Park & Lakeview, 70 degrees, 9:49-11:07 am
We began to get into a groove. As we passed mile marker after mile marker, we would look at one another, (say nothing), fist bump and carry onward. With almost a quarter of the race completed, we were riding the Chicago heat wave as the temperature rose to 67 degrees. That is, until Mile 12 came along.

Mile 12.1-15 – River North, 73 degrees, 11:07:01-11:51 am
Cramps. Both calves. Seemingly out of nowhere. I have cramped in races before, but NEVER this early.

  • Mile 20 – Boston Marathon on Heartbreak Hill
  • Mile 24 – Great Wall of China Marathon ascending and descending 5,164 steps
  • Mile 25 – The Outback Marathon through mounds of red clay
  • Mile 26.1 – Big 5 Marathon in South Africa on an animal reserve

But those were extreme races and late in the race. Mile 12.1! This was unacceptable. For the next mile, the cramps would come and go, but it didn’t feel like anything serious. At Mile 13, Kevin and I stopped at a medical aid station and I rubbed some extreme cooling gel on my calves. I thought (and hoped) the problem had been rectified.

Mile 15.1, West Loop & Greektown, 77 degrees, 11:51:01 am
Instantly, I could see a huge emotional and psychological lift Kevin received by running alongside his nephews for about .2 miles. He was running strongly and I insisted he not slow down because of my cramps. Initially, he pushed back and said “we will finish this race together.”  From my own experience, when you are running at a quality pace, the last thing you want to do (even if your heart is the right place), is slow down. In order to ensure he kept moving forward, I checked myself into a medical aid station, and wisely, off he ran.

Kevin and I ran into his brother, wife and two adorable nephews.

Kevin and I ran into his brother, wife and two adorable nephews.

Mile 15.5, Medical Tent, 60 degrees (in shade) 11:55 am – 12:10 pm
The medics were not overly complimentary to my situation. They bluntly informed me that my cramps were not going away and that it would be virtually impossible to finish the race with such severe cramping.  Although I have run races all over the world, you never know how your body is going to respond on race day. Today was no exception.

After 15 minutes of treatment, nothing changed besides the fact that I lost 15 minutes of race time. I thanked them for their treatment and advice but my heart would literally have to stop beating before me quitting a race ever becomes a reality.  10+ miles of extreme cramping was now my new reality.

So. Be. It.

Miles 15.5-20, Little Italy, University Village, & Pilsen, 79 degrees, 12:10-1:05 pm
This stretch was a challenging combination of jogging until the cramps became unbearable followed by walking for 30 seconds and then transitioning into a steady jog again. While it was tough running alone, I did have the support of tens of thousands of people I had never met in my lifetime cheering mile after mile. During the time-frame, I saw a war veteran with a prosthetic leg making his way along the course, a fireman running in full gear, and spoke with a man who lost his wife to early onset dementia for several miles. Despite the pain in my legs, there is never a shortage of inspiration along 26.2 miles, and like myself, most runners find a way.

Nothing was going to change from my body’s perspective so I wanted to take full advantage of the experience.

Nothing was going to change from my body’s perspective so I wanted to take full advantage of the experience.

Miles 21-23, Chinatown & Bridgeport, 83 degrees, 1:15-1:45 pm
I do not recall much of this stretch besides the fact that I was hitting a mental wall and my calves were rock solid full of cramps. I tried zoning out (which is something I never do), but the cramps had literally been going on for the past 10 miles and I had over three more to go! As I lifted my feet forward step-by-step, it felt like there were 10-pound weights attached to my ankles; however, when I glanced down, it was just my calves begging me to quit.

Mile 23-26, The Gap, South Commons, 85 degrees, 1:55-2:32 pm
I was exhausted and ready to push through to the finish line. As I gave my parents a final hug, I started to jog until my calves wouldn’t cooperate any longer.  Seconds later, I looked to my left and saw my father. He wasn’t behind the spectator railing, he was walking alongside me! I thought he was trying to give me a quick, emotional boost, but he ended up walking/jogging with me until Mile 26. Those three miles, 47 minutes and 15,840 feet with my father are a priceless memory I will cherish for a lifetime…

Seeing my parents cheering at Mile 23 was a huge emotional lift.

Seeing my parents cheering at Mile 23 was a huge emotional lift.

Mile 26-26.2, Grant Park, 85 degrees, 2:32-2:34:18 pm
My father was calmly asked to get back over to the spectator side of the race and I knew with .2 miles remaining, I was going to finish strong! After battling cramps for the past 13.1 miles, yours truly crossed the finish line at 6:00:48 (15 minutes after my good friend Kevin crossed the line!). While this was not my most impressive finishing time, I felt more proud of this completed effort than many prior races. Admittedly, this race might have been closer to 55% mental, 45% physical, but at the end of the day, I was determined to run against dementia and finish 26.2 miles in the Windy City.

Ice Bath, Château de Connolly, 32 degrees, 4:05-4:15 pm
4 bags of ice, freezing cold water…a perfect end to a long, long day at the Chicago Marathon.

Kevin and I showcasing the bling

Kevin and I showcasing the bling!

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2014 R4P Boston Marathon Race & Teaser Videos

Returning to Boston for Redemption

For the past 371 days, I have gone to bed and woken up thinking of solely returning back to #BostonMarathon and finishing what I started a year ago when I was stopped at mile 25.8 due to the explosions.

What was it like to run the 2014 Boston Marathon? In a word: surreal.

I have never been a part of such an incredible race atmosphere for an entire 26.2 miles where the streets were filled with #BostonStrong spectators from start to finish.

What was it like to run the 2013 & 2014 Boston Marathon?

Boston Strong All Day Long

I woke up every morning and went to bed every night thinking about what happened last year at the Boston Marathon. No matter how much I tried to write about that experience and what I saw, I just couldn’t find the words. I sat in front of my computer night after night with a blank white page and a blinking cursor staring me square in the face. I didn’t know where to begin so I squashed my heartfelt emotion for way too long: 371 days to be exact.

April 15, 2013 – A day I will never forget

IMG_7240I haven’t spoken publicly about my experience in 2013; I barely shared anything with my family and friends. To be honest, I kept to myself for the better part of a year. There were lots of reasons for that but I think the tragedy in Boston and the images I saw near the finish line played a bigger role than I realized. I took time away from work. I became fairly anti-social and knew the direction I was heading wasn’t a positive one. I can own it. I am not proud of it, but that’s what happened. Call it whatever you want, but I will call it short-term depression.

My memories of that day are the following…I loved waking up at 5:30 am, taking the train downtown, and riding the bus to the starting line in Hopkinton. I dreamed of being a spectator at this race. But here I was, in Boston, runner #23041 waiting my turn to cross the start line from corral six. As the gun sounded, I started running my race, capturing video footage with my GoPro Camera and snapping pictures along the way.

IMG_7170I remember running and seeing spectators on both sides of the course for miles on end. I remember seeing a military man running with a 40-pound backpack up a hill at Mile 4. I remember seeing my mom jumping up and down at Mile 12. I remember passing the women of Wellesley and wondering why I didn’t stop for a kiss. I remember a little boy handing me salted pretzel sticks at Mile 20 as I fought my way up Heartbreak Hill. I remember posing with a man at the top of Heartbreak Hill and thinking “I am so happy that I will never have to run this hill again in my life!” I remember stopping at Mile 23 to hug my mom and good friend Adam. I remember being stopped at Mile 25.8 and being told “Your race is over!” by a Boston bomb squad officer. I remember being in denial. I remember people panicking. I remember my cell phone not working for what seemingly felt like hours. I remember finally speaking to my parents and letting them know I was safe. I remember things I wish I didn’t remember near the finish line. I remember walking 10 miles back to my friend’s place since all forms of transportation were halted. I remember thinking about how I stopped at Mile 12 and 23 to take a combined 15-minute break. I remember saying, “I will finish what I started.”

On February 27, 2014 at 9:36 a.m., I remember receiving a golden opportunity to run the 2014 Boston Marathon. Overcome with emotion and excitement, I was in disbelief, but I knew one thing: I was going to be at that finish line!

April 21, 2014 – A race atmosphere like no other

Today, I feeIMG_2208l proud and humbled to be given a second opportunity.
Today, I Run4Papa.
Today, I run for #BostonStrong

Today, I run for the spectators who were at the right place at the wrong time.
Today, I run to honor those who tragically lost their lives.
Today, I run for the countless supporters of all 36,000 fellow marathoners and their causes.
Today, I run because I love life and believe in redemption.
Today, #Weruntogether.

A year ago, I said, “I will finish what I started” and I intended to deliver on that promise.

Wellesley’s

Unlike last year, I barely slept. I closed my eyes at 11:30 pm, and woke up at 2:43, 3:59, 4:22, and 5:41 in the morning. After hopping in the shower, I glanced down at my racing gear and thought to myself, “In 11 hours, I will be celebrating the completion of the Boston Marathon.” Adrenaline was rushing through every vein in my body; and to be fair, it was flowing the second I stepped off the plane in Boston 72 hours ago.

Like a year ago, I took the train toward downtown Boston. But unlike a year ago, people on the train were saying, “Thank you for running. Thank you for coming back. Boston Strong!” People wanted to know if I had a “story.” I smiled and said, “We all have one.”

IMG_2374Taking the bus from downtown to where everything begins in Hopkinton was exhilarating. On any other race day, I would keep to myself, save energy and focus on the mental visualization of 26.2 miles ahead. Nothing was normal about today and I loved it. I was listening and chatting away to everyone on the bus. Everyone had a story and a reason to be in Boston. A man whose dream it was to run Boston finally qualified on his 60th birthday. Twin sisters who came to Boston because they wanted to run together in honor of their friends that couldn’t. A teacher inspired by his class to raise breast cancer awareness; a cancer that took the life of his mother 4 short months before. A guy from Charlotte, North Carolina who was stopped at Mile 25.8 desperately looking to get that piece of his life back on track. The slogan for this year’s Boston Marathon was We Run Together. Boy, was that spot on.

IMG_2233Sitting in the athlete’s village, all I could think about was getting to that start line. I stretched, ate some bananas, drank some water and marched my lanky frame over to Corral 9. My race officially began at 11:11 a.m. as I took my first step across the starting line and ran mile after mile with Boston Strong spectators lining both sides of the streets. From Miles 1-5, it felt like the Tour de France with an estimated 500,000 people cheering 36,000 runners; however,  it felt more like millions. I was being pat on the back as I ran by fans shouting “BOSTON STRONG!” Kids were running for 30-second stretches alongside us. Since I never run with music, this type of atmosphere was beyond stimulating and downright inspiring.

At Mile 8, I stopped to hug my parents along with my good friends Adam and Lauren. What a huge honor it was to share this experience with them. Last year, I heard my dad’s voice crying on the other side of the phone, relieved to finally hear from me approximately two hours after the bombings went off. This year, he was smiling and beaming with pride! After a brief pit stop, I continued running knowing that we would see each other seven miles later. At Mile 10, I came upon a man hobbling pretty badly. Once I read his shirt, I understood: running my 150th marathon with a torn Achilles! Incredible.

IMG_2316Approaching the halfway point, I heard women testing the limits of their vocal cords. This year, I was prepared for the women of Wellesley. While I am not one to kiss and tell, I promise you I didn’t casually run by this quarter mile stretch of screaming women and epic signage! Thank you to those that wanted to give this guy an extra boost, you know who you are!

Mile 13.1, wait, what!?! Already. Two hours in and my race was already half over. I’ve never been overly concerned with time, but this was going way too quickly. What rush was I in? The weather was a comfy 65 degrees and I wanted to slow everything down and absorb this remarkable atmosphere. Plus, I started too quickly and knew my calves were going to catch up with the rest of my body, and not in a pleasant way. At Mile 14.5, I saw my entourage again, despite thinking we missed each other half mile back. This was a massive lift! It’s one thing to hear random people rooting for you, it’s another to have it be your own parents and crew.

Feeding off their energy, I began sprinting as my friend Adam ran side by side for several blocks filming away and capturing all angles of this race for R4P. Between Miles 15-20, I passed a man with a prosthetic leg, a teenager on crutches, and a blind woman with a guide all making their way through the hills of Newton toward Heartbreak Hill. Inspiration mixed with undeniable courage continued lifting those running who were beginning to hit the wall.

IMG_2265And then, the monster of all hills. Heartbreak Hill. A year ago, I never wanted to see this puppy again. This year, I was going to enjoy every step. That’s right. My calves were shot and my body was fairly exhausted but how many people can say they ran Heartbreak Hill twice and actually savored it the second time around? This guy can! And when I reached the top of this grueling hill, I was sad it was done. I closed my eyes and took a couple of minutes to be in the moment. We rarely do that in life…

The next 5 miles were a combination of cramping and a fair amount of people willing runners forward. My body was tired, but I didn’t care. I was in Boston. I had another chance to run this race. I was given another opportunity to finish. And nothing was going to prevent that from happening. I received a text from my team that they were eagerly waiting at Mile 25.2; they were ecstatic when I came jogging to a comfortable halt. Pictures and hugs and pictures and more hugs were being dished out like an all-you-can-eat buffet. I recall saying, “what do you think, keep going or call it a day?”

IMG_1559I remember hearing my parents say, “We are so proud of you! We are so happy to be here with you!

That said it all. It meant everything to have them at this race. Everything.

The last mile was the longest. And it was intentional.

I couldn’t believe a year ago, I was in Boston and so close to the finish line. In fact, as soon as I got to Mile 25.8, I lost it emotionally. At one point, I asked a spectator to capture some raw thoughts on film (the only footage I haven’t seen since returning from Boston). Here I was, back again, but totally ready for redemption through the support of so many people. I was ready to run those .4 miles and cross the 118th Boston Marathon finish line.

Almost 6 hours into the race, Bolyston street was still packed with people cheering at the top of their lungs. You would’ve thought this was the homestretch of the elite men’s and women’s run. I kept propelling forward but ended up gliding from one side of the street to the other. I was high-fiving everyone one I could. I was stopping for pictures and probably had a million watt smile across my face. The man next to me said, “I feel like an Olympian right now.” I don’t know what an Olympic athlete feels like, but I went with it. The last 500 feet seemed to go in slow motion. I had dreamed and obsessed over this moment for 371 days! After 138,336 strides, I dropped to the ground, kissed that famous yellow and blue finish line and pumped my fists in complete exhilaration.

I was no longer a runner, I was a Boston Marathoner!

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Boston Marathon pictures
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MY 2013 Boston Marathon Race Footage – SO CLOSE YET SO FAR

What was it like to run the 2013 Boston Marathon?

I never imagined that I would come up .4 miles short from completing my first Boston Marathon. When the bombings went off, a boston bomb squad officer pulled me aside and said, “Your race is over!”

From a running perspective, I was in denial. I wanted to finish the race and wasn’t thinking clearly as I was sprinting toward the finish life. From a real world perspective, I was thankful to be alive, and sad for all those that were killed and injured in the blasts.

I will never be the same again…

Running the Boston Marathon for $1/Mile

Bill Rodgers, 4-Time Boston Marathon Winner, Supports Run4Papa

Bill Rodgers and I after running together at the the Invest in Others 5K, Chicago, IL

Bill Rodgers and I after running together at the the Invest in Others 5K, Chicago, IL

Would you pledge $1 a mile? What about for 26.2 miles?

My “Papa,” a pediatrician of 50 years, was recently diagnosed with dementia. Since I’ll sleep plenty when I am dead, I figured why not do anything and everything possible to raise awareness for this vicious disease.

I NEED YOUR HELP!

Our Goal: Fund the 1st National dementia speech therapy trial in history!

In exactly 40 days and 40 nights, I will be running the Boston Marathon.

By pledging only $1/mile, you will be supporting An Average Person Doing Extraordinary Things

$1/mile = $26.20

$2/mile = $52.40

$5/mile = $131

$10/mile = $262

Be part of the solution: DONATE NOW

Thank you for your support,

Jason
[email protected]
Running Against Dementia

 

Which location is next for R4P?

Adventure Marathon – 4 Unique Challenges

Spanning the globe, Adventure Marathon’s four challenges take runners to the most beautiful corners of the world. From the Greenlandic ice sheet to the African savannah, from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef, runners will experience challenging courses and stunning scenery.

1,000+ people donate to R4P

Thank you!!!


We want to extend a special thank you to each and everyone who chose to support the R4P campaign this year. It takes a lot of people to make such a wonderful campaign come together, and we are so very appreciative of your generosity. To all the supporters below, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts and our PAPA!

Sincerely,

Jason F. Boschan

 2012 Run4Papa Donors

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