2017 Gasparilla Distance Challenge – Tampa, Florida

4 races. 4 T-shirts. 5 freaking medals. 2 days.

Tampa’s Popular Annual Road Race Draws Over 30,000 Runners

Yes, you read that correctly. The 2017 Gasparilla Distance Classic is one of the most unique races in the world which includes a full slate of running events for runners at all levels including 4 races throughout the weekend: 15k and 5k on Saturday, followed by a half marathon and 8k on Sunday.

Runners can sign up for any individual race or they can participate in one of the “challenges” below:
The Michelob Ultra Lime Cactus Challenge – 8k and 15k for a total of 14.2 miles
The Michelob Ultra Amber Challenge – 5k, 15k and Half for a total of 25.5 miles
The Michelob Ultra Challenge aka “The Grand Slam” – includes all four races (which Run4Papa participated in): 5k, 8k, 15k and Half for a total of 30.5 miles over two days!

I had several goals for the weekend: be mentally tough, run alongside my parents in the 5k and 8k races, and most importantly, have fun!

Organized by the Gasparilla Distance Classic Association, over 650,000 runners have participated in this race dating back to 1978. With predawn race starts for the 15k and Half marathon, runners get a stunning sunrise during their morning runs.

I have never run alongside another runner whose goal wasn’t to PR (aka “personal record”), especially on a course like this one which is exceptionally flat and fast. While PR’ing is a fantastic goal, I genuinely preferred this weekend to focus on the race environment, run with family for the cause, collect an absurd amount of bling and eat plenty of carbs!

Below are my key takeaways from running the Michelob Ultra Challenge:
Be friendly and open to conversation – between the race organizers and volunteers, to the runners and supporters, almost everyone I met was happy to be part of this event.
Dress up – Tampa Bay is known as a major pirate town and the entire weekend revolves around this theme. If you love Halloween, this is the costume race weekend for you!

Running alongside my friends who always have the best racing outfits

Hydrate like crazy – the weather was hot, even early in the morning. The break between each race on Saturday and Sunday is enough to give even the most fit runners cramps.
Everyone runs alongside the longest continuous sidewalk in the world – Bayshore Boulevard is a beautiful stretch with an open view of the scenic Hillsborough Bay over the runners’ shoulders in both directions. It is also home to the world’s longest continuous sidewalk so you can impress your friends with this newly discovered tidbit of running information.
Leave extra room in your suitcase  – I never understood people’s obsession with medals until this weekend. I couldn’t help but love crossing the finish line after each race and receiving a NEW medal.
The after party is a must – the post-race celebration is held near the finish line and features live bands, award ceremonies, plenty of beer and a chance to hang out with runners of all levels.

Hanging with MEB! In case you don’t know, he is the 2009 NYC and 2014 Boston marathon winner

  • The Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic runs a world class event – With 30,000 runners, separate start lines and a common finish line, multiple waves, and plenty of water stations, the race organizers don’t miss a pirate beat from start to finish and everything in between.

Crossing the finish line with my mom!

Overall, this race venue offers everything for every type of runner. If you decide to participate in the 2018 Gasparilla Distance Classic, make sure you have a creative running outfit, a neck that can support plenty of bling and a positive attitude to party like a pirate, argh!!!

To see more pictures from this race, click here

Check out the remaining R4P race destinations in 2017

  • April 30th – Oklahoma City Half Marathon (Oklahoma City, OK)
  • May – The Flying Pig Half Marathon (Cincinnati, OH, 6th), Buffalo Half Marathon (Buffalo NY, 28th)
  • June 3rd – Virginia Wine Country Half (Loundin County VA)
  • July – Old Port Half Marathon (Portland Maine, 8th), Mad Half Marathon (Waitsfield, Vermont, 9th)
  • Sept – Philadelphia Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon (16-17), Berlin Marathon (Berlin, Germany, 24th)
  • October 15th – Detroit Press Press Half Marathon (International) Detroit/Canada International, MI
  • November 4-5 – Savanah Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon (Savanah, GA)

2016 Athens Marathon – It All Started Here

The Athens Marathon is like no other on Earth. According to legend, it covers the same ground that the Athenian messenger Philippides ran when he brought news of victory from the battlefield of Marathon 2,500 years ago to announce the Greeks’ defeat over the Persians. As a runner looking to complete the 7-continent marathon challenge (Great Wall of China, Boston, Big 5 in South Africa, Rio, Outback, Antarctica and now Athens), racers run in the very footsteps of the ancient gods and heroes that gave birth to western civilization. The finish line is in Athens’ magnificent Olympic Stadium (more on this later), the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games.

Let’s hire a driver and skip the bus (Miles 0-0), 6:11–7:45 am!

I am superstitious and working on my extreme OCD. I like flying on the left side of a plane, prefer odd-numbered race bibs, eat chicken Alfredo pasta before every marathon, lay out my racing gear the night before, set my alarm clock three times over, and always always ALWAYS take the public transportation provided by the race director. Upon meeting my friends in Athens, they informed me they hired a driver and we would not be taking the runner’s buses in the morning.  My heart sank as they clearly did not know my routine, but I hadn’t seen these guys in 13 years, and I wasn’t about to rock the boat. After being re-routed by the police at almost every turn, we managed to arrive at the runner’s park 15 minutes before our cut-off time. The bus route was 50 minutes long (just saying).

Made it to the start line with my friends Mike and Luke from the UK. Never a doubt!

The Marathon First Originated Here (Miles 1-5), 9:33-10:17 am

5 years ago, I never dreamed of looking to complete the 7-continent marathon challenge. Today, I had the opportunity to come full circle and run side-by-side with my good friend Luke, who was attempting his very first marathon (of all places, right?). The gun went off and we crossed the start line in one of the most famous running spots in the world: Marathon, Greece.

As we began our trek toward Olympic Stadium in Athens, there were kids cheering and standing in the street handing out leaves to runners for good luck. A group of runners dressed as Spartans marched their way along the path stopping at times to wait for one of their pack who had fallen slightly behind. The temperature was a mild 60 degrees and we maintained a steady pace, that is, until we hit Mile 6.

Your standard set of Spartans marching along in perfect synchronization.

Since when does a hill not have a downhill!?! (Miles 6-18), 10:27 am – 1:31 pm

The Athens Marathon is known for its hills. When Luke and I approached Mile 6 (neither of us looked at the race route beforehand #superstitious), we didn’t think it would be another 12 miles before the course leveled out! While the temperature was climbing, so was each mile as we began knocking down one after the other. At Mile 10, we thought we saw the ground level out; however, it was about 500 feet that leveled off (didn’t go down at all), before we resumed our ascent toward Athens.

Despite the never-ending uphill, we crossed mile 13.1 at the 2 ½ hour mark. Considering we had just run/walked the past seven miles, I was pretty happy with the pace, but knew from experience the back half was going to be brutal. At Mile 15, Luke suggested we start skipping to change up the pace (when in Athens). We skipped about 50 feet, and soon saw some very friendly faces cheering us ahead. They were jumping up and down, provided some much anticipated hugs, H20, and of course, captured plenty of pictures.

Left to right: My parents, my good friend Christy, myself, Luke, and Nicky (Luke’s wife) met us after running their own 5K earlier for R4P.

We had one simple question,“Is there a downhill in our near future?

Without hesitation, a local of Athens said, “Yes, right around the corner.” With a huge sigh of relief, Luke and I took off and ran around the corner. To our dismay, it was yet another hill! “LIES” we shouted at one another (half laughing, half in despair).

For the next four miles, we ran/walked up this mammoth of a hill. We saw a man, easily 65 years old, running barefoot in a Spartan outfit! At Mile 16, we saw a pack of bikers on the opposite side of the road cruising along without a care in the world. At 17, bus after bus sped past us carrying dejected runners who were unable to finish due to fatigue, injury or some other ailment. The looks on their faces was sheer motivation to keep running.

Those bikers flew right by us.

Did The Hill Actually End? Not really. (Miles 18-26), 1:31-3:35 pm

Run for a couple minutes, stop, walk, run for a couple mins, stop and walk. We were pretty spent by the time we reached the “top of the hill.” I mean lets be real, it wasn’t the top.  The hill continued going up, leveling off at times, but then continuing its ascent all the same. No wonder Philippides died. Wild guess: he had no water stations set-up every mile during his run, no electrolytes to rejuvenate his body and likely no paramedics rubbing cramping cream on his calves.

At Mile 20, we hobbled into some familiar faces again: our crew who provided us with another much needed lift of energy. We paused to talk, chat and laugh off the insanity of the race and hills.  No matter what race, distance or location, it always helps to see your family and friends cheering you on in multiple spots along the race.

Over the next six miles, Luke and I laughed and talked about life. 20+ years since first meeting as friends in Northern Michigan at Camp Walden, we were running the Athens, Marathon as slightly older friends. With all the aches, pains and mental battles we endured throughout the race, we weren’t going to stop: except to thank the paramedics who were helping us and everyone along the way.

Taking a moment to catch our breath and admire the Philippides sculpture in the heart of Athens.

The Most Epic Finish Line in Running: Olympic Stadium! Mile 26 – 26.2, 3:35-3:39 pm

Words will never do this finish line justice.

The last .2 miles was the culmination of a 7-continent journey that began at the Great Wall of China, which was meant to be a 1-year campaign and nothing more. Along the way, everything changed. I met so many people, families, doctors, researchers and runners. I heard from countless strangers through emails and social media images that all kept supporting this cause from every corner of the globe.

How could I stop?

I ran the Big 5 on an open animal reserve in South Africa. I was stopped at Mile 25.8 in Boston due to the bombings. I fought my way through a monsoon in Rio. I returned to Boston to finish what I started. I pushed through the Red Clay of the Outback and battled the mind-blowing elements in Antarctica. And now, I was entering Olympic Stadium in Athens!

OLYMPIC STADIUM, ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!!!

Running into this iconic stadium built entirely in marble and seeping with centuries of history. This site hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympics in 1896. The stadium is  literally surrounded by marble flights of steps terraced into the contours of a U-shaped structure— splendid in materials but ostentatiously simple in construction technique.

When we crossed the finish line, I felt pure joy. Joy to be alive. Pride to run for this cause, in honor of those who lost their battle and for people who need the help now. Love for my family and friends experiencing this moment near and far. Overwhelmed by the privilege of having the opportunity to run around the world. Determined to keep running until a cure is found.

That’s right, I am nowhere near done, not even close! I have big plans ahead and they involve something even larger and more grandiose than this finish line both on-and-off the race course. To be honest, I am just getting started…

Sweet Justice: 7-Continent Marathon Challenge complete!

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The Hatfield and McCoy Marathon: No Feudin’, Just Running!

The Historic Feud: Family, Honor, Justice, Revenge and a Vicious 26.2


The Hatfields and McCoys. Mere mention of their names stirs up visions of a lawless and unrelenting family feud that would span generations. The Hatfield-McCoy Marathon lived up to its reputation of being the Weather Channels “15 toughest marathons in the world.” Why?

100+ degree temperatures, winding hills for days in the Appalachian Mountains, the historic family feud rivalry that permeates every part of this route as runners crisscross between the Kentucky-West Virginia state lines! Oh, and the option to run a Double Half Marathon was too unique an opportunity to bypass (more on this shortly).

The Choices

Runners had 3 options: a half marathon, a full marathon and what race director Shawn Cool (yes that is his name, and yes, he lives up to the billing) call the Double Half Marathon. You are likely thinking the exact same question I did when I asked Shawn “Is a double half marathon not the same exact thing as a full marathon?” Answer: not exactly. The double half marathon are two back-to-back 13.1 mile races with two separate start and finish lines. The first half marathon starts in Kentucky and runners have 3 hours to finish the race. IF you finish any time before the 3 hour time limit, you earn a break (finish in 2 hours, 30 mins = 30 min rest period).

The second 13.1 miles begins in West Virginia.

Family representatives of the McCoy's and Hatfield;s made it difficult to choose sides!

Family representatives of the McCoy’s and Hatfield;s made it difficult to choose sides!

Round 1 – 13.1 miles, Kentucky, Temp: 65-85 degrees (2:29:21)
This was one of the first races that started with the firing of a real gun…and it was from both the Hatfield and McCoy representatives! We started in Kentucky and made our way through the heart of Feud Country (Miles 1 -6). We ran past the Randolph McCoy home place site and the graveyard where several of the McCoy’s were buried after they were tied to pawpaw trees and shot by the Hatfield’s. Six years later, The New Year’s Night Massacre occurred were the McCoy cabin was surrounded and attacked by Hatfield’s.

After passing these historic sites, you reach Mile 7 and run into the infamous Blackberry Mountain, a mere 30-degree incline spanning a full mile to the top. The elevation of these Appalachian hills are magnificent, and over the next 6 miles, this was a consistent theme with epic views of the countryside.Approaching my first finish line, I crossed into Matewan, West Virginia. With a rare 30-minute break, I assumed this would only be a positive; however, my plan and reality did not exactly match up.

Relaxing for 30 minutes at the halfway point and soaking in the historic scenery

Relaxing for 30 minutes at the halfway point and soaking in the historic scenery

Round 2 – 13.1 miles again, West Virginia, Temp: 85-105 degrees (3:14:30 mins)
I hydrated, stretched, ate several bananas and remained standing in the shade doing everything possible to avoid stiffing and cramping up. As soon as the second half marathon began, I ran 500 feet and felt both calves cramp up. NO! Cramps have followed me all my life in most races, but usually closer to the finish line. With 13.1 ahead, I ran through them and thankfully they went away by Mile 14. Unfortunately, at Mile 17, they returned in full force, but only because of “The Incident.”

After running up and down endless hills through muddy and rocky terrain, I came around a bend to find a woman shrieking on the ground as she held onto her unbelievably cramped calves. She was dehydrated, scared and in cringing pain. She was unable to put any weight on her feet and asked “Can you just carry me up the hill?” I have been in this type of pain before (Mile 24 during the Great Wall of China Marathon) and could empathize. I lifted her onto my back and proceeded to carry her several hundred feet up the muddy hill. Full disclosure, I attempted to film this because I thought it would make an epic video, but she was none too pleased, so I put my phone away and after 30-feet of walking, my calves cramped, and cramped badly! Eventually, we got to the top of the hill and a medical tent was within sight; I never saw her again but assume she received the proper attention.

Over the next 9 miles, I ran alongside rivers, over bridges and through coal mining areas. At Mile 20, I literally paused to get hosed down by some friendly supporters who mentioned the temperature was currently showing 101. At Mile 23, a couple cops were cheering on runners when I decided to stop and grab a picture. Needless to say, they wanted to have a little fun and handcuffed me! They asked which family I supported (we have to choose before the race). I chose McCoy’s because they are a bit more controversial.

After hearing my response, the cop said, “That was the right choice!”

After hearing my response, the cop said, “That was the right choice!”

With a combined time of 5:43:51, I felt that I earned every mile of this challenging race. was beyond exhausted and craving two things: an ice bath and moonshine.

Seeing my McCoy representative waiting at the finish line was pretty invigorating!

Seeing my McCoy representative waiting at the finish line was pretty invigorating!

Red Bull's 8 finisher medals you need in your collection

Red Bull’s 8 finisher medals you need in your collection

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2015 Chicago Marathon

How to Run 26.2 Miles with Leg Cramps

IMG_8486

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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My 2014 Rio Marathon Experience

Racing in the Rain at the Rio Marathon

Receiving the support from my niece Danya before my trip provided an extra incentive during this race.

My one week old niece Danya providing an added boost of encouragement before leaving for Rio.

Considered to be one of the top-guns on the international calendar, the Rio Marathon is host to some of the world’s best athletes as they come together in a bid to soak in the atmosphere of the race as well as of the beautiful city that is Rio de Janeiro. #ComingForYouRio

Standing at the starting line, I knew this would be the fourth continent (previously North America, Africa, and Asia) I could proactively tackle to  run against dementia. Brazil was on my radar for 15 years and having the opportunity to raise dementia awareness on a global stage during the month of the World Cup was too perfect to pass up!

I was anticipating 80+ degree weather with a high level of humidity that spanned a magnificent coastline for 26.2 miles. And like all my prior races, I should stop “presuming” what will happen and just “assume” that it will play out in an unexpected fashion. You know, like running in a never-ending monsoon with 25 m.p.h. winds! But hey, this is Rio baby, and they aren’t postponing the race and I am not stopping until my feet travel 138,336 feet across that finish line.

 Coastline Scenery for Days (Miles 1-6)

Temperature: 75 degrees, slight humidity, sporadic drizzling rain, and a comfortable breeze off the ocean
Conditions: borderline ideal

With approximately 10,000 runners eager for the 26.2 miles ahead, I was reviewing my mental checklist: Take in the scenery. Feed off the endless amount of supporters. Capture photos and video footage. Hydrate, hydrate, hyrdrate. Cross the finish line. Celebrate until you can’t stand anymore.

The gun sounded and my good buddy Adam and I took off through the streets of Rio along the coastline. For the first two miles, my body felt stiff and my right leg felt unusually tense. However, as soon as we rounded the corner of mile three, my muscles relaxed my mind and body were synced for whatever challenges would present themselves along the way.

I was snapping pictures, sprinting for video shots, and living in the moment, something we rarely do in life. Since we were 15 miles from the the heart of downtown, I figured the beginning stage would have a minimal amount of supporters. In fact, for the first six miles, there was no one. Not one single person which was especially strange and slightly eerie for me since I never listen to music when I run. I feed off the crowd. The Brazilians would “presumably” be staggered further down the course amped up and encouraging runners like they had done for weeks on end for their Brazilian soccer team during the World Cup.

Taking a moment to enjoy the moment of running along the coast of Rio.

Taking a moment to enjoy running along the coast of Rio.

Where is Everybody? (Miles 7 – 13.1)

Temperature: 65 degrees, 10 m.p.h. winds, constant drizzle
Conditions: manageable
Supporters: nowhere to be found

With the winds picking up and the rain starting to fall consistently, I realized that we weren’t going to see anyone in the near future besides the volunteers passing out water and Gatorade every other mile. Maybe the people of Brazil had World Cup burnout or possibly they had an exceptionally strong night of partying. While not likely, maybe zombies had taken over Rio and we were running directly into harms way.

From my experience, the one thing that remains consistent in marathons is that conditions always vary, mental hurdles need to be overcome, and expect the unexpected at all times.

Death, taxes, and no two marathons are ever alike. Ever.

Watching the Rio Marathon for a safe, warm and dry distance.

Watching the Rio Marathon for a warmer and dryer distance.

Since there were no supporters on the main race route, I decided to venture off the course between 100-500 feet to capture pictures of people watching from afar, playing soccer in the streets, and Brazilian cops who wanted to lend their support to R4P cause.

The Brazilian police lending their faces to support dementia research on a global stage.

The Brazilian police lending their faces to support dementia research on a global stage.

Solitude to Salvation (Miles 13.2 – 20)

Temperature: 55 degrees, 20 m.p.h. winds, pouring rain
Conditions: challenging
Supporters: likely drinking in a warm pub or their home

As I crossed the halfway point, I still had a big smile on my face but it was so strange to have such solitude along the route. The ocean winds suddenly started jumping off the beach and directly into our path as the rain continued to drain harder and harder from the cloudy sky above. As I ran up bridges and through tunnel after tunnel, water was pouring out of my shoes and into streets, but hey, since when is running a marathon ever a walk in the park?

During this 7 mile stretch, I thought about the struggles my “Papa” endured with dementia. He was in such a world of solitude at times. While he could visually appreciate the people surrounding him during family dinners and visits, there was this tangible feeling of isolation due to his inability to communicate and comprehend language with the progression of his dementia.

As we ran along the coastline of Rio, I could tell pretty quickly that my body was feeling unusually good.

Proudly running in honor of my “Papa” and all patients battling against dementia.

And here I was…running in some pretty tumultuous and challenging conditions in Rio, but I thought about my “Papa” and so many other patients and families I have encountered since R4P launched. If they have to battle against dementia day in and day out, I needed to embrace this solitude and put their belief in what this cause is all about on my back. I was more determined than ever to run through this monsoon and push against the sharp winds knocking others off the course and out of the race.

I was not stopping. Not now, maybe not ever again.

Rain, Rain, Here to Stay! (Miles 20 – 26.2)

Temperature: 50 degrees, 25 m.p.h. winds, pounding rain and flooding streets
Conditions: indoor activities would be recommended
Supporters: a family of 10

Things I never thought I would see during a race: ankle deep puddles for hundreds of feet, volunteers abandoning their stations, kids playing soccer in the streets, and supporting gates on each side of the road being tossed around as if someone from above was playfully puppeteer-ing the entire process.

The final six miles were something for the record books. Runners were cold, fatigued and downright mentally broken. My friend Adam was cramping like a madman (something he rarely does). The wind was literally driving me backwards at points. Cars were pulled over on the side of the road because they couldn’t see 10 feet in front of them. But it was all part of the journey. A journey to not just complete 26.2 miles, but to help generate dementia awareness and research around the globe since to the best of my knowledge, dementia isn’t relegated to one city, state, or country.

This race was symbolic of the fight against dementia. I needed to show up. I wanted to say I was here and I refused to give up.  The goal was overcoming these mental hurdles and finding ways to well, find a way. These moments leave a lasting impression long after the race is over. It carries on in the mission of R4P to find a cure for a dementia. These races are always way more than just races to me.

In the overcast distance, I could see Christ the Redeemer welcoming us into Copacabana beach.

In the overcast distance, I could see Christ the Redeemer welcoming us into Copacabana beach.

At points, I was speed walking because it felt like I was exerting double the amount of energy by lifting my soaked running shoes out of the flooding water and into the air. Shockingly, I finally saw some supporters! A family of 10 dancing in the streets and cheering us on at mile 25. More surprising than seeing actual people, I never cramped the entire race, and I ALWAYS cramp!

As I rounded the harbor and made my way toward mile 26, I was jumping up and down like a kid finally allowed to join his friends in recess. Crossing that finish line was going to be worth every step. The lack of supporters only made me mentally stronger.

But that is the journey. That is why I show up. I want to be in the most challenging races on the planet. And when my frigid body took that 138,336 step across the Rio Marathon finish line, I knew that the journey wasn’t anywhere near done. It was a big step in the right direction. One of many to come…

I ran against dementia. I crossed that finish line. I conquered continent #4.

I ran against dementia. I crossed that finish line. I conquered continent #4.

And if I had to do it all over again, I would.

Fortunately, I am looking ahead to running in “the “land down under.” Look out continent #5, R4P and OUR supporters are heading your way!

#R4Paroundtheglobe #Running Against Dementia

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2014 Launch Video – Raising Dementia Awareness on a Global Stage

Fifa World Cup – Running Against Dementia

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Today is the big reveal for the 2014 official campaign video! Dementia is not restricted to a single location. It is a global problem.

My Goal: fund a state of the art brain imaging study to detect potential causes of dementia while people are ALIVE.

The Purpose: detection of dementia at a younger age = developing more effective drugs to fight the disease.

The race: This year, I will be running in Rio de Janiero during the month of the World Cup to raise dementia awareness on a global stage. This will be a prime opportunity to maximize awareness people fighting against dementia.

I need your help!

Join the worldwide fight against dementia and DONATE TODAY: Run4Papa

2014 Time Lapse Group Shot

Dementia is a Global Epidemic/h2>

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I am just an average person trying to create extraordinary things. Marketer by day, runner and fundraiser by night. Inspired by my “papa,” a pediatrician of 50+ years who recently lost his battle to this vicious disease. Do I have a cure…NOT YET. Am I trying to making a difference…YES! •    World Wide Cases 35.6 Million = Worldwide Epidemic •    This number will double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050 •    In 2013, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion (stats provided by the world health organization)

Montage from Start to Finish – 2012

315 Days of Memories

AT LONG LAST! Here is the FINAL R4P montage video of this campaign: a look-back from START to FINISH and everything in between. What exactly can be accomplished in 315 Days? PLENTY!