I just wanted to take a moment to thank anyone and everyone here who has taken a moment or two in the past week to check out my other site: the 69 Love Stories Project. Only one story has been put up so far since it’s a weekly set-up, but it’s been great to have so many people stop by to see what’s going on over there. With online fiction, it’s all about spreading the word so while I love that some people know about the site because of direct reasons, it makes me a little more excited each time somebody comes indirectly, because it means they’ve stumbled upon it, and they’re someone new to the idea.

So if you’ve been by this site for the running or for whatever reason and you’ve clicked your way over to the 69 Love Stories Project, thank you. And if you haven’t – check it out (a new story every Monday).


This past Saturday marked two weeks until National Marathon on March 17th. In keeping with my haphazard running/training plan, I decided to push the boundaries of tapering and went out for one last long run on Sunday, pulling in 17 miles. I had set out for an amorphous 2-number, meaning 20, 22, or 26, depending on how I was feeling (suffice to say my legs felt fatigued and I opted for the shorter distance). I know that all training plans go against pushing the distance this close to the race, but I couldn’t help the need to keep pushing. Part of it is this logic I’ve been operating on for the past month or so. Schedules and traveling kept me locked at 13 miles for quite a while, and that hasn’t been a difficult distance for a long time, but I typically felt tired by the end. So when I got a chance, I did 17. During that run, I felt fine at 13 and was exhausted by 17. A few weeks later I ran 20; felt fine at 17 and exhausted at 20. To which my logic says: now run 23 to feel good at 20 and exhausted by 23, then run 26 to feel good at 23 and exhausted by 26, then for the marathon I’ll feel fine at 26. I know, I know, it doesn’t quite work this way (not this quickly at least), but when the race is coming up and I’m all over the place in training, I figured it couldn’t hurt.

Like I said, the fatigue was in my legs the moment I stepped out the door Sunday morning and I knew it wasn’t going to be 26 or 23 but I thought it could still be 20. I vacillated while between miles 5 and 9 but by the time I got to 10, my muscles felt tired, my knee ached, my leg ached, and I knew it made more sense to be hit a decent number and then rest. So I did that and felt okay with it.

When avoiding lights, my times are still hovering around 8:00 per mile, or just a little over, but factoring in the traffic lights (which do allow a bit of rest though I think they hurt the time more than help) I’m remaining around 8:30 per mile. If I do 8:30 for the marathon, I’ll be ecstatic as it’ll take about 12 minutes off my PR.

For the next week and a half, I’ll do about 7 tonight, probably 10 over the weekend, and then maybe a 5 and a 3 next week before the marathon. I’m so excited for this race – it’s been so long since I’ve run a full – but my sights are already set on the next distance race (not including half-marathons): The North Face Endurance Challenge. I don’t know if I’m looking at the marathon or the 50k, but it’s so close and looks like so much fun

The 69 Love Stories Project

When I began working on this site, I began putting together plans for another WordPress site. This site was meant for the personal: running, food, books, music, whatever (though it’s really been mostly running… whatever). The other WordPress site is meant for my work, the new writing project I’ve been working on. And after spending a bit of time doing prep work on it, it’s finally ready to come alive.

So, please check out The 69 Love Stories Project – the introduction is up there now and the stories will start on Monday, March 5th. I won’t bother you with the details here since you can see them over there. It’s going to be a fun literary experiment, so I hope you can take some time to check it out today and in the future. This is huge to me, so thanks!!

(And yes, the inspiration is from the Magnetic Fields‘ 69 Love Songs).

Keep On Keeping On

Let me be honest here: I have a bad history with blogs. I’ve been known, once or twice in the past, to start a blog, update it a handful of times, and then allow it to die slowly of neglect. It’s less a lack of interest than it is a lack of things to just say; better put, maybe it’s a perceived lack of interest in reading what I’m putting on the blog. How exciting can my training updates be when they mostly consist of distance/time/pace and the mileage that I have left on the year? Is it interesting to hear about if you’re not the one doing the running? I mean, I read the training blogs of other people, don’t I? This blog wasn’t built upon the idea of being simply a recounting of running but sort of became one when I started inviting people who donated to my FundRacing campaign for Back on My Feet (in case y’all forgot, check it out: Mathew Harkins FundRacing Page). Now that that’s coming towards an end – just over two weeks until the National Marathon! – maybe this should fall back to the general running/writing/arts site that it was meant to be. We’ll find out what happens soon enough.

Just to keep up on the running info, I finally managed to squeeze in a 20-miler last weekend and had a better time of it than expected. My total time was 2:48:30, which comes out to a pace of 8:25. Amazingly, I made it through the first 14.5 miles and only hit one red light even though I was on city streets the entire time (Massachusetts to Wisconsin to Western to Connecticut to M Street – if you know DC at all, you know that these are typically busy streets). For this entire time I kept a pace of about 8:06. But once I got to the Mall, I hit every red light and they were all the 30-50 second varieties. I freely admit that I was slowing down, but light after light killed my overall pace. Still, if I ran the full marathon at an 8:30 pace it would come to a 3:42:42 finish time, which would be about 12 minutes faster than my previous PR – so I’m stil keeping fingers fully crossed.

So by the end of of February, I’ve logged 206.28 miles on the year – just barely ahead of the 100 I need to maintain each month in order to hit the 1200-mile goal. February was a big drop-off from January – a decrease of 23.88 miles – but I was sick for a solid week, not to say that’s an excuse. I’m feeling good for March, though, so I anticipate the numbers bouncing back up. Let’s see if I can actually hold my feet to the fire.

Accounting For The Weekend

Last time we got together here, I was assessing my drop off in mileage, realizing that I hadn’t backslid too far, and committing to renewed focus. Let’s examine how the weekend went.

Friday plan: run 10-12 miles. Friday actual: ran just 1.7 with Back on My Feet as I wasn’t feeling all that good.

Saturday plan: run 10-12 miles before hopping the train to NYC for the weekend. Saturday actual: woke to find the dog had been sick all over the kitchen and entry way. Suffice to say, the trip was called off and the run was skipped. In terms of making the best of the weekend staying in DC, Margo and I finally made it to the National Building Museum, which I’ve wanted to visit for months. I expected more general architecture but it focused much more on DC, which was fine. The highlight was the Unbuilt Washington exhibit, which in boiled-down terms is a collection of sketches, designs, and plans for what Washington could have looked like. From a White House in the style of Versailles to a Lincoln Memorial that is a huge pyramid, from a proposed elevated motorway over the Mall to a theoretical expansion of the Mall through Capitol Hill all the way to the Anacostia. Really, really interesting exhibit that anyone in DC should check out.

Sunday plan: run 10-12 miles. Sunday actual: I slept really late. I slept for about 10 hours, maybe close to 11 hours. It felt amazing – I felt so recharged and ready for the world. I would have loved to run Sunday but the day just got away. I went hunting for some medicine for the dog, we spent a while in Georgetown picking up an iPad for Margo (hopefully completing Xmas shopping, provided it doesn’t get returned like the Kindle), and by time we got home, we only had about 30 minutes before heading back out to meet friends for dinner. So, Sunday was fun but it was still a failure in terms of running.

Monday plan: run 10-12 miles. Monday actual: I have less of a reason for missing the run today. We had a number of small things going on, but if I planned better I could have batched them into one end of the day. Up until late afternoon I was planning to head out after taking the dog to the vet, but instead of being at 5, his appointment ended up being at 5:45, which meant I didn’t get home until 6:40. I could have still run but by then it was dark, getting cold, and I didn’t want to waste my time with a 45-minute run; I wanted to go longer. So, Monday was a bust.

Tuesday plan: run 10-12 miles. Tuesday actual: holy moley, I finally made it. Admittedly, I didn’t make it out at 6am as I had planned but I woke up at 6:20 at felt like it needed to happen. I knew I couldn’t do it tonight – there’s a Back on My Feet happy hour that I don’t plan on missing – so instead my schedule got shifted around a bit and my feet hit the pavement at 8am. 12.6 miles in 1:42:13. I would’ve liked to have done it a bit faster but I sort of forgot the rolling hills of 16th Street and it was a straight out-and-back on 16th, 6.3 miles each way. But the time isn’t important – I feel so good to have gotten out this morning, I feel great now, this reset my per-day mileage to 3.29 even though it had slid back pretty far over the weekend, and I feel like I’m more behind on work than I actually am, so I’m getting more done than I would have otherwise.

This may turn out to be a good day.

Since Those Hectic Few Days…

As much fun as I was having getting into the groove of longer runs and runs piling atop one another, I’ve somehow fallen back off the running wagon the past few days. Barring a Wednesday Back on My Feet run, I haven’t laced up since Saturday morning. I’m chalking it up to a lot of miles and only a little sleep for a few days in row coming together to sort of knock me out. I’m in one of those stretches where it doesn’t matter whether I go to sleep at 10:30 or 12:30, or wake up at 5:00 or 7:30, I feel the same lingering tiredness. I’ve been trying to get to bed early this week (twice before 11pm) and hopefully by next week I’ll be feeling a return to normalcy. Meanwhile, those runs. I was hoping for 12 miles tonight but something on the inside of my left thigh has been sore all day, enough to make me a little limpy, so I decided to hold off until tomorrow morning. I’ll make it to the Back on My Feet run at 5:45, which should be over by 6:30/6:45, and then I’ll be able to squeeze in a quick 10 or 12 miles before starting the rest of the day.

I had good total mileage in January and I hate to see myself backsliding but if the body needs a little rest, then I’ll offer it a little rest. I did the math and I’ve still let to slide past the initial miles-per-day necessary for the 1200; skipping today took me back to 3.29, which is where this started and I think a good cue to get back on it.

Virginia Is For Lovers 14k

This past weekend, I drove down to Virginia Beach to visit some family and to run the Virginia Is For Lovers 14k on Saturday morning. Coming off the heels of the two days before, little sleep, and five hours in the car, I didn’t expect to do so well, but my father had flown down as well to visit my aunt and we figured we’d just have some fun. I ended up finishing the race in 1:04:33, averaging around 7:30 per mile, and feeling really good about it. 7:30 isn’t my best pace, but it was much better than I expected. Even my dad did better than he anticipated, coming in with a pace around 10:15 per mile. The temperature was in the upper-40s, the sky alternated between cloudy and sunny, there was only a little wind towards the end, and the course was relatively flat. Race conditions really couldn’t have been better and it made for a great race.

I’m often happy with but never amazed by the organizers of races but they kept up the good feelings. Beer and tacos were waiting just past the finish line along with the usual water, Gatorade, bananas, etc. Bag check was easy to get to, the finisher medals were surprisingly nice (especially as it wasn’t even a half), and the parking was organized, orderly, and easy to exit out of at the end. I’ll always recommend races for the cities or the courses but this is the first one that I’ll push on organization alone. It’s a little too far for most people out of DC, but if you have any friends or family in the area, this makes for a good opportunity to visit.

And I came in 171 out of 2800 or something like that – and I will always push races where I kick ass.

Finally, A Long Run

Holy moly – where have I been – and if nobody’s looking for you, are you missing?

The training has had ups and downs this past week and by ups, I mean that I’ve been running and by downs, I mean that I haven’t been.

Last Thursday – a full week ago – I finally fit in a run that went past the half-marathon mark. For reasons of scheduling and sickness, I had a number of 12/12.5-mile runs under my belt but nothing longer and it was beginning to worry me in terms of training. So I cleared the calendar last week, gave myself a few hours on Thursday evening, mapped out a 17-miler, and hit the road at 4:30pm.

I’ve run plenty of 17-mile and longer runs in my past, but Europe was all about half-marathons, so it’s been a few years. I can now report that the excitement of setting out on the long run remains the same and the sense of complete exhaustion and emptiness also remains the same. I strung together two runs – one that goes north through the streets of DC and one that runs the length of the National Mall. Streets came first, Mall second. I felt great on the streets and was maintaining a pace a little above 8:00 per mile and that included the stop lights I got caught at. This portion of the run accounted for about 2/3 of the run and there is something exhilarating about running on city streets that helps you maintain pace or even increase pace. Sprinting to make lights, dashing past people coming out of the Metro, dodging cars; it’s exciting, it keeps you very focused on the road ahead, and it doesn’t allow you to get too bogged down in thoughts about how you’re feeling.

Cut to the Mall. By now it’s dark out, it’s getting colder, there are much fewer people, I’m on the back third of the run, and all I have are my thoughts and my body. Which is to say that my pace dropped quite a bit (though I did get stuck at a few long lights) and I started to feel every ache and lightening bolt in my body. Do you know that point in running? Have you been to that place where it’s not hydration or energy or breathing but just this rebellion from the muscles inside? Well, I didn’t get to full on rebellion, but it was getting pretty tiresome by the end. By the time I got home, my calves were so shot that all I could do was lay on the floor with my legs held in the air because the slightest pressure on them led to plenty of pain. That passed in a few hours and by the end of the night, I was very tired but very happy to have gotten that run in.

What was not a smart idea was getting to bed at 11:45 and then waking up the next morning at 4:30 to run with Back on My Feet. Sometimes I wonder which side I support more in the battle of Hubris versus Stupidity. To finally get in this long run and then wake after only a few hours to sleep so that I could run again in less than 12 hours was not the smartest thing I’ve done. The run was fine but I was completely exhausted for the entirety of the day, and that day included 4.5 hours to Virginia Beach to visit family and wake up early on Saturday for a race. I give this point to Hubris and I’ll save the race for the next post (which is coming in a few minutes since I’m playing catch-up here)

Back To Running

A combination of travelling and a lingering cold that manifested itself as a persistant cough kept me off running for eight days straight. It’s been a long time since I’ve been a proper running schedule so I had forgotten how anxious and antsy I can become when I’m forced off the road. Like any addiction, it gets under your skin and starts making you jump, it wants you to compromise your well being in order to feed it, it pushes you, tells you to go against your better judgement. I finally made it out for a run last night (9.07 miles) and I just wanted to push faster, more miles, more hills – luckily I was with my running group and it kept me in check, for the best since the effort did leave me a little ‘coughy’ today.

My last run, January 29th, had been a 10-miler that brought me down to needing to run 3.23 miles per day to reach my goal – all this time off has caused me to backslide to 3.30, though yesterday brought me back to 3.28. One month and ten days until the marathon… I’m not worried yet.