Twenty-Four Years to Boston Featured Spotlight Ad in PhillyFit

Twenty-four Years to Boston, the story about a blue-collar runner’s journey from the streets of Philadelphia to the Boston Marathon, is featured this month in a Spotlight Ad in PhillyFit Magazine’s website.

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Initially released in print, my memoir is now available as an eBook at Amazon Kindle Store and Barnes & Noble Nook Books.

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“If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angles.” – Tennessee WilliamsScreen Shot 2015-02-08 at 8.16.19 AM

How I run is how I write, and visa versa. When either my running or writing is off kilter, the other follows the same pattern. When the prose flow onto the page, I go for an afternoon or evening run that oftentimes exceeds my planned distance, at times stretching into the dark. And when I run like my feet no longer touch the ground my imagination is most fertile and stories appear out of thin air.

Neither are working particularly well at the moment. I am writing every day, and running most days, but both are sluggish, which sucks. I sat wondering why I’m struggling with my novel, and it hit me. The ultra marathon I ran less than two weeks ago sapped more from my body and spirit than I realized. I suppose I’m guilty of expecting to too much of my body too soon after a forty-mile drain, like an equestrian getting back on the horse instantly after a hard fall. My bad.

There are no magic formulas, no silver bullet, to getting yourself on track with your life when you are in a funk. There are no Five Steps, Seven Habits, or The Twelve Step programs that will help until you get up off your ass and take the first step. Books, classes or seminars will get you nowhere until you get up off your duff and go. It’s that simple.

So I’ve decided to switch horses–to the iron horse. I’m a cross-training advocate. I was in the best condition of my life a few years ago when I was cycling with a buddy who goes by the name of Dan-the-Bike. We’d take 40 and 50-mile jaunts on the steep hills in Bucks County, PA, and then I’d take a long run later in the day. Time to brush the dust of the bike and start cycling. Experience tells me that everything else will fall into place once I get going–the running and the writing.

It’s not alway easy, but when you get into a funk, get moving. That first step will build momentum to a second, and then a third. You will see results and your spirit will lift. Sometimes you might consider switching gears. If you are a runner, try cycling, stair-climbing, walking, even yoga. If you are a writer, try taking a class to push yourself, a workshop, or write poetry, even if you’re not a poet. The important thing is–work through it and bust the funk!Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 4.58.05 PM


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“I’ve found that there is always some beauty left–in nature, sunshine, freedom, in yourself; these can all help you.” – Anne Frank

Sometimes finishing is all you can say about something you had done–a book you read that you didn’t particularly care for, a project you undertook with enthusiasm that didn’t quite turn out to be what you’d envisioned, or perhaps a story you wrote that wasn’t as exciting as you thought it would be.

That’s how I feel about my first 40-mile ultra-marathon. I finished. My time was embarrassing, I suffered the final ten miles, and I sit here writing this feeling like a tractor-trailer ran over me.

But there must be something gained by finishing, mustn’t there? If you put your time and effort into something–you sweat, labor, dedicate your time to an endeavor–there must be some measure of a reward. Perhaps the reward is knowing that you stuck it out, didn’t give up, didn’t drop the ball, saw it through to the bitter end. Conversely, if you abandoned the project you certainly wouldn’t have the same sense of accomplishment.

So perhaps finishing is its own reward.

The Naked Bavarian ultra-marathon course around Blue Marsh Lake, Leesport, PA

The Naked Bavarian ultra-marathon course around Blue Marsh Lake, Leesport, PA

When I came in dead last at the end of the day I thanked the race organizers for hanging around, even keeping up the finish banner, clock and all of the equipment. Under the pavilion the grill was still on and they saved some hot pasta, German potato pancakes, and strudel for me. They seemed to take great joy in watching me eat. I sat eating and thinking about the 20-mile loop course, which was scenic and beautiful, and then complemented them on a fine race.

And then something unexpected happened. I heard a woman’s voice. “Here, we have something for you.”

I looked up at a smiling young woman with her arm extended and a white box in her hand.

“You won your age group.”

When I was a young runner, a time my competitive genes fired on all cylinders, I always admired the “Old-timers” who’d come out and compete. Apparently, I am now one of them. Where did the time go?

Simply finishing isn’t so bad after all.


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Watching Clyde

“Treatment comes from outside of you; healing comes from within.” – Andrew Weil

Clyde and his sitter.

Clyde and his sitter.

Jimmy, my firstborn, called the other day and asked if I could watch Clyde this weekend. I never pass up an opportunity to spend time with any of my grand-dogs, plus Clyde and my Golden Bella are buds. Nervous, slightly paranoid, part pit/black lab/and who-knows-what else, Clyde is a sweetie. Just before I hung up the phone I remembered, “I won’t be around on Sunday.”

“Where are you going?” Jimmy asked.

“I registered for an ultra-marathon that was snowed out early this month and rescheduled to this Sunday.”

There you go. Over the past two months I’d written about my Mom, the Rocky movie Creed, ice running, the World Trade Center and aging, and I overlooked a 40-mile ultra-marathon. And this is supposed to be a running blog!

I remember following some ridiculously brutal training regimens for my early marathons that would leave me injured on race day. I’d toe the starting line with aching knees, sore feet and a stiff neck, and then suffer for 26.2 miles.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I got smarter with age, but I have learned to go with what my body gives me. After I qualified and ran Boston in 2005, I made a pact with myself that from then on I would run simply for the joy of running. That’s not to say that my competitive gene doesn’t throb every now and then and I try to outdo myself, but I’ve learned to let my body have a say in whether it’s a good or bad idea.

“Are you ready for it,” Jimmy asked, referring to the race.

“No. Not at all.” There was silence. “But don’t worry, I’ll finish.” I’m also a hard head.IMG_0806.JPG

As running bloggers go, I’m probably inept, but I’m okay with that. As long as I feel good about what I write, the rest will take care of itself.

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All the World is a Stage

“How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.” – Annie DillardScreen Shot 2015-03-25 at 4.58.05 PM

After two weeks on the movie set of Creed, the latest in the Rocky saga, I write with a fresh perspective, a view that all the world is a stage. I’ve played a lot of roles in my life–welder, analyst, manager, father, coach, grandfather, and now a soccer hooligan and boxing fan in a stadium rooting for Pretty Ricky Conian from Liverpool. You might see my mug in the movie when it is released in November; you might not. That decision will be made in the editing room. Regardless, the experience was energizing, enlightening and fun.

Studying talented young director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) and lead actor Michael B. Jordon (also Fruitvale Station) conduct their daily routine made one thing perfectly clear–we are all actors on the stage of life. The two of them went about their work focused, even while surrounded by cameramen, writers, sound people, coaches, supporting actors, and one thousand stand-ins. Their energy and commitment were a testament to the love of their profession and the art they create.

Whatever roll you play in life–friend, artist, athlete, trainer, teacher, musician, parent, or equestrian–is an opportunity to express yourself. Sometimes your daily routine can become tedious or mundane, that is the time to bear down, focus and work a little harder. The most important thing is to do your best work every time you perform. You might not think you have an audience, but someone is always watching. It could be a passerby, a veteran, a rabbi, a homeless person, or some directionless, impressionable kid who sees you earnestly landscaping the front of a property with determination and a smile on your face and thinks, Hey, that’s a gig I could do.

Don’t take what you do lightly. After all, the way you spend your days is the way you spend your life.Quill-Pen Mini

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Time to Live

“Any day you wake up on this side of the earth is a good day.” – unknown

A friend of mine likes to say that any day he wakes on this side of the earth is a good day. Can’t argue with that logic. We all go through loss–parents, friends, relatives, co-workers, even people who annoy us. Loss is part of life. But as long as you are on this side of the earth it’s time to get on with the business of living. And the closer your relationship with the person you lost, the more you owe it to them to live the fullest life possible.

photoIn the past year I’ve lost my Mom and one of my closest friends. Both of them would be disappointed (actually they’d be pissed-off) if I wasted time grieving, so I carry their memory with me when I go about my daily business. They are with me on long runs through the trails of the Wissahickon with my Golden, when I’m writing an article for a literary journal, or when I’m throwing my grandkids on the bed and jumping on them during a WWF-style Texas Death Match, even when I’m sipping a Guinness. That’s the way they’d want it, so that’s the way it will be.

Loss is a part of life. Loss is a reminder to keep on living. If you are reading this you are on the upside, so get on with it. Live!photo

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Man Plans and God Laughs II

“Many plans and God laughs.” – anonymous

Billy Solo - Hawk MtSaturday morning is the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb in downtown Philadelphia. I started training with a group early this year in a high-rise office building in center city to prepare for the 100-floor Century climb. I would climb in the memory of my buddy Billy who lost his battle with lung cancer last year at the young age of fifty-eight. Billy’s daughter Kristin organized the team to raise money for lung cancer research.

Mom passed away this week. Instead of climbing for Billy I’ll be sitting in church at Mom’s funeral and then celebrating her full and vibrant ninety-two year life at a reception after her burial.

photo“Man plans, and God laughs.” You have to have a plan. Just as important is to accept that life happens and sometimes your plan isn’t what is best for you, regardless what you think. We like to hold on to the familiar. What is familiar is safe. Learn to let go. Letting go opens a world of possibilities.

Saturday I’ll toast Mom’s life with family and friends while I’m climbing for Billy in spirit.

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