May 18, 2013

Live a limitless life. Stephen Bogardo delivers inspiring speech to Marlies staff.

This story is too good not to share.

I’ve included two letters below from my friend and fellow runner, Stephen Bogardo, a seventy-eight year old man I’ve come to idolize for his dedication to running and appetite for life. He sets the example for living outside of your comfort zone, and relishing the chance to prove yourself.

The important thing to note here – one letter was written after last year’s hot Boston marathon and the other was written after last week’s tragic race. Both have great lessons in them. If you read anything, read the paragraph I've highlighted at the end of last year’s letter.

Keep on running.

Boston Reflections – April 18, 2013

Fellow Runners:

It's human nature to view tragic events of great magnitude through the prism of one's own perspective. And that’s how I’ve come to look upon the tragedy in Boston on Patriot's Day this week.

Four times in the last 10 years, I have qualified to run Boston. This time around, though, an injury kept me from even trying to do so again and left me with no choice but to stay home.  Had I made it to that most iconic of all marathons, the chances are good that I would have been a third wave runner with a finishing time of 4:10 or 4:15. The first bomb, you may recall, exploded with 4:09 showing on the race's overhead clock.

As she has done before, my wife would have been waiting for me at the finish line – in an area where, this week, scores of spectators were killed or maimed.

Caught on videotape (and shown countless times on CNN) was a runner knocked to the ground by the force of the blast. It turns out he was 78 years old – my age – and he subsequently did what I would have done in his place. He got up and staggered across the finish line.

Is it any wonder, then, that I find myself thinking, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

This Sunday, I’d like to suggest that we dedicate the first kilometre of our Long Distance run to the victims of Monday's tragedy, not the least of whom were a few who may never run again because of their injuries. Let’s just run in silence along Bloor Street until we reach Old Mill Road.


Boston Marathon Experience – April 16, 2012

Dear Colleagues: 

This message is for everyone who knows me as a fellow runner, coach, or clinic instructor. And it is especially for those among you who went out of your way to wish me well in the Boston Marathon last Monday. You deserve an explanation for my pitifully poor showing in that race – more than six hours from start to finish, as it turned out. So what the hell happened?

The story begins several weeks ago, after I had been diagnosed with both a sports hernia and an enlarged prostate that may require surgery. When informed of the situation, the Boston race organizers were sympathetic, but they still rejected my request to defer my qualifying time from the 2012 to 2013 version of the marathon. 

Ironically, on the Saturday before the race, just such a deferment was offered to any runner who wanted one. The reason was the threat of unseasonably hot weather laying siege to Boston. Exactly 427 people took the offer and opted out of the race. I was not one of them. By then I had come to Boston to get a finisher’s medal and I wasn’t about to leave town without one.

Race day was as hot as expected, with air temperatures that hit 89 degrees Fahrenheit and triple-degree heat shimmering up from the road surfaces along the course. As it happened, more than 4,000 runners who had entered the race did not show up. And of those who actually started, almost 900 failed to finish.

As for me, everything went well through the first half of the race. My split time through 21.1K was 2:17:05 – which extrapolated out to a full marathon finishing time of just over 4:30:00.  This is pretty much what I might have expected, given the weather and my physical condition. But then, within the space of the next 10 or 12K, dehydration and heat exhaustion began to set in. No matter how much I drank, no matter what else I did (ice cubes on the wrists, cold water poured over the head and back, etc.), I simply got more disoriented. Finally, a burly Boston policeman forcibly removed me from the course and into a medical tent on the side of the road. How long was I kept there? 20 minutes? A half-hour? More? Who knows? But I finally pleaded my way back onto the course – which at that point was all that mattered.

I continued moving forward at what might best be described as an agonizingly slow stagger for another half dozen or so kilometres until, with almost precisely a mile to go before the finish line, something totally unexpected happened. A young man in his thirties – someone whom I assume had already completed the race – emerged from the crowd of onlookers and suddenly appeared beside me. He said simply, “Hi, I’m Tim; can you use some encouragement?”

Then he took my hand and proceeded to talk me forward.  It wasn’t what he said so much as how he said it. Quietly, confidently, almost whispering into my ear: “Just keep the wheels moving...All it takes is one foot in front of the other...Only 500 meters to go...You can do this, you know you can” ...all the while jogging closely beside me.

And then an even stranger thing happened. Because I was wearing dark glasses and obviously unsteady on my feet, the crowd must have thought I was blind or otherwise disabled, and that Tim was my guide. At any rate, never in my 77 years on this planet have I heard so many people cheering so loudly just for me.

It was then that Tim disappeared as quietly as he had emerged 10 minutes before.  I never saw him before and may never see him again. But I’ll never forget him.

No sooner did I cross the finish line than I fell into the arms of a couple of race officials.  They put me into a wheel chair, and for the second time that day I found myself on a cot in a medical tent. This time, though, I was in no hurry to leave.

Why didn’t I take the opportunity to defer my qualifying time to next year’s Boston marathon?...Why didn’t I end the heat-induced agony when I first got medical care and heard a nurse tell me I could risk serious injury if I continued?...Why didn’t I just walk off the course when it became apparent that my finishing time would be an embarrassment and that a “DNF” (Did Not Finish) would probably look better next to my name?

These are questions I’ve been asked and have asked myself. The answers lie in the simple truth that the decisions I made on Monday, and the decisions we all make at crucial points in our life, are never made in a vacuum; they are part of a decades-long continuum of decision-making that gradually defines us as the person we are. There are those who strive always to finish what they start, and rest only when they’re finished – and there are those who do neither. Understand that and you’ll appreciate why some who read this will be impressed by my behaviour in Boston, while others will only be puzzled by it.

I’m running again, by the way, and hope to heal the hernia and resolve the matter of the prostate within the next few months. Then I’ll start checking the racing calendar to find out when I’ll be able to qualify again for Boston. Wish me luck.