Dear Friends and Family,

I'd like to share a bit of my story and the reason why I choose to raise money for the Sharon Timlin Memorial Race to Cure ALS now. My story is likely not unique, but one that I hope gives pause, if nothing else.
 
Who I am:

I am a Brookline resident. I live on mile 24 of the Boston Marathon route, which has been both a tease and a motivation for me to become a marathoner. I've now run four marathons and countless shorter distant road races. I've always rejoiced in Boston's precious Patriot's Day, cheered on the runners who passed by my house and walked away from the course each year wishing I qualified for it myself. I've missed BQing twice by about 10 minutes each time.
 
I am a runner. I've run since I was 12 years old, when I needed a recreational outlet in school and quickly found it in cross-country. I didn't see myself as a potential marathoner until I moved to Boston in 1999, and watched my first Boston Marathon run by my office in Newton. That changed my life.
 
Most importantly, I am a mother, wife and daughter. I thought life couldn't get any happier when I married my husband. Then we met our daughter. We cherish every moment we have with her, and now I understand why my mother cares so much about what I'm up to even though we live on opposite sides of the country. I will never not worry about my daughter, for as long as I live. I hope I never take a second of my time with my family for granted.
 
Where I was:
 
April 15, 2013 was a dark day for Boston, the running community and humanity in general. I was cheering at mile 24 when the bombs hit. I stayed there waiting for a friend to pass, blissfully unaware, for another 20 minutes before the police started directing all spectators away without explanation. When I arrived to my door, a neighbor told me bombs had hit the finish line. 'What?' I had my daughter in my arms. 'Bombs?' All I could think about was protecting her and reaching my husband, who was on his way home from California. I ran into our apartment only to crumble to the floor. I didn't want to turn on the TV. I didn't want to know what happened. Then I did. I saw. I learned. I shook and cried, clutching my daughter the whole time.
 
When I started to process the news, over an hour later, my first reaction was we could have been there. I had been spectating at the finish line in years prior. My office was a block passed the finish line on the same side of the street as the bombs. Had I not been recently laid off, conveniently just for the weeks before and after the bombing, I may have been out there watching the race at that very spot. If I'd run the race, my husband and daughter could have been there waiting for me to cross the finish line. I couldn't think about it. But for others not so lucky - they couldn't escape that reality.
 
Then I became angry and driven. I thought I will run it. I will do everything I can to protect my family and all that I love - the joy of a spring day, the innocence of a wonderful event, the spirit of all the runners and amazing spectators, our ability to just live and enjoy life, precious as it is.
 
Precious as it is.

What I'm running for:

Up until about 2 years ago, when both of my grandparents passed away within weeks of one another, I'd only lost one person I loved and cared for. My godfather Bernie, a close family friend who I affectionately called Uncle Pete, was taken away viciously when I was just a teenager. His killer was ALS.

Uncle Pete was more like family than godfamily. My parents had divorced when I was 5 years old, and my Uncle Pete lived only 10 minutes from my home with my mom. We saw him often. I always loved visiting him because he would talk baseball, make fun fruit juices and let me run loose around the property with his pet dogs.

We saw him even more when I was in high school, when my mom quit her job to take care of him. ALS had begun ravaging his body though his mind stayed sharp as a tack. I remember he used to play Scrabble with my mom. While he played, he would smoke and the cigarettes would burn down and blacken his fingers before he'd let my mom help him put it out. He was stubborn. He didn't want help. He didn't want to give in.

But he lost the battle.

The night he died, I had driven straight to his house in NY from my college in Rhode Island. I had just finished my first semester, and I was leaving in a blizzard. I made it home in time, both to barely beat the worst of the storm and to say goodbye. Once I got inside, tired and terrified of what was to come, I pulled up a cot near his bedside, where my mom and his family had gathered. I fell asleep around 11 pm. Just a couple of hours later, in the darkest hours of the night and the heaviest of the storm, I woke suddenly. I heard my mom crying, saying, "Go, Bernie, go." I ran to his side and watched him take his last breaths. He was suffering. His lungs weren't working any more. His eye lids could no longer blink. He finally took one last breath. The terror was finally over, after more than two years of suffering.

Devastation was immediate and immense. I had not only watched a relative die in front of me, but it was my Uncle Pete. He was closer to me than my own father. I'd never forget this moment. I'd never take life for granted.

Though I know at times I have. Marathon Monday was my cruel, stark reminder.

Life is too short. We have to recognize and fight the terrorists all around us, whether they be cowardly people that shred all that is good, or invisible beasts that ravage our hearts, minds and bodies. We have to cherish all that is good in this world.

So this I promise:

I will love my home.

I will love my community.

I will love my family.

I will love my life.

I will fight to protect and cherish all that is good and right, and one day I will make my daughter proud to call me her mom. With a little luck, some hard work and a lot of hope, just maybe we can all help defeat the terrorists around us and within.

Thank you for supporting my cause.

Love,
Robyn

 
 
You get to experience this first hand...
 
 
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What long distance runner wouldn't want to run a marathon in Rome, Italy? I couldn't imagine a much more interesting or scenic place to run a marathon. I dreamt about it for a year in my sleep and on my long runs, from the time I signed up! But after running the Rome Marathon on March 17, 2013, I think it's got a ways to being considered an undeniably awesome marathon experience.

Before I get into some of the gory details, I have quite a few reasons why the Rome Marathon (Maratona di Roma) IS a marathon to put on your bucket list.


Rome Marathon 2013: The Good

1. The communication: This year's race was to be held under highly unique circumstances - the changing of the Pope. Religious ceremonies in Rome could interfere with the course and start time - pushing it possibly as late as 4pm on race day. The race organizers updated its marathon running community at least once daily, whether news from the Vatican was available or not. They also confirmed the race date as soon as possible. I can't say how much that was appreciated considering my family's travel schedule. In the end, the race went off at 9:30 with a relatively minor course adjustment - not bad at all. My sanity stayed intact all along thanks to the extensive communication. Thank you for that Rome Marathon organizers!

2. The aid stations: Holy cow, the Rome Marathon organizers set a high bar here. Every marathon should follow their lead. The frequency and quality of the aid stations was like none other I'd experienced in any race before. The first few started with water, later to be followed by water with "salts" (gatorade) and "solids" (sliced oranges, bananas, apples and biscuits). Seriously every aid station after the first few miles had that wonderful plethora of food and beverage. In between those stations, you had sponge stations. By the end of the race I was so highly fueled and hydrated that I ran negative splits and my last .2 at a 6:30 pace. I should note I wasn't running this race for anything close to PR - purely a get-back-to-marathoning-after-having-a-baby goal - but still!

3. The starting line, Tiber and last 6 miles of scenery: Wow. That's all I can say. You're running next to the freaking Colloseum, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Tiber River, etc. etc. It an awesome place to experience - even cooler to finish the race to the sounds of "Gladiator" music tracks while viewing the Colloseum directly ahead of you. 

Rome Marathon 2013: The Bad

1. The sheer lack of spectators and entertainment: Really, Rome? There's no one in your amazing city that is kind enough or interested enough to cheer on thousands of people who spent hours, days, weeks and months of their lives training to run a marathon? I've never seen such an empty finish line. If not for the music playing over loud speakers it would have been silent! Now, there were quite a few spectators at the start, along the river and at some points around the major tourist sites, which was so greatly appreciated, but overall Rome has to do a much better job of a) supporting its runners or b) adding a lot more entertainment to the course. Organizers, if you read this: Thank you for the two DJs out in the boonies, but please add more!! Many runners need people and/or music to help them along. I personally spend enough time in isolation during training - I look forward to the energy of the crowd to cheer me along, and I didn't get that here for the most part. P.S. Most people who did make the effort to clap or cheer me on (calling out my name on my bib) were American or English tourists, and one Italian marathon volunteer. Do the Romans just not like this marathon or something?

2. The sexism: Yep, I said it. I am no boat-rocker here, but I felt like a second class citizen being part of the 15% female Rome marathon running community. This race has so few women it's no wonder it felt divided to me. But several things happened that made me feel almost uncomfortable running it:
  • Some male runners were aggressive: One grabbed my waist and pushed me aside at the start to get around me. Another trampled a woman at the start - she fell to the ground in the first 100 yards. People, it's a marathon. Where the hell are you sprinting off to that you have to push or stampede people in your path? I hope those all those pushy men cramped up by mile 10.
  • Some male runners were blatant assholes: Waiting in a portapotty line - in two different places - I was cut off by men who didn't seem to care one bit that I was there - and I made it clear I was in line! I tried stepping back in front of them and they just brought more of their buddies in to cut me off. There was no respect shown, and I only wish I had the ability to zap people with my eyes. 
  • The marathon organizers separate male and female bib numbers. So there's a bib #601 (some guy) and then there was mine - bib #F601. Race day bag dropoff/pickup and expo day bib pickup was also separated by gender. I felt this was odd, maybe because of the way I was treated by one of the volunteers during bib pickup in particular. This guy directing people snapped at me to get away from the 601 bib pickup booth and shoed me to the back - apparently I had to go to the far end of the room to find the same numbers for females, which was entirely unclear (my confirmation sheet said nothing about an F before my number - as you can see in my last Maratona di Roma post), and it was impossible to see the women's booth because it was buried in the back. I didn't figure it out right away, so I returned to the first booth to talk to the guy... This time he actually stepped toward me, puffed up his chest and blocked me (do I look intimidating?), and snapped in English "MEN" (points to first booth)" FEMALES" (points to back of room). Thanks, dude. I got it. Step off.

3. Bib pickup: First of all, the bib pickup location is miles from any place I'd want to visit in Rome; it's not near the marathon start or any central tourist destinations. Second, the marathon organizers squeeze bib pickup into a room in a basement which can only hold so many people. So, a long, winding line forms outside this building in the nice, hot sun that you'll endure anywhere from 20-40 minutes if you go the day before the race. This is not what I'd call ideal. I didn't even go to the expo because I ended up being an hour late meeting my family for lunch thanks to these unexpected delays - of course I don't have an international cell phone so I couldn't tell them where I was and I ended up spending more time walking to and from the place I was supposed to meet them - they'd left by the time I arrived. The whole thing was annoying and tiresome. Did I mention I couldn't even bring my husband and daughter into bib pickup with me because of the lack of space down there - maybe if I'd had I wouldn't have had to deal with Brutus the Enforcer of Bib Pickup.

Wrapping up this rant, I don't mean to come off as one-sided (negative). I ran the race for pleasure and Rome is an exhilarating place to run a marathon. If you're a marathoner who enjoys running in unique and interesting spots, you have to run Rome at least once in your life. For me, my days of running in Rome may be over for good. As much as I loved the scenery, fuel stations and great feats of the race organizers to get this race off and running with barely a hiccup, I was very disappointed by the lack of spectators, lack of entertainment and sheer disrespect I seemed to run into repeatedly during this whole experience. Maybe I'd reconsider if my husband ran it with me one day... him and a posse of women.


 
 
Running again! Maratona di Roma, here I come...
 
 
Here we are just two days away from my favorite Boston holiday -- Marathon Monday. And here I am just about two weeks away from reaching my own finish line.

I'm approaching my 38th week of pregnancy. I'm also feeling a bit like a planet, or what I'd imagine a planet might feel like. It's been an unreal change for me, going from a world of road racing and running gear to one of constant swelling and onesies.

Running went out the window for me this winter when I had a few "complications." Everything is fine now. But being put on bed rest, only to be cleared and told not to do any strenuous exercise was more than frustrating. My running regiment has been downgraded to walking, yoga poses and stretching. I can't wait to hit the pavement again.

First, I have to finish the marathon I'm running, then start a new one. Pregnancy has been one of the most wonderful times of my life, and my greatest challenge at the same time. I've had some of my sickest and most uncomfortable days in the past 8+ months, and some of my most amazing and intimate discoveries. This little girl growing inside of me strikes awe in me every day. I can't wait to meet her. I'd go through the pain and discomfort all over again any day for her.

My next great marathon will be parenthood. I have no doubt pregnancy is not much more than a 5-minute warm up compared to what's to come, but I could not be more excited. And anxious. And nervous. And thrilled! My husband and I are entering a whole new world, and we're about as ready as we'll ever be!

As for running, the roads are still there for me. I'll be back on them in no time... this time with my little girl. Think she'll be a runner like her mom? ;)


 
 
It's been about five months since I last posted. I'm not sure anyone is even reading this, but I figured it was high time for an update. I haven't written because, well, I was waiting for the best time to break some big news. Before I do, I have to say that this little break from serious running has been a good one for me.

My 21+ years of consistent running took a turn for the best and the worst this past year. I had some of my best race times and most disappointing race times in my life. I also had my worst injuries ever and I stopped enjoying my running. I went into a serious funk. I was pressuring myself to perform well even in my recovery runs, largely because I had started sharing my training times with the Daily Mile community -- an awesome group of people who are super encouraging. Please don't get me wrong if you're a DMer reading this! I love the support of the DMers. I've just learned that I don't do well running with other people (I thrive on the solitude) and I tend to get all caught up in my times when I know other people are looking at them -- which lead to my injuries. In any case, It's been an enlightening few months.

So here's a quick recap of what I've been up to:

June: 5K mania! This was the last time I posted.

July: Best vacation of my life with my husband. I also began a one-month period of very little running and lots of walking/hiking to recover from my hip injuries, the result of pushing myself a little too much too often. My limp was finally gone by August.

August: Started running again to train for an October half and full marathon. The goal was just to complete the runs, not race for time. Figured I'd get back into running hard when I had more time to recover and prepare.

September: Found out that I'M PREGNANT! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

October: Holy morning sickness. I don't know why they call it that because mine lasted 24x7. My doctor said I could keep running, but I had to keep my heart rate down. Unfortunately, I was only able to run to the nearest bush to dry heave about every half mile. I skipped the half marathon. Then I skipped the full marathon. There's no way I could have or SHOULD have attempted either. Not worth risking my health or the little one's.

November: Finally feeling better. I'm walking a ton and running occasionally. I only run a couple of miles at a time when I'm feeling up to it, but it's great to get out there and get in a run. Especially in this weather! The colder the better! :)

Up Next: Spain for Thanksgiving! It may be our last European vacation for a while, so we're taking full advantage of our alone time.

If anyone out there finds this, I hope you're well and have a very happy Thanksgiving! I'll start sharing my updates more frequently now that the news is out!

- BRR
 
 
 This past Sunday I ran my third 5K in one week's time. I feel like I reached some sort of milestone... even though I collectively run the distance of all three races quite often. At least I did about a month or so ago.

> My first goal was to beat my old pace (7:14) at least once.

Goal achieved in last week's Heartbreak Hill 5K (7:04 pace).

> My second goal was to support a cause that's dear to me. I lost a loved one to ALS.

Goal achieved in the Sharon Timlin 5K to Cure ALS. Secondarily, I finished this race faster (7:08 pace) than my old PR, though not my new PR. That's ok! I still consider this as another point toward goal #1.

> My third and final goal was to just enjoy my running again.

Goal accomplished by 5K #3. The Brookline Flag Day 5K was a no pressure, fun, family time event. Small field, but I instantly picked out the fast folks. Sure enough, the chick I thought would be fastest kicked my rear, though I would have given her a run for her money had I PRed. I ran this one slower (7:25 pace) than the other two races, but I'm so happy with that time. My legs were jello from Saturday's race and it was steamy hot on Sunday morning at 10:30. Didn't matter. It was so much fun. Watching the kids' race prior to mine was almost as fun as running down Harvard St. in my home town.

I loved my mini goal to run three 5Ks in a week. It was a great time, extremely fulfilling and just what I needed to start a steamy running season. It really did make me want to run more again.

Now to attempt to get up my mileage without blowing my hip apart. Good times!
 
 
Today I ran my second 5K in less than a week. The only problem is that my D-tag didn't seem to work. I'm not in the results, which is frustrating. I just complained to Bay State Timing. The good news is that I know I finished just slightly slower than I did in last week's race (around 22:05-22:10), and today's weather was not as kind. HOT.

I have one more 5K to go tomorrow before a break until August. I'll be at the Brookline Flag Day 5K. Here's hoping for a sub 7:00 pace.

I should add that I wasn't trying to plan three 5Ks in one week. It just happened that way. I heard about the Heartbreak Hill 5K first. I love that stretch of road, so I had to run that last week. Then I heard about today's race, which I had to run because I lost a loved one to ALS, and it's one of the few charities I would run for. And finally I heard about Brookline Flag Day festivities. Brookline is my hometown, so of course I registered.

After a season of half marathons and a full marathon, all of these 5Ks are just fun.

Good luck to everyone else racing tomorrow!
 
 
I just took 30 seconds off my best 5K time. That feels good. I'm also not one to brag about place, since my place is only as good as the other runners who show up to race, but this is still fun to see:
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I've been going through an internal battle over my running lately. I've had some major disappointments in the past few months as well as some major accomplishments, but the disappointments really have me down.

As a runner, you have to know the road never really ends. A bad race is a bad race. You move on to the next one. I've never had a problem doing that, until this season.

Warning, I'm going to complain for a minute here:

First I failed to improve my marathon time, after 6 months of some of the best training of my life and suffering through almost constant hip injury. My hips are fine when I run, but then I spend the rest of my days limping around, everywhere. I know I should see a doctor, but I haven't, and he's just going to tell me to stop running. Still, it sucks to go through all of this training, lose downtime that I could be spending with my husband, limp around everywhere I go, and not even see a one second improvement in my marathon.

Then, I totally bonked my last half marathon. Granted, I use half marathons more as training than racing events, but I love halfs. I feel good running halfs. I stunk up the course on this last one... And I say that knowing that people will say something like, "What are you complaining about!? I'd be happy to break 2 hours in a half!" If you're one of those people, I appreciate your thoughts, but I'm not trying to compare my time to yours. You would be upset too if you lost 15+ minutes off of your best time.

I haven't had the motivation to run at all lately because I've been so disappointed. And yes, I'm still limping around.

Today I may have had a ray of hope. I ran a strong 5K, maybe my best ever, and several people complimented me on a great race when it was over. I think I helped pace them. I have two more 5Ks next weekend, then a break from racing for a while.

Today's 5K reminded me that I do love to run. Maybe I've just been putting too much pressure on myself. In the past few months, I've also left a job and started a new one, which I love and want to do well at. I'm sure that's part of the problem with my running. Running is no longer my saving grace from work, like it was a few months ago. Now I like going to work. I don't NEED to run to forget about the rest of my day.

I have to feel that I WANT to run and I LOVE to run. And I do feel that, just not all of the time lately. To help me make sure I feel that way, I'm going to stop trying to BQ for a while. I'm going to sign up for a half and a full in the fall, but I just want to enjoy them, even if that means jogging. I missed the feeling I had in my first full, when all I wanted to do was finish. I did finish. And I didn't want to stop running. I felt so amazing...

I need to get that amazing feeling back.