Bob Halloran: Marathon Man (Part I)

(note: Bob is going to provide weekly diaries as he prepares for the Boston Marathon. We’ll provide links to all of the previous posts in each new one, or you can click on the Boston Marathon tag below.)

If you’re interested in hearing about the mind set of a rookie marathon runner, what happens during training physically, and about the many mood swings that mess with the first-timer’s confidence – welcome to my blog. About three weeks ago, I ran ten miles on a treadmill at the gym and decided I could start to seriously train to run in, and most importantly finish, the Boston Marathon. Yes, at the age of 46, I finally am that crazy.

I’ve always wanted to run a marathon, mostly because I hate running. I ran as a youngster to stay in shape for soccer and tennis, and I’ve run off and on as an adult, so that I can eat more than I should without getting too fat. So, I’ve flirted with the idea of increasing my three and four mile runs to a point where I could think about running a marathon. But then I’d grab a can of cashews and sit back down on the couch. For some reason, this time was different. And I’m glad. I’m extremely nervous, but mostly glad. And I don’t hate to run quite as much as I used to. So, there’s that.

As I train, I’ve discovered the loneliness of the long distance runner allows for a lot of extra thinking. And as I recently developed blisters on my feet so big and puffy it feels like I’m running on bubble wrap, I was reminded of something my friend and colleague, Ron Borges, told me when I was writing “Irish Thunder” about Lowell boxer Micky Ward.

Ron told the story of Micky getting hit so hard in a fight that a hole opened up in his bottom lip that you could stick your finger through. Ron’s line was something like, “Micky could brush his teeth without opening his mouth”. Now, the cut happened midway through the fight, and Micky just kept going. Oblivious to the pain, he was able to fight on and eventually win. But just a few minutes later when he was in the locker room, Micky took a drink of water from a bottle and immediately cried out in pain. Ron explained that when Micky was in the ring, his mind took over his pain sensors. In that environment, he could ignore what would make a normal person cringe and give up. But outside the ring, Micky was normal and the bottle hurt his boo boo a lot.

Fast forward to me – which is what this blog is all about after all. I started noticing the blisters around the four mile mark of my first ten mile run. They didn’t really hurt. The sensation was similar to when you poke your finger into an area of sunburned skin. Not painful. Nothing to worry about. I’m a tough guy – like a boxer. Yeah, that’s right. I’m a lot like a boxer. I do all the road work, but I skip the part where you get hit a lot.

But it was after the run that I thought about what Ron had said. Mr. Macho here had a little trouble taking his socks off. And when I went into the shower, I walked like I was going across hot coals and whimpered a little when the hot water hit my feet. But you can’t skip any days during training, so the blisters get worse before they get better. Now, I can’t wait for my calluses to arrive. I’ve never said that before. And I’ve never meant anything more.

– Bob

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