As the calendar flips over to January 1, 2017, I think back to 2016 and can’t help but smile as I reflected with a thankful heart on all the places that my running took me and the memories that I made.
The year started for me just returning to running after taking 12 weeks off after suffering a broken foot on August 13, 2015 and then being sidelined. So, my biggest goal for 2016 was to stay as healthy as possible and just enjoy being able to run again.
January saw me log miles on 29 of the 31 days as I finished the month with 240 miles. For the first time since I started running five years earlier, I did not race a New Year’s Day race and the only race I ran during the month was the 5th Line 5K which finished on center ice inside Nationwide Arena. Let’s just say it’s not easy to finish with speed when you are swerving down the hallway underneath an arena, but I still managed a 20:16 that day. My longest run of the month came on the next to the last day of the month when I logged 18 miles on a gorgeous morning in Nashville, Tennessee with the Nashville Striders the morning of the VIP Party for our new Donatos that was opening there that week. That was a great way to get to know the city where I would log a bunch of miles during the year!
In February, I logged 248 miles and took advantage of the extra day for Leap Year by running 27 of a possible 29 days. There were several memorable runs during this month including 14 miles on a track (56 laps!) with the Brentwood Breakfast Club on Groundhog Day while I was in Nashville for work, 20 miles on a treadmill at my gym at a 7:25 pace overall, and a 1:30:50 half marathon time trial at Warm-up for Boston that was my fastest half time to date.
March roared in with numerous double digit runs as the Boston Marathon training was in full swing. I finished the month with 276 miles spread over 28 of the 31 days. Some of the highlights were another 20-mile run on the TJ Evans Trail, a 16-mile run in Mount Vernon that included both the Punisher and the hilly Gambier loop, a 16-miler in Huntsville, Alabama, a fast 15-miler in Nashville, and a 10-miler in Summerville, South Carolina as I logged runs in four different states in the span of a week at one point. I also ran one race – the Scioto Miles 15K – and finished 5th overall despite hitting a deer on the way to the race.
For the second straight year, I was blessed to be able to spend part of my April in Boston to take part in the Boston Marathon. After running a 3:44:27 in 2015 at less than 100%, I was looking forward to another shot at the iconic race. I really wanted to requalify (BQ) with a sub 3:25 and felt like I was trained for it, but when race day rolled around with a 70-degree starting temperature I knew that it would be tough to do. I still went for it, but the sun and heat took its toll between miles 19 and 20 and I had to stop. After depositing my stomach contents on one of the infamous Newton hills, I did manage to continue on and was really proud of the way I gutted out a 3:28:48 finish time to knock off over 15 minutes from my previous Boston finish. April ended up being lowest mileage month of the year with 193 miles logged over 25 days of activity as I took five rest days.
I got right back to logging consistent miles in May as I logged 265 miles spread over 28 of the 31 days in the month. I celebrated my sixth “run”-iversary on May 26 with 10 miles and also paced a friend at the New Moon Half Marathon. I got to run 8 miles in Lakeland, Florida while my dad road his bike when I flew there to surprise my mom on Mothers Day. I also raced the RadioU 5K and managed to finish fourth overall in 21:01 on the toughest 5K course I’ve run yet.
The mileage increased to 273 miles in June as I logged at least a mile on 28 of the 30 days of what turned out to be a pretty warm month. Looking back, I remember calling several of those runs sauna runs and I definitely sweated off a few pounds. Probably the highlight of the month for me was the lone race that I did…the Lake Michigan Half Marathon in Muskegon (below). It was my first run ever in the state and I made it a memorable one as I lowered my half marathon PR with a 1:30:19 to finish 10th overall and win the 40-44 age group to score a large sandstone lighthouse sculpture as the prize. I remember thinking as I ran along Lake Michigan and looked west across it to where Chicago would be that this was going to help me later in the year.
I’m not sure where to start with July. I don’t know if I’ll ever top it. It was my best month ever with 303 miles as I logged mileage on 29 of the 31 days. I had 17 double digit mileage days during the month including 17.76 miles to honor America on July 4th, 18 miles on July 16th and 20 miles on July 30th. I also enjoyed running around beautiful Seabrook Island, South Carolina and running a 10K route back and forth across the famous Cooper River Bridge (below) in Charleston, South Carolina.
I backed the mileage down to 264 miles in August while logging them on 28 of the 31 days. A few of the highlights were a 16-miler at a 7:02 pace, a 17-miler and a 20-miler. I also tried to go for a third straight half marathon PR at Emerald City in Dublin, Ohio, but I came up way short at 1:32:49 as the 70-degree temperature and 100 percent humidity did me in. But, you never know what you can do unless you go after it, so I was glad that I attempted it.
September saw me log 263 miles while running 29 of the 30 days. This month saw me log one 16-mile, one 19-mile and one 21-mile run as I was attempting to peak my training for the Chicago Marathon in early October. I also managed to take a 40-mile bike ride on September 11th.
October may have been my favorite month of the year despite being my second-lowest mileage month with 212 miles and four rest days over the 31-day month. The reason that I loved this month was that the weather was perfect and I got to do the Chicago Marathon. I went into that race with a goal of 3:20 and I blew that away with a 3:14:09. It wasn’t my fastest time by a long shot, but I BQ’d by over 10 minutes and also negative split the second half (1:47:05 to 1:47:04) for the first time ever in a marathon. Plus, the entire time in Chicago was just perfect as I got to explore the city on a gorgeous fall weekend. Two weeks later, I also did the OSU 4-Miler and set a new course PR in 25:17.
November saw me log 226 miles despite spending half the month on the road for work which meant runs in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky as I logged miles on all but two of the 30 days. It was also my biggest racing month with the Hangry 4-Miler (2nd overall in 28:01), the Buckeye Classic 10K (10th overall in 43:43), the and Thanks For Giving 4-Miler (1st in age group in 24:58). In addition, I celebrated turning 45 by setting a new half marathon PR for the third time in 2016 by finishing the Cleveland Fall Classic Half in 1:29:40 to take third place in my age group.
I closed out the year with 260 miles in December as I ran all but one of the 31 days. It ended up being the only month all year that I did not run a race in, but on the flip side I did run in shorts on all but four days as the weather was abnormally warm. The biggest highlight of the month was the unplanned 20-miler that happened the day after Christmas as I tracked down all 12 items on the #RunChatHunt list while staying inside the city limits of New Albany on what would turn out to be a 68-degree day. A singlet and shorts the day after Christmas in Ohio? I’ll take that every year!
I ended up logging 3,021 miles to finish more than 500 miles higher than my previous yearly best of 2,488 miles in 2014. I logged miles on 336 of the possible 366 days (it was Leap Year don’t forget) which averages out to 8.99 miles per non-rest day. I also had the opportunity to see many amazing sunrises over the course of the year which is one of the best benefits of being a predawn runner.
However, more importantly than the miles I logged or the races I ran are the friendships I made or strengthened during the year. It was great to make new friends in the cities I visited for work as running is one of the best ice breakers around. And I am incredibly blessed to have an amazing running partner and other close friends who have helped and inspired me more than they know on this journey in 2016.
As I head into 2017, my goal is not to attempt another high mileage year. That was never the goal anyway until I saw it was within reach the final two months of the year. Yes, I would love to average 200 miles per month and log 2,400 miles. At the same time, I would much rather stay healthy and run fewer miles. I also want to get stronger with consistent strength and core work. But more than that, I want to continue to help others meet their goals either directly or by cheering them on from afar. That brings me the most joy and I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings!