Whew! We’re finally back from vacation and finally on summer break. This summer has been much busier than I had expected that it would be.

I was pretty excited for the 2013 Lakewood Summer Meltdown.

This is the race that led me onto my running journey, and I’ll never forget my final ascent up Belle Avenue as I realized that I was actually going to complete my first 5K!

As discussed in my last post, my main focus this time around was to help Sheila prepare well for this race and to help her achieve her goal of running the entire 3.1 miles without stopping to walk. Read the rest of this entry

It’s been a fun summer, but it’s been a crazy one too. We’ve been to three weddings, three graduations, countless social gatherings, and much more.

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Our friends Joyce and James got married just a few miles from the Towpath in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park! (The officiant is Pastor Che, who was the man who helped me get into My Fitness Pal and who played a major role in helping me start my weight loss journey.)

The past few months have flown by and I can’t believe that July is almost half over!

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Butters enjoying our balcony and his bone during the July 4th weekend!

Fortunately, running hasn’t fallen by the wayside. Even though the weather in Cleveland has gone from being extremely hot and humid to cold and rainy in the span of a few hours, we’ve managed to keep up the miles.

You’ll note that I said “we” and not “I”. Why’s that?

Sheila has recently started to pick up the sport of running again! Read the rest of this entry

I ran the Kinsman KTown 5K this past Saturday. As mentioned in my earlier post about the Kinsman KTown 5K, I was really excited about this race because I would have the opportunity to run in front of my grandparents and aunt who live in Kinsman!

Kinsman is an hour and twenty minutes from Cleveland, and I headed out at 7:25AM hoping that I wouldn’t encounter any delays en route. I had high hopes for getting there earlier and trying to scope out at least part of the course, but that just didn’t happen.

When I left Cleveland, the sun was shining. As I drove east, though, the skies became increasingly grim. With the Cleveland Marathon approaching in less than a month, I am becoming increasingly safety-conscious during my training runs and life in general, and I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of running on slick pavement in an unfamiliar place.

The lack of traffic on the roads made the drive down very easy!

The lack of traffic on the roads made the drive down very easy!

I listened to a steady diet of upbeat music on the way down and I was pretty pumped when I turned onto the familiar town square of Kinsman and saw the runners beginning to congregate. Kanye West’s My Dark Twisted Fantasy and Kanye\Jay-Z’s Watch the Throne never fail to help me get my focus!

I arrived at my aunt’s house at 8:40AM. She lives within spitting distance of the starting line, and I made it to the registration desk with what I thought was plenty of time to register, use the bathroom, warm up, and get ready for a great race. Read the rest of this entry

I have no idea why I have so much trouble getting race recaps up shortly after the race…but I do.  The Bay Village Snoball 5K happened almost two months ago and I still haven’t knocked out a recap!

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Having said that, I think I should probably get up a recap of my last 5K before I write about the 5K that I did this morning, right?

I think so. Read the rest of this entry

It’s no secret that I love Cleveland. My Twitter name is ClevelandJoe, I shudder at the thought of living somewhere else, and I haven’t missed a Browns game for several years. (Actually, that’s not true. I never watched the last Browns\Steelers game of the 2012 season. It’s still on the DVR waiting for me, and I’m saving it for the summer when I desperately need a football fix.)

However, for much of my life I used to spend a lot of time in Trumbull County, which is located in eastern Ohio along the Pennsylvania border. My grandparents live there, and I used to spend a lot of time with them when I was younger. Unfortunately, growing up and adult responsibilities keep me from seeing them as frequently as I should see them, but I still feel deeply connected to the area and I have a great time with them whenever we see them.

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It’s pretty hard to come close to being as cute as Butters, but my grandparents’ dog Ginger comes pretty close!

When they told me over Christmas that their town (Kinsman, OH) has a run in the springtime, I knew that would be a race (the Kinsman KTown 5K) that I’d want to put on my calendar. Read the rest of this entry

After a long and dreary winter, the weather has finally taken a turn for the better here in Cleveland! To my delight, I’ve seen a steady stream of runners meandering through the streets of my neighborhood on a regular basis over the past few days. At this time last year, I used to look at those people, laugh, and wonder why anyone would ever want to pursue running as a hobby. (Silly me!)

I’m willing to bet, though, that there are more than a few people out there who look at those striding along on the pavement and think, “Boy, I wish I could do that…but I just don’t know how to get started.”

When I started running in June 2012, I was blessed with several family members and friends who took me under their wings and provided me with a variety of basic tips about every aspect of the running process. Without their advice, I’m pretty sure that I’d still be making many of the same mistakes that I made during my first few miles last summer.

Throughout the journey from 0 to 3.1 and beyond, I’ve also been able to come up with a few pieces of advice that I wish people had told me when I first laced up my Mizuno Wave Inspire 8s.

Read the rest of this entry

Hey Northeast Ohioans!

Are you looking for something to do on Saturday morning?

Have you ever wanted to try out a 5K or a 1 mile run but didn’t know where to begin?

Would you like to get some exercise?

If you answered “YES!” to any of the above, I invite you to come and join me tomorrow morning at the Bay Village Snoball Run! You can’t register online anymore, but you can register at the race itself. There’s both a 5K run and a mile run. I’ll be doing the 5K.

The proceeds from this race go to support Bay High School’s athletic teams. My brother has run track and cross country for Bay High School for four years and I’m glad to have the opportunity to support his school. He’ll be the guy at the front of the pack who will have knocked out the entire race by the time I’ve finished a mile or so! (I’ll never forget seeing him running back to the finish line in first place at the Lakewood Summer Meltdown after I had just reached the one mile mark!) I’m looking forward to racing with him as he prepares for his last season of track before he takes his talents to college.

This was taken right after my brother won the West Shore Conference Championship for the 1 Mile Run in May 2012!

Hopefully all of this freezing rain crap will be gone tomorrow and we’ll have a nice, safe, fun, and fast race. I’m personally excited to kick off my 2013 racing season and to see if I can pull off a PR. If you’re there, say hi!

When I decided to run the Tremont Steeplechase, I thought it would be fun to invite along some of my friends to join me. I attend Scranton Road Bible Church, a non-denominational church located on the western edge of Tremont at the intersection of Scranton and Clark, and a large number of my friends attend this church as well. Unfortunately, my church didn’t make it onto the course of the Tremont Steeplechase even though it is over 100 years old.

I love my church! (Photo courtesy of Parkside Church’s Flickr site)

Unfortunately, none of my friends who are runners were able to join me on the Tremont Steeplechase. Maybe next year! I am hopeful that my story will inspire others to give running a try, and I’d love to complete the Steeplechase along with a few first-time runners next year. We’ll see!

Shortly after I decided to run the Steeplechase, my friend Rachael sent out an email asking if any of us wanted to run the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s Run For Justice. I knew a few people who ran this race during law school, but at the time my definition of running was limited to dashing from my illegally parked car to my professor’s office to ensure that my legal writing papers would be time-stamped before the deadline. When I received her email, I thought that running a race with friends would be fun and my interest was piqued. Even though the race was a week after the Steeplechase, I figured that I’d be doing some sort of a run on this date anyway and that my body could easily handle another 5K—after all, 3.1 miles is 3.1 miles whether I run it by myself in my neighborhood or in downtown Cleveland along with hundreds of other people!

Most of the race recaps that I read are a bit like the song November Rain—they start off a bit slow, gradually pick up steam throughout the post, and end on the glorious note of a PR for time or distance. Unfortunately, this isn’t that type of race recap. A variety of challenges before and during the race meant that I clocked in at 28:41, which was 33 seconds longer than my time in the Steeplechase.

Having never needed to learn how to simultaneously rest and recover from one run while preparing for another, I did two runs during the week in between the Steeplechase and the Run For Justice. My first run on Tuesday went very well. My second run on Thursday, though, was a different story. I drove along the course for the Run For Justice on Wednesday and ascertained the location of the inclines on the course. The hill on the Steeplechase was grueling, and I wanted to get in some hill training in the hopes that I wouldn’t slow down so much on the hill in the Run For Justice. Unfortunately, I didn’t run the hill properly and my foot was sore on Friday morning. As the day progressed, I felt slightly better, but doubts still lingered.

Consequently, I went to bed on Friday evening feeling pretty nervous and unsure about my chances in the Run For Justice. This was a marked difference from my mental state on the night before the Steeplechase, when I felt 100% confident that I could bang out the 3.1 miles. I was still a bit nervous when I took off on Saturday morning, and I ran a very tentative race for the first 2.75 miles. Although I was grateful to have energy to sprint hard at the end, I wished that I had run a little harder throughout the entire run. The following picture, which was taken at the Browns\Ravens game in November, captures a large portion of the course. Unfortunately, the rain kept Sheila from getting any other pictures.

Not the best picture, but it captures a good bit of the course.

Another factor working against me was the fact that this was the first race in which I had to run in the morning. I had never run in the morning before, and my schedule during the week completely thwarted me from sneaking in a run around the same time as the Run For Justice. In retrospect, I probably needed to warm up a little bit more before the event.

Lastly, the weather was completely awful. The rain and high winds that characterize a fall morning on the shores of Lake Erie were in full effect, and I had never previously run in these types of conditions. Dealing with the high winds as I trekked up the West 3rd Street hill was not fun. By the end of the race, I was dripping with sweat under my windbreaker and completely soaked with rain as well.

Having said that, the day wasn’t a total wash (no pun intended).

I like to find the silver lining in life whenever possible. Any Browns fan will tell you that you’ll lose heart really quickly if you can’t learn how to find the positive elements amidst the countless losses that we endure on a yearly basis. Because I’m a Browns fan, I’ve become an expert in extracting every positive note possible from every type of loss imaginable, so I’ll apply the same skills to my running.

First of all, I’m grateful that I learned how to deal with weather-related challenges. I was very blessed because my first two 5Ks were in near-ideal conditions. The Lakewood Summer Meltdown was held on one of the coolest days of an otherwise scorching summer and the Tremont Steeplechase took place on a picturesque fall day. However, I’m not naïve enough to think that every race I run will feature idyllic temperatures and no rain. The weather in Cleveland during May is a crapshoot, and I could be attempting to conquer 13.1 miles during the Cleveland Marathon in either shorts and a sleeveless shirt or long pants and a windbreaker.

Secondly, I had fun. My friend Alex, who ran more marathons in 2012 than many people do in their lifetime, reminded me not to lose sight of the fact that running should be fun. While I may not have PR’d during the Run For Justice, the experience was very enjoyable. As a Browns fan, I also had a blast running around Cleveland Browns Stadium. I enjoyed running with my friends, and the fact that my friend David (who finished in 24:55) sacrificed his own time to run along with me at the start meant a lot. Here’s a picture of all of us who ran:

Old and new friends gathered after the race in The Galleria to celebrate the completion of a brutal race!

Although the race didn’t go as I had hoped that it would, I am glad that I ran the Run For Justice!