Lisa Runs on Ramen

— running 26.2 and having foodie adventures too!


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Virgin London Marathon part 2

May is off to a running start…I started a brand-new job that I’m really excited about, and I’ve had a ton of running adventures in the past month. I have been extremely fortunate the past two years to have been able to run races all over the world and in various states: Tokyo, Vancouver, California, Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Hawaii and more. I am capping it off with London as my last big hurrah before buckling down and focusing on career and more local races.

So I went to sleep on the eve of the London Marathon (4/20) around 11:30pm. I stayed at the Palmer’s Lodge in Swiss Cottage (a great hostel, by the way), and it was great because I stayed there in 2008. It was cool to return to a place I stayed in my youth! (Yeah I’m still young…I know) I stayed in a 14-bed girls’ dorm and I felt bad to be coughing before I fell asleep, but no one was mean about it or anything. I slept for about 7 hours and when I woke up, I still only felt about 70% but tried to make the best of it. I was still really happy to be there and my goal was to just finish, be happy, and not go to the hospital!

Me looking tired from sightseeing and being sick

Me looking tired from sightseeing and being sick

I got some encouraging words from my fellow hostel-mates, who saw my runner’s bib and wished me luck. That’s why I don’t mind staying in hostels–I like the interactions and people are really nice. I saw a girl named Heather at the hostel in a volunteer jacket, and she said she would be working at the finish line! I promised to keep an eye out for her.  The 10am start time meant that I was able to wake up at 7am and had until 8am to leave and take the Tube. All London Marathon participants got free Tube access from 7am-5pm on race day, just by showing their bibs! It was a nice little perk.

On the way, I met a brother-sister pair named Sara and James at the Swiss Cottage Tube station, and we chatted about the marathon and wished each other luck. I love the way the Brits pronounce “Marathon” as “Marathin.” If you ever watch the hilarious movie “Run Fatboy Run,” you will know what I am talking about. I also met a volunteer who was really excited to be handing out medals at the finish line.

So we got off at Greenwich station, and it was a 15-20 minute walk to the start area. I was in the Red “mass” start. The weather was perfectly beautiful–50s  in the morning, but reaching about 70s and sunny the whole time. I actually overdressed, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

Entrance to the staging area

Entrance to the staging area

I sported my Marathon Beasts warm-up jacket (thanks Leong!), my Oakley sunglasses, Marathon Maniacs singlet, and a black ribbon and “We are All Boston Marathoners” back bib to remind me who I was running for. It was a day of solidarity, to show the world that marathoners are not afraid.

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Amazingly enough, even with 35,000 runners milling about, my friend Trent (aka Marathon Man) from Australia managed to find me in the crowd, with no phone!! He didn’t even know I was running the race! That is race day magic, folks. That gave me a little boost of happiness and confidence to see a familiar face.

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At 9:58am, the entire crowd of runners fell silent for 30 seconds to mark a moment of silence for the Boston Marathon bombing victims. It was very powerful, knowing that the whole world was watching. Then, the starting gun went off, and off we were sent into the streets of London. Spectators filled the streets and the energy was electric! I even got to see my friend/coworker Gail as we were running at the start!

There were a ton of costumed runners and little kids cheering and giving high fives. I saw Scooby Doo, a camel, a bumblebee, and a beer bottle, just to name a few. At the London Tower Bridge (mile 12), I got passed by the beer bottle…womp womp.

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It must be so hot to run in costume…

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I asked a kind spectator to take a photo for me…lest I forget the moment…

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The London Bridge was towering and majestic, and I was incredibly lucky to be running through it. I even got to see my fast running buddies Stuart and Adam coming up on mile 23 once I reached the 13 mile mark. I screamed their names and they acknowledged me (they’re both sub-2:55 marathoners). Incredible.

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They served Lucozade and water on course…Lucozade is like a version of Gatorade, but a bit more tart. I had to dilute it with water. It’s very hard to gain entry into the Virgin London Marathon, so about 90% of the field are charity runners. I was one of the few without a charity singlet. I later learned that they only accept about 5,500 international entrants. I got my entry from my former employer, so I was one of the lucky ones. If you ever get a chance to run, do it!! It is one of the World Marathon Majors, part of a “grand slam” of big-city marathons. The spectators are incredible…about 700,000 showed up to cheer that day but it felt like more. I wrote my name on my singlet and got many cheers of “Go Lisa!”

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Here’s a view of Cutty Sark, a beautiful historical boat that we ran by. Absolutely stunning. There were a lot of spectators that were handing out gummy bears, orange slices, and bananas. I gratefully accepted, especially the gummy bears! I was so glad I wore a hat–it was really hot that day.

I was feeling pretty good through the halfway point, and then I started feeling a bit lethargic and sluggish from the heat. The first 3 miles my throat felt like sandpaper, despite carrying a small Lucozade bottle and hydrating along the way. Although I wasn’t supposed to have a time goal (taking it easy because of being sick), I really wanted to finish under 5 hours. I ran a good first half and thought of all the people cheering me on and tracking me back at home. I thought of my brave friends who ran the Boston Marathon, and I thought of the Boston Marathon bombing victims who had so much taken away from them. That made me forget any discomfort I was feeling at the moment.

As much as I wanted to reach the finish line, it was such an exhilarating race I almost didn’t want it to be over. The scenery was gorgeous and millions of pounds were being raised for charity. One of my favorite places was the “downtown” area with a lot of big office buildings…sometime after mile 18. There were so many spectators and it reminded me of the Chicago Marathon.

When I saw Big Ben and the London Eye, I knew that we were close to the finish at Buckingham Palace. I was hurting, and I knew that I wanted to reach the finish line ASAP.

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My friend and old college roommate Nicholette said she would be waiting for me near the finish line, so I was scanning the crowds for her face. I knew that it would be hard to spot her, and figured I would meet her in the family reunion area. I glanced at my watch and saw that I could finish under 4:55 if I really pushed it. This was a difficult marathon for me and I felt like a newbie all over again. I embraced that feeling though–marathons are never easy, and it’s how we deal with the tough ones that we realize what we are really made of.

I crossed the finish in 4:54:43, overwhelmed by emotion and feeling spent, but victorious.

Here were my final results:

Net time: 4:54:43

Overall place: 23345/34202

Females: 6639/12066

Age group: 3986, F18-39

At the finish line, I gratefully accepted my medal and started to wander about looking for my bag and trying to find a way to reach Nicholette.

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Soon after, I spotted the new friend I made at the hostel this morning, Heather the volunteer!! She was at a table on the left and I happened to cross the finish line on my left. Race day magic again! She let me borrow her phone (my iPhone was useless in London) so I could make a quick phone call to Nicholette. Thanks, Heather! Later, I learned that she traveled all the way from Cambridge (a 1 hr regional train ride away) just to volunteer. People are amazing–thank you to all the volunteers.

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(Me and Heather.)

Everyone got a finisher food bag with goodies in it, including a heat Mylar blanket and a one-size fits all (??) cotton red “finisher” t-shirt. It was ginormous on me…glad I bought some Adidas gear at the expo. I’ll use it as a nightgown…that is the only bad thing about this marathon–the shirt isn’t really wearable.

I found Nicholette at the finish line–it meant so much to me to have her there! I was still wobbly on my feet, but we tried to get out of the family reunion area ASAP, and I stopped in my tracks for ice cream! I got a delicious ice cream cone as my first post-race food. Mm-mmm good!

Me and Nicholette

Me and Nicholette

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Before an early dinner (it was 3pm when I finished), Nicholette and I met up with Paola and I ate some mushroom soup at Pret a Manger. We also shopped around at Covent Garden, where I went to Tea Palace, the Apple Store, and even the Moomin (book character) store!

I was a bit disoriented and I hadn’t had lunch, so a 5:30pm dinner sounded a-ok to me. I also had an appointment for the one touristy thing I was going to do: ride the London Eye at 8:00pm.

Nicholette, Paola and I decided on Wahaca, a modern Mexican place.

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I ordered a spicy chicken burrito, coffee, and of course, churros con chocolate with dessert. I devoured it all–so yummy!

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Thanks Nicholette and Paola, for hanging out with me post-race! As the sun was setting, I made my way to the London Eye. The Thames River was gorgeous at dusk. Many passersby congratulated me on my run after seeing my medal.

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I got there with enough time to spare before my 8:00pm “flight time” on the world’s largest observation wheel. Sure, it was expensive (about $24) but I couldn’t think of a better leisurely sedentary activity to cap off my trip. I went on it once in 2008 and loved it. This time, they included a 4-D movie experience with price of admission. Sweet!

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And up we went!

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There were about 10 other people in my observation capsule, and everyone helped each other take photos. A man proposed to his girlfriend in our capsule, and she said yes! It was so sweet, and it was even more magical as the sun set.

London, you have been good to me. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

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April races, Spartan Race and London Marathon Part I

I had a very busy month of racing leading up to the Virgin London Marathon. It made for great training, but longer recovery. Here’s what my racing/training calendar looked like:

March 30: Red Hook Criterium 5K, Brooklyn

March 31: 1 hour of rock climbing, Brooklyn Boulders

April 6: Scotland Run 10K, Central Park

April 7: Katonah Run field trip–Leatherman’s Loop 10K course and Fire Tower 6-mile trail run (about 2 hr 45 min of technical trails)

April 13: Spartan Sprint Race, Citi Field 3-miler (lots of CrossFit stuff)

April 14: More Fitness Half Marathon, Central Park

April 21: Virgin London Marathon

April 28: Nike Women’s Half, DC

Needless to say, it was a packed calendar, and I was just focused on not getting injured. Here’s some brief recaps and photos:

Red Hook Crit 5K

This was an awesome nighttime race held in Red Hook, Brooklyn. There were a ton of great runners here, as the top male and female walk away with $1000 prize money. It started at 7pm and was an extremely flat, fast course–4 loops of a 1.25K course by the waterfront. Conditions were perfect, and the Red Hook Lobster Pound truck was parked at the finish. It was great seeing my Dashing Whippets teammates, and it was really fun cheering on the men’s race at 8pm. Thanks to Ben for taking photos, Kenneth for volunteering, and all my wonderful teammates for cheering! I ran my 2nd-best 5K time in 23:34, so I was very happy. Rewarded myself with a buttery Lobster BLT afterward, and stayed to watch the 20K Pro cycling final (the main event). Those cyclists are hardcore!Red Hook Crit 5K

Photo credit: Ben Ko

The Scotland Run

I always have a lot of fun at this race. A few days prior, I was in a photo shoot in Brooklyn Bridge Park promoting the race with some co-workers, and the Scottish government gave us goodie bag filled with a nice tweed bag, a small bottle of Glenlivet, cookies, a hat, and a red kilt! Awesome! I wore the red kilt to the race and it was a hit. It was really cold, but I warmed up towards the end. Thanks Ellen M from the Whippets for pacing with me! I was still a bit fatigued from my March races, but managed to run 53:54. Wearing a kilt was the best part! I did miss the Stoats Oat bars and Iron-bru that they used to give out…not sure what happened to those…

Photo credit: Ben Ko

Photo credit: Ben Ko

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Katonah Trail Run

The day after the 10K, I went to Katonah (50 miles away from NYC) with the NY Trail and Ultrarunning group. Deanna organized the run, and I was super excited to finally get out of the city and run some trails! We were picked up at the train station by the Leatherman Harriers (thank you!) and driven to the trail head. We ran the famous Leatherman’s Loop 10K course, filled with 2 river crossings and mud pits, and lots of climbs. It was a lot of fun. Running at medium pace, we did it in about 1:15. Afterwards, a smaller group of us did the Fire Tower Trail (6 miles), which was rockier and more difficult, and with a wrong turn/getting lost it took us about 1:45. That was three hours of solid trail running, a great way to spend a Sunday.

Photo credit: Shane S.

Photo credit: Shane S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spartan Sprint: Citi Field

This was a tougher 3-mile race than I expected–it was minimal running, 12,000 participants, about 75 burpees, and tons of Crossfit-related workouts. I still had a fun time and I finished the course in 1:05:20. To put it in perspective, the top male finisher was done in 28 minutes, and the top female was probably 10 minutes after that. I had never done a single burpee before that day, so it was tough but having raced so much helped. There was a ton of stair climbing (the Empire State Building Run-Up training helped!), rowing for 4 minutes on machines, jumping rope with a weighted rope, carrying water jugs up and down stairs, cargo nets, scaling a wall horizontally, military-style wall jumps, and stuff with weights. My least favorite thing was the military-style wall jumps because I was close to injuring my ankle when I landed on cement. My favorite things were the stair climbs and agility exercises (scaling a wall sideways and cargo nets). A lot of time was added waiting for certain obstacles, because there were so many people in each heat even though they spaced us out. It was fun, but I’m not sure if I would pay money to do it (normally it’s about $95 but I earned a season pass). Thanks Warren for volunteering, and Shane for coming out to support.

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Photo credit: Spartan Race official photographer

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More Fitness Half Marathon

My muscles were pretty sore after the Spartan Race the previous day, and I was supposed to be tapering for the London Marathon, but I couldn’t miss one of my favorite races! The More Fitness Half was my first half-marathon ever in 2004, and so it was my 9th anniversary of my first half. I remember meeting the great Grete Waitz and Kathrine Switzer at the expo in 2004, and I still have the photos they autographed for me. For this race, I was running on Team Skechers, and they provided me with a pair of sweet, hot pink GoRun2’s and a tech shirt. The running shoes are really light, and pretty comfortable. I like them better than the first edition of the GoRun’s.

I wanted to treat the race as a hard training run and get psyched for London. It’s a somewhat tough, hilly course, going up Cat Hill and Harlem Hill twice, and ending on an uphill. At the finish line, I saw my cousin Jeannie cheering, and I saw my other cousin Lily finishing her first-ever half marathon! Lily and I went out to brunch with some of her friends at Uva, a nice way to celebrate. Congratulations, Lily! Thanks, Skechers, for the chance to run as part of the team!

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London Marathon trip, Part I

I was going to be in London from 4/18-4/22, and I wanted to make the most of the trip because it was my first time there since 2008! I had previously traveled to Oxford and London in spring of 2008, and the weather was gorgeous then. I had the same luck this time around–the weather was perfect all 5 days I was there.

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I wanted to make seeing my friends a priority, so I met up with Amanda in Cambridge for a day and had high tea at the Cadogan with Nicholette. I also had to juggle going to the expo and staying rested enough for the marathon, so I had a pretty relaxed itinerary in between.

Friday was my first day of sightseeing, and I was staying in South Kensington. The Victoria and Albert museum is one of my sister’s favorite things in London, so I had to check it out. The museums are all free in London, but this time around there was a special “David Bowie Is” exhibit that was on view from March-August 2013 that was an additional ticket purchase. So I queued up with about 150 other people to wait 40 minutes for my ticket. I’m glad I did, though! In the meantime, I admired the 30-foot glass chandelier in the lobby designed by one of my favorite glass artists, Dale Chihuly. I’m a glass art nerd (I’ve been to the Corning Museum of Glass twice).vicand albert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I saw the David Bowie exhibit, which featured original artworks by him, video installations, and his outlandish/awesome stage costumes. It was a well-designed exhibit and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in London. Even the Sennheiser audioguide was cool–it automatically played a clip depending on where you were standing in the gallery, no flipping back and forth between tracks required. I ate a delicious lunch of a duck leg with potatoes and vegetables in the beautiful museum cafe.

Next, I headed to the marathon expo at the Excel Centre. I got there at 2:30pm and there were no lines!

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The volunteers were so nice, and all the runners got a black ribbon to wear on marathon day in honor of the Boston Marathon bombing victims. I got my bib number and headed straight to the Adidas store. I allowed myself to splurge a bit on three official marathon pieces: shorts, a zip-up track jacket in the colors of the Union Jack, and a fitted blue running top. As I was heading into the dressing room, my co-worker Gail was coming out of the room! We had planned to meet at 2pm somewhere in the expo but I was afraid of missing my co-workers because I had no working phone. It was a nice little moment of serendipity. I took a quick photo with Daphne and Gail and wished them luck.

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Then I got this neat photo op on the podium:

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After spending less than an hour at the expo, I headed to King’s Cross station to ride the train to Cambridge to see Amanda and her husband Dave. It was cool to get out of London for a little bit. Once I arrived, Dave and Amanda made me feel at home, cooking a delicious glazed teriyaki salmon with veggies and rice. Then, we went to the Tram Depot to meet some of their friends for the evening. It was great to spend time with them.

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The next morning, I woke up with a raspy voice and a strong cough. Oh no!! I had felt the inkling of sickness right before, but tried to ignore it and took vitamin C to help quash it. I think the stress of the week and the lack of sleep from traveling contributed to it. I was worried about how I would feel on race day, but short of a fever I was determined to run. I bought some cold medicine called “Lemsip” (no Tylenol here), took some of that and hoped for the best! I took the train back into London and got into King’s Cross at 10:30am.

Of course, I had to stop by Platform 9 3/4 and get my picture. They now have a Harry Potter shop there! They even have a professional photog and props like a house scarf (I chose Gryffindor) if you wanted to use those. It was a 20-minute queue for the picture.

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I took a few with my camera, but ended up buying the higher-resolution picture from the shop. I am a sucker for good photo opportunities. Memories are worth it! I took a similar picture of Platform 9 3/4 about five years earlier, but it was in a different location and the setup was less elaborate. There was no line and it was a half-cart sticking out, no owl cage and no props.

I ate some Japanese food and a spicy chicken Cornish pasty (like an empanada) from The Pasty Shop for lunch.

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I bought some chocolates from Hotel Chocolat and just admired the renovated King’s Cross station–it’s beautiful!

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The rest of the day, I checked into the Palmer’s Lodge Hostel (a nice place I stayed at in 2008 and have now returned to!), then went to Knightsbridge to meet Nicholette for tea. I shopped at Harrod’s and bought a delicious pistachio strawberry mousse cake (from famous pastry chef William Curley). It was amazing and worth every pence.

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I met Nicholette for afternoon tea at the Cadogan, and we had a great time catching up after not seeing each other since college! We enjoyed the Chelsea Flower tea blend, some scones with Devonshire clotted cream, sandwiches (egg salad, cucumber, roast beef and mustard, and salmon), a Chelsea bun, a macaron, lemon tart, and other sweets). It was an awesome way to catch up with an old college roommate. Thanks, Nicholette!

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Afterwards, we met up with her friend Paola to shop at Fortnum and Mason for foodie gifts, and to eat dinner. I bought a bunch of tea and cookies at Fortnum and Mason. I saw a cookie that was too pretty to eat:

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All that shopping made us hungry, and we finally headed to Piccadilly Circus and then Chinatown to search for food. We decided on Tonkotsu ramen, just so I can say that I sampled some ramen in London. I had the spicy pork broth ramen with house-made noodles. I was all carbed up and ready to go for the race…sick or not!

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Stay tuned for Part II…and mind the gap (between entries).


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Reflecting on the Boston Marathon tragedy 4/15/13

For the first time in the past 3 years, I wasn’t spectating or volunteering at the Boston Marathon this year. I had visited my friend Kelly during Boston Marathon weekend in 2011 to run the BAA 5K and cheer on friends in the marathon, and last year I had the honor of volunteering at Water Stop 5 with other volunteers at the Alzheimer’s Association. I vividly remember it was 88 degrees for the 2012 Boston Marathon, and the water stop was the place to be!

My 2011 and 2012 visits to the Boston Marathon:

I was sitting at my desk at work on Monday, 4/15, when I heard the news of the blasts at the Boston Marathon finish line around 3:00pm. My blood ran cold, as I had been tracking my friends’ progress in the race all morning and I immediately thought of their safety.

Terrorist attacks have hit very close to home for me, as my dad narrowly escaped the 1993 WTC bombing and events of 9/11/01 (he used to work at the Marriott World Trade Center). I was two blocks away from the World Trade Center on 9/11 and was evacuated, so I’m especially sensitive to hearing news of mass casualties and terrorist attacks.

I immediately called and texted anyone I knew who was running or volunteering at the Boston Marathon. I also checked social media channels once the confusion subsided and people in Boston realized that family and friends were worried about their safety. I was checking CNN and other news outlets excessively. At the end of the day, an ESPN reporter named Bonnie Ford wrote one of the most moving pieces about the events of the day, found here.

One by one, my running friends responded and said they were ok. I remembered my friend Alex had a history of volunteering at the finish line medical tent, so I called him to make sure he wasn’t hurt by the blasts. He picked up almost immediately, and I could hear pandemonium in the background. He reassured me he was ok, but he talked about all these little kids coming into the tent with injuries, and I could hear the edge in his voice. Not wanting to distract from his medical volunteer duties, I told him I was relieved he was ok and would share the news with our friends. He later wrote a deeply moving blog post about his experiences here.

As the day went on, my eyes were glued to my phone for updates. I felt sick to my stomach. I heard there were three deaths and 144 injuries, and one of the dead was later identified as 8-year-old Martin Richard. Who could take a joyous event like a marathon and turn it into such a scene of carnage? Why?? It was all so senseless and tragic.

Thank you to all my friends and family who were asking if I was ok. Your concern means more to me than you’ll ever know.

My heart goes out to all the victims, runners, staff at the B.A.A. and anyone else affected by the tragedy. The Boston Marathon is such a beautiful event and it hurts my heart to see not only the event but the city suffer in this way.

When I run the Virgin London Marathon on Sunday, 4/21/13, I will run strong in the memory of those lost and injured. I will run with a special “We are all Boston Marathoners” bib and black ribbon, and I will think about our beloved running community every step of the way.