Thursday 24 December 2015

A Runner’s Look Inside the 2015 Boston Marathon Weekend (part 2)

Boston Marathon Finish Line - Photo Credit Justin Ferguson
Boston Marathon Finish Line - Photo Credit Justin Ferguson
Boston Marathon Expo - Photo Credit Justin Ferguson
Boston Marathon Expo - Photo Credit Justin Ferguson

Boston Marathon Expo - Photo Credit Justin Ferguson
Inside the Boston Marathon Expo - Photo Credit Justin Ferguson

Good morning Boston, it is the day before the most notorious marathon on the planet and I, like, I assume many runners, am excited!  I had experienced the spectacle the year previous and felt better prepared for it this time around.  However, nothing really prepares you for an entire city that is captivated by an event that you are participating in.  With that in mind, there are items on the to do list that must be completed.

Whenever I prepare for a long run (including a race), I am very regimented and focused on completing my tasks.  I had learned the previous year in Boston what could be the outcome by not maintaining strict focus, and despite the overwhelming energy in the city, was committed to not following that same path this time around.

First thing first, start the energy and hydration regime; in this case Cliff Bars, Nature Bars, and Water.  Some may disagree with my methodology, but I tend to overload myself with energy products on the day or two before a long run.  

Next on the schedule was departing for a short 3km run.  I always find these helpful, they get the blood flowing and allow me to become acclimatized to the community, they also take my mind off the race that is to follow the next day.  I never depart trying to set any records on this day but maintain the mindset to take it slow and allow my muscles to get used to the idea of running.  It was a brisk morning in Boston and there were a few other runners out doing similar things.  The run was uneventful and I returned to the hotel feeling ready.  When I returned, the lobby was scattered with other runners and their families, which automatically gave me an energy boost.

Fortunately this hotel had a Starbucks in it, which I took advantage of, grabbing a banana and a porridge.  I also consumed another Cliff Bar, drank some more water, and grabbed a shower.  With these tasks accomplished, I departed in an Uber for the Expo.

When you arrive at the Boston Marathon Expo, the uniqueness that is Boston is not lost, it too is unlike any other expo I have been privy to.  It is extremely well organized, and has clearly marked signs announcing where to go.  When you arrive at the bib pickup, the volunteers are overwhelming, extremely helpful, and efficient.  There is no time wasted and the flow through is seamless.  I arrived at my station, presented my “Runner’s Passport”, was quickly presented my bib package and directed to my shirt pickup location, where again, I was quickly whisked through the process and free to explore the expo or depart.  Having organized events, I have come to appreciate efficient processes that are well planned and have an easy flow, the Boston experience certainly achieved this.

Before I departed the expo, I did permit myself some time to explore it quickly, which included signing the runner’s wall, picking up a few gifts for family and friends, and grabbing a souvenir for myself. I was able to get each of these items from the Official Store.  Getting myself an official hoodie, which marked the second year in a row that I did this and has likely now become a tradition… Again, despite the crowds, the speed at which I was processed was commendable and speaks to the organization of the event and the capabilities that new technology offers.  With these tasks done, I expeditiously explored the rest of the expo and departed onto Boylston Street.

Boylston Street marks the final four blocks of the Marathon.  This was the first time I had been on the stretch since running down it the year previous.  As an aside, the year previous, I had nearly collapsed on Hereford Street, before turning onto Boylston Street and summoning the energy to, in an almost near blackout, run to the finish line.  As I walked down Boylston Street this time, I remember remarking how I did not recognize a single element of the four block stretch from the previous year.  It is truly a beautiful stretch of city street (and in foreshadowing my next post, was tremendous to sprint down as I finished the 119th Boston Marathon the next day).  

As I walked down Boylston Street, I snapped a few photos of the finish line, took a Selfie, grabbed some Powerade (another part of my regiment), and took it all in.  Here I was standing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon for the second year in a row, preparing to run the race that almost every runner dreams of.  If I could, I would describe the thoughts that went through my mind, the whole situation is surreal, and hard to explain.  I literally just found a quiet place to sit and absorbed it all, trying to remember the finish the year before, and more importantly picturing what it could be like the next day.  

After taking a few minutes to absorb it all in - about 25 minutes, I think to be exact.  I ordered an Uber and departed back to the hotel to continue my preparation process for the next day.  

Arriving back at the hotel, I put my bib on my running shirt, ate some more Cliff Bars, drank some more Powerade, prepped a final email to try and raise some last minute funds for my charity, and then relaxed until dinner.

For me, dinner the night before the race is likely one of the two most important elements in preparation for a long run.  As such, I had done a fair amount of research to find a restaurant that had a pasta dish that had the elements I was looking for.  I found this in Mamma Maria with its Frutti di Mare Pasta.  It had an oil based sauce, and tonnes of lean protein with many kinds of seafood.  It also tasted fantastic!  Many people do the pre-marathon meal that the race organizers put on, however, I had done this the year previous and one other time before a race, and for whatever reason it did not suffice.  As I state above, I have a strict regiment I follow the day before a race, including eating a similar type of pasta dish the night before every long run.

With the meal done, I was back in an Uber and on the way back to my hotel, chatting to the friendly driver.  And, as another aside, I always find Uber drivers so friendly and easy to talk to.  

Back at the hotel, I consumed another Cliff Bar, drank some more Powerade, laid out and checked my running gear, and visualized how the morning and race would go.  Having run the race previously, I knew better what to expect this time around - if you have not done Boston before, the morning before the race can be a little overwhelming but that is for the next post.

All in all, a great day, filled with tonnes of excitement, a short run, lots of Cliff Bars, litres of water and Powerade, a fantastic last meal, and wonderful people - now time to try and sleep, which is the other most important element in preparation for a long run.

Justin Ferguson is the Principal of Cosmos Strategies, the Founder of, an avid marathoner, a supporter of charities, including: Wake Up Narcolepsy and Sick Kids Hospital, and a believer that anything is possible.  Follow Justin on Twitter @blueferguson.

Friday 11 December 2015

Why I Run Marathons

Justin Ferguson Boston Marathon 2015
Justin Ferguson crossing the finish line in the 2015 Boston Marathon
By: Justin Ferguson

I could probably do multiple posts on why I run marathons (and likely will), spanning many different reasons and never fully describe all the reasons I run them but below I will go into a few that spring to mind.

In an article by Chris Simon that ran in the Newmarket Era in the lead-up to the 2015 Boston Marathon, I am quoted as saying: "'What keeps me going is signing up for the next race,' he [Ferguson] said." This still begs the questions, Why run?

Years ago when I started running, the reason was simple, to lose weight, and to be healthier, which was good enough for awhile but I am the type of person who wants to continuously set new goals and achieve them.  When I heard a friend was able to complete a marathon, I set out to do the same, which I did, 4 months later.  After-which I took a hiatus from marathoning until in 2012; I was re-inspired by the tales of another friend who had just finished her first one.  That set the wheels in motion for my renewed love of marathon running.

Over the last couple of years I have trained for and ran four marathons (2013 Toronto Waterfront, 2014 Boston, 2014 Marine Corps, 2015 Boston), the last three for charity - twice for Wake Up Narcolepsy in conjunction with Sick Kids Hospital, and once for the Prostate Care Foundation.  Being able to run for charity is certainly a key factor in why I run races today, to be able to support a cause, gives me the motivation I need on the days I don't want to train, and certainly at those times during the race when I question why I am doing this.

Having the privilege to run marathons is just that, a privilege, we never know when our bodies will say enough is enough or perhaps we will get sick, or perhaps we will no longer be able to persevere through the gruelling training and the race itself.  It is estimated that only about 0.5% [half a percentage] of the U.S. population runs a marathon in any given year, obviously everybody has their reasoning for doing or not doing one but to be part of that elite company is a privilege.  

On top of these factors though, running marathons has taught me so much about myself including, how to persevere, set goals and achieve them, push my body past its limit, and how to overcome.  These are elements that I am able to use in my daily life and for that I am thankful.  However, most importantly it has confirmed my natural belief that anything is possible.  For these reasons, I keep running marathons.

Further, running marathons has allowed me to see why studies find marathon runners make better CEOs; it teaches discipline, perseverance, goal setting, etc. Laura Entis of wrote a story called: Marathon Runners Make Better CEOs, Study Finds.  In the article Laura outlines how, "Companies helmed by marathon runners, the study found, were 5 percent more valuable than those led by non-"fit" executives even after controlling for CEO, firm and governance characteristics, past performance and firm fixed effects."  

Despite all these reasons why I run marathons, one that I did not mention but I will end with, is I run because I can and because I enjoy it.

Justin Ferguson is the Principal of Cosmos Strategies, the Founder of, an avid marathoner, a supporter of charities, including: Wake Up Narcolepsy and Sick Kids Hospital, and a believer that anything is possible.