Japan Journal: Prologue



Water spouts at the harbor welcome me to Otsu, on the shore of Lake Biwa.

Tyler tells me that we first started talking about Japan back in June 2016.

The original idea was for him to enter the Tokyo Marathon in late February. Thinking about his goals and schedule constraints for 2017 (and considering the generous travel allowance from his sponsor, Hoka), Tokyo seemed like a good option on all fronts.

However, it turns out that it’s very difficult for a non-Japanese runner to enter Tokyo without a world-class marathon time (i.e., sub-2:08). So, in the fall, when he needed to nail down his winter/spring racing schedule, he made a tweak to the plan and decided to run a different race in Japan, the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon on March 5, a mere week after Tokyo.

There was some talk about whether I might go, too, but with work and school, the possibility seemed remote. That situation changed when I decided to leave my job. What had seemed far-fetched suddenly seemed doable, and a rare chance to travel to a place I had never thought to see.

I haven’t seen many of Tyler’s races as a pro. I didn’t go to Doha either time he ran there, and I didn’t go to Houston or Hudson Mohawk or CIF or Burlington… But there was something different to me about the chance to accompany him on his trip to Japan. For one thing, it would be a chance to use the small amount of Japanese I had acquired years ago when studying the language with colleagues at Interleaf. For another thing, he was paying for the ticket (with miles he had acquired from traveling to other races).

The whole plan appeared to be perfect. I would leave my job, travel to Japan, and return just in time to begin coaching the spring Track season. I wouldn’t miss a beat. With some trepidation – the kind that always accompanies momentous decisions – in early January, I told Tyler to help me find a flight.


Alas, not quite perfect, as it turned out.

For one thing, my school had published the wrong start dates for track, and when they corrected their error, it became clear that the first week of the season would find me in Osaka. Oh well, I thought to myself, we can start a week late and not be too badly off.

The second shoe to drop was on Saturday when newly liberated from my work, I promptly caught a nasty virus. By Saturday afternoon, I noticed my head didn’t feel right and my throat was sore and scratchy. After nine hours of fitful sleep, I woke up feeling feverish. I took my temperature and it was over 101 F and climbing. I went back to bed and slept for another two hours, got up to make tea (which I kept forgetting to drink), took a nap on the couch, woke up for a second time and took my temperature again (101.7). The rest of the day and ensuing night I was either asleep or in a zombie state.

If there is a silver lining to falling seriously ill a few days before a long journey – perhaps the longest journey of one’s life – it might be the way that an illness slows down physical and mental activity to a crawl, affording ample opportunity to think.

Unfortunately, the only thing I could think about was how I was scheduled to board a flight in two days that would take me halfway around the world. In my fevered state, It seemed very hard to imagine it would really happen.


I left Boston on Tuesday morning, 2/21, and arrived in Osaka late Wednesday night. I fully intend to post updates about that trip and what I’ve seen and felt since, but my energy is still really low, so I beg a little indulgence.

Stay tuned…



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A Few Thoughts on Streaks


(Statement on Ron Hill’s twitter feed, announcing the end of his streak on January 29th, 2017)


“I thought I might I die but just made it to 1 mile in 16 minutes and 34 seconds. There was no other option but to stop. I owed that to my wife, family and friends plus myself.”
– Ron Hill, 78 (in a statement announcing the end of his famous running streak)

“[The streak] doesn’t drive me that much… I was more driven by competition when I was younger. I do it because I enjoy it. I try not to think about it.”
– Jon Sutherland, 66 (longest current recognized running streak at 47 years, 9 months)

“It is an internal thing to run every day, no matter who is ahead of or behind me.”
– Stephen De Boer, 62 (third longest current recognized running streak at 45 years, 8 months)

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Exit Strategy


Traffic was light this morning as I drove the familiar miles North on 128 to my office in Burlington. Arriving at 7:30, I found the parking lot mostly empty and pulled into a spot near the side door where I always entered the building on my way to my cube on the second floor of the Nuance Communications building.

I was relieved at how normal it all felt. I had wondered whether it would be strange or sad. After all, it would be the last time I’d pull into that parking lot, enter that door using my badge, climb those stairs, and set my company-issued laptop down in the cube with my name on the door. Continue reading

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Retirement is for Kids

Ashton Eaton,  Brianne Theisen-Eaton

A couple of athletics stories caught my eye over the last couple of weeks, bookends for a topic I’ve thought about a lot lately. Continue reading

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Breaking Down Breaking2


What’s all this silliness about a sub-two-hour marathon? Continue reading

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Field Guide to North American Tracks: Goss Track at Fessenden School


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Life in 2016

As 2016 drew to a close, I was a little surprised how many people on social media (and elsewhere) went out of their way to throw rotten fruit at the year on its way out.

Of course there’s a long tradition of viewing the annual flip of the calendar in anthropomorphic terms – e.g., the weary old man with the long beard making way for the fresh-faced child – but this year, most seemed to imagine 2016 as a monster or devil-year, and as the seconds ticked away to midnight on New Year’s Eve, there seemed to be a collective shout of good riddance. Typical were the numerous examples of what Slate.com called the “best meme of 2016,” before-and-after riffs expressing the popular view that, though we survived the year, it left us physically and emotionally wrecked.


Even though I laughed along with the memes, I felt something quite different.
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