Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An April March

Brilliant blue skies provided the best of canopies for the March of Dimes walk from LeLacheur Park.  This year, we turned out in big numbers to support our little buddy Ryan Fennell, Jessica and Craig's son who, while arriving a bit early, has been a soldier inspiring all of us in his first seven months.
Here's the star of the day, complete, I might point out, with his stuffed Spider-Man.

Here's the extended Cook and Fennell clan, ready to march for Ryan along the Merrimack River riverwalk, and beyond.
You want to talk Marathon Strong?  Look no further than this guy.

Mom and dad with their little miracle baby
This picture was taken BEFORE the walk.  Luckily, Chris was there to support his dad.

Yeah, because nothing gets a one-year-old baby more excited than a six-foot Alligator.

While the hundreds in attendance were off and walking, two of us, myself, and my nephew Chris, decided to not only run the course, but to extend it.  It was no run-of-the-mill course, either, for this guy, training for the 2014 Boston Marathon
Coming 'round past the Wannalancit Mills, Brady was holding his own quite nicely.
But it was Heather and Candy who took the lead in the home stretch.

Here's the REAL Mystery Machine - this guy!
Memere and Hales enjoy a laugh
And finally, the star of the day, Ryan!  He made the three-mile walk look effortless!
If you're interested in supporting this rock star's March of Dimes efforts, you can visit his fund-raising page here:

Here's an overview of the walk from Jess amd Craig's page and the March of Dimes organization, explaining why it is they do what they do:

Every day, thousands of babies are born too soon, too small and often very sick. Our team is walking in March for Babies because we want to do something about this.  The mission of March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

More than happy to support that cause for our favorite Spider-Buddy!  Rock on, Ryan!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Celebrate the Runners

Okay, I've held off on writing this type of post for more than a week out of deference and respect for the people whose lives were irrevocably changed by the events at the Boston Marathon finish line.  Time needed to pass to allow for healing, and to allow for law enforcement to do their jobs and capture the men responsible for the unimaginable attack, but I needed to write this blog post to celebrate the work of friends and family members who spent months training for the grandest race of them all, and did us proud on so many fronts - not just for their finishes, but for how they comported themselves in the face of chaos.

Some of my other blog posts have been dedicated to the events of that day that dominated the news, but indulge me in this post as I celebrate the achievements of my friends and family in the Boston Marathon.  By no means can we forget the experiences and losses of that day.  Indeed, they should stay with us always.

You've seen/read a lot of the reports that implore us to remember the victims, not the perpetrators.  I ask also that you congratulate my fellow E Streeter runners, who will forever be part of the tapestry and lore of the 117th Boston Marathon.

The signs were there early.
Captain America and Iron Man, Avengers Assemble!
If he had more time to get ready, Ryan would have joined everyone at the start in Hopkinton.  Maybe next year.
At the start, Tommy needed all the support he could get.
Who knew the Pesky Pole could run the marathon?
Andrew makes a point of thanking his Pace Car for 13 miles, Sean
At the halfway point, Andrew is joined by Nicole, one of the screaming millions of Wellsley College.
Where you ALWAYS stop to kiss the girls
Time for some father-son bonding
Mile 16 means time for a quick kiss from mom, knuckles from Heather, a hand-off to Scott and Carlos for the back 10, and a quick change of tops.  Time to Bleed Purple!
Suddenly E Streeters were everywhere as the Scanlon brothers came to the rendezvous point, not a drop of sweat to be found between the two of them.
And close on their heels, Lowell Police Officer Nick Laganas, thumbs up for the final 10!
Barry is either screaming in pain, or he's ready for Heartbreak Hill
Barry, emerging from Kenmore Square, hunkering down for his final mile
And finally, Andrew, crossing the finish line, completing his first-ever Boston Marathon!
Again, kudos all around to my son and fellow E Streeters, including Joe Patuto, who managed to avoid being captured on camera by me, otherwise he'd be featured prominently in this blog entry as well.
Take a moment to congratulate these warriors.  Never let it be forgotten that on a day that changed our city, our race, our nation forever, these guys still managed to log a 26.2 jaunt, one that will never be forgotten.
Boston Strong, E Streeter Strong!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Lowell Strong, Too

This one goes out to a longtime friend, who found himself unwittingly thrust into not just the national forefront this week, but the global one as well.  Throughout possibly the most testing week of the Bay State's history, the man seen standing as a rock in the center of the chaos, was Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis, III.

I worked with Ed for quite a stretch of time, first when he was a Lowell Police Vice Squad Sergeant, and I stalked him as a Lowell Sun police reporter, and ultimately, we worked alongside one another, when he drafted me to be his Communications Director at the Lowell PD when he became Superintendent.  Here we were in 1996 hanging with a different Boss, Bruce Springsteen.

Since then, our careers have gone in different directions, but we've always managed to stay plugged in with one another.

This week, I watched with fascination as Ed stood in front of the global media, providing sporadic updates about the case that gripped the nation and forever changed the Boylston Street finish line of the Boston Marathon.

But the story I wanted to share was not about Ed's media exploits, not about his leadership at the front of the police investigation, it was about the mid-week conversation we shared.  The conversation had nothing to do with the investigation.  I wouldn't be so shallow as to put him into a pickle by asking him questions during a sensitive investigation that literally meant life-and-death circumstances for all involved.

No, the conversation was unforgettable, because Ed, who had barely been eating and sleeping for days, was calling to check on me.  He knew that my family, fellow E Streeter friends and I had been at the finish line when the bombs went off.  He knew that my son, Andrew, was running in his first marathon.  He knew my wife, Jackie, and daughter, Heather had been standing directly across the street from the first blast.  And he wanted to make sure we were all okay.

The man whose life, career, and and every syllable were the fodder of cameras and scribes worldwide, just wanted to make sure one of his friends was doing okay.  He listened to my version of what we all had experienced.  He told me his officers were doing everything they could to catch those responsible.  And then he had to bolt, because something else was unfolding.
On Friday night, I admit to sitting there with more than a gloating sense of pride watching him stand before all of those cameras again to tell everyone the nightmare was over, the bad guy was in custody.  Throughout all the week's champion cries of Boston Strong, I couldn't help but think it was Lowell Strong, too.  I hearkened back to the dozens of press conference we had worked on together.  I remember the discussions we would always have before he got in front of the cameras.  We didn't always agree on how it was going to play out. In fact, we disagreed frequently, but it was never an insurmountable difference of opinions.  We moved on, and stepped right back into the trenches the next time we needed to get a job done.

Ed will be forever changed by this, no question.  And at the same time, he won't be.  He'll still be the guy who grew up in Lowell's Centralville neighborhood, landed a job working for a department he loved, and then worked his way up through the ranks until he took the helm of that department.  He'll still be the guy from the law enforcement family, who has made his second family within law enforcement, not just locally, or statewide, but nationally, and now globally as well.  He'll still be the guy I remember during that fateful October in 1996 who personally visited the homes of each of his brother officers who were killed in a tragic plane crash, to meet with their families and pledge to do everything he could to help them go on.

And now, he'll be the guy I remember who took a couple of minutes away from one of the most horrific and gripping tragedies that has tested our nation to check on my family and me.  And when a bit more time has passed and the global news agencies have returned to their stations to await the next big story, he'll still be a man I'm proud to call my friend.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Give This Man a Medal!

Some of you know, because I've written about it elsewhere, the story of my friend and fellow E Streeter, Lowell Police Officer Nick Laganas.  Here's the pic of Nick I snapped at Mile 16 of the Boston Marathon, on the bridge passing over Route 128.  The photo has made its rounds among Nick's friends, of whom there are many.  Nick and I are part of the PT team at the Lowell Police Academy that helps train police officers to run.
This particular blog post, though, is written because of an unfortunate development that we're looking to correct ASAP, and I have no doubt whatsoever that the incredible folks who work at the Boston Athletic Association will help us fix it in no time flat.  Here he is with fellow E Streeter, and another person who helps out at the Police Academy, Barry Scanlon.
As many of you know, Nick ran in his first Boston Marathon Monday.  He's already a running machine, but this was his first venture onto the vaunted course.  Nick impressively made it across the finish line in under four hours, and was at the first water station in the finish chute, grabbing a water, when the first blast went off.  Instead of continuing down the finish chute, Nick did what law enforcement officers nationwide do - HE RAN TOWARD THE DANGER, even after just logging 26.2 miles of running!

After making sure his parents who were there to cheer him on were uninjured and safe, Nick found himself offering first aid to some of the ailing victims.  His photo can be seen in some of the news coverage of the more graphic shots of the site of the first explosion.

Anyone who knows him knows that besides being a proud Army military police sergeant, a veteran who served in Baghdad, Iraq, a great guy, as well as the Mill City's combo of the Dark Knight and Spartacus, Nick's also a pretty modest guy, who shies away from the attention.

But in this case it's warranted.
You see, because Nick didn't continue further down the chute, he never was able to pick up a medal to mark his completion of the marathon.  He hasn't been able to grab it in the days since either, when the BAA has been taking care of the many thousands of runners who weren't able to complete the historic race because of the chaos.

So those of us among the E Streeters are hard at work trying to chase down a medal for Nick even as we speak.  Fellow E Streeter and Police Academy runner and Beantown Bootcamper Joe Patuto, who ran Monday in yet another of his many marathons, already has wheels in progress to help me secure a medal for this guy.
So hopefully, within the next 48 hours, we'll be able to get Nick his medal on behalf of the BAA.  I only wish there was another medal he could get for being a hero of a different kind at this year's Boston Marathon.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Track Your E Streeters

Less than 24 hours to go, and E Streeters worldwide are busy carbo-loading, hydrating, resting their feet, and filling their heads with all kinds of doubts and question about whether or not their training over the past five months has been sufficient enough to get them through the grueling 26.2 miles of tomorrow's Boston Marathon.
Guys, trust me, you're ready.
So here's the official 2013 E Streeters Pre-Boston Marathon to let all of you get your one-stop shopping to get the information you need to track this year's crop of E Streeters running.
Here's how you do it.
Go to the Marathon's Athlete Alert program.
Then type in the corresponding bib numbers for the following E Streeters.  You'll get text alerts for the runners at 10K (6.2 miles) the halfway point (13.1 miles) 30K (18.6 miles) and the finish.
Heres' their names and their numbers, that's all you'll need to keep up to speed on these speedsters:
Running his first-ever marathon, making us proud all around, my son Andrew, number 25168
Running in his sixth marathon, Barry Scanlon, number 25015, and his brother Tommy, running in his fourth consecutive marathon, number 25167
Running in his - get this - his 28TH CONSECUTIVE BOSTON MARATHON!!!!!! - Scott Graham clocks in at number 8142
MCC's IT guru Joe Patuto, now running marathons across the country, marks his return to the Boston Marathon at number 24282 (don't get in the car, Joe!)
And finally, the debut of another "rookie" to the Boston Marathon course, Lowell Police Officer Nick Laganas.  (You got this, Nick.  Don't forget the band-aids!)
Super proud of all my fellow E Streeters, it was a fabulous season of training, with more than three dozen different communities under our belts and just about as many snowstorms.
As fellow E Streeter Victoria would say, the hay's in the barn!
And come tomorrow, sparks fly on E Street!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

All About the YooHoo

It's springtime in New England, so that mean it's time to Run the Rivah once again!
The 22nd annual 10 mile Merrimack River trail race, the baby of E Streeter extraordinaire Stephen "Petey" Peterson, is as sure a sign of spring as the first robin.  This tradition is just a lot muddier.
And with a fresh rainfall on Friday, that made for some exciting footwork on the breathtaking course from Andover to Tewksbury.
Warriors come for the run.  Others come for the coffee.

Mostly, though, they come for the legendary Top 10 chili.  Happy to finally contribute to one of the coveted Rivah tee-shirts this year, thwarted for years as as I was by finishing at the back of the pack and missing out on the once-meager offerings of chili.  Luckily, the chefs behind the scenes have since increased their rations, and there's a bowl or two left over for us back-of-the-packers.  Rivah Chili: It's Not Just for the Top 10 finishers anymore.
The trailmaster taskmaster himself, flanked by the race's 21 years of previous tees, getting ready to Cuyuga the troops at the start!
Some folks just don't know how to behave as they wait for the starting gun
And they're off!
Nearly halfway through the run lies one of the most ominous, humbling, and just downright sadistic hills known to trail-runners, known to all Merrimack River Rats as simply the Power Line Hill.
Petey is apparently everywhere on this course, including waiting atop the hill to egg us all on
It's an out-and-back course, so I get to see all the runners who are faster than me coming back at me.  That includes Scott, seen here crossing one of the dozens of brooks and waterways that riddle this course.
He still manages to "high-five" a fellow E Streeter in his quest for top 25
Shortly behind him comes Sean, mystically emerging from behind this tree
Along the course, you'll find Petey providing interesting tidbits of made-up history, including here on Cuyuga Hill, where he tells runners that they're climbing the third highest hill in Essex County, founded in the year 9.  Hey, it he said it so convincingly, I believed him.
Time for some fantastic finishes, a small stretch that features the muddiest patch on the entire course.  Many, like Chili MacSpence himself, choose the path less traveled.
Others take the plank
One of the 10 fundamental rules of running:  Always Know Where the Camera Is.  A real Mudblood, live and in person
After a grueling 10 mile trek through mud, up freakish hills, and along scenic river paths, nothing hits the spot like a bowl of Scott's chili.  Many come just for the chili and don't even run.  It's that good.
Afterwards, an E Street team photo only made sweeter by the abundance of bowls of chili.  Boston Marathoners come for the chili, too, another annual tradition
This year, Scott proudly joined the 200 Club, the prestigous club occupied by the select few who have logged 200 miles during the 22 year reign of the Run the Rivah trail race!  For that level of insanity, he gets a hat.
 And in the end, like it is every year at the Rivah, it's All About the Yoohoo.
Congrats once again to Petey and his A to Z prizes post-race. Mark your calendars for next April, and in the meantime, help Petey our by starting to think of prizes that begin with the letter X.  Cuyuga!