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Tufts University: The President's Marathon Challenge

Alex Sherman

Got a question? Email the Coach.

Donations this year: $4,788.20
My Goal: $5,000.00

Alex's Bio

Graduation Year: 2006

2012 marks my 10th year in Boston, after leaving home in Denver, Colorado and the Rocky Mountains for Tufts. I'm excited to, ten years later, finally participate in something I've watched every year. I work for the Commonwealth, I've lived in Somerville, Medford, Cambridge, Brighton, Newton and now Roxbury. I have come to think of Boston as a second home, and now, I'm going to run it.

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Online Sponsors

Jessica Harris
$18.00 Gift
Good Luck Alex!
karina totah
An extra boost for the 87 degree projected high!!
$100.00 Gift
Michael Andreini
Barbara Buck
Hi Alex, We wish you good luck on your run. Wish we were there to go with our kids to see you, but we will be with you in spirit. Love, Barbara & Elliott
Taylor Shann
You keep riding, Postman!
Natalie Andrews
Alex- You will do great. Now we will have an excuse for an after work drink.
Matthew Piet
Best of luck Alex! I heart Boston Marathon.
good luck, Alex!
Natalya Rozovsky
The best of luck Alex. We know that you are going to do mighty fine. When it hurts remember Beacon Hill. We love and believe in you. Best Droz and Nat.
Kate Drizos
Good luck, Alex!
Amy Tormey
Hey Alex - You go cuz! Have a great run - we'll keep our fingers crossed for some good running weather. Amy, Dave, Sam and Madeline.
Kathleen Krause
Lily Beider
Alex, good luck, we are always with you, Michael and lily
Maggie Mink
Alex Sherman
$500.00 Pledge
I'm putting skin in the game. This is a team effort!
Dee Beider
David Berney Needleman
$50.00 Gift
Happy running
Julia Rozovsky
Justin Lindenmayer
You're a bad ass dude - keep up the good work!
Genevieve Sherman
Woot! -Sorobot
Andrea Urrutia
Nina Church-Adams
Go Alex Go! We miss you.
Paul Lopes
Great Cause! Best Wishes!
Eric Friedman
Alex - good luck! Just wait 24 hours before you decide whether to run one again...
Michelle Shaer
Alex, Run like the wind!! xoxo, Michelle, Andy, Melissa, Michael
Dennis Saver
Mary Lemire
Good Luck Alex!
Melissa Holman
Very impressive, Mr. Sherman...
Rebecca Miller
I'm hoping to absorb some of your tremendous fitness through osmosis. That's the way this works, right? :)
Courtney Drake
Go Alex GO!
Robert Curry
$50.00 Pledge
Good luck Alex! I know you can make it!
$50.00 Gift
Wishing you lots of adrenaline highs in your life - including a few at the marathon!
Steve Wise
Sherm the Germ! You can do it! Why? Cause you tha man!
Bracken Babula
Break a leg! (please don't)
Maggie McCarey
Kick ass, Sherm!
Good luck Alex!! - Rakeen
you can do it!! Go Alex!!!!! - your fans, alice and steve
alan buck
Go Alex, you can do it!!! -Rachel, Shoshana, Alan
$18.00 Pledge
Emma Pollack-Pelzner
Goooooooo Alex!
helen buck
Rhiannon Deierhoi
I'm so excited for you to take on this challenge and can't wait to hear all about your experience. Good luck!!
Arielle Aaronson
Just don't forget to smile as you head into Copley! Oh and also, see how many hands you can slap when you go through the Wellesley wind tunnel. It's fun.
Grace Muron
I have the same sentiments about Boston, since moving here from CT in '01. I think it is super cool that you are doing this! I hope you kill it! :)
carolyn luce
good luck Alex. I am cheering you on Love Aunt Carolyn
Kevin Miller
drink powerthirst and you'll win at EVERYTHING FOREVER. youll win at RUNNING!
Kick ass Alex!
Graham & Tali Griffin
Cliff Sullivan
Sarah Cassanego
Good luck, Alex! Running a marathon is an awesome accomplishment!
Ian Finlayson
Enjoy the race, and I hope you get good (cool) running weather
Kathryn O'Rourke
A good guy and a good cause. Thanks Alex!
Tanya Paz
you're my idol
Michael Buck
$50.00 Gift
Marjorie Freiman
Best of luck, Alex - what a great idea for a great cause!
barbara caley
Rick Buck
Hope the wind is at your back for the entire run!
Cassidy Morris
$50.00 Gift
You are going to ROCK IT!
Michael Lemire
We'll get you a big bowl of pasta at the wedding.
Gregory Fujita
You GOT this, dude. BUEN SUERTE! -Imran & Mel
Sam Verrill
Go Sherm!
laura gamse
Cara Pacifico
karina totah
Julia Rozovsky
Already designing your marathon posters. SO excited for you and can't wait to support you!


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Tue Apr 17 00:08:33 EDT 2012

 I barely remember running the marathon as a chronological event.  When I try to retell the story, I get confused about which things happened where.  All I remember is a series of moments and thoughts, ordered as best I can, here, starting from the beginning.

Hopkinton/Athlete’s village: Sitting there in the school waiting to be called, watching the temperature slowly ratchet up, and discussing what the heat could do to us.  Stretching, trying to go through the routine, trying to think about what lay ahead, what strategies to use.  There’s a guy there with ‘Quadzilla’ written on his TMT jersey.  I never get to ask him what that means, but I resolve to call him that for the race duration.

Walking down to the corrals, we hear that wave three (my wave) has already started.  There will be no waiting for the gun to go off; you will walk to the starting line and jump right in.  I remember walking through each corral, numbered in descending order, like a slow-motion countdown to the start.  Starting to look around and see who I’m running with. Too late to make friends. There’s a guy with his foot-shoes in his hands and nothing on his feet.  He’s planning on doing this barefoot.  I feel a little twinge of nervousness.

One of the TMT hands me salt tablets to recharge my minerals if I’m only drinking water.  Why didn’t I think of that?  Nervousness increases.  But then I see a few Harvard kids and I think to myself—I can’t wait to pass them on the course and deliver a good old-fashioned ‘thumbs up’ to ‘em.

And then we’re at the starting line, and it’s too late to feel nervous.  Trying to remember strategies: don’t run too fast, the course starts on a steep downhill, and if you are passing people you are probably moving too fast.  We’re off!

Ashland: The crowds here begin flushing out a bit.  The first hoses come out too—it is HOT.  Mile three comes and I realize my pace is over 10 minute miles, which is right on track for the heat, but I’m doing well, so I try to speed up a little bit.  I make it a point to find the really young kids in the crowd and give them high-fives, take the ice or oranges they are offering.  I hope I make their day.

There’s a couple people running next to me in burger costumes.  There’s also a dude in full red body paint with BC fan for life written on his back.  One guy next to me drops out after mile three and it worries me that this is going to happen to a lot of us.

I link up with the first group of Tufts kids, one of them has her phone number on the side of her leg.  She’s telling me that she’s going to pick up any phone calls she gets. 

Mile five comes and goes, but too slowly.  IT’S HOT.  I’m starting to realize that this heat is going to slow down everything.  Party People in the House tonight is blasting on the radio from an auto body shop and it seems like it’s going at one third of its normal rhythm.

Framingham: On the outskirts of Framingham, a train whistle blows—the commuter rail!  Some guys next to me are running from out of town—they wonder if the railroad crossing up ahead is something they are going to have to get to before the train does.  I reassure them and move on. 

Strip malls and open air parking lots. There is very little shade here.  But Julia and Karina are waiting with a banana and water, a welcome familiar pair of faces.  I keep moving.

I’ve not devised a hydration strategy so I make one up on the fly: gatorade at every mile for hydration, water in the BoSox cap for cooling.  Ice makes its first appearance here in Framingham.  I see a woman throw hers into her sports bra.  Smart.  Obvious.  I think about where I lost the most heat in my winter training.  I put mine into my hat and let it melt on my head and hold the pieces that are too big.  At the end of the race, I am convinced that this saved me from getting overwhelmed by the heat.

Jamie and the cousins spot me running through Framingham center but I don’t get a chance to stop.  We’re only past mile seven.  Nothing hurts yet.  There’s a guy I’m running next to named McPierce.  A man yells out from his auto-body shop “PAIN IS TEMPORARY, GLORY IS FOREVER!” There’s a full on bluegrass band playing off to the side of the road.

Mile 9 goes by, then mile 10, and then I’m in…

Natick: Finally, familiar territory.  I do a self-evaluation and feel pretty good, but the temperature is starting to rise.  Natick has some trees, though, and people begin angling for the shade.  I pass the burger people—they look miserable.  The BC guy a little later, and he’s walking.  There’s got to be a cut-off for costumes when the temperature hits a certain level, but I guess no one told these guys.

There’s a bit of peace and quiet as we run out of the town center.  All you can hear are the footsteps, and when you crest a hill, you can see the endless path of runners.  I notice a lot of us are running in lockstep—do we need to worry about bridges and positive feedback?  Could we create a Tacoma Narrows right here?  I see Quadzilla and say hi—he’s too focused on running and he doesn’t respond.

I grab a Gatorade and drink it and let the person next to me that I can feel the electrolytes working.  She laughs and asks if it’s my first marathon, to which I say yes.  She leans in while running and says: keep to the left up ahead.

Wellesley: Keep to the left clearly means keep away from the screaming Wellesley girls, each of them asking for a kiss from a runner (don’t they realize how hot it is outside?).  The Wellesley wind tunnel lasts for a long time, and we hit mile 13 in the middle of it. I mug for the camera as we pass through the 20k mark. What’s a good photo look like? Almost halfway there!

My knees are just starting to register pain here, but that’s a good thing that it’s taken this long, I tell myself. I fish for more ice and some medical tape—my jersey is starting to chafe—and soldier on.  Wellesly center is packed—the biggest crowds yet, and there’s Julia and Karina with more support and water (and tape!).  Julia runs with me to make sure I’m okay.  I skipped a previous water station because I felt like I had too much liquid in me, but now I’m starting to feel like the heat and the effort is outpacing my hydration efforts.  Starting here, I switch to drinking the water AND the Gatorade, and making sure I keep ice in my hat at all times. I run through the principles of evapotranspiration in my head (no joke) and resolve to make sure I am as wet as possible so that the breeze keeps me as cool as possible.

The crowd is starting to make this all worth it.  As the pain increases, and more focus needs to be diverted to handle it, any shout from the crowd is a welcome distraction.  I give them a Federer Fist-Pump or clap a few times and say thank you.  So long as they aren’t handing me beer like an asshole, they are helping me.

More people are stopping—people aren’t running uphill anymore in bigger and bigger numbers.  I meet up with my Tufts friends again and ask how many phone calls she’s gotten.  Zero!  There’s a man running in front of me with numbers on his shirt—years he’s run the marathon.  He’s at 15 and counting. Lenny and Marjorie spotted!

Wellesley ends with a big downhill—a chance to lean back and try some muscles that haven’t been worked as much.  It all terminates in Newton, where New Balance’s ad campaign kicks in for real, adding one more measure of support to the runners.  There’s a group of 5 EMTs crowded around a guy on his back, trying to keep his airway clear.  The temperature keeps rising.

Newton: Newton is a blur of residential homes. There’s a man playing a drum set by himself on his porch.  Bongo Drum circles start popping up.  SO many sprinklers (can there be too many?)  We cross I-95 and I wonder if any cars going under the overpass will honk. One does.

More people are dropping out.  The heat is starting to ratchet up further.  We make the turn onto Commonwealth Ave and I can start to smell the asphalt melting—never a good sign.  The Newton hills—which end with Heartbreak—and the temperature are aligning right around mile 20.  More people are walking uphill.  I lose count of which and how many hills I have to climb.  The Church in Newton Center makes me think we’ve hit BC, which will prove to be one of the first in a series of navigational mistakes I start to make towards the end of the course.

The pain is now starting to get more intense.  Ankle, knee, calf muscles (particularly after dancing at Mike and Brie’s wedding) are crying out.  I think back to the RadioLab that Kevin alerted me to, that we have a central governor in our brain that is holding back key energy supplies for emergencies, trying to tell us through pain that we’re done well before we’ve hit our true limits. I’m determined to beat it. I make a pact with myself when I hit mile 20, which is the furthest I’ve ever run before this: you are not going to stop running, you are not going to walk.  You are going to finish this thing the way you wanted to—running.  The barefoot guy is amazingly still barefoot. Un-freaking-believable.

We get to the top of heartbreak hill and there’s Julia, Karina, Rosie and David!  We exchange a few words and I keep running.  It is SO good to see them. I’m now drinking everything and angling for every hose, squirt gun, sprinker or kids with Tupperware full of water asking if I want a splash.  A welcome westward breeze is coming in from the sea and it is glorious (Evapotranspiration!  7th grade biology was totally worth it!).  And let’s not forget fire brigades.  They’ve hooked up high power misters to nearby hydrants for a one-two punch of cooling and propulsion power.  Thanks, guys!

Oh, man, and I am passing people who are seriously well built.  Their strength counts for nothing.  How am I able to keep up my pace?  The heat is my worst enemy!  I should be walking too. All I can think about is how lucky we are that it isn’t humid—that would have been the death knell to this entire operation.  Dry heat, I think I can handle.

Thanks, also to the BC kids—you might be drunk, but you can scream and spell, and it was incredibly helpful to have you as a cheering section.  Except screw those guys handing out beer—that’s a no in my book, especially in that heat.

Brookline: The heat and the pain are starting to become the main event.  I can’t do the math to calculate my pace, nor can I figure out where I am.  Heartbreak hill does not equal being past BC.  That was surprise number one.  Surprise number two was looking for Kenmore Square and forgetting that I hadn’t even been through Coolidge Corner yet.  Each of these mistakes are costly, mentally and physically.  The former because it shook my expectations and made me realize just how susceptible I was becoming to heat exhaustion, that I was not functioning fully.  And the latter because I am no longer budgeting energy well.  I slow down.

The crowd is the only think keeping me going at this point.  They are an endless distraction, but I’m starting to have trouble reacting as much.  More and more focus needs to be devoted to pushing through the remaining miles.

I see Jane in Coolidge Corner, that perks me up.  We crest a ridge and there’s Kenmore square, a balloon arch and a Welcome to Boston sign. The enormity of the whole day and race so far—the pain, the effort, the knowledge that this is the final leg and that I’m in unfamiliar territory with my body but familiar territory with this city—overwhelms me and I start to cry.  Just as quickly though, I stop.  There literally isn’t enough energy to cry and run at the same time.  Those electrolytes are needed elsewhere.

BOSTON: I catch up with two Tufts people—both of them are walking—and I tell them to keep going, leave it all on the road and make the last miles worth it.  I’m now officially dehydrated and the hoses and sprinklers are drying up.  There’s barely any ice, and I’m dehydrating faster than I can rehydrate from the course water.  The only thing keeping me going is the city itself.  Kenmore.  The Citgo Sign.  Eastern Standard.  The Overpass.  Comm Ave.  HolyshitI’mdoingitjustafewmoremiles.  Trying to inspire my teammates inspires me.  I start showboating for the crowd to get them to scream louder.  Their energy feeds me.  There’s just a few more feet, to go. And then the road dips under Mass Ave!  Another hill!  We soldier on.  There’s Hereford!  Some people are standing at the corner, texting.  We turn onto Boylston—and my heart sinks!  The Finish Line is SO FAR AWAY! 

But the crowds, they are MASSIVE, they are loud.  Julia’s in there somewhere but its too hard to focus and find them.  I wave my arms, a la any defensive linebacker trying to drown out the quarterback’s calls.  The crowd responds, and it’s deafening.  It’s the only thing keeping me going.  I start to lose it again and can not hold back the tears.  It is a feeling I’m going to remember forever.  This is it.  This. Is. It.

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Sat Apr 14 09:40:32 EDT 2012

As of this morning, I have surpassed my fundraising goals (even though the meter hasn't registered recent donations).  Thank you all for contributing and I'll see you on the other side!!!! 

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Thu Apr 12 20:12:59 EDT 2012
Penultimate Run

...And it's gonna be 4 measly miles on a treadmill.  Ha!  MEASLY is now how I describe 4 mile runs, when at the beginning of this process, I didn't even think anything more than a 5k was rational.

I don't say that to brag, since I am as shocked at the sudden manifestation of four months of training. This is the training at work. My metabolism is up. My weight is down. The long runs are getting easier.  The short runs barely faze me now.  My knees hurt less. Recovery time is faster.

So is my pace.  I was averaging and never thinking about cracking 10 minute miles.  Now without even trying to sprint--and in fact TRYING to slow down--I am running 8:30 miles or faster. I now have to rapidly adjust to forcing myself to slow down instead of speeding up.  Paradoxes abound.

Last year, as I walked to the Roxbury Crossing station from my apartment, there was a New Balance ad up for marathon weekend, part of one of the more comprehensive ad campaigns geared toward runners in the country.  "Excellence trained all winter." http://www.mikehowardcreative.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/800NewBalanceTrainedAllWinter.jpg

Well New Balance, you hooked me.  I don't wear your apparell, and your shoes don't support my arch, but I trace this whole thing back to you. That lone runner in a Boston snowstorm on the Charles River--that single image is seared into my mind. I thought it was impossible, stupid, that there were better things to do--to quote a certain Babushka: "Why don't you just try to see how many grapes you can stuff in your mouth instead?"  But at the same time, I wanted to say that--I wanted to say: I bleeping did it.

There were other real motivators. Julia. Ilya. My friends, many of them secret marathon runners. The SOM kids that convinced me--merely by their participation--that I should try a half-marathon in New Haven... 

Thank you everyone for your support over the last 4 months, the last 411 miles of distance I've run in that time, through the snow, through the rain, through the heat, through the days I didn't want to run, and the days I wasn't sure I could. 

I look at that image and I cannot help but feel pride.I trained through winter in Boston, I put myself through the ringer, and I'm ready to leave this all on the table come Patriot's day.  

I'll put one more post up with my marathon goals and my bib number for everyone to track me.  Here we go!

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“There is much to be said about preparing for a marathon. Some coaches will take notice of proper nutrition, while others might highlight distance and pace. There are those who will encourage you to read articles and watch videos. And then there is Coach, with the most invaluable tip of all: Believe. Think positively. Trust yourself. Imagine that you really can do it – and then go ahead and fulfill your dreams.”

- Eyal Amit, A09

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