The Christmas Shoes

Some background: I’m almost 51 years old and have only been at this running thing for 10 years. While I did eventually become fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I have never broken 20 minutes in a 5K road race.  I came oh-so-close in 2016 with a 20:03. In January of 2018, I ran a 21:16 5K on a sore hamstring, which, a month later, completely pulled and ruined my Boston Marathon training.

I’ve worked hard since May to strengthen and rehab the hamstring and in November ran a 21:14 5K, my second fastest ever, and coming up just short of my goal of a sub-21 time for that race.  Since that 5K in November, I have been heavy into training for a March 2019 marathon. Speed work hasn’t been on the agenda much, but my fitness level is really strong right now.  A few weeks ago, my son/coach commented “I bet you could break 21 now”, and some of my marathon workouts did seem to indicate that.

So, for a change of pace, I signed up for a 5K this week. I didn’t take a break from marathon training but this week has been a recovery week after a couple of higher-mileage intense weeks. I’ve still run over 30 miles this week, but they’ve been easy miles. Also, I’ve only had one strength workout this week, instead of two. Finally, with nine weeks until marathon day, there’s plenty of time to recover from a hard 5K. I’d never run a 5K within a month of a marathon.

The 4%

I was all set to be content with busting 21 for this late-year 5K. Then, Christmas happened. My son/coach received his gift: Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes. These are the shoes designed by Nike as part of their Breaking2 project.

Breaking2 is/was an effort by Nike to speed up the process of one of the marathon elites breaking two hours in a marathon in a controlled environment. These shoes have a carbon fiber plate (currently legal for competition, by-the-way) and supposedly improve speed by 4% (for the elites, anyway).

On May 6, 2017, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya ran a 2:00:25 in the first Breaking2 attempt in one of the first versions of the shoe.  In September of 2018, Kipchoge ended up setting the official competition world record marathon in 2:01:39 in Berlin. Again, he and many of the elites used this shoe. They’re now commercially available and a pair ended up under our tree.

Breaking… 20?

Assuming that I was in shape to bust 21, could it be that using the 4%’s would improve me enough to break that elusive 20 mark? Some math showed that it would be close – a 4% improvement on 21 minutes is around 20:10. With that in mind, I put my son’s new shoes to the test in the Cold Winters Day 5K in Columbia, SC on December 29th. Here’s how it went.

For a race plan, I decided to target a 6:20 pace for my first two miles and then hold on through the inevitable last mile of suffering. This completely ignored the fact I’d never run back to back 6:20’s. Ever. Unfortunately, the first quarter-mile of this course goes uphill, with about a forty feet of climb, but I managed to hit 6:21 for the first-mile split. Recent hill repeats workouts were paying off.

At the finish

Mile two started with a steep downhill that let me keep a sub-6:00 pace briefly, but a half-mile incline slowed me again, and I only managed 6:24 for the second mile. OK, not bad, I thought, as I braced for what was coming. This is the point where the hero needs to recognize glory is within reach and power through the rising pain wall.

I did my best, but rolling hills and another seemingly never-ending hill from about 2.75 miles to the 3.0-mile mark did me in.  My third-mile split was 6:39, and despite an all-out downhill sprint for the last few yards, I crossed the finish line officially in 20:08.

My Garmin stats


1st Place Male Grand Masters

This was my second best 5K road race ever, and I took home first place in the Grand Masters (over 50) category. Could I have gone that low without these shoes? I don’t think so. Improving over a minute in seven weeks while doing no 5K specific training is highly unlikely. But, maybe my body responds better to higher mileage marathon training. I do believe these shoes helped by at least 30 seconds overall.

Will I buy my own pair? Not anytime soon. While I enjoyed their light weight, these shoes feel weird to me. I would probably grow accustomed to it, but right now I’m not a big fan of the way the ground feels in these. Or rather, lack of ground feel.  It felt like being on springs, a very artificial feeling.

I also don’t think these would do well for me right now in a marathon. They support my feet differently, and I’d be concerned about resurrecting my currently extinct arch-nemesis, the plantar fasciitis dragon. I did have a bit of arch pain during warm-up today, but it went away.

Finally, for me, the cost wouldn’t be worth it. I think my son will see the gains he is looking for, though, and if so, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be very happy. At least I broke them in properly with a trophy.

Thanks for reading,



The Final Exams – Part 2: Fall Semester

If you missed part one, start here: part one.

November 10th. 7:58 am.

Two minutes before the fall semester final exam. I pressed the play button on my wireless headphones. The new addition to my race day playlist began: The Prelude.



I Feel the Need. The Need for…

My less than satisfying run performance in my August triathlon gave me the next short-term goal: recapture some speed. The summer of healing had put speed on the back burner in favor of healing, but I didn’t know how far I’d slipped until the triathlon.

Truthfully, the week before the tri gave me a pretty good idea.  I forgot to mention the local 5K I did the week before the tri. I expected to be a bit slow due to the August heat, but my 23:50 in the Sweet Baby O was my worst 5K ever. If I had plateaued in 2016, I was slip-sliding backward down the mountain fast.

Can’t Let Go

There are two race results that still bug me. The first is my 4:10:45 at the 2018 Boston Marathon. Logic tells me to let it go. After all, I was injured, and the weather conditions were brutal, so that time was really not that bad, considering. I try to let it go, but I can’t. We all have our flaws. More on that later.

The second result is the May 2016 Jailbreak 5K. With a time of 20:03, I came oh so close to one of my big racing goals – breaking 20 in a 5K.  I decided I really needed to approach 20 again, and on August 13,  I set out on a renewed quest for a sub-20 5K.

To go along with this renewal, I needed a target race. I normally do the Lexington Half Marathon in early November, but this year I checked my schedule and saw the half marathon conflicted with my daughter’s soccer schedule.  I wouldn’t have time to do the half before soccer, but I could do a 5K. We now had our target race, and coach and I went to work, whipping me into 5K shape over the next three months.

I progressed well, and about a week before the 5K, I decided to do a one-mile time trial to give me an idea of my abilities for race day. I managed a 6:18. This was a little bit slower than I hoped but was a sign my speed was heading in the right direction. I reset my goal time for the 5K to a more realistic 21:00. A sub-21 would be my second best 5K ever, and I’d be semi-content with that for now.

Race Plan: Negative Split

Another one of my obsessions is the concept of the negative split. You’ve likely heard this from me before, but this means running the second half of a race faster than the first. It is very had to do, especially in a 5K, and I’ve never done it in a 5K race. I did pull off a negative split in the 5K of the Charleston Sprint Tri back in August, but I’m not counting that since the time was so slow. Based on my mile time trial, I set a goal for my mile splits to be 6:45, 6:40, and 6:35. This would give me a sub 21 and negative split.

Make a Big Noise

I also set out to work on my playlist, a very important aspect to my race plan. In honor of the recently released Queen Biopic movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, I created an all-Queen playlist – complete with a previously mentioned new feature for race day, The Prelude.

Here was my playlist, approximately 23 minutes:

  • The Prelude: “We Will Will Rock You” (Live)
  • Song 1: “Keep Yourself Alive”
  • Song 2: “Hammer to Fall” (Live)
  • Song 3: “Don’t Stop Me Now” (Live)
  • Song 4: “Radio Ga Ga” (Live)
Coach and Me after the race

Race week finally brought some seasonably cool weather to central South Carolina and the race temperature was great for racing – about 50 degrees.  Another welcome development: my son and coach made a surprise visit home from college the night before the race. The professor would be witnessing the fall semester final exam in person.  Talk about being under pressure.

November 10th – Go Time

Just before 8 a.m., I lined up at the start and soon pressed play for my prelude. We had a bit of delay and when we finally took off, I immediately regretted my decision to start behind some of the young runners. It was like dodging squirrels during the first quarter mile as I weaved through them.

The course for the Run Hard 5K is fairly flat. The first and third miles are basically a shared out and back on Ballpark Road in Lexington. The small downhill on mile one turns into a small uphill during mile three. Mile two is a loop through the Cherokee Lakes subdivision.

My mile one split was close to plan at 6:47. I tried to speed up, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t. Mile two ended up being 6:55. This perplexed me as I didn’t feel like I was slowing. At this point, I knew my goal of beating 21:00 was in jeopardy, and I’d need to push it to have a chance. I dug deep.

Mile three went better, somehow managing a 6:40.  At this point, we made the turn into left field of the Lexington Blowfish baseball stadium, and I tried to increase my speed as we circled the warning track and finished down the first base line.

Unfortunately, the last mile and stadium surge weren’t enough. I finished at 21:15, but it was good enough for 9th overall and 1st in the Male Masters (over 40) division. Most of the fast runners seem to have either run the 10K or half marathon races of this event. I didn’t have time to hang around for awards, though. I did an abbreviated cooldown and hopped in the car to head home.  A quick shower, and I was on the road to Charleston to play Soccer Dad.

Run Hard 5K 2018. Male Masters.

The Grade

So, there’s plenty of good news here. First, this ended up being my second fastest 5K ever by a few seconds. Also, for the first time ever, I ran the last mile of a 5K road race faster than the first. I’m still a ways from my ultimate goal of sub-20, but there was finally speed progress again. The best good news: my hamstring seems to be 100% and my body held up well during the more intense workouts of the past three months.

If there’s any bad news, it’s that I’m putting the 5K focus on the back burner for now as I move into the next big goal race – the 2019 Myrtle Beach Marathon. This is the first step toward doing something about that 4:10 number that bugs me.  Not only do a want to crush a marathon again, but I also want to make it back to Boston for another crack there as a healthy runner.

Fall semester grade: B+.

The Long Term What’s Next?

The last six months of healing and smarter training took care of the short-term “What’s Next?” question. Along the way, I also finally developed the answer to the long-term “What’s Next?” question, but I’m not ready to reveal that yet. I will tell you a sub-20 minute 5K is still part of that answer, but my coach I are going to take a different approach to it.

Stay Tuned.






The Final Exams – Part 1: Summer School

If you read my 2018 Boston Marathon recap, you know I pressed on through an injury to run the race. I really shouldn’t have been running the race, but Boston has a no deferral policy. It was either go in 2018 or re-qualify at some point. I managed to finish, and with that came the big question many people asked: “What’s Next?” They meant long term, and I didn’t know.  All I knew was that if I didn’t heal up, there’d be no next anything.

Post-Boston, I stuck to cycling only while I took 10 days off from running. I started running again around the first of May, limiting myself to about 10 miles per week.  By June, the hamstring was doing much better and my coach and I had the answer to the “What’s Next?” question – at least short term.  Summer school would be training for for my second sprint triathlon.

Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series

I last did a sprint triathlon in August of 2014, race 5 of the yearly Charleston Sprint Tri Series. I decided race 5 for 2018 would work again, and we had just over two months to train. The swim and bike workouts would be good cross training as my hamstring continued to heal. So, on June 5th, I hit the lap pool for the first time in two years. I had not missed it one bit.

My mind will not let me train just to finish. I needed goals. Given I was going to do the same race as 2014,  I decided my goal was to beat Father Time by finishing faster than 2014.  That year I swam the 600 (liars!) yard swim in 12:22, biked the 12 miles in 37:21, a 19.5 mph average, and ran the 5K in 23:38. For 2018, I wanted to improve on the swim, average 20+ mph on the bike and at least come close to 24 minutes on the run.

So, from June to early August, I did two swim workouts per week, in addition to many bike, and run workouts. I felt really good about my swimming, and a tune up to the old bicycle had me hitting some bike speeds I had not reached in a while. Run workout volumes weren’t great but they increased each month, and I felt good and on race day.

Exam Day: August 12

Unfortunately, the biggest flaw in my race preparation showed immediately after the start of the race. I had done no open water swimming this time around, and I struggled out of the gate during the swim, running into others and having trouble with direction. I struggled mightily, and didn’t think I’d ever finish. 600 yards seemed like 6000. Finally, I dragged myself out of the water. My watch didn’t have a triathlon or open water swim setting, so I didn’t use it during the swim.  I had no idea if I was better than 2014 or not. It didn’t feel like. I semi-staggered my way to my bicycle, had a decent transition, and headed out.

I was so drained from the swim, I continued to struggle on the first half of the bike. Finally, I started to feel better and started picking up my pace, but couldn’t consistently manage over 20 mph like I wanted (I had activated my watch by now). The bike finally finished, and I transitioned to the run where I quickly realized my goal of 24-ish for the 5K was not going to happen.

The first mile was a struggle at just over 9 minutes. I actually stated feeling better as the run continued, and about the half way point, I passed a guy who had mowed me down on the bike. Ha, take that.  My watch beeped for the second mile split, and I saw I was slightly faster than the first at 8:59. I continued on, and kept improving. At the third mile, my watch beeped again and I saw I had improved again – 8:42. Now, the finish loomed large and I gutted it out, so happy to be done.


Turns out, I had finished the swim at 11:53,  beating my 2014 swim by almost 30 seconds, but I had only managed 19 mph on the bike. My run ended up being 27:06, three-plus minutes slower than my goal. So, overall , the 50 year-old me was three and a half minutes slower in 2018 than 46 year-old me. 1:16:04 versus 1:19:27.

Greg Fowler: Charleston Sprint Tri Series – James Island County Park
Swim (600 yds) T2 Bike (12 miles) T2 Run (5K) Total
2014 12:22 1:53 37:21:00 0:52 23:38 1:16:04
2018 11:53 1:56 37:34:00 0:59 27:06 1:19:27

Oh well, any thoughts of training for a half or full ironman were put on the back burner and probably eliminated from the “What’s Next?” possibilities pool.

Summer School/Tri exam grade: C+.

Post Race – The Author and Coach

Good news was my hamstring held up well, and I had basically kept Father Time at bay in the swim and bike. Bad news was, as primarily a runner, the run result irritated me. I consoled myself in the fact that I stepped down the time on the miles, which was a negative split on the run. This irritation did help me make up my mind as to what the next short term “What’s Next?” would be, though.

To be continued…

Chasing Eric

In May of 2009, I entered my second race, a small 5K. I was still a newbie to running with only six months under my belt, but the other two members of my family who also entered were even newer. My 11 year-old son had started running with me and had quickly found the ability to cover 3.1 miles. My wife had also begun to run a bit. Now that I knew a bit more about racing and age groups, I decided to enter my son in this 5K, hoping he’d earn a medal and receive that whole positive reinforcement thing. I’m not sure how we talked my wife into running the race.

Well, that day turned out to be the highest medal count ever recorded by Team Fowler. As luck would have it, my son won his age group, receiving his first medal and some non-dad encouragement to keep going. My wife completed her first and only 5K and brought home 3rd place in her age group. Then there was me…

First Medal – 1st place 40-44

I remember running the first two miles faster than I ever had for two miles, in something like 15 minutes. Since this was too fast for my abilities, my body hit the wall hard, and I struggled the last 1.1 miles to finish with a 23:37.  Turns out, this was good enough for first place in the 40-44 age group, and I was pretty pleased with myself. Maybe I was pretty good at this for a 41 year-old. Maybe the whole family was good!

Later, as I looked over the results online, something caught my eye – the overall winner was another 41 year-old. His name was Eric Ashton, and unbeknownst to me at the time, he was a local running superstar. Eric ran the race in about 15:30, crossing the finish line about the time I started my crash and burn third mile. Bubble burst.

So, I wasn’t the fastest 41 year-old around. For the moment, I was the fastest in the family, but that was going to be short-lived and could be the subject of future blog posts.

I suppose at that point, I was probably naive enough, with perhaps some of my 1985 ego lurking deep inside, to think I could work hard and achieve those kind of 5K results. Turns out, I would have been wrong. I did improve in my 5K’s a bit, but I was more successful in extending my same speed out to longer distances. For example, my pace per mile in my 2016 Lexington Half Marathon was faster than my mile pace that day in 2009.

Age Grading

In golf, there’s a concept called handicap. This is a complicated formula based on your scores that basically tells everyone how good you are. For instance, if you’re a 3 handicap, it means you are much better than an 18. This system also gives golfers of unequal talents a chance to compete against each other.

Let’s take our 3 and 18 handicap golfers. If they just went out and played head to head with no handicap involved, the lower handicap golfer is likely to shoot 75 or better. The 18 handicap, though, is more likely to shoot around 90 and lose. However, let’s say they play with handicaps. The 3 handicap might have a ho-hum day and shoot 77. Subtracting his 3 handicap, his net total is 74. Suppose the 18 handicapper breaks 90 for the first time in a long time with an 88. Subtract 18 from 88 and you have 70. Our match is 74 to 70, and the high handicapper takes a few bucks from his buddy.

Running doesn’t work this way. Races have multiple categories. There’s always an overall winner, and sometimes there are categories called Masters and Super Masters for competitors over 40 and 50 respectively. Then there are the age groups, which are usually 5 year increments. For instance, my category is now male 50-54. If I’m not the overall or one of the master’s winners, then I’m competing against the men from age 50 to 54.

Just because running competitions don’t currently work this way, it doesn’t mean they couldn’t. Some researchers have put together formulas that take your age into account and show their idea of what your time would be if you’re under 30. This is basically handicapping running. Check out the article and calculator from Runner’s World here:


2016 Jailbreak 5K 45-49 AG Winner

In 2016, at age 48, I had been working on improving my 5K time as part of my Boston Marathon qualifying strategy. That may seem a little odd, but the collective wisdom in the running community was you had to be able to run a 5K around 21 minutes (for my age) to show you had the speed needed to run 26.2 miles at the Boston qualifying pace. I had been stuck at 21:30 for a few years.

My coach had been putting me through the 5K training ringer for about three months when I toed the starting line at the 2016 Jailbreak 5K in Lexington, SC.  In front of me at the starting line was a now familiar 48 year-old face – Eric Ashton. Next to him were some much younger elite runners from out of town, hoping to claim the prize money.

We took off and after one mile, I had run my fastest competitive mile ever – a 6:03. If I could keep that pace, I’d shatter my goal of 21 minutes. Heck, I’d beat 19 minutes. Alas, just like in 2009, my body reminded me that I was not in that kind of shape, and I struggled the last mile. However, I came in at 20:03, shattering both my 21 minute goal and the mental barrier telling me a didn’t have the speed for Boston.

That day, I also won my age group again, definitely a rarity, but extremely special that day, given the size and popularity of the Jailbreak race. As in 2009, I still wasn’t the fastest person my age, though. Eric was showing signs that even legends cannot completely outrun Father Time. He was bested by the younger elites for the overall title, but he still managed a crazy fast time of 16:03 and earned the Master’s award, and, thus, allowing me to take the 45-49 age group.

In seven years, Eric had slowed 30 seconds, and I had improved 3 1/2 minutes in the 5K.  By my estimate, looks like if we both maintain the same progression, I will catch him about age 55.  (Hope you had a big laugh at that!)

Lessons Learned

So here are your takeaways from this little story:

  • There’s always someone cooler (or better) than you. Therefore, don’t compare yourself to others if you’re just beginning.
  • If you take up running a bit later in life, like I did, you may not ever be super fast, but you can likely stretch out that pace to distances you never dreamed possible.
  • If you’re thinking about starting running or triathlon, try to involve the family or at least have their support.

Thanks for reading,


PS – Despite her bling from the 5K, my wife wasn’t hooked that day in 2009, and she didn’t continue running. Her running retirement wasn’t permanent, though. A few years later she started again, and went on to complete a half marathon in 2014 and then re-retired. Unfortunately, this retirement seems to be permanent, but there’s always 2019? LOL.



Product Review: Bose SoundSport Free

Disclaimer: I was employed at Bose Corporation for 10 years before they shutdown our Blythewood, SC manufacturing plant in 2015. They are the electronics manufacturer I referred to in my bio.

First, a bit of background. There are very few times when I run without listening to music. Occasionally, I tried listening to audio books, but that just did not cut it for me. My history with headphones and running starts with a rather simple $10 set of wired headphones, the kind with hooks that wrap around the back of the ear. When I first started running, I only ran with the left earbud in, and I hung the hook of the other earbud on my shirt collar, so I could hear traffic coming from behind as an extra precaution. I ran on the left side of the road, facing oncoming traffic, but I liked to hear behind me as well.

When Bose came out with their earliest generation SoundSport wired headphones, I was able to purchase a pair at an employee discount. I was immediately impressed with the sound quality and ditched my $10 headphones for good. This is also the point where I began running with both earbuds due to the richness of the sound and the lack of hook to secure the dangling half.

The Old Wired SoundSport Headphones

Unfortunately, I would go through the early SoundSport wired headphones within a month or two because the control buttons around my neck were not exactly sweat proof, I guess, and they would stop working. Fortunately, I worked in the facility where Bose repaired and replaced returned merchandise, providing me a constant supply of replacement headphones. Life was pretty good, but that ended in 2015, as I mentioned earlier. I had one last pair of wired SoundSports, and I wondered how long they’d last.

Then one day the dog decided to chew up the controls on my last pair of SoundSports. I guess she liked the sweat taste.  I decided it was time to make the switch to wireless/Bluetooth headphones. For Christmas 2016, we snagged a Black Friday deal on wireless Beats Powerbeats 2, and I broke away from Bose. Soon, I decided I was a fan of wireless. Just to be clear, these were wireless as in Bluetooth. They still had a wire between the two ear buds, which housed the controls.

Well the Beats didn’t last long, either. The three pairs we purchased as Christmas gifts for my children and me did not last more than a few months before we had to return them all under warranty. A month after I received my replacement pair, those tore up as well. I had to resort to stealing my daughter’s Beats, while I decided what my next step in headphones was.

Father Day 2018

Father’s Day 2018 brought a huge surprise – a pair of Bose in-ear SoundSport Free wireless headphones. My wife did not know it, but these were the next step I had been considering.

As I’m finishing up the writing of this post, I’ve had the headphones for just over two months. But let me tell you these are by far the best headphones I have ever had.

Product features:

  • Truly wireless – no wire between the earbuds
  • Charge/carry case
  • Two earbuds: Volume & pause/play controls on the right earbud, Bluetooth disconnect on the left
  • Three sizes of Stay-Hear+ Sport tips
  • Available in blue, black, and orange. I have the blue.
  • Bose Connect app


The sound. The sound quality is very good – rich, with plenty of bass.  Much better than the Powerbeats 2 and reminiscent of my earlier Sound Sport wired.

The fit. I was a little skeptical about how these would stay in. I’m a pretty heavy sweater, especially here in the heart of hell season, I mean summer, in South Carolina.  The SoundSport Frees come with 3 ear tip sizes, and I use the medium. I’ve had absolutely no issues with fit or the earbuds staying put, even as I sweated it out in the sultry South Carolina summer.

SoundSport Free Case

The case. To me, the storage case is brilliant and maybe the best reason to purchase these. One of the challenges with any wireless headset is charging the batteries. The Bose case does this for you. You charge the case and then you store the earbuds in the case. There are lights inside the case to tell you if the earbuds are charging. There are lights on the outside of the case to tell you the charge level of the case. According to the documentation, a fully charged case can do two full charges on the earbuds before needing to recharge the case. Bose claims the earbuds have a five-hour charge life. I haven’t tested this. Another sweet feature is the earbuds tells you the charge level when you pull them out and place them in your ears.

The BoseConnect app. The app is an interesting feature. After a couple of months, I have not really used it after the initial setup. I did test out the “Find My Buds” feature, and it seemed to work. Hope I never have to use that feature, though!


Not sure if this is a problem or not. One observation is the control buttons for volume and pause/play are much harder to press than other headphones I have. This takes a little to adjust to, but I’m hoping this actually means these buttons will work longer. These seems to be a weak spot on any headphones I’ve used in the past.

Occasionally, the left ear bud has lost its connection. A quick press of the bluetooth button resolved the issue.

Finally, I think I look a little dumber than usual with the earbuds sticking out. They definitely stick out more than other earbuds. Kinda makes me look like I have those ear gauges in, just a bit higher. Oh well, I’ll just run faster so no one can have a long look.


I love these headphones. Taking the wires away makes dealing with headphones so much better.

They solve several problems I had with my previous headphones:

  • No damaging sweat on the controls
  • No hollowing out/damaging the headphone jack hole on the phone while I run with the phone in my pocket
  • And my favorite – when running with one earbud in, the other one doesn’t have to dangle somewhere. I just leave it behind. (editor’s note: on pre-dawn runs, I only use one earbud. I do use a headlamp, but I don’t want the boogeyman sneaking up on me from behind!)

These headphones retail for $199.99, and my family fully paid for these.

My rating: 4.99 out of 5.0. Minor deduction for the sporadic mystery left ear connectivity problem.

Link to the FAQ on the Bose site:

Thanks for reading,





Motivation – Find Yours

What Jack Looked Like Photo Credit: xikomartins Flickr via Compfight cc

Motivation comes in many different packages…

In summer 1983, a young man moved to my town.  Let’s call him Jack. Like most kids moving to a new town, Jack made new friends.  Being tall, blonde, and athletic, this wasn’t hard for Jack.

Problem was, unbeknownst to me,  Jack became good “friends” with my girlfriend. I was soon history. News traveled much slower back then in the landline phone days, but eventually word travelled back to me about a new kid in town who had contributed to my demise.

School soon started back, and there they were, roaming the halls together, Jack, the football player, and my ex, the cheerleader.  They made a cute couple to everyone but me.  One day, I heard a rumor that Jack was going to try out for basketball, too.  Word on the street was he was pretty good. Might even vie for a starting spot. Well, guess who’s territory that was?  That’s right. Mine.

To say I was looking forward to tryouts was an understatement. I had a new motivation and focus.  Poor guy showed up but never had a chance. There may have been more flagrant fouling than usual, but that could just be called aggressive defense. I don’t remember for sure, and YouTube didn’t exist, so there’s no evidence. Jack did make the team, but he didn’t take my starting spot.

So, that was my motivation all those years ago – girls, jealousy, pride, revenge.  Looks like there should be a sermon in there somewhere.

Fast Forward

Twenty-something years past my basketball days, the motivation to take on a new sport presented itself.  In December 2008, the most “wonderful time of the year” was not so great. The U.S. economy was in ruins, and my employer was feeling the effects. Our plant manager stood in front of the employees right before the Christmas break and gave the grim business update. He implied there would be layoffs soon after Christmas. Facing the prospect of losing my job after the holiday, I went home and dug out the old treadmill. My new motivation was stress relief.

After a few weeks of walking and running on the treadmill, I was feeling better. There was a layoff, but I was one of the fortunate ones who kept their jobs. I don’t remember if I knew I needed a new motivation, but I soon made a decision that would help drive me for several years to come: I entered my first road race, scheduled for the end of February.

As a new runner, I should have entered a 5K just two months after beginning, but I entered a 10K. It wasn’t a conscious decision of 5K versus 10K. The now-defunct Lexington Race Against Hunger 10K was close to my home, and I happened to see it advertised. I also had no clue yet of where to find other race signups.

So, the LRAH 2009 it was, and with a race registration, I had my new incentive to keep training. I was also beginning to have have an idea of my abilities and how to pace for several miles. So, I also decided I wanted to beat an hour in that first race. This was not wise for a beginner, either, but turns out it’s how my mind works.

On Saturday, February 28, 2009, the day before my 41st birthday, I showed up to run my first race, nervous and not sure I should even be there. Now, I have several vivid memories from that day. First, it rained during the race. It never occurred to me that people would run in the rain. But we did. At least it was fairly warm for February. Second, as we passed the mile-five marker, I was really struggling. After all, this was one of the few times I had ever run this far. It was at this point several young high school girls passed me, and left me in the dust, quite the humbling moment. Finally, as I crossed the finish line in a surprising 53:29, I had a huge feeling of accomplishment. Not only had a completed a 10K, I had beaten my goal by over six minutes. I was hooked.

“Once something is a passion, the motivation is there.” Michael Schumacher

Your turn!

So that’s how I fell in love with running and pursuing physical fitness. What about you? Do you need something to push you over the edge toward finally starting or restarting a fitness journey? Here are some other motivations I can think of. Maybe these will help:

Bucket List

Want to do an Ironman by age 50?  What about doing a 100-mile bicycle ride. Bucket list items can be an effective way to start your fitness journey. Set a big goal and work toward it. A word of warning on this one: it’s a good idea to have spouse buy-in on these big goals.

Weight Loss

I have mixed feelings on this one. I’ve known people who lost a bunch of weight as they worked their way into shape for marathons and Ironman events, and I’ve known others who put in the work and didn’t see any weight loss. So, I’d say don’t make this your main motivation. If weight loss happens in a healthy way, be thankful.

Be a Better Parent

A Rare Two-Fowler Victory Day in 2014

You may think that I consider making it to the Boston Marathon the best thing to come from my running. Well, I don’t. This is: a few months after I started running, my 10 year-old son started going on runs with me. Not too long after my first race, I entered him in a local 5K, hoping he’d win a medal and be energized to keep it up. That strategy worked! This led to high school cross country and now collegiate triathlon.

These days, many elementary and middle schools have after school programs such as Run Hard and Girls on the Run that promote running. These programs usually need volunteers and have a program-ending 5K where the parent needs to run with the child. You might as well show your child you can put in the work, too!


Most people need accountability partners. If running or going to the gym with a group of friends is what you need to keep you moving, then by all means, be social. Just be sure to do some work and not spend the entire time socializing!

There are many other motivations. If you’ve started a fitness journey, what have been your motivations? Leave me a reply in the comments! Thanks!





Will Summer Go Away or Six Ways to Still Beat The Heat

Me, this summer.

If you’ve ever subscribed to a hobby/interest magazine, like Men’s Health or Golf Digest, you eventually start to see repeat articles.   Sure, they’re not word-for-word reprints, but titles like Washboard Abs in 8 weeks (doesn’t work, by the way) or Fix Your Slice Now! (don’t know about this one, I hook the ball) inevitably reappear every so often.

So it is with the running magazine summer issues and the Beat the Heat articles.  I guess bloggers are similar. Normally, I’d consider putting this article out in May as a precursor to the summer. This year, though, summer doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave us here in South Carolina.  I think today’s high (early September) was around 95. And the humidity has been relentless. This is actually quite normal in my state, but I think as my age increases, my tolerance for the heat decreases.

Since I do live near a city (Columbia, SC) that once used the slogan “Famously Hot”, and I have been running in the heat all summer,  I feel more than qualified to rehash these suggestions for running in the heat:

1. Avoid the “heat of the day”.  Around here that pretty much means avoid 9am to 8pm.  If you go early it usually means a slightly lower temperature but higher humidity. If you go late in the day, the temperature is higher and the humidity is lower.  Still not a dry heat here, though.

2. Run slower.  A lot slower.  Even walk some.  Maybe it is an age thing, but the heat really hammers me.  In the past summers, I’ve pushed myself to run my cooler weather faster paces. Now, I just accept the fact that that my body slows in the heat.

3. Drink up.  Before, during, and after. I’ve really made a conscious effort on hydration over the last few months. I’ve realized it is best for me to make hydration part of the overall fitness routine.  Sometimes it is hard to drink that water instead of a Diet Dr. Pepper, but I make it most days (I’m currently off soft drinks completely!) During runs, especially those over 45 minutes, I make sure I have water with me or in the mailbox on a pass by.

Buff Headwear

4. Clothing.  Not optional.  I think everyone over 30 should run with shirts on.  That being said, the standard lighter colors and moisture-wicking story applies here.  Avoid cotton – in socks, especially.  I almost always run with some kind of headwear, too.  I’ve been leaning toward visors lately, but I’m also a fan of the Original Buff from Buff Headwear.  This is an update on the old cotton do-rag.  It is moisture wicking and can be configured several ways to provide different varieties of head and neck protection.  Does a great job of keeping the sweat out of my eyes.

5.Find some shade.  Two options here. A. Stay Indoors.  If you have a treadmill in the house or access to a fitness center, sometimes this is the best option, especially as temperatures climb over 90.  B. Hit the trails.  I like this option better than staying indoors, but traveling to trails can prove time consuming.

6. Go short. Occasionaly, I catch myself scoffing at a mere three-mile run.  I’ve learned to accept that running shorter is OK and sometimes wise. If you must do a long run, consider splitting it. Run half in the morning and half late in the evening.

So, that’s it.  No big surprises here.  Just use some common sense and be safe.  Just think about how good it will feel in October when the humidity breaks.  What are some ways you’ve found to beat the heat? Leave a comment below.  Thanks!

Welcome To The Second Half


Perhaps the calendar indicates you’ve been around the sun forty or more times.

40th Birthday, 2008

Perhaps you stepped on the scale today and thought of a few four-letter words.

Perhaps you looked in the mirror and noticed a few more wrinkles.

Perhaps walking into your office building makes your skin crawl.

Perhaps your employer just downsized you.

Perhaps your teenager daughter no longer thinks you’re cool.

Perhaps your significant other wants you gone.

Perhaps you need some change.

I know I sure did.


In late 2008, I was 40 years old, and working in the IT department of a manufacturing plant. You may recall the housing bubble burst in 2008, taking the US economy down with it. Our plant made luxury electronics, and since most people cut back on luxury items in recessions, our sales had evaporated. Our plant manager stood in front of the employees right before Christmas break and told us the bad sales news. On top of that, he said there would have to be changes in the new year. We knew this meant layoffs.

This had an eerily familiar feel to the dot com bust seven years earlier, when I had my first experience with long-term unemployment. I went home that evening and had a decision to make. Did I mention the meeting to my wife and tell her my prediction about layoffs or did I keep my mouth shut. I knew mentioning the possibility of layoffs would ruin Christmas, my wife’s favorite time of the year.

Where It Began

In the interest of saving Christmas, I kept my mouth shut and headed to the garage. Buried underneath moving boxes and yard tools was an old treadmill. Over the years it had served us well as a clothes hanger and not much else. I dug it out, unfolded it (it was a space-saver type model), plugged it in, and stepped on. I didn’t know it at the time, but those were the first steps of a new journey. This journey would take me from an out of shape, slightly overweight 40 year-old who couldn’t even run a mile on an old treadmill to running 26.2 miles at the 2018 Boston Marathon.

Along this journey, I’ve come to this conclusion: The second half of life can be better than the first, especially when it comes to fitness. There are many areas in life you cannot control, like the economy or whether your employer moves your job out of the country. Fortunately, some areas you can control, like your attitude and your approach to fitness.

So, that’s what this blog is about, fitness after forty and the motivation to keep at it.

Welcome to the second half. Be stronger.