Master runner Greg Picklesimer has quite the week.The 48 year old started it by 2:46:01 at the Boston Marathon and ended it by getting married in the Dominic Republic. Read about the runner and the love story…and congrats Greg and Carla! Note: This column originally appeared in the Sept/Oct 2014 issue of our magazine.
1. Let’s get to the good stuff first. You got engaged at the finish line of the 2014 Boston Marathon. Walk us through the whole experience.
It was something I had been thinking about for a while. The Boston Marathon means a lot to Carla and me. She’s supported my training, driven me to the start, cheered me along the course, and always met me in the finish area. The horrors of 2013 motivated me even more to bring a little love back to the scene. The trick this year would be getting her into the finish area, with all the amped-up security. The first hurdle was access to my office’s parking garage on Dartmouth Street, which was going to be closed off. Building security was able to get me a badge to allow her past the police barrier. Next was getting close to the finish line. Wayne Levy, who’s on the board at the BAA, hooked me up with a VIP pass into the finish-line grandstand, which put Carla in the vicinity. Getting her beyond the barricades and into the finish area itself was a wildcard that would have to wait until the big moment. So Carla dropped me off in Hopkinton, unaware I had a diamond ring in the pocket of my running shorts.
The Marathon was amazing: fantastic weather, awesome crowds, tremendous energy. As I approached the finish line I glanced towards the grandstand for Carla but couldn’t find her. After I crossed the line I looked to my right and she was there, making her way towards my direction. I saw a security guard manning the barricade and went over to him. I pointed out Carla and asked if he would let her through so I could propose. He sternly shook his head “No.” I told him I had been carrying the ring the entire race and appealed to him to help me make this happen. He was incredulous: “You have the ring?!” – when I assured him that I did and this was for real, he paused, then motioned to another security guard to let her pass. Carla squeezed through a gap in the barricade and we embraced. Then I made my move, down on one knee, and with that every photographer and reporter in the area surrounded us and pointed their cameras and mics in our direction. I nervously fumbled for the ring, popped the question, and she said yes! The rest of the day was a whirlwind of hugs, high fives, and celebration. I hadn’t anticipated all the mania. (I’d been kicking myself during the race for not arranging a friend to be there with a camera to capture the moment—turned out not be a problem.) It came together more perfectly than I ever could have imagined.
2. Okay, besides the preparation for the engagement, what was your approach to training for the marathon?
I’m not the best at following training plans. I tend to make it up as I go, typically planning things out a week at a time. My general approach to training is quality miles at a hard pace, hills, and to include plenty of cross training (lifting, biking, stairs). For the marathon I just ramp up the running more and try to get into the sixty-plus mpw range. My long runs are typically on the shorter side (16-20 miles) but I try to do them at a faster pace. I’m not a high mileage or LSD guy; it just doesn’t suit me. Consequently, the marathon tends to be my worst distance. I just don’t have the miles under my belt to stay strong through the full 26.2. In Boston the wheels come off around Cleveland Circle, which cost me about 4-5 more minutes between there and the finish. But I had a blast nonetheless.
3. You currently sit in second place in the USATF-NE GPS in the 45-49 age group. How do you consistently perform at the top of your age category across various distances?
Strength training is the key, I think. I believe as one gets older it’s important to maintain muscle mass and overall strength. Distance running can be grinding on your body, especially as we age. Strength training helps keep your body vital, wards off injuries, and slows age-related degeneration. I’m running the same times I did 10-12 years ago, which keeps me competitive as I work my way up the age groups. Don’t know how long that will last, but it works for me and I’m grateful.
4. How do you know you’re ready, both physically and mentally, to race?
Good question. Mentally I think it comes down to preparation: do I feel like I’ve done the work? If I’ve been slacking then it’s difficult to toe the line with confidence. Physically, I sometimes don’t know until a mile into the race. There have been times when I felt great at the gun but performed badly, and vice-versa. But mostly I’m just scrambling to make the start on time and don’t think about it until I’m underway.
5. Do you run doubles?
I do doubles sparingly, during my peak marathon training weeks. It’s really the only way I can get my mileage up to where it ought to be. I think doubles are great for that, and if I can do them as my commute to/from work, all the better. It’s like getting a 45 minute run in for a net cost of 20 minutes.
6. You are a member of the Somerville Road Runners. How has belonging to SRR enhanced your running?
When I got back into running twelve years ago and decided to do Boston, I was looking for a club to join because I couldn’t fathom running twenty miles by myself (I’d never run more than ten miles at a time in my life). SRR seemed like a good fit for me, the right combination of competitive and social. I’ve met and been inspired by some amazing SRR teammates. The dedication to running at all levels, of people who have rich and busy lives outside of running, helps keep things in perspective for me, challenging me to be my running best while acknowledging that it’s one part of a full life. I find that camaraderie inspiring, and it helps me strive to perform well in all facets of my life.
7. Mental toughness is such an important aspect of this sport. What do you do to keep the pace honest or on some days just get out the door when your body is telling you otherwise?
True, so much of running is mental, in training and in racing. And you hit my biggest mental problem: getting out the door when my body, attitude, weather, darkness, etc. are conspiring against me. The thing I keep reminding myself is that nobody ever regretted working out, that I’ve never wished I hadn’t gone for that run or hit the gym. Still, sometimes it doesn’t work. But the key then is to let it go, permit yourself to truly rest if you’re going to, and hit it hard the next day.
8. What do you think is the hardest thing about the sport of running?
9. Describe your best performance and proudest accomplishment.
Winning Doyle’s Road Race in 2010. When I got back into running, the first race I ran was the Doyle’s 5-miler in 2003, essentially on a bet. I finished around 70th and managed something like a 6:10 pace…and I was ecstatic. It was so much fun. It reminded me what I loved about running. It sparked my competitive spirit and motivated me to embark on a long-held dream of running the Boston Marathon. I was in my mid-thirties at that point and the people who won races like Doyle’s were otherworldly to me. So to return seven years later and be that guy —the guy who wins Doyle’s—was just so incredible. I never expected I could be that guy, in my forties no less. I felt blessed.
10. What’s next?
The big “what’s next” for me is that my teenage daughter Hannah is moving in! Going from part-time to full-time dad is something I am so excited about. It’ll require a lot more time and attention. Running can be a selfish sport, so keeping at it will be a challenge when I’ve got expanded priorities. Thankfully I’m part of a great running community that can help.
To read more from the Sept/Oct 2014 issue, click here.