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January 7, 2010

Computer Nerd turned Runner – David’s Marathon Update


Recently my fellow Train Signal colleague posted Good Luck David, a post that wished me luck during my first marathon — the MetroPCS Dallas White Rock Marathon on December 13, 2009.

That post and all the words of encouragement from it where a tremendous boost that helped me in the race.

Before I give you an update on my first marathon, let me give you a little background about myself…


Computer Nerds Can’t Run

As a kid, I was always the last person to finish a run during gym class. I remember the coach always yelling at me about how slow I was. I loathed running (and sports in general) and would do just about anything to get out of it. I always felt like a “computer nerd” that just “couldn’t run”.

At the start of 2009, I could only run a few miles. I entered a marathon training program in the Summer with my local running store, Run On, and the Dallas Running Club (DRC). I did well in that program and completed some half marathons.

However, over the last two months, I didn’t train as well as I should have and only got up to 16 miles. Also, two weeks ago I ended up with shin splints and, after that, I couldn’t even run 3 miles. Because of these setbacks (and the typical marathon fears) I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to finish the marathon.


“The Race” — Dallas White Rock Marathon

I took it easy at the start of the race. I was very pleased when at 13 miles I was feeling good. I decide to put on my headphones, increase speed, and head for the finish. There were rock bands every few miles and a zillion people at the rest stops yelling words of encouragement.

It is funny how your name is in large print on your race bib so many people would see my bib and yell “Go David! Run David!” (it took a minute for me to realize how they knew my name).

I was feeling great up until mile 22 when my knees started hurting badly. I am sure it was “runners knee” (which I have had before) that appears when you run much farther than what you have gradually trained for. My time over the last few miles was about 2 min slower per mile than the rest of the race.

After 26.2 miles, it was a tremendous relief to see the finish line. I wasn’t out of breath nor did I feel that tired. Thanks to caffeine and tons of carbs, I had plenty of energy but my knees were hurting badly. I was so happy to cross the finish line and have them put my finisher’s medal around my neck!

My ideal finish time was 5:30 based on my training times. However, with me not having run as far as I should have in training and the other issues I had experienced, my hope for the day was just to finish the race before the 6 hour and 30 minute race cutoff time. I far exceeded that with a time of 5:32 so I am so happy about that.

During the race, I burned 3,600 calories and had no guilt after the race when I drank a huge chocolate shake and ate a big cheeseburger.


How Does Technology Fit In?

You might be saying “hey wait, this is a technology blog and a marathon has nothing to do with that”. Let me show you how technology fits in to this…

Technology is used in running to keep track of your runs. You want to know how far you went, how fast you went (pace), your overall time, and your “split times” (time that it took you to complete a set interval). It is also nice to see where you ran on a map and to have a diary of all of this.


Nike PlusWhen I started running at the start of this year, I was using Nike+ with an iPod.

This is a small fob that plugs into the bottom of an iPod and there is a sensor that goes in your shoe. It keeps track of your distance based on the “cadence of your shoe” hitting the ground while you run.

The good thing about this is that it works whether you run on a treadmill or outside (not true for a GPS-based device). When you connect your iPod to your computer, iTunes uploads your data to the Nike+ website. You can go there and view your runs and distance.

I also enjoy when Lance Armstrong and Paula Radcliffe come on and tell me that I just finished my “longest run yet” or my “fastest run yet”.


runkeeperI really wanted a solution that was GPS-enabled and would show me where I ran (on a map) and how long I ran using a more accurate method.

I started using RunKeeper Pro – an application for my iPhone that keeps track of my runs.

It is very cool actually as it uses the built in GPS in my phone to know where I am, calculate how far I went, and save this on a map so I can see where I have been.

It uploads all of this to a website where I can go and see my history and maps of my runs. RunKeeper can even automatically send a tweet on Twitter to let everyone know that you just finished a run and how far you went.

This also works for biking / cycling. If you already have a GPS-enabled iPhone and your runs are under 2 hours, this is a good solution.

As my runs got farther and especially as I would listen to music on the iPhone), the battery life on the iPhone was an issue.



From there, I moved to Garmin Forerunner 305. This is a GPS watch that is used solely to track running/biking/hiking activity.

They have a Windows application and a web-based application that you can download your data to.

However, I wasn’t crazy about either of these applications and, instead, used a free application called SportTracks.


SportTracks is one of the best applications I have seen for a few reasons:

  • It keeps track of your run/bike/hike/swim activities on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
  • Reports can be run to graph your progress over time for a long list of statistics.
  • SportTracks keeps track of the use of your equipment. In my case I wanted to know how many miles I had put on each of my pairs of running shoes (as you want to replace your shoes around 350 miles).
  • SportTracks can import my data from other programs.
  • Plug-ins are available to perform a variety of functions
  • It keeps track of the athlete – stats like weight over time (and more)
  • Oh, and it’s FREE

Here is what SportTracks looks like (my marathon course map is on the screen):



Dallas White Rock Marathon 2009 Photos

Here are some photos from my race.


Running through downtown Dallas at the start of the race
(taken with my iPhone while running)

Running through Downtown Dallas


Running along White Rock Lake

Around White Rock Lake


Crossing the finish line (note that the time shown is the “gun time”, not my actual “chip time”)

Crossing the Finish Line


After the race, proudly displaying my “finisher’s medal”

Finisher with my medal


And finally, since we at Train Signal *love* videos, here are the video highlights from the race.



Future Marathons

I started another marathon training program on January 2, 2010 and I plan to do another marathon in a few months. I hope to run the Ft Worth Cowtown Marathon or, at the latest, the Oklahoma City Marthon

This time I will be more prepared. I hope to finish with a better time.  I’ll never be a fast runner or win any races but I don’t care. I am glad to be out there running and proving that “computer nerds can run”.

Thank you to everyone for your support!

About the Author

is a CCIE, vExpert, VCP5, and VCAP-DCA. He has been in the IT industry for 20+ years and is the author of hundreds of articles and videos. He has created over 10 TrainSignal video training courses including the numerous courses that make up the best-selling VMware vSphere video training library.

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