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Running Heroes: Phil Packer, Iraq Veteran & Marathon Finisher

Phil Packer


LONDON, England (CNN) — British soldier Phil Packer was told a year ago that he would never walk again, but on Saturday he finished the London Marathon.

He completed the race 13 days after it started, walking on crutches for two miles a day — the most his doctor would allow — in order to raise money for charity.

Flanked by cheering soldiers and supporters, an obviously emotional Packer had defied medical opinion after his lower spine was badly injured in the aftermath of a rocket attack on his base in Basra, Iraq, in February 2008.

The attack sent a vehicle rolling down a sand bank, striking Packer “head on” and dragging him under it.

The 36-year-old was left with no feeling or motor control in his legs, and no bladder or bowel control.

Packer was in hospital for more than four months and it was then he decided to complete three challenges to help raise £1 million ($1.5 million) for Help for Heroes, a British charity supporting wounded veterans.

In February he rowed the English Channel, and next month he plans to climb El Capitan — one of America’s iconic mountaineering sites — a 3,000-foot vertical rock formation in California.

Packer, who was met at the marathon finish line by British Olympian Steve Redgrave, said that he was £370,000 ($558,000) short of his goal but he was hoping for more donations.

Dressed in a white charity T-shirt and desert fatigues, he was emotional.

“It’s looking after our injured servicemen,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that can’t do this, so this is for them.”

Earlier this week he told CNN that he “wanted to be able to move on in life.”

“I wanted to do something for other personnel who had been wounded.

“I don’t want to be helped. I want to help other people. Not that I’m not grateful, but… you know… I really want to be able to help people.”

He attributed being back on his feet to “fantastic medical support” from Britain’s Ministry of Defense and National Health Service.

“So many improvements are being made” in medicine, he said. “It’s an evolving process.”

However, he did not know whether he would be able to walk without crutches.

“I gotta see how it goes. Take every improvement as it comes.”

Read the whole thing and then check out Phil’s personal website, full of inspiration, hope, and incredible achievement!


Passport to Run: Spain part 3: Betanzos

by JuliaHart

I got to run a few days in Betanzos.  Betanzos is one of my favorite places in Galicia.  There people are so nice here, the town is beautiful, has lots of great architecture and is small enough that I figured if I went running I could return to my hotel.  However, for safety, I stopped by team member Becky’s room to tell her my planned route and to show her I was wearing orange and black.  I ran down to the town square.  I stayed pretty close to the main road.  This town is called the Glass City because of all the galleria windows.  The place looks great in the morning light- which I have learned on this trip is called the magic hour for photographers.  The hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset.
2009-5-04--Spain 479
I ran the next day (the day after these photes) with a group of my team members: Kim, Becky and our favorite Betanzoan Angel.  He took us to this great park “A Walk in the World” and we saw the giant stone Lion that looks over the town as well as the caves under the park.  It was pretty dark in there so we did a lot of walking but the place was beautiful.  It was nice to have a local show us a good place to run.  The next day I rean with Becky to a track we had seen the day before.  We did a mile there plus our trip to and back from the track before we had to catch our ride to the next town for the day.  Hopefully after we have gotten enough passport to run essays in people will know the best places to run in every town in the running world!!
Have fun, run hard but not too fast to enjoy the scenery!
Betanzos 1
Betanzos 2

Passport to Run: Spain part 2

Here’s the second round of pics from Julia Hart, Races in Places co-founder currently on a study exchange program in Spain.  She’s running every chance she can, and sending back pics.  I belive these three are from Vigo in Galicia:julie-spain-5

Passport to Race: 2009 Godparent 5k, Lynchburg, VA


Runner: Bob Huntington (above in green hat)

Age: 86

Home:  Lynchburg, VA

Summer Home: Van Buren Point, NY

Race: Godparent Home 5k (raised over $5,000 for Maternity Home and Adoption Agency)

Race Location: Lynchburg, VA

Race Date: April 18, 2009

Number of Racers: 300 runners

Describe your race experience: Beautiful weather- 55 degrees! Friendly race.  Ran with daughter Kathy, granddaughters Leigh and Kelly, and friend Andraya.  Course starts at the Old Kemper Street Train Station.  First mile and a half was all downgrade, so moved right along at a good pace. Passed numerous walkers.  The entire race is on the scenic Blackwater Creek Trail.  You run under bridges, train tressles and through a tunnel about an eighth of a mile long.  My favorite part was “hooting” like a steam whistle as I ran through! The second half was more challenging- all uphill! Finished strong with a 50:29 time.

Next race: Cameron 5k, August 8, 2009, Dunkirk, NY


Robert Huntington is a patriarch of sorts of Races In Places.  Inspiring numerous runners within his family and beyond, a perfect race day is a day you get to run with Bob!

Passport to Run: Spain

Races in Places co-founder Julia Hart is abroad in Spain right now as part of a Rotary Internation Group Study Exchange program.  She is super excited about not only learning about the country, getting to practice her Espanol, but also about running in so many new towns! She emailed me a few pictures from this morning’s run, though unfortunately I don’t know where in Spain this is! She did mention that while she was running in the AM, most runners there run after siesta time.

Here are the pics she sent, hopefully more to follow soon!





Good Luck Boston!

2009 boston marathon bannerToday is the 113th running of the Boston Marathon!

Good luck to all of the runners, including Races in Places Virginia runner, Cathy Polishuk!  We’ll be cheering for you, Cathy and watching the coverage at

Top contenders include (courtesy of

Age: 30 Kenya
Boston Marathon: 1st in 2003 (2:10:11), 2006 (2:07:14), 2007 (2:14:13), and 2008 (2:07:46); 5th in 2005 (2:14:30).
Of note: Last year Cheruiyot became the youngest man to win four Boston Marathons, and the course record-holder could become the first man to win four in a row. He is also the only man to win the Boston and Chicago marathons in the same year (2006).

Age: 26 US
Boston Marathon: Debut
Of note: Hall has been the fastest American marathoner the past two years, setting a record at the US Olympic Marathon Trials (2:09:02) in 2007. In 2006, the Stanford graduate set the American 20K record at the World Championships and a year later he broke the 21-year-old American half-marathon record at the US Championships.

Age: 23 Ethiopia
Boston Marathon: 1st in 2008 (2:25:25).
Of note: Tune returns as the defending champ after barely defeating Russian Alevtina Biktimirova by two seconds last year. Boston was her fourth marathon victory, following Hong Kong in 2006 and Houston in 2007 and 2008.

Age: 30 US
Boston Marathon: Debut
Of note: Goucher drew inspiration from running side-by-side with marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe at the 2007 Great North Run. She made her marathon debut last year in New York, finishing third, and hopes to become the first American woman to win in Boston since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach in 1985.

(click here for a complete list)

Also running this year is Boston veteran Bill Rodgers, or as he’s more fondly known as, “Boston Billy.” reports:

Boston, Mass. – Bill Rodgers, whose four Boston Marathon victories between 1975 and 1980 helped popularize the sport of marathon running in the United States, plans to be on the starting line in Hopkinton once again on April 20th, the Boston Athletic Association announced today.

His bib will read “Rodgers,” and his official number will be 79 to honor the 30th anniversary of his 1979 Boston Marathon win. Rodgers, 61, last completed the race in 1996, when he celebrated the 100th Boston Marathon. Then 48, Rodgers ran 2:53:23.

“We couldn’t be happier that Bill has chosen to run again this year,” said Guy Morse, Executive Director of the Boston Athletic Association. “Just the name “Bill Rodgers” brings to mind the true spirit and joy of running the Boston Marathon, from the race champions to the age-group athletes to those running to raise funds for charity. The man is known as “Boston Billy” for a reason.”

The 113th Boston Marathon will be the 17th for Rodgers, who last year underwent treatment for prostate cancer. His victories came in 1975, 1978, 1979 and 1980. In his first victory here, running for the Greater Boston Track Club, he broke both the course and American records with his time of 2:09:55, despite stopping four times for a drink of water and once to tie his shoelace. He broke the course and American record again in 1979 with his 2:09:27 win.

This year, he hopes to complete the race in just under four hours, saying he is not seeking any age group records but just wants to run “for the fun of it.”

There’s tons of coverage for this year’s marathon.  Check out these links for news, tips, stories of past and predicted runners, and overall minute-by-minute coverage:

Runner’s World Boston Page – coverage of American front runners Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher, great stories of past wins, miscellaneous facts – spectator guides, coverage of local runners, lots of photo galleries – lots of videos, interviews, and live coverage – Boston’s CBS channel has videos, facts, and streaming coverage – the official Boston Marathon website where you can follow individual runners if you know their bib number and birthday

You can also follow via Twitter: @bostonmarathon

Good luck to all the runners!

Passport to Race: Cooper River Bridge Run

by thekimrunner
cooper bridge

Your Name: Kim Jessup

Name of Race: Cooper River Bridge Run

Place: Charleston, SC

Tourist or Local? tourist

Distance: 10K

Date you raced: 4-4-09

Number of times you’ve run this race: 5

Number of runners in race: 31,430 finishers

Describe/rate the:

–   Start The start is incredible.  Over 30,000 runners hanging around in Mt. Pleasant excited to run. It’s pretty much crazy with runners everywhere and most streets closed. The Bridge closes at 7:00, so they shuttle people over from downtown Charleston in school buses and boats.  We were blessed with gorgeous weather this year, temps in the 50’s and no rain.

–   Food/drink on course 6 water stops, no food until the finish.  Once upon a time, on the descent of the Bridge, there were people passing out Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  Not a good idea.

–   Port-a-potties lots… of course with 30,000 people you still had to wait in line

–   Course (Hilly? Flat?) This race is flat for the first 3 miles, then you hit the 4% grade up the Ravenel Bridge from mile 3-4 before descending back into flat downtown Charleston .

–   Finish Excellent!  You run into downtown with spectators everywhere cheering you on.  After finishing, you walk about a block to the finish festival area.  The Finish line festival is fantastic.  Major sponsor Bi-Lo grocery brings out tractor trailer trucks full of fruit, muffins, and bagels.  This year featured Smart Water. Several local restaurants had booths set up selling food.  There was music and other entertainment.  The race finishes in the heart of historic downtown Charleston, and all the restaurants, shops, and bars are open for runners.

–   Staff This is a very well organized and executed event.  The staff and volunteers are amazing!

–   Other aspects? This race is great!  It is a lot of fun, but probably not the best race if you are gunning for a great race time. It is very crowded, and even with corralled starts, you inevitably end up behind a group of walkers in the sub-hour group.  The Bridge is quite steep and gets the best of a lot of people.  This year the race organizers did enforce the no baby jogger policy, which was nice.  This is a race that the Cities of Charleston and Mt. Pleasant really embrace.  It does bring in a lot of money for their communities, but it brings a lot of hassle too. Fortunately Charleston is one of the friendliest and best mannered cities in America. Their hospitality shines throughout the weekend

Recommended pre-race restaurant: You can’t go wrong with pizza and a beer from Mellow Mushroom on King Street in downtown.

Recommended post-race restaurant: Charleston is full of fabulous eats.  My husband and I were there for our anniversary and enjoyed a fabulous dinner experience at Tristan.

Immediately post race, I would advise the Mellow Mushroom again.

We spent the day at one of our favorite bars, Burns Alley, which is rumored to have great food as well.

Local tourist attractions (running or non-running related):

Charleston is a beautiful historic southern city with tons of options for fun things to do.  A carriage ride through one of the historic districts is always nice.

You could also take the boat to visit Ft. Sumter or the U.S.S Yorktown at Patriot’s Point.

The South Carolina Aquarium is really neat.

If you haven’t had enough activity, there is a fabulous bike/pedestrian path over the bridge.  Charleston County has done an exceptional job making Charleston a bike friendly town.  You can pretty much ride your bike anywhere.

There are also several beaches close by.  My personal favorite is Folly Beach.  It’s a kind of eclectic surf beach with small bars and restaurants, lots of old cottages.  You can drive to the north end, park, and walk out to see the Morris Island Lighthouse.

The Ravenel Bridge itself is pretty interesting.

Personal anecdotes: This race is just a lot of fun for me. When I first started running, it was one of the first races I ran, definitely the first big race.  Throughout the years I have run it with friends and my bridge running experiences have cemented some of my strongest friendships.  My husband and I ran the Burn the Bridges Run held by the Charleston Running Club shortly before the old bridges were torn down.  We were married on Bridge Run day in 2008.  When I sent out Save the Dates, I actually had several phone calls asking, “You know that’s Cooper River Bridge Run?”

Other things to know about this race:  There were supposed to be trucks checking gear at the start for transport to the finish.  I saw a lot of people running with bags, so I don’t know if there was a glitch in this process.  Hotels are expensive in Charleston and Mt. Pleasant.  This is a big weekend at the peak of Charleston  flower season.  It’s worth it.  We stayed in Mt. Pleasant and walked to the start. It was a $10 cab ride downtown.

A neat site with info on how to navigate around Charleston

For more info on running in Charleston: Charleston Running Club

Great place to buy running gear: Try Sports



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