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Lake Placid Half Marathon among the most walker-friendly races in Northeast

May 11, 2017 - Andy Flynn
Since launching the Lake Placid Diet more than three years ago, I’ve had my ups and downs with weight and highs and lows with self-esteem, health issues and achieving my goals. Yet I’m always thinking about walking the Lake Placid Half Marathon again.

In early spring 2014, I lost about 80 pounds and successfully trained for the Lake Placid Half Marathon, completing it in under 6 hours. A year later, I returned and beat my time by about 1 hour. Since then, I’ve gained all my weight back and have been dealing with leg problems, many times walking with a cane just to get around. This spring, I’ve slowly improved my health and lost about 30 pounds. It’s too late for this year’s Lake Placid Half Marathon, so I dream about next year.

I enjoy walking in races, and when I get healthy enough, I want to do more. In all, my bling reflects a total of six races: two 5ks, one 10k, two half marathons and one full marathon (in 2002 when I was 32 years old). Like many other athletes in the walking/running community, I’m always looking for new races. Yet the races I can walk are limited due to my size.

You see, I’m pretty darn slow. With more than 400 pounds, it’s understandable. Even at 389 pounds, my weight during the 2014 Lake Placid Half Marathon, that’s a lot of body to carry around for 13.1 miles. So I need to find races that have generous time limits.

My research for races in the Northeast with time limits of 6 hours or more has resulted in a list of fewer than 10, mainly because races are designed primarily for runners, not walkers.

Therefore, the Lake Placid Half Marathon is one of the most walker-friendly half marathons in the Northeast, even the nation, and I highly recommend it to anyone trying to lose weight and get active by participating in races.

At this point, walking a 5k (3.1 miles) is a big deal. I can barely walk half a mile, and that’s with the help of two walking sticks. Once I get to a 5k, I can work toward a 10k and then train for a half marathon. I’d like to race in the Empire State Half Marathon in Syracuse in October, but that depends on my weight loss and the health of my legs.

Below are the walker-friendly half marathons I found in the Northeast with a 6-hour time limit or more.

-Baystate Half Marathon, Lowell, Massachusetts, 6 hours (Oct. 22)

-Hambletonian Half Marathon, Goshen, New York, 6 hours (Oct. 15)

-Hyannis Half Marathon, Hyannisport, Massachusetts, 6 hours (Feb. 26)

-Lake Placid Half Marathon, Lake Placid, New York, 6 hours (June 11)

-Empire State Half Marathon, Syracuse, New York, 6.5 hours (Oct. 8)

-Mad Half Marathon, Waitsfield, Vermont, 6.5 hours (July 9) “World’s Most Beautiful Marathon”

-New Hampshire Half Marathon, Bristol, New Hampshire, 6.5 hours (Sept. 30)

-Wineglass Half Marathon, Corning, New York, 7 hours (Oct. 1)

After getting my half marathon time to less than 6 hours, I can work on other races in the region. I’d like to eventually walk the Adirondack Half Marathon in Schroon Lake, which has a time limit of 5.5 hours, and the Lake Placid Classic Half Marathon, which has a time limit of 4.5 hours.


2014 Lake Placid Half Marathon experience

When I took my first rest during the June 8, 2014 Lake Placid Half Marathon — at 10.5 miles sitting in full sun in 80-degree heat on a guiderail at the corner of Route 73 and the River Road — I was seconds away from being hauled off in an ambulance.

My expected happy moment at the finish line was drifting away with each breath, as the heat nearly made me pass out from exhaustion.

“Are you all right?” my walking partners, twin brother Steve Flynn and childhood friend Dan Roy, asked me.

“No,” I replied, holding on to a road sign for stability, seeing a state trooper at the corner keeping a close eye on me. “I’m about to pass out.”

All I could think of at that moment, in addition to needing some help, were the countless people who were expecting me to finish.

“I don’t want to disappoint anyone,” I told Steve.

“This isn’t about them, “ he replied. “It’s about you.”

Steve traveled from Colorado to walk with me, and Dan came from Tupper Lake. My aunt and uncle visited from Long Island that weekend, and they were at the finish line waiting with dozens of other supporters, including my wife and mother. I couldn’t bare disappointing them. But at that moment, it was out of my control. The heat was going to get me.

Other spectators at the corner were apparently watching me suffer as I had my eyes closed, trying desperately not to succumb to the heat. Dan asked if I wanted some ice, which he still had in a paper cup from an aid station.

“Yes,” I said, taking a cube in my mouth.

Then a woman asked if I wanted ice water. Looking up, I saw a tall, clear plastic cup filled with ice water, and I readily said, “Yes! Thank you.” I took a drink. I’m not sure who — maybe the woman, maybe my brother — but someone poured ice water over my head. I took another drink. More water over my head. I drank more.

Then we moved to the shade, and I sat on a rock, drinking more water and pouring some over my head. As it ran down my body, it soaked my shirt, cooling me off. Within 10 minutes, I was no longer in danger of passing out.

The rock was near a car owned by the woman who gave me ice water. She was watching the race with her husband, cheering on their daughter, who was running the marathon. Her name is Margaret Rishel, of Queensbury, and I consider her my guardian angel of the half-marathon.

“Thanks for saving my life,” I told Margaret as we left to finish the race. Technically, she may not have saved my life, I but that’s how I felt at the time. Without her help, I certainly would not have finished the half marathon, and I’m eternally grateful.

Even before the heat incident, while we were walking on the River Road heading back to Route 73 after the turnaround, Steve reflected on the supportive atmosphere of the Lake Placid Marathon & Half. Not having participated in this type of endurance race before, he was pleasantly surprised by the community feeling of the event, with many people cheering each other on as they passed.

“Keep it up,” they’d say. “You can do it. You’re doing great. You’re awesome.”

We heard a lot of these words of encouragement, mainly because we were walking in the back of the half marathon pack. Runners instinctively know when other racers need motivation, so their cheers are as involuntary as a heart beat.

The concept behind the Lake Placid Diet experiment is to find out how the Lake Placid region can help me get healthy. Exploring the local resources and support networks available to everyone, I continually try to answer the question, “How can Lake Placid help me lose weight?”

The Lake Placid Diet is a community approach to weight loss. On Dec. 17, 2013, I was 470 pounds. On the morning of the half marathon, I weighed in at 389 pounds, a difference of 81 pounds in less than six months. Clearly, something was working. The resources and support — on top of hard work and sheer determination — have helped me make healthy lifestyle changes so I can eventually achieve my weight-loss goals.

My half marathon experience is a clear example of what the Lake Placid Diet can do for anyone who needs to make similar changes in their lives. Without the support of an entire community, I could not have finished the race. It began before the event and continued non-stop from the start on Main Street to the finish line at the Olympic Speedskating Oval. My guess is there are hundreds of other racers who feel the same way.

When I hit the wall at mile 10, I knew all my training had paid off. The time advantage I’d built up gave me a cushion when I had the heat incident at the corner of Route 73 and the River Road. It’s what helped me complete the half marathon in 5:52:32. I placed 1004 out of 1005 participants. Steve was listed as No. 1003 with the same time, and Dan was No. 1005 (5:52:33), even though all three of us crossed the finish line together.

Fighting through the pain after hitting the wall is always a mind game, and that’s where I dug into my bag of tricks and started talking to myself. Mantras began to come out of my mouth. “I can do this. I’m on the top of my game. It’s just another walk in the park. Slow and steady.” I daydreamed about crossing the finish line. I stopped to rest more frequently. I welcomed the pressure of finishing for all those who expected me to finish. I recalled the warmth of the people who cheered me on throughout the day — at least a hundred high fives, a few fist bumps and a couple of hugs from friends and strangers.

The bag of tricks got me through the pain, discomfort and uncertainty of the wall. My two walking partners kept me focused, set a pace and helped me through the rough moments. Friends and strangers offered me bottles of water. Volunteers at the aid stations gave me water, food and a boost of confidence. Friends walked with me on the last hill. Cheers from my Fitness Revolution family at the top of the hill gave me an extra jolt of adrenaline. The sight of friends and family at the finish line, the sound of the announcer, the thought of getting a medal and the promise of drinking a shot of Irish whiskey with trainer Jason McComber gave me enough energy to walk around the Oval and cross the finish line — jogging slowly and holding the hands of Steve and Dan — with a big smile.


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Blog Photos

Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn, center, finishes his first Lake Placid Half Marathon in June 2014 in just under 6 hours with his twin brother Steve and friend Daniel Roy. (News photo — Lou Reuter)