The Runner Diaries — Christopher Baker

Here, Baker documents his training to achieve an aggressive goal of qualifying for the 2018 Boston Marathon (“BQ-ing”) in the upcoming New Jersey Marathon, and a trip to the northeast to spectate and cheer at the Boston Marathon on Marathon Monday.

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Inspired by Refinery29’s Money Diaries and The Cut’s Sex Diaries, welcome to The Runner Diaries, where we’re sharing a behind-the-scenes look into a week of training with runners of varying ages, paces and GPS coordinates.

This week, we have Christopher Baker of New York’s Upper East Side. Baker is an artist, endurance sport coach, and active member of running and triathlon community The Battalion. Below, he documents his training to achieve an aggressive goal of qualifying for the 2018 Boston Marathon (“BQ-ing”) in the upcoming New Jersey Marathon, and a trip to the northeast to spectate and cheer at the Boston Marathon on Marathon Monday.

The Run Down

Name: Christopher Baker
Location: Upper East Side of NYC
Age: 39
Training For: New Jersey Marathon on April 30, and Ironman Chattanooga on September 24
Occupation: Artist
Goal: BQ (under 3 hours, 10 minutes) at the NJ Marathon
Training Plan? Yes, I personally designed it. It is an aggressive 6-week plan due to when I decided I wanted a BQ attempt, and when the race fell. I run 20 to 25 miles a week on average when not training for a race, so I already had a solid base to start.
Part of any running clubs? I am part of The Battalion, a local running/triathlon team.
How long have you been a runner? I have been running for 9 years.
Goal weekly mileage? My goal mileage this week is 30-40 miles.

DAY ONE

6:30a.m. — I wake up to a beautiful morning. I have coffee and work on a painting I am almost finished with. It’s tempting to run, but I know I’m meeting a friend and Battalion (our local running club) teammate after work, so I save my legs for later.

CBaker_BridgesRun_Painting

8a.m. — I ride the two-mile Citibike commute through Central Park to work. Breakfast is an apple.

Noon — Lunch is a fried chicken sandwich from Urban Space with Battalion teammates Bojana and Anders, as well as Anna, Kristin and Amanda. They said it’s supposed to be the best fried chicken sandwich ever, and it is, indeed, that good.

5p.m. — Thankfully, I have a trusted banana in preparation for my after work Bridges Run. (I’m known to have low blood sugar — it affects my running if I choose to eat poorly before a race, like, eat a cupcake).

5:45p.m. — I begin my assault on the Williamsburg Bridge, heading up the ramp towards Brooklyn where I will meet my friend Anders. Anders is moving back to Stockholm two days from now — after 5 years in NYC — and requested we do a Bridges Run together before his departure, as he had never done one. I, of course, agreed. A Bridges Run, is kind of NYC runner slang for doing a run that incorporates one or more of the many bridges we have here. It is a great way to get in a hill workout.

It’s 75˚F, the hottest day of the year thus far, and gorgeous out. He starts his ascent from the Brooklyn side and we meet at the apex.

We barrel down the Brooklyn side, headed into Williamsburg. We don’t have any set pace, but when Anders and I run together it tends to be ‘fast conversational’ and in the 7-minute per mile pace. As his last run in NYC his only request was that it be under 15 miles. Not a problem.

CBaker_BridgesRun_1

Running along the Navy Yard towards the Brooklyn Bridge, we teeter in the 7:30-7:45 min/mile pace range, and we’re having fun. Our conversation ranges from how I coach my athletes to how people dress in Sweden. It turns out people in Sweden dress how I like to dress, clothes that fit properly and are not baggy.

CBaker_BridgesRun_2

Although very scenic, the Brooklyn Bridge is absolutely packed at this time of day, with tourists and rogue bicyclists. We dodge all of them on our way up the bridge while attempting to hold a 7:30-min/mile pace. As we descend, a friend of mine happens to be running the opposite direction. We high five!

7.9M @ 7:40 min/mile pace

We ended the run at Empéllon Al Pastor in the West Village. Abbe (my wife), and friends Maria and Jason are there awaiting our arrival. We have Nachos, and I have the mushroom and al pastor taco, both delicious. I have a few beers to rehydrate as well.

Midnight — Bedtime.

Daily Mileage: 7.9 

DAY TWO

6:30a.m. — Wake up and have some coffee.

8a.m. — Eat a hard-boiled egg and Citibike two miles to work.

9a.m. — I eat a trusty banana to get me through the 2-3 hour meeting I was about to enter.

Noon: The meeting is catered; I eat some sushi, a Caesar salad and half a chicken sandwich. Two chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

3:30p.m. — Birthday cake for my co-worker’s birthday celebration. I love cake.

5p.m. — Two mile Citibike ride to Dr. Levine for an ART (Active Release Technique) tune-up. He changed my (running) life in 2013. I was injured and was told I had runner’s knee. After 6 months of PT and no improvement I decided to see him after a friend recommended i do so. On the first day he told me I had knots in my kinetic chain/IT Band. “See me two times a week for 6 weeks and I will have you running again pain free.” On the 7th week I ran the Wineglass Marathon… pain-free. Now, I see him every 4-5 weeks for a tune up.

6p.m. — Four mile Citibike ride back home. I work on some finishing touches to the painting I am working on.

8p.m. — Abbe makes soba noodles, topped with homemade kimchi, tofu and pickled ginger. It’s amazing. We try to eat pretty healthy during the week and keep our meat intake low. We mostly eat fish and rarely eat red meat.  

11p.m. — Bedtime! This was a planned rest day for me as the next two days are going to be aggressive. I want to be fully rested and recovered so I could perform my best. All of my athletes know that I insist on rest days: they are just as important as training days.

Daily mileage: 0

DAY THREE

6:30a.m. — Wake up, enjoy a cup of coffee and head out for my run. The workout is slated to be a hard 5 mile race pace run at a 6:50/55 pace. It’s perfect out—50-55˚F, sunny and a cool northern breeze. I enter Central Park at Engineer’s Gate and head north. The first mile was spot on: 6:54. I felt really great and decide to really push it. My main goal is to have less than perfect legs for tomorrow’s long run, so that’s proactive, right?  

CBaker_Central_Park_Pano

CBaker_Boston_Marathon_Central_Park_Run

5.3M @ 6:37 min/mile pace

8:20a.m. — After a quick shower, I head off on a two mile Citibike ride to work.

9a.m. — I eat an egg-and-cheese sandwich since my training has left me famished!

Noon — Lunch with the IT team at a local Poké restaurant. (I love poké.) I have salmon, brown rice, kale, soy beans and seaweed salad. It’s refreshing.

4p.m. — Work gets out early due to the holiday weekend. I meet Abbe, Danika and Doug for happy hour at Draught 55. I have 2 lagers. It’s not for everyone, but if I am going to have alcohol while training I stick to beer.

6:30p.m. — We decided to find italian food for dinner due to my impending long run. We landed at Tony DiNapoli’s where I had a dish of penne Bolognese. (Tony’s is good, but isn’t great.)

10p.m. — Bedtime!

Daily Mileage: 5.3 

DAY FOUR

7a.m. — I wake up, and enjoy the holiday morning (it’s Easter weekend) with some coffee and toast with peanut butter. Abbe and I leave together at 9a.m. for our runs — we met while running 6 years ago. I love having a running partner/wife that does what I do. Our vacations revolve around sightseeing runs or races.

I pick up a banana from my local bodega and carry it with me. I run a loop of the reservoir with Abbe, and then set off to circumnavigate the island, one of my favorite routes. 

I eat my banana and it bodes well—this has been working out for me as of late.

My goal for today is to get uncomfortable. I want to run 16 miles at a 7 minute pace. The day is gorgeous and I start nailing my miles… 6:59, 6:58, 7:00.

I also take salt every mile or two, a tactic I picked up that really helped during Ironman Louisville.

CBaker_Boston_Marathon_One_W

As I round the bottom of the island and head towards the Seaport, I notice the large crowd of tourists. I have to do a little bit of fun dodging.

I was feeling pretty great and wasn’t paying attention when I clicked off a 6:14 for mile 10. “Whoa buddy, dial it down,” I said out loud to myself. The good news is that the last 5 miles felt great and my pace was in the 6:50 range.

I finished up the run and stopped into DTUT (Downtown Uptown) for a celebratory Cappuccino. I AM noticeably smelly.

CBaker_Boston_Marathon_Island_Run

16.5M @ 6:55 pace

This is my last long run in the training cycle. Two weeks ago I ran 20 miles, so I am reducing mileage now.

1p.m. — Abbe and I go to our local spot (yes, I showered), The District, for lunch. I was craving a Caesar salad—mine came with chicken and two hard-boiled eggs on top. After lunch, we sit outside, basking in the glorious spring sunshine. It was perfect, as were the two IPAs I ordered with lunch.

7:30p.m. — We eat leftover pasta from Tony DiNapoli’s for dinner since the portions are so huge.

10pm: Off to sleep… dreaming of Boston.

Daily mileage: 16.5

DAY FIVE

6:30a.m. — I wake up and get right to the coffee.

8:30a.m. — I head out for a quick shakeout run to see how the legs reacted to yesterday’s training. Remarkably, they feel pretty great.

2 miles @ 8:00 min/mile pace

10a.m. — Abbe, Bojana, Brian and I are on the Amtrak to Boston, all smiles. I have a bunch of friends running and am excited to cheer them on. Last year, after running the race, I told Abbe we should come to Boston every year even if we aren’t running as the energy that weekend is so positive. I recommend it to any runner!

I have a bagel with bacon-scallion cream cheese as I am starving from yesterday’s run. I am very excited that my legs feel great, barely feeling like I had even run. My training seems to have soaked in properly.

12:30p.m. — Halfway to Boston… we eat leftover soba pasta from Wednesday night. It’s still quite delicious.

2:30p.m. — We arrive in Boston and go check-in to our hotel.

3p.m. — We meet Bojana’s friend Christina at the Legal Seafood roof bar in the Seaport. I have a Harpoon IPA because… the brewery is across the street! (We were going to go there but the lines were horrendous.)

CBaker_Boston_Marathon_Group

4p.m. — Next up, we hit the race expo. This is Bojana’s first time running Boston, so we are all super excited for her. After she gets her bib and finisher’s jacket, we go to Select Oyster House to meet our friend Esther. I had a few oysters, some crudo and a Negroni. (Should you visit Boston, I highly recommend this place.)

6:30p.m. — For dinner, we eat at Townsman. We sat at the counter, which looked right into the kitchen. It was like dinner theater, and the food was pretty amazing. It’s like watching a live episode of Top Chef. I eat one of the best New England clam chowders I’ve ever eaten—Chef Matt adds his own twist with squid and pork, making it really interesting, but keeping the classic vibe intact. My entrée were the lamb chops, also delicious. I enjoyed this with a few glasses of light red wine.

10:30p.m. — Back to the hotel to chill before crashing.

Daily mileage: 0 

DAY SIX

7a.m. — We wake up and hit the sweet breakfast set-up that the Element Seaport has going on downstairs. We grab some coffee and sit outside in the warm sun. I eat another banana for fuel. The hotel was abuzz with runners and the energy high.

9a.m. — We go out for a casual run. Bojana is running tomorrow, so we need to be conscious of that in regards to pace.

We head into downtown Boston and then up into the Commons. There are packs of runners everywhere doing shakeout runs! We hold a steady 9:00-min/mile pace and enjoy the scenery. It’s lovely out!

CBaker_Boston_Run

We run over the Harvard Bridge and head west—our goal was to run to Harvard Square and take a cab back to spare Bojana’s legs. The river was bustling with tons of runners. Unfortunately, we undershot our run and didn’t make it to Harvard.

No matter, the run was still a lot of fun and a lot of sight-seeing was had.

CBaker_Boston_Marathon_Boston_Run_Map

4.5 M @ 9:17

Noon — We have lunch at The Barking Crab, one of my absolute favorites. Abbe’s cousin Greg joins us. I had 1.5-lbs. of Dungeness crab and it was everything I had been dreaming of. I have one of the local Lagers plus loads of water. It’s hot out!

2:10p.m. — The Duck Boat Tour! What better way to keep a runner off their feet prior to a big race than that?! The Duck Boats are old WWII amphibious vehicles—used during D-Day!—that have been repurposed as tourist vehicles. We tour around town for an hour and a half or so, driving into the Charles at one point for the water portion of the tour. I’m a bit jealous that the Captain asks all the kids to drive the boat and not I.

4pm-6pm: We set forth on a bit of an historic bar crawl before dinner. First, we hit Mr. Dooley’s pub. Next up was the Green Dragon, a very old pub where Paul Revere and GW used to hang. I drink two Harpoon IPAs. (When in Rome.)

6:30p.m. — Dinner is at Scampo in the Liberty Hotel. We eat here everytime we come up for Boston as the pasta is so good.

Linguine with white clam sauce for me. I wasn’t running the next day, but I was secretly pretending to fuel as if I were. The table next to us was full of people visiting from abroad, and clearly part of a running group. The runner of the group didn’t speak English, so his wife translated our conversation. He was in his mid-50’s, from Costa Rica, and about to run his 4th Boston Marathon. I stand up and shake his hand. He stood up and smiled, and we both give each other the nod that only runners understand. You don’t have to speak the same language to feel the energy and awesomeness of the Boston Marathon and what it means.

We have red wine once again with dinner and have to pass on dessert since we were so full.

10p.m. — Bedtime.

Daily Mileage: 4.5

DAY SEVEN – RUNNER CHRISTMAS/OR HANNUKAH/ALL OF THE HOLIDAYS

7a.m. — We all wake up and make our way downstairs to have breakfast together. I eat a banana and drink a LOT of coffee. Runners love their coffee. There are runners everywhere in different stages of preparation depending on what wave they are in. We see Bojana off; she leaves for bus pick-up at the Commons at 8:00 a.m.

9:30a.m. — Brian, Abbe and I head to Boston South Station. My cousin Libby and Aunt Jenny live 500 feet off the course at Mile 14 and they always have a party, and we get to be a part of it. We grab some beer and wine and, as we were getting on our train, there was a deafening scream across the sky, getting louder by the second. I actually froze in place, having no idea what it was as I had never heard anything so loud. As it passed I realized it was two F-15 fighters doing a course flyby.

10:15a.m. — The train out to Wellesley was packed, standing room only! (Thankfully, we have seats. There’s a loud woman behind us.)

11:15a.m. — We arrive at Wellesley Hills and go to my Aunt Jen’s house. They have a lovely spread with bagels and Bloody Mary’s. Libby’s boyfriend Chris, and friends Claire and Russ were in attendance as well. We made our way onto the course to begin cheering.

CBaker_Boston_Marathon_Libby

This is my first time cheering for Boston, in Boston. It was hot. Too hot for cheering, even. The elite men went by right as we got off the train and soon, the fast 6:00-6:30 pace group runners were coming through. I was on the lookout first for my buddies Rowland and D. (We are the are the same pace and always end up in the same corral together.)

CBaker_Boston_Marathon_Rowland

Rowland comes by and we all cheer our faces off. I go to high-five him and I miss—a complete miss. He stops just past me so I run up to redeem my high five, and he gives me a hug instead. He proceeds on; we start looking for our friends Claire, Eissa, Robin, Kate and Chloe—a mix of Battalion and Gotham City Runners.

Kate is the first to run by and looks strong.

CBaker_Boston_Marathon_Claire

Claire’s up next and also looked great. She nails the high five and kept the pace going.

CBaker_Boston_Marathon_Eissa

Just behind her, by like one minute on the dot, is Eissa. We did a high five hug/thing and she says calmly, “It’s hot.”

I realize we missed Robin and Chloe.

I was just getting hungry when Bob, my Aunt Jen’s husband, appeared. “You guys want a sandwich?” He had a whole plate of sandwiches and was passing them around.

Thanks Bob, you saved my life! I also have two IPAs during the cheering process there, you know, to keep me hydrated.

Then the sun really came out. It was then that we saw Bojana. She was having a blast but agreed, it was a hot day for a run. The temps were in the upper 70s since 11a.m.

CBaker_Boston_Marathon_Bojana

1:20p.m. — We attempt to get on a full-to-capacity train back to Mile 24. They wouldn’t let anyone on the train. Emergency! Luckily, my Aunt Jen has to drive the rest of the gang to the T so they can get to mile 25. We all pack in the car. Thanks Aunt Jen for saving the day!

2:50p.m. — Our T arrives at Fenway. Bojana is going to pass by Mile 25 any second so we run up the block. We are at the cheer post for less than a minute when we see her come by. She gives a wave and blows a kiss without stopping. Now we have to hightail it outta there to get to the finish. Cheering is hard!

3p.m. — The three of us pile into a less-than-average Uber. Our driver is confused at what to do because he is relying on the GPS that is showing traffic for obvious reasons—it’s the Boston Marathon and there is a Sox game happening.

We finally help him by using logic and get ourselves going. Brian jumps out to grab Bojana; Abbe and I continue to the hotel to get our bags and meet them at Brandy Pete’s for the after-party. We have a 5:30p.m. train, so time is of the essence.

RANT: I like Uber, I do. But on a few occasions this weekend the drivers completely relied on their GPS. I knew better routes to go from just looking at a map. If you are going to be an Uber driver, please, learn the city you are driving in. That would never have happened in a local cab.

4p.m. — We are starving at Brandy Pete’s and so is the marathoner. I have a turkey club and a Harpoon Lager. We toast Bojana many times; we are so proud of her. She went into the race with a goal of enjoying and savoring the moment and I think she did just that. She is tired, but beaming from the joy of accomplishing a runner’s dream, to run Boston.

5:30p.m. — It’s time for the notorious and epic Boston-to-New York train party. Nick and Eissa join us. Runners are all over the train wearing their finisher jackets and medals, smiles everywhere. A random gal who ran, Sophie, joins us and might even join The Battalion back in New York!

CBaker_Train_Party

Another cool thing happens while we are celebrating on the train: a guy walking by noticed us and started chatting. He asked how we liked the race and then asked if we had heard of the movie Spirit of the Marathon or Boston. “Um, yes!” we all chime. It was Jon Dunham, the Producer and Director! He hung out for awhile and gave us a few large movie posters.

Finally, we approach mighty Manhattan around 10:30p.m. The epic Boston Marathon weekend adventure was coming to a close. We hugged our friends goodbye and went our separate ways.

11:00pm: Bedtime at last.

TOTAL WEEKLY MILEAGE: 36.2 

A Look Back: Thoughts On The Week

It was a blast documenting the week. I enjoy writing and often compile detailed stories of runs, but I never focus on nutrition. I tend to eat well when I know I have training and I indulge a bit more should I have an “off” day or week. I’m okay with that. I like to have a balance between training hard and enjoying life.

Though I’ve run Boston twice, this was my first time cheering. It was EPIC, and I can’t wait to drop the hammer in two weeks at the New Jersey Marathon in hopes of qualifying for my third round. Cheering for everyone really made me want to be in their shoes… er, sneakers.

Next year marks my 10 year running anniversary, and I want it to be special.

See you in Boston, 2018!

About Christopher Baker

Beyond_Defeat_Italy2016_Mile18

Whether it’s life or sport, Christopher Baker, or just ‘Baker’ as he has become known, has proven that anything is possible guided by a simple mantra that the human spirit is, “beyond defeat.” He started running in 2008 after being ‘dared’ to run the New York City Marathon and has never looked back.

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1 comments on “The Runner Diaries — Christopher Baker”

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