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Posted 10/7/2015

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By Eileen L. Williamson, Public Affairs Specialist
Omaha District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

This is the third article in a four part series on Omaha District Electrical Engineer, Joe Chamberlain, who competed in the Boston Marathon in 2014 and is training to run the New York City Marathon this November.

After finishing the Boston Marathon, Joe Chamberlain set his sights on running the New York City Marathon. But, like so many other things, this presented a challenge.

To qualify for the New York City Marathon, Chamberlain needed to complete a marathon in less than 3 hours 9 minutes, 27 minutes faster than 3:30 required for him to qualify for Boston. His 3:01:01 Boston completion time would qualify him for entry into the New York City Marathon.

The Boston Marathon is not a New York Road Runners Race, which meant Chamberlain was competing for one of a limited number of first-come, first-served, time-qualifier spots available for runners who meet the time standards in non-NYRR Races. Luck was on Chamberlain's side and he gained entry into the race, which is a milestone event for many runners.

On preparing for New York, Chamberlain says he has reached a risky point in his training where injuries are more likely to occur. He ran the Lincoln (Nebraska, National Guard) Marathon in May finishing fourth in his age group with a time of 3:06:58 and says he feels much better but is also at a point where his cardio capacity is improving ahead of his muscular health.

"If my breathing doesn't slow me down, I like to run hard. It is amazing to run without worrying about pain," said Chamberlain. "Now I'm 'focused on the marathon, not the sprint'. I don't think everyone truly gets what that means not just in running but in life, work, everything," he added.

Chamberlain described his Boston-qualification race, The Grandmothers Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota. "I trained and prepared. I knew the route and my time goal. I was warned to conserve energy for a stretch called Lemon Drop Hill," he said. "The weather was perfect, I ran easy and was prepared for the hills so, when I got past Lemon Drop Hill, I discovered I had the energy to pick up speed through the end of the race."

"When I retire from the Corps, whenever that is, I want to retire with that same energy," said Chamberlain.

Many people accept challenges or commit to what seems like the right thing at the time but later discover they can't or aren't motivated to finish strong.

"In the back of my mind, I know if I push too hard, and my muscular health isn't on par with my cardio capacity, I risk getting hurt," said Chamberlain. "If I'm not able to run the marathon then it sticks in my head and my heart that I was only in it for the sprint."

Chamberlain says he's keeping a 3-hour finish in the back of his mind for running the New York City Marathon but is focused on the experience.

"It is a milestone race," he said.

He plans to run Boston again in 2016.

"It's not because I didn't beat 3 hours in 2014. Although that's probably why I didn't buy a finish line photo. I want to experience a 'normal' Boston Marathon. I ran it in 2014 because the attack was personal. It was probably personal for any runner. In 2014, we took back running and took back Boston's race. In 2014, Boston took back its city. In 2016, I want to experience Boston."

Below is a poem Chamberlain recently wrote:

"I run because it is the closest thing to freedom I know.
Free to move. Free to go where I please.
Free to go fast. Free to go slow. Free to be me.

I go fast.
Maybe not fast for you, but fast for me.
I love when it is effortless... and fast.

I run to free stress. Drop all my cares.
Give them to God.
To cry... to be joyous.

I run to defeat my fears.
To clear my mind and free my soul.
I run to be with God.

I feel closer to God when I am on a long run.
Closer than any other time or place...

Sometimes when all I can hear is my breathing, my heartbeat,
and the wind... and not my thoughts,
I can feel God's love around me.
In the wind on my skin.

I run to have goals.
To have purpose.

I run for a challenge...
To test my limits.

To see how good I can be.

I don't run because it makes me better than you,
I run because it makes me better than me, better than I was.
To be free. To be me."

For now, Joe Chamberlain's heart is set on the first weekend in November in New York City, but that marathon is only part of his sprint.