This is Why I Run

So it should come as no surprise to you that I’m training for a half-marathon.

This morning, I was really working hard to convince myself to get out and run 8 miles. The weather was A. MAZING. and I knew that already and was excited about it. But I wasn’t excited about running my usual route. And it took me an hour to try to find another route before finally settling on heading out to one of my other favorite trails. It’s an out and back flat and basically in the woods.

Of course, I hit a couple several some walk breaks. And the fifth mile was the longest. But it was during that mile that I was walking a bit and heard a man’s voice from behind me saying, “Come on, girl. You’re doing great. Keep going.”

He was a complete stranger. And he never had to say a word. Most of the runners I passed or that passed me today said hello or just nodded and waved. And that’s typical. Usually it’s during an actual race that the strangers encourage you and you encourage them.

But that’s what I love about the running community. I mean, sure. You have your elites who are super competitive. But even those folks are encouraging of their competition. Hell, half of them even train together.

And then you have the rest of us. We train and we run and we fight to keep going for a medal or a shirt or a beer or to prove something to ourselves, to become better, to have a new goal, to do something different, to be with friends. And we all understand what that journey can be like or what it might mean. And we run not to beat people but to be with people.

When I’m running–at least in a race–it’s no surprise to hear words of encouragement. But it still makes a difference every time they come.

And so today I walked a few more seconds and then kept going with the run. There were a few more breaks, but I finished those 8 miles faster and stronger than last week.

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Running with Heart

Six years ago, sitting on a balcony in Mexico with my best friend and a copy of Endurance Magazine, I was talked into registering for the City of Oaks Marathon.

“We can so do this,” she said.

Keep in mind, I’d NEVER run a race. She’d done a few, but not anything longer than a 10K.

“I will if you will,” I said.

So we signed up. And then I started a PhD program and she resumed life with her husband and five children (whom she’d had for just over a year at that point). Needless to say, our lives blew apart and so did our training. So we made another pact. Let’s change our registration to the HALF MARATHON. Brilliant. No problem.

My longest long run between August and the beginning of November that year was 8 miles.

On a treadmill.

Yeah. I know. I can hear you laughing from here.

No really. Pick yourself up off the floor. It’s unbecoming at this point.

As you might imagine, that race sucked. But I finished it. And the feeling I had coming across that finish line…I rode that high for a good three days.

And the day I crossed that finish line, I knew I’d do it again. With a more than a little more training.

Post 13.1 City of Oaks 07 2

And I have. Over and over. Seven half-marathons, one full, a couple of 10 milers, several 10Ks, and…finally…a few 5Ks.

I became a runner.

Even though running and I are frenemies.

So I was excited today to register once again for the City of Oaks 13.1. And even convince a potential new running (or at least racing) buddy to join me.

I mean, really excited. Because, y’all, I’ve been doing Insanity this summer. And NOTHING has made me miss running more than that.

In spite of the fact that I’m not the world’s greatest runner. Certainly not the fastest. Usually I’m the most self-conscious when it comes to running with other people–even my best running friends.

Maybe it’s because, when all else fails, I run with heart. Because it’s the activity that helps me stay healthy…mentally, physically and emotionally. It’s the thing that contributed to the machine beeping at how low my resting heart rate was when I went in for my most recent physical. And what contributed to my blood pressure being only marginally higher.

It’s the thing that sometimes helps me to appreciate my body and all the many things it can do.

And I was reminded of that even more acutely this afternoon as I sat in a hospital room, visiting a man and his family–none of whom I’d seen in years. But they have always been so special to me. He is working to become strong enough to have surgery to install a heart pump. Without that…or a brand new heart altogether…he won’t be with us for much longer. As I watched the ways in which his wife, daughter, granddaughter, son-in-law and neighbors take care of him and pour love into him, I was reminded of just how powerful it is to work from the heart. Whatever the work.

I know how powerful the heart can be–and how devastating it can be when the heart no longer functions. And maybe it’s another reason I keep running. Because at the end of the day, I can still run and move my body in so many beautiful ways…ways in which other people cannot. And sometimes, I run for them.

I’m Only Half Crazy

A few weeks ago, my marathon dreams died on the Tobacco Trail.

It wasn’t because of any major injury. It was just the accumulation of weeks of long runs that weren’t so long or so good. And I was doing so well…for so long. I even did 15 miles around Lake freaking Johnson. But I just can’t seem to break that 15 mile barrier.

And so I contacted the race directors and found out that I had two days to make the switch from the full to the half…or I’d have to wait until the expo. SIGN ME UP…er…MAKE THAT CHANGE. So they did.

And so, instead of doing a FULL marathon on March 18, I’ll be doing the half. I’ll still get to see the best parts of the race course–the parts I really wanted to run. It has helped with the stress that has come from the discouragement of the crappy long runs. And made me realize that I have MILES to go before I’m ready for another marathon. But I learned a few things. And I trained better for this one.

Now I just have to squeeze in a few more long runs before this half. And yes, I’ll be jonesin’ for another 13.1 PR. We’ll see what happens.

More Than Just Sweat

I did that little half-marathon today. And I have that little oral prelim meeting on Tuesday. I’ve been pretty freaked out about the latter. Because this semester is already whack and you just never know what will happen next.

Somewhere between miles two and three this morning, I got to thinking about how everyone who does longer races will tell you that you train the best you can, rely on your training to get you through the miles on race day, and let that be enough.

There’s a parallel process here.

I have been well-trained in this program. I know that. This past week, I’ve been wondering if that were enough. Just like I’ve wondered whether my training for this race was enough. What I have consistently found to be true for myself is that race day always goes better than any training day I’ve had. The training runs may be good, but I still enter the race day with some doubt. And then I cross the line and start running. And I move along, mile by mile until I cross the line at the finish.

And so, I’m hoping the same will hold true for me for Tuesday morning. That my training IS enough. That I DO know more than I think. And that my training will carry me through the meeting.

And for your viewing (and inspirational) enjoyment, thanks to Chelsea for supplying this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5j0i41Nn58

Running Tobacco Road

Mama ran a half-marathon this morning. And scored a new PR. And maintained a rockin’ (well, rockin’ for me) average pace.

 

Here’s the skinny on Tobacco Road.

Parking: A+

And that was satellite. But I think that has a lot to do with the time I arrived. Also, for you local peeps, head over to satellite parking via Davis Drive. Cuts WAY down on traffic. If you ARE going to do this race, I highly recommend springing for a parking pass or having my kickass support staff watching over you.

 

Volunteers: A+

These people worked HARD…started early…and by the end (more on that in a sec) received a lot of crap that should be directed to the organizers. There were plenty of volunteers to help with parking, make sure you got what you needed at the finish, and lots of people handing out beverages and snacks along the way. (I was even handed a cup of Gatorade by one of my professors. True story.)

 

Race course: A

This course makes you forget you live near a city of any size at all. And when I turned onto the actual Tobacco Trail, I felt a twinge of nostalgia. It was like running on home turf. And that sentiment says to me that I’m over all the miles and hours I logged on that trail for Disney and could once again run it. It helps that the trail is open into Chatham County now too. Of course, that may have been true for a while and I’m late to the party on that one. I’m OK with that. The rest of the course was through farms and edges of neighborhoods. It’s pretty flat, though there are some long, gradual hills. But I trained on steeper hills, so I was good with that.

 

Schwag: A

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that this year’s logo/design were 5,000% better. Of course, this was only the second running of Tobacco Road. It could only go up. The t-shirts were technical and divided between race distance and gender. The women’s shirt has a good fit and is what you would expect size-wise. The expo offered other opportunities to buy more schwag specifically designed for this race, and the prices were VERY reasonable. And the medal had a great design and is one of the biggest I’ve earned.

 

Overall organization: C+

They started lining us up in the corral for the on-time start of 7:00 AM. The gun went off at about 7:20 AM. Did I mention it was 46 degrees? Granted, the weather was PERFECT for running…but not for standing around. Apparently there were some late shuttles from satellite parking they decided to wait for…which meant the stagger start for the marathoners was pushed back even more.

Post race was good in terms of where things were located in the venue. Getting back to the parked cars was an altogether different matter. There was no signage to get you back to where the shuttle would pick you up. Once you finally figured it out (Thank you, Mr. Ossifer), you got in a line that ended up having everyone waiting. Word on the sidewalk was there were 15 charter buses running shuttle. Try 5. It literally took me 2 solid hours from the time I got in line until the time I got to my car.

Mr./Ms. Organizer, my legs were tired. I was tired. I was cold…and freakin’ hungry. From a recovery and nutritional standpoint, you’re asking for trouble when you make your runners wait for at least 2 hours to get back to their cars.

People were seriously calling cabs to pick them up and take them to satellite parking.

THIS is why you spring for that parking pass (BTW, who knew THAT was an option?) or have your support staff with the car parked relatively close by.

 

Overall experience: B+

I mean, I DID get a PR. In fact, I was rockin’ those first 10 miles…it was after that I started to have some issues (dang hips). But that’s about me and my training. We couldn’t have ordered better weather. The course was delightful. The wait to get on the bus not so much.

I might be willing to do this one again, especially since it’s local, but they still have some kinks to work out first.

Running for Warriors

I picked up my packet today for the Tobacco Road half-marathon. Driving in Cary is still hell, but the t-shirts and logo for this year’s race are 5,000% better than last year. And the medal is freakin’ HUGE.

I’m running this race without my support staff…and I probably won’t stick around at the finish for a tasty adult beverage. (I did get a commemorative pint glass to which I’ll add my own mirth and jocularity later, I’m sure.) I’ll be alone for probably all of my 13.1 miles.

And yet, I’m still motivated to do this one.

Last year, I ran several races, including the Warrior Dash in Georgia. The Dash was more of a fun romp through the mountain area with an obstacle course and entertaining costumes thrown in. This weekend I’m doing a different kind of warrior event. Proceeds from this year’s Tobacco Road Marathon and Half-Marathon go to The Wounded Warrior Project. I had the goal of running a race as a Project benefit last year, but it didn’t work out for me then. So I’m doing tomorrow.

Thinking about doing this race solo reminds me that these wounded warriors leave our soil as one person and return from someone else’s soil a different individual. Though they are surrounded by those they love and who love and care for them, the road to recovery is often long, hard, painful and lonely. And who knows when they cross the finish line to recovery…or how many finish lines they will cross along the way. And so, early tomorrow morning, I will join a long, hard, exhausting and lonely road–no longer chasing down a new PR but finishing one leg of a journey for me…and for them. Mostly for them.

Thank you to the many brave men and women who make the choice to live a life of service to our country, even at a high cost to themselves and the people they love.

This is why I run.

Races and a Racing Bucket List

I think I promised this a month or so ago…finally I have a chance to write it.

 

I’m getting together with Robin next week to have lunch and shop and do what we do…but we’re also pulling out calendars to talk about next year’s races.

On my docket for spring:

Krispy Kreme Challenge–even ESPN gets in on this action. Run 2 miles, scarf a donut or 12, run 2 miles back. The challenge: Keep it down.

American Tobacco Trail 13.1–the inaugural half/full marathon was this past March and it got great reviews from folks. The t-shirt design could use a major improvement, but the course is flat and pretty fast…perfect for that 13.1 PR.

Cooper River Bridge Run (10K)–if you’ve never run this race, you should. It’s one of the largest races in. the. world. And taking out that bridge is a great feeling.

Tarheel 10-miler–ends in Kenan Stadium…enemy territory. Fortunately, they let supporters of other ACC teams crash the party. You can bet I’ll be blowin’ in with my red, white and black.

 

And that’s all I got right now. Which means, according to Rob, that we gotta find a January race…and another one in May. We’ll see about that. I like that I’m keeping it local-ish for the spring. And I guess I should start registering for some of this nonsense.

 

And now for the list of races I want to run some day:

The Goofy Challenge: Run the Donald Duck 13.1 on Saturday and then run the Mickey Mouse 26.2 the next day. The pay-off: THREE medals…one Donald, one Mickey and one Goofy. Oh…and I think you might even get three shirts, too….

 

The Flying Pig Marathon (Cincinnati): you get a t-shirt with a flying pig on it. Why WOULDN’T you?

 

The Portland Marathon (Oregon): mostly flat, the city’s waterfront, cool temps, a bridge (surprisingly, I don’t hate them after this year), Mt. Hood, Mt. S. Helens, and really great schwag. And maybe I can work in a Kane concert at Dante’s, too.

 

Army 10-Miler (Washington DC): It sells out in about 30 hours. That’s saying something. Start at the Pentagon, cross the Potomac, run the mall, see the monuments, head back over the river. And it’s only 10 miles, unlike….

The Marine Corps Marathon (also DC): I really like DC. And you get to see more of the city on foot this way. And a marine drapes the medal around your neck at the finish line.

And speaking of medals…

Nike Women’s Marathon (San Francisco): The finisher’s medal is a Tiffany necklace. It’s put around your neck by a fireman in a tux. Hills? What hills?

 

ING New York City Marathon: “If there’s a chance you’ll run only one marathon, it has to be New York.” Well, I said that about Disney, but EVERYONE says that about New York. Guess I’m gonna have to make it happen some day. Besides, I’ve never been to the Big Apple.

***Note, I will not qualify. I will fund raise or enter by lottery. May I remind you all that I’m an ox?

 

Boston Marathon: I thought I’d never be able to run this one. Ever. (See previous note about qualifying) But then I learned you can fund raise your way in. Score. I’ll be sure to hit all of you up for donations.

 

The Publix Georgia 13.1. It’s sponsored by Publix and it’s in Atlanta. I call that a no-brainer.

 

Myrtle Beach Mini-marathon. By mini, they mean 13.1 miles. But the medal this past year was a surf board that doubled as a bottle opener.

 

Virginia is for Lovers 14K: it’s part of the J & A Racing group‘s race line-up in VA Beach. It’s flat and they have REALLY good schwag.

Speaking of VA Beach: I’m thinking one year I need to do the race challenge: Wicked 10K, Surf-N-Santa 10 miler, VA is for Lovers 14K and Shamrock 13.1 or 26.2. You do all that, and the prize this time around was a cooler and a pint glass.

 

I will run for some schwag. And beer. There has to be good beer.

 

Men’s Health Urbanathlon: Road race meets obstacle course from hell. It looks AWESOME.

 

And maybe some day I’ll tackle a half-ironman. Maybe.

 

So there’s the list. And there may be more to come. I have some people trying to suck me into the USMC Mud Run in SC and the Tough Mudder (Google that SOB…unh uh).

Any takers?