I Would Run 500 Miles

I entered the lottery for a spot in this year’s New York City Marathon. I didn’t mean to. I wasn’t really even sure I should enter. I was peer pressured into doing it, actually.

Even though running and I are frenemies.

I pushed the button (with some hand-over-hand support from my husband) and then didn’t think about it for WEEKS.

My brain, on the other hand, was working on it at least a little. Because it remembered that the lottery would take place on March 3. And in the few days preceding it, I started to think about how cool it would be to get in. How much training I would have to do to make it at least an OK day. How much I would really…REALLY like to get in. Screaming at myself for the notion of wanting to get in.

WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING?!?!?!

And then March 3 actually rolled around and I started checking my email at regular intervals. Like stalking the inbox. Hoping I’d get the congratulatory email. Not sure I would. And texts were flying back and forth among the four of us who entered the lottery. We ALL were waiting to hear.

And the work day ended with no word.

I called one of my running peeps on the way home and we agreed that if one got in and the other didn’t, the other would charity run it. That, my friends, means raising $2620 between now and October 1.

I got home and my evening went like it usually does with family and dinner and WHAT THE HELL IS THIS PLAN FOR MAKING UP SNOW DAYS YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME and watching something on TV. During which I finally had a chance to check my email again. It was about 8:00 at that point, and I knew they would send emails until midnight.

It had come in at 7:15.

I won the lottery

I’m in.

Holy shit I’m in. What the hell was I thinking but how freaking cool is this that I’m IN.

And one of my other peeps is too. Now we just have to make sure at least one more raises that load of money for a charity. Stay tuned for bake sale information.

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.

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.

Six Little Minutes

For long distance runners, the Boston Marathon is the stuff of legends, dreams, and running bucket lists. In some ways, it’s the Super Bowl of the running world…not because it’s a competition–though it is–but because of the excitement and camaraderie that unites everyone at the start line. It’s a race you have to work for…because the only way in is to qualify or raise money for charities. Period.

Last year, my best friend worked her butt off to qualify for Boston. For the first several months of the year, she ran a marathon a month to make it happen. Each time the race started, I held my breath a little and waited for texts from her husband or some other form of live update. I waited for her to cross the finish line and see if she made it in time. And each time, I started making plans in my head for being her support staff on race day in Boston this year.

She missed qualifying by six minutes.

When the story broke this afternoon, I couldn’t help but think of her and her efforts to qualify…to say nothing of the people I know who live in Boston, the people involved in any way in the race, and the city itself which I so desperately love. I sent my friend a text to say how thankful I was that she didn’t qualify last year for this year’s race. Her response was, “Me too! 6 little minutes!”

In a world where things change in a matter of seconds, I am thankful for the time that has been extended because of those six minutes. I am thankful for the beauty of the running world and the ways in which we all find hope and peace and clarity and excitement and enjoyment and camaraderie in the sport. I am thankful for the ways in which people have responded. And I am thankful to love and be loved by such incredible people…and that I get to hug some of them a little tighter tonight or the next time I see them. Because of six little minutes.

What I got around to–and didn’t–in 2012

A few days ago, I was (finally) cleaning off the top of my dresser and came across my list of things I wanted to accomplish this year. Turns out, 2012 turned into the year in which I got some shit done.

The list was a list of intentions (formerly known as resolutions) for the new year. It contained some heavy hitters:

  • Read 35 books
  • Propose my dissertation
  • Run (read: finish) the analyses for my dissertation
  • Find and start my internship
  • Run a half marathon
  • Run a full marathon
  • Do a triathlon
  • Maybe lose those last 20 pounds finally?
  • Be mindful and intentional of how I spend money
  • Be mindful and intentional of what/how much I eat
  • Pray/meditate 3-4 times per week
  • Keep a daily gratitude journal
  • Add a couple more misfit toys to this island on which I live
  • Be more intentional about staying connected to people
  • Accept my body for what it is
  • Finish books I’ve started

Well.

Some of that got taken care of early in the year. I’d read 35 books by the summer, so I bumped the goal up a few more times since. Turns out, I finished 55 books this year…and I’ll tell you what I loved (and didn’t) next time. I’ll also maybe probably not tell you what’s still on the list that may not ever get fully read. Not only did I propose and finish the analyses for my dissertation, but I defended that bitch on 12/12/12. And there are no words to describe the feeling of having that thing done. Meanwhile, I’m mid-way through my internship and loving it more than I thought possible. I’m thankful for where and with whom I work–and that I get to do nothing but enjoy it from now until May.

I knocked out that half marathon in January and was well on my way to taking out a full before I got injured. I didn’t do enough to take care of my body as much as I was pounding it into the ground logging miles. So I made the decision to make the March marathon another half. Given that it was in hilly Atlanta on a hot March morning, I was glad I’d made that decision. The triathlon still hasn’t happened, though the desire is ever present. Regardless, I am pleased to report that I finished six races this year. As for those 20 pounds, they’re still here. But I have a plan for those little bastards. And I still haven’t accepted my body for what it is–well…not fully. But probably more so than I ever have.

The mindfulness of money and food will probably always be a work in progress. I think I was more mindful of both at different points during the year. For sure, those will be things on the list for 2013. I have incorporated new ways of spending (read: I give more to other people/organizations/needs than spend it on me) and eating (read: NEW RECIPES) (THAT MY PEOPLE LOVE). So there’s that.

I really wanted to work to stay and be more connected to people–and to open our home more to people than I had previously. I was able to start some of that…and will continue to do so next year.

And then there was the spiritual stuff. I did well with praying/meditating and keeping a gratitude journal…for about four months. I think the lack of structure (compared to what it had been) during the summer was part of the problem. So I’ll recycle those two for next year as well.

I haven’t quite set my intentions for this year. I know there’s a half marathon on the books for March. I need to finish my edits to my dissertation for the grad school…and then my internship so I will be officially done in May. I would like need to get a big girl job with a for real paycheck. And all the other stuff from above that I didn’t quite accomplish this year. But hey, it’s a work in progress. And really, I did get some shit done this year.

I am thankful for all that 2012 has been and look forward to the new year with anticipation of what it will be. Happy New Year to you and yours.

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.

A Fifth

I did my fifth half-marathon this past weekend in Charleston.

And got a new PR.

This was the second ever marathon, half-marathon, and 5K in Charleston for this group of race organizers. And it was evident for many reasons. I’m confident they’ll work out the kinks in a few years. The nice part was that it was small. As in, my chip time was only about a minute off the race clock. And folks, I’ve YET to run a race where that was possible. Also, we got a pretty cool medal. And you know you’re running in a southern coastal town when, at the finish line, they have boiled peanuts, shrimp and grits, and beer waiting for you.

Of course, I had to survive the wind that never stopped and the course that, once you got out of downtown, was so boring I was ready to gouge out my eyeballs. I should have occupied my time by counting warehouses. Then again, I probably would have lost count. Fortunately, I was hovering around a pace group and that kept me focused on different things. Like how likely they were to smoke me by the end.

But I did survive. The pace group did leave me, but I came down the chute with a sh*t eating grin on my face looking up at the race clock and knowing I’d done it. I shaved 7 minutes off my time from my last half in March of last year.

Not too shabby.

The other nice thing was that my legs and hips NEVER hurt. I just got tired. Part of that was, I think, because I didn’t really fuel up well the day before. Or the day of. Or the entire week before this whole nonsense was supposed to go down.

I thought I was going to be able to report that I’d run the race of my life. Because I did…for nine miles. And then that ninth mile was the longest EVER. And there was some walking between 10 and the finish line. What kept me going, however, was the knowledge that two cups of Shock Top awaited me at the finish. Don’t judge me, people. Beer is a GREAT recovery drink.

And then I got in that VERY LONG line for the beer…after I snagged some fruit, a bite of a bagel, some A-MAZING green tea that’s produced locally…and the longer I waited, the crankier I became. Then, FINALLY, I got up to the man with the taps to the sweet nectar and handed over BOTH of my tickets. That’s right. I two-fisted it outta there. And then dove back through the line for a cup of boiled peanuts (because they were warm and I was not). And then I headed over to the shrimp and grits area to see if one of my peeps was there. On the way, I drank beer #1. Quickly. As in, gone in thirty paces.

And lest you judge me for THAT, I would like to point out two things: (1) three cups, two hands–you do the math, and (b) holding two cups of beer when you’re already cold only makes you colder.

Which is why I made my way around to near the entrance of the tent to wait for my friend…and cuddle next to a heater. Meanwhile, I started in on those boiled peanuts and kept refueling my body with liquid. And then my friend showed up. He’d not yet gotten his shrimp and grits and we decided it was time. And then I took a step.

You know how when you’re drinking and not moving you don’t really feel the effects of what you’ve just done? And then you stand up/take a step? Yeeeeeaaaaaaah.

Wowza.

The shrimp and grits were kinda tasty. The boiled peanuts were freaking awesome. And I finally righted myself enough to head back to the finish line to wait for my best friend to finish the marathon.

I have to say…I was UNBELIEVABLY proud of Robin that day. Turns out she’d pulled off the course at mile 2 and debated walking back to the hotel.

Y’all. She does. not. quit.

Ever.

She gutted it out from mile 2 to the finish line. She’d been sick the week before and her stomach was jacked the morning of the race. She was never more proud of earning a medal than that one on Saturday. (And she’s done a half Iron Man). I was proud of her, too. Especially since that course only got more boring in the second half (kinda like the Patriots/Broncos game did later that night).

I’m also proud of her husband who scored a PR in the 5K, having shaved 5 minutes off his time in about 5 weeks. And thankful that he was able to still run support staff for us as well.

I also came away from that race feeling more ready for this full marathon I’m supposed to be doing in March. Of course, I have to register first…