Three Year Runniversary

In about a month it will be three years since I first laced up my Asics and stood in a parking lot with several hundred other women wondering what in blue blazes I was getting myself into taking part in our local running club’s Women’s Running Training Program. I was convinced of two things: 1) I was out of my mind; and 2) I was going to die. Clearly I was wrong on one of those two counts.

The Training Program is ramping up again, and for the third year I’m volunteering as a Coach with the Beginning Runners group. Earlier today a young friend I’ve known for a long, long time tagged me in a post on Facebook showing her registration confirmation for the program. And truth be told, I got puddled up. I am so proud of her for stepping out of her fear and putting herself ‘out there’ doing this in a group and in public.
She’s pretty convinced she’s out of her mind.
And she’s afraid she’s going to pass out, fail, or worst of all quit.
I’ve promised her she won’t pass out or fail and she’s given me permission to nag her so she doesn’t quit. Thus proving that she’s out of her mind. Never give me permission to nag! I’m good at it. I have references.
Me? I’m proud of her! Couldn’t be more full of maternal pride if she were my own child doing this.

Every year I’ve been a volunteer coach it has served a couple of purposes.
First, if my own running has faltered or I’ve begun to ‘fall out of love’ with it knowing this is coming up kicks me back into the groove.
Second, it puts me back into what my RYL (Running/Yoga/Life) Mentor calls “Beginner’s Mind”. I get that little excited/nervous flutter in my stomach. I get excited about running and all things running all over again. I start inventorying the answers to beginner questions in my mind, and in that process I ask them of myself.
How are my shoes?
How’s my running bra?
Am I eating to sufficiently fuel the maching?
Am I adequately hydrating for those hot, steamy, Memphis afternoon runs?
Have I lost my mind?

In encouraging my young friend I linked her to the beginning of this blog so she could see where I was early on in this and while I was there I scanned through some of the posts there and stopped when I came across this statement, made about three weeks shy of my own Graduation 5K: I have never, ever in my life stuck with any sort of exercise plan/program this consistently for this long! And it stopped me in my tracks. Because I am still sticking with it!
Oh there have been occasional lapses, but I’ve never quit or stopped. I’ve always come back to it, always begun again all over again.

And much of the credit for that goes to the very thing that got me started in the first place. A few weeks ago I was deliberating with RYL Mentor whether or not I was going to continue coaching with the Beginners, move to coaching with the Intermediates, or register as a participant for the Advanced training to up my own game. My personal jury was still out on the decision a bit. Until the email went out asking coaches to sign up and I decided to give it one more year and I found myself clicking the link and signing up. And today, when my young Rockstar friend tagged me in that post I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. My heart is with the Beginning Runners, and there’s a tiny bit of selfishness in that.

The butterflies are marching and I’m excited for both of us.
On Monday, July 7th when we start that first Run With Coaches it will be a beginnig for her and an amazing continuation of a beginnig for me.
Three years.
Who saw that coming?!

The Incredible, Amazing, Self-Repairing Want To

After months of worrying about it, sporadic efforts, and vacillating between “I’m going to fix this!” and “Screw it, I’ll just quit!” and finally deciding to let things Just Be until they started Just Be-ing something else, something clicked and I’m back to loving running.

Seriously.
*poof*
Just like that.
It started with a Memorial Day Race that we do not just because it’s a race put on by our favorite running store, but because it honors those men and women from our area who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.  I knew the running of the race part was going to be ugly because I hadn’t really been running, and even with an 8am start time it was going to be warm and m-u-g-g-y.  It’s late May in Memphis and “Muggy” is this city’s middle name!  But it wasn’t quite as ugly as I’d expected and – once I could breathe like a normal human being – I didn’t feel all that bad.
Of course having the store staff cheering us on by name, and the Patriot Guard Riders who came out to honor the latest name added to the existing 1,575 names on the memorial wall cheering us on telling us how awesome we were it was hard to feel bad about being out there in any way.

HCRP ended up at the Ortho Doc looking into some knee pain he’s been experiencing recently.  No damage or injury, but it’s possible he’s beginning to develop a bit of arthritis in his knee.  Not a game stopper, just requires some care and adaptation.  Anyway, we blew off running Wednesday.
Correction.
I blew off running Wednesday.  He had a note from his doctor.
Thursday came and I packed my gym bag, took it to work, and spent the day alternately adoring and glaring at it.  Around 3:30 I decided “I’m just not feeling this today, I don’t see it happening.”  Then I thought about some of the races coming up on our calendar – some of our favorites in this area – and decided “No, I’m going to run!”
And so it went for the next 90 minutes.
Back and forth.
“Running!”
“Nope. Not running.”
Forth and back.
HCRP got there and was visibly limping so it was clear that running wasn’t in his best interests, which was the precise moment I decided “I’m running!”

We run together.  Always have since I started the Women’s Running Program three years ago and told him “You’re doing these runs with me during the week!”  Unfortunately because we run together and “always have” when one of us is ill, injured, or ‘just not feeling it’ it is far too easy for the other to “sit this one out” with them.
Awww…
Such devotion!
Such love!
Such a load of crap!
And so I laced up my Asics and hit the Greenline for a couple (and a half, there was ‘and a half’) miles that felt really, really good!  AND felt good at a pace that was a full 30 seconds  per mile faster than my old reliable 12:00 minute per mile standby pace.
By myself!
I’m so accustomed to having HCRP just off my left shoulder that I think part of my brain had come to believe I ‘couldn’t’ run alone. I’m not sure why, and honestly I’m not inclined to give it too much mental space or energy.  The thought/belief was there, and now it’s not.  I actually enjoyed the solitude.

Yesterday morning we (HCRP’s knee is improving!  Yay!) headed out for another run.  He kept it short (2 miles) and I resisted the urge to increase mileage too quickly and only went out for 3.  And again, my pace was quicker than it’s been in the past and everything felt good.
I’m doing some things differently – basing my intervals on distance and not time and increasing the distance of the run intervals – which will bring the goals I had for this year to reality.

But more important than pace or time or distance is that I’m already looking forward to Monday’s run!

My Give A Dang* is fine, it’s my Want To that’s busted

First and foremost, let’s dispense with the titular earworms:
Give A Dang*
Want To
I really only like one of those songs.
And you, in the corner, stop snickering at ‘titular’. It’s a grown-up word. Look it up!

I want to run.
That’s a lie.
I want to want to run.

I pack gym bags.  Several days a week.
I actually manage to run about once a week, which I end up enjoying once I get past the griping thighs and burning lungs. I’m even (somehow) running a full 30 seconds per mile less than my standard pace.
And after every one of those runs I turn to HCRP and say “This is the last time we skip runs!” Which is generally followed closely by “And we have got to cross-train!”
I’ve even resorted to platitudes like “No excuses!” and “Were gonna ‘Just Do It’!”
I have not (yet) resorted to “No pain, no gain”.

We’re volunteering for races with our running club.
Cheering on other runners, admiring finish times I will never aspire to.
Talking running out the wazoo.
Speaking of my wazoo, it has somehow managed not to grow exponentially in direct opposition to the number of miles I’m not logging.  Not sure how that’s not happening.
(If you understood those last couple sentences, you might want to get your head examined.)

My running friends are running.  And then some!
My Tri-ing friends are tri-ing as Tri-Season is upon us.
And I envy them all the joy they get from the miles.

Me?
I’m just not feelin’ it.
I want to feel it.
I’ve even tried that whole ‘fake it til you make it’ thing through not one, but two half-marathons I was woefully under-trained for.
But I’m just not there.
The list of Races We Must Do This Year isn’t enough to get me excited.  Regardless how close (next week!) the first of them may be.  I suddenly find myself completely capable of registering and either skipping it or volunteering to work it with “Hey, they got my money for their cause and I got my shirt” as my lovely parting gift/consolation prize.

One of my BFF/RMs (Running Mentor) has even offered to coach me, she being a Certified Coach and everything.

*sighs*
Tomorrow my BFF/RM and I are getting back into our weekly yoga practice. That had to take a back seat to a greater need that had her completely gone (as in out of town) for six months.
But she’s back now.  And so is Friday Yoga Time.
Maybe that will help.
Keeping up with (or trying to) her fit-tabulousness could motivate a manatee!

WRWM is starting up again in July and HCRP and I are committed to being Volunteer Coaches again. And I have two months to get my tail – along with my legs and lungs – into “Why yes, yes I have in fact done this before” condition.

Thankfully, in addition to the return of BFF/RM, one of my ‘nother Favorite People and Running Gurus put some words on my screen this very day that said more about me than they did her. Even though I’m pretty sure she believes they were All About Her.

I also want to write. Maybe not about running, just in general.
But definitely I definitely want to write about running here.
Only it’s hard to write about something you’re not doing.

At least for me it is.

Maybe if you build the Give A Dang, the Want To will come . . .

*Edited for the sake of my mother, in case she ever reads this.

It’s only a goal if it’s your own

Assuming you know the story of My First MaraNot (if not go back and catch up, I’ll wait) . . .

Okay, now that we all know the story, there’s one line in there that turns out to be not-quite-so-true for me. When I said (repeatedly) and wrote (just the one time) “And, I still have a marathon to run!”, well, it turns out I didn’t really mean it. Okay I meant it in that ‘All the Kool Kids are saying/doing it!’ kinda way. But it turns out it wasn’t really so much a part of My Truth after all.

Those of you who are diehard, driven, The Goal is The Goal kind of folks might want to stop reading right now before you get to the ‘throwing up in your mouth a little’ part. Unless you already have and in that case: I apologize. Here’s a breath mint.

To say that I have been ambivalent about running for the past two months is an understatement of epic proportions. As I was sharing with my Sole Sister/RYL (Running/Yoga/Life) Mentor Tonia there was a day a couple weeks ago when I was sitting at my desk glaring at my gym bag when the thought “I’m just going to quit running” walked purposefully through my mind.
Followed by complete and utter silence.
There was no immediate outcry from The Parts of Me That Lurve Running.
There was nothing.
No argument.
No “But you’ve got Nashville coming up!”
Nada.
Zip.
Infinity x Zero = Crickets.
And that was the moment I realized that there was something seriously wrong.

The problem wasn’t running. I ❤ Running! Really, I do!
I wrote more about running than my husband on Valentine’s Day!
If that’s not proof I don’t know what is.
But somewhere between Friday morning when I typed out that cherubic little missive to my sport of choice, and Saturday afternoon when Tonia texted me asking “Can you talk?” (or words to that effect) I realized that The Problem was The Goal.
Not MY Goal.
Rather the goal I picked up and took home that really wasn’t mine.

Here’s the deal. (Yes, I say that in actual conversation. Frequently.)
When St. Jude was cancelled I was upset.
Correction I was hurt.
Corrected correction I was hurt and disappointed.
Correcting the corrected correction: I was hurt and disappointed and angry.
I was robbed!
I’d spent six months of my life training to run that marathon and now It Wasn’t Happening!
Oh sure, I could have gone out on No-Longer-Race-Day and run the course – hundreds of people did and they had a blast!  But we had other things to take care of.
The next week there was very well put together Make Up Marathon I could have taken part of.  And I just couldn’t get into it.
I did neither of those things.
Because I spent six months of my life training to run That Marathon.
Nothing else.
Not the Run It Anyway Marathon, not the Make-Up Marathon, not even one of the three races we were given the opportunity to transfer our registrations to.
That Marathon.
The 2013 Memphis St. Jude Marathon.
And It Didn’t Happen.
Not because I couldn’t do it or because I didn’t feel like it.
The event simply didn’t happen.  (For completely valid reasons.)

In all, 100%, complete, total honesty my first reaction was “Okay, well, it isn’t meant to be.” And I was okay with that.
Until everyone around me started saying (to be encouraging and supportive) “So you’ll Find Another Marathon to do? Right? Right!! Yay Julianne! Ewe can dew eet!”
And because I didn’t want to be A Quitter, and because I didn’t want to let everyone else down, I Found Another Marathon! And I registered and I set up a training plan based on the one we’d used before and even with having to have one of my 2,000 parts forcibly evicted (removed, surgically, it was my gallbladder, not my brain) I had more than enough time to recover and train and Run My Marathon in April!
Only that wasn’t ‘My Marathon’.
It was Everybody Else’s Marathon.
I had been perfectly okay releasing my Marathon Dream to “Eh, it happens!” and move forward to my stated goals for 2014 that centered around reducing my times in shorter races and embracing my Inner Halfer.
But I said I was Running A Marathon!
And Everybody expected me to Run A Marathon.
Many of my running buddies dove headlong into the next closest-on-the-calendar Marathon and did it! Others opted to get into trail running, and some into really long trail running. I admire each and every one of them for what they’ve done.  Especially those really long trail running people.  (They’re crazy, but it’s that admirable kind of crazy.)  Sometimes admiration is the sincerest form of flattery, not imitation.
And when I finally said, out loud, to Tonia “I really don’t think I want to train for and run a marathon, any marathon” I felt like the weight of the expectation of a thousand expectated expectations were lifted from my shoulders.

Because here’s the thing: Nobody – not one person runner or non-runner – ever said to me “Okay Julianne I/we expect you to run another marathon or you will be dead to me/us!”
Nobody threatened to take away my Asics or all the miles I’d put in training or the fact that I love running or even the really cute skirt I’d bought Just For That Race if I didn’t find some other marathon to run.
*I* did that to me.
*I* put that expectation of an expectation on me. And them. But mostly on me. On their behalf. Wasn’t that good of me?

There’s nothing wrong with saying “Okay, that race didn’t happen” and taking that as the answer to “Is it part of my journey?”.
Funny thing is that when I blurted all of that out to Tonia her answer was “If it isn’t your passion – don’t do it!”. And when I shared with my ‘nother running friend Tracie on Sunday she said “If you’re not going to enjoy it – why do it?”
Yet another reason I ❤ ❤ ❤ Runners!
We’re big fans of that whole “It’s your race!” concept in and out of our Asics. Or Brooks. Or whatever fits your footfall.

So I’m running in Nashville (and I’m still raising money as a St. Jude Hero, as is HCRP) but I’ll be running the Half. HCRP hasn’t fully made up his mind yet, and whatever he chooses to do is his race.

Won’t you be my Valentine?

Dear Running,
What to say?
I know I’ve been distant and aloof these past couple months.
Oh, I’ve flirted with you here and there.
Those quickies on the treadmill.
That long weekend in New Orleans that wasn’t everything it could have been. By the way, thanks for doing your part there even though I didn’t do mine getting ready and all.
But really, we both know my heart hasn’t been in it.
And truth be told, I haven’t missed you. Much.

Because I love being part of The Kook Kids Klub, I’ve kept up the facade that we’re still A Thing. But you and I? We know what’s been up between us. Or hasn’t.  Thanks for not blowing my cover.

And really, it hasn’t been you, it’s been all me babe.
I got my feelings hurt when that Big Date we had planned back in December fell through. That wasn’t you or me. It was that witch Winter Weather. But I let disappointment turn into a long-term pout and I took it out on you with that whole silent treatment thing.

Of course having one of my 2,000 parts decide to stop doing that voodoo it (used to) do so well and having to be evicted didn’t help. But I’ve been over that for weeks now.

I do still love you.
I promise.

I’ve got too much invested in this relationship to back out now.
And we’ve got that whole Spring Prom thing planned in Nashville at the end of April! I know you’ll be there and I have no intention of standing you up.
I’ve just needed my space.  Okay maybe not “needed” but I took it anyway.

But this morning I woke up truly and fully missing you.
Everything about you.
The sweat.
The time and distance with nothing but the two of us.
The caring about a time on a clock at a finish line and wanting to make it something different. 
The Zone. That mile or so when it feels like my feet aren’t even touching the ground and I Could Do This Forever.
And yes, even that first sucktastic mile or so when I have to remind the legs and the lungs that yes they’ve done this before.
Yeah, I woke up missing that too.

So I guess what I’m saying is it’s time we got back together.
For real now. No more treadmill flirtations or half-hearted weekend getaways.
It’s time for me to come back to you. You’re right where you’ve always been: under my laces, on the streets. Thanks for that.
See you tomorrow morning!

My First MaraNot

By now I’m pretty sure everyone who knows me on any semblance of a personal level –  and most people who follow charity marathon events – knows that The Memphis St. Jude Marathon was cancelled.
My/Our First Marathon.
Cancelled.
When I got the email – which, frankly, I’d been anticipating all day – I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut.
I wasn’t surprised.
Just felt the full weight of a disappointment I’d been anticipating for hours.

Memphis got hit by an unseasonably early ice storm.
Ice storms, for those of you who’ve never had the privilege of experiencing one, are nothing to be trifled with.
There’s black ice.
There’s ice on trees.
There’s ice on power lines.
There’s just ice.
The overall accumulation in any given area might not look like much, but when you take into account the overall impact on a major (or semi-major) metropolitan area you have to take into account The Greater Good/Need when there’s something like a marathon involving 20,000 participants, (roughly) 3,000 volunteers, who-knows-how-many First Responders, and even more who-knows-how-many spectators/supporters over a 26.2 mile course involved. (Not to mention the entire rest of the metropolitan area who – believe it or not – have no stake in The Marathon but might have a stake in first responders’ availability and medical personnel.)
Oh and the Finish Line which had become, basically, a potential skating rink.
Not sure about anyone else, but I don’t run in ice skates nor do I carry an extra set of strap-on blades.
In short: The Race Director and other Race/City Officials made The Right Call.

Was I happy?
No.  When I got the email that preceded the Official Announcement (because HCRP and I were assisting with the Race Planning Committee) I burst into tears.  And my BFF who’d come to town for the express purpose of seeing us run/finish Our First Marathon, and one of my Running BFFs/Mentors grabbed me and hugged me and let me cry.  (HCRP had stepped away from where we were to get with the captain of our marathon training team.)
Then I cussed.
Pretty much all the cusses I know.
Then BFF and Running BFF swept me away to grab a beer from the beer table at the celebratory banquet we were at.
Then the CEO of ALSAC (St. Jude’s fundraising organization) took the podium and explained the multi-faceted reasons behind the cancellation.

And then he shared with us how much we – The St. Jude Heroes – had raised for the hospital: $8.2 million!
And then he shared Sam’s Story.
And then he introduced us to Hillary, who spoke so beautifully and from the heart and for every child who has ever crossed the threshold of that place.
And suddenly the fact that I wouldn’t be running tomorrow (which is now today) Just Didn’t Matter quite so much.

Oh I was still disappointed.  I’m not gonna lie.  We’ve been training for SIX MONTHS!
But I gave myself 24 hours to pout about it after which it was time to Move On!

I have a 5K to plan for March 22!
And, I still have a marathon to run!
So HCRP and I will be re-beginning our marathon training come Monday morning.
We’ll be running the St. Jude Country Music Marathon in Nashville in April.  Possibly as Heroes.  The jury’s still out on that.  (Most likely, we will.  I mean, why not take advantage of the opportunity to raise more money for the hospital and its mission?!)

We spent the morning at the Finish Line venue helping to break things down and pack things up.
We spent the morning finishing what we started as our part of the Race Planning Committee.
We spent the morning with good running friends.
We spent the morning doing what we love.
Being involved.
Being engaged.
And come Monday, it will be Training Time again!

I commented to my BFF who’d come down to see us finish this race that, as I see it, we’ve spent the past six months “training to train for a marathon”.
We’ve made mistakes.
We’ve skipped runs.
We weren’t exactly diligent about cross-training.
Which means we have room for improvement.
And finishing even stronger in April than we expected to today.

So, yeah, our First MaraTHON ended up being a MaraNOT.
And that’s okay.
Because, like everything in running, it’s all part of The Process.
And The Process is The Thing of It.

The scale might lie – but the PJs never do!

As seen on Facebook:
Okay, I have to brag a little here…
A couple months ago I snagged a pair of summer PJs that consisted of a cute little tank top and a pair of cotton – dress shirt cotton, not t-shirt cotton – pants. Grabbed them off the rack based on (my recently acquired) no-longer-XL size and took them home. Went to put them on that evening and was mortified to find they were ENTIRELY too tight! Can’t sit down without splitting a seam tight. I was pissed! I threw them in the back corner of the closet and went back to my faithful, t-shirt cotton PJs that fit comfortably and non-judgmentally. Meanwhile, I’ve been running and running and yoga-ing, and Ye Olde Scale has remained unrelentingly stuck on A Number so I’d given up any hope of New Summer PJ pants fitting.
Tonight in a fit of morbid curiosity I grabbed New Summer PJ pants and put them on, fully expecting a seam to split.
And guess what?!
Guess!
They fit!
As in “I’m sitting in them with all seams in tact” fit.
The number on the scale? Hasn’t budged. Not 1/10th of a pound.
But something has obviously changed because The PJ Pants fit!!
I swear I’d wear them to work tomorrow if I thought nobody would notice!

Which was followed by (my own) disclaimer/comment:
The Moral of this moment of braggedness: The scale might lie, but the PJs never do! Just because weight doesn’t change doesn’t mean changes aren’t taking place in the body.

Just about the time I was going to delete the post because I was worried it would hurt or offend some of my friends who are struggling with weight loss issues, I was tagged in a post by one of the women who is participating as a Beginning Runner in the Women’s Running Program that got me started running two years ago.
I just want to “Thank” Middle-Aged-Woman for her PJ story!! I have been having a pity party these last few weeks b/c I hurt my hip and the doctor told me NO running for 2 weeks!! NO RUNNING are you kidding me?? I am on a running plan and have been so excited about the Womens Run Walk program that this is going to KILL me…Then football practice started and then I went on vacation so needless to say I am a little unhappy at the moment that I know for a FACT that I am behind in the run…So then I read your PJ post and it made me smile…It made me think to keep going no matter what (I too have been mad at the scale for not moving) and I was whining to Brian about next Monday and how I am going to suck and he said NO your going to go and run what you can. No matter if I am behind I am going to keep going….I am so lucky to have encouraging people in my life:)
And, as I commented back to her:
Oh B! You just BLEW AWAY every doubt and ‘second guessing’ I had about sharing that. It felt so ‘selfish’ and ‘braggy’ that I seriously almost deleted it as -soon as I posted it. I have so many friends struggling with weight loss and I really questioned whether or not posting that would come across as a ‘slap in the face’ to them.
I am just in TEARS reading this post and realizing I was so right to listen to that ‘still small voice’ that said “Share this”. Thank YOU for this affirmation that sharing our little victories is done for a reason and serve as an encouragement to others!
You will do great Monday. Run your pace and stick with the program and you will ROCK that Finish Line next month!!
Followed – once I was no longer all puddled-up – by:
Thank you more than I can say.
Also, thank you for redirecting me to the greater point of what happened for me with those PJ Pants. I don’t run to “fit into the PJs”. I run to run, and to remind myself of what I can do today that I couldn’t do last week.

Earlier today another online friend messaged me sharing her intention to get back into running.  She’d been a cross country runner and swimmer in high school and over the (much fewer than mine) years since she’d fallen into a more sedentary lifestyle.  Of everything she said to me in her message, this stood out the most: I joined a local gym tonight, and just wanted to say that reading your posts about the running events and training you do has been a huge inspiration for me with getting back into it and hoping that one day, I too can complete run events…  but I know I can do it, because the running/fitness journeys of you and many others show me that it IS possible, no matter how unfit I am right now. So thank you for sharing about your running and fitness, because I know I really appreciate it and find that it has spurred me on with this. 

A few minutes later I received a text from my DIL that led to a textversation about the ways our bodies change, but more importantly the way our expectations of ourselves and what we can do change as we continue our journeys as runners.

At the end of the day – and especially any given run – it is those immeasurable, un-quantifiable things that running gives us that keeps us coming back for more.
It’s running a distance you’ve never run before.
It’s a body that just feels stronger.
It’s doing A Thing we never thought we could.
It’s hearing “Your calves look amazing!” when we’ve been focused on our gut.
It’s ‘getting’ what “I ran ‘X’ miles today!” means to another runner.
It’s knowing what PR/PB means because you’ve had one.  And want to set another.
It’s having someone say “You encourage me!”  “You inspire me!”  “I appreciate your encouragement!” 

And then there are the messages that make it just impossible to ever – no matter how bad last week’s second four mile run s-u-c-k-e-d, and no matter how many doubts about finishing a marathon Saturday’s eight miles left me with – quit this thing called running.
How do you quit a thing that gives you all that?!

But, some nights, it’s putting on Those PJ Pants.
And having them fit!

Because it will never be harder than chemo for a kid

Today is exactly 20 weeks – 140 days – from Marathon Day!
Today’s Long Run was 6 miles.
Today’s run is the shortest Long Run we will have until after The Marathon.
I have our entire Marathon Training Program on a Google Calendar, a paper calendar that hangs above my desk at work, a second paper calendar that hangs in our kitchen at home, and on an Excel Spreadsheet.
Oh, and in my Franklin Covey Planner.
I have it in all those places not because I have some undiagnosed psychosis or neurosis. I have it in all those places so I don’t have to constantly be thinking about “What’s next?”
(Which could, quite probably, have led to the development of some undiagnosed psychosis or neurosis. But I fixed that.)

Early on in this whole process I started freaking myself out by constantly checking and rechecking the whole entire thing semi-obsessively to make sure I wasn’t double-booking us for some sort of non-running event – because we have so much time in our calendar for anything non-running these six months – and in doing that I started looking at the number of miles we’d be working up to and Freaking The Eff Out!
“I can’t possibly run 14/16/18/22 miles! I’ll die! My legs will collapse. My lungs will explode! I’m not THAT kind of runner!”
Thankfully, during one particularly freak-out filled run I had the sudden flash of sanity that I didn’t have to run 14, 16, 18, or 22 miles that particular day. All I had to run was that day’s three or four or however many miles it was.

Much like the sudden flash of sanity I’d had the first time I set out to run more than four miles.  After nearly hyperventilating I realized that I didn’t have to run the entire four miles that minute, all I had to run was the five minute interval I was at the start of. Then I would walk for two minutes. Then I would run the next five minute interval.  But in that moment all I had to run was the given five minutes.

So, just like I worked through that little existential crisis, I realized that in documenting the entire training plan (in a ‘couple of places’) I no longer had to focus on anything other than any given day’s scheduled miles.

And, four weeks ago, we set off on Our Marathon Training Program.

Brief Aside
We are incredibly blessed (and grateful beyond belief) to live in a city that boasts an indescribably amazing Running Club. We are surrounded by experienced runners (many of whom are certified trainers) who are more than willing to impart their knowledge and wisdom-from-experience anytime we ask.
In addition to that we have not one, but two, actual Running Stores (as opposed to Big Box Sporting Goods Stores) each of which offers a Marathon Training Program designed to prepare local area runners for St. Jude. This year St. Jude is also offering a Marathon Training Program, which is also great! We decided to go with the training program offered by our favorite Running Store, in great part because we have a great relationship with the owner and his staff and trust their judgment and guidance.

Brief Aside Concluded

The first two weeks our training runs felt like what I’m pretty sure military boot camp does. On X Day we ran X Miles.
Why? Because we had to. The Schedule said so. And so we did.
And those runs felt like exactly how I was approaching them: Mandatory steps to get to what I really wanted to do – Run The Marathon.

I began to dread these runs the way one dreads going to the dentist, making a toast at a distant relative’s wedding reception, and trotting out the Christmas Sweater you got from Aunt Hattie in 1987 because “she just adores seeing you in it”.
Don’t get me wrong.
I love running.
I love everything about running.
I love the release, the relief, the effort, the personal barrier shattering.
I love finishing a run dripping with sweat, red-faced, gasping for air, with at least some part of me crying out in protest for a few seconds.  Just because.
But I found myself not loving The Training Runs.
And it stymied me.
I mean, what the hell?!  (Sorry Mother.)
Here I am doing something I love to raise money for a place I love and believe in like few other places I know.
And I am haaaaating it!
Quitting was not an option, so I decided to heed the advice of one of my favorite Bondi Band headbands and “Suck it up, Buttercup!” hoping that the dread of the Must Do Training Runs would somehow get left behind me on the pavement like the stress of work or several ounces of sweat.

And then.
It happened.
It was on a Monday about two weeks ago and, after a week or two of unseasonably cool summer weather, it was hot.
Hot hot.
Ugly, muggy, nowhere for sweat to evaporate to, sun glaring down like the wrath of someone wrathful, hot.
Memphis in July hot.
Who saw that coming?!
Oh.
Wait.
Anyone who’s ever spent a July here.
Enough about the weather.
Memphis.
July.
Hot.
Happens.
Back to my epiphany…
It was hot and there I was again not looking forward to that evening’s run.
Add to that the fact that it was the first week of our running club’s Women’s Running Training Program which I should have been looking forward to.
No, I was looking forward to it.
Really, I was!
I love seeing all these Beginning Runners taking control of their health and, for many of them, doing something Just For Them for the first time in their lives.

I just wasn’t looking forward to my run. My miles.
HCRP and I were going to get to the venue early to get in a couple miles so our total mileage would add up to what the training plan called for.
As I was changing from work clothes to running clothes and mentally bitching about the heat and why couldn’t it be a little bit overcast and where did our cooler summer weather go a thought came slamming into the front of my brain: Kids going through chemo at St. Jude don’t get to ‘just not do chemo’ because it’s too hot. Or too cold. Or too early. Or because they’re “just not feelin’ it”. They have to do it No Matter What.
From that realization was born my New Running Mantra: No run will ever be harder than chemo for a kid.
Since that moment there’s been at least one day when I just really didn’t “feel like” running. But I did. Because kids can’t “not feel like” chemo.
There have been moments during runs when I wanted to just stop and walk the rest of the way back to the car. But I didn’t. Because kids can’t “just stop” chemo.
There have been times when my lungs protested sucking in 70+% humid air and sweat was running into my eyes and my knee was twinging and IT Band and/or Piriformis was screaming and I tied my shoes too tight and . . . and . . . and . . . And whatever it was that was uncomfortable couldn’t hold a candle to what chemo does to a kid during and after.
They can’t make excuses. I don’t have any.
And you wanna know a little secret?
There are no more ‘bad’ runs for me.
I cherish every one of them.
Because no run – no matter how long how hot how cold how anything – will ever be harder than chemo for a kid.

It’s only Algebra if you let it be

After my last post I received a text from a very dear friend that brought me up a little short and forced me to realign my thinking.  She started with “Just read your blog, as usual I loved it.” because she is my friend and she loves me.  And then she stopped preachin’ and started meddlin’.  I love having friends who do that for me.

Among the points she brought to my attention was that if I exercise only one hour a day that is only 4% of my day.  I did the math and she’s right!  Whether you divide 1 by 24 or 60 by 1440 (then multiply the result by 100) it still comes out to 4.  And if something that’s important to me doesn’t deserve 4% of my own time, I’m not 100% certain what does.
Since we began our marathon training program right at a month ago I have found it all too easy to allow Other Things to come between me and our scheduled runs.  Tiredness, busyness, doing-other-thingsness.
You name it, I’ve skipped runs for it.
I even stalled on seeing a doctor for a nagging pain I allowed to go on for a month.
Me, who “learned my lesson” with Ye Olde Knee over a year ago.

It has been all too easy to say “It’s ‘only’ a couple miles.  Missing that won’t make that big a difference at this point in the training.”  Which, from a strictly physical perspective, is true.  I mean heck, I ran a 10K virtually ‘untrained’ back at the beginning of May.  I certainly hadn’t built up to running 6 miles, but I did that race and finished in decent time and without any injuries to show for it.  I have developed enough basic fitness about myself and I’ve learned enough about running, pacing, and my body that I pulled it off.  Not the smartest thing, but crazier things have been done by runners other than me.
But how far I can (or can’t) run on a given day wasn’t the point.  And I knew it.

But getting back to my friend’s point – which was spot on – even I had noticed that it seemed way too easy for me to let “other things” come between me and the miles.  I’d actually been a little puzzled by it given that I truly do love running.  Her point (and I knew it and she knew I knew it but she still spelled it out for me in Just So Many Words because she knew I needed that) was this: YOU deserve that time.  To me it’s like a spiritual practice and a must do every day.  I love you and feel like you struggle with doing for yourself.  Just do what makes your heart sing.

And then it hit me:
I had made running my Algebra.
Let me explain . . .

Math is, simply put, not my forte.
I’m not talking in that ‘Math Is Hard’ Barbie kind of way.
Obviously I can do math – I did it up there with that whole 4% of the day thing up there!

I mean in that This Is My Strength and Brings Me Fulfillment/Accomplishment and Makes My Heart Sing way.
Writing is my Thing.
Cooking is my Thing.
Laundry is my Thing.
Singing is my Thing.
Math is notsomuch my Thing.
I can do it.  Like I can clean a toilet and clip my toenails.
Because it has to be done.
But there is no joy in my personal little Mudville or music in my heart from having done it.

In high school (and a-freakin’-gain) in college, Algebra Had To Be Done.
Not like Breathing Has To Be Done.  I could have simply Not Done the Algebra.  But it was a necessary, nay mandatory, step in accomplishing the goal of achieving the accomplishment of graduation.
And so I did it.
I slogged through every “Solve for X” and found every “Y” with varying degrees of success.  But I did it.  And at the end of both experiences I got to The Finish Line and was handed the less shiny “Finisher’s Medal” of a diploma with all the honors, rights, privileges thereunto appertaining.  And the student loans.
When I look back on the experiences of high school and college I can’t tell you who sat next to me in study hall while I beat my head against the Algebra, and I don’t remember the answers to any of those test questions.  Because, for me, Algebra was the necessary evil.  The foe to be conquered.  The thing done because it had to be in order to get what I wanted.

It did not make my heart sing.

What I do remember are the choir concerts and who I stood beside and what part I sang.
What I do remember are the works of literature I read and the short story that got published in the high school’s literary publication and the essay that made gave the professor “that Emily Dickinson top of my head just came off” feeling.
I remember sitting in the church sanctuary or my parents’ basement playing Beethoven over and over again for nobody but me.
I remember cooking dinner for my family and having it pronounced “Delicious!”
Those things made my heart sing.
I loved the doing of the things.
I loved the time spent with others.
I loved that something I did touched or inspired someone else.
I loved that even if nobody else got anything out of it, ultimately I did it for the joy I got from it.

Here I am, thirty years after high school and almost twenty-five years after college with another Big, Long-Term Goal ahead of me: Finishing A Marathon.
And there are the “have to” aspects of it. Cross-training on an elliptical.  Possibly even getting on a bicycle and riding.  Because I know it will make me a better runner and benefit my body.  Not because I particularly enjoy ellipticalling or cycling.
Another Algebra.
I will do them, with varying degrees of success, but in all likelihood there will never be any heart singing in it for me, and they won’t be what I remember when I look back on this marathon years from now.
And I’m okay with that.
But the running itself, now that makes my heart sing.
Because I never thought I ‘could’ run.  Like I never thought I could hit a high C.
Even the runs I start out “not feeling” end up being some of the best, not unlike being handed A Tale of Two Cities sophomore year (which is now one of my favorite books).
But somewhere in the past few weeks I had begun to see the training runs not as “time spent doing something I love” but as some sort of big, long algebra equation to be slogged through to find the ‘X’ of Finishing the Marathon instead of focusing on the joy of doing the runs for their own sake.
Just like all the hours spent in practice rooms, and the time poring over words (my own and those of the masters) were done with the joy of my heart singing, and at the exclusion of other activities and distractions because they made me happy; so shall be my commitment to The Practice of my running.
And that’s really what it is: A Practice.
Like going through Salvation over and over for the sheer joy of hearing the notes coming from my mouth.
Like reading Dickens’ opening hyperbole of adjective knowing it will eventually lead to a far, far better thing.
Like knowing that seventh grade home-ec’s Tomato Cheeseburger Pie will eventually become to Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon.

Like prayer and meditation.
I do it for me.
Oh I am doing it for the Finish Line and that big, heavy medal around my neck!  Make no mistake about that.
But every run between now and then, and all the ones that will come after, those are for me because I do deserve those moments of a singing heart that comes somewhere between start and finish.
I’m done with Algebra, it’s time to run!

National Running Day

Who knew?!
No. Seriously. Who knew? Before like Sunday when it started popping up all over Facebook I didn’t know that The First Wednesday in June is National Running Day.
And because I didn’t know that The First Wednesday in June is National Running Day I had accepted an invitation (and tickets) for HCRP and I to attend a local charity event.

I woke up this morning thinking “Ooh! 89 degrees will make for a great run this evening!” I even had the presence of mind to check my gym bag to be sure I had everything together for a run. And then it hit me (when it was too late to get a run in before work): There are simply not enough hours in the day for me to work, run, attend the charity event, be a good pet owner, eat, sleep . . .
And let the guilt cycling begin!
How am I not going to run on National Running Day?!
How am I not going to attend this event we’ve been so generously hosted at?!
How am I going to do everything that’s expected of me by my running friends and my job and my non-runner friends and the cats and the dog and – oh yeah – a girl’s gotta eat!
I finally said, out loud, and in So Many Words “There just aren’t enough hours to make everybody happy!”

And then I got to work.
I fired up my computer, and my desktop background started cycling through the 30+ ‘motivational/inspirational’ images I’ve collected from Ye Olde Interwebs and lo and behold I get patted on the shoulder by this one:

281972_439898836052990_1821223776_n“You don’t have to prove anything to anyone.”

Not my running friends.
Not my non-running friends.
Not anyone.
Not. Any. One.

So no, I will not in fact be running on National Running Day.
I will be going to work.
I will be supporting my fellow runners as they log their miles today.
I will be honoring the graciousness of the person hosting us at the event we are attending tonight.
I will be taking care of my household.
I will not be running.
Not today.
I will run tomorrow.
And that’s okay.
And I will set a reminder on my calendar for next year that The First Wednesday in June is National Running Day.

Oh and P.S. the pain that’s plagued the ball of my right foot for the past five weeks? I saw a (really freakin’ awesome) Podiatrist yesterday and the verdict is: inflammation of second metatarsal. Have an orthotic to offset pressure on the ball of the foot. Double dose of Aleve twice a day for 2 weeks. And I’m good to go to “get back out there running”.