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?!

I should NEVER have started running

This was the start of a conversation – and by ‘conversation’ I mean monologue/diatribe by me – last night in the car as we were running an errand of mercy for/to my son. (Said son is, for the record, going to be 24 years old next Wednesday, is 6’5″ tall, and like a good Southern Boy still calls me “Momma”. Awww . . . )

Back to my diatribe . . . Which went a lot like this:
Me: I should NEVER have started running.

HCRP: Why?

Me: Because now I can’t just ‘quit’.

HCRP: Why?

Me: Because that’s just not how it’s done! You don’t start something like running and then just quit. Especially when you’ve Put It Out There that you’re going to run a Full Marathon next year! I mean to ‘just quit’ – which by the way I have the perfect opportunity to do what with the being too sick to run for a month and now the month ‘off’ after my surgery next week – at this point makes me look like a big ol’ [STOP READING MOM!] pussy.

HCRP: (Keeps driving and looking straight ahead. He is wise beyond his years that one.)

Me: But this is just stupid!

HCRP: What is?

Me: Running!
(Is he paying no attention to anything I’m saying?!)

HCRP: (Keeps driving and looking straight ahead.  Again.  Genius!)

Me: I mean seriously. I run and I run and I run all these *expletive deleted* miles and where do I get?  Nowhere.  Okay, generally back to the car, but still! It’s not like I’m going from Portland (Oregon, I realize there’s also one in Maine) to Boston with all this *expletive deleted* running!

HCRP: We could.

Me: Could what?

HCRP: Run from Portand to Boston.

Me: (Singes him with a blistering glare.)

HCRP: (Regains his senses and keeps driving and looking straight ahead.)

Me: This is just stupid. It’s a stupid sport.  And now that I’ve started it I can’t ‘Just Quit’. There’s no end to it. It’s not like I’ve suffered some permanent injury that would force me to stop so I’m stuck with this *expletive deleted*.

HCRP: Well what else would you do?

Me: For what?

HCRP: For fitness?

Me: I would eat! And sleep! A lot of eating and sleeping.  And hang out with friends in bars.

HCRP: That wouldn’t be very healthy.

Me: (Singes him . . .  You know the rest.) That is entirely beside the point.

HCRP: Which is? (Sometimes he’s not very bright… Really.)

Me: That I really can’t *expletive deleted* quit running!

HCRP: Why not?

Me: You didn’t hear that whole ‘If I quit now I’ll look like a big ol’ weenie’ (edited for inappropriate content for my mom’s sake) part before?! Besides, if I quit now what was the point of the entire last almost year and a half of my life? And all those shoes and socks and clothes and those freakin’ high dollar, industrial strength, double-reinforced running bras I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money on?!  Huh?  What about all that?!
So.
*expletive deleted* it. I may as well keep running.
[Insert especially creative uses of ordinarily run-of-the-mill profanity.]

Of course what prompted all of this was having spent the morning sitting at a Finish Line I had originally intended to be running across.
Which wasn’t altogether bad.

Actually.

It was pretty cool.
It was inspiring watching the Elite Runners cross in times I will never, ever hope to make.  And they were, I might add, barely breathing heavy or sweating.  Much.
It was fun watching the non-runners who would stop a few feet before the Finish Line to pose their Finish Line photos.  (Costing themselves valuable seconds towards PRs… Who does that?!)
It choked me up seeing the people who – you could tell by the “I did it! Wait, I did it?!” looks on their faces – were finishing their First Ever 5Ks and Half Marathons.
Then there was the mom who had written in Sharpie on her arms and legs: My son couldn’t train for cancer.  I was full-on snot-slingin’ squawlin’ when I saw that.
Really being a part – any part – of an event that raised $5.8 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Well, how can you have a ‘bad’ time doing that?!

So I end 2012 with the following statistics under my laces:
1) I suffered from, rehabbed, and overcame my first ever sports injury.  Me!  *I* had a “sports injury”!
2) I was a coach for other women who were setting out on their own journeys as Runners.
3) I ran a Half Marathon! AND finished under my stated goal time.
4) And at the end of all that diatribe and deleted expletives up there – I’m going to keep on running. Because really, who wants to look like a big ol’ weenie (edited for inappropriate content)?!

We are what we say we are

A couple weeks ago I was looking for something to watch on Netflix during my Sunday afternoon ‘Kitchen Therapy’. I’ve not ever watched Lost and figured with six seasons of episodes it ought to keep me entertained for quite awhile. And I am hooked – just like people kept telling me I would be back in 2004.

HCRP and I carpool to work which means I get dropped off about an hour early most mornings which gives me a little bit of time to entertain myself. Yesterday on my lunch hour I’d got almost through an episode titled The 23rd Psalm that focuses on the character of Mr. Eko.

I’m not going to even attempt to go through a season and a half’s worth of episodes, let alone several years of the character’s backstory, to explain every little detail because . . . well . . . this is a blog, not Homer’s Odyssey. But there is a scene in the episode where another character asks Mr. Eko “So, are you a priest or aren’t you?” and the camera focuses in on Eko’s face and you see this Moment, this instant of choice, and he answers the question simply “Yes. I am.” And in watching that Moment of his I had one of my own when I had the realization expressed in this post’s title: We are what we say we are.

As if that Moment in that episode of a television show wasn’t enough for me, my Inbox decided to hammer the point home with emails from two completely unrelated sources.

The first was a quote from a daily email newsletter I’ve subscribed to for a couple years now called The Daily Love. This morning’s missive contained the following quote: “A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.” Antoine de Saint Exupery
As I shared on Facebook that event was lacing up a pair of Asics and running 1 minute, walking 1 minute over and over for 20 minutes then doing that two more times that week. And the ‘stranger’ I met that day was Julianne The Runner.

It took me a long time to really, fully embrace the concept of myself as A Runner (capital R). I mean, I ran. Well, I ran/walked. The chances of me ever full-bore running even so much as an entire 5K are pretty slim. For one thing, I don’t necessarily feel the need. For another, that’s not how I train and as every runner knows – you race the way you train. So I will be a run/walk girl no matter the distance!
I’m not going to win, place, or likely even ever ‘show’ from a winning a medal standpoint. At least not until I’m in that 70+ age division and even then I sure won’t if Tonia or Terri Lee are running the same race! And I’m okay with that. I run to finish.

But back to Mr. Eko up there.
In his seminal moment of self-definition I realized the truth that we really are what we say we are!
Runner.
Writer.
Trainer.
Coach.
Motivator.
Even The Good Book tells us “What you decide on will be done, and light will shine on your ways.”
Well I’m ready to stand in that shining light and say I am A Runner and going forward I will be a Trainer and a Coach and a Motivator for others so that they, too, can lace up their running shoes and meet that stranger lurking deep down inside who is their Runner or Writer or Trainer or whoever it is they say they are!

Oh, and that second quote I mentioned hitting my Inbox this morning?
That one came from the blog of none other than Jeff Galloway, the Patron Saint of Run/Walkers everywhere.
Question: My friends think that walking is “less important” and that if you don’t run the entire way, you didn’t do it right. How do you deal with it?
Jeff: In every area of life there are individuals who will tell you that the only way to do something is the way that they do it. According to an original source, all of the marathoners in the first marathon race in Athens (1896 Olympics) walked significant portions of the race. By nature, running is a self empowering activity and each of us can choose how fast, how far and how many walk breaks we use on each run. If anyone says that run/walk/run is not doing it right, ask for the rule book that excludes walk breaks. They cannot, because each of us makes our own rule book.
Thank you Mr. Galloway wherever you are!

This is it!

 

 

2 Days – 10 Hours – 14 Minutes – Ever-Changing Seconds until the start of my first ever Half-Marathon.

It isn’t the first one I have set out to do.
That was back in March.
But apparently it was the first one I was intended to do.
And I am, finally, okay with that.

I have butterflies in my stomach.
They’ve gone from stomping around in combat boots in formation to running wind sprints.
I can live with wind sprints.

I have a cadre of Runner Friends who have given me support, encouragement, congratulations, and one consistent bit of advice: Have fun!

I have HCRP who is being his ever-tolerant, patient self with my newbie nerves and nattering on and on about which tech shirt I should take as a back-up if the race shirt is sleeveless (sleeveless t-shirts freak me out a little bit).

Several weeks ago one of the RFs commented on one of my (many, many, many) Facebook posts about this upcoming race that this race is my “victory lap”.  It’s the celebration of all the miles I’ve put in training.  And while I appreciated the sentiment it really didn’t make sense to me at the time.
I mean the Half was The Whole Point of all the miles and training and . . . and . . . and well all the miles and training!
Wasn’t it?
She was just trying to keep me from getting too worked up and possibly attempting to prevent the combat boot wearing, formation marching butterflies.
Right?
I just didn’t quite get what she meant.

Until Monday evening when I was doing the last Coaching Run with the Beginning Runners in the Women’s Running Training Program that was the start of this whole Running Thing for me.  I was running along with one of the other Coaches and three of the Beginning Runners (a mother and her two daughters which I think is just so cool!) and we (the other Coach and I) were answering questions and Out Of Nowhere it hit me: The Race really is The Celebration.  It is The Victory Lap!  The miles and the training really were The Point.

Now The Marching/Sprinting Butterflies are still around.
And every time I look at the picture of where the Finish Line is going to be I get choked up.

Wanna see?
How freakin’ cool is that?!
And I know I’m gonna bawl if not actually crossing the Finish Line, because really who wants their Ugly Cry Face as that picture, but a few steps thereafter.
And the crying won’t be (completely) because “I did it!” but also because “I did everything that made me able to did it!”

Earlier this week (also on Facebook) I posted a status to the effect that this Half was the single most significant accomplishment of my life.
I left out that it was more significant than graduating high school or college, more significant than marriage, more significant than even childbirth.  I left that out because I really didn’t feel like being judged for including the birth of my one-and-only “I brought you into this world, I can take you out” child.  (I tried for others before him, but that didn’t work out so well.)
 Aaaaanywho . . . this isn’t my Therapy Blog so back to The Running Stuff . . .

Crap.
Where was I?
Not The Point . . .
The Victory Lap . . .
Single most signific . . .  There I was!

Okay so this Half Marathon is the single most significant accomplishment of my life for one reason and one reason only: It is the one thing I’ve done that never in a million years would I have ever imagined myself capable of.
All those other milestones up there?  Please.  Those were givens.
knew I would graduate high school and college.
knew I would get married.  Hadn’t counted on married, divorced, married, divorced, married but hey I get HCRP out of that so I’m good.
knew I would have a baby.  I had planned on three or four, but the one I managed to bring successfully (if surgically assisted) into the world is a pretty good kid so I’ll keep him.  Besides I don’t think they take back almost twenty-four year olds.
Running a Half Marathon?  All in one day?  Yeah sooooo not on my radar like ever.
Until Saturday, October 11th when I heard the words “we” and “half marathon” falling out of my face all in one sentence.

So I really need to be getting to bed/sleep because we have to get up early tomorrow to get in our last pre-race quick, short run before going to work.

But before I go I have to point out the single most beautiful piece of synchronicity about this whole thing.
This time last year I was a little over two days from the Start Time for doing my first 5K as A Runner on the third Saturday of September.
This time this year I am a little over two days from the Start Time for doing my first Half Marathon as anything on the third Saturday of September.
HOW freakin’ cool is that?!

2 Days – 9 Hours – 25 Minutes – Ever-Changing Seconds until the start of my first ever Half-Marathon.

 

 

 

 

 

Learning what matters

Two weeks ago HCRP and I ran a new-to-us running trail here in our fair little hamlet. It’s another of our city’s greenway running/biking trails (okay walkers can use them too).

/Sidebar
Given:
A) That we boast one of the country’s biggest running clubs and their Award Winning Women’s Running Training Program;
B) The number of running/biking venues;, and
C) The fact that getting a date for a 5K is getting dangerously close to requiring a sudden death cage match between Race Directors;
it simply astounds me that my hometown consistently ranks among America’s Fattest/Least Fit Cities.

Who are they talking to when they do these surveys?!
Certainly nobody I know or spend time around!
/End Sidebar

The trail we ran two weeks ago has a fair number of short, sharp inclines which I was surprised to find myself reveling in. The interesting thing is that you run up the inclines going one direction and don’t end up running back down until you’ve turned around to come back. Since running short, sharp inclines is new to me (Read: That was the first time I’d ever done it!) I made the rookie mistake of running back down said short, sharp inclines (hereafter known as The SSI) rather than pulling back and walking. It didn’t take too many of those before The Other Knee – close friend and cohort of Ye Olde Knee and hereafter referred to as TOK – began expressing its displeasure with that particular modality of handling The SSI. I wound up (Southernism for “had to”) walking most of the last two of my seven mile run. I was not a happy camper, especially since we had joined one of the Half-Marathon/Marathon Training Groups for that particular run and I got to be seen WALKING back to the meeting point. Walking?! Seriously?! Despite the understanding I received since I was limping and all, I was still utterly humiliated. And hurting. So I R.I.C.E.D.ed it all afternoon and evening and got my plan in place for taking care of the strain – not injury – of a learning experience.

I headed for Vegas the next day which meant a lot of time spent pacing around in airports (six hours more than I’d planned for, but that’s another story for another blog) and sitting in cramped (even for my 5’4″ frame) airplane seats. So I wore my ‘big brace‘ and opted not to run on Monday. I got in a short (four mile) run while I was on vacation in Vegas, and it went well. TOK was talking to me a bit, but I attributed that to the stairs I had to climb crossing streets on The Strip. Owing to airline travel induced dehydration when I got home I didn’t get a second run in that week and set out to run eight miles on Saturday. That got cut short when TOK was full-on screaming at me at Mile Three and I ended up walking the entire last three miles.

HCRP and I got in a short (just under three miles) run Tuesday morning, but again no mid-length run before this morning’s Long Run. There were no reasons, only excuses. “I’m tired” being the leading one I used to roll over and hit the snooze Thursday morning and “Well now it’s just too hot!” being the go-to Thursday evening. Okay, maybe that was less ‘excuse’ than ‘legitimate caution’, but still I didn’t get that mid-length run in.

Which brings us to today’s eight mile run(ish).
I did make it eight miles.
I did not run all of it.
I also didn’t walk half of it.
This time I had A Strategy! (See? There’s strategy – I’ve learned!)

Having put some thought into things I decided to change up my run/walk intervals from 6:1 to 6:2.
The only reason I was running 6:1 intervals had to do with making a certain time for a given distance. And the truth of it is that for me it isn’t about “making time” or even setting/breaking a PR (Personal Record). For me it’s about the running and finishing the distance.
Including – and especially – my first half-marathon.
363 days after finishing my first 5K as a runner I will be participating in (not competing in) my first half-marathon.
Me!
The person who went into running saying “All I ever really want to run are 5Ks. Really, I’m good with that.”

Don’t get me wrong, 5Ks are fun! I love running them. Especially for causes. Doing a 5K is a great way to do more than just throw money at something. It’s about being physically present in support of that thing. Whether walking or running – you are there. You are part of it.

I just want to run further.
I like the feeling of knowing I’ve just gone further on a given course than I’ve ever been before. Further than *I* have ever gone before – even if only a few steps.

It is so easy to get caught up in PRs and finishing times/places. Heck, when I crossed the finish line of my first 10K my first question wasn’t “Where’s the water/bathroom?” it was “Am I last?!”
How ridiculous was that?
I had just finished My First 10K as A Runner.  Heck, At All!
I was vertical.
I was breathing.
I wanted to do another one! (We’re registered for one in October.)
And as I tell other women who are newer to running than me and come to me for advice (WTW are they thinking?!) I was miles ahead of all the people sitting on their couches at home!

Ya’ know, I was going to detail today’s run with a mile-by-mile breakdown of what happened when and where things went wrong, but in all truth that really isn’t important.
What is important is this: Today I ran a full mile further down the Greenline than I have ever gone before.
I ran over The Wolf River, under I-240, under White Station, Mendenhall, and Perkins, and I crossed Waring before I turned around and headed back.

And next Saturday I’ll go half a mile further than that before I turn around and head back.
And that, my friends, is what matters.

I left my title on the trail

Yesterday about halfway through this week’s Long Run (seven miles), which was actually the week’s only run that still went absolutely great, I had a title for this post come to mind and evidently it got left on the trail. (My empty Gu packets did not however get left on the trail.)

I finished the seven miles with zero negative input from Ye Olde Knee. Not a twinge, grimace, whine, or yap. The Secret was Pace.  (Wait!  That was my title!) Plain, pure, and simple! I started and stayed at a consistent 11:45 – 12:00 per mile pace from the beginning.  And intervals. Intervals are also key.  I ran to each half mile marker (about 5:30 – 6:00 minutes) then walked about a minute – long enough to take a sip of water and get my breath, but not long enough to let my heart rate drop completely – then started running again. And it worked like a charm!  So much so that I went ahead and downloaded the un-free ($4.99) Endomondo App so I can customize a 6:1 interval workout that will cue me when to walk and how long a minute is.

Next week we run eight miles and the week after that nine, and so on until Labor Day when we’ll be up to thirteen miles which allows for a taper week starting the weekend before our Half Marathon. And for the first time in a long time I can really see me doing this.

But!
One of my single greatest running accomplishments starts tomorrow evening at 6:00 pm. Tomorrow evening I will be wearing a bright gold singlet with five red letters on the back: C-O-A-C-H as a Volunteer Coach in the Women’s Running Training Program that got me started with this madness on this path.

This time last year I showed up in a gravel parking lot with about 600 other women milling around in the insufferable Mid-July Memphis heat wondering:
A) What on earth I was doing there;
B) What made me think I could run;
C) How far – or shortly – into this I was going to drop dead from a heat-and-being -overweight-and-out-of-shape induced coronary; and finally
D) When someone was going to come along and talk some sense into me instead of saying things like “I admire you for doing this Jules!” “I am so proud of you Jules!” and especially HCRP who kept insisting on saying “You can do this Honey!”
How was I gonna quit in the face of all that belief and pride and encouragement?
But then, caught up in what was quite obviously a protracted endorphin high or the after-effects of near heatstroke, the day after our first Run With Coaches I emailed the Head Coach of the Beginning Runners Group and told her I was already committed to being a Volunteer Coach next year. Which is now this year.
I did this for a couple reasons.
The aforementioned obvious endorphin/heatstroke thing.
Being impressed with the Volunteer Coaches who were giving of their (seasoned, farther-than-I-would-ever-run-ever-in-my-life-runners) time, and genuinely caring about my overweight, middle-aged, out-of-shape self and wanting to (hopefully) be (maybe a little tiny bit) like them someday.
But really mostly to put myself so far Out There with “this running thing” that I had absolutely zero opportunity to back out. Or quit running once the Graduation 5K was “in the books”.
I know me.
I’ve seen me start something with great enthusiasm only to fizzle out because there wasn’t a long-term end game.
So I gave myself one.
To be a Volunteer Coach would mean having more experience than “Oh, yeah, I did this last year but haven’t seen my running shoes since September but I’m sure it will all come back to me.”
Of course I wasn’t counting on this running thing to become everything it has.

Really, it hasn’t “become” anything.
It has simply given focus, direction, and physicality to things that have always been part of me.
The determination to do something no matter how difficult, inconvenient, or sometimes painful it may be.
The drive to keep with something even when I have every valid reason to “just let it go”.
The realization that The Goal I began with wasn’t so much The Goal as it was a stepping stone to The Next Big Thing.
The knowledge and understanding that the race I’m running is mine and that whether I’m first or last crossing the Finish Line isn’t the point. The point is that I kept going from Start to Finish and got there (in the words of Jeff Galloway) “vertical, breathing, and ready to do it again”.
I have learned:
That, like causes and battles, there are a million races out there and I simply can’t run them all. Mostly because there are only so many Registration Fees in our budget, but still . . . you have to pick your races.
That the races you can’t run, you can always be there to help with and cheer others on through.
That pace is everything.
That water is our friend.
That hills – even the steep ones – make the run more interesting and are less painful in the long run.
That it’s all about the shoes and supporting The Girls. And you will pay for cheap shoes one way or another.
That I can do this.
And if I can do this I can do anything!
And if I can do this, and anything, so can you.

See? I was born for this Coach thing!