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”.

Week One: And so it begins!

This is Week One of our Marathon Training Program to complete The Memphis St. Jude Marathon.
The Full Marathon.
26.2 miles.
All in the same day.
This is, arguably, the single biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life!
Yes, that counts childbirth and motherhood.
I always expected to have a child and be a mother.
Running a marathon?!  Not ever in my wildest dreams (until sometime late last year) would I have ever seen myself running a marathon.
And the thing of it is, running the marathon itself isn’t really The Thing of It.
Oh, the marathon is big.  Huge!
The marathon is The Prize.
The Victory Lap.
The cherry on top.
The point and purpose to be sure, but not really The Thing of It.
The training is The Thing of It.
Or so I’m told.
Right now the marathon seems like complete insanity.
But I haven’t finished a 20 mile training run yet.

We’re following Hal Higdon’s Novice Supreme, 30 Week program.
We’re implementing upper body strength training, yoga, elliptical cross-training, and various interval running training . . .  ummm . . . running training things.
We mutually agreed on the overall training program.  And we have a spreadsheet.
HCRP is in charge of the interval running training things seeing as how he ran cross country in high school and knows what pyramids and 400s and 800s and other such things actually are.
I’m in charge of diet and nutrition.  And yoga.  I’m mostly in charge of sharing what I learn from my Personal Yogi with HCRP.
We are mutually in charge of keeping each other from freaking out.
The rest of you are in charge of keeping us from chickening out.
Just so you know.

Tonight was our first Short Run and it called for 1.5 miles.
On one hand that seemed like a really short distance given that nine days ago we did a 10K race.
On the other hand we truly are Supreme Marathon Novices so it has been decided that we will follow this plan To The Letter.
So we ran 1.5 miles.
They weren’t fun miles.  My sinuses and allergies have been giving me fits so I felt like I had no lung capacity and the sore throat that set in late this afternoon made the breathing less than comfortable.
But it will get better.

In addition to training to and running the Marathon, HCRP and I are registered for The St. Jude as St. Jude Heroes which means we have each committed to raising funds for St. Jude and the incredible, miraculous work they do there. If you are interested in assisting us in our efforts to support St. Jude, below are links to our individual fundraising pages.
And thank you for any amount you are able to contribute.  Every dollar helps.

My St. Jude Marathon fundraising page.

HCRP’s St. Jude Marathon fundraising page.

Some of the best runs belong to other runners

Today HCRP and I had the unique experience . . . correction . . . we had the unique honor of playing Support Team to a couple we are privileged to count as both friends and fellow runners.

Our friends or (as I called them in several Facebook picture tags) Team Action Jackson were running in today’s St. Jude Country Music Marathon.
Mrs. Action Jackson has run several marathons, this was Mr. Action Jackson’s first.
They’ve spent the past sixteen weeks dedicating their lives to training for this event.
I can’t count the number of (cold, winter) mornings I’ve stumbled out of bed at 5am to be greeted by the Endomondo/Facebook cross-post “Mr. AJ tracked a run . . . ” that had started an hour before any part of me was anywhere close to tracking the path from the bed to the toilet, let alone a run!
Mrs. AJ (who loathes cold weather like ice cubes loathe sunny beaches) went out on countless weekday runs in overcast, sub-freezing temperatures.  And did I mention her getting both spin instructor and lifeguard certified during this time period?  Yeah.  That too.
Which says nothing of their Saturday Long Runs, many of which took place on cold, overcast, rainy days.  Thus are the perils of springtime marathon runners.
But they did it.
Week after week.
Run after bone-chilling, pre-dawn, I’d-rather-be-post-swim/spin-napping run.

Today was The Payoff.
The End of The Rainbow.
The Victory Lap.
And the weather?  Sucked!
All week we – Mr. and Mrs. AJ, HCRP, me, and 25,000 other runners and their respective cheering sections/support teams – have been staring down Ye Olde Weathere Reporte and never once did it blink.
A high percentage chance of rain and temperatures that would have been ideal on a sunny day, but didn’t bode well with all those higher-than-the-temperature-chance-of-rain percentages.

We were all awake and headed to The Venue well before the sun had even considered its position above or below the yardarm. The sun had, by all appearances, entered the Solar System Warming Device Protection Program and the sky was weeping its absence.
All.
Morning.
Long.
The temperatures joined the sky in its doldrums and stayed as low as the earth’s tilt on its axis would allow.
Awesome!
(NOTE: Both of the above linked-to-definition words are Maritime Terms.  That’s how much it was raining.  Without thinking I used Maritime Terms in writing this post.  I didn’t even know they were Maritime Terms until I Googled them to link to the meanings for clarification.  And to be cute.  But still, there was that much rain.)

But who were we (the non-runners of this race) to complain in the face of The Runners’ excitement and all that adrenaline oozing out of their every pore?!
Did I mention Cousin AJ?
Oh. My. Starz!
Cute as a button.  Clearly a cheerleader or coach or cheerleading coach to the core (all meant in the best, most admiration soaked possible ways).  She was there to run with The AJs.  She’s one of those Running Dynamos who, when asked “How many marathons have you run?” actually has to stop and think and may (or may not) recall the actual numbers because really they’re all just fun runs for her!
And you simply can not hate her.
In fact, you like her all the more!
Seriously.
I adore this girl after having spent maybe 45 entire minutes in her presence in my nearly 50 years of life!

We get to The Venue, deposit them at their Corral and headed to the Starting Line so we could enjoy The Energy of the race and get a picture of them as they started.
We absorbed enough energy to power the Eastern Seaboard for a week.
We missed getting their starting line picture because they moved up two corrals and we didn’t know.
Fortunately, we did get to see them as they passed our position about twenty feet past the Start.  We cheered, high-fived, were happy for, wished well, and then headed back to the car to head to our First Meeting Point: Mile Ten.

Here’s the “Advice Portion” of this post:
If you are ever fortunate enough to play Support Team for friends taking part in a marathon in a city you know abso-freakin-lutely nothing about I highly recommend researching three things ahead of time:
1) Your Meeting Points;
2) The Race Course;
3) Road Closures that might impact your travel from meeting point to meeting point with road closures taken into account.
Just for fun.
You got GPS?  GPS don’t care about no Road Closures.
GPS is a Honey Badger!  Honey Badger don’t care about no Road Closure because of Race Course!  (Seriously, click on that Honey Badger link.  Be Warned: They use ‘ugly words’.  You’ve been warned.  But seriously: Fuuuuuunnnyyyy!!!!)

Thankfully, HCRP is The King of Navigating Unfamiliar Territories.  This is why he will be the one doing all the driving when the two of us take part in The Amazing Race.
One other bit of advice: If the weather forecast calls for any sort of ‘extreme’ weather anticipate The Worst of said ‘extreme’.
If it’s supposed to “rain” assume it will monsoon.  Dollar Store ponchos will not suffice!
Have extra dry clothes that are easily changed into in your vehicle.
Large umbrellas.  Can not stress the importance of a large umbrella (actually in your vehicle, not at home in your garage) enough.
Dress in layers in case the weather ‘breaks’ and the cold monsoon becomes a tropical sauna.
If rain turns to shine, have extra dry socks and shoes to change into mid-weather change.
If rain remains rain, have extra dry socks and shoes to change into when all is run and done.
Trust me.
You’ll thank me.

The Mile Ten Meeting
We arrived at (or as near as we could get to) Mile Ten and started waiting for them to arrive.  Fortunately Mr. AJ and I are Endomondo Friends so I could follow their progress as often as the app updated.  We knew we’d arrived at Mile Ten plenty early because we saw the Pace Vehicle and Elite Runners come through while we were figuring out if this was the best place to be.
A lot of rain, a (thank you nice Lobby Monitor Guy) potty break, and a whole lot of runners later we saw The AJs and Cousin Awesome coming down the hill to where we’d stationed ourselves.
I fully expected them to want to change into the dry shoes we had for them.  *I* wanted to change into dry shoes!  They got to Mile Ten literally jumping up and down, hugging, happy, and genuinely doing great.  Rain and soaked shoes notwithstanding.
We parted ways, us winding our way to Mile Seventeen, and them gleefully running on.

The Seventeen Mile Meeting
This meeting was notsomuch fun to be at for any of us.
By this time the front that had brought the onslaught of rain had moved through, the wind had picked up, and the temperature hadn’t necessarily dropped, but the wind certainly made it feel colder.
The AJs and Cousin Awesome arrived at this meeting place having just crossed The Cumberland River which (I am assuming) meant running the arc of a bridge, and being buffeted by the wind on that bridge pretty hard.
By this point we’d been out in the wind and the cold and the rain for a fair amount of time.  Walking.  In and out of cover.  A good hour of that time in our vehicle driving.  And our feet were soaked.  And we were cold.  And tired.  Our friends, on the other hand (or foot, as the case may be), had been out in all those things the entire time.  Non-stop.  And running.
Dear God!
If they were ready to quit the instant they saw us I would have totally understood!  Hell (sorry Mom) I was damn near ready to try and talk them into it!  I mean running a marathon is an admirable goal and all, but this was just ridiculous!
And then we saw them!
I bellowed out Mrs. AJ’s name because I knew she’d hear me.
They came over to where we were standing.
Still excited.
Wetter (if that was possible).
Colder (which was certain).
Tireder (well duh!).
But still enjoying the race (if not the weather) and determined to FINISH!
We gave them hugs, told them they were doing great, took a picture (Facebook!), and sent them on their way.

The next thing we did I’m still carrying a bit of shame about, but we ducked into Shoney’s (truly the only food-bearing option anywhere around) and ate.  We sat in a heated restaurant and ate hot food while our friends ran on through the wind and the cold and the rain.
*hangs head*
We finished our meal-of-shame and headed to . . .

The Finish Line
Marathon Finish Lines are a lot like Maternity Ward Waiting Rooms.
Everyone outside the fences is there for the same reason, and we all know it.  There’s no reason to exchange pleasantries because really, we’re all just waiting on The Other Guy to see his/her baby so they can get the hell out of our way so we can get our first look (and picture) of our baby!
“Great!  Your spouse/child/co-worker/BFF/neighbor finished!  Yay!  Now MOVE IT buddy, you’re blocking my view/shot!”
Nobody actually says it, but we’re all thinking it and we all know it.
We stood there.
And stood there.
And stood there.
And.
Truth be told.
I shed tears for more than a few complete stranger spouses, children, co-workers, BFFs, and neighbors in whose faces I saw the same thing: Oh my God!  I did it!  I finished!

There are those who finish a marathon like they’ve just finished their grocery list at Kroger’s.  Seriously.  I saw them today.  They’re rare.  Like seeing a Bald Eagle.  I don’t think they breathe the same air the rest of us do.

Then there are The Rest of Us.
The First Time Marathoners.
The Finally Back In It Marathoners.
The I Beat The Odds Marathoners.
The I Ran This For ________________ Marathoners.
Whatever the reason or purpose, you can see it in their faces about twenty feet after the actual Finish Line.
And it’s like seeing that baby (whose father or grandparent you’ve been standing there trying not to elbow out of your own way) open its eyes for the very first time.
Know them or not, you know what it is for them.

After watching dozens and dozens of other people’s marathon stories both unfold and finish before me we finally saw Our Runners round the final turn and head towards Their Finish Line.
We – and by “we” I mean “I” – started screaming Mrs. AJ’s name and she bee-lined it over to me, grabbed me over the fencing, and burst into tears of “I did it!”.
This was Mr. AJ’s First Marathon.
This was Mrs. AJ’s Back In It Marathon.
And we were immeasurably proud of and for them!  They DID IT!!!

Cousin Awesome?  She was basically just there for them!  (See?  How do you not love her?!)
We met them at the end of the Runners’ Only Area, exchanged hugs and offered more “Congratulations”, then had to take off to get to a family event a couple hours away.
It was just such an incredible experience, and one I am deeply grateful to have been allowed to be a part of.

I started the day with more than a little bit of fear and trepidation.
I was afraid that seeing “what the run did to them” along the miles was going to prove to me that I had absolutely no business even considering running a marathon.
I was afraid that I would stand at that Finish Line and see myself in another late-40s woman who crossed the finish line either hobbled beyond movement, or who collapsed and had to be carried off on a stretcher.
I have a really vivid imagination and (obviously) entirely too much time on my hands to spend thinking about such things!

Instead I came away knowing that I can totally do this thing!
I have ample time to train.
I have a great training plan to follow.
I have runner friends – like Mrs. AJ – who have been where I’m going and are more than willing to share the wisdom of their experiences.
I have HCRP and he has me – like Mr. and Mrs. AJ had each other – and doing the training together and running the race together will be our strength.
All this from a race run by others.
And shared with me.

On running and being a runner

Unlike other times when I’ve gone days/weeks without writing, I actually have been running. 

Friday night we were part of a group run put on by my favorite running store to honor the victims, victors, participants, and what Mr. Rogers called The Helpers (be they spectators and runners who ran towards the danger or the First Responders).  We honored them with our run and we celebrated the Strength of Boston afterwards.

Saturday morning we ran in a 5K that supports a local “children’s home” (for lack of a better term) that provides intensive in-home treatment, residential treatment, foster care, adoption, transitional living, and crisis services for local area families and youth.  It’s a great race (on a hilly course) for an even better cause.
For me it marked a PR of special significance: It is the slowest time I have ever logged in a 5K.  Some race has to be the Slowest Race.  This one had damn well better be mine!

Sunday we volunteered with our local running club to work the big Earth Day 5K in our area.  Based on my assignment as ‘Chute Monitor’ I would like to go on record with the following request:
If you – like me – run with earbuds in and music playing, please keep the volume at a level that allows you to hear the instructions from the people (in our case Volunteers) working the Finish Line and Finish Chute.
Okay?
Thanks!

Monday the ‘Nother Running Store dedicated their regular Monday Night Running Group’s Run to a community-wide run to honor those in and impacted by The Boston Marathon bombing.
We were due to get in a few miles, so there was no reason not to join in that show of support.  Besides, we wouldn’t have missed the opportunity for anything.

So most of our weekend was dedicated to running.
And doing that thing that runners do best: Running for others.
Yet another reason I love running and being a runner.

Note To Readers: Both events were largely put on to raise funds on a local level to go to The One Fund to assist victims of the bombing.
You, too, can click on that link and make a donation.
Thanks!

Some things you never really lose

The blog.
My blog is still here.

I also still have legs and lungs.
And they still work well together.
At least for three and four mile stretches.

I had every reason not to run in November – I was sick with an upper respiratory crud that just Would Not Go Away.
I had every reason not to run in December (okay two reasons) – I had surgery that required time for stitches to heal.  Six weeks worth of time.
I got back to running (and writing) in mid-January.
I continued running(ish) (and writing) through February and into mid-March.

And then.
Well then I got busy with the run-up to the 5K for which I am Race Director.  The race went well.  Thanks for asking.  It went well despite our local weathermen calling for freezing rain and sleet and snow the week leading up to the race, and cold (40s) temperatures and rain the day of.  (I know a guy who knows a guy and those weathermen won’t be a problem for next year…)

And then.
Well then was The Week After and I was that heady combination of overwhelmed and exhausted and tired of thinking about shirts and safety pins and water cups and packet pick-ups and all things race related.  And HCRP and I were getting ready to go to Big Texas City where Young Female Progeny (YFP) goes to college (freshman) for Easter Weekend.

And then.
Well then, some cook or server or busboy or barback or someone, at one of the many places we ate during the roadtrip and visit failed to wash his or her hands after he or she ‘did their business’ in the men’s or ladies’ room and yours truly ended up with Norovirus.
Norovirus, for the uninitiated (and non-link clickers), is (and I quote) “transmitted by fecally-contaminated food or water; by person-to-person contact; and via aerosolization of the virus and subsequent contamination of surfaces”.  You do not want me to explain ‘aerosolization’.
Wash.  Your.  Hands.

There were a lot of excuses to skip runs, and we took them and . . . well . . . and didn’t run with them.  Earlier this week I started trying to beat myself up about it, but I realized that sometimes a break – intentional or not – is precisely what is required to renew our drive for something.
Yeah, I’m sticking with that.

So this week we got back to running.
Three miles Monday night, four tonight.
Not pretty miles, but miles (mostly) run.
I also spent a fair number (some would say too many) hours plotting our 30 week marathon training plan on a spreadsheet in conjunction with races we choose to run and races we choose to volunteer for.

2013 is going to be Our Running Year.
And I’m good with that.
For us running is about more than just pounding feet on the pavement.
We have become part of a community of runners and it’s as much about the races we do in support of particular causes as it is the races we volunteer to ‘work’ to support the runners who are racing to support those particular causes.
Just like running is about more than the miles, being part of our running community is about more than the races.

And my personal favorite thing is the volunteer coaching we’ll be doing again this year with our local running club’s women’s running training program.  There are no words for how much having this opportunity to bring running into a meaningful place in another woman’s life means to me.
I don’t know how many women have participated in this event in it’s 20+ year history here in our fair, hot, Southern, consistently ranked fattest/unhealthiest city.  I’m willing to wager that number could easily populate one of the many smaller towns in and around here.
What I do know is that in 2011 it changed my life.
I know that it led me to continue running and to become a Race Director (twice!).
I know that in 2012 I was privileged to witness it changing the life of a mother and her two daughters who are now running/racing machines!  And seeing that galvanized in me a desire to do more of that witnessing it thing.
I know that in 2013 it will change another woman’s life, many womens’ lives.  And being even a small part of that will further change me and my life.

As much as my mother/daughters running machine team thrilled – and continue to thrill and inspire – me; as much as I love the friendship that has grown out of those ten weeks spent sweating our rear ends off on a long, flat stretch of asphalt; it is another woman – one whose name I have never known – who is the reason I’ll be returning as a volunteer coach with the Beginning Runners again this year.

Every year WRWM is kicked off with an Expo.
For the Walkers and Beginning Runners it is their first ever Running Expo, I know it was mine, and for as simple as it was it was a heady experience.  Truth be told, anything more would have been Too Much!
Last year I was standing around with the other Beginning Runners Volunteer Coaches waiting to answer questions from nervous, scared, “Oh my starz! What have I got myself into?!” Beginning Runners when a woman I estimate to have been in her mid-to-late 50s walked up to me and more or less stood there like she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to be saying to me.  Truth be told I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be saying to her either so I led with the obvious “Is this your first time doing this?” and the answer I got was far from the “Well DUH!” I was expecting.
She looked at the floor as if I’d caught her with her hand in the cookie jar, looked back up at me, smiled a little, and said “This is the first thing I’ve ever done in my life that is just for me.”
What I wanted to do was burst into tears and hug her.  I also didn’t want to scare the crap out of her, so what I did do was pat her on the shoulder, smile back the tears and say “Well good for you!  You’re gonna love this!”
I meant that first part in all sincerity.

I kinda hoped she’d forget that second part the following Monday when it was 100 degrees in the shade and we were out running in the full sun of a mid-July late Memphis afternoon.
That following Monday she made a bee-line for me and was grinning from ear-to-ear and telling everyone around us “This is the first thing I’ve ever done in my life that is just for me!” and we hadn’t even run the first step yet.  And week after week – rain or shine, heat and more heat – she came back always with that smile long after many younger, fitter-looking women had quit the program.

So that’s our year.
Lots of running.  A few races.  And even more reasons for all of it.

Oh.
And writing.
Always writing!

You know you’re a runner when . . .

  1. You have occasion to utter the phrase “My butt has had as much ice as it can take” and it’s something you can tell your mother about.
  2. You spend 1.5 miles wondering what the proper pluralization of piriformis is.  Piriformii?  Piriformises?  Piriformeece?  Should there be three S’s in that second option?
  3. You are actually somewhat pleased at needing to know the plural of piriformis since it could indicate that you’re running with balanced effort on both sides.
  4. At the end of a day fraught with moment of stress and frustration after moment of stress and frustration all you can think is: I want to run my ass off!  (Sorry for the cuss Mom…)

So yeah, on tonight’s run both of my piriformii were twinging equally and in perfect harmony with one another.  Which, at first, was a little disconcerting.  I’m accustomed to something twinging on one side or the other but never equally and on both sides.  I choose to believe it’s because I was (for one of the few times in my life) well balanced.  At least my feet and legs were operating in a well balanced manner.

There will be no getting worked over by my personal Yogi as TJ is finishing up her Lifeguard certification tomorrow.  That’s okay though.  I can look up Yoga for Piriformis (See how I did that right there? Toldja so!) and after a few Sun Salutations go through that series of poses to work things out a bit.  Besides by mid-morning I’m sure I’ll be in the mood to spend a few minutes away from my desk and working some things out on my mat.

5K planning is doing what it always does in the ten days before the race: Going somewhere between the speed of sound and batcrap crazy!  Things plod along for months and months and then, suddenly, in the last ten days everything happens!  It’s both exciting and a little scary, but it always has a way of working out.

There’s really not much to see here.
I mostly posted this one for my own entertainment.
And for the entertainment of anyone else who obsesses over plural forms of odd nouns.
And to write that thing about my butt and ice somewhere in public.

Oh and to the woman walking her dogs going the wrong direction on the Greenline: Don’t DO that!  What part of you are the ONLY person going that direction on that side didn’t get through your obviously well-padded sense of the obvious?!
There.
Got that out of my system!

On running and Running a race

Where it comes to 5Ks there’s more than one way to run one.

First you run the races.
Throw on the Thorlos.
Lace up the Asics.
And run.
Some you run faster than others.
Always there’s something to prove.  If only to yourself.
You prove the worth of your training.
You prove you’ve still got your running mojo.
You prove that finishing is more important than finish time.
You prove a lot out there on the road.
Step by step.  Mile by mile.
It only ever really matters to the runner in the mirror.

And then you Run the races.
You ask The Question.
The one that goes something like this: Why hasn’t anyone ever done a 5K for Cause?  The only (ever) answer to which is “Well Runner Girl!  Why don’t you just do that?!”
And just like that, with nary a puff of smoke, black or white, you my friend are A Race Director of your Very Own 5K!  (That one’s mine.  Get your own!)
And as Race Director you learn everything you ever wanted to know about port-o-john rental, city permits, certificates of insurance, purchasing safety pins in bulk, logo image resolution, and how to stalk your entire community one registrant at a time without having restraining orders taken out against you but were afraid to ask.

You also learn what it means to have a woman place third in her age group in your race which was the very first 5K she ever took part in as a runner.
You learn how much support means to non-profits.
You learn how many other people care enough about a thing to devote several weeks of their not-so-copious free time to helping you pull the whole thing off.
You learn that all those lessons about life that came from pounding out all those miles training for other Race Directors’ 5Ks (and 10Ks, and half marathons) apply to this kind of running of a race too.
You learn that no matter how many sleepless nights and miles of pacing floors and stressing over Things that turn out to be noThings you may go through – when it comes time to do it all again next year you can’t wait to get started!

So that’s me right now running and Running.
And occasionally having ice cream for dinner.

Next up: Cleaning up the diet and Marathon Training!
*eep*

Stress + Not Running = Crankiness / Creativity

I was having a less-than-stellar day today.
There was nothing inherently ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ going on in my life or with my job.  *I* was just feeling stressed.  Like wanting to scream uncontrollably and throw things against walls for no real reason stressed.
And out of nowhere, in the midst of all the “I’m going to scream/break something/slap someone” angst and uproar in my brain I had the thought “I am going for a run after work!”

Today’s high was a beautiful, sunny, dare-I-say Springlike mid-60s. After last week’s overcast and cold-enough-for-snow only no snow ever came it just rained if it did anything and just generally *blech* weather it was a definite relief.

Of course I had nobody to blame but myself for the dearth of running in the past eight days of my life.
I could have run.
I should have run.
I didn’t run.
I would get to the end of every day not really even wanting to run after spending all day every day to-the-bone cold regardless how many sweaters on top of sweaters I wore and exhausted from shivering and fighting the cold.
So I didn’t run.
No ‘reasons’.
No excuses.
I just didn’t.
Could have.
Didn’t.

And today it caught up with me in over-reacting to minor, day-to-day dippies of life and work and . . . well . . . I needed a run.
So I posted a demi-rant status on Facebook that went something like: I will not stress or scream or cry, pitch either hissy or conniption fits, lose my religion or otherwise handle the day-to-day dippies of life in an unproductive or self destructive manner. Instead I will go home, change into my running clothes, lace up my Asics, and leave it all a good couple miles behind me on the streets of our subdivision. If whatever-it-is still bothers me after that I might have one very small, quite proportional tantrum.
And some ice cream.
Okay it went exactly like that.

And then I got creative with it and came up with this.

Runners Stress Creed

Then we came home.  We changed clothes.  And we ran.
It was a quick couple miles.
No records were shattered.
No major milestones reached.
But at the end of those couple miles the world was just a little bit nicer place to be me in.
And that, my several of followers, is all I’ve got for today.

P.S. Feel free to share that little homemade running meme.  And yes, I want credit!

Vini. Vidi. Badissi.

No, I’m not calling myself a badass.  Badissi is one of the ‘uncommon’ Latin translations of the verb “run” or “ran”.
As in: Vini. Vidi. Vici?
Only instead of “I came.  I saw.  I conquered.” it’s “I came.  I saw.  I ran.”
But not ‘away’.  I did not run away.  Either with or from anything.  I just ran.

Saturday was another race under my belt.
I finished 257th out of 291 and dead last in my age group.
Freakin’.  Awesome!

And yes, I know, I know, I know what you’re itching to tell me.
I know all the platitudes about how many miles I was ahead of the people on the couches and that hey at least I did it and that it doesn’t matter if you finish last as long as you finish and all the other pablum we spew at late/last finishers when we’re working Finish Lines and as Course Monitors.
The truth is that none of that means a hill of beans until we are saying it to ourselves.
And meaning it.
Which I don’t just quite yet.
But back to Saturday’s race . . .

Truth be told I had no business running a 10K Saturday.
I hadn’t run in over ten days and that last run had been only two miles.
After some discussion with Tonia – my running buddy/mentor/yoga nazi – and HCRP I settled on a plan: Run the first three miles, walk miles four and five, run the last 1.2 miles.  And at all costs to myself and others: Finish.  Running!

HCRP stayed with me the first couple miles to make sure I wasn’t going to have any dizzy spells (I didn’t).  I ran my 5:2 intervals the first 3 miles then slowed to a brisk walking pace.

Walking mile 3 to mile 4 wasn’t bad.
Oh don’t get me wrong, the more people who passed me the higher my “I don’t want to finish last” anxiety crept, but I kept it at bay with a mantra of “Plan the run – run the plan!” and reminders of last year’s two month ‘break’ courtesy of Runner’s Knee courtesy of adding too many miles too quickly.

Walking mile 4 to mile 5 . . .
Well.
It sucked!
I kept looking over my shoulder to be certain there was someone behind me that wasn’t the “Bringing Up The Rear” Police escort or (even worse) the Running Club’s truck picking up the cones that marked the course.
And somewhere between the mile 4 marker and the (I am certain someone moved it) mile 5 marker the following conversation took place in my head.

Bad Voice: This sucks!  This is stupid.  Just start running.
Good Voice: No.  Plan the run – run the plan.
BV: Bullsh*t!  Look!  Everyone is passing you!  The Tutu Girls have pasesd you!
GV: So?  We’ll pass them back once we start running at 5.
BV: There is no ‘5’.  They forgot to put the marker out.
GV: No they didn’t!
BV: Someone moved it.  We have gone way further than a mile since we saw ‘4’.
GV: No we haven’t.  I don’t think.  Let me check Endomondo.
(Checks phone which is inconclusive since I was using the interval training program and not the straight run tracker.)
BV: Well?
GV: It wasn’t moved.
BV: You have no business being out here.  You are completely undertrained for this.  You’re making a fool of yourself!
GV: Hey!  I’m out here aren’t I?!  Besides between being sick and surgery recovery I was out of commission for training for ten weeks!
BV: Excuses!
GV: Reasons.
BV: And what about the last two weeks?!  What about those?  People run DRUNK!  You could have run with a few little dizzy spells.
GV: Hey!  Everyone I talked to said running with that dizzy thing going on was ill-advised at best.
BV: Excuse.
GV: Reason.
BV: How much further?
GV: I don’t know!
BV: You suck at this running thing.  You are inconsistent at best and you really think you can train for a marathon with your track record?!  Track record!  I crack me up!
GV: Shut up.
BV: Excuses!
GV: Reasons.
This went on for quite some time until, mercifully, the Mile 5 marker did show up and I switched from the audiobook I was (mostly) listening to back to my running playlist, hit ‘shuffle’, and Gwen Stefani came roaring to the rescue of my attitude.
Do you know how impossible it is to beat yourself up with Hollaback Girl rockin’ in your brain?  Now that I think of it, Good Voice sounds an awful lot like Gwen!

So I finished the race.
I finished it running.
I wasn’t last.
There was neither a Police car nor the cone truck behind me either.
There were 34 other actual human people behind me.
Including The Tutu Girls.
For some reason early on in the run I’d seen the two girls wearing net tutus and decided as long as I was ahead of them (they didn’t look to be very experienced runners) I was doing good.
We all do that.
We find the Other Runner we pace ourselves by.  Sometimes from in front and other times from behind.

And with having run a grand total of only sixteen miles since January 14th my time (6.2 in 1:20:52) was actually pretty respectable.
So maybe I am a little bit of a badass after all.
I badissied the b-a-n-a-n-a-s out of that race!