Monday, May 28, 2012

The Beginning

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.

Walt Disney

I'm not sure exactly when I became a runner. I can tell you when I began regularly running, but I don't think that's the same thing. Growing up running seemed to be a punishment. Maybe you've read those shirts: "My sport is your sport's punishment." Cute. Humorous. But not so much if you don't love running. And that's where I was for a long time. I'd run when I was forced to. Dragged along side by side with dad pushing me farther, faster, all for the purpose of becoming a better gymnast or basketball player...whichever was his passion at the time. For me it was torture. 

In high school, I can count on one hand the number of voluntary runs I took. But looking back, it's funny that even then I ran for the same reason I run now. Buried under stress, I would run to escape. Alone with my thoughts, I would push farther, faster, trying to get lost, but eventually returning home only to find that nothing had changed but my perspective.

As few as six years ago, I would laugh when people asked me if I was a runner, if I ran marathons. "Never!" I would respond, shaking my head at the craziness of the idea. Then one day, the stress seemed overwhelming. I couldn't face a crowded gym, but needed to find some relief in the form of complete exhaustion and peace. I remembered that feeling in high school after those few runs. So I ran. And I was hooked. Some people turn to a glass of wine; I turn to my running shoes. And I have never felt better. What began as a way to cope with stress has become my favorite hobby. What once was punishment is now release and peace. 

My point is this: you can't wait until you believe you are a runner to start running. My first run as a "runner" was a slow (not even) mile. In the first year, I would take my dog so that I had an excuse to take walk breaks. I didn't have a set schedule. I didn't know what I was doing. I just ran with no specific distance or time. Gradually I began to try to run a little farther and a little faster. Mostly I just enjoyed the time of solitude and sweat. After two years I did my first 5k, and then I was in real trouble. My competitive nature kicked in, and I became hooked on races. Now I love to beat my old time, my younger self. It's so very gratifying. So, the next time you are feeling a little overwhelmed, a little stressed grab your shoes and head out the door. I promise, you won't regret it. And you never know, someday you may just find yourself running a marathon.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Run Your Race

The Concept:
Run Your Race is a virtual marathon on November 10-11, 2012, to benefit any charity of the runner's choice. The runner chooses a course and a distance: marathon, half-marathon, or grabs some friends and does a marathon relay. Instead of paying an entry fee to run, the runner makes a donation to a charity of his/her choice, and runs in honor of that cause.

The idea for organizing a virtual marathon was born in me as I was thinking about next season's race schedule. I wanted to do another marathon, but I have already done the local marathons, and I wasn't excited to do either one of them again so soon. With no local options, I began looking farther away. Calculating the cost of race entry, plus airfare, plus hotel, I was left with a pretty hefty bill, and a frowning husband. So, I began planning to focus on my training, which led to me deciding to run my own personal marathon. But then I began thinking that there are probably many people in the same position as I am.

My Suggestion:
I will be running for 4Kids of South Florida, specifically their SafePlace program. SafePlace provides a safe, comfortable, loving place to stay for abused, abandoned, and neglected children who are about to enter the foster care system. This program has recently lost state funding and is in great need of private donations. 
SafePlace info

Runners who make a $30 donation (or more) to SafePlace or 4Kids of South Florida can let me know, and I will send finisher's medal to you on completion of your race. For more information on SafePlace and 4Kids visit

Please visit the Run Your Race facebook page, to "register" as a runner. Simply comment leaving your distance and charity. The amount you choose to donate is between you and your charity. Then invite your friends to join you!

Safety First:
Be sure to follow a good training program so that you are prepared to conquer your distance! If choosing the relay option, divide the marathon distance equally between friends and run it together at the same time! Or if your running buddies are far away, you can still run together virtually. Remember, this is Your Race. 

Please make sure when you are planning your course to be safe. Run when it's light, or use reflective gear. Run on sidewalks or trails whenever possible, but if running on the road, run facing traffic (in the opposite lane you would drive). 

Hydration and nutrition is vital when going long. Have your family and friends meet you on the course to cheer you on and provide water stops, or drive along the route before the race and set up some drop off points. (And plan a course that will provide some bathroom stops!)

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Keys 100 Relay Recap

The email came out in mid-January. It was a request for runners to join the Coast Guard's "Run to Remember" team. The concept: each runner would run as part of a 6 person relay team in the Keys 100 mile relay, in memory of a Coastie who had died while on duty. My husband, who is usually not a fan of paying race entry fees, encouraged me to do the run. I signed up without too much thought.

As race day approached, the butterflies grew. This was not the normal pre-race anxiety for me. This was "I'm going to vomit if I even think about the race" anxiety. Despite the fact that I was going in a little undertrained, the major source of my fear came from the idea of having to spend about 12 hours in a van with 5 complete strangers. I knew they would turn out to be perfectly nice people; I just didn't know them. Now, if you don't know me well, you wouldn't know about my totally obnoxious, absolutely illogical social anxiety. I simply do not like social situations (to put it mildly). The thought of going to a party, where I will meet and make small talk with new people, makes my tummy do outrageous acrobatics. So, I was pretty much a mess in the days leading up to the race. I was riding down to Key Largo from Ft. Lauderdale in a van full of strangers, spending Friday night in a hotel room with strangers, and then, of course, there was the 100 miles of traveling in another van with strangers.  I was beginning to think running the full 100 miles by myself would be less stressful.

I successfully survived the trip down to Key Largo and even the stay in the hotel. It was exciting gathering with all the other runners at the packet pick-up and the team meeting. I began to forget about the social challenge and became caught up in the normal pre-race jitters. 

At the starting line with my team
Dark and early on Saturday, May 19, we gathered in the parking lot of Divers' Direct in Key Largo. There were approximately 90 men and women from the Coast Guard, all running in memory of someone who had made the ultimate sacrifice. After a pep talk from the Admiral, we loaded in the van and headed 3 miles down the road, in place to make our first hand off. And so the day went, after 3- 3 mile legs, we began switching runners every 2 miles. It was a slap of a drippy, sweaty slap-strap bracelet at each runner exchange. I really was not prepared for the overwhelming smell of... er... victory inside the van, nor the enormous amount of fun that I would have.
We made our own seat covers to protect the cloth seats (and each other) from sweat.
I have never experienced anything so encouraging. At each change of runner, the whole team would get out of the van, not just for fresh air, but to yell out cheers of "You're almost there!" "Finish strong!" and "Great job!" The feeling of camaraderie was incredible. As the miles progressed and my own mile count grew higher, I pressed on through dead, exhausted legs for my team. I thought about the sacrifice made by and prayed for my Coastie's family. I reminded myself that the pain in my legs was nothing compared to the pain of the loss that the family had felt upon news of their loved one's death. The ache in my legs was nothing when I thought about the ache in their hearts.

Fourteen hours and forty-five minutes after our start, we arrived at the finish line. I crossed the line with my team, proud of my accomplishment, but even more proud of what we had accomplished together as a team.
At the finish with our bling!
I'm really looking forward to next years' Keys 100 Relay.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Regrets and Restoration

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten...
26      You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,     
and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,    
who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed." 
-Joel 2:25-26

Well, that may seem like an odd quote to start with, but let me explain... God had allowed His people to suffer hardship. A giant swarm of locusts had come and completely devoured everything; this outside force drove the people into despair. However, God came in and not only provided food for the right now, but He also repaid them for everything they had lost in the past.

I have many regrets. Things in my past I wish I could go back and redo. I realize that the mistakes I've made, the bad choices of my youth have molded me into the me I am today. Without those I wouldn't be the same person. Sometimes God does in my life what He did in the lives of those so long ago-- He repays the years the locusts of my stupidity ate. 

The latest example of His repayment? Well, now that I am a runner, and I've realized how freeing it is to crank out 3 miles or more, I've wished that in high school I had been the athlete that I am today. I wish that I had run track and had joined the cross country team. I hear stories of the bonding that happens among teammates, and I wish. 

A few weeks ago, my school's cross country and track coach asked me if I would come out and help him with the summer program. Immediately, I thought of the time commitment and what that time would mean to my family and to my own training. I went to the informational meeting to hear his plans for the 100 day challenge-- 100 days of running, all leading up to an overnight retreat and a 10 mile run on the beach. Still, I was skeptical. It wasn't until the next morning's run, where I began praying. I had a little conversation with God; mulling over whether helping the team would be a wise step for my family. And that's when He seemed to say to me that He was giving me the opportunity that I never took in my high school days--to be a part of a cross country team. This was a gift; a chance to enjoy the camaraderie of a group of kids and a couple of adults who just love to run. The verse about the locusts came to mind. And I nearly cried with joy.

Now, I have no delusions of grandeur. I am the same slow woman that I was before. As a matter of fact, on the first run of the 100 days, I was greatly humbled. It was a "slow" aerobic run of 3 miles. My nerves began to relax as I heard Coach saying we would be doing about 2 minutes per mile slower than race pace. "Cool, some of these kids will be running 10 minute miles," I thought. And then they took off. I was huffing and puffing about to croak at 1/2 mile in. "These kids are going to kill me," I thought. But I soon found a buddy. She's not part of the team, but is running to stay in shape for soccer. Three miles was quite ambitious for her, so together we ran/walked and finished dead last. And she continues to be my running buddy, and together we are getting a little faster.

"Oh, Happiness"