Tag Archives: marathon

Reflecting on the Boston Marathon Bombing

It’s been one year since the Boston Marathon bombing. In one year a lot has happened. I reread the post I wrote about the bombings — and how I was trying to process it; how I was struggling with bringing a child into a world filled with so much hate and so much sadness. But, ultimately, I remembered — with Mr. B’s help — that those were perfect reasons to bring a child into this world. Because a child is love. And the world needs a lot more of that.

So much of that post I wrote still rings true. But there is a difference now. Because this year? I have a better understanding of loss. A much more intimate understanding of loss. And a better understanding of just how much difference love does, indeed, make in the world.

Penelope Joy taught me that. And that all the bad stuff? It was made better because there are shining moments of light and hope and joy in them. Just as — amid the chaos and terror and sadness — the “helpers” brought hope and joy to an otherwise unbearable situation. They were the moments of light. It won’t take away the loss. Or the grief. But it will make the load lighter.

And, in the end, that’s all we can ask for.

My post, “Trying to Process What Happened in Boston” is copied below:

As we all know, I ran a half marathon on Saturday.

Ready to race

Getting ready to race.

A half marathon that I was having a lot of mixed feelings about, truth be told. I sat down a couple of times Sunday to write my recap of the race. But, I was having trouble finding the right words to describe it. “I’ll write it Monday, once my hips stop hurting,” I told myself. (Because, heaven knows, you can’t write when your hips hurt.)

And then …

… Monday happened.

And, as a runner, a marathoner, I felt like someone attacked my family. Runners have come to be a huge part of my community, of who I’ve become. Some of my dearest friends and supporters are runners. As a group, they’ve changed my life. And those spectators? Cheering at the finish line? They’re the ones who pull us through. They’re the ones there at every single race, cheering our names, clapping their hands and bringing us home — whether they’re our family and friends or total strangers.

The unthinkable had happened.

I was in shock. I think, maybe, I’m still in shock.

To sit down and write a race recap for my own half marathon seems … I don’t know … silly. If I couldn’t find the right words before, I am now completely speechless. All I can think about when I try to write about my half marathon is when I ran across that finish line.

As a distance runner, when I see that finish line, something inside of me lets go. All the pain from the miles before, all the exhaustion of the months of training, all the worry about the race … they all just disappear. And a sense of happiness and pride and relief spreads through my body. I melt. And then, at the finish line, I see Mr. B’s smiling face chanting “Go, Kimi, go!” And my friends and family cheering me on — right under that clock that says “You did it; you’re here.” And it’s a feeling of pure and utter elation that takes over. Oh, yeah, and there’s love — knowing that my friends and family are there to celebrate that moment with me.

Mr. B and me on race day

My support crew — and my biggest cheerleader.

That finish-line memory was still fresh for me, is still so fresh for me. And that makes Monday’s tragedy even harder to comprehend and process.

All I can see in my head is those runners running toward their families and friends at the finish line in Boston — a smile on their faces because they’re there, they did it. For some, a lifelong dream just to be on that course. For others, a chance to do better than the year before. Weeks, months, years of sacrifice — for the runners and their families. And I see their friends and families — smiles on their faces, so proud and full of love for their runner. All that love, pride, joy and excitement.

Stolen.

To have all of that taken away in an instant. It’s heart breaking. And confusing. And … so many other things.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it, crying about it. Thankfully Mr. B was home. We watched some news. I cried. And then, we turned off the TV and left the apartment. I needed space; I needed air.

So, we went to pick up my race charm from Saturday’s race.

Saturday I ran for Pickle. Always for Pickle.

Saturday I ran for Pickle. Always for Pickle.

I expressed to Mr. B that I’m so sad that these types of things happen in the world. Added to a difficult hate-filled experience earlier in my day, it was a lot of hate and sadness for me to take in for one day. And I told him I’m scared about the world we’re bringing a precious, precious child into. As usual, Mr. B’s wisdom was just what I needed to hear:

“This is exactly why we do need to bring a child into this world; this world needs another kind person.”

And, so it is on this that I try to focus. Even amidst the horror and tragedy and hate, there is beauty and kindness. And givers. And sharers. And helpers.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me: ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” ~Mr. Rogers

What’s more, there is always running. There will always be running.

There is always running.

There is always running.

Tonight I laced up my still-muddy-from-the-race shoes and ran. Well, as much as Pickle would let me. Not because it was on a training program. Not because I needed to burn some calories. Tonight I ran because I can. I ran because it is a gift. I ran because I had to.

I ran because that’s all I know to do right now.

Sans watch. Sans GPS. Just me and my thoughts. I have no idea how far I went, though I could hazard a guess, nor how long it took me. All I know is I ran.

(And walked a little, too. Pickle likes that better. We’re compromising.)

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Trying to Process What Happened in Boston

As we all know, I ran a half marathon on Saturday.

Ready to race

Getting ready to race.

A half marathon that I was having a lot of mixed feelings about, truth be told. I sat down a couple of times Sunday to write my recap of the race. But, I was having trouble finding the right words to describe it. “I’ll write it Monday, once my hips stop hurting,” I told myself. (Because, heaven knows, you can’t write when your hips hurt.)

And then …

Monday happened.

And, as a runner, a marathoner, I felt like someone attacked my family. Runners have come to be a huge part of my community, of who I’ve become. Some of my dearest friends and supporters are runners. As a group, they’ve changed my life. And those spectators? Cheering at the finish line? They’re the ones who pull us through. They’re the ones there at every single race, cheering our names, clapping their hands and bringing us home — whether they’re our family and friends or total strangers.

The unthinkable had happened.

I was in shock. I think, maybe, I’m still in shock.

To sit down and write a race recap for my own half marathon seems … I don’t know … silly. If I couldn’t find the right words before, I am now completely speechless. All I can think about when I try to write about my half marathon is when I ran across that finish line.

As a distance runner, when I see that finish line, something inside of me lets go. All the pain from the miles before, all the exhaustion of the months of training, all the worry about the race … they all just disappear. And a sense of happiness and pride and relief spreads through my body. I melt. And then, at the finish line, I see Mr. B’s smiling face chanting “Go, Kimi, go!” And my friends and family cheering me on — right under that clock that says “You did it; you’re here.” And it’s a feeling of pure and utter elation that takes over. Oh, yeah, and there’s love — knowing that my friends and family are there to celebrate that moment with me.

Mr. B and me on race day

My support crew — and my biggest cheerleader.

That finish-line memory was still fresh for me, is still so fresh for me. And that makes Monday’s tragedy even harder to comprehend and process.

All I can see in my head is those runners running toward their families and friends at the finish line in Boston — a smile on their faces because they’re there, they did it. For some, a lifelong dream just to be on that course. For others, a chance to do better than the year before. Weeks, months, years of sacrifice — for the runners and their families. And I see their friends and families — smiles on their faces, so proud and full of love for their runner. All that love, pride, joy and excitement.

Stolen.

To have all of that taken away in an instant. It’s heart breaking. And confusing. And … so many other things.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it, crying about it. Thankfully Mr. B was home. We watched some news. I cried. And then, we turned off the TV and left the apartment. I needed space; I needed air.

So, we went to pick up my race charm from Saturday’s race.

Saturday I ran for Pickle. Always for Pickle.

Saturday I ran for Pickle. Always for Pickle.

I expressed to Mr. B that I’m so sad that these types of things happen in the world. Added to a difficult hate-filled experience earlier in my day, it was a lot of hate and sadness for me to take in for one day. And I told him I’m scared about the world we’re bringing a precious, precious child into. As usual, Mr. B’s wisdom was just what I needed to hear:

“This is exactly why we do need to bring a child into this world; this world needs another kind person.”

And, so it is on this that I try to focus. Even amidst the horror and tragedy and hate, there is beauty and kindness. And givers. And sharers. And helpers.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me: ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” ~Mr. Rogers

What’s more, there is always running. There will always be running.

There is always running.

There is always running.

Tonight I laced up my still-muddy-from-the-race shoes and ran. Well, as much as Pickle would let me. Not because it was on a training program. Not because I needed to burn some calories. Tonight I ran because I can. I ran because it is a gift. I ran because I had to.

I ran because that’s all I know to do right now.

Sans watch. Sans GPS. Just me and my thoughts. I have no idea how far I went, though I could hazard a guess, nor how long it took me. All I know is I ran.

(And walked a little, too. Pickle likes that better. We’re compromising.)

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On Weddings and Marathons

In the last year, I’ve done some pretty cool things. Among them? Running a marathon and marrying Mr. B.

running a marathon

spinning in the road

As I sit here reflecting on these two things, I’m struck by how similar they are.

  1. Whether wedding planning or marathon training, you have a one-track mind. In the months leading up to either of these events, they’re all you can think about, stressing about the what ifs and maybes, the do’s and the don’ts. “Am I doing it right?” “Am I doing it wrong?” “Why does it feel like this?” “WHY DON’T THE BOOKS TELL YOU ABOUT THIS PART?!”
  2. And, while some people pretend better than others, no one else cares about it as much as you do. Trust me, those smiles and nods? Just that. Inside, your friends and family are hearing “yadda yadda blah yadda blah blah boring.”
  3. Your bowels and your bladder have never been of bigger concern: Do I pee now? Or do I wait? Do I even have time to pee? Oh, crap, I have to poo!
  4. Obsessing over bras. Enough said.
  5. The signs are THE BEST ever.
    marathon sign
    bride sign
  6. Obsessing over shoes. What’ll be the most comfortable — but, also, look cute in pictures? Because, really, it’s all about the pictures.
  7. You can always count on your partner and your parents.
    parents, me and mr. b
    parents, me and mr. b wedding
  8. You’ve never felt more nervous about a day arriving.
  9. You’ve never been more excited to see a day arrive.
  10. You’ve never been so glad a day has ended.
  11. Worrying about chafing — yes, it’s important in both instances. This is particularly important if you have loose skin in all the places.
  12. You’ve never felt more exhausted: Physically, emotionally, mentally.
  13. You spend a lot of money. A lot more than you could have imagined. And, you kinda don’t care.
  14. You have a countdown clock. Which both excites you and scares you as you watch it tick down to The Big Day.
  15. You cry tears. Of every kind.
    hugging and crying
    me and rosebud
  16. You will discover how unbelievably important your support team is. You can’t do it without them. They dry your tears, nurse your hurts and give all the hugs. They’re also the very best at smiling and nodding.
  17. You’re constantly wondering when life will return to normal, when you’ll get your weekends back.
  18. Other things in your life take a backseat. Like cleaning. And cooking. And reading for fun. And (oops) blogging.
  19. Some people will understand. Some people won’t. But it’s not about them, it’s not their life. So, it’s OK if they don’t “get” it. No sense taking it personally.
  20. You walk away saying “I am NEVER doing that again.” But, really, you wouldn’t trade a single second of it. And you’ve never been happier.
  21. After months and months of planning and preparation, it all goes by in a flash. But you’ll always have the pictures. And the metal/medal.

marathon medal

wedding bands

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Race Recap: Kalamazoo Half Marathon

On Sunday, I ran my fourth half marathon.

What the … what? Kimi Joy has run FOUR half marathons?

I still don’t believe it.

But I know it’s true because I have the medal to prove it.

At the finish lane

Obligatory grip-n-grin with my race medal.

Leading up to the race, I was feeling … I don’t know … it’s hard to describe. I had the same race nerves that I always get — a mixture of nervous, excited and tired. But it was different than my other races. Maybe it’s because I’ve got my pre-race routine fairly well perfected.

ice cream and gummy bears

No race is complete without night-before ice cream and gummy bears (and, apparently, a cookie).

Smoochin'

A pre-race smooch also has become mandatory.

Maybe it was because I had a gaggle of friends out on the course with me — some running, some cheering.

The Kalamazoo Crew

The Kalamazoo Crew

Regardless, I was feeling pretty good about the race. As we all lined up for our respective races, I was reminded what an amazing thing it was we were about to do. Whether it was the 5k walk or a full marathon, every racer out there was doing something for their health. None of ushad to be out there. And that, my friends, is a very cool thing.

lining up for the race

I am moved to near tears every time a race crowd goes silent for the national anthem.

The full marathoners, my friend Becky among them, took off on their course as the half marathoners lined up. It’s such a neat experience to line up with people of all ages and abilities. Running is really a community sport, and it’s a blessing to be part of that community.

I had planned on lining up with the 2:30 pace group, the the pacers lined up way too close to the starting line, and I was never able to make my way through the crowd to run with them. So, I ended up pacing myself for the race. I do most of my training runs alone, anyway, so it’s not a big deal. Besides, it gave me a chance to run the race at my pace, chatting with other runners along the way.

pace tattoos

I had picked up some pace tattoos at the expo the night before. My “dream” pace on the left, my “reality” pace on the right.

The first few miles were great. I felt strong and solid — helped, I’m sure, by the downhill start. Having Kelly and Mr. B out on the course cheering for me and the rest of The Crew made turning every corner super fun, never knowing when they were going to pop up with their awesome signs and hugs.

Mr. B and Kelly with signs

Their signs got reactions from runners and other spectators alike.

By mile 5, I was ready for a potty break. And I took the nearest one I could find. There was a short line — only a couple people in front of me. Bad idea. I waited in line for nearly 5 minutes while the race clock ticked on.

As I finally got back on the course, tying my pants up as I ran, I realized I was out of water. I texted Mr. B to have my extra water bottle ready to go for me when I saw him next. I grabbed a Gu Brew at the next stop. I knew Powerade and Gatorade made my stomach hurt. But I needed something. Should have stuck to the water. For the rest of the race, I was extremely urpy. Not to be gross, but I was eating chia seeds for the rest of the run — chia seeds I had eaten hours earlier for breakfast.

Oatmeal pancakes

Oatmeal pancakes with Greek yogurt and chia seeds.

Running with a belly ache isn’t fun. But it’s survivable. And so I ran. Happy as ever to be out there. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect.

Mr. B (and Kelly) met me just before we headed up our first noticeable hill. Mr. B handed me my water and ran for a bit with me. I could barely keep my lips off his adorable running face. But, we had to part ways. There was a race to be run.

The next, oh, five miles or so went by super fast. I was having a great time urping myself through the course. Had plenty of water and only ate one Gu — was simply too afraid of the ramifications to put anything else in my belly, but I knew I needed something.

Then came mile 12. The hill. The dreaded hill. From far away, it looks so sweet and innocent. But by the time we were sliding ourselves up her curves, all of us realized what a feisty beast she was. I resorted to power walking the second half of the hill. My power walking, however, was faster than most of the people who insisted on running it, and I easily slid past them.

And by then, we were running down the homestretch. One last runners’ spit and I’d be headed in the finish for my photo. Note to my fellow runners: If you do not announce yourselves when you’re passing me and there’s a lot of commotion of a crowd, you may get spit on. Luckily, I saw her shadow move, and I avoided a very awkward situation.

As we turned and I saw the finish line, I took off toward the clock, which had just ticked north of 2:18. I heard my name being yelled. Or, at least I assume it was mine. It very well could have been “Petey” or “Katie” or “Jim.” Regardless, it was nice to hear something that sounded like “Kimi!!!!”

And then, like the flash that I was, my fourth half marathon was over.

Finished

A thumbs-up is always needed.

I met up with Mr. B, who met my very sweaty self with a hug and a smooch. And a backpack full of snacks. He even remembered to bring me some of my favorite cookies! We found Kelly and cheered on our friend Patti as she finished her first half marathon.

Patti and Eric

Patti and her fiance, Eric, both ran their first half marathon that day.

And then it was time for me to head back out on the course to meet up with Anna. Anna also was running her first half marathon that day, and I promised her I’d run the last leg of the race with her. Thankfully, I met her at the top of that hill instead of at the bottom.

Me and Anna

I am so incredibly proud of Anna for pushing through the last difficult miles and then tearing up the shoot at the finish line with one of the most impressive sprints I’ve ever seen.

The group hung out under a nice, shady tree — hot dogs and cookies in hand — as we waited for Becky to finish up her marathon. We all gathered at the finish line when we expected to see Becky come across. After a while, I decided to run back out and meet her to run in with her as well. And I ran for a while … to the bottom of that hill … and didn’t see her. So, I circled back out the course. I made it back out to mile marker 23 where I ran in to Marathon Don, who told me he had seen a group of ladies headed back toward the finish line. Crap. Somehow I had missed Becky.

So I sprinted back up the hill. Made it up the hill at a 7-minute pace. Wish I could have pulled that out during my race.

Mr. B texted. They had met Becky, and the rest of the group was running her in. He was on his way, barefoot, toting all of my stuff, out to find me. I stopped running. Tired. Defeated. Sad. Annoyed.

But then I saw Mr. B. Somehow he’s able to calm every nerve and put every negative thought to rest. And we walked hand-in-hand back to the finish area to meet up with the rest of the group.

The runners

All the pretty colors! All the pretty runners!

I come away from the Kalamazoo Half Marathon incredibly proud of all of us. It’s a great thing to run a race — whether it’s a 5k or an ultra marathon. And every single runner should be proud when they cross that finish line, regardless of time. To reach the finish line is an accomplishment. And never, ever let anyone tell you differently.

I also come away from the race knowing something else: I don’t think I have the desire to run another full marathon. I simply LOVE the half marathon. The training, the timing, the distance, the accomplishment. All are perfect for me and my lifestyle. Now, that’s not saying that somewhere down the line I won’t get marathon fever again. But for me, for my life, for now: I have found my distance. And I am proudly a half marathoner.

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Race Tips a Year in the Making

A year ago at this time, I was preparing — nervously — for my first-ever half marathon. While I knew I’d stuck to my training program, I still had doubts that I could actually do it.

Running Bayshore

About halfway in during the Bayshore Half Marathon in 2011 — and feelin’ good.

Flash forward, and here I sit, four days before my fourth half marathon with a full marathon under my belt, and I have a whole bunch of “feelings.” A lot — A LOT LOT — has happened in the last year. I’ve become a stronger, faster, more confident runner. I’ve made lots of runner friends. And, finally, I see myself as a Runner.

While I have offered some tips for runners in the past, a lot of it is about listening to your body and finding your own stride — literally and figuratively. And, clearly, I’m not a professional, a coach or an expert. But there is some advice I would offer to those of you embarking on your first long race this spring or summer.

First things first: Embrace the nerves. This IS an exciting thing you’re about to do. Heck, I still have nerves before every race, whether it’s a 5k or a half marathon. Nerves are OK; excitement is OK; fear is OK. All of these things help you to appreciate what you’re about to do. Running that far is a cool thing and a huge accomplishment. There’s a reason not everyone can or will do it, and it’s OK to be a little nervous.

And you should also be proud. Trust yourself and know that you’ve prepared for this race. Your body can do amazing things if you let it. So, get out of your own way, and let it.

People have asked me for all sorts of pre-race advice. Like I said, I’m not an expert or even a “seasoned” runner. But I do know what works for me.

Food and Water

I start increasing my carbs in the five days leading up to the race. My body can’t handle “carbo loading” in its traditional sense. Instead, I slowly up my carbs by adding additional whole grains, fruits, potatoes, rice and quinoa to my meals throughout the week. Toward the end of the week, I start cutting back a bit on the fiber for exactly the reason you imagine. The morning of the race, I eat oatmeal pancakes — they’ve become my pre-race tradition and haven’t failed me once. I top them with Greek yogurt, chia seed and a banana. If I’m feeling saucy, I add a drizzle of local honey. I try to eat about two hours before hitting the starting line so things can be moved as much through the system as possible.

Throughout the week, I also up my water intake a bit — though I’m already very good at keeping hydrated. I add in a few extra mugs of green tea and some coconut water with cherry juice, which also is my recovery drink of choice.

During the race, I’ve found that Gu, Sport Beans (or gummy bears) and coconut water are my best friends. I also try to grab some of the salty stuff they have out on the race course, like pretzels. I’ve also learned the hard way to avoid — at all costs — Gatorade on the race course water stations. Worst belly ache ever.

Activity

Taking it easy during race week is, for me, the very hardest part of the whole training program. My last long run is the Saturday before the race (so, a week and a day). This time I only had time to get in six miles due to wedding dress adventures, but I’d already gotten in three 10 milers and an 11 miler during training, so I’m confident I’m prepared. I try to get in a decent run early in the week. This week, I did four miles of speed drills just because that’s what the free bootcamp session was. Then, I’ll get in a couple two- to three-mile walks and, if my legs are itchin’, a two- or three-mile shake-out run mid-week.

This time, I shook things up a bit and had a hard workout with T2.5 Monday night, followed by Tuesday’s speed drills and a long, hilly bike ride with Anna and Kelly. My legs are still sore. So, I haven’t done my shake-out run yet. Instead, I opted for a nice, long stretching session this morning before work. I’m hoping the run will happen tonight.

Friday and Saturday, I’ll make sure I move and walk around, maybe even take a nice evening stroll Friday night. But there will be no planned runs.

Sleep

Or, should I say: “SLEEP!” Coach Jim continually reminds me how important sleep is in the week leading up to your half or full marathon: “If you have to choose between sleep and one more run, always choose the sleep.” He goes on to say that, if you’ve trained properly, “there’s nothing you can do in the week before the race running-wise that will make a huge difference, but sleep will.”

Sleeping

Never underestimate the power of some good, solid sleep in the nights leading up to your race.

This goes hand-in-hand with the cutting back on activity and bumping up my carb intake. All of these things are working — over the course of the week — to ensure my body and mind are fully prepared for the event. And, as I said, it’s worked for me for all of my races so far.

I want to close this section of the post by saying that I firmly believe that you should experiment with things on your training runs before the race so you know what works for you: fuel, hydration, music, shoes, clothes, Glide (I love that stuff) … and the list goes on.

Training isn’t just about getting in the miles. It’s about discovering yourself as a runner — and what your mind and body need to make it through those long miles on the course.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with my tips for your first long race. Nothing earth-shattering, but these are things I discovered make the experience much more enjoyable and memorable:

  • Leave the earbuds at home — if you can. Try to run without them. A long race has a special heartbeat — a life — all its own. It is such an amazing experience to hear the cheering crowd, to listen to people yelling your name. Besides, it makes it easier to hear approaching (read: faster) runners coming up behind you.
  • Take time for all the high-fives and hugs that are offered you. From your family and friends. And from strangers. After all the races I’ve done, I will always, always stop for a hug. A 5-second faster time isn’t worth missing out on the love.
  • Stop for a potty break before you have to. I don’t know that this one needs any more explanation, does it?
  • And drink before you need it.
  • Thank the volunteers and public safety officers along the race course. They don’t have to be there, cheering you on and keeping you safe. But they are.
  • Know the course. If you can run it before the race, do so. If you can’t, try to drive it. Know where you’re going to need extra support — at the top of a big hill, perhaps? And ask your friends to meet you there. Nothing like seeing a familiar, smiling face around a corner just as you’re about to give into the heaviness.
  • Plan your outfit. Not just for cuteness, though clearly that’s important. Think about chafing and temperature and sweat. Don’t wear brand-new clothes on race day. Make sure you’ve run in them before. The same goes for shoes.
  • Talk to your fellow racers. This is a community experience. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, there is no community like the running community. A stranger once helped me through the finish line on a very hot July race by looking at me about a half-mile before the finish line, tapping my shoulder and saying, “OK, let’s go.” And we finished it together. It was fantastic.
  • Stop looking at your watch. Sure, check it now and again. But don’t be so focused on it that you lose track of the amazing things going on around you. And make sure you’re not staring at it when you cross the finish line. Cuz no one wants that picture. You should run for the finish line, not for the clock.
  • My last piece of VERY important advice: Smile for the camera. Heck, smile as much as you can on the whole course. But, especially act a fool when you see the photographer! My race pictures always turned out really scary — like T-Rex scary — until I learned how to ham it up on the course. Blow kisses, give peace signs, make faces. It’s totally worth the silliness when you see your pictures come online.
Smiley

Ever the dufus on a race course, I’m not afraid to ham it up for the camera.

You only have one first marathon (or half marathon or 25k …). Try to enjoy it as much as you possibly can. And, remember, have confidence and know that you’ve done the training, so you can finish this run.

 Tell me, what are some of your top tips for people running their first long race?

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Will Run for Smiles

I’ve been struggling with some planning/descisioning about my running plans for this year. You see, as I wrapped up my training for the Grand Rapids Marathon last October, I was feeling exhausted, worn out and sick of running. At that point, I’d already run 20 races and was feeling the wear and tear on my psyche and on my body.

I didn’t want to run anymore. And for someone who had fallen madly, deeply, head-over-heels in love with the sport (sorry, Mr. B, but it is what it is), that was kind of a disgusting feeling. When running became something I had to do to make sure I was prepared for all things marathon, it became more of a chore than it was something I looked forward to. And that makes me sad to think about.

As I’ve been in a training lull, I’ve found my footing again and have looked forward to running with friends, running alone, running in the dark, running in the cold, running in the sun … well, you get it. Plus, I’ve had more time to dedicate to cross training, weight lifting and having fun doing active things again — with no pressures of a GPS or HRM, unless I wanted it. I’ve missed that feeling… that smile that spreads across my face as I lace up my shoes … that skip in my step as I head out the door at 5 a.m. in 10 degree temps … that joy that enters my voice when I talk about running … that amazing high that lasts the whole day.

In fact, I had nearly a perfect running day today.

I woke up with the sun shining in the window, and I couldn’t help but feel excited. “I get to run today,” I tell Mr. B with a smile on my face. That word? “Get.” Yeah. That’s key. For a while — since before the marathon in October, it had turned into “have” or “must” or “need to.” While I was enjoying training and having friends to run with for once, my happy place had slowly faded away. And I was slowly falling out of love with running. Running used to be something to take my mind off my growing to-do and to-be lists. But it had become one more item on those lists.

I was in a funk, and I could see it getting worse. I was still running. And I still felt good after running — never regretting a run I did. But it just wasn’t the same.

So when I woke up this morning with so much excitement about my run? I felt like myself again. And, truly, I felt relieved. If I lost running, I didn’t know what would take its place.

Today it was nearly 40 degrees, sunny and gorgeous outside; it was perfect for a nice, long run. I had originally told Mrs. V that I would run 6 of her 9 miles with her. She only had to ask me once if I wanted to do the whole 9. Because my heart was telling me that that’s what I really wanted. And Mr. B was completely supportive.

He was out on the trail today, too. He got in a nice hour-long walk and a visit to Starbucks while I found my run-happy place again. (Bonus: A partner who is supportive of my running and encourages me to run happy and run for fun has made a huge difference, too.)

So, why the change? Why was today’s run so happy? Well, honestly, I think it’s because I gave myself permission to not run the full Kalamazoo Marathon — if I so choose. Now, I’m not quitting it. I’ll still do at least the half. But, truly, the training has really been overwhelming me lately and stressing me out. And it’s kept fun-running just outside of my grasp. But after talking it over with myself and Mr. B and really examining how I feel about the situation, I realized what was going on. And I gave myself permission to not do the full 26.2 if I don’t feel up for it. And that simple act of allowing myself not to have to do it has relieved 96 percent of the pressure and stress.

Now, I’m still signed up for the full. And I’m keeping that training program in my calendar. But the flexibility and freedom of knowing it’s OK if I decide that’s not what I really want has allowed me to find my happy place. And it’s made running fun again.

sweaty run

Nine miles done. Very sweaty. Very tired. Very happy.

I love running too much for it to become something I have to force myself to do. (Writing sometimes feels that way, too, since it’s my job and my love. But that’s a post for another day.)

I don’t know how Kalamazoo will play out yet — there’s plenty of time between now and then to decide. What I do know for sure is that in 2012, the smile will return to my face when I lace up my shoes and head out the door — one way or another.

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Why ‘Survive’ When You Can Thrive?

So often this time of year we hear people talking about “surviving” the holidays. And it’s not just the media — it’s coworkers, friends, family members, cashiers at the grocery store. It makes me sad. The holidays — if you celebrate them — are supposed to be about love and celebration, family and friends, hope and warmth.

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. ~Charles Dickens

Granted, everything’s not always ideal. There are sad times and memories brought to life — brought into the spotlight — more so during the holidays than at other times of the year. But, still, for the most part, this time of year should be about celebrating and spreading love.

Look, I’m not super religious. Heck, honestly, I don’t know what I believe. But I do believe in the goodness of people and the kinship of humankind. This alone is enough reason to celebrate. (Though, I think we should do that all year long. But I digress.)

People are so busy hurrying, scurrying and worrying to really enjoy these things. They’re buying presents, cooking (way too much) food and counting down. And, honestly, they’re making themselves too busy to enjoy the peace of the season — no wonder they’re just trying to hold on, trying to survive.

This survival goes further than trying to “get it all done.” And in the world of someone who blogs about health and fitness (until she falls in love …) and trains with fellow fitness enthusiasts, it’s pretty common that this “survival” talk turns to food and treats and goodies.

christmas cookies

The annual "Cookie Table" at our family Christmas party.

But in my last two-and-a-half years on this get-healthy, live-better journey I’ve learned that it can’t be that. The holidays cannot — and should not — be a fight for survival. They should be a time to enjoy family and friends — and, yes, the treats that you don’t get throughout the year. (Hello, daiquiri cheesecake.) They should be a time of moderation and enjoyment. I’ve found that if I focus on all the things at these parties that I can’t eat, it does more harm than good. Rather, for me, a happy, healthy holiday means choosing the things I want to indulge in, enjoying them and moving on. There is no dwelling, there is no guilt. There isn’t even obsessive calorie counting.

The holidays also mean staying active. A trip home doesn’t mean I take the weekend off from running or training or working out. Yes, my workouts may move around and shape-shift. But on every day, I try to be active. This year I’m in marathon-training mode. That means I’m due for a 10-mile run on Christmas Eve. I’m hoping to get it done after the service at Mom’s church that evening. It’ll be a tight fit, but when I signed up for this marathon, I agreed to make my training a priority in my life. So, once the gifts are unwrapped, the goodies are tucked neatly in Tupperware containers and the carols have been sung, I’ll lace up my running shoes and hit the dark northern Michigan roads for a good, long run.

For me, the holidays are all about balance. Balancing indulgence with diligence, fun with work, want with need. Because I refuse to simply “survive” this season. I will thrive this season. Even if it means I come back home a couple pounds heavier. Cuz it’ll probably be from the ridiculous amount of love filling my heart.

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