It hasn’t happened in 40 years: an American woman winning the New York City marathon.
For the last ten years, she’s been a fixture at international competitions; always in contention, but never able to close the last gap.
A Massachusetts girl, Shalane was sidelined from running the 2017 Boston marathon, due to a pelvic fracture. She was vocal about her devastation. I have to admit, I was pretty letdown.
She rested. She wrote a cookbook (it’s GOOD.) She fostered two teenage girls. She got back to training.
Could she compete in New York?
When she pulled out a HUGE win over 3-time NYC champ Mary Keitany…I admit to feeling a bit teary. Watching runners does that to me.
It took Shalane seven YEARS to win. In her post race interview she spoke emotionally of the need for patience, but also believing in the “awesome.”
“I knew it was possible.” She’s 36-years-old. Running a 1:16 half-marathon split, and running between 5:07-5:25 minute mile splits.
I don’t think I can even sprint that fast!
This morning I went out for a run and felt totally slammed from the weekend. SO TIRED. At the last half mile stretch I considered walking. Instead I began to repeat to myself: Pre, Pre, Pre (a nod to legendary runner, Steve Prefontaine.)
But then, I swear it’s true, Shalane popped into my head. I started to say, Shalane, Shalane, Shalane. I finished.
My take-away moment: the women are rising. And they are inspiring. Don’t doubt it: big or small sphere, your influence matters.
“Nine months ago I was heartbroken…I’ve dreamed of a moment like this since I was a little girl…and hopefully it inspires the next generation of American women…”
The last ten years I’ve been fascinated by race results. I began to notice a disturbing trend among female runners at race events: they seemed to be getting faster with age.
I say “disturbing” because I was under the false impression that if I just kept running, I’d be on the only one left to win the bling. Ha ha ha! Oh, contraire.
What the heck was going on? Why were women in their 40s running faster than their younger peers? Why were they smoking past me?
In my 30’s I would occasionally place in the top 3 of my age group. Sadly, I realized that if I didn’t get faster, I’d never take the podium.
You know what I think now? “Yeah. YOU GO GIRL. You go get that!”
Something happens to us when we “grow up.” We believe lies. We think we’re past our prime. We think sport is just for the more talented or for those girls who played varsity sports in college. We stop walking and running and pushing ourselves athletically. “It’s too late. We’ve missed it, blown our chance, and I never even played a sport in high school, let alone as a mom.”
Here’s the truth: We Are All Athletes.
Maybe we believe the lie because for many many years, it’s hard to do anything but work hard and nurture hard. There doesn’t seem to be any left over for us. This is where our ingenuity must kick in. We have to do squats while folding laundry, perform calf raises while vacuuming the stairs, get in some arm circles while in our work cubicle, skip lunch with colleagues to walk around the block. Staying at home doesn’t make it easier. There were always babies saying, “You want to work out in peace and quiet? Get real!” (good thing they’re so cute.)
How many times did I look like a dork trying to run up a hill pushing a stroller while mixing in lunges and swinging my legs for hip mobility? The baby was always screaming and I’d be throwing cheerios down at her while gasping out a Cinderella or Peter Pan story all the while experiencing milk letdown. Oh yeah, I was a beauty out there with my stroller.
And than there were days where it was just too much energy to dress the baby and myself and a toddler in all those layers when it was so cold. There were many many days of missed workouts. But I also knew this: a little goes a long way. So over the years I tried to get a little bit here, a little bit there.
I felt slow in my 20s and even slower in my early 30s. There were times when I couldn’t run more than a mile without stopping to walk, when I was just too tired and it was too late to get on the elliptical. But there were other times that I did. How serendipitous it was to find running buddies (bless you!), an awesome running watch (bff for life!), a few 5ks while dear husband watched children. I played indoor and outdoor soccer on a real team for as long as I could. One year the season started when Nelson was just two months and I had to bring him with me because I was nursing. I remember running onto the field to join my teammates and they turned around and started clapping. That moment still makes me want to weep, it meant so much. Sisters cheering for their sisters!
I remember Meredith and I getting permission to bring a big Hogwarts bus to one of our soccer games so all of our kids would fit. We laughed like crazy and I nursed Nelson behind a tree during halftime, all sweaty and gross! (sorry, Nellie boy for that image 🙂 ). I remember thinking at the time, “what the heck am I doing???” But a voice was saying: just keep your foot in the game. I was slower, underweight, had looser joints and was severely sleep deprived. There was also the pleasure of milk letdown while trapping a throw in. Heavens. It was worth it. God gave me this body and when I was running down that field I felt His pleasure (to paraphrase a hero, Eric Liddel.)
As my kids grew older and my own hobbies and teams took a back seat, I volunteered to coach because I loved the game and wanted to spend time with my children. I also hoped it would keep me in shape. It helped. I make the effort to keep playing summer soccer at least once a week with my children, even as they overtake me in speed and touch. But I can’t stop. I have role models out on the field inspiring me, and yes, maybe I too can be that person for someone else.
I feel this huge surge of pride every time I take the field. No, I’m not first, not the quickest, and can’t get that shot off as fast as I use to, but no matter. Console yourself with these words: at least you’re out there.
We hear all sorts of negativity: “you’re going to slow down,” ” you’re going to get old and your knees will hurt,” and “things change after 40.” Yeah, the body changes, but life isn’t even close to over at 40. It’s not over at your wedding. It’s not over when you get pregnant. It’s not over when you have your first baby or your fifth. You’ll have to work to “get back,” but didn’t you have to work when you were 15? I tell you what, I’m way faster and can run way farther than I ever could at 15.
And I happen to think that’s wicked cool.
Two weekends ago I ran the Cape Cod half-marathon. Robin is a veteran runner with dozen of halfs and full marathons behind her. She’s 48, my friends, and she’s still going at it! My sister-in-law, Jill, is 44 and just finished her FIRST half marathon, running under 2 hours! So impressive. This is only the beginning.
Thank you, Brendaen, for the pictures! I used the semi-decent ones…ugh, you should see some of my running shots 🙁
Want another good reason to run? You get bling bling!
One of the most rewarding parts of sports as a mom is having your children cheer you on, an odd but needful reversal of of roles. Yes, mom has legs. Yes, mom has hobbies. Yes, mom has interests others than chore charts. Yes, mom is a person! Mom kindof rocks.
And no, she’s not ever going to stop trying!
This was at mile 6. I had downloaded the Hamilton CD. The song “I am not throwing away my shot” was on repeat. 🙂
Jill came through the finish line blowing kisses to her daughters and husband – it was SO cool. “Wow, mom just ran 13.1 miles!” Remember all those mornings when she got up before we were up to get in her training run before she had to help us pack a lunch and drive us to school before she could even eat or take a shower? Wow, GO MOM. This moment? So empowering.
I ran the Cape Cod half with my friend, Eric, in mind. Eric is in the late stages of ALS and cannot move any part of his body except to blink, speak some, and move his fingers. We stayed with Eric’s parents at the cape and when I was out there on the road, I thought of Eric. What would he give to be able to run just once more? Maybe we should move just because we CAN.
You did it. And it was so not easy. So proud.
Stats from the Cape Cod half were eye-opening. There were 1,307 female runners. Of the top ten female finishers, four were in their 20s (29, 29, 24). Four were in their 30s (33, 34, 32, 33), one was 49, and one was 52! They all ran super close races, too. The first place 29-year-old ran a 1:16:52; 5:49 minute/mile splits for 13.1 miles – wicked fast!
The 52-year-old woman ran a 1:30:57; that’s a 7:01 minute/mile pace for 13.1 miles! At 52 years old.
Overall, the women 39 and under ran faster than women in their 40s; but the 40s, 50s, and 60-year-olds were still competitive. Sidney Letendre, a 62-year-old ran a 1:40:31; 7:40 minute mile splits! And Nancy Spiro, age 74, ran a 2:15:39. Of course, these are the top finishers in their age group, but there were many many more runners post-40 runner. Incredible. Inspirational.
Think it’s all talent? Oh no. It’s time and training. Which is good news for us all: we can all do it.
Don’t think it’s going to get easier when “the kids are older.” Twice a week I run at 5, not because I want to but because it’s the only time I can fit it in. It’s kindof horrible. But I’m realizing life is not slowing down anytime soon, and tomorrow has a way of turning into never. There is only today.
A few years ago I emailed running coach, Jason Fitzgerald of strengthrunning.com, to ask if he knew if their women in their 40s were running faster than women in their 20s and 30s, or if I was making this up. We couldn’t come up with any scientific answers except anecdotally. In our 20s and young 30s, women tend to be in the pregnancy and child rearing years, taking them out of the competition stage. But what I love about that, is that many are coming back to run or starting to run for the first time in their later 30s or early 40s. Next time you’re at a race, check the stats – women in their 40s and 50s are getting after it.
I write this post as an anthem to YOU! To women. Your life is not over at 20, at 30, not 40 or 70. Not by a long shot. Your knees might creak a bit more (stretch your butt!) and you might need more of a warm-up than you did at 14. You may get sidelined for awhile. You might even need a knee or hip replacement and you might have battled a cancer scare, but I tell you what, I know a lot of women who can walk and run and bike farther and faster than many many kids. It’s not because they’re the “lucky ones.” It’s not all that mysterious. It’s because they’re putting in a little bit of time, a little bit of dedication to use that amazing body of theirs.
Love you girls. Use that smokin’ hot body of yours 🙂 If you love it, it will love you back. Guaranteed.
Okay. Now go schedule something. Put it on the calendar. Make your friend sign up too and you’ve got an accountability buddy instead of a wish. Go get it.
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. -Henry David Thoreau
This was the weekend of two girls running, me and my Brynnie. When all the training from the last several days, weeks, months, and years culminated into something golden. That’s what running is: a very personal affair.
When the 5 a.m. morning runs are worth it. Because often, at 4:30 a.m., they definitely don’t feel worth it. The is a “wishful thinking” sunrise. These days, we start in the dark and end in the dark, running only by the light of the headlamp. When I asked Brynne to join me she said, “NO WAY.”
I’m particularly grateful as Me and the Training Table were best friends a month ago: We spent quality time together, with our amazing friend and athletic trainer, Kelly. She got my IT band back to cooperating. I was made to roll on the foam roller, stretch, strengthen, ice, and stem. Geez, am I getting older? Stem is when you get hooked up and shocked with electrodes. It feels like little needles poking at you. Electric currents stimulate the muscles around your injury and interrupt the pain signals, reducing inflammation and swelling. At one point last month I was in so much pain I could not run at all, and could only walk with a limp, eating ibuprofen for lunch. Oh, those were the dog days of September.
The upside of being sick or injured is the humility, and the reminder that we are lucky to have such miraculous bodies that know how to heal. It’s magic. I remember one afternoon when I I could finally run across the soccer field, I wanted to sing-song like Buddy the Elf, I love my legs and I don’t care who knows it!
This amazing book helped Kelly diagnose me…it’s fabulous and would make a great Christmas gift 🙂
Being injured is hard. I’m so impatient. I worry I’m losing all the training. Would I ever run again? Could I go on living if I couldn’t run? Drama queen. Meanwhile, Brynne was doing her thing, training every day with her cross-country team. She’s only in 6th grade, but lucky to be coached by fabulous coaches who live and breathe running and correct training principles. The improvement made in mere weeks leaves me in awe. It once again solidifies everything I know about achieving anything: it’s ALL about the training.
Brynne suffered some setbacks too. Sometimes she had pain in her hamstrings, knees, and gluts (gotta stretch the butt!) We both focused on eating well, drinking more water, smoothies for breakfast, protein at every meal, and getting sleep.
With two weeks left before my 13.1 and Brynne’s state meet, we ran through trails, with full hearts and clear eyes (can’t lose!)
When you run a half-marathon, the long run is the most important run of the week. Ideally, you run at least a couple of 10 or 12-milers. I was lucky to get two ten-milers in with my running buddy the last two weekends before the race. The first 10-miler I was limping afterward. The second time, after a lot of glut stretching, I was feeling good.
Now, could I run a race at a faster pace with more mileage than I had trained for? Could I pull out a personal win?
Well, I sure was going to try! October 24th was our day. My race was at Cape Cod, at 7:30 a.m. Luckily, Brynne’s state meet was on the way home, in the afternoon. I could finish my run and find my way to my girl in New Hampshire. All the stars would align, right?
While we were driving, my Cope, OUT AT SEA, called…her only phone call of the whole trip! What a treat. She’s well. She’s happy. The hurricanes and whales are cooperating. Man, I can’t wait to see her.
I drove to the Cape with my friend, Robin, who likes to run half-marathons on her birthday. How awesome is that? We arrived in Falmouth on Friday night and were greeted by the sweetest hosts ever: Leonard & Patty! Patty made us a delicious mac ‘n cheese and apple cobbler before we were tucked into our matching twin beds at 9pm that overlooked the water. The 1890 house (with lovely wallpaper!) was dreamy and made me want to stay and write a novel. But first I had to run.
One of the most anticipated moments of any race is how good the shirt is. The Cape Cod Half gets an A+++. Love me this tech-shirt. Fabulous fish.
It was an early start, chilly and overcast – perfect running weather. The course was flat and curved out by the water, with friendly crowds and many water stops. My goal was to run a 1:45 which meant steady 8 min/miles. Sub 8s would be a home run. I glanced at my watch only a couple of times, wanting to run by feel. The lasts three miles are always the toughest, but just as I began the last mile one of my favorite childhood songs came on: Xanadu. I felt the same happiness and sense of possibility I did when I was rollerskating in the dark basement when I was 10 :).
I could hear Brynne’s voice in my head, too, when just weeks earlier, we were running a 5k together and in the middle of mile 2, arguably the hardest mile, she said, “I’M SO GLAD I HAVE LEGS!”
Yes, this was that feeling – I’M SO GLAD I HAVE LEGS! I came through the finish line with a 1:44 and thanked God once again that I had legs that could run.
Loved the Finishers Medal – another fish!
Birthday girl Robin came soon after. We hugged. And all was right in the world. Who’s in for next year with us???? These thermal wraps were terrific
I love to watch a finisher’s face. The pain and joy is always apparent. Let me tell you something else, ladies. I could not have run a 1:44 time in my teen years or my 20s because I had not paid the training price. I remember when a 5k felt like a killer. I remember when I had to walk during 8-milers and ten miles seemed totally impossible. Talent and health was there, but not the time and training. I really love watching a woman realize her potential late in life – because it’s never too late!
Afterwards, we climbed into the car and drove back over the bridge, headed toward the state track meet where our children were waiting to run.
We arrived to see these girls at the start line, just beginning their warm-ups. Aren’t they glorious? And then the gun fired! Anxiety turned to exhilaration. Love these girls and their determination. Brynne is #80. “I look so desperate,” she said. Yeah, sometimes that’s how it feels. She ran a 2-miler and it was hard but she finished strong. I couldn’t be more proud of the effort. Two Girls Running. And Paigey there to cheer us on! Soon, I suspect she’ll be running girl #3.We headed home on a cold Saturday evening, exhausted, relieved, glad the day was done. And started talking about the next one…
Oh, there is going to be lots of food consumed on Thursday – I can’t wait! A couple new recipes to try and of course the old favorites, but you know what will make your holiday a little more…joyful? A pair of running shoes. Yes. Because this is what happens every single year: “I’m going to be healthier. I’m just going to eat lettuce. Maybe just one more piece of pie. Oh, I really shouldn’t, but look how good that cookie looks? I feel sick. I feel bloated. My gut hurts. I wish I wouldn’t eat so much crap. I’ll be better after the holidays. Maybe January 1st. It’s too cold to exercise.”
And so it goes, doesn’t it?
So I thought shoes would be the best thing to write about today. If you don’t have a good pair, just go spend the money and get some. Your health is worth it. Here is what I’m wearing right now (yes, all four pairs):Asics Gel Cumulus. Marathon Glenn got me into this shoe. The professorial husband also swears by them. And has lost 60lbs in two years. He’s dreamy. The shoe is cushy. Stable. A little heavy, but I like these. Don’t go cheap Asics. That’s how I got plantar fasciitis that one year.Side view. There is lots of controversy over “minimalist” versus cushion, but if you go minimal, I also suggest a shoe like this that you can switch in and out of to get used to the no heel thingy. Bet your health plan will also cover some of the cost of this. Good traction for cold weather runningI alternate between four pairs of shoes. If my joints are a little achy or I’m not going that far, I wear these: Nike Dual Fusion ST 2. I haven’t worn Nike since college, but I loves this exceptionally cushiony pair and got them pretty cheap at an outlet. They’re also light and breathable.Oh, how I love my Newtons! These are the “Distance” shoes. I wear these when I want to go a little faster and whenever I’m in a race. They are super light and breathable. I’ve hung on to the pair for way too long. See how worn out the outer part of the sole? I look for a Newton shoe that comes with the word “stability.” Newton is awesome about showing videos and walking you through the process of buying a shoe.Newtons are super expensive and they wear more quickly. However, I’ve gotten them for a good price (under $75) if I buy through a fireman (they get a discount) or at the end of the season. You can also get 10% off by signing up for the Newton newsletter. But again, if I’m going to put money into “beauty,” this is where I put it 🙂They are also super funky on the bottom. These are “lugs” that propel you forward ever so slightly. I’m a believer!This is my new pair of Newtons thanks to my buddy, Sarah, who’s father snagged this pair for just $40! What a steal. These are the “Energy” shoe and they’re a little closer to the ground. I’m just breaking them in. Giddy!This pair has five lugs that are a little flatter which helps distributes the weight a little more.
Want some more options? I’ve written about Brooks, Kayanos, Nike, and Newton (and show some pretty funky pictures of my toes when you DON’T wear the right shoe! Ow!)
Also, Runner’s World always has tons of shoe reviews. The December 2014 edition is all about finding the right shoe and staying fit and strong through the holidays (and even outrunning cancer!)
Here’s the thing: We are in charge of our health. No one is going to do it for us. Once it’s wrecked? It’s hard to get back.
Now for the fun part. My friend Sarah asked me if I wanted to do a Holiday Streaker. No, not a naked thing, but a exercise streak!
Here are the rules:
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day we exercise the equivalent of a 1 mile run every single day. It’s easy! Right? (if you want to grab that image above, grab it!)
You can bike, walk, run, push a stroller, yoga – whatever! Just exercise every single day. Bet you can run a mile in under 12 minutes. That’s it!
I’m telling you, if we do this TOGETHER we’re going to feel so much better about starting 2015. AND, if we do it TOGETHER we are much more likely to actually complete the challenge. Why You Need That Winter Running Buddy (that’s me! we can be virtual buddies!)
Sign yourself up, your kids, your whole family – make it fun!
So, if you are IN, leave me a comment so we can be accountable to each other! If we do it, we can have some sort of funky blog or facebook badge. Cool, right?
Also, if you find this post useful, please share it! The more the merrier. There is power in doing this all together.
Need more inspiration?
Here’s a guide to Winter Running Gear (because isn’t running more fun with pink sequined mittens?)
Guess what? Stress is making us lose our MIND. The antidote? EXERCISE. A Must Read.
Sign up by leaving a comment and please spread the word. GO TEAM!
Fifty years ago this year, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed. President Kennedy was assassinated before he saw the day come, but when Lyndon Johnson signed the act, he said their was no better tribute to our fallen president.
Many of my personal heroes come from the civil rights era, and though a quick trip to D.C. came at a terribly busy time, I was easily talked into accompanying my husband.
Our 4:30 wake-up call was worth this picture of the sky guy.
Before meeting with kids at schools, we stopped in at the offices of Foulger-Pratt. These boys are Gregor’s former college roommates at BYU. We love these good boys. It’s been years and years since we’ve seen each other, but time had hardly seemed to pass at all. They said we looked exactly the same, but I wonder, are we getting older?
That night we went to a school to speak about Hogwarts. This admissions trip is vastly different than NYC. And it has everything to do with culture, family, and money. I felt so incredibly blessed to have good schools for my kids, that I’m not attending school fairs to get my child out of a terrible district with underfunded schools that don’t even have paper!
I love Hogwarts with all my heart and I wish everyone got a howler – but wouldn’t it be better if every single community made education a top priority and no one had to go outside their community to get a top-rate education? Sigh. School systems are tricky and sticky.
The next day was one of my biggest motivations for traveling to D.C.: A National Mall tour where millions of tourists visit to commemorate past presidents, iconic symbols of america, and to celebrate our veterans.
Beware: If you go to DC, don’t follow my route. It’s rather erratic. Go Here to get the full experience.
We had a few hours, so to get around for our tour, we put on our running shoes. Armed with ipods, and me with my iphone for pictures, we started off.
My tour guide was a little…fast. My tour was more like an interval sprint as I kept stopping to take pictures of what could be a once-in-a-lifetime-moment(!) and then had to sprint back up to my tour guide who was still running! I needed to work on speed anyway.
So much history in this place. It took me a few trips to enjoy NYC, but I loved D.C. right away. Of course I was in a very clean and well-kept area, but the city had a clean, cool vibe.
We didn’t stay long to chat with the IRS!
At every street corner there were suits
The architecture was incredible
The Red Cross, inscribed with: “In Memory of the Heroic Women of the Civil War.” Love that. Wicked Cool The Washington Monument was built to honor George Washington, the first president of the United States. It’s a 555-foot marble obelisk tower overlooking D.C. Found this in the middle of the National Mall. Made me feel right at home.Department of Commerce
The White HouseAnd bomb-sniffing dogs. Are they always around or just this morning?
Next we ran (sprinted) to the WWII Memorial.
From the Pacific the Atlantic…all the states are honored with the fallen
I’ve observed: Musicians, songwriters, photographers, and writers find inspiration in sacred places.
The work of this artist is stunning, detailed, and poignant
I imagine this monument would mean that much more if I was sending my son or daughter into combat.
From there we ran to the Lincoln Monument:
And I stood where Martin stood:This is where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. The next year, the Civil Rights Act was passed. Five years later he would be assassinated.The Lincoln Monument. We arrived sweating and tired from running up the stairs. It’s worth all the steps you’ll ever have to climb.
In the middle of a work week in the middle of October, hundreds of tourists were taking pictures. It was striking – most were foreign speaking. Of all the places they could go on vacation, they came to America, the capitol of the United States to take pictures of the symbols and monuments we have built to represent freedom and equality.
Soon after, we were running again, me taking a photo and then sprinting…”Wait up!”
The sprint was worth this photo. It was a gorgeous day.
Eventually we ran by the Smithsonian Castle and museum. By this point, 10 a.m., I was starving, my blood sugar low from lack of breakfast.
But there were still photos to take. Like our nation’s capital…
There was a ceremony taking place
The view from the opposite end of the mall
Like NYC, but to a lesser degree, souvenirs for sale. I just wanted food, not a shirt. Wait up, tour guide!
Thankfully, 7 miles later, he found me an apple in the hotel gym. And I lived another day.
From there we headed to another part of D.C. where our “contact,” was.
While waiting, an old man came out. His name is Walter Ray. He was “just writing down some song lyrics.” And this guy, he’s like 80-years-old and he’s got civil rights history! He’s written songs for “I don’t know who all,” including the The Manhattans .
“Do you all like to write?” he asked.
Husband pointed to me, “She does.”
He shakes my hand and says, “The thing is, you gotta have ambition! You just gotta keep at it.”
And I said, “Sir, I need to get your picture (even though I really hate my hair right now).” He obliged and after, showed me two of his published books of poetry.
I was sufficiently inspired.
Walter’s walls were covered with memorabilia, including this picture. “That’s me with the man right there,” he says.
Walter Ray has two children, Roz and Walter Ray Jr. They are both lawyers. Roz has represented Bill Cosby, Kris Kross, Johnny Cochran – there was an entire wall of autographed photos, including Roz and Hilary Clinton.
Walter Ray jr showed up and we went for crab cakes and talked “business.” Walter looks like this laid-back, casual guy who you may not glance twice at. But he runs a non-profit to help kids go to school. When he starts talking I start taking notes. He knows every basketball stat there is, and connections to everyone in the city.
He hints at political “rats” and scandals, of people who are “distractions to the kids who could actually be somethin’ and you guys is the problem! Masquerading like you’re all that. Rats!” He says, “Satan has a team!”
He says that the best don’t always rise – “most of ’em are in the pen.” Kids, he says, need someone to believe in them. And this of course is where strong families come in.
Walter is working on a documentary of his uncle, Sam Jones, who won ten NBA rings for the Celtics – the second most EVER in history.
We could have listened to Walter all day, but when he writes his book, we’ll be first in line.
After that we headed to Virginia to meet kids at a school. I took pictures of the art on the wall – how cool is this? It was done by artist-in-resident Stephen Parlato. I was so inspired, again wishing that all kids could get an education with an artist like this.
And then it was time to say adieu to D.C.
We raced to the BMI, stopping to drop off our car rental, take a shuttle, grab some dinner, get through security, shove dinner in mouth, and hop on a plane for an hour and a half. We landed in Manchester NH at midnight and drove an hour home. We were greeted by dear grandmother who had watched our children for two days, played chauffeur, fed darlings, AND kept the house clean. I tell ya, we’ve got it good.
The next morning was a full day at Hogwarts as it was parent’s weekend. I walked around campus with my daughter, thinking of this opportunity she has. Not only is there magic, spells, and arithmetic, there are people who love her, take care of her, encourage her “to rise.”
Fifty years ago the civil rights act was passed, and though we still have problems and society isn’t perfect, we’ve come along way, haven’t we? I’m optimistic for the future. As Walter says, “the best don’t rise unless there’s someone tellin’ ’em what’s up.”
But it was great to be there, too. If you’ve ever wanted to fly across the country to run 26.2 miles I mean, who doesn’t??? consider the tale of of Mommy who hates to leave home. Mommy had to be brave.
Last Friday morning I awoke at 4 a.m. and drove to the airport in the pitch black, headed toward a race. After four months of training through the coldest and snowiest New England winter ever, it was finally here. I was excited for the adventure, feeling both invincible and like a complete hypochondriac. In flight, every sneeze, cough, and possible measles contamination was aimed at me. Every step was a potential fall and twist of an ankle. The day before I left Paige had a possible and contagious(!) case of strep throat and Brynne had cried, bursting out that she thought my plane was going to crash. I took two of Paige’s antibiotics and hoped it covered both scenarios. I know. It was bad of me. I still feel guilty. And probably killed all good gut flora.
The big bird in the sky carried me west, where already the nerves were starting to tingle with fear and an excited anticipation.
Of course I had to take pictures, marveling at the Sky Guy’s great work. I read about the Boston Marathon, just two days after SLC. I read about all the spectators who lost limbs. How hard this year has been. I read about the little boy who wrote about peace, then died because of that stupid, senseless bomb. I read about the heroes. And try not to weep. I close my eyes and imagine a finish line. #BostonStrong now feels intrinsically tied to this thing Marathon Glenn and I are about to do.
We land at the base of the Rockies. It’s just wow. My rock star sister picks me up and takes me to the expo where we serendipitously run into Marathon Glenn and family. Destiny! Glenn is my brother-in-law, the optimist, the instigator of this race, the inspiration for us all. He’s driven eight hours with his family and flown me across the country with a flight voucher when he could have gone to Disney! Just so we can run 26.2 miles the next day. It’s a little…wacky? Yeah, and we’re almost jumping up and down with excitement.
We eat free yogurt, try on race headbands. This is Finny! We pick up our bib numbers, 689 and 690 out of 5000 runners and cyclists.
The nerves build. But so does energy and this feeling that we’re almost there. We once again discuss strategy, hills, altitude, and correct fuel. We pick a conservative strategy: start slow and if there is anything left at mile 20, go for it.
That night the gear is carefully laid out; part of mental preparation. Wicking socks, shorts, shirt, bib number with four pins. 2 vanilla GUs and 1 salted caramel, GU belt, Body Glide, hair bands, watch. Tunes. And then. The Shoes – pretty run fasters!
That night each one of my brothers texts, sends a YouTube video, or emails. Sisters-in-law, New England running buddy and I exchange emails and well wishes. I feel surrounded by love. My mom and dad call, wishing they were with me. They are.
I eye the band I’ve worn for four months. “I Will Go Faster.” please?
Sleep comes, though I glance at the clock every few hours. Finally we arise at 5 with no need for an alarm. Peanut butter and banana for breakfast. I can hardly get it down. It feels like the dead of night when Sister drops us off. Glenn and I walk past the parked Bomb Squad van. Can you believe this? Then there is the line of port-a-potties. Which is good since I visit the potties five times beforehand. The body is amazingly good at knowing.
The last picture before the outer wear comes off, and one last pit stop. I find a tree. Don’t care. At this point it’s akin to childbirth. We head toward the start and the national anthem is sung live. The crowd swells toward the start. Out of the 5000 racers, only 888 are running the full marathon. The rest will do the half or cycle. I wonder why? Do they know something I don’t? Marathon Glenn gives me a fist pump. Go gettem’. So we try. See you at the finish line!
The first 5 miles come easily. Time flies as I run without music, wanting to save it for when I really need it. There are some downhills. Love that. I run through water stops the first few times. Police officers, EMTS, the Bomb Squad, the firemen; all of them arose at 3 a.m. so we could do this. Geez, we’re blessed.
The whole first half I’m holding myself back, whoa Nellie! I make myself go slow, wondering if altitude or the hills are going to kick my butt. We have studied the map countless times. Miles 6-15 are the hills. But mile 9-10 is supposed to be the big one. Streets are blocked off so the race is pretty quiet. The sun is coming up over the mountains and I run toward the light. Until we turn and are left in the shadows with hills to climb. I feel utterly alone. Me against myself.
We pass a church and I ponder the word Grace, a topic I’ve been obsessed with for months. We casually fling out phrases like, “by the grace of God” but I’m just starting to get it. Grace is his strength, something bigger than what we can do on our own. This is what I’m going to need – some Grace. More than me. Many of my friends tell me that when they run, they talk to God, Allah, or Buddah, or the great unknown Universe. I nod enthusiastically – I thought it was just me! Our words are different, but our meaning is the same. We pray for Grace out there, mile after mile, because this is when you begin to suffer. You descend, are humbled by this really hard thing – whether it’s to run one or 26 miles. You somehow know that you’re just not going to get it done on your own.
Humility brings you to your knees. As my legs move and my feet hit the pavement I think of all the people who wish they could run. YouGET to run this race. You have legs! You’re so lucky. But I also know – it’s not just a gift. Every single mile is earned. It’s Grit. And woo-wee, Grit combined with Grace is an unstoppable combination. You give what you’ve got and he’s going to give you back a little bit more. You stop asking the wrong questions. Instead of asking for more, you say, please help me run my best race.
I see Kim twice, with little Tate and Finn. I’m so happy to see them. I realize I have never been alone. All these runners and spectators are running with me. It’s deep, cathartic. There are so many meanings with each mile marker. So we run and we suffer together.
Mile 20 and I’m not feeling the final kick I was hoping for. I’m asking, where are the downhills??? The map indicated downhill! They don’t come. Those final miles are just about holding on as the sun beats down. I look down at my watch. I’ve got to hang on. You came for a Personal Record (PR). Now RUN! Oh, I try. I run through the pain until finally, the finish line looms. I can hear my brother-in-law cheering, see my sister in tears. Because that’s what finish lines do to us. It’s a genetic thing. We cry.
I wobble through the finish line and see Ashley. She ran a full marathon four months pregnant and looks like she took a lovely stroll in the park. I whimper something that sounds like congratulations! She’s amazing. Four months pregnant.
This picture says, I’m going to throw up.
This picture says, I’m still going to throw up.
But then I have to get up and go find Marathon Glenn. He had big dreams! Where is he?
I find Marathon Glenn! He beats his PR by 25 whole minutes – HUGE! I’m so proud of him, even though this picture says, I still feel like throwing up. But strangely, it’s kind of an awesome feeling.
See you next time, he says. Will there be a next time? I’m still trying not to throw up.
As sister and family go to an Easter egg hunt, I shower and rest. I am terribly homesick, wondering how to stow myself in the wheel compartment of an airplane. But then Daddy calls and tells me that the stomach bug hit the house. I ditch the stowaway plan in a heartbeat second. Daddy says this makes me sound bad 🙂
Okay, so here’s random picture in the middle of marathon weekend. That night I recover by going to a Brandon Mull signing. Cool! I want to interrogate him on his writing process, but am hardly coherent. I just snap a photo. He’s really nice. Even as I droop around the Fablehaven display.
That night the sun sets over the mountains. We sit for hours as my sister shows me her garden plans, the newly plowed soil. Her husband Curt makes me the most delicious tomato soup and I’m such a pig I eat almost the whole pot.(recipe coming!)
My sister chases her kids, calls them in for bed, snuggles them, stays up late making gluten-free Easter muffins. In many ways, my life is just easier than hers because I feel good and her stomach always hurts. Yet she just keeps on going, being a mother to five children, running her own race on a different course. She says she’s proud of me. I say I’m proud of her. So it’s win-win 🙂
The trees are in full bloom in Utah on Easter Sunday. The kids call me from their sick beds and give me all the important news – I threw up at church! Three times! Poor Daddy is running his very own marathon, too…
The next morning I board the plane, and come back to where I came from. Thousands of miles across the sky. Parking is paid and I drive the 45 miles home, on highway that turns into country roads.
This is the reason Mamas should leave every one in awhile. Those cherub devils realize they want you to come back.
Mommy!!! I missed you sooo much! “Did you win?” they shout. I laugh. One person actually wins a marathon. And I stand in awe. But for the rest of us, we hang a finisher’s metal around our necks. “Yes. We won. BECAUSE WE FINISHED.”
We hug, kiss, and then they run to the backyard to finish a baseball game. Daddy has made dinner. I swoon with gratitude. Never in my life have I been so happy to unload the dishwasher. I do a load of laundry. Mom is home.
All week I find notes around the house.
All sorts of notes.
It’s so good to be home.
It was bittersweet, but right after the marathon, I took off my “I Will Go Faster” band and carefully tucked it into a small zipped pocket of my bag. It’s time to slow down for awhile, time to recover, water the tomato seedlings, read Curious George, and think about the ideal compost ratio.
But dang it, a slow burn has already begun. Here is something I know: We have not yet reached our potential.
The call hasn’t come yet, but I know it will. One of these days Marathon Glenn is going to come calling again…I’m so glad 🙂
In 10 days I will be running with Marathon Glenn. Finally. It’s been the longest, coldest, and darkest four months of winter running. Ever.
We are wicked excited. We say “wicked” a lot in New Hampshuh’.
Wicked takes Excited to a whole new level, don’t you think?
This is where we can look back and remember the cold winter mornings.
Oh how fondly I remember this day. When the running program said “Run 15 miles.” But the roads apparently ignored the memo and were covered with ice and snow. Um, hello?? I showed up and this is what you’re giving me to work with??
The most oft-asked question: “Why did we decide to train during the coldest part of the year?” When we had to wear two layers – long johns and running tights – and were still cold the entire run.
This was always the answer: It will be worth it in April!
I wasn’t always so sure, like that time I came home and cried, when my hands hurt so much I thought they would have to be amputated.
Or that time last weekend when my poor little baby toe swelled up to the size of an orange and I was performing emergency surgery at 2:45 in the morning, cursing those things called BLISTERS.
There were chapped lips, black toenails, lost toenails, less sleep, less writing time, unidentifiable aches and pains, weird dietary changes.
When our conversations consisted of chafing, fuel, VO2 max, pit stops, shoes, wicking socks, and whether the altitude change will kill me or not.
There were other conversations too, ones that only happen out there on the road; conversations of family, children, grief, God, turning another year older, and whether or not we should go gray naturally. A firm no has been decided 🙂
These are the moments that bond women together for life.
There were days when the only time we could fit in a run was before the sun was up.
We had to wear fluorescent running vests so we wouldn’t be mistaken for deer, so cars driving in the dark could see us. We had to wear hats, mittens, face masks. We often had to wear head lamps to even see the road, and then it became so cold and slippery, that the run had to wait for the sun.
Why do we look so happy in this picture? Oh yeah…it was…fun.
I’ve said it before: I couldn’t have done it without the buddies.
Yes, there were times we questioned our sanity.
And because it was winter, sometimes the run had to be done on the dreaded treadmill, a psychological weapon which I have already spoken about and won’t go into until next December. Oh spring, I love you!
Now, two roads diverge in a barren wood…we will part ways and each run our own race.
Headed west. In 10 days I will run at the base of the mighty Rockies.
Running buddy will go east and run in the famed Boston which, after last year’s tragedy, is going to be the greatest marathon the city has ever seen, with the fastest qualifying times ever recorded. Where American runner and Boston runner, Shalane Flanagan, will seek redemption. She wants to win it bad. For all of us.
We’re all looking to prove something to ourselves, that all the training over four long winter months was worth it. It’s a funny thing, this hard thing. You can run your guts out, throw up at the finish line, and say, “that was awesome.”
Now, as the weather is finally starting to warm, as the mountains of snow are mere hills, when we are in the best shape of our lives, and all the training that can be done, is done…I can look back fondly at how hard it was to get from there to here.
Anyone can run. But it won’t always come easy. And that’s what makes it so great.
We are bundled up in the house today – It’s a snow day! It’s like Christmas, the children bouncing out of bed in the wee hours of the morning.
There was a dart fight, polly pockets, barbies, Pinterest browsing, a rowdy game of tag – all before 9 a.m. Then I made them feed the chickens, clean up the one million darts and polly pieces, and practice the piano because it’s not really Christmas and I’m mean like that.
I like snow, but I’m sorry, winter…it’s time we spend some time apart. Thankfully we have the Olympics. Shaun White, Nick!, Julia Mancuso, the Russians pairs last night! Heartbreak and Jubilation. I love it all, stay up way too late, and often fall asleep on the couch.
I do have to say, it’s breathtakingly beautiful after a snowfall.
Tenny does not think it’s too cold. He could frolic with his friend, Reubens, all day long.
It’s so cold the hens don’t want to leave their coop. I don’t fault them for this as I try to never leave the house. They also stop laying as much unless they have light. Even a regular lightbulb will encourage laying. I find that fascinating!
Cope took this picture of me. Hauling hay out of the barn for chicken and bunny warmth. I tell you, the roles we play in life…
Here’s my girl getting her basketball on. This is really her first time playing on a team except one short stint in elementary. She is proud of the eight points she has scored this season! Sadly, she got a concussion two weeks ago and is out of play for a bit. This also means I haul the hay.
Nelson is also a baller. My heart jumps and sinks with every swoosh in the net, and near-basket that only almost goes in. I watch his face light up when coach puts him in. I tell you, small moments mean so much. They can live for months on a game-changing play, when all their buddies slap them on the back. The reverse is true, too. Oh, the emotion of the game!
Here Nellie boy tries out for a summer AAU team. My heart was pounding, both of us sweating with anticipation…please don’t cut my boy! Oh, it’s hard for a middle school boy who lives for sports. He’s small, but runs his guts out. He made the team 🙂 Thank you, Coach!
When it’s too cold to go outside, we pay money to give our mother multiple heart attacks. Here Brynne flips at a local gym. I hate this. I just do.
Paige finds a quiet place to read. In the closet. Sometimes you just have to carve out your own space, don’t you?
Valentine making for the big day tomorrow. However, another storm in coming, followed by freezing rain, followed by another winter storm. Pounding! The girls are very sad not to go for their valentine party 🙁 And I can’t make my fruit heart. Wah!
Knowing the storm was coming, I had to get my long run in this morning. Thankfully my running buddy is back! Our run went from cold to enjoyable to grueling as the storm began to chase us down the road.
The snow under our feet made the miles feel like we were running in sand, making our hamstrings and calves burn with lactic acid. At 15 degrees, it was so cold, that my left hand went numb by mile 11. I knew I was going to pay dearly for it. Even with a hat and a face warmer, our hair and faces were covered with frost. So grueling.
“Mother, are you alive?”
I wasn’t so sure, walking into the house and collapsing on a pile of polly pocket pieces and Lala Loopsies. My hand was hurting so badly I thought I had frostbite and it was going to fall off. Remember being a little kid and your hands were so cold they hurt? Cope has no memory of this ever happening to her. Gloves must be made better these days. The thawing out process produced many painful sounds and noises from my mouth as I rolled around on the carpet, finally finding solace parked in front of the fireplace until I could feel my fingers. The children stared at me, eyes wide, wondering what their mother had turned into. They scurried to procure chocolate milk and peanut butter.
Rendered useless. Though it was hard, I’m grateful I have legs to run down winter roads. It seems like just yesterday that I was nursing babies or terribly sleep-deprived from changing wet beds in the middle of the night, and all I needed was a little break to walk down the road, some fresh air and sunshine. Now, my babes are old enough to take care of each other while I go traverse country roads in the snow. If you aren’t there yet, don’t worry. Enjoy your stage. Shawni reminds me that Life is Long. There is a season for everything. It does occur to me that perhaps you will never look forward to running in snow…
I begged Cope to give me this wrist band. I wear it at all times, to remind me that spring will be here soon, and I will be glad for the miles run when I meet the Rocky Mountains in April. Sometimes, to feel inspired, I listen to Martin Luther King’s last speech, I Have Been to the Mountain Top.I have been to the mountaintop…and I have seen the promised land!
Come back tomorrow – I have a cookie recipe that will get you through the winter. It has a special ingredient that will knock your Sorel boots right off your feet!
I immediately feel a surge of adrenaline, my heart starts to race.
Me: Really? Yes, yes, yes! Mmm. Could be pricey.
Marathon Glenn: I have flight points. I’ll fly you there.
I literally start sweating.
Me: Seriously? You are awesome. We have four months to train, much better than last time.
Marathon Glenn: Totally. You’re gonna qualify this time.
I see myself crossing the finish line, smashing my PR…
I say YES! jump around the room, wondering if husband will be as thrilled as I. That night, dreams of marathon running swirl in my head. Dreams of running at the base of the Rocky Mountains…dreams of qualifying for Boston after the last failed attempt.
I wake up the next morning in a mad sweat. Buyer’s remorse or something like that. Oh no! What have I done???
The Mommy Guilt is strong, young padawans.
What was I thinking? What did I just commit to? I can’t do this! How can I train for four months in the winter in NEW HAMPSHIRE! I still have to pay the entrance fee. I’ll have to leave my children. I might have to hitchhike home! Marathon Glenn already bought my flight there…is it too late to say never mind? I can’t do this…
I text Marathon Glenn in a panic. He tells me he’ll still run if I don’t. He’s already bought the ticket, but can get a refund within the next 12 hours.
The next 12 hours are agonizing.
Me: Mom, should I run the Salt Lake City Marathon? (say yes, gosh darn it!)
Mom: That sounds fun…marathons don’t seem very healthy. (I actually told her this years ago. and now she’s using it against me.)
Me: I really want to get to Boston.
Mom: Isn’t that where the bombings were?
Mom: So it shouldn’t happen again.
Okay, so that’s a plus, right?
Me: I told Glenn to cancel my ticket
Gregor, shoveling snow off the roof: Why’d you do that?
Me: Because it’s expensive and…I need you to push me to do this, make me do it.
Gregor: I think you need to make the decision for yourself.
Me: But I want you to say you support me 100%.
Gregor: I support you 100% (a hunk of snow from the roof falls on my head)
Me: You’re just saying that because I’m making you.
More snow falls on my head
Me: It’s expensive (and I’m scared!) and stop shoveling snow on my head!
Gregor: So write a few more articles. Pay your way!
Me: I’d have to be away a few days this spring.
Gregor: I’m not not coaching. I’m capable. Do it, Mama!
What a guy.
The next day, a freelance check arrives in the mail, covering the entrance fee. I take it as a sign!
A question comes to mind:
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
I’d run that marathon.
I tell Glenn not to cancel the flight.
And the four months of training began.
The week after that decision, it’s cold, but not so cold that we can’t run outside. I start logging miles based on the Boston Marathon training plan for beginners. My running buddy gets me through 13 and 14 milers for the long runs. We are feeling groovy. Starting slow and working our way up the mileage chart.
And then, as part of some diabolical plan to ruin my life, the arctic arrived. We have very strong feelings about this, don’t we, boy?
The only thing anyone wants to do is lie down and sleep for the next four months. The birch bark is cold, and peels in protest.
The snow is high…the roads are covered with ice, making it impossible to traverse in mere running shoes.
Oh, and let’s talk about the temperature. Tonight it will be a mere -9. Windows are breaking all over America!
I know, boy, I know.
Me: So, is it sunny in Sunnyvale?(I’m not bitter or anything)
Brother: Yeah, most of the time? How’s the training going?
Me: It’s so cooooold.
Brother: You know, you need to channel your inner Rocky. He trained in Russia in the dead of winter and came out the fittest and most ripped he’s ever been!
I mull over this advice.
Meanwhile, Marathon Glenn texted me the other day. He’s training in Denver where it’s sunny and 50.
Am I jealous? Heck yeah.
Adding to running motivation, running buddy leaves for Florida on Thursday. Makes me feel like spreading applesauce all over my hair.
Does this count as a conversation?
Me: Cope, I ran 14 miles today. Isn’t that awesome? (my language of love is words. I need lots of reassurance.)
Cope: Yeah. I still think you need professional help.
And there you have it, four conversations to get your through the winter blues.
Originally, this was a post on doing hard things and saying yes when you’re afraid. Even when you hate the treadmill. Like, a lot.
p.s. On a warmer and tastier note….the next two days I have some terrific winter soup recipes to share. See you there!
Merry Christmas, all you runners. And when I say all you runners, of course I mean you.
Since it’s Cyber Week, let’s take advantage of some great prices to help you get moving this year. Even if you hate running (gasp!), I have taken it upon myself to inspire you in the coming year, to find your inner runner and be happy like Buddy the Elf, who was always running. And downing maple syrup.
Sometimes “stuff” really does inspire. And when you give it, you’re endorsing the wonderful world of LIVING. Here’s a quick list of inspiration.
1. Socks. The affordable gift. But halt – not just any socks! Socks that won’t slip down. Socks that let you sweat. Socks that won’t cause blisters. I love Nike. They have a band around the middle that is super hugging and supportive. But just this morning I ran in a pair of Danskin that I got from Wal-mart and guess what? They were great! The price is nice, too.
3. Garmin Watch. The price is coming down on these! Still an expensive gift, but just think of the joy on his/her face when this this special watch is unwrapped. Priceless. Even if you went to China, the satellite would pick up and you would know distance, pace, and overall time. I love this watch! They even have pink Garmin watches now. Marathon Glenn is drooling over a very special Garmin watch.
For only $14.99, this is a great piece of equipment. Do your knees hurt? Lay down and roll out your hamstrings, IT Band, and butt – I’m willing to bet you have knots that are pulling on your IT band, which pulls on your knee cap. I will come to your house (or make a video?) of exactly how to do this, but the roller does come with a how-to guide. Since I started rolling, my knee pain and knee tendonitis has never come back. Back pain? Neck pain? Butt pain? ROLL. This foam roller is like a massage, but way more cost effective.
12. Gift Card for Running Shoes. Brooks, Adidas, Nike, Newton Asics: They all provide gift cards!
13. Neck Warmer. Help your lungs this winter. Protect your lips, chin, and cheeks from winter burn. Starting in November, I wear a neck/face warmer everyday until about mid-March. You can buy one for about $10 or cut and sew a piece of fleece together. Works much better than wrapping your face with a scarf. 14. Itunes gift card for the ipod or make a personalized running CD to upload to the ipod.
15. Shop the sales racks at Nike outlet right now – all the shorts are marked way down. Your runner (or you) will be more motivated to go out this spring with a spunky pair of shorts waiting for her/him. 16. Pedicure. Your runner needs foot love. 17. Pay for a race. One Christmas my dad paid for me to run the New Hampshire trail’s series – 6 races in 5 months. It was one of the best presents I ever received.
One Christmas we received a big box of Honeybell oranges. Oh my deliciousness! Instead of ordering crap, excuse me, give good stuff!
The biggest benefit to any of these gifts? It shows someone that you take health seriously, that we can do hard things, (which running often is.) When I receive a running gift, it’s validating…you believe in me. Perhaps, you will need to forward this post to your own Buddy elf, or stuff a few of these items into your own stocking this year (sometimes we have to help ourselves out, right?)