Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day!

Today I ran for all of those whose long runs were cut short in the defense of mine.
And I will tell you, running sure becomes easy when you realize what a blessing it is to be able to.
And yes, that's a fanny pack.  What of it?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Runner's Wave

There is a little discussed phenomenon that happens between runners out on the trails. I call it the runner’s wave.  It’s similar in physical movement to the boater’s wave in that you put a hand up and move it in the direction of a stranger (for those unfamiliar with the boater’s wave, I encourage you to take advantage of this weekend’s wonderful weather, get out on a boat, and get to waving).  But the runner’s wave is totally different in meaning.  The boating wave has a feeling of, “Hey there, isn’t this fun?”  But the runner’s wave, it means, “I see you, I am here with you, and I feel you.”  This one wave, from a person you’ve never met and may never see again, it can get you up that last hill or through that last mile.

In all of my runs through neighborhoods, along city trails, and around running tracks, I have never, ever had another runner pass me, (let’s face it, they are almost always passing me) point, and laugh.  I have never encountered another runner who rolled their eyes, frowned, sighed loudly, or shot me the bird.  Runners are always trying to encourage other runners.   Even with only a small wave, nod of the head, or smile.  We feel each other.  We are in it together.  We are going to get through it together. 
 So, why does it all change when the sneakers and spandex come off??  Why do we forget that we are all on this long run together and that we have to all get through this long run together?  Why do we do away with the runner’s wave just because we aren’t running?
And what would happen if we didn’t?  What would happen if we all started saying to each other, “I see you, I am here with you, and I feel you?”
 Several years ago, I was complaining about something someone had done to set me off (probably something as unforgivably offensive as weaving into my lane or taking too long to check me out at the pharmacy-- but seriously, why are they always SOOOO slow at CVS??).  In response, my mother stopped me in my whiny tracks by saying, “they were probably doing the best they could.”  After my initial, “are you KIDDING ME WITH THAT?!?” I realized, my mom was (I say through gritted teeth) right.  They probably were just doing the best they could.  Why do I get that with the running shoes on?  Why do I see someone barely shuffling their feet in a motion that could hardly be considered real running and think, “You go girl!”  But when the shoes come off, and I encounter someone falling short of my expectations of them, forget it.  No friendly wave from me.  Unless you consider the one finger wave friendly.
We need to realize that, in general, people are just doing the best they can.  Maybe that waiter who keeps forgetting to fill my glass is preoccupied with the bad news he just got from his doctor.  Maybe the lady who cut you off on the freeway was just dumped by her boyfriend and “their song” came on the radio and she can’t see her through her tears (damn car radios during break ups!).  Maybe that annoying person in the theater who keeps getting out their phone and checking it is expecting a far away call about the results of a loved one’s surgery.  There are all kinds of reasons every day that people can’t live up to our expectations.  Maybe the real problem is not those people, but our expectations of them.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made excuses for my own behavior.  “Sorry, I didn’t get any sleep last night.”  “Sorry, I am super stressed out.”  “Sorry, I am going through something right now.”  I’ve asked for forgiveness a thousand times for falling short, but I have failed a thousand more times to realize that everyone else is capable of falling short for those very same reasons. 

 What we all need to realize is that this long run isn’t easy for any of us.  We all struggle up those hills and around those last turns.  We may struggle for different reasons (unhealed injuries, not enough training, pure exhaustion, bad shoes), but we are not alone in the long run and we are certainly not alone in the struggle.  Sometimes the only way we can get to the finish line is with a little encouragement from our fellow runners.  Be that encouragement to those around you.  The finish line is a lot less fun if there isn’t anyone around to celebrate with you. 


 I say, next time you pass a fellow runner who is struggling and maybe even slowing you down as you try to pass them, think about why they might be struggling and throw up your hand (all five fingers together) and let them know, “I see you, I am here with you, and I feel you.”

My version of a runner's wave. Okay, so this probably didn't encourage anyone except maybe to call the EMS for me. But still, I'm waiving.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Making a Negative a Positive

Warning:  This blog has nothing to do with running.  If you were hoping for a running blog, come back again soon.  I promise I'll lace up the ol' tennies again asap.

Still here?  If so, hang on because I have a confession to make: I have not got it all figured out.  I am still struggling to "get there."  And right now I'm really struggling to "get out."  I can't seem to get out of a huge body image funk.  Just typing that pisses me off.  I don't want to be focused, much less obsessed, with my body.  I know better. 

I spent this morning in the hospital surrounded by people who were struggling to get their bodies to perform the most basic functions.  I watched as people worked on standing up, sitting down, balancing upright, and daring to attempt a step or two.  And even then, as I stood on my own two perfecting functioning legs, I still couldn't manage to muster up a little appreciation for what I've got.  And I've got a lot.  I don't have to struggle just to get out of bed in the mornings.  No, this body of mine allows me to get out of bed and tackle any challenge I choose.  These legs have allowed me to run the miles and miles that inspired me to start this blog.  I get to use these arms to wrap around the man that I love and give a good squeeze.  My belly....well I use that belly to laugh at all of the joy life has sent my way.  Yet, I can't help but focusing on the "imperfections" of this perfectly healthy body that I refuse to enjoy.
Like I said, I know better.  I am the originator of the idea that the fastest way to lose those five pounds is to stop obsessing over those five pounds.  But now I find myself unable to let go of the five pound obsession. Don't worry, I have a plan.

From now on, any time I find myself making a negative comment about my body, weight, or myself in general, I'm going to make a donation to a women's charity.  I'm going to turn my negative energy into something positive for another woman.  I've always marvled at the amount of time and energy we have wasted shaming ourselves on something as dumb as a dimple in our ass??  What could we (especially women!) accomplish if we simply decided to spend less time hating ourselves and more time focused on the world around us and the life we've been given?  Cure to cancer?  World peace?  A stop to summer mosquitos (seriously, what are they good for??).

Here is where you come in to play (are you even out there?):

1.  Send me the names of recommended charities.  I think I'd prefer to stick to charities that empower women in some way.  I plan on being in a bathing suit this weekend.  They stand to receive a pretty healthy donation after that.  So, let me know your ideas.  Left to my own devises (true story), I donate money to stray donkeys.
2.  Join in!!  I know you're guilty of the same.  I know because I hear you say it.  How many of my stunning, healthy, witty, generous, all-around amazing friends have I listed to slam themselves for some imagined or real but hidden to the lay eye fault?  So, join me. Let's make our negative thoughts something positive.  If you're a mom, consider doing it with your daughter.  We would never want our daughters to say about themselves the things we don't think twice to say about ourselves.  Let's be the change we want to see in the world. 

Here is a quote from Augusten Burroughs.  Think on it:

"Do you know you are exactly attractive enough and thin enough (even if you weigh four hundred pounds) and smart enough and funny enough (even if you can't tell a knock-knock joke without fucking it up)?  You are exactly and everything enough to the person who thinks you are."

And, here is what I want to add to that -- Make that person be you!!!  Know you are attractive, thin, funny, and smart enough for YOU and YOU are what matters most in this world. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Long Run Battle Scars

There will be days when you show up for your run, give it everything you’ve got, and all you wind up having to show for it is a busted toe and a bloody sock.

But, that’s okay.  No one ever said this long run was going to be easy (it’s not!).  No one promised we’d get through wound free (we won’t).  In fact, there are only two things I will guarantee you about taking the long run.  First, you WILL get bloodied.  No matter what you do, how hard you train, how well prepared you start, how confident and motivated you are, no matter if you run like a gazelle or shuffle like a turtle, you WILL get hurt.  Somewhere along the way, you’ll probably be running along just fine and then, bam, you find yourself on the ground bruised and bloodied.  But, before this post gets you too depressed, let me tell you the second long run guarantee I will make to you:  You WILL survive.  You will get up, you will dust your hands and knees off, and you will run again.  And you will run stronger for it.

The long run is hard.  I won’t lie to you about that.  Along the way, we all suffer injuries.  Some of them just a small bloody toe, some of them pretty darn debilitating.  Some of our wounds are visible on the outside and some are hidden from obvious view.  We all will struggle physically and mentally to get through.  But, if we just keep limping along, we WILL eventually get through.

 I read somewhere a quote that really got me thinking:
 “The wound is the place where the light enters you” – Rumi  

When our inner or outer wounds are at their worst and gaping wide open, this is when we are most able to receive the light Rumi is talking about.  When we are vulnerable and hurt we are most open and what can enter when we are that open can be truly beautiful and healing.  So, if you find yourself with a gaping wound, wait, look around, and be open to the healing that is coming your way.  The light that Rumi talks about will not only heal us, but make us stronger.  We will not be afraid of falling again, for we will have already learned how to get up.  We will be able to run faster and more courageously knowing our own ability to heal.

And what will we have to show for getting through?  Possibly not much more than our scars and the knowledge that we made it through (if you ask me though, every run should at least come with a participation medal at the end).  Wear those scars proudly!  Those long run scars mean you dared to participate.  You didn’t play it safe, you dared to run.  And when you got knocked down bloodied and bruised, by sheer determination you dared to get up and keep going.  Celebrate your long run battle scars!  You earned them.  And when you see someone else with their scars on display, know that they too tried, fell, got back up, and healed.  Celebrate each other's long run battle scars!  We’ve all earned them.
Today I share this participation medal with you.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tapping into your reserves

Let me chronicle how a many of my runs typically go for you.  I'm going to use a five mile run in this example, because well, it's the farthest I've managed since running the half (please refer to previous post re: elliptical and trashy magazines). 

Mile 1: This feels nice.  Moving feels good.  Let's enjoy this.
Mile 2: Whoa.  Look at my pace!  This is great.  Running is a breeze.  Pheobe be damned, I am a runner.  A real runner!!
Mile 2.5: Time to turn around.  Halfway there and doing great.  I'd pat myself on the back, but running takes every ounce of my concentration and I'd probably trip and fall.
Mile 3: Hmmm...this isn't feeling so fun now.  Look at all those real runners flying by.  Damn six pack abs and chisled legs. 
Mile 3.5: Are you freaking kidding me?  What kind of an idiot thought I could run 5 miles?!?  I can't run one more minute.  I am no runner.  I should just stick to the indoor gym equipment where it's nice and air conditioned and I can rest my water bottle and towel right next to me and watch E! News.  What are Brad and Angelina up to anyway?  THIS SUCKS I CAN'T DO IT.  I WANT TO QUIT!!!  --Now this ususally where I start negotiating with myself and saying things like, "okay, you can stop at four miles, it's close enough to five.  What does that last mile matter?  Who's going to know you didn't finish what you started?  Only me and I what do I know?  I'm the one that thought you could do five.  Obviously my opinion isn't to be trusted." And, by then I've usually hit mile four. 
Mile 4:  One more mile to go, I'm going to try this.  --Right here is where the magic happens people.  At mile four.  On that last dreaded hard mile it just happens and it happens out of nowhere, I suddenly start running again.  Really running.  Yes, it's hard and it hurts, but I'm doing it.  The end is in sight and my body is headed home.  My pace improves, time starts to quicken and there I am suddenly running again. And I've made it all five miles.

This is exactly how it went for me when running my first (and only) full marathon back in 2011.  I started so strong.  I thought it was going to be the race of my life.  I was flying.  And then WHAM.  Mile 15 hit and I was struggling.  Mile 15!!  It was way too early for the dreaded wall.  I hadn't even planned to start struggling until well into the 20+ mile mark.  I was in a bad place mentally and physically.  26.2 (yeah, that .2 matters) was looking flat out impossible. The only will I could muster was to keep moving.  And the moving was not pretty.  My feet were moving one foot in front of the other, but that was about it.  It went on like this for miles and miles.  What had I gotten myself into?  I wasn't just being passed by real runners, I was being passed by everyone.  But, I kept going and going and going.  And before I knew it (no, that's not true at all.  I knew and felt every miserable tenth of a mile, but there's not really a good phrase for, "after suffering through five agonizing, embarrassing, humbling, and torturous miles"), I was approaching that final mile.  By this time, my big toe had burst through my sock, I'd stepped in water so one entire shoe was soaking wet and slushy with water, my cute marathon hat and been thrown down somewhere long gone, and I was a mess. But there I was suddenly running, really running!  I was watching my trusty Garmen as the pace quickened, and quickened, until finally I was sprinting.  I was being carried on by I don't know what, but it was happening and I finished all 26.2 miles.

Here's the thing that I found that day:  Deep down inside of us, in a place that we can't even find for ourselves, is a huge reserve of strength, power, determination, and endurance just waiting for when we need it most.  We are capable of so much more than we can even imagine.  But getting there isn't always easy.  There will be plenty of times, especially in that last long mile, when you are just barely limping along and not sure you can make it one more step, when that reserve will kick in and carry you through.

There are times and circumstances in my personal life when it all just gets too exhausting, too hard, too scary, too sad, too overwhelming, and frankly, just too much.  During these times, I've had so many wonderful people say wonderful things to me like, "You are such a saint, "I don't know how you do it," and "You are so strong." I know these people have the best of intentions and their kind words are always appreciated, but the fact is that they are all flat wrong.  The only thing of any note that I've ever done to get through the too much times, is to wake up the next day and keep going.  What really gets me through is nothing I do, it's what's been done for me.  It's what God/Life created in me for when I need it, it's the unending reserve that gets me through. 

So, here is the best part of today's long run lesson:  You don't have to DO anything.  You don't have store away extra courage, strength, endurance, etc. in easy times for when you might need it.  You don't have to cultivate a reserve for the hard days.  You just have to trust that the reserve is already there and all you have to do is decide you will keep going that last mile and the reserve will carry you through.  I can't promise it will be pretty, but I can promise that your reserve will get you through to the finish line.

And when you get there, if you're really lucky like I was at the end of that last mile, Pandora will smile on you and play you a little Ice Cube circa 1993,"Today was a Good Day."  Yeah, Ice Cube, it was.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

I AM a runner. Despite all the evidence otherwise

I first began thinking about this blog over six months ago when I started training for the Houston Half Marathon.  I toyed with the idea every week especially after my long runs, but couldn’t bring myself to do more than short Facebook posts.  I loved the feedback I got from Facebook, but felt unsatisfied by the posting constraints and longed for a forum where I could really explore my thoughts.  So, why couldn’t I pull the trigger and start the blog?  Because I was haunted by one thought: How could I write a blog about running when I am not a runner?!? 

 I am certainly not a runner.  I don’t even really like running.  At least 4 days a week I choose another form of exercise that I enjoy more.  Hello elliptical machine and trashy celebrity gossip magazines!!  I’m certainly not good at running.  You want to see good at running?  Go to Memorial Park one afternoon.  That’s where you’ll find real runners.  I know because I see those real runners as they blow past me with their long, effortless strides and six pack abs.  True story: I've actually been told that my running style is comparable to Pheobe from friends.  Something like this...
And, if you still don’t believe me, I submit photographic evidence.  In each of these photos, I promise you, I was trying my best to be a real runner.  Obvious fail.  These pictures scream, “NOT A RUNNER.”  Determined walker at best.  Notice that some of these pictures actually say "proof" across them.  Exactly, my friend.


I was terrified by the thought that you would take one look at me and this blog and think, “FRAUD.”

 How often do we do this to ourselves?  We are always focusing on what we are not.  I have a long list of am nots that come to mind when thinking of myself.  According to that dreaded voice in my head, I am not:

  1. thin enough
  2. smart enough
  3. successful enough
  4. daughter enough
  5. wife enough
  6. creative enough
  7. brave enough
  8. etc. etc. etc.
To be honest with you, I am sick to death of focusing on what I am not enough of.  Aren't you?  Well, I say ENOUGH with that!  How many opportunities have we squandered thinking that we were not enough of something?  How many job opportunities, social activities, passion projects, etc. have we missed because we were afraid we were not fill in the blank enough?  I’m now asking why are we not enough for ourselves? Oh what lives we could lead if we just realized that we are more than enough.  Shouldn’t we be our own biggest fans?  This world isn’t easy and plenty of people are going to tell you that you aren’t enough.  I say, ENOUGH with that. 

 So, today I tell you I AM a runner.  Despite all of the evidence already discussed, I do run.  I've finished one full marathon, two half marathons, and countless 5ks and 10ks.  That's got to count for something.  Today I decide that taking a risk, ignoring the voice in my head saying you are not enough of a runner (or a writer for that matter), and putting myself out there is worth the uncomfortable feeling of overcoming my self doubt.
And while others are busy being real runners, I enjoy a different running bonus (because I’m certainly not enjoying the bonus of six pack abs and chiseled legs).  Running brings me clarity.  Something happens while I run that allows me to see the beauty of life.  By struggling through longs runs I have been able to learn a little something about how I want to live my life when the running shoes come off. I think that in some ways this can be attributed to my poor running skills.  Running is so difficult for me that everything else (work issues, conversations had or to be had, to-do lists that need doing, you know, the fun stuff) falls by the wayside and I am focused solely on the run ahead of me.  This focus leaves me hyper aware of my body, my mind, and my spirit as I run and has given me the opportunity to learn some lessons that, I think, apply to every aspect of life.

 Through this blog I would like to share these lessons with you.  I can’t promise that my lessons will always apply to you or even entertain you (hell, you might fine them plain ol' dumb), but I can promise you that I will try my best and will always approach this blog with the pure intention of putting out positive lessons that I hope will help at least one person (me?) face this ultimate long run we call life.  And, hopefully that is ENOUGH for you.