RunNerdier

musings on running, life, and everything in between


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Blergh

It’s been a bit, right? There are some things going on in life that are taking a lot of energy out of me. It leaves little room or desire to write about running. Part of this might be combined with the fact that I turned my ankle two weekends ago on the trail.

I was about 4 miles into an 8-11 mile run with some friends at Bull Frog in Palos. Ironically, I had stopped to re-tie a shoe tighter because it felt like it wasn’t support enough. As I got up to start running, I hit a big rock in the path and turned my ankle. I wasn’t in horrible pain, but I felt a momentary flash of panic. Ok, maybe not momentary. Just panic. The worst part was that we were just before the turnaround point. And this is trail. Which means, short of getting back to a road and waiting for someone else to run back and get the car, I’d have to run back. It wasn’t great, but I found I could bear weight on it without screaming in pain. So I ran back 3 miles–Kelly was able to configure a slightly shorter route back. Gorgeous picture of the lake from the BEGINNING of the run. Sigh.

I saw Craig that day and had him work on it. He actually didn’t think it was too bad, and I babied the heck out of it, wrapping it tight and wearing an ankle brace. I think that all helped. I can run on it, but 50k on it is a different thing…The amount of mental self-abuse I’ve been doing is outrageous. I just checked the cutoff time, though, and I’ll have almost 10 hours to finish the 50k. Hopefully I won’t need all that.

It just continues to remind me, on multiple levels, that our weaknesses–physical and otherwise–need constant monitoring and intervention. I had stopped doing my one-legged squats while brushing teeth awhile back, filled with false confidence in my ankles. And this is what happened. It reminds me of the same character defects I have, my willfulness, anger, etc. also need to constantly be worked on as well. They never really go away, just wait for an opportune moment. Seems exhausting thinking about it. But that is how we become stronger.

And one thing I’ve learned over the years is when I get stuck in self-pity, get outside yourself and go do something for someone else. So I did. A slew of my girls were running the Wisconsin Marathon in Kenosha, including Jenny’s first comeback race after over a year of injury. It didn’t occur to me, until really late in the game, that it would be great to go cheer for them. I found out two other friends–Jen H and Doreen–who also came to Boston were heading up, so I hitched a ride.

Andrea, Emily, Michelle, Jenny, Michelle

I am SO glad I went. The course was windy as HECK. It ran alongside the lakefront, which sounds great, until the wind picks up sand and scours you with it. The temperature was perfect, and it was somewhat cloudy at moments, but the wind was probably upwards of 30mph at times. The course was also really desolate. There were almost no spectators, and even the most “crowded” sections had just over a dozen. And they were QUIET. There was almost no cheering. So this made the 3 of us cheer even louder and act even nuttier. Two women even came up to us after the race to thank us for cheering. It was also weird because there were parts of the course that weren’t really closed off so people were driving ON BOTH SIDES of the road. Someone even pulled a boat down the middle of the course. I think based on the crowd support (or lack thereof) and the weird course stuff, I would not run this marathon. Jenny did say, though, that it was well run and the aid stations were great.

The girls had a really hard time, but the Michelle’s stuck together for most of it. Although Michelle R (left) pulled a Jen and finished about 20 second ahead of Michelle N. Ha.

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Despite all these brutal conditions, most of them finished ahead of my Boston time. Sigh. It was awesome, though, to go root for someone and not just be on the receiving end. I swear my “cheering high” carried me all day through rooting for my oldest’s tball game. Haha.

Andrea, Jenny, Emily

Whitecaps!!

Alright, that’s all for now. I’m gearing up for the 50k. It feels really weird because I’ve essentially been in a 6 week taper now. I’ve been actually weightlifting to try and do some less impact stuff that should help me with the hills and such.


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Finding what feeds you or at least doesn’t kill you

I don’t know if other professions talk about their work or communities “feeding them.” Higher ed is definitely a strange place and not typical of many other contexts, so it’s hard to know what is “normal.” Awhile back, I saw a fairly well known scholar-educator post about their job not being one that “fed” them, and they felt like it was suffocating them if anything. The post didn’t say specifically (vaguebooking anyone?) about what they were talking about, but I can think of a million possible examples or scenarios from others’ situations. My response, though, was “huh, that’s a weird thing to expect.” Without getting into the politics of my own specific position or context, I have accepted that my job isn’t going to be what keeps me afloat emotionally. Even as a high school teacher, I snarled at the oft-quoted “teaching is the hardest job you’ll love” or some other derivative dribble. Teaching IS hard, and it IS rewarding, but if you expect that to be your sole sense of purpose and meaning in life, you will burn out faster than a Roman candle. I wish someone had told me that earlier…

I am not saying that you can’t find meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in your work. I definitely do. But I also don’t expect my work to be the only place where I get that, or even my main source of those things. And while that may seem obvious to some, it’s taken awhile for me to figure that out. I think one of the reasons I was so miserable in my 20’s was that I couldn’t figure out what I needed emotionally, spiritually, psychically, so I expected work or friendships to be the only place I would find validation. As I’ve gotten older, my priorities and understandings of the world have shifted through marriage, kids, running, adult jobs, etc. And I’ve realized that no one place can be my sole source of nurturing or cultivating of self.

Maybe that’s obvious for some, but that’s some hard-fought knowledge for me. Just as my life-long battles with managing depression happen through many ways–prayer, exercise, medication, therapy, community–I’ve realized that finding happiness in life has to happen through many ways. JUST surviving or NOT being miserable is NOT the same thing as actually seeking happiness and comfort. It’s not merely enough to not be suffering, but you also have to find ways to “suck the marrow out of life” (a la Whitman). And that will change throughout your life, which is why it can feel like a balancing act. Just when you think you’ve got it, another piece shifts and you have to reconfigure the whole thing.

Even though the trip to Boston was a whirlwind around the marathon, I was really happy to see and stay with my friend Swati. I can’t even begin to catalog the myriad things she’s gone through in the 8 years I’ve known her. But through it all, she is constantly on a journey to be balanced, to be happy, and to seek ways to be spiritually and emotionally positive. We talked a lot about what’s been going on in our lives–she just finished her doctorate, woohoo!!–and it made me reflective of how we have a choice in how we react or respond to various situations. Obviously we can’t control others or control the situations we sometimes find ourselves in, but we can choose how we react. And sometimes we have the choice to extract ourselves or disengage as well. But first, we have to recognize and acknowledge what our situation is and what our choices are.

 

Even in terms of my running, when I was beginning to feel disenchanted with all the speedwork and the demands of qualifying for Boston, I chose to start running types of areas and get out on the trails. I’ve loved how running has taken me to places I normally wouldn’t have gone. Case in point, down the street from Swati’s place is Forest Hills Cemetery. There are a number of famous people buried here, the most literary relevant being e.e. cummings. Sadly, I did not realize this until after my run so missed visiting his grave, but Mr. UnRunner did see it. It is a huge cemetery, with a mix of both old and new grave sites, and they day was crazy warm and bright.

I’ve always found the very fancy statue tomb stones (is that what they’re called??) intriguing. I loved the pose of the woman on this one.

I loved the idea of this one. This was a tomb stone (I’m just going to keep calling it that because I don’t know what else to call it) that had a very large birdhouse built onto the top of that. Even in death, you can continue to be a source of life 🙂

There was a section where a large number of Chinese were buried. There were even some families celebrating/holding a memorial at some of them. Burning incense, eating, meeting as a large group, etc. There was one group of plots that obviously belonged to an entire family. These Chinese dragons marked the entrance to that section.

And there was even this gorgeous water feature sent on the side of the cemetery.

I’ve been wrestling with the post-race blues, or maybe just the blues who knows, so I decided to try a new running route. I’ve been meaning to head south on the Centennial Trail by the I & M canal near work, and I finally did it the other day.

This area/trail is a very odd conglomeration of heavy industry and nature, as you might be able to see in the picture below (on the far right edge of the picture are a series of smoke stacks belonging, I think, to a petroleum processing plant).

The path itself is a pretty straight crushed limestone path that runs parallel to a rail line hidden by bushes. There were some pretty features along the path, though, including this fireplace/structure thing.

The path runs between two parts of the canal. To the right (or west of the canal) is the rail lines I spoke of and some industrial buildings set way back behind tree cover. To the left was some kind of excavation site. I saw bulldozers and earth movers at various points, and I know that it wasn’t public land. This was a particularly pretty spot and there was an even a snowy egret but my clumsy feet made too much noise and scared it off. If you look towards the back of the picture, though, you can see some kind of yellow metal barricade from the site.

The children are rumbling so it’s time to get the day started. Hope your running adventures take you somewhere new today, and you find ways to feed yourself emotinally!

 


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Boston

I hear a lot of people talking about feeling humbled by others’ praises. So often it strikes false. The humble brag of, “I’m so undeserving of this really competitive amazing thing, and I just can’t believe people think I’m so amazing (like I think, ha).” And it’s probably the cynic in me for thinking this. However, I truly was humbled by the outpouring of support from my friends. I was actually embarrassed that people were paying attention to me and thought I was doing something awesome. I mean, Boston IS awesome, but I am very uncomfortable receiving compliments or accepting support or acknowledgment from others (*cough, crazy family, cough*).

I also realize that some of this, particularly in regards to athletic accomplishments, is particular to women. I remember from my first Ragnar Relay, we were literally one of the first teams in the entire field and a bunch of us were marathoners and a guy from another said, “Wow, so you guys are pretty serious runners, huh?” We all hemmed and hawed like, “Oh, no.” We couldn’t accept the label that we WERE awesome and we WERE serious. I think back on that, and how I have to learn to accept support and acknowledgment gracefully. And, while I don’t want to get a big head, I can also admit that I’m doing something pretty amazing and it’s ok for people to say that. With that said, I will say that I did choose to NOT wear my marathon jacket and medal on the air plane ride home. Baby steps, people.

My awesome running group brought (to my kid’s preschool musical performance no less) balloons and a care package for the trip. Highlight of the bag? Trashy magazine! I also got a yard sign!

My good friend, Misty, also gave me Wonder Woman knee high socks and chocolate. Don’t worry, I didn’t run in them. 🙂

I escaped Chicago’s airport with little trouble. I felt a little guilty leaving the kids for the second time within two weeks, but it’s the last bit of traveling for a long while so they’ll survive. I stayed for most of the trip with my dear friend, Swati, who just defended her dissertation! She’s officially joined the ranks of Dr.’s that can not medically help you. We got to go out solo (she’s also a newish mom to Asha, who’s about to turn one year old) for dinner and ice cream. Like tourists, I made her take a picture with me and the cow at the famous J.P. Licks.

I have some other photos and stuff about my time in Boston, but I’m going to stick to marathon stuff for this one to help keep it from being a tome.

Saturday morning, Jen, Patty, and I decided to meet at the expo. Actually, Patty’s in-laws were awesome and picked me up so we rode together to the convention center. It was massive. You get almost 30,000 runners and their families and it’s going to be crazy. To be honest, I actually wondered about fire code because some of the exhibit lanes were narrow and tended to bottle neck up…Total mom mode, right? Anyhow, we took the requisite cheesy photos at the five million various photo op possibilities. Because the packet pick up and expo were on different floors, there really were a crazy number of opportunities to take photos. One of my favorite ones was the huge wall of names of every single runner. We each got free posters of it. Mine, sadly, got left behind in Boston at Swati’s house, but she promises to mail it to me.

Because this is the big mama of marathons, there were quite a few celebrity sightings at the expo. So…like total creeps, we took photos of these unsuspecting individuals. On the left is Shalane Flanagan promoting her new cooking book; top right is the back of Katherine Switzer (white jacket), first woman to officially run the marathon, and bottom right is a cardboard cutout of Meb. Ha. He was in town, but we didn’t see him live.

Patty and I did the bus tour of the whole marathon route. I was surprised to see that there were tents with souvenirs and food and things at the start already. For those unfamiliar with Boston, it’s a point to point course, which means you take a bus out to the start ~25 miles west of the city to Hopkinton and run your way back to Boston proper.

I took the obligatory start line photo. Some people were taking photos kissing the ground. Um, unless it’s like the foot of Jesus (and I’m not even religious), I’m not kissing it.

Riding the route, I was simultaneously nervous AND calmed. There were way more hills than I had thought, but they also seemed somewhat flatter than I had imagined. The tour guide, who was formerly a competitive runner, stressed the importance of really taking it easy the first half of the race, which has a net downhill. Most people take it too fast and trash their legs before the hills of Newton.

The night before was “dinner” at 4:30 at Vinny’s in Somerville. Good food, and we were glad to have time to hang out and lounge instead of eating and then going straight to bed. Jen and I were staying at friends, but we shacked up with Patty in her hotel room for the night before the marathon. Jen ended up using a great deal of her waking hours trying on the same two tank tops over and over, trying to determine which one would or would not chafe. We also went back and forth because the weather was supposed to be in the upper 60’s when we started. Trust me, Patty aka “Radar” was giving me minute-by-minute updates on every degree change in temperature and wind.

The rest of the night, we ended up buying a movie, How to Be Single, to watch in the hotel room. It was predictable and a bit young for us, but Rebel Wilson was funny and it was perfect for a group of women looking for a distraction. Patty fell asleep during it and had no trouble sleeping. I tossed and turned for over an hour, but eventually fell asleep and slept solid. Jen woke up throughout the night several times, so I guess it’s good we went to bed early!

Because there are so many stages to getting to the actual start line, we all got up around 6 am. We were going to take our hotel’s shuttle to Boston Commons to take the marathon shuttle to Hopkinton (which was supposed to leave at 8:15 for our wave). When we got outside the hotel, though, the line was like 30 people deep for a 14-person van. One of the door guys suggested we pay $5/person for a private shuttle. We thought it was a little shady, but we were also getting nervous about having to wait for several loadings of the shuttle so we did. Well, actually I had no cash and Jen only had $10 so we haggled that for the 3 of us.

We got to the Boston Commons and met up with Kelly, a colleague’s wife who was also running. Coincidentally, she was in the same wave and corral as Jen. I was actually in the wave before Jen, but I had decided to drop back so we could run together. Sadly, Patty was in the wave after us, almost 20 minutes later. We all got on the school buses and headed out to Hopkinton. We arrived at the high school and the athlete’s village was out on the fields. It was a huge area with tents (for shelter), free bagels, Gatorade, water, and coffee. We had over 2 hours to kill, which we spent mostly going to the bathroom and people-watching. We were surprised to see that some people still had their gear check bags, as gear check happened in Boston by the finish lines. I’m not sure what they ended up doing with them.

Finally it was time for us (sans Patty) to start moving towards the entry point. We gathered together in the parking lot before heading down the chute, which was probably over a quarter mile through the streets of Hopkinton. Before we started moving, I noticed what looked like sharp shooters on top of the high school. While I appreciated the safety concerns, their presence actually made me more nervous.

Along the way, right before people headed into the corrals, there was an area designated with the last port-a-potties (which they call port-a-johns out there). This was like two concentric circles of over 100 potties–a human waste Stonehenge of sorts. With all the waiting in between, we ended up doing another last ditch effort. Despite that, I still saw a woman squatting next to a light pole. Once we got into the corral, Jen did her obsessive shoe-tying shuffle. First it was too loose, then too tight, then the other one was weird. All while trying to keep moving along with the crowd.

We were off, and I got nervous right away. Between the heat and downhills, the run felt like a struggle right away. And I would struggle with hitting a rhythm for a good deal of it. I perked up a bit when I saw a runner up ahead wearing an Every Mother Counts shirt. My friend, Ayesha, is an ambassador for them and our Ragnar team ran miles for them last year. (Side note: Ayesha is running the Big Sur Marathon as a relay for them this weekend). It’s a charity that works to make pregnancy and childbearing safe for women. I had remembered reading that Christy Turlington, its founder and former supermodel, had qualified and was running Boston to raise funds. This could be Christy up ahead, and next to her was a tall, curly-haired man with a bandana–perhaps Scott Jurek? I couldn’t be sure, though, and when I mentioned it to Jen, she suggested we speed up to check. I couldn’t fathom pulling up any speed, though, and shrugged off such crazy talk. I would actually end up leapfrogging with them throughout most of the race and did end up chatting with them a couple times. Also, like a total creep, I took a running selfie with them. Marathon of creepy celebrity photos. Ha. At one point, Jen also said that her goal was to beat a supermodel. Spoiler: That dream didn’t happen. Christy beat us by 2 minutes.

This is me at mile 13. You can see I look pretty tired. I was beyond grateful to see Mr. UnRunner (he’s been demoted recently). I was mentally really struggling with the idea that I was going to be doing this for hours. HOURS, people. I just wanted to lay down and go home. I was really struggling with the heat and the downhills. Seeing a familiar face in an unfamiliar place was amazing.

I really had to suppress my urge to punch him, though, when he told me to “go catch Jen.” By this point, Jen had left me behind. She had spent a good deal of the first several miles a few yards in front of me, constantly checking over her shoulder that I was still there. I told her that I did not want to watch her doing that for the next several hours so go ahead. Deja vu to Chicago.

The Wellesley girls were out and screaming, but the way the literature described it, I thought it was going to be like Beatles-style screaming hordes of hysterical coeds. They were out and yelling and had the “kiss me…” signs, but, shh, I gotta say I wasn’t THAT impressed. I don’t know that I would call them legendary. I did see two girls who appeared to be naked under their posters, which read, “If you run fast enough, I’ll drop my poster.” My favorite sign along the course, though, was “You’re running better than our government.” This is particularly true in Illinois.

Another welcome break was seeing these girls around mile 17. These are the super fans that came from Chicago to cheer for us (mostly Jen, but also me and Patty): Dorene, Michelle, Michelle, and Jen. They are all runners and the two Michelle’s are training for a May marathon. Michelle (with sunglasses) ran Boston years ago in her youth and hopes to return again one day.

I got some very welcome hugs from the girls, although someone totally rammed their shoulder into my throat at one point, which was AWESOME. Choking and running. Good combo.

At some point between miles 17 and 19, Jen and I hooked up together again. She decided running alone sucked (again, deja vu to Chicago) and waited for me. We did conquer Heartbreak Hill together (next pic is us at the top). I have to say that Heartbreak hill wasn’t all that bad. I mean, it sucked, but I think the million OTHER hills were what were quietly crushing my soul. By that point, Jen and I just wanted to be done. We joked about rolling each other down the hill. Joked. Not really.

We split up again. See a pattern? Fortunately, I saw Mr. UnRunner and my friend Swati around mile 21 at the Boston College gates. (on a side note, the race goes through THREE college campuses, Wellesley, Boston College, and Boston University AND it’s a state holiday so the crow support along the route is crazy). Again, I was really excited for a reason to stop and see happy, familiar faces. Mentally, knowing I was more than half done, I was doing a lot better than the first half even though it was physically more challenging. Knowing I had a dozen marathons under my belt helped me push through. At one point on the course, I do recall chanting mentally, “I know I can” to get me over a hill.

The physical demands of the downhill and the heat took its toll on runners. I saw A LOT of runners down at medical tents along the way, on the side of the road, and even a runner in the middle of the course with medics towards mile 21. Two of the running bloggers I follow had to stop and receive some medical aid before being able to finish the course. I think they still beat my time. Sigh. I even saw one runner just completely stop and stand in the middle of the road, teetering. I stopped and asked him if he was ok or needed help. He said he was fine, even though he kept standing there teetering. I decided his male ego would be bruised by a chick helping him and we were only a few yards from a medical tent so I figured he’d be ok.

Jen and I did hook back up around mile 21 I think in time to see the super fans one more time. She was really struggling mentally and pulled ahead again a couple miles later. I could tell she just really wanted it to be over, though, and wasn’t going to be stopping again for me. She finished about 30 second ahead of me.

You can see I didn’t do a great job with the tangents, running .3 over. Thanks for the BLM bracelet, Bill! The personal is political!

The finish line was akin to the starting line, a long chute stretching out over a couple blocks to get your medal, water, bag of food (nice stuff!), banana, thermal blanket, gear check, and then finally heading out to the family reunion section. Jen and I got massages while waiting for everyone to meet at the designated spot. We were pretty out of it, but it helped getting to lay down and worked on a bit. The massages were inside and there were probably like 40 tables in the room, with massage therapists from all over. The guy working on me was from 2 hours away, and it was his fifth year in a row volunteering at the marathon.

Patty finished (on the clock, since she started later) only about 15 minutes behind us. She said she had a GREAT race, which just shows who’s the best runner in our crew. We got to take one big group photo before everyone head their different ways. The super fans were heading home, Jen was going to meet back up with her friend, and Patty and I were going to dinner together with her family.


Patty, our spouses, and I went back to the hotel to get cleaned up and hang out before having dinner with Patty’s family at Morton’s steak house. The dinner was AWESOME, hot shower was divine, and the company was stupendous. Morton’s even had the menus printed with our names on it (gotta find the pic I took). By the end of the night, I was dead on my feet and looking forward to bed.

The next day was uneventful, with a chill lunch with Swati, and an early departure for the airport. It was funny seeing the sea of stiff-legged runners in their aqua?/teal? marathon jackets tottering towards the gates. I didn’t wear my jacket cuz I’m weird like that.

I came home to this loveliness. Cuz nothing says I love you like toilet paper strew on your lawn. Ha.

Even though I’m not in this photo–actually it’s only the super fans and none of the actual Boston runners–I love it and wanted to end the post with it. I’m still processing my emotions from the race, but I couldn’t help but love the connectedness of the ladies. I did not get to Boston on my own, and I couldn’t have finished Boston on my own. I am blown away (again) by these women and (and men) that have encouraged me, supported me, and praised me. All of the texts, Facebook messages, calls, and well wishes. I don’t feel worthy of any of it, truly. It was such a communal effort and can only offer my warmest thanks and love for everyone that’s been part of this. Patty is already concocting what to do for next year. Good luck with that, I’ll be supporting you from home, haha. I’ll follow up this post with some of the other things I did in Boston, but for now, signing off.


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The strength of others is what carries us

Whenever I get down about some mini-crisis or other, or feel overwhelmed by what life is throwing my way, my husband likes to remind me that things could be much worse and that it’s all about perspective. I usually find this extremely annoying and relatively unhelpful. Today, though, I was thinking about the truth of this. In the last 24 hours, I’ve heard of two different women (in their 30’s) being diagnosed with breast cancer after randomly noticing a lump on their own, a child getting their second round of surgery for a tumor, and had a friend post their daily medicine chart for her 4-year-old, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia.

And I am overwhelmed by the strength of all these individuals who struggle on, to keep going, and stay engaged. I always joke that one of the reasons I’m always running is that it’s inertia. It’s easier to keep moving than it is to stop and start. And so I see these individuals moving forward and doing the best they can, and it inspires me. As an individual who has struggled with depression, I know how easy it is to feel bogged down and overwhelmed. It reminds me of “the great nothing” in The Neverending Story, that threatens to overrun everything, or the bog of despair that Atreyu’s horse succumbs to (80s child much?). There are days, for all of us, where it is difficult to get moving, or keep moving, but some days/events/life happenings are particularly challenging.

My friend, Erin, has been in the throes of this. She recently found out that her 4-year-old daughter, Emily, has leukemia. And it’s been a whirlwind of diagnosis, treatment, and planning for a move across the country. All within 2-3 months. I met her through my running group, and she’s funny and warm and…dislikes running. Yet she has continued to challenge herself to get out there, because she enjoys the community more than she dislikes the running. She has been updating her Caring Bridge site about the progress of treatment for Emily and how their family is dealing with all of it. I loved a post she wrote comparing their struggles with her experience running a half marathon. It’s brilliant and poignant and at the heart of why we run and we are part of this community. I’m reusing it here with her permission:

On to the musings portion of today’s post (feel free to cut out here, I won’t include any additional Emily notes below)…….I was supposed to run a half marathon this weekend, but between late winter snow/ice and Emily’s various fevers my training was pretty much derailed.  I had been contemplating pulling out a few weeks ago due to the training issues and an annoying foot pain I was experiencing during my long runs, but for some reason I just couldn’t pull the trigger.  Or rather admit it to myself maybe, the curse of being Type A and competitive.  My second half marathon last November I finished in 2:00:08 – it feels dishonest for me to say I did a half in 2 hours because I didn’t.  This was my race to PR, to finally break the 2 hour mark! For a woman who struggled to run 2 miles a handful of years ago, it is a huge personal goal of mine. Emily’s diagnosis removed any doubt in my mind that I would be able to run the race.

Truth be told, I actually don’t like running.  I joined a women’s running group a few years ago and they are really great people that I like to spend time with.  I have no choice but to run to make that hang out time with said women happen.  The group abides by a motto similar to Vegas……what’s said on a run, stays on run.  It’s comprised of everything from Boston qualifiers to Couch to 5k, everyone deserving of the same support and running sisterhood.  We don’t take ourselves too seriously, following most runs with coffee, drinks, or donuts.  Ryan refers to the group as “the running ladies.”  🙂 Running has become a great outlet for me as a mom, wife, and person.  It’s gotten to the point where Ian claims he can tell if I haven’t run in a while and encourages me to go because I come home a new person.  Since I don’t really like to run, I make a point of joining the group runs.  It’s just easier with company to crank out mileage.  A 5:45am early bird run wasn’t happening this morning, so I squeezed in a solo early afternoon run thanks to my mom.  Solo run….lots of time to think.  Ugh.

As I ran today, it struck me how similar this cancer diagnosis and subsequent journey is to my experience of running a half marathon.  I tried to write this post in my head as I ran to make the time go faster.  It didn’t work, but I did manage to crack myself up a few times.  I’m sure I was a sight.  As you stand at the race starting line, you are nervous and double check to ensure you have all the gear you will need.  You even pinned your bib on your shirt the night before…still can you ever feel fully ready?  Are you lined up in the right pace group or being overly ambitious?  You hope and pray that the past few months of training are enough to get you to the end, doubt creeps in and you push it down. The race begins and before you know it, you are swept up in the wave of people running.  Everyone else is running, you have no choice but to go. You start the race feeling great and hopeful.  A few miles in you wonder how the hell you got signed up for such a crazy adventure.  A quick glance to the side and you see your running buddies beside you so you carry on, casting aside any doubt of quitting mid race, not only because they will give you shit for not finishing but they are also quietly encouraging you along.

By mile 8, you are starting to feel like crap, and swear you are never ever doing this again no matter what.  The aid stations along the course look like a great place to curl up and take a nap, maybe even just break down and have a good cry.  Instead the people manning those offer you various drinks and fuel, you keep going.  By mile 10, you are cursing the name of whoever talked you in to this damn race and vow to never partake again.  At this point though, you are so close to the finish what’s another 3.1 miles?  Seeing familiar faces along the way, encouraging you to keep going, helps you push past the mental hurdles of self doubt.  Are you good enough?  Can you really finish this thing?  The standard race signs (I promise you do see these at every single race) like “Touch here for super powers”, “Smile if you’ve peed yourself” and “You’ve got this” keep you going and even make you laugh a little.  You see the mile 12 marker and wonder if you are hallucinating that the finish is a mere 1.1 miles away.  You aren’t sure if you need to stop at the mile 12 aid station, but you do and it gives you the final boost you need to finish.  Mile marker 13, the finish line is in sight!  You feel like complete and total crap, like you’ve been run over by a truck.  Everything hurts, your knees want to buckle, but you are going to make it. It may not be the 2 hour PR you were hoping for, but damn it, you will complete this thing!

Despite the bumps, detours, and craziness we will come out the other side of this diagnosis. Maybe not right on schedule or the type of race we were hoping for but we will.  Shoot, cancer was never on MY agenda to begin with anyway, but one foot in front of the other and a really amazing support group are what’s key to completing this thing.

Here’s a picture of the ridiculously amazing and cute Emily in a cape provided to her by our running group.

10995447_10204282504638784_8687000854488753130_nFurthermore, as the season of spring and renewal is upon us, I can’t help but think again of the bridging ceremony my congregation did for its graduating high school seniors. Again, they reiterated 3 things:

  • You are loved.
  • You are enough.
  • You are not alone.

And we are NOT alone. No matter what the struggle. My friend posted today on Facebook a picture of her whole family wearing shirts in support of a friend’s child who’s undergoing surgery for a tumor.

Snip20150521_2None of us is alone, and there is a community of love, strength, and support that carries each one of us if we let it. Whether it’s a half marathon, depression, or cancer. None of us have to do it alone, so let us inspire and be inspired by others.