Five Things Marathon Training Has Taught Me

I’ve been running marathons since 2003. When you factor in training runs and the marathons themselves, that’s a lot of miles.  It’s a good thing my knees aren’t being interviewed for this piece, I’m sure they’d have something to say. (Mainly, “What the hell have you done to me all these years?”)  At any rate, I’ve learned some simple truths about marathons and life along the way.


1.  It all comes down to the shoes.  Like any major (or minor) event in life, shoes make or break the day.  Just as showing up at a wedding in a pair of evil, blister breeding heels can ruin a perfectly good day… so can a bad pair of running shoes.  In addition to just tearing the hell out of your heels, the wrong running shoes (or those that are too old, small, etc.) can really mess up your body and stride, resulting in game stopping injuries.  What does this mean to someone who’s thinking of running a marathon? GET TO A RUNNING STORE the minute you sign up for your event.  Don’t waste a minute, and don’t spend one, two, or ten miles running in the wrong shoes.  Shoes do matter. Period.

2. Everything goes smoother when you prepare.  Remember in grade school when your mom told you to lay out your clothes the night before? I know my fourth grade mornings went a lot smoother when I had my painter’s pants, canvas Nikes,  green gymnastics t-shirt, and rainbow Mork-n-Mindy suspenders all set before I hit the sack. (I challenge you to beat that look.)  Similarly, marathon mornings (and any early training run for that matter) are much less crazy when running clothes are waiting for you in the morning.  When everything (shirt, race number, shorts, socks) is ready, you can concentrate on the important things – freaking out about the miles ahead of you, eating breakfast, using the bathroom, hydrating, using the bathroom, and getting yourself to the run. Who needs to add searching for matching socks to that routine?

3. Expect the unexpected. Can you say golf ball sized hail delivered just in time to hit you in the middle of a 18 miler? A torrential rainstorm that starts ten miles from home? A half marathon, an 84 degree day, and not enough water? An Achille’s that explodes at mile 20 forcing a grueling 6 mile walk to the finish? An involuntary porta-potty tour the last six miles of a marathon? Yes, from Mother Nature’s influence to our own bodies breaking down, running is not always pretty. It takes grit, determination, and a bit of common sense (that doesn’t always work, for the record) to help you decide when to keep on going and when to throw in the towel. Because anything can happen out there, the biggest lesson is to take each obstacle as it comes, evaluate it, and decide on the best course of action.  Sometimes finishing a run is just plain stupid.  Please learn when this is the case, so that the next day (regardless if you finished or not), you are safe and sound.

4. Marathons are a lot like childbirth. Although I don’t have children, I certainly understand that childbirth is not a day at the park.  Well folks, neither are marathons.  There are points of the marathon (I like to call them the “shoot me now and no one gets hurt” moments)  when you will feel worse than you ever thought humanly possible.  You’ll wonder how the hell you’re going to go one more step, much less whatever mileage you have to go.  Take mile 16, for example. The mathematical part of you will argue that you are more than halfway done; that you’re almost in the single digits. The runner part will want to grab the mathematical part by the neck, suspend you in the air, and threaten your life. However, I need to report that like childbirth, everything works out in the end. And, while you’re not left with a beautiful new life, you are left with a sense of pride that outshines all of the pain and dark moments.

5. You’re going to realize that this is the start of something big. Running 26.2 miles is pretty epic; it’s something the average person doesn’t do.  This sort of accomplishment  brings about a sense of self-pride for sure, but it also brings about the idea of… marathon today, Mt. Everest tomorrow? What else can I do? Getting yourself through all of the ups and downs of training (in one piece), and then actually getting to the marathon and finishing it, is pretty damn awesome. Period.

This marathon thing is only the beginning, my friends. Get out there and show them what you’ve got.


by abbey algiers

copyright 2015

Defensive Driving… I mean Running


I first heard the term in the late 80’s. It was 7th hour, fourth quarter of my sophomore year, and I was ecstatic to be sitting in my first Driver’s Ed class.  That day, I sort of listened to the instructor, but mostly was thinking about driving. Somewhere in the midst of a dream sequence that had me getting a convertible VW Bug for my upcoming birthday (nope, didn’t happen, drove my mom’s mini van instead), I was startled as the instructor wrote defensive driving on the board in big, bold letters. I jotted this down, thinking it might be on the test, but wasn’t really all that interested in his definition.  I thought defensive driving meant being ready to flip off anyone who offended me while driving. You know, a defend my honor kind of thing.  Or maybe, I thought it meant to tear away from a speedster tailing me on the expressway.

I don’t remember what the instructor said, but I’m sure it must have sounded close to (i.e. almost as boring as)this online definition: Defensive driving is driving characterized by prudence, diligence and reasonable cautiousness with the goal of making the road a safe place not only for a defensive driver but for other people as well. (Can you say… Bueller? What is defensive driving? Anyone? Bueller?)

I’m sure I remembered that. Not.

My take away from his lecture was be careful and don’t get distracted by other cars or my friends in my car. Also, don’t get a ticket.

Let’s face it, I was as much of an idiot as any 16 year old driver. Even with all of the warnings, I didn’t really grasp the enormous responsibility that came with driving a vehicle until years later. I was lucky I never got into an accident. 

Recently, I passed a student driver stopped at a stoplight. Instinctively, I ran the opposite direction as I flashed back to the infinite wisdom of me at 16.  I wanted to be far away from that gum smacking, texting kid. As I ran away, I thought about the poor punk. I needed to be nicer because while yes, the little 16 year old indeed ranked higher on the threat to runners, walkers, bikers and anything with a pulse scale, I realized that all drivers (and runners, walkers, etc.) need to be careful. I had just as big a responsibility to be a defensive runner as the punk did to be a defensive driver.

Wanting to get to the bottom of this revelation and put it into action, I googled defensive driving when I got home, just to revisit that original definition, and see how I could apply it to running. Thankfully, my friends at Wikipedia had collaborated with my driver’s ed teacher and developed some keys (intentional pun) to defensive driving:


Stay focused, keeping your hands on the wheel.  While as runners we obviously don’t have a steering wheel, we do steer our bodies.  My loose translation is to keep my head on a swivel, always on the lookout for distractions. A good run can take me into a zen-like state where I’m either mentally solving each and every one of my problems, or I’m deep in conversation with my running partner.  I’m sure I’m not alone in either situation. So, runners, don’t get so far into your zen that you forget that you’re “steering your own ship.”

Keep your eyes moving.  Unless you’re on a treadmill, the terrain is going to change.  Things can come at you from all directions, so it’s important to look ahead of you and scan your surrounding area.  Watch for cars coming around a corner on the street you’re crossing.  Watch for foxes darting in front of you on an early a.m. run (happened to me).  Be on the lookout for city dogs and country dogs – they are equally as territorial and just plain don’t like runners. The bottom line – scan as you run, for you never know what’s going to pop up along the way.

Stay alert.  My sisters constantly tell me, “you really shouldn’t listen to music when you run.” Yes, I know this. They’re right, but I’m sorry I enjoy music and can’t live without my podcasts like No Meat Athlete or One Part Plant.  So, I do the next best thing and keep the volume low, making sure I can still hear things around me like barking dogs, honking horns, and any other big threats.  Note that it is certainly safer to run without headphones, but again, I know we as runners sometimes need tunes to keep us moving. So, be smart with your audio intake.

Go with the flow. Let’s talk races. Sometimes, as you’re minding your own 26.2 miles of business, things are going to get bottlenecked. As a runner you’ll no doubt feel frustrated and perhaps a little edgy.  It may be so crowded that you just can’t floor it and bolt ahead.  Therefore, adjust to the pace of your surroundings, wait it out, and proceed when it’s safe for everyone around you.  Similarly, there are times when weather will be extreme, and you’ll need to adjust your pace, hydration, wardrobe, or the length of time you devote to the run. Again, go with the flow.  You can’t control everything, but you can make adjustments to be more comfortable.

Make yourself visible.  This is a big one in the land of defensive running.  If you run early morning or late afternoon/evening in the winter, you really need to light yourself up like the fourth of July.  Why? (Duh…) Because people can’t see you, and if they can’t see you, you run a huge risk of getting hit.  Period.  Therefore, invest in clothing with reflective features.  Wear a headlamp, flashing light, reflective vest or whatever it takes to draw attention to yourself.

Adapt to road conditions.  Hello, fellow crazies. Even with the best Craft base layers in place, there are some days when running outside just isn’t cool. Icy conditions are what I’m talking about here.  Below zero temps aren’t advisable either.  When these situations happen, there’s this thing called a treadmill that might be a better bet.  However, when the weather isn’t too crazy, simply dress for the temps and keep in mind that slippery roads mean cars can’t stop as quickly. Rain means a driver’s vision might be impaired and they might not see you like they could on a clear day.  Be smart and always consider what you and the drivers need to do to be safe during whatever Mother Nature is giving you.

Finally, the most important piece of defensive running advice… defending the run.  And this is where I’m talking about defending your honor, runners. There will be people who think you’re crazy for early a.m. runs, 20 milers, marathons, ultras, and quite simply your daily dedication to the sport.  To them, I hate to tell you, but there’s really nothing you can say.  They probably won’t ever understand. Just smile at them, and be polite runners on the streets, stopping at corners and running on the right side of the road. They think we’re crazy enough the way it is, we can’t add being idiots to the mix.  

So friends, when you’re out there on the streets…be sure to look both ways, be visible, and be smart whether you’re on your feet or behind the wheel!

copyright 2015

by abbey algiers


Fresh Starts


It seems almost cliché for me to write about New Year’s Resolutions today. Really, I mean, I’ve had a dry spell from runnerchica land for many months, and today is the day I come back with this great, clever article on resolutions? On January 1? Making writing a resolution for me is so much like a “no duh” it’s almost ridiculous.

But, the thing is, it’s a good thing we have things like New Year’s Day. Imagine if life were just one big continuum, days flowing into the next, with no real reasons set aside for us to evaluate how things are going, and what we need to improve on.  Where would we be?  Would we all be chain smoking, overweight non-exercising workaholics with sugar addictions, alcohol problems and poor diets who don’t spend time with their families? All because we didn’t have one day set aside to resolve to be better;  at least for a little bit?

I’d like to think not.  While New Year’s Day and resolutions are quite handy for bringing on personal transformations, I’d like to throw it out there that we really don’t need this particular day to turn things around.  First of all, we know that resolutions don’t always work.  How many times have you heard of someone’s grand plans to “work less” “eat better” or “exercise 4 days a week” only to see them crash and burn by January 15? Yeah, that’s happened more often than not for sure.

What I’d like to propose is that the idea behind New Year’s – that of fresh starts and new possibilities – is what we need to pay attention to. This concept is where the magic can happen, and it can happen any day of the year.  Let’s face it, we all know deep down inside the changes we need to make in our lives to be healthier, happier, and less stressed.  And, we know what we need to do to make these changes.  It’s just putting the two together – the knowing with the action- that makes the equation complete, and changes our lives. For example, let’s take a hypothetical person… one who really wants to get some serious writing done, and make it a part of her daily routine. Logically, she knows that she’s going to need to set aside some time each day to do this.  She knows she’s had this goal in the past, and has even tried to set a schedule to make this happen.  That schedule worked for a week or two, but then the goal of daily writing became less important.  She stopped writing daily and soon it wasn’t even something she did once a week. Yet, it remained important enough to not leave her mind, so on January 1, she figures it’s as good a time as any to dust off that keyboard and try again.

Totally hypothetical, of course.

We’ve all been in that situation, haven’t we? Had a goal, left the starting gates with tons of motivation, only to find that goal a distant memory weeks later. Yet, if that goal is something that’s truly important to us, we can bet it’ll come up again, and beg us to give it another shot.  So we will. We’ll do this until we finally get it that there are certain things in life we just need to decide to do (ONCE AND FOR ALL) because they are important to our life plan.

Personally, I’m using New Year’s Day to again try to nail this daily writing habit. I’m combining it with my love of running, and have committed to #writeandrun31, compliments of some really dedicated runners/vegans at  For every day in January, I will run and write, and write about my running and writing on Facebook… to keep myself accountable.  We do what we can to help marry desire with action, right?

So, for all the runners, walkers, readers, writers, and goal setters reading this… I wish you a wonderful 2015, and a fresh start to discover what it is that’s important to you this day and this year, and to go after it with all you’ve got.  May your 2015 be a year full of personal accomplishments and successes!!! Go for it, friends, and know that any day is a good day to start pursuing your dreams and goals!

Your Comfort Zone


It’s easy to live within our comfort zones, and get used to the “status quo.”  This state usually means we’re comfortable with how things are, so much so that we lack the motivation or interest to make any changes – big or small.  Things are officially “okay” in our lives; there’s no harm in smooth sailing and familiar routines. Yet the problem with comfort zones is that they’re well… maybe a bit too comfortable.  What happens while we simply go about our business and not rock the boat is that we’re not exactly growing or expanding our lives.  What also may happen is that this state of automatic pilot puts us in a place where we fail to notice how good we’ve got it. Here we risk taking it all for granted, thinking things will always be the way they are.

I was in this state as I prepared for the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee just about a month ago. I was skating along, taking each pre-run for granted, thinking all would be just groovy in my upcoming marathon.  Then, one day, BAM! The status quo changed.  Struck by a mysterious shoulder injury that got worse and worse over the course of 10 days, I was in essence sidelined with not only the marathon out of the question, but also every other activity I had taken for granted each day – from being able to run five miles or go to my Bikram yoga class (or do both) to simply being able to lift my hand to brush my hair or take a sip of my beloved Starbucks. Throw in some pretty earth-shattering pain, and I had a chance to take a close look at everything I did each day that I completely took for granted.

Suddenly, the “status quo” was something I longed for more than anything, and I vowed that when my shoulder got better, I’d appreciate ALL of those things – even the simple ones.  Thanks to help from a chiropractor, acupuncturist, a sprinkling of pain meds, and a great crew of physical therapists, I can say that I am better… and better for it.   I now have some new thoughts on our comfort zones & the status quo:

1.  Don’t get so wrapped up in the “status quo” that you don’t even notice what your status quo is. Life is crazy and moves at warped speed. Our routines tend to get lost in the speed of life, and as a result we don’t even realize what we’re doing, or how fortunate we are to be doing it.  Take note of what you do daily, and appreciate your ability to do so.  You never know when things will change.

2. Your comfort zone is a great place to be.  Yet also a dangerous one. If you keep on doing the same thing, I’ll tell you what.  You’re going to keep doing the same thing.  Look for little tweaks you can make to your daily activities to shake things up a bit – small improvements, variations in routine, or opportunities that present themselves to change course.  If these opportunities sound good, consider taking a risk.

3. When we’re in our comfort zones, it’s easy to complain about all of the things we see that we don’t like.  Realize that there are negative points to anything we do.  Next time you complain about the things you do – whether it’s a job, daily life routine, or hobby – think about the good points of that particular activity.  Consider how you’d feel if it were suddenly taken away from you. Then appreciate it for its good and bad.

4. When we do something long enough to be really good or particularly comfortable with it, realize that it has come due to hard work.  Appreciate that activity and offer up a little gratitude for having it in your life.  Many people would kill for the chance to do just what you take for granted each day.

5. You gotta know when to hold’em and know when to fold’em. Kenny Rogers was right. Sometimes the status quo or your comfort zone does need a major upheaval. Maybe it comes involuntarily (in my case), or maybe you simply get to the point where you realize that activity is not serving you any longer.  When this happens, step out of the comfort zone and listen to the signs that it’s time to try something new.  Then, go at it with everything you have, knowing that you’re ready to grow and move into a new comfort zone.

For me, I’m about 95% back to my normal “pre-shoulder crisis” routine.  I’ve gone from my comfort zone to my (literal and figurative) discomfort zone.  Now I’m settling into a new zone – one where I am grateful for the comfort of doing the tried and true, but perhaps a little curious to see what else I can do both in my running and in my life… quite simply because I can.

So friends, keep doing what you’re doing. Run, swim, bike, knit… whatever it is you do.  But when you do these things, please appreciate the fact that you can do them… and never stop trying to do them better, or move on to do more.  Because you can.

by abbey algiers

copyright 2014

Mile Markers

Every runner knows the point in a marathon when finishing is the only thought going through one’s mind.  There is no set mile when this feeling strikes- it could be mile 16, 19, 21… heck, it could be at mile 2. You fantasize about being done, about what you’ll do first.  Eat a burger, drink chocolate milk, take off your god-forsaken shoes. Sit down. Lay down. FIND a bathroom.  Sign a contract stating you’ll never sign up for a marathon again.

Now, here’s the thing.  This feeling of wanting a run to end isn’t reserved for just marathons. I’ve felt it on long runs AND short runs when weather, clothing, injury, or just plain body conditions interfere with an otherwise enjoyable way to spend some time. When this happens, it doesn’t matter how much I love running… the idea of finishing always sounds better.

As luck has it, my desire to end my runs usually begins when I’ve got a long way to go before I can stop. Take the heal blister incident at mile 10 of a 20 mile out and back.  I really had no choice but to plug along, trying not to think of my pain, and make the best of a really crappy run. Similarly, this past winter’s Polar Vortex gave me a lot of practice in “character building” as I muddled through painfully boring treadmill sessions, indoor track lapfests,and my favorite, arctic runs where I was freezing before I even left my driveway. Having run for the past 12 years, though, I know that if I focused on how miserable I was each time conditions weren’t ideal, I’d never have kept running and would have missed out on all of the good stuff that comes with running.

Thinking about this- the times I’ve wanted a run to be over- made me think about how this mindset occurs in real life… a lot. Perhaps it’s human nature, but it seems we are often counting down, waiting for things to be over.  We get to work, thinking, I can’t wait until 5 o’clock.  We haul our kids around to all of their activities, thinking I can’t wait until this soccer season is over. Or, When they’re older, at least I won’t have to be constantly in the car, life will be easier then.  Perhaps there are life situations making things particularly hectic or stressful – you’re taking care of sick family members, or working on an intense project that requires your 110%.   All of these situations leave us tired, stressed, and wary, and often beat us down so badly that all we can think of is how relieved we’ll feel when  situation X is over.

But here’s the catch. When that stressful situation (or run) is over, it is OVER. This means that yes, while you will finally be able to go to bed at a reasonable hour and feel like yourself again, whatever good morsels were part of all that stress are gone too. This is where it helps remember that good things can be buried in the midst of struggles; we just need to find them.  There are many ways to cope while maintaining sanity.

Some tips that have helped me off many a marathon wall:

  1. No matter how bad you feel, try to take a step back and look at the scenery. Mile 22 of a marathon may feel like hell on earth, but it’s probably a pretty scenic section of town.  Check out the trees, flowers, people cheering you on and look for a morsel of good that will give you a boost.
  2. There is support all around you, take advantage of it.  While nothing can really take away the bodily discomfort that inevitably strikes during a marathon, I try to remind myself that there are things available that will make me feel better- Gatorade, water, porta potties and aide stations.  Life offers assistance as well, in various forms.  Look for them.
  3. Dig deep.  In a marathon and in life, it helps to have mantras to get you through. “Run strong” “Kick ass” “You got this” – whatever you need to tell yourself, say it over and over, reinforcing the fact that you know you are able to tackle whatever is placed in your way.
  4. Distract yourself. Don’t think about how bad everything is.  Instead, try thinking of something, anything else. I remember I once went through the roll call of every grade school class from kindergarten to 8th grade, trying to remember who was in my classes. That took my mind off my aching knee.
  5. Look for the silver lining.  Remember why you are there in the first place- you’re obviously not trying to torture yourself. Whatever difficult situation you find yourself in, know that there are positive rewards, for you or for others.  There are pluses you can focus on even during your darkest moments.  Think of the satisfaction you’ll feel after you run through those tough miles, whatever they may be.

And yes, when all else fails, remember that all things do come to an end. Use this knowledge to help you appreciate the present moment, and think of how you’ll want to retrospectively want to look back on that experience. Then act accordingly.

“I run because it’s so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can’t. But then you find your inner strength, and realize you’re capable of so much more than you thought.”

-Arthur Blank

Keep running, friends, and may you find the strength you need in every single mile.


Be Extraordinary


It was 4:45 a.m. on a Saturday when I started to write this Runnerchica article.  Pretty much every normal person I knew was still sleeping. Yet, there I was, eating bites of waffles between keystrokes, preparing for a 20 mile run. As I got myself out of bed that morning, I believe my first thought was, “Why do I do this?” I mean, I love running, but it was really early, and it had been a long week. I wanted to sleep just as much as the next person.
But I was up.  I was up, and I was excited to run.  Of course not excited in an “it’s Christmas morning” sense, but excited because I knew a few things. First, I knew that I had two running pals waiting for me, who would make the run not only bearable, but also fun and memorable. Second, that day was my final long run before the Boston Marathon.  Anything done in preparation for this event supersedes feelings of “I don’t want to do this.” Getting back to Boston has been my focus for the last year.  Finally, I’m okay with being up at this early hour because I know a secret. It’s the secret that may finally explain to non-runners just what the appeal is to running for hours on end.
That secret, quite simply, is that running motivates people to do extraordinary things. Crazy things too, like getting up at 4:45 on a Saturday, but that’s a good example of the power of running.  If one is disciplined enough to get up to train on a Saturday, in a blizzard, or after a hard day’s work (when the couch sounds oh so much more appealing), one is a lot more likely to accomplish other goals- both big and small. It’s this kind of discipline that gives runners the feeling they can (and will) do anything their heart desires.
Maybe there’s something in the Gatorade we’re all drinking, but yes, running tends to do something to runners. I love running, because running has a ripple effect- you train, you feel good. Feeling good, you feel as if you could conquer the world, or at the very least, your “to do” list. Consequently, you get more done, and look for ways to do more. Then, since you’re feeling so good, with all of those endorphins swirling about, many times you look for ways to make the world a better place.
This happened to a man named John Stoller, a Boston runner who found a way to make a difference through his running.  John caught the marathon bug in 2007, when a friend asked him to meet at mile 10 of the Boston Marathon and keep him company for a few miles.  Well, mile 10 led to 15, and soon John got caught up in the fact that he was running in a race he’d watched all his life.  He was hooked.  At mile 18 he told his family, “I think I can finish!” He continued on, with the last two turns of the race being the most moving. As he turned right onto Hereford Street, he says he felt absolutely incredible, picking up on the energy of the crowd and history of the event.  Then, he turned left on Boylston Street, and knew that he would be back to run the whole thing in 2008.
Well, in 2008, he not only ran the marathon, but ran it for the American Liver Foundation. During one of his training runs, he came up with an idea to put the slogan, “Right on Hereford St, Left on Boylston St” on t-shirts and then sell them to earn even more money for his cause. He wanted to capture the spirit of the motivation runners possess to get to those last two historic turns. This spirit caught on, and his t-shirt grew into a t-shirt company, Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston, that now benefits approximately 25 charities.  The gear sold boasts the “Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston” slogan as well as other running related mottos.
John Stoller
I met John at his booth at the Boston Marathon Expo last year, a day before the run.  His wife and three daughters were there too, helping sell t-shirts, and the good energy of this family working together at the busy expo was the reason both my friend and I decided to stop.  While paying for the shirts, we learned the story behind the slogan. This made me even more excited to finish the marathon, feeling a bit nostalgic about those two last turns.
The Stoller Family 
The next day, when we finally reached Hereford, I felt that same magic John talked about. I was caught up in the crowds, the energy, and the smiling faces and enthusiasm of all the people I passed as I turned onto Boylston. Their excitement moved me to tears.   Little did I know what was about to happen just minutes after I passed those people.
John puts it best when he says, “The fact that such horror occurred on that very street changed the lives of so many people. The actual race and whether or not people got to finish, became a very trivial footnote. Last year’s events affected me profoundly. Even though I had finished the race and was a couple blocks away at the time of the tragedy, I feel like I was there. I have heard many first-hand stories and seen all of the pictures, and those things never leave you.”
A few weeks later, I wore my t-shirt back home in Milwaukee. Several people asked what it was all about, and I told them the story. Inevitably, our discussion went to the tragedies, and we wondered what the company would do at the 2014 Marathon.
Well, as one runner commented on a running message board after the bombings, “If you’re trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target.” Add to that marathoners who run t-shirt companies for charities.  John Stoller is back this year, and back in a joint venture with Marathon Sports.  To date, they’ve already raised $150,000 to go to the One Fund.  John is excited with what the company has done this year and says,  ”This year’s focus has been on the City of Boston and its strength and resiliency. The Boston Strong shirts remain a very popular Item due to the love of our city and the provincial nature of the residents. At another popular retailer, City Sports, we also designed a very simple blue and yellow heart shirt  with the letters BOS inside and it has become a big hit.”
Visit to purchase your t-shirt today! 
Getting back to the extraordinary, let’s talk about resiliency of the human spirit. You’ll find it in Boston- in all of those injured, their families, the spectators, the citizens, the law enforcement officials, others who were there to help, and of course, everyone who ran on that day.  It’ll be there this April 21 as well, shining strong in every runner, fan, and supporter showing that indeed, when people get together for a run, it is nothing short of extraordinary.
Be strong, friends, and never stop trying to be extraordinary.
*This Runnerchica is dedicated to the victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon,
and all of the extraordinary individuals who came to their assistance. 
 by abbey algiers
copyright 2014

The Long Haul


At a Bikram Yoga class before Christmas, the instructor commented on a difficult pose that about half the class was falling out of. Looking around at the room of yogis he reassured us,  “Don’t worry if you can’t get into the pose now. Yoga isn’t a sprint, it’s more like a marathon. Things come over time.”  After thinking that this particular pose should maybe be compared to an Ultra Marathon (I didn’t see myself getting there anytime soon), I began to think of his sentiment and how it applied to running, as well as life.

When I train for a marathon, I know upfront that I have a lot of miles to cover before race day- hundreds, in fact.  Yet, I try not to feel overwhelmed, as I know the miles are spread over more than 3 months. I also know that some of these runs may not go well.  Some might actually make me question why I run in the first place. Yet other runs will be absolutely perfect. This is part of the training process-  there are good and bad runs, and you just need to follow the schedule as closely as possible. The goal is to get to race day healthy and injury-free. With this philosophy in mind, I know I’m not going to be in marathon shape after one week of training.  The build-up transforms the body slowly and safely, to prevent injury and sickness.

I thought about this  “it’s a marathon not a sprint” theory again as 2013 rolled in to 2014. Like many, I have a list of goals and resolutions I’d like to accomplish in 2014. Motivated with thoughts of starting fresh, I was all ready on January 1 to hit the ground running— my feet were in the starting blocks as if I were going to run a 200. However, after blowing one of my resolutions by 1:00 p.m. New Year’s Day, I realized I should be starting like a marathon. If I want change, I have to be in it for the long run. I don’t think resolutions can be a hurry up, accomplish/change your bad habits then move on type of deal.  Again, the marathon analogy makes a whole lot of sense.

Whether our goals are weight loss, saving money, exercise, eating better, or whatever… I think to be successful in changing or accomplishing anything, we need to slow down, take a breath, and realize that it takes time to change.  It also helps to remember that along the course, there will be good days where we think we are superheroes of the New Year.  But, there will also be bad days, where that “no chocolate in 2014 resolution” is replaced by us eating 8 snack size Snickers. (They’re small, right?)  No matter how many bad days we have, remember, we don’t have to throw in the towel.  It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.   You fall out of the pose? Well, then just pick yourself up and get back in.  It’s all about being “in it” for the long haul.

So friends,  whatever “marathon” is in your plans for 2014… may you go far, and enjoy every step of the journey.

imrunnerchica 2014

by abbey algiers

The Thing about “My Thing”

The view when you run early morning...
(Cordoba, Spain)- Why getting up at 6:30 to run isn’t a bad thing…

Over the years, people have asked me why I run. They’ve also asked me why I run so much, and so far. Further, they’ve tried to get to the bottom of the conditions under which I run… rain, snow, sleet, ice, and in the summer, heat and humidity.  Am I nuts?  Furthermore, they wonder, just what sane person gets up at 5:30 a.m. on Saturdays, and spends the first few hours in perpetual motion?  

All of these issues are perplexing to someone who doesn’t like to run, or has never run. I get it. It’s not their thing, and I’m okay with that.  I’m a bit of a freak about running, and sometimes people will try to explain to me why they don’t run, as if they need to apologize for not running.  To them I say to each his own.  I’ll usually also say something like, “Don’t worry, I understand… sometimes even I don’t like my runs, and I love running… so if you go out there and start out not liking it, it could be a disaster.”

But because running is ‘my thing,’ small bits of discomfort almost always get trumped by the overriding feeling of being totally in my element.  When I run, my body feels like it’s doing what it was made to do.  When I run alone, I feel in sync with my thoughts. My brain awakens, giving me all sorts of insightful sentiments and grand epiphanies.  When I’m with my running partner, we are both in sync, and proceed to solve our problems, and the rest of the world’s problems as well. In fact, we can problem solve for however long it takes- 5,10, 15, or sometimes 26.2 miles.  Things simply make more sense when they are attached to the act of running.

All of this said, my dad (the doctor) often reminds me that the human body can only take so much running. I pride myself in ignoring his comments, but unfortunately from time to time, injuries remind me that he is right. (A fact I will only admit in written form, under the guise of Runnerchica, and never say to his face.) When this happens to me (or any runner) and we find ourselves sidelined, our beloved running becomes even more important. Whether it’s an ultra nasty blister that sidelines us for a few days (this has actually happened, effectively ending my foot modeling career), or a more serious injury that causes weeks or even months of rest, the emotional toll is the same.  When something we love is taken away temporarily, we suddenly realize just how important it is, and how easy it is to take for granted. When I can’t just throw on my running shoes and clothes and hit the streets, I realize just how good I had it when I could.

So, to answer the questions addressed in the first paragraph, I run through rain, sleet, snow, and heat because even though it’s hard, I know I’d rather be doing this than not doing it at all. I also know that even when a run is uncomfortable, the next run probably won’t be. I also know that while sometimes my training will require me to go for miles and miles, and I’ll wonder just why it IS that I choose to do this, I do know that the run will eventually be over, and I will again be able to rest. Similarly, I know that shorter runs are in my future- it all just depends on that day’s plan.  And, finally, while it is certainly not a treat to get up at 5:30, once I get through the initial shock, it really feels amazing to be breathing fresh morning air, see beautiful scenery, and have great conversations with my running buddies.

Bottom line, when you find something you love, you just know it’s worth it to push past the challenges. Because really, nothing in this world is perfect- even (or perhaps especially) the things we love the most.  And, those injuries that pop up from time to time, while they test our patience and sanity, are also great reminders not to take anything in this lifetime for granted- the truth of it is, each day doing something we love or spending time with someone we love needs to be treated as a gift. So, friends… hold tight to whatever or whoever it is that YOU love, and enjoy them in all of their imperfect glory.

Now, get out there and go do your thing.


imrunnerchica 2013

by abbey algiers

every day is a marathon

every day is a marathon

by abbey algiers


The day started out like any other marathon day. I woke up early, after sleeping maybe a total of 20 minutes. Fumbling around my hotel room, I pinned my race number to my shirt, got dressed, ate a little something, and packed clothes in my gear bag to wear after the run. All normal pre-run preparations that I’d done many times before and could do in my sleep, which it actually felt like I was sleeping since my friend and I left our room at 5:15 a.m. As we made our way to the subway, buses, and finally the Athlete’s Village, we were anxious to run. We had both worked hard and waited a long time to get to this event.

We had about three hours until the start of the race when we finally got to the Athlete’s Village.  This time was spent resting, standing in line for the porta potties, eating, getting back in line for the porta potties, and discussing the ups and downs of our training that led us to that day. Again, all part of our normal pre-race routine.

The only thing that wasn’t normal about the start of this race was that it was the pinnacle of all marathons, the Boston Marathon.  For runners, the Boston Marathon is the marathon of a lifetime. Running Boston back in 2010 was the realization of a lifelong goal; being able to run it again this year was equally as meaningful. This time, I wanted to soak in the crowds and savor every step of the journey. Knowing how fast an event like this can pass, and that a return isn’t always guaranteed, I wanted to stamp the moment in time; I wanted to fully appreciate the fact that I was there, and enjoy the run to its fullest. As I made my way to the start line, I tried to take it all in- the gorgeous blue sky, the runners from all over the world, the spectators, and the wonderful volunteers. I was determined to have the best run possible, hopefully running fast enough to re-qualify.

The first two miles were a little dicey, as I was sure I had a sudden onset of a leg injury that would sideline me for the rest of the race.  However, at mile three, the phantom pain in my right thigh went away. Things were looking up- my body seemed to be cooperating with me, and miles 4-6 went by quickly.  The spectators were excellent, and the music in each town we passed propelled me forward.  It looked like I would at least have success in enjoying the run, regardless of my time.  At around mile 7, while I was busy running in my “happy place,” my friend made a declaration.

 “This isn’t my day. Not feelin’ it.”

Since pronouncing how good one feels to a fellow runner who’s suffering is not only annoying, but also a risky maneuver during a marathon, I played my cards carefully. I simply responded, “Oh, that’s a bummer. Sorry.”  I continued on next to her, hoping she’d start to feel it.

This was probably a wise move, because as is the case in many marathons, a good run can suddenly go south for a number of reasons.  This happened to me around mile 14, when various parts of my body took turns breaking down, taking me far away from the “happy place” I had earlier experienced.

As my pace continued to slow, I knew my dreams of re-qualifying were over. However, I desperately wanted to continue to appreciate the fact I was running in Boston. I scanned the crowd, high-fived kids along the route, smiled at the fans who made eye contact. I was determined to make my positive attitude override the aches and pain the run was causing.

But, let’s face it… I’d be lying if I said that Pollyanna jumped into my body and took over the run.  That just doesn’t happen in a marathon when one’s body is pleading to stop.  The truth is, when the body reaches a certain point, the fact that one is running the Boston Marathon loses its luster a bit; surroundings become secondary to survival.  So, even though this was Boston… I adopted an attitude that was completely on pace with all of the marathons I’ve run in my life.  I retreated to my “please God, just let me finish” place.

This is a place that most runners go at least once during any given marathon. We all know that no matter how well trained we come to each marathon, that a finish is never guaranteed. Yet, I knew deep down that though it seemed like the end would never arrive, it would.  At some point during my misery, my friend realized I “wasn’t feeling it” either and suggested that we just relax and finish together.  With this in mind, we proceeded as a unit, making it to miles 20, 21, 22… WHERE was 23? … then 23, 24, and 25, where both of us would later declare we had secretly wanted to start walking.

Next came 26 and the famous “right on Hereford left on Boylston” turn that signifies the end is truly in sight.  On that final stretch, we felt our aches disappear as we ran down the spectator-lined street; their cheers propelling us to the finish.  With pride and relief, we crossed the finish line and were greeted by medics who evaluated us for dehydration or other problems. Appearing fine, we were corralled through to the nearby water station.

That water station marked the point at which things officially stopped being normal.

As I took a sip, a loud, deafening boom came from the finish line behind us. Dumbfounded, I thought it was a canon or fireworks, perhaps a demonstration for Patriot’s Day. We looked in the direction of the noise and saw a large cloud of smoke rise into the sky. Visions of 9/11 popped in my head. But no- this couldn’t be happening. This was a marathon. The Boston Marathon.  It couldn’t be anything like that.

Another blast sounded, and we knew the first had not been an accident. Suddenly everything predictable about the day- including the assumption that things would end alright- was taken out of the equation.  What happened next remains etched in my mind as if it were a dream, or a Bruce Willis Armageddon sequel. My friend and I were moving in slow motion, looking first at each other, then at the people around us.  Everyone’s expression was exactly the same- that of fear and terror and absolute uncertainty. We had no idea of what had happened or what could happen. All we knew was that we were in the middle of something and needed to get out.

Really, our predicament couldn’t have been more dramatic or ironic. After running for 4 hours, we were tired, dazed, and cold. Now, with sirens, screams, smoke, and police telling us to simply run (perhaps the most ironic part of the day)… we added shocked and helpless to the mix.

My friend and I made a quick decision to separate and get our gear bags- wanting our phones/lifelines more than anything. While waiting for my gear bag, I again thought about the footage I’d watched after 9/11. I remembered hearing that all the people in the planes and buildings had wanted to do was tell their families and friends that they loved them.  This was the most important thing. At that moment, not knowing that there were only those two bombs, our phones were our only link to our loved ones.

Looking back, I have no idea how much time had passed between the bombs going off and my friend and I getting to safety. All I remember is that I got my bag before my friend got hers. While waiting for her, a large crowd came rushing in my direction. Police were herding us out of the area, as if something else were about to happen. I frantically searched the approaching crowd for my friend, giving me a vantage that allowed me to again take in the expressions of my fellow runners.

Panic and fear were all I saw.

Minutes later, my friend approached me, and we ran to a nearby park where runners were making calls and crying. Sirens around us increased, reminding us that though we were “safe” in a park, we were far from out of danger. After texting and calling our families and friends, we put on the dry clothes we had packed earlier that morning in anticipation of needing to warm up after the run, but never imagining the scene we would be in the midst of.

Now in dry clothes, with calls made, we knew we had to get out of the city. We had taken the subway there, so it seemed like the only way out. However, the subway was the last place I wanted to go in a city under siege.

Soon we’d find out it had been shut down, offering the second ironic possibility that we’d have to perhaps walk 5 miles to safety. Yet, at that point I wasn’t tired, as adrenaline was in full force. Luckily for us, our “miracle cab driver” then came on the scene and took us to safety where we warmed up, sat down for the first time,  made more calls, and tried to process everything that had just happened.

Grateful to be alive and so sorry for the victims of the tragedy and their families, the Boston Marathon is now more than ever “the marathon of a lifetime” to me. Crossing the finish line that day and completing the 26.2 miles taught me that it’s possible to accomplish dreams, even when so many times along the way it feels as though we won’t.  However, what happened after I crossed the finish line taught me a much deeper lesson- every day we are on this planet is a marathon.  We wake up each morning sort of taking for granted that we’ll repeat the same process the next day, and the next. Each day, we know there will be glitches and challenges, but we always expect the finish line to be on the horizon.  Yet, in the backs of our minds we all know that just as there are no guarantees that we’ll finish a marathon, there are no guarantees in life.  Every one of us will start one day and not finish it. That is the reality of life.

So, friends, as you go through each day’s marathon never forget that each day truly is a gift, a bonus guaranteed to no one.  It’s not the outcome of the race that’s important, what’s important is that we do our very best to appreciate it, and not take any part of it for granted. From the fans cheering us on to the support we get when we need it the most, every moment is important. And perhaps most important of all… don’t wait until the finish line to tell your fans how much they mean to you. High-five them every step of the way.

copyright 2013

abbey algiers

What do you see when you’re not looking?

I am a creature of habit in many things I do. I eat two waffles with almond butter and blackberries every day. I get a “venti with room” at Starbucks four days a week. I brush my teeth when I get to work, after lunch, and about 3 more times each day. When I go on vacation, I like to go to the exact same places.   Similarly, when I run, my routines and routes are very predictable. I am, perhaps, the most interesting person one could meet…not. For example, my “Starbucks Route” takes me past… Starbucks, if you can believe that.  My “Sears Route” takes me to the Sears store and back. I’m guessing it would be difficult to find a more predictable human than me.

While being predictable in my runs has some benefits (I know where the biting dog lives, where the public bathrooms are, and exactly how long each run takes on a good day), it occurred to me recently that I might be missing things along the way, with everything being so familiar to me. I realized that sometimes when you see the same things each day, the good parts start to blur, and important details are lost along the way.  How did I come to this conclusion? From my 13 year old blind student, Leonardo.

To explain further, let me give you a bit of back-story on this extraordinary person. Leonardo came to my class about 6 months ago, knowing no English, with 100% vision loss due to a brain tumor. Yet, Leonardo shows that truly noticing his world around him has little to do with vision.

I pick up Leonardo in the office each day and take him to my classroom. I walk next to him while he uses the lockers and wall as a guide. We had done this for about 4 months when Leonardo asked me a question, “How come your hallway doesn’t have a fire extinguisher above the lockers like the hallway upstairs?”  Now, I’ve taught in my building for over 7 years. Not once have I noticed the placement (or really even existence) of our fire extinguishers. This experience made me wonder… what else am I missing as I follow the pattern of my life in all activities?

Later that day, I went on my daily run, yet this time I took a look around. I examined the houses I pass every day and looked for different features I may have missed. I took a chance to admire the blue sky, the trees, and all of the scenery that I had barely given a second glance before. I found that my Starbucks route was actually pretty scenic. I considered that my Sears route would be a great place to people watch. Finally, I felt my eyes open wider to the world around me, as if I didn’t want to miss any clues or revelations along the way.

Most importantly, Leonardo’s words and that run made me consider the other things and people in my life that might be blending into the hustle and bustle of daily life and the pull of familiarity. There are so many great things to see and people to appreciate that are right in front of me, yet I wondered just how often I truly “saw” them.

Moving forward, I plan to use Leonardo’s insights as my guide and break out of the familiarity of my routine a bit more.  I’ll still probably visit the same places, eat the same things, and do the same activities as I did before, but from now on I plan to pay more attention as I do.

After all, if I had missed the location as something as important as a fire extinguisher for all of these years, what else might I be missing?  I plan to find out.

Next time you run your route, whether it’s new or the one you’ve run for years and years, open your eyes, friends.  There’s a whole world waiting for you to discover.

By Abbey Algiers

Copyright 2013

Fairy Dust

Fairy Dust

I recently stumbled upon a quote by actress Gwenyth Paltrow, in which she talks about how she stays fit.   She says, “The reason that I can be 38 and have two kids and wear a bikini is because I work my ass off. It’s not an accident.  It’s not luck, it’s not fairy dust, it’s not good genes.  It’s killing myself for an hour and a half five days a week, but what I get out of it is relative to what I put into it.  That’s what I try to do in all areas of my life.”

I love this quote because it speaks to the fact that even superstars have to work to get results… in fitness and in life. Simply put, there’s no substitute for good, honest effort.  The problem is, working hard over the course of many weeks or months is sometimes a lost concept in today’s fast-paced society.  When we’re used to the speed of technology making so many things in our lives instantly accessible, it can be a struggle to work towards something that takes awhile to achieve.  It’s not easy to convince our brains to “trust the process” and wait for the results that happen only over time.

Never was this concept so evident than when I trained for my first marathon.  In the beginning weeks, I couldn’t understand how my Saturday long runs would go from 6 to 8, 10, 12, 14 miles and eventually peak at 20, preparing me for the ultimate 26.2 on race day. How could one person cover that much ground in just a few months? Sure, I’d been to marathons; I’d seen runners of all shapes and sizes run across the finish line.  Yet, when I was the one going through the process, I didn’t see how I could be one of those people who actually put all of the steps together to do 26.2 miles. (In one day!)

Yet, slowly, and quite literally step by step, I learned in my training that just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was a marathon runner created in one.  I put in my miles, changed my diet, got rest, and did all of the things my coaches told me I’d need to do to finish 26.2 miles. I succeeded, but not because I lucked out the day of the marathon. I achieved my goal because I put in the miles. I did the work. As a result of finishing the marathon I learned some very important lessons that can be applied to marathons or any major goal.

  1. The road isn’t always easy, in fact it rarely is.  As I think back to every major goal I’ve tried to accomplish in my life, I recall saying (more than once, in varying degrees with profanity added on occasion), “This is too hard. I don’t want to continue…” Let’s face it, when the going gets tough, our natural human inclination inevitably makes us feel like saying “forget this” at least one to ten times during the process. The thing is, giving up is easy; it’s a two second decision that can be made at any given time along the way. Yet, in the long run it feels so much better to ignore the voice that tells us to quit and honor the voice that tells us it’ll all be worth it in the end.
  2. Small goals along the way make the road smoother.  Because a typical marathon schedule is broken down into small segments, with gradual increases, it made the training seem less intimidating. Could I run just two more miles than I did the previous weekend? Sure! 14 miles more? Whoa there. Take it slow. This is true with everything in life.  College is not completed in a semester, rooms are not painted with one stroke of the brush. It takes continuous and consistent effort over the course of time to accomplish most things. Bit by bit, we can do anything!
  3. Trust the process.  For many weeks, I thought my coaches were nuts when they said I’d be able to do a marathon in a few months.  Yet, I listened to what they said, and more importantly, I believed them.  We’ve got to believe in what we’re doing and in ourselves. Systems are set in place to guide us to do most things in this world.  Our job is to follow directions and trust that in doing so, we’ll achieve our goals.
  4. Fairy dust only works in fairy tales or at the Magic Kingdom.  No amount of carbs the night before a marathon or Gatorade on race day will substitute for proper training leading up to the event. There is no magic pill or bullet that will make an untrained body perform. Similarly, most things in life requiring good old-fashioned hard work require months if not years of work to come to full fruition.  In the words of Vince Lombardi, “The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work.  Work is the key to success, and hard work can help you accomplish anything.”

Bottom line, it’s a great feeling to start with a dream, work hard, and in the end experience a certain pride that comes by accomplishing that goal. That mentality is the spirit that moves thousands of runners to sign up for 5K’s, 10K’s, half marathons, full marathons, Ultras and beyond. That spirit is what gets books written, bucket lists checked off, and brings graduates into the work world. It’s the spirit that moves us forward.

Whatever it is you want to accomplish, remember that it can be done.  It’s all about putting one step in front of the other. Here’s to doing the work, and having fun in the process!

Carry on, friends.

Copyright 2013

By Abbey Algiers

The Greatest Gift

I liken the final days leading to Christmas to the final days before a marathon, as I’m always in the same state of mind.  This state is a mixture of excitement with a healthy dose of anxiety mixed in, making me wonder if I’ve prepared enough for the big day- be it a 26.2 mile race, or a holiday with gifts, relatives, and glad tidings.

For each event, I must note, that I’m of course well aware of the date and what will be required of me for each far in advance- so really, being unprepared the week or day before is sort of lame. Yet, the same thing happens to me each marathon and each year at Christmas. One week out, I’ll freak out- why didn’t I plan better and prepare more so that I could at least relax a bit beforehand?

For the marathon, my routine goes something like this. The Sunday before, I will analyze the past six months and kick myself for not training enough, training too much, or eating poorly. I’ll examine my shoes, which should have been examined weeks before and think to myself that I should have bought new ones for the event. But of course, a week before a marathon is too close to game day to break in new shoes. So, I will add my shoes to the list of things that will worry me about the upcoming race. During the week, knowing that I need to get plenty of sleep, I will undoubtedly suffer from a few sleepless nights. I might even get the sniffles and feel as if I’m getting sick, and convince myself that I”ll be cursed with a cold on race day.  I will carry myself through the week, trying to do everything right and pre-pave my way to a “perfect” race day on the upcoming Sunday.

Then, somewhere around Friday or Saturday, I’ll start to relax when I realize that whatever will be will be, and there’s not much more I can do to improve or hurt my performance at the marathon.  I’ll then tell myself that I just need to get myself to the race well hydrated and nourished, with running shoes, an appropriate race outfit, and a race number. All of the other worries I had in my head about what I should’ve done or should do… must be put to rest so that I can simply run. That’s it, just run, and enjoy the day that I’ve worked so hard to get to.

Similarly, each December, I will freak out about Christmas about one week before the big day. I should’ve bought more gifts, different gifts, sent cards out, called people, cleaned my house, been more grateful when receiving gifts, and enjoy the holiday season. Instead, I will second guess each gift I’ve bought, and freak out for each remaining gift I’ve yet to buy. Next, I’ll go through my list of people who I wonder if I should get gifts for, and have frantic moments in stores as I consider whether or not to purchase those gifts. The cumulative effect of this holiday whirlwind often leaves me tired and crabby and in no state to fully enjoy the “reason for the season” in any sense of the word.

This year, as I caught myself again with a “case of the holidays” my thoughts trailed back to the many race days when everything comes together and I realize “this is it.” Once the race starts and I’m off and running, nothing else matters. I know I need to appreciate the race (as much as I can, it’s a marathon after all!) and take it all in for what it is, knowing that sooner than I know, it’ll be over.

The same goes with the holidays. They come fast and furious, with so many expectations we build up in our heads and take in from the world around us. If we get caught up in the hoopla, worrying about everything that we should’ve or could’ve done, we’ll miss the best part… the holiday itself and the time it affords us to spend with those we love. That’s what it’s all about; not the hours spent in the malls fretting over whether we’ve purchased the right gifts. Not preparing the perfect meal, getting our houses cleaned just right, or decorating our homes. When Christmas comes and we are with those who mean the most to us, it’s about that moment in time; that “race” that we’ve prepared for. And for once, this is a race where it’s better to take it slow and enjoy, rather than rush through and miss all of the best parts.

However you celebrate the holidays… know that the secret to the “perfect” holiday is never forgetting that the present moment is actually the gift you should cherish the most.

by abbey algiers

copyright 2012

Breathe. Relax. Let the moment pass.


Part of my pre-marathon ritual involves attending a Bikram Yoga class the day before my race. Now, while many people argue that I should be resting, and tell me that Bikram will dehydrate me, I ignore them, knowing that for the past 4 or 5 races, a pre-race class has been just what I needed to physically and mentally prepare. Today was no exception.

I started with a pre-race “dead body pose,” (or in the yogi language of Sanskrit, “Savasana”) where I visualized a solid race with little pain and no injuries or other issues. In other words, I played out a little fairy tale in my head, because I know that few (if any) marathons feel “SOLID,” or even “GOOD” the entire 26.2 miles.  There are hiccups along the way that challenge my body and my will. That’s the nature of a marathon.


Savasana or “Dead Body Pose”

This said, I decided to dedicate my class to visualizing my desired finish time (which will remain unprinted for fear of jinxing it) and along the way, visualize as pain free a run as possible.

My corpse pose was interrupted as the instructor entered the room and asked us to come to our feet. At the start of every Bikram class, instructors poll the room to see if there are new students- those who don’t know the Golden Rule- that you must stay in the room the entire 90 minutes.  Next, the instructor will try to calm those who freak out at the possibility of no escape, by telling them that if they feel sick or tired, they can take a break on their mats. (To which many new yogis no doubt reply in their minds with, “Thanks, Jerk, it’s 105 degrees in here, I’m sure sitting down will help  me feel better.”)  Each instructor has a different way of giving that “you better not leave” message.  It seems that my instructor today catered these words just for me.  What he said was perfect not only for that particular class, but also for my marathon tomorrow, and quite possibly for every uncomfortable situation in my life.

The instructor told us, “Welcome to Bikram.  My name is Cornelius. As you go through the poses today, if you feel uncomfortable or challenged; just take a moment. Breathe. Relax. That uncomfortable moment will pass. It always does.”

How do you say “BINGO” in Sanskrit? In about 15 seconds, this instructor articulated the solution to my biggest marathon dilemma- how to deal with the many instances throughout the 26.2 miles that were uncomfortable or challenging. Any marathoner knows that a given race can hold many such moments. They are moments of physical pain (i.e. blisters, leg and stomach cramps, runny noses, aches that come out of nowhere, emergency bathroom issues) and mental pain (We are only at 10?!?!/ Why is that man breathing so loudly?/When is the next water stop?/Why did I sign up for this?).  And here’s the thing, new issues crop up all along the course.  It’s not like each runner gets just one uncomfortable thing to deal with and that’s that for the run. You don’t know how many challenges will pop up, and you don’t know when to expect them.  Sort of like teaching a class full of middle schoolers, the likelihood that something is going to send you over the edge exists at every moment. You’re never “safe” during a marathon.

With this in mind, one can imagine how my wise yoga instructor’s words resonated so deeply with me as I prepare for tomorrow’s challenge. I thought about his words throughout the class; a class which at times was difficult as my head chatter brought all of my anxieties to center stage in what was supposed to be 90 minutes of meditation. Again, the instructor repeated the message, this time during one of Bikram’s most challenging poses- camel. Camel is notorious for bringing all emotions and physical pain to center stage at once.  Instructors will tell us after camel, “If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or emotionally spent after doing camel, you’ve done it right.”  Well, Cornelius had his own version of this message as well, “Remember that in camel pose, sometimes you’ll feel like a million dollars, other times not. Don’t worry about it if you feel uncomfortable; just acknowledge what you are feeling and then move through it.  The pain will pass.”

Image Camel Pose

Again, a fabulous reminder that no matter how bad I feel… whether at mile 20 in my run tomorrow, at 10:00 a.m. during a bad day at work, or in any given situation where I’m feeling discomfort… that moment WILL pass. Acknowledge the pain, yes. But acknowledge it, knowing it won’t last forever.

As class wrapped up, and we again found ourselves in Savasana, or “dead body pose,” Cornelius had one final message for the class. He thanked us for coming to class and sharing our energy with each other. He reminded us that “yoga” means “union,” and that in our class, we all moved together, struggled together, sweat together. In other words, whether we thought about it or not, we all got through those moments together. Tomorrow, as I run with thousands of other marathoners, and pass the crowds who have gathered to show support, I’ll try to remember that there IS indeed energy all around me that can help me get through the uncomfortable moments that await me along the route.

So friends, the next time you feel especially uncomfortable or challenged, please remember to breathe and relax… and know that you are not alone. Those moments will pass… they always do.


by abbey algiers

copyright 2012

Burning the Candle

There are many reasons that I love to run. I love to run because it allows me to be outside, taking in fresh air while I do something good for my body. I love to run to relieve stress and clear my mind. I love the camaraderie that exists between fellow runners who pass each other on the streets. More importantly, I appreciate the running partner “what happens on the run, stays on the run” relationships that fuel me almost as much as the run itself. Finally, I love running because it allows me to unplug from  “everything else” that exists in the confines of my house or workplace, and the technology and distractions that surround me wherever I go.  When I run, I run. I don’t try and squeeze in six thousand other things while I’m doing it.

Running for the sake of running, and only running. What a concept.

The thing is, in all other areas of my life, I rarely focus on and/or do, one thing at a time.  When I’m driving, I’m drinking coffee and listening to the radio.  At school, I’m simultaneously teaching, disciplining, planning my next move, and trying to keep my cool. While watching TV, I’m often folding laundry, picking up the house, or doing my nails.  I return phone calls while grocery shopping.  Yesterday my husband looked at my desk with its laptop and iPad side by side, and said, “Who needs two computers running right in front of them? What is that all about?” I retorted that he wasn’t a writer and didn’t understand. But maybe it was me that didn’t.

Yes, I am a writer, which means I spend a great deal of my time behind a computer or ipad (okay both) writing.  This also means that I spend a lot of my time reading about ways I can be a better writer. But the real truth is that even though I am this “big writer,” I’ve realized lately that I’m not all that efficient when I sit down to write. Yes, I may be typing away on an article or chapter, but more often than not I’m typing away in between multiple email checks, website searches, texts, and water or food breaks.

In addition, like many other writers, my passion to become a better writer (and paid one) is contradicted by the fact that I have a life full of things I need to do and people I want to spend time with. So many things occupy my days, that by the time I get to my own writing, I don’t focus like I should.

All of these grand epiphanies came to me in one of my moments of researching how to become a better writer. I stumbled upon a podcast of a social media expert/writer who was talking becoming a more efficient writer.  Here was a writer who was successful in carving out actual writing time in the midst of the “business side” of his business- the social media, housekeeping end.  Bottom line- he made rules for himself.  When he sat down to write, he wrote. He turned his phone off.  He forbade himself to go online for any reason.  He brought all of the necessities- food, water, Kleenex… anything he’d need for the designated amount of time he was there.  Then, quite simply, he sat down and wrote. He didn’t get up until he accomplished what he needed to do.

At 9:00 one night, I decided to try his strategy, because I was feeling particularly overwhelmed with a number of writing projects with fast approaching deadlines. Unfortunately, I was also very tired.  I heard my mom’s voice playing in my head, “You’re burning the candle at both ends… “  Even as a voice in my head, my mom was right. Yet the problem was, I needed to keep burning that candle, at least for that night, or I wouldn’t finish my projects.  That’s when the idea hit me.  The candle would be my symbol to focus on what’s right in front of me- my writing. Lighting it would signify the start of my session, blowing it out meant I was done. In between, I vowed to partake in no monkey business whatsoever.

For the record, that strategy worked that night, and I continue to use it to train myself to become a more focused writer.  Because I light the candle, I take control of my commitment to be fully present and focused.  It’s me choosing my action, and as a result, it’s becoming easier to do.  The cool thing is… I’m beginning to recognize the other areas of my life where I’m not so focused and could use a candle that burns just at one end.

This task is also making it more clear as to why I love to run… because running is a time when I’m completely devoted to the task at hand.  Even when the runs aren’t my best, and are ridden with aches and pains, or just plain boredom… they are all I’ve got at that moment.

Kind of a lot like life.

So, whether you are out on a long run or short walk, remember friends, that you can only take one path at a time.  If you are always looking for alternate routes, you’ll never appreciate the beauty that appears right in front of your face.

Here’s to the beauty of the run for the sake of the run.

copyright 2012

by abbey algiers


In 2003, I signed up to be part of Team in Training to run a marathon in San Diego. At the time, I thought I was “there” (physically and destiny-wise) to do a marathon. Period.

I’d train, run the marathon, and then go on with my happy life.

How wrong I was. What I didn’t know then were these words from a wise yogi named Tina. “Nothing ever is as you expect it will be.”

How wise indeed. While the marathon in its 26.2 miles was as I expected, that’s where the predictability of the experience ended. What I didn’t expect was to be placed in a bubble, where lifelong friendships would be formed between my teammates; with each of us putting a stamp on the other’s timeline of memories. What happened in that bubble is the stuff of life that you can’t dream up, force, or plan.  It simply happens. Like magic.

Flash forward to this past March. On a cold winter night, my friend and I purchased plane tickets to Spain. Our destination Pueblo Ingles, a tiny village four hours west of Madrid. Here, we would spend 8 days teaching English to Spaniards. We simply had to get ourselves to Madrid; the rest of the expenses would be taken care of. Frequent flier miles made the trip almost free. I was pumped up for what I thought would be a great chance to travel to Spain, practice my Spanish before and after the program, and enjoy some Spanish tapas and wine. Who can argue with an (almost) free trip to Europe? How could that not be good?

Well, it was good. Great, fabulous, magnificent to be exact. And, again, as Yoga Tina said, it was not as I expected it to be. Just like my marathon group, I found myself in the midst of something big.

There were 52 of us consisting of teachers, students, and 2 leaders. We were an equal mix of Spaniards and Anglos (English speakers from Wales, Canada, Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Israel, and the U.S.). We met in Anglo-Spaniard duos all day, every day, from 9 a.m. until midnight or one… at least.

Our only job was to talk to each other, creating a weeklong English immersion for the Spaniards. Each hour, the Anglos would get a new Spaniard to talk with, and at lunch we gathered for more conversation. Next, we took a two-hour siesta break, and continued the process again from 5 p.m. until the wee hours of the night. Even as I write this, the schedule seems (and was) pretty intense- hard for many to understand how such a schedule is doable much less enjoyable.

Well, it turns out that when you’re in the midst of something big, big things happen. As we got to know each other, we began to learn about our respective cultures and lives. A few of us, Americans and Spaniards, ran together through the hills of the nearby village and talked… running of course. It turns out that running is an international language. During our days, the small talk of families, job, religion, and hobbies were the gateway to the realization that human connections know no language barriers. Soon we became not a group of Anglos and Spaniards, but a group of people, sharing a week together, and realizing that the more our lives were different, the more they were the same. In essence, we all felt something magical happening. Without even trying, we bonded and formed friendships and memories that would last a lifetime.

I didn’t think of it initially as “magic” until one of the last days at breakfast. I was sitting with one of my new Spaniard friends (an engineer) and my friend Lorraine from Canada. We were discussing “El Camino,” the famous pilgrimage leading to Santiago in northern Spain. Lorraine was telling us the theory that the Camino lies directly under the Milky Way and follows the “ley lines” that reflect the energy from those star systems above it. These ley lines, according to my friend (and originally from Shirley MacLaine) are the spiritual life force that activates the Earth itself into a living being.This was some pretty heavy stuff to discuss at breakfast (the only meal at Pueblo Ingles where wine is not served), and I wasn’t sure how my engineer friend was going to respond. I looked at him and said, “How do you feel about that theory, Rafael?” Instead of even challenging or attempting to explain the theory, he simply said, “There is no magic until we believe in magic.”

I for one, believe in magic. Magic happens when you stumble upon a group of people who change the way you think, the way you feel, and basically just make you happier when you are around them. I experienced this magic in all of my marathon groups and at Pueblo Ingles.

But is wasn’t until I came home from Spain that I realized that I don’t need to travel around the world to find magic. It’s right here in front of me, every day, waiting to be discovered in the people I love, the places I know, and the work I’m here to do. Magic is here as long as I believe it can be.

So friends, lace up your running shoes and get out on the trail of life. Be on the lookout for magic, in whatever form it takes… because, as you know, nothing is as we expect it to be.

by abbey algiers

*Photo below of La Alberca- Pueblo Ingles. For information on Pueblo Ingles, visit


The Best of Plans

One of the great things I’ve discovered about activities like running and golfing with others is that each activity comes with a sort of automatic “get to know you” clause. You’re out there, on the road or on the course, and you have no choice but to make small talk. Because you always have the sport you’re playing to fall back on, silence is rare. The hour or so together almost always ensures bonding on some level. I’ve never walked away from a run or a round of golf thinking, “Well, that person had nothing to offer me.” Most always, I pick up a gem or two to think about.

This past week I had the chance to sub on my husband’s work golf league. I saved my co-worker small talk until after the round in the clubhouse. Here I met Bob, the CPA in charge of scoring and all things statistical in nature. Well, after all of the cards were handed in, Bob went “off duty” and we all started to talk about our families. An interesting highlight was hearing about Bob’s daughter, who would be entering her fourth year of medical school in the fall. Bob explained, “She got married to a guy from Germany during her third year- this April. This fall she’ll start her fourth year. However, she’s pregnant, so… in December, she’ll move to Germany after finishing her first semester of medical school. They’ll live there one year, then come back to finish her second semester of her fourth year, then go on to do her residency.”

Bob’s daughter sounded like she really had it together, and you could tell Bob was pretty proud of her. However, towards the end of his story he added, “You know I told her that all sounded great. However, she needs to realize that at some time in her life, one of the great plans she makes for herself just isn’t going to work out. Everything doesn’t turn out perfectly all of the time. Life just doesn’t work that way.”

Having lived that sentiment a half a dozen times or more in my life, I can see the wisdom in Bob’s advice. Plans- no matter how carefully and thoughtfully they are put together- have the propensity to blow up in our faces at any time. These can be small plans- “I’ll run five tomorrow morning”- that change when we awaken to a thunderstorm or bout of the flu. They can be bigger plans, that leave us not participating in a marathon that we’ve trained long and hard for because of a slew of circumstances- from injury to weather to life happening. And they can be larger than life plans that are interrupted when jobs are lost, marriages end, kids screw up, or worse things happen.

The bottom line is, no matter how precisely we plan for the “perfect” anything- be-it a run, round of golf, trip, school experience, marriage, or whatever- the only thing we can plan for sure is that we absolutely don’t know how things will turn out. So, instead of taking the extreme and not planning for anything, knowing it could go awry, I guess the best we can do is just prepare the best we can to tackle anything that might come our way. For runners, this means hydrating well, wearing proper clothes, buying a Road ID, lubing up to prevent chafing and blisters, and putting the miles in during training for the best race experience possible.

For life, this means getting in touch with the goals, dreams, and people that are most dear to us, and doing everything in our power to make sure we achieve the items on our buckets lists, and appreciate the people we love.

And of course as we do all of this, there’s a danger that we could get carried away while in pursuit of all of these grandiose plans. This could leave us focused solely on the goals at hand, and while we would then get the results we desire (i.e. miles that are quick, great rounds of golf, successful careers, beautiful homes, successful kids, etc.), there’s a danger in getting too wrapped up in “the plans.” It seems that then, we might miss out on the best part of it all- enjoying the people we happen to be with in the miles we travel. It’s there that we have the most interesting conversations and learn the most interesting facts. It’s there where we just might learn that the best of plans are the ones we never plan for in the first place.

One Thing Leads to Another

Runner’s Log

In February of 2003, I went to a Valentine’s Day party with the intent of finding a boyfriend or at least a date. Well, I didn’t find either that night, but rather, ended up meeting a guy who talked me into running what would be the first of many marathons. Three years later, I did meet my husband- while training for a marathon- so I guess you can say that indirectly, that Valentine’s Day party was effective.

On a totally unrelated- yet similar- note, Mike Fikes created a really cool running app in a roundabout sort of way. Mike was trying to find a good way to track the mileage on his running shoes so he’d know when to replace them.  He couldn’t find an app he liked in the app store, so he decided to write his own.  And so, Runner’s Log was born. Runner’s Log is available for your iPhone or iPad, and not only provides an excellent way to keep track of how many miles you’re logging in your shoes, but also has a ton of great features that allow you to track your runs easily and quickly.  Runner’s Log has many great features :

  • View a calendar showing which days you ran recently.
  • View statistics and charts of weekly, monthly, and yearly progress.
  • Map your regular routes—their distances are automatically computed and entered.
  • Track the total mileage put on your running shoes (which typically last 350–550 miles)
  • Record the results of a running session in a matter of seconds.

How it works:  

When you return from a run, use Runner’s Log to record your session. The date, route, and shoes used are all automatically filled in based on defaults. The time spent on your last run for the route is also presented as the default. Simply adjust the minutes or seconds and you are done! Your pace will be shown to you.

 To plan a new route to try in your neighborhood, go to the routes tab and bring up the map, which centers on your current location. Simply tap points on the map in order to create your route. When done, the route distance is automatically computed. If you run this route frequently, you can set it as the default.

 This feature came in handy this weekend while I was up north… I wasn’t sure of the mileage and wanted to quickly find a ten mile route. I mapped my route seconds before my run, then clicked on my tunes, and was off.  That beat the days of sitting in front of my computer to map out my run, or drive the route first.

Back to the shoes:

Runner’s Log makes it a cinch to keep track of shoe mileage. If there are unlogged miles on your shoes, you can easily add them to the total tracked. If you rotate shoes, you’re able to track each pair separately,  and you can choose a pair of shoes to be the default for new running sessions. When a pair is ready to be retired to “lawn mowing only” status, you can mark it as such.

Love the calendar feature:

The calendar features a cute little runner icon that shows which days you ran recently. This gives a great visual, making it easy to decide if you should run or take a break.  You can also view statistics and charts showing weekly, monthly, and yearly summaries of your distance, time and pace, as well as the accumulated mileage put on your shoes.

Runner’s Log is clear, easy to use, and has all of the features that runners need. Created by a runner, for runners.  What more could you ask for?

Check out Runner’s Log today at the App Store!

May the Course Be With You

Just over a month ago, I woke up at 4:15 a.m. to a dreary, rainy morning. Had it been any other Saturday, I’d have texted my running partner with a “sorry no can do, see YA”  and then rolled over and gone back to sleep. That particular Saturday, however, I had a marathon to run. So, I got out of bed and prayed for clear skies.

Luckily, by race time the downpour had changed to an intermittent  mist with a few blustering winds thrown in every other mile for good measure. Not an ideal day, but better than pouring rain.  I was still sort of jacked up about the threat of bad weather  as we crossed the start line. For the first few miles, I tried to both take in all of the sights and ignore them, effectively searching for my own “zone” for the race ahead.  This is standard procedure for me at every marathon. While some athletes look to “get their game on,” I try to get my “head game on” and call upon my voice of reason that will be my cheerleader and coach.  This routine is essential, because as a veteran marathoner,  I know what might be in store for me on the 26.2 mile journey.

I know that on a good day, when I’m not plagued by injuries, aches, or stomach issues… the marathon gets progressively tougher.  I also understand that running a marathon is similar to running with a time bomb strapped to your  back… you never know when your world will effectively blow up. This trouble may come in the form of blisters exploding at mile 24 (been there), Achille’s tendons blowing out (done that), or a variety of minor disturbances in the form of physical and mostly mental “game day” grenades.

So, it’s logical that I always begin with a bit of nervous energy. On that particular day, during my early miles “ignore the fans/notice the fans” bi-polar phase, I saw a woman holding a sign, “May the Course be With You.” Might I note that nothing makes me happier during a run than clever, pop culture references. Who doesn’t love a Star Wars play on words?  I laughed at the sign, gave the woman a thumbs up, and told myself that this would somehow make a great Runnerchica topic.  I was sure I’d gain the inspiration along that run, and hit my computer the moment I got home and pelt out a new blog entry.

I set out then, at mile 5, in search of meaning.

Well, there was no Oprah “Aha” moment at  5.5, 6,  or 7 for that matter.  I ran through those miles, pressing my brain to bring meaning to that Star Wars quote.  When nothing struck me as remotely moving, I threw inspiration to the wayside and instead got caught up in a head game of how much longer I had to run (always smart at mile 7).  I wasn’t in any particular pain, but I was clearly headed down a dangerous mental path.  My running partner, knowing me very well, called me on it immediately.

“Hey, are you okay?”

I really didn’t think my dismay was that obvious.  In abbreviated marathon speak (long sentences don’t happen on these runs), I told her I wasn’t… but her calling me out on it  had snapped me back into reality.  I gave a cavewoman nod of thanks, and we continued, now in a relaxed silence.  It was at this point that the half marathoners started on their journey back, which meant I could now be entertained by the people passing me in the other lane.

This is when it all started to come together… the inspiration, that is.  As I studied each runner, I noticed that everyone had a slightly different expression- some looked miserable, others content, still others for some reason were animated and chatting it up.  Yet all bore the look of runners out there determined to get’er done.  That moment in time, while we all may have been in different “places,” we were all one with the course and all it threw our way.

It wasn’t until after the run, in the comfort of my warm, dry home that I made some observations about just what that marathon course (and all others) are all about.

Here’s the thing about a marathon course- it’s an entirely different beast when reviewed after all is said and done.  It’s like a campground after a storm- nothing is as dark and ominous as it seems in the thick of man vs. nature.  For example, after the run, I could fully appreciate all of the course’s resources- mental, physical, emotional and otherwise. Those resources came in obvious forms like the Gatorade, water, and gels.  All of these were great for the physical, body fueling aspects of our run.  Then, if those resources backfired, the course supplied us with porta potties. The volunteers placed throughout the course to guide us in the right direction and help with injuries or problems were also a big part of the course’s “force” designed to help as needed.

Fans along the way; from the clever sign carrying type to the 3-year-olds high-fiving to cars full of high schoolers who showed up at every mile mark blaring tunes, also contributed to the course’s positive ju-ju.  And finally, the energy created from the field of fellow runners, each of us knowing just how crappy the other was feeling, definitely made up part of the force.

Most important of all, the force became apparent as runners approached the mile 25 marker, with just over a mile to go. It’s here that each runner  realizes then that even though we had some help along the way to get us there, we were the ones in charge of our success.  This milestone represents the fact that we could indeed accomplish great things- both on the course and off.  We realized then, maybe not clearly at the time because mile 25 is also a delusional point for many, that while the “force” represents the Universe coming together in our favor, our real power comes from inside.  It’s our inner force, guided and supported by everything that crosses our path, that drives us to reach our goals and do amazing things.  It’s along the course that these two forces come together.

Perhaps Obi-Wan explained it best as he explained the force to Luke:

LUKE: The Force?

Obi Wan: Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.

Or, perhaps we could call upon the wisdom of one of my 6th grade students who happened to be wearing a Darth Vader shirt the day I was writing this piece.

Runnerchica:  You’re wearing a Darth Vader shirt. Are you a big Star Wars fan?

6th grader: Well, yeah.

Runnerchica: So… you know the saying, “May the force be with you.”  What do you think it means?

Student: (pause) I don’t know, like, isn’t it religion? Like maybe God?

It seems then, that while exact definitions of “the force” vary, it all boils down to one thing. Whether you’re on a marathon course, or the course of life… you’re always surrounded by a force to get you through the tough times. It’s all about believing in it, in yourself, and then running with that feeling to the finish. Never forget that you hold the power to handle whatever the course brings to you.

May the Course Be With You!

It Makes Sense

This past Friday, one of my 7th grade students-  “the original tough guy” if you will,  was having an especially rough day.  He was giving every one of his teachers a hard time, and I was lucky enough to have him for the last class of the day. He came into my room with nothing- not a pencil or book to his name.  I walked him to his locker, at which point he proceeded to alternate between sprinting ahead and jumping  to reach things like exit signs and ceiling tiles.  Luckily at 4’11”, these things are still out of reach, so no damage was done.  At his locker I instructed him to get a pencil and a notebook, which he grudgingly did.  Back in my classroom, I surprised him by telling him to go in the empty room attached to mine, sit quietly, and complete a writing assignment.

“I’m not writing.”

“You’re writing.”

“I don’t want to write. This is stupid.”

Now, this could have gone on for hours, but I’ve had him as a student since kindergarten.  Even on his worst day, he will do what I ask, or at least pretend to.  After giving him my most serious glare that said, “Look buddy, I’ve known you since 5K,” he gave in.

“Okay, I’ll write a little. About what?”

In a nutshell, I then told him that I couldn’t believe how bad his behavior was. I told him it was especially disappointing to me since I knew the truth about him… that he was really a nice kid, trapped in the body of a tough guy wanna be.  My instructions followed, “Write down no less than 8 sentences explaining to me why you are being so bad today. I want details. Also, don’t forget to use correct grammar and punctuation.”

I then left him for ten minutes while I worked with other students.

Well, before I knew it, it was five minutes before dismissal, and my student was in the doorway to my classroom.  He was throwing his notebook up in the air, a sign I took to mean he was done.

“Here.” He handed over the notebook.

I was shocked to see half the page filled with legible text.  What he wrote surprised me even more.

I’m being a jerk because I’m hyper.

It’s Friday.

Also, I am waiting to go to a party this weekend.

Plus, the teachers make me mad when they tell me what to do.

I also hate being on the no pass list.

It’s finally spring, and I can’t stand being inside this school one minute longer.

It’s sunny and really, really warm today, and I just want to go outside.

What do you say to that?  Hello, I could have written practically the same thing to explain how I felt that day.  I think the little wise-guy could tell this as I was reading it, so I tried my best not to smile or laugh as I responded. In my best hard-ass voice, I  told him that even with all of that going on… he still needs to be nice to people.  We all want to go outside… but you gotta be nice. Thankfully, the bell rang seconds later, and he sprinted out of my room.

I followed suit twenty minutes later, as I joined the other teachers in a mad dash to the parking lot. I wanted to get home as quickly as I could so I could run in the glorious 70 degree weather. It seemed that everyone and their brother had the same idea.  My route was flooded with  runners, walkers, cyclists, skate boarders, and strollers.  I took note of just how happy everyone was, and  thought of the many things that were contributing to my own happy 5 miles.  First reason being that it was Friday. Then, of course, I was loving every aspect of the warm weather- from the sunshine to the ice free sidewalks. It was great to be running in shorts and a t-shirt again instead of gloves and layers. Bottom line though, the run signified relief.  It was a relief that the winter, albeit a mild one, was finally over.  True, we could still get zapped by a snowstorm, but for the most part we are being let out of our winter prisons and into the light of spring.  Which is a good thing, because like my student, I think we all just “really want to go outside.” When something cold and dark, like winter, goes on for a long time, we get to the point where we think we can’t bear it another minute.  Then, before we know it, it’s over and spring is here to make us happy.

So friends, always remember that no matter how bad the winter is, spring is always right around the corner.  Be ready for it by keeping the door and your running shoes in clear view, so you can get to them the moment the first signs of spring appear.  And, if it takes longer than you expect for it to arrive, do what you need to get through the winter… just don’t forget to be nice to each other.

What It’s Really All About

Every now and then, I end a run feeling totally great. I have no significant aches. I’m not freezing, sore, blistered, beaten, or in need of a bathroom asap. I’m not starving, parched, or otherwise compromised. I actually enter my house with a runner’s high, thankful for the fact that I was able to run, either solo or with my running people.

Take the past few Saturdays, for example. My running partner and I, in the midst of training for a Cinco de Mayo marathon, had a number of Saturdays (in a row) that went really well. We ended these runs thinking for some brief moments that we quite possibly could be some sort of running super hero duo, having been able to brave single digit temps and live to tell about it. Even in the midst of this mild winter, we endured all sorts of things, from black ice to 100 mile an hour winds (okay, at least they felt like it) to frozen digits and stomach issues, all in the name of 15- 17 milers. We may have gone through hell, but by the time we stopped, we felt a post-run euphoria that comes after giving it your all, and doing it in the company of a good friend.

I also appreciate my early morning runs with my other running friends – one who lives down the street, and another who lives a few miles a way and has been my running friend since childhood. The only way I get out of bed at 4:45am to run at 5:00 on a weekday is when I am meeting either of these two gals. I appreciate the conversation and the fact that they get me on the road early, in essence gifting me with the rest of the day to do other things than plan a late afternoon run.

In addition to my friends I physically run with, I have a group of friends I’ve met because of running. Marathons and miles brought us together, but what have endured are solid friendships. In addition, running led me to my husband, a fact I like to remind him when he tells me I’m crazy for running so much. It led me to you, it can’t be all that bad, I tell him.

And that, in essence is the heart of it. It’s not really the act of running that has kept me out on the streets and trails. As much as I call myself a runner, and say how much I love it, I admit that it’s not always easy. After all, when I started out this piece, I proclaimed that “every now and then” I end a run feeling totally physically great, having no outstanding issues to complain about physically or mentally at the run’s end. The reality is that many times I end with aches and other minor ailments. No, running isn’t a piece of cake by any means. The truth is, though, nothing in life is. The most perfect of jobs, hobbies, activities, or situations have moments that test and challenge us. In fact, some of them seem to challenge us much of the time.

But, running has taught me that even the most imperfect situations can be made better when you share them with like minded folks, or in a state of deep self reflection that spurs a sort of inner zen.

Just as I could list many, many times when I felt absolutely tortured on a long run or in a marathon, I can counter those bad feelings with the sense of peace I felt by sharing those runs with someone else. There is a certain camaraderie that comes when we go through tough times together. In addition, it didn’t have to be the runs themselves that were physically difficult. The runs may have been the easy parts, with the challenges being the life issues my running friends or I worked out together on the road.

The thing of it is, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a bad run, a bad job, or a bad situation. What matters is that we remember that there are people around us to share these moments with. When we do this, it becomes clear that even the most awful moments are bearable, and often laughable after all is said and done.

If we keep this in mind, it seems that we might be able to tolerate the bad moments more, and learn to live through them, knowing they’re not necessarily all bad. Further, we can then end each run (good or bad) with a runner’s high, realizing that our aches and pains are not unique to ourselves- we all experience them. So why not just accept this fact, and do our best to be there for each other so our good runs are great and our bad ones are at the very least supported?  After all, isn’t this what it’s all about?

Enjoy all of your runs, friends, and remember to always be there for the people who run beside you.

by abbey algiers
copyright 2012


Guest Post from Scott Krizek…Runner and Guinness World Record Holder!

* Below find a very special addition to guest blogger Scott Krizek discusses the World Record that 62 Milwaukee area runners set in 2011, all in honor of local runner, Jenny Crain. Crain, an elite athlete, was hit by a car during a training run in 2007. She suffered severe brain injuries but has made great strides through intensive and expensive rehabilitation.

World Record

January 24, 2012

 This morning we received the long awaited news that Guinness had certified our World Record for “Most Runners Linked to Complete a Marathon.”

The entire day I found myself thinking about the World Record and sharing the good news with everyone who knew of the event.  “Congratulations” were phoned in, emailed and posted on Facebook and LinkedIn.

At the end of the day, I had planned to ski but instead opted to enjoy the sunshine with a run at the lake.  Certainly, running was not an unusual thing for me to do, but the change in plans was so fluid that it seemed like my schedule had been changed for me.

For those that know the Lake Michigan Lakefront “track” I ran to the point near Veterans Park and then opted to go north for no other reason than I felt good and didn’t want to stop.  I climbed the Brady Street Bridge and suddenly it occurred to me that I was a block from the scene of Jenny’s accident.   I was struck that the winds had taken me to this fateful place.

I reached the busy intersection of Brady and Farwell, and stopped for the light and noticed a new and unusual crosswalk signal.  The signal was not a part of the traffic light, but rather stood alone at about 5 feet tall and held a button to press to cross and a speaker that barked a stern warning “Do Not Walk.  Do Not Walk.”

As I looked at this new signal post, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was there as a result of Jenny’s accident.  Struggling to find a silver lining, my first idea was that this machine had prevented many similar accidents.

Our great hope is to find meaning from events that shake us.  I hope to God that there is far more than a walk signal that comes from this.  It seems just too trivial given what was lost.

Is the deeper meaning, the motivation to organize and achieve a World Record?  While impressive in many ways, it may be more trivial because a World Record doesn’t even protect people on a street corner.

This is what I think we accomplished:

We helped a friend in need.  The incredible number of supporters was a testimony to the quality of person that Jenny is.

The number of people involved extended well beyond those who ran.  Robin Gohsman and the other people who organized and supported this group deserve the majority of the credit.  Of course, there were hundreds of people who gave generously to a person whom they never met.  In total, Jenny received over $116,000!

Secondly, I think the “Jennipede” was an example for the city of Milwaukee and perhaps even nationally of people coming together to do something that was in its very nature Good.  The relatively large amount of press that we received suggests that the community was thirsting for something good to cheer.  Here are just a few of the recent examples:

Finally, I believe in the Chaos Theory of Good and that somehow these generous acts and sacrifices will lead others to help someone else when given a chance.   Many friendships were formed in this group and my guess is those people will again “link up” to help others.

As I ran home, I was kept trying to understand why I ended up running to that spot.  I guess God wanted me to reflect on life a little.  I do know that it made me sad and proud.  To be honest, I wish we did not have this record.   I wish that guy had kept his car under control or that Jenny had stayed home with the flu that day in 2007.

Of course, I can’t change the past so all I or anyone can do is remember one of my marathon mantras,

“Just Keep Moving”

Thank you for being a part of this event.  Your gifts and support will have a positive impact well beyond Jenny’s care.   We will never know the total Good that will come of this event but it will be significant.  I am honored to say that we followed Jenny’s take on life…

“Make it Happen!”

* Donations are still being accepted and appreciated for the continuing rehabilitation of Jenny Crain.  Visit

for details. 

Thank you!!!

And We Danced…

This was the title of the song that was playing as I left my house late this frigid afternoon, trying to get a run in before the sun went down. Starting out, I was pretty excited because I had just discovered that my new running jacket had a pocket to fit my iPhone perfectly- gone were the days of carrying it as I ran. I envisioned audio bliss, with great music taking my mind off the cold and wind.

Imagine my surprise when approximately three minutes and seven seconds into my run, “And We Danced” came on again. I must have clicked on the “repeat” button in my haste to get outside. Now, I liked this song in the 80’s, and I liked it as I began my run, but I definitely was not up for listening to it for 30 minutes straight. No problem, I thought, I’d just advance the song using the remote changer on my headphones. Note to Apple: this is an impossible feat when wearing bulky mittens. I thought about my options- I could stop altogether and dig my phone out of the new pocket, or I could take my mittens off and see if I could use the headphone control. Neither option really appealed to me because it seemed that the temperature and sun were having a contest to see which could go down the fastest. Bottom line, I needed to focus on the business of running home, not on being my own personal DJ.

With that in mind, I at first tried to not think about the fact that I’d be listening to this same song at least 8 more times. This wasn’t the worst thing in the world, I reasoned. Nor was it an impossible situation. I could take my headphones out and have no music, for crying out loud. However, I decided to use this never ending time travel 80’s song as a self-test of sorts. This song in all of its repeating glory, reminded me that there are many things like this in life- things we can’t stand, but we must face day in and day out because they are part of our reality at that given moment. There are many examples of this- jobs, commutes, relationships, or situations that seem hopeless and never ending. I thought back to classes in school (algebra, geometry and basically every math class since kindergarten) that I had endured, thinking they would never, ever end. I thought about jobs I’d held, where I’d dread going in to work because I knew exactly the hours of “drudgery” I’d face. Then I thought of my mom’s advice in those situations- this too shall pass.

Four plays into this song, with maybe two and a half miles left, I reminded myself of just what a blip on the radar this run was. What was my problem, anyway? I was having a good run, my digits were toasty, and the area was well lit. Instead of thinking of how much I now hated all 80’s music, I decided to focus more on the things around me. I took a deep breath of the crisp winter air. I peered in windows, which was now an easy thing to do with the darkness surrounding me. I focused on the fact that it was actually fun to be out here, and how it would make me appreciate my toasty house when I returned.

Then, before I knew it, I was approaching the last half mile of my route. I would survive this audio hell! Minutes later, inside my house I thought about the run and how significantly insignificant it had been. Never was I really in any sort of physical, mental, or emotional danger because of that damn repeating song. Yet at first, with the cold, wind, and darkness overwhelming me, it seemed like this song would be the thing that threw me over the edge.

But the thing was, it wasn’t like I was truly stuck listening to that song- there were many things I could have done to stop it. But I chose to keep on going, knowing deep down inside that in the big scheme of things, it really was a very short and insignificant annoyance. And while many of the things that, like this song, test us to no end and seem like they will never end… we have to remember that they, too will eventually end. We also need to remember that not only do we have the power to get through those things, we also, many times have the power to change them. It’s all about what we’re willing to do and what feels right to us at the time.

So, as you all continuing running through this frigid winter, friends, remember that you always have many roads you can take. You can continue on the path you are on, with faith that you will one day get to a toasty warm house where you have full liberty to listen to whatever you wish… or you can stop right where you are and decide enough’s enough. It’s up to you. It’s your life and you can dance through it any way you like.

by Abbey Algiers
copyright 2012

Running into Another Year

We find time for the things that are important to us. Period.
– Scott Douglas

It’s that time of year again, when many of us are in the thick of New Year’s Resolutions. There are the standard resolutions- clean up our diets, exercise more, give up a vice, spend less time working, more time with family- the list goes on and on. We’ve probably all claimed one of these resolutions at least once- January 1 is a handy day for making life-changing proclamations. It’s the one day of the year where we can safely say, “Hey, I’ve got a clean slate. From this day forward, I’m going to do X.” The extra bonus is that we’ve got lots of company as we admit that areas of our life need improvement… most of the world joins us in our efforts to create better lives, after all.

Personally, one of my New Year’s Eve declarations was to make more time for writing in 2012. I had planned to solidify and advertise this declaration in a brand spanking new Runnerchica on January 1. Wow, not only would I say I was going to write more, but I’d actually write more and do it on the first day of the year! Does it get any better than that?

Well, funny thing is, it’s January 2 (two hours from the 3rd), and here I am just crafting this post. Does this make me a New Year’s LOSER? Does this make any of us who made bold proclamations this year (that were perhaps exactly the same as last year’s) only to see them extinguish quickly… losers also?

To this I’d like to answer with a quick “of course not!” The thing that isn’t advertised on the covers of health magazines whose covers shout things like, “Make 2012 Your Year to Get Fit” is that there really are no New Year’s Resolution Rules. There’s no statute of limitations on the number of times we can make the exact same resolution, or the number of times we can fail by the evening of the first.

The problem of it all lies in the fact that when we are making our clean, new proclamations each year, we often are a bit hard on ourselves. Here we are, announcing how great we will be in this New Year. Then, when we blow off a resolution early in the game, it feels like a failure- our grand proclamation turned into another one of the many things we say each day, a fleeting thought lost on our ever growing to-do lists.

And maybe herein lies the problem. With so much on our plates each day and each year, there does tend to be less time for sticking to the things we value enough to outwardly recognize as areas for improvement. Sure, we think they’re important enough while we’re enjoying a New Year’s Eve toast, and they’re important the next day when most of us are spending quiet time recovering and relaxing after the busy holiday season. But, when life starts again, and we resume our frenetic lives… the good intentions tend to slip and the bad habits seep in again.

What it comes down to, then, is maybe less about focusing on things we are resolving to do this year, and more about focusing on what’s important to us. Is it our health? Our fitness? The people in our lives? Perhaps if we focus on these things enough, we’ll just automatically do the things we know we need to do. Who wants to smoke and eat like a pig when good health is our goal? Is staying on the couch really going to help us run that 5K? If we want to spend more time with our families why are we staying so late at work? I think the point is pretty clear.

In reality, we all know exactly what we need to do in order to reach our goals. Sure, we might falter from time to time. But, the truth is, we do make time for the things that are truly important to us. Period.

Here’s to a New Year filled with everything that’s important to you.

copyright 2012
by abbey algiers

Slow Down

In the midst of the holiday madness, I’ve been doing my best to keep it together. As if life isn’t busy enough January through November, the holidays certainly throw everything into high gear. As I write this, I’m planning on a 5 a.m. wake up so I can run, work, and then fit in a holiday party and concert. Plus, I still have shopping to complete, and then cookies to make for a work party the next day. Isn’t this supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year?”

The fact of the matter is, it IS the most wonderful time of the year, but we tend to forget this when all we are doing is running around… and I’m not talking in a Runnerchica 10 mile run kind of a way.  Take one look around any grocery store or shopping mall, and you’ll see faces of people who may be physically in one place, but their minds are definitely scattered in many directions.

There’s a problem with this. A big problem that was very evident yesterday, when I mistakenly showed up at a doctor’s appointment one hour early.  After applauding my promptness, the nice receptionist suggested I go to a nearby mall instead of staying in the waiting room.  Happy to be gifted this time, I stopped at a strip mall to run an errand.  As I left the store, I witnessed an SUV backing into my car. THIS was definitely not on my list of things to do. I didn’t have time for this! As I walked to my car, I wondered what the driver would do- speed off, or stop? Luckily, he  got out of the car.  As I approached him, it was obvious that this mishap had thrown a wrench in his busy schedule as well. He apologized, and then proceeded to get the insurance info together. Remarkably, I remained very calm- I was more worried at that point about making it back to my doctor’s appointment and then shopping, than the dent that now graced my back fender.  I guess you’d call that a case of holiday shock.

Maybe ten minutes later, after the man and I had exchanged all of the necessary info, he told me that actually he considered this a “wake up call” for him to slow down.  It turns out that he also had been running around like crazy, going in a million different directions.  I told him I whole heartedly agreed; that things like this were actually GOOD because they caused us to pause and stop, perhaps preventing more serious accidents that might happen if we continued to be so distracted.

This incident also reminded me to slow down and remember that a good holiday isn’t measured by the things we get at the mall, the cookies we bake, or how clean our houses are for company.  When it comes down to it, all of those things are about as important (or not important) as a dented bumper.

So, as we wind down this holiday season, perhaps with many things still on our lists… I invite you all to pause. Slow down as if you are at mile 25 of a marathon, the point where you equally want the end to come and not come, where everything slows down and you just soak in the scenery around you. Slow down enough in these last frantic days so you can clearly see those around you, the people who mean the most.  They are like the fans on the sideline who cheer us on, but we only notice them when we pause long enough to really look at them. Your fans- your family and friends- are the things that make this holiday season worthwhile.

So here’s to slowing down this holiday season, maybe even to the point of jogging. And here’s to this holiday season being the most wonderful time of the year for you and yours.

Focus on your Assets

Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.

– Zig Ziglar

At a recent staff meeting, my principal began by asking the teachers how the school year was going.  As can be expected, there were mixed reviews, and a cyclone of complaints steadily gained momentum.  From staff shortages to computer problems to general middle school issues, the natives were definitely getting restless.  My principal acknowledged these “deficits” but had one request for us… he asked us to focus on our assets instead of the things we were lacking.  He told us he was aware that there were tons of additional items we needed, but unfortunately, we couldn’t have them all. So, could we ban together and accentuate the positive, doing the best with the resources we had?

Now, I’ll have to admit that I’m a little brain-dead during after school meetings, and sometimes messages don’t hit home. In fact, many times I zone out completely. However, that day, I stopped and listened to his honest and sincere logic.

Focus on your assets.  That made a lot of sense, and actually reminded me of my most recent marathon, where I had some stretches where my assets were not at the forefront of my mind.  For some reason, I was feeling tired, sore, and wiped out at mile three. This is way too early to feel bad, so I started to freak out.

My inner dialog went something like this- My hip hurts. Why the hell does my left hip hurt? And why am I hungry? I shouldn’t be hungry now. Come to think of it, I’m kind of thirsty too… what is going on?

Then I ran a mile or two more, and just when my hip pain disappeared, my left knee began hurting.  Next it was my right ankle, then my left knee again.  I was convinced I would fall apart, right there on the course, before I even got to mile ten.  I knew I had to do something drastic in the “mind over matter” department.

 At first, I tried to tell myself that I felt great.  You are looking good. Your body feels great. You don’t have to use the bathroom. You’re not going to die.

Yet, all of these fine proclamations did little more than completely tick myself off.  It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when everything in the world is making you miserable including yourself.  So, I asked myself, “What would Oprah do now if she were in my Brooks Adrenalines?”  Surely she’d have a fabulous body-mind-spirit cure to get through.  I remembered her talking once about gratitude and  how it could help us through rough times.  Something about how it’s better to focus on what’s good instead of bad.  I wasn’t quite sure exactly what she said, so I decided to just focus on what I was grateful for.  It took me a minute to get the hang of it.

I’m grateful that even though I feel like total crap, I am able to run this marathon. (AM I able to run it?)

WHY am I running this marathon? Why does anyone run marathons?

I’m grateful it’s sunny out and not raining. It could be raining now, and I’d feel miserable in the rain. At least I’m miserable in the sunshine.

… refocus…

I’m grateful I have such a nice husband who woke up early to drive my friend and me to the start of this race.

I’m grateful my husband, parents, and sisters will be looking for me at mile 20. (Will I get there?)

I’m grateful to have such a nice running partner.

I’m grateful to have a cute new running outfit.

 It turned out that Oprah was right.  By paying attention to the good things in my life, it took the attention off my aches and pains, and I started to feel much better.  Slowly, but surely, I became more hopeful and started to actually enjoy the run.

Now, the run wasn’t a walk in the park after my exercise in being grateful. Yes, I hit some walls along the way and didn’t always feel so swell.  But, I found that focusing on the negative elements of my run only brought in more negative energy.  Similarly, when I focused on the positive, everything around me felt better.

The truth of the matter is, whether we’re running marathons or going through our daily lives, it’s just so much easier to complain about the things that we’re lacking, rather than the things that we have.  The job that’s not quite what we want, the house that isn’t perfect, the things we want to buy but can’t afford… the list could go on and on.

But I think that my principal and Oprah have it going on when they talk about focusing on the positive whenever possible, and using what we have to propel us forward.  After all, what we have… is what we have, so we might as well make the very best of it, even if what we have is a body that aches at mile 3.  Because to this Runnerchica, a bad day at mile 3 beats a good day on the couch any way you shake it.

Laying Down the Groundwork

Every time I run a marathon, I start to royally freak out about a week before the big day. As I prepare for Milwaukee’s Lakefront Marathon next Sunday, I’m officially in the marathon zone of craziness. As I type this, for example, my left knee is hurting for absolutely no reason at all. It is physically fine, yet in my mind, I’m convinced it’ll be injured for Sunday. This Looney Tune thought is nothing new. In the past, I’ve imagined illnesses that include but are not limited to: mono, strep, chicken pox, and my favorite, appendicitis.  I never actually had any of these conditions before a race, but managed to convince myself that I did.  (Note that to date I’ve never had to cancel a race due to sickness.)

Now it is Monday, and I am carefully planning each minute of activity this week, monitoring each morsel that I put in my mouth.  I am also carrying hand sanitizer with me class to class, and considering wearing a face mask when teaching germy elementary students.  You see, these are the factors that I can control; my sneezing third grader will NOT get me sick, gosh darnit!  Other things, like worrying if I did enough miles during my training, do not help me now.   I know I’ve done my work, but the thing is, most runners freak out at this point in the game because marathon training is absolutely counterintuitive.  The training schedule has the longest runs occurring several weeks before marathon day, so that the body can establish a base, and then repair itself for race day. This leaves many a runner wondering how they’re going to run 26.2 when they can barely remember their 20-milers.

Yet, having run a few marathons, I know this isn’t true. Months of long runs have laid the groundwork, and now I know I need to just let go and leave things up to fate.  I do this, realizing that I might have a great race, I might have a terrible one; whatever the case, there is not much more in the realm of training that I can do.  Now, I simply must rest and nourish my body for Sunday, and trust that my months of hard work will serve as a solid foundation.

That said, it seems this concept of laying the groundwork comes into play often in life.  Whether we are training for a marathon, planning a wedding, preparing for an exam, or attending medical school, our lives are full of groundwork-laying events.  For example, my mom has been on my hometown’s library board for 33 years, and has dreamed of the day when a new library would be built. After the board spent literally years working to make this happen, the new library will soon open its doors to the public.  A patron at the grand opening will see a gorgeous new building, but won’t know that the groundwork for this amazing structure is decades old. Success does not happen overnight.

So, really, when you think of it, landmark events like grand openings of libraries, weddings, graduations, and marathons are only part of the equation.  They are the culminating events in the stories of our lives that are built upon hard work, dedication, and perseverance.  And when we lay the groundwork with such things, we know that no matter what happens on race day, we can and should be proud, because so much more went into it than meets the eye.  The many miles we’ve logged are the true indicators of our success; what happened along the journey is what made it possible to get there in the first place.

Whatever “marathon”  you’re training for, remember it’s really not about crossing the finish line, it’s about everything you do to get there.  After all, without some good long runs, how do we expect to get anywhere?

Here’s to long runs, hard work, and well-deserved tapers.

by abbey algiers

copyright 2011

Pluses and Minuses

“Back to school” is a crazy time for people of all ages. For parents, it’s time to get everyone back in the swing of things, on schedule, and ready for action.  For kids, it is the ultimate reality check when their carefree existence comes to a screeching halt. For teachers, it’s all of the above, plus about six million other things.

As an ESL teacher who works in two buildings, sometimes I feel as if my list of six million things is doubled.  As usual, my first days this year were spent in a state of organized chaos, trying to set up a schedule that works for kids and my fellow ESL staffers. So, in addition to experiencing nearly the same jolting reality check that kids do, the beginning of the year often has me wondering just which end is up.  On day two, I slid into the break room for a quick 10 minute lunch.  One of the school’s aides was there as well.  Good timing, as I knew he was a master of scheduling- he worked in our school as a five-hour aide, then went to his other job as a full- time police officer.  Forgetting about my own schedule for a minute, I asked him about his, since my concerns seemed rather silly in comparison. He told me that while last year he’d work first shift at school, and third shift at the police department, he was going to be at the station second shift this year.   “Which is nice because I can just work straight through then,” he cheerfully noted.

I thought about both scenarios- working ALL NIGHT long, then coming to school to work with middle schoolers, or working with kids all day, and then not going home until midnight. Both scenarios freaked me out. I asked him which (if either!) schedule he preferred. In a totally upbeat tone, he told me, “Well, you know, I’m not sure. They both have their pluses and minuses.”

Wow, here was a guy looking at really long days full of all sorts of challenges, who accepted the good and bad of both. This made me feel like a royal jerk for all of the little inconveniences that I liked to focus on in the “whiner section” of my brain.  It also  brought me back to a half marathon I ran on one of this summer’s hottest days, where someone I ran next to had his own jokester way of plus-ing and minus-ing the run.   “At least it’s not 110 degrees.”   “At least I don’t have heat stroke yet.”   “At least we’re not running with two broken ankles.”   He continued to list more silly extremes that put our current heat-induced distress in perspective.

The thing is, pretty much every run and every situation in our lives- professional, personal, or otherwise- contains both pluses and minuses.  But instead of focusing on the minuses, maybe its better just to look at them as being part of this completely imperfect thing called life, and focus on what my sister calls “the plus column.”  Yes, the minuses will always be there, but if we look more closely at those things in the plus column, then perhaps soon the pluses will outweigh the minuses, and our whole outlook will be a bit more cheery.

For example, as I write this, just two days into the new school year… I could tell myself I’m two days closer to the last day of school. Right?  Mile two of a marathon can be “24 left, oh no!” or “two down!”  It’s all in how you look at it.

So, keep moving forward friends, and remember this little ditty that can be applied to your runs, or just about anything…

The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude.  ~Dennis S. Brown

Copyright 2011

by Abbey Algiers

It Is What it Is

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend at a cocktail party about the economy, jobs, and other uplifting topics. In the course of our discussion, my friend mentioned another friend who had had a great job, but got laid off.  After a long search, the friend ended up taking a job she normally wouldn’t have. The job required a long commute, and lots of long days in the company’s rural headquarters. No surprise, my  friend was described as “less than enthused” about the logistics surrounding the job, but thrilled nonetheless to be employed again. As my friend reached for another cocktail she said, “Basically, she doesn’t love her job, but, you know… it is what it is.”

It is what it is.  I thought about that the next day, as I stumbled out of bed at 5:00 on a Friday in order to avoid the heat wave we were having.  As much as I did not want to be out so early (especially on the heals of a cocktail party), I wanted to get a run in that day. 5:00 a.m. was my only option;  I could either accept it for what it was (the only time of day I could breathe outside) or I could complain to myself about it in my head for the next 6 miles. As the sunrise shone over the water, I decided maybe 5:00 a.m. indeed wasn’t so bad. Early yes, but with beautiful benefits.

The next balmy day again had me out early, this time on a 16 miler mapped out by my running partner.  Even at 6:00 a.m., it was hot. And muggy.  At mile 12, we both were cashed, but unfortunately far from home.  We had already complained about the heat index for three plus miles, so this was old news. I had already told my friend (several times) that sweat had gone inside my ear, resulting in temporary deafness. Both of us were drenched, tired, and crabby. However, we both seemed to have made a silent pact not to say anything further about our dire straights… it’s as if we had given in to our situation and taken it for what it was. Hell on earth.

A few hours later, showered and in the comfort of air conditioning, I was watching a movie that showed a little girl taking a piano lessons.  Memories came back to me, as I recalled the hours and hours I spent in Mrs. Siebert’s living room.  I remember how I begged my parents to please, please let me quit. Couldn’t they see I had absolutely no talent? Yet, for at least two years, in perhaps a character building attempt on their part, they told me I had to keep playing.  In this case, I have to think that It is what it is didn’t need to endure for that long. A year’s worth of torture would have been enough time to build my character nicely and give me adverse reactions to maroon pencils (my teacher used the same one each week) and the sound of  “Three Blind Mice.”

So it seems there are certain instances where accepting things in their current condition make sense – less than ideal jobs in a bad economy, rough spots during runs that you physically chose to partake in, and conditions that we really have no control over.  However, it also appears that we tend to say It is what it is an awful lot in our everyday lives – out loud, or perhaps subconsciously. The problem with this comes when we continue to do things that go against our nature because it’s easier  to keep up the status quo than rock the boat.

Maybe the solution to this dilemma comes with two simple words added to the phrase… It is what it is, for now.  Nothing’s forever, after all.  So, while we toil away at those jobs we hate during the day, we need to remember that even in a bad economy, there are indeed other options out there, and it’s okay to pursue them during our off hours.  The same goes for other things we accept as “it”- from bad relationships to bad cars. We don’t have to hang on forever just because of current conditions.  With hard work and motivation, we can turn It is what it is into It is what I want it to be.

So, keep forging forward on your journeys, friends, and if the going gets rough remember that bad runs, just like bad piano lessons, do eventually come to an end.  We can thank our lucky stars for that.

by abbey algiers


copyright 2011

Be a “Try Hard”

As a marathon runner, I go through a lot of shoes.  I need to update my shoes at least once every three months.  Unfortunately, as many friends and family would attest, I also have a fairly sizable “every day shoe” collection as well.  All of these shoes can get costly. So, as a middle school teacher, I try to combat my shoe addiction by doing extra jobs in and out of school.  One of these jobs is lunch duty – a job outsiders usually consider perhaps the cruelest form of punishment an adult can endure.  On most days, these outsiders aren’t that far off.

However, some days being in a room full of 6th graders is actually entertaining, and even enlightening in one way or another. Yesterday- just over a week into the new year- was no exception. Having busted two boys for the crime of throwing grapes and Doritos, I was stationed next to these offenders at the middle “naughty” table. These two boys were minimal offenders, but we like to make a point early on in the year.   As adults we realize that to 6th graders throwing food is almost a natural instinct, and at times maybe even self defense, but we want them to know that if they do it, they will to pay the price.

So, I had the two boys sit at the middle table to learn their lesson and hopefully set an example. One of the boys was way too into his tacos to talk to me.  The other, a nice, personable kid, apparently decided he wasn’t going to let the middle table stop him from having a conversation.  He began by asking me if I knew who he was.  When I told him I didn’t, he informed me that his dad was pretty involved in our school’s athletics and as a result  (even though he was just a 6th grader)  he “knew A LOT of teachers, athletes, high schoolers, and students.”

The boy then began talking football with me.  He started by telling me a bunch of technical facts, to which I just smiled and nodded because I really have no clue about the game.  He then got into specifics about his team and his talents.  His personal summary went something like this, “I love the game.  I’m actually not that strong now, but I will be someday.  That doesn’t matter though, because I really understand the game. I know the strategies, plus I am really fast.”  Then, he paused and said, “The other kids call me a Try Hard.” 

I wasn’t sure if I heard him correctly so I asked him to repeat, “They call you a what?”

“A Try Hard.”

My initial reaction was to tell him this was really cool, but then I noticed he didn’t look all that thrilled with it.  “Wait, are they ripping on you when they say this?”

The boy’s expression answered my question- of course they were ripping. They were mean middle schoolers. Middle schoolers generally don’t come up with deep, meaningful nicknames aimed at each other.  Yet, ironically, I realized that these kids had in fact, inadvertently come up with one that had the reverse effect. An insult that was actually a secret compliment.  I had to share this fact with my new friend.

“Do you know what? It’s really cool to be a Try Hard. Those kids don’t know it, but they are actually giving you a compliment. Being a Try Hard is the coolest thing in the world, because by trying hard you will know more about the game  because you had to figure it out.” I wanted to add that he’d probably get a lot more job opportunities in the future with a try hard attitude… but I decided that perspective might be a bit heavy for the first week of middle school.

The kid sort of smiled and I think he got it, in a 6th grader kind of way and then proceeded to talk about football again. I continued to revisit our conversation all day, and thought about how this nickname was actually quite an ingenious concept. Whether we are trying to run five miles, a marathon, or just get through life, the best thing we can all ever strive to be is a bunch of Try Hards- great at some aspects, okay at others, and striving to improve (someday) in the areas that we struggle the most.

So, friends…always remember that life really isn’t about perfection or getting things right the first time. It’s about being out there, in the game, trying hard every single day. And most importantly, it’s not how far or fast you run…but how hard you try.

by abbey algiers

imrunnerchica 2014

AIRIA ONE Running Shoes!

AIRIA ONE Running Shoes… a new shoe, a new concept, all the way from Sweden. 

Airia One Running Shoe

A few months ago, I was contacted by a rep from Airia One asking me if I wanted to try their shoes and write about them on my blog.  She wrote that these shoes would help me run faster.  Shoes from Sweden (how cool!) that would help me run faster. Did I want to try them? Of course I did!

Prior to receiving the shoes, I did some research on what was coming.  The website ( said that, “Airia One helps 8 out of 10 to run faster regardless of their current level or running style.” I liked the sound of that, but wondered a few things-

1. Just what makes this company feel they can make this claim? What was so special about their shoes that 8 out of 10 runners would improve?  A video on the site explained:

2. I wondered what the shoes would look like and if they would be dangerous to try in the middle of marathon training. For me, that’s always the snafu. I am paranoid to try new shoes for fear I’ll injure myself with shoes that aren’t right for my feet.  Again, I checked out their website for details.  I learned that a lot of research went into the design of these shoes that are dedicated to quite simply, making you run faster.  Check out the history of the company! Still, even with all of the research, I was skeptical.  Would these “fast” shoes pose a risk to my limbs?

3. I decided to wait and see what the shoes looked like, and would assess them at that point.  When they arrived in the mail, I was happy to see cool packaging carrying the fancy Swedish shoes.  Upon opening the box, I found a letter from the company that addressed my concerns about any danger involved with trying new shoes, and instructions on how to use them.  (Don’t you just lace them up and go? Nope.)


In a nutshell, they suggested the following tips:

*  Since the Airia One alters one’s biomechanical running pattern, take it easy on the first few runs to see how your body responds.  Listen to your body and take care.

*  The directions warned that the shoes might feel a little odd when they are first put on- unlike anything you’ve experienced before.  They advised not to make any judgements until one has run a 10K in them, and also warned that these shoes are NOT made for walking… or standing for that matter. Airia One are solely designed for running.

* After reading these tips, I wondered just how these shoes worked.  The directions told me to let the shoe work for me. They suggested to try and relax and let the shoe geometry work for and not against you, and create a “silent stride with a rolling feel to it.”



Well, I followed the instructions, and do agree that the shoes are unlike anything I’ve tried.  Because I am in the midst of marathon training, I’m putting them on my shelf until after the race, and then will dedicate some serious miles to them and see if I do run faster.  If one takes it easy at first and listens to any bodily warning signs, I do think the shoes are worth a try- the company research and testimonials make me want to run in them more.  Plus, they’ve got a good look- a slick, white shoe with flashy colors and a retro feel.  Plus, I think they look very European, which always makes things feel extra cool.

If you’d like to give running faster a shot, I suggest you look into the Airia One running shoe.  Check out their site, watch the video, and then try them yourself if you think they’re right for you.

Happy Running!