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.

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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.

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by abbey algiers

imrunnerchica.com

copyright 2015

Defensive Driving… I mean Running

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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:

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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! 

imrunnerchica.com

copyright 2015

by abbey algiers

 

Fresh Starts

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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 nomeatathlete.com.  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

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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

imrunnerchica.com

copyright 2014

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

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

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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.
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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.
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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.”
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Visit rightonlefton.com 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
imrunnerchica.com
copyright 2014

The Long Haul

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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