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 (airiarunning.com) 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:

http://youtu.be/_N4t6skyEBc

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.)

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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.”

 

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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!

every day is a marathon

every day is a marathon

by abbey algiers

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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.

imrunnerchica.com

copyright 2013

abbey algiers

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.

imrunnerchica.com

Copyright 2013

By Abbey Algiers

Magic

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 puebloingles.com.

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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
imrunnerchica.com
copyright 2012

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.

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 band 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.

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

imrunnerchica.com

Copyright 2011

by Abbey Algiers

KEEP ON DOING YOUR THING

Keep on Doing Your Thing

This past weekend my training schedule had me doing 18 miles. Whenever I reach this point in my training, it always freaks me out a bit- first of all, because I realize that my marathon is coming up, and second of all, because I realize that WOW I am going to be on the road for AWHILE. In addition, I always get a little nervous before long distances. This particular Saturday had me especially riled up because I was away from home, and would be going the distance solo. While 18 miles isn’t exactly torture, it’s not a laugh riot either, which is why it helps to have your running peep or peeps there beside you.

I thought about the long run a lot the night before, anticipating boredom and imaginary, scary “northern Wisconsin” pickup truck drivers who would follow me on my route. I set out my clothes, planned my breakfast, and hydrated all night long to set the stage for a great run. I even downloaded the Dali Lama’s “Art of Happiness” book so that I’d have something to listen to that could cheer me up if the going got tough.  I did all of these things in a ritualistic manner that non-runners may not exactly understand.

I woke up to one of the most perfect running days of the summer. It was sunny and the air was crisp. I felt rested and ready to start my run, and the first few miles were seamless. With conditions being as ideal as they were, it was easy to settle into a comfortable pace and mental state. I got so happy about the run, in fact, that I forgot about how much I was dreading it the night before. Quite simply, I subconsciously remembered that I really loved running, and not even an 18-mile price tag was going to take that away from me. The weather was fabulous, and no body aches or pains were threatening an early stop. My run was just plain great.  I came home with a case of runner’s high that caused me to babble incessantly and make my just-now-waking up family look at me strangely, wondering where all of my frenetic energy was coming from when they were just getting around to pouring their cereal.

Let’s fast-forward a few hours. My family and I went to a friend’s wooded property. Now, this property is a massive, 40-acre retreat that is bordered by homes belonging to our friend’s relatives.  I was looking forward to this visit with visions of appetizers, wine, and lawn chairs in mind, all enjoyed guilt-free after that morning’s run. These dreams were shattered upon arrival when my friend asked all of the gals to hike the property with her. Though tired and a little sore, I agreed to join the group. As we hiked around the property, my friend commented on the woods, the animals, and the area, introducing me to a world I’d never really considered before. Along the way, we stopped to talk to her sister-in-law and nephew, who approached us on four wheelers.  The sister-in-law mentioned that her husband was behind them in his cart.

As we continued on, my friend explained that her brother (the husband) had Parkinson’s, and he had to use a golf cart now to help him navigate the property. We continued to walk until her brother approached us.  In a few seconds upon meeting, he had invited our group of four ladies to his “man-cave.” We all agreed- after all, who can resist a peek at a man-cave? I envisioned a fairy tale man-land, including a flat screen tuned in to ESPN, and plenty of chips and beer.

Soon we reached the man-cave, and John led us in. He took a seat in his man-cave recliner, and asked if we wanted a beverage from his man-cave refrigerator. I studied the surroundings, trying to decide what made this cave special. I soon understood.  Sure there was a cable ready flat screen with I’m sure a dozen or so sports channels. There was man-cave décor and a sense that this territory was normally a place of refuge and peace for John, and John alone. But then other things started to pop out.

An electric guitar stood in the corner, with a nearby amp. Twelve harmonicas were placed on a shelf behind John’s recliner.   Next to his recliner was a stereo system, where he could play tapes or CD’s, with harmonica accompaniment. And play John did.  I began to clearly see what this man-cave was all about as John popped in a Van Morrison CD and told all of us that he, “Liked to play the blues… just the blues.” He wasn’t very good, he said, but he enjoyed the blues. Period.

For the next four or so minutes, John belted out the most moving rendition of Van Morrison’s “Stranded” that I’ve ever heard. It was moving not only because it was well, the blues, but also because it was so glaringly clear that John was 100% into this. Playing the blues was his thing, and nothing- not Parkinson’s, not having zero or four audience members- was going to get in the way of doing what he loved.

After he was done, John apologetically told us again that he was sorry that he wasn’t that good (so not true), but that he “just liked playing the blues. Period.” And, when he was playing the blues, I noted how ironic his choice of genre was… because clearly the blues are what lifted him up, taking him away from ugly things like Parkinson’s and aging.

Realizing this made me do some thinking. Just as John’s blues playing was “his thing…” running, is clearly “my thing.” Whereas John has a man-cave decked out to meet his playing needs and comfort, I have my list of pre-run aides that help me do “my thing” in the best way possible.  And, while John and I probably share a similar love and dedication to both of our hobbies, we would never ever dream of trading.  That’s why they are our things and no one else’s.

Our things… are what keep us going when we have to do or face the things in life that we don’t exactly dig. To prove this theory, ask someone about his or her “thing” and watch how their face lights up when the conversation changes from the everyday world to the world that moves them the most.

Whether you run, sail, bike, paint, golf, or play the blues… keep on doing your thing.

Copyright 2009

imrunnerchica.com

by abbey algiers


FLASHBACKS

FLASHBACKS

There is something about blasts from the past that tend to “get me” in the back of my throat, in that mysterious medical cavern where throat lumps are manufactured. I believe this cavern has a direct line to my tear ducts too, because once activated, I am a mess in the face of anything remotely moving. I realize I am an extreme case in the realm of nostalgic reactions, but I’m pretty sure we are all affected when pieces of our past are presented to us unannounced, resurfacing memories and feelings we have long forgotten.

TV series have a particular place in my world of nostalgia.  For example, last summer when the Happy Days gang visited Miller Park, I got choked up while watching them on the news. (Yes, I really did.) So, one can only imagine how I handled the recent finale of ER, a show I’ve watched for nearly 15 years. The weeks leading up to the series finale lured me in, with weekly guest appearances from past ER characters.

Seeing Carter, Benton, and Ross… it felt like old times.  Then, after weeks of “going back” on these episodes, I sat down to watch the three hour series finale.  My favorite part was the hour-long preview of interviews with cast members. As they talked about the show and past episodes, it became clear why the show was so successful. As Juliana Margulies described the show’s success, “the stars aligned to create something fabulous.” Every actor communicated that what they were doing was much more than a job- ER became their home. The real chemistry these characters shared on and off screen could be felt in every living room in America.

Clearly, I was not alone in my draw to the ER finale, as it was called the “most watched drama wrap up in 13 years.”  An estimated 16.4 million viewers tuned in to say goodbye.  Perhaps this is due to the fact that as human nature would have it, when a group comes together that works, we want to be a part of it- whether it’s on our TV screens, at work, school, or on the trail.

This reminds me of my “flagship running group;” my core group of five friends who saw me through my first marathons. (see “Find Your People…”)  I don’t run with them regularly anymore, but when I do see them on the trail, I am (almost) as excited as I was when I saw Dr. Carter return to ER last month.  Similarly, at my high school reunion a few weeks ago, stepping into the restaurant to see old friends was like slipping back to the time and place when they were a part of my daily life.  It was almost as if no time had passed.

I was thinking of all of the above today as I ran and listened to 80’s music on my iPod. I came to the conclusion that blasts from the pasts are great… but they do hold a certain bittersweet element to them. Many times, these memories of the past, lead us to think “I wish things were like that again,” or “too bad we can’t all be together one more time.”  Perhaps the toughest part about thinking nostalgically is it sometimes makes us realize that when those good times were happening, we didn’t grasp just how good they were.  Enter the mysterious “lump in throat.”

As I rounded the corner back to my house, I concluded that there’s a definite danger in looking back, as it inevitably begs the question, “Why didn’t I slow down and enjoy that more?”  Of course I had this epiphany just as I approached my house and needed to make dinner instead of ponder this revelation further.

A half hour later, I was eating dinner with my husband and two step kids. We laughed a lot, and talked about important things like Twilight characters, middle school classes, and baseball. It dawned on me, then, that while being nostalgic is great, the good stuff is happening now.  Five years from now we will not be having these conversations. Tonight’s dinner will soon be mixed in with many other memories as we look back someday.

So, after that dinner and earlier run, I decided that the key to life… in runnerchica terms of course… is to simply enjoy the run and all of the beautiful scenery and people it brings us.  Then years from now, when our knees go the way of ER, we’ll look back with a little bit smaller lump in our throats, knowing we gave it everything we had.

Copyright 2009

imrunnerchica.com

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