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

Breathe. Relax. Let the moment pass.

 

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

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

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Savasana or “Dead Body Pose”

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

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

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

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

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

Image Camel Pose

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

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

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

Namaste

imrunnerchica.com

by abbey algiers

copyright 2012

Burning the Candle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kind of a lot like life.

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

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

copyright 2012

imrunnerchica.com

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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What It’s Really All About

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by abbey algiers
copyright 2012
imrunnerchica.com

 

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.

Post Marathon Thoughts

“We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 meters.

If you want to experience something, run a marathon.” – Emil Zatopek

Post Marathon Thoughts

If the title of this piece caught your attention, I am guessing you’re reading for one of the following reasons:

1. You are currently training for a marathon.

2. You just completed an event, and are currently going through withdrawal, desperately looking for something to remind you of the run.

3. You’re teetering on the edge of signing up for a marathon- so you are secretly asking everyone you know about marathons and secretly going on running sites during your lunch hour.

4. You have run marathons before and are now injured, looking for any type of fix to satisfy the void you feel in your life.

5. Someone you know and/or love runs marathons and you are trying to make some sense of their insane ritual.

Whatever your reason for finding this article, you did. And if you didn’t already know it, you are about to find out that training for a marathon goes far beyond miles on the pavement. The event lasts longer than the time it takes to get from start to finish. And, it is true when people say that one finishes a marathon a different person, walking away with a sense of pride that no one can take away.

I know all of these about marathons, and I know the satisfaction I feel when I complete one. This is partly why I run them, but not entirely. I also know that the training and the run itself bring about forms of pain and discomfort that many would argue man should not be subjected to voluntarily.

Yet I still run.  And gladly. Why do I, why do you, why does anyone suffer through long training runs in all sorts of heat and cold, battling stomach ailments, injuries, strains, missing toenails, and a compromised social life? Why? (And if you’re reading this as a possible wanna-be marathoner, you may be asking, just why the hell should I sign up for this anyway?)

Well, my friends, I run, and I suspect many of you do as well, because we realize that the trials of doing a marathon closely resemble the trials of life. And, perhaps dealing with these trials that we choose to endure helps us know that we can endure anything that life throws us that we don’t exactly sign up for.

In fact, if you think about it… the 26.2 miles of highs, lows, and everything in between can be compared to our lives. Really. Let’s examine this a bit more closely. As you read, think about any challenging situation that you have had to go through in your life- divorce, job loss, move, death of loved ones, illness, or just plain temporary disillusionment. Before these things happen, more often than not, everything is pretty normal. You’re plugging along, ready to start your day. You’re excited, generally happy, living your life.

Miles 1 and 2 of a marathon are like this. You start out slowly, navigating your way through the crowd. Sure there are blips, there are people in front of you blocking your way that may annoy you… but you are happy to be running. You are energized by the crowd and things around you. Bring it on, you think.

Miles 3 through 5 are more of the same. So far, you have been going and feeling great. In fact, you are feeling so great that when you hit mile 5, you are surprised. Am I here already? Wow! I am fit.  I am ready for anything life has to offer me. This- this marathon, this life is so darn motivating. What can’t I do!

Miles 6 and 7 come on, and you start to think about what is in front of you. You realize you’re in for a journey, and for the first time, you allow yourself to question just why you signed up for this. In life- this is the point that something troubling begins to creep into an otherwise happy existence. “Huh,” you think, “Something feels off.” But you have no idea of what that is.

Never fear, miles 8 and 9 come more quickly than you thought and you are rejuvenated, temporarily full of pride that you are nearing the halfway point. Not there yet… but you can logically feel it in your head. In life, this is like a temporary reprieve from the problem that is brewing… it’s out there, alright, but not yet close enough for you to see or feel. Luckily, you have enough going on so that you do not yet notice the thick clouds overhead.

At mile 10 you are so distracted that you have hit the mark of two digits that you don’t see the storm that is just around the bend. Now it’s just a matter of a 16-mile long run, you tell yourself, in hopes of fooling for just a moment.

Miles 11 and 12 are here, and the trouble is officially brewing. Things that were once pleasant, runners whose company you thought you enjoyed the first ten miles… they are now beginning to morph into the Forces of Evil. In a real life crisis, this is the point when you realize something is definitely up. You are looking at the problem and know that the only way to go is forward, yet that seems more difficult than you could ever imagine.

13.1 and halfway there. Yip yip hooray. For a minute millisecond, this halfway point means something to you. If you could do the first 13.1, you can surely continue for the next. Right? You use this same logic in the life crisis section of the marathon. Regardless of the marathon you’re in… people have gotten through this before- but can you? Of course you can, because you’re TOUGH.

Mile14– a second wind is starting to form and you get your groove back… enough to initiate a self-induced kick in the butt. You are not getting to the finish line by whining. No siree. YOU are a fighter, so fight… dammit. You try to fight, in this marathon, just as you would if you were entrenched in one of life’s marathons. When the going gets tough… YOU get going. Right? So you take that gel you’ve been saving for just this moment, slurp it down with some water, and carry on.

Carry on until 15, when you realize its time to make a porta potty stop. You’re thinking right about now that life is pretty crappy, in more ways than one. Runners ahead of you are ticking you off; runners behind you are ticking you off. In fact, EVERYONE and EVERYTHING is ticking you off. And guess what… only 11.2 to go. In the scheme of life’s problems, this is the moment you realize that you are officially at the point of no return. You know the problem. You see its ugly face looking at you head on. It’s hard, and you are the only person who can get through it. Yet, at this moment in time, you are feeling so gosh darn crappy that you don’t know what you’re going to do. So, you look for power gel in the form of friends and family, therapists, Wellbutrin… whatever it takes to get you from here to there.

Which, at this point you’re wondering…. WHERE THE HELL IS THERE? Does a 16-mile marker EXIST? Are race officials playing a nasty trick on you and have they moved it? Has a dwarf hidden it??? FOR GOD’S SAKE???? And… just when you think you can’t run another step, you see it. It is a diamond in the rough, and you could kiss it. The sign, like the mini saviors we find in our lives… literally is the only thing keeping you going.

Again with a second wind. Or is it fifth or sixth? At this point, nothing is clear other than the fact that you know you need the people you see on the course to guide you, help you, and cheer for you. You realize you cannot do this alone. Even doing it with help is questionable. Your mind… right now… is not working so well. You know your problems; they could not be more evident. Side ache, stomachache, leg ache… you’re pretty sure every part of your body hurts. You’re also pretty sure that you hate everything within a five-mile radius. YET… you also know that somewhere deep inside all of your pain lies an inner reserve that you never knew you had. Oh yes, like a gigantic bottle of Gatorade, you are pulling out all the stops now, and something inside you is kicking in… Albeit slowly… to save you.

17, then 18 come about two lifetimes later and it is with annoyance rather than joy that you greet these markers. THIS ISN’T WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR, you roar.

THIS is first of all, supposed to be 19 or 20 and you’re supposed to be feeling better now. Funny though…as much as you feel like stopping, throwing in the towel, strangling the runner in the stupid pink shorts ahead of you- you don’t. You continue, with one foot in front of the other, because you know that this is the only way you are going to reach your goal. You are going to make it to at least mile 19, if it kills you.

So, even though you were quite sure many times it was indeed going to kill you…. you made it to 19. Made it, and knew that you were close to the golden twenties. Your problems are still there, yet you have called upon the backups as needed, and something inside you lets you know you’ll be okay. Roughed up and tired… yet okay.

And then… the long awaited mile 20. At this point you remember many things- one of which is someone saying that a marathon was 20 miles, and a 10 K. You realize you now that a 10K is nothing to sneeze at, and you decide that now the only way you can continue is to take it painstaking mile by mile, like others before you have done. Step step step step. Each step hurts, yet each one is getting you there- you know this.

They say things have to get worse before they get better… and by golly, a marathon might just have been the birthplace of this statement.  At 21 and 22 you find yourself praying for a sniper, natural disaster, or any other showstopper that could put you out of your misery. Similarly, in life… the problems we face smack us flat down on our faces at one point, and it is only when we are at our lowest point do we realize our strength, our potential.

23 is a blur. There is really nothing more to be said about this point. It is neither the ultimate pain experience or the turn around you have been waiting for. In fact, when looking back on 23, you will question how and why you didn’t crawl to the side of the road and call it a day. The trek from 23 to 24 also is a mystery.

At 24… your problems are still there, yet they are dissipating because you know things could not possibly get worse than they have been. In fact, with the end in sight- or sort of- you begin to realize that you can make it. This fills you with such pride and joy that your stride kicks in and you begin to kick it. Kick it, as much as one can after 24 miles.

25 is the point where the sweetness of victory can be felt, yet the pain of reality still remains in your bones. You are SO CLOSE that really all you can do is smile through your pain, and try to contain your emotions. But, this is impossible… a mixture of pride, wonder, joy, and absolute amazement of your accomplishments hits you at this point. If one could ever run/function solely on adrenaline, by God you are doing it now.

26.0 ALMOST THERE. Now, when people say you are almost there… you not only don’t want to strangle them, you also believe them. You realize there were dark times when people told you you’d make it and that you were close to finishing. But, up until this point, you really didn’t piece it together that you could get there. This… sends you into overdrive and you kick it to the finish.

26.2 This hasn’t been just about running, you realize. You have challenged every bone, muscle, brain cell, and ounce of your soul in order to get to this finish line. The emotions that carried you through were as diverse as the runners you met along the way. As the medal is placed over your head, you could not be more proud, or downright impressed that you have made it. You are one tough cookie.

In every marathon I’ve run, there have been moments where I didn’t think I could make it. Yet, they were quickly followed by thoughts of wanting to show the world, namely myself, what I was made of. So I continued on, trusting that I had what it took to get to the finish line. It wasn’t always pretty, but the more I’ve run, the more I’ve realized that “making it” isn’t meant to always be pretty or easy. In fact, it is rarely pretty.  Usually, it requires one to call upon every bit of strength and stamina that can be mustered up.

This… is called life.  Life is a series of marathons, and the more we train, the more we see that we have everything we need inside of us to help us rise above the many walls we hit along the way.

Copyright 2010

imrunnerchica.com