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
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What do you see when you’re not looking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Abbey Algiers

imrunnerchica.com

Copyright 2013

Fairy Dust

Fairy Dust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on, friends.

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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One Thing Leads to Another


Runner’s Log

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

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

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

How it works:  

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

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

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

Back to the shoes:

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

Love the calendar feature:

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

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

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