Wednesday, November 28, 2012

You'll never forget your first time

In college, back in 1998, I walked my first 5k. I walked it in 33 minutes (yes WALKED not ran), and I was booking it. I won first among walkers,and I won a gift certificate to Garfield's Restaurant in Morgantown, WV. Totally worth it. I didn't run my first 5k for another 8 years, until 2006, but doing that first race takes commitment, courage, and a little bit of insanity.

Last week, on Thanksgiving, my husband and I ran the Inaugural Morgantown Running Turkey Trot. It was his first 5k, and I was bursting with pride and emotion. It's no secret that I love a good turkey trot, and I was thrilled for Morgantown's inaugural event.

With my husband before the race
We picked up our packets at the WVU track. Instead of t-shirts they gave us wicking socks. As a race veteran I was thrilled to have something other than another cotton t-shirt I'd never wear again, but as a race novice my husband was disappointed to not have a t-shirt. I totally get it.

The race started on the WVU track, and I have to say the start of the race was a total cluster. People were just milling about the track with no idea really where to go, and it was a disaster. Once things got going it ran more smoothly. The first mile was downhill which is a feat in a hilly city like Morgantown. After the first quick mile we were on the Morgantown River Trail for the rest of the race.

The race was downhill and flat, and it was an impressive course for a city renowned for its hilly terrain. It was a quiet and determined run in cold but sunny weather. My husband rocked it out in his first 5k. We finished on the River Trail right behind the Seneca Center where Morgantown Running is located. 

Heading toward the finish
It was a decent race especially for its first running. The start was a hot mess, but otherwise it was okay. My mom and sister came to cheer us on, and as usual I insist a turkey trot is the perfect way to start Thanksgiving Day. We have so many things to be thankful for, not the least of which is the ability to run on Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving thanks

I live a blessed life, and I don't forget it even for a minute. It can be stressful, it's often hectic, and it's filled with so many blessings that I feel overwhelmed sometimes just to think of them all. It's important that on Thanksgiving I reflect on the many blessings in my life.

I am so thankful for my incredible husband. I recently did a blog post about how fantastic he is, and I won't elaborate too much lest his ego become uncontrollable. I couldn't ask for a better partner in my life. He's my biggest supporter, my best friend, and my great love.  He humors me in things I find important like a photo shoot for our Christmas card. That's the kind of partner we all need.

A photo from our Christmas card shoot.
I'm grateful for my parents who have always worked so hard to ensure that I have so my opportunities.  They've supported me through all of the tough things in my life - including the worst Crohns has to offer - without batting an eye. There's no way to ever let them know how much they mean to me. I am also thankful for my siblings and their spouses and children. Our family is loud and obnoxious and crazy, and I love being part of it.

My friends are so fantastic. I am grateful to have so many wonderful friends who are supportive, loyal, fun and the best people I know. I don't know what I would do without them. 

I am thankful for my pets - my two crazy dogs and our cats. They are our fur children, and they are a true example of unconditional love. 

I love my job and am thankful every day that I do something I love and believe in. It has been hectic the last few months, and I've been overwhelmed at times. But at the end of the day I love it, and I am blessed to go to work every day to a job I love with people I love. It makes life so much easier.

It goes without saying, but I am grateful for running. I'm not the fastest runner in a race, but I am dedicated, and I love it. Even the bad runs are worth it.  It helps center me and keeps me focused and motivated.

During this Thanksgiving holiday I will count my blessings over and over again as I celebrate with my family in West Virginia. Cheers to you and yours!   


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

If running was easy, everyone would do it

Sometimes running sucks. And by sometimes, I mean a lot of the time. I would estimate that maybe 25-30% of the time running actually feels good, and the rest of the time I finish and gripe about how terrible that run was. I will say, however, that once the run is over I never regret having done it - even if it was a bad run.

Running is hard. There's no magic formula to make you faster or better. You just have to keep running. Period. When I started running six years ago I was in pretty good shape, but I had never run more than two consecutive miles in my life. The only way I was able to build on my mileage was to do it. You have to log the miles over and over again.

There is no shortcut. Some days I finish running and my knee hurts, my hip hurts, I'm tired. Some days I can't get motivated because it's cold, it's rainy, or I just don't feel like it. I think it's okay to take a break, and I try not to beat up on myself. But the only way to be able to run is to suck it up and do it. It hurts. Your knees will hurt, your body will hurt, you will push the limits of what you ever thought you could do. And at the end of the day it's hard. Just suck it up and do it.

Running is as much emotional as it is physical. Having the motivation to keep going is most of the battle. I've posted before about how hard motivation can be to come by, and it's an ongoing battle. But for every 3-4 runs that don't feel the way I want them to, I have that one run - that one where I feel great the whole time and I run faster and harder than I've ever have before. That is when it's all worth it.

It takes a while to get there. You can't start running on day one and feel like Shalane Flanagan. But put in the work and the effort, and it gets easier. I promise. It may take weeks or months, but it does get easier. In the meantime buy yourself some new shoes, some cute running gear, and put your miles on the calendar so you'll be reminded of how many you're supposed to run and motivated to do the work. It won't always be pretty, but it will always be worth it. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

To the Bay and back

After I graduated from law school I lived in Norfolk, Virginia for a couple of years. To me that time in my life represents my first real time as a grown up - my first real job, my first apartment alone, the first time I spent an appreciable amount of money on dry cleaning.  It was there that I realized my true mission in life was to work with cities as I worked for the city's inspiring mayor.

It's been nearly seven years since I moved to Michigan, and I have lived here more than twice as long as I lived in Virginia. Regardless, every time I go to Norfolk I feel a since of nostalgia for the time I spent there. I feel nostalgic and yet so proud of the continued revitalization of the city.  Two of my siblings still live there, and we headed down this past weekend to meet our new nephew and visit our family.

When I lived in Virginia I wasn't a runner. I spent a lot of time power walking and riding bikes with my sister, but it never occurred to me to pick up the pace and start running. Now, when I go for a visit, I have to lace up my shoes and explore. My brother and his family bought a new home a few months ago in a neighborhood I'm not familiar with, and it was our first time staying with them. Twice during our stay I headed out to run on beautiful sunny mornings that were begging me to take advantage.

As I'd never been to my brother's neighborhood, and I used a cross street as a guide as I threaded back and forth through the streets. After only about a mile I realized I was on Ocean View Avenue, a street I lived on during my last few months there (although this was quite a bit south of where I lived). I saw the walkway to the public beach access and made my way to the beach on the Chesapeake Bay.

Stopping for a photo at the Chesapeake Bay halfway through my run
No matter how much I protest that I don't really care for the beach, there is something so amazing about having the beach to myself during a deserted morning run. The sky was clear, the sun was shining, and I felt that runner's high that doesn't often come easily for me. As I headed back to my brother's house I reflected on how grateful I am to have lived in a community that has such diverse assets - a vibrant downtown, thriving neighborhoods and the natural beauty of beaches along the Chesapeake Bay.

The trip included obligatory trips to some of my favorite places in Norfolk - Ghent (particularly No Frill Bar and Grille and Running Etc) and the MacArthur Center Mall. I HAD to get my Dillard's fix. As we drove around downtown I marveled at the beauty of the new light rail and the new developments that masterfully combine mixed uses to continue the vibrancy of downtown.

I've created quite a life for myself in Michigan, and I'm happy here. But every time I visit Norfolk I realize it has a little piece of my heart and it probably always will. So on each trip I will visit my favorite places and take a quick run to the Bay and back. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Runners running for office

I've had people tell me before that I should run for office, but I have a thing that day...gouging my own eyes out. Running for office would never be my thing, and as politics has become so vitriol it's difficult to even deal with it as a spectator.

Yesterday's elections held a lot of promise. Here in Michigan a number of constitutional amendments failed, and there were other election results I consider both good and bad. But politics, like the tide, are always changing. As soon as one gets too invested in any one person or issue it's on to the next.

I'm thinking we need to ensure we have runners in office. Presidents G.W. Bush and Clinton were runners, and I'm convinced it's necessary to keep you sane.  Yesterday I had a particularly stressful day, and I immediately went for a run when I got home. Every bad day and every crisis is more manageable after a run.

Bill Clinton, Nicolas Sarkozy, Al Gore, David Cameron, Tony Blair... all runners who've run for office
So I propose that to make our country a better place we should elect more runners to office. Choosing to be a runner requires dedication, commitment and hard work. That's something we should expect in all of our leaders. Going forward I support runners for office!*

*This does not prohibit my ability to potentially support Chris Christie despite his obvious lack of running.   

Thursday, November 1, 2012

You can flood our streets, but you can't take our marathons!

The New York City Marathon is like the Super Bowl of distance running. Nearly 50,000 runners and hundreds of thousands of spectators converge on the Big Apple for the big event.  For competitive runners it's one of THE races to win. For amateurs like myself, it's the holy grail of marathons. I'm fortunate to have registered last year as one of the last classes who will get automatic entry after three unsuccessful lottery attempts.  To me the New York Marathon represents everything that is right about running - the crowds, the support, the pageantry. I can't wait for my shot.

Thankfully I didn't get in this year. As Hurricane Sandy has ravaged NYC, the fate of the NYC Marathon hangs in balance. The New York Road Runners have committed to holding the race as scheduled on Sunday, but it's going to be a challenge for a city recovering from a devastating storm.

Crazy flooding in New York's Financial District
The NYC Marathon starts on Staten Island and runs through all five of the city's boroughs. According to the race director the course is relatively clear, but the bigger issue is getting people to and around the city. By all accounts the public transportation system is at a standstill, and that is very problematic getting runners and families around the city.

Herein lies the problem.
I'm sure to a lot of people the New York City Marathon is not high on the list of things to worry about. But this is an eve that brings in approximately $340 million in revenue to the City. That's not something you cancel lightly.  Holding the marathon is a testament to the resiliency of the City of New York and their commitment to this important event. As the city and region continue to clean up from the storm, I will keep my fingers crossed that the marathon runs smoothly on Sunday. Sandy you can destroy our boardwalks, but you will not take away our marathons!